Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Film Room: Eli Manning

Why did Eli Manning struggle so badly in 2013, and what can he and the Giants do to ensure better results this season?

30 Oct 2006

Audibles at the Line: Week 8

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.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3 at New York Giants 17

Al Bogdan: The wind is gusting like crazy in NYC, and reports suggest it's even worse out in the Meadowlands. This is something that NY special teams players have talked about for years, that later in the season, the Meadowlands becomes an incredibly tough place to kick in because of the strong and strange wind patterns in the stadium. Do we have any numbers that would support or refute this idea of the Meadowlands being especially tough on kickers later in the year?

Aaron Schatz: To answer Al's question, I went to my historical sheets for kickoffs, punts, and field goals and looked only at kicks by VISITING kickers where the home team was NYG or NYJ. With my current weather adjustment, the "trendline" for kicking value week to week is flat on kickoffs and punts, and only very slightly downhill on field goals. In other words, the impact of the weather at the Meadowlands seems to be no different than Foxboro, Philly, Chicago, Buffalo, etc.

Al Bogdan: The first game I've really had a chance to watch completely in weeks has been awful in the first half. The wind has made this game nearly unwatchable. Anything thrown outside of the hash marks or more than 10 yards downfield is pretty much uncatchable. Plaxico had two very good catches on bad Manning throws. The touchdown was on an Eli Manning jump ball special that was only a foot over Burress' head (as opposed to the two thrown to him before that which were overthrown by at least two feet apiece). He had another nice catch where he had to come back on a ball that was hung up in the wind.

New York's defense has dominated Tampa's offensive line. The Bucs haven't been able to open up holes for Cadillac Williams to run through, and Gradkowski hasn't had any time to find receivers downfield. Kiwanuka is off to a great start, and Fred Robbins continues to play well in the middle. When Gradkowski has had time, he's been hurt by a number of drops. Could the weather have anything to do with this? The Giants have had a number of tough drops as well, but the notable ones were by Jeremy Shockey, who has been known to drop a pass or two in his lifetime.

Nice play in the second quarter where Ronde Barber stopped his brother from getting his first touchdown of the year.

Russell Levine: Just got back from the Giants game. However bad the wind looked on the field, it was worse in person. Neither team could do much of anything in conditions like that.

Still, I didn't like Gruden's gameplan, throwing 50+ passes with a rookie QB in those conditions in a game they never trailed by more than two scores. The nadir came when he tried a play-action pass on fourth-and-a foot deep in Giants territory with the game still in doubt.

Tampa protected Gradkowski better as the game went on, but I think a lot of that had to do with the tiring Giant D-line that was without its regular rotation because of injuries.

Gradkowski's numbers were bad, but they would have been marginally mediocre had either Michael Clayton or Joey Galloway been able to hold on to some well-thrown deep balls.

Al Bogdan: Tampa's defense did a good job of pressuring Manning early in the second half, but when they stopped getting past the New York line later in the game, Eli was able to find holes in the zone to keep a nice drive alive to seal the game in the fourth quarter.

Arizona Cardinals 14 at Green Bay Packers 31

Bill Barnwell: Earlier I saw that the (mythical?) CBS Fantasy Guru was recommending Edgerrin James over Reuben Droughns (who's playing the Jets) because "James could break out this week."

With what? Are the gold fronts going to give him an allergic reaction suddenly or something? It's not like the Packers rush defense is anything special, but still. Amazing.

(Later, after the game...)

Bill Barnwell: Hey! Edgerrin James had a day that remotely approached replacement level! 24 carries for 84 yards! Too bad Matt Leinart went 14-for-35. Imagine what the Cardinals could do if their skill position players all had a good day.

Tim Gerheim: Uh, what, win a game against somebody better than the 49ers?

Aaron Schatz: Yes, Jamal Lewis goes in that category too. 31 carries, 109 yards. 3.5 yards per carry. I believe Shannon Sharpe referred to this as "a great day running the football."

Atlanta Falcons 29 at Cincinnati Bengals 27

Michael David Smith: Sometimes when I watch Michael Vick do something good, like his long touch pass on the first series against Cincinnati, I just think, "Why can't he do that more often?" I think when a guy has the talent to make great plays, but he doesn't do it often enough, coaching is often the problem.

Jacksonville Jaguars 13 at Philadelphia Eagles 6

Aaron Schatz: The Philadelphia run defense looks awful. Fred Taylor just scored the first Jacksonville touchdown on a counter which Philly bit on so hard that Taylor had a gap three yards wide. The other thing that made the play was a great lead block by Derrick Wimbush on Matt McCoy.

Also, Dan Dierdorf made a good point. We've been down on Taylor for a couple years, and I think we all feel Maurice Jones-Drew is better at this point. But there was an early run where Taylor very patiently waited for his blockers to set up before he turned on the juice to run forward. Dierdorf said, "With age comes wisdom," and there may be something to that argument.

Oh no. Game break. Chicago orange jerseys. Must resist urge to vomit. Gack ... gack...

Tim Gerheim: I actually like the Bears in orange. But maybe I'm just conditioned because of the Texans' "Battle Red" jerseys, which they seem to do well in.

Michael David Smith: OK, I like Ed Hochuli as much as the next guy, but when he turns on his microphone to say there's no roughing the punter penalty because Philadelphia's snap touched the ground, and CBS shows a replay showing the snap never coming close to touching the ground, maybe Greg Gumbel shouldn't describe that as a great explanation.

Mike Tanier: At 1:55 PM EST, I witness my first Eagles first down. I am not a happy dude.

Aaron Schatz: Again today, we see botched screens, just like I mentioned when writing about Denver two weeks ago. This time it was Philadelphia. The RT and RG weren't even close to getting over in front of Buckhalter, and McNabb threw it to him with Nick Greisen sitting on top of Buckhalter, immediate tackle, loss of 6 yards. That's just a terrible decision by McNabb, and that's the other half of this problem teams have with screens this year. Not only are the blockers having an awful time setting up, but the quarterbacks are throwing to guys when the blockers have had an awful time setting up, and that means lost yardage when an incomplete would have been better.

Mike Tanier: Yeah, but look at Donovan's responsibility on that play. It looked like a double screen, or at the very least, McNabb is supposed to set up the screen to the right by looking down to the left. He has to turn and throw to Buckhalter more or less immediately. Shawn Andrews has to block Greisen on that play, and the whole offensive line has to convincingly fake their pass blocks. I only saw the replay, but I get the impression that defenders were drifting along with the blockers instead of pursuing McNabb.

Bill Barnwell: The Bills really struggle with this. J.P. Losman threw an entirely blind screen last year where he looked left and then threw the ball immediately as he turned right, and hit a defensive lineman in the leg where his receiver should have been. I think that's one of the reasons why the Bills took Losman out last year -- screens were a bigger part of their offense last season and Losman simply couldn't handle them.

Mike Tanier: A decade ago, the Packers could execute screens knowing that the defensive linemen would sell out on the pass rush and the linebackers would get hammered. Nowadays, every team has some zone blitz plays in their defensive playbook, and every lineman has a little experience in pass coverage and knows that he has to be ready for a screen. Offenses may just have to be more creative when it comes to setting these things up.

Ned Macey: A week ago, Houston beat Jacksonville by throwing quick passes underneath. I turn on this game near the end of the first quarter, and everything is a long-developing deep pass for the Eagles again. In the Eagles' defense, they almost hit a big one to Reggie Brown that was just overthrown.

By the way, what is the Jacksonville defense's variance?

I've spent the past two years describing the Jacksonville offensive line as pedestrian, mediocre, and every other word that means the same thing. Now I'm starting to believe they've developed into a pretty solid unit. Meester is solid, and Barnes is developing well.

If Pasquarelli is to be believed (Del Rio wants to play Garrard), then my theory is that Del Rio can justify having the world's most conservative game plan. When Leftwich is in, they feel obliged to throw the ball down the field (and, if Simmons is to be believed, wildly ineffectively). Everything here is under 10 yards with 25% screen plays.

Aaron Schatz: Philadelphia's bad luck and karma is getting paid back in full in this game. Unfortunately, it's not in the way they really wanted. They're lucky to only be behind 10-3 when Jacksonville has completely dominated this entire game.

Kyle Brady is a much better blocker than George Wrighster, I think. There were two straight plays on third-and-2 and fourth-and-1 where Wrighster really didn't block anyone. I'm not sure why you toss a TE into the FB position on fourth-and-1 when he's not your better blocker.

Mike Tanier: I am an Eagles fan. Every week, I watch my team spot a lead to their opponent, then attempt a frantic comeback in the second half. Every week, it seems like the quarterback leaves the tunnel a little flat and that the first 20 scripted plays really needed a rewrite. Every week I see a few dropped passes or blown routes early in the game, then I see the defense get tired and make mistakes late because they either have been on the field too long or are inexperienced at key positions.

But I will keep my chin up. I was hoping to see 10 wins and a playoff appearance this season. That's still possible now that everyone is healthy (at least Westbrook didn't get hurt this week). It seems like every aspect of the team needs a tweak, but nothing is irrevocably broken. But I think everyone involved with the Eagles needs a week off, including the fans.

Aaron Schatz: You gotta love this league, where Jacksonville can get flattened by Houston one week and destroy Philadelphia the next. And already it has started: David Garrard just wins. Boomer Esiason said on CBS postgame that Garrard was the reason they won the game, and they just play better with him in there. Unbelieveable. Garrard threw for 87 yards. They ran all over a Philly defense that bit on every misdirection and completely forgot how to wrap up tackles, and the defense was all over the Eagles who couldn't hold onto any passes, and Garrard is the reason they won. Sure.

Once again, the Eagles with the mind-boggling two-minute drill today. Why on earth were the Eagles passing the ball in the middle of the field, or taking their time to get up to the line instead of spiking the ball on first down to get some time to prepare for the next play? At least he was smart enough to kick the field goal before trying the onside kick instead of hoping for a touchdown first.

Seattle Seahawks 28 at Kansas City Chiefs 35

Doug Farrar: Bad sequence for the Seahawks on Tony Gonzalez's catch on third-and-7 from the KC 28 with 14:10 left in the first quarter. Huard throws to Gonzo over the middle, where he is covered by Kelly Herndon and Ken Hamlin instead of Julian Peterson, which would seem to be the better matchup. Nobody can tackle him after the catch, but Hamlin apparently throws Gonzalez to the ground after the play is apparently whistled dead and gets the 15-yard flag. Kansas City gets a field goal on the drive. I didn't hear a whistle and Gonzalez was still going forward in the grasp of several players when Hamlin did his little wrestling toss. Given Gonzalez's ability to pick up yards with guys all over him (especially DBs), I'd say it was a questionable judgment call to blow that dead when he was still upright -- if that's what actually happened.

In the first quarter, Walter Jones and Jerramy Stevens got nailed on consecutive false start penalties. Someone must have told Pete Morelli that he throws the fewest flags in the league.

