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).

24 Jan 2011

Audibles: Conference Championships

compiled by Bill Barnwell

Each weekend, 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 note that we may not discuss every single important event in each game.

Green Bay Packers 21 at Chicago Bears 14

Doug Farrar: If the Bears don’t keep at least one of their linebackers out of the chase on play action, this game is going to get ugly in a big hurry. Rodgers was just killing that Cover-2 with play action on the first drive. On his last pass of the drive, all three ‘backers voided the zone entirely to follow.

Tom Gower: Just to echo Doug's comment, a very impressive opening drive by the Packers. Aaron Rodgers was particularly sharp, and helped show why I'm not a huge fan of execution-style defenses like the Bears: if they don't out-talent you, it's possible to rip them apart.

Mike Tanier: A few well executed play-fakes on that drive, which helped set up the bootleg.

Doug Farrar: If the Bears don’t keep at least one of their linebackers out of the chase on play action, this game is going to get ugly in a big hurry. Rodgers was just killing that Cover-2 with play action on the first drive. On his last pass of the drive, all three ‘backers voided the zone entirely to follow.

Bill Barnwell: Bears get Devin Hester isolated against Charlie Peprah -- by far the weak link of the Packers secondary, particularly in coverage -- on third down and Hester runs a great deep out. Cutler overthrows him by two yards. Not a good sign.

After watching the replay, looks like it could be route miscommunication -- looked like Cutler thought Hester was running a corner.

Aaron Schatz: Chicago decision to punt from the Packers' 35: Fail. Good coffin corner punt, but James Starks makes it back past the 30 on the first carry. There's too much wind today to try an early 53-yarder?

Bill Barnwell: Robbie Gould's only attempted two 50+ yard field goals at home in six years. Not surprised they punted.

Vince Verhei: As the resident defender of close-range punting, I'll stick up for the Bears decision to turn down the long field goal on their first drive. If they miss a 53-yarder, the Packers get an extra 30 yards of field position, and the ensuing Green Bay drive is likely a field goal, not a punt.

Ben Muth: T.J. Lang could be in over his head.

Doug Farrar: Chad Clifton suffers a neck stinger at the goal line on Green Bay's first drive, and TJ Lang replaces him on the second. He plays well against Israel Idonije on the first play, then Peppers switches over lined up wide to force one-on-ones. Lang gets beaten on a couple of pressures (he seems especially susceptible to inside moves), and this could be a real problem if Clifton can't return.

Vince Verhei: Packers are targeting Tim Jennings. What is that, six targets in the first two drives? Seven?

Bill Barnwell: Cullen Jenkins is having a monster game so far.

Mike Tanier: Empty against the Packers on third-and-six? With Bennett as a quasi tight end? Yuck buckets.

Tom Gower: On the Cutler sack on third down to snuff the Bears' second drive, Cutler tried to step up after pressure only to get crushed by Matthews on a delayed rush. Kreutz tried to stop Matthews, but did not do a very good job of blocking him.

Bill Barnwell: Everything successful for Rodgers has been right in front of the safeties.

Vince Verhei: I like the blitz the Bears used on Brian Urlacher's third-down sack. Tackle stunts outside, end moves behind him to the outside, Urlacher swoops to the outside of all of them with no blocker to pick him up.

Aaron Schatz: The first quarter of this thing was like one of those World Cup soccer games where one team totally dominates the other but it still ends up just 1-0.

Rob Weintraub: We slam the announcers a lot, so I'll give props to Buck for at least doing a mea culpa there and admitting Urlacher didn't slip, as he called it originally -- he got juked.

Tom Gower: Too many of these Cutler-Hester throws look like they're the kind of small miscommunications you see from a quarterback and receiver just getting used to each other in their first preseason, not the kind of thing you see in the postseason between guys who are in their second year as teammates.

You're down 14 points against a team with a good offense. You're on the opposing 31. Why are you punting?

Bill Barnwell: This punting inside Packers territory thing works when your awesome special teams guys (especially Corey Graham) down the ball inside the five-yard line. Not so much when you produce touchbacks.

Aaron Schatz: Graham actually caught the ball for the Bears, then stepped on the goal line, and then suddenly realized he was supposed to bat it back and just sort of dropped it towards the one-yard line. Good job there.

Will Carroll: Watching Rodgers' run, I wonder why no NFL broadcaster has come up with a system that shows how far and fast someone ran. Its the kind of data that is instantly understandable -- "he ran 62 yards to get 20" -- and would have some quirky things like figuring out that Rodgers can outrun Briggs, or that Briggs is fast enough to catch him twenty yards down the field if he had the right angle.

Ben Muth: Hate that punt from the Packers.

Vince Verhei: Jay Cutler seems to be imploding. The lob under heavy pressure into triple coverage really should have been intercepted.

Bill Barnwell: I think he was hit in motion there.

Vince Verhei: If Cutler was hit in motion on this play, it was by a 300-pound charging right into his face. Even attempting a pass there is an implosion.

Aaron Schatz: Great defense by Greg Olsen to prevent an interception there. Green Bay really is dominating. Surprising that this score is only 14-0.

Is it me, or are the refs actually blowing whistles EARLY in this game to indicate a guy is down? Usually they take forever to blow the whistle, because they are so scared of getting overturned. For example, Jay Cutler just took a sack and fumbled the ball but for some reason the official blew the whistle before Cutler was even down, not to mention before the ball came out. Huh?

Tom Gower: Inside the two-minute warning, a fumble by the offensive team can only be advanced by the fumbling player. It's a special rule designed to prevent the Holy Roller play. As soon as Forte picked the ball up, the play was dead. I assume Pereira was off-screen explaining the rule, which enabled BuckAikman to pick up on what happened.

Rob Weintraub: To continue the soccer theme, if Chicago scores it will be described as "against the run of play."

Tim Gerheim: I'm really impressed with the Packers' preparedness. I mentioned Rodgers, and it's the same with the defense. On one Forte run where he pushed it to the edge, the linebackers did a great job of maintaining contain and lane discipline. Forte tried to cut it upfield inside his widest blocker but Desmond Bishop stayed in his lane and was there for the tackle. Then they were in perfect position on a screen to both pressure Cutler and tackle Forte for no gain.

Doug Farrar: And there, folks, is a great A/B on interceptions: Fault of the quarterback, and non-fault of the quarterback.

Tim Gerheim: I assume you're describing the Rodgers one as not QB fault, but I don't think that's completely true. Assuming Driver ran the route correctly, that ball was quite a ways behind Driver, which made it pretty difficult to catch. Sure Driver might could have pulled it in, and it was obviously fluky to get picked, but Rodgers wasn't fully blameless.

Aaron Schatz: Well, don't you throw it slightly low specifically because low throws are rarely intercepted?

Vince Verhei: It hit the receiver in the shins. The interception was a little bit of bad luck and a little bit of Lance Briggs making a great play, but you can't defend that pass.

Bill Barnwell: It hit him literally in the foot. That's why it bounced up. If it him in the shins, it would have bounced down.

