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

Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Compiled by Doug Farrar

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 2008. Games are chosen based on our own personal viewing preferences, and are going to reflect the teams we support and the cities where we live.

Buffalo Bills 13 at Miami Dolphins 10

Mike Tanier: I am Cleo Lemon, standing in the end zone, watching Chris Kelsay come unblocked.

Chris Kelsay is still unblocked. He is coming to get me.

He is still coming, Maybe I should throw.

Oh my, here he comes.

Dumbest safety I have seen in a long time.

I am still undecided on J.P. Losman vs. Trent Edwards, and I know Losman brings the long bomb factor. But with Losman, it seems like the Bills have no drive capability. There's no sequence to their offense, just a few bombs punctuated by punts. Today, they played down to the Dolphins and nearly lost. I feel like if Edwards were in there, they would have scored about 22 points on drives into field goal range.

Denver Broncos 27 at Kansas City Chiefs 11

Doug Farrar: I think it's safe to say that the Broncos are mistake-prone. In the first quarter, they put up 119 yards in total offense, but they also had six penalties for 35 yards. The second quarter began with a blocked Todd Sauerbrun punt that went out of the Denver end zone for a safety. Rockies lead the Royals, 5-3, with Brian Fuentes warming up in the bullpen. It's a nice ValuPak of penalties, as well -- no boring hold-after-hold. We have ineligible downfield pass, illegal block above the waist, offensive holding (on a punt return), offensive holding (on a kickoff return), encroachment, and illegal formation.

So far, my impression of Jay Cutler has been that this is a guy who's going to have to be talked out his love of the deep ball in favor of work on shorter passes. He overthrew Brandon Marshall horribly in the second quarter, and Marshall didn't have a Kansas City defender within 10 yards of him. He's already had two balls batted down on shorter passes halfway through the second quarter. What I do like about him is his pocket presence -- he doesn't get happy feet, and he'll run out of pressure. He can then throw accurately across his body, and that's where the arm strength is valuable.

Mike Tanier: Cutler tends to overthrow some guys. I've seen him do a good job of checking down and taking what he's given in other games.

Doug Farrar: People are going to look at his stats and wonder what I'm smoking when I say what I'm about to say, but ... Priest Holmes has great burst and wonderful escapability. He's making some incredible cuts, making Denver defenders miss badly. He's not going to put together world-beating numbers behind this line (dead last in Adjusted Line Yards by a sizeable margin), but it's nice to see him looking that good for his first start in two years. Many of his three- or four-yard runs really should have been stuffs or losses.

Jared Allen is messing up Matt Lepsis' day. On a third-and-8 from the Kansas City 45 near the half, Allen beat Lepsis so badly off the edge that Lepsis could have been called for holding on two different occasions. Cutler threw incomplete, and Allen went cleanly to the back of Cutler's legs. Didn't look deliberate at all. Fortunately, Cutler didn't have his feet planted, or he wouldn't have been walking off the field at halftime.

After Selvin Young's third-quarter touchdown makes this one of the better battles between undrafted running backs, Damon Huard comes back on the field to a rousing chorus of boos. On K.C.'s first play from scrimmage, Elvis Dumervil clowns Chris Terry and causes a Huard fumble which is returned by Denver's Nate Webster for a touchdown. There is perhaps no better indicator that your quarterback situation is a major problem than when your fans are chanting "Bro-die! Bro-die!"

Croyle comes in due to a Huard injury, but all involved would be better off if either Huard or Croyle could block. Croyle throws sideline dinks and little screens and takes the Chiefs downfield. On this drive, Holmes runs left and pulls off an incredible cut -- he juked right for a second and cut left so quickly that John Engelberger and Hamza Abdullah collided in the empty space where Holmes had been a second before. He's really a pleasure to watch. The Chiefs have to settle for another field goal on this drive, but I'm sure that the Brodie Croyle stalled drives are much more dynamic than the Damon Huard stalled drives. Or so Herm will surely tell us in The Week in Quotes.

Vince Verhei: The Chiefs need to go to Croyle full-time now. He seems to throw much better under pressure, and that's an important skill in Kansas City. I saw a number of plays where completed passes sidearm, falling down, on one foot. He gives the team their best chance to win now, whatever that's worth, and more importantly, the Chiefs need to spend the rest of 2007 deciding to go with the guy they've got or entering the Derek Anderson bidding war.

Ned Macey: I didn't watch this game, but I was surprised to read the positive comments about Priest. He averaged 3.3 against one of the worst run defenses in football. Did he actually look good despite the poor overall stats?

Bill Moore: I only saw one Priest Holmes run. It was third-and-2 from the 5, and he ran to the left end, mistakenly tried to cut back across the opposite side and then couldn't get free. He lost 13 yards. It was a case of Holmes not being Holmes of a few years ago. Otherwise, looking at the PBP, it was lots of three- and four-yard runs. There were only three runs greater than six years, and two greater than 10 (both 11).

Doug Farrar: Yeah, he did. It was sporadic, and he had to do a lot himself because that line is so bad, but his burst and his ability to cut were surprising given the long layoff. There were times when he'd go into a mess of Denver defenders with nowhere to go, but he'd pull out a few extra yards with his own effort. Some of those three- or four-yard runs Bill was talking about should have been stuffs or losses.

Michael David Smith: I agree about Holmes. Other than that terrible play where he ran backwards, he was surprisingly good when you consider that the Chiefs' offensive line is a disgrace.

Doug Farrar: The AFC West seems like the NFC West this year: filled with teams that seem to want to give the division to each other. Kansas City has major issues with its offensive line and some strange defensive game-planning (I really loved the "11-in-the-box" strategy that led to Cutler's final touchdown pass to Daniel Graham, and Denver's receivers were wiiiiiiiiide-open far too often), while Denver has the obvious run defense problem that the Chiefs' horrid line couldn't exploit. Neither team is yet close to the kind of quarterback situation that would lead to reliable success, though Denver's is obviously more settled and Cutler does have a great deal of potential. The Raiders are the Raiders, and San Diego's problems are so obvious, they're barely worth taking about anymore. They can't always count on beating Peyton Manning with half a team around him and an injured Dwight Freeney. One game is not a panacea, though it's fascinating to see how long they'll get these kinds of results out of their special teams. You put any of these teams in the AFC South, they'd be 3-6 or 2-7 right now. Except for the Raiders, who are currently 2-7 and would probably have a negative Pythagorean win projection.

Minnesota Vikings 0 at Green Bay Packers 34

Doug Farrar: The current strategy for stopping Adrian Peterson seems to be that you have to attack and hope for the best, because he's so fast with his cuts that he'll freeze you if you stand there and wait to make a tackle. I saw one highlight of his record performance against San Diego in which he simply ran by both safeties, and there was another play where four defenders had him in a box at the second level, but because of hesitation and poor angles, nobody could make the stop.

On the first series for the Vikings in this game, Green Bay took the more aggressive approach -- Brady Poppinga came off the left side with great speed and stopped Peterson on the edge of the line on third down. The Vikings went three-and-out. They did a lot of that -- Minnesota's offense didn't convert a third down in this game -- and proved again that if your passing attack is a joke, all you can do when you're down by a couple of scores is hope that your starters don't get hurt. Unfortunately, even that didn't go too well -- in the third quarter, Peterson suffered what has initially been diagnosed as a sprained right knee.

Bill Barnwell: Brady Poppinga is the Hunter Hillenmeyer of the Packers.

Doug Farrar: On Green Bay's corresponding opening drive, their supposedly non-existent rushing attack put up 49 yards on Minnesota's defense by running outside. Ryan Grant gets good yardage up the middle by way of a play-action draw on the second drive. They're doing very well with little delays, getting a center and a guard on either the left or right Williams "brother" and bouncing off the edge. Green Bay with an integrated run game has to scare the rest of the NFC. Ryan Grant seems to fit the idea perfectly. The Vikings have averaged 70.4 rushing yards allowed per game, and Grant has 81 yards on 10 carries in the first quarter.

Bill Barnwell: Kevin Williams is so good. Who makes a play five yards downfield on a screen pass? Kevin Williams! Not, say, a safety or a corner. Kevin Williams!

I love the way Favre uses the pump fake to set up defenders. There was a deep slant that Favre set up not only with his eyes but with two pump fakes, creating three yards of separation for Jennings who, unfortunately, dropped the easy touchdown. Probably too much heat on the throw, too.

Favre's not fast, but he still has great motion within the pocket. He knows exactly where to move and improvises well with his head up, allowing him to still progress through his reads while, say, Henderson has come free on a blitz and is around Favre's ankle.

Packers are actually running all kinds of really weird formations -- a shotgun two-back formation with a fullback pretty much a yard behind the offensive linemen is strange to me, at least. Before that, they motioned into a full house backfield and then ran off-tackle to the weak side for nine yards. It's weird -- the Packers aren't throwing at all on the outside, only on the interior to Donald Lee and Jennings, strange considering Winfield is out.

Aaron Schatz: They actually use that one a lot. They also have a formation where the running back is not exactly a slot receiver but ends up sort of on the side right behind the linemen. I think the Packers have more unique formations than any other offense.

The general theme of this game, I think, is that Green Bay showed how to run against the Vikings. They were running all kinds of draws, delays, misdirections, screen passes, and so forth. Those were successful. The regular runs were generally unsuccessful, except for a couple where the Packers had two double teams on the two Williamses, and one where the wide receivers were all really tight so Grant ended up running behind a whole host of blockers. Watching the first half of this game, I got the feeling that the Vikings linebackers may not be as good as they look in the numbers. If Grant could get past the defensive line, the linebackers weren't so successful at taking on blocks and getting to Grant.

On the other side of the ball, the Packers showed what you can do to the Vikings if you have enough confidence in your cornerbacks to leave them in man one-on-one. I made fun of Atari Bigby last week and someone pointed out in the comments that he is known to be a much better run defender. Well, he was basically stapled to the line of scrimmage today, they were eight in the box pretty much anytime Adrian Peterson was in the game. The Vikings passing game is so impotent that there's really no reason for any other strategy.

Atlanta Falcons 20 at Carolina Panthers 13

Vince Verhei: Note to all teams playing Atlanta in the future: In all passing situations, drop your team into deep coverage. Joey Harrington will always throw underneath the zone. He had FIVE completions on third downs today that failed to pick up first downs. So knowing this, in the game's final seconds, with the Falcons in position to kick a winning field goal, the Panthers rush seven. Alge Crumpler gets separation, Harrington finds him, and Crumpler scores the winning touchdown.

The Steve Smith-DeAngelo Hall matchup is always entertaining. Both guys have that little-man chip-on-the-shoulder thing going, and they each desperately want to prove they're superior. It looked like Smith was going to win the matchup today. The only time the Panthers offense came close to scoring an offensive touchdown was in the first quarter, when Smith beat Hall on fourth down and looked to take the ball into the end zone. Hall never gave up on the play though, and at the last second forced a fumble that went into the end zone and out of bounds for a touchback. The Panthers never reached the Falcons' 10-yard line for the rest of the game. Smith finished with just five catches on 61 yards, for a team that threw 29 passes on the day.

Aaron Schatz: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Harrington was the king of the pointless third-down checkdown in Detroit.

St. Louis Rams 37 at New Orleans Saints 29

Vince Verhei: Here's my theory on the collapse of the Saints: Last year, Reggie Bush was an unknown commodity, and teams were scared to death of him. So they always devoted their attention to him, leaving Colston and Henderson and company relatively unnoticed. Now, with a year's worth of film, teams have realized that Bush is good, but he ain't THAT good. They've also realized that the Saints running game went down with Deuce McAllister, and that if you cover the short routes, the offensive line can't give Drew Brees enough time to find receivers deep downfield. I can't explain why Brees is good for a handful of poor throws to open receivers, though.

Also, the Saints defensive backs are very, very bad.

Bill Barnwell: So, since the Rams won and the Dolphins lost, what do the 1976 Buccaneers do when Miami DOES win? Go to the corner store, bust out $1.99, and drink 40s to celebrate their place alone at the bottom of the NFL history barrel? Boone's Farm?

Aaron Schatz: The 1976 Bucs always celebrate the last team to get a win with a big bottle of Cold Duck.

Philadelphia Eagles 33 at Washington Redskins 25

Bill Barnwell: Daryl Johnston criticized Philly's decision to go for two with the score 15-13 and three minutes left in the third quarter. Now:

A) That seems like a pretty decent decision to me.
B) Don't the Eagles have people on staff who do way more research into this sort of thing than, say, Moose has by playing in a few hundred games?

There was a Chris Cooley catch that got erased by a defensive penalty where he dragged two Eagles defenders three yards to the one-inch line. Chris Cooley rules. The Eagles follow it with a great defensive stand, though, pushing Clinton Portis back on both first down and second down, and before third down (with Campbell lining up in the shotgun, ugh), Cooley false starts. Maybe he doesn't rule so much. The Eagles jump the snap count on third down perfectly, with both defensive ends getting a huge jump, but the Redskins run a draw and get it back to the 3 for a Suisham field goal.

Eagles score on an awesome screen that the Redskins sell out almost their entire front seven on. Great block by Andrews to spring it, but there were four guys within one step of McNabb, he took one perfect step backwards to avoid the rush for the half-second he needed, and the ball was out to Westbrook before he took his second step. Just perfect execution.

On the other hand, the Redskins run these obvious screens that the Eagles have two guys sprinting towards before the ball's even released.

