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

Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Each weekend, 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.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0 at New England Patriots 28

Aaron Schatz: I hear those sleigh bells ringling... and ringling... and ringling...

Bill Moore: Brady looked good again today, but like last week stayed in the game too long. With a 28-point lead and three minutes left on the clock, Brady shouldn't be running QB sneaks. And frankly, the oft-injured Dillon shouldn't be making runs either.

The offensive line did a good job providing a pocket, but Brady does seem to get hit quite often. He made one incredible completion with a Buc pulling on his face mask. The same kind of protection could not be said about Chris Simms. NE in usual style gave Simms a lot of confusing looks and ran a lot of linebacker blitzes -- so I'm not sure I'd fully blame the TB offensive line.

The Pats defense -- a surprising weak link this season (injuries inclusive) -- does appear to be coming together. They have been very aggressive the last three games, particularly among the front seven. Roosevelt Colvin looks fast and sleek. I read an article at the beginning of the season that said this is the first time since injuring himself two years ago that he doesn't think about the injury on the field. Willie McGinest hardly is looking his age. They have hurried quarterbacks, while also stopping running backs. Cadillac had only 23 yards, Buffalo last week ran for only 14 yards total, and Curtis Martin had 29 yards two weeks ago.

The secondary is still the most depleted area of NE, but rookie corner Ellis Hobbs, as I've mentioned before, is really beginning to take shape. Asante Samuel continues to give his coverage too much cushion, and when he plays tight he gambles too much.

I question the common perception that this was a "test game" for the Pats. Belichick has a good record against young quarterbacks because he throws so many different defensive schemes at them. It shouldn't be too surprising that Simms didn't play well. I'd reclassify this as a confidence boost for NE. They won't be tested until the playoffs. Nobody wants to count NE out because of their track record. But I work in an industry where the following phrase is hammered home all the time, "Past performance is not indicative of future results."

Russell Levine: Couple of observations from behind my pewter-and-red colored glasses:

The field conditions in New England are an embarrassment. I know Belichick likes a slow track and it's up to the team to decide when to cover the field, but that field is a joke. The league should step in and make sure they're taking better care of it. Players were slipping down all over the place, although, it should be noted that most of them were Buccaneers. Which is probably why they keep the field that way.

Is there a penalty call in football that gets butchered more often than the five- vs. 15-yard roughing the kicker call? Sometimes you'll see the punter get creamed and they call it a five, other times he barely gets breathed on and they call it a 15. The call that kept New England's second TD drive alive was very questionable. The punter was falling backwards and Ryan Nece stumbled into him and bumped him, didn't hit his kicking leg while it was up in the air. The reason there is a five-yard option is for plays like that one.

Yes, New England looked awesome. The front seven was dominant and Tampa Bay had absolutely no answers. Brady was able to throw downfield whenever he needed to. But, don't discount Tampa Bay's emotional state as a factor in this game being so one-sided. Tampa Bay was playing its third straight on the road, after winning the first two against division foes. Somewhere in the back of the players' minds, you know they're thinking "we've already done our job on this trip" and they don't play with the same intensity.

Michael David Smith: My basic feeling about the Patriots is this: Are the Patriots good? Definitely. As good as the Colts, Broncos, and Bengals? No. Terrell Davis and Rod Woodson were just going on and on about the Patriots on NFL Network, saying how they're 5-1 since the Colts game. Of course, they didn't point out the obvious, that the Colts are also 5-1 since that game, with much harder opponents.

Ryan Wilson: Was it just me or it were the Pats getting pressure from their front four, and then in the last quarter or so, just started sending everybody for kicks? I thought Chris Simms played about as well as a quarterback can given that he had 1.2 seconds to take the snap, drop back, find a receiver, throw, and get clocked.

Something else I was thinking while watching Tom Brady be Tom Brady: how was David Givens a seventh-round pick? He's killing defenses on a weekly basis. I think his contract is up at the end of the year (as an RFA, he made the same as K Jeff Reed ... sweet) and it'll be interesting to see if he stays in NE and takes fewer bucks; signs some ridiculous deal in Detroit; or if the Pats will actually give him a big contract.

Aaron Schatz: I started pausing the game every time the Bucs ran, then rewinding the DVR to see if I could watch in slow-mo and figure out whether this was an issue with the line or with Cadillac Williams. The answer is clearly the line, and I couldn't even identify a specific lineman or two, they all seem to suck. Guys, when it is a run up the middle, you need to block outward to create a hole, not inward. And tight end Alex Smith is horrible at blocking, even worse than the linemen. He completely blew one block on Colvin, although Chris Simms got the pass off before he was clobbered.

Kansas City Chiefs 17 at New York Giants 27

Aaron Schatz: Hey, look who's back! It's last year's Kansas City Chiefs defense that couldn't tackle anyone who got past the front four! I missed you guys.

Russell Levine: If this continues we may actually get to witness Gunther Cunningham spontaneously combust on the sidelines like a Spinal Tap drummer.

Tim Gerheim: I think, to be fair, the linebackers can tackle. The long touchdown run by Tiki Barber included missed or broken tackles by all of the defensive backs (some of them twice), and I think some of the cheerleaders and maybe Hank Stram. I don't think any of the linebackers got a hand on him, which is a separate indictment of their play. I think they're very aggressive flowing toward the ball, and they tend to crash the line on running plays, so they can get trapped inside if the tight end or a lineman is able to get to the outside of the end and block down. I'm pretty sure that's what happened on that long touchdown.

Eli Manning sure does spray balls around the yard, doesn't he? I wonder if his low completion percentage and low interception numbers (at least until his recent stretch) are an indication that he has big, athletic receivers who even if they can't make the catch can at least get their hands on the ball and prevent an easy interception. I saw three passes that might ought to have been interceptions in the second quarter alone: Toomer broke up a deep pass that was underthrown when Surtain had position on him; Tim Carter, I believe, made a full-extension leaping grab that the Dante Halls of the world could only dream of, in front of a defender who could have easily caught the ball if it had gone over Carter's head; and an errant pass either way ahead of or way behind either Toomer or Burress (I forget) that the receiver knocked down.

Michael David Smith: One of our commenters just said that Larry Johnson is nothing special because his grandmother could get 4.5 yards a carry behind Willie Roaf. I don't think people understand how amazing Johnson has been this year.

Priest Holmes in seven games as a starter: 119 carries, 451 yards (3.8 ypc), 6 TD
Larry Johnson in seven games as a starter: 203 carries, 1019 yards (5.0 ypc), 12 TD

And there's not much difference in Johnson's numbers in the games Roaf missed.

Tim Gerheim: Maybe it has something to do with Chris Berman calling him "Grandmama." What does that mean!?

Michael David Smith: It goes back to Larry Johnson the basketball player, who had a commercial where he dressed up like an old woman and called her his "Grandmama." It was an unfunny precursor to those unfunny LeBron James commercials running now.

Tim Gerheim: I actually really like those LeBron commercials. For a basketball player, he does a really good job playing all those wacky characters.

Al Bogdan: Is it just me, or is Old Man LeBron a better dancer than Smoove B LeBron?

Michael David Smith: The commercial I'm waiting to see is Clinton Portis in all his incarnations.

Bill Moore: Larry Johnson is really patient. He lets his blocking develop and create holes. He is a really quality runner. Can someone check the records? Are we certain he actually went to Penn State? And Tim, did you really not know what Grandmama meant? If so, I feel old.

Tim Gerheim: Sorry dude. I didn't even know there was a basketball player named Larry Johnson. But I'm not much of an NBA fan, if that helps, and I didn't get into sports in any serious way until college.

Bill Moore: He was a cultural phenomenon, and one of the first of the self deprecating active players in advertising. Out of UNLV, where being on parole was a badge of honor, he was a scarily powerful player who put the Charlotte Hornets on the map. And then he joined the Knicks.

Al Bogdan: To be fair, LJ had a pretty bad back injury that limited his effectiveness way before he came to the Knicks. He was never the 20+ point-a-game scoring threat after coming to New York, but was a nice low post presence and solid shooter for those mid-90's Knick teams that played amazingly boring basketball.

Oh yeah, football. Eli was awful today. He threw maybe two accurate passes for more than five yards. His deep balls were short. His intermediate balls were way off target. His short passes were lame ducks flailing in the wind. He made a few terrible decisions as well. I have no idea what he was thinking throwing to Shockey on that second-and-3 when Kawika Mitchell was standing directly in front of Shockey by the time Manning released the ball.

I have a feeling we'll be reading more than one Tiki Barber for MVP column across the web this week. Yes, he was helped by the awful tackling of the KC secondary, but that touchdown run down the sidelines was one of the best runs I've seen this year. I have no idea how he stayed in bounds. The depleted New York offensive line did a fine job, with Chris Snee really stepping it up a notch.

I don't know how the Giants will hold up in the playoffs without Antonio Pierce. Hopefully Carlos Emmons will be OK so Chase Blackburn won't be the starting middle linebacker. Blackburn's been very good on special teams this year, but as a middle linebacker he was overmatched. The linebackers didn't look to be in synch before the plays, which led to their being out of position on a number of Johnson's runs. Blackburn also was matched up one on one with Gonzalez a number of times in coverage but Green couldn't connect with him. Gibril Wilson did a nice job on Gonzo today.

Bill Moore: Lastly on LJ: NBA style. I agree injuries limited him, including a surprise retirement (if I remember correctly). Although he first hurt his back in the 93-94 season, he played great in 81 games for the Hornets the following year. The Knicks acquired him for Anthony Mason in a controversial trade for Knicks fans because Mason was well liked. LJ was supposed to be the power forward the Knicks had been missing. But although he played 76 games in that first year, he had career lows in points, rebounds and assists per game. It was classic Knicks in terms of disappointment.

Ned Macey: But LJ's great gift to the Knicks was his ability to convince referees that a dribble before a 3-point shot is part of continuation.

I can't speak for anyone else, but those people who followed the KUBIAK projections and got Tiki late in the first round have to be happy with the playoffs underway. Those who took Kevin Jones immediately afterwards and are debating Shawn Bryson or Marcel Shipp today maybe a little less so.

By the way, I think the Tiki for MVP columns are worth writing. He is so important to the offense, and thanks to the national audience we can finally realize who the engine that drives the Giants really is. The Chiefs were the #1 rush defense in DVOA.

Larry Johnson is an excellent runner and certainly worthy of All-Pro consideration. But three comments: First, our numbers said Priest was in for a decline, so comparing him to this year's Priest is not comparing him to Holmes at his peak. Second, last season he ranked 4th in DVOA, but Derrick Blaylock ranked 5th. Finally, the fact that they were bringing Tony Richardson in for some obvious passing downs is pretty damning.

