Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Audibles at the Line: Week 9

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.

Pregame Shows

Bill Barnwell: FOX is discussing whether Jason Campbell should be the league's MVP this year. The unedited end to his player comment from this year's book:

"As a quarterback, his skill set represents a great fit for the style of attack; if Malcolm Kelly or Devin Thomas can emerge as a possession receiver to play alongside Moss and Antwaan Randle El, Campbell could emerge as the division's best quarterback as early as this year."


Ben Riley: Anyone catch Peter King reprising his role as Da Bears Superfan Bill Swerski, lobbying for "Senator Ditka" to run for office? Wait, you say that was George Wendt? Really?

Aaron Schatz: Is everyone else getting that commercial that uses "Saved by Zero" in every single commercial break? For two or three weeks in a row? If I see that thing again today I may hunt down somebody from The Fixx and kick his ass.

Ben Riley: That song haunts my dreams in Leslie Feist-like fashion.

Bill Barnwell: Per Wikipedia: In 2008, a re-recorded version of the song was used in an American national advertising campaign for Toyota, touting a 0% Annual percentage rate promotion on behalf of the company. The ad has been heavily criticized as being annoying, even motivating the creation of a Facebook group titled "Get Toyota's 'Saved By Zero' commercial off the air before I harm myself."

New York Jets 26 at Buffalo Bills 17

Sean McCormick: An interesting little wrinkle by Brian Schottenheimer, as the Jets put reserve guard Robert Turner split out wide, motioned him in as if to have him crack back against the right defensive end, and then ran a pass play to Jerricho Cotchery on the other side of the field, making the whole exercise an elaborate deception. Most offensive coordinators would take a wrinkle like that and build on it, but Schottenheimer has had real trouble in recent weeks figuring out how to do that.

Buffalo's defensive is crowding the line and being very aggressive early on. They've spent a lot of time in the Jets backfield already.

The Jets' offensive game plan has been really geared towards using misdirection to slow down the Buffalo front seven. Almost every offensive play has been disguised as something else. They've run end-arounds, they've faked shovel passes to throw downfield, they've run double-screens and they've lined up offensive linemen as wide receivers. (Strangely, about the only thing they haven't done is run the Wildcat.) Everything has attacked the edges of the defense. They've also used the quick snap nicely to take advantage of Buffalo substitutions.

Buffalo has been much more straightforward with their attack, and they dominated possession for most of the first half. In one sequence, they ran about 23 plays in a row but came away with a net loss of seven points, as Abraham Elam picked off Edwards for a touchdown to end the first drive and the Jets defense stuffed a fourth-and-1 deep in the red zone to snuff out the second drive.

And ... there's the build. This time when Robert Turner was lined up wide and motioned in, the Jets ran left and used Turner as an extra fullback.

What a difference a year makes. Kris Jenkins is simply destroying the middle of the Buffalo line. Not only has he eliminated the Buffalo ground game, but he's gotten heavy and immediate pressure against Trent Edwards coming right through the A gap. After years of being at a physical disadvantage along the line of scrimmage, the addition of Jenkins (and Calvin Pace to hold the edge) has completely changed the way the Jets' front seven performs.

Bill Barnwell: Have there been any Vernon Gholston sightings?

Sean McCormick: Gholston actually has played in a few series, but was used primarily to drop back into coverage rather than to rush the passer. In crunch time, he has been nowhere to be seen.

And just like that, Brett Favre brings Buffalo back. After a missed Buffalo field goal, Favre goes play-action and once again responds to pressure by simply chucking the ball up. Pick-six.

Aaron Schatz: Hey, remember when we were all saying Buffalo was finally for real? Um ... can I take that back?

Mike Tanier: Watching this game and Jacksonville-Cincinnati, I was reminded of what can happen when a team tries to dink, dink, dunk, dunk, for every single score. I think the Jags and Bills have pretty good offenses, but every once in a while you have to uncork one deep. The Bills had a couple of long drives that ended in the red zone: one on downs, one on an interception when Trent Edwards was throwing underneath in the red zone. The Jags seem to have no deep game whatsoever. It's tough to have to execute 12 short plays every time you want 80 yards.

Bill Moore: The Bills kick off toward the sideline. Leon Washington waits for it to go out of bounds, but it doesn't. It actually bounces inward. Washington makes a great play by stepping out of bounds BEFORE he touches the ball. By rule, that is considered a kick out of bounds. Thus, rather than starting at the 11-yard line, the Jets begin their drive at the 40.

Although this was a very smart play, what kind of bizarro rule is this?

Detroit Lions 23 at Chicago Bears 27

Bill Barnwell: Sign of the week: "KYLE ORTON: Change We Can Believe In."

Everyone's slipping in this game. That grass is terrible. People are making cuts and just going flying.

The Lions' coverage has actually been decent so far, even though Orton has thrown for 56 yards and would have a touchdown if he had not overthrown an open Greg Olsen. They just can't get to Orton, who knows what he's doing when it comes to eluding the rush, but you have a weak secondary who has to stay in coverage for five, six seconds, and that just isn't going to work. I know Cory Redding isn't 100 percent, and he's a defensive tackle, but the onus is still on your best-paid guy to make something happen or at least occupy two guys to create space for your edge rushers.

My roomate is a rather hardcore Bears fan. He left with the score 10-0 to hang out with his girlfriend because "It's the Lions." The Lions are now up 13-10. This is me leaving Giants-Titans to go see Texas Is The Reason all over again.

Ben Riley: After James Brown delivers a game break showing Calvin Johnson's sweet touchdown catch, Dick Enberg (who's announcing the Vikings game) excitedly asks us, "Is this the day the Lions finally get to ROAR?" Settle down Dick, we still have three quarters to play.

By the way, I'd like to apologize for missing the obvious "Lions over the Bears OH MY!" joke in my previous audible.

Bill Barnwell: And, to top the 20 unanswered points, Kyle Orton just got his legs caught underneath him while scrambling (after taunting the Lions on the way en route to a touchdown run earlier in the game) and after trying to walk it off, needed a cart to get off the field. Poor guy.

Rex Grossman just overthrew Devin Hester by about six yards. Oops.

Will Carroll: Think Daunte Culpepper is looking over at the Bears sideline thinking "if I'd just waited another week...?"

Bill Barnwell: The Lions are finding HUGE gaps in the Cover-2. I haven't done the research on whether offenses that practice against a defense that runs the Cover-2 do better against those defenses, but there's no pressure on Dan Orlovsky and he's finding guys who are just wide-open.

Lions just ran a play out of the shotgun where Orlovsky lined up with a back directly to his left and another running back two yards in front of him. It makes sense considering how often the Bears blitz guys up the A gap, but it's not a blocking scheme I've seen a lot of.

Aaron Schatz: Green Bay uses that blocking scheme sometimes. They use a tight end in sort of a "right behind the right guard/right tackle gap" position.

Sean McCormick: Yep, they have been using it a fair amount against Tennessee today.

Bill Barnwell: Meanwhile, the officials call a late horsecollar penalty on a Devin Hester return and Rod Marinelli stops coaching his team to literally chase an official up the sideline.

Will Carroll: X-rays negative on Orton. Not sure what it is, but sprain seems reasonable.

Jacksonville Jaguars 19 at Cincinnati Bengals 21

Ben Riley: Anyone seen the fight between John Henderson and Andrew Whitworth? Henderson looked like he was eye gouging a helmet-less Whitworth. Both players have been ejected, and if I had to guess, I'd say Henderson is about to have the month of November off.

Vince Verhei: Mike noted how hard it is to score points without hitting big plays. Well, Cincinnati pulled it off twice to open the game. Their first two drives totaled 24 plays, 172 yards and a pair of Chad Ocho Cinco touchdowns. They converted seven third downs on the two drives. Only four plays on those drives gained more than 10 yards, and three of those were Ryan Fitzpatrick scrambles. It was slant here, hitch there, the occasional dive play, lots of incompletes, but no negative plays and they always picked up the third down. It was no-risk football that required near-perfect execution, and for two drives, they pulled it off.

Ocho Cinco just owned Rashean Mathis, by the way. Burned him for both scores, and blocked him up and down the field too. Ocho Cinco was also open for at least two 50-plus-yard touchdowns in the second half. The first time, Fitzpatrick threw underneath to a crossing receiver, and the pass was nearly intercepted. You could see Ocho Cinco in the background, throwing his hands in the air. Later, he got 10 yards behind any Jaguars defender, but the ball went sailing over his head. He came to a complete stop, turned back to Fitzpatrick and just threw his hands up, shrugging, begging for a little help. A few seconds later he was shown consoling Fitzpatrick on the sidelines. Then he turned around, bugged out his eyes, and gave a long, slow exhale. This man is so entertaining.

As for Jacksonville, they couldn't stop making mistakes. A Reggie Nelson interception in the third quarter was wiped out by an offsides penalty. That same drive was eventually stopped by a Brian Williams interception. Uche Nwaneri (a guard for Jacksonville, but we all knew that) was then called for holding on the ensuing first-and-10. Cincinnati had a Seattle-like boom-or-bust pass rush, sometimes diving into the backfield, sometimes standing around watching David Garrard in the pocket. And Garrard would stand in the pocket until they finally got there, or occasionally throw it right into the hands of Dhani Jones.

They got one huge play on special teams. Chad Nkang forced Glenn Holt to fumble a kickoff return, and Montell Owens scooped up the ball and ran it into the end zone. Owens, by the way, is a special teams beast, a great gunner on punt coverage.

The three worst teams in football -- Detroit, Kansas City, and Cincinnati -- were all ahead at halftime. Two of them lost anyway ... because their the three worst teams in football.

In other sideshow news, I must point out that the Henderson-Whitworth brawl included an Iron Claw. Also, the Ambiguously Gay Duo was shown in the crowd. I don't care how dated those costumes are, they still made me laugh.

Baltimore Ravens 37 at Cleveland Browns 27

Bill Barnwell: What we're seeing here is that Frank Walker of the Ravens, in fact, cannot cover everyone. Although, in all fairness, two of Cleveland's three touchdowns were extremely questionable. The referees are having a shocker of a game.

Mike Tanier: We also saw that that Brandon McDonald for the Browns couldn't cover anyone. And that John Harbaugh, old special teams coach that he is, must be pretty mad that no one could tackle Josh Cribbs.

The refs were insanely bad spotting the ball. The Browns were given a touchdown when Jason Wright (I think) was down at the one-yard line. Ron Rice had his whole torso over the goal line for the Ravens, but they spotted the ball at the one. There was a second-and-long play late in the game where it looked like the Ravens got the first down by a yard but there was a dubious spot.

Yep, all of those were one-sided spots toward the Browns. All I can say is this: If the belt of the ballcarrier crosses the goal line before he is down, then it should probably be called a touchdown on the field, folks.

Aaron Schatz: Oh well, the same low-sample charting data that found Cortland Finnegan for our 2007 "Top Prospects" list apparently missed on McDonald for the 2008 "Top Prospects" list. Can't win 'em all, I guess.

Ned Macey: Compared to the Ravens, our optimism on the Eagles is much more mainstream. The Ravens were underdogs in this game, even though we have them fourth in DVOA. After Tennessee, I honestly think Baltimore and Pittsburgh are the two teams that are the closest to sure things at the playoffs in the AFC. If Atlanta keeps it up, we could have two rookies who start 16 games and make the playoffs. Has that ever happened before?

Houston Texans 21 at Minnesota Vikings 28

Ben Riley: Weird glitch in the fantasy football matrix: I have Bernard Berrian on my team, as well as the Texans defense. Gus Frerotte throws a pass that hits Berrian square in the numbers, but he lets it bounce off his chest into the hands of Jacques Reeves, who runs it back for a score. Sweet.

Will Carroll: Why is Sage Rosenfels in? Bad day for quarterbacks, good day for filling up an injury column.

Bill Barnwell: Schaub was limping earlier. I think a knee injury.

Green Bay 16 at Tennessee Titans 19

Doug Farrar: Note to Mike McCarthy: You might want to reconsider the whole empty backfield thing against the Titans. Green Bay came out in that formation with the first play of the game. The Titans put eight at the line, rushing six, and Jevon Kearse came through completely unblocked as Aaron Rodgers just got the ball off. Second down, broken play as Rodgers and Greg Jennings got their wires crossed. Third down, delay of game and a wormburner up the middle to nobody in particular. Green Bay needs to hit the reset button in a hurry.

Here's what I love about the Titans' offense: On their first drive, Chris Johnson took a little screen for a total of 25 yards, and he was able to do so because two Titans linemen were blocking downfield, taking the right side of the Green Bay defense out of the picture. Now that the Giants' line is getting some attention, it's time to start talking about Michael Roos, Kevin Mawae, and their buddies up front. Don't just watch the defensive line when you watch this team.

