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

Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Each weekend, 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 2006.

Washington Redskins 17 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10

Russell Levine: Yes, I have pewter and red goggles on, so I think the Bucs have already been hosed twice on turnover calls. What did the rest of you think about the fumble-return TD replay call? I saw Williams with his leg draped on Washington, and Williams' leg obviously moves as Washington tries to get up. Arrington also fumbled his interception return, which looked like it was recovered by TB. The announcer barely bothered looking at that one.

I am starting to get the feeling that when there are four bang-bang loose ball opportunities/calls (Arrington fumble? after INT, Washington down/not down by contact on TD return, Bucs chance to recover fumbled punt at WAS 15, Rice nearly forcing a sack/fumble/TD) and NONE of them go your team's way, it might not be their day.

Michael David Smith: It looked like Arrington fumbled, but I really have no idea since ABC couldn't be bothered to show the replay. The other one, Williams was probably touching Washington while Washington was down, but there wasn't indisputable visual evidence. (Have I ever mentioned that I hate the word "visual" in that phrase? Doesn't it kinda go without saying that the evidence is visual?)

Bill Moore: Russ, I'm with you on the fumble call. Even if not draped on him, it sure looked to me like Williams hit him with his leg twice.

Russell Levine: ABC/ESPN is killing me here. They aren't showing replays of close calls, and they go to commercial without identifying injured players.

MDS, you're probably right about the Williams touch/no touch. But it's annoying that the refs are instructed to err on the side of allowing the play to continue, because that's the only way it's correctible on replay, yet the standard for an overturn is so high (as it should be).

Michael David Smith: Is the Sun Belt Conference officiating this game?

In the past I've liked Casey Rabach, the Redskins' center, but he's not clearing any space in the middle of the line at all. The Bucs' defensive line is doing a great job, but the offense is putting them in terrible positions.

The announcers are talking about Gregg Williams as though he's a brilliant Xs and Os tactician, but that's never been my sense of his defenses. When I watch a Gregg Williams defense what impresses me is how well they tackle and how disciplined they are against screens, counters and draws. I don't really think they do anything all that cute, they just execute their base defense better than most teams.

Bill Moore: Interestingly, in the regular season matchup Washington blitzed a lot testing an inexperienced Simms. Out of 20 charted pass plays in the second half, WAS sent more than the typical four rushers 10 times, including once throwing all eight guys into the pass rush. However, Simms completed 50 percent of his passes on those blitzing plays, including a 22-yard pass and a 22-YAC completion on that eight-rusher play. In the first half of this game, WAS seems to be rushing fewer guys – yet getting at Simms more.

After the play when Renaldo Wynn was injured:

Will Carroll: Ooh, that's broken. Hit the forearm and snapped the bone. He's done for the playoffs for a thin team that's just flying around the field.

Aaron Schatz: Yes, I had the same thought and I don't even know medicine. I get this feeling the Redskins are going to win this game and have, like, six healthy guys left next week. It's just Seattle's year, I guess.

Russell Levine: If TB loses, this is going to be one of the biggest "what if" games ever. Their defense has completely dominated. They had four possessions with a chance to tie the game. Dropped a game-tying TD pass. Failed to recover a single one of about four Redskins fumbles. Ughhhhhhhhhhhhh.

I do like what I see out of Simms though.

Aaron Schatz: Sorry, Russell. But yes, Chris Simms looks like an absolute keeper, and I can tell you that, while it didn't make it into Mike's article, Ron Jaworski agrees with you.

I thought that the Tampa run plays up the middle were a little too slow-developing. The Redskins defense has so much speed that, even when the front defensive guys were blocked well, the linebackers or safeties could get up to stuff Cadillac by the time he got to the line.

MDS is the one who provided the "Redskins should double Simeon Rice" line in the preview, and he was right.

There were some really strange, strange, punting choices by Washington here. Why would you ever punt on the opponent's 34-yard-line, no matter if it is fourth-and-1, or fourth-and-9, or fourth-and-20? For crying out loud, just go for it. Later, the Redskins had a third-and-21, and they ran a silly RB draw to gain four yards. Why? Why not try a deep pass? If you gain a couple yards, instead of punting while trying to keep it out of the end zone, you have to try ... punting while keeping it out of the end zone! Finally, Derrick Frost shanked that punt late -- he's like the king of shanks. Didn't he shank a six-yarder in Cleveland last year?

Does anyone know what the play call was when Brunell threw the interception on third-and-3? I couldn't tell who the primary receiver was supposed to be and what Brunell was supposed to do. Roll all the way left and throw across the field was not, I think, the way it was called in the huddle.

This has been a great run for Washington, totally unexpected all season. It ends next week. They were hit by more injuries tonight, and are completely beaten up going in to play Seattle, crossing three time zones to play the best team in the conference, a team whose receivers are finally all healthy. And the Washington passing game tonight was pathetic. If I'm a Seattle fan, I'm pretty happy tonight.

Bill Moore: Third and long less than two minutes – Theismann, “Portis wants to run that as far as he can. Each yard pushes the Bucs offense back further.� Ah Joe, he wants to run as far as he can ‘cause he wants to GET A FIRST DOWN!

Russell Levine: Could Suzy Kolber add any less to this broadcast? Not a single injury update, nothing on the Pittman/Taylor spit/non spit issue. No commentary on whether Portis is hurt or why he's not in the game. Thank god this is the last ever game for this crew. What a disaster.

Bill Moore: I have to defend my perfect woman. Who is hotter than Suzy Kolber as an overall package? Sure, there are plenty more stunning-looking women in this world, but where else is there someone with her looks that is also as knowledgeable as she in football? So sure, she didn't add much on the sideline, but who cares. Of course, you'd have to battle Joe Namath for her hand.

God, I hope my wife doesn't read this.

Ryan Wilson: I was a big Suzy Kolber supporter, but I'm not crazy about what she's done to her hair this season. It's very Freakazoid-y. Bonnie Bernstein is my new #1. I never learn anything from those sideline reports, but as long as she's pleasing to the eyes, avoids those ridiculous Lisa Guerrero Daniel Boone inspired raccoon hats, and keeps her segments short, she's A-OK.

Russell Levine: Cadillac needs to learn to just hit the hole sometimes ... although there weren't too many holes there tonight and he did a pretty good job of making something out of nothing a few times.

Despite the excruciating nature of this loss, I'm probably less upset than after any other TB playoff loss. This year's success was so unexpected, and I really think it rejuvenated Gruden. He's clearly got a keeper to build around in Simms, and if the defense can keep it together for one more year, they might really have something in 2006. Some tough cap decisions are looming on Brooks and Rice. I'd expect Brooks to restructure and stay, don't know about Rice though. I'd hate to see him go, he's such an impact player. All his sacks seem to come at meaningful times of the game.

Laying the points on Seattle next week might be the safest bet in history. The Skins are beat up, got nothing out of Portis or Brunell, lost a defensive lineman (hey Suzy, still waiting on the injury update on that one. Really, no rush). And the travel is a killer. Remember a few years back when Miami beat Indy in OT at home, then had to go to Oakland the next week and got absolutely smoked? That's what I see at Qwest on Saturday.

Ned Macey: Watching a game announced by the Three Stooges where I had little rooting interest, I found myself rooting against the announcers. When Theismann said the Bucs should go play-action on the fourth-and-1 play, I hoped that they wouldn't get it. In the end, I ended up rooting for Washington because of the fawning over Sims. Playing against a secondary without its #1 corner and who lost its best safety early in the second half, he hardly had an All-Pro game. Just over five yards per completion. Five tipped passes turning into two picks?

Speaking of Taylor, I couldn't believe the reaction of the announcers to that penalty. Mike Carey was standing right there when it happened. You don't think he knew who took a swing? To think that Carey could have made that big a mistake would make him the worst official of all-time.

Then when Brunell gets picked off, Mike Patrick says it should have been caught. When the replay shows how good an individual play Brian Kelly made, there's no apology to Taylor Jacobs.

I'll defer to Russell on this, but my sense is that other than the QB and RB, this team is old and unlikely to be back. Simeon Rice, Derrick Brooks, Joey Galloway, Shelton Quarles, and Ronde Barber are all 30+. We were among the few people who gave Tampa Bay a shot this year, but I bet we'll be one of the few people counting them out next year.

Russell Levine: Ned, I think that's a bit premature. Rice is probably gone, but I bet Brooks comes back and they find a way to sign Barber. Ronde knows he's better in this scheme than he would be in any other. The same is probably true of Hovan, who really had a good year for them and fawns over the coaching staff every chance he gets. Galloway is 34, but he can still play and stayed healthy all year. They drafted Quarles' replacement last year (Barrett Ruud). Dewayne White is ready to be a full-time starter at defensive end if Rice leaves. McFarland is probably looking at taking a pay cut or being let go.

The biggest losses could be to the coaching staff. The Bucs have used every trick in the book in recent years to keep some of that staff intact -- giving guys "assistant head coach" titles, etc. But I think Rod Marinelli's contract is up (D-line coach) and he's a vital member of the staff. I expect him to be a coordinator somewhere next season.

They made major progress in getting the cap under control last year -- cut something like $40 million in future commitments. I think they're on the way up, not down, but then again I watched this game with a Brooks jersey on and made my three-year-old wear a James Wilder creamsicle model. So take my opinion with a grain of salt.

Ryan Wilson: Living in DC, you learn pretty quickly that Theismann might be the biggest Redskins homer in the galaxy (honestly, who picks this team to go to the Super Bowl?). When Taylor got flagged, and after seeing the replay, anybody with half a brain might've figured that there was probably more to it than Pittman just taking a swipe. Of course, common sense never stopped Theismann from making snap decisions on the side of the Skins. My first question after Taylor was sent to the showers was: when is this guy supposed to have that court date for brandishing firearms?

Bill Moore: When the triumvirate was fawning at the end of the game, “you can count on this team going far next year – they'll be back� (or something like that), I was thinking, announcers always say stuff like that – and how often it never comes true. The first teams that came recent memory – '04 Falcons, '04 Eagles, '03 Panthers. The same statement was made at the end of each of their final games.

Al Bogdan: Taylor has a ton of talent, but he has to lead the league in dumbass penalties. It seems like every time I watch the Skins he gets at least one 15-yarder called against him.

It doesn't matter much if Tampa keeps their defense together if they can't get some improvement on the offensive line. The only way the Bucs were able to stop Washington's pass rush in the first half was to keep seven blockers back. Even then, Washington was able to get through when they sent in a defensive back on a delayed blitz.

Michael David Smith: Taylor got 15-yard facemasks against St. Louis and Dallas this year and he got an unnecessary roughness against the Giants. But for the most part I think he's been a good player who's worth the occasional penalty. And speaking of penalties, I withdraw my statement that it was the Sun Belt crew doing the game. Looking back on it, even though Pittman should've gotten a penalty for retaliating against Taylor, for the most part it was a well-officiated game.

Aaron Schatz: Goodbye to the Three Stooges. Our long national nightmare is over.

Jacksonville Jaguars 3 at New England Patriots 28

Will Carroll: Has anyone ever seen Curt Schilling and Jack Del Rio together? Someone check Jack's sock.

Leftwich looks so immobile that I'm wondering what will happen first -- he tries to take the brace off and play or Garrard gets his shot. Remember, I said Leftwich would play, not that he should play.

Michael David Smith: They need to get Leftwich out of there if this is the best he can play. He looks horrible.

Will Carroll: It was pretty clear on that fumble by Alvin Pearman that when he was hit, helmet to helmet, he was briefly unconscious. Watch his arms -- they "lock up" and as he bounces, there's a very delayed reaction before his brain almost literally reboots. Great play by the defender, but hits like this worry the heck out of me. These "minor" concussions don't register and I worry that Pearman will be wondering why he feels like he does in 20 years ... or at least I hope he's got enough mind left then to wonder.

Ryan Wilson: Shouldn't that've been a helmet-to-helmet penalty? If not, what's the rule on helmet-to-helmets? And I'm currently setting the over/under on Jags delay of game penalties at 40. And I've got the over.

Russell Levine: Leftwich seems to be getting more comfortable. He's never been mobile (What, a black QB who's not light on his feet? Can that be?), so it's just a matter of getting used to how the ankle feels.

Michael David Smith: Brady was never sacked more than three times this season and he's already been sacked four times in the first half. They're mostly coverage sacks, though. The New England line is actually doing a pretty good job against a good Jacksonville pass rush.

Bill Moore: Ok. I have been pretty down on the development of Asante Samuel, but that pick was a defensive thing of beauty. Playing "man," but then passing off his coverage to the safety, and stepping in front of that pass.

Someone with more knowledge of the rules would surely know this better than I, but is the helmet-to-helmet negated when the offensive player is "ducking" or heading down? It seems logical since it is more difficult to know where the offensive player's helmet is. E.G., I go to tackle you at the chest, you try and duck under my tackle and our helmets collide. I can't be expected to avoid that.

I know Madden said ... "Now that Garrard is in the game and doing well against a prevent D, everyone will say that Garrard should have played earlier, if not started." I certainly understand his point, but it begs the question, should Garrard have started this game?

