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

Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. (This Audibles is really long, so that's extra true this week.) It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2007. Games are chosen based on our own personal viewing preferences, and are going to reflect the teams we support and the cities where we live.

Miami Dolphins 27 at Detroit Lions 10

Doug Farrar: I have to give Phil Simms credit for a great zinger -- when Joey Harrington walked on the field to a host of raspberries after Detroit's opening TD, Simms said, "It's like he never left. He's getting booed, and he's behind!"

Mike Tanier: Simms had another funny crack in the early game after seeing one of those video postcard greetings from the Kitna family. "I'm just glad Jon didn't shave his daughter's head," he said, refering to the fact that all of the boys in the family have the "tight" look.

Michael David Smith: Mike Williams gets a standing ovation for catching a pass on third down that ends up seven yards short of the first down. I believe that's what our president was referring to when he coined the phrase, "the soft bigotry of low expectations."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10 at Dallas Cowboys 38

Bill Barnwell: Is Tony Romo going to get MVP talk because of how he played in a game against the third-worst pass defense in football?

Aaron Schatz: That's not as bad as the Dolphins-Lions game, where they kept talking about how Joey Harrington is playing much better now that he doesn't have the pressure of being in Detroit. Um, no. Joey Harrington is playing much better today because he gets to PLAY against Detroit. Actually, worse -- Detroit without the best player on the team, Shaun Rogers. Man, they were pathetic.

Ian Dembsky: Look at Dallas' schedule down the stretch -- at NY Giants (too banged up to slow down Dallas), vs. New Orleans (26th in defensive DVOA), at Atlanta (19th), vs. Philadelphia (the team just won't be the same without McNabb), and vs. Detroit (31st). If they can beat the Giants in New York, they should cruise to a division title, and frankly, Romo would probably get my vote for MVP. Look at how he's turned their season around! Coming into this week, he's second in the NFL in passer rating, and he just might be first after this five-TD performance. Yes, he's absolutely a candidate for MVP at this point, bad pass defense of the Bucs or not. He's got to come up big next week in New York for this to matter, but odds are he will. Oh, and it's not like I'm biased because he's starting for my fantasy football team or anything. (Ok, maybe a little...)

Denver Broncos 10 at Kansas City Chiefs 19

Jason Beattie: Anybody outside of the Denver area watching this game? I have a question regarding the roughing the passer rule. Ebenezer Ekuban got called for roughing for what looked to be his momentum carrying him into Green. It was obvious he was trying to hold up, he was holding his arms back, and he didn't even knock him down, just hit him in the head with his arm. So does the roughing the passer call count even in incidental cases, or was this a bogus call? It was a third-down non-conversion play in the red zone, so it basically meant the difference of a FG vs. a TD.

Also: John Fogerty halftime performance? I'm tingling with anticipation!

Bill Barnwell: I don't get the game on TV, and none of the bars are open.

On the bright side, that means I don't get to see the John Fogerty halftime performance. You know he's gonna cover "This Is Our Country." You just know it.

Doug Farrar: Watching on and off. Bryant Gumbel really needs to not announce football games. Golf, maybe. Curling.

"Travelin' Band" and "Fortunate Son." Though if he reads FO, he'll kick himself for missing that opportunity.

The Ekuban penalty looked like an overcall to me, but I'm not sure where the league is with this rule right now. Could very well be another case of interpretation leaving the officials out to dry. I loved Collinsworth's "addition" to the call, when he inferred that Mike Pereira would say that any defender who came into a quarterback with his hands up was automatically guilty, and should be flagged as a matter of course. I hope that was an example of attempted humor on Collinsworth's part. If Mike Pereira would say that, he needs to be doing something else.

Bill Moore: Didn't John Fogerty do the MIA/DET game? He's not doing both is he? Frankly, he was pretty damn bad. He's lost a step, if he ever actually had a step.

Jason Beattie: Yeah, it was a publicity stunt I guess. Fogerty performed in Detroit then made the long arduous trek to Kansas City via private jet. It's like that time Phil Collins flew from London to New York to perform twice at Live Aid, only you know, lame.*

He performed a painful medley of one-minute snippets of CCR hits. 30-year-old songs are just what this halftime show needed! (Thanks Janet Jackson, for making it so any live football halftime performance may only feature artists who you'd never ever want to see topless.)

*This statement was in no way saying Phil Collins was ever cool. Just his intercontinental stunt.

Aaron Schatz: Can the Broncos name Lenny Walls as team MVP when he's not on their team anymore?

Mike Tanier: You all know that Fogerty needs the money, right? He lost the rights to all of his old CCR songs. He's a little long in the tooth, but I won't diss him. He sounded OK.

Mike Bell has looked bad, dropping passes, hitting his own blockers and bouncing backwards. I guess we have finally hit diminishing returns when it comes to plugging in any old person to play running back.

Bill Barnwell: Okay, I can't be the only person who read those two points from Mike and immediately thought the Broncos should put John Fogerty in at running back.

Mike Tanier: Remember the story of when Ralph Kiner was losing it while covering the Mets and they played "Centerfield" at Shea Stadium? The words: "John Fogerty, Centerfield" appear on the JumboTron or whatever, so Kiner announces that "John Fogerty is now in center field for the Mets." The other guy corrects him, so Kiner says "Sorry, that's Len Dykstra in center field. Fogerty moves over to right."

Houston Texans 11 at New York Jets 26

Bill Barnwell: This is like the CBS R-Team. I am pretty sure the next broadcast team they'd send out would be Jeff Probst and the clock from "60 Minutes."

Laveranues Coles just beat Dunta Robinson for 38 yards; Robinson was sitting on the slant (which, in all fairness, I'd be doing against Chad Pennington and Laveranues Coles, too) and when Coles changed his route to a go, Robinson's hips didn't transfer fast enough and he had no shot.

On third-and-goal, meanwhile, Pennington hit Robinson in the hands on the goal line but Robinson dropped it. Pennington really looks like he's forcing the ball around the goal line, like he's trying to make something happen.

Faggins was just called for defensive pass interference on a 32-yard pass play where Justin McCareins caught the ball three yards out of bounds. Terrible call -- there was interference, but no way was the ball catchable. Earned the Jets three points.

The Texans defensive backs are great athletes, it looks like, but they don't look very well-coached. On a third-down play, Robinson really half-heartedly followed his (Y) receiver motioning into the slot before the snap, to the point where I was yelling out blitz. He immediately came and on pure acceleration alone, Pennington couldn't avoid him and hit him in the hands again with a throw.

David Carr does a really swell job of mixing up the snap counts and cadences.

Andre Dyson is terrified of Andre Johnson beating him deep. On third-and-5, he lines up three yards across from Johnson but doesn't get a bump; Johnson sells him on the go route for two steps and when he turns into his slant, Dyson's whole lower half locked up like it had too much to process. Johnson got 16 out of it.

The next third down the Texans had, though, Johnson was lined up against David Barrett and didn't get a chance to sell the go-route; the Jets blitzed and Carr threw to Johnson on his hot route after Johnson had taken two steps, which didn't leave Johnson any time to scare the bejeezus out of Barrett, which meant a forced incomplete pass.

Tim Gerheim: Boredom is Texans-Jets. Long drive, field goal. Long drive, punt. Rinse, repeat.

I haven't seen the Jets play in a long time, so I don't know how their run defense has been each week. I'm hoping it hasn't been as awful as it's looked, because if this is the first week it's worked, that says a lot about how awful the Texans offense is. They've had no success, but it's not for lack of trying. One drive they ran on just about every first down play.

I really like Dexter Wynn as a kick returner. He's not a tremendous speed burner although he has enough speed, but his biggest strength is that he sets up his blocks well, and he is good at breaking tackles.

Bill Barnwell: Jets put together a 92-yard drive after Tim Dwight decides fielding a punt on the five is a good idea and then running horizontally with it an even better one.

There was a really fascinating play where DeMeco Ryans and Pennington were both barking out signals with two seconds left on the play clock, Pennington presumably changing the play and Ryans adjusting to what he thought the audible would be. Pennington play-faked and Ryans bit and sheepishly began to cycle back into his vacated deep zone, which Chris Baker was entering into for a 28 yard completion. He got served. Of course, on the next play, he tackled a Jets RB for a two yard gain and the announcers continued to swoon over him, not noticing the previous play.

Cotchery and Coles had two really nice catches to get the rest of the yardage on the drive, but Pennington's conniving was the best part of the drive.

Oh, and by the way Tim, this is the best Jets rush defense I've seen all season, by far.

"The Jets have shut down the Texans running game, you're right partner!"
"That's the frustrating things about playing this Jets team."

Literally, that's what they said as I was writing this.

Aaron Schatz: It was nice to finally play this game after a non-stop week of hype about the "Maddox Bowl."

Here's Houston's first drive: quick slant to Moulds for six yards, quick hitch to Owen Daniels that Daniels dropped, dumpoff to Wali Lundy for two yards that was cancelled (more about that in a second), and then quick hitch to Owen Daniels for two yards. The Texans must throw for more than 15 yards, say, once a game or something.

The Lundy dumpoff was cancelled by a weird rule where the Texans illegally substituted, running a no huddle but substituting without letting the Jets substitute. But instead of getting a penalty, the officials come out and just say "the play doesn't count" and the next play is the same down and distance. Does anyone understand that rule? Why did they not get a five-yard illegal substitution penalty (Which the Jets would have declined, making it fourth-and-2)?

Another note: Daniels was playing wide on both of those quick hitches. On the second one, Andre Johnson was actually in the slot between erstwhile "tight end" Daniels and the offensive line. It sure seems like teams are playing "tight ends" as wideouts -- not just slot receivers, but WIDE receivers -- more than any time since NFL fans started referring to tight end and split end as different positions.

Tried to watch Mario vs. Brick for most of the first half before I gave up on this game and switched to the Falcons and Saints. Brick seemed to do a good job most of the time, but there were a couple times where Mario really whipped him, one of those ended up as a sack, and then Williams just destroyed Pennington right after he got a throw off, and it looked for a bit like Pennington might have re-injured his shoulder. (He didn't.) Mario is still stronger against the run than people realize, and the Texans seem to have given up on dropping him into coverage on zone blitzes, which I noticed them doing way too often when I charted their game against the Cowboys.

Pittsburgh Steelers 0 at Baltimore Ravens 27

Doug Farrar: One of the two games I have (SF-STL) has Ron Pitts and Jesse Palmer. That might explain why I'm watching BAL-PIT. Boy, am I glad I never tried to get a Communications degree.

I think November 26 should officially be proclaimed "I'm Glad I'm Not Bryant McFadden Day." So far, halfway through the first quarter, the second-year Pittsburgh corner has been roasted on at least two pass plays and got knocked halfway to Christmas by Jamal Lewis.

Baltimore's second touchdown drive was something Bronko Nagurski would have enjoyed. Eight plays, 47 yards, and six of the plays were runs either right up or right near the middle. You can sometimes see a defense just lose its bearings, and that's what the Steelers defense seemed to do here. More and more, you've got DBs trying to tackle Jamal Lewis, which isn't exactly a recipe for success.

Bart Scott came in untouched and just whaled on Roethlisberger. Third sack of the day for Big Ben. He's out on third-and-17. Batch in.

Bill Barnwell: Is it clear if he's hurt or benched Doug?

Doug Farrar: He jogged off the field, but his head went pretty hard against the turf. I'd say it was more a precautionary move. The report is a chest injury, and his return is probable.

The only time this season I've seen a quarterback under siege to this extent was when Andrew Walter got sacked nine times by the Seahawks a few Monday nights ago. Yes, I just compared the offense of the defending Super Bowl champs to the Oakland Raiders. Roethlisberger is getting heat on just about every play, and the distressing thing is how much of the pressure is unblocked. I understand when it's coming from the edge -- if you're sending your tight end(s) out on patterns just about every time when your line can't block, that I get, even though it's pretty stupid. But now, Baltimore defenders are coming through gaps in the line untouched. It's easy to see why this line is 20th in Adjusted Line Yards and 23rd in Adjusted Sack Rate. After this game, I'd be surprised if both of those numbers didn't fall through the floor.

Mike Tanier: Favorite whipping boy Jamal Lewis looked great today. Granted, so did Mike Anderson, Musa Smith, and Ovie Mughelli, but Jamal looked better than he has looked in years. He was making decisive cuts in the backfield and finishing runs very well. Maybe he has gotten his legs back.

Let's talk about the fullback dive. You usually call a fullback dive when linebackers are selling out against the halfback on outside runs. For best results, you fake the pitch to the halfback, then give it to the fullback right up the gut, and the vacating linebackers leave a little seam for a 5-yard run. You see it all the time when teams run an option or Wing-T offense, but it's a once-per-game strategy in the pros ... unless you are facing the Steelers, Ovie Mughelli had several carries in this game; he had at least three in the first half, and they were all on dives off a fake pitch to Jamal Lewis. The Steelers linebackers were just over-pursuing and leaving lanes up the middle wide open. Several of Lewis' better runs were right into the cutback lane, and you could see Joey Porter and Larry Foote getting blocked from behind in what was supposed to be their lanes. These guys know better. My guess? They were trying to make big plays to help the offense, and instead they were getting gashed.

Aaron Schatz: On "NFL Matchup" today they were discussing Ogie Mughelli as the next Lorenzo Neal-level blocking fullback. If Jamal Lewis looks better over the last couple weeks, that's the reason why. (By the way, the other candidate for fullback fame among us hardcore fans is Moran Norris, who actually plays more of an H-back role these days and just signed a three-year extension in San Francisco.)

Tim Gerheim: I never understood why the new regime in Houston went after Jameel Cook as a fullback instead of keeping Norris. That goes double after today, when the running game was pathetic and Cook got absolutely destroyed at least one as the lead blocker.

Mike Tanier: The Ravens front seven is nasty. This is apparently news to Ben Roethlisberger and Ken Whisenhunt. How many seven step drop passes did they plan to call? How many times was Big Ben going to pump fake and wait for things to develop? There's a reason there was so much single coverage out there, Ben: a seven-man pass rush was coming. Ben's gotta read the rush better. And Whisenhunt has to develop a better protection scheme against the heavy blitz.

