Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features

TomlniMik07.jpg

» Clutch Encounters: Week 4

Blowout week, but not for the Steelers. Do they play down to the competition? Also: bad Foles, Bridgewater's debut, and did J.J. Watt just end EJ Manuel's career in Buffalo?

15 Jan 2007

Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

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.

Indianapolis Colts 15 at Baltimore Ravens 6

Aaron Schatz: Well, apparently the FO game charters are not the only people who think that Samari Rolle is the weakness on the Baltimore defense. Clearly, Peyton Manning thinks this, and even Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf understand the situation.

Michael David Smith: We're all intelligent, articulate fans. I defy anyone to explain, in plain English, what constitutes contact that would be illegal contact if the QB still had the ball, but isn't enough to be pass interference once the ball is in the air. If none of us can do it, I kindly suggest to the NFL that they have a serious problem with badly written rules that the officials don't know how to enforce. It was bad in last year's playoffs and is starting to look bad again this year.

Aaron Schatz: Clearly, MDS is just a bitter Seattle fan, angry that the refs are costing the Seahawks this game against the Ravens ... wait a minute ... the Seahawks aren't in this game and MDS is a Lions fan. Do you mean that this problem with the officiating goes beyond last year's Super Bowl? I'm shocked!

Doug Farrar: A problem with officiating? Nah. Oh, there might be the "ingredients" of a problem, but that's never conclusive...

According to the Football Outsiders penalty database, Ron Winter called the most defensive pass interference penalties in the 2006 regular season with 15. Bill Carollo called the fewest, with five. Meanwhile, Larry Nemmers and Terry McAulay tied for the most illegal contact calls with 12. The fewest? Bill Leavy, with two. Carollo called 10 contact penalties, and Leavy called 12 DPIs. It's not only that the officials have a serious problem with the rules as written, I would contend that -- to differing degrees on either end -- they're blurring the line between contact and interference without a second thought. I think they're clueless enough about the boundaries of the rules that they're going with the idea that close is good enough.

Given that, I'd classify what Leavy just did as "screwing up in reverse."

Michael David Smith: Dan Dierdorf has been impressed by two things so far:

1. Adalius Thomas can keep up with Dallas Clark.
2. The Colts' defense actually looks at the Ravens' offense when they're lining up.

I'm somewhat less than impressed by those two things.

Tim Gerheim: I'm reasonably impressed that Adalius Thomas can keep up with Dallas Clark. Clark is barely a tight end -- he's basically a squat wideout -- and Thomas is a pretty big linebacker. Linebackers don't run with Clark very well. However, on that play that impressed Dierdorf, Thomas was pretty comfortably beaten, so I'm somewhat less impressed by that play.

The Ravens look a lot better on this drive where they're running to the outside a little bit. Who'da thunk it?

Michael David Smith: Clark is listed at 252. Dierdorf claimed Thomas outweighs him by 40 pounds.

Will Carroll: If Clark is 252, then I weigh what I said on my drivers license. Much like Freeney, the list and the reality are WAY off.

Bill Barwell: There has been a whole lot of bad throws to tight ends so far. Does Indy ever go max protect? Today might be a good day for it.

Aaron Schatz: Hot damn, was that one awful throw right there by McNair. I do not know how he didn't see that Heap was sandwiched between two guys.

Tim Gerheim: Dierdorf keeps mentioning how deep Ed Reed is playing. I wonder if he's playing any role in run support. On that last play where he mentioned it, it was a slow-developing stretch handoff, but I didn't see Reed in at the end of the play. That would be interesting, and probably pretty smart, if he were a pure pass defender.

Aaron Schatz: Halftime report: When did Marty Schottenheimer become head coach of the Ravens? The Baltimore offense is exhibiting every kind of conservative look that makes people criticize Martyball. Sitting on the ball at the end of the half was just one of many examples. Steve McNair isn't Captain Checkdown today, because to be Captain Checkdown you have to be checking down from your first couple reads down the field. Does McNair even make reads down the field? Are Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton even playing today? Billick better grow a pair at halftime or the Ravens are toast, because McNair running a diverse offense was the difference between them and the Ravens of the past few years.

Speaking of toast, Samari Rolle was just toasted by Aaron Moorehead. Score one for game charting.

As far as the Colts offense, the big story here is one we should have been talking about earlier -- Manning has discovered mobility. It was very noticeable when they beat the Patriots and we're seeing it here too. Now when the offensive line blows their blocks, he's not a sitting duck, he's moving around and still finding guys open or, god forbid, actually running. It's like his one weakness is gone – the 3-4 thing doesn't matter as much if Manning can make plays even when the protection breaks down.

Ned Macey: I have been mightily impressed with the Baltimore defense. If you told me Manning would not be sacked (admittedly pressured) in the first half, I would have expected more. Chris McAlister has done well on Harrison so far. What I would give for either Aaron Moorehead to be better or that pass to be one foot shorter. Clearly Manning was choking on that throw.

Also, I've watched 95 percent of the Colts games for the past four years, and I can't remember seeing a flea flicker. I like that trickery better than their lame attempts to put Wayne in the slot on the right.

I'm completely jinxing the Colts here, and I realize the game plan has been conservative, but at what point does the defense get credit?

Ryan Wilson: You know, early in the season McNair was only throwing short passes and not really looking to go deep. That said, if he played the Steelers every week, he'd average 40 yards a completion and throw for 500 yards. I wasn't all that surprised to see him only throwing 6-8 passes.

Did anybody see "NFL Matchup" this morning? When discussing the Ravens D vs. Colts O, Jaws showed a play from last year where Manning looked to the other side of the field from Ed Reed, Reed read Manning's eyes and literally tried to sneak to the area he thought the ball might be, but Manning ended up throwing the ball where Reed started. The play went for a big gain, but it made me wonder: does Reed get so many "wow" interceptions because he's basically freelancing and trying to "sneak up" on the QB while neglecting his coverage responsibilities? I didn't see a replay of Manning's pick today, but it wouldn't surprise me if Reed was cheating.

Aaron Schatz: Man, this is making me nostalgic for the days before Jamal Lewis got all used up, when he was really good and I didn't make fun of him all the time.

Will Carroll: Freeney on that power rush got killed. Good analysis -- what Dierdorf didn't see is why. Even on that play, Ogden is playing on his heels and staying off his toes. He's got no push at all. Just watching him walk, he's pulling his toes up.

Doug Farrar: I haven't seen as much of Jonathan Ogden as I've seen of Walter Jones, but I'd generally guess that straight-on bull rushing any elite left tackle when you'd need to double your caloric intake to keep up with Jared Lorenzen on the scale isn't really a great idea. It's quite possible that when Mr. Freeney gets his wits about him again, he'll re-consider the strategy he tried halfway through the third quarter.

Bill Barwell: Dierdorf also just had a wonderful comment about that fourth-and-4 from the 41. "You wouldn't gain that many yards if you punted!" Well, if you didn't ^$%# up, you would...

Aaron Schatz: Well, for a second there, I thought Billick had his balls reattached, but he changed his mind and punted.

The only question about the Colts defense playing well is, if they could play like this, WHY DIDN'T THEY FOR THE ENTIRE REGULAR SEASON???? The answer is not Bob Sanders, because they played like crap during the weeks Sanders was healthy.

Will Carroll: I've been thinking about this question. The general media idea has been sandbagging, which I just CAN'T believe. Sanders was held back for much of the second half, but you're right, not the difference, but does it signal some attitude? Has any team ever had such a dramatic turnaround in the playoffs?

Aaron Schatz: Oh, the 2003 Carolina Panthers, because they dramatically improved on both sides of the ball. The Colts were already good on one side.

Assuming this is not overturned, that's four fumbles, all recovered by the Colts, plus that field goal that bounced off the crossbar. That horseshoe is lucky tonight.

Doug Farrar: And then... Ray Lewis deflects a HORRIBLE Manning pass that would have been caught by Ed Reed. Ouch, babe!

Aaron Schatz: OK, is it me, or have there been roughly 10 play-action passes since the last time the Ravens actually handed the ball to a running back?

Bill Barnwell: Jamal Lewis has actually looked kinda agile tonight -- he made some nice moves on that swing pass.

Ryan Wilson: This is the best tackling, hardest hitting Colts defense I've seen this year. I think they've found their ... SWAGGER.

Doug Farrar: Hmmm... a moronic holding call by Bill Leavy's crew early in the fourth quarter that pretty much killed a huge drive? In the postseason? I've never seen THAT before!

Tim Gerheim: "Big interception by the Colts" ... balderdash! That was a hidden punt. That thing went from the Indy 12 to the Baltimore 39. That would be a net 49-yard punt, which would be epic. Peyton hasn't set the field on fire, but that was a good play.

I haven't seen hardly any Ravens games this season. I'm going to have to take your word for it from the previews that their offense has actually been good. They look awful today except for those occasional Colts-mediated 10-yard runs.

Aaron Schatz: Yes. Terrible. Awful. They choked. I'm still stuck on the same question: Where as this Colts defense been all season, and why should I believe that these two games are a better indicator of how good they are than the 16 previous?

Bill Barnwell: You know what's scary?

Peyton's made a couple of throws tonight that have been ugly -- in the face of pressure, off his back foot, chucks to no one or nowhere in particular (the one that Reed caught out of bounds specifically comes to mind).

Who does that remind you of? Mm hmm...

Ryan Wilson: This game reminds me of last year's Colts-Steelers playoff game. The underdog comes in, pretty much controls the game, and pulls out the win. And you know the common link? Dan Dierdorf. That's right, if you're an underdog playoff team playing in the AFC Divisional game, you might want to that request Dierdorf does the game.

Aaron Schatz: Still trying to figure out where this Colts defense came from. How is this the same team that was killed by Houston and Jacksonville a month ago? Bob Sanders played in the game against Tennessee and Travis Henry hit some long runs anyway.

Ned Macey: Which Tennessee game? The second one, wasn't Henry the lowest DPAR? The Colts defense was usually bad, but they played well occasionally during the year. McNair played no worse than Brady, and the Colts shut down Rudi as well. Also, they have clearly shifted the strategy with their DEs, almost no outside rushes.

I'm not saying there aren't some play-calling issues here, but why is the Colts defense playing well different than the Ravens offense playing poorly? They were 11th in weighted offense. Without an overhead camera, who knows who was open down field? McNair is a smart quarterback. Do we think he was missing people downfield? They hit the one big pass to Clayton, but he fumbled leaving them with the penalty.

The one that confuses me still is the Ron Dayne game. Otherwise, I could argue that the Colts are particularly susceptible to elusive backs. Jamal Lewis is not elusive.

As for the breaks, clearly the Colts were lucky in this game. I'm curious to see what the DVOA numbers are, but I won't feel bad either way because they had a higher DVOA than Pittsburgh a year ago.

Dominic Rhodes did a hell of a job on that last drive. The Ravens knew the run was coming, and he still got enough first downs to both get the field goal and run down the clock. I think he'll be a big factor next week no matter what because he does run well up the middle. He sucks at the stretch play, but they can't run it on a 3-4 team anyway.

Finally, all Peyton Manning does is win playoff games.

Russell Levine: Wow, how bad was Greg Gumbel today? Misidentifying players, took him about five seconds to realize the flea flicker had been completed and not thrown away out of bounds.

Yes a couple of those Peyton throws were Eli-esque, but I was actually fairly impressed with him today. He never appeared to get frustrated; you never saw the negative body language (think of those Pats losses). I think he realized they could grit this one out and he's got to be thrilled to have the defense playing this way.

Did anybody notice on the first-half ball that Peyton nearly had intercepted that Harrison appears to stop rather than run right into a space occupied by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed?

Does Vinatieri's performance give the Pats fans in the group a queasy feeling?

Michael David Smith: Russ, you pointed something out that I've been meaning to mention for a while: I think about half a dozen times this year I've seen Marvin Harrison quit on balls or at least not look like he's going full speed running out his route when the ball wasn't exactly where he wanted it. The types of plays where if it had been TO or Randy Moss we'd never hear the end of it from the announcers. Obviously, in general Harrison looks like he is a much better teammate than either of those guys, but it does make me wonder if maybe he gets a free pass on some things that he shouldn't.

Ned Macey: I do think Harrison gets a free pass to some extent, but maybe it also shows that running out each route is an impossible task. If he finished that route he would be standing directly behind Lewis and had no separation on McAlister. What the hell is Manning throwing the ball there for?

Will Carroll: That's his read --- he isn't supposed to be running into coverage, but when the ball is thrown, he seems to get confused. He's just too small to have much of an effect on anyone "defensively."

Aaron Schatz: Isn't "will Peyton Manning continue to throw as many bad passes as he did against Baltimore and Kansas City" just as good a question as "will the Colts defense continue to play as well as it did against Baltimore and Kansas City?"

Ned Macey: Yes. I could certainly see a 34-31 shootout against whoever wins the NE-SD game.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 at New Orleans Saints 27

Russell Levine: Nice to see FOX train the cameras on the chick in the half-shirt for about 3 seconds.

Umm, except her shirt read "F*$K DA EAGLES"

You stay classy, Saints fans!

Bill Barnwell: 9 field goals. 0 touchdowns. Oof.

Russell Levine: Reggie Bush. I mean, wow. He's not supposed to be able to do that in the NFL.

He does need to learn not to leave his feet in the field of play though -- that leads to injuries and fumbles. Save that for the goal line, Reggie.

Aaron Schatz: I liked when Dick Stockton said that Bush was hemmed in. Reggie Bush is NEVER hemmed in.

We should have a burn-a-thon between Fred Thomas and Samari Rolle. Not sure how the rules would work, but it would be fun.

I like to bring attention to stupid plays by quarterbacks where they get lucky and there isn't a turnover. That ridiculous backhanded flip by Garcia trying to not take a sack could have easily ended up as a pick six. That was really dumb.

Ned Macey: When did the light turn on for Bush? I wrote about him for Any Given Sunday when his DPAR still sucked, but I looked the other day after MDS's article and it was suddenly respectable. Tonight, he's an absolute bad-ass.

To fix their run defense for next year, I think the Colts are going to trade for Sean Considine. He'd fit right in.

The struggles of Rolle and Thomas tonight certainly make the game-charting project worth it.

Russell Levine: I remember seeing Bush in Week 9 against Tampa, and he was still trying to bounce every single carry to the outside and not getting anywhere. He had 11 carries for -5 yards in that game.

The next time I saw him, about two weeks later against Cincinnati, he didn't have big numbers but he had stopped bouncing everything. He had a bunch of good, hard three-yard carries up the middle in that game, IIRC.

Now he seems to have figured it out -- taking the sure yards inside when that's all that there is, and picking his spots to bounce things outside, reverse his field, etc.

Doug Farrar: One thing I find interesting from a penalty perspective is how many false starts road teams have at specific stadiums, especially stadiums in which crowds are known for extreme volume. In 2006, Qwest Field led the NFL in road false starts with 27, and Soldier Field was second with 18. No shock there. Meanwhile, teams going to New Orleans this season have only 13 false starts. Facing a rabid, extremely motivated crowd in a dome? The relatively small number surprises me.

Bill Barnwell: The 12-13 year old boys Punt, Pass, and Kick champion has clearly tried to hook up with the 12-13 year old girls champion. He has been summarily rejected. He reminds me of Rusty from Full House. Not good.

Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure what I am enjoying more: Hank Baskett jumping around in the end zone like a kid in a sandlot game, screaming "I'm open, I'm open!!!" or the constant camera shots of the minyan in Jeffrey Lurie's box.

Otherwise, unlike the other game, this one has gone almost exactly according to my preview. McAllister slicing through Eagles defense? Check. Burn Fred Thomas? Check. Trouble with passing to running backs? Check. Drew Brees not fazed by pass pressure? Check. Close at the half? Check.

Bill Barnwell: Billy Miller's playing well, but he doesn't do a good job of protecting the ball. He's very vulnerable.

Can anyone think of a player who's changed his style as dramatically as McAllister? He's a totally different back. Maybe someone should tear DeShaun Foster's ACL.

Will Carroll: I'm curious about the style thing --- could you expand on that, Bill? At the start of the season, McAllister was effective, but was running straight ahead. He didn't trust himself to cut (though the knee was probably fine). He was running then like Alexander is now.

Bill Barnwell: McAllister never moves horizontally behind the line of scrimmage anymore. He was the king of that before the injury.

Russell Levine: On that carry with about four minutes to go, Reggie Bush made a cut that nobody makes. He turned more than 90 degrees in a single step, restarted himself, and nearly got the corner. When he didn't, he had the good sense to go down in bounds. I'd say he's definitely figuring things out, and I love how the Saints are using the two backs.

Finances will probably dictate whether they can afford to keep them both for a few more years, but if I'm Bush, I don't want McAllister going anywhere. Bush can become a feature back in a few years, when he'll probably be a little bigger and stronger. He also won't have that much mileage on him when he eventually becomes the full-time guy. And if he's lucky, all that will occur right around the time he needs to start worrying about his second contract.

Aaron Schatz: And then, trying to run out the clock, the Saints decide to get funky with the pitch, and I didn't even realize that there were no turnovers during the first 56 minutes of this game, and here we go...

Russell Levine: Ugh, looked like a good enough pitch that Bush should have caught it, but that's a HORRENDOUS play call in that situation. How about pounding McAllister straight ahead instead of going with the tricky misdirection option pitch? JLS Trophy worthy.

Great response by the Saints defense after the turnover. Just when you think everyone in the stadium was probably thinking, "oh, that's right, we're the Saints" they come up with a three-and-out.

And then the Eagles go for it -- and that was a ridiculously good pass by Garcia with a man in his face, but the false start wipes it out.

Aaron Schatz: It came down to that second-and-1. The Eagles should have been able to push that in for a touchdown, and they couldn't. The Saints are just an amazing story. I think they're going to the Super Bowl. This is a totally different team from last year. Most of the time, even if you can change so many players from a losing franchise, you won't end up with a team like this, but the Saints did so many of the right things over the last few months. Just amazing.

Doug Farrar: Mickey Loomis: NFL Exec of the Year. If anyone else wins it, I want a recount.

After watching this game, I really want Shaun Alexander to get involved in every possible off-season pass-catching drill. The Seahawks should be envious of teams with backs this versatile. Screens to Alexander are generally either drops, or 2-yard losses.

Two people who never got the credit they deserved during the post-Seifert/pre-Erickson 49ers era, when the team had to bail out of a salary cap implosion and was able to return to competitiveness with many new faces from 1999-2002, were Steve Mariucci and Jeff Garcia. I know Garcia's numbers aren't necessarily indicative of any great professional rebirth, and his regular-season DPAR is worse than Eli Manning's, and the fact the offense around him has become more balanced is a big part of the equation, but there was something very cool to me about a story in which a guy got one more chance to succeed in a system that worked for him. No particular FO slant to that -- I just liked watching that story develop.

I also hope Mariucci gets another shot at coaching with a team that doesn't have a chimpanzee for a general manager.

But this is about the Saints, as it should be. They've got some issues with outside contain on running plays (obviously) and the cornerback situation is iffy at best, but the sheer determination on both sides of the ball when it was needed was wonderful to see. As Russell said, that stand after the Bush fumble was a real beaut. Just an amazing team to watch.

Aaron Schatz: One more note: Andy Reid made a big mistake punting. The defense was tired. They had a better chance of making that fourth-and-15 than they did of keeping the Saints from a first down AND then scoring in the final 40 seconds or whatever would be left after that.

Mike Tanier: I didn't like the punt call either. But I liked just about every other call in the game. I liked the way we handled second-and-1 at the goal line, with a run, then a quick set up and snap to try to get a pass off before the Saints defense was set. We just didn't execute the plays. I like the screen call and the pitch call when we got the ball back after the Bush fumble, but Fred Thomas and Scott Fujita made great plays.

When I saw Bush fumble, I thought I was watching a miracle. When I saw Baskett make that catch, I thought I was watching a miracle. But maybe I'm watching a Saints miracle and I am just looking at the wrong side of the coin.

As for my beloved Eagles, great effort. I hope this off-season doesn't turn into every other of-fseason in the last five years, where fans forget to enjoy how amazing this team was at the end of the year (and in September) and instead dwells on "why did Reid punt" or "why didn't we use Buckhalter at the goal line" or whatever. Obviously, the Eagles have some personnel work to do, and I hope (Lance Briggs) they plan to do something interesting (Lance Briggs) in free (Lance Briggs) ag(Lance)enc(Briggs)y. But I'm not miserable like I was after the other playoff losses in recent years, and I hope Eagles fans aren't either. This system that Reid and Joe Banner and Jeffrey Lurie put together works, It gives us a shot -- a good shot -- every year. The last seven years have been the best run of Eagles football in my lifetime, and it doesn't look like things are slowing down. One of these days, it will be Philly's turn.

Until then, go Saints.

Ned Macey: I agree with Aaron. I was surprised when the punter came out. Best case scenario, they have to go 50+ yards in less than a minute just for the field goal.

I agree with Doug that the Garcia story was a great story, but he struggled tonight. There were plays left on the field against Thomas in the first half. The accuracy wasn't there. He never looked 100 percent comfortable (thinking of the throw from beyond the line of scrimmage when he probably could have made the first on his own.)

For all the talk about Bush, Deuce abused the Eagles. I thought Hood played alright except for the early big play, but they clearly were protecting him. Both safeties were deep, and the front seven was just not good enough to stop the Saints run game. McAllister should have had about eight extra carries, but they got the win, so I guess that's nitpicking.

Just like in the Super Bowl, the Eagles abandoned their big back. I love Westbrook. He's an amazing player, but Buckhalter has a role in the offense. He got three (admittedly ineffective) carries. They should have brought him in on the second-and-1 that cost them the game.

Good defensive call on the third-and-1 where the blitz blew up the throw to Tapeh. We analyze and analyze the games, but in the end, these teams were incredibly close and either team could have won. That's what makes playoff football fun.

Aaron Schatz: Honestly, the difference between the 2001-2006 Eagles and the 2001-2006 Patriots comes down to a few random bounces of the ball, slightly better game plans, and quarterback injuries.

Mike Tanier: And a tuck!

Seattle Seahawks 24 at Chicago Bears 27 (OT)

Mike Tanier: Bears first drive: third-and-3 and third-and-4 are running downs for the Bears. Really, they should be neutral downs, but I bet most teams are throwing about 75 percent of the time on third-and-4. The Bears ran to convert two of these situations and a third-and-1. At some point in this game, they'll play action off one of those running plays.

Did anyone notice the fullback flat pass from this week's TDZ on that drive? Grossman threw late and it was incomplete.

Doug Farrar: Babineaux is a better safety than a corner, and you saw why on the Rashied Davis 37-yard catch. He looked to be in perfect position to make a play on the ball, but almost surprised to be there. That last little hesitation seemed to be the difference.

The Bears are beginning the game able to push Seattle's front four off the line of scrimmage, which has been a major problem for the Seahawks all year. Marcus Tubbs, their best interior run-stopper, was hampered by injury and then put on IR with a knee injury in early November. Since then, Seattle's formerly strong DT rotation has been a mix of guys who are better with pass-rushing (Rocky Bernard), undersized overachievers who wear down (Chuck Darby) and reserves. This has greatly affected the play of Lofa Tatupu as well. Tatupu requires good push from the front four so that he can get a first couple of good steps instead of having to shed blocks. Last season, the Seahawks were the top-ranked NFL team in defensive adjusted line yards -- this year, they're tenth. They've allowed a great deal more yardage, especially in the mid-guard area.

People talk about receiver injuries when deciphering what's wrong with Seattle's offense, and that's been a factor -- but Darrell Jackson missed several games last season, and he's been Hasselbeck's #1 guy for a number of years. The difference was that there was a Joe Jurevicius to pick up the slack. This season, there was Deion Branch, but he hasn't really found the tempo of this offense, especially when Seneca Wallace was in there for four games.

The main problem for this offense is been a line that has been depleted by injury and personnel churn. More than losing Alexander for six weeks, or Hasselbeck for a month, this is what has been the real killer. When they got all their stars back, protection was still a major issue. You're seeing this early on for Hasselbeck, and Alexander, a patient cut-back runner who doesn't overrun his blocks because he's used to having blocks, keeps getting caught up in the mess.

Still, that was a great drive to tie the game at 7. Hasselbeck had enough time to the middle in Chicago's pass coverage, and the safety was late on that Burleson touchdown. As long as the Seahawks take advantage of every possible Bears mistake, they have a chance.

Michael David Smith: On that PI on Jordan Babineaux, the official closest to the play didn't throw a flag. I think any time the official closest doesn't throw the flag and they call a penalty based on an official who was farther from the play, the referee needs to explain specifically why the official closest didn't see a penalty. Of course, none of us really knows what constitutes pass interference anymore. The three major questions of this NFL season are "What is pass interference?" "What was the Chiefs' coaching staff thinking about against the Colts' defense?" and "What is Accuscore?"

