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

Audibles at the Line: Week 6

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.

Great Moments in Sunday Ticket Bar History

Aaron Schatz: I have to start Audibles this week with a small story about the day Ian Dembsky and I had at Rock Bottom in Braintree, MA. My goal for the day was to see the Saints and the Rams, to figure out whether those teams were really as good as their records. Ian wanted to see his beloved Bucs try to get off the schneid. So we get to the bar and every television is playing Tennessee-Washington. We go up to the bar and ask, and they show us the list of what games they are showing. Eight televisions, and the list has a total of three early games: Philadelphia-New Orleans, Tennessee-Washington, and Buffalo-Detroit. Buffalo-Detroit??? Yes, it turns out they have only three satellite dishes, and according to the staff, "we received a lot of calls from Mug Club members requesting Buffalo-Detroit." After 20 minutes of arguing and the staff trying to figure out how to work the television remote controls, we finally talked them into changing one of the Buffalo-Detroit televisions to Giants-Atlanta on local broadcast. I don't think we're going back there again.

By the way, a grand total of one guy showed up specifically to watch Buffalo-Detroit. He showed up in the middle of the second quarter in a Willis McGahee jersey. We feel that Detroit's win was karmic justice. Plus, the other CBS games ended early enough that Ian got to see Tampa score the go-ahead touchdown in "bonus coverage," so we were happy.

Oh, and apparently the batteries in the remote control for the television switched to local broadcast died during the afternoon, so when we hit the late games, we watched San Francisco-San Diego, Kansas City-Pittsburgh, and The Cosby Show, until they finally went out and bought batteries so they could switch that television to Jets-Miami at halftime.

New York Giants 27 at Atlanta Falcons 14

Bill Barnwell: Pretty much awful execution by both offenses so far -- the Falcons offensive line is no match for the Giants defensive line on running plays. Daryl Johnston actually made a good point talking about how Strahan is underrated as a run stopper, which is what separates him from the Freeney types.

Kareem McKenzie has been getting abused by John Abraham. Abraham sacked Manning and forced a fumble on the Giants' two-minute drive, which would've killed the drive if it wasn't for Tiki Barber tiptoeing through the Falcons defense on a screen for 25 yards, which would've kept the drive going if it wasn't for an unnecessary hold by Chris Snee making the play come back. Ugh.

Has anyone ever been able to figure out why they don't just put Tony Siragusa in the broadcast booth? Does he have a push-to-talk mic? He also said he wore a L.T. jersey growing up in New Jersey. Siragusa's all of eight years younger than Taylor himself.

Mike Tanier: Falcons-Giants was my over-the-shoulder game at the bar this week. Every time I turned around, the Giants had the ball, even when the Falcons led. Factor in the long TD by Dunn, and I know without going to the Gamebook that the Falcons were lousy on third downs and had several three-and-out drives.

Bill Barnwell: We're in the second half now and the defenses have seemingly given up on tackling, taking good routes to the ballcarrier, or really anything beyond looking silly. That is, except for Patrick Kerney on screen plays. Jim Mora threw the red flag for the worst of all possible challenges -- the ballcarrier-stepped-out-at-the-one-foot-line challenge, which even if successful means the other team still has first and goal from the one inch line, and you've wasted a challenge.

Does Eli Manning practice throwing the ball three inches over Plaxico Burress' fingertips? He has to. No one can be that good at it.

Is there any sort of fake LaVar Arrington won't fall for? Do his teammates laugh each week when Arrington comes to practice and shows off the watches he bought on Canal Street, or do they just accept it at this point? How much money has he sent to Nigeria? This has to be an unreported story.

I love him, but Jared Lorenzen still looks like he won a contest to stand on an NFL sideline each game.

Keith Brooking's had a pretty poor game -- he hasn't been shedding blockers and he's been no match inside for Shockey. Atlanta's played really well against tight ends so far this season, but they were awful last year and I'm inclined to think they haven't improved that much from what I've seen today. Right as I type that, Shockey strolls over the middle, catches a pass from Manning, and falls backwards into the end zone for the game-ending touchdown. Falcons could've won this game if their defense had shown up for the second half -- Kerney coming out with a hamstring injury really hurt them.

Aaron Schatz: The comments Ian and I were making to each other during this game were exactly the same as what Bill wrote. I wonder what percentage of Plaxico Burress jump balls are not actually supposed to be jump balls? I mean, when a guy has to leap a foot in the air to catch the pass on a 12-yard curl route, the quarterback has some problems.

As much as Kareem McKenzie was being abused, I also thought that Wayne Gandy had some major problems with the Giants pass rush. There were a couple plays where guys would come on either side of him and he'd sort of stand around wondering why he forgot to block one of them.

For those who didn't see this game, there was a hilarious mishap on the shotgun option. I guess that there were some crossed signals on the audible, but Vick tried to hand it to Dunn, but I guess Dunn thought it was a play-fake and Vick ended up dropping the ball on the ground. Sam Madison picked it up. I guess between that and an earlier interception off a tipped pass, Madison could pretend for a week that he was still a Pro Bowl player and not a toasty-good has been.

Does anyone know why:
1) The Giants were doing fake basketball jump shots after sacking Michael Vick?
2) FOX kept showing a big picture of swimming fish superimposed on the Atlanta jumbotron -- then showed the fish superimposed on the Atlanta skyline while going to commercial at one point?

Ian Dembsky: On Michael Vick's touchdown run, the key block that allowed him to score was thrown by Warrick Dunn 20 yards downfield. Is there anyone who does not like Warrick Dunn?

Seattle Seahawks 30 at St. Louis Rams 28

Doug Farrar: Seattle's defense is playing tremendously soft against the Rams. This is much more a defense you'd see from Ray Rhodes, the current consultant and former coordinator, than the creative line stunts and twists exhibited by current coordinator John Marshall last season. Especially in the postseason, the Seahawks would get pressure with four and allow the linebackers to hit the zones, with movement on the snap up front. I don't know what the problem is -- they didn't lose a Steve Hutchinson on THAT side of the line. Same personnel, much less spice. When they finally do get to Bulger, Ken Hamlin pushes off on him as he gets up, and the Rams get a 15-yard freebie.

On offense ... well, let's put it this way. There is 9:19 left in the second quarter as I write this, and the Seahawks have rushed for -1 yards. The offensive line is a shell of what it used to be.

An interesting second-quarter twist to that defensive strategy is that Bryce Fisher sacked Bulger twice with Seattle only rushing three. The first time, he bull-rushed Orlando Pace into Bulger. Second time, he just blew right by him.

Seattle's first third-quarter drive stalled, and Josh Brown's subsequent field goal attempt hit the left AND right uprights before falling in front of the goalposts, no good.

Sometimes, it's just not your day.

...and sometimes you go and win anyway.

Boy, has this been a tale of two halves. The Seahawks came out looking like the team that got skunked by Chicago two weeks ago, turned the tempo around, and wound up resembling a slightly less fundamentally sound version of the defending NFC champs.

On third-and-19 from the St. Louis 34 on the first play of the fourth quarter, Seattle had Deion Branch lined up right wide against Tye Hill, the rookie CB, who hasn't been having his best day, with no safety help. The play called is Maurice Morris up the middle for three yards and a field goal. The Seahawks really need to substitute a second head coach on every third and long -- Holmgren always calls those damned running plays.

Aaaaaaand ... Seattle takes the lead for the first time in the game after Kevin Curtis fumbles the kickoff return and Hasselbeck goes to Branch in the end zone two plays later. I need a beer.

Five of Seattle's six sacks came with three ends/tackles on the line -- two with Julian Peterson as a rushing end, and three without. When Orlando Pace goes to Canton, they're not going to run films of this game. Bryce Fisher has been overpowering him. The defense, so cautious in the first half, is playing up a bit more now.

Seattle's 17 unanswered points in the second half were assisted greatly by two pass interference penalties on St. Louis in the third quarter -- one on Travis Fisher and one on Hill. Bulger's first pick of the year was due to Lofa Tatupu's most unheralded ability -- the ability to back into coverage against elite receivers. The pass was meant for Torry Holt. Maurice Morris' subsequent fumble was St. Louis' sixth red zone takeaway this season, most in the NFL.

Michael Boulware covered Holt on that late TD as well as anyone can. Holt just adjusted, made what he thought was the catch, handled the bobble, and finally caught the ball going away. Just an amazing play. I know Steve Smith had an incredible day for Carolina, but I don't know if it would be possible for him to do anything that impressive. Might be the play of the year so far.

Seattle had an offensive penalty with four seconds left, but it was illegal formation -- no 10-second runoff on that particular foul. Josh Brown hit the 54-yard field goal to give the Seahawks the 30-28 nail biter, because Ed Hochuli knew a rule that I'd bet half the officials in the NFL would have blown.

Aaron Schatz: Clutch performance is a cruel mistress.

Bill Barnwell: Special thanks to Torry Holt's play of the year for ensuring that the Scramble Lock of the Week won't be Sex Panther-related. Grumble grumble grumble...

Ned Macey: Sports Illustrated had a player pool of who was the top wide receiver in football, and Holt was in the equivalent of "others receiving votes." What a joke. He's a great receiver. Great hands, great routes. He abused the Seahawks throughout the game. He's on his way to his seventh straight 1,300-yard season.

This was the first game of the season where the opposition has really gotten a lot of pressure on Bulger, and he still likes to hold the ball a bit much.

The Rams defensive success is a fraud based on an inordinate amount of turnovers forced. Leonard Little gets pressure, and Witherspoon makes the occasional big play, but they give up a lot in the passing game. Admirable performance against Seattle up front, but every team that has played Seattle has felt their defensive line did a good job.

Aaron Schatz: Speaking of Seattle, I'm eating delicious new Chunky BBQ Burger Soup for dinner. Later tonight, Ricky Manning is coming over so I can throw him some ridiculous interceptions.

Doug Farrar: Don't forget to shave your head!

Mike Tanier: Wait a minute, I thought that was a reference to Manning picking off McNabb in the 2003 playoffs. Does Manning abuse all the soup guys?

Doug Farrar: Hmmm ... has FO discovered another trend?

Tennessee Titans 25 at Washington Redskins 22

Bill Barnwell: Don Criqui is abysmal. And it's not as if Steve Beuerlein was saving him. He seriously wasn't even forming coherent sentences.

Jeff Fisher was celebrating this win like it was the Music City Miracle. Small victories...

Mike Tanier: Vince Young kept getting hammered in this game, and he kept getting up. I guess he's smart enough to know that he doesn't want Kerry Collins to get another shot at starting.

