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

Audibles at the Line: Week 14

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.

New York Giants 16 at Philadelphia Eagles 13

Mike Tanier: The Eagles ran a reverse wideout option where Donovan McNabb had to block for Greg Lewis, who threw a deep pass to L.J. Smith. Whoever came up with that play should be slapped. "Let's see, we'll have McNabb risk his health by blocking, we'll have Greg Lewis making decisions with the ball in his hands, and we'll have L.J. trying to make a catch in traffic. That's freakin' brilliant. Can we bring Ryan Moats back and have him do some algebra during the play, too?"

Ben Riley: Wow. I just switched over to this game to see Plaxico Burress make a nice catch and then run for about ten yards holding the football like a baton in one hand. Does he always do that? And didn't Tom Coughlin teach Tiki the wondrous benefits of the four-point hold?

Ned Macey: Not exactly a Donovan McNabb redemption game. I have no idea how the Eagles look so good at some points and so bad at others. They marched the ball early and then just drifted for two quarters. At the end, they ran out of time despite two solid drives. Interesting play call when the Eagles were driving late. They ran it on second-and-long and third-and-long, forcing a fourth-and-6. Jason Avant gets hit early by Pierce, but no ref would ever make a call there on a desperation fourth-down play. (I kid -- the call should have been made last week against Baltimore, but also on Pierce.)

The Eagles, I believe, have outscored their opponents and are sitting at 5-8.

Mike Tanier: I really don't know what to say. Being an Eagles fan hasn't been fun lately. I wait for someone to make a play. Brian Westbrook makes one. I wait for somebody else, on offense or defense. Trent Cole comes through once in a while. Kevin Curtis or Lito Sheppard, maybe. When anyone else does something positive, it comes as a mortal shock. Brown made a great catch ... oh my God! Greg Lewis had a big game: Shocking! I have no faith that Takeo Spikes will make a big stop on defense or that a kick returner will break one or that a backup tight end will catch five passes for 45 yards and take pressure off everyone else.

I've watched the roster talent slowly slip since the Super Bowl year, all the while straining my eyes to see if Omar Gaither could be as good as the young Trotter or if Brian Dawkins could turn back the clock. Now I miss Cory Simon and Chad Lewis, Duce Staley and nickel backs like Al Harris and Rod Hood. I miss young Dawkins and young McNabb, young Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan. I don't want to rebuild, but I don't want to watch this team, this system, keep slipping.

St. Louis Rams 10 at Cincinnati Bengals 19

Ben Riley: Anyone know why Pat Summerall is calling the this game? His voice alone is almost making this game watchable. Almost.

Bill Barnwell: It's the FOX G-Team!

Miami Dolphins 17 at Buffalo Bills 38

Mike Tanier: Not watching this game, but I give the Dolphins a lot of credit for using guys like Beck, Gado, and Ginn. If they are going to stink, it's the least they can do to use lots of guys with short, easy-to-spell names so we don't have to waste our time with a lot of excess typing.

Ryan Wilson: Kudos to the Dolphins for using Lemon too. He just replaced Beck.

Ben Riley: You can call him "Cleo" if you want to save a letter.

Surprisingly, this game will continue to dominate my morning Audibles. Rian Lindell just nailed a 51-yard field goal in heavy rain to set a new Bills record for consecutive field goals (18). Somewhere, Vince Gallo is writing a sequel.

Oakland Raiders 7 at Green Bay Packers 38

Ben Riley: I'd be curious to chat with the game charters who do Green Bay games to see if Donald Driver always jumps a step backwards before he starts to run forward, or only when I'm watching him. It's a surprisingly effective move that tends to freeze the corner and allows Driver to pick up some nice yards after the catch.

I was about to start gushing over Ryan Grant until I remembered the leaking sieve that is the Raiders' run defense. Honestly, I think I would set the over/under on Ben Riley's rushing yards against Oakland's defense at 65.

("Bet the under!" -- Tanier.)

Doug Farrar: As favorable as you'd think the Ryan Grant-versus-the Oakland defensive line matchup would be for the Packers, it's made even more so by the Raiders' defensive staff, who must be game-planning based on two-month-old tape. They're running a lot of nickel coverage, focusing on bringing pressure with four, and leaving huge holes for Grant to run through. They do know that Brett Favre was injured against the Cowboys, right? Maybe you stop the run and then deal with whatever Favre might try to throw at you? I'm kind of astonished by this, considering that teams have run almost 200 more times on the Raiders than they've passed. In the first half, Green Bay ran 18 times and threw 14 times. Not unpredictable.

The Al Harris first-half interception was all about effort. Josh McCown had overthrown Jerry Porter by about ten yards, but Harris kept hustling on the route while Porter went into his, "Oh, look -- another crappy throw from a Raiders quarterback" stride. On the other hand, Porter's touchdown at the end of the first half was an across-the-body throw by McCown that was more in Harris' breadbasket, and Harris was all over Porter, but Atari Bigby knocked Harris off the play as Porter took the ball away. I have a feeling that when all is said and done, Bigby could join DeShaun Foster as an all-time FO bete noire.

Bill Barnwell: I've said it before, but watching Favre move around in the pocket is really a thing of beauty -- there's never a misstep. He always knows exactly where to step to and where his protection is.

You know it's cold when Ed Hochuli is wearing a long-sleeved shirt.

I like Josh McCown, but he hasn't looked great. His completions are either to wide-open receivers in zones or, in the case of his touchdown pass, a lob that should have been intercepted but for a miraculous Jerry Porter leap.

Oakland is "...beginning to believe in the system." What part of the system is that? The one that allows seemingly eight yards a carry?

Doug Farrar: There seems to be more of a concerted effort in the second half for Oakland to follow Grant with its linebackers. They'll blitz once in a while, but all Favre has to do is the quick step-up-and- throw, so that's generally no good. Another of the seemingly endless questions about this formerly great Raiders defense (they really were quite good last year, right? That wasn't a mirage?) is when the tackling in the secondary became so atrocious. There seems to be a lack of overall coordination back there, as if you'd be more likely to suffer a hit by an Oakland defensive back if you were another Oakland defensive back.

Of course, you probably don't want Stanford Routt solo on Greg Jennings on a Brett Favre bomb, either. I think that was a clear example of the "Mike Rumph Variable." Tight end Donald Lee put this game far, far away with a long touchdown run after catch, during which he stiff-armed Stuart Schweigert into next month. Favre reacted by giving center Junius Coston a big ol' butt slap. A spontaneous and funny gesture -- unfortunately, it triggered a barrage of "Brett Favre is just having fun out there" stuff from the booth. Lord, save us. What Favre is doing is looking very good after that outing against Dallas, and this isn't a team I'd want to face in the playoffs.

Sean McCormick: That was about as embarrassing a tackle attempt by Schweigert as you'll see in this league. He had the angle to take Lee down around the five-yard line, but he let himself get caught up in trash and never even attempted to get his helmet on Lee until they were over the goal line.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14 at Houston Texans 28

Russell Levine: Well, the Bucs had a three-game lead with four to play, stole a game on the road last week, and were starting the third-string (at least at the start of the season) quarterback again. So I suppose a letdown is not that unexpected. Still this game reveals how large the gap is between the elite teams in the NFC (Dallas, Green Bay) and a half-decent club like Tampa that has benefited greatly from a soft schedule.

Tampa Bay started two possessions in Houston territory and went three-and-out both times. Late in the third quarter and trailing by 7, they forced a turnover and appeared poised to perhaps tie the game, on third down the center snapped the ball before McCown was ready, turnover, game-icing touchdown.

I was really impressed with Sage Rosenfels. Other than holding the ball too long on that turnover, and forcing a couple throws into coverage, he was very poised, accurate, and kept picking up third downs by stepping up and hitting the open guy. On the other side of the ball, you couldn't miss Mario Williams, who would like the world to know that maybe the Texans knew what they were doing last April. He was a force coming off the edge and had two drive-killing sacks and a number of key stops in the run game.

For Tampa, the edge rushers were also impressive. Greg White is a nobody that has been cut eight times and was last seen in the Arena league. Jovan Haye has a similarly indistinct background. Yet nobody in Tampa has missed Simeon Rice this year despite much gnashing of teeth when he was cut. The play of those two has allowed Gaines Adams to be brought along slowly. He didn't start until week 9, and looked very lost early in the season. Yet he's coming on, made some nice run stops and has been getting into the backfield on pass plays as well.

If this game costs Tampa Bay the third seed, and they end up at Dallas instead of at Green Bay in the second round (assuming they can beat the wild card team -- a big assumption for a team with one win over an opponent with a winning record), they will very much regret their flat performance.

Dallas Cowboys 28 at Detroit Lions 27

Ben Riley: OK, Detroit has first-and-goal from inside the one-yard line. T.J. Duckett's been plowing through the Cowboys' defensive line. Time to slay the demon, Mike. You can do it.

Michael David Smith: In a way, the Lions' offense is better without Roy Williams because the ball can just go to whoever's got the best matchup. Too often they try to force things to Williams when he isn't open.

Aaron Schatz: I missed part of this game driving over to Ian Dembsky's house but from what I can tell, Detroit is playing much more man coverage than usua. That still doesn't explain how this subpar defense managed to keep Terrell Owens without any catches for the entire first half. In the final two minutes, Detroit went to the zone, and Romo just calmly marched the Cowboys down the field for a touchdown. On the last play, you had a zone blitz where Dewayne White had to backpedal and cover Marion Barber coming out of the backfield. Yes, that's the matchup the Lions want in the red zone, sure.

Ian wants to know when it became legal for CBS to show FOX highlights during halftime and vice versa. We always remember that CBS could only show AFC footage and FOX could only show NFC footage.

Ben Riley: For the fourth time today, FOX cuts to commercial with a screen shot of a drunken female Detroit Lions fan dressed in a naughty Santa suit, bobbing up and down with a beer in her hand. Quoth Joe Buck: "Merry Christmas."

Doug Farrar: As long as she doesn't fake-moon the crowd, or elongate her home run trot, Buck's OK.

Bill Barnwell: Hopefully it's F*** DA EAGLES girl, and she's now on tour.

Ben Riley: I know a lot of Audibles ink has been spilled on the subject of the stupid spike penalty, but Calvin Johnson just got called for it while lying on the ground, after he smacked his arms together in frustration. Does anyone know if there's any sort of discretion built into the penalty, or whether it's automatic if the ref sees it?

Doug Farrar: Well, it's a judgment call, I guess. He smacked his arms together? Did he throw the ball away or anything?

Ben Riley: Yeah, the ball hit the ground. But it wasn't a "spike" in the conventional sense of the word. If it truly is a judgment call, the flag shouldn't have been thrown. And just to rub some salt into MDS's paper cut, Jason Hanson missed the ensuing field goal attempt. Ouch.

Aaron Schatz: Tony Romo got called for the stupid spike after he spiked in frustration when Dallas had a delay of game. I hate this penalty. Hate it, hate it, hate it. HATE IT. WHO CARES? Earlier in the game, Marion Barber ran out of bounds and spiked the ball because he was excited about getting a first down. That wasn't called. What are the rules on this stupid thing?

Sean McCormick: You know, I went to Arizona State, and I don't remember Shaun McDonald being open 100 percent of the time. I assumed he was having a good year in part because teams were so focused on Williams and Johnson, but with Williams out it hasn't affected him at all.

Sean McCormick: Dallas with some Patriots-style good fortune. On third-and-6, Romo tries to scramble and gets the ball knocked out of his hands from behind. The ball squirts forward, hits a Detroit defender, and he proceeds to kick it full speed back towards a Cowboy. A lineman falls on it, Dallas converts on fourth down and their last-gasp drive continues.

Aaron Schatz: Has Sean McHugh been this good all year? He was a huge part of why the Lions could run the ball, great blocking to clear holes for Kevin Jones up the middle. He was also taking on blitzers -- and even made some big plays coming out of the backfield to catch the ball. (The one thing I don't understand: motioning McHugh out wide. That wasn't fooling anyone.) I would love to see more of this guy. If Mike Martz can be convinced to run the ball, maybe he can be convinced to use a fullback more often if he has a good one.

The whole Dallas comeback felt exactly like New England last week against Baltimore. Remember last week when Jaws kept saying in the fourth quarter, "you can feel Baltimore losing this, you can feel Baltimore losing this?" Ian and I were saying the same thing about Dallas and Detroit. Deep down, it just seemed like the Cowboys would come back. Maybe Tony Romo and Tom Brady share DNA or something.

Pat Laverty: Yeah, they've probably dated some of the same starlets.

Oh wait, that's probably not what you meant by "share DNA," was it?

(Editor's note: There was some really terrible math in the original version of this next comment. It has been corrected.)

Vince Verhei: I nominate the Detroit coaching staff for Keep Choppin' Wood this week. Dallas trails 20-14 early in the third quarter. They have second-and-8 at their own 5. Terrell Owens catches a pass for four yards, but is called for offensive pass interference. Detroit, however, declines the penalty, leaving Dallas with third-and-4.

Now, the penalty for offensive pass interference is 10 yards from the original line of scrimmage, right? In this, case, it would be half the distance to the goal, so Dallas would have the ball at their own 3, with 10 yards to go for a first. So the Detroit coaches chose third-and-4 rather than second-and-10. I can see how you'd rather have to stop Dallas on one play instead of stopping them twice, but this is still stupid. Worse yet, doesn't OPI also involve a loss of down? So by declining the penalty, didn't the Lions choose third-and-4 at the 9 instead of third-and-10 at the 3?

San Diego Chargers 23 at Tennessee Titans 17

Aaron Schatz: I have a bit of advice for San Diego. Don't call the "fake screen to one side, spin around, actual screen on other side" play when Billy Volek is in the game. First of all, the backup doesn't get enough reps in practice to get the timing on that play down correctly. Second, he is BILLY VOLEK.

Shaun Phillips completely horse-collared Chris Brown when Brown scored a touchdown to put Tennessee up 10-3 on San Diego. Two hands, inside the pads, from behind. No call. Either call the damn penalty or take it off the books. What the hell? This is not like bitching about holding; we're talking about avoiding injuries here.

