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

Audibles at the Line: Week 3

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

Washington Redskins 31 at Houston Texans 15

Mike Tanier: The Texans have the first five minutes of the game down to a science. Now if they can only master the next 55, they'll be great.

The Redskins threw a lot of junk at them this week: draws, reverses, lots of receiver screens, that full-house waggle to Randle El for a touchdown, the long shovel pass. Their offense is full of these kinds of plays, but at some point they will have to throw the ball downfield against a real defense. Mark Brunell's 22 straight completions look more impressive until you realize that most of them were screens and quick outs. One of his long downfield completions went through a defender's hands. Great win, but did they show off every wrinkle in the playbook to achieve it?

Doug Farrar: I remember watching the game in which Gannon set the completion record that Brunell just broke -- he was throwing underneath non-stop on a Monday Night against the Broncos, when Ray Rhodes had his defense playing back just about all night. That was pretty much the death knell for Rhodes in Denver.

Jacksonville Jaguars 14 at Indianapolis Colts 21

Mike Tanier: The Jaguars were killing the Colts with draw plays early in the game. The Colts kept stunting with their front four, and Byron Leftwich kept giving the ball to Taylor and Drew for big yardage. The trouble is, draws only work if the defense is scared you will throw it deep. Once it became clear that no one was getting open for Leftwich, the Colts started using a simpler rush with their front four and closing down the running lanes.

Michael David Smith: I noticed the same thing about Colts-Jags. The Colts were playing pass a lot early and letting Jacksonville run all over them, but the Colts made adjustments and the Jags didn't.

Will Carroll: The Jags had a very strange set for their punt and it just bit them in the ass. They had almost a "U" shaped set with the gunners outside. On the snap, the gunner to the left ran IN to the center with one of the wing blockers coming from the "TE" position to cover the outside. The punt went to the left and the outside cover was still 10-15 yards back. The far gunner had one shot, missed, and Wilkins went untouched to the end zone.

Ned Macey: I thought the Colts were outplayed by the Giants, but it was nothing compared to the first half of this game. It looked like a high school game with the lanes that the Jaguars running backs had. Maurice Jones-Drew obviously had a big day, but his best play was this little extended pitch where he broke a half dozen tackles -- not bad for a little guy.

The Colts were tied at halftime despite being unable to run the ball and getting gashed by the Jaguars. Leftwich threw a terrible pick when they finally let him pass, Scobee missed a gimme field goal, and Wilkins ran back the punt return. The Colts offense and defense are both significantly off from a year ago, but at least their special teams are better.

The announcers didn't seem to notice that Matt Jones basically didn't play the whole game. Reggie Williams' main contribution was a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (which set up a second-and-25 that the Jaguars got out of on consecutive draw plays).

The Colts defense was much better in the second half. The Jaguars offensive coordinator obviously had no faith in his line holding up to the pass rush. As was mentioned before, once the Colts realized that the Jaguars liked to run draws (and I've never seen as many as I saw in the first half), the offense was useless.

By the way, Aaron's prediction of beating the Jaguars deep almost came very true in the first half. Wayne had a long pass ruled incomplete on a review, and Harrison missed a touchdown catch by two inches on a play where he had beaten Mathis.

Michael David Smith: Special teams made a huge difference as the Colts got an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown from Terrence Wilkins, while Jacksonville kicker Josh Scobee missed field goals of 24 and 49 yards.

I've thought Maurice Jones-Drew was going to be really, really good for a long time. I lived in California when he was in high school and saw him then, and I thought he was incredible. But he might be even better than I thought. Guys that quick aren't also supposed to be that good at running through tackles. My only question is why didn't Del Rio give him the ball more.

I was really impressed with Peyton Manning, especially considering Wayne and Harrison dropped his two best passes of the day. I've seen all three of Jacksonville's games this year, and I think they've got a very good pass defense, but Manning was finding soft spots in it. It's funny how dropped passes can change a quarterback's stats. If the Giants had intercepted all the Peyton Manning passes they had a hand on in Week 1, his numbers would have looked terrible. If the Colts had caught all the Peyton Manning passes they had a hand on today, his numbers would have looked phenomenal.

Mike Tanier: I'm not as negative on the Colts' performance as you were, Ned. Yeah, the Jaguars could run the ball, but as you said, the Colts shut down the passing game completely. And the Colts should have had some points before half. There was a near catch by Reggie Wayne that was ruled a drop, plus a "should've been" pass interference when Williams or someone grabbed Marvin Harrison from behind.

Ned Macey: If Harrison "dropped" the throw from Manning, MDS and I have very different definitions of the word. I'll buy Tanier's explanation, but the contact was minimal -- just that the pass was so close to a completion it may have been enough.

Cincinnati Bengals 28 at Pittsburgh Steelers 20

Mike Tanier: Weird game. The Bengals try to establish the run early, and they have some success. Then, when they are down 17-14, they stop running the ball (except on second-and-15) and Palmer starts getting hammered every time he drops to pass. There was a period of 3 or 4 possessions when the Bengals offense looked horrible, and it looked like the Steelers were about to take over (this was right after the hit on Tab Perry and the long runback by the Steelers, which looked like it blew the Bengals' composure). Then, Ricardo Coleslaw loses that punt in the wind, and it's all Bengals.

Other notes: Perry looked very good throughout the game. Roethlisberger is goofing off in the pocket too much and should probably dump the ball off more often instead of scrambling. In the first half, the Bengals weren't containing running plays to the outside at all, and Willie Parker had some nice runs by bouncing to the outside. I don't know what adjustment was made, but Parker couldn't get the corner as easily in the second half.

Michael David Smith: Don't let Palmer's four TD passes fool you; he had a lot of trouble with Pittsburgh's D. On one three-play stretch Palmer had two fumbles and an interception. Late in the first half Palmer spiked the ball to stop the clock, then called a timeout -- he seemed flustered at times.

After a Monday night loss in which they never sustained a drive longer than 26 yards, the Steelers' offense had an 80-yard touchdown drive to start the game against the Bengals. They were running very effectively when they went up the middle behind center Jeff Hartings. Have I mentioned lately that I hate Matt Millen for getting rid of Hartings? He's only been the most consistent member of one of the best offensive lines in the league the last five years. I'm sure the Lions couldn't have used him.

Aaron Schatz: I don't know how much to add on this one, but one thing I did notice when I wasn't watching MIN-CHI was that Madieu Williams seemed to be having problems making run support tackles on Willie Parker.

Also, after an interception by Dwight Smith in one game I was watching and another by Deltha O'Neal in this one, I would like to call for a ban on the phrase "he was a centerfielder out there" when a guy throws a pick in the middle of the field. Enough already, it was a stupid metaphor to begin with.

Carolina Panthers 26 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24

Mike Tanier: I have one note: the Panthers now use their full house package on some passing downs. They used the full house (fullback and TE in the backfield with Foster or Williams) late in the game when driving for the game winning field goal. Very odd. Even if you are worried about your pass protection, that's a little extreme.

Michael David Smith: Keyshawn Johnson looked really good in his return to Tampa Bay. Steve Smith played well despite trouble with both hamstrings. I still think the Panthers can be a good team this year, but that 0-2 hole is pretty big considering how surprisingly well the Falcons and Saints have played.

Green Bay Packers 31 at Detroit Lions 24

Michael David Smith: The Lions are the worst team in the league. The defense was supposed to be the strength of this team, and the Packers moved the ball at will all day.

Mike Tanier: Every time the highlight of Jennings scoring that first TD (the play with three defenders tripping over each other) appeared on one of the TVs at the local sports bar, the whole bar cracked up. All I could think was, "Poor Mike Smith."

Michael David Smith: So I'm sitting here trying not to think about the Lions, and out of the blue my wife asks me, "Do you think the good players on the Lions resent having to be on the Lions?"

I don't know if I've ever seen a bigger difference in one team within two weeks than I saw in the Packers' offense against the Bears two weeks ago and the Packers' offense against the Lions today. Against the Bears I thought the 2006 Packers were going to embark on one of the all-time worst offensive seasons. I mean they just literally couldn't do anything. Now against the Lions they just had a dominant game. I guess it's the quality of the opposition.

Chicago Bears 19 at Minnesota Vikings 16

Aaron Schatz: I swear, I've seen this movie before. Folks might remember that last year, I wrote an article after the first three games saying that 3-0 Washington was doing it with mirrors. The Redskins barely beat Chicago and were lucky to beat Dallas and Seattle when they were outplayed by both. In Week 4, they went out and actually played their best game of the season -- and narrowly lost to Denver. Now I was forced to talk about how their loss was actually better than their wins.

That's how I feel about the Vikings. I mostly watched this game instead of CIN-PIT because I wanted to figure out if I was completely wrong about the Vikings, and they played really well, and looked like they would take this game and then a fumble, and the bad luck of the bounce into the Bears hands, and now they're 2-1. The Minnesota D does look much faster this year. They're stopping outside runs with great movement side-to-side, and they pressured the hell out of Grossman with blitzes up the middle.

Brad Johnson pulled an intentional grounding at one point that showed why the Vikings are screwed long term. Not only should he just have taken the damn sack, but he put the ball up and the defender went right into his ribs, and afterwards he looked completely winded. He's going to get hurt.

By the way, this game was Mike Smith's other nightmare, along with yet another Detroit loss. The game was stopped over and over, first by two absurd challenges and then by penalty after penalty after penalty. The first challenge had Minnesota actually challenging that Chicago DIDN'T fumble, because the Bears gained an extra TWO yards when they recovered their own fumble. Absurd. There was a horse collar call that was mostly BS because the tackler was pushing the guy down forwards instead of jerking him backwards, and then a silly offensive PI on Williamson when he didn't even come CLOSE to pushing off a defender.

Doug Farrar: Note to Chris Gamble -- watch what Rashied Davis did against Minnesota on that 35-yard kickoff return. Fake the lateral, freeze the gunner. I guess we now know why Chicago is #1 in the NFL in special teams DVOA by about 500 percentage points.

New York Jets 28 at Buffalo Bills 20

Bill Barnwell: At the beginning of the game, Eric Mangini looked like a kid who couldn't put together the Silver Monkey on Legends of the Hidden Temple. He seemed forthright and noble -- but absolutely clueless.

When CBS did the graphics with the Jets defensive alignment, they listed Bryan Thomas as a DE even though he was on the LB page with all the other LBs. I don't know if that was a commentary or a typo.

The Bills had two chances to put away this game -- they had awful execution on a fake field goal, and Losman fumbled with the first sign of pressure the Jets had all day. The Bills offensive line had a field day with the Jets today - McGahee was going for five or six yards at a time, and the Jets didn't collapse Losman's pocket until halfway through the third quarter. Losman repeatedly had eight or nine seconds to throw while Pennington was feeling the rush by his third step.

It was clear that the Jets were terrified to throw an out pattern with Pennington on a gusty day -- Pennington threw one to a WIDE open Jerricho Cotchery at the end of the second quarter and one to Coles in the fourth and that was it. They worked both times, too. Otherwise, it was slants to Coles, screens, and dump-offs over the middle to Chris Baker. They clearly don't feel too confident about Pennington's arm strength, and are building the offense around avoiding extending him.

