Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features

HarvinPer09.jpg

» Impact of the NFL's Kickoff Rule Change

After three NFL seasons of kicking off from the 35-yard line, what has been the impact on touchbacks, returns, field position, scoring and injuries? Also, is this rule responsible for a record number of big comebacks?

26 Nov 2007

Audibles at the Line: Week 12

compiled by Doug Farrar

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 2008. 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.

Thursday, November 22

Green Bay Packers 37 at Detroit Lions 26

Sean McCormick: I haven't seen a ton of Calvin Johnson, but he reminds me of a young Terrell Owens more than a young Randy Moss. He doesn't seem to be the explosive deep threat Moss was, and he's willing to let the ball get into his body rather than snatching it.

Ben Riley: I agree, Sean. And, like Terrell Owens, it appears Calvin Johnson doesn't have the best hands. While on the subject of Lions wide receivers, can I just say that Shaun McDonald is quietly having a very good season, and is deserving of his own Transformers-based nickname. Shockwave, maybe.

Michael David Smith: This is by far Calvin Johnson's worst game. Trust me, he usually makes the play whenever the ball gets close to him. Today he looks like a totally different player than he's looked the rest of the season. Very disappointing because today is the day they're really trying to feature him.

Sean McCormick: I also remember Mike Mayock of the NFL Network talking about how good Johnson's hands were and pulling out a bunch of clips of Johnson going out and getting the ball at its highest point. But it's just not happening today.

Ben Riley: Aaron Kampman already has two sacks, and he's going to have more by the time the game is over. I didn't realize how strong Kampman is -- thought he was sort of a Patrick Kerney-like edge rusher -- but he's absolutely dominating the Lions' backup right guard right now.

Doug Farrar: FOX showed Detroit center Dominic Raiola jawing with Nick Barnett before the game. Too bad Raiola was still in a combative mood when he tried that first-quarter chop block, the penalty for which moved the Lions out of a sure touchdown from the one-centimeter line. Of course, Jon Kitna got sacked on the next play.

A few weeks ago, Sean McCormick wrote in Audibles that "there is no Brian Griese or Rex Grossman, there is only 'Chicago Quarterback.'" In that spirit, I'd like to report that there is no Jonathan Scott or Blaine Saipaia, there is only "Detroit offensive lineman who is about to be victimized by Aaron Kampman."

Vince Verhei: An unheralded reason the Packers are one of the top teams in football: Great downfield blocking by their receivers. On all those quick slants that turned into big plays, and on all of Ryan Grant's big runs, there were two or three Packers downfield knocking guys out of the way.

Ben Riley: I'm trying to imagine the marketing discussion for today's halftime show. "OK, everyone, we've got Detroit playing Green Bay, two teams whose fans epitomize the working-class tradition that makes the NFL on Thanksgiving one of our country's special and unique traditions. So, I'm thinking we have the Goo Goo Dolls sing a couple of instantly forgettable ballads while little kids prance around in blue tutus. Sound good?"

New York Jets 3 at Dallas Cowboys 34

Sean McCormick: Dallas is basically overwhelming the two guards, which is killing the running game and the passing game. Whereas last week everything was along the sidelines, today Clemens' preference is to throw over the middle while falling backwards, invariably in the direction of Chris Baker. Baker has made a few terrific catches and been unable to reel in the other erratic throws. Clemens is at least reading the field well -- he tried to take advantage of single coverage on the sidelines when Dallas was stacking the box. But on the whole, not much is going on.

The defense, on the other hand, is playing lights-out after the first drive. They're getting good pressure with delayed blitzes, and they're playing the run well. On the second touchdown, they got caught with Dallas running both tight ends up the seam when they were blitzing the safety, so there was only one guy to shade on both tight ends. It happens.

Aaron Schatz: I couldn't believe how badly Matt Chatham got lost trying to cover Jason Witten when Witten caught his touchdown. Chatham was close, turned around to find the ball, and completely slowed down, turning back to defend. He was so slow that by that point Witten was already in the end zone. This is the guy who started the Mangini-Belichick war? (The story is that when still technically under contract with the Pats, Mangini told Chatham not to re-sign because he would give Chatham more money to become a starter with the Jets.)

Sean McCormick: I don't think it's a coincidence that the Jets ended up down big pretty early in two of Clemens' four starts. When you take a quarterback who completes 70 percent of his passes and replace him with a quarterback who completes 50 percent of his passes, you're going to end up with a lot more three-and-outs, you're going to put your defense in worse field position and ultimately you're going to get blown out instead of hanging around in games. It makes sense for the Jets to play Clemens at this point, but it's a decision that is going to have an impact on how the games unfold.

And now we know that it's not just a weak arm that causes pick-sixes on the quick outs -- it's the inability of the receivers to threaten defenses down the field.

Indianapolis Colts 31 at Atlanta Falcons 13

Michael David Smith: If the Anthony Gonzalez we're seeing tonight is the Anthony Gonzalez we'll see through December and January, I think the Colts are going to be in very good shape.

Aaron Schatz: Gonzalez is a good receiver, but I think this is more a function of the Falcons' coverage problems. The Falcons were 30th in DVOA against number-two receivers going into this game. While DeAngelo Hall is overrated in coverage, it's pretty clear that he's by far the Falcons best cornerback and offenses are avoiding him. The Colts are no different, and Wayne is having a somewhat quiet night while Gonzalez catches bombs against Lewis Sanders and Chris Houston. The ESPN Numbers Crunching piece also pointed out Atlanta's troubles against tight ends... and wouldn't you know it, Clark and Utecht each have a touchdown catch.

Vince Verhei: I thought, all in all, Houston played OK. Yes, he got beat for the long touchdown, but he also broke up several passes. I thought his pass interference call was totally bogus. Really, that's about the best you can expect from a second-round rookie going against Reggie Wayne and Peyton Manning.

At least the Falcons haven't lost their sense of humor. I mean, Keith Brooking's open-field whiff on CFL runner Kenton Keith, that was supposed to be a joke, right?

Cheering for Joey Harrington is just so sad. He seems to be a good person, the kind of guy you want to see do well, and he has shown flashes of talent for, well, half a decade now. And then he hits the big-play touchdown to Roddy White, and I swore I heard chants of "Joey! Joey!" in the Georgia Dome. Then you see him overthrow receivers in the end zone, or throw the ball as hard as he can at his receivers' feet, or lob passes into the bellies of defenders, and you know that unfair as it is, he'll never get any better.

I also like that Cris Collinsworth said, concerning the Falcons' woes, that no team could lose three starting linemen and function. Meanwhile, here's Peyton Manning down two starting linemen, three if you count Tarik Glenn, and he's still ripping the Falcons to shreds.

Michael David Smith: The fans weren't chanting "Joey! Joey!" because they think he's better than Peyton Manning. They were chanting it because they think, correctly, he's better than Byron Leftwich, and it frustrates them that their head coach is too stupid to see that. When the fans are getting behind the guy with a 13.0% DVOA instead of the guy with a -69.8% DVOA, that's a sign that the Georgia Dome has smart fans.

Sunday, November 25

Oakland Raiders 20 at Kansas City Chiefs 17

Bill Barnwell: Daunte Culpepper doesn't look great in his delivery, but he's getting the ball into spots where his receivers need to be making plays, and they're not. Ronald Curry had a big third-down drop, and Jerry Porter had one that was ruled catch-drop-catch, challenged by Herm, drop. Zach Miller also fumbled on an outlet pass. Culpepper's started nine-for-12 in this game, and it's all underneath stuff, but that's still reasonably impressive against K.C.'s defense.

Of course, later in the game, Porter made an absurd one-handed catch on the sideline, but that would go against my point, now, wouldn't it?

Did Culpepper have small hands coming out of college? He just looks totally uncomfortable when he throws the ball, like it's difficult for him to throw the ball. He doesn't really step into his throws, which doesn't help, but he also seemingly struggles to get a good grip on the ball (on a gorgeous day), shuffling it around in his hands.

I can't wait for the "Kolby Smith, Future Star" articles tomorrow. You would think someone in the media would put it together and notice that guys have big games against the Raiders defense. Smith looks solid, decisive in his cuts, but this is the Raiders, who turn two-yard gains into six. Smith also dropped two consecutive screens.

Why I'm not on the "Herman Edwards is underrated" bandwagon -- third-and-5, 4:34 left, 20-17 game, you're at midfield against the worst rush defense in recorded memory. You go five-wide and throw? Really? And then you only get four and have to run on fourth-and-1, which is an OBVIOUS run situation, and you get stuffed? No thanks.

Stuart Fraser: Herm Edwards is underrated. The point is that his teams keep winning games and edging into the playoffs despite the fact that he makes stupid gameday decisions like that one. Conclusion: Edwards is very good at the bits of coaching we don't see -- motivation, education, etc.

Bill Barnwell: Oh, I understand -- but what I'm saying is that he's SO bad at the stupid gameday decisions (an easily correctable flaw) that even though he's underrated as the unseen aspects of coaching, he's so awful at the obvious parts that his value is actually perceived pretty accurately.

Mike Tanier: So why did Herm go for it, down by three, about 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter? Was the kicker hurt or something?

Stuart Fraser: I guess it depends how you think Herm is rated. I generally think he is pretty much what his record says -- 52-55, three playoff appearances in seven seasons (the Chiefs are not going to the playoffs this year). He's an average head coach -- which, like an average starting quarterback, isn't a bad thing to have -- and I think the public perception of his is as a clown who doesn't really know what he's doing but somehow lucks into a few wins every year.

Ben Riley: I've spent many a Wednesday evening curled up with the electronic version of the Kansas City Star, combing through articles for Herm quotes, and I've learned a couple of semi-surprising things about the This Week In Quotes workhorse in the process. One, he's remarkably even-keeled, given his bombastic reputation: He expects young players to make mistakes, and he doesn't panic when they do. He's also not afraid to answer tough questions from journalists, and answer them honestly -- e.g., his quotes this week regarding the need to have a conservative offensive game plan because the Chiefs aren't the Patriots.

None of this excuses the fact that he makes horrible strategic decisions during games, or that he likes to plow his backs into the ground, through the earth's crust, until they hit the upper mantle.

Stuart Fraser: When I think about it, I'm beginning to think the decision to kill Larry Johnson last year wasn't as horrible as we made it out to be at the time. Johnson was going to struggle this year anyway, as the O-line that Dick Vermeil built finally gave out. By the time that Edwards or his successors can rebuild it Johnson may well have recovered somewhat, just as Edgerrin James and Jerome Bettis did.

Of course, there is the issue to consider that no free agent running back is likely to want to play for Herm Edwards ever again. Or there might be. Running backs seem to like being given the ball -- whenever you ask a player about 370 they never seem worried about the risks of overwork.

(Willie Parker watch: 233 carries, on course for 372.8. Hmm. Parker plays for Tomlin, Johnson for Edwards. Those are both Dungyspawn coaches. Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli don't seem to be terribly prone to running back overuse. Then again, Marinelli's offense is run by Martz, who never seems to be entirely sure what the halfback is there for.)

Mike Tanier: Herm is an even-keeled guy, and he's a player's coach who inspires a lot of loyalty. He also trusts his players to a fault, so if L.J. said "I want the ball 45 times per game," Herm didn't feel the need to question the wisdom of it.

Herm also has a rep in the industry of going soft on his players when they have some success, giving them too much time off or letting them have scaled-down practices. Those tales whispered up the lane aren't worth much (when a team wins, the coach made a shrewd move to keep the guys fresh; when they lose, he went soft) but they are part of the knock on Herm.

Bill Barnwell: I think the outside forces are totally irrelevant. There was no reason to overwork Johnson. The difference between 50 carries from him and 50 carries of Michael Bennett is not costing them a game. What makes it horrible is the fact that it was totally unnecessary and flew in the face of what should have been obvious.

Stuart Fraser: The Chiefs won five games last year by a touchdown or less, and had three losses by a field goal (and of course they made the playoffs by a single game). Now, there's absolutely no reason Johnson needed to be in the game against the 49ers whilst up 28-0 in Week 4, but Kansas City were in an awful lot of close games last year.

Bill Barnwell: The fact that they played close games doesn't excuse Johnson's overuse.

Seattle Seahawks 24 at St. Louis Rams 19

Doug Farrar: Will Witherspoon's starting out hot. He sacked Matt Hasselbeck twice in Seattle's first drive. The Rams have him coming up as a right defensive end, and he got through free on the first sack and beat guard Rob Sims on the second. With Leonard Little out and James Hall hurt, Witherspoon and Adam Carriker -- who was playing nose in a three-man front and dropped Maurice Morris for a safety early on -- are getting good penetration. St. Louis seems to like different looks from a three-man front these days. And I think we're seeing one downside to that pass-heavy offense in that the Seahawks will find it far more difficult to make teams pay for blitzing by running the ball. The Eagles don't seem to blitz like they used to, but you have to wonder how that will work next week. Conversely, Seattle's defensive coordinator seemed to get more conservative about calling blitzes after the Steven Jackson touchdown run detailed below.

The Seahawks looked out-of-sorts in just about every way in the first half. Their protections were extremely vulnerable (both guards, Rob Sims and Chris Gray, were beaten badly). Steven Jackson gashed the left side of the Seahawks defense for a 53-yard touchdown run in the first quarter when Julian Peterson departed on a blitz. Even Seattle's one early score, an 89-yard kickoff return by rookie cornerback Josh Wilson, came about as Wilson inadvertently got in front of Nate Burleson and took the ball out of his hands. Marc Bulger left the game with a concussion in the first quarter, and Gus Frerotte started taking it to Seattle as if he were the starter.

Vince Verhei: The most annoying part of watching the Rams blitz St. Louis to death was that blitzers kept coming up the middle untouched. I understand that when you have seven rushers (as the Rams often did) against six blockers, guys are going to get to the quarterback, but you've got to make them take the time to at least go AROUND the line, not through it. Hasselbeck spent most his day getting harassed by defenders who breezed through center and guard before he could finish his dropback.

Doug Farrar: Seattle got its offense together later in the second half, scoring 17 unanswered points, but it was a rejuvenated defense that won this game for the Seahawks. They made a great goal-line stand at the end of the game, and Patrick Kerney enjoyed an unbelievable day. Seattle's defensive end had three sacks for the second straight week. Two of those sacks were on third down and ended St. Louis possessions, and the one on first down caused a Frerotte fumble which Kerney himself recovered. He also had an interception on an ill-advised shovel pass. Kerney had a great move on Rob Petitti -- he would move slowly off the snap as if he was going to back into a zone blitz, and then he'd shift up about three gears and just blow right through to the quarterback. The Seahawks gave Kerney a lot of free agent money in the off-season, and we're starting to see why.

Vince Verhei: I liked another Kerney move even better. A few times he used a great rip move to get outside and underneath the tackle on his way to the quarterback.

Ben Riley: The Rams blitzkrieg worked wonders in the first half, but Holmgren adjusted and started calling draws to Maurice Morris, which were very effective. If anything, Seattle probably didn't run enough in the second half.

Some other random thoughts on this game:

  • D.J. Hackett lasted all of two games before re-injuring his ankle on what looked to me like a normal tackle. I've been pushing the nickname "Clutch" for Hackett for two years but today, I officially change my campaign to "Brittle."
  • If I'm Scott Linehan, and I have first-and-goal at the four-yard line with about 1:30 to play, I run Steven Jackson up the middle four straight times, so as not to put the game in the hands of my backup quarterback Gus Frerotte.
  • For the last couple of years, Torry Holt has absolutely owned Marcus Trufant. Not so today. Of course, Bulger was out, but there was at least one play where Holt and Trufant were in a sideline sprint, and Trufant stayed with Holt stride for stride.

Vince Verhei: Trufant was blanketed on Holt on his third-quarter interception. That pass never should have been thrown.

Washington Redskins 13 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19

Russell Levine: Wow, what a weird game. Tampa Bay was +6 -- +6!!!! -- in turnover margin, yet needed an interception in the end zone in the final 30 seconds to secure the win. Why? Well, Jeff Garcia went out on the third play with a back problem and only returned when Washington got within one score -- but he was a shell of himself.

Once Washington figured out that Bruce Gradkowski was at quarterback, they loaded up against Earnest Graham and that was it for the Tampa Bay offense. The Bucs did not have a single first down the entire second half, and they surrendered over 300 yards of offense after intermission.

Tampa's MVP in this game was easily Josh Bidwell, who kept pinning Washington deep and making them go the long field. They did it a couple times, but on the last two drives, Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly came up with interceptions.

Mike Tanier: The Bucs play a very disciplined defense. Their defenders maintain gaps and stay at home on counter plays. Run a screen on them, and there will be two defenders waiting to tackle the receiver. There aren't many cutback lanes available on stretches. It's refreshing to see. I just see too many 15-yard runs on cutbacks these days because backside linemen and linebackers just get carried along the line of scrimmage by the flow of the play and their blockers.

The Redskins dropped a lot of passes in the first half. Santana Moss had a fumble and a drop, Keenan McCardell had a drop, Clinton Portis had a fumble and a drop. They also failed to convert a fourth down near the goal line and made some other mistakes. What a flat performance from a team that could have gotten themselves back in the playoff picture today.

Buffalo Bills 14 at Jacksonville Jaguars 36

Mike Tanier: I have this mental block about the Jaguars. Does it make sense to say that a team doesn't win memorably? I watched about three quarters of this game, but I have absolutely no comments about them. They can win, and win big, yet each play instantly evaporates from my mind. All I remember is Fred Taylor's big run early in the game, Maurice Jones-Drew getting stuffed on third-and-short near the goal line, and lots of field goals. I remember David Garrard looking pretty sharp, but it's just a vague impression, not a concrete sense of what he did right or wrong. I could sit here and write about the Giants and Vikings blitzes today or all the bad passes Bruce Gradkowski threw. I could even talk about the Seahawks and how bad they looked offensively in the first half because their timing was off. But I have nothing on the Jaguars.

Aaron Schatz: Except for the struggles of Lee Evans and Maurice Jones-Drew, this game played out pretty much exactly how you would expect. The Jags are just a better team, but the Bills defense plays hard and leaves a lot on the field with some underrated guys like Donte Whitner and John DiGiorgio. It was pretty close for three quarters, but Buffalo was losing, so J.P. Losman started pressing, and making bad decisions, and that gave Jacksonville the field position to pull away at the end. Every time we go to NFL Films, Jaws and Greg Cosell talk about how an NFL quarterback has to be able to make all the throws. Well, Losman can make all the throws, but he can't make all the decisions. If they could put Losman's arm on Trent Edwards, they would have a hell of a quarterback in Buffalo.

The MJD thing was really strange. If you look at the offensive line numbers, Jacksonville is number two in Adjusted Line Yards left end, below average everywhere else. Yet every time MJD tried to bust it outside left, there were three Bills there waiting for him. And here we are, a week after I celebrated Jack Del Rio for having the balls to go for it on fourth-and-short, and now I have to question the Jags' play calls on short yardage. Why so many outside runs instead of just stuffing it up the middle to get the one? With a big quarterback like David Garrard, why don't the Jags sneak more often on those short-yardage downs? I'll need to run some numbers but I think the Jags have only four quarterback sneaks this year, which seems awfully low for a team that goes for it on fourth so much.

The Bills have terrible sack numbers this year but they were definitely getting the pressure on Garrard today. Of course, it didn't matter, he's great at feeling the rush and getting off the pass in time. He got knocked down three times in one drive in the first quarter but only took one sack all day.

Pete Morelli's crew is having some problems. Last week they had the thing with the field goal in Cleveland. Today, after challenging a fumble and changing the spot of the ball, they stick the ball on the Buffalo 45 instead of the Jacksonville 45 until someone finally reminded them, you know, that's not actually where the fumble was.

San Francisco 49ers 37 at Arizona Cardinals 31 (OT)

Michael David Smith: Trent Dilfer is just throwing lots of short underneath stuff to the backs and tight ends (through three quarters Gore and Davis have combined for 12 catches and 94 yards), which indicates that the 49ers' offensive game plan is "just don't let Dilfer throw the game away." So far, he hasn't thrown the game away. Seeing the 49ers' offense look competent (if not particularly exciting) with Dilfer at the helm does not make me feel good about Alex Smith.

Sean McCormick: In fairness to Smith, the Cardinals are playing a deep zone and leaving the middle of the field wide-open for checkdowns, and Dilfer is taking advantage. It's possible that other teams have defensed the 49ers differently (say, with man coverage and heavy pressure) when Alex Smith is in. The guy completed 66 percent of his passes in college -- you'd think he could take advantage of an open safety valve.

Bill Barnwell: The Cardinals have also spent most of the game without Adrian Wilson, which might explain their reluctance to come out of that scheme.

Sean McCormick: Am I the only one who loves watching Kurt Warner gunning it? Six seconds left, the Cardinals have one timeout and will have the ball inside the one. Is that time for two plays, a fade and a run? I'm thinking yes.

Michael David Smith: No, you're not the only one. I love watching Warner.

Ben Riley: Am I the only one who loves watching Kurt Warner fumble in the end zone?

Stuart Fraser: This was, I think, the logic behind Ken Whisenhunt's quarterback platoon in the first place. Warner will gun the ball down the field and make the most of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald's skills; he'll also fumble snaps, get sacked (and get injured), and generally be a large risk. So if Arizona could win with Matt Leinart, who is generally a much safer bet, Whiz was content to give Leinart the ball. When there's nothing to lose, at the end of a half or down big, give it to Warner and see if he can pull something out.

Mike Tanier: Whisenhunt's decision to platoon had everything to do with trying to get Leinart to quit chasing skirts and start studying the playbook. It was supposed to be a wake-up call.

