Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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Our season finale of catch radius focuses on the growing size of Josh McCown's talented receiving duos, including breakout stud Alshon Jeffery. Also: Anquan Boldin's incredible year.

11 Jan 2009

Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Round

Compiled by Doug Farrar and Vince Verhei

Each weekend, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2009.

This week, we'll be splitting Audibles in two, one for each conference. This edition discusses only the two AFC Divisional games. Discussion of the NFC Divisional games can be found here.

Saturday, January 10

Baltimore Ravens 13 at Tennessee Titans 10

Doug Farrar: Kerry Collins starts Tennessee's first drive exploiting Baltimore's one defensive weakness: the pass to the flats. The Titans then call two runs up the mdidle to Chris Johnson. If there was a common headstone among teams that lost to the Ravens this year, it would read, "They Tried to Run Up the Middle." (Notable Exception: The New York Giants.) Seriously, guys. Either promise LenDale White a bunch of Whoppers if he can pass-block well enough to be that guy, or send Johnson outside. He's not going to break it up the middle. Period, end of story, next.

Aaron Schatz: Boy, the Ravens really don't want Joe Flacco throwing on third-and-long. Running on two straight third-and-longs, yikes. That draw to Willis McGahee on the second one, third-and-14, was a complete give-up play. I wonder -- when they finally let Flacco throw the ball on third down, will it catch the Titans totally off guard? They better have a play-action fake on that play when they decide to let Flacco throw it.

Doug Farrar: And who threw the killer block on Chris Johnson's (outside) touchdown run? Reserve center Leroy Harris, who peeled off to the right, got to the second level, and took Ray Lewis out of the play. I know they're going to miss Kevin Mawae's savvy out there, but Mawae was surprisingly easy for Baltimore to push around in Week 5. Harris does give them a power boost (though running inside is still nuts against these guys).

Well, I guess they got over their fear of Flacco throwing on third-and-long on that touchdown to Derrick Mason on third-and-13 from the Tennessee 48 with 1:31 left in the first quarter. Nice thousand-yard gap between Nick Harper and Chris Hope in the zone coverage.

At the end of the first quarter, the Titans start using Johnson's ability to cut back against the Ravens. On Johnson's 32-yard run to end the first quarter, they went two tight ends to the right, but Bo Scaife motioned left to seal the backside block outside. Johnson was able to slip through the seam and get upfield. Your move, Rex...

Aaron Schatz: Hope really should have been to Mason in time on the Mason touchdown catch. And I do notice that Mason seems to be covered by Harper (or on Harper's side of the zone) more than by Cortland Finnegan today.

Bill Moore: My wife's comments on the 5 minutes of TEN/BAL we have seen so far:

After Chris Johnson's post-touchdown celebration: "What's with the stupid handshake thing?"

After Mason's touchdown catch: "...and this guy is skipping like a little girl"

After Dan Dierdorf's comment about not calling Flacco a rookie anymore: "Doesn't the term 'rookie' just define that it's his first year?" Me: "Yes." Her: "So he's just sounding like an idiot." Me: "Welcome to the world of Dan Dierdorf."

Not that she's wrong in any way, but certain things need not be said out loud. This is why I watch football with the guys.

Doug Farrar: Boy, that short middle is open season for Kerry Collins. He can just blast away to his tight ends on those little slants, and the Ravens seem to have no answer for it.

Aaron Schatz: The flags are coming hot and heavy today. It looks like we've got 11 so far, halfway through the second quarter. Who's the head official out there today? I went to look at the database; the game with the most flags this year was Giants-49ers in Week 7, which had 28. The first game between these teams had 24.

Doug Farrar: Terry McAulay is in charge today. His crew called 199 penalties in 15 regular-season games, which isn't really out of the ordinary.

Bill Barnwell: Did Howie Long buy a block of commercial time or something?

I'm really impressed with how the Titans are playing except for the two turnovers. They're doing a great job of isolating Johnson against linebackers in the run and the pass and letting him beat them both with his speed. That cutback against Lewis on the 30-plus-yarder up the middle was a thing of beauty.

In the passing game, Fabian Washington was the target on virtually every play up before the final drive, when Tennessee went after Samari Rolle. The biggest difference between the regular season game and the first half of this game is that the Titans are doing a fantastic job in pass pro -- even the center (outside of the one early snap).

Not sure what the Ravens' game plan has been. They have barely run the ball, and they seem to think that isolating Mason or Mark Clayton on double moves is their prime offensive strategy.

Aaron Schatz: Well, it got them one touchdown, and then a very long, nice pass, caught slightly out of bounds. So it may not be the dumbest strategy.

Vince Verhei: At halftime, Baltimore is lucky to be in this game. Virtually every big play -- the turnovers and the Mason touchdown -- went their way.

That Mason touchdown, by the way, is the reason you see scouts fawning over arm strength. Yes, Hope was late getting over, but against most quarterbacks, he still would have been on time. That throw came on a rope.

My favorite Dierdorf moment came when the Ravens were roughing up Chris Johnson after a tackle. Leroy Harris came over to break it up. The refs called a personal foul, but got the wrong number, calling it on Michael Roos. The replay showed Roos standing there while Leroy Harris raised his forearm over his head and brought it down on the back of a Ravens defender in the pile. Dierdorf watched this and declared, "THAT IS NOT A FOUL."

I haven't watched much Tennessee this year. Has Jevon Kearse been this effective all year?

Ben Riley: I missed the first half of this game, but to answer your question Vince, Kearse has been surprisingly good. The Freak comes out in Nashville, apparently.

Aaron Schatz: I think it is an issue of keeping him healthy. Remember, he only played a couple games in 2006 and then last year he was in and out of the lineup. The Titans do a lot of defensive line rotation, and you've got Dave Ball and Jacob Ford playing a lot of snaps. In our individual defense data, about half the teams only have two defensive ends with at least 25 "plays." About half the teams have three. The Titans are the only defense with four.

That IBM commercial forgets to mention other things math can do, like tell you that Baltimore will turn things around from 6-10 and go to the playoffs. Next stop, NUM3ERS guest starring appearance!

Vince Verhei: Halfway through the third quarter, it's time for Tennessee to go pass-wacky. Johnson is on the sidelines, and the Ravens pass rush has been negligible all day, especially if they don't blitz.

Doug Farrar: They can also go ball-control with the short pass. They've encountered trouble when Collins goes for the home run.

Aaron Schatz: Wait, what was I saying about Jevon Kearse? Turns out even when they keep him healthy all year, they can't keep him healthy all year.

Doug Farrar: There's a guy limping off the field after every play -- brutal game. Late in the third quarter, this is looking less like a football game, and more like a Civil War re-enactment. Will the winning team be able to field a full roster next week?

Aaron Schatz: If San Diego goes to the Super Bowl because they upset Pittsburgh and whichever team wins this game barely has enough healthy players to take the field next week, I'm going to puke on myself.

Vince Verhei: Baltimore continues to get the big plays. Their go-ahead field goal is set up by a 29-yard punt return, then a deep lob to a double-covered Mason, but both defenders slipped and fell down.