Phil Simms said early after Manning completed a ball on third-and-12 off his back foot that fans had to accept the bad throws if they were going to be happy about those completions. I'm not a Giants fan, but if I were, I would rather give up those good plays. In the last six games, he has 11 interceptions and six fumbles. Ouch.

Bill Moore: I watched Chris Simms early in the game against NE scramble and run out of bounds while being unable to find a receiver, losing a yard. I couldn't figure out why he didn't just throw it away. Then 10 minutes into the Giants game, Eli Manning scrambles and throws the ball away one yard away from the original line of scrimmage while being chased. Phil Simms makes the following comment:

"Oh, I like it. Most quarterbacks would have just run out of bounds with that football. You know why, Jim? [Awkward moment for Nance, who doesn't know what so say.] Because they don't want to throw an incomplete pass. You go, 'it will hurt my stats.' So Eli Manning -- one yard -- it's a lot. It's tough in this game."

Al Bogdan: We really need to pull a Mark Cuban and start analyzing penalty calls by officiating crews. In the Giants game, there were three ticky-tack unnecessary roughness calls, but not a single offensive holding call all game. None! That's ridiculous. If the crew that called the Giants/Seahawks game were officiating this one, the Giants would have been called for holding at least once a series, even with Luke "Holding on the Offense" Petitgout out. The Chiefs weren't much better, getting away with a terrible hold on Strahan's shoulder pad during one of Johnson's touchdown runs.

Ryan Wilson: A few plays before Eli threw the pick near the end zone, he underthrew a similar route to Plaxico Burress, who promptly gave the "God, that was an awful throw, at least give me a chance" wave as the ball hit the ground. Now I don't know if Burress was genuinely upset with Eli's erratic play or if it was something else. But if it was the former, it's really funny when you consider that in his five years in Pittsburgh, I never saw him do anything like that, and he played with guys named Kent Graham, Kordell Stewart, and Tommy Maddox.

San Diego Chargers 26 at Indianapolis Colts 17

Michael David Smith: The Chargers have found the way to stop the Colts' rush: They're just holding on every play. So far they've only been called for it twice, so it's working out for them. On one play I saw two different guys hold Raheem Brock, and neither one got called.

Seems like the Chargers are just mugging the Colts on both sides of the ball, and it's working, especially in the secondary. I think it's a smart strategy because unless Ed Hochuli's crew is doing the game (and it's not) they just don't call every penalty. The Chargers have only been called for illegal contact once.

Bill Moore: It's funny you say that, ‘cause I just turned the game on a few minutes ago and was thinking, "Can we run a play without a holding call?" I think I've seen four since turning the TV on.

Michael David Smith: San Diego just drove 91 yards to the Colts' two-yard line, where the Colts forced a field goal. Dan Dierdorf says, "That was a fine stand by the Colts' defense." Am I the only one not really impressed by the Colts' defense for having three straight good plays at the end of an 18-play, 91-yard drive?

Tim Gerheim: Antonio Gates has been a disaster area today. He's caught a couple short passes, but he's mis-run a couple routes that probably should have resulted in interceptions. He basically looks like he doesn't always know what route he's supposed to be running.

If you have a kid who wants to make the NFL as a tight end, don't worry too much about getting him into college football. Make sure he plays basketball. Antonio Gates, to a lesser extent Tony Gonzales, and that Duke kid in Denver that caught a touchdown were all college basketball players. Gonzales was the only one that played college football. If nothing else, it makes scouting harder, since now you have to look at and talk to basketball players.

Michael David Smith: I know that a lot of people hate the Colts. Let me explain why I'm not one of them. I'm a Lions fan. It has been obvious to me for the past five weeks or so that there's a large number of players on the Lions, probably a majority, who have simply quit on the season. I know most of you were shocked by what you saw on Thanksgiving because you didn't know a football team could look that listless, but trust me, I knew.

So here are the Colts, down 16-0, in a game that they really don't need to win because they already have home-field advantage sewn up. If they had just decided to quit on this game and make sure none of their top players got hurt, no one would have blamed them. And yet they've played about as spirited a quarter of football as I've seen any team play this year to go up 17-16. It may well be that they end up losing this game, but no one can say these guys aren't busting their asses out there. That's the kind of football I love to watch.

Russell Levine: MDS, I'm with you. Indy was clearly flat at the start, and it looked for all the world like they might be content to let it slip away. But they got a turnover, put a drive together, finally got a TD and it was like they flipped the light on. Suddenly, they're on fire.

Tim Gerheim: People have said a lot of mean and nasty things about the Chargers secondary, but Quentin Jammer and Drayton Florence, when they're in man coverage, have done a really good job against Harrison and Wayne. Time and again they've been right in the receivers' back pockets, and they've made a lot of great plays on the ball. Most of the success the Colts have had downfield has been in zone coverage.

How come nobody ever covers Dallas Clark? I almost never see anybody in man coverage on him, and most of the time when he makes a catch he's totally wide open to the point of being uncovered. And it's not like he rarely makes a catch such that I'd think maybe he's covered most of the time but Peyton just finds him whenever he's open. He's an important part of the Indy offense.

Michael David Smith: Clark makes a lot of the catches Marcus Pollard made last year. Funny how Pollard doesn't make those catches anymore.

Russell Levine: Does anyone else think that Marty Schottenheimer watched the Pats-Bucs game Saturday? The Chargers are bringing linebackers from all sorts of interesting spots, and causing total confusion on the Indy line.

Ned Macey: As for the Chargers' secondary, they did bring out the physical game and dared refs to make calls. They only got called three times. If you bring pressure and disrupt the timing, the Colts offense goes haywire. Before we let the secondary completely off the hook, Harrison and Wayne had 18 catches for 226 yards, and the pass rush was as ferocious as one will ever see.

For all the talk of losing a Triplett or Freeney, nobody ever mentioned the line, and the loss of Diem did have an impact.

Mike Tanier: Peyton took lots of hits in this game. He was sacked four times. His last four-sack game was last year against the Chargers. He also ran twice, including that bootleg that was just inexplicable. Now that they've lost, can we please shrink wrap him until the playoffs? I have a theory that Dungy doesn't like the way the Chargers match up against the Colts, and he really wanted to knock them out of the playoffs this week. Like Tim said, the secondary is pretty good in man coverage, and it's clear that the line has trouble with the Chargers front seven.

Aaron Schatz: What a game. Tons of dramatic momentum reversals. Some great plays and some really stupid decisions. What was a veteran like Keenan McCardell doing fielding a punt that was about to bounce into the end zone for a touchback? And I couldn't tell what was going on with that weird Indianapolis botched fourth-and-goal. Had Manning audibled to a rollout pass or a designed QB run or what?

Can we add Shawne Merriman to the discussion of rookie of the year? It's strange that the top rookies this year are almost all defensive players. On the other hand, second-year SD center Nick Hardwick did not play well today. He was getting pushed around in the second half, especially on a Drew Brees sneak that went nowhere.

Michael David Smith: I know Bob Sanders only weighs about 200 pounds, but I'm convinced he should be a linebacker. He's a really tough player in the middle on running plays, but he gets burned in coverage way too often.

Ned Macey: The Colts defense played pretty well, particularly in the second half, but four plays by their safeties cost them the game. The first was Sanders not picking up coverage on McCardell's touchdown. The second was Doss getting beat when he had coverage on Parker on a long completion. The third was Sanders inexplicably letting McCardell get behind him after the Colts took the lead. The last was Doss letting Turner break the game-clinching win. Those four plays led to 20 points. It's great that both guys make big hits on running plays near the line of scrimmage, but they aren't called safeties for nothing.

Michael David Smith: Tomlinson ran up the middle on nearly every play. I actually thought the Colts did a pretty nice job on him, though. It was Turner who had the big run that sealed the game.

Tim Gerheim: Tomlinson isn't healthy. I don't know whether or how bruised ribs hurt your ability to run once you've made the decision to do it knowing that you're going to get pounded in your bruised ribs. But he didn't seem to have quite the same burst or balance that he usually does.

Aaron Schatz: Part of me loves to say this (the Pats fan part), and part of me hates to say this (the part that listens to sports radio and gets hateful e-mails): After this weekend I think the Colts should officially be worried about losing to the Patriots in the second round. It didn't seem like a big deal Saturday when the Pats front seven looked as ferocious as 2003-2004 and destroyed the Tampa offensive line. But if you combine that with the fact that San Diego just ripped through the offensive line of the Colts all day today, pressuring Manning and smacking him around, and holding Edge to just 25 yards, suddenly you can foresee the possibility that the Pats could hide the secondary in a playoff game in a way they could not in the regular season meeting.

Ned Macey: I agree with Aaron that I'm worried about the Pats for the first time all year. The offense's performance today resembled last year's playoff game a great deal. 14 points came on short fields. Manning was OK, statistically, but he never got any rhythm. Edgerrin's performance is what made this game so eerily similar to last year's playoff game against the Pats. I can't say I saw him miss any holes, but he did accomplish nothing.

Arizona Cardinals 19 at Houston Texans 30

Tim Gerheim: Is anybody getting Houston-Arizona? (And watching it, for some reason?) Early on, David Carr is 8-for-8, setting up two rushing touchdowns, and Kurt Warner is 10-for-10 with a touchdown. Anybody who likes Pac-10 football should tune in.

Mike Tanier: David Carr looked pretty good on sprintouts and other rolling pocket-type plays. He still has that sidearm delivery. The Cardinals defense really looked like a JV unit at times, particularly against the run, but Carr didn't exactly scorch them with his arm.

Uh oh, Tim. Dunta Robinson, the good cornerback, looked terrible. He was covering Boldin, who was playing pitch and catch with Warner in the first quarter. You will see the replay of the touchdown. Boldin gets open on a little move, then Robinson just tags him instead of tackling him as Boldin waltzed into the end zone. Luckily, Warner got hurt, then McCown got hurt, and Navarre entered the game for a while. Meanwhile, the Cardinals were having trouble stopping off-tackle runs.

Aaron Schatz: Anyone remember that line from the John Navarre comment in the book? If you took our advice and offered your friend a bet that John Navarre completions would outnumber Washington wins, congratulations.

Philadelphia Eagles 17 at St. Louis Rams 16

Mike Tanier: When I was doing draft coverage for another site, I called Ryan Moats "the next Travis Henry". Moats had a Henry-like day today, breaking a bunch of tackles on his touchdown run but also fumbling once and getting stuffed several times. By the way, Mike McMahon went to the Kyle Boller school of footwork.

