How did New England find the right combination of offensive linemen this season, and where are Seattle's biggest weaknesses in pass protection?
06 Sep 2013
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.
This week: a special Audibles on the opening night game between the Broncos and Ravens.
Aaron Schatz: Nothing says football like Ryan Seacrest.
Wait, did Twitter just die when they said they were postponing the game 15 minutes? Or is that just me?
Matt Waldman: Is it just me or does everyone else see how the pomp and circumstance of the NFL on prime time network TV is borrowing heavily from professional wrestling?
Scott Kacsmar: I was just going to say something similar. I thought I stopped watching wrestling in 2001, but this reeks of the pageantry of a Wrestlemania. Just get that Arizona play-by-play guy in the booth and he can be Jesse "The Body" Ventura.
Rivers McCown: You'll know we've finally reverted to wrestling when, as one of my friends suggested to me earlier tonight, they dangle Jadeveon Clowney from the top of the stadium on a bungee cord during the Raiders-Jaguars game.
Mike Ridley: They stole that from Simmons' article today, unless said friend is Simmons.
Rivers McCown: I don't have THAT kind of cachet. That's Aaron's gig.
Matt Waldman: You know, all these color analysts and their touch screen monitors should provide excellent meteorological analysis until the game starts.They all look like weatherfolk.
Aaron Schatz: I don't know if NBC is any more prepared for this delay than CBS was during the Super Bowl. I also know that the discussion of the Ravens on this pregame show is one of the greatest examples of "postseason uber alles" I've ever seen, starring my least-favorite five-letter word in the history of football journalism.
Mike Kurtz: Back Judge yelling at the ravens to get out of the locker room. Can we have an unsportsmanlike for failure to take the field on time? Can we? Pleaaaase?
(Here they come. Aww.)
Ben Muth: And the refs are patting guys down pregame. It's officially wrestling.
Danny Tuccitto: I've begun to assemble a playlist for NFL pregame listening this year:
"Waiting Room" by Fugazi
"The Waiting" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
"The Wait" by The Pretenders
Rivers McCown: "I'm Waiting For The Man" - Velvet Underground
Aaron Schatz: I thought for a moment there that Lardarius Webb had finally let Thomas out of the basement, but it turned out I was just confused between Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas. Man, I miss first initials on uniforms.
Ben Muth: Surprised to see the greatest linebacker that has ever laced up a pair of cleats, Daryl Smith, look so bad in pass coverage on that Thomas touchdown.
Also, is there a cooler sight in football than a quarterback hanging in the pocket to deliver a big pass as he takes a hit? Always so great.
Aaron Schatz: Next Baltimore drive, Robert Ayers dropping into coverage (um, why?) pulls a Terrell Buckley: diving in an attempt for an interception, missing, and letting Dallas Clark go 30 yards untouched.
Rivers McCown: Well, Trindon Holliday could've muffed that punt.
Scott Kacsmar: What's the worst two-year span of fumble luck a team has had? Denver may challenge it. 100 percent unforced error.
Danny Tuccitto: Let's also consider that the Ravens forgot how to tackle on both big plays on that drive.
Aaron Schatz: Yes, I'll be considering that when I chart this game.
Ben Muth: Glad the Ravens didn't move Kelechi Osemele to right tackle after Michael Oher's injury. Unless Rick Wagner is a Jeff Linkenbach-esque disaster, I'd rather keep Osemele at left guard (where he's pretty good) and have a poor right tackle. My big pet peeve is when coaches will say "Backup guard X is better than backup tackle Y, so if a tackle gets hurt we'll move one of our starting guards out and play X." That seems to make sense until you realize that your starter is probably a much better guard than a tackle, so you've just downgraded 40 percent of your line with one injury.
There are plenty of things you can do to hide a crappy tackle, it starts to get tough to call plays when you're mediocre in multiple spots.
Aaron Schatz: Just in case the Broncos were wondering, Danny Trevathan is better in pass coverage than Ayers.
Rivers McCown: Pretty good game, well, I'll see you guys tomorrow.
...What do you mean it's only halftime?
Scott Kacsmar: First half summary: white guys dropping balls.
I'm glad Michaels and Collinsworth didn't do the "rare to see Dallas Clark drop that one." I swear one day I will find the time to put together a montage of countless announcers -- actually most of them will just be Dan Dierdorf -- saying that after an easy pass dropped by Clark.
Aaron Schatz: By making fun of Dan Dierdorf, Scott once again shows what a perfect fit he was for Football Outsiders.
Tom Gower: If you have the chance, add in Dierdorf saying "Wes Welker catches that ball 100 times out of 100."
A lot of the Ravens success in the passing game seemed to come against voids -- some possibly due to some early miscommunication -- or going straight at Tony Carter, who is of course only playing because Champ Bailey is out. Meanwhile, the Broncos are struggling to get pressure because without Von Miller they don't have anyone too threatening as a pass rusher. Of course, neither of these is a surprise.
It may seem weird because he has over 150 yards passing and a couple scores, but Peyton Manning has looked relatively off a good chunk of tonight. We are obviously in National Jump to Conclusions Week, so I will not start making definitive statements off two quarters of play. Ditto re: Julius Thomas, who I'm guessing is very much a beneficiary of playing with Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and some possibly suspect coverage by the Ravens.
Vince Verhei: As a child of the 1980s, I demand that "Wait" by White Lion, "Right Here Waiting" by Richard Marx, and "Waiting For A Girl Like You" by Foreigner be added to our pregame setlist.
My two biggest impressions from the first half: I'm blown away by how well Baltimore's cornerbacks are manhandling Denver's wide receivers (keeping in mind that Julius Thomas is not a wide receiver). And overall, it's been a pretty ugly, pretty sloppy game, likely due to the oddball weather delay.