Sean McCormick: The combination of Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch are just destroying the left side of the San Diego line. On third-and-5 with two minutes to go, the Titans ran a stunt that got Vanden Bosch completely free because the guard was so worried about where Haynesworth was going.

David Lewin: I wonder if Chris Chambers is actually going to hurt San Diego's offense? On the play before the game tying touchdown they threw a fade to Chambers which he obviously failed to catch. Normally they run this play for Gates, who is much better at it, but somehow people remain convinced that Chambers is good. Fortunately the Chargers came to their sense on the next play and threw a fade to Gates -- which he caught. Nonetheless, they wasted a crucial down passing to the lowest percentage receiver in the NFL at the expense of one of the highest.

Aaron Schatz: When Vince Young came out, Russell Levine and Tim Gerheim talked a lot about how he couldn't be compared to Michael Vick because his running style was so different. When he ran, he ran with purpose, and he rarely ran into traffic, normally taking a path that would get him out of bounds without contact. Well, now he's running like Vick. When the pass pressure gets there, he doesn't see a clear lane and go. He bends his knees a little, looks like he's struggling with indecision, goes into "action figure mode," and gets like two yards before he gets tackled. Not a good development for Mr. Young.

Vince Verhei: I think the comparisons between Vick and Young are absurd. Young is Vick with a weaker arm and less foot speed. They do have the same tendency to freeze up in a panicky "I don't know what to do!" manner. But I've yet to see one thing Young does on a football field better than Vick. Vick would at least tease you once in a while with a miraculous play before crashing back down to earth.

On the plus side for Tennessee, as long as Albert Haynesworth is playing, their defense will keep the game close and winnable against any opponent south or west of Massachusetts.

And speaking of quarterbacks who have lost their luster, I present Philip Rivers. Another week, another mention that Norv Turner is a horrible coach. Hey, here's a thought: Last year, the Chargers made the playoffs and lost their first game, then fired the coach. If they lose their first playoff game this year -- and with Jacksonville looming, that seems likely -- will they fire the coach again?

Aaron Schatz: Vince, your comments about Vick vs. Young are fine for the Vince Young of 2007, but I'm talking about how Young's response to the pass rush has declined this year. It's too bad that our resident Vince Young expert is over in Germany, but I'm sure he would agree with me. Texas Vince Young did not freeze up in that panicky "I don't know what to do!" manner. Honestly, 2006 NFL rookie Vince Young didn't freeze up in that panicky "I don't know what to do!" manner. I don't know what the problem is this year, but something is different. Part of the whole league-wide regression of second-year starting quarterbacks.

Sean McCormick: Sans Jay Cutler, who is, in Mike Mayock's words, "spinning it."

Vince Verhei: You know that commercial where Peyton Manning is opening doors in a hallway, then his inner child tells him to throw to Clark? I think young quarterbacks, young running quarterbacks in particular, don't see the doors. They try the first one, and if it doesn't work, they take off down the hallway, leaving the inner child shouting something about a hot read. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Then they get too much knowledge, and start thinking about all the things they're NOT supposed to do, and suddenly they see all these doors and don't even know which one to open first.

Ned Macey: Correct me if I'm wrong about this, but the Chargers rank seventh in DVOA coming into this week, just went on the road against one of the very best defenses in football when Haynesworth is healthy and gutted out an impressive comeback. All in a game when their starting quarterback was hurt. And we're still taking shots at Norv? I'm also pretty sure the Chargers would be favorites even by DVOA numbers if they host the Jaguars. I reiterate, the Norv Turner hiring was a mistake, but it is not a great catastrophe that has ruined an otherwise perfect team.

Arizona Cardinals 21 at Seattle Seahawks 42

Doug Farrar: I simply don't understand the thought process behind bringing Shaun Alexander in for goal-line situations anymore. On Seattle's first drive, two nice Nate Burleson catches and a Maurice Morris run got the Seahawks to the Arizona three-yard line, and Alexander came in. First, this isn't fair to Morris, who's the far better back right now. Second, neither back is anything to write home about in the red zone. Third, bringing Alexander in is roughly equivalent to having Mike Holmgren hold up a big sign that says, "HEY! WE'RE GOING TO RUN THE BALL!" And why run it right behind Chris "The Human Turnstile" Gray? Shaun gets pushed back two yards. Morris comes back in, incomplete pass, field goal. There isn't a thing about Shaun Alexander that fits this offense at this point.

Bill Barnwell: Except that they both peaked two years ago?

Doug Farrar: Patrick Kerney has been stunting inside over the last couple of weeks. That's been a really effective thing for Seattle. He was right there for an important stop on Edgerrin James with that move. Plus, he's just killing Kurt Warner and giving Levi Brown a very expensive education. The Seahawks defense is mixing up pressure and coverage very well, though I wish they'd be a bit more aggressive on the injured Larry Fitzgerald at the line of scrimmage. I don't care who it is, if a guy can barely get up after a catch and he's limping all the time, maybe 10-yard cushions aren't a great idea.

And speaking of great receivers, most of you will see the highlight of the Bobby Engram touchdown catch, when he was practically horizontal in the end zone and brought the ball into his chest in time. This is a guy who suffered from Graves' disease last year, and now he's having the best season of his career. He'll be 35 in January. It's hard for me to avoid sounding like a homer when I talk about him.

The scrum that Sean Locklear and Darnell Dockett got into after Dockett ripped Chris Spencer's helmet right off his head has a bit of a past. Dockett has gotten away with quite a few late hits and horse collars in his esteemed career (the NFL evidently thinks that after-the-fact fines make up for missed calls), and the Seahawks were steaming mad a couple of weeks ago when a Rams defender ripped Rob Sims' helmet off his head and a flag wasn't even thrown. At least this time, Dockett was penalized.

Ben Riley: Ken Whisenhunt is going to be a very good coach for Arizona, but 1) the Cardinals are losing by 22 points with a minute left to play; 2) Patrick Kerney has been murdering Kurt Warner all afternoon; and 3) Larry Fitzgerald's playing with one leg. Hey Ken, time to take Kurt and Larry out of the game. They are entitled to careers.

The pessimism circus just left Seattle (bound for Detroit, I believe). The Hawks defense is playing lights-out over the last four weeks. Marcus Trufant had three picks today, Kerney another three sacks, and it ain't easy to run on Rocky Bernard and Brandon Mebane. Add Peterson and Tatupu and ... OK, Brian Russell is still a liability, but there's a lot to love about this defense. If you're from Seattle, that is.

Doug Farrar: Russell's OK in coverage, but he tackles like a girl. And I ain't talking about Holley Mangold.

The offense is coming around, and Matt Hasselbeck is running it to near-perfection. The defense is the best of the Holmgren era. They need to cut long snapper Boone Stutz before he even leaves the stadium, though. Special teams have become a real concern after a mostly wonderful year.

Ben Riley: Yes, in the spirit of non-pessimism, I didn't want to say anything about Seattle's special teams, which have fallen off a cliff. Part of the problem is that Josh "Franchise" Brown is getting about one nanosecond of hangtime on his kicks. Part of the problem is that punter Ryan Plackemeier has been ordered to kick to guys like Brian Westbrook. And, as Doug rightly notes, a BIG part of the problem is that the long snapper is someone actually named Boone Stutz.

Cleveland Browns 24 at New York Jets 18

Sean McCormick: Kerry Rhodes made his fourth interception in as many games, and it was a thing of beauty. The Browns ran a play-action bootleg with the action going left and Anderson rolling right to try and hit a receiver crossing from left to right. As soon as Rhodes saw the fake, he knew exactly where the ball was going and he broke on the ball well before Anderson threw it.

For all the grief that D'Brickashaw Ferguson gets for being understrength at the point of attack, it's Nick Mangold's lack of strength that is crippling to the run game. Mangold just cannot get push against anyone. The Jets had the ball on the two, tried to hammer it in twice and Mangold was stood up and stopped in his tracks both times (as was the runner following behind). It forced the Jets to throw on third down, and Sean Jones picked off Kellen Clemens in the end zone. It's possible that Mangold is playing hurt, as he's been dinged up for much of the year, but his inability to generate push on the inside is really limiting the offense.

Cleveland is using Joshua Cribbs a lot in their base packages. They line him up tight along the sideline with Braylon Edwards and motion him inside to give him a free release in the slot so he can run vertical routes. Cribbs seems to be on the field more than Joe Jurevicius. Has Cleveland been doing this all year, or is it a function of Cribbs' return success?

Mike Tanier: Cribbs has not been used much in the base package before now. He was a third or fourth wideout most of the year. I think he has always been listed as the No. 3, but the Browns often use Kellen Winslow as their third receiver and insert Steve Heiden at tight end.

Sean McCormick: Braylon Edwards is just too big and strong for Darrelle Revis today. Revis has been matched up in man coverage for most of the game, and even though his coverage has been tight, Edwards has been able to use his body to make the catch. Edwards caught a fade on fourth down that was thrown to his back shoulder by simply spinning around and plucking the ball from Revis' shoulder. He also had a huge gain on a crossing pattern where he pushed Revis to the ground as Revis tried to play the ball. Edwards finished off the drive by catching another fade, this time by going up over Revis.

Vince Verhei: So besides the rejuvenated quarterback, and the rebuilt offensive line, and the elite tight end, and the emerging wide receiver, it turns out there's something else to like about the Cleveland offense: the running back. I always thought Jamal Lewis was a powerful straight-line guy, who would run into a pile and either stop right there or burst through it for a big gain. But today I saw him making cuts, changing direction, making guys miss in the open field. I suspect a lot of this had to do with the fact he was playing the Jets.

Pittsburgh Steelers 13 at New England Patriots 34

(Before kickoff...)

Aaron Schatz: On NFL Matchup, Jaws pointed out that both Philadelphia and Baltimore have pressured Tom Brady by bringing speed against the two tackles outside, especially Nick Kaczur. Kaczur may be the only player in the Patriots' starting 22 who is a below-average starter in the NFL, and he's the clear weak link on this team. My guess is that if the Steelers win today, zone blitzes that exploit Kaczur will be a major factor. We'll see if I'm right...

Stuart Fraser: I've been planning to do something on Pittsburgh's pass rush, looking at how many defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs they rush on each play. Unfortunately I first got the idea to do this after the Miami game, which probably wasn't typical, and last week was too busy and I was too tired to look at the Bengals game.

My notes for Miami suggest that Pittsburgh doesn't zone blitz anywhere near as often as they have the reputation of doing, but that could just have been Dick LeBeau being vanilla because it was impossible to execute offense in that weather anyway.

In either case, it's not entirely necessary to zone blitz to bring a speed rusher against a tackle -- there's a limit to how often you're going to want to bring a defensive back against New England's offense (especially if the Steelers are starting both backup safeties -- anybody heard anything about Polamalu yet?), but Pittsburgh's various outside linebackers aren't what I'd call bull-rush types. The 2-4-5 and 2-5-4 sets might well see a lot of use, with Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley in the game.

(Steelers running back Najeh Davenport goes deep for a 32-yard touchdown catch)

Sean McCormick: Najeh Davenport?

Stuart Fraser: Najeh. That was a pretty standard Pittsburgh "Right, a rusher got through the line, Ben scrambles outside and all the receivers run in a random direction until one of them gets open" play. I am pretty certain that play call didn't intend for Davenport to go deep.

Stuart Fraser: The Steelers are using an awful lot of the Eleven Angry Men, or the Mixer as CBS prefer to call it, mostly on third down. I'm guessing that LeBeau noticed that Baltimore's version of it was pretty successful in getting pressure on Brady, and decided to copy it. The Ravens also lined up with no D-linemen covering large sections of the Patriots' line on several occasions, and the Steelers are doing that too.

I've never really looked at Rex Ryan's defense for things he's stolen from LeBeau, so I'm not sure if the Pittsburgh and Baltimore brain trusts copy each other shamelessly, or if it's just a one-way thing.

Aaron Schatz: At halftime, this is really a good game with two good teams playing very good football, combined with one major coverage screw-up per team and the easily predicted Pittsburgh special teams mishap. Anybody who thought the Steelers were coming out to stuff the ball down the Patriots' throat with the run game was clearly wrong. Willie Parker just is not that kind of back, and he's been stuffed a ton with a couple of long runs. Luckily, Pittsburgh has an excellent quarterback with a talent for improvisation. I don't know if this is a specific tactic against Roethlisberger, but the Pats seem to be rushing only three on a good number of downs.

By the way, Ian and I have no idea what Shannon Sharpe said at halftime. At all. In any attempted sentence.

Tim Gerheim: Given that I'm in Germany, where football lies somewhere between curling and cricket in the sports popularity hierarchy, I'm going to have to have someone explain this one, because I can't wait for the nfl.com highlight to come out tomorrow:

T.Brady FUMBLES (Aborted) at NE 35, recovered by NE-R.Moss at NE 35. R.Moss to NE 33 for -2 yards. T.Brady pass deep left to J.Gaffney for 56 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Stuart Fraser: It was a straight-out-of-the-Pittsburgh playbook trick play. It wasn't an aborted snap though -- Brady threw a pass backwards to Randy Moss, who fumbled, recovered, lateraled it back to Brady, who (under)threw the bomb to Jabar Gaffney, who was wide-open because Anthony Smith had bitten hard on all the trickery. (Despite this, Brady's throw was short enough that Smith almost managed to recover his position).

Sean McCormick: Think the old Tom Matte back to Earl Morrall followed by a long touchdown to Jimmy Orr. Only with a fumble in there.

Doug Farrar: Except that this time Morrall (Brady) actually saw Orr (Gaffney) in this case. Gaffney didn't have to wave his arm in vain.

Aaron Schatz: Actually, that one is in the Patriots' playbook too. They ran it last year against San Diego, with Daniel Graham, but Graham mistakenly threw the pass back to Brady forwards instead of backwards. Amazing play, but it almost didn't work, not only because of the Moss fumble but also because the ball hung in the air and Anthony Smith almost made it back to slap it away. Interesting wrinkle, if you watched the replay: Gaffney pauses in the middle of the field to try to sell the original backwards pass to Moss, then accelerates again to go into the end zone.