I'm still amazed at how much the Redskins rely on those little flat passes to Santana Moss, plus all of the screens and draws. They really look like they are outsmarting themselves at times. On one play, they tried to set up this complicated double-screen to Clinton Portis: Mark Brunell turned and faked to Moss to the right, dropped further, tossed to Portis. Chris Hope, a Titans safety, read the play from the snap and tackled Portis for a seven-yard loss or so. It's rare to see a receiver working the middle of the field; everything is flats, flats, flats, then the bomb.

Overall, the Redskins looked mediocre on both sides of the ball and had a big special teams gaffe. And they are relatively healthy right now. What if they suffer some injuries? I can't see how they would move the ball without Moss as a receiver and a decoy/threat.

Ryan Wilson: The Redskins were without both DTs, today but I can't imagine a scenario where I would expect the defense to ever give up 194 rushing yards. And to the Titans no less. Carlos Rogers continues to stink, and for all that Sean Taylor doesn't, he struggles in coverage.

Pac-Man Jones continues to play well, and he did a solid job on Moss when Washington wasn't running some variation of the slip screen or end around. I have no idea what Brunell was doing on the final interception of the game. The Skins had over a minute on the clock and on the very first play he throws a Hail Mary that's intercepted at the 50. Huh? Obviously, Washington needs more high-priced coaches.

Aaron Schatz: Vince Young had a throw on a second-down pass to Ben Troupe in the fourth quarter that was so hard Troupe couldn't handle it. That's one of those things young quarterbacks really need to learn in the NFL: touch. You don't have to throw everything as hard as possible.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 at New Orleans Saints 27

Mike Tanier: A very frustrating game. The Eagles kept launching bombs, and most of the throws were dropped by receivers or a little too long or were broken up at the last minute. The muffed punt with two minutes to go in the half completely changed the complexion of this game. Ryan Moats (who bumped into Dexter Wynn) makes too many mental errors, and it seemed like Wynn could never find the ball against the dome roof. I want Reno Mahe back!

Gotta give the Saints credit. Their offensive line is better than anyone expected, and their linebacking corps is not as bad as it looked like it would be at the start of camp. Scott Fujita and that Shanle kid did a great job sniffing out screens, which took away a big part of the Eagles gameplan. The Saints real weakness is their secondary, and while I'm impressed with what they've done this year, I think it will be hard for them to keep protecting their safeties and their non-McKenzie cornerbacks (and McKenzie isn't that great).

Maybe a reader can help: The Saints ran a triple stack formation today, with 3 receivers lined up directly behind each other. It's a common formation at lower levels of competition that is now seen a lot in I-A college football. That's the first time I spotted it in the NFL. Are any teams using it frequently?

Ned Macey: Somewhere along the way, the Eagles removed all 10-to-25 yard passes from their playbook. They have the screen, the short cross, and the McNabb-hold-the-ball-a-long-time-and-throw bombs. That being said, they were the better team after the first quarter. Credit to New Orleans for getting their act together to drive down for the game-winning field goal.

I must say I'm impressed watching longtime FO-punching bag Deuce McAllister. He runs hard and aggressively. The list of reasons for New Orleans' turnaround has about 10 items on it before "Reggie Bush" appears. I think all the efforts to "get him the ball" are holding the offense back. Joe Horn, by the way, looked like his old self today.

Michael David Smith: Although a blitz forced him to throw his first interception in a few games, Drew Brees was great at avoiding Philly's pass rush, and an assist has to go to Reggie Bush. No, Bush wasn't picking up the blitzes, but the threat of Brees dumping off short passes to Bush had Philly's linebackers staying at home more than they usually do. Bush is a good rookie wide receiver who lines up in the backfield a lot and might become a good running back some day, too.

Aaron Schatz: Unfortunately, when you are in a bar, you can't sit with your DVR and rewind and watch things in slow motion. Can anyone explain just what defense the Eagles were trying to play on the long Joe Horn touchdown to tie the game late, and how exactly did they screw it up?

Mike Tanier: The Eagles were in Cover-2 on that bomb to Horn. Sheppard reacted to the motion of a receiver in front of him and did not get back to his drop point. Horn started a corner route and then came back to the post. Michael Lewis tripped all over himself trying to turn around. If you are keeping score, the bomb to Terry Glenn last week was a Cover-2 and Horn's first touchdown was against a Cover-2. And all 3 times, Lewis was the deep safety. I think opponents have found a weakness.

Aaron Schatz: I really came away from this impressed with the Saints. They were pressuring McNabb, and their own offensive line was doing a very good job of preventing pressure on Brees -- not a perfect job, but considering how strong a pass rush the Eagles bring, a very good job.

Brian Westbrook, like Warrick Dunn, is pretty good at pushing for extra yards up the middle. Why is Andy Reid so afraid to just let the guy run sometimes?

I wrote in my preview of this game that Deuce McAllister is having a big comeback season. "Someone," a frequently critical commenter, wrote in the discussion thread: "McAllister is a painfully mediocre back according to FO and some posters here. What's he coming back to?" The answer is that he's coming back FROM a big injury TO being a better running back than he was before. This is a different guy than the pre-injury McAllister. He's running forward with more authority instead of junking and looking for the hole that will bring him the big play. He's far more consistent, with more 5-7 yard runs that keep drives going and put the team into good passing situations instead of third-and-long. Some of it is the offensive line improvement, but Bush can't get any yards behind this line because he's not this kind of runner.

By the way, Edgerrin James underwent the exact same transformation when he came back from his ACL injury. The difference is that James was great as a boom-and-bust back, and great as a consistent back. McAllister was mediocre as a boom-and-bust back, and very good as a consistent back.

I still think the Eagles are the better team on a neutral field, but the Saints are definitely not a fluke and are going to be in the hunt all year.

Buffalo Bills 17 at Detroit Lions 20

Michael David Smith: The Lions actually looked like a competent NFL team today. Hard to believe. I think Kevin Jones might finally be figuring out that the way to gain yards is to run hard as soon as you get the ball, not to dance around in the backfield and hope you get an engraved invitation to run through the defense. Still, this isn't a very talented team. It's not even the high-profile first-round busts: A team that has drafted at the top of the second, third, and fourth rounds for five straight years should have better young depth all over the field than the Lions do.

Houston Texas 6 at Dallas Cowboys 34

Michael David Smith: Speaking of teams that draft high and don't have enough to show for it, the Texans are no better than they were last year. Andre Johnson is a stud, and the rest of the team is a mess.

Mike Tanier: This game was 6-3 Texans at half. In fact, all four NFC East teams were trailing for about a half hour or so, then all four came back to at least tie the game.

Drew Bledsoe looked really, really bad in the first half. The whole Cowboys offense looked flat. In the end, T.O. got his touchdowns and the game was a rout, but I can't imagine what the halftime mood was in the locker room.

Will Carroll: Nearly the entire Texans team is banged up after today's game, especially on defense. Is there any way to know if specific teams actually do end up beating the hell out of their opponents so much that the team is reduced the next week? A Physicality Factor?

Miami Dolphins 17 at New York Jets 20

Bill Barnwell: Jim Nantz talks about "Little Wes Welker" like he just got called up from sprint football or something.

The Dolphins would repeatedly spend time in the first half running at the perimeter of the Jets defense with goofy toss plays and reverses when the Jets weakness, all season, has been straight up the middle. That's poor preparation or an utter lack of confidence in your interior OL.

A Jets offensive series, chosen at random: busted draw with Barlow on first down, instant throw to a split-out Barlow called at the line for five yards, bizarre Arena-esque screen to Tim Dwight that astronauts could've seen developing from space for a loss of seven yards. Just goofy.

Drew Coleman tries to make the big hit on Chris Chambers and, despite a six-yard running start, bounces right off of Chambers. Oops.

Joey Harrington kills a drive with an unfathomably bad throw to Victor Hobson.

An unusually intelligent point from Phil Simms: he actually talks about how great Miami's corners have been against opposition wide receivers and he's half right -- they're fourth against #1 WRs through five weeks, 31st against #2's. Unfortunately for Simms, he makes up for it with a hilarious moment a few minutes later when, in the middle of praising Ben Graham, he talks about Graham's years spent kicking for the Chargers and then stops in mid-sentence. You know, because all those Australian kickers are the same.

Speaking of Ben Graham, I continue to believe that the Jets don't deserve him. He boots a 67-yard punt that's nullified because the first Jet (of eight surrounding it) to touch the ball had been out of bounds. The next punt ends up spotting the Dolphins 46 yards of field position. Hooray Jets.

Nick Saban throwing out the Challenge flag while the announcers talk about how he's going to lose the challenge is eerily like someone calling an all-in bet on TV when they're drawing dead.

The Jets continue to employ Brad Smith in the Mike Vrabel "I am never a decoy" role.

This game really came down to whoever could screw up coaching the least. On one hand, Eric Mangini was constantly leaving his defensive backs in matchups against Derek Hagan, Randy McMichael, and Wes Welker (who made a gorgeous diving catch) that they couldn't handle just so he could double Chris Chambers, and when those DBs started giving six-yard cushions, the Dolphins moved down the field pretty much impeded for three consecutive drives. Unfortunately, Nick Saban managed to out-uncoach Mangini. On third-and-2 with 45 seconds left from the Jets 33, he decided to throw instead of running the ball, despite having a timeout to spare -- an incompletion meant Olindo Mare had to kick a 50-yard field goal, which he then dutifully missed to give the Jets the win. It was Herm Edwards-esque.

By the way, the Jets managed to keep Ronnie Brown under 6 yards per carry today. Pretty good day for them.

Pennington really stares down Coles when he wants to throw the slant to him. When he sails the throw a little, like he did today deep in his own territory, a sure-handed DB's going to read it and return it for six. Unfortunately, the Dolphins don't have a sure-handed DB.

Does Hank Poteat rent the same apartment every time the Patriots signed him? We really need to do a feature on his conversations with Belichick and Pioli.

Mike Tanier: Wow, the Dolphins sure are a mutt team this year. Glad we called for a bad year from them in PFP.

Michael David Smith: Laveranues Coles is really good. Early this season I thought Pennington was having a renaissance, but now I think it's more that any quarterback can look good when he has Coles to throw to. I can't think of anyone with his pure speed who also runs such good routes.

Aaron Schatz: The Jets didn't just throw on third-and-2, they threw long. REALLY long. If you're going to try to switch things up by throwing on third-and-2 while you are trying to run out the clock, at least throw a high-percentage pass that will likely end with a tackle in bounds.

As far as the Dolphins being a mutt team, PFP didn't call for a bad year, it just called for an 8-8 year instead of a Super Bowl year like many were predicting.

Kansas City Chiefs 7 at Pittsburgh Steelers 45

Mike Tanier: I usually root for the Chiefs in the AFC, but I am enjoying this beat down. This job has got me rooting against all of the "sky is falling" rhetoric that you hear every time a good team loses.

