Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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In an opening week where even the elite teams in college football looked mortal, the SEC had two big surprises in Texas A&M and Georgia defeating their South Carolinian opponents by big scores.

27 Oct 2008

Audibles at the Line: Week 8

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.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9 at Dallas Cowboys 13

Doug Farrar: After the Cowboys go three-and out on their first drive (Brad Johnson's going to check down all day when he isn't running for his life), Dallas punter Sam Paulescu puts what might be the biggest hit of the game on punt returner Clifton Smith. Smith had some yardage up the middle until Paulescu sent him backward with a legitimate hit. I was waiting to see which backup tight end or linebacker did it, until I saw the jersey number "2."

In golf terms, Brad Johnson is the guy with yips so bad, he lays up on a par-four with a seven-iron ... and still shanks it into the woods. From the tee. Marion Barber is Dallas' entire offense at this point. We are now hearing those terrifying words: "Wouldn't it be better to give Brooks Bollinger a chance?"

Bill Barnwell: Even worse, Doug, it's more like, "How could Brooks Bollinger possibly be worse?"

Doug Farrar: The Cowboys are doing some weird things on defense -- lining up in a wide 4-3 with nobody over center, which allows Jeff Garcia to enjoy these huge rushing/throwing lanes up the middle. Not sure what they're looking for there. According to our numbers, no team runs up the middle more than the Bucs. Garcia is also working with Jeff Faine on different snap counts from the shotgun -- either a delay on the first foot motion, or waiting until the second foot motion. He's got DeMarcus Ware on a string with it. Ware's already been called for two offside penalties in the first half.

On Dallas' final drive of the first half, Johnson throws three balls out of bounds. The Bucs respond by racking up four defensive penalties for a total of 30 yards, and Johnson manages to get a jump ball to Roy Williams for a touchdown at the end of the half. As Phil Simms might say, Jon Gruden is besides himself.

Bill Barnwell: Early candidate for Balls of the Week and KCW: Cato June takes a personal foul penalty for retaliating at Marc Colombo at the end of the play, giving the Cowboys first-and-goal on the 6 with six seconds left, but the flag is thrown just as Wade Phillips takes his final timeout. Phillips dials up a fade to Roy Williams for a touchdown.

Ben Riley: Ah, the teams change but song remains the same. Facing a critical third-and-four with about 50 seconds left to play, Jeff Garcia hits a wide open Jerramy Stevens square in the numbers -- and Stevens promptly drops it. Everyone reading this in Seattle just nodded their head and took a long swig of their Red Hook ESB. (Luckily for Stevens, the Bucs converted on fourth down.)

Doug Farrar: Problem was, the Bucs lost out on several gifted opportunities, struck out in the red zone over and over, and just killed themselves with penalties. That's how you lose to a team that looked as bad as detailed above -- you just have to look a little worse.

Vince Verhei: A remarkable coincidence in the New England and Dallas games. Bill Belichick's team is down by the goal-line with six seconds to play. He gambles and runs a play rather than take the gimme field goal. A flag pattern to Randy Moss on the left side of the field falls incomplete, but Belichick gets lucky and has 1 second left to kick a field goal.

A minute or two later in Dallas, Wade Philips faces the same situation: goal-to-go with 6 seconds left. He also opts to run a play, and runs the same play: A flag pattern to the left. This time Roy Williams makes the touchdown catch.

St. Louis Rams 16 at New England Patriots 23

Aaron Schatz: For Christmas, can we buy Matt Cassel some pocket presence? How about maybe some bat echo radar, that beeps every time there's a pass rusher in the vicinity?

If you like good secondary play, this is not the game for you. With Ellis Hobbs in and out with injuries, the Pats have been down at times to just second-year sixth-rounder Mike Richardson and two rookies.

For the Rams, Fakhir Brown is giving Randy Moss more cushion than a BBW stripper. The Patriots offense is far more consistent than the Rams offense, but it is 13-10 Pats at halftime because Donnie Avery had a long touchdown catch. The Patriots would be doing a little better if they didn't keep trying to run the shotgun draw to Kevin Faulk, a play the Rams clearly see coming and have stuffed nearly every time.

Doug Farrar: I've seen some really weird cushions this year. Fakhir Brown on Moss I can understand, but what the hell is Anthony Henry doing giving 8-yard leads to Antonio Bryant in the Cowboys-Bucs game?

Aaron Schatz: I was a bit surprised by how off Marc Bulger was during this game. He had a couple of really short throws on screens and dumpoffs, and a couple of passes that were overthrown by a couple of miles (and not, I don't think, intentionally thrown away). He also had a couple of plays where he was so tuned in to one receiver that he missed another one completely open on the other side of the field.

On the other hand, Matt Cassel was quite good except for his usual bad pocket presence. One of his two interceptions wasn't really his fault, a tipped pass that Randy Moss should have had. We did see the continuation of a trend that has been going all season, with Pats receivers dropping some easy passes. The lower catch rates this year aren't just Cassel's fault.

Finally, at the end of this game Dante Hall really looked like an idiot. The Pats kneeled on the ball but still had to punt back to the Rams with something like 15 seconds left. Chris Hanson punts to the end zone, Hall catches it, and he wastes something like 10 seconds trying to figure out if he wants to run it out of the end zone or not. He ends up with "not," and the Rams get a grand total of one last-gasp play from the 20. Good understanding of the clock there, Dante.

San Diego Chargers 32 "at" New Orleans Saints 37

Ben Riley: So "Ne-Yo" is singing a nice national anthem, and CBS pans to a shot of a fan holding an inflated Chargers helmet in one hand, an inflated Saints helmet in the other. Hold on there Brits, you'll get this thing figured out eventually.

Doug Farrar: I wrote last week that the Chargers' defense seems to play a lot smaller without Shawne Merriman, and it applies even more this week. They have a good front three that is getting sacked up at the line, and Deuce McAllister is running through what looks like a field of cornerbacks.

Ben Riley: Beginning of the second quarter, Drew Brees hits a wide-open Devery Henderson in the corner of the end zone. Lance Moore then celebrates by leapfrogging over Henderson -- even though Henderson was standing straight up. Am I crazy for thinking that's pretty impressive, vertical-wise? Can anyone in the NFL do that?

Bill Barnwell: I'm willing to bet Adrian Wilson could.

Ben Riley: Also, the Saints kicker then missed the extra point. Shameful performance in a nation that values good kicking.

Vince Verhei: Best part of this game: Lance Moore scores a touchdown and celebrates with a soccer-style powerslide. He is penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct and the sellout crowd at Wembley responds with THUNDEROUS boos. Do you hear that NFL? The rest of the world thinks this rule is stupid!

Kansas City Chiefs 24 at New York Jets 28

Sean McCormick: The Jets have clearly decided to blitz Tyler Thigpen into the ground, and they're doing it very efficiently. The K.C. offense has only touched the ball twice and Thigpen has hit the turf three times. The Jets are doing all this despite the conspicuous absence of Vernon Gholston anywhere on the field. The No. 6 pick in the draft seems to have given up his spot pass rushing duties to David Bowens.

Update: A "Brett-Favre-being-Brett-Favre" moment, as he chucked one up a good 7 yards past his intended receiver and right into the hands of Brandon Flowers, who was sitting deep in a cover three. The crowd is not amused.

More Favre excitement as he chucks the ball under pressure at the most thoroughly double-covered receiver I've ever seen. To say that Laveranues Coles was bracketed would do a disservice to brackets everywhere.