Michael David Smith: Steve McNair threw a beautiful strike to tight end Todd Heap in the end zone. He's not the player he was a few years ago, but he still makes some nice plays, and when he avoids mistakes like he did yesterday, Baltimore is really good.

Ryan Wilson: First, Rex Ryan should get some kind of award for "Best Game Plan" because no matter what his defense did, the Steelers didn't have an answer. It's one thing to blame the Steelers' offensive line for giving up nine sacks, but a lot those sacks were Ravens' defenders running untouched into Ben Roethlisberger. Willie Parker whiffed a handful of times and at some point Ken Whisenhunt might want to change up the protection schemes so that Baltimore can't overload one side of the line all day long.

Until now, I never thought Cowher might retire just because he hadn't yet reworked his deal. But after watching him meander up and down the sidelines the last few weeks, I wouldn't be surprised if he called it quits during the Week 17 post-game press conference.

And it's a good thing Cowher benched Ike Taylor. Bryant McFadden and Deshea Townsend didn't do much all day. To be fair, the Steelers didn't score, so I guess it doesn't matter if it's 3-0 or 300-0, but given that Taylor's the best CB on the team, keeping him on the sidelines seems silly.

Jacksonville Jaguars 24 at Buffalo Bills 27

Bill Moore: Wow, crazy play in Buffalo. Losman drops back. Good pocket develops around a blitz. It looks like Losman bumps into his own lineman (79, who isn't blocking anyone), and heaves a 35 yard pass to ... wait for it ... no one. There is no one there other than three Jaguars defenders. It's intercepted, and then ... wait for it ... fumbled and recovered by Buffalo's Robert Royal -- last year's drop king.

Aaron Schatz: The Jaguars are considering changing their helmet logo. The final candidates are: the Greek tragedy/comedy masks, a yin-yang symbol, and a box of chocolates.

Michael David Smith: Credit where it's due: David Garrard ran for 15 yards on a fourth-and-14, the key play to leading JAX to a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. He's not the reason they lost.

Ned Macey: I don't think anyone ever said that Garrard was a bad player, only that he has no magical "winner" formula. Whether this is him, the game plan, or the receivers, it is embarrassing that wide receivers combined for six catches for 51 yards. Marques Colston may be rookie of the year, but Jones-Drew is having a hell of a season.

Pet Peeve: Considering rookie quarterbacks the same as first-time starters. Only one rookie has had a very good season in the past 20 years. Probably 20 quarterbacks have had very good seasons in their first year playing. (Collinsworth just pointed this out after making me write this in the first place).

New Orleans Saints 31 at Atlanta Falcons 13

Bill Moore: Deuce McAllister just rushed it in from the 1 for the Saints' second TD (14-0), and the Falcon fans have turned from dirty birds to boo birds.

Vick may not be able to pass, and may be a "coach killer," but boy does he have moves. He just ripped off a 51-yard scramble causing some 12 guys to miss tackles, including one guy off the sideline. Alright, that's an exaggeration. The fact that they can't score from the red zone is no exaggeration -- his run to make it first-and-goal led to three points.

Mike Tanier: Okay, what were the Falcons DBs doing on that bomb to Copper? Can we put Copper next to Ian Gold on the all-time Element Team? And how about Mike Karney playing domino rally with three Falcons defenders at the goal line. What a hoot.

Bill Moore: Brees just threw a 50-yard, half-ending Hail Mary TD. With triple coverage, the Falcons made a lame attempt at batting down the ball. The primary coverage was DeAngelo Hall, who was in such poor body position he wasn't able to do any defending. The best was the Falcons took a timeout right before the play began and Daryl Johnson noted, "they don't get to take those into the locker room with them, so you better use them if you are unsure of what to do. The worst thing would be to get burned on the last play here, so best to take the timeout and be sure." Guess they weren't that sure.

Russell Levine: That Hail Mary at the end of the half was just brutal. DeAngelo Hall was in position plenty early, just waiting for the ball to come down. And then he goes up with two hands to make the catch and allows Copper to snatch it from in front of him. Had he gone up with one arm and tomahawked it, definitely no catch.

Tim Gerheim: I think DeAngelo Hall made the same mistake on that Saints Hail Mary that the defenders made on the Kordell Stewart-to-Michael Westbrook Hail Mary at Colorado: he went for the interception even though it isn't any better than an incomplete pass. You can get one hand up to tip a pass away a lot easier than two hands to intercept.

Bill Moore: It looked to me like DeAngelo Hall was turned the wrong way. He was running toward the end zone and turned outside, late. Cooper and the ball came inside. Hall was bent awkwardly and unable to make a play on the ball. He flopped at it, but it was useless. The sad part was there were two OTHER defenders there.

Doug Farrar: How about this? The Falcons have 180 yards rushing in the first half, and four more first downs than the Saints, and they've amassed a grand total of two field goals and no touchdowns -- against the NFL's 26th-ranked defense, according to our own stats.

You almost have to do that on purpose.

Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Terrance Copper ... are the Drew Brees Saints to no-name wideouts what the Broncos are to no-name running backs? (Yes, I'm kidding, but I'm starting to wonder.)

Aaron Schatz: Devery Henderson isn't a no-name, he was a second-round pick three years ago. The bigger question is, "Why did it take him so long to develop, and is this a breakout or a short-term fluke?" Henderson was inactive almost every single week as a rookie, and didn't see a lot of throws last year either.

Bill Moore: How sad is it for Atlanta that Daryl Johnson's most optimistic comment about not scoring on third-and-goal from the 3 is, "you give Jim Mora the opportunity to go for it here on fourth down because you didn't run a negative yardage play on third down."

Warrick Dunn wears a big ass chain around his neck. I would think that a real safety issue.

As I write this, Atlanta dropped its second straight pass. First Ashley Lelie, and the second, Roddy White dropped a wide open pass at the 5-yard line when Vick took a monster shot from the Saints #99.

Aaron Schatz: I don't want to blame the receivers for Michael Vick's problems, but man, they are an embarassement. That Roddy White drop was pathetic.

Bill's absolutely right about Vick's sick running ability, but that just makes his inability to develop or stay consistent as a passer all the more frustrating. Also, Vick has to learn that when you turn yourself into a running back by crossing the line of scrimmage, you have to hold the ball like a running back so you don't have it constantly slapped out of your hand.

I picked the Falcons for the playoffs and I tried very hard not to allow the michegas with the Falcons fans last year to affect how I viewed this team. I think I did a good job. But this team is O-V-E-R, over. They need a restructuring, because the offense as currently structured just does not work, and the defense is too injury-prone.

At least the Falcons took care of Warrick Dunn hitting the inevitable age wall. Jerious Norwood is going to be the starter next year and he is going to be very, very good.

Mike Tanier: The Atlanta offense has now deteriorated to the point where they just wait for Vick scrambles. Just about every positive play they had in this game was a scramble, plus one Crumpler bomb that was set up by the scrambling. I've seen this before: Philadelphia Eagles, 1988-90. It doesn't get you anywhere.

The Falcons are awful in the red zone, have been all year, and there is plenty of blame to go around. Take this first-quarter series: Vick scambles to the seven-yard line. The Falcons take timeout to regroup. First down, they go empty backfield and run the quarterback draw. No one on earth is fooled. Loss of one. Second down, Vick is hurried, throws an incomplete pass to Crumpler. Third down. Big zone by the Saints, with almost no rush. Vick waits, waits, fakes the scramble, waits... fires to Justin Griffith at the five-yard line surrounded by Saints. The Morten Andersen field goal makes it 14-3. They get the second field goal under similar circumstances. They finally get a touchdown when they give the ball to Warrick Dunn on fourth-and-goal after another lousy series near the goal line. Vick holds the ball too long and rifles passes to receivers five feet away, but Gregg Knapp has to be more creative about hiding the draws and bootlegs, and I didn't see the receivers doing anything special to get open on some of those plays.

Aaron Schatz: Atlanta's red zone offensive problems are even more ridiculous when you consider that the number two team in red zone offensive DVOA is Tennessee, which sucks over the other 80 yards of the field but succeeds in the red zone in large part because Norm Chow and Vince Young himself both know how to use the skills that Young shares with Vick.

Mike Tanier: Scott Fujita was everywhere. He had a rep as a good blitzer who made mistakes in run defense and coverage, and it looks like Gary Gibbs is using him to rush the passer more often than not. The Saints blitzed a lot in this game, and it generally worked: they traded a few 50-yard scrambles for lots of sacks and incomplete passes.

Michael David Smith: In the first meeting, the New Orleans defense kept Michael Vick from rolling to the outside, where he is more effective. This time he did plenty of rolling to the outside, but it didn't matter because the Saints dominated every aspect of the game other than stopping Vick from running.

Vick's receivers didn't give him much help. They dropped four passes, including a beautiful throw by Vick on a third-and-9 that would have given Atlanta a first down deep in New Orleans territory in the fourth quarter.

Russell Levine: Vick flipped the bird to fans -- twice -- coming off the field. This team is edging closer to full meltdown. I fully expect them to mail it in down the stretch the way they did last year if this continues. I don't know what the answer is with Vick. If I'm Mora, I'd pop in a tape of Friday's Arkansas-LSU game. Arkansas's QBs are awful. They've tried three of them this year, and they're all terrible. But they have Darren McFadden at RB, and he'll probably win the Heisman next year. So about a dozen times a game, they put McFadden in shotgun, and he runs a variety of QB draws, options, and end-arounds with the other tailback. He even throws it occasionally.

Am I crazy to think this might be a more effective way to use Vick? Put him in shotgun full time and put Dunn next to him. Let him run those counter-option plays that all the spread teams in college love so much, take off on a variety of draws and even pull up and throw the occasional post pattern to Crumpler?

Bill Moore: I don't know if this was common knowledge or not, but I heard it on WFAN this morning. Vick was not allowed to change the play today. He was to run the play that was called in from the sideline. Was that a problem before? Was Vick playing the role of Voodoo and calling his own plays? I would presume that meant no audibles.

Ned Macey: I almost never advocate firing a coach, but Jim Mora or Mike Vick has to go. This is NOT working at all. I'm going to go to my grave believing Vick can be a valuable passer. I'd also pay money for all his 2002 game tapes.

Arizona Cardinals 26 at Minnesota Vikings 31

Doug Farrar: I like what I'm seeing from Matt Leinart's stats in the first half. Minnesota's run defense ranks #1 in DVOA, and we all know that Arizona's line can't run block for anything. Leinart is very efficiently leading his team down the field with a lot of short passes. Problem is, he can't get them in the end zone -- Arizona's sole TD in the first half was on a 99-yard J.J. Arrington kickoff return on the first play of the game.

Aaron Schatz: During the halftime show of Jets-Texans, Shannon Sharpe did the highlights for this game and blew my mind, twice, with the dumb things he said. He referred to Chester Taylor as "The President." Um, Shannon, there was Chester A. Arthur and Zach Taylor. There was never Chester Taylor. But worse was his description of the play before that, the J.J. Arrington kickoff return. "J.J. Arrington returns this kickoff for a touchdown ... he's moving on up!" I know we're all human and make dumb mistakes, but I am shocked that Shannon Sharpe confused "The Jeffersons" with "Good Times."

Bill Barnwell: Shannon Sharpe also just informed us that he likes Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles and he also likes Roscoe Parrish. No -- really.

Aaron Schatz: I'm sorry, but if Shannon Sharpe can't tell the difference between "The Jeffersons" and "Good Times," we're going to have to revoke his Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles Frequent Customer Card.

Doug Farrar: The Cardinals had a total of six rushing attempts. Yes, six. And one was Leinart's. Ordinarily, I'd cite that number as a case of play-calling insanity, but this made a great deal of sense to me.

Some real craziness for Arizona: They couldn't get an offensive touchdown until there was 58 seconds left in the game despite Leinart's 405 passing yards, but they had TWO 99-yard scoring plays -- Adrian Wilson had a fumble return to match J.J. Arrington's kickoff return. That first offensive score, a 9-yard pass from Leinart to Anquan Boldin, was followed by a successful onside kick, three of four incompletions on the drive, and a game-ending interception to Dwight Smith. This team may stink, but they sure aren't boring.

Aaron Schatz: Edgerrin James is now on pace for 1,011 rushing yards this season. Wow.

Doug Farrar: There's a really good chance that neither Edgerrin James nor Shaun Alexander will run for 100 yards in a single game this season. Between them, they did so 20 times in 2005.

Michael David Smith: Is anyone really surprised by Edge, though? The guy never saw an eight-man front in his life, and then he moved to a team with an absolutely horrid offensive line. I'd have to say he is who I thought he was.

Aaron Schatz: If you are asking "who didn't expect this," the answer is "everybody but us." Let me quote from a preseason fantasy football magazine where a series of experts were asked about a number of risky fantasy picks. Holding back names to protect the innocent, here are the answers for Edgerrin James:

"I've seen people shying away from Edgerrin James because he's no longer part of football's best offense, but the Cardinals can certainly light it up offensively too. James might be more involved in the passing game under Denny Green."

"Edge in Arizona is a nice fit. He's a phenomenal receiver and gets it done on the stripe. Arizona's offensive line is much improved, but Green does prefer to pass in the red zone."

"I'm not worried about him. I hope he slips to me in the mid-to-late first round in a few drafts."

"James will go too early in every fantasy league in America. Arizona has no offensive line and James is all about consistent 4-6 yard gains, not breaking long runs when he finds a hole."

That last one is me. And even I was worried that the PFP prediction of 1,080 yards was a little too low.

Michael David Smith: I guess I didn't realize we were so ahead of the curve on Edge. All summer when friends of my wife would ask me what to tell their husbands for their fantasy leagues, my stock answer was, "I'm not a fantasy expert, but I know for sure you shouldn't take Edgerrin James." But I figured most people knew that. Maybe not.

Mike Tanier: I know I was advocating that we were under-valuing him in the off-season. I think Ned was too. Sometimes, the stats are right.