Aaron Schatz: How on earth did Philadelphia win this game? St. Louis had more yards and more yards per play. Philadelphia had four sacks, four fumbles, and three picks. St. Louis had zero, zero, and one. Penalty yards were even. According to DVOA, this may have been the biggest fluke win in years.

Pittsburgh Steelers 18 at Minnesota Vikings 3

Ryan Wilson: This might have been the most boring game of the day. One touchdown -- a three-yard Roethlisberger run -- and a bunch of field goals. It was hard to tell if Roethlisberger's thumb was bothering him, especially since he only threw 15 passes. He only attempted one deep ball and it was waaaaay underthrown. I hadn't seen Brad Johnson play this year, but he's as bad as I remember him when he was benched in Tampa. Michael Bennett started the game running well and then the Vikes inexplicably started throwing deep balls. I watched the game with a Vikes fan, and he said that was the first time in the Brad Johnson era that they were consistently going deep.

The Vikes could only muster three points in the red zone, and two trips resulted in interceptions. One of them was a two-handed basketball style pass from Johnson that clanked off Koren Robinson into Joey Porter's hands. What made this play especially funny was that a few plays earlier, CBS threw up a graphic that said something like Koren Robinson dropped 40-odd passes in the past four seasons with Seattle, but none with the Vikings. Whoops.

Funny random observation: apparently, all the Ravens' WR retreads end up in Minnesota uniforms and go on to have pretty productive careers. Both Marcus Robinson and Travis Taylor are much better players now than they were in Baltimore. Hmmm. I wonder why that is?

Michael David Smith: Since I've been the one defending Brad Johnson, please allow me to acknowledge that he sucked today.

Mike Tanier: The Vikings offense: Brad Johnson drops back behind max protect and either lofts a bomb to Koren Robinson or an out/hitch on the sidelines to Koren or Burleson. On the bomb, the Vikings hope for pass interference or just a bad defensive effort. On the out, Johnson's pass ... takes forever ... to arrive ... but the Steelers corners allow so much cushion that the pass is completed. In the second half, the Steelers defend the hitches, and the Vikings stop moving the ball.

The Vikings front four is very good. Erasmus James had a big day despite a costly penalty, and Pat and Kevin Williams are both very tough to run on.

Aaron Schatz: I feel like an idiot because I had this whole mailbag thing about the Vikings that was going to show how the defense, not the offense, was responsible for the winning streak, but I never quite finished editing it and so it didn't go online before this game. And of course, in this game the defense plays great and the offense is lousy. So I'm going to run the graphs anyway. They don't include the Pittsburgh game. The first one is Minnesota's week-to-week DVOA. The second one is offense (purple) and defense (gold) but ONLY since the bye week, along with linear trendlines for each one. The purple one, the offense, is straight across. The gold one, the defense, is headed downwards -- which in DVOA terms means improved defense.

When last week's TMQ mentioned my analysis of the Vikings -- that the winning streak coincided with the move to the 4-3 defense -- Easterbrook forgot to add that Johnson's stats were similar to Culpepper's stats not including the first two games. EIGHT of Culpepper's interceptions came in those two games against Cincinnati and Tampa Bay, two of this year's best defenses. Now, after Sunday's loss to Pittsburgh, here is a comparison of Johnson to Culpepper without the first two games:

Culpepper, Weeks 3-8: 66% completion pct., 5.45 net yards per pass, 6 TD, 4 INT, 8.0% DVOA
Johnson, Weeks 8-15: 61% completion pct., 5.43 net yards per pass, 8 TD, 4 INT, 5.2% DVOA

New York Jets 20 at Miami Dolphins 24

Al Bogdan: I haven't been paying very close attention to the game, but I really like what I've seen from Cedric Houston today. He has good hands catching passes out of the backfield, and finished off his runs really well. One thing he'll need to work on if he wants to be the Jets' primary back next year is his pass blocking. He seems like he's way too anxious to run a quick pattern to give Bollinger someone to dump off to rather than to block the oncoming rusher. If you don't block the guy racing toward your quarterback, he won't have a chance to throw you a short dump off pass.

In the second half, it was almost like someone told the Jets defense that San Francisco and Houston were both winning their games so the Jets should start allowing Ricky Williams and Marty Booker to pull off big plays against them.

I don't know why Miami hasn't had Sage Rosenfels starting these past few weeks. I really like his arm. He's strong enough to throw downfield, while also putting a nice touch on the ball.

Mike Tanier: I agree with Al on Cedric Houston and on Sage Rosenfels. Rosenfels doesn't have great timing, but of course he doesn't get into many games. And Jets fumbles, wow, they are just getting creative with new ways to fumble a football (botched field goal snap, Doug "worth a first round pick" Jolley coughing one up over the middle.)

The CBS guys were showing potential draft orders, then running a Reggie Bush highlight reel. Bush has not declared and still has a year of eligibility left. Am I the only person who thinks that while fans can speculate all they want, major media outlets shouldn't make the assumption that he's coming out?

Dallas Cowboys 7 at Washington Redskins 35

"You are a complete dumbass and do not deserve to have the job you have. Your powerrankings are the most {redacted} up analysis of the NFL that i have ever seen. I should {redacted} all over them. The panthers, bears, seahawks, steelers, patriots, falcons, and vikings are way better than the washington dickskins. Tell me, do Lavar Arrington and Clinton Portis cram their slick {redacted} into your slimy jew {redacted}? You are a jewass bitch."

-- reader e-mail signed "Mr. Jon Crass"

Aaron Schatz: Hey, it turns out that weighted DVOA really does work. I guess that blowout of San Francisco is, in fact, still relevant eight weeks later.

The Dallas inability to cover tight ends reached total absurdity in this game, with three touchdowns by Cooley and one by Sellers. On the second Cooley TD, Roy Williams didn't even try to touch him, he was much more concerned with the possibility of a Brunell run and thus left Cooley wide open. Once again I will say that I think Roy Williams would be much better as a linebacker because he's just not good against the pass; that interception vs. the Eagles was not a good example of his usual play.

Al Bogdan: I wish I had a lip reader with me to get an exact transcription of what Keyshawn Johnson yelled at Billy Cundiff after Cundiff missed another field goal. I caught the "F-you, how do you miss that f-ing kick," but couldn't catch what he yelled after that. The Cowboys have been killed by field goal kicking this year. It's looking like it could cost them a playoff spot.

Tim Gerheim: Amazing. Portis is hurt on a tackle from behind, dragged down by the back of his shirt, by Roy Williams. Penalty? No. He didn't get inside the shoulder pads, just inside the jersey. Good rule guys. Really works well.

Al Bogdan: Clinton Portis: not a goal line back. Free Rock Cartwright!

Michael David Smith: Teams are increasingly jamming Santana Moss at the line of scrimmage to keep him from starting his route cleanly, and using a deep safety to keep him from getting open downfield. You'd think Dallas, of all teams, would realize the importance of doing that, but he beat them deep twice.

Washington defensive end Phillip Daniels tipped a Bledsoe pass at the line of scrimmage and tackle Cornelius Griffin picked it off. Very nice play by both.

Al Bogdan: Daniels destroyed Torrin Tucker today. Daniels had one sack where Tucker pretty much had his arms completely wrapped around him, yet Daniels moved Tucker right next to Bledsoe and was able to drag Drew down. Bledsoe reminded me a lot of Kurt Warner from last season. Yes, he doesn't have anything resembling pass protection, but you can't hold onto the ball for five seconds the few times your line actually does protect you from a pass rush. Maybe Bledsoe will put up 300+ yards a game next year in Arizona.

With Marco Rivera's scary injury, I don't see how the Cowboys make the playoffs. The Carolina defensive line is going to eat Bledsoe for lunch next week.

Cincinnati Bengals 41 at Detroit Lions 17

Michael David Smith: The fans don't seem as loud and unruly as a lot of people predicted, but I haven't seen this many empty seats at Ford Field since I went to the Motor City Bowl. Nice Dre' Bly interception, which goes to waste when Garcia promptly throws a horrible interception himself, his third of the first half. I wonder if Bly still thinks Harrington is the Lions' only problem. By the way, the nice Bly interception was his first nice play of the day. Carson Palmer is abusing him.

Gus Johnson: "I really think Matt Millen should have the opportunity to finish because I think he's going to do it." Finish what and do what, he didn't make clear. But he was obviously defending Millen.

Ned Macey: How is Jeff Garcia giving them their best chance to win? What purpose is served by playing him? Also, if the Bengals get an interception in the second half, that would be four against each of their NFC north opponents.

Michael David Smith: I honestly want to see Dan Orlovsky in there. He can't be any worse than Harrington or Garcia, but if he is, better that they know that now so they don't delude themselves in the off-season into thinking he's their quarterback of the future.

Oh my goodness! It's a Joey Harrington-to-Charles Rogers touchdown pass! If only there had been about 40 more of these in the last three years, perhaps the Matt Millen era wouldn't be the most pathetic five years in football history.

Harrington looked really good on that drive. Please, Lions, don't do this to me. Don't make me believe that Harrington has a future, only to draft one more weapon for him in April, then torture me when he throws a bunch of interceptions in September.

Atlanta Falcons 3 at Chicago Bears 16

Al Bogdan: Wow, Kyle Orton is awful. Were those boos I just heard from the Chicago crowd or was that Rex Grossman's entrance music?

Aaron Schatz: Do my eyes deceive me, or did Kyle Orton just ACTUALLY COMPLETE A PASS! Wow.

Al Bogdan: I have no idea what game these announcers are watching. I can't believe the excuses they're making for Orton. Listing all the tough defenses he's faced this year doesn't have anything to do with his inability to see Muhsin Muhammad wide open in the end zone against Atlanta. Orton hasn't thrown an accurate pass beyond the line of scrimmage all half. Why would you want to bring in Rex Grossman even though he just started practicing this week? Because the quarterback that is in there now can't throw the football within five yards of his receivers.

Another announcing pet peeve of mine which these guys have used with both teams is excusing an incomplete pass because there was a defender in the vicinity of a receiver so the play wouldn't have gone anywhere anyway. Have they never seen a football player break a tackle?

Ned Macey: And when he completes a second pass for no gain, it is used as proof that he is capable of running play-action. Thanks for the insight Joe. I do not envy Lovie Smith, and not only because he looks ridiculously cold. He is in an impossible situation with these quarterbacks, since nobody knows if Grossman is any good.

(About this time, Chicago finally switches quarterbacks.)

Michael David Smith: Rex Grossman has thrown one pass and it's the best pass I've seen a Bears quarterback throw in two years or so.

Al Bogdan: Will Kyle Orton finally shave that awful beard now that he's back on the bench?

