Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

09 Oct 2012

Week 5 Quick Reads

by Vince Verhei

Comebacks thrill us. Comebacks make our hearts race. Comebacks cause us to stand up and cheer. For all of that, though, comebacks do not necessarily provide an accurate measure of NFL quarterback quality. Just ask Tim Tebow, who led five comebacks in 2011, only to find himself a backup on one of the league's worst offenses in 2012. After all, to come back at the end of a game, you must first play badly enough to fall behind. On the other side of the coin you have a guy like Matt Schaub. The Houston Texans quarterback has put together an 11-3 record as a starter the past two seasons, but he has no comebacks in that time because he has provided his team with so many early leads.

With that in mind, what can we make of Andrew Luck and his big comeback that led the Indianapolis Colts to a 30-27 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday? On the one hand, we must credit him for 31 completions, 362 yards, 16 first downs, and three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing). On the other hand, we can't ignore his 24 incompletions, his four sacks, his interception, or his fumble. The fact is, Luck made a lot of good plays Sunday, but also many bad plays. He dropped back 30 times in the first half and produced only 157 net yards and five first downs. He was one of the biggest reasons the Colts fell behind in the first place. And though Luck had 11 first downs after halftime, including all three touchdowns, we can't forget that even during the comeback he had his struggles. He threw his interception while driving for a potential go-ahead score in the fourth quarter, and he also threw two incompletions as part of a three-and-out drive deep in Indianapolis territory that provided the Packers with excellent field position to set up a go-ahead score of their own.

(Honestly, the Indianapolis defense deserves as much credit for the comeback as Luck does. They let the Packers take the lead on a touchdown drive that started in Indianapolis territory, but Green Bay's seven other second-half drives resulted in four punts, two missed field goals, and an interception.)

Despite his big comeback, Andrew Luck barely makes Football Outsiders' top 10 quarterbacks this week, and actually falls slightly short of his Green Bay counterpart, Aaron Rodgers. Remember too that these numbers account for quality of defense faced. If we ignore that, Rodgers comes out way ahead of Luck.

Still, while it wasn't a great game for Luck, it was a good one, and that's getting to be routine for the rookie. His first game against Chicago was slightly below replacement level, but he has been well above that line every week since. He passed fellow rookie Robert Griffin in passing DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement, explained here) this week and ranks 14th out of 33 qualifying quarterbacks. One month into his career, he is playing like an average starting passer, and has been much better than experienced veterans like Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler, and Tony Romo.

Is this performance unusual? Yes, but it's not unprecedented. The following table shows a semi-complete list of the top quarterbacks as measured by DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) in the first four starts of their career before this season. This includes passing only, not rushing. It only includes players who were starting in their first or second season, so there's no Aaron Rodgers, Kurt Warner, or Philip Rivers. It also omits passers whose first four starts were not consecutive, which eliminates Michael Vick, Cade McNown, and Steve McNair. Below that we'll list the five rookie quarterbacks who are starting this season, along with their DVOA figures:


Top first-year starting QBs after four games
Player
Year
Team
DVOA
Ben Roethlisberger
2004
PIT
34.5%
Tom Brady*
2001
NE
29.3%
Cam Newton
2011
CAR
16.7%
Daunte Culpepper*
2000
MIN
13.0%
Kerry Collins
1995
CAR
-1.1%
Matt Leinart
2006
ARI
-1.7%
Brett Favre**
1992
GB
-2.0%
Drew Brees*
2002
SD
-8.7%
Matt Ryan
2008
ATL
-9.8%
Carson Palmer*
2004
CIN
-12.1%
* Second-year-starter.
** Second-year starter. Includes one game in which Favre threw 39 passes off the bench.
Top rookie QBs, 2012
Robert Griffin
2012
WAS
4.2%
Andrew Luck
2012
IND
0.9%
Ryan Tannehill
2012
MIA
-11.5%
Russell Wilson
2012
SEA
-18.5%
Brandon Weeden
2012
CLE
-26.9%

(Griffin ranks ahead of Luck in DVOA but not DYAR because DVOA is a rate stat, like completion percentage, while DYAR is a counting stat, like yards, and Luck has dropped back 31 more times than Griffin this season.)

Four games is an awfully small sample size for projecting a player's career, but those quarterbacks who have made the strongest first impressions have usually held up over the long haul. Matt Leinart flamed out quickly, and Cam Newton is regressing in his second season, but the other names on this list proved to be quality starters for the better part of a decade or more. That's good news for Griffin, Luck, and even Ryan Tannehill. It's bad news for Russell Wilson and Brandon Weeden. Then again, Peyton Manning's DVOA after four starts was -20.0%, and he turned out OK in the long run.

