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

Audibles at the Line: Week 9

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

By the way, the discussion thread for this roundtable is an excellent place to suggest injuries you would like to see Will Carroll cover in this week's Black and Blue Report. And at the end we'll give you a little preview of what games we're analyzing later in the week.

San Diego Chargers 31 at New York Jets 26

Bill Moore: As this game was winding down, I kept thinking to myself that this was going to be one of those games that looked closer than it really was. And then Pow! Blam! Splat! It actually turned close. Bryan Bollinger (as Dick Enberg called him) came in during the third quarter as Vinny reaggravated his Achilles upon being sacked. However it seemed to me that the Jets really pulled Vinny because they felt the game was out of reach and it made no sense to risk further injury to their "number one" quarterback.

Bollinger comes in and promptly takes a few hits. Note to Brooks, I know you ran the ball well in Wisconsin, but when the backup is Kliff Kingsbury, you utilize the hook slide. Still, maybe it's maturity in game situations or maybe it was a letdown by the Chargers D, but Bollinger stepped in and led a comeback. He broke the Jets' streak of 138 games without a touchdown by throwing two of them. (Future trivia: Who caught Bollinger's first TD? FB Jerald Sowell.) In the end, the Jets were unable to score from the 3-yard line with one run and three incompletes. Given the tough situation that was for Bollinger, it was surprising they didn't try running Martin more. There was time on the clock.

Mike Tanier: The Chargers were in control for the whole game but never delivered the knockout. They settled for field goals, turned it over once in the red zone, and squandered some other opportunities. The Jets stayed about a touchdown back until the final minutes, then forced a turnover and nearly won.

Brooks Bollinger isn't particularly good, but he's mobile and can throw touch passes. He really deserves to start at this point.

Bill Moore: Although much pre-game discussion by the "experts" suggested Ty Law would cover Gates, that never happened. On one play, Gates just abused Victor Hobson. Law almost all game covered his side of the field -- and was NEVER thrown at. However, late in the game, I did see Law (for the first time) motion over the left side. At first I thought it was because Barrett (who just gets pounded by opposing QBs) had gone out with injury, but it continued later in the game. I'm wondering if at some point, Law moved to man-on-man coverage on McCardell. I don't know.

More on Law: I don't know what happened to him, but he can not tackle anymore. He's easily blocked, easily faked and doesn't attack the ball carrier. At one point, LT just embarrassed him, leaving Law in his wake for a touchdown catch out of the backfield.

As MDS has mentioned previously, Merriman is really coming into his own. He hurdled his blocker on the way to a sack. And by hurdle, I don't mean jumped over a cut block, I mean jumped over a man standing fully upright.

Finally, I must say, the Jets have to be real happy with second-round pick Nugent. 10 attempts including this game, six good and four misses including one today. Couldn't have used that pick on a DB could you?

Oakland Raiders 23 at Kansas City Chiefs 27

Bill Moore: For most of the first half, Trent Green just did not look himself. Unlike Brett Favre, he did not light it up after going through the emotional trauma of losing his father.

Kerry Collins really has a set of wide receivers that he can force the ball too. And its not just Moss. These guys are covered, but they just come down with the ball. However, that false confidence can come back to bite you. Collins, under pressure, tried to force it into quadruple coverage on Moss -- only to have it picked off.

Is there a fatter kicker in the NFL than Janikowski?

Both teams ran a lot of nickel coverage, but neither team was able to take advantage of it via the running game.

This game only really got interesting when Green finally hit the "ON" switch during the third quarter, and then KC just pummeled themselves with penalties -- some unjustified, others just stupid. And finally Oakland put together a nice drive capped off by Moss' first catch of the game for a TD.

But the best was saved for last. Saved by a rare defensive tripping call, Green hits Kennison and Johnson for a combined 49 yards to the one-yard line with five seconds to go -- no timeouts! Down by three, the announcers were calling for a quick pass -- no runs. I was already preparing a comment about the win probability of going for it, vs. kicking the FG and going to OT. I figured kicking the FG knocked your win percentage to 50%, but going for it HAD to be much greater. Anyone know what the probability is?

Before I could finish the comment, Vermeil made the bold decision that I thought was right, but didn't think they had the guts to call. Johnson runs it for a yard, no time left and a WIN. Great call!

Aaron Schatz: Kansas City, by the way, has converted about two-thirds of short running situations over the last couple years.

Mike Tanier: Let the record show that the Chiefs scored the winning touchdown by plowing right over Warren Sapp. Sapp was moved about four yards off the play; I am not sure if Casey Wiegmann or Brian Waters was the blocker. Ted Washington and Terdell Sands were the other Raiders linemen on the interior for that play, which is certainly a Heavy Jumbo defense, but they were just blown off the ball.

Aaron Schatz: If we're giving props, Will Shields took out linebacker Danny Clark, and tight end Jason Dunn (playing fullback) took out linebacker Kirk Morrison to clear the rest of the hole.

Mike Tanier: The evil Kerry Collins showed up for this game, the one that throws the ball away whenever there's a hint of pressure. The Chiefs sold out with lots of seven-man blitzes, and Collins just kept bailing out. I would bet that Randy Moss, Jerry Porter, Doug Gabriel or somebody could get open against single coverage by the Chiefs.

Moss was targeted seven or eight times, but his only catch was the late touchdown.

Michael David Smith: Kansas City really, really missed Willie Roaf.

Ned Macey: What I loved about the last play for the Chiefs was that there was no trickery involved. I thought they should run but felt they would spread out the Raiders thinking they would assume quick pass. From the tight formation they lined up in, there was no play that would take less than five seconds, and they still scored with relative ease.

Carolina Panthers 34 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14

Mike Tanier: Chris Simms moved the ball pretty well early in the game and threw some sweet passes, not just the bomb to Joey Galloway. The running game and offensive line aren't providing much support right now. Of course, that pass at Chris Gamble won't make Simms' highlight reel.

My favorite play in this game: watch Ricky Proehl's 62-yard catch in the 2nd quarter. Proehl and Steve Smith are racing up the sidelines, and the safety commits completely to Smith as soon as Delhomme releases. If the safety turns to Proehl, he has a play. I would have turned to Smith, too.

Michael David Smith: Tampa Bay's Brian Kelly was really struggling. Steve Smith and Keary Colbert both beat him in the first quarter.

DeShaun Foster looked like the old DeShaun Foster we're all so used to criticizing around here.

Cincinnati Bengals 21 at Baltimore Ravens 9

Mike Tanier: I saw one series of this game. Slash scrambled twice, then after some running plays, the Ravens tried a WR pass where Randy Hymes threw to Slash. It's great to see that someone saved the Steelers playbook from the mid-1990s.

Ryan Wilson: Cincy's offense really didn't do a whole lot. In fact, the Ravens defense played pretty well. Unfortunately, their head coach is Morris Buttermaker, and their offense is abysmal. Anthony Wright and Kyle Boller are basically the same guy. Kordell Stewart got a few snaps and actually rallied the team to a field goal (of course he didn't even think about running the ball, and got sacked on a third down play, but that's actually an improvement).

Surprisingly, the Bengals pretty much stopped the run, and when they finally decided that Wright was only looking for Mason, they were able to stop the pass too. The only thing worse than watching the Ravens try and matriculate the ball down the field, is watching the them while Gus Johnson is calling the game. He was the second worst commentator on CBS this Sunday ...

Ned Macey: If you watch the Bengals, with all their weapons, you would think they would score more points. As you are watching, you feel like they are leaving points on the field and the opposing defense is playing well. But, at the end of the day, they had 21 at Baltimore which is a pretty impressive feat. They have become just a very solid football team. Carson Palmer, who was a turnover machine a season ago, is so much more mature with the ball. Then with only a five-point lead, he and Johnson connected on a huge play against Chris McAllister that basically clinched the game for them. Palmer is the best young quarterback in football.

