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

Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2007.

New Orleans Saints 14 at Chicago Bears 39

Aaron Schatz: Last week, I think I pointed out a defensive player who smartly just jumped on the ball instead of trying to scoop and score, and losing the recovery. On the big fumble by Drew Brees on third-and-4, Ogunleye tried to scoop and score, and missed, and the Saints recovered. Cost the Bears 25 or 30 yards.

Doug Farrar: I think that was Seattle's own Chuck Darby you mentioned. And there's Fred Thomas (!) making a nice bat-away play on the deep (under)throw to Berrian. Gosh!

I'd like to know what happened on the Brees fumble when Jammal Brown blocked inside and let Mark Anderson come through unobstructed.

Mike Tanier: Even high school coaches now tell their fast guys that when the ball is bouncing around and they have a bead on it, they should attempt a scoop and score. Falling on the ball is strictly for linemen or when the ball is fumbled in heavy traffic. I am guessing that coaches at all levels figure the chance of a touchdown or a rundown to near the goal line is pretty good, and the risk that the offense recovers and it's third-and-35 or whatever, makes the scoop a good play.

Bill Moore: Seeing lots of Benson, and not that much Jones. Benson isn't running that well either. Strange.

Michael David Smith: I like the call to go for it on fourth-and-1 and I'm surprised the announcers don't.

Bill Moore: FOX reports that the rules official says there isn't a penalty to falsely calling a timeout. However, I recall there being a penalty for the defense faking a timeout call when you didn't have one on a field goal.

Am I wrong? If not, why wouldn't that apply to an offense?

Aaron Schatz: Wow, did the officials make a bad call on the Michael Lewis fumble. Wow, wow, wow. I thought it was REALLY clear that he was down before he fumbled.

Russell Levine: I disagree. I thought he was starting to lose control before he was down. Even though it wasn't fully out when the knee hit, he did not have control of the ball at that time.

Doug Farrar: Evil Rex dominated the first quarter: 2-for-8 for four yards on a fullback dump-off, and that inexcusable end zone airball to Desmond Clark on first down after the continuation of the red zone drive. Three Saints fumbles in a quarter, of course, will trump Evil Rex on most occasions.

Bill Barnwell: I am convinced that Brian Griese and Kyle Orton are playing beer pong on the sideline.

Grossman blew the blitz recognition when he was nearly sacked in the first quarter -- he pushed Jones inside to block no one and left a wide-open Saints DB coming off the edge.

You know how overwhelmed he is? Watch him coming up to the line as the first quarter ended -- he had no idea the clock was running down to :00. He wasn't rushing or slowing down, he was at his normal cadence.

What's with the brand on Mark Anderson's arm?

Aaron Schatz: I think that's the q-dogs, Omega Psi Phi. In fact, thinking about it, I wouldn't be surprised if that's the symbol shaved into Larry Johnson's head also. It would make more sense than having a Rock-a-fella symbol shaved into your head.

Ned Macey: I think this is a good example of the fact that causing fumbles is a repeatable skill. The Bears are attacking the football. The play by Harris on Colston was an outstanding strip, and they were relentless on Lewis. Adrian Peterson is a great player to have on your team.

Doug Farrar: On the drive that ended with Chicago's third field goal, why go away from Benson near the goal line there when that approach was starting to wear down the defense? It's obvious through the first half that Grossman has no touch on anything short- to mid-range.

Ned Macey: I guess I'm a little surprised the Saints aren't running the ball more. The Bears came out with a lot of eight-man fronts, but they looked to be playing pass more now, and the Saints are still throwing.

Doug Farrar: Running the ball certainly wasn't a problem for the Bears on their first TD drive: eight plays for 69 yards and all of them on the ground. Looks like Lovie had a page from an old Decatur Staleys playbook.

...and the Saints respond to 1920s-era George Halas with a little Air Coryell. That answering TD drive was nothing but pass plays.

More Rex problems at the end of the second half. He was running off the field with time left, and just throwing the ball away with 12 seconds left on the clock. Yelling, hand signals ... anything? A rolled-up newspaper?

Aaron Schatz: The Bears are playing almost exclusively nickel when Reggie Bush is on the field, and yet they are not lining their tackles up wide like they've been doing all season, which means you don't have that space in front of Brees for the easy draw or step-up-in-pocket.

Ned Macey: While I was driving home from a beer run right before the game, the radio color man said that if McAllister and Bush are both in then they will always play nickel. Are they doing it when Deuce is not in the game too?

Michael David Smith: It looks to me like the Bears are just treating Bush as a wide receiver, and that any time the Saints use a personnel package that includes Bush, they're just automatically putting in their nickel package. I can't say for sure, but I don't think Hunter Hillenmeyer and Bush have been on the field at the same time on any play -- Hillenmeyer is the Bears' slowest linebacker, and they probably figure he'll be no use against Bush.

Bill Barnwell: Anyone else see Sean Payton eating a nacho before the second half started? That was awesome.

Aaron Schatz: When Bush scored that amazing TD, Aikman kept saying "this route is called smoke." It was a combo of a slant from the receiver and Bush coming out of the backfield in a wheel. Wait, that's a "smoke"? I thought smoke was the quick hitch where the QB recognizes the CB playing off and throws it fast for a quick gain. Can we decide what to call things and stay with one set of definitions?

It seems clear that the Saints came out in the third quarter and said, "OK, this is ridiculous, our corners aren't very good but there's no way Grossman is going to hit anyone" so they stopped the 2-deep shell and just left the corners one-on-one to bring an eighth guy up to stop the run. Then on the last drive of the third quarter, the Bears said, "OK, well, if you're going to leave guys man, and shade us outside, we're going to stop trying to have our lame quarterback throw long when he constantly leads his guys too much, and instead we'll throw some inside curls and posts that take advantage of how your lame corners are shading us."

Mike Tanier: I think there are two terminologies at work. In the old West Coast offense terminology, slant-and-flat was called Jet Smoke. Then there's also the Smoke play where the QB just fires it to the receiver. I am guessing that the same system doesn't use both calls.

Bill Barnwell: Too late idea: Could the Saints have stuck fake dreads on Fred Thomas so that he blended in with McKenzie? Does anyone really think Rex Grossman would have been able to tell the difference?

Doug Farrar: I can't see how it was a matter of getting Thomas “help�, as Aikman said – it's a matter of getting him the hell off the field. Grossman didn't even burn the Seahawks' street free agent/rookie corner combo that badly. And it's Thomas' good fortune that it took Grossman so long to resemble an actual NFL quarterback. When you're forced to rely on the downside of Rex Grossman...

Of course, the most glaring aspect of Thomas' year was the difference between his pre- and post-injury stop rate, as Aaron pointed out here.

Aaron Schatz: Amazing how a close game can become a blowout so quickly. The Saints just imploded at the end of this thing. IM-PLO-DED. That recent decline by the Bears defense? Yeah, these guys came to PLAY today. Big congratulations to them for a great performance. Like Ned said: fumble recovery is random, but fumble creation is not, and Lovie Smith defenses excel at fumble creation. Create enough fumbles, and you're bound to have a game like this where you recover nearly all of them.

That being said, I don't care that Grossman had that one good drive. He looks horrible. The Colts or Patriots would both destroy him, no matter if their offenses might have trouble with the Bears defense or not. The Super Bowl has to open up with the AFC team as 7-point favorites, minimum.

Good Sean Payton: Nice non-challenge on the Bernard Berrian touchdown. You throw that red flag, and you lose, you blow a timeout that you might need at the end (at the time, we're still talking two-score game). You win, yay, Bears get first-and-goal on the one and probably score anyway.

Bad Sean Payton: First of all, you know your kicker is 78 years old, and you've got third-and-10 at the 30 against a team that gives up rushing yards on third-and-long. Why not draw, try to get closer to where Carney is in range? I'm usually a believer that you go for the first down, but most teams don't have a field goal kicker who is clearly limited in range like this. Second, on the five-yard line, why call two straight drop-back passes with no rollout to get out of the pocket, and yet no max protect to keep the quarterback from a sack or intentional grounding? Run the ball, or roll out, or leave guys back there to protect -- they basically left Brees a sitting duck for the safety.

Ned Macey: Kudos to Tanier. Not sure I read anywhere else all week that the Bears are just a better team. This has become an ass-whipping.

All the credit in the world to Sean Payton this year for an amazing job, but I still think he butchered this game. First off, as I said earlier, I think the pass-happy thing was crazy. The Bears are missing Tommie Harris. You have an extremely efficient bruising running back. It got stuffed early when they were playing the run, but once it became clear that the Saints were going to pass, the Bears defense took over. They made one huge play, but they scored seven points the rest of the game.

The Saints are an offense too dependent on the big play in the passing game. That's a mediocre bunch of receivers in the intermediate game. Against the Cover-2, the big play is hard to hit. Nice design on the one to Bush, but they don't have the weapons to march down the field like the 2002 Raiders.

Also, what is Fred Thomas still doing on the field? Every mainstream reporter in football knows he couldn't cover anybody. Then, I do agree with Aikman that if he is on the field you have to give him help. After Berrian got two in front of him, did anybody not know the long ball was coming soon? Maybe Payton has no impact on the defense, but then it is on their D-coordinator.

Finally, super congratulations to Lovie. I do think it is a big deal that he is the first African-American coach to make the SB, and I think that's a story that should be retold. He definitely didn't have to beat the toughest competition in the world, but has there been a worse SB QB in recent years than Grossman? Smith and Rivera's defensive adjustments for this game were impressive. One two-minute drive and one big play (and Manning should have at least held that to a 30-yard gain). The fact that Bobby Petrino has a contract for several million more than Lovie is a joke.

Mike Tanier: Don't kudo me yet! Although I am happy to see so many plays that I diagrammed in use today. Desmond Clark did a double move up the middle for a big gain. The Bears dogged the blitz and dropped into coverage a lot. One thing I haven't seen from the Bears in the past few weeks is an offensive play that really shocked me: something that looked like it was from the far corner of their playbook, like an empty backfield play or something. I wonder if they are too predictable to beat whoever wins game two.

Doug Farrar: I thought Payton was wrong for bailing on the run all day, not just on those plays. It was as if he was never alerted to the Harris injury and the subsequent effect it had on Chicago's defense.

Aaron Schatz: In defense of the Saints' passing game, they do not have a mediocre bunch of receivers in the intermediate passing game. They have Joe Horn and Marques Colston. But Horn hasn't been able to play for two months, and Colston's hands were off today. I don't know if that's a bad day, or the elements, but he's usually better than he was today. Copper is a nothing, a roster filler. Henderson strikes me as an Ashley Lelie type. The tight ends are nothing special.

Thomas does better against possession guys. I think he would make a very good nickel corner if they could go out and get a faster guy to start opposite McKenzie. I don't think the Saints are a one-year fluke.

Ned Macey: Good point about Horn. I'd be worried about the Colts if, say, Wayne were not playing today. The AP story on inactives said Payton had a rule about nobody playing if they didn't practice. Apparently Horn practiced at times this week. No idea what his condition was, but I hope he couldn't run or he had to be playing.

In Colston's defense was the impressive catch across the middle. It seemed like Brees was a little off for much of the day. Don't know if that was the slick ball or what.

New England Patriots 34 at Indianapolis Colts 38

Bill Moore: I've come to a conclusion. We are going to learn in the off-season that Brady played hurt this year. By keeping him on the injury report for two straight years, the Patriots avoid having to disclose when Brady has a minor injury. People see his name and "questionable" week after week, and think nothing of it. But what that strategy buys them is eliminating the distraction of having to discuss minor injuries.

However, in watching Brady over the last, call it, seven games, he is not his normal self 24/7. As Jaws pointed out on NFL Matchup, Brady failed to step up into only modest pressure for a number of missed opportunities. I'm not Will Carroll, and I don't play him on TV, but I think Brady is hurt and is failing to step up to avoid further injury to whatever is wrong.