Obviously, it's far too early to project what Luck is going to do over the next ten years. What we can say now is that he's definitely ahead of the curve for quarterbacks at this stage of his career, and that the Luck vs. Griffin race for rookie of the year is going to rage for 16 games.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Eli Manning NYG
25/37
259
3
1
188
188
0
What’s the opposite of stats padding? Stats shredding? Manning would have scored even higher if he hadn’t been so ineffective in garbage time. He threw a 28-yard pass to Victor Cruz with about 20 minutes left in the game that put the Giants ahead 34-17. From that point forward he went 6-of-11 for 36 yards with two first downs and an interception. On the other hand, he had a stretch over the first and second quarters where he completed 11 passes in a row (including a DPI) for 114 yards and seven first downs, including a touchdown.
2.
Alex Smith SF
18/24
303
3
0
168
151
17
Game manager, schmame schmanager. This was the third 300-yard game of Smith’s career and the third time he has thrown three scores without a turnover, and he set career highs with 12.6 yards per pass and a nigh-perfect passer rating of 156.2. At various times against Buffalo, Smith completed four passes in a row for 85 yards; four passes in a row for 95 yards; three passes in a row for 29 yards; and five passes in a row for 80 yards. Smith actually crushed Manning (both of them, and every other starter this week) in DVOA, but he ranks second here because Eli had 40 pass plays to Smith’s 24. Smith also ran three times for 49 yards.
3.
Peyton Manning DEN
31/44
345
3
0
126
120
6
Inside the red zone, Manning went 4-of-5 for 19 yards with three touchdowns and another first down, and also had a 19-yard DPI that converted a third-and-6 from the 20.
4.
Drew Brees NO
29/45
370
4
1
89
89
0
Saving the best for last: On New Orleans’ last three drives (two touchdowns and a field goal, ignoring the end-of-game kneeldown), Brees went 11-of-14 for 168 yards with nine first downs (including both touchdowns) and one sack.
5.
Tom Brady NE
23/31
223
1
0
89
81
8
Saving the best for first: In the first half Brady went 17-of-20 for 165 yards and 12 first downs, including a touchdown.
6.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
21/36
207
0
0
85
80
5
The Eagles took away the Steelers’ vertical attack, but Roethlisberger found lots of space underneath. He went 0-for-5 on Deep passes (16 yards or more past the line of scrimmage), but 13-of-17 for 128 yards and eight first downs on Short routes (within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage). Six of those Short completions turned into gains of 10 yards or more.
7.
Jay Cutler CHI
23/39
292
2
1
63
54
9
Now here is a case of stats padding. When the fourth quarter started, Cutler was below replacement level in DYAR, but the Bears were still ahead by 10 points because, you know, Blaine Gabbert. Cutler only threw three passes in the fourth quarter, but two of them were touchdowns of 10 and 24 yards, and the other was a 39-yard gain on second-and-6. We’ve written before that the Bears need to give up on first quarter passing. Cutler’s first pass against Jacksonville was intercepted, and he finished the first quarter 3-of-7 for 37 yards. Counting DPIs as completions, Cutler has gone 19-of-43 for 159 yards and only 10 first downs in the first quarter, with three interceptions and four sacks.
8.
Aaron Rodgers GB
21/32
243
3
1
53
32
21
It was all or nothing for Rodgers in the fourth quarter. He went 5-of-7 for 79 yards and four first downs (including a touchdown), but he was also sacked four times.
9.
Ryan Tannehill MIA
17/26
223
0
0
53
53
0
You know the theory that says you should let quarterbacks throw on first down because the defense will be expecting run? That didn’t work out for Tannehill, who went 3-of-8 for 17 yards and no first downs on first down. On second down, though, he went 7-of-9 for 118 yards and six first downs, plus one sack.
10.
Andrew Luck IND
32/55
362
2
1
53
30
23
Effective dink-and-dunking: Luck had a league-high 16 completions that failed to pick up a new set of downs this week, although only six of those met FO’s standards of failed completions.
11.
Matt Schaub HOU
14/28
209
1
1
52
52
0
12.
Matt Ryan ATL
34/52
345
2
1
32
27
4
Atlanta’s screen game was not working against Washington. On passes to receivers at or behind the line of scrimmage, Ryan went 5-of-6, but gained only 15 yards and one first down, and the incompletion was picked off and returned for a touchdown.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
13.
Christian Ponder MIN
25/35
258
2
2
22
11
11
Ponder played best on his own end of the field. Inside the Minnesota 40, he went 8-of-9 for 115 yards and five first downs. He was much more uneven in the rest of the field, though he did throw a pair of red zone touchdowns.
14.
Brandon Weeden CLE
22/35
291
2
2
7
4
4
The anti-Cutler. In the first quarter, Weeden went 6-of-7 for 118 yards and five first downs, including a 62-yard touchdown to Josh Gordon. In the second and third quarters, he had one 38-yard gain on third-and-7, and otherwise went 7-of-14 for 29 yards and no first downs, with an interception.
15.
Robert Griffin WAS
10/15
91
0
0
4
2
2
That’s a nice completion percentage, but it didn’t have a lot of value. Griffin only threw for four first downs, and none of them on third down, when he went 1-of-3 for 5 yards with a sack.
16.
Philip Rivers SD
27/42
354
2
1
3
3
0
Rivers didn’t have a lot of luck once the Chargers crossed the New Orleans 40, going 5-of-10 for 39 yards and two first downs (including a touchdown) plust one DPI, two sacks, and a fumble.
17.
Sam Bradford STL
7/21
141
2
1
-5
-5
-1
Bradford started out 5-of-7 for 81 yards and four first downs (including a touchdown). Then, starting in the second quarter and taking up most of the third, he went 13 consecutive dropbacks without completing a pass, not even a DPI, although he did give up a sack an an interception in that stretch. His final pass in the third quarter was a 9-yard gain on third-and-9, and his only pas of the fourth was a 51-yard touchdown to Chris Givens.
18.
Michael Vick PHI
20/30
175
2
0
-17
19
-36
Vick leads the league with eight fumbles in five games. This is nothing new -- he led the league with 11 fumbles in 2010, and with 16 in 2004. But he has also shown the ability to get over these slumps quickly. He fumbled seven times in the first three games of 2011, but only fumbled three times in ten games the rest of the year. In 2010, his comeback year, he fumbled seven times in three games between November and December, and only four times in his other nine games. The all-time leader in fumbles is Brett Favre, but that’s largely because he played a bazillion games. Warren Moon fumbled 161 times (five fewer than Favre) in 208 games (94 fewer than Favre), a rate of 12.4 fumbles per 16 games. Vick’s rate is 11.6 fumbles per 16 games, so this is not unprecedented. The Eagles will just have to hope he plays his way out of it.
19.
Kevin Kolb ARI
28/50
289
0
0
-32
-35
2
The Cardinals scored three points in three red zone drives against St. Louis. That’s largely due to Kolb, who went 3-of-7 for 16 yards with no first downs and a sack inside the Rams’ 20. His two fourth-down red zone plays resulted in the sack and a completion 3 yards short of the goal-line.
20.
Russell Wilson SEA
19/25
221
1
2
-33
-20
-13
On third downs, Wilson went 9-of-10 for 74 yards, although he only had five first downs (including a touchdown). By the way, here’s a weird little stat to show the struggles with Seattle’s offense are not entirely Wilson’s fault. He had three completions on Sunday that gained at least 10 yards without picking up a first down. That shows the kind of long-yardage situations Wilson was playing in due to penalties. He has seven such completions on the year. Only three other players have so many (Ben Roethlisberger, Robert Griffin, and Peyton Manning), and those players have each thrown at least 14 more passes than Wilson.
21.
Matt Hasselbeck TEN
26/43
203
1
1
-40
-43
3
At the end of third quarter Hasselbeck was 10-of-19 for 86 yards with an interception, two sacks, and only four first downs. At that point the Titans were down by 23, and Hasselbeck had modest success in 24 more meaningless plays.
22.
Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF
16/26
126
0
1
-41
-42
1
The Bills were down 14 points at halftime and needed a big rally. Instead, Fitzpatrick went 6-of-10 for 37 yards with one first down, one sack, and one interception in the third and fourth quarters.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
23.
Andy Dalton CIN
26/43
235
1
2
-56
-68
12
Well, here are some wretched third-down numbers: 2-of-11 for 18 yards, one first down, one interception, one sack. And it’s not because he was in long-yardage situations. His average third-down pass needed 6.5 yards for a first down. Only three other starters (Robert Griffin and the Manning brothers) had easier third-down scenarios this week.
24.
Kirk Cousins WAS
5/9
111
1
2
-57
-57
0
Cousins only had two successful plays: a 77-yard touchdown to Santana Moss and a 20-yard gain to Pierre Garcon. His last two passes were intercepted, and neither qualified as a Hail Mary try. Only two players (Brandon Weeden and Drew Brees) have more than two fourth-quarter interceptions this year.
25.
Matt Cassel KC
9/14
92
0
2
-62
-70
7
We talked in Audibles yesterday about how run-heavy the Chiefs offense was early. To recap, at the end of three quarters, Cassel had three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumbled snap) and only four first downs. He threw only two first-down passes all day, completing one for 9 yards. He threw five passes inside the Ravens’ 40. Two were complete for 13 yards and no first downs. Two were intercepted. The fifth was a DPI, resulting in a 12-yard gain on third-and-4.
26.
Joe Flacco BAL
13/27
187
0
1
-75
-84
9
The league’s leader in deep balls went just 1-of 5 for 43 yards against the Chiefs. Flacco actually did OK on his own side of the field, but once the Ravens crossed the 50, he went 2-of-7 for 12 yards and no first downs, with one interception and one sack. That includes a red-zone performance consisting entirely of four incompletions and a sack.
27.
Mark Sanchez NYJ
14/31
230
1
2
-76
-68
-8
28.
Cam Newton CAR
12/29
141
0
0
-85
-98
13
On Carolina’s first nine drives, Newton went 6-of-21 for 62 yards, with two first downs and three sacks. He played very well on a fourth-quarter drive, at one point completing six passes in a row for 79 yards and five first downs. His fourth-and-goal pass fell incomplete, though, and when the Panthers got the ball back with about a minute left needing a touchdown to win, Newton went incomplete, sack-fumble, game over.
29.
Blaine Gabbert JAC
17/33
142
0
2
-148
-151
3
I think I could write a thousand words just on horrible Blaine Gabbert splits from this game. On first down: 3-of-10 for 8 yards with no first downs, one sack, and a pair of pick-sixes. Second down: 6-of-12 for 66 yards, but only one first down, plus a sack. Red zone: 1-for 3 for 4 yards, with those 4 yards coming on third-and-15. Worst of all, though, is to simply list what Gabbert did in the second half: 7-of-15 for 22 yards, the two pick-sixes, two sacks, and no first downs. He had one successful play in the second half: a 6-yard gain on first-and-10. Seriously, that’s the best he could do. I should stop picking on this man, but I can’t resist a few season totals. Through five weeks, Gabbert is tied for 23rd in pass attempts, tied for 27th in pass completions, 30th in completion percentage (out of 33 qualifiers), and second in failed completions.


Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Stevan Ridley NE
151
1
0
0
68
68
0
Ridley's day against Denver was mildly surprising (28 carries for 151 yards), but not as surprising as the polar shift in football philosophy that has overcome the New England offense. The Patriots lead the league with 185 rushes. They were 17th in that category in 2011, though that was something of a fluke. Prior to that, they had ranked in the top ten for five years in a row. Ridley was a model of consistency on Sunday, with only one run going shorter than 2 yards, and 12 runs for 5 yards or more.
2.
Ahmad Bradshaw NYG
200
1
29
0
44
60
-15
Bradshaw fumbled on his first carry, but came back to gain 13 first downs (including a touchdown) in his 30 rushes. He was stuffed for no gain four times, but had eight runs for 10 yards or more. He had three carries on third down and picked up three first downs and 22 yards. His three red zone carries each gained 3 or more yards, including a touchdown and a 10-yarder. The Giants also threw him six passes, and he caught four of them for 29 yards.
3.
Danny Woodhead NE
47
0
25
0
41
25
16
Six of Woodhead’s seven carries gained 3 or more yards, with three first downs. He converted both of his third-down carries, including a 19-yard gain on third-and-17. The Patriots also threw him one pass, and he caught it for 25 yards on third-and-14.
4.
Ryan Mathews SD
80
1
59
0
35
28
7
Five of Mathews’ 12 carries gained 10 or more yards, and he was stuffed for no gain or a loss only twice. He had five first downs on the ground, including a 13-yard touchdown. He also caught six of eight passes for 59 yards, including four more 10-yard plays.
5.
Rashard Mendenhall PIT
81
1
20
0
34
29
4
Mendenhall was stuffed just once in 14 carries, with two 10-yard runs (although one of those ended in a fumble). He had four first downs, including a 13-yard touchdown. The Steelers threw him three passes, and he caught two of them for 20 yards and two more first downs.
By the way, we should mention that San Francisco running backs Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter finished seventh and eighth in the rankings this week (before the Monday night game). Together, they totaled 187 yards on 25 carries and 60 DYAR.


Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
DeAngelo Williams CAR
8
0
0
0
-37
-27
-10
None of Williams’ six carries gained more than 4 yards. Two of them lost yardage, and one of those was a fumble. The two passes thrown his way were both incomplete.
OTHER BACKS OF LITTLE VALUE: Darren Sproles, NO (five carries for 9 yards; five catches in seven targets for 28 yards and only two first downs); Chris Johnson, TEN (15 carries for 24 yards with a fumble; one catch in one target for 5 yards); BenJarvus Green-Ellis, CIN (nine carries, 14 yards; one catch in two targets for 2 yards).


Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Reggie Wayne IND
13
20
212
16.3
1
66
When Wayne re-signed with Indianapolis this offseason, it seemed an odd match for both player and team. The Colts figured to get more benefit by finding a younger receiver to be the Marvin Harrison or, well, Reggie Wayne to Andrew Luck's Peyton Manning, while Wayne's best shot at landing another Super Bowl ring in the twilight of his career seemed to be elsewhere. Wayne decided to stick around, though, and it's hard to imagine where Indianapolis would be without him. He leads the club with 36 catches and 506 yards; no other player on the team has even half that total in either category. Wayne’s 212 yards against Green Bay was a career high. Like his quarterback, Wayne got off to something of a slow start, but finished strong. Each of the last five passes thrown to him was caught for a first down, one for a touchdown, for a total of 64 yards.
2.
Percy Harvin MIN
8
10
108
13.5
1
46
Harvin’s receptions produced six first downs (including a touchdown) and five gains of 10 yards or more, capped off by a 45-yarder. He also had two runs for 8 yards and a touchdown.
3.
Randall Cobb GB
4
4
82
20.5
1
45
Three of Cobb’s catches gained at least 18 yards and a first down, including a 31-yard touchdown.
4.
Marques Colston NO
9
18
131
14.6
3
43
Each of Colston’s three touchdowns came in the red zone. He had five other first downs on the day, and six ten-yard gains on the day, including a 40-yarder.
5.
Brandon Marshall CHI
12
17
144
12.0
1
42
Marshall had six first downs and seven gains of 10 yards or more, including a 24-yard touchdown.


Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Jacob Tamme DEN
6
11
50
8.3
0
-44
Tamme had three first downs on catches of 10, 11, and 17 yards. His other eight targets resulted in three catches for 12 total yards. Honestly, doesn’t seem like a truly terrible game, but he’s punished for three incomplete passes with 7 or fewer yards needed for a first down.
OTHER RECEIVERS OF LITTLE VALUE: DeSean Jackson, PHI (four catches for 58 yards in eight targets, with one fumble); T.Y. Hilton, IND (four catches for 37 yards in nine targets, one rush for zero yards); Mike Thomas, JAC (four catches for 15 yards in eight targets).

Posted by: Vince Verhei on 09 Oct 2012

87 comments, Last at 10 Oct 2012, 2:36pm by Israel P.

Comments

1
by Independent George :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 10:42am

Eli is hurt even more by the fact that his lone interception was (1) a perfectly thrown ball that hit Victor Cruz right in the hands, and (2) got popped in the air because of blatant DPI. I know it happens in every game to every QB, but this one seemed especially egregious to me because, well, I'm a homer.

3
by Ferguson1015 :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:10am

This happens quite often. Rivers' interception happened under exactly the same circumstances. egregious DPI that caused the ball to be popped up and intercepted by the Saints.

4
by Mark S. (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:13am

Yep. It was pretty much a flawless game for Eli. Also impressive was that he was completing passes into some pretty tight coverage on perfect back-shoulder throws - the passes to Hixon and Randle especially.

I will say though that the Browns did not even get a semblance of pressure on him all game. Then again, the Giants O-line is looking much better with a healthy Beatty and w/o David Diehl.

2
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 10:47am

17-4 regular season since the start of the 2011, and is this the first time since then that a 49er has finished in the top 5 on Quick Reads, at any position?

An interesting Alex Smith factoid: he's apparently in the top 5 in the league in air yards per attempt, at 4.6. Stick that in your game manager...except how in heck did that happen? Except for the game against Buffalo, he hasn't exactly looked like Mr. Downfield.

I need to watch some games that do not involve the 49ers. With A. Smith + whoever's playing against the 49ers D, all QBs are looking like they're mediocre.

6
by Aloysius Mephis... :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:34am

Well, he did attempt several long throws against the Jets, he just didn't hit any of them. Peter King made the observation that it's pretty weird that a guy that's been in the league for eight years and has been a starter for a majority of that time only has 3 300-yard games. Before Sunday's game Alex Smith and Brandon Weeden had the same number of career 300-yard games.

8
by BJR :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:43am

Guess you'll see Eli Manning next week. Can't wait for that game.

19
by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:20pm

It'll be interesting to see if the Giants, especially the Giants defense, matches the Niners' intensity. I expect the Niners to have playoff intensity, as will the crowd.

40
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 1:59pm

I'm awfully glad the Giants are next up. It's a perfect time in the schedule to face them, because it's for sure one game the 9ers won't get complacent about. I'd hate to dump a game to some middling team and still have to face the Giants later in the season.

Is complacency an odd thing for the fan of a good team to fret about? It's been so long since I was one that I've forgotten what it's like. Or is this kind of worry more likely in a fan of a recently-good team?

41
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 2:05pm

I never really worried about complacency in for the 05/06 Bears teams. I worried about defensive injuries and quarterbacks, but I figured they played hard for all those games why would they not all of a sudden?

Of course seeing the defense fight for every scrap and yard it could in 04 while the offense well... you remember Alex Smith's rookie year, it was like that. If they were going to play hard through that, I had no worries they would play hard when things were actually good.

14
by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:07pm

Hey, the intrepid Christian Ponder ranked 8th in Quick Reads the week the Vikings played the Niners!

Latent homerism aside, I suspect the key to a qb looking good against the Niners, beyond the obvious pass protection issue, is an ability and willingness to run the ball with some frequency, as much as that sounds like the discounted cliche of "establish the run so you can pass". The Niners D, if they make you entirely one-dimensional, just prey on the helpless. An offense needs to be willing trade hooks and uppecuts with J. Smith and crew, in order to give their qb a chance.

Of course, that means that your defense has to prevent A. Smith and crew from getting early scores. The Niners aren't super-explosive, as of yet, on that side of the ball, but they may be getting there. You can't let the Niners score two quick tds, either.

18
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:17pm

I only saw highlights of the game, so I'm sure my impressions are colored, but I noticed that most of his positive plays involved him scrambling or rolling out. While Sanchez has almost no ability to move like that. So I could see that having an effect.

22
by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:22pm

Yeah, a 22 yard td scramble no doubt moved Ponder up the rankings.

26
by Aloysius Mephis... :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:47pm

Exactly. You could maybe even just say "stay committed to the run" instead of "establish the run." The Vikings never really "established" that much on the ground against the Niners, in the sense of running effectively (except for one 20-yard scamper Peterson was under 3 YPC on the day). But because the Vikings kept calling running plays, which they could do because they had the lead, it opened up the passing game.

It seemed like the Bills were trying to do the same thing, with some success early on. But then their defense collapsed, they fell behind and had to become one-dimensional, and they got blown out.

27
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:51pm

As any Bears fan can tell you from the Mike Martz experience, sometimes running even if it's not working can be helpful to an offense.

If nothing else, the running back getting tackled for no gain is better for an offense than the QB getting plastered over and over.

30
by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:59pm

What often gets underrated, I think, is the beneficial effect, for the offense, of making a very good pass rusher defend the run occasionally, epecially if the offensive lineman blocking him is a street fighter. This is what the Packers offense lacks most of all, it seems to me.

36
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 1:34pm

I agree with this. When you watch the 49ers the front seven really respect the run fake. The safeties have been doing the opposite and really holding their water and staying deep over the top of playaction. However, this leaves a gap in intermediate coverage that Minnesota naturally target to good effect with the purple nosed reindeer. These gaps are more likely to disappear if the run is no threat.

I still think the 49ers should have changed their approach for the Vikings game instead of using their normal game plan.

29
by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:54pm

Yeah, obviously, if the thought is that you need to get 4.5 yards per carry, or likely, even 4 yards per carry, against the Niners, failure will be the final judgement. The point however, is to get the lead, or at least keep things very close, and be physical enough that the Niners at least have to consider the possibility that you might run.

31
by Aloysius Mephis... :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 1:00pm

Yep, that's the blueprint to beat the Niners. It can be done, as the Vikings showed, and it's harder to do than describe, as the Bills showed.