Bill Barnwell: That's just Brett having Deanna's back and proving that he hasn't changed.

Sean McCormick: The Chiefs played very well in this game, and they got strong play from both their older players (Tony Gonzalez) and their newer ones (Brandon Flowers, Dwayne Bowe). The most surprising performance came from Tyler Thigpen, who was either getting sacked or throwing completions down the field, with very little middle ground. The Jets brought pressure off the edges very successfully, but when the rush didn't get there, Thigpen consistently found Dwayne Bowe in single coverage and made the defense pay.

As for the Jets, they should be very happy they have Leon Washington, who consistently put the offense in position to get back the points Favre so busily threw away to various Chiefs defenders. Without Washington, this would have been a Chiefs victory.

Atlanta Falcons 14 at Philadelphia Eagles 27

Bill Barnwell: Philadelphia's running at John Abraham and Jamal Anderson on the edges to start, trying to mitigate the pass rush. To an extent, that's been their scheme (especially without Shawn Andrews in the lineup), but they're really focusing on running at them. Of course, when they do drop back to pass, Anderson jukes out Jon Runyan and picks up a sack.

The Eagles are just matching up Asante Samuel against Roddy White. Result on second drive: One pass defensed, one interception.

Nonsense roughing the passer penalty on Trent Cole where he was being tripped on the way to the passer and, despite maintaining excellent form and not leading with his head, was given a flag anyway. They basically wanted him to defy the laws of physics to avoid hurting Ryan.

Eagles run a reverse with Donovan McNabb blocking. We had a conversation on the e-mail list this week about quarterbacks getting killed on the Wildcat. Here's a situation where your quarterback -- your flimsy, injury-prone quarterback -- can get hurt.

Jamaal Jackson ol├ęs Curtis Lofton on what looked to be a developing screen, but Jackson pushes him right through an open hole into McNabb, who coughs up the ball.

The Eagles are going to have to try a 50-plus-yard field goal to end the half. I feel Tanier's blood boiling already. Scratch that. The Falcons let DeSean Jackson get behind them for 25 yards on a corner route. Are they the Bears in disguise?

Ben Riley: L.J. Smith just got hit hard and is yet to get off the turf. I know we never root for injuries, but something tells me Mike Tanier is a little less worried about this one.

Mike Tanier: I don't like L.J. But I don't want him dead either! I just want him selling real estate out in Upper Darby. Way to take one for the team, L.J. And I saw a couple of good blocks you threw today buddy, freeing DeSean Jackson on one and helping Runyan seal the edge on another.

The Eagles win was aided by one of the worst calls I have ever seen: a muffed punt call where the kid from the Falcons never touched the ball. The Falcons couldn't challenge because they were out of timeouts. Of course, the NFL accepts no mechanism for the refs double-checking their call.

Of course I will take the win, and I can't say the Eagles won "because of the call" because they were up by six in the waning minutes. And there were other calls, including the Trent Cole sack, that were blown by the same group of officials.

I will just chalk this game up as another one filled with too much "referee interpretation," another example of a game where official mistakes/odd calls were a distraction. They are becoming more and more prevalent. The Commish, of course, is cracking down on the criticism instead of the problem.

Bill Barnwell: The refs just got back-to-back calls on the goal-line right in the Giants-Steelers game, so bully!

Mike Tanier: By the way, Bill, you are right that I don't want to come across to strongly as anti-ref. I think that the procedures should be better defined to allow them to correct their calls.

Oakland Raiders 10 at Baltimore Ravens 29

Mike Tanier: The Ravens ran a lot of Wildcat plays with Troy Smith and Joe Flacco. Maybe, with two quarterbacks, we should call them A-11 plays. You will see them in the highlights because Flacco caught a long bomb on one of the plays. We were talking in the thread on Saturday about why defenses aren't crushing the quarterback on these Wildcat plays. I would love to see DeAngelo Hall try to crush Flacco and see what happens. I am thinking DeAngelo Roadkill would happen.

Vince Verhei: I just saw the Smith-to-Flacco bomb. That was so great. The defense wasn't even that fooled. Flacco just ran a fly pattern by linebacker Ricky Brown and caught the pass in stride for 43 yards.

I think we have our KCW winner. Ravens kick off in the second quarter after going up 16-0. The ball lands at about the 5, 5 yards from the out of bounds line. Problem is, Oakland returner Johnnie Lee Higgins is so out of position he has to sprint over and back to catch it. He reels it in and takes three steps to slow himself ... and then just strolls out of bounds at the 2.

Cleveland Browns 23 at Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Bill Barnwell: This game is just numbing football. Dumpoff. Dumpoff. Garrard run. Dumpoff.

Vince Verhei: Cleveland's offense is so ridiculously boom-or-bust. They gained 10 or more yards 12 times; those plays averaged 22.6 yards. The other 40 plays averaged just 1.4 yards. They gained 51 yards on a fourth-and-1 play at their own 47, a huge gamble that paid huge dividends. They also blocked a field goal and were plus-1 in turnovers. The Jaguars were more consistent, but couldn't produce the big play they needed. Matt Jones had about four chances to make a miracle in the end zone on the Jags' second-to-last play, but the ball eventually fell to earth. I don't know if "luck" is necessarily the right word here, but this six-point win for the Browns could easily have been a two-touchdown loss.

A huge part of that erratic offense is Derek Anderson. In the fourth quarter, The Browns had first-and-goal at the 1, score tied. First down, Jamal Lewis stuffed for -1. Second down, Anderson has Charles Ali open in the end zone, but overthrows him. Third down, Anderson has Braylon Edwards open in the end zone, but overthrows him. Browns have to kick a 20-yard field goal.

Cincinnati Bengals 6 at Houston Texans 35

Vince Verhei: I maintain that the Bengals are the league's worst team. They came into the weekend ranked 30th in DVOA; today, the team ranked 27th beat them by 29 points. Their were two terrible plays in the second half. Kevin Walter caught a pass from Matt Schaub and rolled to the ground. Cornerback Johnathon Joseph jogged over to touch Walter down. Problem was, he was so lazy getting there that by the time he arrived, Walter was back on his feet. He shrugged off Joseph's two-hand touch and into the end zone. Then in the fourth quarter, Steve Slaton made a host of Bengals look bad on his 20-yard touchdown run. He juked linebacker Brandon Johnson out of his shoes. That's bad, but understandable. But within the 5-yard line, defensive end Robert Geathers and a defensive back (I wrote down No. 23, but that's running back Chris Perry. It may have been Joseph again; he's No. 22.) piled onto Slaton, and he just dragged them into the end zone. When 203-pound Steve Slaton is dragging approximately 475 pounds of defenders into the end zone, your defenders are not trying. This is terrible, terrible effort from a professional sports team.

Seattle Seahawks 34 at San Francisco 49ers 13

Doug Farrar: A few things that stood out to me in this game:

  • Leonard Weaver's neon green shoes, which look really interesting on a 250-pound fullback.
  • Pork Chop Womack pulling to block with some real speed on a screen. In a year that has seen the Seahawks decimated by injuries, it's the ultimate irony that the Human Boo-Boo has not only stayed healthy, but played pretty well.
  • Vernon Davis getting called for unnecessary roughness near the end of the third quarter. Davis gave Brian Russell a whack on the face mask after the play, pouted on the bench, and was soon kicked off the field by Mike Singletary. Singletary even did the "Go back and get your helmet -- I want 100 percent of you off my field" gesture. Can't wait to see how that plays with the union, but a very commendable move on Singletary's part.

