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?
03 Jan 2011
compiled by Bill Barnwell
Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).
On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.
Aaron Schatz: Tom Brady came out for Brian "Red's Cigar" Hoyer, then for some reason came back in. Why is he back in? What is the point? I understand leaving him in for a half so he doesn't have two weeks off, but why take him out and then put him back in?
If you get to watch the highlight shows, check out Julian Edelman's punt return touchdown. In particular, check out punter Brandon Fields as he attempts to catch up to Edelman... slowest punter EVER. He huffs, and he puffs, and he huffs, and he puffs. Definitely not one of those ex-Australian Rules guys.
Vince Verhei: Patriots up 24-0 as the second half starts. Why on earth is Brady still in there?
Aaron Schatz: I think the announcer in the Patriots game just said the Patriots are preparing for a "Sugar Bowl run."
Doug Farrar: BenJarvus Green-Ellis becomes the first Patriots rusher since Corey Dillon to bust the 1,000-yard mark. Confused analysts all across our nation begin to craft ways in which they can credit the accomplishment to Danny Woodhead instead.
Bill Barnwell: Ron Pitts notes that you shouldn't look at the Lions "statistical numbers". You know, instead of focusing on the non-statistical numbers. Then FOX pops up a graphic with their ball distribution and how over the last three weeks, the've gone from running the ball 35 percent of the time to running the ball 50 percent of the time. John Lynch adds "...it's not coincidence that they've been 3-0, in my mind, in those games. They've found balance on this football team."
Doug Farrar: If it’s so crucial to find run/pass balance to win, why are quarterback wins so important?
Bill Barnwell: I actually went ahead and ran the numbers and the Lions actually ARE running the ball more in the first half of games, with an effect even larger than that graphic suggests -- they ran the ball 57 percent of the time in the first half over the past three games after running the ball 39 percent of the time in the previous 12. So fair enough. However, it's hard to argue that the offensive consistency has improved things. The offense has scored 19 points per game during that three-game streak after averaging 22 points per game in the previous 12.
Tom Gower: Because, well, why not? Falcons come out with a very pass-heavy drive and take the ball right down for an opening score, with Tony Gonzalez capping it off with the TD reception. On the TD play, the Falcons lined up with an empty backfield, causing Charles Davis to boldly declare that it would be a pass play.
Mike Tanier: Kroy Biermann almost intercepted a screen pass in the end zone. Next play: a Eric Weems punt return touchdown. The Falcons will sit on the ball for the rest of the afternoon.
Mike Goodson just fumbled for the second time. Ball security is not his strong point. Not sure what is.
Tom Gower: One thing the Falcons seem to be doing in their early pass-heavy plan is targeting Michael Jenkins, in an attempt to tell teams "Oh, no, you really do have to cover Jenkins, he'll make plays if you concentrate too heavily on White and Gonzo." Mike Smith also decided to go for on in fourth-and-3 inside the 5 up 14-0. Teams should go for it more often, but I think there you kick the field goal and go up three scores. Ryan threw too far for White on the Sprint Left Option, in case you need a reminder why teams normally run to their quarterback's throwing arm side.
Mike Tanier: The Falcons keep going for it on fourth down. They respect the Panthers the way Charlie Sheen respects a hooker.
I admire Jimmy Clausen's ability to turn every wide receiver screen into an abject lesson in failure.
Bill Barnwell: Panthers run an end-around to Brandon LaFell for sixty yards. Great blocking on the outside by David Gettis, and LaFell breaks two tackles and does a great job of extending the play.
On the next play, the Panthers run the same end-around to LaFell to the other side. The handoff gets fumbled, only for LaFell to pick it up and then throw it away, resulting in an intentional grounding penalty.
On the next play, Clausen scrambles and hits David Clowney, who breaks a tackle and has a free path to converting for a first down on second-and-27 ... and promptly falls down. Brent Grimes does a great job of breaking up a fade on third down and it forces the Panthers into a field goal.
Tom Gower: Throwing the ball away was a smart move, but he was deep enough (17 yards) after recovering the fumble the throw didn't make it back to the line of scrimmage.
John Fox's decision to kick the field goal... avoiding the shutout, I guess.
