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?
16 Jan 2012
compiled by Rivers McCown
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.
Rivers McCown: No gusts? But Brees was meant to play in the wind!
Danny Tuccitto: Sooooo, umm ... our local FOX station is in a dispute with DirecTV, and so I have no satellite feed. Piracy is awesome!
Tom Gower: That's a costly opening drive for the Saints, with Jimmy Graham and Pierre Thomas going injured to the sidelines, and a lost red zone fumble. I see Graham is out for the second drive, but would be mildly surprised to see Thomas back after getting knocked out on the fumble.
Aaron Schatz: This is reminding me a bit of the Pats' scheme in Super Bowl XXXVI early. The 49ers are just whacking the living hell out of the Saints skill players at every opportunity.
Mike Tanier: It is like last year's Seahawks game early on. The Saints toss short stuff expecting YAC and don't get it.
Rivers McCown: They're clearly targeting the short sides early.
Aaron Schatz: I will say, that short passes strategy is what Vince suggested in Quick Reads last week. The 49ers tackle well, but by DVOA their defense ranks lower against short passes than against medium passes, deep passes, or of course runs. So it is hard to begrudge the Saints for going with short stuff.
Tom Gower: How do the numbers have the 49ers defense on passes short left and short right as compared to short middle? Brees is great at working the area between the hashes short and intermediate. Those passes don't generally have the same YAC opportunities as the space in the flats, but he can get them out before the pass rush gets there. It felt like that's where most of the yardage on the touchdown drive to cut it to 17-7 came from.
Danny Tuccitto: NO throws it short right 10th-most in the league, ranked second in DVOA versus a 49ers defense that ranks 26th. To short left, NO also ranks 10th in frequency for short-left, but their No. 6 DVOA in that direction is up against SF's No. 5 DVOA. To the short middle, NO is 18th in frequency, so that matchup isn't as relevant.
Vince Verhei: Short middle: San Francisco defense gave up 6.2 yards per play, third-lowest.
Short left or right, 6.3 yards per play, 23rd.
Brian McIntyre: Just two possessions in and rookie Aldon Smith is already giving Jermon Bushrod all sorts of trouble. Smith beat Bushrod for a quarterback hit on a completion to Darren Sproles on the first possession, then beat Bushrod again for a sack to end the second drive.
Tom Gower: Very nice pass by Alex Smith to Vernon Davis as the 49ers open the scoring. There wasn't a big window there, but Smith hit it. It should come as no surprise that Roman Harper was in coverage on the play, though Malcolm Jenkins, I believe, taking him out is why it was a touchdown instead of just a nice gain.
The Saints' short passing offense works a lot better against teams that don't tackle in space well. The Titans did a great job against them early, but the Saints eventually adjusted and started finding success throwing more vertically. The 49ers are having the same tackling success, and they have the pass rush the Titans don't to disrupt the vertical passes.
Mike Tanier: One thing I notice is that the Saints get predictable at times. They are running their play-action bombs, and they are looking to their screen game. They have about 200 other facets to their offense. The Niners can take away the inside run, but what about the middle passing game, the misdirection game?
Of course, if the Saints keep tuning it over in the red zone, it won't matter.
Danny Tuccitto: Hey, whaddyaknow, I finally get the feed, and it's 14-0 Niners. #arrestmeforterroristicthreatsagainstdirectvrightnow
Brian McIntyre: As part of the standoff with Sunstream, Boston area DirecTV subscribers don't have WHDH, the local NBC affiliate. How-ah dare they deny Greatriot Nation the ability to watch the Incredible Dog Challenge National Finals!
Mike Tanier: Things got so much easier when Comcast annexed Philadelphia and made it into a giant cable box.
Ben Muth: NaVorro Bowman gets trucked on the sideline and then shoves Jed Collins in the back. How is that not a flag?
Danny Tuccitto: Yeah, I have no idea how that wasn't a penalty on Bowman, there.
Tom Gower: Collins absolutely flopped, and had just grabbed Bowman's face mask after the play was over. If there was a call there, it should've been on both guys or just Collins.
Mike Tanier: Refs are now like the teachers at some awful school district where the kids have taken over and are fighting naked in the halls while the upper-echelon administrators make new rules about "curriculum alignment." They are trying to get through their days without a catastrophe.