The Packers respond to that first bad drive with more backfield blocking, more running outside to take advantage of Tennessee's wide line splits, but Rodgers just missed a first down on a run after a safety blitz-sack by Chris Hope. The more I look at this defense, the more it seems as if it's kind of a 4-3 version of what Dick LeBeau does in Pittsburgh. They've got guys coming at the offense from everywhere, and defensive backs who seem very comfortable with blitzing. You need a balance between pressure and coverage (at least, that's what I've heard; Seahawks defensive coordinator John Marshall either brings the house and doesn't get there, or drops 14 guys into coverage), and Jim Schwartz has his finger on the pulse. The Packers went for it on fourth down after that Hope sack, and Hope was the one who broke up a pass to Jermichael Finley. This is a very good offense with a lot of weapons that is just getting whupped on early.

Aaron Schatz: I guess I'll have to dip into the early charting data to see if there's something Green Bay noticed on film, but I think all this empty backfield the Packers are running against the ferocious Titans pass rush just seems silly.

Mike Tanier: They talked about that 5-WR look all week. I don't think I saw it again the whole game. Second drive, they came out in the full house backfield.

Doug Farrar: Yeah, they pretty much stuck with blocking backs from then on.

Jordy Nelson caught a little quick pass from Rodgers halfway through the second quarter and put a sweet spin move on Nick Harper, winding up with a 24-yard gain. I just love what these receivers do in short areas, taking off after routes, and downfield blocking. There are definite reasons why they gain so many yards after catch, and why Nelson was going to be a great fit from the start. Is it coincidence that the Seahawks haven't selected or signed a decent, productive receiver since Ted Thompson left the organization after the 2004 season? Erm, probably not.

Ben Riley: In limited defense of Tim Ruskell, he did sign Joe Jurevicius, who was very productive for the Seahawks in 2005. The same can't be said for Deion Branch, Nate Burleson, Ben Obamanu, Logan Payner, Courtney Taylor, Jordan Kent, Michael Bumpus, Billy McMullen, or Keary Colbert.

Aaron Schatz: Man, have I mentioned how grateful I am towards Bill for inventing Speed Score? Every time I watch Chris Johnson burst through the line, I think to myself, "Man, I love Speed Score."

Doug Farrar: Of all the freaky things I've seen this year in the NFL, LenDale White with this kind of speed, despite obvious participation in the El Guapo Diet Plan, may be the freakiest of all. He broke off a long run at the end of the first half, outrunning Atari Bigby (!), and Chris Johnson took the turn at the goal line to put the Titans back on top.

Mike Tanier: LenDale does have good straight line speed. Backs of his ... um ... body type often do. I was watching the Titans run blocking, enjoying what a great job their guards do cut blocking on the backside and how much help they get from those wide receivers, who don't have to worry about catching many passes. I wrote their rushing success off to the speed of Johnson and the quality of their center and tackles. Their guards and receivers are also part of the solution.

Will Carroll: It's called "inertia."

Vince Verhei: The Speed Score is great, but we need something else for guys like LenDale White, like a Fat Score. Like, the number of doughnuts you can eat while running a 40-yard dash, divided by time. Or something.

Aaron Schatz: The Packers came out for the second half excited, like a team that just learned their top rival for the division title would be stuck with Rex Grossman the rest of the season.

Moose Johnston talked about the Packers using Brandon Chillar more than A.J. Hawk today because Chillar is supposed to be better than Hawk in coverage. Hawk has always been strong in coverage when I've seen him, and his charting numbers were excellent last year. Is it really conventional wisdom that he can't play pass coverage?

Ben Riley: Chris Johnson just took a vicious hit from Nick Barnett, stayed on his feet, and then fell forward to gain an extra two yards. I think Johnson just surpassed Westbrook as my favorite player to watch in the NFL.

Doug Farrar: Careful, Ben. You haven't seen Westbrook against the 2008 version of Seattle's "defense" yet.

Will Carroll: For a fast small guy, it seems like Johnson takes a lot of hits.

Aaron Schatz: One of the best things about football strategy is the way coaches use earlier plays to set up tendencies, which set up later plays meant to fool the other team. The Packers run tons of quick slants and they were running them even more than usual in the first half. Near the end of the third quarter, they ran a sweet slant-and-go to a WIDE-open Donald Driver coming from the slot, because Titans nickelback Vincent Fuller had totally bit on the slant movement.

It's amazing how often a guy touches Chris Johnson in the backfield, and he never seems to go down. He breaks tackles, or he turns the corner for more yardage before the defender can get more than just a touch. It was strange to see the Titans take running backs in the top two rounds for three straight seasons, but they really got it right this time. (By the way, does anyone want to put an APB out for the non-felon Chris Henry?)

Ryan Grant also looked good today for Green Bay. He looked like the Grant of last year, with burst and good vision, especially against such a strong defense. Nice "buy low" candidate for the fantasy football second half.

Doug Farrar: FOX, you are cordially invited to eat hot death. I really appreciated being jerked away from the Packers-Titans game just as Rob Bironas was setting up to kick the winning field goal after watching the entire $%^&* game to
watch five minutes of political commercials, and five more minutes of pre-kickoff jibba-jabba. Morons. It's bad enough you foist Tim McCarver on me every year.

Ned Macey: So, after years of being friends of Jim Schwartz, I watched today's game and thought that after Tennessee gets bounced in the second round by Baltimore 16-10, he'll be able to interview and get a head coaching job. The team is undefeated with Nick Harper starting at one corner position.

For all the talk about the rookie running backs, Johnson is just on a different level. Dude is special, and he got picked by a team smart enough to let him be the primary back from Day 1 (and I guess LenDale is better than Ron Dayne).

Arizona Cardinals 34 at St. Louis Rams 13

Ben Riley: Facing fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line midway through the first quarter, Cardinals head coach Ken Wisenhunt calls for a Kurt Warner sneak. Shockingly, the Rams defense held. I like Wisenhunt a lot, but coach, have Warner hand the ball to Hightower next time.

Bill Barnwell: QB sneaks are WAY more successful at getting a yard than handing the ball off. Sorry, but I'm with Whisenhunt on this one.

Aaron Schatz: If there's any quarterback I trust with sure hands to not fumble a quarterback sneak, it has to be Kurt Warner.

Ben Riley: Steve Breaston read last week's Audibles, and with two minutes to go in the first half, just made a beautiful over-the-shoulder catch to prove he's not a system receiver.

Bill Barnwell: ... in the Cardinals system.

St. Louis just went for it on a fourth-and-1 and came up so embarrassingly short that they didn't bother to measure at first. They ended up losing a yard. They're making the Cardinals look like the Stanford Superstars out there.

Will Carroll: Stanford? Cricket fan?

Bill Barnwell: Not a huge one, but $20 million winner-takes-all gets my attention.

Ned Macey: Even I have to admit that the move to Tim Hightower is probably the right one. He just brings the potential for the big play that Edgerrin James hasn't had in years. Plus, Hightower runs tough enough to usually get positive yards. Still, there will be a game or two this year when Hightower starts dancing for the big play and gets stuffed. The run game is only marginally upgraded, but they will now at least mix in the occasional 20-plus-yard rush.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30 at Kansas City Chiefs 27

Bill Barnwell: Holy crap. What's happening in Kansas City?

Doug Farrar: No clue, but I really hope Herm's using the spread like he promised.

Sean McCormick: I think Tyler Thigpen may actually be good, that's what's happening.

Mike Tanier: Thigpen = Bobby Hoying.

Bill Barnwell: There was an Earnest Graham fumble that gave the Chiefs a short field, it looks like.

Kansas City ran a couple of spread plays, your standard three-wide screen stuff, but they're also running the Wildcat. They ran a play on second down earlier in a drive where the cornerback ran off Thigpen to help out on the run. The next time they ran it, they had Jamaal Charles hand it off on a reverse to Mark Bradley, who nearly fumbled, then hit a wide-open Thigpen for a 50-plus-yard touchdown. I've had unkind things to say about the Kansas City coaching staff, but that's a great catch on their part.

Aaron Schatz: Bradley was the second-rounder Chicago cut because he couldn't
stay healthy.

Bill Barnwell: It doesn't help when Jeff Garcia is overthrowing his corner routes into double-coverage.

Looks like Kolby Smith just blew an ACL.

Russell Levine: Not only has K.C. run a couple of sweet Wildcat plays, but they're blowing the Bucs off the line of scrimmage. For some reason, Tampa Bay cannot seem to play on the road this year.

Ben Riley: Have we ever done research on running backs who get better as the game goes on? Because I think Earnest Graham would be a worthy candidate of investigation. Based purely on fantasy-related observation, he seems to accumulate 75 percent of his yards (and all of his touchdowns) in the second half of Bucs games.

Aaron Schatz: It's on my list for next year's book, I think.

Russell Levine: Tampa Bay's red zone problems are getting ridiculous. Two red zone turnovers today including a Graham fumble as he was going in for the touchdown that could have tied the game.

They look really out of sync. Just don't seem to have anyone to threaten a defense when they get in close.

Bill Barnwell: Graham was their best quarterback today!

Russell Levine: OK, the Bucs really had no business winning that game. They lost the turnover battle 4-1, including two fourth-quarter fumbles inside the Kansas City 10-yard line. They were without Warrick Dunn, and Earnest Graham got banged up early. They needed a somewhat-charitable offensive pass interference call to negate an unbelievable one-handed catch by Tony Gonzalez that would have probably allowed K.C. to run out the clock. They needed a game-tying touchdown in the final seconds on Antonio Bryant's third amazing catch of the day and a two-pointer in which Alex Smith hung on despite getting his knee caught under him and perhaps torn up.

Then they win the overtime coin toss, Michael Clayton breaks one tackle and they inch their way into field-goal range.

Strange sequence on the winning kick. Before the first attempt, K.C. took the courtesy "icing" timeout, but long enough before the snap that everyone knew it was no play. Matt Bryant went ahead and kicked it anyway and knocked it through from 38 yards. On the second attempt, Bryant missed, but the Bucs were whistled for a false start -- which left Ron Pitts speculating that K.C. "would decline the penalty." How do you have a job calling NFL games for a living and not know that a presnap penalty on the offense ends the play?

Anyway, since they were kicking on third down, Gruden sent Garcia back on the field on third-and-10 and Tampa picked up the first down on a screen pass. Except that they didn't. The ref missed the back stepping out of bounds a yard short of the mark. After review, it was fourth-and-1 and Bryan knocked in the winner.

With Galloway still hobbled, Bryant really is Tampa's best option, and he has been playing really well. As I said, he made three great catches in this game, went over 100 yards. Michael Clayton has actually shown some signs of regaining his form. He hasn't dropped a ball in a few weeks, and he keeps himself on the field because he's an unbelievable blocker -- absolutely devestating on the crackback.

You have to feel for K.C. They were up 21-3 and had everything going for them. You can't really fault them for the end-of-game sequence either -- they passed for what would have been the clinching first down, but had it called back on an iffy penalty. Herm was trying to play to win the game, obviously. About the only thing I can fault them for is shelving the Wildcat that worked so well in the first half. Thigpen played well enough to win, but Kiffin threw some different looks at him in the second half -- dropping extras into coverage and forcing him to throw into tight spots, and he wasn't nearly as productive.

Oh, and one more T.B. note: Dexter Jackson, second-rounder out of Appalachian State, is now officially an enormous bust and waste of a Day One pick. Clifton Smith, a rookie free-agent from Fresno State, returned seven kicks for 260 yards in this game, including one for a touchdown that gave Tampa Bay its initial spark. The Bucs now have two kick returns for TDs in 12 games -- they're hot! Plus, with everyone hurt, Smith was getting carries in overtime.

Dallas Cowboys 14 at New York Giants 35

Aaron Schatz: I would like to thank Steve Smith for playing quality Wes Welker-like football so we no longer have to constantly compare Welker to a bunch of other white guys. That always made me feel a little icky.

Bill Barnwell: I would like to thank the Giants' offensive line for blowing the Cowboys off the line of scrimmage on the opening drive.

After an incredible Roy Williams catch, Brad Johnson double-clutches on a slant and throws an ugly slant to T.O. for a pick. Quarterbacks of the league, you are better at football than me, but let me make one suggestion: DO NOT DOUBLE-CLUTCH ON A SLANT. It never works.

Question: How do you give Steve Smith a five-yard cushion when you have a cornerback two yards inside the goal line and a safety virtually in the back of the end zone?

Aaron Schatz: Brad Johnson = toast. Brooks Bollinger may have thrown an interception on his first drive, but Wade Phillips made the right move. Johnson has been completely inaccurate and he's a Bledsoe-like statue back there.

Russell Levine: Wow. You will never see an "effort" as poor as the one Mike Jenkins made on Derrick Ward's touchdown run that made it 35-14. He was in good position to make the tackle, but at the last second saw another Cowboy coming from behind the play and just ole'd Ward right into the end zone. The last time I saw something that soft it was Todd Pinkston on a deep ball.

