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

Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

compiled by Doug Farrar

Each weekend, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2008. NFC Audibles will run on Monday morning.

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 at New England Patriots 31

Aaron Schatz: Anybody notice that the Jaguars have come out playing a defense similar to Tanier's blueprint? Zone stuff, three down linemen -- although it is a 3-3-5, not 3-2-6.

That fourth-and-1 bootleg call by Dick Koetter took colossal balls. What a great play call.

Sean McCormick: I think attacking the edges is generally a good idea on fourth-and-short because of the possibility of big gains. As it happens, the Jags attacked both edges with the play action left and the bootleg right.

Sean McCormick: Mike Holmgren might want to take some notes from this game on when to go for it on fourth down.

Bill Barnwell: What a block by Dan Koppen on that first-drive 33-yard screen to Maroney. That's the difference between them (likely) scoring on this drive or having to punt. Most underrated center in football.

Stuart Fraser: I do not, at this point, think that any part of the New England offense qualifies for a "most underrated" label.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, come on, Stuart. It's clear that Kyle Eckel is the most underrated ex-Navy fullback in football.

This game summarized at halftime by guest commentator Tarzan, Lord of the Apes: "Offense good. Defense bad."

Vince Verhei: To add to that: "Long drives good, short drives bad." Each team only had three possessions in the first half, minus the last four plays at the end to run some clock. I hope nobody tries to tell us that the ball control offense helped Jacksonville "stop" New England. They haven't stopped anything, unless your defensive strategy is "wait till they commit a chop block, then watch them miss a field goal."

Doug Farrar: Phil Simms has just informed us that "The Patriots are versatile." Gosh. I loved the Tom Brady block on Reggie Hayward on the Wes Welker reverse with 2:38 left in the first half, although I would imagine Bill Belichick may have felt a little differently.

Ned Macey: Rashean Mathis appears to be doing well in coverage, since all they've completed is one underneath to Jabar Gaffney on his side. However, he appears to be so bad a tackler that he'd make Deion Sanders look like Ronde Barber. I always have trouble picking out the various 20-something, dreadlocked defensive backs for Jacksonville. Now I think I have it. If dreadlocked 20-something makes a good tackle, it must be Reggie Nelson; if he rips off the guys head, then it is Terry Cousin, and if he misses badly on the tackle, it is Mathis.

(After Tom Brady throws his third touchdown pass of the day, a six-yard pass to Welker with some razzle-dazzle beforehand...)

Aaron Schatz: Wow. What a play by Boise State on the fake direct snap to Kevin Faulk. Love that Jared Zabransky.

What's astonishing about Randy Moss having just one catch so far is that the Jaguars are covering him and shutting him down with Brian Williams, not Rashean Mathis. To the point where they are actually moving their cornerbacks from side to side specifically to keep Williams on Moss! I went and checked, and this isn't a size issue. In fact, Mathis (6-1) is actually taller than Williams (5-11), so they are covering Moss with the shorter of their two starting cornerbacks.

Bill Barnwell: Wow, was that an obvious hold by Welker on a Laurence Maroney off-tackle play that picked up big yardage.

Aaron Schatz: Well, Welker has been on the phone with Khalif Barnes, looking for tips.

I want to know, when did we enter this alternate world where Brian Williams is shutting down Randy Moss but Randy Moss is an excellent blocker on running plays, and Heath Evans splits wide with Rashean Mathis covering him? I understand it was a zone, but when you have an entire half of the field with Heath Evans as the only offensive player and Rashean Mathis covering him, perhaps you want to switch the zone around a bit.

(After Dennis Northcutt drops a pass that would have set Jacksonville up with a first-and-goal...)

Doug Farrar: That was a rough way for Jacksonville to blink first and have to kick a field goal. Garrard threw that ball to Dennis Northcutt as well as it can be thrown, especially under pressure, and I suddenly remembered seeing Northcutt drop a lot of balls back in his Cleveland days. That's gonna sting for a while.

Aaron Schatz: And look, Barnes evens things out with a big hold on the David Garrard scramble early in the Jags' first drive of the fourth quarter. And at home, Steelers fans scream, "See?!?!?!"

Vince Verhei: This is the most boring one-score playoff game involving an undefeated team I've ever seen. This seven-yards-at-a-time thing both offenses and both defenses have apparently agreed to is killing me. New England finally started blitzing at the end of the last Jacksonville possession, and it would have killed them if Northcutt had caught the ball.

And as I type these words, Jacksonville finally blitzes and Brady finds Stallworth for a big gain. Finally! And then, on the very next play, Jaguars rush four, and Brady finds Stallworth again ... for seven yards.

Doug Farrar: And Northcutt atones for previous sins with a stellar catch on fourth-and five with four minutes left in the game. He did the nice spin move to insure the conversion, and picked up a late hit call at the end. Too bad the bus had already left town.

Garrard's one hell of a quarterback who just ran out of oxygen at the end. Too much pressure to make too many plays. The Rodney Harrison pick was almost predictable -- you have X number of options, and Harrison has seen them all. Ballgame. I didn't think that Jacksonville could beat New England by running the ball, but they could not allow themselves to get outgained in non-garbage time, and that's what happened.

Aaron Schatz: When Harrison intercepted that final pass, I started screaming at the television... "Don't hit anyone Rodney ... Don't hit anyone ... Don't celebrate, don't do something stupid, come on Rodney..." I mean, he's our guy, and we root for him, but dude, you are 35 years old, grow the f*** up. Enough with the pointless late hits and then the whining to the refs. Stop being such a jerk.

Got to give it to Garrard, man, he was amazing in this game, and Northcutt dropping that pass really hurt.

The Big Bad Wolf has blown down Eli's house of straw and David's house of wood. Next comes the real test: Peyton Manning's house of bricks.

(Prior comment written prior to the establishment of the Volek-Sproles Brickhouse Demolitions Company on Sunday morning.)

Bill Barnwell: For my own safety, I wish to point out that Aaron's views are not representative of those of Bill Barnwell, who has the utmost respect for Rodney Harrison and any Rodney Harrison-related properties.

Ned Macey: I know the conventional wisdom will be that the Jaguars were too conservative on defense, but the people saying that are the same people who will talk about how the Jaguars were going to shorten the game with the running game. The Patriots were on pace to have seven meaningful possessions. Sure, they scored four touchdowns and had two makeable field goals before the seventh one became meaningless, but the smaller number of possessions kept the game close.

Doug Farrar: Quarterback rating is by no means a perfect measuring stick, but here is a quick 'n' dirty list for his 2007 regular season:

  • Brady, blitzed overall -- 118.7 (YPA: 8.53)
  • With fewer than four defenders on the line -- 102.0 (YPA: 9.03)
  • With four defenders on the line -- 114.4 (YPA: 8.97)
  • With five defenders on the line -- 103.1 (YPA: 7.54)
  • With six defenders on the line -- 133.5 (YPA: 7.16)
  • With seven defenders on the line -- 107.4 (YPA: 4.00)

I think the number with five defenders passes the sample size test with 152 of his 578 attempts. His completion percentage also dropped precipitously against five defenders, down to 61.2. Not too surprising, really, You don't want to sell out to any great quarterback, and allowing the underneath stuff was a good counter to the big play. It isn't always that way, but it was against this offense. The motto seems to be: Blitz if you must, but for God's sake, you'd better get there. The way he was throwing the ball today, I don't know if it mattered.

Ned Macey: The Patriots were just amazing today. One catch for Moss, and six yards per catch for Welker, and they were still unstoppable. They made hardly any mistakes on offense -- just the chop block and the drop by Welker which both led to their two non-touchdowns. The offensive line gave Brady all day, the receivers made plays, and Brady never threw an inaccurate ball. When trying, they were 7-for-10 on third and fourth down. More importantly, they only had more than 10 yards to go on any down three times the whole game (four if you count both plays after the chop block, but I guess I mean three times they had negative plays all game).

Finally, the officiating was pretty spotty on all sides, most likely evening out. Did anyone else notice Benjamin Watson push over somebody on his second touchdown? The guy definitely fell down, but I never got an angle that showed whether or not Watson pushed off or if there was minor contact that knocked him down.

Mike Tanier: Brian Williams was doing some rope-a-dope type stuff on Moss. On the few plays I could follow Moss' route, Williams would anticipate his route, get in his way, and slow him down. On one of the touchdowns (the one with the fake snap) this was obvious. Williams knew a double-move was coming and just ran a moving pick, not jamming Moss, just getting in his way. If Brady throws the pass, that's a penalty. Even if he doesn't it could be called, but Williams was just doing a good job of eating up space and making it look like contact was unintentional. A dangerous strategy that clearly had some success.

This is the kind of game that makes New England look pretty unstoppable. Jacksonville is a terrific team, they had a good game plan (which looked suspiciously like The Blueprint), they played very well ... and they lost by double-digits; if anything, they were lucky to have kept the score as close as they did. That New England spread offense is simply awesome to behold -- they can hold their blocks as long as they need to, Brady is masterful at finding the open man, and the receivers and backs did a great job of milking extra yardage out of short throws. What New England does is put an incredible amount of pressure on the opposing offense to execute. In the first half, Jacksonville was able to do so, but in the second half, they just couldn't keep up the pace.

All that said, I expect that Indy (assuming it's Indy) will have a somewhat similar strategy -- rushing four instead of three, but otherwise taking away the deep ball and forcing the Pats to shorten the game with long drives. They're the only team in the league that can reasonably expect their offense to go blow for blow, and such a strategy would likely lead to a 35-31 or 27-24 type game, with the Colts having a good chance to win.

At least I hope so. At this point, Peyton is Obi-Wan Kenobi. Our only hope.

(Chargers to Rebel Alliance: Drop Dead.)

Vince Verhei: After sleeping on it for a night, I've come to the conclusion that playing defense the way Jacksonville did last night was the best possible game plan. I noted that the plan seemed to be to wait for New England to make penalties and miss field goals -- well, that WAS the plan. Jack Del Rio knew that his defense wasn't good enough to go head-to-head with the Pats offense, so by taking the big play away, he was ensuring that any mistake the Pats made would be magnified, and at the same time shortening the game. Really, it's a grind-it-out attack taken to the ultimate degree, where your goal is to let BOTH offenses chew up the clock.

And with that in mind, I have NO idea why New England didn't bring more pressure. If you give up a long touchdown, so what? That just gets your offense back on the field again. And eventually one of those blitzing defenders is going to get to the quarterback or tip a pass or something.

Sean McCormick: Right. It's not really that far off from the Giants' game plan to beat Buffalo, only teams are using more controlled passing than running when they have the ball. Which, come to think of it, may be a flaw, as you're picking up more yardage and running less clock. It's tough to put together a 10-minute drive primarily through the air. Basically, sometimes it's better to get four yards a play than seven yards a play.

Aaron Schatz: Bill and I both mentioned some unflagged holding -- I couldn't remember any holding calls at all until the late interception return, so I went and checked, and yes, they definitely had a "let them play" attitude. The only holding calls all game came on special teams or the interception return. None on actual offensive plays.

If I am Jacksonville's general manager, I am on the phone first thing Monday, offering my first-round pick to Cincinnati for Chad Johnson, to Arizona for Larry Fitzgerald, and to Detroit for Roy Williams. If those don't work, I'm offering a third to Denver for Javon Walker. The Jaguars can't predict what the Colts and Patriots will do in the off-season, but if those two teams decline for any reason, the Jaguars are one game-breaking receiver and a little defensive depth away from being the top Super Bowl contender in the NFL.

San Diego Chargers 28 at Indianapolis Colts 24

Bill Barnwell: The Chargers are doing a good job of covering the Colts wideouts on the first drive. Manning's getting forever to look, but the corners are holding the wideouts for four, five seconds, and that's pretty rare. Well, until Clinton Hart had his ankles broken by Dallas Clark, of all people. If this were And 1 football, the game would be over and the fans would be jumping on the field waving towels.

Ryan Wilson: And Dallas Clark would go by the handle "The Professor," and he would've thrown the ball into the crowd right before he crossed the goal line.

Doug Farrar: Note to Shawne Merriman: The only thing stupider than a sack dance is a sack dance after a busted play when your blocker was heading upfield.

Sean McCormick: Anthony Gonzalez is suspiciously absent from the Colts attack. My fantasy team is in jeopardy, guys! Get him in there!

Aaron Schatz: It isn't suspicious at all. With Marvin Harrison back, we return to the base Indianapolis Colts offense. On first and second down: Clark in slot, Utecht at tight end. On third down: Gonzalez in slot, Clark at tight end.

Stuart Fraser: So, after "pocket presence with Peyton Manning," a.k.a. the Colts' first drive, the Chargers fly downfield only to be stopped by an interception. Sure, these offenses are good, but the defenses aren't that bad, and it's the third game in a row where the defenses seem rather surplus to requirements. Is this just "let's not call holding in the playoffs," or are other forces at work?