Here's a horrific set of stats for Seahawks fans: Since Shaun Alexander has been out, Seattle ranks last in rushing plays, rushing yards and rushing first downs. They weren't great with him this season with that depleted line, but they're horrid without him.

Right now, backup fullback Josh Parry is a far better blocker than Mack Strong. Some have speculated that Strong's problem this season has been those around him, but Parry is chipping AND getting out in pass patterns in a way that Strong just isn't. I have seen far too many rushing plays die behind Strong this season.

Little-known fact about Washington native Damon Huard: When he was waived by Cincinnati in 1996, he came back to Seattle and worked for Football Northwest, the organization that helped keep the Seahawks out of L.A. with a new stadium after Paul Allen agreed to buy the team.

Julian Peterson just wasted Larry Johnson and Jordan Black on the sack/fumble that gave the Seahawks their first touchdown. Chad Brown may have been Seattle's all-time best free agent acquisition ... until now.

Bill Moore: I just turned on the TV, and Larry Johnson is having another productive week. Johnson stepped out of bounds with a first down on the 1.5-yard line after five runs in the drive for 37 yards. Seattle did an excellent job of stuffing him twice, with LBs Bentley and Peterson penetrating the line of scrimmage to stop him from leaping over the pile. However, you aren't going to keep him out of the end zone from that distance three straight times. He powered his way (with strength as opposed to leaping) for his second touchdown on the day.

Doug Farrar: There was fear that with the Chiefs' own O-line troubles, Gonzalez's stats would suffer this year, but he doesn't get enough credit as a willing blocker. He did a nice job on Peterson on Larry Johnson's 38-yard first quarter run. That said, Seattle's defense is giving up far too many big plays this season without the help. This was among the best of the red zone defenses in the NFL last year, and they currently rank 31st.

I don't know who's calling Seattle's defense right now, but I wish they'd return the 2005 version of John Marshall back to us. The cornerbacks are playing so far off the line, and the Seahawks are playing the most base, vanilla zone I've seen since 2004 from this team. Huard and Larry Johnson are just picking it apart.

Seneca Wallace is putting some nice things together when he has time to -- his mobility is a plus (geez, he's fast when he pulls it down) but he's really trying to stay in the pocket and read his progressions. He just pump-faked the Chiefs out of their 22 shoes and threw a pretty ball to Deion Branch, who one-handed it in the air and kept control before going out of bounds as he was turning around, down to the KC 3-yard line with 6:08 left in the half. Just an amazing play by Branch.

Note to NFL quarterbacks: If you are facing the Seahawks, and you have third-and-long, just heave the ball over the middle. Your guy will have 20 yards of open space all around him. Trust me.

Toward the end of the first half, Kansas City is just ripping off chunks of yardage. On Grandmama Larry's second TD of the day, Lofa Tatupu completely whiffed on a tackle. Damon Huard threw for 165 yards in the first half with a groin injury.

Remember the NYG-KC game last year when Tiki Barber ran for about 500 yards, and 400 of them were based on the worst tackling you've ever seen from the Chiefs? This is the worst tackling I've seen since then, and I don't understand it. This Seattle defense has more talent than last year -- they re-signed Rocky Bernard, signed Julian Peterson, didn't really downgrade in the secondary, drafted Kelly Jennings, Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill are a year older -- but the defense has been getting worse each week. It's partially scheme and partially technique, but I'm starting to form question marks about the overall effort, which takes me back to 2004. Not at all good.

Total Garo Yepremian moment here. KC holder, punter Dustin Colquitt, throws a floober (called a fumble on the review) on a bad field goal snap, which is batted and returned 60 yards for a touchdown by Kelly Herndon. Why do people who should never handle a ball throw it on plays like this? You're up 13 at the end of the third quarter, big guy. What the hell are you thinking?

When rookie LG Rob Sims was in the game, the offense seemed to go better. Mike Holmgren re-inserted Chris Spencer at the beginning of the fourth quarter, and Seneca Wallace was sacked almost immediately. The difference? Sims was a guard at Ohio State, while Spencer is a converted center who played some guard at Ole Miss. The Seahawks have been upended over and over this season by their inability to assess the guard position. They undervalued Steve Hutchinson horribly, overrated Floyd Womack almost comically, were quite cavalier about Spencer's ability to slip in problem-free next to Walter Jones, and now they're relying on a rookie. A good rookie, but still...

Mike Tanier: A floober? Is Colquitt the Absent Minded Professor?

Doug Farrar: He was on that play!

Michael David Smith: Ty Law drops what would have been a game-clinching interception, then falls down to allow Seattle to score the go-ahead touchdown. Not a good series for him.

Ned Macey: When Ty Law is considered for the Hall of Fame, this series won't be on his highlight film. That could have been the easiest interception of his career. When he fell down, I think there was a pump-fake and maybe Law wanted to make up for the missed interception.

Bill Moore: Interesting: According to the announcers, Seattle gave comments during the week that felt they could challenge Ty Law in man-to-man coverage. That probably goes against common wisdom, but it is similar to things we have said since last year. Wallace just pump faked to Darrell Jackson, which caused Ty Law to fall down. Jackson was so wide open that he was able to camp out under the poorly thrown bomb and bring it in for a TD (to take the lead). It's probably not what Seattle game-planned, but it does highlight why Law spent so long on the FA market last year. This play was moments after Law dropped a gift INT.

Doug Farrar: Law got zapped on that pump fake, as well.

I like what I have seen from Wallace. He made his share of mistakes -- overthrowing deep balls, throwing early/late in quick routes -- and he was telegraphing all the way on the Surtain interception, not to mention the one that Law dropped. You can tell that he's practiced that little rollout and throw to the right about 5,000 times. He does need to realize that going out of bounds is the best way -- the guy's 5'11", 193, and his backup is Gibran Hamdan. Who? Exactly.

Bill Barnwell: Who?!? Try the charter member of the NFL Europe Hall of Fame, young man.

Mike Tanier: Never get too caught up in a quarterback's first start.

Bill Moore: KC's Jared Allen got an essentially game-ending INT, and rather than getting down decided he wanted to run for glory. One problem: Deion Branch stripped the ball before Allen went out of bounds. This isn't Monday morning QBing: I couldn't believe he was running with the ball. Key heads-up play by Branch. Seattle, down by eight, is trying to tie the game with 2:00 left.

Doug Farrar: Pete Morelli seemed to make the right call in overturning the ruling on the field that Deion Branch didn't tear the ball away from Jared Allen after Allen intercepted Seneca Wallace. If Seattle's defense showed the kind of determination that Branch did…

Seattle was in that game more than they should have been, thanks to Ty Law's butterfingers and banana peel feet, not to mention Colquitt's ill-advised shovel pass. The problem for Seattle is their defense, and what to do about it. This current defense will keep the Seahawks out of the playoffs -- and it should be the thing that gets them in, from a talent standpoint. Michael David Smith wrote in PFP 2006 that Seattle should see a defensive upturn as the offense regresses. There is no reason, from a personnel standpoint, that this shouldn't be happening.

Tim Gerheim: That Deion Branch strip of Jared Allen was an amazing play. It was like the perfect storm. Both players were falling out of bounds as it happened, but they both had both feet in bounds while the exchange was taking place. If either one were out of bounds, the turnover wouldn't have counted. It wasn't ruled a fumble on the field, but it was possible to tell for sure from replay that Branch got it only because you could see the ball in his left arm. He originally stripped it with his right, which Allen was still basically holding as they both fell out of bounds. But since the ball was visibly in his left arm, you knew he and not Allen had it. It's also pretty amazing that they had a camera angle that could catch that along the sideline. And of course there's the matter of the inexplicable interception return to begin with. It's more likely, I would reckon, for every one of the things that happened not to happen. For them all to happen the unlikely way, all at the same time, more or less independently, is amazing.

Baltimore Ravens 35 at New Orleans Saints 22

Ryan Wilson: Reggie Bush is on fire. He fumbled on the Saints' first possession near midfield (the Ravens eventually scored on a McNair five-yard QB draw), and he just threw a pick in the end zone on a halfback option to kill a nice New Orleans drive.

Doug Farrar: Wow. Could the "Keep Choppin' Wood" award be decided this early in the day?

Ryan Wilson: McNair just threw a ball directly at two Saints defenders -- both of whom whiffed on it -- and Todd Heap gets a touchdown surprise with seconds to go in the first half. Man, this Billick guy really is a genius.

Mike Tanier: I hear Billick has two "tip drill" plays to Clayton drawn up just for this week.

Ryan Wilson: The Ravens defense is manhandling the Saints. Brees, pressured in his own end zone, throws a pick-for-six. Reggie Bush has been off his game all day and he just tried to bounce a running play outside for a three-yard loss. As Dick Engberg so aptly noted, this is the difference between the Pac-10 and the NFL.

Tim Gerheim: Believe it or not, I called that pick-six. I go to the sports bar on Sundays with some Saints fans, and their fatalism had set in hardcore by the time that drive began. "Saints are coming back to earth" and the like. They responded to the Ravens' downing a punt at about the two-yard line by essentially rolling their eyes knowingly, and I said, "This drive has pick-six written all over it."

The bloom is also off the Reggie Bush rose for those guys. His interception in the end zone was the beginning of the end of their optimism.

Aaron Schatz: DVOA 1, my gut 0.

Ryan Wilson: And the Marques Colston legend grows. He's got a 53-yarder today and just scored a TD on a 47-yarder.

Aaron Schatz: I had Reggie Bush in our staff loser league. He had to go and pull the f%^&in' penalty after I was so psyched about that interception getting me -2 points.

San Francisco 49ers 10 at Chicago Bears 41

Doug Farrar: Does anyone know the NFL record for points scored in the first quarter? I know the Bears scored a franchise-record 24 against San Francisco.

Michael David Smith: The record is 35 by the Packers over the Browns in 1967.

Mike Tanier: The Bears took a 24-0 lead before the Niners executed their 8th play from scrimmage.

Aaron Schatz: See, now, if the 49ers came back from this, THAT would be the greatest comeback in NFL history. That would blow the Monday night Chicago comeback out of the water.

Mike Tanier: The score was 34-0 before the Niners got their second first down. This is Troy Aikman's fault. He wrote another "Norv Turner is a great coach" apology this week in The Sporting News.

Tim Gerheim: The first half of this game was like one of my better days on Tecmo Super Bowl.

Will Carroll: And the Bears D doesn't appear to miss Mike Brown (despite Tanier giving me some stats that showed up on this week's Fantasy Show). Is anyone seeing any effect there?

Jaws raved about Alex Smith last week, but I'm not seeing any change. He's still yippy back there.

Mike Tanier: Lets wait until the Bears face an NFL team to see the effects of Brown's loss.

