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» Catch Radius: Best of the NFC

Part I of our catch radius season finale spotlights the NFC kings of double coverage (Calvin Johnson), the sideline (Jordy Nelson), the drag route (DeSean Jackson) and the red zone (Dez Bryant).

10 Jan 2007

Every Play Counts: The Colts' Run Defense

by Michael David Smith

You already know the Indianapolis Colts -- the team whose run defense made us cover our eyes -- held Larry Johnson to 32 yards on 13 carries on Saturday. But as I watched and re-watched the Colts' defense on every play of their 23-8 domination of the Kansas City Chiefs, I wanted to find out how it happened, and whether it could happen again Saturday when the Colts play the Baltimore Ravens. The short answer: The Chiefs' offense deserves more blame than the Colts' defense deserves credit, and I don't expect a repeat performance in Baltimore.

The real story of the game was the Chiefs' game plan, not the Colts'. Many of the Chiefs' plays looked poorly designed. Take the first-and-10 when Larry Johnson took a handoff around the right end and cornerback Marlin Jackson stopped him for no gain. The announcers praised Jackson's tackle, but why did the Chiefs run a handoff to the outside and not assign anyone to block the cornerback who was going to be there? At the very least, why didn't the Chiefs have a receiver run a pass route on Jackson's side of the field and try to draw Jackson away from Johnson? I routinely found myself scratching my head at such plays.

As ineffective as he was in limited duty, the Chiefs' decision to give Johnson only 13 carries was mind-boggling. In the first half they faced third-and-5 twice, third-and-3 once and third-and-2 once. Even though they were facing a Colts defense that allowed a ridiculous 5.3 yards per rush this season, the Chiefs passed all four times -- and failed to pick up the first down all four times. Johnson carried the ball on a third down exactly once all game, when he converted a third-and-1 in the fourth quarter. (That run was what we thought we'd see all day: center Casey Wiegmann and guard Will Shields double-teamed McFarland, pushing him back, and Chris Terry pushed Josh Roberts back to open the hole for a gain of three.)

On a third-and-5 when Dwight Freeney sacked Trent Green and forced a fumble, the Colts were in their nickel package with just six in the box, while tight ends Tony Gonzalez and Kris Wilson were both on the field and Johnson was behind Green. With a two-tight end formation against a nickel defense, why didn't the Chiefs trust Johnson to pick up five yards in that situation? Even if they called a pass in the huddle, the Chiefs should have changed the play at the line when they saw the Colts' defensive alignment.

The Chiefs also made the mistake of running straight up the gut too often, rather than trying any misdirection plays. It's telling that the Chiefs' longest run was a misdirection handoff to receiver Dante Hall in which Hall lined up just outside the left tackle, took the ball from Green, and cut to the inside. That play picked up eight yards. Misdirection plays like that use the Colts' speed against them, getting the Colts' front seven out of position when they see motion in the other direction. It's hard to understand why Kansas City didn't run plays like that more often.

Other than that handoff to Hall, the Chiefs' best-designed run was probably the handoff to Johnson with 1:35 left in the first half. It was second-and-10 and the Chiefs were lined up in the shotgun. Freeney, sensing Kansas City would pass, took an outside rush, and Green gave the ball to Johnson on an inside handoff that allowed him to scoot past Freeney. Left tackle Jordan Black pulled and buried linebacker Cato June, and for a moment Johnson looked like he'd have a big hole. Unfortunately, as Black went to the ground on top of June, Johnson stumbled over his legs, allowing Colts defensive end Robert Mathis to bring him down from behind for a gain of four.

Of course, at times this year the Colts' run defense has looked so pathetic that even the blandest running attack imaginable should manage more than the 32 yards Johnson had on the ground Sunday. The Colts did change their defensive approach against Kansas City, especially in the way the defensive ends showed more discipline against the run.

On the game's first play, for instance, the Colts had eight in the box and everyone was playing run. Dwight Freeney, the defensive end who's notorious for rushing to the outside on every play, cut to the inside immediately at the snap, shoving Black off his block and helping defensive tackle Raheem Brock make the tackle.

The Colts also kept their defensive backs closer than usual to the line of scrimmage. On second down, cornerback Nick Harper played more like an outside linebacker, less than a yard off the line of scrimmage and only a couple yards outside Gonzalez. Harper ran directly to Johnson at the snap and made the tackle. Given the way Harper was lined up, a play-action pass to Wilson, who was in the backfield and outside Gonzalez, likely would have gone for a huge gain.

There was no one defensive player who did the bulk of the work. Of the Chiefs' 15 handoffs (13 to Johnson, one to Hall, one to Michael Bennett), only two Colts, Robert Mathis and Anthony McFarland, were in on more than two tackles.

McFarland had the best game of any Colt. On second-and-6, McFarland did a great swim move to get past center Casey Wiegmann and tackle Johnson. That was a great play by McFarland. The knock on McFarland throughout his career has been that he makes great plays like that but then disappears for long stretches, and he did fade a bit late (it's telling that Johnson's only two first downs were on his last two runs), but McFarland deserved a game ball.

Despite all their offensive problems, the Chiefs were down only 6-0 when Ty Law returned an interception inside the Colts' 10-yard line in the second quarter. First and goal from the 9 for the Chiefs: This was the moment when Kansas City would overpower Indianapolis.

On first down, Johnson took a handoff up the middle for six yards. It was his longest run of the day, and he did it because Black and Wilson drove linebackers Keith O'Neill and Gary Brackett back and opened up a big gap. Those were the Colts linebackers opponents got to know and love this season.

On second down Johnson got the ball again. This time he managed only one yard when the Colts came out with a five-man line and linebacker Freddie Keiaho came in unblocked to drill Johnson just as he crossed the line off scrimmage. On third-and-goal from the 2-yard line, Green tripped when Chiefs left guard Brian Waters stepped on his foot. Lawrence Tynes missed a chip-shot field goal on the next play, and that drive typified the Chiefs' day.

Can the Colts stop the Ravens if Baltimore gets a first-and-goal this weekend? I have serious doubts. Most of the focus will be on whether Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden can keep Freeney from sacking Steve McNair, but the real focus should be whether Ogden can keep Freeney from tackling Jamal Lewis. Ogden is so much bigger and stronger than Freeney that I expect the Ravens to have a big day running to their left, especially if second-year guard Jason Brown, a very talented but somewhat inconsistent player, has one of his good days. I also think the Ravens will have a much better game plan than the Chiefs, perhaps including getting backup running back Mike Anderson more involved in the offense than he has been this year. That doesn't mean the Colts can't win in Baltimore. But the Ravens are favored for a reason, and the Colts can't count on another opposing offense playing right into their hands.

Each week, Michael David Smith looks at one specific player or one aspect of a team on every single play of the previous game. Standard caveat applies: Yes, one game is not necessarily an indicator of performance over the entire season. Especially this time.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 10 Jan 2007

104 comments, Last at 15 Jan 2007, 6:47pm by Rob

Comments

1
by Rich Winter (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 11:16am

Great article MDS. As expected, it was more a case of the Chiefs' offense playing badly rather than a breakout game for the Colts' defense. As a Colts fan though I really hope the Colts D has a big game, and just hope Freeney doesn't end up spinning his way out of the game for Jamal Lewis to run all over them! Let's also hope that the Ravens' defense doesn't have a big day and also hope that there aren't any 'miscommunications' between Manning and Harrison! Come on Colts!

2
by Brandon (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 11:29am

Very nice article. Being a Colts fan though, I'm hoping the defense deserves a little more credit than you give them.

You also said you expect Ogden to overpower Freeney, but haven't you watched the last two games we played against them? Freeney dominated Ogden nearly the entire time.

3
by zip (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 11:36am

#2

Not in run support.

4
by Otis Taylor \'89 (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 11:40am

How can the Chiefs offensive game planning staff accept payment for last week's work? It looks like stick-in-the-folk time for T Green - did he audible once the entire game?

I'm one of those that think that the Colt's have zero chance this weekend. A lot has been made of them winning the last three games, but from what I remember the Ravens were pretty banged up in those games. You throw in natural grass, the bye week, the ability to get pressure into Manning's face, the inability to get up the energy two weeks in a row on defense and the Colts could have a lot of problems. Having said that, I'm not totally sold on the Raven's offense and their weak recent schedule has been one big stat builder.

5
by Topher Connors (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 11:43am

Looking in the defensive line stats breakdown on this webpage I noticed that the Colts were the best team in the league against a Left End Run type play. This is to Freeney's side. Any best guess how they do that since Freeney is so well known for ignoring the run?

6
by James, London (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 11:56am

Nice write up MDS. It astonished me that on 1st & 2nd down, when the Colts were playing run, the Chiefs ran, and on 3rd down, they didn't. Just as bad, there were IIRC, no play-action passes on 1st & 2nd down until late in the game. I don't consider myself an expert, but if I saw it, then why didn't Herm and the gang?

re #5. I think the reason for the Colts success in defending runs around left end is that those numbers include tosses and sweeps. On those plays, Freeny's propensity to take and outside rush will give him a good chance to stuff the run in the backfield.

7
by Jimbo (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 11:59am

I think the Colts' D does deserve some credit -- they played their scheme very effectively and shut down their opponent.

But (as a Ravens fan) I also watched and rewatched the game and was dumbfounded by KC's game plan. With Indy crowding the box and its DBs sitting on top of the KC receivers, the Chiefs never attempted deep or even intermediate passes the entire game.