The irony is Johnston saying that the Redskins have respect for the Eagles defense because they're running screens, and teams run screens against good defenses. No they don't. The Redskins run screens against EVERY defense.

Mike Tanier: The Eagles decision to go for two is certainly arguable. Like you say, the Eagles have their stats department, and they drill down to the best odds on plays like that. I would have been happier getting the extra point there, because I think in terms of things like "two Redskins field goals make this a seven-point game."

This was a pessimistic Eagles victory. The run defense gave up eight yards on every cutback. The pass defense was only effective when the Redskins had to throw. The front four did not play well. The whole defense looked pretty weak.

Aaron Schatz: See, this ties in to what I was saying about the Eagles last week. They won -- they beat a team with a winning record, a division rival, on the road. That's a good win. I think those of us who are fans of winning teams tend to mentally move our definition of "average."

There's no doubt that Packers fans have had this problem in recent years, for example, constantly bitching about Brett Favre when Favre has been an above average quarterback. Seriously, who can name a dozen teams that are definitely better than Philadelphia? After watching them today, would anyone say the Vikings or Browns are better than Philadelphia? How about the Saints, who lost to the winless Rams, and the Bills, who nearly lost to the winless Dolphins? The Eagles are probably still a top-12 team, weird as that sounds.

Mike Tanier: Run the DVOA on the Eagles-Redskins and I bet the Redskins come out on top. The Eagles really didn't look good for most of the game. You asked me last week who would win Eagles-Browns, and I said Eagles. After today, I say Browns. When you watch the Shortcuts of this game, count the number of seven- and eight-yard runs Portis has on cutbacks. I will bet the DVOA special teams edge is big too, except for that missed extra point. The Eagles never get the ball after a kickoff past the 30 yard line, but opponents always seem to be at the 34 or something.

Ned Macey: The Eagles defense is bad. For those who have watched them on a regular basis for the whole Reid era, it is painful to watch at time. Receivers are running free in the middle of the field. Potentially excusable when it was Cowboys players, not so much when it is James Thrash.

That said, I still insist Donovan McNabb looks better each and every week. He still holds the ball too long and makes errant throws, but he is moving much better in the pocket. Washington is down some injured players, but that's still a good defense, and they moved the ball decently. McNabb, by the way, is near the top 10 in DPAR with NO quality receivers, yet somehow he's the problem. The defense, meanwhile is one of the ten worst in football. The arc on McNabb is perfect for how quarterback-focused people are since he was second in the MVP voting when he was not as good as he is now, when people think he should be benched.

In college, people talk about winning with another team's recruits. The early success of the McNabb era was largely fueled by a great defense. In Ray Rhodes' last season, the Eagles had Brian Dawkins, Hugh Douglas, Bobby Taylor, Troy Vincent, Al Harris and Trotter. In the nine years under Reid, they just haven't found that kind of defensive talent: Sheppard, Sheldon Brown, and then who, Trent Cole or Corey Simon?

It should be no surprise that a defense that ranked in the DVOA top 10 every year from 1999 to 2002 (including first in 2001) has not been in the top 10 since 2002? Ironically (hope that's not an Alanis Morissette use), their offense was never in the top 10 until 2003 and then has been every year since except 2005. The Eagles need to improve their defensive talent acquisition skills or Kevin Kolb will also never win a Super Bowl.

Aaron Schatz: By the way, DVOA for the game: Philadelphia 5.5%, Washington -6.2%.

Jacksonville Jaguars 28 at Tennessee Titans 13

Vince Verhei: Take away Albert Haynesworth, and the Titans' defense goes from historically great to above-average. Haynesworth sat out with a hamstring injury, and as a result, Jacksonville center Brad Meester and guards Vince Manuwai and Maurice Williams dominated the middle of the field. Maurice Jones-Drew ran up the gut for an 8-yard touchdown in the second quarter and wasn't touched on the play. The Jags spent most of the second half nursing a two-score lead, and the rushing average suffered as a result (3.9 for the game), but you can still see their production in 10 rushing first downs and three touchdowns on the ground.

Tennessee was behind the entire game, and as a result ran only 19 times with 45 pass plays. This is a bad thing when your quarterback is Vince Young. Their only touchdown came in the fourth quarter when Young threw into double coverage in the end zone. The ball was tipped straight up and fell into the hands of Justin Gage, who was lying on his back at the time. That fluke play was all that separated the Titans' offense from the Raiders' today.

Bill Barnwell: It's weird. We define offensive players by how great they are when they perform on the field, but it's almost as if we define great defensive players by how their teams do when they're not around (Bob Sanders being the first example that comes to mind). There's something very strange about that.

Vince Verhei: That's an interesting observation. At one point today I thought to myself, "I guess this locks up the defensive player of the year award for Haynesworth." It is weird that a guy's standing would increase because he missed a game.

Cleveland Browns 28 at Pittsburgh Steelers 31

Michael David Smith: One thing I've noticed about Kellen Winslow is that he has definitely mastered the art of pushing off just enough to get an advantage but not enough to get called for offensive pass interference. He's a smart player, almost as if he's had a Hall of Fame tight end as a personal tutor for his entire life.

Aaron Schatz: I switched over from GB-MIN at halftime and it is impossible to believe that this game was 21-9 Cleveland. The Browns offense is having a hard time getting people open, and the Browns fans must be sick and tired of watching dumpoff passes bounce off Jamal Lewis's hands. Was Pittsburgh's offense having problems in the first half?

In the second half, Pittsburgh is getting guys open fairly frequently. Of course, there's also Ben Roethlisberger's habit of trying to hit the smallest passing windows imaginable. The touchdown to Heath Miller to go ahead 31-28 was a good example, I think Wimbley had great, great coverage on that one and he still got it right ahead of Miller for the catch.

I think Roethlisberger's habit of throwing to tiny windows is a good reason why every so often he has those horrible, interception-filled games. If you play with fire, you may become the most successful fire-eater in the history of the circus, but you are still occasionally going to get burned.

Ryan Wilson: I thought the Steelers would come out with their Matt Hasselbeck game plan. Namely, rush three and four guys all day and make the quarterback force throws. As Doug pointed out in EPC, the Browns are great pass blockers, and Derek Anderson takes short drops and gets rid of the ball. He's also known as the Anti-Frye around Berea.

Pittsburgh blitzed on a handful of plays in the first half with little success. Anderson was methodical, and killed the Steelers on third down. Worsening special teams play set up the second Browns touchdown, and a bad Roethlisberger pick deep in Pittsburgh's zone made it 21-6 before the half. After the break, the Steelers dropped everybody into coverage, and when Anderson's first read didn't come open, he got happy feet, which seemed to result in some inaccurate throws, most of the shortish variety.

Roethlisberger looked like he was having a pity party in the first half, maybe because of his sore hip, but he got it together in the second half, including a 30-yard touchdown run that wouldn't have happened 10 years ago. Since nobody can touch the quarterback, it looked like several Browns defenders let up as Ben made his way for six.

The touchdown to Heath Miller was a great throw. Roethlisberger has this habit of looking defenders off with his head during his drop, while eye-balling his intended target. It was a tough throw, but only Miller could make the catch. And other than Hines Ward, probably the only guy on the team that hauls it in. Still, it doesn't matter what the offense/defense does, the special teams is atrocious. Absolutely awful. Josh Cribbs is a top-five returner and he was facing what I can only imagine a 32nd special teams unit looks like. Take a guess how that worked out.

Doug Farrar: Strange day around the league for time management issues and weird challenges. Apparently, Romeo Crennel burned a timeout in the fourth quarter to decide whether he'd challenge Heath Miller's two-yard TD catch. He then challenged it and lost, burning another timeout. That may be a first.

That said, there's such a thing as a loss to build on. When you've been a truly abysmal team for a number of years, and you're suddenly flush with success, however one-sided it may be, and you get waxed by a team that's obviously more well-rounded than you, that's one thing. But Cleveland was absolutely destroyed by the Steelers in the season opener, made some necessary changes, and lost a very close game in Pittsburgh this time. They were decisively ahead early on, withstood what was probably an inevitable comeback, and found themselves a missed field goal away from overtime. For the second straight week, Cleveland's offensive line kept Derek Anderson's jersey clean against a sack-happy team, and the Browns' special teams are very solid. Pundits seem to be fooled by one team per year that appears to be a few players away from real legitimacy (hello, San Francisco), but this Cleveland team has some good things in place. They just ran into a team that has more and better things in place.

Cincinnati Bengals 21 at Baltimore Ravens 7

Vince Verhei: The Cincinnati Bengals have a very bad defense. They came into today 29th in defensive DVOA, 26th against the run, 26th against the pass. They are mediocre in ALY (14th), but the big runs they give up are BIG runs; they're next-to-last in 10-plus yards. They're 25th in Adjusted Sack Rate. They can't cover wide receivers. They can't cover tight ends. They're actually pretty good covering running backs (inexplicably, given the decrepit state of their linebacker corps), but other than that, they are bad at everything.

Against that defense, the Baltimore offense turned the ball over six times and scored just seven points, and those came in garbage time. Their quarterback is 34. Their leading receiver is 33. Their coach has been trying to establish a consistent offense for literally his entire tenure with the team. It's time to blow this up and start over.

Detroit Lions 21 at Arizona Cardinals 31

Vince Verhei: In the third quarter I saw a graphic that said the Lions had negative rushing yards. I started watching, trying to see what the Cards were doing. It turns out, the answer is: Nothing. I never saw the Lions run. The Lions ran four times in the first half, all Kevin Jones, for a total of -4 yards. Jones did not get a carry in the second half, but four players got one apiece: Aveion Cason (1 yard), T.J. Duckett (0 yards), Jon Kitna (0 yards) and Shaun McDonald (-15 yards). So more than anything else, it looks like the Cardinals were successful on a small number of plays, and then the Lions just gave up. As a result, the Cards were free to tee off on Jon Kitna, collecting four sacks, nine quarterback hits and forcing Kitna to fumble three times.

Aaron Schatz: The Lions are who we thought they were.

Chicago Bears 17 at Oakland Raiders 6

Bill Barnwell: Great play fake by Josh McCown and he runs for 20-plus yards on a naked bootleg. He follows this with the most awkward emphatic first down signal you'll see. That poor other Adrian Peterson had a screen pass for no gain on third-and-19.

I'm not impressed with the Bears' game plan against a Raiders defense with obvious flaws. Smoke passes to Hester: not a great idea. Just give the ball to Cedric Benson and let your line push Warren Sapp into the opposing end zone. Yes, I know that Benson refuses to hit a hole without tapping his toes four times, but it's bound to work at least once or twice. I promise.

Vince Verhei: Remember earlier in the year when the Raiders were alone in first place and it looked like they were on their way? Ancient history. The passing attack of McCown to Porter/Curry/Williams, etc., produced a total of 14 completions, and four of those were on the Raiders' final drive when the game was over.

The Raiders were the first team in, well, maybe ever to kick to Devin Hester and not regret it. He had one 60-plus-yard return called back on a holding penalty (committed while the punt was still in the air), and other than that, nothing. The Raiders' coverage teams were great, never allowing Hester any air. He even had two returns for negative yardage.

Mike Tanier: Aaron and I were going over the "Squib Kick Away from Hester" strategy and while I don't think he has all the data worked out, it looks like a bad strategy overall. My gut tells me that you are giving away the chance of a fumble, a holding penalty, and an ordinary return out of fear of a big return, and that the trade-off isn't worth it when you hand the Bears about 12 yards of field position every kickoff. Aaron's preliminary work says the same thing.

My theory is this: If you are afraid of Hester, why not put extra starters on your kick coverage team that week? Sure, some teams have full-time gunners who are better at kick coverage than the starting defenders, but there are always one or two backup running backs and wide receivers out there who can't possibly be better than your starting free safety or weakside linebacker at kick coverage. Put them out there all week in practice and you probably decrease the chance of a long return by several percentage points.

Aaron Schatz: Yep, did the Hester research. I'll stick it in tomorrow's DVOA article. It's also going in the next issue of ESPN The Magazine.

Dallas Cowboys 31 at New York Giants 20

Bill Barnwell: Dallas' first touchdown is a throw from Tony Romo where he is at least a full yard, maybe two ahead of the line of scrimmage. Coughlin does not challenge.

Aaron Schatz: I can't help but think that the Giants are getting screwed with all these delay of game calls on Eli Manning. Last year they changed delay of game -- if the offense called the play right after the clock went to zero, the officials were supposed to keep the flag in their pocket to keep the game moving. They've been doing that this year too -- until this game, where suddenly if Eli Manning snaps the ball one second late, it is a penalty. It seems off.

Mike Tanier: Overall, there were about 100 sloppy penalties in this game. At the end, they called a personal foul facemask on Mathias Kiwanuka on a third-and-20-something when the Cowboys were trying to sit on the clock. Smart football.

Stuart Fraser: For a Steelers fan with Roethlisberger as his comparison for quarterback play, it was interesting to watch Romo tonight (first time I've seen Dallas this year). The Romo vs. Roethlisberger debate could well be a lively one in the coming years. It did seem to me very much like watching a Steelers performance on occasions -- Romo and the Dallas receivers do less ad-libbing on what I will call "undesigned scrambles" than I'm used to as a Pittsburgh fan, but it's definitely there.

