Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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Mike and Tom's tour of the league gets musical! Listen to the strangely up-tempo Blinded by the Luck, the haunting melancholy of The Schiano Man, and the endless march of the Saints.

13 Jan 2008

Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

compiled by Doug Farrar

Each weekend, 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. NFC Audibles will run on Monday morning.

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 at New England Patriots 31

Aaron Schatz: Anybody notice that the Jaguars have come out playing a defense similar to Tanier's blueprint? Zone stuff, three down linemen -- although it is a 3-3-5, not 3-2-6.

That fourth-and-1 bootleg call by Dick Koetter took colossal balls. What a great play call.

Sean McCormick: I think attacking the edges is generally a good idea on fourth-and-short because of the possibility of big gains. As it happens, the Jags attacked both edges with the play action left and the bootleg right.

Sean McCormick: Mike Holmgren might want to take some notes from this game on when to go for it on fourth down.

Bill Barnwell: What a block by Dan Koppen on that first-drive 33-yard screen to Maroney. That's the difference between them (likely) scoring on this drive or having to punt. Most underrated center in football.

Stuart Fraser: I do not, at this point, think that any part of the New England offense qualifies for a "most underrated" label.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, come on, Stuart. It's clear that Kyle Eckel is the most underrated ex-Navy fullback in football.

This game summarized at halftime by guest commentator Tarzan, Lord of the Apes: "Offense good. Defense bad."

Vince Verhei: To add to that: "Long drives good, short drives bad." Each team only had three possessions in the first half, minus the last four plays at the end to run some clock. I hope nobody tries to tell us that the ball control offense helped Jacksonville "stop" New England. They haven't stopped anything, unless your defensive strategy is "wait till they commit a chop block, then watch them miss a field goal."

Doug Farrar: Phil Simms has just informed us that "The Patriots are versatile." Gosh. I loved the Tom Brady block on Reggie Hayward on the Wes Welker reverse with 2:38 left in the first half, although I would imagine Bill Belichick may have felt a little differently.

Ned Macey: Rashean Mathis appears to be doing well in coverage, since all they've completed is one underneath to Jabar Gaffney on his side. However, he appears to be so bad a tackler that he'd make Deion Sanders look like Ronde Barber. I always have trouble picking out the various 20-something, dreadlocked defensive backs for Jacksonville. Now I think I have it. If dreadlocked 20-something makes a good tackle, it must be Reggie Nelson; if he rips off the guys head, then it is Terry Cousin, and if he misses badly on the tackle, it is Mathis.

(After Tom Brady throws his third touchdown pass of the day, a six-yard pass to Welker with some razzle-dazzle beforehand...)

Aaron Schatz: Wow. What a play by Boise State on the fake direct snap to Kevin Faulk. Love that Jared Zabransky.

What's astonishing about Randy Moss having just one catch so far is that the Jaguars are covering him and shutting him down with Brian Williams, not Rashean Mathis. To the point where they are actually moving their cornerbacks from side to side specifically to keep Williams on Moss! I went and checked, and this isn't a size issue. In fact, Mathis (6-1) is actually taller than Williams (5-11), so they are covering Moss with the shorter of their two starting cornerbacks.

Bill Barnwell: Wow, was that an obvious hold by Welker on a Laurence Maroney off-tackle play that picked up big yardage.

Aaron Schatz: Well, Welker has been on the phone with Khalif Barnes, looking for tips.

I want to know, when did we enter this alternate world where Brian Williams is shutting down Randy Moss but Randy Moss is an excellent blocker on running plays, and Heath Evans splits wide with Rashean Mathis covering him? I understand it was a zone, but when you have an entire half of the field with Heath Evans as the only offensive player and Rashean Mathis covering him, perhaps you want to switch the zone around a bit.

(After Dennis Northcutt drops a pass that would have set Jacksonville up with a first-and-goal...)

Doug Farrar: That was a rough way for Jacksonville to blink first and have to kick a field goal. Garrard threw that ball to Dennis Northcutt as well as it can be thrown, especially under pressure, and I suddenly remembered seeing Northcutt drop a lot of balls back in his Cleveland days. That's gonna sting for a while.

Aaron Schatz: And look, Barnes evens things out with a big hold on the David Garrard scramble early in the Jags' first drive of the fourth quarter. And at home, Steelers fans scream, "See?!?!?!"

Vince Verhei: This is the most boring one-score playoff game involving an undefeated team I've ever seen. This seven-yards-at-a-time thing both offenses and both defenses have apparently agreed to is killing me. New England finally started blitzing at the end of the last Jacksonville possession, and it would have killed them if Northcutt had caught the ball.

And as I type these words, Jacksonville finally blitzes and Brady finds Stallworth for a big gain. Finally! And then, on the very next play, Jaguars rush four, and Brady finds Stallworth again ... for seven yards.

Doug Farrar: And Northcutt atones for previous sins with a stellar catch on fourth-and five with four minutes left in the game. He did the nice spin move to insure the conversion, and picked up a late hit call at the end. Too bad the bus had already left town.

Garrard's one hell of a quarterback who just ran out of oxygen at the end. Too much pressure to make too many plays. The Rodney Harrison pick was almost predictable -- you have X number of options, and Harrison has seen them all. Ballgame. I didn't think that Jacksonville could beat New England by running the ball, but they could not allow themselves to get outgained in non-garbage time, and that's what happened.

Aaron Schatz: When Harrison intercepted that final pass, I started screaming at the television... "Don't hit anyone Rodney ... Don't hit anyone ... Don't celebrate, don't do something stupid, come on Rodney..." I mean, he's our guy, and we root for him, but dude, you are 35 years old, grow the f*** up. Enough with the pointless late hits and then the whining to the refs. Stop being such a jerk.

Got to give it to Garrard, man, he was amazing in this game, and Northcutt dropping that pass really hurt.

The Big Bad Wolf has blown down Eli's house of straw and David's house of wood. Next comes the real test: Peyton Manning's house of bricks.

(Prior comment written prior to the establishment of the Volek-Sproles Brickhouse Demolitions Company on Sunday morning.)

Bill Barnwell: For my own safety, I wish to point out that Aaron's views are not representative of those of Bill Barnwell, who has the utmost respect for Rodney Harrison and any Rodney Harrison-related properties.

Ned Macey: I know the conventional wisdom will be that the Jaguars were too conservative on defense, but the people saying that are the same people who will talk about how the Jaguars were going to shorten the game with the running game. The Patriots were on pace to have seven meaningful possessions. Sure, they scored four touchdowns and had two makeable field goals before the seventh one became meaningless, but the smaller number of possessions kept the game close.

Doug Farrar: Quarterback rating is by no means a perfect measuring stick, but here is a quick 'n' dirty list for his 2007 regular season:

  • Brady, blitzed overall -- 118.7 (YPA: 8.53)
  • With fewer than four defenders on the line -- 102.0 (YPA: 9.03)
  • With four defenders on the line -- 114.4 (YPA: 8.97)
  • With five defenders on the line -- 103.1 (YPA: 7.54)
  • With six defenders on the line -- 133.5 (YPA: 7.16)
  • With seven defenders on the line -- 107.4 (YPA: 4.00)

I think the number with five defenders passes the sample size test with 152 of his 578 attempts. His completion percentage also dropped precipitously against five defenders, down to 61.2. Not too surprising, really, You don't want to sell out to any great quarterback, and allowing the underneath stuff was a good counter to the big play. It isn't always that way, but it was against this offense. The motto seems to be: Blitz if you must, but for God's sake, you'd better get there. The way he was throwing the ball today, I don't know if it mattered.

Ned Macey: The Patriots were just amazing today. One catch for Moss, and six yards per catch for Welker, and they were still unstoppable. They made hardly any mistakes on offense -- just the chop block and the drop by Welker which both led to their two non-touchdowns. The offensive line gave Brady all day, the receivers made plays, and Brady never threw an inaccurate ball. When trying, they were 7-for-10 on third and fourth down. More importantly, they only had more than 10 yards to go on any down three times the whole game (four if you count both plays after the chop block, but I guess I mean three times they had negative plays all game).

Finally, the officiating was pretty spotty on all sides, most likely evening out. Did anyone else notice Benjamin Watson push over somebody on his second touchdown? The guy definitely fell down, but I never got an angle that showed whether or not Watson pushed off or if there was minor contact that knocked him down.

Mike Tanier: Brian Williams was doing some rope-a-dope type stuff on Moss. On the few plays I could follow Moss' route, Williams would anticipate his route, get in his way, and slow him down. On one of the touchdowns (the one with the fake snap) this was obvious. Williams knew a double-move was coming and just ran a moving pick, not jamming Moss, just getting in his way. If Brady throws the pass, that's a penalty. Even if he doesn't it could be called, but Williams was just doing a good job of eating up space and making it look like contact was unintentional. A dangerous strategy that clearly had some success.

This is the kind of game that makes New England look pretty unstoppable. Jacksonville is a terrific team, they had a good game plan (which looked suspiciously like The Blueprint), they played very well ... and they lost by double-digits; if anything, they were lucky to have kept the score as close as they did. That New England spread offense is simply awesome to behold -- they can hold their blocks as long as they need to, Brady is masterful at finding the open man, and the receivers and backs did a great job of milking extra yardage out of short throws. What New England does is put an incredible amount of pressure on the opposing offense to execute. In the first half, Jacksonville was able to do so, but in the second half, they just couldn't keep up the pace.

All that said, I expect that Indy (assuming it's Indy) will have a somewhat similar strategy -- rushing four instead of three, but otherwise taking away the deep ball and forcing the Pats to shorten the game with long drives. They're the only team in the league that can reasonably expect their offense to go blow for blow, and such a strategy would likely lead to a 35-31 or 27-24 type game, with the Colts having a good chance to win.

At least I hope so. At this point, Peyton is Obi-Wan Kenobi. Our only hope.

(Chargers to Rebel Alliance: Drop Dead.)

Vince Verhei: After sleeping on it for a night, I've come to the conclusion that playing defense the way Jacksonville did last night was the best possible game plan. I noted that the plan seemed to be to wait for New England to make penalties and miss field goals -- well, that WAS the plan. Jack Del Rio knew that his defense wasn't good enough to go head-to-head with the Pats offense, so by taking the big play away, he was ensuring that any mistake the Pats made would be magnified, and at the same time shortening the game. Really, it's a grind-it-out attack taken to the ultimate degree, where your goal is to let BOTH offenses chew up the clock.

And with that in mind, I have NO idea why New England didn't bring more pressure. If you give up a long touchdown, so what? That just gets your offense back on the field again. And eventually one of those blitzing defenders is going to get to the quarterback or tip a pass or something.

Sean McCormick: Right. It's not really that far off from the Giants' game plan to beat Buffalo, only teams are using more controlled passing than running when they have the ball. Which, come to think of it, may be a flaw, as you're picking up more yardage and running less clock. It's tough to put together a 10-minute drive primarily through the air. Basically, sometimes it's better to get four yards a play than seven yards a play.

Aaron Schatz: Bill and I both mentioned some unflagged holding -- I couldn't remember any holding calls at all until the late interception return, so I went and checked, and yes, they definitely had a "let them play" attitude. The only holding calls all game came on special teams or the interception return. None on actual offensive plays.

If I am Jacksonville's general manager, I am on the phone first thing Monday, offering my first-round pick to Cincinnati for Chad Johnson, to Arizona for Larry Fitzgerald, and to Detroit for Roy Williams. If those don't work, I'm offering a third to Denver for Javon Walker. The Jaguars can't predict what the Colts and Patriots will do in the off-season, but if those two teams decline for any reason, the Jaguars are one game-breaking receiver and a little defensive depth away from being the top Super Bowl contender in the NFL.

San Diego Chargers 28 at Indianapolis Colts 24

Bill Barnwell: The Chargers are doing a good job of covering the Colts wideouts on the first drive. Manning's getting forever to look, but the corners are holding the wideouts for four, five seconds, and that's pretty rare. Well, until Clinton Hart had his ankles broken by Dallas Clark, of all people. If this were And 1 football, the game would be over and the fans would be jumping on the field waving towels.

Ryan Wilson: And Dallas Clark would go by the handle "The Professor," and he would've thrown the ball into the crowd right before he crossed the goal line.

Doug Farrar: Note to Shawne Merriman: The only thing stupider than a sack dance is a sack dance after a busted play when your blocker was heading upfield.

Sean McCormick: Anthony Gonzalez is suspiciously absent from the Colts attack. My fantasy team is in jeopardy, guys! Get him in there!

Aaron Schatz: It isn't suspicious at all. With Marvin Harrison back, we return to the base Indianapolis Colts offense. On first and second down: Clark in slot, Utecht at tight end. On third down: Gonzalez in slot, Clark at tight end.

Stuart Fraser: So, after "pocket presence with Peyton Manning," a.k.a. the Colts' first drive, the Chargers fly downfield only to be stopped by an interception. Sure, these offenses are good, but the defenses aren't that bad, and it's the third game in a row where the defenses seem rather surplus to requirements. Is this just "let's not call holding in the playoffs," or are other forces at work?

Aaron Schatz: I'll agree with Stuart. We're definitely seeing the offenses dominate the defenses in pretty much every game -- I mean, the Seattle passing game was reasonably good yesterday, even if the running game couldn't get anything going -- and I wonder if the officiating has anything to do with it. Honestly, I don't have a big problem with that as long as the officials a) are consistently calling things for both teams and b) are consistent throughout all four quarters.

Doug Farrar: The Packers and Patriots offenses bring the long pass threat, but throw short passes for conversions. That's just about impossible to defend. Only two New England pass plays went for more than 14 yards, and one (the Maroney screen) had more yards after catch then the amount of actual yardage -- the other, of course, was the Stallworth catch. Of Green Bay's seven straight third-down conversions to start the game, the first six were passes, and I don't think any of those passes went more than eight yards in the air. The obvious difference between that and the standard dink-and-dunk is that there's a Randy Moss or Greg Jennings to keep that deep threat alive and offset intermediate coverage. The threat of Moss defined Jacksonville's defensive plan.

The Colts were very much about that in last year's playoff run. They dictated time of possession with short throws a lot of the time.

Sean McCormick: And we shouldn't be surprised about it, either, considering the paucity of elite defenses this year and the presence of multiple big-time offenses in the playoffs. Something tells me that the predictive DVOA splits are going to look a little different after these playoffs are done.

Again, I think you have to look at games against the Pats or Colts as being more like basketball than football, where it is all about the rhythm of scoring. You aren't going to stop them from scoring, and you aren't even likely from stopping them from scoring on most of their possessions. The best you can do is to manage the clock with your offense and with your defense (by giving up the short stuff) and try to line up your scores in a way that undercuts the other team's rhythm -- doubling up with a score near the end of the first half that doesn't give the other team a chance to drive back down the field, followed by taking the second-half kickoff for a score, that sort of thing.

I thought Philip Rivers made the proper read on that first-quarter Kelvin Hayden interception, but corners are going to break on the quick out when there is a blitz, and Hayden cut under Craig Davis very nicely. A solid defensive play rather than a quarterback mistake.

On a related note, the Colts personnel packages suggest that they want San Diego's base defense on the field. Lots of two-tight end stuff with the tight ends flanked wide or lined up in the backfield. Are they concerned about the pass rush, or do they like the TE/LB matchups?

Stuart Fraser: If I were Indy I would like the TE/LB matchups -- I mean, nobody covers Clark with a linebacker, but even Utecht on San Diego's linebackers, who are much better at defending the run, sounds good to me.

Will Carroll: That early fumble is an object lesson in why Marvin Harrison ducks contact -- he can't take it. He's a small, slight guy. Forget the time off or any other idiotic thing Dan Dierdorf says here. The fact is that Harrison isn't big enough to take the hit, but is smart enough to avoid it most of the time.

Doug Farrar: Does he give lessons? Deion Branch would like to sign up.

Aaron Schatz: Harrison avoids contact because it might pop that GIGANTIC VEIN on the left side of his forehead, and the blood would just be way too gross.

Ned Macey: While I agree with Will in principle, I believe I could have taken that hit and held onto the ball.

Will Carroll: He could have, but he didn't. I'm not sure what the threshold is for Harrison, but it's low.

Is Dierdorf always this moronic? Gates is in NO pain -- the foot is deadened, as can clearly be seen by his sinking gait. I'm also noticing that the Colts did their typical field prep (read: none.) The rubber substrate is loose and the field is very, very hard in that condition. Why they would do this knowing that the hard surface is what hurt Harrison in the first place is beyond me, though this is the last event in the facility ever. They're going to take the seats out starting early this week, I'm hearing.

Russell Levine: Since you almost always see rubber pellets kicking up on FieldTurf surfaces, what's the difference between substrate that has been well prepped and that is too loose/unsafe?

Will Carroll: The more you see it come up, the looser it is and the less it cushions.

Tomlinson hyperextended his knee on the hit where he fumbled. The pain, not the hit, made him lose the ball.

Ned Macey: The Chargers and Colts rank 11th and 16th, respectively, in yards allowed per drive but first and second in turnovers per drive, so this game looks like it is going to form. San Diego recovers both fumbles, which cancels out the Rivers pick. (I agree that it was just an outstanding play by Hayden.)

Michael David Smith: That taunting penalty may be the first stupid play of Bob Sanders' career. He's always struck me as one of the smartest defensive players in the league.

Aaron Schatz: I'm with Greg Gumbel, who pointed out that Nate Kaeding and Sanders were college teammates. I think that Sanders thought he was just having a friendly tease at an old buddy or something, not a really negative taunt. I hate taunting penalties so much. Hate them.

Bill Barnwell: Yeah, but old people love them.

Ned Macey: I just want to reiterate a point I made earlier (SD and IND both give up yards but force turnovers), and that this game is 10-7 at the half with three turnovers plus another fumble.

Also, do we know if Adam Vinatieri had an injury this year He's put both kickoffs in the end zone and boomed his first 40-plus-yarder of the year.

Finally, I'm not sure I saw holding on the Antonio Cromartie return based on what they showed, but I'm not going to lose sleep over a team not getting a 90-yard touchdown return off of a tipped interception.

Will Carroll: Vinatieri had the ankle injury early in the season.

Bill Barnwell: Every first down Michael Turner picks up in the second half here earns him a million bucks.

Vince Verhei: I'm a little late in the game here, but it looked like the Colts came out blitzing a lot more than usual, and the result was one touchdown, then surrendering a lot of yards before being bailed out by a great interception. And after that, it was four-man rush after four-man rush.

Bill Barnwell: By the end of the third quarter, it's obvious that the Colts are having the Madden "No F****** Way" game.

Sean McCormick: They can look at the positive: If they pull out the win, it will make for a cushier line on next week's game.

(After San Diego running back Darren "Pocket Hercules II" Sproles ends the third quarter with a 56-yard touchdown romp off a short pass, putting the Chargers back on top…)

Vince Verhei: Some classic Norv Turner disorganization at the end of the third quarter. On defense, they get caught unprepared for Indy's hurry-up and get called for offsides, right before Wayne's awesome touchdown. Then after the ensuing kickoff, Chargers get caught with 12 men in the huddle. Way to have your team in the game, Norv... And then Philip Rivers and Sproles bail him out with a monster screen pass. Sometimes it's better to have great players than great coaching.

Bill Barnwell: Man, Darren Sproles would be the greatest sprint football player of all time.

Aaron Schatz: OK, we have our first massively controversial call of the weekend. Can somebody explain to me what on earth Clinton Hart did to earn pass interference on Reggie Wayne to start the fourth quarter? From what I can tell, his left hand sort of brushed Wayne after the ball was already past them.

Doug Farrar: Wow -- that call was a pretty good example of the "Jordan Rules". Where was the contact? Ryan Diem gets a 15-yarder on the next play for an inadvertent blow to the head, so maybe the officials were playing the even-it-up game there.

Russell Levine: Uh-oh, it's a Billy Volek sighting! For some reason, I'm finding this game infinitely more enjoyable than last night's fairly similar battle. Maybe it's the lack of "death by a million paper cuts" approach by both offenses.

Bill Barnwell: Any game where the same thing happens over and over again on a play-by-play basis is boring. If that's running the ball into the pile or gaining seven yards at a time, they're both boring. This game has been different -- the Colts drive and then have absurd interceptions happen, while the Chargers have big plays pop up out of nowhere. That's new things popping up all the time, which is more interesting.

(Anthony Gonzalez runs in a 55-yard touchdown pass, just staying in bounds, to put the Colts back up with 10 minutes left...)

Doug Farrar: Sean? You were saying?

Aaron Schatz: I am trying to imagine Matt Cassel marching the Patriots down the field to come back in the fourth quarter against the Colts, with Randy Moss also on the sidelines. Nope. Can't imagine it. Billy Volek marching the Chargers down the field without LaDainian Tomlinson isn't quite as ridiculous, but it is darn close.

Will Carroll: If the Colts lose, how quickly does the "everyone picked the Colts" get conflated with the New Hampshire polls?

Russell Levine: This game is entering the realm of the ridiculous. Volek to Legedu Naanee? No Rivers, no L.T.? How is San Diego in this game? And how bad might they get killed next week with everyone hurt?

Aaron Schatz: I'm enjoying this soft San Diego prevent zone with a FOUR-POINT LEAD. Yes, that will stop Peyton Manning. I mean, with only five minutes left, there's no way he can make it all the way down the field 15 yards at a time... OK, they changed to a normal defense as the Colts got closer to the goal line, and that managed to stop Peyton Manning.

Michael David Smith: More than they have in any other game since he got hurt, the Colts looked like they miss Dwight Freeney today.

Ned Macey: This is the first team they've played that is capable of throwing the ball down the field. The two are related. Garrard had some success, and that's the only other good offense they've played, but Garrard excels at the underneath stuff, so it wasn't quite so noticeable.

Doug Farrar: And as Merriman blows up Tony Ugoh on the Colts' fourth-and-goal which may be their last chance, we're reminded of the importance of a really good, veteran left tackle. I think Ugoh will be a good one over time, but that's a tough go for a whole game.

(As San Diego's offense tries to protect that slim four-point lead...)

Russell Levine: San Diego HAS to put the ball up on third down. The timeouts don't matter. You get a first down, you win.

And Mike Scifres' 66-yard punt is the play of the game!

Aaron Schatz: Yet another Colts playoff loss where Peyton Manning played well and was doomed by weird tipped passes and drops by his receivers. Despite last year's success, it is still a running theme.

Will Carroll: Both weird tips I saw were on passes Manning left high. I'd love to see some sort of "QB INT Blame" scale where a catchable pass that gets tipped or someone runs the wrong route only costs a fraction. With those, I'd give Manning 1/2, maybe 3/4 on the first one.

Ned Macey: I'd give him a 1/1000 for the second one. I'd give whoever called a screen play to Kenton "Stone Hands" Keith (who I really like as a runner) a 1/2 blame.

Stuart Fraser: A one-word summary of this game for me is "Ugh." I like to see good defensive football and haven't had any (well, there were a few patches -- great athletic play in the end zone to defense a pass aimed at Joseph Addai, by a Charger whose name I've forgotten) this weekend, but even the offenses were erratic and blotchy, and I think the only guy who legitimately had a good game was Vincent Jackson.

Aaron Schatz: I am totally in shock here. I feel like the Chargers just did to the Colts what the Patriots did to them last year. DVOA certainly won't come out quite as imbalanced, but it was like everything went wrong for the Colts for so long in this game, and then things went right, with the Chargers injuries, and even that went wrong because the Colts had their own injuries. The tipped middle screen caught by Eric Weddle at the goal line was about as improbable as last year's Troy Brown stripped interception.

I'm sorry for Ned. I know how hard it is to see your team lose a game like this after playing so well all year. The good news is that the banner from 2006 never comes down. As for Patriots fans, I think I speak for the entire population of six states when I say we are completely licking our chops at the idea of playing a Chargers team with one, two, or three of its best offensive players out.

And I'm sure that our more negative readers will start asking when we begin to give Norv Turner some credit. I dunno, I don't feel like the Chargers won this thing with coaching, but maybe I'm wrong and I'm willing to be convinced otherwise.

Mike Tanier: Before anyone asks if my opinion of Norv has changed, I will point out again that Barry Switzer won a Super Bowl and that Rich Kotite won playoff games.

Michael David Smith: Has any team ever handled an injury worse than the Colts with Marvin Harrison this year?

Will Carroll: No. Absolutely not. I'd love to know why Ed Werder, who had this right it looks like, didn't stay stronger with his reporting. Bill Polian stayed hard on the media and I'll admit that I couldn't get to the truth of the story, being suckered in my "high level team sources" on several occasions. On two of those, I was flat-out lied to. The question now is if we'll ever know the truth.