Bill Barnwell: Some thoughts on this game:

  • Sometimes, our predictions are right for the wrong reasons -- even if a team is right around our predicted wins, they don't do it for the reasons that we say they would. That's not the case with the Cowboys; they're an average team, and they're an average team because of their injuries. The quarterback situation is obvious, but there are other issues too -- the secondary is absolutely getting taken apart by the opposition, and with Anthony Spencer being out for the last couple of weeks and Greg Ellis having a very middling year, they haven't had a pass rusher across from DeMarcus Ware. (Yes, I know Spencer came back this week.)
  • The Roy Williams move continues to be a waste (No, I don't consider catching a poorly-defended lob pass that only happened because of a personal foul penalty on Cato June a skill), as it marginalizes Patrick Crayton. If they wanted to move Crayton to the slot, they just should've put Miles Austin out wide. I don't necessarily believe that losing Felix Jones has somehow closed the holes up for Marion Barber, but instead, that the offensive line is playing worse and certainly, in pass protection, looks a lot worse without Tony Romo in there.
  • Justin Tuck rules.
  • Still unimpressed with Plaxico Burress. Steve Smith is the Giants' most
    important receiver right now.

On a side note, I'm pretty sure Cris Collinsworth or Dan Patrick or SOMEONE on Football Night in America just faked an orgasm at the end of the Abram Elam highlight. He was trying to impersonate him being out of breath but it definitely came off as faking an orgasm. He even climaxed as Elam crossed the goal line. I replayed this approximately 17 times. Someone else had to notice this besides me.

Aaron Schatz: "I'll have what he's having."

By the way, Kerry Collins looks exactly like Rob Neyer. It is EERIE.

The Cowboys threw to Roy Williams twice today. TWICE! If the Cowboys were really looking for an instant injection of offense, what kind of sense is it to trade a first-rounder and two other picks for a guy you are going to throw to twice a game?

Bill Barnwell: It's a weird fit. Either they were looking for an instant injection of offense (in which case Williams isn't going to help because they need a minimum of a few weeks to teach him any appreciable part of the playbook in a brand new scheme) or they wanted him as the long-term replacement for T.O. (in which case they shouldn't have given T.O. a new deal in August). It's also weird because they didn't have a problem, really, at receiver.

The only thing that makes sense is that they wanted to keep him away from a competitor (likely Philadelphia, perhaps Washington). I doubt that that was the only reason, since I'm sure they could justify having him to themselves, but it was a huge price to pay for a guy who would only really know the playbook for probably five games, was moving already effective players (Crayton, Austin, and especially Witten) into lesser roles, and would have been available as an unrestricted free agent after the season and would have likely chosen Dallas as a free agent. With that all in mind, the only idea that seems to makes sense is that they would have picked him up to keep him away from somebody.

Ben Riley: On the Roy Williams acquisition: If Pacman Jones doesn't get in trouble before the trade deadline, I don't think that trade happens (at least, not for a first and a third). Jones wanted to dilute the negative press from the Jones story, and he succeeded, but the 2010 Cowboys will pay the price (even more so than the 2008 Cowboys).

Atlanta Falcons 20 at Oakland Raiders 0

Mike Tanier: I am only watching this game on the Internet, but JaMarcus Russell is having one of those games for the ages. He has completed six passes at this point for I think 31 yards or something.

Bill Barnwell: They just had a great moment where the announcer explained that what they want to do with JaMarcus is keep it simple since he shuts down when he has to process too much information. Literally in the middle of the speech, Russell overthrew a seam route into a double coverage and got picked in the end zone. The announcer didn't bother to stop the speech.

Vince Verhei: The Raiders started someone named Chaz Schilens at wide receiver. That's an auspicious start for the day, and things went downhill from there. They didn't get a first down until midway through the third quarter (Atlanta already had 20 first downs at that point), and collected only three all day. In the first half, they ran 13 plays for a total of -2 (that's MINUS-TWO) yards. Three of those 13 plays ended in John Abraham sacks, including a forced fumble. Abraham moved around from one side to the other, and found success either way.

The Nnamdi Asomugha non-watch continues. He opened the game covering Roddy White, and both men disappeared. Meanwhile, Michael Jenkins burned old buddy DeAngelo Hall and John Bowie for touchdowns. So the Raiders took Asomugha off of White -- who magically started catching passes at that point. Turns out Matt Ryan is smart enough to find open guys, not just force the ball to well-covered receivers. Who knew?

One of the very few highlights in this game came when JaMarcus Russell scrambled and blew by Keith Brooking. It was like watching the famous Bo Jackson-Brian Bosworth highlights in slow motion.

Mike Tanier: Chaz Schilens is the actor who wrote and stars in A Bronx Tale. Incidently, Al Davis now has a test. When a potential free agent gets into a car, Davis checks to see if he reaches across to unlock his door. If he does, Davis signs him to a multi-year deal.

Philadelphia Eagles 26 at Seattle Seahawks 7

Doug Farrar: Not exactly sure what strain of Brian Russell-itis Julian Peterson has picked up, but it's less forgivable when you can't tackle Donovan McNabb than it is when you can't tackle Brandon Jacobs. Reminded me of the joke Aaron used in an Audibles two years ago, that a certain player's kids weren't going to be surprised by their presents on Christmas Day, because daddy can't wrap up.

Lito Sheppard just had every complaint about his contact situation voided when he bit -- HARD -- on a Koren Robinson three-yard stop route, got juked out of his pants, fell down, and watched as Robinson ran for a 90-yard touchdown -- at least until Sheppard got blocked out of the county by Bobby Engram. First play for the Seahawks, longest play in franchise history.

Mike Tanier: Can I name a sewage plant after Donovan McNabb after that pick to Deon Grant? Umm, Cover-1, Donovan.

Bill Barnwell: Three-of-11 against the second-worst pass defense in football! Blech.

And hey, remember Mike, these are the plays in the script! These are the good ones!

Mike Tanier: God help me!

Will Carroll: I accidentally switched over to the Spanish feed for today's game and realized that for whatever reason, there are no Spanish announcers (or maybe my channel isn't carrying the feed). Still, it's a no-announcer feed, which is pretty damned cool.

Mike Tanier: Hey, Reggie Brown made a play! Before that, DeSean Jackson showed an element the Eagles offense lacked since T.O. left town: the ability to run the drag route, catch a 4-yarder over the middle, and get meaningful YAC.

Doug Farrar: You know, as much as I don't remember this being a problem in past seasons, the Seahawks' defense just can't tackle. Julian Peterson used to be much better at it than he is now, and I'm getting a headache watching all the ankle-whiffs and shoulder bumps from the secondary. Kelly Jennings and Josh Wilson have never been all that great (this is what happens when your front office falls in love with undersized defensive backs), and we've talked enough about Russell, but it's hit Marcus Trufant as well, and he was once among the best-tackling cornerbacks in the NFL. The line was that if he was going to cover like a safety, at least he could tackle like one. Just abysmal technique. It's embarrassing.

Mike Tanier: There ya go Eagles. Throw to a darn guard. That will get the damn ball in the end zone.

Before that, great call by Andy Reid/Marty Mornhinweg: They had Brian Westbrook and DeSean wide right, plus Reggie Brown and Brent Celek (I think), with Kevin Curtis left in an empty look. Sure enough, all of the safety help is on the Westbrook side, and Curtis worked Kelly Jennings over one-on-one on a little curl, turned upfield, got it to the one-yard line. A sign of what this offense can do when healthy.

Ned Macey: So, the Eagles clearly have a solution. They used all their fourth quarter plays in the first quarter and then played really well the rest of the game. Not even a 50-plus-yard field-goal attempt from David Akers today.

Vince Verhei: I think the defining moment of the Seahawks' season came just before halftime when Seneca Wallace spiked the ball to stop the clock ... to bring up fourth down. He stopped the clock just so Seattle could punt.

It's so bad that I thought to myself at one point that they were playing much better than usual. And then I realized they were still down 10 in the third quarter and were almost certainly going to lose.

Ben Riley: There was one play in this game that left me shaking my fist at the sky. I think it was sometime in the third quarter, I saw rookie defensive end Laurence Jackson -- who recently lost his starting job to Darryl Tapp, but was back in for the injured Kerney -- decide to take a play off and not even bother to rush the quarterback. Seriously, Jackson didn't even hit Tra Thomas, he just seized up and did nothing while McNabb scanned downfield. Just horrible.

New England Patriots 15 at Indianapolis Colts 18

Aaron Schatz: I'm curious to ask Will and Ned -- what's the radio talk been like in Indianapolis this week? Is there any such thing as "irrational Matt Cassel hatred?" Have people concentrated on their hatred for Belichick? Or is the talk more about how the Colts are screwed if they fall to 3-5?

Ned Macey: I haven't been listening to local sports talk, but my sense is that the Colts just care about winning. My impression is that the hatred of the Patriots is based on a lack of respect thing, but hard to complain about respect when you are 3-4.

Will Carroll: Talk radio is pretty rational right now, focused on the current "once we get healthy, we'll make a playoff run" spin from Polian. There's no attack internally in Indy since access is everything.

Aaron Schatz: My god, it doesn't matter if it is pre-injury Joseph Addai or Dominic Rhodes or post-injury Joseph Addai. The right side of the current Indianapolis line just CAN NOT RUN BLOCK. I've noticed it every time the Colts are on TV. It seems like everything on that side gets stuffed. Weirdly, the Colts actually have reasonable ALY numbers on runs marked right tackle, although they are terrible on runs to right end.

Bill Barnwell: Well, they get the left guard (Ryan Lilja?) pulling to the right side on a lot of those runs.

Everything with the Colts on this drive is to the sideline. I've seen this movie before, and it ends with Dallas Clark on the seam route.

Aaron Schatz: Did Gary Brackett just refer to Rutgers as "The R???"

Ned Macey: Marvin Harrison has been so explosive you want him to return punts?

Aaron Schatz: Nice Wildcat wide receiver screen by the Patriots. You guys know that a wide receiver screen requires blockers, right? Did anyone else see the Pats send Matt Cassel out wide and immediately think "OK, the shark-jumping moment
has arrived?"

Mike Tanier: I was planning to start calling it the Wild Shark after watching the Ravens run Troy Smith out to execute a bunch of ugly draw plays. In Baltimore, though, its the "Terrell Suggs Appeasement Package."

Bill Barnwell: That hit on the sideline (end of the first half) must have knocked the fork deeper into Harrison's back.

Doug Farrar: Yeah, the direct snaps really do require actual blocking, which is the most unheralded aspect of the success Miami is having with them. Especially if you want to run a full-on Wildcat, as opposed to all the stuff that's called a Wildcat and isn't. It's a slow-developing play that requires linemen to hold their blocks. If you're running the Power fake, someone has to, like, open up a hole or something.

Will Carroll: Mike Pollak is in at guard. He has this odd habit of spinning for no apparent reason. That might be part of the problem running right.

Aaron Schatz: And then later, hey, what do you know, Wes Welker can't block Bob Sanders on a wide receiver screen. Shocker! The Patriots are running some weirdly built plays this week.

Mike Tanier: Colts just put together a nice little drive. Is everyone asleep? Daylight savings knocking our socks off? C'mon guys, this is COLTS-PATS. The passion. The pageantry.

Oh, heck. I am gonna hit record and go to bed.

Bill Barnwell: I realized I had four unwatched episodes of both High Stakes Poker and NFL Matchup on my DVR, and that I don't specialize in the AFC East anymore.

Aaron Schatz: Maybe we're all just sick of Pats-Colts meaning the end of the world, and we're just enjoying a good game between two good but flawed teams. Although, I must admit I'm a bit stunned at how flawed the Colts look. They've got injuries, but with Sanders and Addai and Saturday all back, do they have any injuries as high-profile as Brady or Maroney or even Rodney Harrison? Shouldn't they be a far superior team to the current Patriots? When Brady went down in Week 1, and we figured the Pats could still pull off a bad division at 10-6, we all mentally chalked this up as one of the losses.

Will Carroll: I think the Kelvin Hayden injury is underrated and the line is still a patchwork. Addai is "back" in body only and I'm not sure he's just not exposed. That said, Anthony Gonzalez rules.

Is there a reason that the Pats aren't throwing to Randy Moss? Untested defensive backs, crappy running backs, and almost no Moss. This offensive game plan seems odd.

Bill Barnwell: Cassel has to get it to Moss, and he's not really very good at that.

Aaron Schatz: Did Bill Belichick have his balls surgically removed? The Patriots go for it on fourth-and-1 deep in the red zone instead of taking an easy field goal to tie the game. It makes sense, because there's plenty of time to get another chance to score if they blow the fourth down, and if they blow it the Colts have the ball inside their own 10 anyway. So they go for it, and they actually HAVE THE FIRST ... but NO! It turns out Belichick was calling timeout because he changed his mind. So now the Pats go for a field goal instead, tie the game, and have no timeouts left in case anything needs to be challenged in the fourth quarter.