Vince Verhei: 49ers safeties and linebackers are just playing out of their minds right now. Brees is looking for the deep ball, but it's not there. and when he hits the short stuff, San Francisco defenders are zipping in like lightcycles with giant hits. Guys are getting open, but they don't stay open for long. (As I type that, a Brees-to-Graham post route hits for a touchdown.)
If you have the game on DVR, go back and check the close-up of Brees on the sideline as the first quarter was winding down. Fox had a sound guy behind him with an all-time great moustache. It connected to to his sideburns, like Harley Race or Lemmy from Motorhead, but it was long and flowing. I want the sideline reporters to interview that guy.
Aaron Schatz: Darren Rovell tweeted a picture of facial hair guy.
Vince Verhei: My weekend is complete.
Danny Tuccitto: I preferred it when I didn't have the feed: 17-0 without, 0-14 with.
Aaron Schatz: This game actually seems to have gotten a bit sloppy near the end of the first half. We're now at what, five turnovers for the game, four New Orleans and one San Francisco? There have been a couple of really awful throwaways, like the one with four seconds left where Brees was getting sacked and awkwardly flipped it forward underhand to try to avoid losing yardage.
Vince Verhei: Yeah. Some of those turnovers were just brilliant plays by the defense (hello, Tarrell Brown's interception and the big hit that knocked out the first fumble), but Smith's fumble was just ... blech. An entertaining game, but definitely not the most well-played.
Tom Gower: Eh. Brown's interception was a nice grab by him, but Brees had Devery Henderson over the middle on the post route and instead threw the ball up the seam. Doesn't discount Brown's nice play, but he shouldn't have had the opportunity.
This is a huge drive for the 49ers. They haven't gone anything close to 80 yards this game, and I strongly doubt 17 points will be enough to win.
Danny Tuccitto: In a neat little wrinkle to what their tendencies predict, the 49ers just lined Aldon Smith up at defensive tackle so that he could stunt to the outside of Justin Smith, rather than the inside. I figure that's something San Francisco will do more of in the second half.
Tom Gower: Well, Darren Sproles' fumble gave them points. I think Gregg Williams has called about three or four straight cover-0 blitzes, and the 49ers haven't been able to do a thing against any of them.
Danny Tuccitto: Definitely nice to see the league deciding to enforce offensive pass interference this week.
Tom Gower: The 49ers aren't consistently good enough offensively to move the ball down the field. They're trying these rubs and picks to get the guys open, but the thing is, the Saints could decline both penalties and still stop them. I'm not sure what Smith saw on the second-down pass, and on the third-down pass he airmailed the throw. Williams should be content to just blitz them all day, because the 49ers are not beating man coverage and Smith isn't the type of quarterback who, to quote Greg Cosell, can make stick throws into tight windows.
Aaron Schatz: The 49ers are really getting pressure on Brees. The Saints offensive line is not holding up well today. It's not resulting in a ton of sacks, but it is definitely responsible for some of these incomplete passes.
In fact, on the rare plays where Brees does get a reasonable pocket, it seems like everyone is covered and he has to start scrambling around anyway.
Vince Verhei: Saints seem to get an unblocked rusher every time they big blitz. How much does that have to do with San Francisco playing their backup center?
Danny Tuccitto: Jonathan Goodwin only missed one series. The reason why there's an unblocked rusher on every New Orleans big blitz is because the 49ers offensive line hasn't been able to figure out blitzes all season. It's been the football equivalent of the Goldbach conjecture.
Ben Muth: Both defensive lines are dominating. Looking forward to seeing if San Francisco is schematically beating New Orleans' line, or if it's just winning one-on-one battles.
Aaron Schatz: Sproles' 44-yard touchdown right through a relatively empty middle of the field had turned this game around. Dashon Goldson took a bad angle and couldn't tackle him, then he juked out Donte Whitner, nobody else got near him. 24-23 with 4:00 left.
Tom Gower: The 49ers overall have had an excellent game tackling, but they had two busts on the same play at the wrong time.
Rivers McCown: Whitner has had a really interesting game. He had some big hits and nice coverage in the first half, but he's given most of it right back here.
Aaron Schatz: Alex Smith responds with a beautiful 37-yard throw to Davis, who was streaking down the left side of the field in front of Jenkins. Now they're in field goal range and the 49ers have to make sure they run as much time off as possible so Brees doesn't get the ball back after any go-ahead field goal.
