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

Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Audibles at the Line: Week 2
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.

Chicago Bears 17 at Carolina Panthers 20

Bill Barnwell: Greg Olsen fumbles in the Bears game and Jon Beason recovers. It breaks my heart to see the Seventh Floor Crew torn up like this.

Ben Riley: The announcer calling the Bears-Panthers game: "The head coach of Tulane thinks Matt Forte could eventually be as good as Marcus Allen ... or DeShaun Foster!"

Bill Barnwell: This game has been ugly. Carolina has had two illegal formation penalties. Chicago has had multiple holding and block-in-the-back penalties. The game's two biggest plays have been when each team's quarterback threw a hitch-and-go two yards behind their wide receiver and the receiver adjusted in midroute to make the catch.

Here's a sample from my notes: "Bears line up in trips left. Kyle Orton freaks out in shotgun and sprints up to the line and frantically changes the play. He one-hops a quick hitch. Thanks, Kyle Orton! Jonathan Stewart just took over on a drive after Greg Olsen fumbled again. He looks great -- he's breaking like half the tackle attempts thrown at him, and by guys like Urlacher."

Devin Hester's out with what looks like an oblique injury. He pulled up lame after hitting the sidelines and is out -- it didn't seem like a sudden injury where he clutched at his chest, but more of a strain, which is why I figure oblique.

It was a pretty agonizing game till the very end, when on the final two Bears' plays, Orton threw a quick hitch that was nearly picked for a game-ending touchdown, and then Jason McKie lost yardage on fourth-and-1. The only fun thing about the game was Jonathan Stewart, who -- and this is me rejoicing slightly because of his high Speed Score -- looked amazing.

Kevin Payne (not the D.C. United executive or the dead boxer) was impressive as well for the Bears; he got a little excited at times, but he took good angles to the ballcarrier. That makes him better than Adam Archuleta.

Ned Macey: When I saw the Bears gave up 20 points, I assumed their defense had been mediocre. Then I saw they gave up 216 yards and forced 2-for-13 on third down. As for their offense...

Is there any single upgrade in football bigger than Jonathan Stewart for DeShaun Foster?

Tennessee Titans 24 at Cincinnati Bengals 7

Ben Riley: I said it before and I'll say it again: Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers will be the defensive rookie of the year. He just drove through a double-team and took (likely offensive rookie of the year) Chris Johnson down in the backfield.

Doug Farrar: Not to pile on a guy who's obviously had a bad week, but that jolting sensation the AFC South is currently feeling is the Titans with a quarterback who can do more than what is found in the "My First Spread Offense Playbook."

Mike Tanier: One note on the 600-mph wind: Great game by Craig Hentrich, the Titans' old punter. With the wind, he rocked a 70-yarder. Protecting a lead, he kicked a bunch of low line drives that went 41 yards and such. Yes, he fumbled a punt early in the game, but he kicked like a veteran late.

Green Bay Packers 48 at Detroit Lions 25

Ben Riley: Watching the Packers-Lions game, the announcer just said that "Rodgers scans the field in a Favre-like manner." I can't make stuff like this up.

Bill Barnwell: Does that mean he turned his head and looked for an open receiver? Because, I mean, that is Favre-like.

Doug Farrar: We're waiting for a ruling from the judges as to whether he was "just havin' fun out there like a kid on the sandlot, drawin' up plays in the dirt."

Bill Barnwell: Kregg Lumpkin just ran for 19 yards for the Packers. Who is Kregg Lumpkin?

Ben Riley: I think he's a fullback. Or the bad guy in "Halloween 8: Jamie Lee's Career Is Over."

You know what is not Favre-like? Having second-and-goal at the Lions' 10-yard line, about eight seconds to find a receiver, and then, not finding anyone open, just ... throwing it away. It's only two in the afternoon, but Ted Thompson just poured himself a nice Ardbeg 17 Year Old and is grinning from ear to ear.

Mike Tanier: Basically, Calvin Johnson had a couple of really big plays and the Packers weren't running the ball well, so they couldn't eat clock in the second half. The Packers secondary is pretty thin, and on one of Johnson's touchdowns he was covered by Tramon Williams, which is a mismatch.

Buffalo Bills 20 at Jacksonville Jaguars 16

Ben Riley: I'd like to thank the Jaguars Cheerleader Costume Designer for trying to single-handedly revive the black-ankle-boots-with-fishnet-stockings-and-aqua-miniskirt look. I think the cheerleaders just did their first routine to "We Got the Beat!"

Will Carroll: Do not post something like this without pictures. I'm serious.

Mike Tanier: I would prefer longer boots and more fishnet-y fishnets on the Jaguars cheerleaders. But that would be nitpicking.

Doug Farrar: I like that Word's spell-check doesn't question the word "fishnet-y."

Bill Moore: We have fumble luck, now David Garrard is seeing the downside of interception luck -- otherwise known as revision to the mean.

Ben Riley: With 14 seconds left in the first half, Jaguars have first-and-10 at the Bills 16. Garrard stares down his receiver before deciding to throw a soft pass to Bills cornerback Terrence McGee. Ugly, ugly play.

Bill Moore: Tie game in the third quarter, and Jack Del Rio calls for an onside kick. I can't determine if that's ballsy or desperate. Or both.

Aaron Schatz: I would like to vote for ballsy. Last year, Del Rio ranked fifth in Aggressiveness Index and went for it on fourth-and-1 more often than any coach in the league. We know that surprise onside kicks are a good risk. Del Rio gets the Stephen Colbert Award for head coach with most gigantic balls.

Oakland Raiders 23 at Kansas City Chiefs 8

Ben Riley: I wonder what's going through the mind of Al Davis right now. "Hey, that fast running back I drafted has 110 yards and his first touchdown. On the other hand, now I can't fire my head coach this week. Damn."

Doug Farrar: What's actually going through Al Davis' mind: "Gosh, when did Clarence Davis get so big?"

Ben Riley: Hey, Kansas City has the ball and they are only down by eight with four minutes to play. Al Davis just lowered the shades and asked for Pop Fisher to come up to his office.

Bill Barnwell: Was Huard benched or hurt?

Aaron Schatz: Hurt.

Doug Farrar: Under-reported story with all the usual front-office and coaching shenanigans: The Raiders now have a stellar run game with Michael Bush and Darren McFadden, not to mention Snuggly Bear. McFadden has really impressed me in the way he's gone from more of a straight-line speed guy in college to a back who can roll through traffic and hit that second gear.

Indianapolis Colts 18 at Minnesota Vikings 15

Aaron Schatz: Ben, Doug -- did you guys know your guy Justin Forsett was signed by Indianapolis? I had not seen that. He's their kickoff return man now.

Ben Riley: Yes, Forsett was a victim of the Great Wide Receiver Panic that swept through Seattle last week. Of course, it's not like we have two kickers on the roster, so ... oh, wait.

Doug Farrar: Do not get me started on that one. I had been excited about Forsett all the way through preseason, given that I like me some Pocket Herculeses. The Seahawks, using the same offensive personnel acumen that made them throw Steve Hutchinson away and give up a first-round draft pick for Deion Branch, thought they could slip Forsett through waivers. At this point, the fact that their front office doesn't think enough of an offensive player to keep him should be viewed as a breakout indicator.

Will Carroll: On their second series, the Vikings threw another "screen" to Adrian Peterson and for the second time, I'm pretty sure that Tarvaris Jackson threw it backwards. Are they setting up a halfback pass or playing with fire?

Doug Farrar: Tight end Jimmy Kleinsasser has been Jackson's best friend through the first half. The Vikings, as is their wont, have had him up as basically a second left tackle to help Artis Hicks deal with Dwight Freeney. This is fairly common, and especially helpful for Hicks, who's replacing Bryant McKinnie through McKinnie's four-game suspension.

Will Carroll: Alright, there's just no question about it. Peyton Manning is scared every time he drops back. He's not doing anything other than picking a receiver and throwing. The only thing he's doing that's the same as normal is pointing fingers and whining on the sidelines.

Aaron Schatz: The Colts offense looks horrible. Joseph Addai, in particular, is going nowhere. They keep pitching to him outside instead of trying to go up the middle on the Williams brothers, and they're getting nothing.

Your first thought is, "Wow, we've finally discovered that it isn't all Manning, that he does need to have a good offensive line -- or at least some time to practice with his linemen." Then you realize, well, Minnesota might have the best defensive line in the league, so maybe this is more about Minnesota's defense playing well. The only problem with that excuse is that Green Bay managed to move the ball against this same defense last week. Look, you need to have a whole offense, not just a quarterback or a running back. Everyone out there would rather have Peyton Manning than Aaron Rodgers, and most people would take Joseph Addai over Ryan Grant, but there's no question that -- based on watching the two teams play Minnesota -- the Packers offense is much better than the Colts offense right now.

Ben Riley: The Colts defense also looks horrible. Adrian Peterson already has has 72 yards rushing, and the Vikings aren't exactly trying to get clever with their play-calling. Of course, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe just dropped a pass in the end zone -- man, does that guy suck -- so the Vikings are only up by six at the end of the first quarter.

Will Carroll: The Colts have essentially put Anthony Gonzalez in the Dallas Clark role. That's not bad, and wow, does he have great hands. What I don't understand is why the stretch play has just stopped working.

Ben Riley: Have the Vikings always used the scary horn from Lost to get the crowd pumped? I keep waiting for the smoke monster to snake across midfield and yank Peyton into midair. Which would be sweet.

Serious question: what actually constitutes an offensive lineman being offside? I see Peyton doing his chicken dance thing at the line, and everyone on the Colts line breaks out of their stance and starts chatting amongst themselves. They don't flinch per se, but there is movement all over the place. So what is the actual rule?

Aaron Schatz: The other story from this game is the return of the Colts' run defense circa 2005. Unlike the offensive difficulties, this doesn't have a clear target for blame. Yes, he's Adrian Peterson and he's Purple Jesus, but Matt Forte sliced through them last week almost as easily. At least their pass coverage has been good -- Kelvin Hayden has been particularly close in coverage.

Benjy Rose: The Colts' D-line is just getting destroyed. Peterson may be a terrific runner, but I think even DeShaun Foster (who may be as good as Matt Forte) could have 100 yards against this defense.

Doug Farrar: I'd take Matt Forte over several DeShaun Fosters. Eric Bieniemy, the Vikings' running backs coach, was on the NFL Network's Playbook show recently. He talked about how they're trying to get Peterson to slow down just a bit at the handoff, wait for the holes to develop, and avoid over-reliance on his speed before he hits the hole. As bad as Indy's defense has been, I also think we're seeing some of that.

Will Carroll: Through the first half, my fantasy team of Manning, Addai, Chris Johnson, Harrison, and Devery Henderson has scored zero points. Zero.

Doug Farrar: "This is Will Carroll for Loser League Beer. When your fantasy team has gone to crap, you need the cool, refreshing taste of the New Jersey swamps to get you back on track. It's Loser League ... every time. "

Will Carroll: Fantasy guys everywhere are trying to calculate the fantasy points, but Anthony Gonzalez's lateral to Reggie Wayne was both stupid and heady. To help give the Colts some momentum, I think it's worth the risk. Watching the replay, he was looking back ... could that be something they practice?

Brad Childress made a smart challenge to call back the touchdown and keeps fantasy players from trying to figure out that yardage. Maybe Tony Dungy will get an idea on what's a good challenge now that he's seen one.

Doug Farrar: Ouch. Colts fans with one foot off the ledge just heard Dan Dierdorf say, "And Bob Sanders has left the field with an ankle injury..."

Peterson definitely looks more patient out there, waiting for stuff to develop. Scary thought: He can be even better this year. What's one step up from Purple Jesus? Purple God? Purple Drank? Purple Haze? Purple Rain?