Ben Riley: Not only that, it appears the J.T. O'Sullivan era is over. Already leading the lead in personal turnovers, after an abysmal first half Singletary benched him for Shaun Hill, who just led the 49ers down the field for San Francisco's first touchdown.

For the past couple of years, the Seahawks defensive line has feasted on 49ers quarterbacks, and today is no different. Rocky Bernard was nearly invisible for the first six games, but he's been generating pressure all day long, and Patrick Kerney's having his best game too. Where this Seattle defense has been all year is anyone's guess.

Bill Barnwell: Apparently, as I've always thought, those shoes are "turbo" shoes, because Weaver has two 40-plus-yard touchdowns.

Doug Farrar: I haven't seen that much neon on one person since Corey Glover in the early Living Colour days.

Ben Riley: Leonard Weaver is no glamour boy.

Doug Farrar: He's fierce!

Vince Verhei: Sad fact: Weaver's 43-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter was the team's longest pass play this year -- until he caught a 62-yarder in the fourth. The fullback now has the two longest pass receptions for Seattle this season. It is Week 8.

Singletary's ejection of Davis was newsworthy enough, but his comments at the press conference were the real story. He preached with passion about the type of players he needed, players who wanted to win, and how the team was better off with Davis in the showers than on the field. He spoke with bile and disgust. Then he finished, paused, calmed himself, and asked the press: "Wussup?"

Bill Barnwell: Nobody messin' in his neighborhood.

Doug Farrar: Link to the video here.

Ben Riley: Bobby Engram's great late career run is over. He looked horrible today, dropping balls, whiffing on blocks and failing to get separation at the line. He's given the Seahawks many great years, but he's 85 percent of the way to finished. Although it bears repeating that he's playing alongside Keary freakin' Colbert and Koren Robinson.

Bill Barnwell: And getting throws from Seneca Wallace.

Aaron Schatz: We could have the Stephen Colbert Award for Huge Balls and the Keary Colbert Award for No Hands. Twin Colbert Awards.

New York Giants 21 at Pittsburgh Steelers 14

Mike Tanier: I am watching this goal-line stop at 13:06 in the second by the Steelers against Jacobs. For the record, Jacobs is a great goal-line runner. But on this play that is being challenged, he had a hole as big as a six-lane highway on the backside of the play. Jacobs ran right to barrel in behind his block, but there was a big hole to the left he could have walked through.

Sometimes you see small, shifty, experienced runners used as goal-line backs -- guys like Warrick Dunn. They are used because they can see the backside lanes that the defense concedes because they are selling out on the strong side. Guys like Terry Allen, late in their career, can read those defensive calls and score touchdowns. Jacobs normally can just power a ball like that in, and it is not like he is a rookie, but it makes a difference sometimes to have a more experienced back in there.

The Giants returned the punt to the 20 while I typed this. Maybe it won't matter.

Bill Barnwell: Did Ben Roethlisberger just try and argue that it was a delay of game after throwing a pick to Corey Webster?

Mike Tanier: That's a scary number of people jumping on the Living Color reference in the Seahawks-49ers discussion. It must mean that the Steelers and Giants are locked in a 14-12 "whovever fumbles at the wrong time loses" game that is hard to comment on.

Poop. Bad snap. Steelers give up a safety. It's fun when stuff happens while I type!

Doug Farrar: Bad few minutes for James Harrison in the fourth quarter. First, the muffed punt snap, then he gets obliterated by Brandon Jacobs on the Eli touchdown pass to Kevin Boss. Looked like he had little birdies circling his head after that block.

Aaron Schatz: One of the reason why the Steelers-Giants game is hard to comment on is that these teams are who we thought they were. These are both good teams. The Steelers have stuffed the run but the zone coverages behind their blitzes keep leaving guys open on third down. If anything, we've learned that good blocking does a pretty good job of neutralizing a good pass rush. The Steelers and Giants were both very high in defensive ASR before this game but only the Giants were high in offensive ASR. Roethlisberger has spent the game running for his life (as usual) while Eli Manning has yet to be sacked with three minutes left ... and the Giants just went up 21-14.

By the way, the Giants have two long snappers (Jay Alford and Zak DeOssie) while the Steelers now have zero. Maybe the Giants should be nice and lend them one?

Bill Barnwell: Two words: Trey Junkin.

This was a pretty straightforward game between two evenly matched teams where one team got virtually all the lucky bounces. That's not to say that the Giants aren't a good team -- both teams played pretty well -- but the fumbles and the tipped passes seemed to always end up in the Giants' favor.

That being said, there are going to be people saying "Oh, well, the Giants got that safety and it was the difference," which is untrue. The Giants' following drive was from essentially where they would've gotten the ball without the safety.

I think the thing that surprised me the most was how little pressure the Steelers put on Manning. From what we know about Eli by now, if you let him sit back in the pocket, he's going to find Steve Smith. Eli's good at getting his linemen in good places to handle blitzes, but there just weren't enough guys coming at Eli to really throw him off.

The other thing about Smith that I keep meaning to mention is how much of the improvement ascribed to Manning is actually Smith's presence in the lineup. Of course, when Aikman was mentioning that he was surprised that Kevin Boss wasn't playing a bigger role, he ignored that Smith is taking all the passes that Boss would otherwise grab. Smith absolutely makes this offense work in the slot, just like Welker in New England -- he just runs six-yard ins over and over again and whoever's matched up against him (the Steelers tried DeShea Townsend) can't bump him and keep up.

Arizona Cardinals 23 at Carolina Panthers 27

Ben Riley: Is there a tougher player in the NFL than Anquan Boldin? Three weeks after having his face rearranged, the Cardinals have inserted him back into the starting lineup and he just ripped off a 30-yard run on an end-around. Bill Bidwell, pay this man!

Doug Farrar: You should throw that on a DVD and mail it to Deion Branch.

Vince Verhei: The Cardinals played man coverage pretty much the entire game, and it worked early as they led 10-3 at halftime. Defensive backs were getting a lot of tipped passes. At that point, the Cardinals realized that Steve Smith was covered one-on-one by Roderick Hood. A parade of receptions ensued, though it should be noted that Smith pretty clearly stepped out of bounds on his long catch-and-run.

I somehow never noticed this, but John Kasay is virtually a straight-ahead kicker.

Funny sight of the day: Arizona linebacker Clark Haggans getting into a shoving match with Carolina kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd. Way to man up, Mr. Haggans.

A huge hidden play in this game: Just before halftime, Arizona tries a fake field goal. Punter Dirk Johnson, the holder on the play, hits a wide-open Jerame Tuman in the flat, but free safety Charles Godfrey comes swooping in from the middle of the field to make the tackle. The play gained 10 yards, but the Cardinals needed 15. A field goal or touchdown on that play and Arizona likely goes on to win.

Tim Hightower continues to impress. Earlier Tanier was talking about how smaller backs can be better at the goal-line because they have the patience to see cutback lanes. The Cards gave it to Hightower up the gut and he just bounced into a wall, then cut to his left and into the end zone for the score.

Ben Riley: I disagree with my fellow Scrambler Vince regarding Steve Smith's touchdown -- the replay did not clearly show his heel out of bounds, and the divot he turned up was all turf. On the other hand, Vince is absolutely right about Hightower's bounce-and-cutback touchdown -- it was a thing of beauty.