Mike Kurtz: I haven't seen all of KC/OAK, but Routt seems to be having a monster day. Great coverage against Bowe (at this point KC's entire offense) on a few plays, and a great quick catch for a pick-six.
Aaron Schatz: I'm actually writing an XP about Routt later this week. His charting numbers are, shall we say, unexpected.
Mike Kurtz: And then Brown clotheslined Routt as he was about to intercept Cassel. Wow. DB on DB violence!
Aaron Schatz: Can Cassel possibly throw more passes to receivers covered by two Raiders defenders?
Bill Barnwell: Chiefs just handed the ball to Jackie Battle on fourth-and-21. You're not going to believe this, but he didn't get 21 yards.
Mike Tanier: Jacoby Ford is more fun than a basket of pick-and-peel shrimp.
Bill Barnwell: Browns start with the ball and throw an interception when Benjamin Watson tries to catch a ball with one hand and tips it twice into the hands of Troy Polamalu. Announcers speculate that Polamalu just has a knack for finding the ball. He does, but that's not a good example of it; Polamalu was standing three yards away from Watson.
Steelers then score on a deep post to Wallace where poor rookie safety T.J. Ward gets lost about as bad as you'll ever see a safety get lost. He's running backwards and trying to find the ball as it hits Wallace for the touchdown.
Vince Verhei: Roethlisberger-Wallace has now passed Bradshaw-Swann or Bradshaw- Stallworth for the most 40-yard touchdowns in team history.
Mike Kurtz: Joshua Cribbs injured his ankle on a (bad) kick return. Hillis is limited and now Cribbs is out, so this is not a good combination for Colt McCoy. Then again, right afterwards the Browns put together two first downs. Lots of intermediate passes to Benjamin Watson.
Tim Gerheim: The Browns just ran the Titans' "run two receivers to the same spot and hope somebody gets lucky and catches it" play Tennessee used a couple times in the Rusty Venture game against the Texans. It didn't look as much like it was designed to allow for a bad throw to become a lucky reception. In this case it went through Peyton Hillis's hands and Brian Robiskie caught the deflection. That play still baffles me; isn't it kind of fundamental that you don't want multiple receivers too close to one another, because at least against zone it winds up putting too many defenders close to the ball? I get having guys at similar spots horizontally but at different depths, but Hillis and Robiskie were only three or four yards apart, and I don't think that counts.
Mike Kurtz: It depends on the defense you're playing against and where the throw is going. Especially if you're playing against a zone blitz, an overload blitz will leave a mid zone in the center and a short zone on the sideline. If you occupy the linebacker in the middle, you can get a flanker and the slot to force the DB in the short zone to commit to one or the other. The safety isn't going to be able to get up in time, so in the end you have two receivers against one defender in that zone. Easy completion.
Bill Barnwell: I am told that Robert Royal just dropped back-to-back touchdowns for the Browns.
An unnamed friend of FO adds: "Robert Royal dropped two TD passes in a row when they were on the one, down by 14. Mangini then kicked a field goal. I am livid. My first scream at the TV this year."
Mike Kurtz: Cribbs is back in. Both his legs are injured in some way, now, so it's interesting to see him playing in this meaningless game against a team known for -- let's not mince words -- injuring opponents.
Heath Miller just completely ran over Abram Elam and pushed him 10 yards after the catch. Wow.
Vince Verhei: Yeah, that wasn't technically a broken tackle, but it may as well have been. Roethlisberger was laughing about it.
Bill Barnwell: Solomon Wilcots on Mike Wallace: "Speedsters usually don't come back for the ball. They feel that if it's underthrown, it's not their fault." What the what? Does anyone really believe that if a speedy receiver is running downfield and sees that a pass is underthrown, they don't bother to try and catch it out of spite? That's just insulting.
Tim Gerheim: Maybe he's thinking of Randy Moss, who does everything for spite.
Mike Kurtz: This is just getting ugly. Pitch to Randle El, he slips, defense converges, hits Ward wide open in the end zone.
Vince Verhei: Two thoughts on the Randle El touchdown pass: Is five yards the shortest touchdown pass by a non-QB ever? And I like Roethlisberger in the flat, frantically pointing to Ward all alone in the end zone.
