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

Audibles at the Line: Week 9

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

New Orleans Saints 31 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14

Russell Levine: Wow, do the Bucs look bad. The Saints look like they're doing a 7-on-7 drill, while Tampa has four three-and-outs to start the game. Things you don't want to hear while watching your favorite team: "Philip Buchanon now in at corner for the injured Juran Bolden."

Will Carroll: I've been hearing rumors that Luke McCown would have the job shortly after being activated. I didn't really believe it until watching the Bucs offense.

Russell Levine: Of course right after I wrote my last email about the Bucs, they put together back-to-back TD drives featuring a bunch of nice throws from Gradkowski. The way things were going, McCown in the second half looked like a forgone conclusion. Tampa Bay's rally ruined my plans to rake leaves after halftime.

Mike Tanier: My wife raked leaves today! Don't ask what I had to do for that...

I had a similar experience to Russ early in this game. The Bucs started with six three-and-outs, and the Saints were cruising, but I kept watching. "Gotta be a good soldier. I'm doing NFC South for the next book, and I gotta watch the games." Gradkowski looked awful early on, but then he had this sudden sequence where he could do no wrong: shovel passes for big gains, touchdown throws off his back foot. Then the game got interesting.

I saw that elusive "triple stack" I was blabbering about three weeks ago. The Saints used the formation to throw a little screen pass to Reggie Bush, who was in the back of the stack. They also used a full-house formation later in the game. Bush took a handoff and went about three yards on that play. The Saints clearly lead the league in wacky formations designed to get the ball to their hotshot rookie so he can gain three yards. Luckily, Marques Colston is just amazing.

The Saints started a rookie left tackle named Zach Strief against Simeon Rice today. Rice was held sackless. I'm just wondering how the skinny guy from Scrubs bulked up so fast to play left tackle.

Cincinnati Bengals 20 at Baltimore Ravens 26

Ian Dembsky: On two straight plays, the Ravens lined up Mike Anderson as the QB and had him run the ball. Neither play worked especially well. I don't get it...

Aaron Schatz: As I noted to Ian when I showed up at his house, I wonder if Brian Billick did that just so opposing coaches would waste time preparing for the Ravens to do it again later.

Michael David Smith: CBS just broadcast two "god damn"s and a "f&$*in" as Billick stood a little too close to a microphone when he cursed out an official. It's amazing how much more NFL coaches get away with than NBA coaches.

Aaron Schatz: Chris Henry had a long catch down the right side but fumbled. Cincinnati challenged the fumble and it was overturned, then Baltimore challenged that Henry went out of bounds, but didn't win. Has anyone ever seen this before where the same play was challenged by both teams?

The left side of the Cincinnati offensive line is having big problems with the Baltimore pass rush.

The Bengals love to run from the three-wide. It seems like the only time they use a TE is when Reggie Kelly is playing fullback.

Mike Tanier: The Bengals are running the ball too much. They ran the ball 13 times in the first half, while Carson Palmer threw just 11 times. Late in the game, they were still running the ball when they needed two scores to win. When they got the ball with 3:00 or so left to play and down by six, they ran on first down. I like Rudi Johnson, but a team with as much offensive firepower as the Bengals have should be throwing the ball much more, even against a very good defense.

Dallas Cowboys 19 at Washington Redskins 22

Ian Dembsky: Blatant horse-collar tackle on Clinton Portis, no flag. When does the rule actually apply?

Doug Farrar: Lemme guess, was it Roy Wililams? Don't worry -- someone will get a $5K fine next week. You can potentially end a guy's season or put "Ocho Cinco" on your jersey, and it costs you the same.

Michael David Smith: This opening drive is the first time all season I've watched the Redskins offense and thought it looked like the Al Saunders Kansas City offense. I almost wonder if not having Santana Moss is forcing them to get more creative in the passing game.

Ryan Wilson: Wow. On Washington's first drive they get down inside the Cowboys 5-yard line, run something like 15 running plays in a row, and Portis gets stuffed on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Roy Williams has always been a liability in coverage, but on several running plays the Redskins didn't think enough to block him and he made stops in the backfield.

Michael David Smith: That Dallas safety is a perfect example of why teams should go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Even if you don't get it, you pin your opponents deep and you have a good chance of either a safety or forcing a punt from the end zone.

Aaron Schatz: Watching with Bill Barnwell and Ian Dembsky over at Ian's house, and we all just said the same thing after the safety.

Doug Farrar: Brandon Lloyd did a great job of breaking up that Mark Brunell pass thrown in the end zone, right to Anthony Henry. If Lloyd were a Cowboy and Henry a Redskin, they might have something there.

Terry McAulay might want to give Mike Pereira a call regarding the "ingredients of a hold." Evidently, the Cowboys do not possess those ingredients.

Ryan Wilson: Tony Romo has looked pretty damn good all day. He just hit T.O. on a quick slant for a 5-yard TD, and T.O. proceeded to use the ball as a pillow during his touchdown celebration. Hey, at least T.O. can make fun of his "condition." And yes, he was flagged for ... taunting.

Aaron Schatz: Who was he taunting, the narcoleptic community?

Dallas seemed to be playing the Washington receivers very soft in the first half almost as if they didn't hear the news that Santana Moss was out. Lloyd and Thrash aren't really that fast. And what does it say that with Moss out, Thrash is getting more looks than the big free agent signing Randle El?

Brunell early on was running parallel to the line for a first down on third-and-2 and yet for some reason instead of just running for a first he tried to force in a pass to his receiver in the corner. I don't like when QBs don't just grab that easy first, but especially you would think Brunell would just run for the couple yards.

Doug Farrar: Dallas OLB Greg Ellis was just abused twice on running plays in Washington's first actually successful touchdown drive. First, he was caught zigging when he should have zagged on an end around to Antwaan Randle El. Ellis bit heavily inside on the fake to Clinton Portis and couldn't regain his bearings in time to make the tackle. Then, on Portis' 38-yard TD run two plays later, Ellis switched with DeMarcus Ware pre-snap, putting him on the right side. Washington ran a toss left from a two-back set, and Ellis could not get outside in time to make the play -- because, once again, he bit on the fake inside.

Ellis was switched from defensive end to outside linebacker before the 2006 season, because he doesn't have the size to be an end in Bill Parcells' 3-4 defense. While Ellis is on pace for more tackles and sacks than he had last year, he's not going to enjoy Film Time with Coach this week.

