Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

23 Oct 2006

Manic Monday: Playing the Blame Game

The last two weeks of the NFL season have been unusually active in the category of blame transference. Four individuals, performing less impressively than expected, have chosen to publicly shift the responsibility for those performances elsewhere.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 23 Oct 2006

35 comments, Last at 25 Oct 2006, 1:34am by Vince

Comments

1
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 4:35am

I dunno, crediting the Atl staff with the coaching move of the day means you should also dock them a day's pay for putting in Morten Anderson to miss the 51 yard kick (nice and straight, but short) after Koenen "made" the first 56 yarder.... To keep with the biblical joke theme, he's so old that when he gets on the bus, Methusaleh gets up to give him a seat.

I wonder if Denny Green calls a press conference on Monday to say, "Hey, you know, I was wrong last week. I'm re-hiring Keith Rowen and firing our special teams coach. That... and Edge will be publicly kicking the OL coach in the jewels for good measure. Yeah, that's it."

2
by EnglishBob (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 5:16am

Bobman, to be fair you are conveniently forgetting that Koenan missed his second shot at that 56 yarder.

I think the article is too begrudging in its faint praise of Vick. Lets be fair here, he had a good second half against a usually very good Pittsburgh defence. I'm not fan of his but lets be honest about that much. Prior commentators on another thread are right though- he does throw the ball far too hard- no sense of touch on his passes.

3
by kibbles (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 5:55am

Someone today said "If any reporter asked Dennis Green "were the Raiders who you thought they were?" in the post-game press conference, he would instantly be my favorite media member ever."

I have to say, I agree 100%.

4
by jebmak (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 9:16am

LOL

5
by masocc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 10:18am

Okay, somebody tell me if I'm being a homer here:

I keep hearing the bobbleheads say that the Viking player was 'thrown into' Hasslebeck by Mack Strong. But EVERY time I've seen the replay, this is what I see:

Mack Strong throws the guy to the ground... the guy literally hops over about a yard, into Hass' ankles. He doesn't roll. He doesn't bounce. He HOPS from a pushup stance. Am I hallucinating, here?

6
by Doug Farrar :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 10:22am

Masocc, that's exactly what I saw. Strong blocked Henderson into Hasselbeck. And Strong, who made it to the Pro Bowl last year on his blocking, has regressed tremendously in that department - he's had more whiffs than Curtis Granderson and Richie Sexson combined this year.

7
by BigManChili (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 10:24am

Re #2:
Not anymore this year. The Falcons hired Bill Musgrave as a QB coach this year, and he completely overhauled Vick's mechanics over the offseason. If anything, Vick has been using too much touch. I guess the young receivers weren't used to the ball getting there at less than 90MPH because they've dropped everything thrown near them until the Steelers game. The struggles the Falcons have had passing the ball this year have been from O-line protection and WR drops, not Vick. It looks like Vick is finally becoming a passer. He still has his bad relapses, but he is light years ahead of where he was last year.

8
by BigManChili (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 10:26am

Oh, Bobman (#1), I think Morten Anderson got the FG attempt because Koenen had already kicked two long FG's in less than 5 minutes, and didn't have the leg strength to try a third in a row.

9
by EnglishBob (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 10:32am

You can not be seriously telling me that kicking twice in five minutes would tire out the poor kicker (maybe Andersen but then he is 46!).

10
by masocc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 10:42am

EnglishBob: I'm assuming they also might have figured he could possibly be a bit off after getting ran into and falling down. Maybe if he hadn't rolled around 'in pain' for a bit, they'd have left him in?

Re: Hasslebeck. Argh. I saw it again. I was mildly hallucinating. Strong blocked Henderson into Hass. Though I will continue to maintain that Henderson could've avoided contact, and in fact, did an odd little stretchy hoppy type thing as he got close, in order to actually hit him. But I'll admit that's the unreasonable conjecture of a homer ;).

11
by masocc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 10:44am

Ooooh! No fair, Doug! Post -Editing privileges!?! Bah! :)

12
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 10:52am

RE:7

Have you actually been watching the games? I've seen more than one pass ricochet off a reciever's chest, and go more than 5 yards this year.