Dierdorf is also apoplectic at the Metrodome fans that boo Childress when he reins it in and goes for field goals, and boo Tarvaris Jackson when he throws a worm-burner ten yards behind the intended receiver. Because "the Vikings are winning." Of course, all those goat-balls and empty drives come back to bite the Vikings halfway through the third quarter when the Colts even it up at 15 after the Vikes pitch a shutout in the first half. And there's the obvious lesson: When you're playing a team like the Colts, who can wake up from their spell of suckiness at any time and blow your defense away, having a passing game to counter is a good idea.

Four minutes left in the third quarter, Jackson overthrows Bernard Berrian on third down, and I haven't heard boos like this since I saw John Cougar try to open for The Who in 1982, only to get bottled off the stage for his trouble.

Aaron Schatz: Peyton Manning is still Peyton Manning, and Reggie Wayne is still Reggie Wayne. The Colts get the ball back with about seven minutes left and come out three-wide -- but with Wayne in the slot. Now Wayne is going up through the middle of the Vikings' Cover-2. Easy pickings. Three plays. Touchdown, tie score.

Bill Moore: Just prior to that, trying to ice the game on third-and-5, The Vikings run Chester Taylor into the line. Huh? God knows Peterson would have been a bad choice.

Ben Riley (for the tie): If the Vikings lose this game, the KCW committee will have to review Childress's decision to try to convert on third-and-two by calling for a handoff to ... Chester Taylor. Hey coach, maybe go with the guy who's plowed over the Colts for 150 yards and who we are currently trying to create nickname for that is more superlative than Jesus?

(Adam Vinatieri kicks the game-winning field goal as the clock runs down to three seconds. One kickoff later, the Colts escape the Metrodome with a win.)

Aaron Schatz: Wow. I have to put my thoughts together, but Indianapolis had no business winning this game.

Doug Farrar: That was a rough one for Minnesota, but you kind of had a feeling they were going to get head-slapped in the end. The front cover of PFP 2008 says it about as succinctly as it can be said. "Tarvaris Jackson: Stands between Vikings and Super Bowl?" With a real quarterback, this is a team that can make life difficult for any opponent, any time. I hope that spike of potential isn't wasted by a stubborn refusal to realize that they have a win-now team and an incubator quarterback.

Mike Tanier: The Colts threw about a million passes to Tom Santi. The Colts absolutely need to invest in a very good second tight end for their offense to work. Santi is no Ben Utecht, who is no Marcus Pollard when he was young.

Will Carroll: The Colts rave about Jacob Tamme, who they drafted ahead of Santi. Of course, Tamme is injured, like everyone else.

Mike Tanier: The Vikings ran up the middle about 30 times in that game. Peterson is great of course, but man, can their interior line block head-on. It also helps when you are playing an undersized defensive line built to rush the passer.

I really need to watch the Shortcuts to see what the Colts started doing offensively in the second half. One thing I saw was a few pitches to Addai, instead of stretch runs or draws. Pitch the ball, get it on the edge faster, beat those linebackers sitting in the A and B gaps. I want to see how they were springing Wayne and Gonzalez in the second half, though.

Aaron Schatz: The Colts were pitching to Addai all game. They can't run the stretch play because Manning can't get to the edge (because of his knee) and the backup offensive linemen aren't good enough anyway. Those pitches were going nowhere in the first half, and they weren't doing much in the second half either. I really think moving Reggie Wayne to the slot was the big difference.

Ned Macey: The comments are correct about the first-half domination by Peterson and the O-line, but in the second half, Peterson had 42 yards on 15 carries. The only Taylor third-down carry came on a third-and-five after four straight Peterson carries.

My memory says that the Colts had the best third-quarter DVOA defense last year, which is a little odd since they, by reputation, run the most basic defense, which would seem to limit in-game adjustments. But they clearly adjusted again today. Like the 2006 playoffs, it was hard to diagnose what was different other than no longer getting dominated.

Offensively, per Madden last week, the three-wide will always have Wayne in the slot. That seemed true all game today, but they went to more three-wide in the second half. Based on my live observation, the sense was that Minnesota played a lot of man-to-man. In the first half, Manning was getting rid of the ball before his guys could get open. Yes, that was the line, but it also was a quick trigger.

Seemed in the second half that he was waiting the extra half-second. He started feeding Gonzalez, which pulled the defense to the left side, which opened the middle for Wayne. Manning is going to take some hits, but the Colts run best when the receivers can work 10 to 15 yards down the field, not 5 to 10.

I don't want to get into the booing because everyone will tell me it is a fan's right, but really, what's the point? Jackson is the starter, and the home crowd is just killing his confidence. What do they want, Gus Frerotte?

Vince Verhei: It's not like booing is a rational thought. It's an emotional reaction. The point is not to motivate Jackson. It's merely to vent some rage.

New York Giants 41 at St. Louis Rams 13

Doug Farrar: Sunday NFL Countdown question: Bigger number -- Giants sacks or Rams points? It's sad for St. Louis that there isn't a conclusive answer.

Bill Connelly: Living in Missouri, I guess I should feel honored to get to watch the Rams this year. The next best thing to witnessing historical greatness on a week-to-week basis is witnessing historical ineptitude. I still remember the '97 Rams-Bears game. Worst football game I've ever seen ... or should I say, the greatest bad game I've ever seen.

Doug Farrar: Indeed. Rams fans who mourn the fortunes of the current team should remember the halcyon days of Tony Banks, Lawrence Phillips, and Amp Lee.

Ben Riley: Through two quarters: Giants sacks: 4. Rams points: 3. Expletives uttered by Marc Bulger: 712.

Aaron Schatz: Is it strange for me to say, "Why are the Giants not winning by more?"

Ben Riley: As an increasingly desperate Steven Jackson owner, I've been flipping over to the game. The score does not accurately reflect how pathetic the Rams are. Yes, the offensive line is a complete joke, but even when Bulger manages to find an open receiver, they still manage to drop the ball (I'm looking at you, Dante Hall). The Giants are in complete control of this game.

Sean McCormick: The Rams found something they liked with the quick slant to Torry Holt. Every time I looked up, Bulger was hitting Holt in stride and they were banging out six to eight yards. It seems like Aaron Ross (I think it was Ross) was consistently playing outside technique, so this was wide-open. It may not even have been a play call but rather a simple check-with-me between Bulger and Holt. Steven Jackson was also getting some running room, so the Rams may have been able to hold onto the ball long enough to keep their defense from getting overwhelmed.

I also took the time to watch Chris Long for a few plays. He didn't get any penetration, but the Giants are keeping an extra blocker in to deal with him on passing downs, and on at least one running play he was able to slice under his blocker and deny the cutback lane, dropping Jacobs for no gain.

Bill Barnwell: Josh Brown has hit two 54-yard field goals. So they have that going for them.

Mike Tanier: The Giants were just listless on offense. I think they fell asleep during the game film. They woke up late in the game.

Bill Barnwell: If listless means 441 yards of offense, I don't care if they march around like zombies for three quarters.

Mike Tanier: Nah, I mean they were listless in the first half, not finishing drives, settling for field goals. And Brown kicked those two long field goals and suddenly it looked like a game.

Ben Riley: Bill Barnwell, tell me you were watching the Giants-Rams game and saw the interview of Justin Tuck wherein he confesses his love of He-Man, then raises a plastic sword and yells "By the power of Grayskull!" (And then begs FOX to not to show that portion of the interview.)

Aaron Schatz: Oh God YouTube please come through ... oh God YouTube please come through ... oh God YouTube please come through...

(Note: So far, nobody's come though. Intrepid readers, please let us know if you find this viral video on the interwebs.)

Bill Connelly: Good gracious, is Justin Tuck outstanding. The He-Man thing was 18 steps beyond awkward to watch, but it appears you can count on him to make one sickeningly athletic play a game.

The Rams played over their heads for a bit, but it took about three seconds to go from "We can win this thing" mode to "Wheels off, hubcaps spinning around, full disaster" mode.

Doug Farrar: For the record, the Rams scored 13 points, and the Giants had six sacks.

New Orleans Saints 24 at Washington Redksins 29

Bill Barnwell: By the way, Mike, Reggie Bush had 10 carries for 28 yards. Just so you remember, Aloha Stadium is a stadium located in 'Aiea, Hawai'i.

Mike Tanier: He who crows in Week 2 ... And again, I am well aware that his seven receptions and punt return touchdown have no bearing whatsoever on our bet.

Bill Barnwell: When he starts putting up even 0 DYAR in a week I'll feel worse about it. And hey -- he'd make a fine wide receiver.

San Francisco 49ers 33 at Seattle Seahawks 30 (OT)

Bill Barnwell: Seneca Wallace is out. You have got to be kidding me.

Doug Farrar: Injured his calf in warm-ups. They've been wanting to use him as a receiver. Of course he's out! "Seattle receiver" is the new "Spinal Tap drummer."

Bill Barnwell: I'm convinced the Seahawks are cursed. Logan Payne just got laid out with a helmet right on the knee by Michael Lewis.

Ben Riley: Comment from friend: "If I was an out-of-work receiver and got called by the Seahawks tomorrow, I would turn them down." And get ready for Michael Bumpus Fever!

Doug Farrar: Still, the Seahawks scored a touchdown on their opening drive after reserve defensive back Jordan Babineaux ran for a first down on a blocked punt. That was probably karma on Nate Clements, "The $80 Million Target," for trash-talking receivers who by all rights would be over in NFL Europa if there still was one. It's your job to shut guys like this down, Nate.

Wow. Karma, Part 2 for Seattle halfway through the first quarter. Julian Peterson put up a drive-ending sack on J.T. O'Sullivan, and was promptly flagged on the most ridiculous taunting penalty I've ever seen. Automatic first down for the 49ers, and Frank Gore fumbled on the next play. Craig Terrill picked it up and ran it in after a scrum -- touchdown, Seahawks. Awesome interior penetration by tackle Howard Green, an unsung hero of Seattle's preseason, on that play.

Bill Barnwell: How is that karma? Julian Peterson was a jerk and the Seahawks got lucky?

Ben Riley: Well, Peterson didn't actually taunt O'Sullivan, so that was the karma part.

Doug Farrar: I know Ben and I comprise the League of Seattle Homers, but that call was stupefying. Peterson has this thing he does after a sack where he points to the back of his jersey, as in, "Remember the name and number." It's not going to win him any creativity points, but if that's taunting, the NFL really needs to unclench.

With about six minutes left in the first half, Howard Green sacked O'Sullivan and did a big "sledgehammer" motion. Then, Brandon Mebane did a really interesting belly dancing thing after his sack that Tony Siragusa picked up and started doing, which was traumatic in its own special way. If the NFL Network wants to get the "Big Man Dance Contest" going again, they can start in Seattle. No flag for any of that. I'll say it for the zillionth time: The more judgment calls you give these officials, the more you are asking for trouble.

Bill Barnwell: No, Nate Clements getting beat on a double-move and then having his hands brush up against the ball when he's trying to pull Billy McMullen down by his jersey is not a good play, Daryl Johnston.

(With 1:51 left in the first half, O'Sullivan took a shotgun snap at the Seattle 14. He threw a sideline pattern pass to Isaac Bruce -- a ball that veered on the edge of uncatchable, especially since Bruce appeared to be heading out of bounds and away from the arc of the throw -- that was intercepted by safety Deon Grant. After a three-minute discussion between head official Jerome Boger and two of his crew members, a pass interference call was upheld. The interception was negated, and the 49ers scored on the next play.)

Doug Farrar: Ben, I think you're going to have to explain the pass interference call on Kelly Jennings. My head just exploded.

Ben Riley: See, Doug, what happened is, Isaac Bruce was out of bounds, and it was an uncatchable ball, and Kelly Jennings didn't interfere, and the referees took three minutes to discuss the play. So, it's like a reverse double negative, which means the Seahawks must be penalized.

Doug Farrar: I understand why they called it -- when you look at the swings per crew from contact to interference, it's obvious that the league doesn't do enough to educate its officials on what's what, never mind the concept of "uncatchable." I just don't know what they were talking about all that time.