Tim Gerheim: It wasn't just low. It was to the inside of Driver while he was running horizontally toward the sideline. That doesn't quite seem like a low throw calculated to avoid interception.

The Bears defense looks weary on the Packers' first drive of the second half. That's not a good sign.

Bill Barnwell: Seems odd that they would be weary after halftime and a three-and-out.

Will Carroll: Was that Rodgers tackle a complete Roethlisberger deja vu? Wow.

Collins in ... unless Cutler has surgery next week, he's never going to win the Bears fans over.

Mike Kurtz: Cutler's "knee" is "hurt."

TODD COLLINS EXPERIENCE.

Aaron Schatz: His name is WALPOLE'S OWN Todd Collins!

Bill Barnwell: I think we can all agree on that Rodgers throw in the red zone as being an awful one.

Mike Tanier: Captain Urlacher says that his ship is still very seaworthy.

Tom Gower: You simply cannot make that mistake on third-and-goal. This game would've been over at 17-0, but at 14-0 and the ball at midfield, it's not.

Mike Tanier: Whenever I see a touchdown-saving tackle by a quarterback I think of Dave Krieg in a Monday night game in the late 80's fighting off two blocks to make the tackle. Cannot remember the game, though.

Vince Verhei: Don't remember the play you're talking about, but it sure sounds like Krieg -- subpar execution, elite effort.

Mike Tanier: Hester is succumbing to the slippery field in a Vick-like way.

Will Carroll: Cutler's standing. He said to the trainer that he's "feeling it" when he moves to his right. I'll give him a pass for not having ice on it, given the air temperature, but he would be smart to do it anyway.

This is about to get ugly, isn't it?

Aaron Schatz: I don't get it, what is the injury?

Bill Barnwell: Am I the only person who thinks Jay Cutler and the Bears doctors have the best idea of whether he should be out there?

Ben Muth: From Derrick Brooks's twitter: "HEY there is no for a guy with no guts and heart"

Strong words from a strong man.

Aaron Schatz: I hope I'm not the only person who thinks FOX is doing a terrible job of telling us when the injury happened and giving a replay.

Mike Kurtz: If Cutler is hurt, he's hurt. I'm mostly just joking around, because Collins = game over. Which is a shame, because the Bears defense is absolutely on fire.

Tom Gower: I agree with Bill. If Cutler's not playing, then there's probably a very good reason for it. And I don't expect any better from Fox.

Bill Barnwell: It was before halftime on that final drive. Not sure when. I mean, it's very clear that Cutler has a serious knee injury. They're not working on him on the sideline and he's not in the locker room getting worked on. The Bears aren't going to put Todd Collins in there for fun.

Mike Kurtz: Awesome, Hester EXPLODES for about -13 yards, is tackled by a teammate. I don't think we'll ever see a team more grateful for a rekick after that.

Vince Verhei: Buck has also forgotten what down it is a few times. It's the usual embarrassing show from this crew.

Ben Muth: I have no doubt that he is actually hurt, no one would take themselves out if they thought they could go. I just find it hilarious how much everyone seems to hate this guy.

Will Carroll: I'm not saying he's not hurt. I'm saying they don't seem too concerned and he didn't look that injured when he came out in the third quarter.

Mike Tanier: It's the imagery: Cutler STANDing on the sidelines, not being worked on. He looks far more benched than injured. I mean ... I know some injuries cannot be handled until later, but the appearances aren't good.

Aaron Schatz: I just said this on Twitter, but I wonder if the doctors actually are showing concern and FOX just isn't showing it because their broadcast values kinda suck today.

Tom Gower: By putting Hanie in with 1:12 to go in the third quarter, rather than running two running plays and waiting for the start of the fourth quarter, the Bears lost the use of Todd Collins and Jay Cutler for the game.

Vince Verhei: Wait a minute. Lovie Smith has decided that Caleb Hanie is a better quarterback, and he made that decision here, in the space of one quarter in the NFC title game?

Mike Tanier: Forte and Urlacher have decided they are Batman and Robin. Soon, Carson Palmer will demand a trade to Chicago.

David Gardner: I think it's just a "who can hand off/throw screens to Forte better" decision at this point.

Mike Kurtz: Haha, and then Hanie fires a perfect bullet to Knox to get to the 1-yard line. Holy cow, this may be a ball game.

Mike Tanier: Probably a good time to note that it is now 14-7 and anybody's game.

Ben Muth: You cannot let Caleb Hanie hang around!

Vince Verhei: Now Buck A) says "we just saw Jay Cutler smile for the first time" for the second time today, and B) says Hanie is 1-for-1 for seven yards, moments after he hit the 30-something pass to Knox to set up the touchdown.

Ben Muth: Julius Peppers certainly got his 15 yards worth on that hit.

Tom Gower: I wonder if Rodgers got shaken up at all on the TD the opening drive and then the big hit later in the first. He's been much more inconsistent and inaccurate in his throws since then.

Will Carroll: Great point, Tom. He was clearly concussed with the Peppers hit. I can't say that it's mishandled - he got up and "shook it off", but there's consequences. Inaccuracy might be one. Slower reads?

Mike Tanier: I am not sure how clear a concussion can be on television footage of a standing man "shaking off" a hit.

Will Carroll: He was hit in the head. He was down a while. As he got up, his eyes had trouble focusing for a minute. While I hate the term "mild concussion," it's pretty easy to see there.

Vince Verhei: DANCING FAT GUY!!!

Will Carroll: Is that the biggest man to ever make a pick-six?

Bill Barnwell: Hanie never saw B.J. Raji bounce off the line on that zone blitz. I know that seems ridiculous to say -- that he missed a 350-pound man drop back into coverage -- but it's true.

Mike Tanier: This Bears touchdown drive rendered ridiculous by the uncalled hold on Clay Matthews on one of the first plays. The lineman got to second base on him. Or by the short kickoffs that keep giving the Bears the ball around the 40-yard line.

Aaron Schatz: Does Nick Collins know this game is still going?

Ben Muth: Nick Collins failed geometry.

Vince Verhei: So Hanie throws what should be a season-ending pick-six, then leads a march down the field and scores in 80 seconds to pull within a touchdown again. That's a third string QB against a top-five defense. I will never fully understand this game.

Mike Tanier: Hanie is now sixth on the All-Time Bears Quarterback list!

Bill Barnwell: Bears run defense has been fantastic in the second half. 10 carries, 16 yards by Starks/Kuhn/Jackson. This game should be over.

Mike Tanier: Tim Masthay is having a big game.

The sight of Clay Matthews dropping into coverage in these situations fills me with awe and sadness.

Mike Kurtz: This quarter is a good example of why, charges of running up the score be damned, you should never, ever take your foot off the gas.

Mike Tanier: Geez, more Packers had to trip over each other on that first down pass after fourth-and inches.

BURN THAT JET SWEEP.

