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

Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Before we get to this week's Audibles, a request.

The "Tom Brady genuflect" joke is officially tired. Everybody gets it. The joke has now taken over every single discussion thread on the site, to the point where it is difficult to get a conversation going without having to keep skipping "genuflect" comments. This isn't about whether or not it is ok to criticize the Patriots, this is just about that specific joke. It's done, so enough already. Basta, genug, abbastanza, dayenu. Capiche?

Washington Redskins 10 at Seattle Seahawks 20

Michael David Smith: Seattle DT Craig Terrill is playing really well. How come I've never noticed him before?

Ryan Wilson: Hmmm. Twelve seconds left in the first half, ball at the Redskins 30-yard line, and instead of taking a knee, Washington runs a play. Result? Incomplete pass and Santana Moss hobbles off the field. I don't think that was how they drew it up.

Aaron Schatz: Mike's awesome article about the Seattle offensive line missed the important sixth member of the gang: fullback Mack Strong. His block made it possible for Maurice Morris to convert the third-and-1 at 3:38 or so of the second quarter.

It is painful to watch Mark Brunell try to run with a torn-up knee. I feel like he's auditioning for a remake of "The Monty Stratton Story." And when did Washington decide it would make Taylor Jacobs the focal point of the offense?

Greatest crowd sign ever: "2:00 -- YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED."

The FOX presentation is a bit strange. Is Dick Stockton really wearing a lime green tie? Also, they went to commercial at one point with Jane's Addiction's "Jane Says." What kind of NFL bumper music is that? Is the idea that since the game is in Seattle, the music should be grunge? Hello, FOX, Jane's Addiction was from Los Angeles.

Oh, and I can't believe Jake Plummer has time to prepare for the playoffs in between shooting his scenes as Jesus for the new NBC drama "The Book of Daniel."

Vivek Ramgopal: Telling sign about how the Skins felt about Jacobs before the game: James Thrash (broken hand, cast and all) almost got the spot across from Moss.

Bill Moore: Post Hasselbeck TD: Did Alexander look like a little girl there or what? My wife actually said, “I'm sorry, was he skipping?�

Michael David Smith: Seattle TE Ryan Hannam just abused Washington SS Ryan Clark on that long run by Mack Strong. I don't think I've ever seen a tight end sustain a block that long before.

Ryan Wilson: I think the Redskins' offensive playbook consists of: slip screen to Moss, slip screen to Cooley, 15-yard in to Moss, 15-yard in to Cooley, toss pitch to Bro Sweets in short yardage situations, and when in doubt, halfback pass. That's it. I really think they should run the halfback pass at least once a game for 16 weeks in 2006.

Seattle's 12th man: Cory Raymer.

And the Seahawks might want to think about trading for that Pepsi machine to start returning punts and kickoffs.

Aaron Schatz: Well, Washington has nothing to be ashamed of. They had a season far greater than anybody expected; they came back when left for dead by most people at 5-6. But it is also nice to see the Seattle fans get that long-awaited win.

I think that the Seahawks deserve some serious kudos for keeping Shaun Alexander out of this game rather than risk his future health with that concussion. But -- while I said I didn't have a problem with the vote, this game showed how silly it is to vote a running back as MVP, especially one who plays behind such a great line and with such a great passing game. Ask yourself: If Matt Hasselbeck had gone out with a concussion in the first quarter, and Seneca Wallace had been the quarterback of this game, would Seattle have won? I have my doubts. Seattle won without Alexander DESPITE the fact that they gave away three fumbles. (Man, did Washington eventually get karmic payback for all those early-season lost fumbles, or what?)

Michael David Smith: Can we start speculating about who the Redskins' starting quarterback is next year? I think the early favorite has to be Jason Campbell. But it's a really wide open race.

Ned Macey: I think Brunell starts the year, but when he is inevitably injured, Campbell will come in. What they desperately need is a second receiver.

I know all the breaks went against Seattle, and they still won, but I can't believe they ever left Cooley or Moss open. Two huge plays to Moss where he was wide open, and even on the game-clinching incompletion, they had him single-covered by a safety? I'm about as negative on Carolina as anybody, but I really think Seattle should be rooting heavily for Chicago tomorrow.

New England Patriots 13 at Denver Broncos 27

Michael David Smith: John Lynch is all over the field today. He just covered about 20 yards in bringing down Corey Dillon to prevent a long gain. He's still got a lot of speed for a 34-year-old.

If Denver loses a close game, Shanahan will have a lot of explaining to do about his play-calling near the goal line. You've got second-and-2 from the 4-yard line, and you go with Tatum Bell, the guy who's known for breaking long runs rather than fighting for tough yards? Then you've got third-and-inches and you have Plummer sneak even though half the population of Boston was stacked in the middle of the line? Then you've got fourth-and-1 and you throw the fade? Just once, couldn't you try a handoff to Mike Anderson?

Memo to Jeff Triplette: If there's a false start, blow the play dead right away, don't wait until you've given Al Wilson a shot at Brady's ribs and then inform everyone that the play didn't count.

Russell Levine: I don't know if you can pin that one on Triplette. That was the crowd noise.

Ugh, that Plummer INT was shades of the old, bad Jake. Threw up a prayer. Anybody else have ominous feelings about the Broncos in this game? They're getting a dominating performance out of their defense, yet are making a lot of mistakes on offense and should have a lead by now.

Pat Laverty: Is it just me, or did Shanahan just scream "we can't run the ball on you" with a fade pass on fourth-and-1 on the two-yard line? If you can't get one yard with the run, kick the damn ball.

(After the Asante Samuel pass interference...)

Aaron Schatz: No way. Is this just Patriots homerism? I mean, Lelie had his hand and was pushing Samuel away, and that ball was uncatchable anyway, wasn't it? I don't mind the Pats losing because they are outplayed by a better team, but not on BS pass interference calls that HAND THE BRONCOS A [REDACTED] TOUCHDOWN.

Michael David Smith: So, anyway, remember how I said the Broncos should've handed off to Mike Anderson when they were near the goal line? I guess Shanahan agreed, since that's what he called on first-and-goal from the 1.

But the penalty that got the Broncos the first-and-goal from the one was absurd. If that's pass interference, I've seen about 50 uncalled pass interference penalties in the five previous playoff games.

Ryan Wilson: You know, I think Sauerbrun has to jump from the top bunk head first to get into his helmet. It looks like it's painted on it's so tight. That's one of the ill effects of steroid abuse. On the upside, he's now one of the best gunners on the kickoff team. It's all about trade-offs.

Yep, that might've been the worst call I've seen in a while. Nothing like a flag thrown 15 seconds after the play and it's the wrong call. And this is coming from a Steelers fan tormented by the Tom Brady All-Stars (just showing proper respect).

Russell Levine: Aaron, if you're looking for another reason why America is starting to hate the Pats, beyond simply the 3 titles and the 'no respect' crap, man are they barking at the refs a lot tonight. Seems like every single play somebody is complaining about something.

Bill Moore: They have argued, but replays have shown legit reasons. Taking extra hits on Brady (including one picking him up and dropping him), plus a horseshoot call on Samuel on that pass interference.

Aaron Schatz: If people think the Patriots argue and bitch at the officials more than other teams, I think they're imagining things. I've been noticing this from every team I've watched all season long -- I joke about Plaxico Burress a lot, but it isn't just the Giants and it isn't just the Patriots. I'm sure we'll see Indy do it tomorrow, Pittsburgh, Carolina, and Chicago. For some reason, players seem to have learned that they can occasionally get a call if they bitch a lot, so they are all starting to do it all the time.

I'm really angry about that PI call, which completely changed this game around and was total crap. But the Pats only have themselves to blame for fumbling twice. You only get away with fumbling the ball for so long before the other team is going to grab one of them. And Kevin Faulk, well, he's had the fumblitis for years.

One more thing. The Denver pass rush is a good example of why it sucks that they don't make a stat for "hurries" public. Denver was last in adjusted sack rate but clearly they've got a great pass rush. Hopefully the charting project will give us some data on this that can be useful.

Russell Levine: No, no homerism. I find myself rooting pretty heavily for Denver in this game, but that was the worst PI call I've seen this year. I actually think the officials have done a much better job this season avoiding horrendous PI calls on deep balls, but that was a joke. It's one thing if the official right on top of the play makes the call, but it's salt in the wound when it comes from a guy halfway across the field. Brutal.

Doesn't help matters that the refs also blew a false start on the 50-yard field goal. So you could argue all 10 points came courtesy of the men in stripes.

On the other hand, I noted earlier that NE was barking to the refs after nearly every play in the early going (I sent that one long before the PI debacle), maybe there's some cosmic payback going on.

(Next, the Champ Bailey interception, runback, and controversy...)

Bill Moore: Left foot hits pylon, while ball is coming out of RIGHT hand. Touchback!

Michael David Smith: There's really just no replay angle that can tell us where Bailey's fumble went out. But you've got to give all the credit in the world to Ben Watson. Lots of guys can catch Leon Lett from behind. Catching Champ Bailey from behind, that is incredible.

But Brady really should have taken the sack there. As the Patriots were marching down the field, I kept thinking, the one thing they can't afford is a turnover in the red zone. Just take the sack and let Vinatieri kick the field goal.

Russell Levine: That's a call like the Redskins' fumble return last week. Logic tells you the player was touched on that one, but there's no conclusive view. In this case, I'm 99% sure that was a touchback, but the refs weren't in position to call it (not their fault on a 100-yard return) and there's no definitive replay. It looked to me like the ball was already out of his hand when his foot hit the pylon.

Come to think of it, this game is shaping up a lot like the Tampa-Washington game last week, where there was controversy on nearly every single scoring play. In this particular case, there's no way that call can be overturned on replay.

Ned Macey: I'm not sure about the interception return. I don't think anyone knows where that ball went out. I know he got nothing for doing it, but I hope people remember that play Ben Watson made, which was just amazing. As a Colts fan, I can say that worrying about officiating, particular pass interference calls, doesn't get you too far. (And of course, I agree with everyone that the pass interference call was bogus.)

Michael David Smith: I think Brady is the best quarterback in the league at keeping the other team from substituting. Manning is more known for it, but that's because the Colts' whole offense is better suited for it. The Patriots can be in a situation where they wouldn't ordinarily be rushing to the line, but when Brady sees that the defense isn't set, he'll just hurry the team to the line and force the defense to burn a timeout. He did it to Jacksonville last week and Denver this week. And I'm really tired of the idiots who think that's somehow unsportsmanlike. It's smart football.

Russell Levine: I know the officiating is going to be a big part of the game story, and justifiably so. The Pats got hosed on the PI call and probably on the INT return as well. But it shouldn't overshadow the Pats' own mistakes. Very uncharacteristic errors for them. Four turnovers. You can't do that on the road and expect to win against a quality team.

Aaron Schatz: Sigh. No magic beans.

This is so very hard because I expected that Denver would outplay New England. I was ready for that. But that really is not what happened. The Patriots beat themselves with fumbles and dropped passes, with a small assist from the refs on the Samuel PI. To give the Broncos credit, the biggest mistake was not just a bad New England play, it was a good Denver play, when Brady threw the interception thanks to Denver pressure. In the end, Brady is the one who made the deadly stupid interception, not Plummer.

I feel really bad for the Patriots defense because they really dominated the Denver offense for almost the entire game, but the Pats gave the game away on offense and special teams. At least maybe more people will know how good Al Wilson is now.

My prediction was that these teams were now equal, and the week of rest and home-field advantage gave Denver the advantage. Do people think that the dumb mistakes were in some part caused by lack of rest or crowd noise?

Bill Moore: I echo, Sigh. Maybe I'm in a fog, and have looked at no stats, but I can't think of any Denver points that were not a direct result of a Patriots mistake or a bad call (yes some of the mistakes are a result of good play and game planning by Denver, but many were just undisciplined mistakes). Ironically, it wasn't whipping boys like Starks and Kaczur who made errors, it was stalwarts like Brady, Brown and Vinatieri.

Russell Levine: I think the Broncos deserve some more credit than it seems they're getting. The blitz was effective in that they got hits on Brady early and forced him to make quicker decisions. He hit some short passes over the blitz and a few downfield throws, but they kept getting to him as well, and you could certainly argue all that blitzing helped cause the Bailey interception and some of the missed open throws later, because Brady was definitely not comfortable in the pocket at any point during the game.

Al Bogdan: Yes, Denver did a great job at shutting down New England's running game and were all over Brady. If they were playing pretty much any other QB in the league, they would have had at least a half dozen sacks. I thought Denver's offensive line really dominated New England. The running game didn't get off the ground, but they gave Plummer plenty of time to find receivers.