Doug Farrar: And with all the talk about Flacco's arm, that seemed like one he got away with. If he throws that into his own secondary, yikes.

Vince Verhei: All clichés about war and battle and combat aside, I've never seen a game with this many injuries. Guys are constantly staying down after the play, or limping off the field, or pointing to their arm/shoulder/neck and calling for a sub. It's brutal out there.

Dierdorf did make one good comment earlier, noting that contemporary players wear their helmets looser than his contemporaries did, and they fly off easier. I've seen at least three helmets pop off today. Cortland Finnegan just had his pulled off on a very benign swipe by the fullback. It did not stop him from leading with his head to help make the tackle.

This game may inspire a new FO stat: Consistency. We need a measure of how many plays were simply positive, as measured by DVOA. Tennessee has probably "won" at least 70 percent of the plays in this game.

Bill Moore: Dierdorf: "I'll tell you something that's not rocket science. Teams that are -3 on the turnover differential, you can count their winning percentage on one hand."

Huh? Unless he lost some parts of fingers in the war, I think that would be more orthopedic science than rocket science.

Doug Farrar: If you're the Ravens, and you're pinned down at your own goal-line, down 10-7 late in the game, do you take the intentional safety and gain the field position advantage of the free kick from your own 20, as opposed to pinning your punter in a bad situation? If I have Baltimore's defense, and a 3-0 turnover advantage, I think I might.

(Baltimore gets a play off after the play clock has expired.)

Bill Connelly: I realize you have to take human error into account and all, but ... how does delay of game not get called there? And I realize they can't in the current rules, but wouldn't that be a pretty easy thing to review with replay?

Bill Moore: Baltimore just scored their field goal. If Tennessee drives and scores, it's Willis McGahee's fault for running out of bounds with 1:48 left on the clock.

Aaron Schatz: Well, Tennessee didn't score, so McGahee gets away with that one.

Vince Verhei: And the Tennessee offense goes out with a most unrespectable whimper.

I do think it's time for the NFL to reconsider how the playoffs are seeded. I'm still fine with the four division champs and two wild cards getting in, but after that, it's ridiculous to pretend that an 11-5 Wild Card team is worse than an 8-8 division winner.

Aaron Schatz: The Titans got completely f***ed by the luck fairy tonight. It's nice that Baltimore won, because they are an excellent team, and we're rooting for Flacco, and of course it makes us look good -- our systems picked the Ravens for this game and I don't know of anybody else who picked the Ravens to make the playoffs before the season.

However, Tennessee outplayed Baltimore tonight. Unfortunately, their best offensive player was out for the second half. Rob Bironas missed a field goal that he normally makes. Four fumbles, and the only one the Titans recover is a muffed kickoff, which is rarely a turnover anyway. All those flags, and the officials miss a completely obvious one against Baltimore on their game-winning drive, the delay of game.

Bill Connelly beat me to the punch because I was working out during the fourth quarter, but I was going to say the same thing: They really should make delay of game a reviewable penalty. It is the kind of penalty that is generally obvious on review. It isn't going to be challenged very often -- what, maybe a handful of times per season? But still, on a big fourth-quarter drive like tonight, it is vitally important yardage.

I've said this a few times on the radio this season, but I don't know if I've said it in Audibles or on the site anywhere: I spent most of the season afraid that the Titans were going to end up like the 2001-2003 Eagles. Eventually, the fact that there was really no clear number-one receiver was going to bite them. I feel like that was part of the problem tonight. Justin Gage has been playing well, and he had 135 yards tonight, but he didn't seem to be as much of a factor in the second half.

There's nobody who, on a final drive like that, you say "well, Baltimore clearly has to watch out for X" or "Collins will probably be looking for X" first. So the Ravens can just spread their defense around, there's no need to screw up the basic defense to cover one option. I'm not talking about Randy Moss here -- it could be a "number one" route-running technician like Hines Ward or Derrick Mason. But their only go-to receiver is a running back who was on the sidelines with an ankle injury for half the game.

Bill Barnwell: Teams win 20 percent of the time with -3 turnover differential. Not an absolute killer. It wasn't Gage having a huge day, it was Fabian Washington having a terrible one.

Aaron Schatz: One other thing that bothered me, even though it didn't mean anything. Did Yamon Figurs get injured? If not, what the hell was Tom Zbikowski doing returning that final Tennessee kickoff? The guy returned two kickoffs during the season. Tie playoff game with five minutes, and you stick in a guy who barely returned any kickoffs all year and isn't particularly known as a burner? Huh?

Doug Farrar: Well, the dumbest roughing the passer call in NFL history gave the Titans that Week 5 game ... but it does make you wonder why the NFL can't have a system where the play stops on zero and anything after that is a freakin' penalty. Not "one second after, or whenever the guy looks up and looks back," but on the zero.

By the way, there were five defensive offside calls in this game. Think someone got a memo from the league after the Arizona-Atlanta game?

Aaron Schatz: Well, part of that is that when you have a team that is trying to get to the passer with just four guys, you are going to have players trying to time the snap count and occasionally they'll miss it. The Titans led the league in overall defensive penalties this year, plus they had 28 flags for offside, encroachment, or NZI, four more than any other defense.

Doug Farrar: Right. They're aggressive and they pay for it, but the Cardinals had 14 offside penalties in the regular season to Tennessee's 17. Then, all of a sudden ... nothing.

Bill Barnwell: I was really shocked at how futile the Ravens pass rush was at getting to Collins. He was sacked once, but there really wasn't anywhere near the level of pressure that we'd expect from the Ravens defense on him. As a result, Gage got to run longer routes and Collins was able to stand in the pocket and look Ed Reed off his throws. They really went after Washington over and over again, which is pretty strange considering he doesn't have the reputation as a target that Walker does. It seemed like everything they threw was in front of him -- will want to watch the tape and see if it was just double-moves that Gage kept cutting off or what. They ran that same deep-in versus Cover-2 that they did in the first game to perfection.

Flacco still has some work to do on his deep ball. There were a couple of chances for bigger plays downfield that he overthrew, something he did last week as well. Not a huge deal (since he can at least get the ball out there), but an offseason project.

Sean McCormick: It wasn't that shocking -- Tennessee was third in the league in Adjusted Sack Rate -- and if you look at the individual matchups along the lines, there's no point where the Ravens would seem to have a clear advantage. That said, it's definitely unusual to see a team with such pedestrian wide receivers able to rip up the Ravens secondary with such regularity on deep and intermediate routes.

While the Ravens weren't able to generate much pressure with their front four, give Rex Ryan credit for both the way he schemed his overload blitzes and his sense for when to call them. The only two things that stopped Tennessee's offense in the first half were the turnovers (which were primarily a result of sloppiness by the offensive players) and Ryan unleashing a new blitz on selected third downs.

The most impressive thing about Flacco right now is his footwork within the pocket. We all knew he had a cannon for an arm and was agile for a guy his size -- those things all showed up in his college game tape -- but there were real questions about his ability to set up quickly from under center and his ability to move within the pocket. Yesterday he was terrific while going up against a very good defense. He made one off-balance throw all day, his backwards pass to LeRon McClain to avoid a sack. Other than that, he was moving within the pocket, stepping up and following through. Ravens fans must feel giddy every time they see this guy.