We'll see if the overthrow problem continues today, but it has been a problem following Brady for weeks.

Aaron Schatz: We're three plays in now.

Freeney wide
Freeney wide
Freeney wide

On the fourth one, he twisted inside for the first time, but if he's going to be going back to the wide rush, there are going to be more of those third-down conversion draws.

Bill Barnwell: I'm convinced the Patriots have magnets in their gloves or something to recover these fumbles. This is impossible.

Michael David Smith: Am I the only one on the FO staff who thinks the Colts have a bad o-line? When I watch plays like that Addai pick up of six inches on third-and-four inches, I just feel like the Colts' line is the worst in the league at pushing forward in short yardage, which in my opinion is the most important thing a line has to do.

Mike Tanier: Greg Cosell at NFL Films told me in December that they have an average at best line made better by Peyton. But they really looked good against the Eagles, the Ravens last week ... I really had them scouted out as better than this. They really look awful.

Aaron Schatz: Well, the Colts' line is definitely terrible at pushing forward in short yardage, and has been for years and years. Not the only way to judge a line, but they do suck at it.

I want to know what's going on with this Vrabel on the outside thing. They've got Vrabel at LOLB instead of inside, with Banta-Cain on the bench and Eric Alexander (52) at RILB. Now, I understand that Vrabel is better on the outside, but Eric Alexander is an undrafted free agent rookie. He's not really somebody I trust. Every play before the snap, Dallas Clark looks like he's going to be completely open, and one of these plays he will be.

Simms is right, I think he mentioned this. The Pats will run better because unlike the Chiefs and Ravens, they understand that you must soften up the Colts before you run on them. Do you remember who else understood that? The 2005 Steelers.

By the way, does anyone notice that the entire Patriots staff seems to be in matching nasty-ass grey hoodies?

Mike Tanier: Terrible decision by Manning on the interception. Great play by Samuel. And also, Mr. Harrison, could you get a little separation? Samuel barely backtracks on the play.

Aaron Schatz: Raheem Brock, my friends. Props on stopping that screen, because the Pats had the right play call against the blitz and he got all the way over to force Faulk outside and into Kelvin Hayden.

Bill Barnwell: Is it too early to call the Colts run defense of the past two weeks a fluke?

Russell Levine: Is it too early to call ballgame?

Aaron Schatz: Hey, you know that thing about how Belichick believes that only a game-changing player is worth big money? At this point, can we put Asante Samuel in that category with Tom Brady and Richard Seymour, at least considering his knowledge of how to play in the Pats' scheme? He just made himself another million or two a year on that interception, and as a Pats fan I have to say that this may be the first time since Lawyer Milloy that I will get very angry if the Pats let a player leave -- and remember, Milloy was the first one so none of us knew at that point that the dynasty was coming.

Michael David Smith: On third-and-24, a pass bounces off both of Harrison's hands and his facemask, resulting in an incomplete on what could have been a 97-yard touchdown. Phil Simms says the Colts "have to calm down and stop just trying to throw downfield." Uh, Phil? I don't think the play call was the problem there.

Patrick Laverty: How come all I hear from the media is you can't blitz Tom Brady, he'll pick a blitzing defense apart, but it seems on every passing down, there are blue shirts coming off the bench, out of the stands, from everywhere to get Brady?

Mike Tanier: It looks like the Colts are trying to throw a wrinkle at Brady. They rarely blitz, so they figured they could surprise him once or twice. Hasn't worked.

Oh, and Cato June is terrible.

Too late to change my pick? Are you sure? Oh, well. Sigh.

21-21

Okay, I feel slightly better about my pick ... win or lose, the Colts didn't totally turn into Chumpzilla. Yet, anyway. The no-huddle, calls-at-the-line thing is the way to go for the Colts, I think.

Oh, then the kick return. Spoke too soon.

Bill Barnwell: Maroney is the wrong back to attack this defense with. Dillon and Faulk are much better ideas.

Aaron Schatz: I don't know, I think Maroney is the kind of guy who can break those easily breakable Colts tackles. But I would run him on the right side, toward June, not on the left side toward Morris.

The Colts climbed back into the game because Manning is not, in fact, choking, except for the one interception. They had the FG drive, halftime, TD drive, the Pats had one chance and just because they came up a yard short doesn't mean the Colts are suddenly playing great defense, and then another TD drive. The defense is still a problem -- and the Pats come down and score again to make it 28-21.

Bill Barnwell: Maroney's more of a cut-back guy though and the Colts are a quick enough defense to adjust for that.

Nantz just referred to Tully Banta-Cain as "explosive". Really?

Aaron Schatz: Patriots go three-and-out again. What a dramatic turn this thing is taking. That Pats defense is feeling sick and crampy and tired and it is not going to be a good thing for them to come back onto the field.

By the way, Todd Sauerbrun is not kidding around here. Boom, boom, boom.

Mike Tanier: Well, the NFL has delivered two awesome games. I mean, this one has me on the edge. The other game was close until early in the 4th quarter. You know what that means: DULL SUPER BOWL.

Russell Levine: I get the feeling the Colts just squandered the best chance they're going to get to win this game.

Aaron Schatz: How is that corner end zone thing not pass interference on Kelvin Hayden? Just like Ellis Hobbs, his back was to the passer, he's clearly playing the man and not the ball. That Hobbs was one was pretty clearly PI so I don't know why this one isn't.

Can we give Reche Caldwell Keep Choppin' Wood even if the Pats win?

Bill Barnwell: I get the feeling Reche Caldwell just squandered the best chance the Patriots are going to get to win this game.

Mike Tanier: As someone who is sorta rooting for Indy, let me say: that was pass interference.

Russell Levine: As someone who is quite openly rooting for Indy, let me say: that was pass interference.

I can take issue with that third-and-5 run, Phil Simms. You're not playing to tie, you have to play to win if you're Indy. They have New England on its heels: they have to go for the kill there.

Bill Barnwell: How far back were the safeties on that 52 yard pass to Clark? 35 yards from the LOS?

This Patriots linebacking corps is done.

This is coming down to Gostkowski or Vinatieri and I really, really wish it wouldn't.

Aaron Schatz: Losing by three in the final four minutes, yes, my go to receiver would also be Aaron Moorehead. Twice.

Doug Farrar: Best thing to do is a best two-out-of-three cover drill between Fred Thomas and Reche Caldwell. Loser gets this week's KCW.

Bill Barnwell: Caldwell burns Thomas three times and drops three passes. Nothing is solved. We need to have them play NTN Trivia or something.

I'm hating the Patriots defensive playcalling on this last drive. They have too many holes in their secondary to blitz Manning and get away with it. The roughing the passer call doesn't help.

Mike Tanier: Two minute warning: Wayne attempts a self-pass at the end of that nice slant and run. Oh, my stars and garters. This game is nuts.

Will Carroll: This game is NOT over.

OK. Now it's over. See you in Miami.

Russell Levine: Wow. Where does this game rank among the best of all-time? It's right up there.

Maybe the "Patriot Way" came back to bite them in the rear this year. The receivers were clearly an issue today, and even a mixup on the final series.

What a football game. And good to see what looked like very heartfelt congratulations all around between BB and Dungy and BB and Manning.

Aaron Schatz: Sigh. 12 men in the huddle?

Mike Tanier: Yeah, the 12 man thing was pretty sad. I was shocked when Omar Gaither ran out there in a Patriots uniform.

Aaron Schatz: Can we cancel the Super Bowl and just give rings to the Bears defense and the Colts offense? I can't remember one team this one-sided ever making it, let alone two.

At least now people will stop saying mean things about Manning. I never thought it was his fault when they lost, it was almost always the defense. The only exception was the 2003 AFC Championship. Manning was great in the 2004 playoff game, where none of the receivers could hold onto the ball and Edge gained roughly three pico-inches per carry.

Patrick Laverty: 2000 Ravens?

Is Reche Caldwell the new Grady Little? He dropped one in the end zone, but Gaffney bailed him out with the TD on the next play, but that one when he wasn't even covered, maybe he doesn't score, but maybe he does. Patriots are up by 10 going into Indy's final drive. Patriots then just have to kill off one minute of clock, game over.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, no. No, no, no. The Ravens were SO much better than the 2006 Bears on offense, and their offense was much higher ranked in DVOA than the Colts defense during the season, plus they had excellent special teams.

I have to say, Patriots fans are going to have to take a lot of crap now, which is really depressing for those of us who haven't been jerks over the last few years and were never mean to Manning. I can't be happy for the Colts just because I know their fans are about to torture all of us for the sins of some.

Patrick Laverty: Two requests:

New England fans: Don't start with the "well our team was sick all week. If they were healthy, the Patriots win this game easily. They were up 21-3 and just got tired." No, you lost. End of story.

Indianapolis fans: Don't start with the "See, Manning's better because Brady threw the big interception to end the game." Yeah, he threw the pick, but your team just played really well in the second half. The key was that the Colts D shut down the Patriots' running game, when in the first half, Dillon and Maroney were dicing them up like a Ginsu on an aluminum can.

Good luck Colts. I hope they win, and all the Elway's not a..., umm, I mean Manning's not a winner crap can go away.

Mike Tanier: The no-call pass interference in the end zone was a bad call. The roughing the passer was ticky tack. That being said, the Patriots had their chances.

One lineman each scores on red zone fumbles. Nothing needs to be said about that.

Tom Moore running the ball three times in the red zone under two minutes to play. Putting it in that rookie's hands. Holy cow. And what was that rookie Alexander doing on the line getting mauled by the left guard? Odd defensive call by Belichick. And no, I don't think he was "allowing them to score." You do that if the opponent will lead by three, not four.

All of my 1985 Bears-Patriots leads for Rundown are shot. And every other columnist is thinking the same thing.

That third-and-4 play that the Patriots ran, where Brown and Gaffney were stacked on the right side of the formation, Gaffney cleared out, Brown sat down in the zone but a Colt jumped the route and broke up the play. I saw that before somewhere (last time I plug TDZ I promise).

And I will be the first to state that I am thrilled I will never have to hear about how Manning cannot beat Brady in a big game. And I will be the first to state how much I enjoy watching both quarterbacks, how great they are and their teams are, and how much I look forward to 5-10 more years of duels between them.

Michael David Smith: Marvin Harrison was terrible today. The only times Manning didn't look good were the times when he looked like he was forcing it to Harrison.

Bill Barnwell: I'm still happy it wasn't Vinatieri or Gostkowski. Is the Brady-Manning thread closed yet?

Russell Levine: On the "allowing them to score thing" ... you certainly don't allow them to do it when it's third down and one stop means a tying field goal, not losing by four. Although I must say the last time I saw a hole that big on the goal line it was in Super Bowl XXXII and Terrell Davis burst through a very disinterested Green Bay front.

Bill Moore: Reche Caldwell DEFINITELY gets the KCW. You are standing there alone, NE needs 1) to move the ball, and 2) to take time off the clock. You scream for the ball, and you ... DROP IT? Oh yeah, and it's your second wide open drop of the day.

The lack of quality amongst the receivers definitely stood out today.

The non-PI call was a little ridiculous, but we knew coming into this game that Carollo wasn't a DPI kind of guy. Just no one thought it would work against NE.

That said, it was a pretty fair game overall. It goes to show that "just let them play" is better than football fields of penalty yardage.

The Colts played better. Period. They found the holes, they kept their offense on the field. In fact, when Hobbs almost ran one back but didn't quite make it, I turned to the rest of the room and said, "good. The D will get a few minutes longer to rest." That's a sign of good play and game management.

Wide receivers aside, the Patriots played their guts out too. Probably literally as many are likely heaving right now. However, when they only scored three points on that second to last drive, I was sure they were done.

However, can anyone explain to me where Corey Dillon was at the end of that game? Maroney isn't a true pounder. I don't have his success rate in front of me, but it's not great. With 4:35 to go, Dillon should have been pounding away. Other than the wide open Reche, I don't get why all the passing at that point.