By the way, anyone notice that Steve Breaston turned in another near-100-yard performance this week, even with Anquan Boldin back in the lineup? I think it's fair to say at this point that the Cardinals have the best wide receiving corps in the league.

Doug Farrar: When your top three receivers all rank in the top 12 in DVOA and DYAR, it's a safe assumption.

Bill Barnwell: I disagree. I think what we're learning is that it's not that hard to play wide receiver across from Larry Fitzgerald with Kurt Warner as your quarterback.

Doug Farrar: Well sure, but I think that's part of the overall threat. You have to have the one uncoverable guy, to take the heat off the mere mortals.

Ben Riley: Well, Boldin is sweet with or without Fitzgerald or Warner. Breaston is a more interesting question, although I have to say, I'm impressed with what I've seen watching the Cardinals -- he fights hard in traffic and has great hands. Here's a question: what sort of production did Bryant Johnson have when Warner played? He's not exactly lighting it up in San Francisco, and he never seemed to do much in Arizona, although there were flashes of potential.

Doug Farrar: Breaston was more a pure return man at Michigan, if I remember correctly. In 2007, Johnson finished 71st in DVOA and DYAR with Warner starting 11 games. He wasn't noticeably better when Boldin was out for three games, either.

Bill Barnwell: Of course. But we've still seen a drop in DVOA from 42% to 26.1% with Boldin giving way to Breaston (not including today's game). What I'm saying is that Breaston is one of the mere mortals, a decent player who looks great in a particular scheme with particular players around him. He might be doing a good job, and I'm sure he's a good player, but I don't think there's any way he's one of the top 40 receivers in the league, let alone the top 12, even if DVOA and DYAR say so.

Ben Riley: Me neither. And he is the Cardinals' third option, so I'd take "somewhere between 40 and 60." But he definitely could fall into that D.J. Hackett-zone of guys who look good in a pass-heavy offense with lots of threats. All I'm saying is that with Q-Fitz, Breasty, and Early Doucet, I think the Cardinals have a really sweet set of wide receivers. Remember, I root for a team that's starting Keary Colbert and Koren Robinson right now.

Bill Barnwell: I think one of the things we do sometimes in an attempt to stand out is try and highlight secondary skill position guys. Sometimes, it's right. This seems like one of the situations where it's not, and we're hyping, like Ben said, something like the 55th-best receiver in football.

Aaron Schatz: We're not hyping him. Readers may be. I have found that FO writers have a much better understanding of the limitations of FO stats than readers do -- and we're pretty up front about it.

However, do remember Patrick Crayton was one of those "awesome numbers" third receivers in a good offense, and he truly is pretty good.

Bill Barnwell: So good that the Cowboys just traded a first-round pick because their lineup wasn't explosive enough. He's alright.

When we say that Breaston's numbers rank in the top 12 in the league, we're hyping him.

Aaron Schatz: Roy Williams is swell and all, but come on. That was Jerry Jones' ego. It's a small upgrade, not a big one, and the Cowboys had other needs. Backup quarterback, for example.

Bill Barnwell: The point is that they felt they needed an upgrade. And even beyond Crayton, we look at the history of guys with great DVOAs over 60 to 70 attempts, it's not really very pretty as far as eventual starting receivers go.

Fashion

Vince Verhei: Jimmie Johnson was in the FOX studios wearing a navy suit with a white shirt and kelly green tie and pocket square. Mr. Tanier, your thoughts?

Mike Tanier: David Garrard would NOT wear it.

Doug Farrar: This is probably a good time to mention that Keyshawn Johnson desperately needs a visit to the House of Deion. On Countdown this morning, he had the Ultrasuede jacket and the Johnny Miller golf pants. I do not believe that HD is ready for this man.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 27 Oct 2008

81 comments, Last at 29 Oct 2008, 10:41pm by Quincy

Comments

1
by Dales :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 10:50am

Unlike the Super Bowl, I felt the Giants were extremely fortunate yesterday. The luck they are having on fumbles this year simply cannot continue. Kehl's interception was another lucky bounce.

The Steelers have the best run defense I have seen so far, although I have not watched a lot of Tennessee. I continue to think, though, that Ward is a better runner than Jacobs, even if it is a joy to watch Jacobs when he gets a good head of steam. The Browns' critique, that Jacobs starts to tap dance, has a little bit of truth to it; when he is not finding big holes, he tries a different approach, which is probably not a bad idea except that Ward is better at that style of running than Jacobs is. Throw in Ward's superior hands, and I feel more comfortable when he is in there at this point than when Jacobs is-- and I say this as a guy whose fantasy team needs Jacobs to stay as the featured back.

12
by JasonK :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 11:52am

I don't think the Giants' fumble luck is particularly one-sided. It's odd, but it's also reasonably balanced. The oddity is that they've recovered every single one of the 7 fumbles they've committed so far this season, but they've forced 10 opponent fumbles, and only recovered one of those (against SanFran last week). In total, that's 8 recoveries out of 18 fumbles (by my quick count flipping through their box scores). Yesterday, the pattern continued-- the Giants had 2 fumbles, recovering them both, and the Steelers had 3 fumbles, recovering all of them.

13
by Dales :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 11:54am

You are right. I was only speaking of the offense's fortune in recovering every one of their fumbles; I had not noticed how the defense was having the same thing happen in reverse.

70
by Independent George :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 6:44pm

I've been thinking about it, and that seems kind of weird in its own right. The effect should be neutral overall, but it means that the Giants very high offensive DVOA has already been downgraded by the adjustment for great fumble luck, while the Giants mediocre defensive DVOA has already been boosted by the adjustment for great fumble luck.

I'm really curious to see the splits for yesterday. Both defenses should make pretty significant jumps.

2
by resident jenius :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 10:54am

I miss Dennis Green. Can't you just hear it? "The Panthers are who we thought they were! And we let them off the hook."

I would also like to make the following "Nelson Muntz" comment regarding Keary Colbert's 1 for 0 stat line while starting for Seattle.

"HA HA"

7
by Dales :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 11:30am

Mike Tomlin: "Nobody has two long snappers on their team"

Except for the Giants. (ETA-- as Aaron mentioned in the Audibles.)

25
by shake n bake :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 12:44pm

The Colts also have a second guy with long snapping experience. Rookie TE Jacob Tamme did some long snapping in college.

27
by Independent George :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 12:56pm

I think this week, if they don't already do this, all 32 NFL teams are having their 3rd-string TE try a few long-snaps in praxtice.

67
by Roscoe :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 6:10pm

Funny long snapper story. Brian Kinchen was a tight end/long snapper out of LSU. By 2003 he had a pretty good NFl career, but had been out of the league for a couple of years.

He was living in Baton Rouge, teaching Sunday School, and worked out at the same gym as my mom-in-law. So, out of the blue he gets a call from the Patriots. They were in a playoff run, their long snapper had just gotten hurt, and was he interested in trying out?

The next thing you know, he is the long snapper for the Pats game winning field goal in the 2004 Super Bowl. Later, he showed everyone in the gym his ring, which mom-in-law claims is very impressive.

3
by Fergasun :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 11:01am

Beginning of the second quarter, Drew Brees hits a wide-open Devery Henderson in the corner of the end zone. Lance Moore then celebrates by leapfrogging over Henderson -- even though Henderson was standing straight up. Am I crazy for thinking that's pretty impressive, vertical-wise? Can anyone in the NFL do that?

