Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

09 Nov 2008

Audibles at the Line: Week 10

compiled by Doug Farrar and Vince Verhei

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2009. Games are chosen based on our own personal viewing preferences, and are going to reflect the teams we support and the cities where we live.

Thursday, November 6

Denver Broncos 34 at Cleveland Browns 30

Vince Verhei: Josh Cribbs doesn't get nearly enough credit for being one of the league's elite kick returners AND one of his team's top kick coverage guys. It's like having Mariano Rivera, except in this case Rivera can also bat .300.

Doug Farrar: Plus, as a former Kent State quarterback, he's an interesting lead man or handoff instigator in a reverse/hybrid/Wildcat thingy. He was involved in three of those when the Browns upset the Giants. So, Mariano can also steal a base or two.

Aaron Schatz: By the way, the Browns refer to their Cribbs-at-QB package as the "Flash" package.

Bill Barnwell: Ryan Torain's nickname: "ATV."

Doug Farrar: Unfortunately, Ryan Torain's new nickname: "I.R.".

I'm enjoying comparing and contrasting Ryan Clady and Joe Thomas in this game. Two or three years from now, this could be like a Walter Jones-Orlando Pace discussion would have been in about 2003. One thing that has impressed me about Clady from the start is his drive-blocking; he's very good at getting under pads and just mauling a defender backward. Thomas is the better technician. He's good at getting an angle advantage and pushing a defender diagonally away from a play, but I think he's much easier to push back than Clady. Clady seems to have a slightly wider or more solid base. You'll see a defender put Thomas on his butt once in a while.

Thomas is just about the best in the league at pushing an edge rusher out of the quarterback's area, fanning him out and away from the play. Most tackles with his experience are more rickety with it, they'll push or strike a lot and get beaten, but Thomas is great at using the defender's own momentum against him. The Cleveland line strikes me as better in space -- Thomas and Eric Steinbach are killer downfield blockers -- while the Broncos would have the more solid group at the line. Clady's a big part of that.

And with 12 minutes left in the first half, Jay Cutler realizes that there are times when the reason you have all day in the pocket is because your opponent rushes three and drops eight and you wind up throwing an interception. In the booth, Cris Collinsworth mentioned that Brandon Marshall took the wrong route on that play, and I've seen Cutler admonish Marshall before for zigging when he should have zagged.

Mike Tanier: The Broncos run defense doesn't anticipate, they don't get off blocks, and they don't tackle well. The ends get washed out on stretch plays. There have been two plays so far where I couldn't tell who had backside gap responsibilities because there was no one on screen. Josh Cribbs logged a linebacker. I can't imagine what a great running team would do against these guys.

I don't think Jay Cutler has any idea what he is seeing when he drops to pass right now.

Vince Verhei: They play Atlanta next week, but that's about the best rushing offense they'll face the rest of the way.

I now quote Mr. Tanier from last week's Audibles: "We also saw that that Brandon McDonald for the Browns couldn't cover anyone." Apparently, McDonald has not improved in the following four days. Eddie Royal burned him on the slant-and-go, but the pass was underthrown. McDonald, his back to the ball, dives wildly waving his hands in the air in a futile attempt to knock the pass down. If he just runs right through Royal there, it's just a 40-some-yard penalty. Instead, he tried to actually play, and the result was a 93-yard score.

Mike Tanier: I wrote that? I was just about to ask just what the hell he was doing. I didn't remember him from last Sunday. The waving, flailing non-tackle at the end of the play made it pretty sad.

Doug Farrar: Never go for the kill shot. It can only hurt the ballclub. Was it just me, or was he waving for some help over the top pre-snap? Hard for me to tell because I live in Seattle, where safety help has been abolished.

I really like Royal. Marshall, on the other hand, has this atrocious skill-to-discipline ratio. He reminds me of Koren Robinson at his physical peak or early T.O. in that regard. Just running around out there, thinking, "Wherever I am, the ball will come!" Not with Royal out there, it won't.

Mike Tanier: The Browns are now working their asses off to lose. The long touchdown, Kellen Winslow fumble, dropped interception, Eddie Royal wide open on third-and-long.

Bill Barnwell: This has not been ... um ... the best advertisement for the NFL Network.

Mike Tanier: After Graham's touchdown, the Browns are ticking me off. I don't care about either team. They are just ticking me off because seeing 10 mental lapses and 20 missed tackles in 15 minutes makes me mad. Need a beer.

Bill Barnwell: The Broncos aren't doing much better. These aren't two great offenses, these are two good offenses who are picking up extra yards at will because they're facing defenses with no discipline who can't tackle. Thank God DirecTV just took some mercy and told me that I'm suddenly not subscribed to the NFL Network. I'm not even angry.

Mike Tanier: Yeah, though Brady Quinn has looked pretty darn good.

Bill Barnwell: It's some basic stuff, though, that's turning into big plays because of ineptitude downfield.

Mike Tanier: McDonald covering Marshall one-on-one in the end zone two plays in a row. Your thoughts? Bill, I think you are the only one awake...

Bill Barnwell: My thoughts are that Buffalo wings are delicious, Mike.

Vince Verhei: Marshall scores a go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes to go. He then pulls something out of the front of his trousers. Brandon Stokley virtually tackles him to prevent any celebrational shenanigans. Soon a half-dozen Broncos and a ref are involved. Marshall eventually relents and meekly jogs off the field, but I am DYING to know what he had planned.

Close examination of video replay indicates the mystery object was a glove. Unless he was planning some wacky Michael Jackson tribute, I may have read too much into this.

(We later found out that he was planning an Obama tribute.)

Doug Farrar: I can't believe that fourth-and-1 call, the incomplete pass to Kellen Winlsow. Did the Browns think the Ravens were going to crash the stadium and start playing their brand of run defense? This is the Broncos, guys. Come ON!

Ned Macey: Tanier said that Cutler has no idea what he's seeing. I strongly agree. Dude insists on forcing to Marshall all the time. 88 targets through Marshall's first seven games this year. That's the second-most targets in football this year, and Marshall was suspended in Week 1 (and the Broncos have had their bye). A quick count has him at 14 more today.

The big problem, of course, is that Marshall's DVOA is below average, which to me doesn't mean Marshall isn't very good, but that he's not as good as the number of passes being forced his way.

I need to just embrace that Cutler is a good quarterback who will force some throws/misread some defenses, but the way he plays is sort of a pet peeve of mine, and I suspect I'll consistently underrate him (see Roethlisberger through his first three seasons).

Bill Barnwell: I think Crennel gets fired on Friday. For a defensive coach, his team has awful fundamentals, and they just blew a big lead for the second week in a row.

Patrick Laverty: And (Patriots defensive coordinator) Dean Pees says, "Uh-oh."

Mike Tanier: His handling of this McDonald kid is pretty damning. You can't keep lining that guy up without help, lining him up in the red zone against a top receiver. If he's all you have, move heaven and earth to hide him, play Cover-2 or Cover-4 every snap, something.

Ben Riley: I missed the game (how did Cutler throw for 450 yards?), but I did catch this important breaking news from Yahoo!: I think this is the first time that signing Hank Baskett could be considered an upgrade.

(Click here to read Mike Tanier's Instant Analysis of Brady Quinn's first NFL start.)

Sunday, November 9

New Orleans Saints 20 at Atlanta Falcons 34

Aaron Schatz: This Rotten Tomatoes page just came up in my gmail RSS reader. I think this is the story of the new Saints kicker.

Tennessee Titans 21 at Chicago Bears 14

Ben Riley: The Bears seem to have figured out that the way to stop the Titans running game is to bring the safety blitz, again and again and again. Mike Brown has played most of the game in the Titans backfield, leading to Chris Johnson to have seven carries for -2 yards, and LenDale White to have four for -2. Of course, it would help if the Titans wide receivers could actually catch the ball to draw some attention from the secondary.

Doug Farrar: Collins is starting to make them pay for all that eight-in-the-box at the start of the second half. Brandon Jones and Bo Scaife have been productive. What's interesting is that even with all that pressure, Collins has time in the pocket. That's a testament to their excellent offensive line. Collins dinked and dunked his way to a touchdown on the second half's first drive. The Bears will have to back off at some point.

Bill Barnwell: That's the Bears' style at this point. They put seven guys on the line and make people guess what they're going to morph into.

Doug Farrar: Right. They have the seven on the line, which is usually run defense, and that thing they do where they stack their outside linebackers in the C gaps. That one seems to be the "this could be anything" defense.

Ben Riley: After the Titans locked up the win, Jevon Kearse took a piece of masking tape and put it between the "9" and the "0" on his jersey to create a little hyphen. Pretty sweet use of a prop. On a day when the Bears took away Tennessee's ground game, Jeff Fisher and Kerry Collins still found a way to win. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say this team is going to the Super Bowl. And winning.

Doug Farrar: I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Jevon Kearse will get a really stupid letter from the NFL this week.

Collins reminded me a lot of Rich Gannon during his Oakland days in this game. Just dink-dink-dink, and you can't stop it. Personally, I'd love to see a Titans-Giants Super Bowl. As Mr. T once said, "Puhdiction? Pain!"

Ned Macey: Consider me skeptical. I'm not seeing any team markedly better than Tennessee, but there's no team, to my mind, with more than about a 20 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl at this point. The Titans punted eight times today, fumbled once at the 1-yard line, and missed a long field goal. That means 10 drives where they did not score. Their touchdown drives were 22, 52, and 56 yards. This offense is just not good enough. If the defense was 2000 Ravens or 2002 Bucs good, then maybe, but this defense is sort of 2005 Bears good.

As for the Bears, their offense was terrible with Rex Grossman. He somehow didn't realize that he should rarely, if ever, throw at Finnegan. The low point was on their final drive. They faced fourth-and-4 at the Titans' 35-yard line, and he threw to Devin Hester in one-on-one with Finnegan. Big surprise who won that game, and one first down from Tennessee later, the game was over.

Ben Riley: The question is whether other teams will be able to shut down the Titans' running game like the Bears did today. It's possible they will -- I hear the Giants and Ravens have a pretty good defense -- but playing at home, I think it's unlikely that Chris Johnson and LenDale White will combine for 22 yards. Whether a team's Super Bowl prospects should be penalized for having short touchdown drives due to a suffocating defense is something I'll leave to others to decide.

Jacksonville Jaguars 38 at Detroit Lions 14

Bill Barnwell: The announcers are talking about how important it is to have timing and rhythm in the Detroit offense. I can't fathom why Daunte Culpepper wouldn't have timing or rhythm.

Aaron Schatz: It's fun listening to the announcers talk about how Jacksonville has rediscovered physical play this week. It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they've also discovered that this week's opponent is Detroit.

How bad is Detroit? We actually had a Jerry Porter sighting today -- IN THE END ZONE.

Bill Barnwell: I dunno. I really think it was them not listening to music in the locker room.

Seattle Seahawks 19 at Miami Dolphins 21

Doug Farrar: On Miami's first drive, they ran a couple of three-back sets, an end-around to Ricky Williams that gained a first down due to a horrible Deon Grant shoulder tackle, and one Wildcat "Steeler" that was stopped by Julian Peterson. However, the flea-flicker pass from Chad Pennington to Ronnie Brown, back to Pennington, then downfield to Ted Ginn, over the heads of Marcus Trufant and (you'll pardon the expression) Brian Russell, was all too perfect. That's how you kill your opponent: a systematic 90-yard opening drive, after a 100-yard kickoff return by Ginn was negated by a hold. People need to stop thinking of this Dolphins team as a half-baked squad held together by a few gimmick plays. I'm thinking that the counter option might be the best bet today.

Judging from what I've seen so far, Dolphins first-round pick Jake Long will have Seahawks first-round pick Lawrence Jackson wondering what this NFL thing is about by halftime. Jackson has seemed to have pursuit and effort issues so far this season at end (he's better inside), and that's not going to work against the brutal blocking of Long.

I wonder how long it's going to take the Dolphins to figure out that Seneca Wallace isn't reading anything to his left. He's not picking on Will Allen, announcer guys. Will's just in the way of Seneca's one-and-one-half reads.

In the second quarter, the Seahawks' defense -- at least the back seven -- is playing pretty well. The three linebackers are all making plays, and cornerbacks Josh Wilson and Kelly Jennings have stopped completions that would have been major gains in most similar circumstances this year.

The offense, though ... (holds nose). The Seahawks were outgained, 243-115, in the first half. What I don't understand is why the Seahawks, with no chance to mount a series of decent drives against Miami's solid front seven, don't make Wallace an option in different formations. SOMEthing to switch things up. I'm not advocating that the Seahawks run the Wildcat or anything; I've seen bad offenses better than this one run it, and it's not pretty. Just something to stir things up. Mike Holmgren's running stuff that he doesn't have the personnel for anymore. The Dolphins started running all this crazy stuff based on adjustments they made after having their asses handed to them by the Cardinals in Week 2. That's what coaches are supposed to do. That's what good front offices oversee. Blech. I'm switching over to Titans-Bears. One half of this is more than enough.

Switched back for the last few minutes of the game, and the defense and Seneca Wallace played pretty well overall. We know how bad the Seahawks are. This should be more about this unreal turnaround the Dolphins are pulling off. That fourth-quarter drive that ended with the Wildcat counter for the touchdown -- 16 plays, 78 yards, nine minutes. In half a season, Bill Parcells has turned a franchise that was one overtime touchdown pass from 0-16 last year into yet another personification of his football philosophy. At 5-4, they're the story of the year.

Ben Riley: The Seahawks could have, should have, would have won this game if Koren Robinson hadn't dropped a touchdown pass, Keary Colbert hadn't dropped a critical third-down conversion pass WHILE WIDE OPEN, and Mike Wahle hadn't continued his unfortunate tendency of having a key penalty at the worst possible time (such as a false start on a two-point conversion to tie the game with three minutes to play).

Doug Farrar: The Wahle thing has been really weird, since he's been a good player overall, and Robinson has been a surprisingly good pickup. But I don't blame Keary Colbert for anything he's done. I blame Tim Ruskell for giving up a conditional draft for Keary Colbert in the first place. At a certain point, when you're so obviously bad that you shouldn't be in the NFL, and some general manager goes out of his way to pick you up, I tend to blame any results on the GM.