Michael David Smith: I don't want to be a second-guesser, but yeah, I think Garrard should have started. Leftwich is better than Garrard when both are healthy and neither is rusty, but Leftwich looked like he's still hurting and still rusty. But the Patriots would have won anyway, so it's not like it's a big deal.

I just heard Jaws say, "The Steelers were missing something. That something was swagger and confidence." Mike, did you give him your article while you were at NFL Films?

Ned Macey: I may be the only person who was not very impressed by the Patriots in the win. I will say first that I watched the game in a bar with no sound, and second I cover the AFC South, so I couldn't help but watch from the Jaguars' perspective.

I still think Leftwich was the right play because the only way the Jaguars could win the game was to make big plays in the passing game. Garrard just doesn't do that yet. I think starting in the second quarter he actually played pretty well. It was sort of reminiscent of Manning last year at Foxboro where the quarterback was playing ok, but nobody else was doing anything.

The biggest sequence that made what should have been a 7-10 point Patriots win a blowout took place in the third quarter with the Pats up 14-3. On third and long, Jimmy Smith just completely dropped a first down pass out by midfield (awful game for Smith which is too bad considering he is the Jaguars franchise). On the ensuing Patriots' possession, Watson should have been stopped by Peterson short of the first down forcing a punt. Not only does he break out of that, but he ends up scoring. On four of Leftwich's last six drives, they made it into New England territory, and one of the misses was when Smith dropped the pass.

The Jaguars desperately need to fix the right side of their offensive line this off-season. Probably not a coincidence that the team with the better offensive line won both games.

By the way, of the six fumbles in the game, the Patriots ended up with the ball after five. Of the four non-aborted snaps, the Patriots got the ball after all of them, including three times when they fumbled. The better team certainly won this game, but if these two teams played 50 times, I doubt there would be another blowout like this.

Aaron Schatz: I agree with Ned. Leftwich struggled very early, but so did Brady. I thought Leftwich played pretty well through the second and third quarters, but the Jaguars had no running game at all and the receivers kept dropping passes. Ned's comparison to Manning in last year's playoff game is apt. By the end of the third quarter, however, Leftwich had clearly been reinjured or the ankle was bothering him much more or something -- I'm sure Will could clarify -- and his play definitely was affected. If this makes sense, I think starting Leftwich was the right decision, but I also think they pulled him too late.

Jimmy Smith looked pretty bad. I know I had predicted that the Jaguars would have more success throwing to second and third receivers but I didn't think Smith would drop easy passes. He had a naked screen where he took an hour or two to turn and start running, at which point the Pats were on top of him. The fact that he is "the franchise" is a serious problem. You cannot have an aging receiver as the franchise. On the other hand, the Pats coverage on Wilford was terrible. And I was shocked that when Reggie Williams caught an important out pattern for a first down in the fourth quarter, he did not dance. Reggie, dude, this was your last chance of the year to dance!

On the Pats side, I thought that they were doubling Stroud much more often than they were doubling Henderson -- that is not based on counting plays, just a subjective observation. Also, an impressive thing about the Patriots is the way Kevin Faulk always falls forward when he is tackled. He must gain an extra yard or two each time he is tackled just because of the way he falls down.

Willie McGinest taking over the all-time lead for sacks in the playoffs is very impressive. In baseball, these records are a joke because they compare guys with three rounds of playoffs now to guys who had just the World Series back in the 1960s. But -- understanding that the sack was not tracked until 1982 – McGinest set this record in fewer games (17) than Bruce Smith (20) or Reggie White (19), who shared it before him.

I watched the game with my friend Sean Benak, and we were talking about the magic beans and how the rest of the country hates Patriots fans. Sean said, "You know, we learned how to be insufferable bastards from the Yankee fans. They lorded it over us for so long that when we finally get a winning football team, we think that's how you are supposed to act."

Michael David Smith: I honestly really liked the Pats until the whole "no respect" thing started. I'm sorry, but it is hard for me to respect someone who can say with a straight face that he doesn't get any respect a couple of weeks after he was named Sportsman of the Year.

Will Carroll: I watched Leftwich's ankle closely and my guess is that he had a painkiller that wore off. They said he didn't, but I'm not going to take the Jags or any NFL team at their word on that. If greenies are the dirty little secret of baseball, the "spike" is the secret of the NFL. Someone with a tape of this could say better, but I'm going to guess it was about 3 hours into the game in real time that Leftwich got lifted, give or take 15-30 minutes.

He was clearly struggling late, but the replays that they tried to show that he got that ankle cranked again didn't show me anything other than that the brace was still on, which makes it near impossible to invert or evert the ankle. You could see from the way he moved that the brace was very tight, limited movement, and was overtaped to boot (no pun intended).

That said and leaving the analysis to the experts, I think Leftwich played much of the game at a pretty high level physically, probably in the 80-90% range. I don't think anyone can blame Leftwich's injury or the medical staff for the loss.

Carolina Panthers 23 at New York Giants 0

Aaron Schatz: Will, is there any difference between a "stinger" and a "burner"?

Will Carroll: No, two terms for the same thing.

Aaron Schatz: To me, it looks like Carolina's success running the ball isn't related to the linebacker injuries. On run blocking, at least, the Carolina offensive line seems to be manhandling the Giants defensive line.

Mike Tanier: The Panthers are double-teaming two or three different Giants linemen and counting on the Giants' LBs not being able to make big plays. It's working, in part because DeShaun Foster is playing well. He does seem to be coming around as a decision maker with the ball, but it helps that he is running through lots of arm tackles.

Michael David Smith: Mike Wahle is having a very good game on runs, although he did pull out and barely block Michael Strahan on a pass. I was actually rather disappointed by Wahle when I saw him this year, and I was very surprised that he made the Pro Bowl. But he's looking good today.

I couldn't tell who was assigned to block Strahan on that sack. It was either Jordan Gross or Kris Mangum, but neither one even tried to block him. Whoever blew the assignment, it's a pretty big mistake not to know who's supposed to block one of the best defensive ends in the history of the game.

Russell Levine: And there's yet another one, on the Nick Goings play. That was the same play as last night, with Goings taking a helmet-to-helmet shot, getting KO'd and losing his grip on the ball.

Aaron Schatz: Well, I feel like an idiot for a) picking the Giants and b) taking Tiki Barber in the first round of the fantasy playoff draft. We can talk about the linebackers all we want, but who stole the Giants offense and where did they hide it? Tiki is not going anywhere, Kareem McKenzie looks like he came back too soon, and now in the second half Eli Manning's decision-making skills have dropped from bad to FEMA-level.

Michael David Smith: I hope people don't blame Eli Manning for all of the Giants' problems. Tiki Barber has given them nothing today, the offensive line is getting outplayed, Plaxico Burress looks like he's jogging on half of his routes, and the front seven is making DeShaun Foster look like he's bound for Canton.

Aaron Schatz: This game is going to mean another whole off-season of us trying to convince people that DeShaun Foster is really not very good. For some reason this guy seems to have his best performances on national television so everyone thinks he is a stud, and the rest of the time he's carrying the ball 20 times for 47 yards. He does look good today but it is impossible to tell how much that is just the Giants defense looking pitiful.

Mike Tanier: Let's not exonerate Eli Manning, either. He has made some awful decisions. Maybe he's just not a playoff quarterback. Like his brother. Oh my God, I can feel my IQ dropping.

We have at least one more playoff game to determine whether DeShaun Foster has really improved in the last month or so or it is just a mirage.

Russell Levine: Man, that no challenge on down-by-contact rule really needs to be looked at. That's two obvious ones in the playoffs already (the first being Arrington's fumble after his interception yesterday). The rule would have to be written very carefully to only cover certain aspects, but there's no reason plays like those two shouldn't be corrected on replay.

Al Bogdan: My daughter's christening was today so I didn't have to sit through the Giants game live. Thanks to Tivo the pain was limited to only an hour.

As Mike pointed out, the Panthers did a great job at keeping the New York defensive linemen occupied on running plays so that they could give the linebackers an opportunity to miss tackles. Where was Kendrick Clancy today? He's arguably been the real key to the line's success this year by getting great penetration up the middle, stuffing the run and collapsing the pocket to allow the ends to make plays. After one play early on in the game, I never noticed #70. Now I want to go back and watch some of the games from the middle of the season where the Giant defensive line was so dominant and try to figure out just how much of their good play was because of the attention teams were giving to Antonio Pierce and his competent sidekicks.

Nick Greisen had no business being out there after his burner. If he made a tackle after the first quarter it was purely by mistake. When you have DeShaun Foster wrapped up and you can't bring him down, you shouldn't be on the field. There was a reason the Giants went out and signed Antonio Pierce to replace Kevin Lewis and then didn't even bother to keep Lewis around as a backup until they were down to their seventh and eighth string linebackers -- Lewis can't tackle anyone.

I wasn't surprised that Steve Smith was able to score two touchdowns, but the complete lack of offense from the Giants was a shock. All week, the sports radio hosts have been talking about how John Fox was going to do everything in his power to shut Tiki down and make Eli move the ball. And that's what happened. There were regularly eight Panthers in the box on running plays, and I counted nine in the box on two different occasions.

I have to disagree with MDS on Eli's role in the loss. He was awful yet again today. He did nothing well. He threw maybe three balls on target before the garbage drive at the end of the game. The interception where he was jumping backwards and throwing the ball three quarters of the way across the field into triple coverage was as bad of a throw as you can make. He's developed this awful tendency to roll out to the side of the field where Shockey is running a route and throw the ball even when there's a defender on top of Shockey. Today, the defender was literally on top of Shockey, who was lying on the ground underneath a Panther when Eli threw the ball. Whatever good feelings I had from the first half of the season about Eli have completely disappeared. I have no confidence in his ability to be a successful starting quarterback for the Giants next year.

Is anyone else unenthused about next week's games? Other than New England at Denver, none of these games look to be at all compelling.

Pittsburgh Steelers 31 at Cincinnati Bengals 17

Aaron Schatz: I feel bad for Bengals fans. Even most people rooting for the other team don't want to see the best player on the field go down with an injury at the beginning of the first quarter. It showed a lot of character for the Bengals to keep this close for a while.

Palmer has the ACL tear and now, apparently, the MCL also. The Bengals say they hope he will be back for the start of training camp. That sounds a little too optimistic for me, shouldn't recovery take longer than that? He doesn't have to get his speed back like a RB, at least. Kitna is a free agent so this will be an interesting decision for the Bengals, how much do you pay for a backup quarterback who may have to play significantly. The Jets, if you think about it, are in the exact same place. There were a lot of injuries in this game. Just caused by all the intense hitting, or is there something weird with the Cincinnati playing surface?

Kitna was terrible when he had to play this year but he looked good in this game -- for a while. KC Joyner wrote in his book that Kitna makes bad decisions, but I thought that was fine. He did have a tendency to lead his guys too much or not enough on sideline passes. He was definitely faltering as the game went on, and the Pittsburgh pass rush was improving gradually. The strangest was the play where Pittsburgh rushed two and the offensive linemen for the Bengals couldn't seem to block even just those two guys ... then Kitna dropped the ball.

Do you guys think the refs in this game were as bad as the readers on the open thread seemed to think?

Tim Gerheim: Kitna seemed like a Brett Favre-type "gunslinger" -- the sort of quarterback who doesn't really care how open a guy is, if he's open at all the quarterback thinks he can get it in. But he's not quite as accurate as Favre, so he ends up looking really bad sometimes. But he did look good in the first half. In the second half his main problem seemed to be that he held on to the ball way too long. But I don't know if the outcome would have been much different if he had thrown the ball away more instead of taking so many sacks -- they weren't particularly costly because they didn't lead to fumbles.

Whatever the Steelers defense did to adjust to what Kitna was giving them in the first half, Dick LeBeau and the rest of the defensive coaching staff deserves a lot of credit. But in the end, the Bengals looked a lot like what they were: a team that overachieved in the regular season. Without five interceptions a game, they don't really have the ability to beat good teams. But this seems like a team that will be good next year, since their strength is their offense (more consistent year to year) and their defense doesn't really have any good reason why it should get worse.

Mike Tanier: Kitna doesn't have much of a fastball. I don't think that he has figured that out yet. The officiating didn't seem bad to me.

Ned Macey: I still think Cincinnati was better than 50/50 to win this game if Palmer had stayed healthy, and that is with how bad their defense looked. After a couple drives, Pittsburgh just realized Kitna was useless beyond 15 yards.

The media is going to talk up the Steelers last two drives as the Steelers getting back to their roots and running the ball. The only reason the Bengals got the lead was because the Steelers insisted on running early. This game was won by Roethlisberger who made good decisions all day. I still say Roethlisberger is the type of guy who will throw picks like Kitna threw when he presses, but he was excellent today.

It is hard to root against Jerome Bettis in his final year. Didn't need quite so many shots of his parents, but Bettis seems like a great guy and he is fun to watch. I loved the touchdown run where he went around the safety and then carried the cornerback into the end zone.