Tim Gerheim: I was watching the game in a bar, so I have no idea what any of the commentators ever said. Did they explain why they were constantly coming in and out of commercial with shots of pigeons on the field? I know I saw more pigeons than 49ers points; I might have seen more pigeons than Bears points. Why was this supposed to be interesting to me, beyond just being totally weird?

Houston Texans 22 at Tennessee Titans 28

Bill Moore: David Carr has been lifted for Sage Rosenfels. Ouch!

Bill Barnwell: Was Carr hurt or was he benched? His numbers aren't that bad....

Bill Moore: Three turnovers including two fumbles led to Carr being pulled from the game. In similar fashion to Tony Romo's game entry last week, Rosenfels' first pass was picked off by Pac-Man Jones on the sideline. Oh, the misplaced love for the backup quarterback!

Ned Macey: Good thing I told my wife to pick up David Carr to replace an injured Hasselbeck in fantasy football. Ned Macey, fantasy guru.

By the way, the Titans seem to have gotten their defense together the last few weeks. If they finish 5-11, will Jeff Fisher be fired? If so, how many teams will fire their coach and hope to pick Fisher up?

Mike Tanier: According to Florio at Pro Football Talk, Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder are going to arm-wrestle for Fisher's services at the end of the year.

Doug Farrar: Meanwhile, Sage Rosenfels goes 18-of-25 for 186 yards and three TDs after replacing David Carr. Huh? And who had Owen Daniels in their league?

Bill Moore: Ned, your lack of guru-ness beats my forgetfulness. I forgot to replace Hasselbeck with my backup -- Michael Vick. Whoops.

Al Bogdan: I'm going to top you all this week when I lose with Larry Johnson in my lineup. I also dropped Owen Daniels last week.

Aaron Schatz: I'm sorry, but Houston lost. Clearly, all Sage Rosenfels knows how to do is lose.

Tim Gerheim: It's bittersweet as a Texans fan to watch Sage Rosenfels give the Texans offense a big lift. It's nice to see the offense get a lift, but the implications are horrifying. Is David Carr actually no good? Was it a mistake to pass on Vince Young or (god forbid -- I just don't like him) Matt Leinart? Are we going to be in the Brady Quinn derby? Is it going to be another half-decade before we have a chance to be a really good team? Are we the Cleveland Browns? Are the hopeless, hapless Texans not buried in our past with Charley Casserly and Dom Capers?

Here's something I didn't understand at the time. The Texans were trying to come back, and they scored to make it 28-22 with about 2:00 left. They went for two. Why? If they get it, it's 28-24 and you still need a touchdown. Sure, if the Titans get a field goal, you're only down seven. But that doesn't matter for a couple reasons. One, you have to onside kick it anyway (and the Texans did). If the Titans get the ball with two minutes, you lose whether they get a field goal or not (and that's what happened). Two, if you go for one and make it, and the Titans get a field goal, you're down eight, and can still tie with a TD and two-point conversion. The only think I can imagine is that the Texans were thinking about kicking deep if they made it, since then it wasn't so bad if the Titans moved the ball and got a field goal. We'll never know, because they missed the two-point try. It didn't actually hurt anything, but it mystifies me.

Pittsburgh Steelers 13 at Oakland Raiders 20

Ryan Wilson: I liken Roethlisberger to an old television set. If it's a little fuzzy, you hit it once and it works great. You hit it again and it's back to being fuzzy. He's got two interceptions in the first quarter -- one returned for a TD. I think it's safe to say he's currently a little fuzzy.

Michael David Smith: When was the last time you saw Randy Moss do something really impressive? From what I've seen of this game, he just isn't getting open, and he missed what should have been a relatively easy catch that would have given Oakland a first down on a third-and-long.

(Later...)

Michael David Smith: It's time to bench Roethlisberger.

Aaron Schatz: Seriously, Andrew Walter has 51 passing yards and has been sacked something like five times. I'm not watching that game but WHAT THE HELL?

Ryan Wilson: MDS is right. Roethlisberger just threw his fourth pick, this one for a 100-yard TD return. The rest of his throws have been awful. I mean, they've been so bad that somewhere, Tommy Maddox is saying, in between giggling uncontrollably, "Now that's an awful interception." I'm not sure why you even rush Ben back for this game, especially after Batch has proven to be a more than adequate backup. Thank god for the Arizona Cardinals; at least the Steelers won't be the first team to lose to the Raiders this year. At this point, it's moral victories.

The Steelers couldn't run against the Raiders for the same reason they couldn't run against the Falcons last week. Both teams had eight and nine guys standing around the line of scrimmage preferring to let Roethlisberger beat them through the air. Last week, Ben/Batch picked apart the Falcons' secondary; this week ... not so much.

Bill Moore: I thought Oakland was toast when Parker scored the screen TD. It was so typical of a bad team. Parker was headed towards the sideline -- shuttled by Raiders defenders. It appeared to me that the Raiders said, "Ok, he is going out of bounds," and let up. Parker cuts back in and takes it another 10-15 yards into the end zone.

I've said this before, but DirecTV's Red Zone Channel is just plain AWESOME. It cuts out commercials and special teams, and it jumps between games at the most exciting points. It's solid football if you aren't emotionally tied to one game.

Indianapolis Colts 34 at Denver Broncos 31

Aaron Schatz: Maybe I'm just noticing it when it doesn't work, but I keep seeing quarterbacks find the holes in the Cover-2 defense whenever the offensive line is not overwhelmed by the pass rush. It seems like everybody Jake Plummer throws to is open. I have no idea how the Cover-2 can defend that post-corner that David Kircus ran. If the deep safety bites on the post, the corner is wide open. Even if the safety sees the corner, isn't the safety behind Kircus, leading to an easy grab?

Bill Barnwell: It's a risky throw, though, since an underthrown ball is prime interception material. That being said, the corner route and the curls behind the MLB but in front of the safeties are the two weak points of the Cover-2.

Will Carroll: The Tampa-2 allows the Colts (and many teams) to get away with poor corners. They don't have to think or be able to stay man-for-man with guys. The fact that the Colts are way down the depth chart and losing speed with every injury is being shown here.

Aaron Schatz: Agreed. Doesn't explain why Leinart was able to pick apart the Bears' Cover-2, but you are absolutely right on the Colts.

Will Carroll: Leinart has seen it. I would guess that colleges play a lot more zone. They don't have the athletes in most cases to cover the talent differential that we see. USC had essentially a pro team out there, so I'm guessing Leinart saw a ton of zone. I'd also say that the lack of film on Leinart probably hurt the Bears.

Michael David Smith: I like how Phil Simms condescendingly told Jim Nantz the Plummer fumble wasn't a reviewable play ... right before they reviewed it.

Aaron Schatz: Denver has now given up its first and second red zone touchdowns of the season. Hard to blame the defense for that second one, though. You aren't supposed to start a defensive drive on your own 12-yard line.

Bill Moore: Have you ever seen a feature back (or co-feature, like Mike Bell is today) "vulture" a couple touchdowns like Bell did from Cecil Sapp today? Sapp busted two long, unexpected runs to the 1-yard line only to have Bell leap in.

Aaron Schatz: Somewhere in America, Roc Alexander is feeling vindicated. "See, I don't suck that bad -- Peyton Manning does the same thing to EVERY Denver cornerback not named Champ Bailey!"

Unless the Broncos re-signed Alexander this week and gave him Darrent Williams' jersey. Which is possible. Given the current score of Oakland 20, Pittsburgh 6, I can believe anything is possible. For all I know, somebody replaced Jake Plummer with a pixie from magic land.

Ned Macey: Tommy Maddox should call Roc Alexander and the two of them should share a beer. When was the last play Manning even bothered to look at Harrison/Bailey?

Aaron Schatz: This game has turned into a battle to see which is more powerful, the Peyton Manning offense, or the colossal power of suck eminating from the galaxy-sized Hoover that is the Indianapolis run defense.

Ned Macey: Everyone is going to be coming out with the Mike Bell is better than Tatum Bell thing, but as we said all week, the Colts are susceptible up the middle. Tatum likes to run outside and is hesitant running up the middle. No surprise to see Mike having a big day.

Ok, I think Peyton's un-clutch rap is undeserved, but did Simms just call him one of the most clutch players in history?

Russell Levine: I could be wrong, but I think Simms was referring to Vinatieri.

Bill Barnwell: I am watching the ESPN Gamecast of the Broncos-Colts game and when Elam just kicked the field goal to tie it, a little message came up that said FIELD GOAL!

They should've gone all out and had the Tecmo Bowl graphics for it, too. Now that would be worth my ESPN Insider money.

Mike Tanier: The Colts just look so calm and collected during their two minute drill. They line up so quickly. The play is disseminated so quickly. They were able to execute short passes over the middle and even a running play with two minutes to go without ever wasting a second of clock. It seemed like every play had a purpose.

By the way, the Broncos have a lineman named Pears. Are they now shopping for players from the Harry and David catalog? Will they find a running back named Moose Munch?

Aaron Schatz: I will say that at no point during this game did I say, "Wow, the Broncos really miss Matt Lepsis." They seemed to often have two guys on Freeney, so the new LT had help, but Pears was fine in general.

Tim Gerheim: I didn't see much of this game, but I caught Freeney on one play and it made me laugh out loud. He was double-teamed, essentially an inside guy and an outside guy. He executed two straight spin moves to the inside, and all he managed to do was disengage from the outside guy and wind up right in front of the inside guy. Probably dizzy. Then Jake Plummer threw the ball. It was high art.

Ned Macey: Some readers seemed to get annoyed with our whole rock/paper/scissors thing, but I think it is important in a larger context. The point is that match-ups matter. Looking at this admittedly from the Indianapolis perspective, they are consistently able to score points on a Denver defense that has been just as good as the Patriots defense. Denver can't get pressure from their front four, and without pressure from your front four, you can't beat the Colts. Manning, Harrison, and Wayne are just too good. If you rush three and cover with eight or get pressure, then a strong secondary can make them look very average.

The Patriots were able to do this when they had a strong secondary. Given the current state of New England's pass defense, they may not have the people necessary to execute a good gameplan (see last year's game). This is a long way of saying New England's defense is demonstrably weaker than Denver's this year, but I would suspect the Colts are under 30 points next week.

Aaron Schatz: You want some inside runners who are going to pound on the Colts all day? I give you Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney. My god. I mean, the Colts might as well sign up Linda Lovelace, because otherwise their linebackers could not possibly suck any more than they did today.

New York Jets 13 at Cleveland Browns 20

Bill Moore: Third-and-3 from the 7. The Jets split Pennington out wide with rookie WR Brad Smith in the shotgun. This wasn't Peyton Manning walking the line to throw people off, it was Pennington as wide receiver. Smith ran a QB draw. What exactly was Mangini trying to do? They announcers claimed the Jets were trying to get the defense off-balance and get the linebackers to vacate their positions behind the line. Why would they do that? Makes no sense. Seems like Mangini trickery for trickery's sake.