Ned Macey: I'm still a little confused on what our position is on Edge. Is it that he is just a mediocre guy who took advantage of a great offense, or is it that all running backs are extremely dependent on offensive lines? It seems MDS is advocating the first, and Doug is advocating the second. Obviously I was wrong about what he would do (I imagined 1200 or so yards, 3.6 per carry), but as a fan of Edge, I keep some hope based on Portis' 2004 year.

Doug Farrar: James' situation is the extreme. He went from the 2005 leader in ALY to the worst team in that stat. It can't possibly be any more graphic.

I think the answer lies somewhere in between most of the time. James (and now Addai) obviously benefits from the fact that defenses have to play pass against the Colts. The Seahawks' 2005 offensive line, however, was so good because people knew they were going to run and they were able to do it anyway. The Seahawks were without their #1 receiver (Jackson) for nine games due to injury, and without their #2 (Engram) as well for three more. Holmgren had so much more playcalling freedom last season -- he would go four-wide on third-and-1 and say to the opposing coaches, "Let's see you stop this thing." Most of the time, they couldn't.

I lean more toward the latter theory with most types of running backs. The other factor is the type of back you're talking about. Shaun Alexander is a patient, wait-for-the-hole-and-go-or-cut-back player. Maurice Morris goes quickly at the snap, cuts fast and gets whatever he can. Alexander's style probably won't be very effective until the Seahawks get guards that can hold pressure at the point of contact, which they currently don't have. Morris doesn't need to wait -- he just wants a sliver of daylight and he'll go there as fast as he can. That's why Seattle has two 100-yard rushing performances this season, and Maurice Morris has both of them. MDS could speak much better to the effect that a good/bad line has on a back like Barry Sanders.

Cincinnati Bengals 30 at Cleveland Browns 0

Aaron Schatz: Uh, whoops? I win the bad timing award this week.

Ned Macey: I wrote off Cincinnati a long time ago and stopped watching them. At some point, they flipped a switch on offense, and now Palmer is again one of the three best QBs in football. Given that offense is more sustainable than defense, I would bet that Cincinnati is in the playoffs most of the time the next six to eight years (if Palmer is healthy). I still think the Browns have a good defense, but Cincy is just scary. They have so many weapons. I haven't looked at schedules, but right now Cincy is a much better team than the Cutler-led Broncos.

Carolina Panthers 13 at Washington Redskins 17

Mike Tanier: Explain this sequence, down by four points, at the opponent's 37-yard line, 3:44 to play:

1st-and-10: Incomplete pass
2nd-and-10:Draw to DeAngelo Williams for no gain
3rd-and-10: Draw to Williams for four yards.
4th-and-6: Short pass to Drew Carter for four yards.

Two draw plays? A draw on third-and-10? The defense wasn't in some wacky prevent formation or anything. You call one draw, and you call it on first or second down. Third down, you have to do something to try to get near the sticks. That's gotta get one of our Stupid Coach awards this week.

Ned Macey: I really wish I had seen this game to see what Shawn Springs was doing. Steve Smith was a non-factor (statistically), and as always, without Smith, Delhomme struggled. Does anyone still think Delhomme is more than an average quarterback?

San Francisco 49ers 17 at St. Louis Rams 20

Michael David Smith: San Francisco has several talented young players. Rookie linebacker Manny Lawson had a phenomenal leaping interception to end the Rams' first possession. Frank Gore carries the ball too low rather than squeezing it against his chest, but if he follows in Tiki's footsteps and cures his fumbleitis, he's going to be very good.

St. Louis continues to miss left tackle Orlando Pace. San Francisco linebacker Roderick Green beat Todd Steussie, Pace's replacement, for a sack in the first quarter.

Chicago Bears 13 at New England Patriots 17

Aaron Schatz: Can somebody please give the Patriots a copy of the blitz article from PFP 2006? I understand that you want to pressure Rex Grossman, but they should consider sending six guys on first down, not on third-and-10. Twice now, Grossman got the ball away for a first-down to a receiver running a hook before the pass rush could get to the quarterback.

Michael David Smith: There's some talk in one of the discussion threads about how I said Lance Briggs is great at covering tight ends, and Aaron said the Bears' DVOA against tight ends is mediocre, and therefore one of us must be wrong. This should be obvious, but the reason we can both be right was just on display: The Patriots throw a pass to a tight end Lance Briggs is covering, and Briggs knocks it away. Then the Patriots throw a pass to a tight end Lance Briggs isn't covering, and it's complete for a long gain. (It was overruled on replay. The point is the same.) They're good against tight ends when Briggs is in coverage, but Briggs doesn't cover the tight end on every play.

Aaron Schatz: To me, the thing I learned in the first half of this game is that the game charting blitzing article was dead on and not just a fluke based on one year of data. I think I counted six blitzes of 6-7 guys on third-and-long, by both teams combined, and five of them ended up in a new set of downs. Since I'm charting this game, I'll know the definite numbers in a couple days.

Gregg Easterbrook always talks about how the Patriots always throw to Mike Vrabel whenever they bring him in at the goal line, that he's not a decoy. I don't know if that was true in the past, but it is certainly not true this year. I charted GB-NE first half, and three times Vrabel was in on a goal line or short-yardage situation. Only once did they throw to him: once he was a decoy, and once he was in for a run. Today again he came in on the goal line, and it was a run, not a pass to Vrabel.

I'm sad about Junior Seau's broken arm, both as a Patriots fan (we're thin at LB) and as a football fan who thinks Seau is one of those guys that fans would like to see get a ring if their own favorite team can't win one.

At halftime I went and looked at the (incomplete) Week 1-8 charting stats. We've only got 15 passes charted with Briggs as DEFENDER1, and only two of them are to tight ends. Both are completions, to Dan Campbell for 23 yards and Marcus Pollard for 10 yards. But what's impressive about Briggs is how he plays when he's in coverage against wide receivers. Seven charted passes, none for more than seven yards (three incompletes) and only one first down. And last year he had the best charting numbers of any linebacker. It looks like the big reason for the tight ends having success against Chicago is that least favorite defender of Bears fans, "Hole in Zone."

Asante Samuel makes his second interception of the day.

Aaron Schatz: I think most people -- me included -- felt that Rex Grossman would throw interceptions when pressured by the Patriots. Instead, both interceptions have come when he had time to throw, but Asante Samuel made a great play on the ball. Good Rex showed up today and the Bears are losing anyway.

Scratch that. They just showed a replay, and while the second interception was not due to pressure, it was Grossman's fault, because he threw behind his receiver.

Tim Gerheim: Grossman throws a TON of his passes behind the receiver, at least today. His first completion on that last drive to Muhammad was that way, and so was that interception to Samuel.

Antrell Hawkins is called for pass interference on Bernard Berrian.

Aaron Schatz: Sorry to sound like a Pats homer, but I don't understand that PI. Doesn't Hawkins have the same right to try to catch the ball as Berrian? He was looking at the ball, not the man, and I think it was Berrian who had his arm around Hawkins' arm, not the other way around.

Michael David Smith: I don't understand any PI. I've pretty much just given up on knowing when it's PI and when it isn't. And I think the second official who threw his flag on that call only threw it so it wouldn't look like they disagreed -- he clearly only threw it after his fellow official threw his.

Bill Moore: That PI call was of the variety that Grossman once shoveled. (See, I now feel like I know Grossman.) Hawkins had position, was looking back at the ball, and the only contact was initiated by Berrian. I think the issue was that the back judge was on the backside of the play, and Hawkins' look back at the ball was not an obvious one. If anything the Tillman non-call earlier against Chad Jackson was much more of a PI.

I think I can hear the Pats upcoming practice program: holding on to the ball drills.

Aaron Schatz: Just so people know that I'm not an irrational Pats homer, I do think that PI on Ellis Hobbs was also questionable, but it was MUCH more reasonable than the one on Hawkins. Much, much, much, much, much.

Bill Moore: The Hobbs PI was him at the body, not the trip. He ran into him before their feet tangled.

Russell Levine: The first long PI call was awful. The second one was alright. But those two plays illustrate why teams don't throw deep enough in the NFL. If you throw deep 7-8 times a game, you'll probably complete one or two, and probably pick up at least one long PI. And if you throw an interception on a 40-yard pass once a game, it's not the end of the world.

How is it that other teams haven't copied the Pats' habit of running surprise QB sneaks on third-and-2 or -3? They've been doing that ever since Brady took over, and he's unbelievably effective at it, yet I don't see other teams doing it. In a copycat league, that's surprising.

Aaron Schatz: Nobody is talking about this in New England, but Matt Light is not playing anywhere close to the level he was at before last year's broken leg. That play where Mark Anderson blew by him to hurry Brady on second-and-9 near the end was not the first time this year where Light has been completely embarrassed by a pass rusher.

Ryan Wilson: Note to Rex Grossman: Throw away from Asante Samuel.

Aaron Schatz: The worst officiating mistake in the NFL is when the booth officials refuse to review a questionable play in the last two minutes. I'm not saying Dillon's knee was down, but that was worth a review. It's not like a questionable pass interference, because it isn't a question of making a decision yes or no. It's a question of giving yourself the opportunity to make a decision yes or no, with a much better view than the officials on the field. Samuel's interception was karmic justice.

Ryan Wilson: I know the officials have all kind of evaluations, tests and reviews, but when nobody knows what pass interference is, then, well, that's a problem. I'm with MDS: I have no idea what's a penalty and what's not. And I've conditioned myself to not even worry about it. And plays under review? Forget about it.You might as well flip a coin. I appreciate the fact that Mike Pereira goes on Total Access every week to explain questionable calls, but I think the problem is that the rule book is (a) too complex and (b) it's not accessible to the masses.

Ian Dembsky: I, for one, think it was a clear pass interference against New England on the first long one. The defender threw a hard elbow to the receiver's midsection before turning his head around. The official on the side of the receiver that could see this was the one who threw the flag, and did so decisively. Sure, once the defender turned his head he was in position to catch it, but by then the PI had already occurred.

Aaron Schatz: Since I'm charting this game anyway, I went back and watched this play in slow motion. I disagree with you, Ian.

Hawkins places his arm out parallel to Berrian, but away from his body. The pass isn't near there yet, and he's not touching Berrian, so as far as I know, that's not interference. Then Berrian places his left hand on Hawkins' forearm. Hawkins then turns his head to look at the pass, and Berrian actually sort of pulls Hawkins' elbow towards him. There's no hard elbow to Berrian's midsection as a deliberate act by Hawkins, certainly. When Berrian pulls on Hawkins' elbow -- or, alternately, when Hawkins moves his elbow toward Berrian -- it hits Berrian just to the left of the zero on his uniform, but at that point, both men are looking at the ball and trying to catch it.

Unless the elbow was earlier in the play, in which case it isn't on the replay, and wouldn't that be illegal contact rather than PI anyway?

Ian Dembsky: They showed a replay of the PI call on Sportscenter. Elbow to the gut, no; but clearly contact is initiated by the defender by cutting off the path of the receiver (and running into him) at the 15-yard line before the defender turns his head around. Of course, the official waits until after the pass falls to throw the flag, which makes it suspect that that's what the flag was being thrown for...

Aaron Schatz: I guess our disagreement is on whether or not Hawkins is cutting off Berrian before he turns his head. I don't think sticking out your arm parallel to a guy is cutting off the path if you don't touch the receiver.

Ian Dembsky: As far as these teams having something to prove this weekend, I think what they proved is that they're two of the top defenses in the league for a reason -- Chicago's relentless pursuit and tackling, and New England's big three up front (Warren, Wilfork, Seymour).

Ned Macey: When Chicago dumped to Miami, Grossman had been either very bad or very good. Hopefully the last two weeks are not a middle ground that is his real ability, or the Bears will have some serious problems in the playoffs.

New York Giants 21 at Tennessee Titans 24

Bill Moore: Tiki Barber came in three yards short of 1,000. It took him four runs to get there. That and 1-for-4 passing by Manning = Slow start by the Giants.

Bill Barnwell: The Giants are doing a good job on Vince Young contain so far, William Joseph in particular.

Giants starting corners: Frank Walker, R.W. McQuarters. Corey Webster's been benched. R.W. McQuarters! Seriously, they couldn't have dug up Conrad Hamilton for a game?

Tennessee is letting Plaxico Burress go up against Renaldo Hill for some reason; this game is begging for Burress to be blanketed by Pac-Man if Tennessee wanted to win, but they haven't cared too much so far. Oh well.

Nice play call on the Giants' second touchdown: They brought in Rich Seubert as an elgible receiver and had him wham block on a play fake from inside the 5; Burress was relatively unmolested right in the middle of the end zone. Too many teams today forget the actual way to make a play fake work is for the opposing team to actually believe you're running the ball.

LenDale White just fumbled on his first carry of the game. Giants are up 14-0 with the ball on the Tennessee 29. CMGSLotW is looking good this week, knock on wood.

Time passes. Wood is chopped, not knocked. The sun rises on Monday. Here's Bill's next e-mail.

Bill Barnwell: The Giants would go on to score on that drive and take a 21-0 lead. I left to go attend the wonderful Texas Is the Reason reunion show in the fourth quarter of this game and felt entirely confident about my bet.

I'm sorry, Giants fans. I messed up. I blew this game for us. I jinxed the Giants, Catholic Match Girl, my successful picks streak, and my own continued existence. I'm so ashamed of myself.

That being said -- is Eli Manning still clutch? And how come the one time he decides to UNDERthrow a ball he hits Pac-Man?

I don't even know what to say. I haven't been so utterly flummoxed about a Giants loss since the 49ers playoff game. I'm just sorry.

Oakland Raiders 14 at San Diego Chargers 21

Michael David Smith: Nnamdi Asomugha just dropped an absolute gift interception from Philip Rivers. The Raiders are in this game, but they just have the look of a team that's going to find a way to lose.

Doug Farrar: It's time for the general populace to realize how good this Oakland defense really is. In the first half, the Chargers -- who are currently ranked second in the NFL in offensive DVOA -- have gained 55 total yards, have three first downs, are 0-for-4 in third-down conversions, and have had the ball for a whopping 8:23.

Ned Macey: Vincent Jackson catches a pass, isn't touched, and spins the ball forward in celebration. The ruling is "illegal forward pass" and a five-yard penalty instead of a fumble. While all this is going on, Art Shell looks on silently...