34
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 1:27pm

I think that the blueprint idea is slightly overstated. I don't want to completely write off the Vikings' performance in that game but quite a lot of what happened that hurt the niners isn't particularly sustainable (and DVOA agreed giving the 49ers the edge in the game, though that was partly due to Gerhart's fumblooza at the end):

-A blocked field goal
-A fumbled kick return
-A long touchdown run by Ponder, he has good mobility and it was a great play but I don't think it is repeatable.
-Some drive extending personal foul penalties that the league didn't levy a fine for, which is usually seen as a repudiation of the penalty

I also think that the 49ers made a huge mistake in allowing the Vikings to dictate their offensive approach. Their habit of calling a run and a pass in the huddle meant that if the Vikings loaded the box then the niners threw, taking Frank Gore out of the game for most of the first half. The 49ers seem to have adjusted that a bit in the last two games, being more willing to run into a loaded fronts and keep the game on their terms.

The Vikings played well and even without those plays the game would have been close, with them having every chance to take the win but that is more like the sort of close game that the 49ers played for most of last year. That is more like the sort of 49er approach than the two more recent games where they have utterly dismantled their opponents.

Ponder's performance reminds me of the game John Skelton had when the Cards beat us last year. He always seemed to be escaping at the last moment and Ponder did the same thing but with better accuracy on short passes.

37
by Aloysius Mephis... :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 1:37pm

Oh certainly, the Vikings got some lucky breaks. You didn't even mention the dropped Whitner pick-six. The Vikings could have played no worse than they did and still gotten beat with a few more basically random events going against them. But I do think they executed an intelligent gameplan that maximized their chances of winning.

42
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 2:08pm

Well, that fumblooza was only possible because some replacement refs didn't understand the rules, so those unsustainable breaks certainly went both ways.

It's the only game that's given me the feeling Harbaugh & Co. got out-coached. The Vikings seemed to dictate all day how the game was going to be played. It's like the players were tuned in, but the coaches fell into a "trap game." Weird.

44
by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 2:17pm

Karl and I discussed this a few eeeks ago. I think the Vikings really fooled everybody this year, because nobody really knew how a bunch of young guys, either in their rookie year, or benefitting from a full offseason workload for the first time, would play, and how some veterans would respond to being well coached for the first time in years, especially on the offensive line. It stands to reason that the Vikings coaches had a better sense of how to prepare for the Niners than the Niners coaches did for the Vikings.

53
by sycasey (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 3:21pm

Something else to be considered here is that it was the Niners' first early East Coast (10am PT) start, after playing a night game the prior Sunday, so they may have simply come out flat (the jetlag/time zone issue is still a thing, right?). Granted, Minnesota is in Central Time, but it was still an early start for a west coast team. The other games the Niners played out of zone were either a late (1pm PT) start (Packers) or one where they had back-to-back games out east and therefore stayed there all week (Jets).

68
by Yaguar :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 5:50pm

17-4 regular season since the start of the 2011, and is this the first time since then that a 49er has finished in the top 5 on Quick Reads, at any position?

It's almost as if the 49ers play with a conservative offense and a tough defense or something.

Posts like this make you look ridiculous, for the following reasons:

1. The 49ers W/L record is an accomplishment mostly attributable to their defense. Quick Reads is for offensive players only.
2. It's wrong; Frank Gore made it in week 4 of last year, for example.
3. You are developing a persecution complex because of the workings of a mathematical formula.

72
by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:46pm

Way to overreact to a question.

75
by Aloysius Mephis... :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 10:00pm

I didn't read bravehoptoad's comment as a complaint. I thought it was just pointing out an interesting fact, though perhaps mistakenly.

85
by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 1:09am

2. It's wrong; Frank Gore made it in week 4 of last year, for example.

How can it be wrong? It's a question.

86
by Insancipitory :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 6:44am

Yeah. That's what you get for being a 9ers fan. Let it be a lesson for you.

5
by Purds :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:33am

Wow, looking at the RB's, it amazing how devalued the "feature back" is in today's game. Yes, Woodhead had a a great game, but he had only 7 carries and 1 receptions, and yet only two RB's in the entire league played better than him! I mean, he only gained a total of 72 yards, and yet the rest of the league could find only 2 guys with a better day? That's the biggest statement I can see about the two-RB system that everyone is using, it seems.

9
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:46am

The continuing march of specialization in football. It's better to have 3 players who each do one thing really well then one player who can 3 things pretty well.

12
by Jimmy :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:59am

It is really more a measure of how badly outcoached the Pats opponents are at times rather than how good the RB is. I know it is very tricky to seperate players from their schemes and teammates but some of the tiny usage RBs dominating the DYAR does start to seem a little silly.

69
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:38pm

"Yes, Woodhead had a a great game, but he had only 7 carries and 1 receptions, and yet only two RB's in the entire league played better than him! "

In DVOA terms, anyway. But DVOA hates volume runners.

It's interesting that it's not analyzing a league where every runner is a small-sample-size darling.

70
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:40pm

This is DYAR, which is a counting stat, but counts negatives heavily (see Forte, Matt).

71
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:42pm

Now analyzing.

I tried to edit, but the edit option appears to be broken. Perhaps it doesn't play nicely with the spam trap.

73
by PatsFan :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:51pm

I believe that once someone replies to a post of yours you are blocked from editing that post.

74
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:52pm

You can't edit once someone responds to you, sorry.

7
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:34am

Vince can you post Forte's numbers? It seemed like he was getting 6+ yards every time he touched the ball.

10
by drobviousso :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:53am

Thanks for listing the other backs/receivers of little use. I was surprised to see Mike Wallace was not on the list. He had 2 receptions on 8 targets for -0.17 WPA and -5.9 EPA.

11
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:57am

My guess is the Eagle's top 5 pass defense.

16
by drobviousso :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:10pm

good point

13
by D Jones :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:59am

That's exactly what I came here to post. I was paying close attention since he's on my FF team and he looked totally out of synch. The iggles were roughing him up all night, and it really seemed to get in his head.

15
by BJR :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:07pm

If Reggie Wayne can carry on at this pace for another couple of years catching passes from somebody other than P.Manning, he's going to look like a decent HOF candidate.

45
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 2:22pm

If he can keep up this pace for 2 seasons, he'd be approaching the top 5 in career receiving yards. And he's definitely scoring some nice "it wasn't all just Peyton" points already.

But it's really difficult to forecast WR HOF prospects these days. Numbers just don't mean what they used to.

59
by RickD :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 3:57pm

The problem is that there are too many WRs in the queue. Cris Carter, Marvin Harrison, TO, Randy Moss...

...and I get back to the problem that the NFL really needs to increase its induction rate, which has been constant since the 1960s, when there were half as many teams.

