Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.
08 Jan 2007
Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2007. Games are chosen based on our own personal viewing preferences, and are going to reflect the teams we support and the cities where we live.
Extra warning: This wild card edition really rambles all over the place.
Bill Barnwell: This Colts' first drive has been all runs and checkdowns. Apparently, the Colts' offensive plan is to keep their own defense off the field.
Michael David Smith: Colts' O-line got totally overpowered on two straight plays to set up that third-and-16 where Manning and Harrison just missed connecting.
Aaron Schatz: One thing I noticed in the first Kansas City drive: On the first couple plays, the Colts were so sure that the Chiefs would run up the middle that Freeney and Mathis didn't even fake doing their little spin moves. They both just rushed straight to the inside. That's why Johnson ran into so much traffic.
Michael David Smith: When the Chiefs went three-wide on third-and-5, the Colts were in nickel with just six in the box. Trent Green should have audibled to a run there. What's the point of having Larry Johnson in the backfield if you're not going to hand it to him when you're facing the Colts with six in the box?
Ryan Wilson: Indy's defensive game plan reminds me of what they did against the Steelers last regular season: Basically sell out the run until the QB suggests you should do otherwise. The Steelers didn't adjust and they got crushed. Herm Edwards might be the worst in-game manager in all of sports (well, after Grady Little maybe) so I fully expect LJ to get 40 carries.
Michael David Smith: If it weren't for the two penalties on the punt return team, I'd say the Colts' defense and special teams have been entirely replaced by actual professional football players.
Aaron Schatz: My god, is Ty Law a lucky mofo. Now Collinsworth is going on and on about how Ty Law owns Peyton Manning. Are you kidding me? That play was complete miscommunication between Harrison and Manning, and Law didn't do ANYTHING except sit there and catch the ball when Harrison ran a different pattern than Manning expected.
Also, I finally discovered why Scouts Inc. insists that the Kansas City Chiefs play a Cover-2 and I keep talking about Law's problems in man coverage. It's Cover-2/Man Under.
Michael David Smith: I usually like Collinsworth, but that was ridiculous. Really? Ty Law knows where Manning is going to throw better than Marvin Harrison does? Then how did Harrison run right past Law for that 42-yarder in the first quarter? Occasionally QBs and WRs have a miscommunication. It happens. It doesn't mean the CB is a genius.
Bill Moore: KC is playing a lot of zone coverage early -- including Law. If Marvin Harrison is running through your zone, and you are supposed to pass him off, don't you making sure you are passing him off TO SOMEONE? As a defender, how do you just let this guy run into free space?
Bill Barnwell: Oh well, doesn't matter now. Lawrence Tynes is in trouble.
Aaron Schatz: All the goofy ticky tack penalties they've called this year, and Marlin Jackson comes right up to Dante Hall after he drops that pass, the play is obviously over, and Jackson whacks him from the back, and he doesn't pull a late hit flag?
By the way, what's up with all these drops? Are they using the new NBA ball or something?
I have to tell you, I'm really frustrated with NBC using all those STATS INC. numbers that STATS INC. keeps but doesn't make public. Since we only rarely hear these stats in broadcasts, there's no context. Manning was "touched" three times today? What the hell does that mean? What counts as a touch? Is three good or bad? Manning was sacked or hit on only 12% of dropbacks? What is the average?
One more note: Aaron Moorehead is Beavis and Butthead's favorite NFL player.
Bill Moore: Aaron Moorehead just beats out Dick Butkus.
Michael David Smith: No one on either team can catch Trent Green's passes. He tried to give the Colts an absolute gift after Manning's pick and the Colts refused it.
Halftime: 9-0 Colts
Aaron Schatz: OK, this was funny and all, but does the real Chiefs-Colts game start after halftime?
Bill Barnwell: Is Damon Huard going to come in?
Doug Farrar: Right now, Green reminds me of Earl Morrall in Super Bowl III -- just shell shocked. It's to the point where shovel passes for no yardage look halfway decent in the grand scheme of things. "Hey, look -- a completed pass!" I know Huard faced easier defenses, and I know Green is "the guy" and all that stuff ... But if you're going to run your halfback five thousand times in one season in order to win now, why not consider Huard in the thirty minutes you have left in the season? I will be really surprised if he doesn't get a call in the second half.
Aaron Schatz: Adam Vinatieri: So awesome that a 50-yard kick counts as a touchdown. At least, it does to the NBC graphics people.
Russell Levine: Normally when a team blows as many chances for a big halftime lead as Indy has done today, they get killed in the second half. But I just don't get the feeling KC has it in them today.
If give Green one series in the third quarter to are if he can get it going.
Aaron Schatz: OK, this has nothing whatsoever to do with this game, but according to an AP report, the Raiders are favoring an internal candidate to replace Art Shell as head coach...
The offensive coordinator who took over from Tom Walsh.
Because, you know, that was the part of the Raiders that clearly worked.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
Doug Farrar: I had heard Chris Mortensen say this morning that Davis was asking people about Tom Coughlin, and other sources have said in a Scout.com article that Dennis Green is a possible interview. I'm trying to think of the greater comedic goldmine -- Coughlin or Green in Oakland -- and I'm absolutely stumped. If I'm a Bay Area sportswriter, I'm buying a more powerful laptop either way.