Aaron Schatz: Should he have just gone right onto IR at midseason? Was it a mistake to try to bring him back today? I'm curious for a little bit of further explanation on what went wrong.

Michael David Smith: I think he should have gone on IR from Day 1. He obviously shouldn't have played today, if he was incapable of going in even after Wayne got hurt before the last play, and if he was so rusty he couldn't even hold onto the ball when he got a relatively minor hit to the thigh.

Bill Barnwell: Remember, though, this is a team that won the Super Bowl last year thanks in part to their decision to hold off on putting Dallas Clark on IR. You can't say it's really that surprising with that factored in. On a borderline decision, Harrison was going to stay on the roster.

Will Carroll: Not comparable. With Clark, they thought they saw something and had adequate enough backups that they didn't immediately need a replacement. A second look WITHIN DAYS showed that the first diagnosis was off (and taught them never to do quick MRIs). We have to at least assume that the Colts know what's wrong with Harrison (though I'll admit there's more than a small chance they don't) and have misplayed this terribly. It's probably more of a PR problem than an actual, on-field problem.

Ned Macey: I know I should defer to Will on injuries, and MDS is generally right about things, but this strikes me as extreme MMQB. Unless they knew that Harrison had less than a 5 percent chance of returning effectively, there is no way they should have put him on IR. What does that roster spot do? Another scrub wide receiver to play next to Craphonso Thorpe and Devin Aromashodu? The Colts went 9-2 without Harrison (not counting the Titans game) while developing an offense that featured Reggie Wayne from multiple positions. They weren't just waiting for the playoffs. If Harrison was healthy, he could help. If not, they moved on without him.

I agree that playing Harrison today may have been a mistake, but I don't know how he's looked in practice, and I don't know what his knee feels like. I certainly didn't know in Week 4, more than three months ago, how he was going to be for this game.

Will Carroll: Yeah, I'm not arguing that it was the right thing to do. I'm just saying it was the wrong way to go about it.

Mike Tanier: I agree that the way they handled the Harrison injury was strange all season. The bottom line was that he was in no real condition to play at a high level today, but they threw him out there. On some of those drives, I think they would have been better off with Bryan Fletcher or Devin Aromashodu out there than Harrison.

Bill Barnwell: I think we're also assuming organizational communication that is both completely effective and truthful. I mean, you mentioned that you were lied to, Will -- isn't it also possible that the people talking to you could have been lied to in the hopes that Harrison would get healthy? Or, alternately, that the true results of the MRI just weren't disseminated throughout?

Sean McCormick: The parallels between the 1995 playoffs and 2007 playoffs are striking. Back then, the two teams that dominated the league were San Francisco and Dallas, with Green Bay playing the part of the up-and-comer. The 49ers were defending champs and were on a collision course with yet another meet-up with the Cowboys, only the Packers went into Candlestick and pulled the upset. They then went on to lose to Dallas in the championship game, but that was the last hurrah for the Cowboys, and Green Bay dominated the conference for the next two years. Now we have the Colts and Pats, both at the top of their games, both with some age in key places, and we have a young team like San Diego make their breakthrough.

It's probably going to make for a miserable AFC Championship game followed by a miserable Super Bowl, but it could be the beginning of a Chargers run.

Ned Macey: I'm the staff Colts fan, but also a fan of good football, which for the past five years have been the same thing. I fully support Simmons' grace period after a championship, so I can't be too upset. Also, as the AFC West guy for this year, I've been watching the Chargers get better and better so am not totally shocked by the result as I was after the Pittsburgh game a couple of seasons ago. And, the Colts didn't really play that badly today--their pass defense just got overmatched, and they made a few bad turnovers. In 2005, they got radically outcoached, and in 2003 and 2004, they got outplayed. Today, they played even but came up a play or two short.

The thing about the Colts is that they have had an amazing run, but that run coincides with a similar run by New England. The Patriots stopped them twice, but even more importantly, the Patriots' run makes anything but absurd playoff success look unsatisfactory. The team is 63-17 over the past five seasons and 7-4 in the playoffs. It is hard to get too upset about that.

What is frustrating about today was that this year's team certainly had the potential to be the very best Indy team ever. After 2004, the Colts could not stop the run and were considered all offense and no defense. Over the past three seasons, they've had two really good defenses, and their overall defense during that three-year period is better than New England's. Meanwhile, the offense marches on despite roster turnover, injuries, and age. The good news is that I don't think this year spends the end of the era, even in the unfortunate case where Dungy retires.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 13 Jan 2008

332 comments, Last at 17 Jan 2008, 3:01am by jas

Comments

1
by Jonathan (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 11:41pm

Good grief, I think my heart just about stopped during that game...congrats Chargers!!! ;)

I know I'll be one of the few who actually think these January Bolts can beat the Pats, but if games went down exactly like they matchup on paper, we'd be bored during the games =)

Also....not one comment in audibles about Rivers' play today? He shredded the Colts' D, finishing with impressive numbers without even playing the latter part of the fourth...

2
by Jon (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 11:46pm

Did we see the real Rivers today, or was his solid performance and abberation?

3
by Dennis (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 11:47pm

Maybe it really was Marty's fault after all.

4
by Tom (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 11:50pm

People are way off in criticizing Rivers. A lot of people thought he was the worst QB in the playoffs this season which is absolutely ridiculous (he's certainly better then Eli and Romo). And it's easy to look good when you are surrounded by a ton of talent -- see Tom Brady this season.

Also, I think you should try to put more analysis in the game, not just bitching about how the Colts lost the game. Let's face it, the Chargers are just a better team then the Colts -- talent usually wins.

5
by Boots Day (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 11:50pm

It was really a shame that the Patriots had to punt in the last minute of that game. When was the last time an offense made it through an entire game without either a punt or a turnover? Anyone know?

6
by Tom (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 11:51pm

Maybe it wasn't Marty's fault, maybe it was Wade Phillips' (0-4 in the playoffs as head coach).

Also, do you think it's just a coincidence that Owens' teams are 0-3 in the last three playoff games that he's played and 2-0 without him?

7
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 11:53pm

Thanks for getting this up so quickly. Small point - wasn't the middle screen caught by Eric Weddle, not Shawne Merriman? Or was Aaron referring to a different play?

8
by Ryan (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 11:54pm

Seems to me that the Sproles screen pass the perfect play call. I'm sure any other coach would get credit for calling it. Not Norv Turner, FO's worst coach of all time though. I think you guys have a reverse jinx effect.

9
by JR (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 11:57pm

True, the Cowboys won with Switzer, but they had already won. If Norv had been taking over the Patriots that comparison might apply, but the Chargers hadn't even won a playoff game since the early 90's. Norv is the one calling the plays, so he has a direct impact in the game, instead of just looming over things like Switzer. You can think what you want about Norv, but if you're not going to give him any credit winning with a backup running back in the second half, a backup QB in the 4th, and being on the road against the super bowl champs in a playoff game you just want to be right more than you want to actually analyze.

10
by admin :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:02am

Sorry, folks are right... It was Weddle, not Merriman, who caught the tipped screen to Keith. Off to fix...

11
by Mike (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:04am

As to those last points - if Drew Bledsoe stays healthy and Bob Kraft gives up on Belichick a few years in (big IFs, but you know what I'm trying to do) how many Super Bowls do the Colts win in the Manning Era? Three? Four?

12
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:05am

5. I don't know if anyone's done it more recently, but if I remember correctly, neither the Colts nor Chiefs punted in their 2004 playoff game. (Didn't the Colts not punt at all in those playoffs until they played the Pats?)

13
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:08am

12: Upon further review, it looks like the only TO for either team was a fumble by Holmes. Pretty impressive.

14
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:09am

Tony Fungy gets out coached and out classed by Norv Turner even with that BS penalty at the end of the first half on #32.

Manning might get blamed for 2 picks but they were tipped balls. He might get blamed for choaking at the end but his last 2 passes were dropped balls and Addai dropped a pass at the goalline in the 2nd to last possession.

Time for Tony Dungy to call it quits.

Oh, and HOW ABOUT THOSE GIANTS????

15
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:10am

Is it going to be a rematch of the 96 super bowl with the Packers/Patriots or are the Giants going to shock the world ( and the footballoutsiders) once again? 9-1 on the road this year is little manning.

16
by Crushinator (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:13am

"Vince Verhei: After sleeping on it for a night, I’ve come to the conclusion that playing defense the way Jacksonville did last night was the best possible game plan."

I just want to comment on this: Jacksonville's defensive gameplan managed to force Brady into two incomplete passes all game, 0 Pats punts, and 0 Pats turnovers. Of the two incomplete passes, they were both drops - one that hit Welker right in the hands with nobody around him, and another that was a tough but catchable ball to Watson.

If the Goal of a D is to stop an offense, and Jacksonville didn't manage to stop NE once and kinda got lucky that they even had two incompletions - is there any way Jacksonville's D could have performed any worse?

17
by nat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:14am

Wow. I am amazed at how much respect you guys are giving "The Blueprint" after it failed so completely. The only useful thing that the Jaguars' defensive plan did was to "shorten the game". In exchange, it forced the Patriots to run and throw ball control passes, and then covered them awfully. The result? Six meaningful drives, for four touchdowns, two field goals (of which one medium length one missed.)

The plan succeeded 100% in stopping Brady from throwing deep to Moss. It allowed only one "deep" (per the play-by-play) pass attempt. But big deal. Why would you want to shut down inherently risky plays in exchange for low-risk plays?

Consider this: throughout the year, the Patriots threw the occassional deep pass just to loosen up the defense. They would do this even when the coverage was good. But in this game, they got all the benefits of loosening up the defense without having to throw a single incomplete long pass.

18
by Brian (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:21am

I'd like to point out that Turner went to Martyball in the Bolts' last possession (and the Colts having all three timeouts). (1) Their first play came with 2:01 remaining. They could have thrown a pass w/o worrying about an incomplete pass stopping the clock. Against an 11 man front, they ran. (The Colts didn't seem to factor in the 2 minute warning, either.) Next step - 2 minute warning. (2) Second and long. 11 man front. Another run, Colt timeout. (3) Third and long. 11 man front. Another run, Colt timeout. (4) Punt (and a great one). Colts get ball with more than 1:30 left (and one timeout), but a couple of tough drops by Wayne and Clark make Martyball a winner.

Marty must be wondering why it never worked for him.

19
by For Realz (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:23am

Hate to break it to you guys, but the Jags didn't run anything close to the Blueprint. There's a big difference between running a nickel with 2 deep and man coverage on Moss (which is not that shocking an idea) and doing the same but with a 3-2-6 personnel package. The extra lineman makes kind of a huge difference, especially against the run.

20
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:23am

I still wouldn't call Indy's defense anygood. Letting Billey Volek and a 5'5 Darren Sproles shred you like swiss cheese isn't anything to be proud of. Maybe Dan Snyder will be dumb enough to hire Ron Meeks as his head coach and throw Greg Williams to the curb.

If Dungy quits/is fired, that would be a gem of a coaching job for somebody else. I think Dick Vermiel would be a cool coach for the Colts.

21
by Digit (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:26am

re: Brian Williams on Moss

I think part of the reason for that is that as ex-teammates, Brian Williams spent a lot of time in practice shadowing Randy Moss. He's probably the defensive back on that team most familiar with Moss's mannerisms.

22
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:28am

How could you even tell what deep coverages etc. the Jags were running. The TV cameras don't even allow you to see that.

Scribbiling up some Madden 08' plays against some phantom formations looks cool, but the Pats don't run the same formation every play, and you can't even see what the Jags were running by virtue of the telecast.

The Patriots might have the best offense ever. To beat them you would need good offense/defense/special teams and luck and right now I don't think any of the teams left in the playoffs have that ammo. You would also have to outcoach one of the best ever too. Sorry charlie, maybe next year.

23
by Mr. Beefy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:29am

Aaron Schatz: When Harrison intercepted that final pass, I started screaming at the television… “Don’t hit anyone Rodney … Don’t hit anyone … Don’t celebrate, don’t do something stupid, come on Rodney…” I mean, he’s our guy, and we root for him, but dude, you are 35 years old, grow the f*** up. Enough with the pointless late hits and then the whining to the refs. Stop being such a jerk.

Best comment ever! That's why we love Rodney! :).

24
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:29am

Cool! Been waiting for audibles... Thoughts on the Chargers upset in a bit. But I wanted to talk a little about the Pats.

* I totally agree with most of what was said above. The Jaguars defensive plan, which will be attacked by many, was a great idea. By taking away the big play, you (1) shorten the game, and (2) force the opponent to execute perfectly over and over again to keep drives alive.

Shortening the game is critical because, as Bill Krasker has pointed out, when a team is overmatched talent wise, it is to their benefit to shorten the game, whereas the better team benefits by lengthening the game. And it's a lot easier to ask your offense to match the Pats offense seven times than it is to match them fifteen times.

* Unfortunately for the Jaguars, Brady and Co WERE executing perfectly. And the Jax offense only matched the New England offense four times, not seven.

* The game can pretty much be understood by looking at the outcome of each drive:

Half 1:

JAX NE
TD TD
Fumble TD
TD Missed FG
3-out

Half 2:
TD
FG TD
FG FG
Int Punt (after 1st down that effectively ended game).

So the difference was the early fumble, and the Patriots getting two TD's and a FG to the Jags' two FG's and Int in the second half. In other words, Aaron was right that the offense just ran out of gas trying to match New England.

* I'm convinced that the refs tore out the pages of the rulebook describing offensive holding. Don't know when it started, but the Pats O-line was getting away with mugging, no, murdering, the Jags defenders. Then, to make up for it, the Jags were holding like crazy in the fourth quarter. Probably holding was going on all game on both sides. And yet they still call it on special teams and on INT returns... Why even HAVE a rule if you're not going to enforce it?

* Just to clarify...I'm not complaining about the refs, but could someone please define for me what constitutes a "chop block"? I was under the impression that it's when you block someone by diving at their knees, but you see that ALL the time when an offensive line, or especially a RB in pass protection, tries to stop a blitzer, so I had the idea that there must be some rule that it only is called outside the pocket... But apparently I was wrong. On the replay I couldn't see anything that Neal did that looked dirty, but the annouoncer opined that he thought the refs got the number wrong, and the penalty should actually have been on Mankins, who I couldn't see very clearly. What exactly is a chop block?

25
by Aaron (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:30am

RE #4:

Philip Rivers IS horrible. If San Diego had a decent QB, the Chiefs wouldn't have beaten you once this year. So Brady's surrounded by a ton of talent and Rivers isn't huh? What do you call LT, Gates, and Chambers. Chambers wasted the best years of his life in Miami. They haven't been good on offense since before Marino left. Then you go on to say that "talent usually wins" in reference to SD vs Ind implying SD is more talented. I might be willing to say that SD was less injured, seeing as how Volek is twice the QB Rivers is, and Turner and Sproles are only slight downgrades from LT.

26
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:35am

Your 2008 NFL Champions. The New England Patriots.

Best offense ever
Best QB ever
Best WR season ever
most efficient
most points
one of the best coaches

and a "clutch", fan favorite team that is unified and tries hard every play with lots of role players that play as a team without thugs that outplay and outclass everyone.

So do we get a 1996 SB rematch or do the Giants get a shot at the title again with a chance to try and go 11-1 on the road. You know, the Giants that hate their coach, are screwed without Tiki Barber and that are going to draft Jake Long #1?

I hope people will start changing their tune on this Giants team. If they weren't playing in horrible conditions, with injured receviers that were dropping everything, that little Manning might have better stats too.

27
by J (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:36am

Aaron Schatz: Yet another Colts playoff loss where Peyton Manning played well and was doomed by weird tipped passes and drops by his receivers. Despite last year’s success, it is still a running theme.

Yet another? I wasn't aware this had happened before. Seriously... I'm not trying to be snide here, I'm honestly curious as to in which of the Colts' prior post-season losses Manning played well.

28
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:37am

I thought the refs favored the Colts too with that BS penalty on the cromartie interception/TD, the 1st interception where the colt defender clearly didn't have possession.

How about the overrated midget bob sanders taunting the kicker. Real classy.

29
by Rushabh Mishra (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:40am

Re 21:

You gotta be kidding. Volek is twice the QB that Rivers is? I do agree with you that LT is one man combination of Sproles, Turner, and Naneee.

30
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:40am

Peyton played a real good game with over 400 yards that will be haunted by...

2 tipped passes that were intercepted.
2 dropped balls on his last 2 throws
another dropped ball at the goalline on his 2nd to last possession

and then of course the overrated defense by Fungy and his butt buddy Ron Meeks. Nobody will blame Meeks or Fungy for losing to Billy Volek because our last memory is of Manning frustrated by those final 2 dropped passes, and the play where Merriman blew by Ugoh and attacked Manning.

31
by Otis Taylor 89 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:41am

What is the feeling on SD making a cross country trip to play NE after a tough game this weekend? Is there any data on a coast team playing a third playoff game on the opposite coast against a team that has had a bye? I can't believe it would be easy.

32
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:45am

San Diego was on of the last teams to beat the Patriots in New England. Marty laid the smack down.

33
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:47am

Do you remember the quotes Marty was saying after the Chargers whooped the Pats? He said something to the effect that they aren't above everyone else and that injuries catch up with everyone at some point and blab blah blah. People were pissed at Marty but he whooped the Pats.

That 14-2 SD team from last year will try and reverse roles and play spoiler.

34
by Mr. Beefy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:48am

Great to see the Manning face yet again. His brother will join him. Packers-Patriots Super Bowl! Favre vs. 18-0. Awesome!!!

35
by Marko (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:57am

If Favre and the Packers play Brady and the 18-0 Patriots in the Super Bowl, the hype meter will go to 11 and cause a severe disruption of the time-space continuum.

36
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:57am

My thoughts from this weekend:

ISsues dwith DVOA:

1> Garrard.(this is from last weekend too) He looked great.... until the option of the run went away, and then he looked BAD. Garrard has played extremely well BECAUSE teams fear Jacksonville's running attack. DVOA thinks hes much better than he is. Hes good, but hes not great.

2> Both upsets, it looked like the winning team was trying to give the game away. NYG running the ball into the line with 4ish minutes left on their own 10 yard line, when they're playing street free agent CBs? You need a first down there. Manning being stopped on the goal line? Twice? Really bad management at the end by both winnners, and yet they win.

3> Asante Samuel isn't nearly as good as people think he is. He's good in coverage...when he decides to cover someone, but almost every single "broken play" deep is him trying to jump a route, and getting burned. He'd be much better if he freelanced less.

4> Tom Couglin needs to pull his head out of his ass: Eli is a much better QB when the offense is simplified. They should run hurry-up more often.

5> The Prevent defense absolutely does not work anymore.

37
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:57am

Ye gods. The opening NE/SD line is 14.5. Of course, if it becomes clear that LdT and Rivers will be able to play, I imagine that'll come down a ways.

38
by brandon (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:59am

does anyone know when the game charts for the cornerback metrics will be complete for all the games and posted?

39
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:00am

Anyone else think that two favorites got knocked off today because they brought back aging wide recievers who clearly weren't ready to play?

(Glenn and Harrison)

40
by John Q (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:01am

Have we had a Will Allen sighting yet? Please, please try to spin this into yet another tired "Well, Barry Switzer won a Superbowl" argument. Oh, Mike Tanier already did that.

41
by Obeast (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:05am

Regarding Brian Willams and Moss -- is it obvious that Moss was limited to one catch by great coverage?

Even if Williams stuck with him the whole game, Brady's never been hesitant to throw it up for Moss when he's in coverage, especially if he's covered by a shorter defensive back. As far as I can recall, Brady's only throw to Moss was that one completion on 4th down.

Watching the game, I had assumed that Jacksonville had relentlessly doubled Moss and deliberately surrendered short passes, for the reasons discussed above -- hence brady's ridiculous completion percentage, and lowish yards/catch -- and that the Patriots just accepted those terms and kept sending Moss deep to open up the field.

But really, because you can't see any of the receivers after they release in the network camera angles, I have no clue what was going on. Did anyone see anything useful on the issue?

42
by Myran (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:09am

Chop block is blocking somebody below the knees when that player is already engaged by a blocker.

Mankins was finishing a different block low and lunged at the player that Neal was already blocking. He made contact low and it was a good call. I didn't see it until the replay, but it was there.

43
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:16am

They certainly made a rough go of it at first, but as usual, NE made the plays that they had to to pull away in the end. This game felt extremely similar to the NE/TN playoff game of 2003. In both games, NE was a pretty big favorite and they had their chances to take control early. In both games the oppenent was coming off a mediocre preformance in a road game against a lesser opponent. In both games a quality OL gave NE troubles with rushing the passer to the point that they started blitzing frequently at the end of the game. In both games the team came in more known for running the ball but kept up with NE due to a surprisingly successful passing attack. Frankly, I even see quite a few similarities between McNair and Garrard.

The biggest difference between that game and this one is the fact that NE has a much, much better offense (to offset the lesser defenst) so they were able to put the game away a little earlier.

Here is a not-so-quick smattering of my thoughts on this game.

* Maroney has clearly become a major weapon of late, which validates the few of us that believed in him for the entire season. Frankly, other than being given a few more chances now that he is more comfortable in the pasing game, I really don't see all that much difference between the Maroney out there now and the one there all season. Earlier in the year, NE was being predictible with their playcalling in Maroney packages, which they realized. Because of this, they asked him to avoid breaking an inside run to the outside, which is the primary reason that he was "dancing" and "tentative". He had to wait for the play to develop where it should be even if it didn't look promising. Most of his yardage from this game wouldn't have happened earlier in the year, through no fault of Laurence.

Now that Maroney is a bigger part of the passing game, and he has learned the right body lean, NE is giving him more freedom to trust his instincts. That, along with more carries, is why Maroney looks as good as he has lately. Maroney has clearly improved, but it was NE's coaching that led to much of the complaints about his play.

That said, I do have one bone to pick with my boy. Laurence still needs to react to downfield blocks a little better. Twice I saw him just run up into the back of Kyle Brady when, had he slid a foot or two to either side, he would have run for at least another 5 yards. Another time he broke a run to the outside when it looked like the WR had the defender blocked away form the middle.

* I am really hoping that NE will use one of their 3rd rounders this year to draft Meriweather a new pair of hands. Does this guy just drop everything that he comes in contact with?

* I thought, for the most part that the officating was very good. There were several uncalled holds on Jax in the second half (with quite a few coming when Seymour would have likely gotten to Garrard), but those were offset by the 3-4 holds that I saw NE's WRs get away with. I also don't recall a single hold called on NE's OL so it seems as if that was just the way that they called it.

However, I thought the refs did a lousy job wit the personal fouls. Rodney clearly hit a guy too late. That was fine. But Seau didn't touch the facemask on his penalty. Samuel made a perfectly legal strip attempt while still in bounds when he was called. And the chop block was completely incorrect. Mankins wasn't going low on an engaged defender. He was solo blocking a guy and then he fell down. As he was falling, another OL (sorry, I forget who) slid over to pick Mankins man up. That was 45 yards of completely crap calls, one of which was a big part of Jax's first TD and another was the only reason that Jax stopped NE from going up 21-14 at the half.

I will grant you that the RTP on Jax was a little ticky-tack, but then you have to admit that Welker was tackeled by his face mask twice with no flag thrown. Rodney did get away with another late hit OOBs that I thought he was lucky not to be flagged for.

* I am forever befuddled as to why teams act like beating a team where they are weak is a sign of lesser performance. Nelson's garbage about NE winning with a bunch of dump-offs is reminiscent of Ray Lewis yacking about how Pitt went after their young guys in the secondary rather than run on 'em. Hey guys, why in hell should someone try to put their head through the wall when the door is open? And Reggie, if you think Brady's performance is slighted due to not challenging the secondary deep, how do you feel about your offense? Didn't they pass on a defense that was set up to stop the run? Doesn't that devalue YOUR QB's performance?

* I get that NE held Jax to their lowest point total for quite some time. I get that they held Jax to a nice little rushing yardage total. I get that NE held Jax to 6 points over the final 30 minutes to help NE pull away.

That said, I just never felt confident with their defense. Sure, they were selling out to stop the run, but they were passed on far too easily for my taste. In an odd twist of fate, it was NE's offense that was willing to slow the tempo down and limit possessions while milking the clock. It was this offensive clokc killing that was really the best defense, IMHO. Despite Jax ending with mediocre rushing numbers, it seemed to me that they ran or passed whenever they felt like it. They just chose to pass because they were so successful at it.

When a team forces on punt all game and allows drives of 80, 101, 48 and 86 yards on their first 5 meaningful possessions, I can't see how anyone could call that a success. The drive that started after MJD completely flumaxed the KO really irritated me. NE had just made a big play on Jax's prior drive and made it count on offense. Had they just forced a punt on that drive - any time during it, not just a punt from inside the 10 - they would likely have gone up 21-7 and effectively put the game away. Of course, credit needs to go to Jax for the drive as much as NE deserves blame, but NE had the chance to put Jax's face in the dirt and no one stepped up.