Bengals defense collapsed this year when they started emphasizing stopping the run. They'll need another big defensive draft to take the next step. On the first two big pass plays, it seemed that Kaesviharn messed up on both. And I think the Bengals will have to re-sign Kitna provided nobody offers him a starting job. I agree with Phil Simms that all Kitna does if he goes to Detroit or somewhere is get to suffer with a bad team until they go with whoever their young quarterback is. See Trent Dilfer.

Troy Polamalu is a very good player who makes exceptional plays, but between the 15-yard penalty that kept the Bengals touchdown drive alive in the second quarter and the lateral when falling to a knee effectively clinched the game, he makes some questionable decisions.

Ryan Wilson: I'm the biggest (Steelers) homer on the planet, but I absolutely hate opponent injuries. I feel awful for Palmer and I agree that if he didn't get hurt, there was a 50/50 chance the Bengals win. Second on my, "God, I feel really bad for this guy" list is Kimo von Oelhoffen. Seems like the nicest guy in the world, and is a former Bengal from the "dark years."

I watched the postgame press conferences, and Marvin Lewis was very gracious despite being visibly upset. After some baiting from reporters about the legality of the hit, he did let slip a, "... let it go. Carson got injured; what, do you want us to cry about it like their QB did?" Apparently, that was in reference to the Dec. 4 game in PIT when Odell Thurman hit Roethlisberger low and later in the week Ben said it was probably dirty. Honestly, I had totally forgotten about the Thurman play and was a little confused when Lewis made the comment. That said, it's certainly understandable why he was upset, and it really sucks that Palmer got hurt.

On a lighter note, this afternoon before the game I was listening to the sage-like advice of Salisbury, and he said something to the effect of, "You won't believe this, but when the Steelers run the ball 40 times a game, they're undefeated?" Really? You think so? Do you have any idea that half those runs come after they're up by 20 points? God, what a numbnut.

Russell Levine: Couple lousy calls stood out -- failure to call PI on one Cincinnati deep ball, then calling it against the Bengals on a very similar play, might even have been on the next series. I also thought they were too slow to get control of all the chippiness at the beginning. All in all, not the greatest weekend of NFL officiating.

Ryan Wilson: I thought the officiating was atrocious – especially against the Bengals. The late hit called against Randle El was ridiculous, and there were other random calls that left me scratching my head. Usually I'm all for crappy officiating helping my team, but after the Palmer injury, it just didn't seem right.

Also, Polamalu apparently didn't take his meds tonight. What a complete spaz. Making a guy eat a football on your own 5-yard line might be the worst idea ever.


194 comments, Last at 12 Jan 2006, 10:52pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Re: Helmet-to-Helmet Hits
Last year there was a MNF Cowboys-Redskins game that ended when Brunell threw a 40-yard bomb to Rod Gardner who took a helmet-helmet shot from Roy Williams.

What we heard as Redskin fans was that since Gardner had both feet on the ground he wasn't a vulnerable player and therefore it's perfectly legal to lay a helmet-helmet hit on him.

Re: Sean Taylor
Redskin fans will tell you "If you don't see spit, you must acquit". I think if anything Taylor was jawing and perhaps pulled a Cowher. You really don't see anything ala Romanowski-JJ Stokes... and was there another spitting incident recently. Regardless, he shouldn't put himself in that situation. Taylor did score the game winning touchdown.

I've heard that Taylor didn't react like he was unfairly kicked out, but to me it looked like he was about to cry / in shock....

Re: Chris Simms
He played a great game, but he's still responsible for 2 INT's and a couple of really bad sacks. I think the TB play calling was too conservative, they should've taken more shots downfield. I don't know if the Wash secondary was that good or TB just didn't call anything downfield , but I do know that Shepperd beat the DBs twice in a span of 4 minutes in the 4th quarter. Once Taylor went out for sure I thought they would throw to Galloway, since Taylor was providing help.

Re: Cadillac Williams Down by Contact
If Marcus Washington is down by contact, than Alstott didn't get into the end zone during the regular season. Wouldn't he get called for tripping since he tried to "tackle" him with the legs? Does it matter that he was using his legs?

Thanks for the comments on the other games, this site is great!

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I think it's a mistake to write off the Redskins next week.

Yes, the offense looked terrible, but one of the lessons of objective sports analysis is that we shouldn't place too much emphasis on a single game. The Skins offense ranked 4th in the NFC in Offense DVOA over 16 games, and they stunk horribly yesterday.

The struggles Saturday came down to three factors:

1. The Bucs defense is very good. The Seahawks defense is substantially weaker.

2. Brunell is still feeling the effects of that knee injury. For the last 2 weeks, Brunell has resembled the 2004 version of himself, when he was struggling through injuries the whole year. He missed a wide open Moss on at least 4 occasions by skipping or sailing the ball. Complete those passes, and those 120 yards turn into 240 yards. Another week of rest may or may not help cure this one. He's definitely the biggest wild card for next week.

3. Portis was hurting, and was rested with the lead. Betts is a good backup back, but he's not much of a receiving threat or blocker, so having Portis on the sidelines for half of this game made the offense look a lot worse than it is. Portis should play the whole game next week.

Also, Shawn Springs didn't play last week, and his absence was noticable when Simms tested the secondary deep in the fourth quarter. He is expected to play next week.

Obviously, the Hawks should be favored with a slightly stronger team, HFA, and a bye week of rest. But I think this game will be a lot closer than most people think.

Of course, I thought the same thing about the Jags-Pats game...

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

RE: Arrington Interception/Fumble:

He did fumble the ball, however on one replay they clearly showed Arrington picked up the ball with one hand after the fumble and was down by contact. After that the Tampa defender grabbed the ball and they started fighting for it.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

1. Simms definitely caused Arrington fumble on Arrington's return. Watch it using your DVR or TiVO and you'll see it.

2. Did Madden or Michaels mention that the Jags blitzed heavily on Watson's big touchdown catch?

3. I was stunned when Del Rio had the Jags attempt the field goal in the fourth quarter.

4. One thing that cracks me up me every week in the NFL is the amount of before the snap penalties that are called on the home team offense.

5. One thing is for sure, win or lose the Steelers will most likely injure a couple of Colts next week.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Oh wow, a "Freakazoid" reference.

Related to Simms/Eli, what's the overall record for rookies playing in their first playoff game? All the talk surrounding those games would make one think it's something like .200, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's closer to .500.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Re: the Sean Salisbury comment on Steelers rushing: The Steelers are undefeated this season when Verron Haynes has three or more carries. Clearly this indicates that Haynes is the key to the Steelers' success...

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Some free wagering advice from a Seattle fan who had a roommate from Denver when the 8th-seeded Nuggets beat the '93-'94 Sonics and a roommate from New York when the Yankees beat the 116-win Mariners and has been living in the mid-Atlantic watching Mike Holmgren find creative ways to lose to the likes of Patrick Ramsey and Anthony Wright since Monica Lewinsky mattered:

Take Washington and the points.

(Furtek, I know you're bitter about the 2-point conversion, but it's got nothing to do with Marcus Washington. They were both bad calls, but different bad calls.)

(I still don't see the reason officials can't err on the side of allowing a close play to continue and then make a ruling that it "actually" stopped earlier ... so you preserve challenge-ability without losing the judgment of the officials on the field. I referee (albeit not under the eye of replay) and this wouldn't cramp my style. You can very often tell when plays are close and when the call you think is right might in fact be wrong.)

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I think the problem wasn't erring on the side of letting the play go, but the presumption it creates. Once you let the play go, you then need indisputable evidence that it wasn't a fumble. Perhaps, on fumble calls (or any call where refs are specifically asked to hold their whistle to preserve a challenge), the standard should be lower? Something like a preponderance of the evidence. (I think that's the law school talking.)

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

The Bengals game seemed to highlight the principle problem of NFL broadcasts. It was close to impossible to judge Kitna from what we were shown on TV. There must have been about seven occasions when he seemed to spend an eternity in the pocket but we had no way of telling if this was due to Kitna's deficiencies, poor play by the receivers or just great coverage. The replays used on broadcasts rarely help as they show receivers in isolation from what’s going on at the line of scrimmage. Unless we are shown shots of all the players we miss out on half the action.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

There was a question about the Bengals' O-line in the comments. As a Bengal fan, I noticed Kitna held on to the ball much longer than Palmer has all season. There were at least 5 plays where Kitna stood in the pocket longer than Palmer had once all season. With the offense running the same plays they would if Palmer was in, there were probably 1 or 2 receivers you could cross off the progressions every play just because Kitna can't make that particular throw.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Re: Kaesvihan - He hurts in coverage. The loss of Madieu Williams for the year (one of the better young safeties out there) seemed to really hurt the Bengals this year.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Chris M - What people are recommending is that the refs let the play continue, and then after the play is finished, call it down by contact (if that's what they think about the play). That way the play is reviewable. Waiting need not create any presumption, though I assume the recovering fans will be a bit pissed.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

RE: Kitna's struggles:

Wasn't the whole team significantly worse in the second half of games all year? My understanding was that the offense is working on implementing the no-huddle, but that they don't have a whole game's worth of plays so they go back to huddling later in the game - and my impression was that a great degree of their success came earlier in the game while running the no-huddle package.
As we saw, Kitna did better in the first half including while managing via the no-huddle offense, then the offense, including him of course, tailed down in the second half after reverting to the huddle. This makes me think maybe Cincy's chances were less than 50/50 even had Palmer not gotten hurt.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

The new most overused sports cliche is now, "Quarterback A will make mistakes when pressured." I just want to know of one quarterback who doesn't make more mistakes when under pressure. There simply isn't one. Some handle it better than others but everybody gets worse when getting hit in the pocket.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

MDS, I'll go you one further. Yeah, I hate "visual" in the phrase. But I also hate, with a passion, the need for these jokers to explain, for the 1 millionth time, what "indisputable" means. I mean, the whole thing has been around for several years. Why explain it yet again, people have gotten ahold of the concept.

Unless you're an indisputable gasbag, of course, and have to fill airtime with all sorts of inane blather. Wait, I guess I've answered my own question.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

The more I look at this past weekend's games, the more I can see why the teams in them were in the WC weekend and not resting at home. IMHO, the only team with a chance at winning on the road next week is Carolina, but only because Chicago's offense is so poor anything can happen.

Washinton at Seattle? Shouldn't be close.
Pittsburgh at Indy? Ditto
NE at Denver? Without the blinding effect of NE's past, this would be a 7 point favorite for Denver. And so, I believe, it will prove. Denver could run the ball 50 times and win this one.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Couldn't agree with comment 1 and 2 anymore, IMO the seattle receivers can be covered by the redskins cornerbacks one on one, especially if springs plays next week. That leaves the other nine guys to deal with alexander the great. And IMO the hawks run a short passing game like the bucs which means there will be lots of opportunities for the redskins to tip hasselback's passes.

But I have a question for Aaron of anyone else at FO, are tipped passes random like fumble recoveries or is a team that tips a lot of passes one week likely to tip a lot of passes the next week?

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Denver could run the ball 50 times and win this one.

Based on what? I think Denver will win, and I definitely think the spread should be higher, but this seems a bit silly.

It's definitely going to be strength vs. strength when Denver tries to run the ball, except NE's run defense has been trending upwards the last two months, and Denver's running offense has been trending downwards over the same timeframe. Denver's best chance to win is through the air.

To me, the way the Patriots win this game, assuming turnovers are equal, is for Wilfork to make Nalen his little b!tch, like he did to Hartings in last year's AFCC. That's the matchup to watch.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I'm curious as to how good Kitna really played in the first half vs the second half. Yes we got 17 points, but the passing TD was entirely thanks to Polamalu's fit that gave the Bengals a free first down in the redzone after failing on a 3rd down.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Aaron, your wrong about Foster (I'm not waiting for the off-season!). It's not so much that he plays well on TV as it is that his best performances are in big games...TV or no TV.

Look at his performance against the Colts in 2003 when Davis went out hurt: 5.3/carry and he picked up 2 first downs and 26 yards on 4 carries in OT. Look at his performance in the 2003 post season: he averaged 4.6/carry against the Rams and Eagles and in the SB although he only had 3 or 4 touches, one of those was a 33 TD play.

Look at his play this year. His two biggest games in the regular season where against the Falcons which were two HUGE games for the Panthers. Look at his game against the Patriots, another big game for the Panthers: 5.3/carry and a huge 23yrd reception. Look at his performance yesterday against a rush defense ranked fairly high by you!

I can't argue that Foster does come out at times and play flat. But when the game is big and the season is on the line, Foster can run with the best of them!

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

You guys are going too easy on the ref regarding the spitting ejection. It is not the job of a ref to develop theories of justice when calling a game, and thus enforce the rules according to said theories. It is the job of the ref to call the game in the manner that the Competition Ccommittee has instructed. Perhaps I missed it, but I don't think the Competition Committee instructed the refs to waive unsportsmanlike conduct in instances when a player delivers a blow to the head well after the whistle, because said player has been spat upon. If the zebra wants to eject for spitting, fine, but there is no way in the Name of Halas that the blow to the helmet should not have resulted in offsetting penalities. None.