Michael David Smith: Just show up to the meeting five minutes early, baby.
Bill Moore: Did I hear right? Herm Edwards, Tony Dungy, and Lovie Smith had dinner together last night!?! Are you F'in kiddin me? That has to be a first.
"Sorry guys, I can't make the team function tonight. I got to go to dinner with the OPPOSING COACH!"
Aaron Schatz: The second Ty Law interception is the same as the first one. Harrison cuts in and Manning throws out. Who is making the mistake here, Manning or Harrison? Once is an error, twice is ridiculous.
Michael David Smith: Collinsworth needs to get his story straight. He says both interceptions were Harrison's fault, then he says Manning is having a terrible game. If both interceptions were Harrison's fault, Manning is having a very good game.
Doug Farrar: I think the Indy D read Mike Tanier's article. One thing for sure, they're certainly wrapping up much better on running plays in this game.
After KC's first completely ineffective drive of the second half (following the six straight crappy drives in the first half), you could see Ty Law on the sidelines, repeating some unrepeatable words to himself. Halfway through the third quarter, Law's caught as many passes as the entire KC offense. Herm apparently told a reporter at the half that he won't even give Huard a shot in this game. If that's actually the case, does he go to the head of the 2006 "Keep Choppin' Wood" class?
Bill Barnwell: I don't know if you can pick Herm over Art Shell or the Lions' assistant coach.
The quote is correct, BTW.
Doug Farrar: Conversely, the long Indianapolis third-quarter drive that ended with the Addai touchdown run -- 12 plays, 89 yards and seven minutes off the clock -- was a masterpiece of consistent, measured playcalling. The Colts saw that gasping defense, and they went with the Long, Slow Goodbye. Just great football.
Bill Barnwell: Did NBC just tell us a story about Booger McFarland choppin' wood???
Bill Moore: McFarland wanted to get out of Louisiana where he was making money "chopping wood" HA!
Doug Farrar: Kansas City's first touchdown drive was facilitated by Vinatieri kicking off out of bounds and the Chiefs getting the ball at their own 40. Do you suppose John Kasay is watching this game?
Bill Moore: Hey, let's not do audibles for the Dallas/Seattle game, just so we can continue the streak of some jackass writing, "why didn't anyone watch [MY FAVORITE] game?"
Doug Farrar: We'd have the "East Coast Bias" complaint as well. Aaron never gets tired of that!
Just in case you didn't think it was possible for a playoff game to be boring, here's proof...
Bill Moore: Is it just sad me, or did everyone recognize Ben Seaver from "Growing Pains" in that stupid McDonald's commercial. Glad to see things are going well for him...
Speaking of commercials, I nominate the Diet Pepsi commercial as the new worst commercial on TV.
Ryan Wilson: I glanced up, recognized Ben on TV, turned to my wife and said, "you know who that was, right?" Without missing a beat, she says, "Ben Seaver." Leonardo DiCaprio was on that show for a while; I wonder if he likes people to bring that up.
Bill Moore: A childhood friend of mine's uncle was the Executive Producer of "Growing Pains." Supposedly, Leo is completely embarrassed that he is associated with the show and basically refuses to speak of it. They had a reunion some time ago and he wanted NOTHING to do with it.
Will Carroll: I don't know if it's Trent Green not able to do ... anything. I don't know if it's the Colts defense suddenly changing into Mr. Hyde. I don't know if it's the absolute inability of Herm Edwards to change a plan that clearly wasn't working. But this was a stunning game. I thought the Colts had no shot. Instead, the Chiefs were never really in the game ... and I still have no idea why.
Aaron Schatz: One of you wrote that apparently the Indy D read Mike's article. I can tell you that the Kansas City offense definitely did NOT read Mike's article, because mostly they were running straight ahead stuff instead of draws and counters and stuff at Freeney.
Other than that, however, I can't figure out what the heck happened here. It may be one of those things where you can't see it live, you have to watch it again with slow motion and pause to figure it out. But it isn't like Kansas City is the first team to come out and run right at the Colts. If they could do this to Larry Johnson, why couldn't they do this to Ron Dayne? Is there any reason to believe that this is more than a one game fluke?
What kind of wacko bizarro world is this where Kansas City and Indianapolis play a defensive battle? The kind of world where it's 70 degrees in Boston on January 6, I guess. I'll tell you what this reminds me of. Two years ago, Buffalo and Miami played a game in the regular season that Buffalo won 42-32. It was Buffalo's season high in points scored and allowed, AND it was Miami's season high in points scored and allowed. They were both top 10 in DVOA defense that year -- Buffalo was number one, actually. This was sort of the opposite of that.
Doug Farrar: The only thing I saw first glance that was dramatically different was a comparatively remarkable absence of missed and incomplete tackles in this game, after seeing abysmal tackling technique all year from them.
Ned Macey: Checking in from Venice, Italy. Watched the Colts game at The Fiddler's Elbow (side street near the Ca d'Oro vaporetto stop for all our readers who need American football when they are in Venice), a lovely Irish bar that has Sky Sports. They had the game on all TVs with audio because there were some Kansas City fans at the other side of the bar. I think MDS or at least our readers have commented before on the joys of getting random audio-feed from the announcers when they are at commercial. Collinsworth was trying desperately to find out what happened on the second Ty Law pick.