On the other hand, J.P. Losman has a freakin' howitzer. Of course, his mind isn't there -- he threw a couple of terrifying (for Bills fans) blind screen passes, and made an awful throw for a big third-quarter interception in Jets territory.

Andre Dyson has not looked good at all this season. Example -- the Bills have a third-and-4 at midfield and Dyson is on Lee Evans. Dyson plays six yards off the line. Evans runs a five yard curl, catches the ball for the first down, and then runs by Dyson and gets four more yards. What was the point of having Dyson play off the line, then?

The play that may have saved the game for the Jets was when the Bills had a third-and-goal from the one-yard line, down 10 with 14 minutes to go, and they decided to run a fake pitch/naked bootleg with Losman. Bobby Hamilton held his lane from right end and snuffed Losman out for a nine-yard loss. Absolutely awesome play.

New York Giants 30 at Seattle Seahawks 42

Doug Farrar: I haven't seen anything from Eli Manning today that shows me that he's any better in two important categories -- dissecting even slightly complex defenses (his first interception to Ken Hamlin was predicated on his averse reaction to a zone blitz) and knowing when to throw what where (pick #2 to Hamlin happened when he should have thrown to Toomer's right side near the sideline and threw inside instead). He's lucky he wasn't picked off again at the end of the half -- throwing another one of those jump balls to a receiver who hadn't even turned his head yet. He's got a succession of quick outs and that jump ball, but I don't see much else, and that's pretty much where I was with him last year.

Bill Barnwell: Every play that Manning got lucky on last week, he's not getting lucky on this week. That last minute was really the perfect summation of when everything goes ugly in New York: Manning looking utterly befuddled, Burress scowling on the sidelines, Shockey ranting about how he didn't get a chance to drop another ball he was wide open for, Petitgout looking for someone to hold, it's all awful.

Mike Tanier: The Giants have a new thing: instead of scripting their first 20 plays, they script their LAST 20 plays.

Aaron Schatz: New York's ability to score weird lucky touchdowns in the second half has reached the point of absurdity.

Sam Madison for the second straight week just looked awful.

I'm not sure why he was doing it, but I think that after making a big tackle on a kickoff return, Josh Scobey was pinching his nipples.

St. Louis Rams 16 at Arizona Cardinals 14

Ned Macey: Kurt Warner is d-o-n-e done. Start the Leinart watch -- I've got Week 5.

Aaron Schatz: As I write this, he's 12-for-19 with 200 yards. What are you seeing in this game that the stats aren't seeing?

Ned Macey: Warner just looked permanently confused in the pocket. By the end of the game, it looked like they had the wide receiver screen and not much else. He got popped under the helmet early in the game, and it got to the point where I think he may have been concussed. His first interception was a throw into double coverage. His last interception was the worst (right-handed) pass in history unless there is something left unexplained. He fumbled on their last play when they were just running out the clock to kick the game-winner. I wasn't paying 100% attention to the game, but the good-looking throws down the field were few and far between. Having Boldin and Fitzgerald breaking tackles off of short passes left and right will do wonders for your stats.

Philadelphia Eagles 38 at San Francisco 49ers 17

Mike Tanier: Is it over? Can I look? Can I also point out that Donovan McNabb is having an absolutely incredible season right now?

Denver Broncos 17 at New England Patriots 7

Aaron Schatz: A pregame note. Sterling Sharpe just said one of the dumbest, most contradicted by facts statements I've ever heard on a pregame show. He said that the Broncos are arrogant thinking they can keep getting rid of 1,000-yard rushers, and that it is finally hurting them, and they are losing because, QUOTE, "They can't get the running game going, and so they're putting it all on Plummer's shoulders."

I don't know what is going to happen tonight, but I know this: In the first two games, Tatum Bell has 172 yards, 5.5 yards per carry. Mike Bell has 102 yards, 4.4 yards per carry. I never played in the league so maybe I'm just a stupid outsider, but Sterling has to explain to me how 274 yards over two games qualifies as "can't get going."

Will Carroll: Why is the straight-arm not called hands to the face? That said, Laurence Maroney is scary good.

Aaron Schatz: If there's supposed to be something colossally wrong with Jake Plummer, I'm just not seeing it. This is the second straight game where blown tackling has led to huge touchdowns against the Pats. I hate the stupid Broncos.

Bill Moore: It's 2am, and I just got home from a trip to Foxboro. I haven't yet read any of the other audibles, so I won't comment on the game per se. However, I will say this: Dynasty's goodwill must last a year and three games. I couldn't believe the negativity and complaints among the crowd, especially considering it was directed at none other than Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Maybe NE fans are sore about the Red Sox situation or seeing Deion Branch playing in the 4:00 game, but there are plenty of fans -- not all, I assure you, or even a majority, but plenty -- who should be embarrassed at how they reacted to last night's game. Isn't it Bill Simmons who wrote that there should be a 5 year grace period from boos and complaints when your team wins a championship? Therefore, shouldn't the Pats have 12 or 13 years left? Yet, fans were yelling "you suck" at freakin' Tom Brady. I almost expected to hear "We want Cassell." Incredible. I swear I felt like I was in the Meadowlands during the Herm Edwards years. Goodwill -- it ain't what it used to be.

Mike Tanier: Holy crap. Bill. I thought that was a Philly thing. Sit in a Philly sports bar and you will hear how McNabb is the worst QB in the league and how we win all of our games with defense, plus how he and Andy Reid cost the team a Super Bowl (like we would have been anywhere near a Super Bowl without them). I used to play a game where I would ask, "Who should we have taken in the draft instead of McNabb?" They used to say Culpepper, believe it or not, then the answer became Edge. I wonder who it is now. But I figured Brady would be cannonized like Favre is.

Ned Macey: I'm pretty sure it is universal. Unless I'm mistaken, it certainly sounded like Indy fans were booing in the first half of a game they never trailed by more than 7 points. These are three of the probably five best franchises of this decade. I'm not quite sure what fans expect.

Aaron Schatz: Ugh, I thought that was just the local media trying to stir things up. I am embarassed if fans are really acting like that. The Pats always lose to Denver. They're going to go 10-6 and win the division anyway. What, are New England fans really worried about the Jets? Do they feel they are entitled to win the Super Bowl every single year? That's pathetic.

Michael David Smith: At this point, if the Lions could have even one season as good as an average Pats/Eagles/Colts season this decade, I'll happily sign a pledge never to complain about them again.

Coming This Week

Any Given Sunday: Broncos over Patriots
Every Play Counts: Chicago's Passing Game

Comments

191 comments, Last at 27 Sep 2006, 11:10am

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I'm having trouble convincing myself the Vikings' loss is better than either of their wins. A matter of tastes, I guess.

I hope Seattle beats the Bears by 60.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I like the Legends of the Hidden Temple remark. If I'm flipping through channels and it's 5 minutes to the end of an hour and see that's on, I'll turn it on to watch the hopeless kids run through that temple.

Kurt Warner has something like 8 fumbles in the first three weeks, to go along with his interceptions...and that last fumble of his yesterday was just killer for the Cardinals, who were just waiting to kick the game-winner. I agree that the clock is ticking on him.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Just to follow up on my Foxboro rant. It's not like I was sitting in section 412 or whatever nosebleeds where you can expect to hear such mouths. I was in great seats among multi-year season ticket holders. It was embarassing.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Two points in response regarding the Pats/Broncs game:

1. Tom Brady should never, ever, be booed at home. On the television, I couldn't believe what I was hearing, and anyone who actually says to Brady that he "sucks" should have their season tickets revoked and then should be tarred and feathered and sent to the Meadowlands.

2. I didn't think offensive players (with the ball?) could be called for hands to the face. That said, Maroney only looks scary good in space. I haven't seen him drive through inside creases -- as he will need to if Dillon is out for any significant period of time.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Hey, at least the Patriots fans gave the team a year. Look at the comments from Steelers fans after yesterday's game in the open thread. I'm sure the bar scene was even worse.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Regarding the Colts booing in the first half that Ned Macey mentioned, I think the fans were booing a pass interference non-call. Still pretty dumb, as Manning had to take a time out due to crowd noise. As for the irrationality of it, well, I can't talk since I almost tore apart a folding chair after Jones-Drew converted that 3rd and six where he broke about 58 tackles.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Just like the announcers during the Bears/Vikings game, you are also wrong about that penalty.

You see, they challanged the Penalty for about 2.5 yards. On the next third down, they didn't get the first down by.... about 2 yards.

They were at the very cusp of field goal range. They had to punt. Or they took a field goal... not remembering exactly.

Point is, that 2 yards that cost nothing to do, because it was the wrong call, mattered in the game.

And anyone complaining about it, needs only to look at how exceedingly right of a call it was when 2 yards was the difference between 4th and 1st down.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Some impressions from the Denver-Pats game:

While I agree it's ridiculous to yell "you suck" at Tom Brady, he didn't have a very good game yesterday. He sailed a couple of passes and doesn't seem to have the timing on his deep throws down - the only good one he had Troy Brown dropped.

That said, except for the TD drive where Doug Gabriel caught pretty much everything thrown his way, his receivers were not helping him much. Reche Caldwell doesn't seem to be running great routes. Troy Brown looked OK, but he's just not the player he was 5 years ago. Gabriel looked good on the one drive - I don't know if that was because Denver was playing prevent or if maybe he is actually going to work out. Chad Jackson needs to get on the damn field.

Javon Walker looks like he was very much worth a second round pick.

The Denver D is really good. Their D-line is good enough to let those linebackers fly around and make plays. Ian Gold is really, really good. Remember when he want to Tampa for a year or something and didn't work out? I guess what system you are in really makes a big difference.

Rodney Harrison does not look that great. He is just not as fast as he used to be. The Patriots linebackers did not look great either - Seau looked OK but there were too many plays where linebackers were getting blocked and letting Tatum Bell run free.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I'm interested to see how Brunell's numbers score in Quickreads this week. Even with dinky passes, 22 straight is pretty good, but if they aren't getting first downs with them, then DVOA should show that.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

" Why is the straight-arm not called hands to the face?"

I've wondered that for years.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

5: Which comments do you mean? I actually just went back to check, because I didn't remember anything that bad, and didn't find anything. There were some saying that Ricardo Colclough can't catch, but that's just a statement of fact.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Although the Vikings challenge certainly seemed absurd at the time, the Bears ended up being 2 yards short of a 1st down and were forced to attempt a field goal instead of continuing the drive (see the gamebook by clicking by name...the play in question took place on the second drive of the game).