Rudi Johnson is very underrated. He is a very tough runner, and if you took out an 11-yard loss he took on a busted play, he would have been over 100 yards and 4.0 yards per carry, which is still impressive against Baltimore.

As for the Ravens, the whole plan is play great defense, efficient play from the quarterback, and win the game on the ground. Against the woeful Cincinnati rush defense, Jamal Lewis gets 49 yards on 15 carries? Anthony Wright was bad, but he made 0 big mistakes. Unfortunately, Lewis seems to have lost all value. He got 15 carries to Chester Taylor's three.

Pittsburgh Steelers 20 at Green Bay Packers 10

Mike Tanier: Sam Gado: All Division I-AA selection by the Athletic Directors Association in 2004. Led the Big South conference in scoring and all-purpose yards. Part of a RB tandem at Liberty with Dre Barnes. Signed as a rookie free agent by the Chiefs but released. Born in Nigeria. No relation to Christian Okoye. That's all I got.

Aaron Schatz: Batch was awful, of course. There was a play where KGB went right around Marvel Smith to get Batch on 3rd-and-12, though Batch got away for 10 yards. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that Marvel couldn't blow it that bad -- I think he was trying to push KGB around Batch's back but Batch took too many steps in his drop.

It seems that the PIT CB coverage has really declined over the last couple games, between all the yards they gave up to GB today and all the yards they let Derrick Mason have last week. Ryan, your thoughts?

On the other side of that issue, Al Harris is just absurd at this point. He's completely shutting down every single number one receiver that Green Bay plays. Hines Ward caught one ball today. ONE. The one time I saw Ward open, it was because Harris was on Quincy Morgan that play.

Ryan Wilson: Apparently one team learned a very valuable lesson from Monday night's game ... and it was Green Bay. The Ravens did a lot of max protection and only sent out three receivers. And on almost every occasion, Derrick Mason found a way to get open. Well, the Packers did exactly the same thing Sunday and Favre also had no trouble finding the open receiver. Here's the thing about max protect: when you keep seven in to block, only three can run routes. The Steelers haven't been phased by max protect because they still insist on rushing five and six guys. The result: repeatedly getting burned on third down. I'm not convinced the secondary is necessarily playing decidedly worse than earlier in the season, I just think they don't have a lot of help. They're in man coverage while the blitz is being picked up, and guys are getting open.

That Favre will inevitably have two or three crazy plays a game coupled with the fact that Pittsburgh finally decided to drop people in coverage, led to their finally making some stops on 3rd and 4th down.

Charlie Batch wasn't as awful as he could've been. In fact, it very easily could've been much, much worse (see Jaguars game). The Steelers didn't really have the ball on offense (see time of possession), and when they did, it wasn't really a secret that they were going to run the ball. Batch throwing the ball away or taking a sack is actually a positive play after watching the other backup.

That said, if Pittsburgh's defense isn't last in the league in DVOA on third downs, we might want to think about tinkering with the equations.

Aaron Schatz: After this week's games, Pittsburgh is 31st. San Francisco is last, although some people might argue that they are no longer actually in the league.

Detroit Lions 14 at Minnesota Vikings 27

Michael David Smith: Charles Rogers, back from his four-game suspension, is inactive for today's game. After a week of practice, the Lions coaches decided that Glenn Martinez is the better receiver right now, so he'll be on the active roster instead. Let that sink in for a minute. Charles Rogers, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, who has already counted about $20 million against the Lions' salary cap, can't beat out Glenn "I've caught one pass in my career" Martinez for playing time. Where does Rogers rank among the greatest busts in NFL draft history?

Bill Moore: Wow. Up till this season, you really had to give Rogers an injury free pass. Seemingly, two fluke injuries killed his first two seasons. However, this HAD to be his year, and he has failed in multiple ways. I put him up there with Rick Mirer, Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith, Blair Thomas, KiJana Carter, Heath Shuler, and Curtis Enis. All top-five picks that just laid an egg. I struggle to think of another wide receiver that fits the bill.

Michael David Smith: As much crap as Harrington takes, how many quarterbacks could succeed when Scottie Vines is by far their best receiver? This is one of the worst groups of receivers I've ever seen. Please, spare me the talk about how much talent the receivers have. Yes, three of them were very good college players. So what? Desmond Howard was one of the best college receivers ever, and in the NFL he was strictly a return man. If Harrington ever gets a chance to play for a competent organization, he can be a good quarterback. I'll be rooting for him.

Steve Mariucci is, I'm sure, a very nice guy. Are nice guys also good football coaches? I have my doubts when I hear him answer questions about why a player didn't practice this week, like he did after today's game, with "he's a little sore." A little sore? Do you think Bill Parcells gives guys the day off when they're a little sore?

Houston Texans 14 at Jacksonville Jaguars 21

Michael David Smith: I liked what I saw of Gary Walker against Jacksonville. He had a roughing the passer penalty, but he also had a very strong game against the run, really wreaking havoc in there.

Tim Gerheim: I'm not sure he started, but Ernest Wilford was definitely the no. 2 receiver for the Jaguars. Even so, I don't think he caught a pass until the second half. He was huge in their comeback (such as it was). I don't think Reggie Williams even saw the field.

David Carr is now unequivocally part of the problem, and not part of the solution. He bails out of the pocket too soon, and he's incomprehensibly loath to throw the ball away in obvious throwaway situations. On one play he started scrambling immediately after finishing his drop even though the protection was viable, and he ran to his left directly into the rush. He still throws very well, but his pocket presence is abominable.

With Domanick Davis out, Jonathan Wells looked a lot better running than I expected him to. I actually think that it was (believe it or not) the offensive line that got him most of his success, since he's pretty much a one-hit-and-go-down guy. But he was better than Vernand Morency, who really seemed to trip several times over that blue line on the field.

Corey Bradford had a big game, which was a big surprise, but then turned back into a pumpkin on the last play of the game. I can't wait for Jerome Mathis to get healthy and come back, because he's a younger and therefore faster Corey Bradford. Plus he returns kickoffs better than Tony Hollings, who likes to actually return it from more than 5 yards deep in the end zone, and wind up short of the 20.

Atlanta Falcons 17 at Miami Dolphins 10

Aaron Schatz: What a strange game. Atlanta had some quarterback who was able to accurately complete passes. I'm not sure who that guy was. Miami seems to have misplaced all Atlanta game tape involving Alge Crumpler, because for most of the game, they were leaving him wide open. Part of the reason for that was that they were really trying to stuff the run up the middle, and that had to leave something open, but why not make that something Michael Jenkins?

Later in the game at one point the Dolphins blitzed seven on 3rd-and-goal from the 11. Touchdown to a wide open Brian Finneran. Why are you blitzing seven on 3rd-and-goal from the 11, to try to knock them out of field goal range? For crying out loud, just prevent the damn touchdown.

Miami also had awful offensive play calling by Linehan. They must lead the league in gimmick plays that are easily sniffed out within two seconds and stuffed behind the line of scrimmage. Chris Chambers going down for a loss of 12 on a silly double reverse was probably the best.

Yet despite these mistakes, despite the rare accurate game from Vick, Miami had a chance to tie at the end, but about 20 yards from the goal line they called a pass on 3rd-and-2 and Frerotte tossed an interception. Let me get this straight -- Ronnie Brown has been gashing Atlanta all day, you have no passing game and an unreliable quarterback, and a rushing play is much more likely to covert than a passing play, and you have two plays to get two yards, and you PASS????

