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» Scramble Over/Unders: The Souths

Mike and Tom's tour of the league gets musical! Listen to the strangely up-tempo Blinded by the Luck, the haunting melancholy of The Schiano Man, and the endless march of the Saints.

15 Dec 2009

Week 14 Quick Reads

by Bill Barnwell

It's hard for a starting NFL quarterback to be less conspicuous than debuting Rams passer Keith Null was before Sunday. A sixth-round pick serving as the third quarterback for a 1-11 team, Null formerly served as the starting quarterback at Division II West Texas A&M, a school better known for producing pro wrestlers than pro football players. There, Null took instruction from famed bust Ryan Leaf, who served as the team's quarterbacks coach.

On Sunday, Null put on a performance reminiscent of Leaf at his worst. Against a middling Tennessee pass defense, Null went 27-of-43 for 157 yards, with only one touchdown against a whopping five interceptions. In what may be his first and last NFL start, Null accrued -188 passing DYAR. That's a total topped by only three other performance this year: Jake Delhomme's disaster start to the season against the Eagles (-234 passing DYAR), Mark Sanchez's five-interception game against the Bills in Week 6 (-216 passing DYAR), and Brady Quinn's advertisement for his house in Week 10 (-195 passing DYAR).

Where does it rank among the worst debuts of recent vintage, though? During the DVOA Era (1994-2009), from what we can tell, Null had the second-worst debut of any quarterback. The only quarterback he's behind is starting on Monday night: Alex Smith, who had a game to remember against Indianapolis in Week 5 of the 2005 season.

While Smith had 11 passes in relief of Tim Rattay over two games before getting his first start, he crossed a line of obscenity for his first start. Smith went 9-of-23 for 74 yards, yielding a completion percentage below 40 percent and a 3.2 yards per attempt figure that would make Tim Hightower blush. Of course, he couldn't make it to this list without giving the ball away -- Smith threw four picks. Factor in that the game came against an Indianapolis defense that only finished the year 18th in pass defense DVOA, at 6.5%, and the result was a staggering -266 passing DYAR. It's the sixth-lowest figure for any quarterback, regardless of experience level, during the DVOA Era.

Overall, ten quarterbacks produced games that ranked below Null's performance as a rookie, including Leaf, who netted -258 DYAR by going 1-of-15 for 4 yards in his transcendental game against the Chiefs in Week 3 of the 1998 season. The quarterbacks include the aforementioned Smith and Leaf, David Carr, John Beck, Anthony Wright, Kyle Orton, Jake Delhomme, Donovan McNabb, Chris Weinke, Craig Krenzel, and Quincy Carter.

Interestingly, though, the two quarterbacks whose debuts fell just short of Null's total on Sunday have something in common. Both John Navarre (-181 DYAR in Week 13 of the 2004 season) and Jim Druckenmiller (-179 DYAR, Week 2 of the 1997 campaign) never started another NFL game. Null may very well end up being the next one-and-done quarterback of the DVOA Era.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Eli Manning NYG
27/38
391
3
0
202
206
-5
Manning's "fumble" highlighted a weak point in the NFL's replay system. The initial decision of a fumble was impossible to overturn, because there was no way to parse out Manning's body language and the time of the fumble into anything resembling indisputable evidence. Instead of using the multiple looks afforded them by replay to make the best call, the process became a referendum on an initial call made in a flash. The referee and his crew should be allowed to signal a "no call" on the field and go up to the booth for further review if a play is too close to call. We highlighted Manning a week ago as the quarterback who picked up the highest percentage of his yards through the air, but Manning's three biggest plays on Sunday involved a combined 154 yards of post-catch running.
2.
Drew Brees NO
32/40
296
3
0
171
171
0
If you want to stop Brees, it's pretty clear that the best way to do it is the Redskins' strategy: Rush three or four linemen, drop everyone else into coverage, and hope that the pass rush gets there before Brees can cycle through his options and get one of his brilliant receivers to break off their routes and find a hole. Atlanta attempted to follow that strategy on Sunday. Unfortunately for the Falcons, Washington's pass rush is sixth in the league in our Adjusted Sack Rate metric, which adjusts sacks for the number of pass attempts against a team. Atlanta's 25th. You can probably guess who had more success stopping Brees.
3.
Chris Redman ATL
23/34
303
1
1
149
149
0
This is the second week in a row that a struggling quarterback has torched the Saints' secondary. Last week, it was Jason Campbell riding a wave of injuries to the top of the DYAR charts; this week, it's career backup Redman, an underrated quarterback, but one the Saints of the first half would have feasted on. Tony Romo heads to N'Awlins next week, and the Saints will need to play better if they want to hold onto their undefeated record. Of note: The Saints sacked Redman once in 35 dropbacks. With a secondary whittled away by injury, the defensive line needs to get better at rushing the passer to give them a break.
4.
Matt Schaub HOU
29/39
365
2
1
141
151
-9
As with many spots on the Seahawks roster, Seattle has a good number-two cornerback (Marcus Trufant) that they're paying to be a number-one corner. If you want to know why Trufant isn't a number-one cornerback, look at Andre Johnson's first-half numbers. On the other hand, though, it wasn't all Johnson. On passes to receivers beside Johnson, Schaub was 18-of-24 for 172 yards. He was especially effective to these secondary receivers on first down, going 8-of-10 for 72 yards and three first downs on the opening down.
5.
Tony Romo DAL
19/30
249
2
0
135
135
0
After throwing for only one first down in the first half and starting the third quarter with two incompletions on his first drive Romo was suitably chastened and went on a reign of terror. His next six passes were all complete, with four first downs and a touchdown included. After three more incompletions, he got back on the horse with six more consecutive completions, yielding five first downs. After one more incompletion, a touchdown pass to an open Patrick Crayton ended his day. While that touchdown was mostly meaningless, it did give the Cowboys even the absolute faintest slimmer of hope.
6.
Philip Rivers SD
21/32
272
1
1
134
134
-1
Philip Rivers would not be a pro quarterback if he wasn't as good as he is. That's sort of a tautology: of course, all pro quarterbacks are good. What we mean, though, is that Rivers' bizarre throwing motion looks so awkward as to easily inspire prejudices against his ability to be a viable NFL quarterback. He's like the Chad Bradford of quarterbacks. If Rivers was just a borderline NFL starter -- if he had the same motion with the results of a Trent Edwards or a Byron Leftwich -- everyone would want him and his weird arm motion to be benched for a quarterback that throws, well, like a quarterback. Instead, Rivers is so good that he shuts up anyone who might dare criticize his motion. Maybe he's more like the Dan Quisenberry of quarterbacks.
7.
Kyle Orton DEN
29/41
277
2
1
111
104
7
Here's as good a place as any to mention that Brandon Marshall finished seventh this week in receiving DYAR, so there won't be any comment on him in the receiving charts that follow. How do you finish outside the top five receivers of the week when you set a single-game receptions record? Well, not all receptions are created equal. Marshall was thrown 28 passes on Sunday; one was intercepted, and six fell to the ground incomplete. All six were either on first-and-10 or second-and-8, but the pick came on a third-and-6 from the Colts 20. Marshall doesn't get penalized for the interception, but he does get penalized for the incompletion. A catch there is very important.

Now, let's look at Marshall's 21 completions. Five of them were considered unsuccessful plays despite being complete, meaning that they didn't do enough to push the team forward towards a first down. Those catches include a four-yard completion on third-and-8 and a 14-yard completion on fourth-and-18 on Marshall's final catch. All five of those passes went for negative DYAR. Every single one of Marshall's catches came while the team was down by 11 points or more, so our methodology takes some air out for picking up yardage in a situation where the winning team is generally playing looser coverage. At the end of the day, with 12 of his 28 targets resulting in a negative play for the team, those 21 catches only yielded 36 DYAR.