Doug Farrar: Outstanding delayed blitz by Peterson on the Grossman fumble with 4:20 left in the half. He's so good at waiting and knowing when to go, and he's fast enough to make up a whole lot of ground in a big hurry. Seattle's ability to convert on fourth down, like the sudden Indianapolis defensive surge, is definitely a postseason phenomenon. Through the fourth-and-inches Alexander touchdown, the Seahawks were 3-of-4 in the postseason. In the regular season, they were 2-of-8 on fourth down.

The Seahawks don't have a defense solid enough, personnel-wise, to throw fancy stuff like fake blitzes right now. Especially in the secondary. Just bring it or don't.

Back to my trepidation about Seattle's interior defensive line -- I'm surprised there was any talk of strategy from the Bears on that fourth down Jones touchdown. Just run it down their throats.

Seattle's in good position here, down only a touchdown at the half. But the Bears have outgained them by 110 yards, they've had the ball four minutes more ... this reminds me of the first half of the Jets-Patriots wild card game, when everyone thought the Jets were in it down just a score at the half, but the ground was rumbling beneath their feet. If the rest of the defense can match the efforts of the linebackers and Kelly Jennings, and Nate Burleson can continue his fine returns, they're not out of it. They are, however, a bit more out of it than the scoreboard says.

Aaron Schatz: Thoughts from Ian Dembsky's house (me, Ian, Bill Barnwell).

  • Nice wham block by Desmond Clark on the first Jones TD.
  • The commercial for Frank Miller's 300 looks like it should be a PS3 game, not a movie.
  • The Bears definitely miss Tommie Harris.
  • Great textbook "MLB in the Tampa 2" play by Urlacher on that seam pass he slapped away (receiver - Jackson? We can't remember).
  • Will Heller vs. Lance Briggs is not a matchup you should be trying to take advantage of with multiple passes.
  • We're trying to figure out -- when Berrian blew by Kelly Jennings, was there supposed to be any deep help there?
  • When Julian Peterson got the fumble, Cedric Darby was very smart to just fall on it. That's the kind of play where a lot of linemen try to scoop and score, and they can't because there are five guys falling all over each other and then the ball scoots out of bounds and the offense keeps it.
  • Who was the midget on the Chicago sidelines when they were debating the play during the timeout on fourth-and-1?
  • I will purchase any product that will buy time for a Super Bowl commercial that makes fun of John Mellencamp.

I definitely think that with Hasselbeck being injured, and the WR being injured, you've got timing issues where Hasselbeck looks for the hot read WR to be one place and the WR is somewhere else, and a lot of the bad throws are coming from that.

Bill Barnwell would like to point out that Shaun Alexander just scored on Doug's least favorite play, the third down draw. Although the third down draw in the red zone to Shaun Alexander is not as bad as the third down draw in the middle of the field to Mack Strong.

We also loved the corner to Deion Branch. Perfect pass: space on either side of the cornerback and safety in the Cover-2, right on the sideline.

Doug Farrar: I liked the way Seattle came out in the second half -- better run-pass balance, and high-percentage passes to Engram. That Briggs made a great stop on Alexander on third-and-1 to force the field goal doesn't negate that.

Great defensive stop against Chicago's first drive -- and a nice call to send everyone back and put the burden on the front four to get pressure on that third-and-long. They're susceptible against the run, but they're engineered to disrupt the pass.

Okay, everything I said last week about the "stupid" draw calls on third-and-long? I guess the Alexander TD that put the Seahawks ahead late in the third quarter is the one that shuts me up…

In my head, I'm hearing Stu Nahan say, "I've got to give that round to Balboa." The third quarter has been Seattle's. They have made up the halftime deficits in yards and time of possession with five minutes left in the quarter.

Aaron Schatz: Joe Buck: "That's the first catch for Jerramy Stevens ... I have to admit, I thought that Jerramy Stevens would play a much larger role in today's game." Somebody needs to start reading Football Outsiders...

Doug Farrar: Wow -- Hasselbeck throwing off his back foot to a covered Bobby Engram on the Manning interception. That was positively Eli-esque. A horrible play in the middle of two wonderful Seattle defensive stands.

That was a really stupid audible by Hasselbeck on the third-down play where he was sacked. He motions Heller (TE as FB) behind him and looks like he's trying to do some kind of play-action/sprint right option thing. Bad news.

Will Carroll: Alexander seems to be able to move to his left, but not his right. There has to be some equivalent to the hoops defense that makes a guy go to his weak hand on the dribble.

Doug Farrar: I'll put myself on the hook before the play happens and say that I completely disagree with the call to go for it on fourth down here. Holmgren is totally ignoring what his defense has done in the second half. Hope I'm wrong, but I think it's a really bad call.

Aaron Schatz: I agreed with the call. They were on the Bears side of the field. The play didn't work because of the bobbled snap, and Lance Briggs got great penetration anyway, but I agree with the call and even the specific play.

Doug Farrar: MDS, or anyone who's seen more Bears games than I have: Chicago's defense seems to have a weaknesses with any lags in timing on running plays. Was that the case before Harris got hurt?

Michael David Smith: I think Harris is the biggest part of it, Doug. I really think his injury set the Bears back a lot on defense.

Aaron Schatz: 24-24 with :24 left. FOX could not ask for a better free advertisement.

Doug Farrar: Every time the Seahawks get a good run from Alexander, they go back to him and get stuffed. I'd call that a tendency, Mr. Holmgren!

Well, I don't have much else to say except that I'll go "homer" for a minute and say that I didn't expect the Seahawks, with everything that's happened to them this year, to be within a play or two of the NFC Championship game. I'm proud of the team, and I'm personally ending the season, as a fan, with less of a hollow feeling than I did last year.

Aaron Schatz: Alexander was really great today. I said that there was always this little itchy feeling that Hasselbeck and/or Alexander would finally play like they did in 2005, and Alexander, at least, did. Like the Eagles, the Seahawks have nothing to feel awful about. They raised their game in the playoffs, and not everybody gets to win the Super Bowl.

Mike Tanier: On that third-down draw: The Bears had a six-man front and a nine-man box, then Urlacher and someone else bailed out into a Cover-2. I saw that against the Vikings and Bucs and wanted to write about it but didn't: they love showing a big box and counting on their linebackers to drop into coverage. I am sure Holmgren saw that and wondered how they would defend a draw while bailing so quickly into their zones.

Once in overtime and once before the half, the Seahawks showed a very vanilla coverage scheme to Grossman and dared him to beat it. Before half, they left a slot receiver uncovered in a hurry-up situation, and Grossman threw a slant for a good gain. In overtime, they left Russell Davis in single coverage on somebody (was it the loan officer, the hunter, the bail bondsman or Professor Plum) in a Cover-1 where the safety would be busy elsewhere, and Grossman hung it up for a 30-yard gain. Grossman makes mistakes but he isn't completely clueless.

You know what I want to write an article on? Cleats. Buck announced that the Bears were switching to 5/8th inch cleats after the first quarter. In five years, I predict that I will hear that some team switched from 1/5 inch to 129/256 inch cleats at halftime and it made the difference in the game.

Bill Barnwell: I predict some team goes to 12 inch cleats and stabs the opposition. Stab to win! Stab to win!!

Ned Macey: I have nothing to add about this game other than hell of a kick by Gould. I thought the Bears pulled a bit of a Marty there, but I guess it worked out.

I also think it was hilarious that Hasselbeck didn't go out for the coin toss. For all I know he never does, but with about two minutes left I started thinking about the "we're gonna score" line from the Green Bay game.

Complete aside, the Eagles organization is as good as any in football, but I really think they should have kept Al Harris. Can't help but think about it when they show the replay.

Grossman played pretty well. They definitely got in his head to throw the ball away when the pressure comes. He gets another weak secondary next week and should not be the problem. If the defense was still the best in the league, I'd like them by a touchdown next week.

Given how the defense is, are the Bears the favorite next week? That defense is nowhere near the defense they had pre-Tommy Harris injury. Should be a big day for Deuce up the middle.

New England Patriots 24 at San Diego Chargers 21

Tim Gerheim: One of my favorite plays in all of football is the short-yardage run where the back busts through the traffic at the line and gets into a fairly wide-open secondary for big yardage. Plays like that might be part of why Michael Turner looks so good by DPAR and yards per carry.

Michael David Smith: The announcers love to throw around the phrase "football move" without defining it because they don't know what it means. And neither do I.

Bill Barnwell: A football move is any move that would require you to press a non-directional pad button to initiate it in Madden.

Tim Gerheim: Did the Chargers stop blitzing on that touchdown drive at the end of the half? They couldn't get any pressure, and it seemed like their pass rush was a lot less diverse and creative than the rest of the half.

Aaron Schatz: Yes. We all noticed that too. Shawne Merriman didn't come in that last drive except for one time, and they had Matt Light on him one-on-one and he almost got to Brady.

That was some SWEET blocking by Marcus McNeill, especially on the Turner run. He actually is handling Seymour one-on-one on a good number of plays.

Nobody at Ian's house understands why Marty went for it on fourth-and-11 from the 30. I believe in going for it on fourth but 11 to go???? You spent a third round pick on Nate Kaeding and don't feel you can trust him from 48 yards???

Then the Pats kick the 50 on fourth-and-2 from the 32 instead of going for it. Weird.

When the Pats big blitzed on third-and-7, I thought for sure Rivers would find Gates open for a huge gain. Shocked that they got to Rivers.

Prior to that last drive, my summary of this game was: both QBs look rattled but their two RB are much better than our two RB. But this looks a little different at 14-10 than it did at 14-3.

No matter who wins though this is the third straight GREAT game this weekend. Only the Colts-Ravens was sort of boring at times and head-scratchingly crappy at others.

Michael David Smith: When Merriman does blitz, both Light and Kaczur have gotten the better of him. He's been on both sides of the line and he's not having a good day at all today.

Tim Gerheim: I don't think Rivers has been bad at all. He definitely seems to have outplayed Brady. Unless all the drops by the Chargers wideouts are due to some quirky thing that he's doing with his throws, Rivers is doing very well. This looks a lot like your typical Pats-Colts playoff game, but with the Pats playing the role of the Colts.

The Chargers receivers pretty much suck today. That was tough on that deep pass to Vincent Jackson, but you have to get your foot in if you're an NFL wideout.

Aaron Schatz: Brady is awful today. Just terrible. He threw the second INT off his back foot, and he just missed a WIDE open Ben Watson. He's getting time to throw and he just looks awful.

And where did the running game go? The Pats have given up on it almost entirely. There have been some wide around blitzes here by SD on first and second down where a draw would get big yardage.

Michael David Smith: I thought missing Watson was his worst throw of the day. That could have been a game-changing play, and the throw wasn't even close.

How did they pick up the flag when Tomlinson facemasked Colvin after the interception? It clearly was a facemask, and the official who threw the flag had a clear line of sight. Who talked him out of it, and why?

Aaron Schatz: OK, we're trying to figure out how you can put your fingers in a guy's facemask and not get a facemask penalty because it wasn't, what, "grabby" enough?

If you are going to punt on fourth-and-2, why not take a Delay of Game and punt five yards back and keep your timeout?

Michael David Smith: I was just thinking the same thing. When you're behind by one point in the fourth quarter and you're facing the choice between losing a timeout and losing five yards, that seems like a really obvious choice to me, but apparently the Patriots disagree.

Clutch interception by Brady.

Mike Tanier: Yep. Belichick is a genius for calling the pick-and-fumble on fourth-and-5. And Schottenheimer's a choke artist for not anticipating it.

Aaron Schatz: OK, you got me. McCree intercepts a bad pass. The Pats strip it and recover. Marty challenges that he was down by contact? The ball is so obviously stripped before he's down by contact. And if the Pats are going to go for it on fourth there, why not run on third-and-5? Why does Brady not even scramble for 1-2 yards? And where the hell are Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney?

Tim Gerheim: I think Marty was just throwing shit at the wall trying to see what would stick. Challenging was another example of Marty getting panicky.

This game is amazing. It really feels like the Chargers have annihilated the Patriots, yet as I write this it's a two-point conversion away from being tied.

Aaron Schatz: I'm in a room of Pats fans, and if the Pats hold LT to six yards we're all clapping and saying "good play, good play." He's that good.

Tim Gerheim: Simms is praising Vincent Jackson's physique, or something. Here would be my summary: Body of steel, hands of stone.

Michael David Smith: Are those GMC Keys to Victory supposed to be a parody of idiotic sportscasters or something? Wow, you mean making big plays on offense and stopping the run on defense will help a team win? I didn't know that.

Tim Gerheim: Those were EXACTLY the same keys to victory as for the Colts-Chiefs game.

Aaron Schatz: What can you say about Stephen Gostkowski. He's money in the playoffs.

Vin Gauri: So after the Pats tie the game at 21, SD takes over at its own 29. First down, six yards for Tomlinson. Check. Second down, pass to Jackson which he drops. Um, okay. Third down, pass to Parker batted away by Samuel. Huh? Simms mentioned something about the Pats not letting Gates get the ball (I didn't see replay of the pre-snap coverage, so maybe he's right), but don't you have to at least let LT touch the ball again before you punt?

Tim Gerheim: I know it's hindsight, but if the Chargers hadn't challenged that McCree fumble that didn't have anything that even looked challenge-worthy, that field goal would have been the first play after the two-minute warning. Maybe that 45 seconds isn't important, but it sure seems like it would be nice.

Aaron Schatz: Watching the Chargers try to bait the Pats into a 15-yard flag is embarrassing, especially Rivers' little flop.

Tim Gerheim: OK, I defy anyone to explain this game with anything other than magic beans or "clutch."

Aaron Schatz:That was amazing, I love my team, and we totally did not deserve to win that game over a better team. And I'm not looking forward to yet another week of Colts-Pats crap.

Pat Laverty: Didn't deserve to win? Just because of the interception/fumble lucky play? Other than that, it was straight football. The Parker muff, that's football. I heard the San Diego police have issued an APB for Antonio Gates. Anyone seen him today? Coming into the game, I knew there would be problems stopping both LT and Gates, but I thought it'd be the other way around. I thought there'd be more of a focus on LT, and less on Gates. But you didn't hear either Bruschi or Gates' name being called very often, so I was guessing that it was Bruschi who neutralized him. I don't have a tape of the game to go back and watch either. LT had a typical LT game, Rivers didn't have a horrible game, yeah Brady had three picks, but to say they didn't deserve to win? I'm not so sure I'd agree with that. Phil Simms really hypnotized you today, it seems.

Aaron Schatz: Also, if they blame this on Schottenheimer that will suck because except for 4th-and-11 he did nothing wrong.

Mike Tanier: Except for the fourth-and-11 he did nothing wrong, and if his defensive back holds onto the interception it's a Chargers win. Of course, that fourth-and-11 was pretty mysterious.

I agree with Tim's point about the extra timeout instead of the challenge, but the coaches might have said, "Look, we need a timeout to regroup after that fluke play, so we might as well challenge at the same time and hope for a miracle."

And I am with Aaron. Patriots-Colts rhetoric. Hooray Hooray.

Michael David Smith: Disagree about Schottenheimer. Should have given it to LT more, shouldn't have wasted the timeout on the challenge, shouldn't have allowed Rivers to waste another timeout, etc. I think he coached himself out of a job tonight.

Russell Levine: I think we've seen the last of Marty. Whether it was his fault or not, I believe this is the third time he's had the no. 1 seed and not won a playoff game. I just don't see how they can bring him back and present him to their fanbase as the coach that can get them to the Super Bowl.

Weird, weird game, but I was almost positive at halftime the Pats would win. The Chargers dominated for 28 minutes yet barely led -- never a good sign with a team with no history of playoff success going against one with all kinds of it. Especially when you add in the Marty factor.

I was really shocked how poorly Brady played for much of the game. Simms kept harping about the pressure, but several of his worst throws came when he actually had some time. Yet when they really, really needed one, he uncorked that beautiful deep ball down the right sidelines to set up the game-winner.

San Diego should have spiked the ball after their first long completion on the final drive. They wasted 20+ seconds trying to get the next play off. You have to trade a down for time there.

Michael David Smith: The Chargers' clock management was atrocious, and clock management is one of those things that I really think the coaches have to get the vast majority of the credit or blame for. It sounds like Russ and I saw this game completely differently from Mike and Aaron. I'm curious to hear other thoughts, but I really think if it's ever OK to fire a 14-2 coach, now is that time.

Bill Moore: How? How? How does Brady throw the ball like crap for series after series and then just throw bullets, only to turn around and look like shit again. Only to turn around and do it all over again? Magic Beans? Maybe he was down to only a few left and did a "break glass in case of emergency."

What was with LT at the end of that game? Did someone get in his grill or was he the instigator?

Russell Levine: It looked like LT was just reacting in frustration after the Pats were wolfing it up pretty good.

I caught one Pats player, not sure who it was, running towards the SD bench grabbing his throat in the choke sign. My guess is LT was pissed off, and maybe somebody said something and he just wanted to get out of there.

It was a fairly testy game. Those were two HUGE personal fouls the Chargers took in the fourth quarter -- the idiotic head butt and then who knows what happened on that extra point.

I'm no real fan of either team but I'm already fatigued from the coming Pats-Colts hype. If the Pats win, maybe San Diego and Indy can trade head coaches. They might both get axed.

And I fully expect Schottenheimer to get fired -- I wasn't exaggerating. He's not on the best of terms with the front office anyway. I think there were some hard feelings over the Brees/Rivers thing.

Aaron Schatz: They were interviewing LT after the game and he is very angry about the Pats players doing the Shawne Merriman dance. He said it was low class. But what's weird is that he blamed Belichick for it. That was really odd.

As far as Schottenheimer, there were clock management issues, sure, but it should never have been an issue to begin with. The Chargers players blew it, plus the awful luck. Schottenheimer gave it to LT plenty, and LT got plenty of yards. I certainly thought Belichick gave up on the run more than Schottenheimer did.

Ned Macey: They can fire Schottenheimer if it helps the team going forward but firing him for his performance today is inane. They averaged 5.2 to 4.4 yards per play. Tomlinson was dominant against a team with a strong run defense. His young QB didn't play great but didn't make the killer mistake. His one interception was a great individual play by Colvin. The Patriots (like the Colts) picked up all five fumbles. The interception on fourth down-to-10-yard gain is one of the luckiest plays in recent NFL history. His defense made Brady, the greatest playoff quarterback of the past 15 years play terrible. He threw three picks and could easily have had another one or two. Schottenheimer outcoached Belichick. His team, which weighted DVOA said was roughly equivalent, played MUCH better.

In a losing effort, I'd like to mention Scifres who did an excellent job giving the Chargers superior field position all game.

Pat Laverty: Marty very unnecessarily wasted a timeout on the challenge that he lost. That's one more clock stoppage they would have had at the end there.

And if you want to talk about great punters, look at what Sauerbrun did for the Patriots today. I think that might have been the greatest day a Patriots punter has had in years. One shank and the Chargers put up another score and they win.

And I even said at the time, you've been going away from Samuel all game long, why do you think you should go after him in such a must have spot? I didn't get that decision by Rivers. I know Simms said it was because it was a one on one matchup, but yeah, that's Samuel's job to be all alone with a receiver.

Mike Tanier: Fire Schottenheimer after three straight winning seasons because his team lost because McCree fumbled a game-winning interception. What website am I working for?

Russell Levine: I'm not arguing that he should be fired on the merits of that game, I'm arguing that he will be fired. He and GM don't get along. The butted heads over Brees/Rivers.

That's a tenuous fan base -- ticket sales have been dicey unless the team is really good, and they're desperately trying to get a stadium built. The whole football watching world thinks that Marty is a boob in the playoffs who will never get a team to the Super Bowl. If you're th GM, trying to tell your fans to buy tickets because Marty is THE guy that can get them to a Super Bowl is a really tough sell.

I know they were tremendously unlucky yesterday. Marty was also unlucky in "the dive" and "the fumble". But at some point, his history trumps the fact that they dominated the Pats yesterday. Three times he's lost his first playoff game with the no. 1 seed. Even yesterday, they seemed a little tentative, and it was the Chargers, not the Pats, that made the killer mistakes: the personal fouls, the clock mismanagement. To me it all adds up to a team that will be looking for a new coach.

Later This Week

Any Given Saturday: Colts over Ravens
Every Play Counts: Bears defensive line

Posted by: admin on 15 Jan 2007

406 comments, Last at 18 Jan 2007, 11:38pm by erik

Comments

1
by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 1:52pm

"Deserves got nothin' to do with it."

Brady stunk it up generally, so did the running game, but the Pats put together a couple of drives, take advantage of a couple mistakes and get the win.

I'll be curious to see the DVOA for the game. So, if the Pats play like they did today, and the Colts play like they did against the Chiefs, who wins?

2
by hector (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 1:53pm

I was hoping you guys would mock Joe Buck for his cluelessness with respect to fractions.

Interesting that the four teams with higher YPC averages all lost this weekend. Yup, run and stop the run, the king of all knee-jerk couch analysis. Of course we'll hear it all this week nonetheless.

I've still yet to hear what Belichick did that upset LT. Anyone got the 411 there?

3
by jim's apple pie (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 1:53pm

Actually, I think that the biggest question the league needs to answer in the offseason is this: what exactly constitutes a completed pass? Because this is starting to get ridiculous. I'm a Chargers fan and even I thought that the first pass to Parker was a completion and a fumble. There have been numerous challenges throughout the year where I thought it seemed obvious that control had been established and the refs still ruled them incompletions. What the hell is the football move nonsense? It's determined differently by every official, and that is bad for the game. Most people will get comfortable with any rule that is made, as long as it is applied consistently. But any time that a player has enough control to tuck the ball next to their body and take a step, it should be a completion.

4
by jim's apple pie (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 1:57pm

re: 2

LT was upset that after the missed field goal, one or more of the Patriots players (I think Ellis Hobbs was specifically mentioned) took their helmets off, went to the Chargers sign at the center of the field, and did Merriman's Lights Out dance over and over again. It wasn't shown own television, but it sounds like this is what drew the penalty flag.

5
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:01pm

Two more potential Marty-isms:

(1) Pats' Ellis Hobbs gets injured and the refs call an injury timeout. Yet when the teams come to the line after the injury timeout, SD calls a timeout. Huh?

(2) Pats beat writer Mike Felger at the Herald says he was watching the SD sideline after the INT/fumble and saw Rivers looking at the jumbotron, running over to Marty, and then Marty throwing the challenge flag without waiting to hear from his pressbox guys.

6
by Papa Narb (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:01pm

First!

Anyway, just wanted to point out that I think the basic difference between the Colts playoff D and regular season D is tackling. Colts were in position in the regular season games, they just had multiple whiffs.

7
by Papa Narb (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:04pm

re: 4

I think it's highly amusing that LT is upset at the Pats showing up the Chargers by mocking a player whose dance shows up the QB he just sacked.

8
by PhillyCWC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:05pm

Mike, good points about the Eagles. When the punting unit trotted out on 4th and 15, though, I could not believe my eyes and felt as though I would have a stroke. That just seems to sum up Andy Reid & Co. in a nutshell, unfortunately - one bonehead play outweighs months and months of great coaching and player management and exciting games.

GO BIRDS!

9
by Kyle (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:08pm

From ProFootballTalk.com:

After thumping the Pats by the score of 41-17 and shattering the team's 21-game home winning streak, the Chargers were not exactly humble.

"That's a [butt]-whipping," said defensive coordinator Wade Phillips in an article penned by Tom Curran, who at the time wrote for the Providence Journal and who works for NBCSports.com.

Cornerback Drayton Florence (or is it Florence Drayton?) was less tactful: "F--k New England and their team," he said, before turning to a "collection of onlookers" and adding: "Get the look of shock off your faces. Don't be shocked. We beat your [butt]."

Seems the Chargers need to STFU.

10
by jim's apple pie (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:09pm

re: 7

Almost every single player in football does a little celebration after making a good play. Sometimes even if the play isn't even that good. Merriman's is more creative and distinctive than most. What the Pats did was obviously different and if you thinking that celebrating after making a play is always "mocking" than maybe you shouldn't be watching football.

11
by jim's apple pie (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:16pm

re: 9

Obviously, you're not familiar with "context" or maybe you just don't remember the situation last year, but prior to that game everybody in the media was polishing the knobs of the Patriots and Brady and nobody was giving the Chargers a chance. The Patriots fans were saying things like "After we beat San Diego..." and "Do they even play football on the West Coast?" etc. I'm not surprised that they released a little frustration after it was over. Phillips' comment isn't even that out of the ordinary, although I would prefer it if Florence would keep such sentiments to himself or the locker room.

12
by Seth (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:17pm

I know Garcia’s numbers aren’t necessarily indicative of any great professional rebirth, and his regular-season DPAR is worse than Eli Manning’s...

Isn't DPAR a counting stat? Garcia had 0.4 fewer DPAR, on 331 (!!) fewer passes. Although somehow I feel like this tells us more about Manning than Garcia.