Aaron Schatz: I'll agree with Stuart. We're definitely seeing the offenses dominate the defenses in pretty much every game -- I mean, the Seattle passing game was reasonably good yesterday, even if the running game couldn't get anything going -- and I wonder if the officiating has anything to do with it. Honestly, I don't have a big problem with that as long as the officials a) are consistently calling things for both teams and b) are consistent throughout all four quarters.

Doug Farrar: The Packers and Patriots offenses bring the long pass threat, but throw short passes for conversions. That's just about impossible to defend. Only two New England pass plays went for more than 14 yards, and one (the Maroney screen) had more yards after catch then the amount of actual yardage -- the other, of course, was the Stallworth catch. Of Green Bay's seven straight third-down conversions to start the game, the first six were passes, and I don't think any of those passes went more than eight yards in the air. The obvious difference between that and the standard dink-and-dunk is that there's a Randy Moss or Greg Jennings to keep that deep threat alive and offset intermediate coverage. The threat of Moss defined Jacksonville's defensive plan.

The Colts were very much about that in last year's playoff run. They dictated time of possession with short throws a lot of the time.

Sean McCormick: And we shouldn't be surprised about it, either, considering the paucity of elite defenses this year and the presence of multiple big-time offenses in the playoffs. Something tells me that the predictive DVOA splits are going to look a little different after these playoffs are done.

Again, I think you have to look at games against the Pats or Colts as being more like basketball than football, where it is all about the rhythm of scoring. You aren't going to stop them from scoring, and you aren't even likely from stopping them from scoring on most of their possessions. The best you can do is to manage the clock with your offense and with your defense (by giving up the short stuff) and try to line up your scores in a way that undercuts the other team's rhythm -- doubling up with a score near the end of the first half that doesn't give the other team a chance to drive back down the field, followed by taking the second-half kickoff for a score, that sort of thing.

I thought Philip Rivers made the proper read on that first-quarter Kelvin Hayden interception, but corners are going to break on the quick out when there is a blitz, and Hayden cut under Craig Davis very nicely. A solid defensive play rather than a quarterback mistake.

On a related note, the Colts personnel packages suggest that they want San Diego's base defense on the field. Lots of two-tight end stuff with the tight ends flanked wide or lined up in the backfield. Are they concerned about the pass rush, or do they like the TE/LB matchups?

Stuart Fraser: If I were Indy I would like the TE/LB matchups -- I mean, nobody covers Clark with a linebacker, but even Utecht on San Diego's linebackers, who are much better at defending the run, sounds good to me.

Will Carroll: That early fumble is an object lesson in why Marvin Harrison ducks contact -- he can't take it. He's a small, slight guy. Forget the time off or any other idiotic thing Dan Dierdorf says here. The fact is that Harrison isn't big enough to take the hit, but is smart enough to avoid it most of the time.

Doug Farrar: Does he give lessons? Deion Branch would like to sign up.

Aaron Schatz: Harrison avoids contact because it might pop that GIGANTIC VEIN on the left side of his forehead, and the blood would just be way too gross.

Ned Macey: While I agree with Will in principle, I believe I could have taken that hit and held onto the ball.

Will Carroll: He could have, but he didn't. I'm not sure what the threshold is for Harrison, but it's low.

Is Dierdorf always this moronic? Gates is in NO pain -- the foot is deadened, as can clearly be seen by his sinking gait. I'm also noticing that the Colts did their typical field prep (read: none.) The rubber substrate is loose and the field is very, very hard in that condition. Why they would do this knowing that the hard surface is what hurt Harrison in the first place is beyond me, though this is the last event in the facility ever. They're going to take the seats out starting early this week, I'm hearing.

Russell Levine: Since you almost always see rubber pellets kicking up on FieldTurf surfaces, what's the difference between substrate that has been well prepped and that is too loose/unsafe?

Will Carroll: The more you see it come up, the looser it is and the less it cushions.

Tomlinson hyperextended his knee on the hit where he fumbled. The pain, not the hit, made him lose the ball.

Ned Macey: The Chargers and Colts rank 11th and 16th, respectively, in yards allowed per drive but first and second in turnovers per drive, so this game looks like it is going to form. San Diego recovers both fumbles, which cancels out the Rivers pick. (I agree that it was just an outstanding play by Hayden.)

Michael David Smith: That taunting penalty may be the first stupid play of Bob Sanders' career. He's always struck me as one of the smartest defensive players in the league.

Aaron Schatz: I'm with Greg Gumbel, who pointed out that Nate Kaeding and Sanders were college teammates. I think that Sanders thought he was just having a friendly tease at an old buddy or something, not a really negative taunt. I hate taunting penalties so much. Hate them.

Bill Barnwell: Yeah, but old people love them.

Ned Macey: I just want to reiterate a point I made earlier (SD and IND both give up yards but force turnovers), and that this game is 10-7 at the half with three turnovers plus another fumble.

Also, do we know if Adam Vinatieri had an injury this year He's put both kickoffs in the end zone and boomed his first 40-plus-yarder of the year.

Finally, I'm not sure I saw holding on the Antonio Cromartie return based on what they showed, but I'm not going to lose sleep over a team not getting a 90-yard touchdown return off of a tipped interception.

Will Carroll: Vinatieri had the ankle injury early in the season.

Bill Barnwell: Every first down Michael Turner picks up in the second half here earns him a million bucks.

Vince Verhei: I'm a little late in the game here, but it looked like the Colts came out blitzing a lot more than usual, and the result was one touchdown, then surrendering a lot of yards before being bailed out by a great interception. And after that, it was four-man rush after four-man rush.

Bill Barnwell: By the end of the third quarter, it's obvious that the Colts are having the Madden "No F****** Way" game.

Sean McCormick: They can look at the positive: If they pull out the win, it will make for a cushier line on next week's game.

(After San Diego running back Darren "Pocket Hercules II" Sproles ends the third quarter with a 56-yard touchdown romp off a short pass, putting the Chargers back on top…)

Vince Verhei: Some classic Norv Turner disorganization at the end of the third quarter. On defense, they get caught unprepared for Indy's hurry-up and get called for offsides, right before Wayne's awesome touchdown. Then after the ensuing kickoff, Chargers get caught with 12 men in the huddle. Way to have your team in the game, Norv... And then Philip Rivers and Sproles bail him out with a monster screen pass. Sometimes it's better to have great players than great coaching.

Bill Barnwell: Man, Darren Sproles would be the greatest sprint football player of all time.

Aaron Schatz: OK, we have our first massively controversial call of the weekend. Can somebody explain to me what on earth Clinton Hart did to earn pass interference on Reggie Wayne to start the fourth quarter? From what I can tell, his left hand sort of brushed Wayne after the ball was already past them.

Doug Farrar: Wow -- that call was a pretty good example of the "Jordan Rules". Where was the contact? Ryan Diem gets a 15-yarder on the next play for an inadvertent blow to the head, so maybe the officials were playing the even-it-up game there.

Russell Levine: Uh-oh, it's a Billy Volek sighting! For some reason, I'm finding this game infinitely more enjoyable than last night's fairly similar battle. Maybe it's the lack of "death by a million paper cuts" approach by both offenses.

Bill Barnwell: Any game where the same thing happens over and over again on a play-by-play basis is boring. If that's running the ball into the pile or gaining seven yards at a time, they're both boring. This game has been different -- the Colts drive and then have absurd interceptions happen, while the Chargers have big plays pop up out of nowhere. That's new things popping up all the time, which is more interesting.

(Anthony Gonzalez runs in a 55-yard touchdown pass, just staying in bounds, to put the Colts back up with 10 minutes left...)

Doug Farrar: Sean? You were saying?

Aaron Schatz: I am trying to imagine Matt Cassel marching the Patriots down the field to come back in the fourth quarter against the Colts, with Randy Moss also on the sidelines. Nope. Can't imagine it. Billy Volek marching the Chargers down the field without LaDainian Tomlinson isn't quite as ridiculous, but it is darn close.

Will Carroll: If the Colts lose, how quickly does the "everyone picked the Colts" get conflated with the New Hampshire polls?

Russell Levine: This game is entering the realm of the ridiculous. Volek to Legedu Naanee? No Rivers, no L.T.? How is San Diego in this game? And how bad might they get killed next week with everyone hurt?

Aaron Schatz: I'm enjoying this soft San Diego prevent zone with a FOUR-POINT LEAD. Yes, that will stop Peyton Manning. I mean, with only five minutes left, there's no way he can make it all the way down the field 15 yards at a time... OK, they changed to a normal defense as the Colts got closer to the goal line, and that managed to stop Peyton Manning.

Michael David Smith: More than they have in any other game since he got hurt, the Colts looked like they miss Dwight Freeney today.

Ned Macey: This is the first team they've played that is capable of throwing the ball down the field. The two are related. Garrard had some success, and that's the only other good offense they've played, but Garrard excels at the underneath stuff, so it wasn't quite so noticeable.

Doug Farrar: And as Merriman blows up Tony Ugoh on the Colts' fourth-and-goal which may be their last chance, we're reminded of the importance of a really good, veteran left tackle. I think Ugoh will be a good one over time, but that's a tough go for a whole game.

(As San Diego's offense tries to protect that slim four-point lead...)

Russell Levine: San Diego HAS to put the ball up on third down. The timeouts don't matter. You get a first down, you win.

And Mike Scifres' 66-yard punt is the play of the game!

Aaron Schatz: Yet another Colts playoff loss where Peyton Manning played well and was doomed by weird tipped passes and drops by his receivers. Despite last year's success, it is still a running theme.

Will Carroll: Both weird tips I saw were on passes Manning left high. I'd love to see some sort of "QB INT Blame" scale where a catchable pass that gets tipped or someone runs the wrong route only costs a fraction. With those, I'd give Manning 1/2, maybe 3/4 on the first one.

Ned Macey: I'd give him a 1/1000 for the second one. I'd give whoever called a screen play to Kenton "Stone Hands" Keith (who I really like as a runner) a 1/2 blame.

Stuart Fraser: A one-word summary of this game for me is "Ugh." I like to see good defensive football and haven't had any (well, there were a few patches -- great athletic play in the end zone to defense a pass aimed at Joseph Addai, by a Charger whose name I've forgotten) this weekend, but even the offenses were erratic and blotchy, and I think the only guy who legitimately had a good game was Vincent Jackson.

Aaron Schatz: I am totally in shock here. I feel like the Chargers just did to the Colts what the Patriots did to them last year. DVOA certainly won't come out quite as imbalanced, but it was like everything went wrong for the Colts for so long in this game, and then things went right, with the Chargers injuries, and even that went wrong because the Colts had their own injuries. The tipped middle screen caught by Eric Weddle at the goal line was about as improbable as last year's Troy Brown stripped interception.

I'm sorry for Ned. I know how hard it is to see your team lose a game like this after playing so well all year. The good news is that the banner from 2006 never comes down. As for Patriots fans, I think I speak for the entire population of six states when I say we are completely licking our chops at the idea of playing a Chargers team with one, two, or three of its best offensive players out.

And I'm sure that our more negative readers will start asking when we begin to give Norv Turner some credit. I dunno, I don't feel like the Chargers won this thing with coaching, but maybe I'm wrong and I'm willing to be convinced otherwise.

Mike Tanier: Before anyone asks if my opinion of Norv has changed, I will point out again that Barry Switzer won a Super Bowl and that Rich Kotite won playoff games.

Michael David Smith: Has any team ever handled an injury worse than the Colts with Marvin Harrison this year?

Will Carroll: No. Absolutely not. I'd love to know why Ed Werder, who had this right it looks like, didn't stay stronger with his reporting. Bill Polian stayed hard on the media and I'll admit that I couldn't get to the truth of the story, being suckered in my "high level team sources" on several occasions. On two of those, I was flat-out lied to. The question now is if we'll ever know the truth.

Aaron Schatz: Should he have just gone right onto IR at midseason? Was it a mistake to try to bring him back today? I'm curious for a little bit of further explanation on what went wrong.

Michael David Smith: I think he should have gone on IR from Day 1. He obviously shouldn't have played today, if he was incapable of going in even after Wayne got hurt before the last play, and if he was so rusty he couldn't even hold onto the ball when he got a relatively minor hit to the thigh.

Bill Barnwell: Remember, though, this is a team that won the Super Bowl last year thanks in part to their decision to hold off on putting Dallas Clark on IR. You can't say it's really that surprising with that factored in. On a borderline decision, Harrison was going to stay on the roster.

Will Carroll: Not comparable. With Clark, they thought they saw something and had adequate enough backups that they didn't immediately need a replacement. A second look WITHIN DAYS showed that the first diagnosis was off (and taught them never to do quick MRIs). We have to at least assume that the Colts know what's wrong with Harrison (though I'll admit there's more than a small chance they don't) and have misplayed this terribly. It's probably more of a PR problem than an actual, on-field problem.

Ned Macey: I know I should defer to Will on injuries, and MDS is generally right about things, but this strikes me as extreme MMQB. Unless they knew that Harrison had less than a 5 percent chance of returning effectively, there is no way they should have put him on IR. What does that roster spot do? Another scrub wide receiver to play next to Craphonso Thorpe and Devin Aromashodu? The Colts went 9-2 without Harrison (not counting the Titans game) while developing an offense that featured Reggie Wayne from multiple positions. They weren't just waiting for the playoffs. If Harrison was healthy, he could help. If not, they moved on without him.