On one hand, that underestimates Marshall's performance, since it doesn't consider the effect his presence had on the rest of the offense and the defense's coverage scheme. On the other hand, our figures also don't account for the Colts' secondary being ravaged by injuries; at points on Sunday, Indy was one more defensive back on the shelf away from being forced to employ Pierre Garcon as an emergency corner. And while Marshall undoubtedly had some impact on the rest of the offense, the Broncos ended up scoring a grand total of 16 points, and the other seven guys that ran the ball or caught a pass could only muster 157 yards. So Marshall's big day couldn't be worth that much.
8.
Tom Brady NE
19/32
192
1
1
101
101
0
Brady's first 14 passes yielded exactly one first down, although Randy Moss fumbled away a second one. After finishing the first half with two more first downs on a completed pass and a pass interference penalty, Brady went on a rampage in the second half. An incompletion to Laurence Maroney was followed by ten straight completions, yielding six first downs and a touchdown. It also included six consecutive passes to Wes Welker. Brady then threw five consecutive incompletions before a dumpoff to Kevin Faulk to close out his line. While rumors are spreading about Randy Moss and his lack of performance on Sunday, it's pretty clear that teams are still more concerned about Moss than Welker. When they start taking away Welker's option route with double coverage and leave Moss one-on-one, then we'll see if Moss is really pouting.
9.
Vince Young TEN
6/8
132
1
0
87
70
17
Both of Young's incompletions before leaving with an injury were passes more than 20 yards downfield. While the Titans started Young off with almost exclusively short routes, the deep ball is creeping back into the Titans' playbook.
10.
Donovan McNabb PHI
17/26
275
2
1
86
83
2
Classic McNabb, mixing in streaks of sheer brilliance with an unconscionable interception (an out to Brent Celek that had been disrupted and never should have been thrown) and a huge missed opportunity (the overthrow to a a wide-open Reggie Brown in the third quarter). Of course, the Eagles' offense was outscored by the Giants, 38-31; it was their defense and special teams scoring 14 points that won them the game.
11.
Joe Flacco BAL
13/20
230
1
0
85
82
3
The running game was working well enough against Detroit for Flacco to spend his day idly handing off before being pulled for Troy Smith, but wouldn't it have made sense to give him more than four pass attempts in the second half? Wouldn't it have boosted the confidence of a guy whose numbers have been sagging over the past few weeks? Instead, those lone four attempts were all completed for first downs totaling 87 yards.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
12.
Jason Campbell WAS
16/28
222
2
0
73
64
9
13.
Kerry Collins TEN
11/19
144
1
0
56
56
0
Young had three passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield in eight attempts. Collins had one such pass amongst his 19 throws, a completion to Nate Washington. Before that completion, Collins had gone 1-of-22 on passes thrown 20 yards or more downfield this year, with a streak of 20 incompletions or interceptions before that completion to Washington. If he's required to stay in the lineup, the Titans can't throw the ball deep. That pushes the safeties back up to the line of scrimmage or out wide, squashing a lot of Chris Johnson's ability to get into the open field and make magic happen.
14.
Peyton Manning IND
20/42
220
4
3
43
43
0
Manning converted his first five third downs, only for the Broncos to stop him on the next six times he faced the penultimate down. He finished up by converting his final two third downs, including a one-yard toss to Dallas Clark for the slot receiver's third score of the game. It goes down in the record books as 7-of-13, and it might just be a small sample tricking us, but it sure seems like Manning had something going on third down, the Broncos took it away, and Manning got it back just in time to save the day.
15.
Brett Favre MIN
17/30
192
1
1
35
32
2
The strength of the Bengals defense is at corner, where star Leon Hall plays across from the merely-very-good Johnathan Joseph. They did a very good job on starting wideouts Sidney Rice and Bernard Berrian, holding the Vikings' pair to eight catches for 82 yards. Rice scored a touchdown that pointed out how difficult it can be to build a great defense around great corners; the Vikings simply motioned him away from out wide and got him matched up against a linebacker in zone coverage. The result was an easy nine-yard touchdown catch.
16.
Aaron Rodgers GB
16/24
180
0
0
31
24
7
17.
Jay Cutler CHI
23/36
209
2
2
29
29
0
As a sign of how effective Matt Forte and the Bears' offensive line were on Sunday, here's the number of yards Cutler had to pick up to convert on third down, listed chronologically: 21, 8, 18, 9, 12, 1, 5, 10, 22, 11. That's an average of 11.7 yards to go; the average quarterback needs to gain an average of 7.7 yards on third down to get a new set to work with.
18.
Chad Henne MIA
21/29
220
0
1
23
26
-3
Most of Henne's success came during a stretch of 17 consecutive completions, but he took two sacks and threw a pick against a pass defense that can't rush the passer or play any sort of tight coverage. 17 consecutive completions sounds good, but when only nine of those passes yield first downs, you don't score a touchdown, and you're playing the league's second-worst pass defense, it's just stealing low-hanging lunch money. Henne might have had a better day if top wide receiver Davone Bess hadn't suffered an ankle injury.
19.
Matt Moore CAR
15/30
197
1
0
7
7
0
Moore was only 5-of-14 on passes to his wide receivers, but those five completions accounted for 112 of his 197 yards (56.8 percent).
20.
Kellen Clemens NYJ
12/22
111
0
0
4
3
1
If Clemens wanted a starting job in this league, he needed to have a better day than this. The situation was set for him: He'd had a chance to practice with the first-team offense, he was playing one of the league's worst pass defenses, and he had relatively good weather to work with. Talk of Clemens "managing the game" is bullhickey; it's a nice way of saying he had awful numbers. He managed to convert only five of the 12 third downs he was up against, and accrued a grand total of 14 yards on six second down attempts.
21.
Carson Palmer CIN
15/25
96
1
0
3
4
-2
It's time to start getting worried about Carson Palmer. Minnesota has a pretty good pass rush, but a mediocre secondary results in a league-average pass defense. That's following games against the miserable Browns and Lions. Palmer should be making an MVP case in these games, but instead, he's gone 45-of-78 for 424 yards with three touchdowns against two picks. That's 5.44 yards per attempt, the stuff you expect out of scared rookie quarterbacks, not Palmer.
22.
Bruce Gradkowski OAK
10/18
153
0
0
-1
-9
8
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
23.
Brady Quinn CLE
6/19
90
0
0
-17
-17
0
20 dropbacks yielded three first downs. Not good. On the bright side, he didn't turn the ball over, only took one sack, and somehow managed to use psychic powers to get his defense to hold the Steelers to six points. On the dark side, two of his completions went for a combined 61 yards; take them out, and Quinn was 2-of-17 for 29 yards. That's close to the Ryan Leaf numbers from the intro.
24.
David Garrard JAC
11/26
139
0
0
-58
-55
-3
Garrard had a 63-yard pass to Torry Holt, but was otherwise averaging three yards per attempt. Not good. Considering he caught one of the six passes thrown to him, the Jags were probably better off letting Mike Sims-Walker sit instead of pushing him into the lineup at the last second despite a calf injury. The NFL is reportedly investigating whether the Jaguars manipulated the injury report, since Sims-Walker played a full game despite being listed as Doubtful, but starting wideouts listed as Doubtful suit up about seven percent of the time. This was one of them.
MNF.
Alex Smith SF
19/35
144
2
2
-85
-84
-1
25.
Matt Cassel KC
27/42
223
0
4
-89
-84
-5
One of Cassel's interceptions was a Hail Mary, but that's still three picks in 14 dropbacks (four in 18 if you want to include the Hail Mary). He was 1-of-5 on passes thrown 20 yards or more downfield, and while he was 12-of-14 throwing to backs and receivers, he was only 15-of-27 on passes to wide receivers. (Unsurprisingly, his pass listed with no intended target fell incomplete.)
26.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
18/32
201
0
0
-91
-93
1
How do you score six points in 60 minutes against the Browns? Drop back 11 times on third down and convert exactly one of them. Roethlisberger even failed to complete a pass on the first nine of those attempts, taking five sacks and throwing four incompletions.
MNF.
Kurt Warner ARI
16/29
178
0
2
-99
-99
0
27.
Matt Hasselbeck SEA
24/35
247
1
1
-99
-99
0
Center Chris Spencer has a broken right thumb that's forcing him to snap the ball with his left hand; instead of moving over rookie Max Unger, who was a center in college a year ago, the team is having Spencer snap the ball with his left hand. The situation went reasonably well until Sunday, when Hasselbeck and Seneca Wallace were the recipients of three botched snaps in 13 chances. Hoping that it might motivate them the same way it did Olindo Mare earlier in the season, Jim Mora responded by throwing his entire offensive line under the bus after the game. He might want to try asking them to do things they're capable of doing.
28.
Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF
12/20
88
1
1
-104
-111
8
Fitzpatrick cost the Bills ten points on Sunday. A fumble on a third-and-3 sack on his own 16 set the Chiefs up for a field goal, and an awful interception in the Chiefs' end zone cost the team seven more. You could live with that if Fitzpatrick did more when he wasn't breaking hearts, but his other 20 dropbacks provided only three first downs and a touchdown to Terrell Owens.
29.
Daunte Culpepper DET
17/34
135
0
2
-107
-90
-17
30.
JaMarcus Russell OAK
10/16
74
0
1
-119
-119
0
31.
Josh Freeman TB
14/33
93
0
3
-165
-176
11
It doesn't explain away Freeman's bad day, but the Jets are both the best pass defense in the league (by DVOA) and a particularly bad matchup for the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay's got one very good wide receiver (Antonio Bryant), an athletic tight end (Kellen Winslow), and a bunch of tall guys that can be a threat if they can get single coverage downfield, but are easy to get underneath and disrupt at the line. The Jets have one elite cornerback (Darrelle Revis), a bunch of athletic linebackers and safeties, and drop off from there.
32.
Keith Null STL
27/43
158
1
5
-188
-188
0
Null completed one pass thrown more than ten yards downfield. Three of his interceptions were thrown within six yards of the line of scrimmage. He had completions of -2, -1, and zero yards, and 13 of his 27 completions were for four yards or less. The idea behind that sort of offense is to limit the number of reads a quarterback has to make while keeping the pass rush off of him, but it didn't work.


Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
MNF.
Frank Gore SF
167
1
10
0
66
69
-3
Gore has three of the top six running back DYAR games this season: 79 DYAR in Week 2 (against Seattle) and Week 9 (against Tennessee), then this game. Gore's performance dropped Arizona from seventh to 13th in team run defense DVOA.
1.
Willis McGahee BAL
76
2
2
0
48
51
-4
Virtually every time McGahee was handed the ball, he did something productive. Only one of his 12 carries went for fewer than three yards, he scored twice, and had runs of 13 and 19 yards. It might seem like child's play against the Lions' rush defense, but Detroit was actually 11th against the run this year heading into this week. That will change on Tuesday, when the new DVOA numbers are released. A lot.
2.
Jason Snelling ATL
37
1
65
0
45
15
29
Snelling picked up 56 yards on two angle routes out of the backfield, but when the Falcons went to that same well on their final offensive play of the game, Snelling was stopped for a yard's gain on fourth-and-2.
3.
Ray Rice BAL
166
1
53
0
42
59
-18
Rice had eight more rushing DYAR than McGahee, but rates below him because he fumbled six yards away from the end zone on the Ravens' opening drive. It ended up not mattering when the Ravens produced 48 points, but that doesn't make Rice's fumble any less important at the time.
4.
Ryan Grant GB
137
2
7
0
41
41
1
Starting the day with a 62-yard touchdown run is usually a good way to end up on this list. He later added a one-yard plunge for his second touchdown of the day, and didn't have a single carry on third down all day.
5.
Reggie Bush NO
39
0
46
2
35
-5
40
Reggie Bush isn't emerging as anything over the past few weeks; he's simply returned to the same player he was in the first half of the 2008 season, a very good receiver out of the backfield that offers nothing in the running game. That's a valuable player, albeit not what the Saints were expecting or paying for coming out of college. He actually ran for 41 yards on his six attempts, but a fumble weighs down those numbers.


Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Knowshon Moreno DEN
63
0
13
0
-31
-29
-3
Moreno was stuffed on a third-and-1 and two different fourth-and-1's. He got three carries inside the Colts 12 and ran for a total of two yards. After coming into Sunday with a success rate of 54 percent on his carries, he was at half that -- 26 percent -- on his 23 carries on Sunday. He didn't fumble, but it was a dreadful day.


Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
DeSean Jackson PHI
6
7
178
29.7
1
83
Jackson's totals do not include his punt return for a touchdown, described as "football genius" by our Tim Gerheim. If you can get deep and catch virtually all the passes thrown to you, you're going to be a successful receiver, and five of the six completions to Jackson were thrown 15 yards or more downfield.
2.
Andre Johnson HOU
11
15
193
17.5
2
70
Why is Jackson ahead of Johnson, who scored an additional touchdown? Well, Jackson nearly equalled Johnson's yardage total with half the targets required. And the Giants' pass defense was ranked 11th in DVOA heading into Sunday, while the Seahawks were 27th. Johnson had 80 YAR and Jackson had 82, but the defensive adjustment (the 'D' in DYAR) provides for most of the separation between them.
3.
Greg Camarillo MIA
7
7
110
15.7
0
49
It's the second-worst pass defense in football, but Camarillo caught everything that was thrown to him and picked up five first downs, nine yards on a second-and-10, and six on a second-and-8. One downside was his lack of YAC: Only 10 of Camarillo's 110 receiving yards were after the catch.
4.
Benjamin Watson NE
3
3
37
12.3
1
44
Watson's three catches were for two first downs and a touchdown, and he also picked up a 30-yard pass interference penalty. Incomplete passes or unsuccessful plays are like outs in baseball; it's hard to have a bad game when you go 4-for-4.
5.
Robert Meachem NO
4
5
57
14.2
0
43
For a player widely regarded as an awful bust heading into this season, Meachem has quickly emerged over the past few weeks as a receiver good enough to challenge Marques Colston for the Saints' top spot. Even though Meachem was a healthy scratch for his entire rookie season after being selected in the first round, there were always signs of his talent; in the 2008 preseason, Meachem had one of the plays of the decade, a 60-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown that saw him go through nearly the entire Cardinals defense with a series of jukes and broken tackles. Of course, it was the fourth quarter of a Week 1 preseason game, so he was playing against camp fodder, but it's still an amazing play.


Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Calvin Johnson DET
4
12
37
9.2
0
-42
Johnson's second appearance in this space in three weeks has more to do with the foibles of Daunte Culpepper than Johnson's own level of play. We'll cut him some slack.

(Ed. Note: Quick Reads appears on ESPN Insider on Monday, then gets republished on FO on Tuesdays, with added ratings for Monday Night Football.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 15 Dec 2009

87 comments, Last at 16 Dec 2009, 5:16pm by Shalimar

Comments

1
by Dr. Mooch :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 1:54pm

For Cassel that should read, "to backs and tight ends," right?

2
by Doogie (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 1:55pm

Where does Jason Campbell rank this week? Is there a reason that he isn't ranked?

3
by Rock Sumos (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:01pm

I don't see any Skins / Raiders stats. Must have skipped that game.

8
by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:10pm

AAAARRRGGGHHH. I hate when this happens. There was an error at the page where we get the play-by-play. Now I have to go get that game and do it and re-do everything. Grrrrr. I'll add Washington and Oakland numbers when they're done.

