Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Catch Radius: The Bigger, the Better?

Our season finale of catch radius focuses on the growing size of Josh McCown's talented receiving duos, including breakout stud Alshon Jeffery. Also: Anquan Boldin's incredible year.

11 Dec 2006

Audibles at the Line: Week 14

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.

Pregame Banter

Doug Farrar: I'm watching "The Sports Reporters" and just heard this doozy from Mike Lupica about Romo: "This kid gets out of the pocket and makes plays like Michael Vick does in Atlanta, except he's a little more accurate with his throwing arm." When great feats of supernatural ability are humorously attributed to the likes of Chuck Norris, Mr. T and Vin Diesel, it's very enjoyable. But when people who are supposed to have credibility as observers of a game say things like that and they're serious ... I'm at a loss. This myth-making has to stop. It wouldn't surprise me to hear John Madden say tonight that "Tony Romo invented black. In fact, he invented the entire spectrum of visible light. Except pink. Drew Bledsoe invented pink."

Bill Barnwell: http://www.tonyhomo.com.

Mike Tanier: Checking NFL.com at 1:15 pm on Sunday can be so informative.

In Oakland, Brooks has one completion for three yards, Justin Fargas has one carry for three yards, and Alvis Whitted has one lost fumble. The Raiders offense in all its glory!

In Jacksonville, Fred Taylor has one carry for 76 yards. Maurice Drew has one carry for 18 yards and a touchdown. Dave Garrard hasn't even thrown yet. The Colts run defense in all its glory!

Now, off to watch football.

Oakland Raiders 10 at Cincinnati Bengals 27

Bill Barnwell: This was the perfect summation of the Raiders season. Nnamdi Asomugha picks off Carson Palmer on the first series of the game. The Raiders get the ball and Alvis Whitted fumbles (whittles?) the ball away on first down trying to turn a 2-yard gain into a 3-yard one.

Indianapolis Colts 17 at Jacksonville Jaguars 44

Doug Farrar: Jacksonville's first play from scrimmage against the Colts was a 76-yard Fred Taylor run. Their second play was an 18-yard run by Maurice Jones-Drew. Two rushing plays, 94 yards, one minute off the clock, touchdown. That kind of run defense is how you lose in the first round of the playoffs despite your offense going 13-3 or 12-4 basically all by itself.

Michael David Smith: The amazing thing about the Colts is how they can be simultaneously great and terrible. On the one hand, every play I've seen so far, the Jags have been physically manhandling them. On the other hand, they've still got a 10-7 lead midway through the second quarter on the road against a good team.

Doug Farrar: First half rushing yards: Jacksonville 248, Indy 28. Both Taylor and Drew have rushed for over 100 (131 and 115, respectively), and all three Jaguars TDs are on the ground.

Ned Macey: I think I've figured it out. The Colts are trying to get the offense more posessions. They just let Jones-Drew run the kickoff back for a TD absolutely untouched. Down 31-10 in the third quarter. I don't even know what to say about this. The Colts look like a bad MAC team playing U of M or something.

Bill Barnwell: Can we start officially billing Maurice Jones-Drew solely as MJD?

Doug Farrar: I'm going off a play-by-play sheet here, so maybe someone who's watching this game can explain the drive that started with 7:22 left in the third quarter. Peyton Manning threw nine passes on the drive and completed two. The last four plays were incompletions, and the Colts gave up the ball on downs with fourth-and-10. What on earth is going on with this team?

Aaron Schatz: Apparently Tony Dungy had his guys practicing tackling all week. It didn't work.

Lord knows I'm not perfect, and I get things wrong all the time. I also know that some readers don't like to read it when we pat ourselves on the back for getting things right. But I hope that all those people who four weeks ago were talking about the Colts' chances of going undefeated this year properly feel like complete morons. I'm sure a lot of those writers will now say "see, we knew it all along, the Colts can't stop the run," but go back and read the stuff that was being written about the Colts four and five weeks ago. Seriously.

Mike Tanier: If you didn't say something about the Colts and the power rankings, boss, I would have. If you base decisions and power rankings on pure wins and losses, you never see stuff like this coming. If you dig deeper, whether by looking at film or using DVOA or whatever, you are going to see when a team is inflated or deflated. A wise man told us last week, boss, that we shouldn't make the mistake of judging "by results": mistaking wins and losses for absolute quality of play, thinking that teams "find a way" or whatever. He was preaching to the choir.

Ned Macey: I really think it is time somebody started pimping Mike Smith. That defense is down Peterson, Darius, and Hayward, and they are still killing people. Paul Spicer and Bobby McCray were making nice plays early to stuff the Colts backs on the stretch play. Colts were actually having more success up the middle.

I know we've been predicting the Colts to struggle against the run, but this is beyond embarrassing what is happening. 375 YARDS. I really think at this point they have to consider big-time personnel changes. Boiman was put in for Gardner. I think they have to look Morris for Brackett. The thing is they were sitting Freeney and Mathis a fair amount and still getting gashed. I feel like Dungy's reputation is at stake here, and he needs to work his ass off to get the run defense back to bad.

Of course, Jacksonville's improved offensive line is a continuing factor. They run the ball well on almost everyone. (Len Pasquarelli in his article notes that at least this was a good running offense. Don Banks hints that if the Jaguars can do this to the Colts imagine what the Chargers, Patriots, and Jets can do. The Chargers, sure, but is there any world where the Jets or Patriots run the ball as well or as frequently as the Jaguars?) I like MJD, by the way. Finally, third time's the charm for finding the long-term replacement for Taylor (after missing on Greg Jones and Alvin Pearman).

The Colts are also going to have some offensive problems. Clark is out for who knows how long, and Stokley went down again. It is just too much to ask of three guys, even three guys as good as Manning, Harrison, and Wayne, to play perfect football. Harrison's 1,000th catch didn't exactly get a celebration since they were down about 30.

Minnesota Vikings 30 at Detroit Lions 20

Michael David Smith: The announcers are talking about what a fine job Brad Johnson is doing managing the game. There are approximately 100 quarterbacks on NFL rosters, and I think it's safe to say every one of them would do a fine job managing the game against the Lions' defense.

Doug Farrar: Perhaps someone threw in a 2002 Tampa Bay highlights DVD and they haven't picked up on it yet? And who is Artose Pinner with his two first-quarter touchdowns? Oh, wait... he was a Lion until this year. Ouch.

Well, Johnson just "managed" to throw a pick to Jamar Fletcher, which Fletcher returned 88 yards for a touchdown. Halfway through the second quarter, Detroit's defense has outgained its offense, 88 yards to 33.

New England Patriots 0 at Miami Dolphins 21

Bill Moore: Miami field goal. TV Commercials. Kickoff. TV Commercials. First play from scrimmage. End of quarter. TV Commercials. UGH!

Aaron Schatz: You really do learn a lot about coverage schemes from the DVOA vs. receivers. 4:30 left in the second quarter, Marty Booker has three catches and he's probably had an equal number of incompletes. I think that Joey Harrington has thrown to Chris Chambers once.

I hate the quick hitch. Hate it, hate it, hate it. It only works with certain receivers, Steve Smith, Santana Moss, etc., and you can only throw it when the cornerback is playing off. Can somebody PLEASE tell Pats offensive coordinator that you can't run the quick hitch when the cornerbacks are in press coverage?

The Pats pinned Miami at the 3-yard line on a punt, only to have it called back because of illegal formation, with Patrick Pass not standing right on the line of scrimmage. The resulting re-punt was fair caught at the 18. That's really one of those stupid penalties. Illegal contact and holding are just teams playing close, but illegal formation is just you being stupid.

Mike Tanier: By "Quick hitch" do you mean that throw where the QB just stands up and throws it to the receiver because the defense is 10 yards off? A Quick Hitch is technically a five- or seven-yard route where the receiver comes back to the inside. I think they call the throw you are talking about Smoke. You and I were talking about that last week: I used to get sick to my stomach watching Todd Pinkston get wrapped up for no gain on the play. But I see so many cornerbacks making awful fundamental tackles on those plays (let me leave my feet and dive when I could just gather myself, come under control, and stop the receiver for a three yard gain.) that I don't blame quarterbacks and coordinators for calling it.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, I mean Smoke. I thought smoke was just the code on the field for the quick hitch, and the play you were describing was the "quick slant." What do you call smoke when the cornerback is standing right next to the receiver and he catches the ball for no yards and you swear at the television?

I found the L.A. Times using it same way I do...

Mike Tanier: I still think "Quick Out" may be the better term.

Bill Moore: HOLY CRAP! Wilfork just got called for a Personal Foul because Harrington TRIPPED OVER HIM while he was lying on the ground.

Aaron Schatz: We may have reached the nadir of bullshit roughing the passer calls with that last one on Vince Wilfork. Harrington drops back, Wilfork goes for the strip sack, and Harrington somehow avoids it. As Wilfork moves behind him, Damion McIntosh pushes Wilfork down. Harrington gets the ball off on a shovel pass (don't remember who to) and takes a step or two backwards and trips over the motionless body of Vince Wilfork. The resulting roughing the passer penalty puts Miami in field goal range. I think the refs don't understand the difference between active and passive verbs. Just because the passer was roughed does not mean that someone roughed the passer. How in the hell do you get roughing the passer when the offensive lineman pushes you down and the quarterback trips over you while you are just lying there?

Bill Moore: OK, who watching the two point conversion DIDN'T know that Harrington was going to throw to Booker covered by Chad Scott one-on-one.

This is the Miami team that I expected to compete for the AFC East title. The defensive line has provided tremendous pressure on Brady. Between linebacker blitzes and great play by Jason Taylor, the Patriots have had little time to develop passing rhythm. Consequently, the Patriots have been forced into short passing plays and basically abandoned the long ball. By the third quarter, Brady had only thrown four passes to wide receivers. Too bad for New England, since the cornerbacks are the weakest link of the Miami defense, and deep passes have higher probabilities of drawing defensive holding and pass interference.

Chad Scott aside, the NE defense played well in its own right until Vince Wilfork went out of the game in the third quarter with injury. From that point, Miami was able to do something they hadn't done all day -- run the ball. In fact, on the last play of the game, Minor broke off the longest run from scrimmage NE has allowed all year.

Aaron Schatz: Now that the Patriots game is over, I feel like we can just re-run all the comments I had in last week's Audibles about the Lions game.

1) The Patriots can't hold on to the football.
2) The offensive line is playing terribly, and the decline of Matt Light is the untold story of the season. At one point Kevin Carter beat a double team of Light and Logan Mankins. Pathetic.
3) The Patriots have a horrible time against #2 receivers. This is part scheme, part Chad Scott being way past his prime. Marty Booker owned Scott today. At the end of the game, I saw Ellis Hobbs on the field. If Ellis Hobbs is healthy enough to play, why is Chad Scott starting?
4) At a certain point, the injuries get to be too much. The Pats are missing both starting safeties, and Vince Wilfork went out with an injury halfway through the game.

To say nice things about Miami: they did a good job of keeping the pass rush away from Joey Harrington, and Jason Taylor may be defensive player of the year.

At one point, due to a false start near the goal line, the Pats had first-and-12. All I could hear in the back of my mind was the voice of Paul Maguire, saying "the playbook just doesn't have any plays for first-and-12."

With hot Tennessee and schizophrenic Jacksonville on the schedule still, the Pats are actually in danger of blowing the division to the Jets. I'm in shock at the very thought.

Mike Tanier: Jason Taylor = No Question Defensive Player of the Year.

Bill Barnwell: I know Aaron said the unwritten story of the year is Matt Light's failure to recover from his broken leg, but I disagree -- I still think Mike Vrabel having pretty much nothing left is. The Patriots have serious issues covering underneath and teams with a good slot receiver are going to take advantage of it.

The Patriots offense was a mess this game. They didn't adjust to the Dolphins blitzing them in the second half whatsoever, and when Brady would adjust by throwing to his hot read, the guy would either drop the ball, the throw would be off target, or the receiver was nowhere to be found. There was a farcical play right before the game-clinching fumble where three Patriots all ran 5-yard crossing patterns into each other. I would've expected that to happen in Week 2 or 3, but everyone should know the playbook by now.

Aaron Schatz: Regarding the Pats offense being a mess, I forgot to mention the totally awesome trick play where they had a direct snap to Kevin Faulk, a lateral pass back to Tom Brady all the way over on the left, and then instead of running with the reception, Brady throws another pass to a wide open Daniel Graham for the touchdown. Unfortunately, Faulk's lateral pass was so off-the-mark that Brady had to reach out for it and caught it four yards ahead of where Faulk was. If Faulk throws that right, it's 13-7 with 9:30 left and you have a totally different game.

Philadelphia Eagles 21 at Washington Redskins 19

Ryan Wilson: Jason Campbell's got two picks through the first 19 minutes, and the Eagles have 14 points as a result. Meanwhile, Ladell Betts had 71 yards rushing in the first quarter.

After watching Jeff Garcia the last two weeks I'm convinced he was just half-assing it in Cleveland and Detroit. He just threw a bomb to Reggie Brown and hit him right in stride (Carlos Rogers was in coverage, but you already knew that), followed that up a few plays later with a great 4-yard TD pass to Stallworth, and has made good decisions all half. Jeff Freakin' Garcia.

Doug Farrar: This is why I wanted the Seahawks to pick him up after Trent Dilfer was traded to Cleveland. He's playing in pretty much the same offense that he did in San Francisco. You can do nothing more than avoid mistakes and be very productive in that Reid-by-Holmgren-by-Walsh system if you have good players around you and you know what to do.

Mike Tanier: Hey, Eagles, want a win? Here, here ya go. What? Don't want it? Are you sure? We're offering a quarterback who knows about 1/5th of the playbook and can't read the defense, a lousy pass defense. We'll put a bow on it. Don't want it? Are you positive? Look, we'll get sacked in the red zone late in the fourth quarter for you. Think of it as a re-gifted win paid forward from the ones you spotted the Giants and Bucs earlier in the year. Try it on. It fits! There you go.

Seriously, next time I see an Eagles defensive lineman grab a quarterback's facemask on third-and-long when the dude is backpedaling and throwing the ball away (or do something similarly stupid) I'm renouncing the team forever and becoming a Chargers fan. Because, you know, the Chargers are a team that will never let me down.

Baltimore Ravens 20 at Kansas City Chiefs 10

Doug Farrar: Kansas City's last three possessions: interception, Trent Green fumble, interception. Both interceptions by Ed Reed, just hanging out in center field.