Rod Smith had yet another great game. He was 6-for-9 on catches, with very few of those six being easy. Maybe if the Broncos go on a little run here and win next week, he'll finally start earning some recognition as one of the best wide receivers in football.

Jason Beattie: Quick checking in from the local Broncos homer ... Even through my orange and blue colored glasses, that wasn't pass interference on Samuels. Just glad the game was not close enough that the TD there was the difference maker.

The year of the scruffy beard! Jake beats Big Ben in that department ... Speaking of hair, what the hell is up with Jimmy Johnson's do?

Ned Macey: As an Indianapolis fan, I had mixed feelings about who I wanted to win. But the way the game unfolded, I'm pleased with the results from an analyst's perspective for two reasons:

1) Think about how this game would have been portrayed by the media if the two teams had switched places. The Broncos would have lost because they aren't a championship caliber squad, and the Patriots have that something special that makes other teams make mistakes. Of the Patriots 10 previous playoff wins, only 2 have been by more than 14 points. This would have been seen as a dominant performance by the Pats. Imagine if Vinatieri had forced a fumble on a kick return? Imagine if Plummer had thrown a pick in the end zone that Samuel returned 100 yards. Plummer wouldn't shake his reputation for turnovers for years.

Despite all this, everything we were saying earlier is true. The Patriots made a lot of mistakes and got no breaks. If the Patriots had been over-matched, everyone would have blamed the injuries. With the Patriots making mistakes and getting bad breaks, hopefully we can dismiss the magic beans theory.

2) My new goal in life is to eliminate the “quarterback is a winner� idea from the media. Every preview I read on a mainstream site said both running games will be stopped, and who would you take, Brady or Plummer? Then both of these guys played similar games. They were good but not perfect. Each threw a red zone pick and each made some tough throws. But Brady's teammates fumbled three times on their own side of the field. Teams win and lose ball games, not quarterbacks. Every playoff loss Tom Brady suffers to an inferior quarterback (and while Plummer is good, he's no Brady) further proves this point.

Aaron Schatz: This is the first time since Football Outsiders started that my team has not been the champion. It's a little strange. It is even stranger because as soon as the game ended, I started getting nasty "I told you so" e-mails from Denver fans. Let's see ... Which team did I pick in this game? Which team did I have ahead of Indianapolis in the power rankings as recently as two weeks ago? Before the season, which team did I pick to win their division, a team that almost no other prognosticator thought would be going to the playoffs this year?

That's right, Broncos fans. The answers are: Denver, Denver, and Denver.

Pittsburgh Steelers 21 at Indianapolis Colts 18

Michael David Smith: Dwight Freeney on Marvel Smith is a major mismatch. The Steelers tried to give Smith help on the Roethlisberger interception, but Parker thought Freeney was rushing to the outside, so when Freeney spun to the inside there was no one there.

I really don't even know what pass interference is. I've already seen three today that I was sure should have been flagged. None of them were. And we're still in the second quarter.

Russell Levine: Who was it from our group, Ryan maybe, that talked about how teams need to throw early to run late to beat the Colts. Looks like someone got the memo.

Aaron Schatz: Credit where credit is due. That idea was first brought up after the first Pittsburgh-Indy game by Ned Macey. It became a major part of this week's preview, of course.

Did Dick Enberg really say that Manning was "faking more moves than a Roman traffic officer?" What the hell does that mean?

Michael David Smith: Ryan Diem is a real liability. He didn't get any push on Aaron Smith at all on the James run on third-and-goal, which is why James had nowhere to run and the Colts had to settle for a field goal.

Ned Macey: I have no idea why they went right on that play. They ran right better during the season, but Diem is clearly not 100%. The only good gain they made right in the first half was when James made a great individual play.

Will Carroll: We have learned three things:

Home field should not be a goal; it's nice, but not an assurance.

Never have a Manning at QB in a big game.

Three weeks off might be too much.

Michael David Smith: Will, could you please define "big game"? I know a few Denver and Kansas City fans who would disagree with you vehemently.

Aaron Schatz: This is amazing because of all those "no team that has ever" phrases that will be gone if the Colts lose... no team that started 13-0 ever failed to win the Super Bowl, no sixth seed ever made it to the championship game, team with the most Pythagorean wins usually wins the Super Bowl, etc."

Russell Levine: I've always defended Peyton using those games as justification, but there's no defending him on this one. It was always that the team wasn't strong enough. But they dominated the entire league this year, and he's shown next to nothing in this game, at home, against a #6 seed. His reputation will not recover from this game until and if he wins a Super Bowl. He will be known primarily as a guy who chokes in big games.

Michael David Smith: Wow, Russ, you and I have very different definitions of "next to nothing" if you think 258 yards (and counting) and no turnovers against a very good defense on a day that his offensive line is getting him killed is next to nothing.

Russell Levine: Well I did send that before their second touchdown drive, but if Indy does lose this game, I still think it's because he came up small. Yes, the line did not play well, but he started feeling pressure that wasn't there on a bunch of throws. For three quarters, he never looked comfortable or confident. And the second touchdown drive only came about because of a dodgy replay overturn of his interception.

(And now, the final sack, the Jerome Bettis fumble, and Indy's final chance...)

Aaron Schatz: No, no, no. This cannot be happening. I am not rooting for either of these teams but that cannot be the last play of Jerome Bettis' career. He is too good a player and too good a guy for that to be the last play. This has to end some other way.

Michael David Smith: The fact that Indy didn't use its first timeout until there was less than a minute left is the stuff of John T. Reed's fantasies.

Russell Levine: Nice effort by Vandy. I had no problem with Indy's clock management there, the only bone I had to pick was the third down play. Should have gone for something shorter to get the first, then take a TO and take a shot or two at the end zone.

Roethlisberger is the hero for that tackle on the fumble return. That was a brilliant play. Sure looked like a Reggie Bush lateral might have led to an Indy TD there.

Tim Gerheim: This game couldn't have been better if it had been scripted. The idiot kicker missing it at the end. This might be the best football game I've ever seen. It helps that I root against Indianapolis on principle, but that wasn't necessary. There was never a time in this game that I thought I knew who was going to win.

I feel bad, though, that Manning won't lose his "playoff choker" label, because this loss really wasn't his fault at all. He/Indianapolis isn't always that good against the pressure from 3-4 defenses, but that's nothing like saying that he chokes in big games. He's less than a perfect quarterback -- what a surprise. They didn't lose because of Manning. Fortunately Vandy is there to play the goat, even if that's not entirely fair either.

Vivek Ramgopal: Great editing by CBS. If you read everyone's lips:

Dungy: "He missed it." (with a sigh)
Cowher: "He missed it???"
Manning: "He missed it" (with anger)

Aaron Schatz: A couple more yards wouldn't have helped that. Vanderjagt, I mean, wow. But once again, while Manning was not great, Manning was not the problem. The defense let Pittsburgh throw for a zillion yards in the first quarter, the offensive line was horrible, and of course Vanderjagt.

This game really makes me want to revisit our offensive line stats, because that was not the number one offensive line in run blocking OR pass blocking. Ryan Lilja, #65 the left guard, is HORRIBLE. I missed a couple of the sacks but on two sacks in particular I rewound the DVR and he was the guy who missed the block; in the first quarter he was supposed to pull left to get Farrior and just COMPLETELY missed him, and in the fourth quarter he was supposed to pull left to get Porter and just whiffed.

The other thing we've learned is that the league needs to rewrite the rules in the off-season to make the definitions of certain penalties more specific. This off-season has been filled with tons of questionable calls on holding, on pass interference, on whether balls were interceptions or not, or touchbacks or not, whether knees were down or not, and so on.

All season long I thought the proper model was the 2005 Colts as the 1996 Packers, but perhaps the proper model is the 2005 Steelers as the 1997 Broncos -- the team that dominated the AFC the year before but was upset in the playoffs, came back as a wild card the next year and won it all.

I feel bad for the Colts, for Will and Ned, for all the people of Indianapolis, but I am glad that fumble is not the way Jerome Bettis goes out, whether the Steelers beat Denver or not.

Pat Laverty: I was listening to the game on ESPN radio today and when PIT went up 21-3, the two idiots on there said something to the effect of “1:20 to go, this one is over.� I looked at my clock and saw that it was only 3:10, and I couldn't understand how a game was almost over in less than two hours. Then they said there was 1:20 left in the THIRD QUARTER!! And this game is over? Indy has over 16 minutes left to go and they're down by less than three scores? How can you count them out at that point? Amazing.

Ned Macey: Do people have thoughts about why the Colts lose in the playoffs? I know their defense has not been dominant in any playoff game, but that is three straight losses where the opposition has gotten 24 or fewer. 21 point at home when one of the drives was only 30 yards should be good enough. Force two turnovers, and the Colts couldn't get to 22 points? I have never believed that Manning or Dungy or whoever couldn't get it done in the playoffs. I've never believed a team couldn't win with an offensive-laden team. At this point, however, I have no rational explanation for what happened.

It is a ittle hard to say they are just a regular season team since their last two losses have come against a team with a better regular season record. This is their first home playoff loss since 1999 when they lost to a much better Tennessee team (according to DVOA anyway).

Russell Levine: I do think there's a risk of letting Manning off the hook too much here. What did he do to help his team win in the first three quarters? He calls a lot of the plays at the line. Where were the quick plays to beat the blitz? Where were the adjustments? Seems like every other snap he was running for his life and tossing the ball out of bounds. The best thing you could say about him the first three quarters, as Pittsburgh built an ultimately insurmountable lead, was that he didn't throw the killer interception.

Yes, he made some plays down the stretch to make it interesting, but that only came about because of a highly dubious replay overturn. He never was the leader that team saw while going 13-0. And remember, I'm normally a huge Manning defender. I don't discount that the Pittsburgh defense has made a lot of QBs look ordinary and they played very well today. But Manning is not just any QB. He's supposed to be the best. Did he do anything out of the ordinary to put his team in position to win while game was still close? Did he do anything to overcome that defense?

This has been a problem for him going back to his college days. It's not that he was terrible -- he wasn't. But he also wasn't as good as he should have been, and that's been a recurring theme for him in the playoffs. He was very ordinary today when they needed him to be extraordinary. He wasn't up to the task.

Aaron Schatz: We wrote a couple times this year that teams were stopping the Pittsburgh blitz with max protect scheme. I'm trying to remember back but I don't remember the Colts ever having more than six blockers and usually it was just five. Am I wrong on this? I taped the game as charting backup so I can go back to look tomorrow.

I wonder if part of the problem in Indy is that Manning's constant play-changing isn't just confusing the defenses -- it is also confusing his own offensive line.

Ned Macey: A few other thoughts:

1) On the max protect thing. It seemed the Colts knew that they could make plays with James in the passing game, and I felt they kept him in a lot less than they did against San Diego. They tried to bring Clark back for protection later in the game, but he wasn't great, and it was a little late for that.

2) The false start by Glenn on what would have been a touchdown at the end of the first half was huge. Not only because their field goal there was the difference in a game where both teams scored three times, but a 7-point deficit compared to an 11-point deficit is huge for momentum.

3) If you want to do something fun, re-read my Any Given Sunday on the Colts' loss to San Diego. Roethlisberger did nothing after the first quarter (non-call on pass interference aside), just like Brees did nothing. Running game did nothing early but made just enough plays late. Offense was completely befuddled by blitzing 3-4 defense. In this game, Vanderjagt missed game-tying field goal instead of Manning being sacked out of field goal range.

4) I think Colts fans everywhere thought this was our "Tuck Rule" game after the reversal on the Polamalu interception.

5) I was dying for the Colts to call a screen on their final couple of plays. But, on the second-and-2, they had Wayne one-on-one with McFadden. To echo Ryan, that was a great play by him. (By the way, two great catches by Wayne on their final scoring drive).

6) The Colts have invested very little in offensive linemen in terms of draft picks. Glenn was taking in the first round forever ago, but everybody else is a low round pick. They paid Diem, so it will be interesting to see how he progresses. Hard to judge him when he is not healthy. The Colts have had a good line for years, but the two examples I can think of with Colts linemen leaving are McKinney to Houston and DeMulling to Detroit. Those didn't work out too well for either team.

7) He ended up being a non-factor because of score, but that was a rejuvenated Edge out there. Whoever signs him next year would be wise to watch his carries.

Carolina Panthers 29 at Chicago Bears 21

Tim Gerheim: Carolina sure came to play. They had outstanding blitz pickup on that second play touchdown to Steve Smith. I always had the impression that Chicago was more of a straight ahead defense that didn't blitz that much but played really solid defensive football. They may want to do that, because if the Panthers are going to continue pass protecting that well they're just going to eat up the blitz.

Aaron Schatz: Gee, leave a safety deep to help cover Steve Smith? Why would you ever want to do that?