Ben Riley: I don't know how mad you can be at Ruskell about Colbert per se. Remember, the Seahawks were starting a free agent off the street (Billy McMullen) and something called Michael Bumpus at wide receiver. Colbert sucks, but what other options are there? The real problem was heading into the season with an aging Bobby Engram, an injury-prone Deion Branch, and no wide receiver on the roster with more than 10 career catches besides Nate Burleson. This is the year Ruskell's myopic focus on rebuilding the defense finally caught up with him.

Doug Farrar: Sorry, dude. It's worse than that. When you're giving up a draft pick, despite the fact that there are holes all over your roster, for a guy who's a walking liability on the field, you are screwing this thing up. Colbert as a street free agent would have been a completely different story.

Vince Verhei: I was in a sports bar this morning that had some trouble with their DirecTV connection, so we missed the beginning of the early games. It soon occurred to them to switch to cable and air the two local games. They turned this game on just in time to see Ginn's flea-flicker touchdown. We all asked them to turn the games back off and leave us sitting silently in the dark.

Ricky Williams' 51-yard run out of the Wildcat annoyed the hell out of me. Several defenders ignored Williams, vacating the middle of the field to chase the action to the offense's left. You mean to tell me the Seahawks had a week to prepare for the Dolphins and were STILL unprepared for the Wildcat?

T.J. Duckett got one carry in this game, on second-and-goal from the 3, right before the (potentially) game-tying touchdown. The play was not a dive; Duckett followed his blockers to the right, then was asked to make a cut and charge upfield. He lost a yard. T.J. Duckett is very good at one thing: Lining up in an I formation and running dive plays between the guards. What the Seahawks have here is a square peg-round hole situation.

There are have been very few bright spots for the Seahawks this year, but two have been Craig Terrill and Julian Peterson. Both guys have been making plays all over the place lately.

Green Bay Packers 27 at Minnesota Vikings 28

Ben Riley: I love the tri-annual experience of watching Adrian Peterson take over a game. He was unstoppable today (please ignore the one critical fourth-down conversion in the fourth quarter where he fumbled).

Mike Tanier: This was a completely ludicrous game. The Packers gave up two safeties. It was that kind of ludicrous. A few notes of the dozens I took.

1) The first safety, in which Aaron Rogers threw underhanded out of the end zone in the general direction of a receiver, was an awful call. I would love to hear the NFL's explanation of that one. For the record, you are allowed to throw a forward pass underhand.

2) For their final drive, the Vikings chewed up about 5 minutes of clock by handing off or throwing short passes to Peterson. Their one pass to a receiver came on third-and-short, of all times. That's really the way the Vikings should always play when A.P. and Chester Taylor are healthy and Frerotte is the quarterback; stay run-oriented to the bitter end.

3) The Packers got a good kick return late, then Donald Driver caught a tip drill and took it to the Vikings' 40, then the 2-minute warning occurred. The Packers figured their best chance to win was a 50-something yard field goal by Mason Crosby. They handed off and threw underneath, making the most minimal effort possible to get an extra first down while attempting to kill the clock. Sure enough, Crosby misses a 52-yarder. Too conservative.

Bill Moore: I only saw the game cut-away, but it looked like Driver was in the area. I was surprised by the "illegal forward pass" description of the play. Was that the actual call, or was it intentional grounding?

Mike Tanier: The call was illegal forward pass. I do not understand why. Quarterbacks can throw underhanded. Driver was in the general neighborhood. When it comes to safeties, the offense should really get some benefit of the doubt, instead of giving the defense two points for a near sack.

I think 80 percent of the Vikings rushing and receiving offense came from A.P. and Chester Taylor. And most of the Packers' offense came from interception returns when Frerotte tried to throw deep.

(Actually, Peterson and Taylor combined for NINETY-FOUR PERCENT of the Vikings' total yards.)

Ben Riley: The best part of the Vikings' final drive? The announcers repeatedly declaring "The Vikings will have to take a shot deep down the field!" while Frerotte patiently handed the ball to Peterson, again and again and again. I still think Brad Childress is a horrible coach, but he seemed to figure things out at the end of this game.

Buffalo Bills 10 at New England Patriots 20

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots are having trouble taking down both Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson when they run up the middle. Those guys seem to be getting a couple extra yards on every carry, dragging guys. On the other hand, when they go wide, the Patriots are blowing them up.

Michael Strahan brought this up on the FOX pregame show this morning, and I definitely understands how he feels. Doesn't the $20,000 fine on Randy Moss for saying negative things about officials sound a little out of whack given that a) the refs have made some egregious, totally obvious errors this year, and b) that's way more money than guys get fined for fighting?

I say this in particular because Walt Coleman's crew just missed a really obvious intentional grounding by Trent Edwards against the Patriots. If you throw the ball away because Vince Wilfork is about to kill you, and you are within the tackle box, that's intentional grounding. How hard is this?

Doug Farrar: After Justin Tuck's ludicrous fine was rescinded this week when Goodell finally looked at the play, I started to think that there is a situation where someone's putting stuff in the Commissioner's ear about how criticism of officials cuts to the integrity of the game. Maybe it's Mike Pereira, maybe it's someone else, but the gag rule really doesn't make any sense. We have discussed this before: Killing open dialogue about officiating allows an NBA nightmare situation to grow and flourish. It used to be that if you were right about really flagrantly bad calls (Joey Porter, Mike Holmgren), the fine police would somehow forget to send the memo.

Now, I can see if you're making public statements like those made by Jerry Jones, when you're calling for the league to throw fewer flags or campaigning for refs who are less penalty-happy. When you're one of 32 owners, that's a problem. But nobody should be above constructive criticism in this league. Not the refs, not the Commish himself. Pereira seems to think that the officials have the toughest jobs on the field, and that this should put them above criticism. If he's the one applying and enforcing the standard, that's a problem.

St. Louis Rams 3 at New York Jets 47

Doug Farrar: What the hell is going on with the Jets? They're up 40-0 at halftime, and Jay Feely already has four field goals. Does Rob Bironas have reason to worry?

Bill Barnwell: The Rams have fumbled three times and the Jets have recovered them all. The end of the first half was out-and-out comedy: Rams get the ball back with 18 seconds left, down 37-0. They hand the ball off to Kenneth Darby on a draw and he fumbles. The Jets recover, throw a pass for seven yards, and then Feely kicks a 55-yard field goal as time expires.

Sean McCormick: The Jets' defensive line dominated the interior of the Rams' offensive line, and the Jets' offensive line dominated the interior of the Rams' defensive line. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, sometimes this sport really is that simple. Kris Jenkins and Calvin Pace continue to make their cases for Pro Bowl consideration, and they were able to completely take away any threat of a ground game. Really, the only run plays St. Louis executed successfully were delays that took advantage of the fact that Jenkins was already deep in the backfield. With the ground game non-existent, that offensive line really had no chance against the Jets' blitz packages, or even against a four-man rush.

I spent a lot of time watching both Chris Long and Vernon Gholston today, just to see how they were coming along. Neither did much to speak of. Gholston was used as a decoy, as he dropped into coverage on almost every snap while the rusher came from the other side. He looked big and a bit clumsy in space. Long was matched up against his old teammate D'Brickashaw Ferguson, and he was never able to push Ferguson back or to keep his legs clean on cut blocks. That said, most of the serious damage on the ground took place away from Long, and there's only so much you're going to do when the offense is rushing for eight yards a pop on first down.

Vince Verhei: Can someone explain to me why Brett Favre was in this game, up 40-3, in the last minute of the third quarter?

Baltimore Ravens 41 at Houston Texans 13

Bill Barnwell: Steven Hauschka just kicked a field goal for the Ravens.

A) Who is Steven Hauschka?
B) Where is Matt Stover?
C) While I was thinking about B, I figured out that Hauschka is in fact from Massachusetts and went to Middlebury College, which is a liberal arts school in Vermont.

What?!?

Aaron Schatz: I can't believe there is a player from Middlebury in the NFL. That's just ridiculous. Middlebury? I went looking on Pro Football Reference to see if this is the first Middlebury alum to ever play in the NFL. It turns out it is not -- of course, the only other two Middlebury alums in the NFL played in 1921 and 1926. You gotta love yourself some Stone Hallquist -- he played one season for the 1926 Milwaukee Badgers. He is listed as "BB-HB-TB." Blocking back? Plus, he was born in Sweden!

And now, 82 years later... Steven Hauschka!

Bill Barnwell: There's also a Curly Oden who played for the PROVIDENCE STEAM ROLLER from 1926. The great things about Curly Oden:

1) Curly Oden played for the PROVIDENCE STEAM ROLLER.
2) Curly Oden is also from Sweden.

3) Curly Oden went to Brown, which immediately makes him a Football Outsiders favorite.
4) Curly Oden's real name is OLOF GUSTAVE HAZARD ODEN.

Amazing.

Aaron Schatz: Today's games really should not be so boring that we are instead obsessed with Swedes. But it seems like every time we switch to a game, somebody is punting, unless they are the Jets, in which case they are scoring, or just scored, or are about to score.

Ned Macey: What does the pick system see that makes them skeptical of Baltimore? Two weeks in a row, I thought they were the surest number on the board per basic DVOA. Then the picks formula had the line as roughly correct (i.e. Red), but then they covered easily both times?

Mike Tanier: The Ravens have mastered the art of beating this kind of team, the sub-.500 type with quarterback issues and holes in the defense (Bengals, Browns, Texans, Raiders, etc.) Defensively, they know how to get to these quarterbacks (apply a lot of pressure without blitzing much), and they have a lot of guys who can get big gains on interception returns. Offensively, they protect Joe Flacco with a lot of running and play-action, but they give him a lot of chances to throw deep. He completes about one touchdown bomb per game, but the incomplete passes keep the defense honest, and the Ravens get a lot of mileage out of comeback routes on first-and-10. The comebacks work because the defense expects the deep ball.

Carolina Panthers 17 at Oakland Raiders 6

Bill Barnwell: Me and Aaron decide it'd be a good idea to turn on Carolina-Oakland and watch Nnamdi Asmougha handle Steve Smith. The first play we see, Jake Delhomme throws a lob to Smith. Asmougha picks it off. It turns out he's good.

Doug Farrar: Of course, after that Nnamdi pick, the Raiders couldn't do anything offensively. Julius Peppers went nuts with three sacks. In the great litany of horrible Oakland free agency moves that preceded this season, left tackle Kwame Harris has received a free pass with all the other names involved. Harris currently leads the NFL in false starts with seven, and I'm beginning to think that in the same way there used to be no Rex Grossman or Kyle Orton -- there is only "CHICAGO QUARTERBACK" -- there is no Harris or Mario Henderson. There is only "OAKLAND LEFT TACKLE."

Mike Tanier: I just saw a stat line. What is Jake the Mistake doing this week?

Vince Verhei: Jake was throwing to receivers who couldn't get open. Nnamdi Asomugha > Steve Smith, by a great degree. Smith had just one catch (so did Asomugha) for 9 yards. Also, the rest of the Raiders' defensive backs > the rest of the Panthers' receivers.

That took care of the Panthers' passing game. On the ground, the Raiders usually kept things in check by blitzing heavily into gaps. (Take away DeAngelo Williams' 69-yarder, and the Raiders averaged just 3.4 yards per carry.) Linebackers were making lots of plays very close to the line of scrimmage

Later, Delhomme had some open guys, but overthrew them. One of his interceptions was an easy lob to Brad Hoover in the flat. The pass sailed on Delhomme. It bounced out of Hoover's outstretched fingertips into the arms of Sam Williams.

The Raiders have a good news/bad news situation on special teams. The good news is Shane Lechler. We all know he's a great punter. Turns out he's also a fine deep safety. Late in the fourth quarter, Lechler punted 55 yards to Mark Jones. Jones started left, zigged right, then zagged back to the left, and suddenly there was nothing between Jones and a game-icing touchdown but Lechler, who had to defend an area two-thirds as wide as the field. And Lechler played it perfectly, pushing Jones to the sideline without over-pursuing and opening a cutback lane before pushing Jones out of bounds. Jones was held to a 55-yard gain. (Yes, for all of Lechler's efforts, the ball ended up right where he was before he punted.) Jones finished the game with seven punt returns for 123 yards.

The bad news for the Raiders? Johnnie Lee Higgins. You know him for his zero-yard kick return in Week 8. There can't be a returner in the league who makes more negative plays. Not necessarily returns for negative yardage (although he did that twice today) or fumbles (he did that once), but he has no idea when to field punts, when to fair catch them, when to let them bounce.

Indianapolis Colts 24 at Pittsburgh Steelers 20

Mike Tanier: The Colts just took the late lead on a great little wheel route to Dominic Rhodes. Polamalu got lost in space on the play, something you don't see every day. It's amazing that the Colts have the lead because they haven't looked that good tonight.

Aaron Schatz: No, the Colts don't look that good, but when Manning isn't too pressured he's not having trouble finding the open holes in the Cover-3 the Steelers normally play. The worst play was probably the first Reggie Wayne touchdown -- the problem wasn't that Ike Taylor tried to slap the pass away and instead it bounced into Wayne's hands. The problem was that Ryan Clark was supposed to be safety help but completely whiffed on tackling Wayne afterwards.

Doug Farrar: This game was a Theater of the Absurd in a couple different ways: watching Marvin Harrison get to balls late (I know this has been an issue for a while; I guess I'm just coming to terms with it); watching the Colts' defense "out-physical" Pittsburgh on that late goal-line stand. Then again, some things always seem to stay the same -- Roethlisberger's protection seemed unusually bad today.

Heh. On that last batted ball in the end zone, I was thinking about the 1995 AFC Championship just as Jim Nantz said it. I need to find a copy of that game and re-watch it.

Aaron Schatz: When Colts-Steelers is over, CBS switches us to Chiefs-Chargers, which is apparently THE! MOST! EXCITING! GAME! IN NFL HISTORY!!!! Or, it could just be that Gus Johnson is broadcasting it. Goal-line stand by a 1-7 team against a 3-5 team? That's why Gus Johnson loves football, baby!