13
by David (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:18pm

On Schottenheimer and the 4th down interception: I've heard it on this site billions upon billions of times - on forth down, you don't catch the ball. You bat it to the ground and take over on downs. You can't blame Marty for the fumble, but you can blame him for not drilling that into his players' skulls (a lesser sin, sure, but he's not entirely blameless).

14
by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:22pm

On the head-butt personal foul, I honestly couldn't tell from the angle on the TV whether it was actually a head-butt, or whether the SD player was just trying to get up in the other guy's face. If he was actually trying to head-butt him, though, that was a terrible job. Get your money's worth for the 15 yards.

15
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:22pm

I don't blame McCree for catching the ball. It's so drilled in to DBs to make the INT. But he has to go down, or at least wrap the ball with two hands before trying to advance it.

16
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:22pm

Re: 10.

This sort of reminds me how when Ocho Cinco did one of his touchdown celebrations, everyone was like "Oh, that's hilarious! Chad does it again. He's taken it to a new level." But when TO does something similar, it's a stain on the game, a classless, egotistical, brash, me-first move.

If it's classless for the Patriots to mock Merriman's "sack dance", a dance Merriman does not to merely celebrate - celebration is simply a high five, or jumping up, or whatever - but that he does to show up the quarterback and the opposition, and to ham it up for the fans (who also love showing up the opposition), and to get some "ME ME ME" camera time for himself, then the dance itself is classless, whether it's done by Merriman or the Patriots.

It's fine if LT thinks it's classless for the Patriots to do that - perhaps it was, I didn't see it - but he should start by going to his own teammate and suggesting he start by perhaps not dancing after every play he makes.

17
by cabbage (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:26pm

#2. Yeah the whole "What's bigger, 1/2 or 5/8ths?" comment from Buck was probably the dumbest thing I heard the whole day.

It took away from a fairly insightful point. There was new sod down on Solider Field, and there had been some rain the night before. The Seahawks decided to go with the longer cleats after they walked around the field, but the Bears players never tried out the new turf, and stuck with their normal cleat sizes. A few Bears fell down in the first quarter, so the switch wasn't suprising.

It was very suprising that the home team would be caught with the wrong shoes on.

18
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:28pm

Yeah, Marty might get fired, and the Chargers will be worse for it, unless they get really lucky in hiring the next guy. He ain't perfect, but his worst shortcomings in his career are bad luck and HOF opponents, from John Elway, to Ernest Byner fumbling, to yesterday's weirdness. Make no doubt about it, the same guy who coached three franchises to number one seeds (which is a tremendous achievement) is the guy who is supposedly so awful in the playoffs. Yeah, he has his faults, but coaches who are better aren't exactly plentiful.

As to other stuff, Bush still has weaknesses, but he also just does stuff that should not be possible against an NFL defense. Methinks that if Lovie Smith believes that the terrific speed of the Bears linebackers will obviate any need to take special care when defensing Bush, Lovie is in for some unhappy experiences. It will be a very interesting, and close, game, I think.

Hey, maybe I'm unusual, but I thought the Ravens/Colts game was a lot of fun to watch. Not that I have clue about the Colts' defense at this point, of course.

19
by Darrel Michaud (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:28pm

Re: "When did Bush turn it on?"

I think Bush got a bit unlucky earlier in the year. Remember his negative runs in the Eagles game? -6 on a toss that was dead on the snap. It seems like he runs a lot of plays where he's met in the backfield. Maybe it's because they do a lot of tosses, draws, misdirections and stuff where he lines up deep in the backfield and it takes a while to develop. One time he lost 4 because Bree and Bush ran into each other.

Bush's stats really improved starting in Week 10 - the game after the Tampa game. That was his 15 yard TD on the reverse, the one where he was in the air for about 6 yards of it.

Next came the Cincy game where he was 13/51 on a bad run defense, but he did show signs of improvement. Next was the ATL game where he was used sparingly.

If there was any moment when I knew - absolutely, positively knew - that Reggie Bush was alive was against the 49ers. It wasn't the first touchdown he scored, but the play he did to get down there. On a 3rd and 7 from the San Francisco 15, the Saints ran little pass play designed to just give it to Reggie and hope he can make something happen. He only gained 11 yards, but it was magnificent.

The Saints lined up in a pro formation with Reggie and Deuce in the backfield. Drew Brees was in a shotgun, with the backs behind him. Three wide receivers lined up, with Colston and Jammal Jones stacked left and Devery Henderson right.

On the snap, Reggie and Deuce crossed in the backfield. Deuce chipped a rusher as Jamar Nesbit ran to throw a block downfield on the screen pass. Bush gets the ball at the 22, and the first player to him is Marcus Hudson. Bush jukes him out of his shorts. It's one of those plays on NBA Street where you do a move so good that the player falls over - Marcus Hudson actually fell trying to keep up.

Chad Williams and Bryant Young more or less just watched Bush glide by them, as they had no chance at a tackle.

He's finally touched by Mark Roman, who meets him at the 6. Bush left his feet and Roman caught him. Bush comes down and actually shakes him off. He runs right into Sammy Davis who stands him up as Walt Harris assists. Bush drags them from the 5 to the 1.

Bush scored the next play. He also scored 3 more times, 2 of them just absolutely sick. He also had that 60-something yard screen pass that he just lost the ball on.

There have been flashes of it all season - a Falcons run that he needed one block on to break it, the Tampa return, etc. But that was the play that I knew he'd turned the light on.

The Giants game was his coming out party as a runner - and he was first in DPAR that week.

I'd love to see a DPAR break down of Weeks 10-17.

20
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:30pm

Bill Barnwell:Peyton’s made a couple of throws tonight that have been ugly — in the face of pressure, off his back foot, chucks to no one or nowhere in particular (the one that Reed caught out of bounds specifically comes to mind).

Who does that remind you of? Mm hmm…

Is this supposed to remind me of Eli Manning, which it could, or of Ben Roethlisberger, of the "2006 Colts are 2005 Steelers" meme? Of course, Ben tended not to do this so much last year.

If the 06 Colts fit the 05 Steelers template, then they'll squeak past the Patriots mostly on D, after which the D will revert to type against Chicago (it will be the NFC's #1 seed) and Peyton will tear it up in a shootout which goes Indy's way in equal part due to Grossman interceptions and bad officiating. Could be fun.

Not that I'm saying this will happen. But I will have retroactively predicted it in advance if it does :-)

21
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:30pm

Michael David Smith: Dan Dierdorf has been impressed by two things so far:

No, there was a third. Apparently, a play where Moorehead turned what would have been a huge completion into an incompletion because he couldn't catch the ball cleanly, was "the best catch you'll ever see".

22
by James, London (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:32pm

As a Miami fan, I really hope the Chargers fire Marty. So we can hire him immediately. Losing at home as the top seed would represent progress on a lavish scale.

Having said that, I thought the challenge on the INT/fumble was wasted, and said so in the game thread, while count me as someone who thought SD should have run another paly before the missed FG. The ball goes to the sideline or nowhere, and you either have a shorter (45ish yd) FG, or the same kick you missed anyway.

SD must still be shaking their heads and wondering how they lost a game they dominated. I know I am. Now we get a week of fatuous Brady/Manning crap, semi-permanent WordPress errors, and New England have a great chance to win another SB. Frankly it sucks.

23
by Mike W (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:35pm

Urlacher is very fast and a very good tackler, but if you can get any guy in front of him, it's into the secondary for your RB. When Harris went out, that started to happen a lot more. McAllister will have a big day.

God I hope Indy wins. I can't take another week/year of hosannas for Belichick and Brady. Jee-sus the Pats were lucky, and it's all going to be guts and brains and intangibles in the media.

Saints and Colts both by a TD.

24
by cd6 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:35pm

Are we not doing a link to MMQB anymore?
I know everybody always just complains about it, but reading it is basically a ritual on Mondays for me.

(When I say reading "it" I mean reading the MMQB discussion thread... I usually just skim over the actual article)

25
by James, London (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:35pm

Regarding the Joe Buck comment on Jerramy Stevens, is anyone else suprised that Desmond Clark didn't figure more in the passing game? Seattle were 26th defending passes against the TE. I know he got hurt early, but it didn't look serious and he played the rest of the game. The Bears just didn't throw to him.

26
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:35pm

I think all this discussion about dancing is a bit silly... I hate Merriman's dance... so when someone mocks it, it's funny. We loved it when the Pats mocked TO... so we get all upset when they anger LDT?

I haven't seen the Pats much this year, but to me they are the Jets on steroids. I didn't realize how similar the teams were. The Jets have a better defense, but the Pats seem to have a much better offense. Both seem to run the same dink-dunk offense, Brady admittedly has a better arm than Pennington. The style of play is wait until the other team makes a mistake and then capitalize.... is this a poor characterization?

Maybe this describes all successful teams.

In 5 year no one will remember Troy Brown's strip of McCree however... everyone will remember Brady's TD pass and the 2 point conversion... unless they lose one of the next 2 days.

I think you guys gave way too much credit to NE. Gates was open most of the day, the San Diego passing game really gave this one away. It really did seem like the Pats were mugging LDT when he went out for passes, and on that last 3rd down pass to Parker, Samuel had both hands on Parker's shoulders he made his break... at least 5 yards down the field.

A lot of people were complaining about OT holds to Merriman... not sure if there is merit or not... but I didn't really see it (wasn't watching all that close so I missed a lot of close-up replays).

NE must've had crazy field position in the second half...

27
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:36pm

I’m a Chargers fan and even I thought that the first pass to Parker was a completion and a fumble. There have been numerous challenges throughout the year where I thought it seemed obvious that control had been established and the refs still ruled them incompletions.

You need more than control and two feet in. If you are being tacked as the ball arrives, you need to maintain possession of the ball until you hit the ground. Otherwise, it's an incomplete pass.

28
by chris clark (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:37pm

Thank you. This was the best audibles I have ever read. It feels like you have fixed everything I have ever complained about. Truly great writing about the games and your perspectives.

29
by azibuck (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:39pm

I think there was something fishy about the chain crew in the CHI-SEA game.
It was on the “measurement� on the series where CHI tied the game at 24. The one where Gerry Austin signalled 4th down, Fox went to commercial, then came back on and said they measured and CHI got the 1st.
I rolled the Tivo back and watched the sequence:
CHI gets a first down at EXACTLY the SEA 39. Fox clearly shows the ball resting ON the 39 as the OL comes up and Kreutz takes the ball.
On the following 3rd down play, CHI appears to be stopped short, the official is shown spotting the ball at the 29 and a half. Austin signals 4th down.
After the commercial and Buck just announcing there was a measurement and the line to gain was achieved, Fox shows the ball still at the 29 and a half.
You can check my previous posts, I’m a Cowboys fan and I don’t care one way or the other, in fact, I preferred CHI win. But can someone check me on this? Am I crazy? It may not have mattered, but it’s not right and is no small matter.
It might not be the chain gang that messed up. One of the officials is in charge of spotting the chain on measurements.

30
by Dash (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:40pm

As a Saints fan, I was ecstatic, although completely shocked, that the Eagles' punting unit came on 4th & 15... before that and after the unthinkable pitch call, I was in full "we're the Saints, watch us blow this game" panic. Thanks a bunch, Andy Reid!

31
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:40pm

cabbage:

They mentioned this on the broadcast that the Bears players didn't want to see the field until game day as per their regular schedule. FWIW.

I continue to find it bizarre that Brian Billick STILLS get described as an "offensive mastermind/genius" based on his work with the 1998(!) Vikings. 'Cause the Ravens have never been particularly thrilling moving the ball with Billick as head coach.

I asked in the game thread and ask again here, where was Dawkins? I remember him in two plays, tacking DM after the first big run and pushing Henderson out of bounds after a long pass. I assume he was designated to play centerfield under all circumstances. But I honestly don't even remember him showing up on the TV except for the cameos mentioned. How does the best defensive player in the NFC get gameplanned out of existence??

Folks talk about Grossman being tough but the guy gets in trouble backpedaling as he fades away from contact. I am not being mean because a LOT of qbs do that. QBs will SOMETIMES stand in there but just as often they will toss up a lame duck shying from contact. Hasselbeck certainly did. And for a guy who has been a QB for some time and is coached by the supposed guru of QBs that interception was the WORST throw possible. Wow. And does Brian Urlacher EVER get tired? Playing defense, calling the defense, playing special teams the guy is EVERYWHERE flying to the ball. That tackle on the TE where he came across the field to drag the guy down and prevent the first down was more impressive then the pass breakup early in the game. I have seen him play any number of times and the guy continues to amaze. No chance that Briggs hits free agency. The Bears have GOT to franchise him. Right? Not that he wouldn't look great in a GB uniform.

Not much to add on the Chargers/pats game. Just as much as I want to cut Marty slack his team played REALLY dumb at the wrong times. And the timeout thing in the second half was KILLER. Did Parker have money on the Pats? Just a dreadful performance. Rivers started throwing the ball softer and softer hoping his guys could catch it if he just LAAAAAIIIIIDDDD it in there.

Great games. Just great.

32
by The MOOSE (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:41pm

Re #1: The NFC. If the Pats and Colts continue to play below their ability they will go into the Super Bowl with the media saying it'll be the AFC no contest but the NFC will have plenty of reason to believe they can put together a 1-game plan to win.

33
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:42pm

When a player has a pre-planned celebration routine like Merriman's, it has the effect of showing up the opponent. Now, I really don't care that much for the NFL's close policing of coordinated celebrations, and I like Tomlinson, but it is ridiculous for him to complain about opponents mocking his teammate's celebratioh routine. If it is so painful to have a teammates's celebration routine mocked, tell the teammate to can the celebration routine. Boo freakin' hoo.

34
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:47pm

Pet peeve of a "catch".

There are times the "going to the ground" rule makes sense, and times it doesn't. For instance, Eric Parker catches the ball, gets 2 feet in, falls down, and as he hits out of bounds the ball moves. I know "by rule" that is an incomplete, but I don't like that a player can catch and maintain control while inbounds, hit out of bounds (which should make the play dead) and then have it ruled incomplete.

I can see if he LOSES possession of the ball why it would be incomplete, but Parker still had possession... he just lost control for half a second. Now if he is able to lose control after hitting out of bounds, he should be able to re-establish it while out of bounds. That ball never hit the ground... so why should it be incomplete?

35
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:50pm

Am I the only one who thinks that the right thing to do on 4th and 11 was not to attempt the FG, but to punt? Scifres had been pinning the Pats inside the 5 on every punt up until then, and Schottenheimer allowed the field position advantage to flip.

36
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:51pm

Ned,

The Colts ran a flea flicker somewhere in the past 5 years or so with Edge very convincingly running almost into the line before turning and pitching back to Manning. 30 +/- yard TD IIRC.

Maybe it was before they got the stretch working to perfection and Edge had a few more up-the-gut runs in his repertoire. The fact that it stands out in memory says a lot, though. Two FFs in five years.... and Addai's sole halfback pass on a sweep to the left earlier this year (a lefty... tricky tricky tricky...) And a fake punt or two in recent memory (Hunter Smith was a HS QB)

37
by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:56pm

Aaron:

They were interviewing LT after the game and he is very angry about the Pats players doing the Shawne Merriman dance. He said it was low class. But what’s weird is that he blamed Belichick for it. That was really odd.

Because many of us believe that Belichick gives his team a blank check to mock their opponents after a win provided they keep their mouths shut before the game. The Patriots players love to run their mouths after wins.

Mocking your opponent = poor sportsmanship.

The constant mocking is probably the most dislikable thing about the Patriots, aside from their tired whiny "nobody believed in us" line. Its like watching an entire team full of TO-like showboats after a game.

Did you catch the Colts mocking the Ravens, the Saints mocking the Eagles, or the Bears mocking the Seahawks after their games? No, I didn't either.

38
by Joseph (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:57pm

Re: F*** da Eagles shirt: I kind of wondered in what way the busty blonde meant for that to be taken. Westbrook did look tired in the 1st half.

39
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:57pm

Tim Gerheim: .... This looks a lot like your typical Pats-Colts playoff game, but with the Pats playing the role of the Colts.

Actually, it reminded me a lot of the Patriots/Broncos game one year ago this week, with the Chargers playing the role of the 2005 Patriots.

40
by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:58pm

BadgerT1000:

I asked in the game thread and ask again here, where was Dawkins? How does the best defensive player in the NFC get gameplanned out of existence??

By having him play while sick with the flu.

41
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:58pm

Re: New England's Capitalization of Luck
I had this discussion with someone on the IRC chat. I was saying, "Patriots were good enough to capitalize on their good fortune of non-predictive events..." but he argued that the non-predictive events (I think moreso penalties) were the reason the Pats were even in the game...

I think it seems to cut both ways, but its two different ways of looking at it.

Re: 4th and 11
I thought the correct thing would've been to try the FG... Belichek was in the same situation and he took 3 points easy. After the Pats scored I thought... "Those 3 points might not seem all that big, and you win by scoring TDs... but it could end up being huge".

Also... we haven't talked about the long pass play to Caldwell. How lucky is it that he ended up stumbling out of bounds and not scoring? I was hoping he would score and leave some more time on the clock.

I think San Diego suffered by not having Malcolm Floyd and Keenan McCardell available... not sure how much McCardell was thrown to, but he had more catches than Jackson during the season, and Floyd had been able to make some good catches too. I think Floyd was injured (ankle, on IR), and so was McCardell (lingering calf injury)... heck even Parker was injured (neck). They have solid players and solid depth... but not having those guys available was bigger than it looked... the one person who was strangely quiet was not Gates but Monomonolao...

Was it me or did the Chargers stop running left behind McNeil in the 2nd half?

42
by Paralis (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:01pm

The Chargers (to this Redskins fan) are the team in the NFL best built to compete over the next 3-4 years. They're young everywhere except at FB and ILB, they've got great depth across the board, and they've got a ton of cap space going forward. If Smith and Marty get fired, whoever replaces them is going to have a credible shot at winning the Super Bowl the next two years with no roster turnover at all.

With that in mind, the Chargers should just go ahead and hire Tee Martin.

(Watching the game, I thought that Merriman was being held often and obviously by both Light and Kaczur. I'm waiting for an HD cap to go back and verify my impressions before I write down any thoughts on the game.)

43
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:03pm

Andrew:

Thanks. Maybe they mentioned it on the broadcast and if so I missed it completely.

Every time some backup TE would catch a ball from Brees in the middle of the field I was thinking, "Where was Dawkins?" Typically he is right THERE.

44
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:07pm

I also mentioned in the Philly/NO game thread that it seemed like the refs collectively decided to just NOT call offensive holding this weekend. I know the Saints and Eagles line both were hooking guys with impunity. NE/SD was on the same level. The other games a tad less.

A lineman had to almost decapitate someone before a flag would fly. Walter Jones had Alex Brown in a headlock on one play where right after the play Brown mimicked what happened to the ref and it looked like he was hanging himself.

45
by cd6 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:07pm

24 Nevermind, it's up now.

As I stated in the game thread, the team that scored first won 7 of the 8 first round playoff games. (At the time, it was 6 of 7, obviously.) When he went for it on 4th and 11, Marty passed up the chance to score first.

Also of note, the home team only won 6 of 8. (Colts and Patriots' wins in the divisional round being the exceptions.)

46
by C (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:08pm

Brain Dawkins had a cold. I don't think he played poorly, just didn't make any big plays.

In terms of Reid's playcalling, I think the goal line calls of two passes instead of running for 1/2 a yard and getting the first down was bad. The 4th and 15 punt, I can understand more. If the defense makes a stop, you are still in the game. Fourth and 15 is a very, very low percentage play. Stopping NO, who is going to run three times for clock purposes, and then going "two minute" offense for a tying/winning score is higher percentage.

47
by Mike Holmgren's soaked Kleenex (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:10pm

Doug Farrar: Hmmm… a moronic holding call by Bill Leavy’s crew early in the fourth quarter that pretty much killed a huge drive? In the postseason? I’ve never seen THAT before!

Are you still crying about that? Give me a break. It. Was. A. Hold. End of story. Only a complete Seahawks homer could see it as anything else.

48
by Cameron (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:12pm

Warning: Pats homer. Take salt (1 grain) before continuing.

RE Gerheim: "I defy anyone to explain this game without using the words 'magic beans' and 'clutch'."

How about "smashmouth" or "never-say-die"? Brady played like crap, but NE earned this one. LDT had a bunch of great plays but never destroyed the defense. Gates was a non-factor. Merriman got (largely) handled. The officials didn't deliver the game to either team.

NE did what a winning team does: prevent the other team from executing their plans and plays, and keep fighting until the end. SD couldn't deal with it (cf. Manning, Martz, Dungy, Oakland).

SD had several chances to put the game away but couldn't, and they finally completely fell apart after the freakish pick + fumble. It was a tough play. So what?

The white shirts are still only at the 32 yard line! There's only 6:32 left in the 4th quarter! You're up by 8 points and you've stuffed NE all day! Obviously, it's time to panic, call a stupid challenge and then give up the TD *and* the 2-point conversion.

In other news, there will always be a place at my dinner table for Troy Brown.

49
by Kyle (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:14pm

Mike and the Mad Dog interviewed San Diego's local color commentator on their gameday radio broadcast on Friday, Lee "The Hacksaw" Something. He, along with everyone else, expected Marty to get fired if the Chargers lost on Sunday. He went much farther than that, however. As mentioned, AJ Smith and Marty hate each other. Smith hired Wade Phillips as the Defensive Coordinator before the 2004 season, expecting that after another losing season, he could finally fire Marty and install Phillips as the head coach. Funny thing happened that season: the Chargers went 12-4. So Marty had to stay on. This time around, though, the gameday broadcast guy said that Marty, if he gets the axe, will indeed be replaced by Phillips.

That's all retread information. Where it gets really sticky is that the offensive staff favors Marty over AJ Smith and Wade Phillips. So, if Marty were to get ejected and then search for a new job, he could bring along a good deal of the offensive coaches with him. Namely... Cam Cameron (if he doesn't get his own head coaching gig this offseason).

50
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:15pm

The one thing that jumped out for me above everything else is how well coached the Saints looked. This team was awful last year. Now the receivers catch everything in sight, the O-line is perfect in blitz pickup, no penalties attributed to being careless or dumb, even the punter makes a heady play in a crisis situation. Contrast that to Marty's talent laden crew.

And the playcalling by Payton. Are he and Brees in some kind of Vulcan mind-meld? Talk about being in synch. That Eagles defense is good. And NO just moved the ball here to there.

If the Saints secondary was even average I would be thinking a double digit win for New Orleans come Sunday. But with that fatal flaw the situation becomes a pick'em. Fred Thomas can't cover his own shadow. And Mike McKenzie has really slowed up.

51
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:15pm

24 Yes, similar ritual here. I skip the article half the time--I get what I need from our compadres here.

You know what I like about the discussions above? Similar to the general media, there is very little about the Colts (probably because we're all confused as to who the hell they are....) Fine with me, keep 'em under the radar as much as possible.

Oh, we'll get deluged with the inane BB/TB/PM/TD win/lose/professor/too nice/clutch/choker crap. But actual discussions of the team and their chances will be few and far between.

I checked the betting lines last night and was a little surprised to see Indy a 3 pt fave. I'd like to see that drop in the next few days--those guys play better when not favored.

37 Really? I am an Indy fan so I think I'd be sensitive to Pats fans mocking. I usually think of NE as a pretty respectful organization in their comments. Certainly before a game they play the media right ("Man, this is gonna be a tough game. They're the best at what they do..."), and after the games, I guess I am too busy weeping into my keyboard to pay attention (or, worse yet, I hear their bad-mouthing agree with them!)

52
by cabbage (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:17pm

#31: In that case, it strikes this Bears fan as a fairly shortsighted ritual.

Couldn't they at least send one of the trainers to do a walkaround and tell the guys that they'd want to wear the longer cleats?

53
by Larry (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:22pm

Doug Farrar said:
I know Garcia’s numbers aren’t necessarily indicative of any great professional rebirth, and his regular-season DPAR is worse than Eli Manning’s...

That's a complete misuse of DPAR. DPAR is a cumulative stat. Garcia played in half as many games as Eli, the fact their DPARs are even comparable is an indication of how much better Garcia has been, not that they've played at the same level.

54
by Rick (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:23pm

"The interception on fourth down-to-10-yard gain is one of the luckiest plays in recent NFL history."

How about giving Troy Brown a wee bit of credit for that? Crediting luck is a cop-out. I could credit luck for Tomlinson's scamper after the screen pass - he was lucky that all the Patriots bought into his jukes and misdirections.
But nobody thinks that way, because the ability to navigate through a secondary is considered a skill. Why is ball stripping and/or fumble recovery not considered a skill by you guys?

It just seems really weird that this website, which is so intent on viewing every aspect of the game analytically, has this curious fetish with describing fumbles as "luck".

