Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Varsity Numbers: Honing in

Bill Connelly again looks at which college football teams the F/+ ratings are sure about, and which teams remain a mystery (led by Appalachian State).

29 Nov 2010

Audibles at the Line: Week 12

compiled by Bill Barnwell

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Thursday, November 25

New England Patriots 42 at Detroit Lions 25

Aaron Schatz: Belichick's thing with playing cornerbacks on specific sides is going to turn Devin McCourty into Nnamdi Asomugha. Put best wide receiver near Kyle Arrington. Touchdown Calvin Johnson. Rinse. Repeat.

What was extra-strange there was that on that play, the Patriots DID switch their cornerbacks. McCourty was covering Burleson over on the left, and Arrington was covering Calvin Johnson on the right. If you don't believe in switching your corners, why on earth would you switch them to put the inferior corner on one of the three or four best wideouts in the league?

Bill Barnwell: As Tom Kowalski pointed out on Twitter, Pettigrew beat his guy at the line and locked the safety into the middle of the field, getting Johnson into the one-on-one matchup and making an easy back-shoulder read for Hill. I agree that Arrington blows, but Asomugha wasn't stopping that, let alone McCourty.

Liked Shaun Hill's second tuck and run, on a screen where Andre Brown got kneecapped and there were a bunch of linemen out there without any guy to throw to. Made up for missing a wide-open Burleson on the run earlier on in the first quarter.

Doug Farrar: Ndamukong Suh's two most exceptional qualities -- his closing speed and upper-body strength -- have been on display early in this game. I don't know that I've ever seen a 310-pound tackle make up a two-yard space this quickly, and the way he just blew off Logan Mankins's blocking attempt on the Brady sack was pretty exceptional.

Aaron Schatz: Golly, Patriots special teams look awful today. Brandon Tate on two straight kickoffs has not been able to get back to the 20. If you try to return the kickoff and don't get back to the 20, that's a serious FAIL.

Bill Barnwell: Great moment in Simms: Brandon Pettigrew catches a pass and Simms goes into his "I am going to say some nice things about this player that have no relationship to the play that just happened" post-good play analyst bit over a replay. Simmsentary, Grudentary, whatever you want to call it. During the replay, the ball literally comes out of Pettigrew's hands and bounces off a Patriots player before bouncing, still on the fly, back into Pettigrew's hands. Does Simms stop the Simmsentary? No. Why would he?

Think you have to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line there, as the Lions successfully did. It's 17-17 with 20 minutes to go. You're not shutting out the Patriots the rest of the way.

How many broken tackles does Alphonso Smith get on the 79-yard touchdown pass? Three?

Aaron Schatz: To say good things about the Lions, I'm really impressed by Scott Linehan's play calling today. I've liked the play calls on the fourth-and-shorts, I liked the reverse there to Calvin Johnson, he's gotten guys open with plays, the tight end screen to Pettigrew was good. A good mix of stuff.

Bill Barnwell: Oh, yeah, I don't think that makes sense; if we had three separate guys trying to make those tackles, it'd be three broken tackles, so it seems reasonable to charge Smith with three whiffs there.

How to prevent Kyle Arrington from ending up in coverage against Calvin Johnson? The Patriots just lined him up in a three-point stance as a defensive lineman as part of a three-man front. Seriously. Not part of some elaborate blitz package, either; New England rushed three and Arrington was just like a DL. I'm told on Twitter that the Patriots did that a few times last week, too? What on Earth?

Tom Gower: Adam Caplan said Cosell said they did that 10-12 times last week.

Doug Farrar: Phil Simms doesn't believe in quarterback rating -- not because it's archaic and incomplete, but because "I go by what I see." I really want to introduce him to the concept of DVOA, just to see if his head would explode.

New Orleans Saints 30 at Dallas Cowboys 27

Bill Barnwell: One of the commentators mentioned that Gregg Williams told him the Cowboys have committed to running the ball more frequently under Jason Garrett. Of course. Nothing to do with their two wins under Garrett. Number of carries in first half per game under Wade Phillips: 12. Under Garrett: Nine.

And then Aikman comes back in the second quarter and basically says "Yeah, that's a myth, they've been running the ball a lot in the fourth quarter." That was weird.

The Cowboys were stuffed on fourth-and-1 earlier in the game when they ran a pitch to Marion Barber and none of the linebackers got blocked. So this time, they're down 17-0 with six minutes left and have fourth-and-1 inside the five-yard line. They kick the field goal because ...

Dallas later went for it and converted on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line on a simple handoff to Barber, making it 23-20. Came after a wonderful one-two punch from Reggie Bush, who dropped a touchdown pass on one end and then fumbled a punt on the other one. Bush does his job right, it's 27-13 and the game is over. Instead, 23-20.

Six fumbles in this game. Cowboys have exhibited their distaste for Wade Phillips by recovering all six of them.

And about 90 seconds after I send that, Roy Williams fumbles to make it six out of seven.

Doug Farrar: Over at least the last two weeks, Jabari Greer is doing a pretty good job of making the point that the whole “shutdown corner” title is a very fragile entity.

I have it on good authority that Andy Reid and Mike Holmgren both vehemently approve of Jason Garrett’s two-minute offense concept. Methinks Garrett’s going to be very unhappy when he discovers that timeouts aren’t like monthly cell minutes – they don’t roll over. Spotting a kicker 30 extra yards you know he can’t make? Yeesh.

Aaron Schatz: Saw bits of pieces of this game at my uncle's house, including the last three minutes after dessert. I wanted to comment on a couple of things about the final Dallas drive. First, this was the first play of the drive:

1-10-DAL-24 (1:50) (Shotgun) 3-J.Kitna scrambles up the middle to DAL 29 for 5 yards (91-W.Smith).

Now, as it turns out, the Cowboys did not run out of time on the last drive, they ran out of downs. But still, Jon, you are a 67-year NFL veteran or something. You don't know to throw the ball away when you are trying to conserve time? What was more important, the five yards you got on this scramble or the 28 seconds you wasted between this play and the next one on second-and-5?

Also, I noticed an interesting thing on the rest of the drive. I don't know if this was about experience or about how the Saints were covering things, or just random chance, but most of the movement came on three straight passes to Jason Witten for 28 yards. But on the final set of downs, all three incomplete passes were intended for Dez Bryant. Not that all the incompletes were his fault -- the second one definitely wasn't, tipped away by Roman Harper at the line of scrimmage, but still... interesting. All they needed was one catch in that set, five or six yards, and Buehler likely hits the tying field goal.

Cincinnati Bengals 10 at New York Jets 26

David Gardner: Now that I've seen the announcing crew for this booth, I'm considering switching to the Taylor Swift documentary on NBC.

Bill Barnwell: Theismann notes that the banter between Revis and Owens is so interesting because Revis said he, himself, was an "average" cornerback. Millen actually has to correct him.

Millen notes that the Jets should challenge Jonathan Wade because they don't know if he's in shape or how he tackles. Of all the reasons to challenge Jonathan Wade, those are two reasons that have no relationship to him being new on a defense. He was on a roster two weeks ago, and I mean, tape of him exists. The Jets can probably figure out if he can tackle.

Mike Tanier: I am loving these Brad Smith plays on second-and-10 and second-and-24.

Aaron Schatz: Also lovin' Brad Smith on second-and-24: the Bengals.

Boy, the James Ihedigbo roughing the passer on fourth-and-3 to extend a Bengals drive in the third quarter was really iffy. They flagged him for leading with his head, but he hit Palmer in the chest, and I'm not really sure how else you are supposed to tackle a guy. If you put your arms up to get a guy, you can't help it. Your arms come off your shoulders, and right between your shoulders is your head. That's where it is. You can't remove it and put it on your ass for safekeeping until the tackle is over.

Doug Farrar: We're going to have to get used to these, I suppose. Last Sunday, LaMarr Woodley and Raheem Brock were each handed totally bogus roughing penalties. They're either going to have to alter the rule or start calling the rule correctly again.

Bill Barnwell: So this week, it's a 27-yard missed field goal and a fumbled punt that didn't appear to be fumbled (and almost certainly should have been challenged) (and came after Jonathan Wade barely missed a pick-six).

Carson Palmer's passes all come out like he's tapped the pass button by accident.

Vince Verhei: The fourth quarter of Bengals-Jets was pretty much the only football I got to see today. Which means I was treated to Brad Smith's kickoff return touchdown and what seemed like dozens of terrible Cincinnati screen passes. I thought this might be a trend and looked it up, but no -- the Jets have been above average but nothing special against passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage, and the Bengals offense has actually been pretty effective throwing them.

Mike Tanier: Hey: Three catches for 17 yards, T.O. Thanks for running your mouth off there.

Sunday, November 28

Green Bay Packers 17 at Atlanta Falcons 20

David Gardner: So I have the Falcons-Packers game early, and all the pre-game talk was about how good the are at home. It just made me wonder, Why? They aren't an especially fast team, where playing on turf would be a huge advantage. And the Georgia Dome isn't that loud. So why the huge advantage for them at home?

Bill Barnwell: It's the combination of a good running game (allowing them to kill games when they're ahead) and a fluky performance in a small sample size (think about the last-second win over the Ravens and, sorry, Blount getting stuffed at the two-yard line).

Vince Verhei: Maybe it's not that that they're better at home, it's that they fall apart on the road. It's kind of a chicken-or-egg issue.

Bill Barnwell: Packers just rushed four against the Falcons' five linemen on a third down in the first quarter and I think all four guys might have beat their blockers. At least three did.

Aaron Schatz: Aaron Rodgers is killing the Falcons' zone coverage with scrambles. First quarter isn't over yet, and we're already at four carries for 24 yards.

David Gardner: Yeah, I'm not sure if that was part of the game plan, but the Packers' tackles are forcing the Falcons' ends up field and giving Rodgers some great lanes. And each time the Falcons blitz, the Packers are getting big opportunities in the passing game.

Also, the Falcons, the least penalized team in the league, have three personal fouls already -- and we are barely into the second quarter.

Bill Barnwell: Falcons have now stuffed the Packers three times inside their own five-yard line; the third stuff is the best of all, as Aaron Rodgers loses the ball on a quarterback sneak and the Falcons recover it in the end zone for a touchback.

Great job by Ovie Mughelli on a third-and-19 checkdown, running through two ankle tackles to get 16 yards. Falcons then pick up the first down on fourth-and-3, getting it on a throw to Tony Gonzalez.

David Gardner: A throw that, by the way, Gonzalez didn't actually catch.

Bill Barnwell: True. The Falcons went no-huddle, but took 35 seconds between that play and snapping the ball, which makes me wonder whether they were trying to fake McCarthy into not challenging by generally taking their time.

David Gardner: He definitely caught that touchdown though.

Nice call by the Packers on third-and-1: a flea-flicker. It almost blew up in the backfield, but ended up gaining 40 yards.

Bill Barnwell: That play is followed by a string of four interesting ones in a row. Rodgers scrambles on first down and, during his slide, gets knocked down by Sean Weatherspoon's helmet; almost hit Rodgers in the helmet, but actually appeared to get his shoulder. Nearly started a fight. Next play, Rodgers gets hit and his pass is nearly picked off by a Falcons defender; replay suggest the Falcons could have challenged the play, but as the announcers says "It appears that [Michael] Smith is going to challenge", Rodgers snaps the ball and throws a lob to Jordy Nelson to get the ball down to the three-yard line. It's another throw going after Brent Grimes in one-on-one coverage. Rodgers then splits everyone out and runs a quarterback draw for a touchdown that Billick calls out in advance. Rodgers then does the "I want the title" motion, which I don't get.

David Gardner: Falcons go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 after three near-misses, and they get it on a Turner run. Fortune favors the bold.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, Green Bay. Why, why, why, why do you go empty backfield on fourth-and-1 and take away even just the threat of the run? Why?

Bill Barnwell: Because their running back has seven carries for nine yards! And, alternately, because they wanted to convince the Packers that they might go quarterback draw with Rodgers again.

Aaron Schatz: Attention Thomas DeCoud, please do not do an "I missed the interception dance." Notice the word "missed" in that sentence.

Bill Barnwell: On the other hand, nice work by DeCoud to force a wide-open James Jones out of bounds as he came down.

Aaron Rodgers with a HUGE shovel pass to pick up fourth-and-1. Not only huge because it was incredibly important, but huge because it probably traveled twice as long as the average shovel pass.

David Gardner: Matt Bryant sends a game-winning field goal right down Broadway, but McCarthy calls timeout. Then Bryant does it again.

Tennessee Titans 0 at Houston Texans 20

Tom Gower: We have an early "Burn This Play" nominee, as a zone blitz by the Titans leaves DE William Hayes in coverage on Arian Foster with predictable results. The drive eventually stalls out after they go for it on fourth-and-5 from the Titans 37 and Schaub throws three yards short of the sticks.

Vince Verhei: Houston has a fourth-and-1 just outside their own 40. They line up to punt, then call timeout. After the timeout, they punt anyway. Apparently the play clock was about to expire, an they decided it was better to waste a timeout than give up five yards near midfield when they were going to punt anyway. I'm actually angry about this, and I don't even cheer for Houston, so I can only imagine how their fans feel.

Tim Gerheim: At least they got off a killer punt they downed inside the five. After a Chris Johnson run for a loss, Rusty Smith had to throw from his end zone and chucked up a Hail Maryish interception.

Tom Gower: Rusty Smith has now completed one of his first six passes, hitting Randy Moss for 14 yards on third down for a conversion. I'll take, even though I think he was trying to throw the ball to Justin Gage ... and he's now 3 for 8, completing two dumpoffs after an ill-conceived handoff to Nate Washington loses 8 yards on first down. This is why starting rookie sixth-round picks at quarterback is a bad idea.

Aaron Schatz: The loss of eight yards was way better than last year's ill-conceived handoff to Nate Washington against the Patriots, which lost something like 15 yards.

Tom Gower: I hereby nominate Rusty Venture as the official nickname.

The Titans offense looks like it's the third quarter of a preseason game. They got a first down completion to Moss that looked like a lucky accident, with the intended receiver actually being Gage about five yards short and five yards inside Moss. The next play was an atrocious reverse losing 8 yards followed by an incompletion and checkdown fiesta.