Ben Riley: Hey Doug, did you know that blocking your guy into the ground is now holding? Pork Chop Womack, who amazingly is not injured through three quarters, was called for holding even though he blocked his defender into the ground.

Doug Farrar: Holding, or the ingredients thereof. The Seahawks threw picks on two straight drives in the third quarter (including the Willis touchdown return), which allowed the 49ers to take the lead, and that's on nobody but them. However, Jerome Boger's crew is also calling a really crappy game.

Bill Barnwell: Patrick Willis just pulled off one of the greatest interception returns you'll ever see. That dude is freaky.

Doug Farrar: I'll say this about Julius Jones: I wasn't in favor of the acquisition, but either he's better than he was in Dallas last year, or the middle of Seattle's line is a lot stronger than it used to be. They're able to run the draws and traps with three- and four-wide that Holmgren likes, with some success. Last year with Shaun Alexander or Maurice Morris, it was a guaranteed drive-stopper.

Mike Tanier: Yup. Benched Julius Jones in two leagues this week. Yup.

Ben Riley: Well, Mike Martz wants in on the KCW action. With about 25 seconds left to play and needing a field goal to win, the Niners decide to let the clock run to three seconds before using their last timeout. Nedney of course pushes the ensuing 41-yard field goal attempt wide right. Why not pound it up the middle for two or three yards? And now we are in overtime.

Aaron Schatz: That's not Martz's choice. I'm sure that's Mike Nolan's choice. Martz is not the head coach.

Doug Farrar: Just to clarify one thing: The Seahawks lost this game, and the officiating was horrible. The Seahawks did not lose this game because the officiating was horrible. The Seahawks lost this game because their fabled, guaranteed top-ten defense gave up a bunch of silly big plays and lost control. That's about it.

Vince Verhei: This game killed me. It took me at least an hour to realize that it was over, and that Seattle had lost. It wasn't the taunting penalty (between Jake Locker and Peterson, it's been a rough eight days for that sort of thing in Seattle). It wasn't the pass interference in the end zone (where the ball was intercepted six feet in front of the alleged foul). It was the fact that Seattle made J.T. O'Sullivan look like John Elway in one of those 1980 comeback games, making ugly plays to get into trouble and then big plays to get out of it. The Seahawks sacked O'Sullivan eight times and were in his face numerous other times, but he managed to miraculously slip away and find receivers for first downs over and over again.

Seattle ran their usual offense, with plenty of three- and four-wide sets, despite the lack of healthy wideouts. On one play they went five wide, with fullback Leonard Weaver lined up at the left sideline, covered by Walt Harris. They actually threw the ball his way, and the result was nearly a pick-six. That play was promptly shelved.

Earlier in the day, the 49ers ran what looked like a great screen with three blockers in front of a ballcarrier and only Leroy Hill in sight for Seattle, but nobody blocked Hill and he made a quick stop. That play gains big yards if just one guy blocks Hill. Later, the Seahawks ran a screen where Mike Wahle zoomed outside and took out Patrick Willis. At the time, it seemed like a great narrative of how one team outperformed its opponents in similar tasks. But now, who cares?

Atlanta Falcons 9 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24

Russell Levine: Matt Ryan started this game 0-for-8 with two interceptions. Someday we should do a DVOA study of Monte Kiffin against rookie quarterbacks.

Bill Barnwell: I did the research on rookies versus Cover-2. Look for an Extra Points about it this coming week.

Russell Levine: The Bucs have been playing this game for 10 years. A team they should dominate, they have let hang around way too long. They'll probably hang on to win, but all these close games take a toll later on.

Brian Griese has been OK. No killer mistakes. But missed a bunch of open guys.

And ... Earnest Graham goes 68 yards to clinch it.

Vince Verhei: When Warrick Dunn scored his touchdown here, the guy behind me in the bar said "Dunn had a good year last year." It would seem we at Football Outsiders still have work to do.

Miami Dolphins 10 at Arizona Cardinals 31

Bill Barnwell: Which is the more damaging penalty: Twelve men on the field for a field goal attempt, or a personal foul for a facemask during a gang sack of Kurt Warner on third-and-goal? The Dolphins are about as disciplined as a teenage boy in a Victoria's Secret.

My roommate brought up a good point when the announcers were talking about rookie running back Tim Hightower having a "nose for the end zone." Have we ever done research on success rate within the 5-yard line and whether players are better at scoring within that range?

Aaron Schatz: Do you mean whether specific players are better within the 5, or whether players in general are better from the goal-to-5 as opposed to, say, the 5-to-10?

Bill Barnwell: Specific players. You know, do certain guys have a "nose for the end zone" and have a higher touchdown rate within the 5 or the 3?

Vince Verhei: I know the point of Audibles is to talk about what's not obvious in the highlights, but in this game the highlights told most of the story: The Cardinals' wide receivers are very, very good, and Miami's defensive backs are very, very bad. Anquan Boldin beat nobody for one score, one defender for another, and three guys on his third.

Tim Hightower made some nice moves on a screen pass. Rod Hood got beat on a fly pattern, but made a good play to recover and tip the ball away. Johnny Depp was there. And that's about it.

San Diego Chargers 38 at Denver Broncos 39

Bill Connelly: San Diego challenged a fumble call (a call that replay would have clearly overturned), and after two minutes, Ed Hochuli said the replay equipment wasn't working, therefore the call stands. Um, maybe if your replay equipment wasn't a tent with a viewfinder...

Russell Levine: Ed Hochuli just stole a win from the Chargers, ruling an obvious empty hand call an incomplete pass. San Diego recovered, but after replay they move the ball back to spot of the fumble, but Denver keeps it. They score on fourth down and got the 2-pointer for the win.

Ben Riley: Wow. Still reeling from the Hawks loss, I flip over to see:

1) Jay Cutler throw a touchdown pass to Eddie Royal on fourth-and-goal to make the score Chargers 38, Broncos 37.

2)Mike Shanahan and Jay Cutler deciding to go for two and the win, and Cutler rifling the pass in to win.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new elite quarterback in the NFL, and he hails from Vanderbilt University.

Aaron Schatz: Hochuli actually did not rule that an incomplete pass. He ruled it a fumble -- however, since he blew the whistle on the play, thinking as it happened live that it was incomplete, the San Diego recovery is apparently not allowed. Do I have that right?

Russell Levine: No, I don't think so. If he blew the whistle, he's ruling it incomplete. It was reviewed and he screwed up the announcement.

I think the call was overturned on replay, but since the whistle blew, all they could do was move the ball back to the spot of the foul.

The tragedy is, it wasn't even close. Cutler lost the ball as he was raising his arm up.

I still think replay ought to allow a change of possession on that play, when the whistle is inconsequential to the recovery. It would be a judgment call and probably muddle things, but it might save a team from getting screwed the way the Chargers just did.

Horrible, horrible mistake by Hercules.

Aaron Schatz: Nope. Here's the listing:

(1:17) 6-J.Cutler pass incomplete short right to 28-M.Pittman. The Replay Assistant challenged the fumble ruling, and the play was REVERSED. 6-J.Cutler sacked at SD 10 for -9 yards (Team). FUMBLES (Team), declared dead at SD 10.

Russell Levine: Isn't that what I said?

It was only declared dead because he blew the whistle as he ruled it incomplete.

Aaron Schatz: I think we're disagreeing on the mistake. I'm saying the mistake was blowing the whistle in the first place. I think you are saying the mistake was on the announcement of the play challenge. It's no longer an incomplete pass. It's now a sack and fumble -- but no recovery, ball simply declared dead.

Russell Levine: No, that's what I was saying too.

He called it incomplete, it was overturned to a fumble on replay, but because he called it incomplete and blew the whistle, San Diego can't get the ball, only gets the sack distance.

Just saw the replay on Football Night, and there's Hochuli in the background, immediately waving it incomplete and blowing the whistle, when it wasn't even close. Just a horrendously bad judgment by Hochuli and it absolutely cost San Diego a win.

Mike Tanier: OK, just got a long look at the Broncos play. Absolutely horrible officiating. Another example of officiating a rulebook, not a game. I have the freeze frame going right now. As Hochuli starts waving his arms, Kory Lichtensteiger and Michael Pittman of the Broncos are rushing to get the ball. Three Chargers are also trying to get it. None are close. There is no visible sign that Cutler, Lichtensteiger, or Pittman let up until the ball is already in the defender's hands. So nobody slowed down because of the whistle or stopped pursuing the play. The ref should have said, well, I blew the whistle early, but everyone was still playing the loose ball, and the only guy with a chance in hell of getting it got it. Chargers ball.

Bill Barnwell: Here's a question: Is the two-point conversion to win an optimal decision?

Aaron Schatz: I wouldn't generally call a pass play, but given that teams convert a two-pointer more than half the time, I would say yes.

David Lewin: I don't think that I've ever seen a team get luckier to win than this game. San Diego got screwed on two reviewed fumbles, the one where the replay equipment didn't work, and the terrible call by Hochuli. I have no idea what he was thinking ruling it incomplete in real time; it was incredibly obvious that it was a fumble. However, I disagree with Tanier's assertion that they should have given the ball to San Diego after review. When the whistle blows the play is over, no exceptions. If you want players to stop when the whistle blows then there cannot be any exceptions.

Also, a lot of people are going to be talking about Cutler after this game, and they should be because he was quite good, but Rivers was better. He picked Denver apart in the second half. Also, the Darren Sproles catch-and-run that put the Chargers up 38-31 was unreal. He made the Broncos defense look like they were standing still. As soon as he got into space you could tell that no one had a chance to catch him.

Vince Verhei: Jay Cutler throwing to Brandon Marshall: 18-for-20 for 166 yards.

Jay Cutler throwing to players who are not Brandon Marshall: 18-for-30 for 184 yards.

Marshall did have a fumble, which will hurt his DYAR.

I'm with Lewin on the call. It was a horrible mistake by Hochuli, but for the safety of the players, the whistle has to mean stop.

I love, love, love the decision to go for two and the win right there. Why risk losing a coin toss and watch San Diego march down the field -- again -- when you can control your own destiny? As for pass vs. run, it's clear to me that San Diego couldn't cover Marshall. I'm sure it was clear to Mike Shanahan as well.

New England Patriots 19 at New York Jets 10

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots' tight end pass blocking is just brutal today. Cassel gets sacked three times in the first seven minutes of the third quarter.

Mike Tanier: Cassel threw together a little drive at the end though. Actually, Josh McDaniels and Kevin Faulk made the drive happen with a good screen play. But Cassel did make a play on the run to find Wes Welker at the end.

Aaron Schatz: It helps that he looked toward Randy Moss first. They're basically using Moss as a decoy today. Nice strategy, but how long does that last before we have to start psychoanalyzing the species Receiverus Primadonnus?

Mike Tanier: Adalius Thomas wasn't going to let any Favre Magic happen on that 13-yard sack in the fourth quarter, was he?

Aaron Schatz: Adalius Thomas is just having fun out there.

Sean McCormick: The Jets were badly hurt by their kicking game last week but were able to survive it. Today? Not so much. This was actually a fairly even game physically, but the Jets started every drive on the 20 and New England started every drive up around the 40. That's never going to work well, and the huge disparity in penalties exacerbated things. The Pats had a nice game plan and were able to move the ball early by attacking the Jets with a lot of horizontal passes, but eventually the defense tightened up and took those throws away, and New York started dropping Cassel with some frequency.

On defense, I thought the Pats were very sound. The big Jets passing plays mostly came when Favre was able to scramble around and move defenders out of position, then throw back the other way. Aside from that, the Pats seemed to have things pretty clamped down. It looked like the deep middle of the field was open, so I'm surprised the Jets didn't try working Dustin Keller up the seam a little bit more.

Anyway, I think the Jets should probably feel pretty good about themselves. Their front seven is much, much bigger and tougher than they were last year. They lost the game, but they didn't get manhandled the way they have in recent matchups with New England.