Al Bogdan: Replay question for everyone. If the game is broadcast in HD, do the refs get to see the replay in HD for challenges? The reason I ask is that unfortunately I'm watching the Cleveland-Jets game, which CBS chose not to broadcast in HD. Josh Cribbs, the Browns return man, just whiffed on a punt, which the Jets recovered. The call on the field was that Cribbs missed the ball, but from the replay, it was tough to tell either way. Maybe if it was in HD, however, it would have been clearer. Potentially game changing play that may have been ruled differently had the game be broadcast in HD.

Why wouldn't CBS broadcast this one in HD anyway? I know it's the Browns and the Jets, but it is being broadcast in the NYC area, which has a decent number of potential viewers. What game did they choose to broadcast in HD instead of this one? Houston-Tennessee?

Bill Barnwell: Bill: Jets ran that play last game too. It doesn't do anything or work, ever, really.

Al: I seem to recall someone saying the replay booth wasn't HD-enabled.

Will Carroll: Replay is not HD enabled. And the reason the game is not in HD is that CBS doesn't have enough HD production trucks. They have them on order, but no one has all the ones they want. Exceptionally expensive.

Aaron Schatz: The Jets-Browns game makes DVOA look as smart as the Eagles-Jaguars game makes DVOA look stupid.

Bill Moore: The Jets got screwed. Don't get me wrong, the rules are the rules, and it's a split second decision. However, they got screwed. It's their own fault. They made so many mistakes during the game to eventually put themselves in a position in which they could get screwed. So it goes.

Aaron Schatz: Explanation for those of us watching IND-DEN?

Bill Moore: Sorry, I presumed by this point, many would have seen the highlight.

Seven minutes to go, Pennington threw a terrible interception. Browns were unable to do anything with it, and punted away. From the 47, Pennington completes passes to get them to the 30. One short pass and two incompletes later and its fourth-and-4 with 1:06 left. Pennington threw a pretty good pass to Baker leaping one yard deep in the end zone in the front right corner. Kamerion Wimbley and the safety drill Baker in the air and knock him out of bounds. He clearly flew 2+ yards in the air before landing out of bounds. The ref fails to call pushed out, and it's not reviewable. Game over.

Dallas Cowboys 35 at Carolina Panthers 14

Bill Moore: Al Michaels: “There are certain positions in American sports [that are legendary]: Centerfield New York Yankees, Center Boston Celtics, Quarterback Dallas Cowboys� Uh, can anyone even name a Center of the Celtics since Robert Parish retired?

Aaron Schatz: Worth noting that rookie safety Pat Watkins not only did not start tonight, but is completely inactive. Fear the wrath of the Tuna.

Ian Dembsky: I hate to use a joke that's been used before, but it seriously seems like Dallas is auditioning Bill Parcells for Weekend at Bernie's 3. Has he actually reacted to anything? False starts, turnovers, questionable calls by the officials ... he just stares into space like Art Shell.

Now Keyshawn, Steve Smith, and DeShaun Foster all have key drops on perfect passes. I wonder if they were watching the Tampa Bay receivers earlier today.

Aaron Schatz: Curious what the rest of you think of Romo. He does look pretty good in there, definitely fewer mistakes than Bledsoe and more composure in the face of a pass rush.

Doug Farrar: New Carolina special teams coach: Santonio Holmes.

Romo does look better; he seems to understand the time his line gives him in a way that Bledsoe never will.

As I just finished writing that, Jake Delhomme went through a very Bledsoe-like progression -- held onto the ball too long, threw late to his first read into double coverage, and got intercepted. All he needed was a star on his helmet and cement feet.

Ian Dembsky: I love what I see from Tony Romo. He gets the ball to T.O. and Jason Witten. He moves around to avoid the rush. He runs on key third downs. He has pretty nice touch on the ball.

This is the first game T.O. went over 100 yards this season; how can that be? Jason Witten has shown tons of life when he's been absent all season, mainly due to having to stay in to block for Bledsoe. Now he's tearing it up all over the field. Things are looking up in Big D.

Bits 'n' Pieces

Ian Dembsky: Aaron, I remember you wondering why defensive players were shooting free throws after sacking the QB. After interviewing Michael Strahan for NFL Gameday, Michael Irvin reports that he asked about the hoop shooting, and Strahan indicated it's to represent that they're "ballin." Glad that's cleared up.

Michael David Smith: Is it just me, or are announcers way too forgiving of receivers who drop passes? It seems to me that if your job is NFL receiver and you get both hands on a ball, you have to catch it. But today I think I've heard five different announcers blame the quarterback for a drop by saying the ball wasn't perfectly on target. Some day I might write a long piece about my theory that receivers' hands are getting worse as teams are paying far too much attention to speed and height when drafting and nowhere near as much attention to the simple question of whether the guy can catch the ball.

Bill Moore: Well sadly, that may actually be true.

Bill Barnwell: I'm with MDS on this one. I've been very vocal in my criticism of Chris Chambers; he's gone through five or six quarterbacks with terrible numbers when it comes to advanced metrics along with a catch percentage that's really low.

This year, he was supposed to finally have a good quarterback, and even if Harrington and Culpepper aren't an upgrade on Fiedler, Feeley, and Brian Griese, Chambers has -3.4 DPAR, a -4.6% DVOA, and is the 73rd-ranked receiver out of 74 that qualify. He's caught 43% of his passes.

We give DeShaun Foster flak for being a guy who shows up in highlight reels but isn't successful consistently, but Chris Chambers is the same player.

Ned Macey: MDS, I think you answered your own question about the drops. The best hands in the world don't matter if you can't get open. That's why I think our catch percentage is such a valuable stat. I think it is closely comparable to a baseball defender. If he has better range but makes more errors, he is likely more valuable. A receiver needs to make plays, and the occasional drop can be easily offset by the ability to get open more often.

Chris Chambers sadly is not open all that often and still drops the ball.

Later This Week

Any Given Sunday: Raiders over Steelers
Every Play Counts: Baltimore linebackers

Posted by: admin on 30 Oct 2006

104 comments, Last at 01 Nov 2006, 1:50pm by Pat

Comments

1
by dbt (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 12:43pm

I think you misplaced your --more-- tag. :)

2
by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 12:54pm

As an impartial fan watching the Jets game, I felt bad for them. To me the replay evidence was pretty conclusive that both of Baker's feet were going to come down in bounds. I understand this type of play is something of a judgement call, but there's clearly a point where replay can show us that, look, one foot is about to land well in bounds and the other foot is pretty much to the left of that one. Should have been a TD. The rule that this can't be reviewed should be changed for play's where there's no doubt.

3
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 1:05pm

#2: It's not something of a judgement call. It's completely a judgement call. Replay can't really help you there, because it won't show you what would have happened had Baker not been shoved. You can look at it and say "yeah, he would've" but that's you making a judgement call, and not replay actually showing you something that happened.

It's just an unlucky situation for the Jets.

4
by dbt (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 1:11pm

It just goes back, though, to what replay was supposed to be for. When every asshole in america can see that a team just got screwed but the refs can't fix it.

It wasn't for nitpicking every single fumble like the zapruder film. It's for fixing situations exactly like this, when it's pathetically obvious that the call was wrong and should be fixed.

Sorry to sound like John Madden for a moment.

5
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 1:18pm

Next time the Broncos play the Colts, they should get Bailey and Darrent Williams to switch jerseys, then line up Bailey on Reggie Wayne.

6
by DavidK44 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 1:20pm

re: The Giants game. Check out the plays as to when Tampa ran and when Tampa passed. Gruden tried to run early a LOT, given the wind which made passing tough, and of course the fact he's a rookie QB, and that the consensus is Cadillac is a good RB (not sure how true that is, but that's the consensus).

The Bucs tried to run, and tried to run a lot early. The Giants stuffed the run, and stuffed it VERY well, early. They were at 0.6 yards per run through the first half. They ran on 3rd and 8 one time because they didn't want to have a rookie QB have to pass a lot in that wind.

But the Giants shut down the run, so to borrow a cliched metaphor, "made the Bucs one-dimensional"...the Bucs simply COULD NOT RUN vs. the Giants, who boast one of the best run defenses in the league...the passing was working better (relatively speaking), so it made perfect sense to keep airing it out. Thankfully, the recievers were dropping passes left and right.

Dave

7
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 1:20pm

Replay was supposed to be about when you could see that the call was wrong. Whether or not a guy got two feet in bounds. Whether or not the ball was coming out beforehand. You can't see that the call was wrong in this case. There's no evidence that shows that his feet would have landed in bounds - at least, not just from looking at the film, without advanced measurements.

How are the officials supposed to judge it, anyway?

8
by calig23 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 1:23pm

I mean, the Colts might as well sign up Linda Lovelace, because otherwise their linebackers could not possibly suck any more than they did today.

Kudos, Mr. Schatz, kudos.

9
by JonL (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 1:34pm

The Giants jump shot thing is apparently from a Jim Jones video, for whatever that's worth.

I thought Romo looked pretty good, too, but he kept diving head-first when he ran. He needs to learn to correct that before he gets hit in the head and injures his neck.

10
by J (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 1:41pm

Ned Said: If you rush three and cover with eight or get pressure, then a strong secondary can make them look very average.

The Patriots were able to do this when they had a strong secondary. Given the current state of New England’s pass defense, they may not have the people necessary to execute a good gameplan (see last year’s game).

Are you forgetting that the Patriots were also able to contain the Colts' offense in 2004, when they had their famously beat up secondary that everybody thought Manning would light up? Their starting corners were Asante Samuel in his 2nd year, and Randall Gay, an undrafted rookie FA, with Hank Poteat their nickel.

Yes, having Harrison made a huge difference between the 2004 and 2005 games, but it's still incorrect to link to suggest that talent in the 2ndary was the main difference between '04 and '05. I would say the problems began in the front 7 -- the line was missing Seymour in both games, but in the 2004 playoffs, the Pats' great play at LB enabled them to stuff Edge James and still handle dump offs and swing passes while staying in a (disguised) cover-4 all night, while in 2005, a LB unit in flux was run over by Egde, and needed help from the 2ndary.

11
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 1:42pm

If you have Marvin Harrison on your fantasy team, you can go absolutely crazy watching Peyton Manning drop back and only look left the entire play. Does he just know what's going on with Harrison on the right without even looking at this point?

Everybody is going to drop a pass here and there, but Keyshawn Johnson's late drop was ridiculous. That might have cost them the game, too (was the score 14-10 at that point, or 21-14? Either way, they were out of it soon after that).

12
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 1:42pm

Re: Jets getting screwed by the officials

It's one of those plays that ticks off a team for a season and then everyone forgets about. I don't know why force-out can't be reviewed... EVERY call is a "judgement" call. Are they afraid the back-judges feelings will be hurt if they reverse his call? Arm-moving forward and down by contact are also judgement calls.

Force-out seems a lot more objective then pass interference, although that's probably the slippery slope the NFL wants to avoid going down. If they can review force-outs, then pass interference comes into play.