* Further on this, I said before the game that NE would rise back up to their early season level of play. Offensively, they did just that. Obviously I can't say the same thing about the other side of the ball. IMO, one of two things are at work here:

1) NE is who they appear to be. A team that can be taken advantage of defensively that - so far - makes just enough plays to give the O the chance to put it away at the end.

2) NE played a rather bland defensive game and still have some things left in their bag of tricks for the teams that they are truly worried about.

Normally, since this was a playoff game after all, I would side with number 1. Bags of tricks don't do you much good if you are sitting at home after being knocked out. However, for some reason the little smirk on BB's face at the end of the game gives me hope that the answer is closer to #2. He just seems a little too satisfied with this win compared to how he looked earlier in the year. No matter how vanilla a scheme is, allowing two long TD drives out of three real possessions in a half is pretty lousy defense, yet BB didn't seem faxzed by this at the end. Yes, yes, I know. Going down the "body language" road is not the best path to wisdom. But I can't express how much relief I felt when I saw just how content BB was with this win.

* Just a little more evidence of this confidence was Chad Jackson returning KOs until the end. By my count, I only saw one return go beyond the 20 - and that one went to the 23! If BB was truly ever worried about this game, I can't believe that CJ would have been in there. I would bet dollars to donuts that Chad doesn't see the light of day next weekend.

I thnk that is it. I'm sure that I'm forgetting something but I doubt that anyone is even still reading at this point.

Edit: Pass rush. Get one. It drives me completely bonkers watching QBs sit in the pocket unmolested.

Guys get there sometimes but it always seems to be too little too late. Jax did a nice job on Vrabel, who was a near non-factor. I thought Seymour played a very good second half, but it seemed to me that he was consistently grabbed just as he was going to get in Garrard's face.

44
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:17am

Re: #30

FWIW, in Moss's post-game press conference, he said he was being doubled all night.

45
by Bledderag (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:20am

To those that are criticizing the fact that the Blueprint didn't work, consider that it is designed to limit deep plays, and force a mistake or two. New England simply failed to make those mistakes. If they replayed that game over again, it is not very likely that Brady nails as many passes as he did. QB's don't always nail a perfect pass. And wide receivers don't catch the ball nearly as often as they did even when the passes are on target. Even if you consider a drop to 75% completions, a few of those touchdowns likely turn into field goals, and you are looking at a closer game, where Jax can stick with the running game longer. Even with a great offense like the Patriots have, it is unlikely that they are that in sync for every play of an entire game again.

Re : 16

I was also thinking that the Bolts should risk the pass, especially against those fronts, but they weren't 11 man fronts. The Bolts had a receiver split left, and the Colts had a man on him. I believe that the 1st down play was a 9 man front, but I counted, and the Colts did put 10 men into the box on those 2nd and 3rd down plays.

46
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:20am

Re: #32

The ref get got the PF call right, but called it on the wrong player.

You are correct -- Samuel did nothing wrong. However, after he falls away from the receiver after the strip attempt, Harrison comes rocketing in and drills the receiver in the back at least three feet OOB. The refs saw that and (properly!) threw a flag on it, but screwed up by saying Samuel did it.

47
by Seth F. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:31am

Everything went wrong for the Colts? Really? The "hold" on Weddle. The PI on Hart. THe PI flag on the Colts that magically got picked up. The injuries to LT and Rivers. Yeah, nothing went wrong for the Chargers and the League in its zeal to get its coveted AFC championship matchup didn't try and rig this thing. Sure.

A little credit to the Chargers and, yes, to Norv is due.

48
by Scott (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:31am

Re: #22

That would be his first playoff game, against the 99 Titans. Other than that, I don't know which ones he would be referring to. The only other one that could be argued for is the 04 NE game (the 20-3 game). Manning didn't really play "well", but he definitely didn't screw things up. That was just a piss poor gameplan by Tom Moore and the team's execution was brutal all day.

Manning's had two real stinkers in the playoffs (02 vs. the Jets, 03 AFC-C in NE), but today he was actually better than some of his wins from the SB run.

49
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:32am

16: It's not quite "MartyBall." The circumstances did involve the back up quarterback being in the game. I know he made a couple plays earlier, but I don't think it was excessively conservative not to have the back up QB put the ball in the air there.

50
by Scott (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:33am

Forget the "hold" on Weddle, there were holds and blocks in the back all over the field on that return. Refs finally had the balls to call one of them on a play like that.

51
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:35am

"everything went wrong for the Colts for so long in this game" - Schatz

That reads like some kind of joke. The officiating in this game consistently helped them. If not for a few huge questionable penalties, the Chargers win by better than ten points. Being outplayed is not things going wrong.

52
by MTR (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:35am

I don't get the love for the Jacksonville defensive game plan. Yes, an unpressured Brady can complete a 7 yard pass to an open wide receiver. He only needs to make two out of three to keep the chains moving. Shortening the game did more to make the final score look respectable than actually give Jacksonville a shot at winning.

53
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:35am

39: Colt fan are we?

54
by Michael Walsh (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:36am

Ned Macey: The thing about the Colts is that they have had an amazing run, but that run coincides with a similar run by New England. The Patriots stopped them twice, but even more importantly, the Patriots’ run makes anything but absurd playoff success look unsatisfactory. The team is 63-17 over the past five seasons and 7-4 in the playoffs. It is hard to get too upset about that.

This Colts-Patriots rivalry reminds me in so many ways of the Niners-Cowboys one in the early '90s. As a Niners sympathizer in those days, I understand the frustration of the Colts fans at the unfairness of being great but somehow second best.

55
by starzero (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:36am

can anyone explain the officiating in the colts game? how bad does it have to be before someone teaches the refs the rules? any idiot with an arm can throw a yellow flag, and apparently some can even pick it up and take it back, but that game was miserable. i'm surprised rivers didn't get called for roughing the passer on himself. let these guys play, it's not like they're hasselbeck's state farm line.

56
by rms (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:37am

I thought that there were 2 things that Del Rio should have done differently in the game last night. First, use some timeouts during NE's missed field goal drive in the first half so as to give Jacksonville some more time for a drive. It turned out not to matter, but Jax needs to have an extra possession and points to keep control of the game, especially the way both offenses were beating the defenses.

Second, I thought that Del Rio absolutely had to on-side kcik after the last Jacksonville field goal. Trading scores while behind just won't cut it.

57
by MTR (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:39am

The way the games were officiated (and it was all four, so I don't think it was an accident) pass offenses can only be stopped by the offense making a mistake, not by the defense making a good play. I hate it.

58
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:39am

". And wide receivers don’t catch the ball nearly as often as they did even when the passes are on target. Even if you consider a drop to 75% completions, a few of those touchdowns likely turn into field goals, and you are looking at a closer game, where Jax can stick with the running game longer. Even with a great offense like the Patriots have, it is unlikely that they are that in sync for every play of an entire game again.
"

The Patriots had a 75% completion percentage through 12 or so games throwing a TON of deep stuff. Expecting them to go below 80 or so when you're leaving guys WIDE OPEN underneath is ridiculous. Welker caught 77% of the balls where he was the target, and thats when people were actually trying to cover him (and counts balls that were thrown away)

This is an offense with the highest DVOA in history. This is a quarterback who has made a living running a dink and dunk offense. Expecting them to make mistakes when you give them an easy 7-8 yards on every play is ludicrous.

The only thing the "blueprint" does is assure is that when you lose, you'll hit the under.

Honestly, giving up a long TD is no worse than giving up a TD on a 12 play 8:00 drive. If you want to win, you have to STOP the other team sometimes. Leaving the Patriots short passing and running games wide open is not a good way to do that.

If you want to beat the Patriots, you have to do what Philly did: Get in Brady's face.

59
by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:40am

On the Martyball by Norv at the end of the game, don't forget that they got the ball at their own 5-yard line or so. I don't know that I'd be trusting Billy Volek to not throw a pick or get sacked for a loss there. And it wasn't 3rd and long - Turner picked up several yards on 2nd down, I believe it was 3rd and 4.

I do wonder why Indy didn't try for the punt block there. With that much time and their offense, I wouldn't be too upset with no return.

As for closing out the RCA Dome - where are they doing the combine this year? Is the field in the new stadium going to be ready to use at that point?

60
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:48am

Re: #47

Agreed. The one thing you couldn't have happen there was an INT or a fumble. Martyball there with Volek was the right thing to do (and not just because they won). With Rivers, different story. And I believe it was 3rd-and-3.

61
by vikinghooper (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:51am

Nothing about EVERY call going against the Chargers? I know I beat a horse with bruises, but this is an intellectual website, and we now need an official DVOA of when offensive holding negates a play by the " less desirable " team, and when phantom defensive holding penalties extend drives for the " more desirable " team.

I am a fan of football and am outraged at how the Colts, even in two LOSSES to the Steelers two years ago, and today against the Chargers, got EVERY key and controversial call save the Diem penalty. It is just sad that people in the media also attack people who say the calls are subtly fixed.

The empiric evidence is in; look at SB XL, every Favre game in Green Bay ( I know I'm a Viking fan, but the 1998 NFFCG was fixed for the Vikes and they choked it away), these two Colts divisional lossed ( the Colts should be ashamed at all the calls they got), and innumerable others.

I'm not saying the games are fixed, because the Chargers did overcome the atrocious calls, but somebody wanted the Colts to win. It is sad. Where is liberty, justice, and may the best man win?

It happened in the NBA, Italian soccer, and even though I love the NFl, it is really time to clean up the BS calls. ASAP

62
by Aaron (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:07am

RE #23

Well, maybe I exagerate a little. I think it would be easier to say that Volek can replace Rivers with no loss. I think Volek is better though. Here is Volek's lone stat line from a season he played in 10 games and started 8 (2004). It is the only time he has started more than 1 game in a season.

Cmp Att Pct Yds TD INT Rating
218 357 61.1 2,486 18 10 87.1

In Rivers 2 seasons he has thrown 21 and 22 TD's. Volek had 18 in only 10 games, 8 started, and I don't think Tennessee had Gates, Chambers, and LT to make Volek look good there. Rivers had a rating of 92 last year and 82.4 this year. That 87.1 rating seems to be right in the middle of that. Let me put it to you this way, if SD had Derek Anderson, I think they would be a better team. Also, I might like Rivers more if he shut his mouth and played the game. All he does is talk, but he wouldn't have any game if it weren't for his stars.

63
by Ryan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:09am

50.

You sound like a bitter Colts fan. Please keep posting.

64
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:09am

50: Couldn't disagree more. I honestly think we'd be more able to cope with missing LT next week than Rivers.

65
by cd6! (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:11am

Bill Barnwell: What a block by Dan Koppen on that first-drive 33-yard screen to Maroney. That’s the difference between them (likely) scoring on this drive or having to punt. Most underrated center in football.
Dan Koppen, underrated? You mean the Dan Koppen who's going to the pro bowl, right?

Aaron Schatz: When Harrison intercepted that final pass, I started screaming at the television… “Don’t hit anyone Rodney … Don’t hit anyone … Don’t celebrate, don’t do something stupid, come on Rodney…” I mean, he’s our guy, and we root for him, but dude, you are 35 years old, grow the f*** up. Enough with the pointless late hits and then the whining to the refs. Stop being such a jerk.
Couldn't say it any better.

Aaron Schatz: Bill and I both mentioned some unflagged holding — I couldn’t remember any holding calls at all until the late interception return, so I went and checked, and yes, they definitely had a “let them play” attitude. The only holding calls all game came on special teams or the interception return. None on actual offensive plays.

That's not "let them play" it's "let the o line cheat" and as one of many fans of defensive games, it gets on my nerves.

Finally, seriously guys, the "game plan" was horrible. By no measure did Jacksonville's defense have a good game.

And last but not least, I went skiing today and didn't see either game. I feel like I made a good choice.

66
by hwc (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:29am

Just to clarify…I’m not complaining about the refs, but could someone please define for me what constitutes a “chop block”?

A chop block is when two offensive players engage one defensive player at the same time, one low and one high.

Normally, it occurs when a blocker has engaged the defender high and a second offensive player blocks him low.

The chop block in the Pats game was unusual. One offensive player was blocking low (a legal cut block). S. Neal had nobody to block, turned to look for somebody, and blocked the guy high. I don't think he ever saw that the defender was already being cut. That's why the flag was called on Neal in this case -- the guy blocking high.

It was a good call by the officials on what was probably an inadvertant chop block.

67
by hwc (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:36am

But really, because you can’t see any of the receivers after they release in the network camera angles, I have no clue what was going on. Did anyone see anything useful on the issue?

Moss said after the game that they doubled him the entire game with Brian Williams (who practiced against Moss for years) doing everything he could do to prevent any inside release AND a safety over the top. This meant that the only routes available to Moss (after his one catch over the middle) were sideline routes into double coverage. This left favorable matchups all over the field, so there was simply no reason for "Tommy" to force the ball to Moss.

It was just a case of the Patriots taking what the defense gave them.

68
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:38am

#50

That Titans team was a different breed. It also made people think Drew Bennett was an actually #1 WR as well. They pretty much ran a run and shoot offense because they knew they had no chance with the defense they were running and had no running game. A team kicking onside kicks in the 1st half against the Colts....in a year (2004) that saw a whole lot of QBs put up their best numbers ever (see Peyton Manning, Daunte Culpepper, Jake Plummer, etc.)

But yes Volek is an untapped talent that the Titans traded away so Kerry Collins can be the main back-up to Vince Young.

69
by Ben B. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:43am

Regarding Norv, there were many reasons to continue to criticize him in this game. Several delay of game penalties, two lost challenges, 10 and 12 men in the Charger huddle, a Colt quicksnap catching the defense offguard, out of timeouts early in the game. These all seem like discipline mistakes that the head coach should be held accountable for. But it appeared Norval did a very good job calling plays, based on the Chargers' success. Hmm, maybe he should be an offensive coordinator and have someone else as head coach.

I'm also not seeing how everything went wrong for the Colts. Sure, they had two interceptions off deflected passes, but they were the ones who didn't catch the ball before the deflections. They also had some run of the mill bad fumble luck. It seemed to this Charger fan that the Colts got more breaks than the Chargers, even before Rivers left the game.

70
by hwc (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:48am

RE# 32

Owslek:

I am becoming more and more convinced that defenses simply cannot stop a well executing offense under the current rules of the NFL (no pass defense allowed downfield, no offensive holding calls, etc.)

If a QB can hit the underneath and intermediate stuff on a good defense (that is determined to keep everything in front of the safeties), the offense will march downfield until they are stopped by a penalty, a drop, a missed FG, or some other mistake. All of the "top ranked" defenses have been gashed in the playoffs. I don't think they've all forgotten how to play defense. I just think it's the Arena Football rules of the modern game.

Good defense is no longer measured by shutting down an offense, but by making the occasional stop. The things you have to do to shut down an offense with the current rules (mostly a heavy blitz package and complementary man coverage) are just too dangerous against QBs that can either get rid of the ball to a hot read or scramble around and buy time. That equation only changes when the defense can force the offense into an all-pass, all-the-time mode.

71
by Ryan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:52am

Yeah, I also LOVE how the whole crew has failed to even talk about Chambers as of late, because he destroyed their "most overrated receiver in the history of the world" thoughts by being a lights out, huge contributor for the Chargers. Really, this site is supposed to be built on objectively looking at things, but it appears they are blindly following their previous conceptions of both Chambers and Norv, and even Rivers, as they either ignore or continue to slight solid efforts by all three. Seriously, talk about Norv's fantastic play calling all game against the Colts, including some fantastic screen calls and the manufacturing of a almost 80 yard drive in which Billy Volek, Legedu Naanee, and Michael Turner made the key plays. Chris Chambers has come up big time and again in this late season stretch and yet this site never mentions that at the very least, he is bucking the previous trends which their numbers supported. Finally, mention please, that Philip Rivers has played better than everyone but Favre and Brady, in this year's playoffs. He carried the Chargers to two victories, and really has played OUTSTANDING football the past two weeks, with LT and Gates as non-factors. Please, just give credit where it is due, and don't be so blind in following or backing up your previous conceptions. Norv, Chambers, and Rivers are three of the very very main reasons the Chargers are playing in the AFC championship next sunday, and they deserve credit, not to be slighted, criticized, or ignored completely by you guys.

72
by Ryan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:57am

Re:70, I really agree with you. It's interesting, but really, the Patriots absolute domination of the Indy receivers, and Marvin Harrison in particular, is what changed the rules a few years back. I was talking to a friend about that today as Marvin fumbled and then got absolutely punked by Quentin Jammer on a simple jam at the line, followed by Marvin raising his hands like he deserved a penalty. I really hate that defensive players aren't even allowed to make a play on balls it seems, and it's as if they refs call it as the offense having the only right to the ball. It's a disturbing trend, which I actually give credit to NE for I think capitalizing on this change in going to their extremely pass heavy, spread offense. I really agree that it's becoming almost impossible with the given rules to stop a good short, passing game.

73
by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:02am

#53

"the “game plan” was horrible...but...I went skiing today and didn’t see either game."

Is this an audition for Audibles at the Line?

74
by brandon (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:04am

can someone please let me know real quick when the cornerback metrics are completed and have all the games updated? when can that be expected to be finished?

75
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:06am

Re #68
Billy Volek in 2004 was sacked on something like 25% of all dropbacks. That's akin to the rate Rob Johnson put up in Buffalo. He's a friggin' statute who'll just stand there in the pocket until the defense takes him down. He also was dinged in TEN for reportedly indifferent practice habits.

76
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:09am

Re #74
When all the charting gets done, which is when all the game charters and/or FO people get it done. All charting data will be available in the book. The focus right now is on getting games involving the teams left in the playoffs done. If you want games done faster, give FO money to pay the charters-I'd do my charting faster if I got $10 per half.

77
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:12am

What the hell was going on at the end of the Colts last drive into the red zone? 3 straight plays with trips to the left (extremely odd for them in and of itself) and Peyton never even really looked to pass in that direction? I know there was pressure on that side, probably because they had 3 freaking receivers over there. Am I the only one who thought the approach there on 3 straight unsuccessful plays was pretty insane?

78
by hwc (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:16am

RE #72

Ryan:

The real strategy changing component of the new Arena Football rules is the extreme penalty (forty...fifty yards sometimes) for ticky tack pass interference contact downfield. I mean...it's hard enough to cover these receivers, but if you are going to give up that kind of extreme penalty for brushing up against the receiver, you simply can't allow the offense to get deep. Two deep safeties means something is going to be open underneath.

Belichick talked about the extreme nature of these pass interference penalties on his radio interview a month ago. When asked what one rule he would like to see changed, it would be to go to a fifteen yard penalty for pass interference. He said the fifty yard PI penalty is just too much of a game changer.

79
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:18am

71: Aaron mentioned during the season that Chambers looked to be much improved in SD - and, Barnwell mentioned it last week. I'm not sure what else you're looking for - especially after this game. I thought Jackson made a number of absolutely critical catches and rightly deserved the credit here.

I agree with 69 (heh) in that I thought that the Chargers shot themselves in the foot on a number of occasions that made them look unprepared (and, to their credit, got out of those situations). I thought the Chargers' playcalling actually improved once LdT left the game - it seemed that they were mixing it up on first down a little more.

Interestingly, for the second game in a row, the Chargers were 2 for 2 in fumble recoveries. Hopefully that trend will reverse itself next week...:)

80
by hwc (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:19am

RE #77

I wasn't paying attention to the formation, but I thought Peyton got impatient and greedy on that drive. He had plenty of time. I couldn't figure out why he kept heaving it to the end zone.

81
by Ryan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:27am

re: 78
I agree, the problem is twofold, in that PI is now called so loosely and in such a ticky tack fashion, and then in the long enforcement. Ridiculous.

re: 79
I read Barnwell's comment about Chambers last week, but it wasn't a glaring endorsement and I missed any comment by Aaron, but I'd love to read it if you could point me in that direction. Also, seriously, what about the Norv bashing STILL? The delays were seemingly on the center or Rivers, but Rivers made adjustments at the line and the center didn't snap it in time. On the 12 men on the field, that's one tiny mistake that is one of those dumb penalties where there are still 20 seconds on the play clock and the huddle hasn't even been broken and you have one guy out there who isn't supposed to be in the personell. I think Norv's playcalling and game plan more than made up for one minor 5 yard penalty. Come on, he really deserves some credit for finding ways to move the ball on a darn good Colts defense, and none at all was really given.

82
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:40am

81: Ask and ye shall receive (linked in my name). It was actually Week 17 - weird that it feels so long ago...

Most improved: Randy Moss, Patriots, of course, but also Chris Chambers, Chargers. Last year, Chambers had the second-lowest DPAR ever for a wide receiver. In Pro Football Prospectus 2007, we called him "the NFL player with the largest gap between his perceived and actual value." He always had a worse catch rate than the other Miami receivers, no matter who played quarterback, and this year was no different. Through midseason, Chambers had a catch rate of 47 percent and was playing at replacement level.

But Chambers was pretty good in his half season in San Diego. His catch rate was up to 56 percent, in line with the other San Diego wideouts. From Week 8 to Week 17, he was 25th in DPAR among wide receivers. He wasn't challenging Randy Moss and Reggie Wayne for a Pro Bowl spot, but he was far better than he was in 2006.

I'd say that's about accurate - Chambers is a solid #2, but not Pro Bowl caliber.

And re: Norv. I think he deserves credit for the playcalling (particularly in the latter part of the game), but those unforced penalties (didn't they have 12 men last week, too? Or am I thinking of Tennessee) and bad timeout/challenge management just kind of drive me crazy. Maybe it's a form of Pats-produced OCD, I don't know...

83
by Peter (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:40am

The suggestion that the Jacksonville defensive game plan is the best way to stop the Patriots is defeatist because it's based on the assumption that you can never stop the opposing offense's drives.

There have been better defensive plans earlier this year. The Ravens and Colts couldn't shut down the Patriots, strictly speaking, but they played aggressively, took chances, and at least forced some Patriot possessions to stall without a score. The Chargers have the personnel to mimic the Ravens' defensive approach, but I believe their newfound ability to move the ball and score on offense will be the difference against a New England defense that's inferior to both the Tennessee and Indianapolis squads San Diego has beaten over the past two weeks.

Am I really 'crazy' enough to pick the Chargers? Yes. They have better talent and depth than the Patriots, and are playing the best ball of any team over the past eight games.

Only two teams in the NFL legitimately beat the World Champion Colts this year: New England and San Diego. How fitting is it that they face off to determine who will represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLII.

It should be a great game!

84
by Ryan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:49am

I really think Chambers is a #1 receiver, haha. That is all I suppose. He has been a #1 for this Chargers team. Think about the fact that we have to get both LT and Gates touches, Chambers will probably never have HUGE numbers due to that fact alone.

85
by seth (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:07am

did anyone notice a complete absence of offensive holding calls on linemen over the course of the weekend? (i'm talking about calls on plays from scrimmage only). i know holding calls against interior linemen have been down this year, but wasn't this a little absurd?

86
by Dave (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:53am

I thought it was funny how the face mask penalty on SD against Dallas Clark by Merriman on the 4th down conversion actually put IND in worse spot. They got the ball right at the 10 yard line.

Call me crazy but I think thy have a better chance to score if they decline that penalty.

87
by Flux (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:24am

I'll refrain from joining the "you guys are biased" choir, but i will point out how strongly preconceptions hold sway over even "objective" sports analysts. If some other coach, more respected than Norv Turner, had taken an 8 point underdog into Indy, and won, with his best receiver hobbled and a non-factor, his star RB out in the 1st quarter, his QB in the 3rd quarter, and had a FG bounce off the upright, and had an INT returned for a TD called back on a horrible call, his (the more respected coach) praises would be sung to the stars. Instead, when Norv does it, there's bitching about some fluke quick snap 12 men on the field penalty, some slightly sub-optimal endgame play calling, etc. What, no commentary on key analytical points like oh... Norv's facial expressions when displayed, via split screen, beside the stoic Tony Dungy?

I'm not an objective observer, nor do I play one on the internet, so I'll freely admit to reveling in the Colts' defeat. I'll even bring up the karmic repercussions of Indy taking a dive in the last game of the season against Tennessee, thus letting them into the playoffs at the expense of the Browns. The fact that Tenn then lost limply to SD, and SD marched into Indy and triumphed, is almost a Hollywood-ready story. Seldom does one team's (Indy) lack of sportsmanship and value for the integrity of the game come so directly and enjoyably to fruition.