55
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:25pm

cabbage:

The Packer writers have mentioned several times in their "Notes" section that the Bears as a team are very superstitious. They voted on whether they wanted to see the new field and the majority said "Nay".

56
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:26pm

Re: #54

The FO line is that causing fumbles is a skill, but recovering fumbles is luck. And they have a lot of evidence to back that line up.

57
by Sean (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:26pm

As far as the Colts offense, the big story here is one we should have been talking about earlier — Manning has discovered mobility. It was very noticeable when they beat the Patriots and we’re seeing it here too. Now when the offensive line blows their blocks, he’s not a sitting duck, he’s moving around and still finding guys open or, god forbid, actually running. It’s like his one weakness is gone – the 3-4 thing doesn’t matter as much if Manning can make plays even when the protection breaks down.

Bingo, which is why I firmly expect Indy to beat New England this week. Manning had one major weakness in his game prior to 2005- he was a below-average quarterback when forced to move-and the Patriots gameplans were built almost exclusively around exploiting this weakness. Manning spent his offseason working on it and the results were evident in last year's game. (Anyone remember Manning rolling out of the pocket and throwing a 50-yard strike to Harrison while still on the move?) The Pats tried the same strategy again this year, and again Manning absolutely ate it up.

It's kind of funny, actually. Without any question, the conventional media line is going to be that Manning is terrified about playing Belichick and that the Colts are going to be confused and frustrated. But for the last eight quarters, the Patriots defense has been utterly dominated by Manning, to the point where it was clear they had no idea how to stop him. If anything, the Pats have to feel lucky that Manning has played two subpar games leading into this one.

I thought this might be the year for the Colts even though it's their weakest team in the last four, and the matchups have certainly gone their way. As far as I can tell, their major defensive correction was to take away the ability of their defensive ends to freelance and to insist that they crash inside on every rush. They got lucky in playing a Kansas City team that insisted in trying to run between the tackles, thus playing right into the Indy strategy. They got lucky again in drawing Baltimore and Jamal Lewis, who simply doesn't have the speed or quickness anymore to burn a team to the outside, so the same defense got the same result. And now they got exceedingly lucky to draw New England instead of San Diego. The Colts' strategy would have been utterly destroyed by the combination of LT and Michael Turner popping runs wide left (big up to Marcus McNeil yesterday, who dominated Richard Seymour). Instead they get the Pats, who have a much more manageable run game, and they get them on the fast turf in Indy.

58
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:26pm

I really dislike taunting, but I make an exception for mocking an opponent's celebration routine, after beating the opponent. All the better to discourage celebration routines.

59
by chris clark (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:28pm

:32 I think there is some merit in this idea that the NFC has a chance. I have felt all season that "parity" has been a big influence this year and that even dominant STOMP wins have actually been more flukey and luck driven this year than previously and that the DVOA measurements are missing "something", some aspect of luck. I think this year all games "are closer than they appear" and even the best teams were only "better than average".

60
by Peter (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:29pm

I have a new found respect for LTD, at least someone finally spoke the truth. Belichick is a classless jerk, whether it be the way he turned down the Jets job, his refusal to acknowledge Mangini by name, etc. He disrespects the game with the way he dresses on a game in/game out basis.

Also, I thought CBS missed a great opportunity when they showed Belichick hugging his kids. They shouldve put up the kids names, along with their arrest records.

61
by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:30pm

So much to react to here, one hardly knows where to begin. Although noting that Vinatieri getting one mention (and an aside at that) in game which he...not the Colts illusory defense...decided, would be a good place to start (and as a Pats fan, I will freely admit to hoping that next week's game does not come down to an FG...either way).

But one really can't let this passage pass without comment:
"The interception on fourth down-to-10-yard gain is one of the luckiest plays in recent NFL history." Hmm, Bruschi, watching from the sidelines, says he couldn't believe the guy went for the interception rather than the knock down, and says, no, he wasn't surprised that Troy Brown went for the strip...that's the kind of stuff Troy Brown does to hold on onto a roster spot that could have gone to a bigger, faster, younger guy a long time ago, but didn't. Dumb met Smart in the middle of the field and Smart won. Luck had nothing to do with it. (And don't even get me started on the observation by the same pundit that Marty outcoached BB. Oh, yeah? One team implodes and the other picks up the pieces and runs with it. That's coaching that's way beyond the undiscerning eye of your callow Machey guy.)

62
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:31pm

Re: #49

As someone who used to live in LA, I'm almost positive you're talking about Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton, who used to host a well-regarded, enjoyable afternoon drive-time radio show on KXTA (LA/SD) until it was decided by the ClearChannel Powers That Be that he wasn't "edgy" and "extreme" like the Jim Romes of the world and replaced with a pair of what were essentially local comedians (the replacement show has not been well regarded, and they've replaced one of the hosts twice so far).

I feel bad for him - while I don't live in LA anymore, I miss his show. He still is interviewed daily by other shows on that station, but it's not the same.

63
by MNRX (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:32pm

#54:

The reason is that fumble recovery is non-predictive, but saying "non-predictive" all the time strikes people who aren't familiar with statistics as overly jargonish. Thus the use of "luck" to describe such events.

Fumble causing, though, is definitely not either lucky or non-predictive. Stripping the ball is an identifiable and teachable skill. So is holding onto it when people are trying to make you let go. However, the ability to be in the right place to fall on a ball once it's been fumbled, or to punch people in the nads until you can control it at the bottom of a pile have not been shown to track consistently.

64
by Kyle (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:38pm

Re: #62
HAMILTON! That was it. I wanted to say Hamilton or Harrison. I must've heard wrong when they did the lead-in, cause I came away remembering him as the radio color commentator instead of an afternoon drive-time show (essentially M&MD of the SoCal region). Oops.

65
by mactbone (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:38pm

Re 54:
When a coach starts having his offensive players practice stripping the ball...

OK, so on every interception, should we expect a similar chance that the offense will force a fumble as when an offensive player makes a reception? Is there any correlation between years or during years for forced fumbles? Is there any coach or player that consistently forces fumbles? If you can prove any of those things, then sure fumbles might not be lucky - but you can't and they're non-predictive.

66
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:41pm

Re: 23
God I hope Indy wins. I can’t take another week/year of hosannas for Belichick and Brady. Jee-sus the Pats were lucky, and it’s all going to be guts and brains and intangibles in the media.

I think you sum up all the non-NE fans. I'll point to post 61 and 54 as examples of what we should expect from the NE fans this week. Darn lucky the officials just didn't throw any holding or illegal contact flags either... or maybe it's "smart" to "see what you can get away with", becuase they are so, "well-coached".

The only thing better than seeing New England lose next week would be to see them lose in the Super Bowl to the Saints ... or even the Bears...

67
by Rick (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:41pm

re: firing Marty

Ask the Browns, Chiefs, and Redskins about just how easy it is to replace a coach who almost gets their team to the top. None of them has done better since Marty left.

(I'm going to pretend that the Browns stayed in Cleveland for this discussion, and didn't move to Baltimore and become the Ravens and win the Super Bowl. But that was over a decade later.)

For years and years, you could argue that Bill Cowher had the same problem Schottenheimer has had. And then there was last year. College basketball is even worse for this problem: many great coaches can have winning programs for decades without even reaching the Final Four.

If San Diego thinks that they can find a coach who will not only do at least a good job in the regular season, but can also win in the playoffs, good luck to them. I just think it's far too easy to take the regular season success for granted, and then play Monday morning QB once the playoffs arrive.

Yes, I'd say Marty was outcoached yesterday. I don't understand how LT can gain 143 total yards in the first half and only gain forty-something more in the second.

Is losing to the Pats a firing offense? As others have said, had the Chargers simply batted down the 4th down pass, they would have won and we wouldn't be hearing this. It's not like Marty flat-out failed, like Herm Edwards did against the Colts.

Let's say, for sake of argument, that Marty is the 5th or 6th best coach in the NFL, behind Belichick, Dungy, Reid, and maybe a couple others. Is San Diego going to magically find a coach who can beat those other guys?

If the Chargers want to fire Marty because of personality clashes, so be it. That's why he was dismissed from the Redskins after only one season. But I hope it's not because they are taking his success for granted. It's really hard to go 14-2 in the NFL, especially in the AFC West.

68
by b-man (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:42pm

60: Now we're showing some class. Bravo!

69
by L-Jam 3 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:43pm

Re: LDT's anger at the Patriots' mocking.

While mimicking the opponent's dance can be pretty funny (see Hines Ward and Deion Branch doing the Eagle Wings, 2004), it's universally known that celebrating on the midfield emblem is a clear sign of disrespect. We felt it was disrespect when TO waved his hands to the sky on The Star. We felt it was disrespect for (my beloved) Eagles to dance on LaserBeak in the Georgia Dome. The Patriots dancing on midfield helmet (if it happened, the tv cameras didn't show it) is disrespect as well.

LDT has a right to be angry. I wouldn't have minded all that much if he ran out and Nolan Ryaned Hobbs if that was the case.

70
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:43pm

Re: 62

I believe he is currently the Chargers local color commentator, he was picked up by them when he was let go as the drive-time guy. He always had a ton of contacts within the Chargers organization, even when he just did his regular radio show, so it makes sense that they picked him up. They have more control over whether he can disseminate his information if he's their employee after all :)

71
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:45pm

Re: #66

You have somewhat of a point, but don't let the OMOs, stans, Purds's, and Bobmans (Bobmen?) of the world off the hook, either. Colts fans are plenty pissy too, though they like to affect that they aren't.

72
by ExLtfan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:46pm

Re:37 Wow! I've watched every post game interview the Pats have held for the last 3 years and they have always been incredibly respectful of their opponents. When did the mocking that you say comes from the head coach occur? I have never seen it.

73
by Rick (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:48pm

re 56
It's impossible to have "evidence" that anything is caused by luck, unless you are describing an obvious random process such as dice tossing, cards, a roulette wheel, etc. Reche Caldwell recovered the fumble because he was in the best position to do so. Against the Jets, Vince Wilfork recovered the fumble because it was sitting on the ground and nobody else was interested in it.

Generally speaking, you do not prove something happens because of luck. You can prove the opposite. So I'd be quite interested in what kind of "evidence" there would be. (I know that sounds snarky, but it's not intended to be.)

Let's keep in mind that it is easy to say that the results of a certain system match the possible results of a random variable. That's a world of difference from saying something is happening because of "luck". If I assign strength values to each team, I can simulate an entire season's worth of football games, and use randomness to determine every outcome. That does not, however, mean that the results of the actual games are due to luck.

74
by TracingError (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:49pm

Magic Beans:

Has anyone in the media mentioned that McCree merely had to knock down the pass (and surely, every LB and DB must say to himself before a 4th down snap "just knock it down") and the Chargers get the ball, don't challenge and lose a timeout, don't give up a touchdown, and most likely win the game?

Did anyone write that? No one on TV said it, Peter King didn't, ESPN didn't. I'm sure TMQ will harp on it but has any writer mentioned it besides on this site?

That's the single biggest play of the day and the luck part is not that the Pats recovered the fumble but that the opposition did something so boneheaded and selfish (assuming he chose to get a INT rather than do what was more effective for his team).

75
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:52pm

I'm not a Pat's fan, Peter, but I don't understand why the arrest record of Belichik's kids is pertinent to the discussion. It wasn't Belichik's decision to put his kids on t.v., and I don't think having your kids on the sidelines is comparable to the way politicians pimp their kids out for professional benefit.

If somebody wants to rip Belichik, fine, but what is the purpose of dragging his family into it?

76
by Rick (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:53pm

Remember when Shannon Sharpe did his famous "I'm calling the President...we're killing the Patriots" schtick on Monday Night Football? This was about ten years ago.

I've never seen any Patriot do that kind of thing.

My problem with LT's complaint is that it is so obviously hypocritical. Just how do you draw a line where taunting a QB by doing a sack dance is just "celebration", but mocking said sack dance is bad sportsmanship. I think you either open the door to celebration or you don't. Either they're both wrong or neither is.

If Tomlinson has a problem, he should direct it to his coaching staff, who curiously held him to less than fifty yards in the second half when there was no possibility in hell that the Pats' defense could have done that by themselves.

77
by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:54pm

"Honestly, the difference between the 2001-2006 Eagles and the 2001-2006 Patriots comes down to a few random bounces of the ball, slightly better game plans, and quarterback injuries." Aaron, that is one of the most accurate (and gracious) things I've ever heard from a Pats fan. Too many football fans discount the role that luck plays in success, and you do have to be able to take advantage of the lucky break when you get it. But you almost always have to have a little good luck to get over the top. One quibble--I think the Patriots' game plans are more than "slightly better" than the Eagles, or, probably, any other teams. I think that's what the Patriots do best.

78
by Bionicman (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:55pm

"If you can’t enjoy a game between two teams with this much talent, you probably should avoid watching football for the rest of your life."

In retrospect, this statement by Aaron seems hilarious for the wrong reason. If I had seen a tape of the NE/SD game before the season began, and I didn't know that both teams were in the playoffs, I would have assumed that this was a pre-season game in which both teams used starters. Seriously, the endless series of amateurish mistakes by SD, the incompetence of the NE offense for much of the game, and the general lack of outstanding play made the game a case of 'which team can implode the least.' Did anyone else also think that neither team played up to the level associated the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs? I certainly did.

79
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:58pm

The Chargers played exactly like a 5-7 win team rather than a team with 14 wins. Raise your hand Detroit, Minnesota, Cleveland, Buffalo, Washington and Arizona fans!

The mistakes they made are not ones you would expect from a 14-2 team. They are mistakes you expect from perenial cellar-dwellars. They are the mistakes that everyone in the fan base recognizes year after year... muffed punts, stupid penalties, fluke fumbles, bad sacks, underthrown and overthrow near TDs, failure to pressure the quarterback even when blitzing, and then when your defense absolutly needs a stop (end of 1st half and tying drive), you come up very very very small.

I don't know if Marty will go... but it was a very bad time to play for the Chargers to play like a high school team. I remember hearing last offseason that the AJ-Marty relationship was so bad Spanos (owner) had to step in and reconcile their problems. I don't see how they could fire AJ... so it does seem likely Marty is out.

I still would like to say I think they win this if Brees plays... Rivers could not make a hot read throw at all... and I don't think he made many risky, thread the needle throws.

80
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 4:11pm

"That was some SWEET blocking by Marcus McNeill, especially on the Turner run. He actually is handling Seymour one-on-one on a good number of plays."

That's exactly what I saw, and I mentioned it in the game thread. Marcus McNeill is god.

I'm glad that a lot of the things I notice during the game end up on audibles. I feel like I'm learning something from this site.

81
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 4:24pm

One of the Pats writers (Mike Reiss) has been charting the Pats offensive players play participation. Here's how it came out this week:

WR Reche Caldwell -- 71 of 74 snaps (95.9 percent)
WR Jabar Gaffney -- 70 of 74 (94.5 percent)
TE Daniel Graham -- 58 of 74 (78.3 percent)
RB Kevin Faulk -- 47 of 74 (63.5 percent)
WR Troy Brown -- 46 of 74 (62.1 percent)
TE Benjamin Watson -- 43 of 74 (58.1 percent)
RB Corey Dillon -- 14 of 74 (18.9 percent)
RB Laurence Maroney -- 13 of 74 (17.5 percent)
TE David Thomas -- 5 of 74 (6.7 percent)
FB Heath Evans -- 3 of 74 (4.0 percent)
WR Chad Jackson -- 0 of 74 (0 percent)
WR Kelvin Kight -- 0 of 74 (0 percent)

82
by thad (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 4:27pm

I think you sum up all the non-NE fans. I’ll point to post 61 and 54 as examples of what we should expect from the NE fans this week. Darn lucky the officials just didn’t throw any holding or illegal contact flags either… or maybe it’s “smart� to “see what you can get away with�, becuase they are so, “well-coached�.

What holding?
Give me a break. You make it sound like a ton of flags could have been thrown.
When?

83
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 4:33pm

thad,
Asante Samuels "defense" of Eric Parker on the last play he knocked down. Samuels pushed Parker off his route, both hands on his shoulder area.

The numerous choke holds on Merriman.

What about the phantom holding called on Mike Goff to negate a good San Diego play?

I'm not saying there is a conspiracy... most every call went the Patriots way.

84
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 4:33pm

Why should we raise our hands? Detroit isn't a 5-win team unless you make them play a 32-game schedule.

I'm glad someone else caught Mr. Buck's unfamiliarity with basic division. I had already muted the game by that point, but one of my friends called to ask me if I'd heard what he said ... she said that the quote was roughly "You played in the NFL. Which is bigger, one half or five eighths?"

Now, it's barely, barely possible that this was a subtle dig at Aikman, but I'm guessing that wasn't it.

If the Chargers replace Schottenheimer with either Cameron or Phillips, I'm going to laugh for about 30 minutes and then go buy the one Chargers fan I know a very big beer. He's going to need it.

85
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 4:40pm

#83: It was worse than that. He actually said "which is bigger, one eighths or five eighths?" I think he meant to say "one half" (which he was saying earlier) but he actually, seriously, did ask whether 1/8ths or 5/8ths was bigger.

86
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:25pm

#69, I bet more than a few offensive tackles think it is disrespectful every time Merriman performs his pre-planned routine. Giving it back on the mid-field logo, after beating Merriman's team, is fine by me. If Merriman or Tomlinson don't like it, they can stop losing at home, or maybe, just maybe, Merriman can get rid of the routine.

Oh my goodness, how did Reggie White and Jerry Rice, to say nothing of Jim Brown or Deacon Jones, ever become the players they were, without planning out celebration routines!

I know, I know, how curmudgeon-like of me, to prefer guys who let the performance alone to be the means of self-expression.

87
by Dave (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:26pm

I suppose this will always be a part of the game, but I have very little patience with anyone complaining about officiating. Until someone does an unbiased systematic study of questionable calls (and non-calls), I will persist in believing that these things break pretty evenly over time.

Long time Patriots fans can point to plently of questionable calls that went against their team (the Samuel PI call vs Denver last year, the Bailey fumble that clearly went out of the end zone and should have been a TB in the same game...all the way back to Ray Hamilton's highly questionable roughing the passer penalty against Stabler in 1976.)

Questionable calls are part of the game. Get over it.

The Patriots won, despite not playing a great game, because they capitalized on almost every San Diego mistake, and they avoided shooting themselves in the foot with dumb play-calling, dumb clock management, and stupid personal fouls.

I doubt they're as good as Indy at this point in time, but if they play as intelligently and opportunistically as they played yesterday, they can certainly win.

88
by Not saying (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:26pm

Re: 80

RB Kevin Faulk — 47 of 74 (63.5 percent)
RB Corey Dillon — 14 of 74 (18.9 percent)
RB Laurence Maroney — 13 of 74 (17.5 percent)

See, this is what I still don't understand. Faulk had more than the other two combined, close to twice as much.

Also, did anyone else think that the Pats should have done more on their last drive after the Caldwell catch? Something that gave them a chance at a first down to end the game on the FG attempt. It seemed over-conservative to me.

Also, I have to say that I was not in the least surprised by the direct snap to Faulk, although I was surprised that it caught other people (the announcers at least) so off guard.

89
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:26pm

Actually he said "I'm not sure which is bigger.....three eights, one-half...five eighths.....

90
by Eric P (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:27pm

Wow. Pats fans can't catch a break, I guess. They're already begin lambasted for the remarks they haven't made yet.

The funniest part...FO is supposed to have one of the smartest followings on the net, and it's the same here as everywhere. "Pats suck","They only won because they were lucky","The refs handed it to them","Wait 'til you hear their excuses."

#66) simultaneously pigoen-holes all non-Pats fans in one group (those in the right) and all Pats fans in another group (those in the wrong) and no one comments on it? Affiliating with Fox sports may have been for Aarron and the other FOers, but it sure didn't do the comments section any favors.

91
by Goathead (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:31pm

82: They always go that way, that's why its the NFL (New England Football League).

92
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:32pm

Re: #87

Yeah. The direct snap to Faulk on a 2pt conversion attempt is practically one of the Pats' stock plays.

93
by Spoilt Victorian Child (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:33pm

Aaron Schatz: 24-24 with :24 left. FOX could not ask for a better free advertisement.
Imagine how Dr. Pepper feels.

94
by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:33pm

ExLtfan #72:

I’ve watched every post game interview the Pats have held for the last 3 years and they have always been incredibly respectful of their opponents.

As I said, the mocking is down on the field immediately after the games. You know, when you are supposed to be congratulating your opponent, not rubbing his face in it.

When did the mocking that you say comes from the head coach occur?

That isn't what I said. I said Belichick keeps a tight rein on what his guys say in the media (which is good), but maintains absolutely no on-field discipline after games (which is very bad). Its one of the main reasons so many NFL players appear to not like the Patriots (as evidenced by their almost complete lack of votes for Pro-Bowl berths). LT simply voiced what I think a lot more players feel.

I have never seen it.

I guess you didn't watch the end of last nights game then.

You can mark me up as someone who likes the Reggie White/Barry Sanders code of conduct for behavior during and after the game.

Its very easy to celebrate a win or key plays without mocking and taunting your opponents and/or their fans. Just watch how 95%+ of the players in the league conduct themselves.

Just curious, if anyone knows. Do any Patriots players go to mid-field to pray after the game with their opponents? Can't say I've ever seen them do it.

95
by JohnR (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:34pm

re: the whole 'luck' vs. skill theme.

c'mon - I'd believe that the Pats are lucky if they didn't have such an amazing record over the past 5 years. Sure - if they won a Super Bowl - maybe even two - you could claim luck.

But all you stat-heads need to crunch the numbers and tell me what the odds are of compiling a 12-1 record in the playoffs. How can this even remotely be explained with luck? Even if you say a team has a 50-50 shot of winning a playoff game - you are talking about odds of one in thousands here of this being luck. Not to mention, many of the games that they have played they have been decided underdogs in the game.

Coming up with heads once or twice might be luck - doing it for 5 years is something else. Whatever it is is hard to measure, for sure, but the chances of it being luck are just far too long for it to be dismissed as luck.

And to read all the Pat-haters in here add absolutely nothing to the discussion certainly isn't impressive. Nice cogent analysis by #60, Peter. You must have really thought that one through. You want fries with your fanboyism?

96
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:34pm

Totally out of place but Ginn Jr. and Pittman both declared for the draft.

With Smith graduating and Gonzalez also declaring for the draft that means all of the skill positions for OSU will be manned by newbies in the fall of '07.

Gee, that's really rough.

(Ya'know, I almost managed to write that with a straight face. Almost)

I now return you to the Pats/Chargers kvetching currently in progress.

97
by mactbone (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:34pm

Re 85:
I find it amusing you keep harping on this and basically calling out Merriman when LDT was the one who made the remarks. As you know, LDT never celebrates his TDs and just flips the ball back "old school" style.

98
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:40pm

When the Packers lost to the Cowboys in the NFC Championship game in Jan. 1996 Reggie White had a public rant after the game complaining about the officiating. After two early sacks Erik Williams decided "WTF" and did everything but give Reggie an atomic wedgie the rest of the game with a holding call finally coming late after the game was no longer in doubt.

Folks then told Reggie to STFU. As I did then I figure it's an emotional game, these guys are competing for the biggest prize in their profession, and after a bitter defeat human beings are likely to say things that sound pretty silly. It happens.

99
by Jeremiah (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:42pm

re: 73

This was McCree, in the locker room after the game, when asked about the interception-fumble:

"Why would I knock the ball down?"
Reporter: "It was 4th down..."
"So what? He threw it right to me!"

Smart.

100
by Eric P (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:43pm

I'm sure Andrew religiously watches every post game celebration of every team in the league so he can keep exhaustive notes on the post-game rituals each team employs. Yeah, right! He must have brown eyes, 'cause he's full of it!

I don't know where all these post-game experts are coming from. It's not like the networks go out of their way to document this kind of thing. If LT didn't go out of his way to make a big deal of it, would anyone even know the Pats had committed such a heinous act? I have yet to see a replay of the offensive behavior, which in this day and age, I take to mean there aren't any. So where are all these post game experts getting their info?

101
by IzzionSona (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:44pm

#93: Assuming each and every Patriots playoff game in Tom Brady's career was a 50/50 proposition before the game, the odds of various records are as listed below:

Record: Odds

0-13: 0.01%
1-12: 0.16%
2-11: 0.95%
3-10: 3.49%
4-9: 8.73%
5-8: 15.71%
6-7: 20.95%
7-6: 20.95%
8-5: 15.71%
9-4: 8.73%
10-3: 3.49%
11-2: 0.95%
12-1: 0.16% (1 in 630)
13-0: 0.01%

So, under the assumption of "complete coin flip", highly improbable, but certainly not "one in thousands". Not to mention, most often whenever FO refers to something as "lucky" they mean that the win was due in large part to events that are non-predictive and do not appear to be determined by things that are controllable by the team that benefited from them. For instance, both Indianapolis and New England recovering all five fumbles committed in their games this weekend is "lucky", because we would expect most types fumbles to be equally likely to be recovered by either team. However, the causation of the fumbles defensively (or the prevention of fumbles offensively) is not random, but rather considered to be a good thing for the team involved.

