Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.
10 Jan 2011
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.
Bill Barnwell: Boy, what a stupid pass by Matt Hasselbeck on that third-and-1 pick. There's nothing there; Obomanu is basically in Vilma's grasp before the ball is even thrown. Not sure why Williams on the opposite side didn't run any sort of route off the line, but you have to just accept the punt there.
Doug Farrar: Well, the Saints have seen enough of Leon Washington to know that they’re going to squib to the guys upfield. Does anyone know if there’s a rule where a return man has to stay set as the kicker’s running up to kick the ball? Or could Washington just haul ass upfield at that point?
Bill Barnwell: Unsure. But they're being a little ridiculous -- Washington averages 26 yards per return, not 36.
Aaron Schatz: Walter Thurmond just loves Lance Moore and wants to give him a big hug. If that's so wrong, I don't wanna be right!
That John Carlson touchdown was basically an "own goal" by the New Orleans special teams coach.
Tom Gower: On the Saints' TD draw to make it 17-7, Lawyer Milloy had lined up in the box and immediately bailed out at the snap, not recognizing the draw until way too late. If he sees what's going on earlier, Jones may not get the first down, let alone the touchdown. Disappointing play from a veteran.
Vince Verhei: The Julius Jones touchdown draw, meanwhile, was a victory of scheme. Seahawks were completely fooled and the Saints didn't need to win a single one-on-one matchup there.
Bill Barnwell: Seahawks just ran the Wendy's formation -- the Double Stack, two wide receivers stacked on each side.
Vince Verhei: They've done that a few times this season. I think they've run out of it every time.
Did Matt Hasselbeck just throw an eephus pitch to Cameron Morrah?
David Gardner: I can't believe none of us drafted John Carlson in the playoffs fantasy game...
Will Carroll: Getting outrun by Stokley is about the definition of pathetic.
Vince Verhei: Roman Harper gives up his third touchdown of the first half. Safe to assume that Jenkins usually handles the deep routes?
Bill Barnwell: It's interesting to see the reaction to the Seahawks torching Greer in Game 1 -- they're just playing Greer ten yards off the line on most plays. Hasselbeck has five years to Mike Williams whenever he wants.
The Seahawks have had incredible kickoff coverage in the first half. After that blown kickoff and the INT to start the game, the starting points for the Saints: 22, 19, 23, 20-yard lines.
Aaron Schatz: Saints safeties just seem really overaggressive tonight. Earl Thomas is also overaggressive, but we expected that -- the man is a slave to Drew Brees' eyeballs.
Vince Verhei: Seahawks go double-stack again. So the Saints are already thinking run. Then Hasselbeck pump-fakes to Leon Washington (one of the wide receivers) and the Saints bite. Matthew then throws to Obamanu, the "blocker" in front of Washington, for the first down. Great setup, great play design, great execution.
Aaron Schatz: My god, the Saints DBs are just getting killed by the double moves tonight.
And have you ever seen this many lob passes by one quarterback? This is like when we were kids and played "three flies up."
Mike Kurtz: The DBs only get part of the blame. The defensive line is getting absolutely destroyed, and giving up tons of yards to Marshawn Lynch(!) Cats and dogs living together, etc.
Aaron Schatz: Well, just like pass blocking and run blocking are two different things, so are pass rush and run defense. I mean, it certainly seems like they are getting pressure on Hasselbeck. The guy just happens to be very good at diagnosing blitzes and hitting his hot (or, apparently, 40-yard lob passes behind everyone).
Bill Barnwell: Think the Seahawks game plan has been great, too. Had a point they could drill -- take advantage of safeties -- and executed it. Gregg Williams getting out-coordinated.
Again, the most troubling part of that Black Eyed Peas ad is that the announcer says that this will be the Black Eyed Peas' "first Super Bowl appearance". Like they're going to have a residency.
Vince Verhei: Even forgetting the opponent and stakes for a minute, this is the best game all year for Seattle's line, by far. Have either Lynch or Forsett been hit in the backfield even once all day?
The Saints get stuffed on fourth-and-short.
Mike Kurtz: Fourth and a link and you don't run a QB Sneak? What?
Bill Barnwell: Yeah. Remember when they ran the sweep on fourth-and-goal in the Super Bowl last year? I love Sean Payton and I fully agree with the decision to go for it there, but I think he gets cute in very short yardage situations like that one. I would've just snuck, but maybe he's thinking that the Seahawks are thinking sneak and he's trying to stay ahead of them. (I trust that Payton actually thinks that way as opposed to other people.)
Mike Kurtz: I understand that, but this is a run up the middle: right into the defense. Plus, unless you fail spectacularly, you will get a few inches, and that's all they needed.
Bill Barnwell: I agree with you. I'm just trying to come up with some defense of the decision.
