Audibles at the Line
Unfiltered in-game observations by Football Outsiders staff

Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2006.

Indianapolis Colts 26 at Jacksonville Jaguars 18

Tim Gerheim: We have a Reggie Williams sighting! He made a nice play for a first down on a third-and-long and then, true to form, jumped around and celebrated in much the same way that defensive linemen do when they get sacks. Yes, Reggie, it will be a good year if you get double digits in receptions.

Michael David Smith: Funny how tight end Brian Fletcher was supposed to be a nobody, but in the Colts' offense he looks damn good. Marcus Pollard was supposed to be damn good, but in the Lions' offense he looks like a nobody.

I'm usually not a big Dan Dierdorf fan, but it was nice to hear him praise Edgerrin James for his blitz pickup, then see James pick up a blitz on the very next play to give Manning time to hit Reggie Wayne for a big gain. That opening drive by the Colts was the most impressive series I've seen a team run this year.

Aaron Schatz: When I saw Jacksonville punt on fourth-and-1 from the Indy 43-yard line, I thought, well, yeah, they're not going to be daring enough to win this game. They kept it close, 14-3, until the self-immolation in the second quarter when they had an unsportsmanlike conduct and two unnecessary roughness calls in the space of four plays. Yes, that's how you beat the Colts, you give them free yards with unsportsmanlike conduct. Good job there, kids.

Michael David Smith: The Colts are playing so well right now that they look like the only thing that could stop them would be an injury to Peyton Manning. The way Indianapolis right tackle Ryan Diem played, an injury to Manning looked likely. Jacksonville's Reggie Hayward dominated Diem for two sacks in the first half.

Ned Macey: If the Colts are going to lose, the team that beats them is going to throw early to set up the run late. The Jaguars decided to copy Pittsburgh's very effective game plan of running early. That leaves Bob Sanders in the box where he makes play after play. Del Rio clearly was trying to protect Garrard, but the way he played late, it didn't look like he needed to be protected.

I agree with MDS that Hayward was dominant. His signing has really transformed the Jaguars. They are first in adjusted sack rate, and the defensive ends are providing pressure they didn't a year ago thanks to Heyward and a healthy Paul Spicer. Last year, the team ranked 12th in sack rate and got no more than 5.5 from any of their defensive ends. Hayward now has 7.5 as does Spicer.

I don't know whether the Colts should rest their players or go for 16-0, but if they do play their starters, they need to rest James more during games. He had 30 carries and 9 receptions today. He's on pace for 405 carries which are just too many. He should not touch the ball more than 15-18 times a game the rest of the year.

Does anyone else think Manning effectively locked up the MVP today? Palmer struggled, LT struggled, Plummer was average. Maybe voters will want to go to Shaun Alexander, but I doubt it. If Brady plays huge down the stretch and Manning sits, then maybe voters will look to him. Sports Illustrated says that Brady always buys the first round of drinks when he goes out with his receivers. What a great guy!

Chicago Bears 9 at Pittsburgh Steelers 21

Michael David Smith: Kyle Orton just threw a perfect pass to Justin Gage ... if Justin Gage were 25 feet tall.

Tim Gerheim: Hey, so this is the first Bears game I've gotten to watch this season. I heard something about them having a good defense. What was that all about? These guys aren't very good.

Does Chicago even have a special teams coach? Bobby Wade has fielded two punts inside his 10. Do you really think that in two-inch-deep snow the punting team is going to be able to make one of those pin-it-at-the-one plays? Tell him not to catch one inside his own 10!

Ryan Wilson: I really had no idea what to expect going into this game. Given how Chicago's defense has dismantled most offenses this season, and that Pittsburgh's O-line has been less than mediocre, I was half expecting a 4-3 game. Apparently, somebody forgot to tell the Bears that when you bring 10 guys to the line of scrimmage, the Steelers are still going to run the ball. And for the first time in a long time, they ran effectively. What's interesting is that even though RG Kendall Simmons and RT Max Starks have taken most of the criticism, Pittsburgh's most effective when running right. And today was no different (the Bus scampering 39 yards off the left was the notable exception).

Because the weather went from Pittsburgh in December to Antartica during halftime, the last 30 minutes was basically a waste of time. It was snowing so hard you couldn't see the field, and there was no way Orton was going to be able to throw for 250 yards with his team down by 18. Speaking of Orton, I was expecting Kyle Boller after seeing some of his stat lines, but he didn't make any big mistakes, even though he was off on a couple of passes, and did a pretty good job of getting rid of the ball.

Houston Texans 10 at Tennessee Titans 13

Michael David Smith: Sorry, Tim. The Texans sure do find creative ways to lose. This is the third straight week that, even with better teams on, I've watched the end of the Texans game just for the excitement, and in all three they've managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Amazing.

Tim Gerheim: It's always different too. I think it's getting slightly better each week. First it's a game-winning touchdown after a mega-comeback. Then it's a game-winning field goal. Now it's missing a game-tying field goal. Next week they'll get stuffed at the goal line or drop a pass that would win a game from a deficit of more than three points. Then a big comeback that falls short, then ... Reggie Bush.

Oakland Raiders 10 at New York Jets 26

Aaron Schatz: Not a good week of evidence defending the use of schedule strength in DVOA. At least I can put up this disclaimer: WARNING -- DVOA NULL AND VOID WHEN VETERAN QUARTERBACK IS BENCHED FOR MARQUES TUIASOSOPO. It's hard for Marques to win when his TO's outnumber his O's. Washington, on the other hand, has no excuse for letting Arizona almost win.

New England Patriots 35 at Buffalo Bills 7

Aaron Schatz: This was an ass-whuppin'. It's hard to tell if the Patriots defense is finally coming around or if we're just seeing the result of playing two very bad offenses. I think the answer is both the former (front seven) and the latter (secondary). Healthy Richard Seymour was a monster today. I'm not sure there was a single play in this game where the Patriots only rushed four -- it was five and six on every down. They know that if you put any pressure on Losman whatsoever, he'll pull the ball down and get the happy feet. And if you try to run the ball, all those guys you send will hit McGahee. Before he got injured, McGahee had a magical THREE YARDS on EIGHT CARRIES.

Buffalo's one huge play was a 58-yard pass to Lee Evans that had nothing to do with the blitz. Evans put it into an extra gear as the pass was coming down and ended up a couple steps ahead of both cornerback Asante Samuel and safety Michael Stone. Impressive. In the book, I said that Evans was either going to end up a perennial 1000-yard receiver or like Chris Chambers, always making a few highlight plays while he wants for a good quarterback to finally come to his team. At this point, it's looking like he's on Chambers' career path.

The Pats offense was interesting. Tom Ashworth started at LT for the injured Nick Kazcur and was much better than the rookie. He kept driving Aaron Schobel back and around Brady, and Brady was getting more time in the pocket than I can remember in any game this year. His rushing TD was basically a coverage sack where the line blocked and blocked and blocked some more while Brady sat there for ten seconds looking for an open receiver and then discovered there was open space between him and the end zone. The announcer (Randy Cross) noted that the Patriots RBs always improve in December when it gets cold and the games get important. This sounds like typical announcer BS but it is actually true. In 2003, Antowain Smith suddenly woke up in December after being terrible for three months, and last year Dillon was very strong down the stretch. The Pats offense is also much better with Kevin Faulk available to catch those screens, especially on third down.

Did Charlie Weis come back for a visit with the Notre Dame regular season over? The Pats ran a fake end-around and then a reverse on consecutive plays, wacky calls straight out of the Charlie Weis playbook.

Pat Laverty: Good line from Phil Simms today in BUF-NE game after the Bills got two false start penalties in three plays (at home): "Usually there's a beeping noise when you back up like this."

Kansas City Chiefs 28 at Dallas Cowboys 31

Michael David Smith: Larry Johnson really is something. I know a lot of people think highly of the Chiefs' offensive line, but remember, Priest Holmes was running behind the same line early this year and didn't look anything close to this effective.

Aaron Schatz: Very funny to see the final touchdown throw go to Dan Campbell after Al's comment about Campbell in the book. Awesome play fake where ALL 11 CHIEFS came up to try to get the runner while Campbell sauntered into the end zone all alone.

By the way, I'm curious, has anyone watched a lot of Dallas this year? What's going on with Julius Jones and Marion Barber? Is Barber really playing better? He had that Big 10 rep coming out of school -- can't wait for his blocks, runs straight ahead. Has that changed?

Mike Tanier: Parcells has said several times this year that he plans to go with the hot hand at running back, and he usually gives a lukewarm opinion of Barber and Julius whenever he is asked.

Tim Gerheim: Marion Barber tends to run a little better than Julius Jones. He seems a little smarter somehow. Jones always seems to run a little impatiently. Jones is bigger, and has better all-around physical skills, but Barber seems to have more football savvy. Who knows, maybe Julius will be like Thomas and just take a while to get it all figured out in the NFL. It seems like Parcells is trying to give him that chance, because he probably figures he has more upside than Barber does.

Al Bogdan: Parcells is also big on a running back's blocking ability, which is understandable with a completely immobile quarterback like Bledsoe and two poor offensive tackles in front of him. Barber seems to be a bit better at picking up the blitz than Jones.

Mike Tanier: Yes, Barber is better both in blitz pickup. He's supposed to be a good receiver, too, though he hasn't caught many passes in the last few weeks. Considering how well he was playing earlier in the year, I was surprised to see Julius getting the 20 carry treatment in the past few games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 at Carolina Panthers 10

Russell Levine: Wow, I didn't think the Bucs had that kind of effort in them today, not after all the trouble they've had with Carolina.

It's really remarkable how far Simms has come, at least as a game manager. Those who recall him all the way back to Texas remember a human turnover machine. The bigger the game, the more turnovers you could write him down for. It was a trend that looked like it would continue in the NFL. But Gruden really has him playing smart football, reading defenses, taking checkdowns, not forcing balls into coverage.

I'm also impressed that Galloway continues to be as effective as he has been with virtually no other threat at WR. Clayton has had a miserable year, has developed a case of the drops, and has fallen into Gruden's doghouse if you believe the scuttlebutt. He had off-season surgery and it sounds like he never really got into shape.