Bill Barnwell: Sean, I was surprised about Baltimore not getting any pressure on Tennessee because they did last game -- even though they got no sacks, they got plenty of functional pressure on Collins, certainly enough to limit the routes that Tennessee could run. This game, no pressure, and they could do whatever they wanted.

Ned Macey: The sort of sad thing about all the turnovers was that it obscured an otherwise dominant offensive outing. (Sort of like, "Otherwise how was the play Mrs. Lincoln," I know.) Still, this offense with zero skilled wideouts had a higher DVOA than Dallas, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Baltimore. Mike Heimerdinger really did a good job this year working his offense for Collins, and I wonder how much the arrival of the newcomer (re-arrival, I guess) led to the decision to stick with Kerry Collins.

The most impressive thing for me was the number of slant throws that they completed. Back to Aaron's analogy about the 2001-2003 Eagles: That team could just not complete a slant pass against man coverage. You just have to be able to complete that pass against a team whose linebackers are blitzing, or you cannot have a functioning offense.

I also wonder how sustainable Baltimore's defense can be. Two weeks in a row teams have moved the ball on them, but they forced enough turnovers to carry the day. I know turnovers are repeatable (even if they got fumble-lucky), but at a certain point, they need to force more punts.

Sunday, January 11

San Diego Chargers 24 at Pittsburgh Steelers 35

Ben Riley: And there's Bill Leavy, calling an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Vincent Jackson for rubbing his chest briefly after coming down with an incredible touchdown catch (while being blatantly interfered with). Good to see some things never change.

Bill Barnwell: I wonder how they they'd handle the Jackson MMA camp tweaking their nipples before each fight.

Vince Verhei: Two thing I love in this game so far:

1) Phil Simms, when diagramming Vincent Jackson's touchdown, attempting to circle Darren Sproles and missing him by five yards.

2) Pittsburgh's fake fourth-down attempt, leading to Ben Roethlisberger's quick kick. A punt there is the smart play by a wide margin.

(Santonio Holmes scores for Pittsburgh on a 67-yard punt return.)

Excuse me, I have to go cancel my Mike Scifres jersey order from last week.

Aaron Schatz: OK, apparently the Chargers were so used to Scifres playing like a minor diety that they forgot how to cover punt returns.

Bill Barnwell: Do we go back to mispronouncing his name now?

Doug Farrar: Well, if a positive special teams play proved to be the difference for the Steelers, that would make this the weirdest postseason in NFL history.

Wow -- Marcus McNeill sucked both ways on that Darren Sproles run on third-and-25. He let James Harrison through from the edge, and stood there looking for UFOs as James Farrior clamped down on Sproles from right to left.

Vince Verhei: Sproles fails to pick up a first down on fourth-and-short. Norv Turner challenges the spot and loses. Phil Simms calls this a "good challenge." No! It's not! It's a waste of a challenge AND a timeout, on a play that wasn't THAT important -- even if you win the challenge, you're still on your own side of the field. It's not like you're guaranteed a field goal or anything. You should never challenge a play just to make sure the refs take a closer look at it; you should only challenge when they clearly got it wrong.

Doug Farrar: Was it Ben's idea to do "Stupid S**t Phil Simms Says" in next year's Scramble? It's not as if you'd ever be starved for content...

Vince Verhei: A key hidden play in this game: On a third-and-2, Roethlisberger hits Cary Davis in the flat for what looks like a sure-fire first down, but Quentin Jammer comes flying in with a beautiful tackle to make the stop. Next play, Pittsburgh's fake punt is stuffed, and the Chargers take advantage of the short field and kick a field goal. If Davis converts that third down, Pittsburgh likely goes on to score at least a field goal. It's not unrealistic to say that Jammer tackle caused a 6-point swing on the scoreboard.

Patrick Laverty: Do I have this right? Ben Watson scores a touchdown and puts the ball under his shirt in his belly as a "shout out" to his pregnant wife. 15 yards unsportsmanlike. Willie Parker does a figure-8 between his legs with the ball and then uses it to shoot a jump shot, nothing.

Sure am glad there's consistency in the officiating of unsportsmanlike.

Vince Verhei: Something I don't understand about San Diego's defense: They like to rush five, then play zone behind it. But unless one of the five rushers is completely unblocked, you can't play zone with only six guys. It's just too much real estate. It seems like the kind of thing you'd do three or four times a game, trying to catch the offense by surprise, not something you'd rely on as a cornerstone of your defense.

Aaron Schatz: Roethlisberger seems to be getting way more time to throw than usual today, and he's staying in the pocket much more than he usually does. Whether the Chargers are sending four or five, they don't seem to be getting there. I've seen a couple of good blitz pickups by Mewelde Moore.

Will Carroll: Are the blocking schemes normal? I was just about to say, it seems like he's getting more time which makes me wonder if they're protecting
more to keep them off his head.

Doug Farrar: Scary third-quarter stats: San Diego plays: 1. San Diego yards: 0.

Aaron Schatz: Byron Leftwich: Largest Victory Cigar Ever.

Vince Verhei: Because there is nothing else worth talking about in this hideously boring finish, I'd like to congratulate CBS for using the shot of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms with the world's cheesiest blue-screen effect putting a picture of the crowd behind them. It looks especially low-rent in HD.

Ben Riley: Did anyone else notice that James Harrison was getting held on virtually every play in the fourth quarter? In fact, I don't think I saw a clean block on him the entire game. He is the reason that the Steelers have to be the odds-on favorite to win it all at this point. Kill me now.

The other thing that stood out to me in this game: horrific tackling by the Chargers' secondary. There were at least three plays on third-and-long that should have resulted in a stop, but for Brian Russell-like effort on the part of the defense. The Chargers weren't going to win today regardless, but it was frustrating to watch.

Answering your question Doug, the SSPSS (Stupid S**t Phil Simms Said this Week) would not suffer from lack of material; whether I or anyone else could will themselves to listen to him for at least three hours every week is another story.

Ned Macey: If you can't get pressure on Roethlisberger, you can't beat the Steelers. For most teams, it isn't too hard to get pressure on him.

More than anything else, I became a Mike Tomlin fan today. They didn't all work, but the guy went all out. A fake punt, fourth-and-1 with a lead at the goal-line, and any number of downfield throws in run situations. I know Bill Cowher won the Super Bowl his last year in the playoffs, but I love the Steelers playing to win rather than not to lose.

As for San Diego, their defense sucks. For whatever reason, the defense matches up well against the Colts, but they struggle to get pressure and are not even stout against the run. I know they were better than 8-8, but I'm just glad an 8-8 team isn't hosting the AFC Championship.

Doug Farrar: San Diego's defense looked really small to me this season whenever I watched them; like there were three down linemen and about six defensive backs even when there weren't. Ron Rivera should be congratulated for getting the most out of that defense, because the loss of Shawne Merriman should have been a death blow.

