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

Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Audibles at the Line: Week 13
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Doug Farrar and Vince Verhei

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2009. Games are chosen based on our own personal viewing preferences, and are going to reflect the teams we support and the cities where we live.

If you missed the Audibles for the three Thanksgiving games, you can read those comments here.

San Francisco 49ers 10 at Buffalo Bills 3

Bill Barnwell: The Bills split out Trent Edwards and had Marshawn Lynch as the only person in the backfield. The announcer said "Looks like a direct snap to Lynch, most likely" right before the ball was snapped. What, was the center going to run a sneak?

Trent Edwards is out in Buffalo with a groin injury. Rian Lindell missed a 20-yard field goal earlier, which is astounding, but not the shortest miss I can find -- Kris Brown missed a 19-yard field goal IN HOUSTON in 2002.

Vince Verhei: Second quarter, Andy Lee punts 56 yards to the Buffalo 1, where the ball seems destined to go into the end zone for a touchback -- except that Roscoe Parrish FIELDS IT and runs it out to the seven. Is it just me, or has punt fielding become a completely lost art in this league? It seems like every game, I see a returner field a ball he should have stayed away from, or vice versa. Is there a way to statistically measure this? Is gross punting average up? Or touchbacks down?

Baltimore Ravens 34 at Cincinnati Bengals 3

Bill Barnwell: Ryan Fitzpatrick's first half: 2-of-11, 23 yards, two sacks. Bench him!

Ben Riley: The Red Zone Channel flipped over briefly to this game, and before I could quickly change channels, I saw Ryan Fitzpatrick roll to his right and attempt to throw a pass, only he couldn't because he dropped the ball while winding up. So that accounts for one of your nine incomplete passes.

Mike Tanier: The Bengals offense ran out of ideas in this game, which was fun to watch with the Flaccer Backers. Ravens offense: Run-Run-Run-Run- BOMB! Run-Run-Run, reverse to Clayton, BOMB! They threw a few stop routes in there for 10-yard pass plays.

Ned Macey: I saw only some mop-up time in PIT-NE today in an airport, as I was traveling and visiting with family. But I picked up updates on the Colts game on various radio outlets, and they kept telling me that Robert Mathis scored. Not once did they ever mention how the fumble was caused, the truly impressive defensive achievement. Now on the AP game recap, they don't mention it was caused by Dwight Freeney until the third-to-last paragraph.

Indianapolis Colts 10 at Cleveland Browns 6

Doug Farrar: THAT was an interesting start. Joseph Addai fumbled on the Colts' first play from scrimmage, giving the Browns a short field at the Indy 47. Cleveland goes with eight straight running plays, then a three-yard screen on third-and-8 from the 20. Field goal. After basically ignoring the run last week against the Texans, the Browns are now almost swinging too far the other way. That said, at least Braylon Edwards didn't drop any balls on that drive!

We've detailed the exploits of cornerback Brandon McDonald before in other Audibles, and he's matched up with Reggie Wayne early. You can tell that it's an iffy proposition. He's playing off, very tentatively, and giving up the short stuff. However, he managed to punch a ball out of Wayne's hands in the end zone as Wayne was bringing it in, which led to a Colts field goal. Good play there, though he was late on the ball to start.

The Browns are definitely playing defense on offense. Halfway through the second quarter, they've doubled the Colts in time of possession. Derek Anderson has not thrown a ball longer than five yards in the air, and they have twice as many runs as passes. That said, you can't play that way and settle for field goals when your defense is this bad; eventually, Peyton will wake up and nuke your ass. He'll take that man underneath all day, and wait for you to blow it in the red zone.

Well, the Browns didn't blow it in the red zone at the end of the first half. From the Cleveland 1, Manning tries to sneak it over on fourth-and-goal. He loses the ball before he breaks the plane, and Dallas Clark picks it up. The "Holy Roller" rule stipulates that only the fumbling player can advance the ball, and the Browns take over at their own 1-yard line. The Browns stay up 6-3, a lead they've earned with some surprising defensive play when the Colts actually have the ball.

Bill Barnwell: The commentators note that Marvin Harrison's "still making valuable catches, they're just not as long." This is, of course, demonstrably false, thanks to Harrison's -15% DVOA in an offense where every other receiver has a positive DVOA.

Aaron Schatz: No, no, it's not false. As long as Harrison has made two valuable catches, he is still making valuable catches. They didn't say he's still "mostly" making valuable catches, after all. Two counts as plural.

Doug Farrar: Between Harrison and Edwards, this is the "Surprise Horrible DVOA Bowl," presented by Sprint. And speaking of Edwards, play-by-play had him targeted 16 times against the Texans. In the first half of this game? Once. That there is what you call a graphic shift in philosophy.

Brandon McDonald gets a sweet pick on Manning on a throw to Wayne at the start of the second half. Trailed him on a man look, beat him inside, and made the play. Don't look now, but the Browns have officially showed up.

Ben Riley: Romeo Crennel just decided to take a page out of the Andy Reid-Mike Holmgren School of Clock Management. Holding two timeouts, he decided to let Manning run the clock down to the two minute warning. And now the Browns are getting the ball back with two minutes to play and two timeouts, instead of having 2:45, one timeout, and the two-minute warning. Brilliant work.

Doug Farrar: Tough loss for the Browns. Their defense did everything required to win, which is unusual, and I'm astonished that a team with this many potential playmakers and a very solid offensive line hasn't scored a touchdown in eight quarters. Losing Derek Anderson late in the game and having to put Ken Dorsey out there didn't help at all, but this offense is flat-out broken. A new approach is probably required, and I would be dangling offers for Braylon Edwards in the offseason were I in charge of the Browns' front office. I haven't seen a single marquee player do so much to kill his own offense since Shaun Alexander fell off the face of the earth a couple years ago.

Two other things stood out to me in this game. First of all, Josh Cribbs is the best special teams player in the NFL, and it isn't even close. Take the pre-receiver Devin Hester and add 25 return tackles per season, and you have Cribbs. Second, rookie center Jamey Richard really impressed me going up against Shaun Rogers. I thought Rogers would dominate the seventh-rounder, but he didn't -- not even as the nose in a 3-4, which seems to be his more effective position. I wanted to point out Richard's game so that we'll all remember it the next time the Seahawks whine about being stuck with seventh-round second-year player Steve Vallos at center. When you have Howard Mudd as your line coach, and a line that works well together, you can be undermanned and still make it happen.

Carolina Panthers 35 at Green Bay Packers 31

Ben Riley: On Carolina's opening drive, Jake Delhomme hit Steve Smith for a big 50-yard gain after a flea flicker from DeAngelo Williams. Have we ever investigated the success rate of flea flickers? If I was a head coach, I'd say screw the Wildcat, we're running at least four flea flickers in every game!

I'm going to go ahead and say the Panthers have the best secondary in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers had five, six seconds to scan the field a moment ago on third down, but there was no one to throw to and he ended up scrambling out of bounds.

The Packers just came up a millimeter short of converting on third down with the game tied, and six minutes to play. That's no hyperbole; the ball was literally a millimeter short of the stick. The referees sat around staring at the spot for a good 20 seconds before deciding it wasn't a first down. (Mercifully, the Packers converted on the next play.)

Julius Peppers just locked up KCW this week. He just ran up and nailed Aaron Rodgers out of bounds, giving the Packers first-and-goal with under four minutes to play. Stupid, stupid, stupid penalty.

I'd like to thank Steve Smith for continuing to catch 45 yard bombs from Delhomme but stopping just shy of the end zone, thus ensuring that DeAngelo Williams -- who happens to be on the fantasy team I'm playing against -- can plunge in from the 1-yard line. Nightmare.

Bill Barnwell: I'm going to give 5-foot-3 Steve Smith respect for grabbing the ball away from 6-1 Charles Woodson in double coverage.

My Packers fan roommate also appreciated it when DeAngelo Williams threw the ball up to a Panthers fan after his fourth touchdown, only for a nearby Packers fan to swat it down.

(Williams scored on the first play from scrimmage. Kill me, kill me now.)

The Panthers have first-and-goal from the 1 with 1:33 left, down 31-28, and the Packers have two timeouts. Don't the Packers have to let them score here?

Ben Riley: Whoa. The color commentator just stated on air that the Packers should allow the Panthers to score the touchdown, so as to get the ball back with enough time to score again. There was a silent pause, during which I'm sure the FOX producers freaked out in his ear, and then he reversed himself and said the Packers should try to make a stand.

Bill Barnwell: They said that IMMEDIATELY after I sent that message.

Doug Farrar: Hey, it worked for Mike Holmgren in Super Bowl XXXII! Oh, wait...

Elias Holman: On their last meaningful possession, the Packers got stopped on the 1-yard line on two successive plays and decided to kick a go-ahead field goal, which seems like the safe strategy, but it seemed to me that they should have gone for the touchdown on fourth down. The probability of converting is very high, and they had been horrible on kick return coverage, so burying the Panthers at the 1 without a kickoff to return was a good idea. Given that the Panthers went long kickoff return, Steve Smith for 50-odd yards, DeAngelo Williams touchdown on the subsequent series (for the second time, I might add) it seems like my intuition was correct, but I don't know if the value of being ahead by any amount late in the game outweighs the field goal-versus-touchdown differential. I would assume this needs a football commentary-style analysis.

Doug Farrar: I'm generally in favor of burying your opponent at the 1. There's still a bonus there if you don't get the touchdown. Plus, there's this:

Green Bay's offensive DVOA in goal-to-go through Week 12: 42.6% (ranked third)
Carolina's defensive DVOA in goal-to-go through week 12: 44.8% (ranked 28th)

Safe to say, the odds were with the Packers on that one.

Mark Zajack: It's really enjoyable to watch the run blocking of the Carolina line. They seem to like pulling left guard Travelle Wharton on runs to the right. He also had a couple of great blocks to set the edge when they ran to the left -- including a bootleg on which Delhomme scored, as well as a score by DeAngelo Williams.

Wharton even recovered a fumble on a run by Jonathan Stewart about 30 yards downfield. Nice hustle. He and center Ryan Kalil look really good in space when they pull them, as well as just owning the guys in front of them.

Mike Tanier: The Packers out-Eagled the Eagles. They are a talented team with a knack for dumb losses. They spotted the Panthers a lead on a bad snap turnover, had some red zone problems early in the game that forced them to settle for field goals, and gave up some big plays on special teams. I think I have become a Panthers nay-sayer, but I just don't see a really great team here. I wouldn't say great things about their secondary after what I saw in the second half against the Packers. They are just good enough to win in all facets of the game, and they keep winning close ones.

Vince Verhei: Carolina, up 7-3 in the second quarter, has a third-and-1 near midfield. The defense crowds the line to try to stop the run, so when Jonathan Stewart squirts through the first line, there is no second line and he has a clear path to the end zone -- except that he slows up inside the 20. He wasn't even showboating, he just started to jog. He was run down by not one, but two Green Bay defenders, at the 3-yard line -- yes, the THREE -- and fumbled. On plays like this, a runner like Stewart should score 100 times out of 100, and he came up three yards short. Fortunately for him, Travelle Wharton had hustled downfield and was there to recover the fumble, and Carolina went on to score.

Miami Dolphins 16 at St. Louis Rams 12

Bill Barnwell: There has been a lot of talk about the Wildcat, but I'm also seeing more teams in the league running the Full House than I did a year ago. Miami just used it to run the ball in inside the 10, and I just charted Atlanta using it against Carolina in Week 12.

Doug Farrar: The Panthers will like to use it as well, with tight end Jeff King in the backfield.

Ben Riley: I think it's safe to say Davone Bess is already the finest player to ever come out of the Oregon State Penitentiary flag football system. He's been getting open at will (granted, it is the Rams) and made an incredible grab in the second quarter.

Doug Farrar: After the game, the Dolphins made a point of revealing that Marc Bulger was telegraphing his throws all day. "We knew what was coming" was the basic gist. I would hope that Bulger was made aware of this before the Dolphins told him, but I suspect that he wasn't. Lord, this team is bad.

Mike Tanier: They were force-feeding this Bess kid the ball. He is very fast and looks good enough, but I saw some dropped passes and a few occasions where he didn't put himself in good position to make a catch. He's a cool "discovery" player, but I would take my chances with Eddie Royal if I was looking for an exciting rookie.

New Orleans Saints 20 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23

Bill Barnwell: OK, I'm not asking this to taunt Mike, I swear, but how does Reggie Bush have three carries for zero yards with a longest carry of eight yards?

Russell Levine: Because Reggie Bush always makes the mistake of trying to outrun Tampa Bay's defense east-qest. He also had negative yardage on both of his punt returns before Sean Payton gave up on that idea. Two years ago against the Bucs, I thought Bush was learning to just stick a three-yard run up the middle when that's all that was there. But today he was back to bouncing things outside and getting tracked down by the Tampa Bay linebackers.

Mike Tanier: Reggie Bush is a unique talent. That's how he can rush three times for zero yards with a long of eight.

Doug Farrar: There are two backs on teams out of the playoff picture who need more opportunities to show what they can do: Pierre Thomas of the Saints and Jerome Harrison of the Browns. It's somewhat lonely on the Thomas bandwagon, but the weather's fine.

Russell Levine: This was an interesting game. Drew Brees scares me more than any quarterback since a mid-career Favre, but the net result is somehow ... meh. Three interceptions, two down the stretch, and another that was called back via a penalty way away from the play. If ever there was a team for which Tampa Bay's "play coverage and tackle" approach is the right one, it's New Orleans. Brees can pick them apart 13 yards at a time, but I think he gets impatient if he can't make big plays down the field and eventually will force something.

Ronde Barber was really good today, breaking up one deep ball to Colston, making another recovery play in the end zone to deflect a ball that Cato June intercepted, and pressuring Brees on some blitzes.

I can understand why Jon Gruden gets impatient with Jeff Garcia. Watching him leave a perfectly good pocket can be a maddening experience, especially when he was constantly missing open guys and running himself into huge hits, as he was today (although the miserable conditions may have had something to do with the inaccuracy). Tampa Bay is constantly calling play-action, seven-step drops for Garcia, and as soon as his back foot hits on that seventh step, he's almost always stepping up into or out of the pocket and ends up checking the ball down. That Greg Cosell article we linked in XP a week or so ago was dead on -- it's as if he needs to move around in order to find lanes to throw.

You could make a case that Clifton Smith is Tampa Bay's offensive MVP, and as a bonus, he didn't fumble today for the first time in four games. He was constantly setting up Tampa Bay in good field position on both kicks and punts. Memo to Bruce Allen: Smith is why you don't draft kick returners in the second round. He's an undrafted free agent who's turning into one of the best all-around return guys in the league, and your second-round pick, Dexter Jackson, is a healthy scratch every week. He contributes even less than Joey Galloway, who hardly sees the field and dropped the only ball thrown his way today.