Finally, has Peyton's career-long history of failing to get it done in big games been completely forgotten? (See link.) If not for the miraculous performance of Indy's defense in the first 2 rounds last year, (KC and Balt scored 8 and 6 points, respectively, while Peyton put up a 1/5 td/int ratio) he'd still be the modern day Dan Marino, amassing gaudy regular season stats before wilting in the playoffs, and the idiots on ESPN would spend this week talking about how Eli might be the first Manning with the stones to lead a team to real postseason success.

88
by mush (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:49am

I don't think teams misrepresenting or lying about injuries is a new thing. It dates back to biblical times, right?

Jeff Fisher has already set 23 players as "questionable" for the 2008 opener, and Tom Brady isn't allowed to come off the injury report until he retires. Being a Jets skill player means you're "limited" and "muted" on the three big practice days. Those are just fun examples - it's not so much fun when something happens like the Harrison fiasco of 2007/08.

When it comes to injuries from our side of it, there are educated guesses and there are blind guesses. But we are *all* guessing, and to think otherwise, you're just kidding yourself.

89
by mush (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:58am

Let's also recall that Washington has essentially the same defensive game plan for the Pats that Jacksonville did, and the Skins only lost 52-7 (hammered by 34 first downs). Granted, Washington's scattered quarterback didn't help the cause much that day (four turnovers - one directly to a score - and three sacks).

90
by mush (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 8:10am

70. You said that so very, very well. I fully agree.

91
by langsty (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 8:31am

Playing Marvin Harrison, even if he's not super effective, makes sense when you consider what he gives the Colts in terms of dictating coverages. It's also a little astonishing how good the Chargers' corners have become - they now have three viable corners who match up well. Jammer's playing better, Cromartie's a big-time playmaker, and Florence is effective covering the slot.

92
by Otis Taylor 89 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 8:40am

SD haven't exactly played a killer schedule in their games up until IND.
Offensive DVOAs of their previous 7 opponents:
BAL -#28
KC - #29
TEN - #21
DET - #20
DEN - #9
OAK -#29
TEN - #21

93
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 9:27am

Colts fan here. Bummed, but ready to turn the page. They just weren't good enough to win it all this year.

The Colts yesterday did not play well enough to give me any confidence against NE, even if they had scored at the end to beat SD. So, in that sense, I am not upset that they lost. Saves me the pain of watching NE carve them up.

The Colts' biggest problem? No pressure on the QB.

I'll argue that given the current state of the NFL as hwc says higher, and including the dearth of offensive holding penalties on pass plays, the only way to stop a good offense is to be able to get to the quarterback, and to do it regardless of being held. Usually, that means an inside bull rush, something the Colts don't have, and very few teams do have. And, while folks can say all they want about Freeney's salary, it's awfully quiet here today about him -- no fools saying how he's overrated and that the Colts can do fine without him.

Specifically to yesterday's game: the officiating was bad. No other way around it. At least a couple of times I shook my head and thought, "We (Colt) just got bailed out by that call." My only homer-filled vision of why that was PI against the guy covering Wayne was maybe, maybe (but I doubt it) that he'd been holding Wayne regularly and not getting called, and the ref finally called something but this time when there was no actual infraction (kind of like reffing a basketball game, if any of you have done it. You warn a guy over and over about hooking the defender, or palming the ball, and eventually you call him.)

I don't think the Colts got no breaks, as lots of posters are reacting to in the authors' comments. I think what they mean is that the Colts offense put themselves in good situations, over and over, then failed mostly because of their own mistakes, not pressure by SD. For example, on the two interceptions, and on the Harrison fumble, SD did not make stellar plays to cause the balls to be tipped or fumbled (though I will say SD did a nice job of catching the tipped balls).

And finally, to continue my point about good fortune from another thread: don't think Brady lives a charmed life? Look at the QB, RB, and TE he will face this week if the injuries hold.

94
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 9:33am

By the way: The real deal on the Sanders personal foul. From the Indy Star:

Kaeding took no offense to Sanders' actions. In fact, he started the byplay after hitting an extra point after San Diego's first score. Sanders is one of the Colts' outside rushers against placement kicks.
"I grabbed him, smiling," Kaeding said. "We were all smiling."
The smiling ended when an official flagged Sanders after the miss.
"It was just a case of a referee not knowing what the real deal was," Kaeding said. "I couldn't go up to the ref and be like, 'We're just buddies' after he already threw the flag."

95
by The Original Sam (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 9:39am

36/Rich Conley:

If you think Garrard's performance dropped in the second half because the team didn't get it done then I can only conclude you had already determined Garrard wasn't any good. He was hitting receivers in stride all over the field, in their hands, and they were dropping them. That is not indicative of poor quarterback play as a result of teams "not respecting the run."

96
by Tom (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 9:51am

"Aaron Schatz: When Harrison intercepted that final pass, I started screaming at the television… “Don’t hit anyone Rodney … Don’t hit anyone … Don’t celebrate, don’t do something stupid, come on Rodney…” I mean, he’s our guy, and we root for him, but dude, you are 35 years old, grow the f*** up. Enough with the pointless late hits and then the whining to the refs. Stop being such a jerk."

-Steroid junkie
-Asshole
-Dirty player who increases the injury chance of everyone on the field
-Annoying
-acts like an immature little kid

How could anyone be a fan of Rodney Harrison? I dont care if he plays for your team or not. If he played for the redskins, I'd be booing him on every single play. I'd be yelling for him to be permamently removed from football. This is the kind of guy who ruins the integrity of the game. How can Harrison get a 4 game suspension for being an obvious and admitted steroid junkie (who probably still takes steroids regularly) while Clemens and Bonds are being charged with federal charges?

97
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 9:57am

Re: #96

Actually, he's an admitted HGH user.

As for the rest of your rant (you might really try to at least get marginally informed about the facts, you know):
1) Clemens isn't being federally charged with anything.
2) Bonds was federally charged for perjury, not for juicing.

98
by Herm? (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 10:35am

The Colts were not repaid in karma. They lost because they haven't played a real game in 4 weeks. Compare that to the Giants and where they are right now.

99
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 10:40am

Northcutt's drop at the goal line reminded this Cleveland fan of his drop of his drop in the 2002 playoffs that would have sealed the game against the Steelers. Ouch.

Garrard did a lot in this game to convince me he's more than just an average QB with a great running game. Those first two TD passes (and the pass that Northcutt dropped) were just perfect.

100
by Not a Rodney Harrison fan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 10:47am

Re: 96/97

Let me just add that youth is overated. After all, you can buy it in pill form if you have the right conections.

101
by BDC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 10:53am

71: "Aaron mentioned during the season that Chambers looked to be much improved in SD - and, Barnwell mentioned it last week. I’m not sure what else you’re looking for - especially after this game. I thought Jackson made a number of absolutely critical catches and rightly deserved the credit here."

I think the contention there would be that basically, conventional wisdom has been that Chambers is a good receiver, but has suffered from playing on a bad offense with bad QBs, etc. FO has repeatidly countered that no, Chambers does in fact suck, it has nothing to do with the QBs, the offense, etc. and that is on the record as calling him the most overraited player in the game (or at least, receiver), as well as the worst receiver in the league in I believe it was 2006. Now of course he goes to a better offense and is doing better, which one would think confirms the conventional belief that the team he was on was holding him back. Now, when FO states that he has improved after going to the Chargers, I think what a detractor hears is something like "well, really we were right all along, Chambers did suck, and it is just random coincidence that he got better when he went to a better team", as opposed to "okay, we were wrong, he didn't really suck, and people were right that he was held back by his offense".

Please note that I am not asserting I nesseccarily agree with that, but I think that is the line of thinking some people might get on the subject.

102
by cd6! (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 10:58am

Karma doesn't mean anything this year, or Belichick would have been run over by his team's bus.

Dan Riley #74

The "game plan" referred to Jax vs the Pats.

I didn't see either game today, meaning yesterday, meaning NYG-DAL or IND-SD, which is why I didn't comment on Colts-Chargers.

103
by BDC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 11:02am

98:

"The Colts were not repaid in karma. They lost because they haven’t played a real game in 4 weeks. Compare that to the Giants and where they are right now."

Isn't this really just something that people say to reconcile preconceived notions after the fact? But to answer your question where are the Giants, well they are playing the Packers, who haven't played a meaningful game in, what, how long?

This actually made me laugh last week. One the one hand, I had announcers telling me that the Giants were beating Tampa because they were on some sort of emotional high from having had to play so many tough games recently. Meanwhile, I have announcers telling me in the Washington game that Washington is getting its ass kicked because, well, they are worn out from having had to play so many tough games recently.

104
by Bill Moore (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 11:06am

Purds,

You have a link for that? Kaeding was certainly not smiling. He didn't look particularly upset about the taunt, but smiling after missing a FG wouldn't be in his best interest.

105
by Herm? (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 11:11am

Wouldn't you have to interpret something from our hosts like "Chambers is overrated" or "Chambers sucks" as opinion, rather than believing it as statistically proven. I thought one of the disclaimers here is that DVOA or DPAR can't distinguish how good a QB and his receivers are.
How good could Chambers' DPAR possibly be with Cleo Lemon and his Predecessors throwing to him?
I interpret overrated as "some knucklehead in my fantasy league has drafted him early the past 3 years, and cut him 4 weeks later"

106
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 11:15am

Stop me if you've seen this before:

10 penalties against a Colts' opponent inside the RCA Dome.

Colts getting the benefit of just about every "questionable" call.

Seems par for the course.

107
by lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 11:16am

Bill,
link in my name.

108
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 11:19am

"

Regarding Norv, there were many reasons to continue to criticize him in this game. Several delay of game penalties, two lost challenges, 10 and 12 men in the Charger huddle, a Colt quicksnap catching the defense offguard, out of timeouts early in the game. These all seem like discipline mistakes that the head coach should be held accountable for.
"

Yes, but those are all EXACTLY the same sorts of things that happen to Marty in the playoffs, so its not really a valid criticizm.

109
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 11:20am

The disccussion on Chambers, reinforces to me the idea that the Colts really missed the boat when Harrison got hurt. The Chargers definitely improved themselves with the trade for Chambers. In hindsight, the Colts would have been wise to do something similar when Harrison got hurt.

I'm not saying that they screwed-up (I have no idea what the medical people were telling them), just that if they had gotten some insurance there it might have really helped them.

110
by bowman (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 11:25am

Re: Harrison

Any chance 2 late hits and an uncalled late hit results in a fine? Suspension? When does his antics actually start hurting his team? Shouldn't he have dropped the interception (Ask SD fans last year).

Jax-NE officiating: I agree with the statements that it was a well-called game.

Jax Defense: Normally, you expect a QB to make a couple of mistakes, or the RB to fumble, which NE just didn't do. The 50+ yard pass to Stallworth and the 15 yard pass to Moss were the 2 plays that really made a difference in the game (with the other play the Jax fumble in the first half). Watching Jax all year, this really was the best they could have done.

Finally, to all those teams without a QB, Garrard was available last spring for a 2nd rounder...

111
by Dean (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 11:43am

Bill, I'm 24 and I love taunting penalties. Bottom line: My momma raised me better then that.

112
by Doug (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 11:50am

So what is the answer to beating the Pats? Watching them week in week out it just seems like they won't make those mistakes everyone keeps saying teams will make a couple of times during a game. I'm talking about their offense of course.

Seems like SD has to try somehow, some way of getting pressure on Brady. Taking away the deep ball but leaving underneath open doesn't work with this team. I don't know, doesn't seem like there's any good answer which I guess is why they'll probably win it all.

113
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 11:59am

Purds,

Overall I think you have a nice, even reaction and take on the Colts game and the Colts season in general.

A few weeks back, I got the feeling that the Freeney loss would loom large. He probably would have been the difference in that game.

As for Brady's fortunes, I would say that Indy got to play the same undermanned team for a good portion of that game but could not capitalize, at home. Had the Colts pulled it out, I'd be talking about how fortunate Manning was for SD losing those players.

Regardless, it was a good season for you guys and you have a lot to be proud of. I'm in the camp that is a little disappointed we won't all get to see a Pats/Colts showdown next week. But I'm also a little relieved that's the case, if that makes sense.

114
by hrudey (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:00pm

So the Jaguars had two dropped passes that could have been TDs that led to field goals instead. If those are caught, they're likely at 28-28 and the game's still in question late. That's what the game plan was -- compress the game by long offensive drives and forcing long drives by New England. The end result may be the same -- a TD in a seven minute drive counts the same as a one-play bomb -- but by forcing them to use clock and drive slowly, you reduce the number of times that they do get those results, which reduces the number of times you have to match their results.

115
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:08pm

"If I am Jacksonville’s general manager, I am on the phone first thing Monday, offering my first-round pick to Cincinnati for Chad Johnson, to Arizona for Larry Fitzgerald, and to Detroit for Roy Williams. If those don’t work, I’m offering a third to Denver for Javon Walker."

How about making a run at a certain FA WR from the Patriots?

116
by Rollo (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:13pm

I don't know if Jax's scheme was the best blueprint for defensing New England, but it was absolutely the best scheme for their defense. To add to the points already made - the Jags defense this year has been really off, and has had big problems mounting any pash rush. The secondary features a rookie and an old veteran SS in sammy knight who is basically a fast linebacker. They lost their SS starter and had no depth, so the backup to them is some guy they signed from local area tryouts. Unsurprisngly, the defense has lead the league in giving up big pass plays over 20 yards. And was eaten alive by big time passing offenses - see NO, Pittsburgh comeback.

Put that together against Brady's o-line and receivers and you'd expect multiple long bombs for TDs. This strategy took away those and forced them to drive the field, including converting in the red zone, where the defensive problems with the deep ball disappear. The only possible schematic improvement for this defense would be putting Mathis on Moss to free up the much better tackler Brian Williams to make those open field plays. But then maybe Moss gets open more often.

The Jags used a 3-3-5 which they practice and have used on special occasions. This was as good a mix of playing a defense they know and are good at and adjusting to slow down the tempo Pats defense as they could have achieved. It was a great coaching job, but it required great not OK tackling. And the big breaks went New England's day - it was the kind of day when Stallworth tips a long bomb on a defensed screen pass to himself, while Northcutt drops the ball at the goal line.

New England was clearly the better team, but I'm proud of my team and felt they gave themselves the best chance to win. Here's to a good offseason.

117
by The Original Sam (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:15pm

114:

The offense wasn't the problem. They've got to find a DOMINANT pass-rushing defensive end. The mysterious disappearance of Bobby McCray this year really hurt - he had 10 sacks and 35 tackles last year. I love Paul Spicer but I don't know how many good years he has left. Hayward was not the same post-Achilles. Stroud and Henderson haven't gone through a season together in a couple of seasons now... The return of Gerald Sensabaugh to replace Sammy Knight will be a big boost, I think. Sammy Knight had some outstanding plays this year, but he's just a step too slow to be really effective.

118
by Herm? (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:20pm

BDC
I had put in some qualifiers, but deleted them to keep the post short. I definitely believe that a team that competes hard and stays sharp gives themselves a better chance of winning than resting on their laurels. But there were other factors...I mean, Manning did throw for 400 yards.
Harrison ended up being somewhat of a goat (he missed a lot more than 4 weeks) and I also wouldn't want to take away from the SD effort.
It's nothing I've quantified with a good sample, I'm trying to look back at the common factors when INDY was a favorite in years past and lost, and I really thought they had a legit shot this year. I believe they won it last year because they competed very well toward the end of the season and didn't sit back because they only had the #3 seed.

I figure I've posted here enough to make it known that I am a Pats fan, and I do drink the kool-aid of having to play 60 minutes at top effort, in every game.
But it also helps when your top guys aren't injured.

119
by Al 45 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:24pm

RE: Norv and play calling.

Sorry, I disagree with his play calling. Specifically, and this is common among other teams as well, the play calls at the end of a game when a first down will pretty much clinch a win.

The Chargers got the ball with 2:01 left in the game. So, there they are, sitting with 1st and 10 to go, with 2:01 on the clock, and the Colts having all of their timeouts. No matter what happens on the first down play, the clock is going to stop, and Indy won't have to use a timeout (two minute warning).

It's blatantly obvious that Indy is going to sell out to stop the run (they had either 9 or 10 up in the box). Why in the world do you run it directly into 9-10 people? Who cares if you throw the ball and it's incomplete? The clock was going to stop anyway.

If you throw there, with 9-10 guys crowding the line of scrimmage, and you complete it... you're either going to bust it wide open and score a TD, putting the game out of reach, or you at least move the chains and start with a first and ten after the two minute warning.

I just thought that was a horrible play call. It's patently stupid to run 3 straight plays into an 8-10 in the box defense and then punt the ball away with 1:40 seconds left on the clock and the Colts still having a timeout.

The Chargers deserved to win the game, but that play calling series was just atrocious.

120
by lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:29pm

JAX-WR
The Jags will gladly see Mike Walker to come back next year. He raised (favorable) comparaison with Jimmy Smith during the trainig camp this summer and could be part of the answer with John Broussard.
The Original Sam is right, the Jags need a great DE, then safety and corner depth. Overall, the team is in good shape and you can't blame the staff for the release of Darius, they couldn't know Sensabaugh would be hurt and Knight was a cheaper and better option to Darius.

121
by black (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:39pm

116

Yea playing the Patriots with sammy knight and a rookie safety made this a bad matchup to play straight defense from the start. They simply did not have the personel on the roster to be able to pressure the pats.

What was really irritating was the constant reference of the Jags being stout up the middle. Well yea, when you have Stroud, Henderson, Peterson, Grant and Darius. Those were basically all run stoppers that weren't available for all or portions of this year . And many times during the year the Jags would send Nelson on a blitz I think just to keep him from getting lost in coverage. Another strategy that probably wouldn't have worked so well.

Bottom line is you will need some luck, a holding penalty on a big play, fumbled snaps, drops on one of the many third down attempts. They played as clean a game of football possible. But if they threw one phantom penalty that would have pushed them into a longer conversion attempt everything could have changed.

Damn brady and his magic receivers, and lineman, and runningbacks (making one handed catches out the backfield) !!!!!

122
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:41pm

re: #104: A link for the Bob Sanders story.

Sorry, I should have posted that in the first place. Linked on my name.

123
by brandon (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:44pm

hey, when does the nfl prospectus usually come out? i just bought the 2007 one a few weeks ago, when will i be able to expect the nfl prospectus 2008 to be available?

124
by DGL (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:46pm

#88: Yeah, Goliath would have won but he didn't prepare properly because David was Questionable with a wrist.

125
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:50pm

Bill (#104): I think you misread my too short quotation from the article. Keading was smiling at Sanders and playfully grabbing Sanders after a PAT early in the game. The taps on the head from Sanders came after the missed FG, and no, they were not funny.

126
by Jon Coit (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:56pm

re: taunting. Don't know what they showed on TV--but I was there and saw Sanders as he jumped on Kaeding and put his arms around his neck. No chance, obviously, of Kaeding being hurt etc., but refs had to throw that flag.

re: Chambers. Give FO a break. Geez, just be happy he's been much better than FO has advertised.

re: Norv. To repeat what many others have said. Too many delay penalties (IIRC there was at least one on a third and short), lots if times the play was very late getting in. The twelve men on the field was unconscionable vs. a QB well known for catching teams in such situations, and it happened (again) on a critical third and short.

On the plus side: vs. the Titans and especially yesterday Rivers was very good in the pocket, able to move in the pocket and keep his feet under him so he could deliver good throws. Anyone who thinks Rivers was not good yesterday was simply not watching the game. Norv surely deserves *some* credit for improving Rivers' footwork.

I think the Martyball was a consequence of Turner's belief that Scifries could indeed launch that unbelievable punt. How, tell me, can one punt the ball over 60 yards and NOT OUTKICK THE COVERAGE? Unreal.

Also: I want to have VJ's children.

Next week: Drayton "The Human Holding Penalty" Florence vs. Wes Welker? Ugh. Thanks BTW to whichever FO writer used that term to describe Wayne Gandy.

127
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:01pm

#118:
I suspect that if Rivers had been in, they would have tried some pass plays, but with Volek? The one thing you don't want right there is an interception, and with a sub QB that can always happen, especially with Indy's secondary.

SD's defense had shown they could stop Manning, and they have a heck of a punter, so making the Colts burn 2 of their time-outs and taking your chances giving the ball back with 90 seconds, one TO and a long field was not such a bad idea, in my opinion.

128
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:08pm

Hey, if Dungy retires, do you think Manning and a team that has won 12 or more games five years in a row would entice Bill Cowher to come back to coaching a bit early? I can't think a better opportunity would come along, in terms of being at a winning franchise with plenty of potential left.

And, would he be a good coach for Indy?

129
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:17pm

127:
I was thinking the same, and I think it would be a great chance for Indy's team to land on their feet with a top-level coach. Not sure he's a good fit with Polian, though.

Speaking of Polian, does anyone else expect the competition committee to loosen up the rules/de-emphasize/decrease the penalties for DPI/illegal contact this spring, especially if the Pats resign Moss? Not that I would mind it too much, for the sake of the game. I'd just have a great chuckle at the reversal.

130
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:18pm

Duh, my previous post referred to Purds's #128, not 127.

131
by Al 45 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:21pm

127:

Volek had just led the Chargers down the length of the field for a TD. I don't see any problems with letting him throw the ball when the Colts were packing 9-10 guys into the box to sell out for the run. Remember, a fumble is also bad too... and you're running with Turner, not LT.

I just don't agree that giving Manning and the Colts the ball with 1:30+ on the clock and 1 timeout is a good strategy.

If Volek was good enough to lead a drive down the field for a TD, then he's good enough to throw a pass to the outside when the Colts are stacking 9 guys in the box.

132
by nat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:26pm

More on why the Blueprint didn't and couldn't work...

During the season, Tom Brady threw eight interceptions. So there was the possibility that he might throw one or two against the Jags. Except...

...Of those eight interceptions, four came on passes to Moss, and all eight came on passes labeled "deep" in the play-by-play. So, eliminating deep passes to Moss and others means no chance for interceptions.

It wasn't great play by Brady, or bad luck for the Jaguars. The Blueprint itself was the reason that the Jaguars didn't get any breaks on defense.

133
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:31pm

Re: 128

I don't know that much about Cowher. He seems like a good coach, but would he feel like he needed to change things too much? I'm not sure Dungy is leaving, but if he does they need someone who doesn't want to change things up too much. The offense still runs pretty good when guys are healthy and the defense looks pretty damn good too. The last thing they need is someone who comes in and wants to run a 3/4 or something. If Cowher comes in and he adds a little toughness and a few trick plays, that would be great. If he tries to do more I think it would be a bad move.

134
by Frick (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:34pm

As a huge Colts fan I'm trying to fight off the depression from the loss. San Diego won the game, they made the big plays. I was extremely worried at half time when Manning was something like 14 of 15 and the score was 10 to 7.

As far as the holding call, as the Colt's player starts to turn he gets dragged down by the blocker, how is that not holding? Amazing job by Weddle on the interception. Seems like a typical Colts play-off game where the opponent makes a highlight reel interception and Manning has the WTF face on.

As far as the comments about the Colts being very good at the same time as the Pats. At least the Colts got a Super Bowl, unlike the Pacers who always seemed to lose to the Bulls. Congrats San Diego.

At this point I want a Pats-Giants SB, only if we can get a video camera on Simmons while Eli leads the Giants to a SB win. Plus there have to be some awful calls by the refs so we can get a 100,000 word column about how the NFL hates the Pats.

135
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:37pm

131:
Well, for the year, Volek is 6/14 with no TD and one interception (and that's including his stellar 3 for 4 performance yesterday). Statistics aside, I also think the SD coaching staff has a better sense of what kind of QB Volek is than any of us, since he has played so little. I wouldn't second-guess them, honestly.

136
by Joseph (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:39pm

Re: Norv Turner's coaching ability.
I noticed LIVE that NT sent Darren Sproles in for the play at the end of the 3rd--where he subsequentely took it in for the 50+ yd TD. Maybe this is a coach hearing the play call from the OC and getting the right personnel in the line-up. Maybe Michael Turner would normally run that play if LT is healthy (MT being the 3rd down back) and Coach Turner wanted a fresh pair of legs.
I will say this in NT's defense: He ran a great offense in Dallas with extremely talented offensive players, resulting in 3 SB wins and life-long love from Troy Aikman. Now he has a pretty good offense to work with (and a D) and he goes 11-5 with 2 playoff wins. Anybody surprised that you pair a decent coach with good talent and get good results?
Anyone think that the Chargers players aren't playing their tail off for their new coach who seems to be generally bashed by the media, just to prove said media wrong?
BTW, if recent AFC history holds true, Chargers upset NE and win SB (see Pittsburg & Indy last two years--winning it all the year AFTER being the #1 seed with high expectations.)