Or, Alex Smith could run a quarterback sweep on third-and-8 that goes for a touchdown. 2:11 and one timeout left. Should Alex Smith have gone down at the 1 so the 49ers could run out the clock and kick a field goal instead of scoring a touchdown and then giving the Saints the ball back?
Ben Muth: Great call, great crack, great cut.
Vince Verhei: I think that play was the highlight of the season so far. The Saints had one timeout plus the two-minute warning. I can't do math right now, but you may have a point.
Tom Gower: The calculation is roughly up five or seven with 2:11 to play versus a 98 percent chance of being up two with about 40 seconds left. I think they're better off with him taking the knee at the 1.
Aaron Schatz: And of course, the Saints make an insane 70-yard pass where nobody can tackle Graham and they take the lead.
Vince Verhei: Well that's all moot. Good thing SF left themselves enough time to get the ball back. Maybe Graham should have gone down at the 1 too.
If I was defending a critical two-point conversion, I'd cover the guy who set a playoff record for catches today.
Tom Gower: That Graham play ... is that like Larry Fitzgerald's catch in the Super Bowl? The Steelers came back and won that game, but they had Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes. The 49ers don't have either ... and of course while I'm typing that, Vernon Davis does his best Graham impersonation.
Rivers McCown: ATTN Gregg Williams: Your safeties cannot cover Vernon Davis one-on-one.
Aaron Schatz: And the third big Vernon Davis catch is in the end zone for a touchdown. This time it looked like it was on zone, although I don't know why Scott Shanle let Davis go past him without backing up in case the ball was going to him.
Ben Muth: Holy crap that Davis catch looked like Terrell Owens' catch against Green Bay. And then it looked like Davis was crying too! Deja vu all over again.
Danny Tuccitto: It's kind of hard to be euphoric twice in a five-minute span, but I just accomplished the feat after that Davis touchdown put the 49ers up 36-32 with nine seconds left.
Aaron Schatz: This definitely has to be one of the best fourth quarters in NFL history. Not one of the best games, but one of the best fourth quarters.
Vince Verhei: It's over. Can we postpone the New England game for an hour or so? I need time to decompress.
And I turn to CBS in time to see the first seconds tick off the clock in Foxborough...
Rivers McCown: I'm thinking that after those last two drives, the Saints may be okay with Gregg Williams peddling his wares under Jeff Fisher next year.
Aaron Schatz: How can you tell the difference between a Tim Tebow game and a regular Patriots playoff game? I looked at the press box seating chart and there are credentials for this game issued to Time, GQ, People, and The New Yorker.
Mike Tanier: On the one hand, ridiculous. On the other ... this is a You Were There moment, man.
Rivers McCown: GQ's Mark Anderson profile is going to be phenomenal.
Mike Tanier: For heaven's sake Aaron: what is Tebow wearing? How is he throwing? Who did he shake hands with? Who did he nod to? TELL US WHAT WE ABSOLUTELY NEED TO FREAKIN' KNOW!
Aaron Schatz: I will let the rest of the press be on "Tebow Every Minute" watch. I'm here to be on "Is there a single high safety?" watch.
Mike Tanier: But rumor has it that he is sleeveless? The guns! The guns!
Aaron Schatz: Yes, he is sleeveless. However, Alex Marvez from FOX is not wearing his traditional shorts. He has given in to the elements and is wearing pants.
Ben Muth: Did the Pats just run a zone stretch to Aaron Hernandez? Or am I punch drunk from the last game?
Aaron Schatz: Yes, they did, for 43 yards. On one hand, 43 yards! First-drive touchdown! No slow start! On the other hand, why did the Patriots draft two running backs, one of whom has barely played, if they were just going to use their second tight end as a running back to go with the three they already had?
Rivers McCown: I'm so glad I have Stevan Ridley on that fantasy playoff team now. Oh well, at least I can cobble together some Metroid jokes about him after Danny wins.
Aaron Schatz: The Pats started Devin McCourty at corner but seem to be using him as the single-high safety on most plays. They're not letting Demaryius Thomas run 80 yards against empty coverage, thank you very much.
