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

Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Audibles at the Line: Week 5
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.

Sunday NFL Countdown!

Bill Moore: I knew Tom Jackson hated the Patriots, but I didn't realize Cris Carter did too. "The people in New England seem to think they know more about football than we do here." I don't know if he was speaking of the organization or the community; the comment wasn't explained.

I saw him the night before the Hall of Fame election announcement. He was having dinner with family and friends at the table next to mine. We were the only people in the restaurant. It seemed like a pre-Hall celebration party, talking about all his great plays. I felt bad for him the next day. I don't anymore. :)

Ben Riley: The Mayne Event segment, featuring Usain Bolt and Eli Manning, has a couple of old dudes timing Bolt in the 40-yard dash. They say to Bolt, "sure you're fast, but are you football fast?" Bolt asks, "what is that?" Answer, according to Eli and the old dudes: "That's when slow-ass white guys play one of the safety positions."

(And no, Doug, Brian Russell did not have a cameo appearance.)

Aaron Schatz: Carter in the "ESPN simulation room" was discussing David Garrard's ability to run the quarterback draw and talked about how Garrard used it in "the biggest win in Jacksonville's franchise career." First of all, a team can't have a career. It has a history. Second, and more importantly -- man, was 1996 that far long ago? Hello? McFly pattern? Jacksonville upsets Denver?

Ben Riley: Whoa, Mike Ditka was talking about the Bears, and just said "32 is the key number, and I'm not talking about O.J." You could feel the ESPN producers shuddering all the way in San Francisco.

Doug Farrar: Followed by this show-ending bon mot from Carter re: Aaron Rodgers' ability to play: "They have really good drugs in Green Bay!"

Atlanta Falcons 27 at Green Bay Packers 24

Bill Moore: I haven't seen much of this game, but Matt Ryan seems to be playing well. He was driving for his third touchdown when Al Harris fill-in Tramon Williams bit on the play-fake, but recovered enough to make a sensational, one-handed interception in the end zone.

Aaron Rodgers threw a 43-yarder, Ryan Grant ran for 13, Rodgers threw for another 30, and BANG, tie game rather than a two-touchdown lead.

Benjy Rose: A few things struck me while watching this game:

  • Matt Ryan is impressive for a rookie. He seems miles ahead of other young quarterbacks with more experience -- Leinart, Young, QB Chicago, etc. He doesn't make as many typical rookie mistakes, and seems to have good poise in the pocket, as opposed to, say, Cassel. Yes, the interception in the end zone nearly killed them, but I suspect he won't lob any more balls to a mostly-open receiver in the end zone again.
  • Green Bay got very little pressure on Ryan ... which very well could have
    been large factors in the previous item. Their front four didn't get in the backfield, and they didn't blitz that much. This seems like a huge tactical error on the defensive coordinator's part. How to best deal with a rookie quarterback? Pressure!
  • I know Turner got 122 yards, but he just doesn't impress me. The only times he looked to get good yardage was when the O-line gave him Timmy Smith-sized holes to run through. Most of the time he seems very Ron Dayne-ish to me, just banging into holes that were there two steps ago. I'm a big Jerious Norwood fan, and giving him only four carries is a crime.
  • Rodgers' shoulder is hurting the Packers. Yes, he engineered a couple of impressive drives, but the game-ending interception was a duck that a healthy Rodgers would have gotten past Michael Boley. For the Pack's sake, he should rest it a bit.
  • Incredibly amusing ignorance on the part of the announcing crew (Phil Simms and Jim Nantz, I think). For the pre-kickoff banter, for the first few minutes of the game, and every so often throughout, they kept harping on the fact that the Falcons hadn't won on the road yet, that Ryan had done poorly on the road, that Turner hadn't run well on the road ... without recognizing that their two home games had been against those defensive powerhouses Detroit and Kansas City, whereas the away games had been in Tampa Bay and Carolina. No mention. They showed graphics of Turner's rushing averages At Home and On The Road WITH NO CONTEXT. I know home field advantage is good, but come on, context, people!!
  • Keith Brooking is done. He's hesitant, always seeming to wait a second or so after the snap before moving, and he doesn't have the speed to make up for it.

So what happened? Some very good game-planning on Mike Mularkey's part. First play of the game -- defense expects a conservative look from a team with a strong running game and a rookie quarterback -- 37-yard-pass to Roddy White. Then it's mostly runs peppered with some well-timed safe-but-not-too-conservative passes. Basically, Mularkey protected his young quarterback while not going Joe Walton on the team. White ended up with 132 yards receiving on the day, and he and Ryan are looking like a really nice combo.

Other than that, it was one of those games for the Green Bay offense where they seemed to stall at inopportune times due mostly to either poor route-running or poor play-calling -- 9 yards on third-and-11, 5 yards on third-and-10, etc. A field goal at the end of the first half was nullified due to a holding penalty, and Mason Crosby couldn't nail the 53-yarder. Then the Boley interception. They seemed to slightly outplay the Falcons (I'm curious to see what DVOA has to say about that), but the Falcons hung in and prevailed. A good game to watch, though.

Bill Barnwell: Sorry, Benjy. Now it's in context.

San Diego Chargers 10 at Miami Dolphins 17

Doug Farrar: The Dolphins are getting a bit whacked out with this Wildcat thing. They had four direct snaps to Ronnie Brown on their first drive. Three runs by Brown, and one handoff to Ricky Williams. They got 16 yards on those four plays, with only one play going over 2 yards. Haven't seen the plays yet, but I'm wondering if the honeymoon might be over. Tony Sparano has said that there are other wrinkles in this set of plays; it's probably time to start using them.

Mike Tanier: The Wild Jumping Shark Offense!

Doug Farrar: Nah, that's what the Seahawks are currently running in the Meadowlands. With all the Miami gimmickry, I wonder if the massive improvement along the offense line is going unnoticed. With 2:00 left in the first half, Ronnie Brown ran a little counter outside left, Ikechuku Ndukwe got a nice seal block inside, and Brown kept extending the play outside. I've seen a lot of really good guard play out of Justin Smiley and Ndukwe this year. Smiley was pulling on all those Wildcat plays against New England, and just blowing up inside lanes for Brown.

Bill Barnwell: I'm still amazed at Chris Chambers' season. Five touchdowns on 11 receptions. I knew that he'd become primarily a deep threat/red zone guy in San Diego, but this is absurd. Oh, and he got hurt on a catch on the 1-yard line, apparently.

Vince Verhei: The Miami secondary is having quite a turnaround since Anquan Boldin and the Cardinals ate them alive. Fresh off the win over the Patriots, they came out and made the Chargers look like amateurs. A lot of it was Philip Rivers having a bad day. He seemed to be throwing ahead of his receivers a lot. But I also saw Andre' Goodman make a nice tackle to break up a LaDainian Tomlinson screen pass, and Chris Crocker made a nice play in the end zone to break up what would have been a touchdown.

I didn't see much of the first quarter of this one, but later, it seemed like the Wildcat was working reasonably well. Which seems funny to me, because there are really only two plays the Dolphins run out of that: The sweep to Ricky Williams or Ronnie Brown up the gut. Yes, Brown passed for a score against New England, but I don't think they'll catch lightning in a bottle again.

Doug Farrar: Well, there's the counter as well, which turned into the counter-option to Anthony Fasano against New England, but ... yeah. I don't know why it isn't easier to read and defend. I think the tendency is to tip the inside run by putting the H-back inside the second right tackle.

Vince Verhei: A note to Norv Turner: Tomlinson should get more than six carries in the first half. And you can't say the Chargers were playing catch-up, because San Diego was ahead or tied for almost 25 minutes.

Seattle Seahawks 6 at New York Giants 44

Will Carroll: What happened to Matt Hasselbeck? My phone just whimpered.

Doug Farrar: Hyperextended knee, apparently. He's back in.

It really needs to be emphasized: Brandon Jacobs is freakin' HUGE. On New York's first play from scrimmage, he took a little pass upfield and basically laughed off Julian Peterson's first tackle attempt. Second play, he carries Peterson a few yards on a run. Third play, he runs past Deon Grant's "Ole!" tackle near the line of scrimmage for a 40-plus-yard gain. There is official video evidence of a Brian Russell tackle at the end of that long run -- amazing.

I'm not sure what's going on with Seattle's secondary this season, but they're out of position, biting on simple stuff, safety help is inconsistent -- last year, Jim Mora coached that secondary up very well. I don't know if Mora's taking a more expanded and less specific role as he gets ready to become Seattle's head coach next year, but I'm not liking what I'm seeing from the defensive backfield at all.

Special note to the Seattle defensive coaching staff: Any opposing receiver covered by Jordan Babineaux one-on-one will morph into the late-1980s version of Jerry Rice. He's a coverage complement, not a primary ingredient. We thought you already knew this, but here's a helpful reminder.

Bill Barnwell: The Giants are overwhelming the Seahawks. This is like that Giants-Seahawks game from a couple of years ago, but back then it was Seattle who got out to the huge lead.

Doug Farrar: Right, when the Seahawks went up 42-3 and had to fight the Giants off in the end.

I like that Seattle is sliding protection on certain running plays under new line coach Mike Solari. Under the previous administration, it seemed to be pretty much "a hat on a hat." Julius Jones continues to surprise me with his willingness to dig a shoulder in on contact and fight for yardage.

Sean McCormick: Is it me or does Matt Hasselbeck look like Chad Pennington out there? He seems to be having a lot of problems throwing outside the hashmarks with any kind of velocity, and receivers are having to pause after their breaks to wait for the ball to arrive. That's hardly the only thing going wrong for Seattle, but it's disconcerting to see, nevertheless.

Bill Barnwell: Seattle's not penetrating the Giants' backfield at all. It speaks to the strength of the Giants' rush blocking that the team that's second in the league in rush defense is getting shut down at the line, even with Kevin Boothe in for a concussed Kareem McKenzie at right tackle. It's really a situation where the sum is greater than its parts. No one's really blowing me away, but when everyone does their job in the running game, the play gets to be run as expected and there's no need for Jacobs to have to cut back or slow down.

The Seahawks receivers are having an awful day. Dropping passes, running the wrong routes, making the wrong reads, failing to separate at the line ... just an ugly performance. Meanwhile, the Giants have had both Sinorice Moss and Mario Manningham sightings, and Domenik Hixon, of all people, is having a huge day in the Plaxico Burress role. Right now, Anthony Nix is cursing himself.

Vince Verhei: This game in a nutshell: At one point the Giants had 24 points and had run only two third-down plays.

Doug Farrar: One more thing I noticed in this debacle: Lofa Tatupu kept getting lost on cutbacks. That was odd, because knowing when to stop pursuing outside and get back inside to tackle is generally one of his strengths. But against the Giants, he'd start outside and just keep going, right out of the picture, as Jacobs ripped off another huge gain.

This is in no way meant to diminish what the Giants did -- this was a 100 percent legitimate beatdown -- but there's something terribly wrong with Seattle's defense right now. They had a great balance last year with the same players, but half the team is too tentative and the other half are biting and overpursuing on everything.

Bill Barnwell: One of the things we're going to need to look at as the Giants keep going undefeated -- they've won eight straight now, you know -- is how a team is going to be able to beat them. A blueprint, if you will.

