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

Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Audibles at the Line: Week 6
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Doug Farrar and Vince Verhei

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

Chicago Bears 20 at Atlanta Falcons 22

Doug Farrar: This is the first I've seen of Matt Ryan since the preseason, and I'm very impressed. He's got good rhythm in that offense, making the throws and showing good poise in the pocket. He knows when to move up and bail, but he's not predisposed to doing that. He will let a play develop, and he went 5-for-5 for 57 yards on Atlanta's first drive.

The Bears showed their defensive discipline on a reverse Atlanta tried to run to Harry Douglas on the first drive. Everyone stayed in their gaps, nobody abandoned backside, and an 11-yard loss was the difference between a possible touchdown and an eventual field goal in that drive. The Bears showed the best way to stop all this misdirection stuff going on, just as the Bills did a few weeks ago against the Raiders: Just don't bite on the first thing you see. Maintain your gap integrity (Hel-LO Seattle!) and you'll be OK.

The Falcons are occasionally doing a shift-and-wait thing presnap, where they'll have their receivers tight and then bring everyone out wide after the Bears have their defense set. Problem was, they got busted on an illegal snap. Ryan continues to carve up the Bears secondary through the first quarter.

Meaningless stat of the season so far: "Michael Turner leads the NFL in rushing." What that really means: He put up 220 on the Lions (32nd in DVOA against the run), and 100-plus against the Chiefs (25th) and Packers (29th). Against teams with good run defenses, Tampa Bay (third) and Carolina (16th), he has a total of 98 yards on 32 carries. Through the first quarter against Chicago (8th): Six yards on seven carries. And this isn't against a Chicago team stacking the box to beat him, because Ryan's playing well enough to keep the defense honest. When opponent adjustments are at full strength, this isn't going to be pretty, DVOA-wise.

We've had Falcons linebacker Michael Boley on our under-the-radar defenders list for a while, and he's validating that with great early coverage on Greg Olsen.

Mike Tanier: I'll bet a lot of rushing titles are built on the backs of big games against a bunch of bad defenses.

Doug Farrar: That's definitely worth further investigation.

Aaron Schatz: I think, watching the Falcons, you see a lot of improvement that was very difficult to predict. Yes, Turner has built his numbers on bad defenses and is not the best running back in football, but the guy is having a good year, certainly a far better year than my numbers projected. The offensive line is much better than expected, and when you combine that with Turner's own ability to break tackles, you get a pretty good running game. Matt Ryan is also better than anyone could have expected from a rookie quarterback. He's excellent at finding holes in the Cover-2.

Of course, do you know what this reminds me of? This reminds me of another rookie quarterback who picked apart the Chicago Cover-2 a couple years ago, in a nationally televised game you might remember. Matt Leinart. Remember him? Just wanted another chance to mention that I think Leinart is getting a raw deal and in no way has proven he's a bust. Ryan has a stronger arm though, he launched one to Michael Jenkins in the end zone that went over 40 yards and was actually OVERthrown.

I want to give props to Alberto Riveron, one of two new head officials this year. He's doing a great job of explaining some complicated penalties. For example, when Roddy White committed offensive pass interference on Charles Tillman near the end of the second quarter, and Tillman was on the ground injured, Riveron came on the mic to explain that Chicago would not be charged a timeout by rule because the defense is not charged a timeout within two minutes for an injured player if the injured player was the subject of an offensive foul. I had no idea that was a rule.

The Falcons started the second half by running the Wildcat with Jerious Norwood in the shotgun, and he took a draw for a big gain. This is now officially a league-wide fad. How long will is take for defensive coordinators to come up with a basic answer for this? A few weeks? Not until next season? There is a reason we always thought this stuff wouldn't work in the pros long-term, after all.

Matt Forte has excellent spin moves.

Brian Billick: "Chicago is one of the league's best offenses on third down." Well, going into this week they were 18th in DVOA, so probably not, but thanks for the thought.

Doug Farrar: You talk about plays that define seasons -- this may have been one for the Falcons. Both teams finally figured out the whole touchdown thing in the second half, but as the Bears were driving downfield in the fourth quarter down 19-10, Atlanta's defense denied them on a goal-line stand with eight minutes to go.

Mike Tanier: Great play by Boley on fourth-and-goal against Forte. Rookie linebacker Curtis Lofton also made a great play on that drive.

Doug Farrar: This is still a work in progress -- they're far too prone to dumb penalties and something has to be done about the running back situation (Hint: Use Jerious Norwood as a change-of-pace more often), but if you want to peg Mike Smith as an early Coach of the Year candidate, you won't get any argument from me.

Aaron Schatz: Yes. I can't believe I'm saying this, but the Falcons look like they are definitely for real. I don't think they will continue the trend of last place-to-first place in the NFC South, because the Bucs are better than they are, but they are not going to collapse and finish 6-10. We haven't even talked yet about the improved defense, and that's not just John Abraham playing out of his gourd. Jamaal Anderson is playing very well. I hope the current play of Anderson and Gaines Adams helps convince people that you don't declare a rookie first-round defensive lineman a "bust" just because he doesn't have a lot of sacks -- or in Anderson's case, a single sack -- as a rookie.

Bill Barnwell: Jesus, is the Red Zone channel exciting at the end of the 1:00 games. Schaub bringing back Houston, Orton bringing back Chicago, Bulger bringing back St. Louis...

(After the goal-line stand, the Bears put up 10 points on the next two drives to go ahead 20-19 with 11 seconds to go.)

Aaron Schatz: Kyle Orton bringing Chicago back was just crazy. The Atlanta defense just disintegrated and he was completing midrange pass after midrange pass. Finally, they hit Rasheid Davis in the corner of the end zone because cornerback Chris Houston hesitated looking at something in the backfield, no idea what, as there was no play-fake. The weird thing is that Chicago was only in position to come back with a game-winning drive because Jason Elam honked a short field goal after the Falcons marched down the field to make it a two-score game.

The biggest reason that Chicago will be 4-2 is that Orton is not the same guy he was three years ago. Maybe he wasn't playing these last couple seasons, but he was improving out of public view.

(The Bears watch Matt Ryan hit Michael Jenkins on a long pass with one second left. Jason Elam, once the goat with a 33-yard miss on the previous drive, connects on a 49-yarder to win the game.)

Doug Farrar: You have got to be f---ing kidding me.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, I'm sorry. Did I say the Bears were 4-2? I meant 3-3, because Matt Ryan made a strong throw to the sidelines and Michael Jenkins made a great catch and kept control of the ball while falling out of bounds, and Jason Elam made up for his earlier miss with a 48-yarder to win the game. Hot damn.

Doug Farrar: Speaking of "improving out of public view," how 'bout dem Falcons? What an incredible game.

Benjy Rose: What an amazing sequence of events in the fourth quarter, which have been well-documented above. What amazes me is how the Bears' defense basically gave away the game. With 6 seconds left, basically the only play the Falcons have is a deep out. Incredibly, the zone the Bears play leaves a seam for a 25-yard out. Great throw, great catch, good kick, game over. I would think the Bears would have wanted to force the play inside. No way a receiver would have caught the ball and had the presence of mind to take an instant knee and call an instant timeout.

Vince Verhei: One of Ryan's most impressive completions came with about four minutes to go in the first quarter. The Bears came with a blitz and Ryan found an unblocked rusher in his face. Under heavy pressure, Ryan hit White on a sideline comeback route for 13 yards and a first down. Not only were Ryan's feet not set, he was actively backpedaling, and he still put the pass right where it needed to be.

Billick made a few insightful observations, but also made some comments that showed why he is an ex-coach. In the second quarter, Norwood fumbled. The ball was recovered by Tommie Harris, who fumbled the ball back to Atlanta. Lovie Smith challenged the call, saying Harris was down by contact -- which is funny, because there was literally no contact with a Falcon before he fumbled. Billick's response to this challenge? "Even though [Smith is] wrong, you know it's a legitimate challenge. He's gotta hope they see something that gives the ball back to him. That's worth a challenge." No, Brian, it's not a good idea to waste a challenge if you're not certain you'll get the call overturned. Later, Billick said that most quarterbacks "hate throwing slants," and that passes on slant routes are most likely to be picked. That may have been true for your quarterbacks in Baltimore, Brian, but they mostly sucked.

Under-reported story of the league so far: Brian Finneran's successful return to the NFL after torn knee ligaments cost him all of 2006 and 2007. And he's picked up right where left off, dropping wide-open passes on first down, then converting third downs.

Anderson did finally get his first career sack today. He also tipped at least two passes at the line and made several good tackles on run plays. So yes, he is finally paying off. I thought Atlanta's defense would be horrible this year, but I wasn't counting on this kind of play from Anderson, or the return of Grady Jackson to clog the middle. I should note, though, that the Bears started their comeback and took the lead when time issues forced them to start passing, which they should have been doing all along. Atlanta's secondary is still quite bad.

One difference between the Falcons' Wildcat and Miami's: Atlanta didn't keep Matt Ryan on the field. Keeping him out of the lineup let the Bears adjust their personnel and focus on the run.

I think it's slightly presumptuous to say the Falcons are "for real," depending on what "for real" even means. Throwing out the Lions and Chiefs games -- wins over those teams should not count -- they're 2-2 against real competition, including this win against a Chicago team that was missing its top two corners by the end of the game. That's still better than we expected, but they're not as good as the Bucs or Panthers, and they're not sneaking into a wild card spot.

As has been noted, this was one of four games that found a team with the ball and trailing by one score with less than a minute to go, all at the same time. That, my friends, is a great day.

Baltimore Ravens 3 at Indianapolis Colts 31

Bill Barnwell: Indy has 17 points in the first quarter thanks to a Le'Ron McClain fumble and some excellent work by the Colts passing offense. Chris McAlister was absolutely torched on a double move, only for Peyton Manning to overthrow the receiver, but Indianapolis scored on the next play anyway. The Colts have worked over Corey Ivy a bunch -- turns out Ivy versus Reggie Wayne isn't a good matchup. The pass protection looks pretty good so far. Joseph Addai's also out with a hamstring.

Will Carroll: It's a couple of big plays. The Colts are holding in the tight ends and the running backs to keep Manning up, but the Ravens still can't seem to cover Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Mike Hart's in ... or was. He just blew out his knee badly. That turf is evil.

Mike Tanier: The Ravens are playing a lot of man, and Manning threaded a few needles. Ravens-Colts was a field position game early on, and the Ravens kept getting the ball at the 12-yard line.

Detroit Lions 10 at Minnesota Vikings 12

Bill Barnwell: Maybe the play of the year in Detroit-Minnesota: After Adrian Peterson fumbled inside the 10 and Detroit recovered, Dan Orlovsky was backed up on his own goal line and proceeded to take the snap from under center, bootleg, and ... ran out of the end zone for a safety. Not because he was under a ton of pressure, but just because he didn't realize. Just astounding.

Vince Verhei: That will go down as the worst play of the year. It's not like the outside toe of one foot grazed the line. Both of his feet were running on white turf with plenty of inches to spare. He may have been closer to the other side of the white stripe than being in the field of play.

Mike Tanier: That was the funniest play in the NFL since Garo Yepremian. I wanted to draw this up before I drank too much watching the Phillies tonight. I call this play the "Clemenza," because Orlavsky leaves the gun to take the cannoli:

Bill Barnwell: The Lions are squeaking by. Orlovsky looks awful, and the offensive line has been hideous, but they're just taking huge chunks of time off the clock and challenging Gus Frerotte to beat them on defense with big blitzes and man coverage -- not exactly the Tampa-2 of yore.

Oakland Raiders 3 at New Orleans Saints 34

Doug Farrar: At one point, this game was Raiders 3, Saints 0. Then Drew Brees woke up and all hell broke loose. At the start of the fourth quarter, Brees has four incomplete passes in 28 attempts. Conversely, JaMarcus Russell has seven completions in 22 attempts. Brees has connected with nine different receivers, while Russell connected with Jason David for an interception. I don't know what else to say about this Raiders team -- they're just really ... really ... bad.

Aaron Schatz: I just saw some footage from the postgame press conference after New Orleans-Oakland. When did Walter Sobchak get hired as head coach of the Raiders? Does Al Davis know that he won't roll on Shabbos?

Vince Verhei: Say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.

This game became unwatchable quickly, but from what little I did see, Saints tackle Jammal Brown was holding like crazy and getting away with it. I heard John Clayton on the radio this morning saying that refs are calling fewer holding penalties, and it sure looked like it in this game.

Cincinnati Bengals 14 at New York Jets 26

Bill Barnwell: The Bengals strip Brett Favre on the first third down of the game and return it for six. Oh, this is going to be a No-F&&^%$g-Way game. Poor Jets fans...

... or maybe not. The Jets score two consecutive touchdowns on third down that are called back by penalties (ineligible receiver downfield and offensive pass interference). Third-and-goal from the 20 and the Bengals pick up an illegal contact penalty that gives the Jets another set of downs. The Jets score three plays later when Thomas Jones runs a flat route and the Bengals defense just ignores the entire right side of the end zone like it's a lava pit.