Tom Gower: At 14-0 Patriots, my interest in this game was starting to fade, but Tom Brady's errant throws are keeping me and the Broncos in it. Conspiracy alert!
Aaron Schatz: Yes, that two-drive span where Brady didn't seem to know where guys were going on option routes was interesting, but it seems to be over now, because New England just marched down the field easily to make it 21-7. The Denver defense just has no idea how to stop Rob Gronkowski or Hernandez.
Vince Verhei: Professional halftime analysis: Tom Brady is good.
Aaron Schatz: So, our e-mail thread was at 63 comments at the end of the first game. This is comment 72, and the Pats-Broncos game just hit halftime. We're not going to hit 100. Boy oh boy, is there nothing to say about this one. 35-7. The Denver offense can't do anything. They moved the ball on the Pats in the first game, that's not happening tonight. The Broncos defense looks awful. There's no pass rush. Matt Light is controlling Von Miller easily.
Vince Verhei: Actually, that's about the most astute thing there is to say.
The Pats defense has two sacks in 12 pass plays. The Broncos defense has no sacks in 25 pass plays. Forget about Brady's touchdowns, just the sack numbers tell you that Denver is losing.
I think I'm going to remember Shannon Sharpe's tuxedo jacket as much as anything else today. Is that velvet? Corduroy? Suede?
Tom Gower: The Broncos are getting no pressure on Brady, they can't cover Gronkowski or Hernandez, Andre' Goodman on Deion Branch is going about how Andre' Goodman against anyone normally looks, Tebow is holding the ball too long (on passing plays) or getting rid of it too quickly (on option plays), and the Broncos aren't getting big plays on offense.
Ben Muth: The Patriots are significantly better than the Broncos.
Vince Verhei: First-half points for the New England Patriots tonight: 35.
First-half points for the Sacramento Kings tonight: 23.
Aaron Schatz: Well, only one of those teams will be playing in Anaheim next year.
Mike Tanier: The Kings stink, man.
Vince Verhei: Oh God, the Patriots fans are chanting Tebow's name in the exact same way that Seahawks fans chanted Elway's name once upon a time.
Patriots fans nearly boo their own team's third-down conversion, because it came on a Brady sneak up 42-10 in the third. Why is he even wearing pads at this point?
Tom Gower: So, um, do the Broncos look as miserable on the sidelines as the Titans did during the second half of 59-0 a couple years ago? These pathos storylines are all we have left.
Aaron Schatz: It's hard to tell because most of them are in very big, thick parkas. But they don't seem quite as miserable because it isn't unexpectedly snowing in October while they're getting crushed.
Rivers McCown: Did the GQ guys take off early?
Aaron Schatz: For those curious, there are two other third-down punts in my database, going back to 1992.
In Buffalo, during the final week in 2008, the Patriots punted twice in the fourth quarter. It was really, really windy. Matt Cassel punted once as a surprise, the other time, though, they brought in actual punter Chris Hanson.
Mike Tanier: The Eagles did it at least a half-dozen times from 1986 to 1990.
Ben Muth: Miller should be suspended for at least the first game next year. To take that cheap shot when you're down 35 with three minutes left is absurd. It's gutless. A big fine won't be enough: you have to make sure that people know you can't start stuff just because your season is over. That discipline has to carry over.
Actually, the more I think about it, the more I feel Miller should be suspended four games. If he draws a Patriots player into a fight and gets him to throw a punch, that guy misses the AFC title game. The AFC title game is worth four regular season games.
Mike Tanier: What's the precedent on suspensions of that level for guys who just got swole at the end of games and started shoving? I mean, it was a cheap shot, and it earned the ejection, and I could even see a one-game suspension. But guys start pushing and shoving at the ends of blowouts all the time, and really, a quick kick? I can see how that gets a defender's temper flared.
Aaron Schatz: Jacoby Jones, WTF?
Tom Gower: Personally I would have gone for it on that fourth-and-1 instead of taking the field goal to open the scoring.
I think Jones made a reasonable decision, but just didn't execute properly.
Aaron Schatz: That's why it isn't a reasonable decision. The benefit is possibly 4-5 yards. If you fail, the penalty is colossal.
Tom Gower: I don't see that. The benefit is you start at the 13 or so instead of potentially like the 3. I don't know points expectations there, but that seems like a big deal to me. It also looked like a very routine catch. If he can't make that kind of grab, then he shouldn't be out returning punts at all.