Romo made some really ugly throws -- almost certainly the worst looking touchdown pass this season (as well as being thrown from beyond the line of scrimmage) which only worked because the wide receiver was more open than anybody should ever be in the end zone (I think the flanker and slot receiver crossed over and the corner followed the flanker inside leaving the slot guy alone, though the replay was kind of lousy). Of course there was also the interception, which was A) forced into double coverage and B) severely underthrown. Which, come to think of it, is another similarity he shares with Roethlisberger (though actually when Ben forces a deep ball into double coverage he more commonly picks out the deep safety, I think).

Romo is more conventionally mobile than Roethlisberger. He evaded pass rushers on several plays tonight, but it was evasion -- stepping up, scrambling outside, not Roethlisberger's frequent brute-strength approach to avoiding a sack. If nothing else this should extend Romo's career in comparison.

Eli did make some very good throws. One in particular to Plaxico Burress which he dropped over a linebacker who was sitting halfway down the route, and then fit the ball between the safety and the corner, actually caused me to sit up and applaud, but it did seem to be another not-quite-consistent-enough Eli night.

Ned Macey: Last week, my theme was the defensive line is important. This week it is wide receiver. Terrell Owens first became a high quality wide receiver in 1997. Starting then, his quarterback has made the Pro Bowl every year except 1999, 2003, and 2005. That includes four separate quarterbacks under (counting this year) five different coaches. Randy Moss isn't quite as impressive, but Brady will be his third different quarterback and fifth Pro Bowl selection in 10 years. Kerry Collins throwing to Moss ranked 11th in DPAR in 2005. What Brady is doing this year is obviously the clearest example.

The thing is that wide receivers were devalued by smart analysts because the model franchises earlier this decade were New England and Philadelphia, both of whom devalued it. It seems to me that the offensive experience of those teams and their exceptional quarterbacks shows that they undervalued wide receiver.

Stuart Fraser: In non-quarterback-related thoughts, the Giants kept trying to jam Owens at the line of scrimmage. It never seemed to work (of course we don't get so many replays of the times when it did work), and on both of his touchdowns Owens just blew by the cornerback trying to jam him. On the first the cornerback was in man and that was that. On the second, bizarrely the safety came up and jammed too, almost running into the cornerback -- I've never seen so weird a pass coverage scheme.

In All-Rookie related thoughts, Aaron Ross made an incredible play in diving to tip a ball away from Owens on a slant route which caused a Cowboys punt (a rarity in this game). I don't recall seeing much more of him than that, which is normally a good thing for a cornerback as it means he isn't identifiably being torched (and I'm guessing the weird jamming T.O. thing they were all doing was a coaching decision, and a lousy one much of the time).

Indianapolis Colts 21 at San Diego Chargers 23

Aaron Schatz: MY GOD. Aaron Moorehead has stolen Reche Caldwell's eyeballs.

Michael David Smith: Does Reggie Wayne lead the league in pass interference yards? It sure seems like it.

Doug Farrar: According to the FO database (info through Week 8), the Colts have drawn one pass interference penalty -- Week 5 against the Bucs on Ronde Barber. Wayne was the receiver. Through Week 8, the Ravens (!) and the Broncos have drawn the most PI penalties with five each. Yeah, go figure.

Bill Barnwell: I've done some research for a future article, and pass interference for specific quarterbacks and receivers seems to be completely random from year to year.

Aaron Schatz: Wow. Peyton Manning is melting down out there tonight. There seems to be a feeling among a lot of Colts fans that it doesn't matter how many players they lose, as long as they have Manning you can plug in anybody and have success. Tonight would seem to be a piece of evidence that this is not the case. And yet ... the only major difference between this week and last week is Dallas Clark. Remember, last year, the Colts were 1-3 without Clark and 15-1 with him. Maybe he's the exception to the rule about only noticing defensive players when they are missing.

Ned Macey: I love Dallas Clark, but I'm a little skeptical about Clark's uber-importance to the team. First, last season's 1-3 stretch featured four games with offensive DVOAs of 24.8%, 32.4%, 38.2%, and 41.9%. I don't think they missed Clark too much other than in the "Vince Young just wins" way.

They also started last game with Anthony Gonzalez, who they don't have here. In the second half, once it was clearly only Moorehead over there, the Colts got more than one first down on a drive only once (the short-field touchdown drive). Plus, the fact they're huddling this game takes away some of Manning's ability to change the play.

I'd also say that the seemingly questionable pick of Gonzalez seems inspired now considering the defense is playing at a top 10 level, but they appear short of offensive weapons. Too bad he got injured too, but that one is hard to predict. I will say that losing Harrison is much less of a big deal if Clark is healthy and vice versa.

Stuart Fraser: I think it's a timescale thing. Indianapolis can pretty much replace anybody (maybe except Clark) if you given them long enough, but a spate of injuries over a short time is going to bite because they start having to simplify the offense and take away some of Manning's audibles just because half the team no longer understands them.

In short, "it doesn't matter who lines up with Manning, provided they stay healthy."

One might also point out that Manning vs. the 3-4 has never been a good matchup, and his only notable successes have come from using Clark underneath (and that was the New England 3-4, where more of the rush comes from the defensive line than it does in the Pittsburgh or San Diego 3-4).

Doug Farrar: Will Quick Reads explode if Peyton Manning is the least valuable quarterback? I mean, will the DVOA database literally blow up?

Great series of calls by Gene Steratore's crew on the Clint Session interception. Tip interception, inadvertent (stupid) whistle, spot, touchback. Precisely. I don't know WHAT Norv was challenging there.

Vince Verhei: Great series of calls, sure, but they still blew it (the call) by blowing it (the whistle) in the first place.

Aaron Schatz: Yes. The Colts were monumentally screwed by that call. In the long run, it sure doesn't look like it makes much of a difference.

Ned Macey: We never got the visual on who blew the whistle, but the ref actually on the play got it right and threw the beanbag or whatever. If they hadn't blown the whistle, I doubt Session would have gotten that big a return.

Michael David Smith: It's impossible to know how long a return he would have gotten if it hadn't been blown dead, but from the replay angles I saw it didn't look like the Chargers had anyone in position to tackle him. That was a really boneheaded whistle by whichever official blew it dead, since, as Ned says, the official right on top of the play clearly threw his beanbag to signal that it was an interception, not an incompletion.

Doug Farrar: I think that's why they finally made down by contact challengeable - one dumb whistle and the recovering team used to be even more screwed by not getting the ball at all.

Michael David Smith: I don't get how it's possible for the Colts' special teams to be this bad, year after year. It just makes no sense. They're a smart franchise in player evaluation in almost every other respect, but they're totally incapable of finding a few guys who can fly down the field and hit somebody on kickoffs and punts.

Mike Tanier: They've never cultivated any full-time gunners. That comes with the idea that you don't pay bench players more than the minimum, so you don't get or keep a Gary Stills or Ike Reese type. The Greatest Show Rams also started having lousy coverage teams as time went on. They rarely kept receivers, backs, or tight ends around who were top special-teamers. They always wanted guys they could plug right in on offense. I wonder how the Colts choose their back-of-the-roster guys at those positions.

Bill Barnwell: They choose their back of their roster guys with the idea that they're going to be the starters in a couple of years (especially at outside linebacker/cornerback), so their guys are the ones suited to the Cover-2 and the Manning offensive scheme, not necessarily guys who are special teams guys.

Ryan Wilson: If the Colts and Steelers played this year, the score would be 450-443, all touchdowns via kick returns. The team with the ball last, wins.

(However, all was not lost for the Colts. Down 23-14 early in the fourth quarter, Indianapolis' defense found San Diego pinned deep in their own end zone...)

Doug Farrar: That sequence reminded me of the goal-line stand against the Chiefs that caused me to give Norv the Keep Choppin' Wood when I did that guest turn at Scramble. Wet ball, Freeney is beating Marcus McNeill like John Bonham on a 26-inch bass drum, and they go pass-pass-pass. The fumble recovery touchdown, or some other catastrophe, was almost inevitable. Good Lord.

Ned Macey: Did TMQ say that Manning was always throwing out of shotgun and running out of traditional? I saw the formation on the two-point conversion, saw the fake audible, and I knew it was a run up the middle. Sadly for me, so did the Chargers.

(Actually, everything WAS lost for the Colts. Instead of taking an easy field goal -- well, MAYBE an easy field goal under the circumstances -- Manning and Dungy tried to draw the Chargers offside from the San Diego 7-yard line, Ben Utecht was called for a very odd "simulating a snap" false start, and Vinatieri subsequently missed a gimme 29-yard field goal.)

Sean McCormick: Sacre bleu!

Ned Macey: Dungy certainly could have used the timeout he burned to argue the Utecht penalty. That is a Keep Choppin' Wood-level mistake which may have cost the Colts the game.

Michael Tanier: Well, shut my mouth. What a way to go down.

Aaron Schatz: I seem to remember reading an article by Michael Lewis where some guy talked about how Vinatieri's clutch field goal history was not an indicator of whether he would hit clutch field goals in the future...

Michael David Smith: Is Vinatieri ever going to stop getting universal praise in the mainstream football media? He has to make that kick before halftime. He's a below-average kicker getting paid as the best kicker in the NFL.

Aaron Schatz: I know this sounds insane, but with the Colts losing tonight and the Jaguars winning, I'm wondering if my predictions of a Jaguars division title might actually come to pass. The Colts are just decimated by injuries right now. I feel like we're living through my Indianapolis chapter from PFP 2007. I talked about how guys like Harrison and Freeney had never been injured. Now Harrison is injured, Freeney is injured -- who knows how badly? -- the guy they drafted in case Harrison got injured is also injured, Clark again, all the linebackers, defensive linemen... I said that nobody wants to build a team like the Colts because if you don't have Peyton Manning, you end up with the Redskins. This is starting to look worse than last year's Redskins, except that when you have Peyton Manning you can be down to having no backup offensive or defensive linemen left and still almost win. Even when Manning has a bad game. I mean, despite the injuries, he was completely missing guys at times, which you almost never see.

Seriously, if Freeney is out for significant time, and David Garrard is back next week, Jacksonville is actually going to win this division. There are only so many injuries you can take.


259 comments, Last at 15 Nov 2007, 3:25pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I am Cleo Lemon, standing in the end zone, watching Chris Kelsay come unblocked.

Chris Kelsay is still unblocked. He is coming to get me.

He is still coming, Maybe I should throw.

Oh my, here he comes.

Mike, you forgot to add:

I will pump fake now.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The 1976 Bucs always celebrate the last team to get a win with a 6 pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Official drink of the 1976 Bucs.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Assuming it is a bad strategy in general, the squib-kick-to-Hester strategy presumably reaches a break-even point if your coverage team is bad enough. I wonder where that point is. I'm guessing it's somewhat better than the Colts' coverage team right now.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Ned Macey: "In Ray Rhodes’ last season, the Eagles had Brian Dawkins, Hugh Douglas, Bobby Taylor, Troy Vincent, Al Harris and Trotter."

And what did Rhodes ever do with those guys? Go 3-13? Not a single one was recognized as anything special until they went into Jim Johnson and Andy Reid's schemes. Rhodes last two years of defensive DVOA were 15th and 26th rankings. Your comment about the defense not being top 10 since 2002. Well, it was in 2004 until they sat the starters and it was #11 in 2006 (a convenient use of cutoffs by you to make a point - why not say top 12 to encompass the playoff slots?).

The biggest recent problems with defense since 2004 have been really bad special teams causing bad field position.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Romo makes a play that pretty much no other starter in the NFL makes (the scramble TD to Curtis) and the comments are about "ugly passes" and "should've been challenged," the latter ignoring that the Giants doubtless had a multi-angle replay to view, with not "rush to the line to beat the challenge flag" situation, and declined to challenge.

I really think there's something about the Boys that just blinds certain people (friend and foe) to objectivity. Romo is freaking good, people.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

While the media goes into red level "Eli sucks, Romo is GOD" mode, it needs to be said that the biggest difference in the game was the play of the offensive lines. The Dallas offensive line DOMINATED in pass protection in the second half. The Giants offensive line varied between mediocre and downright awful.

A day after, I'm apparently one of the 3 people in America who thinks Eli played well. On a day where (according to the last FOX statistic they showed) he was hurried 15 times, hit 10 times, and sacked 5 times, Eli and Shockey were the only guys who did anything on the Giants.

The 2 holding penalties were painful. The kickoff holding penalty looked like a bad call. The Snee penalty could've gone either way.

Coughlin HAS to challenge that first TD. FOX didn't show a replay at all.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'm very excited about the Hester article. My guess would be handing a league average offense 12 yards of field position every kick would be a bad thing. But its worth the trade off if you're facing the Bears offense.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

#5... People saying the play had to be challenged doesn't say anything positive or negative about Romo. It just means that he was OBVIOUSLY over the LOS when he released the ball.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The only strange thing about the delay of game penalties and Eli was that he kept taking them. I saw nothing to suggest that the Giants were "getting screwed" on a call that has a pretty objective standard.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

With 3 and change to play, the colts had the first down at the 15. i dont know for the life of me why manning did not try at least one play fake to throw for a touchdown. Am i crazy for thinking that on a slippery, wet field that Jesus himself would have trouble kicking even a 25-30 yarder. Theres just too much that can go wrong, especially when your offense is tearing up the field in the second half.

On 4th and inches i agree you probably have to kick, but on 2nd or 3rd a pass wouldve negated the need for vinatieri. Even if you throw a pick you have 3 timeouts and the 2 minute warning

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

#8 - look at the overall analysis - Giants got the shaft from the refs, TD pass bogus, Romo made ugly throws, including worst looking TD pass of the season.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The simulating the snap penalty was completely uncalled for. They changed the formation at the line of scrimmage like most teams do, but because they did it in a situation that is generally used for getting the defense offsides, the referees were too harsh, and it was a penalty.