12
by Paul R :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:30pm

How unprofessional! I want my money back!

32
by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:58pm

OK, Oakland and Washington now added.

50
by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:14pm

Mr. Snyder and Mr. Davis would like you to take them back out again.

5
by EaglesFan (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:03pm

Good catch, where is Jason?

I'd also like to know where Vick falls on this.

9
by Fontes of Wayne :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:11pm

JC transcends the earthly concept of "ranking."

4
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:02pm

Gore is the love child of Emmitt Smith and Ahman Green. Great to see him show his stuff on a national stage. Two of his best moments were teh result of making Rolle look silly when he overpursued and Gore cut back, which could be a technique problem for Rolle.

Smith wasn't very good but some of that seemed to be a lack of familiarity with Crabtree, who looks like he could become awesome. I love the way he plucks the ball out of the air, he has hands like granite flypaper.

The o-line did a decent job against a pretty good cards front seven.

Vernon Davis seems to have added a new route to his tree; previously he could only run a fly and a drag, both of which involve running in a straight line, but now he's added the hook, running in a straight line and then stopping.

The defense was outstanding.

7
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:06pm

Karl, if Crabtree has representation with more intelligence than a lemur, I think the 49ers are the NFC West champs. That frustrates the hell out of me, and I am merely a distant and lukewarm fan of the team.

11
by t.d. :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:16pm

not sure if smith supplants hill without his developing a rapport with crabtree as fellow second teamers.

33
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:59pm

Not sure what you're talking about. Crabtree wasn't around long before he was starting. He signed on October 7th, was starting on the 25th. You think 18 days of building rapport made all the difference, huh?

31
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:55pm

No kidding. Six of our losses this year: by 3, 3, 4, 7, 6, and 3. With so many narrow margins, it's tempting to think we would have had a few more wins if Crabtree had been around for training camp and the first weeks of the season.

35
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 4:04pm

If I'm not watching the Zombie King and his Undead Legion, adorned in purple, the two teams I like watching most are the Forty Niners and Dolphins. Childhood allegiances aside, I just have a soft spot for flawed teams that are very competent at smacking their opponents in the nose. Loved last night's game!

27
by TomC :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:34pm

That was my first prolonged look at Smith this year, and I thought he was worse than "not very good". The two deep balls on the first drive weren't even close, and I saw very few passes in general thrown with any kind of accuracy. I applaud Singletary & Raye for putting Smith back in the shotgun and otherwise trying to make the best of the situation, but they've got to look for an upgrade at that position next year.

28
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:43pm

Yeah, Smith really surprised me with how terribly inaccurate he still is at times. He often still looks like a college qb who runs a run-oriented spread offense.

56
by beargoggles :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:32pm

Unfortunately, because Smith is "improving" and "developing rapport" with the receivers, and finally will keep an offensive coordinator for 2 years in a row, management will decide he's the answer, and waste another 2 years not solving this problem. Which is a shame, because while all the narrow losses somewhat overstate how good the team is, the Niners actually have excellent players throughout the roster for the first time in years, and are actually just a handful of pieces (OL, corner, QB) away from being really good.

Really kicking themselves over the Minnesota finish and Seattle clunker. With even one of these wins, still would have realistic playoff chances.

71
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:06pm

Yeah, that Seattle game was so fluky. I felt like the 49ers were one stupid, horrible failed reverse on a kickoff return from squelching the Seahawks early.

I like our CBs. Spencer and Clements and Brown, and Bly is a pretty good #3-4 if we keep him around. It's our safeties I don't trust.

74
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:46pm

The Seattle game would probably been won if either the stupid reverse on that punt had never even been drawn up or that official with the white cane and the little dog had thrown a flag at the Delanie Walker mugging.

I agree with you about our cornerbacks but I quite like how Dashon Goldson has played in his first year as a starter. He was immense last night, forcing three very influential turnovers. His hit on Hightower to force the fumble near the goalline was devastating, after showing fantastic range to track across the field from free safety to right offensive tackle. His interception ended Arizona's first real drive and he delivered another jarring hit to force his second fumble. He also killed Arizona momentum when he prevented two huge plays on deep passes to Fitzgerald. Lewis is a liability in coverage though. I'd like the niners to take the best safety or corner available and then move Clements to the other spot.

I can't work out what they should do at OLB, Brooks flashes real talent as does Lawson but neither have demonstrated that they can be relied on to produce. I think that Lawson would be an oustanding SAM in a 4-3 but I wonder if he can be a great end-backer. Haralson has been disappointing since the opening game against the Cards, I was hoping to see him play well last night but Brooks rather stole his thunder.

49
by Brendan Scolari :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:13pm

Yeah, he was incredibly bad. It's quite disappointing that he played so much worse than he has in any other game this season on Monday Night Football, as I'm sure that's how he will be perceived for the rest of the year and the off-season, when in reality he's been quite a bit better than that.

55
by zenbitz (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:27pm

Smith looked much worse last night that he has looked in his previous games. His accuracy was way off and his decision making was sketchy. Perhaps he was confused at having a little bit of time to throw the ball.

61
by Viliphied (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:55pm

I thought his decision making was generally pretty good. Sure, there were a couple throws he made that weren't the best ideas, but generally, though his throws were inaccurate, the players they were going to were open.

73
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:28pm

To all of the above that have posted about Smith:

He was pretty poor last night but it was probably his worst game since regaining the starting job. What is a little odd is that he had pretty good protection despite playing a decent pass rush.

On a couple of the deep throws to Crabtree there seemed to be a lack of understanding between the two. However, on the deep post he just missed him. Smith still has a tendency to lock his front leg, a common problem for young quarterbacks league-wide, and this leads to overthrows.

It's hard to assign full responsibility to a qb for a pick off a batted ball but Smith was guilty of eyeballing his target. Dockett did make a very good play though. The second pick was an awful decision to try and force the ball to Walker through Wilson, to make matters worse Davis was wide open to his left and Smith never saw him.

Overall I do think that Smith is a work in progress but that he will become a starting quality quarterback, remember that he's still only 25 and missed most of the past two years to injury. I'd like to see how he can develop if given the chance to really bed in any one system (though peversely I'm not sure Raye is the right answer there) and given a decent offensive line. I really don't want to see the niners draft a qb just for the heck of it, the niners seem to really like Nate Davis and a draft pick has no more guarantee to succeed than Smith. I'd rather they bolstered the rest of the squad.

I actually think that one of the most pressing problems facing the niners is the abject return game. There was another muffed punt last night and I can think of three games where utter incompetence on returns has really cost us (last week at Seattle, Green Bay and Houston spring to mind). The niners could have a couple more wins with a competent returner who could accomplish the simple task of not dropping the ball.

6
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:03pm

The Vikings secondary is not mediocre when Antione Winfield is healthy. He has a remarkable impact for a cover-2 corner.

For all the grief he gets, Tony Romo is pretty good.

Jay Cutler has zero help, but if they don't get him some (by drafting well?....ooops, never mind) by next year, his situation in Chicago may become untenable, and he might slip into Jeffgeorgiastan. Oh well, at least Jason Whitlock will have a reliable source for material.

20
by starzero :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:09pm

As a Colts fan, the concept of Jeffgeorgiastan makes me both laugh and cry. Mostly cry.

47
by Bobman :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:07pm

But it is one SWEET word, akin to the multiple used of Clavin on "Cheers" and Jamarcus as a verb. "Son, don't jamarcus-up at school or you'll be stuck working a no-good, dead-end, jamarcusing job sweeping the streets like your old man...."

43
by Temo :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 4:32pm

For all the grief he gets, Tony Romo is pretty good.