Obviously, nobody thought this would be a defensive struggle. The Colts have sold out on the run to little or no effect a number of times this year. I agree that the problem was scheme by Kansas City. You have to get the Colts moving in one direction and then you can easily push them out of the way for holes. Sure, they were wrapping up better, but rarely did anyone have to make a tackle in space. Add to this a number of one-wideout looks, and you basically had 18 people banging into each other at the line of scrimmage.
The KC offensive line did suck. They got little push and were not able to really pass protect that well either.
Trent Green was definitely never in rhythm. Not sure if a switch to Huard would or would not have helped. The thing about the Colts pass defense is that it has been hampered by always playing the run. They didn't get to pad their DVOA by dominating on obvious passing downs this year.
Offensively, if there were ever a game to argue that Manning is a different quarterback in the playoffs, this was it. The second interception was a terrible throw. Who throws to Beavis' favorite player in double coverage? I disagree with Collinsworth on the second Law pick. Whether or not Harrison should have been there, Manning panicked and flung a pass well after Harrison had broken.
Thought it was funny that Addai was the first player to gain 1,000 yards without starting a game. The first three quarters it looked brilliant that the Colts had limited his touches. Then he clearly got worn out.
We'll see what happens against Baltimore. The Ravens aren't really a draw type team. Lewis isn't really an elusive back. They'll have more success than Kansas City, but it is still a decent match-up for the Colts defense.
Mike Tanier: My man Dwight Freeney looked pretty darn good today. I saw him do a duck move on the Chiefs left tackle and force a fumble by Trent Green, and he pursued some plays up the line to make tackles. Probably a good time to point out that I didn't spend this week's Too Deep Zone bashing him. I concluded that he was a liability in run defense and will probably be overpaid next season. I still feel that way.
Rob Morris played quite a bit on Saturday. He's a guy who can help your interior run defense if not much else. I also saw #91 (Thomas?) on the field on run downs, spelling Freeney and Mathis. Good personnel moves to help the run defense. And the Colts got a break from the Chiefs when they ran the most predictable gameplan in league history.
Oh, and I was all for Bill's suggestion that we just not cover a game. Was the Shrine Game or anything this weekend? Maybe we'll hear about not covering it.
Aaron Schatz: This comment is in one of our discussion threads:
"Sterling Sharpe and Dwight Freeney ended all discussion by pointing out that it was aggressiveness and PRIDE and not a change in scheme... They took pride in doing what people told them they couldn't do."
Does this mean that during the regular season, the Colts defense is passive and doesn't have pride and doesn't care about playing well? Man, the Colts defense is a bunch of lame-ass losers if that's the case. (Hint: it's not.)
By the way, Mike Tanier has written a postscript to his "Colts run defense" Too Deep Zone on the FO FOX blog, and the Colts run defense will also be the subject of this week's Every Play Counts.
Aaron Schatz: I assume this is something Doug will know. I didn't realize until just now that Bryce Fisher went to Air Force. Do you know how he did his service requirement and worked things out to play in the NFL?
Doug Farrar: The short answer: As a graduate of the school's elite athlete program, he could serve two years of duty and then revert to reserve or guard duty if employed by a professional sports team (with approval from the Air Force). Fisher agreed to spend nine years of duty in the reserves or the guard after his official two-year gig.
Michael David Smith: I think John Madden just spent about a full minute babbling and the only point he was trying to make was "Lofa Tatupu is lining up deeper than middle linebackers usually do." And people say Al Michaels likes to hear himself talk.
Doug Farrar: Seattle's opening drive was a rare sight -- Matt Hasselbeck with most of his weapons at his disposal. I loved Bobby Engram's matchup on that 36-yard play -- between DeMarcus Ware and Roy Williams in a zone. I'm sure Bobby liked it as well. And I'm sure Hasselbeck liked Dallas' only real pass-rusher moving back into coverage.
Four plays inside the 20 on that first drive went as follows: Run, competed pass, time out, incomplete pass, field goal. This is definitely the most fundamental difference between the 2005 and 2006 Seahawks -- not only would there have been more of a focus on the ground game last season, but there would be a near-inevitability concerning the effectiveness of Alexander behind that line. Now, there is a palpable uncertainty about this offense when they get within sniffing distance of the goal line -- as if the feeling is that more diverse playcalling is required to overcome personnel shortcomings upfront.
Seattle is playing some Tampa-2 early on, not blitzing with the depleted secondary, and Tatupu is really good in coverage. I've seen him run step-for-step downfield with Tiki Barber and the "I Don't Give a Crap" version of Randy Moss.
Seattle lucked out on the end of the first Dallas drive -- the incompletion to Owens was as much a drop as Jordan Babineaux getting a hand on the ball, and Terry Glenn was five yards ahead of new guy Pete Hunter downfield. Hunter's been a step behind as the nickel guy early on, which makes sense -- he was signed four days ago.
Between Green and Hasselbeck, that's the second time today I've yelled "Pick!" when a quarterback was hit as he threw.
Why is Kelly Jennings solo on Owens? He weights about 175 pounds and isn't a good tackler.