I think Kenyatta Walker gets credites a co-star role in Julius Peppers's personal highlight film, but he did a much better job today. Peppers worked an outside-in on him a time or two to get to Simms, once for a sack, and batted down at least one ball, but he wasn't the game-changing force he usually is against Tampa Bay. His ankle might have had something to do with that.

Cadillac has found his second wind -- he's really finishing runs the way he did the first four weeks, breaking through a lot of arm tackles or spinning off the pile for that extra yard. And when he gets a crease, which isn't all that often behind this line, he gets through it in a big hurry.

Ronde Barber had a game-sealing interception that was a thing of beauty. That's four picks in two weeks, all when he read the QB and jumped a route. He also had a sack, making him the first DB ever with 20 picks and 20 sacks in his career. What an underappreciated player. He's never been considered an elite corner because he doesn't play a lot of man-to-man "shutdown corner" defense. But does anyone do that "on an island" stuff much anymore? Barber plays man, he plays zone, he becomes the nickel guy on third down, and he does a lot of run blitzing. He absolutely eats up short passes and screens because he's a great tackler. He seems like the ultimate corner to deploy vs. all the West Coast teams, and it's a wonder he's never cashed in with a huge payday. That could change this offseason, as I believe he's a free agent.

Miami Dolphins 23 at San Diego Chargers 21

Aaron Schatz: I was completely bored by this game during the first half but apparently so were the Chargers. Then in the second half, the Dolphins scored a field goal, the Chargers fumbled the kickoff return, and all of a sudden the Chargers woke up and realized perhaps they should try to play hard.

It's very strange how an offensive line will look completely impenetrable one week and look like a bunch of rookies the next. San Diego's line was terrible today. MDS has talked about how well Keith Traylor is playing, and he really owned SD center Nick Hardwick. (Ed. note: Whoops, that big fat guy wearing #75 was actually rookie Manuel Wright.) I think I made this comment in a power rankings commentary earlier in the year, but Miami's safeties really come on strong to stop the run, it just seemed like Tomlinson couldn't go anywhere without running into three guys in white jerseys. His longest run of the game came on a draw play, which makes sense, that time the safeties were playing pass. Which leads to the question, why did the Chargers hardly play fake all day? They also kept throwing short pass after short pass. They only completed three passes over 15 yards – and one was on that final drive down by nine, and one was a 16-yard pass on third-and-17, and they didn't really have long incompletions either. Why not go deep and move the safeties back to give LT room?

I have never read anything negative or positive about LT as a blocker, but the Chargers were trying to march down the field for a last-second win and second-year backup safety Yeremiah Bell just went right by Tomlinson to sack Brees, knock the ball from his hands, Dolphins recover.

One last note. I finally figured out what role Philip Rivers plays on this team now that Brees is the clear starter. Rivers gets to be the guy who jumps up and down and points emphatically after onside kicks.

Ned Macey: How hurt do we think Tomlinson is? The Dolphins did always have a guy there, but he looked a little unsure of himself. A hurt Tomlinson is an average back, see 2004.

New York Giants 26 at Philadelphia Eagles 23

Aaron Schatz: Can we just repeal the stupid horse collar rule? If the refs aren't going to call the stupid thing, why is it even there? If Jevon Kearse's tackle on Tiki Barber doesn't count as a horse collar, I have no bloody clue what counts as a horse collar.

Russell Levine: The official announced "there is no flag for facemask on the play." ... Uh, what about the horse collar? Why is the horse-collar rule even in the book?

Giants went for it on fourth-and-3 from the Philly 35 in OT rather than attempt a 52-yarder. Is the potential risk of seven yards of field position worth not trying to end the game right there? If you're not comfortable kicking the FG there, you really should punt.

Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora may be the best pair of DE's in the league, but they both wear hand warmers, which for a lineman looks, well, really less-than-manly.

Al Bogdan: I have to disagree. The Giants made the right call going for it on fourth-and-3. You can't kick the field goal there. Aside from Feely's recent troubles, he's never been especially good on long field goals. The Giants punt coverage has been great this year, but even so, you're not going to gain in field position punting from the 35 yard line. The benefits of making that fourth-and-3 outweigh whatever slight field position advantage you'd gain.

That fourth-and-4 was ugly, though. Eli barely got it off before the game clock expired and it didn't really seem like everyone knew what was going on, especially Shockey. I'll have to see it again to confirm, but it looked like only two Giants went out to run a pattern while everyone else was back to block.

That's about as costly of a win that the Giants could have. Losing Pierce, Petitgout and McKenzie for any significant time is going to really hurt their chances going forward.

Ned Macey: I will never be able to appreciate how good the Giants are because I cannot believe some of the errors their coaching staff makes. I find the continued use of Brandon Jacobs exasperating, but even worse is continually putting the game in Manning's hands when they should ride Barber. 3:35 left, second-and 5 up by three points, they have Manning throw. Bad throw, interception. Three picks from Eli today which gives him 15 for the season.

Al Bogdan: It doesn't bother me so much that the Giants keep giving Jacobs chances, but do they have to give him repeated goal line opportunities on the same set of downs? If you want to give Jacobs one chance to run it in on the goal line, fine. But when he shows that he can't even get a single yard on goal to go from the one-yard line, don't give him the ball again on the next down so he can screw it up once more.

Why not play fake at the goal line with Jacobs in there? Defenses are keying in on the run, because they know they can stop Jacobs. A little play action pass to Shiancoe could work wonders there.

Baltimore Ravens 10 at Denver Broncos 12

Ned Macey: Kyle Boller had as bad a three-play sequence as is possible at the end of the first half. In a 3-3 game with a minute left in the first half, Baltimore had the ball at the Denver 24. First down, Boller overthrows Clayton and only what should have been offensive pass interference by another Baltimore receiver prevents an interception by Champ Bailey. Second down, errant throw that Derrick Mason barely gets a hand on to prevent a Bailey interception. Third down, Boller trips, falls downs, gets up, rolls left and throws a badly underthrown ball into the end zone that is picked off. The Ravens had an easy three points that he blew. To add insult to injury, they lost the game by two.

Ryan Wilson: Every week I say that Kyle Boller can't throw a worse pass than the one I just saw him throw, and every week he makes a liar out of me. His two interceptions against Denver should be 15-yard penalties. I really can't envision a scenario where, if Billick loses his job and Boller gets cut, another team will pick him up to compete for a backup QB job.

Detroit Lions 13 at Green Bay Packers 16

Michael David Smith: Tonight is the absolute least I have ever cared about a Lions game in my life as a Lions fan. What's the point? Two crappy teams playing a crappy game called by crappy announcers. The thing that amazes me about Garcia is that he plays like he's a rookie -- he's good at stuff like scrambling around and using his feet, but he's horrible at stuff like recognizing blitzes and managing the clock.

I think it would be funny if the Packers' fans started a pro-Millen chant. If you're a fan of another NFC North team you've got to love him. Detroit fans have started to chant "Fire Millen" when cheering on Detroit teams not just in other sports but in other cities.

Later This Week

Tuesday's Any Given Sunday: Dolphins over Chargers
Thursday's Every Play Counts: Carolina defense


119 comments, Last at 18 Dec 2005, 8:15pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Does it seem like there are an unusual number of paper bags coming out this year? My own Bills, obviously, should have a brown-bagged stadium next Saturday vs. Denver. That helps keep your face warm.

But the Bills, Jets, Ravens, Texans, Titans, Raiders, Eagles, Lions, Packers, Saints, 49ers, Rams, and Cardinals are all really unforgivably bad teams this season. Well, Eagles are in a special situation. But otherwise, any one of those teams makes a game unwatchable. And that's not even counting the Browns, who are very close to that level.

What gives? Too much talent being sucked up by a 13-0 team?

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Wow. Larry Johnson was unreal today. But Bledsoe bounced back with a freakin' huge game. We were dead and buried until the flea-flicker, and never said die after that. Great win for the 'Boys, Giants should lose next week, we just have to hold up our end of the bargain. Easier said than done.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Mike, if the Eagles are a special situation, then what about the Saints? They were practicing in STREET CLOTHES last week, for crying out loud!

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

The Jets "unforgivably" bad.. ? Are you serious?

They lost 3 QBs, their #1 running back, a WR, their starting center, tightend, and they have 1 offensive lineman playing his normal position. They couldn't practice during their bye week because they didn't have enough healthy bodies. I would say their record is definitely forgiveable.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I've got a theory that the Giants defense had a special meeting where the coaches showed them tapes of the Bears and told them that was the kind of football they needed to play. Unfortunately, nobody noticed Eli sitting in the back of the room.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Hey, my TiVo got screwed up and I didn't save Steelers/Bears. Did the Bears suffer from experiencing their first significant injuries to defensive starters this year, or did they just get pushed around up and down the line?

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"Tom Brady is so DREAMY! I mean, he buys drinks for his receivers when he goes out! I hope he asks me to the prom, but that bitch Cindy has been all over him and he'll probably ask her." - Ned

Seriously, what was the point of talking about how Tom Brady buys drinks for his receivers. In the rundown of the Colts game? When it wasn't even against new England?

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Because Tom Brady is the greatest human being on the planet. There should be a Congressional investigation into why he hasn't been named Time's Man of the Year yet. Women want to be with him, men want to be him.

Tom Brady is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re: Chargers

They only completed three passes over 15 yards – and one was on that final drive down by nine, and one was a 16-yard pass on third-and-17

This play involved one of the stupidest plays I've ever seen. It was 3rd and 17 on the SD 15 (or about there), ~4:30 left in the 4th quarter and SD was down by 6. The receiver catches the ball 18 yards downfield and proceeds to run BACKWARDS two yards. He ran himself out of a 1st down trying to get a few extra yards! Just fall down!

Mindblowingly dumb.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Barber isn't better in blitz pickup than Julius Jones. I'd say that Julius is a tad better, but both are at the point that they are so good at it that it's splitting hairs.