Now the announcers are jumping all over each other to defend the decision to replace Grossman when during the first half they did nothing but defend Orton and explain why they shouldn't bring Grossman in. Amazing. Where are Bill Maas and Tony Siragusa when you need them?

Tim Gerheim: This crowd is going ballistic. I don't care about the Bears or the Falcons, but I'm ecstatic that Grossman is out there. He's completed two passes in his first series. And then just to remind everyone that he's still a Bear, he threw an interception.

Michael David Smith: Did you guys read Dr. Z's power rankings last week? He said hell for him would be eternity listening to the ESPN guys calling a game with Brett Favre. Hell for me would be listening to them call a game when the quarterback gets benched, because apparently when that happens they change their minds about every five seconds on whether or not it was the right move.

Al Bogdan: This is ridiculous. Now they're claiming that Orton was just a "keeper of the offense" until Grossman came back. I thought "it was all about winning" like they said in the first half when they showed a pretty graphic with Orton's win-loss record?

Aaron Schatz: Mike Holmgren and Tom Coughlin are probably a little angry. Actually, Tom Coughlin is probably a lot angry. We may need to send a psychiatric team over to his house.

Later This Week

Any Given Sunday: Chargers over Colts
Every Play Counts: Osi Umenyiora vs. Willie Roaf


129 comments, Last at 21 Dec 2005, 8:07pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I can't believe that you'd repeat what the commentators said about Kyle Orton missing a wide open Muhammed in the endzone. The guy was double covered until Orton threw the ball short and both defensive backs ran towards the line of scrimmage to make the tackle. It's pretty easy to get open when the guys covering you are running to tackle the guy to whom the ball has actually already been thrown. A lot of times when receivers are supposedly wide open it's because the defenders have already seen the QB throw the ball, so they are running to where the ball has been thrown while the receiver is completing his route and deluding himself that he is wide open. That was certainly the case here.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Muhammed apologized shortly afterward, and also admitted it was inappropriate and out of line after the game.
I'm beginning to think that all WRs are cloned from the same individual.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I've concluded that "The Triplets" is the wrong nickname for the ESPN SNF crew; "The Gushers" is more appropriate, because they gush over every player, every play, and every coaching decision. I honestly can't recall ever hearing them say a negative thing about anyone. I guess they took it to heart when their parents said, "If you can't say anything nice..."

I also have to admit that my rooting decisions these days (in games that don't have playoff implications for my favorite teams) are largely driven by my desire to support the FO Message Board Curse. So this week I was rooting against Dallas and Atlanta (which has a lifetime membership). Wooo-hoo, go FOMBC!

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

No mention of Jim Mora turning into his dad and going ballistic on the refs? I think he thought the interception was diddly poo.

He's lucky he didn't get sent off for swinging at the official.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

RE: Steelers v Vikings:
As I watched the game, it occured to me that 2 big plays. the 1Q pass to Miller and Parker's 49 yard run made up about 1/3 of the Steeler's yards. In a quick run through NFL stats pages, I see that the Steelers have 56 20+ and 40+ yard plays this year. That is about 6.6% of their total plays for about 1/3 of their yardage. They look to be more of a big play team than I thought.

Can the keepers of the stats verify that these %'s are about correct and put them into context by providing league or other team averages?

BTW, games featuring good defense are not boring.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

#5: On the bright side, we might get junior doing an imitation of his dad's "Playoffs" speech sometime this week.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Do the browns even play anymore? i know they're not playoff bound, but this is at least three straight weeks without any commentary....and they are better than some of the teams that do have comments (see: HOU/ARI).

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I think Brian Urlacher rivaled Mark Brunell in most praise per minute this year by the three stooges. Urlacher played really well, but so did the rest of the defense including the secondary who hardly got any credit.

It seems like the stooges pick one player from the offensive side and defensive side of the ball and just hype the hell out of them the entire game.

It seems like every Falcon will be featured tomorrow in "Jacked Up" on ESPN. The Bears defense was hitting as hard as any unit I've ever seen. That hit that cause the interception by Vasher was really devastating.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Nobody talked about how awful mike vick was yesterday. So i'll start, mike vick was as bad as orton in the first half and the falcons were losing. The final wildcard position in the nfc is wide open after the falcons loss.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15


As a Saints fan living in Atlanta, I'm pulling for the Bucs and Panthers over the next two weeks. I don't want these clowns to have consecutive winning seasons.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Well, at least that e-mail about the 'Skins have solved the mystery of Clinton Portis' costumes. It's what Clinton wears when he has a liaison with Aaron. :)

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

How on earth did Philadelphia win this game? St. Louis had more yards and more yards per play.

Special teams. On kickoffs, St. Louis was averaging a start on their 21.75 yard line, whereas Philly was averaging about 4 yards closer even without the long return. With it, it's about 10 yards closer. With the poor punting that St. Louis was doing as well, Philly typically was starting with good field position, and when they didn't turn the ball over, they put St. Louis back in poor field position, as Landeta was booming punts again, save one.

The yards that St. Louis gained (after the first drive, which stalled anyway) were pretty much pointless, as they were typically working from deep in their own territory, and the few yards in advantage they had over Philly they lost in special teams. Both offenses only managed 1 drive over 35 yards the entire day.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

One play I saw that troubled me regarding Larry Johnson was the 3rd and goal from the 1 or 2 yard line, before the KC field goal. The line opened up a decent hole and was in the process of sealing it off on a linebacker (#54, I believe). Instead of waiting for the offensive lineman to finish the block, LJ ran right up his back, knocked him off the LB, which allowed the LB to make the tackle (with some help from safeties). To me, if LJ would have been as patient as he usually is, he scores there. Now, this was a goal line carry, so I can see where you don't want to wait at all, but he also could have turned his body sideways and moved left a tad to get into the end zone. I saw that play and thought "No way Marcus Allen doesn't slip into the end zone there." Granted, that is a lofty comparison, but a good RB needs to score on that play. I'm rooting for LJ to continue to succeed, so I'm hoping he spends the offseason working on his pass blocking.

Oh, and as a Colts fan, am I worried about New England in the playoffs now? You bet I'm worried.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

"One of our commenters just said that Larry Johnson is nothing special because his grandmother could get 4.5 yards a carry behind Willie Roaf. I don’t think people understand how amazing Johnson has been this year.

Priest Holmes in seven games as a starter: 119 carries, 451 yards (3.8 ypc), 6 TD
Larry Johnson in seven games as a starter: 203 carries, 1019 yards (5.0 ypc), 12 TD

That was me. I agree johnson has been better than holmes, and he is patient in waiting for holes to develope. But I think a large amount of johnson being better than holmes this year is holmes looked awful. He was slow, and wasnt being patient.

That being said, holes ALWAYS seem to open up with the KC run blocking scheme, and I think Grandmama is merely an average back in a great system: see denver running backs.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I must admit Aaron, I feel sorry for you because of all of the hate mail you receive. But that e-mail, and how wrong it was, was some funny {redacted}!

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Say that about 382 times, and you too can be on the ESPN Sunday night crew.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Pretty good analysis of the Vikings game. The Vikings actually accomplished the first element needed for a victory, in that the Williams tackles won their battle in the interior. Yes, Johnson had a bad day, with two bad red zone interceptions (I can't fault Koren Robinson too much for not anticipating that Johnson would make a two-handed chest pass) in a game in which field goals should have been gold.

A huge difference in the game, however, was special teams play. The Steelers scored seven points off of a 72 yard punt returned to the Vikings' ten or thereabouts, and the Steelers got a field goal and a saftey after the Vikings mishandled a kick-off and a punt.

The Vikings got three points when the Steelers muffed a punt, but lost three when they had a fairly short field goal attempt blocked.

In an 18-3 game, losing a net twelve points on special teams, while getting only three points out of four trips inside your opponents' 20, is a pretty bad way to lose. You'd almost wish your opponents had simply whipped you on the line of scrimmage, so you wouldn't be kicking yourself for blowing a very important game. Sort of how the Giants must have felt after playing the Vikings.

If you have hopes of the Vikings making the playoffs, the interesting thing was switching rooting allegiances on Bears/Falcons. Once the Vikings lost, the only way for them to still win the division was to win their next two, while the Bears lose to the Packers next Sunday, which meant that having the Falcons beat the Bears would not have improved the Vikings' chances to win the division, while harming the Vikings' wild card chances.

So last night I became a Kyle Orton fan, and next Sunday I'll join Peter King in Favreophilia.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I can't believe you guys were talking about Larry Johnson #1 without mentioning his hilarious fight with Alonzo Mourning in a Knicks-Heat playoff game. It may be the most hilarious sports fight ever - two burly, macho athletes throwing limp-wristed [redacted]slaps at each other because they didn't want to get the automatic big suspension for throwing a real punch.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

20 - I can't beleive you referred to that fight without mentioning Jeff Van Gundy running out there, grabbing Mourning's leg and getting swung around as players tried to pull him out. Van Gundy is one bad [redacted] [redacted]

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

In retrospect should we be surprised that Greg Williams designed a scheme to destroy Bledsoe? Bledsoe's record against anyone who's ever coached him (Parcells, Belichick, Williams) is atrocious. The truly surprising thing is that he can somehow still manage to be effective against other coaches, don't those guys ever study film?

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I'm not sure how you can mention the awful officiating in the KC@NYG game and not mention the Amani Toomer "touchdown" that was a blown call, even after replay. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if any part of a player other than the bottoms of his feet or palm of his hand is down, the player is down. Toomer's entire leg, up to (but not including) his knee, was clearly on the ground yet the referees did not mark him down, even after a review. Would the Chiefs have stopped the Giants from scoring on that drive? Doubtful, but the way Manning was playing, anything was possible. Even the idiot announcers knew the rule if you were listening to the game.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Aaron asked about that butchered 4th down play in the Ind/SD game. Manning said after the game that the call was a run over the right side but a late shift by the SD defense convinced him the run wouldn't work, so he kept the ball hoping to score on a naked bootleg.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

For anyone watching the Lions game: how many of the filled seats had orange shirts in them?

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

RE: #24

Is this the same play wherein Reggie Wayne could have blocked one of two Chargers, or walked wide open into the end zone, yet instead chose to stand and stare at Manning? I understand if a player gets confused, particularly if he didn't know about the play switch, but for heaven's sake, do something.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

re #23: actually, I saw one angle which looked like there was clearly space between his leg and the ground at all times. Therefore, not down by contact and the TD was the right call.

Seriously, the issue of replay seems to come up every week. Does it actually reduce or increase controversy?