Mike Tanier: Did Aaron just inform us that a play the Patriots ran is in the Patriots' playbook?

Tim Gerheim: The best football analysis on the Web.

Aaron Schatz: Y'all know what I meant. I meant this wasn't the first time they've run this play in a game. Clearly, the Patriots figured out that the slant was there when the Steelers blitzed, and that was that. The Patriots ran something like 34 straight pass plays. Absurd. I was a little surprised the Steelers offense couldn't keep up. I'm curious what people think of the play call to run the Hines Ward tight end-around on fourth-and-goal.

Vince Verhei: I thought it was ridiculous. By calling that play, Mike Tomlin was basically saying, "I bet I can catch Bill Belichick's team unprepared for something." That's a bet nobody should ever take.

Just as remarkably, New England takes the ball over with a first- and-10 at its own one-yard line, and opens in the shotgun, putting Brady right in the middle of his own end zone. So now we know that they will truly use the shotgun anywhere. And this was when the death-by-a-thousand-flats-to-Wes-Welker began. (I just checked the play-by-play. The phrase "12-T.Brady pass short right to 83-W.Welker" appears five times in a row, all complete, for a total of 63 yards.)

Stuart Fraser: I thought the flat to Welker from the end zone was a smart (also fairly obvious) play call. In that game situation, it's obvious that if Brady stands back in the shotgun Pittsburgh will bring a big blitz and go for the safety, because it's the only thing that might get them back in the game. So the quick flat to the slot receiver has a good chance at going for a ton of yardage, which it did.

The next four flats were kind of taking the piss, but, again, this is against a team that never seems to adjust, so...

Mike Tanier: Slant/flats with Moss on the slant and Welker in the flat seem unbeatable today. Welker is open in the flat every time I look up.

Stuart Fraser: I think in most respects that was a fairly traditional '07 Steelers loss -- on the road (outside of Ohio), and characterized by a failure to adjust to the opposition. When facing New England's spread offense in good weather, with half your starting secondary injured, well, frankly you're going to lose anyway, but some adjustments are probably called for. Pittsburgh seemed to be almost entirely using the same defensive gameplan they'd used against Cincinnati -- right down to leaving Ike Taylor on Randy Moss as if he were Chad Johnson. Taylor's a good corner, but he's not that good. To be fair it did work on some series, before Brady adjusted to throwing with a pass rusher in his face (which I thought he did fantastically well).

Pittsburgh's offense was mostly fine between the 20s and died in the red zone. I don't know what precisely was wrong with it there. Santonio Holmes clearly wasn't at 100 percent, which probably didn't help, because Nate Washington isn't really consistent enough to be on the field as much as he is. (Washington is a great slot receiver when he remembers to catch the ball). Pittsburgh didn't feature Heath Miller anywhere near as much as I might have expected. Again, this might well be a sign of "game-planning is for wimps," since the tight end across the middle is part of the standard anti-Patriots offense. Of course, it's difficult to open up the underneath areas for your tight end if your deep-threat wide receiver is not at full effectiveness.

In conclusion, I'm now much less worried about a rematch in the playoffs, on the grounds that it's looking increasingly unlikely the Steelers will get that far.

Ned Macey: As any dutiful Colts fan must do, I root against the Patriots almost every week. That being said, I obviously have the utmost respect for them. What I really like is that they dominate without giving a damn about conventional wisdom. They appear to me to be running a similar offense to the one that Oakland ran in 2002, which was run by Bill Callahan, who had no pedigree. You have to have a unique offense to do it (as the Eagles tried but failed), but there is no reason you have to run the ball. Wes Welker is basically their running back. (Something similar can be said about the way they go for it on fourth down all the time.)

I feel like a sports radio host trying to drive calls by saying absurd things, but Wes Welker is not one of the 35 best receivers in football. I think he is PERFECT for what the Patriots are trying to do, but no team outside of New England would or should ever give up a second-rounder for him. The Pats obviously should because he allows them to do what they are doing, but he spends most of his time covered by nickel backs and the occasional linebacker, but he has the worst DVOA of any Pats receiver (Watson and Gaffney included). Peter King beats this horse every week (and we'll see it again Monday after the "Welker drive"), but the Dolphins got a haul for what in a normal offense is a solid but unspectacular receiver.

As for the Ward call, I don't think it had anything to do with preparation, but when they went empty and motioned Ward, I knew they were calling an end-around. I think it was a terrible call, period.

Bill Barnwell: That was sort of the point I made about Welker before the season. He has a 20% DVOA in the greatest offense of all-time. All three other wideouts are above him. Is he useful? Sure. Is he worth a second-round pick? Not really. This offense would be just as good with Gaffney in the Welker role and a healthy Chad Jackson in the Gaffney role.

Vince Verhei: If Welker is being covered by nickel backs and the occasional linebacker, then who's covering Gaffney? Nose tackles and beer vendors?

Ben Riley: Bill Barnwell, I drafted Wes Welker for my fantasy team. Wes Welker is a friend of mine. Jabar Gaffney, sir, is no Wes Welker. Seriously, he's a good wide receiver. He didn't play great tonight but almost any team in the NFL would be happy to trade a second-round pick for an 84-catch, seven-TD guy who seems to always be open on third down. And yes, I'm channeling my inner Peter King right now. Would you like to hear about my experience in Starbucks this week?

Bill Barnwell: You're ignoring the point. They use Walker in that role. I'm saying they could use Gaffney in the same role (say, if Welker had gotten hurt), and they wouldn't skip a beat. Is Welker better than Gaffney in that role? Maybe. Is the difference between the two worth a second-round pick? No.

Ben Riley: My point, and I do have one, is that Wes Welker is much, much better than Jabar Gaffney in that role, or any other role the Patriots might imagine. Wes Welker is good, Jabar Gaffney is below average. And that difference is/was well worth the Patriots' second round pick.

Bill Barnwell: OK. So what makes you say that Wes Welker is good and Jabar Gaffney is below average?

Ben Riley:

  • Wes Welker, 2005, rookie year: 434 yards, 56% catch rate, 14.1% DVOA
  • 2006: 687 yards, 67% catch rate, 0.1% DVOA
  • This year: 84 catches, 896 yards, 7 touchdowns

Plus, he's shifty and hard to cover, makes tough catches over the middle, returns punts, and Bill Belichick thought he was dangerous enough to trade for him. In contrast:

  • Jabar Gaffney, 2005: 492 yards, 61% catch rate, -13.4% DVOA
  • 2006: 142 yards, 55% catch rate, 8.5% DVOA
  • This year: 22 catches, 237 yards, 3 touchdowns

If Gaffney was as good as Wes Welker, he had all of 2006 to prove it. Instead, he had a whopping 11 receptions on a team that wasn't exactly teeming with wide receiver talent. Welker is clearly outplaying him this year. I don't think this is a borderline call. Welker is much, much better than Gaffney.

Bill Barnwell: You can't have it both ways, though, if you're going to use DVOA as the measuring stick. Gaffney's more of a downfield threat than Welker is. His DVOA this year is better than Welker's in the same offense. In previous years, Welker was playing in a better passing offense than Gaffney. Is Gaffney not shifty and hard to cover? I would say he is. He also didn't have all of 2006 to prove it. He only spent a few games on the Patriots roster and once he learned the playbook, he did step up and put up big numbers in the playoffs. I'm not saying he's used as much. I'm saying he could do the same job.

If your argument is "Bill Belichick says as much", hey, that's fine, but just because Belichick acquired him doesn't mean Gaffney couldn't do it, either.

Mike Tanier: This discussion has gone to mediation:

1) Watching game film, it is pretty clear that a lot of Welker's catches come on little flat routes that most receivers could run well. The key is that Moss or Stallworth takes the cornerback past his depth on those routes. The split between Welker and Gaffney is not that wide.

2) It is hard to argue that the Patriots paid too much for Welker when they are currently undefeated and score a bajillion points per game, and they still managed to get a first round pick from a lousy team. Arguing that Welker isn't worth a 2nd round pick in isolation may have merit. Arguing he isn't worth it in the context of the Patriots, who wheeled-and-dealed to get Moss cheap and grab the Niners pick is different.

3) Does the player make the system or the system make the player? A job for Socrates.

Ryan Wilson: I have no idea how the game would've turned out, but Anthony Smith changed the momentum on those two blown coverages. The Steelers rebounded from the first play-action from Brady to Moss, but the Brady-to-Moss-to-Brady-to-Gaffney touchdown to start the third quarter was a backbreaker. Stuart mentioned the Steelers' defense inability to make adjustments, but it's important to remember that the Pats' offense was rolling. You have to blitz Brady, and with Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu on the sidelines, you can only expect so much from the backups in coverage.

By the way, some Steelers fans have been calling for Smith to replace Clark since last season. There's a reason the Redskins missed Clark after they let him walk following the '05 season. He's a smart player who understands the responsibilities that go along with playing free safety.

Offensively, the Steelers did a lot well, in the first half, anyway. Ben Roethlisberger looks as sharp as ever, Willie Parker ran hard for the first time in a month, and the offensive line might've played their best game of the season, particularly in pass protection. This loss isn't shocking, but how the Steelers rebound next week against the Jags will say much more about Mike Tomlin's ability to prepare his players.

Oh, and on the end-around to Hines Ward on the goal line ... yeah, that was Bruce Arians' call, and I wasn't even shocked when I saw it. Doesn't mean I like it, but as Bill Cowher likes to say, it is what it is. Arians has caught some flak for shoddy play-calling this season, but I think he's done pretty well, what with the spotty pass blocking, and the running game sometimes disappearing for long stretches.

One more thing: Anthony Smith should've been flagged on the cheap shot he laid on Donte' Stallworth on the overthrow in the end zone. I was bellyaching to MDS earlier this week that LaRon Landry gave a cheap shot to Muhsin Muhammad on a similar play on Thursday, and this was virtually the same situation.

Aaron Schatz: I hope that Arnold Harrison of the Steelers gets fined a good amount for losing his cool and slamming Kyle Eckel in the back as he walked off the field after that last punt. That was not cool.

Indianapolis Colts 44 at Baltimore Ravens 20

Stuart Fraser: OK, this game is getting somewhat ridiculous -- not the actual plays, just that a player goes down injured after every third snap. Any theories as to why?

(A brief pause as the Ravens shoot themselves in the foot further to the tune of a turnover and a safety.)

Perhaps the plays are more ridiculous than the injuries. Jeez. It's almost as if the Ravens are trying to show the Steelers how to get properly blown out by one of the top AFC teams.

Ben Riley: Here's a question for someone with a rulebook. I know teams can elect to punt in lieu of a kickoff (as Baltimore just punted after the safety, presumably because of the rain). But can you onside punt?

Doug Farrar If you can, it might explain Ryan Plackemeier's recent performances. "No, I didn't shank another one, Coach. That was an onside punt!"

Stuart Fraser: At Football Outsiders, we often talk about how raw yardage stats can paint a misleading picture of a team's performance. Sometimes, however, they encapsulate an evening nicely. Passing yardage, one hour in: Indianapolis 133, Baltimore 9 (and actually more like -40 if you include the interception return).

Aaron Schatz: It's 9:30 p.m. and I just got home from picking up my daughter from her grandma's. I'm confused. Is this Sunday Night Football, or a performance of Edwin Abbott's classic novel "Emotionally Flatland?"

Ned Macey: Watching Kyle Boller's sterling performance tonight, maybe the Colts should play Jim Sorgi against the Patriots if they make it to the AFC Championship game.

Doug Farrar: The fourth quarter was notable for one thing: John Madden talking up Troy Smith like he was Mayock on Cutler, basically throwing Boller under the bus and saying that Brian Billick might as well see what Smith can do for the rest of the season. Then again, why not? Isn't it about time for another quarterback experiment in Baltimore?

Comments

296 comments, Last at 19 Mar 2013, 11:32pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

after watching the pats have so much trouble with the ravens in bad weather and then smoke the steelers, does it kinda seem like the colts are better off facing them at foxboro, if theres a rematch in the championship game? i definitely like the colts chances better in bad weather than inside a dome where moss would run amok.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

No comments on JaMaruss Russell so ridiculously bundled up on the sidelines that there was only about 1/8th of a inch of exposure for his eyes? I'm disappointed! I thought for sure someone would have something funny to say about that.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Whenever the ad comes up before the article, I lose the ability to navigate with the arrow keys or home and end buttons. I'm using XP and IE if it matters. It's not a huge issue, but annoying.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Is a second round pick all that valuable to the Pats? This year, the only draft pick who made the team was the first (B Merriweather) and he's barely seen the field. And if the Pats win the super bowl this year and then can weather the free agent defections and retirements in good shape, there's a chance that only two draft picks even make the roster next year. So I think the Pats trading the second choice in the draft for a boat load of picks, I think, misses the point. Even with the salary cap implications, I'd rather take a once in a generational player like McFadden over a boat load of late first and second round picks.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

On the safety kick - I don't know that I've ever seen a team not punt the ball there. They can punt, dropkick or kick off without a tee
Welker is a better WR than Gaffney. He just is. If FO stats are the only ones allowed, his 3x DPAR (through week 13) should settle that. Welker is also being penalized for not-really-fumbles since DVOA assumes a 50% chance of losing a fumble, when his fumbles were just OoB jobs or momentary drops as he was tackled that were never in any danger of being lost. Heath Miller and Casey Fitzsimmons are not the top TE in the league, but they lead in DVOA.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"Worse yet, doesn’t OPI also involve a loss of down? So by declining the penalty, didn’t the Lions choose third-and-1 at the 12 instead of third-and-10 at the 3?"

No, it doesn't. Just a 10 yarder.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

1, Yeah I said ever since the Colts loss to the Pats that its gonna be a big advantage for them playing in bad weather. I think it would be better for the Pats to pla in Indy, actually.