Mike Tanier: The Oakland defense is great. But of course the offense gave the Chargers the ball once on the 12-yard line and didn't have a drive that lasted over four plays in the second half, so of course something had to give.

Ned Macey: I think one of the big reasons Oakland was struggling was because the Raiders linebackers are sooo fast, and so much of the Chargers offense is throws to Gates and Tomlinson. In fact, Gates was having more success on the outside.

Philadelphia Eagles 21 at Indianapolis Colts 45

Russell Levine: Rudi Johnson, Joseph Addai, Julius Jones, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Frank Gore. I can only start three of them. Guess who's on my bench this week? That would be Joseph Addai. Time to trade someone for a receiver.

Doug Farrar: This is crazy. If Joseph Addai gets one more tonight, he'll equal in rushing touchdowns what Edgerrin James had in rushing attempts today. I'd like to send that stat -- and a DVD of 2006 Seahawks "highlights" -- to anyone who still undervalues the offensive line.

Mike Tanier: Am I obligated to comment on this Eagles-Colts travesty? If not, I'd like to take this time to plug the fact that the Fantasy Football Hall of Fame balloting starts this Friday in Too Deep Zone. Check the blog this week for sneak previews.

Will Carroll: And that's the season for Clark. Looks like an ACL. Thank the fine people from FieldTurf.

Aaron Schatz: This is embarrassing. The Eagles can blame a lot on luck and a lot on the McNabb injury, but there is no excuse for the complete and total disintegration of their run defense over the past few weeks. I know they are in nickel a lot tonight, but last time I checked you weren't supposed to stop tackling people just because you had one fewer linebacker on the field.

I haven't been counting for sure but the Eagles ran three straight draws in the first series and have been running draws on maybe half their running plays -- with huge success. Something for future Colts opponents to copy. It gets at the Colts' weakness up the middle AND their habit of always speed rushing on the outside.

Akers missing a field goal, wow, this business with opposing kickers missing field goals against the Colts is getting absurd. I'll need to check but I'm guessing that no team in the last decade has ever had a worse FG% against, let alone a team that played home games in a dome.

Ned Macey: As an 80% Colts fan, 20% Eagles fan, I can't really enjoy this. Only a few years ago, I think had FO existed, nobody would have thought McNabb was one of the 10 best quarterbacks in football. But the Eagles were one of the best teams because everyone else was good, and McNabb was pretty good. Now, McNabb is one of the best quarterbacks, but apparently everyone else, save Westbrook, sucks. They closed 4-1 with A.J. Feeley a few years ago, and now in the questionable NFC, nobody gives them a chance of winning a wild card.

Were Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor, and Al Harris that good? According to DVOA, Philly was a top-10 defense between 1999 and 2002, but they weren't between 2003 and 2005, and although they are there now, I wouldn't bet on them staying there.

Mike Tanier: Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor, and those guys were good. But they weren't that much better than Sheldon Brown and Lito are. The Eagles won for four years because they were pretty talented and played incredibly smart football. You would go weeks without seeing the kinds of silly lapses we have seen every week. They were the team that rarely left points on the board, that usually finished out wins, that always took care of business against weaker opponents. Over the last two years they have become this boom-or-bust team that gets into these amazing games while McNabb is healthy, then goes belly up when he gets hurt.

Ever since the Cowboys game, they have come out in the first quarter looking unprepared. The Redskins game was the only exception. I don't know what the problem is, but it won't be solved this season.

Aaron Schatz: And with that fumble recovery for a touchdown, Indianapolis is no longer on pace to outperform its Pythagorean projection by the greatest amount in modern (since the merger) NFL history. So, huzzah for that.

Mike Tanier: Sign the Eagles are out of it: A few weeks ago, I went to my local bar, and it was packed, with Flyers GM Bobbie Clarke there among dozens of Eagles fans. This week, same bar, I sit next to a woman who is knitting and rooting for the Ravens. Knitting! Rooting for the Ravens! I've seen the knitting needle and the damage done.

Sportscaster Exasperation Sidebar

Doug Farrar: Dan Dierdorf is making my head spin around, Exorcist-style. One play after castigating Steve McNair for not taking a shot downfield with 19 seconds left on first down from the Pittsburgh 19, Dierdorf praised him for being smart and not taking the ball away from the kicker when McNair heaved an airball out of bounds. Huh?

Bill Barnwell: How about this, Doug? "The Jets defense are (sic) just like the Patriots defense, they frustrate you!" says, I believe, Randy Cross. Oh yeah. I get those two confused all the time. Except for running plays, where the Jets don't really frustrate, hinder, or even acknowledge the presence of a running back carrying the ball until he's seven or eight yards past the line of scrimmage.

Bill Moore: You mean after Cross said earlier in the game, "that Jets run defense, they are quite solid. You can't really run against them." Um, you mean the 32nd-ranked run defense? The full sentence on his broadcaster cheat sheet must have said, "you can't really run against them every time, it gets boring."

Tim Gerheim: It's Steve Tasker, not Randy Cross. The only redeeming quality of Tasker as a broadcaster is that he's no longer paired with Don Criqui, whose vestigial Rhode Island accent is like nails on a chalkboard to me. Tasker's never seen any play or player that wasn't "great." I actually heard a "great players make great plays."

Michael David Smith: The thing that kills me about Tasker is that he never has the slightest insight about special teams. The guy was the best all-around special teams player I've ever seen and yet he never says anything interesting about kick return blocking schemes or proper pursuit angles or anything.

Bill Barnwell: Steve Tasker just instructed the Texans to Keep Choppin' Wood. Just thought I should pass that on.

Aaron Schatz: Keep Choppin' Wood is also the Rutgers theme this year, apparently. I can't hear it without laughing.

Bits 'n' Pieces

Bill Barnwell: The Ford commercial promises that they offer cars for people who make bold moves. Now, wouldn't Rosa Parks' famous act qualify as a bold move? Therefore, are we to believe that Rosa Parks has a two car garage? Furthermore, wouldn't that give her no reason to ride the bus, nullifying her social meaning whatsoever? I haven't slept in 36 hours so these are the things that are coming to me.

I also don't know if anyone else was freaked out by Nina Myers being in a Kay's Jewelers commercial, but I was terrified and fearful for her husband.

Bill Moore: So let me get this Bank of America check card straight. You spend $13.87 from your checking account, and it transfers $0.13 from YOUR checking account to YOUR savings account. Hmm. So you are rewarded for using the card with your own money. Is this a poor man's Discover card that gave you "rewards," but instead of Dean Witter paying you, you actually pay yourself. Now that's a treat!

Later This Week

Any Given Sunday: Titans over Giants
Every Play Counts: Something related to Tampa Bay or Dallas


188 comments, Last at 01 Dec 2006, 9:12pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

On the Jets-Texans substitution warning and non-penalty, I think part of what happened was that the Jets had 12 players on the field at the snap, so they couldn't just call a penalty on the Texans and let the Jets decline it. It seemed like they would not have called anything on Houston if the Jets hadn't had 12 players on the field. But beause they did, and this was caused by Houston's illegal substitution, they cancelled the whole thing

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Im saddened by my Steeler's performance this year. Not sure what we need. Maybe start with some good corner backs. sigh..

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I'm actually debating changing my position on Andy Reid as a coach. Before, I wasn't really blaming him for these past two seasons. I came up with a number of reasons: recent Super Bowl participant, excellent emphasis of the pass, my love of iconoclasts.

But yesterday was embarrassing, and not because we lost to the Colts as expected. It was because our entire defense played like Matthias Kiwanuka and the offense looked as listless and young as possible against a legitimately bad defense. Jeff Garcia's honorary "3 yard passes on 3rd and 8" had me literally screaming at the television. You call this a game plan? Dink and dunk passing and four yard runs down 21 points?

It has been a long time since the Eagles, who have always been able to pride themselves on quality defense except in the worst of years, looked like a poorly-coached team. There was bad tackling, overpursuit, a lack of execution, and poor game-planning.

Which means it may be time for Andy to go. Hooray for rebuilding. On the plus side, when they lose bad I can turn off the television.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Bill (Barnwell) - McQuarters has been starting for the Giants for a little while now. When they got eaten alive by Chicago, Webster was just torched, while McQuarters wasn't actually that bad.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

On the Tasker (not Randy Cross) commentary on Jets D and comparison to the Pats D, the weirdest thing is that twice he said one of the good things they do is let the other offense do what they do best. I thought I misheard at first but that's actually what he said. Something about letting you do what you do well, and eventually that stops working for the offense. I think. I can't really claim to understand what he was saying.
But I do like Gus Johnson who was doing play-by-play in the game. Solid job, has a good voice, has emotion at the right times

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I’m sorry, but if Shannon Sharpe can’t tell the difference between “The Jeffersons� and “Good Times,� we’re going to have to revoke his Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles Frequent Customer Card.


BTW, did y'all (yes, I said y'all) note that Arizona didn't punt and still lost?

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Great insights (and laughs) as usual!

re: Tanier on Kiner
Sadly ... we still have Kiner to kick around ... ugh! The Mets superstation has been showing "classic" Mets game from years gone by (heavy on the 84-86 period) ... and Kiner was already losing it 20 years ago.

Aaron Schatz: The Jaguars are considering changing their helmet logo. The final candidates are: the Greek tragedy/comedy masks, a yin-yang symbol, and a box of chocolates.
ROFL! Brilliant ... (with some sadness mixed in for the person who took the Jags today .... sigh)

Bill Barnwell: I also don’t know if anyone else was freaked out by Nina Myers being in a Kay’s Jewelers commercial, but I was terrified and fearful for her husband.
"Every kill begins with Kay" :-)

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Terrence Copper might have the most mispronounced name in the NFL this year. It's COPPER, not COOPER.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

On that non-sack of Vince Young at the end of the Titans/Jints game, the DL clearly scared to death of getting a roughing the passer penalty. Congratulations to the NFL for successfully deterring defenders from tackling the QB.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I think the concept behind "keep the change" (and similar things on CREDIT CARDS, which is even worse), is that people don't save enough on their own, so if you force them to save by rounding up all their bills and siphoning off the excess, they'll be really happy and want to use your card, because you're enabling them to do what they know they need to, but can't find the willpower to do.

Of course, it was really funny when it was pioneered by a credit card (Capital One or American Express, I think) and they were bragging about the 4% and change rate of return you'd get on that "high yield savings account" and conveniently ignoring the fact that for most Americans, they'd be paying 19% on the rounded up amount because they run balances on their cards anyway.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Bill Moore: It's actually true. Gregg Knapp does not allow Vick to audible at the line. If the playcall is a HB draw to the left, and there are 7 guys lined up on the left, Vick is not allowed to flip the play to the right. It's stupid, because if you watch him in 2-minute drills, the offense actually has some flow to it, when the receivers aren't dropping passes.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Does Ford's bold moves commercial mean that William Clay Ford doesn't drive a Ford because he hasn't made the bold move to fire Matt Millen? Maybe it means that he does drive a Ford because he's made the bold (yet stupid) move not to fire him, following his initial bold (yet stupid) move to hire him.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Mike Tanier: You mentioned about giving John Fox the "Stupid Coach" award for running a draw on 3rd and 10, but any Falcons fan can tell you that OC Gregg Knapp calls that play about 2 or 3 times a game.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Hey, Pacifist Viking, Becephalus, or anybody else who saw the Viking/Cardinals; I was traveling yesterday, and screwed up my TiVo programming, so I naturally missed the first win in more than a month. Was this a case of game being close simply because of a very unlikely chain of events, or did the Cardinals and Leinert really pass that efficiently? Was the pass rush non-existent? Did the Vikings mostly run out of a two tight-end set? I'm beginning to think that this fits their personnel better, as much as I liked Richardson.

If Taylor continues his fumbling ways, the Vikings have little shot at even eight wins, but on the other hand, they have had pretty mediocre to bad luck since week two, so maybe they can catch some good fortune eventually. Looking at the box score, it really seems apparent that they they are much worse offensively when Marcus Robinson isn't healthy, which tells you something about indescribably bad the other receivers are.

Any and all opinions are appreciated!

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

My six-year old son, who is a HUGE Eagles fan and worships Brian Westbrook, asked me if he could stay up later than usual to watch the beginning of Eagles-Colts. Okay, I said, but I'm telling you, the Eagles probably won't play well tonight, so don't get your hopes up. At about 8:55 or so, when the Eagles were already down 21-0, he came down the steps, tears running down his face. "What's wrong, buddy?" "Mommy, I don't want to watch the Eagles lose. Is it okay if I go to bed?" "Of course, pal!"

So, Andy Reid and company, this is what you've been reduced to: Making 6-year old boys cry. Proud of yourself?

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

During the Bears-Patriots game on Walters' first punt, Tillman got very good penetration but didn't block the kick. Buck or Aikman mentioned that he veered to the side and so he couldn't get a hand on it, but they didn't mention why. It seemed obvious to me that Tillman didn't know Walters was left-footed, so he veered to Walters' right side.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

An article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week quoted Vick as saying he could audible the direction of a running play, but could not change between runs and passes. This is apparently the way things have been since Knapp arrived. That's what they were talking about on WFAN.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

However you feel about the PI calls (and non-calls) in the NE-Bears game, the argument highlights the important points. If casual fans can't tell the difference between PI and legal coverage on any given play, maybe the rule needs to be clarified or called more consistently, or the penalty made less devastating. If professional football writers and analysts like the outsiders can no longer tell the difference, then the rule ALMOST DEFINITELY needs to be clarified or called more consistently, or the penalty needs to be made less devastating. And if DB's, WR's, and refs can't (apparently) tell the difference (as evidenced by some of their post-game comments, and by the inconsistency by which the call is made), then the rule CERTAINLY needs to be clarified or called more consistently, and the penalty needs to be made less devastating.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

And that’s the season for Clark. Looks like an ACL. Thank the fine people from FieldTurf.

I thought Field Turf was supposed to be so much better than what we used to have. That's why they changed the turf out to begin with. Is that no longer the prevailing opinion?

