Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Clutch Encounters: Week 2

The Eagles horse-collar the Colts in Monday night stunner. Also: Chicago's rope-a-dope, the end of Seattle's streaks, and a comeback 22 years in the making in Green Bay.

04 Dec 2006

Audibles at the Line: Week 13

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 2007. Games are chosen based on our own personal viewing preferences, and are going to reflect the teams we support and the cities where we live.

Atlanta Falcons 24 at Washington Redskins 14

Or: How Ryan Wilson Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Michael Vick

Ryan Wilson: On Atlanta's first drive, 13 minutes to go in the first quarter: One Vick pass, one Crumpler drop. I sense a theme for the day.

Washington's first drive: nine plays, 69 yards, all runs except for one really nice throw from Jason Campbell to Brandon Lloyd. DeAngelo Hall was in coverage, and every time I see him he's either getting beat (Hines Ward outrunning him to the end zone -- with one shoe -- comes to mind) or playing dirty. How is this guy not the most overrated player in the league?

Michael David Smith: Ladell Betts ran behind great blocking from left tackle Chris Samuels and fullback Mike Sellers for the game's first touchdown. Mike Pucillo, a reserve lineman playing tight end for Washington, had a good blocking day. There's a lot to like about the Redskins offense, even though it doesn't add up to a good team.

Ryan Wilson: Seven minutes to go in the first quarter: two Vick passes, two Crumpler drops.

The Falcons just got stuffed on a fourth-and-inches at midfield. Vick ran a sneak and actually lost inches. If the rest of the season plays out like the previous four weeks, I'm guessing Mora's gone, along with Knapp, and it'll be interesting to see what happens to Vick.

Meanwhile, on Washington's last drive, they ran the ball three times and threw it once. It just happened to be a 40-plus yard TD pass -- into double coverage -- from Campbell to Moss.

Props where props are due: On third-and-5, Vick play-actions and hits Crumpler in stride for a 20-plus yard gain. Great throw, great catch.

After trailing 14-0, the Falcons are now leading 17-14. The last TD resulted from Falcons DL Chauncey Davis intercepting a Campbell pass (Campbell's arm was hit as he was throwing) and returning it to the Atlanta 25 or so. Two plays later, Vick gets time and throws a laser to Michael Jenkins, who inexplicably doesn't drop it. By the way, the best thing about the Davis pick was that Grady Jackson was right next to him when he made the play and proceed to take two steps before seemingly saying, "Look, you know I'm not going to run downfield and block, and I know I'm not going to run downfield and block, so let's stop kidding ourselves right now." Jackson stopped running.

The Falcons' offense sucks and it has nothing to do with Vick. Ashley Lelie dropped a would-be first-down pass on second-and-15, and on the next play Vick scrambles for 17 yards, but it's called back because LT Wayne Gandy -- the human holding penalty -- gets his second flag of the game.

After a short scramble, Vick gets up slow, grabs his hammy and ... in comes Matt Schaub. Tim Ryan is working the game and initially said "Uh-oh" when Vick stayed down. My first thought was, "Well, Atlanta fans may get exactly what they've asked for." Of course, Schaub handed off, Dunn gained nine yards and Vick returned. So basically, disaster averted.

Mike Tanier: Vick had a relatively good game, but don't get too excited by the Falcons. Their run defense is terrible, and Allen Rossum is currently starting in the secondary. They just took advantage of a bad team with a novice QB this week.

Indianapolis Colts 17 at Tennessee Titans 20

Michael David Smith: Terrible drop by Ben Utecht of a pass right in his hands on third-and-7 to stop the Colts' first drive. Titans' first drive they start by running right at the heart of the Colts' D. Not a good start for Indy.

Russell Levine: The guy who writes "uni watch" on ESPN.com, Paul Lukas, better prepare for an email onslaught. Tennessee has broken out some light-blue pants to match the jerseys. I didn't think you could get much worse than the Seahawks' blueberry bodysuits with the neon-green accents, but these Titans' duds pull it off.

Doug Farrar: Drop by Marvin Harrison, which led to a Tennessee interception. Vince Young gave the ball back on the very next play. I think the Titans have a very good chance of pulling off the upset, though I would rather that they never win a game with the light blue unicolor unis. Some decisions just shouldn't be rewarded.

Russell Levine: More on uniforms -- this is the first time I've seen the refs in their cold-weather long black sweatpants. Awful. And speaking of those, how are the refs in Green Bay able to manage in their standard togs while those in Buffalo have gone to the sweats?

Maybe it's this whole BCS thing; I'm having a hard time concentrating on actual football today.

Aaron Schatz: You want to talk about bad uniforms? The Giants' red jerseys are bad enough, but they are made 100 times worse by those huge red socks. Yikes.

Mike Tanier: The Titans look like Care Bears. The Saints (all black with gold) look like Mystic Force Power Rangers. The Bills look great. The Giants' socks should have been hung by the chimney with care.

Doug Farrar: Dierdorf now criticizing Harrison for "dropping" a ball when the play was a catch and a tackle in which the ground caused Harrison to lose the ball. He leads the NFL in making me wonder which game he's watching when we're actually watching the same game.

Michael David Smith: Doug, I think you're being a little hard on Dierdorf there. I mean, the ball was in Harrison's hands and was then on the ground and ruled incomplete. Yeah, he took a hard hit on the play, but I think Dierdorf was correct to criticize him.

Doug Farrar: The ball shifted in his hands when the defender hit him, so I can see that. But I wouldn't call that a typical drop by any means -- he didn't actually "lose" the ball until he hit the ground. I'm guess I'm more prone to agree with criticism of a receiver when a drop is unassisted by a defender.

What I really didn't understand was the "inexcusable" comment -- sometimes a play is half the receiver and half the defender. That looked to be the case to me.

Michael David Smith: That I agree with, and I think Dierdorf was just adding to his previous comments about Harrison's first drop -- which really was inexcusable, although he made up for it with the TD.

I continue to have no clue what constitutes pass interference. Why wasn't Bob Sanders called for drilling Brandon Jones? Sure looked to me like the contact started before Jones touched the ball.

Doug Farrar: That's a whole lotta broken/whiffed tackles on Tennessee running backs. Indy's ranking of 29th in DVOA against the run becomes much easier to explain if this is a typical issue.

Mike Tanier: The Titans are a team that breaks a lot of tackles. Travis Henry has a lot of holes in his game, but the dude was always tough to tackle. Vince Young is tough to tackle. Teams are really going to stress wrapping up against these guys.

Michael David Smith: Tennessee's David Thornton had a big game against his former team. They miss him a lot.

Indianapolis had two straight false starts to stall its first drive. I just think too many Colts linemen make too many dumb mistakes, whether it's jumping or missing a blitzing linebacker.

Tennessee safety Chris Hope allowed Marvin Harrison to get all alone behind the secondary on his long touchdown catch. Pac-Man also struggled with Harrison.

Vince Young had a brilliant run to pick up a first down on third-and-4.

Aaron Schatz: Hey, DVOA knows something, Part I. Honestly, most of the story of this game is that the Colts CAN NOT STOP THE RUN. By the way, how strange is it that for eight years nobody hits a field goal over 58 yards and then two of them get hit in one season? Note: grouping is not a sign that a pattern has emerged from randomness.

I don't know why the Colts decided to return the Bironas squib kick at the end of the game, with laterals and all that. Wouldn't it make more sense to just pounce on it and give Manning and Harrison/Wayne a chance at a Hail Mary or something?

Ned Macey: Good gamesmanship by Fisher before the game-winner. The Titans initially sent Bironas out to kick, but he changed his mind and sent out the punter because the Colts had one timeout left. Don't want the Colts to get the ball at midfield with one timeout to set up Vinatieri. When the punt squad comes out, the Colts panic and call a timeout. After the timeout, here comes Bironas for the game-winner.

And the 60-yarder was ridiculous, but Dierdorf insisted there was a great deal of wind behind it, so I think it was less ridiculous than Tampa Bay's. Also, this game was tied, so the Colts only had a 50 percent or so chance of winning anyway.

This game was really lost at the end of the first half. Up 14-3, the Colts are in their two-minute when Manning gets picked off on a great play by Bulluck. Young drives down for the TD, and the entire complexion of the game is changed.

Other big play was an offensive pass interference on Ben Utecht on the Colts' last drive that pushed them from the 2-yard line back to the 12. Utecht somehow thought he could continue to sell the play action by blocking his defender to the back of the end zone before breaking out for the catch.

I wasn't watching enough Titans before last week to see Young on a regular basis, but watching this game, it is hard to imagine how he had a negative DVOA running the ball. Guy was elusive as hell and impossible to bring down.

Also, Harrison obviously had a huge game, but his two big plays came when Pac-Man at least thought the safety was covering. Those two plays accounted for 128 yards.

Funny how a team with a great record that was winning with lots of close escapes isn't really as good as most people thought (and no, I'm not bitter about the BCS).

Arizona Cardinals 34 at St. Louis Rams 20

Doug Farrar: On Arizona's opening TD drive against the Rams, Edgerrin James rushed five times for 32 yards, which is one more carry than he had against the Vikings last week. The Cards had six total rushing attempts in that game, and they ran the ball eight times on their opening drive. Apparently, Dennis Green is smart enough to try and exploit a horrible St. Louis run defense after balking at running against Minnesota's great run D at all. If Edge doesn't get 100 yards this week, he should petition the league to have his contract revoked.

The Rams oblige...

Well, Edgerrin James finally got his first 100-yard game as a Cardinal. Of course, Arizona had three rushing touchdowns and all three were scored by Marcel Shipp. If it ain't one thing...

Ned Macey: Vintage Edgerrin James. 120+ yards with no run longer than 10 yards. The Arizona offensive line finally found a defense they were equal to. Speaking of DVOA being right, the preseason projections more or less nailed the Rams. The offense is maybe a little better than we thought, at least pre-Pace injury, but this is a bad team.

Also, Marc Bulger is a future first-ballot FFHOF member. Nice garbage time touchdown today to put together a solid outing. Baldinger said that Bulger has never played a game where he completed less than 50 percent of his passes.

Nice to hear Pat Summerall's voice, but he really shouldn't be announcing anymore.

Detroit Lions 21 at New England Patriots 28

Michael David Smith: This is what it is to be a Lions fan: They're up 7-3 and have first-and-goal inside the 5. Do they score? Nope. Ball squirts out of Kevin Jones' hand, Patriots pounce on it.

Bill Moore: This game was too painful even though the Pats won. Just an ugly game all around. Patriots looked at be asleep during this game. Stupid penalties, a safety against, fumbles, Brady threw a terrible interception, etc. The game came down to who made the last mistake. It was, not surprisingly, the Lions.

With all the fist round wide receivers this team has, who saw significant action in the slot? Josh McCown.

Chad Scott 2006 = Duane Starks 2005

Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel has had ups and downs in the last two seasons. Right now he is up. However, he cost the defense an interception. Artrell Hawkins had an INT teed up, only to have it tipped away by Samuel. Speaking of Hawkins, he has performed well in Rodney Harrison's absence. He has been the Patriots' patchwork filler for the last two years. I'm surprised he hasn't landed in more of a regular role elsewhere.

Dry Bly (who had one interception today) has given Detroit this season excellent coverage against #1 WRs. They are sixth. However they are terrible against everyone else. The irony is that the Patriots really have no #1 WR. By default it's Reche Caldwell, who racked up 112 yards today, which is a first for a Patriots receiver this year. Other than Caldwell (eight), all other wide receivers had four catches combined.

Laurence Maroney went out early in this game with the "wind knocked out of him." He never returned. That has to be a first. Maroney's absence wasn't noticed by the F team announcers until sometime in the fourth quarter.

Although Brady was only sacked twice, the Detroit defensive line rushed and hit him often, plus forced a fumble that resulted in a safety.

Kevin Jones (are we allowed to mention his name?) actually played relatively well today. However, with roughly 140 combined yards he still remains more of a threat coming out of the backfield as a receiver than as a line-pounder.

Kitna's final decision to heave it up on third down under pressure inside two minutes was amongst the dumbest I've seen all year.

Aaron Schatz: The pain. Oh, the pain. Totally embarrassing. Patriots were lucky to win. It was hard to figure out what the heck went wrong. They missed Maroney, certainly -- Patrick Pass was getting actual carries in his first week back from PUP and, of course, fumbled. Pass was holding the ball away from his body; I keep seeing players who aren't holding the ball close enough to their bodies. The offensive line is not as good as past years, particularly Matt Light, who just got brutalized a couple of times.

The defense played a lot of zone and they were constantly giving up passes to guys open underneath, Corey Bradford, Josh McCown (WTF???), and especially Mike Furrey. This is the third straight year, I think, where the Pats have had terrible DVOA vs. #2 receivers, and holy mackerel did you see that today. Every Roy Williams catch seemed to be a very skillful grab while Williams was being covered closely. But everybody else was going nuts with seams and slants. Contrary to popular belief, DVOA vs. receivers is not about specific cornerbacks. DVOA vs. receivers is about coverage patterns, and the Patriots' coverage pattern is to leave the #2 receiver wide open all the damn time.

The Lions also seemed to do very well with draws because the Pats were always going after Kitna with the pass rush. That also hurt the Patriots later in the game when they kept not quite getting to Kitna and having the Lions convert on absurd down-and-distances. They converted a third-and-22 AND somehow got out of a first-and-30. Like I said, embarrassing.

From the Department of I Can't Tell What the Hell is Pass Interference: There was a play in this game where Artell Hawkins ran into Roy Williams from the back. I don't think he was even looking at the ball. So somehow, the play where Bernard Berrian is pushing on Hawkins' arm is PI on Hawkins, but a play where Hawkins is practically sitting on top of Roy Williams is not PI on Hawkins?

Fully agree with Bill on Chad Scott. On one play Furrey came in on a short curl, curling toward the sideline, and Scott actually started fading toward the inside. No idea what he thought he was seeing.

But this is why every game counts for DVOA. In the NFL, there are no Temples. On a given day (or Monday night, earlier this year) one of the league's worst teams can easily give a close games to one of the best teams.

I have no idea what is going on with Laurence Maroney, but I was very worried about Mike Vrabel -- it looked like he broke an ankle or something, and we had no audio in the bar. Anyway, turns out it had nothing to do with his ankle, even though he did land on it weird. According to Mike Reiss, he had a guy knee him in the back of the head. So he's going to be fine, which is good, because the Patriots have no linebackers left and were on the verge of becoming the 2005 Giants with a better quarterback.

Bill Moore: You had no sound for the game? You lucky, lucky bastard.

The knee to the head was about the only things J.C. Pearson (or whatever his name is) and the other guy covered well all day. Unfortunately, at the same time they were covering Vrabel's head, I was questioning why the play wasn't being reviewed. The ball lay on the ground post knee-head connection. The fact that it WAS being reviewed came as an after thought when the review was over.

Patrick Laverty: J.C. Pearson: "Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney are very similar type backs." Umm, ok, you seen Maroney run this year? AND Dillon? And how does Matt Vasgersian still have a job? Does he have photos on Rupert Murdoch or something?

Doug Farrar: The Seahawks had that particular crew two games in a row earlier this season. Bad, bad stuff. Not Bill Maas bad, but pretty close.

Bill Moore: Detroit pulled a Chris Webber. With NE on the 3 (or so), they called a timeout they didn't have. The refs blew the whistle, stopped the game, and announced that in fact, "There is no timeout since Detroit has none remaining." D'er. How isn't that stopping time!? There was no penalty on the play. Anyone know the real rule there?