Tom Gower: The jet sweep/end-around, to the short side, WITH BLOCKING TE DEZ CLARK LINED UP AS A WIDEOUT TO THAT SIDE. Gee, you think they might be running that direction? Absolute masterminding by Mastermind Mike Martz himself.

Doug Farrar: That’s the kind of stuff that got Jeremy Bates fired.

Bill Barnwell: Oh, if that fumble by Sam Shields had come a moment earlier ...

Vince Verhei: What a weird-ass, ugly, clunky game. Seems like the best players were all on the losing team -- Hanie was excellent with the obvious exception of the pick-six. And the linebackers were tremendous all around.

Bill Barnwell: If I may stick up for the winners, Cullen Jenkins and Greg Jennings had fantastic games. And B.J. Raji wasn't that bad, either.

Aaron Schatz: And Tim Masthay, cancelling out what was supposed to be a big-time advantage for Chicago special teams.

(Ed. Note: Actually, it turns out he didn't... when I run the DVOA from the two conference championship games later today, you'll see that Chicago destroyed Green Bay in every other element of special teams. -- Aaron)

Mike Kurtz: Looking over my comments on the Bears game again, I should mention that I think if Cutler was hurt, obviously he shouldn't play. But considering the situation, it would make sense for him to do a very good job of appearing to be hurt (which is silly, I know, but because of the coverage at first I thought he had just been benched, since I didn't see any trainers or anything).

Mike Tanier: If I am the trainer, I stick a big immobilizer on Cutler, or hand him crutches, even if he doesn't need them. If I am the coach, I order the trainer to do it. Or to head for the locker room and come out limping in street clothes.

And after seeing Shonn Greene and Cotchery crawl back onto the field in today's second game, I do have to wonder if there was more to the injury than just an injury.

Ned Macey: The Bears' players seemed to have no issues with it, and what impact does the media firestorm have if they've already lost? They obviously evaluated him in the locker room at halftime and thought he was dicey. He couldn't play on the first drive, and everyone understood he was too hurt to play/not allowed to play. Obviously, nobody on the team thought that Todd Collins was a better answer. Why should the Bears give a crap about what MJD was going to tweet?

And, if coming out injured in a Championship Game means you're a gigantic pussy, then how can the Patriots possibly rally around that Tom Brady character?

Mike Tanier: Well, the player still has to live, dine, shop, and ingest media in the community. As do his family and friends. Better to spend the next six months as the guy who heroicly cheered in vain from his crutches than the next six months as the guy "not tough enough to be out there."

New York Jets 19 at Pittsburgh Steelers 24

Mike Kurtz: CBS's new pre-game shtick is JB talking to the E*Trade baby. I want to kill myself after seeing that.

Bill Barnwell: Did Mike Tomlin really tell Phil Simms the Steelers wouldn't have to resort to gadgets or tricks without a hint of irony?

Will Carroll: Pouncey had his ankle forcibly inverted by the guy falling on him ... not good at all.

Doug Legursky got blown up on third-and-1. It wasn't exactly an unexpected call to go with Redman, but there was just no push and the line bowed in at center.

Ben Muth: Doug Legursky's lack of accessories (glove, tape, etc) is off-putting.

Mike Kurtz: Mendenhall needs to work on his ball security. He's letting it creep away from his chest and there's a good chance that he's going to just get stripped.

Vince Verhei: Of all the ways I saw this game going, the Jets looking completely incapable of stopping the Steelers' running game was not on the list.

Mike Tanier: This is the same game twice, right? I mean, the Steelers are even in a full house backfield.

Okay, Revis didn't leave his guy on that goal-line stop. The defenders had coverage depending on who released outside or inside. He had the inside receiver, who turned out to be Ward.

And he didn't have impact on the play. Smith batted the ball down.

Sorry, I usually leave the Simms criticism to everybody else, but that got a little silly.

Mike Tanier: This is the Same Game! They are rebroadcasting it! The bootleg was the giveaway. They are saving money by tinting the color on the picture and showing the same game twice!

Aaron Schatz: The difference is that the first game only looked like it should be 24-0 after one half. This one actually is going to be 24-0 after one half. Not much to say. Total domination by one team so far.

Mike Tanier: You are right. But Brunell is better than Collins so it balances things out. And at 17-0 I was sure it was some kind of conspiracy.

Will Carroll: Sanchez seems to be in pain. He came off holding his left arm. Watching the replay, he didn't get hit on the left arm and landed on the right. I don't see what happened. He got hit by ... maybe ... no, Taylor had his open hand on Sanchez's left elbow. I don't get it. They're showing him on the sidelines shaking his head, so maybe a stinger?

Tom Gower: The sack where Turner got destroyed, yes, Sanchez didn't have a chance there, but that Taylor blitz that created the fumble-six to make it 24-0 was pretty obvious and Sanchez did not handle it very well at all.

Bill Barnwell: Looked like the cornerback on that Holmes TD slipped after about three yards. Think it was Taylor, not sure.

Aaron Schatz: This is a big difference between Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger: If you play max coverage to stop Big Ben from throwing the ball, he will run. Brady would not.

Mike Kurtz: Of course, when you contain Roethlisberger in the pocket, you can just pop him.

Vince Verhei: Jets shut the Steelers down, getting three straight plays for negative yards, and get the ball back. They're only two scores down. I am buying into Mike's theory that this is the same game, with different color settings, and some "Greedo shoots before Han"-style video editing afoot.

Will Carroll: Ryan Clark took a knee to the head from one of his own teammates.

Vince Verhei: The more rushers you send at Sanchez, the worse he plays. So of course the Steelers are playing the entire second half into a soft zone, rushing four guys or fewer.

Tom Gower: The key on Sanchez is getting pressure, not the number of rushers. If he sees a blitz coming, he'll hit the quick slant if it's available, and it's been available a fair amount.

Will Carroll: Farrior puts the crown on Greene (who comically gets up screaming about how hard he hit him.) Again, there's some sort of paper that floats out of someone's helmet. WHAT IS THAT?

Mike Kurtz: Polamalu is a non-factor again, which is making it really hard for LeBeau to get the strange angles he loves. He's clearly not 100%.

Bill Barnwell: So, that Jets playcalling near the goal line...

Mike Tanier: That drive was a microcosm of everything that has ever happened in the universe. That drive was a whole civilization in a bottle. That drive was Kandor.

Will Carroll: Why Tomlinson on fourth-and-1 rather than Greene, who'd been playing like they got him back on the field from that shoulder by giving him crystal meth?

Ben Muth: That was the worst quarterback sneak I've ever seen.

Tom Gower: The quick slant had been working; they just went to the well once too often. The second down play as well was just mediocre execution. Tomlinson on fourth down... yeah, I'm not going to defend that one either.

Aaron Schatz: As if to underline Tom's point, the Jets make a fourth-and-1 on the next drive on... a quick slant.

Tom Gower: I have to wonder if there's not something wrong with Greene at this point, since Tomlinson's the only back in the game of late.