137
by Andrew (A.B.) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:40pm

The comparison to the 1995 playoffs is interesting. I was actually starting to wonder whether next week would be more like the 1995 AFC Championship, not the NFC Championship. Yall may remember the Indianapolis Colts, given absolutely no chance to win, played without their Hall of Fame RB (Marshall Faulk) and without their game manager QB (Jim Harbaugh) and still came within a hair of beating the heavily-favored Steelers.

138
by The Original Sam (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:41pm

The Jags' gameplan would have also been much more successful if they had tackled better, and that can't be overlooked. The tackling by their secondary wasn't consistently bad, but it was inconsistent all year. I'm not sure what the reason for that is. But they could forced a lot more third downs if they had been sounder tackling, and surely that would have increased their chances of stopping the Unstoppable.

Sammy Knight was certainly a better option than Darius, who didn't do much of anything and didn't see the field much even for some pretty bad teams. It pains me to say that, because everybody in Jax loved DD, but life goes on.

139
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:46pm

133:
Well, personality-wise change is probably what the Colts need, seeing how many times they fell flat at the finish line under Dungy. Someone to bite their asses when it matters. Tactically, I am sure Cowher has enough experience to evaluate his talent and use it wisely. The only thing is that he has been very clear that he doesn't want to coach next year, although Indy may be tempting enough. (On the other hand, there is much more downside in taking the Indy job than starting over with a bottom-feeding team and bringing them up.)

I personally think Dungy should have retired last year, and that if he stays another year and again misses the SB, his tenure at Indy will overall be considered a disappointment. But he may choose to go all-in, who knows.

140
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:52pm

131: On Volek's "Drive" he had one completion that went past the first down marker. Everything else was screen pases and running plays, and a QB sneak.

141
by Doug (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:55pm

Although I wouldn't have minded a short pass on 3rd down, overall I had no problem with SD staying conservative in that situation with Volek in the game.

For those who follow it, is SD's punter always this good? He was incredible yesterday

142
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:57pm

The Colts need 1) to get rid of Harrison and Make Wayne and Gonzalez the #1 and #2, 2) a good slot receiver (maybe try to get Stokely back?), 3) a 3rd down back who can catch the freaking ball, and 4) better depth on the DL. They don't necessarily need a new coach, but if Dungy is going to retire, I'd say promote the defensive coordinator.

143
by Dave (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:59pm

Can anyone explain what went wrong with the Colts run game about halfway through the season? Addai was one of the most productive backs in the league for a while.

144
by Dave B. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:01pm

Ned Macey is the only dude in that banter that seems to have an impartial head on his shoulders. The rest of you should be ashamed. The Bolts won and all anyone can do is talk about the Colts? If there was any doubt before, the COLTS ARE DEFINITELY off the radar now -- LOL. Give me a break.

145
by Frick (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:06pm

Re: 142 B

Indy lost Freeny and McFarland during the season, which resulted in much less depth on the D-line.

I'm not going to comment on Harrison until we know what is wrong. I hope his career isn't over, but I think it is a very real possibility. What are the cap consequences if a player has a career ending injury?

Addai is a great receiver out of the backfield, losing him for part of the game hurt. Was he out when Keith botched the catch at the 2 yard line?

146
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:08pm

143: They lost Ugoh, who is a great run blocker, and with Harrison out, defense didn't have to spend as much resources stopping the pass, and could concentrate more on the run.

147
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:11pm

Sorry I've been out of the loop. My computer died a horrible, painful, virus-induced death last night just as I was starting to post (stupid Windows...)

- Re65 (cd6): Wow, for once I agree with everything cd6 said. Weird. Dan Koppen's not overrated, Rodney Harrison did play the game kind of like a jerk, and I hate the "let the offensive lines cheat in the playoffs" way holding is called.

- To everyone who is criticizing Jax for their defensive gameplan--you're confusing gameplan with execution. Gameplans don't result in points, or prevent points. Gameplans try to even things up or give your teams advantages so that, IF YOU EXECUTE WELL you will probably win.

The Jax gameplan did two things. First, it forced the Patriots to execute well time after time to score points. With the deep pass, you need to execute well once or twice per drive to score a TD (or the defense needs to screw up once or twice). With 7-yard pass after 7-yard pass, the offense needs to execute (as well or better than the defense) ten times per drive to even get a FG, and 12-15 times to get a TD, and pretty much needs to execute well two out of every three or four plays on top of it all. One screw up (like an inadvertent chop block), bad break, or good defensive play ends the drive. Unfortunately for Jacksonville, Brady never screwed up, and their defense never got a lucky break. On the other side of the ball, their offense did screw up a couple of times (Northcutt drop, Garrard fumble, etc), so their offense didn't execute as well as the Pats. Hence the lost.

But that's the point of the other half of why they used the gameplan. It's pretty much a given, as well as New England played this year, that their offense wasn't going to execute as well as New Englands', in the long run. With 15-20 possessions each, it's almost guaranteed that the Pats offense this year will execute better on more of them than the Jacksonville offense. The talent differential is just too large. But, while you maybe don't like the odds of matching Brady and Co twenty times, matching his production just seven times is doable. And for a while it was working. They lost because they just matched the Pats production four times.

A more aggressive gameplan probably would have had a limited probability of keeping the game even closer, but a much higher probability of a blowout. And two lucky plays won't change the result of a blowout. But two lucky plays on Saturday could have given Jacksonville the win (i.e. if Northcutt holds on at the goal line, and if the DB that came close to catching Watson's tip actually catches the ball).

- The decline of defense is because of points many people have aready mentioned--pass defense is tougher under the Polian-Penalty scheme, and is all but impossible when refs adopt a "let them play" approach to offensive holding. The only thing that fairly counteracts the fact that DB's can't breath on WR's is if pass rushers are actually allowed to rush the QB. In the regular season, they often can. But apparently not the playoffs.

- I noticed an interesting loophole in illegal contact rulesf this weekend. A penalty flag for illegal contact on a DB(in the Colts game maybe?) got picked up because the QB was out of the pocket, but the ball was not yet thrown, when the contact occurred. Does that mean that on any rollout or bootleg play, the DB's can just level the recievers, as long as they do so before the ball is thrown? This has defensive possiblities for containing scramblers... Of course, most refs probably wouldn't call it (or rather, not call it) consistently, so it's probably too risky...

148
by Brian G (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:15pm

I couldn't agree with Macey more. This Colts team, with all it's players, could have been one of the best Colts teams in the Indianapolis era.
Sadly, to paraphrase Rummy: "You play the game with the team you have, not the team you wish you had." And clearly, the team we had wasn't good enough.
If anything, I think this season has reinforced the need for the Colts to build quality depth especially at WR, DE and at CB. Jackson and Hayden are terrific, but Tim Jennings is the new Jason David. Unfortuntately, considering all the money they have invested in the starters, they're going to have to get lucky in the draft ala Ed Johnson and Antoine Bethea for this to happen.
So, while still bummed, I do take solace in my predictions for next year.
1. The Colts will return the entire starting line up except for Ryan Lilja. This is kind of a no-brainer. Sanders is already signed. Clark will either be signed or franchised. The remaining money will be spent on Jake Scott, leaving Lilja most likely as the odd man out, considering Dylan or someone else can probably replace him without missing a beat.
2. New England will win the SB (groan) but will suffer some big defensive losses in the off-season, with Bruschi, Seau and Harrison retiring and Samuel to free-agency. Samuel has already made it clear he is gone. For the retirees', leaving as 19-0 SB champs is the very definition of going out on top. Harrison is the only guy I could see out of that group who might come back. Not saying these losses will kill NE or anything, but Bruschi especially has been the heart and soul of that defense, even if he has lost a step. And as Harrison said, 'Youth is over-rated'. Besides, if they had someone better, they'd be playing them as NE has proven to be heartless when it comes to dumping veteran guys.
3. Randy Moss will show T.O. what pulling a T.O. is all about. He will refuse NE's contract offer and will take his ring, his H.O.F. guarantee, and ride off into the sunset, getting paid obscene amounts of money somewhere else. This may be a stretch, but remember, it was all sunshine and rainbows with T.O. until after the S.B. And T.O. actually had a contract. Moss doesn't.
4. In a stunning use of Bill B's arcane mastery of black magic, he will cast his level 70 dumb-assio curse on opposing teams, thus allowing him to turn their 1st round draft pick into 17 1st/2nd round picks, where they will draft a bunch of guys you never heard of who will all become pro-bowlers next season. Just kidding...I think.
5. If the above happens, Bill Polian will murder someone. Totally not kidding.
6. Dungy will retire and will be replaced by...Marty Schottenheimer! For reals kidding on this one. Jim Caldwell will be introduced as the new coach at Dungy's retirement press conference or I will eat my shoes.
7. And finally, my wacky, way out on a limb prediction: The Pats and Colts will both be really, really good next year.

149
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:22pm

Re: #145

I believe a career-ending injury is treated the same as a retirement -- any un-prorated bonuses get accelerated into the present.

150
by Jonathan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:24pm

#141 — Yes, Mike Scifres IS always that good (well, actually I'm sure he's better inside a dome, what with no wind and whatnot, but you get what I mean ;)

He consistently puts that ball inside the 20, and as you saw can get enough hangtime on the rock for guys like Kassim Osgood to get to the returner (although sometimes, like yesterday, he kicks the ball so dang far that his gunners have trouble catching up!)

As a lifelong Bolts fan who SUFFERED through nearly a decade of miserable seasons, I'm just stoked to see the Chargers beating a quality opponent (Colts) to faceoff against the best team in The League for the rights to play in the Super Bowl....I'm rooting for SD to win, but even if they make it an exciting AFC Championship and still lose, I'll be OK ;)

151
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:25pm

147: Illegal contact is well, legal when the QB is out of the pocket, but tackling a receiver would, I think, be considered holding, and leveling the guy would probably draw a personal foul. Other than that, it's not much of a loophole, as when the QB scrambles out of the pocket, he becomes more of a runner than a QB.

152
by Mr. Beefy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:32pm

Here's a fun exercise - compare and contrast the 90s Braves w/ the 00s Colts. Both got one title against weak competition and choked the rest of the time! :).

153
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:32pm

B: I don't think the Colts need that radical of a set of moves. I'll follow your format.

#1) Sure, Harrison was bad yesterday, but he probably should have simply been put on IR. We'll see about next year. I mean honestly, why would you pitch a guy with these stats the last four years?

2006: 95 catches 1,366 yards
2005:82; 1,146
2004:86; 1,113
2003: 94; 1,272

Yeah, I know he's 35, but this sis the first serious injury in his career. Yesterday, on the fumble, he was clearly trying to do more than he should have. Harrison never, never takes hits or takes hits in an effort to gain a few extra yards. But he tried yesterday, and it hurt him. He needed to stay within himself.

#2) If you keep Harrison, and he's healthy, Gonzales is the slot.

#3) RB depth was a serious issue this year, I agree. Addai is very good, but he never shouldered the full load in college, and he didn't do that last year (2006-7). He was great in the post-season last year because he'd shared the year with Rhodes. (Addai's overall total rushes looks okay, 261 this year to 226 last year, but early this season he had a ton of 20+ rush days, and last year he had 3 in total. Then, this year, he didn't carry at all down the stretch -- 38 carries in the last 4 games)

#4) Agreed they need depth on the D-Line. But, they also had two starters go out on IR this year, so they will be better just by being healthy. Of course, injury could hit again...

Slo-mo-joe:

I think you're overstating the despair in Colts territory, or in the NFL, about Dungy. If he stays, goes to the playoffs but doesn't make the SB, I don't think he'd be seen as a disappointment. Other than Pats fans, I don't think any fan would say, "Boy, our coach could have done it better." Pats fans need to have a bit of perspective. Remember Rod Rust, Dick MacPherson, Pete Carroll? Those days weren't so long ago. Most franchises would love to have had the success of Dungy in the past 5 or 6 years.

154
by nat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:43pm

Still more on the Jaguar's gameplan (and The Blueprint)....

Not only did the Blueprint almost completely remove the chance for an interception, it also reduced the chance of a fumble. During the season, the Pats fumbled 14 times, losing 6 of them. Brady lost four of them. The other two lost fumbles came on returns. The only player on the Patriots to fumble during a running play was Brady himself.

If a season's worth of running is any guide, forcing the Patriots to run reduces the chance that they will fumble.

Your only remaining chance for a fumble by the Pats offense is a strip-sack. But the Blueprint didn't do anything to help that, either. By leaving short routes open, the Blueprint meant that Brady would get rid of the ball early most of the time.

So, while the Blueprint was shortening the game in the hopes of one or two big plays, it virtually eliminated the chance of a turnover.

Just what big plays was the Jaguars' defense hoping for? OPI calls? Not with Moss out of the picture. Holding calls? Not with little pressure, no deep passes, and current officiating styles. Sacks? Not with light pressure. Missed field goals? OK, that could happen. Chop block penalty? That's very rare, but it happened, too.

This isn't about execution. It's about the plan. The Blueprint eliminated almost every good break that could happen for the Jaguars' defense.

155
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:50pm

141: Yes, he's always that good. Scifres is probably the best punter in the NFL.

156
by Nevic (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:03pm

Couldn't the Jags try to lure Randy Moss away in free agency. It makes the Pats weaker and stregthens their biggest area of need. It will set up a good rivalry as there will now be bad blood between the two teams.

157
by john Q (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:05pm

To everyone who says that the Chargers had penalties in Indy (false start, 12 men in the huddle, delay of game) that imply poor coaching, I would like to point out the Patriots has 10 penalities for 146 yards in INdy ealier this year. Maybe, just maybe, it's crowd noise and biased officiating and not coaching?

158
by nonathletic Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:06pm

It's predictably funny to see someone take the fact that a very talented Chargers team beat a very talented Colts team, in a very close game game in which the Colts turned the ball over three times in the red zone, on two tipped balls (one a pretty easy catch) and a nearly unforced fumble, while the Chargers' forced fumble in the red zone was recovered by the Chargers, as proof that Ted Cottrell is a decent coach. That Cottrell really knows how to coach fumble recoveries, Schottenheimer clearly doesn't!

Having said that, Cottrell didn't have any obvious gaffes yesterday, unlike against the Titans, when the Tedster nearly single handedly gave an overmatched opponent a chance to win. Also, Turner called a superb game until the 2:01 mark. Of course, when your o-line clearly defeats the opponents' defensive front, it's a lot easier to look like a great play caller.

The real surprise in this game was that the guys catching balls for the Chargers were so much better than the guys catching balls for the Colts. I don't think I've ever seen a team that had over 400 yards passing in which the guys catching the ball, or attempting to, had such a lousy game. Addai was horrible. Harrison's fumble was inexcusable. Neither Wayne or Clark many any outstanding catches, and the ball Wayne tipped into an interception wouldn't have been highlight material, if he instead had caught it. Clark certainly should have caught the last pass on fourth down. It's not been frequent that one could say the guys catching the ball with horseshoes on their helmet stunk, but they came pretty close yesterday.

That wasn't Peyton Manning's best game, but it was still pretty darned good. Yeah, the throw to Wayne was high, and he missed a guy open deep in the fourth quarter, but I though his worst mistake, was on the the third an goal at the end of the game, when he tried to throw that little center screen to Addai again (I really hate that play inside the 10 yared line), when Dallas Clark could easily have scored a touchdown if had been thrown the ball. I think Manning hurried unecessarily, and Addai was open, although I don't think he would have scored.

Anyways, the Chargers were better on the line of scrimmage, so they certainly deserved to win more than the Colts. I actually think they have the talent to beat the Pats, if their o-line can turn in the same sort of performance against them that they they did yesterday. The Pats are not great defensively

159
by Jonathan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:06pm

Just a recap on Bolts-Colts, so people can make the best "judgements" possible:

>> Norv Turner's team beat the defending Super Bowl champions on the road, with his best receiver limited due to injury, the league's leading rusher out of the second half due to injury, and his starting quarterback out of the fourth quarter due to injury.
>> A.J. Smith's draft record really showed up Sunday — the quarterback he chose over Drew Brees performed extremely well in a loud house, a guy he "reached for" in this year's second round (Eric Weddle) made a superb one-armed interception while being blocked by a (much-bigger) lineman, another rookie (Legedu Naanee) was crucial in a screen pass from the backup QB during the clinching TD drive, etc.
>> Philip Rivers completed 73.6% of his passes for 264 yards, three TDs and one INT in just three quarters...that's an average of 88 yards passing and one TD thrown PER QUARTER...aaaaand he's one of the most efficient fourth-quarter QB's in The League.
>> Vincent Jackson proved that last week was no fluke, while Chris "thank you Wayne Huizenga" Chambers, as his teammates know him, proved that he's much more improved now that he is on a good team.

160
by JCRODRIGUEZ (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:09pm

Re:137

Harbaugh did play in that championship game...I still remember his reaction after the Hail Mary..."I though he caught it!"...man, what a thriller that was...

161
by Pete (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:09pm

I think Peyton obviously did not have one of his best game. Not a terrible game, but not great. He was hindered by some dropped/tipped balls. He also has not had the same group of players on the field for an extended period of time and the offensive line did not seem as outstanding as in the past.

However, the Indianapolis defense looked like it really had trouble stopping the pass. They were leaving receivers plenty of room to make the catch. No risk of pass interference when you are 3-5 yards from the receiver, huh? The sad thing is that, in the past, Indy's defense had been built more to stop the pass and they just did not have this.

With the injuries to San Diego and New York, I see Green Bay and New England walking through their games to the Super Bowl. How good are Green Bay's nickel and dime defenders?

When Moss wants to play, I think he is one of the best at what he does (run deep, run fast, jump and try to catch the ball - take out 1 or 2 quick secondary from doing anything else). Wes Welker is one of the best at what he does: a possession receiver from the slot with sure hands who will
make a 5 or 6-yard catch in traffic. Watson and Stallworth (when not injured) are both above average at their position. Brady is one of the best (well,
not "one of" when Peyton has a substandard day like he did against the Chargers) in the AFC, if not the NFL right now (depends on which Favre
shows up). Maroney is decent and the Pats' offensive line may be the best right now, especially at pass protection (which is what is important for a
team that throws to Welker or Faulk rather than make a short run).

162
by Ryan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:13pm

Props to Will Allen for being consistently delusional to the end

163
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:16pm

153: I don't think Colts fans should "despair" at all - they have been an extremely successful team, by any meter.

However, you can't be serious when you say that the expectations for Pete Carroll's Pats (or for that matter, Parcell's) were the same as for today's Pats or Colts. While it is true that for any given team going to the playoffs year after year is a major accomplishment, there are rare teams that are capable, even meant to win it all, because of unusual combinations of player excellence and coaching skills, and the Colts are one of them. Most teams get a window like this for a couple of years at best, and the Pats and Indy have been blessed with one lasting already 5 or 6.

In these years, the Colts have come into the playoffs as real SB contenders at least 5 times now, and lost all but once. Sure, they overlapped with the Pats' equally outstanding years, but in 2 of those 4 losing occasions it wasn't the Pats who stopped them, and in 3 they lost to teams that were, on paper, inferior or at best equal to them (Pats 2003, Steelers, and yesterday). It is a statistical fluke due to the NFL one-game playoff system, of course: if playoffs were played best-of-five, the Colts would probably have one or two more rings, and be in the run for another, but that is not how it works.

While Indy fans have much to be happy and proud about, I can't believe they don't see Dungy's years as at least a mild disappointment so far. And if he stays and loses again, with the window of opportunity closing on the team for various reasons, I think overall it will be even more of one.

164
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:17pm

I thought Jacksonville played about as well as they could, outside of a couple of drops. Turner would be wise to expand four down territory even more than the Jaguars did. If the Chargers can score 30 or more by converting fourth downs, they definitely have a decent to good chance to win.

The Pats probably have the best offense of all time, but their defense probably doesn't crack the top 100, so I have a tough time saying they are the best team I've ever seen. Don't misunderstand; I'm not saying the Pats defense is bad. They just aren't more than average at best, by championship team standards. They may even be below average by that standard.

165
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:21pm

Re: #164

That's the question. FWIW, both Boston and non-Boston media have said that "sources close to Moss" say Moss is having the best time he's ever had as a pro, and while he will not accept a lowball or "hometown discount" offer, he'll stay with the Pats and not go to the highest bidder as long as the Pats give him a "decent market offer".

166
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:22pm

Re: #165

Err....that should be #156, not #164.

167
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:22pm

Hey, Ryan? The sort of person who takes a close playoff game outcome as proof of a defensive coordinator's value is being very silly when he calls others delusional. Are Rich Kotite and Barry Switzer coming over to give you more logic lessons?

168
by hwc (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:22pm

Can anyone explain what went wrong with the Colts run game about halfway through the season? Addai was one of the most productive backs in the league for a while.

It's only a hypothesis for consideration, but the Colts asked Addai to carry a very heavy load this year, in both the running and passing game.

Many coaches seem to believe that the physical toll of the modern NFL requires platooning running backs during the season to keep the wear and tear down. These guys take a real beating over the course of a 16+ game season.

169
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:25pm

I hereby predict a Chad Jackson (+ pick) for Randy Moss swap. Don't come telling me I didn't warn you. ;-)

170
by Herm? (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:27pm

Noticing that I may have actually agreed on something PK wrote, I retract.

Instead, I re-vote: KARMA

from Eric Wilbur, boston.com:
"At least Colts fans did get the opportunity to boo 14-year-old Anna Grant, the Grantham, NH native who was announced as the NFL's Punt, Pass, and Kick competition winner yesterday in Indianapolis wearing a Patriots jersey."

Season over. Ye gods?

171
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:28pm

Hey, Ryan, let's give Bill Callahan props! He won two playoff games in the NFL! Took a team to the Super Bowl! By the Ryan Rules of Logik, Bill Callahan is a good NFL coach!

At what Kollege of Nollege did you develop such powers of reasoning?

172
by Tom (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:29pm

Re: Rodney...

I know he is an admitted HGH user. Actually he said "i wasnt trying to use it to get a competative edge, i was trying to use it to get over an injury" because obviously getting over injuries quicker is in no way competatively advantageous. And not only that, but HGH was seen in his locker prior to the superbowl game, and he later admitted that the story was true. So yes, he is using HGH regularly. Mark McGwire didnt get voted into the HOF because of RUMORS he took steroids (he probably did, but he hasnt admitted to it, and it hasnt been proven), but i bet Rodney will be a first year HOFer. Its just too bad. Character SHOULD be taken into consideration for HOF. Also I'd like to add that he was voted (by other NFL players) as the dirtiest player in the NFL for 4 or 5 different years. He taunts people, has late hits, and generally seems to just be an asshole. I thought Clemens was going to be charged with taking steroids. They were not willing to offer him immunity in order for him to speak, meaning that they at least wanted to leave the option of charging him available to them.

173
by Ryan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:31pm

167.

It's cool man. You obviously lack the ability to impartially look at the facts. The team's defense has improved from last year and leads the league in creating turnovers. You have even already set up the rationalizations just in case the Chargers do in fact pull the miracle and upset the Patriots. The Chargers would have to stop the best offense of all time and yet they might win because they have a good offensive line. It's not even worth debating.

174
by Andrew (A.B.) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:36pm

Re: 160
You're right. Who else was missing in that game? I remember at least two key offensive players being gone, but now I forget who the second one was.

175
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:40pm

Ryan, ths sort of person who thinks a one year trend in turnovers is proof of quality coaching has no business making judgements about what is worth debating. Sheesh. You put forth a model of evaluation in which Barry Switzer, Rich Kotite, and Bill Callahan could be deemed good NFL coaches, and you are going to complain about others' lack of rationality? Next, you'll be telling me that scheming with 6 man fronts against teams like the Vikings and Titans constitutes good NFL coaching.

176
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:40pm

172:
And not only that, but HGH was seen in his locker prior to the superbowl game, and he later admitted that the story was true.
I call utter bullshit on this. Do you have a reference/link?

As for Rodney's HOF chances, even if he had been helping old ladies cross the street and saving kittens from drowning every day of the off-season for his entire career, and never committed a single foul on the field, he'd still never get in there without a ticket. He's just really not been HOF material when you consider his entire career.

177
by hrudey (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:43pm

154: Yeah, maybe they get one turnover if they go blitz happy. And the other times the Patriots have the ball, they score that much quicker. Excluding each team's 1-play drive at the end of a half (NE first half, Jax second half), both teams had the ball seven times -- so while the Jaguars couldn't really stop the Pats all night, they only gave up 31 points and needed to match those points themselves. I much prefer the Jaguars chances of scoring 31 with 7 possessions than that of them scoring 45 with ten.