Jones seems to have lost his burst this year and it's probably due to the ankle injury. Barber is a far better receiver and is excellent in short yardage. I keep telling people that the Giants should've drafted him for short yardage over the overrated Brandon Jacobs.

Right now I think Parcells sticks with Jones as the starter with Barber for 3rd downs and short yardage. If Jones runs well, he'll stick with that. If not, he'll give Barber a shot.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Jason (#8 )--

I think you missed the sarcasm tag.

Ned Macey might be a little irked over SI's choice for Sportsman of the Year.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

How about the Redskins luck changing? I think they recovered every fumble yesterday (3 by Arizona, 2 by Brunell).

Unfortunately, Brunell threw 3 interceptions including 2 near the red zone.

Also unfortunate is that all the teams ahead of Washington for the wild card won yesterday....

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

MDS, are the Lions always as miserably bad on the goal line as they were last night? It seemed both the play calling and the execution was terrible. They must have had 10 plays run from the 5 or less, and they got destroyed on virtually every one of those plays. Was that on the 3 fat guys GB has in the center or was that the general suck of the Lions?

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14


I personally think that if the Colts go for 16-0 they'll lose a key piece to injury, face the Pats in the playoffs and lose, and everyone who is saying they should go for it will be talking about how terrible of a decision that was.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

The Bears got physically abused defensively in the game. No one could tackle. The absence of Mike Brown and Chris Harris turned some 6-8 yard runs into 15+ yard runs, because they just miss tackles in their gaps. By far the worst defensive performance of the year. It's not even close. The front seven and safeties... Ugh. I think we lost a starting DT in the first half as well.
A couple bright notes. We benched Mike Green, a veteran Mr. Irrelevant safety who just sucks, for Brandon McGowan, a rookie UDFA from Maine, in the third quarter. McGowan had something like three TFLs in a quarter and a half, and looked impressive. My guess is that he can't cover at all, but at least we have someone who can play in run support. Also, Orton probably played close enough to mediocre football to keep his job for another week. He's still holding the ball way too long, and making some whaaaaaaaaaaaattttttttttttt? throws.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Speaking of Lions and the goal-line... did I hear correctly that the refs absolutely screwed Detroit last night on an apparant safety?

Was there a good explanation on why holding in the end zone during a passing play would not be a safety?

That now makes 3 (by my count) games that have been decided directly by the yellow hankies... (Lions at Bucs, Redskins at Bucs, Lions at Packers).

Funny how the home team has benefitted all three times from the calls...

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Also, Pittsburgh fumbled four times I believe, all in the defensive backfield (where the defense recovers at a higher rate), and the Stillers recovered every one of them. Bobby Wade also added to his league leading (for a non-QB) fumble totals.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Reading a few articles on the topic, everyone seems so concerned with Indy ticket holders, and the last few games.

So do this. Sign Jeff George, have him play will all backups.

I promise you everyone will enjoy that just as much.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

The Packers "holding wasn't in the endzone" was absolutely hideous. 1) Gado was actually down in the endzone before throwing the ball forward, and 2) Tauscher was clearly holding in the endzone. That should be challengeable (not the penalty, but where the penalty occurred).

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

In regards to the horse collar, Rule 12-2-1-d states that all players are prohibited from "grabbing the inside collar of the back or the inside collar of the side of the shoulder pads and immediately pulling down the runner. This does not apply to a runner who is in the tackle box or to a quarterback who is in the pocket."

The key is that the grabbing has to be on the *inside* for the flag to come for a horse collar tackle. So players have instead been grabbing through the outside of the jersey to grab some pad in the general location of the neck and pulling down. Looks like a horse collar, same general effect, but it won't draw a flag. The either need to re-write the rule to deal with the inside/outside distinction, or just get rid of it entirely.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Thanks, nate. Have The Outsiders ever done an analysis of injury rates to starters, and the impact on w-l? How unusual is it for a defense or offense to go 12 games prior to losing a starter for a game?

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Kachunk, I don't think the Lions are always that bad near the goal line, but they're generally pretty bad. I think it's the play-calling more than the execution. I mean, you just don't have Jeff Garcia run directly into Grady Jackson. They allegedly drafted all those tall receivers because they'd be able to outjump defensive backs in the end zone, but Roy Williams is the only one who has shown any ability to do that. Of course, we were told a couple of weeks ago that the combination of firing Mariucci, demoting offensive coordinator Ted Tollner, and benching Harrington for Garcia would mean better play-calling and better audibles. If anything, I thought the play-calling was worse than usual last night. I was getting really tired of the passes that were short of the line to gain.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

#12 - Barber got picked one spot ahead of where the Giants drafted Jacobs, so they couldn't have drafted him. Also, I think you're underrating Jacobs - he hasn't really had the chance to show much this season (Playing behind Tiki Barber will do that), and when he's been on the field the playcalling has been nigh unto awful (Hello, has the coaching staff ever heard of play action? He gets stuffed on short yardage now because the D has no doubt about what's coming up. Earlier in the season, before the defenses knew exactly what was coming he was quite effective. As he matures, learns to run lower, etc. he should become more effective in the situations where they're loading up against him - but the coaches should do him a favor and pass it a few times when he's in there)

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

#23: Pretty rare. Chicago's defence and Indianapolis's offence have had good luck this year avoiding injury.

#19: Pittsburgh fumbled 3 times. The difference between those and a "real" fumble is that they were all while the player was inches above the ground, so the ball didn't really go anywhere, or only went a foot or two. Drops like that will have a much higher recovery rate, because usually the player's body just traps the ball and the play's whistled dead, or it squirts out to one of the blockers who was right next to him.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"MDS has talked about how well Keith Traylor is playing, and he really owned SD center Nick Hardwick."

Hey Aaron, Keith Traylor was inactive versus the Chargers on Sunday. D'oh!

That was the combo of Zgznina/Holliday/Wright that dominated the interior of the SD O-Line.

By the way, Manny Wright has looked great in the past 2 Dolphin wins.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Am I the only one not surprised that San Diego lost? It really irked me when they were touted as a great team that lost to other great teams. They are fantastic when their offense is clicking, but when the offense is off they can be bad. On defense they aren't great at all...

The turning point in my thinking was when they nearly blew that game against the Jets.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re: The Lions

Aren't you supposed to get into the EZ when you "pound, pound, pound?"

And yes, I am bitter about that game, having taken the over. Terrible plays/calls to avoid a TD, then an awful call to reverse a safety, and a missed FG to boot.


30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Brady is wonderful but I bet Peyton is the most valuable QB this week, thanks to a 300+ yds, 2 TD game against the Jags secondary. Pasquarelli wrote an interesting thind about the second TD on ESPN ( ) Sorry but when I put it on my website, there is a bug and my post is deleted...

About Mathis jumping on out routes, didn't he do that to close the game versus the Maddox-led Steelers ? Is the "chair" (out-pump-fade) often used ? It seems a very simple fake to use against an agressive secondary (especially with your second option if your primary receiver is double covered, letting the corner facing your second man alone).

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I'm surprised MDS hasn't mentioned not even attempting the FG at the end of the half. They may have won the game with those extra points, but instead just wasted excellent field position and enough time to run 2 plays and go for it from about 50 yards. It's that kind of savy at QB that gave Garcia the starting job.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I just want to emphasize how stupid Vermeil got yesterday. Larry Johnson is running well, already got 2 TDs. It's just before halftime. KC is 1st and goal at the Dallas 9. What to do? I know! Let's pass! Let's not use our most effective player repeatedly for a guaranteed TD!

Sack, fumble, Dallas guy rumbles to the KC 26, soon after a Jason Witten TD. A 14 point swing. Even if they had run 3 times and then had to settle for a FG, they'd still be up 17-10 at the half, instead of losing.

You'd think that a guy like Vermeil, in the league for 100 years, and desperate to win and have a shot at the playoffs, would do the smart thing.

Same with Schottenheimer. These guys no longer have what it takes to coach in the NFL, especially late in the season or in the playoffs.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"I’m surprised MDS hasn’t mentioned not even attempting the FG at the end of the half."

At this point I'm trying to curtail some of my Lions-related complaints. It's just so hopeless. I didn't feel this way at the end of any of the last four seasons, but this year has affected me. I think the only thing that can save this team is an absolute fan revolt on Sunday. If the only thing the TV audience hears is three hours of "Fire Millen" chants, maybe Ford will finally wise up. I know there's a movement among Lions fans to wear orange on Sunday, but that will just make people think a bunch of Cincinnati fans made the drive up. If you're at Ford Field Sunday, please, express your anger in a very vocal way.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

A couple of other things in the KC-DAL game not discussed above:

--KC leading 14-10, had ball at about the DAL 8 with over 1 minute left (DAL has all 3 timeouts left, KC has 2) and KC takes 2nd timeout to stop clock either because they wanted to help Dallas or thought it might require 6 more offensive snaps and there was not enough time. Then, KC does not run LJ with time not a factor, but passes twice and LJ whiffs on blindside block and Green fumbles. That play (and poor clock management and play calling) turned the game. I am all for balance, but in that situation, given the clock and game scenario, I think you run the ball there, because LJ was not exactly getting shut down, and worst case of 17-10 with no time for Dallas is alot better than what happened.

--after Dallas scored following the Spears fumble return, KC actually called timeout after a 2nd down run to make it 3rd and long deep in territory with 0:10 left in half. Dallas only had one timeout left, so KC was kind enough to allow Dallas to save theirs for 3rd, almost resulting in fair catch field goal attempt (punter bailed team out by angling and kicking it over the returners head). The most bizarre timeout call I have ever seen.

--For those who have TiVo, I thought Keyshawn Johnson was moving toward the line at the snap on the 4th down defensive holding call at the end of the game that directly preceded the Campbell TD. I am biased, so I want others thoughts. I thought that was the flag because it looked pretty blatant to me live.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I saw the last quarter of the Giants @ Eagles game, and I have to agree with Ned. Tiki should have got the ball. Eli Manning made some really bad throws, and if Mike McMahon hadn't reach a Krenzelian level of suckitude in the 4th and OT, the Eagles lose.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

MDS, like I said on one of the EP threads, you need to buy a 'Millen' Jersey. It worked for Barry Sanders and Charlie Batch...