I agree that playing Harrison today may have been a mistake, but I don't know how he's looked in practice, and I don't know what his knee feels like. I certainly didn't know in Week 4, more than three months ago, how he was going to be for this game.

Will Carroll: Yeah, I'm not arguing that it was the right thing to do. I'm just saying it was the wrong way to go about it.

Mike Tanier: I agree that the way they handled the Harrison injury was strange all season. The bottom line was that he was in no real condition to play at a high level today, but they threw him out there. On some of those drives, I think they would have been better off with Bryan Fletcher or Devin Aromashodu out there than Harrison.

Bill Barnwell: I think we're also assuming organizational communication that is both completely effective and truthful. I mean, you mentioned that you were lied to, Will -- isn't it also possible that the people talking to you could have been lied to in the hopes that Harrison would get healthy? Or, alternately, that the true results of the MRI just weren't disseminated throughout?

Sean McCormick: The parallels between the 1995 playoffs and 2007 playoffs are striking. Back then, the two teams that dominated the league were San Francisco and Dallas, with Green Bay playing the part of the up-and-comer. The 49ers were defending champs and were on a collision course with yet another meet-up with the Cowboys, only the Packers went into Candlestick and pulled the upset. They then went on to lose to Dallas in the championship game, but that was the last hurrah for the Cowboys, and Green Bay dominated the conference for the next two years. Now we have the Colts and Pats, both at the top of their games, both with some age in key places, and we have a young team like San Diego make their breakthrough.

It's probably going to make for a miserable AFC Championship game followed by a miserable Super Bowl, but it could be the beginning of a Chargers run.

Ned Macey: I'm the staff Colts fan, but also a fan of good football, which for the past five years have been the same thing. I fully support Simmons' grace period after a championship, so I can't be too upset. Also, as the AFC West guy for this year, I've been watching the Chargers get better and better so am not totally shocked by the result as I was after the Pittsburgh game a couple of seasons ago. And, the Colts didn't really play that badly today--their pass defense just got overmatched, and they made a few bad turnovers. In 2005, they got radically outcoached, and in 2003 and 2004, they got outplayed. Today, they played even but came up a play or two short.

The thing about the Colts is that they have had an amazing run, but that run coincides with a similar run by New England. The Patriots stopped them twice, but even more importantly, the Patriots' run makes anything but absurd playoff success look unsatisfactory. The team is 63-17 over the past five seasons and 7-4 in the playoffs. It is hard to get too upset about that.

What is frustrating about today was that this year's team certainly had the potential to be the very best Indy team ever. After 2004, the Colts could not stop the run and were considered all offense and no defense. Over the past three seasons, they've had two really good defenses, and their overall defense during that three-year period is better than New England's. Meanwhile, the offense marches on despite roster turnover, injuries, and age. The good news is that I don't think this year spends the end of the era, even in the unfortunate case where Dungy retires.

Comments

332 comments, Last at 17 Jan 2008, 2:01am

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Good grief, I think my heart just about stopped during that game...congrats Chargers!!! ;)

I know I'll be one of the few who actually think these January Bolts can beat the Pats, but if games went down exactly like they matchup on paper, we'd be bored during the games =)

Also....not one comment in audibles about Rivers' play today? He shredded the Colts' D, finishing with impressive numbers without even playing the latter part of the fourth...

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

People are way off in criticizing Rivers. A lot of people thought he was the worst QB in the playoffs this season which is absolutely ridiculous (he's certainly better then Eli and Romo). And it's easy to look good when you are surrounded by a ton of talent -- see Tom Brady this season.

Also, I think you should try to put more analysis in the game, not just bitching about how the Colts lost the game. Let's face it, the Chargers are just a better team then the Colts -- talent usually wins.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

It was really a shame that the Patriots had to punt in the last minute of that game. When was the last time an offense made it through an entire game without either a punt or a turnover? Anyone know?

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Maybe it wasn't Marty's fault, maybe it was Wade Phillips' (0-4 in the playoffs as head coach).

Also, do you think it's just a coincidence that Owens' teams are 0-3 in the last three playoff games that he's played and 2-0 without him?

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Thanks for getting this up so quickly. Small point - wasn't the middle screen caught by Eric Weddle, not Shawne Merriman? Or was Aaron referring to a different play?

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Seems to me that the Sproles screen pass the perfect play call. I'm sure any other coach would get credit for calling it. Not Norv Turner, FO's worst coach of all time though. I think you guys have a reverse jinx effect.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

True, the Cowboys won with Switzer, but they had already won. If Norv had been taking over the Patriots that comparison might apply, but the Chargers hadn't even won a playoff game since the early 90's. Norv is the one calling the plays, so he has a direct impact in the game, instead of just looming over things like Switzer. You can think what you want about Norv, but if you're not going to give him any credit winning with a backup running back in the second half, a backup QB in the 4th, and being on the road against the super bowl champs in a playoff game you just want to be right more than you want to actually analyze.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

As to those last points - if Drew Bledsoe stays healthy and Bob Kraft gives up on Belichick a few years in (big IFs, but you know what I'm trying to do) how many Super Bowls do the Colts win in the Manning Era? Three? Four?

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

5. I don't know if anyone's done it more recently, but if I remember correctly, neither the Colts nor Chiefs punted in their 2004 playoff game. (Didn't the Colts not punt at all in those playoffs until they played the Pats?)

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Tony Fungy gets out coached and out classed by Norv Turner even with that BS penalty at the end of the first half on #32.

Manning might get blamed for 2 picks but they were tipped balls. He might get blamed for choaking at the end but his last 2 passes were dropped balls and Addai dropped a pass at the goalline in the 2nd to last possession.

Time for Tony Dungy to call it quits.

Oh, and HOW ABOUT THOSE GIANTS????

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Is it going to be a rematch of the 96 super bowl with the Packers/Patriots or are the Giants going to shock the world ( and the footballoutsiders) once again? 9-1 on the road this year is little manning.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

"Vince Verhei: After sleeping on it for a night, I’ve come to the conclusion that playing defense the way Jacksonville did last night was the best possible game plan."

I just want to comment on this: Jacksonville's defensive gameplan managed to force Brady into two incomplete passes all game, 0 Pats punts, and 0 Pats turnovers. Of the two incomplete passes, they were both drops - one that hit Welker right in the hands with nobody around him, and another that was a tough but catchable ball to Watson.

If the Goal of a D is to stop an offense, and Jacksonville didn't manage to stop NE once and kinda got lucky that they even had two incompletions - is there any way Jacksonville's D could have performed any worse?

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Wow. I am amazed at how much respect you guys are giving "The Blueprint" after it failed so completely. The only useful thing that the Jaguars' defensive plan did was to "shorten the game". In exchange, it forced the Patriots to run and throw ball control passes, and then covered them awfully. The result? Six meaningful drives, for four touchdowns, two field goals (of which one medium length one missed.)

The plan succeeded 100% in stopping Brady from throwing deep to Moss. It allowed only one "deep" (per the play-by-play) pass attempt. But big deal. Why would you want to shut down inherently risky plays in exchange for low-risk plays?

Consider this: throughout the year, the Patriots threw the occassional deep pass just to loosen up the defense. They would do this even when the coverage was good. But in this game, they got all the benefits of loosening up the defense without having to throw a single incomplete long pass.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

I'd like to point out that Turner went to Martyball in the Bolts' last possession (and the Colts having all three timeouts). (1) Their first play came with 2:01 remaining. They could have thrown a pass w/o worrying about an incomplete pass stopping the clock. Against an 11 man front, they ran. (The Colts didn't seem to factor in the 2 minute warning, either.) Next step - 2 minute warning. (2) Second and long. 11 man front. Another run, Colt timeout. (3) Third and long. 11 man front. Another run, Colt timeout. (4) Punt (and a great one). Colts get ball with more than 1:30 left (and one timeout), but a couple of tough drops by Wayne and Clark make Martyball a winner.

Marty must be wondering why it never worked for him.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Hate to break it to you guys, but the Jags didn't run anything close to the Blueprint. There's a big difference between running a nickel with 2 deep and man coverage on Moss (which is not that shocking an idea) and doing the same but with a 3-2-6 personnel package. The extra lineman makes kind of a huge difference, especially against the run.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

I still wouldn't call Indy's defense anygood. Letting Billey Volek and a 5'5 Darren Sproles shred you like swiss cheese isn't anything to be proud of. Maybe Dan Snyder will be dumb enough to hire Ron Meeks as his head coach and throw Greg Williams to the curb.

If Dungy quits/is fired, that would be a gem of a coaching job for somebody else. I think Dick Vermiel would be a cool coach for the Colts.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

re: Brian Williams on Moss

I think part of the reason for that is that as ex-teammates, Brian Williams spent a lot of time in practice shadowing Randy Moss. He's probably the defensive back on that team most familiar with Moss's mannerisms.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

How could you even tell what deep coverages etc. the Jags were running. The TV cameras don't even allow you to see that.

Scribbiling up some Madden 08' plays against some phantom formations looks cool, but the Pats don't run the same formation every play, and you can't even see what the Jags were running by virtue of the telecast.

The Patriots might have the best offense ever. To beat them you would need good offense/defense/special teams and luck and right now I don't think any of the teams left in the playoffs have that ammo. You would also have to outcoach one of the best ever too. Sorry charlie, maybe next year.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Aaron Schatz: When Harrison intercepted that final pass, I started screaming at the television… “Don’t hit anyone Rodney … Don’t hit anyone … Don’t celebrate, don’t do something stupid, come on Rodney…” I mean, he’s our guy, and we root for him, but dude, you are 35 years old, grow the f*** up. Enough with the pointless late hits and then the whining to the refs. Stop being such a jerk.

Best comment ever! That's why we love Rodney! :).

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Cool! Been waiting for audibles... Thoughts on the Chargers upset in a bit. But I wanted to talk a little about the Pats.

* I totally agree with most of what was said above. The Jaguars defensive plan, which will be attacked by many, was a great idea. By taking away the big play, you (1) shorten the game, and (2) force the opponent to execute perfectly over and over again to keep drives alive.

Shortening the game is critical because, as Bill Krasker has pointed out, when a team is overmatched talent wise, it is to their benefit to shorten the game, whereas the better team benefits by lengthening the game. And it's a lot easier to ask your offense to match the Pats offense seven times than it is to match them fifteen times.

* Unfortunately for the Jaguars, Brady and Co WERE executing perfectly. And the Jax offense only matched the New England offense four times, not seven.

* The game can pretty much be understood by looking at the outcome of each drive:

Half 1:

JAX NE
TD TD
Fumble TD
TD Missed FG
3-out

Half 2:
TD
FG TD
FG FG
Int Punt (after 1st down that effectively ended game).

So the difference was the early fumble, and the Patriots getting two TD's and a FG to the Jags' two FG's and Int in the second half. In other words, Aaron was right that the offense just ran out of gas trying to match New England.

* I'm convinced that the refs tore out the pages of the rulebook describing offensive holding. Don't know when it started, but the Pats O-line was getting away with mugging, no, murdering, the Jags defenders. Then, to make up for it, the Jags were holding like crazy in the fourth quarter. Probably holding was going on all game on both sides. And yet they still call it on special teams and on INT returns... Why even HAVE a rule if you're not going to enforce it?

* Just to clarify...I'm not complaining about the refs, but could someone please define for me what constitutes a "chop block"? I was under the impression that it's when you block someone by diving at their knees, but you see that ALL the time when an offensive line, or especially a RB in pass protection, tries to stop a blitzer, so I had the idea that there must be some rule that it only is called outside the pocket... But apparently I was wrong. On the replay I couldn't see anything that Neal did that looked dirty, but the annouoncer opined that he thought the refs got the number wrong, and the penalty should actually have been on Mankins, who I couldn't see very clearly. What exactly is a chop block?

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

RE #4:

Philip Rivers IS horrible. If San Diego had a decent QB, the Chiefs wouldn't have beaten you once this year. So Brady's surrounded by a ton of talent and Rivers isn't huh? What do you call LT, Gates, and Chambers. Chambers wasted the best years of his life in Miami. They haven't been good on offense since before Marino left. Then you go on to say that "talent usually wins" in reference to SD vs Ind implying SD is more talented. I might be willing to say that SD was less injured, seeing as how Volek is twice the QB Rivers is, and Turner and Sproles are only slight downgrades from LT.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Your 2008 NFL Champions. The New England Patriots.

Best offense ever
Best QB ever
Best WR season ever
most efficient
most points
one of the best coaches

and a "clutch", fan favorite team that is unified and tries hard every play with lots of role players that play as a team without thugs that outplay and outclass everyone.

So do we get a 1996 SB rematch or do the Giants get a shot at the title again with a chance to try and go 11-1 on the road. You know, the Giants that hate their coach, are screwed without Tiki Barber and that are going to draft Jake Long #1?