The next drive up the field, the Chargers did the exact same thing, and of course there was no call.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Eli gets the delay penalties because he's confused pre-snap. The tradeoff to the penalties is a time out or running a play with very little chance of success. Obviously, he should opt for the former, but he was confused.

As for the Oline comparisons: as FO has repeatedly demonstrated, QB's have a lot to do with our perception of line play. Has Dallas' Oline just played better for Romo than Bledsoe, or is Romo elusive with a quick release and (mostly) good decision-making? On at least 3 of those sacks, Eli could've stepped up/away and thrown an incompletion. The two lines are about equal. Romo is just better. A lot better.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Vince Young's DVOA, DPAR, passer rating, etc. all speak for themselves -- and quite accurately -- but I think he's getting a bum rap here on the TD pass to Gage. Gage was single-covered by Mathis while Nelson was playing deep. The ball wasn't tipped -- Gage caught the ball cleanly. The ball didn't come out until Gage's elbow hit the ground -- sure it was a fluke that Gage caught it again, but I think you can say that Young did his job well on that play. It's linked under my name.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The ball was intercepted by a linebacker who dove on the ground, then got up and ran to the back of the end zone, then all the way across to the sideline before turning upfield -- yet there were no Chargers anywhere to be seen. I think that is because the play was blown dead several seconds before. If there had been no whistle, my guess is that he stays in the endzone for a touchback. On another point, can Vinateiri kick a 49-yard field goal. If he can, then Peyton made a mistake before the half by throwing the ball inbounds for a short gain and forcing the fire-drill field goal. That could have affected Vinateiri's aim.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

All due respect Aaron, but there is no way anybody but the Colts wins the AFC South. Nobody's injury is season-long, as far as we know. Manning played a poor game--even the great ones do so occasionally. Vinateri missed two field goals, which pisses me off badly, but even the greats do so occasionally. But our defense was as wicked as in any other game this year--they only allowed 10 offensive points! And once Manning started playing well in the second half, he brought them back to a should-have-been victory despite having a decimated offense.

This was a brain fart, not an indicator of a downhill trend.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The Lions never had the ball yesterday to run it. They had 18 plays in the 1st half, Arizona had over 40. Detroit on 1st down was getting stuffed, so Martz had to throw it.

Detroit just sucks on the road.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I put my Vikings comments in the MMQ thread, but to reiterate the obvious, you can't compete consistently in the NFL with zero passing threat, which makes some blowout defeats inevitable. The fourth down conversion attempt the Packers had just before half time, near midfield, said everything that needs to be known. McCarthy had zero fear that the Vikings could do anything with great field position if the attempt failed, so he had nothing to lose by going for it. In a situation which results in a punt 95% or more of the time, Favre and Co. get another bite at the apple, due to the opposition's complete incompetence in the passing game.

I love the upcoming Packers Cowboys game; it really is an intiuguing match-up of personnel, for those of us with the NFL Network, of course.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I put my Vikings comments in the MMQ thread, but to reiterate the obvious, you can't compete consistently in the NFL with zero passing threat, which makes some blowout defeats inevitable. The fourth down conversion attempt the Packers had just before half time, near midfield, said everything that needs to be known. McCarthy had zero fear that the Vikings could do anything with great field position if the attempt failed, so he had nothing to lose by going for it. In a situation which results in a punt 95% or more of the time, Favre and Co. get another bite at the apple, due to the opposition's complete incompetence in the passing game.

I love the upcoming Packers Cowboys game; it really is an intiuguing match-up of personnel, for those of us with the NFL Network, of course.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The Lions never had the ball yesterday to run it. They had 18 plays in the 1st half, Arizona had over 40. Detroit on 1st down was getting stuffed, so Martz had to throw it.

Detroit just sucks on the road.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

#13... I would normally agree with you, but in the second half Romo wasn't avoiding anything. The Giants never got close to him.

I also realize Romo is better than Eli. Where is that even being debated?

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Re: #12

They didn't "change it like most teams do". Utecht rocketed upright out of his stance when he went to shift -- just like you would on the snap -- clearly designed to simulate the snap to try to draw the defense off. Players coming out of a stance to shift hardly ever stand up that abruptly.

Here's the (unofficial) version of the rule from the NFL Digest of Rules at

No player of offensive team may charge or move abruptly, after assuming set position, in such manner as to lead defense to believe snap has started. No player of the defensive team within one yard of the line of scrimmage may make an abrupt movement in an attempt to cause the offense to false start.

I think that's exactly what Utecht did (and by design, of course).

I'm not going to claim I'm not biased about this, though :)

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Ned Macey:

"In the nine years under Reid, they just haven’t found that kind of defensive talent: Sheppard, Sheldon Brown, and then who, Trent Cole or Corey Simon?"

And Carlos Emmons, Rod Hood, Darwin Walker, Mike Patterson.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

A week or two ago, I'm pretty sure I saw the Packers in a shotgun T-formation, or something similarly absurd, at the goal line. At this point, if they lined up in a single wing and ran the power sweep all day, I wouldn't be that surprised.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

5: Um, what are you talking about? That comment came in the middle of a bunch of effusive praise for Romo's scrambling and elusiveness. The whole point was to speculate on Romo v. Roethlisberger as the next melodramatic "Best QB" debate. Seriously, the dude's currently 5th in DVOA and 6th in DPAR. I think it's pretty widely acknowledged on FO that he's "freaking good".

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"Since nobody can touch the quarterback, it looked like several Browns defenders let up as Ben made his way for six."

Quite possible the most retarded thing that I have ever read. Once a QB gets out of the pocket...defenders foam at the mouth to get a hit on them.

If any defended did shy away (and I didnt see any) it was probably caused by the fact that they were DB's...and there was a 250lb QB coming at them full speed.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Question to Colts observers: Did Vinatieri’s honked kicks come out of nowhere, or has he had a bunch of close calls this year?

The year (2004, I think) that he had a not-so-stellar year with the Pats, you could see he was off all year, even when he was making figgies (turned out he had a back injury).

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"On another point, can Vinateiri kick a 49-yard field goal. If he can, then Peyton made a mistake before the half by throwing the ball inbounds for a short gain and forcing the fire-drill field goal. That could have affected Vinateiri’s aim."
I think the rush kick miss definitely couldn't be blamed on Vinatieri. However, he hasn't reliably kicked long ones in years. Last week he missed a 50 y in the dome at home. I suspect 49 yards in the rain yesterday would have been less than a 20% chance from him.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Colts will have the worst special teams DVOA of the year after this game, but I bet overall they score higher than the Chargers.

That game didn't say much to me about the Colts except losing 10 starters makes it tough to win (and the obligatory "So that's what Manning would look like with Brady's WRs"). But it showed me a lot about the Chargers (defense is getting better, but offensive is horrible and Rivers is not in Eli Manning's class, and certainly not Drew Brees'). Maybe the Chargers will hold on and win that miserable division, but they are going to get destroyed in the playoffs. I think either of the wild cards (both from the AFC South right now) would beat the Chargers in San Diego even. There should be some sort of special EPC for the difference between the 06 and 07 Chargers. Is it really as simple as Rivers not being as good? Did you see the quotes in Michael Silver's article this morning about the Chrgers? That team is falling apart -- after a win!

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Yeah, stick Bledsoe back behind center and we will see how much of an offensive genius Jason Garrett is, and how good their offensive line is. Perhaps the biggest mistake Parcells made as a head coach anywhere was thinking that Bledsoe could still be effective, and perhaps one of the best things, albeit also lucky, things Parcells did as head coach was to sign and bring along Romo. Of course, if Quincy Carter doesn't get high or intoxicated, Romo may not have stuck with the Cowboys, which is an interesting what-if.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Bring on the f'ing Quick Reads!!!! Lets see the Giants-Cowboys game performances in DPAR bitches!
(gurgle...gurgle as i choke on my mouse cord while being consumed by Romo mania....)

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The kickoff holding penalty looked like a bad call. The Snee penalty could’ve gone either way.

I watched both of those repeatedly on Tivo. On the kickoff hold, Giants #89 pulled the Cowboys player to the ground -- grabbed the jersey and tackled him -- not at the point of attack but close to it. Easy call.

On the Snee hold, he was standing behind Roy Williams (I think) with his left arm wrapped around Williams' collar. You might get away with that if the ref doesn't see it, but it's a hold for sure.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Wow, I mispelled almost everything in my previous post. That is impressive.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Is it possible that the Colts just put up the worst Special Teams game in history? 2 returns for TDs. 0/2 FG including the potential game winner from less than 30 yds. I really hope they don't get any credit for SD fumbling the snap on an extra point. (Well, I guess it's good they didn't let them run it in for 2.)

Once DVOA come out for this game, can somebody do a quick query to put this in the historical perspective?

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


You're right about the OL play. That seems to be the Giants' M.O. this season: If your team has a suspect OL, they're going to clobber you. But if you have an above-average, healthy OL with at least a competent QB, they're going to give up a lot of points.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The Audiblers forgot to mention that the Colts got screwed on the non-call of DPI on the Chargers on that incompletion to Moorehead. He was clearly interfered with. The defender got arm and jersey well before the ball got there.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Commercial wise: I don’t think I want to be driving around people turned on by their car. I’m already dealing with drunk drivers, cell phone talkers, people putting on make up… let alone people turned on by their car. I thought the point of the flex schedule was to flex to a MORE competitive game? Pats vs. the Bills, what are the odds the game isn't over by half time? Dolphins got two more scare games Jets at home and the Ravens. The Jets always seem to squeak out games against the Dolphins, but the Ravens worry me. I don't think Aarons right about the Giants. Clearly they don't have the corners to go 1 on 1 with Randy Moss and rush Tom Brady. The Giants only hope is a few early turnovers and the Pats simply not willing to risk starters in the 4th quarter to comeback on the Giants. Still most of these guys have won the super bowl already. You have to think they are going all out for 16-0. I'm not sure the Colts are making it back to Pats/Colts II. There 1 more injury from starts Fred Banks at wr.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Re: #35

If the hold is botched on a PAT try, can the trying team try to run/pass it in to get one point? Or is the rule that if you line up in kick formation for the try, you either kick it through for one point or get no points no matter what else happens?

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Yeah, this notion that the kickoff return hold for the Giants was "away from the play" is silly. The guy pulled Keith Davis, the Cowboys' special teams ace, out of the play. Sure, he wasn't in the hole, but had he not been pulled backwards he would have gotten off that block and at least slowed down the returner.

Giants fans are acting like it was some ticky tacky call that reversed a near TD. It was an obvious call that, had the guy not held, would've resulted in field position at the 40 or so.

I have to hand it to Osi and Shockey. Both of them gave credit to the Cowboys for just being good. Giants' penalties weren't responsible for 31 Cowboys points. If I told you before the game that Dallas would score 31, what would you say the likelihood of a Giants victory would be? 10%, tops.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"I am still undecided on J.P. Losman vs. Trent Edwards, and I know Losman brings the long bomb factor. But with Losman, it seems like the Bills have no drive capability."

I think JP Losman and Rex Grossman are almost exactly the same quarterback.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I agree with #7... kicking away from Hester seems like buying insurance, maybe from a pure expected returns standpoint not worth it, but you will pay it to avoida high-risk situation

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Re: 27 I didn't see the play, but I read a comment by Roethlesberger where he said he though a couple Cleveland players may have let up because they thought he was going to slide.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I know this sounds insane, but with the Colts losing tonight and the Jaguars winning, I’m wondering if my predictions of a Jaguars division title might actually come to pass... Seriously, if Freeney is out for significant time, and David Garrard is back next week, Jacksonville is actually going to win this division. There are only so many injuries you can take.
Aaron, you know how some other people have commented that it gets annoying when you toot your horn after you seem to get a prediction right ('Jason Campbell will be a great QB') but don't say anything when those predictions don't look so good next week? I think you fell into that trap here. For the record, Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark did light practice this week and could have played; the Colts injured outside linebackers (Keiaho and Hagler) and two of the three injured offensive linemen (Ugoh, Diem) aren't badly hurt (and besides, last night's performance shows that they are somewhat fungible). Unless Freeney has suffered a season ending injury, the Colts should be at full strength in time for their remaining division games. Besides, they have the Falcons, the Raiders, the Chiefs, the Ravens, and the Texans left on the schedule.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think a botched PAT that is run/thrown into the EZ counts as a 2-point conversion. Or am I wrong?

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

#39: Any time you run/pass it in is considered a 2-point conversion, no matter what formation you lined up in. Dropping the snap, then trying to run or pass it, is considered to be the same thing as a fake kick.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Hmm, Eagles defensive talent under Andy Reid. Rod Hood, Patterson is a solid starter and Juqua Thomas looks like he'll be at least that, Mikell has been a pleasant surprise and Gaither could be a star. Bunkley makes big plays but he misses a lot of little ones. The problem is they've missed on a lot of first-day LBs and, excepting Mikell, haven't found a DB who's contibuted a thing in since Brown and Sheppard. Yes, that includes Consindine who may have been the worst starting SS in the league before his injury.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

There's always the chance that the Monday-Night-vs.-the-Cowboys Bills team will show up instead of the one that usually does, and a driving lake-effect snowstorm will take away the Pats vertical passing game. Also keep in mind that this Bills team is two seconds away from being 7-2. Ah, who am I kidding; it's going to be ugly.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

In response to Stuart Fraser on the Patriots 3-4 compared to San Deigo or Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense, I thought San Diego (and now Dallas with the arrival of Wade Phillips) was more dependent on attacking with their defensive line. I thought the rest of the league follows the Bill Parcell's model of the D-Line blocking for the linebackers, letting the LB's rush the ball carrier.