There was also a really BS flag where Vick was running and got pushed out of bounds while his feet were still on green grass. Somehow this was called a personal foul. A few plays later, Chris Chambers catches a pass and is at the same point near the sideline and gets leveled and flipped end over end by an Atlanta defender. No personal foul.

Kevin Carter was getting a ton of pressure on Vick all day. Good game for him.

Ned Macey: I agree with Aaron about what a terrible play call the Dolphins made on 3rd-and-short where Frerotte threw the interception. I always like Moose Johnston games because he always talks about the fullbacks. It is so clear that he can't help watching the game that way. This time, however, he appeared to pick up that when the Dolphins went with Brown and Williams in the backfield, they almost always threw, and this was the case on the final play. They ran the ball well with both backs all day. I don't care what we've said about Ricky; I'd rather have the ball in his hands then good old Gus with the game on the line.

Tennessee Titans 14 at Cleveland Browns 20

Ned Macey: The insertion of Reynaldo Hill into the starting lineup with his hair that matches Pacman Jones is extraordinairly confusing. It was so easy to pick out Jones and see how he was playing, but now with questionable spotting by the announcers it is difficult to pick out whicih one of the two rookies is missing tackles in the secondary. I have similar problems with Asante Samuel and Duane Starks for the Patriots, since they are #22 and #23 respectively and roughly the same size. At least with that one, 90% of the time I can go with the idea that if it was a great play it was Samuel and a terrible play it was Starks.

Seattle Seahawks 33 at Arizona Cardinals 19

Bill Moore: Shaun Alexander takes the ball down to the ARI two-yard line on a second-and-goal. Denny Green challenges the call saying Alexander actually stepped out at the four. Why waste a challenge on that? The announcers suggested that Green was more afraid of Alexander in the Red Zone that Hasselbeck. What are Hasselbeck's red zone numbers? That seemed like a real waste. Hasselback threw a TD on the next snap.

Finally, from that same game, a nice cliché flip flop. We all get jammed down our throats that it's harder for the offense the closer you get to the end zone because there is less room to work. The FOX stat people during the Giants game actually decided to break it down in square feet for the mathematically challenged. However, after Hasselbeck ran a bootleg into the end zone, the announcers let this one fly: "Well, being close into the end zone makes it harder for the defense as they have less time to react to a play. It really gives the offense an advantage."

Why do you stick with Kurt Warner? I mean really? Granted I am no McCown fan, but Warner is clearly not your long term solution. Why not play McCown, and if he can't fill the role, 1) you'll know it for sure by the end of the season and 2) you get a higher draft pick and go after a QB like say Leinart?

Tim Gerheim: Nobody plays for the draft pick. If it comes out that that's what you're doing as a coach, you're so fired.

Chicago Bears 20 at New Orleans-San Antonio-Baton Rouge Saints 17

Ned Macey: Sad to see so many empty seats. What a disastrous situation.

Who is on the Bears offensive line? I admit knowing little about that team, but they certainly seem like an impressive bunch. They have such a limited passing game, and yet Thomas Jones is having a huge season, and when he went down, Benson was also good and Peterson went through for the game-winning touchdown untouched. Sure it was the Saints, but it was also Adrian Peterson.

Philadelphia Eagles 10 at Washington Redskins 20

Aaron Schatz: On the first play of this game for Philadelphia, Josh Parry apparently confused the concept of "blocking" with the concept of "attempt to hurdle a defender" which resulted in Westbrook getting smacked.

I don't know if I can give specific examples here, but I'm starting to realize that the Philadelphia offensive line is no longer a strength. People talk about McNabb's injury and the lack of runs but are people talking about this? Especially at LT and RT.

Am I imagining things, or did Joe Theismann just say that the injury is not hurting McNabb and then two seconds later McNabb throws a pass that wobbles and then bounces three feet away from Brian Westbrook?

Bill Moore: I think he was being sarcastic to Paul McGuire because McNabb had just made a good scramble and throw without the ill-effects of an injury.

However, Earth to McNabb: If you want to run a Marino fake spike, better be sure the rest of your team knows too. If you're the only one, you'll easily add to that laundry list of injuries.

Aaron Schatz: Joe Theismann knows how to be sarcastic?

Ned Macey: The question for the Eagles is whether or not McNabb had the better game because they mixed their play calls or if they lost the game because they stuck wtih the run for too long. I think it's the former, as it forces the defense to at least be honest. If that's the case, then the Eagles have problems because they cannot run the ball.

On the last real play of the game, why was Westbrook not in the game? Is that possibly a good decision? A half-hearted play fake to Lamar Gordon that slowed down the play and held nobody at the line? They used a timeout to set up this play which precluded them from getting the ball back. I don't mind the use of the timeout since the play was so important, and they had a good chance to score, but if this is really your last chance, that is an awful play to run.

I do feel like I have a much better understanding of the TO situation after hearing Suzy Kolber's explanations all night, however. Very informative.

By the way, is there a game tomorrow?

Later This Week

Any Given Sunday: Still Undecided
Every Play Counts: Atlanta offensive line vs. Miami front seven


73 comments, Last at 08 Nov 2005, 7:47pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

". Bryan Bollinger (as Vern Lunquist called him)"

You misidentified the misidentifier, it was Dick Enberg doing the game

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"Before I could finish the comment, Schottenheimer made the bold decision that I thought was right, but didn’t think they had the guts to call. Johnson runs it for a yard, no time left and a WIN. Great call!"

it was a great call, but, um, ... vermeil, not schotty. needless to say, he was in tears at the postgame interview.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"He broke the Jets’ streak of 138 games without a touchdown by throwing two of them"

Only felt like 138 games, was it 138 pass attempts?

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I'm glad that when we put up a notebook of our quickly jotted e-mails, and note that the notes may be "a bit disjointed and un-edited," people feel the need to immediately edit our mistakes for us.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

While I think Olin is on the downside at center (he has had some rough games) the O-line has been pretty solid.

Orton, like many young QBs, takes forever and a day to make a decision. Thankfully, the line has done an ok job of giving him that extra time. If I recall correctly he has been sacked 18 times which is middle of the pack. And again, considering that he holds onto the ball longer than one would like that's pretty ok.

I don't know if I agree with MDS on Harrington. I have watched that young man for three years plus and his decision making is suspect plus unless the conditions are perfect he can't throw the ball more than 20 yards. On the road against the Bears and Packers he has been dreadful.

And if you have an allegedly smart guy making dumb decisions AND can't rifle the ball through his mistakes what do you really have?

Folks will figure out Brad Johnson. He is Lynn Dickey without the arm.

That is two games in a row sitting there for the Packers to win and they barf all over themselves. Bill Simmons cracks on Mike Sherman but that was an energized 1-6 yesterday which is a credit to the coaching staff. What the Favre bashers refuse to acknowledge is that the guy is pretty much playing pick up football at the pro level. Fans were booing about GB not going to the no-huddle at the end but as Sherman admitted after the game guys are too new to know where to go.

And the only guy he REALLY trusts drops a ball right in his hands yesterday in the fourth quarter resulting in an interception.

It's trite but if this is not a 1-7 team.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Re: #4

aaron, it's not like anybody here is jumping down your throat. we all love what you do here at FO, and i especially like this feature, since i only got to watch a couple of these games. i'm just trying to help out; i'm certainly not making any demands. if it's not worth your time to fix these mistakes, then by all means don't bother.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I loved Vermiel's decision to go for the win. I can't believe that if you can guarantee a win by gaining one yard any coach would prefer the uncertainty of OT. Even if somebody brings up some stats saying that the percentages of a win in OT are greater than the percentages of success on a goal-line play, that would still be an average and wouldn't let us know what would actually happen in OT in this particular game. I can guarantee you a win if you gain a yard. There's no way a coach can guarantee that he'll have a better opporunity than that in OT.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

With respect to Bollinger he was one of those guys coming out of college I had no idea whether he could play in the NFL. His attributes seem suited solely to the college game, but he would show flashes at times that you wondered if just maybe he could pull it off on the right team.