In related news, this is not the best Browns effort today.
Bill Barnwell: Jets recover a fumble downfield that a) was bouncing out of bounds and b) C.J. Spiller had a clear chance to grab and chose to try and grab-and-run as opposed to falling on it.
Brad Smith runs for 40 yards after the fumble. He killed the Bengals in Week 17 last year, too. He's the Kevin Maas of football.
Doug Farrar: I’ll say it again, Jets-Bills announcer guys – all Wildcats are options, but not all options are Wildcats. Please.
Bill Barnwell: Pick-six for the Jets when Brian Brohm is hit in motion and the ball goes almost entirely vertical before falling into the hands of Marquice Cole, who runs it back for a touchdown. One thing with Brohm: He's listed as 6-foot-3. I've interviewed Brian Brohm. If I'm not taller than him, I'm not very far off. I'm barely 5-foot-11.
Jairus Byrd -- he of the nine interceptions with no predicative value whatsoever -- finally gets his first interception of the year, a pick-six when Mark Brunell stares down a quick out.
Brunell then hits Braylon Edwards for a touchdown pass down the sideline on a play where Byrd, now playing centerfield, was too slow to get over to the sideline.
Vince Verhei: Not-so-instant replay in New York: Brohm tries a pass while being sacked again. The result is a mile-high wounded duck in the middle of the field, and Cole has another interception.
David Gardner: The Bucs were set to kick a field goal to bring the score to 7-6. The Saints jumped offside, and the Bucs capitalized by throwing a screen pass to Preston Parker and a touchdown to to Dezmon Briscoe. As a Bucs fan, I found myself cheering then thinking, "who is that?"
Bill Barnwell: That was an incredible throw by Freeman on the TD.
David Gardner: And an amazing catch by a guy who was on the practice squad last week.
The Bucs were driving and on the Saints' 24 before Freeman got sacked, they we're penalized for delay of game and then Freeman was sacked and fumbled. A big momentum changer. The Saints get the ball at midfield with 1:49 left.
Alright. Best trick play of the day so far. The Bucs were going for it on fourth-and-1. They faked a Josh Freeman sneak up the middle, then he dropped back looking for a short outlet to the tight end, so instead he chucked it to Mike Williams in the end zone, who scored.
Bill Barnwell: It isn't exactly an optimal playcall for fourth-and-1. But it worked.
Aaron Schatz: Mike Williams was clearly not the receiver that play was designed for. They got lucky when he outjumped Jabari Greer -- actually, more like out-timed him, Greer jumped earlier, then Williams got up. But that was not how it was designed. I would guess it was designed for a tight end or something, and he couldn't curl out from his block-and-release.
Bill Barnwell: I mean...it's great that the play worked. But you don't want to have to complete a 21-yard tossup to have to convert fourth-and-1. Your success rate on fourth-and-1 should be somewhere around 60 percent; is that really a "This is going to work 60 percent of the time" kinda play?
Aaron Schatz: No, but I'm guessing the tight end sneak out is a "work 40 percent" type of play -- and you do need to run a pass play of some sort every so often on fourth-and-1 so the other team has to think a pass is a possibility. This just happened to be one of the times the tight end sneak out didn't work -- and the Bucs got lucky and completed for a touchdown anyway.
David Gardner: Considering every receiver was interfered with, including Williams, I think it would be a pretty successful play under normal circumstances.
Bill Barnwell: Were any of the receivers besides Williams further than five yards past the line of scrimmage?
Mike Tanier: It's a Dirty Dozen play. If it works, it gives the Bucs life. If it fails, they were facing the champs and needed a miracle to make the playoffs, and the coaches showed faith in the boys. It was a Die with Your Boots On move.
Doug Farrar: If it fails, Jeremy Bates called it and Charlie Whitehurst overthrew the other Mike Williams in the end zone.
David Gardner: Brian Billick just said Reggie Bush isn't a high-carry guy, and that the Saints are lucky if they get him for 10 carries a game. That's the most obvious way to call a guy soft that I've heard recently.
Tim Gerheim: Maybe I misheard Billick but I didn't think he meant they were lucky if they could get 10 carries out of him before he craps out or something. I took it more as a description of his playing style, where he's just not that good a runner, but can be very useful as a changeup on draws and the like, plus his value as a receiver. I just looked, and he has pretty dreadful career averages both rushing and receiving, which somewhat belies that characterization, but it is the reputation.