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

The replay didn't show whether or not the other portions of his leg were touching - one angle looked as if it was, another as if it wasn't (The knee obviously didn't touch, but we're talking about the shin here). Whether it was or wasn't, we can't know, but it certainly wasn't the conclusive visual evidence needed to overturn the call.

They made the right call on the replay based on the call on the field. If they'd called it the other way on the field, there wouldn't have been enough evidence to overturn it the other way either.

In any case, my guess is that Vermeil doesn't care - as far as he's concerned, his guys should have brought Toomer down, and if that had happened there would be no question about the play.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

"Do the browns even play anymore? i know they’re not playoff bound, but this is at least three straight weeks without any commentary….and they are better than some of the teams that do have comments (see: HOU/ARI)."

Just you move along buddy. Nothing to see here. Your team is simply not amongst the chosen ones. I'm sorry, but that is the way it is. Arizona at Houston got a mention for one reason, an Outsider is a Texans fan and was therefore watching the game. You'll note when Arizona plays a team where there are no Outsider fans the game does not get mentioned. Like last week, against Washington.

In fact, you'll note, this is Arizona's first official appearance in the Audibles since week 11 when they beat St Louis. That mention was for it's shock factor, otherwise you have to go back one week further to when Arizona played an FO favorite, the Lions, for them to get a mention.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

You’ll note when Arizona plays a team where there are no Outsider fans the game does not get mentioned.

Really, seriously, is there a reason to watch an Arizona game otherwise? :)

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Yes, that's the play. I can only assume Wayne wasn't even watching te play since it wasn't supposed to go anywhere near him. By the time he realized Manning had the ball, it was too late to do anything, but it did look pretty bad. When I first saw the play, I thought Manning had called out the wrong audible.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

It's so depressing being a Michael Vick fan because I keep thinking he'll get better as a passer but he never does. I can't make excuses anymore. But I will pick on Duckett. For being a big bruising back, I don't think I saw him break a tackle, run through a hit, or bowl anyone over last night. The consecutive calls to him on 3rd and 1 and 4th and 1.5 were horrible.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15


I agree completely about Vick. Announcers keep talking about him like hes a rookie, and just needs some experience, and hes still developing as a passer.

Hes 5 years in the league now. That makes him a veteran. He will never be a good passer, and people need to accept that.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

"The Chargers have found the way to stop the Colts’ rush: They’re just holding on every play. So far they’ve only been called for it twice, so it’s working out for them. On one play I saw two different guys hold Raheem Brock, and neither one got called.

Seems like the Chargers are just mugging the Colts on both sides of the ball, and it’s working, especially in the secondary. I think it’s a smart strategy because unless Ed Hochuli’s crew is doing the game (and it’s not) they just don’t call every penalty. The Chargers have only been called for illegal contact once."

As a Colts fan, I have to say, "thanks for breaking the seal" on this one...I didn't want to go there for fear of getting flamed to death or labeled as another whiny Colts fan...but I'm glad that someone else picked up on this one.

Since I'm on Xmas vacation I watched the DVR game this morning and with some very basic pause and rewind analysis, I think it's pretty obvious. I have no way of proving this...but if I had to put money on the table, I would say that the Chargers came into the game with the plan of "strategically holding" the Colts and see if it would be called and if not...keep doing it.

Why not? They only got 5 non-Special Teams holding penalities all game and I counted at least 7 blatant holding penalities that resulted in a favorable outcome for the Chargers in the first half alone, which looks like a pretty good ROI from my standpoint. Pretty savvy coaching move by the Chargers staff to help them win the game, but it's also disappointing that Terry McAulay and his crew didn't take more of a stand against it other than those two consecutive penalities against Hardwick in the 1st quarter.

And let me be crystal clear...I'm not blaming the loss on the refs...the Colts Special Teams sucked as usual, the entire team got their butts handed to them for 75% of the game and you can't give up that many big plays to the Chargers at the same time you are getting dinked and dunked by some well executed time-eating drives and expect to please don't twist my comments into anything more than a commentary on the coaching strategy of the Chargers.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Re 18:

It really bothered me when the Three Stooges said that Urlacher was the fastest defensive player on the field. Call me crazy, but if your linebackers are outrunning ALL of your defensive backs, your defense is in trouble. Last time I looked, Chicago had some good defensinve backs. I realize Urlacher is a quick linebacker, but come on, a little perspective please. Oh... Wait... Nevermind

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

re: #8

Don't worry, the Steelers game is both important to the playoff picture AND a rivalry game..I'm sure you'll get coverage for that one. As a Steeler fan, that game concerns me..the Browns always seem to play Pitt. tough, and Crennel clearly has them playing hard.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

32: Watching Duckett get stuffed in short yardage made me wonder why the Falcons don't give the ball to Dunn in those situations. Or, why not try a naked bootleg or QB sneak. Espicially after Duckett got stuffed on 3rd and 1, tryhing the same exact play wasn't a great descision. It reminds me of the Jints trying to make Dayne or Jacobs the goal-line back when Tiki is better suited than either one of them for that situation.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

The naked boot Manning ran has a little bit of history behind it. In 2001 at Buffalo, the Colts were in the same situation on the Buffalo 33. It was fourth and one and Manning did the same thing. That one went for a 33 yard touchdown. Perhaps Peyton was spending TOO much time watching old film.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I don't really want to talk about them any more than necessary, but how the hell are The Three Stooges still on the air? Everyone I talk to can't stand them, and they get mocked by Peter King, Dr. Z, and even Bill Simmons.
I live in England and I have difficulty getting friends to watch some of these games when they have to put up with the nonsense you hear.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Did anyone else notice that when Samie Parker flips a ball at a defender it's a 15 yd penalty but when Ron Mexico throws the ball at one it's ignored? Or is that a difference in officating crews? Chiefs' tackling sucked alright: when they made sure Tiki was down they got called for unnecessary roughness (it's apparently not okay to hit a running back crawling on the ground before the whistle) and when they didn't make sure, he ran for TDs.

Anyone else notice that the Vikings now have as many 1st rd draft choice WRs as the Lions?

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Redacted, redacted, redacted, Ginger, redacted, redacted, redacted.

With apologies to Gary Larson for stealing his joke and Aaron for the redacted-heads who write him.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

There's a big difference between the naked bootleg called in the Buffalo game and the one in Sunday's game. Against Buffalo, Manning knew in the huddle that he was going to run that play and didn't have a wide receiver split out to that side. In this case, Manning made a last second decision to run a play that never had a chance as Wayne was split wide left with two defenders. Wayne had little of blocking both guys even if he knew what was coming and virtually no chance the way it worked out.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Re 40:

When I was in college I actually relished the Sunday Night games because they provided such great MST 3000 material. I never had problems getting friends together to mock the Stooges incomparable ineptitude.

Now these games are just depressing as I sit in the room alone and scream obscenities at the TV. My wife doesn't seem to care that an end-around isn't a triple-reverse or that Brett Favre didn't cure cancer or that Tedy Bruschi couldn't single-handedly capture Osama Bin Laden if he wasn't so dedicated to winning.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

"Really, seriously, is there a reason to watch an Arizona game otherwise?"

Well, I know you will be watching them next weekend. Someone might want to watch the best wide receiver pair in the NFC play at least once this season.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

"Tedy Bruschi couldn’t single-handedly capture Osama Bin Laden if he wasn’t so dedicated to winning."

I take offense to that!

-Rodney Harrison

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

41: That's cause when Ron Mexico throws the ball at a defender it's while the play is still going on.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Well, I know you will be watching them next weekend.

Well, yes, but that's because Mike Tanier and I spent most of this season trying to pretend it didn't happen.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Any time you face the Redskins and your offense needs just a few yards to reach the endzone, a play action is assured to get you a touchdown, since they leave no one in coverage EVER, or if thy do, they bite and bite hard on the run.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

#21 - thanks for that trip down memory lane. I did indeed forget about it, which is strange because that was my favorite sports moment of the year. I used to have that photo as my Windows wallpaper.

Poor Jeff. If memory serves me right, that was shortly after his Honda Civic got blown upside down by the Knicks' charter jet at LaGuardia.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Bizarro stat of the week: the only team in the NFC East that has a guaranteed winning record versus the AFC West has not won a game in the NFC East yet.

Okay, granted, the Giants only have a game versus Oakland left, but I still find it weird that in the common matchups against the AFC West, the Eagles will at least be tied for the best record. If I had been told that at the beginning of the year, I would've assumed another division title.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

re 32 and 33: as one who has defended Vick on this site before I still agree with your comments. I have never tried to argue that he is a great passer, but that his running ability still makes him effective.

What I find interesting, and which nobody seems to be talking about, is that since his great passing day against Miami Vick's rushing attempts are way down. It started the very next week against the Packers when he was noticeably hesitant to take off and run as he usually would have and has continued since then. Vick's lower number of rushing attempts has coincided with Atlanta's recent slide

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Happily for the Vikings, MRH, they only had to pay first round money for one of them, and they are actually getting something approximating first round performance for one that they are paying little money to.

The irony is how many people questioned the Vikings' pick of Troy Williamson, saying that Mike Williams should have been the pick, when, as it has turned out, neither one appears at this point to have been a good pick. Toss in that Randy Moss has fallen off the map, and it appears that the biggest off-season trade of 2005 has turned into a non-factor.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Hey MDS, does Fred Graves (Lions receivers coach) even report for work? I haven't seen any sign at all that the young Lions wideouts have had any kind of coaching on how to play in the NFL. They blow routes, they can't read coverage, they don't even know what "get open" means and phrases like "looking the ball in" are totally foreign. Incidentally, as a student of evolution do you have any idea how pithecanthropus theismanni came to have its brain in the right leg?

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15


It really bothered me when the Three Stooges said that Urlacher was the fastest defensive player on the field. Call me crazy, but if your linebackers are outrunning ALL of your defensive backs, your defense is in trouble. Last time I looked, Chicago had some good defensinve backs. I realize Urlacher is a quick linebacker, but come on, a little perspective please.

Do you remember Nathan Vasher's 108 yd short field goal returned for a TD against San Francisco? During the return, Urlacher came up field from behind Vasher, gently nudged him aside, and laid a block down in front of him, all the while as Vasher is runnign upfield attempting to elude the pursuers. He really is very fast.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Re: Skins D-struction

Phillip Daniels had what must've been a career day; in fact the whole defense was one stupid Julius Jones garbage-time run from posting a complete, '85-Bears style shutout.

What shocked me, in hindsight, was how completely ineffective the Cowchip o-line was. Bledsoe looked bad and the running game was anemic, but when the 2nd half began, how can you let your QB get immediately sacked twice? How does your embarrassed o-line give up five MORE sacks after halftime? I almost felt embarrassed for Dallas and their fans.