To say otherwise is to announce that, upon being spat upon, a player gets one free shot at the offender. Sorry, but you just can't run the league that way.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

"Some handle it better than others but everybody gets worse when getting hit in the pocket. "

Earlier in the season, some TV Talking Head was showing stats on Big Ben that his passer rating was higher on plays when he was hit than on plays when he was not. I don't expect that to continue for his entire career.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

#22: That number includes contact, so every time he shrugged off a defender, which usually means beating a blitz, which usually means an easier throw after he's bought himself time.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Left tackle Khalif Barnes was playing much of the game with a broken bone in his lower leg according to Del Rio.

The randomness of fumbles once again played out during the games between the Jags and Pats. The media (Sean Salisbury) said the Jags came out flat but if your forcing fumbles and pressuring Brady (4 sacks in the first half) it looks like a case of looking at the final results instead of the entire game.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Hey Gruden!
It's better to have rushed and lost than not to have rushed at all... wassup with the throw on 4th down? Alstott is running down hill, you need 1 yard, and you have your QB throw it??

Somebdy should slap him.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Pawnking #16,

While I agree with your point on the line, I think the Pats will win this game. I have several reasons for this:

1) The Pats' run D is for real. Denver is an awesome running team and will get their yards (I predict between 90-110), but they will not get the big runs that they often get. I think they will get the yardage purely because the game will be close and they will have a decent amount of attempts.

1a) Just an addition to the above, but I wanted to break it out a little; The Pats front 7 is better stopping the run now than they were in week 6-9 with 2 in the box. This will allow the safeties to stay back and thus, pass D will benefit.

2) Due to #1, I think that Denver will see a few more 2nd and 8's and 3rd and 5's than they would like. I see Plummer having to convert at least three 3rd downs per scoring drive. I know the Pats secondary is much maligned, but I like this matchup.

3) Denver's first three TD drives included plays of at least 55 yards, two scorchings of Duane Starks and one run up the middle by Bell. Again, I'm just illustating the whole "big play" thing. I just don't see three of these type plays happening in this game, let alone three in one quarter.

4) I have exclusive information that the Pats are implementing a new blocking procedure which includes a nut punch motion. No way that Denver's DL and LBs dare attack that.

5) Due to the Pats/Denver matchup, the paradoxical "Indy gets the Patriot monkey off their back to only get beat down by Denver" poosibility has been eliminated. Now it is just a Pat/Indy matchup that has a preordained feel to it.

6) Considering he has actually been the best RB on the team for a few weeks, he isn't an "under the radar" type guy, but don't underestimate the value of Kevin Faulk in this game. The Pats were terrible on 3rd downs last time, and Faulk's return has done wonders to help this area.

7) I think the Pats will have success passing against Denver. The Pats' OL is playing much better and having Dillon will at least give Denver something the think about.

8) Call me crazy, but I am not all that impressed with any of Denver's receiving threats, sans Smith. As long as the Pats don't have to overcommit to the run (adequately stop it with just 7), then Smith's impact can be minimized.

If Denver beats the Pats with Plummer and Lelie/Putzier being major offensive contributors than I will tip my cap to them.

Pats 27-24

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Russel Levine - [Simeon] Rice is probably gone.

These are the most beautiful words this ATLien has ever heard. (and the only good news I've heard since week 9.)

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I think you guys are selling the Patriots short. While I agree that winning on the road in Denver is a tall order, the Pats game against Jacksonville was a text-book Pats win. Close game through the first half as they absorb the other team's best shot and then pull away in the second half.

Something that I've not seen mentioned is that the real key to the game was the Pats laid a physical beating on one of the biggest, most physical teams in the NFL. My sense was that, by the second half, the Jags receivers really weren't that interested in catching the ball.

In that same vein, the 7 minute, 12 play, 81-yard scoring drive the Pats engineered to open the third quarter was a back-breaker.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Re 4: I object to the implication that the Steelers are playing dirty and intentionally trying to injure players. The Steelers had a couple of players knocked out for (probably) the rest of the season and no one says the Bengals took cheap shots. It's an unfortunate part of playing football, and Palmer's injury is the most unfortunate. He is far more imporatant to the Bengals than the 4th WR and 5th LB are to the Steelers, and his injury undoubtedly altered the course of the game, so I know it's not quite the same. But I don't think any Steelers intentionally tried to injure any Bengals, and I don't think they'll try to injure any Colts either.

Now, if Peyton Manning goes down next week on a hit from Kimo, then you've got a case. I sincerely hope that doesn't happen.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

And I agree that Gruden needed a rejuvenation season. He just hasn't been the same since becoming old enough to buy liquor.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Couple of thoughts on the Skins-Bucs game:

First, Arrington didn't fumble on his interception return. I did a frame-by-frame advance on one of the replays and his knee was down before the ball came out.

Second, regarding how bad the announcers were for the game, in the second quarter (?) the Skins faked a WR screen to Santana Moss where Moss turned for the ball, Brunell pump-faked, and Chris Cooley sprinted out from his TE spot to block. Rhonde Barber bit on the fake, and Moss sprinted deep and was open for a 20+ yard gain (Brunell overthrew him). The announcers kept talking about what a great 'move' Moss made to get past Barber and completely missed the other elements of the screen fake which really caused Barber to jump the route.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

The Giants game was lost on the Giants O-line. On running plays, after the snap, the line of scrimmage immediately moved backwards about a yard-and-a-half.

I called dad to tell him not to bother watching if he hadn't already started.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

RE: my #5

and by "rookies" I mean "quarterbacks," which may include rookies and non-rookies, as Simms and Eli Manning both are.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Re: fumbles

Can anyone let me know where these 4 Patriot fumbles occured? I can only remember one Brady strip and Watson's fumble that Davis recovered on the 3. For the life of me I cannot recall two more. (I am assuming the fumbled snap was an "aborted snap" as referenced in the article)

Re: sacks

I thought that nearly all the pressure that the Jags got on Brady was due to excellent coverage. I left the game completely impressed with the secondary of Jacksonville.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Oswlek, how can I argue with predistination? I see now that fate has decreed the Broncos will be defeated. Why even play the game?

Seriously, look at these two teams:

Team 1 - #4 in weighted team offensive DVOA, Weighted # 6 in Defensive DVOA

Team 2 - Weighted # 7 in offense, # 27 in defense.

Team #1 - #1 Rushing offense
Team #2 - #13 rushing defense

Team #1 - #5 Passing offense
Team #2 - #29 passing defense

Throw in Home Field Advantage for team #1. Throw in a week to rest for team #1. Consider team #1 has a coach who has won 2 Superbowls.

I'm not saying it is impossible for team #2 to win. I'm just saying that it will be a huge upset if they do. Actually, I think that calling this game the most outmatched in week 2 is not a stretch. If the Pats pull this one off, it should be greatly celebrated.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

The media is going to talk up the Steelers last two drives as the Steelers getting back to their roots and running the ball. The only reason the Bengals got the lead was because the Steelers insisted on running early. This game was won by Roethlisberger who made good decisions all day. I still say Roethlisberger is the type of guy who will throw picks like Kitna threw when he presses, but he was excellent today.

If the 2005 season proved anything about the Steelers, it proved beyond a doubt that the Steelers go as Roethlisberger goes and that Roethlisberger’s ability to pass the football is the motor that drives the Steelers’ offense.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Just to help the case laid out in #36:

Team #2 - #19 Rushing Offense
Team #1 - #17 Rushing Defense

Team #2 - #2 Passing Offense
Team #1 - #4 Passing Defense

(I assume at some point Team #2's offense is going to step onto the field)

Team #2 has a coach who has won 3 SBs as HC and another 1 as DC. So I don't see the advantage Team #1 has in the Coaching department.

Your analysis isn't wrong, just incomplete. I'm assuming Denver has been game-planning for the Pats all last week, which could be a big edge.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend


The 2005 Patriots are very tricky to analyze statistically. Their defense in the first half of the season wasn't good enough to beat a college team.

Down the stretch, they completely reversed that trend and the defense has been dominating games, especially the front seven and especially the run defense which is probably the best in the NFL right now. I don't know if I've ever seen such a dramatic turnaround.

Do I think the Pats can win on the road at Denver? Probably not. Denver is a very good team and the Pats track record at Mile High isn't pretty. But, I think you can throw the season long stats, even weighted stats, out the window on this matchup.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend


I'm not sure if your reply about predestination was a facetious as mine was. Your tone leads me either way.

I appreciate your response, but you will have to forgive me. I am one of the people that Aaron refers to as "magic beans thoerists." I truly believe that the Pats have turned a corner defensively. I am more than willing to admit that Denver will have decent success because their running game is exceptional and their passing game is multi-faceted. I personally feel that the play-action roll out might be one of the best plays in the league, and Denver runs it to perfection.

That said, trust me when I tell you that the previous game might as well be played by two different teams. The following Pats defenders have changed since then:

OLB, 2 ILB, CB, NB, SS, DE (and the DE who was playing in his place was playing hurt). Willy McGinnest (the only LB holdover) was also playing with a broken bone in his hand.

Add in the fact that Wilfork has gone from abused step-brother to a force and you have a much better D.

On the offensive side, the Pats, sans Dillon and Faulk and with a poor (comparative to the rest of the season) OL game just kept putting the D back on the field.

This will be a far tougher game for Denver than DVOA numbers indicate.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend


To be fair, most of the fumbles in this game by the Pats were either A, botched handoffs or B, bad snaps. These have a really high chance of being recovered.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Oswlek, I was being facetious in my comment, unfortunately that doesn't always translate well in cyberspace. I believe the reason the Pats have done better in the second half of the season is primarily because they have played bad offenses.

Over the first half of the season (8 games), they played 5 teams in the top 10 of DVOA offense, and gave up an average of 31.4 ppg in those games. In their next 8 games, they played 1 team in the top 10 offensively, and gave up 26 points to KC.

The games where NE really shined defensively were against Buffalo (30th in offense) Tampa Bay (17th), and the Jets twice (31st). They just happeend to play these three teams in a row towards the end of the season. It is likely that most teams would look good defensively in those four games.

NE has yet to give up less than 20 points to a top 10 offense, and gave up 40+ points twice this year. I just happen to believe that Denver at home will score more than 30 points against NE, and I don't think that NE can match that score.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Thank you to Pawnking and Oswlek for demonstrating how sane people disagree with one another on a comment thread. (srsly.)

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

RE 2

who is going to stop Shawn Alexander on the redskins? they have a dscimated defense, Seattle has 1 extra week to prepare and don't think for a minute that Mike Holmgren was not watch that game for X and O value. PLUS the fact that Seattle has to many reciving elements to hurt you, Hasselback has more playoof experience then Simms and he will be out there to prove something...

Nope the Redskins made a great late season push but they are toast.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Here's the play-by-play on the five fumbles in the NE/Jax game. Two aborted snaps, both recovered by the offense, which is normal. NE was pretty lucky to recover the three other fumbles, although sack fumbles are usually recovered by the offense.

4-10-JAC 30 (1:47) (Shotgun) 12-T.Brady FUMBLES (Aborted) at JAC 35, and recovers at JAC 37. 12-T.Brady pass incomplete to 84-B.Watson.
1-10-50 (:26) (No Huddle, Shotgun) 12-T.Brady sacked at NE 46 for -4 yards (97-R.Hayward). FUMBLES (97-R.Hayward), and recovers at NE 46. 12-T.Brady to NE 46 for no gain (97-R.Hayward).
2-9-JAC 20 (8:03) (Shotgun) 12-T.Brady pass to 84-B.Watson to JAC 12 for 8 yards (54-M.Peterson). FUMBLES (54-M.Peterson), recovered by NE-18-A.Davis at JAC 3. 18-A.Davis to JAC 3 for no gain (27-R.Mathis). P13
1-10-NE 44 (9:04) (Shotgun) 34-A.Pearman left end to NE 40 for 4 yards (26-E.Wilson). FUMBLES (26-E.Wilson), RECOVERED by NE-93-R.Seymour at NE 40. 93-R.Seymour to NE 40 for no gain (74-M.Williams).
1-10-JAC 30 (1:41) 7-B.Leftwich FUMBLES (Aborted) at JAC 30, recovered by JAC-28-F.Taylor at JAC 22. 28-F.Taylor to JAC 22 for no gain (52-M.Beisel).

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Is there any way we can listen to a simulcast of The Outsiders' discussions in real time. This stuff is orders of magnitude better than the drivel spouted by the talking heads. Sure, the league wouldn't sanction it, but maybe we could set up a pirate satellite broadcast out of the Caymans or something.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Due to the Patriots' scheduling getting easier at the same point they were getting healthier, we'll never know how much their defense really improved. However, I'll courageously, if not recklessly, submit that if they played their second-half schedule first, they would have probably been 4-4 at the halfway point, and their first half schedule second, 6-2 over the last 8. They would have split with Buffalo and gotten swept by Miami had they played them earlier. On the other hand, they would've beaten San Diego and Denver had they played them late in the season.