I hope people will start changing their tune on this Giants team. If they weren't playing in horrible conditions, with injured receviers that were dropping everything, that little Manning might have better stats too.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Aaron Schatz: Yet another Colts playoff loss where Peyton Manning played well and was doomed by weird tipped passes and drops by his receivers. Despite last year’s success, it is still a running theme.

Yet another? I wasn't aware this had happened before. Seriously... I'm not trying to be snide here, I'm honestly curious as to in which of the Colts' prior post-season losses Manning played well.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

I thought the refs favored the Colts too with that BS penalty on the cromartie interception/TD, the 1st interception where the colt defender clearly didn't have possession.

How about the overrated midget bob sanders taunting the kicker. Real classy.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Re 21:

You gotta be kidding. Volek is twice the QB that Rivers is? I do agree with you that LT is one man combination of Sproles, Turner, and Naneee.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Peyton played a real good game with over 400 yards that will be haunted by...

2 tipped passes that were intercepted.
2 dropped balls on his last 2 throws
another dropped ball at the goalline on his 2nd to last possession

and then of course the overrated defense by Fungy and his butt buddy Ron Meeks. Nobody will blame Meeks or Fungy for losing to Billy Volek because our last memory is of Manning frustrated by those final 2 dropped passes, and the play where Merriman blew by Ugoh and attacked Manning.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

What is the feeling on SD making a cross country trip to play NE after a tough game this weekend? Is there any data on a coast team playing a third playoff game on the opposite coast against a team that has had a bye? I can't believe it would be easy.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Do you remember the quotes Marty was saying after the Chargers whooped the Pats? He said something to the effect that they aren't above everyone else and that injuries catch up with everyone at some point and blab blah blah. People were pissed at Marty but he whooped the Pats.

That 14-2 SD team from last year will try and reverse roles and play spoiler.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

If Favre and the Packers play Brady and the 18-0 Patriots in the Super Bowl, the hype meter will go to 11 and cause a severe disruption of the time-space continuum.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

My thoughts from this weekend:

ISsues dwith DVOA:

1> Garrard.(this is from last weekend too) He looked great.... until the option of the run went away, and then he looked BAD. Garrard has played extremely well BECAUSE teams fear Jacksonville's running attack. DVOA thinks hes much better than he is. Hes good, but hes not great.

2> Both upsets, it looked like the winning team was trying to give the game away. NYG running the ball into the line with 4ish minutes left on their own 10 yard line, when they're playing street free agent CBs? You need a first down there. Manning being stopped on the goal line? Twice? Really bad management at the end by both winnners, and yet they win.

3> Asante Samuel isn't nearly as good as people think he is. He's good in coverage...when he decides to cover someone, but almost every single "broken play" deep is him trying to jump a route, and getting burned. He'd be much better if he freelanced less.

4> Tom Couglin needs to pull his head out of his ass: Eli is a much better QB when the offense is simplified. They should run hurry-up more often.

5> The Prevent defense absolutely does not work anymore.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Ye gods. The opening NE/SD line is 14.5. Of course, if it becomes clear that LdT and Rivers will be able to play, I imagine that'll come down a ways.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Anyone else think that two favorites got knocked off today because they brought back aging wide recievers who clearly weren't ready to play?

(Glenn and Harrison)

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Have we had a Will Allen sighting yet? Please, please try to spin this into yet another tired "Well, Barry Switzer won a Superbowl" argument. Oh, Mike Tanier already did that.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Regarding Brian Willams and Moss -- is it obvious that Moss was limited to one catch by great coverage?

Even if Williams stuck with him the whole game, Brady's never been hesitant to throw it up for Moss when he's in coverage, especially if he's covered by a shorter defensive back. As far as I can recall, Brady's only throw to Moss was that one completion on 4th down.

Watching the game, I had assumed that Jacksonville had relentlessly doubled Moss and deliberately surrendered short passes, for the reasons discussed above -- hence brady's ridiculous completion percentage, and lowish yards/catch -- and that the Patriots just accepted those terms and kept sending Moss deep to open up the field.

But really, because you can't see any of the receivers after they release in the network camera angles, I have no clue what was going on. Did anyone see anything useful on the issue?

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Chop block is blocking somebody below the knees when that player is already engaged by a blocker.

Mankins was finishing a different block low and lunged at the player that Neal was already blocking. He made contact low and it was a good call. I didn't see it until the replay, but it was there.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

They certainly made a rough go of it at first, but as usual, NE made the plays that they had to to pull away in the end. This game felt extremely similar to the NE/TN playoff game of 2003. In both games, NE was a pretty big favorite and they had their chances to take control early. In both games the oppenent was coming off a mediocre preformance in a road game against a lesser opponent. In both games a quality OL gave NE troubles with rushing the passer to the point that they started blitzing frequently at the end of the game. In both games the team came in more known for running the ball but kept up with NE due to a surprisingly successful passing attack. Frankly, I even see quite a few similarities between McNair and Garrard.

The biggest difference between that game and this one is the fact that NE has a much, much better offense (to offset the lesser defenst) so they were able to put the game away a little earlier.

Here is a not-so-quick smattering of my thoughts on this game.

* Maroney has clearly become a major weapon of late, which validates the few of us that believed in him for the entire season. Frankly, other than being given a few more chances now that he is more comfortable in the pasing game, I really don't see all that much difference between the Maroney out there now and the one there all season. Earlier in the year, NE was being predictible with their playcalling in Maroney packages, which they realized. Because of this, they asked him to avoid breaking an inside run to the outside, which is the primary reason that he was "dancing" and "tentative". He had to wait for the play to develop where it should be even if it didn't look promising. Most of his yardage from this game wouldn't have happened earlier in the year, through no fault of Laurence.

Now that Maroney is a bigger part of the passing game, and he has learned the right body lean, NE is giving him more freedom to trust his instincts. That, along with more carries, is why Maroney looks as good as he has lately. Maroney has clearly improved, but it was NE's coaching that led to much of the complaints about his play.

That said, I do have one bone to pick with my boy. Laurence still needs to react to downfield blocks a little better. Twice I saw him just run up into the back of Kyle Brady when, had he slid a foot or two to either side, he would have run for at least another 5 yards. Another time he broke a run to the outside when it looked like the WR had the defender blocked away form the middle.

* I am really hoping that NE will use one of their 3rd rounders this year to draft Meriweather a new pair of hands. Does this guy just drop everything that he comes in contact with?

* I thought, for the most part that the officating was very good. There were several uncalled holds on Jax in the second half (with quite a few coming when Seymour would have likely gotten to Garrard), but those were offset by the 3-4 holds that I saw NE's WRs get away with. I also don't recall a single hold called on NE's OL so it seems as if that was just the way that they called it.

However, I thought the refs did a lousy job wit the personal fouls. Rodney clearly hit a guy too late. That was fine. But Seau didn't touch the facemask on his penalty. Samuel made a perfectly legal strip attempt while still in bounds when he was called. And the chop block was completely incorrect. Mankins wasn't going low on an engaged defender. He was solo blocking a guy and then he fell down. As he was falling, another OL (sorry, I forget who) slid over to pick Mankins man up. That was 45 yards of completely crap calls, one of which was a big part of Jax's first TD and another was the only reason that Jax stopped NE from going up 21-14 at the half.

I will grant you that the RTP on Jax was a little ticky-tack, but then you have to admit that Welker was tackeled by his face mask twice with no flag thrown. Rodney did get away with another late hit OOBs that I thought he was lucky not to be flagged for.

* I am forever befuddled as to why teams act like beating a team where they are weak is a sign of lesser performance. Nelson's garbage about NE winning with a bunch of dump-offs is reminiscent of Ray Lewis yacking about how Pitt went after their young guys in the secondary rather than run on 'em. Hey guys, why in hell should someone try to put their head through the wall when the door is open? And Reggie, if you think Brady's performance is slighted due to not challenging the secondary deep, how do you feel about your offense? Didn't they pass on a defense that was set up to stop the run? Doesn't that devalue YOUR QB's performance?

* I get that NE held Jax to their lowest point total for quite some time. I get that they held Jax to a nice little rushing yardage total. I get that NE held Jax to 6 points over the final 30 minutes to help NE pull away.

That said, I just never felt confident with their defense. Sure, they were selling out to stop the run, but they were passed on far too easily for my taste. In an odd twist of fate, it was NE's offense that was willing to slow the tempo down and limit possessions while milking the clock. It was this offensive clokc killing that was really the best defense, IMHO. Despite Jax ending with mediocre rushing numbers, it seemed to me that they ran or passed whenever they felt like it. They just chose to pass because they were so successful at it.

When a team forces on punt all game and allows drives of 80, 101, 48 and 86 yards on their first 5 meaningful possessions, I can't see how anyone could call that a success. The drive that started after MJD completely flumaxed the KO really irritated me. NE had just made a big play on Jax's prior drive and made it count on offense. Had they just forced a punt on that drive - any time during it, not just a punt from inside the 10 - they would likely have gone up 21-7 and effectively put the game away. Of course, credit needs to go to Jax for the drive as much as NE deserves blame, but NE had the chance to put Jax's face in the dirt and no one stepped up.

* Further on this, I said before the game that NE would rise back up to their early season level of play. Offensively, they did just that. Obviously I can't say the same thing about the other side of the ball. IMO, one of two things are at work here:

1) NE is who they appear to be. A team that can be taken advantage of defensively that - so far - makes just enough plays to give the O the chance to put it away at the end.

2) NE played a rather bland defensive game and still have some things left in their bag of tricks for the teams that they are truly worried about.

Normally, since this was a playoff game after all, I would side with number 1. Bags of tricks don't do you much good if you are sitting at home after being knocked out. However, for some reason the little smirk on BB's face at the end of the game gives me hope that the answer is closer to #2. He just seems a little too satisfied with this win compared to how he looked earlier in the year. No matter how vanilla a scheme is, allowing two long TD drives out of three real possessions in a half is pretty lousy defense, yet BB didn't seem faxzed by this at the end. Yes, yes, I know. Going down the "body language" road is not the best path to wisdom. But I can't express how much relief I felt when I saw just how content BB was with this win.

* Just a little more evidence of this confidence was Chad Jackson returning KOs until the end. By my count, I only saw one return go beyond the 20 - and that one went to the 23! If BB was truly ever worried about this game, I can't believe that CJ would have been in there. I would bet dollars to donuts that Chad doesn't see the light of day next weekend.

I thnk that is it. I'm sure that I'm forgetting something but I doubt that anyone is even still reading at this point.

Edit: Pass rush. Get one. It drives me completely bonkers watching QBs sit in the pocket unmolested.

Guys get there sometimes but it always seems to be too little too late. Jax did a nice job on Vrabel, who was a near non-factor. I thought Seymour played a very good second half, but it seemed to me that he was consistently grabbed just as he was going to get in Garrard's face.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

To those that are criticizing the fact that the Blueprint didn't work, consider that it is designed to limit deep plays, and force a mistake or two. New England simply failed to make those mistakes. If they replayed that game over again, it is not very likely that Brady nails as many passes as he did. QB's don't always nail a perfect pass. And wide receivers don't catch the ball nearly as often as they did even when the passes are on target. Even if you consider a drop to 75% completions, a few of those touchdowns likely turn into field goals, and you are looking at a closer game, where Jax can stick with the running game longer. Even with a great offense like the Patriots have, it is unlikely that they are that in sync for every play of an entire game again.

Re : 16

I was also thinking that the Bolts should risk the pass, especially against those fronts, but they weren't 11 man fronts. The Bolts had a receiver split left, and the Colts had a man on him. I believe that the 1st down play was a 9 man front, but I counted, and the Colts did put 10 men into the box on those 2nd and 3rd down plays.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Re: #32

The ref get got the PF call right, but called it on the wrong player.

You are correct -- Samuel did nothing wrong. However, after he falls away from the receiver after the strip attempt, Harrison comes rocketing in and drills the receiver in the back at least three feet OOB. The refs saw that and (properly!) threw a flag on it, but screwed up by saying Samuel did it.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Everything went wrong for the Colts? Really? The "hold" on Weddle. The PI on Hart. THe PI flag on the Colts that magically got picked up. The injuries to LT and Rivers. Yeah, nothing went wrong for the Chargers and the League in its zeal to get its coveted AFC championship matchup didn't try and rig this thing. Sure.

A little credit to the Chargers and, yes, to Norv is due.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Re: #22

That would be his first playoff game, against the 99 Titans. Other than that, I don't know which ones he would be referring to. The only other one that could be argued for is the 04 NE game (the 20-3 game). Manning didn't really play "well", but he definitely didn't screw things up. That was just a piss poor gameplan by Tom Moore and the team's execution was brutal all day.