Green just made the same throw Jay Cutler made against the Seahawks last Sunday night, except he was lucky enough to avoid an interception and a touchdown the other way, unlike Cutler. Trevor Pryce was dragging Green down, and he just threw up a prayer. Chiefs now walking off the field at halftime -- at Arrowhead -- to a resounding host of boos.

Mike Tanier: The Ravens have deep passes in their playbook! Or maybe not. I can't tell from the highlight whether Clayton was running a post-and-go or if he ran a post, saw Captain Checkdown escape the pocket, then took off on the go route. Either way, it was nice to see that the Chiefs safeties still crazy glue their cleats to the ground when they are supposed to be in deep zone coverage.

My man Trent Green is holding the ball too long and seems to be throwing a second too late, or getting sacked just before he throws. You can't hold the ball a second too long against the Ravens and expect to actually see the end of the play.

Tennessee Titans 26 at Houston Texans 20

Tim Gerheim: It's really hard watching the Texans against the Vince Young Titans. Young has generally looked spectacular or overwhelmed, kind of alternating, but his poise and positivity are exactly what a floundering franchise like the Texans needs. I don't know if they'll wish they had Young, but I'm terrified that he'll be a superstar and beat us twice a year, every year, for the next decade.

Doug Farrar: Yes, but the Texans do have (dramatic pause) Ron Dayne! His two rushing touchdowns -- one each in the second and third quarters -- match his total through 2004-2005.

The Titans set up an interesting protection on a few of their obvious passing downs: they pull a lineman, I think the left guard, out right to protect in front of Young as he rolls right.

Mike Tanier: It's a pretty common protection scheme at the prep and college level to pull an uncovered center out and use him to block an outside defender is the team plans to roll the pocket. He's usually used as a backside blocker if the play is a slow rollout (as opposed to some kind of bootleg pass, in which case a guard might pull as he does on a running play). I don't see it much in the pros, because asking slow interior linemen to flair out and block edge rushers at the NFL level is a recipe for disaster.

Tim Gerheim: Just ask Peyton Manning and the Pittsburgh Steelers. They know.

Watching the Texans and Ron Dayne run all over the Titans as though they were the Colts proves to me that the Texans don't have a good running back. Stay with me. Dayne does a really good job running when the line gives him a huge hole, because he hits the hole hard and gets a monster head of steam that makes him hard to tackle square. But he has no moves and he doesn't have great balance, so he's pretty easy to trip up if the play doesn't work perfectly and he can't get his shoulders square downfield. Wali Lundy can bust it outside but he doesn't seem to read plays that well. If the Texans had a back who could actually break tackles when he gets through the line, instead of just push the tackler for a few yards more before inevitably going down like Dayne does, but also could hit the hole as well as Dayne does, they'd have a crackerjack running game.

Running with Dayne seems to me to epitomize the personality of the Texans. When things go well, they go great. When things go poorly, the go terribly. If there's a big hole, Dayne will run for 11 yards. If there's no hole, he'll get nothing. It's the same with David Carr. He's very efficient (even if he doesn't make spectacular plays ... or any downfield plays) when there's adequate protection or he can get outside the pocket, but when he gets bottled up he always gets sacked or throws an ugly pass. Basically, the Texans go with the tide, whether it's with them or against them, and they can't really reverse it.

Doug Farrar: The Adjusted Line Yards vs. 10+ Yards rank would seem to imply that the line is the primary issue when it comes to Houston's running game. Do you think that's the case, Tim?

Tim Gerheim: I'm not sure about the whole season, because with Lundy and Samkon Gado the Texans have been boom-or-bustier. Today, at least, there have been almost no rushes over 10 yards. I think that the primary determinant of the Texans running game is the offensive line. But I don't know if there's a team that that's not true about.

Mike Tanier: Go Dayne go! Gotta give the big man some love.

Michael David Smith: Vince Young is just plain awesome. When he gets a little more seasoning, he's going to be scary good. Now, please, Titans. Don't be stupid and try to fit him into some offense that doesn't match his skills. Don't be the Falcons.

Tim Gerheim: I know what I want for Christmas now: A Texans #10 jersey with 'Young' on the back.

Mike Tanier: Mike Smith, I agree with you about Vince Young, but I strenuously disagree with your statement about the Falcons system somehow handcuffing Vick. If the Falcons added any more option/rollout/waggle plays, they'd be the Air Force Falcons.

New York Giants 27 at Carolina Panthers 13

Tim Gerheim: I think there are more Giants fans in Carolina than Panthers fans. The cheers for the Giants are louder. Are the Carolinas that big a winter home for New Yorkers? Are there that few Panthers season ticketholders? I never had the impression the Panthers were like the Jags or Bills when it comes to ticket sales.

Bill Barnwell: Wouldn't Jared Lorenzen be a better fourth down quarterback than Eli Manning? He'd be better for the sneak, I bet. They showed him warming up on the sideline as if he was about to come in during the fourth quarter and I was absolutely giddy.

It's 27-13 with 4:53 left and I have no idea why the Giants are laughing it up on the sideline. No game is ever out of reach when you're playing the Giants.

Keyshawn Johnson pulled R.W. McQuarters down by his dreads going for a pass in the end zone at the end of the game. McQuarters was bitter about it but, I mean, burnt hair smells bad, man.

Atlanta Falcons 17 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6

Bill Barnwell: Want to know why the Buccaneers suck? Warrick Dunn runs 13 yards untouched, past the first down marker, and takes a pretty solid hit from a Buccaneers safety. Immediately, all the Buccaneers defensive backs start high-fiving and celebrating -- you know, never mind the fact that the Falcons just picked up thirteen easy yards on you.

Another reason: Will Allen got totally juked out by JUSTIN GRIFFITH.

Seattle Seahawks 21 at Arizona Cardinals 27

Doug Farrar: Loving the Fox "Z" Crew. I should probably just stop right there.

And ... Sean Locklear's first time back on the field in six games begins with a hold on first down. Third down on the first drive ended with a collapsed pocket all the way across. People don't want to believe that Seattle's line is as bad as it is right now after last year's excellence, but that line has the fourth-highest number of holds in the league, and the fourth-most false starts. That 31st ranking in Adjusted Line Yards isn't a fluke. Neither is the 26th ranking in Adjusted Sack Rate. Neither is the fact that the entire right side just imploded on the Hasselbeck sack/fumble.

Oh, and then Marcus "I should probably be a safety" Trufant fell down on the Leinart TD bomb to Bryant Johnson. Yuck. I know Kelly Jennings is a rookie, but he can't cover any worse on a regular basis, can he?

Nate Burleson hasn't been worth the $49 million contract that really isn't (minus the voidable aspects, the deal is 4 years, about $14.5 million) as a receiver, but his ability to make plays as a punt and kick returner has made a big difference for the Seahawks, especially with all the personnel churn this year. Given the ineffectiveness of Seattle's special teams over the last few years, you would have won a lot of bets if you were laying money on that aspect of the team, between Burleson and Josh Brown, being the thing that has them still in the race for a home playoff game.

Rookie official = bring a lunch to the replay challenges. The Julian Peterson "interception" should have been overturned. It was a strip of the ball after Larry Fitzgerald's knees were already down.

This is the second straight game in which the Seahawks have faced a team that can't cover screens to running backs -- Denver was 31st in defensive DVOA against running backs, and Arizona is 28th. Surprisingly though, the Seahawks don't really throw to their halfbacks. Hasselbeck will throw to Mack Strong once in a while, but they really could benefit from more passes in the flats.

FO loves Arizona safety Adrian Wilson, and he just recovered a Shaun Alexander fumble caused by a perfect Robert Griffith hit. The subsequent Edgerrin James rushing touchdown gets an assist from Seattle's continued enrollment in the Indianapolis School of Tackling.

Two pretty catches in a row by the unheralded D.J. Hackett, the second for a touchdown. Hackett leads the league in DPAR for all receivers with fewer than 38 passes thrown through 13 games.

Aaron Schatz: I saw that Hackett touchdown while flipping during a commercial in SD-DEN. I would love to see what Hackett could do if he ever got a starting job anywhere. Meanwhile, that Nate Burleson good half-season in Minnesota two years ago sure looks like a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

According to the announcer on ARI-SEA, Edgerrin James' teams are 44-6 when he runs for 100 yards. Really? Wow, I'll bet that's EXACTLY how that cause and effect works.

Seriously, though, how on earth is Seattle letting Edge get 100 yards?

Doug Farrar: Yeah, and I bet Matt Leinart throws more touchdowns when he throws fewer interceptions, too. Golly!

If there's one non-throwing play that sums up why I'm glad Matt Hasselbeck is Seattle's quarterback, it was when he had the presence of mind to watch the play and run upfield to recover Darrell Jackson's fourth-quarter fumble that shot back about fifteen yards after the
catch.

I can't believe this Arizona team is gashing Seattle's run defense late. Seahawks defenders are out of position, missing assignments and losing leverage battles that they're talented enough to win -- certainly they were talented enough to win last season. In the end, this loss is about Seattle's inability to win important battles on either line, just as their Super Bowl run was so much about winning those battles. Dominant offensive line -- gone. Dominant interior defensive line -- gone.

Re: Edge vs. Seattle -- losing DT Marcus Tubbs for the season didn't help. They don't have another big guy who can stuff the middle and allow the faster guys to flow in around the initial stop.

Aaron Schatz: Fourth-and-20 for the ball game in Arizona, Matt Hasselbeck with a 19-yard pass to Deion Branch. Branch caught it with about three yards to go and if he had pushed straight forward, I think he had it. But he tried to go sideways to get around the guy in front of him, and it cost him. Can we all guess which Arizona defensive back made the game-ending tackle?

Ned Macey: When our readers go against me, I always worry that I'm missing something. A lot of people thought I was piling on the Seahawks and 49ers, but I feel somewhat vindicated today. The Seahawks are obviously lower in DVOA thanks to the Seneca Wallace era, but they are not one of the best 16 teams in football. Their defense, to me, is one of the most disappointing units in football this year.

As for giving up 100+ to Edge, I know I'm like Peter King with Romo when it comes to Edge, but the last four games he's carried the ball more than four times, he's averaged over four yards per carry and nearly 100 yards per game. Too little too late for the Cardinals, but the moves they've made on the offensive line are definitely working.

Just to keep myself humble, this match-up was between my pre-season predicted Super Bowl Champ and a Wild Card team. Yikes.

Aaron Schatz: Sorry, Ned, let me restate that. "Seriously, though, how on earth is Seattle letting the Arizona offensive line give Edge the holes he needs to get 100 yards?"

Denver Broncos 20 at San Diego Chargers 48

Aaron Schatz: The Denver defense looks good, but the offense is a disaster except for one sweet Tatum Bell run. It seems pretty clear that the defense is all about stopping LT first, second, and third. Early in the game Vincent Jackson put a move on Darrent Williams when Williams was caught looking into the backfield to make sure that LT wasn't coming out with the ball.

OK, the Broncos are now allowing 15-yard runs to some guy named Pinnock. Wasn't he the leader of the British Labour Party during the John Major years?

Ned Macey: Shanahan deserves Goat of the Century for the way he handled his QBs this year. Only in the world where Super Bowls are all that matter is this decision not the worst we've seen since the Rob Johnson/Doug Flutie debacle. Ok, you wouldn't have won a Super Bowl with Plummer, but now you're going to miss the playoffs and ruin your team and your fan base's confidence in Cutler.

Also, I can't tell if Rivers' first half adds to or detracts from Tomlinson's MVP candidacy.

Benjy Rose: LT didn't score that first touchdown. I have no idea why Shanahanabanana didn't challenge. Regardless, SD's offense is a well-oiled machine.

Aaron Schatz: Honest to God, my stepfather and I are actually switching over to watch the Cardinals and Seahawks at halftime. That Broncos-Chargers game is OVER and so is the Broncos season. I wouldn't mind WBZ here in Boston turning that one over to Jets-Bills.

Tim Gerheim: At halftime I left the bar I was watching Broncos-Chargers at to come study for finals. That's when you know the situation is dire.

I don't know if he's won it before, but is there any way A.J. Smith doesn't deserve Executive of the Year? Rookie Marcus McNeill is doing a fantastic job at left tackle, which has shored up the whole line (which was only a problem last year after LT Roman Oben went out injured), Antonio Cromartie looks all the way back from his knee injury judging by his outstanding kickoff return, and it's only a matter of time (albeit possibly not this season) before he's starting at cornerback, and the Philip Rivers thing seems to have worked out pretty well. Phil Simms was going on about how this team is winning because they're bigger and stronger than the Broncos, which is another way of saying they have good players, and that to me is a testament to the people who brought together the players in the first place.

Benjy Rose: Bobble-dee-bobble! This game ain't over! And what is it about rookie QBs preferring to throw to rookie WR/TEs? Of course, I can't think of any other specific examples, but, um, I'm sure it's true ... right??

Oh, and Cutler looks like he's about 15. The kid who mows my lawn looks older than he does.

Mike Tanier: There's precedent for a backup QBs entering the game and preferring to throw to the slot guys and second TEs who he practiced with on the second team. In general, it isn't unusual to see the pass distribution for a team change right after they change quarterbacks.

Aaron Schatz: I'd like to call Vincent Jackson as the fantasy wide receiver breakout star of 2007. By the way, normally that personality stuff is lame, but Jim Nantz just mentioned that Vincent Jackson may be the only player in NFL history whose GPA equaled his 40 time, since he was a 4.2 student. That was a fun little tidbit, at least it tells you the guy is smart as well as big.

The flip side of Vincent Jackson is that I've seen Darrent Williams make a number of mistakes today, and when you combine that with the Indianapolis game, he certainly doesn't look like quite the cornerback that Denver fans thought they had early in the season.

Mike Tanier: 4.2? That's grade inflation. The high mountain air at Norther Colorado probably inflates GPAs. The valedictorian probably had a 6.3 GPA. and 40-time. Not that I am saying Jackson is dumb, but I remember when 4.0 was Absolute Maximum.

Jason Beattie: I believe Jackson was roommates with that punter who got stabbed by the backup punter. Northern Colorado has a rule that if your roommate is stabbed by another player you automatically get a 4.2.

Aaron Schatz: Jim Brown set the record for combined rushing/receiving touchdowns with 21 TD in 1965.
Jim Riggins broke that record with 24 in 1983.
Emmitt Smith broke that record with 25 in 1995.
Now that record has been broken FOUR TIMES in the last seven years: Faulk in 2000, Holmes in 2003, Alexander in 2005, and LT in 2006. Is there any better testament to the rise of the single workhorse back?