ARE leapfrogged Santana Moss after the GW TD catch vs. NO earlier in the season.

4
by Thunderbolt of ... :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 11:06am

Michigan tried to use Breaston in sort of a Randle El/Welker role - catching short screens in space and taking handoffs on trick plays. They failed to use him effectively, but Breaston was banged up for a couple years. One year he had a broken hand for much of the season, and another year he had leg (hamstring?) issues.

Do you think now that he's unemployed, Matt Millen watches the Cardinals WRs and cries?

40
by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 1:37pm

Millen could just as easily watch the Cardinal WRs and cry while he was employed--but he probably didn't, as he was never any good at picking WR talent in the first place.

Chris Horton for defensive rookie of the year.

5
by JMM :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 11:18am

Bruce Arians and Big Ben...a classic example of the whole being less than the sum of the parts? Or is Willie Parker missed that much?

I don't know what it is but Tomlin better figure it out. I don't buy the Oline is the problem. They are average.

19
by DGL :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 12:14pm

The O-line is average to slightly below.

The QB's method of operation is to try to make something happen when protection breaks down, instead of going through a progression of reads and then getting the hell outside the tackles and throwing the ball away.

Put the two together, and you end up with bad things happening when playing against a competent pass rush. And a lot of bad things happening when playing against a good pass rush.

I think Tomlin, Arians, and Anderson need to have a long talk with Ben and convince him that his conviction to keep the play going is, in the long run, not really a good thing. Yes, several times a game it'll result in a drive-sustaining or scoring play when he breaks out of the rush and finds someone open. But it seems that much more frequently it results in a sack or INT instead of an incompletion. And in the longer run, it's going to substantially shorten his career.

76
by Jerry :: Tue, 10/28/2008 - 3:08am

It looked to me like Ben was going though his progressions against the Giants, but wasn't finding open receivers. And don't forget the interceptions he threw in '06 while trying to throw the ball away.

23
by dmb :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 12:31pm

No, Arians and Ben are an example of the sum being less than the part: Ben + Arians < Ben. That's what happens when you add a positive and a negative.

55
by drobviousso :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 3:07pm

I nearly fell out of my chair when the announcers said that Ariens was one of the best OC's in the league.

6
by Brian (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 11:18am

Is it really "patience" that makes the small backs better at the goalline? I know that patience is a difficult (impossible?) skill to measure but it seems like there may be another reason to why small backs can do well at the goalline.

8
by ToastPatterson (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 11:32am

"Sometimes you see small, shifty, experienced runners used as goal-line backs -- guys like Warrick Dunn."

Experience aside you could have been talking about Ahmad Bradshaw. Gilbride's under use of Bradshaw is borderline criminal.

"but the fumbles and the tipped passes seemed to always end up in the Giants' favor."

The Steelers fumbled 3 times but lost none. Giants fumbled twice and also lost none. So the fumbles didn't "always" go the Giants' way. If anything, the fumble luck broke about even.

I like the Outsiders but I think sometimes you guys get a little missing-the-forest-for-the-trees when you get obsessed with stuff like fumble luck. The Giants won this game because their Defense dominated the Steelers in the 4th quarter. The Steelers' offense had minus-36 net yards over the final 18:58 of the game. [Source: Mike Garafolo/Newark Star-Ledger]

It was probably Kiwi's best game as a pro.

11
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 11:49am

Agreed - the W was because of defensive domination i the 4th quarter, where the Steelers produces 0 points, 0 first downs, 2 yards, 2 turnovers and allows 2 sacks. Ouch.

Why did Tomlin go for it on the 4th down? I know its easy to point fingers now, but dial up a pass with tha passprotection? With that long time to go?

15
by JasonK :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 11:56am

I'm betting that not having a healthy long-snapper probably had a lot to do with Tomlin going for it on 4th down.

62
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 4:50pm

I don't know why i thought it was before the injury... I'm sorry.

16
by markschepp23 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 12:02pm

"Gilbride's under use of Bradshaw is borderline criminal."

God, yes. It's like he forgot the playoff run last year. Bradshaw was our best back during that span. And the combo of leaning of Jacobs in the first half and Bradshaw in the second was just awesome. I'm really hoping they return to that.

Oh and I love how it took Gilbride 5 trips to the goal line last night before he remembered that the TE was pretty valuable down there.

56
by JasonK :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 3:29pm

Bradshaw got 9 touches last week agains the Niners, and he put the ball on the ground twice (one was overturned on a replay challenge, but that's small consolation). Do that on a Coughlin-coached team, and the only thing between you and the bench is going to be the coach's boot-print on your rear.

71
by markschepp23 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 8:22pm

Well he taught Tiki how to stop fumbling...

17
by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 12:04pm

I was surprised the Giants D-Line dominated the way they did in the fourth quarter, since they've worn down in fourth quarters so far this season. I'll echo you with Kiwi, but I'll go farther- this was Dave Tollefson best day as a pro. He is proving to be a capable DE. If he maintains this level of play- spotting Kiwi and Tuck and then moving inside on passing situations- then the D-Line should stay fresh. And they need it... they're gotten nothing at all out of the Jerome McDougle pickup.

52
by Jon :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 2:55pm

McDougle has been hurt, he was playing well earlier in the season.

60
by MJK :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 4:24pm

The small, shifty guys only do well on the goal line against teams whose LB's aren't disciplined enough to stay in the hole.

The Patriots frequently get cute and try to use Faulk on the goal line. It works great against an undisciplined team (worked like a charm against the Niners a couple of weeks ago). Against a team with good discipline (or possibly just as importantly, good run-defenders on the line who don't get pushed back, so the LB's don't have to overcommit to the strong side)...not so much.

9
by Gary (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 11:43am

Jumping over someone standing up is like throwing the ball through the uprights from your knees -- it seems impressive, but if you actually try to do it, it's not as hard as you think. I don't have much athletic ability, but I'm a skinny guy, and I used to do it all the time (it's probably trivial for an NFL-caliber wide receiver). It's more psychological than anything else. If you don't commit, you'll end up smacking your crotch into the back of your friend's head; likewise, your friend has to make sure he doesn't buckle when your hands hit his shoulders. And don't wear baggy pants, obviously.

10
by David :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 11:49am

"Ben Riley: So "Ne-Yo" is singing a nice national anthem, and CBS pans to a shot of a fan holding an inflated Chargers helmet in one hand, an inflated Saints helmet in the other. Hold on there Brits, you'll get this thing figured out eventually."

Wow, being patronised by a Seahawks fan - that's a new experience on this board. Normally, it's Patriots fans being patronising twits.

It was the same this year as it was last year at Wembley - partly due to the fact that inevitably the crowd is 85% neutral, partly due to the fact that we're only getting one game a year, the fans at Wembley are fans of good football. The general tenor was to applaud a good play, regardless of the team.

Interestingly, it was a little more of a 'home game' for the Saints this year than it was for the Dolphins last year. However, I think that may have had as much to do with the fact that the Dolphins sucked, and the Saints didn't, than with the complimentary flags that were handed to each fan.

20
by roguerouge :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 12:27pm

Oh come on--teasing isn't allowed now?

34
by Ben Riley :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 1:19pm

I think you mean "patronized" -- we love us some zeds here in America -- but full marks for your excellent use of twit (I would have also accepted "git"). By the way, next year I plan to go to the Sunderland-Newcastle derby wearing red *and* black colors in support of both teams. Thoughts?

