Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
18 Oct 2010
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.
Please also note that we do not write the e-mails specifically to produce this column, which 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.
Mike Tanier: The Eagles are averaging 15 yards per play and are leading 14-0. I see one heckuva quarterback controversy in my future.
Ryan Howard is hanging out with Tony Siragusa on the sidelines. Goose to Howard: "That Lincecum's a great pitcher, but he looks like a little kid. He looks like he's 12 years old." Sometimes, it's funny to hear the obvious stated.
Bill Barnwell: Kevin Kolb just threw an interception on a tipped pass that ended a nice drive he had put together. Will Moore returned it 30 yards and Kolb then horse-collared Moore to end the drive, and after a couple of completions by Matt Ryan, the Falcons are in the red zone. Game-changer.
Tom Gower: The Falcons score. They moved the back out of the backfield and had a diamond on the right side, while Tony Gonzalez was flexed outside left with Ellis Hobbs in tight coverage. Hobbs there has to guard against the fade to the wide side of the field, so Gonzo just takes the easy inside release and without any underneath help it's an easy read and TD for Ryan.
Mike Tanier: David Akers also missed a short field goal in the Eagles game. But while we are counting missed opportunities, a ball bounced out of Gonzo's hands and into Asante Samuel's earlier in the second quarter.
Bill Barnwell: Colt McCoy actually looked reasonably impressive on his first series. Steelers big-blitzed him on third-and-long and he stood in the pocket and made a nice throw to Evan Moore on a deep out for a first down. Took a sack on the ensuing first down, though, and while he made a nice throw up the seam on third down, his receiver fell down and tipped the pass to a Steeler defensive back.
Tom Gower: The Watson end-around was absolutely epic. There was another 2nd down play later that drive; I'm not sure if it was a "burn this play" moment or "fire these players" moment or both, as the Steelers were in the backfield almost instantly.
Mike Tanier: I saw the play you refer to, Tom, but I failed to comprehend it.
Now Josh Cribbs is hurt, Anyone who takes a snap for the Browns this year is doomed.
Doug Farrar: Between Brandon Meriweather’s helmet-to-helmet hit on Todd Heap and James Harrison’s helmet-to-helmet hit on Josh Cribbs, I’m guessing there are going to be some wallet-to-wallet fines this next week.
Bill Barnwell: James Harrison just got his second helmet-to-helmet KO of the day, finishing off Mohamed Massaquoi after taking out Josh Cribbs earlier. There's been about a half-dozen scary hits before halftime. Seriously -- go ahead and suspend Harrison for a game. The fines here don't mean anything.
Doug Farrar: While you’re at it, why not suspend the officiating crew doing this game as well? Neither Harrison hit was called, though Alex Mack was called for delay of game on the Massaquoi hit after he kicked the football. Ya think he might have been a little pissed off that his skill players were getting concussed one by one and the refs weren’t doing anything about it?
Mike Tanier: I think the Steelers have gotten away with quite a few borderline hits this year. I will now cower under my bed while Steelers fans tear the siding off my house.
Doug Farrar: Yeah, but it’s not just the Steelers, especially today. The NFL makes these points of emphasis, and it seems to take the refs half a decade to catch up, as it did with the alleged zero-tolerance horse-collar rule.
Tom Gower: Harrison's hit on Cribbs was hard and cheap, but not dirty, I think. The Massaquoi hit should've been flagged.
Bill Barnwell: That wouldn't qualify as a spear? I guess we think of a spear as leading with the helmet to the body, but he led with the crown of his helmet and hit Cribbs in the helmet.
Tom Gower: Looking at the rulebook, the Cribbs hit could have been flagged (assuming the refs deemed done "violently or unnecessarily"), but I thought it was an acceptable no-call given that refs frequently let similar hits go unflagged.
Bill Barnwell: Cribbs was already in the grasp of another defender. Harrison led with his helmet and connected solely with Cribbs's helmet. I would say that qualifies as both violent and unnecessary.
Mike Kurtz: The Bears defense looks absolutely clueless. Seattle has two easy touchdowns on three drives. Their third was cut short by penalties. Justin Forsett scored the latest on a goofy fullback fake counter.
Vince Verhei: Seahawks are playing a lot of press coverage with a single safety. It's a curious strategy, especially considering that Roberto Garza is out for the Bears. Devin Hester got a big pass interference call on the first drive to set up a Matt Forte touchdown run, but haven't done anything since.
Matt Hasselbeck is playing his best game of the year. His best throw was a touchdown to Deon Butler, a rainbow that dropped into his hands in the corner of the end zone. I also enjoyed the pump fake, then play fake, then pump fake again, then find Mike Williams on the sideline play.
They opened the game with a graphic highlighting the returnees on these teams, but so far the other aspects are dominating so far. All the kickoffs are in the end zone, Bears have held Golden Tate to negative yards on a pair of punt returns, and Seahawks have downed a punt inside the 5.
Seahawks played a much more conservative two- deep pass coverage in the second quarter. Bears hit a ton of big plays, but couldn't reach the end zone. Seahawks lead 14-13 at the half.