Aaron Schatz: Also sloppy because look, teams aren't right in Week 1 yet.
I'll have to see if I can find the link on FO and add it to Audibles later, but I think at some point I ran these numbers on the site... I ran a correlation of DVOA in every two-week span of the season to DVOA over an entire season. The weakest two-week span, of course, is Weeks 16-17, because of teams resting starters. But the next weakest span, BY FAR, was Weeks 1-2. Performance in Weeks 1-2 correlates to performance the rest of the year much less than performance in, say, Weeks 5-6, or Weeks 10-11, or Weeks 13-14. It sounds crazy, but maybe there was a reason once upon a time there were six preseason games, and it wasn't just because owners wanted to print easy money.
Well, it was mostly printing easy money, but the point about teams still not being quite ready stands.
Wes Welker traps that ball against the grass 100 times out of 100.
Scott Kacsmar: Good thing John Harbaugh uses his challenge for a five-yard play on first-and-10, but not on a big third-down play.
Danny Tuccitto: There have been two scores one play after turnovers, and another score three plays after Harbaugh's non-challenge. Over-under on percentage of game recaps that talk about momentum?
Aaron Schatz: What percentage is "all of them except Barnwell's?"
Danny Tuccitto: "Nocentage."
Tom Gower: Brandon Stokley is old and can't move the way he could 10 years ago. Clark has a costly drop. Ed Dickson had a couple missed plays early, get sprung again, and drops a pass on third down and will presumably head back to durance vile. Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin are not walking through that door.
Ben Muth: Well, I'll go ahead and jump to a conclusion. This Ravens offseason and team feels a lot like the 2011 Mavericks. An unexpected title winner that decided to let a lot of valuable pieces go due to cost (guys that had big postseasons being overvalued, like JJ Barea, Tyson Chandler, Paul Kruger and Boldin) or age (Ed Reed, Jason Kidd). Individually letting those pieces go made sense, especially when looking past just the next year, but it's hard to argue that all their moves collectively didn't make them worse in the immediate future. I don't disagree with the path either front office took, but it's still odd to see a defending champ put so much thought in the future at the expense of a team trying to defend a title.
Mike Kurtz: The Ravens secondary is playing very aggressive. Welker's touchdown was on a double-move after the catch. The long pass to Thomas came after a double-move where Webb bit hard inside and ran into a teammate. The Thomas touchdown came after a pump fake that the safeties bit on, creating all sorts of space.
This feeds into Aaron's comment about Weeks 1 and 2 not correlating well to whole-season performance; there's a lot of rust, a lot of adjusting to game speed, and likely a lot of nerves.
Scott Kacsmar: I thought I had a table on this, but Denver had a lot of games last year where they started slow and just destroyed people in the second half. Had to be one of the best second-half scoring differentials in history. Not sure I want to anoint John Fox for that, but they're doing something right at halftime.
Aaron Schatz: Denver had a 18.1% offensive DVOA (sixth) and a -6.2% defensive DVOA (10th) in first halves last season. In second halves, 26.2% (third) and -21.6% (second).
Man, the Ravens offensive line has just crumpled in the second half here.
Danny Tuccitto: Game has gotten boring, so gratuitous sport psychology thread-hijacking inspired by Mike's mention of "nerves"...
There are two types of competitive anxiety: 1) cognitive anxiety (i.e., mental symptoms like worry), and 2) somatic anxiety (i.e., physical symptoms like "butterflies in the stomach," being "amped up," etc.). For the vast, vast majority of athletes, somatic anxiety goes away a few minutes into the game, and doesn't show up again until "clutch" time (and only for some athletes). For most of a game, somatic anxiety is low, so higher cognitive anxiety is what causes mildly worse performance (e.g., "This play's important; hope I don't screw up. Oops, forgot one of my reads."), but in those higher somatic anxiety parts of the game (usually towards the end), the interaction of the two causes a player to catastrophically "choke," for lack of a better term.
Aaron Schatz: Boy oh boy. It looks like Denver's third-down defense has decided not to regress towards the mean until at least Week 2. Baltimore, please, a first down. Just one. Try it, it's fun!
Or a pick-six to Travathan, which is less fun. For Baltimore fans, anyway.
Or a moronic non-pick six touchback. What the hell? Anyone starting the Denver defense in fantasy just threw a brick at the television.
Mike Ridley: DeSean Jackson nods in approval.
If there's not a face mask on that play, Clark holds onto that ball 100 times out of 100.
Danny Tuccitto: Marlon Brown scores. Somewhere, FO reader batesbruce is saying, "I told you so."
The ball guy wearing "K" is impressing me with his ability to catch kickoffs that go out the back of the end zone.
Michael Huff is making a strong, early case for this week's Keep Choppin' Wood award.
Rivers McCown: I guess the Broncos have enough firepower to get by without Miller and Bailey. Maybe.
The Ravens should have serious concerns about their secondary receivers. Dunno what to make of the secondary as a whole, but clearly some parts were not as polished as others.
Scott Kacsmar: A weather delay, Denver's lack of pass rush, Manning's lack of arm strength, then it went to halftime and what the frack happened? Should be some first act in that 2013 Broncos' America's Game feature...
But seriously. Great start for my "the year of the Broncos" vision.
Vince Verhei: "I'm blown away by how well Baltimore's cornerbacks are manhandling Denver's wide receivers."
I just want to make it plain and clear that I said this BEFORE the second half and five of Manning's touchdowns. Obviously, things changed.
81 comments, Last at 10 Sep 2013, 6:53am by Jerry