Bill Barnwell: I think that kicking the field goal there is the painfully obvious move there, I'm sorry. Get the tie and worry about driving with your awful quarterback later.

Aaron Schatz: Boy, David Thomas was apparently desperate for a Keep Choppin' Wood award. Holy crap.

Bill Barnwell: Do you go for it on that fourth-and-15?

Alternately, why do you give Marvin freaking Harrison a 15-yard cushion?

Vince Verhei: Under NO circumstances do I go for it on that one. You were afraid to try fourth-and-1, but you go for it on fourth-and-15 with 4-plus minutes left? Who is this person and what has he done with Bill Belichick?

Bill Barnwell: Cassel just has no touch on that 30-yard throw down the sideline. Granted ... I know that sounds ridiculous, but it's not like he's trying to throw it to a particular spot and just missing. He's just heaving it as hard as he can and hoping it lands on the sideline.

Aaron Schatz: Yep. Cassel actually seems to make good reads, but he doesn't have the best touch, and of course, no pocket presence.

Man, as a Patriots fan, that one really hurts. I can't believe they were in the game, but to blow the game-winning (or at least game-tying) drive because of a stupid unnecessary roughness penalty ... so ... much ... anger...

Bill Barnwell: Let's review these two scenarios:

1) Patriots go for it on fourth-and-15. Cassel either throws incompletion or interception like he did. Slim chance (5 percent? 10 percent?) of completing pass for first down. Ball is most likely going to end up on the IND 40 or so. From there, the best case failing a miracle turnover (Troy Brown, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you) is that you stop the Colts and they punt, giving you the ball (again at best) on your own 20 with no timeouts and a little bit of time on the clock.

2) Patriots punt on fourth-and-15. Most likely scenario is that you give the ball to the Colts on the 20. If you stop them, you get the ball back on your 35 or 40.

That's such a bad decision by Belichick.

Aaron Schatz: Between some of the wacky play designs early on, not throwing to Moss in the first half, and then messed up wasting timeouts in the second half ... the Colts pretty clearly outcoached the Patriots tonight.

Ned Macey: I agree with this from the details perspective, but why is this mostly healthy Colts team using a bonehead unnecessary roughness penalty to beat a team missing Brady/Maroney/Harrison? The macro-level coaching favors N.E.

At this point, the Colts are basically about the 10th or 12th best team in football. Although, the offense was much better today -- at least their passing offense.

I agree with Will that the Hayden injury hurts. Guy is really developing into a good player, but obviously Hayden is not equal to the injuries they have.

Finally, has there ever been worse defense played by two teams in an 18-15 game? No turnovers until garbage time and just consistent long drives. Still, back to Audibles from Week 1, when Aaron said he was surprisingly calm about the Brady injury -- it was sort of fun to watch these very flawed teams battle. Not the level of football as last year, but watching people like Guyton or Ratliff or Green-Ellis make plays was sort of fun.

Bill Moore: I'm a little shocked that the play on Thomas' unnecessary roughness wasn't measured for a first down, but yes -- stupid, stupid penalty by Thomas.

As for going for it on fourth-and-15; with no timeouts, you had to view it as your last chance to score. The biggest problem was not making the decision until there were 15 seconds left on the play clock.

The final drive was just ridiculous. All they needed was a field goal in a semi-dome. You can run four or five 10- to 15-yard outs in 21 seconds. Instead, they heave three bombs against a dollar defense, and run one hook-and-lateral with no one to lateral it to.

Ned Macey: Fun Fact on this rivalry (which I date to 2003). Assuming Indy ends up with a higher DVOA this season, the team with the better regular-season DVOA is now 9-0 in the rivalry.


134 comments, Last at 06 Nov 2008, 3:41pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I don't know if I'd rather get rid of the "saved-by-zero" or the "five-dollar ... five-doller ... Five Dollar footlooOOOoong".

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Would Dallas really give up so much to keep Roy Williams from a divisional opponent? With DeSean Jackson's emergence and Curtis' return to health, the Eagles don't really need another WR (TE maybe) and Washington drafted two WRs and a pass-catching TE to go along with Cooley and Moss. Maybe the Giants would have sniffed around Williams with Toomer getting old and Plax wearing out his welcome.

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

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

More than anything, the Eagles O needs a consistent way of converting on third and short. Don't know if that requires a change in playcalling, personnel, coaching or sacrificing a chicken to Jobu during pre-game warm ups, but SOMETHING has to change. We won't beat the Giants with tackle eligables and 30 yard FGs.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Ben Riley - "I have Bernard Berrian on my team, as well as the Texans defense. Gus Frerotte throws a pass that hits Berrian square in the numbers, but he lets it bounce off his chest into the hands of Jacques Reeves, who runs it back for a score."

Not sure what you were watching but the pass was well behind Berrian on a slant and he had to reach back and twist his body the attempt. That kind of pass often results in an incomplete pass.

This comment is a pet peeve of mine. The notion that because a receiver touches the ball he should catch it. What one should take into account is how often do receivers catch that kind of pass.

Frerotte was awful. He almost through another pick that went off Berrian's hand as he over through him on a crossing route. He completely missed Shiancoe on a simple rollout on a play that would have iced the game on fourth down.

The man has a 54% completion pct in his career for a reason. He is horribly inaccurate on short to medium range passes. Far worst than Jackson even. The saving grace is he throws the long ball quite well and that has enabled the Vikings offence to score on big pass plays.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

This comment is a pet peeve of mine. The notion that because a receiver touches the ball he should catch it. What one should take into account is how often do receivers catch that kind of pass.

Reggie Wayne and I think most receivers coaches disagree. If it hits your hands, you should have caught it. If you had to leap or twist to do it, well, thanks for the effort, and it's a least understandable that you didn't come up with it. But you could've done better.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

So everybody is going to bash matt cassel's lack of touch on deep passes but nobody mentions jabar gaffney dropping the one catchable deep pass cassel threw that would have probably won the game?

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I actually thought there was one other point no one's bringing up directly tied into your comment Bill.
"Bill Barnwell: Let's review these two scenarios:

1) Patriots go for it on fourth-and-15. Cassel either throws incompletion or interception like he did. Slim chance (5 percent? 10 percent?) of completing pass for first down. Ball is most likely going to end up on the IND 40 or so. From there, the best case failing a miracle turnover (Troy Brown, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you) is that you stop the Colts and they punt, giving you the ball (again at best) on your own 20 with no timeouts and a little bit of time on the clock.

2) Patriots punt on fourth-and-15. Most likely scenario is that you give the ball to the Colts on the 20. If you stop them, you get the ball back on your 35 or 40."
Am I the only one who thinks there was another option there - 3) Attempt a 64-yd FG by Gostkowski? He's 19-20 on the season, leads the NFL in touchbacks, was hitting from at least 55 in warmups according to Reiss - plus Vinatieri, who has a much weaker leg, just hit a 52-yarder with room to spare. It clearly wouldn't have been a high percentage play, but given the abysmal state of Matt Cassell trying to throw the ball downfield, it was higher % than option 1 in my mind. Option 2, well, we saw the problem when we're down to pick 2 of Mike Richardson/Deltha O'Neal/Jonathan Wilhite for our nickel packages and the other team has 3 legitimate WR's.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Re Frerotte comment - I get so excited I write things like through instead of threw. I'm just all worked up because I now see what others have said previously on this site. The difference between the Vikings being a serious contender and what they are is decent QB play. Frerotte is better than Jackson but he's still crappy because he kills so many drives with very inaccurate short to mid range passes.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Tampa Bay is now 1-0 when they allow a 100 yard rusher this year.

For some reason, Tampa Bay cannot seem to play on the road this year.

I flew to Dallas to see the game last week, and while I was hanging out at the hotel I think I found the answer to this. Let's just say that staying at a hotel in another city has certain advantages over staying home that might keep some guys up after curfew.

About the only thing I can fault them for is shelving the Wildcat that worked so well in the first half.

I think they just ran out of running backs. I don't think I saw it after Smith went down. I guess you could still plug a receiver or fullback in there, though.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"As for going for it on fourth-and-15; with no timeouts, you had to view it as your last chance to score. The biggest problem was not making the decision until there were 15 seconds left on the play clock.'

Exactly. The previous drive is irrelevant at that point. That play was for the game.

"AARON:...The right side of the current Indianapolis line just CAN NOT RUN BLOCK. I've noticed it every time the Colts are on TV. It seems like everything on that side gets stuffed. Weirdly, the Colts actually have reasonable ALY numbers on runs marked right tackle, although they are terrible on runs to right end. "

Maybe, its the most simple explanation: ALY sucks.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

How about Small Sample Size Theater? The Colts have 11 runs all year marked Right Tackle. If you look at the tendency, the Colts this year are a really big left-side running team-35% left, 22% right. I just did a scan, and that's the biggest left-side split in the league. It's also well out of whack with past practice-the past two years, they were almost perfectly balanced between left and right.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

This actually touches on what I find to be perhaps the most frustrating part of FO. (Warning! Tangent ahead...) Most of the work done here is obviously head-and-shoulders above anything that could be found at most other sites. The articles are entertaining and insightful -- even when I disagree with observations or conclusions, it's usually clear that some thought is going into things. And it seems that most of the site's authors expect criticism to be equally well-conceived.

Unfortunately, making concrete suggestions for some of the stats on this site is nearly impossible, because we don't know their exact calculation. There isn't a whole lot of transparency for some facets of your work -- DVOA, charting data, etc. -- yet you expect highly informed criticism of the results. I know that there are (extremely useful) explanations detailing the intuition behind the stats and conclusions, but without seeing the actual formulas or data, it's impossible to judge whether the approach is actually doing what you want it to.

Now, I'm not saying that you should be publishing everything you have, granting free access to all your work, etc. In fact, if I were doing a project like this, I'd probably be trying to strike a balance between transparency and propriety similar to the one used here. But as long as some parts of your work remain invisible, it's unrealistic to expect the best possible feedback.

**Note: I'm not defending "ALY sucks" as useful feedback; obviously, we have the ability to make much more interesting and useful criticism than that. I'm just saying that, in general, there's a limit to how informed and useful our comments can be because our information is restricted.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Excellent post.

As a business model, it may make sense to keep the internals proprietary - although FO is so well-known now that I am not sure anybody could credibly pass off your ideas as their own. However, if you really want to revolutionize the statistical study of football, I think a more "open source" approach might work better. Obviously FO would lose some control, but I think advances in knowledge most often happen when you have a bunch of different people experiment with different ideas and there is open competition among them. I am thinking of the effect Bill James (who as far as I know was quite open with his methodology) had on sabermetrics.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

ALY doesn't work well without looking closely at context.

I complained about it years ago when the Saints had Deuce McAllister at RB and Aaron Brooks at QB. The Saints had a poor running DVOA, but at decent ALY, and everyone here roundly criticized McAllister as being overrated.

Watching the games, however, you saw defenses playing run first whenever McAllister was in the game, and defenders were consistently getting shots at making tackles 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Of course, McAllister is great at running through tackles and driving piles forward, so he consistently turned these should-be-losses into short gains. On plays where he actually got decent blocking he would do well. Whenever McAllister was out of the game the defenses would switch to defending the pass first, so running plays would usually make at least short gains (it's no coincidence that Brooks didn't completely destruct until McAllister got hurt the hurricane year). The end result was that a poor run blocking o-line (it was average pass blocking) got a decent ALY.

I don't know there's anything you can do to improve it except only use it as a tool to supplement close watching of the line, rather than using it as a replacement for viewing the line. Those Saints were probably a bit of an extreme case, but there certainly does seem to be running backs who are good at driving forward after contact (or just falling forward) for the few yards neccessary that can make poor run blocking look good on ALY (the converse is also true). Thus a RB who fights forward after contact in the backfield will make himself look worse (because he likely still won't come up with a good gain, but ALY will look good, so the line escapes blame).

To this, we also have to remember that defenses change focus when backup RBs are in, which hurts comparisons between backs on the same team. Of course, when comparing different teams, the quality of each team's passing game also affects how defenses can sell out on the run.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Can't help thinking this was the first time the Pats-Indy featured to very flawed teams. Indy can't generate a running game atm. The patriots don't trust their pass protection to hold the ball long enough for deep passes. It was a good game, but are these really good teams right now?


I assumed the Packers' empty-backfield set was to slow down the Titans pressure and hope for a missed tackle. The thing about the Titans' D, though, is the secondary guys tend to be pretty good at tackling.