Offensively, there's not really anything the Giants don't do well, now that we can say that Eli Manning's absolutely taken a step forward on short and intermediate routes. The Giants put an incredible amount of pressure on a team's linebackers to succeed when you consider how often they run sweeps and off-tackle, and throw to the middle of the field with Burress on slants and Kevin Boss, Steve Smith, and Amani Toomer on curls and short/medium ins. You would think that this would've been a positive thing for the Seahawks, who have arguably the best linebacking corps in the league, but they were blown away by the Giants.

The weakness of the team is at tackle, especially on passing plays. David Diehl gets overwhelmed by larger rushers, while Kareem McKenzie occasionally gives up on plays and struggles with speed guys. An ideal scheme would probably be a 3-4 team, using its defensive linemen to attack the A and B gaps while using linebackers or potentially safeties to try and create mismatches on the outside. None of the Giants halfbacks are great pass blockers, so putting them in a situation where they have to is a good idea.

On the other side of the ball, what Steve Spagnuolo really does -- outside of the exotic blitzes that are overstated as the core of his scheme anyway -- is challenge you to beat his athletes. He has no problem letting the front four overpursue on almost a play-by-play basis, figuring that they're fast enough to prevent cutbacks. There are almost always opportunities for cutbacks against the Giants; if you remember the weird double-screen that the Patriots ran on the first play of the Super Bowl, that's exactly what they were trying to exploit. They were one step away from getting the ball off on a play that would've gone for about 40 yards. That doesn't mean that it wasn't a great play by the Giants to stop it, but there are going to be opportunities like that.

Vince Verhei: OK, I've had a few hours to reflect. I can speak reasonably about the Seahawks-Giants game now.

For Seattle: As Doug noted, there is something seriously wrong with the Seattle defense as a whole right now. The linebackers, who I've talked about as the best in the league, were horrible today. It wasn't just overpursuit; all three guys were missing a bunch of tackles. Julian Peterson, in particular, was just leaning his shoulder into guys, hitting them but not even trying to wrap up. He was checking them almost like a hockey player. The boom-and-bust pass rush was all bust today. Just ineffective four-man rush after ineffective four-man rush, with nary a blitz to be seen. And then there's the secondary, which is making a habit of leaving guys wide-open all the time. And it's almost entirely the same defense they fielded last year, so they should all be on the same page.

For New York: The Giants right now are better than they were at any point last year. Their power-running attack is very scary. In this age of nearly ubiquitous zone blocking, it's refreshing to see a team go with pulling guards so often. Eli appears to have taken the leap to, at least, perennial Pro Bowl candidate. I thought the defense would sink without Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora; I was so wrong. Before today, none of their wins particularly impressed me; I thought Washington lost more than New York won, the Rams are not an NFL team, and the Bengals took them to overtime at home. But combine all three of those wins with today's humbling and, well, you have the best team in the league right now.

Bill Barnwell: I think it's fairly simple to make various cases for the Giants being the best team in the league. Considering their upcoming schedule (at Cleveland and versus San Francisco), it also seems pretty easy to project them to a 7-0 record.

The Giants really do pull a guy on almost every play. Chris Snee is way better at it than Rich Seubert, who often ends up flailing at linebackers. But he still gets out there and runs interference, which is often enough. Ideally, the Giants would have a better left tackle and use the more athletic Diehl at left guard. It's hard to imagine that line being better at run blocking, but they could be.

Washington Redskins 23 at Philadelphia Eagles 17

Bill Barnwell: Joe Buck actually admitted that showing Ludacris and Mark Wahlberg in Jeffrey Lurie's box was a shameless plug for a FOX movie. I'm still not a fan, but it was admittedly a nice touch.

DeSean Jackson is fluid getting in and out of his cuts, but he's telegraphing his routes. There was a slant pattern where Jackson made a cut that could only result in a slant, and Carlos Rogers easily jumped it and dropped an interception.

There was a bloody umpire at the end of the first half in this game. I'm pretty sure that was a shot I drank last night.

Mike Tanier: Bloody Umpire -- Layer 1 oz. dark rum, then one shot light rum, then 2 oz. Cranberry Juice. Finish with an orange twist.

The Eagles offense has an amazing ability this year to come out like gangbusters on the first drive or two and then get bogged down for the rest of the game. They jumped out to 14-0 (with the help of a punt return touchdown) but have been goofing off with three-and-outs ever since. They also have an amazing knack for spotting opponents quick field goals or touchdowns before halftime.

Bill Barnwell: From Matt Mosley's column on ESPN:

I was intrigued by something Redskins cornerback Carlos Rogers told me immediately after the game. He said he marveled at the Eagles' first 15 plays of the game, but noticed that things grew stale after that. It's not as if he was trying to badmouth the Eagles, but I think it speaks to how Philadelphia's first drive looked dramatically different from the way it played the rest of the day.

"We'd never seen those plays they came out with," Rogers said. "I'm serious.
Those were great plays. But after that, I guess our coaching took over."

I'm not sure those are the comforting words Eagles fans were looking for.

Ned Macey: Since the 2006, the Eagles are 6-12 in games decided by seven points or less (7-13 if you count the playoffs). They are 1-7 in the last two years in games decided by four points or less. Maybe that's just a rotten streak of luck, but methinks the team has some issues that are leading to consistently underperforming their "true" ability.

Indianapolis Colts 31 at Houston Texans 27

Will Carroll: Sage Rosenfels? What? When did this happen?

Bill Barnwell: Matt Schaub is sick. He was in the hospital Saturday night.

Will Carroll: Marvin Harrison is taking hits today. Not sure what, if anything, that means.

Aaron Schatz: In the opening, they talked about Joseph Addai coming home to Houston. Wait a minute, Joseph Addai is from Houston? Where the hell did he get that thick Louisiana accent?

Here's a sign the Colts offense is still out of sync despite the improving health of the offensive line: There were a number of plays in this game where the Colts receiver caught the ball one yard short of the sticks. I don't remember that ever being a problem for the Colts in the past.

Aaron Schatz: Does anyone know if Reliant Stadium is known for having bad turf? Peyton Manning got sacked because he slipped while trying to move up in the pocket, and Marlin Jackson slipped while trying to cover Andre Johnson.

Will Carroll: Manning lay down on that sack because he saw that Mario Williams was about to behead him. With the roof off for 20-plus days, I can't think it would help the turf.

Aaron Schatz: To paraphrase Mark Twain, "The death of the Indianapolis run defense has been insufficiently exaggerated."

Will Carroll: Late in the game, you need to run the ball ... so you put in Ahman Green? Aside from the Sage Rosenfels Bonehead Diving Experience, Slaton's been running all over them. Gary Kubiak seemed to be thinking Green's veteran experience would allow him to hold onto the ball, not get a first down.

(Later, after multiple turnovers allow the Colts to win a game they had no business winning...)

It's the Tampa Bay game all over again!

Ned Macey: When Slaton ran in his second touchdown, CBS cut to Schaub, and Dan Dierdorf said something about how he was happy about the game. I said that he was likely depressed because he was going to be out of a job. Then, Rosenfels manages to turn the ball over three times in the final four-plus minutes. Wow. I agree with Will (about the analogies to the Tampa Bay game in 2003) except that thanks to Rosenfels, the Colts didn't need a bogus leaping penalty. They did, however, benefit from some odd decisions to let Rosenfels have the ball in his hands. Definitely a case of better to have rushed and lost than never rushed at all.

That said, this Colts team is EXTREMELY mediocre right now. The offense shows some flashes occasionally, but they were shut down for almost three straight quarters today. The offensive line is still not very good, and Marvin Harrison has lost a step. Manning isn't playing his best right now, so maybe it is something as simple as him returning to his near-perfect level, but for now, this looks like a 9-7 or 10-6 team.

I've been reading for weeks from all you guys about how Andre Johnson was struggling. He was dominant today until he got hit in the head. Let's just say this was not Marlin Jackson's best day.

Aaron Schatz: For most of the game, this looked like the Houston team that our projections thought would challenge for the playoffs. On offense, they ran all over the place. The good Andre Johnson was back in a big way. On defense, Mario Williams was all over Peyton Manning. Zach Diles was making a ton of good plays at linebacker, breaking through the line to stop Joseph Addai a couple times. Fred Bennett may have already worked his way to Bailey/Asomugha status, in part because of the (non) quality of the other Houston corners. I think I saw Manning throw to a receiver covered by Bennett in man coverage once all game -- a deep ball to Harrison that Manning had to overthrow because Bennett's coverage was very good.

The Colts scored with four minutes left to make it 27-17, but David Anderson recovered the onside kick, and this thing should have been over. By the time Audibles runs in the morning, everybody will have seen the succession of plays that blew this game for Houston, but it was an astonishing deluge of "non-predictive events." (I am not calling them bad luck, as many of them involved skill by the Colts and outright STUPIDITY by the Texans.)

Sage Rosenfels tries to run for a first down, fumbles, and it is recovered by the Colts, who return it for a touchdown. Remember, not only are fumble recoveries essentially random, but turnover returns for touchdowns are essentially random -- but Rosenfels should never have scrambled and fumbled it in the first place. On the next drive, the Colts sack Rosenfels on third-and-long, and he doesn't protect the ball. The Colts once again recover it, already in field-goal range.
They score. The Texans can come back with 1:47 left, but Rosenfels floats an interception, just a horribly thrown ball. Yuck. What a nightmare.

Tim Gerheim: The Texans meltdown was much more incomprehensible and intolerable in person, let me tell you. A few fans threw beer bottles onto the field after the mind-boggling Rosenfels dive-fumble-touchdown. I don't condone that, but like Chris Rock said about O.J., I understand. It was the second straight gut-wrenching job of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. It's almost like they found themselves against teams they could beat, and had to come up with ways to lose those games. Today's was infinitely more creative than last week's. People talk about players who know how to win, having a culture of winning, and the end of this game really exemplifies what happens when you don't. I think the mood in the stadium on the third-and-9 Rosenfels disaster play was, roughly, "God I hope they get a first down. Otherwise they have to give the ball back to the Colts, and between last week and the fact that these are the Colts, we'll definitely lose." Rosenfels made that crazy dive because he was trying to do too much because of that feeling. It's a Texans infection. I'm sure MDS, at least, knows exactly what I'm talking about.

There is no reason to think that Rosenfels was on the verge of getting Matt Schaub's job before the four-minute meltdown. Rosenfels was effective today, but he wasn't anything special, and he got a lot more help from his receivers than Schaub has been getting. Rosenfels made some dangerous throws today, but Andre Johnson in particular made him look good by making good (not spectacular, but good) catches. Johnson's touchdown in particular was an example of that. Johnson was covered, and the defender was slightly in front of him. Rosenfels threw the ball high, and Johnson reached forward and snatched the ball before the defender did. A better corner would have made that play, possibly for an interception, but Johnson was just a better player and better athlete on that play. But that doesn't mean Rosenfels didn't make a dangerous throw. I didn't see Rosenfels do anything today that made me think he should have gotten Schaub's job, particularly after how Schaub played last week. Rosenfels didn't throw the great deep balls that Schaub did last week, and frankly the previous week when Johnson dropped all those touchdowns. Rosenfels showed himself to be who we thought he was: one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL. Until he started channeling Tim Tebow and was reminded that he's no Tim Tebow.