Baltimore Ravens 14 at San Diego Chargers 32

Aaron Schatz: I don't want to alarm anyone, but the San Diego Chargers just went for it on fourth-and-3, in field goal range with an 18-point lead and less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Denver Broncos 34 at Chicago Bears 37 (OT)

Doug Farrar: In the newest ESPN the Magazine, Aaron did a few inset things in an article about taking risks in the NFL. One of the subjects he took on was the real risk of kicking/punting to Devin Hester in which it was ascertained that teams are doing more harm than good by squibbing or kicking away from him. The first-quarter muff of a punt return, in which Hester put his hand on a ball that was too far away from him to catch, had me thinking about Aaron's numbers on Hester's punt returns. Of course, we're not done yet.

Hester then goes 75 yards for a touchdown on a third-quarter punt return.

Vince Verhei: Let it be known that Aaron advised kicking to Devin Hester on kickoffs.

Aaron Schatz: Although the muffs are a bigger problem on punts.

Doug Farrar: True. I think you have to pin him to a sideline so it's harder for him to pick a side, though. Todd Sauerbrun just punted it right down the middle, which doesn't make a lot of sense.

Michael David Smith: As I wrote at FanHouse, I think you can kick to Hester, but you can't do what the Broncos have done, which is give him the ball right in the middle of the field in a spot where he'll have a full head of steam before your coverage unit gets to him. I think if you keep him near the sideline and get enough hangtime, you can have success against him.

Ten minutes later, Hester returns a Denver kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown. The ball was kicked right down the middle.

Doug Farrar: Well, it didn't make any more sense the second time.

Ben Riley: Don't kick to Devin Hester. Don't punt to Devin Hester. I know what the numbers say, but give the Bears a short field and make "Chicago Quarterback" beat you.

Stuart Fraser: I think it depends on who you are. If you're Pittsburgh, with no coverage ability to speak of and the best defense in the league, you squib kickoffs and punt out of bounds. If you're the other way around (hello, Cleveland), kick to him as your defense needs every bit of field position it can get.

Mike Tanier: I said this before, right? If I were preparing my special teams to face Hester, I would ask to have the starting safeties and cornerbacks join the coverage units, then have them practice with them all week. I want the fastest, best tacklers out there. The punter pooch-punts or directional punts, while the kickoff guy kicks normally.

Aaron Schatz: Well, like a lot of strategic questions, we may do analysis at FO with statistics, but you always have to reconsider that analysis based on your own personnel. I mean, I wouldn't follow the "run more on third-and-short" advice if I had no running game and was facing Minnesota. And I would feel better kicking to Hester if I had one of the better kickoff men in the league (Steve Gostkowski or Neil Rackers or somebody who gave me more of a chance at a touchback), and a lot worse kicking to Hester with a poor kickoff man and/or a poor kick coverage team. (Through 10 games, Denver was +2.9 points on kickoffs this year.)

Vince Verhei: We saw the best and worst of Devin Hester today -- two touchdowns, two fumbles. The first fumble was just a bad play on Hester's part, a wave at a ball that was destined to pass him by. The second, near the end of the game, looked like poor execution by the punt return team. Chicago had a wall of four blockers set up in front of Hester, but they weren't watching the ball and it came down nearly on top of their heads. Hester ran up behind them, but if he had gotten under the ball, he would have collided with his blockers and they would have fumbled for sure. So he played back and tried to catch it on the bounce, and ended up fumbling anyway. So that one still needs some work.

Doug Farrar: I don't know if this says more about Chicago's offensive line or Elvis Dumervil, but Dumervil drew offensive holding penalties on two straight pass plays on a Chicago drive halfway through the second quarter -- the first on left tackle John Tait, and the second on beleaguered right tackle Fred Miller. Dumervil then crashed through the line for a co-sack that was credited to Kenny Peterson, and a Bears drive that started at the Denver 16 after a Mike Bell fumble ended on fourth-and 20 with a Robbie Gould field goal after a third-and-37 (!). Miller was pretty much owned by the Seahawks last week, and I'm seeing Adrian Peterson out to the right, chipping to help Miller out at the end of the second quarter.

Aaron Schatz: OK, as someone who didn't switch to this game until the last three minutes, may I ask the rest of you: How has Rex Grossman been the rest of the game? If he's playing better than he was earlier this season, why? He looks a lot better right now, definitely.

Ben Riley: The answer is, very Rex Grossman-like. A few mental mistakes, some horrific turnovers, punctuated by a few beautiful deep balls that make you think what might yet be. Rookie tight end Greg Olsen didn't help him any by dropping a few critical passes.

Doug Farrar: Not that great. Lotta drops, but also some really questionable decision-making. In the first half, I thought that he and Jay Cutler were lobbying for the abolition of the forward pass. But he's got just enough skill to pull it out of the fire, and that Bernard Berrian catch near the end of regulation was preposterous. Cutler benefited from a great touchdown catch by Tony Scheffler as well, and neither quarterback could take advantage of early field position benefits.

Vince Verhei: Lovie Smith has no confidence in Rex Grossman. There were a number of third-and-longs where Lovie called a running play so Rex wouldn't turn the ball over. Of course, one of those running plays was a quarterback draw, and Rex fumbled. Sometimes, you can't protect Rex from Rex.

As much credit as Denver's system gets for creating running backs, I thought Andre Hall looked really, really good. He went 65 yards on a screen pass just before halftime to set up a Denver field goal. First of all, the screen was set up perfectly, with Hall catching the ball right behind two linemen. Those linemen took care of their guys and Hall ran about 15 or 20 yards. For your average NFL running back, the play ends there and everything's fine. But Hall cut back across the field, making two guys miss and took off up the left sideline, where he found Brandon Marshall blocking a Bears cornerback. A lot of guys would have run right past their blocker and into a tackle, but Hall did a great job of setting up Marshall's block, running right up his back for maximum gain.

It seems to me that Denver runs more cute misdirection runs than anyone else. I saw fakes to the fullback preceding pitches to the tailback, I saw several runs that started right and then became pitch plays way outside to the left, I even saw a number of quarterback/ tailback option runs. It all worked great for a while, but by the end of the game the Bears had figured it out and started stuffing Denver runners for losses.

Doug Farrar: As an aside, I think this was the most enjoyable game I've seen all year. Two teams fighting their guts out for postseason hope. This is why time can stop when the weather turns.

Vince Verhei: That was the most thrilling, exhilarating game I've seen in a long, long time. That game had everything I watch football for: big hits, long runs, spectacular catches, dramatic turnovers, clutch performance, late-game heroics (by Rex Grossman!) (!!!)... Just an incredible, amazing, breathtaking game. I watched the last quarter and overtime while pacing back and forth, unable to sit down, and I didn't even have a rooting interest in the game.

Philadelphia Eagles 28 at New England Patriots 31

Bill Barnwell: I should note (now jinxing the Eagles) that I picked them to win on IGN all week. They have the front four and blitz schemes to harass Tom Brady and the offensive threats to attack the Patriots' weaknesses (namely threats in the short passing game).

Aaron Schatz: Well, this game is 14-14 right now because of the Eagles offense, not the Eagles defense. Which is very strange with A.J. Feeley at quarterback.

Mike Tanier: Haven't you heard? Feeley is better than Donovan McNabb. Jeff Garcia is better than Donovan McNabb. Kevin Kolb is better than Donovan McNabb. Andy Reid has only started McNabb for the last seven years because he is trying to cover for the high draft choice he wasted on him. I know it is true because I heard it on the radio.

Vince Verhei: My dad also says McNabb is no good, because he has no passion. So now it's confirmed by a reliable source.

Mike Tanier: He has no passion. He's also a coward who is sandbagging it with minor injuries so he can skip this game because he doesn't want to look bad against the Patriots.

Bill Moore: NBC has this game miked very well. Brady's at-the-line calls are very clear including a, "Hey Gaff! Omaha. Go." The result: A quick wide receiver screen to Jabar Gaffney.

Aaron Schatz: This is really shocking. The Patriots' defensive backs can't seem to cover anyone tonight, and when they play zone instead of man, Feeley is finding the holes. The Pats' offense is fine. They've had three drives and scored all three times. This is all about defensive issues.

Meanwhile, the Jabar Gaffney touchdown to end the second quarter -- that's the second time in two weeks we've seen the replay officials neglect to stop and review a play that probably should have been reviewed, right? It drives me nuts when the review people don't stop and review questionable plays in the final two minutes.

Ryan Wilson: Last Monday night, the Titans' Bo Scaife made what looked to be a nice one-handed grab, the officials ruled incomplete, and there was no review.

Aaron Schatz: Yep, that was the play I was thinking of.

Stuart Fraser: I think it was a touchdown, but that absolutely should have been reviewed. Oh, just a thought: Colt Brennan passes for Hawaii at the half against Boise State: 27. Tom Brady passes for the Patriots at the half against the Eagles: 25. People who know more about the college game than me (so, everyone) -- are the Patriots running the spread offense here? If not, what's different between this and the classic spread?

Mike Tanier: This is practically a run-and-shoot offense. The terminology is different, and it is built off a different set of principles, but what the Patriots are executing is essentially a run-and-shoot. There aren't as many receiver screens or five-yard out routes, but it's "potato-potahto" at some level.

There are several kinds of spread offenses, by the way. The Hawaii spread is similar to the old run-and-shoot. The spread that teams like Kentucky and Perdue ran for years, the one with all the bubble and slip screens, is a slightly different duck with different genes. The five-receiver spread that you see a lot at the I-AA level is closer to the Purdue spread, but it has lots of quarterback draw plays and shovel passes to compensate for the near absence of a running back. And the Florida spread option that is now everywhere is a whole different beastie.

Vince Verhei: I actually like this halftime stat: New England rushes: Two. And one of those was by Tom Brady.

Aaron Schatz: The strangest part of that is the fact that tackling on running plays is clearly the weakness of the Eagles defense. Why wouldn't you challenge them on the ground? Part of the answer seems to be "so we can surprise them by doing it in the second half," but I'm not sure why you wait so long.

Vince Verhei: I think the answer is, "because we can score however we want, and today we wish to pass." I love, love, love watching New England execute screen passes. Every blocker in step, the receiver in the right place at the right time, the pass placed exactly where and when it needs to be.

Mike Tanier: I think the idea is that the Patriots know they can pick on Joselio Hansen and J.R. Reed, and that's just a better way to move the ball than to try to run. Offensively, the Patriots have been fine. We've just gotten a little used to the 56-point standard.

Ben Riley: And yet, J.R. Reed seems to be having a good game. The real story here is the Eagles quarterback. What's gotten in to A.J. Feeley?

Bill Barnwell: Not really Feeley. It's more the scheme. The Patriots are much better vertically than they are horizontally defensively. They're a very slow team horizontally, but a great team when you try to stretch them vertically. The Eagles are a team that does a great job of stretching defenses horizontally with Brian Westbrook.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, but this isn't a lot of Westbrook. This is a lot of finding holes in zones downfield, particularly with those in routes. This is by far the worst defensive game the Pats have played this year. Nothing else even comes close.

Ben Riley: All that may be true, but Westbrook has 25 receiving yards. Feeley is reading the blitz and finding the hot route, which, tonight, seems to be the property of Greg Lewis. The Patriots secondary is looking very human tonight, and this game is generating game film a-plenty.

Mike Tanier: The Eagles' blitz pickup has also been good all game. That's been a big part of Feeley's success.

Aaron Schatz: OK, non-Pats fans. Was that Randy Moss non-touchdown our "I have no idea anymore what constitutes pass interference" moment of the week, or does that seem like a clear call? Contact is still OK within five yards, right? Oh, and look, the field goal was actually good. Fun!

Bill Barnwell: That was seven or eight yards beyond the line of scrimmage. The line of scrimmage was the four-yard line and that was two to four yards into the end zone.

Stuart Fraser: The pass interference call to me seemed to be the type of ticky-tack OPI which is only ever called in the end zone, a "push-off" where the receiver had his hands on the cornerback for about half a second and then managed to get some separation. This type of call debuted in Super Bowl XL, and I'm surprised the Seahawks fans haven't already mentioned it.

Doug Farrar: I think we've trained ourselves to block out when it happens. There was one on Todd Heap earlier this year that mirrored the Darrell Jackson/Chris Hope call pretty well, and Mike Pereira said later that week that it wasn't the right call. That was a good way to trigger my inner Keith Moon!

Bill Moore: The Moss pass interference didn't have a good enough camera angle to tell; however, what I saw looked clean. It looked to me like the ref was screened to the actual play, but saw Moss' hands move around in near the defensive back's body, and assumed it was pass interference. However, again, NBC showed no camera angle with a clear view.

As Aaron points out, Feeley is doing well picking holes in the zone, but they have also found New England's secret defensive weakness: Randall Gay. He has made a number of bad plays this year, and is getting toasted tonight.

Will Carroll: I think it comes down to this: The Eagles are playing a near-perfect game, the interception being the notable exception. Feeley's out of his head, Westbrook is the best back in the NFL right now, and the defense looks like it has about two extra guys on every play.

And the Eagles are still down a field goal.

Assuming that the Eagles are playing at their max and that there's a couple teams with higher talent levels (Colts, Cowboys, Brett Favre), then a perfect game by them SHOULD beat the Pats. Unless the Pats play a perfect game.

Stuart Fraser: Hmm. In previous seasons I would inform Joey Porter of such disrespect for the Steelers. I'm not sure who gets the forward these days. Rodney Harrison is, of course, already aware that you are disrespecting the Patriots.

Bill Barnwell: Nah. Feeley's nowhere near out of his head. The two interceptions aside, he's been off on a few other throws high, he's forced a couple of throws that have fortunately worked out well... Again, this just seems a total schematic match to me.

Ben Riley: At what point do you think NBC will stop telling us that it's 38 degrees in Foxboro? It's the northeast in winter. We get it.

Bill Moore: Soon after they stop calling NE's starting cornerback/returner "Ellis Hobbs-who-ran-back-a-108-yard-kickoff-return-this-year."

Doug Farrar: All I know is that I watched Seattle-St. Louis, Chicago-Denver, and Philadelphia-New England, and I'm going to have difficulty remembering when I've seen three games this exciting/interesting/compelling in the same day.

Aaron Schatz: Clearly, you did not watch San Diego play Baltimore.

If my ears don't deceive me, Madden and Michaels are criticizing Andy Reid's clock management. And all around the world, Eagles fans beat their heads against the closest table, wall, or cement block.

I feel really bad for the Eagles fans. Man, they must be so damn frustrated. I can't believe this is the same team that came out so flat when Tanier and I were at the Linc for Sunday Night Football three weeks ago. This team has so much talent and plays so well at times, but also has some huge holes. The coaching staff makes some great decisions and some stupid ones. Cris Collinsworth is right, what the hell are the Eagles doing running a slant-and-go in field goal range, with three minutes left to keep working towards the goal line?

How obnoxious is the quarterback controversy talk going to be on Philly radio this week? Bad enough to make you want to kill yourself after listening to it, or bad enough to make you want to kill yourself and every single person in a five-mile radius after listening to it?

Stuart Fraser: I was wondering if we were going to have to put Tanier on suicide watch if the Eagles won. Now that they have lost, Feeley is clearly not clutch, doesn't know what it takes to win, etc. With regards to feeling for Eagles fans, that horrible, horrible, throw did kind of give me Neil O'Donnell/Super Bowl XXX flashbacks for a couple of seconds there.

Mike Tanier: The worst thing is that I will hear it in my classroom. I will hear it in the lunch room. My mom, who gets her information from the doctors in the office she works at and believes everyone else's opinion over mine, will tell me about it while trying to make chit-chat.

All that stuff I said earlier about McNabb: That's real talk radio fodder. People are actually saying that McNabb was scared and ducked the Patriots this week. The McNabb haters apply every negative in the world to him: indifferent, lacks leadership, selfish. Cowardly is just the latest and most inane. And the McNabb Haters are legion, because the casual fans who don't really follow the game just feed off the barstool logic.

Back in 2002, when Feeley replaced McNabb and won three or four games, people actually claimed Feeley was better than McNabb. OK, you want to argue that now, after McNabb has missed parts of three seasons with injuries, go for it. It's stupid, but go for it. In 2002? You seriously heard the talk back then. Then, last year we had Garcia. The funniest thing was Mike McMahon in 2005. He came into that first game and completed three or four passes. Swear to God, sitting in the bar, I heard a couple of guys start saying, "this kid is good, really finds those open receivers, we might be better off with him in there." That lasted about a half-hour, but it was amazing how fast they wanted to lay the groundwork. I think if my dog came off the bench and replaced McNabb and somehow tossed a one-yard pass to Westbrook with her mouth, the Haters would start talking about her leadership and guts and intangibles and intelligence and accuracy.

Aaron Schatz: I will say one other thing about "the game plan for beating the Patriots." Offensively, sure, but the Eagles' defensive game plan was not as good as it looked. If you blitz the Patriots, you simply can't count on their receivers dropping this many passes next time. That's not an excuse, but it is an explanation, or at least a partial one.

Ned Macey: To me, it seemed that the Pats assumed that 95 percent of the offense would go through Westbrook and were going to take that away from them. Then, the Eagles start throwing the ball down the field where the middle has been vacated worrying about Westbrook. Throw in the aforementioned blitz pick-up (which also empties the middle of the field), and we have an explanation for the oft-noticed open middle of the field.

As for Feeley, he obviously played great for him, but were he McNabb, he would have been considered the goat of the game. You lose by 3 points, and you throw an interception returned for a touchdown and an interception into your own end zone when driving for, at least, the game-tying interception? I didn't think that play call was horrendous. Everyone assumed the Eagles would be methodical, so you see if you can slip one in. If the Patriots don't bite, you have Samuel and a safety covering what amounts to a decoy. It appeared on a replay that someone (L.J. Smith?) was running free underneath for a short gain that would have gotten a first down. Of course, your quarterback cannot make that monumental mistake.

I know the Eagles defense didn't exactly shut the Patriots down, but they did only allow seven (should have been 10) second half points. Sure there were drops, but they basically made the Pats a receiver screen and quick dumpoff offense. Brady had nothing down the field. If the Eagles still had Rod Hood or some third cornerback who had a prayer of staying with Welker, then they may have won.

Moss only caught five out of 12 intended passes and nothing down the field. Considering the Eagles' overall defense ranked below average in DVOA and was pretty bad as a pass defense, this was one heck of a game plan. For perspective, the Eagles ranked right below the Bills in overall DVOA and four spots below them in pass defense DVOA, and that's after last week's beat-down by New England.

Bill Moore: This so-called "game plan" that NBC jumped on late and often is such a glib media concoction. New England, like many good teams in the NFL, comes into each and every game with a scheme specific to that game. From the Patriots' offensive perspective, they had to plan for Jim Johnson, who is among the best defensive minds in the game. He knows his personnel and how best to use it. The Patriots schemed for one thing, and likely saw another. They did a decent job at pressuring Brady, but as Aaron has shown elsewhere, pressuring Brady doesn't equal success. They were also aided by a few Patriots drops. They still scored 31 points (24 from the offense). Their drive charts hardly show a successful blueprint:

First half: TD (10 plays), FG (11), TD (9)

Second Half: Punt (3), FG Attempt (15), Downs (10), TD (10), Punt (6)

From the Pats' defensive perspective: Again, they prepped for one thing, and likely saw another. If one had said before the week began you had a choice to plan for, "take away Westbrook, and let [A) an injured McNabb, B) a career backup, or C) rookie] beat out", or "take away A, B or C, and let Westbrook beat out," which do you choose? Who'd have thought that A/B/C would put together a stretch that reads Touchdown, Touchdown, Punt, Touchdown, Punt, and Touchdown? The Philadelphia offensive line held up well against the rush and, as Ned points out, created holes in the middle.

There's a decent chance someone will beat the Patriots this year; it's unlikely they will do so because they "figured it out" watching the Eagles game.

Mike Tanier: Rocky went the distance with Apollo. Feeley played very well, but it wasn't some other-worldly performance. He had three touchdowns and three interceptions, including one in desperation. Weren't those McNabb's Super Bowl numbers? In the end, you have to be more careful when you throw to Asante Samuel's side of the field.

As an Eagles fan, I am a little happy to see the effort, particularly on offense. But I am also ticked. This offense would have beaten the Packers and the Redskins in the first meeting. It would have taken the ball out of the Bears' hands. It would have made those fumbled punts irrelevant against the Packers. This was the offense of a seven- or eight-win team. Where has it been?

McNabb haters know who they will blame, but it's not just about the quarterbacking. Where have these receivers been all year? Where has this offensive line been? Saw 'em against the Lions and a little bit against the Redskins. DVOA has seen them much of the year, and I guess they have been there when the team has been between the 20s, but I haven't seen it in the red zone, and I didn't see it against beatable opponents early in the season, when the Eagles could have made this game more meaningful.

And the next morning, when Mr. Tanier heads back to school...

Mike Tanier: The custodian stopped me at 7:30 to talk up Feeley. My homeroom aide is talking up Feeley. They aren't saying: Well, if McNabb is banged up, we can win a game or two with Feeley. It's: Feeley is better, reads the field better, more accurate. I guess not only is Andy Reid an idiot, but the front offices of the Chargers and Dolphins are idiots for letting a potential franchise quarterback like Feeley slip through their mitts.

Saskatchewan Roughriders 23 vs. Winnipeg Blue Bombers 19 (Grey Cup)

Aaron Schatz: If you want to see a major football fashion faux pas, find a station showing the Grey Cup. Oh, Winnipeg. There's a reason you aren't called the "Yellow Bombers."