Just like every all call that a team gets hurt by, the team does have blame for being in that situation.

To be fair, LAST YEAR the Plummer fumble wouldn't have been reviewable. It's a good thing he wasn't called "in the grasp".

13
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 1:43pm

I'll check to be sure when I chart the game, but I believe that the Heap touchdown happened because the LB (Fujita?) had lined up the pass perfectly, but when the DB (Craft?) flashed across, he tipped the ball ever so slightly, just enough to lift it over Fujita's hands and into Heap's.

Still a heck of a catch, but I don't think it was because the Saints blew the play.

Colts/Broncos: Yes, he was referring to Vinatieri. In fact, I believe he was quoting someone who was referring to Vinatieri as possibly the best clutch kicker in NFL history.

It was nice to go through a weekend without highlights of yet another team's amazing passing attack against the Lions.

14
by James, London (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 1:44pm

I know it's too early to start talking about 'Reggie Bust', but we've seen the Saints 3 times in the UK, and frankly he's done very little in any of those games.

Colts @ Broncos last night was a closely fought battle between a shocking run D and a terrible pass D. The Pass D 'won', and I'll repeat what I said in the thread yesterday. Darrent Williams goes on IR today; he’ll need surgery to remove Reggie Wayne’s foot from his arse. I honestly can't understand why Williams wasn't getting any help; he couldn't have covered Wayne with a blanket.

If these teams meet in the playoffs, will Domonique Foxworth get play Roc Alexander for 60 minutes?

15
by Marko (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 1:45pm

"The Giants jump shot thing is apparently from a Jim Jones video, for whatever that’s worth."

Does that mean that the Giants have replaced their Gatorade with grape Kool Aid?

16
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 1:51pm

Yeah, I almost prefer the college rule in regards to pushouts, since there is just no way to make that call anything but a pure judgement regarding what would have happened, instead of what actually did happen. On the other hand, given the skill level of NFL dbs, making a pushout the same as out of bounds would really hamper an offense. There just isn't a good solution to this problem.

I see that I'm not the only one who thinks pass catching performance is down this year. Does anybody know off-hand if drops are up overall?

The Ryan brothers are both pretty good d-coordinators. I think if Oakland had anything on offense, or if Randy Moss would just come out of paid retirement, Oakland would be a consistently competitive team.

Projecting future quarterback play is really, really, hard, even for guys who have been in the league a while. I'm glad may career isn't dependent on being able to do so. With the exception of Peyton Manning (and a few others), of course. Anybody who says Manning is overrated in just crazy, but that isn't the same thing as saying he is overpaid. Manning is simply tremendous, but a team which plays run defense as poorly as Indy is going to have get some luck to win a championship. Having so much money tied up in offensive skill players has consequences, and we'll see if Polian can avoid them for once, but I don't think so.

17
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 1:53pm

Re: Harrison-Wayne
Here's my Peter King moment. If I am a football coach I show my WRs tape of Wayne and Harrison running routes. I don't even think Wayne ran a go route, but Williams was so scared of it, Wayne sold him on the go route every time... and even later in the game Wayne adjusted his route to keep fooling Williams. The Broncos might as well just trade Williams, and both Bells for the next best shut-down corner... is it really Pac Man Jones? I know Cowboys fans will say Newman... I'm probably missing someone here.

18
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 1:53pm

10: I think the real difference between 2004 and 2005 was the Colts defense in '05 was able to stop the Patriots offense, especially the rushing game. The Pats got just 38 yards on 14 carries.

19
by jebmak (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:02pm

Wow, Indy's run D is terrible. Run up the gut through a huge hole for 13, okay do it again for 9, okay do it again for 12.

Question: When did the Cowboys line learn to block? I expected them to get shreaded by the Panthers front four.

20
by joel in providence (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:11pm

how long before we start seriously talking about showing andy reid the door in philly? i think an 8-8 or worse season will do it, with the possible exception of big wins in the remaining NFC east games.

21
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:13pm

Arm-moving forward and down by contact are also judgement calls.

Arm moving forward and down by contact aren't judgement calls in the same sense as a force out is. On a replay, if you see the arm moving forward, even for a frame, it's moving forward. If you see a guy down, and contacted, he's down. They're judgement calls on the field, but on replay, they're definitive. With a force out, you can't see anything definitive on replay. It's a judgement call there, too.

22
by Josh (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:15pm

Pat:
The forceout play is often a judgment because the receiver is running toware the sideline, and it is not possible to clearly tell whether he was pushed out or if his own momentum took him out of bounds.

But the Baker play was not that play. Baker was running almost directly vertically, not toward the sideline. If you watch the replay in slow motion or look at pictures you will see that there is no question that if the play could be reviewed, it would have been reversed.

Click my name for link with video replay.

23
by turbohapy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:16pm

Re: #5

They did test out Harrison vs. Bailey early with mixed results. Then they tested out Wayne vs. Williams with much better results. I'm sure if they had switched jerseys they would have fed it to Harrison all day ;o)

The Colts run D up front has been pretty poor. The debilitated secondary made it ridiculous yesterday. Here's hoping that Sanders is healthy for next week vs. Dillon/Maroney!

24
by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:17pm

Uh-oh, that time of year again. Time to pull out the old chestnuts. Whataya have for us, Ned Macey?

"The Patriots were able to do this when they had a strong secondary. Given the current state of New England’s pass defense, they may not have the people necessary to execute a good gameplan (see last year’s game)."

Yes, got last year's game on Tivo. I'd chalk it up to an inopportune Patrick Pass cramp/fumble and mathematical probability. But NOT the state of the Pats' pass defense! (See below and feel free to cut & paste.)

From the Indy Star
THE PLAYOFFS - GAME 2: JAN. 16, 2005 THE PATRIOTS KNOCK THE COLTS OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS IN A 20-3 PUMMELING
The Colts entered the game believing this was their year. Indianapolis' powerful offense would be facing a New England defense minus two starting cornerbacks and a Pro Bowl defensive end. But, for the second year in a row, the Colts' season came to an abrupt end at Foxboro, Mass. in a game completely dominated by the Patriots.

From the Boston Globe:
What transpired here yesterday was truly stunning. New England lined up against the top quarterback in the league without two of its best players in the secondary (Ty Law and Tyrone Poole) and star defensive end Richard Seymour in street clothes. The Colts lined up with a fleet of receivers (Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Brandon Stokley) that are known for their speed, their cunning, and their experience. And yet, the longest completion Manning threw all day was 18 yards.

25
by Marko (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:19pm

"I was watching the game in a bar, so I have no idea what any of the commentators ever said. Did they explain why they were constantly coming in and out of commercial with shots of pigeons on the field? I know I saw more pigeons than 49ers points; I might have seen more pigeons than Bears points. Why was this supposed to be interesting to me, beyond just being totally weird?"

The "pigeons on the field" thing has been going on for a long time at Soldier Field. Click on my name for an article about this in yesterday's Sun-Times, which was written before yesterday's game. I think it's funny seeing them just going about their business, totally oblivious to DVOA ratings, point spreads and the glory of the NFL.

26
by James, London (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:20pm

Is #24 a sign that the Brady-Manning apocalypse is about to descend on this thread? *smiles*

27
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:25pm

The pushout rule is without exception a judgement as to what would have happened absent the action of a player, as opposed to other calls which are judgements as to what actions by players actually did happen. In that sense it is a unique rule.

28
by Doug (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:28pm

Aaron - excellent use of the word "trendline". Coming around, perhaps?

29
by Spoilt Victorian Child (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:30pm

At least [Reid] was smart enough to kick the field goal before trying the onside kick instead of hoping for a touchdown first.
What are the advantages of taking the field goal there?

30
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:34pm

I don't think it's any more a judgement call than a WR making a catch. Yes, you can see the ball hit the hands, and you can see the feet but when does the WR have "possession/control"?

The Kevin Gamble interception from last night is a great example of a "judgement" call. I thought they could've ruled in incomplete based on him not "maintaining control" all the way to the ground.

Or how about the Marcus Pollard overturned TD from 2005 Week 3? I thought he had possession before his knee hit the line, but on review the referee judged that the motion of tucking the ball is not "possession/control".

31
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:36pm

Absolutely, Matthew, if force outs are reviewable, then pi calls are going to be reviewed as well, and the flow of the game really is harmed. I'm a supporter of instant replay reviews, but I wouldn't want to see it expanded at all. Having reviews of calls which are often not a matter of determining whether action x ocurred, but rather whether action x would have happened absent action y, or whether action x was significant enough to be considered harmful, would ruin the game. Heck, why not then review personal fouls? They determine the outcome of a lot more games than push-outs, and are every bit as open to reversal. At some point the game has to go on.

32
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:37pm

you will see that there is no question that if the play could be reviewed, it would have been reversed.

No, it wouldn't've, because there wouldn't've been any video evidence that he would've landed in bounds. There would've been video suggestion that he would've landed in bounds, but because the video doesn't give a 3D model of the player and his trajectory, and doesn't give a physics simulation predicting where he will land, it's not the same thing.

What would the official say after it? "Yeah, it looks pretty clear from here that he would've landed in bounds." "What makes you say that?" "Well, uh... it kinda looks like if the player continued on his trajectory, he would've landed in bounds. Kinda. Of course, since I can't trace a 3D trajectory on a 2D replay, I'm not sure."

It's not a reviewable play, nor should it be. It just sucks for the Jets. Of course, it should also be noted that that was the tying drive, not the go ahead drive, so saying the Jets got "robbed" is a bit much.

33
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:40pm

It should also be noted that the officials have been really generous with force-outs... and 9 times out of 10 that gets ruled a TD.

Will, I'm surprised you'll argue that forceouts shouldn't be reviewed after the last play for Minny in 2003. That was just a ridiculous ruling on the field.

34
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:41pm

What are the advantages of taking the field goal there?

It was 4th down. A 28-yard field goal has a higher probability of success than a 4th and 10 conversion from the 11.

35
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:42pm

It should also be noted that the officials have been really generous with force-outs... and 9 times out of 10 that gets ruled a TD.

I always thought the rule was that the DB doesn't give the receiver a chance to catch the ball... rather than "he would've come down in bounds".

Will, I'm surprised you'll argue that forceouts shouldn't be reviewed after the last play for Minny in 2003. That was just a ridiculous ruling on the field.

All I can say about the NFL officiating is... what goes around, comes around.

36
by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:46pm

ok decartes. baker's feet are clearly going to come down in bounds. "upon further review" there's not much judgement needed (as there is in real time), except in the strictest sense - in which case, as the skins fan pointed out, everything is a judgement call, and we lose any practical meaning of what we're talking about.

37
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:49pm

The DB doesn't need to give the receiver a chance to catch the ball. He just can't touch him before the ball is touched. Once the ball is touched, even if it's before it's caught, it's free game.

38
by DavidH (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:53pm

Of course, since I can’t trace a 3D trajectory on a 2D replay, I’m not sure.