Ryan Wilson: Tony Romo just threw a bomb to a wide open T.O., who had beat the cornerback and safety, and he dropped it. The corner, not surprisingly, was Carlos Rogers. The safety wasn't Adam Archuleta because he wasn't even on the field due to his inability to cover anybody.

Russell Levine: The ending of the Cowboys-Redskins was about as ridiculous as you'll ever see.

Romo hits Witten with a perfect pass to put the Cowboys in range for a game-winning field goal with six seconds left. Vandy's kick is blocked, knocked around and finally picked up by Sean Taylor. He carries it to past midfield, but there's a personal foul facemask tacked on (tough call, looked like it should have been a five). One untimed down, Skins kick the game winner.

Can anyone recall a situation with field goal attempts by each team on successive plays? Can't say I've ever seen that.

By the way, thanks Joe Buck for completely failing to realize that the return and penalty put the Skins in field goal range. He didn't identify the yard mark for a good 2-3 minutes. And thanks to the over-reliance on the sky-cam, we couldn't see what yard line they were on.

Doug Farrar: So, who's the bigger goat? Kyle Kosier of the Cowboys, for the facemask on Sean Taylor, or Alex Barron of the Rams, for the consecutive false starts on the fourth-quarter drive that might have tied the game? I vote for Barron, because he led the NFL with EIGHTEEN false starts last season. The Rams had second-and-1 from the KC 26, and Barron just killed the drive. Kosier, on the other hand, got hosed on what looked like it should have been an incidental 5-yard facemask.

Mike Tanier: I missed Washington's opening drives. Apparently, they contained all of the Redskins' offensive highlights. I saw the same offense I have seen for weeks, the one that cannot complete a pass in the middle of the field.

Mark Brunell's mechanics just look shot. His whole body lurches forward when he throws, and his follow through has this big hook in it so his arm ends up around the opposite shoulder at the end of a throw. No wonder so many of his passes tail left or right.

There's nothing quite like the reaction of a Philly sports bar after T.O. drops what should be an easy touchdown. Although I bet there's a similar reaction in Indy after Vanderjagt does something stupid with a potential game-winning field goal.

If I learned one thing from watching this game, it's that every team in the NFC East is capable of playing really dumb football and losing winnable games. The Eagles are not alone.

I agree that some of the early calls in this game were terrible, as if the refs weren't even paying attention. Most of the bad calls favored the Cowboys. Jason Witten got up after Terry Glenn's touchdown and was basically looking around for the holding flag he should have incurred. And Clinton Portis was molested when trying to go out for a screen pass, and there was no call.

Oh, and aren't we obliged to all argue about Parcells' decision to go for two early in this game?

Aaron Schatz: What arguing? Don't we all agree it was really, really stupid? At first we thought that Parcells sent out the regular offense just to force Washington to take a timeout and thought, "well, that's cool." But then they really did go for two, and it was an awful play and the Redskins sniffed it out right from the snap.

Doug Farrar: No argument here. In fact, Parcells had Manic's bonehead coach award sewn up until Bill Cowher put Santonio Holmes out there to return the kickoff after Denver had scored on his prior fumble.

Tim Gerheim: I like Dallas' double-fullback dotted-I formation. They ran out of it a couple times, and had decent success. It's a minor miracle that Romo doesn't trip over the closest fullback, since he's only about two yards back. Maybe they didn't run it with Bledsoe (that I saw) because he's not nimble enough.

Aaron Schatz: It's fun in game charting that the three-backs-in-a-line formation has so many names. It's been called the Maryland I, the power I, the triple I ... Tanier called it the "triple stack" in the Saints-Bucs game.

Will Carroll: It's a Maryland I. One of the highlights of my education was "Coaching Football," a 300 level class. I won't mention who the teacher was, but Notre Dame fans hate him.

The Maryland I was invented by Bear Bryant, by the way. The power I has another fullback to either side of the I, even with the fullback. Never heard the term "triple I," but its unneeded.

Atlanta Falcons 14 at Detroit Lions 30

Michael David Smith: Roy Williams just got absolutely mugged in the end zone and there was no call. I really wish pass interference were reviewable. If it's that blatant, they ought to be able to challenge it.

Miami Dolphins 30 at Chicago Bears 13

Michael David Smith: The Bears' linebackers are spending more time in Miami's backfield than Ronnie Brown is.

Pete Morelli is working this game, and he's taking way too long to confer with the other officials on penalties. Just make the call and move it along, man.

Doug Farrar: According to our 2006 penalty data, Morelli has called 7.9 per game, fewest in the league. I don't know if he was that "thorough" before the Polamalu interception debacle in the playoffs, but he certainly is this year.

Michael David Smith: Dan Dierdorf just said Rex Grossman will always have the starting job in Chicago "because he wins." Wasn't that the exact same reason people gave last year for giving the job to Kyle Orton and keeping Grossman on the bench?

Doug Farrar: All Damon Huard/David Garrard/Rex Grossman does is win ballgames.

Will Carroll: At this stage, Grossman needs to get Saged. Smith ought to have the juice to say there's still no controversy; this just wasn't Grossman's day.

Jason Taylor can't get his knee loose. More cartilage damage?

Houston Texans 10 at New York Giants 14

Al Bogdan: Mario Williams just sacked Eli Manning and took a jump shot afterwards. The Giants are missing Plaxico this game. They haven't been able to do too much downfield. And yet again, CBS has the only game on TV in the New York market and decides not to use one of its HD trucks for it. How many do they have, two?

Tim Gerheim: Nice broadcasting in the Texans-Giants game by Kevin Harlan (I believe). He religiously announced substitutions on both sides -- third receivers, defensive line subs, and nickel and dime backs. It was a revelation. I've been going to bars on Sunday all season, so I hadn't really heard any commentary this year. I'm sure Harlan has been doing this all season, but I don't remember it from last year, when I think he was with Steve Tasker, and hence part of the worst commentator team out there, in my opinion. Now he's with Rich Gannon, and while Gannon doesn't bring much to the table, he's perfectly inoffensive, which is a lot more that I'm used to in Texans games.

Al Bogdan: Mario Williams just abused Luke Petitgout on three straight plays. Nothing fancy, just bull rushed right through him. New York can't really afford to give Petitgout much help, since they have 56-year-old Bob Whitfield starting on the right side today.

The Giants can't get any pass rush going without Strahan and Umenyiora. On Houston's scoring drive, their offense consisted of short passes to Andre Johnson and scrambles by David Carr, which was enough to get into the end zone.