Just my opinion, but I think the weakness of the second half schedule is over-rated.

That being said, I still expect Denver to win. Everything.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend


I guess we are just going to have to agree to disagree.

I agree that NE hasn't faced an offensive juggernaut during their run and your skepticism is warranted. However, they have been dominating teams lately beyond what mediocre defense could do. As I have said before, just because the resurgence correlates with poor offensive opposition doesn't mean that those opponents caused the improvement. Oh, and I seem to recall that Jacksonville was the 11th rated offensive team.

Two other things:

1) I think people discredit the defensive performance against KC. They are the only team to hold LJ below 4.9 ypc (3.8) and remember, Brady was terrible in that game. The only reason they were able to run for 100 yards was because the offense just kept getting the ball back.

2) Didn't anyone get my joke about the shot Mankins gave Ekuban in the jewels? I thought that would get a better response.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Last year, I heard 2 weeks in a row, the patriots secondary wont be able to stop the colts, and then the steelers. If I remember correctly, both those games were blowouts.

This year, I heard all week that the pats corners wouldnt be able to cover Jax big recievers. Another blowout.

How can you NOT take this team seriously? Its the same as last year, the defense starting the playoffs is VASTLY better than the one playing in the middle of the season. Last year it was losing all hte corners, this year it was the corners, safties, and linebackers, and defensive ends, but they are ALL back.

Yes, they have benefited from a weak second half schedule, but playing weak teams does not make you a weak team, it just masks the fact that you MAY be weak.

I'm not saying the pats are going to win this game (I think htey will, in a close game) but this is NOT going to be a Denver blowout.

ANd personally, I think if they beat Denver without serious injury issues, they trounce Indy in Indy.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend


The Pats fumbles were:
1 bad snap
1 sack
1 receiver being tackled
1 muffed punt

The Jags fumbles were:
1 bad snap
1 runner being tackled.

The article was correct in saying that recovering 4 of 4 non-bad snap fumbles is "lucky".

The one thing I learned from the game is that QBs are so protected, they are allowed to block in the back and facemask the defense without penalty!

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend


Unless I am crazy, I still only see three fumbles; the aborted snap, Brady's strip sack and Watson's fumble. The other two mentioned are Jacksonville.

Where is the fourth fumble?

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Re #30, whether the shot was
cheap on Palmer or not, it's a totally different play than someone making a tackle and a guy getting hurt. He went low at the knees on a QB, the question is was he pushed and/or could he have avoided it. Also, if you watched that game, the Steelers play beyond the whistle, hitting late, it happened a couple more times on the first drive. That is the way Cowher coaches, and it leads to more injuries. It is therefore not a total stretch to suggest that the Colts are more likely to suffer injuries than against a typical team.

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

The common thread I see in all of the Pat's apologists remarks (and I mean that term in the historical sense, not in a derogitory way) is faith. Faith is believing in things not able to be proven. I am seeing over and over again statements best summarized by dryheat "Due to the Patriots’ scheduling getting easier at the same point they were getting healthier, we’ll never know how much their defense really improved."

This strikes me as less than convincing. It strikes me instead as wishful thinking. If I saw a lot of real evidence that the Pat's were indeed the best run defense in the league, I'd feel better about them facing the league's best running offense. If I saw some compelling stats showing dominance against the pass, I'd feel better about them facing a top 5 passing offense.

As I see it, the Pat's offense and the Bronco's defense are fairly evenly matched. On the other side of the ball, however, the Bronco's offense is so much better on paper than the Pat's defense that Pat's apologists must do some creative accounting to make it seem like less of an obvious mismatch.

Take the names of the teams out of it, and few would give the Pats much of a chance to win the game. I don't see any compelling reason to believe otherwise this week.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend


The Steelers DO have a history of after the whistle late hits. More than one happened in the game. Remember that play 2 plays after carson's injury where the D back basically danced on TJ Whosyourdaddy's face after the play?

The steelers are known for hurting people.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend


Calling the Skins defense 'decimated' is just wishful thinking. They will be missing one player on Defense - Randy Winn - their worst D-lineman who was already splitting time with Demetric Evans. This defense will be stronger than the week 4 meeting when Lavar was hurt, Taylor left the game early with an injury, and Carlos Rogers was not a starter yet.

I acknowledge that Seattle should be favored, but I think it will be a close game, and far from an easy win for Seattle.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I am really getting sick of Polamalu's crap. He's got this "meek & mild" thing going in interviews but he's been hurting the team w/stupid personal foul penalties all season. That PF he got in the first half could've been a game changer. The same w/the lateral; if I was Cowher I'd have tore him a new one after that.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Re 52: I did watch the game, and now that you mention it, there were some late hits on the Steelers part. I had attributed this to mental lapses or over-emotion on the players' part. But if it's the coaching, then I agree that it could potentially lead to injuries for the Colts. And that's just not cool.

As a Steelers fan, I'm reluctant to believe that they play dirty, but I'm not an objective observer. Does the general football watching audience see Pittsburgh as a team that takes cheap shots the many people think the Broncos use dangerous cut blocks?

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

"You know, we learned how to be insufferable bastards from the Yankee fans. They lorded it over us for so long that when we finally get a winning football team, we think that’s how you are supposed to act."

I'm sorry, I couldn't finish the rest of the article because I was deafened by the Hallelujah chorus that went off when I read that. I've been saying for two years that Patriot fans are the Yankee fans of the new millenium.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

#20 - sorry, but I've been watching Foster his entire career, and I'm still underwhelmed. He's great when he can juke around, find an obvious hole and then outrun everyone. But he blows more plays than he makes due to his inability to lower his shoulders and plow for an extra yard or two. Exhibit A - the failed touchdown runs in Week 17 against Atlanta. Foster could've been in the endzone easily if his first instinct weren't to try and outrun his defenders. If memory serves Foster's a free agent after this season. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Carolina let him go.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

As I recall, Richard Seymour and Tedy Bruschi were out that game... so the pass rush might be better this time around. We'll see.

But the #1 crucial factor in that game, I think, is GONE, thankfully- Duane Starks no longer plays for the Patriots. For which I'm very very very grateful.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

RE: Ashley #32 - thanks for explaining that play. Something seemed odd about it but I couldn't figure it out.

RE: Matt #1 - I'm as bitter as the next 'skins fan about the infamous blown Alstott call fron the regular season game. But:

a) It would not have given us a bye - Chicago beats Minnesota in the last week if they needed to. All it did was make us travel to Tampa in stead of hosting Tampa or Dallas.

b) What goes around comes around. Of the four most marginal major calls in the game - Marcus Washington down by contact, Sheppards questionable control of the ball, Arrington's possible fumble, and Taylor's ejection - three went our way. Personally, I think Macus WAS down by contact, but it should have been a double ejection/offseting penalties at worst in the Taylor case. We'll call it a season split on bad calls.

RE: dk #2,

If you look at the breakdown of the defenses by receiver type and versus the run/pass, it's clear that Tampa has a defense that matches up very well versus the Redskin's strengths (running, #1 WR, and TE). Seattle, on the other hand, is strong against the run but very weak against #1 WR and TEs.

With the 'skins D as banged up as it is, it would be a miracle if they hold Seattle under 20 at home. If the Redskins win, I expect the stars of the game will be Moss and Cooley.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I wouldn't call it wishful thinking, I call it not enough evidence to make a logical conclusion.

Look, I wish that the Patriots shut down Shaun Alexander, Larry Johnson, LaDanian Tomlinson, Tiki Barber, Jim Brown, OJ Simpson, and Barry Sanders over the second half of the year. I really do. Unfortunately, they had to shut down Willis McGahee, Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams, Curtis Martin, and Cedric Houston.

I wish they beat Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Matt Hasselbeck, Trent Green, Dan Marino, Dan Fouts, and Joe Namath. They didn't. But you seem intent on proving that because they didn't, they're a bad defense as of late.

All I'm saying is we don't know what the correlation is between the Patriots defense and the Patriots' schedule, and we won't until Saturday night.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend


I am willing to grant you that the pass D can still be disputed, but the run D has done just what you want.

After the 8th game of the season the Pats were ranked 27th in ypg. 7 games later they were ranked 4th.

Now, you could say that they were just facing crap rushing O's in that time and their ranking was bound to even out, but that isn't the case. The teams faced in this time were Miami, NO, KC, NYJ, Buf, TB and NYJ. Here are their ypc against the Pats vs. their season averages.

3.1/4.3, 4.1/4.0, 3.8/4.6, 2.6/3.5, 2.8/3.8, 1.7/4.0 and 4.0/3.5

YPC vs. the Pats - 3.16
YPC averages - 3.96

I will freely admit that the Pats offense getting out to a decent lead has helped keep the ypg down, but then you have to admit that the ypc are artificially increased in these scenerios. For instance, the NO, Buffalo, Buc and second Jet games all had much lower ypc through 2 and 3 quarters, but came up somewhat when a backup RB ran off a 9 yard run against the prevent D.

By any measure the Pats run D has become one of the best in the league.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Oswlek: The fourth fumble was the muffed punt, by Dwight.

While the Pats were lucky the Jags didn't recover any of their fumbles, I think the expectation for the given fumbling situations would be that the Jags would likely recover ~1 of the fumbles the Pats made. Fumbling the ball after a bad snap or muffing a punt is nothing compared to fumbling the ball while running through the middle of the defense. So, I'd say that it wasn't a game changing stroke of "luck", given the way the game was going.

One could say that the Jags had missed plays, well, the Patriots did too, namely Branch's big drop that should have been a given TD. So, yeah, if the Jags made a couple more plays, and the Pats mucked up a couple more big ones, the outcome of the game would have been a lot closer, score wise, if not altogether different. Isn't that the case with most teams, though?

The Pats defense has definitely improved. Their secondary is weaker than it was this time last year, but the front 7 is doing a fine job. The Pats managed okay without Bruschi, if he returns at 90%+ for the Broncos, the run defense will be inimitable. But, the Broncos have always given them problems, and for good reason.

While I agree that DVOA isn't showing the whole story for the Pats, they are, at this point in time, the inferior team, and it's going to take a lot of them to pull this win out of their hat. That isn't to say that they can't do it, but I'll say that getting to the divisional round and losing would make for a pretty decent season considering the circumstances; there's always next year.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Re: #54

Remember that play 2 plays after carson’s injury where the D back basically danced on TJ Whosyourdaddy’s face after the play?

Perhaps the Steelers’ secondary were motivated by this and this.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I understand if Bengals fans are disappointed at the way the season turned out, but their defense gave up 31 points. Be reasonable.

if you watched that game, the Steelers play beyond the whistle,

It's very easy to praise one's own team for "intimidating, physical football" and then criticize the other team for "trying to hurt people" when it's the same good effort on each side.

And I don't think Odell Thurman's hit on Roethlisberger was dirty earlier this year. Ben was upset about his first serious injury, but he shouldn't have made accusations which are coming back at his team now. I hope he learned.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Oswlek, that's a good analysis. I still contend they will struggle, but at least you've shown some improvement vs. the run of late.

I still look at their pass DVOA and see some areas of concern. Although I haven't followed them closely, it is possible their good rushing defense has come at the expense of a poor passing defense (creeping the safeties up, etc.) and if that is the case, it will be difficult to do that against the Broncos. But since I do not know for sure, I would be speculating.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend


I can't speak for all Pats fans, but I don't view at as "wishful thinking" because I think that the Pats probably lose on the road at Denver.

However, I would also say, again, that analyzing this year statistically is very difficult. Here's what we know:

a) Belichick teams ALWAYS start the season vanilla and improve defensively over the course of the season. That is a key tenant of the Belichick coaching "system". We've seen in 2001. We've seen it in 2002. In 2003. In 2004. And again in 2005. This team is built to play its best football in January.

b) Even looking at it in pre-season, this year's schedule was going to be difficult in the early going. The Pats had some turnover on defense, so there would be a learning curve. Plus, the front half of the schedule was front-loaded against the best offenses in the NFL. Before the first game was played, I expected the Pats to probably be at 5-3 or 4-4 at the midway point and then close strong down the stretch.

c) The tough part of the schedule was made impossibly difficult by injuries. 6 of the 10 opening day DBs went on injured reserve and the Pats were forced to sign DBs off the street on Wed. and start them on Sunday, week after week. At the same time, both Bruschi and Seymour were out -- the core up the middle of the defense which was compounded by the loss of Rodney Harrison (and Harrison's replacement, and his replacement's replacement). To make matters worse, all three opening day running backs were injured at the same time, again forcing the Pats to sign and start street free agents. Now, take two of the opening day O-linemen and put them on injured reserve. This killed the running game and made it impossible to even compensate for the gutted defense by killing the clock on offense. IMO, any other team in the NFL would have posted a 6-10 record.

d) There is absolutely no question that the Pats have improved radically in the last eight weeks. To be sure, some of that was a consequence of weaker opponents. But, those of us who watch the team, week in and week out can see it on the field. They are playing, by far, their best football of the season. I would say that, right now, the Pats have the best defensive front seven in football (three #1 draft choices on the d-line and four proven championship caliber LBs in McGinnest, Vrabel, Bruschi, and Colvin.) The secondary has been holding its own and making plays...or at least keeping the plays in front of them (which they weren't able to do earlier in the season).