Cincinnati's plan to handle Brett Favre is to big blitz on third down. It's not really working.

Carolina Panthers 3 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27

Russell Levine: Wow, have the Panthers started poorly. About 18 yards of offense, an interception, four penalties, and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and it's 14-0 Bucs.

Where have I seen this before? Tampa Bay has had an excellent stretch in just about every game so far this season, but hasn't been able to sustain it for four quarters. They were dominating Atlanta, but had to hang on to win. Up early against Chicago, fell way behind and had to come back late. Were absolutely dominating Green Bay, but let the Pack come back on a deep ball and a pick-six.

Dexter Jackson, Tampa Bay's second-round pick out of Appalachian State, has absolutely no feel as a punt returner. And considering he hasn't seen the field as a receiver, he needs to figure this out. He's constantly circling back, looking for big plays rather than just putting his head down and gaining five yards. He's looking like Jacquez Green 2.0 at this point.

Through three quarters, Tampa Bay's defense is completely dominating the Panthers. On its last series of the third quarter, Carolina went three-and-out as Jake Delhomme was forced to throw back-to-back screen passes into the ground. Tampa Bay hasn't generated a whole lot of pass rush, but the coverage as been outstanding. Steve Smith got loose for one deep ball early, but has barely been heard from since. And since Carolina has done nothing running the ball, Tampa Bay isn't even looking at play-action.

On offense, Tampa Bay is without its top two fullbacks, so Earnest Graham has moved to fullback and has done a good job paving holes for Warrick Dunn running up the gut. Dunn has been very effective -- he clearly has something left in the tank. And as I type this, Graham gets a short-yardage touchdown from the fullback spot to make it 27-3 early in the fourth.

Last week I complained about how I thought the Bucs offensive line was overrated -- not this week. They've kept Jeff Garcia pretty much clean and have been able to run the ball consistently.

Speaking of Garcia, he looks much better than he did Week 1 after missing the preseason. He has made good decisions, not forcing the ball, checking it down when needed. No turnovers from the Bucs today -- and they were a turnover machine with Brian Griese in there. I think Garcia may have played his way back into the starting role.

St. Louis Rams 19 at Washington Redskins 17

Bill Barnwell: Casey Rabach's becoming a very obvious problem in Washington. He's made some bad mistakes on penalties the past few weeks, and a low snap in the second quarter led to Washington's first offensive turnover of the season. Rabach's a good run blocker, but he's absolutely a liability in the passing game.

Doug Farrar: He's been the problem on a line that's played very well so far. Part of the reason for the overall improvement is that Jon Jansen has replaced Stephon Heyer at right tackle after losing the job to Heyer earlier on.

Bill Barnwell: Jansen's seemed like a liability in the passing game to me too. Have you seen that at all, or do you think he's an all-around improvement over Heyer?

Doug Farrar: Possibly, though it's a less pronounced effect because Campbell is mobile and he's using quick passes to deflect pressure. In this offense, you're better off with a guy like Sean Locklear -- a better run blocker than anything -- at right tackle. The main thing is that they need Clinton Portis to produce, and he's been doing that. Jansen's the better choice for what the Redskins want to do, I think.

Bill Barnwell: Yeesh. Maybe Washington's having the no-f&@#@#-way game. A tipped Jason Campbell pass falls into Pete Kendall's hands; Kendall goes three yards and fumbles, and O.J. Atogwe returns it for a touchdown, giving the Rams a 10-7 lead just before halftime.


Richie Incognito just chopped wood.

Russell Levine: Did he ever. Gets a 15-yarder for jawing with the refs about 90 seconds after a play ended. St. Louis was in position to kick a 34-yarder to win, now the attempt is from 49. And ... the kick is good anyway. And with that, I'm out of my survivor pool, which has gone from 92 to 3 people in six weeks.

Mike Tanier: Teams besides the Eagles lose games like that? AWESOME!

Vince Verhei: It really, really sucks that this is what Kendall's going to be known for now. I've been watching Redskins games on NFL Replay lately, and Kendall's been fantastic at run blocking, sealing guys out and driving others off the ball. He gets no headlines, no credit. Then one screw-up and he's all over the place. And it's not like he blew a block and let a quarterback get injured. He fumbled! That's his rep now, he's the guard who fumbled, not the guard who cleared dozens of holes for Portis. I repeat: It really, really sucks.

Miami Dolphins 28 at Houston Texans 29

Bill Barnwell: The Texans benched Fred Bennett for DeMarcus Faggins. Huh?

Aaron Schatz: Really? Someone has to explain that one to me.

Bill Barnwell: The BALLS on our man Gary Kubiak. After consecutive ins on second- and third-and-2 to a double-covered Andre Johnson, fourth-and-2 from the 6 sees Kubiak call a quarterback draw with Schaub, who gets in for the victory. That's a gutsy call.

Aaron Schatz: I call for a new weekly award, for the best aggressive coaching award. We'll call it the Stephen Colbert Award for Biggest Balls. Kubiak wins this week. If the Scramble guys like the idea, I like the idea.

Vince Verhei: We can give it a try. My only concern is that it may be difficult finding a coach with balls week-in and week-out. They're an awfully ball-less lot.

David Lewin: All this Kubiak/balls talk reminds me a of saying that my friends and I have been pioneering recently: "You gotta have a sack like Santa Claus to make a [play/throw/call/whatever] like that."

Mike Tanier: The Philadelphia sports bar crowd was cheering Matt Schaub. It reminds me of a few years ago, when David Carr went in on a fourth-and-goal to win a game early in the season. Hope this works out better for Texans fans.

Andre Johnson made a dozen plays in the game, six good and six bad. The guy is still the Texans' No. 1 weapon, but he mixes plays where he looks like a man among toddlers with dropped passes and fumbles where he is barely hit to cough up the ball.

Also, Schaub throws a lot of change-ups over the middle. They are either picked off, almost picked off, or become 30-yard catches for Kevin Walter. He is like Chad Pennington but with no control over his off-speed pitch. If he could improve his timing, he would be a much better passer.

Doug Farrar: The Dolphins threw a new wrinkle in the Wildcat, with Ricky Williams taking the "Steeler" sweep and handing off to Pennington, who then hurled the ball downfield to Patrick Cobbs for a touchdown. Judging from the highlights, this looked more like a college game.

Vince Verhei: And I am once again left asking: WHY IS DEFENDING THIS FORMATION SO HARD? Especially after Ronnie Brown threw a touchdown against New England, you'd think all defenders would have it hammered into their heads that they must stick with their receivers. These are not college kids practicing a few hours a day, these are professionals whose full-time jobs involve scouting their opponents and knowing their tendencies. So why are teams continually caught off-guard by this?

Dallas Cowboys 24 at Arizona Cardinals 30

Bill Barnwell: Arizona returns the opening kickoff for a touchdown against Dallas. I was at a wedding last night and had some girl try and convince me for a half hour that (American) football is boring and a waste of my life, but screw her. Football is fun!

Aaron Schatz: Troy Aikman during replays of Arizona's first sack on Tony Romo: "The Cardinals decide to bring a little bit of pressure on this play." There are four pass rushers and six blockers. I don't know if that is worth a special mention as "a little bit of pressure." Also, on this same play, Tony Romo clearly fumbled before his knee touched the ground, but the officials blew the whistle early so Arizona couldn't challenge the fumble. Man, the officials are a little fast on the trigger this season, huh?

Doug Farrar: A quick whistle? Please tell me the head offical's name isn't something that almost rhymes with "broccoli"...

Bill Barnwell: Troy Aikman just called the Cowboys' All-Pro outside linebacker "Andre Ware." Then the play-by-play guy (not Joe Buck) said that Jay Ratliff was having a great year in his first season.

Doug Farrar: That's not the best ex-Cowboys blunder of the day. Emmitt Smith on SportsCenter this morning: "The Chicago defense is one of the best at stopping the runs."

Mike Tanier: By the way, did Emmitt come up with the name of the new Bond film (Quantum of Solace)? How does that make any sense?

Bill Barnwell: "Quantum" is the smallest possible amount of something, no? So quantum of solace makes a modicum of sense.

Total miscommunication on the first Cowboys touchdown. Two guys go with the receiver running the outside route, leaving Patrick Crayton wide-open in the middle, and he gets sprung by two good downfield blocks, but he had acres of space. Acres.

And the Cowboys pooch the kickoff into a defensive lineman, who drops the ball and the Cowboys recover.

Aaron Schatz: The Cowboys managed to score that first touchdown on a drive where it looked like Tony Romo had fumbled in the end zone for an Arizona safety or touchdown. The reason? Tuck rule. Wade Phillips challenged and it turned out Romo's arm was going forward as he fumbled. I assume that if Dallas wins this game, Oakland Raiders fans will make it a cause celebre, yes?

Roderick Hood completely shut down Terrell Owens for the first 29 minutes of this game. T.O. finally had two passes thrown to him with a minute left, and Hood still defended the second one to prevent a third-down conversion. In the second half, they're throwing to T.O. a bit more and he's getting open with curls. I love Hood, but he does tend to give up the occasional big play, and I'm afraid the one where he bites on a curl and T.O. goes deep for six is coming sometime around the middle of the fourth quarter...

You know, if you give some pass protection to this Kurt Warner kid, he's not half-bad.

(Note: Just because Warner is playing well does not change the fact that Leinart got a raw deal and still needs a chance. It might be somewhere else, but I think he's going to be Jim Plunkett.)

Bill Barnwell: Larry Fitzgerald just pulled a David Tyree catch out of his pocket. The camera shows Jerry Jones being pissed. I notice that Jerry Jones has hot granddaughters.

Sean McCormick: I'm with Aaron on both counts. There's no shame in Leinart not beating out Kurt Warner this year, and there's no shame if he doesn't beat out Warner next year. In case no one has noticed, Warner can absolutely fling it when given time. I can think of a great many teams who should be calling the Cardinals this offseason to see if they can pry Leinart away (and Arizona should decline anything but a ridiculous offer).

As for Warner, it's just fun to watch him play. He's probably already moved past Terrell Davis in the "I was so dominant in a short period of time that I've got a better case to be in the Hall of Fame than a lot of current members" discussion, and if he can put another two years together along the lines of what he's been doing, I think he probably is in. He's kind of like a mythic hero with one clear and fatal weakness (he fumbles at the drop of the hat). Maybe his mom held him by the thumb when she dipped him into the river Styx.

Still, I'd put him in. (Davis, too.)

Aaron Schatz: Wow, the Cardinals are getting screwed at the end of the fourth quarter. The Cowboys are in hurry-up and complete a pass, and they hurry to the line to spike the ball for a 57-yard game-tying field goal. Only problem? Arizona's Travis LaBoy is injured and limping off the field. He can't get off the field before the snap. The officials call offside and now Dallas gets a 52-yard field goal instead. That seems like the wrong call to me. When a player gets injured in the final two minutes, isn't the team charged a timeout? Isn't the correct ruling to charge Arizona a timeout rather than five yards?

And then the Cardinals block the field goal -- but Ken Whisenhunt called that BS timeout right before the kick. Yay. Hope you feel like a moron, Ken. Second try goes through. Here comes overtime.

Sean McCormick: Teams ... must ... stop ... icing ... the ... kicker...

Doug Farrar: Ladies and gentlemen, your KCW winner: Ken Whisenhunt. I so love that the timeout-on-the-kicker thing finally blew up in a coach's face.

Bill Barnwell: Cowboys linemen heard the whistle and stopped trying, I think.

Mike Tanier: I agree with Bill. I think a bunch of guys stopped. In Carolina (I think) two weeks ago, there was a blocked kicked that was nullified by an I AM A GENIUS coaching timeout.

(In overtime, Sean Morey of the Cardinals blocks a Dallas punt, which is recovered in the end zone by Monty Beisel. Game over, Cardinals win.)

Aaron Schatz: Sean Morey! Hail Brunonia! And there is balance in the force!

David Lewin: I'm completely with Aaron on Matt Leinart. He was great in college, and fairly good given his youth and teammates in the NFL. He will be a quality starter at the very least. The question is where.

The situation at the end of regulation was pretty weird, but I'm not sure the call was exceptionally favorable for Dallas. If they went the other route and said LaBoy was down with injury, then they should have stopped the clock for the injury timeout at 8 to 10 seconds and the Cowboys could have had another play.

Russell Levine: Agreed on all counts with David. Arizona bent over backwards to give Leinart the job in preseason. He didn't take it. And Warner is still better than a lot of QBs in this league. Yes, you have to give him time, and he can occasionally revert to PTBD (Post-Traumatic Blitz Disorder), Warner like we saw against the Jets. That's what comes from years of playing in the five-wide, no protect, "I can't outrun anyone so I'll just stand here and take the kill shot while delivering a 35-yard strike to Torry Holt, thank you", offense under Mike Martz in St. Louis. Giants fans saw the PTBD Warner during his brief stint there.

But he can fling it. He can still put the ball in tight spots. Some of those throws to Fitzgerald were ridiculous. Speaking of - that guy earned his year's salary on four catches today. What a performance. I don't know that there is another receiver in the league who is as good in the air as Fitzgerald. That TD catch that was overturned on replay was breathtaking.