Don't take my word for it -- look at the Game Book on NFL.Com. Only 4 passes in the entire game are described as anything other than "short" -- one to TE Gonzalez at 11:24 of the third quarter and one to TE Wlson at 2:38 of the quarter (which was completed for 24 yards). Finally, in the game-ending 2:00 drive, Green attempted two "deep" passes, one to Hall and one to Parker (that was intercepted). So the Chiefs waited until they were losing by 15 points with less than 2:00 remaining in the game to attempt a deep pass to a WR.

Often, they seemed to invite the Colts to stack the box, coming out with 1 WR, 2 TE, 2 RB personnel, and then crowding everyone except the WR as tightly together as they could. As mentioned in EPC, this occasionally left a Colts DB unmarked at the line of scrimmage, allowing him to run in completely untouched and make a play.

Since the focus of this EPC counts is the Colts' D vs. the KC offense, I won't get into the KC defense's game plan, other than to say it was also breathtakingly bad. In particular, the decision to leave Dallas Clark uncovered for the entire game was mystifying. Play after play after play, Clark would line up uncovered in the slot, run 8 or 10 or 11 yards downfield - still uncovered - then stop, turn around and catch a pass. For the game, Clark caught 9 passes on 10 targets for 103 yards. The only incomplete came on third and goal from the KC 1. During the 2:00 drill before halftime, Manning completed three consecutive passes to Clark for 29 yards to set up a FG.

Finally, the Chiefs almost never rushed more than 4 -- they might as well have rushed 2, considering the complete non-presence of their DTs. Once, when they rushed 5, KC actually got its only sack of the game. Another time, a 5th rusher flashed in Manning's face, and he clearly was bothered as he rushed the throw that became Law's second INT. In retrospect, KC turned in one of the worst playoff performances I've ever seen.

8
by Toberino (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 12:00pm

Re: 5
I think it has to do with two simple factors: Freeney's speed and the importance to the Colts of helping him out in run support. Because Freeney is so fast, often he will be in the place the tackle doesn't want him to be before the pushing really starts. I haven't watched many Colts games, but I would think they'd throw the linebackers in the area Freeney vacates.

9
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 12:09pm

5: It's explained in a fox blog post, but the short answer is a run scored as left end in the pbp would be an end-around or sweep play that goes to the left of where the left tackle lines up. This is right where Freeney's spin move brings him, and Freeney is perfectly capable of tackling a rb right in front of him. The way to run against Freeney is to run at the space he abandons, which would show up as Left Tackle (Indy rank 26th).

10
by Michael David Smith :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 12:15pm

Yes, B beat me to it, and that's exactly what I was thinking when I mentioned the importance of Ogden and Jason Brown -- if Freeney is spending all day trying to beat Ogden to the outside, he'll probably register a sack or two, and the Ravens will probably gain about 150 yards on running plays directly between Brown and Ogden.

11
by bsr (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 12:19pm

The KC game plan was so pathetically predictable it was pathetic. Of the first four KC possessions (which was almost the entire first half of the game), three of those were run, run, pass, punt. It was pathetic. They didn't even try back to back passes until late in the third quarter, on which drive they scored the TD.

12
by navin (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 12:21pm

Is Jamal Lewis capable of running misdirection plays or anything other than just stumbling though where the line opens a hole?

I think the Ravens need to go to Mike Anderson this weekend unless they want a repeat of what Indianapolis did to KC's running game.

13
by Basilicus (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 12:29pm

It's hard to tell how effective the Colts' D was or wasn't. I attribute this to the Chiefs calling the worst offensive game I have ever seen in the playoffs. Previously it was actually that Colts game in which Ty Law intercepted Manning a hundred times, but that was for a reason - they got roundly intimidated by the Patriots D and everyone on offense started arguing with everyone else on defense.

This had no rhyme or reason to it. They just came out at the beginning with the single worst offensive game plan a playoff team has ever employed. I'm repeating myself now, but even for Herm Edwards that was just...horrid.

The Colts could have been good or bad on D; I have no clue. The Chiefs were practically tackling themselves every play. I fully expect Trent Green to get traded somewhere and regain his standing as one of the top 10 QBs in the league. I fully expect Larry Johnson to crash next year. I fully expect Herm Edwards o be gone within two years, which isn't quickly enough.

14
by Basilicus (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 12:31pm

Sorry, that last sentence in the first paragraph of post 13 should end, "everyone on offense started arguing with everyone else on offense."

15
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 12:37pm

Didn't LJ put up Barry Sanders' like statistics this game? I remember teams in the playoffs would always just focus on shutting him down, and when they did the Lions didn't really have a good answer (until they were already down a bit). The Lions would be forced to come back, pass a lot and forget about using him.

16
by Doug Farrar :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 12:48pm

Well done, MDS. After watching the replay, I'm pretty much convinced that as well as Indy's defense played, the Colts' most effective defender was Herman Edwards.

17
by Bionicman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 1:14pm

Like many others here, I watched a replay of the game and paid special attention to the Colts defense. I personally thought that the defensive line and defensive backs do deserve some credit (although I agree that they were helped out tremendously by the Chiefs), but the linebackers played an unremarkable game. First, the DT's held their ground better and penetrated unusually well, The DE's showed more discipline, and substitutes were rotated in more often. The defensive backs did a very good job in run support; they are arguably better tacklers than the linebackers. However, their pass defense sometimes showed weaknesses; this was understandable to a degree, but it casts doubt on the applicability of the game plan to teams that can pass.

This brings me to the worst part of the Colts's defense on Saturday; the linebackers The linebackers helped the line clog holes and properly executed some ordinary plays (which is more than they usually do), but they got blocked out of the play far too easily on several plays, they didn't respond well to what little misdirection and adjustments that the Chiefs made, and they often looked better than they should have due to their their teammates making exceptional tackles (D-line chasing down fast runners, DB's knocking back large backs).

18
by Joon (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 1:18pm

re: 5, 8, 9

it should also be noted that colts opponents rushed to left end on only 4% of their carries, which is something like 18 times over the course of the season. a couple of 5- or 6-yard losses in there can really drive down the average of that small a sample.

19
by Nathan (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 1:29pm

Pretty much what I thought. Although I did thing the basic Colts gameplan on D changed, and that helped.

I think we should do the same thing, without attempting the pass rush unless we get a real lead. The rest should be run support, like the defense is supposed to work.

Pass rushing on 1st and 10 from the DE position is not good times unless you cause a lot of havok, and that havok ends up being positive for you.

20
by Ben (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 1:39pm

I have to admit I was surprised (pleasantly, as a Colts fan)with the Chiefs offensive game plan. The Colts huge problem all year has been the draw play. I was sure the Chiefs would use it heavily when the Colts were in nickel, but they never did.

Unfortunately, I suspect the Ravens won't be that stupid.

21
by mikeabbott (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 1:44pm

I miss having Herm coaching the Jets :(

22
by TomG (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 1:51pm

This is off topic, but it seemed to be the best place to put my rant.

I am a lifelong Baltimore resident. I am old enough to remember watching the 1958 championship game with my father (I was 5) It is one of my earliest memories. My father had Colt season tickets. As one of three sons, I went to about one third of the Colts games. I have fond memories of the Raider/Colts Christmas Eve double overtime playoff game (even though the Colts lost it was a great game). I had returned from college for Christmas, and my father had obtained tickets for himself and his three sons.

When the Colts left, I was a new father. My oldest was an infant. I was saddened that I would not share the same football memories with my son that I had with my father. He's now 23 and has no interest in football. My youngest is 17 and is a big Ravens fan.

The wound of the Colts' departure is no longer raw. I can appreciate and admire the talent and class of Peyton Manning. It is a source of satisfaction that Baltimore has more Super Bowl wins since 1984 than Indianapolis.

Baltimore will never forget or forgive the Irsay family for the departure of the Colts. I can sympathize with the Cleveland animosity against the Modells, but the NFL's treatment of Cleveland and Baltimore was worlds apart. Modell left the Browns colors and history, but Indianapolis somehow tries to claim Unitas, Berry, Moore, Marchetti, etc. as players of the Indianapolis Colts. That is how they are listed in the Football Hall of Fame. Baltimore has no interest in claiming Jim Brown etc.

Baltimore is very much looking forward to Saturday's game. It will be thrilled by a win and seriously depressed by a loss.

The players are too young to understand, but even they are beginning to get the vibe.

Go Ravens!

23
by Rick (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 1:51pm

Agree whole-heartedly with your analysis, MDS. Particularly galling for me (as a Colts hater) was when the Chiefs had a 3rd and 5, had passed on every 3rd down thus far, had failed on every third down thus far, and still refused to try a draw play. I'm watching the game on TV, saying "run a draw play at the hole Freeney leaves" and instead the Chiefs tailored their offense to the defense the Colts were offering on that play.

If there ever was a game that showed how bad coaching could kill a team, this was it. I literally don't think I've seen coaching that bad in a very long time. Or was it Green's responsibility to make audible adjustments at the line? One thing I know is that neither Peyton Manning nor Tom Brady (nor Ben Roethlisberg, nor Carson Palmer) would refuse to make any audibles whatsoever when faced, play after play, with a defensive scheme that was set up to stop exactly the play that had been called by the coaches.