Vince Verhei: Deion Sanders on NFL Gameday says they only show special teams highlights if it's a big play or a boo-boo.
I dub this the Big Play or Boo-Boo Bowl.
Aaron Schatz: Owen Daniels was wide open in the left corner on the third-down play at the goal line where Baltimore's Pernell McPhee chased T.J. Yates out of the pocket. He had to throw it away.
This brings up a question that was being heavily discussed on Boston sports radio when I was driving home last night. Assuming Baltimore wins this game, who on earth do they have who could cover either Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez? Ray Lewis can't stay with those guys. I can't imagine that they would want to use Ed Reed in strict man coverage instead of playing his usual free safety. Bernard Pollard is a great hitter but not a coverage guy.
Vince Verhei: I don't think that's a problem exclusive to Baltimore. Hernandez and Gronkowski are a bad matchup for pretty much everyone.
Aaron Schatz: Oh, sure. Definitely a bad matchup for everyone. But there are teams that should be at least a little better equipped to cover those guys. The 49ers, with Navorro Bowman and Patrick Willis ... although obviously they had safeties generally on Jimmy Graham and didn't do a great job. The Giants, playing mostly a 4-2-5 with three safeties who are reasonable coverage guys. Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle are definitely younger than Reed, Lewis, and Pollard. Maybe even the Texans, with two ex-cornerbacks at safety plus DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing at linebacker.
The Packers couldn't cover them either, but of course, they're the only offense left that's better than the Patriots.
Vince Verhei: The team that played Gronk and Hernandez best this year (throwing out Week 4, when Hernandez didn't play) was probably Dallas in Week 6. They held the duo to 6.8 yards per target, and also forced a fumble and intercepted a pass intended for Hernandez. The Cowboys mixed things up a ton, with Sean Lee in coverage three times, Orlando Scandrick and Michael Jenkins twice each, and a bunch of guys (DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Keith Brooking, Jay Ratliff, Terence Newman, etc.) once each. If there's a lesson from this, it's that stopping the Patriots tight ends is less about individual matchups and more about keeping the offense guessing and confused. Having Ware to chase Tom Brady around probably helps too.
Tom Gower: Yates saw the underneath defender there and didn't trust his ability to put the throw in place. He's not yet a guy who's confident enough to make those stick throws, and today's game seems to be moving too fast for him. Give some credit to the Ravens, too, who've done a good job playing disciplined defense and aren't giving Yates many of the easy throws he needs to be successful.
Baltimore's offensive line is also doing a pretty good job of picking up Texans blitzes so far.
Rivers McCown: Baltimore has completely shut down the Texans bootleg game. It is going nowhere.
Hm, I guess it wouldn't be a Texans postseason game without a silly challenge by the opposing coach.
Tom Gower: Eric Winston seems to be doing his best to make us regret putting him on the FO All-Pro team, as Paul Kruger is giving him fits in the run game today. That's a big reason the Texans are having little success running outside zone right.
Huh, Kareem Jackson with a couple passes defensed in a row, and a corner blitz finally lets the Texans get pressure on Joe Flacco to keep it 17-13 at the half.
On the Arian Foster touchdown, the Texans brought in an extra offensive lineman, Derek Newton, and stuck him next to Winston. I haven't broken them down, but don't recall them running many sets with six offensive linemen, even on goalline plays like that. He got the seal Winston had had trouble getting.
Note, though, I don't think the Texans ran outside zone to the right once until they were inside the 5. That doesn't change that Arian Foster is a grown-ass man, though.
Rivers McCown: Yep, they practically never ran with a sixth linemen.
Tom Gower: Texans go empty on third-and-6. The Ravens predictably run an inside blitz and get quick pressure on Yates. I'm not a fan of that call by the Texans, as you're essentially requiring your rookie quarterback who's struggled some to make the right read and get off a quick and accurate throw against tight man coverage, or you're stuck trying a 50-yard field goal. Incomplete and doink!
Rivers McCown: Letting Neil Rackers try a 50-yard field goal on fourth-and-6 ... I am befuddled.
Aaron Schatz: 50 isn't that long. Rackers is 7-of-9 on field goals of 50 yards or longer the last two seasons. Although all those attempts have been either indoors, in Denver, or in Florida.