Michael David Smith: The rule is that if a player calls timeout and his team doesn't have a timeout, the official is just supposed to ignore it and let everything keep going. The fact that the officials screwed that one up is no surprise, seeing as it was Jeff Triplette's crew calling the game, and he's the worst ref in the league by a huge margin.

Minnesota Vikings 13 at Chicago Bears 23

Doug Farrar: Wow. In the first half, Rex Grossman completed 3-of-9 passes for 22 yards and two picks. That, my friends, is a quarterback rating of 2.8.

Halfway through the third quarter, Grossman has three more incompletions and another pick. His rating is now the Big Blutarsky. Take it, Dean Wormer: "Zero-point-ZERO." Right now, I'm picturing Grossman with a pencil in each nostril.

This game was a good validation of several FO numbers. The Bears rank first in the NFL in total defense, pass defense and special teams DVOA. They beat the Vikings, 23-13, despite being outgained 348-107, allowing 21 first downs to their own six, losing the time of possession battle by almost 20 minutes, and Grossman's 1.3 quarterback rating, because of nine defensive points (interception return and safety) and Devin Hester's punt return for a touchdown.

Michael David Smith: Chicago defensive tackle Tommie Harris got hurt and left the game. Haven't heard any more, but that would be a huge loss.

San Francisco 49ers 10 at New Orleans Saints 34

Mike Tanier: A very convincing win overall. Several Saints players appear to be peaking at the right time, starting with Reggie Bush. I won't say any more about Bush because you will be sick of hearing about this game by mid-day Monday, but the man is good.

Mike McKenzie is also getting hot at just the right time. Teams are going to adapt by picking on Fred Thomas. McKenzie had two interceptions today and one was a thing of beauty.

Joe Horn went into the tunnel midway through this game and I didn't see much of him afterwards, so the Saints were using Devery Henderson and Copper guy at wide receiver for much of the game. Luckily, their offense didn't become one-dimensional because the running back tandem gives them so many options and looks. I still don't think they have the defensive talent to compete in the playoffs, but their offense keeps impressing me.

Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure what changed with the Saints, but Thomas did so well in the early charting data, and since he came back from an injury he has been awful. Just terrible today, and terrible against the Bengals two weeks ago.

New York Jets 38 at Green Bay Packers 10

Mike Tanier: Chad Pennington had a great first half, floating passes into every hole in the Packers zone defense, and there were plenty of holes in zones. The Packers have gotten about as far as they can with all of those youngsters playing linebacker. Opponents are going to throw right over their heads.

The Jets defense brought tons of pressure from the outside against the Packers, and they had Favre on the run for much of the first half. Again, I think the Packers have gotten all they can out of the rookies on the offensive line. Opponents will stunt and blitz from the outside until these guys prove they can make adjustments.

Aaron Schatz: I still believe that DVOA was correct about the Jets winning games close and not playing that well over the first half of the season, but man, Mangini has them playing well now. I would like to apologize for saying something a couple weeks ago about this team still not being for real. This was an ass-whipping.

Man, the Jets like to run some wacky offensive stuff. Are we really sure that Brian Schottenheimer is really the son of Marty Schottenheimer, and not the illegitimate son of Houston Nutt?

Nick Mangold looked good when I was watching this game, had a nice pull on a screen; it is clear that he's getting it quicker than Brick. That doesn't mean he will be the better player long-term. But he is playing very well for a rookie center.

(Later, at night...)

Michael David Smith: I'm watching the Jets-Packers tape for EPC during Broncos-Seahawks commercials. Nantz and Simms are driving me insane. All they talk about is Favre. It's 24-0 Jets right now, and they've told us absolutely nothing about any player on the Jets. All they talk about is Favre. I'm not kidding, it's just literally nothing at all except Favre.

Doug Farrar: And this surprises you because...

Kansas City Chiefs 28 at Cleveland Browns 31

Aaron Schatz: Hey, DVOA knows something, Part II. It just apparently took an extra week for me to look prescient. Oh, and a quarterback injury. We had no idea in the bar whether Frye was injured or pulled, but I don't even know if it matters. I expect that there will be a full-on QB controversy now in Cleveland.

We only watched the last couple minutes of this in the bar, so I am curious to hear from somebody what went wrong with the KC defense that had played so well this year. In those few minutes, Anderson looked good. He made a heads-up shovel pass, some good scrambles, nice pass to Kellen Winslow. However, like Patrick Pass and 100 other guys, he needs to learn to HOLD THE DAMN BALL CLOSE TO HIS BODY WHILE HE RUNS WITH IT. Unlike the Patriots, the Browns got lucky and Anderson did not fumble.

Jacksonville Jaguars 24 at Miami Dolphins 10

Ned Macey: Jacksonville was an underdog; are we at all surprised that they dominated? I only watched a bit of this, but based on what I saw and the stats say, Garrard had an excellent game. The Miami defense had been dominating opposition, but Garrard averaged over 10 yards per attempt.

The Jones-Drew TD run was an amazing play. At least five Dolphins seemingly could have brought him down. What a potentially amazing group of rookie running backs we have this year.

Aaron Schatz: I'm not surprised that the Jaguars dominated. I would not have been surprised if the Jaguars had been blown out of the water. I would not be surprised if the Jaguars went the rest of the year without winning a game, and I would not be surprised if the Jaguars swept the rest of the season. I would not be surprised if Matt Jones had 100 yards every game for the rest of the season and I would not be surprised if Matt Jones didn't catch another touchdown for the rest of the year. I would not be surprised if the Jaguars released Josh Scobee and traded for Josh Scobey from Seattle and had him kicking the field goals. I would not be surprised if the Jaguars came out next week in purple polka-dot uniforms and I would not be surprised if they all took the field in matching three-piece suits. I would not be surprised if the Jaguars all turned out to be green space aliens. Nothing about the Jaguars makes any sense anyway so why be surprised?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3 at Pittsburgh Steelers 20

Ryan Wilson: The Steelers are way down the depth chart at WR. For example, on the last play Roethlisberger threw a pass to Sean Morey and it was broken up by ... Phillip Buchanon. This is sad on so many levels.

Doug Farrar: As your e-mail came through, Plaxico Burress got penalized for a moronic late hit on Keith Davis about five yards away from the play. Could be worse for the Steelers -- you could still have him.

Houston Texans 23 at Oakland Raiders 14

Michael David Smith: Another guy to like on the Raiders' D: Stanford Routt is really, really fast.

Doug Farrar: This might be the Stat of the Day: In the first half, David Carr threw for 32 yards against the Raiders. He was sacked four times for minus-30 yards, so he had a net gain of two yards. In the second half, he didn't gain ONE single passing yard (he was the only QB for Houston!) and was sacked again, which gave a final net passing yardage of minus-5. Of course, the Texans won the game. The second half consisted of several Carr incompletions, three Kris Brown field goals, and about 400 straight runs by Ron Dayne.

Tim Gerheim: OK, I don't think you emphasized that enough, Doug. The Texans had NEGATIVE NET PASSING YARDS! If they had simply handed the ball off on every play all game, they would have gained more yards passing than they did in the game!

I didn't watch the game, because I'm studying for finals (since I didn't learn anything all semester partly on account of watching so much football), but my dad uncharacteristically emailed me about the game, because the spirit so moved him:

"I presume that CBS was kind and generous to you in Austin and refrained from showing the Texans-Raiders game this afternoon. [They were, and did. CBS has decided, probably correctly, that Austin would rather see Vince Young and the Titans.] We have finally seen a team that is demonstrably worse than Houston. Not that Houston covered themselves with any glory as a consequence!

Although the Texans scored 23 points, it was via three field goals (one missed also) and a special teams and defense score. The offense managed to rack up a staggering 125 yards net gain FOR THE WHOLE GAME -- clearly staggering. The stars of the game were Ron Dayne (!!!!) and Kris Brown (!!!!) and Jerome Mathis (long return to set up a three-yard TD).

Neither team showed the least bit of spark or enthusiasm, and there was a lot of head-shaking and solemn looks on both sides."

Bill Barnwell: I was watching this game out of the corner of my eye at the bar with Ian while, for some god-forsaken reason, I focused on the Giants game. Every time I looked over, someone was missing a field goal, fumbling, getting sacked, or generally doing something awful.

I realized we really need to come up with a metric that tries to find the worst-played games in the last ten years, although I guess we could just do the 10 worst combined DVOA performances.

Dallas Cowboys 23 at New York Giants 20

Aaron Schatz: We may have reached the point where you should never let Eli Manning throw the ball in the red zone. Man, has he made some bad decisions, trying to fit a ball in where there was no space, and he's gotten lucky with no interceptions.

Doug Farrar: I have never seen any quarterback get more praise for throwing easy underneath stuff against a deep zone that Eli Manning. It's as if he invented the idea, and nobody else has ever done it.

Aaron Schatz: To say something nice about the Giants, that LT (Whitfield) who replaced Petitgout and has been awful has instead been pretty good in this game.

Seattle Seahawks 23 at Denver Broncos 20

Aaron Schatz: At what point in discussing the problems of the Denver offense will somebody finally say the words "Matt Lepsis"?

Doug Farrar: The drops from Seattle's receivers are infuriating, but I really wish announcers would note a couple things when talking about them:

1. The Seahawks cut their drops in half last season. It was a huge problem in 2004, far less so in 2005, and intermittently in 2006.
2. Some of the drops had to do with timing issues between Seneca Wallace and the receivers when Hasselbeck was out. This was especially true of Wallace and Deion Branch. Those two always seemed half a tic off from each other.

It just annoys me because it shows that someone didn't do their homework. You wouldn't find Michaels and Madden saying that Brett Favre has a longstanding problem with interceptions because he threw 29 in 2005, would you now?

Tim Gerheim: Doug, I think the guys were pretty reasonable in their criticism of Seattle's drops. They said something to the effect of, "The Seahawks have had a lot of trouble with drops, particularly a couple years ago." It's not exacting detail, but I think it covers the point. Also, maybe you were being sarcastic but ... Michaels and Madden did at one point comment, following Jay Cutler's Aaron Brooks-class bonehead interception, that Favre has a longstanding problem with interceptions. Michaels was defending Cutler's decision-making based on his being a rookie, and Madden said there's something in his psychology that makes him throw that interception, commenting that Brett Favre had a problem with those when he was a rookie, and still has a problem with them.

When that interception went up, I about died laughing, and then I text-messaged my beleagured Broncos fan friend, "Why did they put Plummer in for one play?" He has not replied, and I fear lest I will be struck when I see him tomorrow.

Aaron Schatz: Good Madden: Pointing out that the Broncos are playing a lot of downs with three cornerbacks and only one safety. It makes sense because the Seahawks are playing a lot of three-wide sets, and the Broncos trust their third corner (Foxworth) more than their second safety (Cox) because the usual second safety (Brandon) is injured.

Bad Madden: "Champ Bailey is as big in the running game as he is in the passing game." Uh, no. He's fine against the run, but there's not really a comparison.

Doug Farrar: If I were Mike Holmgren, I'd have Maurice Morris out there quite a bit more for two reasons -- first, he's far quicker to the line than Alexander, who likes to wait for things to develop. Denver's defense is too quick for that to work consistently. Second, Denver ranks second in the NFL against #1 receivers, ninth against all other receivers, 13th against tight ends (which would be nice if Jerramy Stevens was consistent at all) and 31st against running backs. Morris is a far better receiver than Alexander. Seattle doesn't throw to the backs that often for a supposedly boilerplate West Coast Offense team.

Aaron Schatz: Bootlegs, scrambles, incomplete passes ... golly, Denver sure looks different tonight.

Doug Farrar: Watch out for rookie guard Rob Sims if he rotates in -- Seattle's running game seemed stronger when he spelled Floyd Womack. Fourth-round rookie from Ohio State. Lots of potential. He could be a starter soon.

I swear, they should just put it right on the ball: THIS IS AN OFFICIAL NFL FOOTBALL. DO NOT THROW THIS ANYWHERE NEAR CHAMP BAILEY.

Ned Macey: This is crap. The Broncos should be going to 8-4 and in control of their playoff destiny, but their large-egoed coach decided a rookie was a better solution. What a joke. I may be the world's largest anti-rookie-QB guy (because they generally are terrible and it doesn't seem to help their long-term development), but the "success" of Young and Leinart had me softening a bit. Then you watch this. Professional football is not practice or preseason. Cutler is not ready to be playing here. They are losing a game despite an excellent defensive performance and a dominating running game.

I can't imagine them winning next weekend in San Diego. If they don't come back here, they'll likely be 7-6 and have no confidence in either quarterback. Plummer was undermined from Day One of the Cutler Era. Shanahan should have kept his mouth shut, played Plummer this year, and cut him in the off-season.

Now, watch Cutler lead a game-winning drive ... or not, as there is the interception.

Aaron Schatz: No, he did lead the game-tying drive. He led it by throwing, what, a five-yard pass to Brandon Marshall, and then nobody on Seattle can tackle. And Michaels and Madden are taking this little five-yard pass followed by horrible defensive play and they are acting like Jay Cutler just invented a cure for cancer or something. Brandon Marshall may be worthy of that praise, but not Cutler. Come on already.

Doug Farrar: The Seahawks really deserved that Marshall touchdown against them. They've been tackling horribly all year, and it had to catch up to them at some point.

(Game ends.)

Doug Farrar: Okay, Seahawks fans -- your team is 8-4 and your kicker is your MVP. You'll take it, right?

Bits 'n' Pieces

Mike Tanier: So I have seen the Madden 07 commercial a million times where Dallas Clark catches a pass and is housed by two Eagles defenders. Has anyone else noticed this? Neither defender is controlled by a player. The dude playing defense is controlling Rod Hood, who runs past Clark and dives onto the ground just before Brian Dawkins grabs Clark and spins him into Darren Howard. It's weird that Clark actually got hurt against the Eagles in real life, and it was strange to see Hood diving at nothing at the commercial.

Man, what a long season.

Aaron Schatz: This may be the first time we ever have unanimous voting for one of the FO awards. Is anybody not going to vote for "This is Our Country" for "Worst Ad"?

Later This Week

Any Given Sunday: Undecided. Colts-Titans, but we did that earlier this year, so it might be Chiefs-Browns.
Every Play Counts: Jets' defensive development

Posted by: admin on 04 Dec 2006

189 comments, Last at 06 Dec 2006, 2:07pm by Sid

Comments

1
by BigManChili (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 11:02am

I love the Falcons talk. It seems that current wisdom has changed from "Vick sucks" to "Vick's receivers suck", and it's not entirely true. It should be "Vick's receivers, offensive line, and offensive coordinator" suck.

2
by queequeg (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 11:06am

regarding the 4th and 1 failure for the giants, the way i saw it was Jacobs shifting to the outside instead of running into the left Bgap where the OL pulled their guards. Whitfield was supposed to just wall Ware off and not get a push because the RB was supposed to already have been upfield, but Jacobs tried to break it outside, so Ware easily shed the block. TLDR version: RB’s fault, not the LT

3
by brasilbear (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 11:34am

I'm a Bears fan and a recovering Grossman supporter and even I can't help but wonder if its time to let Griese manage a game or two. Can it be any worse? (And I'm terrified of Griese for some reason.)

4
by Zack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 11:37am

Another Monday in heaven for this Titans fan...

Repeat after me, Titans will finish 9-7...

5
by Mike (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 11:37am

Didn't the Bills play the Chargers this week?

6
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 11:46am

DVOA, conventional stats, people watching the games without ever looking at stats: I think at this point everybody and everything knows the Colts can't stop the run. Doesn't it seem like the Chargers will be the perfect team to crush the Colts in the playoffs?