Bollinger is a sharp kid, mobile, makes good decisions, and has just enough arm to be effective. Though on a gusty day he will look pretty bad because his arm is so-so.

He is also one tough SOB.

Brooks is the kind of player that I call a "Surgical Bear". Can a bear do surgery? Don't know. Might as well give him a scalpel and stand back.

You KNOW what you get with Vinny. Bollinger might be an ok surprise.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Aaron, I won't correct your mistakes, but from a stylistic perspective, I don't think you should have used the word "note" quite so often in that last comment :-)

I'm no Vick fan and I know he doesn't put up classic qb numbers, but he seems to win a bunch. Is it just my imperfect memory, or does he boat an awfully good W-L record as a starter?

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

T.O. and Michael Irvin are clearly correct about the McNabb-Favre situation. After all, Brett Favre would never think of ad-libbing a fake-spike play that his teammmates were unaware of in the closing seconds of a half. ;-)

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by the way, i agree with ned about moose johnston's commentary. he's consistently excellent in his analysis. i spent the early games flipping back & forth between ATL-MIA and NYJ-SD and the contrast between moose and dierdorf was mind-boggling. dierdorf is incredibly arrogant without offering any insight--whenever they show a replay of a penalty, he'll just declaim, "you just CANNOT do that in the NFL. they'll flag that EVERY SINGLE TIME." um, yeah, so? and he really has nothing to add to the telecast. meanwhile moose is constantly noticing and pointing out things like who is making key blocks, whether the RB is following the intended blocking scheme or improvising, which defenders are out of position. it's refreshing to have a color guy actually notice stuff that i didn't, and i'm far from the most observant football fan.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Who is on the Bears offensive line?

My vote for most pleasant surprise in that bunch is Roberto "Where's My ACL?" Garza. His first two plays from scrimmage after Ruben Brown went out were 1) A 15-yard offensive face mask penalty, and 2) A matador block resulting in a sack on Orton. But since then he's been damn solid, particularly run blocking. He and Tait make the (traditionally pass-blocking) left side the strength of the power run game.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Regarding the Bears o-line: I don't know why they're better than last year. We signed Fred Miller, who I thought would be good for about 4 penalties a game, moved our RT to the left side, and are starting one guy who couldn't win the job last year (Metcalf at RG) and an Atlanta cast-off who we signed for the something like the vet min for one year (Garza at LG). They're just playing well.
I suppose you have to look at coaching. Our current o-line coach had the same job at Illinois under Turner. He always seemed to get the most out of limited talent there, and took some marginally talented guys to the NFL (David Diehl, Tony Pashos, Marques Sullivan).

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

re #9: I didn't want to bring up the Vick argument again, but maybe this is as good a time as any. The Falcons win more than twice as often as they lose when Vick starts. They are 6-2 this season, and their two losses have been:
when Vick was out with injury, and when Vick was hurt late in the game versus Seattle and was unable to complete a 21 point comeback. The Falcons consistent winning with Vick at QB has gone past the point of coincidence or luck. I've had this debate on this site in the past and have always been told that the Falcons win because they have the best defense this side of the '85 Bears and the best running game this side of the '72 Dolphins. Vick has the third highest winning percentage of any QB in the league. Anybody think that the Falcons, not counting the QB position, have the third best talent in the league?

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Looks like i made both edit goofs, but when you watch 5 games including often two simultaneously facts like names get a little hazy - plus I can never identify announcers by their voice. I get that wrong the most.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

From left to right the Bears line is:
John Tait, Rouben Brown, Olin Kreutz, Terrence Metcalf, Fred Miller.
Brown and Kreutz are both multiple pro-bowlers. The knock on Brown is that he's getting old and a little injury prone, fortunately Roberto Gaza has been doing a great job as the 3rd guard and subbing as necessary.
Tait has enough talent to be a potential pro-bowler, he was the Bears biggest free-agent pickup last year, from that excellent KC line, volunteered to switch to left tackle this year because the rest of the tackles on the roster are more bruiser run blocker buys, not finese pass blockers.
Metcalf benefits from having good talent around him, definately the weekest point on the line. It wouldn't surprise me much if Gaza out played him and got the starting job at right guard.
Fred Miller was a big free agent pickup this year. By getting him on the right side and Tait on the left the bears could finally bench Quasim Mitchell, I guys who's played to years at starting tackle even though talent wise he should be a backup guard.
As for Adrian Petersen running the ball, the last couple of years he's been very solid. He doesn't have a lot of 36 yard runs like he did yesterday, but if I were a team in need of a backup running back/spot starter I would definately make an effort to get him. He runs hard; led the Bears in special teams tackles last year; and, most importantly, plays very smart.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Anyone else feel like Andy Reid's playcalling at the end of the game was atrocious?

Forget taking Westbrook out of the game on 4th down. On 2nd and 4 inside the Washington 10 with about 1:40 left on the clock and the Redskins with 2 timeouts, the Eagles run 3 consecutive passing plays?? It seems like a run is absolutely demanded in this situation, because even if you do manage to score the TD, you've left PLENTY of time left for the Redskins to drive for a FG to win before the end of regulation, and that's even assuming the special teams do their job.

If Westbrook and/or Gordon did not get 4 yards on 3 plays plowing into the line to burn some time off the clock, it would have been a less painful way for the game to end with victory for the Redskins.

Combine that "should'a-been'a-TD" series with the absurd fake-spike at the end of the first half, and the Eagles left 10 points on the field that game. Grr!

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I admit, I think Andy Reid's one of the smartest coaches in the NFL right now, but I really wish he would just run a friggin' normal two-minute drill. I agree with him that a 2/3 pass, 1/3 run ratio in the modern NFL is the best way to score (although 2nd and 4 at the 6 yard line, run the freaking ball, especially after passing it four times in a row) but I wish he would stop trying to "innovate" in the two-minute drill.

Yes, McNabb audibled that fake spike, but in my mind, there's absolutely no doubt that that was Reid's influence. Reid's playcalling in two-minute drills constantly puts receivers in positions where they have no business being. McNabb throws to them (because they're open, because the defenders know it's a dumbass place to put a receiver) and the half ends.

There's a lot of room for innovation in the NFL still, but the two minute drill is not one of those places.

(And that Greg Lewis catch that was ruled a non-catch was a horrible miscall.)

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Vick's won-loss record proves that he is, in fact, a better quarterback than Doug Johnson.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Comments on the Eagles - Redskins game:

1) The McNabb fake spike was an improv play because he saw that Greg Lewis had been left uncovered to his left with no one between him and the endzone (the Redskins expecting a real spike). However, Greg, like everyone else around McNabb, was oblivious to what was going on and was just waiting for the whistle on the spike.

2) The Eagles seem to have no concept of using a pulling guard on running plays (the old Schottenhiemer Power-0). However, it also looks like they've coached Westbrook out of being Westbrook. He no longer does his Barry Sanders imitation of dancing around in the backfield looking for openings, and they never seem to run him to the left or right end.

3) The game was lost when they threw the pass away on 2nd and 4 from the 7. After not running there (why not?), you knew they weren't going to run on 3rd and 4th down, so the Redskins dropped something like 9 into coverage.

4) This game and the last couple of Brett Farve games are further proof in my mind that most attempts at the 2-minute offense are total failures at getting a score. I think we fans only remember the great comebacks, and fail to retain much memory of these tremendous failures.