Sean Payton got a little cute, as he tends to do, early in the game. First quarter, fourth-and-1 at the Tampa Bay 30-yard line, does he plug away up the middle? No, he calls for the end-around, which was stopped easily for about a three-yard loss.

Also, I am reading all the reports that Monte Kiffin will leave Tampa Bay to join his son Lane at the University of Tennessee. As a Bucs fan, I'd much rather that Tennessee had just hired Jon Gruden and left Kiffin behind. Will be interesting, if this happens, to see if Tampa Bay brings back Rod Marinelli or promotes Raheem Morris from within. Morris has the same kind of buzz around him that Mike Tomlin did a couple of years ago.

Congratulations to ESPN -- you finally have an important Monday Night game as Tampa Bay visits Carolina next week in a game that could decide the South title and second seed in the NFC.

New York Giants 23 at Washington Redskins 7

Doug Farrar: Has Plax "shot his way out of New York," to quote Tom Jackson? And if so, will the Giants miss him at all?

Bill Barnwell: Yes, he has. Will they miss him? Not really (they've succeeded with Domenik freaking Hixon as the X receiver at times). I think he'll go somewhere else and succeed, since he's not really the "me-first" sort of guy that he's going to be lumped in with. He's not T.O. or Chad Johnson. He's a different sort of "me-first", an incredibly tough guy who simply ignores the rules on a somewhat regular basis.

I could see him in Tampa Bay as Joey Galloway's replacement.

Mark Zajack: Plax was a much more focused player and better teammate last year, with the chronic ankle injury. Maybe he shot himself to get that sort of single-minded focus back? Brilliant plan for the playoff run, methinks. I agree that Hixon has been fine as a replacement. But, I think Eli Manning will miss having the big guy to throw the deep jump ball as a kind of safety valve.

Doug Farrar: Does he need that escape hatch anymore, though? If he's doing well without Plax, maybe he's finally become that quarterback who doesn't need the jump balls to get by.

Sean McCormick: I don't think Manning needs Burress at all. He actually seems more comfortable throwing to smaller receivers like Steve Smith. Of course, just as I say that, Manning makes a beautiful back-shoulder fade to Hixon, a throw you'd only make to a big receiver.

I think Burress is probably done in New York. There will be a good market for him in the offseason, and rightfully so. Baltimore strikes me as a particularly good match -- a young, talented quarterback who can get the ball to him and a team of veterans who can keep him somewhat under control.

Ben Riley: I'm not so sure there will be that a good market for Burress. If you were an NFL general manager, would you want to commit guaranteed money to a guy who started ignoring every team rule once he convinced the Giants to give him a bunch of guaranteed money? Of course, I'm sure the Bengals will give him a look.
Nice of Eli to open the game by hitting Domenik Hixon twice, and Amani Toomer for a long touchdown, to hammer home just how unnecessary Plax really is.

Bill Barnwell: Do the Giants really need to run a direct snap to Derrick Ward? Sure, it worked, but realistically, is this the offense that needs trickery to succeed?

Doug Farrar: Yeah, we're getting to the point where teams are doing this stuff for the sake of it and just wasting downs. The Browns tried the "Flash" package directly to Josh Cribbs in scoring range, and the Colts had it read all the way.

Bill Barnwell: Uh-oh. Shaun O'Hara's hurt and staying down. One of the huge factors in the Giants' success this year has been their health on the offensive line -- the starting five hasn't missed a regular season game since 2006. (O'Hara did miss the Wild Card game against the Buccaneers last year, a game in which the Giants averaged 3.1 yards per rush).

Doug Farrar: And there's DeAngelo Hall, whiffing a tackle on Amani Toomer AND picking up a late hit penalty on the same play. As Emmitt says, you can't expect a leopard to change its stripes.

Bill Barnwell: BAD ELI! Eli's having a very good game, but he just showed off his famed skill to throw a duck and have two Redskins run into each other while trying to pick it off.

Aaron Schatz: Eli Manning's back-shoulder fade pass to Domenik Hixon on that first touchdown drive was a thing of beauty, and the touchdown pass to Amani Toomer on the next play was even more perfect. Everything we project and predict should be considered to have a wide range of possibilities on either side, leaving room for both random chance and the human element. Well, I don't know exactly what changed in Manning's game around last January -- I mean, we know that he got much more accurate and seems to have had a poise transplant, but we don't know what technically caused either change -- and that's the human element. The guy is a really good quarterback now, and the Giants are the best team in football right now, and it isn't close.

As great as Manning is, I don't think he's an MVP candidate, but that's because Mike Reiss had a great idea in his notes column of the Boston Sunday Globe. Apparently, the rules of the AP MVP voting allow you to choose either a player OR A UNIT ON A SPECIFIC TEAM. Naturally, a "skill player" seems to win the award every year, but you could vote for a unit. The Giants offensive line is the MVP of the 2008 season. Period. And the Tennessee defensive line is probably second.

I will also agree that a direct snap to Derrick Ward seems to be a wrinkle that exists solely to be a wrinkle, and does absolutely nothing to improve New York's chances of winning a second straight title.

Mike Tanier: Wrinkles like the direct snap to Ward A) Have little risk (he could fumble the snap, but the biggest risk is probably a 1-yard loss) and B) Give the guys something new and exciting to work on in practice, which probably keeps them paying attention. I think that's why we have seen so many corny direct snap plays this year after the Dolphins' success. These aren't triple-reverse option passes, and they probably have high practice morale value that makes the risk worthwhile.

Doug Farrar: It's raining tragic irony on NBC: Tiki Barber asking the current Giants if there's any problem going forward without Plax. Consensus answer: "Nope." Tiki thinks to self: "Riiiiiiight."

Vince Verhei: Redskins have fourth-and-1, down 20-7 in the fourth quarter. They go for it and Clinton Portis is stuffed, effectively ending the game. The play took so long to develop that Portis was doomed from the start, and everyone knew it. The eventual tackle was so anticlimactic, there was zero emotional reaction from any player on the field, even though the game was over. There's no point in celebrating a foregone conclusion.

Ned Macey: Ok, I only have watched maybe 2.5 Giants games, so feel free to consider this opinion ill-advised, but I will say right now that the Giants, without Burress, will not win the Super Bowl. Despite being the number one receiver, he is the only one of the three Giants receivers with a positive DVOA. Washington, today's victim, had a below-average pass defense, and Arizona (vanquished with basically no Burress last week) is even worse. I see a team like Carolina lining up eight in the box and playing physical man-to-man on the receivers and shutting the Giants down.

Burress' ability to stretch the defense just dictates a different type of defensive scheme. Burress' longest catch this year is 33 yards, and his yards per catch are down from 14.6 to 13.0. Maybe that is all him, but I think teams are taking away the deep ball. Without Burress today, the defense wasn't playing deep, and suddenly the unstoppable Giants' running game gained 101 yards on 30 carries. (Last week, 24 carries for 78 yards). Hixon is a decent player, but his success will come when defenses ignore him to stop the run.

Atlanta Falcons 22 at San Diego Chargers 16

Bill Barnwell: And, in a late note, Michael Turner's 31 carries today put him on pace for 376 carries for the season.

Ned Macey: At what point do we start worrying that LaDainian Tomlinson is done, or at least done as a difference-making back? He is 29 years old. He has a career low in yards per carry. Or is it just the nagging injuries (I've lost track if it is more than his toe at this point). And in either case, should they start using Darren Sproles more? Or is it just irrelevant, because they are the most talented 4-8 team in history?

Vince Verhei: In the second quarter, San Diego tried a reverse on a kickoff return. It was a miserable failure, with Legedu Naanee tackled at the 8-yard line. At the risk of oversimplifying things to a Tony Kornheiser degree, that seems like a play that would have worked against the Bobby Petrino Falcons, but had no chance against the Mike Smith Falcons.

Both teams left points on the scoreboard. Atlanta had a fourth-and-inches at the goal-line just before halftime and opted to go for it. Brandon Siler (isn't he the bad guy on Heroes?) stuffed Michael Turner for no gain. For the Chargers, down nine in the fourth quarter, Vincent Jackson got behind Chris Houston for what could have been a 24-yard gain to set up first-and-goal at the 1, but the ball hung in the air and Jackson came down just out of bounds. On the next play, the Chargers' field goal was blocked. A few minutes later, still down nine, Jackson made an amazing vertical leap to catch a pass, but came down out of bounds again, this time in the back of the end zone. The Chargers ended up kicking a field goal on the drive.

I know he's dealing with turf toe, but man, LaDainian Tomlinson looks done. He just has nothing to offer right now. And the Chargers know it -- on their first drive, Tomlinson had two runs (for a total of 1 yard) while Philip Rivers threw eight passes.

Doug Farrar: Comparing former Louisville receivers with the jersey number 83 (season receiving totals):

Harry Douglas: 19 catches, 265 yards, 1 touchdown.
Deion Branch: 13 catches, 152 yards, 0 touchdowns.

Douglas also has a rushing touchdown and a return touchdown, and he's a rookie third-round pick, which leads me to believe that his 2008 cap hit is a bit smaller than Branch's $6.76 million (not to mention that wasted first-round draft pick the Seahawks basically threw away on this mutt of a trade).

Pittsburgh Steelers 33 at New England Patriots 10

Ben Riley: The amazing thing about Dan Dierdorf is that once he decides something is true, no amount of visual evidence will convince him otherwise. After declaring that Santonio Holmes dropped a ball because he looked upfield too quickly, CBS showed the replay, which actually showed Holmes just dropping the ball, perhaps because it is soaking wet. Nonetheless, Dan declares that "Nope, NO, he didn't look it into his hands!"

Bill Barnwell: Dierdorf also went on a speech about how the Steelers didn't score inside the five because they missed Jerome Bettis. Through his career, inside the five, just based upon the number of times he got the ball from the 1, the 2, the 3, the 4, and the 5, an average back would've scored 45.54 touchdowns. Jerome Bettis scored ... 47 touchdowns.

Aaron Schatz: I think if there's anything you can take away from today's 31-10 thrashing of the Pats by the Steelers, it is that Pittsburgh misses Jerome Bettis. Either that, or you could take away the fact that Matt Light is completely James Harrison's bitch.

Doug Farrar: At this point, I think he'd have to stand in line for that title. Harrison's been ripping up the NFL all season.

Patrick Laverty: So then I gotta ask, is Matt Light overrated? I hear people talk about him with Pro Bowl mentions, but at the same time, he's a turnstyle for any above-average pass rusher. Justin Tuck, meet Tom Brady. Often.

It was also sorta funny to see Cassel give a little "WTF?" to Kaczur when he got sacked from the front side, and you can see Kaczur's reaction was basically "wasn't my guy," and then the replay shows Faulk just bumping the rusher and going out for a pass. Sounds like a really bad read by Cassel and one that Kaczur will give an "I told you so" during the film review.

I thought it was funny when Ellis Hobbs and Richard Seymour sacked Ben Roethlisberger. First Hobbs hits him and Ben is almost swatting him away like a fly, and then Seymour cleans up.

Now, are things really that bad between Bill Belichick and Ty Law that it's worth keeping Deltha O'Neal on the roster instead of signing Law as a free agent? It seemed today that the play in the Pittsburgh huddle was "we need a touchdown here, so whoever O'Neal's chasing five steps behind will get the ball."

Randy Moss deserves quite a bit of the blame for this game. When it was still a game, he had some big drops that could have turned things around.

After two weeks of sports radio and "what if Brady's not ready, we gotta sign Cassel to the $14 million franchise and keep him, even if it's as the backup, or maybe he's even better than Brady" talk, I can't wait to hear all this week about how badly Cassel sucks and the Patriots aren't going to the playoffs because they didn't sign Culpepper or it's time to give O'Connell a shot.

Bill Barnwell: Tuck was on the interior in that game, it wasn't Light's fault.

Aaron Schatz: Law is just as over the hill as O'Neal, if not more so. There's a reason why nobody signed him for half the season.

Denver Broncos 34 at New York Jets 17

Doug Farrar: Note to the booth crew: Alex Gibbs doesn't coach the Denver offensive line anymore. Hasn't in a long, long time. Rick Dennison, who has coached that unit since 2001, would probably appreciate the namecheck. He certainly deserves it.

Sean McCormick: Thomas Jones' second touchdown was one of the strangest I've ever seen. Jones was tripped up by Denver defensive tackle Kenny Peterson, but instead of going to the ground, Jones ended up rolling down Peterson's back and landing on his feet. All the Broncos defenders seemed to think Jones was down, but he ran out the play just in case and upon further review, his knee never touched down.

Doug Farrar: It looked to me like his elbow may have touched the ground, but there wasn't a clear angle to overturn. Probably a really good no-down call by the officials.

Sean McCormick: Mike Shanahan has done a nice job of mixing up his play-calling to anticipate the coverage. The game plan has alternated between quick bubble screens that attack the secondary horizontally whenever the defense is packed inside and spread formations that isolate receivers in one-on-one coverage in the middle of the field whenever the Jets start bracketing the outside receivers. Jay Cutler has been very efficient, but a lot of it is simply play design.

Vince Verhei: After watching Eddie Royal burn Abram Elam for a long touchdown to put Denver up 14-7, I had a flashback to Aaron on Sports Guy's podcast: The AFC playoffs are going to be all about matchups. The Jets handily beat the Titans, a running team, but can't handle the Broncos, a passing team, even though Denver is clearly inferior to Tennessee, overall.

I was prepared to come on here and tear the Jets apart for only giving Thomas Jones the ball 11 times in the first half against the Broncos' horrible run defense. Then I looked up the numbers and realized the Jets only had 25 total plays. And of the 11 carries Jones did get, seven gained 4 yards or less, and he also fumbled. So never mind.

Kansas City Chiefs 20 at Oakland Raiders 13

Ben Riley: The Raiders ran my favorite play, the hook-and-ladder, with Ron Curry pitching the ball to McFadden, for a 16-yard gain. This comes after they split McFadden out wide and ran a deep out route to him (and interference was called). The Raiders are fun to watch when they play the Chiefs.

Mike Tanier: It was an oddball hook-and-lateral. It was more like a smash route as I remember -- a 5-yard hitch, with McFadden coming out of the backfield to take the ball as a quasi-option pitch. Pretty cool little wrinkle, though.

Bill Barnwell: Chris Houston had an awful interception return against the Chiefs. He had open field in front of him on the sideline and, despite the fact that he had only Tyler Thigpen to beat (with multiple blockers), he turned into the middle of the field and was tackled.

