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

Audibles at the Line: Week 15

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.

Cincinnati Bengals 13 at San Francisco 49ers 20 (Saturday)

Doug Farrar: Another Bryant Gumbel Confusion Item. He keeps referring to halfbacks as "deep backs" and fullbacks as "upbacks." There's an upback on punt coverage, and maybe these terms were used in the Pudge Heffelfinger days to describe offensive backs (what's Carson Palmer, the up-up-back?), or maybe they're terms that refer to positions in the sport that the rest of the world calls football (Stuart, please feel free to chime in here). Does this sound strange to anyone else?

Never mind. He just said "Tully Bunta-Cain." Twice. And there's the "Frank/Al Gore" thing again. I give up. He thinks it's funny.

Stuart Fraser: From FO's "Rest of the World" correspondent: As far as I'm aware, no sport other than (American) football has upbacks. This is just Gumbel being weird. Disclaimer: I know nothing about Australian- or Gaelic-rules football.

But since you asked ... In what for the sake of clarity I shall call "soccer," there are full-backs and occasionally wing-backs; there used to be half-backs but it's rather archaic these days other than in the construct center-half. Rugby has half-backs, three-quarters ("back" is generally omitted) and fullbacks. This is a pet peeve of mine because in the standard attacking formation the scrum-half stands significantly forward of the fly-half and is obviously a quarter-back, but...

If I had been listening to this broadcast I would just have assumed that "deep back" and "upback" were amongst the things they used to be called when Paul Zimmerman was a lad, and are these days only used on special teams. But I'm used to translating commentators on the fly.

Doug Farrar: Well, after watching that game and not having seen a great deal of the Bengals this season, I saw nothing of the team that came into this game ranked 12th in DVOA with 7.7 Estimated Wins. Are they the Great FO Mystery of 2007? And what on earth has happened to Carson Palmer? He was botching screen passes, throwing early, looked like he and his receivers were running different plays ... We all know that their defense is subpar, but what's up with the offense?

Jacksonville Jaguars 29 at Pittsburgh Steelers 22

Aaron Schatz: Well, if there is one thing I've learned today, it is that I have to get some sort of weather adjustment into standard DVOA for rushing and passing, especially passing. Three of the top passing offenses in the league looked terrible today, with Tom Brady, Derek Anderson, and Ben Roethlisberger all putting up terrible numbers in the bad weather.(David Garrard's numbers actually seem reasonable, which is a bit of a surprise.) Wait... let's also add Matt Hasselbeck to my list of quarterbacks getting screwed by wind today.

Ryan Wilson: David Garrard's numbers aren't a surprise if you're watching this game. The Steelers miss Aaron Smith, have generated no pass rush to speak of, and Garrard just toasted Anthony Smith on a long bomb to Dennis Northcutt. I smell a recurring theme for the rest of the season.

Aaron Schatz: Is the wind not as bad there as it is in Cleveland and Foxboro?

Ryan Wilson: Nah, the wind's not an issue. It's just snowing a bit. In fact, the field is holding up pretty well, all things considered.

Good Lord. With the Jags killing the Steelers run defense, Jack Del Rio has Garrard put it in the air. Result: Anthony Smith interception returned down to the 10-yard line. Steelers score three plays later, and it's an eight-point game with about 12 minutes to go. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Mike Tanier: I think the Jaguars' time of possession in this game was 63 minutes. I think I saw 10 Steelers offensive plays, all of which were Roethlisberger scrambles. The dude next to me in the bar was complaining about that Garrard interception too. But look at the play: A waggle off play action after several runs in a row, second-and-9, start of the fourth quarter. It's the exact type of low-risk pass you are supposed to throw in that situation, but it went through Greg Jones' hands. There was nothing wrong with the call, it was just bad execution.

Ryan Wilson: Well, if the Jags had lost the game, there would've been everything wrong with that call. Again, the Jags were treading the Steelers on the ground. Given the sloppy field conditions, why not continue to run it? The throw was high -- Jones should've caught it, but it's hard to blame him for whiffing on it -- and it only takes one dumb play to give a team that has no business being in a game a chance to do exactly that. Aaron Smith was out and the Jags had no issues with his replacements. In fact, they had no trouble with any of Pittsburgh's front seven.

Vince Verhei: I thought the pass call was aggressive, obviously, but I had no problem with it. If you're going to run a play-action pass, don't you want it to be at a time when your running game looks unstoppable? You knew the Steelers' pass rushers were going to bite on the fake, so a sack seemed unlikely, and your quarterback was coming into the game with one interception on the year. In hindsight it's easy to knock the call, but I thought it was a perfectly reasonable, well-timed gamble.

Mike Tanier: I'm just not sure what the argument is on that interception. Were the Jaguars never supposed to throw the ball again in the fourth quarter with a 15-point lead?

Doug Farrar: I love me some David Garrard. That throw to Dennis Northcutt was beautiful. Hopefully, people will start to say more about Garrard than, "Why doesn't anybody talk about him?"

Ryan Wilson: Why throw it when up by 15 with 13 minutes to go and driving in Pittsburgh territory with Taylor and Jones-Drew gaining chunks of yards on just about every carry? If the score is closer, or it's the first three quarters, or the weather isn't an issue, sure, throw it. Even on Garrard's touchdown bomb to Northcutt, the pass was down the field, so worst case, it's a punt deep in Steelers territory. I'm not saying the Jags should never throw it again, but it was a curious decision given the score, conditions, dominant ground game and time left on the clock. And it almost cost them the game.

Mike Tanier: There was 13:30 left. This isn't 1977. Are we really suggesting that the Jaguars should not have called a single solitary passing play in the entire fourth quarter?

Ryan Wilson: The Steelers were reeling. The game was over. There was no way Pittsburgh was coming back, barring something like an interception returned to the Jags' 12-yard line. Pittsburgh had eight guys in the box and still couldn't stop either back. Why not run it?

Mike Tanier: They did run it. The Jaguars had just run it four straight times. It was second-and-9. It was early in the fourth quarter. It was a play-action, rollout pass; about as conservative a pass play as you can run.

Ben Riley: Fred Taylor may be the toughest back to bring down in the NFL right now. Fred Taylor! Tough! What a weird year for running backs.

Vince Verhei: Underreported story of the game: On their 20-play touchdown drive to open the third quarter, Jacksonville converted two fourth-and-1 attempts. They also converted one on a touchdown drive in the second quarter. Most teams would have ended those drives in punts or field goals. Del Rio's boldness and his players' execution on those three plays added an extra 8 to 11 points on the board.

Atlanta Falcons 3 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 37

Mike Tanier: Didn't see the game, but looking at the Falcons stats, that looks like the biggest shoulder-shrug-and-quit I have ever seen.

Aaron Schatz: I believe that in the preseason, when I (wrongly) predicted this reaction from the Giants, I referred to it as "going full Kotite."

Vince Verhei: Chris Redman looks like a strong candidate for worst DPAR of the year. Eleven incompletions! Two interceptions! Four completions -- for one first down! And that doesn't include the sacks or the fumble!

However, I also see 9 carries for Jerious Norwood and 8 for Warrick Dunn, and I feel like Emmitt Thomas is already a better coach than Bobby Petrino.

Doug Farrar: I was hoping to hear from Russell by now, but be must have been rendered speechless by that Tampa Bay kickoff return touchdown!

Russell Levine: Well, that and Rich Freaking Rodriguez to Ann Arbor. Bring on the spread option! (Rich Rodriguez hire discussed further here.)

The last time I celebrated a Tampa Bay play like the kickoff return, it involved Derrick Brooks in the Super Bowl. Micheal Spurlock crosses the goal line, no flags on the field, Tampa Bay lines up and kicks the extra point, and suddenly the challenge flag is on the field. Officials huddle. No replay is shown. I'm thinking, this can't be. Referee decides the challenge came too late -- the touchdown stands!

It was a blowout thanks to turnovers, special teams, general post-Petrino, we're-mailing-it-in malaise, but there were some warning signs for Tampa Bay today. The protection was not good at all, and Garcia did very little. They also got gashed a little bit in the run game before the game got out of hand. Tampa Bay also settled for a bunch of field goals. There's a reason why they've only beaten one team with a winning record all year.

Still, at home in the wild card round, I like their chances against Minnesota or the Giants. They're very opportunistic on defense, the pass rush from the front four is really coming along -- another big sack/strip from Gaines Adams today, and Arena League refugee Greg White also got in the backfield a bunch. If Tampa Bay can get pressure without blitzing, they're be a threat against just about anybody, because that defense won't give up much if they can drop seven into coverage.

Oh, and I love, love, love Earnest Graham. He runs so hard, and is picking up some feel for finding the holes, unlike Michael Pittman for whom every run is like getting shot out of a cannon.

Aaron Schatz: Speaking of Tampa Bay, I realize I'm commenting here on a game played six weeks ago, but I charted the Week 9 Tampa Bay-Arizona game Friday and I definitely noticed that Graham is pushing forward for extra yards on nearly every run. Very impressive.

I also thought that Jeff Garcia was shockingly Vick-like in his need to pull the ball down and run at the slightest suggestion of pass pressure. The tackles would push the defensive ends around behind Garcia, the kind of thing where Tom Brady or Drew Brees will calmly take two steps forward and find a receiver, but instead Garcia just takes off. He gets away with it because he runs well and because when he does stay in the pocket to throw, he's good in that offense. Still, this is the kind of thing we always criticize in young quarterbacks, so it is a little astounding to see it from a guy in his mid-30s.

Vince Verhei: Garcia has always had a tendency to scramble, and always will. As long as he's getting production out of his runs, I don't see why this is inherently a bad thing.

Seattle Seahawks 10 at Carolina Panthers 13

Doug Farrar: The Seahawks really need to fix their guard situation in the off-season. Chris Gray, Seattle's right guard, let Maake Kemoeatu and Jon Beason through on Seattle's second offensive play as Kemoeatu hit Shaun Alexander like a truck for no gain. Why do they run behind Gray? The only possible excuse was that Gray intentionally chipped Beason and let Kemoeatu through, thinking that fullback Leonard Weaver would be helping out play-side instead of heading left. Given his overall performance this year, I'm not inclined to give Gray the benefit of the doubt.

There's a heavy wind in Carolina, and the ball's sailing on Matt Hasselbeck early. I don't know what Seattle's DVOA is on screen passes this year -- it's hopefully better than last year's minus-136.4% -- but they might want to find a way to rely on screens today.

Ugh. Mike Holmgren called for an end-around on a first-quarter third-and-3. Nate Burleson got two yards. Punt. Wood successfully chopped.

The Panthers spent most of the first quarter on offense helping Jordan Gross block Patrick Kerney with a tight end -- they've been alternating their three early -- and providing good protection for Matt Moore. Moore is Carolina's fourth starting quarterback this season, an undrafted and slightly underweight rookie from Oregon State. Seattle switched Kerney to coverage in a second-quarter zone blitz, but Moore was able to complete the pass. I didn't think we were in for another Shaun Hill story since the Seahawks, unlike the Bengals, actually have a pass defense, but Seattle's tentative scheme told a different tale. Gross was able to take Kerney out of the pass rush one-on-one later in the game, and he played the best game I've seen by a tackle this season since Joe Thomas' performance against the Seahawks on November 4.

Second-quarter third-and-24 for the Panthers, and Brian Baldinger asks why the Panthers don't just take a shot downfield. Bad snap in shotgun, fumble, and Moore has to scramble to pick up the ball and throw an emergency pass back to the line of scrimmage. Guess that's why, Baldy.

In a preview for this game on another site, I wrote that the fundamental difference between this Seahawks team and the one that went to the Super Bowl two years ago is this team's inability to control the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball. Actually, I wrote pretty much the same thing in PFP 2007. Problem unsolved. And that's what upended them on this day. Gray's poor play was matched by Rob Sims getting absolutely stoned by Kris Jenkins as the Seahawks tried to drive in the second half. On defense, they inexplicably went away from the blitz and gave up the flats, allowing Matt Moore to dink-and-dunk them to death. Their one touchdown came at the end of the game, when the Panthers were already mentally off the field. And as Aaron said, Hasselbeck was undone by the elements, because his team can sustain no consistent running game, and he's forced to pass, no matter how bad the weather may be. That's all well and good in September, but more balance is needed as the weather turns. Yes, even if you're the Patriots.

Ben Riley: What's that line TMQ has in his autotext about a game being played over and over in hell? You can bet he's firing up for this game. Basically, the Seahawks followed up their best game of the season with their absolute worst -- it's amazing that they even had a shot at winning it in the end. The biggest surprise was seeing Patrick Kerney shut down by Jordan Gross. I remember Gross having a great rookie season but I haven't heard much from him since -- but that's because I find it hard to watch the Panthers. Is he a dominant right tackle?

