Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Week 7 DVOA Ratings

Denver: great team, or the greatest team? Would you be satisfied with "one of the ten greatest teams?" Plus: hard times in the NFC South, where defense goes to die.

15 Dec 2008

Audibles at the Line: Week 15

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, December 11

Chicago Bears 27 at New Orleans Saints 24

Doug Farrar: The "Pierre Thomas for 250 carries in 2009" campaign begins here!

Aaron Schatz: You know, you can see evidence of it in the numbers (the blitzing numbers from charting, the fact that they are stronger against No. 1 wide receivers than No. 2s) but it wasn't until I watched closely tonight that I realized just how much less the Bears are using the classic "Tampa-2" coverage compared to past years. They are playing a lot more man, and blitzing a lot more instead of just rushing the front four. I wonder what the reasoning was behind that. The cornerbacks are the same -- well, were the same until Nathan Vasher got hurt again. The line doesn't have the depth of past years but they've got a good starting crew, as good as past years; they still have Tommie Harris, and Mark Anderson and Alex Brown are good pass rushers. Why go to more pass pressure and less zone coverage?

This week's award for "I have no idea what counts as pass interference" goes to Jason David, who had Greg Olsen wrapped in a bear hug on a pass that might have won the game for the Bears. I want to hear from Mike Pereira about this one.

And what the hell is Kyle Orton doing scrambling 10 yards away from the goal line with five seconds left?

Doug Farrar: When they were talking about how New Orleans could have had the game by just not tackling Orton, and how the instinct takes over, I thought about that Westbrook play where Runyan told him to down it at the 1 to run out the clock against the Cowboys.

David's had a few good plays in the last few weeks, but he's back to his old ways. Watching him try to defend a post or a go is just ... bad. Hole in Zone, who had been mentoring him this season, is not amused. Losing Mike McKenzie and Tracy Porter for the season killed the Saints. You just knew the Bears were going to get the yards they needed to tie and win the game. Not sure how much McKenzie will have in the tank going forward, but I liked Porter's potential.

Sunday, December 14

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10 at Atlanta Falcons 13

Mark Zajack: I caught Brian Baldinger trying to say what a great job Falcons quarterback coach Bill Musgrave is doing with Matt Ryan: "Musgrave has been working tediously with Ryan..." Uh, OK.

And I know that people love Derrick Brooks, but apparently the list of admirers includes the Falcons blockers. If you see a highlight of the Michael Turner touchdown, check out the bear hug right tackle Tyson Clabo puts on Brooks.

Aaron Schatz: First of all, thanks to the folks who showed up to Beer Feed Numero Uno in Boston. We spent the first three hours mostly watching this game.

These teams were getting very chippy with each other after a lot of plays, from very early on. You could tell they both knew it was an important game. It was pretty tense.

ESPN.com had an article earlier this week talking about six MVP candidates, and one of them was Michael Turner. I appreciate that Atlanta has a better rushing game this year, but you've gotta be kidding me. I'm sorry, 4.3 yards per carry is not an MVP. On the other hand, Merril Hoge this morning on Edge NFL Matchup brought up the idea of Matt Ryan as MVP, and that's not such a bad idea (although his case isn't as strong after he struggled today). Has any player ever been NFL MVP as a rookie?

I mentioned on Thursday that Chicago has moved away from the classic "Tampa-2" style and plays majority man coverage this year. Tampa Bay may be doing the same, or at least was today. When Ronde Barber is playing Roddy White close, that's good. When the Falcons for some reason take a practice squad tight end named Jason Rader with no career NFL receptions, and split him out wide, and he totally burns safety Jermaine Phillips deep, that's not so good. They got lucky when Rader fumbled the ball away at the goal-line and a challenge overturned his touchdown.

Coy Wire was playing outside linebacker today for the injured Michael Boley and did not look good. He had trouble in pass coverage, and he's the one who was blocking Brian Clark and let go a little too early, which let Clark get to Michael Koenen before Koenen could get the punt off.

Vince Verhei: Matt Ryan threw two interceptions today, both on passes to Roddy White, and White was open on both plays. In the second quarter, White got behind Aqib Talib for what should have been a 34-yard touchdown, but Ryan underthrew him and Talib recovered to make the pick. On the Falcons' next possession, White crossed the field from right to left, but Ryan threw behind him and Ronde Barber reeled it in.

After an incomplete Tampa Bay pass, Domonique Foxworth gave Antonio Bryant a little shove in the back. Mike Smith stepped toward Foxworth to lecture him. Then he saw Bryant coming at Foxworth to retaliate -- and cut him off, getting in his face and pointing him back toward the Tampa Bay sideline. It was great to see a coach determined to keep his guys in line, and even more eager to stick up for them. Quite a change from the coach in Atlanta last year.

Washington Redskins 13 at Cincinnati Bengals 20

Mike Tanier: What do you guys think Clinton Portis will have to say about this series?

1-1-CIN 1 (6:33) J.Campbell pass incomplete short right to F.Davis.
2-1-CIN 1 (6:27) M.Sellers right guard for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN.
Cincinnati challenged the runner broke the plane ruling, and the play was REVERSED.
M.Sellers right guard to CIN 1 for no gain (C.Mays).
3-1-CIN 1 (6:01) M.Sellers up the middle to CIN 1 for no gain (C.Mays, B.Johnson). FUMBLES (C.Mays), RECOVERED by
CIN-C.Mays at CIN 0. Touchback.
Washington challenged the runner was down by contact ruling, and the play was Upheld. (Timeout #1 at 05:52.)

Doug Farrar: I think that one could bring the alter egos out of hiding.

Vince Verhei: Chad Ocho Cinco catches a pass over the middle and gets his helmet knocked off on a wicked shot by Kareem Moore. The newly un-helmeted Ocho Cinco jumps to his feet, jawing at Moore. Hey Chad, that wouldn't have happened if you hadn't been running down the field with your completely unfastened chinstrap flapping in the wind. To make things worse, the reception was called back on a penalty.

Detroit Lions 21 at Indianapolis Colts 31

Will Carroll: Some early questions:

1. There was a challenged play where the punt went off Keiwan Ratliff (the return guy for Indy), but might have gone off one of the Lions. Ratliff ran up and called for a fair catch, then the maybe muff. Tony Dungy challenged and lost, asking if it touched the Lions player first. Could he not challenge that the guy was too close on the fair catch?

2. The broadcast showed a magnified view that showed it did hit the Lions player. It wasn't definitive and Brian Billick rightly said it was tough to overturn on that view alone. He questioned whether or not the ref had that magnified view. If not, why the hell not?

3. Dungy's challenge lost. I don't know if anyone keeps this stat, but Dungy seems to win one out of 10 challenges. Anyone track this, and is any coach worse than Dungy? Why is he so bad at it?

4. Dan Orlovsky threw a high pass to Calvin Johnson and he tipped it. Two Colts were almost there for the pick. I know a lot of quarterbacks throw high to tall wide receivers (Eli Manning to Plaxico Burress, for one example). It's a good strategy when it works, but does it lead to tips/interceptions when it misses?

Doug Farrar: On the replay percentage issue, Dungy was 1-for-3 this year before that one. That's on the low side, league-wide. The Saints have 15 challenges (the most) and four overturned plays. Their 26.7 percent success rate is the lowest among teams with 10 or more challenges. The highest? The Lions (5-of-10) and the Raiders (7-of-11). Yeah, go figure.

Vince Verhei: I'm sure the Colts defense (ranked 20th in rushing defense DVOA) had a lot to do with this, but Kevin Smith looked really good to me. He kind of reminded me of Emmitt Smith, which is a weird comparison: Kevin is three inches taller and three pounds lighter than Emmitt. But like Emmitt, Kevin takes short, choppy steps, which gives him good balance, change of direction, and acceleration.

And then there's Calvin Johnson. The jump-ball lob to Megatron is becoming undefendable. On another play, he caught a 5-yard hitch with a defender closing in for a sure tackle. Johnson ducked under the defender, took one step and lunged forward for five yards after catch -- on that one step. He'll be the best player on an 0-16 team in league history.

San Diego Chargers 22 at Kansas City Chiefs 21

Ben Riley: Apparently, Kris Dielman has been ejected from the game for punching. The announcers are completely baffled as to why, and based on the reply they showed, it appears he was kicked out for a light brushing of a player's head with his hand while on the ground.

By the way, the Chargers are losing 7-0 and have turned the ball over twice when threatening to score. What does Norv Turner need to do to prove he's not a good head coach?

Doug Farrar: Well, he'd have to start by losing games like this. I think he's going to get a relative pass on this season. There was the Hochuli game, some really weird calls in the last Kansas City game (which they managed to win anyway), and I saw an NFL Network graphic that showed San Diego's 2-4 record in games decided in the last minute. It wasn't his fault that the defense had little push outside of Shawne Merriman, and the offensive line/LT2 scenario leaves a lot of questions.

Seattle Seahawks 23 at St. Louis Rams 20

Ben Riley: You know that thing TMQ does, "The single worst play of the year ... thus far"? Seahawks defensive end Darryl Tapp wants in on that action. In the first series of this game, he's got outside contain on Steven Jackson, and he just freezes up when Jackson makes a cut inside. Tapp made absolutely no attempt to tackle him, or chase after him, or do anything at all really.

Doug Farrar: On Seattle's first drive, they have a third-and-19. Leonard Little demolishes right tackle Ray Willis, and Seneca Wallace moves up in the pocket and fires a first down to rookie tight end John Carlson. However, the Rams are running a lot of three-man fronts with some interesting blitzes, which the Seahawks' patchwork offensive line is ill-equipped to handle.

Why bad teams are bad, part 1,317: At the end of the first quarter, Seahawks punter John Ryan spots the ball out of bounds at the Seattle 3. First-and-10, defensive tackle Brandon Mebane gets busted for encroachment. First-and-5, Steven Jackson for 4. Second-and-1, Steven Jackson for 7. Way to demolish your special teams advantage, guys.

The St. Louis Rams, the team competing for the worst overall DVOA in the history of our stats, humiliated the Seahawks' alleged defense on two successive plays on their looooooong second-quarter drive, First, there was the cutback run by Jackson on fourth-and-1. That was a 14-yard gain, because it is apparently a requirement that every Seattle defender bite on pursuit against the first guy to move. They all zigged with the fullback, while Jackson zagged. Then, Jackson took a direct snap and handed off to Dane Looker, who was sweeping left to right. Looker threw to a wide-open Marc Bulger for 11 yards. The Rams scored a touchdown on this drive, going 97 yards in 18 plays and eating almost nine minutes off the clock, despite about 15 penalties on Richie Incognito. That drive put them up in time of possession, 17:30 to 5:49.

Is it too early to start drinking?

Ben Riley: Doug, I've been under the influence since Week 3.

The Rams have sent Jason Craft on a corner blitz about 17 times, and the Seahawks continue to leave him unblocked. Result: another Seneca Wallace fumble. Hey, offensive line coach Mike Solari -- you need to make an adjustment. Like, now.

Seneca Wallace apparently is tired of unblocked Rams nailing him in the backfield. At the end of the first half, he basically ran up and down the Seahawks sideline screaming at his teammates. Wallace is no prima donna, so this meltdown -- and an appearance by Charlie Frye -- is proof positive the Seahawks have hit rock bottom.

Richie Incognito has four penalties today. When does this experiment end, St. Louis?

Doug Farrar: First, I'd like to apologize for writing so much about a game that I felt bad about watching in HD. Hi-Def is wasted on stuff like this. I still don't know how the Seahawks won this game, I mean, I understand that Wallace led the team on two late scoring drives, but I'm at a loss to explain HOW. This team is so bad; two of their three wins have come against the Rams. The other one came against the 49ers. That's right, they're 0-for the rest of the NFL. Take them outside the worst division in football and they can't win.

Even this game came with a price. On the game-winning field goal, left tackle Sean Locklear (dislocated toe) was injured. Locklear was replacing Walter Jones, who's having (gulp) microfracture surgery. Now, Locklear might be replaced by Ray Willis, who spent today as Leonard Little's personal punching bag. Given the way this season has gone, I'd expect miracles over the Jets and Cardinals, because it's about time to scuttle a top-five draft pick with a few meaningless wins. Now, we have to gear up for a week of Favre vs. Holmgren stuff. Yikes.

San Francisco 49ers 9 at Miami Dolphins 14

Ben Riley: OK, I understand the fumble-luck principle, but did y'all realize the Dolphins haven't turned the ball over more than once in any game this year? How is that even possible? And when are we going to add Chad Pennington to the NFL MVP conversation?

Doug Farrar: Here's my question: The last two teams that went from 1-15 to a winning record -- the 2008 Dolphins and the 1997 Jets -- were run by Bill Parcells. Can we just skip the grace period and put the man in the Hall of Fame right now?