Finally, there was a great embrace by Bill Belichick and Tony Dungy.

Ned Macey: I'm not especially rational now, but I'll try to give a reasoned analysis of the game from my point of view. First off, as a fan and an analyst, I could not have imagined a better way for this game to go. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the Pats, but the 8-0 in one-touchdown games thing was unsustainable.

Samuel did make himself an extra million or five today even in a losing effort. That being said, Hobbs also played outstanding. This wasn't like Denver where Bailey controls one side and Wayne abuses the other side. Everything was down the middle with Clark and Fletcher. Wayne and Harrison had both killed the Pats in the last two regular season games, and I was very impressed by both corners. It seemed like they always knew when the Colts were going to go deep. Clearly the Colts thought coming in that they could make big plays, but they just weren't there. Maybe my Harrison-tinted glasses are in the way, but I thought on the second slow-mo replay on the long pass that Samuel just got a finger on it.

Another great performance by Dominic Rhodes. The Colts were definitely right to not pay James long term, but as a fan it is too bad that he wasn't there today. I don't think they are better without him, but they obviously didn't miss him too much.

If the Colts offensive line is one of the worst in the league, then I'd argue that Manning is the greatest player in NFL history. They just hit 126 yards on the ground against the Pats with Rhodes and a rookie who was the fourth back off the board. They aren't the best line, but there is more to line play than short-yardage.

Defensively, this was the real Colts. They will give up some plays, but they're fast and you can't just keep handing off and hoping for good results. They are an average defense, which isn't bad considering their pedigree and salaries. Other than the 35-yarder on the fourth-and-1, they held the running game in check. (By the way, doesn't it seem like fourth down plays often gain a bunch of yards more than you thought?) The kick-off coverage, however, is not average.

I think this game showed they should have kept Branch. They are basically as good as the Colts without him, but they had nothing to attack them with. The Nick Harper injury, while little reported by the announcers, was clearly noticed by Brady. He went to his right just about every throw in the second half, and Hayden was beat repeatedly. Imagine having Branch over there. If they win a SB the next year or two, then that decision will be vindicated.

Brady played well. The play to Gaffney in the end zone was a great play by both players. I thought Brady was just throwing it away. The game-ending interception is meaningless. 80-yard drives in less than a minute are damn near impossible.

Finally, I'm most happy for Dungy. The fact that Tampa Bay won the year he left has hung over him for years. Tampa Bay has one playoff berth since 2002. Dungy has an amazing regular season record. He's made the playoffs every year since like 1998 and only has one losing season in his career. The Colts are substantially better under him than they ever were under Mora. Plus, I like that he's not an a**hole. Nice guys finish last is my least favorite expression in the world. He may not be the coach that Belichick is, but he's one win away from almost guaranteeing a place in Canton.

Congratulations Tanier, rundown 2 for 2.

Bill Barnwell: I don't think the problem was Hobbs and Samuel as much as it was the safeties and linebackers.

Vrabel and Bruschi are absolute toast. Banta-Cain is some yeast. If the Patriots defensive line plays a great game, they can get away with it. The Patriots defensive line wasn't anything special tonight and they had no answer for the middle of the field.

Also, since no one ever gets to second-guess Belichick -- somebody please explain to me why the Patriots threw the ball three times when they got the ball back before the two-minute warning.

Russell Levine: Or even why they threw it before the go-ahead field goal.

Ned Macey: By the way, it was definitely pass interference on Hayden.

Michael David Smith: I'm surprised so many people are talking about pass interference. I've long since reached the point where I don't even think about pass interference because I know I'll never figure out how it's called. I'm close to the same way on roughing the passer.

Aaron Schatz: What did happen on the Pats roughing the passer anyway? They never really explained it and it isn't like Manning got knocked down.

Patrick Laverty: I think Jarvis Green patted Manning on the helmet for making a nice throw and they called it hands to the face. Or something like that. Seriously, receivers and DBs do hit each other in the helmet harder after a good hit than Green did to Manning. The protection for QBs has become a joke.

Will Carroll: Rhodes is going to be the biggest off-season loss. The Colts are going to get raped by the cap this year, but if they win the Super Bowl, it's hard to say that it didn't go to plan.

Patrick Laverty: I thought I heard that the Colts have something like 11 FAs and they're already over the cap. Manning, Harrison, Wayne, Freeney and 49 guys fresh out of college.

Aaron Schatz: When I wrote in Week 9 that the Colts could not make the Super Bowl with the defense as currently constituted, was I wrong?

Mike Tanier: No man, we were right on. They wound up losing a bunch of games and we called that. But the defense improved. Dungy and his coaches get paid to get those guys to improve, and they did. And DVOA said they were improving, leaving us trying to ask "well, is this a one-game or a two-game thing, or is it real." And there just wasn't enough there to make a definitive answer.

We were several weeks ahead of the curve in attacking that defense. We were right with the curve when we were being guarded about the improvement. Can't be right all the time.

Alex Carnevale: No shame in losing a game that great. The big winners today were Sprint, Sony, MasterCard, Gatorade, DirecTV, and the American Red Cross.

Aaron Schatz: Over on the pro-football-reference blog, Doug Drinen ran this really bitter, angry rant about the Patriots for two whole days last week. Not written by him, by another guy who sometimes writes for him. And I wrote him and asked him why he did it, given that we try to go out of our way around here to praise both teams. And he said, "Irrational hatred is the very essence of sports fandom."

Really? I always thought that irrational love was the very essence of sports fandom. I guess I'm old fashioned that way.

What we saw over the last week, poisoning sports sites around the Internet and the discussion threads here on FO, is what happens when irrational hatred becomes a more important part of being a fan than irrational love. And let me tell you, it sucks.

I believe in a world where the Patriots and Colts can both be great teams, and it just so happens that no team gets to win the championship every year. I believe in a world where Colts fans can respect the accomplishments of the Patriots in the same way that Bears fans respect the accomplishments of the Saints, where people don't call either Tom Brady or Peyton Manning a choking crybaby, and where we don't obsess over the pressure of a Bill Belichick handshake, measuring our hatred for him to the most intricate measurement of pounds per square inch.

I know the world isn't like that. I just want Football Outsiders to be like that. I hope that all the people who have said so many nasty things to each other over the last week will step back and decide that they want Football Outsiders to be like that too.

Comments

482 comments, Last at 30 Jan 2007, 5:32pm

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Russell Levine: I disagree. I thought he was starting to lose control before he was down. Even though it wasn’t fully out when the knee hit, he did not have control of the ball at that time.

I think maybe 1% of impartial fans agree with you.

Kudos to the Bears, who were hands down the better team, but I can't help but feel that better conditions and a little better luck for the Saints would make the game very different.

Also, the Saints need to desperately upgrade CB and LB.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

On the Michael Lewis fumble, it seems to me that the interpretation that the ball was coming out before he was down doesn't necessarily apply here. While he didn't have complete control when he hit the ground it still required further prodding from the defender to knock the ball loose (which is normally not the case in this situation), and the play might reasonably be called dead. It's a matter of how the rule is written, and how much the refs hide behind regimented thinking in the absence of knowing what the rule is.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Question for MT or MDS - clearly now, Rex is both better at and more comfortable with, the long ball. What should Indy do besides just play their Tampa-2 to try to take that away?

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I really think audibles at the line is one of the best features of its kind - just lots of good stuff to pore over. One comment though - while it's usually possible to determine by context, how difficult would it be to put a few score/time markers in?

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Did anyone else think the Patriots use of timeouts at the end was kind of odd? Colts run the ball coming out of the 2 minute warning and the Pats don't call timeout so Manning runs the clock down for the second down run and THEN the Pats call timeout with 1:01(I think) on the clock. Colts score on the next possession.

Why not call TO after first down? You save AT LEAST 30 seconds, correct? Call timeout after second. On third they will either score and if you hold them you use your final timeout. Which means the Colts kick field goal to tie the game (worst case).

So you give Brady what, 1:30, to go 30-40 yards (depending on the KO return which had been awesome for the Pats) for a try at the winning field goal.

What am I missing here?

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

NM: I think this is a good example of the fact that causing fumbles is a repeatable skill. The Bears are attacking the football. The play by Harris on Colston was an outstanding strip, and they were relentless on Lewis. Adrian Peterson is a great player to have on your team.

Tremendous comments, all. I'm sure there will be some staff disagreement on the first comment, I hope you guys go on to discuss.

Why didn't the Saints let Thomas cover Muhammad rather than roll the dice against the more dangerous Berrian? Oh yeah, people haven't realized yet that Muhammad ISN'T the best receiver on the Bears.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

This was a fun game to watch.

Just like irrational love is hard to shake, how can we solve irrational hatred? I really did try to watch the game evenly, but it was hard to root for the Patriots, and I found a lot of the little things they do annoying, like vehemently get into the officials faces to argue calls. It's not like other teams don't do this...

I do enjoy watching their passing attack. It's not like the huge vertical passing attack, and it's not like the west coast YAC attack, it's just working the coverage and finding holes into the zones... and very effective.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

No love for Dan Klecko? I thought was a hilarious play call. It's quite fun to see one of Belichick's favorite tricks (using a defensive player as an eligible tackle for a goal line TD pass in the playoffs) turned against him.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Bill, I saw that nacho too! I figured I was seeing things because no one else I was with or spoke with noticed it. What was that about?! Their performance in the second half confirmed my suspicion that maybe he just went to the concession stands at halftime and screwed adjustments...

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

5: I think the fact that they ruled fumble on the field decided it. The ball was clearly moving around uncontrolled before he was down. Had they called it down on the field, I think they would have affirmed that too, since the ball was still in his arm once he was down, even if it wasn't totally controlled. It was a close enough call that I don't see how you call it "indisputable visual evidence" in either direction on a replay.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I believe in a world where the Patriots and Colts can both be great teams, and it just so happens that no team gets to win the championship every year.

Bolded for emphasis. Couldn't agree more. The inability to recognize that other teams may be just as competent as your own is the one thing that drives me nuts about sports.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

If you want to talk clutch players, Dallas Clark is the guy you should talk about. Marvin Harrison has a bad knack for disappearing in big games and an even worse knack for never fighting for the ball. Reggie Wayne had some boneheaded drops too. The Colts, of late, go as Dallas Clark goes. Not bad for a guy that was getting mocked in commercials two months ago.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

There were several non-call pass interferences on the Pats as well, as I've been pointing out often the 20 seconds left in the half pi against Clark before the Wayne trip. That adds 4 points to the Colts most likely.

Take the non-call PI in the 4th quarter at around 8:20 left, that adds 4 points to the Pats.

So it's a wash. Let's stop bringing up one, unless we bring up the other.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

On the non-DPI: When I saw the replay, I actually didn't think it was interference. The reason is that both of the New England player's arms were above the Indianapolis player's arms. Neither arm was being held away from the ball, which (to me) means he still had his opportunity to catch it. It didn't really look like the defender change his momentum by pushing either, but that's pretty hard to judge. I'm not saying it was definitely the right call, but that I'm not mystified as to what the ref was thinking.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

No love for Dan Klecko? I thought was a hilarious play call. It’s quite fun to see one of Belichick’s favorite tricks (using a defensive player as an eligible tackle for a goal line TD pass in the playoffs) turned against him.

My question was, How was it not obvious?

The second he went into the game, i knew it. They had used him before this year in the same play. The Pats did that often. It was the perfect call, except for one thing.

It was WAY TOO OBVIOUS. I was so upset when they started it, but for some reason the Pats didn't realize it.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Aaron,

[W]here we don’t obsess over the pressure of a Bill Belichick handshake, measuring our hatred for him to the most intricate measurement of pounds per square inch.

Even though I'm a Jets fan, I have a lot of respect for the Patriots accomplishments. Any "hatred" I have for the Patriots is similar to the "hatred" I had for Miami in the 80s: They were the class of the league, while my team couldn't seem to get it together even when they had an immense amount of talent (though I do think the lack of a tarp at the Orange Bowl was dirty pool).