Bill Barnwell: By the way, since I'm usually pretty negative about announcers: I hope Billick doesn't get a head coaching job. I think he's really good. (And not just because that was a shot at Reggie Bush.)
Someone is going to have to explain that Josh Freeman dumpoff to LeGarrette Blount to me.
Tom Gower: Freeman should have thrown it right at Blount's feet, not at his body where he might actually catch it.
Bill Barnwell: I know that the Saints aren't really playing for anything right now, but they just punted on fourth-and-1 from midfield down 23-13 with 2:10 left.
Bill Barnwell: Ravens get a big play early on a flea flicker. Normally, flea flickers result in a deep pass, but the Ravens use it to run a tight end screen to Todd Heap. That was nifty.
Mike Tanier: Ed Reed has Jean Grey telekinesis. That is the only explanation for his career.
Bill Barnwell: Bengals line up to go for it at first on fourth-and-1, down 13-7 with 5:32 left, inside Ravens territory. Then they pull off Carson Palmer and line up for a 45-yard field goal. Kevin Harlan notes "Well, that makes sense." No, it doesn't. They split the FG unit out and the Ravens call timeout. Then they run the ball on fourth-and-1 and get stuffed.
After Carson Palmer fumbles to end another Bengals drive, the Ravens can't get a first down and punt. They get back into two-deep and Palmer just hits two passes to the sideline and one over the middle, easy as can be, to gain about 50 yards in 19 seconds. Bengals are repeatedly targeting Lardarius Webb and/or Webb's side of the field. Not sure if it came down to a slower-than-expected recovery from ACL surgery or poor performance, but he hasn't lived up to his placement on the Top 25 Prospects list.
And then Carson Palmer overthrows a fade on third down and a checkdown on fourth down. Tao of Carson.
Aaron Schatz: Palmer had Cedric Peerman wide open for what would have been the winning touchdown on fourth-and-2 and threw it three feet over his head. Seriously, in the flat. Kids in sandlot games don't overthrow a receiver by that much.
Bill Barnwell: He threw it two yards out of bounds. I mean, it was such a bad throw that I wonder whether he got the downs confused.
Tom Gower: The game is delayed as the officials check with the supervisor in the box to confirm that the Bengals truly did use all four downs in so ineffective a fashion.
Rob Weintraub: Just what I wanted to do with my Sunday afternoon--debate with my Bengal buddies which was the more fitting way for this disaster of a season to conclude, with Palmer's unforced fumble or Palmer's horrific tosses to the beer vendors with the game there for the taking. Unbelievably frustrating, especially after whipping those purple screwheads yet again in every phase for four quarters.
Mike Kurtz: Wow, Aikman describes a deceptive coverage by the Bears as a "Mickey Mouse Game." Just wow.
Vince Verhei: Matt Forte gets a couple of big runs to the left side. It's been several weeks since I checked this, but earlier this year Forte was dead last in DYAR on runs up the middle, but top five to the outside.
Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure the move of Chris Williams to guard is working any better than Chris Williams at tackle.
Bill Barnwell: Erik Walden just sacked Jay Cutler inside the red zone. Walden should've forced a fumble, since Cutler didn't feel the pressure whatsoever, but he hit Cutler too high, around the neck/shoulder pads. Had he hit Cutler lower, it almost surely would have been a fumble.
Vince Verhei: Cutler was gripping the ball with one hand too. Even where he was hit, most quarterbacks would have dropped the ball.
Bill Barnwell: God, what an awful throw on that pick by Cutler. Nothing was open, he took forever to make a decision, and while I can understand Cutler forcing a bullet into tight coverage thinking there's a window, he lofted up a lazy pass that two different Packers could have intercepted.
Doug Farrar: I’ve had something like that on AutoText since last season.
Bill Barnwell: Fake sneak gone bad: The Packers run it at the 1-yard line and Rodgers backs out to pitch the ball to Brandon Jackson; the pitch falls short and Jackson spends most of his time recovering the fumble, not trying to score. Rodgers gets sacked on third down and Packers have to kick FG.