Tim Gerheim: This Texans-Titans game has an interesting running back contrast, Johnson's boom or bust style against Arian Foster's consistency. What I love most about Foster is that he always seems to pick up at least a few yards. He's slippery and good at shifting his body around to make himself narrow, so he's great at slipping the first tackler and falling forward.

Tom Gower: I think Moss just got another accidental reception on the same play as the last one. Even though it's been successful against the comical Texans pass defense, a play like that with two receivers close enough that we can't tell who the intended is should be burned post haste.

Aaron Schatz: If the new Titans quarterback is Rusty Venture, Randy Moss is definitely Sergeant Hatred. And the Texans secondary may be the only group in the world more inept than the Monarch's henchmen.

Tom Gower: I think what the Titans are doing is trying to play a two-man game to create very simple reads for Rusty. That's a feature, not a bug, with the added side benefit that some of the lousy throws may also end up completions.

Meanwhile, Tim nailed it earlier - the Titans offense looks like it's IN a preseason game with nothing installed and where they're giving reps to guys who may not be in the team in two weeks.

Vince Verhei: At halftime, Tennessee has 13 passes and only six runs (three by Chris Johnson, two by Javon Ringer, and the aforementioned Nate Washington debacle). I don't know if this game plan was designed by the Guild of Calamitous Intent, but it has had calamitous results.

Tim Gerheim: Brice McCain wears number 21. I only wish Kareem Jackson was 24 instead of 25.

I wonder what proportion of the readership is utterly confused at this point.

Vince Verhei: Tennessee's latest series: completion for negative yards, completion for 7 yards that is called back for offensive pass interference, checkdown for 10 yards on third- and-20 something. Every time Smith drips back I hear "I'M RUSTY!" being sung in my head.

Aaron Schatz: The adjustment for backup quarterbacks in the "premium picks" formula may not be strong enough. We may need to change the setting for Smith from "third quarterback" to "ninth quarterback" or something.

Doug Farrar: With 13:11 left in the fourth quarter, the Titans cross into enemy territory for the first time in the game. It took a Marc Mariani punt return and an unnecessary roughness call on the Texans to make it happen. The beginning of the Rusty Smith era is hereby officially summarized.

Mike Tanier: Hello Rusty Smith. Goodbye playoff chances. This kid is Brad Goebel-level overmatched.

Bill Barnwell: Classic moment: Rusty Smith throws an ugly interception in the red zone. CBS cuts to the crowd, where his grandfather is sternly shaking his head in a disappointed manner. Needs to be an animated GIF now.

Vince Verhei: Cortland Finnegan and Andre Johnson just got in the biggest fight I've seen in a while. Both helmets got yanked off, and Johnson was throwing punches as Finnegan was on the ground. Both were ejected, and Finnegan's letting the Houston fans hear it as he leaves the field. You know, with the light skin and the short Afro, he actually looks like Josh Koscheck. I suspect they'll both be suspended.

Tom Gower: I believe Johnson also got Jason Jones tossed in last year's Texans-Titans game in Tennessee by punching him in the face in a scuffle in the Texans bench area (yes).

Tim Gerheim: Rusty Venture even has the right ginger facial hair. He's an awful passer. He's overthrown the few wide open receivers he's found, and he's thrown two interceptions to the Texans' good (at least relatively speaking) cornerback, Glover Quin, the second at least on a terrible underthrow. That was a play or two after he underthrew his receiver so badly that it hit the faceguarding Bernard Pollard in the back of the calf. (It was a positive play because of the pass interference by the crack pass coverage.)

Vince Verhei: Tennessee just got the ball back with three minutes to go. They have four first downs on the game. The record is six. Here we go!

Titans actually march down the field in garbage time -- more than doubling their first down total -- before Brian Cushing breaks up a pass, leading to the Texans' third interception of the day, and their eighth of the season. I'M RUSTY!

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 at New York Giants 24

Tim Gerheim: The Jags just ran the option David Garrard picked up about nine. Has that been a part of their gameplans this year? This was one play after a long MJD run featuring Giants defenders who seemed quite uninterested in actually tackling him.

Bill Barnwell: David Garrard picked up a third down by scrambling from outside the right hashmarks all the way to outside the left hashmarks, juking out Justin Tuck in the process. A few plays later, Garrard scored from five yards out by doing the opposite, ending up in the middle and juking out another Giants player. This is the same defense that was able to slow down Michael Vick's scramble game?

Aaron Schatz: Nobody knows what happened to Michael Clayton's receiving ability after his one-hit wonder rookie year, but we know his run-blocking ability never disappeared. Giants signed him this week and he just hit a good block to help get Ahmad Bradshaw a first down on third-and-2 near the goal line.

Pittsburgh Steelers 19 at Buffalo Bills 16

Vince Verhei: Antwaan Randle El threw an incomplete pass in the first quarter. It was wiped out by a Buffalo offsides penalty. Then they put Randle El's career passing numbers on the screen: 21-of-26 for 300-plus yards, 5 touchdowns, no interceptions. At that rate, doesn't he need to throw at least one pass every game until it stops working?

I really liked some of the play designs on Pittsburgh's latest drive. They used a lot of sets with two tight ends to one side. On one play they ran a zone stretch to the weak side, and when Rashard Mendenhall cut back he had plenty of room thanks the double road graders on that side. Later, Ben Roethlisberger play-faked to the weakside, then rolled back behind the two tight ends. He had plenty of time and hit Hines Ward for a first down. The drive eventually stalled just outside of field- goal range. The Steelers lined up to go for it, then Roethlisberger quick-kicked. The ball rolled into the end zone, but that's just bad execution -- it was still great design.

On the next drive, after some questionable roughing the passer and pass interference penalties on the Steelers, Fred Jackson lines up at wide receiver and takes a screen pass 65 yards for a touchdown. 13-7 Steelers.

David Gardner: Steve Johnson just dropped a slightly high pass at the goal line with the Bills down 16-13. Then Polamalu intercepted it off the tip. Stinks for the Bills and for my fantasy team.

Aaron Schatz: What the heck went wrong with the Steelers today?

Bill Barnwell: Steelers have had a few key drops, offensive line has struggled. Big game from Kyle Williams.

Bill Barnwell: Oh my. Stevie Johnson just dropped a wide open pass in the end zone for what would have been the game-winning score. Three yards past the last defender. CBS says he has five drops today. That has to be the worst drop of the season.

Vince Verhei: Just got finished with that ridiculous PIT-BUF overtime. In addition to the Johnson drop, Buffalo also got a sack-fumble inside the Pittsburgh 1, but Roethlisberger recovered, and eventually Buffalo stopped stopping the Pittsburgh running game.

A few reasons the game went to OT in the first place: the turnovers, and also the one big play on the screen pass. But mostly it was the extremely "short" game played in the first half. Bills only had the ball for the about six minutes in the first half, but Pittsburgh was just making these long, interminable drives that kept both teams off the scoreboard. I think each team had three first-half drives. So Pittsburgh was playing much better, but it was still a close game. Then Buffalo made most of the big plays in the second half.

Carolina Panthers 23 at Cleveland Browns 24

Bill Barnwell: Browns had the ball inside the five-yard line and handed the ball to Peyton Hillis. I know, shocking. What was surprising, though, is that Hillis then went to pass the ball to Benjamin Watson, who was wide open as can be in the end zone. Hillis threw it behind Watson, though. Drive was extended when Evan Moore drew an illegal contact penalty, caught the ball anyway, but then got laid out by a helmet-to-helmet hit in the end zone by Sherrod Martin. Hillis scores on a sweep on the next play.

Jimmy Clausen just threw a pass while he was nearly horizontal, falling down. The only reason it wasn't intercepted was that two Browns defenders had equally large eyes for it.

Evan Moore's great day continues with a fumble inside the Panthers' five-yard line.

Doug Farrar: Jake Delhomme has fumbled, thrown a pick, and thrown another pick that was returned for a touchdown. He hasn’t done this much to help the Panthers win since about 2005.

David Gardner: Also, smart play by Joe Haden, who intercepted a Jimmy Clausen pass, and then slid to be safe rather than trying to return it.

The Panthers get the ball back.

Bill Barnwell: Mike Goodson just made an amazing catch and run in Carolina, gaining something like 40 yards and breaking four tackles in the process, to get the Panthers to midfield with 12 seconds left and no timeouts. Panthers are warming up Rhys Lloyd, their kickoff guy, to set up for what might be a 60-yarder.

Wow. And then Clausen completes a deep out, of all things, for another first down. It's a questionable catch, and despite the fact that Brandon LaFell got out of bounds and the clock is stopped, Fox tries to get Jimmy Clausen to sprint up to the line and spike it so it can't be challenged. Doesn't work. Panthers get the pass, but Kasay pushes the 41-yarder onto the upright and the Browns end up with a 24-23 win.

Kansas City Chiefs 42 at Seattle Seahawks 24

Doug Farrar: And the questions about Jeremy Bates’ short-yardage playcalling continue. On a first-quarter fourth-and-1 play, it’s an incomplete sideline pass to receiver Golden Tate, who’s been out for the last few games. Something in this guy’s brain has him convinced that he has to draw up the goofiest stuff in those situations.

Bill Barnwell: Major problems for Chiefs special teams. The first quarter's not done, and the Seahawks have blocked a field goal and now a punt, with Earl Thomas picking up the punt and returning it for six.

I'm going to speculate that Dwayne Bowe vs. Walter Thurmond will be a mismatch.

Doug Farrar: Kind of a defensive fail by the Seahawks – Thurmond’s a decent nickel guy and can play sideline pretty well, but on a team with one effective wide receiver, why not just have Kelly Jennings go with Bowe either side?

Aaron Schatz: Todd Haley Self-Parody Watch: Halfway into the second quarter, we're at nine carries, 20 yards for Thomas Jones and eight carries, 74 yards for Jamaal Charles.

Doug Farrar: The Seahawks are showing better outside tackling discipline than I've seen from them all season, especially from Aaron Curry, but yeah -- they don't really have a consistent answer for Charles.

Dwayne Bowe vs. Roy Lewis = equal mismatch.

Bill Barnwell: This week in Chiefs goal line adventures: Handoff to Shaun Smith for a touchdown. If anyone doesn't need their ego fed, it's Shaun Smith.

I mean, there is something to the idea that not using Charles as the everydown back and keeping him well-rested; maybe he wouldn't be as effective with twice the carries. But definitely, the optimal point between "keep Charles fresh" and "use him to excess" is somewhere to the right.

Seahawks called for intentional grounding when two wideouts run into each other and Matt Hasselbeck throws deep to what appears to be nobody. Hasselbeck is livid and needs to be restrained on the sideline (although he's livid in a puffy coat, which makes it difficult to look angry). It's pretty clear that one of the guys was going to be heading deep.

Vince Verhei: Hasselbeck was called for intentional grounding even though he was standing in the pocket completely unperturbed. Didn't we just have this discussion, that part of the rule says the quarterback must be under pressure?

Kansas City's latest touchdown shows that Bowe vs. Nobody is also a mismatch.

Bill Barnwell: One other legit reason Charles might sit a little more than we like: Fumbles. He's got nine fumbles in about 500 pro touches, including one that set up the Seahawks for a field goal to end the half. Jones has three on about as many touches over the past couple of seasons.

Doug Farrar: The Seahawks end their first half with incomplete deep sideline passes to Deon Butler on the left and right sidelines on two straight plays, followed by a field goal. Seattle was outgained, 302-71 in the first half, and Brandon Stokley had the two longest plays -- nine and 12 yards. Wherever he is, Mike Williams' agent currently has a cake-eating grin on his face.

That second throw was intended for the imaginary box over Plaxico Burress's head.

Bill Barnwell: That one was actually up a vine that Deon Butler was supposed to climb up to make the play. And then he was going to walk on a series of clouds to the end zone.

Great, great play by Matt Cassel to spin out of a pass pressure and hit Dwayne Bowe in stride for a first down. Chris Clemons just blew by fill-in left tackle Barry Richardson at the snap; Cassel barely had the (shotgun) snap in his hands by the time he had to scramble.

CBS just put a graphic up comparing the rushing yards of the Seahawks and "M.Cassell".

Aaron Schatz: From the network that employs Phil "Asante Samuels" Simms.

Bill Barnwell: Long touchdown pass to Ben Obomanu on a play where the safety on that side appeared to be pulled towards the line of scrimmage by magnets. Total blown coverage.

Aaron Schatz: Matt Cassel just threw his fourth touchdown of the day. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the defenses of the NFC West.

Doug Farrar: I see your defenses of the NFC West and raise you the 5-6, first-place, St. Louis Rams.

Aaron Schatz: At least they have a stud quarterback. S-T-U-D.

Doug Farrar: Yes, they certainly do.

Miami Dolphins 33 at Oakland Raiders 17

Bill Barnwell: Jacoby Ford is the Raiders offense. He returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and he just made a great play as a wideout, luring the defensive back to sleep before suddenly leaping in the air at the last moment to make a catch and then run for his second TD of the day.

Dolphins just had third-and-12 and brought in Tyler Thigpen. Why would you bring in Tyler Thigpen for one play? Why, a quarterback draw. It didn't get the first down. It sounded like Steve Tasker called this a "racing form" play. No idea what that means.

Mike Tanier: I kind of like that strategy for their situation. They should give Thigpen a series or two, just to give the defense something else to worry about.

Now they are shuffling Henne and Thigpen. They are running some half-hearted options.

Doug Farrar: The Dolphins put the Wildcat in motion a couple of years ago out of desperation. It worked for a long time and proved their ability to think outside the box. Tyler Thigpen was an effective Pistol quarterback in Kansas City. The Dolphins ran the Pistol last year with Pat White, and it was the only time Pat White did anything in the NFL. I hate to sound like a broken record about the Pistol, but there’s a real disconnect in this case.

Bill Barnwell: That dominant Raiders rushing game has gotten ten carries for one yard from their running backs today. That's not ten carries for one yard each and a bunch of other carries. That's ten carries for a combined one yard.