17
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:13pm

Aaron Rodgers is taking a lot of heat from the fans over not being unstoppable

Personally I would like the offensive line to get a swift kick in the backside

21
by dryheat :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:22pm

I would think the fact that Greg Jennings hasn't been near 100% yet this season would have a lot to do with it. Take him out of the lineup, and suddenly the defensive back 7 have much more favorable matchups.

23
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:26pm

One guy should not cause an entire offense to go kersplat. And Greg Jennings isn't letting defenders get in Rodgers lap in 2 seconds.

28
by dryheat :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:53pm

Well, let's see. The Packers haven't been able to run the ball for a few years now, so there's nobody to keep an 8th man in, and I'll bet some teams have played the Packers with 6 men in the box. Without Jennings, there is nobody that needs safety help, so instead of Nelson drawing the #2 corner (for defenses that don't play safeties exclusively left and right), he gets at minimum the #2 corner and the safety shade, and quite possibly the #1 CB with help. James Jones gets single coverage, which he beats regularly enough, but not nearly to the degree that Nelson destroyed it last year. At this point, Finley has been such a joke that he can probably be shut down with a linebacker.

I mean, I'm speaking in generalites and with considerable distance above, but every team in the league is going to suffer offensively with the loss of the #1 WR, as the rest of the depth chart moves up a notch - every position gets downgraded. Jordy Nelson is great, but not nearly as great as he looked with Jennings drawing coverage away last year. Last year he was 2nd in DYAR and 1st in DVOA. This year he's 3rd in both...on his own team.

32
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 1:11pm

dry

i am not disputing the ripple effect. But again, that has no impact on blocking assigments and linemen being overwhelmed at the point of attack

33
by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 1:26pm

Your point is true, but, if you have a physical offensive line, then you don't face 6 in the box. In terms of roster construction, the reason why this is very important is that it is possible to build a physical offensive line with mostly late round picks and castoffs. Yes, getting a relly talented tackle to protect the qb's blind side is something you likely will have to spend high draft value, or big free agent money, to acquire, and if you think a great o-linemen is avilable for one of the other positions, a team should consider it, even with a high pick.

Good coaching, however, and good talent evaluation, makes it quite possible to build an effectively nasty o-line with late picks and cast offs at a majority of the positions. I think this is where the Packers' management, in the midst of mostly experiencing success, has fallen short. I guess it isn't breaking news that nobody's perfect, but it is worth noting.

49
by justanothersteve :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 2:43pm

The announcers pointed out at least one play yesterday where Indy only had 6 in the box against the Packers. I think it was after Benson went out, but I'm not sure. In any case, in the second half McCarthy reverted to his 1st-half-against-Seattle game-calling with 24 called passes vs 6 called runs. (I'm assuming all of Rodgers runs were supposed to be passes.) I'm not counting a run to eat the clock at the end of the half and a spike to stop the clock on the final drive.

The loss of Jennings has been big. I don't think people realize just how good he is. (He ran a 4.42 40 at the combine and runs extremely precise routes.) But the biggest problem is McCarthy ignoring the running game. While I don't mind favoring the pass over the run, I still believe you have to run often enough that the defense defends against it.

63
by ammek :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 4:28pm

As I mentioned in Audibles, McCarthy called a fairly balanced game on first down: 11 runs to 12 passes, excluding the hurry-up drive at the end. But through about 48 minutes of the game, nine first-down rushes had produced one successful play. In the third quarter, Green Bay had six first downs: three runs and three passes produced two one-yard runs, an incompletion, a run for a loss, a sack and a 10-yard holding penalty. In atrocious down-and-distance situations, the Packers had to pass on other downs, although McCarthy did call one run on 2nd-and-10. It lost four yards.

At some point, he had to say "This isn't working" — especially as the starting RB had left the game with an injury. Green was averaging less than 2 yards a carry before his long gain in the fourth quarter. I thought McCarthy stuck with the run fairly stubbornly in situations where it was feasible.

39
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 1:50pm

Aaron Rodgers is taking a lot of heat from the fans over not being unstoppable.

He clearly needs to start wearing the Citizen Eco-Drive.

65
by mansteel (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 5:18pm

I remember cracking up laughing at the idea of Eli being "unstoppable" when those commercials came out a few years ago. They're not funny anymore.

20
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:21pm

If you discount Cutler's meltdown against the Packers (because Thursday games suck), it looks like he would have about 270 DYAR on the year, which would rank him 9th overall.

25
by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:36pm

That game, and the really stupid pick six he threw early in the opener against the Colts, probably influenced my view that he had reverted to past habits, entirely too much.

46
by Whatev :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 2:28pm

Well, he's often been bad early, right? The question to me is whether you can actually avoid that by having him not pass in the first quarter, or whether you just have to lump it while he gets warmed up.

54
by TomC :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 3:23pm

As bad as that pick-6 was, it wasn't a "same old Cutler" play. He wasn't trying to force a ball into coverage---in fact, he thought he was making a safe play, dumping it off to a back. He just didn't see the LB closing, which is a huge mistake, but again not typically why he throws picks. Apart from the GB game, the only "same old Jay" pick has been the one he forced to Marshall on Sunday in Jacksonville (and you can at least partially blame that on Garza for snapping the ball in the dirt).

24
by Insancipitory :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:30pm

Surprised that Steve Smith wasn't up there for least effective WR, 13 targets 4 catches for 40 yards, I have to admit his quickness against Browner's size really worried me.

I kind of wonder what Wilson and the Seahawks over all look like without that 3rd quarter offensive/special teams implosion.

35
by Led :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 1:27pm

Sanchez was characteristically mediocre last night, but not as bad as the numbers indicate. I was moderately encouraged given the collection of JAGs he was throwing to. That's party a function of how low my expectations are at this point. A couple of observations. First, JJ Watt is an amazing athlete -- both physically freakish and very smart. He's really a pleasure to watch. Second, I can't imagine why you wouldn't coach offensive linemen to cut Watt when he doesn't rush, especially when you're a team that throws a lot of quick slants. As great as Watt is, it's hard to jump up and deflect passes when an o-lineman is taking out your knees. That is perfectly legal, by the way, so long as it's one-on-one blocking. It's also basic, fundamental football.

38
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 1:39pm

More stat tidbits on the Bears offense (since this is more fun than doing work).

The offensive line is 9th run blocking according to FO, and 23rd in pass pro. With over half the sacks coming against the Packers on Thursday night. I was hoping the line could go from bottom 3 to about 20th this year with Tice tacking over and adding Carimi, and it looks like they close to that.

The Bears best running splits are right tackle (16th) and right end (1st). So it looks like Gabe Carimi is doing at least one thing well.