One story from today's games: teams struggling with backup offensive linemen. Peppers abusing Lang in the early game, and now Legursky's bad snap to create a safety, Mangold's replacement getting abused the first play he's in, and Hunter's struggles at right tackle today playing for Woody.

Vince Verhei: When George Karl was coaching the Seattle SuperSonics many years ago, if the team was down by three points in the final minute, you knew they wouldn't force the three-point shot, they were going to go for the two-pointer and then foul immediately. The goal was to extend the game as long as possible and hope the other team's execution would eventually break down.

That's what the Jets' comeback effort reminds me of. They're patient, taking three yards here, eight yards there, picking up the fourth downs they need to. It seems doomed to fail. Then they get in the end zone and now they only need one more stop to get the ball back with time for a go-ahead score.

Aaron Schatz: That pass to Heath Miller instead of trying to run down the clock with 2:50 left probably wins the Colbert Award. Ballsy.

Mike Tanier: David Harris almost made magic happen before the two-minute warning. He almost stripped Mendenhall.

Vince Verhei: Mark Sanchez in the first half: 7-of-16, 63 yards, 2 sacks.

Mark Sanchez in the second half: 13-of-17, 170 yards, no sacks. Nearly a quarter of those yards came on one play where the cornerback fell down, but that's still a hell of an improvement.

Mike Tanier: Sanchez did all the things he does well in the 2nd half: tight slants over the middle, late throws to the sidelines in the 10-15 yard range.

It seemed like every time he dropped to throw in the first half it was 3rd-and-13.

Bill Barnwell: Amazing that CBS guys are lionizing Roethlisberger for coming through on third downs and having intangibles and making plays. He was 10-of-19. He threw for 133 yards and two picks. He scrambled for a touchdown ... and averaged fewer than two yards a carry on 11 attempts. The only reason the Jets had a chance was because Roethlisberger, in fact, was awful until the last series.

Vince Verhei: Following up on my basketball analogy: Unfortunately for the Jets, the Steelers hit their free throws.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 24 Jan 2011

370 comments, Last at 03 Feb 2011, 6:09am by bengt

Comments

349
by armchair journe... :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 10:10pm

All I know about this is I like it much better when Will talks about football.

129
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 2:03pm

By the way, I don't know all that happened on that second TD by Chicago but it sure looked like Charles Woodson could have shoved the guy out of bounds instead of pulling up and then afterward giving Nick Collins a dirty look.

What am I missing?

244
by Theo :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 12:12am

he missed the angle because it wasn't his route to cover, expecting nick collins to hit the angle. He didn't so he chased (wasn't his man really) and gave up and concluded collins messed up.

130
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 2:06pm

By the way, I know it's the schtick over at the Daily Dorkman to spew bile at the Packers and in particular Packer fans.

Neverthless, imagining that the writers at that SB Nation blog actually are as immature as they present themselves it amuses me to think how distressed they are over yesterday's outcome.

144
by Ezra Johnson :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 2:34pm

I'm not going to claim that there is some conspiracy to allow Aaron Rodgers to take gratuitous shots to the head, but as a Packer fan those are the ones I tend to notice more. I also notice many of the other ones that aren't called, which are clearly too many. Some announcers try to say that it only counts when the ball carrier is "defenseless," but that is a separate rule. You are not supposed to use the crown of the helmet on any hit, period.

As for judging whether they are "malicious" or not - of course they are malicious! That is the name of the game. "The opposing quarterback must go down hard " is not just a punchline, and it's not limited to the Raiders - don't kid yourselves.

It's like saying Brock Lesnar isn't being malicious because he didn't technically break the rules while pummelling a guy into hamburger. They will get away with whatever they let them get away with. The little puff piece on James Harrison yesterday with cute pictures of his kids was very nice, but players like him are an absolute menace to the game, and if they really wanted to get rid of that element, they could.

I realize that it might be inconsistent to love the game on the one hand, and hate many elements of it on the other. Recognizing that it's a tough, physically damaging game does not necessarily preclude the possibility that it can be changed for the better without taking away from what makes it great. They have to continue to be aggressive and do much more about limiting head injuries.

145
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 2:34pm

I do wonder if the zebras are willing to let things go in the playoffs that get flagged in the regular season.

177
by William Lloyd Garrision III (not verified) :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 3:50pm

Why not focus instead on reducing steroid use in the game and drop everybody's 40 time by a tenth of a second and body weight by 10 lbs or so, i.e. it would bring linebackers down from 252 running a 4.5 down to 241 running a 4.6, etc.

It's still a violent game by nature and design, but perhaps you get more bang for the buck in injury mitigation that way.

140
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 2:25pm

Lost in all the nonsense about Cutler's alleged lack of toughness is the prospect that, if Cutler had been as accurate as Caleb the Intrepid, prior to injury, (assuming it took place at the end of the first half), the Bears might have won.

Let the QB controversy on Lake Michigan begin!

143
by Illmatic74 :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 2:33pm

Hanie was ok but he has little potential as an NFL QB. All of his passes had absolutely no zip to them.

150
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 2:39pm

I probably did not make it obvious enough that I was kidding, other than to note that Cutler did hurt his team by being inaccurate on throws to receivers who had gained significant seperation deep downfield. In a low scoring game, that's enough to provide the margin of defeat.

166
by Eddo :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 3:29pm

Yeah, Cutler had a pretty poor game. Of course, that doesn't excuse the ridiculous "toughness" questions.

Of course, as noted above, Hanie does not have the arm to be a starting QB; I recall one seven-yard out to Olsen that took about four seconds to reach its destination.

173
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 3:43pm

I also really enjoy watching Caleb Hanie play, I'm not sure why, but I just love his style.

176
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 3:49pm

It's the 1970's porn mustache.

Caleb "pornstache" Hanie is who he rapidly became with the folks I watched the game with.

178
by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 3:50pm

I just like players with old-timey names like Caleb. We need a Jeddediah!

185
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 4:20pm

I have no doubt the Amish Football League will be a huge success.

179
by Arkaein :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 3:52pm

I thought it was the opposite problem myself.

His arm looked okay to me on the couple of big out route completions. It was his lack of awareness on the Raji pick that really sunk the Bears. A more experienced player probably avoids that mistake.

207
by dbt :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 6:28pm

Especially considering that Hester was crossing to the right there and looked WIDE open. (Note: I wish I had an all-22 or end zone camera shot for that play)

242
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 11:46pm

Well, the Packers DC did apparently say in a press conference that it was the first time he'd ever called that play-- i.e., dropping Raji into coverage on a slant route. Not your normal assignment for a nose tackle. I think one could be forgiven for not expecting him to be there.
_______________________________
armchair journeyman quarterback

182
by Dave :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 4:09pm

There was a HUGE pro-Hanie movement several pre-seasons ago in the Orton/Grossman days. He shredded a one or two fourth-string units and was suddenly the new great hope for a few weeks.

183
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 4:11pm

He's actually been pretty good in every preseason. Which is why he's on the roster.

Now, why he wasn't the #2 QB over Collins, I'll never understand. It was plainly obvious in the Giants game that he simply no longer possesses the physical ability to play professional quarterback.