Tough spot on the LaBoy injury. As David points out, if he goes down, they stop the clock and maybe Dallas runs another play. If they call timeout, same thing. So I think it's probably the right call.

I also think on the blocked field goal that was a no-play because of the Arizona timeout, it looked like the whistle came early enough that the Dallas line wasn't fully blocking on the play.

Has anyone ever seen a punt blocked as badly as the one in OT by Arizona? They basically blocked the punter's drop. What the hell happened on that protection?

Mike Tanier: Beisel said they had a return on, not a block. He and Morey could have taken the snap and punted themselves.

I have always liked Warner, but he is constantly one sack away from that PTBD. He would be great on a team with a very good line that runs the ball 35 times per game. I would say that he gives the Cardinals their best chance to win now. But really, the Seahawks are giving the Cardinals their best chance to win now.

Vince Verhei: Without the rulebook in front of me, I think Lewin has it right: The refs should have called injury timeout, and it should have been Dallas' ball, first-and-10 at the 40 (looking at a 57-yard field goal), with 8 to 10 seconds to go.

It's been interesting to watch the Cowboys use a different offensive playbook every week. We've seen the no-T.O. playbook, then the no-Marion Barber playbook, and this week, the Playbook of One Million Marion Barber Draw Plays. Were the Cowboys that concerned about the Arizona pass rush? Actually, now that I think about it, perhaps they should have been.

Philadelphia Eagles 40 at San Francisco 49ers 26

Bill Barnwell: The 49ers ran a direct snap to Michael Robinson that was called back for a illegal snap. Should we just have a Wildcat section of Audibles? They're running all kinds of screens and tomfoolery to avoid the blitzes. I don't get why the Eagles just rush four guys -- it's not like the Niners would be able to stop them.

Mike Tanier: Hey, the Eagles goofed off at the goal-line midway through the second quarter, wound up with a 19-yard field goal. No way that will bite them in the rear...

Bill Barnwell: I think rear has just been bitten in the Eagles game.

Mike Tanier: Let's see ... 49ers kick a 50-plus-yarder. The Eagles try a 50-plus-yarder and it becomes ridiculous random points for an opponent the Eagles are dominating. I could see none of that coming.

Let me say this professionally for the first time in my career: "Fire Andy Reid." My reasons:

  • The goal-line woes are ultimately on him to fix. He has failed.
  • The urge to keep kicking 50-plus-yard field goals is on him. Yes, this week's was right before the half and we all would have kicked it. But at some point, he should have been looking for alternate solutions to the David Akers problem.
  • L.J. Smith, NFL Starter.
  • The team's insistence on not having a big running back, on using converted halfbacks and defensive ends as fullbacks, the team's resistance to acquiring a real blocking tight end is all Reid's call, not Tom Heckert's or anyone else's. Those decisions are directly to blame for one loss this year (going on two as I write this and Joe Nedney makes a chip shot).
  • At some point, a coach and his staff run out of things to tell the players. They run out of innovations and wrinkles. A guy like Bill Cowher reached that point, but he would bring in new coordinators, bring in Mike Mularkey then Ken Whisenhunt, so there were new voices and new ideas. The last new voice in Philly was Marty Mornhinweg. At some point, you reach diminishing returns at what you are good at, while what you are bad at festers. The Eagles got there last year. This year, the talent is better, so we are seeing even more idiotic losses in games that the team should have won.

The Eagles are more talented than the last two teams they lost to, and they are more talented than this 49ers team they are losing to right now. Those losses belong to Andy Reid. The "we don't need a punt returner" losses last year belong to Reid, directly.

The Elway Broncos couldn't win a Super Bowl with Dan Reeves. The Eagles need their Shanahan.

Bill Barnwell: Eh. I'm going with "Fire Rory Segrest."

Mike Tanier: Interception to Takeo Spikes, while L.J. "Franchise Player" Smith tries to set some sort of pick instead of catching the pass. Unwatchable. Unacceptable.

Bill Barnwell: It's Reid's fault that opponents are perfect on field goals and are something like six-of-six from 48-plus? That their best offensive lineman, best running back, and best wide receiver are hurt?

I don't disagree that Reid hasn't been great the last few weeks, Mike, and that there is a point of diminishing returns even from good coaches, but there's no one out there -- maybe Marty Schottenheimer, but Philly would s**t all over his hiring -- who's better than even 80 percent of Andy Reid. The goal-line thing is a meme; they've been better than average during Reid's tenure in converting tight situations. Not to mention, using the Franchise Player nickname is disingenuous.

Mike Tanier: Sometimes, change for change's sake is really necessary. Reid isn't responsible for that perfect field goal percentage against. He is directly responsible for making sure that he has a kicker who can make 40-plus-yard field goals, and if not, to change his strategy to adjust for that. He has failed.

He's responsible for making sure the team has the offensive weapons and plays to succeed inside the 5-yard line. He has failed.

It's not about finding a coach with a better record. It's about finding a coach who can correct problems X, Y, and Z without opening up another set of problems. I don't know who that coach is, but this group of coaches has failed on problems X, Y, and Z, and they are becoming the problems that sink the Eagles season, and sunk last season.

(With 11:38 left in the game, Smith takes in a 2-yard touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb.)

Bill Barnwell: Touchdown, Franchise Player!

Mike Tanier: L.J. Smith is the blind squirrel who just had a nut thrown into his belly. Even Robert Royal catches the odd touchdown pass.

Even if the Eagles pull this out, I am not backing down. If we don't get 10-6 or better this season, go with someone else.

Bill Barnwell: Again, though, Reid's fourth in the league at succeeding inside the five. So you're taking two plays (granted, two important plays) without three of the most important players in his offense and saying that it's time for change. Which I just can't agree with. It's the football equivalent of taking all your money out of Wachovia.

Again, who's going to be that coach who solves those problems without creating new ones? Who's going to be better working with their offensive line? With McNabb? Who's going to have a better relationship with Heckert?

If the Eagles have league-average field goals against, to pick one incident, they're 4-1 and we're not having this conversation. Which means that there's not enough of a burden of proof to fire Reid. It's not Reeves with the Broncos, it's Dungy with the Buccaneers.

Mike Tanier: What are Reid's numbers from 2006-08? I don't want to hear about the Duce Staley or T.O. Eagles.

Bill Barnwell: I don't have numbers for '08. '06 and '07, they converted 50 percent of the time. League average is 52 percent. Reid is 17th in the league. You want to fire him for that, you can.

Mike Tanier: This "other coach" is a different person with different points of emphasis, different terminology, rules, habits, schedules, tendencies. He's a competent NFL coach whose system isn't ingrained, who hasn't been coaching the same things the same way for 9 years. He's a guy who no one has film on, a guy who no veterans can tune out because they haven't heard his routine before.

Maybe he goes out in the second round and signs a 230-pound running back to pair with Brian Westbrook, then DOESN'T give up on him or switch him to fullback. Maybe he signs a Lorenzo Neal-like fullback. Maybe he runs more power and trap-type plays in short yardage. Maybe he runs the full house. Or the Wildcat. Maybe he brings three kickers into camp, or he signs a veteran quarterback known as the NFL's best holder to come in to help Akers. But he doesn't keep doing the same things the same way and wait for problems to solve themselves.

Eagles mush-rush three and Quintin Mikell gets a pick. Nice call on third-and-18. Now, please prove Bill right about your goal-line prowess Mr. Reid!

Bill Barnwell: Again, is McNabb really going to have a better relationship and work better with Bill Cowher? Schottenheimer? Is this team, a team full of veterans built for the next year or two, really going to win a title with a different guy?

Mike Tanier: Cowher? Schottenheimer? How about Steve Spagnuoulo?

It doesn't have to be a coach with more wins than Reid. You can judge coaches based on wins and losses, and it works pretty well, but I don't want Mike Holmgren right now either. New, new, new. And if it means rebuilding, well, let's say I will eat my words today with fried onions if the Eagles somehow win a Super Bowl as currently assembled.

For the record, I don't want to fire him for being 17th in the NFL for scoring inside the 5. I don't want to fire him because "he's a bad coach" or "not a winner." Hell, I don't want to fire him. I want to see him solve all of the Eagles' problems with field goals and goal-line offense and dealing with the clock and the opponent with 3 minutes to play in the first half. I want him to do all that during the bye and rip off a winning streak to beat the band. But I am despairing of them solving all of those problems, because they are persistent problems that have hurt them for years, and they are systemic, growing from the way players are evaluated and selected.

Bill Barnwell: I know, Mike. But what I'm saying is that their "problems" aren't enough to justify firing Reid. Or that their problems wouldn't be noticed if they weren't the recipients of some awful luck. I agree that they need a fullback, and that they've struggled to identify good linebackers, and failed to get McNabb the stud receiver he needed. They've also nurtured a great quarterback, found a potential Hall of Fame running back and elite pass rusher in the middle of the draft, consistently put together an excellent offensive line, and built a very good secondary. The stuff you're saying Reid needs to fix is relatively small beer, and while it's keeping the Eagles from being an elite team, you're throwing out a very good coach when you really should be throwing out a special teams coach, or a kicker, or merely undergoing a necessary revamp of some procedures in identifying and implementing players.

Are the 2008 Eagles really less likely to win a Super Bowl than the 2007 Giants?

Mike Tanier: If Hank Baskett catches a pass against his helmet in the Super Bowl, his hands all sticky after Skyping with his Playboy Bunny girlfriend, I will again eat my words. For the record, I don't think holding the 2007 Giants up as an object lesson is a great precedent to set because it can be the catch-all argument for all pretty-good teams hanging around .500 in early October.

The things we are giving Reid credit for -- developing McNabb, finding Westrook, the Lito-Sheldon-Westbrook draft, the NFC title appearances and Super Bowl run -- are all at least three full years ago. There is no denying he was a great coach for several years, or that he is generally a great coach. His recent record involves guys like Trent Cole, the little surprise playoff run with Garcia. Shawn Andrews, when he is healthy. On the flip side of that are all of the little losses that are blamed on punt returners, fumble luck, Matt Bryant, goal-line stands, McNabb, Feeley, the strength of the opposition, 12 men on the field, Johnson blitzing when he should be in prevent (Giants in overtime 2006), Johnson in prevent when he should be blitzing (Bears 2007), and so on.

Coaches don't suddenly get stupid. But they do fail to adjust when others adjust to them. They fail to see persistent errors they make in personnel/play-calling/game-planning, errors they got away with early in their career when everything was new. The pep talks stop working. The July drills lose their impact for the older players who have done them for eight years. It's simple diminishing returns.

The Eagles have played like this for three years, with the exception of the Garcia blip. They have underplayed DVOA that entire time, which I think is a sign that someone (besides opposing kickers) is hurting them in close games. Maybe it's the special teams coach. Maybe it's the guy who hires the special teams coach. And calls the goal-line plays. And decides Tony Hunt and Dan Klecko are fullbacks. And employs L.J. And calls 50-yard field goals to a burned-out (or yipped-out) kicker. And...

Bill Barnwell: I agree that we can't hold the 2007 Giants up as the hope for every mediocre team. I can say, though, that it's unreasonable to absolutely rule out the Eagles team as currently assembled. It's unlikely.

Mike, how many of those things you listed as problems are Reid's fault as opposed to the special teams coordinator's, or Mornhinweg's, or Johnson's? Is replacing Reid really going to make those things better, or is it replacing Mornhinweg and Segrest, or cutting Akers, or actively reviewing your acquisition processes at weak positions and re-evaluating your short-yardage tendencies to see what doesn't work that did several years ago? Or is it waiting for your best players to come back from injury?

Reid gets too many of the big things right to fire him for some of the little things he does wrong.

Mike Tanier: I suppose firing the offensive coordinator and special teams coach, then taking almost all of the personnel decisions away from Reid, could be an alternative to firing him. But at that point, why keep him?

Let's leave it at this: There needs to be improvement, after the bye, in several areas of weakness, starting with the red zone offense. If the Eagles keep settling for three at the five-yard line and they finish 8-8 or 9-7, I don't want to hear about field goals against or fumble luck or anything else. I want Spags. Or Josh McDaniels. Or Jason Garrett. Or Cowher. Maybe it is time for painful rebuilding instead of painful losses to decent teams and near catastrophes against bad teams like today's.

Bill Barnwell: No one's saying take all the personnel away from him. I'm saying re-evaluate their decision-making when it comes the position he's bad at (which in actuality could be Heckert being bad for all we know).

Again, give it sixteen games.

Aaron Schatz: Unfortunately -- or, for Philadelphia fans, fortunately -- Mike's frustration at the Eagles boiled over right before J.T. O'Sullivan completely melted down and turned the ball over three times in the fourth quarter.

Green Bay Packers 27 at Seattle Seahawks 17

Doug Farrar: Gary Payton raises the 12th Man flag as I once again wish horrible things on every member of the Seattle City Council.