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I hope someone finds a way to youtube the sequence of plays on one of LT's touchdowns where one of the Oakland linebackers got absolutely buried on 2 straight runs. I think it was #54, on the first play he just disappeared underneath Lorenzo Neal and a lineman, and on the next play Neal moved him about 6 or 7 yards backwards into the endzone on the TD

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

On the Tasker (not Randy Cross) commentary on Jets D and comparison to the Pats D, the weirdest thing is that twice he said one of the good things they do is let the other offense do what they do best.


I think that he's mangling a principle that Michael Holley talks about regarding Belichick and his defensive philosophy in Patriot Reign. The idea is that most people try to play to their own strength first and foremost--i.e. if they have good linebackers, they try to come up with defensive plans that play to the LB's, or attack the opponent's weakness (e.g. if they have a suspect O-line, blitz a lot). The cornerstone of Belichick's philosophy (accroding to Holley) is instead, to attack the opponent's strength. E.g. if the opposing offense relies primarily on the stretch play, the one thing your defense should not allow is the stretch play. If their WR's are particularly feared, whatever you do, make life difficult for the WR's, even if that opens things up for the others. The idea is that teams will start doing what you leave them, but that it'll be things that they don't practice as much and aren't as good at, and hence they will inevitably make mistakes that you can capitalize on.

Attacking the opponent's strength instead of their weakness, or playing to your own strength, is a little at odds with conventional wisdom. My guess is that Tasker had heard something of Holley's theory, but completely messed it up and said the opposite.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Re: Intentional Fumble ruling in SD-OAK
I posted the rules references in the Open Discussion thread. I still don't see how Jackson intentionally meant to fumble the ball. In fact, it would seem the term "unintentional fumble" is a more apt description of what happened. He gave up possession, but he didn't do it on purpose. At the same time one can argue he meant to drop the ball. Since it wasn't a pass or a kick, the only ruling could've been fumble... the subjective part is if it was intentional or not.

Official discretion should've allowed them to rule it just a fumble.

The intentional fumble rule was put in as a result of "Holy Roller", right? It's just amazing the rulebook doesn't allow a defense to recover an intentional fumble.

I feel this is poor precedent to set, especially since there was the Plaxico Burress play a few years back, and that wasn't rule an intentional fumble.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Will Allen:

With about 10 minutes in the game, the Vikes should have gone up 38-13. Then Taylor fumbled, Arizona returned it, and we almost got a flashback from the last time the Cards and Vikes played.

The Cardinals were very efficient passing. Fitzgerald and Boldin were getting open and making good catches, and they were equal opportunity offenders, beating Cedric Griffin, Fred Smoot, and (less often) Antoine Winfield. As you can see from the stats, Arizona used the "screw even trying to run the ball" philosophy that has hurt the Vikes all year.

Offensively, the offensive line consistently created holes that could created a 4-5 yard run, but Taylor dragged people and often made 8 or more yards out of it. The Vikes were making the Arizona run defense look silly. Interestingly, the Vikes basically abandoned the run in the 3rd quarter--I think they were saving Taylor, thinking exhaustion was the reason for his 4th quarter fumbles. But the running success often came running to the right side, which was interesting.

It was all about the short passing game in the second half--it was made obvious early on that Johnson couldn't complete a pass downfield, but the Vikes consistently got receivers open for short curls and the like. Travis Taylor, Marcus Robinson, and Jermaine Wiggins were able to get open, and Johnson had no problem completing 5-9 yard passes. Luckily, the Vikes were playing an opponent that had no problem giving up 5-9 yard passes.

Ryan Cook played! So that's something.

If it weren't for an unlikely turn of events late in the game (the 99 yard fumble return, the Cards' onside recovery), the Vikes would have to feel pretty good about this win. Instead, the pass defense is still a pretty desperate concern. The Vikes outplayed the Cards pretty handily, and yet, a missed FG by Rackers probably had a major impact on the final score (but he made a rare 50 yarder, too, so maybe that balanced it out).

On another note, since the announcing team was pretty low on the priority list, the crew was below average too. This affected the game, as there were some replays for both teams that could possibly have been overturned, but there weren't that many good camera shots of the plays. I though more questionable calls went in favor of the Vikes than against. Also, with the Vikes hanging onto a 12 point lead with 8 minutes left against a team that was consistently passing against them, J.C. Pearson was shocked that the Vikings weren't taking Taylor out to rest him for future weeks.

No, there was absolutely no pass rush for most of the game. Just Leinart dropping back, standing calmly, and finding Boldin and Fitzgerald open downfield.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

From the highlights I saw yesterday, I think that Eli's poor play, and the non-tackle of Young, are overshadowing an even more hideous play in the Ginats meltdown, more hideous because it was due to a lack of effort. Burress, even if he is not expecting the pass to come to his route, CANNOT quit on a ball like he did on one of the key 4th quarter interceptions, and he MUST make a professional effort to tackle the db after the interception is made!!! To me, it was easily the most disgusting aspect of the Giants' collapse.

Also, anybody who saw Ravens/Steelers, or even just the highlights, and still wonders why there are running backs who can run the ball well, or even very well, yet have coaches who are reluctant to put them on the field, just doesn't understand the game. Ya' gotta have a WHOLE lotta' good running plays to make up for getting your qb slaughtered....

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

... that Tomlinson option pass play was a beauty. I don't remember him passing out of the fake dive, toss before... although it's probably happened a few times.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12


Perhaps the Steelers knew what they were doing when they let Burress go ...

(I say Coughlin should sit his lazy butt down for a game or two)

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

As far as the Jets defense goes, I'm sure the DVOA ratings haven't caught up yet, but it's a completely different unit than the one that flailed around for the first eight games of the season. It was as if someone flipped a switch during the fourth quarter of the Cleveland game, but since that time they've been playing very sound football. This was the first game where they completely stifled an opponent's ground game, but they were generally very effective against both Chicago and New England (and they stopped Cleveland from running out the clock, setting up an aborted comeback) aside from a few long runs. The pass defense has also stabilized now that Drew Coleman and Hank Poteat have taken playing time away from Justin Miller and David Barrett. The playcalling has gotten very aggressive, with five and six man blitzes being the norm, and the corners are coming up and sticking receivers for minimal gains.

The surprise of the game was not that the Jets defense locked down a pretty decent Texans offense- again, it's been obvious for weeks that the Jets defense is coming on. The surprise was the utter failure of the Jets rushing attack. I thought Leon Washington would have settled into the starting job by now with some Barlow sprinkled in, but Cedric Houston got the bulk of the carries, such as they were. In any event, no one did anything, and that was primarily because the OL play was terrible. Maybe Houston was overselling to stop the run, but it seemed like Demeco Ryans was in the backfield on every rush.

The Ferguson-Williams matchup was interesting to watch. There were at least two or three snaps when Williams beat Ferguson badly to land a hit on Pennington. Ferguson held up well the rest of the time.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12


The Colts have been getting gashed by draw plays all year. At least as far back as game 3 versus the Jags. They went for 200+ yards rushing, a large chunk of it on draw plays.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

A PI question - can a defender "block out" a receiver? In other words, can a defender who knows where the ball is going to come down refuse to get out of the way of the receiver, while also refusing to go for the ball?

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Here’s a Lion/Millen stat that was in the Detroit Free Press: Games Harrington started: 18-37. Games he did not: 5-31.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Is that Ralph Kiner story true? That's classic if true. My favorite Kiner moment was during a game on Father's Day in the mid 1980s when he said, "To all you fathers out there, Happy Birthday."

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Another Viking comment: they went for it on 4th down twice and got two TDs out of it. Taylor's TD came on 4th and goal, and with under a minute in the first half they completed a pass to Wiggins on 4th and 7 that set up the TD pass to Robinson. So coaching decisions like that helped the Vikes win.

I know situation often dictates such things, but the Vikes lead the league in fourth down attempts with 17, and are second in conversions with 12.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Regarding the Panthers' playcalling on that last series...The fans have been frustrated with OC Dan Henning for awhile now, precisely because of this kind of thing. It's as if he's calling plays based on the running game he wishes the Panthers had, rather than the one they actually do have. It's frustrating when this happens at any point during a game, but when they're playing from behind at the end of the 4th quarter, it's just inexcusable.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Thanks, Pacifist. I've thought for a while that replacing the right side of the o-line with Whittle and Rosenthal was a worthwhile experiment, and it is interesting that Cook finally saw the field. Absent the two 99 yard returns, the Cardinals only score 12 points, so it is tough for somebody who didn't see the game to condemn the Vikings pass defense that much, excepting a lack of pass rush when in possession of a large lead. When playing a team that cannot run at all, but with an accurate qb and good receivers, letting them obtain a lot of passing yardage outside the red zone, but preventing the long td pass, is not all that bad a strategy, but not having seen the game, I'm not sure if that is a good characterization.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

It's very difficult to imagine Chicago beating a good team in the playoffs now that their Rex Grossman chuck and pray offense has been thoroughly exposed. Fortunately for them, there is only one good team in the NFC, Dallas, so the Bears won't have to worry about things until the NFC Championship game. But if anyone thinks that Parcells won't put the wood to that Bears team, homefield or no...

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

31: A defender can box out a receiver, as long as he doesn't touch him. The defender has the same right to any location on the field as the receiver does.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

the bofa "keep the change" program takes the "change" from your checking account and puts it in your savings account, but once a year they match 5% of the money you've transferred through the program. it's a sweet deal only for people who have never had a savings account before.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I would absolutely agree with Led on the Kiwanuka non-tackle. He had Young in the grasp and didn't want to risk bringing him down in such a way that he would draw a roughing flag. That doesn't mean he should have let Young go, but considering the appalling calls that have been made all season, I'm sympathetic.

The roughing rules really, really have to be re-visited in the offseason.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"Vincent Jackson catches a pass, isn’t touched, and spins the ball forward in celebration. The ruling is “illegal forward pass� and a five-yard penalty instead of a fumble. While all this is going on, Art Shell looks on silently…"



42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I disagree with those who think Burress gave up on tackling Jones. Did he try for the ball? No. Was it several feet above his head? Yes. Did he get into position to make the tackle? Yes. Did he try? Looks like it to me- he went low and grabbed Jones' leg. Sucks for him Jones got out of it. But he did try.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Aaron, No need for other teams to use the Eagles' blue print; I am pretty sure the Colts are already the most drawn-against D in the NFL, for precisely the reasons you mentioned. I've certainly seen enough references to it this year--and it "artificially" inflates their YPC against stat. (well, not artificial... more like atypical.)

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

36: I think that was the Viking strategy all game though. I didn't notice any major change in coverage (or performance) when they had the lead than when they didn't. They actually took their first lead of the game with about 30 seconds left in the first half.

But that's true, it's hard to complain when that strategy allows 12 points.

Though one would hope that late in the game, with the Cards behind and any fictional nod to the running game abandoned, the Vikes would get some pass rush. Leinart was pretty savvy moving away from the rush when there was an appearance of one. 51 attempts and (to my recollection) 1 sack is pretty lousy.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

You can't fault the guy for not slamming Young to the ground, but why didn't he just keep Young in a bearhug?

It's funny how teams get ripped for not trying to move the ball with

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

That had to be the worst played Eagles game I've seen in years. The defense was beyond pathetic. And we have two first round DTs on the team, one of whom did not play a snap due to missing the team's charter flight.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Pacifist, I've begun to think that Childress may be a good in-game coach (which, to me, however, is the least important aspect of head coaching in football), and if he had good offensive personnel, it would be much more apparent. He made made what I thought was a poor decision to punt in the Bills' game, but overall I think he has been o.k., especially with what he has to work with. Of course, going forward, he is going to me more responsible for which players are on the field, so the excuse of bad personnel will soon vanish.

I think trading up to draft Tavaris Jackson was his move, and how that works out will have a lot to do with how Childress is evaluated.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Re: "Illegal Substitution noncall".
Didn't this happen a couple weeks ago? I recall watching a game, and the Umpire wouldn't remove himself from over the ball and allow the offense to line up. A couple seconds later, the clock stopped and the referee announced that since the offense substituted, the ball is not "ready for play" until the defense is allowed to substitute. That is why it was not a peanalty and there was a "do-over"; there was nothing illegal about it, the ball was dead and not ready for play.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I'm also baffled about why Shell did not challenge the ruling on the field. He called over Mike Carey and you could tell he was asking questions... at one point he clearly mouthed, "His arm was going forward?".

I don't remember Carey calling it an intentional fumble. He called it an illegal forward pass. The NFL seems like they are changing the ruling on the field by saying it was ruled an intentional fumble. I know he called it an illegal forward pass... and I'm pretty sure he didn't mention "intentional fumble".

Since it was ruled this way, that's why I felt they could've challenged it with the "open palm" rule... which I'm not sure the exact rule applies to a player not getting hit, or the fact that he wasn't in the motion of making a pass.

Not once did R. Cross tell us why the Raiders didn't challenge... or did they explain how it couldn't have been ruled a fumble.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

re:PI, 31 and 38

I agree that PI has become like fouls in the NBA starting in the 80s (WRs and DBs chicken fight all day, grabbing, pushing, etc.). When is it a foul and why? Who knows.

However, the DB turning his head back for the ball is faking out a lot of fans. I didn't see the Pats game yesterday, but the Denver playoff game last year is a perfect example.

Both players are entitled to go for the ball. But the defender is not allowed to use his body to push the WR AWAY from the ball just because he has his head turned to look for the ball.

In the playoff PI at Denver, the DB used his body to push the WR out of bounds while the ball was coming to the ground in the end zone about 15 yards from the sideline. The DB wasn't making a play on the ball. He was actually going away from the ball and into the WR. Simply turning his head doesn't change that.

For some reason, some fans seem to think that turning back for the ball allows a DB to initiate whatever contact he wants.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The Bengals may look like a better team than the Broncos at the moment because of the offense, but that defense is still beyond frightening. They could give up 80 to the Colts.