And I'm guessing Indy is gonna be number 2 in DVOA now after the Boys struggled. Man what a bad game that was by the defense. I was convinced I was having nightmares most of the game. They just gashed the Boys on the ground. Oh well, at least they won.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

In the beginning of the season, the Steeler's bread and butter red zone tactic was to flood the end zone with big white guy tight ends. Since then, one BWGTE has been injured, and another other has seen reduced playing time.

That leaves just one BWGTE, and he usually is held in to block. I couldn't tell yo why Spaeth isn't getting as much playing time.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

While I disgaree that they wouldn't miss a beat with Gaffney taking Welker's spot, there's at least an argument to be had. Chad Jackson, on the other hand, can't even get on the field on offense. If he's replacing Gaffney, that would hurt, as mediocre as Gaffney is.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Frick, #3:

It seems the issue is that after redirection from the ad, the address has a # at the end of the URL. Removing this and reloading the page restores navigation.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Sean McCormick,

If you'd like to see footage of Shaun McDonald (and Kevin Curtis) running wide open, we'll just go hop in my time machine and go see some Seahawks games. Getting rid of them is the best thing the Rams have ever done.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

What, none of you wanted to watch the Denver vs. Kansas City game that was opposite the Patriots game? Come on!

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"I’ve watched the roster talent slowly slip since the Super Bowl year, all the while straining my eyes to see if Omar Gaither could be as good as the young Trotter or if Brian Dawkins could turn back the clock. Now I miss Cory Simon and Chad Lewis, Duce Staley and nickel backs like Al Harris and Rod Hood. I miss young Dawkins and young McNabb, young Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan. I don’t want to rebuild, but I don’t want to watch this team, this system, keep slipping."

That pretty much sums it up for the Eagles. It's been a very, very depressing year - occasionally seeing flashes of the old brilliance, but much more often mediocrity or just sucking.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re Vince Verhei's commentary on the OPI decline:

You have the numbers completely wrong. Here's the official PBP:

*1st and 10 at DAL 3
(13:26) J.Jones right tackle to DAL 5 for 2 yards (P.Lenon, K.Kennedy). DET-F.Bryant was injured during the play.

*2nd and 8 at DAL 5
(12:49) T.Romo pass short right to T.Owens pushed ob at DAL 9 for 4 yards (T.Fisher). Penalty on DAL-T.Owens, Offensive Pass Interference, declined.

So the penalty was at the 5 on 2nd and 8, meaning half-the-distance would have made it 2nd and 10 (no, the offense does not lose the down). The catch was for four yards, meaning they chose 3rd and 4 (not 3rd and 1 as you said) over second and 10.

One could argue one way or the other, but it wasn't necessarily a bad decision to pick 3rd and 4 over 2nd and 10. In fact, I'm not so sure it wasn't the *right* decision. Certainly not KCW worthy.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Because of a previously mentioned Eagles fan whom I have to interact with on a semi-regular basis, I relish in the team's struggles AND the talent base shrinking. Said fan, who personifies all the worst traits one can imagine about fandom, has explained ad nauseum how the Eagles front office is smarter than anyone else in the NFC, how the team was set for both now and the future and how injuries might derail a season every so often but that Philly would be right THERE at the end every year. That and the constant "Favre's old and he s*cks" mantra.

And should a Packer fan like myself try and engage him in a discussion the response is always, "4th and 26 baby".

So pardon me for being in pretty much constant "Smirk" mode as said Eagles fan pouts, sulks and grouses when the topic turns to football. Better yet, he leaves.

Apologies to Eagles fans HERE for possibly seeming to embellish in THERE discomfort. That is not the case. Just the resident doofus in my neck of the woods.

With the Packers clinching the division today is a d*mn good day.........

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I watched the first half of the Titans-Chargers game. Wow about the dirtiest game I've seen in years. I guess I never registered 1 player stepping on a guys head last season with the total team being dirty, but wow the Titans played dirty all half. The worst being a very late hit on a kick return where the returner was tackled, rolled stood up helpless and then got hit from behind in the lower legs. No flag. The Titans were hitting at or below the knee all half. Including an odd low hit on Rivers on a hand off long after the ball had already gone to the back. I'm not sure if this is how they always play but the Titans became team number 1 to avoid if they make the playoffs (just for the potential injury factor). And because it's the NFL sure enough LT draws the only personal foul of the half.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Argh. "THEIR". Not "THERE".

Cripes. I like to think I can write. Good gravy......

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re: #5

If we are just using FO stats, what about DVOA: Gaffney with over 30%, Welker with 20%.

DPAR is a counting stat. So, let's take DPAR / Pass Attempt.
Gaffney - 8.9 / 28 = 0.32
Welker - 25.6 / 111 = 0.23

I'm not saying Gaffney is better. I love watching Welker play, and I think that the way he makes catches on the run does set him apart from a lot of other WRs. But you could still make the argument that Gaffney is just a good based on stats.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"2006 NFL rookie Vince Young didn’t freeze up in that panicky “I don’t know what to do!� manner. I don’t know what the problem is this year, but something is different."

2006 Vince Young wasn't on the cover of Madden. The curse lives on.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

You cannot have an "onside punt" after a safety. It's the only time in the game where "trickery" is not allowed.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Badger, what do you think about the GB safety situation? I'm a bit torn. On the one hand, I think Rouse almost certainly has an INT in the first half where Bigby had one bounce off his chest. On the other hand, I doubt Rouse would have made several of the plays both Collins and Bigby made in the running game (especially Collins fourth down stop of Fargas in the first half). In the end, I think perhaps the status quo of Collins and Bigby is best. However, I also think they should have a pretty quick hook on Bigby in the playoffs. Once mentally bad plays begin for him, they seem to snowball (I don't really consider his play on the Raider TD bad. Porter had already ripped the ball away from Harris by the time Bigby got there).

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"...the offensive line might’ve played their best game of the season, particularly in pass protection..."

Wow. Given that Mike Vrabel destroyed Willie Colon, (such an aprropriate name as he played like sh*t), on just about every play, I'd hate to see a bad game by the Steelers O-line. Does Colon start regularly?

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re Welker vs. Gaffney:
Isn't this similar to the backup RB having a better DVOA than the #1 guy affect? Isn't that one of the main reasons we have DPAR? While teams may not be able to truly roll coverage to Welker, or put their better players on him all of the time because of Moss and Stallworth, surely they are paying more attention to him than they are Gaffney, no?

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

flounder:

The only reason Bigby and Collins made those plays is that they could all but ignore what pretends to be the Raiders passing offense. Bigby needs to sit, period. It's been 13 games and unless the receiver hands him a map of where the route is being run beforehand he has no clue as to what to do.

I will take Rouse's instincts over Bigby's alleged "experience".

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re: 16
Well, I have to admit that 4th and 26 was pretty awesome. As was the interception Favre threw to Dawkins in OT that led to the Eagles' game-winning FG. However, unless they are playing my Eagles, I usually root for Brett and the Pack. :-)

At least the Packers have won the Super Bowl a couple of times. We're still waiting here in Philly. So that should console you whenever you have to listen to your loud-mouthed Eagles fan acquaintance.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Weekly Super-long Post.

Those are the guys that I know and love. Welcome home gentlemen.

With regard to my long-winded thoughts, I have to admit that a birthday party distract my usual laser-like focus on the game, so this may be a little discumbobulated. Feel free to correct any errors.

* Pitt has Brady to thank for that game even being close at halftime. I am sure that he would agree with me that he had a C-/D+ performance in the first half. I'll highlight NE's very first drive to illustrate.

Play #1 - Pitt gets good pressure and collpases the pocket. Brady is forced to dump it off to Faulk but without a good lane Kevin has to make a shoestring catch. A better throw - one that Brady typically makes despite similar pressure - and Faulk probably gets 3-4 more yards than the 4 he actually got. This was the only play that Pitt forced the mistake.

Play #2 - Brady with plenty of time has Welker open up the seam and throws it behind him.

Play #3 - Again, Brady has time. It appears that the coverage is decent, but Brady underthows Stallworth who would have had the first down with a decent throw. Again, there was nothing about the defensive performance on this play that Brady didn't shred in the second half.

Add in a couple other sideline overthrows and an overthrow of Welker (who should have caught it anyway) when he was open for a solid 20 yard gain on a crossing route and you have a mediocre performance for Tommy in the first half. Good thing he was decidedly better than "mediocre" in the second.

* Just one week off on my flea-flicker prediction, dammit! I knew that NE had something in the works for these defenses.

* On that play, I was a little disappointed that the safety was allowed to get back into postion until I saw who it was. Getting completely toasted and then just missing an incredible breakup only to have a dramatic TD scored in your face seemed just right to me.

* Someone said that Bruschi missed the goal-line stuff, but I would have sworn that he was the one who stoned the lead blocking guard. I thought it was one of the best plays of the game, frankly. If it wasn't, could someone let me know who it was, please?

* It seemed to clear up later in the game, but was I alone in seeing that Vrabel was being held on the majority of Pitt's passing plays on their first couple drives? In particular, on the 3rd down red zone thowaway, it was pretty blatant and even ended with the OT grabbing his facemask and pulling him into the turf.

* I think that I have isolated the biggest issue with AD. I keyed in on him on a few plays and it seems to me that he has real issues with changes in direction. Get him a straight line to the target and he is awesome, but if the QB slides forward or the OT rides him just outside enough, he has a hard time recovering and getting back into the play. By comparison, Vrabel is excellent at this and that is one of his greatest attributes as a pass rusher. Hopefully this is a correctible area.

* For all the gnashing of teeth about Maroney, I have to say that he is excellent at selling the play-fake. Time and time again, I see teams being completely fooled leaving them open to deep throws. For some reason, teams still feel the need to focus on Laurence when he is in there. It almost seems as if NE is purposely keeping his plays one dimentional for just this reason.

* Oddly enough, despite the above statement, Pitt really didn't bite that hard on Maroney's playaction on the long Moss TD. Only one ILB moved towards him and it looked like he had coverage responsibilities anyway. The safeties just let Moss go right by them.

* Was it me, or was NE in nickle for most of the second half? Is that how they are going to keep the LBs fresh because they really don't seem to be using anyone but the big 4?

* I was disappointed somewhat in NE's run defense. From what I could tell, Pitt targeted the gap between the DE's and OLBs (C gap I think?) with excellent success. The most disappointing run was the Parker ~35 scamper after Moss' second TD. A stop there and NE has the chance to put the game away early. That run was through that gap on Warren's side, but Pitt ran mostly between Seymour and Thomas with very good success. IIRC, Thomas actually did a decent job of holding his ground, but Seymour was consistenly moved out of the way with a single blocker.

* Indy needs to send NE a giant gift basket for getting the completely deflated Baltimore team they faced. Admittedly, Indy was flying aroung and they played a great game. Baltimore seems to have matchup issues with Indy's speed that NE's size didn't quite bring to the table. So Indy deserves a ton of credit. But by the same token, that was not the same team that we saw last week. They had no fire at all on either side of the ball and Boller reverted back to being one of the worst QBs in the league. My God was he terrible yesterday. Even his completions looked bad. How did he look competent last week again?

BTW, Indy should also be sending baskets to NE for another reason. How often does an 11-2 championship team that lost its two games by 6 combined points face a team that just doesn't care? In any other season, Indy would be the team that teams get fired up for, but NE has just overshadowed this entire season. I just find it amazing that a team that won it all last year and got markedly better seems to fly under the radar.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

What about the Cowboy body-slamming Jon Kitna? God doesn't like that. :).

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Have to admit as a Steeler fan is there any reason to watch the rest of the season, at best we can end up right back in Foxboro and get hammered again, at worst we lose to Jacksonville and Baltimore and - bleah.

How did the Patriots get this good and how come the Steelers couldn't sack him just once on 46 freaking attempts!

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

The safety kick gets rules similar to a punt. Receivers can fair catch it or let it roll without penalty, where the kicking team would touch it down. The only "onside" attempt you could make would be to kick it at the other team (as noted, without a tee), hoping for a deflection and recovery.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

21 - Actually, yes you can have an onside punt after a safety. I was at a game where it happened. It was during the Packers 1996 Super Bowl run vs the Rams in St Louis. The Rams tackled Favre in the end zone. The Packers punted and it had an incredible hang time. The punt was caught by Mike Prior of the Packers. Packers ball. Link at my name. The article states Prior caught it on the bounce, but I swear he got it on the fly. In any case, he was the first one to touch the ball.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

#21

That's not correct, a safety kick is a free kick and may be recovered by the kicking team after it goes ten yards.

Link in name.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"Ned Macey: Correct me if I’m wrong about this, but the Chargers rank seventh in DVOA coming into this week, just went on the road against one of the very best defenses in football when Haynesworth is healthy and gutted out an impressive comeback. All in a game when their starting quarterback was hurt. And we’re still taking shots at Norv? I’m also pretty sure the Chargers would be favorites even by DVOA numbers if they host the Jaguars. I reiterate, the Norv Turner hiring was a mistake, but it is not a great catastrophe that has ruined an otherwise perfect team."

Thanks for saving me the trouble of typing that myself, Ned.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

23 - yes Colon has been starting all season, don't know why, he does not seem to be an improvement over Max Starks who started for the Steelers last year. Yes Vrabel was just blowing by him or getting held by him all day. Still, this was a decent game for a mediocre Steeler O-line, they really miss Jeff Hartings and apparently, Russ Grimm. I think by the rushing numbers and the lower number of Ben R's scrambles most are saying this was a decent game for the Steeler O-line, but I disagree based on their lack of scoring.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

And when Madden throws a guy under the bus (Boller, above) that's a literal statement. "Here kid, I don't think you're very good. And don't scratch the chrome on the bumper of the Madden Cruiser."

Ned, as a dutiful Colts fan, you root FOR the Pats to blow their wad getting to 17-0. All evidence to the contrary, they're human and mortal and more likely to breakdown after a 17-game sprint than after a 15-game sprint, two weeks of rest, and a moderately challenging playoff game.

Counting my chickens, I know....