Russell Levine: Tuned into the end of this one, mostly because I had Oakland high in my confidence pool and wanted to see if they could come back. They couldn't, but I did catch Kansas City salting the game away by running Larry Johnson out of the Nevada "pistol" formation. Crazy college formations -- they're everywhere!

I don't recall K.C. showing that look against the Bucs a few weeks ago. Has anyone seen the Chiefs or anyone else deploy that formation this season?

Bill Barnwell: Someone (Vince?) mentioned the pistol a couple of weeks ago.

Aaron Schatz: I actually don't think of the pistol as that nuts. It's really just a slightly adjusted Shotgun. What are supposed to be the specific positives on it?

By the way, anyone else looking forward to Madden 2010? One of the reasons why NCAA Football is more fun than Madden is the variety of offensive formations, and now Madden is going to need to include the option, the Wildcat, the pistol, etc.

Russell Levine: I think the thought behind the pistol is that it provides most of the advantage of the shotgun -- letting the quarterback can set up quicker and start his progression -- while still allowing a running back to take a handoff with a running start. So it's supposed to be a better formation to run out of than the traditional shotgun.

Vince Verhei: Oakland had some very good creative offense today. Starting with the aforementioned hitch-and-lateral, JaMarcus Russell-to-Ronald Curry-to-Darren McFadden. (It was almost off a wide receiver screen; the slot receiver threw a block on the corner covering Curry.) They also tried a little of everything with McFadden. Besides the hitch-and-lateral, he also lined up at running back, wide receiver, and quarterback in the first 20 minutes of the game.

And then they had a really, really horrible bit of creative offense. With a fourth-and-10 early in the second quarter, they lined up for a 43-yard field-goal attempt. Sebastian Janikowski, a left-footed kicker, lines up to the right of holder Shane Lechler. At the snap, Janikowski takes off to the left and Lechler tries to flick the ball backwards to him. They never came close to connecting, and Maurice Leggett picked up the ball and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown, which would prove to be the game's final margin. Now, let's review everything that had to go right for Oakland for this play to work:

1) Shane Lechler, from one knee, had to pitch the ball backwards THROUGH HIS LEGS to Janikowski;
2) Janikowski had to field the ball cleanly;
3) SEBASTIAN JANIKOWSKI had to beat the defense to the edge and pick up at least 10 yards.

I defy you to name me a more poorly designed play.

Tony Gonzalez had a big first quarter, catching four balls for 48 yards. So Oakland put Nnamdi Asomugha on him in the second quarter. And the unthinkable happened: Gonzalez won the matchup! First play, he ran an out route for 11 yards and a first down. Next play, he got open again, but Russell overthrew him. From that point Asomugha was on Gonzalez off-and-on. On one play in the third quarter, he was beaten and tried to hold Gonzalez, but Gonzo ran right threw it and caught a 23-yarder. Which leads to two thoughts. First, it appears the only receivers who can succeed against Asomugha are big guys who can out-physical him. Second, Gonzalez is so, so far from washed up. So, where will he be next year? What playoff-ready teams could use a great receiving tight end? Carolina? Philadelphia?

And yes, Kansas City continues to stick with the pistol. All told, it doesn't seem to make much of a difference. I haven't seen them bobble a snap yet. It does force the runner to line up a yard or so deeper than he normally would, but some guys like it that way. I remember years ago, Herschel Walker saying he liked to line up in an extra deep set so he could see the defense better, and had more time to read his blocks.

Chicago Bears 14 at Minnesota Vikings 34

Doug Farrar: Remember what I said about pinning the opposing team at their own 1 on a failed goal-line stand? Uh, forget it. The Vikings hold the Bears on a goal-line stand, Charles Tillman turns inside while covering Bernard Berrian on Minnesota's first-and-10, and Berrian goes for 99 yards.

Damn. Then Tillman gets busted on an extreme horse-collar on Berrian a few minutes later. Did he spend the week at DeAngelo Hall Cornerback School?

Aaron Schatz: I can't believe I'm saying this, but Kyle Orton is seriously being held back by the quality of his wide receivers. Orton connects with open guys and they don't seem to know that the ball has actually been thrown to them.

Ben Riley: In the waning minutes of this game, Andrea Kramer served up a turkey platter of praise for Jared Allen's devotion to his football idols, including Dick Butkus. Afterward, Al Michaels awkwardly quips, "He just drinks... up life!", followed by Madden declaring "Boy does he!" Given that Allen has been arrested for DUI three times, perhaps another metaphor would have been more appropriate?

T.V. Crimes

Ben Riley: Memo to Sprint advertising department: The CEO-as-pitchman idea worked for Wendy's because Dave Thomas seemed like a lovable Midwesterner you'd like to have over for dinner. Your CEO, in contrast, looks like a pompous Upper West Side dweeb who wears lots of sweater vests, and talks about where he plans to "summer." Time to reconsider.

Bill Barnwell: You know, those commercials didn't really annoy me until the guy talked about how you can "even update your Facebook status" on your phone. If I have Facebook, I really don't need a sermon about how phones can access the interwebs and check the e-mails. I know already. If I don't, I'm probably not going to care if I can do something to my Facebook on the phone.


153 comments, Last at 06 Dec 2008, 1:06pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

If someone knocked away a football I was tossed from an NFL player, I would knock them out with a right cross. I'm dead serious. I was angry just watching that on TV and I don't even like either team

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

There's never enough Ned Macey in here. His comments are always fantastic.

Matt Light is *defnitely* overrated. Tom Brady made that line look a lot better than it really was/is, similar to what Peyton Manning's done for his good (not dominant) units in Indy.

After two weeks of sports radio and "what if Brady's not ready, we gotta sign Cassel to the $14 million franchise and keep him, even if it's as the backup, or maybe he's even better than Brady" talk, I can't wait to hear all this week about how badly Cassel sucks and the Patriots aren't going to the playoffs because they didn't sign Culpepper or it's time to give O'Connell a shot.

Now, now. That's really bad sarcasm, or a gross exaggeration. One doesn't have to be Ron Jaworski to understand that a defense as dominant as Pittsburgh's can make any quarterback look terrible on a given day. Most people will see this Cassel outing for what it is, a bump in the road against an elite unit.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

No, you like logical thought and analysis, that's why you are reading this site right now. If you didn't like logical thought, you'd be calling into sports radio right now and talking about how awful Cassel is.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

If you didn't like logical thought, you'd be calling into sports radio right now and talking about how awful Cassel is.

I just think it's silly to presume that anyone is saying that. I realize we live in a society that tends to overrate the last 48 hours of anything, but I'd be surprised if WEEI [1] were flooded today with cries of "bench Cassel" and "Culpepper would have saved our season." The common fan isn't on a site like this, sure, but I'll still give the common fan more credit that that. Tip your cap to the awesome Steelers defense, move on, get ready for the Seahawks.

[1] I'm speculating on WEEI's tone today, I wouldn't listen to that garbage if you paid me by the hour to do so.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Don't forget that "stay the course" is a boring, boring approach, and doesn't really fill out a long radio show. I think that one of the flaws of the format is that it tends to accentuate hysterical overraction, just as a means of filling time.

2 Re: Crazy Formations

I like the wildcat and other non-traditional formations. I don't get why teams like the Bengals this year just don't run their base out of some crazy formation. Or base their whole offense off of non-traditional formations. Is that really worse than sending Ryan Fitzgerald out there in the I-formation?

I'd love to see a team as their base play have a RB under shotgun who hands it off to the QB as the base-passing play. Instead of a "run-action-pass" it would be a "pass-action-run". It would be interesting. Just like I think teams should give 2 or 3 RBs/WRs OL numbers so that they can participate in those crazy end of game whacky lateral plays. Just think how you would have to account for OL who don't just catch the ball and immediately throw it backward... I know its bit rugby-ish and my favorite posters on IRC have mocked me for the idea of having a rugby-like offense that succeeds based on how well the team executes lateral plays.

10 Re: Crazy Formations

Can't do the OL number thing - the NFL is very particular about who can wear what number, probably just for the reasons you imagine. It was a huge deal when they finally let WRs wear 1-19 a few years ago.

I guess the thing about new formations is the amount of time it takes to get a reasonable amount of familiarity with them. Other than that, sure, why wouldn't Detroit or Cincinnati work in some new formations? It certainly couldn't be any worse than it is now ... I guess the downside is the possibility of wasting all that practice if the next coach comes in and acquires enough talent that plays from conventional formations actually work.

118 Re: Crazy Formations

Well, you couldn't have someone play WR, and then line up at O-line with the same number. But you could have a WR wear an o-line number and not play until they need to line up at o-line for one of those plays. I don't think a team could actually do this due to depth concerns; Unless they could change jerseys during a game. Iss a player allowed to switch numbers on the sideline? Does it depend on whether or not they've been in the game?

122 Re: Crazy Formations

Any answers would probably be found in the Gameday Operations Manual, or whatever that mythical book is called. I'm quite confident, though, that players may not change numbers during a game at any point, and I would also be surprised to learn that players may change numbers at any point during the regular season.

127 Re: Crazy Formations

What I meant to an extreme was to give a ballcarrier (RB or WR) an OL number for the express purposes of participating in one of those end-of-game lateral players.

Taken to the extreme I think it would be interesting if a team went all rugby style and their whole offense line was ball-carriers and all they did was run crazy lateral plays all day, kind've like a rugby team offense. Now I know the rugby-like batting of the ball is illegal, but what you would do is snap the ball and immediately have your OL backup in order legally receive laterals.

I suppose every play would turn into a punt return type of play and you would focus on exploiting weakness of over-pursuit in the defense as well as also being able to surprise them with a downfield pass once in awhile.

Yes, it is an extreme idea, but nothing else is working for the Lions or Bengals.

135 Re: Crazy Formations

It seems to me that this would simply be an extreme case of an option play, and the conventional wisdom is that option plays don't work in the NFL because the defenders are too fast. I would think that if an NFL team tried this (maybe three big guys in the middle of the line and eight receiver/back types) then the defense would just go to a 2-3-6 dime and kill everyone who touched the ball.

I think the main reason that these continuing-lateral plays are the norm in rugby is that blocking ("interference") is illegal, so the only way to get a ballcarrier room is to move the ball laterally until you get lucky with a mismatch. I'd submit that blocking - even with the Lions or Bengals OL - is a more effective way to get a ballcarrier room.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Josh Cribbs is one great special teamer, but can Leon Washington be in the conversation of "best"?

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

The Ward direct snap wasn't a "Wildcat" play - Manning was still at QB, but faked as if the snap went over his head. The Patriots seem to do this on a semi-regular basis (most notably on a 2-point conversion in the Super Bowl against the Panthers).

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Yeah, I read that play as a variation on the inside handoff they do so often in shotgun situations. (An RB, usually Ward, lines up to one side of Manning and gets the handoff running across the QB's face; the Guard on the RB's side pulls and leads the RB between the Center and the other Guard. The Giants love this play because it punishes opposing DEs who try to beat their Tackles outside with speed.) The direct-snap variant, going around the end as opposed to behind the Guard, seems written to take advantage of LBs who are looking for the inside handoff.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Does the "jump up and act like the snap went over your head" fake work against any defenders? The only thing it seems to influence is the announcers. Even the camera guys always stay on the ball. Maybe it's just something for the QB to do.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Of all the NFC contenders, I see Carolina as the least likely challenger to the Giants. With the way Delhomme has looked lately, does anyone trust him in a big playoff game?

I'm trying to not go overboard here, but the Giants are playing so well right now, and they seem to be able to adjust to any type of style. I think to have a shot, you're going to have to be able to generate consistent pressure with your front seven. Eli's worst game of the year came when Shaun Rogers was in his face all day. On defense, I think their biggest weakness is probably a LB corps that lacks athleticism if Blackburn is starting at Will ahead of Kehl and Wilkinson. You saw that a little on the Devin Thomas touchdown. The defense is smart and fundamentally sound, but maybe a Chris Johnson could wreck some havoc.

Plax being out may have affected the running game, but Jacobs coming back from a knee injury may have played a role as well. Eli showed yesterday a good ability to adjust to Washington's blitzes. Gilbride just kept calling quick passes and the tight ends/backs did a great job of picking up blitzers.

Regarding that Herschel Walker quote, if you watch the Giants, Jacobs loves to line up far behind the line for the same reason.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I don't have the stats in front of me (nor do I know where to look them up) but having watched every Redskins game this year, I have a hard time believing this isn't the worst team (or minimally in the bottom five) in terms of effective blitzing.

This team can't generate any pressure on the quarterback. Their D line, if it was built for anything, was built to stop the run, which they do a decent enough job at. But the consequence is that they put zero pressure on the quarterback when they rush only four guys, and when they blitz they mostly fail to reach or even get near the quarterback. I'm in no way surprised that the game turned out the way it did. I don't think the fact that Eli had over 300 yards throwing by the third quarter says he is a great quarterback (though he may be), I think anyone who would be in the running for such a title would have done at least as well.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I am glad to see the love for the NY Giants. What changed for Eli Manning? Many young quarterbacks are given the " game manager hats", but Eli was coming up to the line and calling audibles and blitzes out from day 1.

As impressive as you say he is, the guy is spot on his blitz pick ups. You don't see free defenders running at him to sack him. I heard that he has called the wrong protection/slide 2 times in the past 2 years. Eli Manning might not be mobile, but he knows how to read the blitz, he knows his hot routes, and he is VERY difficult to sack.

The thing that most people don't get, is that Manning is also very responsible for the success in the Giants run game. He knows when to check out of pass plays into run plays, and he knows when to check out of run plays into pass plays. He knows when to audible a run right to a run left and vice versa. I don't think his conventional stats do him justice.

While I see Eli underrated to traditional stats, I see Jason Campbell heavily overrated to conventional stats. The Redskins are 27th in the NFL in scoring. They have a strong defense, they have Pro bowl santana moss, pro bowl cooley, pro bowl Portis, a good full back, 3 high draft picks, the highest paid slot WR in the league and a good line. Jason Campbell can't handle pressure. Look at what the Giants did twice to him, the Steelers, Dallas 2 etc. His game relies so much on WR screens, TE screens, RB screens and check downs. The only time he throws downfield are on 1st downs, and play action. On 3rd and long he is always throwing the ball in front of the sticks in low risk passes hoping his guys run for the first down. JC is overrated. He can't handle pressure and he doesn't call audibles.

While Eli Manning had mixed success early in his career " good eli bad eli", he was asked to run a very difficult offense to run. He isn't playing game manager. He isn't throwing WR screens and check downs over and over again.