Doug Farrar: In the PIT-KC game, I'm torn between wanting to applaud Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt for a great gameplan and feeling the need to throw up at the sight of this Kansas City defense. Terrible coverage, arm tackles all over the place ... either there's something wrong with the way my laptop is displaying FO stats, or the sixth-ranked defense in overall DVOA and DAVE is having an uncharacteristic run of pure badness.

I also need a clarification on something - on Troy Polamalu's third-quarter INT, Larry Johnson dragged Polamalu down by his hair and got a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Isn't the hair fair game? Is that considered a "safety rule", or is that no different than dragging a player down by the arm?

Aaron Schatz: I would like to thank the Kansas City Chiefs for getting pummeled today, thus fixing DVOA's "early-season blowouts skew the numbers" problem. After this week, their rating will drop down to where we all expect them to be. None of us thought they were really a top five team and I straight out said that in the commentary two weeks ago, which our critics of course totally ignored.

This is the same thing that happened to both Washington and Chicago last year -- a huge blowout win followed very soon afterwards by a huge blowout loss. Remember: Just as Kansas City is not as good as they looked against San Francisco, they are also not as bad as they looked today.

I thought that Joey Harrington had shaved and cut his hair when he got the starting job, but it turns out I was mistaken -- CBS is just using Brodie Croyle's photo instead of Harrington's by accident.

And yes, the penalty on Larry Johnson for pulling down Troy Polamalu by the hair was total, complete bullshit. The rule is that the hair is part of the body, simple and plan. With all the guys running around the league with dreadlocks these days, I can't believe the refs still don't know the actual NFL rules.

Ryan Wilson: Yeah, the Steelers blew the doors off the Chiefs, but Santonio Holmes muffed a punt and fumbled another, and Willie Parker fumbled twice. Teams usually don't win games when that happens. And oh yeah, Jeff Reed missed a 28-yard field goal attempt. My wife actually remarked that the commentators weren't bad, and I noted that when one team is crushing another team and it's late in the fourth quarter, it's kinda hard to be really annoying. That said, I've never had any issues with Gumbel and Dierdorf. Well, at least not Good Gumbel.

Credit to both Mike T. and Aaron for predicting Big Ben would bounce back because, frankly, I wasn't so sure. Of course, he didn't have to make any super tough throws today, but at least he was accurate, didn't force much, and checked down to his RBs/TEs.

Concerning the Polamalu penalty: the hair is a completely legal means for taking down a player, but the refs called unsportsmanlike conduct on LJ for flipping Polamalu's hair after the tackle and both players were off the ground. Ridiculous, I know. Like I told my wife: either put it in a bun or cut it if you don't want people doing that to you.

Aaron Schatz: Did they say that during the game itself, or in explanations afterward? That sounds like a real CYA explanation for a bad call.

Ryan Wilson: Luckily, I don't think that play changed the outcome.

Carolina Panthers 23 at Baltimore Ravens 21

Will Carroll: McNair got the snot knocked out of him, almost literally. You can see that he was holding his hand up to his face as he woozily walked off the field. Sometimes, guys will get hit hard enough to make things in the sinuses move around. Lesson to players? Blow your nose good before the game.

Michael David Smith: The Panthers were a lot better on third downs today than they have been this year. Getting Steve Smith back to 100 percent health has totally opened up their offense. And after today, I think a whole lot of teams are going to follow Carolina's lead and target Samari Rolle. He really struggled.

Aaron Schatz: Remember after two weeks how everybody was freaking out about how Carolina was in tons of trouble and how could we have all picked them for the Super Bowl, and Baltimore's defense was as strong as ever and Steve McNair made them a leading Super Bowl contender? Yeah, both teams now have the exact same 4-2 record. Patience, football fans, patience.

Oakland Raiders 3 at Denver Broncos 13

Aaron Schatz: This is the second straight week that I've noticed this from the Broncos, but I'm noticing it more all over the league. Is it me, or are teams having serious problems of fundamentals on screen plays? Denver keeps throwing it over to Tatum Bell, but the offensive linemen have not gotten there yet, or there are two defensive linemen between the blockers and the receiver, and the quarterback never should have thrown the ball seeing that. I think I saw Chris Hope blow up one of these screens with no blockers today in the TEN-WAS game, if I'm not mistaken. For crying out loud, practice the screens so the blockers are BLOCKING for the receiver.

Mike Tanier: Defensive linemen seem to get better and better every year on screens. They read them and stop the pass rush, or they tangle up the offensive linemen longer so they cannot get out to block.

Doug Farrar: It's funny -- I grew up in Denver, and I've lived in Seattle since 1985. I have spent most of my life in an AFC West city, and I have lived around "Raider-haters" from my earliest childhood. All I can feel now is pity. Were the NFL ever to take a team into receivership, this might be the one.

Coming This Week:

Any Given Sunday: Buccaneers over Bengals
Every Play Counts: Julius Peppers


201 comments, Last at 17 Oct 2006, 6:33pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Wait - isn't the Rock Bottom in Braintree right next to a giant MALL? They couldn't walk the 100 feet over to the mall to get a set of batteries?

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Does anyone know why:
1) The Giants were doing fake basketball jump shots after sacking Michael Vick?
2) FOX kept showing a big picture of swimming fish superimposed on the Atlanta jumbotron — then showed the fish superimposed on the Atlanta skyline while going to commercial at one point?

1) No clue, but they were doing it last week as well.

2) I didn't see that part of the game, but Atlanta just built a new aquarium (practically the only improvement to downtown since the 1996 Olympics), so maybe that had something to do with it.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The LJ penalty wasn't for the tackle, but for the fact that he didn't let go of the hair after Polamalu was down, and if you watch the end of the play again you see Johnson clearly pull on Polamalus hair as Johnson gets up after the play is Johnson said after the game that he "punched Ike Taylor" after the play in the ensuing slap fest.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

plus Johnson said after the game that he "punched Ike Taylor" after the play in the ensuing slap fest.

Completely offtopic, but did any one else read that as "punched like Ike Turner"? Perhaps I just need coffee...

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Next time you're in Braintree, give me a call. I live about 3 miles from Rock Bottom, and my wife loves the pretzels there.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

1, 2 - Strahan made some post-game comment after the Redskins game about how "we be fighting, rolling along, and balling" or something retarded like that. It's clearly a group thing, as virtually every single defender has been doing do a cross-over dribble, then do a fake fade-away jump shot. It's retarded, but if that's what it takes to make the Giants D-line actually have a decent pass rush, I'm all for it. If they continue winning, I'm sure we'll find out which moron started the same chant, how it was when they were 1-2, post-Seahawk debacle, and how that dance made the entire defense develop amazing chemistry.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

...and if I actually read the article before commenting, I would know that meeting at that restaurant is right out for you.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Umenyiora did a layup yesterday. Everyone else on the line was apparently doing it until last week and then Strahan joined in when he got his first sack -- they explained it on the broadcast this week but I think I was busy drawing the Eli Manning Incomplete Passing Tree.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

On the other hand, if the Giants defenders were to make the 'Form Blazing Sword!' motion after a big tackle, that would just be awesome.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I continue to be amused (and a bit alarmed) by the fact that Eli has been God-awful on passes 1-10 in games, and a stud thereafter.

Through yesterday, his stats are 27 of 50 (54%) for 344 yards (6.88 per attempt), with 1 TD and 5 Ints, and just 24% 1st Down % in his first 10 passes of any game.

For the rest of his attempts, he is 88 of 126 (70%) for 985 yards (7.82 per attempt), with 10 TDs and 2 Ints, and 44% 1st down %.

(For 1st down %, I did not use's presentation which is percentage of completions which go for 1st downs, but instead calculated % of attempts that do. I did not get fancy and factor out TD passes, which ironically count against the %).

The sample size remains pretty small for the 1-10 grouping (just 50 attempts) so it might just be bad luck, but I can't help but wonder if "Easy Eli" has a bad case of being too excitable early on and needs to settle down. Or maybe he is either poorly prepared (by himself and/or the coaches) for the opponent, and then starts to figure out the coverages?

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

8 - I just want to see Fred Robbins do a fake dunk. Heck, Fred Robbins dancing in any way is funny to me.

It's only a matter of time before the offense starts doing this too.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

#2: On your second comment, come on, you mean that you don't think that the re-opening and "revitalization" of Kenny's Alley in The Underground isn't a major improvement? I think that it's great that I can walk into a club without paying a cover and listen to dance music without being annoyed by, say, people. And your drinks come faster at the bar, too.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Panthers @ Ravens

That game had the Worst Play of the Week in it. Ravens score ANOTHER fluke TD to Clayton, bringing the score to 16-14. Kickoff to the Panthers with about 4:30 left.

Jake Delhomme takes the snap from their own 28, drops back, and hurls it deep to Steve Smith. Steve Smith is standing about 5 yards ahead of the defender trying to cover him, by himself, behind the ENTIRE Ravens D. Snags the ball, runs the rest of the 30 yards for the TD.

Did anyone think they'd see the day when Kyle Boller kept the team in the game and the Defense lost it?

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I think San Fran used the triple stack against the Jets in 2004. It actually allowed them to jump out to a large lead (21-0, if I recall correctly). It only worked for a quarter, and the Jets came back to win.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"I also thought that Wayne Gandy had some major problems with the Giants pass rush."

It was a bad day for o-lineman named Gandy, Mike of the Bills got abused by James Hall, who apparently suddenly has blazing speed off the corner, several times. A couple of times he just went by Gandy with barely a brush, once causing a fumble. According to the local reporters, Marrinelli has been working with the d-line, along with Clothing Optional Joe Cullen.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I should have included what he did yesterday in my last comment.

First 10 passes-- 4 for 10 (40%) for 46 yards (4.6 per att), 0 TD, 2 INT, 20% 1st downs.

Thereafter-- 13 for 20 (65%) for 134 yards (6.7 per att), 2 TD, 0 Int, 40% 1st downs.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I think Strahan and Arrington need to get together with their defensiove metaphors. Couldn't they get two of the linemen to lift someone onto their shoulders, then have that person grab two other players by the legs, one on each side, and those two make jump shot motions with their super-gestalt-defender arms?

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

And yes, the penalty on Larry Johnson for pulling down Troy Polamalu by the hair was total, complete bullshit. The rule is that the hair is part of the body, simple and plan. With all the guys running around the league with dreadlocks these days, I can’t believe the refs still don’t know the actual NFL rules.

My understanding was, the penalty was not for the perfectly legal hair-tackle, but for LJ subsequently dragging Polamalu along the ground and pulling him back up by the hair.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I thought the unsportsmanlike on LJ was because he yanked polamalu's hair as he stood up after making the tackle. Same as with tackling by the arm--if you pulled someone down by their arm, then gave it an extra twist as you stood up that would be unsportsmanlike as well.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

...and that's what I get for taking so long between typing the comment and finaaly hitting "Say It."