Manning's had two real stinkers in the playoffs (02 vs. the Jets, 03 AFC-C in NE), but today he was actually better than some of his wins from the SB run.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

16: It's not quite "MartyBall." The circumstances did involve the back up quarterback being in the game. I know he made a couple plays earlier, but I don't think it was excessively conservative not to have the back up QB put the ball in the air there.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Forget the "hold" on Weddle, there were holds and blocks in the back all over the field on that return. Refs finally had the balls to call one of them on a play like that.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

"everything went wrong for the Colts for so long in this game" - Schatz

That reads like some kind of joke. The officiating in this game consistently helped them. If not for a few huge questionable penalties, the Chargers win by better than ten points. Being outplayed is not things going wrong.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

I don't get the love for the Jacksonville defensive game plan. Yes, an unpressured Brady can complete a 7 yard pass to an open wide receiver. He only needs to make two out of three to keep the chains moving. Shortening the game did more to make the final score look respectable than actually give Jacksonville a shot at winning.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Ned Macey: The thing about the Colts is that they have had an amazing run, but that run coincides with a similar run by New England. The Patriots stopped them twice, but even more importantly, the Patriots’ run makes anything but absurd playoff success look unsatisfactory. The team is 63-17 over the past five seasons and 7-4 in the playoffs. It is hard to get too upset about that.

This Colts-Patriots rivalry reminds me in so many ways of the Niners-Cowboys one in the early '90s. As a Niners sympathizer in those days, I understand the frustration of the Colts fans at the unfairness of being great but somehow second best.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

can anyone explain the officiating in the colts game? how bad does it have to be before someone teaches the refs the rules? any idiot with an arm can throw a yellow flag, and apparently some can even pick it up and take it back, but that game was miserable. i'm surprised rivers didn't get called for roughing the passer on himself. let these guys play, it's not like they're hasselbeck's state farm line.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

I thought that there were 2 things that Del Rio should have done differently in the game last night. First, use some timeouts during NE's missed field goal drive in the first half so as to give Jacksonville some more time for a drive. It turned out not to matter, but Jax needs to have an extra possession and points to keep control of the game, especially the way both offenses were beating the defenses.

Second, I thought that Del Rio absolutely had to on-side kcik after the last Jacksonville field goal. Trading scores while behind just won't cut it.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

The way the games were officiated (and it was all four, so I don't think it was an accident) pass offenses can only be stopped by the offense making a mistake, not by the defense making a good play. I hate it.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

". And wide receivers don’t catch the ball nearly as often as they did even when the passes are on target. Even if you consider a drop to 75% completions, a few of those touchdowns likely turn into field goals, and you are looking at a closer game, where Jax can stick with the running game longer. Even with a great offense like the Patriots have, it is unlikely that they are that in sync for every play of an entire game again.
"

The Patriots had a 75% completion percentage through 12 or so games throwing a TON of deep stuff. Expecting them to go below 80 or so when you're leaving guys WIDE OPEN underneath is ridiculous. Welker caught 77% of the balls where he was the target, and thats when people were actually trying to cover him (and counts balls that were thrown away)

This is an offense with the highest DVOA in history. This is a quarterback who has made a living running a dink and dunk offense. Expecting them to make mistakes when you give them an easy 7-8 yards on every play is ludicrous.

The only thing the "blueprint" does is assure is that when you lose, you'll hit the under.

Honestly, giving up a long TD is no worse than giving up a TD on a 12 play 8:00 drive. If you want to win, you have to STOP the other team sometimes. Leaving the Patriots short passing and running games wide open is not a good way to do that.

If you want to beat the Patriots, you have to do what Philly did: Get in Brady's face.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

On the Martyball by Norv at the end of the game, don't forget that they got the ball at their own 5-yard line or so. I don't know that I'd be trusting Billy Volek to not throw a pick or get sacked for a loss there. And it wasn't 3rd and long - Turner picked up several yards on 2nd down, I believe it was 3rd and 4.

I do wonder why Indy didn't try for the punt block there. With that much time and their offense, I wouldn't be too upset with no return.

As for closing out the RCA Dome - where are they doing the combine this year? Is the field in the new stadium going to be ready to use at that point?

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Re: #47

Agreed. The one thing you couldn't have happen there was an INT or a fumble. Martyball there with Volek was the right thing to do (and not just because they won). With Rivers, different story. And I believe it was 3rd-and-3.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Nothing about EVERY call going against the Chargers? I know I beat a horse with bruises, but this is an intellectual website, and we now need an official DVOA of when offensive holding negates a play by the " less desirable " team, and when phantom defensive holding penalties extend drives for the " more desirable " team.

I am a fan of football and am outraged at how the Colts, even in two LOSSES to the Steelers two years ago, and today against the Chargers, got EVERY key and controversial call save the Diem penalty. It is just sad that people in the media also attack people who say the calls are subtly fixed.

The empiric evidence is in; look at SB XL, every Favre game in Green Bay ( I know I'm a Viking fan, but the 1998 NFFCG was fixed for the Vikes and they choked it away), these two Colts divisional lossed ( the Colts should be ashamed at all the calls they got), and innumerable others.

I'm not saying the games are fixed, because the Chargers did overcome the atrocious calls, but somebody wanted the Colts to win. It is sad. Where is liberty, justice, and may the best man win?

It happened in the NBA, Italian soccer, and even though I love the NFl, it is really time to clean up the BS calls. ASAP

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

RE #23

Well, maybe I exagerate a little. I think it would be easier to say that Volek can replace Rivers with no loss. I think Volek is better though. Here is Volek's lone stat line from a season he played in 10 games and started 8 (2004). It is the only time he has started more than 1 game in a season.

Cmp Att Pct Yds TD INT Rating
218 357 61.1 2,486 18 10 87.1

In Rivers 2 seasons he has thrown 21 and 22 TD's. Volek had 18 in only 10 games, 8 started, and I don't think Tennessee had Gates, Chambers, and LT to make Volek look good there. Rivers had a rating of 92 last year and 82.4 this year. That 87.1 rating seems to be right in the middle of that. Let me put it to you this way, if SD had Derek Anderson, I think they would be a better team. Also, I might like Rivers more if he shut his mouth and played the game. All he does is talk, but he wouldn't have any game if it weren't for his stars.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Bill Barnwell: What a block by Dan Koppen on that first-drive 33-yard screen to Maroney. That’s the difference between them (likely) scoring on this drive or having to punt. Most underrated center in football.

Dan Koppen, underrated? You mean the Dan Koppen who's going to the pro bowl, right?

Aaron Schatz: When Harrison intercepted that final pass, I started screaming at the television… “Don’t hit anyone Rodney … Don’t hit anyone … Don’t celebrate, don’t do something stupid, come on Rodney…” I mean, he’s our guy, and we root for him, but dude, you are 35 years old, grow the f*** up. Enough with the pointless late hits and then the whining to the refs. Stop being such a jerk.

Couldn't say it any better.

Aaron Schatz: Bill and I both mentioned some unflagged holding — I couldn’t remember any holding calls at all until the late interception return, so I went and checked, and yes, they definitely had a “let them play” attitude. The only holding calls all game came on special teams or the interception return. None on actual offensive plays.

That's not "let them play" it's "let the o line cheat" and as one of many fans of defensive games, it gets on my nerves.

Finally, seriously guys, the "game plan" was horrible. By no measure did Jacksonville's defense have a good game.

And last but not least, I went skiing today and didn't see either game. I feel like I made a good choice.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Just to clarify…I’m not complaining about the refs, but could someone please define for me what constitutes a “chop block”?

A chop block is when two offensive players engage one defensive player at the same time, one low and one high.

Normally, it occurs when a blocker has engaged the defender high and a second offensive player blocks him low.

The chop block in the Pats game was unusual. One offensive player was blocking low (a legal cut block). S. Neal had nobody to block, turned to look for somebody, and blocked the guy high. I don't think he ever saw that the defender was already being cut. That's why the flag was called on Neal in this case -- the guy blocking high.

It was a good call by the officials on what was probably an inadvertant chop block.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

But really, because you can’t see any of the receivers after they release in the network camera angles, I have no clue what was going on. Did anyone see anything useful on the issue?

Moss said after the game that they doubled him the entire game with Brian Williams (who practiced against Moss for years) doing everything he could do to prevent any inside release AND a safety over the top. This meant that the only routes available to Moss (after his one catch over the middle) were sideline routes into double coverage. This left favorable matchups all over the field, so there was simply no reason for "Tommy" to force the ball to Moss.

It was just a case of the Patriots taking what the defense gave them.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

#50

That Titans team was a different breed. It also made people think Drew Bennett was an actually #1 WR as well. They pretty much ran a run and shoot offense because they knew they had no chance with the defense they were running and had no running game. A team kicking onside kicks in the 1st half against the Colts....in a year (2004) that saw a whole lot of QBs put up their best numbers ever (see Peyton Manning, Daunte Culpepper, Jake Plummer, etc.)

But yes Volek is an untapped talent that the Titans traded away so Kerry Collins can be the main back-up to Vince Young.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Regarding Norv, there were many reasons to continue to criticize him in this game. Several delay of game penalties, two lost challenges, 10 and 12 men in the Charger huddle, a Colt quicksnap catching the defense offguard, out of timeouts early in the game. These all seem like discipline mistakes that the head coach should be held accountable for. But it appeared Norval did a very good job calling plays, based on the Chargers' success. Hmm, maybe he should be an offensive coordinator and have someone else as head coach.

I'm also not seeing how everything went wrong for the Colts. Sure, they had two interceptions off deflected passes, but they were the ones who didn't catch the ball before the deflections. They also had some run of the mill bad fumble luck. It seemed to this Charger fan that the Colts got more breaks than the Chargers, even before Rivers left the game.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

RE# 32

Owslek:

I am becoming more and more convinced that defenses simply cannot stop a well executing offense under the current rules of the NFL (no pass defense allowed downfield, no offensive holding calls, etc.)

If a QB can hit the underneath and intermediate stuff on a good defense (that is determined to keep everything in front of the safeties), the offense will march downfield until they are stopped by a penalty, a drop, a missed FG, or some other mistake. All of the "top ranked" defenses have been gashed in the playoffs. I don't think they've all forgotten how to play defense. I just think it's the Arena Football rules of the modern game.

Good defense is no longer measured by shutting down an offense, but by making the occasional stop. The things you have to do to shut down an offense with the current rules (mostly a heavy blitz package and complementary man coverage) are just too dangerous against QBs that can either get rid of the ball to a hot read or scramble around and buy time. That equation only changes when the defense can force the offense into an all-pass, all-the-time mode.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Yeah, I also LOVE how the whole crew has failed to even talk about Chambers as of late, because he destroyed their "most overrated receiver in the history of the world" thoughts by being a lights out, huge contributor for the Chargers. Really, this site is supposed to be built on objectively looking at things, but it appears they are blindly following their previous conceptions of both Chambers and Norv, and even Rivers, as they either ignore or continue to slight solid efforts by all three. Seriously, talk about Norv's fantastic play calling all game against the Colts, including some fantastic screen calls and the manufacturing of a almost 80 yard drive in which Billy Volek, Legedu Naanee, and Michael Turner made the key plays. Chris Chambers has come up big time and again in this late season stretch and yet this site never mentions that at the very least, he is bucking the previous trends which their numbers supported. Finally, mention please, that Philip Rivers has played better than everyone but Favre and Brady, in this year's playoffs. He carried the Chargers to two victories, and really has played OUTSTANDING football the past two weeks, with LT and Gates as non-factors. Please, just give credit where it is due, and don't be so blind in following or backing up your previous conceptions. Norv, Chambers, and Rivers are three of the very very main reasons the Chargers are playing in the AFC championship next sunday, and they deserve credit, not to be slighted, criticized, or ignored completely by you guys.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Re:70, I really agree with you. It's interesting, but really, the Patriots absolute domination of the Indy receivers, and Marvin Harrison in particular, is what changed the rules a few years back. I was talking to a friend about that today as Marvin fumbled and then got absolutely punked by Quentin Jammer on a simple jam at the line, followed by Marvin raising his hands like he deserved a penalty. I really hate that defensive players aren't even allowed to make a play on balls it seems, and it's as if they refs call it as the offense having the only right to the ball. It's a disturbing trend, which I actually give credit to NE for I think capitalizing on this change in going to their extremely pass heavy, spread offense. I really agree that it's becoming almost impossible with the given rules to stop a good short, passing game.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

#53

"the “game plan” was horrible...but...I went skiing today and didn’t see either game."

Is this an audition for Audibles at the Line?

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

can someone please let me know real quick when the cornerback metrics are completed and have all the games updated? when can that be expected to be finished?

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Re #68
Billy Volek in 2004 was sacked on something like 25% of all dropbacks. That's akin to the rate Rob Johnson put up in Buffalo. He's a friggin' statute who'll just stand there in the pocket until the defense takes him down. He also was dinged in TEN for reportedly indifferent practice habits.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Re #74
When all the charting gets done, which is when all the game charters and/or FO people get it done. All charting data will be available in the book. The focus right now is on getting games involving the teams left in the playoffs done. If you want games done faster, give FO money to pay the charters-I'd do my charting faster if I got $10 per half.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

What the hell was going on at the end of the Colts last drive into the red zone? 3 straight plays with trips to the left (extremely odd for them in and of itself) and Peyton never even really looked to pass in that direction? I know there was pressure on that side, probably because they had 3 freaking receivers over there. Am I the only one who thought the approach there on 3 straight unsuccessful plays was pretty insane?