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

47: Absolutely: Childress has hitched himself (and the Vikings) to Tarvaris Jackson's star, and how Jackson does will determine whether Childress' Viking tenure is successful. The Vikes won't draft/develop another QB because they've taken Jackson (and would be admitting they wasted the picks), and they likely won't go try find an expensive FA veteran QB to back up Jackson or compete for the starting job. I see the Vikings' success on the field directly tied to that decision in the coming years. Starting in 2007, if Jackson struggles or is mediocre, that likely means the Vikings won't be winning, and Childress won't be winning. It's all tied up in Jackson.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Doug S,
It happened on the Redskins earlier in the season. When you punt, technically there is no huddle. I can't remember who they were flagging, but they had to re-do a punt.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

#42, we can't be sure how much effort Burress put into the non-tackle, but it looked like a half-hearted effort to me, but perhaps I'm influenced by the spectacle of a highly paid professional wide receiver completely quitting on a pass because it is overthrown, thus allowing a db to make an totally unimpeded interception. Really disgusting.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Devery Henderson was always looked at as a raw talent who needed more practice. Even this past offseason/preseason, he was having problems with drops. All that speed doesn't do much good when the ball goes through your hands. These past few weeks he seems to have turned a corner.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Will Allen: Leinert was able to pass however and wherever he wished. Once again none of the DBs attempted to disrupt a route within the 5 yard zone, but I guess against a couple of physical beasts like Boldin and Fitz, you do run a good chance of getting beaten off the line.
On offense I did note that the two TE set was used more. Even better, Childress mixed in some short slant throws, a couple of quick outs, more deep routes, etc. I know better than to get ramped up about a win over one of the league's worst, but greater variety in playcalling was a nice thing to see.

Oh, Ryan Cook also got more time, rotating in at RT. His name was never called, so that's good for something.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Was anyone else as perplexed as I was about the end of the SF-STL game?
SF 14, STL 13; SF running the ball at will on STL. 4:20 left, 4th and inches at the Rams' 22. Nolan calls out the FG team. I still don't get it.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Pet Peeve: Considering rookie quarterbacks the same as first-time starters. Only one rookie has had a very good season in the past 20 years. Probably 20 quarterbacks have had very good seasons in their first year playing. (Collinsworth just pointed this out after making me write this in the first place).

Off the top of my head, I can think of 2 great rookie/first-year QB seasons -- Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

re 51

The call the two posts you reference are talking about is not a case of that.

The defender had better position on the ball than the reciever. The defender looked for the ball, made ready to catch it, and as the ball came in, the reciever hooked the defender's arm and pulled it off the ball.

The ref that called PI was on the opposite side of the ball, and called DPI when it was CLEARLY OPI. It was a bad call, whatever the rule is.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Re 59: Tom Brady wasn't a rookie. He was drafted in 2000. Try Dan Marino instead.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

wow, post-Krishna hardcore reference with Texas is the Reason. Bill Barnwell, were you a fan of Shelter and Youth of Today? does FO have a random straight edge hardcore connection (if so, awesome)?

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Ken, I obviously can't comment on the game specifically, but I've never seen a qb or offense pass however and wherever they wished, and only score 12 points.

However, while this is a pretty good defense overall, it is pretty vulnerable to superior qb play, and I think it has more to do with the lack of a good pass rush from the edge than anything. Not for the first time, I'm left to wish that the Vikings had drafted Demarcus Ware and Matt Jones last year, instead of Troy Williamson and Erasmus James.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Re 59: Tom Brady wasn’t a rookie. He was drafted in 2000. Try Dan Marino instead.

Re: 61

It said rookie or "first year starter," so I thought I could count Brady.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12


But the point you were arguing about, I believe, is that they are saying it is a mistake to group rookies and first years together, because only one or two rookies have not stunk, while plenty of first year qbs have done well.

As such, using an example of a first year and a rookie who both did well doesn't do anything to the argument at all.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Regarding Vick; when one of the highest paid qbs in the league (if not THE highest paid), well into his career, is not allowed to audible in the way that most starting qbs can, either the personnel department has made an astounding blunder, or the coaching is completely inadequate.

Regarding Jim Mora Sr.'s comments, I 've always liked the guy, and though he was a pretty good coach, but his inability to keep his mouth shut when it would have served him best,or, in this case, would have served his son best, has been his greatest weakness.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Re: 55

Will, did you see that play where Marvin Harrison got stripped last night? He just stood there, and watched.

I've always liked him, but I've seen a lot of stuff like that this year, where he either gets beat to a ball, or just outplayed physically.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

i was listening to the WFAN (giants radio) broadcast on I-95 yesterday and the radio crew (no idea who they are) completelty forgot to point out that pac-man SINGLE-HANDEDLY turned that game around for tennessee. that just drove me crazy. well, that and being stuck on the road with conn. and nj drivers.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

#64 - the point of the original comment is that there's a huge difference between a rookie QB, and a 1st-year starter, so it's unfair to make that comparison. Roethlisberger is the one good rookie starter in the last twenty years, but have been plenty of good first-year starters in the same time span.

Besides which, I would also argue that Brady did not become 'great' until 2003 (or late 2002; if I recall correctly, he hit a hot streak late in the season as the Pats finished 9-7 after struggling early). In 2001, I think he was still a game manager (I loathe that term, but I think it's an apt description of the 2001 Brady).

Must... resist... irrational... manning... comparsion!

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Re: 67

I'm starting to wonder if Marvin's wrist never healed right or something...his grip on the ball this year has been much looser than it was pre-injury.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Again, i'd like to thank you guys for covering Vick and Atlanta. I'm not a Falcon fan, but I find your commentary on Vick fascinating.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I was listening to Miami-Detroit, and you could hear loud chants of "Fire Millen!" in the 2nd half.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

San Fran has a horrible short yardage offense. They failed to pick up 3rd and short on the play before. They've gone for in on 4th and short a number of times this year and failed. (I remember two times in the Oakland game, and a few short yardage failures against the Eagles.)

Nolan wanted to force the Rams to score a TD instead of kicking a field goal. Unfortunately they were able to drive the field.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

69: I still like conventional stats; Brady led the league in TD passes in 2002.

But at the very least, using the conventional stats, Brady was "good" in 2001. 18 TDs, 12 INTs, 63.9%.

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Re #55: a "highly paid professional wide receiver completely quitting on a pass"

I don't think "highly paid" has anything to do with it. A player in the heat of battle, does not make a tackle because he is paid $5m or decide to miss the tackle because he is only being paid the minimum. Some people are just lazy, regardless of how much money they make. Adding "highly paid" into the discussion doesn't serve any purpose. Might as well say a "so-called professional wide reciever" - it's a totally empty rhetorical phrase.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Aaron, praise and blame:
Best line of the week was suggestion for new helmet logos for the Panthers--it's funny because it's true.

Warning--nit-picking stylistic point of the type that usually irritates you: in the Indy-Phil. article you used the phrase "last time I checked." My current quixotic crusade is to eliminate this cliche. Every time I hear it, I wonder, "When was the last time you checked?" "What source did you check?" In this instance, "Is there a section on tackling without linebackers in the Prospectus?" You can feel free to disregard this suggestion, but the language would be better off if "last time I checked" were allowed to slink off to a quiet corner and die.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

as to #73

I think San Fran could have gotten a better spot on 3rd down, but it was literally fourth down and an inch. You know a guy like Bellichek would go for it. And how often do teams fail on Fourth and an inch? One in a thousand? Just QB sneak it...

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The Eagles defense was playing the pass okay, especially when they went to some sort of 3-4 formation that they were getting really good pass-rush on Manning from at the end of the first half. Unfortunately, the Eagles defense was playing the run badly, especially when they went to some sort of 3-4 formation that was letting Addai pick up yardage in big chunks on every down. On every Colts run at least half the people at the line were being pushed way back. I really think that the problem could be that the new defensive line coach is not good.

The Eagles had a shot at winning the game with a better run D. On the last Colts drive, Manning realized that the only way the Colt could lose was if Manning turned the ball over, so he simply handed the ball off to Addai for an entire drive waiting for the Eagles to stop him, which they didn't.

Garcia appears to have good accuracy, but he can't throw a deep ball with zip, and a few times he did not see defenders in coverage. He also scrambles like Drew Bledsoe, but that isn't really surprising.

I'm not sure if Sean Considine's problems with the run aren't as bad for the team as Michael Lewis's problems with the pass. That isn't good.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Re: 3

I've always been kinda neutral towards Andy Reid. But I'm not sure I can take much more of him. There have always been OBVIOUS flaws in this team that are clearly a poor reflection on his coaching (i.e. clock management, 2-minute drill, in-game adjustments...etc). And these things have been so consistently bad that it's almost been assumed that eventually he'd learn from his mistakes, but that's just not happening.

Just as frustrating is his draft record. Ignoring this year's class (which has so far had zero impact), he's had 2 good drafts. The Sheppard/S.Brown/Westbrook draft in 2002, and so far it looks like last years class of Patterson(?)/R.Brown/McCoy(?)/Considine(?)/Herremans/T.Cole. was pretty solid. In 1999 he took McNabb and a bunch of stiffs, and in 2004 he got Shawn Andrews and a bunch of stiffs. And with the way this team prides itself on locking up their young talent, one solid draft every 4 years just not good enough.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Where's the Panthers' line? I must have missed it, Aaron.

Isn't there a receiver name of Mark Wolfram somewhere? (If he was in NFL Europe, would he be called Mark Tungsten?) That's gotta be a natural for the All-Element Team.

This is the second time that Billick has done a quick turn-around with a Ravens team where little was expected -- the 2002 team had less experience than the expansion Texans, yet wound up 7-9. Maybe he KIN coach, as Lefty Driesell would say.

Assuming that the offense plays well against Cincy Thursday night, the Dec. 10 game IN Kansas City (the Chiefs seem to play much better D at home) could reveal a lot. Anyone hear if that's going to be the flex game?

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Re 24, 50 (aka, MFurtek): My take as a Chargers homer on the intentional fumble ruling is that the intentional is applied to be the action and not the intent. Jackson clearly meant to release the ball as he did and by that definition would have "intentionally" fumbled. I agree that that is probably against the spirit of the rules, even if this way of spinning it could follow the letter of them.

I also have no idea what the official ruling was during the game, as I was at the game and the crowd cheered or booed too loudly at each change in call for me to understand what was going on. Illegal forward pass was the wrong call, if that's what it was.

On the game itself, Aaron Brooks actually looks like a good choice for the Raiders offense because of the way he can escape pressure and gain yards. He escaped what should have been sacks and gained good yardage at least three times yesterday, and generally looked not-awful while throwing.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Ironically, given the nit-picking, young curmudgeon said "Panthers" when he meant "Jaguars".

And while the Rutgers slogan is KCW, it's pretty much just the "chop" part that gets used. It gets old real fast.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

#73 I got to side with Jericho on this. Most of the 49ers goalline struggles were from early in the season and with Larry Allen sidelined. I think the luck they've had in those situations have really freaked out Nolan, which is completely understandable. However, this wasn't the Eagles and Brian Dawkins, this was a team you had beaten 3 times in a row and scoring a TD in that situation would have iced the game. I understand the thought process of making the other team HAVE to score a TD, but you have to go for it there. You're a 5-5 team who hasn't had a winning record since week 1 in 2003. Your defense has struggled and you would have probably won the game if you converted one inch. Really, they had nothing to lose. Hate to break out a maddenism, but when you play not to lose, you usually end up losing.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I watched the Redskins/Panthers game and it was more that Carolina decided to pick on Carlos Rogers and try to get him in single coverage as much as possible but he probably had the best game of his career. He seems to have alot of potential especially when he isn't the #1 CB on the team. Shawn Springs had a good game against Steve Smith but nothing spectacular.

This game just proved to me how much the redskins missed Shawn Springs early in the season, their defense is a completely different animal when the starters are healthy. This was the Redskins team I thought could compete in the AFC East this year.

On a side note I thought the 4th down play was almost a sure 1st down but Sean Taylor made one of the best tackles I have ever seen to prevent the first down and wrap up the game. Perhaps he is learning that a great tackle is better than a jaw dropping hit, he can be scary good sometimes.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I agree that SF should have just used the QB sneak. They do that and make it, they take atleast 2 minutes off the clock or make the Rams use their times out (i dont remember the Rams TO situation) PLUS still kick the FG or get a TD. Yes, he make Stl get a TD, but there was no question they would be able to get down the field with SF playing prevent crap.
Also, I dont have Tivo, but it looked to me like the 49ers actually got the first down there. As far as I know, the nose of the ball has to be at the end of the links- beginning of the stick, which it seemed to me like it was. Anyone with tivo (though im not sure why youd tivo that game or save it), let me know.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Addai is exactly what we thought he was. Ranked 5th in DPAR, 1st in Success Rate. (As of last week, which I am sure will rise).

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I disagree, Disco. The guys who get paid the most on a team carry additional leadership responsibilities, and when the guys with additional leadership responsibilities quit, it has greater ramifications than when the 45th guy on the roster quits, especially since it is usually much harder to move the highest paid guys off the roster. Thus, using "highly paid", if used in the relative sense, does carry real meaning.

Ask any coach what value there is having the highest paid guys consistently put forth an exemplary example, or the damage done when the highest paid guys dog it, in terms of the effort put forth by teammates, and I doubt many will think it an empty rhetorical phrase.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12


I was at a 'Wings game a couple of years back and the chants of "Fire Millen" took place there.

Ford isn't listening.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

76: On the cliche pet-peeve, how do you feel about the over-used tautology "it is what it is".

I feel like punching the speaker in the face every time I hear that...

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12


I don't think we watched the same Phil-Indy game. I saw an Eagle defense playing a really deep cover 2 nickel with only 6 in the box. Sort of hard to play 3-4 with 6 defenders.

The run was there for the Colts because the Eagles did everything possible to take away the pass. They got no secondary support on the outside zone.