It's amazing how often he's called overrated when people are really just overrating everyone else around him. Roy Williams, Marion Barber, Felix Jones, Flozell Adams (by some), Andre Gurode, Leonard Davis, and Patrick Crayton all qualify for overrated.

(On the other hand, Choice, Kosier, Deon Anderson, and Columbo would all qualify as underrated)

44
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 4:48pm

It was more obvious last year, when people were ripping Romo, and I was thinking, "Have these critics ANY notion of what competent pass blocking looks like?".

It has been better this year, but the notion that the Cowboys are simply loaded with talent everywhere, which one still hears from professional babblers with regularity, is really an ignorant take. Romo is way down the list of their concerns, to the point that he really isn't a concern at all, if the rest of the roster would improve a little bit. Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, the oil tycoon turned Certified Football Genius decided to trade a lot of draft value for another overrated Roy Williams.

51
by maestro876 :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:19pm

That's similar to the Chargers this year as well. Studio talking heads endlessly go on about how it's the "most talented team in the league", when they really aren't. They've got talent in a few key positions, but are seriously deficient in key areas.

Which makes the fact that they're won 10 games so far and probably a few more an even bigger feat.

53
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:27pm

"Most talented in the league" generally means "most good fantasy football selections."

87
by Shalimar (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 5:16pm

They're just living a few years in the past imo. When the Chargers had a prime Tomlinson along with Turner at tailback, Rivers backing up Brees at QB, Jamal Williams and several better inside linebackers in the middle of their defense along with a few other changes, that was when they arguably had the best talent in football. Their only weak personnel areas were a lack of wide receiving talent (since remedied) and a mediocre at best defensive backfield (somewhat better but still with problems). The star power has diminished some since then with age, injury and departure, and they haven't drafted or signed a pro-bowl caliber player in 3 years to replace the ones they have lost.

84
by Arson55 :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 10:26pm

The prime people responsible for underrating Choice are on the Cowboys coaching staff. That they continue to give Barber chances while Choice touches the ball 2-3 times a game is inexcusable.

And I think Marc Columbo is horribly underrated. You do not see many right tackles as good as that man.

Now, yeah, Adams and Gurode especially are horribly overrated.

10
by t.d. :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:14pm

i'm stunned the giants' pass defense ranks in the top half of the league.

14
by Mansteel (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:47pm

As someone who's watched every NYG game this year, I thought exactly the same thing. It's amazing what facing Byron Leftwich, Matt Cassel, and Jamarcus (capital or lowercase M?) can do for your stats...oh, and Kenny Phillips' presence the first two games helped a lot also.

Speaking of Jamarcus, I can't wait to see where he ranks. Factoring in sacks, he had 18 yards in 22 dropbacks. Beautiful.

13
by nat :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:32pm

I respectfully disagree about the Manning """fumble""". (I see your quotes and raise you four.) Replay and booth review are at their best when they let the referee see things he missed, or judge exact timing of events (knees down, etc) that are hard to judge in real time. In those cases, the referee should make the correct call based on the newly clarified facts.

This particular play did not feature either missed events or misread timings. The referee saw everything he needed to see in real time, and knew the order that things happened. He then made a judgment that Manning was down by his own act, not as a result of the earlier contact.

Everything that made the call difficult in real time remained difficult in the replay. But replay should not be about getting a second bite at the judgment apple. It's about giving the referee a close look at events and timings he may have missed in the original call.

18
by Rick (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:07pm

I agree.
More than that, though, Eli DID fumble. After his shirt was released, he took 2 full steps. It could be said they were "unsteady", but that's a matter of subjectivity. As far as I could tell, he took full steps and the shirt pulling didn't cause any "unsteadiness". He then took a wobbly THIRD step, and hit the ground, clearly trying to slide to avoid a hit, albeit headfirst.

The ground, in this situation, CAN CAUSE A FUMBLE, since no contact was made (a player leapt over him).

To say the shirt pulling represented "down by contact" would mean an earlier call that had gone against the Eagles (Celek's mugging on the goal line) should've been overturned.
Eli's loss of the ball cost them, minimally, a FG (3 points) while Celek's cost the Eagles a TD (4 points, since they got the FG). Overall, if you want to argue the fumble was NOT a fumble, then the worst you can say is it was a make up call.

What I'd like to know, however, is how DeSean Jackson gets headbutted and no flag is thrown? Or how 2 late contact calls (against Nicks?) were made when they were nothing more than ticky tack. It was, generally, a poorly officiated game.

But Eli DID fumble.

26
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:27pm

Keep in mind, you're reading FO. Excessive complaining about the refs and unrealistic-to-terrible suggestions for improvement continue to be the worst element of their writing.

36
by K (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 4:07pm

Bias is fun.

Would you like to discuss officiating from two nights ago?

I believe what is happening on this punt return is called "holding".

http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/12/14/sports/football/20091213SPTS...

41
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 4:25pm

Hey, my point, not everything is going to get called or get called correctly. It's part of the game. I don't think there was any bias and I think the refs were more or less fine in the game. I'm sure there were uncalled penalties on both sides of the ball, by both teams - as well as ticky-tack violations flagged that easily could've been over-looked. That photo does indeed look like a hold, but I'm sure you'll admit that Celek was heavily interfered with on the goal-line pass - that's just the way the game goes. Sometimes the calls go for your team and sometimes not.

FO has made a specialty of not understanding that officiating is by its nature subjective, inaccurate and inconsistent. It will always be an art and not a science...

57
by K (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:35pm

chemical burn: my apologies, that was in no way directed towards you. The response was towards Rick but it fell underneath yours, as you replied first, thus making it look like a direct response.

59
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:43pm

no problem. my mistake. we'll see if this posts under you, K... or pat (with whom I have clearly had many problems...)

54
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:27pm

Getting a hold of a jersey isn't necessary holding. It's more a question of the continuing action. Hence the "the blocker immediately must work to bring his hands on or inside the frame" thing. How long before "immediately" kicks in is a judgement call.

I'm not saying there was or wasn't holding there, just that that still shot doesn't show holding - the defender had just shifted his frame away from the blocker, so it all depends on what the blocker does next. If he works his hands back inside, it's perfectly fine.

66
by Andrew B :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 6:29pm

Not holding. His hand is inside and in front of the frame. As long as he releases when his man pulls away from being driven back by the block, a blocker can grab jersey inside the frame to make a block. You'll see that on every play in the NFL.

"Blocker cannot use his hands or arms to push from behind, hang onto, or encircle an opponent in a manner that restricts his movement as the play develops."
http://www.nfl.com/rulebook/useofhands

But if you really want to go by your interpretation, this is holding too against Bunkley:

http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/12/14/sports/football/20091213SPTS...

The Original Andrew

67
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 6:53pm

But was the O'Hara holding on the screen pass legit? I smell bias in the Eagles favor! Those dirty refs! They stole the game!

78
by Rick (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:48pm

I looked at that, and it's hard to say what it is, you're allowed to get up under the shoulderpads. The most you could say is it SEEMS the shirt is being "pulled", but that would depend if he has a grip on it - which isn't clear given the position under the pads.

Regardless, you said something about "bias"...I think the bad calls went both ways. It's just that the most CLEARLY OBVIOUS ones seemed (to me) to be against the Eagles. I mean Celek on the goal line was one of the most obvious over the back holds I've ever seen, and DeSean Jackson was headbutted right in front of a ref AND the camera.

I'm not saying these calls would've made a difference overall, because the Giants got their fair share of calls against, but most were very clear. The only questionable one (barely) was the Eli fumble - and that's the one people will focus on because he could've gotten at least 3 on the drive and made a momentum shift. Or not. Who knows?
It's all hypothetical. But to focus solely on the Eli fumble, and forget the most blatant and obvious non-calls prior to it, is idiocy at a very high level. In general, calls go both ways and as a result even out over the course of a game. There are very rare cases (Ed Hochuli) where it plays a major role in determining the outcome.