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

the ref tripplet during the colts game ruled that a 15 yard personal foul and a 10 yard holding penalty offset. this happened during a return. i thought a personal foul would always override any other penalty of lesser value.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Lets say you watch your favorite team play on a national broadcasted game with some of the worse announcers in the business. It beats studying for final exams which start today at least right? Well not really because its the Lions, but I have to be faithful because its not often I get to watch my team on TV. But as you watch the game you wonder if your team is running some sort of 4-0-4 defense because you never see the LBs do anything, especially on running plays. Then you wonder what Dre Bly was thinking when he said Jeff Garcia would have saved Mooch's job because Garcia actually looks worse then Joey Harrington. Yes Jeff get mad when you throw a 1 yard pass on 3rd and 6th and the Lions cannot somehow convert. That will teach them!
The Lions had the ball inside the 10 on 4 different possessions and came away with only 13 points, and the TD almost never occured. But Dick Jauron, coaching genius that he is after figuring out that the no-RB, no TE formation on the 5, which of course resulted in the defense blitzing and Garcia flinging the ball at someone or something would not work, decides instead to run the ball up the middle everytime after that. Sure Dominic Raiola is not getting any push off the line, but lets keep running it behind him. And then when its 4th down on the 1 after two straight runs up the middle that Raiola each time got no push, lets run right behind Raiola again!!!! What it was the same result? Who would have thought. I mean it was only a yard, Garcia can throw it a yard to a RB.

You know its bad, when the Packers have the ball on their own 2 (after a questionable non-safety call...) and its 3rd and 7 and you tell your roommate that the Packers will get a 1st down on this play. and the Packers get a 1st down on the play (from a one-yard pass to their TE, who because the Lions employ no LBers just turned up field and was not touched until he got like 10 yards.)

and no Sunday Night Football crew, Marcus Pollard has not been a terrific pick-up for the Lions. He has done the same thing that Stephen Alexander and Mikhael Ricks have done in the past for the Lions. He has done nothing to change the complexion of the team. Mostly because what he is best at (red-zone TDs), the Lions never get into and when they do Jauron decides to run the ball straight at the guy Raiola cannot block.

The Lions big 3 1st rounders combined for 5 catches for 59 yards. And Roy Williams, the best one we have, had a huge-huge drop on a quick slant late in the game. Mike Williams 13 games into the season still looks lost, probably because he is sleeping through or skipping meetings and practices At least Kevin Jones looked good until he got hurt. So maybe there is a decent 1st round pick in the 6 Matt Millen has taken so far.

The part where I absolutely pondered quitting on the Lions was when Shawn Bryson, a 7 year vet, with about 36 seconds to go in the 4th quarter with the Packers having all 3 of their timeouts on a 3rd down and 7ish play in which Garcia predicatably throws a 2 yard pass route decides to run out of bounds a couple yards short of the 1st down stopping the clock and my faith that the Lions will ever be good.

Minus the offensive outburst against the Ravens and Cardinals, this has been the worse offense in the NFL. Harrington stunk, Garcia is horrible, the running game is non-existent or non-established, the WRs do not care, the OL is merely average. I would trade Roy Williams, Charles Rogers, and Mike Williams to the Titans for their 3 rookie WRs-Courtney Roby, Roydell Williams, and Brandon Jones (hey Matt Millen, none of those guys were 1st rounders!) and yes I know 2 of those guys are out for the season. But I think the Titans would laugh at that offer. Or to the Bengals for Chad Johnson, T.J. Housmandzandah, Chris Henry, and Kelley Washington (hey Matt Millen, none of those guys were 1st rounders), but the Bengals would never ever even do that.

So instead I just sit and wonder what its like to be a fan of an actual NFL team. I miss the mediocrity of the Barry Sanders years. To parapahrase a line in a recently released movie. Lions, "I wish I could quit you." But alas, I will suffer through the next couple years of the Dick Jauron era (because I know deep down that Millen will not try to hire a new head coach....)

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I still can't understand the idiocy that went on to overturn the safety in the Lions game. I think we need an FO article on it or something. It's the most mind boggling piece of crap call that I've seen in a long long time.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

#8 - I'll have you know that just last week Tom Brady saved my unborn baby from a burning building just as said building was falling off a cliff into shark infested waters.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Hey, James, I think that Millen jersey is a good idea.

On another note, James, please e-mail me, I need to ask you about watching American football in London.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re: 27, OK, that's what I get for assuming that the big fat guy wearing #75 was Traylor. Wow, that was Manuel Wright, huh? Nick Saban is definitely coachin' them up. I'll fix above.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re: 38

If it's only a 5 and a 15, they ignore the 5 and enforce the 15. But any other combination offset.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re #25: I'm firmly in the pro-Jacobs camp. The guy looked great in the preseason when he was in for full series, but now Coughlin has used him exclusively in one yard to go situations. Ward has become the #2 ballcarrier during normal situations. While I like Ward, bringing in a fast little guy is not exactly a change of pace to Tiki. Conventional wisdom (maybe mistakenly, but nonetheless)says #2 running backs are more effective when their style contrasts to the #1 guy, so why not bring in Jacobs to run some people over in the second/third quarters when Tiki needs a rest? It seems like Hufnagel is content to make him a poor man's Zack Crockett.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Did anyone else catch chris berman referring to the lions as "underdogs" last night during halftime? Underdogs against a team with 2 more losses. Then we lose. Guess we are the underdogs no matter what.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Speaking of Millen jerseys, apparently there were quite a few Green Bay fans wearing "Keep Millen" jerseys last night. Fantastic.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re: #44

Yup, Manny's #75 and he looks great. Doesn't have the stamina yet to play full time DT, but next year, watch out.

To steal somebody else's line, Manny is the best 2006 5th round pick in the NFL today!

I'm still holding on to the hope that my Dolphins play New England for all the marbles week 17.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Andy (#49 )--

Not to pick nits, but the AFC East crown this year ain't exactly all the marbles.

And I'm hoping the Patriots have that particular subset of marbles in the bag by Saturday night.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14


Good point about the marbles, but remember, some teams went 4-12 last year, while others won their 3rd SB in 4 years. Those belonging to the former camp are very excited to be playing meaningful games in December. You're gonna get pantsed by the Bucs!

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

All this hatred for red zone passing seems kind of silly to me. Sure, I love the ground game as much as anybody. But when you have a talented RB and you're close, they're going to sell out to cover the run, and someone's likely going to get open. If the defence guesses well and plays pass, sure, bad things can happen. But remember in that very same game, Dallas did EXACTLY what everyone's ripping KC for and got an easy TD off it.

I think it's one of those things that looks horrendous in retrospect if it goes wrong, but the chances of it going spectacularly wrong if you're not a team from the NFC North isn't all that great. You can trust Green to throw accurately, and you can usually trust the KC line to get the job done. They didn't that play. Saying it's the call's fault is a bit silly because Dallas played a very well-executed blitz that KC didn't pick up properly.

Red zone passing touchdowns are just as football-ish as red zone rushing touchdowns! And the chance of turning it over is only slightly higher.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Furtek #18:

"Redskins at Bucs"

Not decided by Yellow hankies. Get over the sour grapes.

A call was made on the field of a 2 point conversion, and there was not enough video evidence to overturn it.

The offsides penalty on DC to set it up was entirely legitimate, and DC had at least 2 if not 3 or 4 defenders early across the line.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Gado's pass was one of the most redonkulous plays I've ever seen. My thoughts can be found on the following link:

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Fnor, I dont think I ever suggested the Chiefs should always run in the red zone. However, teams that do run successfully in the red zone separate the men from the boys. LJ was not exactly running poorly behind the O-line against the Dallas D in the red zone prior to that series of plays.

I first-guessed the Chiefs play calling/clock management including a) taking a timeout at the 8 with over a minute in the half, and b) passing on BOTH first and second down when Dallas had 3 timeouts. The worst case scenario
actually occurred. Here's another one though. That pass is incomplete (rather than fumble) and Chiefs settle for a FG after failing to score on 3rd and goal from 8. Dallas has one minute left, 3 timeouts, and Chiefs ran no clock.

The comparison to the Dallas winning touchdown is Apples to Oranges. There is a big difference between a play action pass to the blocking TE on 1st and goal from the 1 1/2, and straight drop back passing from the 8 on 1st and 2nd down, when you have a great red zone running game and the clock situation presented. I would have had no problem with similar pass play on 3rd and goal from the 2 after some runs and running clock so Dallas' 3 timeouts are less effective.

The members offensive line didn't break down at all, from what I saw, LJ completely whiffed on his assignment, pick up the blindside LB. Pass blocking is the weakest part of his game. If you are not going to play action, and your not going to run, then why have him in their to pass block in that situation?

Vermeil has not been good in time management situations, and they passed when they did not "have to" because of time constraints. If you want to debate whether the Chiefs are better off attempting 3 straight passes from the 8, or being balanced and running the ball in the red zone, I will be glad to engage in that debate using the stats from the last 4 years.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Everytime I post and say "Sour Grapes, Sour Grapes, Sour Grapes!". I would wager that unbiased observers thought 80%-20% Alstott didn't get in. I've never heard you say... "the replay clearly shows that the ball crossed the plane".

I knew it was a bad example to use, and I just remembered another game where the ref's blew it. The Jets vs. Saints Sunday Night Football game where a Coles touchdown was overturned.

There... that's 3 solid examples and 1 "sour grapes" example.

Now that I am thinking about it the leg whip call against the Raiders helped set up Larry Johnson's 1 yard TD run. Since the Raiders are known for having "sour grapes" that one goes in the "sour grapes" category.

That's 3 clear blown calls by the officials and 2 "sour grapes" calls by officials that directly affected the outcome.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

You’re gonna get pantsed by the Bucs!

Depends on which Bucs team chooses to show up -- the one that beat the Panthers this past week, or the one that lost to the 49ers. Whichever it is, I doubt it'll be a pantsing in either direction.