And speaking of 3-4 defenses, I love the idea of the Ravens and Steelers throwing their defenses at each other one more time. I wonder if the Ravens don't have the slight advantage this time. Their defense is playing at an insane level, they've had success with the unbalanced line (which seems very portable), and Flacco seems to have grown exponentially (though there are still some wacky throws he needs to avoid).

Aaron Schatz: Oh, I don't think Flacco is any better now than he was back in Week 15, and I don't think the Baltimore defense is playing any better now than it was back in Week 15. That game could have gone either way and I'm guessing the same will be true about next week's game, no matter who actually is going to Tampa.

Bill Barnwell: You know, it's funny -- Ben Roethlisberger was a pansy or what-not until the ball was snapped. And then it turned out he was actually still really good. Who knew?

Patrick Laverty: The AFC Championship over-under is going to be around 4 and the NFC Championship over-under is going to be about 60.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 11 Jan 2009

88 comments, Last at 13 Jan 2009, 11:26pm by MurphyZero

Comments

1
by Mig (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:49am

Did all 4 teams that socred FIRST this weekend ended up losing ?

3
by 2468ben :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 1:14am

Yeah, but the winning team always scored next and tied/took the lead back.

2
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 1:05am

I'm still torqued, and have almost no chance at saying anything rational or intelligent. A frustrating loss, though not quite so much as The Al !@#$!@$# Del Greco Game. Still, as one other fan said on the way out of LP Field, "Well, at least the loss saved me $5,000," which was the amount I, too, had budgeted for a trip to Tampa. Ah, well, life happens.

4
by Francisco (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 1:19am

While watching the games this weekend, my wife asked me what the difference between a neutral zone infraction and offsides on the defense was, and I wasn't too sure-- my best guess was that a NZI was called when the defender made an offensive lineman jump, and offsides was when a defender was lined up offside. Does anyone out there know the difference?

I live in Baltimore, and all the Ravens fans here were rooting for the Steelers to win the game today, to set up a rematch. Frankly, I like their chances. Either of the games this season could have gone either way, and the defense will certainly get to Roethlisberger better than the Chargers did. At any rate, it looks like the AFCCG will be the Super Bowl this year, because if either the Cardinals or Eagles win the Super Bowl my head will explode.

5
by tally :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 1:58am

NZI occurs when a defender is in the neutral zone (the space the length of the ball between the two scrimmage lines) when the ball is snapped.

Offsides occurs when the defender is beyond his scrimmage when the ball is snapped.

Both are five yard penalties, so it's not a big difference, just nomenclature.

30
by Francisco (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:32am

That's what we thought, but there was an instance in the Cardinals-Panthers game where a defensive lineman went crashing into the o-line and they called NZI on him. I suppose since they are both 5-yarders the ref didn't really care what he called it.

41
by Jon Coit (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:19pm

According to Jerry Markbreit, the penalty nomenclature depends on the result of the defensive players' infringing the neutral zone. If the defender is merely in the NZ at the snap, it's offside, or offside, lined up in the neutral zone and the play continues. If the defender makes contact with an offensive player, it's encroachment; if contact isn't made but an o-lineman moves, it's neutral zone infraction; and if the player somehow avoids both other cases and keeps moving, it's unabaited; in each of these three cases I think play is stopped before the snap.

6
by luvrhino (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 1:58am

"Did anyone else notice that James Harrison was getting held on virtually every play in the fourth quarter?"

Yessir. It seemed like the left side of the Chargers line held a ton. I didn't notice nearly as much holding by the Steelers, but i'm curious if the reason their line was surprisingly effective was due to their taking advantage of the lack of holding calls.

----

Scifres punt that got returned for a TD seemed fine to me. He didn't outkick his coverage by much. Besides, given the Steelers punt return team, i wouldn't think that he should have been overly worried about not allowing a return.

As for the coverage, that was rather poor. I was glad that Nantz eventually pointed out the ridiculous tackle attempt at the 10 where the Charger dove at Holmes's calves rather than simply push him out bounds. He reminded me of, back in college, the intramural sports teams fielded by the music students who were paranoid about injuring their hands and played accordingly.

8
by RickD :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 2:31am

The Holmes punt return TD was absolutely because of a bad job done by the coverage team. Scifres should bear no blame for that at all.

47
by Bobman :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 1:30pm

Regarding OL holding, I only watched about half the game and did not notice, but did marcus McNeill grab a lot of face/facemask when blocking? It was pretty effective last week against Freeney and for whatever reason, the refs did not call it. Tough to see from field level? Very unusual and therefore not looked for?

Ben R had MUCH more time in the pocket than I expected, so maybe the holding was rampant, but I also notices M Moore picking up a few blitzes like I'd block my 8 year-old. That was impressive. Either he had great technique and body position, or the blitzers were tiny DBs or LBs just weren't rushing with fire.

7
by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 2:22am

pitt had 60 more penalty yards than san diego and had two terrible p.i. calls (the jackson touchdown and nate washington being blown over by a snow flake) and you guys are talking about how the chargers got the calls? The East coast bias is alive and running!

9
by Israel P. - Jerusalem (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 2:54am

Nate's arm was in the defender's hand for all to see. (Even if you don't think he was tackled.)

11
by Independent George :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:03am

Pittsburgh's on the East Coast?

14
by steveNC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 4:14am

Anything in the Eastern Time Zone looks like East Coast as viewed from California.

17
by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 6:23am

Thats cause it is if you view it as distance. Some parts of california are farther from the west coast than Pittsburgh is from the east coast.

Just cause people are from a certain area doesnt make them a fan of the hometown team. In LA its almost as common to find someone who hates the lakers as it is to find a supporter. Just wish the charger game wouldn't have been viewed as the chargers getting the calls because it was anything from it. There was an uproar from Indy fans last week when the calls were better and the yardage was more even. That seems strange to me. Its almost as if everyone wanted the chargers to lose so badly that once it happened there was just one huge sigh of relief in unison. 60 more penalty yards. it was only 34 last week. Where are all the colts fans now? and why is unsportsmanlike conduct a 15 yard penalty? its such a bias rule. So vincent tries to milk his nipple and gets a penalty and parker and woodley are shooting hoops and doing the "can can",respectively, and nothing is called. just get rid of the rule altogether.

24
by TGT2 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 10:27am

Did anyone else notice Willie Parking going to one knee and bowling the football after a late touchdown with no flag. How is that not going to the ground in the endzone minus prayer? The game was over at that point, but come on!

42
by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:30pm

Unless you are counting the inland shore of the Chesapeake Bay, I find this claim very hard to believe and would like some geographic coordinates in California to make a measurement of with Google Earth or something along those lines.

66
by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 4:19pm

I was counting the Chesapeake Bay. I just did a quick onlook for mapquest and chose needles CA to Huntington Beach main street pier (hometown beach) and got 268.02 miles. Then chose forbes street in Pittsburgh and Annapolis MD and got 264.06 miles.

69
by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 4:31pm

Well sure, if you want to cheat like that you can make any lame comparison you want.

According to Google Maps, it's about 191 miles from Needles, CA to the coast just NW of Carlsbad, CA.