Mike Tanier: Here's a random Bears-Panthers thought. The Bears started seven drives at or inside their own 20. The Panthers started 10 drives at or past their own 30. Robbie Gould had kickoffs of 51, 60, 61, and 64 yards, and the Panthers had runbacks of 29, 26, and 34 yards. If the Bears do a better job on kickoffs and coverage, they probably don't give up the field goal before halftime and they make Carolina's 4th quarter drive much tougher.

Ned Macey: I thought Mike Doss had a bad first half. Then I saw Charles Tillman. If you have one cornerback that is clearly better, Vasher, going against a team with one wide receiver, why don't you have that cornerback follow him around? All three of Smith's big plays came when Vasher wasn't on him.

The fact that Carolina has now played six playoff games under Fox way above their level of performance in the regular season has to be investigated. Even the Giants team he was defensive coordinator for who made the Super Bowl played above what its regular season DVOA said. Is he the second best game-planner in football behind Belichick? And if so, why can't he do it consistently in the regular season?

Aaron Schatz: Two years ago, weren't we all talking about Charles Tillman as this amazing rookie cornerback? Was this just one game, or was Vasher much better during the entire season?

By the way, here's an example for those who think that the Patriots are the only team that whines about penalties. Drew Carter was whining to officials that there should be a late hit on Chicago when Carter was, I dunno, two inches out of bounds. And Justin Gage whined about pass interference three or four times.

Is it me, or in the first half did Thomas Jones keep hitting the hole by flipping over onto his back? What the hell is that supposed to achieve? Jones falls on his tuchus and gets three yards. Second-and-7. This is not a success. And what the heck is with all the players dropping the ball as they cross the goal line???

Michael David Smith: I was one of the few people who didn't think Brian Urlacher deserved to be an all-pro this year, but he had a game befitting of his status as the league's Defensive Player of the Year. That leaping interception to end a Carolina drive in the second quarter was outstanding. Other than Urlacher, Chicago's defense looked confused all day, especially on a Delhomme touchdown pass to Mangum, when the Bears had the wrong personnel on the field and Charles Tillman ran onto the field as linebacker Leon Joe ran off at the last second.

Julius Peppers picked up what was ruled on the field as a Justin Gage fumble and raced 37 yards for a touchdown. Even though the play was overturned, Peppers showed that he's the fastest defensive lineman in the league. Peppers and Gage are both great athletes and former college basketball players, and neither Gage nor any other Bear even came close to running Peppers down.

The first time the teams played, Carolina often used five defensive linemen to counter Chicago's tendency to run. I didn't see much of that in the rematch.

I think it'll be interesting to see what happens to the Bears at quarterback this off-season. I wrote in the NY Sun today that the Bears have just about everyone back on defense next year, but they really do need to bring in a veteran quarterback. They just can't assume Grossman is going to be both healthy and good (I'm not sure he'll be either), and I don't think Orton showed anything this season. I think the Bears probably have more work to do in the off-season than any 11-5 team in recent memory.

Aaron Schatz: I think the Bears are the best candidate for a 2005 playoff team missing the postseason in 2006.

Later This Week

Any Given Sunday: Steelers over Colts
Every Play Counts: Lofa Tatupu

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212 comments, Last at 20 Jan 2006, 1:34pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Aaron, I had the same feeling about the "2005 Colts = 1996 Broncos?" theory after Pitt won. If the Colts would win two straight Super Bowls starting next year, I think I would give up the NFL forever.

Good call on the 2005 Bears probably missing the playoffs next year. I have been telling everyone I know that this was just a sequel to the 2001 Bears season.

Also, doesn't this divisional round just prove that Steve Smith should have been the MVP this year? Besides Brady, what other team would have been utterly horrible if you take away one player? Delhomme made the Pro Bowl this year just based on the fact that Smith is some kind of unstoppable cyborg hell-bent on winning games single-handledly.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I know this game will stoke the Manning-as-choker argument, but to be fair to the guy that was some of the worst pass protection I've ever seen.

Seriously, on their second-to-last drive (the one before Bettis's fumble) on both the third and fourth down play absolutely nobody blocked Joey Porter! He literally ran untouched at Manning. I don't know what kind of pass protection scheme fails to have somebody block Joey Porter. And it's not like it was disguised either. The guy simply lined up at right OLB on the line of scrimmage and enjoyed an unimpeded run at Manning.

On an unrelated note, great job by Roethlisberger on the tackle on the fumble recovery, but does anybody else think Harper had an easy TD if he'd just run outside Ben instead of trying to cut back inside him?

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Actually, I was thinking 2005 Steelers = 1997 Broncos, but 2006 Colts = 1997 Broncos might work too. Except I don't see Jacksonville kicking the Colts down to a wild card.

I mention those Porter plays above. Ryan Lilja, on at least one of them, was supposed to be pulling left to get any blitzing linebackers but just looked confused.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

NE recovers 3 of 3 non-bad snap fumbles last week, everybody says "good job Patriots".

NE loses 3 of 3 fumbles this week, everybody says "Patriots give the game away".

How about - Patriots were lucky with the turnovers last week, unlucky this week, but karmically balance out (as we all know fumbles are recovered ~50% of the time).

It seems that both NE games were closer than the final score, and the differences in outcome COULD be the fumble recoveries.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

concerning the indy game why do you have a guard pulling out to block a blitzing outside lb.he was clearly way to slow . indy got out coached out played and still almost won. vandy how do you miss a fg that bad. concerning the carolina game i think it might have been a good i dea to cover steve smith , he isn't a bad wr. so much for the great defense.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

About that Asante Samuel call.

On the fourth down fade near the goal you can see Samuel putting himself between the reciever and the ball and slowing down. You can see his feet come down to decrease his speed, and so interfere with the pass without facing the guy. Frankly, it looked brilliant. I pointed it out to all my friends to show how subtle such a young guy could be.

On the deep pass it seemed like the same thing happened. Samuel got in the way and slowed down. This time they called it though. I don't know the exact wording on pass interference, but it seems as though it should qualify.

Oh yeah, and the pats should have gotten a touchback on the Bailey INT return. The refs seem really hesitant to grant touchbacks on fumbles if the decision is unsure.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Ditka was on Mike & Mike this morning blaming the Colts loss on their 30-day rest period. The atrocious play of the Colts' offensive line early in the game was very uncharacteristic and it may well be that all that time off threw them out of synch. Would it make sense that offensive line play in particular would suffer the most from inaction? Interesting that Shanahan chose the opposite course this year, having learned from his mistakes, and played all his starters hard in a meaningless game against the Chiefs. I'm sure if someone clinches early next year we will be hearing a lot of "remember the '05 Colts!" from the pundits.For all the talk of Manning being a "choker", isn't it really Dungy who will take the hit to his reputation? First Tampa, now Indy. That Indy team was not prepared yesterday, how do you blame that on Manning? Maybe Indy should hire Gruden next year.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I'm not a Steeler fan, but when that happened to Bettis, I felt so bad for the guy. It is quite a relief that that was not the final play of his career.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

RE #2:

I agree that Manning's pass protection was horrible, but Dungy should have adjusted for the situation. But Manning’s comments after the game although true, showed that just like every other year when it counts, he will throw people under Jerome Bettis when it doesn’t go his way.

Something has been bugging for a while about Dungy. When will he start getting the kind of disdain that Brian Billick receives? It’s obvious that he has plenty of years and plenty of opportunities to win a “big game� and completely blows it every time. The Colts finally had his defense, his home field advantage and his thorn (NE) taken out of his side. What happens? He gets beat by a #6 seed that had to play on the road the week before while his players have had the best working vacation in recorded job history. I’ve suspected for a long time that the reason that Dungy was regarded as a defensive genius was because of the personnel in TB and not because of anything he did in particular and every year just keeps re-affirming my point, in my eyes anyway.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

NFL Network did a great job of breaking down how the Colts were failing to pick up the Pittsburgh blitz, and Ryan Mc pretty much nails it. There were several plays where the Colts had six blockers to block five Steelers, and yet one of those Steelers still went unblocked. I don't know if that's a crappy game plan, or crappy linemen, or linemen not hearing Manning's audibles, or what. But whatever it was, it was horrible pass protection.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Can FO do a play by play analysis of Manning with time vs. Manning without time?

I happen to be a Manning apologist, and it seemed to me that whenever he had more than 2 seconds, he played brilliantly. When he was being hit as soon as he dropped back, he did poorly, although taking a sack vs. throwing an INT is about as well as you can do in such a situation.

I also think that the sack he took on the 1 foot line was a pretty good play on his part. He knew he was going down, and leaned forward to ensure he didn't take the safety.

Pittsburgh, with apologies to Gregg Easterbrook, won that game because of their relentless and effective blitzing.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

RE #3:

Aaron, I was going by the year of the regular season when I said "2005 Colts = 96 Broncos", since that was the year they had HFA and got beat by JAX. I usually try to reference teams by the year of the regular season, not by the playoffs, since it just gets confusing after a while. Sorry if there was any confusion.

RE #5:

Eh... I don't know. I doubt they will collapse as hard as the 2000 Jags did after they were the #1 seed in 99, but stranger things have happened.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Catholic Samurai:

Besides Brady, what other team would have been utterly horrible if you take away one player?

Oh, I don't know. How about the Eagles and McNabb? Oh yeah, wait a minute. They were utterly horrible with him injured and then out.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I disagree with aaron, bettis deserved to fumble because he turned his back and shrunk at the hit from brackett. I thought he was a power back, what was that?

Also the bears cornerback fell on both the steve smith td's. and this was at chicago, you would think the bears would have the proper cleats to play at soldier field but apparently not.

Also, what's going to stop teams from constantly blitzing manning and brady from here on out in big games?

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I cannot wait to see how Easterbrook handles the Steelers' blitzing on 4th and 16 at the end of the game -- unless he figures that Tony Dungy figures that Bill Cowher is an avid TMQB reader, and therefore knows not to IT'S A BLITZ! in that situation . . .

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

RE #13,3:

And now I get the reference about Jax (although it could happen) and I feel stupider for saying anything.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

This is off-topic, but what play was the most recent Burger King commerical used from? I assume that it was a Joe Montana scramble since the footage is old, but the King was holding the ball with his left hand. Anyone got an idea?

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

should the Colts have punted instead of going on 4th? they were down 3 with 3 timeouts.

4-16-IND12 (1:27) (Shotgun) P.Manning sacked at IND 2 for -10 yards (sack split by J.Porter and J.Farrior).

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I agree that Manning's incessant audibles are at least as confusing to his team as they are to the defense. Plus, it puts too much pressure on him; he seems to want the perfect play everytime, instead of sticking with the game plan. For most of the game (and every playoff defeat over the past few years) the Colt's offense looked like a Chinese fire drill.

I agree the rest of the Colts did not play their best game, but the fact is that Manning had not one but 2 chances to win the game and he came up short once again.

Manning puts up great numbers in the regular season, but in the Playoffs give me Jake Delhomme every time.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

As a Bears fan I'm petrified the Bears will "stand pat" because they've got a "playoff team." The Bears did that in 2001 and went in the toilet for 3 seasons.

Could somebody please explain to me the Bears playcalling? Ron Turner is in the booth thinking, "Well I've got an extremely inexperienced quarterback in his first playoff start - I think I'll throw on the first three plays." Grossman was at one point THREE FOR FIFTEEN!!! Jeff Blake couldn't have done that? Or how about me? I've been getting fatter after all....maybe I'm big enough now.

Every single first down he had Grossman throw. That, and Charles Tillman's horrible game, are two big reasons why the Bears gave up so many yards in the first half. The Panthers scored on their second play - and still held the ball longer than the Bears did on their first possession.

It was like they wanted to prove that Grossman is better than Eli Manning or something, or panicked after the touchdown.

As for Tillman/Vasher, with the exception of this game Tillman is generally Vasher's equal if not better - Vasher just has a nack for the big play. Plus they don't usually throw it in Tillman's direction as much.

The Bears defense better not just assume they'll be the #1 defense next year and not address weaknesses, because from what I saw yesterday it's pretty clear they aren't as good as they think they are. They also need to address the quarterback situation, but fans of the Bears have been saying that since Jim McMahon was traded.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

RE #22:

I believe the proper term is "Asian-American Fire Drill", but I may be wrong.

Oh yeah, something else I forgot about:

When it comes to crazy ways to link stats, you know that any time Brady leads the league in a particular passing category (Comp %, TD Passes/yards, etc), he fails to reach the Super bowl? ('02, threw the most TDs/'05, had the most passing yards).

