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11 Oct 2012

Film Room: 49ers-Giants

by Andy Benoit

Championship rematches are always compelling -– especially when the losing team comes in having improved since the last battle. That’s the case with the 4-1 Niners, who now complement their stingy defense with one of the league’s top offenses. Sunday will be the third time in 11 months that the Giants have traveled cross country to face Jim Harbaugh’s club. Let’s look at what to expect.

1. Giants coaching

Before we delve into schemes and personnel, we need to acknowledge something that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough: the Giants might have the best all-around coaching staff in football. A pair of Super Bowl rings have propelled Tom Coughlin into the Hall of Fame discussion, but far too often that discussion focuses on Coughlin’s discipline and motivational techniques. Nothing is more overrated that a head coach’s "motivational" skills. (The 49ers found this out with Mike Singletary.)

Coaches motivate players by putting them in position to succeed. No one ever talks about Bill Belichick’s inspiring ways. They’re too busy marveling at his genius. Coughlin should be thought of in similar terms. Yes, learning how to relate better to his players has been a boon to his career. But the Giants have found stability and developed a flair for late-season heroics because not only are they schematically advanced, but they’re as fundamentally sound as any team in football.

This is apparent on film. New York’s receivers all play with the same mechanics. They each have unique styles and attributes, but their approaches to route running and field-reading are the same across the board. That’s a sign of good day-to-day coaching. So is the way New York’s moderately-talented offensive line regularly performs masterfully as one unit. When the line does struggle, it’s usually because of individual athletic breakdowns, not mental mistakes. And on defense, how many times have we seen the Giants thrive with backup linebackers and defensive backs playing key roles? A successful "next man up" approach is always an indicator of good coaching. It’s not all on Coughlin. In fact, most of the credit here should go to his assistants.

Giants general manager Jerry Reese gets a lot of well-deserved praise for finding quality players off the street or late in the draft. But a lot of the success that these players find stems from coaching. Many of them –- Victor Cruz, Andre Brown, Chase Blackburn, and so on -– had previously spent time in New York’s system. And an unusually high number of Giants have blossomed after being incognito or disappointing early in their career. Ahmad Bradshaw, Domenik Hixon, Ramses Barden, and to a certain degree, Will Beatty. Or, defensively, Corey Webster. Coughlin’s staff develops its own players extremely well.

Eli Manning may have something to do with the fact that most of New York’s surprise stars are on offense, but even Manning himself is an example of quality coaching. The former No. 1 overall pick was average and, at times, awful early in his career. But working in the same system with offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride for his entire career, Manning has improved exponentially and become a superstar.

2. Niners coaching

Coughlin won’t be the only mastermind with a great staff stalking the sidelines on Sunday. The 49ers have arguably developed the most fundamentally-sound defense in the NFL. Their players operate in a fairly basic scheme, but in dynamic fashion. The Niners defensive line executes pass-rushing stunts better than any group in the game. Their linebackers are smart and versatile. Their cornerbacks are mechanically sharp in man coverage, while their safeties consistently play with great spacing over the top. Yes, the Niners are talented. But their consistency in fundamentals shows that they’re also extremely well-coached.

San Francisco’s offensive players are fairly fine-tuned, as well. They have to be in order to play in an old-school system like Jim Harbaugh’s. No offensive coach has done more with less than Harbaugh. And no offensive coach has seen so many of his players improve.

The most obvious improvements have come from Alex Smith. In Week 1's Film Room post we highlighted some of the ways Harbaugh protects his moderately-skilled quarterback. This season, with Smith responding well to being in a familiar scheme for the first time in his career, Harbaugh has put more on his plate without asking him to bite off what he can’t chew.

Instead of having Smith make tougher throws or harder reads, Harbaugh has asked him to perform the same basic tasks, but in different schemes and concepts. The Niners have expanded the breadth of their personnel packages and formation variations, something they were undoubtedly trying to accomplish this offseason by enhancing the depth at wide receiver. Consequently, they’ve become one of the league’s most difficult offenses to prepare for. They make phenomenal use of pre-snap motions and shifts in order to create favorable one-on-one matchups. Like last year, most of their offense still operates out of base personnel. The comfort in base packages, as well as the diversity of Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman’ play-calling, has allowed this run-oriented offense to constantly be ahead in the down and distance. That’s the key.

3. First-and-10

The 49ers are averaging 6.8 yards per play on first down, second-best in the NFL, behind Carolina. They rank first in DVOA on this down (42.9%). It’s not just because they’re running well: Smith is completing 77 percent of his passes and has accumulated 639 of his 1,087 passing yards on first down. His passer rating on first downs is 137.3; on second down it’s 87.0, and third down it’s 84.2.

Throwing out of base personnel on first down is a great way to help Smith. Not only does it offers the benefit of unpredictability, but Smith gets to face base defenses, which means fewer blitzes and disguises. Additionally, it makes for more potent play-action, which is a great tactic for giving Smith defined and half-field reads.

Naturally, on first-and-10 the Niners love to attack linebackers through the air. One of their staple plays for this is the wheel route.

Graphics by Matt Glickman

The wheel route is simple, but can be deadly. It’s a defined throw that doesn’t require much arm strength. The starred player is a tight end or fullback matched against a linebacker. Ideally, you run this play with a play-action fake against man coverage, as that’s likely to lure the targeted linebacker out of position. That’s what happened to Rocky McIntosh on this Bruce Miller touchdown catch last year in Week 9.

Graphics by Matt Glickman

In this Week 2 Delanie Walker touchdown against Dallas last year, the Niners used a formation wrinkle to ensure the one-on-one matchup they wanted: they aligned their two wide receivers to the left, which meant there were no cornerbacks on the right. They also motioned Walker from the backfield to the edge of the formation. This made outside linebacker Anthony Spencer responsible for Walker. This was an inherent mismatch, as Spencer is used to rushing the passer, not playing in space. Also, the nature of the wheel route compelled Spencer to turn his body, which only exacerbated his discomfort in coverage.

Graphics by Matt Glickman

Two weeks ago against the Jets, San Francisco attempted the same wheel route from the 2011 Cowboys game. This time, the outside linebacker, Calvin Pace, was prepared and did a fantastic job.