Weird sequence of events for the Packers as their first drive stalls. Mike McCarthy sends kicker Mason Crosby out to attempt what would have been a 60-yard field goal, calls time-out, and sends out the punter instead. I'm assuming he's not trying to get fired like Lane Kiffin was with that 67-yarder -- the Green Bay gig being pretty decent and all -- but that was a really weird giveaway of a time-out.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks start the Charlie Frye era with two stalled drives. If the team's current receiver trio is looking for a nickname, might I suggest "Three and Out?"

Vince Verhei: When I got home this evening, I had a note from Doug in my mailbox. I'll protect his privacy and not divulge the full contents here, but suffice to say he asked Ben and me to write up a reasonable, rational response to this game. Ben, meanwhile, is somewhere out in the California hills, choosing to place himself miles and miles from any television set, lest he spy, even on accident, a second of this game. That leaves the burden of writing a response to this game squarely on my shoulders. Yippee.

I suppose I should start with the positives. Charlie Frye's touchdown to John Carlson that gave the Seahawks a 10-3 lead in the second quarter was a masterpiece of both design and execution. Frye began the play by faking a pitch to the left, then bootlegging right. I hate plays like this, because they usually result in an unblocked rusher charging in on the quarterback, ears pinned back and foaming at the mouth. This play was no exception, but even as Frye was turning to his left after faking the pitch, he was bringing up his arm to pass, and didn't even go two steps before releasing the ball. Carlson was wide-open in the flat, caught the ball and cut into the end zone.

Other positives: The Seahawks' run defense looked much better than last week, at least in terms of preventing big runs. I suspect if I looked closer at Green Bay's success in short-yardage, I'd be less happy. Green Bay also debuted a fantastic new celebration: After they intercept the ball, all the defenders greet the interceptor, shake his hand and tip their heads to him, all in the most pretentious manner possible. It's every bit as ostentatious as the Dirty Bird or Shawne Merriman's dance or anything T.O. has ever done, but since it's also behavior that the mainstream sees as polite, you know they'll get away with it. What's the league going to do? Fine them for shaking hands?

And, well, that's about it, from the Seahawks point of view. The failings on offense can at least be explained. Seattle has been pulling guys off the street to play receiver, and now that Deion Branch and Bobby Engram are finally healthy again, Matt Hasselbeck and Seneca Wallace are both hurt and the team turns to Charlie Frye, the definition of replacement level. Frye threw only six passses in the first half. In the second half, the Seahawks were trailing and forced to rely on Frye. He rewarded their faith with a pair of interceptions.

At least I can accept that the offense is just cursed with poor health, and particularly poor timing (couldn't all these guys just get hurt at once and be done with it?) But what the hell is going on in the secondary? This same unit was so effective last year. Now they look helpless and confused. Marcus Trufant could do nothing against Greg Jennings, and the safety help he so desperately needed was nowhere to be seen.

The most aggravating part of this game was the Packers' success on third downs. Of their 20 first downs, 10 came on third-down conversions. Green Bay finished 10 of 18 on third downs. And it was the death of a thousand cuts. If they needed 3 yards, they got 4. If they needed 8 yards, they got 9. There was usually a receiver running an out route just beyond the first-down marker, left wide-open by a secondary that was terrified of giving up yet another deep ball. Is this Jim Mora's fault? Is that what Seahawks fans have to look forward to next year, a defense run by Mora and an offense run by his old buddy Greg Knapp? (How's Knapp doing in Oakland, by the way?)

At some point you do have to say that the Packers are probably going to end up looking like a pretty good team, but the Seahawks have played five games and been competitive only twice -- against the Rams and 49ers. When they play above-average teams, they get squashed.

Doug Farrar: Thanks for taking the bullet, Vince. My thought at the time the game finished was that there was no way I could possibly put together any coherent thoughts about this team and its performance this season, and that’s probably still the case. However, what this season (on top of the last two) has taught me is that Seahawks team president Tim Ruskell is an emperor walking around with fewer clothes than I imagined possible. After a brilliant draft in 2005, he's done very little to build the team, and quite a bit to destroy it.

There was the Steve Hutchinson fiasco, which he didn't broker, but did approve. There was the ludicrous Deion Branch deal, which has hurt this team in enough ways to put it down as possibly the worst trade of the last decade. People used to laugh at Al Davis for paying ridiculous sums for Super Bowl MVPs who had done little else, but Ruskell trumped Davis' Larry Brown deal by throwing a first-round pick into the mix. When you give up so much for one player, and that player proves unable to stay healthy, you have two choices: Build around that player's absence and look to the future, or stubbornly hold off on the development of a positional group because you're so desperate to validate a deal that was rotten on the day you made it. When you insist that low-round draft picks and backup quarterbacks can make up for elite receivers in an offensive system that requires precision timing, you prove that you're not dealing with reality. And Charlie Frye? Really? Do we want a quarterback selection from the same guy who gave up a third-round pick on David Greene?

Most worrisome is the current defense, given Ruskell's reputation as a defensive talent evaluator from his Tampa Bay days. He's long been known as a guy who likes smaller defensive backs, finding value in players who play bigger than their size, so to speak. Problem is, Kelly Jennings and Josh Wilson, the cornerbacks he selected in the top rounds of the 2006 and 2007 drafts, are not Ronde Barber. Maybe if you found a way to combine them. He favors fast, light defenses, but the NFL is turning more and more to the power game with running back committees, and this team has no answer whatsoever for more physical backfields. None. It's embarrassing.

I could go on and on. I now see Tim Ruskell as a guy who inherited an almost-built house in 2005, made some outstanding architectural improvements at first, and then could not stop tinkering with the existing work of others for the sole purpose of having his stamp on all of it. The difficulty in writing about the loss to the Packers was the lack of cohesive effort I saw on the field. The difficulty in writing about the Seahawks as an organization right now is that this thing is springing leaks everywhere, it has a lame-duck coach, and I don't see quick improvement coming in the future. I see a few 8-8 seasons under Jim Mora, and a lot of, "Gosh -- we don't really know what the problem is, but we'll sure get it fixed!"

Yes, there have been injuries this season, but many of those injuries have been to players of whom too much was asked in the first place. And Ruskell's job as a talent evaluator is to set the roster in a way that a reasonably competitive team is at least possible despite those injuries. After far more misses than hits recently, the Seahawks are now forced to rebuild again, and some fingers need to be pointed in the fight direction. Time to put the heat on Mr. Genius.

New England Patriots 10 at San Diego Chargers 30

Bill Barnwell: Something up with the Patriots' radios? They have a big board on the sidelines that they're writing numbers on -- like "75," which I'm assuming correlates to a play-call or a protection.

Chris Hanson with the open-field tackle of the week. That was a thing of beauty on Darren Sproles.

As this game approaches the end of the first half, what's really striking me is how bad the Patriots offensive line has played. The Chargers have a good defensive line, but they're absolutely manhandling Kaczur's Kids. Matt Cassel has got guys buzzing around him every play and he's bouncing around the pocket as a result. Tom Brady can handle that, but Cassel can't and that's a direct function of playing time.

Aaron Schatz: Not that the left side of the line has been spectacular, but the Pats are starting a backup right guard and apparently Kazcur got injured and was replaced with a backup partway through the second quarter. So, you know, that's a problem, but it isn't necessarily the failure of the normally stout Patriots linemen. Also, Matt Cassel's pocket presence sucks whale dick.

It turns out that if you are not good enough to play cornerback for the Cincinnati Bengals, you are also not good enough to play cornerback for the New England Patriots. Anyone surprised by this?

Bill Barnwell: Mike, Can you do a diagram where Cassel does a full revolution in the pocket?

Mike Tanier: No, I screwed up the diagramming software trying to show Ryan Fitzpatrick spinning and pump-faking five times with six Jets around him. Boy, pocket presence really is something you can't account for. Guys like Brady, it makes them Hall of Famers. Guys with the same talent package but no presence can't play in the NFL.

Aaron Schatz: Man, that goal-line stand was embarrassing. Just give the ball to the running back and put the damn ball in the end zone. You can't get first-and-goal on the 1 and pass three times. Look, Cassel isn't Brady. He's not going to calmly stand back there and survey the field. He's going to make an embarrassing attempt to scramble. Ugh.

Bill Barnwell: Adalius Thomas had the world's most lumbering blitz on that long pass to Vincent Jackson. Jackson's just overwhelming the New England corners, who are too small to cover him. He ran a middling double-move on Terrence Wheatley and a simple go pattern past Ellis Hobbs, and neither could do anything about it.

OK, Cassel's just totally out of sorts and this game is over. Is it time to bring in Kevin O'Connell, if just for the rest of the game, to see what he can do?

Aaron Schatz: Yes. While they are at it, they should consider bringing in Kevin O'Connell to play cornerback to see what he can do there, too. Can't be much worse than what we've seen so far tonight.

Bill Barnwell: A line from my friend: "I don't like watching football anymore. Matt Cassel has made it not fun."


139 comments, Last at 21 Nov 2012, 8:41pm

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Glad you asked, Klecko (and thanks). Last week, I plunged into a deep depression after watching the Seahawks get picked apart by the Giants and realized the 'Hawks are on their collective way to a 6-10 season, at best -- hence, de minimus Audibling. This past weeked, and taking a page out of Joe Thomas's playbook, I floated down the Deschutes River canyon in Oregon for four days to catch trout -- hence, no Audibling whatsover (but -- gratuitous fish story alert! -- I did land some nice 20" fish).

I will be back this week to convince my collective FO brethren that Matt Leinart actually sucks, and to persuade Doug that we shouldn't burn Tim Ruskell in effigy. Yet.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I'd like to nominate Shannon Sharpe for quote of the year. Making fun of Bill Cowhers use of "statistics" to pick football games Shannon breaks off with "I think Miami has a 50/50 shot of beating last years record". Man only 50/50 Shannon? Here thinking Vegas isn't calling him up to become an odds maker.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

In the Cowboys/Cardinals game, I think an injury timeout leaving 8-10 seconds would have been the right call.

What I think would have been interesting is if Whisenhunt had been savvy enough to notice LaBouy upfield and called a timeout just before the snap. That would have left 5 seconds and the ball still at the 40 yard line. That is probably too much to ask of a coach, but would have been pretty cool.

All aboard the Cardinal's bandwagon!

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Had LaBoy fallen to the ground, I think an injury timeout was guaranteed. Since he was still on his feet (and moving toward the sideline), he was treated the same as any healthy player.

4 a different take on Matt Leinart

Greg Cosell doesn't agree with you guys.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

About the "Wildcat"... IMO it's making defenders sit back and react to what happens, they can't be aggressive. A few weeks ago Baltimore was blitzing the hell out of the Steelers, the Steelers went no-huddle, and the blitzing stopped. The aggression went right out of Baltimore's play calling. Well, that's what I see with the "Wildcat". Yes these guys are pros and they have the skills to defend this thing and it shouldn't work at the pro level... and it won't once the coordinators scheme their guys up to attack it... but right now, defenders don't attack it at all, they just get all wide eyed, lay back and let it come at them.

6 pump down the volume

I hope everyone went volume-off on the Dallas-Arizona game, because Dick Stockton and Troy Aikman were horrible. It would take me all day to fully detail the mistakes, some of them funny, some just ridiculous.

Aikman's "continuously continues" should go right into the Emmitt Smith Hall of Fame, no wait required. On Stockton, I almost felt bad for the guy. He's not only entered the Enberg Zone, he's zoomed past him. It's sad to listen to, the guy was a solid pro for 30-plus years.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

After Orton's touchdown, I figured we had another "they are who we thought they were!" game, where the Bears get beat the whole time yet pull out an improbable victory. Instead . . . The only time I've been this angry about a sporting event was Hue Hollins' phantom foul on Scottie Pippin, and then my team wasn't at fault.

What's been lost in the Chicago media analyis of the :11 is that we might actually have a QB. In true Bears fashion, he came along just as the D starts to decline. Seriously, what is Tommie Harris doing out there? I wish I was a drinking man.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Yeah, Orton looks like he's an asset to the offense. If you throw out the end-of-half clock-killing drive, Orton led the Bears to scoring position five out of eight drives, without committing a turnover.

The onus for this loss rests on two groups:

The Bear Defense
The line had its worse game of the year so far, in my opinion. They didn't get consistent pressure on a rookie QB. The secondary, while decimated by injuries, never adjusted coverages or got more physical with the receivers. The defense forced only two punts in nine Falcon drives.