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"Dallas with some Patriots-style good fortune. On third-and-6, Romo tries to scramble and gets the ball knocked out of his hands from behind. The ball squirts forward, hits a Detroit defender, and he proceeds to kick it full speed back towards a Cowboy. A lineman falls on it, Dallas converts on fourth down and their last-gasp drive continues."

Patriots style good fortune? Doesn't something like that happen in every other game Dallas plays? Some sort of wacky offensive fumble that turns into a positive play?

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re # 17

The Chargers kick returner tried to make a cut and fell on his own, untouched. That is why when he got back up, he was tackled by the legs by the Titan defender. The play was still going... hence no late hit.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I'll echo the sentiments expressed above about the Detroit/Dallas officiating. That crew seemed really poor. I thought for sure there would be a flag on Barber's spike and couldn't believe they flagged Johnson. Also not sure why Detroit couldn't except both penalties on Romo's spike. I thought dead ball penalties were generally additive, but I guess I was mistaken on that one.

Lots of contact in the passing game that wasn't called. And I've got no clue as to how they ruled that Dallas recovered Barber's fumble. As Aikman noted if you're going to wait until all the guys are unpiled to make the call on possession, how do you give it to the team that doesn't have it?

The Romo legend grows. Funny how one botched fumble recovery by an opposing linebacking can change perceptions.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

2006 vince young was also in a one read offense with no game film. i'm pretty sure norm chow set young up in a one read offense to make the transition from his one read u of texas offense easier. they are asking him to make more reads this year and teams have more game film to prepare for him this season.

i secodn the idea of taking vick over young anyday, except today.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Question for someone who watches the Eagles more - why do they look great at times and then just drift? Just looking at this Giants game and the Jets game, they came out fast and then couldn't put together a driver for another couple of quarter. Is it because they're too one dimensional?

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

While the Jennings TD was mostly a jump ball, the fact remains that Greg Jennings has taken a startling step forward this season. I know myself and others have remarked upon this already but it's still remarkable to watch. Over and over I read the scouting reports of Greg coming out of Western Michigan and all of the reports were lukewarm as Jennings was deemed a possession receiver who never caught a deep pass.

But there was one guy quoted by the Journal-Sentinel who said this:

"I love him. He has great hands, great run after the catch. Not a real big guy and didn't play at a big school. He's a sleeper guy. He will be an unbelievable pro. There's something about him. He's got the 'it' quality. He acts like a pro and plays hard. He dominated that level."

Thought it was some fellow Western Michigan grad pumping up one of his own. But more and more he's sounding like Nostradamus.

Jennings now has five TD catches of more than 40 yards and is third in the NFL in yards per catch at 17.7. Chalk one up for Mr. Thompson grabbing this guy with the 20th pick in the second round.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Sigh...

Of course nobody was paying attention when Denver finally showed how good they can be. On offense, defense, and even special teams, they utterly dominated KC--and noone was watching or cares.

Where the hell was this all year? This is the Broncos team many expected to see, not the imposters we've seen lose to Oakland by two touchdowns.

Cutler is the best of the class of 2006 quarterbacks now, and he will have the best career of any of them. Watching him play QB is a pleasure, and watching Young run is also great. Even the defense came around, holding KC to 17 yds rushing and several sacks (3 by Dumervil).

The negatives were that Henry looked pretty awful yet again...he's still hurt and shouldn't be playing yet. He did look good in short yardage though, which is where Young had some problems. Champ Bailey was beaten a couple of times today, and simply hasn't been having a good season. On the whole though, a thoroughly enjoyable game for me.

Question: some people have said that if SD wins against Detroit next week, they win the division...what gives? Doesn't Denver have the ability if they win out and SD loses twice to win the division?

Maybe it's that pesky common games winning pct.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

re: 17

You forgot about the strange sequence involving Merriman. The Titans were running a play where Young handed off but rolled out to the left afterward. Merriman is in full pass rush mode and the tackle is riding him upfield. Young turns his head to watch the play, and runs into Merriman, who has stopped running and puts his hands out to cushion the collision. Of course, Young gets hurt and the Titans blame Merriman. Wtf?

Later on, the Titans run a play so that they can take a crack block at Merriman's knees. Merriman had to leave the game in the second quarter with a knee strain. This wasn't the only time they went after Merriman either, apparently every time he was on the ground Titans were trying to jump on him to take him out of the game.

The Titans played incredibly dirty in a game that they had to win, and I couldn't be happier that the Chargers came back to win it. Merriman's quote after the game:

"We're going to fight you to the end, regardless of what they do. There were a bunch of cheap shots out there, but they can get some cheap shots on the sofa at home while they watch us (in the playoffs)."

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re: 28

I felt kinda bad for the Cowboys on that one. It looked to me like Kinta still had the ball when the defender (Ware?) grabs him. Ware's head is down and he can't tell that Kitna has released the ball. I've seen defenders let up in that situation on three occasions (one was that memorable Giants play where Coughlin just went nuts on his guy) and have the QB go on to make a big play.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Tony Romo is playing well but as someone with a bit of familiarity with a qb who can be loose with the football those lucky bounces can come back to bite you at the worst possible time. With each forced fumble recovered by Dallas, with each ALMOST BUT NOT QUITE interception resulting in a completion for Dallas, I sense more and more that at some point it all goes KAPLOOEY.

I know this will read as wishful thinking. But having followed Number 4's career the similarities are at minimum startling and at worst, for Dallas fans, frightening.

Cause let me tell ya', when it goes bad. Well, it goes BAD..........

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

In response to Ned's comment about rooting against the Patriots:

I would think Colts fans would have been rooting FOR the Patriots yesterday. For two reasons:

1). Even had the Patriots lost, the Colts were likely not going to catch the Pats for HFA, since the Pats hold the tiebreaker and still would have effectively been two games up on them. But by winning, the Patriots have practically ensured that the Colts will get the other first round bye, since they put Pittsburg back another game AND handed them an in-conference loss (important since there is not head-to-head tiebreaker between the Colts and Steelers).

2). By staying on track for a perfect season, there will be more pressure for the Patriots to play their starters the entire season, rather than resting them up for the playoffs, which should work to the Colts' advantage should the two teams meet in the playoffs.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I stand corrected. Thank you to #31 and #32 for that. Apparently I didn't dig hard enough and now regret posting. Oh well.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"You can’t have it both ways, though, if you’re going to use DVOA as the measuring stick. Gaffney’s more of a downfield threat than Welker is."

Being a better downfield threat does not mean better receiver.

I hate to tell you, but Individual Player DVOA is a joke. Its just awful. Gaffney has a higher DVOA because HES THE FOURTH RECEIVER. Whenever he's on the field, he's either covered by a dime back, a safety, or a linebacker.

Watch the games. Welker IS NOT being covered by nicklebacks and linebackers. He's been DOUBLE COVERED about 8 games this year, and the rest, teams shift a CB over him and put the nickleback on Stallworth.

Welker is better than Gaffney. IMO, hes better than Stallworth.

"In previous years, Welker was playing in a better passing offense than Gaffney."

Based on what? They've both been bad. Both had one bottom of the league year (sub -20%)

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I can't believe anyone seriously thinks Jabar Gaffney is remotely comparable to Wes Welker.

I've only ever seen one other receiver with that many targets per game and a catch rate of over 70%. His name was Marvin Harrison. If you think that Jabar Gaffney can even dream of being that good, I think you should pause and think about how absurd that sounds.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

On the Titans being a dirty team: they'd be the dirtiest team in the league just by virtue of Albert Haynesworth playing for them. The fact that the rest of the team is a bunch of dirty, cheap shottting players doesn't hurt either, of course.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

36: Although he fell on his own, I'm pretty sure he was touched as he was going down (I'll have to check the tape on that, though).

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re: 42

I hate to be the bearer of bad news to Mr. Merriman, but I wouldn't count the Titans out of the playoffs just yet. In fact, I think they have probably the best chance to get the 6th spot. Of the three team at 7-6 or better, the Titans have by far the most favorable schedule (KC, NYJ, and an ininterested Colts team in week 17). I would certainly expect them to be favored in every game and think it's likely that they run the table. It's possible Cleveland could nose them out (either outright or via tiebreakers) but I wouldn't count on it.

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Lost is this beautiful gem from Ron Pitts in the Jax/Car game, in reference to David Garrard's quarterbacking style.

The way Garrard sits back there and throws reminds me of the way that Vince Evans or Doug Williams used to do it

What two wonderfully random QBs from NFL history to just pop into one's head watching Garrard.

Boselli followed up with He just reminds me of a good quarterback. You could hear the incredulousness (if that's not a word, I want full credit) in his voice.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

A couple of other thoughts in response to some other comments:

Vrabel was living in the Pittsburgh backfield. And he was held. A lot. And the Steelers were called for it. Not as much as he was held, but enough so that I thought the officials were doing a good job. Every pass rusher gets held these days.

Interesting insight about AD and difficulty in direction changes. That could explain the poor run defense around the end. Then again, after reading the excellent TDZ last week, I suspect it might just be good blocking on the part of Pittsburgh and Baltimore...

Regarding Welker: The question is not "is a receiver of Welker's quality worth a 2nd round pick, or could the Pats have gotten by with Gafney". The Question is "Is Welker more valuable, both this season and in the long run, better than any player the Pats could have drafted with that 2nd round pick, or any other player that Pats could have traded that second round pick for". I suspect the answer is no, unless Chicago could have been persuaded to part with Lance Briggs for a 2nd rounder and the Pats could have given him some kind of deal (which I doubt).

In other words, both Welker and Gafney are having pretty good years, and both succeed more because they're both there (along with Stallworth and Moss). Is having BOTH Welker and Gafney better than just Gafney and a 2nd round rookie? Yes.

Incidentally, I know that the CBS-announced starting lineups are pretty meaningless, especially for a team that mixes up their formations a lot, but did anyone else notice that Welker was listed as the #2 WR, and Gafney as the #3? I.e. Stallworth has apparently fallen on the depth chart below BOTH Welker and Gafney?

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Oswlek,
Fruit baskets on the way shortly. Should I get fruit-of-the-month club, or the standard Harry & David holiday assortment? Both?

Under the radar rocks (preferable to under the bus, that's fer sure).

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re: Welker.

For years, the inside slot (catch the pass and get freakin whacked) receiver was Troy Brown. Were Welker to get hurt (knocking on wood), Stallworth, K. Faulk, or Brown would go into the safety blanket/crunched by the safety receiver..

Do you think the Patriots receiver sets are predictable? Have they laid out the best option and are just waiting for someone to figure out how to solve it?

Some of the early discussion about Randy Moss was that he would always be outside. In earlier games, he moved around. Does he seem to stay outside now?

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I'm glad other people are noticing that the Titans are a dirty team. I've been noticing that for the last year or so. They're just growing on my mind as a team that I strongly dislike. It seems that every Titans game I see has them throwing cheap shots, and trying to play dirty to throw the other team off their game, and so forth. Just a subjective impression, and maybe I'm biased because of the way they played the Pats in Week 17 last year, but I don't like them.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re 17 & 42:
Check out the highlights on NFL.com.
They show the Chris Brown touchdown run (where he is _clearly_ horse-collared by Phillips) from a sideline camera: you can actually see one of the Titan lineman smashing a Charger head into the ground long after the play is past them. It's not a face stomping, but it's pretty ridiculous. Am I really to believe that long after every play is over lineman routinely take their counterpart's head and slam it into the ground?

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

#50 - Not really. Clev plays the Bills so either the Browns will be up 2 games and the Bills will be ahead on tiebreaker or the Bills and Clev will both be up 1 plus tiebreakers.
If the Browns win, they're essentially in. They'll have a 1 game cushion, plus tiebreakers and only Cincy and SF in their way. The Titans have a puncher's chance with a Bills win, but only if they run the table (including week 17 against Indy) and they won't control their own destiny.
If the Bills run the table they're in.
If the Browns run the table they're in.
If the Titans run the table, they need some help.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

56 - I agree, the Titans have drifted over the line from 'hard hitting' to 'dirty' in the last few years.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

@1 I think the difference is simply: Ravens with CBs vs. Pittsburgh without safeties. Screw the weather, just hope half the colts backfield goes down.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

One question about the titans: I don't watch enough of them to have anything other than cursory oppinions, but Cortland Finnegan is one hell of a tackler. How is he in coverage?

And what does the Titan's pass defense say about Pacman at this point? Product of the system maybe? A good pass rush does wonderful things for CBs.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Addendum to 59 - I should have clarified that by 1 game up I meant before the Titans game. Basically, the Browns and Bills are already ahead of the Titans and they both need to be passed for Tenn to get in. Since they're playing each other and the Bills would have the tie breaker even with a loss before Tenn played I had it in my head they were up a game which is wrong.
To clarify:
Bills control their own destiny. Browns very much control their own destiny (and with a win almost clinch). Titans do not.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re: 47 I can’t believe anyone seriously thinks Jabar Gaffney is remotely comparable to Wes Welker.
I’ve only ever seen one other receiver with that many targets per game and a catch rate of over 70%. His name was Marvin Harrison. If you think that Jabar Gaffney can even dream of being that good, I think you should pause and think about how absurd that sounds.

Marvin Harrison is the archtypal case of a player who has inflated statistics that make him appear better than he is because he plays in a great offensive system with a great quarterback. I think you're making the case of the Welker doubters for them. That said, I agree that Welker is better than Gaffney. All you need to say to undermine the case for Gaffney over Welker is "sample size." There's a reason that Gaffney is listed in the "Receiving, Others" section instead of the "Receiving" section.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

A few questions/thoughts:

--What does "taking the piss" mean?

--Raiders defense: Can someone who pays more attention than I do to the Raiders (raiderjoe? patriotsgirl?) tell me whether they have lost an asst. to Ryan that may help to explain the dropoff? I remember there was a curious lack of regret when Ryan left the Patriots (although it seemed everyone thought he was good and liked him)

--#3 I get mostly female-related ad redirects; does this site know I'm female?