Aaron Schatz: I'm kind of blown away that the Bears have played their starters for the whole game so far. I know it is a rivalry game, but in general that means a lot more to fans than it does to players or management.
Bill Barnwell: And Jay Cutler throws the Packers into the playoffs with another ugly interception, a deep in that sails on him and misses by three yards.
Aaron Schatz: Eli Manning just had yet another tipped interception. Hit Manningham in both hands, bounced to Philip Buchanon.
I wonder why Washington is wearing its road uniforms today. The Redskins are one of the two teams that wear white at home, but they are wearing red today with the Giants in white.
Bill Barnwell: So it'll blend in with all the empty seats.
Vince Verhei: Mario Manningham gets a 90-yard score because DeAngelo Hall tried to jump and knock the ball down. Note to DeAngelo Hall. You are short.
Vince Verhei: This game is 17 minutes old, and Houston already has 13 carries for 156 yards.
David Gardner: They're doing a phone interview with David Garrard during the Jaguars game. Why didn't he travel with the team?
Mike Tanier: Now they are showing Garrard wearing a cast that extends halfway down to his ribs from his bad finger.
Vince Verhei: Eleven minutes after my last post, Jacksonville now has more rushing yards than Houston, and the game is tied at 17. Keep in mind: this team is missing their quarterback and running back.
Tom Gower: I saw approximately none of the game, but I'd just like to note the Texans held two teams under 24 points this year: the Rusty Smith-led Titans (0 points) and the Jaguars without David Garrard or Maurice Jones Drew (17 points).
Vince Verhei: It took 17 weeks, but the Texans finally beat their FOA 2010 projection.
Tom Gower: Titans actually run a direct snap play to wideout Damian Williams on their first drive. He got a couple. I don't understand plays like that. He hasn't shown an ability to throw, and doesn't have the size/frame to run effectively inside. It'll only work once, and maybe not even then. They then followed it up with a toss-sweep on third-and-1, because the Colts D obviously isn't fast or anything (and also tops in Power).
Aaron Schatz: I finally figured out how Rob Bironas made it to the NFL out of Arena Football. He made a deal with the devil, giving up his soul and his hair for kicking ability.
Bironas tried a 60-yarder and it looked like Antonie Bethea was going to return it for a touchdown but 1) Craig Stevens caught him in the last couple yards, and 2) there was a flag because Gary Brackett tried to murder Ken Amato with a head-to-head hit at the start of the return. Brutal. Fine time.
Will Carroll: Brackett's going to be paying a big fine for the hit on Amato (which will be reduced later, of course.) Amato never lost concsciousness, but wow, he's out of it walking to the dressing room. Do most teams carry a backup long snapper?
The other thing that gets me is that here in Week 17, after all the camp, workouts, minicamps, and all the other things, a player like Antoine Bethea can't run 100 yards or so without being completely winded. Really?
Bill Barnwell: It's more than 100 yards because he also ran a fair bit horizontally. Also, adrenaline.
Vince Verhei: You ever done a 100-yard sprint? It's not easy.
Mike Tanier: Yes, but he should NOT have been looking back and angling sideways. Lower your body, keep your momentum forward when there are no defenders in front of you, and there is a chance that Stevens knocks you into the end zone when trying to tackle you.
Will Carroll: Sure, but this one was mostly north-south. Max, he ran 150 yards and most of that lateral portion was the gassed part. I'm also not buying it that having a big guy chasing me down is going to make me run slower ... I'm not saying it's easy. I'm saying it should be easy for an NFL-caliber athlete. They could have put anyone back there in the end zone, so how about a guy who could actually run 100 yards?
Bill Barnwell: It's not like he had a headstart on the big guys. He had to run through them, and run around guys and read blocks, slow down, and speed up.
Vince Verhei: I didn't see the play, so I don't know how it went down. But you put Usain Bolt back there and have him run 100 yards, and yes, he will be winded. And that's not even accounting for the thirty minutes of football that had already been played.
Will Carroll: Manningham didn't look tired at the end of that.
Bill Barnwell: That's exactly my point: Manningham ran a go route and didn't have to change direction, make a cut, read his blockers, or juke anybody out. It was also 90 yards straight as opposed to something like 140 yards from Bethea.