That said, even though I wasn't nearly as bothered by Belichick's cold fish handshake to Mangini as others were, I was appalled at the lack of class he showed after the game last night. First, after he finished talking with Dungy at midfield, Manning came up to him. Belichick scowled at Manning and tried to walk by him. Manning settled for patting Belichick on the tummy a couple of times. Then, about 15 minutes later, Belichick gave the curtest interview I've ever seen. It was so bad that both Marino and Esiason said "what was that?" back at the studio.

Is Belichick a football genius? Without a doubt. But his behavior last night proved to me that he's also one of the biggest A-holes I've ever seen in sports. Bigger than Bonds; at least Bonds respects his fellow athletes, if not the reporters that cover them.

Look, I have other problems with things people say in relation to sporting events (Pohlan and Dungy thanking God for letting the Colts win being at the top of the list; Manning saying that "I don't know if you're supposed to pray for stuff like that, but I prayed" was a refreshing counterpoint), but that doesn't mean we should remain silent when we see or hear something that goes beyond the pale, even if it doesn't directly relate to the quality of the product on the field.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I don't know this for a FACT, but I would wager money that for all of Fred Thomas' flaws he is still faster then Mike McKenzie. McKenzie is killer at jamming, hand-checking, and mauling receivers in close quarters. But he was never fast. Al Harris is a burner by any stretch of the imaginatio and he was known for being faster then McKenzie. If a receiver got free he could separate from Mike downfield.

I doubt he has gotten any faster since leaving Green Bay.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I really think audibles at the line is one of the best features of its kind - just lots of good stuff to pore over. One comment though - while it’s usually possible to determine by context, how difficult would it be to put a few score/time markers in?

In total agreement. That would be a huge improvement to following the game via the comments.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

#9
What am I missing here?

The fact that Indy could've gotten a first down without a TD there? Not sure if it makes any difference, but that's what I was wondering about when I was trying to decide the optimal timeout strategy.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I was more emotionally invested in last night's Pats-Colts game than any other non-Eagles game I've ever watched. The reason? Some serious, hard-core schadenfreude. I recognize that both teams are headed by great coaches and great quarterbacks, but it felt really, *really* good to see those smug-ass grins wiped off the Patriots players' faces. I haven't felt this good about another team losing since, well, the last Cowboys game.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

For the first time in my life - I'm getting crap for being a Bears fan in Indy. Not in a mean way, just some ribbing, and to be honest it's pretty fun.

Here's to the I-65 Super Bowl! As I heard in the IRC channel - "They should hold it at Ross-Ade"

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

How come you guys didn't mention Hunter Smith's clutch holds!

Tony Romo should learn how to handle the football like that (yes, cheapshot).

Re: Lewis Fumble
It seemed like it was coming out, then he controlled it again, then it got stripped on the ground.

I thought the call on the field was bad, because it didn't really come out until he was down, as pointed out above.

Re: End Line TD
I swear it looked like his heel was out... just looking at the position of his feet before he went up vs. after. I also thought there was a bit of a bobble in there. Maybe watching it in slo motion made it look like less of a bobble.

Re: 3rd-10 before the 34-31 FG
I thought (and others on IRC) were talking about how conservative it was to play for the FG. I don't understand why they didn't pass it here, really seemed like they were getting some huge gains.

Re: Sanders play on Troy Brown
Sanders made a GREAT play... probably the game saving play. He broke well before the ball was thrown. I'm surprised more teams aren't able to do this against Patriots passing attack.

Re: Dallas Clark
I'm sorry, but Antonio Gates was getting open last week too... so him going off isn't a big surprise.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Bravo, Aaron, bravo...the irrationality of fans is getting annoying. As a Steeler fan, I was rooting against the Pats (2001 and 2005 losses and all), but I appreciate that they were and still are a good, well-coached team. I'm also VERY happy that Manning got the win, hopefully the Colts win the SB and then maybe the media can move on to more interesting things than bashing Manning.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I think this game showed they should have kept Branch.

Kept Branch at his asking prize? No way. He's not good enough to be paid like a No. 1, and the business model in Foxboro is all about not overpaying in spots like this. Now should they have *replaced* Branch, rather than put fingers in the dike with the flea market guys? Absolutely, and I'm pretty confident it will be addressed soon.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

zip:

Well, I understand that was "possible" but the first down marker was at the half yard line. I know Peyton's smart but I doubt even he was positioning the team to get to that point just to burn some clock.

I am sure Billy and the boys have some slick matrix that explains all. Just thought maybe some of our the Boston whizerati might be privy to the thought process.

'Cause if I have Mr. Dreamy He's A Winner Can Make Gold Out of Poo quarterback then 40 yards in 1:30 ain't nothing. Again, assuming you burn all the timeouts because you have stopped the Colts and they kick the tying field goal.

And if the Colts score you have a timeout AND the 90 seconds. Seems like a legit chance to me.

Is 50 seconds and two timeouts better then 90 seconds and one timeout??

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Interesting stuff.

Aaron - I like your coda piece. Sport should be about supporting your team and not putting down other's teams. There's enough hate in the world without finding an excuse for more. So here is a Denver fan wishing New England a good 2007 season.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I believe in a world where the Patriots and Colts can both be great teams, and it just so happens that no team gets to win the championship every year.

While this is a good point, I think more of your readers agree with you than you might think, or realize. But I also grant you there are a few reader-driven threads on the site that beg to differ. Nonetheless, *you* get it and so do many (most) of us, trust me.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Re: 20

Who thought Belichick was a nice guy prior to this season? Why? What has he ever done that would make you think, boy, what a sweetheart that Bill is? I follow the Patriots pretty closely, and I guarantee you there haven't been many opportunities for that kind of sentiment.

Look, I love Bill Belichick for what he's done for the Patriots, but I don't understand why people would ever think he's anything other than an asshole. He learned to be a dick from Bill Parcells, who practically wrote the book on being a jerk. Belichick was a dick in Cleveland, and he's a dick in New England, and the only thing that's changed is that he's realized he needs to be somewhat polite sometimes in order not to totally infuriate the media. But most of the time, the fact that he's a dick just comes through anyhow.

I don't expect politicians to tell the truth and I don't expect NFL head coaches to be nice guys. Politicians who tell the truth can't get elected and nice guys who are head coaches never win anything.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

30: Actually in the postgame interview he said his and Tom Moore's thinking when they gave the ball to the RB was just to get the first down, but then it opened up a huge hole for the TD.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

How come you guys didn’t mention Hunter Smith’s clutch holds!

They weren't that clutch. The first hold was completely awful - any farther than 35-40 yards, and no way that kick was good. Luckily, it was only 29 yards.

They were pretty bad snaps, though. Smith and the long snapper should've been practicing on the sideline. No way those snaps should've been that low.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Good point on the 1st down without a TD bit. I was yelling about them not calling a time-out after 1st down as well, but that might make sense.

As a Jet fan, I'm really hoping the Pats don't want to pay Samuel, because I'm damn sure the Jets will. But I really don't see it happening.

I agree with Aaron's manifesto - one thing is, after this game, I'd be much happier to see a Pats-Colts game next year, I think a fair amount of the BS should be dissipated.

On the Reggie Wayne almost-fumble, the replay to me looked like it got forced out in some way, not like he was trying to get cute.

And I don't know who #42 on the Colts, David, is, but he's the guy who pushed Gaffney out of the end zone, AND the one who got faked out of his jock by Corey Dillon, which is hard to figure.

No one's commented yet on the humor potential of Bill Bellicheck coaching the Pro Bowl. Do they make hoodies with floral prints?

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Marvin Harrison did have one nifty play - the 2-point catch. Otherwise, agree, he was not a factor.

Was I the only person going batty each time Phil Simms referred to Asante *SAMUELS*? Fortunately the CBS producers cured him of this about halfway through the game. Thanks much, Jim Nant and Phil Simm. (At least they weren't as bad as Buck and Aikman . . . don't even get me started.)

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

And you absolutely have to take the touchdown there regardless of the ability to run off the clock. It's not like we're excellent short yardage runners here.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Pat: the level of awfulness of the snaps, and the recovery of Hunter is what made it so clutch. Arguing that they wouldn't have made it from farther was irrelevant. Did you see how much time he had?

Just getting it down, and kickable was enough.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

34:

Really? So they were going to get just enough for a first down when the marker is maybe 18 inches from the end zone?

That seems like a pretty odd goal.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

33. When it comes to being a dick, look at how Parcells treaded Belichick at times (see the Halberstam book). That's the master teaching the student and then some. This doesn't take away from my appreciation of either coach (HOF locks and fascinating subjects), but just because someone wears a soft hoodie doesn't make him warm, fuzzy and cuddly, I agree.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Michael David Smith: Am I the only one on the FO staff who thinks the Colts have a bad o-line? When I watch plays like that Addai pick up of six inches on third-and-four inches, I just feel like the Colts’ line is the worst in the league at pushing forward in short yardage, which in my opinion is the most important thing a line has to do.

Mike Tanier: Greg Cosell at NFL Films told me in December that they have an average at best line made better by Peyton. But they really looked good against the Eagles, the Ravens last week … I really had them scouted out as better than this. They really look awful.

Aaron Schatz: Well, the Colts’ line is definitely terrible at pushing forward in short yardage, and has been for years and years. Not the only way to judge a line, but they do suck at it.

Ned Macey: If the Colts offensive line is one of the worst in the league, then I’d argue that Manning is the greatest player in NFL history.

I would humbly submit that, this year, Manning has in fact played like the best player in NFL history. His improved ability to avoid the pass rush has elevated him to that level. I mean, honestly, those throws to Fletcher and Clark, so accurate and with so much pressure... I don't think anybody else in history makes those throws as well as Manning. Obviously, he's still capable of bad games, but he can do things that we just haven't seen before, too.

The line only looked good in the Eagles game because there were six defenders in the box for much of the game. I agree that they were impressive in the Ravens game, though. I'm not sure how they managed to step up like that against the Ravens, of all teams, but they were impressive.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

#37: Am I the only one amused that you screwed up Nantz's name in berating his colleague for screwing up a player's name? Simms is painfully terrible, spewing cliche after cliche (after cliche...).

Buck and Aikman are at least occasionally not awful. Simms is always bad. But FOX, please, give Bradshaw and Howie Long a shot in the booth for an NFL game next year. They were really, really good (Bradshaw especially, but I think he needed Long there to keep his energy up) doing their bowl game.

Nantz and Simms doing the Super Bowl.. oh, God, stop the pain.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

#36 The Hawaiian Hoodie! I love it! This will totally start a new fad.

Also let us not forget that Tomlinson will now be playing for Genius Bill. Can you see them trying to strangle each other with their leis?

AloHA HA HA!

PS- I love that I get to root, in an Aaron approved way, FOR Tony Dungy in a Super Bowl. He is only 8-8 in the playoffs but 4 of those losses were to eventual Super Bowl winners.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Pat: the level of awfulness of the snaps, and the recovery of Hunter is what made it so clutch.

Well, okay. Clutch, but not good. I've seen worse snaps put down cleanly, but then again, Philly had a QB that they kept around three years past "acceptable" purely for his ability to hold.

Which, to be honest, I'm surprised more teams don't do. Putting your real #2 QB at #3 QB isn't that big a downside.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

The line opened up exactly at -7 for the colts.

I haven't seen any money lines but I'm guessing 220-230 range.

I don't see how the colts lose the Superbowl.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

it felt really, *really* good to see those smug-ass grins wiped off the Patriots players' faces

This is the kind of comment I never want to read on my site.

Like almost everything else that people attribute to the Patriots, this is a fault of Patriots fans, not Patriots players. Patriots players were overwhelming in their praise for the Colts leading up to the game, and then again afterwards. And vice versa, Colts to Patriots. The problem with hatred is one of fans, not players. The Patriots are just trying their hardest to win every game, just like the Colts, just like the other 30 teams. Stop imagining that these men have a moral failing that is just not there.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Now that the 'Manning can't beat Brady' thing is done, we only have one thing left: 5+ years of watching the two best teams of the decade slug it out.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

"and nice guys who are head coaches never win anything."