24
by Don Booza (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 2:26pm

I find it amusing how many people are blaming the Chiefs gameplan after the fact. Going into the game it was commonly thought the Chiefs could just blow the Colts off the ball NO MATTER HOW MANY GUYS THEY HAD IN THE BOX. In fact, most peoople said the Colts could put all 11 guys in the box and still not stop LJ. Now, after KC stubbornly stuck with the run, people are critical because they didn’t pass more often.

Does anybody remember the criticism NE and Cincy got after they DIDNT run the ball more often against the Colts?

I can only imagine the outcry if KC had given up on the run early in the game and started throwing the ball all over the field.

Seems like people should be critical of the result, rather than the gameplan. Otherwise you are conveniently forgetting what was commonly thought prior to the game.

25
by Jimbo (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 2:39pm

I think the criticism Cincy got was that they ran the ball too much, essentially abandoning their outstanding passing attack in order to exploit the Colts' perceived weakness.

26
by Michael David Smith :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 2:46pm

Re 24, "I can only imagine the outcry if KC had given up on the run early in the game."

But that's part of the problem -- KC did give up on the run, as I mention, with those four third downs on which they passed. To put it another way, the Chiefs ran when the Colts' D was playing run and passed when the Colts' D was playing pass.

27
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 2:51pm

24

The problem is, in football, the defense essentially has more players than the offense. On running plays, the quarterback basically doesnt do anything, so you've got 11 on 10. Add in the fact that it generally takes multiple players to block a good defensive end, and I'd say its 11 on 9.

Now, when you tell an opponent you're going to run, theres basically going to always be someone who has a free shot at the runningback, and that doesnt work well.

KC should have come out, and thrown playaction passes the first 3 or 4 plays of the game, and as soon as indy started moving the safties off the line, they should have started running.

28
by Devin (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 2:54pm

RE: #20

Exactly! The Colts have been gashed all year with the draw, and KC never ran it! Unbelievable. Good thing I like the Colts.

29
by Don Booza (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 2:55pm

Re 26. Prior to Saturday's game, Indy had showed no ability to stop the run, ever. Even when all 11 guys were selling out to play the run, teams would still march down the field. See the Titans, see the Jags, see the Texans. So it shouldnt have mattered if the Colts D was "playing run".

I will agree the style of running plays KC used was not ideal. Teams have been ultra succesful using draws and misdirection plays against the Colts. However, not having watched KC much this year, I dont know if they are used to these type of plays, or even if LJ is comfortable running them?

30
by apocalipstick (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 3:10pm

24, 29

Under Al Saunders, the draw was a featured play in the KC arsenal, and LJ runs it very well. Unfortunately, Herm seems to have some masculinity issues which cause him to believe that draws are for the effeminate.

I said all week that Herm would find a way to screw up the Chiefs' biggest advantage and he sure did. It boggles the mind that a team with OT issues is playing against Dwight Freeney and does not take advantage of his desire to run himself out of plays. Still, that's about what you can expect from Edwards. He's a good skills/preparation guy and a decent motivator, but one of the worst game-planners, clock managers, and in-game adjustment guys ever.

31
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 3:14pm

I didn't watch the game closely enough to evaluate well, having some other matters that needed some attention while the game was on, but if the Chiefs were coming out in a two tight end set, on third and five, against the Colts' nickel, and Larry Johnson wasn't being handed the ball, that's at least a little dubious. I'm not a big fan of after the fact playcalling critiques, but in football, when presented the chance to physically dominate an opponent, due to formation/substitution/personnel, it's usually best to grab the opportunity with both hands. If presented the opportunity, knock the opponent to the ground, kick him while he is down (figuratively), and keep stomping on him until he reacts, at which time take some shots downfield. Now, if the opponent come out with nine guys in the box, go play action and start taking shots downfield right away.

32
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 3:14pm

re:29

Ive watched a lot of colts football, and I've never seen them sell out against the run like that. There were times when you had 9 guys in the box, and two recievers in man coverage on first down. If that doesnt scream BURN THEM DEEP, I dont know what does.

Herm completly blew it. I just can't believe KC gave up a draft pick for this guy.

33
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 3:21pm

I always thought it was funny that the NFL tries to pretend that the original Browns and the Ravens are completely separate franchises. I don't see why they're any different than any other NFL franchise that moved (or any other relocated franchise in other sports, for that matter): history as the Browns, history as the Ravens, and combined history.

Indianapolis may try to claim Unitas et al as Indianapolis players, but the Hall of Fame doesn't do that. Those players are listed as Baltimore Colts. They're only shown under Indianapolis because the franchise is currently located in Indy, just like Merlin Olsen and Jack Youngblood are included in the St. Louis section but listed as Los Angeles Rams.

You can't change the past by renaming it. Unitas never played for Indianapolis, and the Ravens and old Browns are the same franchise.

And there's nothing wrong with carrying a lifelong grudge against Irsay and the Colts, any more than there is with Brooklyn fans resenting O'Malley and Los Angeles. That should be a reaction that owners expect when they make decisions like that. (Even if Ford moved the Lions out of Detroit. It might give me a reason to stop rooting for them, but he'd still be an a------.)

34
by John Gach (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 3:51pm

Re: #4. Ravens last ten games:
@NO 35-22
CIN 26-20
@TEN 27-26
ATL 24-10
PIT 27-0
@CIN 7-13 Thurs. nite game
@KC 20-10 1st Dec home loss in about a decade
CLE 27-17
@PIT 31-7
BUF 19-7
This is a weak schedule? It has one cupcake, ATL. Since Jamal Lewis completely embarrassed the Cleveland run defense, CLE has been tough on the Ravens in every subsequent game.
The TEN game was Vince Young's coming-out party. At the time probably everyone outside the state of Tennessee thought the Ravens had just thrown in a clinker. Who knew TEN was going to win its next six games? If Trevor Pryce doesn't block the field goal try with 42 seconds left, TEN probably goes on a seven game win streak -- and Baltimore plays this week in a dome instead of at home.

#22. Yes, nonlocals have no sense of the treachery involved in Irsay Sr. sneaking the team out at three a.m. to evade a restraining order. He had been a terrible owner -- it was entirely his fault that Elway refused to play for the Colts, thus costing them their second great QB. When Baltimore poached the Browns from Cleveland, I couldn't bring myself to support the Ravens, regarding them as stolen goods. The 2000 team's great defense seduced me. So much for principle.

The line on the BAL/IND game opened and has stayed at -4 (-105), which strikes me as way too low -- in fact as a serious arbitrage opportunity. This line essentially calls the game even plus home field advantage and equates to about a 65% probability of a Ravens win. Since it seems unlikely that the oddsmakers could be so stupid, the spread must be based on the likelihood of bettors overestimating Indy's chances of victory, probably because of Manning and Indy's lone great defensive game of the year last week at home against a brain-dead offensive scheme. The Ravens should be, I think, at least a 7 point favorite (and I actually think they'll win in a blowout by more than 10). The reasons are almost too many to cite, but to list just a few: The Ravens are nearly invincible after a bye week; Manning historically does not play well against the 3/4; Manning historically does not play well against the Ravens' defense (pretty small sample though); the game will be played outside on grass; Indy in the second half of the year has been terrible on the road (0-4 -- with a loss to Houston!); in playoff football great defense almost always trumps great offense, though good or poor game plans can negate either (see Chicago's defensive play last year against Carolina, when CHI decided not to double Carolina's lone, but great, offensive weapon, Steve Smith).

35
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 3:56pm

33 How 'bout if Ford moved Matt Millen out of Detroit but kept the Lions there? How much would you hate him then?

36
by Brandon (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 3:58pm

Re: 22. If you're going to hold a grudge against Irsay, you should hold one against your own city officials as well. The elder Irsay (who is even't around anymore, been dead for years) wasn't the best owner in the world, but Baltimore put a gun to his head and he had to make a choice.

They were locked in a stadium dispute, and Irsay had flirted with other cities (as does ANY franchise looking for leverage in stadium negotiations). He publicly said he wouldn't move the franchise and he had no intentions to, it was all leverage. Then Baltimore passed a law allowing the city to seize the franchise from Irsay. The law would go into effect in a day. The team was moved in the middle of the night because of he didn't do it then, he would lose his team. You can't blame a man for moving his business because the city was about to seize it.

Maybe if you had supported your team a little more and encouraged and supported a new stadium, things never would've went so far. Not saying all Baltimore fans were like that, but it is what it is. With a gun to his head, Irsay decided to pack up and go instead of taking the risk of his business being seized. Things were ugly, but Baltimore was just as much at fault as Irsay was.

37
by edward the I (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:07pm

was there any doubt Herm would blow it? none among us NY area residents who had the plasure to examine his game plans, and adjustments, with the Jets.

can you believe some critics castigated the Jets for not getting MORE draft picks for herm? they must have felt lucky not to have to GIVE said picksfor getting rid of him!

38
by Topher Connors (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:08pm

Two things:

How did the Chiefs gameplan differ from the Jaguars and Titans second games against the Colts?

And Re: 22. Indianapolis does not try and claim those players. The NFL does that all on its own. Cleveland took Baltimore in a very close proximity of time to Robert Irsay dying. Baltimore asked to purchase the colors and history of the Colts from Jim Irsay. Jim declined to sell them at that time for 2 reasons. 1) His father had just passed and he was still freshly mourning that loss. and 2) There was a question as to whether or not Jim's Step-Mother would fight for part of the Colts franchise and any such transaction at that time would/could have thrown a wrench into that whole scene that was very close to being a very ugly mess.

Has the timing been different by a few months one way or another this weekends game would have been Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Colts vr Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Arrows (or whatever).