Bill Moore: I don't disagree with this at all. But for the last few weeks I have been wondering about the following and would like answers if anyone has them:

Unlike previous Parcells turnarounds, he's not the coach here. What changes -- particularly Parcells changes -- have turned around the Dolphins? Jake Long was a consensus pick. I could have run the Dolphins and would have drafted Long. That's not a Parcells change. However, picking Tony Sporano to coach the team would be one.

The Lions and the Raiders are good examples that bad teams don't just revert to the top (or even the middle). The Dolphins have done something right. Are we denigrating Sporano's efforts by all this talk about Parcells, or are there Parcells fingerprints all over this team?

Ned Macey: Well, of the other two 1-15 teams in this era, both were .500 two years later, and one was in the Super Bowl. So maybe the key to franchise building is to go 1-15 instead of 2-14 or something.

Aaron Schatz: I think these are the five biggest reasons why the Dolphins turned things around. The question becomes, how much did Bill Parcells have to do with each one?

1) Hiring Tony Sparano as head coach. Yes, that's Parcells.

2) Bringing out the Wildcat against the Patriots in Week 3 (remember, the Dolphins were 0-2 at the time). The main mover on this is David Lee, the quarterbacks coach, the guy who was at Arkansas. He was hired by Sparano, who was hired by Parcells, so I guess that's partially Parcells.

3) Somebody woke up Joey Porter after he was horrible in his first year with the Dolphins. I have no idea who gets the credit for this and how much it is scheme vs. Porter re-dedicating himself to offseason training.

4) Signing Chad Pennington. I don't know how much "credit" the Dolphins get on this one. It was painfully obvious what the biggest weakness of the Miami Dolphins was in 2007, and they didn't exactly fix it in the offseason. When a reasonable quarterback became a free agent during training camp, you had to be a moron to not sign him.

5) The schedule. The western divisions are so, so bad ... Parcells doesn't get credit for that. (And, by the way, neither do Mangini or Belichick.)

Bill Barnwell: Joey Porter switched sides and is playing the same side he played in Pittsburgh.

Sean McCormick: I think Parcells should get credit for the Pennington signing. There were quite a few people who thought Pennington's arm strength had deteriorated to the point where he could no longer play in the NFL, certainly not as a starter. There were other veteran quarterback options, and he could just as easily have put pressure on Sparano to play Chad Henne. Instead, Parcells jumped on Pennington the second he hit the market and kept him away from Kansas City, which seemed like at least as likely a landing spot.

Ned Macey: While he should get credit for that, on the other hand, as of August 10, he had no quarterback. I don't think anyone thinks the Dolphins would be over .500 without Pennington (OK, at least I don't think so), and Parcells had lined up a Chad Henne/John Beck competition if I remember correctly.

Sean McCormick: With Josh McCown thrown in for good measure.

Doug Farrar: Lee and Sparano were both on Parcells' staff at Dallas. Basically, they were on the plane home after getting waxed by the Cardinals in Week 2, and Lee and Sparano devised the plays.

Vince Verhei: Mike Singletary coached this game wearing a very clingy 49ers athletic shirt. It was a good look for him, but hopefully it does not catch on in the coaching community. It must not spread to the Holmgrens, the Reids, the Crennels of the world.

Buffalo Bills 27 at New York Jets 31

Sean McCormick: And ... Vernon Gholston is inactive. That pick is looking better and better all the time.

On the first series of the game, the Jets were faced with a third-and-1. They went to a heavy look, faked the handoff and called a quarterback keeper off the edge. It took the defense utterly by surprise and netted 27 yards. Favre, needless to say, was having fun out there. Very slow fun, but fun.

With two minutes to go in the first half, the Bills have 33 yards passing and 17 points. They've been doing it through a combination of surprisingly effective running and unsurprisingly effective special teams play. Buffalo extended their first offensive series by successfully executing a fake punt, which ultimately turned into three points, and their go-ahead touchdown was set up by a huge punt return by Roscoe Parrish. The Jets are marching up and down the field the entire first half, but they're still finding themselves down on the scoreboard.

Leon Washington really is what Reggie Bush was supposed to be. It's not often that teams will call runs for potential scoring plays with only one minute remaining in the half, but that's exactly what the Jets did. They ran a trap play with Alan Faneca pulling from left to right to create the opening, and Washington slid through the hole, kicked it to the outside and outran the rest of the Buffalo defense. The Bills were in a Cover-1 look, and Bryan Scott was not up to the task of closing down the angle.

Ben Riley: Hey Sean, who is David Clowney? He just made an incredible one-handed catch -- and it's the first catch of his NFL career. Was he on Davone Bess's flag-football team or something?

Sean McCormick: He was a training camp phenom who came from the Green Bay practice squad. He was leading the league in reception yardage in the preseason, but then he broke his collarbone and has been inactive ever since. Good size, terrific speed.

And in a case of what goes around comes around, the Jets finished up the fourth quarter by scoring 10 points without notching a third down. The big play in the sequence was a defensive touchdown scored by Shaun Ellis just after the two-minute warning when Buffalo inexplicably decided to go play-action on second-and-5. J.P. Losman rolled out right but never felt the pressure coming from his backside in the form of Abram Elam. Elam stripped Losman; the ball bounced around and up into the hands of Ellis, who smashed his way into the end zone.

Losman just cannot keep the ball low when he throws. He was picked off once when he jammed one off Josh Reed's hands, and was nearly picked off again on Buffalo's final drive, only to be saved when David Harris dropped the ball. Losman had a few good moments in the second half throwing the ball, but when he's under any kind of pressure, he throws high. (He also has a nasty tendency to throw across his body back into the middle of the field.)

Favre wasn't particularly accurate, either, but he tended to throw the ball behind his targets. That's been going on for about three weeks now, and it could have cost the Jets the season, as Favre threw behind a wide-open Dustin Keller when the Jets were down 27-24 and needed to convert a third down to get into scoring range. I thought it might have been a weather issue the last two weeks with Favre, but the weather was mild today and he still had problems.

Ben Riley: Have we adequately audibled about the Randy Cross porn 'stache? I feel like we haven't.

Tennessee Titans 12 at Houston Texans 13

Ben Riley: Gus Johnson is calling a game with Andre Johnson and Chris Johnson! Awesome.

Matt Schaub has 177 yards passing with about a minute to play in the first half. 154 of those yards are to Andre Johnson. Let's just say Cortland Finnegan is not having his best game.

Doug Farrar: I wonder if Gus called any Bengals games a couple years ago.

So, it looks like the Texans are the "Officially Feisty, but Too Late" team of 2008, and the Titans might be in a peck of trouble, depending on the status of Albert Haynesworth's left knee.

Vince Verhei: Watching the Tennessee wide receivers do battle with the Houston defensive backs was like watching a manatee fight a grouper to the death. On land. The Titans began the assault with a series of dropped passes and fumbles. The Texans countered with sloppy coverage. Up 10-3 with five seconds to go in the first half, Nick Ferguson was called for a 36-yard pass interference penalty on Justin Gage; the Titans kicked a field goal on the next play. Even when the Titans' receivers made a big play, they did it without catching the ball.

Incidentally, that field goal left Tennessee kicking off, down 10-6, with two seconds on the clock. They kicked onside, and somehow managed to recover with one second remaining. And then they took a knee. So what was the point of the onside kick then?!

The coaching gets weirder. The Titans never trailed by more than four points in the fourth quarter, and yet in the fourth, they ran 15 pass plays (including a Kerry Collins scramble) and only five rushes. Why so pass-wacky?

Finally, the Titans had a fourth-and-3 at the Houston 32 and turned down the field-goal attempt. (Jeff Fisher said after the game that he didn't trust Rob Bironas to kick a 50-yard field goal into the wind.) So they go for it. That decision is reasonable. However, the play they ran ... a fade pattern to Justin McCareins? You only needed three yards; wouldn't a Chris Johnson run have been a better bet? (It was the first play after the two-minute warning, and the Titans still had all three timeouts, so the clock was not an issue.)

Minnesota Vikings 35 at Arizona Cardinals 14

Vince Verhei: Kurt Warner got off to a horrible start today, overthrowing his own receivers and hitting Vikings defenders right in the chest. On his first six passes, he had two completions for 25 yards, and an interception. Then he completed two in a row, but on the second Anquan Boldin fumbled and the Vikings recovered. Six plays later, the Vikings were up 21-0 and the game was pretty much done.

Tarvaris Jackson wasn't quite as good as his numbers. He gained 100 yards on two long touchdowns, and only 63 yards in his other 15 passes. But he clearly outplayed Warner -- which should automatically disqualify Warner as a viable MVP candidate.

Denver Broncos 10 at Carolina Panthers 30

Doug Farrar: Pretty interesting first half here. You'd expect that Panthers rushing attack to go wild against Denver's defense, but Steve Smith has been the star.

On the first drive of the second half, however, that run game came back with a vengeance. On first-and-10 from the Panthers' 44, DeAngelo Williams took a handoff left, found nothing, and bounced back to the middle, where he found a huge hole for a 56-yard touchdown. On the play before that, Smith got buttoned up by safety Josh Barrett on an out route (just a great hit) and Smith popped right back up and started jawing with Barrett. The Panthers are on a wave right now where they're so tough, and so relentless, they suck the life out of their opponents. Where you deliver your best shot, and the guy acts as if it didn't even matter. Or you outgain a team on the ground in the first half, only to watch it all slip away when they decide to turn on the jets.

Ned Macey: If the offensive line is a possible MVP, why would't it be Denver instead of the Giants? P.J. Pope, Tatum Bell, and Selvin Young ran for 121 yards on 23 carries against the Panthers. Cutler's one of the least-sacked quarterbacks in football. The Broncos are comfortably first in ALY and have given has-beens (Pittman) and never-weres (Hillis) huge lanes to run through. It isn't the "system" -- or if it is, the system was broke since about 2004.

Pittsburgh Steelers 13 at Baltimore Ravens 9

Mike Tanier: Ed Reed had another fumble recovery in this sumo battle. Defensive MVP?

Doug Farrar: If you ask me, he'd have to fight it out with the other elite safety in this game.

Mike Tanier: Big Ben just threw an interception that defies description on third-and-1 at the start of the fourth quarter. You'll see it on the highlight shows. I don't get the logic of a play-action fake and a deep drop in short yardage against the Ravens defense.

Ben Riley: Ed Reed would be my defensive MVP, for sure.

With apologies to Bill Simmons, why does Hines Ward look like he just finished showering with the Sisters at Shawshank Penitentiary? Why is there blood all over his uniform "down there?"

Mike Tanier: OK, so now you can catch the ball with your feet in the end zone and it's not a touchdown? Isn't this getting a little ridiculous?

Ben Riley: Apparently, yes, it is a touchdown, even though the receiver didn't have possession with the ball over the plane. Well, it's not like the Steelers have ever gotten help from the officials in a big game bef -- never mind, forget I said anything.

Mike Tanier: Oh, c'mon. That was a touchdown at the end of the Ravens game. It's not like when Big Ben's shadow crossed the plane in the Super Bowl.

Doug Farrar:I'm not touching that one with a 40-foot Terrible Towel, but I will say that the thing was called "no touchdown" on the field. Replay overturns are supposed to be based on indisputable visual evidence, and anyone who thinks that was an indisputable touchdown needs his eyes checked. There appeared to be questions about whether he broke the plane, and whether he had two feet down when he brought the ball in at its closet point to the end zone. Now, if it was called a touchdown on the field, I would not have had a problem with Walt Coleman sticking with that ruling after replay. It's not really conclusive either way. It's a bang-bang call, and even the best officials (not that Coleman is in that group) make mistakes.

Aaron Schatz: Here's one of those games where "they are who we thought they were" comes into play. Two defense-first teams played smashmouth football for 60 minutes with nothing but punts and field goals until the end. Both teams seemed to have a little bit of trouble hanging on to the ball -- this was a fumblefest. My question: What the hell happened to the Baltimore pass defense on that last Pittsburgh drive? All of a sudden, everything was a zone and Ben Roethlisberger found the hole on nearly every pass. That defense seriously folded up on that last drive.

Vince Verhei: I love watching Baltimore's offense. Teams that run the ball effectively and then throw deep are just fun, plain and simple. They ran a lot of plays with an unbalanced line, including Joe Flacco lining up in shotgun, then running an old-school option to the short side of the line.

On their first drive of the third quarter, the Giants tried an end-around to Nate Washington. As soon as he got the ball, I thought to myself, "There is no way Ed Reed doesn't run this guy down." Sure enough, Reed came zipping in like lightning to make the tackle. The play gained six yards on second-and-10, so I guess you can't call it a failure, but the fact I even thought this shows why Reed (and a few other elite safeties, including Polamalu) are so valuable -- you EXPECT them to make plays, sideline-to-sideline, run or pass.