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

RE #72

Ryan:

The real strategy changing component of the new Arena Football rules is the extreme penalty (forty...fifty yards sometimes) for ticky tack pass interference contact downfield. I mean...it's hard enough to cover these receivers, but if you are going to give up that kind of extreme penalty for brushing up against the receiver, you simply can't allow the offense to get deep. Two deep safeties means something is going to be open underneath.

Belichick talked about the extreme nature of these pass interference penalties on his radio interview a month ago. When asked what one rule he would like to see changed, it would be to go to a fifteen yard penalty for pass interference. He said the fifty yard PI penalty is just too much of a game changer.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

71: Aaron mentioned during the season that Chambers looked to be much improved in SD - and, Barnwell mentioned it last week. I'm not sure what else you're looking for - especially after this game. I thought Jackson made a number of absolutely critical catches and rightly deserved the credit here.

I agree with 69 (heh) in that I thought that the Chargers shot themselves in the foot on a number of occasions that made them look unprepared (and, to their credit, got out of those situations). I thought the Chargers' playcalling actually improved once LdT left the game - it seemed that they were mixing it up on first down a little more.

Interestingly, for the second game in a row, the Chargers were 2 for 2 in fumble recoveries. Hopefully that trend will reverse itself next week...:)

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

RE #77

I wasn't paying attention to the formation, but I thought Peyton got impatient and greedy on that drive. He had plenty of time. I couldn't figure out why he kept heaving it to the end zone.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

re: 78
I agree, the problem is twofold, in that PI is now called so loosely and in such a ticky tack fashion, and then in the long enforcement. Ridiculous.

re: 79
I read Barnwell's comment about Chambers last week, but it wasn't a glaring endorsement and I missed any comment by Aaron, but I'd love to read it if you could point me in that direction. Also, seriously, what about the Norv bashing STILL? The delays were seemingly on the center or Rivers, but Rivers made adjustments at the line and the center didn't snap it in time. On the 12 men on the field, that's one tiny mistake that is one of those dumb penalties where there are still 20 seconds on the play clock and the huddle hasn't even been broken and you have one guy out there who isn't supposed to be in the personell. I think Norv's playcalling and game plan more than made up for one minor 5 yard penalty. Come on, he really deserves some credit for finding ways to move the ball on a darn good Colts defense, and none at all was really given.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

81: Ask and ye shall receive (linked in my name). It was actually Week 17 - weird that it feels so long ago...

Most improved: Randy Moss, Patriots, of course, but also Chris Chambers, Chargers. Last year, Chambers had the second-lowest DPAR ever for a wide receiver. In Pro Football Prospectus 2007, we called him "the NFL player with the largest gap between his perceived and actual value." He always had a worse catch rate than the other Miami receivers, no matter who played quarterback, and this year was no different. Through midseason, Chambers had a catch rate of 47 percent and was playing at replacement level.

But Chambers was pretty good in his half season in San Diego. His catch rate was up to 56 percent, in line with the other San Diego wideouts. From Week 8 to Week 17, he was 25th in DPAR among wide receivers. He wasn't challenging Randy Moss and Reggie Wayne for a Pro Bowl spot, but he was far better than he was in 2006.

I'd say that's about accurate - Chambers is a solid #2, but not Pro Bowl caliber.

And re: Norv. I think he deserves credit for the playcalling (particularly in the latter part of the game), but those unforced penalties (didn't they have 12 men last week, too? Or am I thinking of Tennessee) and bad timeout/challenge management just kind of drive me crazy. Maybe it's a form of Pats-produced OCD, I don't know...

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

The suggestion that the Jacksonville defensive game plan is the best way to stop the Patriots is defeatist because it's based on the assumption that you can never stop the opposing offense's drives.

There have been better defensive plans earlier this year. The Ravens and Colts couldn't shut down the Patriots, strictly speaking, but they played aggressively, took chances, and at least forced some Patriot possessions to stall without a score. The Chargers have the personnel to mimic the Ravens' defensive approach, but I believe their newfound ability to move the ball and score on offense will be the difference against a New England defense that's inferior to both the Tennessee and Indianapolis squads San Diego has beaten over the past two weeks.

Am I really 'crazy' enough to pick the Chargers? Yes. They have better talent and depth than the Patriots, and are playing the best ball of any team over the past eight games.

Only two teams in the NFL legitimately beat the World Champion Colts this year: New England and San Diego. How fitting is it that they face off to determine who will represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLII.

It should be a great game!

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

I really think Chambers is a #1 receiver, haha. That is all I suppose. He has been a #1 for this Chargers team. Think about the fact that we have to get both LT and Gates touches, Chambers will probably never have HUGE numbers due to that fact alone.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

did anyone notice a complete absence of offensive holding calls on linemen over the course of the weekend? (i'm talking about calls on plays from scrimmage only). i know holding calls against interior linemen have been down this year, but wasn't this a little absurd?

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

I thought it was funny how the face mask penalty on SD against Dallas Clark by Merriman on the 4th down conversion actually put IND in worse spot. They got the ball right at the 10 yard line.

Call me crazy but I think thy have a better chance to score if they decline that penalty.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

I'll refrain from joining the "you guys are biased" choir, but i will point out how strongly preconceptions hold sway over even "objective" sports analysts. If some other coach, more respected than Norv Turner, had taken an 8 point underdog into Indy, and won, with his best receiver hobbled and a non-factor, his star RB out in the 1st quarter, his QB in the 3rd quarter, and had a FG bounce off the upright, and had an INT returned for a TD called back on a horrible call, his (the more respected coach) praises would be sung to the stars. Instead, when Norv does it, there's bitching about some fluke quick snap 12 men on the field penalty, some slightly sub-optimal endgame play calling, etc. What, no commentary on key analytical points like oh... Norv's facial expressions when displayed, via split screen, beside the stoic Tony Dungy?

I'm not an objective observer, nor do I play one on the internet, so I'll freely admit to reveling in the Colts' defeat. I'll even bring up the karmic repercussions of Indy taking a dive in the last game of the season against Tennessee, thus letting them into the playoffs at the expense of the Browns. The fact that Tenn then lost limply to SD, and SD marched into Indy and triumphed, is almost a Hollywood-ready story. Seldom does one team's (Indy) lack of sportsmanship and value for the integrity of the game come so directly and enjoyably to fruition.

Finally, has Peyton's career-long history of failing to get it done in big games been completely forgotten? (See link.) If not for the miraculous performance of Indy's defense in the first 2 rounds last year, (KC and Balt scored 8 and 6 points, respectively, while Peyton put up a 1/5 td/int ratio) he'd still be the modern day Dan Marino, amassing gaudy regular season stats before wilting in the playoffs, and the idiots on ESPN would spend this week talking about how Eli might be the first Manning with the stones to lead a team to real postseason success.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

I don't think teams misrepresenting or lying about injuries is a new thing. It dates back to biblical times, right?

Jeff Fisher has already set 23 players as "questionable" for the 2008 opener, and Tom Brady isn't allowed to come off the injury report until he retires. Being a Jets skill player means you're "limited" and "muted" on the three big practice days. Those are just fun examples - it's not so much fun when something happens like the Harrison fiasco of 2007/08.

When it comes to injuries from our side of it, there are educated guesses and there are blind guesses. But we are *all* guessing, and to think otherwise, you're just kidding yourself.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Let's also recall that Washington has essentially the same defensive game plan for the Pats that Jacksonville did, and the Skins only lost 52-7 (hammered by 34 first downs). Granted, Washington's scattered quarterback didn't help the cause much that day (four turnovers - one directly to a score - and three sacks).

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Playing Marvin Harrison, even if he's not super effective, makes sense when you consider what he gives the Colts in terms of dictating coverages. It's also a little astonishing how good the Chargers' corners have become - they now have three viable corners who match up well. Jammer's playing better, Cromartie's a big-time playmaker, and Florence is effective covering the slot.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

SD haven't exactly played a killer schedule in their games up until IND.
Offensive DVOAs of their previous 7 opponents:
BAL -#28
KC - #29
TEN - #21
DET - #20
DEN - #9
OAK -#29
TEN - #21

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Colts fan here. Bummed, but ready to turn the page. They just weren't good enough to win it all this year.

The Colts yesterday did not play well enough to give me any confidence against NE, even if they had scored at the end to beat SD. So, in that sense, I am not upset that they lost. Saves me the pain of watching NE carve them up.

The Colts' biggest problem? No pressure on the QB.

I'll argue that given the current state of the NFL as hwc says higher, and including the dearth of offensive holding penalties on pass plays, the only way to stop a good offense is to be able to get to the quarterback, and to do it regardless of being held. Usually, that means an inside bull rush, something the Colts don't have, and very few teams do have. And, while folks can say all they want about Freeney's salary, it's awfully quiet here today about him -- no fools saying how he's overrated and that the Colts can do fine without him.

Specifically to yesterday's game: the officiating was bad. No other way around it. At least a couple of times I shook my head and thought, "We (Colt) just got bailed out by that call." My only homer-filled vision of why that was PI against the guy covering Wayne was maybe, maybe (but I doubt it) that he'd been holding Wayne regularly and not getting called, and the ref finally called something but this time when there was no actual infraction (kind of like reffing a basketball game, if any of you have done it. You warn a guy over and over about hooking the defender, or palming the ball, and eventually you call him.)

I don't think the Colts got no breaks, as lots of posters are reacting to in the authors' comments. I think what they mean is that the Colts offense put themselves in good situations, over and over, then failed mostly because of their own mistakes, not pressure by SD. For example, on the two interceptions, and on the Harrison fumble, SD did not make stellar plays to cause the balls to be tipped or fumbled (though I will say SD did a nice job of catching the tipped balls).

And finally, to continue my point about good fortune from another thread: don't think Brady lives a charmed life? Look at the QB, RB, and TE he will face this week if the injuries hold.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

By the way: The real deal on the Sanders personal foul. From the Indy Star:

Kaeding took no offense to Sanders' actions. In fact, he started the byplay after hitting an extra point after San Diego's first score. Sanders is one of the Colts' outside rushers against placement kicks.
"I grabbed him, smiling," Kaeding said. "We were all smiling."
The smiling ended when an official flagged Sanders after the miss.
"It was just a case of a referee not knowing what the real deal was," Kaeding said. "I couldn't go up to the ref and be like, 'We're just buddies' after he already threw the flag."

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

36/Rich Conley:

If you think Garrard's performance dropped in the second half because the team didn't get it done then I can only conclude you had already determined Garrard wasn't any good. He was hitting receivers in stride all over the field, in their hands, and they were dropping them. That is not indicative of poor quarterback play as a result of teams "not respecting the run."

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

"Aaron Schatz: When Harrison intercepted that final pass, I started screaming at the television… “Don’t hit anyone Rodney … Don’t hit anyone … Don’t celebrate, don’t do something stupid, come on Rodney…” I mean, he’s our guy, and we root for him, but dude, you are 35 years old, grow the f*** up. Enough with the pointless late hits and then the whining to the refs. Stop being such a jerk."

-Steroid junkie
-Asshole
-Dirty player who increases the injury chance of everyone on the field
-Annoying
-acts like an immature little kid

How could anyone be a fan of Rodney Harrison? I dont care if he plays for your team or not. If he played for the redskins, I'd be booing him on every single play. I'd be yelling for him to be permamently removed from football. This is the kind of guy who ruins the integrity of the game. How can Harrison get a 4 game suspension for being an obvious and admitted steroid junkie (who probably still takes steroids regularly) while Clemens and Bonds are being charged with federal charges?

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Re: #96

Actually, he's an admitted HGH user.

As for the rest of your rant (you might really try to at least get marginally informed about the facts, you know):
1) Clemens isn't being federally charged with anything.
2) Bonds was federally charged for perjury, not for juicing.

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

The Colts were not repaid in karma. They lost because they haven't played a real game in 4 weeks. Compare that to the Giants and where they are right now.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Northcutt's drop at the goal line reminded this Cleveland fan of his drop of his drop in the 2002 playoffs that would have sealed the game against the Steelers. Ouch.

Garrard did a lot in this game to convince me he's more than just an average QB with a great running game. Those first two TD passes (and the pass that Northcutt dropped) were just perfect.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Re: 96/97

Let me just add that youth is overated. After all, you can buy it in pill form if you have the right conections.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

71: "Aaron mentioned during the season that Chambers looked to be much improved in SD - and, Barnwell mentioned it last week. I’m not sure what else you’re looking for - especially after this game. I thought Jackson made a number of absolutely critical catches and rightly deserved the credit here."