The Vikings were in the game late in the third quarter, down 7-6. At that point, the turnovers actually started hurting the Vikes--an INT returned for a TD, another INT setting up short field to give the Bears their only offensive TD, and finally an awful safety. I'm watching a winnable game and five minutes later it feels like I'm watching a mauling. The Viking defense and special teams actually forced 5 turnovers but did nothing with them.

7
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 11:47am

Ben Hartsock is on the Titans now, not the Colts ;o)

8
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 11:49am

It's not that the Colts can't stop the run at all, they just can't consistently. They'll stuff 2 in a row sometimes and then give up 20 on the 3rd. And the Chargers are pretty much the team I would create from scratch to beat them, that's why I was rooting for them to somehow miss the playoffs again!

9
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 11:52am

Any Given Sunday: Undecided. Colts-Titans, but we did that earlier this year, so it might be Chiefs-Browns.

I was feeling like crap over the weekend, and so rested most of the day, but I had on Chiefs/Browns because Dick Enberg/Randy Scott's broadcasts can put me to sleep really easy (seriously - it's partly the production crew, too, which really mutes the Browns stadium sound for some reason).

But when I was watching the game in the beginning, my first thought after the first Edwards TD was "I'm watching Any Given Sunday. Browns are going to pull this one out, or at least keep it very close." I don't know what got into Cleveland's defense that game - they were doing a very good job of controlling the line and limiting LJ.

I also thought it was hilarious that the Browns ran the exact same fleaflickers twice, and they worked both times. And they weren't even deep bomb fleaflickers, where the handoff is designed to get the deep safety to come in. They were both short throws. Weird.

10
by Rick "32_Footsteps" Healey (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 11:58am

"This may be the first time we ever have unanimous voting for one of the FO awards. Is anybody not going to vote for “This is Our Country� for “Worst Ad�?"

Well, it depends, Aaron. Are you lumping together all the incarnations of that damned ad? I've seen three - and we wouldn't want to split the vote, would we? But if you lump them all together, yeah, I'm fairly certain it'd be unanimous. It's even worse if you know the story behind the damn song. Stupid blatant sell-outs...

So I have a question - is it just me, or have the quality of games been really down this year? I'm not talking about compared to some "good old days"... I'm talking since last year. I can barely stand to watch a game until halftime, regardless of who is playing. Part of it might be the announcers - I swear, a special level of hell is reserved for Joe "Emo Girl" Buck. But even with the sound off, the games seem much more sloppy this year. I'm despairing the prospect that I might be completely unamused by the rest of the season.

11
by BlackThunder (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:00pm

Nice. Only at Football Outsiders where a QB can go 66% passing for 270 yards, 2 TDs and no picks and get bashed (Eli). This is a stats website, please stick to the stats.

12
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:01pm

1."I love the Falcons talk. It seems that current wisdom has changed from “Vick sucks� to “Vick’s receivers suck�, and it’s not entirely true. It should be “Vick’s receivers, offensive line, and offensive coordinator� suck."

I dont know if the line sucks. Part of me feels that the main issue is that D Lineman can tell where Vick is, but the O line can't, so when he "improvises," they dont know where he is, and can't protect him.

That being said, if Vick could learn to just throw the damn ball into the damn stands, instead of getting Aaron-Brooks-Sacked for a 22 yard loss, this team would be a lot better.

Recievers: With the amount of talent theyve brought in, I think its a coaching issue.

Offensive Coordinator: Quite possibly the worst coach in football. You've been trying to stick a square peg in a round hole for years..try something different for god sakes.

I almost feel that Denver would be the perfect fit for Vick, but thats not gonna happen.

13
by Kaetab (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:01pm

Frye - broken wrist, or in football speak "worse than a sprain". He looked good and was 11/13/120+/1/0 before he was pulled.

There was no glaring reason I saw as to why the KC defense gave up a 14 pt lead. Browns receivers decided to catch today regardless of which QB was in. That was a nice surprise.

Browns secondary was finally exposed, as Tony Gonzalez was open the entire game, and some ridiculous 3rd down conversion rate will attest. The run defense did pretty well I thought. Only two LJ runs in the 1st quarter were for big yards (10+). Othwerwise, they made him work for inches.

Told the wife at the beginning of the 4th quarter when down by 14, "even if we lose this is a fun game to watch today." Browns played with emotion, which really makes me think last week was a fluke.

14
by ToxikFetus (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:02pm

...and it was strange to see [Rod] Hood diving at nothing at the commercial.

Mike, I know you're an Eagles fan, so the sight of an Eagles defender diving at nothing really shouldn't surprise you.

15
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:05pm

PV.

Brad Johnson really needs to go. The Defence in Minny is great, the line is good, the running game is good, but Brad Johnson just brings absolutely nothing to the table.

16
by Zack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:09pm

seems to me that Minny will be drafting a QB...will it be Brohm or Troy Smith?

17
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:17pm

I mostly watched Bills-Chargers. It was a surprisingly close game.
- Chargers defense completely shut down the Buffalo running game, but Buffalo's o-line was giving Losman time on *some* passing downs. He wasn't getting mauled all the time.
- Chargers offense was basically LDT and Rivers-Gates. It is really infuriating to watch a team not cover a player, and in this game Buffalo decided not to cover Gates. The key drive of this game occurred at the end of the 1st half, with the key play being Gates catching a seam route for ~ 20 yards uncovered to set up another Gates TD.
- Ed Hoculi's crew made some tough calls against Buffalo in the 2nd half. There was one play not ruled a force out that could've been. The Peerless Price toe-heel play also should've been called a force-out. On another play Losman threw up a dangerous pass and one of the safties was in position to intercept it. The ball ended up going through his hands, and Reed was hit early on the play. The officials ruled the ball had been tipped when it wasn't. These all occurred when the game was 17-14 and prior to the clock killing drive by SD.
- San Diego's defense won't be able to force 4 turnovers... Rivers didn't play exceptionally well, he just threw it to Gates. If a team is able to contain LDT, they should have a shot at winning against SD.

18
by Zzyzx (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:20pm

"Okay, Seahawks fans — your team is 8-4 and your kicker is your MVP. You’ll take it, right?"

Yep, sure will. It's obviously not our year this year, but we have a great shot of going 11-5, maybe will get the second seed, and once you get to the playoffs, who knows what could happen? It's a lot better than I was fearing when Hasselbeck went out.

...now if only someone could learn how to tackle, but that seems to be a league wide problem.

19
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:22pm

10: I agree. I often start watching games excitedly, then find myself doing other things with the game in the background, or turning it off entirely and watching a movie. I don't know why, since I really truly love football and spend the offseason and then every week looking forward to football on Sundays. A lot of games (like the Seahawks-Broncos game last night) features a lot of dullness in between some good, exciting, interesting play.

16: What most people outside of MN don't think about is that the Vikes traded up into the 2nd round (I think they traded both their 3rd round picks) to draft QB Tarvaris Jackson. We're all excited about him, but he's also a complete mystery (can't judge by his good preseason games). Drafting a QB in the first round next year would be an admission that the Vikes wasted two 3rd round picks last year, which I don't think the Vikes are willing to do yet.

20
by Kaveman (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:24pm

At what point in discussing the problems of the Denver offense will somebody finally say the words “Matt Lepsis�?

Aaron: did you see Erik Pears get beaten a lot in this game? I didn't, but wasn't watching the O line play very closely (trying to keep the wife entertained enough to watch with me). To me, it seemed like the rush down the middle was not being handled well at times, but Denver was running the ball well. I've been very pleasantly surprised by Pears.

Cutler is not ready to be playing here. They are losing a game despite an excellent defensive performance and a dominating running game.

Ned: Cutler certainly didn't look ready. But consider a few things:
1. Five turnovers, including one on a kickoff return and one by Rod Smith.
2. Average starting field position was 11 yards worse (Denver 28, Seattle 39) including two drives starting from inside the 5.
3. Al Wilson's injury very clearly knocked the Broncos off their game for a while, and that resulted in 10 points.

And with all this, Denver scored a FG more than their season average.

I've been something of a fan of the Snake, but I have no confidence that he would have done any better. Cutler will improve. Plummer has had games like this in his 10th year.

21
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:25pm

Re #16
Tavaris Jackson, 2nd round, last year.

Re AGS
We were talking about this in the chatroom and came down in favor of KC-CLE, a decision with which this Titans fan agreed. Just as an aside, it's kind of nuts that 5(!) times this year, the Titans have been, or been a serious contender for, AGS.

22
by Seahawk Fan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:26pm

Josh Brown as Seahawk MVP. Done and done.

23
by Kalyan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:32pm

The Giants’ socks should have been hung by the chimney with care

Funny, very funny ...

24
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:34pm

Did anyone have doubts Hasselbeck would drive into FG range and Josh Brown would be money?

I know everyone wants to remember the "We'll take the ball, and we're gonna score" game. But it seems like Hasselbeck has been more money than bust in the clutch also.

25
by Irishfan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:34pm

Reading audibles every week I reckon one of the best things FO could do would be a roundtable discussion on Sundays action – say 1 to 2 minutes on crappy games followed by 5 mins on the good ones which is then put up as a podcast. PFT does a podcast which is generally devoid of football talk (talk about an ironic name for a website) and I still download it to the IPOD when it comes up. FO podcasts would make the “We are sorry, the 730 service to Dublin is delayed for approximately 15 mins due to leaves on the track� announcements much more bearable on cold mornings as I wait for my train to work.

26
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:42pm

Since there is no SF-NO I'll add my thoughts.
- Sickening hearing Bill Maas gush all over Reggie Bush, over and over and over, every time he touched the ball.
- Alex Smith needs another year. We know he started out young, but hasn't he started more games than Grossman by this point? Maybe he has improved...
- The score would've been more lopsided if Devery Henderson could catch the ball. Maybe all he's good for is deep bombs, but Brees was hitting his hands on lot of intermediate routes.
- I'd like to know if Norv Turner is out of football if he loses this job. The man is over-rated and has ridden Troy Aikman to glory. I know they will give him one more year because of Alex Smith and keeping the system in-tact... but it doesn't seem like his play calling is anything special when they don't play the Rams or Cardinals.

27
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:45pm

I think the quality/boredom of some football games has been tied to the QB position. A fair number of teams have been getting by with pretty lousy play out of the QB. These teams win, though, so they get more TV games, and we get to watch teams led by mediocre QBs.
I'm thinking of Denver, Chicago, and Jacksonville for sure, and you could make arguments about Seattle, Baltimore, Kansas City, New York (Giants), and Carolina.

Lousy QB play can often lead to conservative or just plain boring football.

28
by James G (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:46pm

An MVP field goal kicker who missed 2 attempts in the game? Wow.

29
by Aymond (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:47pm

As an Indy fan who can recognize that the Colts were lucky to get to this point with so many wins, I'm curious to see the DVOA for the game. It seems that the Colts outplayed the Titans, but they finally encountered bad luck against kickers, fumbles, and killed themselves with drops and penalties.

And I don't know if anyone's noticed, but Viniatari seems to be missing a lot of field goals lately.

30
by Zack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:50pm

on the boredom of some football games...

This was a problem last year for me...But the titans fixed that problem by drafting Vince Young...

31
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:51pm

With the caveat that once cannot really judge these matters well if one hasn't see the back up qb in practice, the Bears and Vikings likely should make qb changes, and the Vikings should have done so several weeks ago. If Brad Johnson isn't going to take care of the ball, and he really hasn't this year, then there is no reason to have him on the field.

The defenses in the NFL have evolved to the point where having an immobile qb isn't viable anymore, no matter the other attributes of the qb, but when immobility is combined with weak arm strength, an offense has zero chance, even if the qb makes great decisions, and Johnson hasn't even done that for about six weeks now. The Vikings defense put forth another great effort yesterday(gee, do ya' 'spose that punting out of bounds might be a good idea against a team which scores a large percentage of it's points, relatively speaking, on kick returns?), with all 23 points coming off turnovers or returns, and it was wasted again.

Of course, a good portion of the Bears lack of offense is also properly attributed to the deep abyss of suckitude that is Rex Grossman. They likely will not win two consecutive playoff games, to say nothing of three, with Rexus Horribillus taking snaps; a team simply can't hope to be so tremendously outplayed at the qb position against playoff teams and come out ahead three games in a row.

After watching the qb play in the Vikings/Bears, and then observing Romo consistently but time in the pocket and make accurate throws while on the move, it was like seeing a different game. Whether the Vikings draft a qb depends on what they've seen from Tavaris Jackson in practice, and who is available. I still think the Vikings could win three of their last four, which might not put them in position to draft a top rated qb, and if Tavaris Jackson has not been horrible in practice, management will be hestitant to admit that trading up to draft him was a mistake.

32
by JAT (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 12:55pm

Re #8

Agreed. The Colts do suck against the run (unfortunately, as I'm a homer), but it's a nuanced suck that most don't take the time to consider. Some games they're surprisingly good for 2 or 3 quarters before falling apart, and others like yesterday they are good for 2 or 3 plays before getting gashed. I'd hoped that they were going to improve as the season progressed, but it's pretty clear that they are stuck with this D for the duration. It sure doesn't seem like a recipe for playoff success.

33
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:04pm

8 and 32, I doubt there's any team that's lousy against the run every play or every quarter or every series. The nature of a pro running game suggests there will be a fair number of 1 or 2 yard runs.

That's why being inconsistent against the run is, to me, being bad against the run. If you are inconsistent against the run and your opponent doesn't just give up on it, you're eventually going to get hurt.

The Colts best hope in the playoffs (and I do hope they do well in the playoffs) is to score points early, build up a lead, and make the opponents either give up the run or render the opponent's running game meaningless. If they're in a close game, "inconsistency" against the run means they'll likely get hurt by the run.

34
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:10pm

29. Aymond

Vinateri has been missing a lot of fieldgoals since 2004.

Everyone like to remember those "clutch kicks" and forget all the fieldgoals he missed, often in the same game.

35
by Chris Heinonen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:10pm

I didn't get to see Browns-Chiefs, so I'd like to see a breakdown of how Anderson did filling in at QB (he's an Oregon State grad, have to pull for him). That said, the comment about him running with the ball exposed rings very true. Coming out of high school, he was a Top-10 QB in the nation but despite having incredible physical gifts, he was a continual turnover machine due to poor decision making. Some of that I think was coaching (as the QB that replaced him had the same issue the next year), but if he can overcome that, he would be a pretty decent NFL QB I think.

36
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:10pm

Re: QB Play
I don't think its getting better unless there is contraction.

I'm happy that it seems like Leinart, V. Young, Roethelisberger, Eli, and Rivers will all end up as QB keepers. For the sake of the game I hope Romo is also.

2001 - Vick, Brees, Carter, Tuisasopo
2002 - Carr, Harrington, Ramsey, McCown
2003 - Palmer, Leftwich, Boller, Grossman
2004 - Manning, Rivers, Roethelisberger, Losman

It actually seems worse looking at some of the drafts through the 1990s... Rick Mirer!?

I've asked this a bunch over the past couple years but is it really getting worse or are we just putting more scrutiny on the QB position? I guess when you've added 4 more QBs through expansion, it would make it seem worse.

37
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:17pm

Also, if Sanders isn't healthy, the Colts have absolutely zero chance. I'm, really rooting for a Cowboys/Colts Super Bowl, but I think the former has a much better chance than the latter. I like the Patriots too, but the prospect of the media beating the dead horse of a Parcells-Belichick confrontation for two weeks is too horrible to to contemplate. Chargers/Cowboys would be fun. Bears/Ravens might get me to watch basketball two months earlier than normal. Heck, if Reggie Bush starts fufilling his gigantic potential this year (and I think he has been pretty good already), the Saints would be a great story; it wouldn't shock me to see then make the big game as the NFC rep.