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Does anyone know where I can find the wording of the rule the ref applied to the Polamalu interception that was overturned? I know what he said, "knee still down when the ball came out", but I cannot find anything that says that in the NFL.com rulebook. The only thing I can find that would apply is this:

"A forward pass is complete when a receiver clearly possesses the pass and touches the ground with both feet inbounds while in possession of the ball. If a receiver would have landed inbounds with both feet but is carried or pushed out of bounds while maintaining possession of the ball, pass is complete at the out-of-bounds spot."

And:

"Possession: When a player controls the ball throughout the act of clearly touching both feet, or any other part of his body other than his hand(s), to the ground inbounds."

Based upon these two rules, I don't understand any interpretation of Troy's play that is not an interception. Does anyone know if there are any other rules out there, or did the ref just misinterpret the rule?

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

"I’ve suspected for a long time that the reason that Dungy was regarded as a defensive genius was because of the personnel in TB and not because of anything he did in particular"

This doesn't make any sense when you say that he finally had "his defense." The Colts had a higher defensive DVOA than the Bucs this season playing with as many undrafted starters as first round picks. I won't say Dungy wasn't outcoached in this game. It was won in the first quarter when Pitt came out throwing, and the defense wasn't ready for that. But that doesn't mean he can't coach defense.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

On "Bears missing playoffs next year".

Though they certainly CAN, who exactly are they going to lose it to? The Packers who might be starting Aaron Rodgers? The Lions who have no protection and no idea who their QB is? The Vikings have the best shot, but I mean at this point in time, its hard not to see the Bears winning the division again - especially if while their Defense probably will regress a little, their offense should improve from the Kyle Orton experience that they managed to pull and still win the division.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

#24 - that's not a coincidence. When Brady leads the league in a passing category it usually means he's having to do to much - and in 2002 and this year the running game was absent.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

The truth is that the Patriots simply were not as good a team this year as the respect they generated would suggest. As a Dolphin fan, I expeted the reporting of the last regular season weekend would have made quite a deal about the changing face of the AFC East next season... instead all we got were vapid "the Patriots couldn't have been trying" comments. Denver didn't have to play particularly well to beat the Patriots because the Patriots aren't that good. All this genuflecting has gone to your heads.

Peyton Manning's problem is that he believes the game is about Peyton Manning. Whenever Manning starts overruling Tony Dungy on strategic decisions, the game is over and the Colts lost.

Gaudy regular-season stats or not, I say Peyton Manning is a bad team player and therefore a bad NFL qb.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Thanks for the worthless pot shot at the Bears at the end there Aaron. Because at this point it seems clear that Washington, Tampa Bay, New York, Cincinnati, and Jacksonville should schedule their playoff hotel reservations today. Whatever, dude.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

How can any football fan not recognize Steve Young's scramble where he stumbles and falls into the endzone?

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Site overload was terrible yesterday. With half the number of games next week, will it bottleneck and get worse? And is today just a function of the holiday you guys have today?

What other quarterback makes that tackle on Nick Harper? What other quarterback even tries? Favre? Randall Cunningham? Michael Robinson?

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

RE #18

I'm pretty certain that the BK commercial is a play from Steve Young's highlight reel.

It's probably one the most outstanding QB scrambles of all time, but it just looks so haphazard and awkward on replay.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I have nothing to add, except to give props to the Pittsburgh fans in the open discussion threads who had to put up with the rest of the forum assuming Pittsburgh would lose. I'd particularly like to bring attention to Mikey's comment on #627 of the Saturday thread before the Sunday games:

“I hope Indy does to Denver what NE has done to the Colts all along.�

Indy-Denver is a great matchup. There’s no question their next meeting will be one of the highlights of the 2006 regular season.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I'd still like to know where the much-vaunted Bears Defense was. I only saw one regular season Bears game, the one against New Orleans, and if memory serves, Aaron Stecker and Antowain Smith(!) ran fairly successfully on them. On the back of these two games I can't see wht all the fuss was about.

Can NFCC Freak, Nate, or any other Bears fans tell me what I've missed, and what (other than Tillman) went so wrong yesterday?

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I'd still like to know where the much-vaunted Bears Defense was. I only saw one regular season Bears game, the one against New Orleans, and if memory serves, Aaron Stecker and Antowain Smith(!) ran fairly successfully on them. On the back of these two games I can't see wht all the fuss was about.

Can NFCC Freak, Nate, or any other Bears fans tell me what I've missed, and what (other than Tillman) went so wrong yesterday?

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

#18, 19

It was indeed Young. Has been one of my favorite plays to come across on old replays, but somehow was even better with the King.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Denver didn’t have to play particularly well to beat the Patriots because the Patriots aren’t that good. All this genuflecting has gone to your heads.

The Patriots outgained Denver 420-286 yards. Were it not for four (five?) turnovers, they would have won, and everything else being equal, they will be better next year. Props to Denver, but this is hardly the swan song of the Patriot dynasty.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

#12
Easterbrook will point out that Pittsburgh plays a base 3-4 and mostly rushes one extra man. TMQ doesn't count sending four men as a blitz. Has to be at least five, and most of the day Pittsburgh was just sending four.
#15
Bettis isn't an old-line power back. He runs through a lot of leg tackles, but he seldom takes on tacklers straight-up. This is one reason he's not hobbling like Earl Campbell.
#18
It's footage of an old Steve Young run.
#23
Turner was just so ecstatic at being able to call a pass play that he lost his mind.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I thought the pass interference was a good call.

Samuel looked up at the ball quite a while before it hit the ground. He knew where it was going. If he'd run full speed towards where the ball was going, he probably could have made an interception. Instead he slowed down and moved to his left, directly into Lelie, slowing him down. While doing so he looked away from the ball. He did a great job disguising it, but he was intentionally obstructing Lelie from getting to the ball rather than going for it himself. It's not a blatantly obvious PI, but that call has nothing on the Polamalu INT.

A fitting end to a dynasty that began with the Tuck Rule.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Could it be that the Steelers beat Manning at his own game (Joey Porter notwithstanding)? Namely, Manning goes to the line and calls the play based on what he sees in the defense. If the defense does a good job of disguising its coverage, it'll lead Manning into calling a suboptimal play.

Both Pittsburgh and NE seem to do a good job of disguising coverages -- how much of SD's success against the Colts in the regular season do you think came as a result of the 3-4, how much from basic pressure, and how much from disguising coverages?

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I still don't buy the 'too much time off' excuse for the Colts. They didn't have any more time off than the Eagles did last year, and the Eagles went to and nearly won the Super Bowl.

Anyone have any thoughts on what the problem was with the Colts offense early? In the first few drives it looked like there was always at least one pass that Manning threw where the reciever was no where near it. Was that on the reciver for running the wrong route, or on Manning? It was bizarre to watch Manning's passes just clang to the ground with no one near them.

Personally, I DO put the Colts loss on Manning. He ended up with decent stats, but that's just because he finally picked it up at the end of the game. I don't give him a pass for 3 quarters of nothing just because found a few recievers in the last quarter.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

#41:
It's actually the same underlying logic behind the tuck rule and the PI rule, but you have it just backwards. In all FB rules, the ultimate goal is to take referee subjectivity away, as much as possible.

For the tuck rule, it means that as soon as the QB arm comes forward, the movement is considered a pass, unless a "tuck" is complete. That means the ref does not have to second guess the QB intentions, and that's why the Brady tuck call was a good call.

For PI, the assumption is that if the defender is looking at the ball and moving toward it, it's not PI even if he bumps into a receiver, because as long as the ball's in the air, he has the same right to it as the receiver. The Samuel PI was an awful call.

It doesn't matter if you think you saw Samuel "slowing down": what if he simply couldn't keep up? Should a slower defender always yield the right of way to a faster player? To be able to tell that Samuel was "disguising", as you so perceptively concluded, would require mind-reading, and the NFL has yet to require that ability from their refs. They already have a hard time mastering the conventional 5 senses, apparently.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

From the Indy Star:
"The football gods weren't smiling on us," team president Bill Polian
said as his team's locker room emptied. "The one guy with two bad legs
(Nick Harper) picks up the fumble. Anybody else, maybe he goes all the
way."

(as if the bogus overturn, the uncalled PI, the possible safety, and Bettis's first fumble of the year weren't enough chances handed over on a silver platter)

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

About the Burger King commercials, I wonder if anyone has an opinion:

Do they just hire an actor to dress in the King costume, film him/her pantomiming the play against a blue screen, and then patch it into the old game film? Or do they somehow paint the King costume onto the player on the field? Or is it some combination?

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

The NFL is now saying that the Polamalu call was a "judgement call."

Maybe so on the original call, but what happened to the notion of conclusive evidence on the challenge?

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

The NFL is now saying that the Polamalu call was a "judgement call."

Maybe so on the original call, but what happened to the notion of conclusive evidence on the challenge?

The NFL seems to be digging itself into a hole here.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

#43 - You're right, the Eagles took time off, but they were in a class by themselves in the NFC last year. The Colts didn't have the same comparative advantage over the other AFC rivals this year. Also you could argue that a precision finesse team like the Colts is going to suffer more from lack of reps than a more physical free-wheeling team like the Eagles.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I am a Manning apologist, so let's get that out of the way. But, that said, I don't put the Colt loss on Manning. Here is my reasoning:
1) What would other QB's have done better when sacked and chased so often? Most would have thrown at least a couple of picks, or taken more sacks. Manning often just threw the ball away. Even good QBs suffer under pressure: Brady was harassed, and he threw a 14-point-turnaround interception. Instead of the Pats scoring 7, Denver did.
2) Hey, the idiot kicker lived up to his name. He hits that kick, the Colts are probably the favorites in OT, and Manning becomes a Brady-like hero because his kicker can win a game
3) Manning turned momentum with his insistance on going for it on 4th in the 3rd quarter, and he got the job done.

Yes, Manning did not do enough to deserve to win, but by no means did he choke, unless you want to fault him for play calling (legit), missing a 46-yarder indoors, and not blocking.

Manning earns the choker label because he plays at such an absurdly high level most of the time, that when he plays like a normal QB, everyone says he's choked.

Finally, I do have one pet theory on why the Colts have not gone to the SB (and they have won playoff games, by the way, just ask Denver): Manning is better prepared than most opponents during the season, but once the playoffs arrive, everyone rachets up the homework, everyone knows what is at stake. Thus, Manning loses that preparation edge, and he's just another QB trying to make plays.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Aaron, yes, you did tell us so. Any hate mail from Denver fans is certainly unwarranted.

I think Russell Levine got it right in that I think Brady's mistakes were due to the blitzing early on and the fact they stayed with it, despite the Pat's seemingly having solved it in the 3rd Q. I think some of the other Pat mistakes were due to the trying to hard when they were behind and certain sure things weren't working--what they asked Troy Brown to do was just beyond anyone's reach.

If fact, contrary to popular opinion, I think the NE-Den game lived up to its hype. It was actually a good game and the reason it looked bad was actually due to it being good from the defensive point of view, both defenses did a better job than the opposing offence. If you look particularly at the 1st Q/half, you see a field position game, that Den won slightly until throwing that fade on 4th-and-2.

Now, the PI call was certainly erroneous. However, I wonder about the play itself. I think the play was designed to draw PI. That's the way it looked to me. When I saw the play, before the replay, I said, "ah, they got the PI call they were trying for." Do the DVOA stats account for that? I mean depite the call being wrong, I wonder if it wasn't the result of a designed play and whether the team drawing the PI shouldn't get "credit" for it? It was a pass that achieved a 1st down, even though it wasn't complete. I think drawing PI to get better field postion in a close game is a valid strategy. Now, you might want to judge such things with a asterix, er, little star, but still, you want to account for such things. I'm just sorry that the official blew the call.

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Aaron, yes, you did tell us so. Any hate mail from Denver fans is certainly unwarranted.

I think Russell Levine got it right in that I think Brady's mistakes were due to the blitzing early on and the fact they stayed with it, despite the Pat's seemingly having solved it in the 3rd Q. I think some of the other Pat mistakes were due to the trying to hard when they were behind and certain sure things weren't working--what they asked Troy Brown to do was just beyond anyone's reach.

If fact, contrary to popular opinion, I think the NE-Den game lived up to its hype. It was actually a good game and the reason it looked bad was actually due to it being good from the defensive point of view, both defenses did a better job than the opposing offence. If you look particularly at the 1st Q/half, you see a field position game, that Den won slightly until throwing that fade on 4th-and-2.