Rivers McCown: Right, the weather is a big deal in this one. Also keep in mind that this is the same Rackers that once made the Texans decide that they needed to punt on fourth-and-9 from the 39 against the Redskins. In overtime.
Tom Gower: Yup, and Rackers' earlier kick that was good from 40 did not have great distance. That's one of the reasons I questioned the third down playcall -- every yard there is important if you don't get the conversion.
Aaron Schatz: Well, there's a big difference between 50 and 57.
Ben Muth: I can't believe Ray Rice couldn't get in on those last two runs. They weren't walk-ins, but there was definitely enough blocking to punch it in. Rice may be more "complete" but Foster has certainly played better today.
Mike Tanier: Joe Flacco has to stop moving backward when getting sacked.
Aaron Schatz: Yates is mostly looking good today, but he's had a couple of times where he's thrown to guys who were clearly well-covered. That interception intended for Kevin Walter had no window whatsoever.
Ben Muth: Yates just threw into an ocean of purple.
Tom Gower: Third down, low-percentage situation with a rookie quarterback, and Matt Turk is far from covering himself in glory when the Texans have punted. Yes, it's a bad read and Yates shouldn't have thrown it, but it's not that awful.
Rivers McCown: The screen that Lewis broke up to Foster to put that drive into second-and-17 was devastating.
I am finding no small irony in the fact that the Ravens had horrific special teams all season, yet Jacoby Jones and Matt Turk have combined to let the Ravens completely dominate the field position battle.
Mike Tanier: Great fourth-quarter drive by the Ravens until they threw two incompletions at the end to give the Texans plenty of time for a late drive.
Vince Verhei: The second-and-5 passing play was most egregious. A dive up the middle probably sets up third-and-short and gets the clock running. Then if they want to gamble with a pass, that's a calculated risk. By throwing incomplete there, they were basically forced to pass again on third down. And it's not like Flacco was having a good day.
Aaron Schatz: Are we witnessing the Ravens going to loose coverage and allowing the Texans to march down the field easily?
Wait, no, we're apparently witnessing Yates taking a shot downfield and Reed making a pick to seal the game. Nevermind.
Mike Tanier: Ravens-flavored football product number 10090909.
Rivers McCown: Brutal game to watch as a fan. Hard to feel bad about it at all because the Texans were running on house money without Matt Schaub, but this was a completely winnable game despite an insane turnover margin. The Texans defense crushed in this game -- the two touchdown drives were both off turnovers deep in Houston territory, and both the fourth-and-goal stand drive and one of the field goal drives started at the Baltimore 40.
I don't want to say that Baltimore didn't play well -- their defense was outstanding as well and probably should have picked off Yates on a few other occasions, but it's hard to believe that the Texans defense is going to be watching the rest of this from home after that performance.
Vince Verhei: According to Troy Aikman, Tom Coughlin thinks the team that wins time of possession will win this game. The Broncos had the ball for six more minutes than New England last night. How'd that work out? (I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but this is still a pet peeve of mine.)
Aaron Schatz: The Hakeem Nicks touchdown there reminded me of one of the Vernon Davis touchdowns yesterday, where it looked like there were two defenders right there to tackle him in the middle of the field, and then they fell down and he went all the way for the score. Charlie Peprah needs to learn it is tough to tackle guys with your shoulder.
Mike Tanier: Packers safeties need to work on a lot of tackling fundamentals.
Tom Gower: Eli Manning is the latest quarterback to show us that overthrown passes over the middle of the field when there are deep safeties tend to get intercepted.
Giants beat writer Mike Garofalo tweeted that the Giants, in Friday's practice, did the same exact onside kick the Packers tried. Apparently the lesson of Sean Payton is that there's no longer any such thing as an unexpected onside kick.
Vince Verhei: Well, Nicks' Hail Nary touchdown kind of changes what I was about to say, but it's still impressive that the Packers are in this considering how badly they've played. Their offense has put the ball on the ground repeatedly. Their defense has missed oodles of tackles. They've been outcoached, going with three-man rush after three-man rush when it's clear that Manning has no trouble hanging back, finding the open man, and hitting him.
The Giants had failed to capitalize on most of that until the last play. Being down 10 is obviously a big difference from being down three, but it still feels like we haven't seen the best of the Packers.