38
by Seahawk Fan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:17pm

Re: 28

Josh Brown as MVP - hell yes. Everybody misses a kick now and then. The key is making the clutch kick with the game on the line. Brown is slowly moving off "fungible" kicker status and into rarefied "Vinateri and Akers" status.

39
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:21pm

I think the quality/boredom of some football games has been tied to the QB position. A fair number of teams have been getting by with pretty lousy play out of the QB.

Except, historically, none of those QBs have been bad. They're just (suddenly) bad this year. I think, in part, this has a lot more to do with continued defensive evolution in the NFL. Regardless of what the competition committee tries, defenses just seem to have the edge recently.

Plus, to make things worse, extremely few teams with competent quarterback play this year are on complete teams. Of the top 10 quarterbacks in DPAR, a grand total of two of them play on teams with a top 10 defense - Dallas and New England. Of the top 16 quarterbacks in DPAR, a grand total of 6 of them have a top 16 defense.

For reference, last year, it was 5/10 of the top 10, and 11/16. In 2004 it was 2/10 of the top 10), and 9/16.

40
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:21pm

36: No, I think overall it's getting better. I just mean that this season some teams are winning with lousy QB play, and that's making for more boring games this year. For the forseeable future, the league should have some very good players at QB, as a lot of young ones show some elite promise.

41
by billvv (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:21pm

MDS, you're just catching on about the Jets? I've been trying to get ANYBODY to see what they've been doing for months! I am glad to see the apology from Aaron, though. Lots of others are due.

42
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:26pm

I think the qb position gets more difficult to play every year, due to defenses getting larger, more athletic, and sophisticated each year, even with all the rules changes designed to help offense. The field is the same size as it was 25, 50, and 75 years ago, but the the guys on defense can simply cover the area much more quickly, and are bigger when they get to the ball. Sure, the offenses are biggers and faster too, but a static field, over time, favors defense. Throw in that defense caught up to offense, in terms of sophistication, many years ago, and playing quarterback is harder than ever.

43
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:34pm

1). I do not know of the ad of which you speak. Wow, it's amazing how much better a football season is when you have a DVR...

2). I've given up on understaning PI this season. I'm back to the point I was at when I was 8, and I would see a long pass and if it was for my team, I would swear at the little yellow flag, and if it was against, I would cheer for it, but I wouldn't have the slightest clue when or why or how the flag appeared.

(And yes, being fair minded, I saw the Pats get away with some blatant PI against Detroit, so the pendulum swings both ways. Although neither team could so much as blink at the other without being called for unnecessary roughness or hands to the face or something).

3). I think it's possible that the announcers calling the Pats-Detroit game were the worst I've ever heard. I guess the announcers played down to the level of play on the field, and the level of officiating.

44
by Zzyzx (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:34pm

"Did anyone have doubts Hasselbeck would drive into FG range and Josh Brown would be money?"

No and it's kind of weird. Two months ago after the, "You tackle him," "No, YOU tackle him," play I would have thrown things at the television and screamed and all sorts of stuff. This time, I looked at the clock, saw that there was plenty of time, and calmly waited for the drive.

"Regardless of what the competition committee tries, defenses just seem to have the edge recently."

And the problem there is that no one likes to see games decided because the rules don't let talented people do anything. Randomly throwing flags is not the solution.

45
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:37pm

Wow, am I ever the Rex Grossman of keyboard operation today. Sorry for all the typos.....

46
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:37pm

One comment I want to make on DAL-NYG. Is everyone forgetting Dallas' first TD was set up by a DPI penalty in the end-zone? What was that, a 30 yard penalty or something? Pierce definatly had his hands on Whitten, especially as Whitten came out of his break, but it just didn't seem like a foul that merits the ball on the 1 yard line.

I'm all for bringing in the 2-tiered DPI penalty next year, but I think everyone is so riled up over protecting the QB it will take another year for DPI outrage to occur. I just thought it was ridiculous Dallas had a 2-play 30+ yard drive, when they really only gained 1 yard on the TD run.

47
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:40pm

Matt, you know what drives me even more nuts than DPI being worth basically unlimited yards?

Offensive Pass Interference being a 5 yard penalty. It should be 10+ yards, and loss of down.

48
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:43pm

In the Viking-Bear game, there was one defensive holding call, and I don't remember a single PI call. Windy day with lousy QBs, or total inconsistency between crews?

49
by Zzyzx (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:45pm

"Matt, you know what drives me even more nuts than DPI being worth basically unlimited yards?

Offensive Pass Interference being a 5 yard penalty. It should be 10+ yards, and loss of down. "

It is 10 yards (albeit not loss of down) already.
http://www.nfl.com/fans/rules/passinterference

And yes, that was off the top of my head knowledge because of a certain Superbowl call... still.

It looks like my prediction after that game is coming true. When fans think the games are being called at random, it creates frustration and conspiracy theories.

50
by ABW (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:45pm

At this point, any time I see a pass intereference penalty I just try and laugh it off. Otherwise I'm going to go postal. In addition to the non-call that Aaron mentions, there was a play on a crossing route where the CB(Hobbs, I think) tackled the receiver just after the ball sails past him, and the umpire, who is not more than 6 feet from the play, correctly signals incomplete. Except the back(or possibly side) judge, who was far enough away that he wasn't even on the screen, chucks his flag from all the way across the field. And of course once the flag is down, there's no way the refs can pick it back up, so the call stands, even though at least one ref clearly saw that the play was clean.

Of course, they then made it up to the Patriots by calling a ticky-tack offensive pass interference on McCown two plays later. Just the way NFL refereeing is supposed to work.

Weeky pass interference rant off.

Other notes:

As noted by others and myself in this space on practically a weekly basis, Chad Scott sucks. Asante Samuel is having a very good year though - on the play where he tipped the ball away from Hawkins I thought that was actually a good play by him - he defensed the pass and stayed with it, giving himself a chance to intercept it, and I don't think he could have known that Hawkins was there.

The New England O-line is just not looking that good. I thought the issues they were having with run blocking would clear up with the return of Stephen Neal, but it hasn't.

I dunno why the Patriots keep a guy like Patrick Pass around at this point. What does he give you that either Kevin Faulk or Heath Evans doesn't? Evans can handle the fullback/special teams duties and Faulk can fumble just as well as Pass can. Personally would much rather see that roster spot used on an actual nickel back.

51
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:50pm

"Except the back(or possibly side) judge, who was far enough away that he wasn’t even on the screen, chucks his flag from all the way across the field."

I think thats a huge part of the problem. The big PI call that everyone hated in last year's NE/Den playoff game was the same thing: The closest ref said it was clean, but the back judge all the way across the field called PI. Same with that recent PI on Artrell Hawkins in the Bears game.. the close ref who could see the play didnt call anything, but the one on the other side, who could see nothing but Bernard Berrian's back called PI.

It seems like theyre calling based on if the reciever looks like he got contacted, rather than what actually happened, similar to how they call holding on the lines.

I agree with your synopsis of the O line. Matt Light went from very good, to being absolutely destroyed on a regular basis. I dont know if its a lack of strength in that leg he broke, but hes just not any good.

52
by Dan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:51pm

Re: the browns' comeback. Did backup QB anderson get hurt on that last sack? In the drive before the game winner he got hit really hard and landed on his (left?) shoulder. Right after that the cameras showed the emergency backup QB taking snaps and tossing the ball around. Did Anderson ever get back into the game?

53
by JJcruiser (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:54pm

Chad Scott 2006 = Duane Starks 2005

Wow you guys are being a little hard on Scott, aren't you? This was the first bad game he's played, and he injured his groin two weeks ago and was clearly playing hurt last night. There's no way he's been as bad through 12 games this year as Duane Starks was last year.

54
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:56pm

Matthew, I pretty clearly saw Pierce actually grasp Whitten's arm. If the defender actually grasps the reciever in the end zone, while the ball is in the air, I'm pretty hesitant to say that the offense shouldn't get the ball near the goal line. I'd like to have to have more consistent PI call or non-calls, but I'm not sure that giving a db full permission to engage in intereference 40 yards downfiled, knowing that they will only get a 15 yard penalty.

55
by A Latin Teacher (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:57pm

#31: Bad Rex = Rex Malus; Horrible Rex = Rex Horribilis; Really, really bad Rex = Rex Pessimus

56
by chuangtzu (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:58pm

David Carr. All he does is win.

57
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 1:58pm

Just a question: is one ref being closer really all that matters to whether PI took place? Sometimes the PI can't be seen from one angle because the players' bodies are blocking the view of the players' hands from the ref. I'm not sure "That ref was closer and didn't see anything" is itself a valid complaint, since a ref from a different angle, albeit from farther away, might have a better view of the actual infraction.

58
by Steve Sandvik (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 2:06pm

46-was that the one where he had a hand on Witten's left shoulder? It looked like he spun him enough to change it from a difficult reception to an impossible one. I think it was pretty genuine pass interference. It'd be a case for the 2-tier pass interference idea that's been bandied about here, though, because it wasn't like he drilled him before the ball got there or anything (like, say, Roy Williams did to Shockey on the sideline that game).

Will Seattle fans take 8-4 and thank our lucky stars for Josh Brown? You bet your sweet bippy we will. Oh, and a big shout out to Mike Shanahan for sending the rook out against our boys.

59
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 2:11pm

And the problem there is that no one likes to see games decided because the rules don’t let talented people do anything. Randomly throwing flags is not the solution.

They're not really preventing talented people from doing anything. They're just trying to equalize the balance of talent on the field. That is, there are a lot of players who can rush the quarterback now - more than there were previously, and that's not the way the game is supposed to be. Only one or two of the defensive ends in the league are supposed to be able to get double-digit sacks, for instance.

Really, in some sense, it's the same thing as when they changed the kicking rules to limit touchbacks late in the 1990s. Too many talented kickers were showing up, and they were changing the game. So they changed the rules to restore the typical distribution.

Though I do agree that randomly throwing flags is not the solution. I don't have a problem with the roughing the passer restrictions. I do have a problem with the fact that the rules aren't equally enforced across the league.

I don't, for instance, have a problem with Mathias Kiwanuka screwing up with Vince Young. Why? Yeah, he didn't sack Young because he thought he had thrown the ball. But the answer to that should be obvious: he should've paid attention to whether or not Young threw the ball. If that's too hard for him, too bad - get smarter, or go home.

60
by michael (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 2:19pm

Regarding the quality of games, my personal thought is that the league has reached the point of diminishing expansion returns. I believe there simply are not enough quality players to stock 32 full rosters, leading to every team having some critical shortcoming.

61
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 2:20pm

57

The problem is, most of the time, thats not the case. Most of the time, the judge that calls it in those cases can't see anything. Sometimes they'll even show the camera from an angle near him, and its clear that he can't see anything.

62
by Tighthead (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 2:24pm

It was Fasano, not Whitten.

That is all.

63
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 2:24pm

60

I completely disagree. The talent available right now is so much higher than it was 10 years ago, as to not even be comparable.

I think theres too many coaches out there that have jobs and shouldnt. Guys who consistently put up awful teams, and get rehired as head coaches.

64
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 2:26pm

Pat,

as to there needing to be rules made to deal with pass rushers getting better, again, I disagree. If teams start pass rushing better, good offensive lineman just become more important, and screens and draw plays should become more prevalent.

I hate this trend of continually making things easier for offensive coordinators, instead of making them come up with new schemes.

65
by JasonK (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 2:30pm

#54:

I concur (and I'm a Giants homer). The Pierce PI was legit-- what made it frustrating is that the pass was off enough that it probably would've been incomplete even if there was no contact. The Cowboys gameplanned that well-- they found ways to get their TEs in deep single-coverage by Pierce, who had a poor game.

On a related note, the Giants will be needing 2 new safeties this offseason. Demps totally sucks, and Wilson isn't much better.

66
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 2:31pm

Re: defense, offense, and coaching.

Doesn't it seem that defensive coaching is, overall, a lot more creative than offensive coaching in the NFL?

I was talking to a guy who watches a lot of NFL this weekend that just started watching a lot of college football, and he talked about how he loved all the crazy stuff they'll do on offense. There's more creative flair.

In the NFL, it does seem that most teams run variations of the same playbook on offense. Defensively, however, you see some real creativity. The Steelers, for example, have taken advantage of Polamalu's unique talents and used some defensive variations that are fairly unique. I don't see offensive coaches finding offensive players with the same unique talents, then running unique systems. Perhaps it tells us something that the "genius" of this era is Belichick, with his varied approach to defense, whereas in the 80s the "genius" was the offensive guru Bill Walsh.

67
by Zzyzx (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 2:33pm

59 - the problem though is that while fans like to see passes, they also like sacks. The frustration comes in large part because the flags are coming for things that fans like.

If I were trying to balance things, I would try things like kicking off from the 30. Making the field wider would create problems, but it might have to be done. Maybe liberalize holding rules and/or get rid of the 5 yard allowed chuck zone. More radically, some sort of weight restriction on players could come out.

I don't know the results of those changes, but rules with large amounts of leeway doesn't make for exciting watching.

Oh, by the way, NBC, don't make your "TOUCHDOWN" graphic on your score bar yellow please? Whenever I see it, I freak out for a second because I think there's a flag.

68
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 2:38pm

Further along these lines:

On defense, you at least have teams either choosing between primarily a 3-4 or primarily a 4-3, with variations in both.

But offensively, so many teams run a variation of the West Coast offense--and those variations don't show a lot of creativity. Or they don't run the West Coast, and feature a little more downfield passing, but it's still pretty similar.

Remember when we had 3--THREE!--run and shoot teams in the league? There were at least some renegades doing things most of the league wasn't doing. Today? Can you name an offense that really distinguishes itself as unique from the rest of the league? I have trouble doing so. I like what Sean Payton is doing with the Saints, and I think Mike Martz is more than capable of using players in unique ways. Other than that, it's hard.

69
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 2:41pm

If teams start pass rushing better, good offensive lineman just become more important

You're assuming that there's an equal number of available offensive linemen able to handle them. I'm not sure that's the case.

I hate this trend of continually making things easier for offensive coordinators, instead of making them come up with new schemes.

Again, I'm not sure I agree with you that schemes could actually deal with it. Screens, draws, etc. will only work so long as only the pass rushers are fast, and the linebackers are slow. With both of them being fast, I think you're kindof screwed.

I should note that I don't disagree with you that I think they're not doing the right things - especially because they don't seem to be working, and you get these constant random roughing the passer penalties which just seem stupid. I'm just not sure all of the blame can be placed on crappy coaches, etc. I think part of it just has to do with what Will Allen mentioned in #42: with defenses becoming faster, the fixed field size means offenses get a bit screwed.

The one change I would suggest would be pretty simple, actually - allow one foot in bounds to be a catch. Effectively, that just widens the field by about a yard.

70
by Spike (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 2:43pm

RE: Josh Brown as game MVP

While missing two field goals is not the way you normally get the role, it's not just the 3 that went through. He also helped force the Denver kickoff fumble and did a nice pooch punt that was also nearly a Seahawks recovery. While FO knows "Fumble Recoveries Are Unpredictable" (TM), he clearly brought more to the game than kicking between the uprights.

71
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 2:47pm

Can you name an offense that really distinguishes itself as unique from the rest of the league?

Atlanta, definitely. Houston and Denver as well, in some ways.

I think part of the problem is that weirdo offenses just don't work very long. Atlanta's gone through what, like 3 oddball offenses this year? They last for a grand total of one week (after which TMQ praises them for being brilliant, right before they crash in giant flames).