Also, the best compliment I ever heard for the Giants offensive line was from Mebane in Seattle. He said the Giant's O-line are like a bunch of robots. They have the same body types, the look alike, think alike, are are a real cohesive unit. You aren't going to trick them.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Those are some great points about Eli's poise at the line. He's asked to do as much as anyone besides his brother. The one other thing I love about him is that he has phenomenal pocket awareness. How many times have we seen him just step past the rush and fire a strike downfield?

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Why do you criticize Jason Campbell every time you praise Eli Manning? (I remember this happening in the past, too.) It's not a zero-sum situation; one doesn't have to be bad for the other to be good...

They have a strong defense, they have Pro bowl santana moss, pro bowl cooley, pro bowl Portis, a good full back, 3 high draft picks, the highest paid slot WR in the league and a good line.

Moss can absolutely take over games at times, but he's not consistent enough to always be a true number one. When he's not 100% healthy, his game drops off very noticeably ... and unfortunately, he's frequently less than 100%; in particular, he's had trouble with his hamstrings over the past few years. Cooley, Portis, and Sellers are definitely great assets whose presence should make Campbell's job substantially easier. But when he throws to those players, you suggest that it's a crutch ... but isn't the job of a quarterback to get the ball into the hands of his best players?

As for the line... good at run blocking? Absolutely. At pass blocking... not so much. Jansen and Samuels (especially the former) have declined substantially in this area; unfortunately, I think it might be the least-covered story of the Redskins' season. Now, the Redskins should be working on making better pre-snap adjustments, and you're right that Eli's been able to help the Giants substantially in that area. I don't know enough about the inner workings of the Redskins to tell you if Zorn is preventing a capable Campbell from making more adjustments, or if Campbell just can't do it ... but I suspect that you don't know that, either.

But even when good protection schemes have been called, you can count on someone on the line getting flat-out beaten pretty early on a passing play at least a few times a game. When you consider that every member of the 'Skins line is getting older and less mobile, and that (as you argue) Campbell is now playing in an offense that asks for shorter throws (and shorter drops), I think Campbell's steadily increasing sack rate (3.3%, 4.8%, 7.8%) is probably more indicative of his line than it is of him. That's not to say that he hasn't had anything to do with it, but glossing over the OL's potential issues seems inappropriate.

Jason Campbell can't handle pressure. Look at what the Giants did twice to him, the Steelers, Dallas 2 etc.

How many plays can you point to where Campbell had adequate protection and a receiver who was open past the first-down marker, and Campbell didn't get the ball there? Every time the Redskins have faced a team with a decent rush this year, Campbell hasn't even had time to set his feet on longer drop-backs. You can even look back at the first Dallas game, where he had success on longer throws -- he still had to move to avoid pressure as soon as he'd dropped back.

His game relies so much on WR screens, TE screens, RB screens and check downs.

If "his" refers to Jim Zorn, then yes.

ETA -- see mrh's post for more.

The only time he throws downfield are on 1st downs, and play action. On 3rd and long he is always throwing the ball in front of the sticks in low risk passes hoping his guys run for the first down.

Is that his doing, or his line and receivers? I think it's sometimes him, but I can guarantee you that it isn't always.

ETA -- see mrh's post for more.

JC is overrated.

By whom? I have yet to see anybody from a respectable media outlet (and I'm using "respectable" loosely here -- I'm including ESPN) suggest that Campbell's anything better than the third-best quarterback in his division, and I haven't exactly seen too many people suggesting he ought to be in the Pro Bowl. Have people suggested he's made encouraging progress? Sure, and I think you'd have a hard time finding people, statistics, or film that would disagree with that assertion. Nobody's claiming he's an elite quarterback yet, and for good reason -- he's clearly not.

While Eli Manning had mixed success early in his career " good eli bad eli", he was asked to run a very difficult offense to run

I know you hate it when people bring up the fact that Campbell's had to work in a lot of different offenses, but having very little experience in an offense increases the difficulty of running it. If you're going to disregard the "degree of difficulty" factor for Campbell, then you should do the same for Eli -- you don't get it both ways.

Finally, I'd argue that the two players' annual DVOA (which, as you hopefully know, takes important things like "throwing to a receiver short of the sticks on third down" into account) pretty much supports what I perceive to be the conventional wisdom (around here) of the two players. That is, Eli seems to have had an extremely uneven start to his career, but may be the midst of a great leap forward toward the top level of his position, while Campbell began his career as a serviceable player, and has slowly but steadily been progressing toward becoming a good-to-very-good quarterback.

Manning: -25.7% 5.2% 3.9% -12.8% 23.9%
Campbell: -0.7% 4.4% 10.7%

Anyway, since I know that we're not going to agree about Campbell (we've been through this before...) I will say that it would be nice if you didn't bring him up every time you write about Eli. There's no real reason why those two need to be compared directly to each other ... they have different strengths and weaknesses, they play in different schemes, and weren't even drafted in the same year. If the reason is that you're trolling, then please stop.

EDITED to try to remove some of my douchebaggery.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

The Giants biggest challenger in the NFC, is a full strength Dallas team that beat them twice last year.

You want to talk about lack of athletic ability in the Giants LB corps. Blackburn isn't the problem, it is Antoinio Pierce. The dude has little to no shot at covering Witten. Chase Blackburn is a special teams superstar, and has played very well at WILL. The guy just needed a chance and he has shined when he got that opportunity.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I agree that a healthy Dallas is the Giants' biggest NFC challenge. In fact I think the two teams at full strength are pretty damn close. That said, I'm still not totally convinced DAL will make the playoffs. They basically need to win 3 of their last four, since they don't look so good in the tiebreaker department. The upcoming game against the Giants in HUGE for them since they can ill afford another conference loss. I say if they split the Ravens-Steelers games and lose in the Meadowlands, they'll be out. And who knows what to expect from Philly in Wk 17?

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I just assumed that no one actually thinks Pierce has the speed to cover at all. Between Clark, Pierce, and Blackburn, the Giants are basically starting three MLBs.

I'd say they might be the smartest LB corps in the league, but they very well may also be the slowest. Pierce is forced into coverage because of who he's playing with, and Cooley burned him several times yesterday.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

"Vince Verhei: Redskins have fourth-and-1, down 20-7 in the fourth quarter. They go for it and Clinton Portis is stuffed, effectively ending the game. The play took so long to develop that Portis was doomed from the start, and everyone knew it."

Vince, the reason Portis was stuffed, had nothing to do with the slow developing nature of the play. That might have come into consideration if Jon Jansen hadn't decided that he didn't need to block anyone, but he did (not block anyone) and Portis was hit in the backfield head on.

The Giants are obviously an excellent team, but does anyone else think that Eli is this team's weak link? He could easily have had three picks today, and thats against a Redskins team that can't generate any pressure on the quarterback. Yes, he looked good at times and made some great throws, but come playoff time and unlike this game he's going to get hit. I don't have the stat in front of me, but when he's under pressure, probably like most quarterbacks, his DVOA (or maybe its VOA, forgive me if I'm confusing the two) drops dramatically.

Maybe I'm just splitting hairs here and the Giants can win in the playoffs without or without much from Manning. But at some point won't opposing defensive backs start catching those ducks he's throwing?

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

"those ducks he's throwing"??? It's not like this is a common occurance. He happened to have a couple bad throws yesterday (in what was otherwise a very good game) but in most weeks he hasn't given the opposing D much of anything. He only has 8 picks through 12 games, so I think banking on him becoming an INT machine come playoff time--which assumes that his low pick total this year is entirely luck--is probably not a good bet.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I may be speaking from ignorance, because as a Redskins fan I've really only sat and watched two Giants games this season. But, in the first one Eli had what I counted to be four interceptions dropped. If you want to be conservative, then it was three that hit defenders right in the hands (and by "defenders" I mean "Carlos Rogers") and were very easy interceptions. Yesterday he had two easy INTs dropped. That was what I was referring to. Maybe he's only had that happen in the two Redskins games, I don't know.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Week 1 was the outlier in Eli's season in that regard. (The Cleveland game, too, excepting that the defenders caught those near-INTs.) That game had lots of miscommunication-type near-INTs (i.e., one of either Eli or the WR read the defense incorrectly, so the WR was nowhere near the ball when it was thrown). I haven't noticed that happening nearly as often since then.

Yesterday, the only real shoulda-been-a-pick that I recall Eli making is the one Bill mentioned, wherein the Redskins DBs took each other out like Little League outfielders.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I'm not clear on the rules here, so maybe someone can give me a class of Football 101. When does the "Holy Roller" rule come into effect? The way it was explained during the Colts' broadcast made sense to me, but doesn't seem to fit with what happened in the 2006 AFC Championship game. Both the Colts and Patriots had linemen score touchdowns on fumbled balls in that game. What am I missing?

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Fumbles can't be advanced by the fumbling team (except by the fumbling player) (1) on fourth downs or (2) on plays after the two-minute warning in either half, because in either case, the fumbling team might be advantaged by a fumble. (The Holy Roller involved 2 dubious fumbles by the Raiders, who were trailing 20-14 on the last play of the game; the eventual recovery in the end zone gave them a 21-20 win.) The fumbles, if recovered by the fumbling team, would be returned to the spot of the fumble (if recovered downfield) or at the recovery spot (if upfield).

Note: a backwards pass is not considered a fumble under this standard; this is why play doesn't stop when the ball hits the ground during crazy end-of-game multi-lateral plays.

In all other situations, non-intentional fumbles can be advanced. (Muffed punts and kickoffs are not considered fumbles, as no possession is involved, and can't be advanced beyond the spot of recovery.)

153 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Is it just me, or are the rules regarding fumbles just plain stupid? If you look at the Raider's game, where this rule came from, you have to ask yourself why none of the Charger players were able to jump on it. And given that recovering any fumble, no matter how "controlled" it might be, still requires luck, you have to ask why there is any regulation whatsoever (particularly given that the Chargers had chances to recover the fumble as well).
In the Colts game, the fumble didn't seem to be intentional, so I'm not sure what argument there could be for having the rule applied (or retained, for that matter), especially since it wasn't done "in the spirit" of the Holy Roller. Also, any intentional fumble would be very risky, much like a hook-and-ladder play, so it seems to me that a team would only do it in a situation of desperation.
Just out of curiosity, what would the ruling of recoveries on fourth down if the defense jars the ball loose? Would it still be that only the fumbling player from the offense could recover, or would it be deemed a free-for-all? If anyone could recover a fumble on fourth down after the opposing team had touched the ball, then essentially you have only diminished, not eliminated, a team's potential for using the Holy Roller play (what the team would do would be to bounce the fumble off an opposing player, and try to recover). Granted, this would be extraordinarily risky, and I'm sure coaches would prefer laterals, but then the situation would be where it is now: Using a fumble advance the ball disappears, but the technical application of the rule today defies sense, especially given that it doesn't appear that Manning would have intentionally fumbled the ball.

15 Peppers "Late Hit"

Ok. Assuredly Peppers did hit Rodgers out of bounds. However, Rodgers foot had *just* come down and Peppers was in the committed act of making the hit before Rodgers established himself as "out." On at least one previous scramble Rodgers had fainted the "step-out" and the continued up the field of play for an additional five yards. I'm not sure how the NFL expects a defensive lineman to evaporate when they have already committed to a hit that would have been clean on the field of play. As it is, I believe that quarterbacks abuse their various protections. If I was coaching (and fans should be glad I’m not,) I would have my linemen make that hit every single time.

Oh, mild nit pick. Delhomme hit Muhammad not Smith on the "flea-flicker fumble."

75 Re: Peppers "Late Hit"

In reply to by resident jenius

I agree that I want my defensive players making that hit every single time. There is no way that Peppers can let up before knowing that Rodgers is out of bounds for certain and still pull up in time to keep from hitting him. It should have been a no-call.

149 Re: Peppers "Late Hit"

I didn't see this play, but I agree that late hits are called way too often on the sideline, especially in college. Even when the player steps out sometimes, you can't expect the defensive player to look closely at their toes. Should be reserved for when offensive players are thrown into the bench, or else it's a few steps late.

114 Re: Peppers "Late Hit"

In reply to by resident jenius

I agree with this too and even in slow motion is was somewhat close. The uproar over that hit was undeserved. I'd put it in the same ballpark as the Clark hit - OK in my opinion but I guess I can see why they'd penalize it, but I wouldn't make such a big deal out of it.

I haven't seen anyone, including the announcers, mention this, but I swear Smith was in for the touchdown on the first long late completion to him. It looked to me like he was tackled into the end zone, rolling over the defender much like Jones did against Denver. This all worked out well for Williams and his fantasy owners of course, but Smith deserves a score for his efforts, and it looked like he got one there.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

The Packers are - almost - exactly the same team they were last year. This year, they are losing all the close games instead of winning them all. Now, that isn't JUST luck, but pretty tiny diffences in execution on a few plays (and a missed FG) would have them at 9-3. They were a 10.5 - 5.5 team last year, and about the same this year. The biggest difference I can see this year is that their run blocking isn't as effective.