Graphics by Matt Glickman

Perhaps recognizing that more wheel route diversity was needed, the Niners ran Vernon Davis on the pattern out of his standard tight end spot last week. Davis was matched against linebacker Arthur Moats. Normally, a defense would give a player like Moats some help against a star tight end. But outside routes, which most wheel routes are, can be nearly impossible for a man-free safety to reach. The result here was a 24-yard gain.

4. Giants on the ground

The way to beat San Francisco is to jump out to an early lead and run the ball. That forces their offense to be more traditionally pass-oriented. The Vikings did this in Week 3. They didn’t rely on lucky bounces or high-risk shot-plays to establish the lead; they simply lined up and ran effectively. This doesn’t happen often against Vic Fangio’s defense. With Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Justin Smith and second-year sensation Aldon Smith, Fangio is able to stop the run with simple seven-man fronts. In fact, this season, against the Packers and Lions, Fangio’s group even stopped the run with six-man fronts.

The Giants are coming off their best rushing performance in quite some time. Bradshaw looks 100 percent healthy, showing his familiar cutback ability and violence on contact. No. 2 runner Brown can also move the chains. Some shortcomings in the pass game have limited Brown’s reps a bit, but as a traditional inside ballcarrier on early downs, he’s exhibited intriguing short-area burst and patience.

5. In the air

Even if the Giants can somehow run the ball well, they will face third-and-long at some point on Sunday. They’ll have to out-execute San Francisco’s nickel defense. This is where players’ mechanics and technique become essential. There’s nothing tricky about what the Niners do in obvious passing situations. They rush four down linemen, possibly with some sort of stunt on the left or right side. They have Willis pick up the tight end man-to-man and Bowman spy the running back. Carlos Rogers plays man-to-man on the slot, while Chris Culliver and Tarell Brown play man-to-man outside. All three corners are aggressive in their man-under/trail techniques because they have rangy safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner roaming over the top. Knowing that tight two-man is what the Niners run in nickel defense, it’s on the Giants to create and exploit mismatches against it.

Most likely, those mismatches will have to come on the outside. This year, teams have not quite challenged Brown and Culliver as much as they maybe should. Neither corner is a weak link, especially given how well they use their safety help. But neither is as suffocating as Rogers or the hard-hitting linebackers. In this particular game, it figures that at least one of the outside corners will be in true one-on-one coverage, as Rogers, like any slot corner, will need a little help against Cruz inside.

Manning is as good as anyone when it comes to throwing outside the numbers. In fact, no quarterback does so under duress better than the two-time champion. If the Giants are unable to run the ball, this contest may hinge on who Manning has available on the outside. Soaring star Hakeem Nicks is questionable. Barden, who has drastically improved his releases against press coverage, has also been banged up. So has Hixon. Thus, it’s possible that Rueben Randle will have to be a difference-maker. The second-round rookie has gotten off to a slow start, though when forced into the lineup against Cleveland last week, he caught six balls for 82 yards. The Giants helped the youngster by not calling any option routes for him. (More good coaching.) The predictability of San Francisco’s coverages makes route recognition less of an issue this week, but Randle’s timing and mechanics will still be tested in ways he’s never experienced.

Quick Reels

COWBOYS-RAVENS

Cowboys offense vs. Ravens defense

When Tony Romo throws five interceptions because his wide receivers keep finding new ways to screw up, Twitter overloads with calls for the “overrated” quarterback’s head. When Ray Lewis gets demolished by a zone-blocking run game because he and his fellow linebackers play too deep and laterally, no one says boo. That’s the benefit of being a star at a non-ball-handling position. Most people don’t notice your poor play until someone points it out.

One of the best-kept secrets in football is that the 37-year-old Lewis is rapidly running out of gas. This has been evident in his pass coverage the past year or two. Last Sunday, it was evident in his run defense. Lewis was sluggish in all facets, particularly in the first half. He struggled mightily at shedding blocks. Normally, instincts and veteran savvy hide Lewis’ declining athleticism. But against the Chiefs, for whatever reason, his instincts were off. He will likely be the guy Dallas puts the gold star on. The best thing the Ravens can do to help Lewis is dominate up front. Fortunately, Pernell McPhee and Haloti Ngata should have no trouble against Dallas’ iffy guards.

Ravens offense vs. Cowboys defense

You may recall that last season there was some murmuring about the Ravens not having any "man beaters" in their passing scheme. That conversation might be renewed this Sunday. Baltimore’s offense is not quite as heavy in isolation routes as it was a year ago, but its receivers still have a tendency to spin mud against quality press coverage. Chiefs corners Brandon Flowers and Stanford Routt stifled Baltimore on the outside last week. Cowboys corners Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne are capable of doing the same.

BILLS-CARDINALS

Bills offense vs. Cardinals defense

One of the many benefits Arizona gets from its über-aggressive blitzing is that opposing quarterbacks are playing fast. The perception of pressure before the snap and the varying angles of pressure after the snap can inherently speed up that clock inside a passer’s head. This is partly why defenses blitz the way they do; it’s not just about getting sacks. Expect the Cardinals to show plenty of blitz looks to Ryan Fitzpatrick. They may not bring extra rushers since Buffalo’s horizontally spread passing game is predicated on three-and five-step drops, but you can bet they’ll threaten with it. More so than most, Fitzpatrick is a quarterback you want to make play fast. His mechanics and footwork remain inconsistent, and when he’s out of rhythm, he tends to take imprudent risks.

Cardinals offense vs. Bills defense

We may find out this week if the Bills wasted a boatload of money in the Mario Williams deal. Any former Pro Bowler should be able to get at least two sacks working one-on-one against Cardinals offensive tackles D’Anthony Batiste and Bobby Massie. There will likely be plenty of one-on-one opportunities for Williams, as Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt seems reluctant to fully utilize chip-blocks on the outside. There’s a chance Whisenhunt will change for this game though, as with Mark Anderson out, Williams is the only true edge rusher Buffalo has. Still, recent evidence suggests it’s most likely that Whisenhunt will let his over-matched blockers play alone on an island.