Someone seemed to think Houston was playing Ahman Green instead of Slaton. First of all, Slaton was the starter and played at the goal line, so he was the No. 1 running back. But playing Green seemed to work very well. Slaton, for all that he has provided a spark this season, seemed to get 1 yard on most carries, and then got about 50 on that highlight reel carry. Whenever Green came in, he tended to run for about 8 yards on each carry. Slaton obviously has more upside, particularly long-term, but mixing in Ahman Green seems like a distinctly good idea.

Ned Macey: I watch fewer than five Texans games a year, so I'm not sure why I'm arguing with Tim, but I'll take a stab anyway.

Schaub, including last week's stellar performance, has been below replacement level for the season. Last year Rosenfels ranked seventh in DVOA, Schaub 17th. Rosenfels had his team up 27-10 and had very good numbers against a team that traditionally (although apparently not this year) is a very good pass defense. And while it is often (and probably in this case) a bogus stat, Schaub is 4-10 as Houston's starter. Rosenfels would have been 5-1 if he had just slid and let the team punt.

Maybe Tim's eyes just foretold what became obvious down the stretch. But I think if Houston had held on, a quarterback controversy would definitely be brewing.

Tim Gerheim: Ned, you may be right about Schaub. But Rosenfels has been around for a while, and he doesn't seem to have a lot of untapped potential. More precisely, there's no uncertainty about how good he can be. Schaub shows flashes of being better than that. Wasn't he the No. 1 quarterback in DYAR last week? Schaub's biggest problem in Houston has been an inability to stay on the field.

I'm not trying to say Rosenfels didn't do a good job. But he didn't do anything special. Being up 27-10 is a credit to the Texans offense and the Colts defense. It was a balanced offense, there was good line play, and good offensive play-calling. Similar things can be said about his 4-1 record last season. I'm not trying to take anything away from Rosenfels, because he played his part well today until Armageddon, but it's not as though Rosenfels put the offense on his back in this game. Now, I'm not sure Schaub could do that if he had to, but that's kind of the point. I'm pretty darn sure Rosenfels couldn't, because he's been around the league long enough that everybody knows that. The same is not true of Schaub, and I think that Schaub's best day is better than Rosenfels' best day.

And I promise this isn't all just reaction to the game-ending disaster. Sometime before the helicopter fumble, a guy sitting behind me said something about Schaub losing his job after today, and I immediately thought that was the dumbest thing I'd heard all day. Rosenfels had a good day because he's a smart player who knows the offense well enough to come in on very short notice, and that's a credit to him. But neither the game plan nor the Colts defense forced him, until the last-gasp drive down 31-27, to get out of his comfort zone and really be impressive. Also, I don't know if it's a fair comparison, but last week Schaub got a game-tying field goal on a two-minute drive at the end; this week Rosenfels got nowhere on a similar drive and then threw a heinous interception.

Buffalo Bills 17 at Arizona Cardinals 41

Mike Tanier: The Cardinals' secondary got burned on that Lee Evans touchdown, but wasn't bad in this game. Of course, they were awful against the Jets. J.P. Losman did what J.P. Losman does: He converted the bomb and ran for a touchdown, completed some swing passes, but held the ball forever in the pocket and provided no sequential offense. The Cardinals dominated time of possession.

New England Patriots 30 at San Francisco 49ers 21

Bill Moore: Hey, Ellis Hobbs: At least no one will boo you in this game. Both of J.T. O'Sullivan's first two touchdown passes have been against Hobbs' coverage.

If you're Jon Gruden and the Patriots call, what do you want for Jeff Garcia?

Aaron Schatz: Matt Cassel threw a roughly 70-yard bomb to Randy Moss. The Patriots' problems are just as much about defense, and the fact that the offensive line isn't protecting Cassel as well as it protected Brady a year ago.

Bill Barnwell: The problem isn't Cassel; it's that the secondary can't cover anything. Or that the pass rush isn't covering that fact up anymore.

Bill Moore: I actually wrote, "Although Cassel isn't completely the problem - the defense is." However, I deleted it before sending because that may be the exact reason they need a better quarterback. The defense can't keep the game close. The best was Randy Cross saying about the interception, "Well, I guess that's as good as a punt." Yeah, if they wanted to punt on first down!

Doug Farrar: Would Garcia fit that offense anyway? I've always been a big fan of his, but it would take him two throws to get the ball 70 yards downfield to Moss like Cassel did. He'd have to throw it 35, run downfield, pick it up, and throw it again.

Bill Moore: I haven't watched him much over the years. Does he have a Spaghetti arm?

Doug Farrar: A little stronger than that. Maybe a linguine arm. He's perfect in any derivation of the West Coast Offense because he's smart, knows the terminology, and he's mobile in the right way. But no, he isn't going to win any Punt, Pass & Kick competitions.

Of course, he wouldn't run right into his own offensive lineman as Cassel did with five minutes left in the first half to gift the 49ers with a sack.

Mike Tanier: Garcia would fit that Pats offense fine. He's the quarterback Cassel wants to be. If you have a pasta machine, set it to No. 12 for Garcia's arm. Pennington's is No. 10 (Spaghetti). Charlie Frye is No. 8 (Angel Hair).

Aaron Schatz: I will say, though, you want to know differences between Cassel and Brady -- Cassel really can't feel the pocket at all. He starts scrambling at the drop of a hat, and keeps running into his own guys when doing so.

Mike Tanier: Garcia feels the pocket but wants to bounce all around, where Brady (like Troy Aikman before him) takes three steps and is out of danger.

Bill Moore: The phrase, "The game slows down for him" will not be applied to Cassel. One can almost read his mind on blitz plays: Snap ... "First option covered. Second ... oh crap. Roll right! Oh crap! Abort! Abort! Time out! Can I call that mid-play?!? ... Ugh."

He's not playing a game in slow motion, but rather in fast-forward.

Aaron Schatz: Let's not just blame the defense. The offensive line gets great push on runs, but they have really gone downhill in pass protection. Billy Yates in particular is just killing them out there. The Pats need to get Stephen Neal healthy so Yates is out of the starting lineup, and they need to leave more backs and tight ends back in protection.

This Patriots game is like watching Rusher McFumbles against Rusher McNotFumbles. Can either of these guys actually stand tall in the pocket and deliver the ball when the first option is covered?

Mike Tanier: Part of the problem on offense is the scheme. I think the Pats and Josh McDaniels are still feeling their way with Cassel. In the second half they mixed the run and pass more, they started to re-integrate some of those screens to Welker and some of the other "junk" they ran last year.

On Kevin Faulk's touchdown, where did he start, on the 22-yard line? I have never seen a single setback so deep. Of course that was design: They wanted a veteran back deep so he could get a head of steam up and find his hole up the middle.

Vince Verhei: So after watching the Seahawks get scorched by the Plax-less Giants, and the Rams be the Rams all year, I saw J.P. Losman and Lee Evans hit an 87-yard touchdown against the Cardinals. I then decided that the 49ers had the best secondary in the NFC West by default. And then Randy Moss burned them for 66 yards. I have now decided that these are the four worst secondaries in football. Even when the 49ers do something right and get an interception, it just pins their own offense inside the 5.

As others have noted, the Pats' biggest weakness right now is pass protection -- both blocking and Cassel's pocket presence. They actually did a hell of a job lining up with two tight ends and running over San Francisco. They had 10 first downs on the ground.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13 at Denver Broncos 16

Russell Levine: Well, all the Garcia-to-the-Pats talk should probably wait. Brian Griese hurt his shoulder today on a double-corner blitz when Champ Bailey buried him.

Jeff Garcia came in, danced around a bit, and threw a bunch of four-yard passes. He led the Bucs on an interminable two-minute drive that ate up about six minutes.

Denver's offensive game plan was really outstanding today. They did not try to impose their will on the Bucs. They ran just enough that the Bucs barely mustered a pass rush all day (they may have been doing some max protect as well) and Jay Cutler spent the entire day looking away from Brandon Marshall and throwing bubble screens and dumpoffs to Brandon Stokley. They must have run the waggle play about eight times. They never really hit a big play, but they kept the Tampa defense on its heels the entire day. It was the ultimate take-what-the-defense-gives-you approach and it worked beautifully.

Of course, it might not have been so effective had Tampa Bay been able to muster any sustained offense. But they are so limited to threaten a defense downfield without Joey Galloway that Denver just teed off on the pass rush and didn't worry about any deep stuff. Griese missed a wide-open Jerramy Stevens in the end zone early. The Bucs never seriously threatened downfield all day.

I keep hearing about how Tampa Bay has such a good, young offensive line. Well, they are young. I'm not so sure about the other part. Every time I look up one of the quarterbacks is taking another kill shot. Garcia played less than a half and his jersey was so grass-stained he looked like he'd been sacked 10 times. Now, maybe that's because their receivers can't get any separation and the quarterbacks aren't able to throw in rhythm on all the three-step drops, but still, I just don't see it as any kind of dominating O-line. Elvis Dumervil ate up Jeremy Trueblood today.

Tampa Bay got within three points with two minutes left and had all three timeouts, so the Bucs did one of those "pooch it over the hands team" kicks and pinned Denver at the 15. So what does Mike Shanahan do? First down, five-step drop, Cutler hits the receiver for a first down and then they go into kill-the-clock mode. There just aren't many coaches that throw on first down there. Most are run, run, run, hope to get a first down and, if not, punt and play defense.

Mike Tanier: I thought the Bucs line was playing well in the first half. They run-block well and pass-block adequately until they are under duress.

Garcia danced and threw 4-yard passes. Mr. Bumbles stood still and threw 4-yard passes. Without Galloway, there is no one to get open deep, though they did take a shot or two to Antonio Bryant (I think it was Bryant). Really, they appeared to be playing turtle ball, hoping to exploit the Broncos' run defense and tendency to make defensive errors. It was odd to see the Broncos win a defense-and-field-position game after all the pinball games they have played this year.

Vince Verhei: Nice game plan there, Jon Gruden, mixing in a whopping 12 carries in the first half against 16 pass plays. And the rushing plays gained more yards, 94-54. Do you not watch film or scout opponents? Were you not aware of how wretched the Denver run defense is? Did you not even recognize the success you were having?

Jeff Garcia is king of the 7-minute, down-by-two-scores-in-the-second-half touchdown drive. Watching him operate against the Denver secondary was like hearing those stories of homes being torn down and rebuilt elsewhere one brick at a time.

Mike Tanier: It seemed like the Bucs were trying to establish the run early on. I think they ripped off some solid runs, but then they would go to the air and get stopped pretty quickly. Is the pass-run ratio polluted by the 2-minute drill? I remember them throwing a bunch of balls before half.

Cincinnati Bengals 22 at Dallas Cowboys 31

Bill Barnwell: The Bengals were moving the ball consistently, made it 17-16, and then recovered a surprise onside kick. Two plays later, Chris Perry fumbled, then Terrell Owens had a long touchdown two plays after that. No one will remember how close Cincinnati was to winning this game, but they were right there. Chris Perry's career as a starting NFL back is probably over.

Another Cincinnati touchdown and they go for two with a really weird play-call. T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Ocho Cinco on the right and instead they throw a fade to Ben Utecht on the left. Huh?