149
by Ezra Johnson :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 2:38pm

Wow - I didn't see that at all. I thought Hanie had plenty of zip, good pocket presence and elusiveness, and ability to find the open man. I didn't like the defense the Packers played against him, and had he played the whole game it might have been a different story, but I thought he showed plenty. The picks can be completely chalked up to inexperience.

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by tuluse :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 3:21pm

Mike Kurtz: Cutler's "knee" is "hurt."

Wow that has to be the most mean spirited and frankly insulting things I've ever read on this site.

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by TomC :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 8:01pm

I really think that was intended as a poke at the meatheads criticizing Cutler, not at Cutler.

At least I hope so....

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by Ezra Johnson :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 3:34pm

If Cutler didn't have contempt for the media before, he certainly ought to after yesterday. Even the meta-discussion about "perception" was stupid and irresponsible. Of course, most of what counts for football media today are former players, anyway, or morons with access like Jay Glazer; and most of the others questioning him yesterday are current players, so it's not really a media thing as much as it's a football thing.

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by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 4:21pm

I think I counted four separate completions on deep slants to Jennings in that game with him split out wide right. Exact same play, four times. He was getting a huge cushion, it looked very easy.

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by Jetspete :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 6:37pm

yesterday was the reason i cant stand sports talk radio. for 3 weeks, let me describe to you what 65% of the callers have said.

week 1: The Jets cant win because there's no way Mark Sanchez will outperform Peyton Manning
week 2: The Jets cant win because there's no way Mark Sanchez will outperform Tom Brady
week 3: The Jets cant win because there's no way Mark Sanchez will outperform Ben Roethlisberger.

Well, Sanchez didnt outperform Manning and we still won. He did out perform Brady and he did outperform Ben, but we didnt win yesterday. It is a team game, and the Jets lost because their front 7 manhandled our offensive line, and their offensive line manhandled our front 7. Yet, i come here and its nothing but comments defending Ben. Face it, he had short fields to work with and made the requisite number of plays to win thanks to tremendous efforts from Mendenhall, the OLine and special teams. Ben had to make a play at the end because he didnt make a single play that helped the Steelers at any other point in the second half, and almost damaged them with a dropped int.

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by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 7:26pm

Related to one of your points, Mendenhall was a beast yesterday.

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by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 9:27am

" Face it, he had short fields to work with and made the requisite number of plays to win thanks to tremendous efforts from Mendenhall, the OLine and special teams."

The exact same argument could be made about Sanchez the prior two weeks.

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by BigCheese :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 4:48am

Which, if you'd actually bothered to read the original post instead of jumping to take a bullet for Big ben, was made. That Sanchez won the one he was outperformed in and lost the one he outperformed the other QB in.

- Alvaro

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by troycapitated p... :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 5:01am

Yet, I come here and it is nothing but comments defending Ben.

--
I have made a number of posts defending Ben, most posted after your post to which I'm replying, I think, but this is pretty clearly hyperbole as, starting with Barnwell's final Audible, and continuing with the Quick Reads and any number of user posts there are plenty of examples of people who are critical of Roethlisberger's play in this game.
------------------

Ben had to make a play at the end because he didn't make a single play that helped the Steelers at any other point in the second half, and almost damaged them with a dropped int.

--
3rd Quarter first possession:
>>4 yard scramble on 1st & 10. > Not huge, but I think 4 yards on 1st & 10 is considered a successful offensive play.
>>Near INT on 3rd & 2. > Consensus here seems to be Brown cut off his route.
>>Hits Moore for a 1st down on 3rd & 6 after the roughing penalty continues the drive. Completed despite tight coverage and, I think, taking a hit on release. 2 good plays.
>>Fumbled snap on 1st & 10 > Simms, at least, put this one on Ben, so there's one negative play.
>>INT on 2-11. Worse than a punt, because it was only 2nd down, but the Jets go 3 and out leading to another nearly 6 minute Steeler drive. 2 bad plays, but both appear to have negligible impact.
3rd Quarter 2nd possession:
>> 5 yard run on 3rd & 4 for the 1st down. 3 good plays.
>> yard run on 3rd & 3 for the 1st down. 4 good plays (Got an extra 5 from defensive holding.)
>> Sacked for 7 yard loss on 1st & 10. Hit after about a 5 count, maybe. Inside the pocket, so he can't just throw it away. 3rd negative play.
>> Sacked for 5 yard loss on 3rd & 20. Hit as he tries to scramble after about a 5 count again. Simms said this meant nothing, but we'll call it negative play #4.
4th Quarter first possession:
>> Safety on 1st & 10. Simms put this on Legursky, but we'll call it negative play #5.
4th Quarter second possession:
>> Rolls away from pressure to hit Miller for 14 yards & a 1st down on 2nd & 8. Throw was a little behind, but Miller pulls it in. 5th positive play.
>> hits Brown for game icing first down on 3rd & 6. 6th positive play.

So, being as black-and-white as possible Ben made 6 positive plays against 5 negative plays. Not a great ratio, but only the first scramble did not result in a new first down and more time run off the clock. Of the negative plays, the safety was, perhaps, the biggest, but it's actually possible that taking the safety allowed them to force the next Jets drive to go longer than a 3 & out would have from that spot on the field. Mendenhall had a few good runs in the second half, but every first down that allowed the Steelers 13:37 of possession in the second half, except the roughing penalty, came on a play made by Roethlisberger.

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by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 7:35pm

I just have to reiterate my amazement that Green Bay went to the mattresses with Chicago on field position and at minimum fought the Bears to a draw.

The Bears have typically gotten the upper hand on GB and then exploited a short field into easy points. The Packers did not gift those points yesterday.

And despite the backup's heroics I was convinced that the Bears offense I know and love would be unable to drive the field regularly and score. Just not in its DNA.

It's not what they DO.

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by Ezra Johnson :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 8:20pm

I don't know. They came back from I think a 10-point deficit to win a 38-34 shootout with the Jets, who play a lot like the Pack on defense.

I was pretty livid when they allowed Forte to rip off two long runs right after Hanie came in. I thought at that point it was simple: Forte is now their best player on offense, so you take him away and challenge Hanie to beat you. Just play your base, rush 4-5 in obvious passing situations. Instead they stayed in the stupid nickel. I can't pretend to know more than Dom Capers, but I don't think the result was exacly what he was looking for. He seems to think there's some deficiency in the defense that he needs the nickel to mask, and given how far he's brought them, he might be right. On the other hand, maybe they were simply tired. Raji did mention that today.

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by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 8:59pm

I think he's covering for his outside backers and for the fact that he only really has one good 3-4 defensive end in Jenkins after losing Harrell and Neal.

Eric Walden (starter #4 at the outside spot opposite Matthews) was injured during the game, so Robert Francois was playing at outside backer (he is a back-up on the inside and is another undrafted rookie). He was basically just playing as an upright pass rusher, though he did drop into some short zone coverage or trail a running back, but he had simple coverage assignments.