49
by Bobman :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 1:47pm

Big Johnson, NFW! This is not football related, but please buy a map. Based on MSFT Streets and Trips, Pitt is 315 mi due W from the Jersey Shore (the actual coast) and 215 mi from Chesepeake Bay (at which point it is still 115 miles from the ocean or as the crow flies, 50 miles across the isthmus of Delaware to Delaware Bay). The distance from the nearest salt water and the farthest inland point in CA (as far as I can tell it's the Nev border in Death Valley NP just W of Beatty NV) as the crow flies is about 215 Mi from Santa Monica.

Having grown up on the NJ shore, I don't regard Chesepeake Bay as the coast (only ocean coastline is "coast" in my mind--looks like Independent George, a Giants fan, shares this view), but residing in Seattle as I do, I agree that Pitt falls into the East Coast Media basket--just barely. Part of that is that it's in PA, which has no saltwater frontage, BTW (about 15 miles up the Delaware R from saltwater in the Bay, depending on tides), but as one of the original 13 colonies, and when you look at it on a map of the whole US, you say "yup, east coast."

This was a fairly crude exercise, but still, Pitt is no closer to the Atlantic than 99.9% - 100.0% of all CA is to the Pacific.

Okay, back to football.

72
by Independent George :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 5:34pm

In terms of geography, Pennsylvania is one long-ass state. In my opinion, being 200 miles inland precludes it being a part of the East Coast geographically. By analogy, if you're deep in the Mojave desert, there's no way I consider you a part of the West Coast geographically.

Culturally, Pittsburgh is Midwest all the way; it has much more in common with Cleveland than it does to Philadelphia.

Bonus question: is St. Louis part of the South, or the Midwest?

74
by Thames (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 6:42pm

As a Philadelphian, I would like to reassert that Pittsburgh is not on the East Coast.

Pennsylvania's cultural geography can be broken into three groups: the East Coast section that includes Philadelphia; the Midwest section that includes Pittsburgh; and the Appalachian middle which is culturally closest to the South (i.e. "Pennsyltucky").

77
by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 8:13pm

fair enough. honest mistake from a 23 year old californian. I assumed it was considered east coast just based on Pitt being in the Big "East" and geographically close to the Atlantic.

Did anyone else notice that the chargers didn't run 1 rushing play the whole second half? Since it worked does this reflect well on Norv despite all the criticism?

78
by Independent George :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 8:41pm

Didn't they run only one play for half of the second half?

80
by DGL :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 9:54pm

And I don't know that not running a single rushing play after the third quarter is all that much of a decision. The next time they got the ball they were down three scores with just under 13 minutes left - they're going to in effect be running the two minute drill; deciding not to mix in a draw or two isn't all that radical. The drive after that (still down three scores, with 4:11 left) they went three and out and punted, as Easterbrook wrote "game over" in his notebook, and the next drive, well, look up "garbage time" in the dictionary and that's what you'll see.

83
by KillerB (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:04pm

I'd argue that you have a few more pretty distinct divisions.

South-central Pennsylvania: The Capitol region, including Harrisburg, is most like DC-Metro Maryland & Northern Virginia. In addition to the state capital activities, you have a lot of commuters to the Baltimore and DC regions. I'd say this covers places like Harrisburg, York, Carlisle, and Gettysburg. One oddity of this area is that roundabouts/traffic circles are fairly common.

Northeastern Pennsylvania: The Anthracite coal region and the Poconos. The easternmost parts are becoming bedroom communities for commuters to New York and New Jersey, but the locals culturally are much like the "ethnic" white communities in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia - lots of Italians, Irish, and Eastern Europeans. These areas are very Catholic in character. There is a very sharp dividing line once you exit the anthracite coal fields, roughly coinciding with the Susquehanna River. South and east of the river, you have the coal fields, and the population is more Catholic, southern and eastern European. North and west of the river, you have far more people of English, German, and Dutch descent, almost always Protestant, and in the "Pennsyltucky" mold mentioned earlier. The anthracite region has an obsession for high school football rivaled only by Texas'.

Much of the northern half of Pennsylvania that lies west of the North Branch of the Susquehanna is usually very rural. It's amazing how desolate it can get along I-80 out toward State College.

The culture in Pennsylvania changes quickly over small distances that would probably shock people in the Midwest. The mountains are low by the standards of the west, but the areas were settled very earlier when the mountains were great barriers. Going from one small valley to the next in Pennsylvania can take place over only 10 miles, yet the ethnic mix and culture can change drastically over that space. I can't think of anywhere else like it in the United States, honestly.

13
by Vince Verhei :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 4:09am

I live in Seattle. Doug Farrar lives in Seattle. Ben Riley lives in San Francisco.

10
by DaveInTucson :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 2:57am

There were 3 road wins in the 1971-72 divisional-round playoffs.
There were 3 road wins in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 wildcard-round playoffs.

There has never been a 4 road win playoff round.

In 1992-93 and 1997-98, both road teams won in the Championship round.

I have a blog where I post objective, predicive power rankings of NFL teams.

12
by Special J :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:39am

Bill Barnwell: I was really shocked at how futile the Ravens pass rush was at getting to Collins. He was sacked once, but there really wasn't anywhere near the level of pressure that we'd expect from the Ravens defense on him.

Did you not notice, Bill, that when that one sack on Collins occured, Terrell Suggs, the guy who recorded the sack, was hurt, and left the game in the middle of the 2nd quarter with a strained shoulder, not to return? I know we all assume that the Ravens' defense has enough talent, depth, and, if that fails, sheer malevolence, to remain a QB-terrorizing D admist injuries, but Suggs was their sack leader.

15
by Theo :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 4:43am

Am I the only one who found it strange that Ben Roethlisberger punted with his left foot?

16
by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 6:05am

yeah that was bizarre. its not like it was a good looking left punt. he made punting look like the most difficult thing in sports.

19
by Whatev (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 8:59am

But hey, look at it this way. If he'd actually been a decent punter, the ball probably would've gone into the end zone for a touchback, which wouldn't have been a better result than he got.

85
by countertorque :: Tue, 01/13/2009 - 4:03pm

SD got the ball at about the 10, if I remember right. So, call it ugly if you want, but it certainly wasn't a bad punt.

27
by MCS :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:15am

My son throws, writes and eats with his right hand. He bats and kicks left-handed/footed.

84
by This post is fu... :: Tue, 01/13/2009 - 4:44am

I Write and eat with my left hand, throw footballs with my right arm. I bat left handed. In soccer I'm heavily right footed (my left leg may as well be a peg leg at this point.)

I dont really know whaŧ my point is because if I was big ben i'd have been throwing with my right and pooch punted with my right foot

88
by MurphyZero :: Tue, 01/13/2009 - 11:26pm

Ditto for me. Righty for writing, throwing and eating. Lefty for batting and kicking. It gets worse in that in basketball I dribble left handed and shoot right. Somewhat ambidextrous actually, but there's enough of a difference between the good hand and bad hand to not say ambidextrous.

61
by Israel P. - Jerusalem (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:28pm

Ben says he is left-footed. We saw this when he punted in his first or second year.

67
by Lord K :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 4:23pm

I don't find it strange - both my father and I are right handed but left footed.