Philadelphia Eagles 26 at Chicago Bears 31

Aaron Schatz: Trent Cole: Does any other defensive player in the NFL have a bigger gap between quality and publicity?

Bears are really doing a good job of coverage early on against Philadelphia. Safeties are super deep to prevent those Eagles bombs. Vick isn't finding anyone open, so Bears keep eventually getting to him with a four-man rush.

Vince Verhei: "Burn this play" of the year: Vick pitches left to a slot back coming to the right across the backfield. Vick then picots and steps to throw a LEAD BLOCK. he actually did a decent job, holding up 90 just long enough for the runner to pick up the third-and-1. But still.

Vick then throws a touchdown pass on third down to pull within four, 14-10.

Mike Tanier: The Eagles may want to block Julius Peppers when Vick rolls to his side of the field.

Aaron Schatz: Vick is having a hell of a time with the Bears stadium turf. Can they not get him the proper cleats or something?

Mike Tanier: Geez...I give my kid a bath and it's 28-13 Bears all of a sudden? I do not even want to look at my DVR.

Aaron Schatz: Andy Reid takes a timeout rather than take a delay of game on third-and-19. They come back from the timeout and run... a give-up draw. What, you couldn't run that play from third-and-24?

Doug Farrar: Mike Holmgren approves of this strategy.

Mike Tanier: This is one of those Bad Eagles game. Reid is calling dumb timeouts. They weren't running the ball. The Eagles are goofing off in the red zone. They have Cutler hemmed in, and he farts the ball to Matt Forte for a first down. I have seen this game 20 times in the last decade. Only the quarterback has changed.

Vince Verhei: Eagles add a field goal after a really nice play -- a fake quarterback sneak where Vick inched into the line, then peeled off to the left. Bears weren't fooled and had a chance to make a stop, but Vick gained just enough for the first down.

Aaron Schatz: Eagles just kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the four, score 31-13. I suppose that puts you in position to tie with two touchdowns, but if you are going to go all the way down the field like that doesn't it make sense to try to put it in the end zone, so that later you can go for a 38-yard field goal instead of trying to score a touchdown from the 20 or something?

I would also suggest that the Eagles miss their two starting cornerbacks today. Ellis Hobbs isn't really any better than Joselio Hanson, but Asante Samuel definitely is, and missing Hobbs as well moves everybody up another level and the depth isn't there for nickel and dime.

Bill Barnwell: I can see both sides of that argument. Pinning the Bears deep in their own territory with a miss wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, either.

Aaron Schatz: And on cue, the announcers show stats that Cutler has almost all his success today with throws to the right side, where Samuel normally would be and Hanson is today. Interesting that the Bears are targeting longtime Eagles nickelback Hanson and not career journeyman Dimitri Patterson.

Bill Barnwell: Eagles just kicked a field goal down 31-16 with six minutes left. Granted, they were on fourth-and-goal from the 18-yard line, but how does that improve their situation? Then they kick deep? What on earth?

Mike Tanier: Eagles red zone offense fills me with ennui.

Bill Barnwell: Oh. Andy Reid realized that Mike Martz was going to be unable to resist the urge to throw on third-and-8 when the Eagles had no timeouts left.

Aaron Schatz: HOLY CRAP. Brent Celek just caught a stutter-go seam pass on fourth down with three Chicago Bears defenders (Brian Urlacher, plus two deep safeties) converging on him. I have no idea how he came out with the ball. Not for the first down -- for the touchdown.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10 at Baltimore Ravens 17

David Gardner: Tim Ryan, the commentator for Bucs-Ravens just called Ray Lewis "a great human." A note to all commentators: great football player ≠ great human.

The Bucs are blitzing Flacco a lot early, with mostly bad results.

Bill Barnwell: Right on cue, the Bucs rush three and Joe Flacco tries to force a throw late into a hole in zone; Aqib Talib jumps it and picks the pass off, holding it between his knees at first.

David Gardner: Unfortunately, Cody Grimm just got bent over backward on the return and taken off on a stretcher. Tough play to watch.

Of Freeman's 16 rushes on third down this season, 13 have gone for first downs. He just did it on third-and-7 in the red zone, which led to a chip shot field goal to tie the game.

Todd Heap just got a 60-yard touchdown, courtesy of Sabby Piscitelli. It was Cover-1 with Sean Jones on the wrong side of the field.

And after a very questionable pass interference call against Myron Lewis, Flacco finds Mason in the end zone to put the game at 17-3.

Ray Rice just had a 70-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass called back on a hold.

Micheal Spurlock channeled his inner Stevie Johnson by dropping a wide-open touchdown pass that would have brought the Bucs within a score.

St. Louis Rams 36 at Denver Broncos 33

Bill Barnwell: We say mean things about announcers, so here's a nice one: John Lynch did a really great job in the Denver-St. Louis game over a replay of explaining why Mario Haggan needed to set the edge, how he was supposed to do it, what he did wrong, and what the result was.

Vince Verhei: Sam Bradford, by the way, has three touchdowns today and 17 on the year. That ties him with Otto Graham and Ben Roethlisberger for 12th place among rookies. Record is 26 by Peyton Manning.

Rams give up a 41-yard touchdown bomb to Brandon Lloyd. Rams add a field goal, then Kyle Orton drives the Broncos for another touchdown. They missed the two-point try, though. They've got the ball again, but down ten instead of eight with less than five minutes to go.

Broncos get another touchdown and they trail by three. With 2:35 to go, they try an onsides kick. Boy do I hate that call -- you're rolling, and that's plenty of time to get a stop and get the ball back.

Bill Barnwell: Well, the Broncos get a partially blocked punt from former Notre Dame safety David Bruton after stopping Jackson on third-and-short to get the ball back with great field position and a minute to go. Considering it's in Denver, they only need 20 yards or so for a field goal to get a reasonably makeable kick.

Ryan Harris is getting worked by Chris Long (who is this year's Tamba Hali) on this final series: Long sacks Orton on first down, draws a hands to the face on third down, and then beats Harris to hit Kyle Orton in his motion and force an incompletion on fourth down.

San Diego Chargers 36 at Indianapolis Colts 14

Aaron Schatz: We're not going to see a lot of defense tonight, are we?

Mike Tanier: I just saw some defense! Kevin Burnett's interception. The Chargers do know how to frustrate themselves some Peyton.

The Chargers aren't running a lot of crazy stuff on defense. On the Burnett interception, it looks like they moved guys around in the underneath zones, but the second interception looked like a vanilla pass rush, Peyton Manning just threw a lousy pass. They aren't shifting fronts around or putting defensive backs on the line or doing any of the things they used to do to throw the Colts off.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, I was going to say -- the typical reasoning behind the "Colts have a harder time with 3-4 defenses" idea is that Manning and Saturday have a harder time identifying pass rushers in a 3-4. I suppose we can say that was part of the Burnett interception -- they thought he was coming, instead he dropped out. I think Manning was hit in motion on the second pick.

Ben Muth: These field goals aren't going to cut it. You need touchdowns in the red zone against the Colts.

Benjy Rose: Ha! Score one for the SNF production crew. James bobbles the kickoff, and going to commercial, the background music bed is .38 Special's "Hold On Loosely." Nice.

Ben Muth: I have a hunch that Jacob Tamme will be the Scott Mitchell of tight ends.

Aaron Schatz: Well, maybe not, since he won't be on the market for a couple years. (He was a 2008 draft pick.) If he becomes a free agent at some point, it is probably after a season where Dallas Clark is healthy most of the year and he goes back to the bench.

I enjoyed the split-screen special Freeney and Mathis camera boxes at the start of the third quarter, although I was a little worried that the Colts-Chargers game had turned into Ang Lee's "Hulk."

Ben Muth: That was really bad tackling on the interception. I know they're offensive players, but it's not that hard to shove someone out of bounds.

Aaron Schatz: Wow. And as the replay after commercial shows, Eric Weddle got away with fairly blatant pass interference on the interception.

And the rookie right guard, Jeff Linkenbach, is killing them. Antonio Garay just pushed him back into Manning full force for a sack.

The Colts special teams are definitely out-sucking the Chargers special teams tonight. These kickoff and punt returns are just dismal.

Ned Macey: The Colts always struggle with (and generally lose to) San Diego, but it is always close. For an optimistic Colts fans, it is pretty hard to watch this and not worry that this team is severely flawed. All of the other losses were forgivable/understandable, but this is an ass-whipping at home with no aspects of the team doing well.

Also, the Colts will fail to win 12 games for the first time since 2002, which is a ridiculous streak. Good thing the Jaguars lost today, so I think the Colts still have to be favored to make the playoffs, but a 10-6 team hosting NYJ or NE Wild Card weekend is not somewhere the Colts wanted to be when the season started.

Bill Barnwell: OK. I can understand punting down 22 points with four minutes left. But when you get the ball back after you've clearly given up, why do you put Manning back in?

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 29 Nov 2010

192 comments, Last at 03 Dec 2010, 11:14am by Noah of Arkadia

Comments

1
by rolub (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 11:44am

David Gardner: Also, smart play by Joe Haden, who intercepted a Jimmy Clausen pass, and then slid to be safe rather than trying to return it.

I know this is proper in most situations, and it may be asking a lot to have a rookie DB aware of how many timeouts the opposing team has remaining, but I thought this was a mistake with around 2 minutes on the clock and the Panthers holding on to 3 timeouts. I understand that a fumble on a return gives the Panthers the ball with 3 TOs remaining, but based on where he caught it, I think he had a legitimate chance of returning it for 6. As it turned out, the Panthers held the Browns to 3 and out using their timeouts, and put themselves in a situation to win the game from 42 yards out.

While I disagree with David and Haden in this situation, I am happy that Haden appears to be a coachable rookie, as I'm sure this is something that the coaching staff has stressed.

2
by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 11:45am

"Golly, Patriots special teams look awful today. Brandon Tate on two straight kickoffs has not been able to get back to the 20. If you try to return the kickoff and don't get back to the 20, that's a serious FAIL.
"

Despite the two TD returns, I don't think Tate is a good kick returner. He's got great speed, but terrible quickness.

3
by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 11:49am

It was also frustrating that the Pats couldn't or wouldn't try to combat what Detroit was doing. Every Lions kickoff went to the (Pats') right corner of the field and NE never seemed to try to tweak the return scheme to give Tate a chance with kicks going to that spot.

5
by Temo :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 11:59am

I mean honestly, if the kicker is good enough to put it there, there is very little the return team can do to alleviate that.

9
by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:06pm

you can start shifting more blockers to that side of the field, or start just letting the ball drop, and hope it bounces out of bounds.

There's little you can do if it happens once. If they do it over and over again, you can start shifting schemes.

41
by dryheat :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:35pm

Right. Either it goes OOB, or a touchback. Either way, the Patriots would be better off.

44
by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:39pm

Well, if it doesn't go OOB the returner still needs to pick it up before the kicking team does. So letting it bounce into the endzone is kinda dangerous.

46
by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:47pm

only if the other team keeps their gunners onside, which they almost never do.

65
by Overrated (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:31pm

That seems smart, until they kick it to the other corner instead.

88
by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:20pm

In which case, it most likely ends up a touchback, or bouncing out of bounds, which are both better results than Brandon Tate running the ball out to the 15.

143
by Temo :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 6:23pm

Right, but shifting blockers, as the poster suggested, is not easy or feasible or effective.

That's why most ST coaches have their kickers do directional kickoffs, despite the few times it results in OOB kicks.

4
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 11:53am

I just struggle to believe that a team with such a haphazard offensive line like the Steelers can get to the Big Dance.

The league must kind of stink if a team can win consistently while failing to have guys show any pretense of skill or technique. They are mostly filler who act as barriers.

Oh, and likely yelling to Ben to "Look out!"

34
by David :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:17pm

Personally, I choose to believe that the Steelers offensive line are actually very, very good, but that they are also enraged by Ben's conduct towards women, and have decided to play as poorly as possibly, in order to have Ben damaged.

It isn't true, but it's what I choose to believe :)

Yay for the incredibly good, but also very moral, Pittsburgh offensive linemen!

127
by vague (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:19pm

Dr Zoidberg? I didnt know you liked the Steelers

6
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:03pm

Ever since Andy Reid punted with 1:48 left, down 3, with 2 timeouts against the Saints, who gashed the iggles on the ground btw, in the playoff game some years ago, I've known that he's hopeless with the clock. There's just no rhyme or reason to his brainlocks late in the fourth quarter.

7
by tlpc78 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:03pm

Thanks guys, seeing a wonderful collision of two of my favorite things in life just made my day.

16
by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:18pm

Yeah, but Andre Johnson went Brock Samson on a D-back.

8
by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:04pm

The Dolphins didn't appear to miss Brandon Marshall, which isn't a good thing if you're him. The Raiders looked horrible on offense. The announcers kept pushing their QB as the man that fits their coaches personality. I'm guessing that means Tom Cable has one lousy personality. This was the worst pair of announcers I ever heard call a game. A racing form play is a play that is obvious after the fact. Like the winning horse is obvious after the race is over. And yes had they not explained that after they used it, I also wouldn't know what they were talking about.

10
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:07pm

The Bears ability to consistently gain better field position is likely what is going to win them the division.

GB continues to surrender field position to any team with competent special teams requiring that Rodgers drive 75 yards plus regularly which is a ridiculous hurdle at the pro level.

23
by BJR :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:45pm

The Bears' kick and punt return teams really are something else. It wasn't just Hester yesterday, but Daniel Manning also had two big returns (one of which was brought back for a very ticky tack holding call). I'd love to know from a coaching perspective what they are doing differently to other teams? Or is it just that they have two particularly skilled returners?

That, along with having Julius Peppers, may very well win them the division.

59
by TomC :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:12pm

Without a wealth of all-22 film to break down, I can't say exactly what Toub does scheme-wise that's any different from other teams' ST coaches, but I think a major part of the Bears' ST success has to do with roster priority. They always hold two or three spots for guys that aren't expected to do anything but cover kicks and block on returns, they target guys in free agency that have demonstrated ST willingness and prowess (T. Shaw, B. Iwuh), and they spend high draft picks on return specialists.