13
by masocc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 10:53am

In Strong's defense, and without really reviewing any tape, I think his role has changed this year.

He's gone from: "Okay Mack, block that one extra blitzer that gets through every third play" to: "Okay Mack, see those two guys crashing through the line? Pick one". And he's not handling the decision too well.

I know there have been at least a couple plays where he's seen somebody starting to bust through, flinched in that direction, and then saw a more immediate threat that he was then out of position to properly block. That just didn't really happen last year, IIRC.

We're definitely not fine without Hutch :(. Depending on whose story you believe, that trans tag is either the biggest front office blunder ever (YES, even bigger than Millen's follies), or a royal screw job by Hutch for some odd reason.

14
by masocc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 11:07am

Oh, and to show that I DID learn something from Mike Tanier... Mili and Stevens both being out probably has something to do with Mack's poor blocking this year too.

15
by Arkaein (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 11:16am

Man there was a lot of kicking BS this week. Before seeing the end of the Pittsburgh/Atl game I was watching Packers/Dolphins. At the end of the first half GB gets in range to try a 55 yd FG with 4 second left. Rayner nails it, but there is a false start, however it is ruled unsportsmanlike conduct on Zach Thomas for calling out "snap like signals" or something like that. Move 15 yards closer and try again. Again the kick is made, but this time there's a facemask penalty on GB. With the time expired on the kick the half is over, and GB gets no points. Fortunately GB went on to win anyways.

From looking at the rules I can't see another way this could have gone, but it sure seems wrong when a defensive penalty essentially wipes a successful offensive play off the board. Yes, technically the play never happened, but unlike most offensive plays from scrimmage a FG is essentially unaffected by such a penalty.

Combined with TOs taken to freeze a kicker and the whole thing just got really old for me yesterday. It made me think it wouldn't be bad to disallow defenses from using a TO once the offense is set to snap (in the case of Pitt/Atl), and to allow play continuation in the case of any defensive penalty immediately before the snap on a FG. It just shouldn't take six kicks to attempt two FGs.

16
by masocc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 11:29am

OH, and McNabb puked again. Lay off the (pickle) juice, brah.

17
by masocc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 11:34am

Somebody kill me, please. I agree with Skip Bayless.

18
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 11:37am

There was nothing about Hasselbeck's injury which involved dirty play. None whatsoever. Football is a game where bigs guys fly around, have collisons, and sometimes the collisions happen at odd angles. The Vikings are more vulnerable than most teams if their startting qb goes down, so the notion that the Vikings' defensive players would be trying to injure opposing qbs with cheap shots is laughable. Henderson got blocked while running hard, and his momentum carried him into Hasselbeck's leg.

I certainly hope there isn't major ligament damage, but it is interesting to speculate if there would have been any Favre trade talks if this injury had taken place a week earlier. Having said that, I don't think Wallace looked horrible, and if the Seahawks defense was playing better, I'd say Seattle could weather Hasselbeck being off the field for a few weeks. Yielding 24 points to the Vikings in your own very noisy stadium, however, does not generate optimism.

It should be remembered that the Vikings were leading 24-10 by about halfway through the third quarter, before Wallace took the field. I was certainly surprised by the Seahawks defensive performance, but I wasn't surprised that they had trouble moving the ball, outside one long yards after catch play. The Williams tackles are just dominating the line of scrimmage these days, and with a pretty good defensive backfield, nobody is likely to light up the Vikings.

19
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 11:50am

Also, is it just me, or does there seem to have been a real fall-off in receiver performance througout the league?

Maybe I'm just sensitive to it because the Vikings have the worst pass catching team they have had in about 35 years, since I remember watching them, but it sure does seem to be a widespread phenomena. Receivers just seem to be dropping a lot of passes, and the number of spectacular catches seems to be down as well.

20
by Duane (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 11:54am

Matt Hasselbeck has to accept at least a smidgen of responsibility for his injury as well. Like Will Allen said, football is a game where bigs guys fly around and have collisions. Hasselbeck has to maintain some awareness of where those big guys are after the ball is gone, and not stand flat-footed as a spectator fascinated by his throw.