Doug Farrar: I don't know about "dominant," but Carolina's line isn't the problem with that offense. Actually, the line's performance has been an indictment of the skill position players, and Gross is the best player on that line.

Ben Riley: The absence of any defensive pressure made Matt Moore look pretty good today. He seemed to struggle handling snaps in the shotgun, but he didn't make any major mistakes and his numbers would have been better if he had an actual wide receiver besides Steve Smith to throw to.

Doug Farrar: This, of course, can be said about every Carolina quarterback since the beginning of Smith's tenure with the team. Except David Carr.

Green Bay Packers 33 at St. Louis Rams 14

Bill Barnwell: Man, is Atari Bigby awful. He had one of the most ridiculous interceptions I've ever seen today on a play where a tight end settled in ten yards in front of him without Bigby reacting, but Bulger threw it behind the receiver, who tipped it into Bigby's hands.

Doug Farrar: Awful and awfully lucky. He had a tipped interception last week as well.

Bill Barnwell: It reminds me of the whole Bill James bit on Lonnie Smith talking about how he's subtly brilliant and how he knows exactly how a ball will carom off his knee and how he takes a perfect angle to have a ball go two feet over his head.

BIGBY DID IT AGAIN. He had another tipped pick. Of course, the announcers say he's "always around the ball," which is true. He's always seven yards behind the ball.

Ned Macey: If you go to Atari Bigby's player page on, his stats would list six interceptions while Brian Dawkins has one. It lists eight passes defensed before today's games; Dawkins had five. Based on those freely available stats, one would think Bigby is the better pass defender, when he really is among the very worst safeties in the league in pass defense.

As for today's picks, the first one was embarrassing since he left Drew Bennett (big white guy exhibiting stone hands, but alas not a tight end) wide-open for a long first down. The second one, however, was not his poor coverage, as the receiver was tightly covered (by someone else). Still, he was just there to pick up the free gift. Bigby is an excellent run-support safety, but I fear these interception numbers will make somebody somewhere think he is good in pass defense.

The Rams did get blown out, but the real Steven Jackson was back. On several runs, I was waiting for the Last of the Mohicans soundtrack to start playing. How does a team with a healthy Jackson, Marc Bulger, and Torry Holt only score 14 points? Oh yeah, the offensive line. The Packers started bringing pressure, and the offense did nothing after touchdowns on their first two drives.

Baltimore Ravens 16 at Miami Dolphins 22

Aaron Schatz: I feel very happy for the Miami Dolphins, who did not deserve to be considered the worst team of all time.

Ned Macey: I also feel really good for Miami. They had to make it hard for themselves with the KCW-worthy Jay Feely kick out of bounds in the last minute. Then allowing Troy Smith to march the team down to the one-foot line? Who thought Brian Billick should have gone for it there? With the way the second half played out and with Smith as my quarterback, I would have tried to just shove it in right there. Billick "played the percentages," which means going against the higher chance of making you win but increasing the odds that you won't be second-guessed.

Vince Verhei: I was about to nominate Billick for KCW there. Your offensive line is 11th in power situations, the Dolphins defense is 23rd. You had already picked up nine first downs rushing on the game. And even if you don't trust Willis McGahee to pick up one yard, you had Troy Smith at quarterback to run a sneak or bootleg or something. What are the odds of scoring a touchdown there and winning the game? 70 percent? 80 percent? Instead he kicks the field goal, goes into overtime and is right back at 50-50.

Ben Riley: I'm trying to imagine what it would have felt like to be Jay Feely had Miami lost tonight. I've never forgotten how he melted down against the Seahawks two years ago and missed three game-winning field-goal attempts. Today, with Miami's season of infamy in the balance, he honks a kickoff out of bounds. Feely: You're suspect.

Aaron Schatz: Jay Feely is still the only NFL kicker ever lampooned in a Saturday Night Live sketch.

Ben Riley: Of course, Brian Billick bailed him out by refusing to rise to the challenge. You have the ball at the half-yard line and 12 seconds to play. You aren't going to the playoffs -- run the ball, man! Jam that thing down the Dolphins' throat! Billick had to scream at Troy Smith to get off the field. Way to show your cojones, coach.

Speaking of Smith, he seems to have some of those "intangibles" you want in a quarterback. While Kyle Boller looked like a corpse on the sideline, Ravens players were rallying around Smith and seemed far more energized when he was in the game. Plus, he's good at avoiding sacks and he threw a couple of perfect passes in tight windows that should have been caught but weren't.

Doug Farrar: So, here's a hypothetical question. If Cam Cameron was basically unemployable had he gone 0-16, and Brian Billick's team lost to Cam Cameron's team for their eighth straight loss (now taking over Miami as the team with the longest losing streak in the NFL), how happy are we in Baltimore about THAT coaching scenario?

New York Jets 10 at New England Patriots 20

Bill Barnwell: If the Jets are going to run the option all game, then I am rooting for the Jets.

Mike Tanier: That Brad Smith option routine was just ugly. This isn't the Division III title game. Leave the junk in the junk drawer. Then again, Chad Pennington was throwing soap bubbles into the wind.

Bill Barnwell: I think that's kinda ridiculous, though. Obviously, the Jets can't compete with the Patriots with a standard scheme. That's exactly what junk plays are designed for -- to use deception, which is one of the ways you beat a superior opponent. Disregarding the outcome of how it actually played out, I think this is exactly the time you take the junk out of the junk drawer.

Aaron Schatz: Agreed. The first play certainly worked, the Pats were totally fooled by the first play fake and Leon Washington went 49 yards. The biggest problem with the Brad Smith option is that Brad Smith poses zero threat through the air, especially in that weather. So once you realize what the Jets are doing, you can stop pretty much every play from that formation. The Patriots were getting to the Jets in the backfield every time, but Smith was great at breaking tackles so the Jets picked up some positive yardage.

Once again today, the Pats offense sputtered due to hubris. Tom Brady was looking past completely open receivers short to take shots with Randy Moss deep, and in these winds, those just weren't going to end up complete most of the time. When the wind didn't screw with the throws, the Jets actually had excellent coverage and defensed them anyway, with one exception late in the game. At least the Pats were comfortable running a lot more than in earlier games, and Laurence Maroney was putting up four, five, six yards on every carry. Jets run defense is not good.

Pats fans are so used to blowouts, and they really wanted to just clobber the Jets, and this game was way, way closer than it had any right to be. But, as a Patriots fan, I feel pretty good coming out of it because of the appearance by some players who had been MIA. Pro Bowl Richard Seymour was back instead of mediocre Richard Seymour. (Part of that, although not all of it: Jets left guard Adrien Clarke is awful. I have no idea if Pete Kendall was worth whatever money he was asking for, long-term, but short-term that contract squabble just destroyed the Jets line.) Eugene "Healthy Scratch" Wilson had a nice game, replacing the injured James Sanders. Maroney was big too. Kelley Washington has yet to catch a pass but he's become a special teams force.

Sean McCormick: Obviously, the weather was a factor in limiting the Patriots' ability to go downfield, but that probably shouldn't be overstated, as Brady took multiple deep shots at Moss. It definitely did influence the Patriots' offensive play calls and formations, however, as they were running the ball a lot and were in run formations for much of the game rather than operating from empty shotgun sets.

The Jets offense was limited in its vertical attempts, too, but in this case it was because of the way the Patriot defensive linemen dominated all game long. On the second offensive play, Richard Seymour threw Adrien Clarke aside and went on to body slam Kellen Clemens, knocking him out of the game. On the final play, Clarke escorted Junior Seau straight back to Chad Pennington for the sack that ended the game. The rest of the plays pretty much looked that, too. The Jets were completely unable to run the ball without the aid of gimmicky option plays from Brad Smith.

Give the Jets credit -- they lost the game, but it wasn't for lack of trying. They got very exotic with both their offensive and defensive personnel and formations. They ran a lot of Angry Man on defense, keeping one or two down linemen and having everyone else mill around the line of scrimmage. It didn't convert into many sacks, but it did convince the Pats to run against it rather than throw, and that in turn helped keep the score down.

On offense, the Jets made extensive use of Brad Smith as an option quarterback. They may actually have showed the league how you can get away with incorporating the modern college sets into NFL play: Have someone who isn't making $50 million come in to run it. Smith spent several series at quarterback, and all his plays were quarterback option plays out of the shotgun. He only threw one pass, a fourth-down play where he threw the ball at the feet of an open Chris Baker, but he did have some success running.

I would also add that under the conditions (the offensive line conditions, not the weather conditions), the Jets were clearly better off with Chad Pennington playing quarterback. Sure, he can only throw the ball five yards past the line of scrimmage, but he placed the ball very, very well. Jets fans were tired of endless four-yard passes, but string those together as Pennington did in the third and fourth quarter and you get solid drives. I don't think the game would have stayed as close as it did had Clemens played the entire time.

Ned Macey: Of all the great plays Brady has had this year, none could have shown the reason for his true greatness then the late third-down completion to Wes Welker. Pocket collapses, Brady moves around, keeps his cool, and fires a strike to the open man for a clutch first down. If he gets sacked there, the game would have been very interesting.

Buffalo Bills 0 at Cleveland Browns 8

Stuart Fraser: Buffalo is at a clear advantage here. Not only does the snow and wind put a serious dampener on Cleveland's mostly passing-based offense, but the Bills are camouflaged in their white road uniforms...

Right, so Brian Moorman just got a snap that was so far above him you'd think Eli Manning threw it. Instead of trying to pick it up, turn around and kick (it was around his own 5), he kicked the ball out of the end zone for a safety. I am still not sure if this is the smart thing to do, but on the grounds that Moorman did it I'm thinking probably yes. Opinions?

Doug Farrar: I just saw the weather on a highlight -- yikes! In those conditions, it's probably OK either way, but I'd generally want a punter to get the ball the heck out of the end zone on a busted play before an opposing player can fall on it. Better two points than seven, or a first-and-goal.

Sean McCormick: It didn't look like there was anyone around Moorman, but there was no way for him to know that. I thought it was a heady play.

Stuart Fraser: Moorman's post-safety free kick went out of bounds. The game was subsequently delayed by three or four minutes whilst the officials tried to locate the halfway line. This is a truly impressive amount of snow.

Somebody needs to inform the Browns play callers, though. Fourth-and-2, from the Buffalo 21. Can't kick a field goal into this wind, so they go for it. The problem was that the call was a play-action pass. Derek Anderson is completing somewhere around half his passes, and this one wasn't close to being complete. I hear Jamal Lewis is pretty reliable in short-yardage situations, Mr. Crennel.

Buffalo shows how to complete a fourth-and-short -- Brian Moorman picks up five on the ground on a fake punt on fourth-and-4. I love this game.

I may have to start keeping notes on all the stupid things the Sky (UK local TV) "analysts" say. This has been prompted by a discussion on the Cleveland offensive turnaround, with the names mentioned in connection being Jamal Lewis, Braylon Edwards and "the tight end." All of whom, of course, were there last year, or, in Jamal Lewis's case, are performing pretty much identically to their backup. Joe Thomas, Eric Steinbach? They might know who these players are, I suppose...

Great announcer lines of our time: "The wind is blowing in both directions here."

Buffalo's problem is that they can't force the Browns to respect the possibility that Trent Edwards might pass, so Cleveland is free to play run every down and Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson are doing about as well as you'd expect. Even when the Bills do pass it's sufficiently short enough that it doesn't matter that the Browns are playing run, so it isn't going to get them out of the run-first mindset. For the Browns, Anderson is completing fewer than half his passes, but the threat is enough (mostly because all the passes are 10-plus yards downfield) that it's allowing Cleveland to keep more balance and Jamal Lewis isn't facing nine-man fronts. What isn't helping is that the running seems to be pretty much downhill -- cutbacks, counters and general misdirection would probably work better.

Since my previous comment the Bills have started taking shots downfield; the problems now are that A) they're taking far too many of them, and B) Trent Edwards isn't very good at deep or even intermediate passing in this sort of weather. I hate the term "pass-wacky" with the fervor of a Pittsburgh fan who is fed up with commentators telling him that his team need to get back to "Steeler football" and "focus on the run," but Buffalo's offense has never looked as balanced as Cleveland's has.

Mike Tanier: The Bills' receiving corps is not built for bad weather. There's no big possession guy who can plant his feet and catch the short pass over the middle. And Edwards looked pretty lost as to how to handle the conditions as well. What a way to lose when the playoffs are on the line.

Ben Riley: Is Jamal Lewis the new Corey Dillon? It seems like his stat line is either something insane -- like rushing for more than 150 yards through fresh powder that would excite Warren Miller and Jeremy Bloom alike -- or putting up a Loser League wondrous 25-carry, 38-yard performance. What a fun game to watch. Football. Snow. Sweet.