Pittsburgh came away with a win, but they got away with some God-awful clock management at game's end. Down 9-6, Ben Roethlisberger hit Hines Ward to set up a first-and-goal at the 4 with more than a minute to go. You'd love a touchdown there, but you'd take a field goal. Sixty seconds is plenty of time to run three plays. Instead, Roethlisberger spiked the ball to stop the clock. A complete waste of a down. A second-down pass was also incomplete, and you know what happened on third down. But what if Holmes had dropped the ball? It would have set up fourth-and-goal and forced Pittsburgh to kick a field goal. There were still 50 seconds on the clock, and I'm sure they would have liked to take back that first-down spike.

New England Patriots 49 at Oakland Raiders 26

Patrick Laverty: I thought that last year, the "book" on the Patriots was to take away Randy Moss. So if you're a defense with possibly the best cover corner in the league, don't you just lock him up on Moss all day? So where was Nnamdi Asomugha on the Moss touchdown?

If you draft an offensive lineman second in the draft, and then you struggle to find a left tackle while said second overall draft pick is healthy, then can we say that Gallery is Swedish for "bust?"

Why do players dance in the end zone when they score and close their team's gap to only two touchdowns? Umm, you're still getting blown out. Might want to go easy with the dancing and the "look at me" stuff.

Sean McCormick: He's firing his team up.

Vince Verhei: I assume you're talking about Darren McFadden's touchdown to make it 49-26 New England with less than two minutes to go? McFadden did whatever you call the Black Hole version of the Lambeau Leap. I figured that those fans had just sat through a monsoon watching their home team get pounded, and they deserved a little recognition.

Patrick Laverty: Boy, this Raiers team really isn't good. (No, that's not a misspelling, there really is no "D" in this team.

Vince Verhei: The Patriots were definitely not afraid of Nnamdi Asomugha. They actually threw at him three plays in a row. On the first pass, a perfect back-shoulder fade to Randy Moss was good for a completion. Next pass, Moss beats Asomugha on a curl route for 14 yards or so. Next pass, Asomugha has Wes Welker on a crossing pattern. That one, naturally, was knocked away.

With Matt Cassel throwing four touchdowns against the Raiders just days after the death of his father, I kept waiting for the announcers to make the obvious comparisons to Brett Favre. They never did. I believe this was the first time I've heard any announcers pass up any reasonably valid chance to mention Favre's name.

Aaron Schatz: We saw Moss catch a couple passes on Asomugha, but he was being covered by Rashad Baker on the first touchdown and Gibril Wilson on the second. You know what? Your starting strong safety on Randy Moss is a bad matchup, but your backup free safety on Randy Moss is a REALLY bad matchup.

New York Giants 8 at Dallas Cowboys 20

Aaron Schatz: When Tony Romo throws to Patrick Crayton on third-and-long, who gets to whine about it? Terrell Owens or Jason Witten?

Wow, I've got to say, there's no way that Plaxico Burress lets Terrance Newman get inside of him as easily as Domenik Hixon just did on the Dallas interception that opened the third quarter.

Why have the Giants given up on the run? They aren't even trying. I know they're down to one guy, but can't they still run that one guy a little bit?

Doug Farrar: I think this team could make it through no Burress or no Jacobs, but not both. Just too much to ask. Defenses can play too honest against them, and the Cowboys' defense is continuing a stretch where it has really been outstanding.

Come to think of it, somebody who knows the Cowboys better than I do: Does that defensive upswing go with the timeline of Wade Phillips getting more involved in that side of the ball? Seems like it does.

Ben Riley: It's hard for me to type this, but the Cowboys defense has played much better since Phillips took over. He's like the flip side of the Norv Turner coin: very good at one thing (defense), questionable to horrible at everything else.

Bill Barnwell: Phillips didn't really have a huge impact on the D, to be honest.

Aaron Schatz: Hey, guess what? It turns out that a guard who Oakland didn't want (Kevin Boothe) is not very good at pass blocking when forced to play tackle because of injury!

Doug Farrar: Five minutes left in the third quarter, Owens takes a slide short of the first-down marker rather than take a hit on a short pass. New York's defense stops Marion Barber on third-and-1 on the next play. Al Michaels said that Owens slipped, but he was already heading backward before his feet ... uhhh ... went out from under him.

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin...

That draw to Tashard Choice was about the only play that set the Steelers on their heels last week, and it sure worked against the Giants in the fourth quarter. I really like what he does whenever he's not running straight up the middle in goal-line situations. Good on that draw, can get upfield on swing passes. Not bad for a fourth-round pick who nobody expected to play much.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 15 Dec 2008

163 comments, Last at 18 Dec 2008, 4:14am by Ed

Comments

16
by hector :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:56am

The Dolphins have just played three weak opponents and put up 46 collective points. Nice comeback year from Pennington, but it doesn't have the MVP feel to me.

Someone tell the Jets that Leon Washington would not self-destruct with, oh, I don't know, 2-3 offensive touches per quarter.

I normally like Gil Santos a lot, but he butchered "Asomugha" all day long (unless Santos knows the proper pronunciation and no one else does).

Oh, one other thing:

Riley: It's hard for me to type this, but the Cowboys defense has played much better since Phillips took over. He's like the flip side of the Norv Turner coin: very good at one thing (defense), questionable to horrible at everything else.

Comment of the week.

1
by B :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:36am

My thoughts on the Steelers Touchdown: I thought for a touchdown the ball had to cross the plane of the goal-line unless Vinnie Testerverde was involved.

3
by Doug Farrar :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:40am

Or, Ben Rongrastname. ;-)

163
by Ed (not verified) :: Thu, 12/18/2008 - 4:14am

It's funny how it's come full circle. 10 years ago, the officials couldn't make the call without replay. Now they can't make the call with replay.

2
by Anonymoose (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:37am

The great thing about the Giants loss is it now gives us the best late season big game matchup in years next Sunday night. Carolina @ New York for the #1 seed.

What's even crazier is if Carolina wins they are the #1 seed, but if they lose they could still NOT MAKE THE PLAYOFFS. This is almost unfair.

5
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:45am

Awww......poor Panthers. [grumble]

64
by MontanaPanthersFan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 1:45pm

We´ve had four winning seasons ever...tying for our second-best ever record and still missing the playoffs would suck, yes.

11
by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:51am

And if the Giants lose and the Vikings win that sets up a game for the first round bye in week 17.

15
by JasonK :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:55am

That was essentially true even before the results of NYG-DAL were known. Regardless of whether the Giants were 11-3 or 12-2 right now, the Carolina game would've clinched the #1 seed for them. Coming into last night, the Panthers game was really the only remaining regular season contest that is likely to matter for the Giants. (The MIN game in week 17 will only matter if the Giants lose and the Vikings win next week, in which case it will decide the #2 seed.)

Of course, I still wanted to see the Giants win, simply because the Cowboys are pure evil. (Although, once I saw the beating Eli was taking, I kinda wanted the staff to sit him and let Carr absorb the abuse.)

32
by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:15pm

The MIN game in week 17 will only matter if the Giants lose and the Vikings win next week, in which case it will decide the #2 seed.

Why are you discounting this possibility? If the Giants had won last week or this week they'd have earned a bye and made week 17 meaningless. Now they have to play the current #2 seed to make that happen.

If there is a tie, MN can get no higher than the #3 seed and the result of the week 17 games would matter to Car and NYG. If they both win or lose they'd have equal conference records. what's the third tie breaker, strength of victory?

They should definitely play for a tie.

101
by asp_j (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 4:20pm

In 2002, Miami was playing in New England to close out the season. Had they won (and Tennessee and Oakland and Pittsburgh lost) they would have been the #1 seed. They lost in OT, and ended up missing the playoffs completely.

141
by troycapitated p... :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 7:58pm

Pittsburgh and Tennesee are also facing off for #1 in the AFC, thanks to the Houston Texans defeat of the Titans yesterday.

4
by hector :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:43am

Bringing out the Wildcat against the Patriots in Week 3 (remember, the Dolphins were 0-2 at the time). The main mover on this is David Lee, the quarterbacks coach, the guy who was at Arkansas. He was hired by Sparano, who was hired by Parcells, so I guess that's partially Parcells.

USA Today had a cover story on Sparano last week and while he shared credit with Lee, he sure made it sound like it was the head coach who was the main reason Wildcat got implemented prior to Week 3. In short, Sparano made it pretty clear the main credit belonged to T. Sparano, head coach.

We're not at practice, so I guess all we can do is speculate.

7
by Doug Farrar :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:49am

Well, here's the YouTube video of Lee, Arkansas' offensive coordinator at the time, drawing up the three primary plays the Dolphins have used out of that formation. I give Sparano credit for implementing it, but I think Lee was the guy who had his hand on the steering wheel on that one.

42
by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:26pm

Sports Illustrated had a long article a couple of weeks ago about the single wing and Wildcat origins. I believe Lee wasn't even the originator, and someone else had called it the Wildcat before. I don't have the article on hand though.

78
by Richard :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 2:30pm

You mean this: http://tinyurl.com/6opbn6 ?

111
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 4:51pm

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=easterbrook/080923

from TMQ, circa Week 3:

According, however, to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, "The Wildcat formation is the brainchild of [Dolphins] quarterback coach David Lee [who] used it at the University of Arkansas." OK, then why wasn't the formation called "The Razorback?" (Note: The Dolphins will never have a formation called "The Crimson Tide.") Jeff Parrotte of Syracuse, N.Y., writes, "Miami's new offensive quality control coach is Steve Bush, who was hired by the Dolphins two months after winning the AA State Football Title at West Genesee High School of Camillus, New York." And the West Genesee football team is called the … Wildcats. Dr. Watson, I believe the case is solved.

_______________________________
armchair journeyman quarterback

6
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:48am

Being a Patriots fan, I'm certainly biased. But surely this week's KCW can't be anyone other than Jauron/Los(er)man.

13
by B :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:54am

I think that loss is fully on Dick Jaroun for putting the game in the hand of his backup QB instead of his star RB, who had been a force in that game.

129
by IanT (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 6:11pm

On 2nd and 5, no less. And a rollout pass. When the only way the team could conceivably lose was by turning the ball over.

125
by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 5:54pm

Los(s)man?

8
by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:49am

Tarvaris Jackson wasn't quite as good as his numbers.

So his eyds are going to be less than his passing yards? Cuz we all know that number can't be wrong.

9
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:49am

I think Parcells is one of the top 2-3 best gameday coaches in the history of the NFL....but I can't help thinking his career has been the same record over and over again:

1. Take over league doormat that is clearly on the way up...or at least can't possibly fall any more.

2. Use the high draft picks said team has, and acquire more to draft impact players (or have them drafted for you, as was the case Pre-Jets)

3. Earn high marks when team inevitably turns it around.

4. Bail when it looks like you've reached the high-water mark.

Right now, the greatest contribution Parcells provides is his aura. His mystique, rightly or wrongly, gives a team, especially a league doormat, a huge dose of credibility, which is huge with fans and free agents, that the days of losing are over.

Four word summary: Great Coach, Over-rated architect.

20
by RickD :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:59am

I think you're understating how difficult it is to turn a team from a doormat into a division champion. If it were so easy to do what Parcells has done, we wouldn't have perennial losers like the Bengals, Lions, and Cardinals to kick around.

I think building a team is more of his strength than his game-day coaching. Not that he's a bad game-day coach, but I think there are better.

28
by Noah of Arkadia :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:11pm

You have to be kidding. The Dolphins' turnaround was inevitable? And what about teams like the Raiders and Lions? When is their inevitable turnaround finally going to come?

I disagree, I think a quick turnaround deserves a lot of credit.

41
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:26pm

I dunno...I guarantee that the Lions will be a much improved team next year. The Raiders will be good again too...do you forget that they were a Super Bowl team earlier this decade? In about two years, they'll be a playoff contender again, with or without Parcells as long as they have somebody competent running things. Look at Atlanta this year, and lo and behold, this is a front office that Parcells turned down a few years ago. The Titans were terrible for the 4-5 years prior to last year, and they've turned it around.

Listen, owner/GM incompetence can torpedo a team. But you look at the Jets, for example, which had a lot of talent, but grossly underachieved under one of the worst coaches in league history. Parcells takes over with four #1 draft picks (to his great credit, he drafted well), Strong-arms Curtis Martin to join him, and raids New England of his former assistants. The Jets are in the AFCC game in two years.

I didn't say he was a bad architect, just an overrated one who is very opportunistic about which team he takes over, enjoys success with them, and then leaves before they regress. I think a lot of his legacy is based on his teams being winners, but he's left several jobs at the top of the curve, which I don't think is coincidence, but rather with an eye toward protecting his legacy.

45
by Noah of Arkadia :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:34pm

I agree no team stays a loser -or winner- forever, but the trick is doing it quick. If it takes 5-10 years, it's chance and accumulation of top draft picks (which can bust, too, just ask Matt Millen). If you do it in 1 or 2 years, it's special.