39
by David C (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:13pm

Re: 35 Buffalo and Pittsburg aren't easy teams to beat this season? Gee, where'd you come up with that idea?

40
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:23pm

#33: Because the other franchises didn't sue the crap out of the team that was moving (and Cleveland would've won, too, as Modell basically lied to get things on the voting ballot).

Technically, the Ravens are a new franchise. The NFL stripped Modell of ownership of the Browns, deactivated the Browns for three years, and granted Modell a new franchise in Baltimore with contracts for all previous players and personnel. It's the only way Modell would've gotten the franchise out of Cleveland without getting his ass handed to him in court.

41
by stan (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:24pm

34,

There are only 2 games vs. playoff teams in the ten you listed (the first -- NO and KC). So one playoff game in the last 9 and that against the 6th seed. Pretty much a lot of average or below average teams.

I think the key to the Balt-Indy game is McNair. If all he does is dink, dink, dink, I'm not sure that the Colts can't do a lot of what they did to the Chiefs -- bring up the safeties, take away the run and make McNair try to beat them.

McNair has never handled the blitz well. When he was young, he scrambled. Perhaps that is why Billick has him throwing dinks so much. Even if it is a blitz, he doesn't have to read it and throw a hot because he is already throwing the equivalent of a hot.

42
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:26pm

Brandon, if your verison of events is accurate, and I certainly don't have reason to dispute it, it is hard to decide which is the bigger jackass; an NFL owner seeking to get the taxpayers to build him a stadium, or a city threatening to seize a team. What would have been the legal basis for such a seizure? I know local governments seizing private property has been more and more an abusive practice, with each ensuing decade, but, gosh, that really would have been off the charts!

43
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:29pm

John Gach,

I'm glad you admit: "The 2000 team’s great defense seduced me. So much for principle." The honesty is appreciated. So, if you can forgive one scumbag carpetbagger (my term, and I don't really mean it--just a generalization) who brings a team to your town, why not the deceased scumbag carpetbagger who took one away? Seems hypocritical, especially to abuse Jim Irsay for his father's perceived sins, especially when you forgive such sins in the Modells.

I've always been a Colts fan, dating back roughly to SB 3. But because I lived in NJ and hated the Jets (ignored the Giants) the Colts' move to Indy did not affect me at all. (The fact that they sucked back then wasn't a bowl of cherries.) I'm of the school of thinking that you pick a team and you stick with them--Colts, Pirates/Yankees--I've seen a lot of BAD seasons, and some good ones. But they're my teams and I am a fan. Period.

In fact, viewing it as a business decision, I thought it was harsh but reasonable at the time. If I was a shareholder of the company (no idea how many owners there are) I would require management to do what is financially best for the business. So while it bugged me as a kid, escaping eminent domain proceedings (AKA "condemnation by the city" to take control of the franchise)seems pretty logical to me now.

Could Irsay Sr have handled things better and stayed in Baltimore? Probably. Did he do what he felt was best for his organization? Probably. Did he do a gleeful jig as he left down? I seriously doubt it.

But I understand grudges--I have Met fan friends who were born in the 60s yet loathe the Dodgers. I used to have Yankee season tickets and once saw a shirt that said "My favorite teams are the Yankees and whoever is playing the Mets." Amusing, but I hope the guy didn't really mean it. Seems like a lot of energy wasted on hate, to me.

Most of this bile for the NFL has focused on Balt/Indy and Cleve/Balt. What do Rams fans see as a result fo their move? Raiders fans? Cardinals fans? Is such bile an east coast thing?

You wanna see mass suicides in multiple states? Watch what happens if Irsay and Kraft decide "Hey, let's swap teams." I'd have a good laugh and keep rooting for the Colts.

Cheers,

44
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:33pm

#42: See here. It's just basic eminent domain. (Note that he would've been paid for it - and the reason that they were so pissed off is because apparently, Baltimore offered more money to stay than Indy did.)

45
by John Gach (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:34pm

Re: #39 & #41. Buffalo & Pittsburgh both played quite well in the second half of the season. If you take out the two Baltimore games, PIT played like a play-off team. Just look at the DVOA, rather than just W-L records. It wasn't the toughest schedule. but it wasn't the easiest either.

46
by Basilicus (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:34pm

#37:

I had no doubt Herm would seriously blow a few drives, maybe even a whole quarter, and likely a two-minute drill somewhere to boot, but I had no idea he was going to single-handedly (okay, so he had some help from his OC) blow the whole, entire, complete, total game.

47
by Topher Connors (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:35pm

Brandon's version is correct. Maryland state legislators were drafting bills that would give the State of Maryland rights to seize control of the Baltimore Colts under Emminent Domain.

The city of Baltimore claimed that the Colts were a clear public service that could not be provided by another private sector. They claimed that the Colts were under imminent probablity of leaving and thereby harming the public good.

They also claimed that all communication had broken down and that as a last resort the State of Maryland had a responsibility to the public good to seize control of the Colts organization.

48
by Topher Connors (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:40pm

Question:

How did the Chiefs gameplan differ from the Jaguars and the Titans second game against the Colts?

Answer:

It didn't.

49
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:44pm

47
Having not lived in MD at the time, I do not know this first hand, but my best guess is that the government entities responsible MAY have been hated just as much as R Irsay back in 1983/84. I would hope the papers raked them both over the coals on this.

The difference is that things change hands frequently in gov't and after 5-10 years, all those folks were elsewhere (what's a grudge-holder to do, throw darts at the picture of an anonymous hard-liner state legistator who has been out of office for four years and retired to Ocean City?), but Irsay was in the same place, owning the team that he "stole" from the city and the fans. And those damn Colts and their thieving owner were on TV a lot. Yes, they bit the big one, but that schadenfreude just made the hating more fun.

I wonder if he had died sooner and/or sold the team inside a decade, if the anger would be the same today, 22 years later....

50
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:50pm

Man, what a court case that would have been; the NFL claiming that there was no "public use" component to a city having a team, after arguing that tax payer subsidies for stadiums was worthwhile for polities, given the unique benefits delivered to a city by an NFL franchise. The state, in turn, would have attempted to make the case as to how there was a public use component to having an NFL team consistent with the Fourth Amendment. Given how abusive the doctrine of eminent domain has become, Maryland might have had a reasonably good chance to prevail, especially given the previous arguments put forth by the plaintiff.

Pat, whatever the disparity of the two offers, a good offer of subsidy by a government which is not arguing that the use of eminent domain is a legitimate possibility, is better than a great offer of subsidy by a government which claims it has the legitimate power to use eminent domain in order to seize the business. I'm surprised that Rozelle didn't drive the moving vans.

51
by Topher Connors (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:55pm

RE: 50

It would have been a doozy that changed professional sports across the board. The NFL did whatever it took in Cleveland and Oakland to ensure that didn't happen. I am also quite certain that the NFL did as much as it could in Baltimore to keep that court case from happening.

So from a certain point of view: Bob Irsay saved football :)

52
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:56pm

Topher, (#48) not sure you can say that, since Jax/Tenn had more success running than KC, they probably did not see the 3rd and 5+ situations than KC saw. I don't have time to comb the play by play, but I asusme that if you run for 8, then run for 6, then run for 7... when you finally get to an actual 3rd down, even if there are 5 yards to go and you have a young/suspect QB, you run the damn ball anyway. KC did not do that, and it does not look like they would have been successful anyway, had they tried.

KC had more trouble establishing the run and had a QB with a fine pedigree (pre-concussion). So their situations were different enough that I don't think we saw enough to say the game plans were the same. (Jax at least had more misdirection/draws and Tenn had that damn running QB to keep track of as well.)

Having said that, the run-run on 1st and 2nd downs was the same (but no draws, which I think MJD ran a lot), and Indy stopped that game plan once, at home, when nobody gave them a chance.

Can they do it again, on the road? I hope so, but would not bet the house on it. Will Manning throw 3 picks? I hope not and I WOULD bet the house on that. Will Hunter Smith bobble another punt? No. I THINK Indy had their playoff Mulligan and lucked out that it was against KC.

For Indy's D, I don't see what is so significantly different about the past 3 Balt games (new and much better QB, similar D) or the past 5 games against McNair-led Titans (run-first focus, good QB, stout D) and Indy won all of those 8 games. Indy is not as good as they were in 2005, but just as good as 2003 and 2004, when they won some of those Balt/Titan games.

I think a 4 point spread is about right, but figure it could easily go either way. If they get by Balt, I'll be a lot more nervous about either NE (even at home) or SD.

53
by Topher Connors (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:58pm

52... excellent point, you are correct the difference with Jax and Houston was that they ran on 3rd and anything.

KC stopped running and started playing right into the defenses pass rush (errr hand.)

thanks for point that out.

54
by Gabrosin (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:58pm

#41: I can't speak to how well McNair has or hasn't handled the blitz in previous years, but this year he's been superior in that regard. He's always had the toughness to take a hit (witness his many minor injuries from holding the ball until the last second) and he sees the whole field pretty well. The telling stat is to look at the line's pass protection. Baltimore is #1 in adjusted sack rate (tied with Indy), and that rate has been improving over the course of the season. In the final six games, McNair was not sacked. Not once! The only sack given up was against Cleveland, with Boller at QB, who tripped over an offensive lineman dropping back. These stats are a credit to a vastly improved offensive line, but also to a quarterback who knows when and how to get rid of the ball.