I don't know, the guys coaching this year's Super Bowl teams seem to be regarded as nice guys all around the league, no?

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

42. The "Nant and Simm" spellings were intentional. But I need to remember more often that I'm really not that funny (and even less on the internet).

One underrated announcing tandem: Dave Sims and anyone. I really like his radio work.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Re: 33
I haven't really heard anything bad about Lovie Smith or Tony Dungy. Joe Gibbs is nice too... Dick Vermeil... John Madden... Bill Cowher.... there are plenty.

I really don't care if BB is a jerk or not, I just wanted to contend with your statement.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

25: Ditto for me. I'll grudgingly admit that the Patriots have been one of the best, if not THE best team of the past 5 years. At the same time, I'm a Steelers fan who's seen my team pantsed at home by those Pats numerous times over those 5 years, so you can't expect me to cheer for them.

Still, it was a great game by both teams. Hopefully the Super Bowl will be half as exciting.

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

#43: Wait, I almost forgot! The Colts have now guaranteed it: for the past 3 years, the Colts have only ever lost to the Super Bowl champions in the playoffs. This makes it 4, win or lose.

#45: Lose? Probably not. But that 7-point line is too much. Colts kickoff coverage will give up enough that the Bears should keep pace. The Bears aren't that bad.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

The only snide thing I'll say about Patriot fans is that I'm glad we don't have to read another smug, douchebaggy Simmons column this week (though he might surprise us anyway). And I grew up in 01824, so I'm one of the Nation, too (though as I get older, I consider myself a fan of "the league" and not really of any particular team).

The Colts and Patriots gave us a classic for the ages. I don't care who you pull for, that game HAD to draw you in and get your blood pumping. And that's one heckuva good reason why we watch.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Aaron, you're spot on at the end of the article. Sport does depend on irrational love for teams, not irrational hatred. The difficulty with this situation is that those with an irrational love for the Colts have seen their team consistently denigrated at the expense of a Patriots team that, while better, has not been that much better. And such is the emotional intensity of sports - especially in a format like the playoffs - that it often boils over into blaming the other team for a media circus that ultimately isn't their fault.

That said, I think this last week has - seriously - been a credit to the community you've created here. It's been tetchier and tenser than other weeks, but at the same time, it's been far better than a whole number of other sites commenting on the same game. I've been here since Jan 2004; at the time I kept coming back because it was the best informed site I'd found. Now it's even better than that, it's also got the best humour around. And despite the existence of trolls, I don't think the site's signature high-quality debate will go. For all the bitching there has been this week, there's also been by far and away the best analysis of the issues, the games, and the teams. And long may it continue!

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

#50: Dick Vermeil? The guy who told Larry Johnson he needs to 'take the diapers off' (when he wasn't, y'know, actually giving him the chance) in a press conference?

Most of the other guys are pretty low-key (although Cowher amazingly composes himself for press conferences, but not for games), but Vermeil can be a pretty big jerk if he wants.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

The Super Bowl at Ross-Ade? That would be awesome. Commemorative marshmallow bags, $10 each, get them while they last!

It was nice to see Peyton take advantage of a late-game opportunity. It was a shame that the coverage teams hung him out to dry. Seriously, at some point, you're almost better off kicking it out of bounds, whether on a punt or a kickoff.

It sure would be different if, say, the Cardinals had taken one for the league and moved to the AFC instead of the Colts ... then again, in football, it's probably better to have the Colts and Patriots in the same conference, at least for fans of the other 30 teams. They probably wouldn't have met that often if they played in different conferences.

I think it just seems like there's more venom now than, say, 15 years ago because people can a) post b) anonymously and c) right when they're feeling something. Back in the old days, i.e. when the Lions made the playoffs, I got pretty good at saying "the Packers were simply the better team," but there weren't outlets anywhere near this size to express my emotions during or after the games. I think we hated the rival teams just as much back then.

The old days were better than today because everybody loved each others' teams and nary an angry word was spoken. newsrc is way better than this. 11111111

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

The Simmons column is already up, and I still felt it was smug. Again with the penalties.

Whatever. Patriot fans have been bad for the last few years, and I would act high and mighty about how the Colts fans here have been significantly better.

But then Indy Todd came along, and now I feel like just keeping my mouth shut.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I'm still on a high after the AFC Championship, so I'll chime in with some agreements.

Aaron: Bravo. Your ending statement should probably be taken and put somewhere more enduring and visible than an Audibles thread. Irrational love FTW. FO comment threads are at their best when the Eagles fans and the Steelers fans sympathise about how home playoff losses suck, Redskins and Lions fans do their best to work out what the hell each others' front offices are thinking, Minnesota and Miami fans can compare notes on QB prospects, and everybody can laugh at the Raiders' offense.

Lewis fumble: I'm with "no, he didn't, but that's never going to be overturned by a replay"

Forceout TD: I think that the part of his heel that was "out" wasn't actually out because he was on his toes waiting for the ball, and the heel wasn't actually down.

Dallas Clark: I've watched an awful lot of Indy this year, and I think it goes something like this:

If the D thinks it can cover the recievers without double coverage, they generally get destroyed.
If the D doubles one WR, Manning throws it to the other (Denver)
If the D doubles both (CIN) or has one of the few remaining great corners and doubles the other (NE), Manning throws underneath to Clark. This works less well when Clark is injured (Tennessee).
If the D doubles both and has a DB left to cover Clark, they are in nickel and Addai/Rhodes run all over them. (PHI)

Since trying to take away both Harrison and Wayne became a popular strategy this year, Clark's importance has increased commensurately. It isn't a coincidence that Indy's bad run was when he was injured.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

The big story no one seems to be talking about - what the hell happened to the Patriots running game? After all the preseason hype, Maroney and Dillon had pretty average years. And in the playoffs neither was effective on a consistent basis, and Maroney was awful. Hell, they were making me long for the days of Antowain Smith.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Steve Mariucci on the NFL Network was talking, very sincerely, about how much fun it is to coach the Pro Bowl. But I don't think Belichick will enjoy it too well. You don't see a lot of hoodies at the beach.

Politicians who tell the truth can’t get elected and nice guys who are head coaches never win anything.

A nice-guy head coach is about to win the Super Bowl.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Wow, you can't honestly think that the 2000 Ravens offense is better than Chicago's. That's a joke. You can slice the numbers up any way you want to, but in the end, this Chicago offense has a much higher ceiling, and is capable, if inconsistently, and often in conjunction with the defense's efforts, of blowing a team off the field. i believe the ravens went what, 8 straight games without a TD that year?? Is that right?

Super Bowl comes down to this: Manning gets his yards, but not enough big plays. Why? Because that slant/stretch crap will be completely negated by the Bears D and because Dallas Clark won't be a factor against that D either. I don't care who you line up against, it is a massive detriment to face the Bears having eliminated one aspect of the offense. On the whole, the Colts are the same team as the Saints, minus Reggie Bush. Slightly less exotic on offense, similar yardage production, and nothing but two DEs on defense. Including all phases of the game, they simply don't have as many playmakers as Chicago. We haven't even heard Hester's name yet...

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

"Like almost everything else that people attribute to the Patriots, this is a fault of Patriots fans, not Patriots players"

That's not necessarily true. The Patriots are infamous for lobbying the refs. And there was the time when Brady declared the Patriots were "underrated" which led to the infamous DJ Gallo column which brought us all those "#12, genuflect" posts.

But still, while I understand the thrust of your (Aaron's) comments, and I agree I don't want to see FO degenerate to a place where its nothing but hateful team bashing, I think it's a little late for that kind of thing.

Pats fans have been bashing on Manning and generally being (for lack of a better word) irritating for years. According to Boston sports fans around the internets, the Patriots managed to be the greatest team ever and the most under respected for the same time. And contrary to the FO mantra, none of the reasons given for Pats success were true, quantifiable reasons. "Brady just wins" isn't the kind of thing your average FO commenter wants to read ad nauseum.

So Pats fans have been giving it out since 2001, and NOW there's a push for "let's all be civil, everyone." Sorry, but it's a little late for that. If patriots fans have made it so all other 31 teams' fans were cheering against them on Sunday, then they ought to laid in the bed they've made.

I certainly agree there's no place for profanity or name calling on these boards and if posts like that are deleted, fine by me. But how many patriots fans were saying things like "I believe in a world where the Patriots and Colts can both be great teams, and it just so happens that no team gets to win the championship every year" over the past few years?

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

12 JasonK, Klecko was the FB in that formation. Looks like a Pats slipup to not have anybody on him, esp when he has one TD catch already this year.

How many sibling or, in this case, father-son combos, have played for the same team like the Kleckos? Weird. Is Tatupu a second generation Seahawk? Was Don Hasselbeck a Pat his whole career?

Aaron, nice job channeling Martin Luther King, Jr. this time of year. I haven't seen too much Colt fan bile spewing out on the Pats (and if Mr. Simmons shuts his yap, maybe there won't be too much), but I am more or less the only Colt fan I know (living in Seattle and all). What I have seen on the FOMB has usually been reactionary bile to comments including the words choker and Manning face. And half the time it's Colts fan spewing bile at their own team in the playoffs (thinking of Stan's "God, our OL sucks and Harrison should wear a skirt" and my own "Well, this one's over," comments from yesterday.

Irrational love and loyalty are right. Having said that, if I saw a sinking lifeboat half-full of Cowboys and half-full of a team I am neutral about, say the Saints or Chargers or even the Pats, I'd rescue the Cowboys last. A holdover from the America's team years in the 70s. And maybe my liberal, anti-TX bias these days.

Maybe he meant irrational hatred of other teams' obnoxious fans (instead of the other team per se). As a Yankee fan I am very sensitive to this issue.

Mike (#8) nice point on markers--sometimes they do this and it is quite helpful. Though if you are totally immersed in the game, you can pretty much tell the context.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Did anybody else think that Saturday didn't recover the ball in the end zone? I thought the replay showed him down and covered while the ball was at his knees, and that the ball didn't cross the goalline until he stretched out.

Granted, the NE line would have been too tired to stop the power formation that had to follow, but I thought it was worth a TO to challenge...

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

throughthelookingglass #4:

Can we have a Dallas Clark every play counts, with some Lance Briggs stuff mixed in?

All you need is a link to that great RoosterTeeth Dallas Clark spoof. Its even against the Patriots ...

http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=1502038240

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

"Can we decide what to call things and stay with one set of definitions?"

In that case, can we go back to "dog" meaning a blitz? (Which it has historically always meant, being short for 'red dog').

You guys (Mike Tanier) now use it to mean a FAKE blitz, ie. the exact opposite of what it has historically meant.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

59: Given recent Simmons efforts, I found today's column only mildly annoying. Call it a three on the BSDB scale (1-10). Of course he's still flat wrong on Manning for the most part (Bill should be tied up and forced to watch Manning's second half at Denver, or any of the last three NE-IND games, until some common sense kicks in), but I didn't walk away from this BS column wanting to swallow gasoline and set myself on fire, like I do all too often post-BSG.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

As much respect as I have for Pioli, over the past three years they failed to retain the services of Branch, Givens and David Patten. At no point do i remember them drafting or signing a big-time replacement. For a team with that much under the cap, having Butterfingers Caldwell as your go-to-guy is just unacceptable.

And to 44, the Colts can lose only because of turnovers and bad luck. I could see a scenario where thomas jones and cedric benson move the ball, and devin hester makes some big plays. But after all that, the Bears still have the Rexy Roller Coaster at qb.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

67: I thought Saturday didn’t actually have possession until he was in the endzone. He really didn’t have the ball when it was on his knees.