18
by Karen R :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 8:35am

It seems to me that the playclock expiring is pretty analogous to 12 men on the field, which IS challengable. I wouldn't be surprised if that's changed during the offseason.

21
by nat :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 9:59am

You may be right, but it would be counterproductive to institute replay challenges to keep the game moving quickly.

It's useful to note that the refs got it right this time. There is a full second with 0 on the play clock before the snap has to start. That's because the play clock doesn't show tenths or hundredths of a second. In practice, this means the ref sees the zero, counts off a second while watching for the snap, and then blows the play dead. It's not perfectly exact, yes, but it's doable by a human.

I wasn't rooting for either team in that game. But I was curious enough about the call to check the replay on nfl.com. The game clock clicks, the play clock clicks to zero, the game clock clicks, and then the snap starts. From the gaps between the clicks, it really looks as if the snap started on time. If the game clock had clicked twice after the playclock went to zero, it would have been an obvious late snap. But it didn't, and it wasn't.

If the league wanted to educate fans, it could have the playclock continue to negative one (or change color, or display an X...) to indicate when time really runs out. But that would invite endless nitpicking about the very close calls. Instead, the league relies on its honest refs to call it as best they can. It's not as if any team would intentionally cut things that close.

28
by Caw of the Seahawk :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:22am

Someone (maybe you) said this in another thread, and I don't think it's true. When the clock starts at 40, it takes one second for it to turn from 40 to 39. That means that 40 seconds have elapsed exactly when it hits 00. In basketball, before clocks had the tenths-of-seconds, the buzzer rang precisely at 00.

The clock means exactly what it says. When it says 01, there is one second (or less) left. When it has tenths, and it says 00.5, then there is half a second left.

I've heard that the reason for the referee delay is a fudge-factor, so that delay-of-game doesn't come into play as often as it could.

31
by nat :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:34am

I don't think you're right about the clock running a full second before clicking down to 39 seconds. How would you know? Do you have some access to a magic signal that the clock has been started other than the switch to 39? Or are you just assuming that it does? There must be some delay between the ref signaling to roll the clock and the clock actually starting.

Besides, the business about having 1 second when the clock hits zero came from a referee's explanation some time ago, and is fully consistent with how the penalty is called.

It would be great if the league added a "time's up" signal when the clock hits 0.0000000000. But that's not the case now, and may be impractical given the human factor.

79
by Caw of the Seahawk :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 8:50pm

My only personal experience is running a clock (including shot clock) before for high school water polo and the behavior was as expected. Also, I've never heard anyone but you say that 00 means there is one second left. I'd be curious if you can find the referee's explanation you speak of. My guess is that you are misinterpreting what was said.

(As an aside, my oven's timer does work as you said, meaning I have to set it to 16 minutes if I want to time something for 15 minutes.)

With the current play-clock issue, everyone is talking about what referee Terry McAulay called the "natural delay" between seeing 00 and looking to see if the ball has been snapped.

Also, if what you said was true, wouldn't it be easier to just set the clock to 41/26?

34
by Wanker79 :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:55am

That's a very good point about the on-field play clock not showing the decimal place.

Another thing I heard from one of the regular guest on Steve Czaban's morning show on Fox Sports Radio is that the on-field play clock isn't the official play clock. Apparently the ref in charge of calling delay penalties personally keeps the official time, so there's a good chance that the two clocks are aren't in perfect sync.

Either way, both of those explanations are perfectly good reasons why delay of game are unchallengeable. Because the very thing you're trying to challenge isn't visible from a replay.

The other thing of note that that guest said (I really wish I could remember his name) was that the NFL was working on getting the complete rules book put up on NFL.com!!!

44
by Theo :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:59pm

no, it's not a good point.
The clock starts at, say, 40. When 1 second expires, it shows 39. Usuming, that for a full second, the 40 should be on there.
So after half a second, the 40 is still there, although it means 39.5. So when the 39 shows, the first second is over ergo, when the clock strikes 00, it means the 40 seconds are over and time is up.

54
by nat :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 2:45pm

Theo, if you have a stove or microwave with a timer at home, try this experiment. Set the timer to 40 minutes. Then start the timer. Does it wait a minute before the minutes read 39, or does it switch to 39 immediately? Chances are it switches to 39 immediately. That's how timers usually work.

Your microwave timer may allow you to time less than a minute. If so, you can see the same effect. Set it to 40 seconds. Push the start button, and then say "one-Mississippi". Does it still say 0:40? I doubt it. It probably reads 0:39 the instant you push start. (or a split second later - as determined by the speed of the electronics)

The NFL could easily instruct their referees to anticipate the clock hitting zero. Instead, referees are instructed to wait for the clock to read 0 and then to check for the snap. They are supposed to take a consistent amount of time to make that check - variously called a "second" or a "beat". It works out to a built-in and intentional delay between the play clock reading 0 and delay-of-game being called.

Call it a grace period, or call it waiting for the last complete second. It works out to the same thing: snap the ball within a second of the play clock reading 0, and you should not be penalized.

75
by Theo :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 7:35pm

I checked it. It took a second before it went from 20 to 19. Did you do the experiment?
Of course I understand all that but I'd say, as a defense oriented guy, that when the clock strikes 0, you gotta snap the ball, or you're out of time.
Now every QB lets the clock hit 0, wait, wait, and snap it. Easy 5.
I don't buy that.
That the referees are instructed to wait a little is more to lower the number of penalties and to be sure.

82
by nat :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 10:58pm

You beat me to it. The minute timer switches immediately. The second timer on my microwave does in fact wait a second. What do you know?

It seems that timers work both ways, I guess depending on their precision. So much for that approach.

I don't know which kind of timer the NFL uses. How could I tell by watching? But I do know that the league has consistently said that delay of game does not happen exactly when the clock hits zero. One explanation was to allow the final second to complete. Another was to allow a "natural delay" before the call - in essence, a grace period of about one second.

So, in the interest of fair discussion, I'll change my stance a bit. I can't say for sure whether the ball was snapped within this referee's customary "grace period". This is a judgment call: it depends on when you think the snap started, and what you think the customary grace period is.

I think the ref got it right, and I have no reason to think he intentionally extended his grace period or so-called natural delay. But I can understand how some fans would think any delay could be too long, if it hurts their team.

45
by TomC :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 1:10pm

Another poster (I can't remember who) pointed out that the full 2006 rulebook is available here.

64
by Geronimo (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 4:08pm

I am probably in the minority, but I don't think the play clock issue is that big a deal. Is it really that much of an advantage for the offense to have an extra second every now and then? The fact that the refs don't call this consistently doesn't mean teams are out there trying to get an advantage, and defenses need to stop the play anyway.

I just don't think this needs changing.

70
by narticus :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 5:19pm

Defensive lineman (and blitzers) would strongly disagree! If the offense must snap the ball by the time the playclock hits zero, then the defensive line can get a good jump any time the offense lets the clock get down to the final second.

Nat,

I can't speak to football playclocks, but I can tell you that the clocks used for college basketball do allow an entire second to go by before changing from 20:00 to 19:59. I would hope the NFL would choose something similarly appropriate, not a microwave oven, for their play clocks. If football is like basketball, then zero means zero.