Aaron Schatz: I know there are some readers who hate it when I "blow my horn," and of course there were plenty of wrong predictions this year (yes, I drafted Donovan McNabb too) but Jamal Lewis is one KUBIAK definitely got right. There were complaints about projecting a mediocre, over-the-hill back for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns, but fantasy football is not the same as real football. He's at 1,100 and 9 right now.

Stuart Fraser: Since I picked Jamal Lewis as my player who wasn't going to make his KUBIAK projection, I feel the need to respond to that. This projection didn't really have anything to do with Jamal Lewis, and it's almost a misnomer to talk about him that way. The projection was "Cleveland RB1," and clearly KUBIAK saw the coming together of the Cleveland offensive line, so good for it.

Ned Macey: I too projected Lewis as a player not going to make his KUBIAK, and not only was I wrong, but I was bounced from my fantasy playoffs last week on his game-clinching touchdown against the Jets.

Tennessee Titans 26 at Kansas City Chiefs 17

Vince Verhei: Last week we noted the downfall of Vince Young, and wondered where the Vince Young of 2006 had been hanging out. Apparently, he's been in Kansas City. Vince never went into "action figure" mode. He looked decisive and in control, confident, not panicky. He never turned the ball over and was only sacked once. He was very accurate, and while he still doesn't have the strongest arm in the world, he had no trouble hitting downfield passes, including the 41-yard touchdown to Roydell Williams in the third quarter.

Indianapolis Colts 21 at Oakland Raiders 14

Bill Barnwell: Awful, awful, awful play call by the Colts on fourth-and-goal from the Oakland 1. You have the No. 1 power line in football (remember when they sucked at that? Not anymore). You're up against the worst run defense in football by a large margin. And you run a play-fake off the stretch play and throw to Ben Utecht? That's way beyond suboptimal play calling.

Aaron Schatz: How on earth are the Raiders keeping Joseph Addai to eight carries and nine yards, as of halfway through the third quarter?

Sean McCormick: They're hitting his legs with two-by-fours under the pile?

Mike Tanier: The Raiders' rush has been awesome. They've overwhelmed the Colts' line and have gotten to Peyton Manning on numerous occasions. That's extending to the run game. He also only has eight carries. The Colts' scheme (stretch play) doesn't really lend itself to running against the Raiders' scheme (circuitous trips around blockers to ball-carriers), I've discovered.

Ned Macey: Speaking of hubris: Against Oakland, the Colts threw 39 passes, plus three sacks and a scramble, and only handed off 18 times. I was only half-watching -- because of the expected outcome I volunteered to play with my daughter -- but it appeared that the Raiders were staying with three linebackers. Manning sees three linebackers, he always calls pass. Unfortunately, these linebackers can really run, i.e., cover Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, and Utecht. Add in Nnamdi Asomugha playing tight on Reggie Wayne, and all the Colts really had was Anthony Gonzalez.

Addai did struggle in his limited opportunities, but he didn't get consecutive carries until the fourth quarter. What did the Raiders do besides leave in three linebackers? Let's just say that the Warren who appeared to be on the field most of the time was Gerald, not Sapp. There were many Terdell Sands sightings as well. The defensive tackles got good penetration, and the linebackers cleaned up.

Doug Farrar: I'm impressed by Snuggly Bear. Gaining 1,000 yards in 14 games isn't usually an especially momentous event, but it is when you do it behind that offensive line. Justin Fargas runs really, really hard, and he's 10th in DPAR. Who knew?

Vince Verhei: I also thought Fargas looked good. Unlike, for example, Adrian Peterson, who gains a lot of easy yards through gaping holes before he ever has to make a defender miss, it seemed like Fargas was doing everything on his own, finding little cracks in the line and getting everything out of every run. Where has this guy been for the past two years?

Detroit Lions 14 at San Diego Chargers 51

Aaron Schatz: Keith Olbermann: "The game started 0-0 -- and that was the highlight for Detroit." Score one for DVOA when it comes to the Lions. Six straight losses. Eek.

Philadelphia Eagles 10 at Dallas Cowboys 6

Doug Farrar: On the Ken Hamlin hit to Matt Schobel, it looked like he led with his shoulder and not his helmet. Good no-call, or did he lead too high anyway?

And there's Roy Williams falling victim to his own rule after giving Donovan McNabb the most textbook horse-collar tackle you'll ever see. I swear, the players have to be laughing at the NFL about this -- "Oh-oh, here's the penalty they call one time in five! Here's a $7,500 fine, and I'm only making $5 million this year!"

Aaron Schatz: Attention: For today's performance of "Donovan McNabb Is Sacked," the part of Winston Justice will be played by Max-Jean Gilles. Thank you.

Mike Tanier: I am now officially surprised when the Eagles score a red-zone touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: Mike, we were both at the first game between these teams. Maybe I'm just not paying enough attention due to a very needy little girl, but I can't quite figure out where the differences are here. McNabb is definitely healthier, which gives him scrambling ability and confidence. Tony Romo's having some problems, but I'm not exactly sure what the cause is. Yes, the Eagles are paying a ton of attention to Terrell Owens, but that's leaving Jason Witten open all the time, just like last week against Detroit, and Romo is doing a reasonable job of finding him. He just can't seem to throw to anyone else...

Mike Tanier: Better defensive game plan and execution, plus a little flatness by Romo, who was lights-out that Sunday night. McNabb threw the ball pretty well in that first game and isn't doing anything that much better in this one.

Michael David Smith: Has there ever been a good quarterback who's worse at clock management than Donovan McNabb? To throw the ball away instead of take a sack when leading late in the fourth quarter is inexcusable, although he did make up for it with a sweet pass on the next play.

And right after I saw that, Brian Westbrook shows that he understands clock management to a greater extent than any running back in the NFL.

Ryan Wilson: I love the fact that Westbrook is thinking about running out the clock -- it's a heady play, particularly when he's about a foot from the end zone -- but my first thought always goes back to Jerome Bettis' fumble in the 2005 AFC Divisional game against the Colts.

Whatever, I hope Westbrook's agent points to that play when it's time to renegotiate his deal. A lot of guys aren't big on giving up touchdowns for the good of the team, as it were.

Mike Tanier: When I saw Westbrook go down, I thought, "awesome." Then I thought, well, that touchdown would have made it a two-score game with the Cowboys out of timeouts. Now the Eagles still lead by four, they can kneel, but if there is a miracle play or an aborted snap then ... Odds-wise, it's still the right move, but as an Eagles fan I excel at dreaming up nightmare scenarios.

According to the morning paper, Jon Runyan told Westbrook to take a knee if he reached the 1-yard line. I need to post this so all the Villanova alums out there stop congratulating themselves for being so smart.

Aaron Schatz:
Watching this game closer in the second half. Clearly, Romo's thumb was a huge problem. He was missing guys, and I think that shook his confidence, because he seemed to hesitate more in the pocket rather than doing what he usually does, moving outside to keep a play alive. The Eagles were really getting to him with twists and stunts, but it didn't seem like there were a lot of big blitzes here. I think the Cowboys had some issues where the backs were going into patterns too early, before hanging back to pick up pass rushers who might be slightly delayed in coming in.

I don't know if this is absolutely true, or just my fallible memories, but it seems like Week 15 always has an unusual number of upsets or good teams winning close games over bad teams. I remember writing about it in Quick Reads at one point. This was the week the 2005 Colts and 1998 Broncos blew their perfect seasons, the week the 2004 Pats lost to Miami on Monday night, the week the 2005 Seahawks nearly blew a game to a terrible Titans team, the Bears had that overtime game with Tampa last year ... This week we had the Patriots and Colts both eking out wins over inferior teams, and now the Cowboys losing.

Doug Farrar: I was thinking about that this morning. Maybe it's because teams have come close to wrapping up their seeds, but it's too early to rest their starters. Basically a limbo week before the rush to the bench.

Vince Verhei: How much did losing Andre Gurode hurt the Cowboys? Obviously, Romo was struggling even in the early going, but it seemed like most of the pressure the Eagles were getting in the second half was coming right up the middle.

Washington Redskins 22 at New York Giants 10

Aaron Schatz: If Eli Manning's Citizen Eco-Drive watch is as unstoppable as he is, that thing must stop working every November.

Ben Riley: Antwaan Randle El just set the bar on MNF introductions. I think he was doing the David Chappelle "white guy" voice.

Aaron Schatz: Amani Toomer. Yikes. What a drop. Lots of drops in this game. More problems for the Patriots receivers in that game, and some butterfingers from the Jets at times. We know that wind causes problems for the pass in the air, but maybe it makes even normal-looking passes difficult to catch. Anyone else feel like there were an abnormal number of drops specifically in today's weather-affected games?

Sean McCormick: Broken leg for Jeremy Shockey. Kiss that first-round win in Seattle goodbye.

Aaron Schatz: By the way, does anyone know why on earth Washington is treating Steve Smith as if he were the other Steve Smith? John Madden's right, there's a 12-yard cushion out there.

Doug Farrar: Because the Redskins know that if Smith is lined up one-on-one with a cushion and no help, Eli will instead throw: A) to the other side into triple coverage; B) a goatball somewhere between Reuben Droughns and Plaxico Burress; or C) a wormburner to his backup tight end. All of which he did on the late fourth-quarter drive.

Mike Tanier: The story said something along the lines of "Giants running backs suddenly got a case of the dropsies." Yeah, in September.


197 comments, Last at 25 Dec 2007, 8:32am

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

One positive out of last night for Giant fans is that the Coughlin era may finally be coming to a close.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

The Jaguars had just run it four straight times. It was second-and-9.

You folks mentioned that second-and-nine several times as though that was a good reason for the Jaguars to pass. Let's remember that on their twenty-play drive, their second downs were with nine, ten, ten, ten, and eight to go and they mostly ran those.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Miami has the Dolphins, the greatest football team, we take the ball from goal to goal like no-one's ever seen! We're in the air, we're on the ground, we're always in control. And when you say Miami, you're talking SUPER BOWL!!!

Cause we're the Miami Dolphins, Miami Dolphins, Miami Dolphins number one! Yes we're the Miami Dolphins, Miami Dolphins, Miami Dolphins number one!!!

(awesome banjo solo)

(awesome little snare drum fill)

Repeat verse and chorus all the way to Phoenix!!!


6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I know the whole I love seeing football in the elements, snow and weather is great fun line, but I found myself more drawn to the dome friendly Green bay- St Louis game than the Jet-Patriot bore. Weather might be the great equalizer but it doesn't always make the game exciting. I think the Pats are secretly happy the Jets made a game of it. The thought of 3 lay down wins to end the season followed by a bye isn't the best way to get ready for the play offs. Now the coaches got enough "areas to work on" in practice to keep the fires burning. Yah Miami won. I had a great fear of having to watch low lights from this season as often as the highlights of the Miami-Jets Monday night game. Wow the Giants receivers are bad. On the other hand Eli could scramble a little more often. A few times on 3rd and short it looked like he had room to run for the first down but instead scrambled to throw (and almost always to a well covered receiver).

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

4: Even more reason to go with the high-percentage pass in this case - run to set up the pass, right? The worst case scenario should be that it's incomplete and MJD has to get thirteen yards on a 3rd and 9 draw play.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I know that the weather affected things, but with regards to Tom Brady - he had a worse day than a cold Chad Pennington in the same stadium. (Except for that pesky won-loss thing.) I think he just wasn't that good yesterday.

Maybe the wind does affect drops, but not that Toomer one. Great googly moogly.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Did everyone without a home AFC team at 1 o'clock get the NE-Jets game? Ugh. Why on earth would I want to see that? Uh, Jax-Pit, please? I've been over this before, but what real football fan wouldn't rather see a game betweeen two good teams, and what non-football fan is going to watch the Pats?

What's up with Dallas? We need an AGS on the Dal-Phi game. Two weeks in a row of struggling. I can hear TO bitching already. Pittsburgh is in a funk, and NE hasn't been awesome in a month. Meanwhile GB and Jax are rolling. Maybe the playoffs won’t be such a foregone conclusion after all. We can hope, anyway. One of the most common mistakes people make is to reflexively think that whatever happened yesterday will happen tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, and . . . . So we get everyone expecting the NE-Jets game to be 70-0 (including me). I’ll still go with a NE-Dallas Super Bowl, but it doesn’t look like a sure thing any more. Of course, I’m basing that feeling on what happened yesterday . . .

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Aaron wrote very early in this: "Well, if there is one thing I’ve learned today, it is that I have to get some sort of weather adjustment into standard DVOA for rushing and passing, especially passing."