Vince Verhei: After the failed fourth-down try, Seattle gets a third-and-long. A deep pass to Obamanu falls incomplete, but it almost seemed like Seattle's plan from the snap was to get a pass interference call -- Obamanu just ran a deep but lazy fade, not even trying to get separation.
Tom Gower: Sean Payton got cute again with that quick hitch on third down inside the five. I'm also not a huge fan of the decision to kick the field goal to go down four.
Bill Barnwell: Think this game shows every side of Earl Thomas -- the guy who gets lost occasionally in coverage, the over-aggressive one who can be taken advantage of, but also the really talented player who can close on anything in a flash. Now all he needs to finish the showing is an INT.
Vince Verhei: That about sums it up -- he's an athletic marvel who plays sloppy and mistake-prone sometimes.
Bill Barnwell: Can the Seahawks put a guy on the back coming out for checkdowns already?
Marshawn Lynch grabs the star and becomes invincible.
Ben Muth: When did the Seahawks sign John Riggins?
Mike Kurtz: That is probably the most pathetic single example of defensive execution I have ever seen. That said, good on Lynch. I always liked him, and that was absolutely hilarious.
Bill Barnwell: Oh my lord. What, seven broken tackles on that play? Incredible.
Aaron Schatz: I counted six broken tackles on the replay. That counts Alex Brown getting his hands on him with a drive around the 10, but not the guy who desperately dives at him at the goal line. Ellis and Shanle at the start, Sharper, Greer, Porter, and then Brown.
Vince Verhei: It took until the postseason, but Beast Mode finally made its Seattle debut.
Tom Gower: That was... wow. Tommie Frazier against Florida-esque.
David Gardner: Easy. Some of us don't talk about that.
Bill Connelly: Not sure I've ever seen a run (and attempts at tackling) like that beyond the high school level.
Tom Gower: One other thought: you think, just maybe, the Saints could've used Jammal Brown today? Stinchcomb and Bushrod have been getting killed. It didn't hurt them too badly in the playoffs last year, but we knew it was a problem from the Ware/Spencer game.
Vince Verhei: Costas suggests this is perhaps the biggest playoff upset since Pats-Rams in 2001.
First of all, Giants-Pats was a much bigger upset than Pats-Rams. Second, as someone who has watched 17 Seattle games now, yes, this is a much bigger upset than either of those. No question.
Keep in mind, even counting this win, the Seahawks are 8-9 and STILL have a losing record.
Aaron Schatz: The reason I don't think this is a bigger upset than Super Bowl XLII is that the Giants weren't the home team in the Super Bowl. Also, New Orleans was 10th in DVOA. Saints weren't exactly dominant this year.
Vince Verhei: 2001: Rams were the better team by 21.2% in DVOA, 10.4% in Weighted DVOA.
2007: Patriots were the better team by 52.0% in DVOA, 41.6% in Weighted DVOA.
2010: Saints were the better team by 34.6% in DVOA, 45.3% in Weighted DVOA.
Taking home field into account, I guess you're right. But it's very close. And either way, it's sure as hell not Rams-Pats.
Doug Farrar: The lesson, as always, is that Bob Costas is an idiot. The Saints flew cross-country on a semi-short week without their two starting running backs, which not only hosed up their run game, but affected their protections. Losing Malcolm Jenkins didn't help, either -- Roman Harper just happened to play the role of Jabari Greer this time. The Saints were a team playing at a sub-par level to 2009 for most of the season, and they were royally banged up. Seattle literally had nobody on its injury report this week, except for Sean Locklear, who was away from the team for a family emergency.
It's an upset, but nowhere near the quality of upset those other games are. You have a completely healthy Saints team and this result happens in the Superdome, then we can talk.
Aaron Schatz: How about an almost completely healthy Chicago team at Soldier Field?
Doug Farrar: Yeah, or a pretty good-looking team at the Georgia Dome.
Tom Gower: That was an incredibly terrible challenge by Jim Caldwell on the alleged punt muff by Holmes.
Aaron Schatz: I keep waiting for the Colts to move Reggie Wayne over to the right side so I can figure out if the Jets are planning to follow him with Revis.
Vince Verhei: It worked out for the Jets, but the decision by the Colts to challenge wasn't nearly as stupid as the decision by Santonio Holmes to do whatever it is he did.
Collinsworth points out that the Jets have their run defenders in on first down, then bring on the pass rushers. Which raises the obvious question: Why don't the Colts just pass on first down?
Bill Barnwell: Good Mark Sanchez: Rocket of a throw to beat Tampa-2 to Edwards, perfectly placed, great power, right in stride. Bad Mark Sanchez: Whatever that flip on third down was as he was falling down. Drew Brees even thinks that's a bad throw.