Both on our discussion boards, and on TV, the talk has started: is this the greatest running back season of all time?

Do any of you think it is? I think it is not, because yards are more important than touchdowns. Not even thinking about O.J. Simpson or Priest Holmes a couple years ago, the best running back season of all time is either Jim Brown in 1958 or Jim Brown in 1965. Any thoughts?

Mike Tanier: I would go with the Brown seasons, too. The next question is: "Is this the best RB season that anyone really remembers?"

It is probably one of the Top Five or Ten. Eric Dickerson in 1984. Earl Campbell in 1980, amazing. There are two or three Walter Payton years when he was the only thing the Bears had going for him that were tremendous. Terrell Davis in 1998. The best Barry Sanders seasons. In general, people are overstating this season because of a) the need to generate storylines and b) the impact of fantasy football on our perceptions. Oh, but I think LT is the clear MVP.

Ryan Wilson: This sounds like a job for Captain Z-Score.

Doug Farrar: As I wrote in FO's most recent Jason Whitlock Sucks thread, I have difficulty assigning a "best" to any player during the 1960s, when so much talent was divided between two leagues. Brown's 1958 certainly merits consideration -- Chuck Noll was his starting right guard that year, by the way -- and Dickerson's 1984 as well. Personally, I might go with Campbell's 1980 season. The 1980 Oilers only passed the ball 44.7 percent of the time, ranked fourth in the NFL in yards gained, and 20th in scoring. I mean, everyone knew that it was going to Campbell. All the time. I know that was true of Brown as well, but Campbell gets my nod in part because he was facing more advanced defenses. Based on performance vs. quality of offensive line, you'd also have to consider Payton's 1977 or Barry Sanders' 1997.

Michael David Smith: When you consider the quality of the team around him, I don't see how anyone could even say LT this year is close to Barry Sanders in 1997. Give Barry the Chargers' offensive line, Lorenzo Neal and Brandon Manumaleuna, and he goes for 2500.

Mike Tanier: Okay, I was at the computer. Turned the TV off. He broke the record? Now, this is the second or third time this season he scored two touchdowns in the final minutes of a game. I don't know what to make of that. You could spin those as "piling on" or "garbage time" touchdowns, or you could spin that as "he wore the defense out." Either way, an amazing player having a great year, but you can't just look at the TD total and say Best Ever.

Buffalo Bills 31 at New York Jets 13

Aaron Schatz: They just showed a game break on Bills-Jets. J.P. Losman has a lot of flaws, and I still think that he's going to end up spending most of his career as a second-stringer, but the man can certainly throw the deep ball. He drew the Jets defensive backs on a pump fake, then hit Lee Evans for something like 77 yards.

Bill Barnwell: The CBS graphic with the Jets defense on it listed them as a 4-3. Still. They've been in a 3-4 for 13 weeks now. Didn't anyone go to dinner with Eric Mangini Saturday night? Doesn't he explain this stuff to them?

Willis McGahee runs off-tackle untouched for about, oh, 60 yards or so. A Jets player trips him up as he falls into the end zone. Even if the Jets get into the playoffs, there's no way they're going anywhere. LaDainian Tomlinson might score 28 touchdowns in one game against them.

J.P. Losman appropriated the 11-step drop at least once or twice during this game. This is ill-advised when your tackles aren't very good.

Chad Pennington overthrew a Jets receiver and had the pass returned for a touchdown. I was amazed that Chad Pennington could overthrow anything, to be honest. One of the Jets fans in the bar kept yelling "STOP CHECKING DOWN!" at Pennington. I didn't know what to say to that.

Jets interior linemen looked good at the beginning of the game getting to the second level and blocking the Bills linebackers. On pass protection, well ... they could use some work. The Bills clearly thought they could tip Pennington's passes over the middle down with their DL; they were conspicuously sticking around the line of scrimmage and leaping on almost every pass play. The Jets exploited this with a draw later that got them to stop.

Ned Macey: Just when Aaron finally says something nice about the Jets... As if Harrington, Garcia, and even Pinner aren't enough, Dick Jauron is doing a very nice job in Buffalo. For all the love Mangini is getting, his team is now one game better, and he's had Pennington healthy all year. Most of us thought Buffalo was worse than New York when Pennington's status was uncertain. J.P. Losman is giving them a difficult decision. I think a great staff would cut bait and go with someone else (like Houston should have with Carr), but I expect Buffalo, like most staffs, will keep him.

New Orleans Saints 42 at Dallas Cowboys 17

Doug Farrar: Gerry Austin just called an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Bill Parcells for throwing a challenge flag inside two minutes. New Orleans scored a touchdown on the very next play. I'm not sure whether that's an enormous coaching blunder, one of the more ridiculous rules I've ever heard, or both. But in a season that started with legitimate challenge flags going unseen by officials, the league might want to give a bit more latitude here.

Tim Gerheim: As for ridiculous rules, here's one: On the opening kickoff of overtime in Titans-Texans, Kris Brown pooched it so Pacman Jones couldn't get a great return. It looked like it was going out of bounds, so the Titans avoided touching it. It kept bouncing inbounds around the 20-yard line, and one of the Texans flew in trying to recover what amounted to a very long onside kick. As you might imagine, falling on and acquiring possession of a football while running at full speed is very difficult, and he managed to shoot the ball out of bounds. Because a kicking team player was the last (and also only, though I don't know if that was significant) player to touch it before it went out of bounds, it was treated as a kickoff out of bounds, and the Titans got the ball at the 40.

Mike Tanier: The Saints are making my weekend better and better. Who the heck is Jamal Jones? Mike Karney ... you are going to Honolulu buddy!

Aaron Schatz: Jaws 1, Cowboys 0. But I don't think any of us expected this to be the defense that Romo played badly against. Omar Stoutmire has been a weakness ever since he took over for Roman Harper, and he's the one with the big interception. That's the big surprise to me -- not that Romo has problems, but that the Saints defense is draping the best receiving corps in the NFL so that nobody is ever open. This is what they looked like in the Falcons game, but that was months ago and this is a much better offense. I wrote in my game preview that the Cowboys would pick on Fred Thomas, and instead I think every single pass has gone toward whoever is covered by Mike McKenzie. Have you even seen Thomas on the field? I know he's there but Romo is even passing to Patrick Crayton covered by McKenzie instead of throwing wherever Thomas is. What is going on? Thought: Could it be that Thomas is excellent in man coverage, but not super fast? Therefore he gets destroyed by fast receivers -- Chad Johnson, Antonio Bryant -- but drapes himself over receivers who depend more on technique? At this point, I think we could say T.O. is more of a technique guy than a speed guy. Just a theory.

Also: Just because it worked doesn't make it a good play call. What the heck was with the Devery Henderson reverse on fourth-and-1?

Mike Tanier: Parcells on fourth-and-8 in the third. Touchdown TO. The Tuna has brass ones.

Aaron Schatz: Parcells loves to go for it on fourth downs. I read something in ESPN the Magazine about that.

Apparently, Fred Thomas is, in fact, covering Terrell Owens. He's covering Owens so close that a ball that goes through his hands will go right into T.O.'s.

(Following the onside kick by New Orleans.)

Aaron Schatz: Sean Payton to Bill Parcells: I see your brass ones and raise you these solid titanium ones.

Tim Gerheim: So I'm not watching this game but ... can we just go ahead and call Reggie Bush a wide receiver yet?

Ad Copy

Benjy Rose: Is anyone else as frightened as I am about the Combos ad campaign? "What your Mom would feed you if your Mom was a man." Eek. Visions of John Goodman in drag.

Bill Barnwell: FOX introed a feature during their pre-game show with Joe Buck and Pam Oliver standing on a mock football field. Meanwhile, Jimmy Johnson, Howie Long, and Terry Bradshaw, all of whom have actually played football or been involved with the game professionally, were sitting at a desk.

The announcement of the Prince halftime show got a HUGE reaction at the bar. Mixed, but huge. I don't get it -- they're worried about the halftime show being too overtly sexual so they bring in Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones ... and then Prince?

New rule: Any commercial with a chestbump between two people is not funny. It doesn't matter how many ex-Daily Show correspondents you put in it. Not funny.

"Sneak King" is the greatest name for any video game, or really anything, ever.

There's something beautiful about the Dr. Pepper Cream & Berries ad. Think about what it's telling us beyond the fact that this guy really likes the soda. The guy who he helps move? He has no one else to help him move besides the guy who has a can of soda constantly using up one of his hands, and when Dr. Pepper guy gets there to help him move, he still thinks it's a good idea to have this guy carry a couch with him. That is beautiful, really.

Posted by: admin on 11 Dec 2006

146 comments, Last at 15 Dec 2006, 5:42pm by Pat

Comments

1
by MikeT (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 11:55am

Hehehe ... I got New York Times and LA Times mixed up. Oh well, LA Times doesn't even have an NFL team to cover. So there!

2
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 12:05pm

I know, I know, I shouldn't be feeling good about Philly after that crappy win versus the Redskins, but hell, it's fair, I shouldn't've been feeling bad about them after the loss to the Bucs, after all.

But I think Philly might have a decent chance to surprise a bunch of people this year, especially now that the Legend of Tony Romo has become the Legend of Keep The Quarterback In The Pocket And Watch Him Struggle To Hit Receivers.

Amusing quote from Westbrook:
Every win from last week on is a big win. We are going to keep trying to win, and if we do, we should be in the place that we want to be at the end of the season.

The place they want? You mean "the division title"? Because that's where Philly will be if they win out, believe it or not.

3
by Zack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 12:08pm

what a great time to be a titans fan...

go vince go

4
by Thalwitzer (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 12:11pm

Anyone who saw the Bills-Jets game saw that D. Ferguson has a ways to go. A. Schobel knocked him down AND ran around him. Wasn't he supposed to be an inhuman combination of size and speed.

Visions of Mike Williams...

5
by Sam! (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 12:18pm

RE: "the Jags finally finding Fred Taylor's long-term replacement in Maurice Jones Drew"

Greg Jones wasn't a miss. He had been recovering from knee surgery in college and steadily improving. Based on his work in the preseason, there were some who thought he might get the starting nod over Taylor. In any case, he looked better in the preseason than Taylor, by far, until he injured his other knee. How he recovers from that will obviously determine his longterm fate in Jacksonville, but Jones proved himself more than capable of carrying the load when Taylor had been hurt over the last three years.

Alvin Pearman was not drafted to replace Taylor. He was drafted to be Maurice Jones-Drew, but wasn't really very good at it. That's why they drafted the real Maurice Jones-Drew this year.

6
by wr (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 12:21pm

Tim - On the OT kickoff of the
Titans-Texans tilt, Pacman got a nice return to the Tennessee 45. You must be thinking about one during regulation which I didn't see.

7
by Rollo (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 12:24pm

Re: 5: Agreed, and if Jones recovers fully, the backfield with him at FB could look alot like Alstott/Dunn at Tampa. Except Jones can actually block.

8
by Goathead (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 12:29pm

The refs are lucky the Giants won. With the game still close, they missed an obvious pass int penalty on Carolina on a 40+ yard pass. This would have given the Giants a 1st down at the Car 19. 1st down Carolina following the punt the refs blew a fumble call that would have given NY the ball at the 19. Troy was convinced the Giants could have challenged the fumble despite the whistle, would have been interesting to see them try it - the rule this year is supposed to allow them to challenge even if the whistle went if it is clear who would recover, this play seemed to fit the bill, three giants jumping on the ball. I haven't seen this happen yet - a couple of times coaches have tried but been turned down.

Anyone seen a coach have a successful challenge of an early whistle when there was actually a fumble?

9
by CA (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 12:34pm

Re: Mike Tanier: "Oh, but I think LT is the clear MVP."

I'm surprised that you would write that, Mike. I do think this reflects the touchdowns uber alles mentality that dominates popular perception in the fantasy football era, even as you claim to criticize that way of thinking. Yes, even apart from the TDs, Tomlinson is having a great season... for a running back. But we all know that RB is a relatively fungible position, that teams don't win by rushing but rather rush by winning, and that the running back is fundamentally less important in the modern NFL than the quarterback.

As someone pointed out in another thread, heading into this weekend, Tomlinson had a 44.5 DPAR, combining rushing and receiving. That's fantastic for a RB, but it puts him behind nine QBs (when looking at only passing DPAR; I'm not going to bother to add in the rushing DPAR for the QBs), just ahead of the much-criticized Eli Manning. Note that among these nine is his teammate, Philip Rivers. DPAR is by no means a perfect measure of value, of course, but I do think that it illustrates just how much more significant a good quarterback is than even a great running back.

Also, take Tomlinson off the Chargers, and, honestly, I think they're still the best team in the NFL or at least one of the best. Take Manning off of the Colts or Brees off of the Chargers, and they are below average football teams. Yes, that speaks somewhat to the quality of the backups, but it speaks more to the fact that having a top quarterback means more to a team than having any top running back possibly could.

In the end, because of the TD record, I expect Tomlinson to win the MVP award, but I expect Manning or Brees to deserve it.

10
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 12:37pm

Though I was defending/arguing for the Colts a few weeks ago, I never believed they could go undefeated or that they were as good as they were last year. I thought it was good that they were winning games that were easily loseable, because they'd have a better record (and better shot at homefield advantage) and that in the second half of the year Tony Dungy would have the run defense improved (perhaps I've put too much faith in Dungy ever since he was the Vikes' DC). Once that happened, the Colts would be playing better AND they'd have a good record from earlier when they weren't playing as well. The Colts as they were playing were 9-0, but I thought it was a weak 9-0, dependent greatly on Manning's incredible play, and that they would have to improve to win playoff games.

Well, I was wrong in this regard: Dungy hasn't made the run defense better. In fact, it has gotten worse. Sunday it totally bottomed out.

Re: Smoke play. Yes, it only works with certain receivers. But when the Vikes had Moss, they used to use this, and it really did suck DBs up to the line, leading to deep pass opportunities later in the game. I remember the '03 game against Seattle when the Vikes kept throwing those little short things to the WRs, and then later Moss had 2-3 deep plays.

TDs may be overrated from a lot of sources, though I think underrated at FO. That said, I'd take Marshall Faulk in '99 or '01, Emmitt Smith in '93, or Barry Sanders in '94 or '97 over Tomlinson in '06.

11
by Josh (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 12:38pm

9 - you mean take Brees off the Saints. They took him off the Chargers and Chargers are still good.

12
by vijay (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 12:39pm

As a Cowboy fan, that was hard to watch. It was the culmination of many of the warnings here on this website about Romo. The key is if Chris Palmer and Bill Parcells (both with a much better track record that the folks in Chicago) can fix Romo before he turns into Rex Grossman south.