I blame that annoying consumer products pop-up ad.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6


Actually, that had to be the Best Play of the Week and it wasn't Boller who kept the team in the game, rather it was Mark Clayton. Boller's passes were defended/tipped and it is ONLY because Clayton was able to get the tipped balls that the Ravens scored the 2 TD's. Freaky but true.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Gumbel and Dierdorf said that the LJ penalty was for "taunting." Now what it was that he did that was taunting, I don't know.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6


The Broncos have never screened that much since Installing the Zone Blocking scheme. Alex Gibbs hated that play, and Shanahan calls it very rarely if at all in games. I could be wrong, but the Broncos may have called more screens for Tatum Bell this year than all of last year.

The OL has not practiced or implemented it enough to seel it to a real defense outside of practice yet. The flare or circle routes seem to be much more effective for Denver's RB's.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

My favorite Warrick Dunn block was one he threw against Gilbert Brown, back when Tampa was in the NFC Central. It looked like Brown expected to just steamroll over Dunn without resistance; he looked completely shocked when Dunn lowered his shoulder and drilled him right in the gut. My memory's a bit hazy, but I think Brown started to raise his arms to get into the passing lane, and was completely defenseless when Dunn hit him. He just sort of crumpled to the ground (landing on top of Dunn in the process).

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Re #13,

Crushinator, I have to disagree. The Single Worst Play of the Week, was in the Eagles @ Saints game.

Jesus. The Eagles get a sack and a stop on 3rd & 10 in a tied game with 3 minutes left, and the Eagles D have 12 men on the field.

3:13 left in the 4th, game tied at 24-24.

The Saints have 3rd & 10 @ the Philly 35. Brees is in the shotgun and Philly blitz 6 (I think). Brees is sacked and now it's 4th & 17 on the Philly 42. New Orleans have to punt, and the Eagles get the ball with plenty of time drive for the winning score.

But wait, Philidelphia 12 MEN ON THE FIELD!!!!

So, instead of punting, the Saints convert the 3rd & 5 and the Eagles never get the ball back. That was the worst play of week.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Siragusa interviewed Strahan yesterday before the game. He said its from the Jim Jones song "We Fly High". We fly high, no lie, you know this... ballin'. Not sure if it makes sense or not, but its fun to watch.

Click my name for the video. Its about 20 seconds in.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Mike Tanier: I’m still amazed at how much the Redskins rely on those little flat passes to Santana Moss, plus all of the screens and draws. They really look like they are outsmarting themselves at times.

For five years of watching Saunders' play calls for the Chiefs I have compplained to my wife about this. There is a lot to like about al saunders as an OC but I've never believed in his "play-calling genius" that I've read about in the media from time to time.

One Redskin nailed it in this AM's Boswell column in the WashPost:

"As soon as we start establishing something, then we go and do some tricky-dicky stuff," said one veteran.

WAS, playing the 28th ranked rush defense by DVOA, ran 10 times and passed 10 times on 1st and 10 (not counting 2-min drills and Portis picking up a Brunell fumble and running it).

TEN, playing the 14th ranked rush D and protecting a rookie qb, rushed 18 times and passed 7 on 1-10 (again excluding 2 min drill and kneel down).

TEN was running Travis Henry, WAS, Clinton Portis.

Who had the better play-calling?

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Ron Mexico (#22 )--

Gumbel and Dierdorf were guessing. The actual call the ref made (check the tape) was "unsportsmanlike conduct," which seems a fair description for pulling the guy around by his hair after the whistle.

Kachunk's description (#19 ) is best -- Johnson made a legal tackle, but didn't let go afterward.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The Giants had one of the best defensive performances I've seen for a team giving up 223 yards rushing. They gave up 149 of those yards on 4 carries, while only giving up 74 yards on the other 22 ATL attempts. Besides, at no point in the game did I think "the Giants can't stop the Falcons running game". The entire second half I thought the Falcons couldn't stop the Giants running game.

While everyone loves to criticize Eli Manning, I can't understand the Phillip Rivers lovefest. Are we really making judgements on a players after five weeks, including playing three of the worst teams in football?

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Copying my comment from another thread:

I’m still not happy with the way the ‘Hawks have been playing, but I’m happy about the win in St. Louis. That’s always a tough one.

Seattle’s running game is adequate, at best, with Alexander out–still better than him playing on one foot, though. Having Stevens back next week (I’m assuming he’ll be back then, he was inactive today) should help the offense in the run and pass. But that Seattle secondary . . . yikes.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I might be in the minority here, but I don't think TDs on tipped balls are "flukes," or at least that if they are, there are all sorts of other plays in football that should be called flukes. Tipped balls are a part of the game (Fleming had an interesting article on this on ESPN this week). No, the score doesn't come in the way it is planned, but not everything that happens in a sport is based on what play is intended.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Alright, never mind, it is a fluke. Being a language nerd, I looked up fluke. According to, it is:

# A stroke of good luck.
# A chance occurrence; an accident.

Obviously then, a tipped ball TD is a fluke.

I guess my point is that all plays in sports are a combination of three factors: planning, skill, and luck. A fluke play just takes out the planning but still involves skill and luck.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Oh, and another note on SEA @ STL: Thank goodness Hercules Hochuli was the referee. At least half the officials in the NFL would have ended that game with a 10-second runoff.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

a fluke is also a fish ....

(sorry ... I'm a word nerd too) :-)

so ... a tipped ball can also be a fish ...

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I, too, came away impressed with the Saints. Peyton had more talent to work with than was originally understood by a lot of people, especially with Brees making a full recovery (which for me was the biggest issue), and his coaching style seems to have had immediate effects. This seems like the best organized Saints squad since Jim Mora Sr.'s good New Orleans teams.

On the other hand, Philly dropped a notch in my estimation. A good defense simply cannot allow the oppositon to control the ball in the fourth quarter of a close game in the manner the Eagles' defense did. Yeah, absent the muffed punt, the game is a lot different, but the fact is the Eagles had a touchdown lead in the 2nd half, allowed the tieing score, and then allowed the opposition to completely control the the 2nd half of the fourth quarter. Not a good day for Jim Johnson's crew.

Also, I know the game wasn't discussed above, but Mike Carey's abomination of a roughing the passer call, which turned the Bengals/Bucs contest, has to be nominated for the worst game-ruining call of the year. Inexcusable on every conceivable level, and if he isn't suspended, it's a shame. Dan Reeves was doing the Westwood Radio broadcast, and you could tell he's had some issues with Carey in the past; it was really refreshing to hear an analyst call out a referee not just for a bad call, but for being incomptent overall. I have no idea as to whether Reeves' asessment is accurate, but if a player can be called out for being consistently inadequate (which happens too infrequently in my opinion) then the same should be done for zebras.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

A fluke is also the thing a whale has on its tail, instead of a fin.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Yeah, the whole Giants "jumpshot" sack celebration is inspired by that Jim Jones song. There was a video on Youtube earlier that had all their sack celebrations paired with the song, but I can't find it anymore.

BTW, how about having a defensive end who really was "ballin" do that celebration (aka Julius Peppers)? :D

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6


The tipped balls aren't a fluke. Clayton catching both of them for TD's IS!

But my main point was that the two TD's were not a result of Boyler's passing abilities but rather because of Clayton's fortuitous positioning and heads up play.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

FWIW, I've watched Philip Rivers in 3 games now, and while it's helped that he's played the Raiders, San Francisco and Baltimore, I think he's the real deal. He has the touch on his passes that Vince Young apparently does not. He seems to make good decisions and has the presence to go through his reads instead of throwing it away(although he does not always step up in the pocket). He does not throw a great deep ball, but it's good enough. Perhaps he has weaknesses in his game that only becomes apparent when you break down the games on tape, but from watching him casually it looks like he is a real NFL QB.

And for all that talk last year about his odd delivery, I don't even think it's that weird. Maybe not quite textbook, but it's not holding him back any. Certainly not as weird as Vince Young's mechanics.

Alex Smith also looks way, way better than he did last year, although not as good as Rivers by any means.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

On third-and-19 from the St. Louis 34 on the first play of the fourth quarter, Seattle had Deion Branch lined up right wide against Tye Hill, the rookie CB, who hasn’t been having his best day, with no safety help. The play called is Maurice Morris up the middle for three yards and a field goal. The Seahawks really need to substitute a second head coach on every third and long — Holmgren always calls those damned running plays. As much as I hate the Holmgren run on 3rtd and long, maybe the veteran QB should just audible.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

One thing you have to remember that Alex Smith plays on 49ers, and he had to face San Diego's excellent defense. Also, the offensive line is mediocre and he doesn't have the best group of receivers.

Rivers is playing with a ton of talent and he faced the worst secondary in the league this weekend without its best cover corner. I bet if you swapped the two, Smith would look better than Rivers. As a Niners fan, I'm very pleased with Smith and the offense's progress this year, with the exception of the KC game.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

#33 - But the question remains: how much is skill, and how much is luck? Tipped balls essentially fumbles - causing the tip involved a lot of skill, but recovering it is more about luck. Yes, it takes skill and effort to adjust to the ball in mid-air, but that is meaningful only if the ball happens to be tipped in that player's direction. Nobody controls the direction of the ball once it's tipped; the most common result is an incomplete pass. Whether it's caught for a reception vs. an INT is due almost entirely due to luck (with a slight edge favoring INTs - not due to skill, but to the simple fact that defenders generally outnumber receivers in the secondary).

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The Clayton TDs were mostly luck, however I have to give him credit on the second one. The first pass was played perfectly by Chris Gamble who reached in and deflected the ball with his arm at the last second, but due to a stroke of luck the ball, which was only a couple yards from the back of the endzone, somehow managed to go straight up and come back down in bounds. Most deflections result in the ball traveling downfield some, but this one hung straight up in the air. Clayton just happened to be paying attention, but considering there were no Panthers in position to make the play it was probably going to be a touchdown regardless of who was running that route. Clayton did nothing spectacular except pay attention to where the ball went, and since he is a wide receiver he should be doing that anyway.

Now the second TD was part luck and part skill. You catch tipped passes from time-to-time, but catching a tipped pass and then cutting up the sidelines and running past 3 defenders is skill. He was lucky to catch them flat-footed while they were looking for the ball, but it was a great play getting to the endzone. That ball only went about 12 yards. He ran the other 50 himself.