Mike Tanier: Jason Garrett heard the criticism and ran, ran, ran against the Bengals, and the Cowboys ran pretty well. Problem is, they tried to sit on a 17-point lead. I thought he was calling a good game but then I wondered when the Cowboys would throw a pass or two to the receivers. Somewhere between the Bengals game plan and the Redskins game plan is the one that wins the Super Bowl.

Benjy Rose: I can't believe the game was as close as it was. What the hell happened to Dallas after the first quarter? They were doing everything right, the Bengals looked Bungle-y, and all hope was lost in Ohio. Then, well, I don't know. Tony Romo stopped hitting those Favre-esque off-the-back-foot-sidearm-15-yard-slants-in-stride to Jason Witten or Patrick Crayton, Marion Barber stopped hitting holes, and the Bengals realized that maybe they should start pretending they're a real NFL team. I don't know.

This is the first Bengals game I've seen this year, and Carson Palmer looked terrible out there. Is he hurt? His throws had none of the zip I remember seeing, and he made Jeff Garcia look like Drew Bledsoe in the pocket. He looks skeerd.

Vince Verhei: For most of this game, Dallas wide receivers had exactly one catch, combined. They finished with three, including Terrell Owens' 57-yard touchdown that gave Dallas some needed breathing room. Through three quarters, Tony Romo was just 10-0f-19 for only 90 yards. Then he hit a pair of big plays in the fourth quarter to put the Bengals away, after keeping them in the game with incompletions and interceptions all night. Just a bad day for him. And it wasn't due to pressure. On his first touchdown, in particular, he just dropped back to around the 15-yard line and set up camp. Had a marshmallow roast. Told a ghost story. And then threw a touchdown to Jason Witten.

Adam Jones was covering Chad Ocho Cinco all game. I'd say he dominated, but really, three catches for 43 yards is a typical game for Chad these days.

Mike Tanier: Ray Rhodes used to say you gotta put big on big. In this case, you have to put jerk on jerk.

Pittsburgh Steelers 26 at Jacksonville Jaguars 21

Vince Verhei: I only saw highlights of this game on NFL Gameday while putting Audibles together, but I wanted to mention the slick, slick route Nate Washington used to beat William James on his 48-yard touchdown. Washington started running right at James, then started to slow down with each step, lulling James to sleep. As soon as James stopped his momentum and stepped up, Washington shot forward, going nearly full speed on his first step, and glided right on by, not stopping until he had the ball in the end zone. A beautiful combination of technique, timing and athleticism. God, I love football.


118 comments, Last at 10 Oct 2008, 4:53pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Something else about Steeler Nate Washington's td: Roethlisberger pump faked to the curl/whatever that would have been, also contributing to the fake-out.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Yeah, once they came back from commercial, Madden had the film all ready to point out the synchronicity of the stop and the pump fake. It was a really elegantly designed play, and fine example of commentators failing to detract from the game.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Wow, until Vince's comment, I didn't actually know that the Pats were playing the niners based on your commentary. Is there nothing interesting at all going on in San Fran? Should we bring TO back to get some copy?

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

No kidding. I'm not sure why I bother reading this site. Even when the Niners are playing the hosts fav team (the Pats) they get no play, at all.

There is plenty to comment on when it comes to the Niners as well.

3 Carolina vs. Kansas City

1.) Either Damon Huard was playing sick/hurt or he really is as bad as we thought he was.
2.) DeAngelo Williams looks great when nobody is available to tackle him.
3.) If Hackett is out, will Jarrett finally get a chance next week at Tampa Bay?

And today's out of context stat:

4.) Larry Johnson is averaging 100 yards a game over the last two games!!!!!!!!!!111eleventy

4 Discretion

Considering their upcoming schedule (at Cleveland and versus San Francisco), it also seems pretty easy to project them to a 7-0 record.

Barnwell, you fool - SHUT THE HECK UP!!!

43 Re: Discretion

In reply to by Independent George

He should shut the heck up, but mostly because the Giants are now 4-0, and 4 + 2 = 6, not 7.

While I'm here, I know that this is just "Audibles" and all, but Benjy asking "Is Carson Palmer hurt????" a week after Palmer missed a game due to injury doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in the writer's knowledge.

Then -- and not to pick on poor Benjy again, but here goes anyway -- at the top of the article he is complaining about Jim Nantz and Phil Simms' ignorance. Generally that would be fine, but those two were in Dallas for the Bengal game. They work for CBS. They would not be at an intra-conference NFC game between the Falcons and the Packers, because that game belongs to Fox, not to CBS. Many people that follow football would know these things.

Finally, thanks a bunch to everyone for the Cris Carter report. I don't watch pre-game shows because they generally are a waste of time, but now I have to read about them on the "innovative" and "intelligent" football website?

45 Re: Discretion

In reply to by Nitpick-6 (not verified)

but now I have to read about them on the "innovative" and "intelligent" football website?

No, you choose to read about them on the "innovative" and "intelligent" football website.

(Since we're picking nits)

62 Re: Discretion

In reply to by Nitpick-6 (not verified)

I'm not sure what you're getting at, but while 4 + 2 = 6, the Giants won four playoff games last year (Tampa Bay, Dallas, Green Bay, and New England), and have won four games this year. 4 + 4 = 8, which is what I said, not seven. But hey, many people that follow football would know these things.

63 Re: Discretion

In reply to by Bill Barnwell

What he meant was that to get to 7-0 on the season, the Giants would need to win their next 3 games, not just their next 2.

75 Re: Discretion

In reply to by Travis

And the seventh game is Pittsburgh on the road.

What I'm saying is to please stop projecting the Giants to be anything other than 1-0 in the coming weeks.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

What is it with the announcers/commentators/networks/etc. deciding that "A penalty has been called" doesn't mean we need to know the penalty, but rather means "We have a free 30 seconds to talk about meaningless crap/throw in a promo/go to the sideline"?

I know it's been happening more often lately, but this weekend was terrible for it - a number of times this weekend I saw a flag fly, the announcers pointed out that a flag had been thrown, and then they started talking about, well, whatever - sometimes the play that just happened, sometimes a player on the sideline, sometimes the weather, sometimes the New "Hit" Show On Our Network, whatever.

And while this is going on, and as they keep talking, you can hear in the background a referee giving the announcement of the penalty over the stadium loudspeaker, but you can't really hear what he's saying. Then, suddenly, the action goes back to the field, sometimes with a penalty having been marked off, and play resumes. Half the time, the announcers don't even bother to say "The penalty was (whatever) against (soandso)." They just let play resume, and it's now 2nd and 20 instead of 3rd and 2, and I have to assume that the referees called holding. And sometimes the penalty is declined and they don't even bother to say anything at all.

Look guys, I understand you have to promote crappy dramas and sitcoms on the various networks you're on, and you hate that. I understand you have to indulge a useless sideline reporter. I understand the networks want "Inane banter" between the commentators during the game. I know all these things are required. But, please, networks, at least let me see what the hell is happening on the field whenever something's happening. You can let the announcers do their banter, while putting a camera pointing at the referee, so I can at least see a "Holding" or "Roughing the passer" or whatever hand signal, and a direction he's pointing.

Please. Please!

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Man, not one comment for the Panthers' shutout of the Chiefs. I'm sure this happens, I just don't recall it ever occurring for Carolina before. Anywya, Williams ran wild, the defense killed a horrible team... this will undoubtedly help the DVOA considerably.

17 Carolina vs. KC

I don't know if it will help that much when the opponent adjustment is added in...It's not like the Panthers shut out the Giants or anything.

7 "None of the Giants halfbacks are great pass blockers"

I think Jacobs is one of the better ones out there. Bradshaw was criminally bad last year, but he seems to be getting better.

There are two other factors in NY's rushing success that should get more attention. Madison Hedgecock (another great waiver-wire find ala Hixon) is just a phenomenal blocker and deserves Pro Bowl consideration. Kevin Boss looked completely lost in the first preseason game, but he deserves credit for becoming a respectable run blocker.

19 Re: "None of the Giants halfbacks are great pass blockers"

Jacobs usually flattens any blitzers he picks up simply by being so huge. But he also doen't always make the correct read. When they play blitz-heavy teams, you'll usually see him give up an occasional hurry or sack because he helped outside when the rush came inside (or vice-versa). At that aspect of the game, I'd call him good, but not great.


William James (ne Peterson) was unbelievably atrocious for the Jaguars on SNF. It took JAX the better part of the first half to get him on the bench, by which point he'd already been roasted for a couple scores and other big plays.

Also on SNF, kudos to John Of The River for finally figuring out how to use timeouts. I've ripped on him before for being stupid about this, and it's nice to see progress. The one before the 2MW when the Steelers had the ball was something many coaches don't do but should.

55 Re: JAX-PIT

In reply to by Tom Gower

I thought Al Michaels saying you just have to run it here, when the Steelers were on the Jacksonville 8 right before Del Rio got smart and used the TO to stop before the two minute warning was priceless. The fact that they proceeded to throw because it really doesn't matter what you do the clock is goingt to stop anyway was really the first time I haven't sworn at Bruce Arians. Baby steps.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

That roughing the passer penalty against the Steelers late in the game, was one of the worst calls I've seen all year.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Agreed, and it wasn't just that call (though that one was particularly bad) --- that crew had a horrible game all the way through. The one that I still can't figure out was the delay-of-game before the Steelers' 2-point try after the go-ahead TD. There's a (totally unnecessary) booth review of Ward's TD catch, then about 8 seconds after Winters announces that the call on the field stands, the play clock goes to 0 and he throws the flag. Roethlisberger and Tomlin are looking around like "You gotta be kidding me," and I was sure they'd figure out that the timekeeper messed up and pick up the flag, but they never did. Pittsburgh then misses the attempt from the 7. If JAX had come down and scored, that call would have been the difference between the a possible tie game and the Steelers losing. For everyone's sake, I'm glad it didn't.

Unrelated point: It's days like this when I really miss MDS. His take on the Bears/Lions game would have made my morning.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

The RTP call wasn't a good one, but I suspect the delay call was a good one-the clock there only goes to 25, instead of I believe 40 on a normal PAT, and you could see on replay the Steelers were lined up with :08 on the clock.

I also disagree that the replay of the Ward TD was unnecessary-he was clearly juggling the ball when he initially came down with it, and if he doesn't drag his foot, I think it gets overturned. Nice play by him-too many receivers have lazy feet in that situation, but he didn't.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

True, but they've blown out St. Louis and Seattle (Remember blowing out inferior competition is a better indicator of post-season success than winning close games against tough competition) and beat a Redskins team that has beat both Philly and Dallas. If the NFC East is truly the best division in the NFL, the Giants have a good claim at being the best NFC East team.

As one of the FO writers said above, they are clearly better than they were last year. Their run game is phenomenal (Seahawks were the #2 rush defense I believe), the pass game was good even without Burress, and the defense is one of the leagues best. As long as MAnning continues to play efficiently the Giants will be a top team.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

"Claims that the Giants are the best team in the league belong squarely in the category "Facts Not In Evidence"."