Tom Gower: Latest strategy against the Titans is to block with the front four and let the linebackers flow to where CJ goes. On carry #10, Jared Cook was supposed to block LB Kavell Conner and failed in his assignment.
Titans tie the game up at 20. I thought there was a good chance they'd come out flat like they've done a couple times today, but I've been pleasantly surprised by the effort and performance. This "holding the Colts to field goals twice" would've been really useful in some more important Titans-Colts games. The biggest play the last drive was an 18-yard completion to Randy Moss where he got one foot it, but it was ruled a catch on the field and there wasn't definitive evidence to overturn. CJ also finally had some success running the ball.
Dominic Rhodes fumbles the ball away in Titans' territory inside two minute mark. Two plays later, rookie center Kevin Matthews, son of Bruce, has a bad snap to Collins with the Titans in field goal range, and the Colts recover. The Colts, Garcon in particular, have had serious issues with drops in the second half.
Aaron Schatz: The Colts are getting yardage and moving into field goal range to knock of Tennessee... and Jeff Fisher doesn't call any timeouts, whatsoever, that would allow the Titans to get the ball back and attempt to tie. Did he just not care? And does this mean he knows something that we don't know about his future? Like, "Hey, I was missing from the Tennessee Titans Christmas card?"
Tom Gower: I imagine Fisher's thinking was that he didn't want to give the Colts extra time to move into better field goal range. When should he have called them? When they kicked the field goal, it was a first down. He could have taken all three and Colts still could've kicked with :03 left.
Bill Barnwell: Touchdown pass to Brandon Lloyd comes when Lloyd is left just alone in the end zone. Nobody within five yards of him. Makes up for an earlier play where Tebow hit Lloyd deep and Lloyd had the ball go through his hands.
Tebow just threw a shovel pass harder than I've ever seen anyone throw a shovel pass before. Since he's awful, Steve Beuerlein has to mention that it was a "little shovel pass" twice during the replays.
Chargers give up a kickoff return for a touchdown. Even in a win, what could be a more fitting end to their season? Nate Kaeding actually tried to slide tackle the returner and came up short.
Bill Barnwell: I get to pull my favorite joke out of mothballs: That 49ers head coach looks like he won a "head-coach-for-a-day" raffle.
David Gardner: In discussing Fox's new cartoon, Bob's Burgers, the Fox commentator just said, "If you're hungry for laughs -- and I'm sure fans of both of these teams might be -- don't miss" the show.
Vince Verhei: Did anybody notice that Arizona's leading passer today was somebody named "R. Bartel?" Seriously.
Mike Tanier: I crashed my browser looking for R. Bartell. Not a good sign.
Bill Barnwell: He was great, he had the bottle of cologne, the button that said "Yes, I am a Model...", good hair ... oh, Bartel?
Aaron Schatz: Do you know how many Arizona quarterbacks I have had to add to the stupid master player database this year? Grrrrrr.
Bill Barnwell: Seahawks get a 61-yard bomb to Ruvell Martin early. Would have been a touchdown, but Whitehurst (after making a nice move to avoid a sack) underthrows the bomb. Somehow, defensive lineman James Hall makes the tackle on the play.
Vince Verhei: Now R. Bartell is playing corner for the Rams. Dude gets around.
Mike Tanier: I am not emotionally ready for the Seahawks to be in the playoffs.
Aaron Schatz: I'm a little surprised at taking out Steven Jackson for Kenneth Darby on third downs. Jackson is such a good receiving back... is he a particularly poor blocker or something?
Tom Gower: I think they have played Darby more on third downs this year. It seems like they like him better on draws and want to give Jackson a break.
Aaron Schatz: Seattle short-yardage rushing = FAIL.
Mike Tanier: Oh, burn that slow reverse to Robinson.
Tom Gower: Burn Fells's horrible attempted block, you mean. Also, burn Bradford getting passes tipped at the line.
Mike Kurtz: Why stop there? Burn this game.
Vince Verhei: Rams third possession ends with what I believe is the fourth Sam Bradford pass the Seahawks have knocked down at the line of scrimmage. That's important, because it stops the terrible Seattle cornerbacks from being exposed.