This brings up a good question about DVOA, and one that seems at odds here. Is DVOA a predictive statistic, giving us an indication of a team's ability, or is DVOA a historic statistic, a measurement of a team's past actions? In my mind, the two are very different.

I am not a math guy, but here is where they differ in my mind: A predictive stat SHOULD take weather into account, take blowouts into account, take fumble recovery randomness into account.

A historic stat SHOULD NOT take weather into account, or blowouts into account.

So, does DVOA attempt to be predictive, historical, or both? I don't know how you measure intangibles (for example, the death of a teammate, or a game with high winds, or a QB playing through an injury) if you're trying to be both. For example, a QB playing with a bad thumb is unlikely to have stats that accurately predict how he'll play when healed. Should we discount those injured performances in a predictive stat?

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Re: 8

You're absolutely correct -- Brady stunk the joint out totally.

While I'm certainly glad for the win, I'm disappointed that with that piece of crap performance, Brady managed to near-guarantee he'll fail to reach every one of those records he's been chasing all year.

And I'm not liking the "force it to Moss even when three other receivers are wide open" tunnel vision he's developing more and more.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Didn't Bill Cowher win 99% of the games where he had a 10 point lead by never throwing in the 4th quarter unless it was 3rd and long? I don't see why someone should not be seriously suggesting that, especially considering the weather.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Re: Redskins.

How much better is this play calling then it's been for the past 2 years under Saunders? Yeah, I know Collins has been in this offense forever, but what kind of sense does it make to run an offense that's so complex that you can only make sensible play calls when you've had a QB in it for many years. Gone from today's and last week's skins offense were the stupid 1 yard passes on 3 and 2 and all the freakin' bubble screens. Instead, there was an offense clearly designed to attack weak safeties weather be damned.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Ugh. Mike Holmgren called for an end-around on a first-quarter third-and-3. Nate Burleson got two yards. Punt. Wood successfully chopped.

Sorry Doug. KCW isn't a 3rd down play in the first quarter.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Purds -

DVOA is meant to be predictive in the sense of telling us how good a team or player really is, rather than being directly results-oriented. Without a weather adjustment, it will be less accurate (thus less predictive).

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I dislike wide receivers more frequently than players at any other position anyways, but if I were a Giants fan, I'd really be mad. That was beyond a horrible performance by their wide-outs. I think the Giants are going 9-7, which makes their playoff aspirations rather more uncertain.

If the Vikings make the tourney, I think I'd rather see them play in Seattle than in Tampa.

Also, was Gurode seriously hurt? That would be a very significant loss.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I haven't seen the game, but if Brady was really consistently ignoring his underneath receivers (as opposed to they being well covered), does anyone think this could have been intentional? It seems to me that Brady and the coaching staff have too much game awareness to keep banging their head against a brick wall as the stats suggests they were doing.

To me, this looked pretty much like the perfect game for seeing how far the offense could get away with trying the harder stuff in nasty weather, and the experience may come in handy in the post-season. Or is this just pitiful homer wishful thinking? Because if it is, the Pats' season could end in a major embarrassment, like the Colts in 2004.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I enjoyed seeing Westbrook make the smart play by going down at the 1 yard line to make certain the game was secured. Scoring the touchdown would probably give Philly a 99% chance of winning, but Dallas has already pulled 2 games out of the fire (Buffalo, Detroit), and there is no need to run it in if you can get down and end the game with kneeldowns instead of playing prevent defense.

I was screaming at Panthers' RB DeAngelo Williams to fall down at the 1 when he broke his 35 yard TD run against Seattle earlier yesterday. He didn't, and Seattle managed to score a TD. Thankfully, the TD came too late to matter.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Can someone explain the 'Angry Man' formation? I assume it had its genesis in a previous episode of audibles, but I can't remember what it means.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Through much of the '70s and '80s, college announcers and analysts would use "upback" to describe an I-formation fullback; "Deep back" was often used to describe a defensive back and "deepfield" (which, the more I think about it the more I like it) was occasionally heard for the secondary. I don't recall hearing any of these terms in conjunction with an NFL game.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Two things amazed me about the Brian Billick call to go for the field goal instead of trying for the win on 4th and a foot:

1. His players were visibly upset about taking the field goal - some of them yelled at him as they left the field, and even after the game, there were players willing to call out the coach with regard to that decision.

2. The announcers actually praised Billick for the move, one of them saying that he was "playing the percentages" and going for the high-percentage field goal and heading to overtime!

That's ridiculous! 4th and goal from the 1-foot line must be a fairly high percentage play. Not as high as the field goal, but what - 70%? Overtime is essentially 50/50. What he played was TMQ's "Don't blame me, the players lost the game," game.

On top of that, after the announcers get done praising Billick, they then start talking about the fact that the Ravens lost to Kansas City a few years ago in the exact same situation when KC went for it, made it, and won - and acted like THAT was the right call, despite just praising Billick for doing the opposite.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

NY-WAS - ball spotting

Terrible spots on short yardage plays is peeves me, but yesterday I thought the officials did a great job spotting the ball on close plays. Pretty unusual.

Of course, later in the game they missed the spot by 2.5 yards. The skins completed a 6 yard pass to their 46.5 yard line on 3rd and 10, but were called for a 5 yard penalty. The ball was spotted for 3 and 15 even though the penalty was obviously going to be declined. The skins lined up to punt and only then did someone realize the ball was spotted incorrectly, so the ref moved the ball just short of the skins 44 yard line. It wasn't even remotely close to the right spot, but somehow no one noticed.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Re 9: Oklahoma drew Pit-Jax with no AFC home team.

The announcing in that game missed a really obvious point. In the intro for the game, they talked about Aaron Smith's injury, and how both coaches thought he was a really important part of Pitt's defense and an underrated player. They then spent the entire game talking about how the Jags were abusing the Steelers up front, and how they couldn't remember the last time they'd seen a Pittsburgh defense get pushed around like this. No mention of Aaron Smith's injury as a possible cause, at least for part of it, even though they'd talked about it at the beginning of the game.

I wonder if Smith won't be this year's Tommie Harris - a guy who gets injured late in the season, causing an excellent defense to return to Earth for the playoffs.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

If Eli Manning’s Citizen Eco-Drive watch is as unstoppable as he is, that thing must stop working every November.

I think every football fan has had the same thought. It's just embarassing. I assume whatever genius came up with that ad campaign has since been fired. Worst match of celebrity pitchman and product since Bob Dylan endorsed Victoria's Secret.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I wasn't at the game, but here's a take on it from a friend who was there re: weather:

The pre-game weather was much worse than the game day. While the wind did gust at times it was generally not very windy in my opinion, enough to hamper a kicking game and impact a passing game but not woeful. The bigger challenge was a clearly wet and icy ball. The rain fell steadily but not heavily. It was cold enough on the ground to ice up much and the snow wasn't melting even in the rain so it was nasty in the mix but not anywhere near the worst conditions of the Razor. I'm suspecting Tom had issues with the wet and icy as did the receivers but that there was a lot of blame for Tom himself - especially with lock on Moss vision and the resulting poor choices.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I blame that Cowboy loss on four things.

1. Tony Romo. If Brady and Anderson were screwed by the wind what was Romo screwed by? (Hint: She was up in one of the suites.) I don't think channeling your inner Rex Grossman was a good idea, unless you're Trent Dilfer. Then that might make you somewhat better. To be fair, he was hurt.

2. The line, which wasn't that good, especially after Gurode left. In a five play stretch Romo was sacked three times and one other time had to run for his life just to not get sacked again.

3. Playcalling, why does Barber only get 7 carries when he was effective enough and the passing game is about as effective as Bryant Gumbel is as a play-by-play guy.

4. TO. Quality game bud, quality game.

I mean, I would be more worried if I thought that Romo might play like that again, but he sholdn't unless he's still hurt. But man, what a sad performance.

Oh, but I hope NFL Replay is doing the Pats game. I wanna see those option plays. ;)

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

19: The Angry men comment refers to the Jets' habit of only two down linemen and having the rest of the front seven wander about aimlessly, in order to prevent the quarterback getting a read off them. It's also called the times square defense.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Purds, DVOA is designed to measure how good a team actually has done, compared with how an average team would have performed in that situation. So injured personnel is different from weather.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I'm not much for conspiracy theories, but maybe Billick wants to retire early, and is trying to get fired with a lot of years left on his contract.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Good to know I wasn't the only one screaming at my TV last night.
Why even throw to Jacobs? He can't catch it anyways. And was it just me, or did it seem like a couple of them came in too hard (still should be caught, though)?

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Re: #28

Back when the NYJ's Belicheck did to NE's Bledsoe, it was oft referred to as the "Mooing Cow Defense" (or was that "Moving Cow"). It's certainly not new.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

So, Sam (#29) and Mike W (#15) are saying opposing things, I think. Perhaps not.

But, Mike W, if DVOA is mainly predictive, then why the "chasing history" chart at the end of the DVOA article each week this year, following NE's historic highs and SF's historic lows?

I guess my point is that if Aaron does put in some sort of weather adjustment, then the historic perspective goes out the window, as DVOA becomes much more predictive than historic. (Personally, I'd keep it like it is now -- how bad does the weather have to be for adjustments to kick in? do you change with versus against the wind?)

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

"Ned Macey: Of all the great plays Brady has had this year, none could have shown the reason for his true greatness then the late third-down completion to Wes Welker. Pocket collapses, Brady moves around, keeps his cool, and fires a strike to the open man for a clutch first down."

Barf alert. Other players make good plays, great efforts, smart plays, outstanding catches, etc. To Brady's lovers, however, his play reveals the reason for his "true greatness".

Sounds like Ned is channelling Tom Curran -- "no one else can compare to Brady's physical, mental, athletic and pyschological greatness."

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Gosh, the Packers throwing away a game against the Bears looks pretty big right now, although I think they still have a shot of finishing ahead of the Cowboys, especially if Gurode is out for a couple of weeks.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

If I was a NE or Dallas fan I would be a little worried at their performance late in the season. They are playing dog teams (Balt, Det, NY Jets, Philly - well Philly is middle of the pack) and they are playing them to a dead heat for the most part. Blame on the games not meaning much or the weather, but I think this is a sign that these teams aren't nearly as dominant at present as they were earlier on. Which should bode well for an exciting playoff season.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Regarding thumb injuries when Favre busted his thumb in the 1999 pre-season and then had a very pedestrian regular season he spoke later after the season was over about how hard it was to grip the ball.

Even now, many years later, Favre is bothered by the thumb particularly in cold weather. The ball at times will just drop out of his hand for no apparent reason just as it did with Romo yesterday.

I don't have the numbers handy but Favre's seasonal fumble totals went up considerably after the 1999 season. And this with a very good offensive line protecting him from 2002-2004.

Just something to think about going forward with Romo.............

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15


DVOA isn't 'mainly' predictive. I suppose it's mainly descriptive. It's also historic in the sense of describing (or trying to describe) how well a team has played, rather than how good it's results have been.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

On the Westbrook play (and, yes, I am an unhappy fantasy owner, although how unhappy I'll let you know tonight) I do understand that it was without a doubt the correct play - with the condition that the Eagles are still theoretically in playoff contention, and scoring margin is one of the tiebreakers.

However, from just a general sense of right and wrong, doesn't it seem really screwy that the best play is to not score? I mean, the whole point of the game is to score!* That's what I want to see when I'm watching a football game - big plays (on offense or defense). There isn't a way around it, unless you eliminate kneeldowns (and then the coaches will cause hassles by coming up with kneeldowns-that-aren't-really-kneeldowns), but it ain't right.

(*I know the real point of the game is to win, but the idea is that you're trying to score, and whoever does the best job of that should win. It really feels like the cart's ahead of the horse here.)

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15


Right. It can be used in order to make predictions, and there are certain indicators within DVOA that are predictive but the measurement itself is main descriptive.

For example, a team who is significantly better on third down compared to first and second down almost always declines the following year. Thus, the numbers DVOA has come up with describe what has already happened but are used to make predictions about what will happen.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

We got the Pitt-Jags game in western MI, too.

“The wind is blowing in both directions here.” That really is a great line. Dawson's two FGs were pretty impressive in that environment.

Weather adjustments would be great. The Browns have played their last two games in really poor conditions (and I wouldn't be surprised if the next two aren't much better). It would be easy looking at the stats to conclude defenses have 'caught up to' Anderson and that the Browns defense is finally getting it together. Not really sure either is accurate.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

"Jay Feely is still the only NFL kicker ever lampooned in a Saturday Night Live sketch."