Aaron Schatz: Ah, but Brett Favre probably admires it a little bit.
Ben Muth: Jay Cutler thinks Mark Sanchez could've squeezed something in down the field on third down.
Vince Verhei: I think we need to go back and test Aaron's theory that Sanchez has the USC gene, where he plays much better against zone coverage than he does against man/blitzing. He's made a couple of nice lasers to Hole in Zone tonight, but he missed earlier (I forget if it was Holmes or Edwards) for a likely touchdown.
Tom Gower: After the early game and Pool's alleged help over the top on the Garcon TD, what do we think of safety play? Is it the defining quality of good teams? Is this just a fluky day? I feel like I should have some brilliant flash of insight here, but instead I'm just rambling out loud and wondering.
Bill Barnwell: From what we actually see in the absence of great safeties (at least anecdotally) great safeties improve run defense far more than they do pass defense. The Jets have had average-or-below safeties for two years and are still a pretty great defense.
Vince Verhei: I've suspected for a long time that safety is the most under-rated position in football, as far as their importance to a team. The thing is, we usually don't see their good plays, so we don't appreciate the good ones. You only appreciate them when you see a guy having a bad game.
Mike Kurtz: It depends on the team and the scheme. The Steelers and the Ravens do, because their schemes require a lot of activity and single coverage from their safeties. The Bears? Not so much.
Ben Muth: Someone once told me, and this is a football guy I respect, that you don't pay for linebackers, running backs, safeties, or guards unless they are really special. The reason being is that there are a lot of decent ones available for cheap. It makes sense that the playoffs are populated by teams that either have star safeties or budget safeties.
Bill Barnwell: After seeing the All-22 replay, oh my word, that's a terrifying angle by Pool. He was going for the pick and came up what, a yard and a half short?
Aaron Schatz: Yay! Mark Sanchez ends their last drive of the first half with three straight overthrows, each of which would have been a touchdown if it had been on target, and the last of which was a pick. Again, remember, Philip Rivers when he entered the NFL had already started more games than Mark Sanchez has between college and the pros combined.
Ned Macey: I get it that Revis is an excellent cornerback, but do we even know how well he's covering Wayne? Nothing even attempted that way, and Manning hasn't even looked that way. It strikes me that you can't just give up half the field and by far your best receiver just because of Revis. If Revis is actually covering him, then you can dump off, but Wayne is the fourth option on every play it seems.
Also, was it my imagination or did the Colts only rush two on the interception? Not sure I've ever seen them do that.
Aaron Schatz: Colts DT Dan Muir is just an awful, awful run defender. Every time I watch the Colts, he's getting pushed around.
I think I may have figured out why SNF games seemed to have fewer Audibles comments from us this year. Unlike most analysts, Cris Collinsworth makes actually relevant comments about strategies and how certain guys are playing. Therefore, we feel less of a need to do the same.
Will Carroll: If the Colts end up losing this game, the old hold the ball against Peyton meme is going to come out strong again. Assuming the Colts do anything about the line and there's even slight regression to mean on injuries, that's going to crush some people.
Vince Verhei: "Hold the ball" is not exactly a Peyton-exclusive strategy. What it really means is "pick up first downs and don't turn the ball over." Last I checked, that's a good idea against anybody.
Will Carroll: Agree, but that's never how it's presented.
Tom Gower: Cornelius Brown did about as good a job as running away from the ballcarrier on that Tomlinson TD to make it 14-10 as Milloy did on Julius Jones earlier.
Aaron Schatz: Did you guys see Reggie Wayne knock a Jets defender down in the background of that last Pierre Garcon catch? I have no idea which defender it was, and Garcon was basically down before Wayne even started throwing the block, but it was a BRUTAL smackdown. So apparently, Wayne is still in this game. As a blocker.
Will Carroll: Field goal? Damn has Caldwell ever taken a risk, ever? I mean in any area of his life? The man probably drives a beige car.
Aaron Schatz: I understand the draw no third-and-7 with the defense back for a pass, but I can't for the life of me understand the sweep on third-and-7.
Will Carroll: It was Pool and he saw it coming. Hope Reggie feels better after having been completely shut down and erased from the mind of Manning.
Tom Gower: I thought Roman Harper had Keep Chopping Wood locked up, but Taj Smith running right into Steve Weatherford? Yeah, that's incredibly dumb.
Will Carroll: Weatherford nearly concussed himself on that flop. Good penalty, but ridiculous flop. And I watch a lot of soccer.
Aaron Schatz: Taj Smith was really going after him though, it was like, he ran into him but then gave him an extra little push for good measure.
I'm curious if Tony Dungy had a heart attack back in the NBC studios when he saw the Colts blitz eight guys on a third-and-5.