Without Plaxico Burress, there isn't anyone who can catch Eli's patented overthrows. He had one on a third-and-long to Michael Jennings that the 6'5" Burress usually has a shot at coming down with but that the 5'11" Jennings has no chance to catch.

Doug Farrar: I guess the only thing Manning has left is the easy dump-off in the flat, then.

Could young David Carr have been motivated by the example of Sage Rosenfels? Heavens to Murgatroid!

Al Bogdan: The Giants seem to have figured out that Eli shouldn't be allowed to throw the ball more than 10 yards downfield without Burress there serving as a backboard. They drive downfield for a touchdown after a lot of short passes and Tiki runs. The Giants have had no problem running the ball all day. I have no idea why Manning has thrown the ball 26 times in this game, while Barber and Jacobs only have 19 carries halfway through the fourth quarter.

Tim Gerheim: The Giants and the Texans are the same team, except the Giants can run the ball. They both have inconsistent quarterbacks, middling offensive lines, a good receiving tight end, a good defensive line, spotty linebackers, and a lousy secondary. The effective running game and the good fortune to be in the NFC are the only reasons the Giants are 6-2 and the Texans are 2-6.

The Texans used a really nice game plan against the Giants. They had five receivers on a lot of plays (I'd be curious from charting to find out what percentage -- I'd guess about 20 percent). They didn't have to change personnel because Owen Daniels and Wali Lundy were two of them most of the time. They had a lot of success dinking and dunking down the field from that formation because there was a big emphasis on David Carr getting the ball out of his hands quickly. It was probably the best way the Texans could have neutralized the Giants pass rush, and it worked fairly well. If they could have gotten more than two yards per carry, every carry, they would have won the game.

Kansas City Chiefs 31 at St. Louis Rams 17

Ned Macey: Marc Bulger must read FO. He read Aaron's preview, saw his completion percentage was too low, and became a checkdown machine. 15-of-17 in the first half with eight completions to running backs. Unfortunately, Looker fumbled a punt return, Bulger fumbled on a sack, and Jackson fumbled. Kansas City, meanwhile, has destroyed the St. Louis defense. Larry Johnson is having a field day.

On their third touchdown, Travis Fisher missed Huard when he had a clean shot. With Will Witherspoon in single coverage on Tony Gonzalez, the result was about as wide open a touchdown as you'll see.

Tennessee Titans 7 at Jacksonville Jaguars 37

Doug Farrar: The Jags are up on the Titans, 37-0, in the third quarter. David Garrard is currently 12-of-21 for 177 yards and three touchdowns. Tennessee came into this game rated 26th in pass defense DVOA, and they're without the currently suspended Pac-Man Jones. Some pundit is going to refer to this as David Garrard's breakout game. Some pundit might have missed the forest for the trees.

Denver Broncos 31 at Pittsburgh Steelers 20

Doug Farrar: And are there any more frightening words in the NFL than "Santonio Holmes will run it out"?

Ryan Wilson: If the Steelers aren't going to win another game, I certainly hope they can break the single-season turnover record. They're down 14 with 11:05 to go in the first quarter after Santonio Holmes fumbled the kickoff following Denver's first score. Suh-weet.

Ian Dembsky: Did you guys hear someone hock a HUGE loogie during the Denver game? It was in the middle of some Phil Simms rant, and apparently he didn't hear it, because he just kept on going. It had the full "Chhhhwaaaaa-THOOMP!"

Mike Tanier: Wasn't Chwathoomp the band that sang "I get knocked down/but I get up again/ain't nobody gonna keep me down"?

Aaron Schatz: The Denver offense has pretty much disappeared since the first drive down the field. They had the TD after the punt return fumble, but when you get the ball on the 10-yard line, a TD isn't that special. Since then the Pittsburgh defense has really clamped down. But the offense and special teams can't stop making mistakes. Big Ben has a bad case of "trying to do too much" disease. Sometimes that ends up with good plays like the one where he avoided the pass rush for something like 15 seconds and found Willie Parker who had come all the way over from the right side to the back left of the end zone. But other times you get the stupid red zone interception where he threw blindly when he should have thrown it away or taken a sack, and then that wacko "Hey, I'm going down, let's lateral to Najeh Davenport even though if he misses the lateral the Broncos will easily return it for a touchdown" play.

Also, on the Wilson fumble, that was an awful play call, not because of the fumbles, but it is fourth-and-2, you are the f'in Pittsburgh Steelers, run the damn ball. Instead they run a low-percentage pass, which Wilson happened to catch.

They also need to accept that they simply can't run the same inside runs with Willie Parker that they did with Jerome Bettis.

(In the middle of the game, Denver's offense gets going again.)

OK, well, gee Deshea Townsend, it's nice that you can keep responsibility for the back side and all, but if you can't tackle the runner on the reverse it means absolute zero negative bupkis.

My god, has every successful Denver offensive play except the reverse come against Ike Taylor? Man, he's playing awful and they are just picking on him over and over.

That Hines Ward play was a microcosm of the Pittsburgh season. I mean, how could you come away from that play saying "Hines Ward sucks and the Steelers suck"? Ward made some amazing moves, and I think everyone agrees he's a great player. And yet, here we are.

Michael David Smith: Yes, but Ward has to try to make that play because the Steelers turned the ball over four other times, allowed three touchdown passes, allowed a 71-yard run on a reverse, and produced just one sack and zero turnovers on defense. They don't suck, and they are playing much better than their record, but I am guessing that their DVOA rating is going to slip into the middle of the NFL pack. As talented as they are, that's the level they are playing at.

Mike Tanier: Not many Broncos-Steelers comments overall. Are we all waiting for the Steelers to fumble some comments to us inside the red zone?

Ryan Wilson: I would write more but I fumbled my laptop. Six times.

Cleveland Browns 25 at San Diego Chargers 32

Ryan Wilson: I'm not watching the game, but in looking at it looks like the Browns are going with the "death by a thousand Phil Dawson field goals" game plan against the Chargers.

Indianapolis Colts 27 at New England Patriots 20

Mike Tanier: Strange first scoring drive for the Colts. After two bad throws by Manning and a false start, I assumed they would be punting. Then Manning makes that play with his feet to roll out and hit Harrison, and suddenly the Patriots were on their heels.

Aaron Schatz: Um, hi. Can somebody please let me know where the taunting was on Troy Brown there?

Mike Tanier: Taunt? Where?