And yes, rumors of the Patriots' demise may well be premature.

Aaron Schatz: When they did move Keller out there, Adalius Thomas had a hard time covering him, so I'm with you there.

Some of the kicking game issues were not the Jets' fault. They can't do anything about the fact that Stephen Gostkowski had five touchbacks on six kickoffs.

Pittsburgh Steelers 10 at Cleveland Browns 6

Bill Barnwell: "Syndric Steptoe?" Is that something that formed from the floor in the Browns' practice facility?

Did Ike Taylor also just say he was from Swagger? Is he trying to get an Old Spice endorsement?

Mike Tanier: I love when the Steelers go three tight ends, all to one side. How primitive.

Steelers-Browns is a soggy snoozer entering the second quarter. This has not been the most exciting football-watching day of my career.

Aaron Schatz: It feels like everything Derek Anderson has thrown has fallen short. Everything seems to be sort of weak. I don't think that's the weather, right?

Mike Tanier: Finally, the Steelers are on the board. Willie Parker looks much better this year; he bounced a fourth-and-1 to the outside for a big gain.

Doug Farrar: With two minutes left in the half, Troy Polamalu leapt OVER a standing Eric Steinbach on a pitch right to Jamal Lewis. Didn't come close to making a tackle, but it was impressive in an Evel Knievel sort of way.

Aaron Schatz: This Sunday night game is boring the crap out of me. Am I being a bad NFL fan?

Doug Farrar: James Farrior just received the second bizarre taunting penalty of the day. Julian Peterson, you are not alone. Farrior was in the Steelers' defensive huddle when the penalty was called. In the immortal words of Vince Lombardi, "What the hell is going ON out there!?"

Aaron Schatz: Wow, that was some really mind-numbing clock management right there by Cleveland. First and second half.

Ben Riley: The Pittsburgh-Cleveland game was possibly the most boring game I have ever seen. Also, Romeo Crennel wins the KCW award for two straight weeks when he decides, ONCE AGAIN, to kick a meaningless field goal with 3:45 left to play that still leaves his team needing a touchdown. I can't believe I'm typing this, but maybe Easterbrook is right about coaches playing to keep the score close rather than trying to, you know, win.


144 comments, Last at 17 Sep 2008, 7:16am

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Re: Playing After Whistle
I hereby give my ringing endorsement of Mike Tanier's comment.

So nobody slowed down because of the whistle or stopped pursuing the play. The ref should have said, well, I blew the whistle early, but everyone was still playing the loose ball, and the only guy with a chance in hell of getting it got it. Chargers ball.

Anyone who disagrees should give examples of plays where players got hurt after the whistle because players kept playing to the ball. There are thousand of examples where players kept playing regardless of the whistle, and they play until possession. But I've yet to see a player get hurt after a whistle. I've yet to see too many players give up on a fumble because someone might be blowing a whistle. Do coaches blow whistles in practice so their players can practice "stopping at the whistle"? No! In the NFL everyone plays until a loose ball is possessed and to me it is *always* the case that this whole "inadvertent whistle" rule is dumb especially on loose balls and fumbles because it always screws teams the same manner it screwed the Chargers.

Now please, please, can someone come up with the mythical example of a player injury that was a result of players not stopping at the whistle? I'm sorry, but that rule is a cop out. In the replay on you can see Hoch starting to signal as the Charger player #51 recovers the fumble.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Whatever the actual rule is.

When you are going to be promoted to Refereeing HS Football on monday, you can at least save your dignity by making the right call and give the chargers the ball. Does he really believe, his penalty will be any shorter because he corrected his mistake by the book.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Anyone who disagrees should give examples of plays where players got hurt after the whistle because players kept playing to the ball.

Injury is not the only concern of players continuing to play after the whistle. Think about late hits. Do you really want refs deciding if a player legitimately thought the ball was up for grabs or just taking a (potentially) free shot at an oppponent?

The more realistic option is to train refs to delay whistling a play dead on questionable plays that could change possession or otherwise influence the game. Think of it like continuation in soccer.

97 Re: Hochuli

The whistle does not in itself cause the play to end. The whistle simply SIGNALS that the play has ended, which happened as a result of a tackle or dead ball, whether or not there was a whistle. Am I correct?

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

"Anyone who disagrees should give examples of plays where players got hurt after the whistle because players kept playing to the ball."

Surely that will settle this. After all, the plural of anecdote is data.

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

But surely the point is that if the whistle is no longer sacrosanct players can just ignore it. Say for example a running back has been held up and stopped, but not gone down, just his forward progress has been stopped by a bunch of defenders, and the officials whistle the play dead. What's to stop a player coming in and say putting a low cheap shot on the running back's knee's? After all, you stop at the end of the play, not at the whistle, and the player hasn't gone down, so the play isn't dead in the opinion of one player. Result: Possible season ending injury.

Or a receiver having a ball pop in and out of his hands, and the ball hit the floor. He's dropped it, he knows he's dropped it, and he knows its not a fumble, so he pulls up as the whistle blows. The safeties coming down over the top thinks that maybe it might be ruled a fumble on replay or whatever, so he lays a huge hit onto the player to stop him having a shot at recovering the fumble, and the receiver gets a concussion.

The point isn't that there have been injuries with people playing after the whistle, the point is that if you give players sufficient precedent for playing on after the whistle then some will continue at full speed after the whistle where they think the play *might* still be alive, and will hit players who have stopped playing because they know or think the play is dead. Then you get shots on guys who are unaware, which are much more dangerous than shots on guys playing at full speed bracing for contact. A higher chance of injuries, and some players would be likely to get targeted for it

Say they change the rule, and next season in the opening game Tom Brady has his arm hit as he throws, and the ball pops out and falls to the floor next to him. Its whistled dead, but some 300 pound lineman comes diving at the ball after Brady has stopped looking for it, knowing it to be dead. The lineman overdives the ball, and smashes all his weight into Brady's knee. Another season lost for him.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Willie Parker has never been the problem with the Steelers running game. I know that he is a favorite target here but really, the offensive line was brutal last year. This year they look better - which is why Parker "looks better."

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Parker has legitimately improved. I could've gotten drunk many a Sunday last season if I'd taken a shot every time Parker failed to see a crease and instead ran into a blocker or a defender. He's clearly seeing the field better, and he even added a spin move (which worked well against the Texans, not so much against the Browns).

That said, Chris Kemoeatu may actually turn out to be an improvement over the 2007 version of Alan Faneca. He's not exactly polished yet, but he's an absolute monster if he gets to the second level.

The right side of the line is still a little scary though. Willie colon, for the nth time, is not a tackle.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

When RC kicked the FG to make it 6-10, and the announcers were saying it was a good call, I turned off the TV and went to bed, saying "and there's your final score". How can anyone make that call?

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

"Peterson definitely looks more patient out there, waiting for stuff to develop. Scary thought: He can be even better this year. What's one step up from Purple Jesus? Purple God? Purple Drank? Purple Haze? Purple Rain?
How about "Purple Reign"?

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Cleveland's clock management is absolutely astounding, but the call for the FG made my stupidity meter jump into the red. Seriously, my students better not write too much stupid stuff, because Romeo has me maxed out right now. If I get a bad paper from a student, I'm going to cryptically write, "You still need a TD, Romeo."

7 Stop-at-the-whistle rule

Players have to stop when the whistle blows, period. Every game you see a bunch of loose balls that may or may not be live, especially of the "incomplete pass or fumble?" variety. Imagine a ball hits the turf after what may or may not have been a catch, the whistle blows, and someone casually picks the ball up to hand it back to the official. If players can ignore the whistle then someone is going to go blow that guy up from the blind side and he's going to get hurt.

100 Re: Stop-at-the-whistle rule

In reply to by qed (not verified)

I don't think this is correct (see above). The whistle signals that the play has ended; the whistle does not end the play.

144 Re: Stop-at-the-whistle rule

Play already does not stop at the whistle. Remember the play a couple of years ago, involving a Cleveland player who through his helmet in the air after the *game clock had run out* and the whistle blown, was called for a penalty, and KC won on a field goal?

Michael Turton, Taipei Browns Backers
Delenda est Crennell!

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

There probably going to have to suspend Hochuli for that call. I mean the incomplete pass if it was a pass went backwards so it still should have been a live ball. I thought they change the rule this season that they were now going to sort out blown fumble calls even if the recovery was after the whistle? This came up in the Colts-Bears game. I guess it only applies to fumbles that aren't ruled passes on the field. Game of year: week 12 Rams/Dolphins be there!

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I was wondering about that as well. I have no idea if the NFL suspends or fines referees for bad call. However, I think it's safe to say that we won't see Hochuli as the head referee for either the Super Bowl or Conference Championship games.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

It's hard to prove accusations of bias by officials, but the sheer number of decisions that went Indy's way flabbergasted me. The Vikings overturned, what, four incorrect calls via challenge, all of which had gone in favor of the Colts (including two TDs that weren't) and lost another (Addai's TD) which was probably only upheld due to lack of concrete evidence one way or another. There were at least two instances of interference on Bernard Berrian that weren't flagged.

I don't think these calls had an effect on the final score: Minnesota dug its own grave by failing to complete any forward passes of note. But it can't be easy for a team mentally to know that so many close calls automatically go the other way - especially as the Vikings were at home.

As for the boos, well, I think they were a general protest at the playcalling and execution on offense, which have come in for criticism for the whole of Brad Childress's tenure. When fans start truly believing that Gus Frerotte gives them a better chance to win, then you know you have lost your fans' faith.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

On the long pass to Berrian he tripped over his own feet. I don't remember the other play and the possible to Bobby Wade was a close one. I thought Wade grabbed Hayden first, but it was close, I only saw one replay and I'm a homer.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

As far as the officiating, it certainly didn't look so lopsided in the second half (I missed the first). I was shocked that when the Gonzalez-Wayne TD was overturned that the ball was spotted all the way to the one yard line. If it wasn't a TD, the ball was halfway between the one and the goal at the furthest, and the first sneak likely making it in (and I'm hoping that doesn't screw me in my fantasy league, since I have Manning and am playing Addai's owner). Addai's looked like it cross the plane pretty clearly from the side angle they showed.

I'll give maybe an interference on Berrian - before he tripped, though it was probably within the five yards for that contact. I don't know the other offhand, so I can't comment. I was surprised it wasn't called. On that same drive, Mathis? (whoever was in a right end for the play, didn't get a good look at the number) was dragging the tackle like it was the Iditarod and that somehow wasn't a hold. While second hand and anecdotal, I received a call from someone watching the whole game complaining about the Vike's DBs throwing hits before the ball arrived without being flagged. The game wasn't called perfectly, but there were enough mistakes on both sides of field, and they canceled each other out pretty well.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Per the NFL play-by-play for the game:

There were three challenges total in the game (two by Minn, 1 by the replay booth).

3-6-IND 24 (3:31) (Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass deep left to 11-A.Gonzalez to MIN 18 for 58 yards. Lateral to 87-R.Wayne for 18 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Play Challenged by MIN and REVERSED. (Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass deep left to 11-A.Gonzalez to MIN 18 for 58 yards. Lateral to 87-R.Wayne to MIN 1 for 17 yards (26-A.Winfield).

3-1-MIN 1 (1:29) 29-J.Addai left guard for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN. Play Challenged by MIN and Upheld. (Timeout #1 at 01:24.)

4-9-MIN 40 (1:51) 17-H.Smith punts 38 yards to MIN 2, Center-48-J.Snow, downed by IND-23-T.Jennings. Play Challenged by Replay Assistant and Upheld.

A neutral observer I know felt there was interference on one of the Berrian calls that wasn't flagged. I guess I disagree with your assessment that there were so many calls going the colts way that you'd imply bias in the officials or that the close calls were 'automatically' going for the colts.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I note that over at "The Daily Norseman" there is an open missive to Brad Childress about the state of the Vikings.