Aaron, surely you're old enough to remember the Walton Payton episode of SNL, which featured the kickers' song:

"We are kickers/we kick ball/we play with ball/we kick the ball!" Someone from SNL played Ali Haji-Sheikh, singing a line to the effect of: "I am Ali Haji-Sheikh / I kick the ball for 40 teams"

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Maybe, Jimm (#38), but NE (and to a smaller extent Indy) has thrashed the "good" teams lately, like Pitt. I think these lesser teams (Balt, Philly) present more of a threat to the top tier because these lesser teams have had "mental" bye weeks for quite a while. Take the NE-Baltimore game. Baltimore was stoked to play that game, and they played at just about their max ability. Many of those guys had limped along for weeks, with nothing to play for, and the NE game them a reason to get excited.

When NE (or Indy) plays a top tier team (Jax, Pitt), that top tier opponent has been going all out, trying to make the playoffs, and they don't have any mental or physical rest in the past weeks. They have no way to improve. Hence, NE crushes Pitt, Indy crushes Jax.

Now, the Cowboys? I have no idea what's going on there.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I think the Eagles forced Romo to step up in the pocket rather than drift over to his right, where he's very good at throwing the ball. Instead of rushing the DE 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage, they contained the opposing QB. Romo killed the Eagles with scramble-passes the first game. I didn't see him do it much yesterday.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Favre's Fumbles:

2007 - 3
2006 - 2
2005 - 2
2004 - 1
2003 - 1
2002 - 4
2001 - 8
2000 - 3
1999 - 1
1998 - 1
1997 - 2
1996 - 2
1995 - 1
1994 - 1
1993 - 6
1992 - 6

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15


Honestly I'm not sure FO knows whether they want DVOA to be predictive or descriptive. I think they want it to be both.

There are an amazing amount of correlation/causation issues with their articles. O-Line continuity really stuck in my craw because of that.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Obligatory officiating complaint:

The refs in the WAS-NYG game last night were awful, beyond just the spotting issues that Carlos mentioned above. They let a ridiculous amount of contact go un-flagged in the passing game. Both teams got away with lots and lots of DPI/Holding/Illegal Contact. That's pretty minor, though-- more a preference than a mistake.

The most egregious mistakes were several uncalled offsides violations. On at least 2 occasions, Eli drew a Redskins defender into jumping early (one of the QB skills he's actually pretty good at), and then, figuring he had a "free play," took a shot at a long pass. Neither offsides were flagged. Now, a couple of 5-yard penalties weren't going to influence the outcome of that particular game, but, really, how do the linesmen miss a defender jumping offsides? Aren't they supposed to be looking directly down the LOS at the start of every play?

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Whoops. I don't think I copied the right numbers... those were his "rushing" fumbles. Let's try again:

07 - 8
06 - 8
05 - 10
04 - 4
03 - 5
02 - 10
01 - 16
00 - 9
99 - 9
98 - 8
97 - 7
96 - 11
95 - 8
94 - 7
93 - 14
92 - 12

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Mike W and Sam:

What you describe is how I see DVOA as well. That's why I balk at Aaron's suggestion that he alter DVOA for weather adjustments. I guess a weather adjustment doesn't really matter in historical context, as any bump up for an offense in bad weather would be offset by a bump down for the defense of the same team playing in the same weather. Thus, the team's DVOA would not change, though each side of the ball might change.

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Packer fans recognized Bigby's limitations by around Game four of the regular season. It is reported that so have the Packer coaching staff but the designated replacement is rookie Aaron Rouse who was hurt early on in the season and then his counterpart Nick Collins got hurt so the team was uncomfortable with too many inexperienced players in the secondary.

It is also very much a fact that having Charles Woodson minimizes Bigby's negative impact as Woodson typically provides in-game coaching and hand signals to help Atari know where to be. His default position when unsure is to sit in the deep middle looking around desperately for Woodson.

With Harris' speed all but gone and Bigby and Collins both challenged, ahem, in pass coverage the difference between Woodson playing and not playing creates a performance gap for Green Bay wider than Pat Williams buttocks..........

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Having intermittently observed the NYG-WAS game last night, it seemed to me that Eli has no idea what "touch" is when throwing dump-offs to running backs. Bullets to humans only fifteen feet away are going to get dropped by most HBs - hand-eye coordination isn't that good or they'd play some other position.

And in trivia world, it's "Max Jean-Gilles". :-,

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Hey stan, you are absolutely right on that one, but I was wondering where you were earlier in the season when Peter King called Peyton's 6-int's brain-fart game in SD "heroic", etc. Brady clearly sucked against the Jets, but at least his mistakes didn't cost his team the game.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

45. Purds - I would agree with you re: NE accept for the fact that Pittsburgh isn't playing very well these days - look at the way Jacksonville beat them up in Pitt and a recent loss to the Jets as well. If NE and Dallas were playing tight games because of a bunch of Turnovers I'd say it's just a run of bad luck, but they are either playing them straight up or physically losing the line of scrimmage battle.

It could be just a lull, but I really doubt it.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

If Eli Manning’s Citizen Eco-Drive watch is as unstoppable as he is, that thing must stop working every November.


58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15


What are you talking about? It was the best play without any conditions, period.

Philly should play to win. Why do football and basketball teams run the clock? Because the objective is NEVER to just score as much as possible.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Re: 41

Are you saying that watching Westbrook break that huge run and then stop, which is something I don't recal ever seeing before, was not exciting? If anything, hims stopping made it significantly more exciting.

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Beat me to it. Though Bob McGinn had included the ones actually ruled incomplete passes which bumped up some of the seasonal totals by 1 or 2 in some years.

I thought it was the 2000 and not the 2001 figure that had the 16 which would have made more sense based on the timing of the injury.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Haven't read all the comments yet (and don't have a chance right now) but some quick thoughts:

1). Elements games are fun. I know CA will disagree vehemently with me on this, though. You can argue that the conditions decreased the appeal of the Pats-Jets, but if that game is in a dome, the Pats shred the Jets and the game is completley boring. Instead, we got a close game where the losing team was in it until about the last five minutes, some crazy special teams plays, a tight-fought defensive contest, and a game that held my interest (a little more than I would have liked, given that I'm a Pats fan).

1a). Yes, DVOA needs some kind of weather adjustment. We had talked last week about how Pittsburg's defense was getting a boost from playing in a swamp for a couple of weeks in a row. Now we had four or five games this weekend where weather was obviously helping defenses. If the goal of DVOA is to represent average level of play, then fine, no weather adjustment. If it's to be predictive in neutral conditions, then you really need one. Do you suppose a linear shift or a linear scale would be a more appropriate way to account for weather?

2). I think the main reason why Pennington was having a better day than Brady with the short stuff is that Brady wasn't really trying the short stuff, whereas Pennington was, because of the defense the teams were playing. Once the Pats had a 10 point lead (i.e. in the 3rd and most of the 4th quarter) the Pats went to a balanced, but fairly vanilla defense, where they were playing either zone or keeping the safeties back in a zone while the other players played man, and rushing only 4 (or even 3, on far too many plays). The short stuff was wide open for Pennington, which he happily took (since that's all he could take). The Pats seemed afraid to play too aggressively on defense and risk a big play given up on a fluke (like the Jets often find a way to do to them). It worked, so we shouldn't complain, but it did allow the Jets to march down the field a couple of times, albeit in tiny chunks.

On the other hand, the Jets were leaving their DB's in man defense a lot of the time, with only occasional safety help, and counting on the skill of their DB's, combined with the weather, to shut down the Pats deep game. That worked too, except for the one long play to Moss (partially because Brady was suffering form "force-it-to-moss-itis" instead of checking down to open Welkers and Faulks--although in his defense, he checked down to open Gafney's a couple times early only to have sure first downs dropped).

This allowed the Jets to stack the box against the run and short passing game. That Maroney had a pretty good day is a testament to the Jets awful run defense.

So I saw Brady's bad day as a function of the approach Belichick took to the game, combined with Brady's insistence on trying to get the ball deep to Moss (mainly because Moss was usually single covered, because the Jets were using the weather to help them).

3). Could someone please clarify the false start rule? I thought it was pretty straightforward, but half the time in the Pats-Jets, I saw (offensive) players jumping all around before the snap for a long time, and not getting called, while the other half the time flags flew long before it looked like the offensive players even get set...

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

By the way, Mike Holmgren looked terrible in the interview after the game. Just awful. Not just the weight but haggard.

This season must be really wearing him compared to others. Or maybe something outside has got him down?

I almost felt bad smirking at the Seahawks gacking away that game yesterday once I saw Big Mike.


63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Re: #50

What, stan -- you're going to start denying you're a bigger Manning suck-up than PK is a Favre suck-up? "Barf", indeed.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

#44 ... Damn, Chris Owens, you beat me to it. Dana Carvey and someone else were Ali Haji-Sheikh and Raul Allegre.

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"Peyton’s 6-int’s brain-fart game in SD “heroic”, etc. Brady clearly sucked against the Jets, but at least his mistakes didn’t cost his team the game."

You're right that Manning played like crap at SD. You're not right that his 6 interceptions cost his team the game. Manning contributed, but he had lots of help in losing that one. SD scored 23 points in that game, 14 against Indy's special teams. Indy also missed a 29-yard field goal. Special teams cost that game. Manning certainly didn't help them win, but he didn't lose it by himself.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Well, actually I was out and got home just to see a replay of him going down before they went to commercial (and was mightily confused).

There is a distinct difference between running out the clock and dropping to the ground at the 1 yard line.

It was the right play. I just wish that it wasn't.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

And, as for the PK statement of Manning at SD as "heroic"? I'd say it was more "stubborn" than "heroic."

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I agree with your take (see, even Pats and Colts fans can agree on something occasionally!) If DVOA is trying to represent how good a team is likely to play on a neutral field in optimal conditions (i.e. "how good a team is"), than it should take weather into account, along with home field advantage (which it also does not right now).

If DVOA is trying to reflect how well a team has PLAYED, not how good they are, then it should not.

It does seem to be halfway between the two right now. Aaron has adjusted so many of its inputs to maximize its predictive capabilities, and yet he employs it to track "history".

I disagree about fumble recoveries, though. Being random, they should not factor into either definition of DVOA. Obviously they're non-predictive, but they also don't really tell you much about who played better, either. It is quite possible for Team A to completely outplay Team B, and lose barely because they only recovered 1 out of 9 fumbles or something.

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What in the world are you talking about? Ned Macey's slurp job on Brady is: 1. completely over the top, and 2. very typical of stuff written by NE beat writers.

The SI article (by Dr Z I believe, not King) about Manning leading the Colts back into position to win vs. SD did not ignore the INTs. He didn't say that the game proved that Manning was the greatest human to walk the face of the earth. He simply made the point that it was a helluva comeback despite all the crap that had happened. The Colts got way down. They had a majority of their starters injured. The rain was so bad that Rivers couldn't even hold onto the ball. And Manning led them back to what should have been a win.

You want to bitch about his description of that as "heroic", write him. I didn't write it. But his article, on the whole, was reasonable. Because he doesn't ignore all the bad plays and he doesn't use the game to support an over the top argument that the SD comeback is proof of Manning's supremacy or "greatness".

Since Macey wrote his comment in this article, on this web site, this thread is the appropriate place to make fun of it.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I think the Moss tunnel vision was a function of two things:

1) Brady had been checking down to an open reciever early in the game, but Gafney dropped the ball twice when he was that guy, and Faulk dropped it once. Plus, the Jets started adapting to that--the INT was a direct result of the Jets defense playing to the short passing game--so the Pats went to a long-pass-or-run type offense, probably considering it safer. Remember, Pennington was moving the ball, but had at least two very close Pick-6's dropped (in addition to the one he threw), and had one more errant pass headed right for a Patriots defender when it was tipped by Richard Seymour.

2). Brady is now conditioned to throw to Moss whenever he sees single coverage. The Jets were single covering Moss quite a bit, rightly thinking that their CB's could keep up with Moss adequately given the conditions. Brady's main fault was never adjusting for the conditions in his reads.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Mike Golic called the Jets defense the "Minnow Bucket" defense, because of the way minnows act in the bait bucket.

Anyway, before Billick!'s decision to kick the figgie, the Ravens had gone Punt, Pick, Punt, Punt in the second half.

The Dolphins had a TD or FG on 3 of their 5 second half possessions.

A cowardly, and misguided, decision by Billick! to send that to OT.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

On Westbrook's kneeldown, I think his immediate response to the media last night was that John Runyan told him to take a knee, and he was afraid of Runyan.

Which certainly does nothing to disprove the intelligence of Villanova grads.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I reread the FO stats explanation page, and I'm coming around to the weather adjustment idea, especially as the DVOA section on FO admits that DVOA is a stat more valuable in looking at individual breakdowns of positions and situations than it might be in looking at aggregate team totals.

OF course, the big problem remains: HOW to adjust for weather? Do you do it by game, by quarter, by the direction a team is driving (vis-a-vis the wind direction)? Do you downgrade games in domes? What about grass versus turf for power versus speed teams?