Almost. Way to stick it to 'em, Coach Gibbs.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

No mention of Denver and my Bills, so I will add 3 comments here about that:

1. My friend and I called the game. "The Bills will score first, Denver will tie at halftime on a really bad defensive play by Buffalo, or a really lucky play by Denver. They'll get blown out in the second half." The Fletcher tipped ball falls into Rod Smith's hands in the back of the endzone, Mike Anderson rememberes he's running behind Denver's offensive line in the second half, the Bills D forgets to cover Rod Smith once or fifty times, and the rest is history.

2. Mike Tirico is fantastic on the play by play. His analysis is nothing special, but then, most analysts aren't. His actual call of the action is my favorite I've heard, bar none.

3. Sterling Sharpe as a color commentator is so atrocious I wanted to rip my legs off just so the sound of my own screams would drown him out. I think he called Rod Smith a "cute route runner" about twenty times in the first half.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

RE: 57

I wasn't just surprised at the Dallas )-line. They're usually pretty bad, or have been for the past few weeks. I was more surprised (and both Wilbon and Kornheiser have mentioned this) at how completely unprepared to play the Cowboys seemed. Did they learn about the game Friday night?

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

#41 I think the problem was that the defender threw Barber down when a 2-hand touch would have sufficed. I agreed with the penalty call.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Allow me to take issue with Larry Johnson being said to be "an excellent runner and certainly worthy of All-Pro consideration."

Larry Johnson is very good at finding his holes and hitting them with speed at the right angle. I think that is why he is doing so much better than Priest Holmes, who has been hindered by injuries all year and has had problems with flexibility and speed as a result.

What he is not good at is blocking on passing plays. I think even Andy Reid, in discussing Ryan Moats deficiencies, made a comparison to Larry Johnson when saying that not being able to block well on passing plays makes Moats and Johnson a potential liability on passing plays. Looking back, I think this was likely the major reason Dick Vermeil has been very critical of Johnson in the past.

Judging just from the NYG-KAN game, I think two other deficiencies in Larry Johnson's running might be improvising when there are not holes and dodging tackles when he is in the secndary. On a bunch of plays, a run up the middle was called, there would be no hole for Johnson to go through, and instead of trying to improvise by going to the outside, he would run right into a pile of guys and get nowhere. I'm talking about plays in the middle of the field here, not the goal-line stop. I cannot stress enough how bad he looked on these plays. All he'd do is run right into a pile of guys and stand there until he was tackled.

On runs where he got into the secondary, I think there may have been only one play where he did anything other than continuing running the same direction he was going. He did nothing significant in avoiding tackles or breaking them. If he did, we could be talking about Larry Johnson's huge day instead of Tiki Barber's.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Pat #51:

Almost all of the "improvement" of the NFC East has to do with the slide of the Eagles.

Eagles are 6-3 outside the division this year, and will probably be 7-3 after beating Arizona next week. Had they won all the close divisional games they'd played (everything but the first Dallas blowout, i.e. going 4-1, with another victory probably against DC), they'd be 10-4 headed for 12-4 again.

Meanwhile, had Dallas, DC, and NY lost those Eagles games, they'd be:

Giants - 8-6, heading for 8-8 (losses @ Redskins and @ Raiders)
Redskins - 7-7, heading for 8-8 (win over Giants, loss @ Eagles)
Cowboys - 7-7, heading for 8-8 (loss @ Panthers win over Rams)

Is that really very different from last year's 3 way tie at 6-10? Or the final records in 2001, 2002? Or is it really caused by the opportunity to beat up the Eagles and play the just terrible NFC West instead of last year's NFC North (Redskins, Giants, Cowboys all have 1 more win over NFC West than last year over NFC North)?

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

On a bunch of plays, a run up the middle was called, there would be no hole for Johnson to go through, and instead of trying to improvise by going to the outside, he would run right into a pile of guys and get nowhere.

This isn't necessarily bad. I think it was Bill Belichick who said "3rd and long I can deal with. It's 3rd and 15 that I have a problem with" or something similar? That is, it can be better for a back to not improvise, and simply hit the holes no matter what, because that way, at least, nothing goes wrong. It also means that deficiencies in line play can't be masked, as well, and the line can improve.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

#62 - actually, based entirely on the numbers you cite, wouldn't it be even more accurate to say that "Almost all of the 'slide' of the Eagles has to do with the improvement of the NFC East"?

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Also, i know that it was a crazy week, with a lot of underdogs covering the spread or winning outright, but how do the Jaguars fail to blowout a 49ers team that had to fly across the nation? Also, how do the Vegas spread-setters know this, as they had the line stay around JAX(-16), when the 49ers were consistenly losing to good teams when on the road by 21 points or more. I think that Vegas had inside info. It's the only thing that makes sense.

Note: I do not gamble, so this has nothing to do with money, just wondering how Vegas predicted that the game would be close, and as a result set the spread high enough that it looked wrong, but not low enough that Jacksonville could cover it.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Almost all of the “improvement� of the NFC East has to do with the slide of the Eagles.

Which really makes me wonder - is it just the Eagles injuries, or does it have more to do with those teams freakishly studying the Eagles in the offseason?

After the first Dallas game, I would've said "second, absolutely, no question." But since then, the NFC East games have been lost on

an end-zone interception from the WAS 7 at the end of the game versus Washington
an interception returned for a touchdown by Dallas
an overtime loss to the Giants from a fumble

Plus the earlier Giants loss, which was far closer than the 33-10 loss to Dallas earlier.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to say "OMG EAGLES UNDERRATED" - it's just weird that a team that's had as many injuries (brain, or otherwise) could be three plays out of first place in the NFC East.

I mean, literally, there are fans calling for Andy Reid's head, and I want to shoot them. You can't say that Green Bay (unluckiest team in the NFL) is three plays out of first place, nor New Orleans, and certainly not San Francisco. The Eagles aren't a last place team. Which is why I'm oh-so-happy that next year's strength of schedule matchups are Green Bay, New Orleans, and San Francisco.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

34: I hate to agree with you, cause you're a Colts fan and everything, but this isn't the first time the Chargers have employeed the tactic of mugging and grabbing thier opponents.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

If the crew that called the Giants/Seahawks game were officiating this one, the Giants would have been called for holding at least once a series, even with Luke “Holding on the Offense� Petitgout out.

Huh? The name is Luke "Repeat Third Down" Petigout, and don't you forget it.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Re#65: I don't know how you could see 16 points as a tight line. SF is poor, Jax is good but a) is playing w/ a backup qb and 2) has a thing for playing up/down to their competition. I was surprised to see the 16 points... I would have expected 11.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Two more Urlacher bits from last night, both said my MaGuire:

1) On one play, MaGuire talked about how hard Urlacher "pounded" the RB. They go to the replay and Urlacher made the tackle, but he was actually dragged 2-3 yards. Not only that, but he didn't even hit the RB head on, as he ran around the blocker. Not a terrible play, but most certainly not a pounding. Of course, even after visual evidence disputing the prior statement, they just kept on going with the accolades.

2) Urlacher had coverage responsibility on a RB (at least, I think it was Dunn)who was lined up wide right on one play. The three stooges gushed about how awesome his coverage was. Again, during the replay, it was blatantly obvious that the only reason Urlacher didn't give up a huge gain was that the play went in the opposite direction (It was either a run or a screen, but it was quick developing and it went to the left). The replay showed that, in roughtly 2 seconds, Urlacher had allowed his man to get 3 yards past him, and he still hadn't fully turned his hips yet. Again, it didn't stop the stooges from talking about the great coverage.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

#51, #62, #64:

I think we can agree that if they didn't have to play the Eagles twice, a few of the 2004 NFC East teams would have had a shot at the wild-card. Similarly, every team in the AFC west would be a playoff contender if they played in the NFC West instead. Is it really a coincidence that the 6th-seed in the NFC in 2004 was the St. Louis Rams at 8-8?

As far as the Eagles slide benefitting the other teams in the NFC East and their performance against the AFC West, the Eagles got to 4-2 by gutting out wins against three AFC teams, blowing out the 49ers, falling flat against Atlanta, and playing really badly in Dallas. They then got sideswiped by a Denver team that managed to destroy a run D that held a healthy LT to one of his worst performances of the year, and TO was suspended next week. As they enterered a stretch with 4 divisional games in about 6 weeks, the breakdown of the roster progressed. That is how the Eagles went 3-1 agains the AFC West and 0-5 against their division. This may be a reason that it is good to play division games early in the season if the rest of the division is good. However, even if the Eagles played the divisional games earlier in the season, I think they still wouldn't take the division as a result of their injuries, would get destroyed in the AFC West games that would then be later in the season, and the likely result would be that the NFC East has one less playoff contender at this point in the season.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I apologize if this has been covered before, but isn't it likely that the relentless hypefest that is a Stooges' Sunday-night telecast is really producer-driven? I think Dr. Z has alluded to this in the past. ESPN wants clear, simple, starlight storylines to snag the casual viewers.

To this line of thinking, the Stooges know full well they're making fools of themselves, but also know on what side the bread is buttered.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

ESPN wants clear, simple, starlight storylines to snag the casual viewers.

That'd make sense if it was ABC and Monday Night Football. This is ESPN. They don't get casual viewers.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

This is the NFL... every game turns on one or two plays.

Let's step through the Redskins:

Vs. Chicago, take out Orton's goal line INT and Chicago wins 10-9... although if you take out Antonio Brown's fumble on a kick-off, it's 9-0 (or 9-7).

vs. Seahawks: One play, the 4th quarter interception where the safety ran into a teamate and the end of regulation field goal ended up 5 yards back. Brown missed it by 2 yards.

vs. Dallas: Take out one of the bomb's to Moss, but you can also take out the flea-flicker from Bledsoe to Glenn

vs. Tampa Bay: Controversial Redskins kickoff return, and a bunch of other controversial calls favor the Bucs.

vs. Philadelphia: Remove 1 long touchdown to Reggie Brown (has he done anything since?)... also take out a holding call against the Redskins and the Eagles don't get the ball back.

vs. Denver: "Tuck Rule Part II" Also a tipped away 2 point conversion.

vs. San Diego: Robert Royal just has to catch 1 pass to get a first down and the Redskins defense gets precious rest time...

vs. Oakland: Lamont Jordan goal line fumble... correctly ruled down by contact but close...

vs. Kansas City: Kansas City, Redskins defense just has to stop 1 long touchdown...

... in close games where your team loses, the other team is only 1 or 2 plays away from making it a blowout.