36
by James-London :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 1:25pm

Don't. It would be like wearing Eagles and Cowboys colours (with a 'u')to the Linc.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

37
by James-London :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 1:27pm

Double post>

45
by Chris UK (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 2:05pm

The fact that someone can sit next to a supporter of the opposing team in what is generally a soccer stadium, and the novel idea that you can drink a beer in your seat shows what soccer could learn from the nfl. The ridiculous penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct shows the opposite.

The crowd yesterday was definately supporting the Saints, as it should be, but it is an amazing atmosphere being the only quality football game we get each year.

14
by markschepp23 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 11:55am

I wouldn't say the Giants got all the breaks in that game - the refs missed a pretty obvious defensive holding penalty on one of those goal line stands (replay clearly shows the coverage guy had Plax's jersey) and the Jacbobs run to the goal line really could have gone either way - personally I thought it was a TD, but there wasn't really visual evidence to overturn. Whichever way it was called on the field was going to be upheld.

I thought they slightly outplayed the Steelers - they definitely generated more consistent offense and dominated time of possession. The entire Steelers offense was basically 2 plays - the 30 yeard Moore run and that humiliation where James Butler was spinning around like a drunken figure skater.

80
by Quincy :: Wed, 10/29/2008 - 10:34pm

The thing that shocked me more than anything about that game was the Giants pass blocking. I've come to think of it as a good step below their run blocking and thought going against a good-blitzing 3-4 team with 2 great edge rushers would spell all kinds of trouble. That was a real encouraging sign with Dallas and Philadelphia coming up.

18
by GGtheMad (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 12:07pm

I'm a little surprised you guys didn't draw a parallel from the Fitzgerald, Boldin, Breaston trio to the Holt, Bruce, Hakim trio especially since they had the same QB. I'm not sure the St. Louis trio all rated so high, but Hakim looked good enough that other teams went after him. You can argue that since he wound up in Detroit he didn't have a chance, but really he was a pretty average guy who looked better than he was because of a system and the other players around him.

28
by Joseph :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 12:58pm

Good point. Although the Rams also had Marshall Faulk, whereas the Cards don't have a RB of that calibur. (To be fair, only a couple of teams have a Marshall Faulk type RB.)

BTW--Outsiders, hope you take time to watch the Saints. Their offense with Brees is a thing of beauty--as you noted in the Week 8 Numbers article on ESPN, they have had the fewest 3 and outs in the league, and the Chargers did nothing to take away from that. I believe that the only Saints 3 and out was in the final seconds of the game when their goal was to run out the clock, and Brees wasn't even about to FAKE a pass attempt.

50
by Independent George :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 2:17pm

Well, the young, pre-ACL tear Edgerrin James did have a similar skillset to Faulk. If I recall correctly, the Colts drafted him instead of Ricky Williams primarily because of his blocking & receiving abilities. But I get your point - the current version of Edge isn't nearly the same player.

78
by armchair journe... :: Tue, 10/28/2008 - 8:38pm

the post-acl tear edgerrin james was pretty nice, too... while he was running for the colts, at least.
_______________________________
armchair journeyman quarterback

61
by MJK :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 4:34pm

To be fair, only a couple of teams have a Marshall Faulk type RB

I can think of two (LdT and Westbrook), although neither of their teams has a trio (or even a duo) of recievers to match Bruce, Holt, and Hakkim.

79
by armchair journe... :: Tue, 10/28/2008 - 8:42pm

in terms of skill-set, MJD should probably be included in the conversation... 'cept he doesn't even have one NFL-caliber receiver (let alone all-pro types).
_______________________________
armchair journeyman quarterback

22
by Becephalus :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 12:30pm

Flacco looks pretty decent, Ryan as well, good year for rookie QBs. Garrard had a nice game I thought, and Matt Jones has started too look a lot less like a bust.

I agree that penalizing the Moore celebration was a really stupid PR move. Interesting that NO didn't start Colston after not having him on the injury report this week.

Warner I think is making a good run towards solidifying his spot in the HoF. I was fairly anti-Warner before this year and thought the calls for him to make it based on a great three year peak were suspect, but a nice year like this in a completely different place several years later after many thought he was done would mean a lot to me if I were a voter. That said I think both the Bruce/Holt combos and the Fitz/Boldin combo are really really really good, and I cannot believe the cardinals are considering letting Boldin get away (very gutty performance by him given his condition).

Curious what will change in the Dallas offense if Witten misses a game. He is the heart of that offense.

As for the NYG running back situation I would generally trust the coaches to know what to do. That said giving Bradshaw 3 or 4 caries a game couldn't hurt anything, but maybe he has been getting that I haven't noticed.

Finally I would love to point out that the ESPN tagline for the Jets game is "Favre rallies Jets", not "Favre nearly throws game away but is saved by Leon Washington"

The Wire should win the Nobel prize for literature.

21
by Eddo :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 12:29pm

I love that Mr. Barnwell quoted the "Super Bowl Shuffle", because the first thing that pops into my head when I hear the words "Mike Richardson" is that
he's L.A. Mike and he plays it cool; they don't sneak by him 'cause he's no fool.

I salute you, forgotten starting cornerbacks for the '85 Bears, Leslie Frazier and Mike Richardson. Your unheralded coverage skills allowed Buddy Ryan to unleash his overload-blitzing 46 Defense on NFL quarterbacks everywhere.

42
by TomC :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 1:42pm

You mean Mike "Toast" Richardson? I think Buddy's crazed pass-rush covered a multitude of cornerback sins, not the other way around.

24
by Temo :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 12:43pm

Although I don't think the Steeler's Offensive Line is anything to write home about, the impression I came away with from the game was that Roethlisberger hangs on to the ball way too long.

29
by scott237 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 1:00pm

Mine as well. And also, Eli gets rid of the ball quickly.

54
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 3:02pm

Agreed, he pretty much always does. Just like some QB's make their line look better than it is(Brady) there are also those that make it look worse than it is. Big Ben is definitely in the latter category.

64
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 5:04pm

Still, i recall the Steelers running nearly the same play within 3-4 minutes. It was a 4 reciever setup. On the first play BigBen got rid of the ball in maybe 1 second. On the next play Ward was covered just a fraction of a secod longer, and the Giants got a sack.

I agree that he might not make his line better, and he takes a while to wind up, but right now its adding two negatives.

26
by MJK :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 12:55pm

Due to "spousal obligations", I only got a chance to see one game this weekend--Pats-Rams. A few thoughts:

A flag pattern to Randy Moss on the left side of the field falls incomplete
Now Aaron, give credit where credit is due. The ball didn't fall incomplete--it landed right in Moss's hands, and only a fantastic play by a Rams DB to tear the ball away saved the TD. You comment on how there was bad DB play in this game. In general, that's true, but the pass coverage in the red-zone was superb. Both teams had a number of red-zone trips, and yet these trips only produced a single passing TD (the one to Faulk), and technically, that was against a LB (and even on that one the Rams player was well positioned--Faulk just made a better play on a perfectly thrown ball).

Fakhir Brown is giving Randy Moss more cushion than a BBW stripper
Thank you, Aaron, for the most disturbing image that I'll have in my brain all week...