5) Lito Sheppard is incredibly disappointing as a punt "returner". Hey Lito, punt "returning" involves actually catching the ball and running with it! He looks like he just wants to do the bare minimum and get off the field without getting hit. They should put Westbrook back there again if they want a spark.

6) The Eagles actually seemed to get great pressure on the QB, but they just could not seal the deal. Often it looked like 2 or 3 rushers were chasing Brunnell backwards or sideways out of the pocket, yet he always found a man left wide open for a big completion.

7) Greg Lewis was robbed of a great catch by the officials. But 3 trips inside the 25 with only 3 points to show for it is a terrible way to play football.

8) Reggie Brown is very impressive as a receiver. If Owens is out, he may quickly become the #1.

9) The Redskins used the same game plan that worked so well for them last year against the Eagles, and which New England used against the Eagles - lots of short safe passes in front of the secondary and behind the linebackers, mixed in with a few screens. The Eagles seem to have no answer for this, and continually allow the conversion of long third downs in this offensive game plan by their opponents.

Comments on the Steelers - Packers game:

1) Brett Farve failed twice more in the 2 minute offense this game. For those keeping track, he's now flubbed this against the Panthers, Bengals, and the Steelers. He's succeeded against Cleveland and the Vikings, only to watch his defense lose the game.

2) Watching Duce Staley run is painful for Eagles fans. If the Steelers would try, they'd find he's great at short dump-off passes too, but the Steeler's QBs never seem to look for him in those situations, despite his often being wide open right in front of them. Batch missed a couple of chances with Staley.

3) Its amazing how the Steelers were completely out played by the Packers, and yet they won by 10 points since Farve coughed up the ball on a fumble and interception. This had all the makings of another Jacksonville game in terms of Steelers offensive futility, but Farve came through and saved the day for them. The Steelers managed 3 points on drives that did not start from the recovery of a turnover.

Comments on the Jets-Chargers game:

1) I've seen enough of these San Diego games now. They are 5-4 with 4 close losses and 1 close win because their defense is abysmal at putting teams away. They deserve to be 5-4. In fact, they probably deserved to have lost this game to the Jets. They didn't lose those games because of "bad luck". How can you let Brooks Bollinger come within 3 yards of beating you? There's no way they win the division again unless Denver chokes.

2) Reche Caldwell is attempting to make a career of being a late game goat. Maybe he should just be kept off the field in the last 10 minutes of the game.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

re #9: I didn’t want to bring up the Vick argument again, but maybe this is as good a time as any. The Falcons win more than twice as often as they lose when Vick starts. They are 6-2 this season, and their two losses have been:
when Vick was out with injury, and when Vick was hurt late in the game versus Seattle and was unable to complete a 21 point comeback. The Falcons consistent winning with Vick at QB has gone past the point of coincidence or luck. I’ve had this debate on this site in the past and have always been told that the Falcons win because they have the best defense this side of the ‘85 Bears and the best running game this side of the ‘72 Dolphins. Vick has the third highest winning percentage of any QB in the league. Anybody think that the Falcons, not counting the QB position, have the third best talent in the league?

Fun Fact - Jay Fiedler has one of the highest winning percentages among QBs.

This is what baffles me with Baltimore - They have a good D, a sub-par line, and I have no idea whats going on with their running situation, but usually its pretty good. Why do they keep taking question marks at QB? Kyle Boller keeps getting hurt, but the problem is that by the time he matures, IF he becomes a good QB, a lot of that good defense will have retired.

The Ravens don't need a world beater at QB. Gus Frerotte, Brad Johnson, Jeff Garcia, even Jay Fiedler all would have been a substantial improvement for the Ravens at QB where they seem to be getting absolutely nothing.

If I were a D Coordinator playing the Ravens, I'd run the elusive 11 man front all game. Why not? They try and open up the run by throwing 4 yard curls, 3 yard slants and 6 yard outs. Note to Jim Fassel - People are sitting on your short routes. Throw deep.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9


Favre throws the ball to Driver, it bounces right off his hands, and the fault is Favre's?

Driver after the game declared himself the goat of the game.

I know it's fashionable to mock the old-timer but this is getting pretty ridiculous.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

3) The [Eagles] game was lost when they threw the pass away on 2nd and 4 from the 7. After not running there (why not?),

even more of a why not was why didn't MCNABB try to run on that 2nd down play when he rolled out & no one was open? Looked to me like he had a sure 1st down and maybe a score. I wonder if he's been drilled too much to NOT run

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9


I re-read your post and noticed you wrote he flubbed against Carolina. What game were you watching?

The Packers were down by 19 points and minus five key starters on offense. The run game didn't exist. And Favre proceeded to audible at will, avoid the rush, and make plays all over the place. Favre had people in his face almost the entire game.

He gacked against Cincy. Absolutely. You can peg the fumble on him yesterday.

But c'mon, let's be sensible here.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Desmond Howard was one of the best college receivers ever, and in the NFL he was strictly a return man.

Kind of like Troy Edwards who won the Belitnikoff award in college. Except that part about being a (implied "good") return man.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Pat #18:

I think the fake spike had nothing to do with Reid.

McNabb saw a great play with Greg Lewis left uncovered by the defense to his left. However, the entire Eagles team looked like they were standing there in a fog with McNabb the only guy conscious of a change of play despite the audible. It reminded me of the play in St. Louis last year, when the ball was hiked and Artis Hicks just stood there in his stance without moving while the play went on around him and Detmer was sacked.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

NFC Central Freak #22:

If its the play I remember, the ball was thrown pretty high. Its not like it bounced off his hands with the ball thrown at the numbers. The ball was thrown over his head.

Anyway, as soon as Farve threw that pass, and before any interaction of the ball with another player, I turned to my wife (a Steelers fan), and said, "Look, oooo, interception!" Sure enough, it was intercepted. It was just a terrible throw. Yes Driver might have caught it, but he didn't, and Farve made it a lot harder given his velocity and ball placement.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9


Donald Driver's quote after the game from the Journal-Sentinel online:

Driver failed to catch an accurate pass from Favre that apparently clanged off his headgear and was intercepted, leading to the Steelers' clinching touchdown on a 20-yard drive.

"We gave this game away," Driver said. "I put it on myself, no one else. I lost this game for us. I admit it."

He didn't leap, he didn't have to stretch, he put up his hands and missed it.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Looks like I'm a little late ... but just to add to the chorus: it does seem like Reid is a kind of idiot savant. He has honed his own version of the West Coast philosophy, and installed a very good, arguably great, offensive system in Philly. And yet his in-game coaching is just about as bad as it gets. What in heaven or on earth told him to line up the i-formation and play fake on 4th and 4? (It's not like they're the Chiefs!)

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Part of the reason for that was that they were really trying to stuff the run up the middle, and that had to leave something open, but why not make that something Michael Jenkins?

Perhaps they were confused by the fact that Jenkins was inactive.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

NFC Central Freak #24:

Farve failed to complete the 2 minute drill against Carolina. He got the ball back with 1:58 on the clock, and proceeded to throw three incompletions in 5 pass attempts.

This is nothing against Farve. The subject has come up before, and I again maintain that most 2-minute drills in the NFL fail. I was providing examples from Farve to balance off against the failures of McNabb in the same type of offense, this coming on the heels of the Irvin-Owens comments on these two QBs. Amusingly, both these QBs failed twice in the 2 minutes offense yesterday.

People like to remember the successful 2-minute drills, but they seem to push into the memory hole the failures, like Green Bay at Carolina. Thus Farve is always expected to work miracles to make a comeback, but when he doesn't, it seems like it is quickly forgotten.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Agree with you completely about Vick.

To me there is something about a qb with his skill set that noone has figured out how to measure.