I think the Plax thing is an interesting psych study. Here's a guy who ought to be on top of the world - great team, Super Bowl ring, top receiver on a high-powered offense, playing in a media center, big-ass contract - and he sabotages himself. One of these "I'm at the top, so why am I still unhappy" things? Guy's a difference-maker, and the Giants will miss him (though I think they can still wiin without him), but I'd stay away. The Ravens as a spot for him sounds like something that might work, though.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I have to disagree with the idea that the Packers are the same team this year as they were last year. On special teams this years' team (1.9% DVOA before Sunday) is ever so slightly worse than last years' (2.6%); though the difference is obviously not very significant. On defense this year the Packers have a (-1.7%), slightly (but again insignificantly) better than last year (-1.3%). What is strange is that last year the Packers were -9.7% against the run and 6.0% against the pass, while this year are awful (18.8%) against the run and terrific (-22.2%) against the pass. To have such a dramatic shift in strength lead to the same overall success (or lack thereof, depending on one's perspective) is unusual. Any way, on defense and special teams the Packers have virtually identical value as last year. On offense, however, they have regressed from a 17.3% last year to a 9.7% this year. That seems like a pretty significant change. Last year they were 3.5% better than average running the ball, this year they are 2.6% better; again essentially the same. Finally, the real difference between the 2007 and 2008 Packers is passing the ball. In 2007, they were 26.1% better than average, this year they are 16.2% better. The regression in offensive line play coupled with moving to a different QB (though Rodgers 12.8% DVOA is superb for a first year starter, it pales in comparison to Favre's 28.0% last year) have been the difference between last year and this year. Overall this was to be expected moving to a new starting QB. The question is this: Will Rodgers develop further and justify trading the playoffs this season for success in the next 5/10 years? As a Packers fan I certainly hope he does.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Last year, the GB rushing attack was horrible early in the year, then very good with Grant. This year, with Grant, it hasn't been as good. I agree that the Pack misses some ridiculous YAC plays that inflated Favre's (and the team's) pass rating, and you can perhaps attribute a lot of that to Favre hitting guys in stride, but if you recall, many of those plays were the result of good running (the patented Driver, and now Jennings, back-up and circle around move) and not Jerry Rice-like 6-yd slants where the WR just kept running. The poorer running this year hurts the passing game - more 2nd and 8, less 2nd and 6.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I tend to disagree with your point here. The rush offense this year is .9% worse than it was last year by DVOA. I don't think a 9.9% decrease in passing DVOA can be attributed to a .9% difference running the ball. YAC didn't 'inflate' Favres' (nor the teams') DVOA any more than great passes 'inflated' it. The receivers this year are essentially the same as last year (it seems Nelson is #3 now with Martin taking the #5 spot from Robinson and Jones somewhere in the mix when healthy). Did they forget how to run after the catch this year? Last year the success was not entirely YAC (off the top of my head the two long TDs vs. Denver and the Jennings TD vs. Kansas City were not great runs after catch). Considering that the defense is very different in nature but essentially the same in overall DVOA as it was last year the real differences between the 2007 Packers and the 2008 Packers are QB DVOA and adjusted sack rate.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

One more point: the 2008 offensive line is better than the 2007 line according to adjusted line yards (4.12 vs. 3.95) and power success (74% vs. 50%). They are marginally better at stuffed rate (23% vs. 24%). The regression in the rush offense is in 10+ yards (18% vs. 27%) which I would guess is the fault of Grant and the receivers. The real problem with the offensive line is in adjusted sack rate. Last year they led the league with a 3.1% ASR, this year it has more than doubled to 6.6%. I'm sure a healthy portion of that is because Rodgers does not make decisions quickly enough (obviously to be expected in his first year starting) but clearly their pass blocking is worse than it was last year.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Ned Macey,

"Despite being the number one receiver, he is the only one of the three Giants receivers with a positive DVOA. Washington, today's victim, had a below-average pass defense, and Arizona (vanquished with basically no Burress last week) is even worse. I see a team like Carolina lining up eight in the box and playing physical man-to-man on the receivers and shutting the Giants down."

I can totally see what you expect, but am hopeful that it won't happen. But your arguments for why you expect what you expect seem to me to be a bit flimsy.

Is it true that the Skins have a subpar pass defense? While their pass defensive DVOA heading in to the game was slightly above zero, they were ranked 11th in that metric. Arizona is slightly worse than that, at 8% and 14th, but that's not horrible-- and as you pointed out, the Giants attacked them mostly without Plax. Is that not what good passing teams are supposed to do, beat up on middling or worse pass defenses?

And while I guess it is true that, out of the trio of Burress, Toomer, and Smith, only Plax had a positive DVOA heading into the game yesterday, his 5.5% isn't an awesome total, and I bet that after yesterday Toomer is now in the black. Meanwhile, in limited play before yesterday, Hixon was at 31.5%, and Moss at 46.6%. As such, I really think the comment that Plax is the only one of the three Giants WRs with a positive DVOA is accurate but misleading. Throw in that Boss, again before yesterday, had crept up to 12.3% DVOA after a horrid start and I think that the Giants have shown that they have weapons in the passing game that they can use even when Plax isn't working for them.

Heck, think about it. If your 'best' starting WR has a DVOA below 6% and the other two are near-but-slightly-below-zero in it, but your quarterback has a 23.9% DVOA (and not from rushing) then focusing in just on the starting wideouts is probably going to miss something.

I think you are right in the approach that will have the best chance of success against this Giants team. I just don't see the Panthers as having the horses to pull it off. Their run defense is nowhere near as good as the Skins or Cards. However, if we look at that specific matchup, I am not sure Plax really would make that much of a difference. The Panthers have been fantastic at taking away the #1 WR for other teams. They've been good at slowing down 3rd and 4th WRs and TEs too, but if they are selling out against the run, that ability is likely to be somewhat compromised. The approach is sound, but the team that is most likely to pull it off is the Steelers.

Side note. At this time last year, I think most people would have listed the five biggest stars on the Giants as being Strahan, Eli, Osi, Plax, and Shockey. The team has been without 3 of the 5 for the entire year, with Plax missing most of 3 games and now likely out for the year. How many other teams could lose four of their five most high-profile players and remain a legitimate Super Bowl contender? This team is just remarkable, and as a fan it is a lot of fun to watch.

ETA- by remarkable, I am not claiming them to be a super-dee-duper quality team, the 2007 Pats redux or anything of the sort. What I mean by remarkable is that they keep doing things that just defy logic-- like the road record last year, the playoff run after the seemingly mediocre regular season last year, almost beating the Pats in week 17 then doing so in the Super Bowl, having an 11-1 record despite losing Osi, having Strahan retire, trading Shockey for future draft picks, having Burress regress/injured/shot. This team defies reason.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I'm not about to guarantee a Super Bowl win, but I'm also not about to break out the crying towels with Plaxico gone. It's better to have him than not, sure, but as Dales mentioned they have plenty of guys who can step in.

I also don't get the criticism that Hixon will have success only when teams ignore him to stop the run. Aren't teams going to have to basically do that, or get gashed by the run?

That's the whole issue with the Giants' offense, that it's balanced enough that if you sell out to stop one element, they'll hit you with something else. The other side effect is, the playbook is wide open - they can run pass plays from run situations, or vice versa. One revealing play, I thought, was the one right after the Ross interception. First down at the 3, with a 20-7 lead, most teams (for example, the Redskins) would dive into the line every time. The Giants felt completely comforatable with an aggressive slant to Hixon, and got it out past the 20. Maybe the loss of Plaxico disrupts that balance, but for two games so far it's been all systems go.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Some good points all around. I think Ned made some very valid observations re: Plax (although neither WAS or ARI has a BAD pass defense - as Dales mentioned ARI is avergae and WAS is pretty good, actually)- I mentioned in the thread last week that I thought losing Plax was bigger than losing Jacobs as far as the run game was concerned, 'cause the Cards brought the safety into the box. Dales also makes some pretty good counter-points. The last 2 games have shown Eli can beat the coverage with only one high safety, which is comforting, although I'm still pretty worried about losing Plax.

IMO, a team could really give the Giants' offense fits if they could stop or even slow the run game with the front 7. With the exception of PIT (for the first 3 quarters, anyway), that hasn't happened yet. On the other side of the ball, that's what makes the Giants' D effective - they stuff the run w/ the front 7. One team that actually would worry me a bit is TB, although I have trouble taking that offense seriously.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

"The approach is sound, but the team that is most likely to pull it off is the Steelers."

The Steelers came close to pulling it off, right up until the "James Harrison as long-snapper" experiment went horribly awry. They were able to slow down the Giants rushing attack but had a hard time getting to Eli. The Giants excellent pass-blocking made the Steelers o-line turnstile-esque blocking all the more painful to watch. Wait, why am I dwelling on that game? I should be reveling in yesterday's win.

18 Burress - Giants

I think the Giants will miss Burress because he's a very good receiver. That doesn't mean the Giants aren't still the best team without him, but taking a guy of that quality off your roster hurts.

You might not notice but injuries tend to have a cumulative effect. Burress is gone and the team seems fine because the rest of the offence is so strong, but now if the next piece goes - say a key offensive lineman or the QB or RB then all of sudden things can unravel.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I wonder if the Dolphins are looking back on day two of the draft right about now and asking themselves why they took 2 running backs that aren't doing anything when the have a huge hole at corner back? It's sort of amazing for a team with so many holes managed to find 1 starter in the draft and 2 rotating players. Joey Thomas managed to make Jason Allen look good at corner after a truly horrible first series. The Dolphins always seem to be looking at a long field because their special teams are horrible. Their kicker can't reach the endzone on kick offs, their returners never have room to run because their blocking is so bad. Just when a long drive started to develop the Dolphins coaching staff will try a trick play. Really the Dolphins seem to trick play themselves into punts more often than they are trick playing into TDs the last few games. They also seem a little too liberal in rotating running backs. Why is Cobb and the fullback getting so many carries? Ernest Wilford some how manages to suck again.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

So now you want to split hairs and say ELI had a lot of dropped INT's? What about how his Giants receivers led the league in dropped passes last year? What about those picks he suffered when Plax quite on routes ( The Pac man jones INT last year), the delected balls that get picked off and weren't his fault?

Jason Campbell had a few dropped INT's, and had 1 called back on a ticky tacky call. Campbell in his conservative offense and all could have still had 4 picks yesterday. The deep ball he threw to Moss needed to be thrown 1.5 seconds earlier. Campbell simply holds onto the ball too long, and although he has a strong arm, doesn't put the right touch on deep balls. He hasn't got any better since day 1 running the conservative game manager stuff. Don't give me this " he's had to adjust to different offenses crap".

Redskins fans try and use that Auburn changed OC's Campbells Jr. and Sr. year as an excuse for him and that he played under 5 different offenses in 6 years.Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan are playing in their 2nd offense in 2 years, and nobody is complaining.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Chris, I don't remember discussing Campbell, who nobody is making excuses for. I specifically said I might not be correct about Eli because I had only watched two Giant games this season from start to finish. There's no need to get defensive. I'm not attacking you personally, nor am I attacking the Giants. If you have anything to add to this, I'd love to hear it. If you're only lurking to defend your team to any perceived attacks, then you probably belong elsewhere.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Earlier in the year when Eli wasn't throwing any picks and people were praising his play, I said that he was bound to regress in the turnover area. And he did. The INT % that he sustained from the end of last year through earlier this year (really until the Browns game) was not sustainable. Through that period of time, he had something like 2 total picks and an INT% below 1% (compared to his career INT% north of 3%).

Anyway, the point is that the same can be said of Jason Campbell. He had INT%'s of 2.9% and 2.6% his first two years as a starter. This year he has an INT% of 1.1%, a statistic that is not completely explained by a more conservative offense. (He's averaging 10.6 yards per completion, compared to 10.8 last year and 11.8 his first year, while his completion percentage has gone from 53.1% to 60.0% to 63.8% this year)

It seems likely that throwing shorter passes can account for the decreased INT% for Campbell (Manning has also thrown shorter passes this year btw, likely due to missing Plaxico), but the amount of the decrease seems unlikely to be sustainable.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Suggesting that a quarterback has thrown an unusually high number of "should-be" picks isn't really splitting hairs, especially when that player is throwing interceptions at a rate far below his norm. It probably means that he's on a bit of a lucky streak, and is going to regress toward his previous mean sooner or later.

And yes, that statement does apply to Manning and Campbell ...

And of course Flacco and Ryan are playing in their second offense in two years -- they're rookies! Note how pretty much any (reasonable) discussion about them is in the context of their rookie-ness, and the expectation is that they'll improve as they gain experience in their offenses...

You're right that nobody's "complaining" about the fact that they're rookies, just as nobody -- including Campbell himself -- has been "complaining" about the fact that he's learning a new offense (again). Is their "rookie-ness," and his relative inexperience in this offense, included in conversations about their performance? Sure! Why wouldn't they be?

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Actually, Eli in 2008 is throwing picks at almost exactly the same rate he has for his entire career...a little higher, actually. His career INT rate is 3.3%. His rate for 2008: 3.4%.

What has changed dramatically for the better in '08 is his completion rate, sitting at 62%, over his career average of 55.6%. That suggests that he has been more accurate (or maybe that his receivers aren't dropping as many), not just luckier.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Both pro football reference and have Eli throwing 8 interceptions in 371 attempts this year, which is an interception rate of 2.16%, not 3.4%. If he were throwing at his career rate (which is indeed 3.3%), then he'd have 12 picks so far this year, not 8. Since it seems reasonable to suggest that, on average, at least one or two of those "should-be" picks would have been caught, I don't think it's unfair to argue that some of that decrease is "luck."

Of course, I'm definitely not saying all (or even most) of his improvement is "luck" -- that would be crazy. The higher completion percentage, as well as many observations by the folks around here, suggest that he's also improved his accuracy considerably this year. I'm just suggesting, as Temo did, that some portion of his leap this year may not be sustained. (FO: where Redskins and Cowboys fans can find points of agreement!)

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

3) SEBASTIAN JANIKOWSKI had to beat the defense to the edge and pick up at least 10 yards.

Actually, they had a TE chip Leggett, then release upfield and get wide open. So it seemed the design was to flip the ball to the TE with Leggett hopefully not having enough time to get to Janikowski.

I think, anyway... because if that is the case, then why did Janikowski have to roll out the left? And if his intent was to run for it, then the TE should have stayed in to block. Very weird play.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I'm not a fan of Crennel, and definitely think he needs replaced, but the criticism of his clock management at the end of the game is unfair. The Colts snap the ball on 2nd down at 2:55. So if the play takes about 5 seconds, if the Browns call a time out that stops the clock at 2:50. After the 3rd down snap, the Browns can either take their last time out, so they'd get the ball around 2:30 with no timeouts save the two-minute warning; or not call TO, and get the ball back around the 2:00 mark with one timeout. I think it's always good to keep at least one time out available on offense, so in this case it's a matter of preference. Unless they adopted CFL rules for this game, there is NO way the Browns get the ball back at 2:45 with a time out left.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Why are the Giants good and will continue to be good...

Gerry Reese and Accori understand football and draft well.
Look at their most important positions...

QB - #1 draft pick, is coming into the prime of his career
WR - Plax was the only real big FA, they Giants draft WR's high and keep them.
RB - Fungible, the Giants promoted from within after Tiki left.
O-Line - Good line, they stay healthy too

DE- The Giants draft DE's, almost to the point of gluttany, people thought they were crazy for drafting kiwi.
CB- The Giants have drafted CB's high in the past few years ( Webster, Ross), and have good depth with Dockery, Mcquarters, they had Madison. They don't have that stud lock down corner, but they don't have some runt 3rd or 4th CB or anything. They also do well at putting pressure on opposing QB's.

The Giants have done well filling in the rest, drafting the next big safety from the U ( and filling in a need), picking up Hedgecok/Hixon off the Denver/ST Louis wavier wire, and drafting depth well ( look at all the rookies that contributed last year). The Giant's D-Line is a terror, and coefield and Robbins are quietly having very strong years as well.