The Coaching Staff
Why give the ball to McKie at the goal line? At least, if you're dead-set on McKie running the ball, keep Forte in the backfield so that the Falcons can't key-in on the fullback.
Why not adjust to tighter coverage? Ryan was completing a lot of timing routes and other routes where receivers were running in space. Bumping at the line or even the sacrilegious concept of man coverage most likely would have been effective. But no, the hubris of the coaching staff knows no bounds.
Why squib kick? The Falcons only needed a field goal and had two timeouts left. Lovie said he didn't want to kick deep because of the previous return. Hello, Lovie, special teams are supposed to be the strength of the team (and for the most part, they still are). Kick it deep! There's maybe a 1/20 chance of Norwood repeating his previous return.
If I owned a franchise, my first question when interviewing a prospective head coach would be: "Will you ever make any decision based on fear?" The Bears staff was afraid of a big return when they made the call that ultimately cost them the game. They were afraid of a deep pass in the Super Bowl when they let the Colts complete pass after pass to Addai and Rhodes. They were afraid of a fluke turnover when they went conservative at the end of the first half yesterday and when they had the untimed down at the end of regulation against Tampa.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I'll repeat this from the open game discussion, Jared Allen was one hard stride away from pushing Orlovsky out. I think it was more just a smart play where he saw he was going to get nailed or take an intentional grounding, so he just walked out of bounds. he didn't look surprised afterward, and neither did Allen. Yes it is fun to make light of the Lions and Orlovsky, but I thought that was a pretty normal play, if anything make fun of the guy who was supposed to be blocking Allen.

The Wire should win the Nobel prize for literature.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"When they started blowing the whistle, I was like, 'Did we false start or were they offsides or something?' " Orlovsky said. "And I looked, and I was just like, 'You're an idiot.'...

"I just wasn't going to sit back there and try to hold the ball and be stupid and give them points, and then I ended up giving them points," Orlovsky said. "Just a dumb play by me."


41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Fair enough my bad, I just saw the play not any comments about it. nevertheless if he takes a line where he stays in bounds Allen pushes him out.

The Wire should win the Nobel prize for literature.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I appreciate your efforts to give praise to a Lion - to any Lion, for that matter - but I have to disagree with you. QBs who take intentional safeties generally don't keep running for several strides, nor do they go out parallel to the line ... for that matter, I don't think I've seen many step out period. They'd just chuck the ball into the stands and take the grounding penalty, or they'd step back out of the end zone and maybe take a step or two. (Or maybe not, and see if they could draw a personal foul after the play. Even if it didn't reverse the safety, it would at least give them a free kick from the 35 instead of the 20.) Orlovsky seemed to me to be moving too fast for it to be anything other than dropping back like the ball was at the 4.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I agree Allen was bearing down on him, but Orlovsky completely didn't know he was out of bounds. He was looking for receivers for like a second before he realized the play was over.

Orlovsky had foot step problems the whole day. If an MN guy got near him he crumpled.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Oh, and as for the guy blocking Allen? That was TE, they had a TE blocking Jared Allen on a pass where the QB started in his own end zone.


Sorry for the double post.

I got the captcha horribly wrong the first time, but the post some how still made it through.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

So I have to ask if Denver-Jax is the only game not covered this week?

Kinda dissapointed... and I can remember that this has happened before.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Dude, read the disclaimer at the top or quit trolling.

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.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I can say I understand that. I'm not stupid, I was just saying it was kind of dissapointing for me being a Denver fan and having there be games where I'd like to know specifically what another intelligent football fan (FO) thinks of how the game broke down only to see it is the ONLY game not covered. Then I went on to mention that it is frustrating at times because it has occured other times and I wonder completely honestly if there is a particular reason for so little interest in Denver in particular on FO?

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

We have been over many times why sometimes games are not discussed.

What is a bit more disappointing from my view is that the STL-WAS game is discussed without mentioning anything that STL did well. I did have a rough idea that STL were outplayed but I didn't think it was at the level where there is nothing to say about them

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

On offense, Steven Jackson ran consistently well; he's a great football player. Also there were two deep completions to Donnie Avery. That's about all.

Chris Horton for defensive rookie of the year.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Re: Ryan and Leinart succeeding against the Bears' defense
While I will agree that Ryan has looked borderline excellent for a rookie and that Leinart is probably getting a raw deal, I wouldn't read too much into the dissection of the Bears' defense. It seems like the Bears' pass defense is either awesome or completely vulnerable, and I put the failure on the coaching staff to make in-game adjustments.

Cases in point: yesterday's game, the Tampa game three weeks ago, and the Cardinal game in 2006. In all those games, the opponents found holes in the cover-2, then kept exploiting the same exact holes! Maybe at some point, the Bears should have started playing the Falcon receivers tight at the line? Be a little more physical with them? Letting them run free in space allowed Ryan to have at least one open receiver on every play. It had the same effect for Brian Griese three weeks ago. Is this just hubris by Lovie Smith's staff that makes them stick with their initial plan?

Re: Cardinals-Cowboys end of regulation
I don't know the exact rule, but I do recall that in the Bears-Eagles game, at one point, the Bears broke their huddle, and Brandon Lloyd started to shake his head and limp off the field. The play clock was winding down, and you could hear Orton yell "go down", and the officials didn't blow the whistle until Lloyd gingerly collapsed to the ground.

In the Cardinals-Cowboys game, since LaBoy was still on his feet, there was no injury timeout called. You would hope that this would give players the good sense to just lie down if they are injured so that an offsides or delay of game penalty is not called.

Re: Andy Reid
Nah, I don't even want to touch this topic...

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I don't want to sound like a Lovie/Babich apologist, and I'm not a huge fan of the cover-2, but I do think that the Bears' struggles yesterday had a whole lot to do with playing their 4th and 6th best corners (Vasher, Tillman, McBride, and Manning were all injured at some point). They had to stay in their base package for fear of leaving those guys alone, and I'm guessing they were also afraid to do much jamming at the line. On the last play before the game-winning FG, you could see Mike Brown turn to Marcus Hamilton (who wasn't on the team 2 weeks ago) after the play, pretty clearly asking him exactly why a receiver was between him and the sidelines 30 yards downfield, which is one of the cardinal sins in cover-2 (or in any defense when there are 6 seconds left in the game and your opponent has the ball on their half of the field).

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

You have a point. I generally dislike bashing coaches too much (though I'm in rare form today), as we, as fans, don't truly grasp what goes on on the sidelines of an NFL game. It's easy to make decisions when we're seeing the whole field, but a head coach has arguably the worst vantage point in the stadium to properly observe the action.

Hamilton will not be on the team as soon as Vasher an Tillman are both ready to play. He was awful, and definitely a contributing factor. That last catch by Jenkins was indeed a Cardinal sin; why was he covering the flat? Any catch there ends the game!

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Agreed. And you are right to point out (a few posts earlier) the role the defensive line played in this loss. When the Bears are forced into a vanilla cover-2 by injuries (as they were last year against Detroit and again yesterday), it's up to the D-line to step it up and get pressure without blitzing. They didn't. Or at least not enough to force Ryan into any mistakes. I want my 2005 unblockable Tommie Harris back.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

If I had to identify Lovie Smith's two biggest faults, they are stubborness and cronyism.

I think there's an unholy synergy between the two. He doesn't want anyone changing his game plan, so he'll get rid of a good coach who won't stick to the script in favor of his BFF who'll do what he's told, despite repeated conversions on third-and-for-the-love-of-God-get-off-the-field.

Is this what Lions fans feel most of the time? If so, I'm sorry if I ever laughed at you.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

You're spot-on regarding the stubbornness, but I think the cronyism is overblown, as it is more of a sign of the stubbornness. He wants a staff that believes in the exact same scheme he does, not necessarily a staff of his buddies.

Lovie believes his scheme is the best. That's not a bad thing. He certainly has the right players for it, which is extremely important (Wannestedt could never figure that part out). However, once the game starts, he's either unable or unwilling to deviate from his plan.

Like Andy Reid, Lovie is a very good coach from Monday through Saturday. On gameday, he's below-average.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Ryan was much more impressive than Leinart's 2006 game. Ryan was more efficient: 22/30 for 301 yards, 1 TD, no sacks or turnovers, vs. Leinart with 24/42 for 232 yards, 2 TDs, 1 sack, 1 fumble lost. Leinart was throwing underneath stuff (every single completion was "short" according to play-by-play), Ryan threw down the field (5 "deep" completions). And Ryan's Falcons consistently moved the ball (6 drives of 30+ yards in 10 possessions), while Leinart's Cardinals did not (3 drives of 30+ yards in 17 possessions).

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

True, I expect Ryan's DVOA to be off the charts. His VOA (10 yards per attempt!) is good enough as is, but when you factor in the "good" Bears defense, his DVOA should be astronomical.

I still stand by my point, though. Both Ryan and Leinart were basically completing (EDIT: within their individual games, not the same as each other) the same passes over and over again, and the Bears never adjusted.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

This may not be fair, but the Eagles' fans calling for Reid to be fired remind me very much of the Giants fans who were calling for Coughlin to be fired last year and/or the year before.

He has flaws. They may be flaws that keep him from ever winning it all. But I think he's a big reason that the Eagles are constantly in the mix.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

He has flaws. They may be flaws that keep him from ever winning it all. But I think he's a big reason that the Eagles are constantly in the mix.

I have no problem with Reid as a coach Monday-Saturday. For three hours or so Sunday, there's a major problem here. He's one of the worst in-game coaches I've ever seen, and I'd love to see a stat or table someday that illustrates just how terrible the Eagles are inside of 2 minutes to go in either half. That's when Reid's brain really leaves early to beat the traffic.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I'm a Giants fan and I still want Coughlin gone. The coach who had the most to do with the Super Bowl run was Spags, and I'm afraid they're going to let him go somewhere else as a head coach because Coughlin is still under contract. Coughlin is an average coach, nothing special.

13 Manning Threading Needles

The 30+ yard throw to Reggie Wayne down the left sideline was insane. Wayne never reached out for it to flag the defender--just held his hands around his navel and the ball landed there. The DB was about a foot behind him and had he known it could have been an easy knock-down of the pass.

The 67-yarder to Harrison was a shade underthrown, but when your guy has 5 yards on the defender, slowing down a half-step ain't a big deal.

That Rhodes signing looks pretty good about now--along with all the OLs Polian drafted--I wonder if he drafts NOBODY will none of the starters get injured the following year? It's worth a try.

17 Re: Manning Threading Needles

That Rhodes signing looks pretty good about now

I was surprised at how snappy Rhodes looked yesterday, albeit the Ravens sure helped a lot. I can't ever remember seeing a Baltimore defense tackle that poorly.

John Harbaugh used his timeouts smartly at the end of the first half, which won't show up since Indy scored and even got the ball back again when the Ravens went 3-and-out. Anyway, the story here is that Harbaugh gets it. He's going to be around a long time, and successful.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Erm, Quantum of Solace makes more than a modicum of sense.

Quantum in this instance simply means quantity - it's taken from an Ian Fleming short story, where it's part of an elaborate theory on relationships.

The volatility of a relationship - between lovers or countries, anything, is measured in the quantum of solace there exists between the parties - the amount of comfort, or trust.

When the quantum of solace hits zero, all hell breaks lose.

18 GB INT celebration

Apparently it started in the Detroit game, but I agree, it's the best team celebration going. Classy on the surface, with a big middle finger to the opposition underneath. Truly outstanding.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Dales...what mix the Eagles haven't been a SB threat in 4 years and will probably end up in last place again this year.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"I don't like watching football anymore. Matt Cassel has made it not fun"

Oh, not having a hall-of-fame quarterback ruins your fun? And the fans of how many teams are now saying "welcome to my world"?

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Bill, you should remind your friend about the five-year rule. (I wrote the Sports Guy to ask him whether the terms were served consecutively or concurrently, and I haven't seen an answer.)

fan of a team that hasn't had a Hall-of-Fame QB in 50 years

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Bill, why did you have to include that note?

We don't want to hear about the complaints from bandwagon patriots fans.

I heard enough of it in San Francisco last week. The most common taunt being "Fan since 2001?"

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I sincerely apologize for saying this, but my mind inserted a two-letter word into that post that changed the meaning entirely and had me asking what the hell that had to do with the Cowboys' kicking game. I blame the proliferation of ED ads in NFL broadcasts.

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Oh man, what a terrible post on my part, let's try again:

Oh man, Brad Johnson has been holding on kicks for the Boys? At his age, doesn't he have a hard time retaining a vertical posture from a kneeling position?

Wow, that still kinda sounds dirty. I don't think I can win this one.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Yes, I read Cosell's breakdown of Leinart and Smith. I really respect Cosell's work generally, and maybe he's right in this instance, but I think he's drawing conclusions a little too quickly. There's a lot more game tape of Alex Smith, and even then it's unclear how much is usable due to the stew of bad personnel, bad coaching and injuries that afflicted the 49ers during Smith's time there.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Leinart was outstanding in USC's Saturday 7-on-7 drill. It doesn't tell us much about his pocket awareness. For that matter, playing against a Cover 2 doesn't really tell us much in that respect, either.

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Comments re: Leinart by the Outsiders are insane. Leinart has already been relegated to the 1st round QB bust-bin next to Heath Shuler and Ryan Leaf. I'm not even sure he really gave Warner a spirited competition... and this is all being based on his one single game against the Bears?

If he's so great why didn't the Patriots, or teams X, Y, Z offer anything in a trade? You'd think maybe the Vikings or Lions or other teams with dire QB needs could use a young QB with a live arm to come in and shoot bullets.

I'll drop the name of another QB who people said, "never got a fair shake"... Patrick Ramsey! Except he did and he couldn't beat out Mark Brunell or Kellen Clemons when it mattered... (well to be fair in 2005 preseason he technically beat out Brunell, even though for all intents and purposes Brunell outplayed him... and then Lance Briggs knocked him into Week 15 vs. the Giants).