Bill Barnwell: And Cutler finally takes the safety that was being forecast earlier. Bears football!
Ben Muth: This Cutler/Martz combo is going to be responsible for more sacks than Parcells and Lawrence Taylor.
Mike Kurtz: Hester with ACTUAL EXPLOSION for a punt return touchdown. Some nice cuts, but the real story was great blocking and a massive failure of containment by a Seattle squad I thought was pretty good. Gigantic hole to waggle and cut into. During Hester's heyday, the Bears had by far the best ST blocking in the league. There were a few years where it fell off a bit, but this year it's back, and they're putting the returners in position to do great things. Most of the Seahawks coverage team was on the right side of the field, and almost all of them simply got blown up. It was gorgeous.
Really nifty play call and execution by the Dolphins. They run a rollout screen with Henne and Anthony Fasano lets the blitzing Nick Collins go by him. Henne calmly sees Collins coming at him and throws right back at Fasano, and one Jake Long block later, the Dolphins have the lead.
Packers have been stuffed on both second and third down from the 1.5-yard line on runs to Kuhn. On fourth down, they split everyone out and the Dolphins call timeout. They come back and run the same thing...but then Rodgers comes out of the shotgun and goes under center and sprints into the endzone to tie it up.
The Packers tie it up on a fourth-and-goal sneak by Aaron Rodgers. Two points: 1) The Packers have to just stop, stop, stop with the John Kuhn goal line experiment, as he got stopped two times before the sneak and 2) Rodgers really looked "sneak-like" as he slyly walked up from shotgun to under center, pretended to motion to his receiver, and waited for one of his linemen (Daryn Colledge) to slap his thigh to give him the direction to sneak in. The Dolphins probably should have seen it coming.
I think Jason Hanson just hit the ugliest successful 50-yard field goal you'll ever see. It started low, it stayed low, it swerved from left to right, it still went in.
Doug Farrar: Yep – a Randy Johnson slider all the way.
Bill Barnwell: Now it's Antrel Rolle's turn to try and return an INT with ten seconds left and a lead. Are all (ex-)Cardinals DBs morons?
David Gardner: Aqib Talib, who earlier this week said he wants to be in the conversation for best corner in the league, just got burned on a deep out by Lance Moore.
Bill Barnwell: I believe that's Brees's set up move. His finisher is the long pass up the seam to Colston against a miserably overmatched linebacker or safety. Is our friend Sabby around?
David Gardner: Sabby wasn't involved on either play. Talib fell asleep on the first pass, and Grimm and he miscommunicated on the second one.
Also, remember the Saints having issues in the running game? That's not the case today. Chris Ivory has eight carries for 81 yards, and it's only the middle of the second quarter.
Connor Barth, who'd made 12 in a row going back to last season, just hit the post at the end of the field goal. The run of the mustache has, unfortunately, come to an end.
Cody Grimm just got an interception off a tipped pass with about 20 seconds left in the second half and the Saints driving in Bucs' territory. He then lateraled the ball to Sean Jones, which the commentators called a "great play." NO! It was a horrible play! There are 15 seconds left. Put your butt on the ground and let the offense come take a knee.
Bill Barnwell: Saints have a touchdown taken off the board when third-string tight end/ex-basketball player Jimmy Graham -- split out against linebacker Quincy Black -- commits an OPI en route to a touchdown catch. Garrett Hartley promptly misses a 33-yarder. Surely, someone must still have Morten Andersen's phone number.
David Gardner: Kareem Huggins just caught his first pass in the NFL, and he appeared to have his ACL torn on the same play ... that's sad.
After Barth's first field goal miss, I muttered to my roommate that he couldn't hit the post again if I paid him. Good thing my wallet isn't in the room -- he just hit the post on his second try.
Bill Barnwell: Believe that calls for mustache penance.
Ben Muth: The manliest way to miss a field goal is to bang it off the upright, though. Even in failure, the mustache brings machismo.
David Gardner: Commentators just said that he needed to "tune up" that mustache. Call me old fashioned, but I believe that a mustache must be free.
Rams are up 10-0 after Bradford hits the inimitable Damario Alexander down the field for a 38-yard touchdown. Alexander beat Antoine Cason, who was staring into the backfield until Alexander ran by him, at which point he started sprinting to catch up and failed. Norv noted during the week that Cason had a bad habit of trying to bait people into throwing at him. It's like he really is Antonio Cromartie 2.0.
Bill Barnwell: Sam Bradford looks really good in St. Louis. Just marching down the field on a Chargers defense that's looked really good before today, making smart decisions. Of course, as soon as I write that, he takes two sacks. One was on a scrambling Bradford where Kevin Burnett a) launched himself in the air at Bradford and b) hit him in the helmet with his helmet. Steve Beuerlein goes into a speech about how that's a legal hit until Don Criqui mentions that it's, you know, not legal to spear a player, at which point Beuerlein immediately backtracks.