On Cassel: I actually didn't think his pocket presence was that bad, at least compared to what it's been. To date, he's looked to his first and possibly at most his second read, seen them covered, and tried to run, only to get tackled for a 1-yard sack. This game he actually used his mobility to buy time rather than run into tacklers for a sack, and progressed through several leads, and, most importantly, he actually was seeing (and hitting) 10-15 yard crossing patterns, which he noticeably has not been doing yet. On one long pass play, he actually looked a little like Brady--drifting to his left to avoid pressure coming over right guard, then stepping up ahead of the ennd rushers who had run beyond the tackles, and then arching a nice deep ball.

Granted, he still had some miscues--he took off on 3rd down about four times to try to pick it up with his legs. Someone needs to explain to him that this is a good idea on 3-rd and less than 4, if you see a lane, but is never, ever a good idea on 3-rd and 10, and especially on 3rd and 15. Also, they need to get over "the roll right and have Cassel chuck the ball to no-one, or run out of bounds for a 'sack' play". They've run that about four times in the last two weeks, and I think it has netted one 3 yard completion...

Speaking of pressure coming over right guard--Stephen Neal cannot return too soon. The Pats simply could not run to the right, either in this game or against Denver, and most of the pass pressure that gets to Cassel seems to come over right guard. Yates is simply not good enough.

Regarding Cassel's INTS--I actually thought the first one (the batted one) was more his fault than the second. On the first, I couldn't tell if the ball bounced off Moss's hands, or if the DB got a hand in there to bounce it up in the air, but in either case, Moss was bracketed by two DB's and one of them had very good position. Cassel really should not have thrown the ball there, even though 90% of the time that ball ends up incomplete, and another 8% of the time Moss makes the catch. However, if you look at the second one--Welker was open (had better position and about a step and a half on the DB) for a big gain when Cassel released the ball. The minute it left his hand, Welker fell down, and the DB saw the ball and adjusted his route to catch it behind where Welker would have caught it if he'd been there. It was Welker's fall that made it look like there was no Patriot in the area.

Overally, I thought the Rams kissed the Blarney Stone--they had some amazing flukes break their way (both INTS, the should-have-been-Bulger interception that Hall somehow came up with, etc). On the other hand, the Pats had better luck with the officials--both O-lines were holding all day (another reason why the DB's looked so bad), but it was the Rams that eventually got called more. Plus there were a couple of un-called penalties that should have gone against the Pats, including a roughing-the-passer that should have been called on Seymour. So I guess the luck factor evens out...

30
by Vince Verhei :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 1:09pm

"A flag pattern to Randy Moss on the left side of the field falls incomplete'

Now Aaron, give credit where credit is due. The ball didn't fall incomplete--it landed right in Moss's hands, and only a fantastic play by a Rams DB to tear the ball away saved the TD."

1) I wrote that, not Aaron.

2) Yes, the pass was tipped by a DB -- and after that it FELL to the earth and was ruled INCOMPLETE. I was discussing Belichick's gamble to even run a play and the consequences of that choice, so whether the pass was broken up, dropped, or thrown 15 feet over everyone's head was ultimately irrelevant.

32
by Independent George :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 1:15pm

closing html tag.

33
by Vince Verhei :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 1:19pm

Yeah, it took me a while to find. It's fixed now.

31
by Steve F (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 1:11pm

I know it's every DB's job to try and make the play, but wouldn't have the Buc DB covering Roy Williams been better off in the situation just tackling Williams and taking the PI penalty since he had no chance? With only six seconds left in the half and the FG a gimme going into the play, Dallas would have been forced into choosing between an attempt at scoring from the 1 and not getting anything or settling for the FG they were going to get anyway. My guess is that Phillips, at that point being down 6-3 and being badly outplayed, would have taken the 3 to go in tied at the half.

And memo to Gruden and Garcia: When trailing by more than 3 points in the last 30 seconds of a game and at the opponent's 20, THROW THE BALL INTO THE END ZONE.

35
by allencp :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 1:20pm

The Giants did win because of their defensive dominance in the 4th quarter. But why is nobody talking about how Eli called back-to-back time outs and the refs only called them for delay of game? The penalty should have been 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. This made it 4th and 6 instead of 4th and 16. The Giants may have punted in that situation. Instead on the next play they were inside the Steelers 5.

A total crock that altered the game.

41
by JasonK :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 1:39pm

From Jerry Markbreit:

"Under NFL rules, the same team cannot call consecutive timeouts. If the officials incorrectly acknowledge the consecutive timeout, the clock is immediately started and the timeout negated. There is no penalty for this act, unless the purpose of the second timeout is to startle and cause a false start by the offensive team. In this situation, an unsportsmanlike conduct foul could be called on the defensive team. Under college rules, consecutive team timeouts are legal, and a team could call all of the team timeouts in succession."

http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/football/bears/askthereferee/cs-050...

77
by White Rose Duelist :: Tue, 10/28/2008 - 12:32pm

Trying to get the defense to jump offsides, then calling timeout if it doesn't work when the play clock hits :01 is standard practice. That would straddle the line between unsportsmanlike conduct and just an ignored timeout.

In this case, however, the penalty was not for the second timeout. Manning attempted to call timeout when the play clock ran out, and the referees rightly ignored it. That's a normal delay of game.

38
by Harris :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 1:33pm

"I think that the procedures should be better defined to allow them to correct their calls."

That's called "replay." Sadly (or happily from my perspective), it depends on coaches not pissing away their timeouts. At some point, we have to accept a certain level of human error in these things and move on.

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

39
by Dales :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 1:35pm

ESPN has some stats on the incompletions by Eli and Ben yesterday.

Of Eli's 13 incompletions, 6 were categorized as "drops".

47
by Independent George :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 2:12pm

It's an unofficial stat, so it all depends on the scorer.

I distinctly recall two drops by Hedgecock in the flat, and one by Smith on a curl; I think there may have been one more by Boss which was nearly intercepted. I thought the deep pass to Smith over the middle (where he got JACKED UP! by Ryan Clark) should count as a pass defensed, but might have been scored as a drop. I'm going strictly by memory here, but, as a Giants fan, dropped passes have a way of searing themselves into my brain.

49
by Dales :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 2:17pm

On the Open Discussion gameday thread, I had it as 4 drops of the "oh man" variety with 3 others that were catchable and possibly considered drops (such as Smith's) but were not necessarily easy.

63
by ToastPatterson (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 4:58pm

Manningham had a very putrid drop on an WR attempted screen. Hit him right in the gut.

81
by Quincy :: Wed, 10/29/2008 - 10:41pm

I thought drops were a problem in the SF game too. I've seen you post the catch rates before Dales, and the number suggest that Smith might be the only reliable receiver Eli has in his top 3 right now. Of course, it makes things worse that the starting backfield has hands of lead.

43
by allencp :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 1:45pm

I was going under the assumption it was a 15 yard penalty because that is how it was called against Washington last season against Buffalo. So was there a rule change or did Washington get screwed?

44
by spotter (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 1:57pm

the redskins got called with an unsportsmanlike penalty.

a double time out on the defense might be an unsportsmanlike penalty while a double time out on the offense might just be a delay of game penalty.

46
by Dales :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 2:06pm

allencp,

Following up on the Markbreit quote that JasonK provided, here is how the referee who nailed Gibbs explained it then:

"First off, we can't have consecutive timeouts. That's number one," referee Tony Corrente told a pool reporter. "Number two, if that timeout is called to freeze the kicker, it becomes unsportsmanlike conduct."