Mike Kurtz: Ah, see, there, the slow reverse for -9 was put in to set up the fake reverse for 1.
Vince Verhei: We go to halftime with the Seahawks up 7-3, and I'm asking where this Seattle defense came from. And no, the answer is not just "it's the Rams" -- Seattle came into the game dead last in weighted DVOA in rushing and passing defense, but they've been nearly dominant so far. It's like they gave up on the season a month ago and started mailing it in, then woke up this morning and realized they were only one win away from the playoffs.
Bill Barnwell: A lot of it has been field position. Three of the Rams' drives have started inside the ten, and their average starting point has been the 21-yard line. If you need five first downs to score, you can't run the ball on third-and-short, and there's no deep ball, you're not going to score points.
Vince Verhei: Rams had six first-half drives. Four of them picked up less than 10 yards. A fifth gained 23. Then in the third quarter they got the ball at the Seattle 21 and were held to 12 yards and a field goal. It's not just the field position.
Bill Barnwell: They're playing the fourth-worst offense in the league. They've held the Cardinals and Panthers, the only other offenses below the Rams (besides the Seahawks themselves), to 14 ppg in three games.
Doug Farrar: Seattle's defense is working for two reasons -- first, they're operating the same underneath coverages they did effectively against the Falcons until Mike Mularkey realized you could go deep against that crap. So far, Pat Shurmur hasn't wised up in a similar fashion.
Second, they were most vulnerable against the run when Kentwan Balmer plays the five-tech end in the "Leo" front. IN this game, they're going with more traditional under and over four-man fronts, avoiding putting Balmer in those positions he can't handle.
Mike Tanier: Oh cripes, did R. Bartell recover a fumble? Is this the Year of R. Bartell?
Aaron Schatz: I think it is pretty obvious what the Rams need to address first in the offseason: the secondary.
Ned Macey: Speaking of the way they've been built, the Rams are sort of a tough one for the whole Loser's Curse phenomenon, no? I'm pretty sure they're happy with Smith/Long/Bradford, even if the first two are "overpaid." The Rams are not out of cap space, and other than Steven Jackson drafted however many years ago, they don't have a ton of other talented players, so they weren't exactly able to get great players through some other means.
Vince Verhei: By the way, the ESPN.com drive chart for this game has the old blue- and-green, Steve Largent-era Seahawks logo. The Seahawks switched logos in 2002.
"It's a pretty good ping-pong table." Quote of the year.
Bill Barnwell: Not to mention that Bradford was wearing a lumberjack shirt in that video.
Aaron Schatz: OK, does anyone out there have an idea of what Pete Carroll said when the officials claim he was asking for a timeout and he claims he wasn't?
Vince Verhei: It's clear on the replay that Pete Carroll said "I don't want to call timeout." Then they said he called timeout. So he kind of got screwed there. On the other hand, I don't know WHY he felt the need to say he didn't want to call timeout. He could just ... not call a timeout.
Tom Gower: On the third down pass play, Chris Long absolutely RAN OVER Sean Locklear. The right guard pushed Long in the back (legal in the pocket), so he didn't get to Whitehurst, but I feel like I need to recognize that sort of destruction.
Aaron Schatz: Can someone please, please tell St. Louis it is time to try a pass over four yards, particularly to someone who isn't Daniel Fells?
As I type that, they do try it -- Bradford launches it way downfield, pretty much perfect, and it goes right through Danario Alexander's hands. Eek. The need for receivers may actually outweigh the need for defensive backs.
Bill Barnwell: They have a lot of young receivers. Amendola's a good slot guy. The other ones ... one of them should develop. I wrote in November when Randy Moss was on waivers that the Rams were the best fit for them, as a guy who was limited but could still stretch the field and make catches downfield.
Tom Gower: Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton are both on IR. I suspect the offense would look a lot better with both of them, considering Clayton was clearly their best wideout when he was healthy. In addition to defensive backs, I think they need at least one outside linebacker.
Rob Weintraub: Collinsworth -- "It's all on the line for Bradford to prove himself as a young QB in this league on the next couple of drives." Instantly he throws an awful pick. Not as good as Aikman predicting a Woodson blitz sack earlier today, but not bad.