Both new receivers have positive DVOA (Marshall and Jeffery). If Knox was healthy, I think this would be a downright scary group of receivers.

Edit: Kellen Davis has 20% (!) DVOA.

43
by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 2:10pm

I was pleasantly surprised at how the Bears o-line performed in pass protection in Dallas. I think a 2nd year of Tice, especially with Martz subtracted, is having the desired effect for Bears fan.

Look out if the Bears get home field advantage, and their o-line doesn't have to hold up in a noisy hostile playoff environment, while the Bears playoff opposition has that to deal with such a factor. Soldier Field in January will be an unpleasant place for the non-ursine.

Bears at Niners on Monday, November 19th, might be the game of the regular season, at least for the NFC, but the Falcons schedule looks petty favorable. The Bears really don't want to have to play an elimination game in the Georgia Dome.

48
by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 2:38pm

I am not looking forward to the Bears having to play HOU and SF back-to-back. At least they get an extra day to prepare for the Niners, but those are easily the likliest candidates for back-to-back losses. The Bears D has been nothing short of spectacular, but they haven't faced anyone with a skill position combo like Foster and A. Johnson.

57
by Steve in WI :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 3:48pm

I agree that those games are the most likely candidates for back-to-back losses, but given that the Bears have a legitimate shot at being 7-1 going into them, I could live with that provided that they're close games.

Looking at the rest of the Bears' schedule, I'm a little worried at how easy it looks. Besides the Houston and SF games, the only one that really scares me is the rematch against the Packers, and at least that one's at Soldier Field. I'm *not* saying that I believe the Bears will finish 15-1 or even 13-3, but there's no game on the schedule that looks unwinnable. I would favor SF over the Bears, especially since that game's a road game, and I think Houston should be close either way.

The big question mark for me is whether the Vikings are a legitimate team. Will they have completely faded by the time the Bears play them twice in 3 weeks, or will they have gotten even better and be a bona fide division contender?

It's also bizarre to me that when it comes to the Packers, even with the week 2 loss the Bears pretty much control their destiny when it comes to beating them. Barring a few really bad games by the Bears, if they can manage to beat the Packers in week 16 I can't see the Packers finishing ahead of them...and they may not even need to do that. From a potential tiebreaker standpoint, that loss to the Colts has to hurt even worse.

64
by Marko :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 4:33pm

"The Bears really don't want to have to play an elimination game in the Georgia Dome."

Agreed. Which is why it was so frustrating to see the Panthers blow that game in Atlanta in week 4. The Falcons are going to cruise to the title in the South. Hopefully they will lose some of their remaining games against the NFC East. The Saints hopefully can beat them at least once, and maybe the Lions can beat them in Detroit. (Not if the Lions play the way they have played so far.) The Panthers also might give them a tough time in the rematch in Carolina. Other than that, it's hard to see any difficult games for the Falcons as long as they stay healthy.

47
by theslothook :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 2:29pm

I debated this yesterday with a friend of mine-49er fan. Which team was better at this point- 49ers versus Bears. Defensively, I use to think it was a wash, now I think the Bears have a slight edge. Skill positions, including qb i would say- the bears have an edge, but the o line feels heavily in favor of the 49ers. I know these two teams actually play one another so we won't need to speculate forever, but I wasn't sure who exactly I would favor right now. Any thoughts?

50
by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 2:47pm

A lot of it depends on whether the Bears pass rush is more like what we saw in the first 4 games, or what we saw in JAC. If they can stop the run and pressure Smith with 4, I think he'll make mistakes that they exploit, or the Niners D will wear down from lots of short drives. If Smith has time, or if Gore can take the pressure off, the Niners get an early lead and I don't like the Bears odds of coming back on that D. Same thing if the Bears O gets off to yet another slow start. I'd also give the Niners the edge in coaching. I'm not terrified of the Niners, but I think they have a slight edge overall.

51
by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 2:55pm

Well, any team with a shaky o-line, as the Bears' still is, is much more vulnerable on the road than at home, against a good defense, and Cutler is much more likely to make a really, really, stupid play under pressure than Alex Smith, so where the game is played woud be a huge deal. The Niners o-line and Smith's conservatism makes the Niners a much better candidate to win in Chicago than the Bears are a candidate to win in The Stick. I guess a neutral field would favor the Niners as well, for the same factor. Special teams would favor the Bears, however, which could be the deciding factor in an otherwise close game.

As the season goes on, I'd be concerned about Urlacher's health. He could be at the precipice of an injury cascade that guys in their 30s sometimes face. Peppers is getting on as well. Then again, Justin Smith is crucial for the Niners, and he is in his 30s now as well, although my perception is that he has a lesser injury history than Urlacher.

55
by TomC :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 3:34pm

Yeah, that game in SF has disaster potential for this version of the Bears. As they've shown repeatedly (GB this year, NYG in 2010), when the OL starts to go bad, it can snowball quickly, especially on the road against a good D-line.

As currently constituted, the Bears have a shot to go deep in the playoffs, but of all the good teams they're most likely to have a bad game, because of the aforementioned OL issues and the defense's propensity to give up chunks of yards but bail themselves out with turnovers (which is generally not sustainable).

56
by dbt :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 3:44pm

Urlacher is already almost completely useless on the field. Slow, can't turn, etc. But the D-line and the secondary has picked up the slack.

60
by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 3:59pm

That's an interesting comment to me, because I haven't watched the Bears all that closely; the kids were in the room when the Packers and Cowboys games were on. Have you watched the coach's shot?

If this is true, then I would expect it to be a vulnerability that gets ruthlessly exploited as the season wears on, especially in the playoffs.

62
by theslothook :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 4:21pm

I only watched the Bears Cowboys with all 22- just to review Romo's play. Most of the cowboys big plays were coming in the middle of the field. This might just have been one game, but urlacher and briggs were usually a step slow covering people across the middle. Part of this was the safeties were especially out of position a ton this game, biting hard on inside routes or pa. Tuluse said they are usually more disciplined than that so maybe it was just a one game aberration. Still, the team is so strong at the d line and at corner that it may not matter how much briggs and urlacher have regressed speed wise. This defense is no longer about their headliners- its about the incredible depth they have.

52
by JonFrum :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 3:15pm

Ridley is a breath of fresh air after the plodding/reliable Green-Ellis, but he is benefiting from the no-huddle freezing the 'small' defense on the field. Still, even when opponents are bumping up against him in the front seven, he's still getting through. It's a combination of speed and balance that gets him the extra 3 yards.

76
by RickD :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 10:25pm

Law Firm has his advantages: strength, ball security, and determination. Coming after Maroney, he was a breath of fresh air. But yes, Ridley hits the holes faster and breaks for extra yards more often.