Doug Farrar: That taunting call on Troy Brown proves the ridiculous nature of the NFL. What used to be a fun and visceral sport is now a kangaroo court for the benefit of referees who are directed to act like the old cranky lady in your apartment complex. "Turn it DOWN, you hooligans!!!" And given all this crap, how is the Giants' "Ballin'" jump shot NOT taunting?

Will Carroll: Brown threw the ball at Gardner, just to the left of the ref. Looked pretty harmless and perhaps unintentional. I imagine he was jawing at the same time.

Aaron Schatz: OK, so, we now need to make sure that the players know the official league-sanctioned method for handing the ball back to the referee. At all times, there must be contact between either your hand and the ball, or the referee's hand and the ball. It's like Olympic walking.

Russell Levine: Touchy call, but more likely than not that Brown was tossing the ball to the defender and players all know the rule on that.

Nice of Belichick to dress up tonight. No cutoff sleeves. That's the equivalent of coat-and-tie for BB.

Ryan Wilson: Belichick is single-handedly ruining my plasma TV with that red number. A shot of him in that get up lasting more than a few seconds leads to burn in.

Mike Tanier: There was a ridiculous taunt call against David Carr in the Giants-Texans game too.

OK, anyone want to argue the wisdom of the fourth-and-3 call? Granted, it worked...

Aaron Schatz: Manning is very impressive tonight throwing accurate balls under pressure. The Pats are on top of him on a lot of plays and still, he is getting out quality throws (as opposed to "I can do anything, I'll heave it in the air for a miracle" throws like Roethlisberger had all day today). I'm a little surprised that the Patriots are rushing so many guys instead of leaving guys back in coverage, which is what worked against the Colts in 2004 and what the Titans did to the Colts earlier this year.

Ned Macey: I know Harrison made four catches on the first drive, but on the second drive, how did the Patriots decide single-covering Wayne was a good idea? Finally on the third drive, Wayne was often doubled.

On the nice play by Brady when he escaped Freeney, I think Freeney let up to not get a roughing penalty on the pump fake. Good self-control by Freeney, but as a result, he's still at 0.5 sacks.

The Sanders interception was on a play that made the Colts sign Brackett to an extension. Great coverage on Watson. Of course, I've watched 25 Colts games the past two years, and Brackett doesn't exactly do that on a consistent basis.

The Pats only had three rushers on the early deep ball to Harrison and got pressure. I saw one play later (I think a completion to Wayne) where they held off three rushers, but given past history, I would expect to see it more in the second half.

I'm skeptical of the Brown "taunting" penalty myself, but ever since the Sean Taylor spitting thing last year, I tend to give the referees a little slack. One could say based on other calls it was undeserved. I also give them a bit of slack on the illegal contact call because it was close, and it was such a classic illegal contact call. By the way, what was Belichick arguing about there?

Mike Tanier: Next time I hear "Tom Brady's favorite receiver is the one who's open," I take a hostage.

Aaron Schatz: Are they going to give Brown taunting for keeping the ball that broke the all-time Patriots receptions record?

Doug Farrar: The Foxboro crowd just summed up my feelings about the day's officiating throughout the league. Bulls**t, indeed.

Mike Tanier: Oooh. Ugly screen to Watson. Maybe we should have a segment called "Stop me before I call a screen."

(Pats go for it on fourth down at midfield and Tom Brady "makes it.")

Aaron Schatz: I think that was a dumb decision, because there's nothing that guarantees you score even if you DO get that first down. And honestly, they didn't. I'm a Pats fan, but I can be man enough to admit that was the luckiest "not enough evidence to overturn" I've seen in a while.

Mike Tanier: Nice spot. Way to not measure. Doug, you were saying something about lousy officiating?

Doug Farrar: Only what I have been saying all day. Today has been the worst accumulation of dunderheaded calls since the 2005 postseason. I really don't understand how a guy like Ron Winter in this game, or Terry McAulay in the Dallas-Washington game with his 17 uncalled Dallas holds, doesn't get downgraded. The lack of public accountability when it comes to officiating is the NFL's black mark.

Aaron Schatz: Can we add in the 5-yard (no, wait, I'm sorry, 15-yard) incidental face mask that put Washington in position to beat Dallas?

Doug Farrar: While we're at it, add the offensive pass interference call on Isaac Bruce when he was being equally mugged by Ty Law.

Mike Tanier: There was also a roughing the passer on Sean Taylor that was roughing because it was Sean Taylor. It was a completely clean sack. And Mario Williams got called for roughing for shoving Eli Manning when they were still about a yard inbounds. The refs have been randomly handing out 15-yard trick-or-treats for years, but now it just seems totally ridiculous.

If I had to pick two problems with the NFL's image right now, it would be :

1) A fan culture fueled by talk radio that convinces large percentages of the fan base in every NFL city that their team sucks on ice, creating a pervasive negativity that poisons the fan experience.

2) A rule book that completely disallows refs to use judgment and experience and instead encourages them to enforce nit-picky little rules, so innocent plays are flagged because they fall within the legalistic language of a penalty while truly rough plays are inconsistently called.

Michael David Smith: The officiating in this game has been horrible. The failure to see that the ball was in the air on the illegal contact probably cost the Colts four points. The taunting call on Troy Brown was so incredibly stupid that any official who thinks that's taunting has no business being an NFL official. Tom Brady didn't make any forward progress on that sneak, and the ref called it a first down without even waiting for the ball to be spotted. Two great teams and a crappy officiating crew.

Ryan Wilson: So what exactly was Winter looking at during the 'review?' The Brady pick by Sanders reminded me of my buddy's theory: The ball never lies.

Aaron Schatz: Dear god. Where the hell were the hands to the face from Vrabel? That's unbelievable. I mean, the guy literally touches one Colts player on the shoulder and doesn't touch another player the whole rest of the play! Amazing.

Ned Macey: I didn't see where Vrabel's hand was, but that could be another "ball never lies." That being said, I'm not a big fan of Vinatieri's reception. Fans will be fans, but considering these are the fans that believe they'd have 0 Super Bowls without him...

Ryan Wilson: I'm pretty sure that after they boo Vinatieri the fans break out in a "Yankees Suck!" chant.

Aaron Schatz: Same thing I said in the book. If he came in here as the kicker for the Cleveland Browns or Dallas Cowboys, he would get a standing O. Maybe even Miami. Jets or Colts, he is going to get booed mercilessly. Compare the reception that Red Sox fans gave Johnny Damon when he returned to Fenway, and the reception they gave Orlando Cabrera when he returned to Fenway. Nobody here hates you for signing with the Anaheim Angels, and it would be the same if you signed with the Arizona Cardinals or something.