--Remarkably, I just heard an interesting point on sports talk radio: Mike Tomlin was the DC for Minn when the Patriots went in and did nothing but pass to beat them in 2006 and seemed to be stubborn yesterday about keeping in "the big fatties" even though the Patriots were barely even pretending to run. Is he too stuck in the "we're going to do what we do" and doesn't change the game plan enough for individual teams?

--The Titans have seemed like a very dirty team to me, but that might just be the Patriots fan in me talking.

--One of the reasons I love this site: the kick after safety talk. Last week the posters here were more correct about the kickoff from the opponent's 35 than Belichick was.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

37,

I don't know, I thought Romo was amazing. Yeah the fumble was lucky but othere than that he wa practically perfect. I said after the game I thought that was the best game he's played all year. Didn't force anything, moving around, just right on the money. I don't see how you couldn't be impressed with his play.

And 44, Somehow I think we'll manage if he turns out to be anything near number 4. And we've already seen the bad, remember the Buffalo game. Certainly nothing to be frightened about having a ridiculously good QB for the next ten years. :)

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

#50:
I hope for their sake that the Colts intend to rest their starters in their last game against the Titans - they don't take it kindly when teams show up to play for games they are expected to just roll over. They'll break out the brass knuckles. Ask the Pats.

As for the Welker/Gaffney thing, would anyone be even thinking about the comparison if Jabar had not happened to catch a TD each in the last three games (all of which on the lucky side, btw), after doing little the rest of the season, while WW had a single sub-par showing @BAL? I think WW is definitely better, and quite arguably one of the best short route "specialist" receivers in the NFL. Not every team needs one of those, but the Pats definitely do, and have for years. Keeping that in mind, they did not overpay for him, but it wasn't a deal for every team.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re #17 and others
All in the eye of the beholder...

On the play where Rivers was injured, the slanting DL was pushed in the back of the offensive lineman and fell to the ground.

What looked to some like Merriman cushioning the blow looked to me like Merriman extending himself for a hit that also caught VY directly in the helmet, if I'm remembering the play right. I thought it was an obvious personal foul, and Merriman was lucky not to be flagged. As to why Merriman was being blocked, it was so he couldn't run the play down from behind.

I didn't see the play on which Merriman was injured, and therefore won't comment on it.

On VY:
Yesterday was clearly his worst game in a month or more. Both of the interceptions resulted from bad reads, not that the throws were that great either. I'm pretty sure #36 is absolutely right, that he's being asked to make more reads this year and he's struggling to adjust. Teams have also realized he doesn't always respond properly to shown pressure, even if it doesn't come-the Titans have tried to counteract this, keeping 7 in at the snap, but it hasn't always helped. That also means you have 3 route runners going up against 7, 8, or even 9 defenders, so it's tough to find open WRs. This goes double when the WRs are as bad as the Titans' are.

One of his two official rushes came on a play where he thought he had a running lane, then hesitated because he saw White flaring off to the left side. He tried to move over there, so he could get the ball to him, but didn't have a chance to do that, and ended up half-heartedly taking a rushing lane for a yard. I have a tough time faulting VY for this play-White needed to give him more help, and he didn't.

For the record, the Titans with VY have never beaten a 3-4 team.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Athelas,

I seem to get mostly female redirects, too, and I'm male. So either the site doesn't care, or it is really bad at guessing gender.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

#58 I checked out the video and thought the head smush was pretty subtle at full speed. In slow-mo from the end zone angle it looked worse, but as it happened live, the defender and RB were close. Your point is still valid though, that the defender was prone with a blocker on top of him, so unless he could levitate pretty damn fast, there was no need to make him kiss turf. It was pretty shabby, but probably a judgement call at game-speed..

The horse collar was even worse.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re: 59

Yes the winner of the Browns/Bills game will control their own fate. But the Bills have to play the Giants and Philly after that (I doubt they'll be favored in either game unless the Eagles signal that they're packing it in). The Browns have the 49ers (a game they should win) and Bengals. The Cincy game is on the road and while the Bengals won't be playing for anything, there is enough of a rivalry that I suspect the Bengals can win it. If the Browns lose to either the Bengals or Bills they will have as many conference losses as the Titans.

Net, the Titans do need help, I just think it's likely that they get it. The Titans are likely to be strong favorites in all three games. The Browns may be favorites in all three, but two of them are tight. The Bills are probably underdogs in all three games.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

BadgerT1000 - as a Viking fan I should be a Green Bay hater - but the Packers are probably my second favourite team. I think that's a Favre thing - he's just so difficult to dislike.

If the Vikes don't win I sure hope the Pack does.

I hope the Viking Fans won't disown me

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

It's a set up...it's all a set up...we will be back...chip on our shoulder included...in the mean time, stay alive, get those safeties healthy and accumulate anger...furious anger...

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Question for someone who watches the Eagles more - why do they look great at times and then just drift? Just looking at this Giants game and the Jets game, they came out fast and then couldn’t put together a driver for another couple of quarter. Is it because they’re too one dimensional?

There is a lot of money to be made in answering this question.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

If anything, the Colts should send the Pats a gift basket for taking Rolle and McAllister out of the game. Me-thinks those 2 deep bombs to Gonzalez probably aren't there if Rolle and McAllister aren't injured. I didn't find the rest of the defense to be particularly deflated, just bizarrely focused on stopping the run. Almost every run play ended in 2-yards and a pile of purple. Did they really think the Colts wouldn't go after those back-up corners like a fat-kid in a candy store?
Anyway, in the interest of fairness, and b/c I have been one of those who have railed against NE for running up the score, I will admit that the final TD bomb to Gonzalez, when they were already up by 30 points, was, for all intents and purposes, "piling it on". While I think the intent was not to "kill them" but rather to give Gonzalez some more reps/confidence, it was still a bit much against a clearly defeated team.
Regardless, it was nice to see the old Colts aerial assault offense again. Manning was absurdly efficient. 249 yards on 13 complete passes. That's an average of 19.16 yards per pass. Hell, even Charlie 'Turnstyle' Johnson wasn't half bad. Now, if they can just get Harrison, Diem and Brock back(that's assuming Bethea's injury isn't serious), they'll be as close to 100% as they'll be able to get this season.
Final thought: The Colts can clinch their division and the #2 seed next week with a win and PIT loss/JAX win, making the last two games of the season most likely meaningless (assuming NE doesn't somehow implode and lose 3 in a row). The Colts' last two games are both divisional games. How crazy is it that, in what most people consider the toughest division in the league, a division that could produce 2-3 playoff teams, the Colts could take 2 division games off (a full 1/3 of their divisional games) and still win the division and a 1st round bye? I don't care what anyone else says: this season is still Colts/Pats and everyone else. If one of those two teams doesn't win the SB, it will be a monumental upset.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

You can most definitely have an onside punt after a safety. The play Winslow was injured on a few years ago (when he broke his leg and missed most of his rookie year) was an onside following a safety against Dallas, which Cleveland recovered.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Welker vs Gaffney isn't really a true comparison...

Welker is used primarily as our running game, thus a lot of 5, 6, 7 yard catches. That has to hurt his DVOA and DPAR/pass attempt.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re: 65

My point really wasn't that Romo played badly but that minus a very lucky play on the fumble, he doesn't 'heroicly' lead them to victory.

My own impression was that Romo had an average game. Detroit was giving them the short stuff (25 completions to Witten and Barber!) and they took advantage. He did take three sacks.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Titans are incredibly dirty. They cheap-shotted the hell out of the Panthers and got away with just about all of it. It's amazing how some teams get away with so much and then they call ticky tacky fouls on other teams. The inconsistency boggles the mind.

Carr came into the game with a sore back. After Carr released a throw, a Titan looked up, saw the ball was gone, lowered his head, took a step and launched himself into Carr's back, spearing him in what is clearly an intent to injure.

No call.

The idiot officials decided that they would start penalizing both teams to try to control the situation. So Peppers, one of the nicest guys in football, is given two bogus 15 yard penalties during the game.

My question is, when the Titans consistently week in week out take cheap shots and play dirty football, why is it a complete surprise to the officials? Do they not study the teams the week before so they know what to look for?

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re #58/68
I missed that action by Scaife when I saw the play live. Yes, he should have been flagged for it, as Phillips should have been flagged for his horse-collar.

I'm amused by the play in the video immediately before the Brown TD, the Harper INT. Hardwick hits Harper while he's on the ground after being tackled, out of bounds. Naturally, he wasn't flagged for it.

Also from the highlight video, it's absolutely clear the Titan defender who hit Rivers was blocked into him. The video picks up right after the block in the back, but the blame for that hit goes entirely on the Chargers O-line., and I guess Rivers for not getting out of the way.

I also feel compelled to point out that on the game-tying Gates TD, a Charger O-lineman dives as Haynesworth's legs as he's engaged by another lineman. I have a tough time reading that as anything other than intent to injure.

I said this last week, but it's worth repeating that I have NO idea what is or isn't holding right now.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

By the way, will SOMEONE tell game announcers and commentators that Romo is not a "young QB". The guy is 27. He's older than Big Ben. He's older than Eli. He's barely younger than Carson Palmer. He's older than Michael Vick for cryin' out loud.

His "QB age" is young. Chronogically, he's not young.

Spread the word.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

#3 and #10: I have the same issue with the ads. I simply hit Refresh (F5) to get around it. (Of course, that also means I'm hitting the server an extra time.)

#45 I don't know how to say this without the thread degenerating, but as a Colts fan, for me, there are a lot of non-logical reasons to root against the Patriots. Or to put it another way, my 2nd-favorite team is the Browns, and I was still rooting for Pittsburgh last night. Now, this doesn't mean that I can't admire and appreciate how good, and historically special, this year's New England team is.

On the Phillips horse-collar non-call, my theory is that they let it go to punish the Titans' RB for slowing down to celebrate. :)

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Quotes from cd6 this past week:

I’m willing to guarantee a win over the patriots. We’re going to destroy them so completely that Goodell will be forced to contract them out of the league to prevent further humiliation to the NFL, as the patriot players will be so emotionally devastated from their 350 point loss at the hands of the mighty steelers that tom brady and pals will forget how to play football without wetting their pants.

HERE WE GO STEELERS HERE WE GO

:: cd6 via blackberry, from india — 12/6/2007 @ 7:14 am

The real question is, how soon after the steelers’ victory will stenson stop printing those atrocious tom brady cologne ads? Answer: not soon enough.

:: cd6 via blackberry, from india — 12/7/2007 @ 1:55 am

- God I hate the Patriots. And Bruce Arians. And Phil Simms. Really, that's the takeaway from this post. (posted on the Open Discussion board after end of game)

This is what I love about the NFL--passionate fans! Next week it may all turn around, you just never know.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Various comments on the comments:

#4 Even with the salary cap implications, I’d rather take a once in a generational player like McFadden over a boat load of late first and second round picks.

Isn't he of the same generation as Reggie Bush and Adrian Peterson? Exactly how many "once in a generation" players are allowed in a generation? "Once in a generation player" has quickly become the worthy successor to "shutdown corner".

Isn't comparing Welker and Gaffney rather like comparing Maroney and Faulk? They play different positions in the offense.

I think the delay of game spike penalty isn't called if the clock is stopped. At least it seems that way.

By staying on track for a perfect season, there will be more pressure for the Patriots to play their starters the entire season, rather than resting them up for the playoffs, which should work to the Colts’ advantage should the two teams meet in the playoffs.

That's not going to happen. With a bye, Belichick isn't going to have his starters not play for two or three weeks.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Can a Dolphins fan tell me if they've already given up on Beck? Pulled after two passes? Wow.

Not sure how they could possibly start Beck again after this display of no confidence.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I'm still amazed at TJ Duckett and Najeh Davenport not being used in goal-line situations yesterday.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Why the Colts won't have an advantage playing in NE ---

The Pats will have played several cold weather games in a row leading up to the AFCCG. The only road game they have is at NYG - so every game, including Philly and Baltimore - will be cold weather games.

The Colts end their season at Oakland, home, home, and then home in their first playoff game. Their first taste of cold would come in the AFCCG (if both these teams make it to that point).

Let's also not forget that the Colts aren't exactly built for the cold either. Their running game is better than the Pats', but wasn't it better than the Pats' during the Antowain Smith days of yesteryear?

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Before the draft I decided that if any team drafted Beck that it would be a very good sign that team was headed towards some really bad years. My reasoning was that it would suggest a basic stupidity with regard to evaluating talent that would likely replicate in other personnel decisions (Welker, Ginn).

By 26 I would venture most good NFL QB's had already established themselves league and had a couple, if not a few, good years under their belt. If you are 26 and still in college football than what are the odds you will ever be any good in the NFL?

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

By staying on track for a perfect season, there will be more pressure for the Patriots to play their starters the entire season, rather than resting them up for the playoffs, which should work to the Colts’ advantage should the two teams meet in the playoffs.

That’s not going to happen. With a bye, Belichick isn’t going to have his starters not play for two or three weeks.

I think that, if we've learned anything from this season, it's that Belichick does what he feels give his team the best chance to win. Take starters out, leave them in, run, pass, kick field goals, play field-position punting, go for it on fourth, whatever.

Having said that, past season have show that he *will* play the starters in late-season, otherwise-meaningless games (San Francisco in 2004), but will also take them out early if they need the rest more than the work (Miami in 2005). Since they have the bye week to rest, I expect the starters to play more than most pundits would think.

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"By 26 I would venture most good NFL QB’s had already established themselves league and had a couple, if not a few, good years under their belt. If you are 26 and still in college football than what are the odds you will ever be any good in the NFL?"

I don't disagree with that. When looking at Beck, I was reminded of the Alex Smith conundrum. Its been mentioned that Smith may just be "a year behind" in his projection because he so much younger than anyone who ever played the position. My thought is that Beck may be a year ahead, and not develop any.

Some of the development is getting better at the game. Some of it is physically becoming an adult, and the muscle structure changes that happen in your early 20s.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I'm a little sad that the Dawkins TD saving tackle was mentioned by Peter King and not by FO.
At the time, that may have been the most awesome tackle ever...I know this site uses statistical analysis, but I'd like to see a physics analysis of what Dawkins did.
And then after all that, it was rendered inconsequential because of the final score.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re Ben Riley:

"Here’s a question for someone with a rulebook. I know teams can elect to punt in lieu of a kickoff (as Baltimore just punted after the safety, presumably because of the rain)."