In the base 3-4-4 with the 3 down lineman as opposed to his nickle that he does as a 2-4-5, the outsider backers tend to have more pass coverage responsibilities. The ILB's have more pass responsibilities as well, because while Raji did drop into coverage, if you have 3 linemen you have fewer folks that can cover the pass, and you aren't going to drop a lineman into coverage often.

In the 2-4-5 you have more folks that can handle the pass, and if your backers are weak against it (like the Packers healthy LB's are), you are often sending 1 or 2 of them as a rusher (he usually still rushes 4 even from the 2-4-5). So if you are keeping 7 in pass coverage, you only have 2 "weak" links with the backers, vs 3 "weak" links from the backers in the 3-4-4

Matthews was actually in coverage at the end because I don't think Capers trusted Francois to have any of those responsibilities. The linebackers, in theory, can still get as good of a pass rush as the down linemen, with the way the pressure is schemed. They won't be as good vs the run though, but if you have the lead and time is becoming an issue, the run is less part of the game. (Of course the Bears did exploit this weakness, but even with solid gains from Forte the still passed a lot)

I also think the 2-4-5 is now the Packers base defense. I would say that they play over 50% of the snaps from that. The 3-4-4 is now a sub package like the 1-5-5, or the 2-5-4, the 'psycho packages' that they have put out there (though the 2-5-4 was seen more last year and I think was part of the issue with nomenclature that the staff here ran into earlier, there is a 5 LB package with 2 down linemen, but it's more often a 1-5-5 for the psycho). They have done a 4-3-4 a few times year as well.

But for weeks now, Williams and Shields have been your "traditional" #1 and #2 corners, and Woodson will float around and actually is more like the nickle, or a safety, or a linebacker. Of course with only 4 defense backs on the field they pull Shields off and leave Woodson and Williams, but when he is on the field he is covering the #1 or #2 receiver for the other team most of the time now.

Basically I think Capers set up the D to try and have his best players on the field the most. It was interesting to see Peprah not on the field for the first series, they went with just one safety in a 3-4-4 with Woodson, Williams, Shields, and Collins as the backs. Woodsoon played a bit of hybrid safety/corner. The D-line was the "heavy" Pickett, Raji, and Green (that's over 1000 lbs of linemen between those 3). Backers where what you expect with Matthews, Bishop, Hawk, and Walden (4th stringer that he is, started the last 5 or so games counting playoffs). But Pickett and Green are also nose types and not as good as Raji. Pickett does alright as an end, but he isn't as good as Jenkins or the IR'd Neal at that and Wilson still needs to mature more as a player. As mentioned Jenkins is really the only 3-4 end they have right now.

I guess Walden's ankle sprain is bad enough he is in doubt for the Super Bowl already. Zombo is still fight the knee, but I think he did at least get limited practice on Friday last week so maybe we'll be able to go back to our #3 outside backer. :)

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by nflalternative.com :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 12:05am

foxlies Tanier is dead on ;same game twice [although the universe is a stretch as some intelligence resides there].Prevent offense prevent defense Bellichick would have turned either game to blowout. Dont usually listen to the idiots''phil' terry' boner pill Johnson factor back Hoge et. al.,but did anyone hear Cowher say that because Rodgers and Roethlisberger make unplanned plays the game will be great for those who like' improvision'?I resent the nfl media conspiracy. A true confederacy of dunces.There is more insight in this article and among the comments than a year of listening to the morons.Maybe if we complained more the situation would improve.

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by Theo :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 12:17am

Sure. Agreed. True.
Try to convince this to the average public.

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by nflalternative.com :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 12:18am

foxlies Nick Collins does take some bad angles but still deserves pro bowl status.Ironic situation denver chicago mcdaniels. I continue to think denver made good deal and big mistake firing mcdaniels.My guess he will be great coordinator then great coach.Cutler looks 2 years away from top notch q.b.Although he does have great skills at improvision;hey maybe cowher will hire him.

247
by Theo :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 12:22am

Just rewatched the Steelers game and boy was I amazed by Mendenhall. He made runs out of nowhere.
Sure this Steelers game is defense.
Sure Ben is good. Real good at finding Ward open at 3rd and 12.
But Mendenhall is pretty good.

248
by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 12:32am

I was hugely impressed by Mendenhall. It seemed like he was regularly turning two yard losses into eight yard gains. There were several occasions where I was sure he was stuffed and out of nowhere he'd get past three tacklers then drag somebody another two yards. Very impressive performance.

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by Intropy :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:45am

That was one of the best games I've seen Mendenhall have, so it's not completely representative. That being said, he is often an effective running, and does turn a lot of losses into moderate gains. Sometimes he dances looking for holes that aren't there instead of taking the two yards available and ends up taking a loss, but on balance he comes out ahead.

Sometimes I have to remind myself what his offensive line looks like. Running backs are relatively fungible, but there are guys out there who are special. Every once in a while he makes me wonder if he's one of those special ones and just doesn't have the blocking to show it.

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by bengt (not verified) :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 12:01pm

I'd say Mendenhall is slightly pretty good, maybe on the verge of incredibly pretty good, while Ben was extremely not terrible yesterday.

258
by Intropy :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:54am

Look, can we all just agree that Cutler is a gigantic wuss a be done with it?

Consider:
1. With only a torn MCL preventing him from moving or planting to throw, he abandoned the game.
2. Once on the sideline he refused to throw a hissy-fit and draw attention to himself with a championship game being played by the rest of his teammates literally yards away, so clearly he has no passion.
3. While an MCL tear can be a painful injury, since Cutler didn't display any outward signs of pain, that clearly means he wasn't in any.
4. According to Caleb Hanie, while Cutler should have been doing something productive and manly like rolling around in agony or sitting in a warm locker room, he instead kept pestering his third string replacement with inane "observations" and "advice."

Jay Cutler, shame on you.

269
by MCS :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 10:23am

I live about 2 hours east of Chicago and there are many Bears fans here. I made the observation that Chcago fans don't deserve a winner. So many of them, including many at work, turned on an injured player. It's rather embarassing for the rest of the fan base.

276
by Kal :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 11:46am

Eh. It's the media.

The media made a story where none existed because it was vaguely plausible. The fans shockingly believed the media because supposedly they should. Other players did too. Fox was the biggest problem here, followed by ESPN and the like taking it forward. That Cutler has not played according to media rules meant that the media didn't give him any real backing, but it's not like they've not done this sort of thing to much better, friendlier players like Manning.

Well, that and the tweets. That's the other bigger story.

It still amazes me that Roethlisberger - a man who has been accused of raping multiple women, who cost his team 4 games of this season because of his behavior this season and missed games prior to this because of his off the field behavior - is lauded as this great hero. And Cutler, who his teammates say to a man that he's a good person, does charity without mentioning it to the media and has missed parts of three games total to injury in his career, has this vitriol

279
by MCS :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 11:56am

I agree completely that it is the media that tries to create a story and the drones just follow.