The Giants even dumped problem child 1st round draft pick Shockey for a 2nd and 5th rounder after several years of cheap service. They may have dumped shockey a year early, but they won't pay him big bucks and they were compensated very well. The Giants now have 3 draft picks before round 3 of the draft with 2 second round picks.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

They'll continue to be good so long as they continue to draft good players. There is, of course, no guaranteed of that. The Titans followed a similar strategy in their 1999-2003 run. It worked well when the CB they were drafting high was Samari Rolle and less well when it was Andre Woolfolk. Enjoy your success while you can, because, well, sic transit gloria mundi.

34 Leon Washington, forgotten man

I was prepared to come on here and tear the Jets apart for only giving Thomas Jones the ball 11 times in the first half against the Broncos' horrible run defense. Then I looked up the numbers and realized the Jets only had 25 total plays. And of the 11 carries Jones did get, seven gained 4 yards or less, and he also fumbled. So never mind.

Fair enough, but why did the Jets wait so long to take advantage of Leon Washington as a receiver against those Jurassic Denver linebackers?

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

If Monte Kiffin leaves (and I think he will), I may just have to curl up into a ball and cry like a little girl.

Lordy, Garcia was awful in that game. Made some good runs, but the way he started moving around the moment he dropped back was maddening. Was way off-target all day. Even the long TD to Antonio Bryant was a horribly thrown ball; if he hadn't been open by 10 yards there's no way that's a completion.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

There is an amazing amount of heat built up between those who think the NYG are the best team in the league with a few flaws and those who think they are the best team in the league with slightly fewer flaws. Stop manufacturing arguments... It is boring.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13's residual heat from the arguments last year, between those who thought the Giants were a good team and those who thought they were a stinking pile of garbage. It'll die out eventually. (though that was quite a flare-up in the Thanksgiving Audibles - wow! such anger!)

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Sorry to nitpick, but I think it was really a disagreement between those who thought the Giants were a great team, and those who thought they were average (or slightly-above) and particularly lucky. It seems like many of those who thought the Giants were great would take any sort of criticism of the team to be a statement that they were "a stinking pile of garbage," and that's where the animosity came from.

37 Center Sneak

Is it illegal to run a center sneak in football?

In our backyard pickup games this was a common trick play, one which I (who often was snapping the ball) enjoyed. We required that the ball touch the quarterback's hands, but basically you'd just tap then not let go (as center) and run up for whatever you could get, it was great when no one was lined up over you...

edit never mind, I looked it up, and yes it is illegal.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

With tongue firmly in cheek, I suggest that Peppers actually saved the game with his late hit, as the Packers had been throwing all over the Panthers on that drive.

Getting first and goal from the penalty fooled them into going away from what had been working and into trying to run the ball, which failed.

46 Re: Travesties in Advertising

The Sprint commercials are certainly sub-optimal advertising, but the truly nauseating ads I saw yesterday were McDonalds' attempts to make Chicken McNuggets sexy. (Honorable mention: the premiere of the annual "give your husband/wife a Lexus for Christmas" ads)

65 Re: Travesties in Advertising

I agree with all those comments, but I'll say that the new side storage compartments on the 2009 Dodge Ram are pretty nifty. Got me to go to their web site during the game. Even my wife liked them (but I doubt we're selling the F150 anytime soon -- not that we'd get any money for that gas guzzler).

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

i think when payton realized he wasn't getting back to the super bowl last year he and brother eli swapped bodies (or minds). now that he's on a dominant team he doesn't want to give it back.

either that or what would football be like if the eldest brother could play?

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

That Johnathan Stewart run has to be one of the single sorriest most embarrassing plays I have ever seen.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Stewart cramped up as he was running down the field. This is why he suddenly slowed, and why the defense was able to catch him to force the fumble. After the play, they showed him going to the exercise bike trying to loosen up the cramps.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Watching it in realtime, I was just hoping he wasn't going to grab his hamstring, and the announcers start with the "only four weeks left." On the other hand, all you Pop Warner and community coaches need to put a copy of that clip in your bag of motivational tricks. A tackle hustling down the field chasing a guaranteed TD suddenly becomes a game-saving hero. Don't stop til the whistle blows!

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Stewart is listed on Yahoo Fantasy Football as having pulled a hamstring on that play, which could be a misdiagnosis. In any event, it seems clear that something physically went wrong on the run, not something mental.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

When I saw the Monte story, the first thing I said to my family (who are Bucs fans) was "well at least I don't have to worry about Tampa Bay for a while now!" Seriously. Living in Tampa and seeing Bucs games all my (short) life (sadly) has shown me that Monte is essentially irreplaceable. You can have a guy who's about as good as him, but I think you'll never really find a guy who is distinctly better than he is. The Bucs defense should fall off once he's gone and maybe the Bucs will even transition to being an offense-first team. Who knows. I just don't see them winning any Division titles or Wildcards in the near future without Kiffin as DC.

As for the Giants, I think losing Plax does hurt them a lot. I think teams will now put 8 guys in the box and dare Toomer and Hixon to make plays. I'm really looking forward to Week 15, because if Dallas has any sense at all, they will start Newman and Jones at CB (instead of Henry, who I detest) and just try to shut down the Giants' WRs with man coverage. Ken Hamlin will be playing outfield as usual and then Dallas will have 8 guys in the box on just about every play. The Dallas D actually held the Giants run game pretty well in the first meeting before Brad Bollinger [sic] got things out of hand and the D just gave up (see, Mike Jenkins' "tackle").

I'm really looking forward and really interested in seeing NYG/DAL. I think it will be a much better game than everyone would think and I wouldn't be surprised if the Cowboys got a win (especially if they beat Pittsburgh this week, which would also probably surprise a lot of people even though I say they have a pretty good shot in that game as well).

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I don't know that the D would necessarily fall off, but I think the consistency would be over. I think we'd have a lot more up and down years without Kiffin because we're not likely to find someone who's willing to stay as a coordinator for the rest of his career. I have faith in Raheem Morris, but how long would that last before he moves on to take a head coaching job? There's only so many Kiffins, LeBeaus, and Jim Johnsons in the league.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I think that if Gruden stays in Tampa for more than a few years following Kiffin's departure, the team will start to transition to a more offense-based attack. I think the Drafts will start to focus on strengthening QB and WR rather than defensive positions (like Gaines Adams and Aqib Talib). I think the defense will fall off simply because there will no longer be nearly as many 1st round defensive choices by Tampa Bay.

I honestly think that Tampa needs to draft a QB early next year. Garcia is nearing the drop-off point, has never been an excellent passer (in the Manning/Brady/Romo/Brees sense), and building a high-powered offense with him at the core won't work. He is far too impatient in the pocket and plays like a mobile (and not 40 years old) Brad Johnson.

Talking about mobility reminded me of Michael Vick. What are the chances the Bucs make a play on him if he gets released from jail this winter? Gruden has always seemed enamored by him, and I think they would at least work him out. While he doesn't exactly fit the "excellent passer" mold that I think the Bucs will need if they transition to offense-based football, I think that Gruden is so impressed with his athleticism that he'd give him a shot.

But yeah, it will be interesting to see where the Bucs go in the post-Kiffin era.

Chances Monte works at Tennessee until Lane is fired or moves on and then pursues a head coaching job, just for kicks?

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

"Elias Holman: On their last meaningful possession, the Packers got stopped on the 1-yard line on two successive plays and decided to kick a go-ahead field goal, which seems like the safe strategy, but it seemed to me that they should have gone for the touchdown on fourth down. The probability of converting is very high, and they had been horrible on kick return coverage, so burying the Panthers at the 1 without a kickoff to return was a good idea. ..."

The true error on that series was handing to Kuhn on third down (and running on second down as well). I felt they should have gone play action on second-and-goal and spread on third-and-goal. The strength is in the receiving corps, not the power run game. However, after getting denied three straight times, I felt the field goal was the correct decision.

They could have followed it up with, I don't know, a squib kick maybe. Just to slow down the return game.

Don't even get me started on the special teams holding by the Panthers all day.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

The Bears made the same mistake on the Vikings' goal line stand. They ran their brand new fullback, Something Davis, on third down, a play which Ron Turner has fallen in love with. Forte was stopped twice at the one (though the first time was at the end of a four or five yard run), but you still should be giving the ball to your best runner in that situation.

Just say no to fullback overuse!

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Those Eli Manning Citizen Ecodrive watch commercials aren't so funny anymore huh? 1 Super bowl MVP and 11-1 wins later.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Actually, they're just as hysterical as they ever were. "Unstoppable. Eli Manning is." Good Lord, that is terrible sentence structure. English teachers all over the country must have thought seriously about committing suicide when that abomination was released on an unsuspecting public.

"A little celery is always nice after a good pee."

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Two observations:

- I'm not sure if his overall stats bear this out, but Jason Campbell in both Giants games completed a lot of 3rd down passes short of the sticks. Just yesterday: 4 yards on 3rd and 6; 6 on 3rd and 9; 6 on 3rd and 7; 8 on 3rd and 9; 7 on 3rd and 13; and 11 on the last play of the game, which started 17 yards from the end zone. (He also had two 3rd down incompletes thrown short.) Does he always do this? If so, does it explain his low interception rate?

- Random Broncos seemed to be injured whenever the Jets tried to hurry-up. (The Gamebook lists 6 Broncos defensive players as having been injured during the game.) Some were certainly legit injuries, but Dre Bly's, for one, looked really suspicious.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Dre Bly actually admitted that he was... not exactly faking that injury, but that he made the conscious decision to milk it and nix the hurry up. I expect him to face some sort of punishment from the league, fines or whatever. As for the others, I think those guys were legitmately unable to get up at the time, but I suppose I don't know.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

If you're rooting for the Giants against Dallas, the best thing would be for Dallas to have a great game at Pittsburgh. The oddsmakers would undoubtedly make Dallas the favorite and I think that sort of thing really fires the Giants up. As people have repeatedly told us, Football more than many other games is often played and decided by emotion.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Unless I'm mistaken, if Dallas loses to Pittsburgh the Giants clinch the division and a bye, and the game with Dallas becomes almost meaningless. I think most people rooting for the Giants would be satisfied with that.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

The Giants clinch the NFC East with any win in their last 4 games or any Dallas loss.

They still need a win (or a Minnesota loss) to clinch a first-round bye, and two wins (assuming Carolina doesn't win out, in which case they'd need three) to clinch home-field, so there would still be something to play for, aside from hurting the Cowboys' playoff chances.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Right, I had mentally written off Minnesota. Thanks for the correction. I'm not too worried about the #1 seed, though - the bye is a much much bigger thing to play for than home field over Carolina or Tampa. If they let down a bit against Dallas having clinched the 2 seed at worst, I won't be too upset.

If you believe (as I do, and as others mentioned upthread) that Dallas presents the biggest challenge to the Giants in the NFC, you have to root for them to lose to Pittsburgh. If they don't make the playoffs, the Giants path becomes a bit easier.

55 Irresistible Force meets immovable object

And no, I'm not talking about the Patriot offense meeting the Steeler defense.

We finally learned what it takes to cut back on the over-analysis of the Patriots on this site, and that is a resounding loss to a long-time whipping boy like the Steelers have been for much of the last decade.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Something of note on the Vikings: I think 9 of his 11 sacks have come at home, where OTs false start more than usual (it seems), due to crowd noise. It's one more of the many reasons that the Vikings were so enthusiastic in trading for and re-signing him.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Madden and Michaels were too busy doing their usual stellar job to notice it, but I think the Bears' receivers had at least 8 drops last night. Davis alone had three. I'm glad Aaron noticed that--Orton has not looked as good since the injury, but last night his receivers were killing him.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Did anybody else notice the Bears were going along just fine until Ogunleye hit Frerotte with a cheap-shot and after that, the Vikings, and Frerotte in particular, seemed to be on a mission? After that 99 yard TD pass to Berrian, Frerotte had quite a satisfied-vengeful look on his face.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Regarding the Vikings game from a Vikings fan, the supposed cheap shot was a Hollywood acting job by Ferrotte who was looking for a flag....glad the ref didn't go for it.

The dropped passes by Chicago, many baseball teams coming to the Metrodome complain about the lighting there, wonder if there is higher dropped percentage there than other places. Looks like on some of the plays where the Chicago receivers were actually looking for the pass that they didn't pick up the ball.

And, I have to wonder at the brain power of Turner the offensive (?) coordinator to decide to run straight plunges into the line at the best run defense in the league 3 straight times, when they were overloaded to stop it. Sure, you can prove that you are tough, and all that, but scoring more points than the other team is the point of it, try spreading them out.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Jerry F - I'm not sure about the exact number of drops but there sure were a bunch of them by the Bears. In the two games I've watched Orton I have been very impressed with his accuracy - 4th quarter of last nights game aside.

The Bears are in good shape on offence now. They have to upgrade at WR but they look good everywhere else. But not sure that defence is going to be any good for much longer.

By the way - The Bears punting 4th and long in their own end with 3-4 minutes left - that is just giving up. I know the odds of winning at that point are incredibly long but you got to at least try.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

There was another game this year where they kept trying to stuff it up the middle at the goalline and it didn't work. Forte doesn't have the power to make those plays work, and neither do their fullbacks, but the Bears are just wedded to that style of football.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I know a couple of us have been over this before, but the Colts need a big receiver (6'3" +). Just one decent one. Reggie does the best he can for "junk balls" but just lacks an inch or two. I know the Colts offense is built on precision, but when the weather is bad (like in Cleveland, like in the playoffs) size matters. No I am not saying this with Plax in mind, just my feelings after watching the Cleveland game.

83 LDT

At what point do we start worrying that LaDainian Tomlinson is done, or at least done as a difference-making back? He is 29 years old. He has a career low in yards per carry. Or is it just the nagging injuries?

I don't think it's mutually exclusive; the nagging injuries are themselves a symptom of age. It's not just a matter of him slowing down as he gets older, it's the fact that his injuries are cumulative; those little nicks that he used to play through start to affect him more and more.

88 Re: LT

In reply to by Independent George

A lot of the blame rests with the SD offensive line, too. It has not played well.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Joseph Addai fun fact: That was Addai's first fumble in almost 2 years. He had 390 regular season carries without a fumble and 446 regular season+playoff carries without a fumble. He really holds on to that ball.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

About the Moss criticism: Cassel was throwing behind his receivers all game long. The sequence at the end of the first half was particularly maddening, as Moss was open three plays in the row, and Cassel threw behind him three plays in a row.

My current impression of Cassel is that he's now good enough to beat the weaker teams, but when faced with a superior D like Pittsburgh's, he reverts to Bad Matt.

And yes, Moss dropped a pass or two he should have caught, and yes, Jabar Gaffney had the most baffling drop of the game. And then there was Slater's muff of the kickoff.

On the whole, a terrible, terrible game. I just think it's unfair to single out Moss for criticism. He seems to be held to a standard that is not applied to the rest of the team.