15
by JasonTaylorEatsBrady (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:52pm

That was some cruel smack you laid on Henne. The guy played a great game. Jeez.

19
by Temo :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:09pm

I watched that game and saw nothing close to "great"ness. It was a decent enough game.

16
by Jets fan! (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:53pm

Kellen Clemens did not look so hot. However, if he played every game for the Jets this season, exactly like that -- they would probably have 10 wins now, as opposed to 7 -- it was the interceptions that killed the Jets this year ... all they need is someone to hand the ball off, and someone that wont turn it over. You know -- the trent dilfer superbowl recipe. . .

22
by Led :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:14pm

No way. They beat the Bills the first time. I'll give you that. But I still think they lose at the Pats and at NO (NO's offense would've scored more than 10 points if they had to). And Sanchez played pretty well in the other three losses -- the two Miami games and against Jacksonville. Eight wins would be better than seven, but I wouldn't assume that Clemens would've played turnover free mediocre ball all year. Clemens is who he is. With Sanchez, there is at least hope that he will improve into a good QB.

46
by are-tee :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 4:57pm

All Kellen Clemens does is win...actually, the Jets are 4-0 in games in which Clemens took at least one snap at QB (he's also now the holder for Feely).

People may not realize that one of the reasons Clemens lost the "QB competiton" to Sanchez was that he was throwing a lot of picks in the training camp scrimmages.

17
by bingo762 :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:06pm

I'm tired of people ragging on the Eagles offense for not equaling the Giants in terms of yards and I'm tired of comments like this, "Of course, the Eagles' offense was outscored by the Giants, 38-31; it was their defense and special teams scoring 14 points that won them the game"

That's precisely why they were outscored and outgained. Their defense and special teams scoring took possessions away from their offense. This is not a bad thing.

21
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:14pm

yeah, what's particularly strange is that the authors of this list should be well aware that it's ordered in terms of DYAR, a counting stat. I'm willing to bet that McNabb's DVOA for this game is somewhere in the neighborhood of Eli's: he clearly played just about as well, he just had fewer chances to accrue DYAR because of Special Teams and Defensive TD's...

25
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:23pm

Sorry to double post, but that blurb is even more annoying because it strangely dismisses a very good game by McNabb. He barely overshot Reggie Brown, but that's the team's #5 receiver who was pressed into duty because of injuries to Curtis and Maclin - grrr, it's outrageous that his accuracy was off by a matter of inches on deep throw to a receiver who he's barely practiced with all year! Also, his interception looked like Celek's fault to me (a miscommunication at worst). McNabb played amazing well for a guy missing his starting right tackle, his starting running back and 2 of his top 3 receivers - give him some credit for keeping things together this year and stop casually deriding him for streakiness!

65
by Andrew B :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 6:13pm

Starting Right Tackle and starting Right Guard.

The Original Andrew

69
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 6:55pm

Don't you feel like they didn't actually intend for Stacy to start? I believe the theories that he was brought in purely to help Shawn cope with his depression - Shawn isn't playing, so Stacy goes the Curtis route of "let's bring him back from the injury... slowly. so very slowly. no need to rush Maclin and Cole off the field..."

85
by Sifter :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 11:32pm

Well if they didn't want Stacy to start when they signed him he's getting a hell of a lot of cash for his moral support. Perhaps they were just outbidding someone else to sign him but still... Now in 'under the cap', Hassell pointed out that Stacy's contract has a very low guaranteed percentage. But he's still in the top 10 guard/center contracts at the moment. The dude should be starting.

79
by Rick (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:55pm

I agree. Blaming McNabb for Reggie Brown's failure to complete is absurd. Reggie has failed several times over the years (last year against Washington?). He's a step and a second slow. If that was Peyton tossing to his 5th string WR, people would say "what's up with the WR?" But there is a natural knee-jerk to bash McNabb on the part of virtually everyone.
The most common one is the "threw the ball to the wrong place" call. I've seen Brady throw the ball over the far shoulder of his WR many times, and they expect it, and catch it, because it's AWAY from the defender. When McNabb does it, for some bizarre reason, his receivers have a occasional tendency to turn INTO the defender and the ball sails over them. The commentary "McNabb placed the ball improperly." I don't get it.

Celek stopped his route short - the announcers even mentioned this. It was clearly a timing pattern and he ended early. Anyone sitting here can say the ball shouldn't have been thrown - but if you're in the game, it's happening at a different speed.

If McNabb had a Y/A of 5.0 and 50% completion rate with 2 INTs and 1 TD, I'd agree with some of the BS that's been laid against him here. But his stats, overall, were damn good. A 108 Rating, 2 TDs and 1 Int, 10 Y/A....overall pretty damn good.

30
by mm (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:54pm

he clearly played just about as well, he just had fewer chances to accrue DYAR because of Special Teams and Defensive TD's...

Eli- 206 Pass DYAR on 38 attempts (-5 rushing DYAR)
McNabb-83 Pass DYAR on 26 attempts (+2 rushing DYAR)

Eli had a better day per pass play this game.

Checking the QB stats for the season to date, Eli is 11th with a 20.4% DVOA, while McNabb is 20th with a 9.0% DVOA.

40
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 4:19pm

We should go by drop-backs, not attempts. Eli was sacked 3 times and took off running 2. McNabb, 1 and 2. So, that's 201 DYAR on 43 plays for Manning and 85 DYAR for McNabb on 29 plays. That's roughly 4 1/2 DYAR per play (redundant?) for Manning and 3 for McNabb. A decent enough difference, but not one guy blowing the other out of the water. Eli had 14 more opportunities to accrue DYAR, a not insignificant difference.

Also, factor in that so many of McNabb's passes in the 4th quarter were designed to be short, high % plays to move the chains and take time off the clock. His objective was 7 yards a completion, no interceptions, sacks or fumbles - which he accomplished to a T. Eli was constantly forced into a position where he needed to take shots down the field and close a gap in score caused by... special teams play and defensive TD's. McNabb was coming from behind for exactly 1 play. In other words, Manning was trying for big plays and using less time. Is there any evidence whatsoever that McNabb wouldn't have been able to have the exact same numbers as Manning, if circumstance had dictated it?

I'm not trying to say Eli played bad (he obviously played great) but McNabb played just about as well, if you consider what was actually happening on the field...

34
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 4:04pm

I'm willing to bet that McNabb's DVOA for this game is somewhere in the neighborhood of Eli's: he clearly played just about as well, he just had fewer chances to accrue DYAR because of Special Teams and Defensive TD's...

I wouldn't. Vick picked up a fair amount of DYAR what with the long pass to Jackson and the rushing TD.

Also, and more importantly:
NYG, pass def: 2.0%
PHI, pass def: -16.9%

McNabb should've played much better. Of course, that assumes that Mikell, Brown, and Jones having awful days weren't the cause of Manning playing much better, but we have no way of knowing.

39
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 4:18pm

Should've played MUCH better? That's just ludicrous. The Eagles only punted once and had one interception. They scored on nearly every possession. To say he should've played MUCH better is just stupid.

LeSean McCoy should've played MUCH better. Reggie Brown should've played MUCH better. The Eagles defense should've played MUCH better. But McNabb did everything asked of him and he did it well.

Philly fans really don't deserve McNabb...

58
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:39pm

Should've played MUCH better?

Should've played much better than that to end up with a higher DVOA than Manning. I think they played about the same (though Eli had no picks), but the Eagles defense has been much better than the Giants defense.

But McNabb did everything asked of him and he did it well.

Ignoring the interception, the miss to Brown, the sack/fumble, a few poor passes early on, some passes in the late third... sure. Everything. McNabb played well, but "everything asked of him"? No, there was certainly room for improvement.