And, unless Brady and Flutie both go out injured, don't rush out to bet the rent money on the Jets in week 16.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

pseudo-reference to #52.

Every time I hear that Parcells is too old-school and is coaching "outside of his era", he pulls something out of his size 46's and reminds me of why he is so special. Just kidding. I have no idea what Bill's waist size is.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Okay, Falco, teams should always play exactly to their strengths, and never try to outwit the defence.

It isn't always just about playing to your strengths. When you have a runner that your opponent fears, they WILL sell out to stop the run, which makes passing more attractive, even if it isn't your strongest play from that position. Plus, a pass play to keep them honest will likely soften up the run defence, if you decide to run on the next play, because they just almost got burned. It's a perfectly fine coaching decision. That play blew up. All right. What would we be saying if Johnson had gotten the run and then fumbled? That it was stupid for them to run there when they have as good a short pasing game as they do?

Was it the best call? Debatable. But you're making it out like he would have had to hit himself over the head with his clipboard and drank a bottle of whiskey to make a call like that, and that's simply not true. It was a fine call, that particular play just didn't work out.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re 1: What's going on is quite simple, really. Too many teams have sustained injuries at key positions and/or are getting ineffective play from key spots that is negating the many good players that those teams have on their rosters. Obviously some teams have been just crushed by injuries and other circumstances. The Eagles are playing without their first string quarterback, first string halfback or their #1 or #2 receivers on offense. The Jets are currently playing with their fourth string quarterback, their third string running back, and their second string at tight end, left tackle, right tackle, center and left guard. The Colts, meanwhile...well, they're playing with just about their starting lineup intact on both sides of the ball.

The thing is, there is a lot of talent built up on many of these supposedly terrible teams, and they just need a few pieces to fall into place to make the leap to being competitive again. The Bills aren't bereft of talent. They have some excellent players on their team- Willis McGahee, Lee Evans, Eric Moulds, Lawyer Milloy, Takeo Spikes, Nate Clements- just to name a few. But those guys are either injured or are rendered ineffective by some key personnel shortcomings around them. Look at the Jets- they've got John Abraham, Shaun Ellis, Dewayne Robertson, Jonathan Vilma, Chad Pennington, Laverneus Coles, Eric Barton. That's a lot of high quality players, but they are being undone by either injuries or ineffectiveness elsewhere. Don't even get me started on the Lions. The point is that a lot of these teams aren't nearly as down as they seem, and a good offseason of tuning the roster combined with some luck staying healthy could easily see most of these squads compete for playoff births next season. The only team that is clearly in no position to compete next year is San Francisco. Aside from that, there are quite a few candidates for a Chicago-style turnaround.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"It isn’t always just about playing to your strengths. When you have a runner that your opponent fears, they WILL sell out to stop the run, which makes passing more attractive, even if it isn’t your strongest play from that position."

I have no problem with this statement. But please comment on this game's context, as my post was related to the particular game situation, not on whether team A should never or always pass or run in the Red Zone. A little over 1 minute left, 1st and goal, calling timeout to stop clock, opponent has 3 timeouts remaining. I think what really happened here was the Chiefs were in 2 minute mode, but had some big gains to get down inside the 10 quicker than planned, and did not adjust back to base offense mode to run clock, rather than preserve it.

"Plus, a pass play to keep them honest will likely soften up the run defence, if you decide to run on the next play, because they just almost got burned"

So you agree that the Chiefs should have run on second down after passing on first and goal? Herein lies my problem, and why yes, it was a bad call. They did not run on either first OR second down, when they needed to both score and run clock, with a great red zone rushing team.

"But you’re making it out like he would have had to hit himself over the head with his clipboard and drank a bottle of whiskey to make a call like that, and that’s simply not true."

Exhibit A for the second whiskey shooter theory: The timeout call after 2nd down inside own 20 with 0:10, so Dallas could save theirs for 3rd down and have a chance at a fair catch free kick at the end of the half.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

#62: You don't run the clock down when you need a touchdown, because there's never a gaurantee that you'll make it in, even if you're close, and if you try to get cute, you stand a chance of having to hurry plays to try to force it in, or if you turn it over, you don't have time to stop your opponent.

I don't agree that the Chiefs had to run it on second. I think that some good ways to approach it would be:
due to the time remaining I'm not enamored with 3 runs. Teams are always thinking to stop the run on the first two downs close to the goal line, and usually thinking pass if they're stopped on a run or two or have been passing in that set of downs thus far, so a run on third down with a team that is good at it can be a very good idea, especially since now the defence doesn't really know what to expect but is leaning towards the pass.

As for the timeout thing, I really don't remember the circumstances about that. I tend to give a lot more benefit of the doubt to coaches than most people when it comes to random TOs that make no sense, because I really don't think coaches call them just because they like to make little "T" signs with their hands, so there's some reason for it. There are a lot of things unapparent to us (bad substitution, confusion, bungled play call, etc) that the coach might not have time to straighten out before the play.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Furtek #57:

You could always include the Betts "not out of bounds call" on the Bucs-Skins game, on the theory that he was running on tip-toes, to counter any Alstott wasn't in theories. Todd Pinkston scored a TD last year against the Redskins in the exact same manner, but the refs claimed he did step out of bounds while "tip-toeing" along the sideline. I don't recall the evidence being any better than what was presented to say Betts stayed in.

When I watched the 2 point conversion live, I thought he got in. When I saw the replays, I thought there might be some doubt, but there was nothing to clearly indicate him not getting the ball over the plane.

I agree with you about the Lions getting screwed by two calls (Bucs game and Packers game).

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

The point I wanted to make is that the referee's have been horrible and played a major role in deciding some of the games this year...

Poor announcing is excusable, everyone loves to bash them... but Bill Maas, Tim Green and Ron Pitts never cost a team a playoff spot.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

why won't the competition committee mull over pass interference changes, like installing a yard limit or at least making it reviewable?

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

#46: In full agreement. A significant portion of Jacobs' struggles can be traced to the coaching staff - it's certainly not because 'He's not a good short yardage back' as the announcers seemed determine to point out.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14


You got it all wrong. You ALWAYS bet against your team - that way, you can take comfort no matter the outcome...

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re #1:

Yup. There won't be any asking "Paper or Plastic?" in Buffalo this week, it's all paper. (Yes I'm a Bills fan.)

Baltimore...okay, early odds that TMQ doesn't mention the failed 4th and goal on the 1 in the fourth quarter? Especially since they lost by two. Whoops.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

#68: So are Colts fans happy or sad when they do that this year? Or do their heads just explode?

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Aaron asked about Julius Jones versus Marion Barber. I pretty much agree with everything Yakuza Rich said. Jones' injury seems to still be bothering him; high ankle sprains can linger for weeks, and late in the season usually put a player on the IR.

I think when he's healthy, Jones is a much better pure runner. Barber is a better receiver, a better pass blocker, and shows more leg drive in short yardage situations. One thing I noticed about Jones this year is he doesn't wait as long for his blocks to develop as he did last year. This year, he impatiently and blindly rush to the designed hole, rather than letting a crease appear and pop through. I'm not sure if this is in any way associated with his injury.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

That was me, not Smithers in the last post. My cover has been blown for my little Simpsons joke on the Open Game Discussion Thread last night.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

You know it is realy funny how Fox Sports thinks the sun rises and sets on the East Coast. The Sports fans here in Seattle should save our money and not even watch the Super Bowl because Fox has it all figured out and given the Colts the trophy.............NOT!!!!!!!

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I love how teams get excused for bad play because of injuries. "Eagles aren't bad, they just lost McNaab. Steelers are great if Big Ben is healthy. Patriots got injured in the secondary so we'll cut them slack." Last time I checked, rosters are 53 deep. Everybody makes excuses for their team when someone goes down as if they're not playing against a team that has their own injuries every single week. The Jaguars have played half their season without their pro-bowl safety and starting RB. Their starting QB is out. They had to replace their left gaurd with a rookie cause he was terrible. They just lost their Center for the year. Most people know by now that they signed Garrard to a big contract last year just to be a backup. I can't stand people making excuses for their teams because they are bad and ill-prepared to play through injuries. Nobody pays attention to the Jaguars cause they don't have big stars and gaudy statistics. But they have the 4th best record in a much tougher conference because they field a complete team. PEACE.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Chris- You need to take your beef elsewhere. The Jaguars have had a high DVOA rating for most of the season. As for injuries being an excuse for poor play, I hate to burst your bubble, but injuries are not just a factor in who wins and loses, they are arguably the leading factor, depending upon the positions and the matchups. You can do very well gambling by strictly looking at the injury reports. Now I understand that the Jaguars have been without a healthy Fred Taylor or Donovan Darius for much of the season, and now they've been forced to play their backup quarterback, albeit against the easiest remaining schedule of any team in the league. But do you really want to compare that to a team that is currently missing its starting quarterback, running back, number one and number two receiver on offense, as well their number one cornerback? (And that's just the players that are out.) You want to compare your injuries with the Jets, a team that has 10 guys on the IR, including their starting quarterback and their number two quarterback? You sure you want to go there?

Seriously, take your 12-4 season and be happy with it...if you feel the need to get worked up over something, try getting worked up over the prospect of that playoff game in the snow in Foxborough in four weeks.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I would also like to point out that as has been shown, the injury that most hurts your team's chances to win is quarterback. And I think a huge reason for that is that there are simply not that many starting-quality NFL quarterbacks in the world.

Heck, I doubt there's even 32 of them.

I think Jacksonville got lucky and got 2 starting-quality NFL quarterbacks, but to criticize other teams for not doing the same is a little insane. It's not possible. There aren't that many quality backups out there.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

(And that’s just the players that are out.)

Actually, you missed a few (you were talking about the Eagles, I think) - QB, #1, #2 RB, #1, #2 WR, #1 CB, C, T, P. And that's just the starters, and just the ones on injured reserve/brain injured list.