Horsepucky. They may or may not be the best in football, but there are plenty of bits of supporting evidence, including:

1) Defending Super Bowl champions,
2) One of two teams who are undefeated at this point,
3) Were second in total DVOA heading into this week's games, wherein:
-- They had a STOMP which will probably help their total DVOA
-- The team in front of them (Baltimore) lost a tough game
-- One of the teams they beat (Washington) had a very impressive win which will make the opponent adjustments better
-- Another of the teams they beat (Cincy) had a decent game which will again help their opponent adjustments.
4) Were second in "DAVE" heading into this week's games, wherein:
-- They had a STOMP which will probably help their total DVOA
-- The team in front of them (Philly) lost a tough game
-- One of the teams they beat (Washington) had a very impressive win which will make the opponent adjustments better
-- Another of the teams they beat (Cincy) had a decent game which will again help their opponent adjustments.
-- DAVE was holding the Giants down some due to their mediocre pre-season rating, which drops in weight again this week.

Now, you may be one who does not believe in FO's metrics (which 3 and 4 above reference). That is fine, but it does not mean that the facts are not in evidence, merely that you do not believe in them. But there is mounting evidence that the Giants belong in the discussion right now as the best current team.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I love... LOVE... how Giants fans are cheering for the Redskins. Why? Every Redskins win makes the Giants "look" better, to let them say that they beat a good team on their creampuff so far schedule (see link to Sagarin NFL rankings, which show Giants having #32 schedule and 'Skins #1). The flaw? The Redskins were simply not ready in game 1, and everyone now knows it.

Face it, Giants fans. Your team might be good, but nobody cares yet because they have not played a real game this season -- 3/4 of their games were at home! -- and they barely beat the Bungles. The Redskins actually are good, because they've beaten four decent teams with a combined record of 11-4 against everyone else. The Giants' three non-Redskins opponents are 1-9! You've beaten some bad teams, so no one is impressed.

From a DVOA standpoint, I would imagine that an opponent adjustment up for the Redskins game will get yanked down with opponent adjustments for the Rams, Bengals and Seahawks, as we truly find out how bad those teams are.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

"I love... LOVE... how Giants fans are cheering for the Redskins. "

They were playing the Eagles, and last week the Cowboys. Is it really hard to imagine a Giants fan hoping the team that they currently have a tie-breaker on beats other division rivals?

As for the 'nobody cares' point-- I'll see it and return it to you. Who cares if the Giants are considered by you or anyone to be the best team in the NFL? They are the defending Super Bowl champions. No matter how much you want to argue that they aren't that good, they will remain Super Bowl champions until, at least, the Super Bowl is played this year. Believe me, that's more than enough to keep us fans happy.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Slight correction: My theory is that a team stops being the defending Super Bowl champions when they are eliminated, which is usually before the Super Bowl is played. After all, you can't defend your title once you're eliminated.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

besides, statistics show (Sample of 2), that the year after the Giant's win the superbowl, the Redskins have a very high probability of following it up with a Super Bowl win


46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5


I looked at your site. Unless I am missing something (always possible), in your college rankings you have LSU at 37, behind Oregon State, Tulsa, Ball State, Notre Dame and Navy. The system needs a bit of tweaking, I think.

As for all the talk about the best team of the NFL, of course it is premature. Nobody has played enough games yet to tell how good everyone is (for example, I think the Bengals are a lot better than their record, and the Cowboys win over the Eagles is beginning to look less impressive), the ball takes a lot of funny bounces over the season, and nobody knows how the injury bug will bite. But as long as we are going to talk about it, with their SB win and their performance on the field so far, the G-men deserve to be part of the conversation.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I don't think the Bengals are nearly as bad as their record. In fact, I'm not convinced they're even a bad team at all. They played DAL, NY, and BAL on the road. Palmer was out for the Browns game and clearly not 100% against DAL. They also hosted the undefeated Titans at home in 40 mph winds - the only game they weren't competitive in (and they took DAL and NYG to the wire).

And everyone seems to be excusing the Redskins for Week One, saying they weren't ready or whatever. But did they really figure out the whole offense in 6 days? Isn't it possible the Giants' D simply dominated the game like they dominated the greatest offense of all time a few months ago? And what about on the other side of the ball? The G-Men rushed for 154 yards against WAS and had 21 first downs. I wouldn't go poo-poohing that contest just yet.

It is way too early to say who the best team is, but power ranking are whatever are more about momentum and who looks good. But when the defending SB champs start the season 4-0 and outscore their opponents 126-49, it's hard to argue with them being the #1 team at the moment.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

RE: LSU's rankings

I should've made it more clear that the NCAA rankings are (more) experimental than the NFL rankings. In my method, a team's ranking is a combination of the game result and their opponents' rankings. LSU has played Appalachian State (#142), North Texas (#160), Auburn (#55), and Mississippi State (#100). They aren't ranked higher because they just haven't played a good team yet (I suppose you could argue about Auburn, but they have similar issues).

If LSU wins on the road at Florida this week (especially if they win big), they should move up significantly.

I have a blog where I post objective power rankings of NFL teams.

14 DAL - CIN

Did anyone else notice that on the T.O. touchdown, both of Dallas' tackles were moving a good half-second before the snap? How does that not get called? Miniscule flinches get called for false starts; on this play both tackles cheated. I saw it in real-time and complained loudly, then confirmed it with TiVo.

I was also watching the Bucs-Broncos so I don't know what bad calls went against Dallas, but I suspect this game should have been even closer.

What's with the massive amounts of love for Dallas by every announcing crew who covers them? I understand it somewhat with FOX and Aikman, but CBS too goes with the assumption that Dallas is going to win on every play of every game and it is frustrsting as hell. This game never should have been nationally televised.

[/Redskins homerism]

36 Re: DAL - CIN

In reply to by Mountain Time …

Seriously, I just watched that play for about 5 minutes straight and did not see how the tackles moved at all before the snap, never mind "a good half second".

72 Re: DAL - CIN

In reply to by Temo

Perhaps it was the Crayton one then. On one of Dallas' TD passes it was quite flagrant--the RT was standing up and the LT had taken a step with his left foot by the time the center began the snap. And despite my sig, I still try to watch games as objectively as possible.

[/Redskins homerism]

98 Re: DAL - CIN

In reply to by Mountain Time …

I'm saying you're biased on the play (thought I think you were in your media assessment, but that's beside the fact)... I just didn't see the penalty on the Owens play.

And I don't see it on the Crayton catch either. I'll post screen caps when I get home if I need to, but I just don't see it.

108 Re: DAL - CIN

In reply to by Temo

After review, I was talking about the Crayton TD. It's also not as bad as I remember, but the LT did take half a step before the ball was snapped.

[/Redskins homerism]

11 Green Bay Defense

"Green Bay got very little pressure on Ryan ... which very well could have
been large factors in the previous item. Their front four didn't get in the backfield, and they didn't blitz that much. This seems like a huge tactical error on the defensive coordinator's part. How to best deal with a rookie quarterback? Pressure!"

Benjy Rose, meet Bob Sanders.

15 Re: Green Bay Defense

I hope very much that the Bears' coaching staff does not make that same mistake next week. Given how they treated Kitna and Orlovsky yesterday, it would seem unlikely, but one never knows.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Everybody -- on ESPN, NFL network, Mike & Mike, even Football Outsiders -- is suddenly in a huge rush to anoint the Giants "the best team in football." This seems to me less evidence that the Giants are "the best team" and more evidence that, five weeks into the season, national football commenters are overly eager to make strong declarative statements about "best teams."

As Dave In Tuscson says, we just don't know how good New York is because their schedule has been so weak. The Giants' last three wins came against the winless Bengals, the winless Rams, and a team whose only victory was against the winless Rams. The other win against the Redskins may have been an impressive demolition of a good team, or, equally plausibly, a win over a team that hadn't figured itself out yet, in a week that Bill Belichick has observed is by far the most meaningless of the NFL season.

After Cleveland and SF, the Giants have a brutal 9-week stretch where they play 5 division games, 3 on the road, Pittsburgh, Carolina, Arizona, and Baltimore. No byes, no patsies. Even if they start out 6-0, I wouldn't be at all surprised to seem them head into the final week at 9-6.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I don't think the Pats OL was pass protecting terribly, its just that the biggest difference (if not the only) between Brady and Cassel is pocket presence. More than once he ran into the back of his own blocker when a pocket was still formed and he wasn't in any real danger. Several times he gave up on looking down field and just bounced around for a second or two before being tackled by a rushers who were still blocked when he panicked. Except for a small handful of times he had plenty of time, its just the alarm in his head said "OMG Panic!" instead of "Times short, better get this out"


Surprised not to see any comments on this game. As a Titans fan, this felt like a loss for about 58 minutes, all the way up until Collins hit Crumpler in the end zone for the go-ahead TD (I wasn't hugely worried about Flacco leading a comeback drive). Thoughts:
--This game should finish off any thoughts that White is still the #1 back in TEN. 18 carries for CJ, 3 for White.
--Collins is going to get an awful lot of praise for this game (see MMQB), and there's something to be said for the resiliency of a veteran QB, but his limitations were more apparent this game than they have been in any other game the past 2 years. 2 INTs, a third called back for a penalty, and two of the three were just AWFUL throws right to the defender (third was a ball tipped at the line).
--I wouldn't be surprised at all to see BAL a clear winner in DVOA for this game-TEN only had 3 drives of 25+ yards, resulting in 10 points and an INT, while BAL had 6. TEN also got 3 points out of 3 drives that started in BAL territory, though the last was just clock killing at the end of the game.
--TEN's aggressive D went a little beyond the edge at times, and got deservedly flagged for it. The Finnegan-Bulluck shouting match and push was part of this, and came on BAL's TD drive when the Titans were getting beat physically.
--Flacco's a rookie, clearly so. Rolling to his right was an awful experience for him, as others have written about. Nice arm. I would have liked to see the TEN D challenge him more, but I guess they were more concerned with the run game and big play prevention.
--I still can't believe how much Bo Scaife is involved in the offense, and how effective he's been. I thought he and Crumpler would be 1B and 1A, respectively, but Bo's clearly the #1 and has looked better than at any point in his whole Titans career.

24 Re: Ravens/Titans

Who'd want to see a close game between the two best teams in the AFC?

I think the Ravens did slightly outplay the Titans on offense and defense, but maybe special teams would render DVOA a wash for the game.

Every time Flacco roles out to his right he apparently loses sight of every defender in pass coverage. He had a third INT that was overturned by replay. Not good, but hopefully its correctable.

The only two games I watched were BAL/TEN and JAC/PIT. Did anyone else watching other games notice an abnormal amount of 15 yard penalties? After the Hochuli incident I'd think Godell would made it a point of emphasis for the refs not to have a huge impact on the outcome of the games, but whatever. I think there were an equal amount of absurd penalties for each team, but of course the Ravens will gripe because of the roughing call on Suggs on the game winning drive of the Titans occured at the end of the game.

33 Re: Penalties

In reply to by jonnyblazin

You could also make the case that after the hit on Boldin, Goodell has reminded the officials to ensure they penalize anything that looks like a personal foul ...

I don't think there was a league-wide increase in enforcement. I think you just ended up watching the two games this week where the announcers were most likely to see "These teams just don't like each other." The Dallas-Cincinnati game was the only other one where the penalties enforced were near the total in the other two games, but of course that won't count any offsetting penalties.

65 Re: Ravens/Titans

The roughing call on Suggs was an awful call. An otherwise 3rd down stop by the Ravens becomes a conversion for the Titans on the game-winning drive.