The Eagles only punted once

You know, vitriol is much more effective when it's actually true. The Eagles punted four times (the Giants punted three). Philly scored on 5/10 real drives. New York scored on 6/11 real drives.

62
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:57pm

Wiat - what are you arguing? Should've played MUCH better to end up with higher DVOA? Um... obviously? If you're saying he should've played much better in the game, you're just wrong. It's ridiculous to criticize McNabb for the interception and the Brown miss and the sack/fumble - none of those are on McNabb as much as the team around him.

Mea culpa on the one punt - I can't remember where I saw that and should've checked it. Maybe it was only once in the second half. And doesn't 5/10 on real drives vs. 6/11 on real drives seem comparable to you? Doesn't that prove my point that McNabb played more or less as well as Eli? The Eagles running game was its typical shaky self and the Giants were running well, so Manning even had a good running attack to take the pressure off.

If McNabb didn't do everything that was asked of him, wouldn't you say the same of Eli? And if Eli didn't have a good game, who has ever had a good game in the history of the NFL? I'm not even sure what you're arguing here: I'm saying McNabb and Manning had comparable games, that DYAR is overstating the difference in their value, that they both played well.

If you want to say there was "room for improvement" with Eli, then fine: ignoring the fumble, the two slightly off throws leading Manningham out of bounds, the sack/fumble, a few poor passes early on, some passes late in the fourth... sure. everything. There's always "room for improvement" - no one goes 25/25 for 375 yards and 4 TD's.

But I'm not even sure what the point is: McNabb has had some terrible games where there's "room for improvement." To call this one of them is ridiculous...

68
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 6:53pm

Wiat - what are you arguing? Should've played MUCH better to end up with higher DVOA? Um... obviously?

Right, previously you said:

"I'm willing to bet that McNabb's DVOA for this game is somewhere in the neighborhood of Eli's"

In order for that to be true, McNabb would've had to play much better, since the Giants defense hasn't been nearly as good. And he could've, obviously, since he did have miscues. Hence the "room for improvement" comment. If McNabb had been absolutely perfect, then I would've just said it's a failing in a measurement that you can't measure better than perfect.

Maybe it was only once in the second half.

Once in the first half. The remaining three were in the second half.

The Eagles running game was its typical shaky self and the Giants were running well

Yeah, except for that whole 'fumble returned for a touchdown' thing. You know, it's kindof surprising: it really felt like the Giants were running well, but they ran 30 times, and only half of those (15) were actually "successful" plays by FO's standards. The Eagles ran 22 times, and 10 of those were "successful" - but that's biased a bit by the Eagles doing three obvious runs to bleed time at the end of the game. If you take those off, the Eagles running game was actually successful more often than the Giants, and they didn't have a turnover or any holding penalties.

You could also arguably add in the two Vick passes, since we're really talking about "non-McNabb" and "non-Manning" passes.

(put another way: a turnover's 40 yards, add in 10 for a holding penalty, and the Giants running game contributed 75 'yards' - the Eagles running game contributed 72 'yards'. Pretty much the same.)

It's ridiculous to criticize McNabb for the interception and the Brown miss and the sack/fumble

That's very debatable. The interception was a miscommunication between Celek and McNabb - you don't know who made the mistake, and it's arguable McNabb could've seen the mistake. I don't see how the Brown miss is anything but McNabb's fault, as I didn't see Brown slip. The sack/fumble is easily as much on McNabb as Peters: McNabb had a clean pocket in front of him, knew Osi was there (hence the reason he started throwing early), and didn't step up, instead, trying to throw off his back foot.

But I'm not even sure what the point is:

The point was that McNabb had a good day versus an okay defense, and Eli had a good day versus a great defense, so it's not surprising that a defense-adjusted stat would put Manning way ahead, even ignoring the two extra possessions.

71
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:06pm

But wait - we're not arguing... my entire point is that McNabb played better in ways that DYAR is overstating (and that their DVOA will be much closer than the 85 to 201 difference in DYAR). On top of that, I think DVOA will also be over-stating the difference because of all of these mitigating factors, the on-the-field stuff like draining the clock in the 4th quarter with short passes and working with back-ups, to boot.

it's like with the Brown deep bomb incompletion: I just mean McNabb can't be expected to have perfect timing with his #5 receiver who has barely played all season. That's on the same level with Manning leading Manningham out of bounds on the two non-TD plays. Also, it seemed to me like Brown timed his dive for the ball pretty poorly, but again it's a small mistake for McNabb and 100% reasonable. The sack to me looked like Osi making a quick move on a guy who has been vulnerable to them all season (Peters) and McNabb trying to throw quickly rather than trying to step up when his protection was beat. Peters was a little more beat than you're making it out to be (and McNabb probably a little worse on the play than I'm making him out to be).

Also, since I honestly do respect your opinion, I was wondering what you think of McCoy. I think he's obviously pretty bad right now as a pure runner and waaaay too cavalier with the ball, but he's good in the screen-game. You think he could develop? I watch him sometimes and think "man, he really just sucks." Those rushing stats you sight are pretty good, so maybe I'm being too pessimistic...

82
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:26pm

McCoy wasn't terrible on Sunday, just 'meh.' Those three rushes at the end really hurt his average. But he's a pretty mediocre/bad inside runner at this point. Don't really care, though, as RBs who can run are a dime a dozen - the question is whether or not he can pass protect. He was awful in the beginning of the year, and he still looks pretty 'meh.' It's telling that they use Weaver in lots of single-back sets because he's a much better pass protector.

So... not really that bullish on him. But very bullish on Weaver.

83
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 10:14pm

we can all agree that Weaver's the man. When he took that TD run and then Avant converted the two, I thought "You know what, I really like these guys. I just really like this team this year. I enjoy rooting for them."

McCoy not so much. I feel like he keeps getting lumped in automatically on the level with Maclin, Celek and Jackson who are all much better and have way more upside as well. I'd be curious to see what Buckley can do with anything other than garbage time touches. I'm assuming he doesn't get any because of pass protection/screen-game issues. I'm not sure how I feel about Westbrook coming back - he's clearly the best player in the mix, but I like and respect him too much to want to see him risk another concussion...

80
by Rick (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:04pm

Generally, I think the stats here are pretty good and DYAR is a good gauge. But I don't think, in this case, there is a good case for DYAR. Most of Manning's yardage passing came AFTER reception on 2 long TDs. On his one long pass play, McNabb picked up a good portion in the air.

Given the game plan and situation (Eagles having the lead), it's hard to say McNabb was significantly worse than Eli, though DYAR would indicate he was. After all, Eli did fumble twice. While that's not an INT, it's hard to say McNabb's INT was his fault. On the other hand, Eli's fumbles were his own fault (not covering up the ball is poor ball management).

Overall, we're picking nits on this stuff, though. I will put those two teams against each other, and the Eagles will come out on top 8 of 10 times. They have a more explosive offense which generates momentum, better ST, and a defense that CAN (but didn't on Sunday) dominate. The Giants may have had a slightly improved Defense versus their first game....but their offense played WAY better than the first game.

Generally, those kinds of games are the type the Eagles lose - remember Dallas in the first game last year. Miscues do them in, typically, and they lose a close one. I think the Eagles are that much better this year, winning games they usually don't.

23
by D :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:19pm

Factor in that the game came against an Indianapolis defense that only finished the year 18th in pass defense DVOA, at 6.5%...

Umm, the Colts finished second in pass defense in 2005 (-16.5%).

24
by zlionsfan :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:22pm

I saw as little of the Baltimore-Detroit game as I could manage on Sunday, but last I knew Megatron had two things working against him: quarterback selection (either a somewhat-injured Stafford or a post-surgery Culpepper) and his own health. He was obviously not 100% and was limited in what he could do; combine that with an ineffective QB and OL and other receivers that typically don't get open, and you get a recipe for DYAR disaster.