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Oh yeah - one other thing. Asante Samuel needs to stop getting called for pass interference. Seems like it happens almost every game, and while it's frequently pretty ticky-tack, he must be doing something to get called that often. Whatever it is, the coaches need to get on him about it.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Aaron, the moral for the Vikings is that ya' can't win every close game, which is why, when you are playing below average teams, which the Vikings will do with much greater frequency after their seventh game, ya' gotta get some stomps, or at least some non-guts. Your assessment of the game yesterday is pretty much correct, although I'd add that if Sharper makes an easy catch on another Grossman screw-up, a catch Sharper probably makes 98% of the time, the Vikings score two touchdowns off interceptions instead of one. Combined with some below average luck regarding fumble recoveries, and it was enough for the Vikings to let a huge win slip away.

If Johnson can stay upright for another month, they'll be in pretty good shape. Beating the Bills in Buffalo will be difficult, but it's doable, and then they get the Lions in the Metrodome. A 4-1 record means they are playing with house money against the Pats at home and Seattle on the road, given their schedule the rest of the way. Heck, even a 3-4 record gives them a decent shot at a wild card, particularly so if the three additional losses come against the Bills, Pats, and Seahawks, given that the Vikings will have the tiebreakers over the Panthers and Redskins.

Performance-wise, their biggest problems are at right ot, where Marques Johnson gets really overmatched against superior defensive ends, and the fact that they need to rely on blitzing too much to get a good pass rush. The Bears made a good adjustment on the Vikings' blitz schemes, which resulted in some success by Grossman late in the game. The Vikings need Johnson and Kenechi Udeze to pick up their games.

Finally, the games are slowed up enough by the legitimate penalties, without the zebras making them up. The horse collar penalty was a bad call, but at least it bore some resemblence to the infraction, whereas the PI call on Williamson (who really seems to be coming on), which negated about a 25 yard gain, into Bears territory, wasn't even close. Phantom PI calls, both offensive and defensive, really screw up the game, perhaps even more so than the typical miscue by officials.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

My impressions from Broncos-Pats:

This was a game where both offenses moved in fits and starts, getting from their own end zone to midfield and then punting. The Broncos made two big plays for touchdowns, and avoided a big play the other way (In the 3rd quarter, if Kyle Johnson gets hit a split second later it would have been a devastating fumble), and that was the ballgame.

I don't know if we can tell from behind the television whether Branch or Givens would have made much of a difference. Neither one makes big plays like the two Walker made last night, they're just reliable general-purpose receivers. On the other hand, it's very possible that they would have been just good enough to get the Pats a couple of extra third down conversions, which would have made a big difference. But it's hard to see on television what Reche Caldwell does on plays where he doesn't get thrown the ball.

Also, there were a couple of pass interferences called on New England that were far worse calls than the infamous one in last year's playoff. They weren't as critical to the outcome, but they shouldn't have been called.

Brady needs to be less cranky. He spent all of last night arguing with the refs and yelling at people. It can't help in the locker room.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

As #6 mentioned, the major source of booing in the Colts game was the refs. The only other significant booing I heard came when the Jaguars converted a 2nd-and-25 with 2 running plays. After watching the Jags run for about 35 yards a carry (stat not checked for accuracy) for an entire half, that was a bit much to take.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I think that pass interference, offensive and defensive should have a minor call for it.

I don't have a strong opinion on what the call should be. You'd have to be sure it was minor, to avoid someone doing it on purpose.

But maybe, defensive.. ball is caught where the infraction occured, no additional movement of the ball. No loss of down.

Maybe offensive, retry the down.

It seems weird to say, but it would definately ease the large penalties for minor infractions that occur.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Anyone yelling personal insults at Brady should have his tickets revoked, and I'm with Aaron, its embarrassing.

However, I find it interesting that last night I realized that I was having some negative thoughts about Brady for the first time. I think that it stems from the Branch affair. Brady took Branch's side when most fans (certainly the ones on this board) sided with management. What makes things worse is that he seems to be in a funk over the whole deal.

If this continues to affect his play I will have the same problem that I had with McNabb over the TO situation. Cornerstone QBs like Brady and McNabb (and P. Manning and Carson Palmer) essentially *are* management. This is due to their stature with the team and the investment that the organization has made in them. As you move into management, whether it’s in a corporation or a football team, you have to get behind decisions and move on. I hope that Brady does this soon.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

If you have a crappy game, expect to get booed. As the quarterback, you're the face of the team and will get a disproportionate amount of praise and criticism (exempting Brett Favre). Either suck it up and deal or get traded to Atlanta, where you can lose with impunity inside the silent, vacant Georgia Dome.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

It's not like Brady has a real reciever right now. If the franchise isn't willing to pay a reciever that will help you as a quarterback, I think you have a personal stake in the team, and yourself.

And I think it's reasonable for him to be upset that his best reciever right now is a tight end.

I mean seriously. Reche Caldwell?!

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Tom Brady doesn't deserve to get booed - Bill Belichick deserves to get booed. John Madden was right - the Pats offense didn't look like it really wanted to play, and that's a reflection of Belichick/Pioli screwing of Deion Branch.

Say what you will of whether Branch is worth six million a year. The fact of the matter is that Belichick's handling of the matter cost him the locker room. The Pat's might go 10-6 this year, and should be concerned about the Jets.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Antoine Winfield had the INT, but I thought he looked pretty bad in coverage. Muhammed and Berrian were open in the middle 10-15 yards downfield too often, and too often it was Winfield that was beat (accounting for his 10 tackles). I guess I'd have to watch the tape again--the DBs were maybe all getting beat with equal frequency.

Without Marcus Robinson, the Vikes really were never even a threat when they got inside the 20.

Man, I'm taking this loss bad. I'm a grown man, shouldn't I be past this! I really detest the Bears.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Ned, I have a different opinion than you do on the Indy fans booing. The fans were saying "boo-urns." No, wait, that's not what I meant. The Indy fans were booing the referees at the end of the first half, and through the rest of the game. The refs overturned the long Reggie Wayne reception, when on replay it looked like Wayne had his left arm under the ball. Whether or not it was the right call, it went against the home team. Then, the refs missed what I thought was an obvious pass interference call when Mathis grabbed Harrison's jersey near the right shoulder, impeding Harrison enough so that the ball just glanced off his fingertips. (It was obvious to me, but I guess you didn't think so.) The fans were also able to see this on replay, so they were none too pleased with the (blind) zebras. You could also hear the fans boo after the game was over, as the referees were leaving the field.

So I don't think you can label the Indy fans as "fickle" or "unfair" or whatever. Really, Indy fans (and media) are teddy bears compared to some other cities.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

cincinnati was very fumble lucky to win that game. it looked like whoever made the last mistake would lose by the end of that game. is corey simon really that good that the colts' run defense has fallen apart without him. bush, maroney, addai, jones-drew all look very good this year. was it just me, or did the pats recievers look out of position a lot? broncos-pats looks like an absurd choice for any given sunday, until i realized that there weren't any major upsets yesterday. weird. stl over arizona was what i was most surprised by. that probably means n.o. wins tonight.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Maroney reminds me of post-Saints Ricky Williams, and not just because of the dreads. He's got that combo of speed and power and decisiveness that makes for great NFL backs. And the Pats have a real luxury with him just being Dillon's change-up.

I watched most of the Miami-Tennessee game for some reason. Miami is not even barely a playoff-caliber team, and I can't see them staying competitive with a Cincy, Denver, Indy, or Jax. Daunte's immobility and indecisiveness is just the tip of the sno-cone. The O-line is playing garbage -- poor Ronnie Brown is having to make his own holes, and Daunte is feeling heat on every drop back. And what you won't see in the stats or highlights is that on at least four occasions Kerry Collins overthrew WRs who had gotten way behind the Miami DBs. The Dolphins' secondary might be the NFL's weakest, and their #1 pick (Jason Allen) hasn't been able to play himself onto the defense yet, even in the dime package.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

11: Guess I was wrong about the Steelers, it seemed a lot more bitter yesterday, though.
For the Pats, the offense didn't seem lifeless as much as out of synch. Thier gameplan relys so much on setting up the pass with the run, that when they couldn't get anything on the ground, the passing game was thrown off. And Brady just isn't as accurate as he used to be, but I think it's a matter of the receivers not getting open or not catching the ball like Branch and Givens were doing last year. For Bellicheck/Pioli's offseason moves, I agree with what they did tatically, but not stratigecally. It's important to not overpay guys, but you need to pay somebody.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Every Monday, this roundup is my favorite recap of the week. Nice work.

One note: In the Cincinnati/Pittsburgh section, "Tab Perry" should be "Chris Henry."

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

It seems that folks here and the announcers last night both agree that Brady had a poor game. Yet it didn't appear to me that he played poorly. He was 31-55 for 320 yards throwing to nobody. That's pretty good if you ask me. The difference in the game was the Denver recievers caught a couple of deep balls and broke a few tackles while the New England recievers didn't, and Denver was able to get a better running game going. It wasn't an embarrasment by any means.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Post 21:

Favre is only exempt from criticism from certain announcers. Otherwise, if you read any website or national newspaper you will find abundant criticism of Favre.

Allen Barra has termed him "washed up". Bill Simmons regularly mocks Favre in his columns on ESPN.com. Writers (and posters) have made Favre snark an art form.

I am sure folks will read this as complaining. That is not the intent. Just that posters over and over and OVER again claim Favre never gets criticized when in fact taking swipes at Favre has become a cottage industry on the Internet.

I understand Favre brought this on himself with the tiresome retirement talk and the dreadful play in 2006 (and playoff games before that).

But if folks are going to use Favre as a punchline at least use it correctly.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Re: 26, if it seems like an odd Any Given Sunday, blame Josh Cribbs. We were *so* ready to do Ravens-Browns. I was excited to popularize Alex and Corey Rubin's name for the Cleveland defense, "Oshinowo's Eleven."

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

21:
Either suck it up and deal or get traded to Atlanta, where you can lose with impunity inside the silent, vacant Georgia Dome.

Wow.

True, and almost laughable, but wow.

And yes, I'm completely useless at work today...

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

#6 The timeout occurred while the fans were booing another non-interference call on Mathis vs. Harrison. But that was in the 2nd half. (Ned clearly refers to the first half above.) And if it's true that Manning burned a timeout because of crowd noise, that's pretty weak.

Incidentally, on the play in the 2nd half, I'm not sure that Mathis interfered. But there was definitely illegal contact on the play, probably before the ball was being thrown.

Ned may be referring to the booing after the 2nd and 25 conversion that DrewTS mentions above? I missed that, but I'll listen for it on the tape.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I really wish there was a way to download the games, and watch them all. It would take a lot of time this week, but I'm on vacation.. and well.. sitting here.

(I'm also reading about Linguistics, so I don't feel quite as worthless as I actually am)

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

As a follow up, the papers covering the Packers in Wisconsin (all two of them) have never pulled their punches when it comes to Favre. Chris Havel of the Green Bay Press-Gazette and Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel have issued harsh criticism of Favre's play over the years.

As for the Packer fans, I have sat in Lambeau Field and listened to the screams for Favre to be benched. The Monday Night game against the Seahawks when he was outplayed by Kitna was particularly memorable as the guy next to me in the fifth row behind the Packers bench spent a quarter plus repeatedly screaming "FAVRE SUCKS!!" before someone complained and security asked him to pipe down.