I think the contention there would be that basically, conventional wisdom has been that Chambers is a good receiver, but has suffered from playing on a bad offense with bad QBs, etc. FO has repeatidly countered that no, Chambers does in fact suck, it has nothing to do with the QBs, the offense, etc. and that is on the record as calling him the most overraited player in the game (or at least, receiver), as well as the worst receiver in the league in I believe it was 2006. Now of course he goes to a better offense and is doing better, which one would think confirms the conventional belief that the team he was on was holding him back. Now, when FO states that he has improved after going to the Chargers, I think what a detractor hears is something like "well, really we were right all along, Chambers did suck, and it is just random coincidence that he got better when he went to a better team", as opposed to "okay, we were wrong, he didn't really suck, and people were right that he was held back by his offense".

Please note that I am not asserting I nesseccarily agree with that, but I think that is the line of thinking some people might get on the subject.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Karma doesn't mean anything this year, or Belichick would have been run over by his team's bus.

Dan Riley #74

The "game plan" referred to Jax vs the Pats.

I didn't see either game today, meaning yesterday, meaning NYG-DAL or IND-SD, which is why I didn't comment on Colts-Chargers.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

98:

"The Colts were not repaid in karma. They lost because they haven’t played a real game in 4 weeks. Compare that to the Giants and where they are right now."

Isn't this really just something that people say to reconcile preconceived notions after the fact? But to answer your question where are the Giants, well they are playing the Packers, who haven't played a meaningful game in, what, how long?

This actually made me laugh last week. One the one hand, I had announcers telling me that the Giants were beating Tampa because they were on some sort of emotional high from having had to play so many tough games recently. Meanwhile, I have announcers telling me in the Washington game that Washington is getting its ass kicked because, well, they are worn out from having had to play so many tough games recently.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Purds,

You have a link for that? Kaeding was certainly not smiling. He didn't look particularly upset about the taunt, but smiling after missing a FG wouldn't be in his best interest.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Wouldn't you have to interpret something from our hosts like "Chambers is overrated" or "Chambers sucks" as opinion, rather than believing it as statistically proven. I thought one of the disclaimers here is that DVOA or DPAR can't distinguish how good a QB and his receivers are.
How good could Chambers' DPAR possibly be with Cleo Lemon and his Predecessors throwing to him?
I interpret overrated as "some knucklehead in my fantasy league has drafted him early the past 3 years, and cut him 4 weeks later"

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Stop me if you've seen this before:

10 penalties against a Colts' opponent inside the RCA Dome.

Colts getting the benefit of just about every "questionable" call.

Seems par for the course.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

"

Regarding Norv, there were many reasons to continue to criticize him in this game. Several delay of game penalties, two lost challenges, 10 and 12 men in the Charger huddle, a Colt quicksnap catching the defense offguard, out of timeouts early in the game. These all seem like discipline mistakes that the head coach should be held accountable for.
"

Yes, but those are all EXACTLY the same sorts of things that happen to Marty in the playoffs, so its not really a valid criticizm.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

The disccussion on Chambers, reinforces to me the idea that the Colts really missed the boat when Harrison got hurt. The Chargers definitely improved themselves with the trade for Chambers. In hindsight, the Colts would have been wise to do something similar when Harrison got hurt.

I'm not saying that they screwed-up (I have no idea what the medical people were telling them), just that if they had gotten some insurance there it might have really helped them.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Re: Harrison

Any chance 2 late hits and an uncalled late hit results in a fine? Suspension? When does his antics actually start hurting his team? Shouldn't he have dropped the interception (Ask SD fans last year).

Jax-NE officiating: I agree with the statements that it was a well-called game.

Jax Defense: Normally, you expect a QB to make a couple of mistakes, or the RB to fumble, which NE just didn't do. The 50+ yard pass to Stallworth and the 15 yard pass to Moss were the 2 plays that really made a difference in the game (with the other play the Jax fumble in the first half). Watching Jax all year, this really was the best they could have done.

Finally, to all those teams without a QB, Garrard was available last spring for a 2nd rounder...

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

So what is the answer to beating the Pats? Watching them week in week out it just seems like they won't make those mistakes everyone keeps saying teams will make a couple of times during a game. I'm talking about their offense of course.

Seems like SD has to try somehow, some way of getting pressure on Brady. Taking away the deep ball but leaving underneath open doesn't work with this team. I don't know, doesn't seem like there's any good answer which I guess is why they'll probably win it all.

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Purds,

Overall I think you have a nice, even reaction and take on the Colts game and the Colts season in general.

A few weeks back, I got the feeling that the Freeney loss would loom large. He probably would have been the difference in that game.

As for Brady's fortunes, I would say that Indy got to play the same undermanned team for a good portion of that game but could not capitalize, at home. Had the Colts pulled it out, I'd be talking about how fortunate Manning was for SD losing those players.

Regardless, it was a good season for you guys and you have a lot to be proud of. I'm in the camp that is a little disappointed we won't all get to see a Pats/Colts showdown next week. But I'm also a little relieved that's the case, if that makes sense.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

So the Jaguars had two dropped passes that could have been TDs that led to field goals instead. If those are caught, they're likely at 28-28 and the game's still in question late. That's what the game plan was -- compress the game by long offensive drives and forcing long drives by New England. The end result may be the same -- a TD in a seven minute drive counts the same as a one-play bomb -- but by forcing them to use clock and drive slowly, you reduce the number of times that they do get those results, which reduces the number of times you have to match their results.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

"If I am Jacksonville’s general manager, I am on the phone first thing Monday, offering my first-round pick to Cincinnati for Chad Johnson, to Arizona for Larry Fitzgerald, and to Detroit for Roy Williams. If those don’t work, I’m offering a third to Denver for Javon Walker."

How about making a run at a certain FA WR from the Patriots?

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

I don't know if Jax's scheme was the best blueprint for defensing New England, but it was absolutely the best scheme for their defense. To add to the points already made - the Jags defense this year has been really off, and has had big problems mounting any pash rush. The secondary features a rookie and an old veteran SS in sammy knight who is basically a fast linebacker. They lost their SS starter and had no depth, so the backup to them is some guy they signed from local area tryouts. Unsurprisngly, the defense has lead the league in giving up big pass plays over 20 yards. And was eaten alive by big time passing offenses - see NO, Pittsburgh comeback.

Put that together against Brady's o-line and receivers and you'd expect multiple long bombs for TDs. This strategy took away those and forced them to drive the field, including converting in the red zone, where the defensive problems with the deep ball disappear. The only possible schematic improvement for this defense would be putting Mathis on Moss to free up the much better tackler Brian Williams to make those open field plays. But then maybe Moss gets open more often.

The Jags used a 3-3-5 which they practice and have used on special occasions. This was as good a mix of playing a defense they know and are good at and adjusting to slow down the tempo Pats defense as they could have achieved. It was a great coaching job, but it required great not OK tackling. And the big breaks went New England's day - it was the kind of day when Stallworth tips a long bomb on a defensed screen pass to himself, while Northcutt drops the ball at the goal line.

New England was clearly the better team, but I'm proud of my team and felt they gave themselves the best chance to win. Here's to a good offseason.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

114:

The offense wasn't the problem. They've got to find a DOMINANT pass-rushing defensive end. The mysterious disappearance of Bobby McCray this year really hurt - he had 10 sacks and 35 tackles last year. I love Paul Spicer but I don't know how many good years he has left. Hayward was not the same post-Achilles. Stroud and Henderson haven't gone through a season together in a couple of seasons now... The return of Gerald Sensabaugh to replace Sammy Knight will be a big boost, I think. Sammy Knight had some outstanding plays this year, but he's just a step too slow to be really effective.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

BDC
I had put in some qualifiers, but deleted them to keep the post short. I definitely believe that a team that competes hard and stays sharp gives themselves a better chance of winning than resting on their laurels. But there were other factors...I mean, Manning did throw for 400 yards.
Harrison ended up being somewhat of a goat (he missed a lot more than 4 weeks) and I also wouldn't want to take away from the SD effort.
It's nothing I've quantified with a good sample, I'm trying to look back at the common factors when INDY was a favorite in years past and lost, and I really thought they had a legit shot this year. I believe they won it last year because they competed very well toward the end of the season and didn't sit back because they only had the #3 seed.

I figure I've posted here enough to make it known that I am a Pats fan, and I do drink the kool-aid of having to play 60 minutes at top effort, in every game.
But it also helps when your top guys aren't injured.

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

RE: Norv and play calling.

Sorry, I disagree with his play calling. Specifically, and this is common among other teams as well, the play calls at the end of a game when a first down will pretty much clinch a win.

The Chargers got the ball with 2:01 left in the game. So, there they are, sitting with 1st and 10 to go, with 2:01 on the clock, and the Colts having all of their timeouts. No matter what happens on the first down play, the clock is going to stop, and Indy won't have to use a timeout (two minute warning).

It's blatantly obvious that Indy is going to sell out to stop the run (they had either 9 or 10 up in the box). Why in the world do you run it directly into 9-10 people? Who cares if you throw the ball and it's incomplete? The clock was going to stop anyway.

If you throw there, with 9-10 guys crowding the line of scrimmage, and you complete it... you're either going to bust it wide open and score a TD, putting the game out of reach, or you at least move the chains and start with a first and ten after the two minute warning.

I just thought that was a horrible play call. It's patently stupid to run 3 straight plays into an 8-10 in the box defense and then punt the ball away with 1:40 seconds left on the clock and the Colts still having a timeout.

The Chargers deserved to win the game, but that play calling series was just atrocious.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

JAX-WR
The Jags will gladly see Mike Walker to come back next year. He raised (favorable) comparaison with Jimmy Smith during the trainig camp this summer and could be part of the answer with John Broussard.
The Original Sam is right, the Jags need a great DE, then safety and corner depth. Overall, the team is in good shape and you can't blame the staff for the release of Darius, they couldn't know Sensabaugh would be hurt and Knight was a cheaper and better option to Darius.

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

116

Yea playing the Patriots with sammy knight and a rookie safety made this a bad matchup to play straight defense from the start. They simply did not have the personel on the roster to be able to pressure the pats.

What was really irritating was the constant reference of the Jags being stout up the middle. Well yea, when you have Stroud, Henderson, Peterson, Grant and Darius. Those were basically all run stoppers that weren't available for all or portions of this year . And many times during the year the Jags would send Nelson on a blitz I think just to keep him from getting lost in coverage. Another strategy that probably wouldn't have worked so well.

Bottom line is you will need some luck, a holding penalty on a big play, fumbled snaps, drops on one of the many third down attempts. They played as clean a game of football possible. But if they threw one phantom penalty that would have pushed them into a longer conversion attempt everything could have changed.

Damn brady and his magic receivers, and lineman, and runningbacks (making one handed catches out the backfield) !!!!!

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

hey, when does the nfl prospectus usually come out? i just bought the 2007 one a few weeks ago, when will i be able to expect the nfl prospectus 2008 to be available?

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Bill (#104): I think you misread my too short quotation from the article. Keading was smiling at Sanders and playfully grabbing Sanders after a PAT early in the game. The taps on the head from Sanders came after the missed FG, and no, they were not funny.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

re: taunting. Don't know what they showed on TV--but I was there and saw Sanders as he jumped on Kaeding and put his arms around his neck. No chance, obviously, of Kaeding being hurt etc., but refs had to throw that flag.

re: Chambers. Give FO a break. Geez, just be happy he's been much better than FO has advertised.

re: Norv. To repeat what many others have said. Too many delay penalties (IIRC there was at least one on a third and short), lots if times the play was very late getting in. The twelve men on the field was unconscionable vs. a QB well known for catching teams in such situations, and it happened (again) on a critical third and short.

On the plus side: vs. the Titans and especially yesterday Rivers was very good in the pocket, able to move in the pocket and keep his feet under him so he could deliver good throws. Anyone who thinks Rivers was not good yesterday was simply not watching the game. Norv surely deserves *some* credit for improving Rivers' footwork.

I think the Martyball was a consequence of Turner's belief that Scifries could indeed launch that unbelievable punt. How, tell me, can one punt the ball over 60 yards and NOT OUTKICK THE COVERAGE? Unreal.

Also: I want to have VJ's children.

Next week: Drayton "The Human Holding Penalty" Florence vs. Wes Welker? Ugh. Thanks BTW to whichever FO writer used that term to describe Wayne Gandy.

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

#118:
I suspect that if Rivers had been in, they would have tried some pass plays, but with Volek? The one thing you don't want right there is an interception, and with a sub QB that can always happen, especially with Indy's secondary.

SD's defense had shown they could stop Manning, and they have a heck of a punter, so making the Colts burn 2 of their time-outs and taking your chances giving the ball back with 90 seconds, one TO and a long field was not such a bad idea, in my opinion.

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Hey, if Dungy retires, do you think Manning and a team that has won 12 or more games five years in a row would entice Bill Cowher to come back to coaching a bit early? I can't think a better opportunity would come along, in terms of being at a winning franchise with plenty of potential left.

And, would he be a good coach for Indy?

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

127:
I was thinking the same, and I think it would be a great chance for Indy's team to land on their feet with a top-level coach. Not sure he's a good fit with Polian, though.