And when did you actually see an Eagle frontal defender get pushed back off the line? The Colts don't even TRY to push people back. They only run inside when Peyton sees an uncovered gap and then they just screen away from the hole.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Re 82--surely you know of the rule that anyone writing a letter to the editor complaining about a grammatical error will make a grammatical error in that letter! I make no claim to be exempt from this rule. I'd like to say that I was so dismayed by the "last time I checked" cliche that I couldn't think straight, but, uh, that sounds pretty hollow.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Just a thought on all the Kiwanuka talk... Some people are saying he let him go, not because he wanted to avoid a roughing the passer call, but because he thought he had thrown the ball.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

On one of the threads last week I commented on the Browns apparent inability to stop the no-huddle offense and speculated that Cincy would expose that again on Sunday. Chalk one up for me. I can't imagine any team that struggles offensively against Cleveland won't try that approach by midway through the second quarter.

Anyone have a thought on why a team that is decent defensively when huddling would be so bad when they aren't?

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Re: All the SF 4th down comments,

I would have gone for it too, I was just noting the reasoning for kicking the field goal. Since the Oakland game, Nolan has almost always kicked on 4th and short. Hopefully this loss will make Nolan change his approach a little. His father was known for being Marty-conservative at the end of games.

Also, what did you guys think about the the Torry Holt fumble being overturned. I didn't get to watch the game and I had TIVO issues with the game so I can't watch it now. It sounds like Macauley blew the replay challenge, at least according to the Chronicle.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12


Isnt that pretty damn close to where Edge was last year?

That seems like an argument that its the system, and not the RB that matters

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

93 - I think both of those comments on Kiwanuka are the same thing. He thought Young threw the ball, and therefore let him go, because to continue to tackle him would have been roughing the passer

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Re: 78

I'm not sure why the Colts last scoring drive hasn't been mentioned more. The game was still (somewhat) in doubt with them only up 10 and 10 minutes to go. Start at the 27, 13 straight rushes and 6:30 later, TD. Craziness.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12


I don't think the two are mutually exlcusive; if Kiwanuka thought he had thrown, tackling Young would have gotten him flagged for roughing.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Re: 97

That's exactly what I saw. Freeney had the same thing happen earlier this year. Crazy roughing rule this year.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

#86 - That seems like an argument that its the system, and not the RB that matters

Partly true; I think it's obvious that the system/line are much, much more important than most commentators will concede, but watching Dominic Rhodes, Reggie Bush, and Corey Dillon, it seems just as obvious that the RBs also aren't completely fungible. I think that Denver's success isn't just that they run a good system, but also that they are damned good at scouting/teaching talent to fit that system.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Devery Henderson, like the post above, has been seen for his past few years in the league, as a work in progress. While blessed with very good physical abilities and natural talent, he has had two glaring weaknesses in his development. His Football IQ is low (takes a while for him to learn his share of the playbook and he tends to improvise poorly when a play falls apart) and he was born with a case of the drops. The offense under Coach Payton is somewhat simpler than it was under the previous coaching staff, making it easier for Henderson to learn the plays. As for his drops, well, lets just say that both lots of practice and the gradual accumulation of playing time, coupled with a competent passer behind center (we're so glad Aaron is screwing up someone else's offense now)has led to an improvement in his game.

}Paragraph Break{

While people are singing Copper's praises this week, we can't forget his fumble last week, and his badly dropped pass and fumble from the week before. Both led to momentum changes in the games that didn't go favorably for the Saints. I'm not going to lay all the blame at his feet, but, one good hail mary catch does not a good receiver make.

}Paragraph Break{

What I wonder about is, where has Reggie Bush gone? I saw about three quarters of the game this week, and Reggie was, for all practical purposes, a complete non-factor. I'm not saying that he's a bust (I never say that about first year guys, especially on recently renovated teams) but, his production has not improved as I expected it would over the year. Teams aren't buying his decoys anymore, he can't seem to turn the corner, can't find the holes up the middle, and still puts the ball on the ground from time to time. At best (at present) he's a decent tight end. Either he needs a lot more learning in the NFL environment, or, he needs a system that better works with his skill set.

}Paragraph Break{

My feeling for the Saints for the rest of the year. Close win over the 49ers, humiliating defeat at the hands of a Giants team with an ax to grind, Stunning victory over Washington, Dallas absolutely kills them, then, one final game at home vs. Carolina. A playoff appearance hangs in the balance (Win and win the division, loose and you don't have enough wins to make a wildcard) and they get embarrassed on their home field. (these are the Saints after all)


(My first post, the preview isn't showing the paragraph breaks that should be there, so I used the pseudo-tage to indicate where the paragraphs should be in case they don't come through)

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I think the Holt fumble actually was a fumble. He had possession, feet down and started to spin. The whole thing with making a football move might be as murky as pass interference.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

A few random observations:
Lenny Walls (6'4") is great at defending the fade in the end zone. On the rest of the field, he's terrible. Most successful long passes against the Chiefs this year seem to have been (1) directed at him or (2) involved Ty Law falling down (interesting game charting question).

I was on Cape Cod last week and heard a talk radio show host before the Packers game ripping Matt Light, so at least someone in New England has been mentioning it.

Devery Henderson - has it been his improvement as suggested by an earlier poster, a better QB, or a better match of skills and scheme (i.e. was Henderson a bad fit for a WCO)?

My real point in writing: I had to listen to the Chiefs-Broncos on the national radio broadcast, so I have no idea how bad Gumbel was. But Enberg did the radio play-by-play, and he was unbelievably bad. A typical play call was "Green hands off to Johnson". Which way did the run go? Was there a lead blocker? Who made the tackle? How far did the play go? Enberg didn't tell us. He called Edwards "Herm Alexander". He had Champ Bailey playing defense for the Chiefs and covering Javon Walker. It's like the network said, "Dick, just call it like it's a TV game. Gumbel's terrible and people will turn the sound down and listen to the radio call instead. Don't worry about the radio audience." Enberg has been terrible on TV for many years, but he's brilliant there compared to his radio work. If he does the Thursday night game again, tune in for 10 minutes to see what I mean.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Oops, I meant #96, not #86 (though 96 was directed to 86 and... never mind)

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Re 97: True enough :P

On that note, here's something interesting that was posted next to the recap of the Giants-Titans game on

"Below are the quarterbacks, entering Week 12, with the lowest passer ratings since 2004 (minimum: 1,000 attempts). The numbers may surprise you, but they certainly don't lie."

Player - Rating
Eli Manning - 72.7
Joey Harrington - 73.4
Kerry Collins - 73.5
Aaron Brooks - 75.2
Drew Bledsoe - 78.7

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Addai is a rookie. And it is part the system, but have you seen Rhodes run?

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Re: 96

Ah, but there's Rhodes, who isn't NEARLY as good as Addai this year running through assumedly the same blocking.

And since Addai is splitting carries (was doing so even more earlier in the year), if he matches Edge in DPAR he should be well ahead in DVOA.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

So, funny thoughts on the Eagles-Colts game:

1) Have to take issue with Madden saying that the loss of McNabb wouldn't've changed anything in that game. It would've been a shootout had McNabb been there. I doubt there would've been a punt in the entire game. The Eagles defense was pretty horrible (see point #2) but, still. Good chance Philly would've had a touchdown that first drive with McNabb, and no way Hank Baskett's throwing a pass with him in there either.

2) Reid or Jim Johnson - whoever decided to play most of the game in nickel is an idiot. See, the thing is, Philly doesn't just pull a linebacker in nickel. They usually frequently switch out a DT and put three DEs on the line (Howard, Cole, and Thomas) to get a better pass rush. When they were in this formation (which they were frequently), they were getting gashed running, which is unsurprising, and also getting no pressure on Manning, which is also unsurprising as when you're in short yardage situations (1st and 10 is a short yardage situation - a 3 yard gain is fine) there's no reason not to just check down.

I don't think I realized until after this game exactly how much Philly's defense this year relies on substitutions. They've got either good pass rushing DLs (Walker, Cole), or good run stopping DLs (Patterson), good coverage LBs (Barber), or good tackling LBs (McCoy), good coverage DBs (Considine) and good tackling DBs (Lewis). They really cover the problems over by substitutions all over the place. With the Colts offense being as flexible as they are, and keeping them from substituting, they had no chance.

Especially by being in nickel. Some of the best players on the team are in the secondary (Sheppard's interception of Harrison was a thing of beauty - Manning's "what?! he couldn't possibly have done that!" face was awesome) and by playing nickel in a down where they can choose to pass or run, you're just yelling at them to run, and strangely enough, I think they needed them to pass.

3) For those who were actually standing to watch Philly's offense, there was interesting info there: the Colts are who we thought they are. Really. Not just vulnerable to the run - they are still vulnerable to passes to tight ends and running backs attacking their linebackers, which they have been for years. You don't get much yards after the catch on them if the guys are in the open, but the throws - and yardage - are there. The Colts have a great passing DVOA vs RBs and TEs, but they are still vulnerable there. I think teams just aren't taking advantage properly because of Indy's glaring weakness.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I thought I'd put in my 2 cents about a couple of things:

1. Edgerrin James: I don't think anyone doubts the importance of an offensive line to a football team; going from the serviceable O line and terrifying passing attack of Indy to the worst O line in football and (post-Warner benching), a quarterback with a weaker arm than Chad Pennington, is not good. I still think Edge is a good back, and I think he is capable of contributing to the Arizona offense. That said: I think Dennis Green may be the worst coach in football, and the Arizona play calling is atrocious. Is there any reason that offense shouldn't be in a shotgun every play? At least then the O line wouldn't knock the ball out of Leinart's hands backing up so fast...

The problem is that James' confidence is based on beating the defense; running straight at them for enough yards to move the chains. You just cannot do that with Arizona's O line. The coaching staff in Arizona needed to (before the season) start developing a running scheme that would actually work; more runs off tackle and to the end, and more attention to spreading the defense out. When your O line sucks this hard, you need to compensate, not add more bad blockers.

2. Michael Vick is a good quarterback, but sending anyone in the NFL out without the ability to audible is not smart (apparently Leinart can't audible either, surprise surprise). The biggest advantage of Vicks' speed is the flexibility it gives the offense; I really think Mora is more of a QB killer than Vick is a coach killer. Either hire him a competent wide receiver (T.O., drops and all, would probably make Atlanta the #1 offense in football), or let him try to make do without. Don't -make- him throw to Jenkins for heaven's sake.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Bill -

Was the Texas is the Reason show as great as I imagine it was? I wish I had the money to make the trip to NY for that one... That split with The Promise Ring is still one of my favorite records of all time.
...I never thought I'd see the day where I was discussing emo bands on a football message board.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I don't know why I want to prolong the agony related to the Giants roughing the passer, but what about the late hit call that extended the Titans' first TD drive on fourth down?

I was watching the game on a small screen with the sound off. To me, it looked like Young was sprinting toward the sideline trying to get the necessary yardage. Three Giants were chasing him and appeared to make contact before Young's foot hit the sideline short of the first down. Granted, the defenders drilled Young, but what else can be expected on a fourth down close to the first down marker?

Did I miss something, or was it a BS call?

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I'm a Giants fan and I thought that was a penalty the second I saw it. Walker obviously hit him out of bounds... WALKER WAS RUNNING OUT OF BOUNDS before he even hit Young. I thought it was an easy call.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12


It's one thing for a rookie QB not to have audible power- I don't hold that against Leinart, although given how one of the positives about him was that he was "polished" and "NFL ready", a bit surprising (I'm willing to blame Denny Green on that). As for Atlanta, I'm not sure who to blame, but I find it hard to believe that Vick, for all his shortcomings, wouldn't have enough of an understanding of defenses to make audibles. Either he really is that stupid, or Mora and co. need to loosen the reins in a hurry.

As for Arizona, I joked earlier that they should run the Texas Tech offense and throw it nearly every down. It looks like they're going in that direction. Edge is a good receiver/pass blocker too, so they might as well find ways to use him since running him is an exercise in failure. Can we start penciling in Joe Thomas to the Cards in the draft, no matter where they end up? Is there any place where I can bet on this happening?

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

In regards to the PI in the Chi-NE game:

I thought the Pats were getting away with bloody murder early on and was happy to see some calls against them later in the game. To me, the Pats simply run with the defender before vaguely looking back while body checking the receiver. I think the Patriots DBs have been instructed to pantomime that they are going for the ball so as to get away with what would otherwise be PI. I remember one replay, and while the Patriot defender is turned back towards the offense, it's clear if you look at Berrian's head and where he is looking and at the Patriot player's head (I can't remember who it was) and where he is looking that the Patriot player has no idea where the ball is or is going. In other words he is not in reality playing the ball, but rather using the officials’ allowances to a defender who is to cut off the receiver’s rout.
I think the amazing ability of the Pats to maintain a strong secondary despite injuries has for years depended on finding loop holes in the PI rules. I think that's good coaching, but I also wouldn't be surprised to see another decision this off season to ban NE's "backwards interference."

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

On the Skins-Panthers Game. Way to give no credit to the skins for finally clamping down on Defense.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Oh, cliches: I'm on an Orwell-inspired crusade to eliminate worn out cliches and bad metaphors (not all cliches and metaphors--I'm using "crusade" after all--just the overused ones).

Sports cliches I currently hate:
"bottom line"
"At the end of the day..."
"Thrown under the bus"

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

to #112, the hit appeared in bounds, but I believe the call was for a blow to the head. And the arm of the defender did make contact with the head. It it wasn't for that bonehead play (or maybe just unavoidable in the heat of the moment), thw Giants should win.

It actually reminded me of the OSU-Michigan game. Michigan got a similar penalty called against them based on one bonehead. And it might have cost Michigan the game too, even though Michigan was outplayed.

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12


So -- you are saying there is a solid correlation between experience and passer rating?

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I also hate when somebody is responding to something that is false or stupid, and starts, "Uh,..." before stating what is true. All these little linquistic argumentitive quirks that bother me.

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

112 - I don't think it was a BS call, but I thought it was fairly close, and I'm not going to blame Walker too much for making sure that Young didn't pick uo the yards for the first there. When it's 4th down and the QB is Vince Young, you have to do all you can to stop him from getting the yards. Have to wonder if that play was also in the back of Kiwanuka's mind.

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12


Hmmm well Arizona couldn't run at all, or stop the run. They did make use of the the short passing game very well. The Vikings LBs looked kind of bad in coverage imo.

Not suure if I would say it was closer than it seemed, MIN made some legitimate mistakes, but I really didn't think they were in danger of losing at any point if that means anything.