No, I am not big money. Girlfriend's family had killer seats. New girlfriend now. Milwaukee gold package.

Always a factor in girlfriend selection......

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

RE:#30
320 yards on 55! attempts isn't that great. and a lot of that came in the 4th quarter when the Pats were already down by three scores.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

9: The passes were getting first downs, despite being rinky-dinky stuff, because there was a lot of catch-and-run action. I'd expect him to look pretty good in PAR since there is no defensive adjustment yet.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Re: Colts fans booing.

#18 was right. The fans were definitely booing the Colts defense after the Jags converted (plus a few extra yards) that 2nd and 25 with two running plays. Whether the booing was justified or not could certainly be debated.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Sixty thousand people at Heinz Field and how many others watching and listening at home, knew that disaster was coming as soon an Colclough stepped onto the field. Tunch Ilkin on the radio was fit to be tied and this was before the ball was snapped. Everyone knew but Cowher.

And it's not like he is a breakaway returner, just waiting to solve the catching problem.

At the beginning of training camp, the Tribune-Review reported every day how many punts Colclough had dropped the day before.

Sheesh.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I really wish there was a way to download the games, and watch them all. It would take a lot of time this week, but I’m on vacation.. and well.. sitting here.

There is. I won't say how, because I'd probably just end up with the comment deleted, but it's not hard to find.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Hey, I'm not hoping for any misfortune to befall Matt Hasselbeck, but if he were hurt prior to the trading deadline, while the Packers lost their games to that point, and the Seahawks thus decided to trade enough value in draft picks (and I have no idea what that would be) , and the Packers would be open to it, I'd wager that Favre would be damned effective, perhaps every bit as much as Hasselbeck, after he'd settled in. Holmgren wouldn't be shy about coaching Favre, and I think Favre would be receptive. The guy can still easily make the throws, and while there have been too many Favreophiles cutting him too much slack, some of the criticism goes overboard as well.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Trust me, Indy fans were booing the Colts defense before really cranking it up for missed PI call. I believe it started right after the Jags converted 2nd and 25 with their 14th and 15th draw plays of the first half.

As an aside to those claiming the Colts pipe in crowd noise, Manning had to call a time out due to the noise from booing officials after a supposedly missed PI call. Do you think the noise maker was inadvertantly turned on then too?

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

MIN was impressive yesterday. They really had Rex rattled. It seemed like he was overthrowing every other pass, I mean by like 6 feet. He could have easily thrown 3-4 picks, but MIN's DBs were not holding on to the ball. So the answer to the question (i.e., How will the Bears' pass offense react to a strong defense?) is, not well. I keep hoping that these early wins are going to give Rex the experience he needs to develop so he will handle the tougher competition down the road (e.g., SEA next week).

The running game struggled again, which was surprising considering the attention paid to the pass. Jones ran strong, he just didn't have to many places to go. I don't think Benson even touched the ball.

Needless to say, I breathlessy await the next EPC column.

Overall it was a typical CHI @ MIN game. Fortunately, the game was on in San Diego, so I was able to talk to my brother in Cali during the game to compare notes. I told him that two things always happen when CHI plays in the Metrodome: The refs make terrible calls and the CHI QB throws interceptions.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The talk around the water cooler today is that Ben Roethlisberger is done and that he was a two year fluke.

I've never wanted to vomit more in my life.

I personally think the Steelers lucked their way into a once-in-a-not-very-often type of player and it's going to take maybe 2 bad seasons before I change my opinion on that. Not 2 bad passes. Not 2 bad halfs. And most certaintly not 2 bad games.

I used to think that the only way a Quarterback would get respect in Pittsburgh would be if he won them another Super Bowl, and when he did win that Super Bowl he would be the toast of the town forever no matter what type of QB or person he was after that...Well, I can sit here today on September 25th, 2006, roughly 8 months after Ben Roethlisberger led the Pittsburgh Steelers to a Super Bowl Victory, and say that I have never been more wrong about anything in my life.

Send in Brian St. Pierre and turn this place into a parking lot. Turn out the lights baby, this parties over.

Imbeciles.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Re: 20

This is exactly what I was saying throughout the entire Branch debacle. New England thought that they could screw a popular, stellar player who has been the embodiment of a team player and a great friend to everyone in the locker room and suffer no ramifications. Really, the stupidity with which New England handled Branch was breathtakingly poor managment technique. Now they have an upset quarterback and an offense which looked lifeless in their first big game. To think that Brady should side with a management team which seems hell-bent on destroying the passing game to placate Pioli's ego is insane. Its interesting that many on these boards supported management. Perhaps taking statistics and numbers too seriously makes one forget that it is humans that play the game, not automans in a video game.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Re: 31
Favre has actually played quite well so far this year. Significantly better than in 2005 (when he clearly didn't give a rats ass).

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Chi-MN games used to be like this because the Bear defense shut down the good Viking offense, and the Bear offense couldn't do anything even against the terrible Viking defense. It was the same sort of game, but the first time in a long time it went that way in part because of a competent Viking defense.

Bear WRs have looked like Tecmo Bowl WRs for the past three weeks. Grossman was up-and-down Sunday, but the WRs were able to consistently get open.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

47: Favre started out 2005 pretty hot with a lot of TDs, though. It'll be interesting to see if he totally bottoms out like he did in part two of 2005.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Furthermore, if Casey Hampton were a wide receiver, Ricardo Colclough couldn't cover him. I don't know why he hasn't been cut. There have got to be a lot of decent available backup corners out there, including one named Chidi, who is actually capable when it comes to special teams. As far as punt/kickoff returning goes, Holmes hasn't been terribly inspiring either, but whatever happened to Willie Reid?

That said, I think I heard a few boos on TV after Ben's last interception, which is totally uncalled for. Cincinatti and Jacksonville were hardly guaranteed wins, and the season has barely just begun. Baltimore and Cincinatti have already had more of their easy games than Pittsburgh, and it's not unreasonable to expect the gap in the AFC North to narrow. A close loss is not the end of the world. Keeping Colclough on the active roster might be, though.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

It may have just been because I was drinking all day, but John Madden sounded pretty intelligent last night. I think it was he who called out how Rod Smith was a Patriots killer and Smith went on to prove him right. Chalk one up for teaching a dog new tricks.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

It is interesting how the Vikings roster construction and coaching contrasts with the vast majority of Vikings playoff-worthy teams since the early 90s. This team seems not quite as well constructed for winning games at home, especially against mediocre defenses, but seems much, much, better constructed for winning on the road. We'll see if this theory holds next Sunday. The Vikings have had, for the last couple decades, a devil of a time winning on the road, outside of Green Bay and Detroit, and they have had particular problems in AFC stadiums.

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I have to wonder if the Patriots maybe didn't make a mistake with Deion Branch. As someone here said, you don't want to overpay, but you do have to pay somebody. Who is Brady supposed to throw the ball to? Defenses no longer have to figure an elite receiver into the game plan.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

52: that's a good take. It'll be interesting to see if getting to compete on the road means we don't get to blow people out at home anymore.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Re #27
You know, I watched all of MIA-TEN, and it just sort of casually occurred to me, but Tennessee's receivers were really, really open. Collins ended up 19 of 33, the two INTs came when he was hit while throwing and had a pass tipped at the line. Of the remaining 12 passes, I'd have to say Collins missed an open receiver on probably six to ten times. Give me Tom Brady's crappy game any time.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I'll be very interested in the upcoming EPC. I've always been a Rex supported and am pretty happy with his performance so far this year. His major flaws really don't have anything to do with skill, just decision making and that will improve. He needs to be a little better throwing the ball away (His pick 6 and the INT in the endzone in the first game were both apparent throw aways according to quotes) and not throwing off his back foot while backpedaling.Against the Vikings, when the pocket held he threw very well. When it collapsed (often from the snap on inside blitzes) he was backpedaling furiously (not that you could really blame him) and throwing off his back foot, which you can. On one hand, you'd rather have an incompletion than a sack or INT and you like to see him avoid getting crushed. On the other hand, once in awhile, you'd like to see him stay in there and deliver a strike with pressure coming. If you saw the few plays where he was under pressure after dropping back as opposed to on the snap, he was still looking for his receivers. All in all, it was a good experience, I think. Hopefully, he'll learn to really throw it away when he's trying to throw it away. He was lucky this time a couple of other balls weren't pick. Then again, some were dropped by his receivers, too. Plus, there were a couple of times he and his receivers were making different reads resulting in bad incompletions. These things will all improve. He had an easy time against two bad defenses and now has a taste for dealing with a good defense. Rex (and the offense as a whole) will learn what he (they) can from this game and continue to improve.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

re 50: "Baltimore and Cincinatti have already had more of their easy games than Pittsburgh"

Isn't hindsight beautiful? Before the season started all I heard about was Cincy's "brutal" first four games and how they'd be lucky to get to their week 5 bye with a 2-2 record. Now the games they've played were apparently easy. (If the Steelers had beaten Jax, then Jax would be 1-2 and I guess that would count as an 'easy' game for Pitt?)

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The worst thing to happen to Favre was Mike Sherman.

Sherman never held Favre accountable for his actions.

Sherman's choice in quarterback coaches was dreadful.

Mike McCarthy likely has his flaws but one thing that is already apparent is that he has stressed to Favre the concept of "living to fight another day".

Favre has checked down so much in the first three games some local columnists are already suggesting he is being TOO conservative.

I personally believe that Favre IS coachable. But you have to be a strong enough person to try and COACH HIM. Sherman, who did have some strengths, was a wuss when it came to Favre.

Feel free to criticize Favre for not demonstrating more self-awareness or self-control. But one thing I think folks have to realize is that number four isn't exactly a Mensa candidate. More along the lines of an idiot savant when it comes to football. And if you provide him with STRUCTURE he will do many more good things then bad.

But left to his own devices? Well, 2005 is a pretty good example.

2005 was the unholy nexus of Holmgren's influence finally wearing off completely, non-existent running game, a damaged receiving corps, and a head coach who wouldn't say "Boo" to save his life.

We all saw this coming starting in about 2002. Ahman Green's emergence and then Javon Walker's development only put off what eventually transpired.

If McCarthy maintains a firm hand Favre DOES have the physical skills to be an above average contributor at qb in the NFL.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

#29

You are so spot on. For those of us who cannot watch more than two hours or so of NFL action on Sundays, the game discussion thread (which tends to be a little more seat of the pants and emotional) and this column (a bit more analytical and retrospective) are essential. Vital. Meaning-of-life stuff, I'm talking. The new "The Blitz" still tends to deliver things in exciting bursts, hits/TDs, etc, without too much analysis.

As usual, FOers, thanks.

PS: What's with all the booing? Pre-Hallowe'en practice? The refs? Okay, maybe. One particular play? Mmmmmaybe. But booing these "bedrock" teams and players is really nuts. Another reason to live in laid-back Seattle--they still like the M's. Hah! (Wait, I take that back: Seattle claims to have invented The Wave at Husky Stadium, one of the greatest sports travesties known to mankind. Fans don't stand up and synchronized dance when they're bored. Sit down and watch the damn game!)