21
by BigManChili (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 12:24pm

RE:12
Yeah, I have them all on tape. I didn't say Every Single Pass had touch; I was just saying that they're not all Lasers. The touch pass/laser pass ratio for Vick's passes has gotten significantly better from years past.

22
by Marko (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 12:25pm

"It should be remembered that the Vikings were leading 24-10 by about halfway through the third quarter, before Wallace took the field."

Actually, Hasselbeck was hurt on third down on the first drive of the second half, with the score 10-10. Seattle punted and the Vikings scored a TD to go ahead 17-10. Then Wallace took the field.

23
by masocc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 1:12pm

Okay... 'dirty' might be the wrong word, here. But he *could* have avoided, or at least nearly avoided Hass, and it seems to me he actually made an effort to hit him a little 'better'. It's essentially the same argument as Van Oelhoffen and Palmer. Technically not dirty... but still an opportunistic extracurricular hit on the QB.

24
by Marko (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 1:14pm

"'We played them in the preseason. Who the hell thinks they are better than in the preseason? That's (expletive)! We played them, every one (of the starters) played three quarters, they were who we thought they were! Now if you want to crown them, then crown their ass! But they are who we thought they were, and we let them off the hook!'"

You got important parts of this quote wrong. The incorrect parts are important because they help explain why Dennis Green was so angry. I haven't gone back and looked at the tape to quote this verbatim, so I am doing this from memory after seeing this tirade about 100 times, but here's what Green said after the first sentence above and before the last two sentences:

"Who the hell treats the third preseason game like it's bullshit? Bullshit. We played them, every one (of the starters) played three quarters, the Bears are who we thought they were!"

The reason why this quote helps explain why Dennis Green was so angry is that after that preseason game (in which the Cardinals controlled the game, Leinart shredded the Bears defense, Grossman was erratic and Bears fans booed Grossman), the Bears downplayed their performance and attributed it to lack of game planning because they would play Arizona during the season. However, this was the third preseason game, traditionally considered the most important, and the one in which the starters play the most (about three quarters, as Green said).

Then, in the week before last Monday's game, the Bears repeatedly said the same things, that they only used vanilla schemes in the preseason game, that this time it would be for real, they would throw lots of different things at Leinart, etc. Lovie Smith called the preseason game a "glorified practice."

The Bears basically disrespected Arizona before the game by failing to give Arizona any credit for how well the Cardinals played in the most important preseason game and by obviously believing the Monday game would be a cakewalk. However, the Monday game looked a lot like the preseason game. The Cardinals completely dominated that game, outplaying and outcoaching the Bears (at least until the last play from scrimmage in the third quarter) and making the Bears offense look impotent.

However, as Dennis Green said, they let the Bears off the hook. He was so pissed because he and his team had been completely disrespected, but was clearly the more prepared team. They knew how to attack the Bears and dominated the game. The Cardinals should have won easily, but because of their Cardinal-ness, they choked away the game.

25
by Matt (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 1:36pm

I haven't seen it yet, but isn't this the time of year for Vick to have his one really good game around Halloween tell reporters and everyone to stop questioning his passing then he goes back to normal. I remember reading it in 04 and 05 and now I will wait for it to be pointed out again by the FO guys.

26
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 1:45pm

Yeah, you are right; I my memory is failing me. Wallace came in with 8:50 left in the third quarter, and the Seahawks had two possessions with him before the Vikings made it 24-10.

27
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 1:48pm

masocc, I think you've really got be doing some mind reading to make that claim about Henderson's hit.

28
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 1:55pm

EnglishBob,
I know Koenen missed his second attempt, but they brought Morten on to th e team with the understanding that his range is under 50 (per the announcers). That kick: 51. If Koenen is the future and you figure Andersen is a 10% chance there, you give it to the kid, no? Eh, whatever.

FWIW, I thought Vick had surprisingly good touch on a rollout (left) pass near the end to Crumpler--about 30 yards and phenomenal turn-around-while-running-reaching up to the sky catch by AC. Almost a shot-put type of pass that really surprised me. Either in the late 4th Qtr or OT to set up the win.