In the same vein, a player who was ruled down by contact might actually be hovering a couple centimeters above the ground. Hard to tell without a 3D model.

39
by Sean (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:53pm

How exactly can you not see that Baker was going to land in bounds? He was running a go route a good two yards from the sideline. He jumped straight up in the air and was on his way down, all the while completely parallel to-and inside-the sideline. It would have been next to impossible for him to land out of bounds had he not been pushed by the defender.

That was more open and shut than just about any fumble call you will see upheld or overturned. It was tremendously straightforward and the refs simply blew the call and handed the game to Cleveland.

40
by DavidH (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:55pm

37:
He just can’t touch him before the ball is touched.

It's not even that strict, is it? The DB can contact the receiver if he's making a play on theball, right? Something about both players having a right to the ball?

41
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:55pm

Pat,
Actually what I meant to say is the DB has to allow the receiver to come down with both feet in. Except in an old Markbreit article he quotes the rule and my thinking was wrong, in that the rule book does say something like "would have come down in bounds"...

I'm still going to hold that receiver possession/control is an example of a judgement call that is allowed to be reveiwed, so I don't buy the NFL saying we can't review "judgement" calls.

42
by Spoilt Victorian Child (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 2:59pm

What are the advantages of taking the field goal there?
It was 4th down. A 28-yard field goal has a higher probability of success than a 4th and 10 conversion from the 11.
Of course, but they were going to need a touchdown eventually. It seems to me that the difference in probability between scoring a touchdown in one play from the 11 and scoring a touchdown when kicking off with 30 seconds left is greater than that between kicking field goals in those situations. The touchdown would also give you a chance to win, rather than tie.

43
by JJcruiser (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 3:06pm

"You want some inside runners who are going to pound on the Colts all day? I give you Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney."

Maybe. I think I'd want to hear that Graham and Neal are back in before making gradiose predictions for those two, though.

"Next time the Broncos play the Colts, they should get Bailey and Darrent Williams to switch jerseys, then line up Bailey on Reggie Wayne."

That was pretty funny. But I'm curious, is Harrison still widely regarded as definitely superior to Wayne? He doesn't look as fast or as big or as cagey to me as Wayne. He has nice double moves and is quick out of breaks. But I'm not sure Wayne doesn't look better overall. Of course, I've never seen coaches tape and don't analyze football for a living. Anyone else have an opinion on this?

44
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 3:09pm

Ryan, come on. That McNair pass was tipped by the first defender, and then went over the outstretched hands of the second. That's hardly "thrown right at (them)."

There was luck involved, but let's not get hyperbolic. Oh, and the Saints afterwards said that the Ravens did a number of unexpected things during the game. Maybe some of the playcalling did have something to do with it, but as Billick said, "It helps to execute." Darn those egotistical geniuses, hogging all the credit for themsel..... ooops.

Looking forward to the EPC, Michael, but don't give away everything to Cincinnati, OK? I'm already having nightmares about TJ Whose-Your-Daddy on Samari Rolle.

45
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 3:13pm

All I know is that after looking like a pee wee league quality offensive line the Packers now have three straight games with a rusher over 100 yards and Favre has not thrown an INT in the same timeframe.

Favre through 7 games of '06 season: 5 Ints

Favre in game against Bengals one year ago today: 5 Ints

McCarthy has his flaws but last year Mike Sherman had 16(!) games to get the offensive line in order and failed miserably. Sherman had five years(!) to get Favre to understand risk vs. reward and failed miserably.

McCarthy has seemingly accomplished both in half a season.

And for anyone claiming quality of competition according to the chart from last week Green Bay had faced the toughest schedule so far.

I have no idea if these gains are sustainable. But right now Thompson's hire is looking ok.

And the drafting of Hawk, Jennings, and Colledge in the first two rounds is looking even better. Hawk and Jennings have started from Day 1 and contributed and recently Colledge took over at guard and yesterday just manhandled whomever was in his way.

Nice to have a team look competent at the NFL level. At least for a little while.

46
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 3:17pm

Right, which is why when a ball is tipped at the line you see the refs make the "ball tipped" signal -- once it's touched there's no such thing as pass interference.

47
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 3:21pm

43: Not including yesterday's game, Harrison had a higher DPAR than Wayne so far this year. And his DPAR was higher in 2005. Both Wayne and Stokely had a higher DPAR in 2004, though.

48
by Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 3:23pm

The legend of Marques Colston couldn't save me from the resurgence of Vick and Ahman Green (Superman Returns).

49
by Nate (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 3:33pm

I just want to comment on a very heady play I saw from Chicago linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer. Hillenmeyer was manned up on Frank Gore, who was split wide left. Gore must have lost track of where he was on the field, because he ran out of bounds for a moment. Hillenmeyer, seeing that Gore stepped out of bounds and that Alex Smith was rolling out to his side of the field, immediately sprinted towards the backfield. Smith threw a completion to the now wide open Gore for 20 yards or so, and the flag is thrown. I thought it was a pretty cool play.

50
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 3:40pm

Matthew, there are lot more ridiculous personal foul calls than ridiculous force out, or non-force out calls, and I don't want them reviewed either. I'd rather get rid of instant replay reviews completely than see their use expanded.

Badger, it does appear as if Favre is still coachable, and Favre's performance this year is as damning an indictment of Sherman as can be made. How in the world did he consolidate so much power so quickly, and does this partially explain why it took so much time to get rid of him?

The Packers' offensive line is performing at a higher level than anybody could reasonably expect. Somebody is doing a really good coaching job.

51
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 3:55pm

Nate:

Hillenmeyer is a REALLY smart guy. Scored a 39 on his Wonderlic IIRC. Packers cut him because he was considered "too limited" defensively. Which considering the guys playing linebacker for GB last year is pretty amusing. Hunter should have been kept at minimum for special teams. I understand that on that Chicago defense he likely has a much narrower range of responsibilities then he would with GB so therefore can focus his talents better. But any team can use smart players if they have a modicum of physical ability.

Will:

Sherman had his positives but his biggest failing (aside from being a DREADFUL judge of talent) is his complete inability to discipline Favre. I am a big fan of Number 4 but the guy is an idiot savant when it comes being a quarterback. He had his best years when he had a coach (Holmgren) what to NOT do. And by all account Holmgren had to repeat the SAME THING over and over and over again.

Rhodes and then Sherman thought Favre could do it all. Which is true from a physical/leadership perspective. The guy can still move, throw, and his teammates rally around him (those not named Javon Walker). But he HAS TO BE GIVEN limits. Repeatedly.

Favre has always been open to coaching. It's just that the coach was too afraid to actually, well, COACH.

I laughed when I saw Peter King's QBIQ list today. Favre number 3? Please. Again, the guy is a favorite but left to his own devices we all saw what happened. He regressed and regressed and regressed until in 2005 it all collapsed as Holmgren's teachings were totally forgotten and the players around him weren't good enough to make up the difference.

52
by Marko (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 3:59pm

Nate, that's interesting. I wondered why Gore was so wide open on that play. Hillenmeyer definitely is a smart player, having gone to college at Vanderbilt.

53
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 4:02pm

On the subject of headsy plays, as much as I think Ray Lewis is overrated, what a great play not allowing the interception in the end zone to go out of bounds.

54
by Kaveman (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 4:14pm

Yeah. Rock, paper, scissors.

*sigh*

55
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 4:15pm

JJCruiser, Harrison's pluses include remarkable route running (exact, crisp, always the same, no indication to the DB of when he's gonna stop or turn, balletic/acrobatic, and consistent speed through every phase of a route), or so they say--I am not enough of an expert to judge; also great hands, VG speed, and that "psychic connection" with Manning. He does go over the middle just fine, but tends to be a "possession receiver" on short passes and flyer on long ones--by that I mean, if you hit him in the middle for 10 yards, he'll get 12 without beating the world for an extra 5-10. If you get him in stride on a fly route, goodbye.

Wayne is a little bigger, a little tougher, better at YAC, and has probably equal hands (or based on one TD yesterday, better hands). May be faster, not sure. His psychic connection is getting pretty strong too. This would not be the first time people have said "the torch has been passed" but Marvin's production through the first 6 games was superior except for YPC.

With Manning, the same as with play calling, it's as much about matchups and the right play, as it is about the player. If Stokely were in there, he'd get a bunch of catches too and I couldn't say whom he'd cannibalize to get them. PM just goes for the highest percentage play he can and this time it turned out to be Reggie. I assume he'd be a #1 on 75% of the teams. With the money and success he's getting, I'm glad he's not looking fo be the top dog somewhere else.

The FO predictions of perimeter vs inside runs vs Indy were right on, painfully so. Two problems I saw were that the Colts seemed to stack the box early and Jake burned them. Anybody think Brady wouldn't? Sure they were decent against the run, but allowed their biggest pass plays of the year. Second half, when DEN moved to inside runs and Indy was spread a bit more, the swiss cheese curtain was exposed. Second problem is that when they stack the box, they spread about 7 guys across the LOS one-man deep--no four linemen with backers plugging holes behind them--this way, if the RB breaks through, there's no backup line of defense for ten yards. Maybe this works on end runs, but up the gut, it's a ten-spot every time.

Indy's ball security has been phenomenal this year, in fact this game hinged on the "gaudy" +1 TO ratio. Aaron et al, is such turnover stinginess sustainable? oh please oh please oh please.....

56
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 4:27pm

Remember Steve Walsh in '94? Erik Kramer seemed like the better QB, but whenever Walsh played, the Bears seemed to win. Most of that was defense, to be sure, but maybe the ultra-conservative game plan for Walsh contributed.
That could be Garrard. Sure, running game, defense, and schedule explain his winning %, but maybe the game plan with Garrard in is better suited for the Jags as a team.

57
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 4:37pm

Re: 35

I'd take the opposite POV. Seems to me officials are really reluctant to use the forced-out rule. I've thought there were many occassions where it could have/should have applied but that wasn't the ruling. Part of the problem (I think) is that the DB's action is subject to interpretation. If he's 'playing the ball' and his contact causes the receiver to land OOB then it's not a force out. Clearly that wasn't the case in the Browns/Jets game but many times it's not obvious.

58
by Joshua (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 4:55pm

Just to clarify completely, Jim Jones is a rapper for New York with a video called "We Fly High". In the video when they say say "Balllin!", the crew does this free throw shot thing you refer to.

So...the Giants are ballin. In fact, there's even a remix about the Giants.

59
by William (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 4:55pm

#55, I hear where you're going with that, but, unfortunately, Brady really hasn't really taken advantage of the whole 8-men-in-a-box thing all year, with the possible exception of last week in Buffalo. I hope that it was a sign that the passing game has improved, but it can't be said definitively that it has. Maybe tonight will show us a little more. IMHO, the Colts looked great yesterday, and I would expect them to beat the Pats next week, ceteris paribus.