Can't wait to read Polian's weekly column on the Indy website when he addresses the booing. Hopefully he'll take the fans who caused the TO to task and all of thirty people will read it.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

>To think that Brady should side with a management team which seems hell-bent on destroying the passing game to placate Pioli’s ego is insane.

Has Pioli even made any public statement about Branch? How can you say this is about his ego? What evidence do you have?

>Who is Brady supposed to throw the ball to? Defenses no longer have to figure an elite receiver into the game plan.

As Simmons said, Branch was valuable, but not invaluable.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

51: Don't give Madden credit for that line, he was just quoting a Patriots player (I think it was Harrison, but I don't remember exactly).

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

57:
Fair enough; your point is valid. And Baltimore's really the one that's had the easier slate, moreso than the Bengals, but playing the 3rd place schedule is generally easier overall than the 1st place schedule.

Although, I'd have to say that we have a better idea about which teams are good this year and which are not after week three than we did prior to the start of the season. Prior to the season, I would have thought of, for example, Kansas City and Tampa Bay as difficult games. Now, both having lost their starting quarterbacks (among other valuable personnel) they seem less fearsome. I imagine that most people who would prognosticate about the rest of the season are using the results of the first three weeks to do so. I also don't mean to knock the Bengals who have done better than I thought/hoped they would.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Probably this has already been debated too much, but I cannot resist:

While I think that management did not "screw up" the Branch thing in the decisions they made (they set a value on a player, the player vehemently disagreed, and they got a 1st round draft pick for someone that would not have shown up until the 10th week), I do wonder if the organization is too passive in getting free agents. The last big free agent move they made was Rodney Harrison. They went for Derrick Mason (not hard enough); they went for Javon Walker (not hard enough); and now they are reaping. I'm not too worried they let Branch go, I'm worried they aren't agressive enough in bringing in new people to replace him (and others).

As to the game, Denver almost always beats us. The only time in three years we won was based on an unbelievable coaching and quarterback combo after we'd been losing most of the game (safety and final TD drive in last 2 minutes). I'm not ready to throw in the towel unless Miami beats us at home in week 5, (or if Brady keeps moping around like his dog died).

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Well, Pacifist, I don't want to give credit before it's earned. Buffalo will be difficult to beat. In years past, however, the Vikings would hardly ever win a game outdoors, such as the victory over the Redskins, unless it was in Green Bay, especially against a team that had a competent defense. What previous Vikings teams could do was score a lot on all but the best defenses at home, while being inside with a loud friendly crowd allowed them to play just barely adequate defense with the lead. The prerequisite for being good on the road is to be more physically dominant on the line of scrimmage, both offense and defense, and the present Vikings management seems to be committed to constructing and coaching a roster to that end, which this franchise hasn't really accomplished since they moved indoors.

I think it's interesting that Childress was with Barry Alvarez prior to working with Andy Reid, because this is the approach that Alvarez took in rebuilding Wisconsin's rise from the ashes, and I'd say that the Alvarez performance at Wisconsin is as impressive as any football coaching performance over the past two decades.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Hey look. You can say all you want that there were bad calls that hurt the Patriots all you want in that game, but the fact is the Patriots got outplayed.

Having said that, if the Broncos had lost, I would probably be here complaining about the holds by the Patriots line. At one point somebody had an arm wrapped around Ekuban's neck and dragged him to the ground with no call. Ridiculous. But whatever.

Walker looked good. I'm pleased.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Nobody's mentioned it so maybe I'm in the minority. With less than a minute left in the third quarter, the Jags had 4th and 1 at Indy's 31 down 14-7. At the time I was thinking go for it, then Del Rio trots out the FG unit and 49 yards later everyone knows what happened. No one thinks this was possibly a bad decision on Del Rio's part?

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Speaking of qb performance, I know McNair is well past his prime, but he remains one tough s.o.b.. His willingness to step up and deliver the ball as accurately as he is physically able, with full knowledge that he is going to get walloped, in situations in which most other quarterbacks are furiously backpedaling, and making errant throws, is still a wonder. How much this has hurt him and his team through accumulated injuries I can't tell, but that guy has some courage.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Is anyone else really, really, really afraid that the Philadelphia secondary is going to just flat out fall apart? Hood clearly was not 100%, Dawkins has a concussion, Lewis got hurt (he is struggling anyway), and now Considine is banged up. This is a potential disaster.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

For all the griping about Brady and Branch, didn't the NE-Denver game really come down to who could run the ball better? Once Dillon went out of the game that was essentially the end of the Pats running attack. Maroney didn't look particularly impressive running out of the backfield. The Broncos on the other hand were able to get running yards every time they needed to, and used it to get out of serious jams when they were down near their own goal line. I think Pats fans don't need to worry so much about Branch - what worries me, based on the Bills game and last night, is that the Pats still have not adressed their weakness against the run that was so obvious last year. In retrospect it may turn out that the loss of Ted Johnson was the biggest difference between the 03,04 Pats and 05,06 Pats.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

To #23, Welcome to FO, Tom Jackson.

Seriously, if the Patriots don't win the Super Bowl this year, is it going to be because Belichick let Branch go? I can already hear it.

The one call I thought was absolutely horrendous last night was the Warren Roughing the Passer. The ball wasn't out of Plummer's hand for half a second when Warren tackled him. Hell, Plummer's arm was still going forward at the time.

That being said, it was a thorough whipping by Denver last night.

Heard last night: The Jets are the first team in the history of the NFL to win a game on the road against a team with a 300 yard passer and a 150 yard runner.

Has it gotten to the point where somebody will just throw out statistics so some team can set a record each week? Maybe some team can win on the road in the Central Time Zone against a QB with 310 yards, a RB with 159 yards, a TE with 119 yards against a non-rookie coach and be the first team ever to do so?

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Re: 49 I wouldn't be suprised. Once it was clear last year that the team wasn't going anywhere, he just started chucking it.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The Pats need to have someone get all Pitino on Brady -- "Deion Branch and David Givens are NOT walking through that door."

Sure, the current state of the WRs isn't helping Brady. However, that doesn't excuse his current level of play. Even when receivers do come open (like Watson way deep near the end of the first half), Brady more often than not isn't even close to them, even when he has plenty of time.

Another thing we were discussing at the post-game tailgate is why the Pats seem to have completely ripped the short pass game out of their playbook (and not just this year, either), especially in games when they are having trouble running. It seems like way too often they are looking downfield and ending up in 3rd-and-long or failing to convert on 3rd down because of it.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Is anyone else really, really, really afraid that the Philadelphia secondary is going to just flat out fall apart? Hood clearly was not 100%, Dawkins has a concussion, Lewis got hurt (he is struggling anyway), and now Considine is banged up. This is a potential disaster.

Naw. The last time a team with an explosive offense had to deal with a ridiculously banged up secondary that's coupled with a pounding run defense and pass rush, the team won the Super Bowl. :)

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

This is the first time I've even thought to comment on the Patriots losing WRs, and here it is: I don't get it. This is the team that supposedly won with mediocre WRs, whose system made average guys (like Branch and Givens) look better than they were, etc., etc. Branch had good Super Bowls, Givens was a solid playmaker, but neither of them were world beaters. I don't get why this is a big freaking deal, or why the Patriots can't just move on and make things happen with what they've got.

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I've previously thought this was just that natural tendency to look for patterns in random data, but I'm starting to come around to this PoV:

Denver = rock
New England = scissors
Indianapolis = paper

Just a reflection of how different styles of play interact with one another. I guess San Diego has a similar style to the Pats, as they seem to struggle with Denver and give Indy a lot of trouble, too. I'm tempted to say something about the 3-4 defense but I think it's more complex than that.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Re: #74

I agree, and that's what concerns me so much.

It would be one thing if Brady was having to throw the ball away or take sacks because receivers couldn't get open.

But we're seeing Brady making terrible throws even when receivers who he is already familiar with are in fact open.

And yes, the people who say Brady "sucks" or say "we want Cassell" are total morons.

However, Brady's funk is worrisome. And it's worrisome no matter how you look at it. If he's mentally gotten past the whole Branch thing, then it's worrisome he's executing so badly. And if he's executing so badly because he's still not mentally over the Branch thing, it's worrisome that he can't get it together enough to concentrate on what needs to be concentrated on.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Willie Parker has the ahtletic ability to be as good as Brian Westbrook in the passing game.

Why can't Cowher, Wisenhunt, and Rothelisberger figure this out?

Pass him the damn ball already! Isn't it better to have 80% completion rate passes to Parker that he has a chance to break for the distance instead of 20% completion rate passes by Rothelisberger downfield to the opposing defense?

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

74: The thing about this Patriots run is that they haven't been the same team in any two years. They've been continuously good, but since 2001 they've been a power-running team, a pass-heavy team and a defense-first team, just off the top of my head. Just because having a hole at a given position didn't matter to the 2001 Patriots doesn't mean the 2006 version can ignore it. They have to adapt to the loss, and so far it doesn't look like they're doing that too well.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I think Lovie fell in love with the passing game, because of Rex's previous performance. Thomas Jones got 6 rushes in the first half. 6! That might be a record for a Bears team. Even after Rex threw two near interceptions, they kept on slinging it, after which the Vikes were finally able to hold onto one. In the second half, they try to get back to the ground game, and had a couple of gashers with the designed cutback runs (where the FB lead blocks opposite the RB's initial few steps). But after that series they didn't seem to go back to it.

Does Rex Grossman ever call an audible?

Do the Bears WRs/QB have blitz adjustments? On obvious blitzes, Rex would still take a full 5-7 step drop, hold the ball, and try to go deep. No effort seemed to be made to get the ball out quick.

While, the Bears O has advanced to the point to be able to run passing plays, they need to get to the next level of adapting to what the D is doing.

Also, that blown pick call on the Vikes first drive was a travesty, made all the worse when "Moose" pointed it out, but no comment that it should have been called a penalty.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Dawkins has a concussion

Oh, incidentally: that concussion? Was from Michael Robinson. Yah. The guy who levelled a linebacker in college. Apparently the guy's strong enough to level Dawkins, as well. Jeez.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Re 59,

Hallowe'en? Is this another one of those new apostrophe-added words? I'm still getting used to "Hawai'i".

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I said this in the game thread, but here are some thoughts on Pats-Broncos.

1). The Pats were outplayed. For all the complaining about the refs, I thought it was a pretty well called game, excepting that BS offensive PI call at the end of the first half when Faulk was tackled trying to catch a screen, and the defensive PI where Samuel jumped the route early in the 3rd quarter (isn't the defender allowed to go for the ball?). The other PI calls were rather ticky-tack, and I would just as soon the league didn't call such things, and I saw at least one Broncos defensive PI that was just as bad or worse that wasn't called, but I'm a Patriots fan and was watching the game with Patriots fan eyes. I'm sure the Pats had their fair share of penalties that weren't called either. I do wish the league would loosen up on PI, though, or go to a two tiered approach. I hate whatever league braintrusts think more scoring = more excitement, and therefore have tilted the game so much towards offenses.