I respect Indy's pass rush, but it's unreasonable to think that the Colts defense will be able to stack the box against a powerful, tackle-breaking runner like Jamal AND still generate a pass rush that can get to McNair. The Raven receivers are head and shoulders above those of the Chiefs (never really thought I'd be saying that a couple years ago) and McNair has been spreading the ball around well.

If the Colts are going to win this game, I doubt it will be on the strength of their defensive performance. They will have to sustain long offensive drives for touchdowns and outscore the Ravens. Too many of the matchups on the other side of the ball favor Baltimore.

55
by doktarr (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 5:05pm

Bobman #53,

I think a 4 point spread is about right, but figure it could easily go either way. If they get by Balt, I’ll be a lot more nervous about either NE (even at home) or SD.

I don't see why NE at home should be such a huge obstacle. Indy beat NE on the road this year, and while NE is playing better now, Indy clearly will be as well if they make it through the Baltimore game.

SD, on the other hand... short of a flawless game by Manning, I don't see Indy winning that game. An Indy fan should be rooting hard for NE/Indy VII (in the last 4 years).

56
by Gabrosin (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 5:06pm

#43: You make a fine comparison between Irsay and Modell. I don't want to get into a huge debate over the "sins of the past", but I will point out one thing about Baltimore's quest to bring back the NFL. The city tried its best to get a team back the "right" way: through expansion. The only reason that Jacksonville received an expansion team in the early 1990s is because the Redskins ownership was able to use their influence within league circles to block Baltimore as a choice, in an attempt to keep Baltimore's market for itself. It was only after Baltimore was denied an expansion team that the city started trying to bring in a team through a move. Compare attendance for the Ravens and Jaguars... did that expansion choice make any sense?

Maybe that still makes Modell a "scumbag carpetbagger", but he and Baltimore shared one thing: neither was left with many options. Modell could stay in Cleveland and go bankrupt waiting for a new stadium, and Baltimore could sit and wait until the NFL decided to expand again and hope that Washington wasn't again successful in blocking them. The NFL did right by Cleveland, getting them a franchise back after only three years of absence. Baltimore had to wait twelve years and might still be waiting if Modell hadn't decided to move.

57
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 5:16pm

#51: In the Cleveland case, it was actually more the NFL saving Art Modell's ass. Modell had made public statements he later went completely away from, and those statements had direct impact on the voting public. So he would've been liable for all sorts of legal claims - and in fact, he still was. He settled a $3M class action lawsuit in 2001 regarding it. You can bet it would've been a lot higher than that if the NFL wouldn't've negotiated the Browns 'staying' in Cleveland.

58
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 5:30pm

#56: Not quite. Modell was upset that his stadium corporation (which rented out the stadium) wasn't doing well, because the city built a new stadium for the Indians. Cleveland actually approved a tax for improvements to Municipal Stadium, so it's not like Cleveland wouldn't've given him a new stadium.

The whole thing was really just "Art Modell is an idiot", not that he had no choice. The city gave him plenty of choices - he just consistently made the wrong ones (pissing off the Indians by not sharing suite revenue from their games, letting the Indians leave, not participating in the Gateway Sports and Entertainment Complex).

59
by TomG (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 5:31pm

Re: 51

The NFL had just lost an antitrust case to Oakland and was gunshy. Part of Baltimore's outrage was that the NFL did nothing regarding the move. No action was taken to prevent it or to replace Baltimore's team. An ownership vote to approve the move wasn't even taken.

Thereafter, the NFL tried to force the Redskins down Baltimore's throat, and rigged the expansion process on the Redskin's behalf to prevent Baltimore from getting an expansion team.

Eminent domain was an issue the politicians in Baltimore and Maryland were exploring to try to save the team. That was the excuse given by Irsay for sneaking the team out at night.

Baltimore generally approved leaving the Browns history and colors in Cleveland, and approved the NFL replacing their team (while resenting the actions of the NFL to prevent Baltimore from replacing its team)

Grudges are part of the emotions of following and rooting for a team. The grudge against the Colts is alive and well in Baltimore.

60
by Jimbo (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 5:33pm

I'm a Ravens homer, but can't help feeling like a lot of people are totally ignoring the truly outstanding season -- as DVOA attests -- that Baltimore is having.

The outdated perception of the Ravens as a grind-it-out running team doesn't match up with the reality of how Baltimore is very efficiently running the West Coast Offense to rack up the NFL's leading time of possession. Since Billick took over the playcalling during the week 7 Bye, the Ravens have scored 243 points. During that same time span, the Colts have scored 256. For the season, they're sixth in points in the AFC.

My only concern with the Ravens is that sometimes they get so pre-occupied with checking down and short passes that they neglect the long ball.

61
by TomG (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 5:37pm

Re:58

I'm no expert on Cleveland politics, but my recollection is that Cleveland built a new stadium for the Indians, and new arena for the Cavaliers and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, all while they wanted Modell to continue doing business in the "Mistake by the Lake"

62
by Gabrosin (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 5:41pm

#58: It's a pretty well-recorded fact that Art Modell isn't a great businessman. His generosity and lack of foresight certainly contributed to the move. But if Cleveland was willing to spend public money for new complexes for the Indians and Cavaliers, they should have been willing to do more than submit a tax for improvements to the old football stadium. Cleveland is a football-first town and has been for decades... why treat it as third banana for public money?

#59: Good point. If the Colts had officially left behind the Colt legacy in Baltimore, including records, colors, name, etc., there would be far less animosity continuing to this day. I ask any Cleveland fan to imagine having to drive down to Canton, walk into the Hall of Fame, and see records for "Jim Brown - Baltimore Browns/Ravens". Or to travel to M&T Bank Stadium and see NFL championship banners from the 1950s hanging, with Otto Graham in the ring of honor. That would be wrong, but no more wrong than the way Indianapolis continues to measure current greats like Manning against former greats like Unitas in their record books.

When a team moves, its legacy should always remain with the city. Even if the nickname and colors remained the same, the records should be distinct.

63
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 5:44pm

re: 59
Its funny looking back on the NFL's expansion of the Jags and Panthers. I distinctly remember listening to the radio and hearing Jacksonville getting the nod over Baltimore, I don't think I've ever been angrier. Now that the Jags are floundering and the Ravens are thriving, I think that has to go down as one of Tagliabue's worst moments.

Anyways, I expect for the Ravens to run some end arounds or bootlegs to Freeney's side if he happens to try and crash down on the line on first down. A DE who fails to contain the outside is pretty easy to take advantage of.

64
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 5:50pm

Since this thread has been hi-jacked by Indy/Balt discussions and there's no game-discussion thread yet, I have only to say: "Do they make bulletin boards big enough in Indy for this stuff?"

Wow, if I was an OL and the Ravens were predicting a painful day for my RB and "hot sauce" on my QB, if I needed any extra motivation, that would provide it.

Last year Joey Porter was almost comical--he stated the obvious as if it was distasteful. "They trick people (how dare they?)." I found Porter laughable (and wish his performance in the game was as funny). But this is actually, well, threats. I guess Indy will keep hearing this until they prove otherwise.

On the flip side, the inevitable Ogden/Freeney article in today's indy Star is all praise from both sides. Much classier.

65
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 5:53pm

they should have been willing to do more than submit a tax for improvements to the old football stadium.

Um. The improvements to the stadium were what Modell asked for. It's not like they were small, either. It was $175M worth of improvements (the new stadium cost $300M, so they were essentially paying for a new stadium).

66
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 5:59pm

65 Jeez, those dollar sums are peanuts today for a stadium. It's almost hard to appreciate what they meant just 5-6 years ago. NYC is looking at almost $1B, right? No idea what Indy's stadium is budgeting, but assume it's north of $600M. Here in Seattle they took down the 25 year-old Kingdome and replaced it with TWO stadia both running in the $400M to $500M range. Anybody know what the new Cardinals stadium cost? Just curious.

67
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 6:02pm

Doktarr #55, do you expect Brady to throw 4-5 picks again?

NE in January is not the same as NE in Nov. And, ahem, the reverse is true of Indy, or at least has been historically.

Let me put it this way: as a Colt fan, NE worries me; but SD concerns the shit out of me. But hey, if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.

68
by TomG (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 6:05pm

Re: 60

The sad truth is that regardless of how good a performance is, it won't be remembered unless the team wins the Super Bowl. Everyone raves about the Ravens' 2000 defense because it both set the record for fewest points allowed in a 16 game season and because it won the Super Bowl. But who rembmers that it was only the #2 defense (to the Titans) in yardage allowed?

69
by stan (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 6:08pm

50,

Will Allen -- going way off on the tangent, for sheer hypocrisy involving law and football you can't top the folks in Alabama who threatened lawsuits for interference with contract against the agents whose cash payments to Alabama players caused sanctions, etc. from the NCAA. A football scholarship as an employment contract? Hmmm, that would mean that Alabama and the NCAA had conspired and combined to fix the wages paid for their laborers, wouldn't it?

Talk about a lawsuit that would have shaken things up a little.

70
by stan (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 6:13pm

I really don't think you can compare how the Chiefs ran against the Colts with any previous game because the Colts just played an entirely different scheme. There's just no comparison.

I think you can question whether KC should have run draws or more play action pass, but this wasn't the same defensive scheme that teams in the reg season ran through.