The Titans still had to make a number of plays to score and left Baltimore with time on the clock (by comparison, far less plays than Denver had to make versus San Diego in Week 2 after the blown call). Late game officiating errors often draw greater criticism since a more direct causation link to the game's result can be drawn.

25 Bears/Lions

You guys made a good call not watching this game. I'm a Bears fan and I was flipping it to the NLDS game and the Colts/Houston game instead. When Lovie calls for a challenge on a play that nets him basically nothing by winning the challenge other than getting his receiver and QB the stat credit for a catch (Booker made an awesome catch, ruled incomplete, but there was a DPI call on the play), you know he's pretty much considering the game over already, and this was in the middle of the 3rd quarter.

Neckbeard threw for over 300 yards with ease despite the Bears collection of #3 and #4 receivers (but good TEs). I don't think you can understate how bad Detroit's defense is.

35 Re: Bears/Lions

In reply to by Yinka Double Dare

The funny thing about that call was that we had no idea what was going on (we'd missed the fact they'd called it incomplete) - we were watching it in a bar and the Colts game was the audio - so all of a sudden, the ball's at the 6 and we're thinking "what?"

It was a great catch, by the way.

That game was simply a reminder that it'll take more than one day's work to scrub the touch of Millen from this franchise. I take great exception to the comment that the four worst secondaries are in the NFC West: I would put Detroit's up against any of those. (Exhibit A: Detroit vs. Atlanta.)

This very well could be the worst Lions team this decade, possibly in my lifetime: the '79 Lions were pretty bad as well, but Billy Sims quickly erased memories of that team. I don't see a similar turnaround in '09.

I think they have to keep Marinelli through the end of the season. I would bet the new GM will want his own guy running the show, but you can't cut Marinelli loose now. Who's going to coach the team? Colletto? Barry? It'll be hard enough to get an experienced coach to come in and clean up this mess next season. I can't see someone doing it now.

40 Re: Bears/Lions

In reply to by zlionsfan

I could see a GM keeping Marinelli for a year or two, to take the blame for losing early. Luckily, I would think the next GM would have a lot of fan patience as long as he doesn't draft the same position in the 1st round in back to back years, or any receivers.

As for the next coach, what about Denny Green? He has experience helping terrible teams to become mediocre, and he's bound to increase fan interest at least for the press conferences.h

87 Re: Bears/Lions

In reply to by zlionsfan

As Esar said, I'm pretty sure the catch was worth about 5 more yards than the DPI call. But again, it's the kind of call you're only comfortable making when you're up by 30 and very certain that the other team's not coming back.

I agree with you about the Lions. This was the first week I saw them, but they just looked awful. Roy Williams, in particular, had a huge case of the dropsies--he probably killed 3 or 4 drives on his own, not counting the interception (which was only partially his fault). I remember him being a dominant player who kept up a sense of professionalism, but it wasn't there today.

The funny thing is I saw someone later (Peter King?) talking about how the Cowboys were looking into trading for Williams, and I thought, after today, why? Certainly he doesn't seem to be worth anything now.

But in general, the team didn't really seem to care. I kind of got the impression that maybe the players, most of whom were brought in for the Martz offense, weren't interested in the current offense...does that make any sense, or am I seeing things?

96 Re: Bears/Lions

I completely missed the game, but I had already mentally inserted that exact comment that you made re: NFC West rebuttal.

This move to California is going to kill me without Sunday Ticket.

54 Re: Bears/Lions

In reply to by Yinka Double Dare

It may well have been a horrible challenge, but it looked like the PI call was at the 6 yard line (they didn't give a good shot of the spot that i saw). After the catch and roll by Booker the ball was at the 1.5 yard line, so I think they got 4 extra yards plus the stats for Orton and Booker.

97 Re: Bears/Lions

In reply to by Yinka Double Dare

"I don't think you can understate how bad Detroit's defense is."

That's true, but what makes it even worse is that you can say the same thing about the Lions' offense. That was a pitiful performance in all phases by Detroit.

I, too, would have loved to see MDS' commentary on this game. I'm sure he would have had something funny to say about the sequence where the Bears were ruled to have recovered a fumble at around the Lions' 15 yard line, the fumble ruling was overturned after a challenge by the Lions, and on the next play, Dan Orlovsky threw a pass high and behind Roy Williams that bounced off his hands into the arms of the Bears' Charles Tillman for an easy pick six. I laughed out loud when that happened.

I can't wait to see the Lions on Thanksgiving. The big question for Lions fans attending that game may be, "Paper or Plastic?"

29 on with the body (clock) count

Two more zombie-like performances from west coast clubs forced to play at 10 a.m. body time. Coaches need to re-evaluate how they handle these situations (or the NFL should be more fair with scheduling, have more late games in these instances).

Mike Greenberg defended his Super Bowl pick of Minnesota this morning, pointing out that they "run the ball and stop the run" and suggesting that a team should be good on that alone. Old conventional wisdom dies hard, no matter how obviously wrong it might be.

26 Hines' TD

Nice play by him-too many receivers have lazy feet in that situation, but he didn't.

Hines doesn't have a lazy bone in his body.

92 Re: Hines' TD

In reply to by IsraelP (not verified)

I've got a Hines Ward question. Why does he think so highly of himself every time he "jacks-up" a defensive player? Laying out an unsuspecting player who's not even looking when the play is basically over is about the lamest thing to celebrate that I can think of. Its like the guy in a bar fight who stands in the shadows until the fight is almost over, then suddenly cold-cocks a poor sap who is not even looking or engaged in the fight. And to top is all off, he celebrates like he just won the Super Bowl.

And Hines does this with such regularity that its sickening. Its a shame he feels the need to be such an a-hole.

27 Re: Broadcasters

Benjy, it was Ron Pitts and Tony Boselli on the Packers/Falcons game. The home/road comparisons were dumb - not only the opponent adjustments, but the fact that it's week five - but nothing compared with:

- Rodgers guns a TD through traffic to Jennings. How do the commentators describe it? "Favre-like."
- Rodgers holds his shoulder after throwing a pass under pressure. Playing through pain is reported as "Favre-like".
- Rodgers throws a shovel pass to Donald Lee for a TD. The commentators are reminded of a certain number four.
- Rodgers throws a bad pick to end the game. The verdict? "Inexperience."

48 Re: Broadcasters

Rodgers throws a bad pick to end the game. The verdict? "Inexperience."

When obviously, it was because he's a gunslinger who's just having fun out there.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Tim's assessment of the Houston QB Situation, re: Schaub's upside and the known quantity that is Sage Rosenfels, is actually exactly how I feel about the Browns QB situation. Of course, the caveat there is that Derek Anderson is a less-valuable known quantity but it can be said with confidence at this point that DA doesn't have any undiscovered upside. Brady Quinn, on the other hand, is a completely unknown quantity as well as being a first round draft pick with four years of high-level college competition.

That being said, the Browns are going to stick with Derek "12 of 29" Anderson. Can't wait for next Monday night.

30 Underachieving Eagles

The Eagles are the David Bush of the NFL. Great in the peripherals, tremendous if you look under the hood - but the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

I love Andy Reid Monday to Saturday. He's one of the worst strategic coaches on game day (or someone on his staff is; it's hard to tell sometimes where the decisions are coming from).

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I can't believe no one else has noted the horrible call on Khary Campbell on the Eagles' punt return TD. The Eagles' #50 blocked the 'Skins' #50 in the back, and the officials decided it wasn't a penalty against the Eagles? And hey, Tanier! How does it feel to be beaten by a team with 'no offensive firepower'? Quit making excuses for the Eagles being outplayed.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Well, the block didn't really have much bearing on the return, though you're right that they bungled the call. The weird thing is that later on in the game, they threw a flag on a Redskins return for a block in the back against Campbell, then picked it up for the same reason, saying they accidentally threw it against the kicking team. Of course, they didn't show a replay, so I don't know if they got that one right or not.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Well, the block didn't really have much bearing on the return, though you're right that they bungled the call. The weird thing is that later on in the game, they threw a flag on a Redskins return for a block in the back against Campbell, then picked it up for the same reason, saying they accidentally threw it against the kicking team. Of course, they didn't show a replay, so I don't know if they got that one right or not.

38 Slaton v. Green

"Slaton, for all that he has provided a spark this season, seemed to get 1 yard on most carries, and then got about 50 on that highlight reel carry. Whenever Green came in, he tended to run for about 8 yards on each carry. Slaton obviously has more upside, particularly long-term, but mixing in Ahman Green seems like a distinctly good idea."

Two backs' carries yesterday:

RB A: -1, 2, 1, 5, 7, 9, 6, 4, 8, -1, 6, 3, 1 = 50 yds, 13 carries
RB B: 6, 7, 3, 1, 1, 7, 1, 9, 9, 1, 1, 1 = 47 yards, 12 carries

I didn't see any down-and-distance difference between their attempts, but closer inspection might reveal one. I'd say those backs are practically identical in their frequency of short/poor runs and decent/good gains. The main difference is perhaps that RB A started slowly then picked up while RB B started with a couple of nice runs then tailed off.

RB A is Slaton's day yesterday, excluding two 1 yard carries from the 1 yardline (i.e. as good as he could do) and his 41 yard run. RB B is Green. I think it's good that HOU give Green or another back some carries to keep from wearing Slaton out but there is no evidence from yesterday's game that Green "tended to run for about 8 yards on each carry" while Slaton was a boom-or-bust 1 or 50 yard RB.

I know this is just an "Audible" so there is some latitude in perceptions vs. facts, but this one bugged me a little.

118 Re: Slaton v. Green

In reply to by mrh (not verified)

I'm glad you called that out, bugged me too. I was watching this game closely because 1) as a Texans fan I love the frisson of a win suddenly turned into a loss 2) Slaton was starting for my FF team. I thought the combo of the two was great. The Texans running game seems like the least of their worries.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Well according to the graphics the Dolphins ran the wildcat 11 time for 49 yards and 1 TD. I guess we'll know more next week when the Dolphins could possibly be favored on the road against a dangerous Texans team.

LT averaged only 2.9 yrds a carry and is down to 3.7 for the year. That might explain why he was not used more. He basically laid an egg on 4th and 1. His lack of explosiveness certainly has to be a concern for the Chargers.

41 Colts-Texans

The Colts get a gift narative is being overplayed. They benefited from some poor decisions by the Texans, but they won themselves that game.

The comeback started not with Rosenfels turning the ball over, it started with the Colts driving 80 yards for a TD. Rosenfels tried to do to much, but the Colts made him cough that one up. Non-predictive instead of lucky is completely right.

The Colts then stopped the Texans on 1st and second down to keep them from running out the clock. Then on third down Robert Mathis beat his man with a spin, chased Rosefels down from behind then lunged through the air to knock the ball out of Sage's hands at the last second. The Colts went 20 yards for the out ahead TD. The last turnover by Sage wasn't non predictive or lucky.

Sage had to drive 80 yards in two minutes against the Colts D that was allowed to do what it does best, sit back in coverage while the DL pins it's ears back and goes for the QB. There isn't a harder D to face when you have to pass. In the 2006 playoffs Tom Brady failed in the exact situation Sage Rosenfels was up against. To expect Sage to make that comeback and blame him for it's failure is ridiculous.