PATRIOTS-SEAHAWKS

Patriots offense vs. Seahawks defense

How much do the Patriots believe in their resurgent rushing attack? We’ll find out by how much they try to run in the first half against Seattle. This season, offenses have mostly come out and not even bothered challenging Seattle’s front seven. (It's really more of a front eight since either Kam Chancellor or Earl Thomas almost always drop into the box on first and second down.) Seattle has one of the best all-around defensive lines in football. Of course, that defensive line hasn’t seen an offense that runs out of the hurry-up as effectively as New England. Can gargantuan pluggers Alan Branch and Red Bryant maintain their power throughout a torrid pace of play? Can the tireless Brandon Mebane remain tireless? Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see. If we don’t, we’ll spend Monday analyzing the Patriots’ short seam passing game, as that’s the obvious alternative for attacking Seattle’s physical Cover-3 scheme.

Seahawks offense vs. Patriots defense

Russell Wilson is a smart young quarterback, but he’s not ready to orchestrate a pass-heavy offense. The Seahawks know that how Marshawn Lynch goes, so goes their offense. Lynch has blossomed into an effective zone runner, in part because he’s always eager to attack inside. This in mind, the Patriots may want to consider using Vince Wilfork at a nose shade on more snaps this week. Lately the perennial Pro Bowler has primarily played the B-gaps in New England’s four-man defensive front. Putting Wilfork at the nose would compromise center Max Unger’s ability to cleanly reach the second level. Unger’s mobility has been one of the most critical elements to Seattle’s run game success this season.

PACKERS-TEXANS

Packers offense vs. Texans defense

The significance of Brian Cushing’s season-ending ACL injury has been understated. Great as J.J. Watt has been, Cushing was the one guy Houston’s front seven could least afford to lose. He was the only Texans linebacker who played in their frequently-used dime package. His speed and explosiveness lent great flexibility to what Wade Phillips could do with blitzes and disguises. New starting linebacker Tim Dobbins might –- might –- be able to fill, or at least wear, Cushing’s shoes in run defense. But no chance Dobbins can fill those shoes in pass defense. Expect to see the drop-off right away, as the Packers like to throw at the shallow intermediate levels Cushing once patrolled.

Texans offense vs. Packers defense

Last week, the Packers used Charles Woodson at outside linebacker in their base 3-4 defense. This unusual wrinkle may have been a response to Indy’s predilection for throwing short passes out of dual tight end sets on first and second down. If that’s the case, Dom Capers may be inclined to use Woodson at linebacker again Sunday night, as the Texans love to feature Owen Daniels and James Casey in the short passing game. Playing an undersized front against Houston is riskier than playing it against Indy, though. The Texans pose a serious ground threat with Arian Foster. Why isn’t Foster regarded as the consensus best back in football? He has as much fluidity and lateral agility as Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew, but adds more size and power behind it. He’s also phenomenal in the pass game -- not just on screens and dumpoffs, but also on actual patterns out of the backfield.

Posted by: Andy Benoit on 11 Oct 2012

73 comments, Last at 20 Oct 2012, 12:38am by Marco

Comments

1
by Mood_Indigo (not verified) :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 2:00pm

So it takes only one game, the Niners loss to Minnesota, and the latest Benoit Law is "The way to beat San Francisco is to jump out to an early lead and run the ball." ?!!
Let me counter that the Niners came back from 21-3 down to beat the Eagles on the road last season.

The Niners are 18-5 since Harbaugh took over, and two of those games were lost in OT. The Minnesota game was the widest margin of defeat (11 points) followed by Ravens (10). The Niners have lost only one game at home under Harbaugh (his second game last September against the Cowboys in OT).

I don't think any blueprint has emerged on how to beat the Niners when the starters are healthy. Their boa constrictor style playing squeezes the life out of their opponents quarter-by-quarter. As a fan, I like to think that the Viking game was an aberration.

2
by Mood_Indigo (not verified) :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 2:15pm

I hasten to add that Benoit's analysis of Niners' pass defense is spot on. Culliver's progress has been sensational (considering many draft analysts did not recognize the name when he was picked in the third round last year), and he's arguably the best Niners' CB.

7
by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 2:49pm

Then it's not spot on, is it?

3
by glickmania :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 2:34pm

What is the Niner's biggest weakness? Easy answer is at QB. When that QB is forced to make plays as opposed to being able to simply execute a good game plan when the game is close or they are leading it brings that team's weakness right to the forefront. And Smith has proven to have difficulty moving the ball against good defenses when he has to. Force him (and thus the team) out of their comfort zone and that plays into an opponent's favor.

And in that Eagles comeback, Philly missed two 4th quarter FGs and fumbled on their other 4th quarter possession. This is essentially 3 turnovers. That's not the way to protect a lead and the Eagles moved the ball through the air on those drives, not on the ground. And they certainly weren't a running team last season.

So yes, there is a blueprint: take advantage of the other team's weaknesses. Problem for the Giants is that they likely won't be able to run the ball all that well. Good news for them is they have Eli which means they always have a chance to win even if the ground game isn't working. The likely outcome will be another close game between the two teams where late-game play will be of the highest importance again.

6
by Jim W. (not verified) :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 2:47pm

Yeah, I think your first paragraph is more or less right. SF has a controlled, managed passing game. Alex Smith is a very effective QB in this context. Their passing game isn't as effective when asked to consistently play from behind; it puts too much of a stress on their personnel.

11
by Mood_Indigo (not verified) :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 3:16pm

So you are basically saying that Philly lost the game rather than Niners winning it on the road? And a missed field goal is a turnover? Did you actually see the fumble when Justin Smith out ran the wide receiver (Maclin) and punched out the ball? Going by that logic, the Giants deserve little credit for the NFCCG win since Kyle Williams basically handed them the game.

On the QB as a weakness for the Niners, perhaps you are not familiar with the post-Singletary Niners. You write that Smith has "proven" to have difficulty moving the ball against good defenses. Perhaps you did not see the Saints-Niners playoff game. Greg Williams blitzed and blitzed and Smith outplayed that defense. Or are you comparing Smith's the performance against Manning's against a good defense like the Niners? You would be wrong there, too. Smith had better QB rating than Manning in the NFCCG.