102
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:45pm

#93: Considering you can only tack on one loss in a year, and up to four wins, it's not nearly as hard as you think it is. It's not like the Patriots weren't essentially favorites to win the Super Bowl two out of those five years.

103
by mactbone (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:48pm

Re 100:
Not to mention they didn't make the playoffs in another year. That eliminates even the potential for a loss.

104
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:49pm

#99: Actually, that's not right - you're forgetting that you can only lose one game a year. The only available options are 14-0, 13-1, 12-1, 11-1, 10-2, 9-2, 8-2, etc. Of course, assuming that each game is a coin flip completely ignores the fact that the Patriots were favored (or should have been) in over half of the games.

105
by Jeremy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:49pm

To all complaining about the one-sided officiating in NE/SD, I ask for an explanation of LT's clear facemask penalty being picked up and the non-call pick on the play where Antonio Gates was wiiiide open. Some of you guys are just silly.

92:

Andrew, you are coming off as more and more biased with every passing week. What's the source of your hostility?

To respond to this specific point, I'd request a shred of evidence that the lack of Pro Bowl nods for the Pats has anything to do with their popularity within the NFL fraternity. I mean, realistically, who else could have gone from the Pats? Tom Brady, Asante Samuel, and Ty Warren. No one else. While I'd have been happy to see any of those three go, I can't claim that any of them is necessarily more deserving than the Pro Bowlers at their positions.

106
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:50pm

42: Smith is going nowhere. He's been phenomenal.

70: Hacksaw does not do the local color commentary. Former Charger Hank Bauer does it.

107
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:50pm

What's this "five fumbles" thing?

There were four recovered fumbles:
* Brady fumbles, recovered by Light (this was the Florence head-butt play).
* Parker muffs punt, recovered by Thomas.
* Rivers fumbles on 4th-down sack, recovered by Banta-Cain (this fumble was irrelevant, since the sack alone would have caused a change of possession, being on 4th down).
* McCree fumbles, recovered by Caldwell.

Also, Maroney fumbled just before he went OOB and the ball not surprisingly rolled OOB.

108
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:52pm

#103: C'mon. We all know that Brady was just saving up his Mojo for the stretch run in 2003 and 2004. Clearly, the interception and "no pass over 5 yards" game plan versus the Jets that cost them the division in 2002 showed that, right?

109
by mactbone (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:53pm

Re 107:
However, that was still a Maroney fumble. If the ball takes a weird hop... strange things happen - like recovering every fumble in a game...

110
by JohnR (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:58pm

1 in 630...certainly sounds like "not a random chance" to me. But thanks for the numbers.

Anyway - I haven't seen the numbers, but is it true that it isn't a skill to recover fumbles, too? Does it follow a bell curve each season? Are some teams always outliers? I am sure that someone has done the analysis.

As much as I thought the Bolts would win, I changed my mind during the fourth quarter. Anyway - even if that 4th down interception is batted down - there were 6 minutes left. Anyone doubt that Brady gets the ball back again and at least ties the game? I mean, he hit Reche with 2 minutes and change and then they went conservative to kill the clock and got the winning FG. Does anyone think that if they needed 8 in that situation - they wouldn't have gotten it then and then won in overtime?

At that point, SD had a 1 in 630 chance of pulling it out, I guess.

111
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 5:59pm

#97, I find it amusing that you neglect to mention that Tomlinson was harping on the Patriots mocking Merriman's routine. Maybe Tomlinson should have been harping at Merriman throughout the season. Or maybe Tomlinson should just STFU. And I say that as somebody who generally likes Tomlinson a lot.

112
by NF (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:03pm

77:

To draw an obscure music history analogy, Bob Dylan made his first electric album with a bunch of garage rock guys off the street who had not done much before and have not done much since. I think one of them became an occasional session musician for some notable albums in the late-60s. However, that album had one truly famous rock song ("Subterranean Homesick Blues") and a few more that are popular favorites ("Maggie's Farm, "She Belongs to Me"). Why? Because while Dylan's backing band had next to no skill beyond playing their instruments, they created a fairly exciting and entertaining background for Dylan's humorous, far-out, and incisive lyrics. The album, Bringing It All Back Home, is recognized by music historians today as a major influence on many famous bands of the 60s, and more or less alone created an opening for the Byrds to become a major rock band in the 1960s, in addition to being pretty entertaining. Of course, Bob Dylan brought on Al Kooper, one of the greatest keyboardists of the last 50 years, to assemble a backing band made of real professional musicians for Dylan's next two rock albums, which were even better. However, Bob Dylan's first rock album is great because Bob Dylan made it great, writing songs that would fit the non-complex energetic playing of his backing band.

I'm not comparing Bob Dylan to either of the coaches, and maybe I am comparing LT to Dylan, but my point is that skilled professional performance isn't everything for entertainment, and that its not as if the teams spent all game going 3 and out before someone got a turnover to give one team a touchdown for the win. Both teams put up over 20 points, and the game came down to a field goal made and another missed in the final 2 minutes. There was a trick play to Kevin Faulk! Kevin Faulk!!! Troy Brown forced a fumble on an interception on fourth down! Jabar Gaffney was a major part of the offense! If you didn't enjoy watching that, you might be the most jaded person posting here.

113
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:04pm

Well, I'd say its awfully early for us Pats haters to start hating... I think the general feeling from being in the IRC chat was that fans of other teams in the league are sick of seeing the Patriots win... and of course its premature as they've still got 2 more games to win.

Would it be unprecedented for the Pats to win 4 games for a Super Bowl, or do the Wild Card home teams not get the same treatment in history as the Wild Card teams.

As far as luck goes... let's say "elite" is top 6 DVOA. The 2003 and 2004 teams stand out as ones considered elite... and so is this team.

Opponents muffing punts, and being stupid really are non-predictive events... so if the Pats end up winning a Super Bowl two of their wins would be due to strange non-predictive events. Did the 49ers/Cowboys/NFC East dynasty's of the 1980s benefit as much?

Maybe we all forget crazy non-predictive events, and being football I wouldn't expect anything less.

Me hating the Pats is similar to the hate I had for the Jets a couple weeks ago... except the Pats weren't all that mistake free themselves. The Chargers just made more.

Yes, I was spewing the hate, but I think it's more of a "I can't believe San Diego didn't put them away...", whining about the officials is another thing that us fans of perenial losers do too...

I don't think I saw a Pats fan in this thread admit they were incredibly lucky... we have... in fact it was the follow 2 comments that irked me in the wrong manner.

Dumb met Smart in the middle of the field and Smart won. Luck had nothing to do with it.

How about “smashmouth� or “never-say-die�? Brady played like crap, but NE earned this one. LDT had a bunch of great plays but never destroyed the defense. Gates was a non-factor. Merriman got (largely) handled. The officials didn’t deliver the game to either team.

So it's really Pat's skill that caused Parker to muff the punt, Florence to blow up, V. Jackson to not get his feet down, Rivers to make a bad underthrow early in the game, McCree to decide to run with the ball after intercepting it, and Marty to waste a TO on a stupid challenge?

Ok Pats fans... go back to your cave of delusion. Just like the Patriots fumbles in the Denver game are why Denver won... as well as a critical Brady goal line interception... San Diego ended up making more mistakes.

I'll give the Pats defense credit for containing LDT, and pressuring Rivers enough, and their offensive line gets a ton of credit for keeping the Chargers off of Brady for the most part.

114
by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:06pm

Jeremy #105:

To respond to this specific point, I’d request a shred of evidence that the lack of Pro Bowl nods for the Pats has anything to do with their popularity within the NFL fraternity. I mean, realistically, who else could have gone from the Pats?

Don't just look at this year, but at previous year's too. Especially 2003-2004, when the Patriots were clearly the best team in the NFL. Rodney Harrison is an obvious one (and has a well-known reputation as an unliked cheap-shot artist), as is Mike Vrabel, but its also amazing that not a single one of their O-linemen have ever gotten the nod, nor any D-linemen except Seymour. Football is won on the lines. For the Patriots to win so much means they have good lines, so the linesmen should be getting at least a little recognition. Its really amazing to see no recognition at all.

115
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:07pm

Again... even Pats fans calling McCree dumb for intercepting the ball are delusional. I try to step back but you guys keep pulling me in.

If McCree was so stupid how did he intercept the great (go ahead and genuflect) Tom Brady.

What was dumb is him not getting on the ground.... I think I've seen that play happen a handful of times this season as well.

116
by JohnR (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:09pm

> The only available options are 14-0,
> 13-1, 12-1, 11-1, 10-2, 9-2, 8-2, etc. Of
> course, assuming that each game is a coin
> flip completely ignores the fact that the
> Patriots were favored (or should have
> been) in over half of the games.

First off - if the only options are 14-0, 13-1, etc - can you name another team that has gone 12-1 in the playoffs? do you think it is more likely luck or skill?

Second - if memory serves, the Pats were underdogs in every game in 2001. They won an amazing game at the end of 2002 - but missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker (neither here nor there, really). They were underdogs to Indy in 2003. They were favorites for all of 2004. They were dogs yesterday.

I really don't think you can say that they were favorites in over 1/2 their games.

I mean - it is amazing if a team goes 12-1 in the regular season. Now imagine if you have that record when you can only play that top 12/8/4/2 teams in the entire league? It really can't be luck.

117
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:10pm

Anyway - I haven’t seen the numbers, but is it true that it isn’t a skill to recover fumbles, too?

What do you mean by that? Think about a fumble - first, the ball has to be even near a player. How often does that happen in a year for a single player?

Does it follow a bell curve each season?

Only 32 teams, with a small number of fumbles each (~30 or so). Virtually any distribution would look like anything you want with that limited statistics.

Are some teams always outliers?

No. If you do a website search here, you can find that, or just look at the Week 10 DVOA Ratings (I think it's week 10).

118
by NF (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:11pm

The officiating in the NFL has erred on the side of applying the penalties inconsistently or not at all for the last decade. What needs to be done is a thorough codification of what is and is not a penalty and then possibly another ref whose sole job is to spot the most common fouls.

119
by Dave (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:14pm

111: I find it amusing that you neglect to mention that Tomlinson was harping on the Patriots mocking Merriman’s routine. Maybe Tomlinson should have been harping at Merriman throughout the season. Or maybe Tomlinson should just STFU. And I say that as somebody who generally likes Tomlinson a lot.

You seriously can't tell the difference between someone doing a dance move after they produce in a game whose outcome is in question and someone from the other team mocking said dance move on the home team's emblem after the visiting team has iced the game?

Seriously. Tell me Terrell Owens would have been as much of an asswipe if he'd just stood there posing in the end zone like God's gift to football after all those scores in Dallas versus running out to the star and doing it on the opposing team's colors, in their house.

You don't have to like either type of behavior but I would hope you could appreciate the difference, especially to fans of the home team.

120
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:14pm

Re: #113

Convenient (and rather disingenuous) for you to leave out:

It was a tough play (the pick and fumble). So what?

The white shirts are still only at the 32 yard line! There’s only 6:32 left in the 4th quarter! You’re up by 8 points and you’ve stuffed NE all day!

from that same comment.

Because of course once the Pats recovered the fumble the tying touchdown would automatically follow without the Patriots having to expend any effort or skill. And of course it was total, pure luck that they stopped SD on the next possession and again total luck that they drove into range for the winning figgie.

While we're heading into our "cave of delusion", you need to head into your Whine Cellar with the rest of your irrational can't-give-the-the-Patriots-a-gram-of-credit haters.

121
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:16pm

I really don’t think you can say that they were favorites in over 1/2 their games.

All of 2003 playoffs. All of 2004 playoffs. NE over NYJ. (*)

That's seven games. Seven is more than one half of 13.

(*: it depends on how you define 'favored'. NE had a significantly higher estimated winning percentage than their opponent for each of those games.)

122
by Kevin (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:16pm

One thing I don't understand and never will...

When the Chargers scored a TD to make it 20-13 early in the fourth, why not go for 2? If you make it, it's a 2-score game. If you miss it, even if the opponent scores a TD, they'll only go for the extra point to tie.

I suppose going up 8 forces the opponent to try a 2-point conversion, but going for 2, your near-worst-case scenario (assuming the opponent doesn't score and go for 2) is a tie on an opposing score, and best case is a 2-score lead.

123
by Dave (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:17pm

Re 113

The Pats definitely benefited from some luck in this game. But has there EVER been a close game in NFL history that hasn't had elements of luck in it?

There are two things teams can do though that are worth mentioning. One is keeping the game close enough (on a day when not much is working for you on offense) so that you can benefit from a lucky break if it comes your way. The other is taking advantage of every small mistake the other team makes to maximize yout chances of being the recipient of a lucky break.

Take for example the forced fumble by Troy Brown. It may have been a 50-50 chance that the Pats would recover it, but Troy Brown was probably the one WR in the entire NFL who was most likely to cause the fumble in the first place.

His extensive time playing as a DB - during which he developed a knack of always going for the strip - was great preparation for that play at that time. How many other WRs in the NFL would have had the presence of mind to react that way AND the skill to help cause the fumble? Most WRs after a pick stand around disconsolately.

People can chalk the play and the result entirely up to luck if they like. I see it differently.

124
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:20pm

Re: #121

That’s seven games. Seven is more than one half of 13.

Unless you're Joe Buck.

125
by JohnR (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:21pm

MFurtek - explain 12-1. Please. Non-predictive events be damned. This is more amazing than any team has done in history.

The fact that there are more playoff rounds now than there were in the past means that repeat champions should almost never happen....just on "non-predictive" events alone! Look at what has happened to baseball since they added the wildcard round. A small sample size to be sure, but not many repeat champs are there? I am not saying that the Pats are going to win this Super Bowl - but this is the most amazing stretch of playoff success that the league has ever seen.

Yet I continue to hear it being diminished and thrown up as 'luck' or as the result of 'non-predictive' events or some other hogwash - when there is clearly an emotion behind the detractors. They are "sick" of seeing it - when, in fact, there is a real oppotunity to try to understand and study something here. You look at the numbers - they don't make any sort of sense *other* than the Pats have discovered how to win in the playoffs and it just sounds silly and pig-headed for people to dismiss it as any kind of luck or random event. Because if you truly believe that - you would have to believe that 12-1 is well nigh impossible - but, yet, it has been done.

126
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:22pm

I'd just like to point out that T. Owens, the University of Miami football team, and New England Patriots all mock opponents on their midfield logo. Its not exactly good company you're keeping there. Also it should be noted that the Pats were flagged for unsportman like conduct right after the missed field goal, it wasn't simply a danse that angered LT. And seeing as how nobody here was on the field and heard what the Pats were saying to the Chargers, you probably shouldn't say STFU to LT.
That being said, maybe the Pats didn't deserve to win, but the Chargers definitely deserved to lose. Its a team comprised of a lot of great athletes with very poor discipline and football smarts. Its certainly a Bengals west type team (Kiel, Merriman, Castillo, that guy who got shot, etc.) and the blame for assembling this group of hotheads should go to the GM Smith.

127
by Eric P (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:22pm

123) So? The Chargers were favored in their last 2 playoff games. Their record...0-2. Favored don't mean crap.

If 12-1 was easy, there'd be lots of teams with similar records, no?

128
by Jeremy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:23pm

114:

And you don't think has something to do with the idiotic media tendency to think of the Pats as untalented shlubs who are coached to be greater than the sum of their parts?

I mean, I know that the Pats have a ton of talent, but that's clearly not the popular story.

129
by Ron Burgundy would be pissed (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:23pm

I guess no one likes a dynasty anymore.

re:95 That would also be like LDT calling out Belichick right?

It sickens me to hear every sportscaster start and end their comments with "LDT is real classy". That was a pot shot on Belichick and less we forget he was angry about the Pats mocking a dance specifically meant to mock a team and quaterback. How is that classy? Also, it's not classy to say you are classy, before you go ahead and prove you have no class by saying something classless about the other teams coach who wasn't even directly involved...?

Stay Classy San Diego.

130
by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:24pm

JohnR:

I'd say luck for the Patriots only enters into in close wins. Out of the 13 games they've played since 2001, 8 have been 7 point or less decisions (6 have been 3 point decision), 5 haven't been close, including their one loss. They've been consistently good at winning close games, but, it is also a very small sample size (not even quivalent to a single full NFL season), so its impossible to say whether such an ability to always pull out close wins would continue over say, a 32-game stretch.

For some comparisons, the Eagles have played 14 playoff games since 2000. 5 have been 7 point or less decisions, 4 of them 3 pointers. The Eagles split the close decision 2-3 (2-2 on the 3 pointers). The Rams played 10 playoff games from 1999 to 2004, 7 were within 7 points, and the Rams went 4-3 (0-2 in the two 3-point games). The Titans played 9 playoff games from 1999 to 2003, 6 were close and the Titans went 4-2 in them (3-1 in 3 point games). The Steelers played 10 playoff games from 2001 to 2005, 5 were close games, and the Steelers went 3-2, including 3-1 in the four 3-point games.

OTOH, the Cowboys played 15 playoff games from 1991 to 1996. Only one game was close, and they won it.

131
by Ron Burgundy would be pissed (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:26pm

sorry I meant RE:97

132
by Zac (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:26pm

No one's mentioned the bolding error on Aaron's first comment? If that was a spelling error, or naming the wrong guy as the backup lineman, we would have heard like 4 people mention it.

133
by The MOOSE (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:26pm

#113, I'm a Pats fan and I'll admit we were a good part lucky. Most of the game I was telling my wife that the Patriots didn't deserve to win the game. Now that I've had time to digest it, I still believe it, but I also don't believe the Chargers deserved to win either. In the end, things worked out the way they did and I get to root for my team one more week. SD screwed up and didn't put us away, that was lucky. NE was good enough to capitalize on this by scoring the touchdown, the 2-point conversion, and the field goal. Those weren't luck.

134
by JohnR (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:27pm

#121: oh yes - sorry - my memory was a bit off. The Pats were favored in 7 out of 13 games. This clearly dimished their accomplishment. What, is it down to a 1 in 600 chance of it being luck now?

I think you might be grasping at straws here.

135
by prunemike (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:28pm

#92 "You can mark me up as someone who likes the Reggie White/Barry Sanders code of conduct for behavior during and after the game."
And of course let's not forget Reggie Whites antisemitic, homophobic rantings and hate filled religious beliefs.

136
by Boots Day (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:29pm

MFurtek - explain 12-1. Please. Non-predictive events be damned. This is more amazing than any team has done in history.

The Packers under Vince Lombardi were 9-1 in playoff games.

137
by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:35pm

Re: #94
"Just curious, if anyone knows. Do any Patriots players go to mid-field to pray after the game with their opponents? Can’t say I’ve ever seen them do it."

I'm down on my knees right now praying that I never see it, and praying that I never see Brady give the shout out to Jesus after another clutch drive that JESUS HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH...and a little prayer for MFurtek, too. Get over it, buddy.

138
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:40pm

Re: #126

Also it should be noted that the Pats were flagged for unsportman like conduct right after the missed field goal, it wasn’t simply a danse that angered LT.

That flag, if you can believe the ref, was for some Pats players removing their helmets. It's against the rules, so they shouldn't have done it, but ripping your helmet off and running off the field after your team (essentially) just won a huge game is hardly crazy stuff. If that "angered" LdT, then he needs to sign up for some anger management classes.

As for the post-game stuff, if they had done it unprompted, I'd be inclined to agree with LdT. But after SD's behavior after they beat the Pats last year and after 'roid freak Merriman's antics in general and in the week before the game specifically, all I can say to LdT is "shut up, you bleeping hypocrite" and to the rest of his team "if you can't take it, don't dish it out".

139
by hwc (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:40pm

During his weekly radio interview, Belichick answered the question about why the Pats got away from the run game.

He said that nothing the Pats tried could force the Chargers out of their base defense. He concluded that continuing to run against their base defense simply wasn't going to work. Because the Chargers never went to nickle or dime packages, the Pats opted to spread the field and start throwing the ball.

Late in the game, the Pats felt that the Chargers pass rush had run out of gas and the corners were playing man bump coverage on the wide outs. That's why Brady started attacking downfield.

140
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:41pm

#l19, yes I can tell the difference. The routine celebration dancer is worse, because he is the guy who started down the path of "look at me!!, look at me!!", thus showing up the opponent. The guy who mocks the celebration dancer is just upping the ante.

I'd rather not have any of it, but the guy who starts the nonsense is worse, and a guy who kept his mouth shut as his teammate was doing his dancing all season long has got nothing worthwhile to listen to when he gripes about an opponent mocking the numbskullery after a game, out on the logo. If Owens had just replicated the routine of some Cowboy in that incident, I would have said the same thing

141
by prunemike (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:42pm

#137. Amen to that. No I mean Hallelujah, no wait . . . You are so right - God, Jesus, whoever has nothing to do with winning. I love it when players don't pray, thank god or do any of that stuff.

142
by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:43pm

JohnR:

I am not saying that the Pats are going to win this Super Bowl - but this is the most amazing stretch of playoff success that the league has ever seen.

Dallas from 1992 to 1996 went 10-1. That's more amazing than anything the Patriots have done, since it was in 4 consecutive years. I'd also call the Steelers 13-2 from 1974 to 1979 more impressive. Redskins 15-4 from 1982 to 1991 is also pretty impressive. 49ers 12-3 from 1988 to 1994 also ranks up there.

What is really amazing is not the string of wins, but that so few of the wins have been dominating performances.

143
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:44pm

I really think the dance whine is sour-grapes nonsense, but anyway, here's my $0.02. I would bet my left nut that the point of the Pats dance was not to mock SD, but to mock Merriman in particular, who not only is a big-mouth jerk and a cheater (and being a big-mouth jerk is even more irritating when you are also a known cheater), but intentionally dissed the Pats when he was interviewed during the Pats-Jets half-time (and we know Rodney doesn't like that, don't we). So, he called out the Pats, ended up playing a sucky game, and was mocked for it - tough luck.

If you don't want opponents to mock your "dance", do just like the Pats - don't have one. There are a million ways to celebrate a good play without looking like a dumb-ass.

144
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:46pm

#134: Who the hell said they were all luck?

Here's what's not luck: Putting together a team that's been in the top 5 DVOA teams for 3 out of the past 4 years. That's amazing. It has nothing to do with Bill Belichick's Jedi mind powers, either. It's good coaching, good scouting, and good gameplanning.

Here's what is luck: the Patriots winning in 2001, and the Patriots not making the playoffs in 2002 so they couldn't pick up another loss there.

Had the Patriots made the playoffs in 2002, Bill Belichick's playoff-fu wouldn't've won them a Super Bowl. They weren't that good a team.

Maybe 2 or 3 of those wins were 'lucky' wins. But an "unlucky" loss turns what could've been a 3-0 run and a Super Bowl win into a first round loss.

If you win a Super Bowl on your first or second try, it is really hard to get back into the 'loss' column. Ben Roethlisberger right now is 5-1 in the playoffs. It will take him four years at a minimum to get back to 'average'.

Playoff records mean nothing.

145
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:46pm

Dallas from 1992 to 1996 went 10-1. That’s more amazing than anything the Patriots have done, since it was in 4 consecutive years.

In "4 consecutive years" the Pats now stand at 9-1, and have a non-trivial chance to be sitting at 10-1 around 10pm next Sunday.

146
by Mike W (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:47pm

#98 - Badger, I think the game you're referring to is the paradigm example of what can happen when the refs don't do their jobs. Erik Williams went hands-to-face almost every passing play and the refs acted like they didn't see it. It's stuff like that that people should bitch about. The odd call here or there that goes the wrong way is annoying but inevitable. It's things like NE and Car in the 2003 conference championship games, when they figured, let's just break the rules every play and see if they'll call it. That's a problem, and responding to it with a "Buck up!" or "Quit whining!" is bullshit. It's not a conspiracy; it's just guys who don't have the self-respect or the balls to do their jobs.

Anyone here want the NFL to turn into the NBA? Show of hands. Anyone?

147
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:48pm

#126, I said Tomlinson should STFU about people mocking Merriman's dance routine.

148
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:49pm

#138: There's no tolerance whatsoever for removing your helmet on the field between plays. Helmet comes off, flag gets thrown. Easy as that.

149
by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:49pm

Dan Riley #137:

I’m down on my knees right now praying that I never see it, and praying that I never see Brady give the shout out to Jesus after another clutch drive that JESUS HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH

prunemike #141:

You are so right - God, Jesus, whoever has nothing to do with winning. I love it when players don’t pray, thank god or do any of that stuff.