The season is lost (and yet two wins better than last season, which goes to show you how much difference "luck" makes: change one play in the Cleveland game and the Washington game and this team is winless). Let Johnson rest until he is 100%.

29
by RickD :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:51pm

Ben Watson rated higher than Wes Welker?

Let's just say that's counter-intuitive.

37
by mm (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 4:08pm

Reggie Bush isn't emerging as anything over the past few weeks; he's simply returned to the same player he was in the first half of the 2008 season, a very good receiver out of the backfield that offers nothing in the running game. That's a valuable player, albeit not what the Saints were expecting or paying for coming out of college. He actually ran for 41 yards on his six attempts, but a fumble weighs down those numbers

From FO's running back page (updated today)

Reggie Bush rushing DVOA: 18.7%
receiving DVOA: 2.4%

On an unrelated note, Pierre Thomas leads the league in Rushing DVOA. Sure, that's partially because teams load up against Brees (only #2 in DVOA), but still nice for the Saints.

38
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 4:13pm

Welcome back, Jamarcus.

We missed you during the long dark teatime of Gradkowski, when the ability of 'ski to play something resembling league-average quarterback on a good day left us without hope for the Raiders. Now that you're back in the lineup earnign your $65 Million the hard way, we know the Raiders will be back to what they do best, and their position in the basement of the AFC West is assured.

60
by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:54pm

The Kansas City Chiefs take that as a personal challenge, you know.

42
by Jets fan! (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 4:32pm

I'm sticking with this equation:

NJ Jets - 17 interceptions = 10 wins.

& There's no sense speculating as to what kind of QB these guys will "turn into".. that's just guessing. Usually whomever the Jets get rid of turn into playmakers somewhere else... James Farrior, Jonathon Vilma, heck ! Even Favre is making decent decisions & setting the world on fire now that he is gone from the Jets!

63
by BJR (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:59pm

So you are suggesting that if Clemmens had started every game instead of Sanchez there would have been 0 interceptions?

45
by Anonymous61849 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 4:55pm

Weird seeing Eli at the top. Was this Eli's best game ever according to DYAR? First time he's been the top ranked QB?

48
by Bobman :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:11pm

They faced a play-off team and knocked their star rookie RB to the bottom of the weekly heap and somehow, someway, kept a 21-reception 200-yard WR out of the top-5.

bend... bend... bend... bend... bend... brea--NO!--bend... bend... bend...

Somewhere, Flipper Anderson is quaking in his boots. (now THAT was an epic WR game)

52
by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:20pm

Another feather removed from Carson Palmer's cap is that the Vikings had two rookies starting their first games: the MLB and safety. Plus, once getting a two touchdown lead, the Vikings typically have their Dbacks stand on the goal line, freeing up hectares of space in which passes should be completed.

The only explanation is that either Palmer is hurt, or he hates his wide receiver's post-touchdown celebrations so much that Palmer purposefully avoids completing passes to him.

64
by Boots Day (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 6:02pm

How is it that if you take away two Brady Quinn completions, he goes from 6-for-19 to 2-for-17? And I have no idea what the first line of the Matt Cassel item means - if you add in the Hail Mary, he gets four more dropbacks? Did he throw four Hail Marys? And how does he have 18 dropbacks but 42 passing attempts?

I gotta stop reading these things so closely.

76
by ABW (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:23pm

I can't explain the Brady Quinn weirdness, but the Matt Cassel stuff is talking about consecutive dropbacks - he had a string of 14 dropbacks where he threw 3 picks, and at the end of that he had 4 more dropbacks that included the Hail Mary.

It is not at all clear from that blurb that they are talking about consecutive dropbacks, but I think that's what they are talking about.

70
by deflated (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 6:56pm

Okay, I'm really struggling on how to reconcile the Orton and Marshall numbers - is there any relationship between Passing DYAR and Receiving DYAR?

Orton: 29 of 41, 277 yds, 2 TD, 1 Int, 104 Passing DYAR
Marshall: 21 of 28, 200 yds, 2TD, 1 Int (included for completeness), 42 Receiving DYAR (at most).

If you assumed a rough equivalence between Passing and Receiving DYAR (bad assumption but going with it for this) you would be looking at the following for Orton to other receivers:
7 of 13, 77 yds, 0 TD, 0 Int, 62 Pass DYAR.

That doesn't make any sense at all - those are Kellen Clemens figures, I'd expect a single digit passing DYAR. So where is the disconnect - why does it appear that Orton has receieved far more credit (in terms of DYAR) for throwing those short slants compared to Marshall for catching them? It doesn't seem consistent, the Schaub (151 DYAR) / Andre Johnston (70 DYAR) figures look closer to what seems intuitive.

75
by Viliphied (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:21pm

what confuses me most is this:

a 14-yard completion on fourth-and-18 on Marshall's final catch. All five of those passes went for negative DYAR

Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement. That means, if his catch on 4th an 18 went for NEGATIVE DYAR, a replacement-level player would be expected to get the first down. At worst it should have been zero DYAR, as expected success rate on 4th and 18 even for the best players is pretty low.

77
by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:41pm

Overall, an enjoyable entry, Bill, as Quick Reads almost always is.

While I'll never stand accused of being an ardent Brady Quinn supporter, I do note the unfairness of your comment about him: On the dark side, two of his completions went for a combined 61 yards; take them out, and Quinn was 2-of-17 for 29 yards.

Really, you've just said that if we take out the positive numbers, the average of the remaining numbers goes down. I understand that you were trying to illustrate that he was woefully ineffective on the vast majority of plays, and to an extent beyond run-of-the-mill mediocrity. But his overall (rather lousy) numbers already suggest this. I'm certainly not suggesting he didn't suck (or, more accurately, that the Browns' passing offense didn't suck). But to parse relevant data to emphasize (exaggerate?) a point is bad analysis.

More importantly, isn't Quinn completing two passes for a combined 61 yards cause for celebration? The greatest indictment against Quinn is his inability to deliver a catch-able ball that travels more than 10 yards in the air. I did not watch the game (I'm trying to kick the Browns, cold turkey), so I don't know how much of those catches was air-travel vs. YAC. Assuming the split is not outrageous, this would be a minor break-through for Quinn. Granted, two lightening strikes in one game is not exactly a paradigm shift (and can't possibly overcome the 2/17/29 futility-fest), but for a uniquely stunted franchise, isn't it at least a ray of hope?

81
by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:19pm

Every single one of Marshall's catches came while the team was down by 11 points or more, so our methodology takes some air out for picking up yardage in a situation where the winning team is generally playing looser coverage

I was, heretofore, unaware of this aspect of DYAR. On the one hand, I think I understand the rationale. Let's not unduly reward an offense for a first down when the defense is only concerned with preventing touchdowns. Progress in garbage time is not the same as progress in the first quarter.

Still, this seems like a perilous path. We are making assumptions about defensive play that aren't actually being measured. This is exceptionally bad science. Further, we aren't applying the same restrictions across all data, namely, if a defense is playing far from the ideal in the first quarter, this is neither observed nor adjusted for. I'm not calling the whole exercise nonsense, nor am I blindly defending Brandon Marshall (despite my screen name; I did not see the game and have no opinion of Marshall's relative value). This is just one of many problems in trying to objectively measure a very hard-to-measure phenomenon.

86
by mm (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 11:53pm

We are making assumptions about defensive play that aren't actually being measured.

They do have measurements of how other receivers do in similar game situations. Marshall's DYAR was calculated by comparing him to these measurements, rather than measurements of how receivers do in close games, or measurements of how receivers do with a big lead.

Obviously this is imperfect, since defenses don't approach those situations in the same way, but it's likely more accurate than not adjusting for situation.