I think weather adjustments would call for almost as much work as the entire game charting process does now. As a small example, think of the NE game yesterday, played on turf with the field covered and snow plows clearing the field within hours of kickoff, and the AFC Championship game against Indy a few years back when NE elected not to cover the grass field and let the field become a swamp. I would argue that the home team, NE, created the best weather adjustment it could in each game. They acted no different than Indy drafting the fastest (but small) defensive linemen they can find to play in the dome.

I guess I'm saying the weather adjustment idea seems nice, but utopian in the impractical sense.

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"If DVOA is trying to represent how good a team is likely to play on a neutral field in optimal conditions (i.e. “how good a team is”), than it should take weather into account, along with home field advantage (which it also does not right now). If DVOA is trying to reflect how well a team has PLAYED, not how good they are, then it should not."

Guys, if weather affects a team's performance - if it takes a team that would normally play at level X and makes them play at level Y - then any system that seeks to describe their typical level of play (X) will want to include an adjustment for weather, or anything else, that turns Y into X.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

we need another fog-bowl this year, I think. Now that's excitement.

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RE: DVOA as a predictive tool

Because so few games are played in this type of weather, it might be difficult to create and use this data.
Just thinking back (no charting, just citing a Raiders game and a Miami game from a couple years ago), I would not have predicted Brady would be THAT bad. Yes, he was going for Moss deep, but it looked like he was having a hard time hitting the short routes over the middle, sometimes not even close.

Also, for injuries, you'd have to chart DVOA/DPAR for all 53+ players to use the real effect of a missing PLAYER over his replacement.

Realistically, it would seem weather and injury charting would be more of an excuse maker...IE the Colts would be 14-0 if Freeney/Harrison weren't hurt, or Brady would have 55 TD passes if the last 3 games weren't below 35 degrees.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I think Eli was spoiled by Tiki Barber. Tiki was tremendous at catching the ball out of the backfield, and now Eli's just not used to playing w a normal running back. He was def gunning balls at short range that clearly called for a soft touch.

It's no accident Eli (and the Giants offense) was much more productive early in the season when Jacobs was hurt- Derrick Ward is a much better fit for Eli as a security blanket. Putting Jacobs in there takes away so much of Eli's comfort that it's actually not worth starting him, even though he's a beast of a runner.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I like all the "THE SKY IS FALLING" posts about NE and NYJ being reasonably close (despite the fact that the Patriots led by 10 points for all but 2:52 of the 2nd half), yet no qualms about Indy having trouble with Oakland.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

#33 Sadly no, James. The wife had to work late and came home with a nasty case of indigestion. I realize that I've earned a rep around here for being, uh, adventerous, but coprophilia is just a step too damn far.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

#18: Same situation occurred in the Jets-Browns game last week. Browns up 17-15, 1:31 left, Jets with one timeout left, Jamal Lewis breaks through the line on 3-4. All he has to do is fall down once he's past the first down marker and the game's over. Instead, he keeps going into the end zone - result, the Jets get the ball back down 9 with 1:22 left, score a quick FG (37 seconds left), and if they get the onside kick, have a chance to win the game.

#20: I recall long-time Steelers announcer Jack Fleming referring to the tailback as "the deep back in the I" or "the deep man in the I", and I think that current announcer Bill Hillgrove sometimes uses it.

#41: Since winning is the ultimate goal, the two primary subsidiary goals are (a) to score points and (b) to prevent the opposition from scoring points. Going down voluntarily rather than scoring drastically reduces the opportunity for the opposition from scoring points, which in some strategic situations (i.e., late in the game, up by a small margin) is more important than scoring points.

Plus, all of us football geeks find these kinds of counter-intuitive plays cool.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

re: #59
hell yes! westbrook falling down at the 1 was the awesomest play i've seen in the NFL since the miracle saints play (linked under my name). kudos to westbrook, or runyan, or whoever had the idea. it was freaking awesome.
(NB: i do not play fantasy football.)

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Dr Z's Manning article was the biggest slurp-job I've ever seen on a reputable web site. Not surprising that Stan doesn't see it that way but instead takes umbrage to a single paragraph about Brady here.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

DVOA is a descriptive stat. It attempts to be descriptive of the actual (sometimes hidden) quality of NFL teams. Since teams that have strong actual quality tend to perform well in the future (and vice versa), DVOA has some predictive value to the degree that it describes the actual quality of NFL team accurately.

I have no doubt that weather-based adjustments would improve the descriptive capabilities of DVOA, although I don't envy Aaron in figuring out how the best way to implement this feature. (Are wind speeds annotated on the official NFL gamebook?)

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Ned Macey: Of all the great plays Brady has had this year, none could have shown the reason for his true greatness then the late third-down completion to Wes Welker. Pocket collapses, Brady moves around, keeps his cool, and fires a strike to the open man for a clutch first down. If he gets sacked there, the game would have been very interesting."

By this logic Ben Roethlisberger may be the greatest player to ever play the game as this happens on several Pittsburgh passing plays every week.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

The problem with factoring in weather is quantifying it. How windy is windy? How cold is cold? Also, weather can fluctuate randomly throughout a game. I think the games like we've seen in Pittsburgh this year are too few and far between to have a real meaningful impact statistically.

People always say, "Oh, you don't want to go to Green Bay in January." Well no, but you don't really want to go to Dallas or Jacksonville in January, either. For example, how much of the Packers' long (and now long-gone) postseason home win streak was just a product of simple home-field, small sample size, and just having the better team, as opposed to the weather? I think the Atlanta Falcons in 2002 pretty much demystified that.

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re Eli yesterday

(note i'm not a gints fan) I thought Eli played reasonably well yesterday, certainly well enough to win. I don't know that he was "spoiled" by Tiki -- many of the passes Jacobs dropped seemed to have pretty good touch. I think the Gints lost b/c (1) they were unlucky on catch rate (2) their D was terrible up the middle on delayed handoffs and (3) somewhat inexplicably they couldn't convert several 3rd and short situations even though on 1st and 10 they seemed to rip off 7 yards at a clip.

They [the NY-WAS refs] let a ridiculous amount of contact go un-flagged in the passing game

I'm on record that complaining about officiating is about as boring an endeavor as exists in sports fandom, and I'm not sure if this was really a complaint or not, but I thought I'd point out that I AGREE with this comment: the refs let a ton of contact go in the secondary for BOTH teams. I don't think there was a single DPI or defensive holding call all game, and there was certainly tons of contact on both sides (e.g., Burress got his arms grabbed by Smoot several times, Santana Moss got hit well before the ball arrived and Cooley got blatantly held past 5 yards twice that I saw). The refs swallowed their whistles all game long, and I was fine with that.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

#79... I watched Ward drop a bunch of passes in a game this season too (San Francisco), including an easy TD that hit him right between the numbers. They missed Ward yesterday because against some teams, his quickness through the hole is needed. I though they might use Ahmad Bradshaw, which leads me to my next point...

Kevin Gilbride might be retarded. Ahmad Bradshaw runs for 8 yards on first down and the Giants throw the ball FIVE straight times after that. Plus, Bradshaw doesn't get another carry the rest of the game.

Eli was bad, but the surrounding cast made him look awful. The o-line, the receivers, the defense (abysmal), and the special teams were all horrendous. Somehow, I still think they will win next week at Buffalo because they hate the Giants Stadium crowd that much.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I agree that it would be nice to have some weather adjustment, but I have no clue how that would be done. For example, the Giants offensive DVOA was killed by their performance against Miami in that mess of a game.

BTW, I have no clue why Coughlin didn't challenge the spot on the 4th down run early in the game. With a difference of 2 inches, why not take a shot when it appears they got a bad spot?

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

#82 - I have no problem arguing that the end of the Jets/Browns game was a lot more fun to watch than the Eagles taking a knee three times.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

The Colts had trouble beating Oakland. THE SKY IS FALLING!

(Does that help, Rich?)

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Regarding Westbrook kneeling on the 1, recall that the Eagles were in a similar situation playing in Washington a few weeks ago. Up by 1, inside the two-minute warning, and the Redskins without timeouts, the Redskins allow the quick TD to get the ball back with the Eagles up 8.

It ends up not mattering as the Skins run one of their patented hurry-up offenses (perhaps featuring an inside handoff to Randle El or similar), but there was some post-game analysis questioning the situational coaching that could have cost the Eagles the game. If Runyan's the only one who remembers it, good on him, but I'd imagine somebody on the coaching staff also had the scenario in mind, even if taking the quick TD wasn't nearly so risky the second time around.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Awful, awful, awful play call by the Colts on fourth-and-goal from the Oakland 1. You have the No. 1 power line in football (remember when they sucked at that? Not anymore). You’re up against the worst run defense in football by a large margin. And you run a play-fake off the stretch play and throw to Ben Utecht? That’s way beyond suboptimal play calling.

Completely agreed. I was at the game, and even the Raiders fans were confused. (Not that they were complaining.) I was genuinely surprised that it seemed like they gave up on Addai for much of the second and third quarters.

The Raiders' playcalling was great on both sides of the ball - it was interesting to see the Raiders pull their own (less disorganized) version of the Angry Man. Several times, Manning would audible, and the Raiders would immediately change their look.

Of course, the fact that the Raiders put a lot of pressure on Manning - and the pass coverage was generally outstanding even when they didn't - didn't hurt. Several times, I would see Manning throw and think "where is he going with that," only to see a receiver squeeze into tight space and catch the on-the-money throw. I only remember Wayne making a single easy catch in the flat; his other longish catch was that crazy sideline grab.

But, if you'd told me before the game that 1) the Colts would score one offensive TD; and 2) a Colts' special teams play would make the difference, I'd have been pretty surprised (and thought that the result of the game might be different).

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I was thinking, when the Jets spiked the ball to run one last play with 2 seconds left and down by 10 that the Patriots should have run the zero-man defense. That way, nobody can get hurt.
Nothing the Jets could have done there could have changed any outcome, and playing zero men would make them look silly for forcing another play to happen anyways.
As it is, they go a sack, which isn't bad.

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

#80 Rich, good observation. Not really sure why-both are tops in the AFC, both looked mortal. Indy may get the inujury pass again, having started 2 defenders fromt he starting SB roster and 3 rookies on DL. The thnking goes that in 4 weeks they'll be healthy again, so it's not really the same team. It's about how I feel so it's my best guess regarding how others view it.

71 Minnow Bucket D is a great name for it.

Stan/Slo-Mo, pretty sure Ned is a Colt fan, fyi. Right? I found that Brady statement a bit odd, too, however. And I agree with Purds that Manning did not lose the SD game, much like the Pitt playoff game--without Manning they lose by much, much more. But he was not great by any stretch. A couple good drives in desperation time were what he managed and almost brought htem back from 23-0 on the road against an eventual division winner. In driving rain. If we left out the picks, you might say "not bad." Include the picks and you say, yikes, but ST really lost that game. Vinatieri and Manning are on the next tier.

And it's hard to blame the QB so vehemently when, for a week after that game, there was a ton of talk here criticizing the two replacement WRs and two OTs. They can all suck, but you can't then pin the blame on any one person in that case. I think most people here would agree that if Manning had his two starting OTs, or Gonzo and Harrison at WR, that game would have been quite different and an Indy W. If he had all four, it might not have even been close. We may not know until the playoffs.

Their D has really saved their bacon a lot this year.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Weather and DVOA:

It might not need all that much detail to be effective at making DVOA more predictive. Possibly something as simple as setting a threshold on temperature/precipitation/wind speed and designating aything above that threshold as "adverse", and then giving both teams the same VOA shift (equivalent to shifting the "A", the "average" in value over average) when they play in adverse conditions. I.e. redefine "average" as -X% for offenses and +X% for defenses (instead of 0% being average) in adverse conditions.

So, once you know what a good definition for the "adverse threshold" is, and a good value for "X", you calculate the VOA normally, and then, if the game was in "adverse conditions" you subtract X from the defensive score, and add X to the offensive score, prior to converting to DVOA.

It's relatively coarse, since, as people mentioned, conditions might change over the course of the game, and depend on which way they team was moving, but it might be enough. You could make it finer by having several different classes of "adverse" (e.g. wind, snow, wind and snow, sleet, extreme cold, etc.) and different values of X for different classes, or different values of X for different phases of the game (e.g. in wind adverse conditions, only apply the X-shift to passing plays).

But maybe just a single classification of "adverse" versus "non-adverse" and a single value of X might be enough to improve the predictive value of DVOA. It certainly would be enough to de-emphasize the effect that outlier games have on a team's ratings (e.g. it would give Pittsburgh and Miami less defenisve credit, and less offensive penalty, for playing in the swamp a couple of weeks ago, and wouldn't make us think the Jets passing defense is a world beater because it held Brady/Moss/Welker/Everyone Else to a pedestrian game).