All in all the Ravens were lucky to score any TDs at all. The pass to Todd Heap in the endzone was not a touchdown, but the officials incorrectly ruled it a force out so it could not be reviewed. That doesn't take away from what was an AMAZING catch by Heap, but he did not get his second foot in bounds and he was not forced out in any way.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Looking at Boller's numbers in the box score, between plays on TV, I was tricked into thinking he had quite a game (for him). Is there any way for DVOA to take into account two TDs and almost 82 yards of passing that could just as easily been ints? I buy that luck usually works itself out, but that is an awful lot of luck over a short span of time.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Has anyone ever been able to figure out why they don’t just put Tony Siragusa in the broadcast booth?

For one thing, he might get stuck.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Re: The Saints
It's amazing what happens when you replace a self-destructing QB and and idiot coach with a Pro-Bowl QB and a not-idiot coach... Their turnaround has nothing to do with Bush.

Re: Bengals game
I've heard aboout this but didn't see the game. How does one get a roughing the passer call on a sack? What happened on the play? I know about unnecessary roughness, which is called if the defender hits the head, or below the knees, or practically any part of the QB other than his left elbow during a full moon (unless of course, it's a Raider hitting Tom Brady), but how can it be roughing the passer if the QB still has the ball when he is tackled? Is he even a "passer" if he hasn't passed? To anyone who saw the game, was it an unclean hit that should have been called unnecessary roughness, and the ref just said the wrong thing, or was it a bad call?

Incidentally, did anyone else catch Marvin Lewis's post game quote? He supposedly made a comment about how he guessed defenders were just supposed to "cuddle the QB to the ground".

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

No comments from the NYG-ATL game about how Tiki Barber sure isn't showing any slow-down signs at age 31?

Stats through 6 weeks, only 5 games:

102 ATT, 533 YDS, 5.2 AVG

22 REC, 190 YDS, 8.6 AVG

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

That's the lead of Quick Reads, actually. I'm writing it as we speak.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I think part of the reason the pre-season projections disliked the Saints so much was that they penalize teams who have new head coaches. However, maybe there needs to be some sort of modifier for when replacing your head coach is actually a significant upgrade.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I think the one thing that ticked me off most about Philly in the Saints game was Philly's insistence on going deep when they were about 10 yards away from field goal range. Twice. Some designed rollouts for McNabb would've been nice, too, especially given the pressure he had in the pocket. Or a draw or two!

I also want to know: Sean Payton, what in the hell were you thinking challenging that LJ Smith 29 yard reception? One replay should've been enough for you to see that it was nowhere near the ground.

If any Philly fans complain about the officiating, I'm going to hurt them. The officiating was bad, but equally bad on both sides. There was a blatantly missed OPI on Brown, that was rapidly followed by a missed DPI on Baskett, and I don't think that DPI on Bullocks should've been called, since pass interference ends when the ball is touched, and the ball was tipped. None of those calls would've affected the outcome, though.

Why were the Eagles playing with Lewis as deep safety again? Why?! Lewis can't cover deep. Dawkins can. Lewis hits hard near the line of scrimmage, which is great for breaking up passes to tight ends and running backs. For crying out loud, use the man correctly. They did for the majority of the past two games.

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

However, maybe there needs to be some sort of modifier for when replacing your head coach is actually a significant upgrade.

There's no way to tell that objectively, and if you do it subjectively, you're just making stuff up.

Besides, I doubt the Saints improvement is all to do with the head coach. I think a significant amount has to do with a return to an actual normal football schedule and practicing.

There's an interesting question here: I wonder what New Orleans's 2006 projections would look like if you pretended the 2005 season never happened somehow. Basically, just take the 2004 Saints (the 8-8 2004 Saints, mind you) and apply the modifiers for the 2004/2005 offseason.

Plus, I think a lot had to do with the fact that Brees's shoulder was a big question mark, and hey, it still is. So far, so good, but it's still a question mark.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I've said this before, and I'll say it again: The 2005-2006 New Orleans Saints are not a good team to use to test any projection method of any kind, unless future NFL teams are going to be kicked out of their home cities for entire years because of hurricanes on a regular basis.

I might hit Pat's idea for a blog post, though. That sounds interesting.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The Rams defense has a MAJOR weakness, pass defense. Their secondary consistently plays with their back to the ball. Seattle receivers were beating triple coverage on 3rd and long because the Ram defenders never turn their heads. That more than anything is why the Rams lost this game, even with a clutch 54 yd FG on a rule technicality.

And isn't Holt the best WR in football? He is the quickest to 10,000 yds in NFL history. That includes Rice, Moss, Alworth, and the clown.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

As a Redskins fan and an LJ fantasy owner, I really wish Al Saunders had stayed in KC.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Re: 47

I didn't see it either, but from what I understand it probably should have been unnecessary roughness. The Cincy defender threw him to the ground, or drove him into the ground, or something to that effect.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6


I know, I know. My comment about the coach was a little bit toungue in cheek. Since you can't really separate out the performance of a single player from the performance of his teammates, its probably nearly impossible to objectively separate the performance of the coach from the performance of the team. We subjectively know some coaches are bad, but I can't think of a way to objectively quantify it. I suppose you could look at things like win percentages on challenges, and percentage of correct strategic decisions based on some model like Bill Krasker's, but even that would only look at certain sub-skillsets of a coach, not his overall effectiveness (and that would be pre-supposing that a mathematical model was always more correct than a coach, in which case, what would be the point of even having a coach make decisions).

Also, you're right that there was no way of knowing if Payton would be any more effective. One thing to look at if it hasn't been (though I bet Aaron already did) is what is the variance on team performance with a new head coach. I would imagine that the projection system presumably downgrades a team with a new head coach because those teams have historically done worse the year following a coaching change. But how variable is that? Obviously, if you're replacing an accomplished coach who just retired with a first year coach, a dropoff makes sense, but what if you're replacing a coach you just fired that was just hands down awful? Wouldn't you expect some regression to the mean the other way? I wonder if the historical data Aaron looked at when comeing up with the coaching adjustment broke it down into WHY the coach was replaced?

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

pat: i've noticed that the eagles have been using a new nickel package where dawk will line up as the weak side LB with considine around the deep middle. I can understand why, but to be honest it's kinda frustrating seeing dawkins' coverage being limited from that position, and my faith in Lewis has been reserved ever since the '04 championship game. Do you have any observations about it?

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6


Its nice .... on the surface ... but let's consider the context:

Here are the DVOA rush defense ranks of the teams Barber has faced (as of end of week 5)

IND: 30
PHI: 17
SEA: 15
WAS: 14
ATL: 16

So .... those rushing #s are nice ... but ...

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

#48: Tiki is phenomenal. To rush as many times as he has, especially over the last couple years, and still be in such great shape says something about his running style. And his fitness.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I know that returning from a vagabond year is the main factor in NO's improvement, but ask a simple, subjective question:

What would the Saints' record be if Aaron Brooks were the QB?

Of course I have no idea, but I THINK they would have lost to the Eagles, Bucs, and Packers.

I think in this case, replacing an inconsistent quarterback with a very good, smart, consistent quarterback is working wonders.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Holt is definitely top 5, and unlike other great receivers he has been top 5 for the last 7 years. The only other guy who can really say that is Marvin Harrison. Randy Moss has slid since being injured in '04 and other guys have come and gone, but Holt and Harrison have been rocks.

10,000 yards and 6 (going on 7) straight years topping 1300 yards. Throw in 1 Super Bowl ring and another appearance and Holt is pretty much a lock for the Hall of Fame. He also is one of those guys who could probably play till he's 40. He's like Jerry Rice and Marvin Harrison in that respect. Good physical skills but even better technical skills, and those don't go away with age.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Diane, good point, especially with regard to Indy (which has an awful rush defense) and Atlanta. However, Philly, Seattle and Washington are all middle of the pack after playing Tiki, and would likely rank better had they not played Tiki already.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I spent last week arguing that as of right now, Moss has had a better career than Holt. HOWEVER, I believe that at the ends of their careers, Holt will have better numbers in every category, and as a whole will have had the better career. Moss is tailing off, whether I like it or not, and Holt has the consistency (like Harrison) to keep it up well into his 30s.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

What's the "replace incompetant coach" factor going to be for the Raiders next season? I'd imagine it will be one of those "so out of line it breaks the model" situations.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

pat: i’ve noticed that the eagles have been using a new nickel package where dawk will line up as the weak side LB with considine around the deep middle. I can understand why, but to be honest it’s kinda frustrating seeing dawkins’ coverage being limited from that position, and my faith in Lewis has been reserved ever since the ‘04 championship game. Do you have any observations about it?

Yes. It's bad. If anything, Lewis should be the one up in a linebacker spot. Dawkins is their best coverage safety. He's also probably better at Lewis in run support, but that's why Dawkins deserves to go into the Hall of Fame. But the margin there is much smaller. Lewis doesn't have the fluidity to be a coverage safety - he can't cut and turn as well as Dawkins can, for instance.

Problem here is I wouldn't know what to do. Considine could be better in coverage, but what're you going to do? Switch Considine and Lewis out when you want to go Cover 2? Yeah, that's not going to work - talk about telegraphing your intentions.

I'm starting to buy into the "maybe Philly should sign Troy Vincent" hype.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6


With the exception of Indy, those teams are all bunched in the middle, which means that you're getting about as fair and accurate a representation of opponent strength as you can. (With that one outlier, of course).

Also, keep in mind that it's early enough in the season such that each game still carries a lot of weight, and opponent adjustments are still minimal. Take Tiki away, and most of those defenses probably rise a few spots in the rankings.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The Saints O-line seems to get better at run-blocking every game. In their first game this year, they were doing OK run blocking on first downs, but were letting multiple defenders into the backfield on 3rd and short plays. They were even able to block for Bush on sweeps.

I still think you guys are underestimating how poor this line was in the running game the past few years. McAllister is now frequently able to avoid contact until he gets near the line of scrimmage. In years past, defensive players would regularly be able to reach him a yard or 2 into the backfield, which I figure cuts a running back's average by at least a yard.

51-- I have Payton's press conference on, and he just said he challenged it because he didn't have a good view when he first saw the replay, but he'll always be agressive with challenges.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Is there someone can explain to me why Ronnie Brown doesn't get more involved in the Harrington's passing game ? In the 4 Culpeppers games, Brown get 19 passes for 156 yards and only 1 pass for -3 yards in the first game of Harrington (he didn't pass at all to Brown against the Jets yesterday)...

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The highlight of the week had to be Madden pointing out that the Raiders had played bad, but were still in the game at 13-3 with 5 minutes left and driving the ball. The next play Jordan promptly fumbles the ball.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6


I'm fairly certain that Gumbel and Dierdorf were informed by the sideline reporter or somebody that the call was for taunting. Yes, the referee said "Unsportsmanlike conduct" but the "U.C." was taunting.