Mike Tanier: It's 17-0 Rams after a Steven Jackson touchdown. A.J. Smith just ordered the destruction of a small planet to satiate his rage.
Bill Barnwell: I sorta figured he just turns on Madden and starts a franchise where all he does is turn down trades for Vincent Jackson every week.
Ben Muth: Patrick Crayton just decided to try and cut back when he was right on the sideline after a deep out. He gained three extra yards and was tackled in bounds. Savvy.
Doug Farrar: I thought that Bradford’s compact motion and rare deep accuracy pre-determined his potential for NFL success to a degree, but the thing that has surprised me is how well he’s running that offense with a dime-store grab bag of receivers.
Ben Muth: Nate Kaeding just slipped and fell down on a field goal attempt. It did not go in. Not the manliest way to miss a field goal.
Mike Tanier: The Chargers are really creative about dumb things to do on special teams.
Why do I find the Chargers losing so darn funny?
Mike Kurtz: Because Norv!
Bill Barnwell: Chiefs get stuffed on third-and-1 from the three-yard line and they go for it again with play-action. Who do they hit? Mike Vrabel, of course. Cassel still manages to avoid making the throw to a wide-open Vrabel for two seconds, and then he throws it behind Vrabel, who made a pretty nice catch to hold onto it.
Doug Farrar: The first Chiefs touchdown of the day as one example, but I think I’ve seen more running back jump cuts out of play action this year than ever before. Maybe that’s a new effective wrinkle, like the fake pass to draw, to get defenses thinking the wrong thing at the right time.
Tom Gower: After the commercial, Gus Johnson informs us that 74 yard drive was KC's longest of the season. That seems odd given how many drives start at the 20, but I guess it's still early.
The Texans tied the game up on a pass from Schaub to Dreessen. Arian Foster found the kind of running room I expected teams to find against last year's horrible rush defense.
Bill Barnwell: Matt Cassel just made one of the nicest throws I've ever seen him make. Mario Williams destroyed the Chiefs right tackle at the snap, and while he desperately held Williams back, Cassel threw a bullet to Dwayne Bowe for a touchdown. Holding should have been called, but no foul, no harm.
Tom Gower: Dwayne Bowe just ran through Houston's entire secondary after catching a short pass, and the Chiefs are now up 21-7.
Bill Barnwell: Texans convert on fourth-and-1 with a pick play that gets Owen Daniels open. Steve Tasker goes nuts. (paraphrased) "What a gutsy call! That's the difference between these two teams. Gary Kubiak isn't afraid to put the ball in his best player's hands and throw the ball to the outside."
Problems with that statement:
a) The Chiefs went for it on fourth down repeatedly earlier in the game.
b) Andre Johnson is very clearly the Texans' best player. He did not touch the ball. c) Schaub got the ball because, you know, he's the quarterback. Not because he's their best player.
d) The Chiefs' best player is Brandon Flowers or Tamba Hali. It's certainly not Matt Cassel. They can't give those guys the ball on fourth down.
e) The throw to the outside was a one-yard out to an open receiver. It was one of the least dangerous throws a quarterback could make.
Ben Muth: Bill, if there is one thing former players hate, it's letting facts get in the way of analysis.
Aaron Schatz: By the way, I notice Andre Johnson has a lot more yardage than the other Texans receivers... are the Houston formations keeping him away from Brandon Flowers, or is Johnson just beating Flowers?
Bill Barnwell: He just had one big play where he beat Carr, looked like a blown coverage, that was about 50 yards.
Matt Cassel just took a delay of game on third-and-2 coming out of a Chiefs timeout. Seriously.
Jamaal Charles just pulled off one of the greatest eight-yard runs you'll ever see, coming out of the grasp of a gang of 3-4 Texans and sprinting to the other side of the field. Probably had about 35 horizontal yards.
Tom Gower: Then Thomas Jones gets about eight more, I think, on another of those "how on earth can a toss pitch to Thomas Jones outside possibly work", and tack on 15 more for Bernard Pollard hitting him late.
Bill Barnwell: I think Pollard ended up with that penalty solely because he shoved Jones into the kicking net, which made it look a lot worse than it actually was.
Tom Gower: The story of this second half has been just how bad Kansas City's defense has been. The Texans' four drives before this once each ended in a TD and each averaged at least seven yards per play.
Bill Barnwell: Texans complete the comeback and take the lead when Andre Johnson jukes out both safeties and gets wide open in the back of the end zone. Flowers spends the next 90 seconds cursing out the referee on the sidelines.
Tom Gower: Kansas City's right tackle, Barry Richardson, got absolutely destroyed off the snap by Antonio Smith. The Texans' pass rush hasn't been as much of a factor as it needed to be this year, but Smith did a great job on that play even though he didn't end up with the sack.
Bill Barnwell: Steve Tasker just noted that it would be a long field goal attempt for the Chiefs from the 38-yard line. It's 35-31 with five seconds left.
Aaron Schatz: Good news for the Patriots: When the runner hits Patrick Chung, he is almost always going to be stopped cold in his tracks.