Aaron Schatz: Why is Pete Hunter solo on Terry Glenn? Dude, it isn't like the Seahawks have choices right now. That flippy thing to Owens when Glenn was open on Hunter was really a dumb little pass.
Doug Farrar: Sure, but Hunter's the bigger and more physical corner, even though Jennings is the better cover guy. If Owens actually catches the ball, I think Hunter's the better YAC matchup because Jennings really has trouble tackling bigger guys. That's where they miss Trufant, who is an exceptional tackler for his position.
Aaron Schatz: Akin Ayodele just stuffed the hole where Shaun Alexander was supposed to go on a run. There's a guy nobody ever talks about. I don't know if he's a particularly outstanding player, but I've watched a lot of Dallas games this year and I don't think I've ever thought to myself, "Wow, Akin Ayodele just screwed that up."
Ryan Wilson: I remember Ayodele being pretty damn good with the Jags. At least against the Steelers, anyway.
Doug Farrar: Nice Leroy Hill/Michael Boulware sandwich on Witten for the fumble.
Bill Moore: I'm not sure Witten had control of that ball. Surprised no challenge.
Aaron Schatz: Let's start a pool ... when will Tony Romo finally throw a pass above a guy's ankles?
Doug Farrar: The holding call on Burnett when the ball was in the air to Jerramy Stevens makes me wonder what constitutes holding, illegal contact, and defensive pass interference from official to official. The numbers for illegal contact and defensive pass interference are so varied per crew.
Aaron Schatz: Did Seattle just call a draw to the fullback on third-and-7 in the red zone? Who thought that one up?
Doug Farrar: Yeah. (*sigh*) Holmgren calls that stupid draw to the fullback on third-and-long far more often than any other coach in the NFL, and I have no idea why he does it. Is he trying to fake the defense out? At this point, he'd have a better chance of surprise if he ran whatever the NFL's most popular third-and-long play actually is. Everyone knows it's coming -- it's like grunge background music during the cuts to commercial whenever the Seahawks get a national game.
Aaron Schatz: OK, I checked for you, Doug, because I was curious.
RB carries on third/fourth-and-6+ yards in 2006:
Yes, the Jets ran 18 times with RB on third-and-long, and not a single one of them actually got a first down. That includes Cedric Houston for 20 yards on third-and-22. League average was 15% success.
Doug Farrar: Hasselbeck is 7-for-19 for 80 yards and an interception in the first half. Never underestimate the value of repetition, rhythm, and timing. Hasselbeck wasn't able to practice with Darrell Jackson or D.J. Hackett this week, and Deion Branch is still acclimating to the offense. If Bobby Engram looks like the only receiver in sync, that's because he probably is.
No explanation for Romo's early desire to throw at the feet of his receivers.
I did a game charting-style article last season about Eli Manning when the Giants played the Seahawks in which I noted Seattle's tendency to switch to a simple deeper Cover-2 during the final two minutes of each half. The Cowboys appeared to be able to convert that fourth-and-two and get the touchdown facing a very vanilla defense.
Add that to the third-and-long fullback draw on the list of "Things the Seahawks do that I'll never understand." That Seattle runs it the most doesn't surprise me. The success rate does.
Aaron Schatz: Cris Collinsworth: "Kevin Gilbride has changed the outlook on offense; they run Tiki Barber and they throw the ball long." Yes, that's not at all what the Giants offensive game plan looked like for all of 2005 and 2006 under John Hufnagel.
Doug Farra: The two fourth-down conversions on Seattle's first touchdown drive were nice flashbacks to the past. Really seemed to amp the team up. And that's the Jerramy Stevens Seattle keeps hoping for on the score.
Of course, there's nothing line a 93-yard punt return touchdown on the next play to kill that momentum!
Bill Moore: I don't understand that fourth down call. You need two scores to win the game. Why not take the FG there?
Aaron Schatz: I understand it -- you are closer to the touchdown than you might be later. The field goal is worthless without the touchdown later anyway, so get the touchdown now. The play call wasn't even that bad. I thought he had Heller there, but he waited a little too long and then Newman was too close for the pass to work.
Bill Moore: Then again, Holmgren must have known that Glenn would fumble on the 1 backwards into the end zone, Seattle would lateral it back falling out of bounds, recover it, and score a TD to tie, of course.
Al Bogdan: This is going to be the longest replay challenge in the history of replay challenges.
Doug Farrar: That was one of the goofiest defensive plays I've ever seen. Catch, fumble, but the ball went out of bounds in the air before Tatupu batted it back in, and Tatupu's foot was indeed out. That's a correct reversal.
Bill Moore: In fact, I think it even hit whoever was lying on the turf out-of-bounds before Tatupu even touched it. Good call -- crazy play.
Al Bogdan: Has anyone ever seen a succesful replay challenge that still resulted in points for the other team before? That may have been a first.
Bill Moore: Doug, I don't watch the Seahawks much, but I've noticed that Hasselbeck rolls to his left quite a bit. It makes it really difficult for him to throw on the run. Is it a result of his confidence in the blocking ability of Jones? Or am I just seeing something that's no really there?