2). Brady had an average night. It just seemed worse because we expect Brady to play like Tom Brady, and not like Matt Schaub or Mark Brunell. I actually think the Broncos had gotten into his head, especially Bailey. Brady had said in an interview that he had been thinking about, reliving, and having nightmares and stuff about the interception in the playoffs all summer. During the game he never even looked at Bailey's side of the field. While I don't doubt that Bailey was doing a very good job covering an aging Troy Brown all game, there has to be more to ignoring the entire offensive right side of the field than that.

3). QB-WR chemistry does matter. I would imagine no two WR's run a given route exactly the same way. Maybe part of the reason why Brady's passes are sailing or falling short is that Caldwell and Gabriel are slightly faster, slower, make their breaks sooner or more or less crisply, etc. than Givens and Branch. I expect the Pats passing offense to improve as the year goes on.

4). The run stuffing was because Denver was playing the safeties up the whole game. Their LB's are really really good, but the problem is that teams don't fear the Pats pass attack to WR's right now, and so they double cover Watson and focus on stopping the run. Against a poor team, the Pats better execution and skill level in the running game and passes to TE's and RB's allows them to overcome that, but the Broncos are good enough that the Pats needed that extra dimension.

5). Conversely, the Broncos running game looked better than the Pats primarily because the Broncos HAD a dangerous WR corps that prevented the Pats from stuffing the box.

6). I'm still not worried. The Pats will win the east, and barring catastrophic injury, they will improve as the season goes on. I just hope Denver get's to play the Colts in the Playoffs before they run up against the Pats.

Who was it that dubbed "Rock-Paper-Scissors" of the NFL as "Patriots-Broncos-Colts"? It is apt. But how do the Steelers fit in?

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

RE: 75

Yeah, I was aware of that. I mostly thought that the Broncos were the most rock-like of the three, with their emphasis on the run. FWIW, I've spent 4 years living in Pats country and 4 years living in Colts country, I currently live in Broncos country, and my rooting interests are Colts>Broncos>Pats, although none of the three are my favorite team.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

and that re: 75 was re: 78 of course -- otherwise I'm just talking to myself.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The Pats were outplayed.

They were outplayed and outcoached. And you can quote me on that.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Is it me, or are reports of the Patriots demise greatly over-rated? They're 2-1 and first place in a pretty lousy division. They lost to Denver, but they always lose to Denver. Denver's zone-blocking scheme is kryptonite to the Patriots defense. I don't expect any other teams to have that kind of suces. And if we can't beat them in the playoffs, well that's what Indy is for. The Pats have two tough games left on thier schedule this year, Cincy and Indy. Then they have the Jags, Bears and Vikings are the only above average teams left. Worst case senario they go 11-5, but it could easily turn into 12-4 or 13-3.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Wow... a Legends of the Hidden Temple reference. It's offical; no reference is too obscure.

I know I'm not the only one who thinks all this talk about losing Branch and Givens is a bit nuts. I don't think anyone thought that they were huge or irreplacable or an imposing factor on the field.

However, I suppose there is the fact that they worked well with Brady - you don't need the fastest car if it's the best-tuned. In that case, it should simply be a matter of Brady properly acclamating to the current receiving corps. If he can do that, then the Pats should just roll like they have been.

Also, as a note on booing: I'm a Philly fan, so you know what kind of rep I have. The instant I tell an acquaintance about which teams I root for, I'm instantly asked about the Santa Incident (never mind it was over a dozen years before I was born).

But the thing is, we're not all that different from other fans, as the actions in Indy, Pittsburgh, and New England proved admirably. Everyone always wants more, and they'll get quite dissatisfied when they don't get what they expect.

The reason why Bill Simmons' 5-year post-championship grace period will never work (as he repeatedly proved in the last two years of him discussing the Red Sox) is because of the natural impulse to complain when things aren't going perfect for you - and they almost never go perfect. My plan, for if a Philly team does win it all, is to simply not talk about the team's doings if they're stinking up the joint within 5 years of a championship.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Well - the thing is - the Red Sox don't get booed from what I've seen. People just don't talk about them, like Rick said. I was at a bar in Boston with about 50 TV's yesterday and not one of them had the Sox game on - in fact, the GM of the place joked about it when he was asking people which games they wanted to see.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The comments to the Arizona-St. Louis game don't even mention the craziest part of that game--the ending.

Marc Bulger fumbles the ball just prior to the 2 minute warning, with Arizona having one timeout remaining. Then, Warner fumbles just on the other side of the two minute warning. Some games, the announcers say "neither team deserved to lose." This one fell under the neither team deserved to win category.

Arizona used their remaining timeout, and the Rams ran the ball the next two downs. The Rams had to punt prior to time expiring. The ball was on about the STL 20.

The Rams coaching staff, clearly have no understanding or knowledge of the fair catch kick rule, took an intentional delay of game to run the clock down as far as possible, thus moving the ball further back by 5 yards.

Then, they also did not direct the punter to angle the kick out of bounds. Fortunately, for the Rams, (1) Arizona was offsides, and (2) the punter absolutely boomed the kick down the middle of the field and it was fair caught at the ARI 35 as time expired.

But then, while Maas is yelling that the game cannot end on a defensive penalty, the Rams decline the penalty. The ref then says, correctly, that because the penalty was declined and the ball was fair caught, Arizona gets an untimed free kick from the spot of the fair catch.

Linehan then runs out on the field, apparently for the first time realizing that Rackers is going to get a free kick to try to boom it through the uprights to win, and accepts the penalty--after he has already declined it. AND THE REF GIVES IT TO HIM! He reverses the call, says the Rams accept the penalty, and that there is one untimed down. Rams kneel-game over.

We could have seen a fair catch kick attempt from Rackers to end the game. I still don't understand how Linehan, who clearly did not know the rule, could change his mind on declining the penalty after the Referee explained it and indicated that Arizona would get a free kick from the spot of the fair catch.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

82: Hallowe'en has been hyphonated for a while. Then again, so has Hawai'i.

Just be thankful that no one has referred to this weekend as Mabon...

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

In the interest of full disclosure, I just feel I should mention I once attended a taping of Legends of the Hidden Temple once. Only part of a show, though, so we were probably there for two hours for 5 minutes of show. At the beginning, too, not the exciting conclusion, and we couldn't really see anything. One day, I will forgive my sister for insisting we do this and my parents for listening to her. One day, but not today.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

"if it seems like an odd Any Given Sunday, blame Josh Cribbs. We were *so* ready to do Ravens-Browns."
But it doesn't seem like anyone at FO watched the game, or at least had anything to say about it. I guess only if the Ravens had lost...
My two cents: Frye had a ridiculous 2nd quarter passing (12-15, 180 yds, 1 TD, 2 sacks for 11 YDS counting the last play of the 1st quarter), due to good execution on his part and bad tackling and coverage on the Ravens part. For the rest of the game he was 9-18, 118 yds, 1 INT, 5 sacks for 37 Yds). The Browns running game (minus Droughns) was stuffed all day (19 rushes for 38 yds).
Offensively Jamal Lewis was pretty average (21-86), and McNair was pretty awful until 3:30 left in the 3rd Quarter. Before then he was 9-21 for 113 with 2 sacks for 10 yds, after then he went 14-21 for 151 with 0 sacks and a TD. An optimistic Ravens fan might note that the more familiar McNair gets with this offensive system, the more success he'll have (assuming he stays healthy).

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

89: That's a rather new phenomenon, though. 2-3 years ago, the Red Sox would be the big story in Boston untill two weeks after they lost in the playoffs. But now, as soon as football season started, with the Red Sox out of the pennant race, nobody cares about them. As a New England sports fan, my exppectations have been altered for both thos teams. As long as I don't have to wait 86 more years for a championship, I'm fine with the Sox, but with Bellicheck and Brady running the Pats, I expect a Superbowl victory every year. And I really don't know why I feel this way, but I think I just got spoiled with thier success. I don't remember being this irrational in 2002 it was enough to see them win in my Dad's lifetime.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Re #90
Yeah, I noticed that in the Open Thread, about #556. I'd actually forgotten about that rule myself, even though Jeff Fisher pulled it off during a game last year (Bironas missed the free kick, though).

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

#80: that's not legal within 5 yards?

I think the run set up the pass in the first two games, especially since Grossman is so good at play action. I was very disappointed they came out passing, but I wonder if that was because they were trailing already (though a 3-0 deficit with 10 minutes left is irrelevant).

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

RE: 83I thought it was a pretty well called game, excepting that BS offensive PI call at the end of the first half when Faulk was tackled trying to catch a screen.Defensive Pass Interference, by rule, cannot be called behind the line of scrimmage. Think about it...what would the penalty be? Automatic first down at the spot of the foul...5 yards in the backfield?

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

in re R-P-S:

Someone a few months ago came up with the far more apt analogy of Stratego, with the Patriots being the Marshall, the Steelers the General, the Colts the Colonel, and the Broncos the Spy.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

98: I would think it would be called defensive holding, which is the usual penalty when an O-lineman tackles a blocker.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

#98, defensive holding can be though. McGinest got a fairly famous one for roughing up Faulk in XXXVI. However, there was offensive PI as well on that play.

There was also a punt where the Broncos got a holding penalty, the Patriots an illegal block, and the Broncos a 15 yard face mask. All three penalties offset and fourth down was re-played.

1) I thought that a personal foul penalty was ALWAYS enforced. Regardless of other penalties during the play.

2) The same situation (offsetting penalties on a punt)came up later in the game, but this time the receiving team took over 1st and 10 where the tackle was made.

I guess what I'm saying is that officiating seems to be awfully arbitrary these days.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

66. In hindsight (of course), Del Rio should have gone for it on 4th and 1. The best 2 theories: Del Rio is more secure at his job, so he has stopped taking risks, or that the Jag's 2 fullbacks are injured, they were using a converted TE as a FB (badly), and their best remaining short-yardage back was inactive for the game (Toefield).

Wayne caught the ball, but failed to make a "football move" before he dropped it on the ground. Stupid rule, but at least it's being called consistantly.

Can we do an EPC on Freeney comparing his game on turf vs. grass? He's a beast at home, but merely good away - is he significantly faster at home, or just good at reading silent counts?

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Dryheat (#101 )--

It's arbitrary, but by rule. To wit:

1) A fifteen trumps a five, but not a ten. So a personal foul overrules an offside, but not an offensive hold.

2) In the first case, one of the fouls was pre-kick (a punt, by rule, is a change of possession as soon as the ball was kicked). In the second case, neither was.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

#99: Okay, but then which team is the blue voltron?