Ben Riley: Aaron, are you sure the Washington Huskies aren't wearing their throwback jerseys? And unless you tell me that the other team is the Saskatchewan Slugs, I'm not sure how to explain the green team's helmet logo.

Aaron Schatz: Now now, don't dis on the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Those uniforms are pretty good, and both Paul Spicer and Kenton Keith played up in Regina before coming to the NFL. I know this because whichever announcer did the Jacksonville-Buffalo game today must have mentioned this something like ten times. Yes, yes, Paul Spicer played in Canada; we're all glad you have a research department.

Michael David Smith: Why is it so much more common to take intentional safeties in the CFL than in the NFL?

Doug Farrar: Little-known fact: Kerry Joseph, the quarterback who led the Roughriders to victory, played safety for the Seahawks from 1999-2002. It was good to see his name again.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 26 Nov 2007

221 comments, Last at 28 Nov 2007, 10:41pm by Sid

Comments

1
by diddy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 1:23pm

The spread that teams like Kentucky and Perdue ran for years, the one with all the bubble and slip screens, is a slightly different duck with different genes.

I would guess that Perdue's offense consists of lots of running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

2
by sam (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 1:27pm

RE: Jags not running up middle/QB-sneaking

Center Meester missed the first 4 games this year so it stands to reason they may have been tentative to go up the gut early with Dennis Norman leading the way. Now, they've lost RG Chris Naeole, their best O-Lineman, and replaced him with a former RT who has never played guard until the last couple of games. With Mo Williams in at RG and Garrard's ankle not 100% yet, and the fact they are just one play away from Quinn Gray starting at Indy next week I can see why they're not sneaking with Garrard right now.

3
by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 1:27pm

Nothing on the Vikings game?

4
by Opiwan (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 1:29pm

I live in Baltimore, and even the Eagles ex-pats who live around here are saying "McNabb is toast, long live The Feely". I think McNabb's got some mechanics problems due to the injuries which is preventing him from being completely effective this year, but there's no way A.J. "3-13 with the Dolphins" Feeley is better than Donovan F. McNabb.

5
by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 1:30pm

Super props to the Eagles for the effort.

6
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 1:32pm

I was at the game. Everything seemed flat (except the Eagles). The Pats O, the Pats D, the crowd.

The tailgate crowd after the game had the same question King had — why the heck did Feely go long to the outside while in FG range when the Patriots proved unable to stop the Eagles’ in-route game all night? Not that we were complaining.

Some demerits for the Pats fans. When the Pats scored to go up 31-28 with 7:20 left, people started leaving the game. What?!?!

I also don’t buy the “blueprint� thing. The Eagles didn’t do anything that people (especially people here) haven’t already said. The Eagles blanketed the Pats long game and got pressure on Brady (and played aggressively). People have been saying for weeks that was the best chance to beat the Pats. The key is to have the personnel to execute that plan well, and then to in fact execute it well. Note that even with that, Welker ate them alive, and Moss lost a TD on a bogus OPI call (admittedly, in live action I was saying “pushoff� as it happened, though the replay showed it was bogus).

So, I assume the Pats will finally have a sub-50% DVOA game?

7
by David (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 1:32pm

Yeah, how could Miami have possibly decided it was a good idea to let Feeley go, right?

8
by dbt (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 1:34pm

Last night I ran through the gamebook and covered Grossman's day. Yes, his final drive was pretty good, and he made one good throw in OT to set up the field goal, but even on that final drive he was bailed out by an illegal contact call on a 4th and 10 incompletion.

My numbers have a success rate of 12/37, which is terrible. If he has a positive DPAR it'll only be on total yardage and some raw clutchiness.

Basic breakdown by half:

First half:

12 yard gain, inc, inc, 3rd down dumpoff, 22 yard gain, sneak, inc, int, dumpoff for first, sack, failed dumpoff on 3rd and long, sack, 17 yard dumpoff on 3rd and 29, inc, 17 yard pass to AP, inc, short scramble on 2nd/10, inc, inc. success rate: 5/16.

Second half:

fumble, inc, inc, inc, inc, inc, 13 yards to moose, dumpoff for -2, sack/fumble. This 1/9 success rate is what put the defense in such a hole that they were down 14 points while hester was returning kicks. At this point he's 6/26 success rate... barely over 25%.

then the final two drives and OT:
10 yard pass, 1 yard pass on first & goal at the 5, hester for 1 yard on first and 10, inc to olsen, inc to olsen, (inc to moose wiped out by penalty), berrian for 9, rashied davis for 21, moose for 13, inc, berrian TD.

OT, pass to des clark for 39 yards and the kneel to win play.

My count: 12 for 37. Bad.

9
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 1:37pm

Aaron Kampman is testimony to hard work and willpower. He was a fifth round pick out of Iowa by Mike Sherman who a lot of folks thought was overdrafted. Since he came into the league he has made himself into an impressive football player who has been described as "technically perfect" along with being incredibly durable. Bob McGinn of the Journal-Sentinel provides all kinds of cool numbers and the one he had on Kampman is that AK has played over 95% of the defensive snaps since he became a starter. Another is Kampman has been called for one offsides penalty since 2005 and on that one the league later apologized because film showed Aaron timed the snap perfectly.

Another mildly interesting thing about Kampman is that he rarely puts one hand down for his defensive stance. He is a two hands down guy. I have no idea what it means but I find it curious.

Kampman is the NFC version of Jared Allen. A guy who came out of nowhere to be a great defensive end in the NFL.

A lot of things have gone right for Mike McCarthy since he became head coach of which he had no control. Kampman's evolution is one of them. Who knew?

10
by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 1:39pm

Re Bears-Broncos:

How about that 4-yd TD run from The Real Adrian Peterson? I thought sure the refs would've whistled him down or called the Bears for aiding the runner, but he kept pushing and drove it in for the score. Kinda what we expected from our 4th pick overall power back.

11
by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 1:43pm

#8

I'm not a Rex booster, but part of his poor completion percentage was due to some truly horrific drops, including back-to-back passes to Olsen that hit him in the hands. A 25-yd TD to Olsen was also called back thanks to holding on Right Turnstile Fred Miller.

He still didn't have a great day, but I think the game charters will show that he played better than his numbers suggest.

12
by RMGreen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 1:47pm

I'm starting to get to the point where I hope McNabb gets a chance to get out of Philly and go to a city where he'll be appreciated. Of course, after he leaves and has a lot of success, the same folks calling for his head will be calling for Reid's saying "How could you let a QB like McNabb go like that!?" People around here make no sense.

13
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 1:47pm

FWIW, Dominic's younger brother Donovan Raiola played at Wisconsin and while a good player was also known as a highly emotional player who would commit cheap shots. The excuse from the coaching staff was that Donovan did this in the "heat of the moment".

Dominic's dive toward Kampman's knee was a dead ringer for nonsense Donovan did against both Ohio State and Minnesota. I know there are a few others but those are the two instances that spring to mind. It's cr*p.

14
by MCS (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 1:48pm

Watching some of the Eagles-Pats game last night, I heard the fans boo when the Pats had to punt in the 3rd quarter.

I think they have grown a little too accustomed to the 40 point games.

15
by dbt (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 1:50pm

if mcnabb leaves philly he'll have at most one good season. It's not instantaneous to build a new system, most of the teams that really badly need a qb aren't exactly set up to succeed at the rest of the roster positions (MN's receivers, chicago's O-line and OC, etc), and his departure is unlikely to be fast or clean.

How long did it take to settle McNair's departure from Tennessee?

16
by Otis Taylor 89 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:11pm

We've been badmouthing the Eagles all year because of their higher than seemingly justified DVOA, but I guess DVOA doesn't lie, they aren't bad.

Re: Rex. When he steps into his throws you can tell it's going to be where one of his guys has a chance to catch it. Although the field was terrible yesterday, he did step into his throws.
But boy, the Bears are one bizarre team.

17
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:13pm

I know it wasn't technically an upset, but an AGS on the Philly/NE game seems justified. And I'd love to see it!

18
by RickKilling (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:16pm

Ok, since we didn't get anything about the Vikes game, let me open with:

Was anyone else annoyed at the announcing crew's take on the game? They seemed of the mind that Eli lost it, rather than the Vikings making him lose it. I mean, Eli is Eli, but surely he doesn't go out and offer up bad days like this, especially since his last Really Bad Day also came at the hands of the Vikes D back in 2005.

Is it too much to suggest that perhaps the Purple Men just happen to have his number?

19
by Chas (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:18pm

#11.

Agreed. While it wasn't a great or even a good game by any means, Rex was the victim of a number of drops and one of the worst offensive lines in the league. He was under constant pressure, had absolutely no running game, and when he did make a good throw, it was usually dropped. There were a number of good throws that were dropped that would have ended up as chain movers.

I'm not sure DVOA will be kind to him, given the careless fumbles, but he played better than #8 is giving him credit for. Hell, even on the illegal contact play on 4th down, that pass should have been at the very least caught and probably in stride. Moose misplayed that ball pretty badly.

20
by RickKilling (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:20pm

And also, has anyone taken a gander at Tavaris Jackson's completion percentage and QB ratings for the last couple of weeks? Granted, his raw numbers place him near the bottom, but don't the qualified stats show a significant development curve?

I didn't expect him to light it up at all this year, more along the lines of 50/50 TD-INT ratio. The missing games derailed his pace, but with essentially 7 games under his belt, he's showing me some good growth.

21
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:25pm

"but they have also found New England’s secret defensive weakness: Randall Gay. He has made a number of bad plays this year, and is getting toasted tonight."

Its funny how Gay can get burned when hes not on the field. He got pulled in the 2nd quarter because he was hurt.

Eddie(I think) Jackson was the one getting toasted, not Randal Gay.

The secondary played a decent game. The problem was that for the first 30 minutes, the pats were sending 6 and 7 guys on almost every play, and not getting there. The second half, the pats stopped blitzing, and the eagles stopped moving the ball.

"Cris Collinsworth is right, what the hell are the Eagles doing running a slant-and-go in field goal range, with three minutes left to keep working towards the goal line?"

The same thing they were trying to do the previous 55 minutes: Beat the patriots, not "hang with the patriots". They had a chance to WIN the game there.

22
by vanya (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:27pm

Why can't Miami find quality players like AJ Feeley and Welker?

23
by cd6! (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:33pm

The comments on Pats-Eagles should have just been a recopy of the Darth NOOOOOOO pic.

I agree that Denver-Chicago was greatly entertaining. Bad timing on the "kick to Hester!" article haha. Of course, if Grossman can hold onto a ball, Chicago wins with a little less drama.

24
by Yinka Double Dare (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:35pm

Holy crap has Fred Miller been bad this year. Unless there's no value there at all I'll be surprised if the Bears' first rounder this year isn't an offensive lineman, the line has been bad in general, and Fred Miller has been ghastly.

25
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:37pm

OK, just to add, here's my analysis of Pats-Eagles:

1). The Eagles played a heck of a game. I simply don't understand how a team with this creative and aggessive a front 7, very sure tackling, and shut down corners, combined with the offense they showed last night, only has 5 wins. But I don't watch that much Eagles, and from the comments above, I take it that the Eagles haven't played this well all season. Were they perhaps fired up at the chance to beat the Pats, and by all the media talk this week, and by the Vegas line? How do they only have 5 wins?

2). Reid and Johnson had a heck of a game plan. They totally game planned better, (and made better halftime adjustments) than Belichick and Co, and that's high praise. I agree that it looked like the Patriots had game planned for a completely different team that they played. They didn't correct the holes in the middle of their zone till the end of the game, and offensively it took them way too long to adapt to the Eagles taking away Moss and Stallworth (and they inexplicably never got Watson involved, as they did when Buffalo took away Moss and Stallworth).

3). Not taking anything away from the Eagles, because their play propably had something to do with this, but the Patriots looked sloppy. Faulk and Moss each had a couple of big, dumb drops, and Stallworth had one or two as well. Run blocking was lacadasical. Matt Light seemed completely overwhelmed at times and confused at others. Safeties were out of position, and Harrison looked slow. And Brady was missing behind his receivers all game.

4) When the Patriots had the ball: I don't buy that they've laid out a blueprint of how to beat the Pats. Basically, that blueprint is: have two insanely talented corners and a well positioned safety always be in perfect coverage of Moss and Stallworth, while your genius defensive coordinator pulls out every blitz play in a very long book to apply confusing pressure, and the whole rest of your team demonstrates extremely sound discipline and tackling, while the opposing LT has a bad game and the opposing RB drops the ball. I can't think of any other team other than Denver that has CB's that can play as well as Shepard and Brown played last night, and no team including Denver that has such corners and such a good D-coordinator. And if there was one, the whole rest of the defense would have to play well.

Also, one poster last night commented that the refs were letting the DB's get physical with the WR's, and I would agree with that. Moss was getting abused. I'm not complaining (even though it hurts the Pats this year)--I like that style of officiating, and the Pats should have started doing the same--but it's not the norm. Most post-Polian-whining officials now will not allow DB's to get that physical with Moss and Stallworth. It's ironic...the Pats now kind of lack the personnell to mug WR's, since Samuel isn't particularly big, and Hobbs and Gay are decidedly small and agile rather than physically tough.

5). When the Eagles had the ball: I am worried that this was a blueprint. Where the heck was the Pats' secondary? Maybe it was all about scheming to stop Westbrook, and Feely and his receivers did have a great game (he was zipping the ball to perfect places 20 yards downfield to moderately-well-covered WR's, who where holding onto the ball), but that was nothing that Manning and co couldn't do, too. Harrison looks too slow, and Adalius Thomas can't both be applying pressure and covering people down the field.

6). I didn't think it was OPI, but I have blue-and-silver-tinted glasses, so we'll leave that. But FG's really, really need to be reviewable. First was the pinball wizard last week, and now this week Madden and company were claiming that Gostkowski's FG was good with their fancy replay technology. The league either needs to get the network to agree not to do that (it makes them look bad), or needs to make FG's reviewable. I don't see why not. A FG is a pretty black and white call, and it wouldn't slow the game down--it usually goes to commericial right after a FG attempt anyway.

26
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:38pm

Where did that come from? Why was Dan Fouts wearing a AJ Feeley uniform? Since when is the defensive game plan based on avoiding contact with the QB and letting WRs run free? Did someone replace the stickum with vaseline in the NE WRs lockers?

So many unanswered questions....

* As bad as NE's defense played, I am not all that concerned about a "blueprint" after that game. First off, Philly has an excellent RB in Westbroook who commands a ton of attention regardless of the situation. Second, Philly may not have anyone like Moss or TO on their team, but their WR corps is deep. Just like NE's passing offense of 2003-2005, there is going to be a good matchup somewhere, it is just a matter of the OL giving enough time for the play to develop. And Feeley definitely had plenty of time.

Put it this way, despite the dreadful performance out there yesterday, I will still be extrememely surprised if Baltimore scores more than 13 offensive points next Monday. No NFL team is completely insulated from matchup issues, but Baltimore's offense really doesn't have any that I see.

* On the same token, Philly's defense gave NE some issues, but it was nothing that shouldn't be expected (heavy rush packages, doubling Moss, manning up on WRs to take away hot reads). Philly just played a great game, probably their best all year (yes, even better than the Detroit demolition). Early on it was apparent that NE's offense was going to have to slug it out a little. Even though they scored on all of their first half drives, the surgical-like precision seemed absent.

One thing that I would like to point out is that NE really helped Philly's cause a little on this side. They had the ball on the 4 and didn't score. They had a whopping 3 dropping screens on a single drive all of which were set up for at least 7-10 yard gains. Moss dropped a tough catch he normally makes. Welker and Brady had a miscommunication on a quick slant with no Philly defender in position to make a tackle. Other than the Moss drop, not one of these plays was hurried or harried by the defense; they were entirely NE mistakes. Add in a pretty poor OL performance and I think it is pretty safe to say that NE played a D+ game at absolute best - and they still put 24 offensive points on the board against a decent team playing their best game of the season. Forgive me if I am not considering giving up on the team just yet.

* Even the ST coverage was mediocre. Add in Gost's miss kick as well as only getting two KOs two yards deep into the EZ, I would bet that NE's STs actually negatively effected their team.

* Hey TMQ, you might want to recind your Brady/Harrington comment. Put Harrington behind that OL yesterday and Philly wins 45-10. Can we please put an end this nonsense?

* By the same token, Feeley was the perfect example of why pass protection matters. This is the one area that I have some worries about. I say it over and over again, but here it is: NE does not get a consistent enough pass rush. Most of their sacks seem to come after the game is already out of hand. I don't recall a single game where NE completely harassed an opposing QB in the first part of the game. Now that I think about it, they did a decent job against Dallas, and then dropped off as the game went on. But that is about it.

* NE had some things go against them, but they had some luck, too. Feeley falling down killed one Philly drive and another one ended when they threw a pitch to Westbrook that never had a chance when NE had yet to prove they could stop the pass. That was a terrible play call.

* Moss gets away with plenty of pushoffs, so I'm not as upset about the call as some, but I would like to know why Philly was allowed to push off themselves a couple times. I don't mind questionable calls as long as it is consistent. Once precedent was set by the other non-calls, you have to keep the flag in your pocket during the Moss play.

* I was completely off the Favre-for-MVP bandwagon, but I have to admit that I was wrong. In the beginning of the year, it was my opinion that Favre was a caretaker and the defense was driving the team. I still think Brady should win, but now I think that Favre is a legitmate candidate. He has worse players at basically every offensive position around him yet they still pass extremely well. Brett was making some really nice plays that not many guys could on Thanksgiving. Admittedly, I have not seen them very often, so it could have been Detroit helping things along, but I was very impressed.

* On the MVP thing, what I find funny is that if Favre does win over Brady, it will be the Manning/Brady thing in reverse. The only reason why Brady *shouldn't* win is the weapons thing, but virtually no one mentioned that as a negative against Manning.

27
by nat (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:40pm

Aaron Schatz: I don’t want to alarm anyone, but the San Diego Chargers just went for it on fourth-and-3, in field goal range with an 18-point lead and less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Troll!

Seriously, this weekend featured a number of games with teams driving while up by more than two scores in the second half. Some teams (San Diego, Cincinnati, Dallas) "ran up the score". Other teams (Minnesota, Indianapolis) did not, although with their offense, the Vikings "sportsmanship" may not have been by choice. And the Colts ran a nice clock-killing drive that burned six minutes, featuring more passes than runs -- the classic Patriots-style "classless" drive, except they ran out of steam and ended with two incomplete passes and a punt.

The Saints ran up the score and didn't in the same game.

The whole "running up the score" thing is bogus. It's time to let it drop and to write off anyone who whines about it as a loser fan of losing teams.

28
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:47pm

"Moss gets away with plenty of pushoffs, so I’m not as upset about the call as some, but I would like to know why Philly was allowed to push off themselves a couple times. I don’t mind questionable calls as long as it is consistent. Once precedent was set by the other non-calls, you have to keep the flag in your pocket during the Moss play."

yeah, that play really bugged me. Curtis pushed off on Hobbs/Jackson 3 or 4 times and wasn't called. Moss looks at Sheppard, and gets a flag.

29
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:48pm

Interesting Pats/Eagles game. I don't think it shows teams how to beat the Pats, however, because the teams good enough to win will think they don't need to try the aggressive things (onsides kick, going for it on 4th down in FG range, multiple blitzes, etc.) that the Eagles did and found success with last night.

The best teams they face(d) have or will play more vanilla, and that's not going to work. Only a team with "nothing to lose" will take the chances Philly did, and I think that's the only way to beat NE.

That said, as a Colts fan, I did enjoy seeing Randy Moss get frustrated by something, the cold, the hits on him, the grabbing of him. I still wonder if NE is playing the right style of football for a northern team expected to have HFA through the playoffs.

30
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:48pm

I was thinking about the call that lead to the fateful INT. While everyone agrees it was a horrible idea to throw the ball, and a horrible throw, I'm not sure I agree that it was a horrible idea to THINK about doing it. I think that's 20-20 hindsight at work. You're down by 3, in FG range, near the end of the game. The other team is expecting you to go conservative and try to burn as much clock as possible while you take a couple tries at the endzone and then take the FG. So is it that bad an idea to run a play that maybe catches them by surprise and gives you an easy TD? Especially because that puts you up by 4, so the other team needs a TD?

Put another way, at 3 minutes to go, would you rather be down by 3 with 1st and 10 on the 20, or up by 4 and kicking the ball off to a team that you've stopped three out of four times that half already? It's close, but most coaches would choose the latter. I think the idea was to run the deep pattern, and if the Pats let the WR slip behind them, take the easy TD. If they covered him, take the 1st down.

The problem was that Feely seemed to have missed the bit about "if the Pats let the WR slip behind them" versus "if they covered him", and also picked that moment to revert from Peyton Manning back to A.J. Feely.

31
by Herm? (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:52pm

I was at the Pats game, too, and Patsfan is on the money, they went up by 3 and the stadium emptied - for the most part, the Pats were winning, but you would have thought they were losing by 3 touchdowns the whole time.
Philly fans were well represented, and if it were any other season, there would have been about 20 fights between a couple of America's worst fanbases. (generally speaking, Philly and NE fans are good, but the dregs of these fanbases are embarrassing.)
The lowest point the fans got to: Selita Ebanks was there - she's an SI swimsuit model and Victoria's Secret model. She did promotional announcements in between quarters. She struggled through the promotions - reading (bumbling) and public speech (cuts your eardrums like a razor) were not her strongpoints. She was boo'ed everytime she spoke. How do you boo a Swimsuit Model?!