And yes, Matt Light has been getting schooled by the top pass rushers for quite some time. Ask Dwight Freeney, Jason Taylor, etc. If Light was a superior left tackle, the conventional wisdom on how to beat the Pats wouldn't be "put pressure on the QB".

86 Re: Madden 2010?

What happened to FO's review of Madden 09 and Head Coach 09?

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

"Bill Barnwell: Do the Giants really need to run a direct snap to Derrick Ward? Sure, it worked, but realistically, is this the offense that needs trickery to succeed?

Doug Farrar: Yeah, we're getting to the point where teams are doing this stuff for the sake of it and just wasting downs. The Browns tried the "Flash" package directly to Josh Cribbs in scoring range, and the Colts had it read all the way."

Thomas George actually wrote a story today about getting too tricky with the playcalling.

"Why so exotic so early against a defense that has struggled mightily all season?"

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I've noticed that a lot of teams try to work in the Wildcat (and/or variants thereof) against the Broncos... And every time, I just wonder why. The Broncos have seemingly done pretty well against the gimmick sets, but do horribly against basic sets. Seriously, just run your basic set, we can't stop you.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

LT has about 100 fewer yards from scrimmage than Turner this year. Different schemes, etc., of course. Just sayin', give him an playoff-less offseason to recover and eat Chunky Soup and prove he's not the next ShaunFranco AlexanderHarris.

P.S. My confirmation phrase at the bottom was "pistol accidents"... coincidence?

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

1. Ben, where are you from? At least when I lived there, the Upper West Side was not the home of people who "summer" somewhere, that's the Upper East Side.

2. All day, I waited for lots of discussion in Audibles of the Steelers-Patriots game. I'm a Pittsburgh fan and was interested to hear various perspectives other than my own biased one. There was surprisingly little. It's time to ask the question "Shouldn't Football Outsiders pay more attention to the New England Patriots?" Oh well, the Patriots were favored by 1.5, weren't they? Maybe this will be the Any Given Sunday.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Yeah and it was the easiest money on the board this week :) No idea what people were thinking...

If I were setting it it would have been PIT -4 or 5 and I was expecting maybe PIT -1 or a push...

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I think the reason is that Patriots fans are too sad about our playoff chances evaporating in a puff of smoke in a 3-minute span at the end of the 3rd quarter on Sunday, and Steelers fans that like to mouth off have been mysteriously absent from this thread (cd6, where are you?)

Since you ask, here's my (admittedly pro-Patriots biased) take on the game.

1). Dierdorf or Gumbel or whoever (or both) is an idiot, when they kept saying that the teams weren't dropping the ball because of the weather, but rather because of lack of concentration. The game temperature was in the mid-30's, it was raining hard, probably with some sleet mixed in, and the footing was probably a little slippery. Just because slo-mo replays don't show the ball squirting out of a reciever's hands doesn't mean that the conditions weren't impairing the offenses...a 2" slip of the foot moves your hands by 2" and the ball bounces off your fingertips instead of being caught. I think this game was weather dominated...both teams were dropping the ball all over the place.

2). There wasn't all that much offense. I know you look at the Steeler's score of 33 points, but only one of those TD's came after a sustained drive--the rest were due to Patriots turnovers at the Patriots end of the field (just like the one Patriots TD was due to a Steelers turnover at the Steeler's end of the field). I bet the offensive VOA's for both teams will be pretty bad. If the game is played in good weather, it's a different game, and the Patriots maybe put of more of a fight.

3). The game can be summed up very simply--it was a competitive game where the Steelers had VERY slightly outplayed the Patriots for about 40 minutes. Then a string of bad luck combined by a few absolutely boneheaded screwups by a couple of Patriots in quick succession caused them to self destruct, and once they had given up a two score lead, they weren't getting it back in lousy weather against a top defense. (If you contest the luck argument, realize that the Steelers recovered all five fumbles that occurred--two of theirs and three of the Patriots--and that all five occurred when the score was within 3 points either way).

Consider the crucial turn of events:
- Gostkowski misses a chip-shot before half time, and the game is tied at the half. That's OK, the Pats can move the ball on the Steelers and get the ball first in the 3rd quarter.
- In (long) FG range, Dan Koppen completely blows a play and allows Cassel to be sacked, forcing a punt that leaves the game tied. If you're counting, that's at least 6 points left on the field in a close and (to that point) low scoring game.
- The Patriots defense gives up a long drive and gets gassed, but manages to keep the Steelers out of the end zone and gives up just a FG. Still OK--just down by 3. Then Belichick inexplicably decides to let Slater field the kickoff. Fumble, Steelers ball on the door, and the exhausted and stunned defense immediately gives up a TD. Now things are looking bad.
4. The Pats get the ball back, and Nick Kaczur (or the RB?) blows a blocking asignment, Cassel is strip-sacked from his right, and the Steelers recover. The defense holds them to basically nothing, but they do get a FG out of it.
5. Welker get's injured on a dirty (according to the refs, although I'm not so sure) hit.
5. The Pats are now down by 13, missing their best reciever, running out of time, and are forced to try to force the ball and hope for a break. You can pretty much discount everything that happened after that as far as being indicative of how good the teams are. When you're down by 13, facing a good defense in bad weather, without one of your best playmakers, and have only about 10 minutes left, you can either play conservatively and almost certainly lose--say 23-13 or 23-17, or you can go for broke, try to force the ball and hope to get lucky, and maybe win, while risking losing 33-10. The latter happened. But I'm glad they went for it.

The Steelers won. Both teams made mistakes, and when the playing field was level (i.e. when the score was close), both teams played almost equally well (the Steelers were playing slightly better up to the end of the 3rd). The difference was that the Pats made one or two more mistakes than the Steelers, and the Steelers capitalized better (and had more fumble-recovery luck).

Incidentally, contrary to the other poster, I didn't see bad play from Matt Light. Barring the one blown blitz pickup, and the one play where Dan Koppen got owned by the Steeler's NT, the Pats line protected Cassel pretty well as long as the score was close and Welker was on the field as an outlet. Once the Pats were in an all-pass mode, and Welker was out, the Steelers starting bringing heavy and complex blitzes, and protection broke down. However, not too many O-lines can stand up to that kind of pressure in that situation, especially when it is the Steelers.

Deltha O'Neal really does suck, though. Fully agree there.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

It's generally easy to focus on one side or another and conclude that the game could have gone differently. For example, what you saw as "Koppen blowing a play" I saw as "Steelers D-Line caving in Patriots O-Line and getting the sack"; similar with "Kaczur blows a blocking assignment".

Turns out it's pretty common to blow blocking assignments against the Steelers :<)

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Very very true. But we all tend to focus on the team we know more about. And every game could have gone differently if a few plays had changed (well, almost every game...there are theoretically infinitely many parallel universes out there, and the Titans thrashed the Lions in every one of them...even the one where they all had goatees).

Maybe what I should have said instead of "Koppen blowing a play" was "Koppen getting completely owned for one play by the Pittsburg nose tackle, and instead of "Kaczur blowing a blocking assignment", "the Pats O-line being completely confused by the pressure coming from the Steeler right and Kaczur, the right tackle, not getting whatever he needed to get done, done".

The general point is, on those two plays, the Steelers D outplayed the Patriots O-line. Unfortunately for the Patriots, those plays came at critical times, sandwiched between some really one-sided lucky events (good for the Steelers, bad for the Patriots--fumble recoveries, a missed FG, etc). No question that the Steelers have an awesome defense, and that that defense won them the game by shutting down (along with the weather) a decent Patriots offense. However, remember that their awesome defense didn't make Gostkowski miss a FG, or cause one of their two special teams fumbles to bounce out of bounds and the other to bounch into the arms of a lone Steeler surrounded by Patriots. Their awesome defense didn't cause Matt Slater to drop a kickoff, and then boot it right into the arms of another Steeler. And while their awesome defense did strip Cassel twice, recovering both those fumbles was luck.

My main point was that the score didn't really tell the story of the game. Often you see 33-10 and think the "33" team dominated the whole game, while the "10" team got some consolation points at the end. That was not what happened here...two teams played 65% of the game almost perfectly matched, but then one team got a swing of lucky breaks and coincided some critical dominant play exactly at the same time to get a lead. Once it had that lead, it was a good enough team that it held on to it.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

His [Campbell’s] game relies so much on WR screens, TE screens, RB screens and check downs. The only time he throws downfield are on 1st downs, and play action. On 3rd and long he is always throwing the ball in front of the sticks in low risk passes hoping his guys run for the first down. JC is overrated. He can't handle pressure and he doesn't call audibles.
While Eli Manning had mixed success early in his career " good eli bad eli", he was asked to run a very difficult offense to run. He isn't playing game manager. He isn't throwing WR screens and check downs over and over again.

The evidence doesn’t really support the notion that Campbell threw significantly shorter passes than Manning last year. In fact, on average he threw a little deeper to his WRs. This year, in the WCO, Campbell IS throwing shorter passes to his TEs and WRs. The data also show that Campbell passed to his RBs more than Manning in 2007, but not in 2008.

Let’s look at the Giants and the Redskins passing games for 2007-2008. For the 2007 Redskins, I’ll only use Campbell’s stats thru the end of Nov (this omits one and a half Dec of his games, but I don’t think it would change the numbers much and it takes the Todd Collins' games out of the discussion). It also includes a few passes on both teams thrown by players other than Campbell or Manning.

Rec (tgt) per game by RBs:
WAS 07 – 5.3 (7.2)
NYG 07 – 4.1 (6.9)
NYG 08 – 4.0 (5.9)
WAS 08 – 3.8 (5.2)

Campbell threw to his rbs more than Manning last year; both are throwing to their rbs less this season but now Manning is doing it more than Campbell. With Campbell there has been a dramatic change in offense from the Saunders/Vermeil/Martz system to the Zorn WCO. Not sure why the change in NY, but in any case, the play-calling for Manning (or his audibles, or his checkdowns) ends up going to the rb more than it does for Campbell this season.

Is Manning throwing farther downfield to his rbs while Campbell is throwing screen passes behind the line? The average yards before the catch for both offenses (YBC = length of average rec minus YAC) to rbs:
WAS 08 – 1.6 yds (6.0 YAC)
NYG 08 – 0.9 (8.4)
NYG 07 – 0.0 (7.2)
WAS 07 – minus 0.2 (7.7)

Last year, Campbell on average completed the ball to an rb slightly behind the LOS while Manning’s throws averaged right on the LOS, but they were pretty close to being the same. This year, both offenses are throwing to rbs a little more downfield; again, WAS shows a bigger change – and is now throwing further downfield to its backs than the Giants. Manning is getting more YAC out of his backs this season.

What about TEs?

Rec (tgt) per game by TEs:
WAS 08 – 6.3 (8.4)
NYG 07 – 4.5 (7.8)
WAS 07 – 4.6 (7.5)
NYG 08 – 2.4 (4.1)

Campbell is throwing more to his TEs this year while Manning is using that position a lot less. Last year they were essentially equal.

Average TE YBC (YAC):
NYG 08 – 8.4 (3.2)
NYG 07 – 6.4 (4.3)
WAS 07 – 5.7 (5.0)
WAS 08 – 5.0 (5.0)

Manning definitely throws the ball deeper when passing to his TEs, more so with Boss than with Shockey. The new offense in WAS throws it shorter to Cooley (and Yoder), without producing any additional YAC. At this position, it appears that Campbell is being asked to make shorter, safer throws than Manning.

And lastly, WRs:

Rec (tgt) per game by WRs:
NYG 08 – 12.8 (20.5)
NYG 07 – 10.4 (18.6)
WAS 08 – 10.2 (17.7)
WAS 07 – 10.1 (17.5)

Both offenses throw to the WR more this year than last, although it's a basically insiginificant increase for WAs. The Giants and Manning now clearly use their WRs more than the Redskins and Campbell (last year it was close).

Average WR YBC (YAC):
WAS 07 – 9.7 (3.2)
NYG 08 – 9.6 (2.4)
NYG 07 – 9.2 (3.8)
WAS 08 – 7.8 (4.5)

This stat doesn’t show that WAS 07 relied on short WR screens any more than NYG in either season. I suppose a play-by-play count could contradict that, but then there would have to be a lot of intermediate or deep throws to push WAS 07’s average up. Campbell is definitely throwing the ball shorter distances to his WRs this year – not a surprise in a WCO. But he threw the ball farther to his WRs last year than Manning has in either season. I think it’s more of a offensive philosophy than an ability-related decision by Campbell’s coaches.

True to its philosophy, the WCO in WAS 08 has the highest YAC for WRs. Meanwhile, WR YAC is down noticeably in NY this season, and below what Campbell was achieving last year with his WRs.

Campbell is doing what his coaches want – last year it was a more down-the-field passing offense, this year it’s more short stuff with an increase in completion pct and WR YAC. Campbell is throwing to his WRs at about the same rate, but has cut down on RB throws (2 less per game) and increased his TE usage a bit. Manning is throwing deeper this year to all his targets, and increasing his completion pct besides – a very impressive combination. Last season, Manning threw about one more attempt per game than Campbell (not counting spikes, etc.) and that extra attempt went to his WRs – but it wasn’t on average a deeper throw. This year, Manning is using his WRs more while going to his TEs (especially) and RBs less. I think he’s improved, I just don’t think it’s necessary – or necessarily accurate - to criticize Campbell to prove it.

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Most stats from Yahoo; YBC is derived from that. Pass targets from plus I hand-counted yesterday's from play-by-play since the FG database isn't updated yet. I'd say pass target data is not authoritative, but close.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Love your post. Digesting it still; may decide to comment more later. But on this:

"Not sure why the change in NY"

Easy. They are winning more, and ahead more, and as such are passing less. Less passes overall, and less passes to RBs.

Besides, Coughlin and company are not blind. They can see that Jacobs is Earth because of his hands of stone. Maybe it took them a year to decide that he just isn't going to improve sufficiently in that regard.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Dude, people on the Upper EAST Side "summer". Not UWSers. Don't make bad New York jokes if you can't get them right.

UWS = hippies and jews.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

From Joe Posnanski's blog:

I have a special sympathy for television announcers who get stuck with terrible football games. This week’s unlucky duo was Bill Macatee and Steve Beuerlein, who got stuck announcing the Chiefs-Raiders game. And so Macatee gets special kudos for pulling of a great line … So now we move to action in the fourth quarter, when Macatee and Beuerlein were clearly punchy from watching so much mind-numbingly bad football. There was some promotion for David Letterman’s “Stupid Human Tricks.” Beuerlein said, “Do you do any stupid human tricks?” And Macatee muttered, so that only those listening carefully could hear it, “I can think of a fake field goal that could be on there.” Give that man a raise and a better game next week.