11
by Joe T. :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:09pm

Re: Colts as a "flawed" team

Are they not without 2 WRs, 1 starting TE, 1 starting RB, 1 semi-starting all-pro SS & 1 starting MLB?

15
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:15pm

A whole lot more than that actually, but all teams have some injuries this time of year.

72
by MJK :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:51pm

Well, I can tell you, I'm a fan of [favorite hometown team], so I should know. [favorite hometown team] has suffered far worse injuries than any other team this year. They lost [established veteran] and [aging but longtime fan favorite] early in the season/in training camp, and since have lost [player that made Pro Bowl once in his career] and [player that has never been a Pro Bowler but local fans all think gets jobbed every year and hence is effectively a Pro-Bowler], not to mention [various combinations of backup players no one else has heard of]. That's at least three or four Pro-Bowlers they're missing.

On top of that, there was [promising rookie who looked really good in minicamp and was already a future NFL star in fans' minds] who was put on IR right at the beginning of the season.

Plus [chronically injured player] has missed a lot of time this year, and for their games against [decent opponent] they were missing [random veteran], which was a pretty big hit because of the timing.

Add to that the fact that [starting QB] has been playing through the pain of [nagging but non-critical injury], and you'll easily agree that [favorite hometown team] has had the worst injury luck this year, and it's not even close.

After all, the only players that [other team] is missing is [fantasy star]. Right?

75
by BJR :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:54pm

Like

76
by dbt :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:56pm

Resolved: Any discussion longer than [unreasonably low] number of posts must result in a mad lib template or the thread is a [word for non-success].

86
by dmb :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:16pm

Don't forget that [random starter] missed a few games due to suspension. [Favorite hometown team] would probably have won at least [close loss against mediocre team], [close loss against division rival], and [game against decent opponent that random veteran missed]. So if they had just made that field goal against [conference opponent] and weren't having injury problems, they'd be at the top of the league!

103
by CaffeineMan :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:12pm

Freakin' hilarious, including the replies above. Nicely done, all.

170
by bubqr :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 7:29am

Damn funny, especially since it comes before all those types of comments below.

179
by Noah of Arkadia :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 11:54am

Well, I can tell you, I'm a fan of [Dolphins], so I should know. [Dolphins] has suffered far worse injuries than any other team this year. They lost [established veteran (Phillip Merling)] and [aging but longtime fan favorite] early in the season/in training camp, and since have lost [player that made Pro Bowl once in his career (Chad Pennington)] and [player that has never been a Pro Bowler but local fans all think gets jobbed every year and hence is effectively a Pro-Bowler (Will Allen)], not to mention [various combinations of backup players no one else has heard of (A.J. Eddas, C]. That's at least three or four Pro-Bowlers they're missing.

On top of that, there was [promising rookie who looked really good in minicamp and was already a future NFL star in fans' minds (Jared Odrick)] who was put on IR right at the beginning of the season.

Plus [chronically injured player (Channing Crowder)] has missed a lot of time this year, and for their games against [decent opponent (Chicago)] they were missing [random veteran (Joe Berger)], which was a pretty big hit because of the timing.

185
by BigCheese :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 6:28pm

Actualy, in one of the greatest injustices ever, Chad Pennington goes in the [player that has never been a Pro Bowler but local fans all think gets jobbed every year and hence is effectively a Pro-Bowler] slot, not in the "made one PB" slot. Shocking, I know.

- Alvaro

191
by DavidL :: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 10:36am

I think we can rule that in a pinch, any league-wide award, like Comeback Player of the Year, can suffice.

192
by Noah of Arkadia :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 11:14am

Yeah, we all love the Chad, c'mon!

180
by Noah of Arkadia :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 12:03pm

I went ahead and did the Dolphins. Just for fun. I'm only missing the "aging but longtime fan favorite" dude:

"Well, I can tell you, I'm a fan of [Dolphins], so I should know. [Dolphins] has suffered far worse injuries than any other team this year. They lost [established veteran (Phillip Merling)] and [aging but longtime fan favorite] early in the season/in training camp, and since have lost [player that made Pro Bowl once in his career (Chad Pennington)] and [player that has never been a Pro Bowler but local fans all think gets jobbed every year and hence is effectively a Pro-Bowler (Will Allen)], not to mention [various combinations of backup players no one else has heard of (Nate Garner, A.J. Edds, Cory Procter, Kory Sheets]. That's at least three or four Pro-Bowlers they're missing.

On top of that, there was [promising rookie who looked really good in minicamp and was already a future NFL star in fans' minds (Jared Odrick)] who was put on IR right at the beginning of the season.

Plus [chronically injured player (Channing Crowder)] has missed a lot of time this year, and for their games against [decent opponent (Chicago)] they were missing [random veteran (Joe Berger)], which was a pretty big hit because of the timing.

Add to that the fact that [starting QB (Henne)] has been playing through the pain of [nagging but non-critical injury (knee)], and you'll easily agree that [Dolphins] has had the worst injury luck this year, and it's not even close."

20
by Monkey Business (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:38pm

They've IR'd Gonzo, Clark, and Bullitt.

Last night they were also without Addai, Collie, Sanders, Brackett, and Eldridge.

So, that's 2 WRs, 2 TE, 1 RB, 2 SSs, and 1 LB.

So, on offense they were down a starting WR, RB, and TE, as well as key contributors at WR and TE. On defense they were down the starting MLB and SS, as well as his very competent backup.

Basically, this team has been decimated by injuries at every position they thought they were set at. An embarrassment of riches at WR, TE, and S has turned in to "Who's catching a pass from Peyton this week?".

32
by Joe T. :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:09pm

Yes - my point was that they are injured at key positions offensively + defensively, not that they are necessarily more injured overall than other teams.

Patriots placekicker & 3DRB being injured is hardly equivalent to Colts MLB + insanely good TE being injured.

36
by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:21pm

Way to ignore 90% fo that post.

43
by Joe T. :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:38pm

No problem, thanks for missing the point of mine! ;-)

45
by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:45pm

I didn't miss the point of yours. I just think your point is incorrect.

Dallas Clark is great, but I don't think Anthony Gonzalez, Austin Collie, Gary Brackett, and Joseph Addai are anything more than replaceable pieces. I also don't think that saying they're "missing" Bob Sanders is being honest with yourself.

I happen to think plenty of teams, like the Packers and Patriots, are missing significantly more important pieces.

131
by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:31pm

So how is this an excuse against the Chargers?

51
by RickD :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:56pm

Patriots put their #2 D-lineman and #1 CB on IR before the season started. (Though arguably Bodden would now be the #2 CB based on McCourty's play, he's still better than Butler or Arrington.)

I think Bob Sanders has reached the point where the IR is his natural state of being, and you have to consider it a bonus if he actually plays.

OTOH, my fantasy team was relying on Dallas Clark and Austin Collie, so I'm a bit pissed about their injuries.

53
by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:59pm

What about their excellent starting DE and #1 CB not playing a single game this year? Is that equivalent?

78
by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:57pm

As far as I know, the Colts have had one of the most healthy OL in football, but that is the whole problem - Jim Brown couldn't run behind that line and none of the players missing will help how bad they are.

92
by Purds :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:25pm

No kidding! I was telling my wife that the Colts had terrible injury luck, and she said that every team has injuries (smart woman). But, I pointed out, the Colts could afford 5 or 6 injuries to the OL, as they all are barely better than street FA's, yet the Colts keep losing guys that matter. I would trade injuries to a LB (Brackett) and SS (Bullitt) for 4 injuries to the OL.

102
by Independent George :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:05pm

Do you remember the days when Edgerrin James would gash opponents for 6-7 yards whenever defenses cheated against the pass? Even though the line never really opened up the big holes to justify a 6-7 yard gain? If I recall correctly, Addai did the same thing in his rookie year.

What happened? It can't all be age, can it?

108
by Nathan :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:34pm

could it have something to do with the fact that edgerrin james is no longer on the team and addai has been inactive for the last six weeks?

159
by billsfan :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 11:09pm

Not to mention the departure of fullback Jim Finn in 2002.

(I also like the Eagles)

21
by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:44pm

All Pro SS?

Bob Sanders is about the same player as Fred Taylor at this point. He's never "missing", he's sometimes available.

Every team is hurt badly at this point in the year, and despite their insistence otherwise, the Colts aren't all that worse off than most teams. For instance, the patriots are missing:

ProBowl CB (Bodden)
Probowl DE (T.Warren)
Probowl RB (Taylor)
3rd Down RB (who has had highest RB DVOA last couple years) (FAULK)
Probowl guard (Neal)
Probowl kicker (Ghostkowski)

Their first backups at T (Kazcur), Safety (McGowan), NT (Pryor) are also hurt.

Now, Neal, Pryor, Taylor may all come back, but thats as bad as the Colts, if not worse, and I bet there are a half dozen teams who are as bad or worse.

24
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:50pm

It's not a contest but any Colts fan complaining should look around the league.

Green Bay starters on the IR:

JerMichael Finley, TE
Nick Barnett, LB
Brady Popping, LB
Morgan Burnett, Safety
Ryan Grant, RB
Brad Jones, LB
Mike Neal, DE
Derrick Martin, Safety
Mark Tauscher, RT

So that's a Pro Bowl running back, a long-time anchor at the O-line, a budding star at TE, 3 starting linebackers and a starting safety.

And this doesn't count Jolly who was suspended for the season nor guys like Pickett who have missed about the half the games.

52
by RickD :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:58pm

As a Pats fan, I have to say I'm happy that an LB named "Brady Popping" will be on the IR when the Packers visit Foxboro in a couple weeks.

(edit - interesting typo)

69
by MJK :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:43pm

Sorry, I thought "Brady Popping" was a code name for Bernard Pollard. My thought was "He plays for the Packers now? He now plays LB?"

87
by Purds :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:17pm

Maybe they do, but I don't know: do other teams have multiple guys starting right now who are so bad they were not on ANY team's NFL roster at the start of the season, not even on a practice squad? Colts have two I can think of: Hagler and Francisco. That's not good.

168
by Kulko :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 5:54am

You would e surprised how many players it needs to start 22 guys for 32 NFL teams, and how low that floor therefore is. And I do remember NE fileding a top 3 defense with a guy like Earthwind Moreland at starting cornerback.

And secondly, if you have replacement players below replacement level, that is not bad luck, but an deliberate team building decision.

So yes the colts are bad this year, becuase certain players are injured. But they are not Unlucky to be bad, because injuries like that happen all the time.

90
by jmaron :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:24pm

I only get to watch GB about 4-5 times a year. I'm thinking the injury to Finley was the biggest loss.

What say you?

99
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:50pm

The reason the loss of Finley was so significant was that McCarthy had made the guy the center of his offense. Once he went down it took MM about 3 games to figure out what the h*ll to do which boggles my tiny brain.

Tauscher has been replaced by Belaga. Belaga has been beaten in pass protection but Tauscher was a train wreck before he went to the IR so call that a push.

Desmond Bishop is a bit lost in coverage but makes up for it by packing a real wallop. Again, a wash I suppose to Barnett? Maybe a Packer fan can confirm who he really replaced.

Poppinga stinks and any change there is for the better. I was stunned he was starting.

Hawk isn't flashy and doesn't make big plays so his draft status hangs over his head but the guy is typically where he is supposed to be and makes the tackle. A wash

Peprah has been better than Burnett. My understanding is that this has stunned Packer fans as the guy has been around for seemingly 10 years and never looked decent.

Grant's absense hurts. Jackson is good in blitz pickup and is a good run after the catch guy but too tentative hitting the hole.

Mike Neal had real ability collapsing the pocket. Only a few games but he looked to be a real find by Thompson.

Ultimately to this uneducated observer I think GB's offense is worse off but its defense better off due to injury.

140
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 6:20pm

Offensively the loss of Grant was huge. He wasn't an amazing tailback, but he was solid and that is all the offense needs. He made teams respect the run, which helped open the passing game, and then that open passing game would allow him to make the odd big run. It was a neat little cycle that could be shut down by teams, but not as easily as this run game could.

Finley was the offensive centerpiece, and yes the offense was way off it's rhythm but I still think that had more to do with trying to adjust to no Ryan Grant at that stage and the fact the Greg Jennings was only catching about 50% his targets. It was funny that when he started to "take off again" the number of targets didn't really change, he was just catching more of them (I think he's caught 70% of his targets the last 6 games vs the 50% at the start). Note this is not new for him either. The offensive has absorbed the loss of Finley, it's still trying to figure out what to do without Grant.

Bulaga is better than Tauscher now. He had issues early but he is also a left tackle not a right tackle. But I actually call him an upgrade now, he's a rookie, he just took some ramp up time. But he is good about correcting his mistakes, he rarely makes the same one twice and that is good sign.

Defensively

ILB for the Packers was Hawk and Barnett, with Chillar coming in for Hawk in passing situations. Chillar spent time injured and what happens now is that Hawk stays in most of the time and Chillar will sub for Bishop on several passing downs. It's actually a more significant downgrade than people think. Bishop lays the lumber but he is not assignment sure in either phase of the game. Hawk is assignment sure but not a big play guy. Barnett was assignment sure and would make a few big plays. Chillar is pretty solid on passing downs, but he's lost the big play ability. It was a hit they could absorb but it had more impact because it really screwed up the rotations.

On the outside Jones was looking very good and had actual pass rush skills that didn't require scheme. He would have made Matthews even better than he is. I think. Poppinga was better than he got credit for but he isn't a starter, he was a back-up. The Packers D used a lot of rotation to keep people fresh and was fine for that. Now we have Frank Zombo (undrafted rookie free agent) taking most of the snaps. Yes he's got a few sacks, mostly from scheme, but he is only average in run support and I don't like him pass coverage. Of course he is getting better, he was a 4-3 defensive end in college who was 30 lbs heavier than he is now. So yeah there are times I'd rather have Poppinga out there. And the guys backing up Matthews and Zombo are now Erik Walden and Diyral Briggs are the back-ups. There is no longer any rotation at OLB.