San Diego usually goes after the D-lineman with more speed because they have to rush the QB/RB. Phillips use to throw in the OLB from the left or right to confuse the O-line and drop the other 3 LB's into coverage. That makes a little more sense when SD's inside linebackers are usually undersized, so they have trouble with the inside run, but can cover the pass.

Now, it's hard for me to tell what is going on with San Diego's defense because Cottrell is very conservative and his play calling is questionable. Cottrell might have the same 'system' as Phillips, but their philosophies and tendencies are very different.

As for the rest of the league, I don't watch Pittsburg, New England, NY Jets, or the Browns closely enough to see if they attack with their D-Line or LB's. I know Pittsburg is famous for their crazy LaBeu zone blitzes, NE is infamous for Belichik's mad blitzes (truly art in motion), and NY/Cleveland doesn't have the personnel to execute.

Am I talking out of my lack of sport's knowledge or should I TiVo more of NFL match-up?

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

#40... Your assertion that the held player would've made the tackle or affected the play is just as ridiculous as the "claims" you think are being made.

I didn't like the calls (the kickoff more so than the Snee hold), but I've clearly stated the difference in the game was one team's offensive line performance and the other's lack of performance. Nearly all the Giants fans I've talked to haven't blamed the calls for the loss. Most of them are blaming Eli!

The Cowboys are a good team. That's why I haven't criticized the Giants defense at all. I never expected them to shut down the Cowboys. I did expect the o-line to perform better and I expected the Giants to score more points.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Re: #23

The abrupt movement by Utecht was accompanied by an abrupt head bob by the center Jeff Saturday -- the same head bob he makes when he snaps the ball. I believe that head bob is a penalty on the center, all by itself unless the ball is snapped.

I don't think there's much argument: the Colts' offense was clearly attempting to "simulate a snap" in that situation. That was the whole point.

So there's not much legitimate complaint when they are flagged for simulating a snap.

I actually the Colts regularly get away with murder. Their O-linemen are flinching and head bobbing all over the place when Peyton is flapping his arms and barking signals behind center.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Fair enough, Kevin. I think Giants fans are silly to "blame" Eli. He is what he is: an average NFL starter who could be a several time pro bowler under the right conditions. Kerry Collins got the Giants to the big game, and Eli is definitely on par with Collins at his peak.

But Eli ain't Romo, and he never will be. And Giants fans who expect him to suddenly outplay Romo (not that your'e on of those people) are like Cowboys fans of 2004 wondering why Bledsoe couldn't outplay McNabb. Because McNabb was just better.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Just heard Adrian Peterson has a 2nd degree tear of the lcl, which will not require surgery. I'd say that if he out more than three weeks, it'll likely be pointless to play him at all the rest of the season, if there is any question of him being less than completely, totally, recovered. Also, this is the third consecutive season in whch he has lost significant time to injury, so the Vikings will be extremely unwise if they plan for the future as if he is going to be around consistently. I think the Vikings may still have significant cap room available this year; is it past the deadline for using it? If not, would it make sense advance some of Peterson's money now, to make his future cap number lower?

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Will commented early on that the Vikings lack of competent QB and WR play was the major shortcoming of this team. That has become very obvious as the season wears on.

I thought the offensive line actually played pretty well. Peterson had 45 yards on 9 carries in the first half running and Bollinger was under no duress to speak of when he did have to pass.

Watching Manning struggle so badly with 3 of the top 4 receivers and some key OLinemen out seems to highlight how it requires all aspects of the team to have a decent passing attack. Even the best QB of all time will struggle if he has awful receivers or a bad line.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Re: Eli, I said something similar to the following on yesterday's gameday thread.

What I find maddening about him is that he does some things that average QBs simply cannot do. The throw mentioned above in Audibles was an example-- there are not many QBs in the league who ever make that throw. He has shown the ability to do absolutely astoundingly great things.

But then he makes bad throws that you simply do not see above average quarterbacks make.

I know there is hyperbole in both statements there. Occasionally other mediocre QBs will make the astoundingly great throw. Occasionally above average QBs will make unbelievably bad throws. But Eli seems to do both more often-- make great throws that average QBs rarely made, and crap throws that above-average QBs rarely make. He teases with his potential and washes it down with boneheadedness.

Very frustrating.

As for Romo, he was very good, once again. The Cowboys O-line protected him well enough. The Cowboys D-line was in Eli's face all game. The Cowboys were plain and simple better over the course of the game.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

should I TiVo more of NFL match-up?

the answer to that question is always YES.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'm not sure it's accurate to say this is what Manning would look like with Brady's receivers. Sure, Gaffney and Caldwell were no Harrison and Wayne, but Brady knew they were the receivers going into the season and they were part of the game plan from day 1.

On the other hand, Manning had one week to take a guy off the practice squad(Thorpe) and make him a integral part of the offense. I was tremendously impressed that Manning was able to somehow 'right the ship' and start tearing up the field in the 2nd half. Given enough time, I think Manning would look pretty much the same as Brady did when he was saddled with sub-par receivers.
Peyton basically managed to engineer a comeback that should have gone on his Canton highlight reel, but instead, Adam Vinatieri robbed him of what should been one of the finest moments of Manning's career.

Damn, idiot kickers! :-)

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Has Football Outsiders done any studies on "injury prone" players? It certainly seems that some players tend to be injury prone, but has anyone seen a study that suggests that once a player has been injured and misses x games, that he is more likely to miss more games in the future to injury?

Tiki Barber noted that Peterson is special in that most running backs keep their head on a swivel but Peterson keeps his eye on the prize (end zone). I certainly see what he means, but I would also think that would make him more vulnerable to injury because he lacks the ability to react and safe himself from injury.

Not a very good day to be a Viking fan.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


#23 I'm pretty sure I've seen the "simulating the snap" call before-probably on the team I root for (Colts). It was a dumb strategy move by Dungy; one he made worse by wasting a timeout to argue with the official about it.

#37 True, but the Colts got away with one earlier on a third down pass to Gates that Marlin Jackson interfered on but was not called. Essentially, as a fan, I've given up on trying to guess when pass interference is going to be called.

I'm giving Manning more of a pass on this one than Dungy and Vinatieri. So much of the offense's success is based on timing and reads, and it was clear on several plays that he was not on the same as his backup wideouts. I'm not letting him off the hook; just saying that probably only 2-3 of the 5 meaningful INT's were Manning's fault. (Although would it hurt Wayne to play a little defense on at least one of the forced passes?)

Dungy got outcoached by Norv Turner. That's really bad. Really, really bad. I know Turner had the questionable challenges, but who did more to hurt his team? Dungy-by losing his cool and calling a timeout to no good purpose. And I'm not accepting the argument of "Yeah, but EVERYONE expected Vinatieri to make that kick." Even if he did, the Colts had to kickoff again. They may have needed all three of those timeouts on offense. A coach should be considering strategic elements like this, and Dungy blew it last night. To his credit, he took responsibility after the loss.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I thought the point of the flex schedule was to flex to a MORE competitive game?

The point is to draw viewers.

Between bandwagoners and haters, the Patriots are going to draw viewers. And if the versus-Cowboys Bills team plays, those viewers will stay to watch the whole game. That seems a reasonable chance to take for NBC, as opposed to hoping that the Bears and Seahwaks will both suck sufficiently equally to keep the game competitive.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

If there was ever a game that neither team deserved to win, it was the Colts/Bolts game. Indy was by a wide margin the better team - despite their numerous injuries - but they made just enough stupid plays and SD made their big plays count enough to pull off the upset.

* That SD team is almost unwatchable. They were completely discumbobulated. They had absolutely no cohesion on offense and their defense (other than an emotion fueled fast start) was nearly uselss. Their pass rush was nonexistant and I saw numerous plays where it appeared as if guys were interfering with each others' rushing lanes. Just a really strange game that a defense that played so poorly for much of the game could pick Manning 6 times.

* More stupid play - what was Cromartie thinking running that int out of the EZ? SD had Indy on its heals at that point and the 14 yards of field position was huge. I hate to repeat myself, but that team just looks so uncoordinated it is silly.

* And what happened to Phillip Rivers? Wasn't he a promisiing young QB just one season ago? He was dreadful in that game. He has no idea when to use touch and when to fire it in and his throws were just sprayed all over the field. What the hell was he thinking on that grounding toss just before halftime? Franlkly, it was to the point that I was almost beginning to feel sorry for him he was so terrible.

* Was it me, or was Freeney being held out there constantly? I found it humorous when they showed a close up replay on McNeil's blocking technique and it was blatant holding, with Madden/Michaels talking about the great form.

* Can someone explain to me how the Gates play at the end wasn't PI? The defender never once looks back and he runs right into Gates and keeps him from coming back on the ball. Wasn't he playing the receiver instead of the ball? I don't get it.

* Before anyone gets too crazy about Manning's "heroric" performance, I just wanted to point out that the playmakers for Indy yesterday were significantly better than who NE was trotting out there all last year and just as good as who NE had out there in 2005 as well. Manning is entitled to having a bad game - he is human after all - without people talking about him being overrated. But that offense wasn't anywhere near as neutered as people would have you believe.

(Side note: Had Indy's OL reshuffling caused any noticable drop in pass protection, I would agree with it. But SD was hardly anywhere near Manning and I thought the OL performed admirably. I would also agree that the 2001 NE offense was probably the least tallented of the bunch, but I want to compare the offenses at their peak QB performance.)

* I was thinking this weekend before the games about how I wanted Indy/Pitt to be some combination of 2/3. They are clearly the biggest two threats to NE and having them have to go through each other first is a huge help to the Pats' SB chances. Check and check. Despite Indy's recent struggles, I don't see how TN or Jax threaten Indy and Pitt as almost as assured of a division title as NE is. Obviously I would rather neither even make it, but without that possibility, I like what is happening.

* Which brings us to Pitt. They are who they have always been. If they can get pressure, their defense looks awesome. Without it, they are average at best. I know that a pass rush is crucial for all good defenses, but I liken Pitt to Dallas; they go from being incredible to mediocre/poor very quickly if the QB has time. Frankly, I am not all that worried about them at all, now that I saw them play a good offense with a decent OL.

* Even more so, had Cleveland had a single plus player on the DL or in the OLBs, they win that game handily. From what I saw, not one standard pass rusher for the Browns is even average at that task. And they ranged from average to terrible at stopping the run as well. Pitt was allowed to convert far too many long third downs because of the absence of any pressure.

* Something I noticed in both the Pitt and Indy games was just how consistently receivers were left uncovered at the sticks on third down. It seemed that both the Cleveland and SD defenses would just keep dropping guys back to the point that one or two receivers had plenty of space to catch the ball for the first down. Multiple times I saw receivers catch the ball at the line and the MLB comes running in from 5 yards deeper to make the tackle. What is the point of this coverage? Isn't the goal to stop the first down? Sure you need to limit big plays, but the surest way to give up points is the have your closest coverage guys 5 yards beyond the marker. Just really strange. Even making things worse was the fact that it wasn't like some unknown FB was making these catches. I saw similar type coverage on Wayne and Ward first downs.

* BTW, McGinnest is done; just complete toast. He gest nowhere near the QB, he doesn't set the edge well anymore and he was beaten to the outside repeatedly yesterday - even by Davenport. If RAC doesn't just load up on DL and OLB next year I will be very surprised.

One more thing: When did Quinn Gray become a halfway decent QB? He was embarrassingly awful in the Indy game, but he has been alright since then.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Movement by offensive linemen is acceptable as long as they have not assumed or simulated a three-point stance. If that is what you are referring to, then it is not a penalty. See Jerry Markbreit's column (linked) for an explanation.

I do not know what restrictions apply to a tight end on the line. Without a clearer explanation (where's Mike Carey when you need him?), I assumed that the penalty was for popping up quickly from his stance. Had Utecht risen slowly and shifted, that would have been acceptable.

I partially agree with lionsbob. The Cardinals took away the run early in the game; the Lions abandoned it first because it wasn't working and then because they were falling far behind. Naturally, Boselli kept explaining that the key to the offense was balance. And here I thought the key was to move the ball downfield ...

I don't believe it's because they suck on the road. That varies from year to year. They certainly have crapped the bed on the road this year, though. Can't blame this game on playing outdoors, or playing a good team, or, well, the usual suspects. I mean, the Fugitive is playing QB for the other team, and yet the offense can't do much to help out. (Well, the Keystone Kops were filling in on special teams, so that didn't help any.)

I think it's pass protection. Kitna didn't get good protection against PHI, WAS, or ARI, and all three turned out to be bad losses.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

steelberger1, read MMQB. I read him with a grain of salt because you never learn much from him...but he quotes Roethlisberger himself as saying that he thinks some of the defensive backs let up, thinking he would slide.
Not trying to take credit from him, he played a great game...But just remember next time he's out of the pocket, that no one will make that mistake again. At least he'll be wearing a helmet for that accident.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Just a note on the play where Priest Holmes lost 13 yards ... keep in mind that it was 3rd & 2 from the 5. If there's ever a situation where it's OK to try a risky play that loses 13 yards, it's that. There's no way Herm is gonna go for it on 4th down, so any gain short of a first down is worthless. And all his lost yardage did was turn a 21-yd FG into a 34-yd FG, or something like that. Yeah, it's tougher, but what is the decline in expected points for that, 0.5? Whereas if he had somehow gotten around the end he might have gained them 4 points.