I was referring to the practice of some players thanking God after the game in prayer at midfield with their opponents for bringing them all through the game unharmed. That was Reggie White's thing. Not the "Thank you Jesus" fingers towards heaven stuff that some players do after they make a play.

So you both prefer for players not to be humble and sportsmanlike in wishing good health for each other and a safe game? I assume you also don't like the practice of most teams of praying as a team in the locker room?

150
by thad (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:49pm

Asante Samuels “defense� of Eric Parker on the last play he knocked down. Samuels pushed Parker off his route, both hands on his shoulder area.

The numerous choke holds on Merriman.
You are full of crap!

1. He puts one hand, his right, on Parkers shoulder.
2. This is within 5 yards, legal.!!!
3. Parker immediately pushes back with his left hand
4. Samuals body is in the way, so you cant't see his left arm, he may have pushed Parker, but there is no way it's in the shoulder area.
5. So there is some hand checking, but to say he pushed Parker, like he really moved him is just absurd.
Samual made a fantastic play on the ball.
6. As far as the "numerous" choke holds on Merriman, you know, the plays where Pats players grabbed him by the throat, well I didn't see them.
7. I find it really interesting how you mention these plays and just don't bother to mention the face mask on Colvins int.
So whats more biased, the officiating, or your comments?

151
by Cameron (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:50pm

#113:

So it’s really Pat’s skill that caused...
insert litany of SD miscues
San Diego ended up making more mistakes.

Um. That's football. If you can't get it done, you lose. And yes, part of the reason that losing teams make the mistakes that they do is that the winning team pressures them into it.
So far all of the analysis has been about what an ugly game this was. Maybe it was ugly because there were two tough, talented defensive units out there creating chaos? Just a thought.

152
by Dave (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:51pm

140: fair enough. I think that's nuts, but fair enough.

153
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:53pm

#137/141: I am OK with players who thank God or pray if they wish, but I would find it only fair if they also blamed Jesus for every dropped pass or missed field goal:
"We were the better team on the field today, but clearly Jesus was totally one-sided and just wasn't going to let us win this one. This is totally unacceptable, that He would ruin the game for the fans this way, out of sheer incompetence or worse. I guess we'll have to bring it up with the Competition Committee."

154
by Basilicus (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:53pm

#89:

Every once in a while, when just about everyone (smart and stupid commentators alike) agree on the reasons for the outcome of a game, it's because the reasons are just that obvious. While the Patriots obviously don't suck, they did win because they were lucky.

I do have to agree with you that the refs didn't hand it to them, though. The Chargers did by drawing stupid penalties they should have been smart enough to avoid. If I were Marty I'd yell myself hoarse into next week at the two players who caused those two 15-yard penalties. I'm too lazy to look up which players those were again.

155
by TracingError (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:53pm

115
What was dumb was McCree not batting the ball down. He knocks it down and it's Charger ball at the line of scrimmage. He catches it down field and yes, he has a shot of getting past that point, but he has a good chance of not making it, and a chance of fumbling. So catching the ball was idiotic, dumb in the extreme. I've seen the same thing all year, but that doesn't make it right. DBs on 4th down should knock it down unless time has expired and their team is down.

The Pats have been lucky to win so many close playoff games, but a lot of that "luck" is not doing as many stupid things as their opponent.

156
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:53pm

Wait, did people actually think the NE-SD game was ugly? It was great. All the games this weekend (except maybe IND/BAL) were fantastic games. Ridiculously few penalties, not a lot of moron turnovers - just all around fantastic football.

Much better than last year's divisional playoffs. Those were god-awful.

157
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:54pm

Re: #148

No duh. I'm not saying they shouldn't have been flagged for that -- of course they should have (and thank god they were intelligent enough to wait until the play was over) -- only that if, as #126 claimed, that additionally "angered" LdT, LdT needs to get a grip.

158
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:54pm

71, Pats Fan, I am honored to be pluralized, but admit I have no idea what it should be. Bobmen makes sense, though the "man" refers less to my gender than the first three letters in my last name, which would make it Bobmans....

My brain hurts. Let's take this to the irrational thread for a few rounds of slap-fighting.

FTR, I am rarely pissy (of course I am saying that! Who would say otherwise!), but I do get defensive when I see paeople being attacked in what I perceive as an irrational manner, especially the Colts. Hey, they have flaws and I like to think I am a realist. I generally agree with Bob Kravitz, an Indy Star columnist who probably pissess off more Hoosiers than he pleases. So overly defensive, perhaps, and definitely grasping at straws to try to "prove" a point, yes. Pissy sounds so.... prissy.

And BTW, I am one of the few sports fans who DOES play the injury card for mine and any other team. It IS a big deal when your top 4 safeties and two starting DTs are out for 12+ games (and NE is amazing for overcoming this type of shit in the past). Indy didn't overcome this as much as merely survived it this year.

Injuries, like luck, are part of the game and you have to live with them and try to adapt to them. Pretending that they do not matter seems to be some sort of unspoken code of the NFL and it seems silly to me. I really hate it when a coach is canned because his team tanked when they had some key injuries. I love Dungy, but who doesn't think Mora would have turned Indy around from 6-10 to 10-6 when James got healthy? Same for Herm in NY this year with Pennington back and 2 great rookies on the OL. Not to diminish the tastefully named Mangini's work (or go against the anti-Herm sentiment at FO), but canning a coach due to a bad record in an injury-plagued season is short-sighted in my view. Canning Marty for the recent SD loss would be too, IMO.

I mean really, if Manning or Brady went down, who would say "well injuries are part of the game and they should have won anyway"? Nobody. Not sure where this rant came from, but I've noticed that teams often get credit for overcoming injuries (see Pats 2003/2004/2005) but rarely get a mulligan for not overcoming them. Hey, it's a 2-way street.

Sorry, was that pissy?

159
by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:55pm

MikeW #146:

It’s things like NE and Car in the 2003 conference championship games, when they figured, let’s just break the rules every play and see if they’ll call it.

Its a good thing most of the other 30 teams in the league are not coached to play in this manner (and it was definitely coaching - the players have admitted in interviews to being told by the coaches they were to hold opponents as much as they could get away with), or the NFL would be unbearable to watch. Its much more interesting to watch teams compete that mostly attempt to play by the rules than to watch teams compete by who can get away with cheating the most.

160
by JohnR (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:56pm

If you win a Super Bowl on your first or second try, it is really hard to get back into the ‘loss’ column. Ben Roethlisberger right now is 5-1 in the playoffs. It will take him four years at a minimum to get back to ‘average’.

Playoff records mean nothing.

On the flip side, it will take him potentially more than 2 more Super Bowls without a loss to reach 12-1. And what if the Pats go 14-1 after this year?

And all your conjecture about what *would* have happened in 2002 is -um- kinda silly, imho.

#142: in terms of winning percentage, the Pats run is more impressive right now....especially with a longer playoff schedule each year and with a salary cap.

I just don't get it. This is an amazing run and there are smart people that are still trying to use numbers to diminish it - even though it is getting really, really hard to do that.

The one good argument that I have read is #130.

161
by Marko (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:58pm

"Once in overtime and once before the half, the Seahawks showed a very vanilla coverage scheme to Grossman and dared him to beat it. Before half, they left a slot receiver uncovered in a hurry-up situation, and Grossman threw a slant for a good gain. In overtime, they left Russell Davis in single coverage on somebody (was it the loan officer, the hunter, the bail bondsman or Professor Plum) in a Cover-1 where the safety would be busy elsewhere, and Grossman hung it up for a 30-yard gain."

That was Rashied Davis, not Russell Davis. Russell Davis is a defensive lineman for Seattle (who, by the way, was a Bears' draft pick years ago who never panned out). Rashied Davis also was the receiver on that hurry-up play before the half, which actually wasn't a slant - it was a quick throw where Grossman took the snap and almost immediately threw a kind of jump pass to Davis, who had gone straight ahead about two steps off the line because, as you said, he was uncovered.

"If McCree was so stupid how did he intercept the great (go ahead and genuflect) Tom Brady.

What was dumb is him not getting on the ground.... I think I’ve seen that play happen a handful of times this season as well."

But going to the ground after catching it would have cost his team about 10-15 yards of field position. (I'm not sure about the exact amount, so I'm just approximating here). That's the whole point of why he should have just knocked it down. It was fourth down. His team would have taken over in better field position if he had just knocked it down. It was a stupid (or selfish) decision (unless he had a clear path for a big return, which he obviously didn't). Sure, if he had just caught it on instinct, then just getting on the ground would have made sense. But you have to think about the situation before the play (as another poster said earlier).

It's like in baseball - an outfielder has to know the situation before a pitch. An outfielder has to know, for example, when to try to throw a runner out at the plate and when to throw to second base to keep the tying or winning run out of scoring position. The point is you have to think of what to do before the play. A smart or well-coached player would know to knock it down because he would have thought about it before the snap. And the fact that this play is often made by other players doesn't excuse it - it's a stupid (or selfish) play whenever it occurs.

162
by Glenn (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:58pm

143 (slo-mo-jo)-

Exactly right. The Pats targeted Merriman during and after the game. Check out this YouTube clip of Merriman at the Chargers pep rally telling everyone he was gonna "hit Tom Brady in the mouth."
This idea that the Pats - out of thin air - decided to get into the Chargers' faces is absurd, even more absurd that there's a poster here who is certain that Belichick gives his team a "blank check" to mock opponents and "maintains absolutely no on-field discipline after games." Sir, you unquestionably and comically have no idea what you are talking about. If that were true, the No Fun League suits would have told BB to reign his boys in a long time ago.

163
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:02pm

#158: God, canning Marty would be insane. Really, honestly, nuts. San Diego is a franchise that's built to contend for the next four years pretty much at a minimum, and basically all the other powerhouse teams in the AFC will have serious problems over those years at some point.

164
by vikinghooper (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:02pm

Let's be real. The Chargers were by far the better team but in no way deserved this gritty NE victory.

It has been a sneaking suspicion that as the combine has begun to select out football skills ( see troy williamson's inablity to catch No. 7 pick ), people with superior physical skills and inferior football skills are populating NFL teams.

Now said superior physical specimens like Parker on the Chargers dropped three passes and muffed and fumbled a punt on the same play.

Marlon McCree was actually showboating during his two run stops earlier in the game.

These players must be coached to FALL ON FUMBLES and KNOCK DOWN FOURTH DOWN PASSES. Now Schottenheimer apologists will say he can't coach everything, but can his players make a SINGLE smart play in a critical game?

Are you telling me that Lin Elliott missing 3 field goals against KC and Nate Kaeding missing a field goal in OT against the Jets convinced Marty that a 54 yarder was his best option.

The playoffs are like operating on a live patient; the regular season is like practicing in the pig lab.

I chuckle that Schottenheimer still has people who believe in him. The Patriots didn't win; this was flat out coaching putridity and if Marty was a doctor, Charger fans would get a large malpractice settlement.

Get Gruden, Carroll, Meyer in SD and they win 2 SBs in the next 3 years.

165
by JohnR (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:03pm

#159: whining about the refs. wow - that is original. it really adds a lot to the discussion. Every team has bad calls break for them and against them - it is what you do after they happen that makes the difference. Put it this way, consider it a "non-predictive" event :) For every team that has a crappy call, most times they could have done something after the call was made to change the course of the game and they failed to do it. Oh well.

But please, lets not degenerate into a "refs suck" type of thread....

166
by hwc (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:04pm

If I had seen a tape of the NE/SD game before the season began, and I didn’t know that both teams were in the playoffs, I would have assumed that this was a pre-season game in which both teams used starters. .... Did anyone else also think that neither team played up to the level associated the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs? I certainly did.

--------

I disagree. To me, the game seemed like a SuperBowl game. These were two very good football teams putting a lot of pressure on each other. Neither team could execute like a Swiss watch because the defenses weren't allowing it. It was also an extremely physical game.

The Pats SuperBowl games against the Rams, Panthers, and Eagles were all crazy affairs hinging on crazy bounces of the ball that ended up going down the wire. Or, perhaps a better example was the infamous Pats/Raiders snowbowl game. That was hardly a "clean" well-executed game. The Pats got killed for much of the game, but hung in there until all hell broke lose in the fourth quarter. It's just the way playoff football works.

BTW, I think this same playoff dynamic explains the Colts/Ravens game. I mean...none of us, literally none of us, would have predicted the way that game unfolded. Welcome to the tournament.

167
by DaveO (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:06pm

To all y'all defending the Pats' shenanegans - douchebaggery is douchebaggery, whether or not is in reaction to someone else's douchebaggery, and whether or not someone exhibits further douchebaggery in reaction to your douchebaggery.

The Pats targeted Merriman during and after the game

Yeah, but they also did the TO-approved logo-stomp, which is indisputably directed at the team, not the individual.

What I tell my kids is just this: if you let some idiot provoke you into being an idiot, that doesn't really make you less of an idiot.

168
by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:06pm

JohnR:

Its not whining about the refs to point out cheating and coaches encouraging cheating. I didn't even mention the refs.

169
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:06pm

#152, this ain't the most important issue in the world for me, but I do find it curious that you think it "nuts" to believe it is more deplorable to initiate classless behavior than to respond by mocking it.

170
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:08pm

#160: You're missing the argument. I'm not saying that the run isn't impressive. It is. It's amazing. But the idea that the 12-1 record is indicative of that run is retarded. Playoff records are just crap. Roethlisberger's 5-1 record looks not-that-different from Brady's 12-1 record. Brady's record looked worse after 2005, even though it's more impressive that they actually made it to the playoffs again.

Just stick with "top 5 team 3 out of 4 years". That's the amazing part.

171
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:10pm

Yeah, but they also did the TO-approved logo-stomp

Says who? All the reports have been of a couple players (Hobbs and Wilfork have been mentioned in various accounts) standing on the logo at the center of the field and doing Merriman's showboat dance.

172
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:11pm

#166: Dead on. Games between two great teams never look good. They always look like crap.

173
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:12pm

hwc,
I concur--two relatively evenly matched, physical teams fighting each other in each game. (Did I sat the Colts were physical? Yikes.) Indy/Bal had only 6 called penalties all game, IIRC (I say "called" in a pissy protest about the DPI not called when Reggie Wayne was knocked off his feet, but I digress.)

I think they were both good examples of championship ball games, except for mental lapses. I think McNair had the only notable one in throwing a goal line pick into double coverage in that game, while SD had a well-documented handful.

A little more offense in Balt would have been fun, but if I were the single inventor of football and the single owner of the NFL, I'd be proud to call this an example of my product at its best.

174
by Dave W (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:12pm

Don't understand the point about the Pats not sufficiently "dominating" in the post season.

Just going backwards in time now...the Pats just beat the Jets by 14. (And please don't say that the game was closer than the score, because then I'm going to give you the Super Bowl over Carolina, which was not as close as the score indicated - the Pats were much better than the Panthers on that day, and Carolina was close only because Vinatieri missed 2 field goals, Brady threw a truly awful interception, and Delhomme turned into Mark Rypien circa 1991 for 2.5 quarters of football. The Pats should have won that game by 20+ points).

The Pats beat the Colts by 17 in 2004. They beat the Steelers by 14 in 2004 (and that one REALLY wasn't as close as the score). They beat the Colts by 10 in 2003. That's three double-digit victories in 13 months over the second and third best teams in football in that period.

It's true that the Patriots haven't had as many routs in the playoffs as Dallas of the early 1990s or the Niners of the 80s. And I'll candidly agree that the current Patriots probably aren't quite of the same quality as those teams.

But there aren't many great teams in NFL history that routinely beat their playoff opponents by double digits. None of the 70s powerhouses routinely did so. Neither did the Packers of the 60s.

So if your point is that in all of football history the Pats probably aren't as good as the 90s Cowboys or the 80s Niners, then I'll agree with you.

But other than that, I think the Patriots of the 00s hold their own with any of the other great teams of the past 50 years.

175
by JohnR (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:13pm

#168 - to say that the coach "encourages cheating" is a little disingenuous and perhaps "homerish" of you, don't you think?

You really think Belichick said, "I want you to cheat out there"? Or perhaps he did exactly what he should have done? "I want you to disrupt their timing by jamming them hard at the line. We'll keep jamming them and see how much the backjudges are going to allow. Keep going until they throw a flag then back off."

Which do you think a successful head coach would do? How is it cheating?

It really sounds more like you are whining about a lack of calls - and, frankly, I don't know where it is coming from.

176
by DaveO (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:13pm

171: From the WWL...

The San Diego Chargers running back, upset that some Patriots were dancing on the Chargers logo at midfield after they had silenced the record crowd of 68,810 at Qualcomm Stadium...

177
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:17pm

JohnR, I think you are cutting it kind of close. They willfully bent the rules to see where the flags would fly and what kind of advantage they could get from it. I say that is cheating. I also say it's damn smart and hate the fact that Indy passively did not/was not able to counter it in 2003.

If you drive 57 MPH in a 55 zone, are you breaking the law? Damn right. Should a cop stop you? No f-ing way. But if he did, what's your excuse: "Man, I was only breaking the law by a little. You know, bending the rules to get some advantage."

Disclosure: I am an Indy fan who HATES speed limits.

178
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:20pm

JohnR, to muddy my point, the rules are the rules, but they are applied differently all over the NFL. Maybe BB was NOT cheating, but was just trying to see where this particular officiating crew drew the line, and apparently those refs for got their pencils....

Whereas speed limits are pretty fixed and hard to argue that 57 is really 55 in some parts of town, depending on your angle and where the ball is.

179
by Glenn (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:23pm

And could we please stop comparing TO's Cowboy Stomp to what happened Sunday? TO scored a touchdown, and from the back of the end zone made a U-turn for an out-of-his-way 50-yard dash to midfield so he could do his routine. After Kaeding missed, the Pats bench emptied to join the rest of the Patriots who were already at midfield because thats where the play ended, and they began celebrating/dancing/mocking/whatever. So I guess everyone on the team should have moved away from the midfield logo before whooping it up. "Hey wait, we can't celebrate here...it's on their lightning bolt! We're at midfield! Celebrating here isn't proper or classy! Let's move a few steps to the left and it'll be OK." Please.

180
by Ben B. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:24pm

disclaimer: very frustrated Chargers fan

I hate Shawne Merriman's dance, but almost everyone else celebrates after sacks too. His is just more annoying than most. There's a big difference between celebrating after you make a big play and rushing the field and dancing on the opponents logo after an opponent misses a field goal (which you had no control over). And this is while there were still 3 seconds left, in a game you were extremely lucky to win. So that was my problem with the celebration.

Yeah, sure, New England took advantage of their opportunities, and what-not, but they were outplayed. It's hard to dispute that. They have one good TD drive where they took advantage of the Chargers prevent defense. They recovered 5 of 5 fumbles, some of which should be high probability for the Chargers.

Also, please don't put any of the blame for the loss on Rivers. Rivers was awesome, except on the sack he took to push them out of field goal range. I think he had 7 passes dropped that should have been routine catches, and then at least 4 more that would have been decent catches.

181
by miami (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:24pm

73. Because DBs are taught to pick off passes by Brady, that's why. I assure no DB or LB in the NFL is chanting 'knock it down' to himself on 4th down, with the exception of Hail Marys.
That goes double for playoff games. Yell at McCree for not holding on with 2 hands and going down with the ball all you want - agreed there.

182
by Calbuzz (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:26pm

I'd be interested to see the Seahawks DVOA for the Bears game. This game looked similar to a lot of their games this year, which means they'll probably have a low DVOA, but somehow managed to be close at the end.

I wonder where Seattle sits on the list of over-achieving teams in DVOA history?

183
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:29pm

BenB, I wouldn't get on Rivers's case too much for the sack, either. I seem to recall (and surely Pats fans do) a pretty well-regarded and lightly sacked 2-time MVP QB getting sacked for a loss of 12 with about 10 seconds left, pushing his kicker just out of his range, when the Pats beat the Colts in the first game of the 2004 season. Vanderjagt shanked a 48-yarder, game over. Yes, it shouldn't have happened, but maybe it has to happen once for that lesson to be permanently etched.

184
by JohnR (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:29pm

Cheating is doing something to the field to harm your opponent (making goalposts further away or something). Cheating is listening in to radio messages between the opposing head coach and is quarterback.

When there are impartial observers of a game who's job it is to enforce the rules - you aren't cheating if they don't enforce those rules.

I mean - you say as much in your example!
You are basically arguing that the cops are complicit in your "cheating" if they don't pull you over for doing 57.

If you had a race to work with another person - and you both drove by the same cop every day - and you decided to increase your speed by 1MPH every day until the cop pulled you over, but the person you were racing against didn't do this - would you say that you "cheated"?

c'mon - get over it - it was years ago at this point. And Indy coulda done the same thing to the Pats WRs but they didn't. Presumably the same back judges would have called downfield contact the same way for both teams - i.e. they were both playing by the same rules.

185
by Deez (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:30pm

I am a huge Pats fan with two comments.

First, why is everyone up in arms about LT and the post-game happenings. I did not see the Pats dancin on the logo, but if they did, that was over the line. I did see LT blame BB, which I found mostly absurd. Some of the theories for both behaviors are creatively interesting, but I'm not sure if anyone has identified an obvious alternative: both LT and the offending NE players are competitive, emotional guys. That game was a heavyweight fistfight, and when it ended, they reacted emotionally. The NE players didn't become T.O. because of it, nor should LT be seen as a crybaby. At least I think.

Second, SD started drives in NE territory 4 or 5 times in the first half and had 14 total points - 7 of which came after a 60 yard screen on a drive they started in their own territory. They OWNED first half field position and did nothing to capitalize. And on this, the 4th and 11 call was inexcusable in that it both took points off the board and ceded a monstrous field position advantage they had enjoyed to that point. Whether it was Marty or the players or the man upstairs, SD was utterly incapable of throwing the knockout punch.

186
by thad (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:31pm

#166: "Dead on. Games between two great teams never look good. They always look like crap."
ok Pat I will agree that this weekends games were fantastic, but that statement?
I don't know where to begin
SB 13, fantastic
nfc championship 81, same
nfc championship 90, same
nfc championship 92 wow!
gb db super bowl, fantastic
I actually have tapes of the two sf dc games, even the one where dallas loses is really fun to watch. Insanely gut wrenching at the time, I was a kid and close to tears, but fantastic 25 years later.

187
by Sean (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:37pm

It's difficult to believe that on the Monday after four very interesting playoff games the discussion is almost completely dominated by just how super-duper the Patriots are or not, but there it is. I'll give my two cents on the Pats' recent run and then leave it alone forever.

First off all, their run is remarkable, and all due credit to the Pats for at least grabbing opportunity when it presented itself.

Is 12-1 the product of skill or luck? Obviously, it's a product of both, and it's the heavy dose of luck that has allowed the Pats to be in a position to run the record up some more. In 2001, the Pats were a failed 3rd and 1 and an obscure rule away from never getting the opportunity to get to the AFC Championship (which they won impressively) or the Super Bowl (where their gameplan was fantastic, but they were still well on their way to losing in overtime had Brady not had that last drive). In 2003 they won a very evenly matched game against Tennessee, won an AFC Championship game by bending the rules so blatantly that the league felt it necessary to revise them as soon as the season was over, and then barely outlasted a Carolina team that they should have been significantly better than. In 2004 they were the best team in the league and were never seriously challenged. In 2005 they had a long overdue meltdown against Denver. And that brings us to 2006, where they played one impressive game against the Jets and were they got their asses kicked up and down the field in San Diego for sixty minutes yet managed to conjure up a win out of thin air.

In short, the Patriots had multiple points during their run when it could and likely should have been ended, and one point where it did end. Again, all credit to them for grabbing opportunities and for not being the team that lost its composure as Oakland did in 2001 or San Diego did yesterday.

But they hardly have played like the Lombardi Packers, the Jimmy Johnson Cowboys or the Walsh 49ers. They just haven't.

188
by NF (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:42pm

"Aaron Schatz: Honestly, the difference between the 2001-2006 Eagles and the 2001-2006 Patriots comes down to a few random bounces of the ball, slightly better game plans, and quarterback injuries."

Add to that having a gaping hole at WR instead of the gaping hole at RB that the Patriots had. Freddie Mitchell set the Eagles offense back three years. While the Patriots could mask their gap with an efficient passing game, what Andy Reid and I think Bill Belichick realize is that in the modern NFL you pass to win and rush to get short-yardage conversions and kill the clock. Despite having a top 8 rushing attack according to DVOA from 2001-2004, the Eagles never had a passing DVOA above 10% or a great offense in that stretch until they got TO in 2004.

What the Eagles did have in 2001 and 2002 that the Patriots didn't was a great defense. And without a game plan like the one Bill Belichick had they came within three points of going to overtime against the Rams in St. Louis. Since then an injury to McNabb, the 2003 postseason Panthers, Bill Belichick and the Patriots, TO and injuries to McNabb, and an injury to McNabb have been a big part of the reason the Eagles have not won a Super Bowl in the 5 years since and only played in one.