The question of how to determine what the threshold for "adverse" is, and what "X" is, remains. But that could be solved, in an average sense, in the same way that Aaron solved a lot of the "tuning" issues with DVOA--go back over all the available game data (remember, kickoff conditions are listed in the official online gamebook) and see what values of "X" and what definitions of "adverse" give DVOA the most predictive value.

One final thought--once you know how weather affects VOA, you could use that information in game predictions.

Probably something that would have to wait for the offseason, and maybe no such modification would improve the predictive nature of DVOA, but it's worth a try.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

By weather adjustments, would that include 30+ mph wind like in the Panthers game? It definitely aided the Defenses.

No sure how to include the effect on the kicking game though. Kasey's first Field Goal attempt looked like it hit a brick wall, - although he got a tail wind boost later in the game. Half of both teams punts/kicks went out of bounds.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

#70: Pennington did not throw a pick yesterday. You're thinking of Clemens (or maybe Brady).

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

#98 sorry for all the typos. having serious issues at work right now, but pretty sure throwing my laptop out of a 29th floor window would be counterproductive.

Anybody ever save an excel sheet and try to open it two hours later to find that all the formatting is gone on 53 tabs! I now have 53 pages of randomly organized numbers, and no formulas. A weekend's worth of work, down the tubes.

Rich, Purds... the sky fell on me.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I like all the “THE SKY IS FALLING” posts about NE and NYJ being reasonably close (despite the fact that the Patriots led by 10 points for all but 2:52 of the 2nd half), yet no qualms about Indy having trouble with Oakland.

I think most of the reason there is no 'SKY IS FALLING' attitude about the Colts having trouble with Oakland is b/c those of us who paid attention to the game know that the Colts started 3 rookies on the D-Line and the 4th (Thomas) might as well have been a rookie, thus weakening the run-d and allowing for a couple of extremely long drives. We also know that had Mathis and Brock played, Fargus would most likely not have run as wild as he did. However, I still think D-Line, and the lack of Freeney, will be their downfall.

As for the Dr. Z article, he actually received quite a lot of flack on it and addressed it by simply saying he viewed it as 'heroic' b/c a lot of other players would have just packed it in but Manning stuck it out, turned it around and put them in a position that 99 out of 100 times, they win(idiot kicker!).

Ultimately, it's a matter of opinion. I think most of the flack came from those who dislike Manning and wanted to see him get ripped apart and got pissed when no one really bit.

And anyone who thinks there haven't been just as bad if not worse 'slurp jobs' about Brady (and others) is delusional.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

On Westbrook’s kneeldown, I think his immediate response to the media last night was that John Runyan told him to take a knee, and he was afraid of Runyan.

The reason that Westbrook (and Runyan) were thinking about this is because it happened three weeks ago in the Redskins game. The Redskins let Westbrook score (they said they did), and Westbrook, when asked about it later, said "yeah, I think they let me score. I wish I had realized that, or else I would've fallen down at the 1."

Lo and behold, three weeks later, same situation... and he actually does it.

However, from just a general sense of right and wrong, doesn’t it seem really screwy that the best play is to not score?

Why? As you noted, the point of the game is to win, not to score. The "fall down at the 1" is functionally equivalent to running the ball more than passing in the 4th quarter. Both prevent scoring, but increase the likelihood that you'll win.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

By they way:

Did anyone get to SEE Miami win? I was watching on Sunday Ticket, and right after Stover missed the FG, they cut to a commercial. A couple of commercials, incidentally, both for the NFL Network (I think), and one of them touting the Dolphins logo. When the commericals ended, Miami was celebrating in the endzone. I thought my DVR had glitched, but people on the open game thread said they saw the same thing... (that or they got cut to the IND-OAK game).

Ironic that Miami's first win of the season doesn't get shown because the NFL is too busy hyping itself...

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15


You're clearly more of a math guy than I am. I like your start.

To help in predictions, though, it might even be simpler to implement quickly. Why not have DVOA, and DVOA-X (for above threshold games)? It would be a very small sample size for some teams, just a game or two, but that DVOA-X would record DVOA only in weather averse situations. Now, by itself DVOA-X won't tell much about a team overall, but when a team is about to play in bad weather, we could look at the team's X rating (no, this is not a Vikings reference) to see how it has handled these types of situations before.

Now, that doesn't solve the problem of trying to determine how X situations should influence a team's overall DVOA, but it would help us quantify the outlier games, and then perhaps better predict what will happen (and understand what has happened).

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

"I dislike wide receivers more frequently than players at any other position anyways, but if I were a Giants fan, I’d really be mad. That was beyond a horrible performance by their wide-outs."

It was, but Plax gives us more good performances than horrid ones, and I can't recall the last time Toomer was that bad. Still not enough information on Moss or Smith.

The whole idea of using Jacobs in the passing game is a wretched one. He has never shown the hands for it, and Eli does not throw a really catchable short ball to boot.

In fact, the whole way Jacobs is used confuses me. He is a big, fast, strong guy, and Coughlin seems to have decided to try and make him Tiki, and turn to Reuben Droughns for short yardage situations. It seems like he has taken one of Jacobs' strengths, and decided not to use it at all, and instead maximize his biggest weakness.

It was an awful performance by the whole team, but the ones I blame the most are Gilbride and Coughlin.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Ar-Tee (101)

Sorry, I was unclear (in 70). When I was talking about INT's I was talking about two different things.

First, I meant that thrown the INT might have made Brady a little gun-shy about trying to use the short passing game the way Pennington was.

Next, I meant that the Jets were gambling more than the Pats. Pennington didn't thrown an INT, but had one or two balls that were ALMOST intercepted, and had either one been, they would have been run back for 6. That's the inherent risk of running the short passing game with no deep attempts to keep the CB's from jumping the flat routes, and no running attempts to keep the LB's in their lanes. The Jets were willing to live with that risk, and it never bit them. The Pats started to live with that risk, Brady threw his INT, and then they almost abandoned it and Brady got Moss-Vision.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Oh, and we're still stuck with the "how bad does the weather have to be to get to X rating?"

Let's take the Manning 6 interception game, for example, as it's been revived here. One might mistakenly want to say Manning played terribly because of the weather, but really, Manning stunk up the joint for lots of reasons, but the rain was way, way down on the bottom of the list. So, you can't just look at a game on TV and say, "Hey, a top level QB stinks today, it's raining, it must be an X game."

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Re: #109

I like "Moss-O-Vision" better.

And here's Reiss's take on MoV:

When QB Tom Brady reviews Sunday's game against the Jets, he will likely determine that there were a few times he forced balls into WR Randy Moss when throwing to other receivers was a better option.

In all, Brady threw in Moss's direction on 13 of his 28 pass attempts (includes a play in which illegal defensive contact was called).

Moss finished with five catches for 79 yards, so the completion percentage was not ideal.

The breakdown:

First drive
2 of 3 passes to Moss
1 completion, 5 yards

Second drive
6 of 7 passes to Moss
3 completions, 28 yards

Third drive
0 of 3 passes to Moss

Fourth drive
0 of 3 passes to Moss

Fifth drive
1 of 1 passes to Moss

Sixth drive
0 of 2 passes to Moss

Seventh drive
0 of 3 passes to Moss
Includes an illegal contact penalty that doesn't count as a play

Eighth drive
4 of 5 passes to Moss
1 completion, 46 yards

Ninth drive
0 of 1 passes to Moss

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

More seriously about THE SKY IS FALLING idea: if the Colts lose a game, who cares right now? They are locked into the #2 seed. They don't play a meaningful game for 4 more weeks (2 regular season games and then a bye week). If you thought Dungy was conservative about playing injured guys before, take a look at the lineup he puts on the field the next two weeks.

If the Pats lose a game, any game, the rest of the way, the loss will mark the end of a historic run. That is why a close NE game is infinitely more interesting (and potentially apocalyptic) than a near-loss by the Colts.

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Go Dolphins!!!! Go Dolphins!!!!

lara-li lara-la lara-li lara-la

Dolphins rule the world!!!

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

#93: I think most Eagles fans would consider it more fun to watch McNabb take a knee three times than to watch Westbrook score, watch the Cowboys return the kickoff to the 40 just before the two-minute warning, and watch Romo hit a few passes and the Cowboys score a TD with a minute left and then line up for an onside kick that could give them a shot at winning the game.

And if they get the onside kick and win the game, I don't think Andy Reid can go to the Eagles ownership and say, "Hey, we lost the game, but it sure was fun to watch, wasn't it?"

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Pat, the point of the game for the team is to win. The point of the game for the fan is to watch the players, especially if you have no rooting interest in the game. (As a Giants fan, I hate both teams equally. :)) I know I got to see Westbrook make a brilliant heads-up play, but that's not really what I watch football for. And I know there's no way to change what I'm complaining about, but I'm just enjoying the complaining.

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

MJK: I live in Ravens territory, so yeah, I got to see it. Pretty exciting game after Troy Smith came in, which was a pleasant surprise after three quarters of train-wreck.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15


Interestingly enough, is reporting that Dungy has said he will use the starters 'like we normally would' (link in name).

If true, color me stunned.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Oh, one more thing no one mentioned (though I think it was mentioned in the open comments thread) -- the decision to call a timeout, look at the replay, and then decide whether or not to challenge the play is categorically, quantifiably, provably, unequivocally wrong. As in, there is no possible chain of events that makes it a better decision than simply throwing the challenge flag in the first place.

I have a truly marvelous proof of this proposition which this margin is too narrow to contain.

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Re #106
Were you watching it on the MIA-BAL ST channel? Apparently the other CBS games switched to it, then had to cut away at 4:15 because of the contractual restriction, missing the rest of the plays. I saw the whole end of regulation and all of OT without more than the normal interruptions on the ST channel.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

re: #91
"Kevin Gilbride might be retarded...".
Kevin Gilbride isn't nearly as retarded as the decision-makers who continue to give him employment opportunities. I swear the single most befuddling thing about the NFL is watching guys like Gilbride, Dan Henning, Paul Hackett, etc. repeatedly get coordinator positions. Why hire someone who has consistently failed in his supposed field of expertise?

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

#69 stan,

What makes your comments more ridiculous is that Ned is openly a Colts fan. If anything, his comment would be an attempt to overcompensate for this.

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

"I think most of the reason there is no ‘SKY IS FALLING’ attitude about the Colts having trouble with Oakland is b/c those of us who paid attention to the game know that the Colts started 3 rookies on the D-Line and the 4th (Thomas) might as well have been a rookie, "

And we know that. But people gloss over that the Patriots are on their 4th TE (Don't even know his name), were playing with a backup guard (hochstein) and backup right tackle (Britt), etc.

It just seems like the Patriots have someone sneeze on the field, and its "OMG, PATRIOTS BEATABLE, WELKER HAS SNIFFLES!", whereas Manning could lose a leg, and nobody would say anything about the Colts being any worse.

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

re Weather & DVOA:
The simplest thing to do is just chuck in a weather dummy variable into the offense, defense, special teams eqns. The easiest way to determine the "thresholds" for the value of the dummy to start picking up requires just running a break-point test for conditions that increase variance of DVOA for teams. Which is to say, if there are weather conditions that create a lot of outlier games, it actually shouldn't be that hard to pick up (assuming the play by play data has the weather conditions in it).

RE: predictive/descriptive,
DVOA is most certainly "predictive" in that it focuses in on external validity, rather than internal validity. Internal validity basically strives to document the past and fit the numbers to it. So an internally valid projection system would basically say something to the effect of, "if a team blocks a punt, it increases it probability of win by 15% according to historical performance". Basically, it would be a system that figures out the probability of a team winning based on the results of each play. It would put a heavy weight onto the things that, historically, describe how teams have won games in the past.

External validity, which is what DVOA strives to find, determines the "data generating process" for each team, vis-a-vis scoring more than their opponant. DVOA basically tries to find the parameter weights of how a team will perform, all else equal. DVOA pretty much just says, "given a neutral field/league average opponant, this team would do x% better than everyone else if given 1000 attempts." DVOA is designed specifically for generating simulations and getting density forecasts back. That is why things like blocked kicks get no weight.

However, just because DVOA is externally valid, it doesn't mean it is predictive in its raw state. The DVOA team number, obviously, is an aggregation of each units number (passing offense, rushing defense, etc). These numbers have little to do with the actual interaction of strengths and weakness of matchups. Further, since there is no "coach's scheme" variable, there is some endogeneity problems with forecasting matchups, as DVOA is both correlated with coaches ability and play selection (because we'll never know what the RB would have done on 3rd and goal if the coach decides to throw it). In order to forecast a game, you'd need to input all relevant factors into the system, including whether a coach is going to gameplan run-heavy or Herm-heavy clock management.