44 Re: Colts-Texans

In reply to by shake n bake

The Colts made Rosenfels dive head first into two defenders?

Also, forcing the fumbles wasn't necessarily lucky, but recovering both was.

51 Re: Colts-Texans

The Colts forced three Rosenfels fumbles. (One was recovered by Duane Brown after Dwight Freeney beat him and forced the fumble.) In all three cases, the Colts' players deliberately went for the strip while there were a lot of Colts defenders around, so recovering 2/3 of those fumbles isn't really especially lucky.

I agree that the Texans handed the game to the Colts, but that doesn't mean the Colts deserved a loss. You expect a 0-4 team to hand you the game several times, and if you're good enough to take it, you deserve to beat 'em. Sure, I hope for a whole lot better from the Colts, but while Ugoh and Sanders aren't playing, I'll take what I can get.

53 Re: Colts-Texans

In reply to by tuluse

They forced 3 fumbles (Freeney had a strip sack earlier in the game), they recovered two. That's far from unusual fumble luck.

82 Re: Colts-Texans

In reply to by shake n bake

It's not that the fumble luck was unusual, it was that Sage Rosenfels is an idiot. The Colts forced the fumble, but only because Sage decided to go airborne. They forced the second fumble because Sage didn't just enter the fetal position and secure the football. The first is especially egregious. He could have dove low, slid, kept two hands on the ball, etc. That's why the Texans lost the game rather than the Colts winning it.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I have been coming here a long time, and know all the caveats about "we only watch the games we want to watch" But no one on the entire Audibles wanted to watch the best two teams in the AFC duke it out in a classic defense heavy grudge match? That was probably going to be one of the best 10 games of the year...

I understand you are fans of other teams, but I assumed you were football fans first?

The Wire should win the Nobel prize for literature.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

That's really infuriating logic. If I watch the game that I want to see (or, in this case, assigned to cover for the book), and leave the game which I'm scheduled to chart or could watch later in the week till Wednesday or Thursday, that doesn't make me a proper football fan? Should I have not watched Giants-Seahawks? Eagles-Redskins?

To reiterate, not everyone has Sunday Ticket, and Tennessee-Baltimore aired in approximately 15% of the country. The number of FO writers who got Tennessee-Baltimore over local television is one: Mike Tanier, who watched the Eagles instead because they're his favorite team. The only other writers besides myself who I know have Sunday Ticket are Ben and Doug. They watched their favorite team, the Seahawks.

I'm not bothering with unregistered users complaining that we didn't watch a game, but when people say "I've been coming here a long time..." and still tell us to watch a certain's very frustrating. The choices are Audibles with us watching the games we want to watch on Sunday or no Audibles at all. I much prefer the former.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I just want to say that I greatly prefer the world with Audibles to the world with no Audibles. I expressed surprise that there were no TEN-BAL comments, and I'm surprised only a couple of the FO writers have Sunday Ticket, but that's all it is-surprise. Sure, it would be nice to see something on my favorite team from people who generally make intelligent comments about football, but that's more "nice" in the same sense as "I wish I didn't just get caught by those two stoplights on my way in this morning", not nice in the same sense as "I just won the lottery."

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I feel like Audibles used to be one of the strongest pieces on here, but it seems more and more "partisan" to me the last two years, for reasons that are not entirely clear. There also seems to be an incredible focus on rather inane games and story lines week in and week out. I don't know...I think if I asked my 15 best football buddies who found a way to watch TEN/BAL over half of them would have. Not one of us has Sunday ticket. We often go to bars to see good games, a practice it seems like you guys share, but then you just talk about the same teams anyway.

I know you want to watch the games you want to watch, but when you are putting content out there for public consumption you need to expect a response. For all the pandering to the more mainstream crowd FO has done in some of its ESPN features etc., having people be quizzical about why great games are not mentioned in the typical post Sunday rehash doesn't seem too out of place to me. Anyway sorry I stepped on a nerve, I know all the silly comments you have gotten on this issue over the years. But eventually that should say something to the site.

When someone complains that the DETvSF game wasn't covered they come across as off-base and just caring about their teams. The issue probably bothers me because when a matchup as good as many of the Brady/Manning Apocalypses receives nary a mention because apparently no one cares about good team based defensive football anymore, I am kind of flummoxed. I cannot imagine that even if none of you were NE or IND Colts fans that those games would have slipped by commented. And you are so high on BAL this year as well. I guess I suspect that if Tennessee or Baltimore had been winning games 45 to 30 instead of 17 to 10 someone would have watched the game, and I think that is really sad. I would say there are maybe 4 or 5 games a year I am really interested in see the audibles take on and then surprised audibles misses, and finally it reached a point where I would make a comment.

Also you must keep in mind some of my reaction is spillover from the way the general sports media covers these things, but FO is one of the only places actually worth visiting and posting in the discussion threads, so you may receive a little more than your fair share of ire (which I thought was pretty tame regardless).

The Wire should win the Nobel prize for literature.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

We get silly comments on the issue from people who misunderstand what Scramble is. You and Tom obviously understand what the column is and still would like to see more content based upon that game, which is reasonable.

I don't know -- maybe you have some really hardcore football buddies -- I can honestly say that maybe one or two of my 15 friends who are hardcore football fans would say that they wanted to watch TEN/BAL. Furthermore, I'm pretty sure that if we'd ignored PHI/WAS and instead all commented on TEN/BAL, there would've been way more people complaining.

Scramble is the column that exists not to provide analysis of every game, or not to provide analysis of even the most important games. I'm not sure what inane games/story lines you're talking about, but regardless of their inanity, it's what interested one of us to watch a game that week. I'm not trying to come off as mean when I say this, but that's our choice to make, and I think trying to thrust that upon us is unfair. Again, there's all week for one of us to watch Baltimore-Tennessee if we're writing about it, and all year if we're analyzing it in the book. If it's that important of a game, it's likely that someone will talk about in their column on the site, or it'll appear in one of our off-site columns on ESPN or elsewhere.

I suspect if you looked at our coverage of games in Audibles over the past two seasons (as people have in the past), you'd find that it bears little relationship to scoring outside of people watching their favorite teams (in other words, saying that we're biased towards high-scoring teams because of the Patriots would be unfair).

We're honestly always interested in hearing what people think about the site and how it can be improved, and we really do try to implement those changes. Audibles, though, isn't something that we think would be dramatically improved -- let alone exist for very long -- if we were assigning people to watch particular games.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I was actually looking forward to TEN-BAL, but ended up trying a new sports bar that had substantially better food and drink (including an excellent mojito!), but only four TVs.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I agree with Becephalus that Audibles has become a little more partisan. It annoys me when they have watched a game and only really comment on the team that they 'like'. Sometimes you feel like pointing out that there are two teams in every Dallas or New England game.

I also feel that the staff have become too reliant on their own cliches, which may well be better than other people's but it's still annoying.

It isn't like there is another website out there where the discussion is more intelligent or well informed but I'm worried about any slippage from the guys who are about the best available.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I, for one, wish Audibles were even MORE partisan. 99% of this site is about objective analysis; is it not possible to have just one day to pass judgement on the opposing owner's lineage, the coach's hygiene, the QB's sexuality, and/or the fan base's criminal records?

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I don't have the slightest problem with jokes about teams, I just wish they'd mention more of them. Look at the niners-Pats coverage, several outsiders watched it and barely a comment about SF. There were two teams playing. How about something like this:

'Vernon Davis is an awful fit for Martz's scheme because each passing play is designed to react to the defensive playcall, with the routes and the qb's drop changing. It doesn't seem that Martz trusts Davis to run the adjustments and so the most atheltic player on the niners' offense is reduced to becoming a glorified blocker. I'm not sure Martz will ever be a good fit though, as he refuses to alter his scheme for anyone and doesn't run the ball enough, a problem for a team who's best two offensive players are Gore and Davis. Davis could be effective in a scheme that just lets him go out and run a predefined route, as it is any potential he has is being wasted.'

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

For the record, I don't have Sunday Ticket. My morning games were SEA-NYG (which was over in five minutes) and SD/MIA (which conisted of the Dolphins running the Wildcat over and over, and Philip Rivers underthrowing a bunch of screen passes). Yee-hah. I don't go to bars to watch games because I'm compiling Audibles and working on other stuff. If I had a choice at my home office, believe me, the games I watched would not have been the games I watched. Some of us get what we get and act accordingly. While we would prefer WAS-PHI and BAL-TEN, we would like to comment on the games we actually are able to watch. The presumption that we didn't WANT to watch this or that game is most likely inaccurate.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

As a CPA who has spent all of five seconds thinking about this. . . I must say I am flabbergasted that the few lucky people who could legitimately take a tax write-off for Sunday Ticket don't take the opportunity to do so.

My God People! A tax write-off for watching better football! You should all be ashamed!

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Let's see. $300 for Sunday Ticket for one season. Requires the DirecTV Premier Package at $75/month, with a one-year commitment; they're running a promo where you get four months free, so that's 8 months at $75/month, or $600. Then $6/month for DVR and $10/month for HD, or $16/month for 12 months, which is another $192. Total price is $1,092. Assuming optimistically that our friendly Outsiders are in the 28% marginal tax bracket (from their day jobs, that is), their tax savings would be $307, so the net price would be $791.

You could argue that they'd be paying $40/month for cable service anyway, so the incremental cost is maybe only $612, and after tax savings that's a net of $441.

Not an insignificant amount of money. Assuming they're earning enough from the website to deduct $1098 (or $612).

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I think you are inflating the prices a bit.

I don't see where you one has to have the "Premium" DTV package in order to add on Sunday Ticket. (Premium is about $100 a month)

I did a quick check between DTV and Comcast, DTV's Plus package with DVR is cheaper than anything Comcast offers w/ DVR. It is what I have (plus some programming add ons) I've had no problem adding on Sports packages.

HD is not needed for the standard Sunday Ticket, and in fact HD is a waste unless you plan to upgrade to the "SuperFan" Sunday Ticket. But the monthly cost of HD is generally the same amongst cable/satellite providers so I don't see how this is added to some marginal cost.

So all that "difference" you added up to some insurmountable pile - unless the writers of FO only get TV off rabbit ears - comes down to just the cost of $290 Package - and actually less then that as I've seen that satellite providers are often cheaper than cable. At least in my area.

All that being said, if the FO writers aren't getting paid for this, the people should shut up about what games they cover. As a Bears Fan, I hope they do their games, but lord knows I understand why they wouldn't have watched that game against the Lions.

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

To reiterate, not everyone has Sunday Ticket, and Tennessee-Baltimore aired in approximately 15% of the country.

I would think Sunday Ticket would be mandatory for an internet football writer, even if it's just for the short cuts. You can probably write off at least some of the expense too, right? Odd that some of you guys wouldn't have it, at least it's odd to me. I'm never giving programming rights back to the networks, I want to make my own viewing choices.

ETA: Schatz should have Sunday Ticket at his house, multiple TVs, and host you guys (that are in-area) every week. Do the right thing, Michael Scott.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

All right, let me spell it out. $1,092 out-of-pocket times 13 contributors to this week's Audibles = $14,196, or 284 new premium subscriptions (including Kubiak).