53
by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:55pm

What do you consider much improved? The Lions have had ten loses in every year since 2001, except last year. They have approximately 3 of their draft picks on the roster. Do you think they will lose less than 10 games? If so I'll take whatever action you give.

67
by Travis :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 2:04pm

The Jets didn't have four #1 draft picks until 2000, the year after Parcells stopped coaching them. (They actually had to give the Patriots a #1 in 1999, a #2 in 1998, and a #3 and a #4 in 1997 for signing Parcells, and a #1 and a #3 in 1998 for signing Martin.)

I'd also add that Parcells has left the teams in far better shape than when he took over. (The way in which he leaves, however, has stuck the Giants with Ray Handley, the Patriots with Pete Carroll, and the Jets with Al Groh.)

79
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 2:32pm

In about two years, they'll be a playoff contender again, with or without Parcells as long as they have somebody competent running things.

I'm missing the logic here. You're saying that in order for a bad team to be a playoff contender, they just need two years and a competent GM/head coach, and since that's true, Parcells isn't that important?

First: doesn't that imply that Parcells is very competent, since he's done that exact thing multiple times, without exception? And isn't another word for "someone who's very competent" "good"?

Second: 'competent' seems low. Only 12/32 teams make the playoffs. For a team to go from "worst in the league" to "above average" in two years seems to require more than just plain competence, unless the majority of teams in the league are incompetent.

The cases I can think of where a team went from perennial losing team to playoff contender all include someone that most people would consider better than just "competent."

34
by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:18pm

I just like to point out this years Dolphins draft has been all that hot. Most of this turn around has been built on 30+ year old free agents and not the draft. The rest of that might be true. I wonder how excited Dolfans will be when Parcells team faces a much tougher schedule and has to replace most of this over the hill defense. I think this is really just the beginning of the rebuilding process in Miami and I hope fans don't run this management out of town before Parcells turns it around. This team is well coached (even if the coaching staff manages to find Brown only 10 carries or just 1 more than the other backs got) and that coach isn't named Parcells.

103
by tylerdolphin :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 4:30pm

The Fins draft wasn't that bad. Long has been everything he was supposed to be, Phillip Merling and Kendall Langford have been solid in the D-line rotation. Henne looked solid in pre-season and mop up duty for whatever thats worth. They also got Bess as a UFA who has been Pennington's go to guy since Camarillo went down.

Also, the improvements in FA were not all old players. Randy Starks has been a big contributor and he is only like 25. They basically traded Lorenzo Booker for Fasano and Ayodele. Ayodele and Ferguson were older additions, but they came cheap and were intended as stop gaps.

All I know is that the Dolphins have been in a death spiral since the day Wanny became head coach. Parcells has made this team bearable to watch in just one year.

10
by BucNasty :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:49am

After an incomplete Tampa Bay pass, Domonique Foxworth gave Antonio Bryant a little shove in the back.

He also shoved the back of his head, which is what I think really pissed him off. Plaxico Burress probably would have shot him dead on the spot. Or tried to, anyway.

22
by hector :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:03pm

Plays like that drive me crazy. You just won third down and got the ball back, don't throw it away by being an undisciplined punk for three seconds.

12
by RickD :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:52am

I'm looking forward to the first Greek-style tragedy written about how the hubris of Plaxico Burress has killed their chances at repeating as Super Bowl champions.

They've really been unimpressive the past two weeks. I know the NFC East is tough, but come on!

14
by Greg (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:54am

Will, I'm pretty sure that Dungy has a crappy win% in reviews because officials keep failing to over turn stuff like punt "muff".

It was clearly off the lions guy (his back fat pushed in... seriously.) and it was clearly fair catch interference. I know the penatly isn't reviewable, but when refs continue to inconsistently apply the rules, you're going to get a low win %.

23
by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:05pm

Saw the game and the play. The Lion gunner was engaged with a Colt until just before the catch. He had a solid case at being blocked into the return man.

60
by Bobman :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 1:22pm

Dungy has a historical low challenge success rate, at least for his time in Indy. It was a matter of joking a few years back when he was about 0 for 4 one season and said to the media, something like what's the point? Then when he had a pretty obvious opportunity, his post-game comments were a very wry "well, we thought we had a pretty good chance on that one." Why? Are the guys in the booth advising him risk-takers? I dunno.

65
by Mike Kurtz :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 1:53pm

From what I've seen of Dungy, his challenges are less often "I think we've got this one" and more "it would be really nice if we got this one." It's a challenge philosophy that pretty clearly leads to a low success rate, because you're paying more attention to the results than to the play itself.

157
by bengt (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 11:56am

I remember Dungy's 'challenge philosophy' to be something like "I'm taking a timeout anyway, let's challenge something and see what happens!" For instance in the Super Bowl, he challenged 12 men on the field against the Bears when clearly all he wanted was the TO. He's wasting a challenge that way, but if he feels he won't need it...

144
by Will Kier (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 8:18pm

Will Carroll- I know that Mike Sando when he was working at the Tacoma News Tribune blog used to keep these kinds of details on coaching challenges. I'd be surprised if he didn't still keep doing that for his ESPN NFC West football blog. It's probably worthwhile to check either blog archive or send him an email.

17
by Temo :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:57am

As a longtime Cowboys and Jets fan, I may be able to offer some insight into the Parcells thing.

1. He understands regression to the mean. You guys have discussed this issue before: when a team goes 1-15 one season, the only direction it can go is up. Parcells always takes over bad teams (Giants, Pats, Jets, Cowboys, Phins all bad before Parcells) and when those teams improve, he looks like a genius.

2. As an addendum to the above, taking over a bad team enables him to remake the organization with "his guys". He takes over teams with horrible management and replaces them all with guys he knows and trusts (lol, Dave Campo era).

3. He changes the culture of the team. Note how he often takes over for "soft" coaches, guys that players love. I don't think there's anything wrong with being a player's coach. But changing the culture of a losing team often has benefits in and of itself. In the same way, Wade Phillips (a "soft" coach), was able to get more out of essentially the same team as Parcells by changing the culture of the team in the opposite direction. Change for change's sake is sometimes effective.

As a support to all this, I offer the quote by Sean Payton when asked what advice Bill Parcells had for him when seeking an NFL head coaching position (Payton was parcell's OC at the time and looking at the Oakland job). Parcells advised him essentially to seek out an opportunity where he (Payton) would be able to have a lot of control over his personnel and coaches. In the end, Payton turned down the Oakland job and remained as Parcell's OC. He would the next season land the New Orleans job.

I believe the above demonstrates why Parcells was specifically considering the Atlanta and Miami jobs (desperate owners willing to give full control), as well as why Bill Belichick initially failed in turning around Cleveland, and then turned down the Jets job (where, ironically, he would have been subject to Parcell's manipulations from the front office). Also, many Cowboys fans know the degree of desperation that Jerry Jones felt after the Dave Campo years and how willing he was to give up concessions to Parcells.

18
by Brandon (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:57am

Man, I love the Steelers. Camera angles on the goalline are never just right. Is it too much trouble to ask the NFL/owners to install a static camera on either side of the goalline, far enough away from the sideline to prevent player injury that would provide a clear shot of the plane of the goalline? This seems like a no brainer. Just a digital video feed that would be able to be accessed by the "booth." I don't even need to see it on TV, just give it to the officials so that they can have that much more evidence to make the right call. With that said, I'd love to have that forensics guy that was featured on "The Greatest Game Ever Played" show to review this play. I feel if the camera angle was parallel with the line, then it would have been obvious that the ball broke the plane and that Holmes had just won them the game. The Steelers are on a roll and I just don't see anyone stopping this.

25
by RickD :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:08pm

The Steelers were manhandled for 57 minutes and would have lost if the Ravens hadn't inexplicably gone into a prevent defense on the last drive.

The offense of the Steelers is very flawed and I doubt they will get to the Super Bowl. In their favor, all of the other AFC contenders have major flaws, too.

I suspect the Colts will somehow weasel their way to another Super Bowl. Superficially, they have been underwhelming, but they have beaten a lot of good teams with superior execution and coaching.

51
by DGL :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:45pm

"The Steelers were manhandled for 57 minutes..."

'scuse? Before the last PIT drive, Baltimore had 187 net yards and Pittsburgh had 220. Baltimore had 11 first downs and Pittsburgh had 12. Flacco was 9-26 for 100 yards, Roethlisberger was 16-29 for 157 yards. Baltimore had 112 rushing yards and Pittsburgh had 89. Baltimore was 4-14 on third down and Pittsburgh was 6-15. Baltimore had the ball for 27:56 and Pittsburgh for 28:57. That sounds awfully even to me, not like either team manhandled the other.

120
by Marcumzilla :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 5:22pm

"The offense of the Steelers is very flawed and I doubt they will get to the Super Bowl. In their favor, all of the other AFC contenders have major flaws, too."

I agree about every playoff team having at least one major flaw. I think this year's playoffs will come down to match ups and how they fall. Assuming current standings, take Baltimore, should they win in round one, I think they're a tough match up for the Titans. Should 3 & 4 switch, if I were the Colts, I'd prefer not to play at NYJ particularly if the weather's bad, given their lines (assuming, of course, Brett Brett Brett doesn't have too much fun out there).

19
by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:57am

... I will say that the thing was called "no touchdown" on the field.

If you look on the replay the ref on the right side (viewed facing the EZ) of the end line is screened from the play by a raven defender. He had no view of the play from his, correct, position.

21
by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:01pm

Will the league rewrite the rule book to clarify this situation, because as of the 2006 Rule Book (admittedly, an assumption that it hasn't already been fixed... ), available online here which states "while inbounds any player catches or recovers a loose ball (3-2-3) on or behind the opponents' goal line." -- a wording that is , at best, a grey area subject to much interpretation? Does the last half of that , the "on or behind the opponents' goal line." modify the player, or the loose ball? {see pages 79 (definition of offensive touchdowns) and page 5 (definition of loose live ball)}

Why a bunch of highly paid "expert" commentators on the TV can't be bothered to discover easily available information online that casual fans can is beyond me. The much bigger controversy at play here (to me) should be how this section of the rulebook is (poorly!) written. But they all just sit there arguing about Angle X (oblique right sideline) looks short but Angle Y,Z (overhead, straight on goal line, left pylon) look across the plane. (and are subject to far lesser depth perception distortions by definition)

Now if the rulebook said "while inbounds, on or behind the opponents' goal line, any player catches or recovers a loose ball (3-2-3)." or "while inbounds any player catches or recovers a loose ball (3-2-3) that is on or behind the opponents' goal line" they could fall back on simply arguing whether the video showed it across the plane as being the most important part of this puzzle.

36
by Noah of Arkadia :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:21pm

That's what the ref said: the player caught the ball and had two feet in the endzone. So it had nothing at all to do with whether the ball crossed the plane.

Even without knowing the rules, you could infer he was invoking some lesser-known rule to call a TD. I'm surprised people are being so slow to catch this.

73
by TGT2 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 2:20pm

Great idea, unfortunately Pereira post-game comments destroy your theory.

There isn't some magical 2 feet down in the endzone = touchdown rule. The rule is the location of the ball determines a touchdown. Pereira was very clear about that after the game. He also clearly stated he could see the ball cross the plane of the goal line and that was why the call was correct. Either the ref explained it improperly or the ref didn't know the rule. Frankly, I could believe either one. The latter in part because of an earlier play.

Pittsburgh had to get to the 30 yard line after a touchback early in the game. On third down, the runner appeared to be stopped midway between the 29 and 30. The spot was just past the 30. Immediately both announcers saw the spot was wrong. Everyone could see the spot was wrong. Baltimore challenged. upon review, there was a lineman between the ball and the 30. Somehow the referee didn't see enough to overturn the call on the field.

The ref couldn't see 18 inches of clear space on that play, but he could see there wasn't 1/4 inch of space at the end of the game after determining possession? If he couldn't overturn the first call, he shouldn't have been able to overturn the latter. Either he didn't know the rule, or he applied different standards to the two different plays.

Pittsburgh eventually got a field goal after the early blown call, so that call mattered as well.

48
by Lance :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:37pm

It's not the greatest sentence in the world, but based on the previous line, context clearly indicates that the the thing that needs to be on or behind the line is the ball, and not the player. Notice:

It is a touchdown (3-38):
(a) when a runner advances from the field of play and the ball touches the opponents’ goal line (plane); or
(b) while inbounds any player catches or recovers a loose ball (3-2-3) on or behind the opponents’ goal line.

Rule (a) says that if the ball is in the possession of a player not currently in the end zone, then for it to be a TD, it needs to cross the plane.

Rule (b) clarifies what happens when crosses the plane while not in anyone's possession. This can only happen in one of two ways. Either it can be thrown and then caught, or it can be fumbled and then recovered. In both cases, at least part of the ball must cross the plane.

To suggest otherwise would be to call it a TD if I recover a fumble on the 2 yard line while my shoe is breaking the plane.