Now, the PI call was certainly erroneous. However, I wonder about the play itself. I think the play was designed to draw PI. That's the way it looked to me. When I saw the play, before the replay, I said, "ah, they got the PI call they were trying for." Do the DVOA stats account for that? I mean depite the call being wrong, I wonder if it wasn't the result of a designed play and whether the team drawing the PI shouldn't get "credit" for it? It was a pass that achieved a 1st down, even though it wasn't complete. I think drawing PI to get better field postion in a close game is a valid strategy. Now, you might want to judge such things with a asterix, er, little star, but still, you want to account for such things. I'm just sorry that the official blew the call.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Re: #35

I have nothing to add, except to give props to the Pittsburgh fans in the open discussion threads who had to put up with the rest of the forum assuming Pittsburgh would lose. I’d particularly like to bring attention to Mikey’s comment on #627 of the Saturday thread before the Sunday games:

Heh, even now, there’s a noticeable trend towards generating explanations for how the Colts lost when the explanation is a simple one: The Steelers whupped them good. When Roethlisberger is right and healthy, the Steelers ride his arm to an early lead and then use their running game and defense to protect the lead.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Well, I go into more depth at the open game discussion thread, but the critical elements in Steelers/Colts were the Steelers defensive front just bludgeoning the Colts' offensive front like the proverbial rented mule, and the fact that the Colts' defense sleep-walked thorough the first quarter. All other factors are miniscule compared to those two.

Not to lob a grenade here, and I would likely take Brady over Manning on my team, but Brady played worse than Manning did this past weekend.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Manning

I am a little confused here. Manning gets all the credit when he has a wall of protection in front of him, but does not get any of the blame when that wall has some holes in it.

Poise – all great quarterbacks have it. Being calm, cool, collective in extreme pressure situations is a key quality of a great QB.

Manning did not have time on some plays. However, other plays it seemed he was hearing footsteps that were not there.

The defense of Manning in this game, the SD game, and the NE games of past years is illogical. This logic (It is not his fault, his Oline was terrible) would also indicate David Carr is a great quarterback. Carr never has protection, but it is not his fault. Therefore, Carr is still a great QB…what?

Manning was able to put up some numbers by the end of the game. However, without the mysterious non-interception call, he would have had 250 yards, one TD, and one INT. Not exactly great numbers…kinda like the numbers of Carr with 75 or so more yards.

Any QB in the NFL with a wall of protection could rip apart any defense.

Manning has great skills (pocket passing skills), but has yet to show any poise. He is not yet a great QB. He is a talented, good quarterback with a great Oline, which gets confused with good 3-4 defensive teams

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I may be the lone voice on this, and my anti-Pats bias may be overwhelming me here, but I had two thoughts about the Samuels PI call:

1) Why didn't CBS show us the view from the referee who called it? We saw lots of views from behind the play (the angle that the ref who didn't call it saw), but I didn't see any from the side like the guy who called it.

2) I thought Samuels looked back to take away the PI call, but then very intentionally rode the receiver out to the side by running left, away from the ball, using his body to push the receiver away as well. Now, maybe that's not illegal, but that is what I thought I saw. Yes, Samuels was looking back, but no, he did not try to run to the ball. He tried to keep the reciever away. In basketball, that's a boxout, and a great move. In football, I think it's PI, but I could be wrong.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Holy crud, I've never seen so much Pats-Homerism in my life. I've come to expect a lot better from FootballOutsiders.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Re: #39 The Patriots outgained Denver 420-286 yards. Were it not for four (five?) turnovers, they would have won, and everything else being equal, they will be better next year.

Why do people always use this excuse in place of logic? Of course the Broncos had less yards of offense. Denver's special teams and defense gave their offense great starting position on many occasions. The offense didn't have to go nearly as far to score. It's hard to sustain a 70 yard drive when you are starting on the opponent's 1 yard line. (Some) New England fans are going to look at the box score, and think that they really did outplay the Broncos, despite what transpired on the field.

As for the Bears, it was nice to see them eating a big slice of humble pie yesterday. The Bears came in even more overconfident than Carolina did coming into Chicago in week 11. The Bears kept telling themselves that they dominated the Panthers in week 11. The truth is that Vasher made 2 interceptions on horrible bonehead throws by Delhomme in the first game that were not going to be repeated in the playoffs (See Delhomme's all time postseason TD-INT ratio, 10-2 in six games, never posting a rating lower than 96.6). These were not great athletic plays by Vasher in coverage. They were simply mental lapses by a quarterback that should know better than to throw a lob in the face of a big pass rush, TWICE! If not for the two gift-wrapped picks for Vasher in week 11, Chicago misses out on those easy 10 points early, and gets held to 3 points for the entire game, losing 6-3.
As for the other 3 Carolina points, allow me to explain. Inexplicably, John Fox eschewed the FG try on 4th and 6 from the Chicago 18 yard line, with 58 seconds remaining in the game, instead trying for the first down/touchdown. Had he kicked the FG, he could have went for the onside kick, and tried for the game tying touchdown with the game score at 13-6.

Also, how is what Pittsburgh did more impressive than what Carolina has done? Simply put, Carolina completely shutout the league's #3 scoring offense on the road, and immediately followed that up by ringing up over 400 yards of offense, moving the ball at will, and hanging 29 points on the scoreboard against the league's best defense in a place where they gave up the fewest points ever recorded (61) in 8 home games in one season after resting up for a week. Where's the love?

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

#46: Apparently Manning takes his lessons on being a dick from the top, team president Bill Polian. Saying that if anyone else picks it up maybe he goes all the way?? Corey Simon maybe? Way to make a stupid comment about a heads up play from a guy who most people would have thought had his mind somewhere else. Nick Harper, it's not your fault your team lost, blame your idiot kicker and class act QB.

PS. I think there was some question about the cliche "Under the Bus" and possible replacements. The Mighty MJD refers to Manning as shoving his teammates into a woodchipper. I like it, as anyone who has seen Fargo should.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I wish there were Carolina fans around here, because John Fox is on an historic run. I checked the history of AFL and NFL road playoff games since 1960, excluding Super Bowls to see how many times a coach has led his team to two consecutive road playoff victories. It's been done 25 times. On 16 occasions, a team won two playoff road games in the same year, including twice this year (Cowher and Fox).

John Fox has now won four straight road playoff games, dating back to the 2003 season, which puts him in second place all-time, behind Tom Landry. The Cowboys won every road playoff game in the 1970's, and went 7-0 from 1970 to 1980. Third place is held by Hank Stram (Chiefs, 1966-69); Raymond Berry (Pats, 1985); and Brian Billick (Ravens, 2000-2001).

What's noteworthy is the road playoff coaching record of the other coaching legends besides Landry. Lombardi, Belichick, Shula, Noll and Gibbs have only won two in a row. Walsh and Parcells have only won one.

If I were a Seahawks fan, I would be very nervous about Sunday's game.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Maybe we should have a “Victim of Officiating� thread, where distraught Patriots fans commiserate with each other over dubious playoff calls. Setting aside the irony of Patriots fans deriding Colts fans as crybabies two years ago when Indianapolis receivers were mauled in the AFC Championship game, the call against Asante Samuel is really small potatoes, in the scheme of things.

- The Giants were robbed at the end of a 2002 Wild Card Game against the 49ers, when tackle eligible Rich Seubert was tackled on a pass route resulting from an aborted field goal attempt. Referee Ron Winter called the Giants for illegal man downfield, but ignored the blatent pass interference, handing the game to San Francisco.

- The Cowboys were penalized for a phantom call against Benny Barnes in Super Bowl XIII, who supposedly interfered with Lynn Swann. The call came late in the third quarter and allowed the Steelers to get deep in Dallas territory and score a touchdown. The Steelers won by four points, and the league later conceded Fred Swearingen blew the call.

- The Vikings had two questionable calls go against them late in the 1975 NFC Divisional playoffs, the most famous of which was Drew Pearson pushing off Nate Wright on Roger Staubach’s Hail Mary pass. The Vikings were 12-2 that season, at home, and the Cowboys got a gift touchdown to win the game.

Was the call against Samuel bad? Sure. So what? Referees have been blowing calls since the game started. I think as adults we have to learn to live with it, and accept the bad calls with the good. Or are Pats fans going to surrender their AFC crown to the Colts because their linebackers and secondary were holding all day long? Somehow, I think not.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

The stuff about Denver having credit taken away from them because of their short scoring drives is pretty silly. As it is because of their yardage disadvantage.

If the Broncos get a short field due to a turnover, they lose the "advantage" of a long field to build up yardage and to take time. This happened multiple times. Teams trade possessions. If NE hadn't turned the ball over, who's to say that the Broncos wouldn't have driven down the field and scored? Who's to say they wouldn't have used up more time and given NE less time to pile up yardage? Just because the Broncos got 24 of their 27 points on short drives doesn't mean they're actually worse than New England. What else were they supposed to do with those short fields, voluntarily take a 40-yard sack?

Also if you want to take away one of New England's turnovers, you have to take away Plummer's int deep in New England territory. Who's to say they wouldn't have scored there? They had two other first downs on that drive. If you want to give NE a TD instead of Champ's int (since they were on the 5), you have to give Denver a TD for when they were at the 1!

Finally, here's a better illustration of what I mean with the short drives. Here's the chart of each team's starting field position. (If a team starts in opponent's field, I add 50)

NE, DEN
25, 26
35, 36
4, 37 (den to 1 yd line)
3, 44 (plummer int at ne 30/11)
11, 38 (ne fg)
7, 60 (ne fum, PI, den td)
(kickoff fum), 61 (den fg)
11, 22 (ne kneel, den punt)
28, 20 (ne fg)
22, 99 (ne to 1 yd line, int, den td)
29, 33 (ne missed fg)
(punt fum), 85 (den td)
23, 23 (ne td, den fg)
11, 39 (ne int, den kneel)

New England started within their twenty SIX times. Denver, not once. Even without the turnovers, Denver massively beat up on New England in the field position game, and field position was a preseason priority to Shanahan. You don't give a team credit for being the better team when they pile up yardage, not when it's because they're losing the field position game that badly and need that many yards to even have a chance.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Drew Carter was whining to officials that there should be a late hit on Chicago when Carter was, I dunno, two inches out of bounds

While he had just barely stepped out of bounds on the play, the tackle was an obvious example of an illegal horse-collar tackle, I don't know why they write these rules if they aren't going to call them. Either way it should have been a penalty, horse-collar or late hit. Though I will agree with the original point, all players complain.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Re: 61. I am a Seahawks fan, and I am very nervous about Sunday's game.

How can you not be impressed with what the Panthers have done over the last two weeks? Nothing makes me more nervous than a veteran QB taking on our shaky secondary (which is why, "league's best defense" or not, I was rooting for da Bears yesterday.

That said, I do believe Seattle has the talent to win this game. They just can't afford to 1) lose the MVP and 2) Go -3 on the turnover ratio.

That's why I'm leaning towards Pepsi Machine to do the returns next week.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

So does poor Ned have to do an AGS on the Steelers-Colts? Can we get the guy a ghostwriter so he doesn't have to relive the pain?

I give the FO guys a ton of credit in separating their rooting interests from their analysis. But gees, talk about your tough assignments.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

#62

Amen! And amen! This is the curse of replay, that we have come to expect every stinking play to be sliced into wafer-thin segments and reviewed ad infinitum in the hopes of... what?

Kill replay, let the refs make calls on the field, and live with the results.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I still don't agree that the PI on Samuel was bad. It was very clever on his part, but he did see the ball, slow down and take an angle away from the ball. So, PI is running into, holding or pushing a reciever such that he is denied a chance to catch a catchable ball. There is an exception that the defender gets off free if he is also making a move to get to the ball. Samuel was clearly not moving towards the ball, and by slowing and moving in the other direction, he was pushing the WR out of the path he was taking to the ball. I just don't see the controversy.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Jeff Jewell,

I expeted the reporting of the last regular season weekend would have made quite a deal about the changing face of the AFC East next season… instead all we got were vapid “the Patriots couldn’t have been trying� comments. Denver didn’t have to play particularly well to beat the Patriots because the Patriots aren’t that good.

Uh... the Patriots weren't trying the last week. I seem to recall all the backups being in by the middle of the 2nd quarter. In the secondary, where injuries were the worst, they were playing a practice squad WR at DB. If that is the definition of not trying then I don't know what is.

I do agree that Denver didn't play as well I thought they would have to to win. But that isn't because the Pats weren't a good team, it is because they played a poor game. Considering how well they played from December on, I'm confused as to how you could draw another conclusion.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

RE: Bears a one year wonder?