I think Romo has more talent and a much better complement of offensive weapons. And most importantly, even though Parcells is a defensive guy, he has enough history with young QBs that he can fix this.

Now, what to say about that defense... I am not nearly as worried about Romo as I am about this defense. I think they forgot that rushing the passer is allowed. Oh yeah, and it's legal for Roy Williams to be around players from the other team, I don't think any of them have a restraining order against Williams.

The key is that the offensive braintrust needs to coach Romo about passing in the pocket because after this game, every one will try to keep him in the pocket and contain him. The Saints played the perfect game. Outside of the last quarter, I don't remember anything that they did that didn't work. And yes, Payton has some serious titanium ones.

13
by James, London (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 12:43pm

Random thoughts from yesterday:

1: I wonder if Trent Green is still suffering from concussion. Both his picks yesterday resulted from bad throws under pressure, and he was lucky not to throw another one. Lobbing it up at random with a defender hanging off you isn't smart.

2:Denver need to go shopping for Defensive Backs in the off-season. Darrent Williams was awful yesterday, and he hasn't been much better in any other Denver games I've seen this year. John Lynch can still hit but is a liabilty against the pass. Asking him to defend Antonio Gates was the biggest mismatch since the USA invaded Grenada.

3: I only saw some of the TD runs but the Colts were embarrassing. Has any team ever replaced it's entire front 7 in one off-season before?

4: I watched the first 3 quarters of the Saints @ Dallas game, and my God, the Saints were good. Sean Payton called an almost perfect game and the Onside kick was awesome. The Defense held up really well, especially given they were missing Hollis Thomas. We've seen the Saints 6 times or so this year, and Thomas has always shown well. To cope so well without him was impressive.

5: Roy Williams was horrible.

6: As a Miami fan I'm choked we sighed the wrong QB last spring.

7: Mike Karney is a legend.

14
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 12:44pm

I'll also say the Saints have played the perfect game twice this year now (vs the Falcons, vs the Cowboys). Sean Payton is a brilliant coach.

Too bad for Packers fans - had they hired Payton instead, they might've ended up a playoff contender this year.

15
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 12:44pm

Every year the MVP is either a. a QB on a great team or b. a RB with a great statistical season. How far back do you have to go to find an exception to this?

16
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 12:45pm

Ned Macey:

"the Colts look like a bad MAC team playing the U of M, or something."

Ned, Ball State just called -- they want you to know that no self-respecting bad MAC team would go belly-up like that; right, Russell?

17
by Charles the Philly Homer (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 12:45pm

Argh.

So I'm driving back from Connecticut this weekend and I caught the last 30 minutes of the game as WYSP slowly came into reception range. The Eagles got the ball back with about 5 minutes of clock to kill and I'm grasping the wheel, thinking that they're either going to score or cough the ball up too early and lose. Then, inexplicably, they wound the clock down and walked out winners.

Then I got to thinking: if Dallas loses tonight, and the Eagles beat the Giants next week, the Eagles will be playing Dallas for the division lead. Then I watch Dallas lose convincingly as Rex Romo comes undone and I begin to comprehend a reality in which the Eagles go to the playoffs this season.

Man, I'm on the eggnog all of a sudden. I'm almost hoping the Giants beat them on Sunday so I can stop entertaining these delusions.

18
by Fisher (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 12:51pm

Lazily not checking the stats to prove my point, is Jacksonville (the city) responsible for MJD getting no love for ROY?

This UCLA back appears to have more value - if less name recognition - than his USC rival. While the league may fawn over Bush (who has been outshined by Colston) it appears the MJD has a legitimate place in any ROY discussion.

19
by joel in providence (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 12:52pm

i will fully cop to completely writing off Young's NFL future before the season. now i already have a feeling i'm being proven wrong (though his career is still early in the first chapter).

20
by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 12:54pm

To his once or twice a game coverage mistake, and once or twice a game bad angle / modified horse-collar tackle, Roy Williams had added the run-by-the-ball-carrier-at-full-speed-and-stick-an-arm-out missed tackle to his weekly repertoire. It's a crime that he'll win the pro bowl voting over Adrian Wilson.

And at least Pat Watkins was solid in run support. Keith Davis has whiffed so many times he looks like Rob Deer.

Anyone know if Tony Parrish can still play?

21
by Not saying (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 12:57pm

Re: 8

I think it came up in the Steelers-Browns game this week. I think there was a whistle, but I know it was ruled a fumble after being ruled down by contact. Steelers supposedly had clear possession after the fumble, although some say that Anderson's arm getting in there somehow mattered.

22
by Goathead (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:04pm

15: For MVP add a linebacker on a good team with a bad offense (about once per decade) and you've pretty much covered 100% of the MVPs.

23
by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:07pm

Every year the MVP is either a. a QB on a great team or b. a RB with a great statistical season. How far back do you have to go to find an exception to this?

Assuming you mean the AP MVP, Lawrence Taylor in 1986.

24
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:09pm

Did anybody who watched notice that during the MN-DET broadcast, there was practically no mention of Matt Millen? I'm operating on the theory that Millen still has friends at FOX and that FOX generally downplays his suckitude and hides fan outrage over his suckitude.

25
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:10pm

Oh, and one other thing I forgot: I really hope people remember exactly how well Brian Dawkins is playing this late into his career. The guy's 33. He's the third-oldest starting free safety in the league. And he's better than all but a handful of them (debatably all of them if you limit yourself to only guys listed as free safeties).

I think I could count on one hand the number of times I've seen Dawkins burnt for a big play this year. I couldn't count the number of times I've seen Dawkins save the entire Eagles defense's ass on two hands.

26
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:15pm

I'll repeat what I said last night:

If he isn't in the top five RBs this week, can we PLEASE see Mike Karney's (aka, the Karnage) DPAR #s?

27
by M (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:19pm

They are 15 years too late in having Prince do the halftime show.

28
by Rick "32_Footsteps" Healey (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:20pm

I had the first nightmare last night that I had in years, and I blame those Combos ads. Even worse was when one was followed up by the Creepy Baby PS3 ad - all we needed was a Chevy ad proving John Mellencamp is a disgusting sellout to complete the Horrifying Ad Trifecta.

I'm just imagining what would happen to fantasy teams everywhere if they started listing Reggie Bush as a wideout. Every fantasy football GM would weep in joy, anticipating drafting him in the first two rounds.

29
by David (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:21pm

Indeed, Pat.

For people who didn't see the game: On a third down on Washington's final posession, inside the Philly 10 with Washington down by 5, Dawkins blitzes on the left side, and Campbell rolls out right. Dawkins shakes off a block, runs full-speed at Campbell, realizes he's not quite going to make it on foot, and jumps at him, going pretty much horizontal to the ground. He can't actually wrap up, but he gets two handfulls of jersey and Campbell goes down. Redskins settle for a field goal and never see the ball again.

TMQ is going to hate on that FG call, too, and for good reason. Are the odds of getting the ball again and getting into field-goal range really worse than the odds of converting that fourth down?

30
by PhillyCWC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:23pm

Re #17 - Charles, you're giddy. Let me talk you down. I'm just doing this for your own good so you don't spiral into deep, dark depression when the Eagles inevitably crash, burn, and destroy your hopes with them. It's okay to be guardedly optimistic that they might make the playoffs, but anything else, man, would be gravy.

That said, E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles!

31
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:23pm

12 - Um, would this be the Chris Palmer who was responsible for overseeing the first three and a half years of David Carr's development? Read some of the things Kubiak had to say about the habits Carr had been allowed to develop in that time, and tell me you think Palmer is the man to cure Romo of what ails him.

32
by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:24pm

Maybe Tom Coughlin would be more comfortable in the broadcast booth - run to victory at its finest:

The Panthers may have been without their starting cornerbacks and lost another early in the game, but the Giants' game plan never changed yesterday. ...

"With all the percentage work we do, with all the statistical work we do, we knew that whenever the Panthers have given up a rusher over 100 yards, they have lost," Coughlin said. "That was the objective coming in."

-

33
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:27pm

I'd need to analyze the numbers to be sure, but I suspect the Colts have been one of the more lopsided teams, in terms of cap space devoted to one side of the ball, over the past few years. This is not sustainable over an extended period of time, in terms of competing for a championship, unless the drafting on the underinvested unit is extraordinarily good, no matter who the coach is.

Yeah, the cap-heavy side might get you to the big game if everything breaks just right in one year, but more often than not the weaker unit is going to be too exposed in the course of three playoff games. At least that's my theory. It'd be interesting to see a cap balance analysis of Super Bowl teams since the end of the Cowboys run in the 90s.

In another example of my insigtful analysis, I've concluded that Drew Brees, Jason Taylor and Reggie Bush are very good. The Saints are in a situation now where they have the best qb in the conference, if not the entire league, a player who can turn any simple five yard pass into a game changing play, and a bunch of other good ball handling players. To hold them to less than 30 points in the playoffs, an opposing team better dominate the clock, or have a defensive front seven which just mauls the Saints' offensive line. The latter task won't be easy, given the multiple ways the Saints can put pressure on a defense, and given the sound quality of their qb play.

Miami hasn't bee a fun opponent to have on the schedule for some time now.

34
by David (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:27pm

Reggie Bush as wideout, Marques Colston as TE...who could complete that trifecta?

35
by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:29pm

That Coughlin quote was from the NY Daily News.

TMQ is going to hate on that FG call, too, and for good reason. Are the odds of getting the ball again and getting into field-goal range really worse than the odds of converting that fourth down?

4th and goal from the 17 with 5 minutes to go? I can't imagine the odds of converting for the TD are higher than 20%, the Redskins had stopped the Eagles on their last three drives, and they had 2 timeouts left. I think kicking the FG was a wise decision there.

What didn't make sense was what the Redskins did earlier in the third quarter; taking a timeout before a 4th and 2 on the PHI 15, then kicking the FG down 21-6.

36
by dp (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:31pm

i also was creeped out by the "if your mom was a man" tagline. it was so stupid i wasn't quite sure if i'd heard it right.

re: roy williams. sure, he was making some bad plays and missing tackles on a day where every dallas defender was doing the same. but can we stop bashing this guy for not being able to handle that kind of speed released so easily to him and a 20 yard running start? brees had unlimited amounts of time and a ridiculously wide open pocket and throwing lane to hit the wr running. what is that about anyways? spears/canty can't beat their man for true qb pressure, but they are pretty big and tall and long which would seem to be useful in occupying the middle, batting down passes, crowding passing lanes, blocking brees' vision, etc.

37
by Ryan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:31pm

Mike Tanier: There’s precedent for a backup QBs entering the game and preferring to throw to the slot guys and second TEs who he practiced with on the second team. In general, it isn’t unusual to see the pass distribution for a team change right after they change quarterbacks.

Sounds like Chris Weinke and Drew Carter to me.

38
by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:34pm

Cowboys-Saints was a very close rewind of Eagles-Cowboys from Week 5. The major differences were Tony Romo throwing the ball away instead of taking sacks, and no Greg Ellis fumble recovery touchdown to make the game appear close when it wasn't.

Otherwise, it was the same old Cowboys giving up big passing plays and being rendered ineffective by good coverage of their wideouts while their porous line allowed unheralded Saints rushers to menace Romo all game with up the middle pressure. Oh yeah, and the kicker missing kicks.

Why did people think that Tony Romo was going to cure the problems Dallas has with their secondary, offensive line, and field goal kicking game?

39
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:40pm

He got more than two handfuls of jersey. He lept because he was trying to strip the ball from Campbell, and very freaking nearly did, getting his arm entirely around the guy and swatting at the ball. And while that might be considered dangerous for most other safeties (not letting him get away is probably more important than trying to force a fumble), Dawkins still trips up Campbell after he can't strip the ball by grabbing his feet.

You can see a snapshot series of it here, with my favorite image here.

And, like I said, that's like the tenth or eleventh time this season that Dawkins has single-handedly saved the Eagles from a piss-poor performance by the rest of the defense.

Philly should just spend an entire week having Dawkins teach the rest of the defense to tackle.

40
by Zack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:42pm

tmq is going to love jeff fisher's decision to kick for the extra point instead of trying for 2 and the tie...

kick early, go for it late...

jeff fisher did and won the game b/c of it...

Vince Young has to be the leader for Offensive ROY...

he's 6-4 as a starter...with loses to dallas (first game), indy and balitmore by 1 point each and then a blowout to jax (in his worst game of the year)...and he has almost single handedly won the last 3 games (in dramatic fashion)...yesterday he accounted for 300 and some total yards...

41
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:49pm

The more I've heard from Marinelli this year, the more I have respected him, so I was a little suprised, maybe just because I haven't actually watched the Lions all the much, that they didn't play with more intensity yesterday. Of course, turning the ball over with great frequency will often make a team look apathetic, and maybe their defensive line personnel just sucks when Shaun Rogers isn't on the field and interested, but the Vikings offensive line in the first quarter yesterday just bludgeoned Millen's finest like Russian sailors clubbing baby seals. Given Marinelli's background as a defensine line coach, he has to me mortified this morning, even more than average for a Lions coach.

Regarding Prince for the halftime show, no he isn't cutting edge anymore, but he is also about fifty time the musician than the typical top-seliing artist. If he just played guitar for twenty minutes, it'd likely be nearly the best Super Bowl show ever.

42
by Charles the Philly Homer (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:53pm

30:

Seriously, some extradimensional being needs to descend over the Greater Philadelphia Area and Jedi Mind Trick all of us into thinking that this is 1996 and we're completely screwed year in, year out. That way, we can go from "Superbowl or bust!" to "the playoffs would be FANTASTIC" and enjoy this a lot more.

I think the worst part of the Eagles having all those good seasons in a row is that it's ruined our perspective regarding expectations and forced the team to make conservative, playoff-based decisions in the early going. Make Westbrook return kicks! Run him 25 times a game! Call crazy trick plays and onside kicks! Streak routes out of 3-wide sets that cross over the middle on first down! Playing like you have nothing to lose and winning with an underdog mentality is visible to fans. I miss it, frankly. Garcia has enabled the Eagles to do it again, and it's made them so much more fun to root for.

43
by Peter (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:54pm

"Aaron Schatz: Jim Brown set the record for combined rushing/receiving touchdowns with 21 TD in 1965.
Jim Riggins broke that record with 24 in 1983.
Emmitt Smith broke that record with 25 in 1995.
Now that record has been broken FOUR TIMES in the last seven years: Faulk in 2000, Holmes in 2003, Alexander in 2005, and LT in 2006. Is there any better testament to the rise of the single workhorse back?