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Oh, one more thing no one mentioned (though I think it was mentioned in the open comments thread) — the decision to call a timeout, look at the replay, and then decide whether or not to challenge the play is categorically, quantifiably, provably, unequivocally wrong. As in, there is no possible chain of events that makes it a better decision than simply throwing the challenge flag in the first place.

I have a truly marvelous proof of this proposition which this margin is too narrow to contain.

Well, if you call TO first and then decide not to challenge, you still have two challenges and the potential to get a third.

If you challenge the call as a timeout, you lose a challenge and possibly the chance of earning a third challenge if you lose.

I agree that it's stupid but it's not strictly worse in all regards.

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

"Apparently the other CBS games switched to it, then had to cut away at 4:15 because of the contractual restriction, missing the rest of the plays. I saw the whole end of regulation and all of OT without more than the normal interruptions on the ST channel."

Where I was, CBS switched to the game, did NOT cut away from it at 4:15, but missed the winning touchdown by being at a commercial.

I did get to see it after seeing everyone walking off the field, on replay.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Dumb. To clarify the "internal validity" thing, I meant you'd basically get a formula that says if you do x, your probability of winning will go up by y%. It would be something like, "if you gain 8 yards on 3rd and 5 from the opponents 38 down by four with 6 minutes left to play, your win probability goes from 38% to 42%" or some such nonsense.

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Bad weather in recent Packer history:

December 1993 the 10-5 Raiders come to Lambeau and get shut out 28-0 in zero degree temperature and wind chill of about -15 F.

Halloween 1994 in Chicago as the Packers beat the Bears 33-6 in torrential rains and winds gusting up to 50 mph. Favre completed 6-15 passes but did run 36 yards for a TD.

December 1998 the Packers beat TN 30-22 with wind chill at -1 at game time and gusting winds and swirling snow.

December 2000 the Packers beat the Lions 26-13 in 20 degrees with a wind chill of -5.

December 2000. The Packers beat Tampa 17-14 in 15 degrees with a wind chill of -15 F. Thanks to a four game winning streak to finish the season GB finishes 9-7.

December 2001. Packers beat the Browns 30-7 in 24 degrees, snow and gusty winds. Wind chill of 11.

I don't know the respective DVOAs in each of these matchups. My guess is that the Packers had the edge in half of them. The Packers finished .500 or better in each of these seasons so GB was never really a BAD team during this stretch. I could continue but it's more of the same. The last time GB was a good team and lost a home game in December was 2004 against a very solid Jacksonville squad 28-25.

GB also lost a game to the Panthers in like 1999 at home in December 33-31 but that day was unseasonably warm. Steve Burlein tore it up that day along with some receiver named Jeffers. One of the most embarrassing defensive efforts I have witnessed from any team. Ray Rhodes was a horrible coach.

Anyway, this may read as pointless. But I thought it was somewhat informative.

If I bored anyone I apologize....

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15


No way. There has never been, or ever will be, a more undeserved slurp-job than that Dr. Z article about Manning. Never. Ever.

The Colts D, and/or the ineptness of the Chargers O was what gave the Colts a chance to win, not anything Manning did. The reason you might see another QB pack it in after playing as abysmally awful as Manning did in the first half of that game is because they are usually down by 30 or more points.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15


Good link about Dungy and how he'll play his starters. Of course, "the same" for Dungy means sitting anyone questionable, as he's done all year. I think getting Clark and Sanders healthy for the post season last year made a huge impact on Dungy -- without those two, the Colts really struggled. But, in the playoffs and SB, everything came up roses. Not sure if there is/was a link, but I could understand a head coach thinking there was a link.

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Re: #118

The thing that, to me, makes the "Call timeout, look at the replay, challenge, lose challenge, lose second timeout" so asinine is not that it happens, but that one would figure the entire point of calling the timeout is to ensure that, if the challenge flag is thrown, that the call on the field will be reversed.

I've seen a number of such situations where, to me, it was clear that the call on the field was correct (or, at least, that there isn't indisputable evidence to the contrary), but even after calling the timeout to supposedly "look at things", the team throws the challenge flag anyway. It's like they feel like they NEED to justify calling the timeout, so they throw the flag.

Of course, referees have been known to make weird decisions when viewing replay, so if it's iffy, then maybe you go for it. But if there isn't either indisputable evidence, or at least something really close, then the timeout may have been well spent even if you don't throw the flag.

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

The point of the game for the fan is to watch the players, especially if you have no rooting interest in the game.

But then why wouldn't you have a similar problem when teams start running the ball to kill the clock? It's functionally identical, and (arguably) also less fun to watch.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I'm of the opinion that they should change the rule so that if a team calls a timeout, throws a challenge flag, and loses the challenge, they do not lose ANOTHER timeout.

The whole point of charging a team a timeout if they lose the challenge is to discourage teams from stopping the play and slowing the game down by challenging unlikely-to-be-overturned things. If a team has already stopped play and slowed the game down, why charge them another timeout?

Of course, I'm also a proponent of getting rid of the whole two or three challenge limit, and of getting rid of booth replay in the final two minutes, and just makeing the rule "If you still have timeouts, you can challenge, and if you lose, you lose a timeout, and that's the only way a challenge can happen", so what do I know...

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I would like to nominate Phil Dawson's 48 yard field goal as one of the 10 best kicks of all-time. With those conditions, he aimed it outside the left upright and played the sliced so perfectly that it hit the side of the center stanchion (again, see Baltimore game). For a kicker it was a work of art.

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I don't see how calling a timeout and then challenging the play is any different from calling two timeouts in succession and netting yourself an unsportsmanlike.

Gibbs would have been better off then calling timeout and then trying to ice Lindell with the red flag.

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

But then why wouldn’t you have a similar problem when teams start running the ball to kill the clock? It’s functionally identical, and (arguably) also less fun to watch.

It's not the same, because what Westbrook did was to take points that he'd earned, and not accept them. Killing the clock is a tactical decision to protect the ball and avoid mistakes. Maybe it's my background as a baseball nerd that makes me unhappy when a player distorts what the stats should be. That should have been a 17-6 Eagle win and it wasn't.

Now, one thing that would amuse even me is if this becomes a common tactic, and then moving to the next level. An offensive player goes to kneel down at the 1, and a defender shoves him into the end zone.

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

That doesn't make any sense. If Westbrook would have went into the endzone, yes the score becomes 17-6. But then if Dallas goes and scores, it becomes 17-13 (or 12 or 14 since they likely go for 2). Is that score suddenly the "right score"?

Then if they onside kick, recover and score again, it becomes 20-17 Dallas. Do you then say that's still wrong because it "should have been 17-6 Eagle win and it wasn't"? It was the same game, after all.

Differences between baseball and football has nothing to do with this.

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

135: Now, one thing that would amuse even me is if this becomes a common tactic, and then moving to the next level. An offensive player goes to kneel down at the 1, and a defender shoves him into the end zone.

This is going to take some precise timing. If a player's knee was already on the ground, they would be down right there. You'd have to make the push before the knee hit the ground.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Another thought on why the sky is falling in New England but the Colts' struggles aren't really being discussed: Fantasy Football.

I think Manning put up a passable (not great) fantasy day--276 yards and a TD to go with an INT. Brady put up a horrible fantasy day--fewer yards, no TD's, and an INT. The fact that he protected the football (barring that one INT) and played conservatively, and got the win, don't show up in fantasy stats. I wonder if fantasy football is once again distorting the common fan's perception of the game?

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

134: I don’t see how calling a timeout and then challenging the play is any different from calling two timeouts in succession and netting yourself an unsportsmanlike.

Gibbs would have been better off then calling timeout and then trying to ice Lindell with the red flag.

It's only a penalty if you call two timeouts during a FG or XP try. For most teams, in most situations, losing two timeouts is punishment enough.

Additionally, the Bills FG try was inside the two minute warning, so the Redskins couldn't challenge anything. It's entirely possible (albeit unlikely) that they'd have been hit with an UC call for trying.

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Re #125
Seems odd to me. If you weren't in the coverage area, per the map linked upthread, they should have switched to the studio show at 4:15. If you were in the coverage area, or were watching on the Sunday Ticket BAL-MIA channel (the situation I was in), you didn't miss a thing. So, uh, sucks to be you?

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Re 125, 140,

Like I said, the same thing happened to me. Stover misses, they cut to a NFL network commercial (actually, two NFL network commercials), and then cut back to Miami celebrating in the end zone.

But I was watching a different game on Sunday Ticket, and it switched over to the Bal-Mia game after that game I was watching (Pats-Jets) and the first game it switched to (Pittsburgh) both ended. Maybe if you were actually watching it in the real coverage area, and not on Sunday ticket, you got to see the play.

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I don’t know the respective DVOAs in each of these matchups. My guess is that the Packers had the edge in half of them.

Eh, I don't know. I think in '00 10-6 TB was probably better than 9-7 GB, but then GB only won by 3 at home. I think in the rest of them GB was almost definitely the better team. Just a quick and dirty check shows that they had a better pythag than the opponents in every one of those games.

Obviously, I'm not saying weather is a non-factor; it's just one of many. Do cold weather home teams really have as much of an advantage in the postseason as people seem to think, or is it just a function of normal postseason home field advantage? (And not only is the team at home, but it's at home because it's already demonstrated it was a better team.) Maybe this question has already been looked at before - I don't know.

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Aaron Schatz: Is the wind not as bad there [Pittsburgh] as it is in Cleveland and Foxboro?

Ryan Wilson: Nah, the wind’s not an issue. It’s just snowing a bit. In fact, the field is holding up pretty well, all things considered.

The wind was blowing hard; there were a few deep passes where Garrard had an open receiver but the ball was off target. The Steelers would have been well served to run more early.

More importantly, the Jaguars' running game was a sight to behold. I've never noticed Casey Hampton pushed back as often as yesterday, and everyone who's pointed out how big a loss Aaron Smith is right. A tip of the cap to Jacksonville for their performance yesterday.

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

#124: Yes, you are correct, losing a challenge is slightly worse than calling a timeout and deciding not to challenge, because you lose a challenge as well as a timeout. I hadn't considered that; now the proof isn't quite as marvelous. And it really won't fit in the margin.

Assume that the probability of the call being overturned is about 1/3 (from what I can find, the success rate for replay challenges has ranged from 28% to 40%). If you believe that calling the timeout first will give you perfect information about whether the call will get overturned (which is an optimistic assumption, as Tarrant points out), calling the timeout first is justified if you think that a challenge is worth more than half as much as a timeout. (I could show the math, but you know, the margin size and all.)

The imperfection of the information pushes this ratio upward (i.e., you have to think a challenge is closer to a timeout in value), as it adds the possibility you lose a second timeout (as well as a challenge), and costs you a timeout even if successful.

So, I retract my statement about "no possible chain of events". I guess one could posit a chain of events where a challenge is worth enough that the possibility of saving one is worth the certainty of losing a timeout. I can't see what that chain of events is, though.

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

But I was watching a different game on Sunday Ticket, and it switched over to the Bal-Mia game after that game I was watching (Pats-Jets) and the first game it switched to (Pittsburgh) both ended. Maybe if you were actually watching it in the real coverage area, and not on Sunday ticket, you got to see the play.

I was watching it on the dedicated BAL-MIA Sunday Ticket channel (channel 706), and I was able to see the whole thing. I think the other Sunday Ticket channels switched over to BAL-MIA once their games ended, but had to switch off at 4:15.

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I always thought Fargas would find his place on the Raiders, but he kept getting buried on the depth chart.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I'm happy that the Dolphins finally won a game. I was having a hard time trying to figure out how much the franchise was worth per win -- I just couldn't come up with a number until yesterday.

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Jerry (#143),

Thanks for the clarification. Maybe the wayward Ben Roethlisberger passes should've clued me in. (I just assumed the inaccuracies had to do with him running for his life most of the afternoon and receivers just dropping passes.)

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

I guess one could posit a chain of events where a challenge is worth enough that the possibility of saving one is worth the certainty of losing a timeout. I can’t see what that chain of events is, though.

How about this -- it's the first half and you've already used one challenge, and won it. So you have three timeouts left and one challenge. At this point if you challenge again and lose you are out of challenges for the entire second half -- so if you challenge it better be damn likely to get overturned. At this point with 3 TOs, I would say losing one of them could well be worth it, depending on who has the ball and how much time is left.

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Re: 135

I have some sympathy toward your POV in this thread, but in his case the offensive player is at least making an effort (to gain a first down) at the start of the play. I have more of a problem with situations where the defense just gives up and doesn't try to prevent a touchdown. I understand the strategy involved but it just seems somehow wrong for the players to take a 'dive' and let the opposition score.