32
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:52pm

I know it wasn’t technically an upset, but an AGS on the Philly/NE game seems justified. And I’d love to see it!

I vote for San Francisco - Arizona.

33
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:53pm

"That said, as a Colts fan, I did enjoy seeing Randy Moss get frustrated by something, the cold, the hits on him, the grabbing of him. I still wonder if NE is playing the right style of football for a northern team expected to have HFA through the playoffs."

Purds, why do you think Moss was frustrated(Other than Madden saying it 52 times)? Yes, he was well covered, and no, he didn't have a great day, but he seemed to be all smiles when he was smacking Welker on the head in the 4th quarter.

And seriously, where the hell did Gaffney come from the last 2 weeks? I seem to remember him last year being a kind of slow possession receiver. Thats definitely not the game hes playing right now.

34
by Kurt (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:54pm

Granting that my vantage point from the corner of the end zone, upper deck may not have been ideal, Eli was horrendous. When his receivers were open, he threw over their heads, or he threw behind them. When they were double or triple covered, he threw into said double or triple coverage. The rest of the offenase didn't play great by any stretch, but he was beyond bad.

35
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:55pm

"The only reason why Brady *shouldn’t* win is the weapons thing, but virtually no one mentioned that as a negative against Manning."

That's a funny one!

36
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:56pm

Yeah, you know an offense is really, really, good when people rave about an opposing defense's game plan after they are a phantom opi call away from giving up 31 points.

Regarding the Giants/Vikings, I've always been sort of neutral on Peyton's lil' brother, but gosh, it's gotta be a bad day for the Eli-boosters. The Vikings pass defense really is pretty decent when they face a young qb who gets easily flustered, like the Elis and Rivers of the world, but is very vulnerable to the Favres, which is why Leslie Frazier sensibly didn't try to do to Favre what he did to Eli yesterday.

Yes, it may not be saying much, but the Vikings have a better chance to win with Tavaris Jackson than they do with Holcomb or Bollinger. The Packers are obviously a much, much, better team, but missing Jackson, Winfield, and Rice a couple of weeks ago had a lot to do with the blow-out nature of the defeat at Lambeau.

37
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:56pm

Re TEN-CIN
A few comments on the Titans' putrid performance against the Bengals...

Defensively, it was the same thing we've seen the previous games this year without Haynesworth. The Titans couldn't get pressure with just 4, and it seemed like they rarely tried to get pressure with more. Palmer had time in the pocket and picked the Titans' secondary apart. I saw a lot of man-2, but Harper in particular can't cover the 85 or Housh in man, but mostly cover-2 zone, and with the lack of pressure that's a lot of completions to open WRs. It was all very depressing to watch from this Titan fan's perspective. The worst moment was probably when the Titans were showing a cover-1 or man-1 look before backing out about 1-2 seconds before the snap and the Bengals threw over the middle between the 2 safeties anyway.

I didn't see the braindead throws I saw out of Palmer last week. Nor did I see the Chris Henry hands of stone.

Having seen LenDale White as the Titans' feature back in person for the first time, I'm even less of a fan than I was. He has only a couple plays a game where he looks better than a street free agent, and I'm not sure you couldn't say the same about a street free agent.

From the top row of Paul Brown Stadium, I thought VY played well enough for the Titans to win. He had a couple poor throws, including missing an open WR in the end zone, but I didn't see a single receiver running free in the secondary (college "open") who didn't have a pass thrown to him. Of course, with the defense and lack of running game, even a perfect game probably wouldn't have been enough to win.

38
by justanothersteve (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:59pm

#9 - Kampman has been called for 2 offsides penalties this year. One came against the Panthers and wiped out an Al Harris INT. The other happened against the Giants and was offset by a spiking penalty against Jeremy Shockey. Even though I'm a Packers fan, I thought both were legit.

39
by BBtAC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 2:59pm

Meanwhile, here’s Peyton Manning down two starting linemen, three if you count Tarik Glenn, and he’s still ripping the Falcons to shreds.

Yeah, but the Indy linemen were good.

40
by MRH (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:03pm

The spread that teams like Kentucky and Perdue ran for years, the one with all the bubble and slip screens

How did Perdue fare against archrival Tyson in the CFL (Chicken footbaall League) this year?

So why did Herm go for it, down by three, about 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter? Was the kicker hurt or something?

Rayner missed a ~30 yd FG earlier, plus two misses last week. This is a case of Bizarro Herm: a bad talent evaluation and good in-game decision. I give Herm props for playing young guys, unlike Vermeil who'd stick with vets, but man he is a frustrating coach to watch during a game.

Also, re the comments on Leftwich - del Rio, for all his faults, clearly made the right call going with Garrard over Leftwich and deserves credit for keeping the team together when a lot of players seemed to question the decision (at least the timing).

41
by David (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:14pm

If I’m Scott Linehan, and I have first-and-goal at the four-yard line with about 1:30 to play, I run Steven Jackson up the middle four straight times, so as not to put the game in the hands of my backup quarterback Gus Frerotte.

That may well have been Linehan's intention on the last play, but Frerotte outsmarted him. Take that, people who think a quarterback can't screw up a running play!

42
by Gerry (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:16pm

I, for one, am grateful that the Giants game garnered no Audibles.

I'll throw in my comments. Eli played what was, to my eyes at least, the worst game of his career. In the gameday discussion thread, some were arguing with me over who's fault it was when he was throwing to a route the wideouts did not run. They were saying that the receiver did not break off the route due to a blitz properly. I think it was more of Eli not realizing that the protection accounted for the blitzers, and as such the receiver was correct in running the called route. Beyond that were a bevy of overthrows, underthrows, and poor choices. He often has days where he is inaccurate but yesterday was an extreme example.

Plus, the Giants habit of playing solid on 1st and 2nd down defensively but then missing tackles on third and long reared its ugly head. As did our penchant for penalties.

It was a very ugly game.

The Vikings should be quite pleased, however, in the way Rice is developing. He's going to be a player. Tavaris really did not show me much, but he wasn't horrid.

The way to beat the Giants is to simply play solid and wait for them to beat themselves. Sometimes they won't, but they often will. The Vikings played solidly, and the Giants badly imploded.

43
by Cyrus (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:19pm

Laughed at the CFL reference-- my mother visited my great aunt in a nursing home last night. Mother knows nothing about football, whatsoever, and the aunt has dementia. They were watching football for a half hour or so, my uncle stopped by and asked "What are you watching?" They weren't sure, they said "I think its the Chicago game." Turns out they had been watching the Grey Cup and didn't know any better.

As for the topics-- Brady for MVP, by far. Great game by the Eagles, they did an exceptional job. But as mentioned by several, they didn't give a blue print for beating them.

Also sad to see Moss get harassed like that-- that is how, in the beginning of the season, everyone said Moss could be contained. I hope other refs call it. And his OPI was BS.

Glad they won, but it wasn't pretty. As for the pass rush-- did you see the game?? They were getting great pass rush, but AJ was getting the ball off just before he got hit. It was the same with Manning in last year's game-- he was pressured all day, but still made the completions.

Quick release will do that-- we just need our secondary to make them pay.

44
by justanothersteve (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:19pm

#24 para 3 - The Eagles were simply doing what Packers (and probably Bears and Lions) fans have known for years; Randy Moss tends to get frustrated when opposing DBs play him physically. It doesn't always work. But playing 5 or more yards off the line of scrimmage is basically asking to let him kill you. Bump him for the first couple yards off the LOS is your only chance. He probably is also the only WR who doesn't get the Michael Irvin star treatment when it comes to pushing off. For some reason (water bottles maybe?), refs just don't seem to like him.

45
by Fire Millen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:22pm

Sean McCormick said "Johnson going out and getting the ball at its highest point." Which gives me a chance for my favorite rant. On a pass the receiver NEVER catches the ball at its highest point (maybe on a screen pass) as most pases go more than 12 feet in the air. The correct technique and phrase is he catches the ball at his (i.e. the receiver's) highest point which means you catch the ball at the top of your jump, not on your way up and not on your way down. Am I the only person this wrong cliche bothers?

46
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:22pm

"Randy Moss tends to get frustrated when opposing DBs play him physically. It doesn’t always work. "

If you mean "hold him" when you say "play him physically" I agree.

I think there were 5 or 6 plays where the camera showed Moss pulling his jersey back up over his shoulder pads. You're allowed to bump for the first 5 yards, not hold.

47
by Eddo (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:23pm

26: "Aaron Schatz: I don’t want to alarm anyone, but the San Diego Chargers just went for it on fourth-and-3, in field goal range with an 18-point lead and less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter."
At first, I didn't even see that comment as a running-up-the-score related dig; I thought it was pointing out a bizarre decision by Norv. Kicking a field goal there puts you up by 3 touchdowns, so it seems like going for it was kind of stupid. Anyone else have similar thoughts?
Re: Grossman. He didn't play well, but he didn't play poorly. The QB draw was a good decision by him, I thought (it appeared to not be the called play), but the Broncos DB reacted well and forced the fumble. The second fumble was due to poor protection.
Overall, in a game where it seemed like everyone fumbled and/or dropped passes due to the wet conditions, only two fumbles from Grossman wasn't terrible. The interception wasn't a very bad throw, and I sure thought Berrian was getting pushed all the way down the field on the throw.
The announcers wouldn't shut up about it, but they were correct that Grossman has looked less like he's playing in a pickup game and more like he's focused on making reads since he replaced Griese, which gives some hope.
It will be an interesting offseason for the Bears. They absolutely need to address the offensive line with their first round pick (Fred Miller is awful), and I anticipate they'll take a QB in the middle rounds (is Tennessee's Erik Ainge a senior? - he intrigues me as a pro prospect, but I don't really know much about Tennessee football) and sign Grossman for one more year on the cheap and let him play. Maybe he'll have a Drew Brees-esque leap forward?

48
by mmm... sacrilicious (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:23pm

#25: About two-thirds of what TMQ writes (both football-related and not) seems like it's designed to make stoned people say "Whoa! I never thought about things that way!"

Then, once they are sober again, they realize how stupid the idea is, because TMQ is either cherry-picking data or making unsupportable assertions.

Harrington better than Brady? Whoa... maybe he's right!

49
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:25pm

Oh, and it must be noted that Feeley can't be allowed to have a successful career as a starter, given the prospect of seeing his hideous hair-do during starter intros on television each week.

50
by dbt (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:28pm

grossman had some drops. whatever. he was still bad for 3 and a half quarters before the special teams pulled his nuts out of the fire with effectively 3 TDs (two hester returns and the blocked punt setting up the AP run which was one of the most exciting plays of that game).

Is he better than Griese? probably. My point in posting that was 1) I had already done the legwork so I figured I'd share the data and 2) someone in the audibles thread actually asked how he looked before the end of the game, so it was topical.

51
by dbt (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:33pm

#43: Credit where credit is due: Rex didn't fumble a single snap this week. And he even handled the one really bad shotgun snap that nearly went over his head (I don't know why Kreutz doesn't get more credit for the fact that EVERY Bears QB over the last 3 years has had problems handling his snaps).

52
by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:35pm

43,

Ainge is a senior. About a month ago, David Lewin said that he'll have a higher QB projection than Matt Ryan, who's still being touted as a first-rounder. It would be great if the Bears could snag him in Round 2 or so.

53
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:35pm

Folks, Moss' lack of success was mostly due to the fact that Jim Johnson was dedicating a safety to nothing but helping the corner facing Moss. Most teams, even when doubling Moss, don't sell out nearly as much as the Eagles did yesterday. The reason why the Pats didn't score 40 was because they didn't have as much success with Watson and Stallworth as they normally would when a defense takes that approach. If you ask an offensive coordinator with a good receiver corps if he would like to see an opposinbg defense dedicate two guys to nothing but stopping one receiver, he'd say "Hell, yes!".

54
by JasonK (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:36pm

#39,

I was one of those blaming the WRs on the gameday thread, and, FWIW, the post-game pressers mostly confirmed that the mistakes were on Eli. It was an impressive job by Minny's D-- whatever they did, they had the QB and the WRs seeing different things.

55
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:37pm

Re: 42

Yes. Yes you are.

56
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:37pm

The Bears/Broncos game was fantastic, especially for a Bears fan. More games should be like that, although it helps when you have players like Hester on the field, and Brandon Marshall who is a utter beast.

Rexy was Rexy, he makes some really pretty throws and can look great when his pre-snap read is correct, but doesn't do things you expect quarterbacks to do because they have been doing them since they were kids. Like protecting the ball, I have never seen a QB find so many new and interesting ways to fumble the ball, yesterday he got tackled but seemed to have the ball and then just decided to drop it before kicking the ball away from two of his linemen who were about to fall on it and straight to a Denver safety. Also whose dumb idea was it to have Grossman run draws? Rex Grossman, the slow, fumbly, injury prone midget with small hands as a red zone threat running the ball? Utterly brainless.

Archuleta is a waste of space. If he can't cover and he can't tackle, what is he supposed to be able to do?

Fred Miller is a complete liablilty, and every team now knows it. He must have given up at least five sacks and five penalties in the last two games, and that doesn't include missed and blown blocks in the running game. Most of the time when a Bears RB gets stonewalled in the backfield it is because Miller has let his man loose, Benson gets (got) all the blame but it he had very little to work with. Brown played poorly until he went to IR, which meant that for most of the season two of the Bears linemen were ineffective. Metcalf played better this week which is encouraging, but it was against Denver defensive tackles which is not.

Denver could look very scary on offense as soon as next year. Cutler is starting to look very dangerous, he has as strong an arm as I have ever seen (the deep throw down the right side to Marshall was a laser) which makes the game very tricky for safeties who constantly have to worry about staying deep of the WRs. Javon Walker, Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler make a fairly scary set of targets for a guy with an arm like that. Combined with the Shanahan running game (140 yards/game since he took over) and I think you are looking at one of the dominant units in the league over the next five years. Also you have to love Shanahan's play calling, great timing on some of the TE screens, fake hand-offs to the left and pitches to the right, the option play that Denver scored with, just a great feel for play caling. If they could just find someone to evaluate defensive linemen for him they could be awesome.

57
by Mikey (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:38pm

"Bill Moore: NBC has this game miked very well."

You know, I thought maybe NBC had it miked a little TOO well. The Pats have a legitimate complaint, if they choose to air it.

It wasn't just the Gaffney play. There was a similar play where Brady called out to Welker and then hit him on a quick slant.

Also, I don't know what "ninety-six" means in the Pats offense, but someone with more football smarts and a lot of time to study tape might be able to figure it out with last night's audio.

Much ado about nothing? Maybe. If I'm a Pats fan I'm not comfortable with that much audio clarity on a broadcast.

58
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:38pm

just:

I believe McGinn was referencing penalties that were enforced. Bob's pretty good at this stuff so that's my guess for the discrepancy.

And I don't see what was the issue in how the Eagles played Moss. It's the ssame thing that Harris and then Mike McKenzie did when the Packers faced the Vikings. Sometimes it backfired but at least you took him out of the equation at times.

Culpepper has always had fumble problems because despite being a big guy he has smallish hands. That was the one knock on him coming out of college from a physical standpoint.

59
by zip (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:41pm

#42

I hate it too.

60
by Bill Barnwell :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:41pm

Pats/Eagles won't be AGS this week, but it will be EPC. Acronyms rule.

61
by DCD12 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:43pm

Also, I don’t know what “ninety-six� means in the Pats offense, but someone with more football smarts and a lot of time to study tape might be able to figure it out with last night’s audio.

53: "96" is just Brady pointing out the "mike" (middle linebacker), I think, b/c Omar Gaither wears #96. I THINK that all QBs do this on almost every play.

62
by Mikey (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:44pm

One other thing on last night's NBC broadcast: I thought Madden was great.

When the game warrants his full enthusiasm - which isn't often - he can still be damn good. That was probably the best I've heard him since he came to NBC.

63
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:44pm

#42

Bernard Berrian tried to catch a ball at the goal line at its highest point, mainly because that is where Rexy threw the thing. Didn't work out so well, probably not such a good idea.

64
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:46pm

Re: 60

Sweet.

65
by Fnor (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:47pm

Tanier: I'm not sure if I should call it the "Grossman Effect" or the "QB Eages" effect. On one hand, succeeding on 5 plays then being hyped to high heaven is much more prevalent for "backup Eagles QB" than in Chicago. On the other, the Bears' front office has drank deeply of the kool-aid, and it has done far more lasting and irreparable harm to Chicago (which now has 3 bad quarterbacks and no plan for the future). I am so bloody sick of people judging players on a handful of plays. It gives the front office an excuse to give into narcissism and refuse to cut losses on high-round draft picks. Chicagoans wonder why they don't have a championship in the past few years, with such a stellar defence. The front office is entirely to blame.

As for CHI/DEN, I couldn't disagree more strongly with the sentiment that it was a good game. It was a terrible, sloppy, undiciplined game. For every great catch there were 3 drops, on each side. Denver's special teams seemed to have not prepared one whit, kicking down the middle of the field and then all trying to converge on Hester, rather than staying in lane and staggering to slow his burst after cut. Hester himself fumbled twice. Grossman gave a usual performance; three and a half awful quarter capped by a pair of decent drives aided by Berrian's ample skill. Cutler and the Broncos offence converted, what? 2 third downs? Out of 11? While the Bears' D had something to do with that, a lot of it was just poor throws and bad route-running. Do a few exciting (not necessarily good) plays outweigh 50 minutes of suck?

I just don't get it. Am I crazy? I understand the game is, at this point, designed to emphasize flash and all that. But is that all we need? I would pay money to retroactively have seen the Tampa Bay game, which was apparently low on flash but high on disciplined play. Is that no longer considered good football, though, compared to two teams wallowing in mediocrity, waiting for a low-percentage "big play" to overcome their poor game-planning and general ineptness? Are starting quarterbacks who can't progress through reads, wide receivers who can't run routes or hold onto the ball, linebackers who don't stay home or stick their gaps, ball-hawking DBs who gamble because they want the big play worth all the negative-value plays for the a few fortuitous plays? It seems to me that it doesn't matter how much flash you have.

The flash might be fun, but good teams seem to emphasize discipline. Green Bay is good again after Favre spent the off-season learning to reign it in and play with discipline. Tampa Bay is making up for lack of raw talent with excellent execution and disciplined play on defence. Pittsburgh's defence is a good example, but its inconsistent, big-play offence and sloppy line play have given PIT O a ridiculous variance (the- I'm convinced- extremely poorly-coached ST doesn't help). The excellent teams have flash, but pair it with smart, disciplined play (New England, Indianapolis when they're healthy). Discipline seems to be the key, flash the opiate of bad teams (Chicago, Jersey/A, San Fransisco), yet this week's black hole of smart, disciplined play is catching laurel wreaths.

Sorry about the rant, but it seems that our (as fans) collective vision of what makes a good team and a good game has strayed wildly from what actually makes a good football team. It's just so damned frustrating to watch the Bears every single week and know that this team is doomed for the next few years because of a fundamental mistake about what makes a team good at football, as opposed to good at exciting fans.

66
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:48pm

62.

Madden was good, but he still makes the glaring errors that make me want to throw things at the TV.

The Evans TD was one. After seeing the play about 5 times, he went on explaining about how when Seau comes in at fullback, the runner is following him into the endzone...except the runner WASNT. Seau blocked the LB coming from the outside who wasn't really involved in the play, and Evans cut inside, between the guard and center, IIRC.

It just bugged me about how he went on and on about him following Seau, when he clearly wasn't.

67
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:49pm

Re: the Eagles' defense V the Pats

The Eagles were proactive, bumping recievers, playing a 3-man line, varying their pressure packages etc. I get so angry when teams play the Pats (and other spread offenses) and send a four man rush every down and back at least five yards off the LOS on every play. How do these sides expect that to work? I can remember Carolina sending four on nearly every snap of the superbowl and it didn't work. Now if THAT Carolina DL coulnd't get the job done why will your line make the same vanilla scheme work? But even after the Eagles have shown that you can slow the Pats with a well coached exotic defense you can bet that most coaches will continue to use the same vanilla rubbish.

Re: the 49ers game

The niners actually resembled a professional offense for the first time this season and though MDS has given all the credit to Dilfer, he actually had several poor throws that should have been simple completions. I felt that the difference is that the niners have brought in Ted Tollner, the playcalling seemed to have much more rythm and suprise. Not that Tollner is a genius but he's a sea change from Hostler, who lacked any understanding of his own team's capabilities and never managed to get the defense on the back foot. What's annoying is that the niners could have had Tollner helping out all year and the season might not have been lost. However, despite playing well at times, the niners' defense gave up about 450 yards to Warner, this team is in desperate need of a pass rusher.

68
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:50pm

Re: 36

Not really. There is a huge step-down with Johnson at LT and Scott (starting right guard) at RT. Manning was getting hit all day.

69
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:54pm

#53: The reason why the Pats didn’t score 40 was because they didn’t have as much success with Watson and Stallworth as they normally would when a defense takes that approach. If you ask an offensive coordinator with a good receiver corps if he would like to see an opposinbg defense dedicate two guys to nothing but stopping one receiver, he’d say “Hell, yes!�.

Absolutely. The second Philly corner (Brown?) did a great job mostly one-on-one on Stallworth, and that was in my opinion the real key to taking out the Pats' deep routes, and make their offense stutter, especially in the 2nd half. Face it - many teams can double cover Moss and slow his production, but only very few can shut down the other WR as well. Of course, the Eagles got themselves killed by Welker underneath as a result (you gotta die of something, don't you?), but the Pats offense was clearly not the same. (And regardless of whether they didn't try running on purpose, the Pats definitely miss Morris.)