Bill Barnwell: I'm pretty sure Jacob Lacey did.
Vince Verhei: The Colts seem to have realized that Sanchez plays best against zones, and are sending the house on passing downs. Even if the Jets win, can you imagine what the Pats or Steelers will do to this kid?
Bill Barnwell: I mean, that's not a poor decision. They got Braylon Edwards two yards past the last defender streaking towards the end zone. Sanchez missed the throw.
Vince Verhei: Right. I'm saying the blitz partly caused the bad throw.
Ben Muth: That's a big kick.
Mike Kurtz: Colts play for the ~50-yard field goal attempt. Caldwell has done everything he can to blow this game. Vinatieri bails him out. (retch)
Tom Gower: A 50-yard kick in perfect conditions is going to get vastly overpraised unless Mark Sanchez plays like he did against the Texans (and Indy's pass D plays like they're the Texans). One thing to note: Vinatieri is showing vastly better leg on field goals this year than he has in the recent past. A 50-yard field goal is a dubious proposition because it's a 50-yard field goal, but not because you're worried about it coming up short.
Aaron Schatz: Now, the question: Will they have the balls to blitz Sanchez here with a minute left, or will they sit back in zone -- which we seem to agree makes it much easier for Sanchez to complete passes?
Vince Verhei: And Sanchez makes a great throw against man coverage to set up the winning field goal. Of course he does.
Aaron Schatz: Oh, I think that was a much better catch than it was a throw.
Mike Kurtz: Colts play for long field goal, end up settling for long field goal and leave time. Jets do not play for long field goal, get short field goal as time expires. The end.
Ned Macey: Did the Colts play for a long field goal by throwing the ball well past the sticks on third down?
The Colts' second half defense was really bad (except for the two stops around the Taj Smith debacle--trying to join Hank Baskett as infamous fifth receivers). But really, the Colts control this game if they play better on third down. At least four misses on third-and-one and under 50 percent overall. Two of their six third down conversions were the runs on third-and-long (which set up the disaster sweep third down Aaron referenced).
Anyway, I don't want to be too repetitive, but if you lined up every available Colts receiver, the gap in quality between Reggie Wayne and everyone else is simply enormous. This isn't ignoring Marvin Harrison against Champ Bailey to throw to Reggie Wayne. They never had him anywhere but left. I only saw one clear play where they looked for him and looked away because he was covered (and on the replay he came open a split second after Manning looked away). It is just an appalling lack of creativity to leave him wide left all game and simply ignore him.
All told, it is hard to get too upset. This wasn't a very good Colts team, and they had to come out with all their previous injuries, and now they were down Diem and Johnson. They should have won this one, but they would have been pretty big underdogs next week in Pittsburgh. Still, it is an interesting off-season for the Colts who need to decide if all they need to return to elite status is good health or if the team needs some serious tweaking for the first time since 2002.
Aaron Schatz: One more note: This game was not Jim Caldwell's crowning glory. The timeouts at odd times, the ridiculous early challenge, absurdly conservative strategy. I'm not a fan. He seems to have all of Dungy's weaknesses without any of his strengths.
Bill Barnwell: I'd like to register my argument that leaving Anquan Boldin completely uncovered on a crossing route is a blown coverage.
Aaron Schatz: Two interesting bits from the ESPN Radio pregame show I was listening to on my way to watch today's game. First, Todd Haley read a study that said students do better on exams if they study in the same room where they take the exam, so he moved the Chiefs' practices from their normal practice space to Arrowhead Stadium. Second, Matt Cassel spent some time on the phone with both Tom Brady and Carson Palmer this week, getting tips on playing the Ravens. And Palmer does seem to always do well against the Ravens...
By the way, Todd Haley's shirt today says "Chiefs Will" on the back. Those of us with small children want to know if the t-shirts on the other side say "Chiefs Won't."
Bill Barnwell: Ravens are converting third downs at an unsustainable level. I know quantitatively it's unsustainable, but I'm wondering if Romeo Crennel is ever going to turn down a blitzing opportunity on third down to actually stop the Ravens.
After a couple of missed holding/hands to the face penalties committed upon him, Tamba Hali does what Tamba Hali does, getting just far enough around Michael Oher to knock the ball out of Joe Flacco's hands and force a turnover. And then Jamaal Charles does what Jamaal Charles, busting through a hole for a 41-yard touchdown run. Charles currently has more carries than Thomas Jones. Maybe Todd Haley read the study that said using Thomas Jones is hazardous to your health.
I like what the Ravens are doing offensively, though. They're taking advantage of Heap's height by splitting him out wide and basically throwing him box-outs, and then they're taking advantage of the inexperience of Berry and Arenas by getting Heap and Boldin to work them across the middle of the field. Hali's beating them up, though.