Doug Farrar: I think it has quite a bit to do with Jones, but of course he's moving against his own momentum when he does that because he's right-handed. He doesn't have a great deep ball by any means, and he's not a guy who's gong to zip the ball 40 yards on a rope falling away. He's good in the pocket -- great feet in there. When he's rolling left, that's a protection issue, because the option play would be to the right.
Aaron Schatz: I know he fumbled earlier, but Jason Witten just saved Romo's behind on that play that ended on the one-yard line, because Jason Witten had to leap behind him for that badly thrown pass, and it could have easily ended up in Babineaux's hands behind him.
Bill Moore: This is the craziest F'in game I've ever seen!
Aaron Schatz: Well, it's hard to say that the same week as that Boise State game. A couple weird plays is nothing compared to that thing.
Bill Moore: I didn't see the Boise State game other than clips on YouTube, so I keep that statement.
Al Bogdan: Is it just me, or shouldn't Dallas' last play have been reviewed? There was one angle that I saw where it looked like Romo was down before he lost the ball and he may have had a first down.
Doug Farrar: WHOA!!! I think I just blacked out on that blown field goal. I may need a minute.
Aaron Schatz: I'm with Al. As I've said a million times this year, in the final two minutes the review booth has a responsibility to review EVERYTHING.
Doug Farrar: No question. If you're going to take the decision to call for a review out of the coach's hands, your replay official should be able to stay awake, or away from the concession stand, for two clock minutes.
Bill Moore: The fumble didn't stand. He was marked down at the 2. He was down well before the 1-yard line.
In fact, looking at the replay over a few times, Seattle fans can thank Jordan Babineaux's HELMET for keeping the season alive one more game. He actually misses wrapping up Romo's legs, but the force of the fall causes his helmet to crash into Romo's calf leading to his collapse.
Bill Barnwell: Essentially Babineaux got kicked in the face by Romo on the way down. That couldn'tve been fun. On the other hand, they won the game because of it. I, for one, am much more excited to read tonyhomo.com tomorrow than I am to read ESPN.
Aaron Schatz: As a statistical analyst, it is not my job, nor is it my forte, to psychoanalyze Tony Romo and figure out what this mistake will mean for the rest of his career. However, this will not stop many, many writers and talking heads from doing just that over the next few days.
Mike Tanier: Psycho-analyze Romo? Who would do such a thing? "Hey, Carrie's man, what's your game, boy? Can anybody play?"
Let me recap a point I've made a few times this season. You've got two of the 15 best receivers in football. You've got one of the five best receiving tight ends. You have two running backs that you like, and your choice at quarterback of a veteran gunslinger and a kid who has spent four years in the system and was playing lights-out a month ago. And you score 13 offensive points against a team starting street free agents in the secondary.
If Parcells isn't gone, his offensive staff should be.
I may have to look at their film more and do a post-mortem, which as an Eagles fan I would love, but I can't figure out how the Cowboys offense was this bad for most of the year. Yes, dropped passes had a lot to do with it against Seattle, but that doesn't explain the other bad games they had down the stretch (they really didn't look good against the Lions despite the point total). The one thing I don't have to watch film to question is Julius Jones. He's not terrible, but he doesn't do a darn thing better than Marion Barber. Giving him 15 touches per game is just taking 15 touches from Barber and TO and Glenn and the others. I don't see how that's a wise strategy.
Doug Farrar: Excellent Hollies reference, Dr. Tanier.
However, I don't know how much I'd put this on the Dallas coaching staff. Romo kept throwing at the feet of his receivers, there was the Witten fumble, TO's 1 1/2 drops (the drops were less of a problem than Romo's GPS, in my opinion), and the fact that Seattle was able to bring consistent pressure without selling out their linebackers (pregame, I thought the latter point would be Seattle's hope of staying competitive with the secondary situation). Romo was still 17-of-29, though that's just one stat and I don't yet know what the FO numbers will say about his performance. At what point do you realize that your quarterback doesn't have it and move on to the run game?
One more thing about that depleted Seattle secondary -- the downshift wasn't as bad as people have made it out to be. Marcus Trufant is an average cover corner for the most part, and Kelly Herndon is a nickel corner at best who is totally miscast as a starter. Seattle wasn't using spare parts to replace Champ Bailey and Asante Samuel -- had that been the case, their defensive strategy through the season would have been far more reliant on the secondary, and they would have been blown out in this game, even with Dallas' gameplan and the way Romo played. But the idea behind Seattle's defense is supposed to be that pressure from the front seven (and the closer that number is to four, the better) will take care of coverage liabilities. Kelly Jennings probably has better (through rawer) cover skills than anyone else in that secondary anyway, and I'd be very surprised at any metric showing a serious difference between Herndon and Babineaux when it comes to coverage.
For Seattle, consistent pressure up front allowed the secondary to survive.
Mike Tanier: If your quarterback doesn't have it -- doesn't have it to the point that he cannot move the ball with Glenn, Witten, TO, and Barber to throw to -- after four years with the team and half a season as the starter, then that is on the coaching staff. And if you are going to commit to the run, do it with the running back that everyone seems to know is the better back.
Benjy Rose: Interesting how the Jets are having two or three linemen set with five or six guys walking around the ball until the snap. Sorta like Baltimore, only, you know, not as good.
Damn you, Dillon. Nice uncalled hold by FB Evans on the TD. May not have mattered, though.