Of course, I don't know if he was actually thinking "It's 3rd down, might as well try something crazy to pick it up"

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Re: Saints running game -

The Saints only ran 10 designed runs against the rams. They combined for 43 yards. One was an ill-advised draw play that lost 6 yards, as Bush was hit immediately in the backfield.

The running game isn't stellar, but really, how can that be the collapse of the Saints when Marc Bulger completed 27 of 33 passes? The Rams converted 8 of 13 third downs, including two 3rd and 15 or more.

The problem for the Saints is almost entirely pass defense.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I do think Romo is an effective NFL starter, but I wonder how much of his production is down to being a very good fit within the scheme and (especially) with Terrell Owens. Romo often gets compared to Favre, to me this is wide of the mark, the QB who he most reminds me of is Garcia in San Fran when Owens was still there (Garcia went to three Pro Bowls when he was throwing at Owens). They have a very similar skill set; both are very good at moving in the pocket and throwing on the run, both are accurate on short to medium routes but lack laser-rocket-arms, maybe most importantly both are very good at keeping a play alive and finding TO when the original play doesn't work. Both QBs are also an ideal match for TO; while an amazing WR he doesn't always get enough seperation on his routes but is fantastic with the ball in his hands, so if he has the time to work back to the QB and get the ball on plays where the initial coverage is strong, he will excel (and not moan).

Romo is very productive in Dallas' scheme and with the players it has in it, but it took Garcia a while to learn to play without Owens. Also other SF players benefited from Owens' presence (here I am mainly thinking of Kevan Barlow's three straight seasons with positive DPAR), which causes me to be sceptical about some of the other Cowboys currently looking very good (not Witten though as as far as I can tell that guy is a beast).

I guess what I am saying is that the Cowboys have just invested $30m in a QB who has always had a HOF WR (in talent if not mentality) to throw to. While TO may play for a few more years do we have any idea how well Romo would cope without him?

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

re: 58

Actually, Gaffney was picked up mid-season. Doug Gabriel started the season, but was cut midway.

Basically, if I recall this right, Caldwell and Brown were basically the only WRs who started the season and ended the season with Brady. I want to say Bam Childress also did, but I think he may have come off the practice squad at one time or another too.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

#58: Gaffney joined the Patriots on October 9 last year after the Eagles cut him during the final training camp cutdown, so it's not like him and Brady were working on their timing all summer. Also, Brady's third WR for much of last year, Doug Gabriel, came via trade with the Raiders on September 2. That was probably as much of a reason for his "struggles" as the overall lack of WR talent. I agree with your larger point, though - Manning would look pretty good no matter what receivers he had.

#62: I agree that the Chargers look disorganized and unmotivated, but it's not really fair to blame Cromartie for taking that interception out of the end zone. He caught it while around the 1 or the goal line as his momentum took him into the end zone. In that situation, at game speed, it's fairly reasonable for him to think that he took the ball into the end zone himself, so being tackled would result in a safety.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

See, it was only a matter of time before someone came in with a "Romo isn't that good" line (comparing him to Garcia). It's always either the OL or the WR that are carrying him.

Garcia can ONLY work in a dink and dunk, catch-and-run offense. He's a pure system QB, and in his older years, a solid game manager.

Romo has a far far better arm than Garcia. He throws deep/intermediate routes a lot better, and his scrambling buys time for plays up the field. So Romo is kind of a rich-man's Jeff Garcia. Garcia at his peak is nowhere near as good as Romo at his.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


While I agree that the timeout was a poor choice by Dungy, to say he was " outcoached " by Turner might be pushing it quite a bit. Quite frankly, Turner seemed to be content to let his offense slog away once they got the big lead. Then when they were backed up on their own goaline they became " adventuresome "
which resulted in a fumble/ recovery in the endzone by Indy. Honestly, Turner just sat there and watched the Colts shoot themselves in the foot. What great strategies did Turner employ?

The timeout by Dungy was silly. But it was not the REASON they lost. AV missed two easy field goals. Don't see that coming often. A couple of interesting ref whistles, dropped passes, Manning ints. A replay overturning a first down.
For all that, the Colts still should have won that game. Even with the injuries.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

jimm, to be completely pessimistic, yesterday's game could be the catalyst to even more grim days for Vikings fans. There is no way now the Vikings sell out the game with the Raiders next Sunday, so the 10 year sell out streak ends, and they will have a tough time selling out the rest of the season. Next year, there's a good chance a new coach is in place, and who knows how that hire works out, although trying to sell tickets next year with Childress is likely more of a laughable idea. There will be zero public fervor leading to legislative momentum for Vikings stadium subsidies, the Metrodome lease expires in a few years, and Wilf has no ties to Minnesota.

I really despise the notion of taxpayer subsidies to billionaires, but yesterday's game may be looked back upon with a certain grim nostalgia by pro football fans in Minnesota in a few years time.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

#50 - that was a hold on Davis, plain and simple. I don't know how it doesn't get called.

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Amazingly clear example of how bad SD's coaching is. Last week SD continually tries to run into a stacked line, fails to protect the QB, and fails to scheme on defense to stop the other team's one weapon, who gains 300 yards in an easy win. This week Green Bay stacks the line and forces Minn to throw, and waltzes to a 34-0 win.

Meanwhile, in San Diego, the Chargers take an unprecedented 6 INTs off the 2nd best qb in the league, score on 2 return TDs, take possession in Indy territory 3 other times, and still only manage 23 points; enough that they should have lost on a late, short field goal.

I'm sure that at some point in history, an NFL team has scored on 2 returns, forced 6 turn overs, and still lost at home to an injury-decimated opponent... but I certainly can't think of an example.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

#73 No. He hurt his team last night with his strategic decisions more than Turner did.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"* Which brings us to Pitt. They are who they have always been. If they can get pressure, their defense looks awesome. Without it, they are average at best. I know that a pass rush is crucial for all good defenses, but I liken Pitt to Dallas; they go from being incredible to mediocre/poor very quickly if the QB has time. Frankly, I am not all that worried about them at all, now that I saw them play a good offense with a decent OL."

The Browns had 163 yards total in that game- 71 of which came on the first drive of the game. The Steeler defense pretty much handled the Browns, despite Simms and Nantz coronating Derek Anderson in the first half.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


He's honked several kicks, and had many near misses close. I was quite aware during the game that a 5 yard difference could potentially be huge.

The beginning of the season (although it had gotten better) he was barely hitting extra points, to the left or right.

It's been an issue all year to those that have watched each game.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


If you're waiting for the blow-up , expect it after the Colts visit Baltimore -- unless something miraculous happens, that's gonna be ugly -- and Bisciotti won't sit around much after the debacle.

Me? I was brought up on the Baltimore Catechism -- I'm lighting every candle I can find...

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

70: How can you be so sure, you've never seen Romo without Owens and Witten. We never really got to see Garcia in his prime because of the time he spent in Canada and his production whilst playing with Owens is similar to Romo's.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Watching the Colts move everyone around in the crazy formation last night (that led to the "simulating the snap" call), it made me wonder why teams even run something like that. LSU tried to run the exact same type of thing on 4th and 1 last week against Alabama, and was called for a false start (probably incorrectly).

Yes, the play is very tricky, and it meant to catch the defense jumping or out of position, but it's so tricky that it seems to backfire. Someone jumps and points, everyone else starts, and it's blown dead, and since the officials seem confused by the play, they seem to always call it on the offense. Maybe if Dungy went to the refs and said "Hey, we're going to run this, so watch because it's not illegal" so they aren't caught off guard, maybe it would work.

It just seems to me that you're better off lining up and running it, or doing a QB sneak, then running the clever play that outsmarts the refs as well (or, as TMQ would put it, "The football gods didn't smile on their trickiness, letting Alabama running back the resulting punt for a touchdown, and causing Indy to shank a gimmie FG as well as burning a needed timeout").

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


"Can someone explain to me how the Gates play at the end wasn’t PI? The defender never once looks back and he runs right into Gates and keeps him from coming back on the ball. Wasn’t he playing the receiver instead of the ball? I don’t get it."

He was faceguarding Gates, which I understand used to be a penalty, but now isn't. Someone correct me if that's wrong.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Roethlisberger's test will come against the Patriots in Week 13. He's been superb this season (thanks for updating that QB database after his 5 TD monday night miracle. I'm sure that wouldn't boost his DVOA at all). For some reason everyone thinks that Big Ben is the guy we saw last year who was trying to overcome a near death accident, an apendectomy, and a huge concussion that knocked him out in Atlanta. Healthy this guy is a top 5 QB. Barnwell's allusions to "Evil Ben" or Schatz's suggestion that he's living on the edge of a 6 INT outing is absurd. As Steve Young pointed out, Ben has dedicated himself to the game and is in top physical shape. He's winning games in the second half because of his conditioning and because of film study during the week. Ken Anderson has been a huge help as the new QB coach. Once he learns to run through his progressions, he will be lethal.

I mean, he's on pace for 39 TDs and has clocked 66% of his throws. Enough already guys.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


As I said Garcia went to several Pro Bowls in SF and the Niners offense was one of the best in the league. Niners offense Garcia/Owens era; 5th 2000, 2nd 2001, 3rd 2002, 9th 2003 - I think things started to go a bit wrong in 2003. Garcia's DPAR over the period is also very good (in 2000 it was 97.8). During this period, Garcia's arm was at least as strong as Romo's (maybe stronger), he was a very effective QB, if a little short. As for scrambling about, Garcia used to do this all the time in SF, and then throw the ball to Owens who had worked back to him. Sound at all familiar?

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Boomer E. said today on some show that for a QB to be over the line of scrimmage, the entire body has to be over -- which, if true, makes the non-call not so clearly bad.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


"I do not know what restrictions apply to a tight end on the line. Without a clearer explanation (where’s Mike Carey when you need him?), I assumed that the penalty was for popping up quickly from his stance. Had Utecht risen slowly and shifted, that would have been acceptable."

What is too quickly? I didn't think it was all that quick. He looked exactly like teams look when they make that move.

I think the critical difference is that he went back into a stance instead of changing into a slot position. The direct backward motion had the penalty called, but if he would have went another direction I doubt it would have been called.

Someone said Saturday moved. I didn't see that. It was called on the Tight end, and I believe that 100/100 times if that play wasn't in a likely false start situation, it would not have been called.

Maybe I'm wrong. It happens fairly regularly that teams change formation without issue, including the TE going backwards. The TE going backwards, and then into motion. Etc.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Re: 82 As far as I know, face-guarding is still a penalty. I think GB has been called for it two or three times this year.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

By the way, here are the Saints run plays:

1-10-NO 27 (14:56) 27-A.Stecker right tackle to NO 40 for 13 yards (51-W.Witherspoon, 21-O.Atogwe).
1-7-STL 7 (12:52) 25-R.Bush right guard for 7 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
1-10-NO 29 (11:03) 25-R.Bush right guard to NO 30 for 1 yard (90-A.Carriker, 51-W.Witherspoon).

1-10-NO 37 (4:51) 27-A.Stecker right tackle to NO 48 for 11 yards (93-T.Johnson).
1-10-STL 42 (3:39) 25-R.Bush left tackle to STL 35 for 7 yards (21-O.Atogwe).
2-3-STL 35 (3:01) 25-R.Bush up the middle to STL 41 for -6 yards (54-B.Chillar, 96-J.Hall).

3-3-NO 46 (8:14) 25-R.Bush left end to NO 48 for 2 yards (97-L.Glover).
4-1-NO 48 (7:34) 25-R.Bush right tackle to NO 47 for -1 yards (50-P.Tinoisamoa).

2-8-STL 8 (12:05) 25-R.Bush right end ran ob at STL 1 for 7 yards (26-T.Hill).
2-2-STL 2 (4:45) 27-A.Stecker left guard for 2 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Also note that the plays that didn't work were cutesy, slow developing plays - a toss left, a slow draw play, a stretch play to the right (the 4th down play). When the Saints ran right atr the defense, they did well.

The biggest problem was that the Saints D couldn't get off the field so once they did, Payton felt the need to pass every down. Haslett blitzed the first 3 quarters before he let his defense rest and sit back in prevent.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Re: 87. If face guarding is still a penalty, he should have been penalized for it. He was not watching the ball, did not touch the receiver, but did stick his hand in his face which caused the miss.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I haven't heard anyone say anything about this, but did the Skins let the Eagles score at the end of their game? The situation was Eagles up by one with the ball on the ten, and about 2:20 to go. The Redskins had no timeouts left. The Eagles could have run out the clock, ending the game, but if they score quickly and kick the PAT, they're up by 8 and the Skins get the ball back with two minutes left.

Nobody touched Westbrook as he went into the end zone. I assume they had been told not to.

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Don't get me wrong, if Owens is unhappy and wants out he will find a way to do it. I am sure no one needs the list of how he does it. He is however a dominant player who distorts how defenses have to play against his team, he may drop a few too many balls, but so did Jerry Rice.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Oswlek, stop making sense! You're a Pats fan, for God's sakes! You're giving the rest of those NE yahoos a bad name.