Aaron Schatz: Wow. I'm blown away that the Chiefs are starting Kevin Curtis one week after they signed him. I know Chris Chambers is not good, and he was actually deactivated today, but you would think they would start someone who had been with the team for more than a week. I guess Dexter McCluster is really just a slot guy, and Terrance Copper is a lifetime special teamer, and that leaves the rookie, Verran Tucker. Maybe it isn't so strange. The Chiefs could use a nice receiver in this year's draft.
Vince Verhei: I think part of the Ravens' offensive plan is "let the Chiefs miss a lot of tackles" too.
On the wide receiver issue, if there's one team out there that needs to find out if Randy Moss has anything left, isn't it Kansas City?
Doug Farrar: And there's Terrence Cody, jumping on Jamaal Charles for the forced fumble. That's the most dangerous example of weight distribution I've seen since Tony Siragusa turned Rich Gannon into a pancake.
Bill Barnwell: So now this means more Thomas Jones?
Vince Verhei: CBS showed Cody falling Charles in super-duper slow-mo. Watching the shockwave ripple back and forth across Cody's body reminded me of when the doctor tested Homer Simpson's body fat by slapping his belly and timing how long it took for the jiggle to stop.
Aaron Schatz: Ex-Scramble writer Ian Dembsky made a good point here watching with me, which is that Joe Flacco really doesn't feel the rush well, and you can tell because when he's heavily pressured, he'll glance back to see if anyone is behind him. Guys like Tom Brady and Drew Brees never do that -- they're always looking straight ahead to try to find a receiver before they go down.
Doug Farrar: Phil Simms: “The Chiefs are using Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles perfectly.” Do we need any more proof that it’s messed up?
Tom Gower: Yup, and that's what killed the drive after the fumble. He had Boldin, I believe, open over the middle on third down, but looked back and saw Hali and tried to scramble instead of keeping his eyes downfield and throwing the ball. Flacco may aggravate me more than any other QB, especially in the playoffs because it reminds me he did nothing but get lucky and hit two random deep passes against the Titans in 2008 and that was enough to win.
Mike Kurtz: The Chiefs' offensive game plan has really been great beyond the obvious "give the ball to Charles." In particular the fake WR screen in the first quarter ... the Ravens are an aggressive defense, so when they had two defenders in front of a screen with (what appeared) to be two blockers, both defenders fired. Meanwhile, one of the blockers trickled down the middle of the field. A quick pump to Charles pulls Reed over, and Cassel gets a free toss for a first down. Just a gorgeous play.
Aaron Schatz: And then the Chiefs recover when the Ravens try to lateral. It's like the Ravens have some strange OCD where they are compelled to lateral every turnover return.
Vince Verhei: Simms had no idea that the Ravens were trying to lateral on that play. For crying out loud, you couldn't just see Reed clapping for the ball, you could HEAR him.
Bill Barnwell: Doug, was this crew below the league average in offensive holding calls? This is ridiculous.
Doug Farrar: We’ll have the full season totals later this week. But through Week 14, Mike Carey’s crew ranked fourth-lowest in holding calls with 29. Carl Cheffers’ crew ranked first with 52, and Scott Green’s was last with 18. Gotta love that consistency!
Just remember, though – as a football commentator, you are contractually obligated to refer to Carey as “one of the best in the business” no matter what actually happens during the games he calls.
Aaron Schatz: Chiefs seem to have ditched the non-stop man-2 for the second half.
Mike Tanier: Replacing it with uncalled pass interference by Eric Berry against Heap.
Recover a fumble on the ground, and you cannot lateral.
Aaron Schatz: Phil Simms thinks the Chiefs have fumbled twice because their players are too young and aren't used to the playoffs. Oh, come on. They fumbled twice because the Ravens made good defensive plays. Veterans would have fumbled in the same situations. Don't act like fumbling the ball is some sort of demonstration of a lack of moral fiber.
Rob Weintraub: Hmm, I seem to remember a veteran quarterback committing several turnovers in a playoff hammering at the hands of the 49ers, to the tune of 44-3 or so in 1993. Said veteran was of course Phil Simms. Good thing he was used to the playoffs.
Also, I would think guys who get hit by Ray Lewis tend to fumble more, rookie or vet.
Mike Tanier: Koch is having a career day as a holder. The field goal snaps look like Mitch Williams fastballs.
Bill Barnwell: Cassel with an ugly pick over the middle, held onto the ball too long, gave away the throw, Ravens baited him by opening the window just enough to convince Cassel he could fit a throw in and he couldn't. Great blitz pickup by Jamaal Charles on the play, though.