Actually, that's one thing I've really noticed this year-Schwartz seems to be much more willing to bring extra rushers, especially on early downs. This was actually most apparent, I thought, in the IND game on MNF. The past couple years, they've just sat in that 2 deep safety shell on seemingly every play outside the 10, but he really seemed to be mixing it up more. Fodder for the theory that good defense is primarily about talent, while good offense can be achieved by execution.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Is this the second week in a row with no Audibles on a Denver game? Damn, always a disappointing way to start a Monday morning out. But I know they weren't on a ton of stations and most people would rather watch Giants/Cowboys anyway.

As to non-white Wes Welker comparisons, how about Eddie Royal?

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

While the Colts certainly don't have an injury of Brady-like magnitude, their defense isn't in great shape. Certainly it helped to have Sanders back, but one of their starting corners wasn't even on the team before this week. Neither of the corners were the regular starters, they were out 2 linebackers, and they still haven't found a replacement for Ed Johnson, who they cut earlier this year for off field issues. That's down 5 opening day defensive starters.

I was at the game, so I don't know if it was mentioned on the telecast or not, but they had some defensive snaps where there were 4 safeties on the field...

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Don't forget to add Quinn Pitcock to that list. To me, the Colts D problems relate much more to the poor DT's they have -- they didn't have good ones to begin with, then Pitcock retired at age 24, and Johnson was cut. Not good for run defense.


I'm curious what the numbers ppl would say about the holding calls in this game. The Giants' o-line was flagged three times (and Tank Johnson was flagged once for defensive holding) and there were a few other plays that looked like they should have drawn a penalty. Is this a lot? How do you explain Brandon Jacobs cutting back across the field so much?

As for the Dallas defense, Mike Jenkins is a smallish rookie cornerback presumably drafted to cover wrs and all I see is him dropping back into safety-like coverage and being expected to come up and take big backs head on. I'm not saying his play on Ward wasn't weak, but he's not the guy that should be responsible for defending this type of play. I'm more concerned with this weekly plan of dropping a defensive end like Greg Ellis into flat coverage while the tight end, rb and wr on that side run free, unchecked into the zone. In recent years Roy Williams was blamed for how badly Dallas did vs tight ends. I think it's a question of the entire scheme.

25 Re: DAL-NYG

In reply to by dpease

In general the league just seems to be calling fewer holding penalties than ever before. Three on the Giants yesterday actually seems like a lot in the bigger scheme. I don't recall Jacobs cutting back that much (or at all), except for that one long run he ripped off with 2-3 of them on the same play. He's not really a cutback guy.

I don't know if it was because of the punishment the physical Giants offense was delivering or what, but the Cowboys' D seemed awfully soft last night. Poor tackling and pursuit effort, barely a whiff of Eli in the pocket (save for one Ware sack), and just bouncing off Jacobs all was pretty bad.

28 Re: DAL-NYG

In reply to by dpease

I suspect that holding was called a lot because... there was a lot of holding! Both teams have some very talented pass-rushers, and both teams' offensive linemen are better in the run game than they are at pass-blocking. That means that blockers are going to get beaten from time to time, and when people get beat, they sometimes try to get away with a hold.

As for Jenkins, he was giving a big cushion, which is appropriate given that it was (I recall) 2nd-&-Goal at the 18. Sure, it'd be great for the DAL defense if the front-7 didn't let the RB get into the secondary on a draw play, but, given that Ward did bust through, Jenkins at least has to try to slow him down. He wasn't even in a position to take Ward on head-on; all he really had to do was throw his shoulder at the RB's legs from the side. Every NFL CB has to be expected to do that.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I've actually seen Bears fans say that since Grossman threw a touchdown, he out played Orton against the Lions. I just want to smash my face into my desk sometimes.

18 Random reactions

Bill Barnwell: My roomate is a rather hardcore Bears fan. He left with the score 10-0 to hang out with his girlfriend because "It's the Lions."

Either your roommate is dating Eccentrica Gallumbits, or (more likely) he's not even close to a hardcore Bears fan.

And I'll throw out an inversion of the usual complaint in this thread: What were so many of you (non-hardcore Bear or Lion fan) guys doing wasting your time on DET/CHI?

Russell Levine: Wow. You will never see an "effort" as poor as the one Mike Jenkins made on Derrick Ward's touchdown run that made it 35-14. He was in good position to make the tackle, but at the last second saw another Cowboy coming from behind the play and just ole'd Ward right into the end zone.

Yep, that was one for the ages. Kudos to Aikman or his spotter for catching it.

Mike Tanier: Is everyone asleep? Daylight savings knocking our socks off? C'mon guys, this is COLTS-PATS. The passion. The pageantry.

I watched the first quarter and tried to trick myself into thinking it was 2006. Then I made the mistake of flipping to "All the President's Men" on TCM during a commercial, and it was all over.

80 Re: Random reactions

Agreed that Bill's roommate is not even close to being a hardcore Bears fan. It doesn't matter who you are playing or what the score is - a hardcore fan watches the whole game, period. (And who or what is Eccentrica Gallumbits?)

“Think Daunte Culpepper is looking over at the Bears sideline thinking ‘if I'd just waited another week...?'"

Uh, no, for two reasons: 1. He wasn't on the Lions sideline, since he hadn't signed with the Lions yet. 2. I'm sure the Bears would have no interest in Culpepper. They already have a turnover machine taking over at QB in Rex. The last thing they need is another turnover machine at QB (especially playing in Chicago as the weather turns frigid and snowy/icy on probably the sloppiest field in the NFL), who doesn't know the offense, who would cost millions and who would want at least a two-year contract.

87 Who is Eccentrica Gallumbits?

Why, "The Triple-Breasted Whore of Eroticon Six," of course.

armchair journeyman quarterback

85 Re: Random reactions

Either your roommate is dating Eccentrica Gallumbits, or (more likely) he's not even close to a hardcore Bears fan.

Agreed. I was glued to the internet radio stream and gamecenter (accursed lack of directv installer).

It's pretty obvious the secondary is banged up. Really sucks that Zack Bowman is out, we could really use more warm bodies at CB. Other than that, the TN game should be ... uh, interesting. The Bears are actually pretty solid against the run, so I've got some hope.

101 Re: Random reactions

Oh, perhaps you'll be doing some more guaranteeing, then?

(I had the contract on you all signed and sealed -- had to call Vinny back at the last minute when the pass got batted down in the end zone.)

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

The Colts right side issues are RT Ryan Diem being the most washed up player on the Colt offense, RG Mike Pollak being a rookie who missed over a month of practice time and pulling LG Charlie Johnson's habit of either not blocking anyone, or letting a closer guy go to block a guy further from the play.

20 Re: Packers-Titans

With my Saints on a bye this week, I got to watch 2 football games that I have no real rooting interest in--Pack vs. Ten, & Bills/Jets. I wanted to see if the Titans were as good as their record. A few observations:

1. Didn't understand the Chris Johnson hype at first--understand it now. The guy is good--whether in space or just going up the middle to pick up a few yards when there isn't a clear hole to accelerate through. He consistently made guys miss and/or juked enough to be able to push through the tackle and fall forward instead of being hit head on and going backward.

2. As mentioned in Audibles, the Titans O-line is good. Great move by their front office to sign those tackles to extensions before they hit FA.

3. As the best team in the AFC and definite Super Bowl contender (they will get HFA unless they blow it--11-5 might be enough), my only concern for this team is the potential of Kerry Collins costing them a playoff game they should win because of his lack of accuracy. I am spoiled watching Drew Brees, but this is bad. Titans fans, is Vince Young also this bad with his accuracy? I know that much has been said about Collins being the better QB and a "game manager" and not screwing up so that the D can win the game, but is this completely true? Or did Collins have a bad game against a reasonably good secondary?

4. The refs missed a DPI in the endzone on 3rd & goal that resulted in a FG by the Titans. The LB had his back turned, made contact before the ball got there, and it wasn't uncatchable--IIRC, the TE still got a hand on the ball--although he wouldn't have caught it (the DPI helped on that). Refs make the call, the Titans are almost guaranteed a TD--they were getting rushing yards pretty much at will.

5. Any reason to go for the FG in OT on 3rd and 1? It wasn't like it was on the 10 yd line, where if you messed up the snap your 2nd attempt would still be from pretty close range. It was still from 40+. (Although when you make it and win, there is much less second-guessing.) My thought was, "Run a simple dive play or off-tackle. Get the first down--then move the ball a little closer. Bironas just missed the game-winner a few minutes ago."

6. Even if they don't get HFA, they are built to win playoff games--depend on your line play; ball control football; two complementary RB's whose skill sets are also similar enough that you can't key on one set of plays depending on the back in the game (White always goes inside/CJ outside is NOT true); and a defense that can win a game for you and will always keep you in it. Having said this, I think they lose to the Giants/Skins/Panthers/surprise NFC Super Bowl team.

Yes, I will go on record as saying that the Titans will go to the Super Bowl--but I think they will lose it.

27 Re: Packers-Titans

Still, this game had the worst coaching decision of the week until Bill Belichick got into the game (see my comments below).

13 seconds left, you're still holding timeouts, it's first or second down, tie game, and you're looking at a 47 yard FG. 47 yards is right in that range where every additional yard you get has a dramatic increase in success probability. I know Bironas supposedly has a long leg, but why do you not call a run up the middle there? Even a three yard gain would have been enough so that Bironas would have won it in regulation. I know you worry about a fumble...but honestly, the odds of fubmling has to be smaller than the increase in hit probability associated with gaining a couple of yards. If its not, then you need a new RB.

I didn't see OT, but it sounds like another questionable decision was made, even if it worked...

134 Re: Packers-Titans

In reply to by MJK

It was poor strategy by the fishboy, he could've easily ran two plays to get extra yards. And the OT kick was a 41 yarder kicked on 3rd and 1. He could've easily tried to bring it closer. I hope he learns from his mistakes.

55 Re: Packers-Titans

I watched this game for the same reasons and ended up with the same conclusions. The Titans o-line was very impressive for most of the game that I saw (I took a break to walk through the Colorado mountains for most of the second half and had the game on AM radio). Agaisnt Indy the Titans D impressed me, especially Finnegan. Even Harper looked above average, he's a real player too.

I see the Titans representing the AFC this year in the Super Bowl. Their challenger from the NFC remains TBD, and I hope to god somebody beats the Giants.

57 Re: Packers-Titans

Joseph, "Yes, I will go on record as saying that the Titans will go to the Super Bowl--but I think they will lose it."

While I am enjoying the 7-1 start of the Giants, I still consider it unlikely they make the Super Bowl for a chance of a repeat; just too many things can go wrong between now and then.

But if the Giants do make the Super Bowl, the Titans look to be the kind of team that is built to beat them. They don't give up sacks, both by having great offensive line play and by throwing infrequently. They have a defense which can turn an offense one-dimensional by snuffing the running game. If, by chance, the Giants make it that far, the Titans are the opponent I would fear the most from the AFC this year.

74 Re: Packers-Titans

Titans fans, is Vince Young also this bad with his accuracy?
I don't really think either QB is much more accurate than the other-Collins is a little bit more consistently closer to perfect on short throws than VY, but he's by no means a 07 Favre-esque precision slant passer and he can't hit the deep one any better. Collins' great benefit, and the reason he's playing over VY, is his bad plays tend to end up being throws out of bounds or dumpoffs for 0 yards, and not turnovers. I'm a little skeptical about how long that continues, though-he threw 3 INTs against the Ravens (1 negated by penalty) and the Packers probably should have had at least 1 yesterday.

I have to say it's a little odd hearing all this praise for Chris Johnson, who at one point yesterday had 11 rushes for 31 yards. He did do better later, but didn't have great consistent success. Hopefully his numbers show up in Quick Reads, though I kind of doubt it. He's still about a million times better as an actual RB than I thought he'd be. I expected him to be another straight-line only guy and battling the non-felonious Chris Henry to be the 2nd active RB on gamedays.

The OL praise is also a little surprising, since I think they're actually playing slightly worse than they were last year. ALY is actually down about .15 yards a carry, and the Stuffed Rate has gone up and is about league-average. 10+ has gone way up, and ASR has gone way down, but I think those are almost exclusively the result of Johnson and Collins, respectively. In personnel terms, Jake Scott at RG has been a good FA pickup from the Colts, but I think Eugene Amano, who did well filling in at C for Mawae last year, has been a clear downgrade from Jacob Bell at LG. It was Amano who got turned around for the one sack yesterday, and that's the first time this year that's happened to a Titans OL.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Ben I have to agree, this "They've got injuries, but with Sanders and Addai and Saturday all back, do they have any injuries as high-profile as Brady or Maroney or even Rodney Harrison? Shouldn't they be a far superior team to the current Patriots?" is a really bad comment. Addai is a shell of his self right now on the first game back, Lilja who was mentioned by Barnwell hasn't actually played a snap all year, this is the second game back Ugoh, first by Sanders, down two starting DT's, 2 starting CBs, a starting LB, etc. Also since when is Maroney a high profile player anymore, he pretty seems to be replacement level for about 2 years now. I know every team has injuries like these, but I imaggine if the team that started for the colts today was put into the formula in the book that analyzed injuries it would rank as one of the most beat up teams in the league even as of right now. What is more important a couple of star players like Brady and Harrison not playing or a couple of star players like Sanders and Addai playing at 70% and missing 6 other starters and having no line continuity at all? Im not sure but I can't believe it is a huge difference. All that said both teams are still in the running for a playoff spot despite how flawed they both look right now.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Addai is a shell of his self right now
Not necessarily. The Pats defense hasn't been stellar this year, but they've consistently stopped the run all year (except against Miami's Wildcat). Even LdT looked bad against them.