I do see your point, though. I just wonder if it's a bit self-selective: people continue doing things that work. Weirdo offenses that don't work exist for a grand total of one week, after which they're abandoned. Or else you lose your job (see Spurrier, Steve).

So it might be that offensive minds aren't as creative, or it might be that the options available given the speed of defenses nowadays have dwindled to basically one.

72
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 2:50pm

Hey Doug & Aaron, no offense, but isn't touting DVOA as knowing the Colts can't stop the run and that Chicago has really really good defense and special teams kinda like someone touting they have a statistical system that thinks Tuesday is the day after Monday. And then Tuesday morning telling everyone "See, I told you so"? ;-)

73
by Bill (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 2:53pm

66 - Some of it is the talent difference at the college level - when you have a player or two that's head-and-shoulders better than the rest, you can have more creative gameplans to get them the ball. (See: Houston Nutt.) But if Fisher tried to run the Tebowne offense with Vince Young, Young would eventually end up on a stretcher.

74
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 2:59pm

I haven't seen Houston this year, though I'll agree about Denver. Atlanta, I'm not so sure. Their uniqueness comes exclusively from their QB, and yet a lot of people seem to agree that the Falcons don't use Vick as well as they could to emphasize his talents. Now that I think of it, I haven't seen the Falcons for an entire game this season, either (basic cable), so my thoughts on Atlanta come from previous years.

I agree, mostly, that the speed of the defenses makes it hard to run a creative offense. It's hard to run many offensive plays that work laterally anymore because of the speed of the linebackers (and even linemen). The run and shoot has proven problematic because it's hard to protect the QB and it's hard to protect a lead. I'd just like to see more offensive coordinators trying SOMETHING different. Innovations usually either take the league by storm until defenses adjust, or they look like oddball wacky failures until they're shown to be successful. That's why I like some of the offensive formations Payton uses with the Saints--it's at least something (of course, I've watched the Vikings run the same six plays all year, so consider the source).

75
by Moridin (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 3:09pm

Will, Pacifist
If they coaches aren't totally talking out their asses on the radio, they seem to be rather high on Tarvaris, they just don't want to play him until next year. Now, whether that's true or not...

Anyway, hopefully we'll at least get to see Bollinger play for abit, though if they lose a couple more (or even just one), they should just let Tarvaris play for the experience.

76
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 3:12pm

Also, the Giants' running plays seem different than much of the league's running plays, though I haven't watched the Giants enough to know exactly how.

77
by Riceloft (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 3:13pm

Re: 52 - Anderson/Browns

Anderson finished out the game.

78
by admin :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 3:13pm

Re: 72. The "DVOA knows something" comment was actually meant as a reference to the Titans, not the Colts.

79
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 3:16pm

Yeah, going to the one foot in bounds rule is a change that would produce more scoring without changing the nature of the game much, and it probably would make things easier for the zebras as well. If stadium configurations allowed it, widening the field five yards would be a positive step. Even absent configuration problems, however, the NFL would likely consider it too radical. That's too bad, because such a change would really showcase the athleticism of players on both sides of the ball, running or passing.

Pat's right that it is the speed of the modern defensive player which really inhibits the use of screens and draws, or other play variations, not the lack of imagination by offensive coordinators. Pacifist, the the lack of variety in the Vikings playcalling is exhibit one showing why an immobile qb just isn't viable in the NFL any longer, which makes it even more frustrating that they didn't make a qb switch a month ago. If nothing else, having Bollinger behind center (assuming Jackson just isn't even close to handling the playbook) would have given defenses more to prepare for. As it is, I think the work week for opposing defensive coordinators shrinks by 40% when the Vikings are the next opponent.

80
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 3:19pm

Re: Mobility

I've wondered if somebody like Drew Bledsoe had come along in 1962 or 1972 instead of 1992, if we'd be talking about him as an all-time great. Maybe that's silliness. I agree, some level of mobility is a requirement. It doesn't have to be "scrambling" ability, either; Dan Marino couldn't run faster than me, but he had an amazing ability to sidestep pass rushers. Brady and Manning aren't terribly mobile, either, but they manage to avoid rushers or have enough other skills to compensate for their lack of mobility.

81
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 3:20pm

Atlanta's a zone-blocking team as well - it's not all from their QB. The reason I said "definitely" with Atlanta is because in addition to the different blocking style, they also have gone wackball-nuts trying to find an appropriate way to use Vick. So we've seen the shotgun option offense for a grand total of two weeks (before New Orleans blew it up, violently), then, after Atlanta's success versus Pittsburgh, TMQ proudly proclaimed them the "neo high school offense" - i.e., run, run, run, play-action and pass deep, which worked for all of two weeks versus Pittsburgh and Cincinnati before being blown up versus Detroit and Cleveland.

I'm definitely not saying I'm right here, and that all offensive innovation in the NFL is dead: I'm just saying it's possible. Finding a scheme to attack a cover-2 is one thing: finding a scheme to beat fast, strong defensive players who essentially overcover the entire field is quite another.

82
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 3:21pm

With regard to pass interference, there's three things that often bug me...

First, it's fine if an official across the field throws a flag and thinks he saw something - maybe he did. But once the officials get into the little conference they do after most flags, the official should be able to tell the others exactly what it he believes happened, and the other officials should be allowed to say "That's not what happened," in which case, they wave off the penalty. Right now, any official on the field can call PI, and there's almost never a case, despite instances where closer officials seem to have a clear view of the play and didn't throw a flag, where they say "On conference, there is no penalty."

Just like with this season's offensive holding 'point of emphasis' (that is, don't call holding unless you absolutely 100% see an actual hold happening), an official that throws a flag for pass interference (or anything, but this discussion is about PI) should need to be able to exactly elucidate what it was he saw that made him throw that flag - and it can't be just a "Oh, the receiver slowed down and I saw some hands so it looked like interference." That's what happened with holding calls - officials got too wrapped up in "Oh, the defensive lineman fell, better call holding!" and weren't calling the penalties they saw, just the ones they thought happened. If the official cannot say what happened, there should be no call - the flag should be picked up.

Second, there needs to be way more leeway given for incidental contact that is intiated by both sides. Far too often you see the receiver put his hands on the defender, the defender pushes them away and gets the flag. Sort of reminds me of last year when Dwayne Wade pushed Steve Nash in the playoffs, and the referee immediately called a foul...on Steve Nash. Not all contact between receiver and defensive back has to be a penalty, and if it's initiated by the receiver, it should be incidental if not offensive interference.

Third, there needs to be a point of emphasis made on passes that are uncatchable. Right now, the official standard for "uncatchable ball" seems to be a) the player would have needed a jet pack to get high enough to catch it; or b) the pass was 10 yards out of bounds.

If a defender drags the receiver to the ground and then the pass sails 5 yards ahead of the receiver, that pass might have been caught had the player not fallen. But if the defender brushes the player to the point that their momentum is not stopped, a pass that lands 5 yards ahead of the receiver wouldn't have been caught, interference or no interference. Likewise, you see tons of interference flags thrown on balls that sail out of bounds for which the receiver had no real chance to get the ball. If, in the official's judgment, a ball wouldn't have been caught even if the defender hadn't been there at all, then the interference should not be flagged (or, at the minimum, should be of a 5- or 10-yard variety, not a gigantic penalty).

83
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 3:21pm

The single most bizarre call this weekend was a roughing the passer penalty on Brian Urlacher who shoved Brad Johnson to the ground just as Johnson released the football.

The ref tried to justify the call by announcing "the defender flexed his arms before hitting the quarterback".

Of course, in the second half Grossman was absolutely CREAMED by a Viking lineman and no flag.

84
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 3:28pm

Admittedly, the zone blocking variation is creativity for football connoisseurs. It's different than a lot of teams run, but it doesn't make the plays look terribly different. Indeed, though, if you watch the game closely the zone blocking with the "one cutback then go" philosophy of those running games stands out. A few other things are coming to me as I think about it--not big scheme differences, but a few unique variations. Green Bay did that thing where they essentially brought in a sixth offensive lineman a few years ago. Dallas occasionally does some shifty things with TEs. Very few teams run the stretch play as often as Indianapolis.

I guess there is creativity there, but it's much more subtle.

85
by Dan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 3:34pm

phantom defensive holding call in the Den-Seatle game:

I am selfishly holding onto the belief that one main reason the Bronco's didn't win was a result of the phantom defensive holding call late in the game on third down that sustained a seahawks drive and gave them 3 points.

Even Madden and Michaels commented on that call and couldn't see anything resembling defensive holding on the lineman called, or anyone else on the screen during the replay.

Oh right - that bad call AND the fact that:
1) the offense couln't convert 3rd down
2) none of the deep balls connected from Cutler to Walker
3) Denver would rather give the ball away with bad interceptions and fumbles than score.

86
by BigManChili (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 3:41pm

Re 12: As far as the receivers go, it definitely is coaching. The WR Coach, George Stewart, didn't even play receiver in the NFL. He was an Offensive Guard in college, and then was Lou Holtz's Offensive-line coach after college before coming to the pros. For the offensive line, part of it is the scrambling of Vick. However, with the zone-blocking scheme, they have a bunch of small, undersized blockers that are "Athletic". It works for the Broncos, but not as much for the Falcons. They have to finesse to get running lanes, and in pass protection you can't finesse a bull rush.

87
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 3:47pm

Since the Titans also wore baby blue pants against the Giants, they may start to think it's a good luck charm........

I am afraid that Aaron's inner Dr. Seuss is catching up to him. Would you like the Jaguars here or there; would you like them anywhere?

88
by jdb (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 3:48pm

another Sunday, another battle between Rex Grossman and his own defense to see if they can score faster than he can turn the ball over. Seriously, all due respect to the Vikings, why do the Bears even bother with other teams? Every game they just seem to be fighting themselves. Every time I watch a Bears game it feels like I'm watching Waiting for Godot, except that we're waiting for Grossman. Oh f**k it, who am I kidding? Just put in Brian Griese so he Trent Dilfer 2000 the Bears to the Super Bowl.

89
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 3:49pm

No doubt, Pacifist, if Bledsoe had been drafted by a good team in 1972, a HOF career wouldn't have been surprising at all. Marino had such a tremendously quick release his lack of foot speed was not really a factor, and he did move within the pocket effectively, which Bledsoe and Johnson do not. Even with Marino, however, if he were to be drafted today, I doubt he would be as dominant. The pass rushers are just that good. Warner strung together a few great years, but being immobile and taking a physical beating soon took it's toll. Martz's unwillingness to keep receivers in for pass protection accelerated this process, of course.

Watching Romo constantly buy gigantic amounts of time with his intelligent scrambles, and then throw extremely accurately, even while on the run, makes us fans of quarterback-challenged teams green with envy.

90
by jetsgrumbler (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 3:50pm

re: 41. i agree JETS are playing better on defense, but the run d is still very bad. ahman green had some huge holes and went untouched for the first 5 yrds many times.

as an aside, is anyone else annoyed that bryan thomas is consistently announced in tv starting line ups as DE when he plays upright as OL on every snap?

91
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 3:56pm

Re: Offensive innovations
How about starting the QB at 7-step drop depth (further back) in shotgun and then put your FB/HB split a bit in front of him. Train your center to be able to direct span it to either one of them consistantly.

I guess the goal of this would primarly be to drop the QB back sooner.... but you need the threat of more direct-snap runs if you are going to run an offense like that. Maybe you could even put the FB a little further up than the HB in a shot-gun type of I formation.

I don't think you'd necessarily need a mobile QB like Vick, to run this type of offense, you're just basing your offense in the traditional shot-gun and forgoing the handoff. Maybe it wouldn't work with Marino. Instead of faking the handoff your RB could hand off to the QB. By putting the QB further back you give him a bit more space to slide in the pocket... and more passing lanes. He would need to have a good arm to make the throws.

Re: Rule Changes
Loosen up "ineligible lineman downfield" penalty (give them 5 free yards). Allow "offensive pass interference" on pass plays that go 5 yards downfield.

What would need to happen is for someone like Julius Peppers to play FB and be not only a blocking machine, but also a threat to run with speed/power. Kind've like Brandon Jacobs, but not how the Giants use him. The problem is all those athletic t ype of players are playing at the DE position, but if they were moved to FB/RB and given the ball more, or were able to significantly help out on pass blocking as effectively as an offensive lineman.... they would be useful.

I see one of the problems being that RB blocking DE or LB is a horrible mismatch for most offensives... when your RB needs to make the block. It's hard enough to find one that catches passes and runs well, but then add in blocking.

Also TE needs to be more versatile, I don't know how Gates is at run blocking... but throw away the idea of having a blocking specialist TE... in this NFL you need to be able to block and catch passes/run routes well to succeed. Maybe the Lorenzo Neal type of FB will also be thrown away...

I agree with whoever said its hard to field 5 competent OL compared to defending against front 7s that are well stacked.

Also, it seems like not that many teams pass to the HB in those swing type of routes.... mainly because the HB isn't a sure bet to beat the LB.... unless he's someone like Reggie Bush.

As much as we rag on Bush... someone like him really does change the Saints offense... that "open space" ability might not gain 20-30 yards, but it's the consistent 5-10 yards he gets, ESPECIALLY on swing passes that that really help the Saints...from what I've seen.

Basically I think expansion has decreased the # of competent offenses, but either increased or unchanged the # of competent defenses.

92
by Insancipitory (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 3:56pm

85, If you look at the call you'll see that Chris Spencer's (#65) jersey is being pulled at the left shoulder, from behind, by the Bronco's defensive lineman. While the call was away from the play, being that the runner was at the bottom of a pile, and thus probably shouldn't have been called. (Since it didn't affect the play at all.) It's hard to argue that it wasn't holding.

It'd be really nice if there was a lot more in the way of camera coverage of the field, and if the refs were forced to hold a press conference maybe an hour or so after the game. Where the sports media, could ambush the officals on their calls during the game citing specific examples with video clips. Calls, no-calls, rule explainations, and grade the crews on their performance in that. Sure there would probably be more heart attacks, but many of them are lawyers anyway.

93
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 3:57pm

Detroit's offense is unique, and you all should be thankful for that. Unfortunately, it's not only unique in a Martzian fashion ...

I agree with Pat about offensive creativity. The main reason why there aren't any primary run-and-shoot offenses (hmm, what is it that they run in New England these days?) is that they really didn't work that well. They're good at putting up points, but not so good at burning fourth-quarter clock (see Washington-Detroit, I forget what year, why do I keep referencing this game? It was very painful. Anyway, a blown 21-point fourth-quarter lead) or converting short-yardage downs. Detroit lucked into one NFC title game appearance, but that was pretty much it, and that was with an outstanding RB. Houston had an outstanding QB running their offense, and I don't know how Atlanta managed theirs. So, IMHO, they made mediocre teams above average, but didn't do more than that, and in the NFL, you can't do whatever you want, unless the owner has no clue. You can do whatever you want, as long as it's what the last SB champ does.

I thought the PI call on McCown was pretty good. It looked to me like he had his arms extended, but I could be wrong.

Glad to see I wasn't the only one who thought Pearson and Vasgersian might possibly be the worst announcers on the planet. I could do a better job than that. Bad football, bad announcers, it's enough to hurt a man. I'd like to say that it's affected my enjoyment of the NFL, but that's largely due to Matt Millen opening my brain at night, cutting out parts of it that like the NFL, dropping them on the floor, and grinding them under his boot.