It's not "magic beans" or anything else. Frankly, I think for the Pats to get to the big dance this year would be a miracle almost as impressive as winning the SuperBowl with their 2001 team -- in large part because I think winning without the bye is nearly impossible. But, I don't think it's inconceivable.

Take the best defensive front 7 in football, a very potent passing game with a 3 time Superbowl winning QB in his prime, a coaching staff thatis average or better can at least partially hold its own against the better coaches in the league, and a team that is playing its best football of the season at the right time. Not a bad foundation for a "disrespected" Cinderella team trying to make a run in the tournament.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

#67: The Steelers scored 31 on the Bengals the previous game too, and that one didn't turn out too well for them.

Also, extrapolating out Palmer's statline to a full game of 30 attempts, he would have passed for nearly 2000 yards! How could the Bengals lose? Though, he'd also have 0 TDs somehow.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I honestly really liked the Pats until the whole “no respect� thing started.

So you liked them until Week 2, 2001?

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I just checked the records for the last 15 years of divisional playoff results. In the AFC the home team won 73% of the games (22 out of 30); in the NFC an astounding 90% (27 of 30). In the past 5 years it's 8 out of 10 for both conferences. This certainly suggests that the HFA with an extra week off is worth much more in the second round and that it is likely that all the home teams will win -- and a virtual lock that 2 or 3 will win. Interestingly in the league championship round HFA is worth very little: in the AFC the home team has won 2/5 in the past 5 years and 5/10 in the last 10; in the NFC 3/5 and 6/10.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend


The improved run D has actually come at the expense of using less men in the box, not more. Seriously.

During the run the Pats have had it is nearly all on the front 7. Obviously this doesn't mean that safeties and CBs don't have run responsibilities or that they haven't made tackles, just that they aren't "creeping into the box."

Again, I'm sure that the Broncos will have some success passing the ball. The Pats' pass D still leaves some to be desired. If the Pats can't muster a decent pass rush than I don't like their chances.

But the run D is for real and the pass D has improved. Whether it is enough will be determined soon enough.

(Sorry to mention this again, but am I the only person on this board that found the testicle punch Mankins gave to Ekuban funny? I have brought it up twice with nary a response, and I thought that was the type of thing that people here would enjoy.)

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Quick analysis of Redskins offense against TB. This is based on a cursory charting of the play by play, minus kneeldowns.

1st and 2nd down they rushed 23 times against only 9 passes, for about 3 yards per carry. Going against the #1 or #2 rushing DVOA defense with essentially no deception, 3 ypc is actually pretty decent.

3rd down passing. There were 11 3rd downs that they tried to pick up passing that averaged 8 yards to go for the first (note: no 3rd and shorts). They went 4/9 with a pick and a sack, and each completion gained just enough for the first and little more. Against a mediocre pass defense (by DVOA) this is not great, but not shameful. So far not too bad.

The problem is the 9 1st and 2nd down passing plays. Given the nature of the lopsided playcalling and TB's weakness against the pass, they needed success on these plays and didn't get it, only 3 for 8 for like 6 yards and a sack.

All in all, looking at the performance this way it's not nearly as pathetic as it seems otherwise. Tampa Bay's high completion percentage short passing game kept the skins off the field for long periods of time. And the playcalling only allowed for a small window of opportunity, and thus a small margin for error. That is a questionable strategy, and given the small margin they did fail. But I expect that under different conditions, no 14 free points, and facing a better offense and a worse defense, the playcalling will change.

In other words, I think this game was somewhat unique, and I don't think there is necessarily much correlation between how they played in this game and how they'll play at Seattle. Though Seattle is still the favorite.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Being very successfull over the last couple of years and, more recently, over the last 6 or 7 weeks isn't indicative of future results. Anyone who thinks otherwise believes in me.

I like the Pats to win this game, with my help.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Re #18: To me, the way the Patriots win this game, assuming turnovers are equal, is for Wilfork to make Nalen his little b!tch, like he did to Hartings in last year’s AFCC. That’s the matchup to watch.

That's not the best of assumptions. Denver has lost the turnover battle just ONCE all season, and was even in turnovers 4 other times. That means 11 out of 16 games, the turnovers were uneven in Denver's favor.

Re #29: I think you guys are selling the Patriots short.

How's this for selling the Pats short: The difference between Denver's DVOA and NE's DVOA is the same as the difference between NE's and New Orlean's. The difference between Denver's WEIGHTED DVOA and NE's WEIGHTED DVOA is the same as the difference between NE's and Houston's. The difference between Denver's Estimated Wins and NE's Estimated Wins is the same as the difference between NE's and Buffalo's. In addition, both teams have reasonably low variances (both among the 10 lowest in the NFL), which favors the better team. Finally, Denver has HFA and the bye.

Re #40: This will be a far tougher game for Denver than DVOA numbers indicate.

I sure hope so. I hope it's a NE at home vs. Tenn-sized mismatch, rather than a NE at home vs. Houston-sized mismatch, like DVOA says it is.

As a Steelers fan, I’m reluctant to believe that they play dirty, but I’m not an objective observer. Does the general football watching audience see Pittsburgh as a team that takes cheap shots the many people think the Broncos use dangerous cut blocks?

Alright, I have to address this. There is not one single offense in the entire NFL that does not cut block. Not ONE. Denver does it more than most, yes, but players saying "Oh, they're dirty because they do it more than we do" is like saying "It's not dirty when we do it, because we do it less than 20% of the time. It's not dirty until you're doing it 40% of the time, prior to that it's just good football. On another note, it's not dirty when we hit players late or lead with the helmet, either, because Pittsburgh does it more than we do."

Also, interesting note... only 4 teams have made the playoffs 4 or more times in the past 6 years in the AFC. All four of them are still alive. Say what you want, but as far as this millenium is concerned, Denver, NE, Indy, and Pitt have been the class of the conference, and I think it's fitting that they're our four remaining representatives.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

This jag about the Steelers being dirty is really a case of something bad happening and people overreacting to it. If vonOlehoffen makes the same play and Palmer doesn't get injured, no one says boo about it. If I recall correctly, one late hit was called yesterday and it was on the Bengals. I'm looking for a parsimonious source of penalty data, but have yet to find it. My hypothesis is that the Steelers are penalized no more frequently (Late Hits/Defensive Snaps) than the average team.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Kibbles, that is a good response. I totally agree that while there may be some areas to find optimism for NE, the raw numbers tell a pretty bleak story for them. Those who predict a win for NE really have to focus on a very limited amount of data and ignore quite a big chuck of it.

Of course, NE has won big when facing a better team before (2001 Superbowl), but my money isn't on them this weekend.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I don't think the play was deliberate, but I think Pittsburgh's critics are recalling the late, low blow (Flowers, maybe?) that knocked Brady out early in the 2001 AFCC. Unfortunate Co-incidence.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

#60-I can't disagree with the not lowering his shoulders and getting in for the TD against the Falcons but he is not a typical power between the tackles running back: never has been and never will be. I believe that is what Eric Shelton was drafted for at the beginning of the season. My point was/is that Foster plays better in big games. Case in point: the 2003 post season and the lst two games of this season.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Sean Salisbury just said on ESPN that the Bucs-Redskins game was one of the greatest officiated games he's ever seen.

No joke.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Matching statistics with observations about the health of the Patriots, the trend shows that the Patriots team is peaking, and is peakign at a high level. Althought the FO office noted"The winning streak has been attributed to a number of personnel changes, but all of these changes were in place when the Patriots were slaughtered by Kansas City six weeks ago. Defensive end Richard Seymour and linebacker Tedy Bruschi were back from injury and Ellis Hobbs and Artell Hawkins had moved into the starting secondary" what they haven't noted is that it takes soem time to get into game shape and some time to build communication (especially in a complicated defense). The last 5 games of the season have been the best by the pats all year (DVOA at ~40, 75, 100, 20 (the Jets game when they destroyed them in the first half then went into prevent, and so I'd love to see the first half DVOA #'s, and the -30 with the backups at Miami.) The DVOA average in these games seems more representative of the team than when Beisel and Brown were the starting ILBs, Freeman was the SS, and Duane Starks a starting CB (Not too mention Heath Evans and Amos Zeroue at RB. Amos, by the way, played a lot in the Denver game).

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Regarding the Patriots, if you beleive that the last four games are an accurate measurement of where a team is, and if you ignore week 17 when they rested most of thier starters, the last four games have DVOA of 40,70,100 and 15%, and this does account for the easy schedule. Of course, it also rather convienently ignores the KC game. However, if we look at the last half of the season, we get a DVOA of something around 20%, which is still below Denver's full season DVOA/WDVOA, but at least indicates a closer game. It will be interesting to see what the trendlines for Denver look like.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

It has been said Again and Again that DVOA can not deal with injuries to key positions, or key players. There is no way to take this into account. The patriots had injuries to Teddi Bruschi, Richard Seymour, Willie McGinnest, Rodney Harrison, etc this year. DVOA has no way to compensate for the fact that all of those players, bar Harrison, are back and playing healthy. Harrison's replacement is getting better too.

This is not the +12.9% defence that DVOA thinks it is. If you think that defence that held the #11 ranked offence (jax) to 3 points is the #27 defence in the league, you're being just plain silly.

I think the Defense is back to the level of last year at this point, maybe even a little better. They were -9.1% last year, and even that was worse than they really were, because of all the games in the middle before the secondary gelled. DVOA is slow in changing, and because of this, radical changes in teams (because of injuries, or players coming bakc from injuries,) are often not seen in DVOA ratings for 6 or 7 games.

Just to throw up something interesting, if you use the -9.1% def DVOA the pats had last year, this will be a close game.

Denver 25.4 off, -11.3 def, -.1 ST
NE 05 15.2 off, 12.9(27)def, 2.0 ST
NE/oldD 15.2 off, -9.1 def, 2.0 ST.

If the D is as good as last year, you're looking at a 36% team against a 26% Team, and that should be a good game.

I'm not saying the pats win, I'm just saying that DVOA from this year can not hope to cover this because of all the injury issues that are no longer issues.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend


I appreciate your response. Judging by how many posts you responded to, I have to assume that you have read all the rationale that Pats fans (including myself) have laid out as to why DVOA may not be the best measure in this case.

I can understand fans of other teams not necessarily agreeing with it, but your post completely ignores all that was written before you.

I am interested in your take on some of the issues brought up in earlier posts. I have to assume that we all know how much of a mismatch this game looks like according to DVOA (and all the derivatives), but I feel a logical case has been made for the other side.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

For those of you who say that the Patriots can't be judged because of injuries to key players - well, you certainly can't use that logic to say that they shut down the Jaguars considering that their QB was playing injured, can you? It goes both ways.

For those who are saying that the Patriots defense was much more improved since getting starters back - that should mean that against KC, their performance should be indicative since their starters were back for that game. Unfortunately, I don't know the specific DVOA performances for that one game, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that giving up 26 points is not a good sign of a good D. Johnson ran for 116 in that game on close to a 4 ypc average. Green was 19/26 for 320 yards.

And again, this is with their defensive starters all back and healthy and fine.

I realize that it's one data point, but at the same time it's probably the most relevant data point.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

kal, yes, they gave up 26 points, but the Offence gave up 5 turnovers if I remember. I wanna say they held them to 2 TDs, and 4 field goals, which if I remember correctly, KC started with the ball inside the 50 five or 6 times. The Defense DID play well that game, Tom brady just had his Once-A-Year-Tom-Brady-Meltdown.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Speaking of KC, Denver also lost to them in December. In that game, Larry Johnson had 30 carries for 140 yards, over 4.5 YPC. Denver's offense had a better game though, Plummer only had two Ints.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

For those of you who say that the Patriots can’t be judged because of injuries to key players - well, you certainly can’t use that logic to say that they shut down the Jaguars considering that their QB was playing injured, can you? It goes both ways.

Indeed Kal, it does. Were there to be a re-match vs. Jacksonville, and their fans pointed out that it would be a closer game because Leftwich was healthy, and Peterson and Spicer didn't have casts on their hands, I would acknowledge their point.

But that's coaching too. If Leftwich wasn't healthy enough to play, he shouldn't be on the field. If two defenders playing with one hand hurt the team (and it most definitely did), they shouldn't have been out there.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend


You make valid points that cannot be denied. If the Pats do have a good defensive performance against Denver it will be the first one all season that won't have some sort of asterisk next to it.

Regarding KC, it is important to know that Brady was awful in that game. When he wasn't giving the ball outright to KC, his overthrows were leading to punts. The Pats D must have been on the field for more than 22 minutes of the first half. (This is an estimate. I'm too lazy to check it now) Also, apparently the Pats received a tongue lashing in the locker room at half time. After the half KC only had one scoring drive, a 60+ yard TD pass to Hall. Could this be used as evidence that the secondary can be burnt by a good QB, sure. I don't think anyone (besides Denver fans :) ) would be happy with a repeat of that performance.