Ned Macey: I think the Colts are the only underdog to win, which means I can cover them in Any Given Sunday as the winner for the first time since they beat the Pats in 2005, when they were actually favored. Sunday had no real upsets, so I just was going to write MNF no matter what.

Kansas City Chiefs 19 at San Diego Chargers 20

Ben Riley: Hey, I have a question -- is Tyler Thigpen good? Or is it just that the Chargers defense is that bad? As one of my dorkier law school classmates used to say, "I'm flummoxed."

Mike Tanier: Tyler Thigpen is Bobby Hoying. He is not totally incompetent, but he looks good because there is no film on him and the Chiefs are running his most confident plays.

Doug Farrar: Clinton Hart got victimized by a brutal, ridiculous, horrible pass interference call with the Chargers up 20-13, and less than a minute left in the game. Hart went up for a ball with Tony Gonzalez, and had textbook coverage on the ball. Late flag, ball on the San Diego 1-yard line. Herm, playing with house money, goes for two and the Chiefs don t get it. It's Hart, covering Gonzo, and batting it away.

Ben Riley: To quote Gus Johnson, "WOW." Exciting end to this game, with the Chiefs driving down and scoring with 30 seconds to play, and then Herm Edwards channeling his inner Mike Shanahan and going for two to win. The attempt failed of course, and in a moment of cosmic justice, the pass was broken up by Clinton Hart, who was tagged with an absurd pass interference call just a few plays earlier.

Bill Moore: Keep Choppin, Herm!

Doug Farrar: Yeah, he'll be singing the Monty Python "Lumberjack Song" all week. Some people should not be entrusted with good fortune.

Mike Tanier: Herm???? Herm?????????? Is the kicker injured?

Aaron Schatz: Listen, we write all the time about the fact that over the past two years, the two-point conversion is successful something like 60 percent of the time. I really don't fault Herm at all. I thought it was a ballsy move. I just don't think I would have called a spread formation that left nobody blocking Shaun Phillips.

Bill Barnwell: I love that decision by Herm. Win it yourself as opposed to hoping for a coin toss.

Bill Moore: Along the lines of Gus:

Gus says, "You're 1-7, you might as well go for two." B.S. You have eight games to play, and a young quarterback. This wasn't a shootout, where the game would be determined on a coin flip. You give your team a chance in overtime. You give your new, young quarterback a chance to run his offense in overtime.

And I don't want to see any e-mails about playing to win the game.

Aaron Schatz: One more note on Herm's decision: There's an added wrinkle to the "go for two/kick XP" question if it is not the last play of the game. If the Chiefs fail, they do have a 10 percent chance of recovering the onside kick, and there's a possibility of getting into field goal position. It's a tiny little amount of chance, but it gives you just a little more reason to try the two-point conversion.

Sean McCormick: "And I don't want to see any e-mails about playing to win the game."

Hello? (Insert incredulous look here.)

I'm sorry ... (ahem) ... HELLO?!?!?!?

I might even prefer "Hel-LO!?!?!?" I'll get it by the end of the thread.

Anyway, I was fine with the decision to go for the win there.

Bill Barnwell: The Chargers have a great offense. Your defense is mediocre and putrid.

Bill Moore: I don't disagree that the Chargers have had the better offense to date. However, they weren't the best offense today. K.C. intercepted two balls and had them punting occasionally. (I recognize they scored points on four drives.)

If this team were 1-14, go for it. What's the difference? Try and steal a win. But they aren't, they're 1-7, with a young quarterback that maybe can be their quarterback of the future. Or least the near future. Get him some experience. You run overtime-type drills in practice all the time, but nothing can simulate a real game situation. He's got a 50 percent chance of getting the ball back and proving something to himself and his team. San Diego's defense is hardly stellar. And if they lose the flip, Herm shows the defense he trusts them to perform. Nope. Herm just told his defense, at the midpoint of the season, "You're putrid."

Bill Barnwell: They're the fourth-best offense in the league through seven games. I'm willing to take that as a better indicator of their performance than a couple of red zone stops.

Is going for it on the two-yard line to win the game not an experience booster? Didn't he just run a two-minute drill? My issue isn't that Thigpen wouldn't have scored given a second chance, it's that you have no idea whether he's going to get an opportunity to do so. And even if he does, he's got a better shot of converting from the two than he does in picking up three points on a drive.

Bill Moore: I'm agreeing with you the San Diego offense is very good. But my point is that K.C. was playing them well today.

As much as one going for it is experience, I think running an offense through overtime is a much bigger experience. I understand your point about not getting the ball back, but I think he just crapped on his own D today -- on a day they didn't necessarily deserve it.

Mike Tanier: I am with Bill Moore. Don't make it come down to Tyler Thigpen executing: I am betting his 2-point conversion percentage, if it were calculable, is a lot lower than 60 percent.

Bill Barnwell: As opposed to Thigpen having to execute a whole drive and/or your defense stopping the fourth-ranked offense in the league, potentially more than once?

Mike Tanier: Yes, I would rather tie the game, toss a coin, take a chance on all manner of things happening than to expect Tyler Thigpen to throw back-to-back touchdown passes.

Bill Barnwell: You can also run the ball.

Mike Tanier: Dantrell Savage?

Herm went for 2 earlier and missed. Was there something wrong with the kicker? Is he just horrible? If the extra point is down to a 90 percent certainty or less, and if the 45-yard field goal you need in overtime is an impossible dream, then yeah, go for 2.

Vince Verhei: I've been away from computers all day, and I am flabbergasted that anyone would knock Herm for going for two. He's got the Colbert Award, for sure.

Herm just told his defense, at the midpoint of the season, "You're putrid."

Actually, as Herm explained on NFL Gameday, his defense was out-manned and exhausted: "These guys were so beat up on defense, it wouldn't have been fair to not try to go for two points, because I don't think we could have stopped them anymore. We ran out of bodies." (He added -- seriously -- "You try to play to win.")

Yes, I would rather tie the game, toss a coin, take a chance on all manner of things happening than to expect Tyler Thigpen to throw back-to-back touchdown passes.

Tyler Thigpen threw three touchdowns in this game. Moreover, if you don't trust Thigpen to gain two yards, how can you trust him to gain 30 to 40 in overtime?

Herm went for 2 earlier and missed. Was there something wrong with the kicker?

Herm went for 1, but there was a bad snap and the holder made a pitiful, Yepremian-esque attempt at a pass.

(I can't believe I am defending a coaching decision made by Herm Edwards. What has this season come to?)

By the way, Herm did live up to his word and run some spread-option stuff, some old Vince Young Texas shotgun option stuff. By "some," I mean about three plays.

New York Giants 36 at Philadelphia Eagles 31

Aaron Schatz: A corner blitz that leaves Brian Dawkins covering Plaxico Burress in the red zone does not seem to me to be a good play design.

Mike Tanier: After that fumbled kickoff return, I am happy the Giants are settling for 3.

Bill Moore: As an aside, the Sunday Night Football Extra on the Web is truly awesome. I just wish I could sync it with my TV viewing experience.

Aaron Schatz: Good job by Amani Toomer to work Asante Samuel -- they're really getting a good amount of yardage out of that matchup -- and good job by Al Michaels to notice and point out that the Giants are picking on Samuel before I had a chance to type it into Audibles myself.

Bill Barnwell: Nifty playcall by the Giants where they ran a play-action and actually pulled Chris Snee as part of the action.

Eli Manning's calling out all their blitzes. The Eagles are not really getting close. On the flip side, the Eagles apparently decided their offensive scheme was going to be stretching the linebackers with their tight end. Good idea, but when that tight end is Franchise Player, it doesn't actually work.

Mike Tanier: The Eagles aren't looking real sharp in any phase of the game, are they? And boy, it's hard to get too upset nine days after a championship parade.

By a stunning turn of events, the Eagles are back in the game. They are doing it with DeSean Jackson reverses and big plays by Jason Avant. Just like we thought.

Bill Barnwell: Al Michaels just noted that Tom Coughlin was "muttering about those turnovers, at least in the back of his mind." What the f*ck? Can Al Michaels read minds?

Mike Tanier: How do you mutter in your mind?

Donovan McNabb just threw an ugly pick. I am muttering in my heart.

Aaron Schatz: The Eagles must have seen something on film that said the Giants were susceptible to end-arounds because of the way they blitz defensive backs. Three to DeSean Jackson in one half? Alas, it turns out they are not quite as susceptible to wide receiver screens, and the Eagles tossed one for a sad-looking five-yard loss.

Mike Tanier: The Eagles ran the Madden Westbrook Option route right before half. If you play as the Eagles in Madden, the Westbrook Option is your money play, and the game obligingly gives it to you from about four different formations. The receivers go long, Westbrook isolates on a linebacker, runs right, catches the ball, gains about 15 yards. Sets up a field goal. Thought I had the controller in my hand on that one.

Bill Barnwell: Snee's having an awesome game, by the way. Clearing out huge swaths of space when he has to pull left and blowing open holes at the point of attack.

At some point the Eagles were getting more pressure with their front four than they were with the fancy blitzes.

This is a terrible challenge by Andy Reid.

(Four minutes later...)

This is also a terrible challenge by Andy Reid.

Aaron Schatz: Ugh. This game is another one for all of Mike's reasons why he finally has given up on Andy Reid as the Philadelphia head coach. Weird clock management, bad challenge calls, inability to get clutch short-yardage conversions ... how many close games can you lose on this stuff?

Bill Barnwell: This is one I'll throw on Reid. The challenges were atrocious. The offensive play-calling at the end was abysmal -- you get two downfield completions up the middle and then you go and run two sweeps? What?

Mike Tanier: My cable and internet were out in the second half. Instead of listening on the radio I just went to bed. I wake up to a shock. The Eagles lost because they couldn't convert short yardage? Really? You mean that problem didn't magically go away when we made a 275-pound converted DT our STARTING tight end?

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 09 Nov 2008

153 comments, Last at 15 Nov 2008, 6:51pm by David C

Comments

1
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 10:29am

Regarding the Vikings - it really is too bad that the QB play on this team is so awful. I would argue at this point Frerotte is playing worse than Jackson did but either way they will suffer at that position. The defence yesterday was truly outstanding.

Interesting stat - the Vikings have given up 25 TD's this year - the breakdown:

8 by pass
8 by rush
9 by returns!!!!

And three of those TD "drives" were from the 11, 6 and 6 yard line on Frerotte interceptions.

2
by waltearls :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 10:36am

As for the illegal forward pass on Rodgers, the refs got that right. Rule 8-1-1 states that a forward pass from the offense's end zone (non-scrimmage) is a safety. This means you can only pass from your end zone after a direct snap. Once Rodgers fumbled, recovered, and stumbled into the end zone, it became a non-scrimmage forward pass, and therefore a saftey.

This is also why you can't handoff/lateral in your own end zone and have that person throw a pass -- it would also be a safety.

7
by Fergasun :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 11:18am

I don't believe that is correct... but I'd like to hear from other folks. I don't think the fumble is relevant.

22
by DGL :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 11:58am

Using the link (pdf) that Travis posted last week, I don't see it. 8-1-1 says, "The offensive team may make one forward pass from behind the line during each play from scrimmage provided the ball does not cross the line and return behind line prior to the pass." A punt or kickoff return or an interception return is a non-scrimmage play. The example is A.R. 8.5: "A forward pass is intercepted by a defensive player in his end zone. While in the end zone, he attempts to pass backward. The pass goes forward, hits the ground on the 1-yard line and is recovered by the first passing team.

"Ruling: Safety. Forward pass not from scrimmage in the end zone."

A fumble doesn't turn a play from scrimmage into a play not from scrimmage.

76
by waltearls :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 3:08pm

DGL et al,

This is why I should always look things up. I was mis-remembering and conflating two different rules. If Rodgers fumble had crossed the line of scrimmage, then it would would count as crossing the line, according to rule 3-17-3, which would then put 8-1-1a into play. This is also where I screwed up the scrimmage lines thing, because this note to this rule states that "After the snap the lines are no longer definate and the Official may construe the line of scrimmage as an indefinate area in the immediate vicinity of the two lines." In my confused remembering, I was thinking the fumble negated the scrimmage line as regards to 8-1-1. It does not.

So I retract my previous idiocy.

10
by drobviousso :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 11:20am

What possible purpose could that rule serve?

17
by Travis :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 11:46am

That's not the rule. A team is allowed only one forward pass per down, but can have as many backward passes (handoffs, laterals) per down as it wants.

Personally, I thought it was grounding, as the pass didn't make it back to the line of scrimmage and Driver wasn't really that close, but I can see how others could disagree.

Relevant rules:
8-1-1: The offensive team may make one forward pass from behind the line during each play from scrimmage provided the ball does not cross the line and return behind line prior to the pass.

8-1-1(a): Any other forward pass by either team is illegal and is a foul by the passing team.

8-1-1-Penalty a: For a forward pass not from scrimmage: Loss of five yards from the spot of the pass. It is a safety when the spot of the pass is behind the passer’s goal line.

8-3-1: Intentional grounding will be called when a passer, facing an imminent loss of yardage because of pressure from the defense, throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion.

8-3-1-Note 1: Intentional grounding will not be called when a passer, while outside the tackle position and facing an imminent loss of yardage, throws a forward pass that lands near or beyond the line of scrimmage, even if no offensive player(s) have a realistic chance to catch the ball (including if the ball lands out of bounds over the sideline or endline).

8-3-1-Note 6: A realistic chance of completion is defined as a pass that is thrown in the direction and the vicinity of an eligible receiver.

8-3-1-Penalty: For intentional grounding: loss of down and 10 yards from the previous spot, or if foul occurs more than 10 yards from line of scrimmage or where it is more advantageous to the defense, loss of down at spot of foul, or safety if passer is in his end zone when ball is thrown.

17
by Ben :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 11:46am

Just as a follow-up, the non-scrimmage pass refers to something like a kick returner catching the ball in the endzone, and then attempting a forward pass. That would result in a safety. The play in question started with a snap from scrimmage, so by definition, it was a scrimmage pass. What happens during the play is irrelevant for that rule.