24
by Anonymoose (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:06pm

[i]That was essentially true even before the results of NYG-DAL were known. Regardless of whether the Giants were 11-3 or 12-2 right now, the Carolina game would've clinched the #1 seed for them.[/i]

No, if the Giants had gone in 12-2 and lost to Carolina they would both go into week 17 at 12-3. At that point Carolina could relinquish the #1 seed just by losing on the road to the Saints and having the Giants win. By losing to the Cowboys the Giants assured that the Sunday night game next week will be for the #1 seed regardless of what happens in week 17.

26
by Biebs (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:08pm

Can anyone, anywhere defend Dick Jauron's playcall? I mean, that has to be the single stupidist playcall of the season, right? The Bills are absolutely detroying the Jets with the running game, so you run a passing play (when your team is averaging around 3 yards per attempt), and put the ball in the hands of Losman, known for making stupid decisions.

Reminicient of Weinstadt in 2002 calling 3 passing plays at the end of the last game of the 2002 season, with Ricky Williams and his 180 rushing yards not touching the ball on the last drive. Also, benefiting the Jets.

37
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:23pm

Can anyone, anywhere defend Dick Jauron's playcall?

How about this?:

Jauron is still PO'd at the Pats making the Bills look like fools last year, so he tanked it on purpose to screw Belichick.

Yeah -- that's the ticket! :)

155
by td (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 7:22am

I'd be cool with that

30
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:14pm

I'd put the goat ears on Losman in that situation. My God, you've been an NFL quarterback for how many years.....and you don't think people are chasing you down from behind after all that time? Throw the damn ball away...or better still, secure it and get whatever yardage you can before going down and bleeding the clock some more.

As a Pats fan, that sucked.

71
by mawbrew :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 2:11pm

I didn't think it was that bad of a call. I think Jauron was probably thinking that this would be the last pass play they would call in the game. He probably figures to catch the Jets off-guard and get a first down that will ice the game. Even if he throws incomplete the result isn't terrible - the clock would have stopped anyway with the two minute warning. I've seen lots of coaches call pass plays in this situation. It usually seems to work pretty well.

They were probably concerned about the risk of a pick (I'll bet Losman got instructions not to throw it unless someone was wide open, which would explain why he held the ball so long), but they probably weren't thinking about a fumble risk.

136
by zip (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 6:27pm

they probably weren't thinking about a fumble risk

goddammit you should be thinking of the fumble risk on every single goddamn play that JP Losman is involved in, especially a freaking rollout... ye gods.

27
by BucNasty :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:11pm

Incidentally, that field goal left Tennessee kicking off, down 10-6, with two seconds on the clock. They kicked onside, and somehow managed to recover with one second remaining. And then they took a knee. So what was the point of the onside kick then?!

I run the onside with no time left all the time in Madden. The point isn't to recover but to ensure that there's no chance for a return.

105
by srjunkacct (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 4:40pm

I think I'd rather hit a 9-iron than an onside kick in that situation.

113
by Travis :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 4:56pm

If you pop up the kickoff, you run the risk of having the other team fair catch the kickoff to set up a fair catch kick. It's happened once that I know of, in a 1984 game between the Patriots and Colts.

132
by DGL :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 6:16pm

I'd probably take my chances with a fair-catch kick from the opponent's 35.

Then again, the chances of setting up a 40-yard return of an onside kick are also pretty slim.

29
by Tim (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:13pm

I'm a Cowboys fan, and this is my opinion of the Parcells-Dolphins turnaround:

1) Parcells strengths are instilling discipline and toughness in an organization. His second biggest strength is personnel. His third biggest strength is innovative game planning.

2) Parcells biggest weakness is that he is a total curmudgeon who players grow tired of after about one year. His second biggest is that he is emotional sometime about personnel, drafting Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Fasano because of connections to Rob Carpenter and Charley Weis.

3) By moving upstairs, Parcells maximizes his strengths and minimizes his weaknesses. He can hold everyone in the organization accountable without making the season unenjoyable for the players. And, unlike in Dallas, where the front office structure weakens the disciplinary hand of the coach (because Jerry is a "spoil 'em" parent), players attempting to circumvent Sparano will find an even sterner parent.

4) Miami's lack of top end talent is going to keep them from winning SuperBowls, and the return of Brady will make winning AFC East crowns tough as well. But I expect the Dolphins to be a 9-11 win team as long as the Parcells/Sparano team is there. They're legit.

31
by WT (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:15pm

No matter what happens the rest of the way, the Ed Hochuli blown call in Week 2 is going to stand out as deciding the AFC West. If the Chargers get the right call in Week 2, both SD & Denver are 7-7 right now. The Chargers' magic number would be 1 instead of the Broncos'. Not that either team is going anywhere come playoff time, but I'm just sayin'.

76
by Bronco Jeff :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 2:21pm

Dude, just let it go. Please. Ifs and buts and all that.

Also, I'll second the Denver O-Line for MVP--they are the best line in the league. Yes, better than the Giants.

88
by Steve (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 3:21pm

Let it go? A clearly incorrect call is likely to cost one team a trip to the playoffs and send the other to the postseason. Why would you let it go? If the situation was reveresed, and the Broncos were screwed in this way, would you let it go?

114
by Kaveman :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 4:58pm

Course not, I would rant and rave about it all season... heck all decade! Into my twilight years. Sheesh. Like there have never been blown calls that have decided games before? It is part of the sport. Win some, lose some, and it all averages out unless you think Hochuli had it in for the Chargers especially.

112
by Robo-Hochuli (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 4:55pm

Yeah, because you can totally do that. You can change just one thing in the past and safely assume that everything that followed it would have turned out the same way.

126
by LWE (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 5:59pm

Ed Hochuli very well may have altered the entire time-space continuum.

Seriously, though...the Broncos had better beat Buffalo (or hope SD loses at TB)...a Week 17 game where the Chargers have a chance for the ultimate revenge would be a scary proposition indeed (despite the Norv Factor)...

33
by Biebs (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:16pm

Sean, or anyone else who watched the Jets game (I was at the game, so I don't know if announcers talked about it). Why did Leon keep letting the punts drop and not make a fair catch on the ball. The first time, it looked like the ball dropped around the 10, so I can kind of understand, but I would swear that the 2nd punt was dropping around the 15 yard line.
It looked like he was terrified to make a fair catch and drop the ball and was hoping the ball would bound into the endzone from the 15.

Maybe the punts were inside the 10, but it didn't look that way to me.

35
by Brandon (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:19pm

I forgot to mention, the camera needs to be at or about 10 feet off of the ground so as to not be a static image of the back of the line judge's head.

43
by Noah of Arkadia :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:30pm

Which is what creates the perspectve problem, I believe. Ideally the camera should be, just talking out of my ass, a few inches above the ground, between the goal-line and where the ball would be most of the time.

134
by Mike Kurtz :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 6:20pm

I've heard people calling for three cameras on each pylon- one on the top, and then one each for each goal line/boundary line. Seems like a pretty good solution to me, so long as you make sure the pylons aren't just blown around during the game.

38
by JMM :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:24pm

"...and anyone who thinks that was an indisputable touchdown needs his eyes checked..."

Just had mind checked and with these new Black and Gold glasses I wear for watching football, I see just fine, thank you. Calls are part of the game. While I am perfectly happy to, as Tomlin has said on several occasions, "take this one and put it with the others." I was really interested to see what the Steelers would do on 4th down, inside the one against a very stingy defense with a lot in the balance. An opportunity lost.

In Vince's second para, I'm certain he meant "Steelers" not "Giants," and his point on poor clock management in the last 2 mins of that game is well made.

39
by BucNasty :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:25pm

Conspiracy Theory: Roy Williams intentionally blocked out Jason Witten so he wouldn't get the score.

44
by Temo :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:32pm

He was probably playing against Witten in his fantasy league.

40
by adfrick@gmail.com :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:25pm

My son asked why the announcers were stupid when I was ranting during the Colt's punt play. I could have lived with the explanation that the defender was blocked into the Ratliff, but it was never mentioned by the broadcasting crew or the official.

I wonder if Mike Perrera will address the huge discrepancies in some of the replay reviews. In the Colt's game the evidence wasn't indisputable, I can live with that, but it was very close. In the Steeler's game the evidence was no where near indisputable without some good physic calculations which I'm guessing isn't available to the official.

Chris Collinsworth made a great point on Football Night in America last night. The point of video review was to correct obvious (hence the indisputable evidence clause), not to try and decide the outcome of a game under the booth.

52
by Eddo :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:48pm

Therein lies the problem with the current replay system. When you have analysts who can legitimately say that the ball crossed the plane, but they shouldn't overturn the call because it's not "indisputable", the system is broken.

It all builds from the use of the term "indisputable evidence". Almost any challenged play is disputable (it was a close call, after all); a better criteria would be "beyond a reasonable doubt" or even just "it is the more correct call". Why should a result be upheld if evidence shows there's a better result?

Note: I'm not necessarily saying the ball crossed the plane here, just that the replay system has too high a threshold, as written.

81
by nat :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 2:51pm

The whole "indisputable evidence" argument is a red herring.

In forward progress reviews, the ball is always re-spotted unless the camera is screened. Then a measurement is made or a TD is called or not called.

Even if this were a coach's challenge rather than a booth review, the ball would be re-spotted, and remain in the new spot, regardless of whether the coach was charged a time out.

"Indisputable evidence" could only be a factor if the camera was screened, which was not the case here. The referee cannot legitimately refuse to re-spot the ball when he has a clear view of forward progress.

102
by Eddo :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 4:21pm

I think we're talking about different things. I was referring to the rule that there must be "indisputable evidence" to overturn a call once it has been challenged. I feel that the use of the word "indisputable" sets the bar too high and that a simple "whatever the correct call is" would be better. Even if the replays only show 51% conclusively, it should be overturned.

I don't see what re-spotting and re-measuring has to do with this; my comment was about the general rule, not a specific case.

117
by nat :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 5:08pm

Sorry about that. I didn't mean to suggest that you were following that red herring. You were just the latest to refer to "indisputable evidence", so it was easy to hang my reply there.

I agree with your point. If the replay ref sees enough to make a call without being arbitrary, he should make the call. Referees on the field often have to make arbitrary calls: views get blocked, things happen quickly. So the ref does the best he can. Replay refs should not make arbitrary calls. But if they see enough to make the call, they shouldn't ask for more.

116
by Mike Kurtz :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 5:08pm

My theory is that the side judge went to the ref after the review was called and essentially said "My view was partially blocked, call whatever you see on the tape." I don't think it was a TD, but he appears to think it was, and I could easily see the ref not giving a crap about "indisputable evidence to overturn" if he saw (or was told) that the ref in position to make that call didn't have a clear shot.

46
by DJ Any Reason (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:34pm

No one could have predicted that FO writers would take the occasion of a close-call replay of a Steeler touchdown to continue to whine about Super Bowl XL four years later...

124
by Rocco :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 5:54pm

I'm also stunned that an outfit whose leader confidently predicted the Ravens would win the AFC North would paint the Steelers as playing poorly and lucky to win on Sunday. Stunning they wouldn't talk about yet another amazing effort from the Steelers defense, or the fact that the much-maligned Steelers o-line actually played somewhat well against a strong defense. Never would have predicted that happening.

I'm also surprised that the Seahawks fans were able to find time to comment on the Steelers game- I figured they'd be so overjoyed with the classic Rams-Hawks game they'd be unable to comment on anything. So that's nice.

47
by superbears (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:36pm

Aaron in charting the Bears game I would argue that their backup CB's have been very bad and their defensive line is really not getting a consistent pass rush. I think a big problem with the defense has been Mike Brown, he seems to have missed a step and its really hurting both the run and pass defense. It's also strange because some QB's the Bears will bring constant pressure and other QB's its only 4 rushers for most of the game.

66
by Mike Kurtz :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 2:01pm

It's not just their backup CBs. Nathan Vasher has been a liability this year. He wasn't all that impressive before, but a bigger reliance on his coverage skills has just exacerbated the problem.

49
by smashmouth football :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:43pm

Aaron Schatz said:
"My question: What the hell happened to the Baltimore pass defense on that last Pittsburgh drive? All of a sudden, everything was a zone and Ben Roethlisberger found the hole on nearly every pass. That defense seriously folded up on that last drive."
Fabian Washington injured his hamstring and sat out the 4th quarter. It apparently made a big difference. With McAllister already on IR, the Ravens are thin in the secondary. Although I think we got jobbed on the call (and a ridiculous 3rd down in the first half where the Steelers RB was stopped 1/2 yard short, which led to Pittsburgh's first FG, I swear it makes me wonder if the refs aren't betting on the games), I do have to give them (and especially Roethlisberger) credit for making the adjustment.

59
by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 1:17pm

Yep, I noticed that too, but the idiots calling the game didn't mention that. Last year, Washington lit up an injured Ravens secondary too.