So by your count the Colts are down:
*two starting DT's
*two starting CB's
*A starting LB
*First game back by Lilja (hasn't played a snap all year)
*First game back Sanders
*Second game back by Ugoh

Now here's the Pats:
*Down THREE starting RB's
*A starting CB, with the other two starters playing injured
*A starting LB/S
*First game back by Nick Kaczur (the RT)
*Second game back (and first start) by Stephen Neal (the RG), who before last week hadn't played a snap all year.

I'd say, up to this point, the injuries are pretty much even.

Now add in the fact that the Pats don't have their HoF QB!

I agree with the sentiment that they Colts should have been the FAR superior team. Instead, they were just a little bit of a superior team.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Reggie Wayne was also playing injured this week. Plus it seems like Peyton is still not 100%...he has looked a little better each week, but still not quite right.

I would say both teams are quite banged up. When you have a player who was out of the league last week guarding Randy Moss you might have an injury problem ;o)

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

No reason to worry about who's more banged up, as to my eyes these were two one-and-out-of-the-playoffs teams, but MJK you're looking at the Colts missing 5 different starting positions on defense (left DT, right DT, left CB, right CB, one LB). Yes, the lack of 3 RB's for NE is really bad, but it's all one position (they have their top FB, if they want to use him). So, I would disagree that up to that point, the two are equal in terms of hurting guys.

But, Brady of course trumps all that. NE, I agree, is in much worse injury trouble. But, my real point is that I can't believe BB, who I have always thought was arrogant to an extreme, is still stubbornly sticking with a QB who can't hit the deep pass (or whom they don't trust enough to throw the deep pass). I mean, you have Moss, and not 3 RB's. It was a 15-18 point game. Throw the ball deep! Or, get someone who can.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

To be fair, I think Belichick lets McDaniels call the offensive plays, so I fault him more than Belichick on that count. Of course, I fault Belichick on other things in this game, so there's plenty of blame to go around, and I woudl agree that there was a bit of "arrogance" playing in. It almost seemed like Belichick felt like he had to do unusual things to justify his "coaching genius" reputation, even if those unusual things (wasting a play, a challenge, and timeout trying to get a cheap five yards at midfield, going for two when up by 5 at the beginning of the third quarter, etc.) were rather dumb and reflect a poor risk-reward analysis.

Also, to be fair, the Pats did try three deep throws (before the final desparation heaves)--two to Moss and one to Gaffney. The two to Moss were hopelessly off target (one was way out of bounds, one when to his inside shoulder, where there was a safety, rather than to his outside). The former may have actually been Cassel throwing it away, as Moss was well covered on that play. The latter was a bad throw.

The third, to Gaffney, was a perfectly designed and executed play, that possibly, or even probably, could have been game changing. Then he dropped it.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

My thoughts from Pats-Colts:

The Colts played well, but so did the Pats. It was a very enjoyable game.

Everyone's bemoaning the personal foul on Thomas, and no question it was big--probably the tipping point of the game. But I think the loss also rests just as squarely on three other people's shoulders:

-Jabar Gafney: The Pats entire gameplan seemed built around keeping the game close, drawing the the Colts defense, and then going for broke and making a big, game-changing paly. This they did perfectly, with Gafney getting behind the Colts D for a TD and Cassel putting the ball perfectly on his hands with no defender within five yards...and Gafney dropped it like a live ferret. This cost the Pats four points (and almost seven) near the end of a close game.

-Josh McDaniels: The Pats offensive playcalling, especially in the first half and on the final drive was...bizarre to say the least. Not even testing a weak, injury depeleted secondary? Trying all manner of naked screens and misdirection trickery against an undersized defense known for speed and discipline? The Colts Dline could get very little pressure, and yet the Pats were unloading the ball as if they thought a big blitz was coming every down?

The defensive playcalling was also bizzarre--the Pats played a two-deep zone for much of the game, and it was this defense that gave up both Colts TD's. When they got aggressive, they exposed Manning's weakness this year and stopped the Colts. Still, the gameplan seemed to be to keep it close and low scoring and it almost worked...but I wasn't crazy about it.

-However, the biggest blamee is: Bill Belichick. Let us count the uncharacteristic coaching screw ups:
*Wasting a challenge and a timeout trying to pick up five measely yards at midfield when at worst you're facing a second and 10. It mainly looked like he just wanted to prove what clever and good coach he was, and lost sight of the potential risk-reward.
*Because of that wasted challenge, probably unwilling to challenge the unsuccessful two-point conversion (I thought there was about a 50% chance that Faulk got in, although they didn't show enough replay to really tell).
*I thought going for it on 4th and 1 was a good decision, but a FG would have been an OK decision, too--it was real close in my mind. But once you decide--stick with it! Don't waste your final timeout because you're waffling and indecisive. Who are you--Herm Edwards?
*Why didn't he request a measurement on the play right before the unnecessary roughness call?
*I agree with the comments above about the playcalling on the desparation drive...

All in all, I think both teams played pretty much evenly. It wouldn't surprise me if the Pats had a slightly higher VOA--they seemed to be able to move the ball slightly better, although the Colts won because they had better red zone success and because of the questionable decisions above. The Colts deserved to win because Dungy coached better in game. But it's still heartbreaking. It is almost worse because the Pats weren't clearly outplayed.

One final comment, and this is going to sound like sour grapes because the Pats lost, but it really isn't. I hated the officiating in this game. Both O-lines were holding left and right and getting away with it--one one critical colts 3rd down conversion, a Pats rusher got his jersey practically ripped off and missed sacking Manning (who threw for a 20 yard gain) by a half second; one another, Dwight Freeny was essentially taken to the ground with a wrestling move allowing Cassel to escape. The Colts were horribly robbed before half time because of a shoddy clock operator and a questionable decision that a 10 second runoff would somehow end the half... The late hit call on Thomas, while a valid call (it was a late hit, right in front of a ref) was hardly the first late hit in the game (I saw at least a couple of others earlier), but ended up being game changing. When you throw just three flags all game, and two of them, however valid, end up being game changing and take away points in what is ultimately a three point game, it's kind of sour.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I very much agree about the refs. You're telling me that Colts-Pats, two teams who know they need every advantage they can get, didn't merit more than a handful of penalties, combined? I mean, I know Rodney wasn't playing, but really ... :)

SIde question: is it a penalty if a wide receiver takes a route that forces his defender into another offensive player, even if that offensive player doesn't move? Some near pick plays by the Colts. Should those have been called? (I seem to remember one where the Colts stacked the WR's on the right, the front guy just stood there, but the back guy started left, then cut behind his man, effectively cutting off the DB who ran into either the front WR or his other DB.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Not "near-pick plays," the Colts were running pick plays! Lots of teams do this and it is very rarely called. On one Gonzalez TD play, Wayne clearly runs a "pick route," succeeds, then looks toward the QB as if he was trying to get open.

The NFL has too many complicated rules.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I saw that too. I think picks are one of those penalties that are technically on the books, but are practically never called, kind of like how "illegally assiting the ball carrier" is never called when the ballcarrier is stood up in a scrum and his teammates all slam into the scrum from behind to try to drive the pile forward and pick up a few extra yards. Jerry Markbeit (or whatever his name is) has talked about that case in his refereeing column--it's technically illegal, but "blocking" to assist the ball carrier is legal, and in many cases it's too hard to distinguish blocking from pushing the pile, so unless you see players physically picking the ball carrier up and carrying him, they don't call it.

Similarly, I would guess unless you see something absolutely blatant, beyond a doubt, as a pick, it's not going to get called, since the offensive players could always say "well, it was just a cleverly designed route, and I was just running my assigned route".

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

The colts didn't run a couple of those. They were running the pick plays almost every play in the first half. Its a good way to deal with inexperienced DBs. Its also illegal, but almost never called.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

A lot of the criticism of Belichick seems unwarranted. Belichick saw a Colts defender running for the sideline who didn't make it there before the snap. The natural thing to think, when you see that, is that he's the 12th defender and that the Colts had committed a penalty. Why not throw the red flag?

The last timeout was, I think, a sign of a mess of things, but that's the only point of criticism I agree with. I don't think it's worth second-guessing the times when Belichick didn't use a challenge when you've already cricized him for using one. Was it clear that Faulk had reached the end zone? I don't think so.

There was not much need for a measurement on the late 3rd down play because it simply wasn't very close to a 1st down.

I agree with some of the criticisms of the playcalling, except that, for example, I saw a short pass to Welker that was a complete disaster, with him being tackled for a loss by about five Colts. And then I saw a very similar play work very well the next series. A lot of the criticism was "Why don't the Pats test the secondary more?" Well, because their QB is Matt Cassel! He doesn't do deep passes very well. When they can make yards with running plays and short passes anyway, why waste snaps on risky deep passes with a QB they don't trust doing that?

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

The natural thing to think, when you see that, is that he's the 12th defender and that the Colts had committed a penalty. Why not throw the red flag?

Because you control the ball, so you have plenty of time to let your guy upstairs count and determine that you're not wasting a challenge. The replay that Madden showed clearly indicated that the 12th guy got off in time. And if there isn't time to check that and be sure, you need to know you're gambling, and need to evaluate the risk versus reward. Both timeouts and challenges in the second half of a very close game, where both teams are taking such long drives that they will get minimal possessions, are quite important. And getting a free five yards on first down when the ball is at midfield isn't that significant. Even if they had won the challenge and not lost a timeout, I would have been very skeptical of the decision to burn one of your two or three challenges to get five yards. Given that he obsiously wasn't 100% sure that he was right, he should not have paid (the challenge) and risked (the timeout) so much when the gain was so minimal (five yards).

And I wasn't criticizing for not using a second challene at the goal line, but pointing out that it was an additional cost incurred by using the first challenge. If he hadn't used the first challenge frivolously, then he would have been more able to challenge a questionable, and far more significant, call than one affecting a mere five yards of field position. If you have three timeouts and both challenges, and you think that there's any respectable chance of overturning a call that will give you two more points, you probably take that chance. If you're already down one or two timeouts, and have already lost a challenge (meaning that you will only get one more, win or lose), then you're far more hesitant to use it. I don't know if Faulk was in, but I certainly think, based on the one brief replay I saw, that there was about a 30% chance that he was and that a challenge would have overturned the ruling. 30% is probably too slim to burn your last challenge, and a crucial timeout on, but not too slim to try your first challenge on, especially if you have plenty of timeouts.

There was not much need for a measurement on the late 3rd down play because it simply wasn't very close to a 1st down.
They didn't show enough replays to be sure. I agree that it looked like Green-Ellis was down before the ball crossed the yellow line, but after he was lying on the ground, the ball was certainly across the yellow line. So the exact place where the ball should have been spotted was probably close to the first down, given that the yellow line is approximate. In any case, close enough that Belichick would have been justified in calling for a measurement, which would have given his team a free timeout to plan what they were going to do on a tough 3rd-and-15. Madden agreed with me...he wondered aloud why you didn't call for a measurement.

Well, because their QB is Matt Cassel! He doesn't do deep passes very well. When they can make yards with running plays and short passes anyway, why waste snaps on risky deep passes with a QB they don't trust doing that?

Yeah, that deep ball that Gaffney dropped was sure off target...

What you mean is that he doesn't do deep balls as well as Brady (or, for that matter, Manning). I agree. But he is still capable of hitting them, and has shown that. You "waste" snaps on risky deep passes for two reasons: (1) there is a high reward even if there is a lower probability of success, and (2) because it loosens up the defense. Sanders was killing the running game until they targeted Moss deep a couple of times...then all of as sudden, the running plays started working better.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

has there ever been a sunday with seven TDs on interception returns before? elam, greer, suggs, rolle, reeves, allen, jenkins. good grief. i thought it was groundhog day watching the highlight show wrap-ups.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Just a note from the Jets/Bills game. Mangini made one of the most shocking stupid calls I've seen a coach make in a long time.

Bills had 3rd and 11 from around the 25 late in the 1st quarter and got a procedure penalty. Rather than take the 42 yard field goal. The Jets decided to take the penalty and give the Bills a 3rd and 16 from the 30, and the Bills picked up the 1st down.