Completely agree and I'm surprised this got little attention. That's a tricky challenge for the Pats, though, as Indy gets the ball on the one-foot line even if you win it.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Also, I don't see mention of Belichick inexcusably not calling a timeout when the Colts had goal to go at the end. He called it after the first play, and they ended up losing almost a minute of the clock. How nice would a draw play have been on that last Pats drive? Might have made things a bit easier

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

As great as Manning was in leading the Colts back 4 times in the game, I think the talk of the "monkey" being off his back is premature. One of the monkeys is off his back, getting to the Super Bowl. The other monkey is an 800-lb gorilla who has a timeshare with Jim Kelly and Dan Marino - each great quaterbacks who went 0-5 in the Super Bowl. The Bears are the last team the Colts want to face in this game. They can put pressure on the QB and have a secondary littered with big hitters and ball hawks. They have two big running backs and a solid offensive line. That said, they also have the worst quarterback to start a Super Bowl since David Woodley (apologies to Trent Dilfer). I think this game will be closer than the chattering heads are predicting.

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

"Terrell Davis burst through a very disinterested Green Bay front."
Russell, I'm not certain, but you might mean "uninterested" there.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Re: 51

Fair enough(and I'll leave it to others to quibble over who is actually nice or not). My point wasn't really that nice coaches can't win anything, that was just a bit of cynical rhetoric. It's that discussing Bill Belichick's(or anyone else's) myriad personality flaws is pretty pointless, because a) we all already know he's a dick and b) it doesn't matter whether he's a nice guy or not.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I think part of the reason for the anti-Pats backlash is the media... I'll use ESPN as an example. After the game they'll cut to Young/Berman/Irvin/Jackson and they will talk about how awesome Brady is. Then 10 minutes later there is a session with Salisbury. Then over the next few days you hear more about how "Brady just makes the other players better" from someone like Colin Cowherd.... who has Mark Schlereth and Trey Wingo call in and talk about how "Brady's WRs let him down...". Apply Belichek to the defense and it's a type of group-think that makes fans crazy.

Multiply it for columnists like Peter King and Bill Simmons... one of them is an unabashed homer and the other is vield in his homer views.

Nary a mention of the great defenses or special teams (did they have good ST previous years?), but it's all about Brady... BRADY, BRADY, BRADY!

Conversely, it's always about how Manning can't win the big game, how he chokes, he's the next Marino, etc.

The singular focus on individuals is exactly what shouldn't happen in a team sport. Theissman always talks about how the QB is the most dependent player on the team... and he's right. Just because the Patriots don't field a team of well-known free agent signings, doesn't mean their team is full of no-talent scrubs.

You know who got no credit for playing his heart out yesterday. Troy Brown. Once again he made a great un-noticed play... in keeping 3 Colts from recovering the fumble... yet because they lost, it's like the play never happened.

I like reading this site and the book because analysis runs deeper than what we get from everyone else. I don't think you've done anything to fuel the general feeling... but I think at some level we are all sick of the hype.

If you notice, there was a lot of anti-Reggie Bush comments on the site, and I attribute it to the same media backlash.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Another vote for the thoughts at the end of the article.

Thanks for the relatively non-biased coverage, guys. In the time I read the article (and had an IM conversation with a NE fan about the game), this went from 6 comments to 72 comments. It's great to see that FO has expanded the readership so much from the TMQ days, but it'd be nice if the same vibe from back then were sustainable. Here's hoping.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

NY ExPat #20:

Look, I have other problems with things people say in relation to sporting events (Pohlan and Dungy thanking God for letting the Colts win being at the top of the list

Actually, they said they wanted to give God the glory of the win, which is a bit different theologically than saying thank you God for making us win and the Pats lose. This sort of thing plays well in Peoria, or Indianapolis, and I am not surprised someone from NY would not get it. If you are a Catholic though, perhaps you can recall the idea of "offering it up" that you mom or the Nuns should have instilled during your formative years.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

67,72 Fair enough, just wanted another opinion. It's easy to think you saw something from 3/4 of a replay.

Someday I'll be able to justify the HDTV, and the DVR so I can delay the network broadcast so I can listen to the real radio calls on my SIRIUS.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Dear cd6,

The people on this site have always been saying those things. This site has never said "Brady just wins" and we've always praised the other teams when they played well. That includes the Colts fans who write for the site praising the Patriots. Football Outsiders has never been "giving it out." If you want to blame Football Outsiders for things that have been written by others, and you feel that it is "too late" for people to be nice to each other and celebrate their own teams rather than denigrating others, go find another site for spreading your bitterness.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I thought Belichik was fine wih Manning after the game, and the tremendous respect he has for Dungy was obvious. I don't care about the minimalist interviews; in fact, I think they are the equally hilarious counterexample to Parcells' very funny press conferences.

Regarding the games, I agree that Payton's playcalling was odd for the Saints, and this is coming from a guy who praised him last week. Not trying to run the ball AT ALL really allowed the Bears to set the tone physically, and yes, you can't be afraid to throw the ball up against your own goal line, but you also can't be afraid to run the ball, and the Saints had become so intentionally one dimensional by the time the safety was scored that I attribute it as much to playcalling as qb or line play.

In two weeks, Harrison and Wayne better step up, because Dallas Clark isn't going to find the middle downfield as inviting against the Bears' linebackers. I do think that the Bears match up better against the Colts than they do the Pats, and I say that as someone who was rooting very hard for Dungy, Manning, and Co. yesterday.

I really dislike watching Grossman play, and the prospect of hearing guys, like that idiot Salisbury, last night, talk about how Grossman should be given credit for winning games, is painful to contemplate. Go, go, Colts. Please.

I have no idea of what constitutes, among various officials, pass interference (offensive or defensive), roughing the passer, or offensive holding anymore, so there isn't any point in arguing about individual plays. May as well just have a random number generator call those penalties, or not call those penalties, on each play.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

#54 I consider myself a fan of “the league� and not really of any particular team.

Great attitude to have. That's how I have approached the NHL (granted, living in Pittsburgh and Boston hasn't been good for much pro hockey in the last 15 years) since the lockout, and it makes every game better, except maybe the last one in the 1/16 chance your team is there.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

74: Your comment reminds me of when the N.Y. Rangers iced the Eastern Conference Finals in 1994 and Gary Thorne bellowed out "The curse of 1940 is over!!" Umm, guess again hoser - if they don't beat the Canucks in the finals, it really doesn't mean all that much.

Ditto the Yanks and Sox in 2004 - if Boston doesn't finish the deal against St. Louis, the value of the ALCS victory is cheapened *significantly.* And I feel somewhat similar in this spot; Indy's burden is (obviously) far from over.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

You can chalk up this loss to Belicheck. For all the "he's great at situational" coaching, he stunk this one up. If the Pats convert the 3rd and 4, they likely run out the clock. Everyone in the stands could tell, that they were going to run quick cuts right at the 1st yard marker. I was calling for them to run a QB draw and sure enough, the middle opened, right up. He gets 8 yards on a QB draw, because they hadn't run the entire 2nd half.

Belichek definitely went Schottenheimer on us. He settled into a comfort zone of leaning on Brady and his array of short passes. Barely any long attempts, no runs, no fake screens in one direction and throw it in other. Also on the last Colts drive, NO imagination on defense. Just rush 5-6 guys EVERY play. GAK! What happened to the old, rush 3 and drop 8??? Gotta do that at least a couple of times to present Manning with some different looks. Vrabel was pancaked on very rush and he looked awful. Should have just dropped back to be another body in the outfield.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

80: i went back and forth with the Tivo. I could understand an argument for what you were saying, I thought the same thing live.

But it became an issue of possession for me. The very moment you could even argue possession, the ball is a little over the line. At least where I thought you could argue it.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

75, not 100% sure but IIRC, one means "not passionately interested in" and the other goes a little farther, with "distracted, watching sometihng else."

Watching my kids play in the playground I can be disinterested--just vaguely keeping tabs on them, but I am not uninterested--if they hit some other kid I'm on them like white on rice.

Either one works for me, since the GB DL should be passionately and intensely interested when on the field.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

RE: Paul 63,

Wow, you can’t honestly think that the 2000 Ravens offense is better than Chicago’s. That’s a joke. You can slice the numbers up any way you want to

Any way I want to? OK, I'll use DVOA.

2000 Ravens: -7.0% overall, -11.8% weighted.

2006 Bears: -3.9% overall, -11.1% weighted.

By golly Paul, it looks like you're right about that (although it certainly IS close). The Ravens DO provide a precedent for a team this unbalanced making the Super Bowl. Hey Aaron, do you care to defend your statement in this context?

that slant/stretch crap will be completely negated by the Bears D and because Dallas Clark won’t be a factor against that D either. I don’t care who you line up against, it is a massive detriment to face the Bears having eliminated one aspect of the offense. On the whole, the Colts are the same team as the Saints, minus Reggie Bush. Slightly less exotic on offense

Here, Paul, you seem to be very wrong. I don't see how they are the same "minus Reggie Bush" when Addai/Rhodes have collectively had a better year than McAllister/Bush. And while the Saints were as impressive in the air as the Colts in terms of yardage and points, DVOA tells us a different story: that the Colts were far more efficient with far fewer plays. The Colts turn the ball over less than almost anyone and, as Ilanin pointed out in post #60, they can beat you in a variety of ways.

I'm not saying this is a slam-dunk win for the Colts. If the Bears D from the early part of the year reappears, and Good Rex plays a full game, and Hester tilts the field position game, then sure, the Bears probably win. But a "beating the Saints = beating the Colts" analysis is just wrong.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

81

Rereading my comments, they came off more as accusatory they I meant them to be. I deliberately distinguished between "Pats fans" and FO in general. I don't lump Aaron and the other writes in with the generic pats fans. I'm sorry if I didn't make that clear enough.

My post wasn't an attempt to justify hatred, it was simply expressing the point of "I'm certainly not surprised its happened, and I hope Pats fans aren't either."

I stick by my point that I like the way the FO messageboard is now, and I certainly am fine if posts only meant to insult/hurt feelings get deleted, etc. I'm grateful for the forum where we can all express our views intelligenly and discuss football at a level above the ESPN hype, so I hope that didn't get lost in the message.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

#71: They did draft Chad Jackson in the second round this year, and lots of people thought they got a steal. Now, that hasn't really worked out yet, but it was an attempt to help the WRs.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

84 Actually Hector, in reality he was right (tho technically wrong). The double OT win over the Devils was insanely good hockey and the finals were mere postscript. I called a former boss after that game ended at about 1 a.m. NY time--she was the type to go to bed about 9 pm but I knew she was a Rangers fan. All she said was "Holy shit, that was incredible. Now I have to go to sleep. Talk to you tomorrow." That was a game, pretty much like the Indy/NE game yesterday. (Interestingly, it also signaled a huge upward surge for the Devils' fortunes.)

Thanks for reminding me of it. I'm getting warm all over.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

75/87: "Disinterested" means "having no stake in the outcome" while "uninterested" means "not interested." So the O-line could be uninterested, but not disinterested; while the refs should be disinterested but oughtn't be uninterested. I think.

(also to 87: hope you are enjoying the win!)

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

With Aaron’s closing to the Audibles, I decided to write this. I post here from time to time and even wrote a guest article once. I grew up as a Baltimore Colts fan (though I’m not from Baltimore). When the Colts moved to Indy, I began to hate them (there’s that irrational thing). I became a Chiefs fan when I married a KC native. And the Colts have brought a lot of heartbreak to Chiefs fans over the last dozen years (about as long as I’ve had a soft spot for the Pats), compounding my attitude towards the franchise. So when my wife asked me who we were rooting for yesterday and I said the Colts, she was stunned. Why?

I routinely pulled for the Patriots when my favorite team (the Chiefs)wasn’t involved in these last 12 years, first because I was watching a lot of games with a good friend who was a Pats fan and later because of family ties by marriage to a Pats fan. They have become in that time an organization that has a lot of admirable qualities. For a while, it was easy to sympathize with their fans (like with Red Sox fans) over their years of heartbreak.