Ryan Wilson: Actually, Fenway fans gave Johnny D a very positive welcome in his first at-bat during the first regular-season series. After that, it was all boos, all the time.

Al Bogdan: From what I saw of the 49ers-Vikings game, it was very well officiated. Good thing they had Ed Hochuli working that critical matchup.

The David Carr penalty in the Giants game wasn't for taunting, rather it was on the team for "group celebration." Of course, Carr was the only one celebrating for any length of time.

Aaron Schatz: I'm with Madden. Pats play-calling is way, way, way too funky here. Pound the rock, kids.

Mike Tanier: And the Colts have found every fluky play to move the ball that I can find. Flip it to the tight end while going down. Roll out and throw to a covered receiver who makes an amazing catch. And Harrison ... wow ... he did catch that. And a taunt. And I forgot to tape Family Guy.

Al Bogdan: Wow, how do you not challenge that Harrison TD? On my TV it looked like the second foot didn't touch the ground until it scraped some white sideline paint.

Ned Macey: Stupid question, but what's the rule on challenges? If he had lost that one, would that mean he was out of challenges, or do you get a third one if you win one of them?

Also, Harrison apparently doesn't like someone on the Pats.

Michael David Smith: The B.S. taunting calls are now tied at 1-1. As if Marvin Harrison really knew where the ball was going to bounce when he spiked it.

Doug Farrar: This is why I hate the taunting penalty in the first place. The official in position should be worrying far more about the accuracy of the touchdown call than whether someone hurt someone else's feelings, or spiked the ball in the wrong direction.

Mike Tanier: Watching this game is like descending into insanity. Missed chip shot field goals after great fumble recoveries at the end of nice kickoff returns. This is like one of those "momentum"-filled college football games like the Red River Shootout or Florida State-Miami, where everyone on the field is a 19-year old who is pumped up out of his mind and playing on pure adrenaline and either making great plays or dumb mistakes. This game will come down to a dropped ball or someone falling down in coverage or something.

Ned Macey: Following that sack-interception combo, I'd like to rescind my previous comment that the Patriots should blitz less.

Ryan Wilson: If I'm the Steelers I'd give serious consideration to trading their first-round pick for Terrence Wilkins. He's only fumbled once and he's actually a really good returner. That has to be worth the fourth overall pick Pittsburgh will surely have.

(Game over.)

Aaron Schatz: Well, that last interception is not Brady's fault, but I'm sorry, they just didn't run the ball enough tonight, and the playcalling got too funky, and they outsmarted themselves. As a Patriots fan, I'm really pissed off.

Mike Tanier: You must be mad. Al Michaels called Vinatieri one of the most clutch kickers in NFL history, and you didn't respond.

Doug Farrar: Yeah, I'm very surprised they didn't run more. Facing a team that gave up 5.4 yards per carry before this, and they averaged 4.5 yards per carry here. It's not generally a Belichick thing to go against what's working.

Aaron Schatz: I should also give Marvin Harrison his proper due. In the preview, I stated that the Colts wouldn't win with anything less than Hall of Fame-level quarterbacking. Instead, they won thanks to Hall of Fame-level receiving.

Bits 'n' Pieces

Doug Farrar: Michael Irvin Stupid Quote of the Week: "Peyton Manning does more with less than any other quarterback." Uh, Mike? I know Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne may not be in your "Receiver Ministry" (though Reggie is from Da U), but last time I checked, they're a bit better than Doug Gabriel and Reche Caldwell. Yes, indeed -- how DOES Peyton manage to survive in this league with the top two receivers in DPAR though seven games?

Jason Beattie: I've never heard of "Garmin" until today, but I already hate them for breaking the seal on "First Inappropriately Early Christmas-Themed Commercial" on November 5! Good lord. And that chick with a unibrow didn't help.

Tim Gerheim: I've never cared much about John Mellencamp. Until today. After hearing his saccharine song in about a million unjustifiably patriotic Chevy commercials, I would prefer that he never existed.

Doug Farrar: Unquestionably the most annoying song since "Don't Worry, Be Happy." If you think it's bad now, wait until you hear it 500,000 more times in the next Presidential campaign.

Aaron Schatz: I still can't believe we're not getting more "hock a loogy" talk. At Ian's house, we spent the rest of that game trying to figure out the identity of the hocker.

Later This Week

Any Given Sunday: Dolphins over Bears
Every Play Counts: Lorenzo Neal and Martyball!


185 comments, Last at 10 Nov 2006, 3:46pm

151 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I think part of the problem that needs to be addressed is that coaches are constantly going to get away with as much as they can. They push and push and push until a new rule has to be added or 'clarified'. Maybe a new approach is needed that states simply that trying to get away with things is unsportsmanlike and punished accordingly. They have all these great angles on the games. Sit down after a game and go play by play. Every time someone holds or whatever, even if it wasn't caught, fine the player, the coach and the team. Set a threshhold. If a player goes over the threshhold, suspend him for the next game.

152 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Count Jack Del Rio among the pundits. He said in his news conference that Leftwich's ankle is 85-90% and won't get better until offseason surgery. Front page story on also quotes him as saying he is more comfortable with Garrard's decision making. Translation - he's sticking with his hot hand, apparently for the reasont of the season. I don't have access to how well or not Byron's practiced, but as a diehard Jags fan its pretty depressing news. Garrard's playing well but I don't have confidence that he could tear up a good D through the air if it needed to be done, which Leftwich has shown he's capable of.

153 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9


I know this will spark a reaction, but I'd like you to think about it seriously: Do you think there might POSSIBLY be a connection between when you started noticed the poor officiating (2005 playoffs) and when your team, the Pats, started losing big games (2005 playoffs)?

Lots of the fans rooting for teams that lost to the Pats in 2001-2004 (OAK, INDY, PIT) were questioning the officiating during that time, and Pats fans said the equivalent of: "Quit your bitching."

I don't know that the officiating is any different. But, the teams who are winning has changed a little, and thus the perspective of many fans.

154 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9


The Eagles have a terrific pass rush, but it seems to me that the Giants had a disproportionally hard time with it

The Giants have only faced three pass rushes of any merit: Philly, Seattle, and Dallas. Washington, Tampa Bay, Indianapolis, etc. all have significantly less-than-stellar pass rushes this year (believe it or not). So the fact that they didn't have a lot of sacks in those games isn't exactly something to hang your hat on.