Aaron Schatz: It's the moving cow defense! I love the moving cow defense. This is what the Patriots ran on Drew Bledsoe a couple of years ago. I have a feeling Brady understands it better than Bledsoe did. I wish they would make Moving Cow a defensive option in Madden when you play as the Patriots, Jets, or Browns (Crennel) -- that would be awesome.
Tim Gerheim: ESPN's pre-game show had Jason Taylor on showing clips from the last Pats-Jets game where the Jets won, and they were having good success getting pressure and hits on Brady with the Moving Cow defense because the Pats were having trouble figuring out protection.
Russell Levine: I hope none of the Pats fans on the thread are going to defend that Wilfork personal foul. Stupid.
Pennington surprises me with his arm strength when he throws downfield. Good zip on that near completion to McCareins.
Aaron Schatz: I'm not going to defend the Wilfork personal foul. I'm just going to point out that, in case you are wondering why Maurice Jones-Drew could get up and run for that huge touchdown against the Patriots a couple weeks ago without anyone hitting him, well, that's why.
Russell Levine: I hate that the Jets were lined up to go for it, then decided to punt after that NE timeout. Was the whole purpose of that lineup to get the Pats to burn a timeout in the first quarter?
On the 36-yard line, fourth-and-3. GO FOR IT!
(after the Dillon fumble) ... or not ...
Benjy Rose: Hey, in that Motorola commercial where Dungy is feeding lines to a dude in the car with a girl, is that dude Kerry Collins?
Tim Gerheim: How about that Pats defense against #2 receivers? I was this close to taking Cotchery in the fantasy playoff draft instead of Branch, but figured that would be too clever by half. Guess I was wrong.
Aaron Schatz: That was some Pat Watkins-worthy deep safety coverage by Artrell Hawkins right there.
Benjy Rose: And Cotchery seemed to turn on the afterburners the last 15 yards. That pass impressed me more than the near-30-yarder earlier.
Aaron Schatz: We all know about the Pats and #2 receivers, but Cotchery really has been that good against everybody this year. Real breakout year for him, major reason for the Jets' turnaround. For those who don't know, Cotchery is a big reason why the FO college quarterback projection system loves Philip Rivers -- he was Rivers' number one receiver at NC State.
Tim Gerheim: I'm surprised that the Pats sideline is in the sun to the point that Belichick is continuously shielding his eyes with his arm. (I guess he can't afford a visor to go with his hoodie.) This seems like exactly the sort of detail Belichick would have micromanaged.
Aaron Schatz: Banta-Cain or Seymour, Brick is not having a good time out there today.
Michael David Smith: Yeah, I'm seeing a lot of the same things I saw that I didn't like from Ferguson when I watched them for EPC.
Benjy Rose: The whole O-line is getting manhandled today. Has that been normal? (I haven't been able to see too many Jets games this year.)
Tim Gerheim: If you have Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney on your team, why do you need to bring Kevin Faulk in? When they do the Jets know it's a pass play. I've only noticed two plays with Faulk in so far, and twice Brady has audibled into a run (or so it appears), and both times Faulk has lost yardage because he's Kevin Faulk.
And then just as I get done writing that and I'm about to send it Faulk runs for 8 yards on second-and-10, and then the first down. I still think the initial question stands.
Bill Barnwell: The Jets defensive scheme has been to use the safeties as run support and as blitzers/faux-blitzers. With that in mind, the CBs are giving cushions and are absolutely mortified about the possibility of a double move. The Patriots can march like this all day until the Jets either have to push up their corners (doubtful) or put their safeties back into coverage (likely), which means a second half with 25-30 carries for the Patriots.
Aaron Schatz: Golly, why on earth would you want to block Jonathan Vilma at the goal line? It isn't like he's the best defensive player on the Jets. I don't know why the Pats didn't just sneak this sucker in on first down.
Ryan Wilson: Watching Belichick and Mangini trying to outsmart each other is kinda like two Mathletes having a nerd-off while everybody else in junior high is as the dance.
Aaron Schatz: DVOA might not like the Jets but right now either of these teams would beat Dallas or Seattle by at least two touchdowns. I have no idea how the difference between the conferences got so bad, but even the mistakes the Jets and Pats are making look more graceful than the mistakes by the NFC teams.
Bill Barnwell: What was Askew doing on that last play of the half? Did he pick himself in the Jets Playoff Fantasy Draft?
Benjy Rose: He's a fullback -- of course he can outrun the entire Pats D. Silly. Jets should have put Ramsey in there to throw the quick out and/or bomb. Pennington's no good for that stuff.
Aaron Schatz: Somewhere in Cambridge, our boy Nick Hartigan is sitting in his apartment and saying to himself, "I'm smart enough to get out of bounds on that play."
Bill Barnwell: I don't know. Au Bon Pain is pretty busy on Sunday. He probably had to work.
Tim Gerheim: Shawne Merriman is on national TV at halftime, and he can't put on a shirt? He's either wearing a wifebeater, suspenders, or a pair of overalls without a shirt, like the big guy from the original Final Fight. It's not even a good look in a video game.
Russell Levine: I don't know. I was always partial to boxing promoter Butch Lewis's tuxedo jacket, vest, bow tie, but no shirt look.