I wrote a post a while back comparing the Bears to the '99 Bucs, and I still think it holds. Anyone who saw the Bears' defense all year knows that they have a great dominating defense, despite one aberration on Sunday. Urlacher is the oldest player (28?) on a young, talented, quick unit. And their division sucks, so it's hard to count the Bears out of the playoff mix for the near future.
The Bucs have always had trouble beating the Panthers, and it's because the Panthers are perfectly designed to beat the Cover 2. The Cover 2 requires 4 lineman to get pressure with little or no blitz, takes away short passes, and stifles the runnnig game. Cornerbacks are not very good in man-to-man, but are expected to jam the receivers, and be opportunistic in going for turnovers. If the QB is protected well, gaps are exposed on the sidelines between the corner and safety, and in the intermediate middle for a TE. Beating this requires a good o-line, a patient QB with the ability to throw an accurate deep sideline pass between the safety and corner, and a fast WR with the skills to get open and make plays. The Panthers have these in the o-line, Delhomme, and Steve Smith. Most teams (like the Falcons, who the Bucs regularly abuse, and the NFC North) do not.
The massive difference between the first Panthers-Bears and the playoff game was the Panthers O-line vs. the Bears D-line. In the first, the Bears abused the Panthers O-line and forced Delhomme to make mistakes. In the second, the Bears D-line was invisible, and Delhomme had all day to make passes. This exposed the cornerbacks, and credit has to be given to Steve Smith, who had a fantastic game.
If you had told me before the game that the Bears offense would create 21 points on their own, I would have bet the house that the Bears win the game... Grossman played well after his initial jitters. Despite this game, I think the Bears are set up to be a good team for a number of years.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Ray #43:

I still don’t buy the ‘too much time off’ excuse for the Colts. They didn’t have any more time off than the Eagles did last year, and the Eagles went to and nearly won the Super Bowl.

When the Eagles starters were sitting on the sideline watching the scrubs and JV lose the game, they were getting angry, really angry. McNabb, Dawkins, Trotter, and others were all disgusted having to watch two weak teams come to the game and get a cheap win.

When they came out against Minnesota, they let this anger fuel their play, and they went and demolished the Vikings. Consider that the Eagles left a cheap 10 points on the field through two dumb mental mistakes, and that half the Vikings points were from a garbage time touchdown.

The Colts seemed to me (an Eagles fan) to take the time off as an R&R period.

The 2004 Eagles scored touchdowns on their second and third possessions, while preventing the Vikings from scoring on their first three.

The contrast between the roll over and play dead for three quarters behavior of the Colts couldn't be starker.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I think AGS has to be either Broncos/Pats or Bears/Panthers. Probably the latter, since the difference was so astounding between the first and the second game.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Re: 61. Can you explain how the great Panthers D gives up 190 yard to Julius Jones, and 100+ to Cadillac, when neither team has a superior O-line? Or how they give up 3 TD's to Rex Grossman?

Who should be nervous?

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Re: arguing about whether your team was a "victim of bad calls."

I don't see this as terribly complicated. There are incorrect calls in every game of the year. Some go for your team, some go against. Live with it! They're kinda like fumbles -- some bounce back to you, and others don't. If you are going to complain that your team lost due to a "bad call," then you better be willing to give up the 2 or 3 victories you had during the regular season due to "bad calls" that went your way.

Also, I don't see what Replay and Challenges add to the game. They take a long time, and so are an incredible buzz kill to this fan, and they appear to be no more or less controversial than the the original calls. Plus the rules about what's reviewable don't really make a lot of sense (e.g., down by contact??). And IMHO, replay seems to have made the refs slower to blow the whistle, slower to throw the flag, slower in general. These guys shouldn't be out there hesitating and second guessing themselves. In all of the several every study I've read (re: several different contexts, none relating to officiating), people who need to make split second decisions should be encouraged just to follow their instincts, b/c second guessing yields inferior results.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I'd pick the Bengals over the Bears for missing the playoffs next year. The offseason isn't here yet but it's hard to see upside in Green bay, Detroit or Minnesota.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

re: 37 (James) --

First of all, it's not as if the reputation of Bears D was built on hype and NFL Primetime "Jacked-Up" segments; they were #1 in DVOA all year. And in the NO game, they did indeed get gashed badly in the first half, made the necessary adjustments, then held NO to 32 yards on 14 carries in the second half. That first half and the Washington and Pittsburgh games were the only times anyone ran successfully on them all year.

As for yesterday's game (and my eyes bleed with even the memory of witnessing it), the problem was not with the rush defense. Carolina's running backs were 26-88, or 3.4 yards a carry; the total running stats are skewed a bit by Steve Smith end-arounds and Delhomme scrambles. The problem really was the obvious one: let's not bother to cover Steve Smith, and let's give Delhomme four or five seconds to throw on every down. The Audibles comments astutely note that the interior of the Bears D-line was particularly at fault, because when the ends were able to generate some pressure, Delhomme simply stepped up in the pocket and found an open man. Without game tape to review, I can't say whether the Panthers did anything drastically different with Tommie Harris than they did in the first meeting, but these may as well have been two completely different teams playing. Even when the Bears brought five or six guys, they usually weren't getting a sniff of Delhomme. And without pressure, the Bears don't get interceptions (except for that ridiculous athletic play by Urlacher).

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

RE: 41

Brady is 28. Seymour, Colvin, Light, Graham, Branch, Koppen, Givens, Samuel, Wilson, Watson, Warren, Wilfork, Mankins and Hobbs (among others) are younger. Wishful thinking will not make this team go away.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Despite some comments here, I think the PI call on Samuels was terrible. I considered the possibility that he cut off the receiver's route by deliberately slowing down, but it looked to me like they were side to side, and the defender needs to be in front of the receiver to cut off his route.

That said, the Pats were just not at their sharpest. The Bailey INT is a great example. New England had eight blockers in on that play and only two receivers out in the pattern and still let a blitzer come completely free up the middle.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

re 62
Lets not forget about that Rob Lytle fumble in the 1977 Championship game, Raider fans comlained about that for years.
And if they ever show it on ESPN classic, watch it, its a really good game.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

RE: #72 Andrew

Yeah exactly. So why in the world does the 'too much time off' excuse get used for the Colts when it's obviously BS? All through the season we heard how there were hardly any elite teams this year, that the Colts were in a class of their own atop the league. Not playing the last two games doesn't change that.

Change of topic: Instant replay. This fan likes instant replay. Sure, there are still contraversial calls, but I'd argue that there are fewer than there otherwise would be. And I want the game to be in the hands of the players as much as possible. That means less blown calls by the refs. If that means stopping the game for a few minutes to look something over again, then so be it. Just get it as right as is possible given then resources available.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

re: #61. I'm certain that the Super Bowl counts as a neutral site, since Carolina surely didn't square off against the Houston Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

65: Seattle has a good chance to win. It's just the specter of Carolina's past that would makes me nervous. On paper, and in the regular season, they look okay. In January, they've become holy terrors, like the Visigoths plundering the countryside as they make their way to the Pacific.

74: Recall I was talking about the Panthers on their road playoff games, not the regular season. One could make the same argument you did in 2003, when they played much worse in the regular season than their 11-5 record would indicate. Then they beat everyone in their path until playing the Pats, and gave them a scare and a half.

80: I had forgotten that game! Lytle's fumble was at least a seven point swing in a 20-17 game, and depending on how far Mike McCoy could have returned the fumble, it might have been a 14 point difference.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

RE#3 I had started this (accopmlished pianist) at 11 am and got caught up in my day. Colts remind me of 1983 Cowboys. Dallas had been to three straght conference championships, was 12-2 and faced Washington in Irving for the division. Ths Skins won 31-10 and the game featured an argument at the LOS between Danny White and center Tom Rafferty. The Cowboys were eliminated in the wild card round by L.A. and made the playoffs once in the next eight years. The Colts, with yet another miserable playoff performance by Manning and a Vandergag redux (2000 miss in O.T. at Miami in W.C.)are probably suffering from a massive crisis in confidence.I think that unless there are staffing or personnel changes,a similar fate awaits them.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Just thinking in print. Carolina has played six playoff games under John Fox (covering all six)and scored 29 in four of those games. What does it all mean?

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

87: Not a bad analogy, although there are several differences. The '83 Cowboys had an aging defensive core of players, whereas the Colts defense is still young. Dallas probably had a better offensive line, and much worse quarterback. The age of the running backs and wide receivers is comparable.

Note also that in the 31-10 game against Washington, Landry ordered Danny White to bark signals at the line of scrimmage on fourth and one to get the Redskins to jump offsides, but White ran a play anyway, which the Redskins stopped. From that point on, Washington poured it on to turn a close game into a blowout.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

James, London re: bears defense
The Bears D has been playing quite crappy of late. Out of the last three "real" games, we were run all over in two of them (@GB, and @PIT) (run over = lot of yards). In the other game, against Atlanta at home, we were completely dominant, so I was hoping it was just a home vs. away thing. That New Orleans game was also ugly. The was the worst defensive performance we had until the Pitt game (yes, even worse than the Cincinatti game).
As far as yesterday's performance goes, we were really scraping the bottom of the barrel at safety. Our starters were either hurt and out, or playing hurt, and our backups are either on IR or suck. No one is really pointing fingers, but from the interviews, it sounds like there was supposed to be safety help deep on both of the Smith TD passes. Also, Alex Brown, our RDE, is mercurial to say the least. He has some games where he looks like the best end in the game (@ NYG last year, @TB, CAR), whereas in most games he looks entirely pedestrian. On our defense, I thought the linebackers, the DTs, Ogunleye, and Vasher all played nice games. The rest of the defense really struggled.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

First of all, shwartz, Carter was maybe two inches out of bounds but also ten yards downfield after the play had been called dead. He was Horse collared right in front of the ref and no call. The refs were much worse in the Panthers game than they were in the AFC games but we don't hear anything about it on these boards. If you want blatant pass interference how about the one in the end zone that wasn't called three feet from the ref? How about the phantom touchdown call as well as a fifteen yard facemask? The helmet never moved. That's what is usppose to sperate the 15 yard from the 5 yard variety. The Bears had no offensive holds all game, yet the refs called two on Buckner. Can anyone recall any DT besides Buckner being called for a defensive hold on a running play? In fact the only penalties enforced on Chicago were the obvious 'have to call variety', offsides and false starts. The refs allowed the Bears to wrap their arms around the Panthers and tackle them all day. Does anyone believe that the refs missing the delay of game was an accident on the interception? Yet they called nine penalties against the least penalized team in football. The officiating is the worse I've seen in fifteen years. It's a real shame. They really had their shit together for a while but have completely blown their jobs here lately. It really is pathetic. Seattle had, what two penalties called against them? Is this a total home team advantage thing the NFL is doing? They need to find two officiating crews capable of taking charge of a game and officiating fairly before these playoffs devolve into a complete farce.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

89:That " much worse Quarterback" was 5-4 in playoff games and victimized by one of the greatest plays in NFL history.This "fantasy football superhero" has a 3-6 record and played his worst games (2003 at New England) in the biggest games. I think that unless Dungy goes or there are personnel changes they are cooked.I'm glad that you have established a proper reference point for Manning;great regular seasons but NEVER won a big game.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Nate, given the time Delhomme had on third and long, and the way he was able to move around in the pocket until a receiver came open, one cannot say that three of the four defensive linemen had nice games. It is impossible. I didn't record the game and watch it again, but my impression is that the Bears' tackles didn't collapse the pocket well enough, thus giving Delhomme too much room to maneuver.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

92: You're losing me. If I had a team, any team, and I had to choose between Peyton Manning (choking and finger pointing and all) and Danny White as my QB, it's Peyton every time. White forced too many interceptions at critical times.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Well, one thing to consider that is common factor in all the Bear's recent performances - no Mike Brown. Mike Brown is one of the best safeties in the league, and he's been gone for the last 5 games. In those 5 games they've been much less bearlike. Especially against Pitt and Carolina. I suspect Mike Brown was something of a leader of the secondary the way that Urlacher is the leader of the front 7, as well as being the spiritual leader.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Re 43: The Colts didn't get to play an 8-8 Minnesota team to get warmed up. They got one of the best six seeds in the history of the league.

I don't pin this loss on Manning, although he certainly played a part in it. He looked uncomfortable early on in the game, and the pressure was seriously impacting his mechanics, resulting in deep throws that were way off target. But he straightened himself out and played very well down the stretch, to the point where he put his team in position to get to overtime. The protection was terrible, and frankly, there's nothing wrong with Manning coming out and saying so (if it was Brady or McNabb saying it, it would be evidence of his leadership, but because everyone is so quick to hate on Manning, his coming out and saying the obvious is somehow indicative of his pampered upbringing or something...). The running game was ineffective. And while the Colts defense played fast and generated a lot of pressure, they were badly outwitted. And it should be mentioned that Pittsburgh, a team that probably would have gone 12-4 or 13-3 with a healthy quarterback, played about as well as they could play.

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Re: 92 & 94. Winning in the regular season is not nothing. If you want to win a Super Bowl, you've got to get to the playoffs first. If Peyton's good for 11-12 wins a year and they get to the playoffs every year, at least they have a chance.