23
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 12:08pm

Note that if you look at the official NFL play-by-play, the call is listed as Intentional Grounding:

2-20-GB 10 (12:29) 12-A.Rodgers to GB 2 for -8 yards (93-K.Williams). FUMBLES (93-K.Williams), and recovers at GB -2. 12-A.Rodgers pass incomplete short right to 84-T.Humphrey. PENALTY on GB-12-A.Rodgers, Intentional Grounding, 10 yards, enforced in End Zone, SAFETY.

27
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 12:23pm

But that wasn't the call on the field. My argument is, if the ref's are going to penalize for intentional grounding, then they need to call intentional grounding, not illegal forward pass. I don't understand why they didn't call grounding. I also don't understand why McCarthy didn't challenge the play and tell the the refs "Show me where the illegal forward pass was."

This call is sort of a big deal, since the game was a) decided by 1 point, and b) the safety shaped the field position battle that led to a second safety. I don't want to say that the game hinged on a bad safety call, but it certainly helped to color the game.

Somebody got some 'splainin' to do. I'm curious to see if/how the Director of Officiating comments on this.

31
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 12:37pm

I suspect Pereira will simply say that Riveron mis-spoke, and meant to call intentional grounding, which was the correct call, instead of illegal forward pass, and while not explained, proper call, blah blah blah.

83
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 4:09pm

Florio's got an interesting take... that the other officials disputed the initial intentional grounding call, so he switched to illegal forward pass in order to keep the same result, i.e., a safety.

http://www.profootballtalk.com/2008/11/10/last-word-for-now-on-the-illeg...

_______________________________
armchair journeyman quarterback

47
by zlionsfan :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:27pm

I believe you are interpreting both of those situations incorrectly. The fumbled ball never crossed the line of scrimmage: the illegal pass refers to a situation where the ball crosses the line of scrimmage and then returns behind the line. The illegal part, not the pass itself, is what makes the rule book play a safety. (What made the GB play a safety was apparently a mistake on the part of the official, but we'll never know because the NFL does not address these issues well.)

Similarly, there is no restriction on taking a shotgun snap and throwing a pass from your own end zone. You can also lateral in your own end zone and have that person throw a pass - the key is that the first pass must not be a forward pass.

48
by MJK :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:29pm

Funny, I recall exactly the opposite happening once last year. I don't remember which team (the Chargers, maybe?) but it was a big game. A team took a snap from its own 1 yard-line. The QB handed off to the RB who tried to sweep right, but the other team run-blitzed and wrapped the RB up in the end zone. The savvy running back, realizing a safety was immenent and that he was outside of the tackle box, flipped the ball forward to no-one in particular (it did make it to the LOS). I think the refs originally ruled it a fumble, but then conferenced and decided it was a legal forward pass and ruled it an incomplete pass. By your rule, they should have ruled safety.

94
by Travis :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 4:51pm

Samkon Gado, Packers-Lions, Week 14, 2005. Go to the 1:00 mark in the video on the side.

1-10-GB 1 (7:07) S.Gado pass incomplete.
Penalty on GB-M.Tauscher, Offensive Holding, declined.

The play happened at the 7-minute mark of the 4th quarter and would have resulted in a go-ahead safety for the Lions. The Packers ended up winning in overtime.

(FWIW, the enforcement spot for the holding should have been in the end zone, which should have meant a safety anyway.)

110
by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 6:01pm

That was a handoff, not a backwards pass. I assume that explains the difference.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

153
by David C (not verified) :: Sat, 11/15/2008 - 6:51pm

So to sum up, the NFL has too many rules.

3
by billsfan :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 10:59am

Can someone explain to me why Brett Favre was in this game, up 40-3, in the last minute of the third quarter?

He was just having fun out there!

8
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 11:19am

"Can someone explain to me why Brett Favre was in this game, up 40-3, in the last minute of the third quarter?"

OMG! The JETS are running up the score!!!

32
by Dennis :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 12:38pm

I'm assuming you're saying this tongue-in-cheek. But related to this, what was up with the fans booing when the Jets took a knee at the end instead of trying to run up another TD? I'm a Jets fan (which is the only reason I watched until the end) and I just don't get it. Why the heck are you booing after a win like this?

And I love how quickly Jets fans went from "this team sucks" after the Raiders game to "we're going all the way" after the last two weeks. No question they are two nice wins, although one was against the Rams. We'll find out if they are for real Thursday night.

54
by MJK :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:34pm

Not so sure about that... Beating the Patriots now does not necessarily mean your team is "for real". The Patriots are a decent team right now, but not exactly world beaters. Jets have a better DVOA, and probably a better beatpath rating... And now the Pats are down Adalius Thomas, in addition to being down their QB, every RB on the roster, and half their CB's. Whereas the Jets are pretty healthy. I think Thursday night will be pretty evenly matched, and the winner won't actually reveal all that much about who is the better team... it will be like the Indy game where a break here or there will decide the game.

70
by Dennis :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 2:31pm

The Pats are a better team than Buffalo and much better than St. Louis. And by "for real", I mean have a realistic shot to win the division. If the Jets beat the Pats, they'll be a game up with a split of the head-to-head and have a 3-1 division record. If they lose, they'll pretty much have no shot to win it since they'll be a game back and the pats will have the tiebreaker, so it's essentially two games back.

90
by MCS :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 4:40pm

I was wondering why everyone isn't up in arms like they were against New England last year.

96
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 4:56pm

probably because far less people care about what the J-E-T-S do.
_______________________________
armchair journeyman quarterback

57
by Led (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:36pm

I believe the Jets only threw 2 passes in the second half and the pass rush never touched Favre for the whole game. So the answer to the question is a combination of concern about an unlikely comeback (as almost happened in the Cardinals game) and low risk because they were just handing off. Favre came out with 11 minutes left in the 4th. I might've taken him out earlier, but I don't have a problem with what they did.

I agree with Sean about Jenkins and Pace. They are monsters against the run. I can't think of two free agent pickups that had such a significant impact on a defense. I'm sure there have been, but none comes immediately to mind. Pace fits the pattern of McGinest and Vrabel -- very good 3-4 OLB's that bloomed somewhat later in their careers.

78
by Yaguar :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 3:16pm

He only had two pass attempts in the second half, which isn't particularly unreasonable, and he ran the play clock down to near-zero on every play.

4
by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 11:09am

The buying your monitor on line ad is now the sickest, worst commercial of the year. It's wrong for soooo many reasons.

5
by Jero (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 11:16am

I love watching the Packers run defense as of late. Almost equally as much as the anticipation of seeing yellow flags while they are on offense or returning kicks.

While there is the remote possibility that McCarthy's challenge of the Peterson TD with just over 2 minutes to play would be of some benefit, it is almost a lose/lose.

1) He wins the challenge and the ball is placed inside the 1 yard line and the clock starts. MIN lets it wind down to the TMW after which they attempt to run it in. For the sake of argument lets say the Vikes take two attempts to run it in and kick the point after. Packers get the ball back with a minute left, loosing almost a minute and a half, to drive for a decent FG attempt for the win. Realistically, the way the run defense is playing, I do not see a goal line stand or a fumble recovery should the challenge have been won.

2) He looses the challenge (which actually happens) and a time out, leaves them with one TO and the TMW, but they still have over two minutes.

Guess it's not the end of the world in either case.

61
by MJK :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:39pm

I agree...I thought that was one of the oddest coaching decisions I saw last weekend. Granted, I didn't watch the whole game, so I don't know how well the Packers offense had been moving the ball, but in general, having the ball down by a point with over two minutes to go is a pretty good thing. It seems like the team in that situation wins more than half the time (of course, maybe I'm spoiled because I watch a lot of Patriots and Colts games). Whereas having the ball and trailing by a point with less than a minute left (the likely outcome if his challenge was successful) is a whole other story. In fact, if the other team has first and goal from the 1, trailing by 5 or 6, with just over two minutes to go, that might be a situation where I would tell my defense to "let them score".

And if you lose a challenge, the loss of timeout could be huge.

It ended up not affecting things, due to some curious playcalling by Green Bay when they got down to the 40 and some terriffic run defense by the Vikings on 1st and 2nd down, but I still thought it was a horrible, horrible decision.

128
by Xian :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 8:31pm

My thought was that he was challenging whether or not AP had lost control prior to going out of bounds, which would have been...a touchback?

6
by Harris :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 11:16am

I just skipped the game and went to bed early. My wife, who is much more reasonable about these things, called the game "excruciating." I'm pretty sure that she was more than ready to dump garbage on Reid's lawn. God, I love that woman and goddamn, I am starting to hate this coach. Chunky A must go.

"A little celery is always nice after a good pee."

9
by joon :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 11:19am

i think herm was right to go for 2. having 0:23 left on the clock means that a) kicking doesn't guarantee OT, and b) missing doesn't guarantee a loss. both of those factors reduce the breakeven point for the deuce.

having said that, it was only justice when the deuce try failed. for the chargers to lose two division games in the exact same way (horrible officiating while up by 7 in the final minute, TD, two-point conversion) would be just brutal.

101
by Chip :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 5:10pm

I don't want to harp on Schatz, but the average two-point conversion rate since the 1994 rule change is below 50%. Over the last 2-3 years it's been right around 50%. It's never been close to 60%. It's the second that he's mentioned it being close to 60%. See attached article (even with an FO reference). Not sure why that bothers me so much.

At any rate, it's very hard to criticize Herm on this one. He has by far the less talented team and will likely lose if the game is meaningfully extended in OT (say 2 more possessions for each team). Not to mention that San Diego's quick strike offense (4th DVOA) could put the game away on the first possession if they won the coin toss.

114
by Alex51 :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 6:38pm

I don't want to harp on Schatz, but the average two-point conversion rate since the 1994 rule change is below 50%.

Schatz is referring to the conversion rate when a team intentionally goes for two, which really is about 60%. The 50% rate includes many plays when the team tries to kick the extra point, but where the snap is fumbled (this means that the play officially counts as a two point attempt, not a failed extra point kick attempt, because the kicker never actually kicks the ball). These plays have a very low probability of success, but this says nothing about the probability of success in the case of a planned two point attempt - Herm knows that his holder won't bobble/drop the ball, because his holder won't be on the field.

150
by Chip :: Tue, 11/11/2008 - 5:58pm

60% is still way too high.

This study details historical conversion rates for 1 & 2-point attempts [Table 2 (page 24)] for the NFL from 1994-2006. If 527 successful 2-point conversions were made over a 13-year time period, than a 60% conversion rate would imply that there were 878 unique instances of intentional 2-point conversions (527 / 0.6) (assuming a 0% conversion rate on "fire" drills). This leaves at minimum 300 instances of botched snaps or holds, which turned into "fire" drills and were not converted. This is roughly 3x the number of total missed XPs in 13 years (~130) and would represent nearly 1 in 4 two point attempts. It would also imply that there were ~23 fire drills per year (300 / 13) or over one a week. I watch enough football to know that this is absolutely not the frequency of occurance. A "fire" drill is at minimum as rare as a missed extra point.

152
by Alex51 :: Fri, 11/14/2008 - 1:50am

Sorry, I misunderstood your original post. I thought you were talking about the same time span that Schatz was. He meant that over the last two years, when the total conversion rate was above 50%, the conversion rate on non "fire drills" was about 60%. But over the entire 13 years, when the total conversion rate was 44.7%, the conversion rate on non "fire drills" has not been 60%, agreed. I think Schatz was pointing out that conversion rates have been increasing steadily in the last three years, to the point where 2 point attempts now have a significantly better expected value than 1 point attempts, and a conversion rate that is significantly higher than 50%. Was your point that the last two years didn't represent a large enough sample size to be sure the recent increases in conversion rate aren't just flukes?

113
by joon :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 6:28pm

i went back and re-read krasker's analysis of mike shanahan's identical decision under near-identical circumstances in week 2, and am having second thoughts. the extra 23 seconds also means that going for 2 and converting doesn't necessarily guarantee a win, and he points out that kicking will almost guarantee OT because nobody wants to take undue risks when they get the ball back with 20 seconds in a tie game. and his numbers say that the 23 seconds will help the chargers in the event of a successful deuce more than they would help the chiefs in the event of an unsuccessful try.

i still think going for 2 was fine, though. the decision shares one other critical similarity with the week 2 game: the refs had totally blown a huge call to allow the critical TD. going for 2 eliminates the chance of a "make-up call" in OT. i don't know if this happens--it probably shouldn't, but the refs are human beings--but there's that to consider, too.

11
by Fergasun :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 11:23am

Google is only returning me search results from yesterday's game. But I believe Herm Edwards went for 2 and was successful either last year or 2 years ago... and everyone thought it was the best call in the world. I'm pretty sure they were in the same situation and LJ had a 2 yard plunge for the dramatic win.

I immediately thought about this when I had heard what happened yesterday. Am I hallucinating? Looking at PFR... maybe they were in position to force OT and he decided to go for the TD instead. I can't remember the game, perhaps it was 2005?

19
by Travis :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 11:49am

That was Dick Vermeil, 2005 Week 9 against Oakland. The Chiefs, down 3 with :05 left and no timeouts, ran it in from the 1.

107
by billvv (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 5:44pm

When Herm was with the Jets he took the extra point and played for OT. Big arguement subsequently as to why "you play to win the game" in overtime. Why not play to win while you only have two yards to go? So, I for one, support his going for two, win or lose.

123
by Jean Sansterre (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 7:36pm

I wish people would lay off stuff like this. The chances of Herm winning the game if he kicks the extra point is basically the chances of scoring first in overtime, minus the chance of the opposition putting up points with the final seconds of the game left. In other words, about 50%, probably less if you consider overall team qualities over the course of the season. The chance of winning if Herm goes for it is uncertain - 60% may be the average, but as pointed out this is a sub-average offense. That said, unless you are arguing that the Chiefs had a sub 45-50% chance of making the 2, you really have no position at all.