I could have sworn I read similar remarks some time ago. Gosh, what poster put those together? My memory is so poor these days. Hmmmmm, who could it have been?

Just having some fun Vikings fans. Won't bore anyone with the "tired" schtick of "I told you so". Better that MN learn things on their own. Burned hand teaches best and all.

And there is a lot of talent on that team. I am sure things will turn around in short order.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

"I still think replay ought to allow a change of possession on that play, when the whistle is inconsequential to the recovery. It would be a judgment call and probably muddle things, but it might save a team from getting screwed the way the Chargers just did."

The rules actually do allow for this if the recovery is clear and immediate. I guess this failed on the "immediate" part of it.

My two favorite parts of yesterday: Jim Zorn throwing for the first down on 4th-and-two to clinch the game for Washington, and Shanahan going for the 2-pointer and the win. Looks like some coaches have grown a pair.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

MMQB actually explains why the new continuation rule wasn't used for this play. Apparently it "protects" the QB. I think it was the first time in years actual information about something not coffee related appears in those articles.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

The onside kick by Jacksonville was definitely ballsy considering Buffalo caught another team sleeping on special teams in Week 1.

14 Re: Indy stretch play

Saith Will Carroll: "What I don't understand is why the stretch play has just stopped working."

I only saw snatches of the game, so this hypothesis could be total hot air, but could it have been anything to do with Manning's knee? The stretch requires the QB to move pretty quickly and precisely to make the handoff, and I heard a comment that they seemed to be doing more pitches than stretches -- where the pitch just requires the QB to turn and toss.

20 Re: Indy stretch play

Oh. Heh. Seeing Aaron's comment, that'll teach me to reply before I read the whole Audibles.

Well, at least I can feel good about the fact that I picked up on something that the esteemed Mr. Schatz picked up on.

73 Tennessee

The most important game this week was played in Tennessee. Those of you who missed it, like me, need only look at the final score and Kerry Collins' stat line to realize the truth:

The Titans are the best team in the AFC South and will remain so until Vince Young comes back, or Albert Haynesworth misses time.

I'm no Titans homer, I'm a Colts fan (I'll get to that) but Brad Childress should watch that game tape and promptly swap Gus Frerotte and Tarvaris Jackson on his depth chart. Minnesota has the best offensive line in football (with Bryant McKinnie) and the second or third best line even with him out. Running Chester Taylor into the line on third and 5 is a perfectly reasonable call; Peterson breaks more long runs but the success rate of the two backs is comparable. Of course, any other team would pass on 3rd and 5, but you haven't replaced Tarvaris Jackson with an NFL quarterback yet, so running is cool.

Manning is afraid of his knee and doesn't trust his offensive line. Marvin Harrison is too slow to run quick slants now, and Reggie Wayne is usually in double coverage. Anthony Gonzalez should probably be the #2 receiver at this point; he has much better speed and better hands than Harrison. Joseph Addai is no Edgerrin James, unfortunately. He's an above average running back, but without serious fear of Manning and great blocking, he isn't going to win games for you.

The Giants are for real. Eli Manning was "good Eli" for a whole game. If Amani Toomer could run the score would have been 48 or 55-13.

So much for San Diego.

107 Re: Tennessee

In reply to by el presidente (not verified)

I think you're jumping to conclusions way too quickly. Cincinnati is, by any reasonable measure, an absolutely horrid team. The victory over Jacksonville wasn't all that convincing, and Jacksonville's 0-2 start signals that they may not be very good this year. The Colts have faced two undoubtedly solid teams, and they're a mere one game behind Tennessee with fairly atrocious health. I'm not saying that the Colts are guaranteed to get healthier, but other teams are guaranteed to pile up more injuries.

I would still not be surprised at all if Tennessee ended up in third or fourth. They've clearly faced the easiest slate of any AFCS team so far. Their schedule remains fairly easy early in the year, but towards the end of the year, I suspect that the last two games - vs PIT and @ IND - knock them from 8-6 to 8-8 and dash their playoff hopes.

142 Re: Tennessee

In reply to by Yaguar

Now, I don't disagree with what you said at all. My point was that -right now- with Kerry Collins at QB and Albert Haynesworth and the other key defensive pieces healthy, Tennessee is the best team. If Indy had all five starting O linemen and a healthy Bob Sanders, that would be different (it would also be a hell of a game).

Right now, Indianapolis could barely score on Minnesota, which (conventional wisdom aside) is certainly no -better- a defense than Tennessee. What I was trying to say was that Tennessee and MIN are very similar teams; great defenses (especially against the run) with terrible starting quarterbacks but respectable running games. Now Tennessee has a replacement level QB. That makes them better than MIN.

Right now, better than Minnesota is better than Indy. That will change when Jeff Saturday plays.

34 Re: the Kelly Jennings PI call and other SF-SEA stuff

At the risk of coming across as a niners homer, I thought the PI call was correct. Jennings pushed Bruce out of bounds.

Why else do you think Bruce ended up out of bounds? How can you claim the ball was uncatchable when it was intercepted? Jennings' contact prevented Bruce from being able to attempt to make a play on the ball. It seemed pretty clear cut to me.

I couldn't agree more about the Julian Peterson taunting call though.

Jonas Jennings is Patrick Kerney's bitch and the niners need David Baas back, as Wragge struggled yesterday.

JTO is accurate and has a lightning release but he holds the ball far too long, most of the eight sacks were entirely his fault. It's as if the ball has been tethered to his left testicle and he daren't let fly.

It would have been more evenhanded in your write up to mention the play on the Seahawks' final drive where they threw a screen to the left with three blocking linemen in position, only for Willis to bust the play up for a loss of eight yards. That would be a better comparison with Leroy Hill's play (though Hill was very good yesterday, he really might be better than Tatupu). The niners didn't seem to have prepared a silent count for the beginning of the game (which hardly commends their coaching) and as a result they could barely run a play when backed up near the hawks end zone at the start of the game. Things got a little better when they sorted one out but then the seattle DTs were doing a great job of guessing the snap count, giving the niners interior line trouble all day. Seattle took away Gore and Vernon Davis and San Francisco was able to move the ball by taking advantage of the single coverage on the receivers, it's been a very long time since you've been able to say that. I still don't like the look of Franklin on the nose though, he just gets pushed around.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention this; the 49er defensive game plan was very vanilla. I always thought that half the point of playing the 3-4 is that you can vary your nickel packages from 4-2 to 3-3 and 2-4 alignments. The niners spent the entire game in their 4-2 package and got run all over and generated no pressure. They got away with it because Seattle were so banged up but if they try it again they'll get beaten.

51 Re: the Kelly Jennings PI call and other SF-SEA stuff

I am SHOCKED that a Seattle fan would blame the officials for yesterday's loss. I know Mr. Farrar qualified his statement saying officials were only part of the reason, but that's lame.

I'm doubly shocked the writer implied the Seahawks beat themselves. As if the 49ers were nothing but inactive spectators (which they admittedly were for many of Julius Jones' runs).

But then it's well known among Seattle fans that the Seahawks would have four consecutive super bowl championships were it not for the inconvenience of having to play actual football games. All that talent, you know.

55 Re: the Kelly Jennings PI call and other SF-SEA stuff

I don't really feel as strongly as you seem to about the pro-seahawk stuff but the niners basically shot themselves in both feet by making stupid errors (again) that resulted in the Seahawks going 14-0 up. From that point on the I thought the 49ers were the better team and did very well to come back and win but then Seattle only had half of their offense healthy.

81 Re: the Kelly Jennings PI call and other SF-SEA stuff

I'm with you on this one. If you watch the play, Jennings totally uses his hands to re-direct Bruce at about the 5 yard line so that he's running OOB by the time he reaches the endzone. That's PI, and it's a great call by the officials.

Not so many great calls by them in the game, but that doesn't mean they didn't get it right. Seattle's front 7 was as billed, but their secondary was shocking. Who's their next HC - Mora, the DBs coach? Damn.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Perhaps someone can clarify a call in yesterday's Bucs-Falcons game. Sabby Piscitelli intercepted Matt Ryan, ran it back, attempted to lateral but threw the ball forward. The official on the spot threw his flag and it was called an illegal forward pass, but Atlanta jumped on the loose ball and was awarded possession.

I had been under the impression that an illegal forward pass was a dead ball, 5-yard penalty and loss of down (if on a play from scrimmage). Is there some sort of change of possession exception to this rule? Or am I mistaken about the rule itself?

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

RE: Bucs-Falcons call

I was perplexed by the same thing. The TV I watched on didn't have sound but I think the hit on Matt Ryan had something to do with it.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

According to the NFL play-by-play log, the Ryan hit is the "explanation":

"PENALTY on TB-43-E.Mack, Roughing the Passer, 15 yards, enforced at ATL 37. Penalty on TB-21-S.Piscitelli, Illegal Forward Pass, declined. No fumble for White because roughing the passer penalty happened while the ball was in the air. White credited with a catch for 18 yards as the roughing the passer penalty was enforced from where he caught the ball."

The only problem is that the hit by Mack was *after* the change of possession; it was similar to how Jim Miller was hit by Hugh Douglas back in the 2001 playoffs, off the ball. I know the rule was changed about hitting the QB post-interception after that, but I never understood it to wipe out the underlying turnover.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Why no mention of what the announcers thought was obvious? That Shanahan went for 2 to give the Chargers a chance at redemption for a win that the Refs could not give them by rule?

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Two quick thoughts on CHI-CAR:

1) Jonathan Stewart looks like the real deal. Everything changed when they took Williams out and put Stewart in. It took two drives for the Bears to realize they couldn't arm tackle this new guy.

2) The Bears moved the ball surprisingly well for almost three quarters. Their first two drives were 64 and 84 yards but only netted 3 points (mostly due to the first of two killer fumbles by Olsen). But when they needed a drive in the 4th quarter, everyone took turns sabotaging things. Orton missed two wide-open receivers downfield -- one that would have clinched the game and another that would have put them in tying FG range, and the playcalling on the last few drives was maddening. (The WR screen on 3rd-and-1 on the last drive almost cost the bar I was at a new television.) Basically, the offense showed signs of life here and there, but also showed they can't be counted on to win a game.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

On #1, I couldn't agree more. I think the Panthers have the bruising back they've been looking for.

On #2, I think your being too generous. Chicago's first two possessions resulted in long, sustained drives netting about 151 yards and 3 points. Their next 11 possessions resulted in only 105 yards. The longest drive out of the 11 went for exactly 26 yards. I would hardly call that moving the ball surprisingly well.

Not trying to take anything away from Chicago - they played a great game. But they did struggle offensively once the Carolina defense made their adjustments.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

On #1, I couldn't agree more. I think the Panthers have the bruising back they've been looking for.

On #2, I think your being too generous. Chicago's first two possessions resulted in long, sustained drives netting about 151 yards and 3 points. Their next 11 possessions resulted in only 105 yards. The longest drive out of the 11 went for exactly 26 yards. I would hardly call that moving the ball surprisingly well.

Not trying to take anything away from Chicago - they played a great game. But they did struggle offensively once the Carolina defense made their adjustments.

18 Re: OL movement

Quoth Ben Riley: "...what actually constitutes an offensive lineman being offside? I see Peyton doing his chicken dance thing at the line, and everyone on the Colts line breaks out of their stance and starts chatting amongst themselves. They don't flinch per se, but there is movement all over the place. So what is the actual rule?"

First of all, offensive linemen almost never are "offsides", but we know you were referring to illegal motion. And if I recall correctly, offensive linemen can break out of their stance and chat amongst themselves as much as they want, provided (1) they come set for at least one second prior to the snap, and (2) they do not break out of their stance in a manner that "simulates the start of a play". (The first is the key point, but I've heard the second used to call illegal motion.)

25 Re: OL movement

And since offensive linemen never commit "illegal motion," we know you were referring to false starts.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new elite quarterback in the NFL, and he hails from Vanderbilt University.