Vince Verhei: Through three quarters, on first down the Chiefs have called six passes (counting one Cassel scramble) and six runs. That's not as pass- wacky as it feels like, but it's still too reliant on Cassel.
Bill Barnwell: Is Dwayne Bowe inactive today?
Mike Tanier: So when did Michael Oher become a WWE wrestler?
Vince Verhei: I was going to say, it's clear these teams are more interested in fighting than playing football at this point. Let's just set up a ring and have a big battle royal.
And now we hear Dan Gable gave the Chiefs a motivational speech. That may have backfired.
Aaron Schatz: Ian demands that I add this to Audibles: Wasn't that Matt Cassel tuck rule play a backwards pass? The ball never went forward, so even if it was a pass, maybe it was technically a fumble due to the incomplete lateral?
(I personally think that doesn't apply because his arm was going forward, like a forward pass, not sideways or backwards, but still, an interesting question.)
Vince Verhei: As I understand it, if it's ruled that his arm is going forward in a passing motion, then it's a forward pass. It's incorrect to say the ball "never went forward" -- it did go forward, he just hadn't released it yet.
Tom Gower: As we know from the performance of one Rex Grossman, so long as the quarterback's arm is going forward when the ball is knocked out, it is incomplete, even if, say, the ball, ends up going 10 yards backwards when knocked out.
Aaron Schatz: On the other hand, the "feel free to throw to Todd Heap as much as you want underneath" man-2 defensive strategy may be a problem.
Vince Verhei: Ravens have a fourth down, up 16, under five minutes to go. Phil Simms then says the Ravens can kick a field goal and go up three scores, or "really put the game away" by picking up a first down. Going up three scores with four minutes and change left isn't putting the game away? Then he says the best way to let the Chiefs back in the game is to get a field goal blocked and returned for a score. Yes, that is a possibility, but if you're that concerned about it, why kick a field goal ever? Seriously, is this his all-time dumbest comment?
Mike Tanier: Well, the ref warning was a great idea.
McGahee touchdown: a big week for former Bills running backs. I think Travis Henry also discovered contraception this weekend.
Tim Gerheim: On that Ravens punt midway through the fourth, that died at the 1-yard line but had an offsides penalty to give the Ravens a first down, Ravens up 23-7, am I insane that I would very seriously consider declining the penalty? If you have the Ravens defense, wouldn't you be thrilled to put yourself in safety-forcing position? It's not like the Chiefs are likely to have time to score at least twice either way, but that seems like it would be a more fun way to win the game.
Best as I can tell, the Chiefs don't have an offensive game plan.
Vince Verhei: "A more fun way to win the game?" What are you, Jerry Glanville?
To be fair, the thought of declining the penalty crossed my mind too, but the realistic worst-case scenario for declining the penalty is killing two minutes of clock and kicking a field goal (unless you're Phil Simms, in which case field-goal attempts spell certain doom). That's significantly better than giving Kansas City the ball at the 1, down two scores, with I believe six minutes to go.
Aaron Schatz: Earlier in the game, maybe. With seven minutes left and the chance to run at least two more minutes off the clock up two scores, no.
Tim Gerheim: I assume you mean the worst-case scenario for accepting the penalty. Given that they were at midfield, I don't think you can say that a field goal is essentially guaranteed. I'd say the realistic worst-case scenario for declining the penalty, the way this game has gone, is a four-minute touchdown drive that forces the Chiefs to pull off an onside kick with time for just one more drive, and needing two-pointers on both of the touchdowns to tie. With the Chiefs at the one, needing to pass all the way, I think a safety is exceedingly likely there, putting the Ravens up three scores even if they do get two-pointers, and giving the Ravens the ball back.
Bill Barnwell: Andy Reid brings in Jason Peters at fullback on third-and-1. That's novel. Then he motions him out to tight end. That's stupid.
Tim Gerheim: I think it might have worked if Peters had bothered to actually block anybody. Vick wanted to cut back inside him but Peters just stood there watching three defenders square up along the line of scrimmage.
Bill Barnwell: Well, how often does Jason Peters block on the outside for Michael Vick? That's sorta the point -- you don't want to put your players in situations where they have no experience.
Packers have sent five guys at Vick virtually every pass play so far. Remember, the magic number is six.
Tim Gerheim: Does Peters never pull on runs or lead on screens? That's a serious question, but if he does, this assignment doesn't seem like it should stretch him too far.
Bill Barnwell: When you're blocking on a screen, you're either engaging a man or about to engage a man before the ball is thrown. On a run like Vick's with play action and on a bootleg, the timing is totally different.
Aaron Schatz: Motioning Jason Peters to tight end isn't quite as ridiculous as you think. First of all, he actually was originally a tight end before Buffalo switched him to tackle. Second, putting him at tight end isn't really any different from your usual six-offensive lineman set.