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I forgot to answer this one from Ryan Wilson above:

how was David Givens a seventh-round pick?

Well, he's not big (generously listed at 6'0"), he's not blazingly fast, he occasionally has route-running issues, and was drafted out of Notre Dame, where he was the second-most productive wideout for a team that passed for a total of 1117 yards in 2001.

Don't get me wrong -- he's a solid, dependable receiver, with adequate speed and very good hands, and ended up being a steal in the seventh round. But there were plenty of reasons why he wasn't picked earlier, too.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Aaron: Let me get this straight. Just for fun, you put up a FREE site that analyses teams and players statistically. And then you get hate mail? Not just angry mail, but full-blown, booga booga CRAZY racist hate mail? Wow. I hope my family will lodge a bullet in the center of my brain if I ever go that bat-{redacted} crazy.

MDS: Your comment about LT running up the middle all game was dead on. I am not necessarily a great fan of the Bolts, but I am a big fan of LT and would like to see him do well in the playoffs one of these years. But Marty... I mean, how can he take a great shifty runner like that, who is known to have a hurt chest, and run him directly up the middle for the entire game? What is WRONG with that guy? I never had much use for Marty, but it's turning into a full-out hatred of him. He did everything he could to lose that game. They only won because of a lucky run by Turner (which was NOT directly up the middle, if you notice.)

And finally, the comments on Eli are dead on. At first I blew off comments about his inaccuracy, figuring he was having a bad game or two, growing pains and all that. But geez, this is game after game after game. I could understand if he failed to lead a WR properly - that's probably hard to do correctly. But to consistently, repeatedly, throw the ball too high? What is that? Get a grip on yourself and pull it down a bit. How hard can that be?

Here you've got a guy that is absolutely getting a ton of money and he can't cure such a simple problem? While others (cough, Big Ben, cough) who are getting paid far less are leaders and accurate from day one? Yow.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

This is the NFL… every game turns on one or two plays.

No, it doesn't. You'd have to replace a whole crapload of plays versus the 49ers to get them into first place in the NFC West.

Let’s step through the Redskins:

Who are not in last place. I mentioned the other teams I did because they're all in last place. It's not surprising that a team that's in second place is just a play or two out of first place. It is surprising that a team that's in last place is a few plays out of first place.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

"No, it doesn’t. You’d have to replace a whole crapload of plays versus the 49ers to get them into first place in the NFC West."
Play one: 1st round pick, SF selects Alex Smith. (Sorry, couldn't resist)

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Why didn't the Falcons give the ball to Dunn on the 3rd and 1 or 4th and 2 play?

Because Dunn was injured on the 2nd down screen pass.

Still, given that Duckett has been essentially worthless this season, almost any other call would have been better, especially on 4th down.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Week after week I look for something positive on my Seahawks. But alas and alack not to be. This is the site for guys to state the obvious and somehow think it’s profound. Where number don’t lie but … Oh well you know the rest. I think I’m through looking for anything relevant here. Good bye

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

OK, this is really, really easy. I don't know if that guy in #80 is coming back or not, but here's how it works:

We watch the games we want to watch, based on which teams we root for, and which games are available where we live.

We write about them.

None of us root for Seattle or Tennessee. None of us live in Seattle or Tennessee. Those of us who have Direct TV had much more important games to watch that involved two possible playoff teams, not just one playoff team.

This is also the explanation for the lack of Cleveland discussion. None of us live in Cleveland or the Bay Area or Cincinnati or Jacksonville (the last three Cleveland opponents).

You are going to get a lot of New York, New England, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, and the usual bitter, angry Detroit comments from MDS. That's where we live or who we root for. We're not really secretive about it.

Next week Cleveland plays Pittsburgh and Seattle plays Indianapolis so if you come back next Monday, I can pretty much guarantee you are going to get Ned's take on the Seahawks and Ryan's take on the Browns.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

In reference to the Dallas game, is there a statistical reference point that can be used to disqualify an Offensive lineman from future NFL play (Tucker)? It looks like Bledsoe's "layers of security" really is a "figurative metaphor". All kidding aside, if he doesn't get some blocking soon, Carolina's D is going to cancel his credit card. Permanently.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Re: Ryan Wilson on David Givens

Shh! Not another word. Move along. Move along. Nothing to see here.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Play one: 1st round pick, SF selects Alex Smith. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

Dang you! I considered making that joke along with that comment. You are my eternal nemesis, B!

Shh! Not another word. Move along. Move along. Nothing to see here.

See, the funny thing is that we were thinking last year that someone would make a play for Givens. Exactly the way that we figured that someone would make a play for Brian Westbrook as an RFA, as well. I don't know why teams don't do that, especially for "yah, duh" choices like that.

I don't get it. I would've figured the whole RFA tender thing would be a cheap way to force another team to eat up a bit more of their salary cap. Especially when the tenders for most RFAs are so ridiculously cheap.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15


Just as a brief comment, it might be helpful to have the "home teams" listed at the top of the Audibles at the Line. Those of us who've been here for a while know whose home team is what, but for others it's not so clear. (Though, for those who don't know, all the home teams of the FO staff are listed on the Meet the Outsiders page).

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

#82 - I guess there will soon be a "Football Outsiders Outsiders" site to discuss the shortcomings of FO's coverage of the NFL. Soon to be followed by the "Football Outsiders Outsiders Outsiders" to cover the games they miss, and so on...

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

#87 - Oooh... And we can have a FO Fantasy League, where we evaluate the hate-spam from various team message boards, and whether MDS gets a coronary from watching the Lions.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

re: #62 that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. If anything what follows from your stats are that some of the slide of the Eagles is due to the fact that the rest of the division doesn't suck this year. If the 05 Eagles had gotten to play the 04 skins, cowboys, and giants, they might still be hanging on to some playoff hope, despite their problems.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Re: the Tampa/NE game on Saturday, Chris Simms didn't look to comfortable throwing in the cold. Seems like in between plays he'd constantly have his hands jammed in his handwarmers. Simms threw a lot of awkward looking passes in that game and you have to wonder how big a factor the weather was.[Marino] What that kid needs is a nice pair of Isotoner gloves! [/Marino]

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

RE: Pat on Givens RFA

Well, it probably came down to the things Starshatterer mentioned. I bet DVOA/DPAR won't support my this, but I'm really glad Givens is back. I think he gives the Pats a consistent alternative to Branch and I thought his absence was pretty big against KC in particular. No evidence other than the contents of my brain. Flimsy, I'll admit. :D

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Southern and dome teams need to buy practice facilities in Alaska, so that they can practice in cold weather for extended periods of time in the offseason.

That warm weather and dome teams still struggle in cold weather is absurd given that the teams have had to deal with the problem for years and have millions of dollars to use to solve the problem.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Well, Starshatterer was mainly talking about why he wasn't drafted earlier - what I meant is why no one extended him an offer to force the Pats to match it.

It's much the same as Westbrook for the Eagles. Both Givens and Westbrook were signed to $1.43M contracts. Westbrook was since resigned for 5 years, $25M total, so for instance, if some team extended a 2 year, $6M contract to Westbrook back in the offseason, they would've had to match that offer (presuming Westbrook took it, that is - big if, but it's worth a shot). Chances are both the Patriots and the Eagles would've matched any offer, but it is a bargaining chip for both other teams and the players themselves.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Caffieneman, I agree with ya. Givens seems to make the 'tough' catches alot. You know...the catches that David Patten would get lucky and snag ;) (Don't get me wrong, I love David Patten (sp? patton?)...but cmon. This is the guy who saved a catch against Buffalo after fumbling by passing out of bounds. That's just awesome.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I will not defend the cowboys DVOA against TE's.
But Cooley is quietly having a great year.
Over 10 yards a catch, 36 first downs...
And the Redskins run that stupid play every week.
Brunell rolls left, looks for Cooley 10-15 yards down the field(once in a while its sellers) and they get a completion. I hate that play. Why Dallas was not ready for it is beyond me.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Re: Givens as an RFA.

Most teams don't make many RFA offers. If I was conspiracy-minded, I'd suspect collusion by the owners. More likely reason: teams aren't all that much better at evaluating talent in free agency, than they are in the draft.

Regarding Givens specifically, the Patriots offered him the midle tender ($1.43 million or so.) The suitor team would have to match or (more likely) exceed that offer, plus whatever the Patriots might counter with, plus cough up a first-round pick if they actually signed him. Not a lot of teams want to give up a first-round pick for a former seventh-round pick, even if he has a knack for catching touchdown passes in playoff games. Nor do they want to pony up big dough for a career #2 receiver, even if he's a very good #2 receiver.

My wife, the Eagles fan, wanted them to make a run at Givens this past off-season, when they had cap space and picks to spare. That would have made sense, especially in hindsight. But Andy Reid doesn't like free agent receivers who didn't play some variation of the West Coast Offense (and seemed to value cap space *much* more than receiving talent this past off-season.)

Another thing that may also hurt Givens's free agent value -- he's viewed as a "system" receiver whose value is reduced outside the Belichick/McDaniels/Brady system. To be honest, I don't remember even a rumor of interest in Givens as an RFA. It would not surprise me if the Patriots were able to re-sign him for less than market value.

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Should I send some tape to Matt Millen? Maybe the Pats can get a really good first round pick for Givens.

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15


With Givens, I can't argue much, because the Pats haven't resigned him yet. But take Westbrook for instance: you just needed more than $1.43M, and a first round draft pick. I just don't really see how he wouldn't be worth that, given that he resigned for $5M/year. I also don't think the Eagles would've let him go, either, so it mostly would've been a ploy.

I agree regarding player evaluation, but some RFAs are known quantities - and still no one takes a poke at them.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

B (#97 )--

Givens is unrestricted next year. Even Millen's not dumb enough to give up a draft pick for an unrestricted free agent.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

B: Oh, he'll find a way. He'll probably think that Pioli's trying to trick him or something.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

The hate mail etc is really disturbing especially when you consider this is a free site and what the stated aims of the project are.
As a Vikings fan I have watched with interest the non shift in their DVOA (until recently) and was able to think "Well we really haven't beaten anyone of note" as opposed to "Those ##### ##### ###### who hate my team".
I read all the postings and articles and feel I get a really comprehensive overview of the entire league and I have found no obvious bias except for one thing - an obsession with stripping away all the rubbish that often passes for critical analysis in reporting circles and getting to the essence of why teams win.
All I can say about #80 is enjoy the next site you find as this one is clearly not for you but I am disappointed that some fans of NFL football can't see what the analysis team is trying to achieve
The quality of your work I really appreciate and the expression of strongly held views by a variety of people make this a very interesting site. It really makes me laugh when people accuse Aaron of Pat's bias when,
1) He is an avowed Pat's fan.
2) The Pat's have won several SB's which I think is makes them interesting.
3) They have become successful in a less than orthodox way.