But a lot of what has been written on these boards over the last few weeks pushed me into rooting for the Colts yesterday. (Yes, there have been plenty of obnoxious Colts fans around here too.) But many Pats fans (far from all of them, but many) have been arrogant, smug, acting as if Belicheck, Brady et al were infallible. The reaction to the Chargers game was the final straw. Let’s review: if your wrs drop balls, your team gets silly penalties late in the game, an opponent wr recovers a fumble at critical moment, you blow a big lead, have one lost shot to win but fail, and you lose a hard fought game to a very good team led by a future HoF qb, you’re a choker, a poor coach, and generally a loser. Never mind all the great things you’ve done to get to this point. And your opponent’s coach is better in a big game, a genius, and coaches his players to never give up, hustle, and play smart football, ad nauseum.

Well, you’ll recognize that all the criticisms directed at Marty Schottenheimer and the Chargers described Bill Belicheck and the Patriots yesterday. Dropped balls – check. Silly penalties – 12 men in the huddle, roughing the passer, neutral zone infraction on a key 3rd down – three checks. Colts WR recovers critical fumble (yes I know the penalty would have wiped it out) – check. Up 21-3 in 1st half, 21-6 at halftime – check. Come up short on the last drive – check. Future HoF qb on the other side – check. Is Belicheck now a choker? Or Brady? Can they not win the big one without McGinest, Vinatieri, Weis, Branch, etc.? Of course not. They got played to a standstill, lost out on a few breaks and calls, and came up short. They’re still great (and I’d take Belicheck over Schottenheimer and Brady over any of Marty’s qbs).

Hopefully, the myth of the infallibility of Belicheck and Brady in big games has been put to rest after two years of playoff failures in a row, Pats fans have a little humility about their team, and I now can go back to rooting for a well-run organization, with a great coach and qb, when next season comes (and the Chiefs are not involved).

If you’re a Colts fan, bobman and Ned in particular, congratulations. I don’t hold you responsible for Irsay. And you should hope that the FOMBC doesn’t get your team in the SB after some of your compatriots’ posts these past few weeks.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

#33:

Where did I say that I thought Belichick was a nice guy before yesterday's game? I said that his display after the game was "appalling" and "beyond the pale". I expect football coaches to be assholes to some degree, in my mind, this makes Belichick exactly what I said: "one of the biggest assholes in all of sports".
I've seen Parcells berate members of the press, and members of his own team, but I never saw him refuse to shake the hand of a member of the other team after a loss, and certainly not with the frequency that Belichick does it. If you've seen such behavior frequently from people other than Belichick, then maybe I'm mistaken, though I still think it's wrong.

Which was really the point of my post: I know that there's been a lot of focus on minutae with respect to Belichick's post-game behavior, and I think Aaron was trying to say that it's been overblown. But despite the fact that Aaron has a point, Belichick acted way bigger than a "football coach asshole" last night (I'd write the Italian for "Asshole of Assholes" if I could get the translation at work), and that should be pointed out, and Belichick ought to be taken to task for it, even at the risk of people misinterpreting the criticism as further nit-picking.

If you don't think it's a big deal, that's fine, but don't act so surprised that other people bring it up. I'm not interested in having Belichick's lack of sportsmanship dominate the conversation, but I also don't think it should be ignored by shrugging our shoulders and saying "that's football". Like I've already said, I've never seen such behavior before, so clearly that's not football to everyone else who plays it.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I thought I saw Brady run off the field without meeting for handshakes, but I'm not positive. Does anyone know for sure?

#79, you beat me to it. Thanks.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

88 Doktarr, good point. Per FO's drive stats, Indy had 35 fewer drives than NO during the reg season (183 vs 148)--that averages to about 9 drives per game for Indy and 11 per game for NO. Put another way, over the course of the 16-game season, NO had 3.5 extra games in which to score, run up yards, etc. than Indy had.

Calling their offenses similar or even comparable is fairly uninformed. NO was productive and good, no doubts. But Indy was AS productive while being much more efficient.

sigh. when will they learn...?

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

To me, if you want to judge the quality of a coach's character, listen to the guys who used to play for him. By that measure, Parcells, Vermeil, Dungy and others come off pretty darned well. I haven't heard anything much in regards to Belichik in this regard, either positive or negative.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I wrote before the game that one of Sean Payton's strengths is that he finds a team's weakness and goes after it repeatedly. Which is great if he is RIGHT about that weakness.

Won't repeat what has already been hammered home both during the game thread and elsewhere. I will write that I was astonished, as in mouth open catching flies, that the Saints were so pass happy. And this is one instance when the sideline reporter actually reported something that turned out to be FACT. The FOX fem reported that coach Payton told his team at halftime, "We will have to win this game by passing." I thought it was just the usual BS in case the opposition was actually watching the telecast. Only he MEANT IT.

Just really disappointed in Payton. McAllister is one of the vets on the team, his entire game is DESIGNED for yesterday's conditions, and Payton never went there.

Mark Anderson is the grass version of Dwight Freeney. Scream out of the stance for the qb. Alex Brown is a tad more controlled but if he KNOWS you are going to pass he is also quick as lightening out of the chute.

And I, lowly Big 10 fan and nobody who knows nothing, had stated that Brees would be unfazed by just about anything since Joe Tiller had subjected Drew to some of the most horrific beatings I have seen a qb take at the collegiate or pro level because of his whacky play-calling, NON protection schemes.

And Payton tried to top Tiller. Wow. Just, like, wow.

Why exactly did Sean Payton put a "Hit Me" sign on Drew's back? Why?

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

cd6 #64:

But how many patriots fans were saying things like “I believe in a world where the Patriots and Colts can both be great teams, and it just so happens that no team gets to win the championship every year� over the past few years?

The answer is there were none, because the nice ones were rightfully basking in the glory of the winning, and so many of the rest were all too busy telling us about how we needed to bow down before the greatest team ever as proved by X, Y, and Z, and how the Colts/Steelers/Eagles/Rams/Panthers/Raiders/Titans/Bronocs/Jets/other associated roadkill from 2001-2004 just couldn't match up against Belichick/Pats D/Brady/Vinatieri/"Team"/innovative use of bottom of the roster players/etc. Anything less than a wholy worshipful attitude was dismissed as "sour grapes". A lot "luck by design" nonesense was passed about as if the Patriots had ESP powers over bouncing footballs and unassisted drops and missed kicks. It really just got tiresome for everyone else.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Anyone know the status of Manning's thumb?

Even if it's just jammed that can be a pretty painful injury. Before Favre permanantly damaged his thumb in pre-season of 1999 he had jammed it in 1998 in the same manner as Manning did last night and talked about it never really felt completely better until the season was over and he had stopped gripping a football.

That pass to Clark was amazing because you could tell that Manning just MUSCLED it there as the injury had affected his grip.

Hope he's ok......

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

#99,

Payton accurately diagnosed the Bears' weakness . . . at first. The all-pass TD drive and the pick play took advantage of the Bears' run-stopping D. Luckily (for us) he didn't adjust to the adjustments, and then they got way behind and HAD to go pass wacky.

I remember someone in the preview thread said that Payton was clearly the better coach. Heh.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

#79

Actually, they said they wanted to give God the glory of the win, which is a bit different theologically than saying thank you God for making us win and the Pats lose.
This sort of thing plays well in Peoria, or Indianapolis, and I am not surprised someone from NY would not get it. If you are a Catholic though, perhaps you can recall the idea of “offering it up� that you mom or the Nuns should have instilled during your formative years.

You'll have to elaborate on the difference, as I'm sure you're not surprised that someone from NY is also Jewish.

I still think Manning's formulation showed a modesty about football's place in the world that was refreshing.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

in the first half, I thought the Indy defense was pretty good. What led to NE getting points was that they went for it twice on 4th down and converted. Most teams don't go for it on 4th down like that. But BB likes to, he did, and they got big plays out of both of the 4th down calls.

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I expected to see a lot of complaining about the Hobbs on Wayne endzone PI call, but I haven't seen any. Then, I read this article and see Aaron admitting that it was "pretty clearly" PI. How so? I'm a Colts' fan, and I thought the Colts got a HUGE break on that play. I know Hobbs never played the ball, but I didn't see any contact and face guarding IS NOT a penalty in the NFL. What am I missing?

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Bullet points.

Belichich absolutely should have burned all remaining timeouts during the Colts' last drive. If you need a TD, you can't worry about burning a down or two spiking the ball.

If I'm the Colts' special teams coach, I'm throwing up a lot the next two weeks.

On the civility level here, I think we all agree that (1) things are a lot better here than at most websites - especially if you want to compare to anything political, (2) nevertheless, Aaron is right to stay vigilant about campaigning against it, (3) a lot of what people are being bitter about is in response to fans or media harping on lame points - so doesn't the 'be better than they are' meme apply? We know the MSM is lazy, and we know a lot of fans are losers who idnetify way too strongly with their teams. Are you lazy? Are you a loser? No. Then let it go. Let. It. Go.

Last, Chicago is not as good as Indy, and thus has only about a 30-40% chance of winning the Super Bowl. The days of dominant teams steamrolling through the playoffs are over, people. Not sure why, but there you go.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

re 93: your comparison of the Chargers loss and the Patriots loss in your third and fourth paragraphs are pretty insightful.

I don't understand why it's necessary for some people to denigrate the opponent after a win. (As Gore Vidal said, "It is not enough to succeed; others must fail.") Back in the 70's, I sure didn't like the Raiders when they were a constant rival of the Steelers, but I thought they were a terrific team and that, on those occasions when the Steelers beat them, it only redounded to the Steelers' credit. If the Chargers' "suck," then what's the big deal if the Pats beat them? Isn't it more glorious to defeat a worthy rival?

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Absolutely, Badger, and like I said, it allowed the Bears to completely set the tone of the game. When you are playing a physical football team, you just occasionally have to demonstrate that you are willing to get in close and trade a few shots. Otherwise, they will just eventually bully you into submission, which is what happened yesterday. If I remember correctly, the series in which the Saints missed a long field goal attempt which would have given them the lead in the second half, after driving into Bears' territory, consisted of three straight incomplete passes. A couple of Deuce shots up the middle might have been interesting.

I can't believe that Tom Moore will make the same mistake. The Bears might win, but it won't be because the Colts don't try to run the ball in any way, shape, or form.

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Knowing that PI is impossible to define I will write that what happened yesterday I have seen called at both the collegiate and pro level. From what has been explained to me by current and former refs is that defenders have to play the ball. If a guy is just sticking up his arms, even if he knocks the ball away, he's not attempting to make a play on the ball. He's just getting in the way. Hence, interference.

Anyway, thought I would pass that along.

I do think the non-call on the Colts defender was surprising. But Caldwell would have dropped the ball anyway so no great loss.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I'd also like to dispute Aaron's claim that irrational hatred has no place in sports fandom. It may have no place on this site, but if professional sports is a replacement for warfare (which I believe it is), then irrational hatred definitely has a place in it.

Sure, it would be nice if we didn't irrationally hate anyone or anything, but at least this kind of hatred is more likely to be self-contained: I don't know of any legislation being created because of concerns that Patriots fans marrying threaten "our way of life".

If irrational hatred some day becomes confined to sports fandom, that will be a very good day for the world indeed.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Yes, Ned Macey, the Colt O-line is that bad, and yes, you are right -- Peyton Manning is the greatest NFL player of all-time.

Marvin Harrison is a very good, but not anywhere close to great WR. He has been propelled into a host of pro bowls and the Hall of Fame because of Manning. His whole career, he has never shown up when defended by an elite DB. Reggie Wayne would never make a pro bowl without Manning. Tarik Glenn is so far from Pro Bowl quality that it is a joke he gets to go. Jeff Saturday is a nice solid center. Nowhere close to one of the best in the game.

What I would give for a chance to sit down at NFL Films with game tape and show example after example to back up these observations. Let's get Jaws and break it all down.