14
by Will Allen :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 3:26pm

Everybody has difficulty moving the ball against good defenses; that's why they are good. The Saints defense was bad last year.

I don't care what any numbers say; Manning in the NFCCG last January was about as good as any qb could play. On the road, with Justin Smith treating him the way Joe Frazier treated a heavy bag, on just about every other play, Manning was just remarkable. That's no knock on Alex Smith.

16
by GK (not verified) :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 3:43pm

Well, it's not "any" number, it's just the one. The number he cited was Passer Rating, which has blind spots for things like "one completed pass to a wide receiver in ~67 minutes of football" and "0/12 on meaningful 3rd downs; 1/13 if a completion to run the clock out before half matters".

17
by Independent George :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 3:52pm

I'll give all the credit in the world to Alex Smith in 2012, but I don't see how anybody watch last year's NFC Championship Game and think he outplayed Eli. It's really, really difficult to complete a pass while being sodomized by a shaved gorilla in a Niners Jersey (and I mean that with the utmost admiration - I have never in my life seen 300-pound linemen pushed around like that).

24
by glickmania :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 4:44pm

So you are basically saying that Philly lost the game rather than Niners winning it on the road?
I did not say that nor do I believe it. I am not Clay Matthews. ;)

That said, Philly did itself no favors nor did it follow The Blueprint. There was no running game to bolster their lead.

And a missed field goal is a turnover?
It is widely considered by sites like the one you are on that missed FGs are basically turnovers.

On the QB as a weakness for the Niners, perhaps you are not familiar with the post-Singletary Niners. You write that Smith has "proven" to have difficulty moving the ball against good defenses. Perhaps you did not see the Saints-Niners playoff game. Greg Williams blitzed and blitzed and Smith outplayed that defense.
I saw that game as did just about everyone watching the NFL. The Saints had a absolutely DREADFUL defense last season. To add: beating the blitz consistently in one game does not make a good QB. That is an outlier and a real exception.

Or are you comparing Smith's the performanceagainst Manning's against a good defense like the Niners? You would be wrong there, too. Smith had better QB rating than Manning in the NFCCG.
Others have already proven my point for me on this one. Since I know you watched the game you also watched a two-time champion QB who is at his best under extreme pressure and another who is above average at his very best. Much like Kerry Collins, a better passer than Alex Smith, you can win with Alex Smith but not because of him.

Also, you really gotta leave your bias at the door. It's murdering any points you are trying to make.

29
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 5:10pm

"And a missed field goal is a turnover?
It is widely considered by sites like the one you are on that missed FGs are basically turnovers." - Since when? I must have missed that one. Turnovers are bad things in that they predict further bad things in the future whereas FO' position on missed field goals is that they are NOT predictive of future success on field goals.

And the 49ers also missed two field goals in that Philly game. More to the point, Alex Smith was very good at bringing the ninrs back fro behind last year, he did it againt the Eagles, he tied the game against Dallas before the defense gave up a long TD in overtime and he brought the niners back twice against the Saints. He wasn't great in the loss in the NFC Championship game but then Brady wasn't great against that Giants D two weeks later.

"To add: beating the blitz consistently in one game does not make a good QB. That is an outlier and a real exception." - Err, Smith has been very good against the blitz now for two seasons. There are numerous articles pointing this out all over the interwebs.

You keep popping up to defend Benoit's stuff but he keeps putting stuff in that's wrong. On this site of all sites if someone writes something that is plain wrong then they're going to get called out, that's why it's a great site.

30
by glickmania :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 5:43pm

Since when? I must have missed that one. Turnovers are bad things in that they predict further bad things in the future whereas FO' position on missed field goals is that they are NOT predictive of future success on field goals.
Perhaps that was just a Barnwell thing but my point was not about predictions, it's about in-game decisions and results.

More to the point, Alex Smith was very good at bringing the ninrs back fro behind last year, he did it againt the Eagles, he tied the game against Dallas before the defense gave up a long TD in overtime and he brought the niners back twice against the Saints.
The Niners slogged along in their 21-3 outscoring of the Eagles in the second half. Also, the 4th quarter production came from the running game.

Smith drove SF 9 yards for the game tying FG against Dallas. Nine yards.

And the Saints craptastic defense has already been outlined as an exception.

Smith was a nothing QB before Harbaugh arrived to minimize his weaknesses and set up a brilliant game plan that doesn't involve him needing to carry the team. Smith is not entrusted to win games most of the time, he is asked not to screw up. And the playbook is designed to not put very much on his shoulders. If he were truly a good QB who could get the job done as a passer he would never come off the field for Kaepernick.

Again, you can win with Smith but not because of him. Harbaugh knows this and plans accordingly.

Err, Smith has been very good against the blitz now for two seasons. There are numerous articles pointing this out all over the interwebs.
Yes, he's really good at throwing the ball away at the first sign of pressure. Or maybe dumping it off for a minimal gain. He is not the type of QB who makes big plays under pressure.

And yay for articles all over the interwebz! If only there were one handy to cite and help make a point.

This overly sensitive defense of Benoit's articles is getting quite tiresome. On this site of all sites if someone writes something that is plain wrong then they're going to get called out, that's why it's a great site.
Your assumption that the criticism is correct is amusing. If the the criticism is incorrect, that will also be called out. You'll also note that I'm not the sole person calling out the incorrect criticism of this column.

And yes, great site!

34
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 6:17pm

Without much effort here are three articles about Smith and the blitz. Your generalisation of it all being check downs is utterly unsustainable.

"Alex Smith's 96.3 passer rating against the blitz trailed only Aaron Rodgers (131.4) and Tom Brady (110.9), and eight of his 17 touchdown passes (and only one of his five picks) were against the blitz. Overall he completed 90 of 152 passes for 1,097 yards when teams sent extra rushers." - And that was last year, when he wasn't leading the NFL in passer rating.

Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/writers/jim_trotter/01/12/saints.4...

http://blog.sfgate.com/49ers/2011/10/06/beating-the-blitz-tom-brady-alex...

http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7218353/quarterbacking-made-simple

"Smith is not entrusted to win games most of the time, he is asked not to screw up. And the playbook is designed to not put very much on his shoulders. If he were truly a good QB who could get the job done as a passer he would never come off the field for Kaepernick." Who is saying that the niners set out to have Smith win them the game and that they use Kaepernick is irrelevant. I've seen the Pats use direct snaps to halfbacks, is that a sign of a lack of trust in Brady. The 49ers have a weapon with different skills and they make use of him.

What qualifies you to arrogantly dismiss all criticism?

36
by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 6:19pm

Heh...beat me to it.

37
by glickmania :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 6:45pm

Without much effort here are three articles about Smith and the blitz. Your generalisation of it all being check downs is utterly unsustainable.
Thanks for the links. :)

Looks like he's been more effective than I thought against the blitz. It's possible I've been thrown off by the eyeball test. Smith has been effective in certain situations and Harbaugh has definitely been the direct cause of that. Kudos to him for putting a limited QB in positions to succeed. And kudos to Smith for executing that game plan.

Who is saying that the niners set out to have Smith win them the game and that they use Kaepernick is irrelevant. I've seen the Pats use direct snaps to halfbacks, is that a sign of a lack of trust in Brady. The 49ers have a weapon with different skills and they make use of him.
We were talking about Smith's comeback ability.

The point was that Smith isn't great at bringing teams back against anyone with a decent defense until he proves it over multiple games. Until then, games like the Saints playoff game are the exception not the rule and a really good way to beat the Niners (one might even call it a blueprint) is to put Smith in a hole and make them pass their way out of it while eating clock with your own running game.

And yes, the use of Kaepernick is a strike against Smith. Smith would never come off the field if he could always get it done. Harbaugh knows he can't so he dips into the bag of tricks and pulls out a wrinkle that the defense may not be ready for. It's great to utilize another weapon and a good coaching call if it works especially if Smith buys in and doesn't take it as a knock.

What qualifies you to arrogantly dismiss all criticism?
Perhaps the same "arrogance" that allows folks to make criticisms to begin with. Or maybe that's too meta.

And I dismiss all criticism? Settle down, there. Much like other commenters, I call them like I see them.

39
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 7:41pm

"Your assumption that the criticism is correct is amusing."

That's pretty arrogant and really irritating and then you follow it up with "Or maybe that's too meta".

The screengrabs are very good. I think it might be a good idea to stick to them.

45
by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 9:18pm

The point was that Smith isn't great at bringing teams back against anyone with a decent defense until he proves it over multiple games.

He had 6 fourth-quarter comebacks last year. That's not multiple enough?

Until then, games like the Saints playoff game are the exception not the rule and a really good way to beat the Niners (one might even call it a blueprint) is to put Smith in a hole and make them pass their way out of it while eating clock with your own running game.

That's a pretty good blueprint against almost any team. Get a lead, make them one-dimensional, burn the clock. What's distinct about the Niners in that formula?

And yes, the use of Kaepernick is a strike against Smith. Smith would never come off the field if he could always get it done.

Think you're underestimating how much Harbaugh & Roman like their gadget plays.

53
by David :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 2:51am

"That's a pretty good blueprint against almost any team. Get a lead, make them one-dimensional, burn the clock. What's distinct about the Niners in that formula?"

I think what's distinct about the Niners is that it's the only way anyone has shown to consistently hamper them. Because they play very strong fundamental football, as Benoit pointed out in the column, at length, there aren't any schematic gaps to exploit, and the only way to cause a problem is to be just as good at the fundamentals.

The Vikings scored on three 80+ yard drives, with very few (subjective memory, I haven't looked it up) 20+ yard plays. I was shocked when they did it once, but three times! The niners will (probably) lose again this year, but when they do, I'm prepared to bet that it will be due to turnovers, short fields and the occasional big play, not 80+ yard touchdown drives of multiple plays

55
by theslothook :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 3:52am

LOL Karl,

One of these days, I have to watch a 49er game with you. If nothing else, it would be an interesting experience. You just may be a tad more passionate than my die hard 49er friends

35
by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 6:19pm

And yay for articles all over the interwebz! If only there were one handy to cite and help make a point.

Yes, it was pointed out on this site last year that Smith has a better DVOA against pressure. I can't find it by searching...maybe it was in a comment, but here's one article among many that noted something similar: http://blog.sfgate.com/49ers/2011/10/06/beating-the-blitz-tom-brady-alex...

Google it for yourself. Ain't hard to find.

He is not the type of QB who makes big plays under pressure.

Smith also led a come-from-behind drive against the Lions last year, completing a touchdown pass on 4th down. Voila, a big play under pressure.

If he were truly a good QB who could get the job done as a passer he would never come off the field for Kaepernick.

You kidding me? Kaepernick has 10 ypc when he's on the field.

Smith was a nothing QB before Harbaugh arrived to minimize his weaknesses and set up a brilliant game plan that doesn't involve him needing to carry the team.

Incorrect again. Smith began his big improvement during the last half of 2010.

Sounds to me like you're mainly parroting what Greg Cossel was saying last year. Even last year, he would take it back every time Smith had a big game, then reassert it when he didn't. This year as far as I know, he's been silent on the subject.

38
by glickmania :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 7:25pm

Smith also led a come-from-behind drive against the Lions last year, completing a touchdown pass on 4th down. Voila, a big play under pressure.
Smith drove them a whopping 35 yards. And that drive was mostly on the back of the running game. He was part of that drive but did not lead it. The TD pass was much more of excellent play call and design than it was anything wonderful done by Smith.

And back to the actual point: Smith is not the kind of QB that will do well when down in a game when the team needs him to drive the field for a score or multiple scores.

You kidding me? Kaepernick has 10 ypc when he's on the field.
With a sample size that large, how can I possibly argue!

But seriously: He's a gimmick. A successful gimmick but still a gimmick. He also fumbles every 10 carries.

A complete passer with the full confidence of his coach would never come off the field.