BTW, the 3.8ypc allowed by the Pats in that game was far and away the lowest KC got with LJ as the starter. No other team allowed them to rush for less than 4.7ypc.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

RE 55

Look OK let me back track a bit, they may not be "descimated", but they have had gaps and lack of play all season long. All I am saying is that I feel that Seattle will have the upper hand on this one. Final score: Seattle 35 Redskins 28.

For all of you patirot Haters out there....

Listen up and listen Good I am only going to say this once....


95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

The Pats apologists have a point, inasmutch as if you throw out enough "ifs" then they look pretty good, or at least you can't prove they look bad. It may be that they are correct that 1) the Pats have the best front 7 in the league, 2) Their defense is better than last years (#6 in DVOA in '04), 3) their rushing attack is as good as last years now that Dillon is back to full speed (#4 in DVOA in '04), 4) you can throw out the KC game because the defense hadn't "come together" yet, and so on. I don't buy it, mainly because that's just too many ifs for my blood.

My point is that what you have is a defense which shut down bad offenses and gave up points against good ones, with Jacksonville being the only good offense they shut down. The fact that all their games against bad teams came at the end of the year gives apologists something to hang their hats on.

Lookit, I grew up a fan of the Alabama football team. I remember well the decades of dominance we enjoyed. An unfortunate side effect was a complete inability of any true Bama man to recognize when our team has serious problems, shown most recently when we seriously entertained National Champioship thoughts despite an offense which couldn't score two touchdowns against an empty field.

Given that the shelf life or a successful NFL team is much shorter than a college team, I belive that we are simply seeing denial on the parts of otherwise rational men and women when it comes to the Pats in '05. Any honest analysis of the '05 team will lead to the conclusion that while some parts of the puzzle are still there, espicially a deadly accurrate Brady, others simply aren't. A poorus passing defense, a suspect record against teams with winning records, an injury-pleagued secondary, an aging running back all are very real problems which no one, not even Belichick, can fix before facing Denver at Denver.

I contend that if NE wins this weekend and continues on to run the table as is being predicted, it will trump 2001 as the greatest postseason acheivement in the history of the game. Which means it probably won't happen.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Isn't this whole "New England is healthy and peaking and Denver is flatlining, so total DVOA is worthless in projecting this game" argument exactly the reason weighted DVOA was introduced in the first place?

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

dryheat, that doesn't matter for analysis purposes. What I take objection to is saying that you can't use the numbers from the Pats games earlier in the season because injuries were so bad, yet people say something like 'the Pats held the #11 passing offense to 3 points'. Either you can use the rankings throughout the year regardless of injuries, or you can't. Simple as that.

Rich Conley, the KC scoring drives were as follows:
13:55 1 04:48 KAN 34 10 59 TD
05:00 1 08:57 KAN 25 14 68 Field Goal
12:53 2 02:08 KAN 25 5 23 Field Goal
06:44 2 04:52 KAN 19 9 66 Field Goal
00:51 2 00:44 KAN 14 7 57 Field Goal
11:20 3 00:44 KAN 32 3 68 TD

The shortest drive was from the KC 34. The Pats turned it over 4 times - but each turnover was fairly deep in KC territory. It is absolutely wrong to say that KC started inside the Pats territory at any time in the game. While Brady did have a meltdown and I'm sure that contributed to who won the game, it didn't contribute much at all to giving KC good field position.

I don't see how you can say the D played well that game; the best you can say is that they did well to hold KC to 26 points and stopped them okay in the red zone. But giving up that much yardage and that many points is not playing well.

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I would just like to point something about all the comments here about the Patriots and whether or not they are better now than they were earlier in the year.

Denver finished number one in weighted DVOA and went 13-3. No matter how much better the Patriots are now compared to earlier in the year, Denver finished number one in weighted DVOA and went 13-3. No matter how many times the Patriots have won in past years, Denver finished number one in weighted DVOA and went 13-3.

It isn't enough to be better than they were before. It isn't enough to be good enough to throttle Jacksonville. They have to be good enough to beat Denver, and Denver has not been this good since 1998.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Well Pawnking, both parties have made their case and IMHO both are reasonable. It's too bad that we have to wait until Saturday to get our answer.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Question for Tampa Bay Fans...

Were you guys happy with the play calling, specifically the passing game. I don't think Gruden took enough shots downfield, especially since Taylor was gone. Looking at the way the 2nd to last drive ended... perhaps the Redskins were vulnerable deep. But I think you have to take a shot sooner... I was having flashbacks of Simms-Galloway hooking up for like 80 yards ealier in the year... and at least 50 yards.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Pawnking, If you want to use the argument that the Pats only beat crappy teams, then lets look at the Colts.

Theyre 10-0 against teams that stink so you have to throw those out.

Theyre 4-2 against teams that dont stink, but you obviously think the jags stink, so that makes them 2-2 against teams that dont stink.

Sounds like the colts should be 1 and out.

You can only beat good teams if the NFL has you play good teams. Weakness of schedule does not ensure weakness. All it says is you can't conclusively tell how good the team is.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

But Rich Conley, if you're going to do that, you should look at the Steelers - who have a much worse record against good teams than the Colts do.

Heck, based on that analysis you'd have to pick Denver all the way; I think they're the only team that ends up with a positive winning record.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Aaron, I dont think anyones arguing that the pats are the favorite here. I think people are arguing that this game IS NOT going to be the 45 point blowout that DVOA says it will be.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I agree with Rich. Aarron, I have not seen a single "magic bean" Pats fan make any guarantees about a win against Denver. In fact, I have explicitly stated that winning on the road against the Broncos is a very very tall challenge. I do think that trying to use DVOA or any statistical measure to demonstrate that the Pats have no better chance of winning than the Houston Texans is is a mistake.

Would I be suprised if the Broncos spank the Patriots on Sunday? No. Denver may be the best team in the AFC and they are playing at home. Would I be surprised if the Pats beat the Broncos? No. Not really. They've beat "better" teams before.

You can't throw observation of how a team is playing out the window. Take the Jacksonville game where all the statistical measures pointed to a Jags win, yet it was pretty easy to predict that the Jags had little or no chance.

I disagree entirely that a Pats run through the tournament this year would be a bigger upset than 2001. Even Belichick was shocked that he won the SuperBowl that year with THAT team. That team gave up massive yardage on defense all year and basically had no offense. They won with smoke, mirrors, turnovers, and miracle finishes all year.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Aaron makes a good point. Regardless, being a subjective homer, I'll pick the pats. They're a good team that has a fantastic history of success, and it wouldn't be very surprising for anyone if they won at Denver. That's good enough for me to predict a win for the team I'm rooting for. Not good enough for Aaron, for solid reasons, given his goal of objective analysis.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

You might consider not putting words in Aaron's mouth, Rich & hwc. I don't think Aaron was arguing that one way or another, and no where does Aaron state that the Pats should lose in a landslide.

The stat measures pointed to a Pats win. At least Aaron's analysis did so, and did so very convincingly. Go read it again if you like.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend


If the Pats win the Superbowl I don't think it would be the "greatest postseason achievement in the history of the game." It would simply mean that your analysis was wrong and that DVOA missed something important. If the Pats lose to Denver I think most intelligent Pats fans will admit their analysis was seriously flawed.

All the points about the weaknesses in the Pats D have merit. I wish the Jets back office would read these comments, maybe they would leave Mangini alone.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

If Brady's on his game, the Pats win. There, I did it! This thread has been screaming out for some of that old-fashion, obnoxious, Yankee arrogance that we Pats fans are supposedly so famous for. But what do we have here, Oswlek and Rich and the maddeningly reasonable hwc? All this equivocating (the Broncos might win???), and all this effort put in to explaining what you've seen with your own eyes over the past 7 weeks to knaves and fools. Let them grasp at their shreds of statistical evidence, like Fred C. Dobbs chasing windblown gold dust over the Sierra Madre. Screw 'em. Pats Rule! Broncos Suck! That's how we treat them. (Just remember I said IF Brady's on his game.)

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Kal, the stats pointed to a JAX win. It was Aaron's tempering of the stats with common sense that pointed to a Pats win.

All I'm saying is to temper that stats with some common sense. There is not the difference in talent/execution that DVOA leads to believe.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Pittsburgh poor coaching.

I will start by saying I am a Pats fan and I am hoping that Pittsburgh beats the Colts next week.

Now here is my question for the group: Does anyone else think Pittsburgh should have saved that Randel El - Big Ben throwback pass until next week?

Yes they were only up by 4 points at the time, but they were in complete control of the game. They also ran a weird Randel El pass play on a 3rd and goal which ended in the final field goal.

In closing, I know teams like to show a trick play so future teams have to prepare for it, but I felt that there was no need to use that throwback against Cincy. Save it for Indy. It seems like a play that will work once every other year, so why waste it when you don't need it?

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Rich Conley, then why complain or ask Aaron to do something that he's already shown that he's capable of doing? If he's able to ignore the stats in favor of some common sense, then why wouldn't he do that here too?

It just seems like a strawman argument, and one that you'll revisit when Aaron rightly predicts that the Broncos beat the Pats.

When I did an analysis using the DVOA, it came out fairly even; the Pats had a bad defense passing DVOA but had an amazing passing offense DVOA, and that combined with giving the pats the HFA bonus made them come out on top. Which is pretty similar to what Aaron said. So why ask Aaron for anything more than what he's already done?

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Regarding the Pats/KC game, why split hairs over how healthy the Pats D was, whether or not they had jelled, etc. Just look at it as a very good KC team scoring 26 points while being held well short of its typical rushing efficiency. If someone could guarantee me that Denver puts up 26 on Saturday I'll take my chances with the Pats. Because Brady is not throwing 4 picks again and Heath Evans will not be the starting tailback.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Re: 111
According to Jim Nantz and/or Phil Simms, the Steelers have trick plays from the Slash era that they have yet to use, so I don't think they wasted this one. If they want to do something tricky next week, they will.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

"Denver finished number one in weighted DVOA and went 13-3. No matter how much better the Patriots are now compared to earlier in the year, Denver finished number one in weighted DVOA and went 13-3. No matter how many times the Patriots have won in past years, Denver finished number one in weighted DVOA and went 13-3."

What's the Pats weighted DVOA in the last 5 games (or six with the jax game)? The point being argued is that DVOA is a useful tool within the context of other contextual information. If the defense has come together for these past 6 games (for the reasons stated before), can we argue that this abridged rating for the Patriots is more applicable to how they will perform on Saturday? If you average 40, 70, 100, 20, -30 that's 200/5 or 40. Is the Patriots DVOA 40%. (Or 230/4=57 without Miami). They may not have been the most consistent this year, but their DVOA chart is peaking, and might it not just continue to peak?

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

MDS re:Brady, respect....I’m sorry, but it is hard for me to respect someone who can say with a straight face that he doesn’t get any respect a couple of weeks after he was named Sportsman of the Year.

Very disappointed to see you fall into the same trap that others did, MDS. Absolutely nowhere in his comments of last week did he believe that anyone was disrespecting himself personally, which your comment implies because it mentions his Sportsman of the Year honor. His comments about respect were about what people had been saying about the team, and yes, he's part of the team, but it was in the team context that he made his remarks. As you may be aware of, Brady doesn't do a lot of talking about himself at the podium because its' all about the Pats as a group. You and others rather sloppily took his comments to somehow mean that he himself felt disrespected apart from the team. You oughta know by now that's not the way he operates. I expected - and found - plenty of yahoo idiot journalists falling into that trap, but disappointed to see someone from FO perpetuate something that simply didn't happen. Let me help you out by reprinting the transcript of the remarks:

Q: What would winning the MVP of the league mean to you? That is probably the farthest thing from your mind.

TB: You're right. That's the farthest thing from my mind.

Q: When teams say they have been disrespected, can that serve as real fuel for a team?

TB: I think we've been probably disrespected more than any team in the league this year. I think we've been giving up on by a lot of media people, a lot of fans-our own fans, other people around the league and if there's one team that feels like they're disrespected it's us. I don't disrespect Jacksonville. How can you disrespect a team that's 12-4? If we were 12-4, it would be different. I think people gave up on us a long time ago.

There's been quite enough comment about Brady's comments, which anyone can feel free to agree or disagree with. But let's at least get it right about what he said and in what context.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Here's my simple request, if you want to base your conclusions on a sample of data that fits your priors, be my guest, but please, please, please don't cloak it in DVOA which tries to be objective. Use some other system...I don't know, maybe some kind of swaggometer...or a heart guage...just don't try and use a statistical method to account for non-observable variables.

Magic beans it is then!

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

whoops, please feel free to delete "the scream", didn't realize it wouldn't wrap and widen the screen. Catharsis=Danger

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Re #101 and #102: New England is 3-6 against teams with winning records. Pitt was 3-5, iirc. Indy was 5-2 (although one loss was against Seattle when they weren't really trying), and Denver was 7-3. KC, interestingly enough, was 6-4. For all of the Chargers hype, I think that KC is quite possibly the best team to miss the playoffs since Denver went 11-5 and sat at home in 1985.