Wouldn't you rather have a guy who bails you out more than he kills you? I think Vick is this kind of guy. He hasn't exactly blown too many games and he has won a good amount all by himself. I'll take that ratio.

With that kind of qb play you have a chance at the end. We all know how easily offenses move once the entire field is 4 down territory and the team that is winning is forced to play conservatively.

Also, some sort of value needs to be assigned to rushing ability.

Would you rather have a 400 yard day passing or a 200 yard day running? The runnning day is always more desirable than the big passing day.

I could be wrong but I think of rushing yards as worth twice as much as passing yards.

1. Chance of mistake on a running play are much less
2. Rushing plays take a toll on the defense
3. Unless run out of bounds the clock doesnt stop.

One more note. Nothing energizes/deflates a team/crowd more than a qb scramble for a big play/first down. Its demoralizing for a team to do everything right and still not stop the offense. I think all these factors are worth a lot more than most people realize.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I didn't mean to open up a Vick brouhaha; I was just interested if my feeling that he had a high winning percentage was accurate.

As far as injuries and the Black and Blue report go, it seemed like a rough day for injuries to RBs: any of the injuries serious?

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Is it me or have there been a lot more of the phantom unnecessary roughness penalties this year, where a guy gets called for following through on a hit that starts with the ballcarrier still inbounds? It also feels like a lot of the time the flag comes from the middle of the field, with the two officials on the line not budging but someone who has a worse view reacting to the violence of the hit?

Also, I think it's silly that no penalty is reviewable. If the penalty is for a hit out of bounds, and the hit was inbounds, why shouldn't that be reviewable?

Also also, it seems like Oakland is one of the last places left that would welcome T.O. with open arms. That would be some passing attack.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9


What you term a player failure I tend to place on the team unless the player in question direclty contributed to the lack of success.

I was not aware of Ivrin's comments as I do not watch pre-game shows of any kind. In fact, I don't listen to anyone other than the radio men for the different games I follow. I find the radio play by play men are far superior to the television crew.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Re #4 - A fair point but when someone takes a shot at an announcer for blowing a name and blows the name, well a little friendly grief is in order. I bow to no one in criticizing announcers, but just as it's easy to make a mistake in a quick e-mail, it's easy to make a mistake in a live broadcast. Although Dick Enberg blows names every week, so it's not just a one-time error.

On the KC-OAK finish: I think Shields cleared out Sapp. I re-played the blocking scheme several times after the game but didn't check Shields (announcers identified him and I took it on faith, but it was the RG so it should have been Shields). The blocking was beautiful at the point of attack:
4 big blocks on the play (watch it on shortcuts or replay on highlights shows):
1. Shields clears out DT at the intended hole.
2. Waters pulls from other G posn seals off one side of the hole.
3. Dunn motions into backfield and leads, pancaking an LB.
4. TRich comes alongside Dunn and seals the other side.
LJ lept but really could just have plowed in.

Ned had it right on the formation. I saw the formation before the snap and told my wife, they're not throwing it. There was no one wide to catch a quick pass, but Cross had made up his mind what the call would be. I'm sure the Raiders knew what I knew too. Didn't matter with the blocking scheme.

As for Norv Turner, offensive genius:
playing the #26 passing D (by DVOA but it's about the same w/conventional stats) and #1 rushing D, with the #1 and # cbs out and the #2 hurting, he runs the ball 22 times and passes 21 until he's behind 20-9 in the 4th qtr. And 6 of those 9 points were set up by a turnover and kick return. Then his team throws 8 straight passes - TD. Next drive: 11 passes and 4 runs (3 of the 4 after the best remaining cb on the Chiefs goes out of the game) - TD. As a Chiefs fan, every time the Raiders handed off, I wanted to say "Go Norv". Which is what I'm sure Al davis will be saying soon, although not in a nice way.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

NFC Central Freak:

I didn't say Farve is a failure. Farve is doing great with nothing. I said some of his 2-minute drill attempts were failures, but that people tended to forget these.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

james and Ryan:

I agree that Vick has the intangible winner quality around him. Brady has it too, and McNabb did have it before this season.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I think the fake spike had nothing to do with Reid.

I don't think Reid called it, but I think it's his fault. Reid rarely calls for a spike anyway, and in a two-minute offense, he keeps putting receivers in the middle of the field (where they have no business being). He continually pushes for a touchdown even when in field goal range.

I know McNabb audibled it, but it's completely consistent with Reid's "New Age" two minute offenses.

Then again, all of this might be McNabb's fault as well. I don't think Feeley or Detmer ever had to engineer a two-minute drive, so we don't really have a comparison point. Reid did in fact place the blame on himself for a previous one, saying that he shouldn't've put L.J. Smith not in the end zone. So I'm thinking it's Reid, not McNabb.

How many Eagles two-minute drills have we seen in the past few years where the play that they end the half on was something akin to "hey, watch me hurry up and try to complete passes I have no business making, burning way too much time off the clock but gaining yardage"?

And that, plus the total bull Greg Lewis non-catch call, is seven points right there.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

james #32:

Big passing days are either because of (a) a blowout, (b) team is losing badly, (c) lots of interceptions and fumbles near the redzone. Only one of these cases is good, and it is also out of the ordinary.

Anytime a team rushes for 200 yards, its almost bound to be a good day, because that equates to three trips from the typical starting field position of the 30 yard line to the endzone. Add in 150 yards of passing on such a day, and you are looking at probably 2-4 TD's and 2-4 FG's on such a game for the offense. Most teams with 23-35 points on offense are going to win. 200 yards rushing also probably means 30+ rushing plays and 25+ minutes of clock time. Add in clock time for the passing game of probably 20 passes, and the end result is the offense sitting on the ball all day long.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Oh, and regarding the two-minute drill bit: I think Favre (and McNabb, actually) are both really good at the two-minute drill. It's just that a two-minute drill for a touchdown is immensely harder than a two-minute drill for a field goal. All of the Favre two-minute drills that failed that I can think of failed inside field goal range.

Now excuse me while I go find Andy Reid, and beat into him that three points is in fact immeasurably better than freaking zero.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

The average 200 yard rushing days are more valuable than the average 400 yard passing days because the average completion percentage is 3/5s. Which means that, assuming something like 15 yards per completion, you've got 18 plays for zero yards.

To restate: the only reason a 400 yard passing day can be bad is because they include rushes for negative yardage in the rushing total, but you don't see the completion percentage in the passing yardage total.

It's just a statistics artifact.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

" get a higher draft pick and go after a QB like say Leinart?"

Interesting theory. That's all I can say.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I didn't know where to post it, but in TMQ this week :

We're all professional here
The Niners had just 10 men on the field for the game's first play - a 28-yard catch by Shockey.

I can bet it !

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Just so we have the numbers, Vick's record as a starter in the regular season is 29-13-1.

re #21: interesting comparison to Jay Fiedler. In 2002-2003 the Dolphins were 9-7 and 10-6 respectively and missed the playoffs by one game each time. In those two seasons they were 15-7 with Fielder and 4-6 without him, so the guy did make a difference. I think Miami of 2002/3 had a better defense than Atlanta do though, and he did have Ricky Williams running the ball (and leading the league in 2002)

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Finally, from that same game, a nice cliché flip flop. We all get jammed down our throats that it’s harder for the offense the closer you get to the end zone because there is less room to work.

There's probably a dividing point (at around the 5 yard line, probably) between where the red zone is easier for the defense versus easier for the offense. At the 20 yard line, the defense has an advantage because WRs don't really have the room to outrun a receiver. At the 5-yard line, the offense has the advantage simply because the running back/QB is fast enough to pick up 2-3 yards by running diagonally.