178
by Doug (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:50pm

As a Pats fan, I do love Rodney but I cringe at the personal fouls. He reminds me of a Laimbeer--hate him with a passion, dirty player, but essential to a championship team.

179
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:57pm

Harrison is certainly the dumbest smart player I've ever seen, if that makes any sense.

180
by S, (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:58pm

I think the game plan was severly flawed by Jacksonville. They coached not to lose, and you cant win doing that. No one is going to beat the Patriots just sitting back and waiting for them to make a mistake.
Baltimore tried this and it almost worked for them, mostly because they have had a stellar defense for years now and athletes at every position. Clearly the Jags D is not of that caliber so they needed to pressure Brady into that mistake. Didnt happen.
Blitzes work most effectivly when you dont know they are coming. Jville blitzed maybe twice all game, and got burned on them. Because they were obvious blitzes. They sit 8 men back all game and the two times they bring men up at the line, Brady is good enough to know its coming. Plus factor in that they never ever get called for holding penalties and the end result is Tom Brady standing there all day with all the time in the world. It looked like the 80's all over again.
They died a slow death, to make it look like they had a chance, instead of going for the win.

181
by Herm? (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:00pm

sadly, Rodney Harrison will have a handful of HOF cheerleaders, supposedly being the first NFL player with 30+ sacks and 30+ interceptions.

But let's not kid ourselves acting as if Rodney Harrison and Shawne Merriman are the only NFL players to ever use HGH. They were just stupid enough to use it AND get caught.

Let's all agree to hate him because of his Romanowski-like demeanor on the field. HGH is just testosterone icing on the cake.

182
by Ryan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:01pm

re 171: Are you serious? I'm giving Norv credit for this game, which you should to. Once again, the simple facts:

His team was an 8.5 underdog and you and everyone else thought we had no chance.
Playing the defending Super Bowl champs at their place.
Without your 3 best offensive skilled players for large portions of the game.
ETC.ETC.ETC.

To not give Norv credit for how hard and well his team played yesterday is to be completely ignorant, or completely defiant and biased.

183
by Dave (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:02pm

146: But even after they got their entire starting O-line back (and Harrison) too, Addai was still only averaging 2-3 ypc last night.

184
by S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:05pm

Can anyone explain what went wrong with the Colts run game about halfway through the season? Addai was one of the most productive backs in the league for a while.

It’s only a hypothesis for consideration, but the Colts asked Addai to carry a very heavy load this year, in both the running and passing game.

Many coaches seem to believe that the physical toll of the modern NFL requires platooning running backs during the season to keep the wear and tear down. These guys take a real beating over the course of a 16+ game season.

Actually even when they had James, who was always one of the top rushers in the league, he was under utilized come playoff time. The Colts would have at least one more ring if they didnt forget about the run game when it gets down to the wire. Remember the Pats game earlier this year, what did Addai have before halftime and after halftime?

185
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:06pm

re: 165

Isn't a decent market offer approximately what the highest bidder will offer Moss? If a team offers him 6/$90mil with $35mil up front, then that would constitute his market value and the Pats would have to come close to matching it to keep him.

As good as he's been I don't know if that kind of investment is wise, given his past incidents of quitting on his team, his age, and his weed-smoking ways.

186
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:10pm

181: Merriman used steroids, not HGH. I think it can be safely assumed that very few active NFL players use steroids, since they are relatively easily detected. HGH is essentially undetectable (or at least, the couple of existing methods that can detect HGH use are rather controversial with respect to accuracy and practical applicability for large-scale, random screening - see link under my name), so it's simply impossible to know how many players have used/are using it.

187
by S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:12pm

Lol @ Norv
If anyone really thinks they have a chance to beat the Patriots, remember they have Norv, one of the worst in game coaches i have ever seen. This is the same team that went 14-2 last year so i dont think talent is the issue. Getting rid of Marty was neccessary because his ultra-conservitve offense was not going to win in the playoffs. But that said i fully expect Norv to get throughly out coached next week.

188
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:15pm

182: False starts, too many men in the huddle penalties, wasted timeouts, delay of game penalties. Those are all signs of a well coached team, right?

189
by jim's apple pie (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:17pm

As a Chargers fan, I'm under no delusions that Turner and Cottrell are great coaches (I think both are thoroughly mediocre). Turner is a pretty good offensive coordinator but lacks several qualities that you want to see in a head coach (discipline, a good game face, the ability to motivate and have his team maintain confidence in him during adversity). He's a perfect example of the Peter principle (people rise to the level of their incompetence).

I think Cottrell is average as well. It took him ten games to figure out that his defense should play to its strengths. I haven't seen anything so horrible from him though like what Will Allen describes occurred in Minnesota. He benefited this year mostly from a young secondary improving with age and the insertion of Cromartie into the starting lineup.

Some notes on the game:
1) I would have been fine with some of the refs calls in standalone situations, but it just seemed like too much when viewed as a group (the holding during the return, the Indy int, and the weird PI call in particular). I understand that football is a tough game to ref, and anybody who thinks otherwise should try reffing any sport. It's not easy. As soon as you have that whistle in your mouth, and you have to constantly make a decision on whether to call a foul or not, the game seems to speed up to an insane degree. Still, I think that most football games have a lot of questionable calls, they just tend to even out over the course of the game. It's when every questionable call helps one team that people started to get pissed off.

2) Where has Vincent Jackson been all season? He's had two great games in a row as soon as the playoffs started. I'm with the poster who said that the play-calling improved when LT went out. I would go a step further though and say that the play quality went up as well because players knew they had to step up and were more likely to get the ball with the superstars out (Simmons' "Ewing Theory").

3) I actually didn't notice any bad lack-of-holding calls when it came to the Colts stopping the Chargers pass rush (I don't know about the converse though). I think it was much worse during the Tenn game and during the year in general (Shaun Phillips especially always seems to create 2-3 plays during a game where it looks like he's getting held when trying to get to the QB and there is no call).

Some notes on the team in general:
1) Never forget, Scifres == Robo-Punter.

2) While I think that the Chargers get criticized a little too much for celebrating unimportant and/or unspectacular plays (everybody in the NFL does it way too much as far as I can tell), they've certainly gotten far more annoying this year:
a) I like Rivers for his energy and enthusiasm, I just wish that he would direct it only towards his own team in a positive manner. He needs to learn to ignore the crowd and avoid talking too much trash to the opposing team.
b) LT needs to get a better game-face. Some people just look like they're sulking when they try and look stone-faced (Andrew Bynum gets criticized for that a lot, the Mannings too, plus lots of others).
c) While I like Merriman's sack dance (I think it is spastic and silly and not something that any rational person would ever think looked cool), he needs to learn to pull it out only occasionally.

Thoughts concerning next week's game:
1) I wouldn't give the Chargers much of a chance in this game, but anything can happen. Even if the Chargers were healthy, and playing at home, the Patriots would STILL be favored by a TD or more.

2) One thing for sure is, I don't want to see them try and replicate the soft coverage that Jax tried. Here's what I would do:

a) Be aggressive. Try and get in Brady's face (pressure up the middle). Try and get a sack & fumble off the edges (Merriman and Phillips). Rush five a lot.

b) Since you're rushing five, play the secondary up a little bit more. Expect short, quick passes and focus on tackling them immediately if they are complete. Accept that you're going to get burned once or twice during the game but at least force the Patriots into having to complete a tougher pass.

c) Play a 3-3-5 with Weddle or Florence subbing in for Wilhelm. Have Cromartie shadow Moss.

d) Pray that Cooper can tackle Maroney for short gains if the Patriots decide to run.

190
by DoubleB (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:20pm

Re: Blueprint

In devising a game plan you have to make certain assumptions about what you expect to happen. I have to believe part of what Jax was hoping was that Brady would still force some balls up to Moss even though he was effectively being doubled. He had done it lately (theoretically in pursuit of the record) and had done it sporadically throughout the year. On Saturday they didn't. I think Jax got much of what they wanted out of the gameplan (particularly Garrard's superb play), but they made 3 big mistakes (Garrard's fumble, Northcutt's goalline drop, and Jones's end zone drop). Allowing for Garrard's fumble, if (and I know it's a big IF) Jax gets those two TDs as opposed to FGs, then they actually did get the one mistake they would have needed to possibly win the game (Welker's drop).

180: I actually agree with much of what you are saying. Jax could have gone the other route and just tried to completely go off the map (blitz 7 every down, etc.). In other words high-risk (you give up 70 points), high-reward (you stun everyone and win the game). It may actually have given them a better chance to WIN the game, but that is awfully hard to do in today's NFL (pressure by media, fans, etc.).

191
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:21pm

180: How can a team that called a bootleg, medium-length pass on 4th and 1 be characterized as "playing not to lose?"

The repeated Baltimore comparison is interesting to me. I give the Ravens credit for being aggressive and kicking the crap out of the Pats' receivers - but they had two advantages that the Jags didn't: 1) the personnel to play an aggressive game; and 2) just as important, a fierce wind that essentially took away the long ball (and meant that they could be more aggressive and not worry so much about being burned on the deep ball).

Jax didn't have that luxury.

And, after that, Baltimore still gave up 27 to Jax's 31.

I believe that Jax's major shortcoming wasn't the gameplan, but the execution - tackling on the short gains.

192
by Herm? (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:22pm

Given his experience in Raider Nation, do you REALLY think Randy Moss will just take the most money and run? My guess is that there will be 3 or 4 teams on his list, all above .500. The highest bidder wins only if they outbid New England by many, many millions of guaranteed dollars.

I am beginning to believe that Merriweather will be the Pats starting SS. If not next year, then definitely the following year. He's starting to get that nose for the ball.

193
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:25pm

Re: #192

Given that Wilson seems to be deeply in the doghouse, you may be right. It would be nice if Merriweather didn't have hands of stone, though. He's already managed to drop two would-have-been-game-clinching INTs.

194
by nat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:28pm

177:
One turnover would be average for the Patriots' season. So with only mildly good luck (and without the Blueprint!) you would get two turnovers. That's about 10 points prevented, and two of your own drives with better field position. The price is that the Patriots' drives will end quicker (by score or not), so you will exchange two to four more drives.

My personal opinion is that ten points and field position on two drives is too high a price to pay to avoid exchanging three drives. By the seasonal drive stats, an exchange of drives gains the Patriots an average of about one point.

195
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:30pm

189: Great post. I agree with almost everything you say. I think that SD has the personnel to play that type of aggressive game - and, although I haven't seen them play that much, it seems that getting pressure has been an essential component of their game plan in recent years. Phillips is kind of a monster, although I'm not sold on the secondary (Jammer and Florence in particular).

I wonder about the extent of Castillo's injury, because I think he'd be a critical component of the game plan.

196
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:31pm

192/193.

I don't think Wilson is really in the dog house, I think Sanders is just BETTER at this point. Wilson has been hurt too many times, and hes just not as fast as he used to be (hes a converted CB). Rodney gets the nod right now because hes 1) MUCH better against the run, 2) Hes a great blitzer.

Moss:

I don't think Moss goes anywhere. I think its got to be clear to Bellichick/Pioli that Moss is what is making this offense tick, and the Pioli's Patriots have always been willing to pay top dollar for game changing players.

197
by S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:32pm

Patriots girl, they were playing not to lose Defensively. On offense i was glad see them play aggressively, although they probably didnt run it enough. But defense is what i meant when i said they were playing not to lose.
And they didnt need to bring 7 every play, just switch it up, give them different looks. Give Tom Brady the same look and all day in the pocket and he is going to be perfect, like he was. Any QB can carve you up w/o pressure but ie. Rex Grossman you can usually get a ball or two forced and picked off. aint happening with Brady

198
by Doug (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:35pm

What DID happen to Eugene Wilson? A couple of years ago he was considered Rodney Jr.

Sanders and Meriweather don't seem THAT good...Did injuries take their toll or is it something else?

199
by Bill Barnwell :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:36pm

On Chambers -- I've pointed out repeatedly that I didn't think Chambers was the least talented wideout in football, but he was the worst (at least in 2006). That considers his talents relative to those of his usage patterns and team needs. Reviewing some statements from my piece on Chambers:

Simply put, regardless of how ugly a quarterback or how decrepit a team a WR is surrounded by, elite WRs simply catch a higher percentage of the balls thrown to them than Chris Chambers does. -- Chambers caught 51% of the passes thrown to him this year. That's better than the abysmal number of last year, but still below-average.

It seems absolutely unfathomable to me that anyone who watches him on a regular basis could make a case that Chris Chambers is a star receiver. Chambers has had to deal with some poor quarterbacks, indeed, but if he were really a stud stuck with mediocre talent all around him, he wouldn’t be this bad. There simply is not a wide receiver in our database (looking back to 1997) who has played this poorly in what should be the prime of his career and recovered to be an elite wide receiver. -- Chambers' isn't an elite wideout. He's the number two or three option in a very good offense (that, in all fairness, had a down year that I think Chambers helped save from being awful). That's a perfect role for Chris Chambers. He's NOT a player who can break double coverage and run possession routes and catch the ball frequently enough to be good at it. He's a guy who can get downfield and deep over the middle and use his fantastic leaping ability to take advantage of single coverage. And in that role, he's been an effective, solid wide receiver.

Chris Chambers has a better chance of being out of football in three years than he does of appearing in a Pro Bowl. If that seems absurd to you, I’d reply by saying that nominating the worst wide receiver in the league to go to the Pro Bowl would be an equally absurd proposition. -- I don't think Chris Chambers is making it to the Pro Bowl in the next couple of years. It's more likely than him being out of football, but neither is an impossibility.

200
by hrudey (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:40pm

I think Vic Ketchman of jaguars.com summed it up pretty well:

"Vic: I did enlighten you. I told you weeks ago that the Jaguars didn’t match up well against the Patriots. Mike Smith tried everything. He opened in “nickel,” switched to a 3-3-5 and invited the run, then went base 4-3 “Cover Two” after halftime, and then mixed in “nickel” on passing downs. The Jags blitzed seven times and didn’t come close to sacking Brady any of those times. One of those blitzes resulted in a 53-yard pass to Donte Stallworth. That’s what happens when you blitz Tom Brady. What do you do when you can’t rush and you can’t cover? Tell me."

(link to Ask Vic)

201
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:41pm

Last time I remember noticing Wilson, he had just tripped on his own feet and was lying face-down in the endzone while Burress was juggling a catch for the TD that gave the Giants a last chance. That may explain something, or not.

202
by azibuck (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:43pm

(Aaron) And I’m sure that our more negative readers will start asking when we begin to give Norv Turner some credit. I dunno, I don’t feel like the Chargers won this thing with coaching, but maybe I’m wrong and I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.
Why would "negative" readers only ask that? He's a great playcaller, for one thing. That doesn't make him a great "coach", but it doesn't hurt.
But if this game -- where most people seem to think the officiating went against them, where their most important starters went out or were already severly hobbled -- if this game doesn't mean that Norv had a solid game plan and had a team prepared, then what game would?
Go read last week's Audibles, a couple comments from the Outsiders were how much worse McNeill, Rivers, and another O-lineman were this year than last. And somehow this makes Norv a bad coach?
I sure hope NE wins next week, because if they lose, it won't be because Norv's a good coach. That apparently can never be the case. What the hell ever happened to the fact that Washington and Oakland were both worse before and after Norv coached those teams?

203
by nat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:43pm

191: How can a team that called a bootleg, medium-length pass on 4th and 1 be characterized as “playing not to lose?”

I believe the topic is the defensive game plan (aka The Blueprint). And, yes, the Jaguars were playing defense "not to lose".

204
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:44pm

My theory on Chambers is he's a #2 WR who was forced into a #1 position in Miami, which got him too much attention, both in terms of balls thrown his way and defenders trying to stop him. Now that he's in SD, he's not the #1 guy, so he can excel at what he does. However, somehow the change of scenery seems to have given him better hands as well. I'm at a loss as to how to explain this. Maybe SD has a good WR coach?

205
by S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:50pm

I though Chambers always had good hands. He is a lot like Stallworth tho in that he drops some easy ones and makes some spectacluar ones. The fact is hes only 5'11' at best. With respect to Steve Smith, and previous instances of Marvin Harrison, how many 'elite' recievers are that short?

206
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:03pm

Ryan, stop lying. I never stated that the Chargers had no chance. Work on your literacy also. I clearly credited Turner with calling a good game above. I did so last week, too.

Look, if you are going to accuse others of being irrational, stop listening to the voices in your head that tell you that I've written things I never did, or that I haven't written things which I, in fact, have written.

207
by Brian G (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:04pm

#192: Yes, actually, I do think Moss will take the money and run. I don't think he cared that the Raiders weren't winning, I think he cared that he wasn't getting paid. There is a reason why a lot of teams weren't willing to take a chance on Moss and the Pats were only willing to give him a 1-yr contract. The book has been out on Moss since college: Great player - when he feels like it. Sure he's working hard and playing great this year. He wants that ring and a big payday next year(including a big signing bonus). Once he gets those, his financial and H.O.F. future secure, you can't discount the notion that 'bad' Randy will show up. And if NE needs to reload on defense, as I suspect they will, is he really worth it versus getting several mid-level guys on defense?
This isn't to say that they won't get it done and bring Moss back or that Moss hasn't truly changed his ways. But it'll take more than one season of good behavior to convince me. Like I said, it's all sunshine and rainbows right now but I suspect we'll see plenty of storm clouds come negotiation time.

208
by Mitch (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:05pm

Rodney Harrison = Rasheed Wallace

209
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:10pm

202: But you can't look at the offensive and defensive game plans in isolation. Jax decided to be aggressive on the side of the ball where they had the personnel to do it - which is, funnily enough, on offense.

On defense, Henderson was banged up, Stroud was out, Peterson was out. Their corners were Mathis, Williams (who per KC Joyner's stats was one of the most burned corners in the NFL), and the maligned Terry Cousin; safeties were the eight billion year old Sammy Knight and rookie Reggie Nelson.

Look, I'm not trying to malign the Jags' D. But in its banged-up state, does anyone think that secondary could regularly hold Moss, Welker, and Stallworth playing man-to-man? The Jags tried a bunch of different looks, and as 199 points out, got completely burned on one of the few blitzes where they had a chance of getting Brady.

The Jags tried to force the Pats to earn their TDs, rather than giving them the long ball. If the Jags had tackled more effectively and forced just one more three-and-out, we may have had a different game. (And honestly, I'm a huge Brady booster, but 26 of 28? Was that really foreseeable?)

And, of course, this discussion is completely different if the Jags had the same weather luxury as Baltimore. They didn't.

210
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:11pm

"#

#192: Yes, actually, I do think Moss will take the money and run. I don’t think he cared that the Raiders weren’t winning, I think he cared that he wasn’t getting paid. "

Moss, IIRC, made $11M in his last year with the Raiders. Thats not getting paid?

211
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:12pm

209: Sorry, that's 203, not 202.

212
by S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:15pm

208 Rasheed has never been a dirty player. I would say Bruce Bowen more than anyone. Only liked by his squad, more dirty than a lil bit. At least Bowen is a good guy.

213
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:17pm

jim's apple pie, Cottrell's scheme last week against the Titans was almost every bit as bad as against the Vikings. Here he is, with an opponent with no downfield passing game to speak of, good running backs, a starting wr hurt, and playing two back up o-linemen who are better run blockers than pass blockers, as is nearly always the case with back-up o-linemen. Cotttrel responds with yet more six man fronts (yes, I counted), seven man fronts, and hardly ever drops the safety down. The opponent responds by dominating the time of possession in the first half, limiting the Chargers' possessions. Thus, a clearly overmatched team takes a 6-0 lead into the half time break, and had they just had slightly better fumble luck, they may well have won the game. This is the definition of bad coaching, and no, the fact that the Chargers won a close one yesterday doesn't change that. The Chargers have a lot of talent, so it is no surprise at all that they win a close one to another very talented team. Keeping a game competitive despite having clearly better talent is a much better indicator.

214
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:20pm

207 -

From ESPN:

"Scheduled to earn $21 million in base salaries over the next two years, $9.75 million in 2007 and $11.25 million in 2008, Moss signed a new, one-year contract with the Pats that might pay him only in the $3 million-$4 million range. With incentives, it could be worth $5 million. But even if he reaches all the incentives, and collects the full $5 million in 2007, Moss will have sacrificed $16 million in base salaries due him.

"I've made a lot of money and I still have money in the bank. So by me coming to an organization such as the New England Patriots, why would money be a factor?" Moss said in a conference call. "I'm still in awe that I'm a part of this organization."

Brian G,

This doesn't exactly sound like somebody who wants to take the money and run. Why go somewhere else when NE is the best situation in terms of making him the best player he can be. Why be great somewhere else when he can be transcendant in NE?

215
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:21pm

"Thus, a clearly overmatched team takes a 6-0 lead into the half time break, and had they just had slightly better fumble luck, they may well have won the game. This is the definition of bad coaching, and no, the fact that the Chargers won a close one yesterday doesn’t change that"

And yet you keep asking us to overlook when Marty Shottenheimer did EXACTLY the same thing: let overmatched opponents stay in the game.

216
by TomH (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:21pm

@ 176:

http://www.bostonherald.com/blogs/sports/patriots/?p=1527 harrison "hasnt made excuses and wont make excuses" and "was only doing it to accelerate his healing process" and "it was not steroids, but it was not a banned substance". Good job at not making excuses.

but yes you are correct about the superbowl thing. I misread the article: http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=3028236 I thought they said he took it right before the superbowl, but it was just that it was found out right before the superbowl.

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=2631666 harrison dirtiest player in the NFL

and yes, plenty of people are going to want him in the HOF for the 30/30 because they will say he is "versatile"

217
by S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:26pm

209
Personel or will? I seem to remember the eagles blitzing w/o a bad windstorm, granted they have a better secondary and a much more inventive coach. All im saying is waiting for Tom Brady to make a mistake is futile. The Jags obv expected NE to try to force a few balls deep cause they seen them do it in the regular season. I really have no clue why, this is the playoffs, not the regular season. What is the consistency of all the teams that won this weekend? The all put pressure on the QB. The Pats, Chargers, and Giants all made second half adjustments and blitzed more. The Jags did nothing different all game. Bringing 5 is almost not even blitzing to this team because they protect so well. You have to bring enough to get a free rusher and force Brady to rush some throws. Every game where they were "held in check" so to say this is what was done. I dont care if you got 12 dropping back into coverage, if you give a great QB enough time to throw they will find someone eventually. And the wind in Bmore thing, Brady is one of the best throwers ive ever seen dont think the wind affected him as much as the athletes on Bmore did.

218
by nat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:36pm

209 patriotsgirl:

You're obviously on top of the personnel situation more than I am. I've been assuming that the Jaguars were a little bit better than average on defense. If they were in fact so banged up that their regular defense was hopeless - actively bad rather than average - then slowing the game down and hoping for an offensive miracle may have been the right strategy.

I also agree that the offensive and defensive game plans are linked: first, because you need to choose some place to take chances, and second, because there are things you can do on defense to help your offense -- or on offense to help your defense.

One of my complaints about the Blueprint is that this defensive strategy hurts your offense. The Patriots' defense is just average. They can also be tired out, provided you keep them on the field for a lot of plays. But the Blueprint keeps your own defense on the field, while the Patriots D rests.

219
by cjfarls (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:37pm

Re: Norv, Chambers & FO

I really am scared that folks are bringing the FOMBC onto the Chargers for next week, because i'd love to see them pulloff the upset.

That being said, I don't understand why people have such a problem with saying that Norv & Chambers were bad... if you look at the stats, THEY WERE BAD. Chambers' numbers, in comparison to other Miami receivers, WERE BAD. Norv's head coaching record prior to this year pretty much sucked. Basically, when they say something negative about a player/coach, they usually have a good reason, and its not because they are biased, etc.

The FO guys state their opinion, and give EVIDENCE (stats) to back up their assertions. They even ask folks to challenge their assertions, but ask that folks provide EVIDENCE and/or RATIONALE to back it up.

For example, this week Aaron asks for folks to convince him Norv should get credit for the win. Reading the comments, someone pointed out that he put in Sproles specifically for the long-gain... good point. Others have pointed out some of the bad NT coaching that occurred. This is the type of debate that makes this site great. Just saying "HE WON, SO HE SHOULD GET CREDIT", doesn't tell us anything though.

Now, I'm going to go back to praying to the football gods to hold off on the FOMBC for the bolts, but sadly past evidence probably will give us a game where NE wins because the Bolts because of 12 men on the field penalties, and Chambers dropping a catch in the endzone....

220
by Doug (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:40pm

A coach doesn't have to be all good or all bad. Maybe Norv was a "bad" coach in previous incarnations, but give credit where it's due, he's having a good year and a thus far a good playoff run.