Not sure what other team(s) could pull that approach off. Denver?

70
by TomC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:55pm

dbt et al. (re: Grossman) -

Allow me to play Grossman apologist (for argument's sake if nothing else). His incompletes/interceptions:

First half:

Batted down at the line by a man Benson should have blocked, thrown away, fade to the corner of the endzone that Muhammad caught out of bounds (and couldn't have been thrown shorter/more inside because of good coverage), awful throw to Berrian, dumpoff for first, drop by Muhammad on perfect throw that would have been a 1st down, dumpoff to AP that I can't remember, good coverage on Olsen by Gold, dumpoff to Wolfe.

Second half:

Inc. to Muhammad that I don't remember, 3rd-down-converting perfect pass dropped by Rashied Davis, dumpoff to Wolfe, inc to Berrian under heavy pressure, could/should have been caught by D. Clark, bad drop by Olsen, bad drop by Olsen, deep ball should have been caught by Moose (wiped out by penalty, but the penalty was only 5 yards compared to the 30+ Moose would have had if he'd caught it), high throw to Berrian at goal line (BB could have caught it, but it should have been thrown lower).

He actually threw very few balls badly. The sacks and fumbles were my main complaint, especially after the similar game-losing fumble last week.

71
by Robert (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:58pm

Re: 27, 47, chargers running up the score -

Any one willing to invest any time into this can see that the chargers intent was obviously not to run up the score. Their next 4 plays consisted of runs up the middle for short gains to waste time off the clock. Stop trying to justify your classless patriots!

72
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:58pm

"Not sure what other team(s) could pull that approach off. Denver?"

Denver has the corners, but not the line. They wouldn't be able to get enough pressure.

I used to like Kazcur, but he seems to be regularly getting destroyed on the right side.

73
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 3:59pm

Possibly, slo-mo, but I also think the Pats could run the ball effectively against the Broncos if Denver did a complete sell-out to stop Moss.

74
by Eddo (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:00pm

52 (Charles Jake): Thanks. It seems to me that Ainge is one of those under-the-radar guys who wind up being serviceable-to-good pro quarterbacks. I'd love to see the Bears take a chance on him in the 2nd-4th round.

75
by iowapatsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:03pm

#1,#37, et al

Perdue = Will, of the Chicago Bulls

Purdue = University of, Plays footabll with a spread offense

76
by justanothersteve (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:03pm

Badger - Kampmann also had an offsides in 2005 against Tampa that was refused because the Bucs had a better play. IMO, an offsides should matter regardless if it actually gets enforced. I like McGinn too, but he's not flawless. He's still far better than the MJS's latest star writer. Bedard is an idiot who should go back to Florida. And I agree with what you said about dealing with Moss. It's just that nobody this year until the Eagles has consistantly played Moss close at the LOS.

77
by masocc (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:07pm

Re: Intentional safeties in the CFL vs. the NFL

MDS, intentional safeties are more prevalent in the CFL because:

1) The free kick then comes from the 35
2) CFL punt coverage units blow. A punt from the end zone virtually guarantees 3 points, and will usually result in 6. The intentional safety allows them to put the kickoff coverage unit in.

78
by dbt (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:07pm

Tom, I have the game on the Tivo and I may replay it just to look at each play in as much detail as possible. As with all things football, you can't always separate the man from the team.

My primary interest in posting the analysis was to answer this comment from the original audibles post:

Aaron Schatz: OK, as someone who didn’t switch to this game until the last three minutes, may I ask the rest of you: How has Rex Grossman been the rest of the game? If he’s playing better than he was earlier this season, why? He looks a lot better right now, definitely.

79
by Harris (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:13pm

The knives have been out for McNabb since the day Tagliabue called his name so I'm not sure how Feely's game (which, I hasten to add, included three picks) could possible make things any worse. Fortunately, Reid and Co. have steadfastly ignored everything Vito from South Philly has to say about personnel but I'm getting to the point where I hope he'll go somewhere the fans appreciate him.

80
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:14pm

Rich: I thought Moss was a bit frustrated when I saw him drop the long ball that he (and frankly, even an average WR) normally catches. Not sure if it was the cold, or what. But, he also took some shots on tackles, both directly and being driven into the ground. Didn't seem too happy getting up, and neither would I have been. In other words, they didn't make him pout, but the Eagles did reduce him to a #1 WR, not an HOF WR, for one game.

As for Philly's defensive success (if you can call it that): I still think the whole NFL game comes down to pressuring the QB. If you can do it with 4, great. If you can't do it with 4, you better blitz, or even average QB's look great. Brady is much better than an average QB, but if you can pressure him, he's much more average than HOF. Yes, his total numbers were good last night, but he was much more average than the rest of this season: Brady completed "only" 63% and averaged "only" 7.0 yards per attempt, and they sacked him 3 times. NOw, for many, that's a pretty good night, but Brady's season averages are much better: 72.5%, 8.8 YPA, 1.1 sack per game (and those averages include last night).

The Eagles did not beat Brady, but unlike many of the other Pats opponents, they did make NE's offense work for a living. I don't see why other weak teams don't take more defensive chances against NE. Brady's proven he'll score on you if you don't pressure you. As a defense, you might as well at least try to challenge him.

81
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:15pm

Again, it is much easier to have the corner at the LOS, facing Moss, when you have told a safety that his only responsibility is to assist the corner. The question then becomes whether you can defend the rest of the Patriots with nine guys.

82
by Independent George (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:17pm

Fortunately, Reid and Co. have steadfastly ignored everything Vito from South Philly has to say about personnel but I’m getting to the point where I hope he’ll go somewhere the fans appreciate him.

As a Giants fan, I wholeheartedly endorse this idea.

83
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:18pm

Fnor tell us what you really think, don't hold back ;-)

84
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:19pm

Not sure what other team(s) could pull that approach off. Denver?

I doubt it. Denver certainly has the corners--Bly and a safety could take out Moss, and Bailey's mere presence would shut down Stallworth (Bailey's in Brady's head and Brady simply won't throw near him anymore). But I don't think Denver has the pass rush and exotic defensive schemes that the Eagles have, and Brady would simply wait till Watson or Welker or Faulk get open and throw to them, or (as Will said) just run the ball. Also, the unsung aspect of Philly's defense last night was how good the tackling was by the LB's and the DB's. The 2-3 yard dumpoffs were there, but sure tackling kept them to 2-3 yard dumpoffs. Against a lot of other teams, those 2-3 yard dumpoffs turn into 6-10 yard clock-eating, drive-preserving plays. I don't know how good Denver's tackling has been this season...

85
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:19pm

Beating the deceased horse, when the defense takes the steps the Eagles did yesterday to stop one receiver, the receiver is HOF caliber. Not to turn this into an irrational thread or anything, but TO doesn't garner such a response.

86
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:21pm

Let me add to my Brady/pressure statement:

Brady also escaped having two passes picked off, one along the sideline (would have been a good catch by the safety), and one in the end zone (the DB just simply dropped it, and that's why he's a DB and not a WR!).

So, the pressure also got Brady to put the ball, twice, into questionable places that could have been interceptions, if the Eagles had a guy like #22 back there. (Think Samuel is going to get paid this off-season, or what?)

87
by Mike W (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:21pm

I think we should indeed give Jim Johnson credit for his scheme vs NE. Everyone around here has been emphasizing that you nee to pressure Brady, and they are the first team that did. That they got away with doing it via blitzing rather than being able to do it with their front four alone isn’t the point. They decided that if they stayed back they were going to get beat, so they did something else. Sure the drops helped, but the point is that the alternative was probably 45 or so points anyway. On that note, I think it’s good to think of your defensive goal as maximizing your chance of getting off the field, as opposed to minimizing yardage gained. That means a third-and-long, a sack, etc. The better your opponent’s offense is, the more you have to think of making a play to get them off the field, because they will score if you don’t. So take chances – play physical, play man-to-man, get pressure even if you have to bring extra men. If they score faster, so what. They are going to score anyway.

I think GB has the ideal offense to play NE. Lots of good receivers with good hands, lots of horizontal routes and stretch-type runs. Hope it happens.

88
by Kavin (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:22pm

MDS: the reason you take the safety in the CFL is mostly down to field size. The return game in the CFL is pretty wild since the coverage team has more space to cover on a wider field. Also remember that the goalposts are on the goal line, so the receiving team will already have a much better shot at the FG than in the NFL. Better just to take the safety touch and kickoff normally (the CFL does a normal kickoff after a safety, rather than a free kick from the 20).

Perhaps there's also the mild fear that your punter might bang it off the goalposts.

89
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:24pm

But, he also took some shots on tackles, both directly and being driven into the ground.

I noticed that too. Especially early in the game. Guys "falling on the pile" after he [Moss] had been tackled. Guys laying on him being very slow to get up after the play. Guys planting a knee in his ribcage as they did get up. Guys hitting him as hard as they could within 5 (or actually, within about 10) yards of the LOS, even if the play was already going to the other side of the field. Nothing blatant enough for a penalty, or even that dirty...i.e. nothing that might have seriously injured him. Just enough to make sure he'd be good and sore the next day, and probably for the next play or two.

Basically, the same thing the Pats did to Westbrook.

90
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:24pm

Give me a Packer-Patriots Super Bowl, Mike, and I'll have very little to complain about as a football fan for a couple of years. It would be an awesomely interesting match-up, I think.

91
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:25pm

"The Eagles did not beat Brady, but unlike many of the other Pats opponents, they did make NE’s offense work for a living. I don’t see why other weak teams don’t take more defensive chances against NE. Brady’s proven he’ll score on you if you don’t pressure you. As a defense, you might as well at least try to challenge him."

I don't disagree with any of that. The Eagles managed to stay in that game by being extremely aggressive on both sides of the ball, and having a lot of things (in the first half) break their way (recovered onside, converting on 4th a couple times, bad gameplan by NE, etc).

Don't forget, the eagles didn't exactly slow the Patriots offense down early(17 points on 3 drives), they just managed to keep up by being extremely aggressive.

The eagles were also extremely fortunate to have had the ball first. If the Patriots have the ball first, march down and score(which they did on their first possession), and then Feeley throws the pick-6, I think the game is a blowout.

The Eagles told us yesterday that if you're a good team, and are extremely aggressive, you may be able to hang with the Patriots.

92
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:25pm

#83, Will

Why does it have to be irrational? If both players are judged on their play on the field they should both get in.

93
by Jerry (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:27pm

Some demerits for the Pats fans. When the Pats scored to go up 31-28 with 7:20 left, people started leaving the game. What?!?!

Given school/work the next morning, and the realities of Route 1, I can see why some people might choose to leave early.

94
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:28pm

Mike:

NE made GB look like a co-op team when they met last season. While the receiving corps for the Pack has changed the respective D-line and O-line have not. NE's defensive line would eat GB's guards for lunch, supper and a late-night snack.

Favre would have to be playing on roller skates to avoid Pat defenders crashing up the middle. Let's not get delusions of grandeur.....

95
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:31pm

Mostly kidding, Jimmy. I think both are on the verge of being HOF worthy, although I suppose I'd give more demerits to Owens for greatly harming a good team's performance than I would to Moss for harming an awful team's performance. As to who has been a better player, I'd give the edge to Moss by a small margin, because I think he has done more to dictate terms to opposing defenses than Owens has.

96
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:32pm

Will - Since the Chic game I've felt this team was a much stronger team than the even the smart folks here thought they were. I think it's safe to say most of the FO writers were less positive about the team than their DVOA rating.
Yesterday's outcome was better than I expected, but I wasn't surprised as I thought the Vikes matched up very well against the Giants. What was most encouraging to me was that the QB and pass defence, the noted weakness of this team, were instrumental in the win.

In the last two weeks Jackson has thrown the ball very well and it wasn't all dinks and dunks.

The other thing about that game that really impressed me was the 1st drive of the third quarter - the Giants put up 3 with a decent drive and the Vikings responded with a 14 play 9 minute plus game icing drive and Jackson was brilliant in that drive.

The Vikings are in a very good position to make the playoffs now. Whether they do or not of course has a lot to do with fortune, but I'm quite convinced now that other than Dall and GB no other teams in the NFC are any better.

97
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:33pm

Badger, I think the Pats defense has fallen off enough to make the match-up less one-sided than you tend to believe.

98
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:36pm

"In the last two weeks Jackson has thrown the ball very well and it wasn’t all dinks and dunks."

I don't understand why coaches seem to insist on running dink-and-dunk offenses with rookie/young QBs. The mind is what needs to develop, not the arm.

Theres a whole lot more thinking and reading defenses involved in the short passing game than there is in the run, run, run, chuck-it-deep, run, chuck-it-deep, run, run type offenses.

99
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:39pm

"Badger, I think the Pats defense has fallen off enough to make the match-up less one-sided than you tend to believe."

Based on one game, you think they've fallen off? One game where their #2 and #3 CBs sat most of the game, one game where they game-planned to shut down a running game and did?

100
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:40pm

jimm, as I stated above, the Vikings pass defense has a much easier time with young qbs who get easily flustered. Luckily, nobody left on the schedule looks too great, especially since the year seems to be taking it's toll on the aging Kitna. Every opponent the Vikings have left is very beatable. Unfortunately, given the Vikings pass offense, they have no room for error, so each game for the Vikings is very losable as well. I'll get more excited when they make it back to .500. Here's hoping for this Sunday.

101
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:40pm

Will:

I am speaking specifically to the Pats defensive line which absolutely manhandled GB's offensive line in 2006. And the guards were playing better THEN than they are now.

Hey, I want to think the Packers can play with anyone. But if nothing else has been driven into my head these last few years it's the absolutely CRITICAL aspect of offensive line play.

Clifton and Tauscher are playing really well right now which gives Favre the half second he needs to find his guy. But against a team with the abilit to exploit a weakness the poor guard play of the Pack will be their undoing. Cripes, KC had a single d-linemen who almost destroyed Favre by himself thanks to Daryn Colledge playing he was made of cotton balls.

102
by Mike W (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:41pm

#65 – I agree with your sentiment about Chicago. For years they have been propped up by an inordinate number of big plays. Their defense has been very good at forcing turnovers, they’ve had an absurd number of runbacks (Hester excluded, their defense, from the miracle year of 2003 on, has had a huge number of touchdowns), and their offense has had a lot of big plays considering their otherwise average-as-best nature. Now, these count, and the turnover thing is something the Bears coach, so that is to some extent repeatable into the future. But you are right in that the sentiment of the organization (and the fans, oh God, don’t get me started on the fans) is to get themselves to believe that the true Bears are the Bears you see when they get a bunch of big plays and win. This week the airwaves will be choked by people saying, “Maybe Rex has turned the corner,� when it’s the same old guy. But the organization and the fans will see the good deep balls as ‘real’ or ‘real potential’ and the rest as noise, or stuff that can be eliminated. The fans are merely silly – it’s just the local version of mass insanity that strikes many teams’ fan bases. The trouble is that the organization believes it too. Angelo wants to believe in his draft picks, and Lovie is a players’ coach. The truth is that this team needs a QB, a RB, about three young OL, and has a declining defense. Good luck, Bear fans.

103
by Jon (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:44pm

For the Giants, it's quite simple really. The media can talk about Eli this, Coughlin that, whatever. Every Sunday though, we win or lose with Brandon Jacobs. The story of the game for me was that the Vikings didn't respect Droughns at all, nor should they have. The most frustrating part was seeing Ahmad Bradshaw finally get playing time, after it was too late to matter.

104
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:46pm

Regarding Eli if it's any comfort to Giant fans, Favre had a game like this against Chicago in '93 where a nondescript linebacker named Dante Jones ran back two interceptions for touchdowns. The Packers rolled up over 400 yards in offense but thanks to those turnovers the Bears won 31-17. Afterwards, everyone who claimed to be an expert just RAILED on Favre.

The best was the ESPN Sunday night recap when Tom Jackson looked square in the camera and declared the Bears the team to beat in this division for the next few years and that Bret Favre simply did not have what it took to compete at the NFL level.

I wish I was embellishing. But that is what the man said. And when Berman expressed surprise, as even Berman recognized this as being a suspect comment, Jackson did his purse the lips and shake the head routine to affirm his statement.

Anyway, sh*t happens. Here's hoping Eli lives by the maxim that which does not kill us makes us strong.....

105
by Mike W (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:48pm

Badger-

Sadly, I remember that game. First, don't think I wouldn't make NE a big favorite in the Dream Super Bowl. Second, regular season games are different than playoff games - teams sometimes come out flat, get down and sort of give up, etc. in the regular season. I don't know if that was the case then, but man, it was ugly. Third, GB is much better now - though the guards are playing worse, clearly they are running more of a short-passing offense, and have a deeper receiving corps. At any rate, their offense is very good right now. I agree the interior pass rush is the weak spot, and would probably be a/the difference in the game. Hopefully McCarthy would have several rollouts in the package.

I also think GB has a near-ideal type of defense to play NE - physical man-to-man corners, a deep D-line rotation and pretty good pass rush. I think they would attack Moss the same way Philly did. I wish our LBs were better blitzers, though.

106
by FullmoonoverTulsa (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:48pm

86 - the CFL has to move the kickoff on safeties back, or make them worth three points. Conceding a safety should not be such an attractive option. I love the CFL game, but seeing the GC champs conced three safeties shows me that something is wrong.

107
by dbt (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:51pm

Mike W, that miracle year was 2001, and they were a huge fluke team in a ton of ways; they were #2 on the list of "bend but don't break" defenses in that chapter of PFP 07, fluke returns, multiple Shane Matthews TDs in the final minute of play, etc), but there were three very very bad years in between that team and 2005.

108
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:51pm

Yeah, Badger, and I think K.C. defensive front may be better than the Patriots' this year, factoring how much more of the load the Chiefs' defense must bear, given the relative strength of the teams' offenses. I understand what you are saying, but I think the Patriots' historic offensive performance is masking the severity of some issues with their defense.

109
by Bill Moore (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:52pm

Rich: "“but they have also found New England’s secret defensive weakness: Randall Gay. He has made a number of bad plays this year, and is getting toasted tonight.�

Its funny how Gay can get burned when hes not on the field. He got pulled in the 2nd quarter because he was hurt. "

Nothing funny about it. It was written before Gay left the game late in the third quarter.

110
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:55pm

A few errors on my part in referencing that Bears game:

--it was 30-17

--Jones lateralled on the one interception to someone else for the TD and returned a fumble for a TD. The fumble was by Favre but I remembered it as an INT

--the other REAL int return was by Mark Carrier.

Favre had 402 yards passing that day and the Packer offense had 466 total yards. The Bears had 210 offensive yards. 210!!

Anyway, anyone could see the Packers were the more talented team. And that was borne out by Favre-led Packer teams going on to basically treat Chicago like their personal whipping boy in the division for the next decade.

But Tom, he knew otherwise.

Early signs that the man was and remains a doofus.

111
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 4:58pm

Will - I understand your caution at getting too excited, but I'm seeing some very good signs in the passing game lately and the Vikings actually have the 7th highest yards per play avg on offence, just ahead of indy, cinn, phil and pitt.

This is simply a good offence now and most importantly getting better. I think had they won the Det and KC games early on every one would be saying the same thing, they just have trouble seeing it with a 5-6 record.

112
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 5:00pm

Mike:

I think the Packers count on AJ Hawk to match up with opposing Tight Ends in coverage which takes him away as a blitzing option. He's obviously strong enough to check guys while also having enough speed to run with them. Bigby both gets knocked around due to his small size while getting faked out of his shoes. He ain't no LeRoy Butler.

GB is caught twixt and tween. Poppinga is horrible in pass coverage but can't finish on blitzes. Barnett is solid but obviously you prefer to come from the edge to maybe catch the qb unawares. Hawk is a fine blitzer but like I wrote the coaching staff has him as the dedicated backer for coverage duties.

It's a bit of a pickle....

113
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 5:02pm

"I understand what you are saying, but I think the Patriots’ historic offensive performance is masking the severity of some issues with their defense."

Like what, Will? Don't forget, this is a defense thats ranked #3 in DVOA, held the colts to field goals on consecutive drives starting inside the 10 (after long PI calls), and held them to 20 points on the day with multiple short fields (with 7 being a single junk play). The same defense that held the cowboys explosive defense to 20 points.

They had a bad game(Where they still came up with 3 turnovers). Theres no trend at this point. Theres nothing but Wishful Thinking saying that the patriots defense issues are severe.

114
by nat (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 5:02pm

70:
Chill out a bit. It's not as bad as you think.

Aaron was just stirring the pot. I doubt he considers the Chargers classless for going for it on fourth down, and neither do I.

The point is that we've now justified going for it on fourth down late in the fourth while up big (San Diego), running a pass-heavy offense while up big (Indianapolis), actually scoring when up big (many teams), leaving the starting QB in (many teams), having substitutes score, kicking field goals AND/OR scoring TDs, throwing incomplete passes that stop the clock (Colts, others), throwing complete passes (Colts, others), etc.

What's left is the irrational belief that anything's okay when anyone else does it, but that everything's "unsportsmanlike" when the Patriots do it. Whatever "it" may be.

Hence my suggestion that we consider anyone who whines about someone "running up the score" be considered a loser fan of a losing team. But mostly, that we move on to interesting topics, and admit that -- while anyone can hate the Patriots for many reasons -- to justify that hate with accusations of running up the score is just lame.

115
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 5:12pm

Jimm, they'll be a good offense when a decent defense sells out completely to stop the Vikings' running game, and the Vikings' respond by putting together three longish touchdown drives in a game where they pass for 250 yards or more. In the modern NFL, one must simply be able to throw better than the Vikings have shown thus far to be considered a good offense.