Both on our discussion boards, and on TV, the talk has started: is this the greatest running back season of all time?

Do any of you think it is? I think it is not, because yards are more important than touchdowns. Not even thinking about O.J. Simpson or Priest Holmes a couple years ago, the best running back season of all time is either Jim Brown in 1958 or Jim Brown in 1965. Any thoughts?"

A couple thoughts:

1) Tomlinson looks to beat the record by a wider margin than any back before him. He has 1430 yards rushing, close to 400 yards receiving, and 29 TDs in THIRTEEN games. At the rate he's going, he's on pace for about 1800 yards rushing, 500 yards reciving and 35 TDs (not counting the two he's thrown for).

To those of you with reservations about Tomlinson's merit as 2006 MVP:

2) I know we all like to think we know this game well, but I can say with extreme confidence that we don't know it better than NFL head coaches. And when every opposing coach says, "He's our number one, two and three priorities--he's what make their offense go." Then they're probably right. And when they put ten in the box (like Denver did on LT's final TD run) and they still can't stop the guy from gaining seven yards and scoring, he merits as much consideration for his dominance as either Peyton Manning or Drew Brees.

44
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:56pm

The Combos ad bothered me enough to comment on it in the Open Discussion thread. I usually skip those because they move so fast and I'm more of a blog-speed poster. For a number of different reasons, that ad does absolutely nothing to make me think that Combos are something I want to eat. (For the record, I've tried them before, and I think they're pretty gross.)

I think the Fitzgerald non-catch is a great example of a) how replay doesn't do its job and b) how officials don't do their jobs when it comes to change-of-possession plays. Is it any wonder that it takes minutes to pull everyone off the pile after a fumble? As we've seen on several occasions (at both levels - Oklahoma/Oregon?), possession after a fumble doesn't go to the team that recovers it, it goes to the team that has the ball after the scrum, even when one player clearly has possession and is down. Same thing in the Seattle-Arizona game - simultaneous catch, possession to the offense. Good thing Seattle didn't score on the ensuing drive. I thought it was like missing free throws after a bad foul call in basketball.

Let's not go overboard praising ex-Lions who play well against their former team. After all, when they played in Detroit, they never got the chance to play against the Detroit defense. It's entirely possible that Harrington will become a quality QB, but having a great game against Detroit doesn't mean that he is one now.

I graduated with a 4.5 from Purdue. However, unlike our Northern Colorado friends, who presumably can get A+ grades, I had the benefit of a 6.0 scale. (Any scale that gives you points for an F is great in my book.) For some reason, they changed it at some point in the '90s. I guess being different for no good reason was too hard to justify.

I absolutely believe that Millen has buds at Fox who protect him. Then again, their website did point out that Millen is presiding over what will be the 14th-worst six-season stretch in NFL history and third-worst since the advent of the 16-game schedule (never mind total losses: if the NFL had a 16-game schedule during the war years, the Cardinals would have lost about 120 games), behind four Cardinals teams (yeah, they were that bad), four Eagles teams (1934-1942 was not the best time for that franchise), two Steelers teams, one Redskins team, and the two modern Bucs teams.

Of course, next season, after Millen screws up the #1 pick, we can blow away the seven-season modern record for futility.

There's an article in the Free Press (linked) about how it's "too late" to fire Millen, because Marinelli deserves time to fix the problems in Detroit. Of course, the odds of him being able to fix things while Millen is still there are approximately zero. Personally, I don't care who else goes - if anything, maybe Marinelli would get a chance with a better team. If he's a good coach, he deserves it, and if not, well, we're better off not waiting to find out.

Besides, a good GM might recognize Marinelli's a good coach (if he is) and keep him anyway.

Funny how the Free Press doesn't have a link to the article. I found it originally on Google and couldn't get to it through their site.

Drew "Mr. Negativity" Sharp was all over Marinelli for going for it on fourth-and-goal when the Lions were down 10. I liked the call myself: for one thing, if you're going to kick, you're better off kicking as soon as you're in FG range. If you burn all that time getting to the one, you might as well go for it. There's no guarantee you'll get another shot like that one.

Another thing is that with this team, 10 points would have meant an OT loss, so why bother to play for OT?

45
by Peter (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 2:04pm

A couple more thoughts regarding my post #43:

I think Brown's performances in '58 and '65 came in fourteen game seasons.

At any rate, I thought I'd add that in 14 games this season Tomlinson is on pace for 2000 total yards, and 31 TDs (again not counting the two he's thrown). I don't know how those statistics compare to the great runners of yore, but I thought I'd put the numbers out there

46
by Justanothersteve (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 2:05pm

What? No love for the SF-GB game? Not even a single sentence? Oh. Nevermind.

47
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 2:10pm

... can any of you gloating Eagle fans give an idea on how J. Campbell looked? From the stat sheet he didn't look bad, and from the highlights he really had one bad pick... except his completion percentage is pretty low... and Tanier was talking about his inability to read defenses.

Why oh why are the Redskins spreading Cooley out and then throwing him a slant? Was it Hood or Shepherd who made the good play to cause that ball to deflect in the air?

We haven't really discussed here that the Redskins inked Ladell Betts to a 5 year extension that seemed to be reasonable. He might rush for 1000 yards this season. I'm not saying that's a great milestone, but their rushing offense has shown a lot in the past couple of weeks. If only Campbell could cut down on the mistakes.

This is the second time the Eagles ran the clock out the end the game against the Redskins.

48
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 2:13pm

Did anybody notice the Lions called a timeout with 2:02 left in the game and MN getting ready to punt? This timeout saved exactly two seconds, since if the clock went down to 2:00, MN still would have punted, and the clock would have stopped when Detroit was done returning it.

49
by Bill Barnwell :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 2:13pm

My high school actually had an 11 point scale. Made for fantastic college interviews. "I've got a 10.4 GPA." "WOW!" "I don't know if that's any good or not."

There was a guy wearing a Packers jersey at the bar I went to on Sunday and he fell asleep on the bar. That's probably why there's no SF-GB comments.

50
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 2:14pm

Yes, Romo had a poor game yesterday, but when the oppositon hangs 42 on your defense before the start of the 4th quarter, that is the major shortcoming which produced the loss. Yes, the Dallas defense was poor yesterday, and they showed major weaknesses, but I have a feeling the Saints from here on out are going to greatly illuminate the weaknesses in many defenses.

51
by Xian (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 2:15pm

I haven't been able to watch the Texans, so can anyone tell me what has happened to Andre Johnson the last few games? Has he just been getting a lot of double-coverage, or is Carr having no time to pass, or is it something else? (Yes, I'm primarily interested because he's on my fantasy team. But hey, FO & PFP2006 led me to a division win/1st round bye! If only my matchups next week were as good as they had been this week.)

And no commentary on the Packers/SF? You guys managed to watch MN/DET. Heh. Not that it really meant much, but still. Donald Driver with 9/160 and a TD? Not too shabby.

Also, is there going to be a FO Pro Bowl thread? Or have I missed it? Because I've got a hankering to vote, but I'd like to maybe hear about some players that I might miss otherwise.

52
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 2:20pm

The NFL was playing a 12 game schedule in the '50s, I believe.

53
by calig23 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 2:23pm

Regarding what players tend to win the MVP, can anyone explain Mark Moseley winning in 1982?

What am I missing?

Also, I'm getting sick of these WordPress errors...

54
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 2:27pm

#47:

Campbell's bad pick was pretty bad. He stared down Moss, and Gaither (a rookie linebacker starting for Philly) bolted on the ball and cut in front of Moss. Gaither was watching Campbell's eyes the entire way - they showed a fantastic shot of that in the game - and Campbell just never saw him.

His second pick was caused by Will James (formerly Will Peterson of the Giants). Saying the pick wasn't his fault is a little much - he threw the pass into traffic. It was a bad decision - I think he forced it because the Redskins game plan was to attack James frequently, which they did. That was the one good play that James made the entire game - other than that, he gave up most of the deep passes the Redskins had.

Campbell's accuracy didn't look terrific, to be honest, but the Redskins receivers were rarely open.

55
by Boots Day (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 2:39pm

Can't believe I'm the first to point this out, but that was John Riggins who scored all those touchdowns, not Jim.

Oh, and the NFL went from a 12-game schedule to a 14-game schedule in 1961. So Jim Brown's 1958 was on a 12-game schedule, and his 1965 was on a 14-game schedule.

56
by Boots Day (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 2:42pm

Moseley hit 23 straight field goals in 1982, the record at the time. That was the strike-shortened year, so no QBs or RBs played enough to put up really impressive numbers.

57
by Zack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 2:45pm

re #51...

the texans are not throwing deep...ever...

they just continue to use AJ on short patterns...

58
by thomas toast (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 2:46pm

Fins 13 - Pats 0 in Miami. Forward pass from Faulk to Brady followed by TD pass from Brady to Graham. Fins fooled, though not as badly as officials. Referee Larry Nemmers does not call illegal forward pass for several minutes, after Saban screams at him and the officials huddle and the ref watches the replay on the stadium jumbotron. The ref made the right call, so I expect no concurrence, but how was this not in essence review of a (non-reviewable) penalty call. It was an ugly TD, but that was the initial call. There are plenty of bad calls and bad non-calls on scoring plays, turnovers, and other big plays, but the teams have to live with them. That is the NFL's decision. Everyone plays the game called. Except sunday in Miami.

Also, I watch a game or two a week and I can't remember seeing a ref making a call from the jumbotron. How often does something like this happen? I thought the NFL had a rule outlawing stadium replays of bad calls by the officials. Well, it seemed to me that Saban and the Miami crowd intimidated the officials.

59
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 2:51pm

Can we say it now... Tony Romo, not a fan favorite? I think a few weeks ago I was happy there was a new young QB playing well, but now he's been shoved down our throats and anointed as the best thing since Brett Favre... plenty of people are turned off by that.

Media bandwagoning is really annoying...

60
by Lions (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 2:51pm

Will Allen,

Marinelli talks the talk, but his team hasn't responded all year. Then again, there's a serious shortage of taletn on this team.

61
by Goober King (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 2:52pm

Surprised that no one's mentioned this, but on the awesome Pats TD-that-wasn't, the ref stated that part of the penalty was Loss of Down. However, the down markers continued to show 1st down. The announcers took the ref's word for it, and spent the rest of the drive wondering why the down markers were a down off. It wasn't until the Pats fumble that the announcers figured out that there is no Loss of Down on that penalty.

How sad is it that the down marker guy knows the rulebook better than the refs? Or that it took the announcers four more plays to find out what the correct penalty was? Either way, the Unintentional Comedy Scale was pretty high during that series.

62
by Xian (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 2:55pm

#57, thanks. It hasn't really been a problem in the last few weeks, but with the potential Norwood and Darrell Jackson being out, and most of my remaining RBs good defenses, it's become more important. I mean, making our championship in my first season playing fantasy football would be pretty neat.

And to think, I was looking forward to the Falcon's game next week after Norwood's production yesterday and the news that Dunn was injured. (Not that I was excited to hear that Dunn had been injured.)

63
by Xian (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 2:55pm

#57, thanks. It hasn't really been a problem in the last few weeks, but with the potential Norwood and Darrell Jackson being out, and most of my remaining RBs good defenses, it's become more important. I mean, making our championship in my first season playing fantasy football would be pretty neat.

And to think, I was looking forward to the Falcon's game next week after Norwood's production yesterday and the news that Dunn was injured. (Not that I was excited to hear that Dunn had been injured.)

64
by Xian (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 3:07pm

Stupid double-post. And I only hit "Say It!" once.

Anyway, if MVP is basically down to LDT and Drew Brees, and we're talking about breaking records, Brees is (sort of) close to the yardage record at this point. And throwing to (a number of) unheralded players (Horn being injured a fair amount and Bush counting as "heralded"). With 4033 yards, he's got to pass for 1050 in 3 games, which isn't out of reach, the way he's been playing. Just thinking out loud. Sorta.

65
by hector (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 3:14pm

Is it just me or does Young look like he's playing darts when he throws the ball? Either way, he's awfully fun to watch.

I was mildly peeved after the Bush catch-and-run Sunday night that was followed by Madden or Michaels (or both, I forget) babbling about how Houston let Bush get away. What about letting Young get away? The decision to re-up David Carr will hold this team back for years.

I wonder who made those March and April calls in Houston at the end of the day - given that Casserly was nixed right after the draft, it couldn't have been him, right?

66
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 3:16pm

Hey, Lions fans; is Shaun Rogers just occasionally interested in playing football when healthy, or is just not all that interested in playing in the environment that Millen has created? When Rogers is on, he's nearly the best interior defensive lineman one could hope to have, but it sounds as if the Lions have really soured on him, and I can understand why; if Marinelli can't get him going, who can? On the other hand, Millen has likely created such a dismal environment that only the most motivated, driven, guys are going to be at their best in Detroit. If that's the case, and the Lions part ways with Rogers in the off-season, somebody may end up with a tremendous defensive game-changer.

67
by hector (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 3:25pm

I believe Jackson was roommates with that punter who got stabbed by the backup punter. Northern Colorado has a rule that if your roommate is stabbed by another player you automatically get a 4.2.

Funniest line of the second half, maybe the season. Tremendous.

68
by hector (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 3:25pm

I believe Jackson was roommates with that punter who got stabbed by the backup punter. Northern Colorado has a rule that if your roommate is stabbed by another player you automatically get a 4.2.

Funniest line of the second half, maybe the season. Tremendous.

69
by hector (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 3:27pm

62/63, I hear you, it surely is an issue on the FO side. I had the same thing happen to me just now, I posted "once" and it showed up "twice." I'm sure they'll iron it out.

Now watch, this will show up 127 times and waste everyone's time. I sincerely hope not.

Does Brady have enough resources to have one of his classic "bounce back" games next week? Can this man get one legitimate star WR someday, please?

70
by hector (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 3:37pm

Tanier's mention of "Earl Campbell 1980" reminded me of a recent Paul Zimmerman SI article I re-read on the Oakland-Houston playoff game in January 1981 (Dave Winfield to the Yanks on the cover). The Raiders claimed Campbell leaned forward when he was going to carry the ball, interesting.

Between this and the fade pass pickout in Philly last week, I'd love to read more about pro football tells.