In the spirit of balance, I didn't see irrefutable evidence of a TD on my 26 in, not HD tv, no matter how much I wanted it. That said, put it in a bag will all the no call holdings on both sides of the ball, and it looks like a poorly, but not horribly, called game from start to finish.

I really don't want to see the Steelers facing the Ravens again in the post season. If the SB winner isn't from Indy or the AFC north this year, I'll eat my hat.

83
by RickD :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 2:59pm

"If the SB winner isn't from Indy or the AFC north this year, I'll eat my hat."

I'd be surprised if the SB winner is from the AFC at all.

50
by Jets Fan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:44pm

that was a stupid call with losman .. but it reminded of the call when Parcells was coaching the Jets in the championship game against Denver.. I think he actually took the ball out of his QB's hand & he had a running back make a throw to the end zone (a running back that never threw the option pass). Game over. I still think Parcells is an over-rated idiot.

68
by Travis :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 2:08pm

No, that was the 1997 finale against the Lions, where Leon Johnson was intercepted in the end zone down 3 with 3:30 to go. (The interceptor was actually out of bounds, but ruled in.) Johnson was a high school quarterback, and Parcells had no confidence in Neil O'Donnell by that point in the season.

54
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:58pm

"Tarvaris Jackson wasn't quite as good as his numbers. He gained 100 yards on two long touchdowns, and only 63 yards in his other 15 passes. But he clearly outplayed Warner -- which should automatically disqualify Warner as a viable MVP candidate."

It seems to me comments about Jackson from most of the writers on this site have much to do with protecting a prediction that he will be awful rather than noticing he is improving as a QB and has been since the start of 2007.

Last year he completed over 65% of his passes in the 2nd half of the season. He struggled with turnovers still but he played some very good games (NYG, Det, SF, Oak, Den). This year he has been far more effective than Frerotte and has a 6-1 TD ratio in 4 games. He is only 25 years old.

Jackson's stats in his last 11 reg season games

170/271, 62.7% comp, 13TD, 8 Ints, 58 rushes for 262 yds.

55
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 12:59pm

"Tarvaris Jackson wasn't quite as good as his numbers. He gained 100 yards on two long touchdowns, and only 63 yards in his other 15 passes. But he clearly outplayed Warner -- which should automatically disqualify Warner as a viable MVP candidate."

It seems to me comments about Jackson from most of the writers on this site have much to do with protecting a prediction that he will be awful rather than noticing he is improving as a QB and has been since the start of 2007.

Last year he completed over 65% of his passes in the 2nd half of the season. He struggled with turnovers still but he played some very good games (NYG, Det, SF, Oak, Den). This year he has been far more effective than Frerotte and has a 6-1 TD ratio in 4 games. He is only 25 years old.

Jackson's stats in his last 11 reg season games

170/271, 62.7% comp, 13TD, 8 Ints, 58 rushes for 262 yds.

61
by Temo :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 1:24pm

Of course, he also has 6.7 yards per attempt this season, good for 23rd in the league if he had qualified (which he doesn't, due to low sample size). If you want to cherry pick his stats and use his second half 2007 games only, that number rises to 7.0 yards per attempt, good for 17th in the league.

Given these numbers, that completion percentage should be a lot higher given all the short passes he's throwing. 62.7% would rank him as the 15th best in the league this year.

I do commend him on the reduction of turnovers, however.

70
by Yaguar :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 2:10pm

He has Adrian Peterson. Full stop.

90
by zdneal@yahoo.com :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 3:28pm

Why would having a below average starting RB back help him?

AD's DVOA is negative, and his Dyar ranks 17, not in the top 32 of qualifying backs.

Name Team Dyar Rnk Yar rnk Dvoa Rnk
Peterson MIN 90 17 159 5 -0.1% 18

104
by Yaguar :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 4:32pm

DVOA and DYAR are not equivalent to player quality. Don't ask me how you're still unaware of this.

121
by Wanker79 :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 5:25pm

DVOA and DYAR are overrated! Purple Jesus can walk on water and do no wrong! There's no way he's only an average RB! My gut intuition is way better than this.

I'm too lazy to put in all the witty misspellings, so you'll have to use your imagination.

137
by Eddo :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 6:43pm

I know what you're saying, Yaguar, that DVOA and DYAR reflect the entire offense surrounding a player, but how do we reconcile the discrepancy between the public perception of Peterson as an all-time great and his mediocre DVOA and DYAR?

I don't mean to knock Peterson, as I think he falls closer to all-time great than mediocre back, but maybe he's not as amazing as everyone gives him credit for? At least not awesome enough to immediately discount any QB success the Vikings have?

143
by Yaguar :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 8:07pm

He has mediocre DVOA because he's stuck with Gus Frerotte and Tarvaris Jackson. This isn't rocket science.

139
by zdneal@yahoo.com :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 7:55pm

How can you possibly question DYAR and DVOA?

That would be like questionaing VORP or other black box evaluation systems.

http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/comments/fixing_vorp/

56
by I'm Broke (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 1:06pm

It's funny, the Giants lost to the Cowgirls not because Brandon Jacobs didn't play, but they did lose to the Cowgirls because Brandon Jacobs didn't play.

57
by black president (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 1:07pm

Schatz said:

"Coy Wire was playing outside linebacker today for the injured Michael Boley and did not look good. He had trouble in pass coverage, and he's the one who was blocking Brian Clark and let go a little too early, which let Clark get to Michael Koenen before Koenen could get the punt off. "

Nope. Boley wasn't injured, he was BENCHED. I thought Wire played pretty well, especially in the run game; not sure what Boley's been doing wrong that the coaching staff sat him, but they're clearly not happy with his level of play.

58
by Temo :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 1:10pm

I'd like to thank the FO guys for not going near the whole Owens/Witten/Romo soap opera here. I've heard just about enough of it.

Also, I'd like to point out again that this draw play has been run by the Cowboys since the beginning of the season, and is nothing new. The O-Line has become quite proficient in running it, especially when they run it between Leonard Davis and Marc Columbo.

Also, the swing pass to the RB has been good for the Cowboys all season as well. This is largely a product of their vertical passing game and teams continuing to keep their secondaries deep. Garrett's been running more RB and TE screens lately to take advantage of this, and it's been working very well so far.

62
by Wanker79 :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 1:29pm

"Boy, this Raiers team really isn't good. (No, that's not a misspelling, there really is no "D" in this team."

Brilliant!

It's not actually true (seeing as they're ranked as a middle-of-the-pack defense), but funny none the less.

63
by I am the world's greatest lover (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 1:32pm

What???!!! No Packers/Jaguars coverage???!!!

Kidding. Like it seems in every other game, the Packers took the lead late in the game, only to give it up 2-3 plays after the ensuing kickoff. Then with plenty of time and timeouts left, Aaron Rodgers throws an inexcusable interception to seal the deal.

On a 4th and 1 earlier in the game, the Packers were deliberating whether or not to go for it. The Jags defenders were imploring the Packers to go for it, so Mike McCarthy went for it.

The Packers lost yardage on the play, and as it turned out, any chance of winning the game and salvaging their season.

99
by Arkaein :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 4:07pm

They were at midfield with about 40 seconds left, no timeouts and needing a TD.

Yes, it was a bad pick. But you can't reasonably say they had plenty of time when they needed a TD.

Short yardage has indeed been a killer in the last few games. I liked the decision to go for it on 4th down, given the short yardage needed and the position just past midfield, but hated the call of a FB run. I'd rather a Rodgers sneak in that situation.

Two consecutive drives ended after getting a 2nd and short (including the failed 4th down). Other than Rodgers sneaks, the Packers have been awful. Against the Panthers a few weeks ago the packers got a 2nd and goal from the one, got stuffed twice, and only came away with a FG that the Panthers shortly topped with a TD to win the game.

69
by Sean McCormick :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 2:10pm

The Leon Johnson halfback option call against Detroit ended up keeping the Jets out of the playoffs, but it was a defensible call. All Johnson had to do was tuck the ball and run with it if the pass wasn't there. Instead, he decided to chuck it into coverage, with poor results. (And even then, the refs blew the call as the defender landed out of bounds.)

As for Leon Washington not getting in position to make fair catches, I'm not sure what was going on. It wasn't a case of tricky winds, as the wind was minimal for the Meadowlands in December. The announcing crew made no mention of it, and I couldn't see what was going on, either. It's a good question.

87
by Biebs (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 3:14pm

Leon has had trouble fielding punts in the past, so it may have been an issue of Westhoff saying, "Don't field anything inside the 20". But it was really apparent to me (Of course I sit in the upper deck, pretty much right behind where he was avoiding the ball).

I'm curious if you charted the Jets blitzing during the game, on a few of the Jets boards, the fans are really getting on the coaches for the lack of blitzing, but I saw a few times where the Jets sent 5 guys and it was picked up without incident.

72
by Jeff B. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 2:15pm

I think Tim breaks down Parcells strengths and weaknesses well. One weakness I would add is that he seems to be a RB killer. At Dallas, he made Julius Jones so paranoid about making mistakes, JJlost all sense of creativity in his runs. Eventually, he became so determined to hit the assigned hole that it didn't matter if there were better opportunities during the play. This paranoi seemed to spread to the way he carried the ball for fear of fumbling. Having watch JJ closely in his first two years, it was amazing to see how bad he's become. Not sure if Seattle confirms or contradicts this. Bad team, pass first coach and a RB with no confidence.

Interestingly, Marion Barber has never been good at hitting holes but Parcells seemed to favor him. I wonder if this fits under Tim's "emotional about personnel" explanation. Parcells loves players whose fathers also played, i.e., Marion Barber III.

I think Ronnie Brown is at risk of becoming exhibit B. Just don't get the sense that Brown is utilized well this year. Splitting carries with Ricky Williams? Brown also used to catch a lot of screen passes yet that aspect of his game seems to have been taken completely out of this offense.

91
by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 3:29pm

I think the reason the Dolphins have stopped running screen to their backs is because they run a lot of screens to their wide outs. I've assumed the Brown/Williams split has always been due to the Dolphins wanting to give Brown a year before forcing 300 carries out of the knee. Why they continue to run pointless full back dives is beyond me? Why force the ball into the 6-7 best option on your team 2-3 times a game?

118
by Mike Kurtz :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 5:13pm

Creativity in runs is overrated. 80% (fabricated percentage!) of RBs would have their value rise tremendously if they never made more than one cut, didn't try to stop and juke the entire defense, and for god's sake just ran forward.

74
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 2:20pm

Temo - my point wasn't that Jackson has been great or even necessarily good, but he's clearly shown improvement. Young QB's tend to struggle early in their careers, the key in most cases is do they get better. I think there is some evidence that that may well be happening with Jackson and that it's being largely ignored by many on this site because they are spending most of their energy focusing on their original prediction of his ultimate failure.

86
by fakeninjitsu :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 3:11pm

The thing is it was a game between 2 division leaders that was broadcast in a lot of markets (including NY) and all we get is one paragraph of "audibles" and half of it is deriding Tarvaris Jackson, no one is saying he's going to be good or anything but give credit where its due, he played great and 3 of his TD required different type of throws (bullet to Rice, perfect lob to Berrian, and the in between throw where it has to be soft enough that Wade can get under it but with enough velocity the safety cant get to it). Also Wade and Tjack working Hood with the dbl move/shoulder fake.

96
by DGL :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 3:49pm

Yes, it was shown in NY, but so was PIT-BAL, and I suspect there were a few more TVs in the NY metro area tuned in to that game than to the Vikes/Cards.

89
by Wanker79 :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 3:24pm

The problem is that he's gone from a steaming pile of crap to a luke warm pile of crap. Improving to something better than good-God aweful isn't going to draw you a whole lotta praise. See: Losman, J.P.

75
by Joe in Seattle (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 2:21pm

The Seahawks/Rams game was so depressing. I think it was the first time all season that made me realize the Seahawks really are as bad as their record (3-11) and they probably should have lost this game to be honest.

One awesome bright spot has been John Carlson. He's already breaking all the Seahawks Tight-End records (although that isn't saying a whole lot) as a rookie, plus he's not exactly surrounded by a lot of talent on offense.

77
by Spike (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 2:23pm

For those of us who came to the Sports Depot beer feed and yet couldn't find anyone FO-related, I encourage you to put up a sign, wear ROBO-PUNTER shirts, or do something to stand out. Standing next to the bar and saying "WHICH OF YOUSE IS SCHATZ?" in a loud voice isn't high on my list of things to do in a Boston bar...

84
by Bill Barnwell :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 3:06pm

Our apologies. Well, I mean, we're sorry, but blame the bar. There's a whole side room that we were in. The maitre'd at the Sports Depot decided it would be a good idea to point at random people and tables if anyone asked where the Football Outsiders group was -- the people who made it to the room were a direct result of me walking through the bar trying to find the people who stopped by. Maybe we'll do a makeup one in the playoffs.