It is a pity the complaints could not be a long the lines of,

"Since DVOA suggests "x" then isn't it reasonable to assume that team "y" is being wrongly criticized due to factor "z"." Not "Aaron you J** B****** I hate you."
But why do that when you can shower the authors with racial epithets delivered via poorly written language?

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

for all you folks who love to hate the ESPN Sunday Night Football crew the guys over at FARK have started a poll made just for you: "Which ESPN personality would you like to set on fire?" (click my name)

right now Stephen Smith is running away with the thing but the Sunday night guys are making a good showing. Michael Irvin is also a rather conspicuous presence.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15


Your points about the RFAs have merit from the front office standpoint, but I doubt many high quality RFAs would sign such a contract. Why would Westbrook, for instance, sign a contract locking him up for 2 years at below market? Just because it is a little more money than the tender doesn't make it a smart decision if you take into consideration postponing the larger payoff.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Why would Westbrook, for instance, sign a contract locking him up for 2 years at below market?

Injury risk, for one. They're getting more upfront money.

Even ignoring that, though, why would he sign a contract locking him up for 1 year at below market value (which is what the RFA contract is)? Well, they do.

Plus, they could do it for the same reason another team would do it - to manipulate the team in question into giving them a bigger contract.

To give a more reasonable situation - imagine a team offering an RFA a 1 year, $2M contract, when the original is just the midlevel $1.43M contract. It's not much of an improvement for that player, but it is more money, and plus it's at least another team saying "we want you more", which that player could then figure would lead to a larger long-term contract later in the year (just like he's hoping to receive from his first team). Heck, the team could even hint that it's willing to do that if things work out.

Personally I don't understand what the big worry is with RFAs. A huge number of RFAs are proven quantities, or at least more proven than draft picks. I mean, take just the simplest definition of "performance" - number of games played - and compare the average RFA to the average first round pick, and I'd bet that the RFA does better.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Pat (#104 )--

I'm sure it's a cap thing. I'm pretty sure the teams are required to draft players, and offer those players contracts. That, plus actually paying your veterans, limits most teams' free agent money, which they then concentrate on UFAs rather than RFAs. Generally speaking, the UFAs are better players. Several teams bid on UFA Derrick Mason, while ignoring RFA David Givens, for the completely valid reason that Mason is a premiere talent, while Givens is simply a good talent.

As of last year, only the Eagles came to mind as a team that was both tempting for a free agent from an I-might-get-a-ring-playing-for-this-team standpoint, *and* so flush with cap room, as to make RFA bidding war games attractive.

Naturally, they stood pat. Does Andy Reid get a bonus for unused cap space each year?

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

#86 - Thanks for the link. Another Seattle fan here, and I was dissapointed that our game wasn't covered. It certainly makes more sense knowing why the games that are covered are chosen. It's too bad though, I thought the game had a lot to tell about the current state of our defense, and how Steve McNair can still throw a mean ball.

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I’m pretty sure the teams are required to draft players, and offer those players contracts.

Isn't it only the first year cap number that's latched in the "rookie cap" (hence the reason why first round draft picks have insane-o contracts)? So having fewer draft picks means you can structure draft pick contracts to take up less space in future years. No first round draft pick, and you can probably forego prorating signing bonuses for the remainder completely.

Honestly, the funniest thing about the salary cap is the fact that we're ten years into it, and I don't think that the teams are done figuring out the proper way to manage it at all. There are still teams that are incompetent (Washington Redskins) and teams that are probably frugal to the point of insanity (Vikings).

Naturally, they stood pat. Does Andy Reid get a bonus for unused cap space each year?

To be fair, I think this is going to be the first year where they end up with a fair amount of unused cap space in a while. They usually use most of it up in contract extensions (and it's possible they used it up again this year, and some of the contract details are wrong on the fan sites - if Westbrook's signing bonus wasn't prorated, they'd have no free cap space this year at all.

Several teams bid on UFA Derrick Mason, while ignoring RFA David Givens, for the completely valid reason that Mason is a premiere talent, while Givens is simply a good talent.

Right, but you could've gotten Givens for a fraction of what you paid for Mason.

I'm really especially surprised that the Pats didn't sign him to an extension, though. Now it'll be interesting to see what happens next year.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Right, but you could’ve gotten Givens for a fraction of what you paid for Mason.

I’m really especially surprised that the Pats didn’t sign him to an extension, though.

I'm not saying all those teams were being smart by not offering Givens a fraction of what they offered Mason, but their thinking was probably that one "great" player is better than any number of "good" players.

As for the other point, thanks to having to sign 3 RBs, 2 OLs, and about 6 DBs during the season, the Patriots have something like half a million in cap space to play with for the rest of the year. Seymour's holdout/payout didn't help, either, especially coming after Brady's and Dillon's not-as-cap-friendly-as-advertised extensions.

They weren't even able to re-sign Vinatieri, and that was a big priority.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Hey, maybe Vinatieri can go to the Colts! Then they'll have a field goal kicker specialists that's actually worth the money.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Regarding Eli's interceptions and fumbles...

"Phil Simms said early after Manning completed a ball on third-and-12 off his back foot that fans had to accept the bad throws if they were going to be happy about those completions. I’m not a Giants fan, but if I were, I would rather give up those good plays. In the last six games, he has 11 interceptions and six fumbles."

I'm not sure what stats you are looking at but Eli has two fumbles for the YEAR. Not 6 in his last 6 games.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

A big problem with trying to sign RFAs is that the team extending the offer could just be doing the work for the original team if that team decides to match it.
So if someone signed Givens to any contract, even if it were only 1 year for 2 mil, the Pats could just say we will match it and they keep Givens. Teams don't want to do the signing work for other teams, especially when they think the other team will probable match it.

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Teams don’t want to do the signing work for other teams, especially when they think the other team will probable match it.

Yah, that's the idea. You're forcing another team to work closer to the line. As SS had pointed out, had some team offered Givens just $2M/year, they would've put the Pats in a very, very tight position.

If you want a really sleazy way to abuse it, you could imagine using an RFA offer to put yourself in a better bargaining position for a real UFA from the same team. Problem is I think the dates don't work out for that, but that'd be neat.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Who is this clown ? The Chargers holding on every play, get a life ! You got your lunch handed to you so enjoy it ! I don't think the Dolts will get past the Pats. And you better hope San Diego doesn't get in because we got ypur number.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

You got your lunch handed to you so enjoy it !

Yah, because MDS - man, he's just a rabid Colts fan.

Seriously, what is it about football that makes some people act so dumb? I just don't get it.

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Bill Wallace #89:

that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. If anything what follows from your stats are that some of the slide of the Eagles is due to the fact that the rest of the division doesn’t suck this year.

If the rest of the NFC East were really that great and improved, they should have been able to better themselves much more than simply beating the Eagles twice, and getting an extra win from playing the NFC West (Weakest. Division. Ever.)

I would argue that real all-around improvement would, for example, give them much better records against the AFC West, and their 2 NFC strength of schedule games.

Discounting the wins against the Eagles and the extra win from playing the NFC West, it appears that the Redskins, Cowboys, and Giants, made the quantum leap of winning one additional non-Eagles game. They then were gifted with the bonus of playing a wounded Eagles team that was imploding from injuries and contrversy, which swung what had been 2 losses into 2 wins. The Giants then also got the bonus of an additional home game.

If the 05 Eagles had gotten to play the 04 skins, cowboys, and giants, they might still be hanging on to some playoff hope, despite their problems.

The 04 Giants really were a bad team (and the 05 Giants are the one NFC East team that has really shown a remarkable all-around improvement), but the 04 Skins and Cowboys were actually pretty good outside of a few glaring problems, for the Cowboys, especially glaring 4th quarter problems related to Quarterback performance at the end of the game, and some defensive issues related to pass defense and pass rush, while the Skins had signifcant injured/inept QB problems that were suddenly solved this year with Brunnell being healthy.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Pat: Those people are dumb all the time, Football just gives them an outlet for thier dumb behavior.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Not sure where I got 6 fumbles from. It is really 4. I was talking fumbles not lost fumbles, hence a higher number than the 2 lost fumbles on the season.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I guess the Chiefs only know how to tackle at home. How could they possibly have been the #1 defense in rushing DVOA?

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Am I the only person who thinks that while fans can speculate all they want, major media outlets shouldn’t make the assumption that he’s coming out?


Yes, you are. Bush announced on Saturday that he's coming out.

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Pat (#113 )--

I actually underestimated the cap squeeze in frigid Foxborough. Apparently, they don't have enough cap space left to sign a full practice squad (source linked; scroll down to the third bullet point in the intro).

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

RE: 41

Anyone else notice that the Vikings now have as many 1st rd draft choice WRs as the Lions?

The difference is Minny didn't draft two of them, and is thus not paying much at all.

RE: 65

16 points was a huge spread. You very rarely see any spreads higher than that. You could hardly expect Vegas to have a spread that's any higher. Vegas doesn't go all the way. Notice that the lowest over/unders are like 30.5, when you know there will only be like 17 points scored. That said, I thought Jacksonville would trash San Fran by at least three touchdowns.

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Alright, a few things about RFAs. First, the Vikings have already done the "offer an RFA a contract to drive his price up" with Paul Edinger and the Bears a couple years ago. Also, draft compensation is directly tied to the amount tendered. The tender offer doesn't even have to be very high for it to cost a first or first and third.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

RE: 85

If the team doesn't match, though, you lose a draft pick. And maybe teams didn't feel Givens was worth whatever level he was tendered at. There is no other explanation.

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

RE: 102

Just about all of them. Screaming A. Smith, Joe Theismann, Skip Bayless, Paul Maguire, Mike Patrick, etc.
Although I can't vote if I'm not a member ( :( ), so I won't bother.

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

RE: 107

All signing bonuses are prorated. The only way the bonus wouldn't have been prorated would have been if it was a roster bonus.
The Eagles end up every year with a bunch of unused space. Yes, they usually burn some of it on contract extensions, but there is always a lot left over, it seems. This year, for example, they could have been active in free agency and still have had the money to give extensions to Westbrook and others.
My question is why the heck they structured the Westbrook deal the way they did. They could have put a lot of the money onto the 2005 cap, but chose not to.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

RE: 125

Yep. The amount to cost the team a draft pick in the round the player was drafted in was 605 K this past offseason. To cost a 1st rounder it was $1.43 million, and to cost a 1st and a third, I think it was around $1.8 million.