116
by Papa Narb (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 5:13pm

While there is suddenly much love for the Philly scheme and personnel, how is everyone so certain that other teams don't have the personnel to do so?

Raise your hands if you were seriously one of those who thought Philly could do so before this game? I imagine general consensus was no, hence the 23 point spread.

I think what is getting lost among all this scheming debate is that teams have to be mentally ready to beat NE. As many posters have alluded to, even when they are overmatched - teams are playing vanilla against the Pats. I think there are a number of teams in the AFC who won't be scared of New England. That gives them a shot at knocking them off come playoff time.

117
by cabbage (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 5:14pm

concerning #65 & FO's Official Curmudgeon:

As I walked into the office, Fnor greeted me with "Did you see the giant rant I posted?" (we frequent the same haunts)

"No" I said, "I haven't read FO today".

Fnor then launched into a SECOND rant, entirely unrelated to the rant in #65.

Fnor is-of course-completely wrong. CHI/DEN was an excellent game. I'm saying this on the message board, instead of directly to him, because I have to get some work done and cannot afford a ten minute rant about why I'm wrong.

118
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 5:19pm

Rich, there's a difference between a description of "severe" and a description of "more severe". Yes, I'm aware of their defensive DVOA, and I'm also aware of the fact that offensive and defensive DVOA are interconnected. The Pats are a much, much, much better offensive team than they are a defensive team, and their offensive performance is masking some of their defensive weaknesses. This is not severe criticism.

119
by Brian G (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 5:20pm

I disagree that this isn't a blueprint for beating the Pats. As we saw, if you take Moss out of the game, the offense suddenly comes back to earth and a team like PHILLY has a shot at winning. A better team may very well have won the game. However, saying 'shut down moss' and doing it are two very different things.
Also, if you get pressure on Brady, like most QBs, he starts zinging it a little. There were several passes where he either threw behind the receiver or put too much heat on it. Both were the result of him needing to get rid of the ball faster than he would have liked. Peyton has been doing the same thing the past couple of weeks. Pressure on the QB = offensive disruption.
And what was up with the defense? I know they had a couple of injuries during the course of the game, but it seemed to me that, play after play, I saw defenders looking at each other like: "WTF?!? I thought you had him? No, I thought you had him!" If it was really a result of the scheme I don't see how they don't admit it isn't working and make adjustments. Westbrook wouldn't have killed them any more than the "in-route" did.
And I will second the notion that the cold had an impact on Moss. Everyone knows he likes to avoid contact as much as possible. Add in the cold making every contact that much harder and you can clearly take him off his game.

120
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 5:20pm

Regarding NE - I think they will come back to the pack a little. I think Pittsburgh will give them trouble as well because they defend the pass very well and I think Pittsburgh will be able to score a decent amount of points.

I thought before yesterday's game that Indy should still be considered quite a threat to NE's championship aspirations; I'm starting to think that Pittsburgh, Dallas and GB all have a decent shot at beating them as well.

121
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 5:23pm

jimm:

It's common for one game to cause folks to ignore what has transpired over the course of a full season. The Patriots have steamrolled the league. Let's not ignore that salient fact on the basis of a single outing where they still won while not playing their best ball.

Leave it to the Tom Jacksons of the world to allow one data point to influence their thinking.

122
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 5:24pm

"The Pats are a much, much, much better offensive team than they are a defensive team, and their offensive performance is masking some of their defensive weaknesses. This is not severe criticism."

I think everyone agrees that they're a much better offense than they are a defense, I just don't see any weaknesses that I'd class as more than "mild" with their defense. I think theres about 25 teams in the NFL that if you asked them "would you replace your Defense with NE's, no questions asked" would say yes.

Theres only one area where they are above 0%, and thats defense against TEs, where they're at 17%, which is good for... 17th, dead middle in the league.

Yes, there are some things that the offense is covering up, but the offense is also forcing them to play a TON against the pass, and you're going to give up yards doing that.

123
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 5:27pm

Ben Riley: And yet, J.R. Reed seems to be having a good game.

Um.

What? He actually had a decent second half, but his first half was pretty abysmal. I counted at least three mid-deep passes which were all him, considering he slipped and fell.

124
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 5:30pm

Will - "there's more than one way to skin a kitty kat".

7th in the league is 7th in the league. Heck, they'll likely be top 10 in DVOA.

I'm not comparing them to NE, Dall and GB's offences, but they are clearly effective now. What I'm watching for is the yards per pass attempt to climb, I couldn't care less about the total yards.

Come on Will - jump on the bandwagon, it's more fun than being cautious.

125
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 5:33pm

Don't get me wrong; I'd make the Pats heavy favorites against the Packers. I just wouldn't be shocked to see the Packers have some success on offense, while doing enough on defense to make it damned interesting.

126
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 5:35pm

Aaron:

If you blitz the Patriots, you simply can’t count on their receivers dropping this many passes next time.

Again, wait, what? The reason the receivers were dropping balls is because they weren't perfectly thrown. The reason they weren't perfectly thrown is because the pressure from the Eagles was coming up the middle and Brady couldn't step into his throws.

They actually showed it on TV clearly in the first half, and then I paid closer attention the rest of the game. On almost every throw that was off target, there was pressure up the middle. That's the 'future game plan' vs Brady - don't let him step into his throws.

That won't make him bad, mind you. It'll make him mortal.

And as much as people are saying "how was that OPI?!" after the Moss play, I'm still wondering where the flags for intentional grounding were on Brady twice when he just chucked it at the flat where there were no receivers around.

127
by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 5:36pm

What's Aaron complaining about? The Chargers didn't even score at the end of the game. Seems like a wasted run up the score effort.

128
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 5:38pm

Jimm, it ain't caution to note that the NFL is a passing game, and to be a good offense one must be able to light it up with the pass if the opposition dares you to do it.

It'll be interesting to see how much DVOA moves, given how ints returned for tds are considered random events.

129
by Ben (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 5:44pm

#65

I think when most people refer to a good game they are referring to the drama and unpredictability, not the game that involves the best football. And just because one team did a good job of playing gap sound defense does not mean the whole game involved disciplined play from all units.

130
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 5:57pm

126

"Again, wait, what? The reason the receivers were dropping balls is because they weren’t perfectly thrown. The reason they weren’t perfectly thrown is because the pressure from the Eagles was coming up the middle and Brady couldn’t step into his throws."

There were quite a few balls that hit his receivers in the hands, and were dropped. There were atleast 4 easy screen passes that Stallworth/Watson/Maroney dropped. The sort of stuff that an average nfl player catches 90% of the time.

131
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 5:58pm

125: I totally agree with you about some of the dropped passes being due to pressure on Brady. Jimmy Johnson deserves a lot of credit for that. However, at least one of the non-calls on Brady for grounding was a result of a Philly player hitting Brady's arm as he threw (Gocong I think).

132
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 5:58pm

And what was up with the defense?

Lots of zone to try to make sure there were defenders available to tackle Westbrook combined with receivers who can destroy zone coverage.

Haven't we been talking about how the Patriots are weak vs #2 receivers for years? Not so much this year, but I think that's kindof a function of the teams they've been facing.

The Patriots are a good defense but they're not a great defense. They're being heavily helped because their offense just makes the other team one-dimensional in a hurry. I have to agree with Bill Barnwell - the weakness in the Patriots defense is horizontal speed. What Bill didn't realize is that while Westbrook is designed to beat that kind of offense, the other receivers are too.

133
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 6:05pm

Will - I think the DVOA will reward the Vikings fairly well because they averaged 7.8 per pass play compared with 4.5 for the Giants. Also the ints will be rewareded if not the returns. Neither team ran the ball very effectively.

Up until 4 weeks ago the Vikings were routinely getting hammered in the yds/pass attempt stat. In the last 4 weeks they've won that stat by a large margin 3 times (SD, Oak, NYG). As you pointed out in the GB game missing Jackson, Rice and Winfield hurt considerably.

Childress has been maddening at times but I like what he's doing here. He's building a tough team first. The OLine and front seven on this team are tough and are routinely winning the line of scrimmage battle. The skill positions were awful when he took over, now you have guys like Peterson and Rice and hell, maybe even Jackson. I read this morning the Vikes were the other team interested in Welker and they tried like hell to sign Curtis. Having watched those two a little this year I'd say they were chasing the right guys, it just didn't happen.

In short, I think Childress/Spielman are doing a damn fine job and I think DVOA is showing it.

134
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 6:24pm

Nice breakdown from the Globe's Mike Reiss of the various Eagles pressures on Brady (all FO readers deserve to have their team covered by a beatwriter like Reiss):

Here is our breakdown of the Eagles' pressure, and what the Patriots did against it (passing stats include sacks in the "attempts" category):

Three-man rush
# 3 of 3 for 26 yards
# Add one dropback for a Tom Brady 12-yard scramble

Four-man rush
# 13 of 26 for 168 yards
# Brady sacked once (seemed to be coverage-based more than as a result of pressure)
# Randy Moss offensive pass interference call came against four-man rush

Five-man rush
# 11 of 17 for 88 yards
# Brady sacked once (right tackle Nick Kaczur doesn't hold block on Juqua Thomas)
# 16-yard pass to Jabar Gaffney, which sealed game, came against five-man rush

Six-man rush
# 4 of 7 for 40 yards
# Add one dropback for a Brady 5-yard scramble

Seven-man rush
# 3 of 5 for 58 yards
# Jabar Gaffney's 19-yard touchdown came against seven-man pressure
# Brady sacked once when Eagles overloaded left side and rusher came free

135
by chip (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 6:32pm

#50 Agreed. If Hester didn't bail out the office, what would the headlines have read today: "Rexed again", "Hexed", "Train Rex", "Gross Man", blah, blah, blah....

136
by Gonzo (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 6:39pm

#9:

Did you really just refer to Adrian Peterson the Lesser as "the real Adrian Peterson?"

Seriously now. . .when it's taken you 12 weeks to beat out Cedric Benson. . .and the only reason you've beaten him out is because he's now done for the year. . .there's a reason why you're known as "the other Adrian Peterson."

137
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 6:43pm

Re: 132

Thanks alot for giving me another reason to hate (read: be jealous of) Patriots fans. I was quite content assuming that everyone was subjected to the likes of Howard Eskin and Angelo Cataldi.

138
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 6:48pm

This is the week there's no commentary on the Chargers? Damn.

139
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 6:57pm

This is funny. I have to print this out, run it over to Seahawks HQ for Marcus Pollard to get a big belly laugh at the Pats fans puling over Wittle Wandy Moss getting manhandled. I'm sorry, was it bumped, or was it held? There seems to be a difference of opinion, dividing strictly along predictable lines. Gee, never saw that one coming. Face it Pats fans, Brady WAS Jeter, now he is A-Rod. The Pats have become the old Colts, all timing and finesse, can't run well enough nor stop it well enough--hardly an issue when you're up by 40, but might be an issue in closer games.

Not all Pats fans are pissing and moaning, but enough to call it a trend.

Repeat after me: "f-ing hypo-crites"

140
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 6:58pm

jimm, the yards per pass attempt stat is heavily influenced by a low number of attempts. Again, wait until a well coached defense with talent, like the Eagles', lines up and says, "We know you can't throw it, so we'll do everything short of putting all 11 defenders on the line, and dare you to try", and the Vikings respond by having three long touchdown drives via the pass, then I'll say the Vikings have a good offense. Until then, it is a very physical offense with otherworldly to good running backs, and decidedly unproven quarterbacks and receivers.

I, too, like Spielman's drafts to dates. My view of Childress is as it has always been; if his qb personnel decisions allow the team to win nine games, he's done decently. We'll see if Jackson gets it done.

141
by RMoses (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 6:58pm

Those of us who have watched the Reid/McNabb era should have had a good feeling that the Iggles would play well against the Flying Elvii. It is the PE's tendency to perform up to competition when their underdogs on the road. They are notorious for playing down to teams when they are the favorite and doing just enough to win or losing. Not much suprised me about this game. If the Iggles played well it would only make for an entertaining game. The Pats were in control most of the game. They scored at will and had a better shot of winning if they had the ball last. The first drive (interception touchdown)for the Iggles allowed the offense to get a sense of urgency and they responded. Prior games the Philly O would sputter the first, second and even third possessions until they found a groove. Since they were playing the best team in football squandering possessions was not an option. An 8+ play drive by the Patriots would have spelled "GAME OVER" for the Iggles without that quick score on that turnover. I commend the Iggle's defense and Jim Johnson for giving Brady different looks, causing the Pat's offense to audible more than usual and pressuring Brady enough to cause him to think more and throw when he wasn't ready. The dropped passes by the Pat's receivers were more about timing and accuracy than just plain drops. Although I think Welker could catch a fish underwater with KY jelly on his hands!! The 2nd and 4 yards to go pass play that resulted in Samuel's second interception was just an idiotic play call by Morninweg/Reid and pass by A.J. I understand taking your shots at the defense, but not at the expense of logic. First, if the Iggles would have scored on that play there was just too much time left on the clock to stop a Patriots offense that punted only once the whole game. Secondly, scoring that early would have just put too much pressure on a special teams that has been playing below average all year. The Patriot's field position after the ensuing kickoff most likely would have been their 40 or 45 yards lines due to Aker's kick that doesn't reach the 5 yard line and coverage that would make Refrigerator Perry an All-Pro at kick returner. This would have been too much for a Philly D to stop Brady and Co. from scoring with 2 timeouts left. Akers kickoff days should be over next season. He's hurting an already sub par coverage team. Ried should have used more clock while continuing to try and score a TD. At worst, tying the game with a field goal with less time on the clock and forcing NE to use their remaining time outs would still have been prudent. I must give big props to the NE linebacking corps especially Seau for covering Westbrook so well. I wonder if Ried will say his ubiquitous line, "It's my responsibility to get players in the right spots to make plays." He failed with Westbrook. Seau one on one with Westbrook should be a mismatch. It wasn't. As far as the McNabb/Feeley/Kolb fiasco that is Philadelphia radio, I haven't laughed so hard in my life this past weekend while travelling through Philly. I understand the fan's angst toward sports and its players, but this is becoming comedic. I will be sad that when McNabb's run in Philly ends that he will be so sorely forgotten after the Iggles struggle through the growing pains of quarterback play that will be quite disasterous in the coming seasons. The fan's won't know what hit them after a few 8-8, 6-10, 9-7 seasons that will be projected for this team. It is a shame that McNabb has been so successful that he will be revered in Philadelphia sports lore with the likes of Von Hayes and Leo Rautins. It is a shame that his success was due to the system or his unwillingness (up until tearing his ACL) to throw the ball away. It is shameful that he will be remembered for a failed clothing line, eating chunky soup and his mama's access to the internet. Now don't get me wrong, I have been critical of 5 for his early inability to decide whether to run or pass, his laser like passes to ants on the field or looping ally oops to Yao Ming with a 38 inch vertical. But what he won't be remembered for is his leadership and play during one of the Iggles best eras in football history. Sad.

142
by SteveW (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 6:59pm

Mike, I listen to the same sports talk much of the time. So what if a percentage of the nitwits who call in are clueless idiots. None of it matters until the hosts, writers and other media agree with them. Today we had newspaper opines on both sides of the fence (McNabb should start/Feely should start) as well as different evaluations of Feely's performance ranging from great to good + lucky.

I just don't understand why you (and so many others) actually care what the fringe talk show callers are saying when its the media that matters. They reflect/shape the majority view, which right now is as divided as I've ever seen it.

143
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 7:01pm

"can’t run well enough nor stop it well enough"

Patriots Run O DVOA: +18.7% 2nd
Patriots Run D DVOA: -9.4% 11th

Care to make more shit up, Bobman?

144
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 7:04pm

Re SD
Hmm, I didn't think Aaron's point was about SD running up the score at all. I just thought he was pointing it out because one of the (many) critiques about Norv as a HC is that he tends not to engage in strategic risk-taking. Up 3 scores, on the edge of FG range, on 4&short, I think going for it is a very defensible decision. The decision to go for it, though, is to bleed more time off the clock, since that's the most important asset, ergo go for it with a run or a short pass, not an end zone heave.

And on the NE-PHI game, it can be explained very easily. I got home and turned the TV on. Before I did that, the Eagles were winning. After I did that, the Pats made the game-winning tally and Feeley throw that terrible interception. I didn't particularly object to the play-call, but I hadn't seen the rest of the game, so I don't know what worked for Philly earlier, and it was a terrible throw, way too far inside. That throw should be to the sideline, not where Samuel has positioning. Pats fans, you may thank me for the win, because Dahoc hates me.

145
by James, London (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 7:10pm

#56

"Archuleta is a waste of space. If he can’t cover and he can’t tackle, what is he supposed to be able to do?"

I posted an almost identical comment in the game thread yesterday. God, he was poor. A terrific game though, and one I suspect that the Broncos can't believe they lost.

Nothing on Saints @ Panthers, and frankly that's a blessing. If it wasn't the worst game of football I've ever seen, it was close. The Panthers were shocking, just terrible, and how they've won 4 games
is beyond me. That offense couldn't move its collective bowels, never mind a football down the field. The 'Fins are bad, but I'd take them to beat Carolina. At least Miami can run.

146
by James, London (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 7:13pm

#132,

This man Reiss, where can I get one of him for Miami?

147
by RickKilling (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 7:17pm

Jimm: Disregard Will, if he's not willing to ride shotgun on the wagon with you. I'm on. I even got my fleece-padded seat cover.

Coming into this year I wanted only to see improvement over the course of 16 games to feel optimistic about the QB situation during the next offseason. 9-7 was my prediction in August. Jackson took a little longer than I would have liked due to missing games, but I can see glimmers of that improvement, glinting like far-off diamonds. He just needs to continue down that path.

I'd still like a vet QB next year to provide competition and to get Holcombe into a different colored uni.

So bump over, chap. Let's pilot this thing on down the road...

148
by mmm... sacrilicious (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 7:22pm

Re: NBC miking up the Pats

I think most of the numbers Brady was calling out referred to Eagles linebackers he saw as blitzers. 96 refers to Gaither, and 57 refers to Gocong; those two seemed to be the most frequent blitzers, as well as numbers called.

Personally, I loved the job NBC did. It really gave a feel for the game - even though M&M didn't mention it, you could pick up how Brady was using false snap counts to get the Eagles to show who was blitzing, then pointing out blitzers, resetting, and calling the play.

I don't know if the Pats would really have a complaint with NBC. If the Eagles were able to analyze the signals, I'm not sure how they would benefit. After all, many of the signals simply pointed out defenders, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out which player calls like "Gaff" or "Welk" refer to. I would imagine the Patriots, like many NFL teams, change their signals every game (if not more frequently).

149
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 7:25pm

Hey, my goal for the Vikings was simply that they not be eliminated from playoff contention by the kickoff of their 16th game, so I'm happy to see they have a decent chance to accomplish that. They have played better than I anticipated, primarily because I did not forsee Adrian Peterson being as dominant as he has proved to be.

150
by nat (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 7:26pm

143: Go easy on Bobman. He forgot to take his dried frog pills again.

151
by gerry (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 7:42pm

#52 Charles Jake - When did Lewin comment on Erik Ainge and this years QB crop? I'm on FO routinely and I seemed to miss that reference.
______

Did anyone recall the Star Wars Predictions for the 2007 Season reference to Mike Shanahan when he kicked to Hester twice while otherwise calling a great game (See link:)

Mike Shanahan = Admiral Ackbar. A brilliant strategist who always seems to fall into traps.

152
by Alaska Jack (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 7:51pm

I don't follow the college game either, but from the dribs and drabs I pick up here and there, there does seem a be a real surge in the use of the spread. Hawaii; Texas Tech; West Virginia, I think; Utah/Florida; Appalachian State; let's see, don't Kansas and Mizzou both run it; etc. etc.

Has SI or ESPN or anyone else written any good feature-length stories about this trend? I'd like to read one, if someone could provide a link.

Ultimately, of course, I wonder if we'll see a resurgence in the pros. I and others have pointed out before that the NFL teams who ran the Run and Shoot abandoned it for different reasons, none of which really had anything to do with its effectiveness. Right up to the end it was a highly productive offense.

- Alaska Jack

153
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 7:51pm

...a team like PHILLY has a shot at winning. A better team may very well have won the game.

I think you're short-changing Philly. Maybe they're inconsistent this season (I wouldn't know...this is the first Eagles game I've watched this season), but the team that showed up in Foxboro yesterday was one of the better teams in the league. Easily as good as I've observed Dallas or Indy playing this year. The QB (who mysteriously had "Feely" written on his jersey) was stepping up in the face of pressure, shifting to buy time, finding soft spots in a zone, and, except for just three passes that I saw, throwing to where only his guy could get them (unfortunately for him, two of those three errant balls were near Asante Samuel). The WR's were running precise routes and hitting the soft spots in the zone, and holding onto balls that came their way. The RB was occupying much of the defense's attention. The o-line was providing excellent protection. The corners were nearly perfectly positioned on the #1 and #2 WR's all game, while the pass rush got consistent pressure against one of the best-playing o-lines this season. Yeah, PHILLY was certainly playing lousy. Good thing the Pats didn't face a better team.

Thanks alot for giving me another reason to hate (read: be jealous of) Patriots fans. I was quite content assuming that everyone was subjected to the likes of Howard Eskin and Angelo Cataldi.

This man Reiss, where can I get one of him for Miami?

Reiss is pretty good, but we had to endure an awful lot of Ron Borges before we got him.