In the end, everything worked out because Elam returned a pass later on the drive for a TD. I get what the Jets were doing, but giving the Bills another chance to pick up the first down just seems insanely dumb.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I guess it all depends on how you weight the different possible outcomes of 3rd-and-16. Giving up the first down is a very bad possible outcome, but it's pretty rare. At least as probable as the first down is some very good outcome for the defense like a sack or an interception. Then in the big middle there's the incomplete pass (probably ~35-45% likely), which results in a 47-yard attempt, and all the various gain-some-yards-but-not-enough outcomes, all of which result in some ~35-45-yard FG attempt. I think it's actually a fairly tough call, and I don't think I'd characterize either decision as stupid.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

On the last drive of the Pats game; I didn't manage to stay awake for it, but based on what people are saying here (and it could be off) the Pats threw a bunch of deep balls when they had a chance to maybe go for 15-20 yards at a pop, if this is true, it sounds an awful lot like the last drive of the Super Bowl as well.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

The Pats started their last drive on their own 20 with 21 seconds on the clock and no time outs. If we credit Gostkowski with the ability to kick a 52-yard FG, then they had to make it 35 yards down field.

Short completions are not going to work in that case. Any completion is going to take at least 10 seconds off the clock.

(BTW, I do like "I don't really know what happened, but I'm going to chime in with a criticism anyway" attitude.)

As for the Super Bowl, the Pats had more time then, and they did in fact have an open Moss that Brady could have hit with a pass that would have conceivably won the game. But Brady underthrew him. That wasn't the fault of play-calling. When you have Randy Moss, going deep to him makes sense.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I don't remember how many timeouts they had at the end of the Super Bowl, but last night they were on their own 20 with 21 seconds left and no timeouts. Come on. As irrelevant as strategy is at that point, I'd think one lucky deep ball has a better chance of success than 3 straight 15-20 yard throws where the receiver gets out of bounds every time.

Edit: Or what Rick said, except for the part about Moss being "open" and "underthrown" (technically maybe Robo-QB wouldn't have underthrown him, but the ball must have gone 65-70 yards in the air - hard to fault Brady)

Edit #2: The Pats had to go 45 yards, not 35, to give Gostkowski a chance from 52.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Yeah, from the 20 on the one side to the 35 on the other 45 yards!

(And yes, I have a few degrees in math, which is why I screw up badly with arithmetic from time to time.)

45 yards cannot be broken down into a few manageable parts in 21 seconds. Maybe Brady or Manning could pull it off, but Cassel certainly couldn't.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

If you're running the Power fake, someone has to, like, open up a hole or something.


The Wire should win the Nobel prize for literature.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Browns fan here. I watch every game and disagree on Brandon McDonald not being able to cover. I thought coming into the season using him as a starter was a huge mistake, but I think he's been surprisingly (almost shockingly) good. I think the only thing working against him is his size (he's supposed to be 5'10" 190 but looks even smaller than that on the field). Yes, he got burnt on the Clayton TD yesterday, but he was supposed to have safety help on that play which wasn't there.

I definitely agree that the officials were off - there were many pro-Browns calls. Might of made the game closer than it should of been. As much as I hate to admit it, the Ravens were the better team yesterday.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

You can't say the Colts offense was that out of sync. The pass offense made up for the lack of a running game. The Colts defense was to blame for the Colts not separating. The Patriots ate up the clock (35 min) on many sustained drives that ended up with field goals (fortunately for the Colts). The only offenses who see the ball less than the Colts are the Lions and Raiders.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

To add . . . with Brady in the game, the Colts would have scored more points (even though they probably would have lost). Brady throws a couple fast touchdowns to Moss and the Colts offense gets more possessions and the New England defense get less rest.

41 Re: Cowboys 14 at Giants 35

As a Redskins fan I was thrilled to see some sloppy, mistake-filled football in this game. Dallas looks like they are in serious trouble, and New York hardly looked like world-beaters. The superior team on Sunday, no doubt, but if they make mistakes playing a good team (who isn't making mistajes) they can be beat.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I don't understand why Bill Barnwell is knocking Belichick for not punting from inside Colts territory on 4th and 15 with zero timeouts left? And a punt there would have...given the Colts the ball at the 20 instead of the 25 where they got it on the Bob Sanders interception?

Terrible commentary.

Belichick may have made some questionable calls in the game (I disagree with some of the criticisms, but hey) but going for it when a punt essentially concedes the game was not one of them.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I agree with you here. I would have gone for it as well, because a punt basically concedes the game. Not quite--remember the Pats allowed the Colts to convert one first down, wich cost them 40 seconds or so, so if they hadn't done that, they would have gotten the ball in better field position, and with about a minute to play, instead of 21 seconds. But I think the 4thd down play is wise, and is probably the reason why the tried to run an inside screen on 3rd down (thinking all along to just get some yardage and then go for it on 4th down). Of course, given that the other team is expecting you to throw deep and is likely to bring a fair amount of heat in response means that maybe it wasn't the best time for an inside screen...but that's a different criticism.

Of course, to be fair, Bill's criticism was what was likely to have happened, not what did happen. A smart DB bats the ball down on 4th down, and the Colts get the ball at midfield, almost guaranteeing that the Pats get pinned deep. The Pats got a better than expected outcome when the DB intercepted the ball, but then immediately negated that good outcome when they let Manning convert a first down pass.

Bill's argument is that, if things happen as expected, the 4th down pass is incomplete, and you automatically will get pinned deep when you get the ball back, versus if you punt you have the opportunity not to be pinned deep...

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

i don't think the fact that bob sanders had a mental-lapse (catching the INT rather than slapping the ball down) is viable evidence in this field position question--unless your point is that opposing dbs should be expected to intercept 4th down pass attempts.

[edit: MJK beat me to this response. sorry, should have scrolled down]
armchair journeyman quarterback

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Yeah. Because it's way more logical that Cassel going's to throw a pass easily interceptable by the defense without having to worry about them simply knocking the pass down (or the pass being incomplete) and them getting it on the 40.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

By rule, that is considered a kick out of bounds. Thus, rather than starting at the 11-yard line, the Jets begin their drive at the 40.

Although this was a very smart play, what kind of bizarro rule is this?

That one always bothered me, too. On pretty much any other play in a football game, you can't be the first person to touch the ball after having gone out of bounds. Not sure why it's different on a kickoff.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I believe it's because on the other instances you're referring to, a player was out of bounds and then came back in. Washington was out-of-bounds when he touched the ball and therefore the ruling is that the ball was kicked out of bounds, similar to when a receiver catches a pass with one foot on the sideline.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I think it's different because the rules say it should be different. Don't go looking for logic; it's for competitive balance (in other words, the Competition Committee thinks it makes for better balance this way than if the result was a dead ball at the point where the returner touched the ball).

Like last week, the fact that we can all go look up the official NFL rules online helps fans understand these kind of... er... never mind.

(Again, I think I'm just going to put this post up every freaking week.)

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"(BTW, I do like "I don't really know what happened, but I'm going to chime in with a criticism anyway" attitude.)"

Where in there did I criticize them? Seriously. I said if that is what happened, it sounded similar to the end of the Super Bowl. It looks like the situations were a little different, so the comparison doesn't really hold but if you think thats being critical I think you need to calm down a little.

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I would be winning the office season-long ATS pool if I had not gone against my beloved Giants the last two weeks. I keep waiting for the usual mid-year (when the schedule gets tougher) swoon, and it has now been delayed by at least two weeks.

During the game on the #FO chat, someone was commenting repeatedly about how another Eli Manning meltdown was in progress. I didn't see it that way. The pick-6 was a case of the QB throwing one hot-read and the receiver running another. I have no way of knowing who was wrong there, but stuff like that is going to happen. I'm more concerned by the fumbles.

I thought Eli was mostly accurate this game. He needed some touch on one dump-off that was thrown with Favre-like velocity to a guy just a few feet away, but the throw to Boss was a thing of beauty. There was another throw, an incompletion, where had it been thrown more 'accurately', it would have been intercepted; instead, it was a little behind the receiver, out of reach of the defender, and could have been caught. He took a few shots deep, and was a little long on them, but not by much. Without looking at the stats, I think Eli was pretty successful on third down, and I know the G-men were 5-5 in the red zone which is a nice change.

The big thing to take away from this game, as well as the last few games, is that to beat the Giants, the quarterback must be protected. If a team cannot protect the QB, the Giants will put 8 in the box, stuff the run, and pile up sacks and hurries until the turnovers come. The Eagles will provide a really good test here, since they have a pretty good adjusted sack rate, and McNabb (when healthy) can avoid the rush well at times.

I expect the Eagles to win this weekend. If the Giants somehow manage to win this coming week, then I'm going to start getting really excited about their repeat chances, which I still think are rather low.

ETA--- The roughing the passer penalty on Tuck was unbelievably lame. The NFL has really swung way too far in their 'protect the passer' zeal. It will be forgotten because it didn't matter in the grand scheme of the game, but had this been a competitive contest, it could have been the difference, which sucks.

56 Re: Packers-Titans

1) I think Moose just misidentified the wrong LB as being bad in coverage. Hawk, Barnett, and Chillar are all decent. Poppinga isn't. Not surprising for a DE in college.
2) While the Titans deserved to win, I wasn't impressed with Collins. The Packers dropped two easy INTs only because two different backs had a better shot at the ball and interfered with each other. OTOH, Chris Johnson may already be one of the top 4 RBs in the NFL. Just unbelievable.
3) The uncalled PI in the end zone was actually pretty close. The defender was coming in from a different angle than the ball and at full speed it's hard to tell if he beat the ball there. Yes, it probably was PI, but I could see why it wasn't called.
4) The Packers should just shelve the empty backfield set. It worked for Favre because he'd seen everything and has one of the quickest releases ever. There's just too many things that can go wrong with it to risk AR in that formation. I still think the Packers made the right decision trading Favre.

132 Re: Packers-Titans

Re: A.J. Hawk

They have been pulling him some here and there, because he's had a groin injury. But yes, he's typically been strong in coverage, groin injury aside.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Ugh, some truly awful commenting on the Dallas game.

"That's not the case with the Cowboys; they're an average team, and they're an average team because of their injuries."

Well yeah, thats not really going out on a limb there. ANY TEAM in the NFL would be average with the injuries the Cowboys have had. Lets see the Giants play without Eli (Romo), Seubert (Kosier), Plaxico (Witten, although even then Witten's more important than Plax), Ward (Felix Jones), Kiwanuka (Spencer), and Ross, Webster, Butler, and Knight in the secondary (Newman, Jones, Williams, and Watkins) and try to tell me the Giants would be better than average with a straight face. There's no way. And you could predict regression to the mean as far as injuries, but there was no reason to suspect they would get some of the worst luck injury-wise in the league. Thats like if you predicted the Pats wouldn't be that good this year because they'd have more injuries, and then tried to say you were right because Tom Brady missed the whole year. No one predicted that.

"The Roy Williams move continues to be a waste as it marginalizes Patrick Crayton. If they wanted to move Crayton to the slot, they just should've put Miles Austin out wide."

Lets wait until there is someone who can pass the ball beyond the line of scrimmage before we judge the move. Brad Johnson must be the worst QB who has played this year. Seriously, I'm looking at Dan Orlovsky and Tyler Thigpen with envy right now. Crayton is a good no. 3 receiver and a weak no. 2. Williams is a pro-bowl level guy. They're numbers are simliar because of the offenses the play in (spectacular Cowboys offense vs. the Lions offense, enough said). And I really hope you aren't saying Miles Austin would have the same impact as Roy Williams. Remember how Aaron said this in the audibles last week: "I have found that FO writers have a much better understanding of the limitations of FO stats than readers do". Okay, well then we should realize Williams is much better than Crayton.

"I don't necessarily believe that losing Felix Jones has somehow closed the holes up for Marion Barber"

I don't think anyone believes that (although it would be nice to give Barber a rest once in a while. When you have a QB who can't complete a pass more than 5 yards downfield defenses can move up in the box, therefore they can easily stuff the run. So, Barber is struggling. I'm sure he'll be fine once Romo gets back, but this is pretty simple.

"The only thing that makes sense is that they wanted to keep him (Roy Williams) away from a competitor"

Well sure, but its also nice to add a no. 1 receiver when you can, especially when you're only really good receiver is getting old and starting to slow down. He's the no. 1 of the future. And again, they couldn't pass it to him because they couldn't pass it to anyone at all, really.

"the 2010 Cowboys will pay the price (even more so than the 2008 Cowboys)."

First of all, how do the 2008 Cowboys pay the price at all?? Those picks weren't going to help them this year! And do you really expect the first round pick to be better than Roy Williams? It could happen, but the odds are pretty low (especially since it probably won't be a top ten pick). Then all you've lost is a third rounder. I think thats a pretty fair price for a no. 1 receiver. This sounds very nitpicky to me.