29
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 2:22pm

24

Thats exactly what I got out of that statement by Green. I dont know why everyone is on his case.

He was pissed off because they completely outplayed a team that they'd outplayed before, and who was disrespecting them, and still managed to lose through a bunch of flukes. I'd be pissed off too.

I dont see anything wrong with what happened in that room. Do I think Denny Green is a good coach? No. Do I think he did anything wrong there? No.

Now, is the cardinals lack of an offensive line Denny Green's fault, or is the ownership trying to run the team?

30
by GlennW (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 2:36pm

I didn't think the Henderson hit was at all untoward, and furthermore the contact wasn't severe, much less so than the Kimo hit on Palmer. Just some lousy luck, and that's football.

As a Steelers fan I was happy to see M. Andersen trotting onto the field. I didn't think he had enough leg to make it from there, and even Koenen's previous miss wasn't off by much, after splitting the middle of the uprights on his first attempt. That decision didn't make much sense imo. The rest of Mora's decisions in the game were right on however.

One of Vick's INTs, at the end of the first half, was a deflection off Warrick Dunn where (I believe) the announcers claimed that the ball was thrown too hard, but it really wasn't by my observation-- Dunn just failed to make a relatively easy catch. There's some truth to this knock on Vick, but I also think there's some exaggeration applied to Vick based on reputation as opposed to with other QBs.

31
by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 2:49pm

I have no idea whether any of these are true, but a few reasons why the Falcons might have used Andersen instead of Koenen on the 52-yard FG attempt:

1. Koenen had just attempted 2 long field goals and might have been tired. Dubious, but you never know.

2. Koenen had just pushed the second 56-yarder wide right. Still, that doesn't explain why Mora thought Andersen could kick it 52 yards.

3. Koenen had fallen to the ground on the last kick, after Polamalu rolled into him. Perhaps Koenen was slightly hurt?

32
by DGL (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 4:46pm

Ed Bouchette of the P-G reports (see link in my name) that Koenen was injured on the second field goal try, which is why Andersen came out.

33
by gmc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 5:14pm

A few points after this week:

1. At what point will the pundits realize that while Edge is not the running back of 2000, he very much is the running back of 2005. The running back of 2005, getting hit in the backfield on the majority of plays. "Edgerrin James up the middle for no gain." does not explain what happens, really. Edgerrin James gets a goofy half-bobbled handoff from Leinart, is hit by a defensive lineman that Reggie Wells didn't even shake hands with before letting him past, and drives back to the line of scrimmage to avoid a loss - I'm not saying James is the best in the league, but he's a good power back, better than the Corey Dillons of the world, and 13 carries for 34 yards behind that line would be 22 carries for 90 virtually anywhere else (given the extra first downs involved).

2. Leinart looked like a rookie quarterback against Oakland. I guess somebody in silver and gray realized he can't throw more than ten yards downfield, and that if you actually tackle receivers and cover the short routes, he's just J.P. Losman with better hair.

3. At what point (related to #1) is someone in Arizona just going to demote the entire O line to the practice squad, bring up five O linemen from the P squad, and figure they can't be worse off?

4. Randy Moss is still a great receiver. It's too bad he's been catching passes from the biggest laughingstocks in football for two years.

5. What's especially funny is that Oakland probably wishes it had Kerry Collins back.

6. Is Jacksonville really as bad a team as it has looked the past few weeks? If so, why is Byron Leftwich still playing?

7. The Charger's O line is no longer the most underrated in football. I haven't observed any change in its reputation...

34
by Lou (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 5:36pm

RE :31

4. Koenen had just been iced.

Eventually its going to work.

35
by Vince (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 1:34am

One other reason Atlanta's onside kick was a great, great call: To that point in the game, the Steelers had scored every time they had the ball, EXCEPT when they put it on the ground themselves (muffed punt, fumbled snap). The Falcons defense hadn't made a stop yet (unless you consider allowing a field goal a stop). So whether they kicked deep or failed to recover the onside kick, Pittsburgh was likely to score anyway. So why not take the chance?