154
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 7:59pm

Repeat after me: “f-ing hypo-crites�

The Pats are now more about finesse than power, partly through injury and free agent luck, and partly by design. On offense, they've focused on a dynamic passing game, because their passing game is so successful, even when the other team knows it's coming, so there's no reason to run. (remember, passing is usually more effective, but you have to run just enough to keep teams from selling out against the pass. Unless you're so good at passing that it doesn't matter). But losing their one true power runner (Morris...I'm not counting Kyle Eckel), who was playing far more effectively than Maroney, pretty much shut down their running attack.

On defense, the increased emphasis on illegal contact has caused the Pats to switch from bigger, more physical corners (e.g. Ty Lay, Ty Poole) to smaller, agile speedsters (Ellis Hobbs, Randall Gay). I think some of the Pats fans angst regarding refs allowing downfield contact comes from the fact that in 2003, the Pats had built their team optimally for the way the rules were enforced. Then, due mostly to Polian's whining, the rules were changed. The Pats are now optimally built to take advantage of the new rules, so obviously when a ref calls the game the old way and the Pats are on the disadvantaged end of that, there will be some people that feel the need to point it out.

That said, I hate the new rule change, and would like to see CB's allowed to be more physical, so I liked the way the game was called (neglecting the OPI and the bad FG call). I just wish the Pats corners, small though they are, had adapted to the refs as well as the Eagles corners did.

155
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 8:04pm

So this raises an interesting question. If the best way to keep Moss in check is to interfere with his release off the line, then it seems like it would be a good idea to put him in the slot. But Welker is the slot guy. What kind of formations could the Pats run that would put both Moss and Welker behind the line? Obviously you could do it with 4 or 5 wide; could you do it with 3 wide? Will we see more of that as teams start to try to chuck them off their routes?

156
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 8:08pm

Re #151/Ainge
I remember Lewin saying that. As to where to find it, the possibilities I can think of off-hand are the preseason runs of one of the Lewin Career Forecast articles on the 2007 draftees or else, more likely, a comment in one of the SDA threads, maybe Tennessee-Cal week.

Of course, the whole point is moot, because I really, really don't think Ainge will be a first or second round pick. I think third round is his absolute max, I'd feel comfortable taking him in the 4th, and wouldn't be surprised to see him go 5th or 6th. I thought David Greene was a better prospect coming out of Georgia.

157
by panthersnbraves (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 8:09pm

Re: no Panthers coverage -

Could whoever is a Placekicker expert tell me where Kasey fits in the scheme of things? I see plenty of other games with touchbacks, or at least close to the end-zone. It seems like every Kasey kick is fielded at the 15 - and don't get me started on the out-of-bounds-kickoff penalties.

So anyway, could you spend a few minutes on teh lowly Panthers so I can have an outsiders opinion on just how bad we are in every aspect?

158
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 8:24pm

Repeat after me: “f-ing hypo-crites�
In addition to what MJK said above about the fans and the perfectly reasonable expectation of consistent game-calling (before and after the contact rules became a "point of emphasis"), I would also add that the Patriots organization has not complained about the WR-stuffing strategies at all, so far.

Indeed, I wonder what people think is more likely to happen in case of a hypothetical Pats-Colts post-season game: the Patriots complaining about WR manhandling, or the Colts using WR manhandling to stop the Pats receivers. That ought to give an idea where any "f-ing hypocrites" may reside.

159
by Harris (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 8:32pm

#142 I disagree. The Eagles have never shown any inclination to pay any attention at all to what the fans or media think. They've generally been more right (drafting McNabb, releasing Taylor and Vincent) than wrong (not re-signing Trotter the first time), so I doubt they're going to pay attention now no matter how much the city may howl.

160
by Vince Verhei :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 8:49pm

157: Click here for the special teams ratings, where the Panthers are in fact dead last overall. Their kickoffs (kicker and coverage units) are not quite dead last, but they're very bad.

161
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 8:55pm

Pat,

There was nothing wrong with the three dropped screen passes on one drive. And the throw to Moss, while contested, was thrown fine.

Philly played a magnificent game, but NE helped them out by uncharacteristically dropping passes. And, unless you want to come from the angle that NE wasn't prepared to be in a contested game, most of those dropps had nothing to do with pressure - neither on the QB or the WR.

Please don't misinterpret this to mean, "all NE incompletions were 100% NE's fault". That is clearly not the case. But NE had numerous drops that were 100% their fault.

162
by coldbikemessenger (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 9:09pm

"That said, I hate the new rule change, and would like to see CB’s allowed to be more physical, so I liked the way the game was called"

There was NOT a rule change!
1990 7.01
6.89
6.86
6.89
6.77
6.77
6.68
6.69
6.85
6.76
6.74
6.78
6.72
6.63
7.05

why don't you figure out what those numbers mean and then get back to me about Polians whining.

163
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 9:14pm

Polian didn't give a rat's ass about those yards-per-attempt numbers. What he cared about (fairly so) was his team. He didn't care about the "good of football" or "offensive numbers" or whatever noble motivation you're trying to claim he had. His team was built to pass, so he whined about physical play on receivers. If his team then was built around pass defense, he would have kept his big trap shut on that issue.

164
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 9:16pm

If the Pats are 14-0 coming into the game against the Phins (and especially if the Phins are 0-14 coming into that game), it has the potential to be a really entertaining game (no sarcasm). If you're Cam Cameron, why the hell not go for broke and do all sorts of wild stuff? What's there to lose?

165
by pete (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 9:24pm

re: Bears-Broncos

Is it just me or some serious questions need to be made to the Special Teams Coordinator of the Broncos? Earlier in the game the Broncos did just what you should do against Hester: Punt away from him, and use line drive kickoffs that bounce a few times in the middle of the field. By doing that, you force Hester to make decisions about fielding the ball, something he dosen't seem to do well. Why go back to kicking the ball more conventionally? Its not like you're fooling anybody. Other teams seem to do this sort of thing against Hester as well and get burned for it. To me, its just plain stubborness: You have a plan that works but you insist that you kick it directly to him to somehow prove that your second stringers can actually tackle. Also, did anyone notice how clean Tillman got off to block the punt? Common sense would inform me that if you use directional punting, it would be wise to block opponents comming from the direct opposite direction. From where I sit, its just bad coaching and preparation. Its a shame, too, because a number of Broncos played really well.

BTW: In recent years, the Bears seem to face at least one or two teams a year with coaching boneheaded enough to give away a game
2007 - Broncos, so far
2006 - Giants(missed field goal return for TD), Cardinals(they are who we thought they were...)
And lets not forget Marty Morinigwhig's deferment in o.t. that eventually got him fired from Detroit.

166
by Moridin (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 9:30pm

Somewhat fitting to put here given the comments about McNabb in the audibles, but I just heard from Schefter on the NFL Network that the Eagles already heard a trade idea before the trade deadline for McNabb and asked for 3(!) #1 draft picks (didn't say what years, but still). I can't fathom what team would pay this.

167
by coldbikemessenger (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 9:36pm

re 163
I never claimed he had any noble motivation.
I don't believe he does.
I think it was economic.
scoring = money.

168
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 10:03pm

re: MJK #154: "On defense, the increased emphasis on illegal contact has caused the Pats to switch from bigger, more physical corners (e.g. Ty Lay, Ty Poole) to smaller, agile speedsters (Ellis Hobbs, Randall Gay). "

Come on, Pats fans, the revisionist history here is just a bit thick. Yes, NE management is good; no, they're not gods. They got rid of Ty Law (not Lay) because he cost too much money, and they got rid of all 5-9 of Ty Poole because he got injured and cost too much by that point in his career. Neither was dropped because NE could sense a sea-change in the PI calls. Hobbs and Gay are cheap, and that's why they are on the NE roster.

Quick Cap lesson:
Hobbs costs $600K, Gay $1.3M. Poole cost them $1.9M to be on IR in 2004 and $2.6M to be on IR in 2005, then they let him go; Law cost $10.2M to be on IR in 2004 and $3.2M in dead money cap hit in 2005 after they let him go. Know your own team. Jees!

169
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 10:09pm

And yes, I think NE fans do this revisionist/"our GM is God" thing more than other fans.

For example, I am a Colt fan, but I've never heard a Colt fan say that Indy's management axed Edge because they KNEW Addai was going to drop to the Colts in the draft, and that he'd be a much better back. It's not true: James cost big money, Addai does not.

Nor do I hear crap like: well, the Colts drafted Sanders, Bethea, Hayden and Jackson because they KNEW the Pats were going to go with WR's in free agency, and they KNEW they would need hard-hitting DB's to counter NE. Just not true. But, it seems like some Pats fans here would make just that type of argument about NE's personnel choices.

170
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 10:25pm

There was nothing wrong with the three dropped screen passes on one drive.

Really? You don't think that a screen pass, a pass which relies on allowing defenders through the line so the offensive line can slip behind them to block, might have its timing a little disrupted with a fast defensive line?

Especially with some of the hits that the running backs took earlier, you don't think that his concentration might've been a little shaken? Somehow it was just random that all these 'uncharacteristic drops' happened in the same game where Brady got sacked 3 times, tied for the most in the season (with Dallas - another game where people said "the Patriots played like crap") - a game which Brady said he got more physical hits than in any other game this season?

I've said this before, and I'll say it again. Good teams look bad against other good teams. You'll watch the game and say "man, how did they play that bad!" They played that bad because the other team was good.

171
by Spoilt Victorian Child (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 10:55pm

Somewhat fitting to put here given the comments about McNabb in the audibles, but I just heard from Schefter on the NFL Network that the Eagles already heard a trade idea before the trade deadline for McNabb and asked for 3(!) #1 draft picks (didn’t say what years, but still). I can’t fathom what team would pay this.
Well, I don't think anyone would, but that's the point. They don't want to trade McNabb.

172
by Moses Taylor (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 11:14pm

Vince Verhei: Lovie Smith has no confidence in Rex Grossman. There were a number of third-and-longs where Lovie called a running play so Rex wouldn’t turn the ball over. Of course, one of those running plays was a quarterback draw, and Rex fumbled. Sometimes, you can’t protect Rex from Rex.

Uh, no. This has nothing to do with Lovie, and even less to do with Rex. Lovie has nothing to do with the play calling, that's all Ron Turner. And Turner never, ever (ok almost never) passes on third and long. He almost always calls a draw, and has been doing since the first time he was the o-coordinator in chicago. He did it the entire time he was in Champaign. And he still does it (and it worked last year against the Giants, finally). It's a terrible play call, but he's done it with many more QBs than just Rex.

173
by Marko (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2007 - 11:20pm

165: "Also, did anyone notice how clean Tillman got off to block the punt?"

Yes, I noticed that. Before the snap, you could see that Tillman was going to come in unblocked, yet Sauerbrun didn't adjust in any way and try to kick it the other direction. A few minutes ago on ESPN's Monday Night Countdown, they were talking about the special teams play in the Bears-Broncos game, Hester, etc. Mike Ditka almost had a coronary talking about how stupid Sauerbrun was to (1) not realize that Tillman was going to come in free and (2) not kick the ball away from where Tillman was coming free.

"BTW: In recent years, the Bears seem to face at least one or two teams a year with coaching boneheaded enough to give away a game"

In 2005, that team was the 49ers. That game at Soldier Field was the windiest game I ever saw. The Bears' Robbie Gould had a field goal attempt that would have been good if there were no wind, but the wind blew it about 20 yards wide. The wind seemed to actually blow the ball sideways. It was quite comical. So with a 3-0 lead over the Bears, a few seconds left in the half, and the wind still gusting, the 49ers incredibly decided to try a 52 yard field goal. The wind knocked the kick short and wide, and Nathan Vasher returned it 108 yards for a TD to put the Bears ahead to stay. That play obviously was a huge momentum changer in a game where points were hard to come by.

174
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 12:00am

#75: thanks for jumping in. Chickens != football. :)

P.S. It's Purdue University, leading to a regrettable abbreviation. Hey, at least we have a solid bowl tradition now ... what's that? oh. Well, at least we have quality QBs in the NFL now, like Drew Brees, and, uh ... yeah.

175
by Subrata Sircar (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 12:03am

Re: 143/Rich Conley/Patriot weaknesses:
The weaknesses in the Patriots defense that I see are largely those that other teams haven't had the luxury to exploit; only the Colts and Eagles have kept the game close enough to allow it to matter.

1. Linebacker speed
The Patriots LBs are all smart and experienced, and get the most out of their skills, but they're not the blazing-fast All-Pros they used to be. In the first half, the Colts seemed to be trying to get Addai isolated on a linebacker - and succeeding. (I think I counted four-five plays where Richard Seymour ended up running Addai down despite starting the play four-five yards further away than a Pats LB.) The Eagles were finding holes in the middle of the field, at least in some cases where a Patriot LB was having to cover too much ground.

2. Coverage on the side away from Samuel
This is a minor weakness, but last night seemed to have a few handoff mistakes from non-Samuel DBs to the next guy (which might be someone else's fault, like the safety or LB to whom you're handing them off).

-----

The Patriots D-line is superb, and if they finish the season on this pace I'll have to rethink my assessment of the Patriots as a dynasty without two HoF players (Brady and now Moss, but Seymour is building his case with me). Job one on the opposing-offense checklist is controlling the line of scrimmage, and it's easier said than done.

If you can prevent the D-line from living in your backfield, then you can take advantage of the Patriots LB with a good running back. The Giants, with Brandon Jacobs, might be able to do that *if* Eli Manning can get him the ball on short routes and if they can keep adjusting to the Patriots inevitable responses. (The Steelers have an even fleeter back but a much worse offensive line, which is why I don't think they can beat NE.)

Once you can pick on the Patriots LBs (and as I mention above, only two teams have lasted long enough to try), then more options open up, as the Patriots are forced to adjust.

There are weaknesses in the Patriots' D. However, it's not clear to me that they'll be exploitable by anyone.

176
by J (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 1:35am

#170: Really? You don’t think that a screen pass, a pass which relies on allowing defenders through the line so the offensive line can slip behind them to block, might have its timing a little disrupted with a fast defensive line?

Especially with some of the hits that the running backs took earlier, you don’t think that his concentration might’ve been a little shaken?

Considering that a) the Pats had rushed the ball a grand total of 3 times (with 3 different backs)to that point and only one of the dropped screens was thrown to a RB, I really don't think that it had anything to do with these supposed hits that you imagined RBs taking "earlier."

Were the Eagles hitting the Pats' backs during halftime? Going after them on the sidelines?

Seriously, try actually watching the game before having an opinion on it.

177
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 1:52am

I really don’t think that it had anything to do with these supposed hits that you imagined RBs taking “earlier.�

Typo. Should've been "running backs and wide receivers" and "their concentration", not "his". Started out just mentioning Welker, then edited it.

And yes, apparently I imagined Maroney being upended by Spikes, Faulk leveled by Gocong (on a pass, mind you - running backs do catch those) and Welker flattened by JR Reed.

178
by justanothersteve (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 2:02am

#136 - That's because it's best to refer to the MN Adrian Peterson as the "Unreal Adrian Peterson", as in "That run was just unreal."

179
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 2:02am

I never made the claim that the Pats changed their corners with the intent of accommodating the new rule changes. Well, maybe I did, accidentally, but that's not quite what I meant. Sorry about that.

What I was trying to imply is that front offices build teams around the way the rules are set up. Back in the late 90's, when the Pats acquired Law, having physical corners was seen as a good thing. Later on, after the rule change (and I know they tried to claim it was just a clarification, but any "clarification" that requires changing the text of the rule book, as this one did, is a rule change in my opinion), when Ty Law and Ty Poole were done and the Pats had to acquire new corners, they went after faster, more agile, less physical guys, as many teams did. I'm not saying they magically decided to replace Law and Poole with different personnell because of the rule change. You're right--it was production and cap driven. I'm saying that smart teams post 2003 go after smaller faster corners, which the Pats did, and when they encounter refs that enforce the pre-2003 version of the rules, that is bound to bring up comments about the officiating.

180
by justanothersteve (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 2:06am

125 - Will, I agree with you on both counts. I think the Packers probably present the most interesting matchup vs the Pats. And I think the Pats would be double digit favorites.

181
by justanothersteve (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 2:15am

145 - Carolina wasn't bad before Smith and Delhomme were hurt. That's when they discovered that Carr was a human piñata and had to bring Testeverde out of retirement.

182
by J (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 2:17am

177:

So, Faulk and Maroney had their concentration thrown off by one bad hit apiece? Welker, who's caught the majority of his 2nd-in-the-NFL 81 receptions over the middle, had his concentration thrown off because he'd been tackled a couple times before in the game?

Sorry, but these guys are professional football players, and have played some games against some hard-hitting defenses this season without coming down with a case of the dropsies like they did last night.

I'll give the Eagles all the credit in the world where they deserve it. Their ends made the Pats' tackles look foolish on numerous occasions. If anybody on the Pats O was hit harder than usual it was Brady. Sheppard did a great job keeping Moss from getting a clean release. The Eagles offensive line had a heck of a game.

But a dropped pass is a dropped pass, and the Pats had more than their usual share last night. Moss, in particular, didn't come down with some balls that he usually can be counted on to reel in.

There's really no need for you to invent some big hits on guys who'd barely been used thus far in the game.

183
by coldbikemessenger (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 2:35am

"and I know they tried to claim it was just a clarification, but any “clarification� that requires changing the text of the rule book, as this one did, is a rule change in my opinion"

Who claimed it was a clarification?
And what text was changed?
What are you talking about?
The rules were clearly changed in 1978.
There was a re emphasis in the mid 90's and again in 2004.
No text was changed. No rules regarding the 5 yard zone were changed.
Also, the Pats acquired Law in the late 90's by drafting him in 1995.

184
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 2:48am

Jeez, I mentioned one hit. That wasn't the only one.

#182: Sorry, but these guys are professional football players

... and what you suggested happens to every other professional football player as well. Which is said in just about every interview with every receiver I've ever seen.

It's not fear of being hit, which some football fans think it is. Getting hit pops the ball loose, so if you can shift your body to absorb it you can hold onto the ball. But the concentration to find defenders while following the ball in is hard.

If anybody on the Pats O was hit harder than usual it was Brady

Which was the entire other part of what I said, which you didn't comment on at all. Screen passes are all about timing. Make Brady throw the ball a fraction of a second earlier, and the ball's in a different place than the receivers are used to, and they drop it.

Want an easy way to settle the argument? Ask Aaron to look into seeing if drops occur more frequently versus good pass defenses (or good adjusted sack rate teams). I'd bet they do.

You can't say "the defense didn't have anything to do with that play" on virtually any play. Even screwed up snap counts are frequently because the quarterback or center got distracted.

185
by hwc (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 4:01am

Belichick explained today on the radio why they decided to open the game in the spread formation. Philly's defense is predicated on overloading some point on the o-line with 5, 6, or 7 rushers -- more rushers than the Pats have blockers. This overload is just as effective at producing negative running plays as it is disrupting the passing game...because defenders are shooting the gaps into the backfield.

The weakness of the Philly defense is that it gives you one-on-one matchups on the receivers. So, if you can get the ball out quickly, advantage to the offense.

They started the game in the spread offense and scored on each of their first three possessions. The success they were having is why the Pats stayed with it for the entire first half. They went away from it a bit in the second half because they saw Philly changing their defensive gameplan.

186
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 4:38am

coldbikemessenger,

I've debated this point endlessly in other threads, and don't really want to argue it here. But to answer your questions:

Who claimed it was a clarification?
Bill Polian, Tony Dungy, the league, and about a thousand Colts fans whining about how the 2003 AFC CG had been stolen from them.

And what text was changed?
What are you talking about?
I don't have the exact textual changes in front of me, and it's too late to research them now, but the "point of emphasis" (the league's words, not mine) that they put into effect DID require changing the text of the rulebook. Apparently, there were two conflicting rules--one clearly stating no contact after 5 yards, and the other providing a rather vague exception about incidental contact being permissible. When they "emphasized" the no contact after 5 yards, they changed the language and made more vague (or possibly removed entirely...I don't remember which) the potentially conflicting clause about allowing incidental contact. They said the wording change was necessary to avoid ambiguity and was part of the clarification. It's no coincidence that Belichick and the Patriots submitted a proposal to the competition committee immediately afterwards that any "point of emphasis" (which normally only requires approval by the competition committee) that requires changing the text of a written rule be considered a "rule change" (and hence require approval of a majority of the NFL clubs) before it be accepted. This was in direct response to what the Pats saw as certain members of the competition committee using their position to sneak a rule change in in the guise of a "point of emphasis" that benefitted their team.

The rules were clearly changed in 1978.
There was a re emphasis in the mid 90’s and again in 2004.
No text was changed. No rules regarding the 5 yard zone were changed./i>

Yes, as I've just explained, text was changed. But yes, the rules were changed in '78 and re-emphasized several times. That doesn't mean that I like it. Under the current rule, there's absolutely nothing even an elite CB can do to stop an elite WR and an elite QB who are on their game, which I don't like. Just look at the way Brady-to-Moss has been abusing the league this year. I think if you want to give the kind of advantage to the offense that the rule change in '78 and the subsequent points of emphasis give, you have to also enforce offensive holding consistently and strictly on the o-line. But the league refuses to do that. Personally, I perfer defensive matchups to shootouts, but the league apparently thinks I am in the minority there.

Also, the Pats acquired Law in the late 90’s by drafting him in 1995.
Yes, which means that Law started getting significant playing time from 1995 on. I.e. the late '90's.