I think one of the problems with defensive PI is that it's a spot foul, so in some cases, you get a 30- or 40-yard penalty seemingly at the whim of an official. (If it were a spot/15-yard penalty like in college, it would be just as bad, because you'd have a bunch of DBs who'd just haul down receivers.) Holding calls seem to be just as unevenly made, but they don't hurt the offense as much as PI hurts the defense.

94
by L-Jam (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 3:57pm

RE: Worst Ad of the year.

"Our Country" is overplayed, but that's not nearly as bad as the one where the truck falls through the center of the Earth all the way to China. The levitating Chevies and the recurring Lexuses with the Big Bows on top are pretty awful too. Follow the link for the official "Bad Auto Commercial" Poll

95
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 3:58pm

jdb, I am tempted to say that the game between the Bears and Vikings yesterday set back quarterbacking 70 years, but I don't think that's fair to the qbs of the '30s.

96
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 4:03pm

#84: I think expanded tight end use is definitely one of the 'offensive innovations' that might have the ability to start tipping the balance back towards offense, but unfortunately, I think it might also be limited by the athletic ability of the available tight ends.

Might be one case, though, where the Competition Committee just needs to slow down and wait for the available supply of athletic tight ends to expand. If it does, that is: the number of first-round tight ends which come out of college hasn't exactly been increasing.

97
by Craigers (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 4:03pm

Regarding the current predominance of defense... it's not just in the NFL. Scoring in the CFL appeared to be well down this year and it was frequently observed that the product was less exciting than it has been (despite the wide field, three downs, receiver-heavy sets and other offense-encouraging factors).

I just think that defenses generally currently have the upper hand in terms of theory, or what have you. Traditionally, the CFL as a football product was miles better and more enjoyable than the NFL. That was less true this year even though the quality of NFL games seems to have declined as well.

In addition to all these other proposed changes, one rule change the NFL might think of adopting (from the CFL) is to have the defense line up a yard off the line of scrimmage. This doesn't require the field to be widened or other capital-intensive changes; just a simple requirement that the defensive line back off and give a yard's worth of room.

98
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 4:11pm

Pat, I agree about TEs; a big, athletic, fast TE can be murder to a defense because there's no good way to cover him (if the offense is willing to move him around). And we seem to be getting more athletic TEs into the league; hopefully as the position gains prominence great athletes will play it more/get moved there at lower levels. A great TE like Gates that has the ability to split wide, has the ability to go deep, and can catch passes against either a LB or DB, can help lead to innovations.

99
by underthebus (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 4:12pm

Champ Bailey's interception was awesome. It's pretty amazing that he was outrunning D-jax on a go route alone, but not only that he was outrunning him while looking at Hassleback the whole time!

100
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 4:12pm

Re: #80

I've been saying that for years. If Bledsoe had come out in the late 70s (just after bump-and-run was cracked down on), when the defenses were slower and a team could build a super whammydyne offensive line and stock some burner WRs, Bledsoe could have been amazing. Give him time to wait until the receivers come open and Drew can do some incredible things.

But he has no pocket presence and I don't think his brain operates fast enough to handle the defenses in today's NFL. I'm not saying he's stupid. I'm just saying that he can't get the necessary decisions made in the time he has back there. He could be sharp as a tack, but just doesn't react quickly enough in a football way.

101
by Carlos (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 4:20pm

The field is the same size as it was 25, 50, and 75 years ago, but the the guys on defense can simply cover the area much more quickly,

This is a great point -- and one that applies across basically all pro sports. My own long-standing hypothesis on why the NBA has gotten unwatchable is that the game simply was not ever meant to be played by 10 guys all of whom could dunk, or at least regularly get to the rim for a layup. Passing is basically completely unnecessary, as driving for the dunk/layup and accompanying foul is a pretty unbeatable strategy. It puts all the onus on the defender to try and stop the driver with brutal, physical defense, and that in turn leaves the refs to "decide" 60+ BS judgment calls per game. And the game gets ugly. /end basketball detour

I'd love to see the NFL do something to create the same spacing they used to have when players were both smaller and slower. Make the field bigger... get rid of 2 players, etc..

By the way, the same goes for hockey as well. That's one of the reasons int'l hockey is more exciting to watch than the NHL: bigger rinks mean more room for the "skill guys" to operate.

Alas, it's all a pipe dream.

102
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 4:21pm

The Eli Manning knocks on this site are starting to get ridiculous. Romo throws the ball through Gibril Wilson's hands? He's GOD. Eli throws the ball through Aaron Glenn's hands? He's still sucks. Now you have writers on the site trying to invent new stats to show Eli sucked even when the numbers and 95% of America's eyes said differently. The red zone comment reeks of stupidity. Isn't this the same Cowboys team that kept Peyton Manning SCORELESS on two of his three red zone possessions just a few weeks ago?

#2... The Giants screwed the pooch by even running behind Whitfield. With the current composition of the o-line, they should run 90% of the time in big spots behind O'Hara, Snee, and McKenzie. This is especially true against a good run defense like the Cowboys. Huffnagel's playcalling was just as inconsistent as any players' performances.

103
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 4:21pm

That's a major, and visible, change, though. There are a few other tweaks which you could imagine (again, other than what they're doing now, which I don't necessarily agree with): for one, I'd be extremely happy if they started penalizing all encroachment by the defense once the offense is set and the officials have signalled ready-for-play. I'm actually quite sick of seeing defenses repeatedly jump offsides and get back onsides in a hurry, and I think it puts the offensive line at a severe disadvantage.

104
by fishdogg (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 4:23pm

If you like innovative offense, watch the Jets play. It's not the general scheme that's new, but the sheer number of trick plays and weird schemes that they use. I've thoroughly enjoyed watching them so far this year... they might not have the most talent, but the fantastic coaching and play-calling gives them a huge advantage - the defenses have to prepare for anything, on any play or down, so they can't sell out against either the run or pass.

105
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 4:34pm

Honestly, I'm not too concerned about offensive innovation, given what sort of changes we've seen. It seems every team in the league is willing to do things like play 4 WR on 2&3, or go empty backfield a couple of plays a game. Maybe it's just my short memory, but these are things that simply weren't heard of on a regular and widespread basis as recently as 10-15 years ago. Throw in all the college wackiness, and it becomes even more blase. What I really like to see well-executed offense, whether it's run-and-shoot pass all the time, power running and play action to throw deep, a controlled short-pass attack, or some combination of any or all of the above.

106
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 4:39pm

Yep, penalizing all defensive encroachment would really help even the playing field between pass rushers and pass blockers. Why should defensive players be able to enter the neutral zone, while offensive players have to maintain perfect discipline?

107
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 4:45pm

And we seem to be getting more athletic TEs into the league; hopefully as the position gains prominence great athletes will play it more/get moved there at lower levels.

A bit, yeah: we used to get about 1 well-rounded TE a year, now we seem to be getting about 2, since 2000. With only 2 a year, though, that's not really enough to populate the entire league. Hell, it's not really enough to populate half of the league.

108
by Are-Tee (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 4:48pm

"I still believe that DVOA was correct about the Jets winning games close and not playing that well over the first half of the season, but man, Mangini has them playing well now. I would like to apologize for saying something a couple weeks ago about this team still not being for real. This was an ass-whipping."

Aaron, you should have listened to the handsome chap in the Jets cap at Coliseum Books in NYC on your PFP book tour this past August. He told you you were wrong about the Jets.

By the way, Coliseum Books is going out of business. Now I feel guilty about having bought my copy of PFP from Amazon.com.

109
by Mike (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 4:49pm

#16

Word on the street is Brohm will be coming back for his senior year. Chance for a national title and #1 overall draft pick makes this a smart move in my eyes. Right now, factoring in his injury and Troy Smith's ascention, he might only be the 4th best QB on the market behind Quinn, Smith and Schaub (who will command draft picks as a RFA).

110
by Billy Penn (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 4:56pm

RE: Worst ad of the year

Yeah, I can't take those stupid Lexus-with-the-bow ads. Nothing says "I love you" quite like impending bankruptcy.

111
by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 4:57pm

That reminds me, Schiano had a press conference to say he's staying at Rutgers. Mr. Brohm gets another chance to deal with the Rutgers pass rush, too.

112
by JJcruiser (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 4:59pm

I’d love to see the NFL do something to create the same spacing they used to have when players were both smaller and slower. Make the field bigger

That is a fantastic idea! Much better than continuing to call phantom PI penalties to "open up scoring" because the "fans like scoring."

113
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 5:19pm

There are a handful of quarterbacks that FO criticizes nearly every week, and then a few fans get furious every time.

The truth is that Eli Manning just plain isn't very good. He's got a quarterback rating of 79, and a barely-positive DVOA, and he's in his third year. The Giants didn't trade two first round picks for him so he could get outperformed by Mark Brunell and Jon Kitna.

114
by the NCAA (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 5:23pm

to the guy who said Norv Turner is overrated and has ridden Aikman to glory,

You are wrong buddy.

Norv Turner has consistently put together very good run offenses. If he was the coordinator of Oakland this year we would all be talking about how surprising Oakland is because they wouldn't be running that crap offense that can't run and the defense would back them up and constantly have them in good positions.

IF SF gives up on Turner they are idiots. He is exactly what that team needs. Look what Frank Gore is doing. Now they need to never draft another offensive player for 3 years.

115
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 5:31pm

Re: encroachment

Also, defenders can be running and moving all over before the snap; there are pretty strict rules about offensive movement prior to the snap. Maybe opening up the motion rules (not for down linemen, of course). I'm not sure I favor allowing WRs to get a running start, but basically, defenders are allowed a running start.

Also, the ability of defenses to move prior to the snap (something almost every team does--I'm not sure this used to be the case) makes it harder for offenses to know just what they're facing. Meanwhile, offenses get into a formation and can't move around quite so much to hide that.

116
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 5:33pm

Much better than continuing to call phantom PI penalties to “open up scoring� because the “fans like scoring.�

NFL scoring in the past two years has not exceeded that of 1983 and 1984.

They're not opening up scoring because fans like scoring. They're opening up scoring to keep the level of points per game the same.

They are not trying to make the NFL into Arena Football. I really, really want this myth to die.

117
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 5:42pm

Though Pat, could you argue that their attempt to keep the scoring the same amounts to a concern about fans liking scoring? I mean, what's the harm to the actual game of football if scoring declines? They want to keep the scoring the same because they think that keeps fans more interested.

You're right they're not necessarily trying to "increase" scoring, but I still think their attempt to keep it level has to do with pleasing the fans.

118
by Ben (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 5:43pm

Is it me or have the bears become a caricature of themselves? Their quarterback play is comically bad, Devin Hester producing like Bo Jackson in Tecmo Superbowl and their defense seems to have a 30% chance to force a turnover on any given play.

I am hoping this all culminates in the next Green Bay game and Grossman throws 5 INTs for 4 TDs, the defense forces 15 turnovers and Hester scores on every special teams play including Bear’s punts.

This team is unlike anything I have ever seen.

119
by Carlos (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 5:45pm

Norv Turner has consistently put together very good run offenses

False! Take away the Aikman-Emmitt-Irvin-Offensive Line From Heaven years, and Turner has been well below average.

My grandma could have coached that cowboys offense ("you boys run it or throw it, however you like, and I'll put on some supper.")

Norv's offenses in DC were terrible!

120
by Spike (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 6:01pm

85, 91: I suppose we all like harping on bad announcers, but analysis from the FO site helps explain why this penalty was called and it surprised me Madden missed it. It was an important call in the game flow, but also one the refs got right.

The Seahawks run blocked left on the play. Spencer briefly helped on a double-team, but it was obvious his target was handled. He moved out to the second level looking for a LB. However, the engaged Bronco, who probably also knew he was beaten, grabbed him to prevent a clean downfield block. Even if the RB is being tackled elsewhere, that's clear (and strategic) holding. You'd call illegal contact away from the target of a pass and you should call this.

121
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 6:01pm

118: Doesn't the statement say Turner has "put together very good run offenses"? That statement seems pretty accurate to me. Terry Allen and Stephen Davis had some career years in Washington. Emmitt Smith could obviously make any OC look good, but wasn't Turner the OC when Ricky Williams had his best season, too? Even LaMont Jordan topped 1,000 under Turner.

122
by Tighthead (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 6:16pm

More motion, bigger fields...time for you guys to start watching the CFL. The motion will freak you out at first, but on a Friday night in July, it sure beats baseball.

123
by DGL (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 6:24pm

With the Bears' defense and special teams scoring 16 points, and their offense scoring 7, shouldn't they just punt on first down?

124
by Eddo (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 6:31pm

I have been a Grossman supporter all year, and just have a few thoughts:
1) I can no longer defend how Rex has played the last few weeks. He has been truly terrible, particularly his accuracy (his decisions are actually a little better now than when he was doing so well in the first 5 games, in my opinion).
2) That being said, I still see virtually no reason in going to Griese. Bringing Griese in to "manage the game" simply means that the Bears will run the ball a whole lot more and scale down the passing game. If that's the plan, why not just run the ball a whole lot more and scale down the passing game with Grossman as the quarterback? At least then, defenses will still somewhat respect the deep pass.
I guess my biggest concern is that Griese is no more than a glorified Brad Johnson, and we all saw that even the most prolific "game manager" in history can still do his best to give a game away yesterday in Chicago.
Either way, the Bears will need to ride the defense, special teams, and improving running game in the playoffs. The defense looked great, especially when they began to "smell blood" after the Ricky Manning touchdown. They gave up a lot of yards, but it seemed like a lot of those yards were benign (11 yard gains on 1st and ten, followed by a 3-and-out). I'm very interested in how DVOA interprets(?) the game.

125
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 6:40pm

I don't like Norv Turner because he was touted as an offensive genius of Billick like proportions... and didn't live up to the hype. Now that I look at the actual stats, it looked like the downfall of his teams was actually the defense. He still had a very mediocre overall offense, especially since he came over from Dallas.

I have no idea who the defensive coordinator was from 1994-1997, but Mike Nolan has another special place in my heart for being their DC from 1997-1999.

All these combined just make me really want to see the 49ers fail... even though I find their offensive talent intriguing.

Turner still was an awful head coach for 6+ seasons in Washington. Maybe his coordination was bad, but the teams were undisciplined and horrible to watch. When he finally did do something right, freakin' Dan Snyder signed Jeff George and made a bunch of bad changes to a playoff + 1 victory team.

126
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 6:45pm

Yah, but just because a guy sucks as a head coach doesn't mean he can't be ridiculously awesome as a coordinator. The league is riddled with examples of that.

127
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 6:48pm

The other coordinator was Ron Lynn... both poor choices by Norv Turner. BTW, check out SF's defensive DVOA.... I don't think Nolan is a really bad "coach" but I think his coordinator skills aren't that great.

128
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 6:49pm

... and at the same time it's the players who make coordinators look great. What happened to Gregg Williams this year?

129
by the NCAA (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 6:52pm

Carlos,
Turner's offense in Dc was terrible???

Steven Davis 1999,
290 carries 1405 yds 17tds

Before then we were all subject to the draft picks that were Heath and Mike. Not Norvs fault.

Every team he has coached has been good at running the football.

Even fucking SF who has one good player on the whole damned team.

Someone has to speak up for Norv.

130
by Ben (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 6:53pm

123

I agree that the “manage the game� mantra means very little but if Grossman continues his Henry Burris-ish performances the Bears might be better off with an armless man behind center. At some point a QB who only turns the ball over once is better than any QB who turns it over 3-5 times a game, especially with the lack of production compounding the turnovers.

It does break my heart though. I cannot express how excited I was to see a real player at qb for the first time... well... ever.