Maybe. Of course he threw a horrendous interception in the endzone on their previous drive, and had the correct call been made on the fumble, he never would have had the chance to throw the TD and 2pt.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I wrote before the season that I thought GB might have been "sandbagging" during the preseason games. So far I believe that to be the case with respect to Cullen Jenkins. Jenkins looked D-O-N-E in practice and preseason. Awful.

Come game time the guy is getting push and highly disruptive. He's been great.

The front seven for GB has been the difference on defense. That and Charles Woodson. Because Harris is slow and the safeties remain puzzled about what to do and when.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Have you guys ever put together some sort of efficiency rating system for punt returners? Or any correlations about how punt returns effect the outcomes of games?

I'm asking because Antwaan Randle El possibly put together the worst single game performance I have ever seen.

Three of his returns from yesterdays game were:

1. Run straight towards the sideline, get hit, fumble the ball recovered by NO leads to a TD.
2. Run straight towards the sideline and lay down without even getting touched by another player.
3. Dance around for 10 seconds avoiding incoming tacklers while not even moving forward 5 inches. And eventually get dropped for a loss.

Had we lost that game I think ARE might've been attacked before he could have gotten out of the stadium.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Quick answers: Yes, but not for individual players, only team performance. Check back on Tues ("Special teams" under the Statistics tab). And probably not a lot, since punt returns are only 1 element out of 5 for special teams, and special teams only account for 1/7 of a team's performance toward winning or losing. Making the rough assumption that each special teams element counts equally (arbitrary but probably not too far off), punt returns would count for roughly 1/35 of a team's performance. So like I said, not a lot.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Sucks to be a Viking fan these days (no wait it's always sucked to be a Viking fan) - Jackson looks terrible but there was a real chicken shit quality to the play calling in the second half. The Vikings had 13 first down plays in the 2nd half - they ran 9 times for 11 yards and were 3 for 4 for 36 passing (the incomplete was a mugging of Wade that could easily have been a penalty). Then with the game on the line at the 2 yard line they go run up the middle, run up the middle, rollout right. Predictable, Chicken shit and stupid. Jackson must be 1 for 300 rolling right.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

To clarify the "Who is Kregg Lumpkin?" question:

He's a tailback (albeit a large one), not a fullback.
UFA out of Georgia. Highly recruited out of high school, but injured most of his college career as I understand it. He looks to be a serviceable 3rd running back.

I hope Grant's hamstring gets better. He clearly does not have anywhere near the burst he had last year, and Brandon Jackson isn't cutting it for me.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Are you basing the Brandon Jackson hate primarily on the dropped pass that turned a potential TD into a FG? Or the 7 carries for 61 yards and a TD (admittedly, against Detroit)?

I thought Jackson looked pretty good in the preseason, though admittedly, a lot of that impression came from his play against Cincinnati.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Nah, only partially. He had a couple nice runs, but I think he misreads where the hole is too often, and his blitz pickup is still dicey. I think he still looks a little overwhelmed. For instance, lining up on the wrong side of the play on the TD pass James Jones. Donald Lee did the same thing, but at least he figure out his mistake and got on the correct side.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Fair enough. I'll readily admit that I don't always catch the finer points like that.

On the other hand, it seems like the Packers are typically leaving him in as the 3rd down back, with or without Grant's injury, so I have to wonder if they like his blocking better than Grant's?

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I'm not sure if it's that, or they just don't want to overwork Grant (with the hamstring injury, he's definitely not in the game as much).

Oh, I definitely didn't catch the finer point of Jackson not being lined up correctly by myself. Read it in an article this morning. It was used as an example of Rodger's poise. Not getting rattled and such.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

" We have fumble luck, now David Garrard is seeing the downside of interception luck -- otherwise known as revision to the mean"

I don't think its just revision to the mean. I think a very large part of it is that Garrard is now having to throw against base and nickle sets, instead of against 8 in the box all the time. Losing those guards hurts more than just the running game.

"They can't do anything about the fact that Stephen Gostkowski had five touchbacks on six kickoffs. "

I think 3 of them were out the back of the endzone. He was just crushing the ball.

35 Vikings, Jackson, Booing, Etc.

Regarding the Booing:
I was at the game, and when the boos came on Jackson's awful pass, I thought, "Come on now: we're clinging to a lead, and this booing isn't helping matters." But when I talked to people later who told me Deirdorf criticized the fans for booing, I thought, "Does he think we're stupid? Does he think we haven't watched the team for the past three seasons? The booing was not for an isolated play: the booing was for 16 games worth of wildly inaccurate passes."

Regarding Jackson/Frerotte:
I said it so many times this offseason it became a mantra: "I don't mind that the Vikes are committing to Jackson as starter; what makes me angry is that they haven't done more to get a backup QB just in case Jackson sucks, which is very possible." Now here we are, and Jackson sucks.

Cycle of life: when Childress finally replaced Brad Johnson, Viking fans cheered loud for the entrance of Jackson. When Childress finally replaces Tarvaris Jackson, Viking fans will cheer loud for Gus Frerotte (which makes me think that Childress will wait to do this for a road game).

Regarding Peterson
His numbers were down in the second half because the Colts realized they had no reason to account for the Viking pass game at all. It's amazing what Peterson does: despite no threat from the pass game, despite predictable playcalling that gives him the ball whenever the defense expects it and never when they don't, he churns out yardage.

Regarding the defense
I thought the defense was spectacular: when you're consistently stopping the Colts early and giving your offense the ball at midfield regularly, you have to expect the offense to get some TDs. At ev ery level, the defense did more htan could even be expected of them. It will be a joy to watch this defensive line all season long.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I am surprised that more is not being mentioned about poor judgement calls by the officials this week. I cannot remember them getting this many calls wrong in a long time. I am the only one who feels that the NFL really needs to look at hiring full time refs that actually learn how the calls need to be made? It was NBA-esqe for the amount of influence officials made towards which team one.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I think its more than just the line for Parker, he's better to. He is bouncing off the initial contact and hitting the open lanes, and he is far more balanced when he runs. His first few years you rarely saw any spin moves from him and he seemed to always be falling over. This year, he keeps his feet and makes better cuts. You still see him get stuffed, but with no lane, that's going to happen.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I'll just repeat what I said in the game comments thread I mostly had to myself last night... It's 4th and 7, well into Steelers territory, you're down by 7 points, and there's just under 4 minutes left to play.

Michaels and Madden, after the commercial, felt the need to defend Crennel's decision, and went on at some length about how going for it and failing would just really destroy team morale, and so forth.

But what Crennel was saying was, I think the chances are better that the Steelers massively screw up--fumble the kickoff or a snap--and hand us a free touchdown than that our offense can gain 7 yards. I am skeptical, to say the least, that that will improve team morale.

Not only that, but to make it even worse, the game was played in rain and swirling winds. A field goal of around 40 yards is far from a gimme there.

Just awful. Total white-flag surrender. I remember my playing days well enough to know but both I and most of my teammates would go nuts when a coach says, "well, we played hard, let's keep it close," when the game is still winnable. We want to win, not keep the score close.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I think its more than just the line for Parker, he's better to. He is bouncing off the initial contact and hitting the open lanes, and he is far more balanced when he runs. His first few years you rarely saw any spin moves from him and he seemed to always be falling over. This year, he keeps his feet and makes better cuts. You still see him get stuffed, but with no lane, that's going to happen.

Parker gained weight before last season; I presume the Steelers told him he had to gain weight if he wanted to get 300+ carries. But it totally ruined him as a running back. He was effective because he was so crazy fast, but gaining the weight to become more durable (which strikes me as a dubious assumption anyway, especially when you're talking about adding pounds to a body not accustomed to carrying them) slowed him down significantly. Parker was, to be blunt, a pretty bad running back last year.

This year he seems faster. He's still clearly not as small as he was in 2005, but either he lost a little bit of last year's extra weight, his body adjusted to the extra weight and he regained some speed, or a little bit of both.

Also, it appears Tomlin has already figured out that Mendenhall sucks. The less he plays, the better things will be for the Steelers. The problem is, they really shouldn't run Parker into the ground again like they did last year. There are worse people to give 8 carries a game to than Mewelde Moore.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Thanks Justin, I didn't know about the weight gain thing. Last year he still had his top gear, but his balance was off and he was awkward when he ran. That would make sense that weight gain could do that to him. He was bad last year. I remember thinking when some announcer was praising him, "Anyone can get a thousand yards with 24 carries a game!"

I was hoping Mendenhall wouldn't suck, because I do not want to see Parker get 400 carries this year. Come on Mike, give Willie a rest! Maybe Mendenhall will see the light soon.

Hopefully in the next blowout, Tomlin runs someone other than Parker when the game is out of hand.

69 Re: Mendenhall

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like two games into his rookie season, in which he's had a total of 10 carries (5 in garbage time) is a bit premature to determine that Mendenhall sucks.

74 Re: Mendenhall

In reply to by DGL

It's not too soon for me to regret drafting him in the 8th round of my fantasy league. Ouch.

84 Re: Mendenhall

In reply to by DGL

Also note he is the youngest player on the Steelers. I think he is still 21. Both he and Timmons (who is the 2nd youngest, I think) should have a lot of years to contribute. No need to hurry.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

The point spread for the Steelers/Browns was 6 1/2. I suspect that Romeo made a few people in the stadium happy when he went for the kick.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I didn't see much football yesterday but I did catch the end of the SD-Denver game. The Chargers got screwed, but the colour guy got it right after the review when he said "3rd & goal from the 10, well, if you play a little defense it doesn't matter". San Diego then proceeded to give up the TD and the 2-pointer to exactly the same play.

And is Cutler "The NFL's next elite QB" if he finishes thae game with an INT in the endzone followed by a fumble which SD recover?

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Please accept my nomination of Sean Payton for this weeks KCW award. The Saints offense this week was able to convert exactly zero first and ten plays into another first down. What's the DVOA for the Saints' offense on first down, -300?

Memo to Payton: There is this whole section of the field available for passing. It is the region beyond the first down marker and just short of as far as Drew Brees can heave the ball. Please call a play and instruct your quarterback that it is not illegal to complete a forward pass in this region.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Given: The Rams are not at all good this year.

That said, winning the Super Bowl seems to have had a good effect on the Giants this year. Way too many times over the past five years I have seen games like the one yesterday, where the Giants start out fast, then hit some offensive doldrums, and the other team hangs around. What would happen in the past would be a progression of stupid penalties, some panic on the part of the quarterback, and either losing a winnable game or barely hanging on.

Yesterday, though, Eli stayed composed. The team did not start bickering on the sidelines (perhaps the only real benefit of losing Shockey). They, as a team, seemed to remain completely unflustered, and instead of sputtering to the end just stepped it up.

Two games down. After week one, it looked like the win against the Redskins was unimpressive because of how crappy the Redskins looked. Well, the Skins looked a lot better this week, so either they righted a lot of wrongs or the G-men had something to do with how bad they had looked. The running game looks fine. Eli has played well. Plax is still top notch, and Smith looks to be ready to assume more of a role. Tight End has been a problem so far, though.

Defensively, Ross has been playing decently, Webster hasn't completely reverted, and Phillips (Holt's sick TD notwithstanding) looks to be a player. What has really surprised me so far, though, has been the play of the linebackers. Surprisingly decent.

The schedule suddenly looks friendlier, too. Next week it is the Bengals, who look to be a shell of what they used to be offensively. Palmer has looked bad, flat out. Then the bye, followed by a Seahawk team that has disappointed, a Browns team that has disappointed, and then the 49ers. Knock on wood, but 4-2 sounds the worst for the 6 game record, and 6-0 is not out of the question.

Of course, then it gets really hard with Pittsburgh, Dallas, Philly, and Baltimore. Can we have a re-run of the normal Giants fast-start, mid-season swoon? I bet we can.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

It's very early in the season, but there are an unusually high number of winless teams after two weeks (eleven, including Houston which is 0-1). I think 1-0 teams went a remarkable 7-2 against 0-1 teams, with Ravens-Texans to come. Could this be a final nail in the coffin of parity?