I do think, however, that Freeney and Mathis are serious liabilities against the run, and that is something the Pats can take advantage of.

60
by Kyle S (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 5:07pm

Replay question for everyone. If the game is broadcast in HD, do the refs get to see the replay in HD for challenges? The reason I ask is that unfortunately I’m watching the Cleveland-Jets game, which CBS chose not to broadcast in HD. Josh Cribbs, the Browns return man, just whiffed on a punt, which the Jets recovered. The call on the field was that Cribbs missed the ball, but from the replay, it was tough to tell either way. Maybe if it was in HD, however, it would have been clearer. Potentially game changing play that may have been ruled differently had the game be broadcast in HD.

Why wouldn’t CBS broadcast this one in HD anyway? I know it’s the Browns and the Jets, but it is being broadcast in the NYC area, which has a decent number of potential viewers. What game did they choose to broadcast in HD instead of this one? Houston-Tennessee?

Some of you probably already know this, but for those that don't - CBS only makes three games available in HD. Those three games are the ones with the top three announcer crews: Nantz/Simms, Gumbel/Dierdorf and Enberg/Cross.

I believe CBSs' announcer pecking order goes:

1. Nantz/Simms
2. Gumbel/Dierdorf
3. Enberg/Cross
4. Kevin Harlan/Rich Gannon
5(a). Gus Johnson/Steve Tasker
5(b). Ian Eagle/Solomon Wilcots
7. Don Criqui or Bill McAtee/Steve Buerlein or Rich Baldinger

FOX goes something like this (when Joe Buck isn't doing baseball):

1. Joe Buck/Troy Aikman
2. Dick Stockton/Daryl Johnston
3(a). Kenny Albert/Brian Baldinger
3(b). Sam Rosen/Tim Ryan
4(a). Matt Vasgersian/J.C. Pearson
4(b). Ron Pitts/Terry Donahue
7. Any PXP man - Brad Sham, Josh Lewin, Thom Brenneman/analyst can be Bill Maas or anyone FOX assigns.

BTW, Fox I believe has 6 HD production trucks.

61
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 5:12pm

Re: #60

Thanks for the info!

It's frightening that Dick Stockton is on Fox's #2 team. He was already terrible 20 years ago.

62
by paytonrules (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 5:13pm

Gamebreaks complaining.

Did anybody else notice that not on one but two occasions there was a penalty on the field during the Bears game, they went to a gamebreak, then NEVER explained the penalty when they came back, even though in one case it was 1st and 20?

I'm sure this happens in other games. That drives me nuts. The game I'm watching is the most important - got it?

63
by turbohapy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 5:21pm

Re: #55

When you get through the first line (which should be difficult but hasn't been that difficult so far this year) it would be a 7-8 yard gain with Bob Sanders instead of the 14-18 yard gain it was on Sunday with recently temporarily converted 2nd-year corner Marlin Jackson. Here's hoping Sanders is back for the Pats (hopefully Reagor as well).

64
by Jerry (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 5:25pm

Yeah I saw caught that also. I guess they figured no one was watching by that time.

65
by Info-man (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 5:26pm

Just a tidbit: Hunter Hillenmeyer is currenly getting his MBA from Kellogg.

66
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 5:34pm

Hey, it was great to hear Summerall filling in yesterday. I know he slipped a lot his last few years, but some of that was health related, and I think he feels a lot better since his liver transplant. I'd rather have him in the booth than Joe Buck any day.

I was only able to pay attention to last night's game sporadically; has Peppers been a lot more quiet the last couple weeks, and is this due to him getting more consistent double teams?

67
by Oldcat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 5:41pm

#66 Well last week Willie Anderson pretty much took him (Peppers) one on one.

68
by Joe (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 5:44pm

Summerall was terrific in the booth yesterday at Soldier Field. I hope he will be back next week & for the rest of the season. Now, if they can only find Tom Brookshire!

69
by BB (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 5:44pm

66: I agree. Since I grew up with Summerall calling all the big NFC games with Madden, his voice still makes me think of big games, even when he's slipped in his abilities and is calling a ridiculous mismatch game.

70
by Jesus Christ (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 6:07pm

From the Bears Pigeon article:

"Pigeons of the type found in most American cities are not native to the United States: French settlers brought their ancestors to the New World in the early 1600s. "

That type of pronoun ambiguity might be considered offensive by the French

71
by Jesus Christ (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 6:07pm

... or the pigeons

72
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 6:07pm

In the same vein, a player who was ruled down by contact might actually be hovering a couple centimeters above the ground. Hard to tell without a 3D model.

This isn't even remotely true. If a video shot shows a guy in contact with the ground, he's in contact with the ground, regardless of the angle.

If a video shot shows the trajectory of a player, it's not easy to extrapolate without multiple angles. And that's what you'd have to do in order to review the play. It doesn't even matter if, in this case, you happen to have exactly the right angles to see it. You don't want to even ask the refs to make that decision.

I really don't get it. In order to prove to someone that he would've landed in bounds, you literally would need to trace the trajectory, correct for the angle of viewing (with multiple angles, if you have them) and then simulate it forward. In order to prove that someone's got both feet in bounds, you need a frame of them having both feet on the ground. Big difference.

73
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 6:38pm

Re: 72 "In order to prove to someone that he would’ve landed in bounds, you literally would need to trace the trajectory, correct for the angle of viewing (with multiple angles, if you have them) and then simulate it forward."

I don't even see how that 'proves' it. Even if you could, with certainty, project where someone's center of gravity would land there's no way to know exactly where their feet would touch the ground.

74
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 6:48pm

I've long thought that Summerall benefited from starting his broadcast career on the same team with Ray Scott. I'm too young to have heard Scott live, but I've heard his call of the '67 Ice Bowl (ESPN Classic runs it every now and then), and it is phenomenal; just a masterpiece of spare, concise use of language, while conveying all the important information. The first time I heard that broadcast, I was struck by how much Summerall seemed to have adopted the style. If Ol' Pat wants to still work twenty one or twenty two weeks a year, I'd love to see him back full time, but I appreciate it even if just fills in once and a while.

#66, which causes me to wonder if Peppers has slipped, or if his opposition at the beginning of the year was just bad.

75
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 6:52pm

The pushed out of bounds rule isn't about whether the receiver's feet would land in bounds, it's about whether or not he's given a reasonable opportunity to get his feet in bounds. Like pass-interference, it's a judgment call, and probably not reviewable for the same reason.

76
by RobinFiveWords (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 6:54pm

62 - It was Summerall, and it was the second half of a blowout. I was actually impressed by how well Baldinger seemed to fill in the gaps in Summerall's narrative, but it is a little jarring to have a 2nd-and-6 incomplete pass followed by a 2nd-and-1 play with no explanation.

72 - I know Jerry Markbreit would argue that officials' judgment is part of what makes football so great, but I think the NFL rules should focus on what did happen, rather than what could have happened, because it's harder to argue with the former than with the latter. You've pointed out a lot of uncertainty, but this uncertainty only affects the game because the rules require it. If the NFL switched to the college rule -- if the receiver doesn't get down in bounds, he's SOL -- there would be no uncertainty. The field is 160 feet wide, so it's not like allowing a defender to push a receiver out of bounds in the air would reduce scoring or otherwise unfairly punish the offense. And eventually offenses would learn not to throw 4th-down passes over the sideline.

So how is Mike Brown replacement Todd Johnson doing? The 49ers were so ineffective on offense through the first three quarters that nothing really stood out, one way or the other. On the 49ers' touchdown drive midway through the fourth quarter, though, Johnson badly blew his gap assignment on Frank Gore's 20-yard-run from midfield. Johnson was assigned to the gap between the right tackle and tight end, and he was positioned just a yard or two off the line at the snap. The tight end dropped back as if to pass block, and Johnson just stood there watching the tight end as Gore ran inside of him.

Two plays later, Johnson got caught too far in the backfield on a screen to Gore, although he did close quickly enough to punch the ball out from behind, causing the only 49ers fumble of the day that the Bears did not recover.

77
by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 6:54pm

Two things-

A) As it was said before, Baker was running a fly rout parallel to the sideline at least a yard in bounds. He jumped straight ahead, then a hard, hard hit drove him prependiculary at least three yards. There are no "3-D modeling" techniques needed to extrapolate this. And also, are we arguing that referees in real time have a better view than slo-mo, frame-by-frame replays? And beside, two different camera angles, in slo-mo, will give you a trajectory picture. Arguing otherwise is just silly.

2) Eagles-Jags... I think you guys are missing the point. You kick the field goal as soon as you get in comfortable range. You need two scores, so kick as soon as you can to get the first one. You don't want to waste time, like the Eagles did, driving from the 25 to the 10 and still kicking. Those 15 yards were meaningless and took valuable time off the clock.

78
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 7:33pm

Despite the fact that the Ravens had a 35-7 lead going into the fourth quarter, I am very concerned about their secondary right now. Yes, they got 4 INTs but they allowed numerous big plays down the field to Horn and Colston as well. Its like they are trying to jump every route for pick-six, and they have stopped bothering to actually cover recievers down the field. It worked this week but it certainly didn't vs Carolina.
Could it be that Will Demps was the mediocre untalented glue that held that secondary together? Probably not, but I'm not sure what is wrong with them.

79
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 7:36pm

You are correct, of course, Disco. The question is not whether the odds are better to get get a touchdown on fourth down on the eleven, than the odds of kicking the field goal on fourth down. The question is whether the odds are better to succesfully kick the field goal, successfully get the onside kick, and then get a touchdown in the remaining time, than the odds of making the touchdown on fourth and goal, getting the onside kick, and then getting a field goal. If somebody thinks the first is an easier sequence of events to pull off, then they should kick the field goal as early as possible, and not burn off the time getting down to the 11 yard line.

80
by dbt (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 7:42pm

Robin #76 --

That play stuck out to me as well. I'm hoping to rewatch the game on tivo to pick apart later in the week but my in laws are in town until Wednesday (happy Raiders fans, them).

81
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 7:45pm

As it was said before, Baker was

And as I said before, it doesn't matter if this is one case where instant replay could give a good review. You're now asking the officials "well, first, you have to determine whether or not this is a situation where instant replay can give a good idea of the path of the receiver".

It's exactly the same reason why pass interference isn't reviewable.

And also, are we arguing that referees in real time have a better view than slo-mo, frame-by-frame replays?

Always have? No. Can have? Yes. Depth perception is a wonderful thing. That, and being right in front of the action.

And beside, two different camera angles, in slo-mo, will give you a trajectory picture. Arguing otherwise is just silly.

Not necessarily. Depends on how perpendicular the two views are to the path of the receiver and each other.

People keep missing the point - it isn't whether or not Baker would've landed in bounds. He almost definitely would've. The question is whether or not it's reasonable to have the referees decide it via instant replay. And the answer to that is no.