The major weakness this year, the problems with the rush defense, is not as bad as everyone says, it's just that the Eagles have had the misfortune of facing many good rushing offenses. DVOA puts the Eagle rush D at -4.2% and the Pats at -6.5%, but VOA has the Eagles at 0.1% and the Pats at -10.6%. Not bad, just not good enough.

The future? If Andy Reid has ever had the team on a clear path to greatness, he does now. This was supposed to be a semi-rebuilding year after the defense had very little proven talent in the front 7 and the offense was left with no experienced and talented WRs. Injuries and locker room chaos could wreck the team again like 2005, but I don't think Andy Reid will be unprepared to handle that in the future. I think the owner of the Eagles has seen what the Rooney's have been doing across the state and have decided to stick with Andy Reid for the long haul. The only scenario that I can see that would require the Eagles to completely rebuild from the ground up 5 years from now is McNabb and Westbrook hitting terminal decline combined with several bad drafts, free agency signings that are sound deals on paper but completely fail to meet expectations that waste cap space, and good young players from today leaving after their rookie contract or recent extensions run out. That combination would sink pretty much any team, but the way the Eagles are running things it seems that is the only way that the current model of the team can get terminally stuck in mediocrity.

189
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:43pm

#158, I think Mora would have kept his job if he hadn't been so over the top in his press conferences that year, which had the effect of souring the relationship with a player, Manning, who was so critical to the team's future. No, the NFL is not the NBA, and superstars can be held far more accountable, but jumping ugly in public with a guy who has years to run on a contract with a huge signing bonus, when the guy has the work ethic that Manning has, is an ill-advised, undisciplined thing to do. You can be good coach who gives boring press conferences, like Belichik, or you can be a good coach who gives entertaining press conferences, like Parcells, but you can't give stupid press conferences, and I say this as somebody who generally likes Mora Sr..

190
by admin :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:43pm

I swear to God, people have lost their minds today.

Look, if you don't like the Pats, before you post anything, ask yourself: "Would I be this angry if the Arizona Cardinals were doing this?" If the answer is no, then don't post it and act like you've proven how evil the Patriots are.

If you like the Pats, before you post anything, ask yourself: "Would this be so special if the Arizona Cardinals did it?" If the answer is no, then don't post it and act like you've proven how great the Patriots are.

Please, some sanity. Let's act like we're on Football Outsiders and not patsfans.com or patshaters.com, okay?

By the way, how about those Saints and Bears! More Saints and Bears talk, please. Marques Colston is swell! Yay, Mark Anderson and Bernard Berrian! And Scott Fujita!

191
by miami (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:45pm

re:I just don’t get it. This is an amazing run and there are smart people that are still trying to use numbers to diminish it - even though it is getting really, really hard to do that.

NE has had an amazing run. 12-1 is amazing, just look at Marty.
However, NE has had tremendous good fortune that no other team has had, and also taken advantage of their great luck like tough champions do.

The Oakland game had a lot of luck in it.

Rams - Vinatieri hitting a 48 yder while Wilkins missed a 52yder. A Rams fumble bouncing to a NE player.

CAR - Fox's horrendous PAT/2-pt calls when it would have been better to simply kick. Kasay kicking the ball OOB on the kickoff. NE recovering both fumbles - 1 by them and 1 by CAR. No skill involved in any of those plays.

PHL - NE outplayed them no question, but LJ Smith fumbles in red zone and NE recovers, and LJ also has a pass go thru his hands for the pick.

SDG - all 5 fumbles go NE's way. SDG player gives NE a first down on a foul and no foul was called on NE's retaliation. Etc.

The difference btw 12-1 and 8-5 is really amazingly small. Luck plays a huge role that most people are uncomfortable acknowledging.
Have the Pats outplayed their opponents most of the time? Absolutely.
In all 12 games? Hardly. Even my Boston friends agree with that 100%.

192
by Fat Tony (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:46pm

re: 187 If the Pats win this year, they'll have done something (4 SB victories in 6 years) that the Walsh 49ers and Johnson Cowboys just never did. Here's hoping you'll have to rationalize that too.

193
by nat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:47pm

"The interception on fourth down-to-10-yard gain is one of the luckiest plays in recent NFL history."

I think the play was not so much an extremely lucky play as a dramatic one - to the point of insane melodrama. Neither interceptions nor strip-fumbles are luck events, and recovering a fumble is hardly a "luckiest" event since it's generally a 50-50 thing. The timing of the play may have been lucky, but how much so?

Because the Pats recovered the fumble, they got a new 1st-and-10 instead of the Chargers getting one. But if you look at the play-by-play, more than 40% of the Chargers' plays (including returns) result in a new set of downs or points. A lost fumble on almost all of those would be at least as damaging as the play that happened.

A lost fumble on maybe one or two of those other plays would have been as dramatic.

Now I don't think that the Pats intentionally wait for the dramatic moment to cause a fumble. Nor do I think that the Charges wait to the right moment to break fans' hearts. The drama was luck - lucky for us fans because it made the game exciting to the end. But the fumble recovery itself was not luckier than any other fumble recovery.

194
by Dave W (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:48pm

Re: 187

We're probably now off topic, but I'll take the bait on the Pats vs the Lombardi Packers. I don't think it's a slam dunk for Green Bay at all.

The Packers did win 2 Super Bowls impressively (though we could argue whether the AFL was really as good as the NFL in those days). The rest of their record is significantly less dominant. They beat the Cowboys two years running by 7 and 4 points. They beat Baltimore by 3 in 1965 to get to the championship game (where they then won by 11).

And let's not forget that they were only in the playoffs in 1967 because of the quirky divisional alignment at that time. With no wild card in that era, the Packers made the playoffs by winning a bad division with a less than stellar record, while the Colts (who many believe were having the greatest season of any team in that decade) sat at home after an 11-1-2 regular season. Is that luck, a "non-predictive event", or taking advantage of the opportunties you have?

The Packers were a phenomenal team. One of the very best in history. But I find little in their postseason record to say they were demonstrably more dominant than the current Patriots.

As I said before, the 80s Niners and 90s Cowboys are a different story.

195
by Independent George (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:48pm

Statement 1: The Pats were lucky to escape with a win yesterday, but I'll give them credit for playing tough and not quitting when they were down.
Statement 2: The Pats are mediocre at best; the only reason they're not 8-8 is because of sheer dumb luck.

Why, oh why, is it so difficult to differentiate between those two statements? Statement 2 is idiotic; fortunately, almost everybody calling the Pats lucky are, in fact, making Statement 1.

Now let's try the long view:

1. The 2001 Pats were a good team which won the title through a combination of great coaching (arguably the best single-game coaching job in NFL history) and great luck (Bledsoe getting injured early in the season, the infamous tuck).
2. The 2002 Pats regressed towards the mean, but were still a good team that missed the playoffs due to some bad luck.
3. The 2003-2004 Pats were outstanding teams which dominated each season with neutral luck.
4. The 2005 Pats were an excellent team that lost, in part, due to some bad luck (particularly with regard to injuries)
5. The 2006 Pats are a Top-5 team who beat an equally talented opponent on the road due, in part, to some good luck.

For the record, I think NE will win the Super Bowl this year - not because of magic beans, not because Manning is a choker, but because they're easily the best team left. And, yes, they were indeed lucky to beat San Diego yesterday.

196
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:55pm

"I was really shocked how poorly Brady played for much of the game. Simms kept harping about the pressure, but several of his worst throws came when he actually had some time. Yet when they really, really needed one, he uncorked that beautiful deep ball down the right sidelines to set up the game-winner."

WHY? Hes looked like this ALL year. I dont know if its his timing, or what, but hes been off all year.

197
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 7:59pm

Dave W:

Vince Lombardi coached the Packers from 1959-1967.

1961 Packers. 11-3 Beat the Giants 37-0 in championship game.

1962 Packers 13-1. Outscored opposition 415-148. Beat Giants 16-7 in championship game.

If you are going to examine the record consider the entire record.

Thanks.

198
by Boots Day (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:01pm

You can argue just about anything if you only look at the negatives. Let's take a look at why the Packers weren't so great:

The Packers did win 2 Super Bowls impressively (though we could argue whether the AFL was really as good as the NFL in those days). The rest of their record is significantly less dominant. They beat the Cowboys two years running by 7 and 4 points. They beat Baltimore by 3 in 1965 to get to the championship game (where they then won by 11).

The Patriots won three Super Bowls by three points apiece. They needed an overtime win in the playoffs just to get to the first one. They needed a three-point win in the opening round of the playoffs just to get to the second one. They needed a three-point win against the worst playoff coach in history just to keep their season alive this year.

See how easy that is?

199
by Phil (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:03pm

Disclosure: I am a Pats fan. However, it's funny that the same people that complain about the Patriots using the "nobody believed in us" routine say they got lucky, game after game - for the past 5 years. Double Standard?

200
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:03pm

189
Well, I'm excited for the inevitable Grossman to McKenzie 75 yard TD if no one else is.

Am I the only one unsurprised that Good Rex showed up against the Seahawks?
I expect that during this week in practice, Lovie Smith will dress one of his players like Fred Thomas and order Rex to throw it in his direction no matter what. I think that's the best gameplan for the Bears, fancy fullback screens included :)

201
by hwc (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:05pm

Also, did anyone else think that the Pats should have done more on their last drive after the Caldwell catch? Something that gave them a chance at a first down to end the game on the FG attempt. It seemed over-conservative to me.

No way. You're in field goal position to win the game. The two things that cannot happen are an interception or a sack. Play the odds. Hand the ball to Corey Dillion, coach him up to not fumble it, take the three points.

For Brady to start chuckin' the ball into the end zone would have been nuts. The field is so compressed down there that it is really easy to get picked.

202
by Boots Day (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:05pm

In that great TDZ about Rex Grossman, we heard all about the screens and short passes the Bears had set up to help Rex succeed, but Tanier never mentioned that it was the deep ball that really fueled the Good Rex of the Bears' early season. While they were obviously throwing more screens yesterday, it was great to see them let Rex air it out a few times, especially against a depleted secondary. Hitting that bomb to Berrian was probably, literally, the best thing that could have happened to that team.

The Saints are similar to the Seahawks in that the secondary is probably the weakest part of the team. If Rex can hit two or three of those deep balls next Sunday, the Bears should be able to take it.

203
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:06pm

I have no idea which team will win in Indianapolis next week, because I have no idea at this point as to what is a typical performance by the Colts' defense. It would seem likely that a regression towards regular season performance is likely, but I wouldn't bet the mortgage payment on it.

I think the Saints win in Chicago. The Bears defense just not as good as it was early the season, mostly due to injuries, and the Saints have the right personnel to give them fits. I could see the Saints scoring in the thirties, barring excessive wind, and, while the Saints' defense isn't good enough to guarantee the return of Horribillus Rex, they don't have mortgage officers playing corner, either.

204
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:07pm

Another back who turned into something completely different after an injury was Edge. Somebody warn Deuce against signing with the Cardinals in two years.

205
by Devin (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:08pm

RE: #1. Great Unforgiven reference!

Also, the Colts will win the Super Bowl this year.

206
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:10pm

Re 203
OK, I think we just wasted 202 posts here. Time to move along.

207
by Dave Brude (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:15pm

The "stay classy San Diego" Anchorman reference is so tired already it's not even funny. Every talking head and joe schmoe sportswriter is using that one. How original.

208
by Dave W (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:17pm

Re: 195 and 196

Let's not invent strawmen. I did not say the Packers weren't great - in fact if you read the post I said exactly the opposite.

Likewise I did not attempt to argue anything about long-term regular season dominance. So I don't see their 62 regular season points differential as relevant.

The question is whether the Packers rose to the level of post-season dominance, over a period of years, comparable to the 80s Niners or 90s Cowboys.

Nothing in either of your posts refutes that.

My point is that the Packers did not, over their tenure as a great team, routinely dominate their opponents in the post season.

Only two teams in the past 50 years did that routinely.

209
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:22pm

Yeah, the biggest knock against the Pats' record in this era, compared to other champions, is that they haven't crushed anybody in the championship game, meaning that a just a little bad luck in any of those games results in a loss. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the more playoff games that must be played, the more difficult it is to win the trophy.

Still, the best single season champion I've ever seen was the '85 Bears, who didn't even get within a thousand miles of losing any of their playoff games. They simply annihilated everybody in postseason, and the games weren't even as close as the lopsided scores indicated. The best era champion I've seen ('70s on) is probably the '80s 49ers, although the '90s Cowboys may have caught then if Jerry Jones hadn't stupidly run off Jimmy Johnson, and replaced him with Barry Switzer.

210
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:31pm

Even the 49ers could easily have lost one Super Bowl, the second Bengals game, with just a single bad break. The first Bengals Super Bowl was not complete domination, either. I can't remember how much trouble they had in the conference championship games. It really is unusual to have a team annihilate opponents in three straight playoff games, which is why the Bears of 1985 stick out for me so much. I don't think you can adequately compare teams which didn't have to play multiple playoff games.

211
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:41pm

JohnR 184,
First, as I said, I am just as angry at Indy for not doing something about it during the game--hit them back, change your scheme or something. Believe me, I am over it--I haven't mentioned this in ages and somebody else brought it up in this thread.

But you and I have different views of cheating. Yes, the cop is complicit in my "cheating" and if I was uninsured and killed someone in my car while speeding that day, I bet the victim's family would have a decent case against the cops for non-enforcement. Nobody can expect them to stop everybody, but if I go by a speedtrap over the limit and then kill someone, the cop is on the hook.

You say you aren't cheating if they don't enforce the rules? Akin to "the only crime is getting caught" school of thought? Are you insane? I don't want to smear anybody's favorite rule/law-bending player, so I'll pick on an easy target: Rae Carruth. If the cops messed up that case, or the jury acquitted him, does that mean he did not commit a crime? Was Jeffrey Dahmer in the clear while eating a dozen victims because the laws against cannibalism weren't enforced, and he only became guilty (aka a cheater) when the cops caught him? That's nuts. Right is right and wrong is wrong and it doesn't matter what the enforcers say or do (in terms of rightness/wrongness). Of course what the enforcers think/say/do DOES matter in terms of the outcome. Some people think that is all that matters. I am not one of them.

Cheating does not necessarily "harm" your opponent--and moving the goalposts would affect both teams the same. (now if one team had an aging kicker and you had a young stud, this might be an issue and a clever, subtle way to cheat--but motorized goalposts are a clear and crass cheat. Both are illegal.). If the league mandated a certain cleat length, but on a muddy field you wore longer ones, you would be cheating even though your opponents are not harmed (except by your lack of slipping giving you an advantage).

Now the league does not specify to a great degree field condition requirements (grass length, wetness, etc) so you can work in that gray area to slow down an opponent's speed game, or improve yours with super short grass, etc. To me, that is cheating. Some call it gamesmanship. It is legal, only because the legislation to restrict it would be too complicated and picayune and expensive to enforce. But contrary to the spirit of the game.

I guess I was brought up with a strict inprepretation of rules--if they are clear then there is no gray zone. And I complain about the 2003 game (and won't say any more here) as much out of regret as anything. I'd have been a much more successful athlete in school had I been coached to bend the rules and intimidate or demoralize my opponents. That's pretty easy to do one-on-one on a wrestling mat, but I preferred to play it straight and win with brains, skill, speed, strength. I was good, but not great and I almost always beat the thugs. I bet I would have been better with some rule bending, but don't think I'd have liked myself much. Okay, psychoanalysis is over.

For that 2003 game, I blame the Colts first, the refs second, and the Pats 3rd.

212
by Justin (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:42pm

I swear I saw George Burns (w/ glowing red eyes) on the sideline of the SD/NE game winking and snapping his fingers just before the boneheaded penalties, muffed punt, and int/fumble by SD. Only one thing can explain the Patriots combination of luck, skill, and occasional help from the officiating crew that have given them such consistent success in the playoffs. It's not "magic beans". Brady has signed a pact with the Devil.

213
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:43pm

212: Pact with the devil... That makes some sense.

214
by jmb (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:43pm

#181: That might be true, but even in high school football I remember being taught to knock the ball down on 4th down plays. We would have WR/DB drills where the coach would yell out down and distance before the snap, and if we picked off the ball on fourth down we had to run. I'm not saying any of us ever remembered in an actual game, but we were definitely taught ...

215
by OMO (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:46pm

Re: #71

Suck it.

(Pissy enough for you?)

216
by chris clark (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:47pm

186: Games between great teams have roughly the same spread (interesting, close, clean, boring, one sided, sloppy, etc.) as games between non-great teams. If they didn't, GUTS would really matter.

However, I've often felt that sometimes when a team doesn't look good, it is sometimes the other teams play. And, not just on obvious things. For example (and not to pick on this example specifically, it just matches what I want to say): Aaron Schatz: Brady is awful today. Just terrible. He threw the second INT off his back foot, and he just missed a WIDE open Ben Watson. He’s getting time to throw and he just looks awful. Just because SD didn't get obvious pressure on Brady on some of his bad plays, doesn't mean that it wasn't something SD was doing that made him a little less than his average at those times. It might not have even been something visible on the TV. It might not even have been something from that play. However, when a normally good player looks "bad", it may not be all his fault. In other words, when a good player looks good, credit him, but when a good player looks bad, maybe you should credit the "other guys", even if you can't figure out how they are doing it.

I found that helpful when I was watching a "good" team that lost more sb's than most teams play and could just accept that the other team was playing better, not that my team was playing poorly.

217
by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:48pm

Re: 210

It really is unusual to have a team annihilate opponents in three straight playoff games, which is why the Bears of 1985 stick out for me so much.

Not that unusual. Since the 1985 Bears, a bunch of Super Bowl teams have won all their playoff games by 13+ points . Some of these games were closer than the final score would indicate (2000 Ravens over Titans, 1998 Broncos over Jets), but most were as lopsided as you would guess:

2002 TB: 31-6, 27-10, 48-21
2000 BAL: 24-10, 16-3, 34-7
1998 DEN: 38-3, 23-10, 34-19
1996 GB: 35-14, 30-13, 35-21
1991 WAS: 24-7, 41-10, 37-24
1989 SF: 41-13, 30-3, 55-10
1986 NYG: 49-3, 17-0, 39-20

218
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:54pm

What has been rarely mentioned about Rex is that he has GREAT touch on the deep ball. After seeing him hit guys in stride multiple times I have to believe it's a legit skill.

But then so does Brees. I have only seen a handful of Saints games but saw his entire career at Purdue. Even as a fuzzy cheeked lad Drew could drop it in just SO.

If the weather isn't godawful we could see one h*llacious NFC Championship game.

219
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:54pm

Another note:
Part of the issue Rivers took with Hobbs mocking the Chargers in the center of the field was that Hobbs is the worst corner in the NFL.

220
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:55pm

#212: Good you put in the "glowing red eyes" part, otherwise it could be the "Oh, God!" George Burns, leading to the obvious conclusion that God is a Patriots fan.

221
by hwc (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 8:55pm

Doesn't anyone want to discuss this year's football games?

Honestly, 200 posts about "luck" and comparisons to the Green Bay Packers of the 1960s are really boring. Maybe during offseason, but good grief....we have four games to dissect and analyze and two more to look forward to!

222
by Tom (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 9:03pm

I think Tommie Harris's significance is overstated, and Mike Brown's ignored.

The Bear's run D started slipping when Brown went out, not when Harris went out.

223
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 9:04pm

#217: Wait, er? The deep completions I've seen with Rex hitting guys in stride, they were wide open. In that case, isn't it the receiver adjusting to the throw, rather than the quarterback? After all, the quarterback threw the ball a long freaking time ago.

224
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 9:07pm

219: If God really were a fan of the Patriots, Brady making that pact with the Devil was a mistake on his part.

225
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 9:17pm

Pat:

First, I haven't seen umpteen football games, but I have seen enough involving overthrown receivers both open and not open to recognize a qb who at least gives his receiver a chance.

Second, here are the passes in excess of 30 yards I know of where Rex made a throw caught in stride by the receiver. Meaning no stop, no hesitation, just all fluid motion.

Game 1: 49 yard TD pass to Berrian

Game 2: 41 yard TD pass to Berrian

Game 2: 31 yard TD pass to Clark

Game 4: 40 yard TD pass to Berrian

I had this handy because my games notes from early in the season were handwritten. The later stuff I had on my PC before it got wiped by a virus. I could go through the play by play on NFL.com but am not certain which ones qualify as being uninterrupted events.

Anyway, Grossman is much more adept at throwing this deep pass then many others I have witnessed. Favre, for example, is awful on long throws. He routinely overthrows the receiver. Which is why it was so stupid for him to chase off Javon, the one guy who could catch up to his SCUDS.

226
by admin :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 9:19pm

See, statement 219 is why I'm thinking of making this site all-NFC for the rest of the week.

[Ellis] Hobbs is the worst corner in the NFL.

OK, we saw Fred Thomas, Samari Rolle, and Jordan Babineaux this weekend. We've written about Travis Fisher and Jason Webster and Kevin Dockery. You've got Allen Rossum and David Macklin and Joselio Hanson and Stanley Wilson and every cornerback on the Houston Texans not named "Dunta Robinson." And Ellis Hobbs is the worst corner in the NFL?

Man, the Patriots just make people get loopy. You seriously need to watch more St. Louis and Houston games.

Postscript: I can't believe I forgot to mention Kenny Wright and Mike Rumph. Oh, they were terrible. Even reading those names is likely to make Washington fans poke out their own eyes.

227
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 9:20pm

223: I haven't seen a ton of Bears games, so my confidence in my assessment of Grossman is not high, but the one thing I was impressed by was his deep ball.

228
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 9:20pm

226: For the record, I'm not calling Hobbs the worst corner in football. Philip Rivers did.

229
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 9:24pm

Yeah, #216, the score doesn't tell the whole story. That Titans/Ravens game was not a blowout in any way,shape, or form. The game was eminenty winnable for the Titans. Similarly, the Broncos did not crush the Jets, and I'd argue that the Packers did not annihilate the Patriots like the Bears did their playoff opposition in '85. The Giants wins over the Broncos was convincing, but it
was very competitive for a half. The Redskins in '91 were very dominant but their Super Bowl victory was not huge by historical standards. I may not remember the Bucs'/Eagles game from the 2002 season that well, but I think a 4th quarter 90 yard int return by Ronde Barber played a significant role in that margin, and the game was competitive to that point.

The '89 49er team is the only one, I think, that compares as far as no playoff opponent even being faintly competitive for more than a few minutes into the first quarter.

230
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 9:25pm

Saints/Bears is going to be a really entertaining game. I don't know how the Bears defense can stop the Saints offense, they've got too many weapons and the Bears aren't nearly as good without Tommie Harris. The Bears need to blitz more to get pressure, and that plays into the hands with all the misdirection the Saints use to get Bush the ball in space. On the other side of the ball, Rex should be able to exploit the Saints secondary, but if he's asked to score 35+ points, I don't think he can do it.

231
by Boots Day (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 9:26pm

By the way, can anyone explain what Lovie Smith was doing calling timeout with 2 seconds to go in regulation so that the Seahawks could run a fourth down play? It might have made sense with 15 or so seconds to go, so that the Bears would have been able to run a play or two after the change of possession. But with two seconds left? That had the chance (a small chance, but a chance nevertheless) to be the worst coaching decision of all time.

232
by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 9:34pm

JohnR #175:

You really think Belichick said, “I want you to cheat out there�?

Yes. Patriots players are quoted in the press saying exactly that.

"You've got to get back and keep making plays," McGinest said. "You jump back into your football mode. The coaches told me to be aggressive. They told me to hit Faulk and they told me to hold him. Hey, sometimes you get caught."

http://espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs01/columns/clayton_john/1322338.html

The Patriots are also the only team I've ever seen kick the football back with their feet while the Refs aren't looking to make the spot for their opponents worse. They did that on national TV this year on a Sunday night game, if I remember correctly.

233
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 9:36pm

Grossman does throw a very good deep ball, when unpressured, to a wide open receiver. I'm not being sarcastic here; there are prominent qbs who don't do it as well. Unfortunately for Rex, you don't often get receivers that open against a good defense, and being unpressured is unusual as well. This year is weird, though. The Saints aren't a great defense, and if the Colts get the Pats, the Bears could end up playing three consecutive playoff games without facing a defense which was well above average in the regular season. I'm curious as to how often that has happened.

234
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 9:45pm

231: He heard me yelling at him to call a time out through the television, but because of the time delay, he got the message 10 seconds too late.

235
by It only matters if you win (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 9:49pm

Re:232

You must live in that other world where everything is fair and no one wants the upper hand.

236
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 9:49pm

#231: Yeah, that was bizarre. It guaranteed that the 4th down play would end the half, which basically said "let them throw a hail mary." Fifteen seconds on the clock, and they would've had to punt, and Hester could've had a chance to return it. But two seconds is just retarded.