Benjy Rose: And I love how no one says WHY he was suspended. Way to glorify illegality, guys.
Michael David Smith: I'm just blown away at the way Merriman has been covered in the media. Make up your minds, oh sports talking heads of the world. The same guys who talk in the abstract about steroid users like they're worse than murderers treat steroid users like they're heroes when they're interviewing one.
Russell Levine: They don't tend to talk about steroid users in football like they're mass murderers, only in baseball.
Among the many smart things the NFL has done over the years, getting ahead of the curve on having a steroid policy stands right near the top. Sure, the policy doesn't have a lot of teeth, but by simply having it, and by suspending some big name guys from time to time, the league has been able to snicker at baseball and say, "see, we don't have a steroid problem!"
Michael David Smith: What on earth was the ref doing stopping the game to bring out the chains when the Jets were clearly about two yards short?
Russell Levine: I've always wondered about that requesting a measurement rule. That's just a free timeout. Why wouldn't the ref just say no?
Bill Barnwell: I wonder if TMQ will cite that all-out blitz that stopped the Patriots on third down in his column.
Aaron Schatz: Jets had really good coverage on that all-out blitz. The offensive line protection has also been much better in the second half. And what was Bill saying about Mike Vrabel in coverage earlier this year? That he can't do it anymore? Sure looked like it on that last drive, with Chris Baker getting catch after catch.
Kickoff distance is one of those things that nobody notices without looking at the numbers first, but the difference between Gostkowski and Nugent has been mind-bogglingly obvious this week.
Benjy Rose: I was just going to mention that. G's got some leg.
Tim Gerheim: I don't watch a lot of Patriots games, but I don't think I've ever seen Chad Jackson make a catch. But I do remember him getting thrown at deep and not catching it for one reason or another (not necessarily his fault). I wonder if it's particularly good strategy to keep throwing those at him given that he never catches them.
Aaron Schatz: Well, Justin Miller has his faults, but "ability to get burned with speed" isn't really among them. There's a reason he's the Jets' kickoff returner.
Tim Gerheim: I don't agree at all with what Phil Simms just said: "You look at this 37-16 score and it's misleading." (Not a direct quote.) The Pats pretty much dominated this game. The Jets had a handful of good drives, but this was basically the Patriots' game all day. At halftime when it was 17-10, they commented that all the stats (16-7 first downs, for example) showed that the Patriots were dominating, and that was right. The score just started to reflect that by the end.
Benjy Rose: MVPs of the game: Pats' D-line. Pressure all day, even with just four. Kept Chad off-balance, rarely let him get comfortable.
Aaron Schatz: Will somebody tell Phil Simms to save his "wow, a rookie left tackle, what a great job" praise for Marcus McNeill next week, a rookie left tackle who actually didn't play like a rookie?
Patrick Laverty: One of the best hits of the day: Belichick wrapping the arms around the cameraman and tossing him out of the way as he was trying to get to Mangini. That was awesome.
Also, I know some of the roughing the passer calls this year have been a bit silly, but for Simms to mention that it could have been called when Colvin planted Pennington, I think was wrong. On contact, Pennington still had the ball. You gotta finish the tackle.
Michael David Smith: Did Andre Dyson ever get back on the field after that first drive where he kept getting beaten with short passes? I never saw him.
Bill Moore: I was watching the game at a friend's, and Phil "King of the Rhetorical Questions" Simms ("the linebacker drops back, and what happens? The middle is open." "I saw Tony Dungy last night, and what did he tell me? That the Colts...") made a casual statement that caused a bit of disbelief in the room. He said that Eric Mangini's first act as the new Jets coach was to show Chad Pennington the Patriots' scouting report on him. How is that not proprietary? The same friend recently left a Fortune 500 company, and they wouldn't let him take his personal address book contacts with him -- never mind the scouting report on the competition.
Patrick Laverty: Maybe it is, but Mangini probably helped write the report and had it all memorized.
Bill Barnwell: Ooh -- ooh -- maybe it's like a Johnny Mnemonic kinda deal.
Aaron Schatz: I have to tell you, I'm not looking forward to an entire week of "Reche Caldwell looking to get revenge" stories in the Boston media. Wait, what do you mean there aren't going to be any "Reche Caldwell looking to get revenge" stories?
Aaron Schatz: Just saw the list of Giants inactives. Darius Watts is inactive for the Giants today. Wait a minute, when the hell did Darius Watts go to the Giants???
Tim Gerheim: I'm rooting for the Eagles on account of my playoff fantasy picks, but there's one thing that makes me hope that the Giants will get another game: the Battleship Lorenzen. If you don't love a lumbering 285-pound quarterback, you don't love football.
Doug Farrar: Jared Lorenzen: The unholy offspring of Michael Vick and Refrigerator Perry.
Aaron Schatz: Somebody needs to get the Giants offensive line some anti-anxiety medicine or something.
Mike Tanier: Jon Runyan apparently wants to be thrown out of this game. It's a wonder he wasn't ejected on that hit of Cofield. Somehow, the Eagles weren't penalized.
And Garcia calls timeout with the clock running and 2:02 left in the half. Leadership, baby.