131
by brasilbear (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 6:59pm

re: 123

You echo my thoughts exactly. How much blame has to go on Ron Turner for play calls? Without knowing how much Rex is free-lancing, I tend to blame Turner as much as I blame Rex. I remember screaming at the TV in Sunday on a 3rd and 2 to RUN THE BALL you &*&* (*&#%$(# @(#*&^@%$). As much as it pains me to say this, we might need to go back to a Shoop-offense. Run-run-throw short of the sticks-punt.

132
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 7:01pm

Just when I jump into the fray with NE's defense they go out and play a god awful game, backing up just about every single reason people were skeptical in the first place. Thanks guys.

That said, Chad Scott is nowhere near as bad as Starks was last year. Starks was historically bad in 2005 while Scott has actually been quite solid for NE this year. It wasn't just him yesterday, too. Save for Samuel, I would say that was the worst game in the secondary this season. There were bad moments in the Jet games as well as the Indy and Denver games, but there were open receivers all over the field.

It wasn't just the secondary either. NE did a decent job of limiting the run, but the LBs were missing tackles in the open field and NE's pass rush for the first 3 quarters was abysmal. Let's hope that it was a case of not getting up for a team rather than a clear line between pre and post Seau.

I will say that I was impressed with Josh McCown. He isn't the fastest guy, but he did a decent job getting off the line. If he has a good head on his shoulders, he could be a poor man's Troy Brown or Wayne Chrebet

133
by Ian Dembsky (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 7:09pm

I will not be voting "This is Our Country" for worst ad. I will vote for a much, much worse ad campaign- The annoying Russian dude who earns reward points faster than anyone else. How can anyone say that commercial is less annoying than This is Our Country?

134
by kibbles (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 7:13pm

Bad Madden: “Champ Bailey is as big in the running game as he is in the passing game.� Uh, no. He’s fine against the run, but there’s not really a comparison.

I dunno, Aaron. Champ Bailey is a bad, bad man, even in run support. Someone could put together clips from every open-field tackle he made this season and sell it as an instructional video. If you can, watch the game against St. Louis and the two games against KC (especially the second one)- on a day where Jackson and Johnson were shedding tacklers like a cheerleader sheds prom dresses, Bailey consistantly took them down 1-on-1 with perfect form. That's a 1-on-1 open-field tackle on Larry Johnson with a full head of steam. I don't know if he's missed a tackle yet this season.

Granted, his coverage skills are far more valuable to the team than his run-support skills, but I'd be willing to bet that Bailey's one of the best (if not THE best) CBs in the league at run support, too.

Seriously, I hate all of that premature "where does this player rank among the best ever" talk, but how much longer before we can start mentioning Bailey with the best CBs of all time? He's covering like Deion Sanders against far tougher rules, and unlike Prime Time, he actually tackles.

Re #11: Nice. Only at Football Outsiders where a QB can go 66% passing for 270 yards, 2 TDs and no picks and get bashed (Eli). This is a stats website, please stick to the stats.
It isn't just a stats website. It's a website devoted to accurate football analysis. I saw only half of the Giants/Cowboys game, but from what I saw, Eli had a very rough game and just kept dodging bullets. I saw him throw DIRECTLY TO Dallas defenders three times, only to have them drop the ball. If those DBs had managed to hang on, Eli would have had the exact same game, but then he would have had 2 TDs vs. 3 INTs and I don't think anyone would have minded a little bit of Eli-bashing.

135
by DGL (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 7:16pm

"...Jackson and Johnson were shedding tacklers like a cheerleader sheds prom dresses"

Wow. That's Tanier-esque.

136
by the NCAA (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 7:20pm

Champ Bailey is the best corner in the league...Finally

He has always been annointed that way but he is finally shutting down a side of the field this year.

Now he can become a threat to put 6 on the board every time you throw near him like Deion than we can start comparing the two.

I compare Champ to the second best corner of the 90s...Aenus(sp) Williams. The guy could flat out cover and was great against the run but he was a notch below Deion. So is Champ.

I still feel that is high praise though.

137
by Carlos (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 7:24pm

Yeah, Stephen Davis had a monster year in 1999. Yippee. What was their 3rd down conversion percentage? How many penalties did they have vs. the average?

If you actually watched Norv's teams play, you'd know the last 13 years he's been living on his rep from Dallas. He's a terrible head coach, and a terrible coordinator.

In 1999, the offense started like gangbusters, and then defenses caught up, and Norv couldn't adjust.

You could look it up on this site (overall #2 offense, but weighted offense is #9... meaning they were tops in the league to start, and worse than middle of the pack to finish).

Or you could look at pts scored. First seven games they went for 35+ an amazing 5 times.

The next 9 games, they never broke 28 points and averaged 22.

The league caught up. Just like 90% of opposing coaches who made halftime adjustments that beat Norv. Or look at his always miserable 2 minute drill. He has no clue how to manage the clock.

138
by Maltodextrin (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 7:31pm

The color schemes of the uniforms in the Giants-Cowboys came did look very Christmassy. It was like the Candy Cane Bowl.

139
by ZS (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 7:31pm

Hey, I remember a comment from last week about how the signing of Landeta means that the USFL has outlasted the XFL. As it turns out, Mike Furrey played in the XFL.

I know it's off topic, but the Landeta topic is dead.

140
by Gerry (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 7:32pm

"How can anyone say that commercial is less annoying than This is Our Country?"

It is not played nearly as often. It's not just the (ahem) quality. It is the mind-numbing frequency.

141
by ZS (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 7:35pm

I have other problems with the "This Is Our Country" ads, but most of them are personal and this isn't the place to say them.

142
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 7:38pm

140: Do your problems include the using of various tragedies and injustices in American history to try and sell automobiles? It's an incredible thing to do, but in a commercial society, nobody is shocked that things like Rosa Parks and victims of a natural disaster are being used to sell something.

I don't think it's adding politics to the discussion to say that this is a bit disturbing.

143
by ZS (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 7:42pm

That's not it, although that's terrible too. I'm serious when I say my problem is wholely political, and would not fit here.

FOOTBAW

144
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 7:44pm

Is Champ Bailey the best defensive player in football? I don't watch many Denver games, but I've never seen anyone cover like him.

The only way I can see someone as a better defensive player is the fact that maybe some positions offer more opportunities to make an impact, DL or LB. Does his ability to take away half the field make up for that?

145
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 7:50pm

143 et al

Is champ still getting burned deep like he was last year? IIRC, he was great short, but was pretty poor against the deep ball.

146
by ZS (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 7:51pm

#143: From an awards standpoint, he's been in the league six or seven years now and hasn't won defensive MVP. From a DB-only standpoint, Ed Reed.

147
by MdM (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 7:52pm

With all the bellyaching about offense vs defense, I have two questions:

1. have points scored really been that down? What is normal and what is below par?

2. no one seems to be talking about continuity. I understand offense is all about timing and coordination, yet we're currently in an era where you often just throw a ball to Steve Smith or TO (okay that was 2 years ago) and that's all you need. With the continual free agent movement and coaching changes, haven't we lost out on continuity and couldn't this explain the main problems with O?

148
by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 7:58pm

Pats enter December as one of the league's most inconsistent teams.
Brilliant against Bengals, Vikes, & Pack. Awful against Lions, Bears, Colts & Broncos.
Scary thing is those awful games all at Foxboro. No team heading into the playoffs has more to fear from playing a home game.

149
by clem (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 8:07pm

This is what it is to be a Lions fan: I was listening to Versgersian(?) and Pearson and found myself thinking "the announcing isn't as bad as usual today."

150
by Vince (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 8:09pm

Worst ad of the year:

Personally, I'll be voting for the Schmuck at the Toyota plant who smiles and says "Pride. It's all about pride."

WHO TALKS LIKE THAT?!?!

151
by Fnor (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 8:34pm

Aaron is absolutely, completely, 100% right. How are these clowns in the NFL without learning how to hold the ball properly? I saw Shaun Alexander do it yesterday!

Three points of contact between your body and the ball, people! Not one or two!

152
by Stillio (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 8:58pm

The Jaguars will not show up in purple polka dots next week, but there was semi-serious talk around Jacksonville in the past of a leopard spotted uniform ala the Bengals tiger striped unis. Commence cringing.

153
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 9:08pm

1. have points scored really been that down? What is normal and what is below par?

"That down" is subjective, of course. It seems like "normal" wants to be something like 42 points per game, on average. Last year was 41.2 points per game (2004 was 43 points per game), and this year is on pace to be lower, especially considering that scoring slows down on average later in the season. A few weeks ago the average was 40.9 points per game. Not sure what it is now.

Here's a quote from the end-of-season DVOA rankings from Aaron last year:

Last year's offensive surge was short-lived. The added emphasis on illegal contact was supposed to usher in a golden age of offense, but it ended up only lasting one season. Teams averaged 331 yards per game, the lowest total since 1993, and scored 20.6 points per game, the second-lowest total since 1996. In 2004, the average team threw 22.9 passing touchdowns, the highest total in NFL history. In 2005, the average team threw 20.1 passing touchdowns, the lowest total since 1993. Yards per carry and yards per pass attempt both dropped. The one offensive improvement: teams averaged less than an interception a game for the first time since the AFL-NFL merger.

I'd love to see average year-by-year point totals, but I never found them anywhere for long periods of time. You can find nuggets of information around when they changed the rules, though, and in each case, they changed the scoring from something below 41 points per game to something over 42 points per game.

There's a good quote on offense vs defense here by Jerry Jones: "The reason you have to keep doing that is because those defenses keep tightening down. The guys are faster and bigger, and we've got the same width and length of a football field. There's no more room to run, and so you've got to give it a little bit of help."

Keep in mind, too, the "42 point per game" target I'm giving isn't even some recent high historical mark. In 1948, the NFL was scoring 46.5 points per game, and ever since then, scoring's basically been dropping, with rules changes the only things keeping it at a relatively constant value.

154
by Kyle (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 9:19pm

Re: 134
Accurate football analysis does not primarily focus on one or two "well, what IF" negatives and render judgment on that. You conveniently forget the multiple times Eli displayed great pocket presence and the important QB mobility to avoid the rush to find more time to throw, or simply not take the sack. Also, you overblew the "DIRECTLY TO DALLAS DEFENDERS" bit, for there were two in the entire game (which you only viewed half of) where a poor throw from Eli Manning woulda/coulda/shoulda resulted in an interception. There is a difference between accurate analysis and hating, because the latter purposely skews the analysis of statistics in order to find areas to criticize, ignoring the positives, no matter how overwhelming the disparity between the amount of positives and negatives may be. When Eli plays poorly, he deserves criticism. When he plays an all-around damn good football game, nitpicking of your magnitude demonstrates either bias or an agenda.

155
by Peder (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 9:34pm

83, I think what the ref meant by the 'flexing of arms' was that Urlacher could have pulled up but didn't. The call was ticky-tack but I think that was the reason the ref called it. It wasn't as unreasonable as the announcers made it out to be. And yes, you can put roughing the passer calls in the inconsistent category.

156
by Jeremiah (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 9:42pm

I'm surprised nobody's really said much about the Colts taking a timeout at the end of the game when tht Titans come out to punt. This has to be the dumbest decision I've seen in a long time.

If the opposing team is going to give you the ball, you let them do it. YOU DO NOT GIVE THEM A CHANCE TO WIN OUTRIGHT by wasting your last timeout, giving them every possible advantage.

Regardless of what personnel you have on the field, or if you're not ready to field a punt, you let them punt anyway.
If they punt, you're not going to win it in regulation anyway. If they try the field goal and miss, you have a miniscule chance to win, and ONLY IF you've kept your last timeout.

What possible reason could there have been for Dungy to call a timeout there?

157
by SJM (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 9:47pm

156:

He was trying to ice the punter?

158
by Unsure why I'm a Lions fan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 9:49pm

Bill Moore,

The Lions cover #1 WRs well, but be careful before claiming Dre' Bly is the reason. Bly has actually had his most disappointing season since coming to Detroit, and has not played well at all. Many recievers have torched him consistently in games and he's often quite useless in run support. Not to mention his turnovers are down. Fernando Bryant, on the other hand, has quietly had a pretty good season, the best he's had in Detroit at least. Since Fernando prefers to play on the left side of the field, Bryant and Bly are often split left and right, not #1 and #2.

By the way, I'm sure MDS will back me up here, but does anyone else see how careless Dre' is with the ball after making an INT or recovering a fumble? He holds it out with one hand for anyone to swat away. I know he's looking for big plays, but in traffic he's got to cover that ball. How do the coaches let him get away with that time after time? He's been doing that as long as he's been a Lion.

159
by the K (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 10:08pm

I didn't read all the comments, but I read enough to see a lot of officiating complaints. I would like to add the Chargers-Bills game to my list of huge complaints. (disclosuer alert: Bills fan) but the officiating was truly atrocious and most of it seemed to go the Chargers' way. And it was Ed Hochuli's Pipes which is normally the crew I consider the best. But there were some truly awful, hard to swallow calls against the Bills in the second half of what was a very, very close game.

160
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 10:28pm

I haven't complained about offense being down; I've complained that games have been boring. That could be based on the games the networks have been magnanimous enough to show me (no extended cable or dish for me). I still think too many decent teams are getting by with lousy QB play; I only hope the teams with good QB play (like Indy, SD, Dallas) are the teams with playoff success.

161
by Alex (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 10:29pm

"Doug Farrar: Okay, Seahawks fans — your team is 8-4 and your kicker is your MVP. You’ll take it, right?"

Hey, it worked for Ohio State in 2004.

162
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 10:43pm

The DPAR rankings of the primary starters (most starts, I guesS) for teams with winnning records:

New England (Brady): 7
Jets (Pennington): 13
Baltimore (McNair):16
Cincinnati (Palmer): 4
Indianapolis (Manning): 1
Jacksonville (Garrard): 29 (!)
Denver (Plummer-now benched): 20
Kansas City (Huard-now benched): 8
Dallas (Romo): 9
Chicago Grossman): 22
New Orleans (Brees): 2
Carolina (Delhomme): 24 (!)
Seattle (Hasselbeck): 30 (!) (Wallace was 33rd)

Perhaps I haven't seen enough of New Orleans or Cincinnati but way too much of Denver and Chicago.

163
by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 11:01pm

Got here late, lotsa reactions:
re 32: "a nuanced suck" is one of the greatest phrases ever on FO...in so many ways.

re 45: "the Rex Grossman of keyboard operations." Ladies and gentlemen, now THAT is a slam.

re 66: "Perhaps it tells us something that the “genius� of this era is Belichick, with his varied approach to defense, whereas in the 80s the “genius� was the offensive guru Bill Walsh." A perceptive way to summarize the discussion. Nice job, Pacifist Viking.

re 69: (allow one foot down to denote a completion) I like this suggestion. It doesn't seem to diminish the college game at all and isn't really inconsistent with the spirit of the rules in general--if you plant one foot in the end zone on a run, you've scored, for instance.

re 88: "Every time I watch a Bears game it feels like I’m watching Waiting for Godot." It's funny 'cause it's true.

Overall discussion of making the field bigger--the players keep getting much bigger (I remember when Gene 'Big Daddy' Lipscomb was headline material because he was a 300 pound defensive lineman--whoa, what an amazing thing!). It actually makes sense to increase the size of the field. Probably never happen, but it's a creative and useful suggestion.

re 142: (Using Rosa Parks, etc. to sell cars). After seeing what we've done with President's Day (all the advertisements with Washington who 'cannot tell a lie, these prices are unbeatable' and Lincoln offering 'fourscore and seven' months before a payment is due, etc. etc., I cringe to imagine what Martin Luther King day will become in about 20 years--I just hope something very bad happens to the first ad agency that comes out with "I have a dream...that you can buy a new car with no money down and an APR of only 0.5%" or some such.