Bad news for the Patriots: When the runner hits Patrick Chung, he has just gotten to the third level of your defense. Again.
I feel that the NFL just doesn't have enough good nicknames anymore. I want Football Outsiders to help rectify this and I propose we start referring to Aaron Hernandez as "The Easel." First, because he makes playing tight end look so easy. Second, because I've never seen anyone with so much crap written all over his body.
Pats are primarily a zone secondary, but like most defenses they don't play exclusively one style and so they do play some man. When the play man today, Joe Flacco is just killing them. Pretty much always goes to an outside receiver covered one-on-one in man, although I do think the touchdown pass to Todd Heap on a post route in the second quarter was also man coverage (he beat Chung). Flacco is really good at making sure his third-down passes always get enough yardage to convert. It's almost as if he had some kind of mathematical training.
As for the Pats offense, this is just one half against one defense but so far, I can't tell any difference in how the Ravens are defending Wes Welker compared to what they would do without Moss out there. He's not getting doubled or anything like that. Unfortunately, I'm not at the game watching coverage from up above in the press box, but on TV, at least, things don't look that different in the Pats offense except for the lack of the "two or three times a half let's just chuck it deep" play.
When asked who he would compare to Danny Woodhead, Phil Simms gave the names of not one but TWO African-American players: "Kevin Faulk, a little bit, but more Dave Meggett, who played for so many years with the Giants." Hooray! Meggett is actually a very good comparison, although we haven't seen Woodhead on returns yet. Let's hear it for Phil Simms!
When Seattle fans watch the highlights of this game, they are going to be really, really angry. Deion Branch just caught a touchdown, getting away from Lardarius Webb in the back of the end zone. He's running crisp routes and looks nice and healthy. Can the Seahawks maybe get some of their money back?
And... Pats decide to try a 44-yard Hail Mary with their cadre of short-cross receivers instead of bringing in Gostkowski to try a 62-yard field goal with a very strong wind at their backs. I think this was a mistake. 62-yard field goals are rare, but that wind is strong out there today. Let's go to overtime.
Some teams think that you run early in order to force the defense to bring the safeties up, then you fool the other team with the play-action. Cam Cameron seems to have decided that you run early in order to force the defense to bring the safeties up so that you can continue to run, only now for very small gains.
Aaron Hernandez has inexplicably turned into a drop machine in overtime.
Tom Gower: The Hernandez drops are kind of funny. On the first, he tried to close his hands on the ball too early, while on the second he didn't try to close his hands on the ball until after it had bounced off his catch.
Aaron Schatz: You know, except for one nice sideline pass to Derrick Mason covered by Kyle Arrington, Joe Flacco has completely turned into Captain Checkdown in the fourth quarter and overtime. I think he's thrown to Ray Rice on something like 80 percent of passes in the last 25 minutes.
We come close to a tie, but the Pats finally win the thing with two minutes left. I would like to thank John Harbaugh for NOT calling the B.S. "right at the snap" timeout which would have forced Gostkowski to attempt the game-winning field goal THREE TIMES. (The first one, the officials whistled the two-minute warning as the Pats snapped the ball.)
Baltimore has to be kicking themselves for losing this game today. They were moving the ball easily on the Pats defense for three quarters, but slowing down near the goal line, so they had to settle for a couple field goals. The Pats had some offense, but definitely didn't look as good as weeks past, and they were getting pressure on Brady. Then suddenly in the fourth quarter, it was like everything reversed. The Ravens kept running up into a stacked line for no gain, Flacco couldn't find anyone open deep on third-and-long, and the Patriots just moved things easily, except when Aaron Hernandez was dropping balls.
Tom Gower: Manny Lawson with a nice pick to come underneath and grab a not-poorly-thrown ball intended for Miller. Alex Smith has Josh Morgan open on a seamer against Stanford Routt for a score, but misses him badly. The 49ers then line up for a 52-yard field goal, but only have 9 players on the field, and the punt after the time out goes into the end zone.
Doug Farrar: Smith was jawing at Morgan after the play – either Morgan ran the wrong route, or Morgan took Smith’s first-class plane ticket to Edmonton by mistake, and Smith doesn’t want to fly coach.
Bill Barnwell: Rich Gannon noted that Michael Bush "needs to start and get 20-25 carries" to play his best. Not a reader. Tom Cable's given him 13 carries for 30 yards and it's halfway through the second quarter. Also not a reader.
Doug Farrar: With three minutes left in the first half, Alex Smith is 2-of-11 for 22 yards. This facing the NFL’s worst defense against number-one receivers and tight ends (both of which the 49ers actually have pretty good versions of). At what point does David Carr actually become a positive option?
Ooooookay –- right after I typed that, Smith and Singletary had another sideline tiff, and Smith came back on the next drive to go 6-of-9 for 66 yards. I’m starting to wonder if the result of these arguments is that the game plan is put in Smith’s hands as a last-chance gambit before he’s pulled, and that’s why he’s always so much better right after they happen.