Ergo, since Manning wasn't trying to ice the defense, there was no unsportsmanlike penalty. Since consecutive TOs are not allowed, the referee did not permit it. The right thing to do was to just let the play clock expire and flag delay of game, which is what they did.

I know that when I saw Eli motioning for another TO, I was afraid it was a 15 yard penalty, as you thought too. However, it looks like it was the right call for there not to be one. Good for the Giants, unfortunate for the Steelers.

48
by DGL :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 2:14pm

Of course, the fact that we can all go look up the official NFL rules online helps fans understand these kind of... er... never mind.

(I think I'm just going to put this post up every freaking week.)

51
by slomojoe (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 2:23pm

At the end of Rams@Patriots, I think Hall was trying the old fake knee, where the receiver loafs around the endzone as if he had kneeled, then sprints as everyone is slowing down. I think I might have seen work once in all my life, but obviously the Pats did not bite.

53
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 2:58pm

Irony at its finest. From the article saying Romo was out with a broken finger:

"As a Bucs fan, can somebody come by and clean up this big pile of drool that keeps forming on my desk? I can't stop salivating for some reason."

All I can say is HAHAHAHA! Maybe you should worry about your own team first!

Seriously though, when you're playing without your top 3 corners, strong safety, left guard, no. 2 RB (who's really good), best TE in the league, and top 5 QB and you still win, you deserve a lot of credit. Which is why I find it annoying that no such credit was given, only talk about how bad the Cowboys were. This was a huge win because the defense stepped up and played great, even with Alan Ball playing at corner. The Cowboys just beat the no. 8 team in DVOA despite having maybe the most injuries in the league (and certainly very important ones).

I would say the score at this point is: FO Injury Research 1, Dallas Cowboys 1.

57
by Temo :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 3:50pm

You forgot to mention Spencer's injury... you know the guy who should be playing in Ellis' place (Ellis just cannot play the run or really do much of anything that requires quick movement... all he does well anymore is speed rush the QB in a straight line)

68
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 6:13pm

I thought about including Spencer's injury too, but I thought that might be getting a bit trivial, plus he's not very well known. I guess I should have mentioned him though, as he's probably better than Ellis at this point. You're right, Ellis looks brutal doing anything other than pass rush.

58
by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 4:04pm

Thoughts on the game:

-Washington was missing a lot of starters: Chris Horton, Shawn Springs, Cornelious Griffin, Chris Samuels, and Ladel Betts were all out. They were also missing their top backup at S in Reed Doughty, though I suspect newly signed Mike Green is actually a better player.

-The Redskins continued with their complete domination of an opponent without being able to put them away. In fact, on the late Jason Campbell fumble, I had horrid visions of the Lions returning it for a go-ahead score before Jansen recovered. Why do they only have a killer instinct against division opponents?

-Santana Moss and Clinton Portis are really, really good. Both look like All-Pro good. The Redskins will struggle on offense without either one without a major change in philosophy. I fear the curse of 370; Portis seems like a lock to surpass it this year. The Redskins really, really need to spread the carries out more but at this point they seem to lack the personnel to do so.

-Shaun Alexander showed surprising power on a couple of runs, and also went down behind the line of scrimmage with only a hint of contact on others, sometimes only the promise of future contact and he went down. The rumors about his softness on this site are not unfounded. I cannot believe that Alexander is better at RB than Rock Cartwright. Why do coach after coach refuse to put Cartwright in on offense?

-We still only get glimpses of Devin Thomas, and I think he deserves a little more PT. He looks like he's going to be good.

-Stephon Heyer played okay at LT in place of Samuels on running downs, though he got beat in pass protection several times. He should be a good RT in this league but has no business protecting a QB's blind side. For example, his man beat him and caused that Campbell fumble. When Samuels comes back, the Redskins may have a controversy at RT with Jansen and Heyer both playing well but neither one dominating.

Chris Horton for defensive rookie of the year. Clinton Portis for MVP.

59
by Dales :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 4:07pm

I am really looking forward to Monday night to see just how far the Redskins have come since week one. Should be a hellofagame.

65
by Unverified Telamon (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 5:30pm

If Green proves to be a keeper, it'll be really weird having a "Green" in the secondary again. Couldn't they at least have given him a jersey number in the 30s?

Also, I agree about Heyerm just because after the first drive they went through a period of running everything right, as if they were avoiding Heyer's side, only to get repeatedly stuffed. Then they balanced things out, and the running game improved drastically. Either way, having 3 effective o-tackles is a wonderful problem to have.

69
by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 6:15pm

though I suspect newly signed Mike Green is actually a better player.

Well, he did lead the league in goals by a defenseman last season.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

66
by Parker W. (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 6:06pm

The hit on L.J. Smith might be the best in the NFL since Reggie Bush got lit up in the playoffs.

Typically, I hate calls related to unnecessary roughness, helmet-to-helmet, etc; but that one was definately warrented.

75
by dmb :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 10:25pm

Wait ... so you think that it was a dirty (or at least illegal) play, but you think it's the best one in a year and a half? Since when are unnecessary and dangerous hits on defenseless players "good" hits?

72
by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 8:42pm

I'm glad I read some of the comments first because thestar5 nailed it: I know that the Cowboys don't win this game if the Bucs don't hurt themselves with penalties and poor play, and I know BJ was awful when he was in Minnesota and that he shouldn't be in the league anymore. But no mention of the play of rookie CBs Scandrick and Jenkins? Anthony Henry getting hurt and forcing Alan frickin' Ball, who has tended to suck even in preseason, into the lineup? What about playing most of the game without Jason Witten? Or how about DeMarcus Ware -- his sack streak came to an end, but he applied pressure all day long; he played every snap, even dropping into coverage and disrupting multiple pass plays. Oh well. I know I shouldn't expect too much from the comments, since Tanier was watching his Eagles, but still.

74
by dmb :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 10:19pm

Through week 7, exactly one Tampa wide receiver had a positive DVOA, and that receiver (Ike Hilliard) isn't exactly an unstoppable force. Sure, the Cowboys' corners came out of nowhere to do a commendable job, but it's not like a pedestrian day by the Bucs' receivers is big news. If they were shutting down, say, Arizona's wideouts, then I'm sure there would be plenty of talk about it.

Similarly, it's pretty well established that DeMarcus Ware churns out stellar performances on a regular basis -- again, nothing new.

And what would you have liked to have seen about Witten going out? That the Cowboys were able to win, despite the higher degree of difficulty associated with Martellus Bennett receiving significant playing time? Then it would be perceived as a shot at the Cowboys' depth, and it would probably be seen as crowing that the Cowboys had lost another significant player to injury -- exactly as predicted. Or, you could say that Bennett showed something special -- which would be news -- but then we're back to the "Johnson sucks" storyline, since Johnson certainly wasn't helping Bennett shine.

73
by Tundrapat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 8:58pm

(From FOX Sports):
"Another option would be a change in the defense, but Marinelli insists that he isn't going to abandon his cherished Tampa Two scheme.

"'I believe in what we are doing, and that's why I'm sticking to exactly what I believe in,' he said. 'My job is to have a belief in what we are doing and not to change that in midstream. Do we have to win games? No question. But I believe you win through belief.'

"Marinelli also brushed aside any thoughts of replacing his son-in-law, defensive coordinator Joe Barry."

Someone, anyone, please tell me that Marinelli will be in 'TWIQ' this week. Specifically, "I believe you win through belief." That is some thick, hearty quote stew.