This is our country ad makes me long for the days of that woman applying Head On directly to forehead.

164
by mm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 11:47pm

162--that list will indicate which teams get more contributions from their passers, as opposed to their defenses, running games, and special teams.

So yeah, if you want to see good passing you should watch more New Orleans and Cincinnati, but that doesn't mean you're seeing better teams (you'd check out DVOA for that).

165
by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 12:05am

Speaking of the Dallas Clark commercial, Rooster Teeth (the guys who produced the commercial) had an 'apology' to Dallas Clark on their site last week. It was a parody of the commercial, where Dallas Clark plays every position in the game and is completely unstoppable (by everyone except Dallas Clark the defensive back).

It was hilarious. Unfortunately, it was also illegal, and the video has since disappeared from their website. (presumably at the request of EA Sports, Sony, the NFL, or all three).

166
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 12:17am

I still think too many decent teams are getting by with lousy QB play

I think that has to do with the fact of what I said above: most of the good QBs this year are on teams with bad defenses. Marc Bulger, Brett Favre, David Carr, hell, even Jon Kitna and Mark Brunell are (were) playing pretty good QB this year - but none of them have a defense worth much.

And so, while you've got a couple of teams getting by with poor QB play, you've also got a couple of teams struggling even with good QB play.

167
by Jon (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 12:28am

Just wondering how everyone would rank the top AFC teams at the moment. I'm a Chargers fan, and while I think the Bolts can take care of the Colts in the playoffs, I'm having my doubts as to whether they are better than Baltimore and/or New England. The game against Buffalo wasn't as close as the final score made it out to be (2 of Buffalo's TD's came on short fields and the other came when SD went into a prevent defense). At the same time, however, Rivers didn't look sharp for the second week in a row. Right now, I'm thinking NE and Dallas in the Super Bowl with the Pats taking home the crown...again....ughh

168
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 1:10am

Right now, I’m thinking NE and Dallas in the Super Bowl with the Pats taking home the crown…again….ughh

I think you're right on the team choices, but I'm not that bold on the victor.

Main reason for the team choices is what I noted before: the only two teams in the NFL right now with a top 10 QB in DPAR and a top 10 defense are Dallas and New England.

169
by stan (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 1:11am

156,

RE: Dungy brain fart -- he actually screwed up twice on that last play. When the other team starts to line up for a 60 yard FG, you play punt safe with your base defense. If they run out the punt team, you still play punt safe with your base defense.

So Dungy went brain dead on the timeout and his "reason" depends on prior poor coaching decisions. Because he shouldn't have been running people on and off the field in the first place.

170
by kibbles (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 8:14am

Re #136: Champ Bailey is the best corner in the league…Finally

He has always been annointed that way but he is finally shutting down a side of the field this year.

Now he can become a threat to put 6 on the board every time you throw near him like Deion than we can start comparing the two.

Actually, last season Bailey routinely took INTs back (returning two for scores, iirc, and having the 100+ yard return vs. New England). This year, the fact that he's not getting much in the way of returns is mostly a fluke resulting from the fact that every single one of his INTs has come within the Denver 2-yard line- usually on deep passes, which are difficult to jump, because your own momentum carries you backwards for several yards (out of bounds or into the end zone) before you get a chance to head upfield.

Re #144, 145, and 146 (paraphrasing):
Is Champ the best Defensive Player? Does his ability to shut down half the field make up for the fact that he's not in on a lot of plays?
According to the GMs, it does. Cornerback is the highest paid defensive position, which means the GMs think it's the most important defensive position. If Bailey's the best CB by a huge margin, I think that's a pretty solid arguement that he's the best defensive player in football.

Is Champ still getting beaten deep?
Champ didn't really get beat deep more than any other CB in man coverage- it's just that that used to be the weakest area of the game. He was a gambler. Last season, he really shored up his deep coverage, although he still got beaten deep sometimes because he was gimpy (hamstring injury all season). This season, I can only remember one time where the man Bailey was covering caught a ball more than 20 yards down the field, and even that was about a 25 yarder (I want to say it was Mason). Other than that, it's mostly short outs.

Bailey's never won the Defensive MVP
Defensive MVP tends to be biased. DBs very, very rarely win it. It has been awarded to Safeties 2 times, CBs 4 times, LBs 13 times, and DLs 15 times. Mostly it goes to players who put up stats, and the good CBs rarely have the stats to show for it. The fact that he was getting very strong consideration for the award last year (I believe he finished second to Urlacher) despite playing hurt, as well as the fact that he'll likely be a top-2 choice this year, is really impressive, from a historical standpoint.

Re #154: When Eli plays poorly, he deserves criticism. When he plays an all-around damn good football game, nitpicking of your magnitude demonstrates either bias or an agenda.

I wasn't nitpicking. My honest impression from what little I saw of the game was that Eli was having a rough go of it, but was lucking out. It's not like I'm an Eli-hater, either. I root for him, because I like seeing SEC QBs succeed.

171
by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 9:55am

Aaron Schatz: This may be the first time we ever have unanimous voting for one of the FO awards. Is anybody not going to vote for “This is Our Country� for “Worst Ad�?

Well, if I had a vote, it would go to Coors light. I'd rather listen to a continuous loop of "This is our Country" during halftime than see some ass clown ask Dick Vermeil if his friend's hat looks awesome backwards.

I mean, when the seventh-grade A-V club interviewed Moammar Qadafy, the cutting and splicing of tape was pretty revolutionary. That was 1985 if my quick math is accurate. I find it hard to believe that with the twenty-one years passed and Coors massive advertising budget they can't come up with something better.

172
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 11:29am

Pat, that may well be. Though it still means watching the supposedly "good games" or "good teams" means watching lousy QB play. But being in the midwest I've seen a fair amount of the Bears and Broncos, and look forward to seeing more of the Saints and Bengals.

173
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 12:06pm

Got done watching ATL-WAS. Whoever was calling plays for the Redskins did a really bad job. It seemed like even on 3rd and short they were passing... I don't remember a 3rd and 5 or so where they decided to keep going with the run.

Campbell didn't have as bad of a game as the stat sheet would indicate, Cooley and others were dropping a lot of passes. He need to learn how to avoid the blitz rather than quickly try to get a pass off. Sometimes he does this well, but there were other times where he tried to gun it only to get it batted down under pressure. That little pump fake to get the defender up works well.

Their signing of Archuleta set back the secondary 2 years! Their secondary sucks without Springs, and linebackers play marginal. Even Washington isn't playing all that great.

I liked how Vick played. Not sure if they were by design, but he had some nice runs both scrambling and on QB rollouts. He needs to be careful or he'll get hurt again, but its a nice weapon to have when everything else is clicking.

174
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 12:13pm

The more I think of it, the more I think the Saints are going to be extremely dangerous. They were pretty good to start with, and if Bush's explosiveness is fully utilized, without defensive coordinators having a season's worth of film to review, facilitating adjustments (think about Randy Moss in 1998), the Saints could certainly win the NFC, and give any AFC team all the challenge they desire.

175
by Jerry Garcia (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 12:31pm

The more I think about it -- I think if the Saints were in the AFC they would have won about 4 games this year.

176
by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 1:05pm

Before last year Bailey was an overrated corner who had a really serious flaw in his game- he was very vulnerable to vertical routes. He was always good in run support and he played short and medium routes well, but he would get lit up deep, and not just by elite receivers, either. But he's corrected that element of his game, and now he's heads and tails above any other corner in the league.

177
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 2:11pm

Jerry, that may be or may not be true, but it doesn't have much predictive value regarding a team which has a young, truly dominant, offensive player who explodes in the last month of a season. I remember quite well the last time it was obvious that one conference champ was superior to another, to the tune of a double digit point spread. So much for what's obvious.

Having a young, massively talented, player come into his own in December throws a lot of projections seriously out of kilter. Having now seen many of Bush's plays from last Sunday makes me think that is what may be in store. It oughta' be fun to watch.

178
by Ben (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 2:37pm

re:156, 169 Just to clarify, Dungy took the time out because they were shuffling different teams on and off the field and he was afraid of giving the Titans a free 5 yards at which time they'd go for the FG.

Stan's right that there shouldn't have been any shuffling though. Dungy was clearly out coached there.

179
by Kris H (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 2:52pm

Pacifist Viking,

I agree with your sentiments here and your blog is fun.

I, too, look back to, say, 1990 and recall all the varieties on offense: run-and-shoot teams, power-running/deep-throwing teams (like the Raiders), the one-back offenses ('Skins and a few others), the 49ers and their imitators, the power running Giants and Chiefs...it just seemed like a great time in the NFL in terms of offensive variety.

Yeah, it seems that now every team runs more or less the same playbook on offense.

I say this, by the way, as someone firmly in the camp of those who HATE the ticky-tack rules that emerge each offseason to "protect" the QB, or to make passing easier. No one knows what pass interference is, except that playing DB in close coverage is all but illegal.

Here's my modest proposal:

The NFL has spent most of its rules-changes of the last 30 years making it easier to pass.

How about making it easier to run the ball? That might open up the game much more than another revision of the PI rules in favor of the offense. It would also contribute mightily to the health of QBs.

Look at college. College ball is full of teams that can flat out put 300 rushing yards a game. That doesn't happen in the NFL (not with any regularity -- the Falcons are an aberration because of a 1000-yard rushing QB).

How to make the running game easier? Have to admit, that I have no clue! Wider hashmarks to create a wider side? A bigger "neutral zone" ?? A larger field as some have suggested ? Revision of the holding penalties on run plays ??

My basic, not-clearly-thought-out point, is simply to observe that the running game has diminsihed considerably as an essential part of NFL strategy over the last 30 years, to the detriment of the game. This has led to the emphasis on the QB spot, exposed QBs to injuries, and so on.

Another note on offensive innovation: it seems that NFL teams don't take advantage of the rules of the game, fully. Laterals, option plays, these are virtually absent from games unless it's the last play of the game and a team is desperate. Why aren't there Frank Gifford-type players today: a halfback who throws 3 or so passes a game? Kordell Stewart could have had a brilliant career if he would have accepted this kind of role. Many athletic college passers could have effective pro careers if there were more of this wing-t type stuff.

I do grant that the speed and athleticism of NFL defensive players may make this sort of thing impossible. Ever watch a game from just 15 years ago? The players today, including D-linemen, are all ridiculously quick and fast.

180
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 3:10pm

Many athletic college passers could have effective pro careers if there were more of this wing-t type stuff.

You may have noted that this team has tried that, and is, y'know, struggling.

181
by Kris H (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 3:25pm

180:

I take your point.

However, and i know you're being (somewhat!?) sarcastic, it seems to me that the Falcons are doing the oppositve of what I mean: they want to turn Vick into a dink and dunk passer.

And the type of players I meant was guys, like Randle El, who don't have NFL QB size but can clearly be called upon to throw a decent ball 3 to 5 times a game. I mean this as part of the regular assortment of plays, not the once-every-five-games HB pass the Chargers run.

I grant that this probably would fail miserably! I just wouldn't mind if someone would give it a shot.

182
by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 5:07pm

The hilarious Dllas Clark EA Sports madden Spoof can still be found here on myspace.com:

http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=150...

183
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 5:44pm

However, and i know you’re being (somewhat!?) sarcastic, it seems to me that the Falcons are doing the oppositve of what I mean: they want to turn Vick into a dink and dunk passer.

Actually, not really. They gave that up after what, two years ago or so? Since then they've basically been constantly trying to find ways to build an offense with him. Shotgun option first (i.e. a run/pitch option with the player starting in shotgun first) then "neo-high school" (run until the safeties pull up, then throw deep).

I think running's pretty much screwed with the field the size it is and the speed of the defenders. Passing's the only way to get the ball to a guy in space with only a few defenders around him (welcome to the basis of the West Coast Offense).

And the type of players I meant was guys, like Randle El, who don’t have NFL QB size but can clearly be called upon to throw a decent ball 3 to 5 times a game.

So you're talking about a multiple-QB type offense? I've wanted to see someone try that for a while, but every time teams have tried it in the past, it's been a miserable failure - see Randall Cunningham, 1980s.

184
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 6:38pm

The problem with the Falcons shutgun is they don't direct-snap run to Dunn enough. If you're going to run that type of offense you should make direct snap to RB your base play, and then he hands off to Vick if it is a pass.

I think this could sufficiently confuse defenses... in that you would hold the safeties and LBs BACK rather than them coming forward. Problem is, your RB would almost need to be a converted QB and lots of practice to run.

Vick is quick and evasive enough to make this work... if they committed to it.

This would take a bit of practice for the center to snap it to either RB or QB depending on what's going on.

185
by Kris H (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 6:58pm

Pat, I think you're right -- the speed of defenders, up and down just about any given lineup, makes it tough. I can hope, though!

I wonder -- as defenses have evolved to emphasize speed, maybe one answer for offenses could be bulk. Instead of just five 320-lb. linemen, offenses could throw seven out there. Get a stable of 260-lb. backs and try to get those defenders to stick their neck into a moving pile, repeatedly.

Of course, one of the things I think has really eroded in the NFL (though, again, this could have to do with the speed and quickness of defenders today compared to 15 years ago) is the ability of O-linemen to block in space. How many times do you see screens or sweeps nicely set up -- with big linemen in space in front of the ball carrier -- and then watch as these same blockers whiff on -- everyone? And without this ability, you'd have a tough time running outside in a scheme like this, and the predictability that would result would further doom such a scheme.

I don't know. I'm flailing here. I'm sure defenses could adjust reasonably easily to an extreme smashmouth bulk approach and just clog everything up. You'd need to have a scary deep threat, if not two, on an offense like this, and the odds of having all these elements would be tough.

Back to rules changes, I agree the field being widened is one good and relatively easy thing to accomplish. I'd also like to see wider hashmarks. And maybe the offense should be allowed more than one guy in motion at the snap -- which could be a big boon to the running game as well as the pass....

186
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 7:36pm

Are there constraints on the NFL formation not on the college formation? I'm thinking about those crazy punt formations where there is a center and then all the o-line is either spread across the field or all stacked on one side.

I'm just thinking about a play that could be set up like a punt return... you'll neutralize the speed of the DL with your QB/runner and only have to worry about blocking LBs and DBs.

Problem with this is setting up the blocking and not giving it away pre-snap as well as whoever receives the snap would be a bit behind the line of scrimmage.

187
by BHW (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 8:07pm

The Seahawks run blocked left on the play. Spencer briefly helped on a double-team, but it was obvious his target was handled. He moved out to the second level looking for a LB. However, the engaged Bronco, who probably also knew he was beaten, grabbed him to prevent a clean downfield block. Even if the RB is being tackled elsewhere, that’s clear (and strategic) holding. You’d call illegal contact away from the target of a pass and you should call this.

Did you see an angle that wasn't on television? Because what you describe doesn't match what I saw at all, and I think that was the worst call since the roughing-the-passer on the sack.

188
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 12:34pm

Are there constraints on the NFL formation not on the college formation? I’m thinking about those crazy punt formations where there is a center and then all the o-line is either spread across the field or all stacked on one side.

Yeah, there is. If memory serves, in the NFL out of a punt formation, only players off the line can be downfield before the punt is kicked. So there's no advantage to messing with the line, considering they can't get off until the punt's kicked anyway.

189
by Sid (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 2:07pm

I would not be surprised if the Jaguars released Josh Scobee and traded for Josh Scobey from Seattle and had him kicking the field goals.

I would absolutely be surprised, considering Scobey is on IR. ;)