The awkward part of all of it is that we're seeing the instinctive reinforcement of conservative coaching on the part of the fans. Bottom line, Herm straight up lost the game for the Chiefs by going for two and failing. Of course, it was not a foregone conclusion that it would fail, and the odds of winning in overtime were not great for his team either. If he kicked the extra point, and then the chiefs lost in overtime, who would be going "i can't believe that idiot Herm freakin' didn't go for two!" Nobody. Because even though his decision to play it safe lead to the loss, the decision is removed in time. By which I mean, if the chiefs have a 50% chance of 2-point success, and a 50% chance of overtime success, it will be the general consensus that going for two is reckless and stupid. If he goes for 2 and fails, he cost his team the game. If he goes for overtime and fails, well, that can't be helped.

The only argument here is about which is greater, overtime win percentage under the circumstances, or two point success percentage under the circumstances. Anything else is an understandable but misguided human instinct to effectively corral coaches into making inferior decisions because our brains process causality more gently that way.

12
by Fergasun :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 11:24am

Google is only returning me search results from yesterday's game. But I believe Herm Edwards went for 2 and was successful either last year or 2 years ago... and everyone thought it was the best call in the world. I'm pretty sure they were in the same situation and LJ had a 2 yard plunge for the dramatic win.

I immediately thought about this when I had heard what happened yesterday. Am I hallucinating? Looking at PFR... maybe they were in position to force OT and he decided to go for the TD instead. I can't remember the game, perhaps it was 2005?

13
by Wanker79 :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 11:35am

Andy Reid is single-handedly killing my love for the game. Even back during the Rodney Peete/Ty Detmer/Bobby Hoying/Doug Peterson superfecta of suck, I still had a passion to watch the games because I always had hope that they could turn the proverbial corner at any moment. Last night, which was arguable the biggest game of the season for the Eagles, I kept flipping between the game and Amazing Race & The Unit (two shows I've never watched before).

79
by dmb :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 3:29pm

You mean the very same Andy Reid who led the Eagles out from the aforementioned Peete/Detmer/Hoying/Peterson era of ineptitude?

Hearing a statement like that is pretty grating. Your favorite team has been competitive for nearly a decade, is probably still a top-5 team as measured by DVOA, and you're souring on the sport because coaching decisions are keeping them from performing to your standards? I'd suggest that you either leave football behind to become a Yankees fan, or try talking to a Lions' fan for some perspective.

89
by Wanker79 :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 4:39pm

If you'd be happy to settle for your favorite team being good enough to play with anyone in the league, but inevitably coming up short in large part due to (what should be easily correctable) misques by the coaching staff (the so-called "hurry-up" offense for example), then I guess we're just different kinds of sports fans. Just being competative isn't good enough. I'd actually like to see my favorite team win at some point in my life-time. Apparently that's not really something you're interested in, though.

111
by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 6:09pm

Then I hate to break it to you, but odds are you will never be happy with your team. If it went strictly by odds you'd get one every 32 years. It doesn't. Odds are you will never see a championship.

118
by DGL :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 7:03pm

I don't know about you, but I expect to live more than 32 years. (Already have, for that matter. But then, my team has won five championships in my lifetime, so I guess I should be happy with them never winning one again unless I live beyond 160.)

121
by Dales :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 7:29pm

Be a Giants fan and beat the odds!

127
by dmb :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 8:30pm

Obviously, all fans would like to see their team win a championship in their lifetime. But I'm skeptical of the notion that the team's current poor performance in late-game situations has too much bearing on whether they can win in the next, say, twenty to fifty years.

More to the point, I was just surprised that the fact that your favorite team is "only" a playoff contender right now (I might add that you could've said the same of the Giants at this point last season) makes you disinterested in the game itself. I've always assumed that most of the readers here actually enjoy the game of football, not just rooting for the collection of players who happen to play half their games in a certain city. I understand that pretty much any sport is more fun to follow when your rooting interests are doing well ... but I guess I was surprised to see such an extreme here.

130
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 9:21pm

Philly fans are so irrational it makes me rather sad they won a championship. The city longed for one so badly, typically I would cheer for such underdogs, but they just act like a bunch of petulant babies.

I think 80% of the fans in the NFL would be more than happy to trade their team for Reid and the Eagles. Always decent play, strong drafting and coaching schemes. What do you want perfection? There are much worse crimes than making stupid challenges and having a line that doesn't do short yardage. Could the Eagles play/draft/scheme a different style and score 5 pts less a game but be good at short yardage? Sure. But that doesn't mean its a good idea.

Complaining about a team that is easily in the top 10 and probably higher and just lost to the #2 team in the league by 5 points after a solid decade of success is just silly.

141
by dmb :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 11:07pm

That's an awfully broad stroke to paint -- for example, one of the senior writers of this very site certainly defies that description. I wasn't making a statement about Eagles fans in general, since I don't know too many of them. But I do agree that there an awful lot of fans who would trade for the Eagles' level of success in an instant.

144
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Tue, 11/11/2008 - 10:07am

It is more a reaction to the posts from philly fan here and the one other football site a frequent. For 4 or 5 straight years they are nearly universally negative unless the team is like on a 5 or 6 game win streak.

Particularly the past several weeks, weeks when the eagles have been without a doubt one of the better teams in the league, the number of " like the eagles arent they great?" comments to "i hate the eagles and reid should be fired" comments are about 0:50.

145
by Wanker79 :: Tue, 11/11/2008 - 11:11am

Firstly, let me just clarify. I misspoke when I wrote that Reid is killing my love for the game. I still watch as much football as I can. What I should have said is that he's killing my love for the Eagles. It used to be that I was glued to my seat during Eagles games. Now it's getting close to the point where they're just another game (or worse, that I'll force disinterest on myself so that I don't have to subject my wife to my screaming at the TV).

And it's taken my almost a decade to get to this point. The first few years of being very competitive were bliss after the previous few years. And I've been a huge supporter/apologist of Reid and McNabb for a while now. But McNabb is getting older and this window of opportunity that Reid created is closing tighter every minute. Unless they can take advantage of it in the next couple years, they'll have nothing to show for all of the competitive teams of the past decade.

Am I happy we're not the Lions? Sure. Is being one of the better teams in the league over the past decade something to be proud of? Yeah. Is that good enough? Hell no.

149
by rick (not verified) :: Tue, 11/11/2008 - 5:32pm

Philly fans are not irrational. They are, however, tired.
I still like Andy Reid, and I still like McNabb. HOWEVER, there is clearly a problem with the team that is not being dealt with properly. This is a team that is 7-19 in games decided by 7 points or less in the last few years! That points to an issue.

One issue is clearly short yardage. How do you lose 3 games this year based on poor short yardage play?

Some fans think these problems are a result of McNabb's "poor play". Others blame Reid's "poor play calls". I don't know what it is. It's clearly a coaching issue, however.
When Philly suffered with poor special teams, they got a coach who fixed it. Now they are suffering from poor short yardage plays - who can fix that?

One thing I DO know is that this team has a window that is closing rapidly. I was thinking this may be their last year to make a legitimate run. Perhaps next year, too. But if they are to do it this year, they won't do it with an inability to keep the game going when it's 3rd/4th and 1.

As a Philly fan, I have no complaints. I'd like a championship, but I think having 8 of 10 years being top notch is the kind of consistency that will, eventually, lead to a championship. I'd prefer to have 10 years of good football and no championship than 9 years of BS football and 1 championship. The championship is only good for the year you win it, and only 1 team can win it. Consistency is something that pays off someday.

151
by Wanker79 :: Thu, 11/13/2008 - 11:33am

If the Eagles had already won a championship in my lifetime (or my father's lifetime for that matter), it might be a different story. But they haven't, and I'd switch places with St. Louis in a heartbeat. Screw being consistently not quite good enough. And you're completely wrong that a championship is only good for the year you win it. Hell, Dallas and Washington fans still fall back on their past success and it been over a decade since either of them won.

I think that's a big part of the reason Philly fans are so impatient. One of the greatest driving forces behind discontent is jealousy. All of our closest rivals (both by division and by geography) have championship seasons for their fans to fall back on. Dallas, Washington, NYGiants, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, New England. Hell, even the Jets. We're the lone local team to never have won.

14
by pete (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 11:35am

On the titans, i'm getting sick of the reverency in which people are holding Jeff Fisher. He is a very good regular season coach, but he has continually flopped in the post season. He had the best team in 2000 and lost. Since the SB loss to the Rams the team has won just two playoff games, the first was due to a bogus roughing the kicker penalty and the second was against Tony Banks. Now I'm supposed to believe that a Fisher-Collins combo is the favorite in the AFC? I agree with Ned, even assuming they get the 1 seed I put their chances at 25% as Fisher will get outcoached by Dungy, Belichick, Tomlin or Shanarat in a big spot.

24
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 12:12pm

As a nit, that wasn't a call for running the kicker, it was a call for running into the kicker. And, outside the greater Pittsburgh area, it was generally recognized that that was actually running into the kicker. I'd also argue it's kind of bogus to say that the re-kick is the only reason they won the game-there was, after all, a reason they were in OT in the first place.

53
by Shylo :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:33pm

Speaking as a nit and Titans fan, the second playoff win was against Anthony Wright, not Tony Banks. Not that Wright is a pillar of solid quarterbacking, either, or it really matters to you.

I'm being realistic with this Titans team, waiting for the moment when the other shoe will drop and all their flaws are exposed and they become "mortal". I really thought they would lose the Baltimore game but they pulled through in the end. Since we've had Good Kerry all season, I suspect Bad Kerry makes an untimely appearance in the playoffs. That or Kerry Collins takes a hard hit, get injured, and Vince Young re-takes the helm. The team has an excellent running game but it lives and dies by how Kerry Collins plays. As long as he can get the Titans out of binds, the Titans will win games, regular-season and playoffs.

62
by MJK :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:48pm

I love any excuse to bash the Titans, and I strongly dislike Fisher, but I have to concede that he's a decent coach. He's 5-5 in the playoffs, but when you take into account the "one and done" structure of the playoffs, his effective playoff game win percentage is actually 0.528--better than "average" and better than Tony Dungy's or Mike Martz's, and equal to Jon Gruden's and Dick Vermiel's. Granted, he's only made the playoffs 12% of his seasons, which is way less than most active coaches that have good playoff win percentages, but that would tend to disagree with your statement that he's a very good regular season coach, not that he's a bad playoff coach. However, I think there are some extenuating circumstances there (being in the same division as the Manning-led Colts for so many years, having his team dismantled by cap hell for a few years, etc.).

112
by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 6:17pm

This unverified Pete has been rampaging these boards giving us other Petes bad names. Even *holes like me!

Where does this "playoff coach" nonsense come from? Norv Turner is a better "playoff coach" than Marty Schottenheimer. So what? Where does that get you?

131
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 9:24pm

Is this post a joke?

Jeff Fisher is a solid coach and the above comment shows no understanding of sample size or the essential randomness of the NFL playoffs. Moreover if the Titans only have a 75% chance of making the super bowl Fisher should be coach of the year (as implied by your comment). I love the titans chances and would bet against them at that %.

15
by widderslainte :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 11:39am

One of the worst secondaries in the NFL stops the best QB (this season) and we get nothing. Bugger.

16
by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 11:46am

SF AR is tonight.

20
by widderslainte :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 11:50am

Wait, I think Drew Brees just threw another interception.

21
by andrew :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 11:54am

I keep thinking the Vikings could be better if they occasionally inserted Tarvaris Jackson in a wildcat formation.

Jackson messes up both on accuracy and decision making, Frerotte today it was mostly just accuaracy. Yeah there were a couple times he could have gone somewhere better, but on all three of his throws he just made bad throws. Two of them were ones where the receiver was open, but he threw behind. This one feels worse than his 4-INT day against Chicago.

Still, I'm sure someone will write about how he's "5-2 as a starter". Yeah, and Tarvaris was 8-4 as a starter last year. Ask Chicago about how much QB records as a starter matters...

40
by B :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 12:58pm

I think they should use AP in the wildcat. With him and Chester Taylor they have the right skillset to match the Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams combination that Miami uses.

120
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 7:25pm

I like the suggestion... but, we know Taylor can catch, can AP throw?

Added bonus for Childress--he can actually justify using Jackson in that package. I can't see Gus running patterns.
_______________________________
armchair journeyman quarterback

25
by ChicagoRaider (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 12:13pm

The announcer said that Steve Smith's catch was at the expense of Chris Johnson, not Nnamdi. Is that true? That would be amazing.

26
by Kurt :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 12:16pm

Here's a dumb question for the Eagles fans:

McNabb clearly was exhausted at the end of the game when they let the clock run down to the two minute warning. Would it make sense to let Kolb run a series or two each half to keep him fresh? Every running back gets a rest here and there, might it make sense for QB's in certain spots also. I'm not saying the Eagles *should* do this, but would it be worth considering?

36
by IzzionSona :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 12:46pm

Speaking strictly as a fantasy football fan...

Begone you foul demon! May your suggestion perish in the seven hells!

---

From a tactical football perspective, I suppose it would depend on if you're talking Manning to Sorgi/Brady to Cassell drop off, or QB1 Chiefs to QB2 Chiefs.

41
by B :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:03pm

Maybe McNabb should get in shape. Being able to play for 60 minutes is a requirement of NFL QBs.

45
by Kurt :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:22pm

At this point I'd say he is what he is - saying "he should get in shape" is like saying Pennington should develop a stronger arm, or Bledsoe should avoid the rush better. You might as well figure out the best way to work with what you've got.

And anyway, playing 60 minutes isn't a requirement - it's just the way it's always been done. Pitching nine innings used to be a "requirement" for starting pitchers, until management got smart and it wasn't anymore.

51
by zlionsfan :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:33pm

I don't think that analogy necessarily supports your point. There's simply another set of "requirements" now: your best reliever may not enter the game before the ninth, must enter the game in the ninth whenever there is a save situation, and must pitch no more than one inning; your starter must be pulled after 100 pitches/seven innings/some arbitrary point so that the setup men can pitch ...