71
by Brandon (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 6:14pm

Re:59

"Eminent domain was an issue the politicians in Baltimore and Maryland were exploring"

Exploring? They passed the bill! It was done, it was THE issue. It was either move his team, or have it stolen. Any sane person would leave. It wasn't an excuse, it was the only option because the city tried to get cute and put a gun to his head. He left in the middle of the night because he only had HOURS before the bill became law and city officials showed up to seize the team.

Regarding team colors, logos, etc: Uhm, that stuff is part of the franchise. The owner of the franchise owns that stuff. Why should he be obligated to leave it for the city who couldn't manage an attendance of more than 10,000 fans in its last years? Irsay took what was his. It wasn't the fans to have.

#59 acts like Modell left the "Browns" identity becuase he was such a swell guy. He negotiated to let them keep it because of a lawsuit!

Get your facts straight, homer. Why waste your energy holding a grudge filled with lies and ignorance?

72
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 6:21pm

71 Brandon, My impression was also that attendance was criminally low, but I had nothing to back it up with. Jeez, if I was not in college at the time (and relatively poverty stricken--beer money was tight), I'd have gone down weekly from NY to Balt for home games.

Now the product was not great at the time, so I am not blaming the city for attendance. If the team is bad, the mgmt should expect the revenues to suffer. But 10,000 fans? Even 20,000? For that, I am blaming the fans. The very ones who are likely grudge-holding.... hmmmm.

73
by JAT (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 6:28pm

Re 72

Attendance was lousy, but I think that at the time the folks in Baltimore felt that it was a way to force Irsay to sell the team. It seems naive now, but back then it may have made some sense.

74
by Brandon (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 6:40pm

#72: Bobman, that is exactly my point. The attendance was insanely low. How can fans be bitter that the team left when it was because of their lack of support of that very team? It is ignorant and hypocritical to do so.

Records aren't somehow attached to your city either. At least half of the body of those records were achieved in away games anyway. You think because the city was actually behind them when they were winning they owe it to you to leave it behind when you go fair-weather on them and abandon the team when things aren't so good? No. Players weren't under contract to the city of Baltimore. They were under contract to the Colts and Bob Irsay, who played half their games in Baltimore at the time.

If someone wants to actually complain, it should be Cleveland fans. They actually SUPPORTED their team and it left anyway because their owner messed up. Baltimore fans have nothing to complain about, they got what was coming to them. Hindsight is 20/20, I'm sure if you could do it over you'd support the Colts a little more, but the fact is you didn't and have nobody to blame but yourselves.

75
by Scott C. (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 6:47pm

One thing I like to say is that Offensive success in the NFL relies on two things:

1. Execution
2. Unpredictability

The first needs no explanation. Teams that execute their plays well do well. Fundamentals are huge.

The second is pretty simple. Run-Run-Pass is not something you can do all day. Even a bad defense in the NFL can get the fundamentals of taclking right and beat a good offense if they are predictable and boring.
If the defense knows what you are going to do each play, you won't be effective. You want an opposing defense to have to guess, and guess wrong as often as possible. At the very least, make them uncertain so that they compromise.

Where was the draw play on 3rd and 5 with 6 in the box? (or any number of other plays that could trick the defense)
Where was play action on first or second down?
Where was the misdirection? Counter runs?

Worst of all, after trying the brute force approach, there was NO adjustment at all. What, did they leave the rest of the playbook in Kansas City?

I watched that game and wasn't scared of the colt's D. I was wondering if K.C. watched film on Indy or just looked at the stats on nfl.com. and said ooh, tons of yards per carry on runs! lets just run up the middle on first and second down its sure to work!
Film shows huge running plays against Indy nickel packages or 7 in a box situations, with misdirection, and plays designed to get their defenders out of position. Film does not show simple runs up the middle against 8 in the box working consistently -- those only work when they fail to tackle completely.

I'll take the Colt's rise in DVOA this week with a HUGE grain of salt. The other team having a horrible game plan and play calling is not something you control. Its like opponent kick off distance or opponent 62 yard field goals. Its a huge weakness in DVOA that leads to a large part of its imperfection: it doesn't distinguish between a team playing well or its opponent being stupid. Or, your team having an off day and an opponent playing out of their mind.

Put another way, the opponent adjustment assumes your opponent played as well against you as they do on average. There really is no fix to this other than to analyze each game and rate (subjectively) a team's game plan and execution, relative to their average. And then its a subjective system and loses a lot due to that.

DVOA + some subjective analysis says the Colt's D is still very vulnerable.
If they meet up with the Chargers, the Chargers will run all over them because the Chargers run game is FULL of variety, always incorporates misdirection from time to time, and they are not afraid to run on 3rd down with 3 wide recievers spread wide (or 1 WR, LT, and gates wide and handing it to Turner). Yeah, they like the power run plays too. More importantly, the Chargers offense will take what the defense gives them, run or pass.
Baltimore doesn't have the same offensive variety to throw at them as the Chargers(no one does... the chargers are the most balanced run/pass offense by DVOA by far) but I'm sure they won't just throw Jamal Lewis at 8 or 9 in the box because hey its first down, you run on first down, right?

76
by Brandon (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 6:51pm

Re: 73. Yes, exactly. Like I said in my above post, hindsight is 20/20. Maybe they thought it was the right way, but it wasn't. Don't blame Irsay, they have only themselves to blame. You wagered with the Colts and you lost.

I'm not saying Bob Irsay was a perfect owner or anything, don't get me wrong. But it is what it is. If you bet the farm on a poker hand and lose when someone calls your bluff, they aren't obligated to let you keep the farm because you "Didn't really mean it." And only a fool would hold a grudge over the farm when it was their own fault. That is life.

77
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 7:17pm

Scott C

That is why Week 16/17 games when starters are rested are often left out of the statistical brew. No rational way to objectively say "Team X laid an egg, so we will adjust their opponent, Team Y, slightly higher/lower to compensate." What measure do you use? I think you have to use those games because everybody has up and down games.

The game is included for KC who got three picks (!) against a QB who had only 9 all season! That's 5 games worth of manning picks for KC's pass D. They must be great! No, but it lifts them a bit. And for Jax's 375 yard rushing game--would you discount that game for Jax since Indy clearly didn't show up? (it more than doubled Indy's already league-leading worst YPG status.) Nah, because someone else will show up with their best game of the year vs Jax and it evens out over time.

I generally agree with you, though. As they often say, you are never as good as you look when you win big and as bad as you look as you lose big. Indy's true run D is somewhere between 44 and 375 per game. How's that for consistency?

78
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 7:21pm

Yet strangely, this isn't considered a key rivalry (Pitt/Bal, Pitt/Cle, Raiders and everybody in the AFC W, NYG/WA, CHI/GB). The backstory is pretty compelling and locals on one side are clearly rabid, but the NFL hasn't pushed it to the forefront for ratings. Probably because they're a little embarrassed themselves. Looks like nobody's blame free, yet still so much blame.

79
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 7:25pm

Brandon, way to go, calling out other people for being ignorant when the average attendance of the Colts during the 1983 season was 37,441, not 10,000 as you claim. It was the lowest in the league, but only by a small amount. If the team is the worst managed team in the league, you'd expect to have the worst attendance in the league.

1981: 2-14 record, 33.3ppg vs their defense
1982: 0-8-1, by the end of the year the Colts had won 1 out of their last 24 games.
1983: Colts draft Elway with #1 pick, he refuses to play for this disgrace of a franchise.

Bottom line is, the attendence wasn't "insanely low", it was just barely the worst in the league, which is commensurate with the quality of the team.

80
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 7:27pm

"Get your facts straight, homer. Why waste your energy holding a grudge filled with lies and ignorance?"
nice, Brandon, nice.

81
by John Gach (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 7:42pm

Re: 43, Bobman: From a distance it seems to me that Jim Irsay is a much more competent owner than his father, not least, I suppose, because it's his main interest rather than a sideline. Anent the move, there certainly were many complex issues involved. I've always thought that the fact of absentee ownership, of an owner who had no ties to the Baltimore region other than the Colts, trumped everything else. Offered a better business deal closer to home, there really was no reason for not making the move. There was, though, one benign local effect of the catastrophe of losing the Colts: the city wasn't about to let the same thing happen with the Orioles. Had the Orioles moved instead of the Colts, I imagine the city/state would have built a new stadium and we'd still be talking about the Baltimore Colts.

82
by John Gach (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 8:09pm

jonnyblazin beat me to it in #79: By the early 1980s Robert Irsay had managed to trash a distinguished NFL franchise, thus the tremendous decline in attendance -- just as has finally happened to Orioles attendance with nearly as incompetent ownership.

To understate the case, I'm personally glad that the Ravens started de novo, albeit with the Browns' team and management. The Baltimore Browns? No, just wouldn't do. Which reminds me that two Browns teams have now moved to Baltimore, the St. Louis Browns being the predecessor of the Orioles.

83
by Brandon (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 8:32pm

Re: 79

Why not blame Carroll Rosenbloom for selling the team to Irsay then? Irsay may have put them in a down fall, but it was HIS team.

Admittedly my numbers were wrong, but you still prove my point that the team had the lowest attendance in the league.

Sure, he wasn't doing a good job with the franchise at the time. So what? People support their team through thick and thin, you don't quit going because you're losing.

When an owner (who has no ties whatsoever to your city) is losing money because nobody goes to the games, he starts to consider a move. Emphasis on CONSIDER. He was in negotiations with the city to remain there, but the city wanted to get cute and just steal the team from him instead by passing a law that says they can. That is enough to sour any relationship. Baltimore was offering the more lucrative deal, but he accepted the Indy offer just to get the hell out of a city threatening to steal his franchise.