Ben Muth: Third-and-four from the eight-yard line. Alex Smith tries to throw a swing pass to Gore, and misses him by four yards. SF settles for the field goal. Gore looks like he's wondering when his contract expires.
Bill Barnwell: I think that might have been on purpose. The 49ers had no timeouts left, and there were 11 seconds left. If Gore catches the pass, he might not have been able to get out of bounds, and that would have taken the 49ers to the half without scoring. Of course, Rich Gannon didn't notice any of that, suggesting that Gore could have made a guy miss and picked up the first down.
Ben Muth: I don't think it was on purpose. If you are doing that you almost always throw it out of the back of the endzone. Never in the flat where if there is a pick, there's a good chance it's going for six the other way. And based on the look of frustration/disgust Gore wasn't aware of any plan. Although I'll admit I didn't notice the TO situation. Maybe Alex Smith is smarter than I give him credit for.
Tom Gower: Alex Smith just got one of those "bad QB" intentional grounding calls where Josh Morgan came back for the ball and Smith assumed he'd continue running. After a couple minute delay while the refs decided whether or not to call grounding at all, then had to remember what down it should be, Smith hits Crabtree for a 32 yard TD with Chris Johnson in coverage.
Jason Campbell completed zero passes in the second quarter. And the third quarter.
Bill Barnwell: He missed Louis Murphy on a gorgeous 60-yard throw for what would have been a 99-yard touchdown pass by about two feet. I know. Doesn't make up for it. But he just threw a pass that hit a 49ers defender in the hands, bounced out of them, and then promptly fell into Zach Miller's hands for a first down.
Tom Gower: I think he probably would've had to actually hit Murphy in the hands for that pass to have been complete, since I'm not sure Louis was looking for the ball at all. And, since we mention that incompletion, we also have to mention the reason they were on the 1 in the first place is Campbell decided to run backward when a 49ers defender stayed at home.
Bill Barnwell: Oh, of course. I just think it's strange that we'll end up considering the incompletion as a bad play and the completion as a good play when, realistically, the incompletion was a far better throw than the completion.
Bill Barnwell: Nnamdi Asomugha just defended the entire field and saved a Frank Gore touchdown run. Gore broke through a seam and had the entire field ahead of him short Asomugha and Michael Crabtree. Of course, Asomugha played the angles perfectly while fighting off Crabtree, and while Gore still picked up 60 yards, he slowed Gore down long enough for the cavalry to catch up. Just an incredible play. Niners score a touchdown anyway, but not his fault.
Niners don't go for two after the touchdown despite being up 16-9 before the extra point. With seven minutes left against an offense that can't move the ball, making it a two-score game just about guarantees victory. The advantage you gain by forcing a two-point conversion to tie is downright miniscule in comparison. Mike Singletary must have been off working on his glare.
Vince Verhei: I agree completely. If you kick it, the realistic worst-case scenario is they score a touchdown and two-pointer, and you're tied. If you go for it and fail, the realistic worst-case scenario is they score touchdown and kick the PAT and you're tied. And you're likely to get the 2-pointer and put the game away.
Ben Muth: Tim Tebow handed the ball off to Buckhalter for a fourteen yard gain. Dierdorf gives all the credit to Saint Tim.
What is going on with field goals today? The Broncos long snapper just bounced one, and the Broncos couldn't convert.
Bill Barnwell: Tim Tebow scores! Well, sorta. He took a QB keeper for a seven-yard touchdown, and even though he was being chased by guys on his left, he never took the ball off of his left side.
Aaron Schatz: The Tim Tebow package is really ridiculous, except on the goal line. It was clear every play was going to be a run up the middle. I could just call them out whenever Tebow came in. If you aren't going to let Tebow pass once every five or six plays, that package isn't going to get you anything when it isn't first-and-goal on the 1.
Doug Farrar: My only question about the Tebow red zone rushing score: Why did it take so long? This guy scored as many college rushing touchdowns as Marshall Faulk.
Aaron Schatz: There was a hilarious play where a hole opened in the middle of the field and Orton went to scramble, and he actually juked David Harris so bad that Harris slipped and fell on his butt. I'll repeat. Kyle Orton. JUKED OUT. David Harris. No, seriously. It was better than the play from a couple years ago where Tom Brady juked out Brian Urlacher.
Bill Barnwell: And the Jets just took two offensive pass interference penalties in three plays, including one well downfield by Santonio Holmes. He's a Super Bowl MVP! He'd never commit a penalty!
Vince Verhei: Nick Folk kicks a Jets record 56-yarder to tie the game at 10. They turned down a fourth-and-1 to try it though. I know they're in Denver, but it seems more likely they pick up the first down than the field goal. Especially this team.
Tom Gower: I wonder how many people will praise Rex Ryan for kicking a 56 yard field goal on fourth-and-1 instead of going for it. I guarantee you it'll happen, because the field goal was made.
Bill Barnwell: After a great throw by Sanchez and run by Dustin Keller, the Jets get the ball in Denver territory and run an end-around for Santonio Holmes. With a huge alley available to him, Holmes shows off his instincts by running right into the one blocker on that side of the field and coughing the ball up, with the Broncos recovering.