From a Colt fan's perspective: Not too worried about much from last night other than if the injuries are long term. The Colts didn't make plays yesterday; thus, they lost.

People are overvaluing the Colts lining up on 4th down. I said it in another thread, but will repeat here: I think they just wanted to see if SD was dumb enough to NOT stack over the center. Manning's learned that QB sneak thing from Brady, and as much as every defense playing NE or Indy ought to know better, they still sometimes don't pack the middle on 4th and short. If Manning sees that he can sneak, they snap. If not, they shift and hope for a call (got the one they didn't want). In either case, AV has to make that kick.

As for why the Colts did not throw when 1st and goal on the 15 with 3 minutes: they were hoping to win with nothing left on the clock. They wanted to run the clock down to nothing. If you can't have confidence in a kicker from 30 yards out, well...

I'd have to look back to 2005, but are NE fans really comparing last night's injuries to the Pats in 2005? Did NE really play without: WR#1, WR#3, TE#1, LT#1, LT#2, RG#1, DT#1 (McFarland), DT #2 (Raegor), SLB #1 (Morris), SLB#2, WLB#1 in 2005? And now possibly DE#1 and DT#4?

Finally, I do think Manning needs time with the new receivers. It's not just that he has Caldwell and Garbiel (okay, Moorehead and Thorpe) back there with him, but that he's had no preseason or practice time with them, other than this week. There was one pass in particular in the first half where Manning led Thorpe on a 20-yard seam route, and Manning put it about a full stride in front of Thorpe. I think Marvin's just a bit faster than Crapo.

But, for all that, the Colts lost a game they deserved to lose. They played poorly, had a chance, and failed. Move on to the next game.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


"He was faceguarding Gates, which I understand used to be a penalty, but now isn’t. Someone correct me if that’s wrong."

I agree that he was attampting to faceguard, but when Gates stopped to come back to the ball, he collided with him. Making significant contact with a receiver who is going for the catch when you are not is PI. My request was purely rhetorical; there is no way that that wasn't PI.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


If that's true, the Redskins are smart.

I do this in Video Game football all of the time.

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Re: 82.

No, faceguarding means that the player shielded but did not touch the receiver.

In this case, the Colt's Dback clearly contacted and pushed Gates, so it isn't face-guarding. It's just another adventure in NFL referees interpreting pass interference in ways not accounted for in the rules.


98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Will - I certainly understand the pessimism. I'm from Toronto (well Greater Toronto Area), but the notion of the Vikings being anywhere but Minnesota just wouldn't be the same.

Without Peterson I think this team is a bottom 10 team. The rest of the schedule is very weak, so there is a glimmer of hope. I fear like you do that Childress may be losing the team, which isn't good when it is only marginally talented to begin with.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Dback? I was watching the Linebacker who was doing the faceguarding. Was it a Dback or a linebacker that did the contact?

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

This isn't one of those, I'm a Colts fan, I didn't see the contact. I have Gates on my fantasy team, and was hoping for the TD (as odd as that sounds saying it outloud.)

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

91: I think you are correct. The middle of the field opened up with a GIGANTIC hole.

Good job by the Skins there.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

63: From the rules digest -
"No player of offensive team may charge or move abruptly, after assuming set position, in such manner as to lead defense to believe snap has started."

Dungy seems to have thought he had found a loophole in the rule. By orchestrating a coordinated set of movements, each of which by itself might not trigger a false start penalty, he may have thought he could draw the defense offside without being flagged for a false start by the refs.

It was clear that the whole point of the play was to convince a defender that the ball had been snapped, without triggering a false start penalty. But the rules are designed to penalize all attempts to convince a defender that the ball has been snapped (as well as inadvertent false starts). It's not too surprising that the Colts were flagged.

What's sad for the Colts is that they wasted practice time on a play designed to fool the refs. They could have used that time practicing the fieldgoal firedrill to better effect.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The Titans performance today makes what Jacksonville did last year and this past Sunday all the more impressive, IMO. For a huge chunk of last season, they played without Stroud, Peterson, Darius or Hayward and while there was a drop-off it was nowhere near what the Titans experienced today.

And while Haynesworth's absence was important, let's not forget that his replacement was going up against a guy who has never played guard until this year - he's a backup right tackle.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

On the Garcia comparison: I think the better comp for Romo is "cross between Garcia and Kurt Warner." Dallas is not a WCO team, and Romo has do do more than throw slants, hitches, and the occasional seam pass, like Garcia did in his prime. This is the Air Coryell offense, and you have to have a QB who can challenge the defense at all levels of the field. Some journeymen have been good in this offense for a short while (Rypien, Brad Johnson with the Skins, Trent Green with KC and StL), but it's just not comparable to a WCO. At all. Now, I say that Kurt Warner was a great QB before he hurt his hand and couldn't avoid fumbles. Also, Warner played for Martz, who grinds up QB's with his protection schems. Romo almost never takes a big hit.

So, I think we're going to see the production of Warner in his prime, except for 8 years rather than 3.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


With the other players moving at the same time, I don't believe it breaks the rule. I understand what you are saying. It could be construed as a snap.

Just as it could on any other play it's legally used. No one on SD jumped, and it was a legal play. What is the problem?

If someone on SD actually jumped at it, and it was called. Ok. Now we look at the rule, it says it's construed. Someone has to be given a penalty, okay, it's on the offense.

But if no one jumped, what's the problem? Inadvertent whistle (this time one that doesn't take away 75 yards), and start the play over.

I didn't see any players move until the whistle. It was a formation change with defenders pointing at the tight end.

I could be wrong.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


Well done Purds. You made the made the point I tried (poorly)to make. I knew there was a reason I normally just read and don't post.

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


What was so special about that play that it took special practice time? The Colts went from a bunch formation to a spread formation. Everyone has that play in the playbook.

Let's not get out of control here, all you Chicken Littles. The Colts have lost two games by a total of 6 points. Last year, they lost a game by 27, giving up more than 350 yards rushing, landed in the 3rd playoff seed, didn't get a bye, and ...... wait for it ..... be patient...... won the SB.

I'm not saying they're going to win the SB again. But, the sky's not really falling.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The Colts loss doesn't bother me as much without the penalty. That penalty kills me, because it's a normally legal move.

If you're going to call a legal move as a penalty on situations that are likely purely offsides calls, then tell the coaches before the season.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Is somebody cooking? Because it smells like burnt meat...Oh wait its just Brad Childress's seat got switched with an oven coil.

Will and jimm,Who are at the top of your wish list for HC? Mine are Marty and the Titans DC (Jim Schwartz is it?). Bill Cowher is not on the list because he wouldn't come to Minny.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"Maybe if Dungy went to the refs and said “Hey, we’re going to run this, so watch because it’s not illegal� so they aren’t caught off guard, maybe it would work."

Well, that's the point isn't it. If Dungy said that he was going to try to draw the defense offside, the refs would tell him to expect a flag. He would have to say:

"We're going to do some really weird and abrupt formation changes that look kinda like the play is starting on a play that we won't even run, but we're not trying to make the defense think the ball has been snapped.


And the refs would have to believe him.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

91: Articles on the game say that yes, they did. And Westbrook responded to that (in an Inquirer or Daily News article I can't find at the moment) by saying that if he'd realized what they were doing he'd have taken a knee at the one.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


Quinn Gray has been a decent backup. He was thrust into the Indy game down two TDs, against a defense that is predicated on rushing the passer while ahead by at least 2 TDs.

I'm guessing Gray's DPAR is at or around 0 for his three starts. To me, for a formerly-undrafted backup QB, that's about what you'd expect. That his 0 DPAR would put him ahead of starting QBs is obviously very bad for other teams. I think he is well worth the $1 Million or so that his RFA tender paid him.

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

ust heard Adrian Peterson has a 2nd degree tear of the lcl, which will not require surgery. I’d say that if he out more than three weeks, it’ll likely be pointless to play him at all the rest of the season,

Obviously, he's not on your fantasy team.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Spare a thought for Fred Taylor, who broke through the 10,000 yard rushing barrier - the 21st player to do so, and the only one to do so without ever being selected to a pro bowl. The only player in the top forty-nine career rushers to never receive that honour, in fact. :D

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


There is nothing really weird about a formation change. The tight end can legally move backwards, and then change position. Stay in position, go into motion.

The Pats ran this play against the Colts like crazy with those cut blocks using a TE.

There's nothing wrong with the change of formation except that it happened in a likely draw offsides situation.

And if you're going to call it like that, then tell people.

Or don't let any other teams do that. No Tight end can get up, and fall back.

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


Fred Taylor is a really good, consistent player that had a lot of groin pulls.

If fantasy football had not existed, I think it's likely he'd be considered a better player. Everyone has lost him for the season in fantasy football.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"So, I think we’re going to see the production of Warner in his prime, except for 8 years rather than 3."

I think Romo is fantastic, but even I think that is a bit much. For three years Warner was just ungodly good.
I hope you are right but that seems to be setting the bar very high

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Purds, with regard to the injury discussion, I agree with you that Indy lost far more than NE has lost on the offensive side, my contention is that Indy had such a sizable advantage in talent that despite the losses they still grade out better. Here is a response post from another board touching on the same subject:

I consider Moorehead to be on par with Caldwell/Gafney with Brown grading out slightly ahead when healthy early in the year and about the same later. The Oak WR (name gone from my mind) was equal with Thorpe or whatever random TE you want to compare. Watson missed 4 games last year as did Maroney, who was still hurt when he returned it now seems. I still stand by my comments 2006. I think that we have Brady to thank for even thinking it is a discussion.

As for 2005, you forget that Dillon was hurt most of the year, and Faulk/Pass both missed most of the year as well. The run game was nonexistant. I don't think that Wayne is all that close to Branch and I think that time has proven that Givens was a NE creation. I'm willing to conceed that Brady had more time with these guys that gives him an advantage, but I still don't believe the *talent* disparity to be all that far off.

My main point is that Manning just had a bad game. No reason to glorify it on either side, good or bad. I have no doubt that Indy would still look competent to excellent even if they had to play without Clark/Harrison/Ugoh etc all year.

I still view Indy as the primary threat to NE. I don't think people are talking enough about Indy's defense in that game. You want to call anyone in that game "heroric" that is the unit to look first, IMHO.

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

There is nothing really weird about a formation change. The tight end can legally move backwards, and then change position. Stay in position, go into motion.

Absolutely. He just cannot do it in a manner to cause the defense to believe the ball has been snapped.

At least from the unofficial description of the rule, it looks like the prohibition on simulating a snap can turn any otherwise legal move into a penalty if that technically legal move was done to deceive the defense into thinking the ball was snapped.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


Gray was in that game during Jax's third drive when it was still 0-0 (or maybe 7-0 but certainly no more than that). I agree that Indy's defense deserves much of the credit for Gray's poor performance, but he was otherworldly terrible in that game. Even when given plenty of time with WRs open by 3+ yards, he was still missing them by a wide margin. It was seriously one of the worst QB performances that I have ever seen.

I have no idea what my point is, but I will never cease to be amazed that the Quinn Gray that I saw against Indy could even be bad, let alone decent. Don't try to undersell just how bad he was against Indy.

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


You regard Moorehead to be on par with Caldwell or Gaffney?

Caldwell and Gaffney can at least catch. This isn't defending Manning, this is purely from watching Moorehead.

I don't even care about the Pats consideration. Take another possible starting, but not very good wideout, and I think he's better than Moorehead.

I think Craphonso off the practice squad is better than Moorehead.

Fletcher isn't a bad pass catching TE. He isn't Clark, but he can do the job.

But Moorehead truly sucks.

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

jimm, According to PFT, the players started turning on Childress after the T-Will thing, when I read that I thought to myself "we will see this Sunday". I'd say the verdict is loud and clear. Another house cleaning seems to be in order.

As for Peterson, if it were up to me I wouldn't let him step back on the field for the rest of the year.

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

re: 119

I understand what you're saying. I can see why Dungy thought it would be okay. And that's the problem I have.

Make it explicitly clear what legal moves are illegal in 4th and 1 situations, or whatever.

I know I've seen large formation changes on 3rd and 1, 4th and 1 before. I've never actually seen the defense bite on a formation change though. And they didn't bite in this case.

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

121: Then why is he even on the team? He can't catch, he can't play special teams apparently. I'm sure the Colts could sign Cardwell for the veteran's minimum, so the colts would still fill their alien symbiot position.

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


The Browns had 163 yards total in that game- 71 of which came on the first drive of the game. The Steeler defense pretty much handled the Browns, despite Simms and Nantz coronating Derek Anderson in the first half.

I must admit that I judge things by the opportunities that I see were there, not necessarily those capitalized on. While I am off at times (I completely underestimated Indy's defense based on the Jax and (one other) games, but I knew that NE was going to slap at least a 40-spot on Dallas.

I just don't see Pitt holding NE under 30 points from what I saw today.

One other thing, Pitt did a great job in the second half, but looking at yardage only does artificially lower the number due to the short fields Cleveland was given and the KO TD. BTW, if it helps any, I was absolutely sure that Pitt was going to win that game even when they went down 21-6. Cleveland just had nothing on the DL and it was just a matter of time before Pitt took it to them.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

So, I think we’re going to see the production of Warner in his prime, except for 8 years rather than 3.

Erm......are you for real?

Those three years by Warner are some of the most incredible of any QB ever, and the offense as a whole was quite a lot more talented than the Cowboys offense. Bruce and Holt were perenial Pro Bowlers, Faulk and Pace are HOF players and some argue that a couple of other players on the line should get in as well. The Cowboys have Owens in that class and he is already the wrong side of thirty -maybe Witten aswell, maybe.