Incorrect again. Smith began his big improvement during the last half of 2010.
You mean those 3 starts and one game where he came in off the bench against an average St. Louis team in the 4th quarter? He was awful against a good Charger defense and did very well against the pathetic Seattle & Arizona defenses. And if you watched those games you'll know that he made only a few plays that weren't mostly the result of YAC efforts by receivers.

41
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 7:46pm

Read the 49ers chapter from the last two FOAs, you might learn something.

How can you criticise someone for using a small sample size for the Kaepernick package's success but then present one fumble as a 10% rate off the same data?

43
by zenbitz :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 7:57pm

u got trolled son.

48
by glickmania :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 9:51pm

Not really trolling but it was a pretty obvious joke. :)

49
by glickmania :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 10:11pm

Read the 49ers chapter from the last two FOAs, you might learn something.
Perhaps you can cull something from one of those excellent tomes to make an actual point instead of continuing with your super-classy personal attacks.

51
by Will Allen :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 12:23am

You may want to review the tone of your posts in this thread, and reflect upon how the way we engage with others will quite frequently be returned in kind.

52
by glickmania :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 1:04am

You may want to review the tone of your posts in this thread, Tone: The ever-so-difficult thing to express on messageboards.

and reflect upon how the way we engage with others will quite frequently be returned in kind.Pretty sure you are getting at the Golden Rule here. Works for me. If you'd like to point out something I've posted that was particularly out of line I'd be more than happy to take into consideration for the future.

54
by David :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 2:54am

"If you'd like to point out something I've posted that was particularly out of line I'd be more than happy to take into consideration for the future"

Eh, both sides at fault, but point-by-point rebuttals tend to devolve the conversation into a 'he-said, she-said' thing. If you can phrase your response into a coherent paragraph, it's an argument. If you can't, to quote Monty Python, then it's not an argument, it's just contradiction

56
by glickmania :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 5:14am

Honestly, now that I know the guy is also a Niners fan it makes it easier to shrug off all the nonsense being slung around. I knew I smelt some serious homerism (and possibly some hurt feelings which led to the personal jabs) but I try to give the benefit of the doubt. Oh well, lesson learned and all that. :)

57
by theslothook :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 5:41am

I've said this before: Qbs get way more credit than they deserve- this site actually exacerbates the situation given that most people(not our well informed commentators btw), misinterpret dyar and dvoa as the WAY to measure great qb play, rather than reading the fine print at the top.

I've already cited examples like Cutler and Cassel to illustrate how much talent can change the nominal stats of a qb. As for Alex Smith, its really difficult to disentangle how good Alex Smith is generally and how good his team is. Given his progression, its entirely possible that hes gone from horrible qb prospect to average to now above average and beyond. On the other hand, the 49ers are also loaded at the offensive line, defense, and even their receivers might be described as above average.

But, if it were just my gut reaction- I've seen Alex smith so much(I live in the bay area btw), that I suspect its more to do with the talent around him than him especially. I think he's proven hes an adequate starter(he's certainly not ryan leaf in disguise), but I think his high QBR is a product of his team.

58
by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 7:37am

I have never argued that Smith is more than an average quarterback, his current success is almost certainly a result of coaching and his surrounding talent. I spent years arguing on this site that Smith's failure was largely due to the appalling coaching and stark lack of talent, it only follows that his good play today is seen in a similar context.

And to speak to your other post, I am actually very calm watching the niners. I tend to look for the sustainable trends, attempting to see through the noise which side is moving the ball in a repeatable manner. I get a bit steamed at bad officiating but who doesn't? I have got a bit worked up in this thread but that is as a result of somebody making unsupported, sweeping statements with no evidence while demanding evidence from everyone else and mocking posters who disagree with him.

62
by zenbitz :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 1:51pm

The interesting thing is that Smith was pretty solidly average in 2010 under Singletary. Harbaugh turning Smith into Super Jim Harbaugh -- He Who Willingly Trades INTS for SACKs Without Regard For His Own Person -- has made him a titch above average.

I think there is some potential for Alex to improve even further - without becoming less risk-adverse. I think the potential is there for him to read the defense better pre-snap, and use his hot reads better. What he needs to be for the Niners to go deep in the playoffs is simply the guy who can punish the defense if they sell out against the run. I think the reason the offense was so mediocre last year was that the run blocking was pretty miserable. They still ran the ball a lot, and Smith was efficient on 1st and 2nd down, but still didn't throw all that much. Now the line has gelled and the run game is looking very good.

65
by theslothook :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 3:15pm

Come on Karl, I meant it as a compliment! Honestly, I like to think all of the regular commentators here are level headed and try to be unbiased. Still, I meant on gameday in a game you really care about, I bet you and really everyone gets edgy and passionate. Hell, if there was intervention for nfl addicts, I'd have to attend. Hell, who hasn't been borderline depressed when their favorite team lost a really huge game?

59
by Will Allen :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 10:58am

Seriously, if you do not grasp where you have used sarcasm in this thread, not targeted at a third party, like a football player, but at someone you were conversing with, or do not understand how sarcasm, targeted at someone you are conversing with, very rarely moves a dialogue in a productive direction, I don't know what to tell you.

It is a common fallacy that sarcasm is usually equatable with wit, but no less wrong for it being common.

61
by glickmania :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 1:07pm

Settle down, it was used once (I was very obvious about it) and Karl was the one who got bent out of shape over it when the direct back and forth was with another poster.

And to be fair, Karl was the guy who started in with the "tiresome" BS and accused me of having and agenda. So yes, Golden Rule. It goes both ways.

67
by LionInAZ :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 11:05pm

The main polnt here is that the vast majority of us don't want to see these discussion boards turn into yet another version of the Yahoo sorts or ESPN comment boards, which have devolved into insults, name-calling and pissing contests by loser homers who know **** about football. I came here to get away from that BS!

Yes, Karl has a 49ers bias, I have a Lions bias, Will has a Vikings bias, tuluse has a Bears bias, and there are few with obviously Patriots and Eagles biases. But generally they don't make the biases a personal issue unless someone else provokes it.

69
by glickmania :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 11:44pm

Copy that.

Got some feedback, stepped out of the thread after this morning to avoid continuing the particular conversation that went sideways. I will very likely return to future threads and as long as attacks aren't directed my way none will go the other way.