On the line, Mike Neal was very solid. Justin Harrell was actually playing well, but everyone expected him to get hurt so that's a wash. Jolly being lost to suspension was a bigger hit, and part of the pain we see in the run game. But there have been games where the Packers only had 2 healthy down linemen on a unit that was expecting heavy rotation between 5 or 6 players. Howard Green and CJ Wilson are providing that rotation now, but that is part of the issue with stopping the run. With Pickett back and Jenkins finally not in a cast I was hoping to see more improvement there than they have shown.

In the secondary Bigby was on PuP to start the season but might not have won the job over Burnett. Of course Burnett made some rookie mistakes but he also flashed. Charlie Peprah has been a complete surprise. He failed in every opportunity he got in past seasons, but he has made some huge plays this year (you got to see 2 very good ones on 2nd and 3rd downs when Atlanta was on the one, sadly they converted on the 4th down try pretty easily). I think both of them were upgrades over Bigby.

The other injury, to Underwood, that opened a door let Sam Shields in and that has been an upgrade as I think Tramon Williams was an upgrade of Al Harris and I think Shields is playing nickle as well as Williams did or only slightly below.

So I think the Packers secondary is better for the injuries but I think the D-line and linebackers are worse. This plays out in the weaker run defense and the weakness to some of the short and interior passing game.

Overall I think the defense is a wash from the injuries, though some of that is Dom Capers is a damn fine coordinator.

Offense has certainly taken a step back. The run game is much worse (and it was only average to begin with) and Finley helped open up the deep passing game more than people think by locking safeties drawing corners and such. Now teams don't have to do that as much as the linebackers can cover the current TE's just fine and don't have to respect the run game. The corners and safeties only really have to worry about the mid and deep passing game. The offense can still over come that. 4 losses all in overtime or to FG's in the last 10 seconds. The team is still solid, but I do think the offensive injuries have kept them being great.

79
by Southern Philly :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:02pm

I can't tell if this is supposed to be sarcastic or not. 3 of those guys never made the Pro Bowl.

154
by BigDerf :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 8:25pm

Because we all know how good the Pro Bowl is at measuring guy's worth. Good luck making the Pro Bowl in the AFC if your names not Rivers Brady or Manning. Unless of course 2 of the 3 back out with injuries like usual and let the total get up to 5 AFC Pro Bowl QBs.

The Pro Bowl is a horrible standard by which to measure players.

178
by MCS :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 11:48am

Didn't Derek Anderson make the pro bowl in the AFC?

182
by Eddo :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 12:32pm

I think so. David Garrard definitely did, just last year. (In fact, something like six or seven AFC QBs were "pro-bowlers" last year.)

160
by billsfan :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 11:11pm

The Pats really could have used some of Fred Taylors 11,638 career rushing yards this season...

(I also like the Eagles)

35
by Yaguar :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:19pm

So much focus is given to the Colts' injuries that people are ignoring the bigger problem: this is the worst offensive line they've had since I became a fan in 1996.

We like to pretend that receivers on the Colts are important. "Oh no, Marvin Harrison is gone. Wait, Anthony Gonzalez is awesome. Oh no! He's gone. Wait, Austin Collie is awesome. Oh no! He's injured. Wait, Blair White looks great. What will the Colts do without Dallas Clark? Oh, check out Jacob Tamme. He looks like an elite tight end."

Obviously, the narrative of the last 3-4 years doesn't seem to suggest that receivers are actually that important. Manning can compensate for a whole lot of things. But he can't make Jeff Linkenbach look like a good offensive lineman, and he can't stop Donald Brown from being hit 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

42
by Independent George :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:36pm

Actually, I think Manning has historically made up for mediorcre lines with his quick reads & release; I think it's a combination of particularly poor line play with some age-related decline. Mind you, the declining Manning is going from (arguably) Top-5 all-time to Top-5 in 2010, but it's still a decline.

The problem is that where a declining John Elway was aided by a stellar line and the best RB in the league, the Colts are built completely around Manning being able to make up for their deficiencies elsewhere.

48
by Yaguar :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:49pm

Tarik Glenn and Ryan Lilja were both well above average at their positions, Jeff Saturday's age-related decline has been pretty steep.

The guys the Colts have now are absolutely horrible. Right up there with the worst of the Arizona offensive lines when they were starting Alex Stepanovich and such.

55
by RickD :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:02pm

Agree that the O-line is a huge weakness. The Chargers were reaching Manning last night even without bringing extra rushers. Even the mediocre Pats' pass rush got a lot of pressure on Manning.
Manning is great, but even he cannot pass effectively when he's only got 1-2 seconds before a defender is in the backfield. And once he starts getting hit, he starts throwing picks, though to be fair, one of the picks last night should have been DPI, and I think two came off passes where he was hit while throwing.

142
by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 6:22pm

The offensive line has been offensive since Glenn retired and is the worst this year it has been except for the early part of (2007?) where Saturday was missing. Polian has just decided, or been told, not to work on it. I was appalled when they passed on Saffold to take Hughes in the draft, but they did spend on Ugoh, he just didn't turn out.

But folks, there is something wrong with Peyton Manning. His receivers are awful, but Pierre Garcon isn't -that much- worse than Derek Hagan, say, who started with the other Manning Sunday. And Blair White is only a few steps down from Austin Collie, who is possibly as good as Brandon Stokley circa 2005. Manning's throws do not look sharp; he lobs too many passes.

I think part of it is dealing with the lack of protection; he's throwing early and substituting air time for holding-the-ball time. But he just doesn't look sharp, and I'd love to know if he's hurt or if it's just inability to run the offense with all the new faces and no offensive line.

Maybe Tom Moore needs to come up with something a little more creative for this year, since the same old isn't cutting it. The Colts thrived on execution, but this bunch isn't executing.

148
by Purds :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 6:59pm

Let's face it, how can you tell anything about PM right now? The Colts have no running game, nor the threat of a running game. They rushed for 24 yards last night. 24! on 13 carries. That's just awful.

Any QB having to throw in that type of situation is going to struggle.

156
by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 8:57pm

I agree, it's tough. But it was tough last year, and he was meaningfully better. Why is it that Pierre Garcon can be merely bad last year and suddenly becomes cover-your-eyes awful this year, running the wrong route on every other play and dropping any pass he manages to get near enough to touch?

Manning hasn't been sacked that often, and while obviously (to anyone who has watched the Colts play) that's more about Manning than the offensive line, it is still an indication that he's at least seeing receivers.

Maybe Dallas Clark really is that critical as a second target after Reggie Wayne? He does seem to force the ball to Reggie a lot even when Reggie is double or triple covered (see Reggie's long drop against the Chargers - which was against two covering DB's, even if he had separation).

157
by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 9:00pm

I still maintain that the Colts would have beaten the Patriots if Dallas Clark had been healthy - and I say that as a Patriots fan, not a Colts fan. His presence creates mismatches that no other player on that offense creates.

12
by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:11pm

Random NFCE related notes:

-The Roy Williams fumble was brutal, but Dallas' 2-minute drill at the end of the game was really, really sad. As a Giants fan I was rooting for the out-of-it 'Boys to hang a loss on the in-it Saints, which felt weird to begin with.

-Eagles missed Asante big time. That was the perfect game for him, against a shaky O-line and a QB who had to rely on the quick patterns, he definitely would have had chances to jump routes.

-Perry Fewell has done some really good things with the Giants D this year, but refusing to come out of nickel when the Jags were in max protect and running for 150 yards in the first half was really strange. Shades of the Indy game in the first half there. Also, Keith Bullock looks D-O-N-E and Boley had a bad game.

-Kevin Boss will get a lot of credit for making the play of the game against the Jags, but his earlier play really helped put the Giants in a hole. 2 holding infractions, one of which erased a TD, and a huge drop that forced the ginats to punt from their own end zone. He only caught 3 of his 8 targets. He really is a very average pass catching TE.

50
by Quincy :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:54pm

-As another Giant fan rooting for the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, I felt as if the Roy Williams fumble was part of continued payback for knocking Romo out, payback that started with Garrett's coaching debut. I was really hoping the 'Boys would pull that game out because never has the difference between the 5 and 6 seeds been as important as in the NFC this year.

-I was just relieved to see that Fewell made some half time adjustments. After the Colts and Cowboys' games I was beginning to worry that he was completely incapable of adjusting when an opponent finds scheme/assignment issues to exploit early in the game. I know most of the second-half improvement has been attributed to the players ratcheting up the intensity at half, but whatever it was made a huge difference.

-I actually think Boss has pretty good hands. The drop you pointed out was terrible, but he made a terrific diving catch on the next possession despite tight coverage. He also does a great job of hanging on to the ball after some wicked hits over the middle. I agree he's only an average receiving threat at tight end, but think that's less because of his hands and more a product of his inability to get separation.

61
by TomC :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:21pm

Agree 100% on Samuel. Cutler played a great game yesterday (and, as one of the most stubborn Cutler defenders on this site, I was very relieved to see him finally put one of those together), but lots of his completions were just out of the reach of a DB, and a guy with slightly better anticipation and ball skills might have picked one or two.

64
by dbt :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:29pm

Two TDs come to mind. One, the Greg Olson pick that needed to be ripped out of a DB's hands from overhead, and the second was the 2nd TD to Bennett where it was a little sideline out. I still see a DB running that one back for a pick 6 in my nightmares. He has the fastball to get it there but sometimes not the control to keep it low and away.

The other thing that worries me about this team is that they took two big leads and almost gave them both up: 14-3, then nothing on offense until after the Eagles almost tied it up stopped only by that pick. The offense was terrible in the 2nd quarter. After that once the Eagles started moving the ball late in the 4th they could not get a few first downs to ice the game and run out the clock. It came down to covering an onside kick to win the game that they otherwise could have given away.

73
by Eddo :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:52pm

Yep, the touchdown to Olsen wasn't a great throw, but I thought the second one to Bennett was spot-on. He put that ball in a place where it really couldn't have been picked, even if Samuel had been there.

To be fair, the Bears should have had a first down on their penultimate non-kneeling drive; the play after which Cutler got the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was pass interference, I thought. The Eagles' LB was shoving Forte while the ball was in the air.

111
by tuluse :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:54pm

We saw the benefits to a "gun-slinger" mentality today. That throw to Olsen wasn't great, but it was good enough, and Olsen is starting to play up to his potential and helped Cutler out with a great catch. The shovel pass looking thing to Forte was the other big example. You don't want to see your QB trying that too often, but once in a while it makes for an exciting play that gets a 1st down.

83
by Jimmy :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:08pm

The TD to Bennett (where he ran into the corner of the end zone after making the catch) was a perfectly legitimate throw. Mikell made a mistake (or most likely was fooled) when he took a step to his right in response to the Bears WRs' movement. At that point he couldn't cover the flat when Cutler put the ball there. Points go to Bennett for coming back to ball to make the catch (Johnny Knox should take note of this) but the only reason people think that Mikell could have made a play on the ball is because of the fore-shortening angle of the TV picture. Mikell's hand never got within a yard of the ball in the air.

The Olsen TD was also not quite as bad as the first look might indicate. The Eagles often play red zone defence with their DBs in the middle of the end zone allowing receivers to get behind them, it allows them to more efficiently guard the front of the end zone but does leave them having to turn and try to make a play on a ball to the back. As Cutler threw the ball the DB was in a very poor position to get back to Olsen and (rather importantly) get elevation to stop Olsen bringing the ball down. Yes he did get a hand on the ball but only after Olsen had caught it and trying to stop a 255lb TE establishing possession two feet above your head with half of one hand whilst on tippy toes isn't going to work very often. I would probably have liked to see Cutler throw the ball a foot higher but the read was correct and the throw was good enough.

67
by JasonK :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:39pm

I think there may be some connection between your "Perry Fewell refuses to come out of Nickel" and "Keith Bulluck is Done" points.

113
by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:58pm

Yeah, I came to that conclusion later this morning, talking with a buddy about the game. I think Fewell just believes his third safety is better than his third linebacker. That said, I think it's clear now that Goff is a lot better than Bulluck at this point. I like Boley (despite bad game yesterday), I like Goff. Sintim needs to step up and be that 3rd LB.

138
by Dr. Mooch :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 6:05pm

He might be shell shocked into routine after several seasons in Buffalo, where linebackers are all made of glass. For the past few years he was lucky to have one functional linebacker at any time.

104
by rdy4thefiesta :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:18pm

To take your Bullock point a little further, the Giants played their two best defensive games (Bears and Texans) of the year when Bullock was hurt and Clint Sintum was starting. I was somewhat surprised that they put Bullock back in the lineup when he was healthy. Bullock's injury and the Giants' great games may not be related, but it jives with my and apparently your belief that Bullock looks done.

13
by feb31st :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:15pm

Phil Simms: The Joe Morgan of football

14
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:15pm

I was stunned that Mr. Challenge Happy, Mike McCarthy, didn't throw the flag on the Gonzalez trap. But then it was reported that nobody on the Packer side was afforded a replay until well after the next play had happened. Apparently the press box had the same problem. And it was the only time during the game that this type of delay happened.

To GB's credit they didn't whine about the gamesmanship.

17
by andrew :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:21pm

Um... if you saw the finale, you know that a "Rusty Venture" is a fairly profane nickname now. It has even resulted in the definition appearing in the Urban Dictionary, which might set off various language filters...

18
by andrew :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:22pm

Also congrats on a stubble-free audibles.

19
by Led :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:35pm

I highly doubt Celek catches that seam pass (at least not without taking a big hit) if the league didn't start calling personal fouls on hits to receivers. Chris Harris was in position to lay the wood on Celek but awkwardly tried to play the ball. Still a great pass and catch.

177
by ChaosOnion :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 11:00am

Play the man, not the ball!

31
by ammek :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:06pm

So I have the Falcons-Packers game early, and all the pre-game talk was about how good they are at home. It just made me wonder, Why?

Atlanta's first three opponents at home in 2010: Cardinals, 49ers, Bengals.

Last year, its non-divisional home games were versus Miami, Buffalo, Washington, Chicago and Philadelphia. (On the road, it faced NE, NYJ, Dal, NYG, SF.) It lost its only two home games against teams with winning records (Eagles (scoreline: 34-7) and Saints) but those games don't count to cherrypicking announcers because Matt Ryan did not start.