Let me put it this way: a 3-yard QB scramble at the 20-yard line is a great stop for the defense, and could easily lead to a field goal. A 3-yard QB scramble at the 3-yard line is a touchdown.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Pat #39:

Feeley lead a 2 minute drill against the Seahawks in 2002 just before halftime. It included 3 runs by Duce Staley, 1 completion by Feeley, and 3 incompletions leading to an Akers field goal.

Detmer ran a successful 4 minute drill against the 49ers in 2002 resulting in a TD. He ran a 2 minute drill against the Bengals in 2004 before halftime that got a field goal, after tossing a terrible interception on a 2 minute drill 1 minute previously in the game.

Blake ran a terrible 2 minute drill against the Rams in 2004, and another terrible 2 minute drill against the Bengals.

McNabb recently has flubbed 2 minute drills against the Falcons, Redskins and Chargers in 2005 and the Vikings in 2004 before the half. He totally failed against the Giants in the 2nd game of 2004 and in the first half against the Raiders this year. He flubbed a 4 minute drill against the Falcons this year to close out the game. He succeeded in 4 minute drills against the Cowboys in 2004 and the Patriots in the Super Bowl and the Broncos in 2005. The last successful 2 minute drills I could find were the Chiefs game this year before the half, and the victory over the Raiders. Before that, you have to go back to the 2003 playoffs against the Packers, but then you have the failure against the Panthers the next game.

What stands out though are not the ones that didn't work, but the ones where a dumb mistake right at the end destroys an otherwise successful drive that should have put points on the board (Redskins, Chargers, Falcons drives this year, Vikings last year at half time). That's 4 of the last 11 games. Not good!

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Ryan: I'd say that Duckett and Dunn are a far, far more effective backfield than Ricky Williams - even 2002 Ricky Williams. Williams led the league in rushing because he led the league in carries.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Started making a post until I read #40, agree 100%. Aaron has posted up articles before essentially saying that the act of running the ball is the important factor because of the clock effects. You don't even need to be getting terrific games out of your RB. (See Patriots, 2001, 2003) - I think its because it tires a defense out and hurts the pass rush a bit because your D-line needs to play run first.

It's the way the Panthers and the Steelers do it - Run, tire them out, get them guessing and when you do throw, throw it deep. Your average Roethlisberger game statistics are usually something like 11/16, 220 yards 2 TDs. It's why I always think the Ravens have failed at that. They run, tire the D-line out, and then throw it short where all the LBs and safeties are cheating up to help stop the run.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9


Yipes, I didn't realize that Feeley/Detmer had better 2-minute drills than McNabb. OK, so now I believe it's McNabb. So Reid should just spend an entire week having McNabb do 2-minute drills, as this is getting ridiculous.

Really, the biggest problem with McNabb's two minute drills is that they have been successful. If you get into field goal range, in fifteen seconds, that's successful. The problem is that he then pissed them away trying to get the touchdown. Drop back, look around, throw the freaking ball away.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

1. Chance of mistake on a running play are much less
2. Rushing plays take a toll on the defense
3. Unless run out of bounds the clock doesnt stop.

I like rushing too, but I don't think you 200 yards rushing is equal to 400 yards passing.

You forgot 1) Fumbles and 3) The clock doesn't stop when you run out of bounds except in the last two minutes of the half or the last five minutes of the game.

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"Joe Theismann knows how to be sarcastic?" - Aaron

"I’m glad that when we put up a notebook of our quickly jotted e-mails, and note that the notes may be “a bit disjointed and un-edited,� people feel the need to immediately edit our mistakes for us." - Aaron

Maybe you can call Joe up & offer to give him lessons! ;-)

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Not sure if this comment belongs here or on the game discussion thread, but...

Does Schottenheimer deserve any grief for not going for a TD with 4th and goal inside the 1-yard line and LT in the backfield? Seems like this could have really iced the game if successful. And if you fail, the Jets take over deep in their own territory. It's almost like it was the anti-Vermeil call...

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Does Schottenheimer deserve any grief for not going for a TD with 4th and goal inside the 1-yard line and LT in the backfield? Seems like this could have really iced the game if successful. And if you fail, the Jets take over deep in their own territory. It’s almost like it was the anti-Vermeil call…'s Marty Schottenheimer. Please tell me this didn't surprise you. He is quite the anti-Vermeil fairly often.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Pat #50:

Feeley has succeeded in about 35% of his 2 minute and 4 minute drills, including several with Miami. He had good ones against Cleveland (field goal to win the game), New England (4 minute drill for touchdown to close to one score), Seattle (4 minute drill for tying field goal). Given what he had to work with in Miami (no running game, terrible receivers, no O-Line), that's pretty amazing.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

#55 didn't come as a shock. I thought it was the wrong call but I was wondering if anyone else agreed with that assessment. Tell you what...if someone agrees with me I'll feign surprise.

Also, is it possible that part of the fake spike play is for everyone else on the team to just stand there so that the defense reads spike? Maybe Philly just doesn't act very well. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9


There was a stat chart on one of the games a couple of weeks ago that showed the QBs with the most come from behind wins in the 4th quarter. It read like a who's-who chart of QB's with a modicum of talent who also throw lots of interceptions and make a lot of fumbles - Aaron Brooks, Jake Plummer, Trent Green were all on it. This feeds into my theory of clutchness that most QBs who engineer come from behind kicks, and most kickers who make winning field goals, are doing so because of mistakes made earlier in the game that cost their teams points (multiple turnovers, easy missed field goals, etc.). Many of the great Brady/Vinateri comebacks are of this sort. Being able to overcome your mistakes is good, but isn't it even better to not make the mistakes in the first place, so that your team is usually winning big at the end of the game?

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

But this isn't about comeback wins in the 4th quarter. This is about 2-minute drills, for which the end of the half also applies.

One of the things in football that's often said is that time-of-possession doesn't matter because each team exchanges possessions. But that's not true - each team exchanges possessions, except at the end of the half. And with careful clock manipulation, you can essentially gain an "extra" possession on your opponent.

I think fourth-quarter comebacks are massively misleading for exactly the points you mention. But if you want to get rid of the bias, look at 2-minute drills before the end of the half. You don't have the same kind of desparation there that you do at the end of the game, but you still have the clock management issues.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

These e-mail pieces would be more interesting (and they already are interesting, just saying they'd be MORE ineresting) if you included the porn files we all know your sending back and forth to each other along with the football tidbits.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

#60 - That's one way to get Tom Brady to start reading this site...

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

On Brooks Bollinger-

One of the central problems with Bollinger, and the thing that did him in against both Atlanta and San Diego, is his propensity for throwing to the left, to the point where he's telegraphing his intentions, particularly on 3 step drops. This is what Bollinger's pass distribution looked like against Atlanta:
1- left (tipped at line)
2- hit in motion
3- left sideline
4- left sideline
5- right sideline (thrown away)
6- left sideline
7- left sideline
8- left
9- middle
10- left sideline
11- left sideline
12- left sideline
13- middle
14- left sideline
15- right sideline (thrown out of bounds)
16- left
17- right sideline (thrown away)
18- right
19- left sideline
20 left sideline (tipped at line)

If you want to know why Bollinger has been getting his passes batted down, just take a good long look at that pass distribution. I guarantee you that defensive coordinators are, and they know exactly where to blitz when they need a stop. On that third down play where Chrebet was lined up in the left slot, I knew the Jets were going to have him and Coles run quick slants, with Bollinger dropping three steps and firing it to the open man, and clearly San Diego knew as well. I'm sure it sounds like hindsight, but I would have liked to have seen a run in that situation.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I'm going to play with the numbers on the FG/TD call by Marty.
Let's assume that:
A) The Chargers have an 80% chance of scoring a TD from the 1 (LOWER than their Power Success rate this season)
B) The Jets have a 55.5555% chance of converting a 2pt conversion (probably HIGHER than it should be, but makes for a couple of matching 44.4%'s down below)
C) The Chargers will make the FG 100% of the time
D) The Chargers will not score again (otherwise the whole thing is moot, and getting 0 pts on a failed TD try doesn't much matter)
Notice that all B, C, and D (and possibly A) are on the conservative side. The TRUE probabilities would actually make the argument to go for a TD stronger)