Speaking of Polian, does anyone else expect the competition committee to loosen up the rules/de-emphasize/decrease the penalties for DPI/illegal contact this spring, especially if the Pats resign Moss? Not that I would mind it too much, for the sake of the game. I'd just have a great chuckle at the reversal.

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

127:

Volek had just led the Chargers down the length of the field for a TD. I don't see any problems with letting him throw the ball when the Colts were packing 9-10 guys into the box to sell out for the run. Remember, a fumble is also bad too... and you're running with Turner, not LT.

I just don't agree that giving Manning and the Colts the ball with 1:30+ on the clock and 1 timeout is a good strategy.

If Volek was good enough to lead a drive down the field for a TD, then he's good enough to throw a pass to the outside when the Colts are stacking 9 guys in the box.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

More on why the Blueprint didn't and couldn't work...

During the season, Tom Brady threw eight interceptions. So there was the possibility that he might throw one or two against the Jags. Except...

...Of those eight interceptions, four came on passes to Moss, and all eight came on passes labeled "deep" in the play-by-play. So, eliminating deep passes to Moss and others means no chance for interceptions.

It wasn't great play by Brady, or bad luck for the Jaguars. The Blueprint itself was the reason that the Jaguars didn't get any breaks on defense.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Re: 128

I don't know that much about Cowher. He seems like a good coach, but would he feel like he needed to change things too much? I'm not sure Dungy is leaving, but if he does they need someone who doesn't want to change things up too much. The offense still runs pretty good when guys are healthy and the defense looks pretty damn good too. The last thing they need is someone who comes in and wants to run a 3/4 or something. If Cowher comes in and he adds a little toughness and a few trick plays, that would be great. If he tries to do more I think it would be a bad move.

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

As a huge Colts fan I'm trying to fight off the depression from the loss. San Diego won the game, they made the big plays. I was extremely worried at half time when Manning was something like 14 of 15 and the score was 10 to 7.

As far as the holding call, as the Colt's player starts to turn he gets dragged down by the blocker, how is that not holding? Amazing job by Weddle on the interception. Seems like a typical Colts play-off game where the opponent makes a highlight reel interception and Manning has the WTF face on.

As far as the comments about the Colts being very good at the same time as the Pats. At least the Colts got a Super Bowl, unlike the Pacers who always seemed to lose to the Bulls. Congrats San Diego.

At this point I want a Pats-Giants SB, only if we can get a video camera on Simmons while Eli leads the Giants to a SB win. Plus there have to be some awful calls by the refs so we can get a 100,000 word column about how the NFL hates the Pats.

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

131:
Well, for the year, Volek is 6/14 with no TD and one interception (and that's including his stellar 3 for 4 performance yesterday). Statistics aside, I also think the SD coaching staff has a better sense of what kind of QB Volek is than any of us, since he has played so little. I wouldn't second-guess them, honestly.

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Re: Norv Turner's coaching ability.
I noticed LIVE that NT sent Darren Sproles in for the play at the end of the 3rd--where he subsequentely took it in for the 50+ yd TD. Maybe this is a coach hearing the play call from the OC and getting the right personnel in the line-up. Maybe Michael Turner would normally run that play if LT is healthy (MT being the 3rd down back) and Coach Turner wanted a fresh pair of legs.
I will say this in NT's defense: He ran a great offense in Dallas with extremely talented offensive players, resulting in 3 SB wins and life-long love from Troy Aikman. Now he has a pretty good offense to work with (and a D) and he goes 11-5 with 2 playoff wins. Anybody surprised that you pair a decent coach with good talent and get good results?
Anyone think that the Chargers players aren't playing their tail off for their new coach who seems to be generally bashed by the media, just to prove said media wrong?
BTW, if recent AFC history holds true, Chargers upset NE and win SB (see Pittsburg & Indy last two years--winning it all the year AFTER being the #1 seed with high expectations.)

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

The comparison to the 1995 playoffs is interesting. I was actually starting to wonder whether next week would be more like the 1995 AFC Championship, not the NFC Championship. Yall may remember the Indianapolis Colts, given absolutely no chance to win, played without their Hall of Fame RB (Marshall Faulk) and without their game manager QB (Jim Harbaugh) and still came within a hair of beating the heavily-favored Steelers.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

The Jags' gameplan would have also been much more successful if they had tackled better, and that can't be overlooked. The tackling by their secondary wasn't consistently bad, but it was inconsistent all year. I'm not sure what the reason for that is. But they could forced a lot more third downs if they had been sounder tackling, and surely that would have increased their chances of stopping the Unstoppable.

Sammy Knight was certainly a better option than Darius, who didn't do much of anything and didn't see the field much even for some pretty bad teams. It pains me to say that, because everybody in Jax loved DD, but life goes on.

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

133:
Well, personality-wise change is probably what the Colts need, seeing how many times they fell flat at the finish line under Dungy. Someone to bite their asses when it matters. Tactically, I am sure Cowher has enough experience to evaluate his talent and use it wisely. The only thing is that he has been very clear that he doesn't want to coach next year, although Indy may be tempting enough. (On the other hand, there is much more downside in taking the Indy job than starting over with a bottom-feeding team and bringing them up.)

I personally think Dungy should have retired last year, and that if he stays another year and again misses the SB, his tenure at Indy will overall be considered a disappointment. But he may choose to go all-in, who knows.

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

131: On Volek's "Drive" he had one completion that went past the first down marker. Everything else was screen pases and running plays, and a QB sneak.

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Although I wouldn't have minded a short pass on 3rd down, overall I had no problem with SD staying conservative in that situation with Volek in the game.

For those who follow it, is SD's punter always this good? He was incredible yesterday

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

The Colts need 1) to get rid of Harrison and Make Wayne and Gonzalez the #1 and #2, 2) a good slot receiver (maybe try to get Stokely back?), 3) a 3rd down back who can catch the freaking ball, and 4) better depth on the DL. They don't necessarily need a new coach, but if Dungy is going to retire, I'd say promote the defensive coordinator.

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Can anyone explain what went wrong with the Colts run game about halfway through the season? Addai was one of the most productive backs in the league for a while.

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Ned Macey is the only dude in that banter that seems to have an impartial head on his shoulders. The rest of you should be ashamed. The Bolts won and all anyone can do is talk about the Colts? If there was any doubt before, the COLTS ARE DEFINITELY off the radar now -- LOL. Give me a break.

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Re: 142 B

Indy lost Freeny and McFarland during the season, which resulted in much less depth on the D-line.

I'm not going to comment on Harrison until we know what is wrong. I hope his career isn't over, but I think it is a very real possibility. What are the cap consequences if a player has a career ending injury?

Addai is a great receiver out of the backfield, losing him for part of the game hurt. Was he out when Keith botched the catch at the 2 yard line?

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

143: They lost Ugoh, who is a great run blocker, and with Harrison out, defense didn't have to spend as much resources stopping the pass, and could concentrate more on the run.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Sorry I've been out of the loop. My computer died a horrible, painful, virus-induced death last night just as I was starting to post (stupid Windows...)

- Re65 (cd6): Wow, for once I agree with everything cd6 said. Weird. Dan Koppen's not overrated, Rodney Harrison did play the game kind of like a jerk, and I hate the "let the offensive lines cheat in the playoffs" way holding is called.

- To everyone who is criticizing Jax for their defensive gameplan--you're confusing gameplan with execution. Gameplans don't result in points, or prevent points. Gameplans try to even things up or give your teams advantages so that, IF YOU EXECUTE WELL you will probably win.

The Jax gameplan did two things. First, it forced the Patriots to execute well time after time to score points. With the deep pass, you need to execute well once or twice per drive to score a TD (or the defense needs to screw up once or twice). With 7-yard pass after 7-yard pass, the offense needs to execute (as well or better than the defense) ten times per drive to even get a FG, and 12-15 times to get a TD, and pretty much needs to execute well two out of every three or four plays on top of it all. One screw up (like an inadvertent chop block), bad break, or good defensive play ends the drive. Unfortunately for Jacksonville, Brady never screwed up, and their defense never got a lucky break. On the other side of the ball, their offense did screw up a couple of times (Northcutt drop, Garrard fumble, etc), so their offense didn't execute as well as the Pats. Hence the lost.

But that's the point of the other half of why they used the gameplan. It's pretty much a given, as well as New England played this year, that their offense wasn't going to execute as well as New Englands', in the long run. With 15-20 possessions each, it's almost guaranteed that the Pats offense this year will execute better on more of them than the Jacksonville offense. The talent differential is just too large. But, while you maybe don't like the odds of matching Brady and Co twenty times, matching his production just seven times is doable. And for a while it was working. They lost because they just matched the Pats production four times.

A more aggressive gameplan probably would have had a limited probability of keeping the game even closer, but a much higher probability of a blowout. And two lucky plays won't change the result of a blowout. But two lucky plays on Saturday could have given Jacksonville the win (i.e. if Northcutt holds on at the goal line, and if the DB that came close to catching Watson's tip actually catches the ball).

- The decline of defense is because of points many people have aready mentioned--pass defense is tougher under the Polian-Penalty scheme, and is all but impossible when refs adopt a "let them play" approach to offensive holding. The only thing that fairly counteracts the fact that DB's can't breath on WR's is if pass rushers are actually allowed to rush the QB. In the regular season, they often can. But apparently not the playoffs.

- I noticed an interesting loophole in illegal contact rulesf this weekend. A penalty flag for illegal contact on a DB(in the Colts game maybe?) got picked up because the QB was out of the pocket, but the ball was not yet thrown, when the contact occurred. Does that mean that on any rollout or bootleg play, the DB's can just level the recievers, as long as they do so before the ball is thrown? This has defensive possiblities for containing scramblers... Of course, most refs probably wouldn't call it (or rather, not call it) consistently, so it's probably too risky...

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

I couldn't agree with Macey more. This Colts team, with all it's players, could have been one of the best Colts teams in the Indianapolis era.
Sadly, to paraphrase Rummy: "You play the game with the team you have, not the team you wish you had." And clearly, the team we had wasn't good enough.
If anything, I think this season has reinforced the need for the Colts to build quality depth especially at WR, DE and at CB. Jackson and Hayden are terrific, but Tim Jennings is the new Jason David. Unfortuntately, considering all the money they have invested in the starters, they're going to have to get lucky in the draft ala Ed Johnson and Antoine Bethea for this to happen.
So, while still bummed, I do take solace in my predictions for next year.
1. The Colts will return the entire starting line up except for Ryan Lilja. This is kind of a no-brainer. Sanders is already signed. Clark will either be signed or franchised. The remaining money will be spent on Jake Scott, leaving Lilja most likely as the odd man out, considering Dylan or someone else can probably replace him without missing a beat.
2. New England will win the SB (groan) but will suffer some big defensive losses in the off-season, with Bruschi, Seau and Harrison retiring and Samuel to free-agency. Samuel has already made it clear he is gone. For the retirees', leaving as 19-0 SB champs is the very definition of going out on top. Harrison is the only guy I could see out of that group who might come back. Not saying these losses will kill NE or anything, but Bruschi especially has been the heart and soul of that defense, even if he has lost a step. And as Harrison said, 'Youth is over-rated'. Besides, if they had someone better, they'd be playing them as NE has proven to be heartless when it comes to dumping veteran guys.
3. Randy Moss will show T.O. what pulling a T.O. is all about. He will refuse NE's contract offer and will take his ring, his H.O.F. guarantee, and ride off into the sunset, getting paid obscene amounts of money somewhere else. This may be a stretch, but remember, it was all sunshine and rainbows with T.O. until after the S.B. And T.O. actually had a contract. Moss doesn't.
4. In a stunning use of Bill B's arcane mastery of black magic, he will cast his level 70 dumb-assio curse on opposing teams, thus allowing him to turn their 1st round draft pick into 17 1st/2nd round picks, where they will draft a bunch of guys you never heard of who will all become pro-bowlers next season. Just kidding...I think.
5. If the above happens, Bill Polian will murder someone. Totally not kidding.
6. Dungy will retire and will be replaced by...Marty Schottenheimer! For reals kidding on this one. Jim Caldwell will be introduced as the new coach at Dungy's retirement press conference or I will eat my shoes.
7. And finally, my wacky, way out on a limb prediction: The Pats and Colts will both be really, really good next year.

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

Re: #145

I believe a career-ending injury is treated the same as a retirement -- any un-prorated bonuses get accelerated into the present.

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: AFC Divisional Games

#141 — Yes, Mike Scifres IS always that good (well, actually I'm sure he's better inside a dome, what with no wind and whatnot, but you get what I mean ;)

He consistently puts that ball inside the 20, and as you saw can get enough hangtime on the rock for guys like Kassim Osgood to get to the returner (although sometimes, like yesterday, he kicks the ball so dang far that his gunners have trouble catching up!)

As a lifelong Bolts fan who SUFFERED through nearly a decade of miserable seasons, I'm just stoked to see the Chargers beating a quality opponent (Colts) to faceoff against the best team in The League for the rights to play in the Super Bowl....I'm rooting for SD to win, but even if they make it an exciting AFC Championship and still lose, I'll be OK ;)