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Manning is 3-6, White was 5-5. White's teams averaged 27 ppg. in the playoffs,Manning's averaged 22. Both averaged 7.5 ypa. The point I was trying to make is that perhaps Manning should be compared to the Danny Whites and not the Elways or Bradys. He took a team with thirteen consecutive wins by at least seven points and crashed them at home in yet another spectacular colllapse. Isnt it true that a player that makes a team great is more valuable than a great player? Does Manning make the Colts great?

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Hey Will....looks like the Panthers grew an O-line since the first game huh! I warned you not to underestimate Jake in the playoffs.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

analysts keep mentioning how the colts offense have had trouble w/ the 3-4 defense--pats in past playoffs, san diego for their first loss thie year, and pitt this past sunday.

does anyone have any real insight in or done any breakdown on this? although indys o-line was horrible this weekend, i find it hard to believe they (and the coaching staff) just cant figure out an effective blocking scheme against the 3-4.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Charles Tillman has never lived up to his rookie promise. He got torched by Roy Williams in the first game of his 2nd season, got injured against GB, and has never been the same. This year he's been torched by Roy Williams, Chad Johnson, and Antonio Bryant. This led to the local media labeling him "Roasted Peanut" (Tillman's moniker is P-Nut). He had a few game-changing/winning INT's against DET and GB, but he never really solved his struggles against speed receivers.

It's funny, the local media was hyping up his training camp matchups with Muhsin Muhammad and how it would make them both better. As it turns out, they both suck.

Also, for whatever reason, the Bears don't "flip" their corners to get a matchup, so if Vasher is on the left, and Chris Thompson is on the right and Steve Smith lines up right, well . . .

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Not counting penalty yards, the Broncos made 24 yards on the drives that netted their first 24 points. Geesh.

Watson's run and takedown was one of the coolest plays I've ever seen, making it a nice highlight-film month for him. Bailey's late hotdog move wasn't Lett-egregious, but he almost paid for it anyway.
Sauerbrun really had a heckuva game, nailing the ball and forcing the one fumble. Best punter game I can remember since Kyle Richardson's act in the Baltimore-NYG Super Bowl.

I wonder if the bye advantage will kick in more this week, as Pittsburgh and Carolina have more reason to be tired and strung out from the road. Has anyone done extensive and intelligent research on what it means to play 3-4 games in a row on the road (three for the Steelers, four for Carolina)? If that's already here on site, somewhere, and I'm late to the party, I apologize.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

re 100: not a thorough breakdown I'm afraid, but I know the Jags gave the Colts a hard time in their first matchup this season (Colts only scored 10) and Jacksonville plays a 4-3 defense.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Oops, I missed that the AGS is going to be Steelers/Colts. Sorry about that.

Also am looking forward to the EPC on Lofa Tatupu. I think that he's probably the best first-round pick this year in terms of what he brought to his team (with maybe Cadillac coming up second). Plus, I'm hoping you'll call him a little pepperpot like Peter King did.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

#69 I completely agree with you. During the replay I thought it was pretty clear Samuel was backing into Lelie and the ball landed in an area where it seemed the corner was cutting off the receiver's angle to it. This would probably be more obvious from the back judge's position and could be the reason he made the call. So while Belichick and others point out that the man closest to the play made no call, that doesnt always mean he is in the best position. Even if its a call that wouldnt be made most of the time I dont see how it could be classified as completely uncalled for.

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Fnor #69,

I still don’t agree that the PI on Samuel was bad. It was very clever on his part, but he did see the ball, slow down and take an angle away from the ball. So, PI is running into, holding or pushing a reciever such that he is denied a chance to catch a catchable ball. There is an exception that the defender gets off free if he is also making a move to get to the ball. Samuel was clearly not moving towards the ball, and by slowing and moving in the other direction, he was pushing the WR out of the path he was taking to the ball. I just don’t see the controversy.

Go back and watch this play again. What you refer to as cleverly slowing down is Samuel getting shoved in his left shoulder by Lelie's right hand. The only reason Samuel was forcing himself towards Lelie was because Lelie was forcing Samuel away. Also, Samuel had inside position. He had just as much right to be were he was as Lelie. That was a horrible call.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Veering wildly off-topic and heading for a tree...

The FOX presentation is a bit strange. Is Dick Stockton really wearing a lime green tie? Also, they went to commercial at one point with Jane’s Addiction’s “Jane Says.� What kind of NFL bumper music is that?

FOX's lead-in-to-commercial music often seems a bit quirky. A few weeks back, I heard them use Los Lobos/Richard Thompson's "Wreck Of The Carlos Rey" which, great though it is, might be strangest choice of tune to accompany a game in the history of professional sport.

Unless it was a Texans game, of course. In which case the image of a ship sinking slowly with the loss of all hands on board is actually pretty apposite.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

RE: 107.

Yes, but Lelie was pushing Samuel away because Samuel was running to his left and pushing Lelie to the left with his body. If you watch them run in from about 20 yards out, you will see Samuel initiate contact at about the 12 or 10. He slows down and starts crowding Lelie to the left. Lelie then tries to push him away at about the 5 or the goal-line.

Whatever Samuel's infraction was, it should have been called back at about the 10. I don't think he was guilty of anything in the end zone.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

#100: Because in a 3-4 you have more flexibility on blitzes and coverages, and therefore are able to conceal your defence more adeptly than you would if you had another lineman in lieu of a linebacker. For instance, you can bring a CB blitz off the outside and send that side's OLB out into a short zone, moving the FS over to cover the deep zone, and shift that side's MLB over to blitz or do run support depending on the situation. That way, you're still left with a MLB to plug a gap if it's a run and another OLB to run a flat zone or something similar.

#91: The other way you can have a 15-yarder is if the facemask was grabbed and that was why the tackle was made. The ref could have judged that were it not for the yanking (and he was yanking, you could see it) and the slowdown associated with that, he would not have been hit out of bounds before he got into the end zone. In that case, the facemask was responsible for the tackle. I'm not fond of that kind of call, but it is his call. And it was a pretty egregious facemask.

Oswlek: He doesn't have as much right, though. The standard for offencive interference is much higher in that sort of situation, you have to actually bowl a player that is standing there or changing directions to adjust to a pass to get it called in my experience (and there was one of that variety in one of the NFC games that wasn't). And even if it weren't, the league would never allow CBs to just cut people off like that. It would be the end of deep passing. They've also shown that the tolerance given to recievers is much greater as far as extracurriculars goes. I think the bottom line is: The reciever has a right to his route and his shot at catching the ball without getting touched unless he doesn't blatantly throw someone off of the coverage or the pass is essentially a jump ball.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

On the Colts:

1) Manning hates to get hit. Dirty his jersey a few times and he gets happy feet.

2) Well-coached teams make adjustments when the protection is getting overrun -- max protect, screens, draws, three step drops, whatever. Blame the guy calling the plays for Indy.

3) I leave you with this thought. Can you imagine what Bill Parcells would do if a quarterback waved off the punt team Parcells was sending into the game? I know exactly what Parcells would do: call a time out, chew out the QB on national TV, and sit his butt on the bench. The fact that Mannning runs the show is the reason that the Colts will never be a Super Bowl team. They are just Vick and Falcons with better passing numbers.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

The DB-getting-bowled-over play was in SEA/WAS in the 2nd or 3rd quarter... it was a deep slant route and the defender moved to cover him as he moved into the guy's zone... and then adjusted his route downfield, knocking the back off-balance. I forget who the players were, unfortunately.

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

On the Samuel call:

I thought that Asante has the best shot of catching that ball. He had the position and may well have chased it down for a pick if the Lelie hadn't started beating on him.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Re:35

I especially loved this, from Saturdays thread;

571:Well regardless of what happens from here on out, I do not think DEN has looked very good at all and I expect IND to win by 10 minimum. NE has handed this game to DEN with all the fumbles and such and DEN has not done anything convincing with it.
Becephalus — 1/14/2006 @ 11:15 pm

575:Re:571-Just to be certain, Pittsburgh havent conceded tomorrows game have they?
Dean from Oz — 1/14/2006 @ 11:23 pm

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

What was the deal with Urlacher jumping over the Carolina line to hit Delhomme on the final kneeldown of the game? It felt very, very low class. Was Urlacher thinking he was going to make a play, or was he trying to injure someone? It seems he was the one that was injured though; walked off holding his hand.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Hey Jerry, I think I clearly stated that I wouldn't be terribly surprised if the Panthers won, and I never said anything derogatory about Delhomme. True, I didn't account for the Bears' defensive tackles being so ineffectual in rushing the passer, but I also didn't account for the Bears corners falling on their faces as Smith ran down the field, or Rivera not making any coverage adjustments in the course of the game, or the Bears punter giving away field position in gobs (although I should have factored that in). They play the games because the outcomes are very difficult to forsee.

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Note: I am a huge Colts fan.

I haven't posted on here in awhile, but I think that there are some several obvious things that are not brought up. Some of these may have. Here's my take.

1. Pittsburgh is the best team in the AFC. Losing your QB in the middle of the season and putting up losses doesn't suddenly make you bad at full strength.

The reactionism of having everyone talk about how bad they were in comparison to the Colts was absolutely insane.

2. Pittsburgh matches up favorably against the Colts.

A small fast defense against Bettis is very difficult. Heath Miller is also a good tight end, the Colts D struggles against any good tight ends.

3. The Colts play calling was bad at first. They should have ran some draws or screens. 95% of their running plays was the stretch.

When the D is getting outside rushers, the stretch isn't a good play to call. It worked sometimes for yards, but up the middle would have been a good idea. Especially a draw.

4. Manning had no time. He started running backwards. There were times he could have stepped up in the pocket and had time, but was so worried he ran into the rush.

5. I too thought this was our tuck rule game.

So... yeah. I'm extremely bummed. I think we need a better offensive line, and a power back. I think we need to stop looking for the perfect play every play when we are losing.

I don't care about the rest. The Steelers won.

The Steelers disguised their blitzes better than I've ever seen. I had no idea where they were coming from. It was a sight to see.

So. There you have it. Steelers v. Seattle. Steelers win.

And I look forward to some Oline draft picks, or a power runner.

Or a LB that can make a difference.

A full back that can block might be nice. Power run occationally. There.. that's a great idea.

Mack Strong on the Colts, and we win that game.

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

NO WAY! how else could we have the beard bowl?

now i am pulling for portis style press joint press conference featuring plummer and roethlisberger wearing eye patches and saying "YARRR!" a lot.

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

RE: #113

That is as much homerism as anything any Denver fan could ever say about that game. Beating on Samuel. Give me a break.

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Various notes:

1. NFL needs professional, full-time refs. Period.

2. Re #44 and rules taking judgement out of the refs calls. Agree. Why doesn't the "infinite plane" of the goalline apply on fumbles like Bailey's? The ball crossed the goaline in the air and then lands out of bounds. Instead of a judgement call - was it inside or outside the pylon when it crosses the the goalline, it's a much easier (and reviewable call) - where did it land. By the way, if the ball lands out of bounds in the end zone on a kickoff, is it a touchback or a penalty?

3. I thought Manning's 3rd down call on the play before the missed FG was terrible. Try for the 1st down, not a big gain.

4. Have there ever been as many muffs and fumbles on STs as this weekend?

5. Ned's point on Glenn's false start was excellent.

6. Another criticism of Manning: why didn't he alter the pace at some point, especially late 3rd/early 4th qtr? Taking all that time on the play clock is fine when you're ahead and the offense is clicking, but when you're behind or struggling, maybe a true hurry-up offense is in order.

7. Bears D and Indy O should get the blame for these losses. 21 points from the Bears O should win that game; so should holding Steelers to 21.

8. Generally I've no trouble with resting the starters when whatever can be clinched has been clinched. But maybe when your qb has only 7 games of NFL experience, maybe a little work in the last week is in order. Grossman's overall stats were bad but I wonder about his DVOA/DPAR for the 1st half of his attempts and 2nd half. He played much better by conventional measurres after his 1st 15 passes. Maybe a half of work against MIN might have made a difference.

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

It's amazing what different camera angles can do. I've just had a look at the game highlights on NFL.com, and they show the Samuels pass interference play from a camera angle which comes from behind the endzone. I've already posted on this thread saying it was a bad call, but I've got to say it sure DOES look like interference from this particular angle.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

One thing I definitely wont be doing is looking forward to a Steelers/Seahawks superbowl.

There is way too much work to be done in Denver (and Seattle) to start down that road.

My fear now is the Indy game was Pittsburghs "superbowl", and they think that the hard work is done and/or are just flat this week.

And I think 6 straight elimination games (7 including Denver) is a tough ask.