The straight-up point is that I realize I'm essentially walking into a new bar (or someone's den, etc.) and should probably build up a bit more currency first.

All that I ask is that others go back and do what I did: Re-read the exchange and notice that it wasn't simply the "new guy" going off on an established poster. For my part, I admit it when I screw up and I certainly did. Will step lighter going forward.

70
by theslothook :: Sat, 10/13/2012 - 2:51am

Im insulted as a regular Commentator that my homer bias isn't know by all!

44
by Little Bobby Tables (not verified) :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 8:06pm

Re: Kaepernick, Harbaugh is not a coach who shies away from gimmicks. Four different defensive players have taken snaps on offense. He's called 6 receiver runs across 5 games. The team lines up 7 lineman on a fairly regular basis. Hell, FO has even diagrammed his crazy tight end sweep play which barely makes sense on paper, let alone on the field.

Kaepernick seeing the field is not an indictment of smith, its a statement of how crazy harbaugh is on offense.

46
by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 9:24pm

Yes, the offense relies on gimmicks. Some worry because of that. 'When are they going to prove they can move the ball with bread-and-butter plays?' they shout, and shake their canes.

He's also a guy who likes to get his players involved just for the sake of getting his players involved. It's why he brings the practice squad on all the team trips. I think it's a sizeable percentage of the reason he likes those jumbo packages -- he gets his 2nd and 3rd-string linemen (offense and defense) in the game.

47
by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 9:34pm

The TD pass was much more of excellent play call and design than it was anything wonderful done by Smith.

We gotta disagree on that one. It was pretty much a perfect pass, and not such a fancy play call.

And back to the actual point: Smith is not the kind of QB that will do well when down in a game when the team needs him to drive the field for a score or multiple scores.

You keep saying that. Okay -- what makes you think so?

With a sample size that large, how can I possibly argue!

My point was that those plays have been wildly successful. Don't know how much sense it makes to criticize the starting quarterback if the staff thinks they have a play with a high chance of great success. For 10 ypc you'd take Tom Brady off the field.

I also don't understand dismissing Smith's play against average or below-average defenses. It sounds like one of those CHFF "quality win" stats or some such garbage. The guy had a good DVOA the last part of 2010, and that's defense adjusted. If you think you have a better stat that ignores poor defenses, by all means, produce!

4
by peterplaysbass :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 2:41pm

Not every team is capable of running the ball effectively against San Francisco to protect a lead - so the "blueprint" only works for a handful of teams. The author stated:

"They didn’t rely on lucky bounces or high-risk shot-plays to establish the lead; they simply lined up and ran effectively."

To "simply line up and fun effectively" is key. The Eagles couldn't hold on to their 21-3 lead for that very reason. McCoy and co. wasn't enough. Minnesota's o-line is good at run blocking, their fullback is effective, and Adrian Peterson is patiently using the FB's blocks, and using them well.

I think the Texans and Ravens would have a decent chance to beat SF this way, and with better passing threats Seattle and St Louis could stand a decent chance. Every other team would have a tough time holding a lead against the 49ers with consistent running, with one possible exception. Given New England's running game coming alive, I will be very interested to see the Pats play the 9ers on Sunday Night Football in week 15.

15
by Mood_Indigo (not verified) :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 3:34pm

I agree. The Ravens and Texans would be good tests for the Niners.

Where I disagree is that the Minnneota game says a lot about the Niners perceived weaknesses. The Vikings are averaging 4.3 yards a carry and are in the middle of the pack (AP is averaging 4.4 ypc). I think the Niners just had a bad game. The author proposing a blueprint based on one data point.

I'm looking forward to the Sunday night game on Dec 15. I hope all the starters on both teams will stay healthy.

19
by Will Allen :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 4:01pm

I really think you need to grow a thicker homer skin. Nobody in their right mind is talking about a "perceived weakness" with regard to the Niner defense. All they are saying is that you need to be physical enough to force the Niners to accept the possibility that you might run, to give yourself the best chance of beating them. Nobody is saying that attempting such a thing is likely to succeed.

31
by MTR (not verified) :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 5:44pm

I agree exactly. As a fan who spent years rooting for a defense-and-running team, that's always been the formula to beat that type of team: get a lead so they can't just do what they do best.

Honestly, it's like somebody saying the way to beat a good passing game is to get pressure on the QB. Not exactly rocket science.

5
by Will Allen :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 2:46pm

He didn't say it was an easy way to beat the Niners, he said it was the best. He was right. Beating them is going to be hard, hard, hard, because they are a very good, very physical, team. However, absent the Niners uncharacteristically putting the ball on the ground, or Smith uncharacteristically getting careless, if you don't keep their defense honest by at least having the threat of running, they are just going to knock the excrement out of you, as you get one-dimensional.

Unfortunately, it used to be easier to prevent the Niners from scoring a lot early, so you could keep trying to run,even if you didn't score a lot early yourself. Now, however, it is more difficult to keep the Niners off the scoreboard, thus allowing you to keep running, even if you aren't getting 4 yards a carry. Like I said, beating them ain't a happy prospect. I think a formula of 15 rushes and 45 passes, or even 20 and 40, is really likely to provide an unhappy result, however.

9
by glickmania :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 2:59pm

Yup. The Giants couldn't run the ball in SF playoff game and Eli got pounded. To his credit, it didn't break him.

No Nicks in this game is a big deal for the Giants. It will be very interesting to see if Barden/Hixon/Randle can continue their good play against a real defense.

18
by Bjorn Nittmo :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 3:58pm

Who says no Nicks for this game? He's practicing today, so barring a bad reaction tomorrow I'd say he's likely. Kenny Phillips is the other big injury question mark for the Giants, and he seems less likely to play.

Giants will need to re-discover a pass rush that has been absent this year, plain and simple. Regardless of how permanent or temporary Alex Smith's outstanding efficiency numbers have been since the start of '11, the passing offense's continued weakness is their high sack rate. Getting to Smith seems like the obvious key goal for the Giants defense.

20
by Bjorn Nittmo :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 4:01pm

(And completely off-topic: who are you, 'glickmania'? Despite my nom de FO, my name is Mark Glickman.)