I think.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

About the Broncos-Raiders game, I also noticed the couple of strange screen passes in the first half. It was almost funny; the two blocking O-linesmen and Tatum all looked somewhat surprised, each time. I think what was happening was that Nalen et al. did a terrible job of selling a normal dropback. Plummer had a defensive linemen in his face almost immediately and had to deliver the pass way too early.

But I am now really worried. I was hoping that playing a not-very-good D would at last wake up the offense, but... Koobs must have been a bigger part of the Denver offense than anyone has heretofore realized, Shanahan included. Plummer has not looked confident all season, the 15 scripted plays are scaring nobody, and despite a pretty good running game and Javon looking like an amazing steal (especially for a 2nd round pick!), the offense is doing zilch.

Gerard Warren and the rest of the Broncos' D-line are probably looking forward to Cleveland, next week, but I just want the offense to score 20 points...

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Speaking of the Cover-2, please play it against me in Madden 07. Of all the base Ds, it's the easiest to shred. The TE is usually WIDE WIDE open up the seam. Wideouts are wideopen on corner routes and streaks. It's not easy to hit people in the flats or on curls, but with a good QB the longer routes are money.

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

51– I have Payton’s press conference on, and he just said he challenged it because he didn’t have a good view when he first saw the replay, but he’ll always be agressive with challenges.

That's just stupid. He's at home - they're going to show a good replay. If he didn't have a good angle to see it, he should have coaches watching for it to see if it's a good idea.

Being aggressive with challenges is one thing, but when the official takes 10 seconds under the hood to realize that you're wrong, it was a mistake. Luckily, it ended up not hurting them.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Oh, and another thing. The Raiders are taking all the fun out of being a Bronco fan in the Shanahan era. :-(

I'll take the win, but that game just left me feeling kinda blah.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Will Carroll: Is there any way to know if specific teams actually do end up beating the hell out of their opponents so much that the team is reduced the next week? A Physicality Factor?

This reminds me of something from a few years back, right before the Patriots won their first Super Bowl. The Rams had played them and won earlier in the year. But during the media week more than one Ram commented on how even though they'd beaten the Pats earlier, that was by far the most physical team they had faced and the one that had left them collectively beat up. Which is why even though I was cheering for the Rams, I took the Patriots & the points.

But I think Will raises a good point, although I suppose it must vary in both directions - some teams are cream puffs and don't beat their opponents up very much at all. How hard would it be to look for this?

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Re #72
You know, if the officials had just called LJ for three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, we'd be able to say with a reasonable degree of confidence that #1 was for keeping his hand on the air while getting up, #2 was getting in Polamalu's face and yelling at him after the play was over, #2a was on general principles for doing that in a game where his team was being blown out, and #3 was for punching Ike Taylor.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

No, the penalty called on the Bengals was a horrid call under any reading of the rulebook. It was textbook example of a zebra going ridiculously outside a reasonable interpretation of the rules in order to protect the quarterback. The defensive lineman would have had to alter the laws of physics, or to decide to not tackle the qb, in order to avoid the penalty that was called. If that's a penalty, it's time to attach flags to the hips of qbs, and simply disallow the tackling of qbs altogether.

Again, I'm mightily surprised by how quickly Brees has recovered from what was reported to be a serious injury to his throwing shoulder.

In retrospect, it appears that Randy Moss decided to retire sometime last year, but decided to not tell the Raiders yet. If anybody unconditionally gives up a number one pick for him, to say nothing of a number one and a starter, they are crazy.

Oh, and this just in....Steve Smith is pretty good. Are the Panthers much better than 8-8 without him? Are they even 8-8 if Smith isn't playing?

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

#4 yes idid too lmao! I saw "punched like Ike Turner"...need to read more slowly

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Before STL fans complain any more about losing the game "on a technicality". Lets establish that there would have been no huge mess spiking the ball if a STL player hadn't stole it away from ref and prevented him from spotting it for 3 secs or so, which in my opinion should itself have been a delay of game on the rams. I am no fan of SEA, but such unsportsmanlike conduct should be penalized. Hopefully the league will look at the play and point that out to the refs.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Kaveman, it really seems as if Shanahan's hatred for all things silver and black must be receding. He seemed content to win by about 10 points yesterday, against a completely outmanned and outcoached bunch, and the Bronco players seemed to adopt that attitude. In years past, I think Shanahan would have tried to really stomp his former employer, and perhaps the greatest insult to RaidahNation is that Shanahan couldn't even be bothered to coach hard against the Minions of Davis.

I actually have to give some credit to Ryan and the Raiders' defense; they haven't quit, unlike the Raiders offense.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Plummer has not looked confident all season, the 15 scripted plays are scaring nobody, and despite a pretty good running game and Javon looking like an amazing steal (especially for a 2nd round pick!), the offense is doing zilch.

There's one other way that Denver's defense is affecting its offense that I didn't realize: length of games. Here's the number of real drives during regulation in their games (excluding end-of-half drives kneeled out immediately): 8, 9, 11, 9, 11. That's an average of 9.6 drives/game. Here's that same number for Baltimore: 10, 14, 11, 12, 10, 11. That's 11.3 drives/game.

Yeah, Denver's offense isn't scoring points a lot. They're also getting stuck in bad field position, and they're also barely getting chances on the field. You can't entirely blame the offense for that. The defense has got to get the opposing offenses off the field faster.

They did a great job of that in the first half, which led to 13 points. They didn't do such a good job of that in the second half.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Most years I think they would be 9-7 with this team without Smith. Decent but not contenders. This year the Panthers have a gauntlet of a schedule later in the year. I believe aside from the Bucs they don't play any "bad" teams for the rest of the season.

ATL, NO, Tampa, Cincy, Pitt, Dallas, Washington, Philly, New York and St. Louis.

Assuming Pitt turns it around that's 8 of the next 10 games against winning teams. Without Smith they would not sniff the playoffs this year. With him I think they go 11-5 or 12-4. Of course right now Julius Peppers is the MVP of that team. He may lead the league in sacks with 8 but watching him play he could have 8 more easily. He has been getting constant pressure and teams appear to be gameplanning throwing the ball away because it's been happening so often (especially the last two games).

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

That comment on Peppers, it looks like this weeks Every Play Counts will be about him. Should be pretty good to hear because the Ravens were absolutely TERRIFIED of him. They weren't even running the ball to the right side of the field.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Yeah, you toss in Peppers, and the Panthers might end up being the 12 win team, most dependent on the performance of two players, neither of whom play qb, of just about any team I've seen. If Peppers and Smith were to go down, they may not win two more games. I wouldn't let them carpool to work.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The Vikings couldn't even get within shouting distance of blocking Peppers, and I was astounded that they left a 2nd year ot alone to face Peppers as much as they did. Of course, when they did assign a pretty good blocking te to assist, Jim Kleinsasser, Peppers defeated both blocks, so maybe you're better off taking the Peppers medicine while only sacrificng one blocker.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

83: I have had the same observation; the Bronco offense hasn't really had that many plays per game. I think the league average for plays per game is around 60 (if somebody knows for sure, I'm interested), but looking at a few box scores, the Broncos seem to be below that (last night 51). It's partly on the defense for letting teams stay on the field, partly on the offense for not picking up many first downs and thus getting short drives.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6


"STL player hadn’t stole it away from ref and prevented him from spotting it for 3 secs or so.."

Wow, is that really true? Anyone see this? I will check with others who have it recorded.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"If Peppers and Smith were to go down, they may not win two more games. I wouldn’t let them carpool to work."

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The scary thing with Peppers is he is a notoriously slow starter. He usually puts up mind boggling lines in 2-3 games per season (think the Atlanta game two years ago) and disappears in the others, especially early in the year. He's already had one mind boggler so far against Minnesota (3 sacks and a couple tackles for losses) but he's yet to go on his late season tear. I have a feeling he could approach some scary numbers when you look at some of the teams left on the schedule.

Dallas with Drew Bledsoe? Bengals with a still-injured Carson Palmer (they've given up a lot of sacks)? Atlanta (Peppers usually plays well against Vick), Tampa (rookie)... I'm not sure how well some of the other teams are playing because I don't get to see them much, but some people are whispering 20. He's on pace for it and they haven't been luck either. You can also point to Kris Jenkins resurgence as part of the reason Peppers has seen less double-teams. Jenkins doesn't have the stats to back this up, but DTs don't play for stats. He has been a force in the middle of the line and that has kept teams from sliding too much protection Peppers' way.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Will, I agree with you on Carolina. Steve Smith might be more important to his team's offense than any non-QB in the league, and yet I can't call him Carolina's best player because I think that's Peppers. They might have the best offensive player and defensive player in the league.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"Michael David Smith: Laveranues Coles is really good. Early this season I thought Pennington was having a renaissance, but now I think it’s more that any quarterback can look good when he has Coles to throw to."

Patrick Ramsey and Brooks Bollinger would never have had those Pro Bowl seasons without Coles.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I should also add that Damione Lewis, the DT Carolina brought over from St. Louis has been outstanding as well. He has been coming in for Maake Kemoeatu on passing downs and providing some great penetration from the interior. He's actually been a better pass rusher than Jenkins. With the way Lewis and Jenkins have been playing it is hard not to try to block them with 3 linemen, which leaves Peppers free more often than he really should be. The only answer is to have a TE chip him or leave a back in for protection, but teams have not been able to justify doing that because the Panthers haven't been blitzing that much this season. Can you really justify keeping 5 linemen, a TE and a back in to block when only 4 are rushing most of the time? You'd be playing 3 on 7 downfield.

That said New Orleans put up great numbers through the air and didn't have protection problems. Carolina has given up some big plays this year. It's a little disheartening seeing guys go 70 yards untouched like Clayton and Colston did. I'm thinking the problem has been poor coverage from the linebackers and safeties.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"If Peppers and Smith were to go down, they may not win two more games. I wouldn’t let them carpool to work."

Couldn't you say that about any team though. Take away Vick and Dunn and what would you have; how about Manning and Harrison or Manning and Barber or Brees and Bush etc. Is there any team that could lose its 2 key players and win more than 2 games with the Panther's schedule?

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Watching the CAR/BAL game yesterday I thought Delhomme was either going to have a great day or throw 5 INTs, and after the first two picks it looked liked the latter was going to occur. But kudos to aggressive gamecalling (unlike SD) after throwing INTs, there were a ton of third and longs that Delhomme converted.
Although the Bears are still the class of the NFC, I think the Panthers can hang with them. The Bears are deeper in terms of talent, but they can't match up with uberplayers like Peppers (and the whole D-line) and Smith, who have to stay healthy.
I think the Ravens are going to be involved in a lot of close games this year, which means their potential record is tough to guess. 3 probable wins (at TEN, CLE and BUF at home), 4 tough division games (PIT and CIN), and 3 question marks (ATL at home, at NO, at KC). If they split the division games at 2-2, win the 3 cheapies, beat ATL at home, they need to beat NO or KC on the road for an 11-5 record. Certainly possible, but I'm not sure how probable.