58
by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 3:55pm

Vince can you post Forte's numbers? It seemed like he was getting 6+ yards every time he touched the ball.

5 DYAR rushing, -1 receiving. He did have nine carries for 6 yards or more, but only picked up five first downs, and his longest run was only 14 yards. He was stuffed four times, and was hurt badly by a couple of stuffs in short-yardage situations. Going from second-and-3 to third-and-5 is awfully bad news.

Thanks for listing the other backs/receivers of little use. I was surprised to see Mike Wallace was not on the list.

He was eighth-worst. No truly horrible games for receivers this week, but quite a few bad ones.

If Reggie Wayne can carry on at this pace for another couple of years catching passes from somebody other than P.Manning, he's going to look like a decent HOF candidate.

Top 10 in receiving six times and counting, co-lead receiver on a Super Bowl champion, hasn’t missed a start since 2003 or a game since 2002... He’d have a shot to get in if he retired right now.

Surprised that Steve Smith wasn't up there for least effective WR, 13 targets 4 catches for 40 yards, I have to admit his quickness against Browner's size really worried me.
I kind of wonder what Wilson and the Seahawks over all look like without that 3rd quarter offensive/special teams implosion.

Smith was sixth-worst among WRs.

Wilson had 30 DYAR if we throw out the third quarter. Taking out everyone’s third quarter, and he’s 14th. But if you take away everybody’s worst quarter, they’ll look a lot better. He had -13 DYAR rushing, third quarter or no third quarter. Marshawn Lynch’s DYAR actually goes up if we throw out the third quarter.

61
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 4:19pm

Thanks Vince.

77
by Insancipitory :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 10:28pm

Mucho gracias

FWIW my pondering was more of the "What does the best version of my team look like?" variety.

66
by ddb4 :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 5:23pm

Two thoughts: First, to defend those drinking the Luck Kool-Aid, I would argue that he has had less help than almost any of the above-listed QBs. Given the Colts shaky OL, inexperienced receivers (excepting the rather ordinary Donnie Avery and the rather extraordinary you-know-who), and mediocre backs (though Donald Brown has shown flashes when that OL does its job), this has virtually been a two-man offense. And the defense isn't exactly gonna carry the load either. Which means Luck has been slinging the ball 44 times a game under heavy pressure, putting up a TD to INT ratio of 6 to 2 over the past three games, and accounting for over a quarter of the teams rushing yards. I'm not saying we should enshrine him yet, but it's been pretty amazing to watch.

(Man, this Kool-Aid is AWESOME! What did you guys put in this stuff?)

Now, onto to my other topic, which is something I was discussing with a friend last night, and saw addressed briefly above. Concerning the other half of that two-man offense: Reggie Wayne is sitting on 898 catches (14th all-time) and is currently seeing 15 targets a game. Six catches a game the rest of the season would put him at 970, probably 10th all-time (pending Randy Moss's performance the rest of the year). That would put him 132 behind Marvin Harrison for 3rd all-time and some unknown number behind Tony Gonzalez for 2nd.

Wayne also has 12,214 yards (17th all-time) and is averaging 125 a game. At 83 yards a game, he would finish the year ahead Andre Reed for 12th all-time, roughly 2,700 yards behind T.O. for 2nd, 2,000 yards out of 3rd (either Isaac Bruce or Randy Moss). He has two years left on his contract following this one, and he turns 34 in November. It's foolish to assume anything in this game (anyone who saw Harrison's career disintegrate in one unlucky play knows that), and WRs can lose it fast. But given two more healthy, productive years, Wayne could make a run at 3rd all-time in catches and yards. Given three or four more years, he could have a shot at retiring 2nd behind Rice in both categories, with Larry Fitzgerald, among others, breathing down his neck. Talk about your all-time strange historical cases. I don't know what the HoF does with a Reggie Wayne who could make a case for being the 2nd-most productive WR in NFL history when he hangs it up.

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by theslothook :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 5:34pm

Coming from a colts fan- I have a strange view on luck. After all the negative things I've written about Brady over the years, its kind of ironic that Luck reminds me mostly of Brady and not Manning. Luck deals with pressure well and has a general tendency to throw short. The trouble is- and I've watched every single game of his- hes not a great medium thrower and hes right now a pretty lousy deep thrower. Some of it is due to receivers, but I really feel like its been him thats missed on these throws. Of course, Brady has shown you don't need this attribute to run a highly successful offense and of course, I'll root for luck regardless of what type of qb he is. But, and this may just be me, but for someone who really took to heart the comparisons between luck and manning, luck looks nothing like manning at all. He doesn't throw like manning, his movements and mannerisms are not like manning, and it kind of makes me pine for luck to watch more manning highlights and really become manning 2.0. Yes im crazy i know.

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by RickD :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 10:29pm

There's a good chance there will never be a Manning 2.0.

That's an interesting comment about Luck and his similarity to Brady. Haven't seen much of him but I'll have to try to watch a bit more. Of course, in the DC area where I live, there's only one rookie QB that anybody cares about. And the only way to watch Luck is on RedZone.

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by theslothook :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 10:58pm

If you can stomach some of the lag- Wiziwig online is how I watch my colts games from the Bay Area

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by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 12:29am

Is this just a normal streaming site or something special? Am looking for an option now that my usual go-to's have become really slow and unreliable.

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by theslothook :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 12:52am

It lists all of the streaming sites available. SOme games are more high profile than others, but generally, i've been able to get all of the games I've wanted to watch.

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by Dan :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:14pm

Luck's deep passing numbers are actually pretty good so far. Pro Football Focus currently has Luck 6th in the NFL in passing yards on deep throws (20+ yards downfield), with 333 passing yards on 25 deep attempts. He's also 10th out of 31 in deep accuracy rate, at 48% (11 receptions + 1 drop / 25 attempts), and 5th in the percentage of his throws that go deep. Advancednflstats similarly has him 6th (out of 33) in deep attempt rate (15+ yards downfield) and 6th in air yards per attempt.

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by theslothook :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 12:54am

That surprises me kind of. I've counted several near misses on his deep throws. His medium is sorta erratic. Some of reggie's one handers are really the result of throws being overthrown slightly or behind. Maybe i'm just holding the poor kid to an impossible standard. I can't wait to see NE fan expectations for the post Brady qb.

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by greybeard :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:43pm

I watched Luck at Stanford and he is a pretty good medium and deep thrower.
I have not seen a Colts game this season yet so I can comment how he looked so far. But the talent is there.

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by Israel P. (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 2:36pm

The Steelers TD was changed from a run to a pass. How does that change your reads of Ben and Rashard?