Jets go from out of it to in the lead with a miracle play; on fourth down with 1:30 left, Sanchez scrambles and heaves a bomb downfield. On the way down for the ball, Renaldo Hill grabs Santonio Holmes's facemask, which the refs call a DPI. That gives the Jets the ball on the Broncos 2-yard line, and they score on the next play. Wow. Probably the right call, but surprised they made it.
Tom Gower: I'm pretty sure the Broncos defense just laid down and let the Jets score that TD, which in my opinion was completely the wrong decision. The Broncos had all 3 timeouts left, so unless the Jets got a first down via penalty, they could've gotten the ball with almost a minute left even after a field goal, and could've been tied instead of down four. I can see the logic, but if I'm right, I think that's a bad decision by McDaniels.
Vince Verhei: I hate that rule. Jets do nothing to earn those 40 yards. Knocking down a receiver is apparently three times as bad as taking a guy out at the knee and ending his career. Hate it hate it hate it.
Bill Barnwell: I think I'm the only one who likes the pass interference penalty as is.
Tim Gerheim: I know that was a legitimate call on that long pass interference against the Broncos, giving the Jets the ball at the 1 and setting up the winning touchdown, but it's still an illegitimate rule. I honestly think you could make a functional offense out of nothing but max-protect punt-length bombs. The worst that happens is an interception, and you'll get at least as many DPI's as interceptions, plus the odd reception. Savvy receivers can often work their body in a way to draw contact like a guard driving the lane, and they would certainly practice doing so in an offensive scheme like that. Needless to say, that would be a totally illegitimate way to play football, and that to me proves the problem with the rule.
Bill Barnwell: I don't think that's very realistic at all.
Tim Gerheim: Only because the refs would get as fed up with it as everyone else. Admittedly you couldn't do ONLY those plays, but deep DPI should be a big part of the game plan.
Bill Barnwell: There were 1,261 passes last year that were thrown 25 yards or more downfield. Pass interference was called on 45 of those plays. That's 3.6 percent of those passes. You can only realistically throw about 15-20 of them per game. You're looking at a pass interference call once every game and a half or so. There were three times as many interceptions (122) as pass interference calls.
Vince Verhei: I know nobody would ever try it, but I think if you actually built an offense for this, with lots of big jump ball receivers, it would be far from the worst offense in the league.
Bill Barnwell: That's the 2009 San Diego Chargers offense. They threw 56 passes 25 yards or more downfield and picked up four DPIs. Even at that rate -- seven percent -- it's not winning or losing you football games by itself.
Mike Kurtz: Barnwell's right, but even then you're forgetting that the officials would simply just stop calling DPI so stringently and instantly your offense is useless. That's why officials shouldn't be robots.
Vince Verhei: Jets longest play from scrimmage was 41 yards. The pass interference play was 46 yards. No team's biggest play should come on a penalty.
Aaron Schatz: It was one of those calls that was correct but complete and total luck. I wish there was some way to change the DPI penalty in the red zone while leaving it as is on the rest of the field -- maybe any DPI inside the 20 advances the ball to a location halfway between the 20 and the spot of the penalty, instead of all the way to the spot of the penalty?
Perrish Cox probably had the best game of his young career today.
Ben Muth: Would people prefer the college rule of ten yards and an automatic first down? Personally, I like the college rule better, but that can get pretty ridiculous when people tackle guys once they're beat to prevent touchdowns. Just wondering what others think.
Tom Gower: I mentioned this in the comments section of last week's Audibles, I think, but Arena Football has the college rule. Any guy who's open more than 25 yards downfield gets tackled. Teams would absolutely take the 15 on tons of passes more than 25 yards downfield. College DPI would be an ever-lovin' disaster in the NFL.
Mike Kurtz: I don't think there is a good solution to the PI problem. Part of the difference between the college and NFL rules is that deep throws in the NFL are more likely to actually be completions, so you need stricter enforcement since there's a greater chance that you're denying a big play. The problem is that uncatchable is an unrealistic but necessary test ... many, many "catchable" balls could or would not, in fact, be caught, but you can only go so far under that theory.
I actually am sympathetic to ideas like Aaron's, which strike some sane balance and build in diminishing returns. Then again, I've also advocated removing special teams from the game, so I have been known to hold some crazy positions.
Tim Gerheim: Pretty much, although it's not perfect either for the reason you describe. I think it would be nice, but unworkable, if there was a sliding scale of what counted as interference depending on how far down the field it occurs. So things like handfighting and maybe even getting there a little early would be more forgivable the deeper the throw goes. But of course, that would require the refs to exercise discretion, and, as detailed in Scramble last week, in today's NFL we don't like our refs making decisions and exercising common sense in preference to a specifically written rule.
Aaron Schatz: That's why I suggested some sort of compromise rule. The problem is that a compromise rule could end up being too complex for fans to understand, but it would work like this:
1) On any DPI where the spot of the foul was outside the 20, ball goes to the spot of the foul.