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Jerry, the key modifiers that delineate the Panthers' situation from the ones you mention is that neither Smith or Peppers play qb, and that neither the Falcons or the Giants are going to win 12 games, as the Panthers might. It is extremely unusual to have a team be good enough to win 12, and to be so dependent on two players, neither of whom play quarterback.

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Maybe even one player, as the Panthers struggled mightily in weeks 1 and 2 before Smith started to resemble his old self. Outside of Tiki Barber, the most important player to his team in the league

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The Bears are the better team no doubt. At least the way they have been playing so far. Part of me thinks that the offense CAN'T be that good. Teams just don't click after one season like that usually. So far they have done nothing but prove me wrong though, and I imagine if scheduling has anything to do with it then they will continue proving me wrong all the way to the playoffs.

But once the playoffs come around you never know what can happen. Those 13-3 Bears a few years ago got spanked. That 1985 Bears defense from last year got lit up at home (there's a reason why the announcers keep saying the Bears haven't given up double-digit points in a REGULAR SEASON home game in a dozen games or so). The Bears have playoff experience at least, so that won't be a problem...

I bet Bears fans were kicking themselves when Seattle kicked that game winning FG. That would have put Chicago two games ahead of Seattle in the race for homefield advantage. I think if those two teams are the class of the NFC then it will come down to whoever plays at home. Seattle is bad on the road and Chicago looked mortal against Minnesota. Chicago has been unstoppable at home thus far and Seattle is one of the loudest places in the NFL. I don't think either team can win on the others home turf.

I also think Carolina could easily go in and upset one of them. Carolina has been perhaps the best road team in the NFL since 2003 and they've broken many hearts along the way (especially in St. Louis and Chicago). At this point though Carolina would have to do it all on the road, and I don't think they can make it to the Super Bowl without playing a home game. It's just too tough.

Until Chicago's offense rears its ugly head I am picking them to go to the Super Bowl.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

How much money do we have to pay MDS to get an EPC on the Raiders offense? The people demand it, dammit. Well, okay, we'd like to see it, if only because this may be the worst offense ever. Then again, MDS could probably write "they suck" and it would encapsulate things, and that wouldn't make for much of an article.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Will, I understand what you are saying but as a Panther's fan, I have to defend the other 10 offensive and defensive players. Yes, it is rare that one team have two potential MVP's but that doesn't, or at least shouldn't, take anything away from the other players.

Peppers is having his best season yet but maybe part of that can be attributed to playing next to Lewis, Kemo and Jenkins this year. And yes, Smith is phenomenal but if you look over the past couple of years, the Panthers have had a 3 different receivers ranked in the top 5 according to the DVOA system: Moose, Smith and now Keyshawn. The one common thread to all the receivers: Jake Delhomme. What were Keyshawn's numbers last year with Dallas? Something like 37th! I can't help but think that Jake deserves some credit for their success.

It's great that you and others can appreciate Peppers and Smith, but don't throw the rest of the players under the bus because of it.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

How much money do we have to pay MDS to get an EPC on the Raiders offense?

On the one hand, MDS seems to like writing about football. Price shouldn't be too high.

On the other hand, what's the combat-pay-equivalent for forcing the poor man to pay attention to and attempt to analyze rationally the 2006 Raiders' offense? Even for one game, that could be steep.

Gripping hand, your probable capsule seems to cover it. I mean, you could break down what degree of bad play-calling, lack of motivation, poor execution, shoddy technique, lack of talent, and other factors contribute to each particular failure, but that's like doing gas-spectrum analysis to determine why [manure] stinks.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

re: 100. It's coming at some point. It's going to be on the offensive line, specifically, so we were waiting for Robert Gallery to return from his injury.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I think Keyshawn's performance has been phenominal, and a large part of that has not been because of Smith. Keyshawn was great when Smith was hurt and while Smith was not 100% (the first two games back at least). He even has a rushing TD on a reverse!

And yeah, I've already given a ton of credit to Jenkins and Lewis. I heard a stat that said Rucker is actually second on the team in hurries too despite not having a sack. Peppers is getting help for sure, though without him out there I don't know how I'd feel about that defense. Peppers has been a beast against the run too after all.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6


Last year, Smith was healthy and started in every game. In the first three games, he had 23 receptions for 342 yards and 4 TD's and yet the Panthers still started out 1-2; just like this year.
The Panthers are undeniably better with Smith in the game but I am not sure you can attrinute the first two losses solely to his absence. Maybe it has more to do with the Panthers being notoriously slow starters than with Smiths absense.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

re: 100. It’s coming at some point. It’s going to be on the offensive line, specifically, so we were waiting for Robert Gallery to return from his injury.

I hope every single comment in that thread starts with "MDS, I would just like to say, you are a braver man than I."

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Thanks for the great analysis on one of the most compelling teams of the season, the San Diego Chargers. If your coverage of this team continues at this clip, we'll be lucky if we even remember there's a team playing in San Diego.

In an odd turn of events, the 49ers emerged from the bye over the weekend with an EXTRA LOSS. Officials are still trying to pin down the cause of the anamoly in the standings.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

FWIW, I'm pretty sure it's more Peppers and Smith being that good as opposed to them being helped by the rest of the team. The Ravens repeatedly tried to chip Peppers and it didn't work.
They tried to run away from him and that didn't work as he repeatedly chased down the ball carrier from the weakside. The Ravens tried to take him out of the game with play-calling and it simply didn't work. He really played about as well as a DE could play yesterday.

Smith (and both Keyshawn and Moose in the past) bails out Delhomme (the TD yesterday was underthrown) repeatedly. He also forces teams to be more honest and not stuff the run which is important when Foster is your RB.

Michael David Smith is also spot-on in saying Samari Rolle was horrible...I'd expect more teams to start picking on him with any WR with any type of speed.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Nice. I see the week 6 stats have been posted, and checked the running backs.

Tiki, #1 in DPAR. #7 is DVOA.

Brandon Jacobs, #7 in DPAR. #1 in DVOA.

Jacobs #1 in Success Rate. My, how things have changed since the Dayne days.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Peppers is the best DE in the league since Strahan in his prime. Here are my four co-best-linemen in football.

Best 4-3 DE: Julius Peppers
Best 3-4 DE: Richard Seymour
Best DT: Tommie Harris
Best NT: Jamal Williams

Honorable mention to NT Casey Hampton.

Also, yes, Holt is basically the second-best WR in football behind Steve Smith.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Aaron- thanks. Gallery was back (metaphorically speaking) last night, so I'm giddy in anticipation. Would it be asking too much for the EPC to be from the Raiders-Texans stinkfest coming up later in the season? :)

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6


I never said Peppers or Smith didn't have talent. But I don't think the rest of the team is so bad that "...were [they] to go down, they may not win two more games. I wouldn’t let them carpool to work.�
"Smith (and both Keyshawn and Moose in the past) bails out Delhomme "
I know Delhomme gets sloppy with the ball and doesn't have the best stats, but how has Moose done with Chicago. This year he is ranked around 17th but with Jake, he ranked 3rd in 04. Last year Key was at 37 and currently he is ranked 3rd. Are you sure they are bailing Jake out? I don't see how you can claim a receiver is bailing out Jake when their numbers increase with him and decrease without him.

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The ability to bring in Jacobs for a couple of plays is doing amazing things for Tiki Barber. Tiki was remarkable yesterday, and when he was winded Jacobs was just pummeling the defense. LOL about the consistent high passes from Eli though, the coaching staff has to be really concerned right now.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Jerry, the rest of the Panthers squad has some very good players, but Jake Delhomme ain't one of them. He is an average qurterback, maybe slightly above average. Take away Smith and Peppers, and a championship caliber team becomes very doubtful to win eight games, and this is unusual for non-quarterbacks. Put it this way; I could trade Delhomme for at least a dozen quarterbacks, and with a half-season's worth of acclimation, the Panthers wouldn't miss a beat, and in many cases would be better, sometimes much better. There isn't anybody in the league who could replace Smith however, and the only guy I'd consider for Peppers is Seymour(not exactly playing the same position, of course; I just think Seymour's versatility is not fully appreciated, in terms of how it helps a team).

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

#109 - Jacobs is #7 in DPAR on 34 total carries. How is that even possible?

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Re: 115. Dunno. I assume that having 22 successful runs on those 34 carries, including 2 touchdowns and no fumbles, has something to do with it. It is definitely counter-intuitive.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

To put it another way, Jerry, without Peppers and Smith, and there is no team on the Panthers' remaining schedule that I would consider them clearly superior to, with perhaps the exception of the Bucs, and even that isn't completely obvious, given how the Bucs aren't mailing it in. This ignores the fact that the Panthers would not have beaten Ravens yesterday without Smith, not to mention what the effect would have been on the the other three wins without those two players. Could they win seven or eight without those two guys? Sure, if everything else not related to their injuries broke their way, but if everything else was fairly normal, five or six wins would be an accomplishment. I'm not trying to knock the organization or anything; it is to be credited for acquiring players of Peppers' and Smiths' caliber.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6


I don't think Rivers' motion will hurt him as much as Young's. Rivers has an odd motion, but his release is quick and the ball gets out fast. Young has a long, slow release and, for a guy who throws hard, his ball takes a long time to arrive. When Jason White came out of OU and people couldn't believe that the NFL wasn't interested in him, I cited his slow, slow release as one of the factors. Arm strength is always mentioned, but a QB who can't get rid of the ball in a snappy fashion is really hurtin'.

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

110: Let me add Pat Williams. Dr. Z wrote last season that he had never seen a NT have a year like Williams had. He's this huge run-clogger who is also an underrated pass rusher from the inside. He destroys plays--sometimes it's awe-inspiring to see this mammoth of a man moving so quickly at the snap to disrupt everything. Peppers has dominated more than any other DL this year, but I put Pat Williams up there with Jamaal Williams and Richard Seymour.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Smith is clearly the best offensive player in the league. He missed two games and he's already 9th in DPAR and climbing.

There are three noteworthy players on the Panthers offense. Aside from Smith, the Panthers also have Jordan Gross, one of the best RTs in the league, and Mike Wahle, an excellent run-blocking guard. Throw in average players at all the other positions, and you've got a scary offense that can light up the Bears.

The thing about Smith is that he's not just in a huge number of plays - There were five receivers in 2005 who were targeted more than Smith - he's also insanely efficient. He had the highest catch percentage of all #1 wide receivers AND one of the highest yards per catch averages.

You can throw to him more often than almost anyone, on fairly long routes, and he'll still catch the ball the most frequently. That's pretty special.