221
by BXRICK (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:42pm

It's been said on this site before - slowing the game down or speeding it up doesn't really matter. What matters is scores per drive. Each team has the ball essentially the same number of times (end of halves being the exception).

If the Patriots (or really any opponent) score, you have to score, and you have to score the same number of points. It plays more like a basketball game.

The only effect that slowing the game down has is to make the score closer. But that's not affecting the drive scoring percentage. It's not a scoring contest, the winner must score only one more point than the loser.

222
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:42pm

"The FO guys state their opinion, and give EVIDENCE (stats) to back up their assertions. They even ask folks to challenge their assertions, but ask that folks provide EVIDENCE and/or RATIONALE to back it up."

Their evidence was that Norv's teams had consistently moved from slightly below average to around average. They sited regression to the mean, which was probably a large part of it. The problem is, coaches aren't everything, and personnel matters. Maybe Norv is a bad personnel guy, and AJ Smith was exactly what he needed...

223
by S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:45pm

Reading the comments, someone pointed out that he put in Sproles specifically for the long-gain… good point.

not really, he is one of the fastest players in the league and had two return TD's in the same game earlier this year against the same team.

I would argue he hasnt used Sproles or Turner enough until he had to which isnt really good coaching just lucky that AJ has decent guys in there. And also it doesnt take a genius to know you screen passes are designed to get to the edge and be big plays, so it might help to get a fast big play guy in there.

224
by azibuck (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:47pm

I Googled Dr. Carroll's phrase "sinking gait". Two hits, one was this thread, the other a website called sexyanimebabes.

225
by Brian G (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:53pm

Nicky P -

Considering Moss has already said he won't take a 'home-town discount' I think we know where his head is. He took the Pats offer because if he didn't, he probably would have languished in obscurity in OAK for a couple of years and then just faded away. Too old and with too many question marks for anyone to take a chance on. NE was his last chance to secure himself a ring and a big contract to last through the end of his career. Sound bytes and interviews are one thing. I'll be convinced he's changed when I see it consistently. Yes, if he's smart, he'll re-sign with the Pats and stay. But will the Pats really offer him a fair market value contract? Past history would suggest not.

But what is perhaps more important is whether a big, long-term contract is actually good for the Pats. Yes, he's a big contributer now, but he turns 31 in a month. The Pats have always been ruthlessly shrewd when it comes to contracts. How many more years does he have left? All it takes is one big injury and boom! career over, and NE is left with a pro-rated signing bonus cap-hit for years to come. Just ask Bill Polian how much Corey Simon will count against the cap this year. I'm told his face turns several shades of purple at the thought.
Again, to reinforce the point: I am not saying the Pats won't re-sign him or that Moss hasn't changed his ways. I'm just saying I remain unconvinced of both.

226
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:54pm

219: Slowing the game down does matter, it gives an underdog a better chance of winning. With an infinite number of possessions, luck would even out and the more talented team would win, but in a finite game, the less talented team could get a few lucky breaks.

227
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:56pm

Re: #222

All it takes is one big injury and boom! career over, and NE is left with a pro-rated signing bonus cap-hit for years to come.

Actually, no. The un-prorated part of the bonus will all get accelerated into that one year, and then it's off the books. So while that year will massive suck, there is no "cap-hit for years to come".

228
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:00pm

"Slowing the game down does matter, it gives an underdog a better chance of winning. With an infinite number of possessions, luck would even out and the more talented team would win, but in a finite game, the less talented team could get a few lucky breaks."

yes, but allowing a team easy high percentage plays is not the way to do it.

If we were talking about giving the Pats and 80% chance of completing underneath for 3 yards, maybe, because a single penalty/sack can stop a drive, but when its an 80% chance of completing for 8-10 yards, you'll never stop them, because the chance of them going 0 for 3 is about .8%.

The problem was that the Jaguars "blue print" took away any possibility of a turnover. As soon as Del Rio chose that 2nd field goal, that game was over.

229
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:03pm

"Yes, if he’s smart, he’ll re-sign with the Pats and stay. But will the Pats really offer him a fair market value contract? Past history would suggest not."

I'm sorry, but this is absolute shit. That Pats have shown a willingness to sign game busters. Brady IS (IIRC) the highest paid QB in the league. Seymour was the highest paid DL at one point. They just threw money at Tye Warren, and the entire offensive line.

They're willing to pay whatever it takes to get top tier talent. They aren't willing to pay top tier money for 2nd tier players, like Deion Branch, no matter what.

230
by randplaty (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:05pm

The Chargers showed on Sunday that they just have better personnel than the Colts. While I would give Norv and Cottrell some credit, these plays were made by players. The interceptions were athletic plays by Cromartie and Weddle. Merriman, through sheer athleticism forced Manning into a hurried throw on 4th down. Vincent Jackson made an athletic catch in the end zone. Sprouls outran the fast Indy defense with his speed. Rivers threw the ball well. Scifres punting huge clutch kicks.

Manning was excellent in my opinion, but the Chargers had too many players making plays. Indy probably had better coaching, but the athleticism of San Diego, the depth, just overcame Manning's excellent performance.

231
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:08pm

Re: 222 "Considering Moss has already said he won’t take a ‘home-town discount’ I think we know where his head is."

I don't know, it may just mean Moss is a smart negotiator. If he's willing to accept a 3-4 year deal (I think he will) I don't think there's much chance he leaves NE. They'll pay him his money. I think Colvin and Stallworth are probably gone though.

232
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:11pm

231

I don't think Colvin is gone... thats too much of a sore spot right now with Seau/Bruschi and possibly Vrable (although he looks like he still has quite a bit left) most likely gone next year. Stallworth is toast though.

I'm curious to see what happens to Kelly Washington. Hes been a monster on special teams but hes due like $6m next year, and hes sure as hell not worth that. I kind of think Pats WR 3-5 are fungible at this point. I think Moss and a good slot option (welker)make everything else irrelevant (as seen with Gaffney)

233
by Herm? (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:13pm

So then...what can Moss command on the open market?
On the open market, is $10 million+ out of the question?

And what will the Patriots offer?
probably a little more than half of that?

But then you have to assume the geriatric LB's have to play into their 40's, Samuel comes off the books, and Seymour gets cut.
And I don't want any of those things.

So Brian G, I somewhat agree with your conclusion of Moss probably gone, but I'm not sure I agree with the road you took to get there.

Who will have the cap space, organizational success, and the quarterback to get him?

234
by S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:15pm

Who will have the cap space, organizational success, and the quarterback to get him?

Green Bay if Favre comes back for one.

235
by erik fast (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:16pm

RE #216

"the Pats defense is average".

Sorry to point this out, but they are above average. #4 on pts/game, #4 yds/game, #6 pass yds/game, #10 run yds/game. So they are average on run yds/game I would say. A few people (myself included) pointed out the Pats D last week:
1) Take away the other team's strength in the first half (Jags run) and give them the weakness (Jags pass) and see what happens (while playing a soft and non-aggressive defense)
2) Make half time adjustments to what they are doing in the game, still playing a non-aggressive defense to start the 3rd quarter
3) Play aggressive D towards the middle to 3rd quarter, blitzing and taking chances on pass routes
4)Usually results in 1 stop towards the end of the 3rd (TO or FG) which forces the other QB to take chances on offense and force plays (and that's the game).
This plans works assuming the Pats can match, or lead, points with the opponent (pretty realistic assumption). This has been their MO ever since Colvin went out injured. It may not be pretty, but it works. (Yes, I think this is done to mask the age and slowness of the LBs who can't keep up full throttle all game - but it allows them to make up for it in smartness).

236
by azibuck (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:19pm

Again from Dr. Carroll: "The rubber substrate is loose and the field is very, very hard in that condition."
You don't know what you're talking about.
From Green Media Online, regarding synthetic turf maintnance:
"Grooming serves a number of purposes, including preventing and/or breaking up compaction, redistributing and re-leveling infill, and, importantly, restoring fibers to vertical. Fibers in synthetic turf have a tendency to lay over in use, especially with repetitive traffic. Fiber layover may lead to poor footing, decreased drainage, compaction and poor appearance. Once the fibers are bent all the way over, it may be difficult to get them to stand up again.
Another form of grooming is scarification to prevent and/or remediate compaction. Increased compaction in the field will lead to poor ball bounce, decreased drainage, poor footing and possibly a greater incidence of player injury. Testing has shown that scarification reduces G-max considerably and improves traction. Generally, a sweeper or greens groomer is used for scarifying synthetic turf fields. It is important to minimize compaction from the outset by keeping the field clean so that dirt and other contaminants do not filter into the infill, filling up the voids. Preventive maintenance also should include protecting the field from vehicles not designed for athletic fields such as pick-up trucks, loaders and concert cranes."

237
by erik fast (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:21pm

RE #226
The Pats won't sign Moss to anything over 3 years (only Brady gets a long contract in NE) and won't pay him huge (but I think they will make a fair offer and a 65-35 chance he takes it).
No way Colvin is gone next year..he is their only LB under 75.
I hope Stallworth is back next year. He only seems lackluster because Moss got all the balls, but whenever Moss was shutdown, he came up big. If Moss goes, Stallworth stays. If Moss stays, its probably 50-50.

238
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:21pm

233

"So then…what can Moss command on the open market?
On the open market, is $10 million+ out of the question?"

Whats with the assumption that Moss even hits the free market? I expect to them to tag him, and then offer him like a 5 year deal with $20M or so guaranteed.

Even so, they had no problem giving Samuel $9m this year, and Moss almost makes the entire defense irrelevant at this point.

Seriously, I do

239
by The Original Sam (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:25pm

215/S.,

The Jags did not have the personnel to consistently get to Brady AND keep people covered. Sammy Knight can't cover a tight end, Terry Cousin can't cover anything even over the middle. Reggie Nelson is a rookie who got abused by Peyton Manning - and Brady better. Mathis and Williams can only do so much. Not having Stroud and a healthy Henderson was a severe liability, and the pass rush has been the problem all season.

As well as Brady did, you think he wouldn't have found a way to thwart the blitz, too?

240
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:28pm

"The Pats won’t sign Moss to anything over 3 years (only Brady gets a long contract in NE) "

Again People talking out of their asses. Tye Warren just signed a 6 year extension. I guarantee in the next 2 years Wilfork gets an extension thats just as long. Koppen was signed to a 4 or 5 year extension last year. So was Neal, IIRC. Adalius Thomas got a 5 year deal. Kelly Washington and Donte Stallworth both have 6 year deals, IIRC Welker got a 5 year deal.....

241
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:29pm

Re: 227 "But then you have to assume the geriatric LB’s have to play into their 40’s, Samuel comes off the books, and Seymour gets cut."

I don't see why it would be that drastic. Cutting Colvin (he's over $6 million against the cap this year) would give them enough room (combined with what Moss makes this year) to do a deal. Now they may think that money is better spent elsewhere, but they should certainly be able to resign Moss and keep Samuel and Seymour.

242
by Tom (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:32pm

I think the main "problem" with this site is that the stats really aren't that accurate. I understand the goal of making football stats like baseball stats but with football being such a team game, it's just not possible. Football stats are like baseball fielding stats which are all over the place on some players. I think everyone realizes how inaccurate they can be but everyone is taking the FO as gospel. There are just too many variables in play in football to accurately keep track of the stats. Bill Barnwell talks about Chambers' poor catch rate but we have no idea how those passes were thrown to him. Was almost every pass thrown inaccurately? Into double coverage? You just don't know. In fact, who was better over the weekend, Tom Brady or Phillip Rivers? They threw for the same amount of yards but Rivers threw 9 less passes (the INT might swing it Brady's way but then again, he only threw one pass downfield).

243
by S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:33pm

232
Of course i do think Brady would have beaten the blitz more than a few times. but thats why its risk/reward. They didnt take any risks and got slow deathed.

I kind of equate the Pats to Floyd Mayweather. Most people that fight him play it safe to stay in the fight ie. Zab Judah. When you got a guy taking chances there is a high prob he will get KTFO but also a higher chance to win. ie Ricky Hatton. I still think the Pats would have won but Jville could have helped their chances by taking a few more risks. Cant dance with the champ.

244
by nat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:35pm

229: Patriots D average???

Team defense weighted DVOA at the end of the regular season: 0.3% - ranked 18.

Average.

Better unweighted DVOA. So maybe above average. Points per game, etc, depend on non-defensive factors, like the Patriots' record-setting offense.

245
by S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:35pm

234
Real Talk.
Manning prolly put up the best performance out of every QB this weekend. If the line dont block, and the WR dont catch what else can the QB do?

246
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:37pm

slowing the game down or speeding it up doesn’t really matter. What matters is scores per drive. Each team has the ball essentially the same number of times (end of halves being the exception).

Except that's wrong. Slowing down the game or speeding it up DOES matter, at least when there is a talent differential, exactly because what is important is scores per drive.

A given offense, verus a given defense, will tend to average X number of points per drive, or, put another way, a TD on some percentage of their drives, a FG on some other percentage, and no points on the rest. When Team A has a much better "X" than Team B, then Team A would always win if the game tended to infinity. But games are not infinite, and so sometimes Team B will win. The "shorter" the game is, the greater B's chance of winning.

This is because there is fluctuation on any random drive. Even if you only score a TD on, say, 34% of your drives, you still could happen to score a TD on all of your first four drives, the same way you could happen to get heads four times in a row flipping a coin. Probably if you had 100 drives, you'd score around 34 TD's, but they might come in any order.

And even if your opponent tends to score TDs on 56% of their drives, maybe they only *happen* to score FG's on their first four drives. In which case, you'd be winning after four drives, by 12 points, even though you were the weaker team.

The longer the game (i.e. the more possessions each team has) the more likely the better team will win. If you know that you are obviously the inferior team, then it is to your advantage to limit the number of possessions as much as possible. If Jacksonville thought that, in the long run, New England was more likely to score on one of their possessions than Jacksonville was on one of their own, then a gameplan that shortens the game and limits the number of possessions (i.e. a gameplan that takes away the big play on defense, and grinds clock on offense) is the way to go.

247
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:39pm

"I don’t see why it would be that drastic. Cutting Colvin (he’s over $6 million against the cap this year) would give them enough room (combined with what Moss makes this year) to do a deal"

Or just use the $8m from Samuel, who is obviously gone. I honsestly think, with the current passing rules, CB is one of the most overpaid positions in football. Remember, the Patriots defense was BETTER against the Pass with Randall Gay and Earth-Wind Moreland that it is with Samuel and Hobbs. The corners just don't matter all that much, which is why they refuse to give Samuel the money. If they give a corner top money, its going to be a guy like Cromartie or Bailey who are 6-2 and 210 lbs.

248
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:43pm

". If you know that you are obviously the inferior team, then it is to your advantage to limit the number of possessions as much as possible"

UNLESS, the act of shortening the game makes it almost impossible for you to ever stop the opponents offense, which is exactly what Jacksonville's defensive scheme did: forced their defense to spend HUGE amounts of time on the field, defending against extremely high percentage plays.

Shortening the game against a better team: good. Doing it the way jacksonville did: bad.

249
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:43pm

242: Wait, are you really going to argue that Rivers played better than Brady? For Chambers, his catch percentage was always the worst on his team when he was playing for the Dolphins. Whenever I saw him play, he was always good for 2-3 drops of easy catches a game. He had a knack for mixing up spectacular catches with easy drops, and the amazing catches weren't enough to make up for the many drops.

250
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:44pm

Re: 213

Moss was going to be cut by the Raiders, thus be scheduled to earn $0 in 2007. Moss wanted a 1-year deal with the Pats in order to put up gaudy stats so he could get one last big payday.

re: 231

Well, the "market value" of Moss's new contract would certainly be in excess of Marvin Harrison's 2004 contract (also signed at a similar age, when the salary cap was considerably smaller), which is a 6 year deal.

251
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:45pm

Actually, no. The un-prorated part of the bonus will all get accelerated into that one year, and then it’s off the books. So while that year will massive suck, there is no “cap-hit for years to come”.

Not necessarily. Assume he gets injured in year 1. They could cut him in year 1, but it's unlikely they would have the cap space to do so, given that it's midseason and you typically don't have that much space, plus you need to leave some open in case other players get injured. Cutting him in year 2 for a previous year's injury results in an injury settlement for the next year, unless they would convince him to retire. So the injury hurts for two years, not one - and if they would wait until after the early preseason cut, the cap hit could be spread across year 2 and 3.

252
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:47pm

UNLESS, the act of shortening the game makes it almost impossible for you to ever stop the opponents offense, which is exactly what Jacksonville’s defensive scheme did: forced their defense to spend HUGE amounts of time on the field, defending against extremely high percentage plays.

If Jacksonville's defensive scheme was really "let's plan on missing 8-10 tackles during the game which allow an average of 5-6 extra yards," I'll agree with you.

Their scheme was fine. Their execution was just wretched.

253
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:50pm

On Moss:

I'm pretty sure the sticking point won't be on money, but time.

The Pats will want to sign Moss to some kind of deal that pays him well in 2008, and maybe even in 2009, but that makes him cutable after about 2-3 years (even if it is a 5 year deal). This is likely smart...Moss will be good for some time to come, I think, but will only be GAME-CHANGING (and worth game-changing money) for another year or two, if that. After getting somewhat burned on extending Corey Dillon, and seeing how the Chiefs got burned on Larry Johnson, I think the Pats will be prudent (of course, those are RB's, and WR's tend to last a bit longer, but still).

Moss, on the other hand, isn't stupid, and presumably knows that he'll at least go from game changing to average in a couple of years, and hence he should be looking for a deal with more job security than that. Figure a deal that structures bonuses so as to be worth at least five years of security. The Pats will be reluctant to offer that.

Like all things, the devil will be in the details, and I'm sure there is some common ground that can be reached. Whether it will be reached depends on whether or not another contender offers Moss a deal with more job security.

Points that I think people are exactly right on are:
* Moss will only be willing to play for a contender
* Job security/deal duration is more important than total value or bonus dollars, as long as the bonus money is somewhat in the neighborhood of what Moss thinks is "market value"
* The Patriots will open the wallet for marquee players, so they may offer Moss big money, but they also will NOT open it for second tier players, which Moss will soon become, so I think that is the sticky bit.

254
by Herm? (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:52pm

241
I definitely jumped the gun on Seymour...Apparently, it would be a $12 million dollar cap hit if they cut him.
My initial thought is that they can live without him if they need to make space, since they did for the first 10 weeks this year.

Using the same site (linked in my name, I can not attest to its accuracy), Donte Stallworth's issue wouldn't seem to be cap implications, as much as his actual salary vs. lack of output.

I couldn't foretell the total 2008 number, and whether Moss and Samuel, combining $15-20 mil, would be signable.
And even if they could, it almost flies in the face of their personnel method of stockpiling B or C-level salaries and avoiding A-Level Salaries.

Anyways, I guess there's 1 or 2 more games this year before it becomes an issue, so I should probably enjoy blueprint talk for 3 more weeks, then pull it back out come FA and draft time.

255
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:52pm

"Moss was going to be cut by the Raiders, thus be scheduled to earn $0 in 2007. Moss wanted a 1-year deal with the Pats in order to put up gaudy stats so he could get one last big payday."

Which is irrelevant. If he had been cut he would have been signed anyways (by NE, GB, etc)

Your point was that he was pissed because he wasn't getting paid, and considering that he'd made almost 20M in the two previous years, is bullshit.

"in order to put up gaudy stats so he could get one last big payday"

Thats your interpretation. He's never said that, and we have no way of knowing what his intentions are. He plays another year like this year (and if he stays in NE, he probably will) and hes a guaranteed HOFer. Maybe he signed with NE because he thought it was his best chance of going to the HOF, or because he wanted to have fun playing football again, or beacause Bellichick had repeatedly said he'd kill to have Moss.

Theres no way to know WHY he took a pay cut and went to New England, but I think its really inane to suggest that he took a paycut of $8m because he wasn't making enough money.

256
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:54pm

"If Jacksonville’s defensive scheme was really “let’s plan on missing 8-10 tackles during the game which allow an average of 5-6 extra yards,” I’ll agree with you."

You're right. Sometimes it is Execution. Because Jacksonville is the only team this year thats had a problem Tackling Wes Welker, Kevin Faulk, and Donte stallworth. Honestly, I thought they did a lot better job tackling than most this year. We didn't see any 60yd screens for TDs like we did against Dallas.

257
by Doug (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:54pm

Jags didn't miss an inordinate amount of tackles. I agree with Rich Conley--this game plan made it very easy for the Pats to march up and down the field.

Yes it took them a while to do it, and the Jags did a great job taking away the deep ball, but except for the missed field goal, and the punt late in the 4th, the Pats scored every time.

258
by S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:55pm

Moss, on the other hand, isn’t stupid, and presumably knows that he’ll at least go from game changing to average in a couple of years, and hence he should be looking for a deal with more job security than that.

You really think any football player is expecting to be average, esp one with the talent of Moss?
Expect that hes gonna want upwards of 6-8 million. Expect the Pats to offer around 3-5. Expect Moss to be gone next year.

259
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:55pm

Tom:

As a Wisconsin alum, I can attest to the fact that Chambers has all the physical skills to be a heckuva receiver.

But his hands s*ck.

I watched every game of his collegiate career and watched multiple GOOD throws, some ridiculously EASY throws, go through his hands. The most infamous being his standing in the end zone all alone against Michigan waiting for a rainbow and flat out DROPPING THE BALL. Chambers put a KILLER move on the db who fell over himself trying to keep up. And after that gorgeous effort to GET to point A Chambers flat out WHIFFED.

I cannot attest to his time in Miami.

But the Chambers I knew in Wisconsin was a flawed receiver. He could run. He could jump. He was tough. He ran solid routes. But his hands stunk.

So you can question the stats if you want. But try another guy to use as your justification. Because I am buying what they are selling when it comes to CC. Dude just can't consistently catch the football and hasn't now for a decade.

260
by azibuck (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:00pm

One more thing on the Indy turf, Dr. Carroll, the rubber is called infill, not substrate. In fact, infill should never be allowed to reach the substrate.

261
by Brian G (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:00pm

Herm -

Actually, I think we took the same road to get there. I mentioned in an earlier post that I wasn't sure Moss was going to be worth it considering they are most likely going to need to re-load on defense.

As far as who can sign him, I think it depends on where you think 'organizational excellence' ranks on his list of priorities.

I am of the opinion that if he gets his ring and with the season he has had, his place in the H.O.F. is pretty much secure and he would be willing to ride out the rest of his career in a less than stellar environment, provided they offered him the right contract (i.e. - lots of guaranteed money).

Again, if he's sane, he takes an offer from NE that is worth more money that most of us will ever see, but NFL players have a long, storied history of chasing the money to lesser pastures. Nothing I've seen from Moss in the last 10 years tells me he would be any different.

And as far as franchising him goes, I think Moss would tell them where to stick their franchise and hold out or become a huge distraction. No way they let that happen.

262
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:01pm

"And even if they could, it almost flies in the face of their personnel method of stockpiling B or C-level salaries and avoiding A-Level Salaries."

Except that is not, and never has been their personnel strategy.

Their personnel strategy is hold onto A+ players (Seymour, Warren, Brady,etc). Period. Sign as many B players as you can get for C deals. IE, guys who are "too old" etc.

Where the patriots are cheap is with the bottom of the roster. They sign guys who they can give Veteran exemption deals for (850K salary, no bonus...counts 450K against cap). They let go players who are overvalued (Law, McGinnest, Banta-Cain, BRANCH)

263
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:01pm

218: It's not that Jax is a bad defense, it's just that (with their critical injuries), they were not a good match-up for the Pats. I think 239 is right on the money (and has much more knowledge of Jax than I - although I do follow Jax and would have supported them in the playoffs, if the pesky Pats were eliminated).

And 217: Pat can correct me on Philly's defensive schemes, but I thought that Johnson didn't go crazy with the blitzes; the basic principle of Philly's scheme seemed to be to take away the long ball, as I recall, though my memory is a little vague. (I'm pretty sure that Moss was doubled for a large chunk of the game - and Philly's secondary AND pass rush were a better matchup against NE than Jax's was.)

And I agree with 252. One fewer missed tackle, or one more drop...who knows? We saw a number of teams get killed by drops (Dallas, Seattle, and especially Indy and Jax). The Pats have had issues with drops in some of their games - Philly in particular - so it's not completely ridiculous to think that another drop or two might happen. After all, there's a reason that Brady's 26 for 28 is a record.

And, as Kenton Keith and Marvin Harrison showed, sometimes you can get a turnover even when the opposing QB doesn't make a big mistake, and the play's a relatively high-percentage play.