Go get 284 friends to sign up for Premium (I presume you're already a subscriber, since you feel justified in telling the Outsiders how to spend their money) and then let's talk.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

you feel justified in telling the Outsiders how to spend their money

Obviously they can spend their money (work or discretionary) as they see fit. I just think it's kinda weird that writers tied to a website that's all about dissecting the NFL would pass on the modest fee to get full-game access. It seems like a no-brainer to me. But it's for them to decide if it's worth it.

47 Bills Cards

The Bills defense looked very poor against the Cardinals because they cannot get pressure with their front four ever. Against the Cardinals this is a major problem because Warner's best skill it seems is to find hot receivers against the blitz. The only way Buffalo sniffed Warner was by sending 6 or 7, which led to Warner completing a pass for a first down. The Bills were doing a good job preventing the Cardinals from getting rushing yardage (3.6 per rush, though Arizona doesn't have a vaunted rushing offense anyway) but the Bills couldn't stop the Cards 3rd and long.

While it is somewhat fair to target Losman, I think that a game where the defense constantly gives up first downs every 3rd and long, it can be difficult to set up the offense. Additionally, Jauron's major weakness as a coach stems from his major strength. He is able to set up good defense and special teams units because he is conservatively minded, but I think it effects offensive play calling. It seemed to me that the Bills were running on first down mroe often than usual this game. Before the half, they ran 3 times to assure themselves a field goal, which seemed stupid because they had no chance to stop the Cards who subsequently used the remaining time to get a field goal and negate Buffalo's score. When something goes wrong, Jauron wants to put the offense in a shell and burn the clock until the game is over. This works against offenses you can stop, but when you can't prevent a team from converting 3rd and long, you have open up the offense a little.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Not sure how this: "They got 16 yards on those four plays, with only one play going over 2 yards" is possible? The average is higher than the max?

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Not a very good Audibles, guys. I think too much time is being spent on coming up with clever ways to disparage your favorite teams when they don't play well. Like it's overcompensation for something. It's not much less subjective, IMO.

I'm sorry, but this is just about your best feature. Just fans making comments, you say, but it's off the cuff football analysis, and it's the best complement to DVOA, even above the MDS-type game study that comes later in the week. Off the cuff if where you show you know what you're talking about, and honestly, I could get these takes anywhere and everywhere else. Normally I love it, but please, don't let the negative sentiments get in the way of intelligent discourse.

61 Dallas

"What's with the massive amounts of love for Dallas by every announcing crew who covers them? I understand it somewhat with FOX and Aikman, but CBS too goes with the assumption that Dallas is going to win on every play of every game and it is frustrsting as hell. This game never should have been nationally televised."

Dallas gets nationally televised games because their fanbase is enormous and because they are a good team. As for the announcers "overrating" Dallas, give me a break. How should they act when a team that went 13-3 last year and was 3-1 coming into the game is facing a team that was bad last year and is winless this year? There's already enough garbage comments in the NFL already. People need to state the facts sometimes. Instead of saying "oh, this should be a really tough game between a 3-1 team and an 0-4 team," they should come out and say "Dallas is the clear favorite in this game, and barring some unforeseen upset, they will win." When people play the Rams and/or the Lions this year, they should come out and say the obvious: "We should not lose this game. We are the better team." Spare me the garbage about how "the Lions are a good team and we really have our work cut out for us this week because we know they'll be ready to play." Does anyone really believe that? Do the players really believe that? If you're better than a team, don't give me garbage about how you have a strong chance of losing. Tell everyone "hey, if we lose this game, we will be thoroughly embarrassed." Because that's how it is in reality! So for the announcers to not assume Dallas would beat Cincinnati is stupid. You're just a jealous Redskins fan that hates the fact that a team you beat is still getting more media attention than you (whether or not rightfully so, I will not address here). Teams that were good the previous season and are good again in the current season will be assumed to be good and will be assumed to beat teams that were bad in the previous season and are bad again in the current season. It's life. Get over it. If your Redskins finish off the season on a good note, you'll get love next year. Meanwhile, spare everyone the b-s.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

If anyone cares, the Pats had noticed that JTO has great difficulty when you flush him to his left, they were forcing him out in that direction on nearly every important third down.

Does anyone else think that there is a pretty common trend for young quarterbacks to have three or four good games, followed by three or four bad games as defensive coordinators break their game down from tape. Usually, if the qb is to have a career they will then rebound, though usually without reaching their early level of performance. I also contend that this curve flattens out as the player gains experience. Thoughts anyone?

76 Patriot Fans

So I was watching Seinfeld the other night because it got recorded instead of a football game. It was the episode in which Sienfeld's Uncle accuses the cook at the diner of being anti-Semitic because his hamburger was medium instead of medium rare. "That sort of thing just doesn't happen without a reason!"

Later on he breaks up with his girlfriend because she is anti-Semitic for laughing at Jerry's jokes about him.

Funny stuff.

Then I read here that Chris Carter and Tom Jackson are anti-Patriots oozing with prejudice against New England.

Funny stuff.

80 Bucs-Broncos

I have to wonder if Vince was watching the same game I was. The Buccaneers had a couple of big running plays that padded their stats, but when it came to generating success on the ground, the run game kept coming up short. They ended up in 3rd and long a LOT, and it wasn't because the passing game was letting them down; they were dinking and dunking their way closer to the line. But the running game's failures put them in 3rd and long. Getting -1, 0 or 2 yards on a run isn't helpful, and their running game was awfully inconsistent. Ideally a good running game gives you manageable 3rd downs, and they were getting manageable 3rd downs mostly through the passing game (and then they would fail on 3rd down).

114 Re: Bucs-Broncos

In reply to by merlinofchaos

It's not just that they were ending up in 3rd and long a lot -- they were starting out in 1st and long a lot. Penalties were undermining a lot of their series right from the very first play.

But I agree that the running game has become inconsistent overall. I figure it has something to do with their formations on running plays somehow being too easy to recognize.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I think we need a new template:

"What, no comments about <game>?? C'mon, I know you hate <team playing in game> and are all a bunch of <team not playing in game> fanboys, but every football fan knows <obscure fact related to game>. <Denegrating comment about so-called expertise of FO staff.>

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

You mean like 3 lines about Carolina one week, and zero on another? I was just chalking it up to my blatant homerism.

I was hoping to say that maybe their opponents would lead to some interest, but other than some other NFC opponents, there's not a "big-name" team until the Giants.

Maybe the "Murderers Row" of Arizona, Oakland and Detroit will offer some fodder to chew on.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Umm, I couldn't think where else to put this, so here it is.
A couple of years ago one of those idiotic plays where an an o-lineman flinches, causing the d-lineman to leap across the gap and absolutely destroy the o-lineman happened. There were two penalties called: a 5 yard false start and a 15 yard personal foul for unnecessary roughness. According to the refs in that game, when a personal foul and a 5 yard penalty are called on opposite teams on the same play, the penalties do NOT offset, and the PF is enforced, while the 5 yarder is disregarded. Does anyone know which of these three things is true?
A) The refs in that game were incorrect
B) That rule has been changed in the past two years
C) The refs in the Tampa/Denver game incorrectly ruled that the penalties did offset on Tampa's touchdown drive when the Broncos were called for defensive holding, and Tampa was called for a personal foul.

Let me make it clear that I am simply curious. I am *not* complaining about the officiating, and I understand that much more has to go against the Broncos from the officials to make up for the Hochuli incident... However, making it legal to hold Elvis Dumervil has been a good start, NFL. ;)

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

The controversial roughing the passer penalty on BAL on TEN's game-winning TD drive had a similar situation-Titans LT Roos was flagged for a false start, and Suggs for the RTP. The RTP was enforced, but not the false start.

Now, in DEN-TB, the defensive penalty was D-holding, so 5 yards and the automatic first down-not a basic 5 yard procedural call. I suspect that's the distinction between the two situations, but there are a couple other possible distinctions. So, I'd say:
D) The refs properly enforced the rule, because:
i) Defensive holding, while still only 5 yards, is treated different from procedural penalties, so if the Broncos had just lined up in the neutral zone only the personal foul would have been enforced;
ii) The rule only applies where the 5 yard penalty is a false start, because that offensive penalty is supposed to kill the play; or
iii) The rule only applies to procedural penalties against the offense and personal fouls against the defense.

I'm actually not sure which of (i), (ii), or (iii) is right, but I'm pretty sure that D) is.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

That all makes sense. Any of those reasons work for me. It's entirely possible that I misremembered the phrasing that the ref used in the previous game that I mentioned, or that he wasn't fully precise in why it was ruled that way (as most refs know that the fans don't want to hear the whole rule book read every time there's a call made).
I hope that iii) isn't the reason, because that seems a little off to me. But like I said, any of the three would at least make some sense.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Oh, and according to DVOA, Denver's rush defense is *significantly* better than their pass defense... So maybe Gruden did do some scouting.
Rush defense: -9.9 (10th)
Pass defense: 52.4 (30th)

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

You often hear commentators say, 'this running back can be his own blocker'. The Steelers are the only side that thinks it's a good idea for a qb to be his own blocker. They may as well install the A-11, he couldn't get hit any more.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I just wanted to mention out that my "who'd want to watch a game between the two best teams in the AFC" statement was made with the sole purpose of angering Steelers fans.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I was going to respond with "the Titans and Steelers play later in the season" but was in court and have trouble posting from my phone.

The officiating in the Jags-Steelers game was wretched. The Ravens can cry all they want about the roughing call against them- the rule is you can't hit a QB in the head. Apparently you can't hit a QB in the chest simultaneous to the QB throwing the ball as well, however you are allowed to throw Roethlisberger to the ground 5 seconds after he releases the ball. If that call and several other calls happened to the Seahawks, the Audibles column would be 3 times as long from the spleen-venting.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

The long pass interference on Ike Taylor was also heinous, given that the contact came after the ball was already past both of them and thus uncatchable.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

After yelling at my TV for about thirty seconds, on about the third replay, I thought I saw Taylor's left hand resting on the shoulder pad of the receiver as the ball went by. So I think maybe "heinous" is a bit strong, though it did seem kind of ticky-tacky to me.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

While Sage Rosenfels did make a mistake in trying to go airborne for the first down, the second turnover really looked like an amazing play by Mathis. He came around the other side, chased after the QB, went totally airborne - I froze-frame on the highlight to see it; he's totally horizontal and about at waist height! - and managed to hook his hand and wrist over the QB's hand and wrist at just the right time. If he's off by an inch short, left or right, he doesn't cause the fumble and the play continues, since he's now on the ground.

Mathis kept his motor running, saw a chance and took it; he was rewarded. That shouldn't really be chalked up to Sage.

117 Texans-Colts

A few thoughts.

1. The turf at Reliant comes in the stadium on trays. They rotate those trays around so that whether or not the roof is open isn't going to affect the turf in the short term. Now if Houston has a torrential rainstorm during a game, nobody knows how the turf will hold up during game play.

2. It is difficult to do a head to head comparison of Schaub and Rosenfels stats from 2007. The Texans, like many young teams, tend to play better at home. Also, Andre Johnson was hurt for a good portion of that season. Rosenfels was the beneficiary of getting home games and playing more games with Johnson in the lineup. Though the Texans offense can function even without Johnson getting the ball, they are not nearly as effective when he is not in the lineup, especially in the red zone.