2) On any DPI where the spot of the foul is at the 20 or closer to the end zone, the ball goes to either a) the 20 or b) halfway between the line of scrimmage and the spot of the foul, whichever spot is closer to the goal line.
Just to give an example on my compromise rule, the Broncos DPI took place on the two, so with my rule the Jets would have gotten first-and-10 on the Broncos 11, halfway between the 20 and the 2. That's a huge 37-yard penalty, awful for Denver, but it doesn't just hand the Jets a touchdown.
Mike Kurtz: Fans are having extreme difficulty with simple rules, not sure that's a useful consideration. Also, if the results of the rule are apparent, eventually fans will grow used to it, even if they don't understand exactly how it works.
Bill Barnwell: And if Holmes is open three yards deeper, it makes more sense for Renaldo Hill to cream him and take a penalty that gives the Jets the ball on the 10-yard line. Every time. That's far more egregrious of a result for me than Holmes getting the ball on the two-yard line.
Aaron Schatz: I think the problem is that you are only thinking about the clear, obvious DPIs. Spot of the foul isn't a problem at all for the clear, obvious DPIs. But as we've learned the last few years, there are a lot of very iffy DPI calls, and a lot of plays where DPI should be called and is not. The rules on what constitutes DPI are really unclear. How many times in Audibles since 2004 has somebody said something along the lines of "I honestly have no idea what constitutes pass interference any more"?
The other answer to this is to create two classifications of DPI, one for touching a guy a little bit and one for completely tackling him, which would hopefully prevent the type of thing Bill is afraid of.
Tom Gower: Which goes back to what Tim said; DPI is one of those rules where the NFL can't be as explicit as it likes to be, which means you get inherent subjectivity on the part of refs and crews, so there's a relatively large element of official's discretion and people (myself included) whine when that discretion and subjectivity is exercised.
There's one thing I think I've mentioned before: a 15-yard Minor DPI infraction to give the officials an intermediate position between a 40-yard field position change and calling nothing. Just don't ask me to write where the line between Minor DPI and Major DPI is.
Ben Muth: I don't see why they couldn't classify DPIs. I don't recall there being that much controversy over five-yard facemasks vs 15-yard facemasks or roughing vs running into the kicker.
Aaron Schatz: Apparently, there was some sort of issue with five-yard and 15-yard face masks, because now there are only 15-yard face masks.
Mike Kurtz: Removal of the five-yard face mask was actually a safety thing. The league didn't want to "reward" dangerous behavior over more-dangerous behavior.
Aaron Schatz: OK, but how is inadvertant behavior dangerous? That was the whole point of the 5-yard face mask, it was for when a defender went to grab the jersey, and the ballcarrier moved a little, so he got the face mask, realized what he was doing, and immediately let go. That's not dangerous, that could happen on every play in football.
Mike Kurtz: Back to DPI: Two categories of DPI is just redefining the problem. How does a shove classify? It doesn't tackle him, but in the end it would have the same effect. It's not like a face mask where you had a clear delineation between incidental and personal foul.
As far as knowing what is and isn't DPI, like I said in Scramble last week, the viewer doesn't have to. In fact, the collective viewer is never, ever going to agree on anything but the most clear-cut calls. We have to stop using that as a yardstick for penalties.
Doug Farrar: I've also wondered for a while if some crews use contact as a de facto "smaller" interference penalty.
Aaron Schatz: They aren't supposed to. Isn't Illegal Contact supposed to only apply to contact before the pass is thrown?
Tom Gower: It's supposed to. I'd almost guarantee you some long DPIs are shoehorned into illegal contact or defensive holding.
Mike Kurtz: Yeah. You do see one called incorrectly instead of the other, but that's usually because the official has to see the contact and then look to see if the ball's out. You get the same timing issues you have with delay of game.
As far incidental, you still had to grab the facemask. Sliding your hand over it was and is still okay, except in certain situations. The league is just saying that no grabs are acceptable (and in fact you get a few slight grabs that aren't called because there's no incidental anymore, which is probably more just).
Doug Farrar: Yeah, but given the huge swings from low to high in just about every penalty every year, it's safe to say that crews see things very differently. Did Alberto Riveron's crew (14 contact calls) check whether the ball was thrown more vigilantly than the crews run by Gene Steratore and Bill Leavy (three each)? You’d have to think so.
Mike Kurtz: I'd actually like to look at all the data, but I don't think sets in the low-teens are going to give you much to work with with respect to year-to-year trends.
Sean McCormick: In general, I agree with Bill that the PI rules have to stay as they are and that the college rules simply don't suffice in a league where so many quarterbacks have the arm and accuracy to hit receivers forty or fifty yards downfield with something approaching regularity. Corners would just hammer receivers who had beat them on play after play, and it would add a lot more penalty stoppages to the game than we have now. PI is certainly a potentially decisive call, and I think the corners should be given a bit more room to make contact than they currently have, but by any stretch, when a guy is tugged on a receiver's face mask, that's going to draw a flag.