Bill Barnwell: Green Bay's using Woodson in the slot virtually every play. When the Eagles go with a tight end, they have Woodson spying Vick. When they go three-wide, Woodson either spies Vick or covers Avant. So that bomb you just saw to Maclin vs. Sam Shields? You're going to see more of those.
Of course, DeSean Jackson also just rolled his ankle. That means the Packers can keep Tramon Williams on Jeremy Maclin across the field and then get Shields versus Riley Cooper on the outside. That's enormous.
Tim Gerheim: That's twice now I've noticed Ernie Sims for the Eagles fail to square for a tackle and as a result allow a first down. He seems to be a little out of control as he closes on the play and gets beaten by the slightest of jukes.
Bill Barnwell: Why didn't Mike McCarthy call a timeout after that third-and-7 stop in the red zone? They let 30 seconds run off the clock before the Eagles kicked the field goal and they had two timeouts.
Aaron Schatz: Funny, we just said the same thing over at Ian's house. Then the Packers ran the first play, so you're thinking, okay, they are content to just run it out into halftime. Except after that run, they went hurry-up to get a pass on second down. Um, huh? They finally take a timeout after a pass to Andrew Quarless gets a first down. You didn't think maybe you should have taken that 60 seconds ago?
Vince Verhei: And then they end up and letting the last 20 seconds tick away with a timeout in their pocket. That was all completely brutal, honestly painful to watch. For both teams -- the Eagles could have run another 20 seconds off before kicking that field goal. What rinky-dink, amateur-hour stuff.
Bill Barnwell: And there's the adjustment from the Eagles to having Woodson in the middle of the field. Eagles touchdown comes when they line up with trips right and force Woodson to get Maclin, the middle receiver of the three. Avant's the inside guy and ends up against Jarrett Bush, and that's the mismatch. Maclin runs a deep curl in the middle to occupy Peprah, the safety, just long enough to keep him from jumping Avant's hitch and go in the middle. Betcha they come out with Maclin/Avant/Jackson all on one side at one point later on.
Vince Verhei: Brandon Jackson did a great job following his blockers on that screen pass touchdown. When he caught that pass, he was near the sideline, while his blockers were back closer to the numbers. A lot of backs would have just sprinted ahead, right into the defenders. Jackson paused and cut back inside his men, getting an easy convoy into the end zone.
Bill Barnwell: It's amazing how bad the Eagles are inside the red zone.
Doug Farrar: People keep using this "Vick can't overthrow DeSean Jackson" quote even though he overthrows Jackson in every game. Might be time to retire that notion.
Aaron Schatz: I think Ed Rendell just had a heart attack after the Eagles punted from the Green Bay 35. Wussification of America, indeed.
Bill Barnwell: If Akers can't hit from that distance, what else do you do?
Aaron Schatz: You go for it. What was it, fourth-and-8? They were able to pin them deep, but you have to expect there's a good chance that ball rolls into the end zone and you get just 15 yards of field position.
Vince Verhei: It didn't even occur to me that they should try the field goal. Punting from there, you should be able to get them inside the 10. And they did.
Bill Barnwell: I don't think your odds of converting fourth-and-8 are great enough (or your odds of punting into the end zone are high enough) to justify that. There were 147 punts this year in-between the 30 and 40-yard lines of the opposition. 42 of them (28.5 percent) resulted in touchbacks. Eagles did it four times and each time, it resulted in a fair catch.
Aaron Schatz: The Eagles just held seven back to block and the Packers rushed three. That was fun.
Winston Justice is getting destroyed by Clay Matthews, so the Eagles pull him out and put in King Dunlap on the next drive. On the first play, Dunlap is promptly pushed to the ground by the guy he's trying to block.
Am I the only one who thinks that Vick has regressed to old habits a little bit tonight? He seems to get mobile as soon as he feels just a little pressure, much less standing in the pocket and going through his reads like during the regular season.
Bill Barnwell: I don't think so. Better coverage yielding more scrambles.
Aaron Schatz: But I think it has affected him as the game has gone along, to where he's moving to scramble much quicker now than he was in the first quarter.
Doug Farrar: Dear Andy Reid:
You have two sub-average right tackles, and both of them are getting destroyed by Clay Matthews. Maybe a little TE help would be good.
Love, The Entire City of Philadelphia
Michael Vick's interception ends the Eagles' season.
Mike Tanier: Well, that was fun. Gonna go see how much Crown Royal I can ingest before death. Peace out.
Aaron Schatz: I don't mind the decision for the Eagles to not spike the ball with 40 seconds left, and instead line up for a play. But I was expecting that to be a deep pass hoping that a streaking DeSean Jackson could beat his man, not a deep pass hoping that Riley Cooper could out-jump *his* man. If you try to hit a streaking Jackson, a failure is likely to be incomplete, not intercepted.