Greatness is not defined by being able to play on a great team. Greatness is defined as lifting the level of play of ordinary teammates and making them look extraordinary.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

BTW, if the Colts win it's going to be hilarious how the stories change from Peyton is a choker to Peyton is the greatest ever. Probably complete with an SI cover story filled with homerism that would shame Bill Simmons and aw shucks Manning quotes.

It's coming.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I believe in a world where Colts fans can respect the accomplishments of the Patriots in the same way that Bears fans respect the accomplishments of the Saints, where people don’t call either Tom Brady or Peyton Manning a choking crybaby,

Brady choked! All of the Pats choked! And now they're crying like the crybabies they are! Whaa-Whaaa!! Speaking as a Colts fan, I hope a giant sinkhole opens up beneath Foxboro and every man, woman, and child disappears, shreiking in agony, into the flaming pit of molten lava! Go Colts!!

How's that?

Anyway, I just came in here to say that the Colts offense saved the defense last night. I was amazed that BB stopped going for it on fourth down. I figured he'd do it all night no matter what the down-and-distance. I think he started punting because he knew the offense was hot and he couldn't give them any kind of field position at all.
I dunno, though. I think he never should have punted, ever.

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I think the irrational love/hatred thing is despicable either way. I also think it is inseparable. If you irrationally love something you will by matter of course hate those things which go against it. It is honoring the same tribalistic urges that lead to nationalism and patriotism.

Is it so hard to just root for a team, but not identify with them as though they are a part of your family? And want to see good games, not blow outs either way?

I really do find the phenomenon of fandom in sports disturbing.

I suppose you only need to look at the wod itself. Not accusing anyone here, just going off of Aaron's comments in irrational/love hate.

Lots of times sports fans remind me of people who would rather pick a bunch of good kids for a street game, instead of choosing captains (and hence fair teams). All about winning and self affirmation through identification with the winning, not about competition and fun.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Will:

Are you surprised that folks are already writing the Bears off?

I look at the team speed on defense, the superior special teams, the running game on offense, Berrian's ability to go deep, and all the Bears, as in ALL THE BEARS NEED, to be the most complete team on the field is to get competent play at QB.

Them's pretty good odds if you ask me.

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Also, its worth noting here because I haven't seen it mentioned elsewhere:

The teams that scored first in the playoffs are 8-2. (The two losses being the Giants vs. the Eagles and the Pats vs. the Colts yesterday)

The home teams also went 8-2 (Those two losses were the Chargers and Ravens)

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Amid all the deserving criticism of Caldwell, it should also be noted that Brady took far too long to recognize that the Colts had made a monumental coverage error. Caldwell likely would have dropped it anyways, but Brady should have gotten him the ball much more quickly.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I think the Saints Bears game really hammered home the importance of the field conditions. On most plays the Saints offense looked really SLOW in the mud. Assuming that most likely conditions in Miami will be good (not necessarily a good assumption considering its snowing in Pheonix right now), I don't think the Bears will be gaining a big advantage there.

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I know when folks ask me why I think Favre is/was so awesome I point to Bill Schroeder. With Favre at QB Schroeder was a 1000 yard receiver. The next year he was the 4th guy for the Lions and was out of the league the following season.

If turning a receiver with alligator arms, poor route running ability, and a lack of upper body strength into a 1000 yard receiver isn't greatness I don't know what is.

And I'm guessing that something similar applies to Manning. Only he has a bit better compadres to work with then Favre did at the time.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Absolutely, Badger. I think the speed the Bears have at linebacker poses unique pass coverage challenges that the Colts don't often have to deal with, and the Colts defense is not formidable enough to make it very likely that Grossman won't be just bad, but sink the Titanic horrible. If the Bears win the special teams battle decisively, which they probably will, and Grossman is no more awful than yesterday, they can win.

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

The offensive line is partially due to Manning, and partially due to the scheme.

We've discussed this quite a few times, and it's common enough the barely competant-tators make the same point.

They run each play like the last. Thus making it even more confusing. The O-line is helped very much by this scheme.

They are also particularly good at running it, because that's what they do. over and over. and over again.

but you couldn't put one of them on.. a Zone blocking scheme and expect the same level of play.

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

My biggest concern about this game is the Bears pass D. If Average Rex shows up, we can move the ball against the Colt's D. However, Vasher and Peanut cannot cover Harrison and Wayne one-on-one, and I don't think the Bears zone can show Manning anything he hasn't already seen.

Their best chance is to cause some "protection problems" for the Colts and force Manning into short throws, where the receivers can be gang-tackled and stripped.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

And just so it's clear, I 100% believe the Bears could beat the Colts.

I could see a blow out either way too. i just want to get to the game, and watch it!

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I can tell you the problem with eliminating irrational hate and only having irrational love for your own team. Irrational love for a team sometimes leads you to hate their rivals. I'm a Cowboys fan, and I can't help but hate the Redskins. That team tried to stop my team from even being formed, and they have given us our most heartbreaking losses. How can I not hate them?
That being said, the only team I actually hate is the Redskins. I feel no hatred towards the Cowboys other "rivals" (but I do like to see them lose).

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Lots of nice comments, this column is always great. And you are right Aaron, I wanted to hit a few people yesterday for the irrational hate.

Congrats to the Colts! Too bad you couldn't be there with us Bobman, it was incredible...my ears are still ringing!

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Howard Mudd is a name that will not be heard often in the next two weeks, but he is critical. If he puts together a deficient protection scheme, as he did against the Steelers last year, the Colts will be in trouble. If he gets his guys well prepared, the Bears will be in trouble.

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

The Bears win games by forcing turnovers on defense and incredible special teams. They play a unique field position game that only requires their offense to be decent. Yesterday was the perfect example of the Bears strategy: 340 yards of offense, 37 offensive points. If they can get similar points per yard efficiency, they can and probably should win the game. If the Colts can prevent turnovers and at least not get destroyed on special teams (does anybody see a scenario where they win the special teams battle?), the Bears will be in a lot of trouble. A straight offense-defense game without turnovers spells a big Colts win.

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Some of us don't hate teams so much as we hate regions of the country. Anything that brings pain to the North East will always warm my heart. ;)

Not that the term "Fly Over Country" is extremely denigrating or anything...oh wait, it is.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

42, Did you notice that the Colts totally changed their blocking patterns on their inside runs against the Ravens? Starting in 2003, the Colts built a running game out of crap by developing their unique zone stretch to go with the draw. Teams adjusted by widening their run anchors. The Colts have adjusted by developing more traps and kickouts.

60. Great stuff.

re: hatred, etc. I agree with whoever said that the hatred that caused fans of everyone but the Pats to root against them is mostly generated by the worst of the NE media and the worst of the Pat fans.

Part of it is also due to simply rooting against Goliath, but there is an element of reacting to the constant deification of Brady. He's good. He's not great and never has been. And I think a lot of the whole "Irrational Thread which shall remain unnamed" is due to the fact that NE media feel compelled to trash Manning. They want to say Brady is great. Except for the Patriot SBs, there is little to support a claim that Brady is better. And fans of most every other team recognize it. Even Pat fans like Aaron recognize it. So in order to make Brady #1, the Brady-lovers in NE have to trash and belittle Manning.

Fans who don't root for the Colts or the Pats recognize when someone is getting the shaft and when someone is getting a throne they really haven't earned. And having ESPN and the rest of the media remind you of the unfairness on a daily basis is a great way to build up irritation and resentment.

A number of fans and posters here have said they wanted the Colts to win -- simply so they don't have to hear the crap anymore. The constant media trashing just got to be too damn much.

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

AccuScore (the only ESPN "expert" to correctly pick the Bears win) has the Colts as an early favorite. Click my name to see the numbers. Screw AccuScore. Go Bears!

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

When Jim Irsay held up the Hunt trophy, it looked like there was some kind of black stuff on his nose and on his teeth. Does he always look like that, or did something end up on him during the celebration.

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

135

It's not all the protection scheme that gets gameplanned. Their biggest problem against the steelers last year was that they never knew where the blitz was coming from, because during that game, LeBeau was running the most insane version of the zone blitz I'd ever seen.

On the NFL "Game of the Week" they put together for that game, they showed a play where the steelers lined up 3 defensive linemen and 5 linebackers. At the snap, all 5 linebackers rushed the passer, and one of the defensive ends dropped into coverage (on the RB). Thus, the Colts frequently had two linemen turning in to block the same guy, or linemen standing around with someone to block, while a LB came in free. This kind of completely unpredictable defense is why Baltimore and New England frequently had success against the colts. (most likely, because its easier to blitz from anywhere out of the 3-4)

Miscommunitcation like that must surely arise from adjustments at the line, be it from Manning or Saturday. However, the Bears don't show a lot of different looks, and rarely blitz. I kind of feel like that would be playing into the Colts' hands, as they can set up one blocking scheme and stay with it.

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

The biggest difference between the Pats defense and the Bears defense, athletically, is that when the Pats roll a safety to help out on a wide receiver, their linebackers aren't fast enough to fill the coverage hole left behind consistently. Of course, with Tommy Harris off the field the Bears lack an interior lineman of either his or Seymour's quality, which may mean something if the Colts approach it right.

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

re: anti-Patriots sentiment

I tend to think that the "people hate them because they win" element gets overexaggerated. Look at Tiger Woods, or the Spurs, or the Red Wings. Even within the NFL, there are teams that have been consistently good the last few years, though they don't win it all. (The Colts, Steelers, Chargers, Seahawks, Panthers, etc)

None of those individuals/teams have some many anti-fans as the Patriots. Except, in a nod to Bill Simmons, the Yankees, and now maybe the Red Sox as well. But to try and chalk it up to the "people root against a winner" phenomenon is probably selling short the reasons listed upthread by various posters. If ESPN didn't exist, would the Patriots be as unpopular? Certainly not.

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

cd6, when a guy puts together a blitz scheme that your players don't know how to react to, they either didn't listen, or you didn't prepare them well. I thought having Saturday repeatedly try and pull, to pick off an edge pass rusher, was among the more strange things I've seen in a playoff game. I agree that the Bears are unlikely to be as exotic, but the Colts o-line better be more prepared than the Saints' o-line, which was fooled badly several times yesterday.

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

NY ExPat:

You’ll have to elaborate on the difference, as I’m sure you’re not surprised that someone from NY is also Jewish.

Well, I figured it was either that or Irish/Italian Catholic.

Thanking God for the win is attributing your own skill and its results to the foreknowledge of God, as if God foreordained that you would win, and then gave you the skills and luck to ensure you did so, or as if God would show partiality in football games.

Giving God the Glory, so to speak, is offering up the victory and your play for God's Glory. You aren't claiming God made you win (or lose), rather you are offering your happiness (or sadness) and your effort up to God to praise Him.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

#135. Smith plays a variant of the Tampa 2 (as he's a Dungy disciple). The Bears have a lot more athleticism than the Pats, but their schemes are not complex, which would seem to play into Manning's strengths. Also remember the Colts did eventually adjust to the Steeler's blitzing, but by then it was too late because the Steelers came out with an aggressive offensive gameplan and built an early lead. But the Steelers offense was much better than the Bears, and if the Bears do manage to confuse Manning early, that might mean it's a 6-3 game before Manning figures things out, at which time the Bears are in trouble.

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Well, at least the Pats have TWO number one picks this year...I can look forward to the draft TWICE as much now... :P heh.

And honestly, the draw plays were KILLING us.

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

As a Pats fan, I have to say that Brady has lost his 'invincible', superhero-like quality in the postseason. If he had won this game, then he still would have had it. Sadly, he did not.

If Manning wins, will I immediately proclaim him the best QB in football? I doubt it. He's got a heck of a lot of good players helping him on that side of the field.

However, he will go up....how much, I can't say. (I'm a homer, so not more than Brady ;). I'd probably think of him as 1B.

Finally, I think Peyton has become a much better LEADER of men, and not just a good thrower.