In 2008, Ryan's first year, Atlanta beat the Chiefs (2-14), Lions (0-16), Rams (2-14) and Bears (9-7).

I bet the Falcons' home DVOA isn't much better than its road DVOA.

ETA:
Falcons' average home DVOA in 2008-09: 8.6%.
Falcons' average road DVOA in 2008-09: 2.8%.

Given that home field advantage is supposed to be worth about 17% DVOA, we can say that the Falcons are slightly worse at home than they are on the road. Please let's put this mystique crap away.

40
by Quincy :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:30pm

Agreed. The Falcons' supposed invincibility at home is the exact kind of cherry-picked small sample fallacy that leads off Peter King columns and causes Bill Simmons to write new gambling rules but FO exists to refute. To be clear, I'm not criticizing any of the staff for their comments on the subject. It's a fair to thing to wonder about in an Audibles thread, and Barnwell already speculated on the sample size issue. I expect any detailed analysis would put the subject completely to bed.

60
by Sophandros :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:20pm

The combined record of the teams that Atlanta has PLAYED at home with Matt Ryan as the starting QB is 115-173 (.399). Their 19 wins are over teams whose record is 107-165 (.393). This season, their home schedule includes teams who are a combined 30-34. They've won those games by an average of 9.5 points per game, but that is HEAVILY skewed by a 34 point win over Arizona at the start of the season; the rest of the wins this year are by an average of 4.6 points per game.

In one of those wins, they needed an uncalled OPI. Yesterday, they needed the first fumble of the season by an all pro QB combined with a play that should have been challenged on the ensuing drive (if they showed close replays that would favor the opposition on the GA Dome jumbotron, the play would have been challenged and overturned) and a facemask penalty to set up Ryan's game winning "drive". Against Tampa, they needed a rookie running back to go to the wrong hole to win. Against San Fran, they needed a boneheaded play by an otherwise excellent and veteran player (Nate Clements) in order to come from behind against a 3-7 team at home.

Matt Ryan was quite correct yesterday when he said that he doesn't know why they are so much better at home than on the road. Much of it is extremely good luck, though the Falcons certainly deserve a lot of credit for being a fundamentally sound team that seldom makes mistakes. They are a very good team, but the media needs to take a step back before they crown their asses.

-------------
Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

70
by BJR :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:44pm

You are correct that the Falcons are just a fundamentally sound football team, who appear to be slightly above average in every phase of the game (DVOA kinda bears that out, although suggests they may have a very good run defence, and a slightly below average pass defence). That's a real achievement in the NFL, so then sprinkle in a little bit of luck, and there you have it: a team with a 9-2 record. But that doesn't make for a very exciting narrative for the idiotic, hype-driven mainstream media. Hence the recent focus on Matt Ryan's record at home, to create some 'identity' and mystique for the team now that they look like featuring heavily in the playoffs.

80
by jw124164 :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:04pm

Falcons fan here. I largely agree with your assessment. We're a good, but boring, team (Tanier touched on this in an earlier article) that seems to mostly play to the level of our competition. We don't blow anyone out enough to be considered elite. We're a LB and a couple of DB's short of being really good defensively.

However, I've always thought we just lost it on the road - especailly Ryan, who has played what I'd consider quite a few bad games in outdoor stadiums. I didn't quite realize that we've played generally stronger competition on the road over the last 3 years.

91
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:24pm

I was impressed by the hustle of the one d-lineman from Montana. That guy ain't a world beater but he is always in the mix.

And the offensive line is very solid. Lots of good things going on there.

96
by Sophandros :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:36pm

You mean the guy who knocked up one of the Real Housewives of Atlanta?

-------------
Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

167
by ammek :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 5:30am

One of the reasons Atlanta appears to "play to the level of the competition" and to play a lot of close games is that its offensive strategy minimizes the number of drives in a game. Combined with very few giveaways, it means that the Falcons' weaker unit, the defense, has faced fewer drives than all but two other defenses. There's certainly a risk to the strategy — think SB42 — but it offers obvious advantages against explosive pass-first offenses such as the Saints, Packers and Eagles (all among the conference's elite teams, and all on the Falcons' schedule).

22
by Dean :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:44pm

Doug Farrar: I see your defenses of the NFC West and raise you the 5-6, first-place, St. Louis Rams.

Aaron Schatz: At least they have a stud quarterback. S-T-U-D.

Doug Farrar: Yes, they certainly do.

Welcome aboard! Where have you been for the past two months?

BTW - Chris Long has really emerged. He went from flirting dangerously with "just another guy" land, or worse, and is trending rapidly towards "BEAST" territory. When the Rams surround him with more talent and they start winning (which should be sometime next year), the rest of the world will find out. Good seats still available on the Chris Long bandwagon.

37
by Doug Farrar :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:22pm

What do you mean, where have I been? I was comparing Bradford to Tom Brady before he was drafted. http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=ys-bradfordvsclausen040510

39
by Dean :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:28pm

Cue obligtory observation that FO is not a hive mind. I am now properly chastised. Looks like you were aboard before I was (I think it was about week 3 or 4 when I decided, "wow - this guy is going to be really good").

Typically, Bradford and the Rams are either ignored (and lets face it, it's easy to ignore the Rams, most of STL still does), or dismissed as "just another rookie QB" by the Audibles staff. I'd say most of your colleagues are just now waking up to his talent.

25
by scottybsun (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:51pm

blah blah blah Jets were lucky because of a questionable muffed punt and a missd figgie by the Bengals. (pssst...they won by 16)

Gee, I guess the Saints were LUCKY that they forced a Cowboy fumble and then drove for the winning TD (Oh, I forgot, that's how the Jets luckily beat the Browns).

Luck happens in all games. The whole "Jets are lucky" line is pure selection bias and lazy analysis.

33
by Led :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:10pm

Nothing lucky about holding an offense to 2.6 yards per play.

58
by RickD :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:09pm

Jets are lucky to be 9-2, considering how poorly they have played in recent weeks. Yes, they beat the 2-9 Bengals soundly, but the 4-7 Browns and the 2-9 Bills took them to overtime.

The Jets have a grand total of one impressive victory this season: their home victory over the Pats.

We'll see how they handle road games at New England, Pittsburgh, and Chicago.

82
by are-tee :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:08pm

"2-9 Bills took them to overtime."

Jets beat the Bills 38-14. You must be thinking of the Ravens or the Steelers needing overtime to beat the 2-9 Bills.

95
by Jetspete :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:31pm

being lucky to be 9-2 doesnt change the fact that they are 9-2, and taking it back a year they are 16-4 over their last 20, 10-1 on the road.

the jets simply have not put the entire team together for a complete game since week 4 at Buffalo. They have become experts at putting together great stretches, typically during the third quarter of these games. That has been enough to either keep them in the game or win it outright.

I would imagine they will play well in those road games (although the jets have historically struggled in Pittsburgh).

97
by Dr. Mooch :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:38pm

Then again, going to overtime against the Bills is apparently going to be some kind of prerequisite for making the AFC playoffs this year.

101
by Led :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:02pm

Actually, the Jets blew out Buffalo 38-14 in week 4 (which apparently doesn't count as an "impressive win"). I assume RickD meant the Detroit game.

122
by RickD :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:09pm

Yes, I meant the 2-9 Lions, not the 2-9 Bills.

166
by td (not verified) :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 2:29am

2-9 is 2-9, but to be fair, the only two games Stafford has played the Lions lost to the Bears(8-3) on the controversial Calvin Johnson non-touchdown on the road, and to the Jets in overtime

137
by Failgoat (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 6:04pm

"Inflated W-L record" ≠ "Luck"

It's kind of amazing how many seemingly intelligent people continue to pretend otherwise. I guess glib reductionism is more grabby than complex reality.

173
by Jetspete :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 9:58am

you are exactly right failgoat. with the jets this year, it seems that the "luck" proponents only want to look at the big plays. Its the roulette wheel, sure over 5, 10, even 100 spins black might out number red by a significant margin. But if you look over 2000, maybe 10000 spins you will find the "luck" evens out.

If you look at every single situation over the course of a season, luck tends to even out. You can find 100 of instances of luck over the course of a season, whether it be uncalled penalties, penalties that are often uncalled, a referee setting up a favorable 2nd and short vs a 1st and ten, etc.

181
by Noah of Arkadia :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 12:14pm

Luck definitely does not always even even out over the course of a season. That's why regression to the mean is such an oft-used word around these parts in the offseason.

136
by Failgoat (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:55pm

I was wondering how long it would take Barnwell to launch entirely into self-parody and turn every Jets recap into a simple enumeration of weird and/or significant plays.

158
by JetfanMike (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 9:33pm

It's just flamebait. Ignore him.

172
by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 9:13am

If it wasn't for that asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, the Jets wouldn't have a win this season.

26
by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:54pm

What other events take place at Soldiers Field, and why the hell is the turf so miserable?

38
by Big Frank :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:27pm

Concerts mostly, sometimes they have high school football games. The real issue is just that the ground stays wet this time of year. Soldier Field is owned by the Chicago Park District, so don't expect any changes to be made any time in the next 20 years or so.

49
by Mike W :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:52pm

The CPD will get some alderman's idiot nephew on it reeeeeeeeal soon.

56
by TomC :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:06pm

I would like to point out that Richie Daley has made equal opportunity employment a priority of his administration, so it's just as likely that the job will go to some alderman's idiot niece.

62
by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:22pm

Why do I have some vision of a guy, with a distinctive Chicago accent, visiting Philly last week, walking into Andy Reid's office, and saying "Nice offense featuring a highly mobile qb ya' got there.....hate to see anything happen to it...."

Obviously, Andy was tapped out after all the local Philly politicians got their beaks wet.

141
by Marko :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 6:21pm

As noted in the linked story, which was written several days before the game, there was a lot of rain in Chicago last week, plus a high school game in Soldier Field on Friday. http://sports.espn.go.com/chicago/nfl/news/story?id=5846667

But Soldier Field always has bad footing this time of year, and the Eagles were well aware of it. (Andy Reid is quoted talking about the footing in the linked article.) They still didn't seem prepared, as they had players slipping all over the place.

The Bears obviously are more used to the Soldier Field turf, so they were more prepared. But it's not as if the Bears imported fog into the stadium, which they have been known to do against the Eagles. The first time they did this was for a playoff game, so maybe if they have a rematch with the Eagles in the postseason we will see Fog Bowl II.

63
by dbt :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:22pm

I don't know if it's that the turf is terrible therefore they gameplan for it or they want it terrible therefore it is terrible, but they were certainly taking advantage of it the last few weeks. In general the Bears are prepared to play on that awful turf and road teams aren't.

66
by Eddo :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:35pm

Enough Bears players and personnel have complained about the quality of the turf that I can't imagine they want it to be so bad.

Being prepared for it, though, is definitely a factor. A sign of good coaching, in my opinion.

74
by Jimmy :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:54pm

You are right that it probably does come down to good coaching. However thte things you need to do on bad turf are things you want to be doing anyway - ie keeping your feet underneath you and keeping your hips low into and out of breaks. These things will help you win on artificial turf too.

183
by Yinka Double Dare :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 4:10pm

The funny part is that by Soldier Field standards, the turf isn't even that bad this year. I seem to remember a year where they tried resodding and eventually gave up. They would resod the middle, and the sides were basically dirt/sand painted green.

Every single year, Soldier and Heinz Field are the worst surfaces in the NFL, so there's probably something in the dirt or the water table or something along those lines that causes the issue. This happened after a Michigan Stadium expansion where they dug down further as part of the expansion to add rows, the grass surface there was comically bad for a few years (in 2001 I remember chunks a foot or two long would come up, and a crew would put them back a la a polo match while the teams were on the other end of the field) and they ended up just giving up and going with FieldTurf.

27
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:59pm

Cody Grimm's injury on that INT return was incredibly depressing for two reasons--one, Grimm's a definite "feel good" story this year, as a kid who was drafted in the 7th round who has really turned out to be pretty darn serviceable as a rookie. And, of course, two would be IT MEANS SABBY MOTHER@#$!!!! PISCATELLI IS PLAYING AGAIN. This gives him a real chance to be the first ever two-time winner of the yearly Keep Choppin' Wood award.

That PI call on Myron Lewis was a giant bucket of crap, however.

I actually thought Tim Ryan did a decent job in the Bucs-Ravens game, particularly in noting how the Bucs kept running the ball instead of spreading it out and letting Freeman basically try to take over. Note to NFL offensive coordinators--running the ball towards Haloti Ngata, particularly when you don't have a good o-line, is not a formula for success. Per usual, Freeman looked really good in the fourth quarter once they went to shotgun and spread the field, which helped mitigate the fact that the Ravens were just walking through the supposed blocks most of the game.

57
by Mike M (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:08pm

I also thought Tim Ryan's commentary was often valuable. In addition to noting how the Bucs would benefit all around by spreading the field against the Ravens, he had useful oservations about the impact of the Ravens' linebackers chucking/not chucking the tight end.
I was also impressed when the Ravens completed a deep ball after Grimm's injury and Sam Rosen asked him if Grimm's absence made a difference on the play. Instead of faking it as many color men would, Ryan just admitted that he couldn't tell what the Bucs' coverage was on the play.
I generally enjoy Ryan.
On the other side of the coin, in the Pittsurgh-Buffalo game, Solomon Wilcots had a string of about five consecutive times calling Mike Wallace "Mike Williams", as if it isn't confusing enough already to have two WRs who really have that name.
Or was it, Solomon Williams doing that game?

152
by smashmouth football :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 7:42pm

Comment by FO David Gardner: "And after a very questionable pass interference call against Myron Lewis, Flacco finds Mason in the end zone to put the game at 17-3."

Comment by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:59pm: "That PI call on Myron Lewis was a giant bucket of crap, however."

Beg to differ with both of you. They replayed it (twice, IIRC) and it sure looked like the Tampa DB arm-barred the Baltimore receiver. In any event, here's Gardner again: "Ray Rice just had a 70-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass called back on a hold." I thought it was a pretty questionable hold. Supposedly on Anquan Bolden, but damned if I could see anything that looked like a penalty. So IMHO Tampa has nothimg to complain about. . . .