71
by CA (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 3:41pm

Re: 65

If Houston actually had drafted Vince Young, it rightfully would have been viewed as a PR move to pander to fans of the hometown product and the Texas Longhorns. Houston didn't need a quarterback, there were plenty of other highly talented players available -- including Leinart and Cutler, if they did decide to go in the direction of a QB, and Vince Young appeared to be a huge risk. Even if Young turns out to be the star of the 2006 draft class, based on the information available at the time, drafting him would not have been a smart football move by the Texans, so let's not blame them retroactively for not doing so.

72
by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 3:52pm

The ref made the right call, so I expect no concurrence, but how was this not in essence review of a (non-reviewable) penalty call. It was an ugly TD, but that was the initial call. There are plenty of bad calls and bad non-calls on scoring plays, turnovers, and other big plays, but the teams have to live with them. That is the NFL’s decision. Everyone plays the game called. Except sunday in Miami.

I can't testify as to whether the refs were watching the Jumbotron, but an illegal forward pass is a reviewable penalty - remember the interminable delay after the Music City Miracle? There was no chance the New England play would not be overturned upon review (unless the Oregon-Oklahoma crew was doing the game), so I can understand why no one's talking about the way it was reversed.

73
by stan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 3:57pm

The most incredible thing about the Colt defense this weekend is that the Jags passing game is not much of a threat. How do you get gashed repeatedly like that without making some adjustments?

I didn't see the game. Hey Bobman and other Colts fans, did they do anything different to try to slow the run?

How hard is it to run blitz? You pack the box, bring heat through every gap and play man? If it is a run, you blow it up. If it is a pass, the blitzers see how good the back up QB is at hitting his hots with serious pressure in his face.

Do something!

74
by Lou (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 3:57pm

All the way back to #8. In the Vikes-Lions game the post down-by-contact fumble situation precisely happened. It was a short pass and the Lions' receiver was hit very quickly. The call on the field was Catch-Down by Contact-Ground Caused Fumble. After a challenge the call was changed to Catch-Fumble-Vikings Recover, the new rule in effect. It was a bang-bang play, at full speed I thought he never had possession, and I'm very impressed the refs changed the call. I thought it was incontrovertible...but still really close.

75
by Ray (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 4:05pm

Regarding LTs 'garbage time' TD to break the record, I decided that it was okay. After all, when he came in there, everyone knew what was going on, including the Broncos. If they can't stop him from getting seven yards when they absolutely know for sure that he's getting the ball, then he deserves to break the record on them.

76
by hector (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 4:09pm

71: Well Houston didn't need a running back, either (they had Domanick Davis, extended and ready to go at the time). But the Bush angle is going to get trampled to death, no matter how many rookies have better seasons and/or careers, I guess.

Part of my critique is that they never should have stayed tied to Carr in the first place.

Of course I thought the Saints were crazy to tie up so much cap space at one position (RB) and Payton's making it work just fine.

77
by stan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 4:09pm

69,

Brady has a long history of problems with his accuracy. It ain't the WRs fault that he regularly makes bad throws.

Go back to years like 2003 when his line gave him all day to throw sometimes and watch how often he simply misses a wide open receiver. Or completes the pass, but throws it to the wrong side.

Look at the last of his 4 INTs against the Colts. Brady lovers want to blame the RB, but the ball was way too high. The QB is throwing a soft pass that only travels 10 yards or less. You can't have an easier pass to throw. It should go right at his numbers, not 2 feet over his head. When a RB knows that LBs are coming behind him and he can't see them, he'd really like to get that pass in a position to protect himself, not stretched out where he might get killed.

78
by stan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 4:09pm

69,

Brady has a long history of problems with his accuracy. It ain't the WRs fault that he regularly makes bad throws.

Go back to years like 2003 when his line gave him all day to throw sometimes and watch how often he simply misses a wide open receiver. Or completes the pass, but throws it to the wrong side.

Look at the last of his 4 INTs against the Colts. Brady lovers want to blame the RB, but the ball was way too high. The QB is throwing a soft pass that only travels 10 yards or less. You can't have an easier pass to throw. It should go right at his numbers, not 2 feet over his head. When a RB knows that LBs are coming behind him and he can't see them, he'd really like to get that pass in a position to protect himself, not stretched out where he might get killed.

79
by Kal (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 4:14pm

I didn’t see the game. Hey Bobman and other Colts fans, did they do anything different to try to slow the run?

Well, yeah. They started allowing 93-yard kickoff returns. That drive gave the Jags no yards rushing! That's AWESOME rush defense, that is.

They also injured Taylor, so they had his backup come in. I mean, really, they did great adjustments - the Jags gained about half as many yards rushing in the second half as they did the first half. Admittedly, that 'half' is about 125 yards, but...

80
by Fiver (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 4:24pm

A discussion of great rushing seasons, and an acknowledgement of the importance of yards over TDs, and no mention of Jamal Lewis's 2003 season? He set the record for most yardage in a single game and finished the season with a shot at the all-time rushing record, all the while hampered by a passing game helmed by Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright. Several teams tried a base 4-4-3 when they played him and it didn't matter.

I find it weird no one mentioned that tremendous season. The guy looked like a jet-powered bulldozer that whole year.

81
by chris clark (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 5:12pm

"I also know that some readers don’t like to read it when we pat ourselves on the back for getting things right. But I hope that all those people who four weeks ago were talking about the Colts’ chances of going undefeated this year properly feel like complete morons."

It's not that we hate you patting yourself for getting things right. But, it's better when you temper it with even bigger does of pointing out when you got things wrong. Modestly goes a long way.

The fact that you back up the predictions, even when they are wrong, with the DVOA or DPAR stats, goes a long way. And, it's even better when you point out when the stats appeared to suggest the wrong conclussion and you point it out. So, the comment about the Fred Thomas (and the NO pass defense) being better than expected is particularly a good one.

All that said, your predicition of both the Colts and Broncos late season swoons are much appreciated, even though I am a fan of both teams and a fan of W/L records meaning *something*, just not as much as a fan might hope. So, yes, both teams are just what you thought they were. Even when we don't like your conclussions, we will forgive you when you back it up with evidence and then it turns out you are right.

I'm still holding on to the decreasingly slim hope of a Broncos playoff appearance, even though I've run the prediction software and seen that they can win-out and still not make it, meaning they aren't in control of their destiny and need help. (Cincinatti and Jacksonville are in control of their own destiny--if either or both of them win out, they make the playoffs, and each has good odds of making it even if they lose a game.)

82
by MLA (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 5:15pm

Regarding Tomlinson for MVP:
Maybe it's the Saints homer in me, but I just don't see it. I mean, the only reason he's up for consideration is because of the TD's, as he isn't very far ahead of the pack in terms of yardage (in fact, Larry Johnson had more yards as of last week).
Touchdowns just seem like a relatively meaningless statistic on which to judge running backs in the modern NFL. This is because I see the high TD totals of guys like Tomlinson as largely an artifact of coaching philosophy. Marty uses Tomlinson for goal line carries, instead of having a goal line back like we've seen on other teams (i.e. Barber and Jacobs, Staley and Bettis, etc.) or making use of the short passing game (i.e. the Colts in years past). This allows LT to rack up lots of rushing touchdowns. However, does the fact that he gets multiple carries to gain 2 or 3 yards for a TD really prove he's way better than other backs? Again, I say the high TD total is largely a reflection on the system, not on Tomlinson's ability.
I mean, just look at the list of top running backs right now in terms of TD's. Do you really think guys like Brandon Jacobs or Corey Dillon are ahead of Tiki Barber or Brian Westbrook?
I think Tomlinson is a great back, but I think all of this touchdown love is another example of everyone falling in love with an inadequate statistic without considering the game situation.

83
by putnamp (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 5:28pm

Re: Edge vs. Seattle — losing DT Marcus Tubbs for the season didn’t help. They don’t have another big guy who can stuff the middle and allow the faster guys to flow in around the initial stop.

Mike Sando (Remember him? He's still doing his blog, and it's still very informative from time to time) mentioned that the loss of Tubbs signaled the collapse of Seattle's run defense to a lot of teams, and they've been able to run up the middle on account of his loss. I would expect Seattle to look for a large DT in the draft or free agency this year, because Tubbs has always been somewhat injury prone. Last year was one of the few years we saw him play almost every game, and you can tell the difference.

I think I may've posted this a few weeks back, so I apologize if I sound like a broken record.

Click my name for Sando's blog.

84
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 5:48pm

I agree that TDs for a RB don't tell the whole story, but in part because of Tomlinson, SD has a good red zone scoring percentage. Points win football games. If a RB has the ability to get in the end zone, he's helping his team win games. Part of it is coaching philosophy, but part of it is the player; it's not like all members of the team are equally capable of scoring TDs inside the 10. Coaches make decisions about who should run it in largely on the (perceived) skill of the player. I think many commentators overrate TDs, but I think discounting TDs is a mistake. Players that can score TDs are helping their teams win football games.

85
by Lou (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 5:48pm

Re #10. The most impressive Smoke play I ever saw was Moss as well. It was sometime in 2000 and Moss caught the pass after a one step drop and just ran straight ahead past 3 LB/DBs who were within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage and just continued running straight on for a ~70yd TD.

86
by cjfarls (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 5:58pm

Re: 13-
Didn't get to see the game, but how much of Denver's D suckitude can be attributed to the safetys all being injured? I know against KC & SD, they like to play a "big nickel" with 3 safetys, covering Gonzo/Gates with Sam Brandon while Ferguson/Lynch supported the run. Now Ferguson & Brandon are both out, leaving the 2nd safety spot to Foxworth (the normal nickel CB)... small and likely a bit confused with the new responsibilities.

Anyway, kudos to FO for predicting the iminent downfall of the Denver D fater their ridulous red-zone success early. While they seemed to have collapsed even more than predicted, even I as a Broncos-homer could tell you any team with no big pass-rush threat from the DL won't be able to sustain the success they had... injuries have hurt too.

Oh, and regarding D. Williams - originally folks pegged him as a slot CB due to his small-size and aggressive play... but he played over his head and won the starting spot. Is being over-aggressive and small his problem, or is he just bad? Would he recover his potential if Denver got healthy enough for Foxworth on the outside and Williams in the slot?

87
by Ben B. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 6:38pm

I'm pretty sure that Tomlinson is way ahead of Johnson in total yards, and I think he's still ahead of him in rushing yards (if just barely). This is in way fewer attempts.

Mike Tanier: I'm not really sure what you mean by garbage time touchdowns for Tomlinson. Only in the San Francisco game did he have a rushing td that could be construed as a garbage one, and that came after a long 7 minute drive to kill clock. I guess the Rams game could be a garbage td, except that the Rams were definitely still trying to win the game after he scored. And it was a receiving td.

88
by dave (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 6:41pm

Not that it matters, but I had to weigh in on the whole Vincent Jackson thing. The ever-accurate announcers mentioned his GPA as 4.2, which would be accurate if they were referring to his HIGH SCHOOL. Apparently they pulled this info from one of the Colorado papers, because this little tidbit was left out. He was one of the better student athletes at that level, but he wasn't an Academic All-American or anything.

89
by mm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 6:42pm

Fred Thomas has been a solid conerback for years with the Saints. Not a superstar, but solid. 3 or so years ago Dr. Z put him on his All-Pro team in a year when Thomas played several games with an arm in a cast.

It seemed every year Haslett would bring in someone faster to supplant him and Thomas would beat him out. I think he might have even started this year as the third corner but played his way back into a starting position.

These last few games were quite uncharacteristic of him. Last night was more normal for him, right down to letting passes go through his hands. Cast or no, he's never been good at holding on to balls when he gets in position to make an interception.

90
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 7:19pm

43: Well said. I think people are missing the fact that LT is going to break Paul Hornung's Most Points Scored record that he set in 1960. I think breaking a record that has stood for that long is impressive, especially when it's for something as important as scoring points.

91
by Jaime (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 7:23pm

Has FO ever thought of a way to statistically measure coaching? Because it seems very chicken-and-egg whether a coach (I'm thinking Sean Payton here) made a good call, or whether the players simply made it LOOK good.

92
by hector (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 7:29pm

83, Agree on Sando, I think he's excellent. Does anyone else want to recommend quality beat guys in the NFL? There so much crap out there, scribes pedding the same tired, disproven themes ("when our back rushes for 100 yards" . . . )

Who *is* worth reading? I'll offer up Rich Cimini on the Jets (NY Daily News).

93
by TJC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 7:29pm

Has anyone noticed that the Colts offense has really struggled lately? Obviously the run defense is horrible, but the Colts haven't scored more than 17 points in 4 of the last 5 games. I had thought that teams were keeping the Colts' offense off the field by draining the clock, but now I'm thinkin that the offense--in specific Peyton Manning (4 TD/ 6 INT last 4 games I think)-- is not playing well either. Any thoughts?

94
by hector (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 7:30pm

83, Agree on Sando, I think he's excellent. Does anyone else want to recommend quality beat guys in the NFL? There so much crap out there, scribes pedding the same tired, disproven themes ("when our back rushes for 100 yards" . . . )

Who *is* worth reading? I'll offer up Rich Cimini on the Jets (NY Daily News).

95
by Stillio (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 7:41pm

@73: The real problem for the Colts was that they did run-blitz and still couldn't close the gaps. The Jag's o-line opened gaping holes when the Colts didn't blitz, and Taylor and MJD broke the initial tackle when they did blitz. You also won't see it on any highlight reel, but the run-blitz gave up 3 near miss bombs by Garrard and only got one sack. In other words, the blitz was completely ineffective and the fix for the Colts won't be as simple as 'do something'. They lack talent on defense, period.

96
by jdb (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 7:41pm

a couple questions for the more knowledgeable:

I knew that the Cowboys' safeties were pretty horrendous in coverage but I thought that Anthony Henry and especially Terence Newman were both good cornerbacks. Admittedly the Saints' have a very potent and explosive passing game, but did they also get exposed? Or was it just Brees and Co. doing their thing?

And speaking of the Saints, is anyone else still not sold on their defense? Hadn't they been struggling for the last 6 or 7 games? I'm wondering if they're really coming around, if it was a product of a good game planning/scheme, or if the Cowboys O just had a bad day. Maybe Bill Parcells should call that play where Mike Mackenzie taunts T.O. more often, because that was their best offensive play in the 1st half aside from the Julius Jones' TD.

alright, time to head home and get ready to watch Rex Grossman go 2 for 9 with 2 INTs and a fumble in a first half, leading to Brian Griese, offset by the defense and Devin Hester putting up a healthy 27 or so on the board. gotta love Bears' 06 football!!!