If he goes for the TD, there are 2 possible situations:
80% of the time, SD is up by 15
20% of the time, SD is up by 8

This creates 4 scenarios for NY to win/tie:
44.4% of the time - (SD TD + NY made 2pt) - 2 TD to tie
35.6% of the time - (SD TD + NY miss 2pt) - 2 TD + 1 FG to win
11.1% of the time - (SD stopped + NY made 2pt) - 1 TD to tie
8.9% of the time - (SD stopped + NY miss 2pt) - 1 TD + 1 FG to win

If they kick the FG instead of going for a TD:
55.6% of the time - (SD FG + NY made 2pt) - 1 TD + 1 FG to tie
44.4% of the time - (SD FG + NY miss 2pt) - 2 TD to win

I was going to try and argue one way or the other, but I'm burnt out, so I'm just gonna post the numbers and let you make up your mind.

I say go for the TD.

Also keep in mind that the failed TD tries result in giving the ball to Brooks Bollinger on his own 1-yd line :)

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Hmmm. I think Chris in comment #49 may misunderstand some of my previous writing. I absolutely do not believe in the concept of running early to tire out the opposing defense even if your running game is getting only two or three yards per carry. In fact, the first article I ever wrote for the site was a rejection of this idea. (Linked) It doesn't matter if you grind time off in the clock early the game, if you are going three-and-out on every set of downs you are going to lose. The idea is to gain yardage and score early -- which usually requires a strong passing game -- and then grind the time off the clock in the fourth quarter. Winning teams have a ton of rushing attempts because of how often they run in the second half, not the first half.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I didn't have a problem with Marty's decision to go for the field goal. With that amount of time left, you want to make it a two possession ball game. And it wasn't liek the Jets defense as doing a great job either, so he probably figured that even if the Jets scored that his offense would either:

A) Waste enough time that even if the Jets got it back they wouldn't have enough time to drive, or:
B) Score again.

Vermeil was in a completely different situation, with basically no time left on the clock. I always think that it's best to go for the win in those situations, because overtime seems like such a crapshoot. If I scored a TD late in the game (right before the end), I would always go for 2. Settle everything in one play, with your offense, where you only need a couple of yards to win. Risk-averse NFL head coaches will never coach that way, however, because of the lambasting they would take if they didn't get in.

I think the actual bad call in the Chargers game was giving it to Neal on the third down right before the field goal. Going for surprise is one thing, but when you have LT and he's already scored twice in the exact same situation (easily), then it seems pretty silly not to give him the ball again. Neal was stopped THREE times at the one in that game.

Also, San Diego's defense has now given up only one touchdown on the last 11 drives that started in San Diego territory. 4 field goals. That's pretty impressive, but I'd like to see them step up on third down occasionally instead.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

i'll admit up front that michael vick has been my favorite NFL player since... well, since his freshman year at va tech. so i can't claim any objectivity. but i will try.

my guess is that the reason vick is more effective a player than his passing statistics indicate is because he is so good at picking up first downs on broken plays, especially on 3rd-and-medium. somebody correct me if i'm wrong, but i think the falcons are consistently better on 3rd down offense DVOA than 1st and 2nd. that's just a big advantage. most teams, on 3rd and 6, just line up to throw and either they complete the pass or they don't. with vick, the falcons can call a pass but everybody knows that vick just taking off on his own is like #2 (or maybe even #1) on his checkdown list.

culpepper last year was like this too. it seemed like the vikings were able to convert 3rd downs at will, and yes, a lot of it had to do with a great passing game. but it's also true that daunte ran for a lot of 1st downs.

by the way, related to this, i think the coolest play from the miami game was actually the last (meaningful) play, where dunn ran for 8 yards on 3rd and 6 to ice the game. miami lined up with a big blitz package, thinking they would get to vick on an obvious passing down. instead, pitch to dunn going left, he gets around the DE containment, passes the sticks, and takes a little slide before he goes out of bounds to keep the clock running down to the 2-minute warning. it was a beautiful play.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Everyone talking about rushing yardage being more valuable than passing yardage needs to remember the difference between correlation and causation. It is true that you can always come up with idiotic stats like "the Steelers win 96% of their games over the last 10 years when they have more than 35 rushing attempts." You will always hear this tripe spewed by the Dierdorfs of the world.

When a team rushes for a ton of yards it typically means one or both of two things: they are winning, so they ran the ball to eat clock; and they are running successfully, which they would typically not still be doing if they were losing (whether that is the correct behavior or not is a different story).

When a team passes for a ton of yards it is typically one or more of three things: they are losing and are passing to get back into the game while conserving clock; they are one of the few teams with phenomenal talent in the passing game and are based on that (think Marino 'fins, last year's Colts, Moss-led Vikings teams before last year, etc.); or they are coached by Mike Martz.

I recall the Pats closing out two of their three titles (04/05 season excepted...) with guys nobody wants carrying the ball for them firmly esconced in the backfield, and the Igles made it to like 666 consecutive NFC title games (perhaps that's damning with faint praise, but...) without a running back that would rank higher than third-string on USC's depth-chart.


68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

RE: Philly at Washington as I channel Easterbrook:

Was I the only one crying "Aaaiiiiiiyyyyeeee!" (or however you spell it) when there were 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter, the Eagles were 4th and 2 fairly deep in Redskins territory, and in trotted the punting unit? Why are you punting? Your record is 4 and 3, you are down by a touchdown, you have 2 yards to go to pick up the 1st down, it's a critical division game. And now you are 4 and 4. WHY ARE YOU PUNTING?????????

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Theismann actually didn't learn what sarcasm was until he said to LT "You broke both my legs" to which LT responed, "no, you think?"

What very few people know is that LT was not waving the paramedics over to come help Theismann out, he was waving his team over while shouting, "Guys, come check it out - possibly the dumbest guy on Earth. He's going to make a heck of a color analyst some day. Now, get him off the field so I can proceed to have carnal knowledge of the rest of this offensive unit, thankyou."

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"Rudi Johnson is very underrated. He is a very tough runner, and if you took out an 11-yard loss he took on a busted play, he would have been over 100 yards and 4.0 yards per carry, which is still impressive against Baltimore. "

I think this was the first game since week one that Rudi was even close to full health. He has been listed as probable all season and has missed practices with a tweaked knee (I think).
He showed a lot better lateral movement against the Ravens and Marvin seemed to leave him in there longer this week. Look out for Rudi to really start punishing people after the bye week.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Apparently Donovan's "rabbit ears" picked up just enuf chatter over the week to end the Redskins game with a classic out of the FAUVRE game ending playbook!

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

If somebody has previously mentioned this, I apologize, but I haven't heard anybody even mention Mike Sherman's decision to go for it on 4th and 4 from the Steelers 30. Down by ten. 6:10 left. Packers need two scores. 47 is definitely within Longwell's range. Instead Favre throws incomplete and the game's over.

Am I missing something, because it seems painfully obvious that Mike (Nude Photos) Sherman blew that one.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Re #72:

Sherman and Longwell were both quoted in Monday's papers that it was outside Longwell's comfortable range in Sunday's wind.

And Aaron, would you happen to know if the Steelers' 31st ranked third down defense is as likely to approach first and second down performance for the rest of the season as it would be next season if they continue to give up first downs? (If not, that's possible research project #5142 for the offseason.)