Incidentally, even if you completely ignore where the injuries are, it's simply stupid to claim that the Jaguars are better because they're deeper. The Jaguars have 6 players on injured reserve. The Eagles have twelve.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Players on IR is such a misguided statistic. A third string TE is not exactly important or necessary for success. Counting "starters" out is misleading as well. The Bears have technically not lost any games by starting QBs - except that Grossman was the starter before the season started. The Pats have lost "18 starters" in the secondary, except more than half of them only started for a game because of injury.

Every team has injuries, some obviously affect certain teams more than others but it's completely senseless to play a "my team's hurt more than yours" game. The Bears had tons of people on IR last year, that didn't make them some kind of a special case to anybody and it shouldn't have. The Bears success this year is not due to increased health - or at least not that alone, having Brown and Urlacher healthy certainly helps.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Ronde Barber had a game-sealing interception that was a thing of beauty. That’s four picks in two weeks, all when he read the QB and jumped a route. He also had a sack, making him the first DB ever with 20 picks and 20 sacks in his career.

Nitpicking here. The Ronde Barber stat is correct for CBs. Safeties count as DBs, though, last I checked.

I haven't investigated any other players, but according to the stats (a biased source, but if I find the official NFL stats, I'll post that) Leroy Butler had 20.5 sacks and 38 interceptions.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

but it’s completely senseless to play a “my team’s hurt more than yours� game.

Why? It clearly does affect certain teams more than others. The fact that there's not an easily-quotable statistic for it doesn't mean that there aren't teams hurt more than others.

I mean, especially a team like Jacksonville has no place claiming that it's been hurt with injuries anywhere near as bad as the Patriots and Eagles.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Anyone who responded with "yah huh, injuries do make a difference" totally missed the point. I think it's pretty obvious a team missing starters will not be as good as if they had all their starters. The point is that people make excuses for their team like "well if this guy and that guy aren't hurt, we're a top 5 team easily." OK, but they are hurt, you haven't won the games, and you arent a good team this season. Teams have 53 guys. If people go down, and the backups aren't able to get the W's, then the TEAM is not good. I don't mean to purposely be a Jacksonville homer, but they get no recognition for doing the same things other teams do. I actually read this at someone was talkin about the Jaguars not being tested, this is what he said: "Well they beat Seattle, but it was early in the season in the Jacksonville heat. Cincinatti was without #2 receiver T.J. Houshmanzadeh." WHAT???? Did he really just decredit the Jaguars win because the team had a #2 receiver injured?? The Jags had their number 1 safety out, plus that was the game Fred Taylor got injured and left early. And they only beat the #1 team in the NFC because it was hot outside???? Its really unbelievable stuff, these are supposed to be "professionals"

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I'm saying that injuries may matter in regards to a team's succes but unless you quantify it all you have is talk radio. Everyone runs 'round in circles and the discussion can't lead anywhere.

What's worse, nagging injuries that hamper performance or season ending injuries? Who's more valuable, a QB or RB? A QB or 2 RBs? What about a secondary? What about the talent of the backups?

It's silly to get into an argument about who has been hit hardest by injuries. Daunte Culpepper goes down and the Vikings miraculously win 6 games. McNabb goes down and the Eagles start losing. Both lost starting WRs (one in the offseason) both lost starting RBs (one before the season started), both lost linemen - so does that mean that the Vikings obviously lost personnel that had less to do with their ability to win games? I don't think so. It's a combination of depth, timing and schedule.

Don't get me wrong, injuries play a factor in a team's success but to try and argue about the effect of injuries when comparing different teams doesn't seem productive.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I wanna say something about McNaab too. He's a great guy, but he's an average QB. He is basically Drew Bledsoe with mobility. He has good mechanics and arm strength, but he is not super accurate and he makes terrible decisions in crunch time. Im not tryin to personally diss the guy, but I'm always compelled to seperate hype from reality. I've heard Jason Whitlock and Sean Salisbury say he's in the top 5 QB's in the league. NO WAY. Palmer, Leftwich, Roethlisberger, they all look better at this point in their career then he did. He also fakes injuries every time he plays bad in a superbowl, has a bad game, or gives away a win with an interception. I think it stems from the fact that Rush Limbaugh unnecessarily made race an issue in his evaluation of Donavon. That clearly stung him, understandably, and I think he's afraid to have to hear that overrated shit again and have another big deal about the race issue. I can't really blame him eiter, its very unfortunate. But the fact is that Terrell Owens is waaay more valuable ON THE FIELD than is Mcnaab

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14


The Eagles injury/out list includes 14 players they were counting on for contributions this year when they started making plans last February:

#1 QB (McNabb)
#1, #2 WR (Owens, Pinkston)
#1, #2 RB (Westbrook, Buckhalter)
#2 FB (Tapeh)
#1 C (Fraley)
#1 LT (Thomas)
#1 CB (Sheppard)
#5 S (Considine)
#2 DE (McDougle)
#5 DT (Grasmanis)
#5 LB/WB (Short)
#4 S/#1 KR-PR (Reed)
P (Johnson)

Also injured and out for some games:
#1 DT (Walker, 3 games)
#1 LG (Hicks, 3 games)
#2 TE (Lewis, 8 games)
#1 K (Akers, 4 games)

This isn't a matter of a "lack of depth". Its 18 of your original 53 players being out for significant amounts of game time.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

One thing that you should leave out of your arguments: the "Jags were shorthanded because Fred Taylor was hurt" bit. If the Jaguars haven't figured out that they need a high-caliber backup to Taylor yet, then they deserve whatever they get from having no running game. I'm not saying that Greg Jones isn't good, I'm just saying that there are 3 things you can count on in life: death, taxes and Fred Taylor getting injured. If you think that McNabb being injured is no excuse for the Eagles, then Taylor getting injured is REALLY no excuse for the Jags.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Quick Thoughts:
Anyone who thinks the Bears should stick with Orton is a nut, and yet this seems to be the popular opinion. He is not doing anything right, and is not a contributing factor to their winning season. In other words, the Vikings are winning WITH Johnson, the Jags are winning WITH Garrard, but the Bears are winning DESPITE Orton. Statistically, you could switch to anybody on earth and not do much worse than Orton. As a result, you have to make the move and hope for improvement, because it can't get worse. Teams that are 1 sided that get into the playoffs don't last. Ask last years Colts.

Offensive lineman is the most important position in the game. There is nothing more important in football than blocking and tackling. A lot of teams and GM's dont acknowledge this. Which teams are generally recognized as the strongest at the line on offense. Denver and Seattle. Do they have the big name "skill players?" Not many. But they're 2nd and 3rd in record. The Colts are probably the 3rd best O-line, but they do have the skill players, that's why they're the best. Look at the Bills. They had a solid veteran last year in Bledsoe, but he was getting sacked all the time. So instead of improving the O-line, they just threw in a quarterback with mobility. How did that work out? Detroit has a terrible line, and yet they've consistently taken WR's, QB's and RB's in the draft. They just dont get it. And it's not a coincidence that Bills and Lions are now looking for new GM's. They didn't pay attention to the line.

The Bengals are starting to make my point that they aren't ready for January. All they can rely on is run and shoot pass offense. They are average to below average in every other phase. When its 5 degrees out and flurries are blowing in Palmers face, and receivers are sliding around through their routes, they don't have a single chance to pound it out verse the Chiefs, Steelers, or Chargers. And they certainly aren't going to stop any of those teams from pounding it down the field. The passing game started to struggle against the Browns and they ended up winning on a last second field goal. The Bengals need to either build a dome or change their philosophy.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Chris #84:

He has good mechanics and arm strength, but he is not super accurate

If he is not accurate, how does he hold both FIRST and SECOND place on the all time list of consecutive passes completed? 25 and 24. Joe Montana is third at 22.

and he makes terrible decisions in crunch time

And your evidence of this is what? What is "crunch time"?

How does the second least intercepted QB on a per pass attempt basis in NFL history (after Neil O'Donnell who is #1) get called out for making terrible decisions? What does that say about every other QB in NFL history and their decision making skills?

I’ve heard Jason Whitlock and Sean Salisbury say he’s in the top 5 QB’s in the league. NO WAY. Palmer, Leftwich, Roethlisberger, they all look better at this point in their career then he did.

In McNabb's second year starting of his career he was throwing to the illustrious duo of Torrance Small and Charles Johnson at wide receiver. Not potential Hall of Famer's like Jimmy Smith, Hines Ward, or Chad Johnson. Not even good receivers like TJ Houshmandzadeh and Plaxico Burress. Good receivers make quarterbacks look better.

He also fakes injuries every time he plays bad in a superbowl, has a bad game, or gives away a win with an interception.

Examples of "faked" injuries please? Did McNabb "fake" getting speared by Chad Lavalais in Atlanta in Week 1, an then fake the MRI that showed a Sports Hernia? What time did he lose to injury in the Super Bowl? Can you name a game in his career besides the 2nd Dallas game this year that he "gave away" the winning points with an interception?

But the fact is that Terrell Owens is waaay more valuable ON THE FIELD than is McNaab

The fact is that points scored per game tallies for the Eagles simply don't bear this out at all.

Eagles PPG in 26 games 2002-2003 w/ McNabb and w/o Owens - 24.8.

Eagles PPG in last 14 games of 2003 w/ McNabb and w/ Westbrook - 26.0

Eagles PPG in first 14 games of 2004 + SB w/ McNabb and w/ Owens and w/ Westbrook - 26.

Eagles PPG in 2004 Playoffs w/ McNabb and w/o Owens - 27.0.

