Short-yardage passing had a good year, except at the end of the Super Bowl. We look at the return of quarterback runs, the rise in pass-happy strategy, and 2014 success rates for offense and defense.
13 Jan 2008
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.
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:
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.
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 topâ€¦)
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.
332 comments, Last at 17 Jan 2008, 3:01am by jas