264
by Herm? (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:02pm

Badger, you're opening the wounds I carry for a 2nd rounder named Tony Simmons.
I guess not everyone can be Lee Evans

265
by S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:12pm

patsgirl

Brady had just completed the greatest statsitical regular season in the history of the NFL. It should have been reasonably expected that if you stand back and let Tom Brady complete short passes all day, he will. Didnt he already win them a Superbowl doing that?

266
by hrudey (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:14pm

257: The game plan made it easy for them to march up and down the field, but it also made it difficult for them to score quick TDs. And make no mistake, if the Jaguars blitzed, it was going to be an easy big play for the Pats -- anyone who has watched Jacksonville much this season knows that they're in great shape if they face a sub-par QB or get pressure with the front four, and t-o-a-s-t if they face a decent QB and don't get that front four pressure.

They tried different formations. They did blitz seven times, and didn't get a sniff of Brady. If you can't rush the passer, and you can't cover the receivers, are you better off:
A: Going completely insane and bringing 7 guys and watching Moss score,
or
B: Taking away everything deep, and then hoping for a break?

If your goal is to get a single stop in the game, sure, go with A. If your goal is trying to have a chance to win, though, you'll have to match them score for score, and the fewer scores you need to match, the better. If Northcutt and Jones catch those second half TDs and the game's 28-28, and then the Pats still kick the FG, Jacksonville has an honest-to-God chance of winning the freaking game. They sure weren't going to win a 56-52 game, though, that's for certain -- precisely because their receivers weren't going to avoid the dropsies all game.

267
by S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:14pm

If your best case for the D you played was, we were hoping for some drops or fumbles...its pretty safe to say you were playing soft waiting for a mistake that never happened.

268
by S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:28pm

Anyone remember Manning's 49 TD season? How did they get beat that year? If i remember correctly it wasnt by sitting back and waiting for Manning to make a mistake.

269
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:32pm

You’re right. Sometimes it is Execution. Because Jacksonville is the only team this year thats had a problem Tackling Wes Welker, Kevin Faulk, and Donte stallworth.

1) Why is it impossible that the league has a dearth of good open-field tacklers this year? One of the better open-field tacklers in the league was killed (Taylor), and several of the others were injured (Dawkins, Polamalu).

Reggie Nelson is clearly not one of the better open-field tacklers in the league.

2) Why is Stallworth even mentioned here? Faulk and Welker are the ones who have been regularly slipping tackles, not Stallworth.

Jags didn’t miss an inordinate amount of tackles.

What? Were you watching the same game I was? When a Jaguar defender made an open-field tackle, I was amazed. Most of them were bad missed tackles, too - a defender going to the outside shoulder of a receiver near the sidelines, for instance.

And 217: Pat can correct me on Philly’s defensive schemes, but I thought that Johnson didn’t go crazy with the blitzes

Mike Tanier took the "pressure up the middle, move a LB to a DE and go LB - DE - DT - DE with the front four" from the Eagles gameplan. They rarely blitzed in that game, and when they did, it was up the middle, to prevent Brady from stepping up.

(I’m pretty sure that Moss was doubled for a large chunk of the game - and Philly’s secondary AND pass rush were a better matchup against NE than Jax’s was.)

Philly's secondary, healthy, would've been a better matchup. But they weren't healthy - Dawkins wasn't, although he wasn't horrible, and obviously they lost Sean Considine earlier in the season, so JR Reed was the third safety most of the season. Quintin Mikell was actually injured that game (concussion), and so Reed was actually the starting strong safety. Reed wasn't even on the team in the beginning of the year, and he was brought in primarily for return skills after the general failure of Buckhalter as a return back (Anyone wants to ask why the Eagles aren't in the playoffs? Answer: Rory Segrest is a significantly worse special teams coach than Jim Harbaugh. He made a huge number of strategic mistakes in terms of player personnel over the season. DVOA backs that up, too - the Eagles had one of the worst special teams units in the league, and, in fact, the worst in weighted DVOA).

Most of the big plays in the Philly game (yes, there were quite a few - it wasn't quite the 'death by a thousand paper cuts' people made it out to be) were accompanied by "*!#*! IT JR, MAKE A TACKLE" screams from me.

In fact, JR Reed was then injured that game, leading to Marcus Paschal coming in the game. Paschal is an undrafted rookie free agent that the Eagles put on the practice squad because none of the three rookie safeties they had made any impression this year in preseason.

Honestly, I have no idea whatsoever how the Patriots didn't score on every play they ran.

270
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:38pm

#215, Rich, I didn't ask you to overlook anything. Schottenheimer rarely, if ever, had a playoff team which was so clearly superior to his opponent in the way that the Chargers were to the Titans last week. In 2004, a year a lot of people talk about when ripping Schottenheimer, the Jets had a significant edge over the Chargers by DVOA. If you want to rip Schottenheimer for losing with a 13-3 Chiefs team to a Denver team with Elway and Davis, be my guest. If you are trying to say that a guy with .600 winning percentage over 345 games was outcoached a lot, well that sure is an interesting theory. Let me know when Cottrell gets there.

271
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:39pm

The Pats have had issues with drops in some of their games - Philly in particular - so it’s not completely ridiculous to think that another drop or two might happen.

Why do people think that drops are always random? Isn't it just a bit curious that a good number of the drops just happen to happen in games where Brady's pressured more than normal?

Jacksonville had virtually no pressure on Brady other than that first sack. The guy had like three or four yards around him with no defender near. In several cases I actually saw the three down lineman not even attempting to rush the passer (I've actually got this one recorded - I should put it up somewhere, it's embarassingly bad for Jacksonville) - they were just standing watching to stick their hands up when Brady passed.

Now, if that was part of the gameplan, I'll fully agree that part was beyond stupid. The Jags did nothing to try to collapse the pocket, and man, did it show. I didn't think Brady was ever going to miss a pass.

272
by Spanky (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:39pm

I think Audibles failed to capture the most despicable aspect of this weekend's games: Colts ref love. It's getting sickening. The Reggie Wayne PI, which many will say was countered by the Ryan Diem call, was horrible. To boot, after the call on Diem, they were bailed out with a 5 yard defensive holding call on long to go!!! Never mind that the refs wiped 6 off the board LATE in the first half on that bunk holding call on Cromartie's return. Easily the highest profile holding call of the weekend, and it DIRECTLY prevented 6. Boomer was the only media member that I can recall to mention the one-sided reffing from this game. I'm betting that Simmons will have something to say about this as well

That said, keep up the good work, fellas

273
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:45pm

245:
Manning prolly put up the best performance out of every QB this weekend. If the line dont block, and the WR dont catch what else can the QB do?

:: S. — 1/14/2008 @ 4:35 pm
stan - is that you? LOL.

274
by cjfarls (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:47pm

Re: 267

I think your exactly right. And given Jax was facing the greatest offense I've ever seen, I'll take that gamble more than betting I can stop them on a greater possession of drives than my team can score over the long-run.

Put me in the "They had a good gameplan, but were simply over matched" camp.

275
by Ryan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:48pm

Look, can we just all agree that a good defense will mix in both pressure and coverage, and disguise both pre-snap? Would that not be the best attack always? You can't just sit back against Brady and wait for a mistake, and you can't just send the house against Brady and hope that the pressure gets there. You mix in both, but make everything look the same pre-snap. You disguise coverages and you mix things up continuously. Obviously the Jags scheme was flawed, because it was a one dimensional scheme that allowed Brady to just pick apart a zone defense. You have to get a good mix of man and zone, pick your spots with blitzes, and hope you can get pressure with 4 or 5 on a relatively consistent basis.

276
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 8:03pm

Jacksonville had virtually no pressure on Brady other than that first sack. The guy had like three or four yards around him with no defender near.

My fave example of that was on one of the TDs to Watson (not the thread-the-needle one) where Brady has the time to sit back, motion to Watson with his non-throwing hand, wait for Watson to come clear, and fire it in.

277
by langsty (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 8:06pm

152: "Here’s a fun exercise - compare and contrast the 90s Braves w/ the 00s Colts. Both got one title against weak competition and choked the rest of the time! :).

:: Mr. Beefy — 1/14/2008 @ 12:32 pm"

Ha! No. The only problem with that is that the Cleveland team the Braves beat was actually the best of all the WS teams they went up against. I'm still not sure how they pulled it off.

278
by Scott (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 8:13pm

Re:
229: "Patriots D average???

Team defense weighted DVOA at the end of the regular season: 0.3% - ranked 18.

Average.

Better unweighted DVOA. So maybe above average. Points per game, etc, depend on non-defensive factors, like the Patriots’ record-setting offense.

:: nat — 1/14/2008 @ 4:35 pm"

And the Colts defense was ranked 4th in weighted DVOA. Anyone think the Patriots defense would have let Billy Volek and Michael Turner drive down the field in the 4th quarter to get the game winning TD? I don't. They would have came up with the takeaway and it'd be game over.

279
by Doug (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 8:31pm

Pat, there are always going to be some missed tackles in every game by every team. And like your point about drops having something to do with the D, missed tackles don't occur in a vacuum either. The Pats receivers are pretty good at picking up extra yards against everyone...I think that's a factor.

Bottom line, there's no great scheme to stop NE. I guess given Jacksonville's personnel, this was a good a game plan as any. Still it was doomed to failure

280
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 8:51pm

Pat, there are always going to be some missed tackles in every game by every team.

Sure, and of course the Patriots have guys who are slipperier than average. But 1) I've seen guys open-field tackle Faulk and Welker in the past, and I didn't see that on Saturday, and 2) I've seen teams tackle the Patriots better this year.

I don't see how that tackling performance could possibly be called "not bad." That, and it wasn't just the Patriots' players being slipperier than normal. The Jags just had bad technique. Going to the outside with a receiver near the sideline? That's not a "slippery Patriots player." That's just really bad technique.

281
by Scott (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 8:52pm

Let's be serious at this point. You're not going to beat the Patriots with your defense. It's going to have to be a 48-45 kind of deal, and you just can't waste a single drive.

Watching the game Saturday, I think the Jags basically lost because they had a fumble, an INT, and two drives ended in FG's that should have been TDs (especially the one Northcutt dropped). They also had an opportunity right before halftime to get a FG, and they ended up with 8 yards and a punt.

Now the problem for Jacksonville is I just described all of their drives in the game that didn't end in TDs (I ignored the "last play of the game" drive). Tough game when you only get the ball 7 times, but that's how they played it and they did not execute enough on offense.

282
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 9:07pm

Probably my last post on this topic; I'm not really sure why I feel the need to defend Jacksonville, but there it is.

271: Why do people think that drops are always random? Isn’t it just a bit curious that a good number of the drops just happen to happen in games where Brady’s pressured more than normal? I didn't say that drops were random; my point about the drops is related to the missed tackles, and why the lack of drops may be an execution problem: if a receiver hears footsteps and/or feels that the defense will make a hard tackle, drops are not uncommon. For instance, I don't believe Manning was severely pressured on the Keith drop, although I could be wrong. (Didn't you make that point after the Philly/NE game? Or was that someone else?)

Philly’s secondary, healthy, would’ve been a better matchup. But they weren’t healthy - Dawkins wasn’t, although he wasn’t horrible, and obviously they lost Sean Considine earlier in the season, so JR Reed was the third safety most of the season. You are, obviously, much more familiar with Philly than I am; my impression is that Philly had injuries in the secondary, but those can be camouflaged to some extent by a strong front four. The strength of Philly's front four, combined with the strong parts of the secondary (as I recall, Dawkins and Sheppard both had solid games, and Brown also played), gave Philly some defensive options that Jax couldn't execute with their personnel. Cole alone is a monster, and Jax really had no equivalent pass-rusher with Stroud injured and Henderson gimpy.

I don't think it's a coincidence that Indy and Jax both had significant defensive line injuries, and struggled to get pressure on the passer; what surprised me about Indy more than Jax was the fact that the SD QB is, in my opinion, more vulnerable to being rattled by blitzes than the NE QB, and I thought that would have been a factor. (Which is why I said earlier that I think the Castillo injury is one worth monitoring closely.)

283
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 9:08pm

Precisely, Scott. Beating the Patriots will require a hyper aggressive offense executing extremely well. No, that offense won't benefit from having Brady, Moss, and that offensive line, but they will have the benefit of going up against a defense with old and slow (if wily) interior linebackers, safety play which is sometimes less than intelligent, and is lacking, right now, a truly great edge pass rusher.

Yes, it can be done, but it will take a magnificent offensive performance. I never would have thought the Chargers' wide-outs had the ability to be that good, but after watching the pass catching guys with bolts on their helmets thoroughly outclass the pass catching guys with horsehoes on their helmets, I give them a chance. I have no idea whether Rivers will be good enough, although I suspect if he gets protection as cozy as he received yesterday, he can do it. The better bet, however, is that Belichik cooks up some stuff to expose a young guy's inexperience.

284
by BDC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 9:49pm

118:

"I definitely believe that a team that competes hard and stays sharp gives themselves a better chance of winning than resting on their laurels."

The thing is though, Indy did play hard their last game of the year (that one hit the Indy defender made was just brutal; how the guy got up after is beyond me). They just didn't play every starter. Would we be debating this if Manning stays in the whole game and breaks his arm in the fourth quarter? For every example of a team that played hard and won the next week, i can show you a team that played hard and lost. Or a team that rested starters and won. I am not saying one way is better then the other other. Rather, the exact opposite. That it doesn't really matter either way.

"figure I’ve posted here enough to make it known that I am a Pats fan, and I do drink the kool-aid of having to play 60 minutes at top effort, in every game."

You mention this as if it is some sort of NE philosophy. It isn't. Like most teams, if they have something to play for, they do, if their seeding is locked up, they don't. This year, they obviously had something to play for, and so they did. That isn't *why* they beat Jax though. They won because they were the better team. Two years ago they had the Flutie drop kick game against Miami to end the season. They had nothing to play for at that point, and clearly they weren't. They lost that game. They still won their first playoff game (coincidentally, I believe it was also against Jax). It isn't *why* they won though. They won because they were the better team.

285
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 10:00pm

Some random responses to the thread:

1) Moss staying in NE. I think BB and Pioli will make it happen. As a Colt fan, I hope the old Randy shows up, but I doubt he'd be greedy enough to not meet NE's offers. And, who else fits that mold of contender: Dallas w/ TO's ego, Indy w/ Wayne and Harrison money invested, Giants?, Chargers? Green Bay w/ Favre having just a year or two left? Pitt?

I just don't see him going other places. Yes, I do believe he set himself up for a big payday by choosing the Pats/Brady after seeing that he'd get cut last year at that salary, and maybe he had Free Agency in mind. But, NE will pay him enough. If they don't, I think NE's crazy. I know this year has been the Perfect Storm for that offense, but 23 TD's? You better keep that.

2) Want to beat NE? You have to sell out a little and get a pass rush on Brady. It's pretty simple in concept, very hard in execution.

3) I've never focused on Mathis in watching Jax play, but boy, he had a bad game against NE. Stalworth and Welker can make average tackling CB's look bad, but they made Mathis look awful. If you're going to keep the ball in front, you then need to tackle (as Indy did in the regular season game for 3 quarters).

4) Indy's Defensive collapse. Yeah, they gave up the most points, yards, etc. that they gave up all year. Obviously the loss of Freeney (and thus the pass rush) hurt, but I also have been thinking about how inexperienced at playoff football this defense is. Yes, Hayden and Jackson played in nickel situations last year, but many, many of those guys had never seen serious action in a playoff: Johnson (R), Keiaho, Hagler, Thomas. Now that I think of it, most of them played reserve time last year. I guess they just didn't play well (trying to find a reason).

5) I think, as a fan, that at this point, I am most interested in seeing NE/GB in the SB. I think the Giants (with a good pass rush) might have a better chance at beating NE, but as a fan of excitement, I'd have more fun watching Favre hucking the ball all over the place. Just wish the SB could be in the snow, for added enjoyment in my cozy home with the fire going.

286
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 10:19pm

204: The Chargers do have a pretty good WR coach in James Lofton. Also, I really believe the change of scenery did a lot for Chambers.

287
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 10:40pm

285: Charting data indicates that Mathis has been bad this year, so it doesn't suprise me he looked awful against the Patriots.
And for Indy's defensive struggles, the Chargers O-line played better than I've seen them play all year. Too be fair, though, I've only actually seen their losses. Some of this was lack of Freeney, I'm sure, but I'm nervous that some of it was a return to form of the great O-line that SD had last year.

288
by BDC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 10:49pm

219:

"if you look at the stats, THEY WERE BAD. Chambers’ numbers, in comparison to other Miami receivers, WERE BAD."

Not true, he led the team in reciever DVOA more often then he didn't. Every year but 05 and 06 I believe.

"The FO guys state their opinion,
and give EVIDENCE (stats) to back up their assertions. They even ask folks to challenge their assertions, but ask that folks provide EVIDENCE and/or RATIONALE to back it up."

Not true. Look at what was said. The general consensus was that Chambers was a good receiver caught in a bad situation. FO contention was that he sucked, and it wasn't because he was in a bad situation (reasoning being as you mentioned, FO contended that he did worse then the other receivers on Miami, despite that not really being true).

Now, let's look at what actually happened. First, he goes to a better team and performs much better. This would certainly support the claim that he was held back by a crappy offense.
Second, lets look at how the "better then Chambers receiver" did once he was thrust into the same crappy spot Chambers was in to begin with. Booker goes from a DVOA of 13.9 to DVOA of -21.6 now that HE is the primary target in a crappy offense. And it isn't like any of the other Miami receivers did much better; all of them were in the negative. Again, how does this not support the original, general consensus that Chambers wasn't a bad receiver, but was held back by a crappy offense?

See, and this is the problem. Objective analysis requires one to accept that sometimes, one might be wrong about something. But it seems at times that if FO proposes a theory, and that theory is initially accepted by its members, then *no* amount of evidence is going to change their mind.

289
by Nick (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 11:37pm

I have been a San Diego chargers fan since 1981 (yeah. I've suffered). I've watched every snap of every Chargers game for at least the past three years if not more. I didn't like the Norv Turner hire when it happened. I haven't always liked his playcalling. I don't like that every game (and most drives) seem to start with LT rushes on first and second down up the middle or to the left and then it's third-and-long. I don't like that Norv uses LT to run up the middle to run down the clock and get smashed up. Etc., etc., etc.

But for God's sake people....

Somehow, SOMEONE was responsible for the San Diego Chargers being ready to play and ready to win in the playoffs in Indianapolis when they were:

* without their star receiving threat who had been the engine of their passing offense and around whom the passing offense, especially the 3rd down offense, functions (yeah Gates played, but a linebacker covered him so he was just a normal replacement-level TE)

* without their #1 running back for more than half - the RB who just happened to be the league rushing leader two years in a row, who is an amazing threat out of the backfield (which the backup Michael Turner is NOT), who happened to be the league MVP last year

* without their starting QB for essentially the second half.

Somehow, SOMEONE needs to credit for the fact that the offense still functioned without their #1 QB, RB, and receiver. Against the supposedly-good Colts defense. In Indianapolis. In the playoffs.

SOMEONE created a system where the backups were ready to play and ready to shoulder the load.

SOMEONE has to get credit for that. AJ Smith gets some. Doesn't Norv get the rest?

I mean...seriously...how much would the national media by giving Bellichick a thorough rimjob if Brady, Moss, and Maroney were out and the Patriots still won? Or if Dungy's won without Manning, Addai, and Harrison? Or the Cowboys without Romo, Witten, and...well I can't remember which one of their RBs is good, but anyway, the good one.

Seriously.

290
by Herm? (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 11:54pm

BDC, you lost me. I know I'm hunting and picking examples for arguments instead of giving steady data. But there's no way you can say that The Colts and The Cowboys are clearly worse than the teams they lost to...Cowboys no way. Chargers/Colts are even enough, but it would only help prove my point...2 very evenly matched teams, both of which have something to play for...the team that stayed sharp by competing hard in past weeks won the game. Believe it or not, I was actually impressed with SD and their no excuses attitude.
I'm not saying the play hard no matter what is exclusive to the Patriots, as evidenced by the Giants in week 17.

And partially compromising to your point, Jacksonville competed hard and was as sharp as they ever have been, but lost...but it was to another team that kept itself sharp and competed hard.

I guess my point is that Because the margin for error is so great in the NFL, a team that goes weeks without competing for 60 minutes is at risk of losing a football game to a team with less talent but greater resolve.

291
by Herm? (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 11:58pm

sorry, but to pile on to my previous comment...yes, there were other factors in each game.
And besides, I retracted and voted for Karma at post #170

292
by John Q (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 12:30am

#288:

Great post. Pretty much summed up my feelings better than I could. You could say the some people that follow Football Outsiders have a "Obsessive, especially faddish, devotion" to DVOA. This is definition 5a of "cult" in the American-Heritage dictionary. Seriously people, sometimes statistics are misleading or don't tell the whole story. In those instances, it's actually OK to say "we were wrong" and just stop at that. Chris Chambers has been incredibly valuable to the Chargers and is not as bad of a reciever as FO would have you believe. END OF STORY.

293
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 12:39am

So, I'm breaking down the Patriots-Jaguars game just for fun (partially to count how many missed tackles they had late) and I noticed something curious.

For anyone who has the game recorded, watch the second Patriots offensive play. 2nd and 14. It's a screen to Maroney. Maroney fakes a double team with Light, and then goes out for a pass. Light then blatantly holds the Jaguars DE. I mean, it isn't even close - Light just reaches his arm around, grasps him, and chucks him to the ground. The DE was trying to turn around to go after Maroney, but had no chance. (Play ends up going for like 20 or so.)

I'm watching that and wondering "why in the world wasn't that called? There's an official right there." Then my wife says "well, because he couldn't see. The running back's in the way."

She's right. Maroney set up for the pass exactly in the lane of sight of the official and Light.

I'm wondering 1) if this was intentional (almost certainly), 2) if other teams do this (I have no idea). I can't deny it's not clever, but it's really really sleazy too.

One other thing I can see quickly: the "Jaguars defensive gameplan" was stupid. Why did they even bother rushing 3? They didn't do anything creative at all - it was always 1 on 1 LT/DE, the LG/C against the other rusher, and the RG/RT on the other rusher.

It was totally pointless. They might as well have dropped 11 into coverage, because those three guys did nothing. Nothing at all.

294
by Richard (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 12:46am

289: I couldn't agree more.

292: I wouldn't go so far as to compare it to a cult, but fair point otherwise.

293: Dropping 11 into coverage... now, that would have been creative.

295
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 12:53am

The Jaguars missed out on a big advantage on defense by being really predictable... ie running the same play every snap. Their line didn't stunt very much, it was always just four down rushing, no pressure on Brady... yeah, great blueprint, giving on of the best qbs ever all day to throw

296
by John Q (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 12:54am

#294:

I meant "cult" in the Trekkie sense, not in the David Koresh/Jim Jones/Heaven's Gate sense. Although, many of truly cannot get on with our week without "Audible's at The Line" on Monday mornings. So maybe I'm a member of the Football Outsider's Church?

297
by Glenn (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 12:57am

Pat,
You're kidding, right? The Patriots runners have such control over time and space and moving bodies that they can purposely position themselves in front of a ref (and all the other officials who could possibly see the play) to block his vision so a teammate can make an illegal hold, all while looking ahead to the blockers and open spaces on the line?

Just listen to yourself and how that sounds.

298
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 1:03am

293: Dropping 11 into coverage… now, that would have been creative.

Well, I'm not serious about that, but it would've been more successful than the Jaguars strategy of three rushers spread out over the entire freaking offensive line.

Seriously. No focused pressure at all. Dan Koppen, who had trouble when the Eagles moved Trent Cole in and had him and Mike Patterson attack the inner gaps, was frequently standing around blocking no one because the Jaguars never sent someone at him. If they would've had two rush the A gap, one probably would've gotten through.

I'm actually not sure how far I'm going to get into breaking the game down, because so far (half in) I'm seeing the same pattern, over and over. Jaguars send a pointless rush, Brady has all day, drops it to Welker or Faulk in the middle of the field, one of the Jaguars defensive backs makes a horrible tackling decision, and they pick up 8 instead of 4.

299
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 1:09am

#297: Watch the play. This has nothing to do with "amazing control" or anything like that. We're talking about the line judge, who's pretty much stationary.

Maroney knows where Light and the blocker are, because he was just there as he started off on a double team. Maroney then peels off the block and runs right at the line judge, turning around to catch the pass. Light's kept the DE in the same spot, obviously, since he chucked him to the ground.

This isn't complicated. Maroney's job would be "double team the DE, then peel off and run at the line judge, turning for the pass." Easy enough.

Really, watch the play. Teams obviously do similar things with crossing routes using the officials as a pick. This isn't that different.

300
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 1:10am

Their line didn’t stunt very much, it was always just four down rushing,

Three. Not four. Three. Three on five. No chance whatsoever.