Tom Gower: The Bradshaw run was a great individual effort, as he beat Peprah's contain to the corner and got out of bounds. On the Hail Nary at the end of the half, there were about as many Giants in the area as Packers. Green Bay was clearly not prepared defensively for the Giants to throw deep there, which I have to regard as a coaching misstep with a timeout remaining.
Aaron Schatz: The surprise to me here is not that the Packers have had trouble covering and tackling, although those two plays to end the half were pretty awful. The surprise is not that the Packers, with the lowest ASR in the league this year, aren't getting much pass rush. The surprise is that their offense isn't doing much. We've got passes behind guys and passes dropped, and where are the deep throws? Aaron Rodgers had less than 10 yards per completion in the first half, with only two completions over 15 yards.
Ben Muth: That Osi Umenyiora strip sack is on T.J. Lang just as much as it is on Chad Clifton. Clifton knows he has Lang coming with him, so he sets to not get beat outside, but Lang took too big of a step forward and inside to help the center, and couldn't get back out in time to help. Very frustrating as a tackle.
Aaron Schatz: The Packers should have bootlegged Rodgers out when they went for it on fourth-and-5 from the 40. I'm pretty sure Rodgers would have had a choice to either run for it himself or hit a short pass after the bootleg. Instead, they keep him in the pocket, the back misses his block, and Rodgers goes down.
Ben Muth: Yeah, it has not been a great day for Green Bay's backs in protection.
Vince Verhei: Matt Bowen noted on Twitter that the Giants are playing a lot of Man-2 on defense. That's going to (and has) left them vulnerable to quarterback scrambles. Probably would have made it tough defending a bootleg too.
Aaron Schatz: Ryan Grant gets stripped, an immediate touchdown for the Giants makes it 30-13, and this thing is over. The Packers are going to kick themselves all offseason. I don't know if I should feel vindicated or not. On one hand, all season long I've been saying that the Packers were not an all-time great team, no matter what people thought. On the other hand, I did say that they were better than the Giants, and I expected them to win this game.
Mike Tanier: I feel vindicated for telling Giants fans repeatedly during the preseason to calm the heck down -- that they had a playoff-caliber team no matter how few free agents they went after.
Aaron Schatz: I also have to say, I wish I could understand the psychology of the Giants. Their second-half collapses have been very real and very consistent. Every single year, mostly in pass defense, they collapse in the second half -- even if you take into account the fact that their schedule is always harder in the second half. So why does it reverse at the end of 2007 and the end of this season. What happened differently in these two seasons?
Mike Tanier: I would NOT have onside kicked there.
Aaron Schatz: I would like to note that:
a) FO readers have asked us not to fill Audibles with complaints about officiating anymore,
b) The officiating in this game has been awful,
c) Giants fans will now complain that FO hates the Giants because we're not complaining about the officiating.
Tom Gower: I try my best to reserve my reactional officiating whining for Twitter. The officiating today has been very sad at times, with a couple obvious calls in favor of the Packers. The officiating has not been responsible for (a) the Packers' secondary, which has been an issue for all of this season and is an issue again today, (b) the Packers' persistent difficulties with catching the football (c) Hakeem Nicks' touchdown at the close of the first half, (d) the Packers not throwing the ball downfield as much as I think they did over the course of the year, or (e) the Packers' occasional issues when it comes to tackling players, including Nicks, Bradshaw, and Jacobs at various times.
Vince Verhei: By the way, I was wrong about the Packers showing up in the second half. I mean, way wrong.
Aaron Schatz: I think I need to throw something in at the end of Audibles where I talk about how the Giants played really well today, lest the Giants fans all call us "haters" again.
Hey, the Giants played really well today! I'm not surprised about the offense, which has been very good all year. Eli Manning was one of the five best quarterbacks in the league this year. But on defense, I just wish I understood how they always turn the switch off in Week 10 and how they turn it back on in late December.
Vince Verhei: The NFL Network guys were talking about the Giants "peaking at the right time." Obviously, they are, but is that the kind of thing you can control? Is it possible that, knowing the season is six months long and you can't play your best the whole time, teams are able to dial back the intensity to 80 or 90 percent, so their emotional/psychological/physical tanks are full for the playoffs?
293 comments, Last at 19 Jan 2012, 6:55pm by some guy