Sure, one or two managers decided that using fresh relievers instead of tiring starters might not be a bad idea, but most of the time the decision has nothing to do with how the starter is pitching. It's simply the way it's done now.

67
by Led (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 2:11pm

Unless McNabb has asthma or some other kind of health issue, there's no reason why he can't improve his conditioning. It's not a fixed characteristic like a twice-surgically repaired arm or pocket presence for a QB in his 30's.

OT -- pocket presence is a lot like plate discipline in baseball. Something that you would think could be improved but turns out to be largely fixed by a certain age.

73
by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 2:50pm

Isn't it likely McNabb has tried things that should improve his endurance? While it is possible for people to improve there are limits, and thinking that what a typical person could do to improve in a non-football situation is drastically different than what an already elite athlete could do in regards to actual football situations.

124
by Led (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 7:43pm

Isn't it likely that Casey Hampton tried things to keep his weight down in the off season? I mean, he's an elite athlete, right?

Just because a guy plays in the NFL doesn't mean he works as hard as he can at it. Maybe McCNabb has a health issue. I have no idea. But if he doesn't, he should be able to condition himself to play a full game without breaking down.

132
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 9:27pm

Cause you know we all put 110% in at our jobs 110% of the time.

137
by Dales :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 9:53pm

We're just having fun out there.

146
by Wanker79 :: Tue, 11/11/2008 - 11:17am

McNabb's offseason workouts in Arizona(?) are well documented as being very rigorous.

82
by JoeA :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 3:53pm

The Eagles didn't lose this game because McNabb was exhausted. They lost the game because... well, here's my list of what to expect in an Eagles game this season:

(1) The Eagles will struggle on the first few possessions of the game. (They have done this every game this season.) One interpretation of this is that McNabb takes a while to get into rhythm. An alternate interpretation is that the Eagles start off with scripted plays (like most teams)... and... well... I'll get to that in a bit.

(2) The Eagles will fail to score on their last possession, regardless of the time on the clock, starting field position, or opponent.

(3) Andy Reid will make bone-headed clock management calls and challenges.

(4) Johnson's defense will continue to play aggressively but stupidly. Specifically, they will blitz too often and mechanically switch to a nickel or dime package on third down situations. This will allow opponents to easily convert through power running plays or screens. This is a particularly large problem with well-coached teams (and especially with division opponents who have lots of video to review).

(5) The Eagles will fail to exploit the special talents of their players. Example: Hank Baskett was a champion high-jumper in high school and college, but is never given opportunities to catch jump balls.

I'm with Mike. Andy Reid is a good coach, but I can't expect him to do anything else with this team. He's picked some great players in the draft, but also picked some real duds and made some poor strategic personnel decisions (such as the undersized defensive line and lack of a power running back). He uses an offense and defense that rely on novelty; after a decade, the novelty is gone.

97
by Dean (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 4:58pm

If he was so exhausted, then how did he possibly have the stamina to go over to the sidelines and play catch with Harold Carmichael during the timeout?

There was plenty of stupidity in terms of clock management/play calling, but McNabb was NOT gassed.

106
by DangerGnat :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 5:37pm

DISCLAIMER: not a Giants or Eagles fan.
Letting the clock run down to the two-minute warning was not an issue. Whether McNabb was gassed or not (he had just finished scrambling BTW), they had plenty of time and needed to take a little break to regroup and come up with a few great playcalls to put it in the endzone. Which is why, of course, they proceeded to run off-tackle twice in a row when Westbrook had 26 yards all night. The astoundingly dumb challenges that wasted two timeouts, followed by the astoundingly dumb playcalls, killed their chances. Letting the offense take a rest at the two-minute warning did not. For once, Madden said something intelligent when he said that the Eagles are not a power running team.

28
by ammek :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 12:26pm

Ben Riley: I still think Brad Childress is a horrible coach, but he seemed to figure things out at the end of this game.

Nobody brought it up, but it appeared that Childress handed responsibility for gametime decisions to his running back during the 4th quarter. Chili was set to punt on 4th-and-1, but Adrian Peterson shouted at him, so he threw a stunningly pointless red flag to challenge the spot (or, to hide the fact he was being forced to change his decision?). After losing the challenge, Minnesota ran a scrimmage play on 4th down, on which Peterson fumbled.

If the Packers had a semblance of an offensive line, they could have taken a ten-point lead on a short field, and the game would have been over with four or five minutes to play. And Childress would have had to explain why he doesn't have the courage of his own convictions despite 40 games as an NFL head coach.

Luckily the Packers coaches had an even worse game, while Leslie Frazier called a terrific one.

50
by Eddo :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:33pm

When Peyton Manning, a veteran QB who is quite adept at reading coverages and making decisions, sends the punting team off the field, he gets criticized. When Adrian Peterson, a second-year RB, who doesn't make any offensive play-calling decisions, does the same, he gets the hero treatment from the media.

I actually think Peterson was right here; Childress isn't exactly the best decision maker. But the press is starting to bend over backwards for him already. Why are football writers the most apologetic journalists out there?

29
by Dales :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 12:27pm

My thoughts on the Giants/Eagles game.

1) The Giants were very fortunate to win this game, because they could have had quite a few more turnovers than they did, and because of ill-timed penalties (such as the hold on Hixon's return).

2) That said, the Eagles were very fortunate to be in a position to win the game. The Giants looked better almost all game, with their miscues keeping the Eagles in it.

3) The Giants oddly seemed to think having an aerial assault meant having their ballcarriers go airbourne at random times. Ward did it. Jacobs did it. Boss did it.

4) I don't understand why McNabb was so gassed at the end of the game. It didn't look to me like he was scrambling all that much.

5) I now understand the dissatisfaction with Reid. Absolutely terrible time management and crunch-time playcalling.

6) The Giants are now 13-3 over their past 16, including the playoffs (but not preseason). Pretty nifty.

7) Gotta be happy with the fact that they keep winning despite the schedule having taken a turn for the more difficult.

44
by Kurt :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:13pm

Dales, the amazing thing is, before the season I'd have been delighted with just making the playoffs. Even 9-7 would have been okay; the best post-SB season they've had. But now...is anything less than a return to the Super Bowl a huge disappointment? I could live with a close loss in the NFCCG, but anything less than that would be a disaster, no? It's awfully strange, after the wild ride of last year, that now they're The Hunted.

55
by Dales :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:34pm

A disaster? Nah, Blue got a ring. Let's imagine a one-and-done on the playoffs this year, assuming they get in. That would mean between last year and this year, two playoff appearances and a Super Bowl win, albeit with the post-seasons coming in an unanticipated order. I'll take it!

But it is awfully tempting to feel greedy, isn't it? Fun times for Giants fans.

69
by Kurt :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 2:21pm

Disaster might be strong, but a divisional round loss to Arizona or Minnesota or someone like that would definitely sting. You're right, though - fun times indeed. I particularly enjoyed Madden's little riff last night - they don't miss Tiki, they don't miss Shockey (and how!), there's a Lombardi trophy in the lobby...life is sweet.

93
by Wanker79 :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 4:49pm

I hate both of you so very very much.

Signed,
A jealous Eagles' fan

115
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 6:41pm

Minus the Lombardi Trophy, that's kind of how I feel about the '99-00 Titans-they "deserved" to make one Super Bowl between those two years, based on how good they are, but it happened in the year they were less likely to make it. Still, knowing that doesn't make The Al !#@$!@# Del Greco Game any easier to bear.

84
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 4:18pm

re: #4

plus, time of possession split was NYG 30:10 / PHI 20:50. it's not like he was even on the field that much, before the final drive.

re: #3

i think you got to give boss points for form though.
_______________________________
armchair journeyman quarterback

87
by JasonK :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 4:32pm

Boss' hurdle made sense-- he had 1 defender in front of him (a smaller DB who was going low for the tackle), and no other players close enough to hit him before he regained his feet. That's when jumping over a defender is a good move if you can pull it off.

Jacobs' hurdle, on the other hand, came when there were 3 defenders in front of him, one who was going low, plus two guys ready to clock him if he got by the first tackler. That's when jumping over a defender is a really stupid thing to do, for reasons which turned out to be obvious from the results of that play.

122
by Dales :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 7:35pm

I can't argue with you.

But there is just something so fitting about the violence of that play and Brandon Jacobs. Two great things that go great together.

99
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 5:06pm

[should say 39:10, sorry, typo]

30
by Flounder :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 12:32pm

I just wanted to note that Clifton was god-awful before he left the game with injury last week, and he was incredibly god-awful this week. I think he's lost it, and should be benched in favor of Colledge at Tackle and Sitton at guard.

Watching that offense was just incredibly painful. The pass-protection was terrible, and Rodgers was terrible as well.

Trust me, attempting a 52 yard field was easily the proper percentage play. Anything other than a quick pass would almost certainly have resulted in a sack.

33
by Yellow Tornado (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 12:41pm

Regarding KC-SD

I thought Herm's worst move was punting from the SD 40 on 4 and 3 in 4th quarter.

That is when you have to really man up and go for it.

34
by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 12:42pm

The Eagles lines are built for the pass- blocking for it and rushing it. They have trouble in running situations on both sides of the ball. If they can dictate the style of game, then they'll do well. If they can't, they won't.

35
by TomC :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 12:45pm

Whether a team's Super Bowl prospects should be penalized for having short touchdown drives due to a suffocating defense is something I'll leave to others to decide.

With all due respect to old #24 and his Titans, that defense was NOT suffocating yesterday, especially early. Forte was successful on 7 of his 12 runs in the first half, and for the most part Grossman had time to throw. The story of the game was Rex consistently missing open receivers and making two or three awful decisions.

Somehow, in the local press, this loss has been placed at the feet of the Bears' D. Yes, Kerry Collins threw for 280 yards, but it took 41 attempts, and the D smothered the #3 rush offense. The drive summaries from the first half basically paint the picture:

1. Titans 3 and out.
2. Bears drive 75 yards and score.
3. Titans get 1 first down and punt.
4. Grossman throws off his back foot, tipped by Finnegan, intercepted by Hope, returned to Bears 25.
5. Bears D holds on 4th-down at goal line, aided by Titans fullback fumbling.
6. Forte runs Bears out of safety danger, but Grossman misses wide-open R. Davis on 3rd and 3.
7. Titans start at Bears 46, get into FG range, then get shoved back out on one of 8 tackles for loss on run plays on the day.
8. Bears start inside own 10 again. This time the 3 and out is really because the Titans D plays well, especially Thornton blowing up the middle screen to Forte on 3rd down. Good punt return gives Titans the ball on the Bears' 22.
9. Bears D finally yields, giving up a 22-yard TD drive.
10. Forte runs Bears down to TEN 40, but Lovie chooses to punt on 4th and 1.
11. Titans drive into Bears' territory but penalty their way to a 3rd and 27. Punt downed at Bears' 2.
12. Bears try to run out 1st half clock and fail.
13. Titans miss long FG.

The Titans were doing nothing until Grossman gave them great field position. Even then, the Bears D held twice, and both times, got put right back out three plays later still in their own territory.

Also, Craig Hentrich was an unsung hero in that game. He dropped punts at the Bears' 14, 9, 2, 10, and 10 (that last one a 55-yarder).

49
by Eddo :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:30pm

I agree, to a point. With Orton, I think the Bears win that game. Here in Chicago, many people are pointing out that Grossman "didn't lose the game" by making bad turnovers (the interception wasn't a true Bad-Rex turnover, though it was not a good throw by any means), but at some point, you need your QB to win you the game. Orton's been doing that consistently this year.

Maynard didn't have a good day, either, and it was magnified by Hentrich's excellent game.

However, the pass defense is clearly sub-par. I really think that Smith and Babich need to change it up a little bit more. I know that FO discussed the Bears' "'this could be anything' defense" above, but I don't think that's an accurate description. Yes, the linebackers could be doing anything on a given play, but any QB can tell that the coverage they'll be seeing is the soft cover-2 zone. Collins exploited it. Ryan exploited it. Hell, even Frerotte, Griese, and Orlovsky exploited it. Maybe they need to throw in some more man coverage or some bumping at the line; maybe they need to blitz the LBs more to generate more pressure. I don't know, I'm not a defensive coach, but something is clearly not working.

66
by TomC :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 2:07pm

I had been calling for more blitzing as well, but the Bears actually rushed 6 or 7 many times yesterday with very little success. A lot of it was excellent play by the Titans' O-line, but one of the most worrisome things I've seen in a long time was a play in which Urlacher took a step or two back (faking a drop into coverage) then ran flat out towards Collins. No one blocked him, but never got close. It was like he was running in quicksand. After the game, Alex Brown was talking to reporters and started to say something about "guys coming free, totally unblocked, and they can't get there" (to the QB), but then he stopped himself and asked the reporters to leave. I'm really worried that Urlacher is done.

68
by Eddo :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 2:21pm

Thanks for pointing out the number of blitzes; I was at the game, and I'm ashamed I didn't notice that (I'm usually pretty good at picking that stuff up, though it is much easier on TV (and I forgot to DVR the game (I like nested parentheses))).

Urlacher has lost a step, I'd say. He's clearly inferior to Briggs this season (though I'd say all but a select few LBs are inferior to Briggs). I'd say Urlacher's decline has played a big factor in the pass defense's shortcomings; he's just not getting back into his zone quickly enough.

108
by Kenneth (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 5:45pm

The lack of pass rush was really galling, especially considering the penetration on running plays. The Bears weren't just stopping the run--they were consistently in the backfield on running plays. Which just made it odd that they weren't getting to the QB on passing plays.

I think they needed to just bring more and different pressure. Almost every blitz was pretty obvious, and I don't think I saw them run a stunt once (though I wasn't watching specifically for that). Also, I saw Ogunleye out in coverage more than once...what was that about?

As for Rex...does anyone know the rule regarding which direction you go in each quarter? I think it's the same for 1st and 4th, but I can't remember...in any case, I think the Bears were headed in the same direction in the 1st and 4th. My point is that Rex seemed a lot better in the 1st and 4th quarters than he did in the 2nd and 3rd. 1st & 4th he was okay, was able to move the team somewhat, and generally hit receivers. In the 2nd & 3rd he was awful--he couldn't put a ball on a receiver at all. In the 1st and 4th quarters, he was headed into the wind, which goes against my conventional thinking on the matter, but maybe Rex couldn't handle the tailwind? Anyone know Rex's DVOA by quarter yesterday?