Eagles PPG in 10 games in 2002 w/ McNabb - 27.2

Eagles PPG in 6 games in 2002 w/o McNabb - 23.8

Eagles PPG in 9 games 2005 w/ McNabb injured - 21.4

Eagles PPG in 4 games in 2005 w/o McNabb - 14.8

Eagles PPG in 7 games in 2005 w/ McNabb injured and w/ Owens - 23.3

Eagles PPG in 6 games in 2005 w/o Owens - 14.8

Owens brought, at most, 1 PPG worth of offense to the Eagles that they didn't otherwise have, which is born out by Owens DPAR value.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Furtek #65:

A good team generally scores enough points to not be screwed by a bad call by the Refs. If you are griping about Zebra-ing affecting the game outcome, you probably aren't a good team anyway.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

My definition of crunch time? I guess 3 straight NFC championships that they made only because of their defense. T.O. got them to the Superbowl last year, he brought so much confidence and swagger to the team, not to mention vast amounts of talent, and all the players even admitted it, and then McNabb played AWFUL in the Superbowl. Then he claimed he was "sick." He got speared in the chest, AFTER he threw the ball, for an interception, and got up "hurting." Also, a hernia is a strain of the lower back, I don't know all the details but I know for sure he overplayed that injury as an excuse for a bad game. If you recall in Washington he threw a pick on the last play at the Redskins 5 yard line and got up limping. Then in Dallas he gave the game away, and after dancing wildly in the endzone earlier, had to make up a new excuse to garner sympathy, so he jumped in front of a block and came up with a bad groin? He got exposed without T.O., the defense was the reason they were so consistent before, they aren't as good this year. I don't know what your statistic about 25 completions is supposed to mean, you dont know what kind of passes those were, Plummer went 2 months without a pic and he's not exactly slingin arrows that are gonna knock an apple off someones head.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

A hernia isn't a strain of the's when an organ pops out of the cavity in which it's supposed to lie. Like when your intestines get forced into your chest cavity.

Does that sound appropriately awful? Because it is.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

A hernia isn't a strain of the's when an organ pops out of the cavity in which it's supposed to lie. Like when your intestines get forced into your chest cavity.

Does that sound appropriately awful? Because it is.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Excuse the double post.

Re 85:

This is fun. Here is what the Jets have been without, and for most of the season, mind you:

QB: #1, #2 (as well as minor injuries to the #3 and #4 guys that have knocked each of them out of games)
HB: #1, #2
WR: #3
TE: #1
LT: #1
C: #1
WLB: #1
CB: #2

And I'm pretty sure I'm missing one or two guys.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Like I said, I don't really want to get into this, but I'd like to point out why this kind of "my guys are more hurt than yours" is so silly.

#1 QB (McNabb)
Kyle Boller, Kurt Warner, Kelly Holcomb, Rex Grossman, Trent Dilfer, Jeff Garcia, Byron Leftwich, Gus Frerotte, Daunte Culpepper, Chad Pennington, Ben Roethlisberger, Alex Smith/Tim Rattay, Marc Bulger, Brian Griese, Michael Vick and Mark Brunnel have all missed games due to injury. So basically half the teams in the league have missed at least one game from their starter. Granted a lot of these teams didn't know who the starter should be but...

#1 Owens
Seriously, you're putting him on this list?

#2 FB (Tapeh)
#5 S (Considine)
#5 DT (Grasmanis)
#5 LB/WB (Short)
#4 S/#1 KR-PR (Reed)
#2 TE (Lewis, 8 games)
I'm sure these guys provide depth, but look around the league, everybody's got a bunch of these guys on IR because it's easier to do that and grab a UFA.

Check out the website in my name to get a look at the injury reports for every team. The Cardinals have apparently lost a ton of guys, but since they were going to be bad anyway, no one really cares.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re 94:

Why would nobody care about the Cardinals? They have lost a bunch of guys and it has absolutely impacted their ability to compete. If anything, teams with minimal depth like Arizona are more likely to be impacted by injuries than your average team. The problems Arizona has had defensively are directly attributable to the players they have lost to injury.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Mactbone, if injuries have a significant impact on the outcome of games, then it is worthwhile to attempt to quantify injuries in a systematic fashion, so as to better grasp what likely effect that an injury or injuries will have. I don't think anybody has done a real good job of this yet, but it is something worth pursuing.

Chris, could you explain how a wide receiver who did not play in the playoffs prior to the Super Bowl "got his team to the Super Bowl?

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Chris #90:

I guess 3 straight NFC championships that they made only because of their defense.

What points did their defense score in Divisional Playoffs against Chicago (33-19 win 2001), Atlanta (20-6 win 2002), or Green Bay (20-17 win 2003)? Was it defense that converted 4th and 26 against Green Bay? Did defense throw 5 offensive touchdowns and also 1 rushing touchdown in these games? Maybe the defense made McNabb run for 109 yards against Green Bay? Perhaps the defense was audibaling at the line and handing off the ball to Staley also.

How did McNabb "choke" in the Championship Game by allowing the Rams to score 29 points in 2001 (most given up all season by the Eagles), the Buccaneers to score 27 points in 2002 (third most given up all season by the Eagles)? Did he fail to make a bunch of tackles while playing defense that he should have made?

T.O. got them to the Superbowl last year,

The Eagles were the #3 seed in 2001 and the #1 seed in 2002-2004. Owens did not play in the 2004 playoffs. What did he do to make the 2004 playoffs so successful, considering the only playoff game he played in, the Eagles lost?

he brought so much confidence and swagger to the team

How can you determine the amount of confidence and swagger TO brought in 2004, vs. say, the amount of confidence and swagger lost in 2003 by having Westbrook and Troy Vincent injured for the playoffs?

then McNabb played AWFUL in the Superbowl.

Other than one two bad throws, I thought McNabb played quite well in the Super Bowl, throwing 3 touchdowns, and putting his team in a position to win the game. Maybe it was bad old McNabb playing defense who caused the Eagles to give up their 3rd most points of the season to the Patriots in that game.

Then he claimed he was “sick.�

No, that was Freddie Mitchell who claimed that.

He got speared in the chest, AFTER he threw the ball, for an interception, and got up “hurting.�

What game are you talking about? McNabb didn't get speared in the Super Bowl. Do you mean this year's Atlanta game? If so, are you implying McNabb and the Eagles faked his injury reports, MRI's, and surgery?

Also, a hernia is a strain of the lower back,

A sports hernia is a detachment of the abdominal muscles from the bones in the groin.

I don’t know all the details

No, you sure don't.

but I know for sure he overplayed that injury as an excuse for a bad game.

I don't recall a single quote from him saying "I played poorly because of an injury." Maybe you can produce one?

If you recall in Washington he threw a pick on the last play at the Redskins 5 yard line and got up limping.

Usually, you get up limping if you are already injured and you take a big hit.

Then in Dallas he gave the game away, and after dancing wildly in the endzone earlier, had to make up a new excuse to garner sympathy, so he jumped in front of a block and came up with a bad groin?

He already had the bad groin. If you recall, he reaggravated it during a run earlier in the game, when the Eagles were still ahead 17-7. The block trying to prevent the touchdown merely added to the existing problem.

He got exposed without T.O., the defense was the reason they were so consistent before, they aren’t as good this year.

At least we agree on one thing here. Bad defense this year is causing them many problems.

I don’t know what your statistic about 25 completions is supposed to mean, you dont know what kind of passes those were

It means 25 straight pass attempts mad without an incompletion or interception. You can read what they were in the San Diego-Philadelphia play-by-play this year.

Plummer went 2 months without a pic

Yes, but he threw many incompletions during that time. You are saying McNabb is inaccurate. I'm saying if he is so inaccurate, there is no way he should be able to have the first and second spot for consecutive passes completed.

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I don’t think anybody has done a real good job of this yet, but it is something worth pursuing.

Carl Prine did - his article on injuries in the NFL is linked in the "Links outside the Outsiders" here. The important one is "finances worsen woes, critics say."

Short summary: if you lose a starter at the following positions, you're screwed (in order of screwed-ness): QB, WR, OL, DL. After that, it's basically no effect, although in order it's still DB, K, P, and then RB/FB/TE have absolutely zero.

#1 Owens
Seriously, you’re putting him on this list?

Brain injury.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

You're being extremely naive here. McNaab knew about all the excuses being made for his awful game in the Superbowl and never refuted them. First it was that he was sick which he wasn't. Then T.O. was like "I'm not the one who got TIRED in the Superbowl." He clearly meant I'm not the one that played bad. Also, he claimed to have this hernia but was gonna wait till after the season to have surgery. Couldn't have been that bad if he can run and throw with a hernia, that seems pretty hard to do. Find a tape of the Redskins game, I watched the whole thing, he took hits all game but never looked hurt or got up lame until he blew it and cost his team the game. Then he's limping. In the Cowboys game he gets in the endzone and does a jig where hes swingin his legs all over the place celebrating. Then he gives away the game with an interception, runs right in front of a blocker and falls to the ground. Gets up with a bad groin??? Gimme a break man, look at the big picture. He's having a terrible season, costing them games, doesn't look so good without T.O., and decides now he's too injured and needs the surgery??? Gimme a break, he cut his losses and quit before exposing himself further. He's fakin it bro. He's an average QB who gets money and acclaim like hes John Elway, he's not livin up to it, and he's makin excuses.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Good find, Pat. Here's a relevant passage from Carl's article:

"With or without guaranteed contracts, some players will always be more valuable than others. The Trib analyzed NFL injury data over the last four years to see what effect injuries had on winning. The Trib found that teams with the most injuries -- such as Polian's Colts -- often had the most wins, too. In fact, there's no correlation between the number of injuries on a roster and a club's ultimate gridiron success.

Instead, losing players at important positions is why teams flop. Top of the list: The quarterback. A team is 24 percent more likely to lose when its QB is out. The passer is followed closely by receivers and more distantly by offensive and defensive linemen.

Losing defensive backs, kickers, punters, running backs and fullbacks has little effect on winning, the data show."

It certainly hold up this year. If you look at the teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, eight of the twelve teams have had their quarterbacks play every game this year. Of the twelve teams with the worst records, only four of them have had their opening day starters play all or even a large majority of the games.

Coincidence? I think not.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Let it be noted that Chris has accused McNabb's physician of engaging in medical malpractice by performing unecessary surgery.

Pat, I read the article, which Carl had previously referred to in conversations with me. I wonder if four years worth of data produced wholly reliable findings. No doubt the QB is the most important single player, but I have some doubts about how critical it is to avoid WR injury, compared to the cascading effect of losing more than one offensive lineman. Talk to Lovie Smith about how injuries to safeties don't matter.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Then again, perhaps the difference in performance between an above-median offensive lineman and his median replacement is narrower than that of an above-median wide receiver and his median replacement.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

McNaab knew about all the excuses being made for his awful game in the Superbowl and never refuted them.