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Peter, I think the lack of San Diego comments is solely attributed to them playing SF this week. As a Niners fan, I've noticed not many people pay attention to them lately (not that there's been a lot of reasons to do so).

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Why the Rivers love-fest? Well, he's been pretty good. Ranking third in DVOA and fifth in DPAR would seem to back up the mainstream stats and what I've seen with my own eyes.

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Will, I am not disagreeing with you about Smith or Peppers. And given the teams they face, I would also agree that the Panther's, sans Smith and Peppers, would not be superior to any of them. Again, no disagreements there. Jake however, I will have to respectfully disagree with.
Like I already stated, he can be careless with the ball and throws too many int. As it has been pointed out on this site before, he can be a "turnover machine". But there is also something about him that can't be expressed or measured with stats. Yes, by the numbers, he is an average to slightly above average QB. But there is something about him that makes receivers better (unlike some QB's like Vick, who actually make them worse). So by the numbers, you are correct but by the intangibles, I would put him near the top. Just look at his SB performance for an example of what I am trying to point out.

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I just gotta say this column has become one my favorite parts of the football week. Always sharp & funny.

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Er, how many places outside of SD/SF was the Chargers game broadcast? Kind of hard to expect the staff to comment on a game they didn't see. Given that SD has been at the top of the DVOA rankings all season (and since the Chargers no longer have Rodney Harrison), I don't see how you can play the disrespect card.

Maybe we need a new mad libs template for the audibles thread.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The 49ers-Chargers game was aired in Oregon, a very small portion of southern Washington state, California, Northern Nevada, Utah, and minute portions of Idaho and Wyoming (thanks Gribblenation).

That's why the Chargers-49ers game was left uncovered.

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I think the fake jumpshots are what you get when you can't jump high enough to dunk on the goalpost. That's all I could think of, anyway.

Gandy just got abused. Jason Webster looked awful, like he was terrified of letting the play get behind him, so he always gave the Giants receivers like 10-15 yards of space. It sure didn't help that they played a soft zone the whole time and didn't switch to (say) cover 2 after the giants burned them over and over with those deep comebacks and curls. The falcons offense only being on the field for 8 minutes in the second half = also not good for the defense. The defensive performance was definately the biggest disappointment for me, because even with all the offensive inefficiencies I figured that the d would keep us in games. right now it looks like Abraham, Kerney AND Coleman are hurt... this week's game against the Steelers is gonna be pretty ugly.

god, I didn't even mention the receivers.

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

#89 You want even more of a conspiracy. Last night the play showing the tussel for the ball was in the offical highlight reel (where I saw it), today it cuts stright from Holt reception to Brown FG.

figures league always hates controversy.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"Aaron Schatz: Vince Young had a throw on a second-down pass to Ben Troupe in the fourth quarter that was so hard Troupe couldn’t handle it. That’s one of those things young quarterbacks really need to learn in the NFL: touch. You don’t have to throw everything as hard as possible."

Wait, Aaron, doesn't Brett Favre zing all of his passes as hard as he possibly can, and it's up to the receivers to adjust? And Favre's the greatestbestestmostawesome QB evar!!!!!

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

125: I proposed one back in week 1, although I honestly don't think it's as good as the zlionsfan DVOA template.

[Number] comments on [game that was discussed] and nothing on [game that was not discussed]? [Anecdotal comment about something interesting in game that was not discussed.]

Really, you guys [statement implying lack of interest in or respect for one of the teams playing the game that was not discussed.]

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Jerry, just off the top of my head, here are the quarterbacks that the Panthers could trade for Delhomme, with nearly zero danger of a fall-off in team performance, after a brief period of acclimation.

Manning I
Green (non-concussed model)

Many of the above would be a very substantial improvement. In addition, I'd say the following would have a decent chance of being better with the Panthers as well:

Culpepper (if fully recovered, he'd probably be as good with Smith as he was with Moss)
Manning II

In a year, I might prefer Leinart, Smith, and Grossman to Delhomme. Delhomme has his good qualities, but make no mistake; put him on the Detroit Lions, and the Lions would still be 1-5, and perhaps 0-6.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

#82: He seemed content to win by about 10 points yesterday, against a completely outmanned and outcoached bunch, and the Bronco players seemed to adopt that attitude.

That's a far more reassuring (for a Broncos fan) way to look at it, so thanks. But... I'll still be far happier when the offense starts scoring more.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Random: If you take the Relative Power Index that ESPN uses for MLB and apply it to the NFL this season, the top five looks like this:
1) NY Giants
2) Chicago
3) Indianapolis
4) Seattle
5) Denver
I just thought the result was crazy enough that it warranted sharing with y'all.

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Independent George (115), I can answer that question with one word.

The Colts D. Crap! That's three words!

Okay, I can answer that question with three words: Colts Run D
The Colts Run D bites! Damn, five words. Okay, here goes....

NObody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Well, I was helped in that answer by Michael Palin.

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

That doesn't seem too crazy for a system that generally runs on 10X as many games...

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

#83: Yeah, Denver’s offense isn’t scoring points a lot. They’re also getting stuck in bad field position, and they’re also barely getting chances on the field.

There's certainly some blame that can be apportioned to the special teams, for the field position, but...

They did a great job of that in the first half, which led to 13 points. They didn’t do such a good job of that in the second half.

Well. The Raiders drives in the 1st half:
1. 7:50 (followed by a Denver TD in 0:54).
2. 2:02 (followed by a Denver FG in 3:16).
3. 1:36 (followed by a Denver FG in 4:34).

The next Raider drive ended in an INT and Plummer basically kneeled out the half.

In the 2nd half:
1. 6:36 (ended in an FG).
2. 2:52.
3. 3:24 (turnover on downs).
4. 2:54 (ended with a turnover).

Plummer then made a few first downs and knelt out the game.

So, it looks to me like the offense got its chances. But it certainly wouldn't hurt for the D to get a few 3-and-outs.

On the plus side, Elvis Dumervil looked good; had two sacks in the game and a third taken away because of a penalty. Patrick Chukwurah has turned into a pretty good pass rusher too. More sacks will help. More QBs throwing at Champ will too. :-)

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Rivers...I've been a fan since his State days Yep, I'd take him but I am not sure he is better at this time. Let's see how he does in the playoffs first.

Brees...I'd take him in a heartbeat. One of the best period!
McNabb...Good, but I'll take Jake
Bulger...Good, but again, I'll stay with Jake
Hasselbeck...Great QB but I'm not sure how he would do with Foster behind him instead of Alexander
Palmer...Up there with Brees but I am curious how his season will wind up given his injury.
Roethlisberger...No thanks. I feel about him like you feel about Jake.
Brady...The best. Who wouldn't want him.
Manning I...No thanks. He has what, 1 or 2 postseason wins. I'll believe in him when he actually starts winning in the playoffs.
McNair...Your joking right.
Leftwich...I actually like him. Like Jake, he is a fighter.
Green (non-concussed model)...He's good as well but I prefer Jake.
I'm not going to disect the rest of the names so needless to say, I don't think they're as good a Jake.
Out of curiousity, which of the QB's above has a better postseason rating than Jake? Heck, which one has a better postseason record than Jake?

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

This question came up in a conversation about the end of the Rams/Seahawks game. I didn't think of the question, and I don't know the answer.

If illegal formation doesn't result in a 10-second runoff, why do entire teams run up to the line scrimmage in order to get off that final "pass." Say, for example, your team completes a 25-yard pass to get in field goal position but you need to spike the ball to stop the clock in order to kick the field goal. Why doesn't the player who caught the pass and the nearest player to him run to wherever the ball is spotted while the rest of the teams just gets set in position wherever they stand? As soon as the referee puts the ball in play, one of those two guys snaps the ball to the other one who spikes it. Is it because the referee won't spot the ball with half of the team 20 yards away?

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Jerry, the issue of sample size makes the questions relating to post-season stats somewhat limited in value. As to the rest, to pick just a couple of examples, if you really would prefer Delhomme to McNabb or Bulger, well, it's a free country.

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Re: fade-away jump shots. I dunno either except that it's a trend around the league. LT did a front of the rim finger-roll (ala the Ice Man George Gervin) after some of his TDs yesterday.

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Gosh, Jerry, I missed your comments about Manning I. It's a really, really, really, really free country.

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

This might be my bias speaking, but I really would prefer Delhomme over Manning based ONLY on postseason performance. You just can't trust Manning in the postseason. Regular season, no doubt, I'd take Manning 10 out of 10 times.

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

So, it looks to me like the offense got its chances. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt for the D to get a few 3-and-outs.

The first half had 2 successful drives by Oakland, and 2 three-and-outs. The 2 3-and-outs were fantastic because they happened when Oakland was shoved back up against its own end zone (at their 20).

The second half started out great, with a 3-and-out that gave Denver great field position - except the punt return team fumbled it. Not the defense's fault, but that was the only 3-and-out they had the rest of the game. Giving up a 40-yard drive when the offense and punting team had managed to pin the Raiders inside the 20 just hurts.

The defense has to take advantage of those situations - it's like the offense being handed a turnover on a short field. You get upset when you get nothing from those. Likewise with that.

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Jerry, the issue of sample size makes the questions relating to post-season stats somewhat limited in value.

It's more than that, though. How high do you think Jake's rating would've been had the Panthers made the postseason (by some miracle) in 2004? Would his magic postseason powers have fixed Steve Smith's injury?

Postseason performance is cherry-picking.

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Keep in mind, people, that Peyton Manning's Colts have lost in the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl winner three straight years. It's entirely conceivable that if the Colts were in the NFC, we'd be talking about the quarterback that lost three straight Super Bowls.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Roethlisberger…No thanks. I feel about him like you feel about Jake.

Is Roethlisberger this generation's Troy Aikman? Depending on who you ask, he's either an overpaid game manager who only excels because he isn't expected to do anything, or he's a Brady-level talent who unselfishly sarifices his own numbers for the benefit fo the team.

Personally, I think he's much more the latter than the former, but the interesting thing to me is that there doesn't seem to be much of a middle ground.

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I think it's pretty clear after the way he took apart the Broncos and the Colts in the playoffs last season the Roethlisberger is not just a "game manager". He's a very good quarterback, who plays for a team that throws early and runs late.

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

As long as Cowher has been in Pittsburgh, they've had strong defenses, strong running games, and average to worse QB play. That was enough to lose in the AFC Title most years. So it's not like Roethisberger just stepped onto a juggernaut and managed them to a title; they were a consistently good but not great team that finally won the Super Bowl once a decent QB got there.

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

It is quite likely that if Delhomme tried to run the Colts' offense, the Colts might go 1-15, whereas Manning I running the Panthers' offense, with Smith healthy, would probably produce 13 to 15 wins.