Re #104: I've seen PLENTY of people assert that New England was a much better team than Denver. There's another board I frequent that put the question to a poll. Of the 205 people who voted, 103 thought that New England was going to win, despite Denver's HFA and bye.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

RE 119

that is because alot of us use common sense and praticality when we say someone is going to win over someone else.

I had hopes and dreams for my teamsthis year until my team lost its #1 wideout (Javon Walker) and its star Running Back (Ahman Green) to season ending injuries almost back to back. (yes I am a Green Bay Fan) When I say that I feel that the Pats will when in denver is because I am looking at the whole picture not just this year. They have won 3 out of the last super bowls. dating back to thier first superbowl they are 10-0 in the playoffs for the past four years. they have an excellent head coach who can change things up on the fly (remember the first time we all saw Vrabel catch a touchdown pass?). and they have probably the best 6th round draft pick they ever invested in at QB in Brady.

Now with all of that said, if Brady goes and goes a little loopy on us and has a real bad day, then no they will not win. but i think Jake "the Snake" Plummer has alot more to prove about being able to keep his emotions in check. If he feels like the running game is going nowhere then he will try and pass it hard, then Dnever will be in a hard place looking for some help.

I look forward to the match up because you have two of the AFC"s best in Belichick(sp?) and Shanahan out there coaching to win

(GO BRONCO's) thats for you mom

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Okay Kal, how do you not understand that I NEVER said the pats were going to win this game. All I am saying is that this is not going to be th eblow out htat DVOA predicts.

Please stop putting words in my mouth.

Kibbles, Every judgement we make is subjective. DVOA is subjective..why? Because Aaron has to decide what he feels is more indictive of good teams.

DVOA is a tool. It is not going to tell you who is going to win in every case. If you want to use DVOA, I dont think that you can discount that the pats last 6 weeks average out to 40%ish. DVOA takes opponent strenght into consideration, so you can't make the argument that it was against bad teams.

The patriots will probably lose this game, but this is not going to be a 40 point blow out.

Now stop tyring to paint me as someone whose yelling "BRONKOZ SUXOR. PATRIOTS 4-EVA. 60-3 Patriots! Flutie Dropkick YEAH!"

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Don't think I ever said that you said the Pats were going to win the game. Maybe it's the medium, because things are getting confused.

Rich, you did say that the Pats performed well defensively against KC, and that was fairly well refuted. You did ask that Aaron not look at the DVOA as the sole way to determine who was going to win, and I pointed out that he already does that, so asking him to do it seems weird. That's it.

In any case, I don't think that anyone has argued that the Broncos are going to blow out the Pats. I certainly haven't. Defensively the pats are matching up well against the Broncos, enough that I suspect the game will come down to whether or not Plummer can make plays. And I think he can, because for the most part this season he has shown that he could.

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

re 100
as a Dallas fan I was bitterly unhappy with the Bucs playcalling.
I was however totally impressed with the Skins defense. I know the announcers spent half the game talking about how Galloway was going to explode but didn't it seem like the Redskins did not blitz a whole lot?
They certainly have quite the reputation for it but at times they were rushing three.
I kind of thought that with Springs out and the results of the first game Williams and co. would not get smoked downfield to often because they would be playing a lot more zone.
They hardly showed any replays of the Buc's wide recievers downfield but I can only assume they were covered.
Also I don't think Griffin played in the first game and he is so good at getting pressure up the middle.
Williams is a great coach, Rodgers is an underrated corner, I think a lot of people are going to dismiss the skins because they don't have that "big name" defensive player but i totally expect them to do well against Seattle.

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Kal #123,

I totally agree with this post. Like I said before if Plummer plays great than I will just tip my cap to him and the Broncos.

I just have a feeling that he will struggle enough to keep the Pats in it and give them a chance to win.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Re: 116

Very disappointed to see you fall into the same trap that others did, MDS. Absolutely nowhere in his comments of last week did he believe that anyone was disrespecting himself personally, which your comment implies because it mentions his Sportsman of the Year honor. His comments about respect were about what people had been saying about the team, and yes, he’s part of the team, but it was in the team context that he made his remarks.

Personally, I see individual awards given to athletes in team sports as essentially team awards, especially in football (baseball's another story, since team success in baseball is largely determined by an accumulation of individual successes). For example, almost every year the NFL MVP is given to the best offensive player at a glamor position on one of the two or three best teams in the league (Barry Sanders and Lawrence Taylor being the only obvious exceptions in the last 20 years, and LT was certainly the best player in a glamor position on the best team when he won it).

Point being that if Brady's team wasn't the best in football last season, he wouldn't have been Sportsman of the Year. So I think it's fair to characterize Brady's Sportsman of the Year as a measure of respect to the team he plays for, and not just to Brady as an individual.

I think a much more compelling response to the SotY rebuttal would be to argue that the award was given largely for Brady's and the Patriots' achievements last season (and the season before, for that matter) and that it has little to do with how much respect the Patriots are getting this year.

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I'm surprised no one mentioned the apparent touchdown pass to Edell Shepherd ruled an incompletion, and upheld on review. Mike Carey's explanation was incoherent, and inconsistent with other calls I've seen in the past. Shepherd clearly appeared to have possession and both feet down, and lost possession after he hit the ground, yet it was ruled incomplete. Does anyone know the specific NFL rule Carey was attempting to invoke?

I'm curious about the chemistry between Burress and Eli Manning, too. I saw the Giants play four of five times this year, and the body language between the two after incompletions frequently looked like they were disgusted with each other.

I agree with Aaron about the Broncos--they are an incredible looking team right now, and I believe they have as good a chance representing the AFC this year as the Colts. I can't wait to see Saturday's game against the Patriots. Bill Belichick will coach his first AFC road playoff game against someone other than the Steelers. These are two excellent teams, and it should be a real test.

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Re: Disrespect

I think that the problems people are having with Brady's statement are semantics. Everything he says about people giving up on the team mid year is 100% true.

Were they "disrespected?" No. But they were abandoned.

BTW, I have no problem as well with everyone abandoning them. They were playing like crap. I always believed that they would navigate out of the dark days, but even I didn't think they would get back to their current level.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Tim L #127,

When you catch the ball as you are falling, even if you clearly have control of the ball as you get your feet in bounds, if the ball comes out when you hit the ground it is incomplete.

By the letter of the rules, the call was correct.

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

So, am I correct in assuming that the FO staff is rooting for any AFC title game that is anything except Pats-Colts III, so that the FO database server doesn't turn into a puddle of molten slag? :)

(Just imagine what'll happen when The Thread That Must Not Be Named cracks 1000 posts :)

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

My point is that what you have is a defense which shut down bad offenses and gave up points against good ones, with Jacksonville being the only good offense they shut down.

Don't forget Tampa Bay.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Forget Tampa Bay why, #131? It's not like Tampa Bay has a good offense, so shutting down the likes of Chris Simms is not a feat of astoundingness.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Let's be serious. Brady's Sportsman of the Year Award was based on SI's calculation of whose face on the cover would sell the most issues. If Brady looked like Scott Zolak he would not have gotten the award.

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

129: Carey was invoking a special rule for possession in the end zone. I'm asking if anyone has access to the NFL rules and can quote it.

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Re: Tim L (134) / Shepperd Incompletion

I saw this in a game recap of the Bucs vs. Falcons game. In this game the Falcons Roddy White stretched out for an apparent TD, but it was overturned.

Atlanta coach Jim Mora, who made the initial challenge, said after the game that the refs made the right call. "There is a different parameter in the end zone than there is on the field," he said. "You have to, if you hit the ground, come up with the ball and he didn't come up with the ball, so (the officials) got that one right. They did a nice job with that."

From another article:

But in last week’s pivotal game against the Falcons, officials ruled in the Bucs favor yet again. The big call this time erased another apparent touchdown catch, this one by rookie Roddy White. White had stretched out to make the catch and even took a step in the end zone after making it.However, because he hit the ground "on his own" and dropped the ball upon making contact with the ground the play was ruled an incompletion.

I've seen this called numerous times during the year. I consider it some type of corollary to the rule that says if a receiver controls the ball, it can even touch the ground and be a complete pass.

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Tim L is correct that Carey's explanation was incoherent, so it was especially amusing to hear the TV announcers talk about what a great explanation he had given.

I really wish the NFL would put the entire rulebook online.

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Me too. It's like we end up discussing religion, or something, rather than a clear, black and white published rule.

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Re. 114

The announcers said the Bengals had tapes of Steelers trick plays thru the Slash era, not that the Steelers had unused trick plays from back then.

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

#81 - Sorry, I have no interest in a player who can only produce in "big games." Hell, if Foster could've run for 100 yards against Miami, Chicago, Tampa Bay, New Orleans or Dallas the Week 17 Atlanta game wouldn't have BEEN "big" 'cause the Panthers would've already clinched by that time.

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

"Here’s my simple request, if you want to base your conclusions on a sample of data that fits your priors, be my guest, but please, please, please don’t cloak it in DVOA which tries to be objective. "

It is an objective statement to reference the fact that the current Patriots defense is made up of very dfferent players now than during much of the season. It's objective to say that Richard Seymour did not play in X number of games because, in fact, he did not play in a certain number of games this season. Just because something is statstcal does not mean that it is entirely objective. They have to be interpreted and that's a subjective process. That can be supported by other non-DVOA data, like games lost by All_Pro starters.

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend


Have you ever tried to analyze an injured player's impact on DVOA using 0/1 block variables in a regression setting? Set the variable to 0 when the player is out & 1 when the player is playing. You'd obviously have to include other predictors as well, but you could use interaction variables for multiple injuries, etc. It might be an interesting model to try.

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Re: #17-- I think you're VERY wrong there. If the 'Skins put 9 in the box against Seattle, they're going to get torched by play action (timing routes if the corners really CAN cover the 'Hawks WRs man-to-man).

The 'Skins have a shot, I think, only because the Seahawks (and their fans) still don't quite have the confidence necessary to dominate in the playoffs. But they only have this shot if they play a good cover or zone defense, and can stop Shaun with their front 4 through 6.

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Here is the explanation:

The receiver, in the process of making the catch, was going to the ground. Independent of his knee hitting, if the ball comes loose upon contact with the ground, by rule, incomplete.

At the time I knew the call would stand, and Gruden shouldn't have challenged it.

Upon further review, I don't think it was a bad explanation at all...

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I love how skins fans who screamed bloody murder over a two pt conversion call somehow feel things are set right over Saturdays game. What I find intresting was the same offical who got the Betts call right got the Alstott call wrong. As I recall Betts seemed to float over the chalk yet was ruled in bounds and Alstott(according to skins fans)was 6 inches from the endzone. Funny how 7pts vs 2pts does'nt set karma right. Why oh why karma do you giveth 2 yet taketh away 7... wait forgot Saturdays game. Luckly Tampa's next games will be preseason games and karma may finish avenging the 2pt conversion call by then.

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Could someone answer a question for me?

When doing statistical analysis in baseball, we have the ability to determine what a 'replacement level' player would do for position by position. Does DVOA state what a leage average defense would do against other teams based upon their DVOA?

What I mean is... everyone is suggesting that the Patriots great numbers over the past 5 games or so are solely because of the level of competition they played. How do you know this is fact? How did other league average defenses do against those teams (in terms of DVOA)? How did the Patriots performances compare to those?

What would be a reasonable expectation for a performance by a league average defense against those teams? Was the Patriots performance much better, slightly better, on par with, or worse than what could have been expected for an output of a league average team against those particular teams.

I ask this because of all this crap about "The Pats played poor teams and that's why they look so good."

From watching all the games, I'd have to say that what they did against those teams goes FAR beyond what you would expect a league average defense to accomplish, and easily falls in the category of what you'd expect a top notch defense to accomplish.

If you can't answer that question, then I think there may be some 'magic beans' with the 'weak schedule' guys as well.

You have to be able to show that their performance against those teams is what is expected of a mere league average defense and that they really didn't go much far beyond that.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Al, DVOA does take that into account. A league average offence playing a league average defence should yield 0 DVOA. If the offence plays 20% better than average agaisnt that defence, they end up with 20% DVOA.

The pats have had numbers in the 50-100 range for the last bunch of games. It does take opponenet strength into account, and the pats D was much better than average against these offenses.

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

So, I opened the Boston Globe to the sports section, and what did I find? An article by the paper's pathetic beat writer on how the Patriots defense...wait for its swagger back.


149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

RE: 147 (Rich)

"The pats have had numbers in the 50-100 range for the last bunch of games."

I know I'm just nitpicking, but the Patriots have only been above 50% three times this season, and once was in week three. They've actually only played above 20% four times this season. Against the Steelers in week three (approx. 55%), the Jets in week thirteen (approx. 40%), the Bills in week fourteen (approx. 71%), and the Bucs in week fifteen (approx. 101%).

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Thats what I'm referencing though, weeks 13/14/15. Week 16 was the run scrimmage against the Jets, and week 17 was the game against miami where they sat the starters.