20
by chubbypuppy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 8:59am

Isn't that likek the 1,353th time the Steelers have been stuffed on short yardage this season? And specifically down near the goal line? My wife is a Steeler fan, and she is adamant that they have not converted that type of situation all season.

Agreed on Harrison being held nonstop. It was ridiculous. One one passing play in the second half he was held by TWO guys. The left tackle grabbed him, James brushed him off and the guard jumped out to tackle him to the ground.

The TN defense against the run was awesome. Are the Titans going to franchise Haynesworth? If not I could see a team giving him an eight figure signing bonus. Dude is incredible.

32
by JD (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:34am

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the Titans can franchise Haynesworth, due to the parameters of their agreement last time they franchised him.

As one of the top 5-10 defensive players in the league, I think it's safe to say that his signing bonus (or at least "guaranteed money") will be well north of $10 million.

51
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 2:11pm

You are correct-the Titans agreed not to franchise him if one of four performance criteria were made, and at least a couple of them (% of defensive snaps played, Pro Bowl selection, maybe the other 2 as well) were.

I suspect he's looking for guaranteed money in the Allen/Freeney range-think $30 million.

40
by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:13pm

They might have a couple of short yardage goal line conversions, but the vast majority fail because Tardrians is too stubborn to accept that his go-to play is not feasible with their current personnel --- the delay FB draw behind the weakest 2 run blockers on the line.

56
by luvrhino :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 2:52pm

From watching, i was under the impression that the Steelers had been rather poor in short yardage running conversions, but they have a Power Success rate of 64%, which is 19th in the league. League Average was 67%.

Maybe i thought it was worse due to selective memory. Also, it may be that their failures occurred in more critical situations (e.g. goal line vs. Philly, multiple attempts vs. the Ravens) where their successes occurred when they had a comfortable lead in the 4th quarter. I don't know if that's true or not.

The Steelers ran FB draws in this situation very few times. Carey Davis had twelve carries all season, eight in the first Ravens game as a tailback after Mendenhall was broken.

57
by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:00pm

I was also counting Gary Russell as a FB in these situations, FWIW. He's certainly not used like a prototypical RB.

22
by TGT2 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 10:01am

I know it's Audibles, but both Aaron and Ned missed a couple fumbles. The Titan's recovered the majority of their fumbles (3 of 5). The Ravens did not fumble. That's a huge difference.

The Titans recovered:
1) The muffed punt.
2) The 4th down low snap.
3) 3rd and 10 conversion to Hall from their own 1.

The last one of those was a big play. After Chris Johnson used his magical powers to somehow got out of the endzone twice in a row, Collins completes a pass to Hall for ~13 yards, Ray Lewis absolutely destroys him and forces a fumble that goes out of bounds 2 yards back. Why is the Crumpler fumble recovery luck, but that fumble recovery not luck? The announcers missed that fumble, but the official clearly dropped his little "ball on the ground" marker, so I'd think some FO member would notice.

The Ravens Forced 3 fumbles and recovered 2 of them. The Titans fumbled twice on their own and recovered both. I say that's just about average fumble luck. The Titans moved the ball well a couple times, but 5 fumbles and 1 interception against 0 fumbles and 0 interceptions is huge. I wouldn't be surprised if the Titans have a better DVOA than Baltimore, but it's got to be pretty close.

23
by fyo :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 10:02am

Aaron, it's Numb3rs. The "3" is an E in l33t speak, not a B. Getting the name of the show right might help in securing that guest appearance ;)

25
by Not Again? (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 10:50am

Can the FO gurus dig into their database and see how many times this year a punter has doinked a terrible punt off an opposing team's blocker and had their team recover it? It's happened at least twice now for the Steelers this year, which seems like an incredible fluke of luck. Or maybe that's a new strategy - the pooch doink?

P.S. Harrison always looks like he's been held because he gets his body sideways to the blocker then leans in and churns his feet, like leaning against a flagpole as you walk around it. It always looks like holding when you're positioned sideways on a blocker, see Haggans in Super Bowl 40 for an example. Only difference is the refs are correctly letting it go now.

33
by DGL :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:52am

On the other hand, a 13-play, 77-yard, 7:56 drive, followed by an interception, followed by 7 plays that consume another four minutes are not exactly "an incredible fluke of luck". Even had the ball been downed at the SD 23, the TOP in the third quarter would have been not less than 12 minutes for PIT to 3 minutes for SD - and the SD defense would have been gassed.

On the Harrison holding, there was at least one play where Harrison got past McNeill, and McNeill was literally draped over his back with both arms over his shoulders dragging him to the ground. I don't think that's got anything to do with Harrison "leaning in".

38
by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:09pm

Not calling Offensive Holding when he gets armbarred under the helmet and pulled down by the neck is "correctly letting it go"?

Methinks not.

26
by Stoughton (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:03am

My favorite part of the Bal-Ten game was all the "unabaited"-ness. I believe there were FOUR "unabaited" calls, and two of them were "to the kicker", which I've never heard before, ever!

That play where the Bal guy was so offsides on the extra point that he just ran PAST the kicker, then Bironas kicked the XP behind him was awesome. Though I'm disappointed the guy didn't just blow up the holder. You're giving up five yards; might as well get your money's worth!

35
by DGL :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:55am

I have a feeling that had Walker blown up the holder, the ref would have found it in him to call a PF in addition to the offsides.

59
by D Jones :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:01pm

That was a hilarious play. He should have just kicked the ball. I think he was there in plenty of time, he could have just booted the ball sideways into the stands for permanent inclusion in every NFL bloopers video ever made.

29
by Eli (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:31am

Math also caused the creation of CDO's, MBS's and CDS's. The idea that "math" can cure all our ills seems particularly inappropriate right now.

37
by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:08pm

For the sake of a remotely accurate discussion, can we quit calling muffs fumbles? They are not the same thing--- the rules clearly demonstrate this.

36
by ernie cohen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:07pm

The improvement of the SD D under Rivera was about 80% rumor. Since Rivera arrived, they've given up almost exactly the same YPG as in the first half of the year (I think DVOA also had their D as below average for the last 9 games.) Nevertheless, most reporters were somehow convinced that they were playing at an elite level.

Similarly, the BAL D is being perceived through rose-colored glasses. Everyone knows they're hard hitters, so everyone assumes that they "forced" TEN to fumble. In fact, BAL doesn't force many fumbles (13 forced, 8 recovered on the season, far below ferocious D's like IND). The MIA game was their only especially impressive D performance in their last 5 games.

39
by chubbypuppy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:11pm

Not Again:

Sorry, but that's a crock. And for exhibit "A" how about Steeler opponents going over four(!!!) games without having an offensive holding penalty assessed against them.

I am a Packer fan so no dog in this fight. But Harrison is being mauled and nobody is doing a d*mn thing about it.

If the Ravens get away with what the Chargers managed on Sunday the commissioner's office is going to have an another ugly official-based PR problem on their hands.