As for Roethlisberger and Cutler, once again it is the media. Perception. Ben is always portrayed a certain way (tough guy, working man hero, etc) and so is Cutler (sulky frat boy).

People can be lazy and refuse to do their own research. Myself included.

For months, I thought that Rodgers was a pretty boy from California. I thought it was time for Favre to go, but was unsure about Rodgers. He seemed like a golden boy who had all the breaks.

I could not have been more wrong.

Once I started to hear the stories from camp about his work ethic and sense of humor, I did some more research. I fpund out that he had a tough path and always had to work to prove himself. He worked hard and never gave up. I have the upmost respect for him and hope he remains in Green and Gold for many years.

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by bengt (not verified) :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 12:08pm

...and missed games prior to this because of his off the field behavior...

And which games would those be?

283
by Kal :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 12:13pm

After an off-season motorcycle crash in which he was seriously injured, Roethlisberger missed the opening game of the 2006 season after having an emergency appendectomy on September 3.

331
by bengt (not verified) :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 6:50am

Thought so. That must mean you are accusing him of an apparently suboptimal nutrition choice that has at least promoted his appendicitis, or something like that.

369
by bengt (not verified) :: Thu, 02/03/2011 - 5:51am

As Kal apparently does not want to play anymore, I'll quickly cite the part of BR's wikipedia entry that he has conveniently overlooked:
Despite the seriousness of the accident, his recovery went so well that he started the first three Steelers 2006 preseason games.
To summarize: BR has never missed an NFL game due to off-the-field behaviour, unless you want to make his nutrition choice responsible for his appendicitis.

285
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 12:35pm

Roethlisberger, creep that he likely is, still has enough brains to use the media to his advantage. If Cutler had a clue, he wouldn't have to put up with as much media idiocy. Give the morons what they want, smile, say good night, and minimize the idiotic charade. It's like scooping up your dog's crap every morning; you love your dog, otherwise you wouldn't have your dog living with you. His crap is very unpleasant, however. Thus, the smart thing is to quickly accomplish the task of removing it from your sight, and being done with it.

284
by Steve in WI (not verified) :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 12:18pm

It's fascinating to me how many Bears fans don't appreciate Jay Cutler (even before Sunday's game). I've heard numerous people argue that the Bears should get rid of him; none of them has ever been able to explain to me who *should* be playing QB for the Bears. Caleb Hanie? Give me a break (though in fairness to Hanie, he did about as well as one could expect on Sunday). It's astounding to me that fans of a franchise that hasn't had a quarterback who's better than mediocre in decades would turn on the most talented QB who's come around in ages.

Is Jay Cutler one of the best QBs in the game today? Not really...I'd rank him somewhere between tenth and fifteenth, but I think he's got the potential to continue improving. Unquestionably, he's the best QB the Bears have got or will be able to get in the next few years. I think the real questions Bears fans should be concerned about are: when are we going to get a better offensive line and a true #1 receiver?

As for the injury: I have to admit I was upset to see Cutler leave the game on Sunday, but you know what? If his teammates have got his back, that's good enough for me. None of us know what happened on the sideline and in the locker room, and I don't question Cutler's toughness. Frankly, anyone who does after watching him get pummeled over and over again this season is a fool.

292
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:08pm

Yeah the entire reaction to this injury has been embarrassing.

The terrible truth is that the majority of all fanbases are terrible, and Chicago has a larger fanbase than many teams which means more idiots.

273
by Rich07 :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 11:33am

Um, all you mouth-breathing Ben-bashers realize that prior to the Jets game, Ben had a higher career post-season QB rating than your pretty-boy favorite Marcia Brady? Keep sticking your heads in the sand though.

Ben's offense in the playoffs: Never scored fewer than 20 points. Brady: fewer than 20 points 5 times

The bashing must be because Ben is the only professional athlete to ever hit on a gold-digging drunken skank.

277
by Kal :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 11:50am

Apparently he was hit on by skanks multiple times. Amazing how these skanks follow him to the men's bathroom in random college towns.

Apparently he was hit on by a skank who was so wanting what Ben's got that she hit him with her car. She was really seeking gold.

Apparently there are other parts of an offense that can score. Like, for instance, the running game.

Apparently 12 games isn't a particularly large sample size. You could say the same thing about Jay Cutler's passer rating; do you believe that Jay Cutler is better than Brady?

Apparently winning makes personal issues go away, and it doesn't matter what kind of person is playing for the Steelers any more. That's a damn shame.

281
by Jetspete :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 12:04pm

I dont understand what Ben's ability to act like a complete drunken bum in public has to do with this site. Most people on here cite ben's play-making ability over his stats. But Ben played pretty terribly the past two weeks and made enough plays to cost his team both games. In fact, it is my contention that if the Ravens decided to take knees the entire second half, they wouldve won! In this game, Ben couldnt get any points to put the game away in the second half and couldnt even run a set of downs after his D's brilliant goal line stand. His Passer rating was sub 40.

Compared to Brady, the guy was voted MVP of the super bowl twice and easily could have a third. He will soon be a multiple time MVP winner and holds several single season records.

And your GDDS comment is hilarious and i hope a joke. I dont know of many pro athletes twice accused of sexual assault. And lets compare to another great athlete accused of assault: Kobe Bryant. Most intelligent sports fans accept his greatness despite his misdeeds, and those same fans are here, rightly calling out Ben for not being a great quarterback.

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by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 12:56pm

I agree with your point that people defend his play and his character sometimes just because they like the Steelers and so like Ben. But it goes the other way, too-- people bash his play and his character just from dislike for the Steelers. (And your comments and several others above are good examples.) I don't care to know or comment more about his misdeeds-- those who have the job of looking into it did so; I'm glad that he's complied with the consequences handed down and is saying the right things.

Ben didn't have a great game against the Jets, but it wasn't horrible-- he made a few throws, missed more than he usually does, and he mitigated those misses quite a bit with (well-documented above) good running against a defense stacked to stop the pass.

I think Ben played quite well against the Ravens, and I don't think "Brady or Manning at their best" is the standard for saying a QB played quite well. If you look, you'll find plenty of games where Ben has awesome stats, as well as many games in addition to the last one where his stats look awful. But look at this season's QB DVOA-- Ben is second, with Brady in first by a healthy margin. The fact is, Ben's stats are pretty good. He's a really good quarterback on a really good team.

329
by BigCheese :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 5:12am

The complete lack of awareness of some fans, who think the only posible way anyone could have complaints about their players is because they hate the team.

Let me make this very, very clear for you:

As a Bears fans I LOATHE the Packers. I wish Aaron Rodgers was our QB (and I like Cutler as our QB)

I despise the Cowboys: In my opinion, Tony Romo is a pretty decent human being, and a pretty good QB.

I hate the Patriots: Tom Brady is one of the greatest QBs in the game.

I like the Eagles very much: I would never want Micheal Vick as a friend or near my daughter.