Versus Seattle, Dallas, and Philly, New York's offensive line had one bad day (sacks on 15% of their pass attempts) versus Philly, an average day (sacks on 7.1% of their pass attempts) versus Dallas and one good day (sacks on 2.7% of their pass attempts) versus Seattle.

Their performance versus Philly doesn't look disproportionately bad. It looks about as bad, compared to Philly's average, as the Seattle game looks good.

In other words, you can't discount the Philly game without discounting the Seattle game. In which case the only pass rush in the top 10 they've faced was Dallas, where they gave up about the average. Which means they're an average offensive line in terms of pass blocking.

155 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

But it was the patriots that forced the rules change in the first place with their blatant abuse.

The rules were changed in 1978.
in 1993 the average team was scoring 18.7 ppg and 215.4 passing yards per game.
The NFL changed several other rules(KO's from the 30, for instance.)
and decided to strictly enforce the 5 yard zone.
In 1994 scoring went up to 20.3 ppg and passing yards rose to 227.4

In 2003 passing yards per game had fallen to 213.9 yards per game(passing)
Now Polian may have screamed the loudest but the NFL specifically cited these numbers as the reason why there would again be strict enforcement of the 5 yard zone.

There is a very good chart detailing this on page 468 of PFP 2006.

156 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I could have the wrong year, but the members of the competition committee the year the Point of Emphasis about no chucking after 5 yards was:

Bill Polian (Indianapolis)
Jeff Fisher (Tennessee)
Rich McKay (Tampa Bay)
Charley Casserly (Texas)
Mike Holmgren (Seattle)
Ozzie Newsome (Baltimore)
Mark Richardson (Carolina)

While Polian probably carries a bit of emphasis around the league I doubt it extends to the group above. The above group seems to have a fairly decent balance between clubs that focused on Offense vs. Defense.

I think a deciding factor, besides both Championship games, is that most fans like to see more offense. Why did MLB look the other way with steriods? Because it brought fans back to the game to see moonshot home runs. The majority of fans want to see offense, not a game featuring 27 punts a couple of field goals. The NBA has done something similar with the no hand checking enforcement.

The NFL is a business, it wants to put a product out that the majority of people enjoy, as I said above, more people enjoy, hence more money, offensive vs. defensive football.

157 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I think a deciding factor, besides both Championship games, is that most fans like to see more offense.

The funny thing about this comment is it kindof makes it seem as if the amount of offense in games is going up and up.

It's not. See #155. Passing yards in 2003 were actually below that of 1993.

They're not trying to give the fans more offense. They're just trying to keep the game balanced.

158 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9


That thought did occur to me. That's why I asked if anyone else had noticed the same trends that I had. It is true that I have thought the officiating was poor in three of the Pats recent big game losses (last night, and against Denver twice--once this year, and in the playoffs last year)...yes, I know, those were the Pats last three losses. However, I will be the first to admit that the Pats deserved to lose all three of those games--I don't think the officiating cost them the games. I thought the officiating was poor both ways in those games (for example, I think by the end of the game the Pats actually had the better of the officiating gaffes, the phantom hands to the face call on Vrabel not withstanding). Also, there have been other big game losses the Pats have had when I was fine with the officiating--versus Indy last year, for example. Finally, the Pats have had several recent wins when I was unthrilled by the officials, e.g. versus Minnesota last week (the Pats got away with a couple of blatant PI's, even by my standards, and both teams were holding pass rushers all night). There was another game earlier this year, against either Buffalo or the Jets, when I was annoyed by the officiating, and a friend of mine who hates the Pats (she's a KC fan) watched it with me and agreed. And there have been games that had nothing to do with the Pats that I have thought have been called very poorly. I can't cite specific examples because I typically watch only snippets of non-Pats games when I can sneak them in under my football-fed-up fiancee's nose, but I know I have thought several times in the last three weeks "Wow, fans of team X are going to be ripped on Monday!". Also, I've heard other people complaining about suspect officiating recently as well--the Outsiders above do so, not to mention the Indy-Pittsburgh playoff game last year, or the last Superbowl. So while I'll admit that maybe I'm influenced by the Pats losing, I think there's enough evidence to say that the problem goes beyond my biased perceptions.

159 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I noticed you boldfaced "Point of Emphasis". Here's my understanding of the situation:

That's what they called it, because if you call it a "Rule Change" you have to get a majority of all 32 teams to agree to it. However, anything called a "point of emphasis" only needs the competition committee to approve it. Note that they had to re-write sections of the rulebook to implement it, which smells like a rule change to me, but they got around that by calling their re-writes a "clarification" (to be fair, the existing rules were somewhat contradictory, but their clarification was done by eliminating the passages that could be interpreted to allow more incidental contact). That's why Belichick was so annoyed at the so-called "point of emphasis", it was a rule change that was slipped through under the carpet. Note that the very next year he lobbied hard for a procedural change that would have required any "point of emphasis" whose "clarifications" required re-writing the rule book to pass the same majority vote that honest to goodness rule changes do, but the competition committee (of course) blocked this lobby. It wasn't just the "point of emphasis" that irritates me; it was the underhanded way the the competition committee pushed it through to avoid having to have all the clubs vote on it.

As far as offense goes, I know this is a personal philosophy thing, but I don't think that more scoring = more exciting, and I don't think the fans necessarily want that. I thought the Indy-KC scorefest in the playoffs a few years ago was horrible football--an embarassment on the game. On the other hand, during the first half of the NE-Panthers SB, which some people claimed was boring, I was on the edge of my seat because neither team could seem to tilt the scales their way and they were so perfectly balanced.

I know some people have argued that the "point of emphasis" just returned passing and scoring to previous levels, but from another point of view, couldn't one argue that they were unbalancing the game again, like it had been unbalanced before, after it had returned to a more appropriate balance with less scoring?

160 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9


Thanks for the balanced response. My take on this (and I wrote it on one of these threads somewhere) is that the refs have had to make a TON of very close calls recently, and they're going to make mistakes. In just the INDY-NE game, they had to decide on the first down, the Harrison TD, the Dillon fumble, and then all the judgement calls of PI & IC or not.

It's tough for them to be perfect.

The only thing that really urks me is when they go to replay, it looks obvious, and they still make the "wrong" call.