Ryan Wilson: You know, on the Runyan play, if you look at the replay, Brandon Short tackles Buckhalter ... and then starts punching him well before Runyan goes crazy. I can't believe nobody saw that.
As for Garcia, maybe he thought this was a college game.
Doug Farrar: Two teams -- the Seahawks and Giants -- have each revealed a glaring lack of confidence in their offensive line in the red zone this weekend. Both teams have great backs, and both teams got fidgety and cute with the goal-line pass plays. Both Dallas and Philadelphia responded with goal-line stands aided by that playcalling.
Boy, I'd really hate to be caught in a deli line behind Pete Morelli.
Michael David Smith: Andy Reid desperately needs an assistant to take over all clock management aspects of the game. They've managed the clock horribly in the late second half, from Garcia's timeout to waiting way too long to call one when the Giants had third-and-10 with less than a minute left.
Bill Barnwell: I'm thinking most teams could use a coach whose assignment on game day is either strictly clock management or primarily clock management. Head coaches are just too busy.
Mike Tanier: Of course, the rest of that Eagles two-minute drive was pretty sweet. Some good play calls to throw 8-yard hitches to Brown to move the ball a little. Some good individual plays by Garcia to find open receivers, then great blitz pickup, good throw by Garcia, great catch by Stallworth for a touchdown.
Michael David Smith: The officials who signaled that punt Eagles ball should be fired. How can you be an NFL official and not know that once the punting team touches the ball first, the receiving team can't lose possession?
Bill Barnwell: Plaxico Burress deserved a yellow card for that dive on the pass interference penalty.
Tim Gerheim: OK, so y'all got that "Experience" Old Spice commercial, right? Is that Bruce Campbell, from Evil Dead, doing that commercial? The thought that it might be, and that he doesn't have a chainsaw on his arm, blows my mind.
Bill Moore: Although I found it tediously humorous the first time, I'm not sure I really "get it." Can you fill me in?
Tim Gerheim: Not exactly. I just love it because the ship in the painting is about 20 feet long and has probably 70 masts and sets of sails.
Everyone, myself included, seems immensely less interested in this game than the last three. I wonder why. Is it just a less compelling game, or do we just not have the attention span to carefully watch four games in a weekend?
How come they've played so much grunge going in and out of commercials in this game? I've heard Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. Seattle's not involved at all.
Mike Tanier: How was that not pass interference on Bell as he basically body blocked Reggie Brown?
Michael David Smith: Maybe I'm overly critical, but I'm just getting increasingly frustrated by bad officiating. What was the official who spotted the ball on that Barber run on third-and-1 thinking?
Tim Gerheim: I thought Luke Petitgout was on IR, but it's good to see that the Human False Start Machine is still starting for the Giants.
Mike Tanier: And I exhale. And the long snapper does a Linc Leap. And Koy Detmer earns his paycheck with two tough holds on field goals on a rainy day. Koy for MVP.
I think that was Dave Diehl imitating Little Leg Ailment Petitgout at left tackle.
Aaron Schatz: This is the same problem I had last week. I have nothing to say about the Giants. They have the same positives and negatives virtually every week at this point. The defense played better today than in weeks past, but how many times can I write that the safeties are not good, that Eli Manning throws too high, that Jeremy Shockey is good, that Tiki Barber is good, that their offensive line false starts all the time -- there's nothing new here. It ended a little closer than I expected but for the most part this game went as predicted in the game preview.
Oh, and I'm with MDS on the officiating. We don't need another Super Bowl debacle to complain, and it has nothing to do with the specific teams we root for, the league has GOT to figure out a way to make the officiating more consistent. Yes, these are human beings, but even human beings should be able to all enforce the rules in mostly the same fashion.
Bill Barnwell: The only person who was playing with any sort of urgency in that game was Tiki Barber. The performance was entirely indistinguishable from any other Giants game this season, and I'd like to think that they'd focus more and play better. I'm normally not inclined to blame a performance on a coach, but this team isn't going to get any better with Coughlin at the helm. They need a change. I have no idea who they should replace him with, but they need to change.
Aaron Schatz: Seeing Shockey stretching for first downs with his helmet knocked off, taking off Coughlin's headphones to talk to him ... he seemed to be playing with urgency. And you've got to give Plaxico credit for some good receptions there.
On the other hand, when your tight end is coming up to your head coach and just taking off his headphones to talk to him and your offensive line then false starts 37 times, yeah, I don't think the discipline thing is working.
Bill Barnwell: That's true. I kinda attribute it to Shockey's just general stupidity, but he was trying hard out there. And, hey, J-Load recognized the illegal formation.
There was some talk earlier in the year about Burress being gone after the season. I'm not his biggest fan, but if he leaves, Manning's completion percentage is going to be the pits.
Mike Tanier: I think the Giants were playing hard out there, but you don't just flip a switch and acquire "intensity." If you have a month of the season where everyone is playing like crap, yapping in the media, and tuning out the coach, then you have dozens of practices that are just shot to hell. Guys can fly around on Sunday and hit hard and yell and scream, but football requires precision and controlled aggression. The Giants have been an imprecise team all year, and that's what they were today, with lots of penalties, an offense with no timing, a defense that just kept getting beat at the line of scrimmage.
139 comments, Last at 11 Jan 2007, 2:38pm by Sid