A quote from Irsay's lawer: "They (the Maryland state legislature and the city of Baltimore) not only threw down the gauntlet, but they put a gun to his head and cocked it and asked, 'want to see if it's loaded?' said Chernoff of his client's decision. "They forced him to make a decision that day."

84
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 9:27pm

Irsay was bad, but there isn't a franchise owner in professional sports who wouldn't call the moving vans under that type of threat by a state or local government. Like I said, I'm surprised that Rozelle wasn't driving one.

I wonder, however; would a state or local government be able to seize the most valuable asset of a major professional sports franchise, the contracts with the players, and thus prevent the players from working in another state? Would a Federal Court enforce it? I have my doubts, given the outcome of a somewhat notable event in the middle part of the 19th century, which, ironically enough, had a few major milestones occur not far from the Baltimore area.

85
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 9:40pm

John Gach,
Since I am not a Hoosier, I'd be just fine with the Balt Colts and Indiana Orioles. I'd probably like that better, in fact, but these things are beyond my control.

(And hell, if they moved to Seattle I'd be frikkin' elated, but my wife would sue for divorce in the blink of an eye--at least for 6 months each year.)

86
by John Gach (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 11:22pm

Why the 4 point spread for Baltimore is probably too low. This has nothing to do with my rooting interest in the Ravens, but is entirely a result of simple DVOA comparisons. Depending on whether one uses final season DVOA or first round weighted DVOA, the Ravens are approximately 12-16% superior to the Colts. Add in HFA and the margin is @ 30-34% ~= 6 points, if one counts HFA at 3 points. But the Ravens have a notoriously high HFA, ranking with Denver's. Though I have seen it counted as high as 5 points, let's figure it at 4 points, instead of the traditional 3. There you are: the spread should be 7 points (and for certain 6 - 6 1/2) with the game played in Baltimore; played in Indy it would be close to even, with the Ravens perhaps a 1-3 point favorite.

87
by TracingError (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 1:30am

Re #51: "It would have been a doozy that changed professional sports across the board."

Let's add that it would have changed professional sports for the better.

88
by Scott C. (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 6:29am

#77

Yeah, if we had a 40 game season, it would all just even out.

16 games however is the problem. There might be 120x that many plays in a season, but even that is not a lot. And there aren't more than ~4x the number of games worth of "game plans and adjustments" per team.

None of that, or injuries or other facors can be measured by DVOA. It takes a little subjective research -- meaning flawed and with guesses and hunches -- to read between the lines a little.

Looking at WHY each team has a certain DVOA rating for some aspect of their game, and then looking for the data points that strongly influence that one can dig deeper. The KC game and Jaguar game clearly both pull indy's rush defense dvoa around. How relevant each data point actually is is a subjective assesment. Especially when you start considering their next opponent. I don't expect baltimore to go run crazy like the Jags, but I don't expect them to lay an egg like KC. I also don't expect indy to be as bad in execution as when they played the jaguars or as sure-tackling as against KC.

89
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 8:35am

86
John Gach, individual matchups and momentum aside, if you landed here from Mars last year and saw the Indy/Steelers matchup and based your betting on FO stats and HFA... how many points would you have favored Indy by? I don't recall what the actual line was, but I'd guess more than 1 TD, meaning it was at least 10 pts out of whack. (And if the refs were sharper, even more.)

Now I am not naive enough to say that spreads are always what the expected outcome will be--they are a tool to make bookies money, nothing more. They are designed to make the bet enticing as well.

Looking at it that way, Bookie A assumed Balt will win by 7, but thinks nobody will take that bet after Indy's D looked so good (they want action on both sides to cover their rumps--if everyone bets one side of a bet and that wins, the bookie is out money. If he has a balanced amount of bets coming in on each side, it does not matter who wins, he makes money), so he lowers it to the point where he'll make money.

If the spread was 7 and 80% of bettors took Indy and they won, Bookie A would be valet parking cars for a living next week under an assumed name. If the spread is 4 and the bettors are split 50/50, the only thing Bookie A cares about is volume, because he is guaranteed a payday. That's one reason why betting lines move sometimes, if there is a lot of imbalance (injuries and other sudden circumstantial changes also affect betting lines). At 4 pts or whatever the current line is, there seems to be balance (they haven't moved, have they?). All that means is that the public peception of the bettors is that it's a reasonable line.

90
by Topher Connors (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 9:24am

Re: Several posts having to do with the Colts colors and team history remaining in Baltimore.

When Baltimore stole the Browns the city contacted Jim Irsay about purchasing the team history. Unfortunately the timing was very poor for Robert Irsay had just passed away. This lead to two complications:

1) Jim was very much greiving the loss of his father and this affected his decision at the time.

2) This request by Baltimore was right in the midst of there being a very tense Irsay family moment between Jim and his Step Mother as to who was going to control the Colts organization. There was a very real threat that she would contest the will for a portion of the franchise, this also affected the decision.

Baltimore city officials failed to take these two points into consideration when it made its request to Jim Irsay. Had they a little more patience or approached things a little differently and we might be watching Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Colts hosting Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Arrows (or whatever).

I seem to see a pattern of Baltimorians using the Irsay family as a scapegoat of evil and absolving themselves (and their elected officials) of wrongdoing. By no means am I saying the Irsays aren't without blame, but neither are they the only wrong party in this situation.

91
by Topher Connors (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 9:34am

#70, I need to respectfully and completely disagree with your post. As a Colts fan I was amazed and upset at the start of the game when I immediately noticed the same old Colts defense. The same personnel, the same formations, the same responsibilities. I knew it was only a matter of time that the Chiefs keep running and LJ starts breaking them.

There were two changes the Colts made and both were minor. They rotated linebackers more frequently. (they always rotate defensive linemen but not usually linebackers). The second change is that they brought up safeties more often than usual.

Neither change was significant as anyone with football sense could have told you that they were going to bring safeties into the box and if the Colts want to bring in backups to replace starters from time-to-time I don't think most opposing coaches will get too fussed about it.

The Colts played with a lot of energy and fenzy that hadnt' been there all season. They got superb games from Anthony McFarland and backup defensive lineman Josh Thomas. And that went a long way toward making the linebackers look better than they were. But there were no fundamental changes to the defensive scheme at all.

92
by John Gach (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 11:40am

Bobman #86: Exactly right. A 6-7 point line favoring the Ravens would be a money loser. I think that some of the too-low line must result from last week's game. Apparently most people count the most recent game as magical beans predicting that the next game will somehow resemble the last game; in the real world almost the only thing one can be pretty sure about is that the next game will not be like the last one.

As I originally wrote, the bad line is an opportunity. The line says that the Ravens are 65% favorites, whereas DVOA says they're 75-80% favorites -- and that's without factoring in the Colts' ineptitude on grass, on the road, against 3-4 defenses. The Colts got about a 10% weighted DVOA boost from the KC game, making them look stronger than they are. The spread between the two teams in year-end VOA (which is probably a better predictor of wins/losses within a given year) is 18% (35% - 16.8%). The Colts' special teams are bad. Forget the run defense, the pass defense ranks 18th and McNair's efficient passing game will shred it. With McNair instead of Boller the Ravens QB won't be fumbling the ball and isn't going to get sacked enough to matter. The Ravens lead the league by far in sack differential. The Ravens lead the league in a little-mentioned but significant statistic: non-negative pass plays, meaning that Ravens pass plays almost always gain positive yardage. Add it up and this does not look like a close game unless the Ravens play poorly. And I haven't even mentioned yet that the home team is going to win about 3/4 of the division round games, no matter who is playing.

93
by Don Booza (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 12:20pm

Ah yes, if your pre-game prediction doesnt come true, you should always, always blame the play calling. That way, your pre-game analysis was still 100% correct and the only idiot who made a mistake was the opposing teams coach.

Every fool who gambles on football knows this golden axiom.

94
by BG (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 7:14pm

When did the Ravens start playing home games on Grass? Isn't the surface turf?

95
by thad (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 8:43pm

re 92
non negative pass plays?
Are you adding up the sacks and incompletions for offense and defense or just looking at pass plays that went for a loss?

96
by Don M (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 10:49pm

Colts vs Bengals.
Cincy has a good solid power running game a decent drive blocking line and a hella load at running back, and they pounded on the colts extensively, to no useful effect. Face it the Ravens offense is weak, the Bengals crappy defense nearly shut them out . The Baltimore offense is not much of a weapon, unless the Ravens can hold the Colts to under 14 they're screwed. Part of the reason the Cheifs were afraid to start trying to throw over the top of the D is they were afraid to get into a track meet with the Colts. Let us not buy too wholeheartedly into the assumption that Peyton will choke because it's a playoff game.

97
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 11:00pm

The Ravens' surface is one of those hybrids that have become so popular -- similar to Denver and New England. It's certainly more like grass than the turf in Indy.

As to the Pravda line being pushed by Irsay backers, I would like to point out a couple of things, reported by John Steadman, noted Modell basher and regarded as the dean of NFL writers when alive:

The day of the move, Irsay was in negotiations with William Schaefer, the mayor of Baltimore, and Governor Hughes finalizing details on a renovation / new stadium package for the team. (Just to answer your question, Bobman, in a few years Schaefer was the governor of Maryland. Hughes was a defeated Senate candidate, possibly due to bad feelings in the city, but more to local girl Mikulski being a better choice. Not a whole lot of payback at the polls.) So the "he had to move THAT NIGHT! THEY WERE GOING TO STEAL HIS TEAM!" line is a comforting fantasy, but that's all it is. Irsay negotiated in bad faith, and then left as a way of saying "up yours". A small-minded act by a small-minded man.