Vince Verhei: Last thought on PI, I promise: I would be a lot less upset about the whole thing if the penalty was called evenly. But it seems like a cornerback has to treat receivers like fine china, while wideouts are free to initiate all the contact they want. Either they win the fight, throw the corner down and catch the ball, or they lose the fight and get the penalty.
Ben Muth: A quick counterpoint to the PI thing. D-linemen always use hands to the face. They get their coffee with their hands on an O-lineman's face mask; it is rarely called. Just saying.
Doug Farrar: With 13 minutes left in the first half, Troy Aikman tells Miles Austin from the booth that he doesn’t need to use push-off tactics because he’s better than that. I am laughing on both the inside and the outside.
Bill Barnwell: Brett Favre just took a megasack (TM Kurtz). 12-yarder on the Cowboys' 30-yard line on third down, taking them out of field goal range.
Mike Kurtz: Hey, now, I'm not sure you can make that assumption in this NFL.
Bill Barnwell: Mike Jenkins just picked up what must be his 43rd pass interference penalty of the past two weeks on a crucial third down in Minnesota, giving the Vikings a new set of downs just before the two-minute warning.
Mike Tanier: I suddenly feel much more employed than Wade Phillips.
Bill Barnwell: The Colts are making Ryan Torain look like the second coming of Walter Payton.
Tim Gerheim: While they're overselling the second Carlos Rogers interception opportunity where both he and the receiver had their hands on the ball simultaneously, Manning really has thrown two straight passes to a Redskins defensive back. This is wildly out of character, right? Does anyone have an explanation why he is so seemingly inaccurate so far tonight?
Tom Gower: The first Rogers pick, I think he thought Collie would get separation and he never did. The second, Rogers was exactly where the route was supposed to go-not sure if he just didn't see him, if he thought the target could beat Rogers to the ball, or what.
What really stands out as the difference between good and bad QBs in the NFL is anticipation. If you stop throwing with anticipation and wait for guys to be open, it's really hard to complete passes. The downside is, if you throw with anticipation, you have to be able to accurately anticipate things or you could end up looking really silly.
Aaron Schatz: Man, the Colts defense just misses so many tackles. Last year they were third in broken tackles. They sort of get away with it because they're so fast swarming to the ball that usually you break one tackle and there's another guy there to tackle you two yards later, but they miss a ridiculous number of tackles.
Tim Gerheim: Jim Haslett is the spitting image of Odo from Deep Space Nine. Nerd cred: established.
Bill Barnwell: Can't understand why the Colts attempted that field goal Adam Vinatieri ended up missing. The Redskins haven't been able to stop Manning for the past two drives whatsoever. Two yards would be child's play. I know Caldwell's super-conservative, but Manning's not overruling his coaches anymore these days?
Redskins also let 40 seconds run off the clock by not calling timeout after that third-down stuff before the successful Vinatieri field goal. Instead of 2:35 with two timeouts and the two-minute warning, they now have 2:00 with three timeouts.
Ben Muth: Fourth-and-3 with about 45 seconds left and the Redskins try a 50-yard field goal. Why? You have two timeouts still, be aggressive and go for it, or be conservative and punt it.
Aaron Schatz: Mike Sellers just dragged three tacklers on a pass and got away from all of them for a first down. Seriously, the Colts' philosophy of small, fast defenders leads to a TON of these broken tackles.
Ben Muth: I love Mike Sellers. Every time I watch him, he does three or four things that impress the hell out of me. He might be the best player on the Redskins.
Bill Barnwell: Mike Sellers is definitely the best guy on the team at posing after he makes any play.
Aaron Schatz: I like Mike Sellers too, but he's a good role player, he's not the best player on the Redskins. He's not even in the top five, which I would have as London Fletcher, Brian Orakpo, LaRon Landry (if he's playing strong safety instead of free safety), Santana Moss, and Donovan McNabb.
Ben Muth: Best at his job was more what I was going for. Obviously, all the people you mentioned are more valuable and better football players in the grand scheme of things. But Sellers does everything they ask of him (block, catch, play special teams) really well. In fact, it would be difficult to find a guy that does those things as well as Sellers does.
Aaron Schatz: Colts call an interesting zone on the Redskins' touchdown that makes it 27-24. You've heard of quarter-quarter-half? That was nothing-quarter-half.
Bill Barnwell: I am appalled that people would accuse Donovan McNabb of lacking the required urgency on a key fourth quarter drive.
Doug Farrar: Clock managements: Washington does not has it.
There are several different NFL teams who would like to know where that version of Phillip Buchanon was in years past.
Aaron Schatz: The pass defense played by the Washington secondary on the Colts' three-and-out in the last three minutes was absurdly good. You don't see a lot of Phillip Buchanon playing great man coverage.
Tim Gerheim: Given the beauty of NFL broadcast camerawork I couldn't see the answer to this question, but how is a bomb to a short, double-covered receiver the highest-percentage option on 4th-and-10? That just seems like ridiculous decision-making by McNabb.
323 comments, Last at 26 Oct 2010, 2:44am by BigCheese