Aaron Schatz: The officials hand Seattle an absurd first down on second-and-1 when Lynch gets stopped at the line, and move things so fast Steve Spagnuolo has no time to challenge.
Vince Verhei: Michael Robinson's gift first down on that second-down run was karmic justice for Vinny Testaverde's non-touchdown run in 1998.
Tom Gower: They did move the ball back half a yard after the initial spot, so it was maybe a half yard too far, not a full yard. I didn't rewind to see where the previous first down spot was, but I don't think the error was quite as egregious as everyone's making it out to be.
Aaron Schatz: I have to give the Seahawks credit. They may have sucked for the last three months, but they came to play tonight, especially the defense, and they played to win.
Bill Barnwell: What is playing to win?
Aaron Schatz: Not playing like Daniel Fells is your best downfield threat for most of the game. That's a good start.
Tom Gower: I feel cheated, because I think the Rams are the better team and actually have a bright future, but I have to agree with you about that. The Seahawks won this game because they were the better team tonight. The Rams are not a good team, and they have some horrible glaring flaws, and couldn't overcome them tonight. Credit in particular to the Seahawks' pass rush late in the game; they teed off and beat the Rams' line.
Aaron Schatz: Also, when I say "playing to win," I mean playing well under pressure. I don't believe in chokERS, but I do believe in chokING. I don't believe in clutch playERS, but I believe in clutch PLAYS. I'm talking about not playing well under pressure in one specific game or on one specific play. And the Rams didn't, especially whoever jumped on that field goal attempt.
Bill Barnwell: If Fells is open...
Tom Gower: What should the Rams have done, though? The Seahawks know the Rams players, too, they know that they need to cover Amendola and Brandon Gibson, and should pay attention to Laurent Robinson (or whoever was in the game on that play). The list of potential targets is just mediocre enough you can cover the better options, and then it's a choice of throwing to a covered slightly better player or a more open worse guy.
Aaron Schatz: The average yards in the air on a pass to Fells prior to tonight was 4.4. Not your deep threat there.
Bill Barnwell: I still don't understand how that's not "playing to win". What were the Rams playing to do? Give a solid performance?
Aaron Schatz: Maybe I should have used more words. How about "their playcalling was too conservative"? To be honest, Bill, I think you are fighting a strawman here. "Playing to win" is usually handy shorthand for "playcalling was poor and too conservative" in the same way "Curse of 370" is handy shorthand for "it is not a good idea to give your running back too many carries in a season, and 370 is a rough estimate but not a hard and fast rule about where the overwork begins to become a problem."
I'm not saying they literally didn't care about winning.
Bill Barnwell: Maybe, but I think it's sort of the murky "Team X wanted it more than Team Y" concept that just gets used as a broad substitute for explaining why a team lost. I still think the bigger problem is that they were 1-of-13 on third down against one of the worst defenses in football, many of which didn't require a deep pass to complete.
Vince Verhei: I'll tell you what they should have done: Run Steven Jackson more, especially early. They ran 11 first-quarter plays, only one was a Jackson run. He only got 11 total carries. He was stuffed just once, and gained at least 5 yards four times. Not a great day, but better than what they were doing trying to pass.
Vince Verhei: I've been meaning to say something about this all season: I don't know who the woman singing Christmas carols in the Hyundai commercials is, but she is the whitest, least soulful vocalist I've ever heard.
Mike Tanier: I have a problem with her too. Like she was the producer's favorite barrista or something.
(Remember that any singer you are constantly subjected to in a commercial will begin to sound awful, even Feist.)
Tom Gower: I thought Feist was awful the first time I heard it. But if there is an FO music-lovers contingent (and there definitely is), I am not among its members.
Vince Verhei: I didn't even necessarily mean it as a bad thing. It's just that their are singers who belt songs out with all their might, wailing and moaning and screaming, and their are those who just pleasantly hit the notes, and she's as far to that end of the spectrum as anyone I've heard.
Bill Barnwell: Just to clarify -- nobody from Seattle has put out an album since 1994, right?
Aaron Schatz: Or before 1989, just ask Jimi Hendrix. Or his ghost, at least.
176 comments, Last at 16 Nov 2012, 4:50am by soul music