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

re 115
well I think if you go back and look at the afc preview you will find at least one person who predicted all 4 games correctly.
Where is the love?

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Uhh, more relevantly, a kickoff that goes out of bounds before the endzone, but lands behind the goal line is (IIRC) a penalty.

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Almost from the start of the Denver-NE game, I thought "Wow, the Patriots are spending a lot of time yapping at the refs." Many others have noted the same thing, but Aaron says that "everybody does it." I'm no NE fan, but I got to thinking--I watched this game on television. That means that I saw what the director chose to show me. It's very possible that NE yaps that much all the time, and it was just emphasized more on this telecast. It's also possible that other teams do spend a lot of time yapping at the refs while the broadcast is showing us fans holding up insipid signs, cheerleaders "churning" pom-poms (what the heck do you call that thing they always seem to do with the pom poms? "Churning" is the only image I can conjure up), Bettis' family, etc. etc. Since I root for another team, I'd like to think the Patriots are spoiled brats and the Steelers are noble and upright paragons, but, really, that's just prejudice. The truth of the matter is, I have no idea--I only see what is shown to me. So, I've decided to give the Patriots a pass on this one.

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

"Oh, and I can’t believe Jake Plummer has time to prepare for the playoffs in between shooting his scenes as Jesus...�

Growing a beard is not as time consuming as you seem to believe, Aaron.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

So can I finally get support for the Fire Mike Vanderjagt petition? Vanderjagt doesn't just miss kicks - he completely and utterly shanks them, and while this miss was a 40+ yard field goal, he should make every Colt fan hold their breath for *any* field goal. He's 1) not worth the money, 2) not worth a second roster spot, and 3) so bad on kickoffs that if he's ever used as a backup kickoff kicker, they'd be better off with a squib kick from their long snapper.

And did anyone else notice that the Steelers were doing a lot of what the Patriots did last year in the playoffs? I thought that was really cute.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

#113: Say what you will about Manning, insubordinate to his coach is not among his sins. That 4th down play was agreed to by Dungy. He told Peyton to go for it over the radio. The punt team came in automatically and Peyton waved them off. And really, there was no other call in that situation. You have to go for it on pretty much any 4th and 2 if you're down 18 pts with one quarter to go, especially to a team that you know will not give you any clock stoppages for incompletions.

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

You always had me, Pat!

And, again, let's give some respect to Denver. I don't want to see Steelers fans treating DEN the way everyone treated us last week. That's just not cool. Remember, Denver was always ahead of us in DVOA!

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

RE: 122

Not homerism. Just the truth. Look at who is using his arm to hit the other player as they are running side by side down the field.

If what Asante did is pass interference, then teams might as well not put cornerbacks on the field (which is apparently what the NFL would like to see).

Based on Belichick's comments today, the side judge (who was right on top of the play) told Asante he hadn't done anything wrong.

Doesn't really matter. When a team forces 5 turnovers, that team deserves to win the game. Nobody in the Pats organization is complaining about bad calls. They know why they lost.

To answer a question Aaron posed: Yes, having to go through the wildcard round definitely increases the odds of a "turnover" loss. Every team in the NFL has a mistake-game every so often. By playing three games to get to the big dance instead of two games, you have 50% more chance of a "mistake-game" knocking you out of the tournament.

A little run game would help, too. The Pats have been putting too much pressure on Brady all year...pressure that would be greatly reduced by a running first down every once in while.

It's frustrating, because the Pats' gameplan and execution gave them a very good shot of knocking off the Broncos. As I expected, the Pats defense was outstanding -- front seven AND secondary. I knew the Broncos couldn't run on that defense and the pass defense was holding its own. But, the Broncos forced turnovers and the Pats didn't. Make more big plays and you are the better team.

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

ok I went back and read a bunch of the Saturday game thread.
Big thumbs up to
Fnor
tunesmith
Vash
RLB
for sticking up for the Steelers and having the unmitigated gall to actually think they could win.
And to anyone I missed.
I have something to say here about the site.
I miss James
I miss James Gibson
I miss Pat
I miss Carl
There are too many regulars who do not come anymore.
And there are way to many annoying posters who are complete homers.
Not just the lhc fans.
Seriously, lets make everyone pick the games.
If they are wrong AND are annoying we should hammer them.
Big thumbs up to dean from oz.

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

"Say what you will about Manning, insubordinate to his coach is not among his sins. That 4th down play was agreed to by Dungy. He told Peyton to go for it over the radio. The punt team came in automatically and Peyton waved them off."

Baloney. Steve DeOssie was on the radio in Boston this afternoon. He played 13 years in the NFL as a long-snapper on punt teams. He said that never, not once, during those 13 years did his punt team EVER run onto the field without a signal from the coach.

Dungy was just covering up for being humiliated on national TV by his QB. And, if he hadn't planned to punt, then the utter lack of discipline by his special teams operation is even worse.

Parcells would have called a time out and yanked Peyton Manning on the spot, delivering an in-your-face, finger-in-the-chest, butt-chewing all the way to the bench.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Does anyone else think that this game really illustrates the importance of Edgerrin James to the Colts? He had an incredible 9 minutes in the 2nd quarter, something like 60 yds on the Colts 97 yd drive. And then inexplicably, was pretty much written out of the game while it was still 14-3 in the third quarter. Aaron mentioned looking into the FO offensive line stats after the Colts O line stunk up the joint despite being #1 in both measures of effectiveness. Well, it seems to me that pretty much all of the run effectiveness comes from James' anomalous skills. I think he may be an exception to the rule that running backs are easier to replace than their star power would indicate, at least in the Colts system. I think James may be the only guy around who can make that stretch work.

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Wait, Tatupu is a pepper... pot...

Pepper.. pot... exter... oh, no....

Seattle will win it all this year. God save us.

(If you don't get it, the explanation is linked in my name).

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

"I think James may be the only guy around who can make that stretch work."

Denver has done pretty well with the stretch play over the years.

I had never realized it until Belichick commented on Denver's run game back before their regular season matchup. He said that Indy was good at it, but Denver's offense was even more heavily built around the stretch play. They were the model for Indy's stretch-play run game. I think Denver has demonstrated that the stretch play can be effective with many different RBs.

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Re: #137

Re: Dungy’s claim that he called for the fourth down passing play when Manning waived the Colt’s punting team off the field.

Baloney. Steve DeOssie was on the radio in Boston this afternoon. He played 13 years in the NFL as a long-snapper on punt teams. He said that never, not once, during those 13 years did his punt team EVER run onto the field without a signal from the coach.
Dungy was just covering up for being humiliated on national TV by his QB.

I wondered about that when I watched Dungy claimiong that Manning was just following his orders when he waived off the punting team. What could have Dungy said otherwise that would not have been a criticism of Manning for running amok on the field? This event points to the kind of situation that can wreck a team.

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

At least maybe more people will know how good Al Wilson is now.
He second in All-Pro voting, behind only Brian Urlacher. He might not have finished top-5 in fan voting for the pro bowl, but the players, coaches, and writers all know how good he is.

I was listening to the game on ESPN radio today and when PIT went up 21-3, the two idiots on there said something to the effect of “1:20 to go, this one is over.� I looked at my clock and saw that it was only 3:10, and I couldn’t understand how a game was almost over in less than two hours. Then they said there was 1:20 left in the THIRD QUARTER!! And this game is over? Indy has over 16 minutes left to go and they’re down by less than three scores? How can you count them out at that point? Amazing.
It gets worse. ESPN started running a poll on how the Broncos would do against the Steelers next Sunday... when there were still FIVE MINUTES LEFT IN THE GAME.

As a Broncos fan, I'm glad the Steelers won, but I wouldn't have minded seeing Indy win, just to shove that in ESPN's collective faces.

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Well, I suppose that I believe Tony Dungy when he said he ordered the 4th down attempt. Does anyone have a link to a reputable story that says otherwise? This seems to be a hot topic, so it should not be hard for someone from ESPN etc. to interview several of the guys from the punt team. They would know if the story was true, and would probably be willing to talk. Also, thanks hwc for the info on Denver's running game; I haven't watched a lot of Denver games. My thinking is Edge makes the Colts stretch work. There's a clear difference when Edge is the back versus Mungro or Rhodes, whereas it seems that Denver has success no matter who is running.

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I agree about not buying the Colts explanation. Let's hypothetically assume Dungy wants to punt. Manning refuses to go off the field.

Dungy's choices are:
1) Waste one of the timeouts that are more precious than anything you've got left just so you can punt the ball and get in a visible fight with your franchise QB, effectively ending your season.
2) Suck it up and let him get away with it then. Come up with cover story later.

Dungy really had no other choice at that point. The game was too important and the timing too critical to risk infighting. Not that this is necessarily what happened, but if it did they would certainly use the exact excuse that they did use.

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

RE: 141

What was even more amazing was Manning in his postgame press conference describing one of the pass plays to Reggie Wayne, "that was an ad lib; we sorta drew that one up in the dirt." I'm thinking, wow what would Parcells or Belichick do with a free lancing QB. The last one of those Belichick had to deal with was Bernie Kosar.

RE: 143

I had never made the connection between Denver and the stretch play until Belichick talked about it at length in a Friday press conference. Watch Denver next week. Once you look for it, you'll see it over and over. They get everybody moving one direction and then usually cut it back against the grain. It's murder against an undisciplined defense.

Reading between the lines from Belichick's comments, Denver has a much more elaborate offense than Indy's, with billions and billions of formations and looks to get to the same basic set of plays. Reading between the lines, Belichick clearly has a lot of respect for Shanahan.

The key for both Denver and Indy is "zone blocking". They aren't trying to blast a specific hole for the runner or even really move the line of scrimmage. Instead, they are trying to get the D-line sliding in one direction (to cover the threat of the outside rid) and let the runner pick a hole and make one cut back against the grain. The other approach to running is what Belichick calls "scheme" blocking, where a team is using blocking schemes with the intention of parting a specific hole in the defensive line. This usually involves a pulling guard, a fullback, or a TE at the intended point of attack. This would be what we commonly call a "power" running game and would be used by a team with larger, more powerful offensive lines. This is more effective in a goal line or short yardage situation.

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

#123 MRH "7. Bears D and Indy O should get the blame for these losses. 21 points from the Bears O should win that game; so should holding Steelers to 21.

But if the Colts offense is better and the game is closer, the Steelers play a more aggressive offense in the second half and probably don't get stopped at 21.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Also, this theory about Manning waving off the punt team ties into my reason about why Manning gets whooped in the playoffs. The coaches give him too much free reign and as a result, when his decision making processes become compromised due to pressure (both gamewise and pass rush) he makes poor play decisions that cost them the game.

When Manning can't get anything going and his team is down 14 points in the playoffs, he's thinking "I need to win the game", not "time for a screen to dial back the blitzers". That's supposed to be what the OC tells him to do. Unfortunately with King Manning they never call "one" play for him, so he can do whatever he wants as it leads them to playoff failure. I think Manning will be a SB winning QB - as soon as a head coach that actually runs the offense takes over.

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

"I think Manning will be a SB winning QB - as soon as a head coach that actually runs the offense takes over."

I don't think Manning would ever allow the Colts to hire a coach who would reign him in. When he decides to fire Dungy, he'll hire another coach who will be in his hip pocket just the same.

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Parcells would have called a time out and yanked Peyton Manning on the spot, delivering an in-your-face, finger-in-the-chest, butt-chewing all the way to the bench.

Gosh, I know Parcells is the greatest coach of all time, but I never knew he was so good that he could do all that from the golf course.

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

"The protection was terrible, and frankly, there’s nothing wrong with Manning coming out and saying so (if it was Brady or McNabb saying it, it would be evidence of his leadership, but because everyone is so quick to hate on Manning, his coming out and saying the obvious is somehow indicative of his pampered upbringing or something…)."

I agree to a point. But Manning would, in my opinion, have been far better off *publicly* saying something canned and easy like "I'm the leader of this team, and I take full responsibility for this loss." If he wanted to talk to about his o-line, do it "man-to-men" with them, with no media around. It is hard for me to picture Tom Brady or Donovan McNabb saying what Manning said.

I also agree that emphasizing the Steelers' being a 6th seed is not fair. This is a team that went 15-1 and then 11-5 with a 1st place schedule, and, according to Aaron Schatz' down efficiency stats, has some indicators of being BETTER in 2006. This is a very high-quality football team--not a typical #6 seed.

That said, the Colts need to to take a hard look at the Manning/Dungy combo and at their overall plan. Whatever the circumstances, there was no excuse for their performance in the first quarter. Manning's technical proficiency and Dungy's dignity need to be supplemented with a little primal craziness and unity. They need to get a little bigger, a little meaner, and Manning needs to re-think his leadership style, IMO.