28
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:00pm

Apparently my loathing of Sabby Piscatelli is so intense, I had to post it twice.

29
by IsraelP (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:03pm

"The Steelers lined up to go for it, then Roethlisberger quick-kicked."

With his left foot.

30
by BJR :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:03pm

Manning's second pick 6 was obvious DPI, but what really didn't help matters was Reggie Wayne hurling himself to the ground in a manner reminiscent of an Italian soccer player, looking to draw the flag. If he stays on his feet it's almost certainly only incomplete rather than intercepted in spite of the interference, and the Colts live to fight another day.

105
by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:23pm

It wasn't obviously DPI as you are allowed to touch a receiver, but you can't tell if Wayne was turned because of the bad acting job he performed on the play - basically he got what he deserved.

BTW, I hope the Colts get heavily fined for showing that reply over and over on the stadium Jumbotron when they probably didn't show the 1st pick six at all.

114
by Led :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:58pm

Are you joking about the fine? I would remind you that homerism in support of crowd noise is no vice!

116
by Eddo :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:00pm

Teams are not obligated to show any plays on the stadium scoreboards. I don't see why the Colts would get fined.

129
by RickD :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:27pm

I don't think the Colts helped themselves by repeatedly showing the replay. It's not like the refs could have decided to make a DPI call based on the replay. So all they accomplished was fostering an atmosphere of self-pity. That was the last thing they needed.

FWIW, I thought Wayne tumbled not because his hip was grabbed, but because he accidentally kicked the foot of a third person.

In any case, the Colts were long overdue for an uncalled DPI, considering how many uncommitted DPI calls they've managed to get called on their opponents over the past five years.

146
by Purds :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 6:53pm

"In any case, the Colts were long overdue for an uncalled DPI, considering how many uncommitted DPI calls they've managed to get called on their opponents over the past five years."

That makes sense. You're brilliant.

161
by dbostedo :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 12:00am

Yes...a stunningly good example of the "due theory". Nicely done.

176
by PatsFan :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 10:59am

It's not an example of the "due theory". It's an example of karmic justice.

47
by The Anti-Dave (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:47pm

To answer the question on the Jaguars-Giants game comments, yes, the Jaguars have run the option a number of times this year. Garrard scored a 25-or-so-yard TD on it against the Colts.

54
by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:01pm

If you don't believe in switching your corners, why on earth would you switch them to put the inferior corner on one of the three or four best wideouts in the league?

Because your best corner can single-handedly hold down the second wideout without safety help, so by doing that and using your second corner and a safety on the top wideout you only need safety help on that side. If you used your top corner and safety help against Megatron, you'd probably still need safety help for Arrington regardless of who he was covering and hence end up needing safety help on both sides.

No?

68
by Dean :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:42pm

Does anybody still think the 49ers can win the West?

71
by DavidL :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:49pm

At this point I think pocket lint can win the West.

85
by Dean :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:16pm

A couple weeks ago, there was a discussion about how even though they were 2 games back the division was still theirs for the taking. I thought it absurd at the time, but it's hard to really defend supporting any of the other teams.

Now, I'm wondering if the 49ers will win another game all year.

106
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:23pm

At this point I'm kind of hoping they don't. A top 5 pick next year might actually net a decent quarterback.

165
by Jon Silverberg (not verified) :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 1:36am

+1

107
by coboney :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:26pm

I'm not sure whether I should be happy or scared that my 49ers could still win the West. While it would be nice to win the division even at 7-9 or 8-8 it might delude the Yorks to keep Singletary around for another year and I'm afraid of what would happen to the team. Not only that - i would be deluding myself even further if I didn't think that 'playoffs' in this case didn't mean having a game at home where we're slaughtered.

So... yes but whether winning it is any good for the 49ers is another question.

P.S. What do you think it would take for us to convince the rams to give us Bradford? I can dream right?

120
by Dean :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:08pm

So if I understand the first half correctly, you think they can still win the division?

Lets postulate for a moment that they'd need at least a 7-9 record to do so. That'd mean going 4-1 down the stretch, not to mention a complete meltdown of two teams who both have 2 game leads and play each other still. Not mathematically impossible, but completely unprescidented.

Do you really think they can go 4-1 @ GB, vs SEA, @ SD , @ STL, and @ AZ ?

Green Bay should stomp them. San Diego is red hot right now (and very well could still be in 3 weeks). Neither Seattle nor St. Louis looks like a win. Not a given loss, either, but SF won't be favored. Then Arizona would be winnable if they have something to play for, but if they're 3-12 and playing out the string, they could blow that, too.

How does this translate into a 4-1 record? And even if it does, can they go 7-9 and still win tiebreakers? I just don't see it.

As for Bradford, if the Rams were to trade him, even if they got your entire roster and your entire next two years of draft picks, the fans in St. Louis would absolutely mutiny. All ten of 'em.

134
by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:41pm

They'd have to win the three division games and beat GB; in that case, they'll have the tiebreaker status to make it happen. As a Chargers fan, I think it's unlikely, but not impossible. If by some bizarre circumstance they win out, it means they can even survive if the Rams or Seahawks go 3-2.

Realistically? It's either the Rams or the Seahawks, and the team that takes it will probably be 9-7 or 8-8.

135
by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:42pm

* That is, as a Chargers fan, we've been there. It can be done.

145
by Kurt :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 6:40pm

Am I to understand from this post that Dean is a visitor from the not-too-distant future, and I should be betting everything I have on Arizona tonight?

163
by Kurt :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 12:32am

DAMMIT DEAN!!!

I'm about to lose everything, even my Interne

175
by Dean :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 10:18am

"DAMMIT DEAN!!!"

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that in real life...

Sadly, nobody (myself included) noticed that I had completely forgotten when I typed those posts yesterday afternoon that the 49ers hadn't yet lost this week. I was already pegging them at a 3-8 record, and somehow mentally, I had the Cards at 3-8, too. Well, at least I had the Cards right.

Getting a win last night was a big help. One game on two middling teams isn't nearly as difficult to make up in 5 games as 2. But I still don't think they'll do it. Which, as we see, means so much.

77
by Eddo :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:56pm

One thing I've noticed the past few games is that the Bears/Cutler are having much more success with "broken plays". One thing that always frustrated me was watching QBs like Favre and Rodgers and Romo nearly get sacked, then scrambling a little and finding a receiver open for a first down. And the Bears, especially under Ron Turner, never seemed to be able to do this.

The past few weeks, there have been numerous plays where the pocket has broken down, and Cutler has bought some time, then found a receiver who has broken off his route. My first instinct is to credit the WRs for maturing and getting better at improvising. Is this coaching? Familiarity with Cutler? I hope it's one of those two (or both), because that would seem to suggest it can continue.

110
by tuluse :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:49pm

My first instinct would be to think that it's receivers finally figuring out what to do on broken plays. Although there is one example of that not happening in the Eagles game. Knox was running a crossing route, and Cutler was forced out to his right, Knox kept running the route slightly up the field instead of coming back to Cutler. That let the DB close and break it up. Cutler looked pretty mad after that throw too.

144
by Marko :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 6:34pm

I have noticed that as well and have shared the same frusration you have watching those other QBs turn a broken play into a big play, which the Bears never seemed to be able to do. I think all of the things you mention are factors, as well as Cutler's increased willingness to run the ball and his success doing so.

In the past few games, he turned broken plays into big passes to Knox and Bennett. Yesterday, the one broken play that stood out to me was the pass to Hester on the opening drive of the third quarter. It was great to see Cutler and Hester on the same page there. The DB covering Hester left him to defend against the run, and Hester knew where to go and Cutler knew when to pull up and make the touch pass.

81
by Splattered :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:06pm

I know all about the drops, but here's the summation of Buffalo's overtime possessions:

4-3-PIT 41 (13:59) 8-B.Moorman punts ...

4-9-PIT 39 (9:27) 8-B.Moorman punts ...

If that's your overtime strategy as a 2-9 team, you deserve to lose.

98
by Dr. Mooch :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:42pm

No kidding. Playing against a team that was able to grind out safe, successful offense all day long. And Rian Lindell hitting at 56 yards is not, like, totally implausible.

84
by jw124164 :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:14pm

The reason to keep Manning in at the end of a blow out is so that he can complete about 3 more passes so I win my fantasy game. Throwing the INT at the end to lose the game for me is just icing :-)

89
by mawbrew :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:23pm

During one of the Thanksgiving games there was a penalty on a punter (I've forgotten which team) for an illegal kick. I've seen this penalty before on occasions where someone was just kicking the ball to prevent the other team from picking it up, but this kick actually turned out reasonably well (it went about 20 yards). Seemed like a pretty smart play (I'm sure if the punter had tried to pick the ball up he would have been buried before getting off a kick).

93
by Dean :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:25pm

I want to say it was Matt Brier, in the New Orleans game.

Yes, it was a penalty because he'd never had posession of the ball, so in essence, he was kicking a fumble. However, you are definitely correct that it was a smart play. If I'm the coach, I'll take that penalty every time. Unless, of course, I can get a better snap.

94
by Dean :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:28pm

Along the same lines, the Broncos attempted an onsides kick, and the Rams player batted the ball out of bounds.

It seemed like a smart play at the time, but it was penalized for an illegal batting of the ball, giving the Broncos another chance at the kick.

Anyone have any explaination of that rule?

128
by Jerry P. :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:25pm

Along the same lines, the Broncos attempted an onsides kick, and the Rams player batted the ball out of bounds.

It seemed like a smart play at the time, but it was penalized for an illegal batting of the ball, giving the Broncos another chance at the kick.

Anyone have any explaination of that rule?

He probably batted it forward, which is illegally advancing the ball. If he had batted it backwards it would have been fine.

I think this happened in another game not too long ago. I want to say it was a Cowboys player that batted the ball backwards on an onside kick and a flag was thrown. The ref picked it up and explained that there was no foul on the play since the ball was batted backwards.

I may be confusing the game this happened in but I am 95% sure it happened in a game within the past month. Anyone that can clarify (my explanation of the rule and what game this happened in) would be most appreciated.

130
by Dean :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:31pm

Thanks.

He deliberately batted it out of bounds. I was listening to the radio and sadly picked that moment to arrive at my destination, so I didn't hear any explaination of the rule and can't say if the ball traveled forward or backward.

100
by kbukie :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:55pm

Was the Bears-Eagles game as much of a one-sided affair as it seemed the whole second half, or were the Eagles really right in it to the end? Watching the game, it looked as if the Bears were simply coasting for the last 20 minutes of the game, letting the Eagles complete passes up the middle, and content to chew up the clock and let them kick FGs. Really, the pass to Celek at the end was the only play that didn't appear dictated by Chicago.

Curious to see how the game gets reflected in DVOA.

109
by Jimmy :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:45pm

When the Bears scored the FG at the end of the third quarter they had out gained the Eagles approximately 330 yards to 200 and had scored 31 points to 13. At that point they seemed content to allow the Eagles to check the ball down when they were down by three scores and run off time (or timeouts) when on offense. The Eagles players seemed to make a big deal about the pick (post game) but it isn't as thought the TD was automatic and the Bears still had to go 60 odd yards to score and had time left.

112
by Jimmy :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:54pm

Also the Eagles (well Vick) had four fumbles and recovered them all which no one notices during the game but DVOA will remember. The box score on NFL.com seems to have missed Knox's fumble - recovered by Olsen - did that stand?

121
by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:08pm

It should have been a fumble, but I don't believe it was ruled one. And there was no real reason for the Eagles to challenge since Olsen recovered. It's not listed in the box score.

124
by Semigruntled Eagles fan (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:12pm

He was ruled (probably incorrectly) down by contact, but as Olsen recovered there was no reason for a challenge. Vick's generally had good fumble luck for most of the year; I can only hope that the trend continues...

But yes, people will probably overlook Vick's fumbles, and remember Desean's drops (even on the pass that he visibly pulled back from, he had his hands on the ball... he also had a key drop in the first half in or near the endzone), especially with Reid leaving him in tears in the locker room.

139
by Semigruntled Eagles fan (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 6:10pm

Actually, looking at the play-by-play, I think Chicago may only get credit for forcing 2 fumbles. One of the fumbles was a fumbled exchange between Vick and McCoy, without any intervention by the defense, so it will only count against the Eagles DVOA, not in favor of the Bears. Also, on that horrendous play in which Peppers was untouched while Vick rolled towards his side, Vick is credited with two fumbles - I don't know if the defense gets double credit in that case, but I doubt it. After all, two fumbles on one play could only have resulted in (at most) one turnover... maybe it counts as 1.5 forced fumbles?

155
by BigDerf :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 8:39pm

I would assume they still get credit for 2 forces fumbles. Yes they could only get one turnover on the play but when they didn't get the first one causing another gave them another opportunity to get that one turnover.

118
by Eddo :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:04pm

This is a pretty good description. All game, the Bears went to extremes to prevent big plays, and doubled that effort in the fourth quarter. The Eagles moving up and down the field was expected.

It was a bit disappointing, especially after how the defense suffocated the Dolphins the week before, but the strategy was probably the correct one. I was also fairly impressed that the offense didn't go into full turtle mode and run the ball 100% of the time. And they really should have had a first down on their second-to-last drive when Cutler got the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty; that was DPI on the Eagles' LB, who was shoving Forte while the ball was in the air.

117
by Semigruntled Eagles fan (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:00pm

I really don't understand people defending poor defensive performances by teams with big leads by stating "(team with big lead) was letting them drive down the field, in order to chew up the clock." The Bears had an 18-point lead, then they allowed the Eagles to drive to first and goal situations on two drives, and score a touchdown on a third. I find it difficult to believe that Chicago's strategy on defense was to depend entirely upon successful goal-line stands - if the Eagles had scored a touchdown on either of the goal-to-go situations, the game could easily have gone to overtime.

119
by tuluse :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:06pm

Well they were playing the 2nd rated offense by DVOA.

As for the Chicago defensive strategy, I think slowing clamping down as the Eagles drove was probably what the coaches were relying on. The Eagles receivers are so fast, they had to keep their safeties way back, but once the field compresses, they don't have to be as far back. The TD play seem like a fluke to me, with Vick managing one of the best throws I've ever seen to thread it into triple coverage.