Of the eleven winless coaches, nine must consider their jobs in danger - only Jack del Rio and Tony Sparano can expect to have a poor season and still be in a job next February. (Mike Holmgren has, of course, already announced his retirement.) Add in the precarious position of the Bay Area coaches, who are both 1-1, and the fact that Andy Reid, Tony Dungy and John Fox are on Favre-style retirement watch, and it's feasible that up to a dozen head coaching positions could be available at the end of the season.

Where will the replacements come from? Cowher, Schottzie, Billick, Spagnuolo, a pair of Ryans...

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I thought I heard Schottenheimer say that he's done coaching. Of course, it's easier to say that without a job offer staring you in the face.

Would this be a good time for a "Is Schottenheimer a good coach?" argument?

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I actually liked the Addai TD call. All the ball has to do is pierce the edge of the goal line. Visually, that will never look like a TD, but on the replay it seems impossible that the tip of the ball didn't at least cross the edge of the line. Refs seem too reluctant to call TDs on plays like that, and I'm glad for once they actually did. Unless you're clearly stopped in the backfield, it seems almost ridiculous that you can't advance the ball one inch.

On a related note, I'm a little surprised they overturned the Wayne TD. Not because Wayne wasn't short of the line. It certainly seemed like he was. But the replays they showed weren't very clear, and you couldn't be sure exactly where the ball was in relation to the line. I hope the replay booth had better angles than what was shown on TV. They seemed to spot the ball very specifically, almost too far away based on what I saw.

57 Success!

I just want to note that the most important part of the redesign is a success so far -- it's now past noon on Monday and the server hasn't gone down once! Whoo-hoo!

72 Re: Success!

In reply to by Aaron Schatz

Aaron- is it possible to set up some sort of FO Mobile page? It takes forever to load on my phone and I get really bored in court sometimes.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I love when the Steelers go three tight ends, all to one side. How primitive.
Even better to watch them pull two lineman on the play and run to the weak side!

If you guys are still going back and diagramming individual plays, that one would be a beauty.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I was disappointed in Mark Tauscher's play yesterday. Multiple poor runs were attributed to his inability to engage his man much less sustain the block. And DeVries was getting the corner with regularity. Most disconcerting given that Dallas' defensive linemen are a LOT quicker than anyone on Detroit's line.

Interesting element is that in the middle of the game McCarthy switched out his guards to give some other guys playing time. Anyone else have a coach who changes the offensive line without cause?

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

In the first botched call at the Chargers-Broncos game yesterday, a call that was probably going to be overturned in the Chargers favor had to stand because the equipment wasn't working. This is a game, remember, played in the Broncos' home stadium. The replay equipment was working both before and after that call.

Does this strike anyone else as suspicious? Is there any recourse for the Chargers in a situation like that? Should there be?

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I don't know, but I would guess that the NFL, and not the individual teams, is responsible for maintenance of the replay equipment. Does anyone know if this is so?

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

The Lions play the 49ers next week. My guess is that Martz will be looking to seriously run up the score if Nolan gives him the green light.

And what is with these defensive coaches who can't put a defense on the field as head coach? Marvin Lewis can't do it. Now Marinelli can't do it. The Lions were getting some breaks in the second half as the Packer receivers had a case of the dropsies for a spell. Greg Jennings could have easily had 250 yards receiving yesterday between that long pass and a few others where he just whiffed.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I was in a bowling alley yesterday for the end of the Vikes-Colts game (I live in the Twin Cities), and I didn't see one person swear or throw anything or really get angry at all when the Colts marched down the field and won it. There was just this general fatalistic sense that it was over, and people just kind of sighed painfully, shrugged, and went on with the day when Vinatieri kicked it through. Two games into the season, and people are already giving up. Tarvaris Jackson now has a full season's worth of starts under his belt (I believe yesterday was #16), and, well, we're not exactly looking like an NFL-quality QB yet.

I wonder if Bernard Berrian is sitting around and pining for Rex Grossman yet.

78 Fox is retiring?

I've never heard anything about that. All I hear is a bunch of reporters who opine that losing Delhomme for a season and having to start Carr and Testaverde is no reason to 'only' go 7-9 and that Richardson should fire Fox.

After Dungy and Belichick, who exactly is a clearly better coach than Fox? Especially after the Smith-Lucas incident in which the team could easily have started 0-2.

79 Re: Manning

This week showed just how good Peyton Manning actually is. The offensive line was missing 4 of 5 projected starters and probably represented the worst unit in the league, yet he was still able to finally dissect the Vikings defense. That said, you have to have atleast the minimum of effectiveness from the offensive line for a QB's talents to shine through. You usually expect about 3.5 seconds for a QB to have to throw the ball. The colts are barely getting 2 right now. And lets not start with the inability to run the ball...

80 G-Reg and the man with no arms

The Bears were actually really angry that the man with no arms wasn't invited to the NFL combine the year they drafted Olsen. They figured that with a QB who couldn't think, an RB who couldn't run forward, and a WR that can't run routes, all that they needed was a TE with no arms to finally fill out their offense.

Sadly, after Man-With-No-Arms refused to perform the bench press at his junior year pro-day, teams concluded that he was a prima-donna and wanted no part of him. I hear he's playing for the Calgary Stampede now.

99 Re: G-Reg and the man with no arms

I would not be just a fairy
Exiled to Cal-gary
Where no one sees my charms
And my back I'd be scratchin'
Without help from some contraption
If I only had some arms!

(I'd love to add verses for Grossman, Benson, and Hester, but my boss is getting suspicious.)

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I am a Bolts fan and have suffered what I thought were many bogus calls, but Hochuli's whistle is crazy. Things that give me pause.

1) He is staring right at the play.
2) He does not signal an incomplete immediately (e.g. when the ball first hit the turf) but waited until just before the SD player was going to recover. My Tivo showed me this. Why wait?
3) It is inside two minutes. Everything close is going to be reviewed, so really, the only truly definitive thing you can do is blow the whistle. And he blows it without any explanation and blows it late.
4) The ball came out backwards. As others have noted, that suggests fumble or, lateral, not an incomplete forward pass. How can you whistle on that?

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

1) He is staring right at the play.

And you're staring right at him in the replays. Which means he's seeing it from behind, which is a totally different angle than you've got.

2) He does not signal an incomplete immediately (e.g. when the ball first hit the turf) but waited until just before the SD player was going to recover. My Tivo showed me this. Why wait?

Because this happened a lot faster in reality. The "wait" time was probably just Hochuli's reaction time. It's a fraction of a second.

It was a mistake. Plain and simple. It happened. It can always happen, so long as that rule is written like that. It's the rule that's the problem, not Hochuli's mistake. You can't prevent mistakes. You can make it so that you can fix them.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Re: Colts/Vikes:

1) I agree that the overturn of Wayne's TD was a bit strange: that end zone view in no way showed clear proof that Wayne did not make the end zone. To me, that one has to remain with whatever call on the field was made. Now, I don't think he got in, but I didn't see any view that showed he did not get in. Why doesn't the NFL have a camera up high from the side that just watches the end line, like the NHL goalie cam? Perhaps the replay booth had an angle we couldn't see?
2) The Addai TD replay could have gone either way. I am glad that without clear proof, they did not change it.
3) Indy's interior lines (O and D) are bad. Too many backups playing next to each other. But, I also think Dungy's coaches could have done a better job, especially with some chip blocks on the ends. The Colts rarely did that.
4) Manning looks fine to me. He got hit, a lot, and didn't seem too nervous. I think he genuinely didn't have much time to throw. Not sure why they fared better in the second half.
5) OT Johnson is useless. I have to replay in slow-mo on TiVo one play to make sure I saw it right -- he missed blocking the end, but then missed the blitzing linebacker as well, so he was just standing there as two guys ran by him and piled on Manning. It's one thing to put a guy like Johnson on the line surrounded by others who know what they are doing, but it's a totally different thing to get three or four of them out there together -- no blocking coordination at all.
6) Vikings run game was very good. I thought the Colts tried repeatedly to at least hit Purple Jesus hard, even if that was 15 yards down the field, in an effort to tire him out. They were trying to be physical with him. Not sure if that's why the run game was less effective in the second half -- seemed to me the Colt played the same scheme all day -- 8 in the box.
7) Jackson is bad. They need a swtich.
8) I am starting to wonder if Dungy is TOO protective of injured players. Sounded like Saturday and CLark were talked out of playing.

108 Re: two-pointers

I seem to remember seeing stats that it's very, very slightly under 50%. So it's basically equivalent in expected points to kicking the extra point, just riskier.

Given the shootout nature of the Broncos/Chargers game, the Broncos playcallers likely considered their odds of converting to be well above 50%, so it was almost certainly the right call.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

In the Chargers game, Hochuli had to know that his call could cost the Chargers the game. That the rule book was preventing him from truly correcting the call. So, why not make up your mind to call a holding penalty or two against the Broncos on the next couple of plays ?

Also how does Cutler earn the reputation of savior, seconds after literally throwing the game away for the Broncos ? As "clutch" as the TD pass and conversion were, they never should have happened due to his "choke" on the fumble. How does this make him the next Joe Montana or John Elway ?

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

In the Chargers game, Hochuli had to know that his call could cost the Chargers the game. That the rule book was preventing him from truly correcting the call. So, why not make up your mind to call a holding penalty or two against the Broncos on the next couple of plays ?

Blowing the whistle was a mistake. Inventing a holding penalty would be cheating.

Two wrongs don't make a right. A mistake and a wrong certainly don't.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I don't think the Rams played over their heads... their 3 scoring drives finished with TWO 54 yard FGs and miracle 45 yard TD pass. They're still a very bad team. As a Giants fan, the only thing we can take from the game is the "Earth, Wind, and Fire" nickname for Jacobs, Ward, and Bradshaw.

The only reason the score was 20-13 was penalties... the Giants committed a pair of holding penalties that cost them 7-10 points and a def. pass interference on 3rd and 11 that extended the Rams' lone TD drive.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new elite quarterback in the NFL, and he hails from Vanderbilt University."

Maybe you missed the part where he twice tried to blow the game. Once throwing a terribly ill advised pass that was intercepted in the end zone and again when he lost the game by failing to hold onto the football. Are we really going to pretend that just because he was bailed out by terrible officiating that he is excused from such enormous miscues? If any quarterback played at an elite level in that game, it was not Jay Cutler, it was Philip Rivers. But I guess because the referees stole the game for the Broncos we should praise Cutler anyway.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Counter to that, my points would be:

1) I don't think the ball slipping out of one's hands is something that can really be blamed on Cutler. That's a freak sort of thing, and I doubt it reflects on his Quarterbacking abilities or ability to handle pressure situations.

2) obviously the INT is the much stronger point. But he did lead them back from that, and he's put up some pretty staggering numbers the first two weeks.

92 Romeo Crennel betting on Browns games?

Here's the real explanation for the Romeo Crennel field goal decision:

The line was Steelers by 5 1/2. The Browns were down by 7. Crennel thinks to himself "if we kick the field goal, we cover the spread and I win my bet."

End of story. I can't think of anything else that makes sense.

P.S. -- I'm a Steeler fan.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

"Eli has played well."