117
by TomC :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 6:51pm

As for Rex...does anyone know the rule regarding which direction you go in each quarter? I think it's the same for 1st and 4th, but I can't remember..

It can go either way -- i.e., you can end up going the same direction in the 1st and 3rd or 1st and 4th -- because at the beginning of each half one of the teams selects which goal to defend. But in this case you're right: The Bears were going the same direction in the 1st and 4th. And I don't know about DVOA, but if you look at the drive summaries, it's fairly striking: 1st & 4th quarters = 2 70-yard TD drives, missed FG, INT, turnover on downs; 2nd & 3rd quarters = 8 punts.

109
by Chip :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 5:47pm

Urlacher has lost a step. Brown never got his back. And Tommie Harris is in the process of losing his. Jerry Angelo will have some very interesting decisions to make in this year's draft.

I second that Orton would likely have won that game. Grossman is merely a backup, a placeholder, incapable of putting the team on his shoulders and winning a game. Sure, he can manage not to lose a game against the Lions of the NFL, but that's about it. Orton would have put more points on the board or at minimum extend drives so as to limit TEN's success. Who would have thought that the talent gap between Orton and Grossman is now bigger than the talent gap between Forte and Benson (the 2008 edition with +DVOA)?

37
by Derrick (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 12:48pm

As a longtime Eagles fan, I honestly think that McNabb getting tired at the end of the game isn't fatigue, its just nerves/adrenaline. I think he just gets so jacked up in those type of situations that his heart races and as a result he can't catch his breath / is winded. It was a cold night, and the offense just wasn't on the field for that long - there is no reason McNabb should be physically exhausted.

38
by Conor :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 12:51pm

How about McNabb spiking the ball on second down during their 2 minute drill in the second quarter? I wanted to look up the play by play to make sure I had everything right. 57 seconds left after Philly just called their second TO, first down at the Giants 43. They hit LJ Smith for 7 yards to the 36, clock running, and they spike it to bring up a third down and 3 at the 36 with 1 TO left and 41 seconds remaining. They still have the one TO left, but now they brought up a third down at a part of the field where they probably can't kick a FG from. They have lots of time, relatively, 41 seconds, and I don't think they should be burning a down when they aren't in position to kick a FG yet.

Their entire two minute drill just seems to lack urgency, and really makes me appreciate the Giants two minute drill, and Coughlin in general. He is an outstanding game day coach.

43
by Kurt :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:07pm

As a Giants fan I'd be delighted if they ditched Reid, but it really is mindboggling that four years after the Super Bowl, and ten years into McNabb's career, the two minute drill seems to have improved not an iota.

39
by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 12:57pm

One (fan-level) very disturbing from the Pats game. One of my friends was at the game and reported that people were thrown out of her section for being "too loud" (and no profanities involved) when the Patriots were on DEFENSE.

Kraft better be putting his money in some safe places, because once things eventually turn down for the Pats, the fan reaction is going to be brutal (while people do like the team, there is lots of dissatisfaction with stuff like ticket prices, parking costs, Kraft basically scalping SB tix to ticket agencies instead of putting them in the season ticket holders' lottery, etc.).

42
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:05pm

Vikings Prediction:

I'm sticking with my prediction that I made when the Vikings were 3-4 - that being they'd win 5 of 6 and get to 8-5 and then go in the tank in the last 3 and miss the playoffs

remaining games:

@TB
@Jack
Chic
@Det
@Arz
Atl
NYG

46
by AN (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:24pm

For Chargers fans, it's the 80s all over again!

This team reminds me of the mid-80s, when Fouts and Air Coryell were putting up points at will, but still going 8-8 or 7-9 because their defense was awful. I know the Chiefs held 'em to 20, but the Bolts are averaging almost 30 points a game - and making every opposing QB look like a Pro Bowler.

I'm thinking - both then and now - man, if we only had a defense. Or a Schottenheimer. On second thought, scratch that last part.

52
by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:33pm

I thought I saw him grab his left knee on a sack. Could that be why everything was sailing on him?

I wonder why Fox didn't "rest" him and let McCown try the riens for a while. A few quick slant and hand-offs at the end at least.

56
by RickD :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:35pm

Reid's first challenge was terrible. The second was not. I watched the replay at least ten times and it was still not clear whether the fumble was caused before or after Jacobs crossed the goal line. Ultimately, when NBC ran a freeze frame, it seemed like the refs had made the right call.

You really have to challenge that play. It was a fumble just as the RB was crossing into the end zone. If you don't challenge that call, you're basically never going to use the challenge flag.

Some of you guys seem to think that the coach should only throw the challenge flag if he already knows he's going to win. But that's asking for too much, given how quickly the decision has to be made. And really, what do you lose? A timeout? The Eagles did not lose that game because they had run out of time outs. They lost because the Giants moved the ball against them with relative ease.

58
by morganja :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:38pm

It's hard to take your analysis seriously when you watch the Panthers-Raiders game and conclude that Delhomme was 'throwing to receivers that couldn't get open'. That's a perfect example of seeing what you want to see and not what was obvious from actually watching the game.

Delhomme was missing his receivers by 5 yards or more, even on short passes to wide open receivers. Every one of his passes was way off the mark from where he was trying to throw it. That's not good coverage. That's either an injury or something else physically wrong with the quarterback.

I am happily surprised that you all decided to watch a Panthers game, what is this the first in three years? But your breakdown of what happened on the field is so far off the mark that it really makes me wonder about your ability to watch a game and see the facts as opposed to forcing the 'facts' to fit your theories.

59
by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:38pm

One of the Commentators last week asked why more teams didn't put a safety at the back of the "Victory Formation," as oppsed to a WR. Although Steve Smith (3) and Brad Hoover (1) both had pretty good tackling days.

77
by DGL :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 3:10pm

I believe the Steelers use Polamalu as the "deep tailback" in the kneeldown formation.

Although with the way things have been going, it may be a while before we see said formation again.

134
by troycapitated p... :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 9:32pm

They do use Polamalu, and it's been a whole week, less actually since the last game was on Monday night, since we saw it, so let's not get too carried away with the pessimism, regardless of how much this loss disappoints.

Regarding Mike's comment on the Rhodes TD: That was Farrior's blown assignment. He bit on the play action and Polamalu was a step or 2 away from being able to cover for it.

60
by @nonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:39pm

I nominate Andy Reid for KCW this week. I really wanted the Eagles to win last night. I couldnt believe my eyes when they called a run to Westbrrok on third down. Imagine my surprise then on fourth down when they called it again. What was he thinking? "They've shut us down all game, but when we need it the most our non-existent power-run game will manifest itself even though our passing attack has been incredibly successful."

And what is up with McNabb's conditioning? Is it just me or do I always seem to hear about him fading down the stretch with the game on the line.

64
by JasonK :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:53pm

EDIT: This was supposed to be a reply to RickD's 1:35PM post.

Agreed. The first challenge was stupid. The second challenge was unlikely to work, but it was close enough that, in that game situation, you've got to take the chance.

And, yeah, there probably is too much attention on Reid's mistakes. The Giants had pretty commanding leads in yardage, first downs, and time of possession. The game turned out being close mostly because the Eagles had better execution in the red zone.

63
by Dave0 :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:52pm

Herm's go-for-two call was the right move. The Chefs had been getting pushed around all second half--they wouldn't have scored that TD without the garbage PI call on Hart, remember. They're a worse team than the Chargers overall, and they have a much worse offense. Tyler Thigpen isn't great but he's a threat to run and he's got some receivers with good hands and size to help him out. There's no way in hell KC has a better chance of tying and then scoring before the Chargers in OT than they do going for the throat in regulation.

65
by MJK :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 1:59pm

Be nice if someone could explain three calls (or non-calls) that seemed to make no sense:

1) Pats-Bills. Edwards, about to be sacked by Wilfork, still in the pocket, throws the to the ground and no intentional grounding is called. There was maybe a Buffalo reciever (but maybe was an O-lineman, couldn't tell from the replay) about 8 yards away, but it would be hard to describe the pass as "in his vicinity". Huh?

2) Pats-Bills. The Bills, down by 10, out of timeouts, and with less than two minutes to go, attempt an onside. The ball appears to bounce off Tedy Bruschi and is recovered by the Bills. The refs first say Buffalo ball, then conference, and instead decide to award the ball to the Pats, with no explanation (or at least, no explanation that the telecast chose to cover). Pats then kneel and win. Huh?

3) Packers-Vikes. Aaron Rodgers, deep in his own end, fumbles. He picks up his own fumble as he scrambles out of the pocket, is about to eat endzone turf, and flips the ball away underhanded. He's in possession of the ball, behind the LOS, out of the pocket, and gets the ball back to the LOS. Incompelete pass? No, it is ruled a safety. Huh?

81
by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 3:38pm

On the onsides kick, the officials said that the ball hit a Bill before it went ten yards.

If you look at the sideline angle CBS eventually showed, it seemed pretty clear that as the ball hops straight up into the air right in front of the onrushing pack of Bills, it hits one of those players.

100
by AndyE :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 5:07pm

I can explain number 2, at least; the benefit of 60" HDTV and a TiVo - the ball bounced up and hit the left wrist of a Bills player (#38, I believe). Crystal clear on the "from the end zone" shot; but for some reason, the announcers failed to see it when they replayed that angle twice.

71
by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 2:34pm

Gus Johnson is the greatest guy ever!!!!! This is the first week I got to hear him call a game, and he is fantastic.

72
by Grafac (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 2:36pm

I think every Colts fan had to pick their jaw off the floor when Foster stuffed Moore at the goal line. That just doesn't happen with an Indy defense. Reminds me of the Jerome Bettis fumble at the goal line in the playoffs (2005?) which ended up not doing any good that year (VANDERJAGTTT!!!!!!!).

74
by Bag79 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 2:53pm

I had to pick my jaw up off the floor when I realized that Tim Jennings, Keiwan Ratliff and Eric Foster were the guys who made the 3 critical plays that won the game for the Colts. I've been down on Tim Jennings since he got spanked in the Pats game last year. Ratliff was on his couch a couple of weeks ago and Foster was just another undersized DT that was getting pushed around. Just another sign of how crazy inconsistent the Colts have been.

Ditto on the goal-line stand comment. i'm sure there have been others but that's the first true goal-line stand I can remember in the Dungy era.

95
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 4:56pm

Yeah, I too certainly assumed that 2nd and goal from the 1 was a gimmie against the Colts. It just isn't what their defense is built to defend against. Amazing that they pulled it off this time. Their no-name DTs definitely seem to be improving as the year goes along. They're still definitely missing Johnson and Pitcock though.

75
by Yaguar :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 3:04pm

Nnamdi Asomugha had one of the greatest cornerback games you will ever see, completely taking down Steve Smith one on one. (Smith's only catch was for 9 yards, with Chris Johnson in coverage.) He allowed the rest of the Oakland defense to cover the rest of Carolina's receivers very comfortably; most Panthers opponents have to spend a lot of resources covering Smith. It helped that Delhomme was pretty horrid.

Raiders still lose.

80
by Packer Pete (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 3:35pm

Regarding the underhand pass by Rodgers that resulted in the safety call, Rodgers was outside the tackle box as well. All he had to do was flip the ball beyond the line of scrimmage. I can't figure out why Packer coach McCarthy didn't demand an explanation on that one.

I watched several games yesterday. The referee calls are getting quite ticky tack. Takes the viewing pleasure away when some guy is called for a questionable hold on the other side of the field that the play occurs.

85
by SideshowTootie (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 4:23pm

McCarthy didn't demand an explanation because Rodgers didn't get the ball past the line of scrimmage. The line was just past the 10, the ball landed around the 8.

92
by Dales :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 4:45pm

The ball does not need to go beyond the LOS.

"8-3-1-Note 1: Intentional grounding will not be called when a passer, while outside the tackle position and facing an imminent loss of yardage, throws a forward pass that lands near or beyond the line of scrimmage, even if no offensive player(s) have a realistic chance to catch the ball (including if the ball lands out of bounds over the sideline or endline)."

I guess it depends on the meaning of the word "near". Is within 2 yards of it near enough? Guess not to that ref?

119
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 7:20pm

I think actual practice shows us "near" as used in this case is more like a foot, so the refs don't have to make particularly fine distinctions as to where precisely the pass went compared to the LOS, especially when the ball could be well OOB and thus there is no relevant yard marker, than "oh, just get it within a couple yards, that's close enough."

86
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 4:30pm

Good thing Aaron wasn't watching the GB-MIN broadcast. About midway through, Troy & Joe "analyze" Adrian Peterson's production. The graphic shows a series of carries for something like 1, 0, 2, 1, 0, 3, 12, 1, 0, 1, -1, 3, 26 etc. Aikman looks at the numbers and declares this to be the mark of a great running back--being able to crash into the line for minimal gain over and over before mixing in an occasional long gain.

For the love of god, send the man a prospectus!

_______________________________
armchair journeyman quarterback

142
by ammek :: Tue, 11/11/2008 - 6:03am

You're exaggerating. Peterson didn't have a single negative run until the failed 4th-down conversion, and repeatedly picked up 3-to-6 yards on first down. Even one- and two-yard gains -- which are (rightly) devalued on this site -- are still more helpful than incomplete passes or sacks, which is what both QBs in the game were producing.

By the end of the game, Peterson had four 20+ gains. Not too shabby.

That said, as is shown in Quick Reads, his performance wasn't quite as dazzling as the numbers (and fawning commentators) suggested.

88
by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 4:33pm

A post way down the list that no one will read...I really felt completely different about the Seahawks game, guys. Except for the part about Lawrence Jackson. The poor guy is being used in weird ways, and it continued in this game. I really believe Ruskell wanted a DROY trophy in his portfolio, so issued a fiat that Lo-Jack "won" the starting job at camp, and it was one more thing to help make cracks show in that defense.