Seriously... the Matt Leinart bandwagon!?!?!?!?!?!?

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

It must be really awful to be an Eagles fan and have to endure all the winning seasons and debate wether or not your quality coach is no longer helping your side.

Did you see the niners? Why did they abandon the run when winning in the 4th, are the 49ers good enough to pull that stuff? We're shit, 2-5 for several years in a row and little prospect of improvement in the near future. We'll go into the offseason with no qb, no coach, no long term answer at GM, no pass rush and a crap o-line and Tanier thinks HE has cause to bitch.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Being an Eagles fan lately is something like getting three hours of great head. Sure it's fabulous, but at some point you really need to get a nut.

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

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Mike Tanier, I feel your pain!!! This inability to correct recurring failures in the Iggles' game is quite disheartening to me too. Yes, we Philly fans are perplexed and angry. It doesn't help that the city hasn't had a championship team in a while and their football team has been teetering on the brink for so many seasons. It also doesn't help that the franchise is the only one in it's division not to win a Super Bowl.

To me, Reid has been the right coach to reinvigorate the play on the field and choose talented players. Joe Banner has done the job to keep the team financially viable. The franchise's value has increased exponentially under Lurie/Banner/Reid. The winnning has produced a state of the art training facility and heavily public subsidized stadium. It also didn't hurt the Iggles that pro football's popularity has exploded. All this has kept the fan's hopes high and wallets open. This is just what Lurie/Banner/Reid envisioned. Let's make mo' money!!!

With all the success over the past 10 years, there is still the contempt, dispair, disallusion and animosity towards the team. Most of it is just the Philadelphia way. Why be happy and content when we can be angry and disagreeable? Even if the Iggles did win the Super Bowl, fans would still argue that Reid made the wrong play call on 3rd and goal that actually scored, McNabb should have puked while doing his King of Pop impression or Akers didn't get enough leg on that 62 yarder that sailed through the uprights against a 30 mph wind. We just won't be satisfied. So Mike, I fee your pain!!!

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I've slowly, and unhappily, joined the "Reid needs to go" crowd this year. I just think he's taken this team as far as he can. They're still good at the things they've always been good at (finding OL, the long passing game, pressuring the QB) and bad at the things they've always been bad at. For a guy so fixated on the OL, the Eagles haven't had a TE who could block since Lewis got hurt (Schobel's complete whiff, possibly the worst attempted block I've ever seen, was the reason Buckhalter didn't get in on 4th down in Chicago) and haven't had a true FB since Ritchie retired. Hunt is big, but he can't block and RBs who can't block won't play for Andy Reid. For a team so fixated on throwing the ball, Reid has done an awful job of identifying and developing WRs. I'd rather see what a new coach can do with a talented veteran team than find out what an untested new QB might do under the long-time coach.

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

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

As an Eagles fan I share the frustration with you and with Mike but I agree with Bill on the topic. I don't see how firing Andy Reid is going to help except if they want to start a long-term rebuilding effort. For all of the things he does wrong, and they are many and varied, one thing to remember is that he got the most important part right - Donovan McNabb. He identified and drafted the best QB in the draft class, and then coached him into one of the top QBs of his generation and the best QB in team history. That's no small feat, and it would be a shame to ignore that aspect of his tenure for the sake of his poor time management, lack of a power running game, etc. that have also plagued his career.

It is troubling that he fails to understand that his team is not what he thinks it is - both in long term planning (trading #1 picks, drafting a backup QB with first overall pick, etc.) and in-game tactics (well documented.) Ultimately this has to change, because McNabb is not going to be able to bail him out forever - Mike's bullet list is a strong argument for the plaintiff. But with a healthy Westbrook the offense is still an elite unit and I expect it will be a strong tonic for our collective heartburn over the second half of the season.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"I don't like watching football anymore. Matt Cassel has made it not fun."

Ah, Boston sports fans. Good thing the Sox are winning.

34 Re: Stephen Colbert Award for Biggest Balls

Is it me, or have coaches been unusually aggressive on 4th down this year? I'm not even talking about guys like Shannahan and Belichick, who've been known to be aggressive; if I recall correctly, Dungy and Lovey Smith are known to be unusually conservative, and they've gone for it on 4th this year, too. I'd love to see some stats on this.

36 NE vs SD

Geez guys, I understand that you are Patriots fans and they didn't play well but it wouldn't kill you to mention what the Chargers did right.

For instance, on that goal line stand, Aaron mentions that they should "just give the ball to the running back and put the damn ball in the end zone." Well, they tried that and Jamal Williams manhandled the center pushing him into the RB, to stop the play for a loss. Williams was a difference maker in this game and looked healthy for the first time this year. The chargers defense really revolves around solid play from the nose tackle and this is the first game where they got it. I would go so far as to say that the chargers defense will only be as good as Jamal Williams, which is a scary thought if you consider all the surgery Williams has had on his knees.

The Chargers also exploited the height advantage of their wide receivers against the Pats corners. A good example of this was the touchdown pass to Floyd at the beginning of the game.

Lets not forget about the spectacular play of Quentin Jammer. Jammer had single coverage on Moss for most of the night and made some spectacular plays without drawing a penalty.

There are two sides to every story, and for every bad play the Pats had the Chargers had to do something right.

39 Re: NE vs SD

In reply to by Dbldown (not verified)

Geez guys, I understand that you are Patriots fans and they didn't play well but it wouldn't kill you to mention what the Chargers did right.

Batters can and will get no credit. Every homer comes off a mistake from the pitcher. Hah.

(Hey, I hear you. We're in such a hurry to blame someone for getting owned, we don't credit excellent play nearly enough.)

66 Re: NE vs SD

In reply to by Dbldown (not verified)

I apologize for being such a biased patriots fan. Thank you for unraveling the conspiracy. It was growing weary on me.

67 Re: NE vs SD

In reply to by Dbldown (not verified)

I apologize for being such a biased patriots fan. Thank you for unraveling the conspiracy. It was growing weary on me.

68 Re: NE vs SD

In reply to by Dbldown (not verified)

I apologize for being such a biased patriots fan. Thank you for unraveling the conspiracy. It was growing weary on me.

94 Re: NE vs SD

In reply to by Bill Barnwell

What's it tell you about this new system at FO when even you can't post properly?

With regard to the Pats game, I give FO credit for pointing out that Vincent Jackson played well, but in general, the Chargers were ignored and your collective comments do leave one with the impression that "But for Brady's injury N.E. would surely have won this game!" Is there legitimate reason for thinking that Brady's absence was worth 21 points?

97 Re: NE vs SD

In reply to by Kellerman

Indeed. How unlucky for the Patriots that they ran up against a Chargers team that has but only a half dozen or so of their top players either out with injury or playing hobbled.

113 Re: NE vs SD

In reply to by Kellerman

It tells you that trying to post with an IPhone inside the New York City subway system is a bad idea, but hey, I'm sure it's that our comment system sucks and we're TEH BIASED etc etc.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I think the Vikings have a decent chance to slightly improve on my projection for them by winning eight games. Unfortunately, eight wins might win the division, with the tiebreakers, which means that Childress would be back. That would mean that the talent evaluation at qb would continue to be lousy. The best chance for this franchise to improve in the next year or two would be for Childress to go, and for Leslie Frazier to move up, with his first task to start interviewing potential offensive coordinators.

Heck, Childress' talent evaluation at receiver has been mostly lousy as well, although it is nice to see Berrian start to make some plays. When a head coach with a background in offense makes bad talent evaluations at qb (trading up for Tavaris Jackson, trading for Brooks Bollinger, possibly making no effort to acquire Jeff Garcia) and receiver (Billy McMullen for Hank Baskett, anyone?), there isn't much use in retaining him.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Apparently NFL officials like Childress right where he is. Either that or they really don't like Rod Marinelli. The Calvin Johnson fumble looked like a bad (though defensible) call to me, but the phantom PI on the last Vikings possession was simply terrible.

If you're a Lions fan this really had to be crushing. I can't imagine what about this game, at home, against the winless Lions, with their back-up QB, would lead you to believe the Vikings would be more successful than previously believed.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I didn't think the fumble was defensible. It looked like Johnson was on the ground and the linebacker ripped it out. He doesn't need to rip it out like that if Calvin doesn't still have possession. I guess maybe Joe Barry isn't the cause of all the Lions' misery, given that his D held a team to 12 points and they couldn't win.

I don't think I'm hoping to see Drew Stanton just because I"m an MSU fan.

Also, weirdness, the Lions have the lesser Drew (Henson) on the active roster. He was in uniform on the sidelines and I checked it at the team site. They haven't put Kitna on IR, but that's weird to use a roster spot if its just a shortterm thing.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The Cardinals could have called there own timeout when the player was limping back. If the player is not down and out, why is it the officials' job to take a timeout?

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I agree with Baconnwaffles that the correct call is for AZ to wait and call the timeout with five seconds left, or as soon as it is clear that (1) the officials will be able to reset the ball with time on the clock and (2) your lineman won't be able to get off the field. But I wouldn't expect any human coach to be able to pull that off.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Ugh, Ravens returned to their 2007 form: we may suck at almost every phase of the game, but we can stuff the run!

Rhodes destroyed the Ravens in the fourth quarter of the playoff game two years ago, but he averaged 2.9 ypc against the Ravens yesterday, not exactly doing great. Aside from his 38 yard run, I don't know if he had more than a couple successful plays in 25 attempts.

Also, it has come to my attention that the Ravens officially suck at drafting and developing CBs. Aside from McCallister, who was drafted 10 years ago, there hasn't been a single decent CB in their system. They really need to break the bank and go after a top CB FA next offseason, because C-Mac is breaking down, Rolle is broken down, Fabian Washington seems OK but injury prone, and Ivy and Walker are guys opposing QBs actively target.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Am I the only that noticed that on at least two occasions, Brian Billick- at least, I assume it was Billick, since it makes sense- referred to Kyle Orton as "Kyle Boller"?

Also, no mention of Belichick calling a timeout with 2 seconds left down by 20 points?

76 Timeout with two seconds left

No mention because it was unremarkable. It's called a two-minute drill. If it was worth doing at all (practice, entertainment value for the fans, respect for the game and your opponent, being professionals, etc) it was worth doing all the way to the end of the game. It happens all the time.

Also, no mention of Rivers staying in the fourth quarter with a huge lead. It's called professional football. I doubt anyone's feelings were hurt.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

On the LaBoy injury, the reason I think it might have been the right call (offsides) by the officials is that the replays showed he was trying to limp off the field when the ball was snapped on the next play. LaBoy just didn't make it to the sideline in time.

I guess my question is when is it officially an injury timeout? Does the player have to lie there on the ground writhing in agony? Does someone from the medical staff need to be on the field. Is this just a judgment call on the part of the ref?

And if the ref doesn't notice the injury when it happens he can't really go back and call a retroactive timeout can he?

61 Re: injury timeout

It's an injury timeout if the player "can't" come off the field. (There have been accusations in the past.) Usually it's when a player is down in the area where the next play will be run, so there's no question that they have to stop the game, and the team with the injured player is charged with a timeout.

You can actually get a fourth timeout in this way ... timeout #5 (and beyond) comes with a five-yard penalty and a 10-second runoff, but it's really, really rare that a team with no timeouts left gets two players hurt with the clock running inside two minutes to play.

I think it comes down to what other people have said: a player who can move is not "injured" as the rules require and is thus responsible for getting back to the line of scrimmage.

58 Ealges Fan response to Reid comment

I felt horrible with the final part of the second quarter to the 4th quarter, so I understand the frustration, but on reflection, and the win, I don't agree with firing Reid. He's a fine coach, and arguably the best in Philly in the modern era. It would be a mistake to get rid of him. A combination of devistating injuries, terrible luck, and a few modest coaching shortcomings have hurt the Eagles for the past few years, but think of:

This team with a healthy McNabb, Westbrook, Andrews, and Jackson!

That's a team full of offensive playmakers, capable of dominating competition. Assuming they come out of the bye 100% healthy, they should roll through most of the rest of the season, and make the playoffs as the most dangerous team around. Heck, with the state of the NFC East, they might win their division if the Giants come back down to earth.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I think this is the first Audibles ever where I've had to stop reading because it turned into annoying, homerish whining re: Andy Reid and how terrible the Seahawks are. Just unbearable.

Not the kind of thing I come here for. Unfortunate.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I just want to point out that Doug Farrar has started what must be the first "Fire the (incoming) coach!" movement. Good to see FO's still pushing the boundaries of innovation.

(But seriously, I wouldn't be comfortable with Mora either. I was sad to see him leave the Falcons.)

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

No comments on how incredibly stupid it was for the Dolphins to leave the middle wide open on the final touchdown? When I saw that I couldn't believe my eyes and scremed, "NO!" at the television (and swore a whole lot after he ran it in).

That stupid stupid play is the reason that I will not be watching football next week (possibly longer, but I don't want to committ to that yet), it just makes me too angry (as anyone in IRC can attest to after my one line profanity filled tirade).