80
by vandysb (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 2:41pm

Re: Phillips contribution to the defenses play

It is hard to say whether Phillips is having the impact, or the Boys are playing inferior/depleted teams or if the Cowboys defense started getting healthy at the right time, but the average numbers for the Cowboys while Brian Stewart was calling plays are:

Allowed 2.2 TDs per game, recorded 2.3 sacks per game, intercepted 0.2 passes per game and forced 0.8 fumbles per game.

In the Phillips playcalling era:

Allowed 1.6 TDs per game, recorded 4.6 sacks per game, intercepted 0.8 passes per game and forced 1.0 fumbles per game

I haven't checked the info, but the special teams play has seemed to step up during this same time period giving the Cowboys defense more real estate with which to operate. I have also noticed that the Cowboys defensive line is getting their hands up leading to more passes deflected, but I can't figure out how to quantify that yet.

93
by The Powers That Be :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 3:34pm

I like to look at the last 5 games, where Dallas had Phillips calling the defense and Romo in at QB. So I'm leaving out the first Giants game (where they laid a huge egg) and the TB game (where the defense played great). Admittedly, these 5 games were mostly against weaker offenses, but still, the defensive numbers are impressive:

0.8 TDs per game, 5.4 sacks per game, 1.0 INT per game, 1.6 forced fumbles per game. Also, 262 yards allowed and 12 points per game (I'm not counting the 9 points that came against the offense on a pick-6 and a safety).

The defense is playing at a championship level. The question is whether the offense can get it together and the ST can avoid giving games away.

82
by Dales :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 2:53pm

"It was painfully obvious what the biggest weakness of the Miami Dolphins was in 2007, and they didn't exactly fix it in the offseason. When a reasonable quarterback became a free agent during training camp, you had to be a moron to not sign him."

It was painfully obvious that the biggest weakness of the Minnesota Vikings, and the biggest weakness of the Chicago Bears, was the quarterback. And they had even more of a reason to go after a FA QB since both were seemingly closer to contending and did not have two young QBs (Beck and Henne) the way the Fish did after the draft.

The Fish were smarter than other teams in the same basic situation.

85
by zdneal@yahoo.com :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 3:10pm

The Vikings have JDB. He probably sucks, but between him and Tarjack they do have 2 young QBs. There is no doubt that Pennington has outplayed Gus this year, but neither signing appeared to be a difference maker before the season started. Parcells was smarter because the old quarterback he knew was better than the old QB Childress knew.

94
by Dales :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 3:36pm

"Parcells was smarter because the old quarterback he knew was better than the old QB Childress knew."

Yes, and Parcells seems to know 'his guys' pretty well-- he sees clearly which are good players and which are not.

119
by mawbrew :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 5:16pm

Well, the Fish got a little lucky too with the timing of Pennington's release coming as late as it did. I've got to believe that if he had been released earlier in the year, there would have been a lot more competition for Pennington. But the Fish were more willing to adjust their previous plans and swallow the bonus they had paid McCown. So not completely (or even mostly) luck.

92
by BMF (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 3:32pm

Does FO have a crush on the Ravens? You liked the Ravens offense - run, run, horrible overthrow by Flacco? 2 of 3 like Reed more than Polamalu for DPOY (not defensive player of 2 or 3 games, mind you)? Oh, right, the Ravens blew it at the end and just handed it to the Steelers, oh, and the refs. Until I see a penalty on anyone blocking James Harrison, I'll take any calls we get. How many DVOA points do we get for beating the Ravens twice?

100
by The Powers That Be :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 4:19pm

Hey, at least they put Polamalu in the conversation for DPOY. Not a single mention of Ware in today's Audibles. (And in the Hits and Hurries column, they credit Joey Porter with the most hurries among LBs, despite being 4+ behind Ware on their own table).

130
by Rocco :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 6:11pm

Do you know the last time an opposing offense was called for holding a Steelers defensive player? Week 9 against Washington. Apparently the last 6 teams have such amazing offensive lines that they haven't needed to hold a Steeler once. FO has people here that "watch officials closely"- I'm surprised this hasn't been mentioned.

*Insert snarky comment about how we'd know about this if it were happening to the Pats or Seahawks*

95
by Spanky (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 3:43pm

havent read any of the other comments, but the special attention paid to the seahawks games is getting to be insufferable and a little too homery for my taste

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by Wanker79 :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 5:31pm

Spanky, you're a moron. Re-read (or perhaps I should say "Read for the first time") the intro to this article. When you get to the part about this particular article being dedicated to the teams and games the writers prefer to watch, please smash your face into the nearest hard object.

If I've misread you, and that post was made in complete sarcasm, please accept my apologies.

159
by Spanky (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 12:24pm

wanker79...

intro or no intro, theres a threshold of acceptable homerism that has been crossed. given the tact of this site to understand the "how, what and why" that makes teams tick, i dont think any readers are illuminated by the gross details (and subsequent complaints) about the seattle seahawk practice squad offense which takes the field every weekend

love the content and concept of the site. just picking a nit, guy

97
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 3:54pm

As a Titans fan, this was a very frustrating game. Unsurprising given the outcome, but it was frustrating for most of the game. Assorted thoughts and observations:
1. Andre Johnson is an absolute beast. 11 catches, over 200 yards, and it looked every bit that good. He blew past Harper and then Griffin for his biggest gain of the today, and seemed primarily against Harper, but he beat Finnegan a couple times too. The drop problems that plagued him in the game @TEN early in the year weren't in evidence.
2. Steve Slaton had a Travis Henry-type "good" game-lots of runs for 0-2 yards, and some longer runs where he looked (and was) good, carrying defenders and breaking tackles for extra yards. I suspect VOA will rate him substantially worse than most people who watched the game, at least if you exclude the two long runs after Fisher decided to go for it.
3. Schaub for the most part did a good job of getting rid of the ball right before he had to. Kudos to him for that.
4. The Texans were really determined not to let CJ28 beat them, especially after he gashed them for 2 good gains early. The 4th down gfi was a good example of this-the Texans appeared to have 2 guys waiting and ready to cover him in case he went out for the checkdown. Overall, it was a very boom-and-bust day for him, which is why the Andy Reid-esque playcalling wasn't a crazy idea.
5. I'm waiting for LenWhale to say something about how he should have gotten more carries. Then again, maybe not after getting destroyed on that 3&1 rush attempt. Still, one thing I would have liked to see the Titans try is flexing CJ28 out wide and putting White in the backfield, trying to get running room that way. Yes, you know it's a bad offensive performance if I'm advocating putting White in the game.
6. Bo Scaife didn't have a single pass thrown his way in the first half. Very unusual.
7. Justin McCareins has to be the worst starting wideout in the NFL when it comes to getting open and catching passes, and yes I am familiar with the Bears' wideouts.
8. Alge Crumpler seemed to be a bigger part of the offense than normal. This may be connected to Scaife's first half disappearance.
9. Collins had a very bad game. It reminded me a little of his last game as a starter in 06 before VY's insertion, against Miami. Titans' wideouts weren't as open as I remember them being that game, but KFC was missing everything again.
10. Fisher will occasionally do good and interesting things, like the onside kick at the end of the first half, but seems to have an unusual grasp of strategy. The decisions to kick the FG down 13-9 and then bypass the 50 yard FG seem difficult to square with a consistent philosophy. I suspect this was the result of him using his intuition. One of the key wrong decisions, which he acknowledged, is he chose to defend the North goal in the 3rd quarter.
11. I really hope Haynesworth and KVB are both healthy for the playoffs. It's a different story without them in there, even if Ball has been better than I expected.

147
by Sunil (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:22pm

Good points Tom - couple of observations on the game:
- Alge figured in the game plan much more after a sideline rant. He seemed to tee off on Kerry Collins saying he was open on the 1st quarter INT. After that Dinger seemed to dial up many more passes towards Alge.
- Ohmygod does Justin Dropcareins suck - he is not just in the top 5 of worst starting receivers - he is the top 5 all by himself.
- I said this after the Jets game and I'm saying this again - Titans linebackers are the weakness of this D. Slaton seemed to "churn" his legs merrily away to multiple first downs while the LBs did nothing to tackle. If you don't accept game film observations here's a simple statistic that encapsulates it: Titans linebackers had 11 (ELEVEN) tackles in the 70-odd offensive plays drawn up by Houston. No .. not an exaggeration - that's 15% of the tackles. Linebackers usually lead the team in tackle %ages averaging 40 to 50% of overall tackles. I never heard Gus Johnson once bring up a Titans linebacker make a play. As a Titans fan I worry!

98
by MJK :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 4:03pm

OK, haven't had time to read all the comments yet, but wanted to share some quick thoughts. Apologies if these have already been said...

1). On Raiders-Patriots: I wish the Pats could play the Raiders every week. That is one very bad team. In defense of not putting Asomugha on Moss all the time, I can see two reasons not to. First, Welker has been so dangerous this year that teams have had the best success doubling Moss, but NOT with their best cover guy, and putting that guy on Welker instead. Welker is so hard to cover, you need someone really talented. Moss is hard to cover, too, but the "book" on him is to jam him on the line, and bring a safety over the top. It doesn't take a particularly awesome cover corner to jam someone, and once they do, they're going to be playing catchup anyway, so you don't want to waste your best cover guy there. Secondly, Asomugha didn't seem to be particularly effective covering Moss (remember, Moss practiced against him frequently when he was in Oakland) so maybe he knew ways to beat him that other receivers don't. Anyway, Asomugha was doing better covering Welker than Moss. You need more than one good DB to stop the Patriots passing attack, even this year, and Oakland just doesn't qualify.

2). The announcer team calling the Oakland game was phenomenal. I live in the Bay Area, so maybe I was getting the local feed, and not the national announcers, but I wish every team was as good as this one. It was some guy I didn't know with Rich Gannon (which is another reason to think it was the local feed), but they were really really good. Calling out injuries as soon as they happened, identifying all substitutions and matchups pre-snap, providing insightful commentary into the strategies the two teams were using, and adding a little bit of color when appropriate (as opposed to droning on endlessly about QB X's dog while a critical 3rd down unfolds). The funniest moment was when the guy who was not Gannon started talking about the Snow Bowl (with the tuck rule call), and an audibly annoyed Gannon had to respond to him bringing that up. The only blight was when they gave an explanation, complete with stats, of how the Raiders need to run more if they want to win, because in all their victories they average more rushing attempts than in all their losses...

3). The Jets have got to be the luckiest team in the league. They have at least two (division) wins this season that came down to last second victories (one in overtime against NE, and now this against Buffalo one on a defensive fluke), both against teams whose ordinary starting QB's are out for the year with injuries. Plus, didn't they get very luck winning their season opener against Miami in the final seconds? (Didn't watch the game and don't remember). They could very easily be 7-7 against one of the easiest schedules in the league, but instead, they are 9-5, in line for the #3 seed, and control their own destiny. On the flip side, what the heck was the Buffalo coaching staff thinking calling playaction on 2nd-and-5 near the 2 minute warning, when you are clinging to a narrow lead, need to burn clock, have been running all over your opponent all day (including 5 yards on the previous play from an expected run formation) with a very reliable RB, and have a mistake prone QB with questionable ball security skills? I can hear TMQ groaning now...

107
by Travis :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 4:44pm

The Jets have got to be the luckiest team in the league....

The luckiest team in the league has to be Arizona. Horrible division (no out-of-division wins since Week 6, yet they've clinched a playoff berth), great fumble luck (13 of 22 recovered on offense, 16 of 24 on defense), decent field goal luck (17 of 22 made against). The Jets are middling in all those categories (and lost a game on a 57-yard field goal on grass).

No question, the Jets were extremely fortunate to win yesterday. However, you could play the "could have x more losses" game with almost any other team in the league. The Patriots, for example, trailed both the 2-12 Rams and the 3-11 Seahawks in the 4th quarter before rallying to win.

110
by MJK :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 4:51pm

True, Arizona is pretty lucky, too. Arguably the luckiest team.

Also agree on the Jets close wins. Every team has close wins, I know. However, the difference is that the two close Jets wins came against teams playing their backup QB at some point after their starting QB was lost for the season. I think everyone was more or less in agreement when it was debated last week that, with Tom Brady, the Patriots PROBABLY do not lose to the Jets in that game. And I'm pretty confident that with Trent Edwards, the Bills probably don't lose to the Jets, either. No other team in the league (1) gets to play BOTH the AFCW and the NFCW, (2) has TWO of its division rivals lose their starting QB for the season.

But I agree that I'm sure any of the AFCE teams would rather be in the NFCW this year...or even the AFCW...

115
by Travis :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 5:03pm

No other team in the league (1) gets to play BOTH the AFCW and the NFCW, (2) has TWO of its division rivals lose their starting QB for the season.

The Dolphins? (Who also got to play a division road game in a dome instead of freezing Buffalo, and didn't have to play the Titans or Colts in the AFC South.)