25
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 4:50pm

Pictures by Matt Glickman, so you're a relative or is there a typo somewhere?

28
by glickmania :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 4:59pm

I'm the graphics guy for these articles. :)

I'm also a freelance graphic designer living in Connecticut. Nice to "meet" ya.

21
by Independent George :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 4:03pm

I actually don't think the sack rate is a weakness; I think it's by design. Chase Stuart wrote up an interesting theory that Harbaugh is coaching Alex Smith to play like Jim Harbaugh - that is, taking sacks when you have to, but avoiding interceptions at all costs.

23
by tuluse :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 4:29pm

Just because something is by design doesn't mean it's not a weakness.

The Bears will give up 7 yard slants all game long, this is a weakness, it is also by design.

26
by glickmania :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 4:53pm

EDIT: Early word was that Nicks playing this week was a long way off.

Nicks was limited in practice today. He's played with injuries plenty of times in the past so seeing him on the field wouldn't be a surprise. That said, he will certainly not be nearly as effective with the combination knee/foot injury he's dealing with as the Giants will need him to be.

And as I was just poking around, it looks like Andre Brown's concussion isn't clearing up which is another bad thing for the Giants running game. Then again, it's only Thursday and loads can happen for all these players before Sunday.

And yes: without a doubt, the Giants' pass rush will need to show up. They've been MIA so far this season.

32
by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 5:58pm

So has the 49er pass rush. I hate the thought of an E. Manning with time to throw.

33
by glickmania :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 6:08pm

Niner secondary should be able keep things somewhat under control even if the pass rush doesn't get there. I think the health levels of Nicks and Bennett could also play a big role here. They are guys Eli trusts quite a bit and can make big plays. If they aren't at full speed or not on the field the other non-Cruz guys are lesser weapons. Eli is still dangerous even with the reduced WR/TE compliment so it should really just make for a better game.

I can't see either team blowing the other out. If this one isn't decided late in the 4th quarter I think we'll all be surprised.

8
by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 2:51pm

The 49ers pass rush hasn't been so great this year. They way they've beaten Rodgers and Stafford has seemingly been to put 6 in the box and trot out extra DBs. If the Giants can run against that and SF has to bring out 7, then I'd think Manning will have a big day.

12
by Will Allen :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 3:19pm

Yeah, if you don't make them, at a minimum, play you with 7 in the box, they just smother you.

40
by zenbitz :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 7:42pm

I don't think this is quite right. They used the dime against GB but almost pure nickle against Detroit (Snap counts: 20-P.Cox is the Dime CB, 90-I.Sopoaga is the 4-3 DT). Against the Lions, Soap got 8 snaps (12%) and Cox 4 (6%). Against GB, Cox was in 75% of the time.

42
by zenbitz :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 7:49pm

although of course - the main point IS right. Nickel defense is only 6 in the box, although the 49ers do run 2 ILBs.

10
by JonFrum :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 2:59pm

"As a fan, I like to think that the Viking game was an aberration."

"As a fan" doesn't get you very far outside your town. We're all fans of someone. It's best to wait until after your team wins a Super Bowl to get that cocky.

13
by Mood_Indigo (not verified) :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 3:23pm

Considering the short shrift that mainstream media gives to West Coast teams, we don't look to go too far in garnering meaningful attention. But challenging sketchy opinions should hardly be construed as cockiness.

27
by glickmania :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 4:55pm

The Niners are widely considered a top team this season by just about every member of the media covering the NFL. There was a reason the loss to Minny was such a shocker.

22
by Kyle Williams (not verified) :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 4:06pm

Harbaugh only lost one game at home?

Smith's passer rating means he outplayed Manning in NFCCG?

50
by bcsj (not verified) :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 10:16pm

Great point about the Giants front office and Coughlin's coaching. This is a team that finds the right personnel. I'm convinced that one reason Belichick broke an "unwritten rule" in the off-season by poaching Jake Ballard is because he was in the Giants' system. There's a lot of mutual respect between BB and Coughlin.

60
by Passing through (not verified) :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 11:14am

As a niner fan, I'm most afraid of Eli Manning and his passing game. The niner pass defense looks better this year than last year, but I consider Rodgers and Goldson to be pretty prone to gambling (they've been successful so far this year). Brown is decent but is not a lockdown CB. Whitner hasn't shown up this year. Our pass rush will need to protect our secondary in possibly our most difficult matchup so far this year.

On the other side, NYG has a porous pass defense (prob due to injuries) but a very high interception rate. I'm curious how risky the 49ers will get on offense. If we get a 2-possession lead, the game will be over. Cleveland and Philly ran the ball very well against NY. I expect SF will be able to as well.

63
by Lotharun (not verified) :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 1:56pm

The 9ers are weakest when a) a mobile QB rolls out. b) plays are created to exploit the edges – alla swing passes and the like. The Vikings did both. The 9ers defense helped the Vikings on two of the TD drives with questionable penalties called by replacement refs. That said, the 9ers could have played smarter and not put themselves in position to allow the calls to be made. Credit to the Vikes for executing their game. There’s no such thing as a good loss, but 9ers have bounced back on defense since and probably in no small part due to the loss to the Vikings.

64
by Paddy Pat :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 2:57pm

Just want to throw in my two cents that this column is really a nice contribution to the site. Benoit has been quite polarizing thus far as a contributor, but outside of his Pittsburgh predictions, I think he's been a thoughtful addition. Very enjoyable read.

68
by LionInAZ :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 11:09pm

I pretty much agree, although I'm sometimes mystified as to which games get singled out. For example, I'm wonder in which universe the Bills-Cards game could be intriguing enough to comment on.

66
by Little Bobby Tables (not verified) :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 7:14pm

Well, that escalated quickly.

Great writeup, Andy.

71
by Nathan :: Sat, 10/13/2012 - 9:06am

As already stated, point by point rebuttals come off as obnoxious. The idea of simplistic "blueprints" like "get up 3 touchdowns and run the ball effectively" and "Brady doesn't like pressure, so hit him while rushing 4" are kind of preposterous. That's not a blueprint, that's execution.

Pats bias.

72
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