The rest, though:

- Seahawks offense: Seneca Wallace is like a short JP Losman who never gets to throw it deep. With Hasselbeck the Seahawks win this game, absolutely. Bad drops by the receivers, but they played optimally, for the level of talent the corps has. The offense really does have what it takes to be not half bad. The WRs were hurting them very bad, early, but now, it's the QB.

Walter Jones played really poorly in this game. Surprisingly. I know he's not the best player in the league anymore, but this is different from anything else. one bad pass protection play, and three really bad blocks on the second level. One OK on the secodn level, but just didn't look like Walter. Was he too hot? Dunno. Mike Wahle did NOT false start on the 2-point conversion. Absolutely not, can't call that, I don't buy it. The others, were real false starts, but man, two of them were so miniscule, really kind of ticky-tack. But hey they didn't give Sparano the chance to kick a end of 1st half field goal, so it balanced out I guess.

Julius Jones could be so much better, so much better, if he wasn't always stutter stepping in open field. Hitting the hole is what the Cowboys complained about, and it's not really an issue. Sometimes on stretches he'll still dance, a little bit, but really it's only once he's sort of established the play as a positive one. Overreliant on blocking, and always looking for ways to weave through traffic. He's really actually effective until that point, and some of his longer runs testify to how much he can do, in crowded space, when he just drives for what he can.

- Seahawks defense did play the wildcat pretty good, I thought. I know, 2 TDs, but they schematically had a good approach, I liked it, and I thought it was effective on all the other plays, even on the two 2 TDs, those were just individual breakdowns. Post safety, and the LBs and the other safety were in a 45 degree angle, from one LB standing up on the strongside line, a step back & to the side so he can dictate whether to engage in the blocking TE/tackle, to defend the edge, or to cut the outside off by engaging with the lead blocker if there was one, on that side. In either case, the cut lane was pretty much dictated by the defense, and the next LB over would be free to take on the runner in the gap. Worked really well.

The first TD run, was all Tapp's fault. I dunno if it's the Wildcat, or if it's something I'd missed before, but he had profoundly slow reaction time all game for a defender. He was split semi-wide, and got a free shot to penetrate or knife straight in, in either case, to again cut off the outside of the field and dictate the cutting gap. Jake Long and the guard next to him went straight to the 2nd level, taking out Tatupu and the next LB (looked like DD Lewis, in the middle, but I don't TiVo, I record to DVD and picture quality is hurt by recording 3 hours plus, so I dunno). So the whole play came down to Tapp against Williams. OK, now that I type that, maybe I do have a little bit of reservation on the scheme for defending the wildcat, but it was the weak side, I mean, I dunno what you're gonna do.

Anyway, I disagree with Vince, the two LBs were not overpursuing the first misdirection, they were in the right position, just couldn't shed the blocks. Well executed by the Dolphins, but even if Tapp doesn't take down Ricky (man, he was fast this game) he makes him cut off early and that & the loss of one half steps gives up to three other guys to be in position to make that play, the safety, the tackle, or Hill who was coming over. People use the word "frozen," but it was never more applicable as what happened to Tapp. Watch it again.

- The defense is just a split hair away from being what they were last year. A step late, a step behind, almost getting to the QB with some consistency the past month. But not getting there. Not breaking it up, not defeating the play. I dunno. Earlier in the year it was just pathetic flailing around.

- Atkins played really well, I was surprised. I was more surprised when I thought he was Lo-Jack (I thought for sure Lo-Jack was 91, but he's 95). Couldn't catch Ricky from behind, that one play, but he played the wildcat edge, the run, really well, and pass rush, seemed to have quickness, leverage, and bull rush power. Didn't get home, of course, but he looked a little better than Tapp has looked overall, which isn't bad.

- I also disagree about Julian Peterson. Such a mixed bag with him. He's had a real slide the past two years, more and more big plays happen directly on account of where he is or isn't. I used to give him the benefit of the doubt, and thought it was just the blitzes they were using, they rush with him and it leaves a vulnerability and teams were striking it. But it's gotten way worse, this year, and this game was really bad. He sustained drives an equal amount of time he had big plays himself, the knockdowns, breakups, etc. Last year it was also equal, but the big plays were bigger and the rest of the team mitigated most of his hiccups. I dunno, he didn't look fast at all, is he on the decline? He's the worst LB out there.

- Other than the wildcat defense, they had a post safety on at least two other plays. One of them was the Babineaux INT. Allowed one more rusher to make an effective blitz, and Babs pressed in on the seam a bit more. Brian Russell was in the box a decent amount, surprisingly since Grant is better, but it worked, and the other post safety play was when Russell & Babs & the two LBs were all showing blitz right at the line, with the linemen on gaps & the blitzers heads up, then they all fell back into coverage. Some real different stuff, this week, overall, not just against the WC. Profoundly different, for this defense. It's almost like they were being run by Spags or Rex Ryan. The blitzes didn't seem particularly disguised, but the coverage sure as hell did. I look forward to seeing some of that against Arizona, I think it would make a tremendous difference. One bad part, though, was Babs was lined up as WOLD, on one of them, a clear running play, 3rd & short, two TEs & one WR on the other side of the field. Didn't work, either, they converted. But if the coverage is disguised, and with Kerney back & an offense that gives them rest, at home with these new formations they could be really good for a few games.

- There's only one bad part to the defensive playcalling. The rest of it really is execution. But the cushion the CBs give is ridiculous. And not justified, because they have two smart safeties who still haven't given up much behind them, with the exception of the Green Bay game. San Francisco was worse, but mostly seemed to be bad tackling, slipping, and bad positions by the CBs. The safeties are good in coverage and in being safeties. The pass rush used to be really good. Zero excuse for giving the same size cushion on Ted Ginn, as on Camarillo, Cobbs and Fasano!!! Zero.

- Holmgren called an empty backfield formation, on that final drive, with no timeouts, just a bad decision. Basically gave up 2 downs, after the spike, and had a 3rd & 10 and 4th & 10 left to try and win the game. He had what I thought was really good play calling, this game, just poor execution, but that one was really hurtful.

- This game gave me strong hope for next year. Power offense has returned to the NFL and won't go away, so they're not done on defense, but they need a WR. Otherwise, this team can return to the 2nd tier they left, next year, and I expect it to happen.

91
by jds (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 4:42pm

Lions - you gave up touchdown passes to Jerry Porter and Troy Williamson! You will deservedly be 0-16.

98
by Purple People Eater (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 5:06pm

Re Boom or Bust Theatre:

The mark of a great running back is not that he is boom or bust, that's true.
But the graphic actually showed Purple Jesus getting 2 or 3 yards for every play - not negatives.
Actually watching the game, I would say that Peterson earned at least 2 yards after first contact, every single play. I would be surprised if his game isn't at least average.

102
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 5:19pm

i'd say his game markedly improved in the second half (4th down fumble notwithstanding), and especially on the final drive. but at the time the graphic was flashed, 0's, 1's, and 2's dominated.

my critique was not actually of AP, but of the "analysis" given of what was, to that point, willie parker numbers. AP's a great back, but a poor argument by Aikman.
_______________________________
armchair journeyman quarterback

104
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 5:24pm

In other words, it was a case of "I know he's a great player, so I'll say whatever stats flash on the screen is evidence of that."

126
by FourteenDays :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 8:30pm

Why don't we look at the actual numbers? By quarter, running plays only. The brackets indicate a play called back by penalty:

(1Q) 3,4,5,7,13,0,2,1
(2Q) 10,1,3,2,26,3
(3Q) 6,2,3,2,1,[2],1,10,16
(4Q) 2,25,4,0Fum,4,5,2,29TD

Simply put, I don't see 0-2 "dominating" at any point in the game.

133
by the silent speaker (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 9:31pm

Well, between the 13 and the 26, you have a stretch of 0,2,1,10,1,3,2. Only one higher than 3 and only one more that high. Of course, I cherry-picked the boundaries and there is an "other than that, Mrs. Lincoln" element to it, but still, you asked.

103
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 5:23pm

Moss's fine rescinded. (link in name)

Looks like theres a little crazy goin on in the fine office.

105
by Schizobatman (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 5:30pm

Steven Hauschka actually made his name at NC State last season. He's a Middlebury alum for sure, and for all intents and purposes was pulling an Urban-esque Utah grads at Florida (O'Brien planned to have him play at BC before the coaching change, which makes more sense geographically) but yea, it's unlikely he's on an NFL roster straight out of Middlebury

decent kicker from what I've seen of him btw

116
by Key19 :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 6:41pm

Chances Eagles finish last in the NFC East? 50%

125
by morganja :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 8:07pm

What are you talking about Yaguar? Are you really claiming that Nanmdi was so incredibly good covering Steve Smith that he caused all off Delhomme's throws to be off by five yards to every receiver on the field? That is truly incredible coverage. I heard that his coverage was so good that it caused the financial markets to recover and the banks to return the money they got from the government. Did his coverage cure cancer too, or is that just a rumor?

135
by Yaguar :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 9:34pm

Yea, he's basically that good. I think his coverage will also defeat terrorism.

I did say that Delhomme was horrid. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he was horrid precisely because he gets confused without his go-to guy, but obviously, Delhomme's play was terrible. A good quarterback can pick on the rest of the Raiders secondary with ease.

You should also actually just reply to the post you're discussing. It's not that hard to find the reply button.

129
by Kurt :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 8:33pm

Here's a new twist...

According to Mike Francesa (yeah, I know, but...), if the second challenge on the TD had been upheld, the refs would have had to give the ball to the Giants at the one inch line, because the refs never ruled on who recovered the "fumble", and you wouldn't have been able to tell from the replay who in a giant pile recovered the fumble. If this is true, doesn't this make the second challenge even dumber than the first?

136
by DJ CO. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 9:48pm

Love this stuff man, but let me get into some things:

1. GET OFF HERM. As I'm watching the game I'm saying "if they get in they BETTER go for 2". Clearly the Chiefs and Chargers are not equal teams, so if you're the inferior team and have a chance to win ON THE ROAD, you go for 2. I just didn't like the play call, but that's the Chiefs.

2. As a Jets fan, I hate to admit that the Pats are winning the division, but the Pats are winning the division. The Jets aren't any good; they just don't play anyone. The two offensive explosions were against western teams in NY at 1:00. Favre will throw a pick 6 Thursday. Mark it down. As for the Dolphins, they almost lost to SEATTLE!

3. Have you seen a team that can make the playoffs with a worse defense then Denver, cause I haven't. What happenned? The Chargers can't play four good quarters and they're still gonna make the playoffs.

4. If the Titans win next week, they will go 14-0.

5. The Giants will not lose a playoff game to anyone outside their division.

6. Gus Johnson seriously needs to calm the f**k down. It's with everything he calls now. It's not all March Madness. If you saw the last Kimbo fight you know exactly what I'm talking about.

7. Two sweeps against the Giants at the end = worst coaching this season. If they had Rex Grossman at QB I'd understand...

8. Someone needs to tell John Madden we can actually see the game.

OK I think I'm done.

138
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 9:56pm

I wonder if Aaron could tell us what the record is, in the DVOA era, for the largest disparity in ranking for a team's defensive DVOA, and their ranking for total points allowed. The Vikings defense was tremendous again yesterday, yet once again the opponent's points again doesn't reflect it, what with the normal assortment of interception and punt returns for tds by the opponent, or short fields enjoyed by the opponent via boneheaded turnovers, or long returns, yielded by the Vikings. Sheesh, the Vikings even gave up a touchdown once this year when their punter didn't catch a perfectly good snap!

Give the Vikings a qb who is just decent (it'll be interesting to see tomorrow how far Frerotte's rank has fallen), and a punt unit which only gives up a touchdown every five games, instead of one about every 1.8 games, and this team could very possibly be 8-1. Sheesh, what a waste of talent.

The day the Vikings are eliminated from the playoffs, the Vikings should fire Childress, for qb evaluation alone, and hire Leslie Frazier. There is no sense in letting go of an obviously talented defensive coordinator to become a good head coach for someone else, as they did with Tomlin, when the guy you have in that spot has such an obvious fatal shortcoming in the area he is supposed to be an expert.

143
by ammek :: Tue, 11/11/2008 - 6:07am

Re: Vikes punting. I had a premonition.

As Chris Kluwe set up to punt in the third quarter, Troy Aikman said: "Chris Kluwe, who's having a good year punting." Uh oh, I said to myself.

I was wrong. It was not blocked.

But a 67-yard return later, Green Bay was ahead.

139
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 10:04pm

Oh, and one more thing. Any team which regularly features Gus Frerotte throwing to Bobby Wade has their chances of making the playoffs seriously impaired. I almost forgive ol' Gus for throwing a pick/td, when he slung to the wrong receiver on the crossing routes, given that the open guy was Wade; it's like the guy is wearing oven mitts or somethin'.

140
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 11/10/2008 - 10:22pm

Where is the love for Chase Blackburn in the Giants game? Dude recovered a fumble, stoped the Eagles on 4th down, and provided his normal special teams tackels.

Glad to see the FO guys pointing out how Eli is pointing out blitzes as the guy is not sacked very often. Finally.

147
by Boston Dan :: Tue, 11/11/2008 - 5:01pm

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5ipaWUNirKz7DwEldWMTIl6tOFr0gD94CR7N80

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The NFL has rescinded a $20,000 fine levied against New England Patriots receiver Randy Moss for his comments about officiating.

The fine was withdrawn by Ray Anderson, the league's vice president of operations, after a review, league spokesman Greg Aiello said Tuesday.

148
by Bjorn Nittmo (not verified) :: Tue, 11/11/2008 - 5:20pm

MNF absolutely demanded an Audibles dialogue -- not sure if I can recall a 4th quarter in which both teams went to such lengths to try to lose, with the 49ers' efforts eventually prevailing. How the 49ers, with first and goal from the 1 with 45 seconds to go, got only 2 plays off was a heroic feat of coaching ingenuity. Yet Ron Jaworski was all in favor of spiking the ball on both 1st and 3rd downs. I can't understand how so many teams seem to be so incompetent when it comes to late-half clock and play management.