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I haven't gone to look at the replay (and I'm not going to either), but as I was watching the 3rd down prior to the QB draw I yelled at the TV that he could have just strolled into the endzone untouched instead of (if my memory's correct) throwing the ball away. The very next play was the TD, and now my wife might think that I actually do know as much about football as I think I do. Thanks, Dolphins!

65 Vikings-Lions

The frustrating part about this game was that it was definitely winnable. The defense once again did a good job ... yes, the touchdown came on yet another blown coverage, but it was "the" touchdown and not "a" touchdown, and they certainly made it difficult for the Vikings the rest of the game. (The PI call on Bodden might have been sketchy, but I don't think it matters - the call was made and it rests on the defense to get out of that situation.)

The problem was that the offense was crap yet again. There were flashes of mediocrity, and it's possible that Orlovsky may be decent once he gets some more playing time, but the defense kept the game close the entire time and the offense simply wasn't up to the task.

In fact, I actually heard the announcers praise Jim Colletto, and I threw up in my mouth. (I must point out that I actually attended Purdue games while Colletto was the head coach, and there is no possible way this man can run an NFL team. Marinelli has to be allowed to finish out the season.)

I do not see a winnable game on the schedule. I doubt the Vikings will be so charitable when they visit Worst Owner in History Field.

So ... Chase Daniel? Tim Tebow? Jeremy Maclin? It's too much to hope that the new GM (there will be a new GM, right? unless they keep Mayhew) will shore up the offensive line.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Hi, everyone, I'm back, and just in time for an Audibles without a mention of the crazy Jax-Den game! However, it is probably just as well, because the first half of that game was hair-raising in its ineptitude (BOTH teams). There were certainly better games to watch, so no harm done.

Bobman is right about the accuracy of Manning's throws yesterday. It is challenging to defend throws that are accurate to that degree, thrown by a quarterback that certainly knows what he is doing. Baltimore should have adopted the "Jax-o-matic" (patent pending) method of playing the Colts (hold the ball 40+ minutes with an outstanding running game). Oh, wait. . .

72 Redskins' o-line

I just wanted to add a note of agreement to Vince's comment about Pete Kendall. The guy has been absolutely stellar for the 'Skins (and, to my knowledge, was pretty darn good for the Jets, too). Samuels gets all the press for that line, but Kendall has been crucial to the Redskins' offense. Anybody who has watched the team knows that their strength is running the ball to the left, and Kendall has done just as much as Samuels to make that facet of their offense nearly unstoppable. Someone else has done the work to show you what I'm talking about here.

As for Jansen, he is indeed the better run-blocker (Heyer wasn't really getting any sort of push), but he's lost a step, and that has very clearly affected his abilities in pass protection.

Finally, it's worth noting that Cooley has improved noticeably with his run-blocking; he's getting out and sealing the edges effectively on a pretty regular basis. That's made everyone else's job easier.

120 Re: Redskins' o-line

It's a great blog to check out for any Steelers' or 'Skins' fans. Although posts don't always come as regularly as I'd like, they do some frame-by-frame and video stuff that's much better than what you'll find most places.

I agree, though -- if I had the necessary tools (Sunday Ticket, TiVO) and a bit more time, I'd love to be doing that sort of thing myself.

119 Re: Redskins' o-line

In reply to by dmb

I also agree--Kendall was all over the place against the Eagles.

I disagree about Jansen vs. Heyer, however. Jansen this year has made some dominant plays sometimes, and sometimes he's gotten beat. From What I've seen of Heyer he's less dominating but more consistent. Either way, it is quite nice having starting quality depth along the o-line.

Chris Horton for defensive rookie of the year.

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Um, Vince? Ben? Yeah, about that whole "Seattle" thing? Well, yeah, the Packers game was bad, sure. Charlie Frye is . . . you know, I think this is one of those rare cases where you just don't need to add the predicate onto the sentence. "Charlie Frye is" pretty accurately captures what he brings to the football table, kind of a zen recognition that your day will be utterly futile and you should just accept it and move on.

Anyways, yeah, that was bad, but the Packers had several defensive starters out, meaning, well, there was at least some weakness there to pick on. Now, next week . . . well, there's this team called the "Tampa Bay Buccaneers" who, well, are playing kind of good on defense. To put it mildly. They're very fast, tackle well, and seem to have a real knack for getting turnovers and turning them into quick points. Now, a few weeks ago, they had someone named "Brian Griese" starting for them who is a lot like a significantly more talented Charlie Frye (certainly much better, but not so much better that he can't be mentioned in comparison). Brian Griese, well, he tends to make a lot of dumb mistakes that help keep other teams in the game and give them opportunities to overcome Tampa's defensive dominance. However, Brian Griese has been replaced with an upgraded "Jeff Garcia" model, and Jeff Garcia is not . . . well, let's just say he's good enough that he can't be compared to Charlie Frye, really.

So, all-in-all, you'll be facing a much better defense, along with an offense that will strive to not make mistakes. Assuming, of course, the coach doesn't change starting QBs again, of course.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Regarding the Vikings - Lost in the tedium of watching a Childress offence was an incredible performance by Kevin Williams. He has in my mind been the best player on this team for a number of years. I thought his sack rate might explode up with more attention going to Allen.

Will - did you notice they had Robinson playing tackle on a few pass rush downs. He just missed a sack that was tidied up by K. Williams.

Regarding the offence - what amazes me this year is that when they try to run some kind of misdirection the other team is all over it. As well their screen passes this year have been beyond bad. Almost everyone is incomplete and nearly picked off on several occasions.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

When I started watching the Colts-Ravens game I said to myself, "Calm down. I know you want to see the Colts offense finally explode, but this is the Ravens defense they're playing. Five field goals is okay."

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Not a single word on DEN/JAX? As a Broncos fan, I can't say I was looking forward to reading it, but it seemed an interesting game, at least. How about this:

The Bucs game aside, the Broncos are pretty much who we thought they were. They have a good offense (not great, maybe next year) and a bad defense with basically 3 good players - Bailey, Bly, and Williams. They have a chance to beat anybody, but the offense needs to explode to a big lead early and take care of the ball. When the defense gets on the field, they're going to be there for a while. So if the offense turns the ball over, the defense is going to be on the field WAAAAAY too much and their goose is cooked. If I'm a coach preparing for the Broncos, it's a pretty simple game plan. Run the ball a lot, throw to Bly's side or to the TE in the seam, and have your defense focus on forcing turnovers.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Not a single word on DEN/JAX? As a Broncos fan, I can't say I was looking forward to reading it, but it seemed an interesting game, at least.

Why is it that every week, without fail, someone complains about a game not being discussed in Audibles? Seriously, read the introductory paragraph. Specifically, this part:

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.

None of the outsiders wanted to watch/talk about the DEN/JAX game, so they didn't. They're not going to suddenly start watching teams they don't root for just because you want them to comment on the interesting game that your favorite team is playing in, so either stop asking about whether they're going to talk about your team, or get used to disappointment.

The second part of your post is what you should have been doing the whole time. If you want information about your favorite team to appear in Audibles, and none of the outsiders have talked about it, then share your own observations/insights in a comment.

80 Russell Levine on Dexter Jackson

I know how much it must pain you to watch Dexter Jackson look so lost as a pro when he tortured Michigan a year ago. What is the difference between college and the pros that can make players with all the physical tools so dominant on one level and completely ineffective on the next?

81 Re: Russell Levine on Dexter Jackson

The worst player on a NFL team would be the 10th best player on just about any college team. Part of it is so much more preparation, but another part is dilution of talent. There are 32 NFL teams, and something like 112 division 1A teams.

84 Re: Russell Levine on Dexter Jackson

If anything, you are probably giving college players too much credit. The worst player in the NFL would be one of the best two or three players on most college teams, and would be an above-average player on the very best college teams.

85 Re: Russell Levine on Dexter Jackson

It pains Bucs fans even more. Seriously, go forward. Back is not a good idea. Really, the point is to go in the other direction, we're not kidding here.

It's the classic "everyone is as fast as you" thing. Dexter Jackson was FAST in college, be it 1-A or 1-AA or whatever. Any day he stepped onto the field, there was a decent chance he was the fastest person out there. Now, everybody's fast. Back in college he could reverse 15 yards and beat defenders to the corner and everything's fine. Now, there's three guys waiting for him. Until he learns that fact, he's in serious trouble, and he'll continue to suck. He should be in theory one hell of a slot receiver, but it's like he just can't accept he's not the speedy guy anymore. Actually kind of reminds me of Peter Warrick at this point, which is not exactly a ringing endorsement.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I don't think in 2 years I've ever read an FO column and laughed out loud before - this changed with the Orlovsky safety diagram - genius!

87 Manning 2 Manning

Given the opponent adjustment, I'm curious what Peyton Manning's DVOA will be this week.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"OK, Cassel's just totally out of sorts and this game is over. Is it time to bring in Kevin O'Connell, if just for the rest of the game, to see what he can do?"

I'm not totally sure Cassel is the problem. I'm thinking a large part is either McDaniels, or (judging by mcdaniels screaming at belichick on the sidelines), belichick.

You can't move the ball running or throwing 3 yard patterns on every play. Yeah, they threw deep two or 3 times, but I don't remember any patters more than 10 yards that weren't Flys.

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The play calling is probably part of the problem, but so is Cassel. He doesn't look good throwing the deep ball at all. That combined with a banged up offensive line doesn't lend itself to calling for longer pass plays.

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I think we need to indulge wild speculations about what McDaniels was saying. I think it was "you've got to let me bench Cassel! He sucks whale cock!"

McDaniels does the play-calling so I don't see what else it could be. Right?

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"There are 32 NFL teams, and something like 112 division 1A teams."

That, and the 32 teams are selecting from roughly 10 years worth of talent, where the college teams really only hold 3-4 years of talent.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Independent George, I assume you're familiar with that economics research that showed that it would be advantageous for coaches to go for it on 4th down much more often (more often than any coach has yet)? I'm too lazy to get the link. :)

95 It has to be said

It may be intended for coaches, but Kellen Winslow is making a strong play at the Colbert Award this week.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

With respect to the last minute of regulation in the game Arizona Dallas game, I recall a rule about a 10 second run off when the team losing team commits a foul in the last minute of the game. Did this rule go away?

It seemd the Cowboys were getting a lot of favorable calls in the last minute.
In the last minute of the Cowboys game:
:50 left - off holding, no 10 s runoff
:32 offsides called - I rewound this play and watched it again...the Defenders didn't even budge until after the snap. No one tried to jump the count. Penalty negated an 8 yard gain on 3rd & 16.
:04 already discussed at length... no comment
not to mention the 2 fumbles overturned / early whistle eairler in the game.

Second note, could some of Dallas's bad projection be in part due to fumble luck returning to mean. I have no statistics in hand, but the 5 or 6 Dallas games a year I watch... the last few have seemed to feature a lot of Romo fumbles, usually not only recoved by the Cowboys, but picked up by Romo in stride and thrown for big plays. I haven't seen any of these this year. Now its either the Cowboys recover and lose yardage, or the other team recovers. The announcers in the game yesterday said something about Romo fumbling a lot. It seems true to me, but maybe I'm just remembering the plays that stick out, and am jaded by my rooting intrests. I certanly don't want to take anything that announcing crew says final word.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Bill Barnwell: It's Reid's fault that...their best offensive lineman, best running back, and best wide receiver are hurt?

Make that best two wide receivers hurt. Seriously, Mike, they were short an All Pro RB, a Pro Bowl G, and both of their starting WRs, and the offense still scored 33 points (more than SF has given up to any other opponent this season), and the team won by two TDs.

The urge to keep kicking 50-plus-yard field goals is on him. Yes, this week's was right before the half and we all would have kicked it. But at some point, he should have been looking for alternate solutions to the David Akers problem.

Akers has attempted how many 50+ yard FGs in the last two years? 7? So, going into this game, he'd missed 5 50+ yard FGs in the last two seasons. And you're concluding from a handful of misses that he can't make them anymore? He probably attempted more 50+ yard FGs in practice before that game! Even if you look at 40+ yarders, he's missed 12 in the last two years. Not exactly a huge sample size there.

The goal-line woes are ultimately on him to fix. He has failed.

What's he supposed to do, exactly? Rent a quality goal line back until Westbrook gets healthy, at which time said rented goal line back would no longer be needed? That's kind of pointless, given that by the time they could find a good goal line back, Westbrook would already be healthy and the problem would've solved itself.

This "other coach"...doesn't keep doing the same things the same way and wait for problems to solve themselves.

What, like Dungy did with his defense? Oh, wait, that did work.

Look, I get the frustration, but firing Reid is not the answer. And evaluating his offense's performance based on games where it's missing almost half of its starters is crazy. What NFL offense could lose 4 starters, including 2 Pro Bowlers, and not miss a beat? Seriously, name one. For instance, if you took LaDainian Tomlinson, Vincent Jackson, Chris Chambers, and Kris Dielman, and put all four of them on the bench, how good do you think the Chargers offense would look?