This isn't asking a lot. To have officials actually call the calls that are SUPPOSED to be called........

43
by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:32pm

The "OMG James Harrison is getting held on every play!" crowd is really getting annoying. It isn't the 1950s, OL are allowed to extended their arms, people. Lets

By the way, it seems as though Steeler WRs hold DBs on many running plays, the refs just don't have the guts to call them on it all the time. They get busted occasionally, but I saw 2 clear replays of uncalled Steeler WR holds.

46
by chubbypuppy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 1:17pm

jonny:

Well again, I don't have a dog in this fight. I watch the Steelers every so often and now yesterday in the playoffs. And it looked pretty obvious to me.

And I wouldn't have commented except it is a repeated occurence.

He gains leverage by getting under the pads of the tackle (typically) and has he is swimming through the reaction is to grab an arm/shoulder to impede his progress.

Unless, of course, you are the guard for SD in which case you just tackle him and lay on him. That works too........

50
by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 2:06pm

I don't think its a grab, to me it seems like he's pushing with his forearm, there is a big difference.

This play happens very frequently and it is never called, not just on Harrison but on others too. So what is more likely, the refs miss it every single time, or that what you think is a hold isn't? I'm just not seeing the OL-man grabbing Harrison, and Harrison never gets fully past the OL-man, they are still engaged.

53
by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 2:35pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLFJkQy6_jk
(1st SD-PITT game)

Pretty much every one of these is a blatant example of a textbook hold. I'm no youtube/video expert, but if I were, I could create a montage that shows a similar type of each hold shown in this clip from the game yesterday. It's not like McNeil especially is gonna change his technique if he's getting away with it--- he'll get blown up if he has to play by the rules. Harrison is grabbed and abused like no other DL/LB in the league right now, and still manages great productivity despite it.

60
by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:15pm

actually, i only saw one illegal hands to the face in that video, but no holds. Sorry, I just think that you don't know what a hold is.

73
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 5:39pm

I saw the same thing, although maybe one other hold. but that is around 2 of 5 in a "holding" montage. On top of that similar "holds" are made during almost every game.

Do I wish the NFL would enforce holding more rigorously? Yes. But the league hates defensive struggles so we have the current rule set.

63
by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:57pm

"Unless, of course, you are the guard for SD in which case you just tackle him and lay on him."

I remember a play where that happened. Harrison got by the lineman and he basically tackled him from behind and laid on him. A definite hold that went uncalled. I only remember one other play that stood out as an obvious holding and it was on a parker run. I didn't watch the whole second half though. It was way too painful.

48
by TGisriel (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 1:38pm

Aaron:

Yamon Figurs was slightly injured earlier in the year, but he basically lost his job both as kick returner and as punt returner because of bad play. He was not decisive, and looked spooked by contact. I doubt he will be back next year.

Some thoughts as a Ravens fan. This game was eerily similar to the 2001 game between the Ravens and the Titans leading to the Ravens' Superbowl. In that game, the Titans won all of the battles of the stats, but lost the game because of 1. A partially blocked FG that was run back for a touchdown and 2. A Ray Lewis interception that was run back for a touchdown.

The Ravens' D has been vulnerable to the short timing pass for years. The problem with attacking them that way is that your receivers get beat to hell by the Ravens' linebackers, and balls eventually come out to be picked off or picked up by the Ravens' D.

The turnovers are not a fluke. The Ravens led the NFL in forcing turnovers, and the defense focuses on forcing them.

52
by NHRevsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 2:13pm

Wristwatch - vibrate mode, synched to play clock via radio, buzzes at 0.

Watch play, don't watch clock - Feel buzz, no snap, blow whistle.

Don't know if it can be debugged enough to work, but it's a thought.b

55
by ernie cohen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 2:48pm

TGisriel : The interceptions are not a fluke, but the fumbles are. BAL "forced" 13 of them all year, 19th in the league. By comparison, TEN forced 23.

58
by wr (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:00pm

RE the play clock - It seems to me all they have to do is what the NBA does with
their 24 second clock. When the clock strikes 0, a (loud) horn sounds.
No ambiguity, easy for the teams to practice with/get used to.

65
by Jerry :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 4:16pm

Either the league is afraid that the horn will go off right after the snap and some players will stop while others keep going, or they just don't think that delay calls are that much of a problem.

62
by lagfish (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:55pm

Aaron Schatz works out?

68
by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 4:24pm

I noticed that when Javon Kearse was hurt on the field, the audio sure sounded like the stadium was echoing with boos. First, was that real or just an odd TV thing. Second, if the crowd was booing, why? I know he has a rep for acting like he's dying, then coming back in a few plays later, but that shouldn't get him booed in his own stadium. Just asking, because I know that if that happened in Philly, the announcers - or certainly ESPN - would be crying about what bad fans we were.

71
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 5:33pm

The play was an incomplete pass intended for Derrick Mason on the right side. Almost as soon as the pass fell to the ground, Mason began haranguing the official for a pass interference call and kept at it through almost the entire injury TO, even crossing to the other side of the field to continue arguing with other officials. That's what drew the boos, not Kearse's injury.

76
by Theo :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 7:52pm

wasn't the Sproles TD catch in 'garbage time'?
The Chargers had punted with 3:30 on the clock in the fourth quarter, Leftwich was throwing to Sweet for the Steelers, and the backup defense was playing.

81
by Luke :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 10:06pm

from the play by play:

1-10-TEN 12 (9:58) 28-C.Johnson up the middle to TEN 19 for 7 yards (55-T.Suggs, 52-R.Lewis). PENALTY on TEN-76-D.Stewart, Unnecessary Roughness, 9 yards, enforced at TEN 19.
1-12-TEN 10 (9:52) 28-C.Johnson right end pushed ob at TEN 20 for 10 yards (57-B.Scott).
2-2-TEN 20 (9:25) 25-L.White left guard to TEN 20 for no gain (52-R.Lewis, 57-B.Scott).
3-2-TEN 20 (8:41) (Shotgun) 5-K.Collins pass short middle to 12-J.Gage to TEN 30 for 10 yards (31-F.Washington).

The unnecessary roughness was on the offense and came at the end of the play, and indeed was enforced from the end of the run. Therefore, should it not have been 2nd and 12?

86
by Gary (not verified) :: Tue, 01/13/2009 - 7:35pm

A good point earlier about Suggs being out and the lack of pass rush. Should point out that the next man up for the Ravens at OLB, Antwan Barnes, is a very good pass rusher, but he was also out with a chest injury. Edgar Jones, who came to B'More as an OLB and was switched to TE in training camp this year when Ravens' TEs were dropping like flies, became Suggs' replacement (he wears number 84). If you don't have to account for Suggs in your pass blocking schemes, it's a lot easier. In all the hype about Chris Johnson, I thought this got overlooked.

87
by Gary (not verified) :: Tue, 01/13/2009 - 7:38pm

How you can say that the fumble by Crumpler was a fluke is beyond me. Bart Scott blew the coverage but he and Leonhard hustled over to prevent the score and Leonhard got his hat right on the ball. A less relentless defense would have allowed a TD there. the Ravens not only got the stop, they forced the TO.