So let me assure you 100% that the fact that I think Roethlisberger is the most overrated QB of his generation, a bumbling idiot, and a despicable human being whom I sincerely hope sees the inside of a prision cell, has absolutely nothing to do with any dislike I may have for the Steelers. It's the thought of him having a chance to get a SB MVP, not the chance that the Steelers get 7 rings, which has me seriously considering rooting for my arch-rivals next week.

- Alvaro

308
by troycapitated p... :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 1:07am

Ben couldn't get any points to put the game away in the second half-

--
They got enough points to put the game away in the first half- with help from the defense, of course. On the other hand, if we take away the defensive score before half time, raise your hand if you think the Steelers come out with the same game plan on offense in the second half where they only attempted 5 passes (maybe 10 called pass plays, including 2 sacks and assuming 3 scrambles were not intentional)....

Anybody?

And they still managed to possess the ball for 13:37 of the second half while trying to protect a 21 point lead.

Each team only had 4 second half possessions, and thanks to the roughing the kicker penalty, the safety was the only Steeler drive of the second half that failed to produce at least 1 first down. The pick on 2nd down was a bad throw, as has been discussed earlier in the thread- and that may have been Roethlisberger's only mistake of the half. The other might be the first fumbled snap. Announcers suggested that one was on him, but they put the other one on Legursky. His only other incompletion, which could have also been picked was due to Antonio Brown failing to fight through the coverage to complete his route.

Would they have liked to pick up some more points? Sure they would have. The 2nd down pick ended their best shot, but the fact that the Jets went 3 and out and the Steelers took another 6 minutes off the clock after that mitigates the loss of points.

In my opinion, anybody who is trying to argue that Roethlisberger played poorly is kidding themselves. Was he on fire putting on a passing clinic? No, obviously not. But this is the same Jets' defense that had Brady looking "lost" as some put it last week. Roethlisberger missed some throws, but made the big plays when needed, and certainly never came close to looking "lost" during that game.

286
by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 12:40pm

Ben's offense in the playoffs: Never scored fewer than 20 points. Brady: fewer than 20 points 5 times

Umm... what? Ben's offense didn't score 20 points on Sunday.

287
by Bill Barnwell :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 12:47pm

Banned only 90 minutes after creating an account!

290
by Jimmy :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 1:51pm

Is this a new record? Do you keep stats of these things?

330
by bengt (not verified) :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 6:39am

I'm curious: was it the mouth-breathing or the drunken skank?

332
by Eddo :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 11:10am

Somewhat related: I've never quite understood why "mouth-breathing" is an insult.

356
by Jimmy :: Thu, 01/27/2011 - 1:44pm

I think the idea is that the person isn't bright enough to breath through their nose - ie. if they do shut their mouth they might suffocate.

370
by bengt (not verified) :: Thu, 02/03/2011 - 6:09am

Wow, thanks for the enlightenment. In retrospect I did not understand the original phrase at all; I thought it was meaning something like 'having bad breath'.

278
by Jetspete :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 11:54am

One thing i havent heard mentioned here is how the Jets deferred the opening kick-off. I understand this practice in college, but i absolutely hate it in the pros. The Jets allowed Roethlisberger first crack at scoring, and his team is incredible (because of their defensive schemes) at playing from ahead.

289
by Intropy :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 1:18pm

The Jets have a very good defense. They probably thought their chances of taking momentum at the beginning of the game were higher by getting a quick stop than by getting a big offensive play of sustained drive. It didn't work out that way, but it's not a far-fetched idea.

317
by drobviousso :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 3:13am

*scratches head*
Ok, this is a concept thats easy to explain with win probability and hard with DVOA/DYAR. I'll try to explain without using either, but it's 1:00 Am here, and I don't know how clear I am even under the best of situations.

If you think a game is going to be close, you are basically saying that the score difference at halftime or end of the 3rd is going to be near 0. So lop off everything before halftime. Pretend it doesn't happen. Doesn't matter if it's 6-6 or 45-45, the difference is zero and both teams have an equal chance of winning.

But Wait!

You've decided to defer in the first half, giving you an estimated 0.5 extra possessions in the second half (either there is an even number of possessions, and you get +0, or an odd, and you get +1. Pretend there are no turn overs on kick offs.)

The first half doesn't matter, and you've given yourself an advantage in the only half that matters. This is called leverage. Later drives have a bigger impact on winning close games than early drives, all other things being equal (and they never, ever are, but you are a smart coach and can balance all this against those things.)

So you should always defer?

No.

By choosing to gain the upper hand in leverage, you sacrifice tactical initiative. The other team may get to dictate how you play by controlling the parameters of the game from the get go. Would you want to cede initiative to the Colts? If they get up on you by two scores, they can turn into the "I don't care how much you run, I'm sending my two DE's on speed rush every play and my DBs will jumping routes every chance they get," and you'll have a bull of a time catching up, even with your extra half a drive. (The Cowher/Bettis Steelers were monsters at this type of game. I think Cowher's win percentage was north of 85% when going into halfime with a lead of 4 or more, but that was more about Bettis getting first downs against 9 men in the box.)

My guess is that Ryan though it would be a close game, and that the Steelers wouldn't get far enough ahead in the first half with their extra .5 drive to significantly alter the Jet's offensive tactics in the second half. If so, he was half right. The offense couldn't do it, but the defense could.

To me, this is the reason for the story of the two halves presented here. If you take a look at this win probability graph you can see that, even though DVOA and DYAR tell a story of two halves, win probability doesn't. The Steelers, empirically, used - if not the optimal - a winning strategy in the second half, trading yards for time. Sure didn't feel like it to me at the time, though.

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by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 12:20pm

That's an awesome graph. I agree that it didn't feel like the Steelers kept such a good handle on their win probability. I know most coaches and coordinators have to be thinking in terms of winning percentage and what the acceptable yardage-time tradeoff is late in the game; I wonder how many have some explicit table or rubric to help make those decisions.

In the first Jets-Steelers matchup, the Steelers drove down the field at the end with lots of medium passes in the middle that the Jets were willing to give up. I was really impressed with how quickly the Steelers spiked the ball after those plays, and they got 2 shots at what would have been a winning TD out of it. The Jets won, of course, but I was thinking they shouldn't have given the Steelers those two chances.

On the lead-securing virtues of Bettis, I think you're exactly right. I would love to see some measure of this; it was amazing how many late game drives were just Bettis getting 3-4 yards a carry on 80% of the play calls.

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by tuluse :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 2:19pm

I think you should always defer. Not only because of your first point, but also in the second half you have much more information about the other team. You should be able to use that information to attack them better. That's when you want possession of the ball.

The only reason I can think not to defer is if you have a good offense and a pathetic defense (2010 Texans). In which case your only hope is scoring and scoring fast and trying to dictate the tone of the game.

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by Jerry :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 3:54am

I like the idea of deferring. Since much of the crowd is still returning to their seats when the second half starts, there's less noise for the visiting team to fight. And, if I'm the home team, I want to give more fans a chance to get back in their seats before I go on defense.