97
by hector (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 7:42pm

83, Agree that Sando is excellent. Any other reccos on solid beat guys? I'll offer up Rich Cimini on the Jets (NY Daily News).

98
by jdb (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 7:42pm

a couple questions for the more knowledgeable:

I knew that the Cowboys' safeties were pretty horrendous in coverage but I thought that Anthony Henry and especially Terence Newman were both good cornerbacks. Admittedly the Saints' have a very potent and explosive passing game, but did they also get exposed? Or was it just Brees and Co. doing their thing?

And speaking of the Saints, is anyone else still not sold on their defense? Hadn't they been struggling for the last 6 or 7 games? I'm wondering if they're really coming around, if it was a product of a good game planning/scheme, or if the Cowboys O just had a bad day. Maybe Bill Parcells should call that play where Mike Mackenzie taunts T.O. more often, because that was their best offensive play in the 1st half aside from the Julius Jones' TD.

alright, time to head home and get ready to watch Rex Grossman go 2 for 9 with 2 INTs and a fumble in a first half, leading to Brian Griese, offset by the defense and Devin Hester putting up a healthy 27 or so on the board. gotta love Bears' 06 football!!!

99
by hector (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 7:43pm

I apologize for all the dupes, not sure why it's happening. I'll go back to scratching my head on Peter King and concede the floor to the rest of you.

100
by admin :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 7:54pm

91: Yes, we're working on something and hope to debut it before the playoffs.

The dupes are because of our server issues today. These aren't the usual server issues: we're getting bombarded with comment spam and the hosting company is trying to figure out how to stop it. Bear with us.

101
by Peter (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 8:59pm

Re 82:

I think you might be contradicting yourself a bit in that post. Tomlinson is better at scoring inside and outside of the red zone than Dillon, Jacobs, Barber et. al. (evidenced by his 31 all-purpose touchdowns) and he's better at advancing the ball than Gore, Johnson, and Tiki (consider his 100 yard lead in yards from scrimmage on LJ, and the highest yards per touch average of any back in the NFL).

If he's getting his team to the red zone, and scoring when he gets there, how much more valuable can a player be?

Bear in mind that though San Diego sports the top scoring offense in the NFL, the top red zone success rate, and the #6 offense in terms of yards from scrimmage, yet it is only 14th in passing yards.

What this says is that the Chargers don't throw to score as much as other teams. They run the ball, run the clock, and break the plane of the goal line every chance they get. An offense like that is built around its running back. And for that offense to be the most potent in the league, it means that runner is special.

102
by Crushinator (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 9:04pm

71

I think the more time that passes, the more obvious it seems like the Texans should have just traded down to 4 and taken the Jets offer.

and the more time that passes, the more I think their front office just narrowed it down to "Best Offensive Player" "Best Defensive Player" and "We're not leaving the draft unless we get one of those two".

103
by mm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 9:25pm

96: In the first half the Saints damage came on passes to the tight ends, Reggie Bush, and the fullback. With Horn out, the Saints started Copper and Colston (who didn't look completely over his injury) at receiver. Neither of them had a big game, so it doesn't look like the starting cornerbacks were the Cowboy's problem

104
by Joe Rowles (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 9:28pm

Honestly I have to say I am sick of reading all these different things about Shannahan switching qbs due to his ego or whatever. Honestly Cutler hasnt play that much worse than Plummer. If the Broncos realized that they werent going to win a sb with Plummer this year, and were well on their way to a quick playoff exit anyways why not just go with the rookie and try and spark the team? Yes it was unorthadox and hasn't really happened in recent times if ever but I would much rather Shanny go down trying to spark the team than sittin back as Plummer continues his downword spiral

105
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 9:41pm

As for beat writers worth reading the Journal-Sentinel has Bob McGinn who is "the awesome". Doesn't write in cliches, does actual research, and provides insight that cannot be found too many other places.

Drew Brees has been a good quarterback for a long time dating back to making Purdue competitive when it was him and the 21 dwarves. Any guy saddled with Droopy Dog wanna be Joe Tiller as his coach and can take a team to the Rose Bowl must have some chops.

That Brees had a rough second year starting in the NFL isn't uncommon for quarterbacks. I think anyone here can rattle off a dozen quality qbs who had a down year early on in their career.

Also, the 2003 Chargers were snakebit coupled with some bad decisions. They rebounded and so did Drew.

106
by thad (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 9:45pm

re 96
Newman played well.
Henry played ok.
The safety's kind of sucked.
The saints put on a very good clinic for beating the Cowboys.
The cowboys are pretty good at covering WR's and not so good at TE's and even worse with RB's.
Last night the Saints rb's got 14 rec
12.8 ave
8 fd's.
The Saints went into this game with more rb catches than any other team, and obviously played very well.
Dallas really should have seen that coming. And I don't mean just Bush. I mean mister I've only touched the ball three times in my career fullback wide open in the left flat guy.
Dallas on the other hand has a grand total of 24 catches by rb's for a mighty 12 first downs on the year.
Romo throws the ball to wr's and te's.
Sean Payton and the saints coaching staff are not stupid, they see this.
Either the rb's aren't sent out, or Romo won't check down.
I think the Saints said fine, you want to throw to JJ or MBIII, go right ahead.
We are gonna drop everybody deep and no way are Glenn, Owens and Whitten beating us.
There were just way to many throws to WR's into tight coverage.
It was a very smart, well executed game plan by the Saints

107
by thad (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 9:54pm

re 70
There was a monday nite game in dc in the late 70's.
President Carter was there.
When the Cowboys fullback, Newhouse, had his mouthpiece in, it was a run.
When he let in hang from his helmet, it was a pass.
Skins won.

108
by Steve Greenwell (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 10:29pm

There are approximately 100 quarterbacks on NFL rosters, and I think it’s safe to say every one of them would do a fine job managing the game against the Lions’ defense.

You forgot to also mention the roughly 357 Division 1 quarterbacks out there.

109
by Trieu (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 12:04am

John Major was the head of the Tory party (conservative), not Labour (liberal).

110
by Trieu (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 12:06am

Bleah. Nevermind, I read that comment by Schatz wrong. Me dummy.

(FYI - Kinnock was the Labour challenger to Major.)

111
by Trieu (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 12:48am

I nominate Saints-Cowboys for Any Given Sunday. The Saints are good and had the same record as the Cowboys going in, but nobody predicted that.

(It could probably be Patsies-Dolphins, but I'm a NE fan and have no particular interest reliving that game.)

112
by Jerry (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 12:48am

Re #58:

Also, I watch a game or two a week and I can’t remember seeing a ref making a call from the jumbotron. How often does something like this happen? I thought the NFL had a rule outlawing stadium replays of bad calls by the officials.

Baseball has the rule about close plays not being allowed on the replay board, but not the NFL. What does happen, though, is that the video people won't show close calls that favor the home team so as not to help the visitors. They will show as much as they can of calls that go against the home team.

I'm going to guess that officials aren't supposed to use videoboard replays, but they're human. My favorite use of those boards is when guys in the open say they look to see if anyone is close behind them.

113
by Bobman (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 12:54am

Stan/73,

I was blessed this weekend to be busy with kids and holiday stuff and NOT have the Indy/Jax game on local TV here in Seattle. The wife was decorating the tree when I checked the score on-line about 5 feet away. "Honey, I'll be only too happy to help today, or maybe have some dental surgery without novocaine, just don't let me touch the computer for the rest of the day...."

So I did not see it and probably read the same stuff you did in the aftermath: they knew it was going to be a run, had 9 men in the box, and still could not stop Jax. Mathis and Freeney set too far outside. I understand Indy was missing their top 4 safeties after Bethea and Jackson went down (that, in effect, turns 10 yard runs into 20 yarders), but Jax regularly got through the DL and LBs to get their 10 to start with.

Alvin Pearman, for Pete's sake! No Jax runner played a full game because Fragile Freddie got hurt (hammie) and MJD dehydrated himself on 15 runs and a KO rtn. I guess when you average 15 yards a touch, that happens. But Jax WAS the 3rd best run team going in to that game, so I'll cut Indy about 100 yards of slack... and they STILL sucked!

Whom do they face from here on out? Nobody in the top half for rushing O, which is a blessing, though Rudi will be a challenge since CIN has plenty of other O firepower and is hot and Indy can't stack the box (as if it helps them). And in the playoffs, if they get semi-lucky, their toughest early run opponent will be the nicked-up Maroney or Jamal 3 YPC Lewis. (That's 3 YPC against other teams, but about 5 YPC against Indy, which is still an improvement for Indy!). If they get really lucky and make the AFCCG, they'll face Little Mikey Turner and his friend whose name escapes me right now. Some guy with a lot of TDs this year.

I hate being back to the old game of hoping certain other teams--who have the keys to Indy's fatal flaws--somehow lose before they meet up in the playoffs. Last year, I was cocky but concerned. This year, I am scared sh#tless. (Now how can I convince the original LT to come out of retirement long enough to send some hookers and booze to the hotel room of his new namesake the night before the big game....?)

Oooh, just saw Stokley's out on IR (ruptured achilles). One of Indy's D's biggest problems has been their O--the D is built for a universe where the O has a 21-point lead and the pummeling run game is not really a major factor for the opponents. With the O stumbling (the last minute heroics have hidden this fact to some extent--even from FO's advanced metrics), the D is even more exposed.

The Jax game makes me think of the unmentionable 41-0 pasting the Jets laid on Indy after the 2002 season. How did Indy respond? Not a lot of changes, despite Vandy's pleading, but they ripped off a 5-0 start en route to one of their better seasons the next year. Can they be as resilient now? The injuries to Simon, Stokley, Clark, and the safeties suggest not.

114
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 1:20am

#93,

Manning's 4TD/6INT line is a little misleading, I can recall three of those INTs that were horrible drops by his receivers. The balls hit them in the hands, in stride, and bounced off.

However, he has had two picks that were bad throws, and they came in the worst possible spot: right before halftime. In both cases, the opposing team scored points off the TOs right before intermission.

As for the more generalized problems the Colts are having on offense, I would say it comes down to these:

--Poor run blocking, especially in short yardage. It has been real ugly for the Colts running game since Addai's huge game against Philly. Against Tennessee, they averaged something like 3.3 yd/carry, and had two huge short yardage negative plays. One of those was a two yard loss on 4th and 1 in TMQ's maroon zone, and the other was a 1st and goal from the one that got stuffed, which led to the Ben Utecht Offensive PI one play later. Against Jax, it was even worse. Our patented stretch play was consistently getting blown up for big losses (I think Rhodes was 2 carries for -9 yards at one point). I don't know how much of this is the RBs and how much is the OL, but with so many negative plays, I am leaning towards the OL being at fault.

--A baffling case of the Colts receivers having the butterfinger disease. This is pretty inexplicable. I've seen Marvin Harrison have 5-6 bad drops over the last 3-4 weeks. I'd been used to him making 1-2 a season. I don't know if this is just a case of the coin turning up heads lots of times in a row, or if something else is happening. Either way, it seems to be contagious. Stokley dropped a perfect third down pass against Ten, and a pretty good pass in the end zone against Jax. Fletcher, Utecht, and Rhodes have also caught the disease.

--Manning playing at a lower level than the first nine games of the year. It's still real good, but I think he had only 4 INT/fumbles combined over the first nine games.

--Having to deal with fewer offensive possessions than other teams, due to poor Colts defense.

Here's my thinking: go back to the hurry up all game. We do the no-huddle now, but still take 39 seconds a play. Opposing teams try to shorten the game, the Colts should try to lengthen it. Anyone else think this would help? How could the defense play worse? Rest is not helping them now.

115
by bird (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 1:22am

What did Tim Gerheim mean by "I never had the impression the Panthers were like the Jags or Bills when it comes to ticket sales"? The last three years the Bills have been 13th (2006) and 9th (2005, 2004) in the NFL in home attendance and the Jags have been 20th (2006, 2005) and 14th (in 2004).

116
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 1:23am

And in the playoffs, if they get semi-lucky, their toughest early run opponent will be the nicked-up Maroney or Jamal 3 YPC Lewis.

Here's a question: anyone know if Indy is the #2 or the #3 seed right now? As far as I can tell, it'd fall to freaking strength of victories (# of wins by your wins) right now, as they don't (and won't) have enough common games (they only share the 3 required teams: Cincy, Denver, and Tennessee), and by my count (which could be wrong), Indy's just barely got that, although they should keep it through the end of the year.

If Indy loses a first round bye, their opponent in the first round could very well be Jacksonville.

That might not have been a good thing for you to hear. :)

117
by Richard (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 1:39am

116: I was just looking into that earlier and their edge in strength of victory really is quite small. Hopefully they get the bye because I'd prefer that the Ravens get multiple chances to get bounced prior o the Championship game.

118
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 1:46am

#117: Well, you have to presume they'll win out, though, and the Ravens remaining schedule is weaker than Indy's. I think if they both win out, Indy'll have the #2 seed.

Tough to say, though.

119
by hector (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 2:07am

I would love to see NO-DAL get AGS Treatment.

120
by Kal (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 2:56am

Something that the Saints did against the Cowboys that worked well was go into 5 receiver sets. Often one of those receivers was Bush, but they'd still go into it. Dallas would go into a nickel or dime, and Brees would either checkdown to Bush/Karney/TEs, or he'd throw to the 3rd and 4th WR who didn't match up well by comparison. Basically, they exploited matchups - set receivers up against the bad safety covers, made LBs cover Bush, and made 3rd string corners cover Henderson. That didn't work out so well. Outside of this, they kept the Boys honest by doing mid runs with Deuce.

It was a good plan. The Colts tried it too, but they just didn't have the receiving corps depth, and Dallas Clark isn't the challenge to safeties that Henderson or Jones is.

121
by thomas toast (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 4:15am

72: The ref made the right call, so I expect no concurrence, but how was this not in essence review of a (non-reviewable) penalty call. It was an ugly TD, but that was the initial call.

I can’t testify as to whether the refs were watching the Jumbotron, but an illegal forward pass is a reviewable penalty - remember the interminable delay after the Music City Miracle? There was no chance the New England play would not be overturned upon review (unless the Oregon-Oklahoma crew was doing the game), so I can understand why no one’s talking about the way it was reversed.

Well, actually, see this from Jerry Markbreit's "Ask the Ref" column in the Chicago Tribune:

"Under the replay system, fouls cannot be reviewed, including the "horse collar," with a few exceptions. Replay can look at illegal forward pass from beyond the line of scrimmage; 12 men on the field by either team; illegal touching of the forward pass by an eligible or ineligible player; and legal or illegal touching of a kick. No personal fouls (15-yard penalties) can be reviewed."