If by the comparison you meant that his supporting caste made the QB look better than he really was then I might agree with you, otherwise I stuggle to see any relevant comparison. Warner was an immobile, pocket passer, who was very accurate when throwing to a spot, had a lightning fast release and was fairly fearless when throwing deep. None of that really applies to Romo. He is a scrambler who has a decent release and is accurate enough whilst not exactly threading the needle on every other play.

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

to me, all the debate about the Indy false start/simulating the snap penalty is missing the point. They shouldn't have been trying it in the first place. It was fourth down and inches. Kick the field goal, take the lead, and trust your defense to stop a team that hadn't shown a pulse on offense the entire evening. The downsides of lining up to run a play in that situation are many--you can sneak and fail to get it or you can run your cute "draw them offsides" play and fail to do so, then have to burn a time out or take a five yard penalty before kicking...or you can fake out the officials into believing that your play acting is actually running the play, and calling a penalty when the ball isn't actually snapped. The upsides are that you pick up the first down and burn the rest of the clock before kicking your field goal. If you are so afraid that SD is going to suddenly come to life with 60-80 seconds to play, no time outs, and having shown next to nothing offensively all night, you're overthinking. Kick the field goal, win the game. If I were into amateur psychologizing, I'd even speculate that the turmoil--controversial play, time out to argue it, etc.--may have adversely affected AV's kick. That is utter speculation (although kicking does have a "mind game" aspect to it, like putting in golf), so leave it aside. I still think that if you go for the field goal on fourth and inches, you don't put the game in the hands of the officials, you put it in the hands of your defense against an offense that was very unlikely to get the job done.

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Manning through some crappy passes and played as bad a first half as you can possibly imagine, but I don't think I once saw a Colts receiver fight for a contested pass. Do they not coach that all? At least three of Manning's picks could've easily been broken up if the receiver made any effort at all. That's not even counting the tipped screen pass where the receiver seemed to run away from the ball after it was tipped.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

It sounds like you're taking the position that it is okay to simulate a snap, so long as you do so with movement that is otherwise legal. (Dungy seems to have agreed enough to waste a time out arguing the point.)

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

re: 124 "Then why is he even on the team?"

I have no idea! I've wanted them to put more passes to the guy on the practice squad, Standleford because he was tall, and could at least catch. He's also kind of slow, but he can catch.

I am completely in the cut him immediately group. I don't think there's a team in the league that would pick him up if we did.

Does anyone else who has seen him agree with me?

Then again, I also think Johnson should play LT if there's anyone else available at all.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


I just don't know how you're able to judge the guys who played for the Colts last night, as they've never seen any real NFL experience. Thorp had never caught a ball in a game. How do you know how good or bad he is? Moorehead, including last night, has 31 career receptions in 5 years. Thorp now has the first five receptions of his 4-year career.

Caldwell had 75 catches in 4 years before going to NE. Gabriel had 71 in 3 years before joining NE. Gaffney had 171 catched in 4 years before going to NE.

Now, I know catches don't mean much, but at least NE's old receivers had been in life NFL games.

And, what about any other position besides WR? NE's linebackers were as bad as Indy's now, with only 1 of the top 4 playing? The NE line was as bad as the injured Colts one right now, with both starting DT's and one backup DT out?

These situations are not even remotely similar. Now, I hope for Manning it's a temporary thing. And, I make no excuses for the losses. The Colts on the field coulud have won, but they didn't make plays. But, I can't see the comparison to NE (and, do you mean 2006 or 2005? The post was split.)

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


Good officials shouldn't hesitate to make the call as it's written in the rulebook just because some officials don't call it some of the time.


It was 7-0 when Garrard got hurt, Jacksonville driving. Gray comes in and for some inexplicable reason they go pass-pass-pass - he throws a deep INT on 3rd and long (not an egregious mistake, although he was obviously not sharp on that series).

By the time he touched the ball again, though, it was 14-0. I am going to repeat that it was a terrible situation to have a relatively untested guy come into.

He has more or less improved with each game and we saw some of this potential last year in the KC game. He's also a better runner than folks give him credit for... but when your next option is Todd Bouman, your coaches don't let you run very much.

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


Are we about to start another Morehead/Caldwell thread? Don't you know how quickly those debates spiral out of control taken the rest of the comments with it? ;-)

Maybe Moorehead is worse, you see him every day. But Caldwell was so highly thought of that the leading receiver on the 2006 Pats was cut in PS and doesn't even have a catch yet for the Redskins. Gafney has done virtually nothing for NE this year either, which is a mild surprise. Sure the team upgraded the talent level, but you would think that Jabar being the only WR on the team who played with NE prior to this season might have been a factor.

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

re: 129

"It sounds like you’re taking the position that it is okay to simulate a snap, so long as you do so with movement that is otherwise legal. (Dungy seems to have agreed enough to waste a time out arguing the point.)"

I don't think it's simulating a snap. It's doing legal movement. If that legal movement causes the defense to jump, that's their fault.

They need to be mentally prepared for a change of formation. If you jump on that, it's your fault.

Just as they are on every other play in the game.

I think Dungy was wrong to try it, because it never works. Not because it's illegal.

Does that make sense?

When have you ever seen a team jump on a change of formation?

The only way it would happen is if the defense ignored their normal progression of waiting because the few yards needed to make a first down.

And in that case, if you jump, I do think it's the defenses fault.

That's how I FEEL though.

If the NFL wants to make it a rule that you can't change formation on 4th and 1, that's fine. Just make it explicit so mistakes like this don't occur.

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

couldn't disagree more about the two-point conversion. i think it was boneheaded to go for the two pointer that early in the game.

as the game played out, the skins scored again to go up 22-13. an eagles td w/ xp brought it to 22-20. skins fg, 25-20. eagles scored another td to go up 26-25. they attempt the conversion to go up by a fg, but fail. had they kicked the xp both times, they would have been up 28-25 with four minutes left.

in the end, of course, it doesn't matter because the eagles won. and i have no idea what the eagles' stats team has to say about the situation. still, experientially, it seems to me that teams benefit from going for 2 only when they have to...teams play very differently when nursing a two-score lead than they do when grasping on to a one score lead.

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

119: "Absolutely. He just cannot do it in a manner to cause the defense to believe the ball has been snapped.
So that's why not a single SD player, other than the gut who pointed at the offense, moved at all?

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


The Chargers did not really need alot of yards to get into field goal range. Remember, the Colts kickoff coverage had been very poor. If they get a decent kickoff return plus a completion or two
they are dack smab in FG range. Once the ball got respotted it changed the whole perspective of the play. Not saying the Colts should have not just simply kicked the FG but like Purds stated it was worth the lining up and either a) seeing
if you could draw the Chargers off sides
or b) if the Chargers left the center uncovered going for the QB sneak. Worse case scenario is a penalty that changes a 24 yard chip shot into a 29 yard chip shot.

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Young C:

I don't think they had any idea of going for it unless SD didn't defend the sneak. The shifted, expecting nothing or a defensive penalty. If SD doesn't jump, Indy planned to milk the clock down to under 1 minute, call the time out, kick the game winner, and give SD about 40 seconds left on the clock.

To me, it was an obvious and good decision. And, even if they are penalized, so what? If you're kicker is going to miss, he's going to miss.

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

re: 134

"Are we about to start another Morehead/Caldwell thread? Don’t you know how quickly those debates spiral out of control taken the rest of the comments with it? ;-)"


"Maybe Moorehead is worse, you see him every day."

I actually don't, since he rarely plays. But when he is on the field, I cringe every time. Even when the ball doesn't go to him (it usually doesn't)

"But Caldwell was so highly thought of that the leading receiver on the 2006 Pats was cut in PS and doesn’t even have a catch yet for the Redskins. Gafney has done virtually nothing for NE this year either, which is a mild surprise."

Their other options are better for Gafney. I think Gafney is better than Caldwell.

"Sure the team upgraded the talent level, but you would think that Jabar being the only WR on the team who played with NE prior to this season might have been a factor."

Talent is better. I don't think that means much when we are talking about sub par wideouts vs. Stallworth / Moss / Welker.

I hated Caldwell with San Diego. I hated Caldwell with the Pats.

I hate Moorehead more. ;)

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

127: While that sounds good in theory, it neglects to mention San Diego's only offensive play that worked all night - the kick return. I don't think the effort showed a lack of faith in the Indy defense or a fear of the San Diego 'offense', so much as a mortal dread of the Indy kick coverage teams. And I'm only being half-sarcastic.

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Before they blew the whistle, I knew they were going to call the Utecht penalty. It was kind of nit-picky, but he did use a jerky motion to shift out of his stance. I would equate it with the head-bobbing penalties that Marino used to get called for. In both cases, the moves are clearly done to make the defense jump offside in a 3rd and less than 5 situation.
Couple that with the Manning illegal motion from last week, and you have to feel bad for them. They can't seem to walk that line of legal and illegal. It's like watching a nun try to swear. Fix your special teams and leave the rule breaking to the Pats.

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


The OL was pretty bad, but I touched on that in my first post. I really didn't see that much of a dropoff even as guys were shuffling in and out. That is a testament to their coaching and abilities, of course.

With regard to the total injuries, I hate to do it, but I have to point to the AFCCG last year. NE had total injuries that were just as bad as Indy's, but did so from a lower total talent position. They just had to misfortune of doing it against a very good team instead of a mediocre one.

I am not saying that Indy's injuries shouldn't be considered. I am the first guy to point out that injuries matter. I hate the "injuries are no excuse" crowd, as if losing a guy like Marv doesn't impact a game.

In my italicized post above, the first paragraph was about 2006, the second about 2005, FYI. Sorry if it wasn't clear.

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


Exactly. No one even jumped on the Chargers.

The ref was keyed in on movement because of the situation. Called it because of the situation, and didn't change it because the rule book is sufficiently vague that a legal move can be considered illegal if you want it to.

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

re: 142. You thought it was jerky? I didn't. It looked exactly how it always looks when the TE changes formation to that position.

He didn't look any more or less active than the situation always looks.

The TE has to stand up, and in doing so moves his head from the current position to up.

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

check the down above...I apologize, it was 4th last night, but that is inconsequential. It was still intentionally done to draw the team offside and achieve a 1st down.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Jimmy, Warner's 1999-2001 stats in YPA, completion %, and Touchdown-INT ratio are very similar. I'm saying it's a good comp because they do it in the same offensive system, the Sid Gilman offense that is really down-the-field. Compared to the WCO, QB's in this offense will have higher YPA and TD's, but also higher INT numbers. Sure, Romo and 99-2001 Warner do things slightly differently, but their numbers are actually quite similar, and Romo's DPAR for this year projects to almost exactly where Warner was in 2001. Of course, Romo is 27, and Warner was 30 at the time.

Your point about the Rams superior firepower proves my point, which is that Romo is a comparable player. This year's Cowboys are going to score more than the 1999 and 2001 Rams, which had superior firepower in the same offensive scheme. Romo and Warner put up similar numbers, with a slightly different mix of gifts. But their outcomes are similar. Seriously...just compare the numbers.

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

RE #60 "Although would it hurt Wayne to play a little defense on at least one of the forced passes?"

We were going nuts in the first half at how poorly Wayne was coming back to try to make the catch or knock the ball away.

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Oh, and if I must get on the simulated snap thing:

It was definitely a penalty. The way one player jumped up out of his stance, the intent was clearly to act like he was blocking. They may have gotten away with it in other situations, but on a 4th and 1 with so little time left - an obvious 'try to draw them offsides' situation - the officials are going to be looking for that sort of thing, head bobs, or any other borderline legal movement. It probably doesn't get called on a 2nd and 2 in the 2nd quarter, it will get called on 4th down about any time. Them's just the breaks.

I don't have a big problem with them trying to draw on offsides (or even taking the delay penalty instead of burning a TO if it didn't work); the highest-paid kicker in the game just has to kick a 29-yarder instead of a 24-yarder. Wasting the TO to argue about it was a horrible decision, though. I'm having a tough time deciding between that, spending *two* timeouts on one late 4th quarter challenge, or calling timeout while the opponent is punting when they should be going for it and giving them time to change their mind, as the worst timeout of the weekend. I'd say this comes in third, if only because at that point there was such a slim chance the Colts would need all three TO's - I mean, what are the odds that the highest-paid kicker in football misses a 29-yard field goal?

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I am not arguing that a legal move was intentionally done in the hopes it could draw the team offside.

I agree that it was.

I just do not feel that a legal move should become illegal only in critical situations unless it's explicit.

If you explicitly say, ok. On 4th and 1, no formation changes, no TE motion. Once you're in your stance, you can't change.

Ok. Then no issue. Colts are obviously in the wrong.

However, when legal moves become illegal based on no explicit criteria, that's a problem.

Because I don't believe it was "simulating a snap".

I believe it was "doing a legal move that has a potential to draw the team offsides."

I understand there's not a huge amount of difference between those, but enough difference that a reasonable person could think it would be legal to do it.

Just be clear.

To point out the lack of clarity...

Is it okay to do formation shifts on 3rd and 1?

Is it okay to do them on 4th and 1 in the first quarter?

Is it okay to do them on 3rd and 1 in the 4th quarter?

I really have no idea. I know I've seen them on third and 1 with no issue (Saints).

But I don't know what the criteria is. I haven't a clue, except now, This.