131
by MJK :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 6:14pm

I'm an idiot. You're right.

They also had an above average QB fall into their laps right before the start of the season, instantly giving them credibility and upgrading their biggest weakness. That was a pretty lucky stroke, too.

150
by are-tee :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 12:04am

Where was the Jets' luck on Favre's first pick, which bounced off a shoe and popped into the defender's hands, or when Lindell bounced a FG in off the upright?

People tend to focus on lucky plays at the end of games, but these things have just as much an effect in the middle of the game. Over the course of a season, they tend to cut both ways.

108
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 4:45pm

Re: 2

There's no such thing as "local" TV announcers. They are all with the networks. This particular team was Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon.

Re: 3
I'm audibly annoyed at you for bringing that up. :7

133
by MJK :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 6:16pm

I pretty much only watch Sunday ticket these days, Bay Area football being unwatchable generally on the local networks, so I'd forgotten whether or not the local CBS and FOX affiliates staff their own games or the NFL does. I guess you're right...it's the latter. Gannon just happened to draw the Raiders game.

109
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 4:46pm

Wow, the apparently now mandatory "Kevin Harlan is good at providing useful information" post didn't show up until 3:03 this week.

106
by Jerry :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 4:41pm

"I live in the Bay Area, so maybe I was getting the local feed, and not the national announcers, but I wish every team was as good as this one."

No such thing as a local television feed; the network supplies the announcers and crew, and there's a hierarchy of announcers that matches the hierarchy of games. If it's only shown in the two teams' markets, it'll be bottom-of-the-list announcers and fewer cameras.

It sounds like Kevin Harlan was doing play-by-play of OAK-NE.

123
by Anonymous Too! (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 5:36pm

For Ben Riley, in the hopes that it will help him deal with his emotions.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwAXcR6wRuQ

As a bonus for Seahawk fans, the star of the video looks a lot like Hasselbeck.

127
by Key19 :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 6:03pm

To summarize the NYG/DAL Audible:

Random comments about WRs and a TE having chemistry problems, which if you listen to any of their direct quotes, they say was not an issue at all.

Excuses being made for Dallas destroying the NYG offense.

People saying it pains them to praise Wade Phillips when he deserves it.

Complaints about NYG not running the ball more, when Derrick Ward's night was characterized primarily by a lot of 2 or 3 yard runs with an occasional nice run. He was consistently getting stuffed. Ahmad Bradshaw was not much better.

You know, I actually remember Dallas scoring touchdowns when they played the Giants the first time without their QB, LG, some defensive guys, and one of their RBs. And they were hung out to dry around here even after managing those scores. But when the Giants offense is down a WR, lose a couple linemen, and a RB, it's just "well that's what happens when you're injured."

The Audible was almost all what excuses the Giants had or stories about dysfunctionality in Dallas.

It was a great game. Both defenses played very well. Romo gutted it out and played mistake-free football. The Giants did miss their playmakers, but come on. Let's not go overboard. They scored 6 offensive points. Not having Jacobs and Plax doesn't make this team two touchdowns better (and without the safety, they would've lost by 14). Dallas with Romo is a very scary team. No one around here wants to admit it though. If I'm the Ravens, I'm starting to worry about my Playoff chances. Dallas at home is very fearsome (unless you're the early season Redskins, admittedly).

161
by Mark S. (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 4:23pm

Well, I'm not a fan of making excuses for unavailable personnel, since every team deals with inactive players, but if you don't think playing a road divisional game while missing WR1, RB1, the starting RT and LG will seriously hamper an offense, then I'm not sure what to say. And I'm not taking away from the DAL D - they were really good. Ware came close to taking over the game by himself.

And I mentioned this in the other thread - but Romo did not play mistake free football. He gets credit because he hung in there while getting hammered and running for life all game, and he played well enough to win, but it was far, far from mistake free. He fumbled twice, often held on to the ball too long, and overthrew open receivers a bunch of times.

As for the Giants rushing, they averaged 4.2 yards a carry - that's not getting stuffed, that's league average. Granted, that number is slightly inflated by a couple of draw plays that caught the 'Boys off guard toward the end of the game, but they were around 3.5 per carry going into the the 4th Q. Schatz is absolutely right in saying the Giants abandoned the rushing game too early, especially given the pressure coming off the edges in the pass game.

Oh and those TD's Dallas scored against the Giants w/o Romo - one was a defensive pick 6, and the other was on a drive extended and aided by that ridiculous roughing the passer penalty on Tuck (which the league retracted the fine for - not that they could give back the 15 yards and automatic 1st), when the Giants were up by 3 touchdowns. The Dallas offense did absolutely nothing there.

128
by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 6:09pm

It appears that the Panthers might have my Madden Theory worked out:
7 or less in the box - run off tackle
8 or more in the box, read the safety throw deep to whoever is single covered.
4th quarter - have a >14 point lead and pound the snot out of them on the ground.
When all else fails, go shotgun and chuck it to Steve Smith. Steve Smith turns any QB into a ProBowler.

The trick is to actually make it work.

135
by morganja :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 6:26pm

Well, it's not like the refs have been calling any offensive holding this year against pass rushers. If my memory serves me correctly, a couple games ago a Left Tackle grabbed Julius Peppers, dragged him to the ground, pepper sprayed him, hand-cuffed him, duct taped his mouth shut, quick froze him in carbonite and shipped him to Tatooine where Jaba the Hutt dressed him in a skimpy little dress and made him dance at the end of a chain.

No call.

145
by MJK :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 9:06pm

morganja wins the thread. Although, for putting the image of Julius Peppers dancing in a chainmail bikini in my head, maybe he should be banned forever (shudder).

I agree that holding seems to be light this year. The Patriots were getting away with murder against Oakland, and a week ago Seattle got away with murder against the Patriots. Pretty soon , Jabba is going to have quite the harem...

149
by markschepp23 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 12:03am

Yeah - I read an article a while back that offensive holding calls were on pace to hit a two-decade low (the article was printed in October, I think). Seems to be a pretty big part of the equation leading to much more scoring this year.

151
by Rocco :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 12:36am

Is there anywhere that has compiled how many penalties have been called for each team? I know the NFL keeps track of penalties against a team but I don't know any to see if one team is significantly getting more or less calls. FO tracks these sorts of things, right?

153
by MJK :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 2:37am

I've looked and looked. I found a site that had penalties by type and team once, but only for a single year (2005, I think, but I could be remembering wrong). It was put together by some newspaper or national magazine, and not SI or ESPN, but that's all I remember.

If anyone finds one, please let us all know. It's definitely seemed like O-lines are getting away with more this year, which, as pointed out, could account for the year offenses are having (didn't Aaron say the offensive average DVOA for this year was something like +4% or so?)

156
by Travis :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 10:25am

Not exactly the same, but here's a breakdown of penalty type by officiating crew. There are some real outliers there, most noticeably Gene Steratore's lack of holding calls and Terry McAulay's many illegal block flags.

Also, NFL.com has overall team penalty stats by and against. Best net penalty differentials: Atlanta (+41 for 318 yards) and New England (+27 for 170). Worst: Oakland (-36 for -249), Dallas (-21 for -243), Green Bay (-18 for -248).

138
by bubqr :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 7:36pm

Calvin Johnson is one of the most amazing WR I've ever seen. The guy is just flat out unreal. Fast as hell, strong, tall...He's even better than what people thought he would be.
I feel bad for Asomugha, but I feel even worse for C.Johnson. He has the potential to be one of the all time greatest, but is stuck on the Detroit Lions...

140
by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 7:56pm

On Jackson/Peterson: Seriously? There are people still questioning the notion that teams stack the box like crazy almost continuously against the Vikings, causing Peterson's production to be lower than his ability, and Jackson's to be greater than his? Is Peterson over-rated? Sure. He fumbles too much and has little value in the passing game. For those reasons, he's not as good as Westbrook or Portis. He's still the third best running back in the league, and the best pure runner, despite the fumbling.

On the Texans: Obviously I'm elated by a thrilling win against a hated rival that gives us a realistic chance of our first ever winning season. I just hope to God that Richard Smith's job isn't saved in the process. 3 years of his defenses managing to be at once vanilla in scheme and shambolic in execution, leading to perennial DVOA cellar-dwelling, despite the presence for two of those years* of a player in Mario Williams who ought to produce better results than that even if teamed with 10 replacement players, has me contemplating murder if we have to put up with any more.

Despite disliking the Giants and Titans, I regret the injuries to Jacobs, McKenzoe and Haynesworth. It sucks when a Superbowl contender is derailed by injuries this late in the season. Not Plax, though. Too funny.

*Yes, I know Williams has been there for all three seasons. He just wasn't much good for the first one, except in the win over the Colts, in which he brutalised Ryan Diem.

142
by Mike V (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 8:06pm

"On the other hand, Merril Hoge this morning on Edge NFL Matchup brought up the idea of Matt Ryan as MVP, and that's not such a bad idea (although his case isn't as strong after he struggled today). Has any player ever been NFL MVP as a rookie?"

Not sure if anyone answered this in the comments, but as a Syracuse alum I remember reading somewhere that Jim Brown was the NFL MVP his first two years in the league.

146
by Packer Pete (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 9:08pm

What the hell happened this season? Our games haven't even made Audibles the past few weeks...

148
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:42pm

First, the notion that any team "inevitably turns it around", if that is described as making the NFL playoffs, is really, really, wrong. Ask Cardinal fans, if you can find any. Saying that Parcells is overrated is really, really, wrong.

Next, the notion that Phillips got more out of the Cowboys roster than Parcells is really, really, wrong. The Cowboys roster that Phillips coached did not have Drew Bledsoe or Quincy Carter at the top of the depth chart. It had Tony Romo. He was initially put on the roster, as an undrafted free agent, by Bill Parcells. If you want to rip Parcells for staying with Bledsoe a half season too long, fine, but then also give him some credit for developing Romo. Phillips definitely has not gotten more out of this roster, to date, than Parcells did.

158
by Temo :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 12:22pm

Phillips: 13-3
Parcells: 9-7

With the same roster. That's probably the exact definition of getting more out of the roster.

And of course I give him credit for developing Romo. But only so much as that it was "his guys" (Sean Payton signed him, David Lee developed him) that got Romo to Dallas. Also, the Cowboys pass defense went from really bad to average with the same personnel going from Parcells to Phillips.

I'm not deriding Parcells here. I like the guy, and I would love to have him as GM instead of Jones. He's a terrific football mind. But Phillips has a good football mind himself, and the fact is that he was able to implement a better defensive system than Parcells.

152
by Solomon (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 1:03am

After watching the Colts blow out the Bengals last week, I thought the Lions would be no problem. Next thing I know, they tied the game at 21 early in the 4th quarter. I thought, surely the unthinkable will not happen today. The Colts led almost the entire game but never pulled comfortably ahead. They did score a TD right after the Lions tied the game at 21 and stayed ahead, but I did not expect a scare like that. Two turnovers on kick returns helped keep the Lions close. Any given Sunday, I suppose. Calvin Johnson looked good. Hopefully, Bob Sanders and Gary Brackett will be healthy for the playoffs.

I am a little disappointed in the upcoming Sunday night game selection. Giants-Panthers should be a good game and all, but we just saw the Giants. Chances are, Eagles-Cowboys will be the Week 17 flex game, as it could be a winner is in/loser is out game. It seems like we see a lot of the NFC East. I would prefer Titans-Steelers, which will likely decide the 1 seed in the AFC. Plus, FOX has the doubleheader for Week 16, so Giants-Panthers could be a 4:15 pm game, where several markets could receive the game. Titans-Steelers will be at 1 pm and seen by only a few markets outside the local markets.

154
by A Fire Snake (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 4:35am

Regarding the Parcells changes:

How do you measure the "attitude" of the whole organization? If you put Jake Long on a badly managed organization, he is probably not going to shine as much. Pennington was an excellent quarterback when he was with the Jets.

Parcells' organizations have won because they do more things the right way than the wrong way, I guess that has a lot to do with which attitude you do things and which processes and hierarchies you have in place. Measuring that in terms of draft picks or playcalling shows only ten percent of the truth in my eyes.

And btw, Bill Parcells doesn't run the show there:-)

160
by Frederick Urshgur (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 12:25pm

Aaron Schatz states right off the bat that Mark Anderson of the Bears is a good pass rusher. Wow. I thought Schatz knew something about football. Anderson has been a total non-entity for the Bears this year. Sheesh.

162
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 8:04pm

Temo, perhaps you could point out the games that Phillips had Drew Bledsoe as his starting qb, which would need to exist for Phillips to have had the same roster as Parcells. This doesn't even account for the difference between having a talented young qb for starts 1-10, including a playoff game, and starts 11-27. Or having Barber after a year's worth of experience. No, the two coaches definitely did not have the same roster, expecially if you examine what a difference it made to the Cowboys' offensive line. Not even close.

I do think Phillips is a terrific defensive coordinator.