123
by Eddo :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:12pm

I agree that it was a disappointing, possibly "bad" defensive performance closing out the game. It got much closer than it should have been.

However, I think the strategy was pretty sound, in this case. The Eagles have such an explosive offense that you have to be extra careful defending them in a comeback situation. And with Cutler being such an inconsistent and emotional QB, if the Eagles had gotten a quick score, there's a not-insignificant chance he would try to force too much to make up for it, and throw a really costly pick.

I would have liked to see a bit more pressure on Vick on the last drive, instead of just rushing the front four. Maybe dropping a lineman (Peppers?) into a spy/short zone role while a LB rushed in his place would have confused the Eagles line just enough so that Vick didn't have too much time to throw.

125
by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:15pm

I think that defensive plan is fine for when you have a big lead - sacrifice yardage to prevent big plays, and then clamp down inside the 25. I don't see it as poor defensive performance. What makes it potentially dangerous is when you get so conservative on the offensive side of the ball - the entire world knows you're running and you run anyway, leading to lots of 3 and outs that take 2 minutes off the clock.

132
by Duke :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:33pm

Maybe it is poor defensive performance, but it's basically the Lovie Smith model. Against most teams with competent offenses, they often allow long drives on a lot of short passes/plays, and shut it down around the 30-20 yard line. So you see a frustrating amount of 5 yard gains and soft coverages that give just enough yardage to convert a third down. As a fan it's incredibly frustrating, but it often works.

I think the idea is that the more plays the offense has to run, the more chances there are to force a mistake (fumble, INT, sack), and it really only takes one mistake to kill a drive (usually). So, as long as you're talented enough to create those mistakes, and disciplined enough to prevent big plays, and you can play well enough to stop red zone drives at field goals, you'll keep the opposing offense from scoring more than 17 or so points.

You can criticize this approach, but what happened in the 4th quarter of the game wasn't really out of character for Lovie Smith.

FWIW, as a Bears fan I didn't believe the outcome of the game was in doubt after the Bears scored their 4th touchdown. I expected the Eagles to score some, but I wasn't at all concerned even when they were lining up for the onsides kick.

150
by Semigruntled Eagles fan (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 7:36pm

After week 11, the Bears defense had allowed the second fewest yards per drive, so I don't believe they've been sticking with a "bend, but don't break" model for most of their games this season. Certainly they adjusted their strategy for the Eagles to place an extreme focus on taking away the deep passes, which may be justified, but the post I responded to gives excessive credit to prevent defenses:

"it looked as if the Bears were simply coasting for the last 20 minutes of the game, letting the Eagles complete passes up the middle, and content to chew up the clock and let them kick FGs. Really, the pass to Celek at the end was the only play that didn't appear dictated by Chicago."

As I pointed out, the Eagles trailed by three scores in the 4th quarter, and managed three scoring drives, each of them with good chances at scoring a touchdown. I don't believe Lovie Smith would "dictate" the Eagles repeatedly driving down the field into first and goal situations; on the two drives in which the Eagles settled for field goals, it took the Eagles just over 5 minutes to get into first and goal, where they then used up an additional 3 minutes before settling for the field goals. 2:30 minutes per drive to get inside the ten is not exactly "chewing up the clock," and depending upon the defense to repeatedly stop Vick from scoring in those situations is a risky strategy.

The biggest time mismanagement by the Eagles (even more so than the wasted timeout) was using so much time once they got inside the ten while being content to settle for field goals. I think Reid should have gone for the touchdown instead of the field goal on both drives; on the first, they were too close to settle for a field goal while trailing by more than two touchdowns, on the second, making the field goal did too little to help them - they would need to score two touchdowns in the last five minutes whether they made a field goal or not, therefore they should have gone for the touchdown despite the long distance.

115
by tuluse :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:58pm

I was pretty happy to see a lot of my predictions about the Bears-Eagles game come true. The Bears took away the deep pass, and limited Vick's running. He still doesn't have the accuracy to constantly hit those mid-range passes and run 10-15 play drives down the field all game.

The offense probably played it's best game of the year. No major mistakes, Cutler was throwing lasers all game long. Forte was finding holes and exploding. The receivers played to their potential and gave Cutler the help he needs.

For a somewhat interesting stat, Brian Urlacher remains undefeated against Michael Vick.

126
by Jimmy :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:16pm

Yup, points to you. I agreed with a lot of your thoughts at the time but was terrified of the FOMB Curse.

I thought Marinelli nailed the defensive gameplan, great attention to detail. Try to make Vick play from behind the line of scrimmage and keep the WRs in front of the safeties. Peppers and Izzy stayed home all day, kept outside leverage when they weren't stunting and waited for help when they had to. If the ends got chipped then the tackles went penetration crazy. When they did use a spy they kept him to Vick's left as opposed to the middle of the field to force him to his right. The CBs never allowed an outside release and the safeties stayed deep. Having four defensive tackles suited up (plus Melton) kept the big guys fresh and was the right call. I thought Melton had another good game at both end and tackle which is nice since the other player the Bears picked after trading down in the second round in '09 is currently on the Jets' practice squad.

133
by Rocco :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:37pm

Weird to see good things written about a Marinelli game plan after his HC stint as a Lion.

147
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 6:56pm

"He still doesn't have the accuracy to constantly hit those mid-range passes and run 10-15 play drives down the field all game."

The Eagles punted 3 times, Vick threw 1 interception (at the goal line), and the other drives netted 4 field goals (only 1 of which didn't have a drive at the 10 or closer) and 2 TDs (neglecting the end-of-half drive). In other words, the Eagles scored on 60% of their drives, and drove down the field to the opponent's 10 or closer 60% of the time.

Yes, he does have that accuracy to hit those passes. The Bears didn't beat the Eagles because they somehow exposed Vick. They beat the Eagles because they scored touchdowns where the Eagles scored field goals. And that had nothing to do with Vick's accuracy - it had everything to do with the constant pressure the Bears were getting.

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by Eddo :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 7:05pm

I don't know; I would say the fact the Eagles weren't getting touchdowns was at least partly a result of Vick's issues with mid-range accuracy. One of the strengths the Eagles have shown with Vick is the ability to score long touchdowns. The Bears took away the long touchdowns.

I wouldn't say Vick was exposed, either. The Bears defense was just athletic enough to take away big plays and get enough pressure on Vick to keep him from making things happen. But I do think it would have been a much different game if the Bears hadn't completely taken away the deep part of the field.

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by Nathan :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 7:54pm

I only saw them show the safety drops a couple times on replay but it looked like they were REALLY deep... seemed like there were opportunities for deep plays both over the corners and under the safeties (aka the 1st celek overthrow) and up the middle on a skinny post from the slot or a te seam... assuming they could beat the MBL in tampa 2 (i'm not sure that celek has the speed to do that). dunno if the line wasn't holding up long enough to let those routes develop but you can't take away all deep routes without going into something like quarters. Even Cover-3 can be beat deep with the right route combination and enough time. I did notice a safety rotating in on one replay, not sure if it was Cover 3 or Cover 1 but i assumed it was Cover 3 at the time...

I can't wait until they start broadcasting games with the ability to select angles like you can on the SNF streaming app.

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by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 12:24am

I don't know; I would say the fact the Eagles weren't getting touchdowns was at least partly a result of Vick's issues with mid-range accuracy.

Meh, I don't really agree. The 6 red zone trips ended with 3 FGs and a pick mainly due to the Eagles offensive line not holding up (either resulting in sacks on Vick or that massive loss by McCoy). Vick missed a few receivers, but so do all QBs.

It also didn't help, in my opinion, that they constantly were ending up at 1st and goal at the 10, 8, 10, 8, etc. Still of the opinion that teams should teach receivers to go down at about the 12 if they can't get inside the 5.

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by Eddo :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 12:53am

That's fair, and there was definitely blame to go around. And I'm not referring to the red zone woes so much as the fact that the Bears basically dared Vick to beat them with mid-range stuff; if he had been particularly accurate, they might have eased off on the super-deep coverage, opening up the big play. Of course, this is just speculation.

You are correct that the biggest factor was the Bears defensive line outplaying the Eagles.

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by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 4:13pm

I just don't understand why you're even mentioning mid-range stuff. Vick completed 66% of his passes. He was plenty accurate: the last drive, where they marched in 6-10 yard chunks down the field in 2 minutes to even have a chance at winning the game was particularly good; it's easy enough to say "well, they were playing off," but not really - they were doing that all game.

The Bears weren't going to back off of the super-deep coverage stuff so long as the defensive line was getting pressure on Vick. That's all. I actually think part of the reason the Eagles started doing well in the late 3rd/4th quarter is because the defensive line for the Bears couldn't maintain that pressure all game. Thankfully for them, their offense shortened the game by about two drives.

You are correct that the biggest factor was the Bears defensive line outplaying the Eagles.

On the Eagles offense/Bears defense side. The biggest factor in the game, without a doubt, was the Bears ability to do whatever they wanted on offense.

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by Peregrine :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 8:05am

"It also didn't help, in my opinion, that they constantly were ending up at 1st and goal at the 10, 8, 10, 8, etc. Still of the opinion that teams should teach receivers to go down at about the 12 if they can't get inside the 5."

I agree. I'd rather have 1st and 10 at the 15 than 1st and goal at the 9 or 10. Of course, I suppose being five yards closer to the end zone is an advantage in some was, but I wonder what is the difference in touchdown percentage between the two starting states. For a kicker, the difference should be minimal.

Saw this problem in the end of the Texans-Jets game, when the Texans intercepted that late pass. The defender went down just inside the 10 instead of going down at the 15 or whatever, meaning the Texans couldn't win the game simply by getting a first down. It was either touchdown or field goal, and I think either way - Texans up by 1, I think - the Jets would have had a chance to win or tie.

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by Nevic (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 7:40pm

I'm curious to see what the DVOA will be for the GB-ATL game. ATL won, but GB outgained them in yards (418 - 294) and first downs (22-19). The teams were even on 3rd/4th down effectiveness. The two big plays were the fumble (GB loses points and it even goes into the endzone for ATL instead of pinning them deep) and the 4th down (non)-catch by Gonzalez. I expect that GB's DVOA ends up higher for the game.

All four GB losses have been by 3 points. 2 were OT FGs and the other two were FGs in the last 15 seconds of the game.

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by ammek :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 6:07am

I'm not sure about that. The Falcons started their drives, on average, 30.4 yards from their own goalline; the Packers, just 17.5. Each team had 10 drives, so that's a net advantage of 129 yards for Atlanta — more than enough to make up the difference in yards from scrimmage. The Packers ran a couple more plays; committed more penalties; and were likely more boom-and-bust on offense. Also, the defensive adjustment will be greater for Atlanta (playing the #4 defense) than Green Bay (playing #19).

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by Led :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 10:05am

I appreciate that you're talking about DVOA, but when deciding which team played better in a head to head match up VOA is the better measure. Who cares about opponent adjustments when the teams are playing each other? All that matters is which team was more efficient on the field. Your point about field position is valid though.

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by BigCheese :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 8:26pm

I completely disagree. Without looking at the score, or other stats, if the Texans face the Jets and both Mark Sanchez and Matt Schaub have exactly the same passing line, I'm going to be far more impressed with Schaub than Sanchez (and no this is not a comment against the Sanchize or his team. Substitute the Chargers and Phillip Rivers for them, and the comment stands). I'll even go ahead and say he played better.

Now, if all you want to do is compare how the results of their perfomances matched up without adjusting for opponent, that's what we have traditional stats and the scoreboard for.

- Alvaro

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by AudacityOfHoops :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 10:06pm

What if Schaub's passing line is slightly worse than Sanchez, but his DVOA is slightly better? Would you still say he played better?

Looking at who won the DVOA battle is like looking at who beat the spread, while looking at who had a better VOA is like looking at who won the game (except that DVOA and VOA attempt to take some of the luck out of the equation).

Now, if all you want to do is compare how the results of their perfomances matched up without adjusting for opponent, that's what we have traditional stats and the scoreboard for.

Isn't the whole point of this site that traditional stats and the scoreboard don't tell the whole story, because of things like 12 yard completions on 3rd & 16, or one team recovering 6 out of 7 fumbles?

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by BigCheese :: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 4:06am

What if Schaub's passing line is slightly worse than Sanchez, but his DVOA is slightly better? Would you still say he played better?

Considering the quality of the Texans' pass defense, certainly. But what exactly is the point of that question? If you accept the premise of hte identical stats lines yielding diferent quality results for each, you are accepting the fact that Opponent adjustments matter even in a same-game situation.

Isn't the whole point of this site that traditional stats and the scoreboard don't tell the whole story, because of things like 12 yard completions on 3rd & 16, or one team recovering 6 out of 7 fumbles?

Sure. But then why are you trying to take part of said advanced stats and dismiss them? If the site has developed DVOA which is significantly better than VOA when comparing quality of performance, then why dismiss it? If you won't take advantage of it, you migth as well stick with the conventional stats, is my point.

- Alvaro

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by tuluse :: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 4:38am

There is a difference between questioning that FO has pegged opponent adjustments correctly and throwing out the whole idea of advanced stats in the first place.

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by nat :: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 10:03am

I think you're wrong about using DVOA to compare two teams in a same-game situation, but right to use it to compare two QBs. Here's why:

The DVOA opponent's adjustment implicitly assumes that the opponent is playing their usual quality of football. But when you use DVOA to compare two teams in a single game, you're measuring their quality of football. When a strong team narrowly outplays a weak team, you'll end up with DVOA claiming something like "assuming that Team A played better overall, we conclude that Team B played better overall" - a logical absurdity.

You can compare two QBs that way, because the implicit assumptions that DVOA is making are about the opposing pass defenses. You can also compare two offenses, two defenses, two runningbacks, etc. You just can't combine them into a single analysis without getting a logical contradiction.

It's perfectly legitimate to have Team B rated as having the better game in every facet (as measured by DVOA), but to conclude that Team A outplayed them overall (as measured by VOA, and thus probably the score).

If you want to give this effect a name, call it the "VOA paradox".