82
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 8:08pm

Did anybody else wonder my Al Michaels was making fun of Carolina for trying to add points at the end of the half? You can criticize the play-calling, and criticize trying a 65 yard field goal. But Michaels seemed to be laughing that they were doing anything, and said on one completion (when the receiver got out of bounds and left a few seconds on the clock), "That'll look good on the stat sheet but nowhere else."

Was it so unreasonable to try get down the field there? Based on the plays they were calling, was there no chance that something good could happen? Michaels seemed to act like any team should just kneel down in such a spot.

83
by Peter (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 8:15pm

Let's not forget, replay was re-instituted after the '98 season to prevent boneheaded mistakes like the one that was committed yesterday. The NFL did not want a situation in which the referees blew a call that effectively decided a game (aka Vinny's phantom TD vs Seattle). It is not unreasonable to ask a referee to judge via instant replay whether or not Baker would have come down in bounds.

As long as the NFL uses a limited number of officials, plays like that will happen. Replay gives the officials another set of eyes when it matters the most. Certain calls (PI, Holding, etc) must be protected from replay to prevent coaches from challenging every key play. But when 90% of the viewers think the refs got the most important call of the game wrong, that is bad for the sport.

84
by Marko (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 8:24pm

I thought Summerall did a pretty good job, but I did notice the two times that he and Baldinger completely ignored those penalties. I was able to figure which team committed the penalties by watching the reaction of the players, and I was able to determine exactly what was called by looking at the GameCenter on NFL.com.

There also was a time during the game where Summerall started talking about something which obviously didn't jibe with what the producers were showing (I think it was some type of highlights montage). He just stopped talking, and Baldinger picked up with what they were supposed to be discussing.

But these are minor nitpicks. I too remember watching Summerall with Brookshier, and later Madden, back in the day. Like several posters above, I always liked his style, which was concise and used an economy of words. His voice does make one think of a game as an important one.

I don't think he is scheduled for any more NFL games this year. I read somewhere that he was doing the game yesterday as a one-time tuneup to prepare him for doing play-by-play for one of the BCS games that will be on Fox.

85
by Smeghead (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 8:46pm

83, you're a little short on evidence for the proposition that "certain calls must be protected from replay," especially since the scarcity of replay challenges and the risk of a timeout already cap the usage.

PI in particular is very commonly the biggest or even the pivotal play of a game ... I don't see the difference between going under the hood to determine whether there was a forceout on a receiver, and going under the hood to determine whether the DB really did push the drama queen auditioning for Serie A futbol at the back of the end zone.

(Replay on holding? That way lies Super Bowl XL threads. Turn back before it's too late.)

86
by mediator12 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 9:03pm

Time to eat crow. The Broncos defense is what DVOA thought they were ;D

My apologies to Pat, Aaron and the crew.
Denver is outside the elite level defenses as Ned said in the commentary because their front four is in the bottom five in the league and even worse without Gerrard Warren.

Darrent Williams continues his struggles opposite Champ Bailey and his technique is horrible. I kept telling Denver Fans that he is not the answer versus INDY especially if the Front four was as Horrible as they were yesterday.

I think Manning ordered donatos on the deep in to Wayne late in the game. He had Six seconds to throw and was still not pressured.

The longer Manning had in the pocket, the more the Coverage rolled deeper and the Dumpoffs became 8 and 9 yard gains instead of 3 or 4 against teams where they got pressure.

Oh well. Good thing there is only one Manning in the league. Crap their are two. At Least Eli is in the NFC.

87
by mediator12 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 9:07pm

You think Direct TV will use that play to Wayne for Peyton's next commercial?

That would be totally appropriate. I can see it now, "hey my brother is currently in a tight game versus the Bucs and this is just another denver mop up game for me. You could be there right now if you had direct TV NFL Sunday Ticket!"

Yeah, that is just under six seconds.

88
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 9:28pm

I don't know if anyone was watching SD-STL but Fox colorman actually plugged the Colts-Denver game.

He said something like, "The Colts are in field goal position with 6 seconds left, we'll keep you posted.".

You do that while I turn the channel to CBS.

89
by mk (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 9:36pm

One thing that absolutely nobody is talking about this season is...Michael Strahan's come hither look on his player photo.

After his wife claimed during the divorce proceedings that Strahan will sex you up whether you're man, woman or other, why hasn't anybody noticed Strahan's tilted shoulders and leering smile that scream "I will do you. Hard. And frequently."

It's like he's using his portfolio picture from America's Next Top Model.

90
by Rob S. (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 9:50pm

What is it with never covering the Chargers... that's 2 out of the last 3 weeks, nothing?

91
by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 10:01pm

Here are links to the original Jim Jones video and a remix, with Giant highlights.

I wrote this in the game thread, but I'll repeat it here. The Jets weren't "robbed" of a win; they would have only been tied (assuming the extra point), with 58 seconds left. But, the incorrect call changed the Jets chances of winning from somewhere around 45% to 0%, and the Jets had no chance of recovering from it, unlike a bad call earlier in the game.

Replay is not necessarily the answer; I don't think judgment calls should be reviewed, but the officials on the field should have gotten the call right. The problem that I saw was that the closest official was emphatic in his original incomplete call, and the rest of the officials were reluctant to change it. This game story suggests that at least one other on-field official believed that Baker was forced out.

92
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 10:02pm

Here's a suggestion for a rule change to get rid of questionable "push out" calls, without going completely college. How about:

If a reciever gets touched by a defender as he makes the reception, he needs to get one foot down in bounds for it to count. If no defender touches him, he needs to get both. No ambiguity.

93
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 10:14pm

92: Wouldn't it be easier to just say that landing out of bounds is landing out of bounds regardless of contact?

94
by Spoilt Victorian Child (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 10:15pm

Eagles-Jags… I think you guys are missing the point. You kick the field goal as soon as you get in comfortable range. You need two scores, so kick as soon as you can to get the first one. You don’t want to waste time, like the Eagles did, driving from the 25 to the 10 and still kicking. Those 15 yards were meaningless and took valuable time off the clock.
Yep, I can't argue with that. Thanks.

According to the play-by-play, they got to the JAX 28 with 1:39 left. Christ.

95
by Larry (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 10:47pm

RE: 94

The Eagles were headed into the wind, so a 45 yarder would have been a bit long to try, probably. But, taking a over minute to gain 15 yards was inexcusable.

Of course, it was because McNabb kept dumping off in the middle of the field on that drive. He really has no idea how to modify his reads when time is precious. It is bizarre. If we take it as true that McNabb can't be taught this, would it be too much to coach a RB in the flat to just drop the ball in such a situation?

96
by hector31 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 11:02pm

Please don't insinuate that Bill Simmons is a football analyst in any way. That's an insult to any intelligent football fan.

97
by hector31 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 11:05pm

I probably didn't use the word insinuate right, but Simmons just gets my dander up. He's the king of "see a little bit of a lot of things and act like you're an expert" stuff that's everywhere. A worse example of this: Half of ESPN Radio. If there's an argument for Doug Gottlieb or Jeff Rickard it totally escapes me.

Theme change, what's with Brady and Johnson forcing the ball like that. Odd.

98
by Brad (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 11:20pm

re: 90

from the top of the article:

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.

99
by Justin Zeth (not verified) :: Tue, 10/31/2006 - 12:51am

I'm getting in on this late, but MDS is extremely correct. There are two, and only two, questions to consider when evaluating a wide receiver:

1. Can he get open?
2. Can he catch the ball?

If the answer to (1) is no, you can stop and move on to the next guy, because he'll never make it in the NFL. The Vikings could have saved themselves a lot of money by subscribing to this philosophy.

Applying this to the various receives the Steelers have employed:

If both are true, you have Hines Ward.
If (1) is true and (2) is not, you have Plaxico Burress.
If (2) is true and (1) is not, you have Cedrick Wilson.
If neither is true, you have Troy Edwards.

WR is probably the one position, more than any other, that you could do better at correctly drafting players by watching film and avoiding the combine altogether (well, interviews are important). QB also comes to mind.

Teams are obsessed with speed now, calling it 'deep speed' or 'stretching the field' or such nonsense. Two points about speed:

1. Foot speed is almost entirely pointless. It matters, but only *after* you know the guy can get open.

2. At WR more than at any other position, the 40 is completely worthless, because speed is an entirely different concept in pads with someone trying to stick to you. Jerry Rice ran an unimpressive 40, yet no one could catch him on a football field; Ralph Wiley wrote that "Rice has three gears: Fast, very fast, and gone."

Teams seem to figure they need to draft fast guys and try to teach them how to get open. No. You can't teach it. By the time a guy's been through college, either he can get open or he can't.

Hands are similar: They can be worked on and improved a little bit, kind of like a baseball player's plate discipline, but for the most part either you can catch a football or you can't.

I don't know about anybody else, but I was taught thus: If you can get one hand on the football, you should catch it, and if you can get both hands on it, you MUST catch it.

100
by Bobman (not verified) :: Tue, 10/31/2006 - 2:51am

Here's a rules question that got me wondering during the Indy/Den game: we all are familiar with the sketchy "defensive leaping" penalty when trying to block kicks. I think most of us understand it even if we don't love it.

So why is a RB allowed to do pretty much the same thing for a 1st down/TD, in a manner that looks a LOT more dangerous, getting upended, coming down on the neck and head? Are we doing this for ratings, people, or to protect the players? I think the 1 yd plunge is so intrinsic to football that nobody would want to get rid of it aside from the neurologists--not the TV guys, not the teams, not the NFLPA. But if we leave that in, let's get rid of leaping.

101
by Sam! (not verified) :: Tue, 10/31/2006 - 10:02am

I noticed on the FOX Blog that you guys have the same nickname for a certain analyst as I do... "BLEEP Enberg"... hehe got to love the profanity filter.

102
by Theo (not verified) :: Tue, 10/31/2006 - 1:48pm

Re: wind at Meadowlands / NY:
I'd expect kickoffs and punts to be the same (on average) because for every ball that goes against the wind, there's a ball going with the wind.
Fieldgoals are harder because of sidewinds.

103
by David H. (not verified) :: Tue, 10/31/2006 - 11:17pm

re:98

Too bad... you missed a good game.
I guess you will not be watching the Super Bowl this season either.

104
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 1:50pm

My apologies to Pat, Aaron and the crew.
Denver is outside the elite level defenses as Ned said in the commentary because their front four is in the bottom five in the league and even worse without Gerrard Warren.

No problems. Although I will say, to toot my own horn, that in the discussion previously, I had also said that it was entirely likely that Denver's problem was its defensive line.

That problem gets hidden in the red zone because safeties move closer to the box, and there are no long-developing patterns that you need a pass rush to prevent.

Huge differences between total DVOA and red zone DVOA usually indicate a weakness in a defense that the red zone is hiding. Could be linebackers, defensive line, or even the secondary, but one of those three is usually very ineffective compared to the others.

In Denver's case, the reason it got exposed is that you need pressure on Manning to be able to stop him, even in the red zone.