161 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"In other words, you can’t discount the Philly game without discounting the Seattle game. In which case the only pass rush in the top 10 they’ve faced was Dallas, where they gave up about the average. Which means they’re an average offensive line in terms of pass blocking."

Hm. I did not join the argument to say the Giants pass blocking has been above average-- only to say that I think that their performance in the game against the Eagles was subpar even for an average offensive line. Philly has sacked an opponent about once for every 11 attempts their opponents get off, but got Manning eight times (instead of 4). I am not discounting that game at all-- they got pwned and good offensive lines do not generally struggle like that. Still, I maintain that the game against the Eagles stands out as a bit of an outlier.

I would say the Giants have pretty close to a league-average pass blocking line, and a well-above average run blocking line. Together, that makes for an above average line. Not well-above average, but not merely average. JMO.

162 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

And I was quibbling with the idea that the Giants have avoided giving up large numbers of sacks by not passing much, I should add.

163 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Though you MIGHT argue that an average pass rush would have had occasional problems with the less-than-stellar pass rushes they've faced. I'm not sure even an average line would just shut down a mediocre pass rush completely. Like I said, you MIGHT argue that.

164 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

re 139
Totally agree.
There have always been bad calls.
A while back Will Allen was complaining about a call from 1975 for gods sake!
(To be fair Will I agree on the Pearson PI.
I have never seen the holding on the replay and was too young to have watched the actual game.)

165 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

re: 153, 158, 160--to Purds and MJK: Jeez, you guys are letting us down. Where's all the trollishness, flaming, and raving? Purds responded to an MJK post by raising a good, if somewhat uncomfortable point in a fairly respectful manner. MJK admitted that Purds' point had some merit and attempted to rationally explain his original comment in a larger context. Purds, in turn, thanked MJK (thanked him!) for his balanced response. It was intelligent, civilized discourse. It made me think about the points each guy raised, and made me think more of each of them for raising them. Thanks, guys.

166 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

This discussion of the NYG line really started with whether it was fair to call their offensive line "middling." I have a hard time calling a team middling when it's pass protection rank is average but it's running rank is #1. Excellent in one major area and average in another main area signifies a good line to me.

Whether the line is helped by the RBs or the RBs are helped by the line can't, as I understand it, be explained with FO stats. As it says in the explanations,

"DVOA is still far away from the point where we can use it to represent the value of a player separate from the performance of his ten teammates that are also involved in each play. That means that when we say, "Larry Johnson has a DVOA of 27.6%," what we are really saying is "Larry Johnson, playing in the Kansas City offensive system with the Kansas City offensive line blocking for him and Trent Green selling the fake when necessary, has a DVOA of 27.6%."

167 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

MJK, I don't disagree with you that watching a great defense is as enjoyable as a great offense, I said for the majority of fans. The same ones who think Michael Irvin or Deion Sanders has something intelligent to say.

I don't disagree that officials should be given some latitude in games, but where do you draw the line? If one crew permits bumping and grabbing down the field and another doesn't, should which crew is picked to do a game have a major determining factor on who wins a game? The NBA already has that, and unless you live in a major media market, it isn't much fun as a fan.

168 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Re #49 and #57 etc.
The funny thing about Rodney Harrison hurting his arm or hand while trying to tear Marvin Harrison's head off, is that when they asked the locker room about it you could almost hear them trying to find something to say other than. "Well when he came down with his hand caught in the Colt players facemask he hurt his arm or hand"

169 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

THe one thing the NFL needs to work even harder to avoid is the appearance of the WWE/NBA style officiating. At this point I'm not aware of a large number of actual NFL fans who believe that NFL games, even when the officiating is bad, are "predestined" in the way that NBA games, I'm a Colts fan (Bengals first, Colts second) and while I was irritated when the Pats mugged the receivers in that championship game I never got the vibe that it was like watching a Bulls/Lakers/Heat game deep in the playoffs where the calls were going to be "whatever it takes to lift the right team to victory" instead I saw some crappy officiating, that I can live with. When the phantom roughing the passer call cost my Bengals a game I didn't think it was an anti-bungles conspiracy, just that things were getting out of hand with respect to protecting the QB.

171 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

The obnoxious Simmons column on Friday basically made me want to see the Pats lose - and I'm from New England. Bill knows his basketball and he occasionally writes a good column, but for the most part he's a guy who recycles the same material, and can't be taken seriously. Geesh, he'd never heard of VORP until *Curt Schilling* mentioned it to him. That's funny.

172 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

169 That does always remind me of the horrible hachet job the NBA took to the timberwolves during the lakers series a few years ago. When I stopped caring about NAB at all. Malone would flop around like a tuna and ALWAYS get the call despite obviously faking, and the calls made whenever covering bryant were absurd. half the time he wasn't even being touched, but god forbid someone put a hand in front of him when he shoots. I just don't understand where the NBA is going with basketball.

173 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Young Curmudgeon (165) I agree and am appalled. I say we vote Purds and MJK off the Irrational Peytom Branning Thread forever because they are being too civil, cordial, respectful, and rational. Damn them. They both bring up good points and present them, well, like level-headed people. What's that all about?

And Stan (138) I am not saying I agree with you (entirely), but you bring up a good point. It reminds me of a psych professor I had way back, who debunked a least-favorite phrase. His idea was that when people say "deep-down" they mean "infrequently" or "not really at all." Such as my dad is a sweetheart deep down. What that means is he's usually a bastard, and once in a while can be nice.

That seems to be your take (or your take on the Pats fans take) on a certain QB this season at least--the "real" TB only appeared once so far this season. Or in Marvin Frankl's terms, "deep down, he's an excellent QB." Again, I think he's better than that, but I like your take.

Ah, the 2003 AFC title game, in which despite 4 Manning INTs, it was still a close game. Why? NE could not score. Oops, this is threatening to cross-over to another thread.

174 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

About the facemask at the end of the Washington-Dallas game ... It looks like Kozier snagged Taylor's mask at about the Redskins' 20. So I'm wondering, hell, maybe he should have just grabbed onto the mask and dragged him down by the head right there. The 15-yard penalty then would have given Washington the untimed down at its own 35. They're not gonna score from there. Not very sporting of me, but hey, that's where I go sometimes.

175 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

PacifistViking, I think I agree with your last one. That is what I was trying to say when I called them an above average line (a good one), as opposed to a very above average line (an excellent one).

176 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

This discussion of the NYG line really started with whether it was fair to call their offensive line “middling.� I have a hard time calling a team middling when it’s pass protection rank is average but it’s running rank is #1. Excellent in one major area and average in another main area signifies a good line to me.