Just to clear something up, the Ravens did not "elect" to punt the safety kick. By rule, when a team suffers a safety, they *must* punt the ball from their 20, rather than kick off from their 30. The Ravens didn't choose to punt because of the rain or any such reason. They had to by rule.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"If anything, the Colts should send the Pats a gift basket for taking Rolle and McAllister out of the game. Me-thinks those 2 deep bombs to Gonzalez probably aren’t there if Rolle and McAllister aren’t injured. I didn’t find the rest of the defense to be particularly deflated, just bizarrely focused on stopping the run. Almost every run play ended in 2-yards and a pile of purple. Did they really think the Colts wouldn’t go after those back-up corners like a fat-kid in a candy store?"

There were a few guys who played hard (Greg stood out), but I just didn't see the same intensity at all. They certainly look discumbobulated in pass defense at times and didn't look like they had prepared nearly as well. I am also of the opinion that Rolle and McAllister probably aren't any more hurt than they were last week. They just wanted to play against NE. Pure speculation on my part, but what the hell.

I also had no issue whatsoever with the deep passing to Gonzalez. He is young, needs to get worked in the offense, needs to be proven as a true threat by the playoffs and was completely open. No issues whatsoever.

And Purds, I let you decide. ;)

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

The Ravens didn’t choose to punt because of the rain or any such reason. They had to by rule.

not quite. They had to free kick by rule. The rules are different for a free kick. (Ex. the kicking team can recover, but no kicking tee is allowed, which makes using the punter for the free kick most teams' preferred option.)

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

And to further the discussion about the legality of "onside punting", I assume a team could try if they wanted to, but since the ball never touches the ground, the opposition would be well within their rights to call for a fair catch, thus any attempt to get the ball by the kicking team would be called interference with an attempt at a fair catch, i.e. legal or not, it's probably not a very good idea.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

#69 - But you're making my point for me.
Browns win - 2 games remain against teams who might end up with double digit losses. The Titans will not only have to beat two poor teams (KC and NYJ) and a top 3 team on the road but have to hope the Browns would have to lose against Cincy since they'd win the tie breaker if they only lost against SF.
Bills win - Obviously what the Titans want but even then they have to run the table and hope they get the tiebreakers.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I'm pretty sure that even if I weren't a Packer fan I'd still hate Tony Romo. Man, is he annoying, with the backwards cap and the goofy look on his face. Take away that mammoth line and all the weapons and he's an ordinary QB with ugly mechanics. I know this isn't exactly reasoned analysis, but I don't care. Just had to be said.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

FAO Tim Gerheim - are you aware that there are certain programmes of questionable legality which allow people to watch TV channels from other countries?

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

#89... No one mentioned Jeff Feagles giving the textbook example of a coffin corner kick to Brian Westbrook prior to the Eagles final drive.

At this point, I could see the Giants offering him a new 1 year deal each season until he's 75 years-old.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

". Take away that mammoth line and all the weapons and he’s an ordinary QB with ugly mechanics"

You mean that Mammoth Line that was probably the worst in football last year, right?

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Aaron, it's hard to say whether or not McHugh's been that good from the fullback position: the vast majority of Lions snaps seem to be 1-4-0, 1-3-1, or the occasional 0-5-0 when Jones motions to WR. They'll do some 2-3-0 or 2-2-1, but in the past, Jon Bradley was the FB.

I don't know why the Lions didn't go for it on fourth down from the 2. This team, more than most, doesn't need field goals. That part's much easier for them. Maybe Martz saw the Grand Valley State game this weekend and got nervous.

I hate football.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

96:
There are certainly deficiencies to his game, no doubt, but at this point, you're kidding yourself if you don't think Tony Romo is among the top QBs in the league. The Dallas line is good, but not fantastic.

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MJK- "I would think Colts fans would have been rooting FOR the Patriots yesterday. "

Are you serious? Nobody with a soul, who isn't a Pats fan, should be rooting for the patriots. End of story.

82-

What can I say? When I said "this week" I obviously meant "in the playoffs, this week is just practice." Seriously though, fire Bruce Arians. That little Hines Ward handoff on the one still has me angry. And if we win by 60 every game the rest of the year, I'll still want Arians fired. And Phil Simms.

Ugh what a lousy game. We need o line help and healthy safeties ASAP.

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Ok, not 96, make that 101. Not sure how all the numbers got shifted down some all of a sudden.

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Rich:

While Romo's ability to move had made a difference it's also apparent the Leonard Davis playing inside has worked well and Marc Colombo is playing WAY better than I ever saw him play in Chicago. As in several levels.

Could be that a new coaching staff has helped the situation. But then I didn't check to see if Dallas has a new O-line coach or not.....

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"I can’t believe anyone seriously thinks Jabar Gaffney is remotely comparable to Wes Welker.
If you think that Jabar Gaffney can even dream of being that good, I think you should pause and think about how absurd that sounds."

Only someone who looks at the stats and doesnt watch the game would suggest that Gaffney is as good as Welker. Its just not even an argument.

Welker DOES EVERYTHING for the Pats. He returns punts and kicks, just ask the Eagles how important that is. He is a ferocious downfield blocker, just watch when they run the little bubble screens (audible: Omaha, thanks NBC). He catches EVERYTHING and is has moved the chains 54 times!
He knows the offence as well as Brady and is always in the right spot at the right time. Gaffney has benefited because he is Belichecks flavor of the month. Another Welker Bonus is that they dont need to waste a roster spot on a "return specialist". Dont kid yourself, in the NFL this is a huge bonus being able to rely on a skill player to do this.

"Is Welker Worth a 2nd round and a 7th round Pick?" Lets assume in the last 3 games Welker gets 15 catches, 2 tds and 200 yards,(pretty reasonable assumption)

He would end up with 108 Receptions, 1124 yards and 10 TDs. Oh yeah and he is 26 years old.

Is that worth a second round pick? Yeah I think so.

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Dawkins play reminded me of a LeRoy Butler play in 1997 when Butler, playing hurt, chased down Robert Smith of the Vikings to keep MN out of the end zone. Smith was one of the fastest backs around and had a serious head start but Butler had a bit of an angle and somehow willed himself to be able to just clip Smith's foot and bring him down.

Amazing plays by amazing players.

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I have no idea how the Eagles look so good at some points and so bad at others.

Which games have they looked good in? The Detroit game? When the wide receivers had over 250+ yards combined? Or the Patriots game, when the wide receivers also had roughly 250 yards combined?

Go back through the games, and you'll see the pattern. If a team knows, and can deal, with the Eagles wide receivers, the team just flatlines. McNabb can't find anyone to throw to, even when he buys himself some time - there's just no one getting open enough for McNabb to feel safe throwing the ball to.

They clearly need a larger receiver who can handle being pressed. Period.

I’ve watched the roster talent slowly slip since the Super Bowl year, all the while straining my eyes to see if Omar Gaither could be as good as the young Trotter or if Brian Dawkins could turn back the clock. Now I miss Cory Simon and Chad Lewis, Duce Staley and nickel backs like Al Harris and Rod Hood. I miss young Dawkins and young McNabb, young Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan. I don’t want to rebuild, but I don’t want to watch this team, this system, keep slipping.

Dawkins and McNabb aren't the problem. McNabb's still an above-average QB, and Dawkins is still an above-average safety. The problem is the recent drafts have been atrocious. This year's is the worst, with 3 guys already cut and the other two are probably washouts (Celek and Hunt).

This year's draft class as a whole was just abysmal, which is why I have no idea why the Eagles didn't try to consolidate picks as much as possible - instead they got a bunch of training camp fodder, and in two-three years, Kolb will probably be the only one on the team.

The reason the talent level looks like it's slipping is because, in the draft, it is. Nearly half of the starters are draft acquisitions from 2004+ at this point, and the only great pick among that entire set is Shawn Andrews. I'd say Bunkley and Patterson are above average, and everyone else is average (in Cole's case, that's not a bad thing, as average DEs are hard to find).

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Argh. “THEIR�. Not “THERE�.

While you're at it, "ad nauseam", not "ad nauseum".

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Pat:

A large receiver who can handle being pressed? Hmmmm, I thought Philly had one at one time but....

Sorry. Had to swing at that softball.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

#27:

Just one week off on my flea-flicker prediction, dammit! I knew that NE had something in the works for these defenses.

If it makes you feel any better, Gaffney revealed after the game that the play had originally been drawn up for the Ravens.

Pitt really didn’t bite that hard on Maroney’s playaction on the long Moss TD... the safeties just let Moss go right by them.

Perhaps because they were biting on the fake? :)

Was it me, or was NE in nickle for most of the second half? Is that how they are going to keep the LBs fresh because they really don’t seem to be using anyone but the big 4?

Well, they have their Rodney Harrison: SS/LB thing going this season. Maybe they had it drawn up expecting to see a lot more of Miller?

Agreed that Brady was not throwing very well in the first half. Then again, we sort of have high standards for him at this point...

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

1.
I'm not sure what to make of the Gaffney and Welker comparison. It's obvious that they are used differently; Welker more underneath, Gaffney more vertically. I don't think stats can explain that.
I really disagree with the idea though that most receivers could do what Welker does. The reason why Belichek gave up a second rounder and then to speed up the process an ADDITIONAL seventh rounder was because Welker is special. He said that everytime they faced Miami the only player they consistently had to double team was Welker because he could break so many tackles because he was so shifty. Welker can also be a kicker in special circumstances as well, he kicked all game in one of the games where Miami didn't have a kicker against NE. I'm waiting for a drop kick like Fluties on a lateral, maybe in a 4 and 8 from the oppositions 12 or something.
What really separates Welker from other receivers is two things (to take madden ratings), agility and awareness. Every game I see highlights from Welker that other receivers don't make. He broke the ankles of the corner in the SD game, he lateraled to Moss for another ten yards in the Buffalo game, and in the Dallas game he kept his momentum and yet slowed down through soft spots in their zone. He is also fantastic on screens as he can read his blocks well. Beyond all this Welker is a good blocker, He totally leveled Fletcher in the Redskins game on the first Series. Welker is one of those multidimensional players Belichek loves. That's why they signed him to a multi-year deal and not Moss.
I personally don't see Gaffney having all these attributes. While Gaffney is good, good enough to be on the Patriots with their high standard personel dept, He couldn't do what Welker does.

2.
I read that the patriots make up a scouting report for every player every time they play against them. So they are making ~50 reports a week. This is how they deem people like Morris and Welker worth going after. They also are a role player team, every person has their particular role, and then they are decent at something else as well (except for Brady, he just throws, although he's blocked a couple times this season). Can someone else tell me if this is common for most teams or is this unusual? If this is unusual, how do most teams run their scouting? For that matter, who makes personal decisions in a place like Miami, the GM or coach, shouldn't they have the same vision of how to mold their team?

3.
Is is just me or do the Pats run this one play all the time? Brady shotgun, 1 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB all to one side - 2 WR split out to the other side. I have no idea what the first group does, but the 2 WR's do this; the slot (Welker) runs a flat square out, and the flanker (Moss) runs a medium depth slant. I see it all the time in 3rd down, goal line, 1st down. They then change it up, sometime Moss just runs a curl, sometimes it's a jump ball halfway through the slant. Sometimes Welker runs the square out, sometimes he runs the square out cut off short to the hole in the zone. The timing on this play has become just ridiculous, it's almost automatic. The defense obviously knows it's coming, how are they supposed to stop this? If they double team either, Brady goes to the other, and if they double team both they are exposed on the other side? It's really a simple play, but the execution makes it work. Just wondering what other people are thinking about this.

Not trying to be a homer, I usually watch the Pat's and frankly, the rest of the league is kinda disappointing quality wise. It looks like McDaniels is now just doing crazy things to see if things would actually work

Oh, and if I seem slow, I'm from Canada, Eh! (NFL still blows away the CFL, no matter what my friends here say)

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Well, I think Bledsoe's lack of mobility was part of the problem last year until Romo took over. This year they added Leonard Davis, and I think they're healthier. Not trying to start a flamewar; I just find Romo extremely annoying both on and off the field, and if the Cowboys make the Super Bowl, half of America (the half that watch American Idol) will undoubtedly come to love him, while the rest of us will despise him.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

That wacky Gaffney vs. Welker comparison reminds me of a night sitting around with a bunch of buddies drinking and one of them staggers off to the can shouting, "You're damned right I'd take Frances MacDormand over Selma Hayek. Same tools, only she doesn't eat as much."

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

One more thing: Anthony Smith should’ve been flagged on the cheap shot he laid on Donte’ Stallworth on the overthrow in the end zone.

Bah, that was really all on Stallworth for somehow keeping his feet. When flopportunity knocks, you answer the call!

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Doc:

Good Lord, my proofreading is horrible today. I know better.

Still light-headed from GB's win I suppose. Or I am careless. Likely the latter.......

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

91: Didn't Beck go on a lengthy Mormon mission? I have no opinion as to how good he is, but I wouldn't take his age alone as a sign of suckitude just yet. (See #84, for example.)

Athelas, I'm sorry, but I've only begun paying any level of attention to the Raiders this year, as I just moved here and they're tolerable (as compared to watching the 49ers, who make me want to carve my eyes out with a spoon). I would venture to guess that Kiffin's purported obsession with age (not having players older than him) may have played a role in any changes in the Raiders run D, but that's just a guess.

And re: Welker. The guy (until recently, I haven't checked the updated stats) had something like a 79% catch rate, even though his job is often to go over the middle 5-7 yards deep and get killed by a linebacker or a safety. A second-round pick sounds just fine, thanks.

I get that part of Welker's success is the system - but, part of the reason he's NOT always the guy who goes deep (like Moss, Stallworth or even Gaffney on occasion) is the system as well.