Bill Barnwell: Not to troll Doug, but I don't think you *can* overthrow Jackson (and with him the defensive back) in that situation. There's not enough space for Jackson to really get separation. Cooper's got four inches on Williams -- it's not the worst decision of the game.
Doug Farrar: Yeah, I don’t know if even Jackson could beat Williams downfield in a limited space. I’m thinking the ideal read is to go wherever number 38 isn’t, especially if number 38 is covering Riley Cooper.
Tim Gerheim: Maybe throwing to Cooper wasn't a bad decision, but Cooper did an atrocious job playing the ball. He looked back plenty early, and presumably picked up the ball in the air, but instead of doing anything that might have increased his chances of making the catch, he continued to drift downfield, letting Peprah get position on him so he could jump for the interception in front of him. That interception is definitely on Cooper.
Aaron Schatz: I do think you can overthrow Jackson. You risk the incompletion. If you get an incompletion, the result is the same as spiking the ball except you lose an extra five seconds. Hope he gets separation, throw it past him and out of the end zone if he doesn't.
Bill Barnwell: I don't understand how you can simultaneously throw the ball past Jackson and still give him a chance to catch it without running the risk of an interception, the same risk you have with a jump ball.
Aaron Schatz: You aren't throwing it past him, you're throwing it past the defender. He's trying to outspeed the defender. There aren't a lot of defensive backs who are as fast as Jackson.
Tom Gower: One question, to whose answer I am not certain, is how deep the Packers were playing on that play, and how realistic it was for Vick to throw the ball deep for Jackson. If I'm the Packers, I'm conscious of the possibility and guarding against it.
Bill Barnwell: Sure. I agree Jackson is faster, but he's got 40 yards to travel. In those 40 yards, how much can he gain on that defender? A half-yard? The defender also knows that you're going for the end zone with a five-point lead and 30 seconds left and no timeouts is far more likely to sprint backwards with Jackson and worry about the TD as opposed to falling for a curl. (This also ignores the possibility of having a safety back there and why the Packers were probably comfortable with Williams one-on-one on the lesser receiver.)
If he has 70 yards to go and it's one-on-one, sure, there will be space.
Tim Gerheim: If I understand you right, Aaron, you're saying to throw it to Jackson if he's open behind the defense, but make sure not to underthrow it as the one to Cooper was, and if not, throw it over his head out the back of the end zone. That makes perfect sense to me.
Ned Macey: I fully understand what Aaron's saying, but what I doubt is that Green Bay ever, ever, ever would have failed to have a safety over the top who could have intercepted the ball no matter how it was thrown to Jackson. If the safety is really there, then you have to throw it out of the end zone, and then it is just a completely wasted play.
Aaron Schatz: I figure there wouldn't be a safety too deep because remember, Green Bay thought Philadelphia was going to spike it and only had a couple seconds to adjust after they realized Philadelphia was running an actual play.
Will Carroll: What about something like that Hasselbeck "eephus" throw in the first half yesterday? Just lob it to a point where only Jackson should be able to run to it. It's either an overthrow or an incompletion, if done right. I'd guess the key is getting Jackson off the jam, but Vick should have time to at least see that.
Ned Macey: Not that I'm still stewing about the Colts' loss (and all crucial passes seemingly going to Blair White), but at a certain point, you have to read both the defense and your own offense. There is a reason Cooper is the guy singled in the end zone. If it is Maclin or Jackson, then obviously that's the right read, but if it were Maclin or Jackson, they wouldn't be singled like that in that situation.
Vince Verhei: Now that I've seen the play, I think it was a great decision by Vick -- a one-on-one matchup in the end zone, with a big receiver against a little corner. Really, it was a very low-risk throw. Most likely outcome there is a
clock-stopping incompletion. The ball was maybe slightly underthrown -- another yard deeper in the end zone and a yard closer to the sideline would have been better -- but it was a lousy play by Cooper. You're supposed to go for the ball at its highest point. He didn't. That interception was about five percent Vick's throw, 95 percent Cooper's performance.
Tom Gower: The Packers today were a wonderful example of the fungibility of running backs, at least when it comes to running ability. I don't see James Starks as anything special at all, but he had success against an average or above rush defense. What that says about Brandon Jackson, I'm not so sure.
Since I'm seeing the reminders on Twitter, I'll remind you all that the Houston Texans had Tramon Williams in camp a couple years ago and cut him because they didn't think he was very good.
Tim Gerheim: Williams and the Packers should send the Texans Christmas cards. With Houston's defensive coaching, if he were still there Tramon Williams would still not be very good today.
181 comments, Last at 13 Jan 2011, 9:50am by nat