112 Re: FULL HOUSE BACKFIELD - Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Tony Sparano employed the full house backfield when with the Cowboys (though not as much, I don't think, as Jason Garrett has been using it this year), so it's no surprise it would show up in Miami.

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

TEMO, looking at Jason Campbell's yards per pass isn't fair when he is throwing WR smoke screens and RB screens. He throws a low risk 1 yard pass, and Moss, Randel El and portis are picking up decent gains. If you saw how so few of his passes travel over 15, 10, or even 7 yards you would see how low risk his offense is and why he has so few picks. It is hard to throw a pick on a 1 yard screen pass, but he still almost did that yesterday. His deeper throws mainly come off of play action and on first down.

Travis. YES! That is why Campbell has so turnovers. Even look at the first Giants game of the year. The guy is throwing 3 yard checkdowns on 3rd and long, and throwing in front of the sticks on 4th down when they went for it too! It is sure nice for your stats and QB rating, but it isn't so great for winning games.

People all over Washington are blaming Campbell's poor play on the fact that he keeps having new OC's. It is comical to me that Redskins fans ( maybe not on this site) cite changing OC's his junior year in college, Senior year, and his rookie year as " 3 new offenses he had to learn". The guy didn't even play his rookie year.


So if Eli Manning get's 20% of his passing yards to receivers after the catch, and Jason Campbell gets 37% of his passing yards after the catch, which would you say plays in a more conservative offense? Then factor in the fact that I'm sure your stats would tell you that Campbell's yards came in a more boom/bust fashion ( long TD throw against the Saints, Arizona too), where as your stats would also point to the higher median by Eli as well.

A RB who gains 4 yards on every single carry and averages 4 yards is worth more than a RB who averages 5.5 yards with a whole lot of 1 yards runs and then the long 60 yard TD.

Throw in the fact that the Redskins were 4-0 under Todd Collins and 5-8 under Campbell in 2007 and who do you think would have more garbage yards in 2007. There is no comparison of Eli and Campbell.

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Also, Eli throws
33% of his completions to a RB or TE
Campbell throws 50% of his completions to a RB or TE

So Campbell is throwing 50% of his completions 5 yards in the air on average to the TE, or 1 yard to his running backs. Seems like a great way to pick up low risk ( low INT yards). Then consider his passes to his receivers contain a high pct of rac yards as well.

That works fine and dandy against defenses like New Orleans, but ask Campbell to play QB and not game manager and he fails.

Eli has had David Carr sub in during a blowout, and has finished games just handing off just running out leads.

The Patriots during their dynasty were great about being aggressive early on, scoring first, building a nice 10-14 point lead, and then being efficient. The thinking is that if being aggressive early on fails, you can always fight back. Look at how the Patriots would score first during their run.

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Chris - sorry, don't have median stats so I won't try to speculate on what they might tell me. There is no question that this year, playing in a WCO offense, Campbell is throwing shorter passes and gaining more YAC. That's the offense Zorn was going to install, no matter what his qb's skills. Particularly against NY, this hasn't worked well.

Here's the breakdown of Manning and Campbell by pass length this year (source: ESPN):

Pass Thrown: Behind line 15% - 19% (Manning's numbers first)
Pass Thrown: 1-10 yds. 54% - 60% (both throw the majority of their passes here)
Pass Thrown: 11-20 yds. 21% - 15%
Pass Thrown: 21-30 yds. 7% - 4%
Pass Thrown: 31-40 yds. 3% - 1%
Pass Thrown: 41+ yds. 2% - 2%

Interestingly, Manning has been slightly more effective (based on passer rating) on the short throws and much more effective on the intermediate passes. But on the passes of 21+ yards, Campbell has been better: 8-23-0, 2 TDs, 12.9 ypa vs Manning's 12-39-2, 3 TDs, 9.1 ypa.

On the other hand, you were saying the same thing about Campbell last year. Let's look at Manning/Campbell/Collins pass attempts last year:

Pass Thrown: Behind line 15% - 17% - 21%
Pass Thrown: 1-10 yds. 50% - 50% - 39%
Pass Thrown: 11-20 yds. 24% - 20% - 30%
Pass Thrown: 21-30 yds. 5% - 7% - 8%
Pass Thrown: 31-40 yds. 4% - 3% - 3%
Pass Thrown: 41+ yds. 2% - 2% - 0%

There really wasn't much difference in the pass length of Manning vs. Campbell last season. Manning did throw a higher % of intermediate passes (11-20 yds) than Campbell but had a much lower passer rating doing it (69.1 vs 81.6). Collins was much better than both at that distance, although some of that was a small sample that caught up with the Redskins in the playoffs. Collins had a great run for 4 games, substantially out-playing both Campbell and Manning in that span, but I doubt if most front offices would have taken him for the long run over either, even before the playoff game ended with two pick-6 throws. I wouldn't have.

FWIW, I'm a Chiefs fan and although I live in the DC area, I don't watch much of the Redskins. Manning is clearly the better qb right now IMO. I just don't think Campbell is as bad or limited as you claim.

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

The Vikings/Bears game set back quarterbacking 70 years, even considering how harried Orton was. You just don't have a Vikings game until Frerotte throws a pick six, or at least has one returned to within the Vikings 10 yard line. All the interceptions thrown by Orton were horrible.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

First this waver - I'm a Vikings fan.
Saying that, I recognize the Vikings have significant flaws.

However, I think that the Vikings match up with the Giants as well as any team in the league - see last year's game for example.

The Giants are completely predicated on running the football to set up the pass; if a team was able to stop the run with the front seven, I think it could be a long day for Eli.
And the Vikings can do exactly that.
But more than that, the Vikings have the individual talent on the defensive line to counter the Giants biggest strength - their offensive line.

Likewise, on defense, the Giants pressure with the front four and blow up passing plays. The Vikings do not have a great offensive line - but they do have a running game that can be effective with eight men in the box. The Giants biggest advantage on defense, the pass-rush, is neutralized by the make-up of the Vikings offense.

Saying that, Brad Childress will probably decide it's a day for Ferotte to throw the ball 40 times.
If only they'd have promoted Tomlin.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

"I think that the Vikings match up with the Giants as well as any team in the league - see last year's game for example."

While you make some good points about the matchup, particularly about the Vikes DL, using last year's game would be akin to using this year's Giants-Browns matchup to primarily evaluate either of those teams.

The Vikes' impressive DL did not cause three pick-sixes.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Umm, but it did cause more passing. While the six part is luck the pick part was important too.

Also, if the FO are lumping the end of season 2007 NYG in with this years NYG to explain the SB run then it is definitely fair to include a week 12 2007 NYG game as a comparison to this years team.

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13


I don't like saying that they both throw a majority of their passes 0-10 yards. What if we magnified that and say they both throw the majority of their passes 0-30 yards? To me, it gets signifigant at about 7 yards, where corners usually play a 7 yard cushion off the ball. 0-10 and 11-20 are huge ranges, I'd like to see better splits. Negative passes, 0-2 yards, 3-5, 6-9 etc. A 1 yard smoke screen completion where the WR picks up 8 rac yards is a lot easier than a 9 yard completion with a 5 or 7 step drop, reading the corner, and making the 9 yard throw.

My point is what do you think is harder to defend. A guy throwing 50% of his completions 5 yards or less through the air, or a guy throwing 11-20 yeards.

Campbell had some success on the deep balls because he is 50% of the time not even throwing the ball over 5 yards, and he used play action and caught the defenses asleep. It isn't like he is dropping back, reading the defense and throwing the corner route etc.

Eli Manning is a much harder QB to defense, much harder QB to sack, and he helps his run game out more than Campbell as well. There is no comparison.

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Good points, except be wary of completely discounting the QB's contribution to the 1-yard smokescreen with 8 yards rac. Getting that to work requires the QB to recognize the coverage, realize that the OLB/DB won't (or may not) be able to make the tackle at the LOS, possibly looking off the coverage or pump faking, and hitting the reciever in stride and in such a way that a CB can't jump the route and get a pick-6. Trust a fan of a team that for a while could only do such passes, and who has seen the difference between Tom Brady and a rusty Matt Cassel doing them, even getting success on 1-yard dumpoffs requires QB skill.

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13


You haven't presented a single shred of evidence to back up your claims about Campbell. You make assertions to back up those claims, but you haven't shown any evidence -- statistical or film -- to back those assertions up. And when presented with multiple pieces of evidence that strongly contradict your assertions, you simply say that you want even better evidence, instead of actually coming up with something that supports your assertions for a minute. Perhaps worse, you don't even acknowledge that the evidence doesn't support your argument. You keep writing that Eli throws "deep," and Campbell doesn't, despite mrh's hard and diligent work showing otherwise. Even if the difference between the two is really 5-yard passes and 9-yard passes, and that really does make things easier for Campbell, that isn't even close to as large a difference in distances as what you'd been suggesting.

Would it be nice if there were splits that had 5- or even 3-yard intervals? Sure. But if your entire argument rests on needing that info, you might want to re-think your argument.

Perhaps more to the point, there's no point in engaging in discourse or debate if you're completely unwilling to see the other person's side. I had a professor once say that you should always know what it would take for you to agree with the other person, and I think that's a good way of looking at it -- if you put a little thought into what it would take, then you spend a little time actually figuring out what the other case might/should look like, and helps get you thinking about when the other person might actually be right. Unfortunately, I suspect that nothing could make you think that Campbell will ever be an adequate quarterback.

50% of the time not even throwing the ball over 5 yards

Do you have any evidence of this? Yes, he's thrown shorter passes this year, because it's what he's been asked to do. You were saying the same thing last year, when he clearly wasn't doing it.

and he used play action and caught the defenses asleep

I was unaware that being able to effectively execute play-action was a bad thing for a quarterback on a team with a strong running game. For some reason I had always believed that it's a good quality to have.

It isn't like he is dropping back, reading the defense and throwing the corner route etc.

What, like this?

If you've only watched him against the Giants, then your criticisms make sense. Fortunately, The Redskins play 14 other games in the regular season.

Against the Saints, Campbell's game-winning touchdown required him to: (1)make pre-snap adjustments; (2)avoid pressure; and (3)throw downfield, which are pretty much the three things you say he either can't or doesn't do.

Two plays against Dallas. Campbell's throw could have been better on the first, but he was throwing it 50 yards downfield while on the run (thanks to his linemen being beat, not poor pre-snap adjustments). The second is as good an example of a player avoiding the rush and then throwing while still under pressure in the pocket as you'll find.

Now, does Campbell do these things all the time? No. That's why nobody's trying to tell you that he's an elite quarterback. He's not. But does he do them enough to make him an asset? In my opinion, yes. Enough to demonstrate progress? In my opinion, yes. Can every starting quarterback in the league consistently play as well as he has? Almost certainly not. There are plenty who can, but plenty who can't, too. Once again, nobody's trying to claim that he's elite, or even better than Eli -- just that he's a solid young quarterback with a still-promising future.

Eli Manning is a much harder QB to defense, much harder QB to sack, and he helps his run game out more than Campbell as well. There is no comparison.

Then why are you always comparing them?!?!?!?!? You are the only one around here who insists on doing so.

136 New Stat: Nearly-Almost-Dropped INT's or "NADs"

It will apply only to Eli Manning because, unlike every other qb in the league; he alone is the beneficiary of dropped interceptions. This phenomenon began in the Super Bowl when New England nearly intercepted, almost intercepted, dropped interceptions at least 14 times in the last drive alone. (Sarcasm Alert- All Clear)
I am confident somebody can chart it if they want, but I am going to casually observe this week's games to see how many defenders come up with a NAD. I have watched Giant defenders clang a fair share of passes. It happens all the time. It isn't just Eli's passes.
(BTW, this is the only place I read the discussion threads because it is wonderfully free of "The professional football franchise from my metropolitan area is superior to the substandard one from yours" adolescent food fights. Sorry for the snarky tone above.)

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

So wassup with the Broncos players pretending they were injured to keep getting injury time outs ? Is this something that any team can do to defuse the momentum of the other team - at any time ? How is this monitored? And what's up with knocking the ball away when a player is laying on it ? Is he not down?

The more I know the more confused I get !

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

First, there is a cost for a player faking injury: said player cannot play on the next defensive snap. Is this enough to deter certain players, mainly defensive lineman, who rotate in and out, from faking injury? Probably not. But asking the referees, who have no medical training, to determine if a player is faking injury is a terrible idea. I must say, though, Dre Bly is an idiot for admitting to this; there would have been no proof otherwise and the Broncos would not have been punished.

Second, the ruling on the Cotchery fumble was that the ball was loose before the defender hit him. That fact is disputable, but that's how it was ruled.

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Did anyone else notice something funny about the clock at the end of the Jets-Denver game? It seemed near the end, when time was a factor, whenever a reciever was tackled in bounds (and one would expect the clock to keep running), the clock would mysteriously stop for about three-four seconds before resuming ticking. It was almost as if the clock operator was stopping the clock as soon as he saw a tackle and waiting for a ref to signal "keep winding" before starting up again. I don't think they're supposed to do this, right? They're supposed to keep it running if it obviously looks like a completion and tackle in bounds, and then re-set it if the ball is dropped and they ran it in error? Was it just the broadcast, was the clock operator screwing up, am I misunderstanding the rule, or do you think the clock operator was a Brett Favre fan?

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I didn't notice it, and the gamebook doesn't show any indication of any unusual clock stoppages on the Jets' final 3 drives. At least 24 seconds ran between all non-clock-stopping plays, and most of those plays are marked as "no huddle." (In comparison, the Patriots' no-huddle was getting off plays in as few as 22 seconds.)

If anything, it was the CBS clock not being properly synchronized.

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

The Vikes lines always plays a half step faster at home. The Giants offensive line will more than hold its own playing MN at home. Toss in the fact that NY is simply better coached and it would take multiple turnovers and a huge day by the Purple Jesus to give the Vikes a chance.

Every year Vikes fans let themselves get s*ckered by their team beating poor teams.

Spare me. We have seen this play already. Childress is a dumb*ss and folks who think this team is more than a few really good players are dumber still.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Seems to me it's a great blue print to follow. If you need to slow down an offense, lay on the ground.. take the injury time out and then sit for a play. Heck --you could put in your 2nd string defensive tackle, have him take a dive, and you get another time out. You benefit from this by killing an offenses' momentum (and rhythm) ... and so what -- you lose your second string tackle for a play!

Seems to me every defense should do this when they're being hurt by a hurry-up offense.. why not? Until we see a rules change -- what is goof for the bronco should be good for the gander.