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Bah, that was really all on Stallworth for somehow keeping his feet.
Uh? Are receivers supposed to all flop to the ground when the ball is well out of bounds? It was a cheap shot, but a good sign for the Pats - Smith was already losing it, and the game was still open.

By the way, Brady was interviewed this morning on WEEI and said that while he was stretching before the game, Smith was there at midfield yelling at him. That explains the two words Brady felt compelled to put in with him after the Moss TD.

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"r. Not trying to start a flamewar; I just find Romo extremely annoying both on and off the field, "

I don't disagree. I want to punch the guy every time hes on TV. He's like the dumb kid who everyone seems to love for no good reason.

I think hes a good QB though.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

#113: Go back through the games, and you’ll see the pattern. If a team knows, and can deal, with the Eagles wide receivers, the team just flatlines. McNabb can’t find anyone to throw to, even when he buys himself some time - there’s just no one getting open enough for McNabb to feel safe throwing the ball to.

The scary part for Eagles fans is that yesterday, the Giants for the most part were able to shut down the Eagles' WRs, with a defensive backfield that (in nickel) consisted of three rookies (Ross(1st), Johnson(7th), Dahl(undrafted)), one 2nd-year undrafted player (Dockery), and one old man (Madison).

On the other side of the ball, Philly was throwing everything at the line of scrimmage all game long. This really hurt the Giants run-game, because the LBers and safeties were able to shoot the gaps before the pulling guards and/or lead blockers were able to get into position. But it also left Sheppard & Brown alone on the outside, and when they didn't get to Eli, Burress or Toomer were usually open. For whatever reason (are they hurt?) those corners were not playing as well as I've seen them play in the past.

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I just re-read my post, I'm not saying moss isn't a quality talent. The comment that Welker and Moss and their contracts relating to talent is just absurd. I was trying to illustrated that Welker was Belichek's target, Moss, well, he was an experiment. Belichek really loves having Welker in his offense.

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Even with the salary cap implications, I’d rather take a once in a generational player like McFadden over a boat load of late first and second round picks.

Let me make this clear, in the hopes that eventually people will notice it. With the exception of quarterback, there are no serious salary-cap ramifications for first-round picks at all. Quarterback is the exception since unless you're Ken Whisenhunt, you realistically can't play two quarterbacks at the same time.

Mario Williams costs his team $3M in cap space this year. That's it. He'll jump quite a bit in the next two years, but by that point he's cuttable if he's not worth it, so it's not a big deal, and if he's above average, they should just extend him and then his cost will match up with an above-average DE in any case.

The whole "You Should Draft At The Top Of The Second Round" article was seriously, seriously flawed, because they forgot that teams have roster limitations. If pick 5 produces $2.5M of "on-the-field value", and costs $2.5M, it doesn't matter that picks 36 and 42 combined together would produce $2.5M of "on-the-field value" costing $1.5M if you can't fit 36 and 42 on the roster, or if you've only got one space at that position (i.e. QB).

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88: Not a Dolphins fan but an appreciator of burlesque comedy and thus able to comment.

Beck shouldn't be on the field. No rookie can expect to learn anything on that offense with an invisible line and no receivers. The Fins aren't finding out anything about their supposed qb of the future, they're just exposing him to nerve-destroying pressure. Safer to bench him, hope Lemon can squeeze out a win, save Cameron's job.

The stats only showed two passes yesterday but Beck in fact was behind center on six pass plays. Two throws (one complete), three sacks (including a fumble) and a panic-stricken scramble which ended with him dropping the ball.

The guy is playing scared. He has no pocket awareness anyway, but in addition he's trying to turn every play into a highlight-reel, game-changing moment. He needs to be sat down and tutored.

Of course he's not the only problem. Within about eight minutes of the first quarter yesterday, Buffalo led 21-0, Miami had given up three fumbles (it finished with eight) and three sacks, and had its first punt of the game returned for a td (nullified by a flag).

By the way the Bills special teams were awesome and Brian Moorman is a genius. Of his first four punts, three landed inside the 20, and only one was returned, for minus four yards (it was fumbled).

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Tony Romo is playing well but as someone with a bit of familiarity with a qb who can be loose with the football those lucky bounces can come back to bite you at the worst possible time. With each forced fumble recovered by Dallas, with each ALMOST BUT NOT QUITE interception resulting in a completion for Dallas, I sense more and more that at some point it all goes KAPLOOEY.

I know this will read as wishful thinking. But having followed Number 4’s career the similarities are at minimum startling and at worst, for Dallas fans, frightening.

Cause let me tell ya’, when it goes bad. Well, it goes BAD……….

BadgerT, I am sick to death of your constant Favre-bashing. The man's having a career season that no one expected, and instead of letting everyone enjoy it, you remind us of his occasional propensity for miscues. Why don't you and Dr. Z and the rest of the haters just watch someone else and leave #4 alone.

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Athelas --

To "take the piss" out of someone is to insult or ridicule him, usually in a teasing (non-hostile) way. It's British slang. It may have been Cockney rhyming slang originally, I'm not sure.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Regarding the issue of safety kicks, the rules are somewhat weird. I'm working off of memory here, but from what I recall a safety kick is a free kick like a kickoff, but the kicker is not permitted to set up a place kick for it (and of course it starts from a different yard line). Regular kickoffs can be from a tee, held by a holder, or maybe drop kicked (I forget whether the drop kick is allowed but I have a feeling that it is), while safety kicks can be drop kicked or punted. Since nobody drop kicks in the NFL except as a showpiece about once every five years, it's essentially just a punt without the dead ball rules.

About the Steelers game, yeah, just ugh. After it was over I immersed myself in Orange Box games to numb the shame and humiliation -- I probably could have used some rhubarb pie at that point. As much as the
Patriots and the bulk of their fans get on my nerves (Aaron doesn't count, he's cool about it; it's the wasteland of Boston area radio that makes me want to commit acts of savagery), I give them credit for being the best team over the last few years for making halftime adjustments. If a coach never again said before a game that his team was going to play "60 minutes of football" that would be a great start. Your team is going to play 30 minutes of the game you planned for, and 30 minutes of the game the other team is bringing, or your team will get beat by any team worth its salt who does.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Some thoughts on the Chargers offense:

1) While Chris Chambers isn't a great WR, he's the best one the Chargers have right now (besides Gates who acts more like a WR than a TE). Vincent Jackson has hands of stone and continues to try to catch everything with his body instead of extending his arms to catch with his hands. Busther Davis has shown flashes but hasn't been consistent.

All in all, the Chambers acquisition has worked out well for the Chargers just because their WR corps was that bad.

2) Phillip Rivers has had a rough season, however this is more a product of the Offensive line's regression than Rivers' play. When given time in the pocket Rivers makes good decisions and accurate throws, when hurried he often makes mistakes and rarely makes completions. Last year the Chargers O line did a spectacular job of giving Rivers time and it showed in his play. This year the O line has played much worse and Rivers is being affected more than anyone. Yesterday when Rivers was pressured (the first 3 quarters of the game) the Chargers scored 3 points. In the 4th quarter the Titans pass rushers weren't as explosive and Rivers was given some time in the pocket, that's when the Chargers were able to move the offense and score. Given time he can be a great pocket passer, but once he has to move his feet bad things happen.

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I refuse to read 108 comments to see if anyone mentioned this, but you cannot onside punt after a safety. You are only allowed to recover an onside kick because it is considered a live ball off of the kick. On a punt or a free kick, the ball is "dead" as far as the kicking team is concerned, so a recovery can only occur if it hits a receiving team (i.e. he fumbles the ball). That is why you don't get to use a tee, because the ball is effectively "in play" before the kick, but dead to the kicking team. If that makes sense.

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Tom:

Dude, not even close. As I wrote, Zimmerman (and others) declared Favre "washed up". As in no longer able to play at the professional level. As evidenced by the stats of this very website, Favre was average in his seemingly absymal seasons and this season is one of the better qbs in the league.

Which is wildly different than mere criticism. Which was and remains justified.

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A large receiver who can handle being pressed? Hmmmm, I thought Philly had one at one time but…

Yeah, I thought Dallas had one too, until yesterday. I might've seen brief glimpses of him, though.

Still wouldn't take back Owens. He's not worth the sideshow.

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Currently 66, CA said the following when purportedly weighing in on Gaffney/Welker:

Marvin Harrison is the archtypal case of a player who has inflated statistics that make him appear better than he is because he plays in a great offensive system with a great quarterback.

I am very proud of the Colt fans (Bobman, Yaguar, OMO, Purds etc.) for not jumping all over this silliness. Having observed this poster's previous efforts to get Pats fans to come to the Pats defense, he may be an equal opportunity troll.

This observation is as silly as Stan saying Brady is an average QB. Brady is of course really good in the context of today's NFL (although not as good as Manning, but we don't want Manning on our team, we want Brady), and he is making the most of his weapons this year.

As for Marvin, he is the real deal, and his hands and ability to make the phenomenal catch on the sidelines have been pretty frustrating to Pats fans over the years. Is it supposed to be insightful to say that being in a great offense with a great QB makes your stats better? It may have given him more TDs, but I am sure Manning has never had a guy he counted on to make the tough catch in the endzone more that Marvin, as he has never had another guy that could make some of those catches.

Gafney and Welker do two different things, and I don't know if Gafney could do Welker's thing better, and vice-versa.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Tom:

And as a follow up, check out my comments in the special "Cowboys-Packers" Audibles thread if you insist that I am incapable of criticizing Number 4 or that I refuse to accept others criticizing Favre.

And to me there is a WORLD of difference between criticizing a player's game performance and stating in a national publication (electronic or otherwise) that a player is no longer worthy of wearing the uniform.

And I think he (and others) should be called on it. Particularly "Dr. Z" proclaimed football expert.

Seems like a pretty big miss, no? That he was unable to discern the difference between an average player surrounded by horrible players and a guy who legitimately couldn't play.

That's Tom Jackson level. I expect more.

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

135.

He seems to be relatively quiet this year. Maybe the Philly media caused the side show, not TO.

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Lost is this beautiful gem from Ron Pitts in the Jax/Car game, in reference to David Garrard’s quarterbacking style.

The way Garrard sits back there and throws reminds me of the way that Vince Evans or Doug Williams used to do it

What two wonderfully random QBs from NFL history to just pop into one’s head watching Garrard.

Boselli followed up with He just reminds me of a good quarterback. You could hear the incredulousness (if that’s not a word, I want full credit) in his voice.

Um, Pitts is black, right? That sort of throws a wrench into the most straightforward interpretation of a comment like that, which, when made by a white guy (particularly an older one), is usually thought to mean: "All black QBs look the same to me," or "I cannot see past the fact that this QB is black and actually analyze his quarterbacking style."

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

BadgerT, I generally find your posts to be well-reasoned and fairly objective, but you do have a bee in your bonnet about Favre, and the fact that you responded so angrily to my teasing just provides more evidence for said bee.

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

So Dallas is 12-1 and from the comments on FO by non-fans, it's all because:

1. Bad calls by refs against opposing team (esp. GB, DET); and 2. Romo is lucky.

That's it right? No other reason why they might be 12 and 1?

Funny how these comments are made on a website that specializes in quant-based analysis of football performance and those numbers this year suggest that Dallas is having one of the best seasons in the last 12 years.

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Tom:

Seriously, I am not upset. I honestly thought my posts were being misconstrued as to the distinction being made.

Anyone who wants to say after a game or series of games that Favre stinks have at it.

But when alleged experts declare a guy finished and it's clear that this is NOT the case, well, I think that needs to be called out.

So yes, on THAT topic I do have a "burr in my saddle".

Frankly, I am surprised Favre's legs have held up this season. I really thought by now he would have begun spraying the ball around the field due to a tired lower body unable to properly set and push on throws.

So far, so good.

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re: 131

So LT should be really ticked if an offensive lineman sits down next to him!

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Badger, I remember that one, too. While we're on great touchdown saves, I am biased to mention Ben Watson catching Champ Bailey (using the angle) but does anyone remember when Rod (?) Jones, a Cincinnatti defensive back, caught Bo Jackson from behind? I was too young to remember if it was an amazing play...it's just that at that age, I was told by ESPN, Nike, and Tecmo Bowl that Bo Jackson was the fastest man ever...which I now know was not true.

OK sorry to ramble off-topic, back to regularly scheduled Romo bashing

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

louis #116,

"Perhaps because they were biting on the fake? :)"

Good catch on my poor writing.

It seems clear that they misplayed Moss because of the playfake, but nobody else in the front 7 - the guys closest to the LOS - didn't react towards Maroney at all. Even the DL's maintained their pass rushes. Yet, somehow the guys whose primary reason for being on the field is to stop big plays decide that Maroney is the biggest threat on that play instead of Moss?

Additionally, most of the reaction that Maroney's playfake's get is from the LBs in coverage. That is why most of the times when NE does playaction they pass it right down the middle of the field.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

RE: Merrimans injury?

Did that occur on the play where he got absolutly blown up by the motioning TE? I don't think I've ever seen a hit that hard or loud in my life.

Extremely dissapointed that CBS didn't show it on replay. It was a thing of beauty.

Thank god for DVR

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I watched one promising Lions drive fizzle out when McHugh dropped 3 out of 4 passes thrown to him. I don't know who was more responsible for the Lions having to take a field goal from a first-and-goal from inside the five - McHugh for refusing to catch footballs, or Kitna for continuing to throw him the ball. What am I missing? Did I catch him on a bad series?

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

140. "So Dallas is 12-1 and from the comments on FO by non-fans, it’s all because:

1. Bad calls by refs against opposing team (esp. GB, DET); and 2. Romo is lucky."

Could you point out where people on FO said that the cowboys are only winning for those reasons?

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Also, I really just don't know how much to take from Eagles-Giants games. As I mentioned elsewhere, the games are never clean, they always involve players beating the crap out of each other, and there are at least two or three squabbles on the field every game.

The Eagles and Giants players just hate each other. (Which is different from the Cowboys, where the Eagles fans hate the Cowboys) The games are never played well, and I'm really getting to the point where I hate watching them.

It also didn't help that the Eagles-Giants game was officiated like crap.