I don't know about that. I didn't see the game yesterday, so its totally possible he played great. That game against the redskins, I think he threw more balls at DBs than he did at Giants-Not-Named-Plaxico.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I only saw the first half of the Skins game (my son's game was that night). I watched the whole game yesterday, and it was different than usual. He was very accurate on short and medium throws. He hit some long ones but also missed badly on a few long ones that were makeable. Overall, he seemed more accurate than usual and didn't make any horrible decisions. Based on the 6 quarters I have seen, he has played well.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

It is weird that there were alot of boring games to watch yet I attended the most exciting game of football in my life. The Redskins win over the saints was just a seemingly great game with some great storylines and the best sporting-event crowd I have ever experienced. After a couple dozen NFL games that was the best sporting experience of my life only the excessive heat put a damper on it.
Then I come back to read this column and realize it was just another mundane week in football where nothing too momentous happened and because of the TV schedule the only real great game anyone got to see was the end of that chargers-broncos shootout that was ruined by the Hochuli.
The NFL Gods can be strange.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

"And what is with these defensive coaches who can't put a defense on the field as head coach"

To paraphrase (and maybe quote) Bill Walsh:

Offense is about scheme. Defense is about talent.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Am I the only having massive margin problems that make it impossible to read most of the threaded comments? I'm using IE. Assuming that I'm not, is there a fix that has been identified?

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Heard a lot of talk yesterday this morning about this twosome or that due being the "best set of receivers" in the NFL.

Out of curiousity and just focussing on the top two guys who do folks want right "now" in 2008?

I think Driver/Jennings merit consideration with Driver filling the possession role and Jennings in the "How did he get behind the defense AGAIN?!" role

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I don't think any team has a WR pair to stack up to the Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

"Seattle receiver" is the new "Spinal Tap drummer."
I nearly wet myself. This has got to be a candidate for quotes of the year, staff category.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

There is something poetic about the last name of the Browns punt returner - Syndric Steptoe.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Did anyone else hear the stuff the announcers were coming out with when Shanahan called to go for two? They seemed to think he was looking for some sort of karmic realignment for the ridiculous call on the Cutler fumble by giving the Chargers a chance to make a play to win the game instead of overtime.

This has to be the craziest thing I've ever heard. I know you have to take the announcing with a grain of salt a lot of the time but to suggest that Shanahan would jeopardise his team with non-optimal playcalling is absurd. He went for two because it gave them a better chance to win than overtime.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Yeah that made absolutely no sense, but you have to cut them some slack. Between the fact that game ran far longer than the others in that timeslot, and the general craziness of the events on the field, the booth guys were probably starting to lose it. Whenever a game runs long or goes to overtime (usually in other sports), the announcers run out of things to say and become incoherent. It's like clockwork.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I had to listen to the Lions/Packers game on the radio, driving back from a wedding. Football doesn't play very well on the radio but I digress. It sounded like a circus. How can the Lions come from behind 21 points and lose by 23? Has anything like this ever happened before? I mean, wtf.

118 Re: Aaron Rodgers

You know what is not Favre-like? Having second-and-goal at the Lions' 10-yard line, about eight seconds to find a receiver, and then, not finding anyone open, just ... throwing it away.

And that, PK and others, is why Rodgers is wearing green and gold while Favre is now clad in green and white.

119 Crennel goes for FG

It makes perfect sense for a coach to kick a FG in that situation. If you think that you can't get a touchdown, or there is very little chance to get a touchdown, but am pretty sure you are getting the ball back before the end of the game, then you should definitely kick the FG. The reason is that if the Steelers drive and kick a FG, you still can tie or Shanahan win with a last second touchdown. Otherwise, the game is over when the Steelers kick the FG.

It gave his team the best chance to win.

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

The reason is that if the Steelers drive and kick a FG, you still can tie or Shanahan win with a last second touchdown.

With less than 4 minutes left on the clock, any Steelers drive of significance will leave the Browns without enough time to respond. If the Steelers get the ball and cross the 50 with it via any route other than the kickoff return (unlikely given the Steelers' lack of a decent return unit), they win, whether their lead is 7 or 1.

Want to kick the field goal with 10, 11 minutes left? That's fine. 6 minutes left? I'd prefer to go for it. Less than 4 minutes left? You have to go for the touchdown. You can no longer reasonably expect to get the ball back with enough time to do anything with it.

The game was over as soon as the Browns kicked the field goal, barring a miraculous fumbling of the kickoff or a snap.

You need the Steelers to go three-and-out to have a chance, regardless of whether you go for it and fail or kick there, and they'll start from about the same spot on the field either way. The Browns' best chance to win the game, by far, lay with attempting to get the first down.

Why? Because at some point the Browns had to score a touchdown to win the game -- and to score a touchdown, you have to have the ball. The Browns had the ball, and absolutely should not have surrendered it to the Steelers without making every possible effort to score a touchdown. Especially since they weren't close to being guaranteed to even make the field goal. Under those conditions, Dawson's chances of making the field goal were, tops, 70%.

122 Crennel

All credible reasons. But don't discount a long pass to the Browns 30 and then a 3 and out. I might not agree totally with the call, I'm just saying it's not that insane. It's definitely not like there were two minutes left. His defense could still have stepped up. I'll go back and look at it again.

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Stolen from Doug Farrar?

"The Seahawks are going through wide receivers quicker than Spinal Tap went through drummers."

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I know Jeff Erickson well (I'm sure some of the staff does too), and he's legit. There's zero percent chance he's stealing the line. It's just a logical comparison to make.

And for what it's worth, sometimes intelligent people see the same connections and make the same observations. The "hey, copycat!" card seems to be played often here, occasionally with a reckless nature.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Cutler and the SD player (#51) both played through the whistle in yesterday's day *at great peril of injury*.

Anyone who doesn't think that call is BS or shouldn't have been overturned is smoking crack. No one stops at a whistle 'cause half the time you probably don't hear it amongst all the crowd noise, excitement, etc. Furthermore, I believe that Hochuli should've overturned the call regardless and dared the NFL to fire him. He's the head official he can do whatever he wants. It's not like the NFL is going to make them replay the down. He freely admitted to Norv he screwed up. And it had no bearing on the play.

Chaos, anarchy whatever... but it would've been the right thing to do.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Anyone who doesn't think that call is BS or shouldn't have been overturned is smoking crack.

Indeed. I'm a Broncos fan and I think the Chargers got screwed.

Furthermore, I believe that Hochuli should've overturned the call regardless and dared the NFL to fire him.

Technically speaking, the call of a fumble did overturn the call. It was ruled incomplete on the field. (Wrongly, I admit, but that was still the call.)

He's the head official he can do whatever he wants.

That is getting into a dangerous line of thinking isn't it. would've been the right thing to do.

The rules are the same for everyone on the field. Hoc screwed up the call. He fixed in the only way allowed by the rules. Had the teams been reversed and Rivers fumbled like that, the correction would still have been the correct one by the rules. You cannot throw a rule out or disregard it because you don't like how it applied to your team.

Many people on this site, including me, admire Hochuli for his consistency in calls and his insanely complete knowledge of the rulebook. I rarely see Hoc or his crew call a penalty (or not) that makes me say something to the effect of "WTF!" and his explanations are clear and concise. Even after this mistake, he is still one the best Refs in the league.

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

That is getting into a dangerous line of thinking isn't it.

Why? Hoch ended up getting downgraded for the call (whatever that means). I think there should be some leeway to give the officials common sense in a situation like this. Example; everyone knows last year that the referee viewed replay of the field goal in the Ravens-??? game where the field goal was initially ruled no good. Everyone knew at the time that FGs aren't reviewable, but there wasn't a lot of outrage since the call was right. I don't recall who the official was, but he ended up getting the call right even though he bent the rules. I think the cameras caught him going under the camera and he could say "hey I was just looking at something else".

In the same way I think Hoch could've changed his initial ruling once he realized what happened. He can huddle up with the side-judge and then announce, "the ruling on the field is an open hand, with a fumble and possession to the Chargers". That would be perfectly legal, as we've all seen examples of players where one official signals catch only to be over-ruled by another official somewhere on the field. The initial ruling of what you thought you saw ie. with feet in bounds, and possession could get changed. I don't even think the whistle was picked up by anything. Certainly Cutler didn't see Hoch signal incomplete.

In my first post in my thread I challenged someone to name a player injured during a dangerous loose ball scrum. There hasn't, and I doubt there will ever be (okay maybe one)... but when it happens feel free to throw it in my face. I'd rather the players on the field decide what happens than some silly false whistle or an initial call on the field.

Did Hoch have to commit to incomplete once he signaled such on the field? I don't think so, as I posted in paragraph two. I know Hoch was being honest and owned up to his mistake, but I do believe there was some leeway for him to wriggle out of it. It would've pissed off the Bronco's and their fans, and no one else, and today the Bronco's would get over it. Tommorrow I'm sure the Chargers will be over it.

In some way it seems like sweet revenge for Rivers buffoonary when they played last season, taunting Cutler. In another way its more NFL officiating stupidity. I'd still like to have seen Hochuli dare Mike Pereria to fire him and do the right thing, desecrating the NFL rule book. Do you really thin khe'd have gotten fired? I can't remember any official fired (yes maybe demoted...). It wouldn't have been the end of the world.

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I've been travelling almost nonstop for about three weeks, thus not allowing for extended time spent on the vital subject of NFL football, but, at least in terms of the Vikings, it may has well have been three years, because little has changed. The Vikings management has constructed a wonderful roster for the the NFL in 1972. When there is little in the way of a passing attack in today's NFL, winning games often gets pretty iffy, no matter how one-sided a contest may seem.

What is doubly depressing for this Vikings follower is the likely prospect that greatly improved QB play, however unlikely that appears, may not even solve 50% of the problem. The Viking receivers suck, suck, suck, still dropping passes in the end zone, and hardly ever displaying above average ball skills. This is a franchise that went roughly 40-plus consecutive years with at least one receiver who made a Pro Bowl at some point while under contract with the Vikings, but that era may as well have been a thousand years ago, so distant it now seems.

I hate to say it, but this team is now starting to bore me to death, because it has been the same damned thing, over and over, and over again. Sigh.

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Sneaky fact about Warren Moon - he never won a Divisional Playoff game. Kind of amazing, this guy was *never* involved an AFC or NFC Championship Game. It's wrong to pin that all on him, obviously, but it makes you wonder if history looks back on his career too fondly.

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I also agree somewhat with a comment above, pertaining to Childress' or Bevel's play calling. They obviously are still trying to coddle Jackson, and not ask him to do too much. To hell with that. He has a season's worth of starts now. Throw him in the deep end, and let him drown or swim, once and for all.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Yeah, but the problem with that is, if Jackson drowns, so does Childress. That's why you won't be seeing Childress doing that anytime soon.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Will, Justin - I commented earlier that I thought the worst part of the game for me was the chicken shit nature of the play calling. They need to open up the game and see if Jackson can handle it. What have they got to lose; the current strategy has no chance of any real success?

In the very small glimmer of hope category; looking over Jackson's career, the best he's looked is when they opened up the game because they were way down (Den, Wash last year).

Of course with Berrian and Rice now questionable things just got a little darker. Wade, Ferguson and Allison is not exactly Moss, Carter and Reed

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

What have they got to lose; the current strategy has no chance of any real success?

Brad Childress has a lot to lose. He's not stupid; he very likely knows as well as the rest of us that the overwhelmingly likely result if he lets Tarvaris Jackson loose is the Vikings get blown out several times and wind up 6-10, whereas if he just continues the ultra-conservative playcalling, every game will be close and they'll end up 8-8.

Childress will get fired sooner, and will have more difficulty getting another head coaching job, in the former scenario. Coaches play ultra-conservative to protect their own jobs and careers, and hope something lucky happens.

The Vikings' best chances to win football games, with their roster as currently comprised, probably rest with Gus Frerotte, and no, I'm not saying that to compliment Gus Frerotte. The Vikings' failure to upgrade the QB position is mind-boggling, and the only explanation I know of is Childress is hell-bent on sticking to Jackson--his Donovan McNabb--like an overprotective parent.

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Justin - I think 8-8 will get Childress fired. You may be right about Frerotte giving them the best chance, but if that's true I really doubt this team is better than 8-8 this year.

Either way this team needs to get with the 21st century (hell the 80-s or 90's would be nice) and start throwing to setup the run. Not the other way around. And that applies no matter who they start at QB.