In cases of multiple penalties, why don't they just net the yardage? So an offsetting 15 and a 10 would net to 5, and in the case of three penalties, it would have netted to 25. I suppose it would get complex when you have penalties near the goal-line, but in that case you could net the yardage and then apply any half the distance qualifiers.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I was at the Patriots game and i was booing Brady.. he played awful he missed a ton a recievers. He even said after the game when asked about it "i would have booed me too"

COME ON GUYS

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Re #104
Fine, pass interference 30 yards downfield that only happens because the lineman tackles the rusher before he gets to the quarterback results in a 20 yard gain for the offense.

I'm not sure 2 (or 3, or 11)=1 is the right result, but I'm pretty sure 1=1 is.

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

#103, I'm sure you're citing the rule correctly, but I don't like it. If a D-lineman gets blatantly held on the play, he might as well continue and give the QB a late hit or shot to the head, since the penalty won't be enforced.

I could've sworn that personal fouls were always called, but obviously I'm mistaken. They should be, though.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I was pretty disgusted by the home crowd booing the Colts, even though it was pretty insane to let them convert a 2nd and 25 on two runs. The other booing was all directed at the refs and Mathis.

I noticed that Freeney bull-rushed a lot this game instead of just running himself out of plays. Maybe his ass injury is healing?

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

106: I forgot to mention PI, but in the case of offsetting penalties, defensive pass interference should be treated as 10 yards and no automatic first down. Oh yea, for all defensive penalties, we ignore the automatic first down part.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Also, I think Addai is going to be pretty good, but it makes me sad to see what Maroney is doing in New England. He would have been a beast for Indy if they would have let him drop.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I don't think WRs are as fungible as the Pats fans are suggesting. Reche Caldwell does not scare any defense in the NFL, and they are going to play it that way. In contrast, look at the 04 AFCCG where Branch burned the shit out of the Steelers D and they started playing more conservatively.

There is something of a "Brady effect" where he makes his WRs look better, but you can't just put inanimate carbon rods out there and expect them to perform. The lack of respect for the athletic ability of Caldwell & friends is going to have ripple effects (tighter coverage on short routes, more players in the box, etc) that are going to hurt the entire offense. Branch vs. Bailey? Tough matchup, but Bailey is aggressive and it can probably be exploited at some point. Caldwell vs. Bailey? Brady will now proceed to ignore 50% of the field.

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

#105:

If you were in fact there and actually did boo Tom Brady, the only player on that entire field who is a lock for the Hall of Fame, then you are an idiot.

At best, you are an ignorant buffon, tossing years of the highest level of performance in professional football aside for a few moments of struggle; at worst, you got into Brady's head and made him question his invincibility, thereby harming your own team. Move to NY and jeer A-Rod, will you? Nothing better than booing the best player on your own team -- when he's struggling -- to help your team lose.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I think the real problem with Brady and his receivers is, the top receivers aren't out there.

Chad Jackson has played in one game. Doug Gabriel techinically has played in two, but for maybe one quarter in each.

If Branch and Givens were on the roster, but Branch was out and Givens limited in his playing time (or vice versa, depending on your view of the quality of Gabriel and Jackson), the receiving corps would look look about the same as it does now; a #3 and a #4, masquerading as a #1 and a #2.

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Bungles shouldn't feel too satisfied over win. They were demolished on both sides of the ball. Steeler mental errors much easier to correct than getting thoroughly mauled.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Re 112

I love a good inanimate carbon rod reference. But that's just me.

Re 113

Belichick is a HOF-bound player, but he's a player in a different sense of the word.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

113: So HOFers shouldn't be booed?

Favre will be in the HOF five years after he retires, but if he throws four picks he shouldn't be booed?

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Any Given Sunday is going to be on the Broncos over the Patriots? I thought AGS was supposed to cover an underdog who got a surprise win?

What's that you say? Denver *WAS* the underdog tonight? Against New England? Come on, we own those guys!

On a more serious note, while it has often been trendy to call Champ Bailey "overrated", obviously the rest of the NFL strongly disagrees. St. Louis only threw to Torry Holt (TORRY HOLT!) twice when he was single-covered by Bailey, and both were quick outs. I read that KC only tested Bailey's side of the field once all game last week. I watched the New England game, and if Brady threw within 20 feet of Bailey more than twice all game, I'm going to be absolutely shocked. Like Deion Sanders in his prime, opponents just are not even bothering to TRY to challenge Bailey. Unlike Deion Sanders in his prime, Bailey is just as devastating in run support as he is in pass support (he led the team with 17 tackles, 15 of which were solo shots, many of which were textbook open-field takedowns of Stephen Jackson and Larry Johnson).

If teams keep this up, we're going to have to retire that old "there hasn't been a shutdown corner since Deion Sanders" routine, as well as the whole "the league rules don't ALLOW for a shutdown corner anymore" one, too. I'd go so far as to say that if Bailey keeps this up, it'll have to go down as one of the best CB seasons ever, especially considering that Bailey's the complete player, and that he's doing it against the newer tougher defensive rules.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Hey Houston play 50 mins out of 60 well. Just it is the first and last five and they go for a coffee break inbetween

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

MJK,

The officiating wasn't decent, it was uber-bad. Live, without the benefit of replay I could see:

* The long PI call on Sanders was actually *offensive* PI. The guy gave him a two handed shove (which was what knocked him off balance, BTW) and Sanders initiated no contact until the ball had come into the area. I use "come into the area" because it was overthrown, so it was uncatchable anyway.

* The shorter PI call on Samuel was bogus because he had cut under the WR. Smith did not have position enough to earn a PI call.

* Matt Light was called for a hold that was crap on a 15 yard gain by Brown. If that was a hold, than Denver should have been flagged about 20 times yesterday.

* The fumble by the TE was clearly a fumble and should have been allowed to play out afterward.

* There was *actual* PI on Denver (on a 4th quarter pass to Gabriel) that wasn't called. The defender actuall knocked his head down prior to ball getting there.

* The roughing the passer call on Warren was a joke. (this I did need to see the replay to determine how bad it really was)

* Faulk was obviously held on the play where Brady flipped out. It isn't PI, but it is defensive holding. 5 yards and automatic....first down!

I am not saying that NE was the better team, they most certainly were not. Denver dominated on both sides of the LOS they got themselves out of a few hairy situations with timely 3rd down conversions.

But saying Denver was the better team in now way means that I cannot acknowledge how unbelievably awful the officiating was. I am suprised that only a few Pats fans have commented on it. This game was officiated just as poorly as the playoffs last year, if not worse.

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Re: Aaron / Will Allen on the horsecollar call..

Explain how it was a bad call? To me it looked like Alex Brown grabbed him from the neckline, didn't let go, pulled him down, and put full weight on the legs of the runner as the RB went down.

I even thought there was emphasis on not dragging the runner down while putting your weight on his legs. Brown ended the play on top of the RBs legs.

To me this seemed lost on the crew... although it's hard to believe Tony Siragousa would understand the nuances of the horsecollar tackle. I was screaming at them when they insisted it wasn't a penalty when I thought it was pretty cut and dry. Just because he holds on for a few yards and then yanks the player down doesn't mean it isn't a horsecollar.

Tough loss for the Vikings... but Childress has played a bit too conservative near the end of games.

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Re: #93

A Browns fan would point out that the Browns' corners consisted of Leigh Bodden and former Chicago Bear Daven Holly, who I think is best remembered for falling down in the playoffs against Steve Smith. Oh, yeah, and Ralph Brown, who so far doesn't appear to be able to cover a baby with a blanket. So, Bodden. That was pretty much it.

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

122: I agree, that was as textbook a horse collar you can get. It was just like the play where Roy Williams took out TO. (Oh, if only it had been a permanent injury.)

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

i saw the bears game, and it did look like a horse collar untill you saw Brown wrap his left arm around the legs of the runner, who fell forward. I was under the impression that the runner would have to be drug down and back for it to be a penalty.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

FO: if you guys aren't going to write anything about the niners, could you at least get the score to the freaking game right?

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Re: 123 I thought Bodden was doing a pretty amazing job, it seemed as though even when the Ravens got a completion on him he was still in great position. I watched the game without sound so I didn't pick up on that much of Cleveland's personnel. But having one very solid CB in coverage is more than what a lot of other teams have...
A lot of the Raven's passes were completed short over the middle of the field, so that would be more of an indictment of the LB's pass coverage than the CBs.
I'm not sold on the absent Gary Baxter as a CB, I think he is too slow (to cover Mason and Clayton, anyways, I don't think he would have helped).

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

79: That's actually what I mean. The Patriots have barely been the same team in two GAMES. One of their strengths has been adaptability: they'll play the 3-4, or the 4-3, or something else, with different personnel, they'll throw a lot, or they'll run a lot, depending on personnel, depending on opponent. I wrote this summer that they were the ultimate post-modern team: no real center, just adaptability to situations. So I'll be surprised if they don't end up with 10+ wins again and make adjustments to suit the talents they find in whatever offensive players they have.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Hilarious listening to Patriot fans complain about officiating. Just to be clear, if you fake the handoff to a back and he is tackled in the backfield, it is not defensive holding. In fact, this might come as a surprise to Pat fans, it is also not defensive holding if you tackle a ballcarrier, even if it is a Patriot. Really, the game was called fairly, and no one is more critical of the refs than I am. I agree that the PI on Samuel was incorrect, but it is mis-called all the time and it was close enough to understand. The PI on the screen was called exactly correct. The only thing not called correctly was the intentional grounding since Brady was in the tackle box, and the throw was no where near a receiver and did not cross the line of scrimmage. But the refs missed just as many calls the other way as well. Everyone saw the Seau pass interference that wasn't called while Madden was praising him.

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Re: 83
'3). QB-WR chemistry does matter. I would imagine no two WR’s run a given route exactly the same way. Maybe part of the reason why Brady’s passes are sailing or falling short is that Caldwell and Gabriel are slightly faster, slower, make their breaks sooner or more or less crisply, etc. than Givens and Branch. I expect the Pats passing offense to improve as the year goes on.'

Exactly. This is why I was saying letting the Branch situation fester into September was a huge, stupid management mistake. Now they have a quarterback trying to get down his timing with new receivers while the whole offense has been bitch-slapped with management's 'It's just a business' attitude. Maybe it is. Maybe thats all Patriot players feel they need to do. Show up and go through the motions. Management treats them like they are all interchangeable and disposable. How can you get fired up with that?

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

129,

No fake was done, so that one is wrong. I will admit that Brady could have been flagged for IG, but that was predicated on the assumption.

Seau was called for illegal contact.

If you disagree with anything that I said above, I would suggest that you rewatch the game.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The Madden Curse strikes again.

Seahawks | Alexander out with broken foot
Mon, 25 Sep 2006 14:29:21 -0700

Mike Sando, of the Tacoma News Tribune, reports Seattle Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander (foot) will miss "at least a couple of weeks" with a broken bone in his foot according to head coach Mike Holmgren.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I'm about the last person who should give a definitive opinion about the intricacies of the horse-collar infraction; it just isn't something I've paid much attention to. My thoughts were pretty much the same queequeg's.