187
by Kavin (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 4:46am

106-I see where you're coming from regardin g the CFL's safety rules, but I completely disagree: the kicking game in the CFL is so much more interesting than the NFL. In part, this is because a safety in the CFL is a safe play. There is almost no incentive for an NFL coach to ever opt for an intentional safety. In the CFL, games are normally open enough that you can take a calculated risk that the 2 points you're about to surrender can be made up for in field position and special teams play. I know that the NFL's punters are much better than the CFL's, but all the nuances in the CFL make for a much more entertaining kicking game compared to the NFL's mostly one-dimensional (boot it hard) kicking. The only thing that ever makes an NFL punt tactically interesting is a Deven Hester type who forces you to actually think about what you're doing on punt coverage.

188
by NotParticularlyAPatsOrColtsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 5:24am

Rich Conley, buddy, it is evident that you watch a lot of Patriots football, and have a lot of knowledge (if biased opinion), but dude, it is also evident that you need to chill.

189
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:21am

Rich Conley: "The Evans TD was one. After seeing the play about 5 times, he went on explaining about how when Seau comes in at fullback, the runner is following him into the endzone…except the runner WASNT. Seau blocked the LB coming from the outside who wasn’t really involved in the play, and Evans cut inside, between the guard and center, IIRC."

Yea, I thought that was really silly too.

190
by Greg (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 7:38am

Physical defenses do have a tendency to produce dropped passes. I think the fact that the Pats' receivers dropped more than their usual number last night had to do with three things - 1.)getting hit, 2.)cold weather, and 3.)the huge number of passing plays called. #'s 1 and 2 will be factors in the playoffs. Ironically, home field advantage may be DISADVANTAGEOUS to the Patriots, whose offense is built better for playing in a dome than in New England weather in January.

The Patriots are a great team - no argument from me. But I think the Eagles showed that, like all teams, they do have vulnerabilities, and they can be beaten. Offensively, they're going to score points over the course of 60 minutes, but making them put together lengthy drives to do so increases the chances of mistakes like penalties, bad throws, and dropped passes, all of which were factors last night. It's a lot harder to get 50 yards in 5 ten yard increments than it is in one 50 yard fell swoop. Johnson's defensive schemes are built on an awareness of this fact, as are Dungy's, and those of most of the other leading defensive minds in the game. Also, like every quarterback's, Brady's performance suffers when you get a rush up the middle on him. You'll never completely shut down the Patriots, but they can be held to few enough points that a team with a good offense can outscore them.

Defensively, they're good, but not dominant, and as commenters upthread have noted they're helped immeasurably by the fact that they're often playing with big leads. Even early in games, opponents will often play overaggressively, knowing they'll need to score a lot of points to win the game. The Patriots LB's are savvy but quite vulnerable in coverage and fast TE's and backs like Westbrook and Addai present matchup problems for them. Hobbs/Gay/whoever are only OK at the #2 corner spot. A team with a deep receiving corps can exploit that.

I absolutely think that they should be the favorites going into the playoffs, but it's far from a foregone conclusion that they're going to win it all. If the Colts are healthy, that game will basically be a toss-up, and I think the Cowboys or Packers could give them a run for their money as well on a good day.

191
by Cyrus (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 12:31pm

RE: 190

I hate to turn this into a Patriots thread, but it already happened, so I'll keep it short.

You were correct in saying "It is a lot harder to get 50 yards in 5 ten yard increments", but you are implying that the Patriots usually don't. It is persuasive either way, because they have so many scoring drives, but the majority of their scoring drives are of the 5 ten yard variety, encompassing as much clock time as possible. They have the ability to score quicker, but this is not the norm. So I don't see this as any sort of weakness, it is an intended strategy.

Also, your mention of fast RB's and TE's is incorrect, in my opinion. They have shut down LT and Westbrook (I consider 90 yards for him shut down) and Gates and Witten fairly decently.

The times they haven't shut down the RB (Miami, Indy) were when they were in the nickel defense. That is asking for other team to run, for the same reason you said above (5 ten yard gains...) and because it burns the clock down. Addai had that one reception gone crazy, but it wasn't blown coverage, it was because they fell down.

192
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 12:50pm

"Ironically, home field advantage may be DISADVANTAGEOUS to the Patriots, whose offense is built better for playing in a dome than in New England weather in January."

Another poster that incorrectly thinks that the patriots can't run the ball.

The patriots have the second best run offense at 18.7% behind only Philly. They didn't run the ball in this game because they felt passing was a better option. They did it for the same reason they didn't run at all against Minnesota last year: they didn't feel it was the better option.

Up until this game they had basically called 50/50 run/pass. This whole "the patriots can't run the ball" is bunk. Saying the Patriots aren't a strong running team is like saying Philly isn't a strong running team: It shows an absolute lack of understanding in the sport.

193
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 12:57pm

147 Rick Killing - I started getting very excited about the prospects of this team after the Chicago game and started predicting they would make the playoffs after the Dallas game. Complained to one of the writers here reviewing the playoffs a couple of weeks back for excluding the Vikings. They are the stronger team in each of their final 5 games (taking into account home field vs Washington), granted the margin of strength isn't huge, but I can see this team getting on a roll because the two glaring weaknesses (QB and WR) are starting to get some decent performance.

Where's Jin and Pacifist Viking - surely they'd jump on the bandwagon as well.

194
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 2:25pm

Also, your mention of fast RB’s and TE’s is incorrect, in my opinion. They have shut down LT and Westbrook (I consider 90 yards for him shut down) and Gates and Witten fairly decently.

I think it's more correct to say that the Patriots lack the personnell/schemes to shut down BOTH the TE/RB AND the WR's at the same time. By shutting down Westbrook, they allowed the Eagles WR's to have big games. When they shut down the Colts WR's last winter, they gave up a big game to Clark and Addai.

This is partly because of their horizontal speed issue--because the MLB's and Rodney Harrison aren't fast enough to hang with extremely agile TE's and RB's in space, it forces them into zone coverage to shut these guys down, which allows a good QB to go to good WR's.

However, I can't think of many teams that do have the personnell to shut down both. And, luckily for the Patriots, there are only a few teams that HAVE both fantastic TE's or a fantastic RB coupled with fantastic WR's and a QB that can get them the ball.

195
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 2:29pm

Rich,

DVOA says that the Patriots have had success running the ball in situations where they've chosen to run the ball instead of pass the ball, but I wonder how much of that is the opposing defense having to take into account that they MIGHT pass.

I've been less impressed by the Patriots running game when they were in "obvious run" situations, especially since Morris went out. This was a large part of their red zone struggles earlier this year, and that's even when they had Morris. I have yet to see them sustain a win by a good running game when the passing game was taken away (granted, this is mainly because no one has taken away their passing game, and the weather's been good so far).

However, the Patriots have so far shown no evidence that they could win in a blizzard when passing gets shut down, or if Brady got hurt. Not saying they can't; just that they would have to show something I haven't seen from them yet.

196
by Digit (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 2:42pm

re: 194

Maybe, but NE beat Dallas, and I think they have all those requirements. I think there's got to be something more to it.

Probably the touch required for quick timing routes and slant-ins.

Also:

As I recall it, the Patriots handled winning in snow and throwing tons of yards in the 2001 tuck game by lots of quick timing routes. I imagine if that happened this year, you'll probably see a lot of those quick-throws-catch-and-runs and screens. Say what you will, but the Patriots really do seem to adapt their system to the conditions at hand. Given, the WRs may not be able to handle it, but I think the QB has already demonstrated he can do it.

197
by nat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 3:05pm

195:
The offensive line stats are interesting for the Pats, and support your impressions. They are first in adjusted line yards, middle of the pack for power running success, very high for avoiding "stuffs", but dead last in generating runs of 10+ yards.

That sounds like a running attack that is average when it comes to imposing their will in obvious running situations, and that lacks a big-play running back. But in combination with the threat of the pass, they are quite successful.

The overall result is an 11th ranked run attack, but one that might drop off whenever conditions render the pass moot.

198
by Cyrus (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 3:21pm

In reply to a couple of the most recent comments, I think 196 proved my point for me. In addition, though, I will point to 2001 and 2003, the leading rusher was Antowain Smith! They didn't use a RB like they did with Corey Dillon-- they threw quick slants and screens and did things like that.

I am not at all worried about it. Not only have they proven that they can make due with very little at RB, the idea that you have to run the ball in the cold is a myth, in my opinion.

I forget where it was, it might have been on this site, but somebody did a study to see what the average rushing yards were for the length of the season. And it did not significantly increase at any point... it was lower in the beginning (fresh defenses, offensive line issues?) and higher in week 17 (backup defense), but the rest of the season was erratic.

199
by FullmoonoverTulsa (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 4:12pm

187 - so you are a fan of the kicking game, but also advocate the rampant use of intentional safeties? I would rather teams be encouraged to punt from deep in their own end, then watch a punter run back 20 yards, kill 10 seconds of the clock, and dance out of bounds.

200
by Digit (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 4:28pm

re: 198

Not only that, but I think in order to succeed with that sort of quick timing routes, you need to be totally in sync with your receivers, and they need to be prepared to catch at any time.

So maybe we're seeing a high amount of passing to get the WRs experience catching Brady--- last year the problem was that they never really were in sync till playoffs. If they're trying to eliminate poor hands/wrong routes, the best thing to do is to force them to catch and run routes over and over... so that may be why we're seeing Brady throw so much and so late into games to those WRs this year.

201
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 5:56pm

Maybe, but NE beat Dallas, and I think they have all those requirements. I think there’s got to be something more to it.

I don't think anyone's saying "if you have X, Y, Z you will beat the Patriots." They're saying "if you have X, Y, Z it's possible that you might beat the Patriots." Dallas, Indy, and Philly all hung with New England through three quarters, and Philly hung with them through all four.

Incidentally, I'm surprised people aren't talking more about one other thing the Eagles did. Note the number of realistic New England drives: eight. They massively shortened the game, much like Houston did last year with Indianapolis.

That's the other thing taking away Randy Moss does. Even if they march down the field with Welker each time, it takes longer, and in a short game, it's easier to hang with a fantastic offense. And then all you need is a bit of clock management to hold the ball at the end of the game.

202
by nat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:04pm

201:
Throwing a pick-six does deprive your opponent of a drive, but it's not a particularly good strategy.

203
by nat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:09pm

more on 201:
I did like the onsides kick, though. If surprise onsides kicks are really 75% successful, they are a winning strategy. (I forget where I heard that 75% number...)

204
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:12pm

John and Al gave the 75% number, so apply necessary grains of salt.

205
by nat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:37pm

Now I've seen 58% as the success rate for surprise onsides kicks. (Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online, August 2005. See link)

That seems good enough to justify doing it occassionally, maybe even often, to keep the receiving team honest.

Who knows what the same size is. I'd guess tiny.

206
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:38pm

Pat,

Really? You don’t think that a screen pass, a pass which relies on allowing defenders through the line so the offensive line can slip behind them to block, might have its timing a little disrupted with a fast defensive line?

Might have? Sure

Did? Absolutely not.

You are speaking in generalities, not referencing the plays themselves. All three were set up beautifully with Brady under normal pressure, the receiver free and blockers out in front. Not one of those passes were dropped due to good defense.

207
by Oh, Mathematics (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:20pm

I don't have game film, but on at least one of the screen passes, the ball was rushed. I think it was a receiver, not a back, and he just didn't even look up for the ball until it had almost hit him. On another one, I thought Maroney just flat dropped it when he could have had some big yardage.

On the Moss drop that I remember, they had a good camera angle and you could see his eyes move from the ball to the safety coming over the top just before the ball got there. He was anticipating a brutal hit, so I'll give the defense that one.

Also, for all that's being said about how the Eagles' defense didn't cause the Pats to drop those balls, I don't think the Pats D had anything to do with AJ Feeley falling down twice, which I think ended two drives in good field position. This game was only a couple plays from having a very different outcome.

208
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:23pm

You are speaking in generalities, not referencing the plays themselves.

That's because you can't evaluate the plays themselves independent of any defense because you don't know 1) how the play was supposed to unfold, and 2) what was the direct cause of the receiver not making the catch.

That's the entire point of what I'm trying to say. Even plays that look like total screwups by the offense can be caused by the defense as well. I've seen fumbled snaps where an interview with a center later said "yeah, my head just got ahead of my body there."

Did the plays look good? Sure. But do you know that Brady was supposed to get the ball off at that time? Was the receiver expecting the ball to come out at that time? Why did the receiver drop the ball? Was his attention turned elsewhere?

Which is why your statement of "might have" versus "did" makes no sense. You can't say for certainty that it had no effect.

Of course, this is all a silly moot point, considering realistically, the Patriots didn't have a bad game, and in all likelihood those drops were characteristic. It's just that the game was short, with very few offensive possessions, and so individual mistakes get magnified.

If the game had been of normal length, the Patriots would've likely scored into the mid-to-high 30s, and then no one would be talking about a few dropped screens.

209
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 10:55pm

Pat,

you are right that there is no way to know precisely how the play was supposed to unfold. But I can say for certain that they unfolded exactly the same as countless other effective screens have unfolded in the past. I can also say for certain that all the plays had at least two blockers in front (two had three) with nary an Eagle on the screen besides the pass rushers.

Yes, I have to admit that I am neither a coach nor do I have access to NE's playbook and practices, but you can usually just feel when a play is out of sorts. This is particularly so with a screen where most of the action is actually on the screen. I would say that I am about 90% sure of my original opinion, but I will conceed that the other 10% exists.

Now, this statement I take issue with:

the Patriots didn’t have a bad game, and in all likelihood those drops were characteristic. It’s just that the game was short, with very few offensive possessions, and so individual mistakes get magnified.

The Patriots had one other dropped screen all season that I have seen, which is about 85-90% of all their offensive snaps. I listened to most of the rest on the radio. To have three dropped screens not just in one game, but on one *drive* is by definition "uncharacteristic".

The Eagles played extremely well and deserve to be lauded for their game plan and their play. But NE most certainly had a bad game relative to the rest of their season. I don't see how anyone could deny this.

210
by Alex (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 11:21pm

I don’t think anyone’s saying “if you have X, Y, Z you will beat the Patriots.� They’re saying “if you have X, Y, Z it’s possible that you might beat the Patriots.� Dallas, Indy, and Philly all hung with New England through three quarters, and Philly hung with them through all four.

For the record, Indy also hung with the Patriots through all four, and had a 10 point lead with 8 minutes remaining. So that's two teams that have taken New England down to the wire.

211
by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 4:23am

There were 61 surprise onsides kick attempts from 2000 to 2005 in the 1st through 3rd Quarters.

16 of 22 worked in the 1st quarter
7 of 14 worked in the 2nd quarter
15 of 25 worked in the 3rd quarter

38 of 61 is 62% success.

What is truly amazing about these kicks is no team ever attempted a surprise onsides kick after getting a kickoff from the 40 or 45 yard line instead of the 30. If you recover in those situations, you are beyond midfield, while an opponent recovery is still over 50 yards from the endzone. Meanwhile, a touchback from a kick through the endzone only buys about 25 yards of field position over a failed onsides kick.

In the 4th quarter, there were 300 attempts, mostly not a surprise, and only 50 were recovered.

212
by Greg (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:46am

Rich,

I didn't say that the Patriots CAN'T run the ball - I said they're not historically good at it. If they have to play a game in bad weather conditions where passing is difficult, they're going to have problems, because if a good defense doesn't have to worry about the downfield passing game to Moss and Stallworth, the underneath stuff to Watson and Welker is going to be easier to stop, and the Patriots just don't have the personnel to dominate with the running game the way, say, the Cowher-era Steelers could. Their O line is small and agile, and their backs aren't really grinder-types. This works great for their preferred offensive approach (lots of screens, draws, etc.) but it is a vulnerability.

As for speed at RB and TE, another poster made my point - the Pats can shut down players like Addai and Westbrook, but doing so makes them vulnerable to downfield passing, because they can't do it with man to man defense. Against a team that can also throw the ball - like the Colts or Eagles - that can be deadly. They don't match up particularly well with a healthy Colts offense in particular, and if they have to face it, as I said, I expect the game to be fairly high scoring and go right down to the wire.

Despite my dislike for the Patriots, I don't think my analysis is wishful thinking. As I said, I do think they're the best team in football this year and should be considered the favorites - just not prohibitive favorites. They're not without vulnerabilities, and there are teams capable of exploiting those the way the Eagles and Colts and, to a lesser extent, the Cowboys, did.

213
by nat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 9:26am

211:
Andrerw, great stats!

Okay, 63 is a small sample size. But even if surprise onsides kicks worked just 50% of the time, I think they should be part of a lot more game plans.

50% getting the ball back near your own 40-45 versus 50% giving up the ball at the same place is a net negative value, but so is kicking off. Sure, don't do it if you're the Patriots and mostly concerned about losing through unlucky breaks. But if you are the underdog, why not?

214
by Digit (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 10:13am

re: 212

Wait. Bad weather conditions will make it difficult to pass and the Patriots can't run, so the Patriots' offense will slow down. But if the Patriots D play to run, the Colts or the Eagles or someone will pass?

Logically, if bad weather conditions affect the Patriots' passing game, shouldn't it -also- affect the Colts? If so, the Patriots would just have to focus on stopping the run in that scenario, because any condition bad enough to slow down the Patriots' passing attack must also slow down the other team's passing attack.

215
by Nick (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 1:30pm

Apparently you guys REALLY don't like watching the Saints. Two weeks in a row with no one watching the Saints game at all.

216
by Bjorn (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:03pm

I don't think merly bad weather is much of a proplem for the patrots, most of the tools they have work even if there has to be some adjustments.

What I would pray for however if I were facing them in the playoffs is TERRIBLE weather. Simply because if the conditions are bad enough to make it a travesty of a football game the chances of "dumb luck" deciding the game increases so much. And by terrible conditions I mean blizzardlike snow, 10ft of visibilty and 40 knot crosswinds....

217
by Greg (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:50pm

214-

You're assuming bad weather has an equal impact on all types of passing. It doesn't - it primarily affects DEEP passing. Since so much of what the Patriots do offensively is predicated on stretching the defense vertically and creating holes underneath as a result, poor weather is going to hurt them disproportionately. Randy Moss in particular is not a good cold weather receiver, since he doesn't like running the types of patterns that work in inclement weather (WR screens, slants, etc.) I actually think the Colts, with a bigger offensive line, a better running back, and a larger array of short passing options, are built better for a cold weather game. We'll see if it happens, though.

218
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 4:33pm

Greg (#212 et al)--

Patriots' linemen (5 starters, 2 primary backups):

name pos ht wt
Dan Koppen C 6-2 296
Logan Mankins G 6-4 310
Stephen Neal G 6-4 305
Matt Light T 6-4 305
Nick Kaczur T 6-4 315
Russ Hochstein G/C 6-4 305
Ryan O'Callaghan T 6-7 330

They may be agile, but they're not especially small. Contrast the (healthy) Colts' line:

name pos ht wt
Jeff Saturday C 6-2 295
Ryan Lilja G 6-2 290
Jake Scott G 6-5 295
Tony Ugoh T 6-5 301
Ryan Diem T 6-6 320
Dylan Gandy G 6-3 302
Charlie Johnson T 6-4 305

So the "bigger" Colts' line is actually "taller," since their starters are 30 total pounds lighter, and the first two backups give up 28 more pounds. I'm not sure how taller and lighter makes them better run blockers, but hey, it's not my argument.

(Incidentally, when the Patriots really want to run, they have an extra lineman or two report elligible as extra tight ends. There have been games where they the majority of their offensive snaps out of two- or three-tight-end sets:40 of 64 snaps against the Chargers, 52 of 63 snaps against the Jets.)

Don't count on poor weather stopping the Patriots.

219
by Digit (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:21pm

217-

Your reasoning is overlooking a few things:

1) I've seen the passing game you describe from the Patriots in the past, and not from the Colts. Tom Brady, again, has demonstrated he has a good grasp of what he needs to do, and it remains for the WRs to get used to it (the type of screens and plays they were using against Philadelphia, for example, are well suited to it, so they well may be force-feeding the WRs the ball to get them used to it.) It sounds like you think tossing screens to Addai and Clark is what will work, to which I submit that the Patriots have done this with Faulk, Welker, and Watson. They've also been tossing quick bursts to Stallworth and Moss lately, so I think they're well aware of the necessary adjustments they have to make.

The other part is the schedule and home field advantage:

2) If the Colts are at that point in January where they will need to, how many games, precisely, will they have played in those conditions? And how many games will the Patriots have played? I'll wager the Patriots will play more games under those conditions and gain the experience they need for those conditions because they're playing in them.

220
by Sid (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 7:54pm

Ben Riley: Aaron Kampman already has two sacks, and he’s going to have more by the time the game is over.

He finished with two. ;)

Why I’m not on the “Herman Edwards is underrated� bandwagon — third-and-5, 4:34 left, 20-17 game, you’re at midfield against the worst rush defense in recorded memory. You go five-wide and throw? Really? And then you only get four and have to run on fourth-and-1, which is an OBVIOUS run situation, and you get stuffed? No thanks.

Mike Tanier: So why did Herm go for it, down by three, about 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter? Was the kicker hurt or something?

The situation was: 4-1-OAK23 (4:26)

It was foolish to go for it, but Herm did it because he didn't trust Dave Rayner. Hence why the Chiefs signed Carney.

221
by Sid (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 10:41pm

When I think about it, I’m beginning to think the decision to kill Larry Johnson last year wasn’t as horrible as we made it out to be at the time. Johnson was going to struggle this year anyway, as the O-line that Dick Vermeil built finally gave out. By the time that Edwards or his successors can rebuild it Johnson may well have recovered somewhat, just as Edgerrin James and Jerome Bettis did.

He wasn't worth re-signing, though, especially the kind of money they gave him.