Except the discussion really really started when talking about the comment regarding the difference between Houston and New York. The one difference there was "Houston can't run, and the Giants can." The 'middling' comment regarding their offensive line really mostly applies to pass protection, since it's already stated that the Giants are better running.

I am, however, with most people in thinking that most of the running success of the Giants comes from Tiki and Jacobs.

177 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"The Giants and the Texans are the same team, except the Giants can run the ball. They both have inconsistent quarterbacks, middling offensive lines, a good receiving tight end, a good defensive line, spotty linebackers, and a lousy secondary."

That depends on interpretation--I could take that initial line to mean the Giants do have a "middling" offensive line (that's what it says!) but that they have good running backs and are able to run the ball. The conversation I'm following really stems from comment #16. But I'm stopping here, because once we get into meta-commenting, there's really no point to existence.

178 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"Jason Taylor can’t get his knee loose. More cartilage damage?"

A seemingly innocuous little comment I nearly missed. When did this happen? Did Taylor's knee looked like it locked? if so, how did he free it? or was a trainer involved?

179 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I could be wrong about this, but looking at the "smoking photo" on the Sean Taylor facemask call, I'm not sure it shows what you think it does. Remember, after picking up the ball, Taylor ran back, and then over to the middle of the field before turning back up. I think (and I haven't seen the clip in 2 days, so I could be wrong) that the face mask occurred while he was running across the field, so it's possible that his head was already turned to look upfield when the defender got the facemask.

180 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Re: 179

IIRC, the facemask occurred (I'm leaving out the noun on purpose cause I'm tired of the injury reports having all the fun) while Taylor was still running horizontally. So, if you're being completely subjective about it, you could ague that the actual grasping could have been incidental and that Taylor's motion contributed to the neck-twisting, the rules can't (and shouldn't) make that distinction.

181 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I say we vote Purds and MJK off the Irrational Peytom Branning Thread forever

Funny, I got yelled at in that very thread for being too rational. So I came back with the most irrational thing I could think of, and immediately got flamed for being irrational by someone who didn't get the joke. Good times.

That seems to be your take (or your take on the Pats fans take) on a certain QB this season at least

Calling a horse a horse: Brady has been a very good, even excellent, QB in the past. This season he has been an average to good QB. Remember, even before the Minnesota game, when Brady finally broke out, he was lightyears ahead of the Raider-QB-of-the-week, or Bledromo, or Harringpepper. Up to that point, despite Brady putting up pedestrian conventional numbers, DVOA had the Pats passing offense ranked something like 5th or 6th (based, I think, mainly on few turnovers, very few sacks, and good 3rd down conversion rates). Aaron wrote an entire Fox blog talking about how public perception that the Pats passing attack was bad was wrong. Pats fans are used to a #1 or #2 passing attack--this year they're seeing a #5-#10 passing attack and hence think there's something really wrong, and hence are coming up with irrational defenses.

That being said, there is something wrong with Brady this season, as Rich mentioned. I had been assuming (and hoping) that it was just the new recievers, but they (and Brady) looked fine last week, so I have to believe that they're in the groove now. But Brady was horrible on Sunday, and, while Bob Sanders is good, it's not like his appearance turns the Colts into the '85 Bears.

Brady has been consistently overthrowing his recievers all year. He just had shoulder surgery in the offseason--maybe that has changed his mechanics? Or possibly it is mental--his worst games have come versus Denver and Indy, and I'm convinced that Denver in general, and Champ Bailey specifically, has gotten into his head. Maybe he's starting to develop some mental issues? Maybe after the 2002 and 2005 seasons, he's got this mindset that he's supposed to carry the team, and is becoming Brett Farvre in trying to do too much? As a Pats fan, I hope not. I hope it was just a combination of unfamiliar recievers at the beginning of the season and his one annual "melt-down" game versus Indy this past week. Or, failing that, that there's a minor medical issue that has changed his mechanics that he'll be able to fix. It's not apologizing you're hearing, it's hope that this doesn't forbode something worse.

182 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Brady has been consistently overthrowing his recievers all year. He just had shoulder surgery in the offseason–maybe that has changed his mechanics?

Well, he has been probable with a shoulder injury for the last 4 years. It had to go some time.

My take is that last season kind of broke Brady, in that he had to take so much of the burden on winning games since the defense was sucking so much. He's still under that kind of mentality even though he doesn't always need to be. That, and they really don't have good receivers right now. Chemistry or no.

183 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

If it's not mechanics, I wouldn't worry. I don't by into the "champ Baily is in his head" routine any more than I bought it for BB and Manning. What I DO buy into is the "trying to do too much" which gave Manning one of his worst statistical years when James went down. (You can see clearly how that kills LBs and DL players when they "freelance" to do a little extra, miss an assignment, and the other guys get a 30 yard play out of it.)

Though I can't see why TB feels he has to do that with his running game and a D that is still pretty stout. Most of the time, mistake-free will be a winning offensive formula when they have a decent D. (The flipside works for Indy: Mistake-free D with their firepower on offense results in 14 regular season wins. We'll leave the post season out of it for now....)

184 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9


Drew Brees had to adjust to a new group of receivers. And a new center (as well as line, RBs, coaches, offensive system, and city). Some writers feel he is the MVP after 8 games.

I guess some QBs can adjust to new teammates better than others.

Of course, if you stop to think, there is so much player turnover in the NFL every year that just about everyone has to adapt to changing teammates all the time -- even in midseason quite often.

185 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Late addition here folks. Watching WAS-DAL. I'm surprised no one has mentioned that the Julious Jones "safety" was a lot closer than thought. Jones barrells forward over Lemar Marshall, and it looks like the tip of the ball is over the goal line when he is tackled. Now, the problem is the ball is shielded by his body, but I thought it didn't look like a safety at the time.... or was much closer than thought.

Incidentally, I'm not sure how the officials spot the ball from inside the 1. If a punt is downed there, they place the ball so the tip is at the 1 yard marker.... even though the ball should theorhetically be with the tip of the ball where it was downed. Thus, for a ball downed at the 1 inch line, only 1 inch of the ball is in the field of play. The way the NFL has been marking these plays makes the field play (100 yards - length of football).

In any case, does this mean for a play to not be a safety, the whole ball has to be out of the goal-line plane? Seeing as how only a tip of the ball is needed to score a TD, that's how I would interpret it, but I think the NFL is more liber... err... loose.