As to Childress' conservatism, he is getting heat in some quarters today for throwing long on fourth and two at the end of the game. Look, it was a closely played game, and if the Vikings manage to recover one of their fumbles, or Sharper makes a catch the average high school db routinely makes, they probably win the game. Heck, if the phantom PI call isn't made against Williamson in the first half, at worst the Vikings may have may pinned Grossman against the goal line again, at a time in the game where he was screwing up consistently.

Could different play calling at the end have made a difference? Sure, but really no more so than in any other hardly fought game. Like I said before, you just can't expect to win every close game, which is why, when you do get to play a team that doesn't have as much going for it as the Bears, it is important to make sure it isn't close.

Losing a close game to the Bears isn't a travesty. Losing a close game to the Texans, like some playoff-hopeful team will likely do this year, is a travesty, because such contests should not be close for a team which hopes to make the playoffs. At the same time, getting blown out by a good team is a travesty, because you don't give yourself the chance to get a win if you have some minor good luck.

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Re #133
Your last three are probably the three most sensible paragraphs I've read today.

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

125 - that was my impressions as well. 1) You have to pull him back (I didn't think his torso was backwards of vertical at any time) and 2) You tackle him only by the collar (left arm was around waist). Then again, I'm just a homer Bears fan.

121 - I didn't watch the whole game, but what about the blatant pass interference by Seau - the one where he clocked the receiver in the back of the head before the ball got there? I didn't notice anything particularly dodgy about the officiation, but I only watched one half.

General point - the officials in the Bears-Vikings games were just bad. Too many penalties, and some flat-out wrong ones.

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

51: It definitely seemed like Madden was unusually lucid, especially compared to Michaels, who seemed like he had no idea what was going on.

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Thanks to the wonders of DVR, I actually re-watched the penalties or not penalties several times each as they occurred, and came to the conclusion that it wasn't as bad as it seemed if you take off your Denver or New England colored glasses. Point by point:

* The long PI call on Sanders was actually *offensive* PI. The guy gave him a two handed shove (which was what knocked him off balance, BTW) and Sanders initiated no contact until the ball had come into the area. I use “come into the area� because it was overthrown, so it was uncatchable anyway.

I'm a Pats fan, and I couldn't see what you're talking about. I saw Sanders touch the TE with his back to the ball, which is technically PI under the new rules if you think the ball was catchable (but shouldn't be, since it was incidental and incidental contact should be legal, but that's a whole other issue). Yes the ball was borderline catchable or not. I don't think it was. But it was close enough that I can't fault the ref too much. I wouldn't have thrown the flag, but I can see why they did. Still, this was the third worse call of the game in my opinion after the OPI at the half and the PI on Samuel.

* The shorter PI call on Samuel was bogus because he had cut under the WR. Smith did not have position enough to earn a PI call.
You're right here, and I think we all agree.

* Matt Light was called for a hold that was crap on a 15 yard gain by Brown. If that was a hold, than Denver should have been flagged about 20 times yesterday.
I thought so too, until I replayed it. It's a good block almost all the way, but Light got beat just before Brady threw, and basically twisted the guy's arm into a half nelson at the last second, which bought Brady the time to throw. If Light doesn't do that, it's a sack or an incomplete. Yes, holding happens on every play, and Denver was doing it too, but when a hold happens right next to the QB and gives him time to complete a pass, it should be called.

* The fumble by the TE was clearly a fumble and should have been allowed to play out afterward.
I agree, after seeing the replay, but at game speed it sure looked like it was an incomplete pass. You can't fault the refs for stopping the play after that. But couldn't Belichick challeng that under the new rules?

* There was *actual* PI on Denver (on a 4th quarter pass to Gabriel) that wasn’t called. The defender actuall knocked his head down prior to ball getting there.

Saw that. You're right, it was letter of the law PI, and it was more blatant than the one that was called on Sanders, and the ball more catchable. Probably the worst non-call I saw in the game. However, it was still in the "ticky-tack" category where I wouldn't have thrown the flag. A little consistency would be nice, but I can't get on a soapbox and rail about too many PI calls, and then say they should call more of them.

* The roughing the passer call on Warren was a joke. (this I did need to see the replay to determine how bad it really was)

On replay you can see that Warren probably had no time to hold up. But again, this is a rules issue. Refs are going to call it roughing anytime you tackle the QB without a ball. Warren shouldn't have wrapped his arms around Plummer. The Broncos got called for doing the same thing at another point in the game. You can't so much as blink at a QB these days, or breath on a WR running a route, because the league wants to see lots of long passes and scoring, even though its very unfair that such plays reward a lucky team more than a skilled team (Just ask Jacksonville about their first half against Indy).

* Faulk was obviously held on the play where Brady flipped out. It isn’t PI, but it is defensive holding. 5 yards and automatic….first down!
and

The PI on the screen was called exactly correct. The only thing not called correctly was the intentional grounding since Brady was in the tackle box, and the throw was no where near a receiver and did not cross the line of scrimmage.

This was the worst call of the game. Three points here. First, it should have been defensive holding. Even if the QB fakes to a RB, a defender is still not allowed to wrap his arms, let alone tackle, a player who doesn't have the ball. That's defensive holding. It doesn't matter if you thought he had the ball. You don't get a free pass on a penalty for making a mistake (ask Ty Warren about that roughing call). In any case, I don't think they faked to Faulk, but even if they did, you still can't tackle someone who doesn't have the ball. Even by mistake. By that logic, you can't penalize Caldwell for OPI because he thought Faulk had the ball behind him. You woundn't be able to penalize anyone for roughing the passer because they could argue that they thought the QB still had the ball tackled him by mistake. Not knowing who has the ball does not allow you to hold/tackle anyone you want.

Next, the OPI was bad in any case, even without the defensive holding issue. You can't committ pass interference unless the ball is catchable. Are you actually saying that Caldwell or the DB he pushed had a chance at catching a ball Brady spikes to the dirt fifteen yards away? If so, how can you in the same breath argue that it was intentional grounding? Not catchable ball = no OPI. Maybe he committed some sort of illegal contact (do they have that for WRs'?), but certainly not OPI.

Finally, it wasn't IG because there was a reciever nearby. Faulk was within about five yards of where the ball hit. He was just on his back with a defender lying on him and holding him down, illegally.

Correct call: Defensive holding, 5 yards, automatic 1st.

The Seau "pass interference" was a good non-call. Seau runs up behind the reciever but doesn't make contact until the ball arrives. He leaps up and reaches over the reciever, and knocks the ball out. That is legal.

All that being said, I have two thoughts. (1) Even though there were some bad calls and no-calls against the Pats, I don't think any of them cost the Pats the game. Denver out-played them. Congrats to Denver.
(2) There were probably just as many bad calls against the Broncos that we Pats fans didn't see because of our bias. The same way that Denver fans didn't see all these things against the Pats. There are probably this number of bad calls against any team. That's the game. It's called human error.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I had forgotten about Seau's play where he climbed over the receiver's back. Mea Culpa.

Nonetheless, the game was very slanted. Two calls in NE's favor don't outweigh the rest against them.

And please don't misunderstand my intentions. Denver was the better team and deserved to win. I am just disgusted with the poor officiating.

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

MJK,

If you have the game on DVD, watch the Sanders PI again. Trust me, the receiver gave a two handed shove before Sanders initiated any contact. The shove happens right before the receiver starts to stumble, as it is actually the opposite force of his shove that causes him to lose his balance.

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

75/78, I love that analogy, even as a Colts fan.

82: Halloween is a short version of "all hallows evening" or some such, and at least when I was in school it was apostropheed. It's not anymore?

Don't tell me postage costs more than a nickel or I'll jump off the... d'oh! Can't think of a readily recognizeable momument that was felled about 100-200 years ago. damn damn damn. Ooh, I got it: I'll jump off the Sphinx's nose! Take THAT, Napoleon!

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Having also watched the Dolphins game I noted
a) Their seemed to be a lot of empty seats for a week 3 home game of a team expected to compete for the playoffs
b) The Titans didn’t find all those missing Lion points. Leaving lots of points on the field Sunday.
c) The Dolphins are bucking to be first in line for loser of the defensive back run in the first round. As bad as their pass defense looks I keep watching for their first round pick to do something like step on the field.
d) No one won the Will Allen for Sam Madison free agent exchange.
e) The 2005 Dolphin offensive line play appears to be an anomaly.
f) Nick Saban has that I'm going back to college look on his face every time the camera pans over to him.

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

johonny, you're last point is especially interesting given Saban's experiences. He has been in a situation, Michigan State, where he has had a distinct disadvantage to some of his closest rivals, in terms of talent acquistion, a situation, LSU, where he has been advantaged to some extent in this regard, and now he is in a situation where it is a pretty even playing field. I wonder if there aren't times when he thinks it was nice to have five games a year in which there was just about zero chance that the opposition could approach his roster in terms of talent.

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OT comment regarding the "centerfielder Dwight Smith" in the Chicago-Minnesota game:

As Cubs fans should know, in 1989 Dwight Smith played LEFT field while Jerome Walton played centerfield.

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Completely Unrelated Therapeutic Rant:
Ok, it is statistics, so its not completely unrelated. My company has a scoring system for each location's environmental and safety compliance. The budget only allows for one grader. We recognize that all graders are different, so we wanted to establish a profile for variance. Five new engineers were sent to grade a location and submit a report on variance in grading, to aid me in developing an objective system. These people returned with a grade based on a common consensus!!!!! THEY VOTED ON EVERY CATEGORY!!!! THESE ARE DEGREED ENGINEERS!!! DO I BLAME SCHOOLING OR HR!!!!

Thank you for much-needed rant.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Two Random rules question:

I've often wondered along with a lot of you why a stiff arm isn't a hands to the face penalty. An offensive lineman can't put his hands to a pass rusher's face, so it's obviously not an offense-defense thing. Why can a RB with the ball grab a defender's face mask and push to avoid being tackled?

But here's something I wonder even more, and I saw it multiple times this weekend. Say a team is punting. The kicking team is not allowed to touch the ball until the recieving team does. It's technically an "illegal touching" penalty, but the penalty is that the ball is called dead, recieving team's ball, at the spot of the "foul", where it was touched. At least, that's my understanding of the rule. In any case, the ball is dead when the kicking team touches it, so they couldn't theoretically kick further down the field to give the recieving team worse field position. Yet when a ball comes down on the 1, and is bouncing toward the end zone, and a gunner manages to bat it back into the field of play, and it rolls to a stop at the 10, the officials always spot it at the 10. Shouldn't it be a dead ball where the gunner first touched it (usually around the 1 or so), or where it first hit the ground after being touched (say, around the 5 or 6)?

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

If the gunner touches it at the 1, it is spotted there.

If the ball breaks the plane, its a touchback spotted to the 20. Most of the dive-airborne-bat-back balls have broken the plane, so become touchbacks.

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Re:121
I agree, I think that was the worst
officiating I have ever seen in any
NFL game. It was ludicrous.

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Don't know where else to post this, but Chris Mortensen is reporting that barring a change of heart by Dennis Green Leinart is going to start against the Falcons on Sunday. Click my name for the full story.