Actually, yes he did. He gave a very detailed refutation of Mitchell's claim that he had to call a play in the huddle and that McNabb was throwing up. You can actually find it in the Extra Points section here.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Then again, perhaps the difference in performance between an above-median offensive lineman and his median replacement is narrower than that of an above-median wide receiver and his median replacement.

That, I think, is the answer. FO's player statistics kindof confirm it, as well, at least for QBs. There aren't 32 starting-quality (above replacement level) quarterbacks in the league, let alone enough for backups.

The other thing to consider is that those are single injury statistics. In other words, if losing a QB reduces your chance of winning by 24%, and losing a WR reduces your chance of winning by 18%, losing a QB and a WR does not lower your chance of winning by 42%.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Just to throw in some support for FastEddy and Falco in the dispute between Falco and Fnor in #32, 35, 52, 56, 60, 62, and 63, I offer the following:

Falco is right, and Fnor is wrong, not because Falco is smart and Fnor is not, but because Falco has a better grasp of how the Chiefs succeed and fail, and because Fnor ignored Falco's references to the game situation. For example, Fnor said, "You don’t run the clock down when you need a touchdown," That may be true, but the Chiefs didn't need a touchdown, they needed to keep the Cowboys's hands off the ball. And with 1:21 to go with one timeout left, there was ample time for three or four running plays.

First, the Chiefs have had a history this year of giving up huge chunks of yardage and usually points (yards 6 times out of 12, points 5/12; counting Dallas the numbers become 7/ and 6/13) just before the half. It's almost like the defense says, "Well, 2:30 to go in the half, it's wash-up time." The point? With the Chiefs, it's very important for them to hold onto the ball until the whistle blows.

So, even if Fnor is right when he says, "Red zone passing touchdowns are just as football-ish as red zone rushing touchdowns! And the chance of turning it over is only slightly higher," the downside for a turnover by the Chiefs in this situation is extraordinarily high--both loss of points for them, and a high likelihood of points against them, exactly as it turned out. All of this demands plays designed to advance the ball at low risk--hand off to Larry Johnson.

Second, although Larry Johnson may be one of the best RBs in the league, he ISN'T one of the best blockers in the league. Tony Richardson is. He should have been in to block on any pass play, but the right play to call is a handoff to Johnson running behind Richardson, or anything that will keep the clock moving. Keeping LJ alone in the backfield to block INCREASES the chance of disaster in this situation, without increasing the chance of success. It makes a straight drop back pass a relatively high-risk play, the opposite of what was needed.

Third, there is Fnor's statement, "a pass play to keep them honest will likely soften up the run defence." The Chiefs had just run passes on five out of seven plays. All five were complete. Hadn't that "softened up" the run defense enough? We'll never know.

I have to agree with Fnor when he says, "so a run on third down with a team that is good at it can be a very good idea." It's also a good idea on first down and second down. There was no third down.

Given the Chiefs' history and the game situation, we were calling for running plays before the fact, so all this isn't second-guessing.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Will Allen #102:

Exactly. 1 or 2 reserve linemen can usually work adequately with the other three and the tight ends to do the necessary blocking most of the time. If they have a REALLY bad game, maybe the Quarterback gets sacked two times he wouldn't have, and the running back gets dropped for a loss a couple of times. If the team is above average to begin with, they'll survive a few additional bad plays by simply playing closer games.

OTOH, as Pat has noted, there are only about 20 or so guys playing Quarterback right now who are actually good at it, and certain teams (Jacksonville, Tennessee, Atlanta, San Diego) appear to have two of them. When a McNabb, Pennington, or Roethelisberger goes down, its a big deal. Similarly, the number of wide receivers who play decently is also limited, with a few teams having 2 or 3 good ones, and others having just 1. Imagine what would happen to Carolina if Steve Smith was hurt again.

Running backs, OTOH, appear more fungible once you move beyond the top handful of guys in the league (your Edgerin James' and LaDanian Tomlinson's), who are the lifeblood of their offense. That's why every year guys with names like Samkon Gado and Reuben Droughns come out of nowhere and rush for 1000 yards and 10 TD's. But you never hear about a wideout coming out of nowhere and catching 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Now to defense, again, because it is scheme oriented like offensive line play, most teams are able to handle losing a player or two and replacing him with an average player. Where this does not hold true, I would imagine, is where an All-Pro Safety or Middle Linebacker is lost, since by their position, they arrange much of the scheme on the field, and by their talent, they are often involved in 20-25% of the plays on a solo basis and are dominating the field of play. Patriots losing Harrison this year and watching their secondary collapse is one example. Eagles letting Trotter go and watching their run defense collapse in 2002 and 2003 is another. Bears losing Urlacher last year is another. Usually there is just oneback up free and strong safety and one back up MIKE linebacker.

Cornerbacks, OTOH, are usually a well-stocked position, with the Nickleback and Dimeback always ready to move up a slot if needed, and the 5th Corner waiting int he wings for the less than challenging role of Dimeback. Same thing with Outside Linebackers (you already have two of them, plus the Nickle Linebacker, and then some special teamers). Same thing for the D-Line. Usually teams carry at least one decent substitute, sometimes two, and a third journeyman for both Tackle and End. The position always has some depth.

Where the whole theory of importance can become tested is where injuries become so widespread, especially to veterans, that entire units are left bereft of both leadership, experience, and talent. This has happened to the Eagles O-line and the Patriots Secondary this year, where at times, just one veteran is playing with 4 other guys who are rookies, practice squaders, or fresh off the street. We've also seen it with the Eagles and Packers receiving corps and running backs, where injuries (or stupidity with Owens) have taken away both the #1 and #2 in each category, leaving #'s 3, 4, 5 and two guys off the street to pick up the slack.

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Andrew #89

To say, "A good team generally scores enough points to not be screwed by a bad call by the Refs," is to say "All good teams generally win by a large margin."

What happens when two good teams play each other?

In any close game, a bad call by the officials can adversely affect the outcome. That's the rationale behind the Instant Replay Challenge rule. It also illustrates a problem with the rule, because it restricts a team to two or three or even no challenges, when there might be several bad calls in a game.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I tend to agree with much of #106, which is why I have some skepticism of the referenced study's conclusion that injuries to safeties are so trivial.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Will Allen:

Lets think of some injuries to safeties recently, and quantify effects. I can think of Rodney Harrison this year, Ed Reed this year, Donovin Darius this year, Ken Hamlin this year, Darren Woodson in 2004, Brian Dawkins in 2003. I don't see the Darius and Hamlin injuries having that big an effect, I think because of the quality of the player. The others definitely had a major impact (and the Ed Reed one is combined with losing Ray Lewis at Middle Linebacker, so both QB type positions on defense are missing there). A lot of Dallas' struggles in 2004 can be chalked up to losing Quincy Carter for Testaverde, and losing Woodson on defense, and Terry Glenn at wideout, and then having to use Eddie George instead of Julius Jones at running back.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

which is why I have some skepticism of the referenced study’s conclusion that injuries to safeties are so trivial.

Well, I do agree that Carl has overreached a bit on what, exactly, that study is concluding.

You can't, for instance, conclude that injuries to a safety are trivial for any team - just for the average team. The other thing is that you can't conclude that an injury to a safety never lowers your chance of winning any specific game, just not on the average.

That is - losing a quarterback, wide receiver, OL or DL, hurts any team's chances of winning any game. While losing other players can be masked in an average game. If you take a look at the Patriots, for instance - they've lost virtually their entire secondary, but they're still 8-5. Why? Well, because not every team can take advantage of that. Yu can just imagine the Patriots secondary during the Buffalo game, saying "man, it's a good thing J.P. Losman sucks. He's making this easy." Lose a QB - like the Jets - and you're 3-10. Why? Because now you suck against pretty much every team.

That's not to say that the Pats' weak secondary won't cause them to lose to, say, the Colts. That's a much more difficult analysis to do. Still possible, I think - you just need to get more data.

There's also the possibility that the effects of having players injured is nonlinear - that is, you can mask losing a safety, or a cornerback - but lose a safety and a cornerback and it's far, far worse than just losing one or the other.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Yep, non-linearity would be a interesting avenue to explore, and I think it really shows up on the offensive live, where working as a unit is so critical.

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Yep, non-linearity would be a interesting avenue to explore

But, unfortunately, impossible. Nowhere near enough data. You'd need roughly 50% more data to get as statistically significant a result, and you have probably a tenth the data, at best. Which means in something like 60 years, you'd get a decent result. :)

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14


Before he got injured, McGahee had a magical THREE YARDS on EIGHT CARRIES.

You're reminding me of Paul Maguire in Adam's SNF parodies. ;)

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Okay, T.O., you can stop posting under the name of "Chris". We know it's you.

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

good one, I don't even like terrel owens or the eagles, i like giving honest opinions, T.O. is a more valuable player than mcnaab, if i'm starting a team and you tell me i can have one of them??? NO BRAINER. I would take 5-10 QB's AT LEAST before i take mcnaab, zero receivers before Owens. Owens>McNaab every week of every year

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

RE: 18

Add the Raiders-Jets game, the Saints-Jets game, and the Lions-Ravens game.
In the Lions-Ravens game, the referees were obviously paid off. Every call benefitted the Lions. Strange that so many Lions games have been decided by the refs...

In the Raiders-Jets game, the refs ruled a touchdown catch for Justin McCareins even though McCareins landed way out of bounds. Apparently, they considered it a force-out, but it wasn't even close. He wouldn't have come close to landing in bounds even if the defender didn't touch him.
In the Saints-Jets game, Coles caught a touchdown pass and the refs overruled it! I don't know what they based it on, but that was an outrageous call.
Also, Brooks Bollinger got called for a phantom intentional grounding that cost the Jets the game. No way was that intentional grounding.

The refereeing has been horrible this season, and some games leave me wondering whether the refs are throwing the games on purpose.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

One of the most shocking things of the week was how Jacksonville screwed up the end of the first half.