As for Jimmy, he certainly has been better at press realtions than his dad, but some apples don't fall far from the tree. Under Jim Irsay, Indy ownership has gone out of their way to thumb their nose at Baltimore at pretty much every opportunity:

1. Throwback uniforms -- Indy has never once chosen a uniform worn by an Indy team -- not Dickerson's record breaker, not Harbaugh's Super Bowl near-miss; they always go for the ones that had meaning to Baltimore -- the double horseshoe worn by the first year team, the 1959 world champs (defended and won it again).

2. -- The disrespect shown John Unitas' wishes at his death. Unitas had made it clear (and eventually so did the league) that he wanted all tributes handled by and through the Ravens, with whom he had a semi-official relationship. That Indy insisted on doing something anyway, even floating the idea, was at best clueless.

3. -- Either this is the longest probate case in history, or Jimmy certainly could have done something on the logo/records/trophies front by now. Having just coerced a new dome out of Indiana, any claim that the value of the franchise would be diminished would certainly be laughed out of court, and it would buy him as much goodwill as the "apologizing for Dad's drunken tirades in the locker room" story ever did. Both that tale and the $20 million figure quoted to Modell for the logo, etc., both have been reported as true and false with equal vehemence. Steadman only says that he witnessed neither.

4 -- The video. Denver didn't insist on it saying anything other than "Broncos". You know the NFL doesn't have any interest in keeping the wound open. And yet the history video being advertised endlessly, as recently as yesterday, is about 70/30 Baltimore, but "Indianapolis" has to be on the cover. At some point, it stops being clueless, and starts being deliberate.

Does Jimmy harbor the same grudge against SI (which reported the "even Bob's mother hates him" story) as he seems to against Baltimore? Because at this point, he seems as petty as he claims we are. At least he never threatened to sue the marching band.

98
by Don M (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 11:32pm

RE: #97, Re: Throwback uniforms. First off don't mistake me for a Colts fan, I'm a Bengals fan and didn't care much when they moved the Colts to my neck of the woods. However about the Throwback jerseys, first off I can never tell when they're wearing them, all Colts Jerseys look basically alike. (Which is actually cool.) remember the team is wearing the Jerseys it wore when the owners FATHER wore the team, in a another city, like or not NFL teams are not public property. All the other reasoning about how much Irsay sucks may or may not be true, but consider that Art Modell. Basically fired Paul Brown. (Essentially the inventor of modern pro football, grandfather of the west coast offense, etc.) probably got Jim Brown to retire early (Best player ever) and moved one of the leagues signature franchises out of a city that still supported it despite the fact that being the browns means God hates them and they will always suck.

99
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 12:55am

Don M,

I agree that the way Paul left the Browns was wrong -- as for Jim Brown, I really have no idea why he retired as early as he did, but this is the first I heard that Modell forced him out. Modell certainly didn't have problems with outspoken black players in Baltimore.

FYI, Robert Irsay acquired the Colts in a trade with Carroll Rosenbloom for the LA Rams after the 1972 season. Irsay's first year was Unitas' last. Curiously enough, the trade may have doomed both franchises, as Georgia Frontiere inherited the Rams after Rosenbloom's unexpected demise -- he drowned swimming in the Pacific. Frontiere, of course, moved the Rams to St. Louis.

This stuff really sounds more like Sophocles than anything else -- curses, blood feuds, never-ending cycles of recriminations. Maybe we could just get one of Unitas' kids to kill Irsay and Modell, then let him off after a trial, like Orestes. That would end it all, right?

100
by Ben (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 1:21am

The Colts play on field turf now, not astroturf. So, it's the same stuff that the Ravens and the Pats have.

101
by John Gach (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 3:59am

Re: #95: No, it's not something I figured myself. Had a hell of a time remembering where I had found it online. Finally it came to me where I must have read it, so here it is: http://www.coldhardfootballfacts.com/Article.php?Page=1024&Category=2

I misremembered: the Ravens are second in the league, quite a bit behind, er, Indianapolis.

Re: #96: I don't really know how good the Ravens offense is or isn't. One thing for sure: it is far superior to what it was before Billick took it over. It's now much less predictable, at least until the Ravens get a lead of a TD or more, at which time their offense does tend to convert to an East Coast version of Martyball, mostly oriented toward shortening the game, keeping the lead, and grinding out long drives with short yardage gains. With their defense, why not? FO has the Ravens weighted offense now ranked 8th, which does seem high, given that their ground game isn't much. On the other hand, they are efficient, don't turn the ball over, and now have lots of long, clock-devouring drives.

I don't expect Manning to choke -- nay, I expect him to play pretty well. It's just that "pretty well" means something different when you play the Ravens than it does with most other teams.

Generally, the Ravens make even good QBs look pretty bad. The Ravens destroyed Drew Brees in New Orleans (and squashed Reggie Bush as well). Brees ended up with stats that looked impressive: 23 of 45 for 383 yards and 3 TDs. But in that game garbage time came early, as the Ravens were up 21-0 in the 2nd quarter. The final score of 35-22 looked halfway respectable, but it was a complete thrashing.

Even in the game that they lost to Cincy (visiting team on one of the NFL's stupid Thursday night games that doom the visitor to a loss), they held Cincy to 13 points. To be sure, the 7 points the Ravens scored to avert the shutout really doesn't count, since it was on the verge of garbage time near the game's end. The stats for that game are really strange (see http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/recap/NFL_20061130_BAL@CIN), since watching the game live it was clear that Cincy dominated the action. Then you look at the game stats and almost everything is even. Just one more reason why FO's stats are quite superior to the NFL's.

Do I think, despite what I wrote earlier about my expectations, that Indy can win on Saturday? For sure, though I think there's only about a 15-20% chance of it happening. In fact, it's reasonably clear what they have to do in order to win:
1) Force some turnovers and either not make any TOs or win the TO differential, preferably by 2 or more. With a TO differential of +2 or better the Ravens never lose. Never.

2) Play some reasonable simulation of the defense they played against the Chiefs. This definitely includes tackling in atypical non-matador fashion.

3) Not fall behind by more than a touchdown.

4) Keep the Ravens from completely dominating time of possession. This has killed the Colts in a number of their recent road losses, in which (as FO has pointed out) Indy just hasn't had enough possessions.

5) Protect Manning well enough so that he can stay in the pocket without "happy feet" (with which he morphs into a very ordinary QB); and

6) (as a subdivision of #5) Complete some long passes (preferably for TDs). As everyone in the know knows, this is the Ravens' main vulnerability. It seems, though, not so easy to do, even with Rolle being such an inviting target.

7) Have both the O- and D-lines play at least close to even. For this to happen I think the Ravens would have to almost collapse. More likely (though certainly not inevitably), the much bigger and stronger Ravens will wear down the Colt lines. This is, I think, why keeping time of possession close is critical for Indy to have a serious chance. If the Ravens hog the ball, by the 4th quarter Indy's defensive front 7 will be gasping for breath and ready to quit. This is what one might call "Jamal Lewis time." It's happened time and again during the year; if it happens to the Colts, this game will not be close.

8) Keep the field position battle reasonably close. Indy's kicking & kick defense teams need to play over their heads. It is, however, absolutely critical for Indy to keep the Ravens from consistently playing on a short field. The Ravens' rookie punter Sam Koch has been a secret weapon all year, constantly nailing punts inside the 10. If that happens Saturday with any consistency, it does not bode well for Indy's chances.

Indy won't be able to run, at least not enough to make the Ravens worry about it. I'm not expecting the Ravens to run very successfully in the first half either -- if they do, the game may be close to over early. More usually, they run with the lead and wear teams down.

The ultimate point is pretty simple: Unless the Ravens uncharacteristically self-destruct, a lot of things have to go right for Indy to win. The Ravens can play a pretty average game and win; Indy probably has to play a game whose DVOA efficiency reminds one of the KC game -- and they have to do it playing against the league's best and most aggressively opportunistic defense. Could happen. A lot of people seem to be wagering on it. Sure looks like a bad bet to me, though, for the reasons limned above.

And last, another word about the strange wagering line. It's held constant at two sites I check at -4.0, but Indy is actually favored to lose by less than 4 points. Instead of manipulating the odds, the oddsmakers have manipulated the risk and payout schedules. You have to risk $115 to win a $100 if you take Indy with +4.0; for Baltimore & -4.0 you only have to risk $105 to win $100. Sure tells you where the action is. It started out that way Monday and has stayed constant all week.

102
by Sid (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 6:29pm

lol, "especially this time." Agreed.

103
by Old Whippersnapper (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:54pm

Are you going to chalk up Baltimore's run stuffing as a result of their own "poor scheme" too?

Or are you finally going to credit Indy's D?

Just wondering.

P.S. Carson Palmer is the NFL's #1 choker.

104
by Rob (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 6:47pm

The Chiefs offenive woes were self inflicted as much as they were affected by the Indy D. But anybody who thought Jamal Lewis would run over the Colts has not seen Lewis run since 2003. My fantasy teams bench was warm through out the year with Lewis riding it. He is half the runner he used to be, he gets tackled pretty easily or loses his momentum easily and he really has no speed.