Basically the ARI defense is horrible?

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Have the Falcons got the cap space to try and trade for Randy Moss he would seem to be the right kind of receiver for Vick.

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Yeah, Pacifist, and the nadir was reached when the president of an institution of higher learning, Shalala at Miami, used the "throw under the bus" cliche while explaining why football players who surrounded a prone opponent, and repeatedly stomped and kicked him, would not lose any playing time. When a university president engages in those overused cliches, it's like listening to concert pianist play "chopsticks".

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Uh, Pacfist, the "uh" preface is mostly uneeded sarcasm, and it would probably be for the better if people like myself refrained from employing it. Mea Culpa.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I guess the NFL needs to define "intentional".

Jackson wasn't trying to fumble the ball on purpose.... it was nothing like the Holy Roller play.

... and again, the same thing with the "tuck rule". Even though they closed the "intentional fumble" loophole, the NFL never considered an opposing team could recover an "intentional fumble".

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Thoughts on Vick,

1. Can't remember where I heard someone who should know confirm this, but I think Vick may really be so dumb he can't read defenses.

2. Vick throws the kind of ball that is harder to catch.

3. Vick rarely ever throws the ball on time. Receivers don't get the ball coming out of their break as they would with a normal QB. Everything ends up being backyard helter-skelter. There is no timing to their passing game. No wonder receivers seem to be off-balance so often.

Remember, when receivers play in a good system with a solid QB, they know their patterns, they know the timing, they know when the reads are likely to result in their getting the ball, and they have some kind of rhythm. Running routes knowing that even if they are open, they likely won't get the ball on time isn't easy. And there is a strong likelihood that the patterns will all breakdown in a scramble drill. It must drive them all nuts.

Yes, the Falcons drop too many passes. But Vick has to take some of the blame for that as well.

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Just a comment on Grossman,

Although he completely gave teh game away to the Patriots in the second half, I was relatively impressed with his first half (aside from the botched snap fumble, which was totally his fault). I recall specifically the broken flea flicker play they had. Early in the year he just would have heaved it up to the deepest guy he could find, but this time he found the full back and dumped it off on a relatively safe play. This gives me hope for the future. Of course, He then followed it up with much suckitude in the second half.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12


The recievers aren't the problem. They've brought in a couple of good recievers, and drafted a bunch in the first round. Vick is the problem.

Some of the drops are inexcusable, but every team has those. Theres just 3-4 drops a game added on where Vick guns it at a reciever 3 yards away.

I really dont know if hes the problem, or if Mora is the problem, most likely its a combination of the two. Its ridiculous that he can't audible. Its also ridiculous that he admitted that he'd never watched film of himself until this year.
I'm just certain the recievers aren't the problem.

Unfortunately for the Falcons, Vick has like 9 years left on his contract, so if one of them is to go, it'll most likely be Mora.

As to Mora Sr, hes an analyst. Pretty much everything hs said about Vick is true. I dont think he should avoid doing his job simply because his son coaches the guy.

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

125: And when I stop using cliches myself, I'll start REALLY criticizing people. Because he who is without sin, cast the first...damnit!

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Thanks to kevinNYC, Jericho and Josh for responses to my question.

Without that penalty, the later shenanigans are almost certainly avoided.

Josh, I also wonder if that call popped into Kiawanuka's mind.

Another commenter mentioned Freeney letting a QB go earlier in the year. I think it was against New England.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

95: I thought the officials made the correct call in overturning the Torry Holt fumble and calling it an incomplete pass. I switched over from another game to see what happened when I saw online that the play was being reviewed. (I love Sunday Ticket.) I didn't see all of the replays, but from the ones I saw, it looked like it was incomplete, and it was obvious to me that the officials would overturn the call.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Re: #94

My best guess on Cleveland's situation is that their corners are really relying on the playcalls made in the huddles. The corners are all scrub-level guys (Daven Holly, Ralph Brown, and Jereme Perry); they've been playing beyond their ability for most of the season. They've been able to do alright on two receivers because they can bring in safety support for both guys, and our linebackers can watch the tight ends. Once you bring the third wide receiver into the mix, though, the kids get confused.

I don't really think the issue is so much the no-huddle as much as it is the spread offense; the no-huddle doesn't help, but the four wideouts spread out are almost guaranteed to be able to pick up a nice matchup on someone, particularly if they run routes under the safeties.

Interestingly, Rudi Johnson had one of his worst days against the Browns yesterday; 25 carries for only 61 yards. Apart from the TD (which ended up being irrelevant), that's a bad outing. The Browns haven't let up a hundred yard rusher since they played Tatum Bell (the Falcons had 140 yards on them, but Vick and Dunn each accounted for 70 of those yards).

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Two things about the Oakland D:

1. I heard many pundits and announcers praise them either last week or two weeks ago, which shocked me, as they don't normally pick up on stuff like that.

2. I don't think they're "great." I saw them early in the season and the linebackers looked both slow and dumb. Obviously, though, they're playing well.

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I'm as hard on Vick as almost anybody, and Stan's third point has merit, but I do get tired of receivers having excuses made for them in regard to high velocity passes. Brett Favre won three consecutive MVP awards while firing rifle shots, and some of them were fairly short range, and in cold weather.

John Madden says some silly things sometimes, but he knows a little bit about the game, and I always appreciated what he said about qbs throwing hard. He maintained that he always told Stabler, Lamonica, et. al., that they could throw a pass as hard as they wanted, and if the guys couldn't catch it, then the Raiders would get new guys. Sure, taken to the extreme, the statement becomes absurd, but there is something to be considered there before giving receivers an easy out.

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I'm always disappointed at the Bengals commentary, and how little of it there is...shocking, I know, coming from a guy with the handle "Brooklyn Bengal."

Does nobody for FO live in the Cincy area? I watch most Bengals games at Phebe's in NYC, so I have my own opinions on the team, but it would be nice to hear some viewpoints other than FO's "Bengals who?", TMQ's "BENGALS ARE THUGS!" or other Bengals fans' "Do the Ickey Shuffle!"

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Did anyone catch the game-turner in the Panthers game when a Campbell interception was called back on a picture perfect tackle by Peppers? For an otherwise well called game, that was ridiculous. Absolutely nothing illegal about the hit whatsoever, it was way outside the pocket, no contact with the helmet, did not drive him into the ground, nothing. But because he hit him hard, fifteen yards and interception overturned. I wish the NFL would just step up and apoloigize in public for calls blown that badly. It's like they have a bounty for every roughing the passer call.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Brooklyn Bengal

You get use to it, small market team that has sucked for years = small fanbase/loud-mouthed asses

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Thanks, Chris.

Also, Adam (doubtful that you are still reading), on your fox blog you wrote:

[Vince Young] easily spun out of Kiwanuka's two-hand-touch, running for a first down. Kiwanuka had Young and LET HIM GO!!! My friends and I all agree that he must have been afraid to get a roughing the passer call (crazy inconsitency calling that this year as the above article noted) and assumed Young had dumped the ball or the play was whistled.

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Independent George: You could not possibly be more wrong about Brady and Big Benny.

Benny was the very definition of a game manager as a rookie, who cherry picked about 10 passes per game and handed the ball off endlessly. Never in history has a QB done less to win games. He has four seasons worth of INTS and two seasons worth of touchdowns at this point in his overrated career.

Brady had a lot of yards and plenty of stats his first season, and never threw a pick in the playoffs. Benny was a INT machine in the playoffs, even though he was barely asked to pass the ball ever.

In 2002, Brady led the league in touchdowns with no running game at all. Meanwhile, Benny continued to hide behind his run game in his second season. Benny managed to have two solid games in the playoffs before stinking up the superbowl, with the worst winning QB performance in HISTORY.

In 2003 and 2004, Brady had back to back superbowl victories, with no run game at all in 2003. Benny has produced 18 INTs in his third season, and he has thrown more like 30 INTS if you watched the games. He keeps getting totally lucky, with defenders dropping multiple INTS in each game Benny plays this year. 20% of his passes in some games seem to go right in and out of the hands of defenders. Like against the Broncos.

Benny was never, and will never, be anything other than overrated. He has had the best defense and best run game in football, as well as better WRs than Brady, and a better O-Line.

He came into this league throwing INTs and cherry picking pass attempts, and he looks like he will leave this league on a stretcher. With more INTS than touchdowns.

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Regarding the suggestion that refs start calling PI when the DB has his head turned around:

Good grief! We already get enough ticky-tack, game-changing PI calls for incidental contact, and you want more? We already make it so a guy that's usually shorter and who has no idea where the ball is going has to run with a guy who knows where the ball is going, but he can not touch him, and is expected to stop him from catching a ball without coming within a half yard of him before the ball gets there. Now you want to make it so that he is liable for contact that happens that he can't possibly see to avoid?

As it is, when a CB is in close man coverage, a WR will sometimes change his route unexpectedly so that the CB will run into him and draw the flag. With the rule change that placed a tighter emphasis on illegal contact, this got a lot easier, and CB's now have to give all WR's a 2 yard cushion or risk an agile WR causing the CB to initiate contact and draw a penalty from a flag-happy crew. But if you make incidental contact worthy of PI even when the CB is turned around and making a play for the ball, then as soon as a CB who has position on a WR turns for the ball, the WR will simply slow down, and then make an elaborate show of getting knocked down by the CB "running into him". Isn't the game already tilted enough in the favor of the offense?

I know you want to get rid of "backwards interference", and maybe you could get rid of the few rare cases where it happens. But question: assuming the CB is in good position, and both the CB and the WR turn for the ball and then bump, who is more likely to be interfering--they guy who can see the other guy (the WR) or the guy who can't (the CB)? If there is contact and one person has his back to the other, I would throw the flag on the guy that can see the other guy practically every time.

You're pointing out a way DB's can exploit the rules to get a slight edge. Well, sure. Every position can do that. I'm sure WR's also exploit the rules to get an edge as well. I just mentioned some ways that they can. DPI is called far more often than OPI--who has more room to exploite rules? Also, an offense gets at least 3 downs per possession to try the deep pass, and they only need to draw the penalty on one of those. The defense needs to make a play on every down, at least three (or four) times in a row, or the offense wins. Advantage, offense. And you want to close a loophole that helps defenders without also looking to close loopholes that help offenses?

Something I've sometimes wondered about is what if there was radical shift in philosophy of the passing game? How about CB's and WR's can both bump/check/push each other as much as they want as long as they don't hold/tackle? So CB's can interfere, but WR's can push off? I know small, finesse recievers would hate that, and it might throw a wrench in a West Coast offense, but at least it would be clear cut and fair, and probably wouldn't help either the offense or the defense more once the kinks got worked out. Yes, I know it's a crazy idea, but no crazier than making offensive linemen wear mittens so they can't hold (which was discussed a few weeks ago). And yes, I know the league would never go for it because it would endanger their precious little QB's, but it's an interesting question.

Regarding the Patriots and their secondary: Yes, they play more physically than many, which helps compensate for their many injuries, but that also may be a part of WHY they have so many injuries. Also, could not some of the good play of weak DB's be due to the fact that they play behind at least three pretty good LB's, and a DL made of 1st round picks?

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Last time I checked, the bottom line is that throwing cliches under the bus is what it is.

Is this where Graham Chapman comes in and stops things because they are getting too silly?

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

142: That's a pretty funny sentence; I should copy it for my English students!

To be clear, I hate cliches, which are worn out metaphors, metaphors overused to the point of annoyance or meaninglessness. Much metaphoric language, and many common expressions and historical phrases, are good and add meaning and color to language. But it doesn't take long to figure out which metaphors have been overused into cliches.

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Another note about the Bank Of America check-card "keep the change" thing: For the first three months, BoA matches each transfer. So, if you spend $4.77 on chips and soda, the bank will transfer $0.23 and give you an additional $0.23 (within the first three months).

This makes it mildly interesting, as opposed to dumb. At least for the first three months. After that, it reverts to being dumb.

(For what it's worth, I think this counts as a form of "soft paternalism" [see link]. As an earlier commentator notes, it's good for people who've never had a savings account.)

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12


Will, normally I'd agree.

Except, what are the odds, that out of 3 1st round WRs, a 2nd round TE, multiple free agent WRs who have had success elsewhere, that only one of them can catch?

Every wide reciever Atlanta picks up in free agency has a drastic drop off in production. Lelie dropped from %.7 DVOA last year to -15.2% this year. Peerless Price dropped from 8% in 2002 to -18% in 2003, and -26.9% in 2004. If thats not an indicator, I dont know what is.

I'm starting to think that Alge Crumpler is much better than he appears.

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Didn't Charles Barkley do a postgame interview where he had a sign posted on his locker with phrases like, "Both teams gave 110% out there", "We really need to step it up", etc., and answered every question by pointing to a different stock phrase? It's only a matter of time before Belichick comes up with something like that, using a spinning dial to select random, three-syllable answers. Or a Magic 8-Ball.

I think we need a FO comment randomizer for the open discussion threads, with statements like, "I can't believe Dierdorf actually said that.", "Did you know that this is our country?", "I think they just disrespected Rodney Harrison.", or, "Time to put MDS on suicide watch?".

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The biggest mistake by the Giants was putting Plaxico on Pacman's side and throwing that way.

It was mentioned above why TN didn't put Pacman on Plaxico all game. Well for people that don't see every Titans game (as I do) I'll tell you that the Titans play their corners on a specific side. The CB's never play certain WR's. Pac is on one side. Hill is on the other. Period.

So the mistake was on putting Plaxico on Pacman's side in the first place. In the first half they completed a pass to Plax on Hill's side and I thought that would open the floodgate of more to come.

On Titan message boards we joke that other teams call 3rd down, "3rd and Renaldo".

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I feel this is poor precedent to set, especially since there was the Plaxico Burress play a few years back, and that wasn’t rule an intentional fumble.

IIRC, Burress was facing backwards when he spiked the ball, so it was, for all intents and purposes, a lateral and thus a live ball. The spike is clearly a throw, so the officals treat it as a pass when the play's not over.

Breaking news: Hines Ward had his knee 'scoped today and will miss at least one game.