237
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 9:49pm

re: 190
I guess I'm the only one who finds it funny that Aaron is trying to ferment discussion about other less popular teams in the Audibles thread, despite the fact that all year long its been nothing but homer-chat and defended rigorously as such.

238
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 9:55pm

The Bears issue on defense is that the Eagles generate WAY more pass rush. I just cannot see Chicago getting to Brees unless they blitz creatively. And who is more creative with the blitz then Jim Johnson? If the best Philly can do is three sacks with everyone but Rocky Balboa coming after Brees at times I doubt Chicago can do better unless the NO offensive line has a meltdown.

If the Bears were ever going to unleash Urlacher on the qb this just might be the time to do it. Or flip flop between him and Briggs coming. The truly unexpected strategy is send Hillenmeier. But be ready to cover. Relative to the other lbs on the Bears Hunter gets timed with a sundial.

239
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 9:56pm

Kassim Osgood (on local radio right now) defending Merriman's "Lights Out" dance was making the point that he does it to pump up the crowd and that it works.

240
by David Marble (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 9:59pm

"I defy anyone to explain, in plain English, what constitutes contact that would be illegal contact if the QB still had the ball, but isn’t enough to be pass interference once the ball is in the air."

I thought the pass was uncatchable (at least five yards past the receiver and out of bounds), so had the illegal contact been made before the pass was thrown, it would have been called, but the pass had been thrown and was uncatchable, therefore, no call.

And yeah, those rules suck.

241
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 10:03pm

240: Illegal Contact has to go, imo.

242
by Harris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 10:10pm

I hope this off-season doesn’t turn into every other off-season in the last five years, where fans forget to enjoy how amazing this team was at the end of the year . . .

C'mon, Mike. We're talking about PHILADELPHIA. This is a fanbase that can find a dark cloud for the brightest silver lining. This is a fanbase that wanted Reid fired two months ago. This is a fanbase in which there are elements who actually believe Garcia should start over a healthy McNabb next season, that this team should trade McNabb for a pick and Devin Hester. This is a fanbase that has already forgotten that eight weeks ago, winning the division and going to the second round of the playoffs was naught but a delirious fantasy. I'm not thrilled with the way the game ended, but considering that in October I was studying mock drafts, I am thrilled with the way the season ended.

Now if they can re-sign Garcia, Stallworth and Hood, get Bunkley and Cogong playing up to their draft status, replace Mahe with Bloom as a return man and draft a safety (or possibly two) I'll be downright giddy.

243
by steve-o (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 10:10pm

Re:232; You're just mad because the patriots won more super bowls than your team.

244
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 10:10pm

Man, how about "Hillenmeyer".

245
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 10:14pm

Anyone want to put up an Extra Point about Ginn Jr. and Pittman going pro? Wisconsin fans need a chance to fantasize about the Buckeyes possibly being in a rebuilding mode this fall.

Won't happen of course. But give a brother a chance to dream.

246
by Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 10:15pm

I really don't understand the common wisdom that says McCree should've knocked down that interception. As someone who plays a sport, not football, that involves catching things flying through the air, I can tell you that if you have an easy catch on defense, the smartest thing to do has to be to catch it. Trying to do anything else risks popping the ball up and letting an offensive player recover and catch it. What McCree did that was inexcuseable was that he didn't make sure he locked the ball up afterwards. He should've either fallen to the ground or made sure to keep both hands securely wrapped around the football.

On another note, I think a lot of the wisdom about not intercepting the ball on 4th down comes from situations where you are risking a loss in field position that actually matters. On a short pass, that isn't true and really changes the equation. You can't play the game afraid that you are going to fumble on every play.

Also, now that Troy Brown plays both ways, he does have a bit of a natural advantage in that situation. As much as McCree's play was stupid, Troy Brown deserves a ton of credit for making a game-saving play for the Patriots.

247
by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 10:20pm

Andrew, you seem to have dropped in here from the 700 Club, but I for one appreciate your attempt to recast the Pats from the luckiest team on earth to the most immoral. Nice change of pace for all the Pats haters on board, who are making me feel more and more simpatico with Yankee fans, who've had to listen to the same refrain all these years: They got a name for the winners of the world; I wanna name when I lose. They call New England champions of the world. Call me Charger blue!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, back to football. And since Aaron is (a) babysitting to make sure we don't get too team message boardy on him here and (b) really, really wants to know what's now up with the Colts D, may I pose this question: Has any defense in playoff history faced two more miserable back-to-back QB performances than the Colts just did? Crunch the numbers on that one, my friend, and maybe we'll have a clue as to how Dungy managed to (ho-ho) turn it around.

248
by kal (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 10:23pm

I'm terrified of what Grossman will do when asked to play in a shootout.

I also hate that the Bears defense has just utterly collapsed. I mean, I know that they miss Harris, but it's not like they don't have talent all over the place. I'm looking really forward to the EPC because it's just so damn puzzling.

Also, I hate the total weird inconsistency of the Bears in every facet. I have no idea what might happen - heck, I don't know what team will show up from quarter to quarter. Bah.

What I don't quite get is why the Pats have been anointed as winning the superbowl after one upset win - especially after going against a team they lost to, at home, this year. But then again, I thought that SD would dominate, and they certainly did nothing of the sort.

249
by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 10:27pm

The Redskins in ‘91 were very dominant but their Super Bowl victory was not huge by historical standards.

It was 17-0 at the half, 24-0 two plays into the 3rd quarter, and 37-10 with 11 minutes to go. Buffalo scored 2 late TDs to make it look closer than it actually was (play-by-play) - the Redskins were never in real doubt of losing the game.

The ‘89 49er team is the only one, I think, that compares as far as no playoff opponent even being faintly competitive for more than a few minutes into the first quarter.

If that's the standard, I don't think any team qualifies. The Bears had a 7-0 halftime lead over the Giants in the 1985 NFC Divisional playoffs, and that TD was a direct result of a botched Sean Landeta punt. (Chicago had clearly outplayed the Giants in the half, but the Giants had a chance to end the half tied. The Giants' last drive of the half stalled at the Bears 2, and the kicker missed a 19-yard field goal.) Of course, the second half was completely one-sided.

250
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 10:29pm

247: "Has any defense in playoff history faced two more miserable back-to-back QB performances than the Colts just did? Crunch the numbers on that one, my friend, and maybe we’ll have a clue as to how Dungy managed to (ho-ho) turn it around."
But of course, it is hard to separate the merits of a D from the demerits of the opposing QB and offense. If a D takes away your run and shuts down your receivers, every QB is going to look inept. He can then blame it on the refs, the cheating opponents or his own O-line, but it ultimately is a zero-sum game.

It really seems to me the Indy D is legit, at least at times, but honestly I have seen them play only in the playoffs and in the Pats game during the regular season - all more than decent performances.

251
by kal (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 10:31pm

Oh yeah - the dominance of the Bears in 85 - it really doesn't do it justice to look at the scores. Aside from being the only team that's ever shut out every team on their way to the superbowl, they were statistically monstrous and the outcomes of the games were never in remote question. The Giants win was 21-0, but for instance the giants went 3 and out in 9 of the first 11 possessions, gaining a mighty 40 inches per play average. The Rams longest drive all day was 27 yards. LT (the real one) had to be physically restrained on the sidelines because he was so pissed. Or coked up. Whatever.

There have been some amazing playoff teams and some amazing playoff streaks, but I don't think anyone is going to come close to what the Bears did.

252
by Dave (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 10:37pm

169: you've just proved you don't appreciate the distinction between the two.

This isn't the most important issue to me either, but since so many people whose comments I've otherwise respected on this site seem to be in the same boat, allow me to give this one more try.

The individual celebration of achievement is something that you might not like, but it's percolated through the sport to the point where glory-hound celebritrixes like Chad Johnson have ad campaigns built around their propensity to come up with new moves following scores and such. It's gradually becoming part of the sport. You might not like it. You don't have to like it. But the general acceptance is there. This is the organic system in which guys like Shawne Merriman work, play, and live in.

What isn't widely, or even narrowly, appreciated is so obviously disrespecting another entire team, organization, and fanbase on their home field by capering about on their logo. Who said 'haha that's great' when Owens did that on the Dallas star? He was widely lambasted for being a jackhole--in the media, at the watercooler, everywhere. It simply provokes an entirely different response in a large subset of the viewing public.

When George Teague decks Owens for striking a pose on the Dallas star hes looked at as defending the honor of his organization by a lot of people. Don't take my word for it--read the cites.

Who on earth would look at some player decking Merriman after Merriman does the Lights Out dance following a sack as a hero? You, maybe, and the other fans who really don't like the individual celebration.

If the Patriots take offense to Merriman saying he's going to deck Brady and do his dance in mocking fashion, fair enough. If they seek out the big chalk lightning bolt to do it, that's simply a different story. If that's what LT and Rivers got hot under the collar about, I don't think that's entirely out of bounds (or that 'if you can't take it don't dish it out' or any of the other nursery school platitudes I've seen thrown around apply.)

253
by The Jerricho Road (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 10:37pm

Michael David Smith is really an ashhole.

254
by The Jerricho Road (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 10:42pm

Check that, you are all assholes...nobody listens to what Dan Dierdorff is saying, and nobody cares, so you shouldn't either

255
by kal (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 10:43pm

Another way to put the whole Merriman/Patriots thing in perspective:

Sack dances rarely, if ever, cause a fight.

I know of at least three instances this year where players mocking the other team on their home logo caused a brawl. One where this caused the team's coach to be fired.

Regardless of whether your perception (meaning, whoever the heck is reading it) is that the two are equivalent or deserved, the fact is that in football it's a greater offense to dance on the logo of a defeated foe.

256
by Trieu (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 10:43pm

Deuce McAllister was the better back on the day, and #25 absolutely needs to catch that toss-back (even if it was a bad play call), but I'm an even bigger fan of Reggie Bush than I was when he was still wearing #5. As Russell Levine and Will Allen (comment 18) point out, Bush does things that he wasn't supposed to be able to do in the bigger, stronger NFL. The game was a microcosm of his season: smacked down early on and often stopped short often, but absolutely spectactular the rest of the time. Just as they were in college, Vince Young and Reggie Bush are by themselves worth the price of admission. That is a rare quality. This rookie crop is amazing.

Joining the craziness fray: Tom Brady threw three interceptions and the Chargers scored no points off of them. Obviously, there was the flukish fumbled interception, but the other two interceptions led to good field position for the Chargers, and the NE defense stepped up huge. If we're going to credit the Saints D for holding steady after the Bush fumble, then we should credit the NE D for doing similar. The Chargers were the better team on Sunday, Brady crapped the bed, and they got tons of luck, but New England punched their ticket to the championship round by coming up huge on defense against a great opposing offense. For the Patriots D to have given up only 21 points -- despite three turnovers by the Pats O -- is the unwritten (well, okay, lesser written) story of the game.

257
by morganja (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 10:50pm

Just watched the San Diego Patriots game. Once more terrible officiating in a playoff game benefitting the patriots. Is there any possible way to get decent reffing in a Patriot playoff game? Any way at all? What is the deal with this crap? Year after year the same shit. That is why the rest of the country despises the Patriots. They're a classless team that has benifited from the longest streak of poor reffing in the history of the league.

258
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 10:51pm

This thread has degenerated to an unenjoyable level. However, some day I want someone to explain to me why margin of victory in playoff/championship games is an important criteria in determining how good a historical team is. Why is a 10 point win so much more impressive than a three point win? I think we've all seen examples where the final score was significantly altered by events in the last few minutes long after the outcome of the game was decided. So if you use final margin of victory as a touchstone, please have the courtesy to do a re-construction of the game to make sure there was no interception return TDs of Hail Mary passes, a team up by multiple scores allowing a runner to proceed down the field to burn the clock, teams ahead calling runs or kneeling the ball to run out the clock, or other such events. Thank you.

259
by Trieu (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 10:58pm

Severe Weather Advisory

Freezing rain here in Boston. Please be wary of trolls on the road.

260
by masocc (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 10:58pm

I just heard a crazy/scary quote from a Seahawk, could somebody verify this stat?

He said they were the first Super Bowl loser in 7 years to make the playoffs AND the first in FIFTEEN years to win a playoff game! Really!? That's some curse.

261
by Igor (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 11:08pm

Just one question

A few years ago during a season opener between the Browns and Chiefs at the end the Chiefs kicker missed a GW FG. During the celebration a Browns player took of his helmet and was flagged for unsportmanlike conduct. So the Chiefs got 15 yards and an extra down which they used to kick the Gamewinner.

Why didn't this happen yesterday? Did the rules change over time? Does anyone know what I'm talking about?

Thanks in advance.

262
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 11:11pm

No, Dave, I already told you I appreciate the difference. One guy intitiated the idiocy, and then some other guys mocked it. You may not like their mocking of it. You don't have to like their mocking it. But outside of a few people like you, Charger fans (I have no idea whether you are or not), and Tomlinson, most people around the country accept that mocking some guy's celebration dance is entirely fair game, even on a logo. I can understand your view. I think it's nuts, but I understand it. As to nursery school platitudes, what's worse, reciting them, or acting as if they've never been learned?

263
by Digit (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 11:14pm

Igor:

Because it wasn't a celebration of a FG, it was a celebration of a play -that was still running- at the time.

What happened was the QB was being sacked, but as he was being sacked, tossed the ball to someone who ran the ball all the way down the field.

The play rumbled down, and the player (Dwayne Rudd) got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Because the game's last play can't end on a defensive penalty, the Chiefs got a chance to kick the field goal from a much improved position.

The Patriots' penalty came -post- play, obviously.

Google Dwayne Rudd for further details.

264
by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 11:15pm

Re: 261

Dwayne Rudd took his helmet off during the play (Rudd thought he had sacked Trent Green to end the game, but Green had flipped the ball to an offensive lineman before going down), so the Chiefs got an extra untimed down.

In contrast, the Patriots took their helmets off after the missed FG, after the play was over.

265
by NF (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 11:17pm

Any way it happens, there will be a marvelous Super Bowl matchup.

Patriots-Saints: The best team of the 21st century vs. a team that drafted 2nd last year and is the feel-good story of the year.

Patriots-Bears: A rematch of the 1985 season Super Bowl.

Colts-Bears: Peyton Manning or Rex Grossman; one of them is getting a ring. At least Marino's counterpart was Joe Montana.

Colts-Saints: A warning of the apocalypse? Either Peyton Manning wins a Super Bowl on the worst Colts teams since 2003 (this season they lost one game to every team in their division, and made Ron Dayne look like a Heisman winner), or the New Orleans Saints win the Super Bowl, a season after they won only 3 games.

266
by zip (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 11:21pm

#260

Buffalo went to the superbowl from 1990-1993 and lost every time, so at the very least their 1993 season (13 years ago) was a super bowl loser coming back to win some postseason games.

267
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 11:26pm

Steelers lost Super Bowl XXX in the 1995 season, and won the wild card round the next year.

268
by Digit (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 11:27pm

Dave:

Let me introduce you to Cornerback Drayton Florence of the SD Chargers, circa 2005 (SD's 41-17 drubbing of NE that snapped the Patriots' 21-game home winning streak):

"F--k New England and their team," he said, before turning to a "collection of onlookers" and adding: "Get the look of shock off your faces. Don't be shocked. We beat your [butt]."

http://www.projo.com/patriots/content/projo_20051003_03pats.8ae0256.html

Still not as bad as dancing on the logo, I'll admit, but whatever Charger said they were being classy after beating NE in 2005 is full of it.

269
by Waverly (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 11:29pm

Re: #226 (Aaron):

Go away and leave us alone. We're having fun.

Although it is a bit surprising that there hasn't been much talk about Manning lately -- I guess people have gotten tired talking about such a boringly good QB.

270
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 11:31pm

265: Would a Colts-Bears match up get the Mentor/Student relationship between Dungy and Lovie Smith? That is, in addition to being the first two black head coaches in the Super bowl going against each other.

271
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 11:34pm

kal, stomping on logos usually happens before or after a game, or during an extended break in play. Unless an offensive lineman wants to take himself off the field he simply has to take it. Go ask an offensive lineman who has Merriman doing his stunt after a sack
whether he thinks it is worse to have some people doing something on the logo after the game is over.

This really (really!) isn't that big a deal to me; I'm just surprised that Tomlinson would complain about somebody mocking something his teammate has done all year.

dryheat, I, for one, don't think the difference between a seven point margin of victory and one of three points is significant at all.

272
by Digit (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 11:34pm

Waverly-

I'm having a hard time trying to determine what happened to Manning this year- he hasn't been as good. They -say- they've changed their offensive schemes to take what they can, but it just seems like they're running the same plays for the most part, and the OL is not defending the passrush as well as they used to.

Didn't Bobman say somewhere that Edgerrin James is a much better blocker than either of the current RBs? That might be a factor in here.

Still, the defense does seem much improved based on the addition of Bob Sanders and moving Rob Morris back to LBer... it's easier for them to stop the run with those two in.

273
by RCH (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 11:34pm

257 - Well catch up on last years playoffs and watch the Debacle in Denver. If you hate the Pats as much as you say then I'd recommend watching it at 6:30 on Sunday. And don't forget - nothing feeds a superiority complex like raging jealousy, so thanks.

274
by Tim (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 11:40pm

Do the Eagles have a hurry-up offense? Even worse than not going for it on 4th down, they got the ball with 3:18 left and down three points, and only managed to run THREE plays before the two-minute warning. You'd think a well-coached team (which the Eagles have the reputation of being) would be able to get their plays in a little faster.

275
by Dave (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 11:41pm

268: digit, thanks. i'm actually not saying i'm offended by the dancing around on the lightning bolt (again, if that's what happened. i didn't see it.) and i'm not saying the chargers are a bunch of blameless ron burgundys either. i'm just saying that i can why people draw a distinction.

i'm a charger fan, but i'm mostly just aghast at the way my team played yesterday and think florence and mcneil need to grow a brain.

262: will, i absolutely don't agree with you, but whatever man--if i ever come into possession of the vikings you are still my gm

276
by Digit (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 11:43pm

re: 274

The Eagles have never really seemed to have a competent hurry-up offense, ever, but I readily admit my view on that is being colored by their Super Bowl vs the Patriots. I do remember seeing Philadelphia vs TB this year and noticing that they were -bad- at still running the hurry up offense they needed. I think one of the hurry-up offense ended at the five yard line when they didn't stop the clock for a FG- instead they were trying for the TD when time just plain ran out on them.

It hasn't been one of their brighter spots, that's for certain.

277
by kal (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 11:44pm

Again, #271 - empirically, you're wrong. I've never, not once, heard of a player getting into a fight over a celebration about sacks or whatnot. Have you?

But you know of a lot of players who have gotten in fights over the years because of logo dissing and whatnot. And even if you don't know of so many, I can tell you that the other players know what it means.

278
by NF (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 11:56pm

272: What are you talking about? Up till two weeks ago Manning was playing with Steve Young-like efficiency, and Saturday's game was against probably the 7th best defense in the last 10 years.

279
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 11:57pm

kal:

I am pretty sure that Jackie Slater got into a fight with Mark Gastineau as Gastineau began his "Sack Dance" after getting to the Rams quarterback.

I could swear I saw that highlight.

280
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 11:57pm

kal:

I am pretty sure that Jackie Slater got into a fight with Mark Gastineau as Gastineau began his "Sack Dance" after getting to the Rams quarterback.

I could swear I saw that highlight.

281
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 11:57pm

Sorry. Quick on the trigger there.

282
by masocc (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 12:01am

Re #'s 260, 266, 267:

Thanks for the replies, guys. Now I have to figure out who that player was... I'm thinking his retention isn't very good. He clearly paused before saying '15 years'. I'm guessing there was some coaching motivation involved either pre-game last week, or after the loss last night, and this player simply forgot the second half of the (very) short story.

283
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 12:02am

kal, what claim did I make to be empirically wrong about? Lots of different factors can go into producing a fight, so if you want to make claims about empirically proved facts, you better produce a boatload of evidence. Personally, I don't care enough to do the research.

284
by Digit (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 12:04am

278:

I -thought- I was comparing the Peyton Manning of this year to the Peyton Manning of the last couple years. He seems a bit off compared to that... teams that he used to feast on he's struggling with a bit more these days.

285
by Jimmy6 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 12:14am

Bernard Berrian is great. Other than the dropped pass that would have been another TD.

286
by Boots Day (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 12:21am

265: The story of the Colts-Saints Super Bowl would be Peyton Manning facing his dad's team, the team he grew up rooting for, trying to break the hearts of his hometown.

The story of Colts-Bears would be that we finally get our Manning-Manning Super Bowl: Peyton vs. Ricky Jr.

287
by Marko (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 12:32am

286: The Bears also have Danieal Manning in addition to Ricky Manning Jr. Colts-Bears would thus be Manning vs. Manning and Manning.

But as B pointed out, the big storyline would be having two black head coaches, with a guarantee of having the first Super Bowl win by a black head coach. And as B also pointed out, the mentor-student relationship, since Lovie's first NFL coaching job was on Dungy's staff in Tampa Bay.

288
by willie (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 12:50am

I just read through this entire comment thread and can say, empirically, that nearly everyone who posted came across as a tiresome douchebag.

Worst. Comment. Thread. EVAR
(non-Brady/Manning division)

289
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 12:50am

Dave, are you in the anti-Marty contingent? I can understand why people are frustrated, but goodness, yesterday was just a weird game in a lot of ways, and getting somebody better than Schottenheimer is a tall, tall, order.

290
by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 12:53am

Aaron, you've created a monster. This thread and the old Manning/Brady threads (not going to look at the new one) are truly disappointing. Here you have what is probably one of the most intelligent, well informed, and cogent group of football fans on any internet site constantly taking threads that could be intelligent, well informed, and cogent discussions (obviously not the Manning/Brady one, that's always going to be stupid) and turning them into silly pissing contests. Yeah, yeah, I know, "it's an internet discussion thread, they're all going to be this way." I just always hope FO will reach a higher standard. (I also hope for world peace, an end to suffering, poverty, and injustice, and a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.)

291
by admin :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:01am

Sigh. We're trying to reach for a higher standard, but I can't sit here and read every comment at every second. I've already spent more time checking message boards and deleting really horrible comments than I have on any one day in months. Man, the Saints are really good. Let's talk about the Saints. Can we talk about the Saints?

292
by Brian C (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:04am

Maybe I've missed something, but when did the home team's 50 yard line logo become sacred ground?

293
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:07am

This thread is funny... collision between Pats fans and fans of other teams... I think most people were rooting for the Chargers.

I agree with the person above who said the Chargers didn't deserve to win the game. That doesn't mean the Patriots did either, but someone had to win... and they didn't eff it up.

What impressed me most about the Patriots was their offensive lines pass protection, and their front 7. They did a great job containing LDT. San Diego seemed to really go away from the run in the 2nd half... I don't know why as their offensive line wasn't doing a good job, and Rivers wasn't getting rid of the ball when there was pressure... yes, that's my gripe against him.

Pats hate is much like Eagles hate... in the end you respect their style of play because it is successful. I don't think they are a real dirty team.

The most impressive thing about the Patriots and Eagles is the way the front office assembled the team. Their starting DE is some guy named Tully Banta Cain? What is this, Star Wars? Just like the guy on the Eagles... Juqua something? You hear them and at first its a guy with a funny name until you realize he is good.

294
by DGL (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:08am

Maybe it's time for an Irrational Patriots-Colts Discussion Thread.

295
by DGL (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:09am

#291: Hey, at least we're not talking about the officiating in Super Bowl XL. (Yet.)

296
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:11am

The Saints are really, really awesome.

Like, totally awesome.

Woo!

297
by Brian C (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:12am

Andrew, Ron Boges of the Boston Globe wrote an expose back in '05 about how the Patriots are godless and were told by Belichick not only to cheat but to never under any circumstances participate in the post-game prayer circle.

298
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:13am

290
From what I understand, Audibles is a place to give first impressions about the weekends games. It's really just a continuation of the open discussions from yesterday. Add to that the fact that the game was the most recent in everyone's mind and was the marquee matchup, and ended controversially just meant this was unavoidable. It's a problem if this stuff winds up in the DVOA ratings or AGS or TDZ, or whatever. But take Audibles for what it is (I think).

I'd like to talk about the Saints, FWIW.

299
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:17am

BTW, the woman with the F### da Eagles shirt has Da' Parish written all over her.

She makes Brittney Spears look classy...

I have link to the pictures for those who doubt me...

300
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:17am

I still want to know about the Eric Parker incompletion bobble on the sideline. He caught the ball, had 2 feet in and after hitting out of bounds, bobbled the ball.

The out-of-bounds paradigm is that once you hit out-of-bounds, the play is dead. So, if he is allowed to lose the incompletion out of bounds, he should be allowed to re-gain the completion out of bounds by re-establishing control. It's not like he tipped the ball to himself out of bounds either... he had possesion, control, and 2 feet, then hits out of bounds, then the ball moves, then he has secured the ball again.