The second forward pass, the illegal forward pass, was from behind the line of scrimmage, so it was not reviewable. However, in another place, Jerry Markbreit says:

"Whenever a play is challenged, the replay system can correct any situation occurring during the entire play, providing the play falls under the rules of replay."

Does this mean that penalties can be called or undone from under the replay hood? Saban could have challenged. The result of the play was a TD and that is reviewable. When the ref was under the hood, he would see the second illegal forward pass from behind the line of scrimmage and call an illegal forward pass penalty, thus upholding Saban's challenge.
So the rules seem to be in contradiction, saying that an illegal forward pass from behind the line of scrimmage is not reviewable, unless it goes for a touchdown, in which case it is reviewable.
Has anyone ever seen this loophole used to overturn what can not usually overturned by review? I had no idea such a thing was possible.

122
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 4:41am

its not too early to start talking playoff matchups, is it?

"And in the playoffs, if they get semi-lucky, their toughest early run opponent will be the nicked-up Maroney or Jamal 3 YPC Lewis"

Its true the Ravens aren't built to take advantage of this, but their D is perfectly suited to take on Indy's O. BAL uses a zillion different fronts and blitz packages, I think their LBs are way to fast and strong for the Colts O-lineman to handle, and their D-lineman always stuff the run, rush the passer, and drop into coverage with effectiveness.
Honestly (as a Raven fan) I'd rather face Indy at Indy rather than Cincy at Baltimore. Cincy just gives me the willies.

123
by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 4:54am

Re: 121

The second forward pass might not be reviewable, but the first one is, because the replay officials are allowed to review a "[f]orward or backward pass thrown from behind line of scrimmage." If Faulk's throw was backwards, the second pass is legal; if forwards, illegal.

“Whenever a play is challenged, the replay system can correct any situation occurring during the entire play, providing the play falls under the rules of replay.�

Does this mean that penalties can be called or undone from under the replay hood? Saban could have challenged. The result of the play was a TD and that is reviewable. When the ref was under the hood, he would see the second illegal forward pass from behind the line of scrimmage and call an illegal forward pass penalty, thus upholding Saban’s challenge.

This refers to all reviewable parts of the play being reversable. If Faulk's throw had turned out to be backwards, making Brady's throw legal, but Graham had only one foot down in the end zone, the play would be ruled incomplete, even though that might not have been what was challenged. But had the ref, on replay, seen (for example) a holding penalty, he would not able to reverse the play on that basis.

124
by putnamp (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 4:58am

The Seattle D-Line is only going to start looking worse, with DT Craig Terrill out on IR as well, now:

The Seahawks will place DT Craig Terrill on injured reserve with ligament damage in a knee, coach Mike Holmgren announced today. That means Terrill is out for the season and defensive tackle depth is an issue.

This DL is in shambles right now :(

125
by Tim Gerheim :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 6:10am

#6: You're right, I checked and it was the kickoff with about two minutes left after the Texans had tied the game. I was absolutely certain after the Titans got the ball at the 40 that they would move down and kick a game-winning field goal. They didn't, but then they won on their opening drive of OT, which is why I got them mixed up. The approximate outcome I expected after the wacky kickoff happened after the ordinary one.

#34: "Reggie Bush as wideout, Marques Colston as TE…who could complete that trifecta?"
Clearly, Michael Vick at running back.

#115: I don't have stats on season ticket sales, but the Jaguars have covered their upper deck so the stadium doesn't feel so empty (as I recall from the beginning or early part of the season), and the Bills were the first team this season to have to blackout a home game for lack of attendance. Maybe there's a disconnect between the actual numbers and the public perception from the media, but I can't think of any other franchises that are thought of as having worse attendance.

126
by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 6:27am

Maybe there’s a disconnect between the actual numbers and the public perception from the media, but I can’t think of any other franchises that are thought of as having worse attendance.

Hint: they play in northern California.

Reported paid attendance for blacked-out games this season:

BUF-SD: 63,361
OAK-HOU: 46,276
BUF-JAX: 63,608

127
by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 10:31am

With Hochstein and Yates on IR, and O'Callaghan inactive with his neck injury the last few games, I'm starting to think the Pats O-line is just exhausted. There's really only one other lineman (Britt) on the team who's NFL caliber that isn't starting. Light has always sucked in pass protection. The difference seems to be that he's getting no help from the TE this year, as it seems that Belichick has decided that Graham is more valuable running routes on pass plays. If Watson is out long-term, things are going to get really ugly. At that point, may as well go to a 3 TE offense and run the ball every play.

It's odd to see the dichotomy in the Patriots pass defense vis a vis the #1 vs. #2 receivers. Until this season, the Pats cornerbacks always stayed on the same side of the field, regardless of where the #1 was lined up. Maybe if Chad Johnson or previous incarnations of Randy Moss were playing, they'd game-plan around that WR, but in general, Samuel has stayed on the right side. I guess the answer is that Geno Wilson usually shades the #1 WR, providing additional coverage.

128
by Mike Carlson (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 11:21am

Re: Hitches...When I was playing, admittedly in the stone age, we called the comeback type of pass pattern Mike is describing a 'hitch' and if you executed it at the line of scrimmage it was a 'quick hitch'. This may just be blowing 'smoke', but there it was...

129
by Bird (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 11:40am

TG - #125: I don’t have stats on season ticket sales, but the Jaguars have covered their upper deck so the stadium doesn’t feel so empty (as I recall from the beginning or early part of the season), and the Bills were the first team this season to have to blackout a home game for lack of attendance.

First off, I am not a fan of either team so I have no dog in the fight, but NFL attendance info is available on ESPN.com (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/attendance, where I got my figures earlier.) I don't know about Buffalo, but I know Jacksonville has had to black out a lot of games in the recent past because - despite selling tickets pretty well - they have one of the biggest stadiums in the league. Hence the curtain on the upper deck. The team started using the curtain because local fans were incensed that all Jags home games were blacked out on TV despite them selling a lot of tickets (relative to other NFL teams.)

Maybe there’s a disconnect between the actual numbers and the public perception from the media, but I can’t think of any other franchises that are thought of as having worse attendance.

How about all the teams below them on the list?

130
by azibuck (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 11:49am

I'm not sure Saints-Cowboys is a good AGS candidate. The story that was missed by NBC was Payton vs. Dallas DC Mike Zimmer. Payton schooled him. Zimmer had no answer for anything. It looked like they were playing 11-on-10 half the time. Payton knew all the tendencies.

NBC also was fond of pointing out Payton "knowing" Romo, but I think it was more of Saint DC Gary Gibbs (ex-Cowboy LB coach) knowing the Dallas offensive tendencies. The Dallas offense is the same as it was when Gibbs and Payton were on the staff.

And just so I'm not seen as a Romo apologist, he was pretty bad. One of the Saint DL said after the game the plan was to pressure from Romo's left and he'd "flick it out to the right without knowing where it's going." I don't know if Romo will be the next Favre, because the last two weeks he's been "the current Favre."

131
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 12:00pm

Re: Review of Pats TD
I heard somewhere that once the referee initiates the replay, the in-house Jumbotron can only show the network feed and they can't show their own feed. I don't think that rule goes into effect since Miami didn't challenge.

Watching the tape of the game right now, I think it just took the officials a bit to huddle and discuss what happened and how to mark it... Saban was looking at the jumbotron but Nemmers appears to be talking to the other officials the whole time. Even though they called it a TD, none of them set up the Extra Point... I don't think Nemmers signalled TD even.

Although it does appear Nemmers didn't communicate there was no loss of down. In the Gamebook they have said "no loss of down because 2nd pass occurred behind line of scrimmange". Enberg and Cross are confused because Nemmers never corrects his announcement of loss of down.

132
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 12:02pm

I don't think Saints-Cowboys is a good AGS candidate. Pretty much everyone saw the game, right? Dolphins over Pats would be my vote.

133
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 12:27pm

NBC also was fond of pointing out Payton “knowing� Romo, but I think it was more of Saint DC Gary Gibbs (ex-Cowboy LB coach) knowing the Dallas offensive tendencies.

I dunno - the Saints were clearly rushing to contain, rather than sack, Romo. They rarely overloaded on one side in an attempt to flush him towards a rushing DE on the other side, for instance.

I think there is a lot to the "Payton knowing Romo" bit, regardless of what Parcells would like to say.

134
by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 12:35pm

I think a Pats/Dolphins AGS would run about 10 words.

135
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 12:51pm

I guess we could be overlooking ARI-SEA for AGS...

136
by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 12:59pm

#44:
"I absolutely believe that Millen has buds at Fox who protect him."

Further evidence that Matt Millen is the George W. Bush of the NFL.

137
by jebmak (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 1:26pm

Re #15

A few years back there was a tie between TWO QBs on good teams, does that count?

Since the merger, there have been a total of three non QB/RB AP MVPS (IRL IIRC YKWIM). LT, that kicker in '82 and Alan Page (DT) in '71. How sad.

138
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 1:53pm

Growing up in MN, I heard a lot of "Alan Page was so good he was the first defensive player to win MVP." Well, growing up in MN I heard a lot about Alan Page, period. Anyway, it's hard to believe a DT could win the award today. Really, since LT it's either been a QB or RB, and before LT it was almost always a QB or RB.

I always found it strange a WR never won AP MVP (Jerry Rice won some awards, but never AP MVP).

139
by James, London (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 2:25pm

Re #138

PV, rightly or wrongly I bet Jerry Rice was punished because he had Montana & Young throwing to him. I wasn't watching football during Rice's glory years, but I'm willing to bet that the quality of his QBs hurt him in MVP conversations.

140
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 3:07pm

"Tim Gerheim: So I’m not watching this game but … can we just go ahead and call Reggie Bush a wide receiver yet?"

If yahoo does, I'm drafting him with my first pick. Seriously.

141
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 12/13/2006 - 2:06am

Chris/114

Here's my take on Indy's hurry-up vs no-huddle, and I stole it from the Pittsburgh Pirate pitching coach from the early 90s. (Ray "Moondog" Miller? I caanot recall) "Change speeds."

I think the HU would work great, but be too taxing on the O for a whole game, mentally and physically, and as you point out, tough on the D that is already sketchy--yes, it COULD be worse! So they go into a series knowing that plays 2-5 are going to be HU and the rest NH. Come out in usual play 1, get 4 yards, say, and then hit the HU button and panic the shit outta the D. Then change speeds to see how the D reacts and to give your guys a breather in the more normal NH, and then a few plays later, jolt them with the cattle prod again and go HU. The D will likely put in a nickel package like Philly and then you hammer away with Addai. Manning used to have a great hard count that would draw a dozen offsides a season--sometimes five yards is golden.

These days, Manning's so involved in deciphering the D scheme, checking in and out of plays, or just appearing to, that the hard quick count sort of undermines his whole strategy. A shame, because once in a while, it could be great and make the D just edgy enough to go offsides since they are no longer sure he'll run the play clock down all the time. Which is what he predictably does.

Part of the "change speeds thing" is also change freakin' looks as well--they always preach that they have a limited playbook, they just do what they do and practice it over and over and do it well.

Well, the D can figure out your dozen looks, no matter how good you are. Not sure if I've ever seen an empty backfield, or a RB go in motion and split wide. Granted, this eliminates the play-action, but Tom Moore's a clever guy, he can think of something.

142
by Shawn (not verified) :: Wed, 12/13/2006 - 4:14am

Unfortunately, the greatest season by a RB that any of us remembers didn't quite happen. Priest Holmes broke the record in 2003, but he was having a much better season in 2002 when he was injured with two games remaining. That season he had over 2300 yards from scrimmage and 24 TDs in 14 games. That's significantly more yards than Alexander gained last year in a full season and was well ahead of the pace LT is on this year. Moreover, he did it playing for a significantly less talented team. That Chiefs team had fewer offensive weapons to help him out and needed his contributions even more considering their atrocious defense (he average more yards per carry and more yards per reception that year than LT is this season). While not exactly the question being asked, Holmes 2002 and 2003 seasons clearly rank as the best back-to-back seasons by a RB in NFL history.

143
by Mike Carlson (not verified) :: Wed, 12/13/2006 - 1:23pm

re 138-139: I was coering NFL Europe when Marcus Robinson was (deservedly) the league MVP...for a WR to qualify you have to
a. dominate the opposition, which means no one can cover you without double-teams and other adjustments
b. dominate your offense, in the sense that you are its prime threat, and teams dont fear your fellow receivers or the run game
c. not be thrown to by a fellow MVP candidate QB

those 3 are harder to find in the NFL

oddly enough, in the world bowl, with a backup QB (jim arellanes) throwing, frankfurt contained Robinson (1 TD as I recall) but not Diallio Burks on the other side who got 2. Rhein won.

144
by Sid (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 3:46am

The Seahawks are obviously lower in DVOA thanks to the Seneca Wallace era, but they are not one of the best 16 teams in football. Their defense, to me, is one of the most disappointing units in football this year.

I think they are.
Better teams? Bears, Patriots, Chargers, Colts, Ravens, Giants (if they were healthier), Broncos (if they had Plummer starting), Chiefs, Jaguars, Bengals, and maybe Eagles.
That's 11 teams, and 2 or 3 of those shouldn't even count. Yeah, their defense is disappointing, but it isn't really worse than mediocre. The offense with Shaun and Matt healthy should be a top 10 unit in football, and I think it is.

As for V.Jackson's 4.2 GPA:

In my college, an A+ is a 4.0. Maybe his A+s were 4.3 or 4.6 or something messed up. Just stating GPA doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot. It depends on the college, the courses you take, and the college's grading system. By the way, his GPA was lower than his 40 time, not equal.

Oh, and I'd vote Drew Brees for MVP if the season ended today.

145
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 5:36pm

That was his high school GPA - it was misstated as his college GPA. A lot of high schools, given the disparity in difficulty level of certain classes, pushed grades in those classes a point higher.

146
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/15/2006 - 5:42pm

Better teams? Bears, Patriots, Chargers, Colts, Ravens, Giants (if they were healthier), Broncos (if they had Plummer starting), Chiefs, Jaguars, Bengals, and maybe Eagles.

Oh, and you're missing the Cowboys and Saints at the least, and I'd say the Falcons and Vikings probably as well, although those two are clearly arguable. But even that only puts them about 16th. You could make cases for the Steelers and Panthers, maybe. But around 16th seems right... but of course, then they go and lose to the 49ers.

Even with Hasselbeck and Alexander starting, the offensive line in Seattle is just getting absolutely no push.