Short of having 4 good starting receivers on the roster, and a voodoo doll of every opponent's kicker, I don't see what Reid should've done.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Bill walks into the film room, a hush descending on the assembled players. Bill clears his throat, looking around the room. He spots Cassel and stares him down. Tension in the air. Opening his folder, Bill finds the paper he's looking for, and says "Matt, your pocket presence sucks whale dick."

107 Niners are actually showing improvement in frustrating ways

The Niners are at an interesting point. Both against Philly and NE, it looked like they were going to win, and then they shot themselves in the foot.

On the one hand, that's very frustrating - they could have two wins against top NFL franchises, and let them slip through their fingers.

On the other hand, though, this is a welcome change from the potential-less ineptitude of previous years - they're playing top NFL franchises (sure, they're struggling, but they're still good teams!) and they're hanging in there, showing enough to make us think they *could* win.

I don't know if Alex Smith was the problem, but they're playing considerably better without him. The franchise has some talent on both sides of the ball (more on defense than offense, but hey), and is mostly lacking in quality lineman. Sure, JTOS is not going to win a Superbowl for you, but he could take them to a 9-7 playoff run.

The Niners are improving. They've got some key pieces; they need to use this season to sort out who belongs and "coach 'em up". Are Nolan and his staff the guys to analyze his players, and help them improve their weak points? That should determine whether or not they stay; if they are, this team could be good next year.

Oh, and it is nice to know that FO writers, like all mortals, can fall into the "I'm so frustrated I'll believe my eyes and not the numbers" fallacy. This often leads to the removal of noses to teach the face a lesson. Maybe Reid would take the SF job after taking some time to check in with the world outside of football :<)

108 Re: Niners are actually showing improvement in frustrating ways

I'm not sure NE qualifies as a "top franchise" this year, with Cassel at the helm...

I was at the NE-SF game last week and I was very impressed with the Niners. They definitely have talent. This is very cursory, based on the one game I saw, but I like the future of that team. I think JTO will never be a HoF'er, but looks to have good mobility and the ability to throw while on the move, so he should be a serviceable QB (for the record, I'd never liked Smith and thought Aaron Rodgers would have been the much safer QB pick that year). I like their defense--Willis is a beast, and I think the Pats were lucky to play the Niners when Manny Lawson was out--even so, the left side of the Niners defense was giving the right side of the Pats line fits (which, maybe, says more about the right side of the Pats line). Their DB's need to play better, especially against the short game that NE loves to run (look at what the Chargers DB's did to NE's short game this week!), and I think Martz's playcalling gets too cute on offense sometimes--you've got Gore, and you've got the other teams ends/OLB's having to say wide to stop JTO's running, so pound it up the middle more! And their WR's need a little more route discipline. But the big problem with the Niners looks to be coaching. I just don't think Nolan is very good, and as long as they keep him, they're not going to be a great franchise...

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

A comment on the NE-SD game that hasn't been said.

One major reason why NE lost (aside from the "Cassel sucking whale dick" and "NE CB's are short" effects) was that Randy Moss was outplayed by Vincent Jackson. Yes, you read that right.

Go back to the first half, before the game got out of hand. The Chargers were camping around the LOS, knowing that Cassel seemed incapable of throwing any pass greater than 6 yards. So the Pats tried a few deep balls to Moss whenever he was single covered, to loosen the Chargers defense. I counted 4~5 deep balls thrown to Moss in the first half. To be fair, one was WAY off target, by about 10 yards when Moss was wide open, and one (the first) was underthrown and an open Moss had to slow up and let the chargers CB break up the pass, but (including that one), three times the ball was in Moss's hands before he either dropped it or had it torn away.

The Chargers, meanwhile, were having no luck running the ball or moving it with short passes. So they came out throwing deep to test the Pats short secondary. I recall ~4 deep completions that directly led to all three of the Charger's first three scores (two or three versus O'Neal and one versus Sanders?? or Hobbs). On one of those, the Chargers' WR was open, but on the other three, the Pats CB had good position and pretty good coverage. On at least two, the Pats CB got his hand on the ball, but was unable to break up the pass.

So the Chargers' WR's (mainly Jackson) managed to pull in balls when in good coverage, while Moss did not. And that was why the Chargers were up 17-3 at halftime, and went up 24-3 early in the third.

To be fair, Rivers was placing the deep balls much better than Cassel, and the Chargers WR's have more of a height advantage versus NE's CB's than vise versa, but still--If Moss catches more passes than Jackson when both he and the CB get their hand on the ball, it's a different game.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

MJK, completely agree. Moss just didn't get it done, although Cassel underthrowing him on almost every deep ball didn't help.

Did you notice, as much as me, how badly Koppen was getting beat all night? He's clearly hurting from not having Neal at his side. Jamal Williams isn't an easy assignment by any means, but he was getting beat pretty bad.

That, and Deltha Oneil sucks ass. Maybe its time to get Wheatly/Wilhelm some playing time. I'm starting to think that Belichick is the NFL equivalent of Terry Francona: giving veterans way too much playing time when their are better younger guys ready to play.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I did notice Koppen getting manhandled. It was most obvious on the 2nd and goal from the 1, where Koppen actually "tacked" Morris (?) in the backfield by being driven back into him by Williams. But most of the protection problems seemed to start at the center and inside right side of the line.

I know Koppen isn't elite and probably didn't deserve a Pro-bowl nod last year, but I did think he was decent. But I've often wondered of late if Koppen is just average or even below average and needs talented guys on either side of him, or if he really is good but not good enough to compensate for the drop from Neal to Yates. I am starting to believe that Stephen Neal was/is a much more important part of the Pats offense than many people recognize.

I don't think O'Neal sucks. He got burned a couple of times, but as I mentioned, on at least two of those deep completions he got his hand on the ball, and only the fact that Rivers was placing it really well and the SD reciever made some amazing catches in spite of his hand made them into completions. And he's made some nice defensive plays to date, especially when you consider he had no camp with the Patriots defense and is learning a complex defensive scheme on the fly. He's not as good as Samuel, but maybe we Pats fans were a little spoiled (at CB, I mean, obviously we were at QB). Maybe we should watch replays of a few of last year's Saints games and watch that ex-Colts CB who was in danger of losing his starting job to Hole-in-the-Zone. Or just take a minute to think about Duane Starks... (shudder). Or how about Earthwind Moreland? I would place O'Neal as an above average, but not elite CB, about the same ability as Hobbs, and probably better than Sanders, or Wheatly/Wilhite right now. In the long run, I think they'll be better, but I like O'Neal in there right now.

112 Panther Loses

Did anyone else notice that the 2 Panther losses came as a result of QB replacements? I sense a conspiracy!!!

114 Schatz on Jamaal Anderson

"Jamaal Anderson is playing very well."

Wow, no, he absolutely is not. He definately had a breakout game on sunday, and I hope it's a sign of things to come, but this is the first time in 21 games that he's shown ANYTHING like this. He certainly hasn't displayed anything like Gaines Adams' explosiveness or progression in technique.

Curtis Lofton has really grown with each game this season - he's legit. Sam Baker is also a very important and overlooked contributor to this offense. Basically,the Falcons offense is legit, the defense is still pretty weak.

115 Hometown newspapers

Do fans of other teams have a hometown paper which absolutely loathes their football team? For whatever reason, the Charlotte Observer flat out hates the Panthers. Whether they win or lose, the paper drips venom. Is this a common phenomena? I've heard Boston papers have a love/hate relationship with their teams, but we're missing the love. What about other teams? Any Bengal fans out there?

122 Re: Hometown newspapers

In reply to by morganja

As far as I can tell, about two-thirds of the Eagles' fanbase, let alone the newspapers, do fairly well at the whole venom-dripping thing. I can practically smell the hate from Scotland, win or lose.

123 Re: Hometown newspapers

For the most part, columnists in Chicago love to rip their local teams.

Mariotti, before he so kindly resigned from the Sun-Times, hated every Chicago team, particularly the White Sox.

I'm convinced Rosenbloom roots against Chicago teams, particularly the Bears, just so he can take cheap shots in his "blog"/online column on the Tribune's. Thankfully, he was removed from the printed sports section.

And while Grossman deserved a good deal of blame, he also could have gone 25/25 for 350 yards and 3 TDs in a Bears loss and the local columnists would have blamed it on him.

128 Re: Hometown newspapers

The Boston Herald absolutely loathes the Patriots, at least ever since Belichick took over and pulled their special, inside contacts that let them all be lazy. The Globe also hated them, until Ron "Plaigarist" Borges left. Now that they have Mike Reiss, they are actually reall really good. But the Red Sox are definitely a "love-hate" relationship.

131 Re: Hometown newspapers

The Denver Post is absolutely horrible re: the Broncos. Klis is gawdawful, and Lindsey Jones pretty much single-handedly got Marshall suspended by sticking every Marshall traffic ticket on the front-page, and pre-judging the outcome of all his law-enforcement shenanigans in the most negative light possible.
(Disclaimer: I am NOT defending Marshall... he was/is an idiot. However, it has since come to light that his ex-girlfriend (since middle school) maybe a complete nutjob, and may have blown many of the charges out of proportion/threatened extortion (TBD in court). None of the original articles showed any semblance of balanced approach, instead portraying Marshall as a complete thug).

The other DP writers are also complete idiots who may not even be watching the game, for example writing articles about how the run game is horrible this year while DVOA had them listed at #1, etc.

About the only good ting about the DP is the online blog section, where the fans actually often write insightful things.

The Rocky Mountain News is better, but not great either.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I was at a wedding last night and had some girl try and convince me for a half hour that ... football is boring and a waste of my life

Half an hour? Talk about wasting your life, Bill (unless that conversation was a successful prelude).

Instead of wasting my time, I tell such people that they clearly aren't smart enough to follow the game, which is why they feel they have to put it down. What, I ask, does football look like to them? And that gives me the opening to wax lyrical about the analytical intelligence it takes to be a great offensive lineman. Which is necessary precisely because of the complexity of defenses. Which is only possible because of the combination of speed and smarts of the modern defender. Which is necessary because of the accuracy and reflexes of QBs. Which leads to the crucial ability of receivers to make sight reads and their near symbiotic relationship to the quarterback. Which in turn leads to clever dsiguises by the secondary. Etc.

I'm wicked fun at parties, let me tell you!

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I don't know who's the more annoying little bitch - Tanier or the chick at Barnwell's wedding that doeasn't like football. Buck up! The Phillies are destined for the World Series, the Cowboys are falling apart and Eli is starting to play like Eli. The Eagles have always been better after the bye week, so relax, watch baseball for two weeks and tell the soccer lover lady to go back to the third world (Unless it was Heather Mitts, then feed her Tequilla and hope for the best).

137 Andy Reid

“It's not Reeves with the Broncos, it's Dungy with the Buccaneers.”

No one is talking about this comment but it is dead on. There are many similarities between the two situations but I don’t need to go over them all, just take a minute to think about it.

Let me first start by saying that I believe a Head Coach can bring respectability and success to a franchise and still be a bad head coach. I think there are different type of head coaches and different ways to win. The Andy Reid team (managers and all) have brought in very good players to the organization. They have drafted well, have a deep team and good coaches. They are consistently in the playoff mix. Now how can someone who does all that be a bad head coach?

After years and years of watching Andy Reid I can confidently say, he is a terrible head coach, on game day. His team’s lack urgency, they have the talent to gain leads and then allow them to slip away. At times they show a lack of heart, especially lately. And most of all, Andy Reid cannot manage the clock at all. That alone would make me terrified of my own head coach. Reid has had success because of all the things he helps his team do to prepare for the game. Then when the game is happening he is getting out-coached. A coach’s in game decisions aren’t always that important, until you are playing the toughest competition. And this is where Reid always seems to let his team down.

This may sound like another situation, one involving Tony Dungy. He, like Reid, helped turn around a franchise and bring respectability to an organization. But in the end he could not light a fire under his team to get them over the hump. At the time the decision to fire Dungy was criticized, because it did not seem as if he did anything to warrant getting fired.

In that case, as with Reid, its not about what they did but what they could not do. They could not give their teams an edge on game day to get them over the hump. The Eagles Management have to ask themselves if they think Reid can win them a Superbowl? And if the answer is no, then despite all he is done, he has to go. Because a Superbowl is all that matters.

(Maybe Reid is a good HC for a struggling franchise. But with this team right now, they need someone to kick them in the ass. The team needs to take a chance while they still have one. Even if they end up worse off in the long run you need to atleast take a shot at the Championship because with Reid it ain’t happening. Is Jon Gruden a great coach? Or did he just come along and kick and well-disciplined, well-organized team in the ass to get them over the hump?)

138 Re: Andy Reid

In reply to by tecmobowl (not verified)

I was actually thinking the exact same thing. If Barnwell was trying to use Tampa's firing of Dungy as an example of what not to do, I don't think it's a very good one. Let's see...

Tampa had years of success under Dungy.
Tampa fires Dungy despite him not really doing anything to deserve it.
Tampa wins the Super Bowl.

That's supposed to be a bad thing?!? I'll sign up for that right now.