Finally, my reactions to the game. I was pretty satisfied with the Cowboys. If Romo played, I think at least one of the INT's would have not happened and the Cowboys would have scored. Then it would have been a one-score game. And realisticly I think the Cowboys would have score at least once more, so I think both teams were pretty even considering the QB situation. The media doom and gloom seems way overblown. I'm not sure what they expected, given the circumstances there was no way the Cowboys could compete. The defense looked bad on the surface (35 points), but considering the Giants had a drive start on the Cowboys 18,27,30, and at midfield, and that they forced a pick and 3 fumbles against the #1 DVOA offense in the league, I thought they looked a lot better. Obviously the offense will be good with Romo back, even with the line's shortcomings.

Basically, I think its foolish to say the Cowboys won't be a good team from here on out, assuming Romo stays healthy. We'll see vs. the Redskins, that'll be a big test. But to say they are average is to overlook their injuries, when mostly everyone will be back by their next game. They're not the Patriots, Romo isn't out for the rest of the year.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"Lets see the Giants play without Eli (Romo), Seubert (Kosier), Plaxico (Witten, although even then Witten's more important than Plax), Ward (Felix Jones), Kiwanuka (Spencer), and Ross, Webster, Butler, and Knight in the secondary (Newman, Jones, Williams, and Watkins) and try to tell me the Giants would be better than average with a straight face."

First off, the thought that Witten is more important than Plax strikes me as off-base hyperbole.

But put that aside, and you can rewind a few years ago when the Giants had, at one point in November, Osi out, Strahan out, Tuck out, starting LB Brandon Short out, Arrington out, Toomer out, Emmons out, Plaxico out, Sam Madison hobbled. They made the playoffs (and, trying to play without any linebackers at all, were slaughtered by the Panthers).

The fact that the Cowboys have been hit hard by injuries and are therefore average might feel unfair, but the fact is that the Cowboys have been very fortunate on the injury front in the past few years, and that was unlikely to continue. Further, where certain teams have a lot of depth and can handle injury outbreaks, the Cowboys are not one of those teams. They skimped on backup quarterback, for example. When the Cowboys have healthy starters, they may be above average. But their backups are not where they need to be, and the starters are not healthy. As such, the team is not above average.

I wonder if one of the reasons the Giants have developed as much depth as they have is a consequence of the injury problems they had in 2005 and 2006-- steering them towards developing a deep roster rather than spending a ton on the starters.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

They skimped on backup quarterback, for example.
Ah yes, that great Giants depth at QB... consisting of Anthony Wright, David Carr, and Andre Woodson.

Seriously, everyone skimps on backup QB. What the Cowboys did wrong was cut Matt Moore last season. That guy is going to be a solid backup at the least in this league, and they let the Panthers pick him up.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I am pretty sure that Carr and/or Wright would do better than Johnson/Bollinger.

And I felt that way before the great Johnson/Bollinger Experience of 2008.

ETA-- but more importantly, it is a matter of importance to the team. If a single position is that important to your teams' success, you have to either back it up well or hope for no injuries. Is Eli as important to the Giants' success as Romo is to the Cowboys? That's an interesting debate question, but right now it looks like Romo was masking a lot of ills, and his backups have been totally unsatisfactory.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

You may have misunderstood me. I'm not saying that Carr/Wright is anywhere NEAR as bad as Johnson/Bollinger. But you had made the statement that the Cowboys "Skimped" on a backup QB.

But the point I was making was that backup QB is more about scouting and talent evaluation than anything else. No one pays back up QBs much money-- Brady and Manning are backed up by Cassel and Sorgi. And even if they want to pay more, who can you pay extra to be a QB? All backup QBs make the same amount of money. (I suppose Culpepper was the one guy they could have paid enough to convince him not to retire, but when he did retire he wanted a decent shot at a starting spot... backing up Romo wasn't what he was looking for)

The mistake here is in the talent evaluation, not money allocation. The scouting at that position was terrible. The sample size on Bollinger is small, but Johnson has been historicallly bad, considering the situation. He has all the weapons in the world, took over the helm of a top 5 offense (by DVOA, yards/play, points, you name it) and couldn't move the ball against the Rams. They went from the #1 DVOA (and I think 2nd in passer rating) guy in Romo to a guy who thew 2 TDs and 5 INTs and posted a 50.5 rating.

It's not a money problem, they should have kept Matt Moore... end of story.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Fair points. I concur that backup QBing is more about scouting and coaching than dollars in most cases.

Why on earth the Cowboys thought that backing up their most irreplaceable offensive asset with guys who were unsuccessful as backups in Minnesota was a good idea completely escapes me.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Because, and I've said this before, Jerry Jones is a mediocre GM at best and is quickly headed to Al Davis territory in terms of the outrageous ill-conceived contracts and his suffocating control over the franchise.

When Bill Parcells and Jimmy Johnson were here, two strong-willed coaches who stood up to the owner and made many of the personnel decisions, the Cowboys built talented rosters. Without those guys, they have suffered greatly. It's really that simple.

The man needs to step down as GM. But even if he did (which he won't), I don't know if any decent GM out there would even be willing to come in, knowing that he'd have Jerry and Stephen (his son who is assistant GM-- so yes, you can nepotism on top of all this) looking over his shoulder.

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

What about Byron Leftwich? The Cowboys essentially chose Johnson/Bollinger over him... but I guess that proves your point about talent evaluation.
armchair journeyman quarterback

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Every team has to "skimp by" on something. Its impossible to have good depth at all positions. I'll give you that they should have had a better backup at least because Brad Johnson is absolutely awful but when you lose a top 5 QB, there is going to be a pretty big drop off. Again, lets see the Giants play without Eli for 3 games, we'll see if everyone is still singing their praises.

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

TheStar5- That is kind of my point. You have to pick and choose where you have depth.

As for the Giants, I think Carr will do ok if need be. But that's not the real point. The real point is that the Giants have been constructed to win without needing Eli to be vintage Peyton. If so much of our offense was centered around any one player, we would need to have a plan B. If Eli was the man, then we would either need to have his backup be able to be the man, or we would need to be able to play power-run football if need be.

Right now, the Cowboys do not seem to have a plan B on offense. Beyond Romo, they have not had all that many injuries on offense; other teams have had similar levels of injury over the years and still found some level of success.

The Cowboys have had a lot of injuries, no doubt. But they have exposed a team that is not quite that deep and that has an awful lot of eggs in the basket of a QB who can cover for a lot of offensive line ills. Last year, Romo lit up the league running for his life on a lot of third downs, making spectacular plays. That is not an easy skill to replace. Where's the plan B?

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

that is some really biased interpretation of the giants and the are acting like the giants haven't had injuried of their own. Before this year, consensus would have said that umenyiora was the giants best defensive player and he's gone for the year. And to arbitrarily say that Romo would've made the game about even is simply ridiculous. Whether you believe the Cowboys are this bad or not, they got simply dominated this game....

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

And to arbitrarily say that Romo would've made the game about even is simply ridiculous. Whether you believe the Cowboys are this bad or not, they got simply dominated this game.

I believe my fellow cowboys fan did exaggerate on some points (I can't blame him, yesterday's game was painful), but this isn't one of those points.

For a team built on a vertical passing game and the play action fake/draw play dynamic, having a QB that can actually throw a ball over 10 yards (and that's not even an exaggeration) is simply vital. They simply could not stay on the field for the defense to catch a breath. At half time, the Giants held a 2:1 advantage in time of possession.

Romo means more to this team than any other player on the field, that much is clear to every Cowboys fan out there.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"I believe my fellow cowboys fan did exaggerate on some points"

I titter gleefully at such understatement. A few misspellings and he'll give raiderjoe a run for his money.

Anyhow, from what I saw it wouldn't have mattered had the Cowboys' defense 'had time to catch their breath'. They had no solid answer to the Giants' offense. The Giants line dominated them. Even with the 'chemistry' between Eli and Plax not at its best, the Giants' offense rolled. Granted, they had some short (turnover-fed) fields to work with.

"At half time, the Giants held a 2:1 advantage in time of possession."

More importantly, at halftime the Giants held a 3:1 possession in actual points scored. Which is more indicative, in the end, of who's winning.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I titter gleefully at such understatement. A few misspellings and he'll give raiderjoe a run for his money.

And you match understatement with gross overstatement. Well done.

They had no solid answer to the Giants' offense.

Really? NO answer? None at all? The 3.8 yards per pass attempt (27 of them) seemed like a pretty good answer. Eli was all of a half yard per attempt and 2 first downs better than the combination of Brooks Bollinger and Brad Johnson (also on 27 attempts). Whoop-de-fucking-do.

More importantly, at halftime the Giants held a 3:1 possession in actual points scored. Which is more indicative, in the end, of who's winning.

I really have no idea how this is at all an answer to what I stated. I said the cowboys offense couldn't sustain a drive. You said the Giants were leading.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

It wouldn't have mattered if the Cowboys defense would have had time to catch their breath? The Giants line dominated them? Not at first. The Giants couldn't run the ball worth a crap at the beginning of the game. Their first 15 runs averaged 3.1 yards/carry. They finished the game at 5.4 yards/carry. Could it be possible that part of the reason they had so much more success with their next 19 carries was that the Cowboys defense was beginning to wear down because they were on the field most of the game?

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

The Giants had the ball for 34 minutes and ran 65 plays, both of which are utterly unremarkable. If Dallas's defense was worn down after that, shame on them. Or, conversely, credit to the Giants' line, which seems to have a habit of wearing other teams down.

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Congratulations! What exactly are you trying to prove here? That the Cowboys got run over by the Giants offense? Hey, guess what- we agree! That giants O-Line and RBs completely ran over the Cowboys, even when Eli couldn't pass very effectively.

Most Cowboys fans will tell you the obvious here: this defense is soft. This was masked by a profilic offense that kept pressure on the opposing offense to keep passing and scoring. Without Romo, we can't score (top 5 offense by any measure before Romo went down)... without scoring, the defense gets run into the ground by bruising running styles. This is not to say that they can't stop the run, but that they get tired very easily because they're not physical enough. And Brandon Jacobs could probably wear down a bear, the way he plays.

I think someone gave you the stats earlier: the Cowboys stopped the run reasonably well early, then completely collapsed as they got run into the ground. With a better offensive performance, this maybe doesn't happen. Saying that offensive performance has no effect on the defense (especially when the Giants got TDs off drives of 18 and 27 yards due to offensive turnovers) is silly. That's all we're saying here.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I would like to encourage everybody who has a Facebook account to join the group Stop Playing Toyota's "Saved by Zero" Commercial. The group has just about doubled in membership overnight, up to 689 members as of right now. Let's get everybody to join this group to show Toyota that they can't annoy us into buying their cars.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

No comment on Jeff Fisher's decision, like all coaches do, not to run another play (or two) at the end of regulation, with Bironas of course missing from 47 yards. Why do coaches always do this? How could they forego an opportunity to gain another 5-10 yards to increase their chances of winning the game? And why does no one call them on this conventional wisdom (aka, idiocy that every coach does)?

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

The other option here, that very few coaches seem to recognize, is that they can kick figgies on 2nd or 3rd down. If you've got a long kick, to win the game, might as well give your kicker more than one chance.

And I've only seen two coaches in recent memory apply that strategy. And yes, it saved the team on one occasion (per recollection).

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

... except kicking on 2nd or 3rd down doesn't mean you get the ball back for another down if the kicker misses it. It just means you can spike the ball if there's a bad snap or something.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Hm - it appears that you're right. The rulebook states that 'following any failed FG attempt, the ball reverts to the defense's possession at the same field position (except in cases of failed FG attempts within the 20-yard line, in which case the ball is spotted at the 20)'.

Honestly, I recall someone (Redskins?) trying on 3rd down a few years back, failing, then trying and nailing it on 4th down.

So...never mind all that. The rule has been changed, and the 'crappy 50-50 kicker' strategy is out.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Changed? Were you following it in the 20's or something? If the kicker never tries the kick, like the holder muffs the hold and falls on it, then they can try another kick. But this isn't some recent change.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Mike Tanier: .... Ron Rice had his whole torso over the goal line for the Ravens, but they spotted the ball at the one....

Think you mean Ray Rice.

Aaron Schatz: Did Gary Brackett just refer to Rutgers as "The R???"

That's right, now that Rutgers has some legit NFL starters it was only a matter of time.

Two references to my Alma mater and state university in one Audibles. Awesome.

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"Turns out Matt Ryan is smart enough to find open guys, not just force the ball to well-covered receivers. Who knew?"

Those of that watched him play at B.C.

Announcer-less feeds are the best.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

TMQ mentioned this, and it has kinda stuck out since I read it. The Patriots set themselves up for this missing QB thing. The Giants exposed the Patriots a little bit in the Super Bowl as far as their ability to protect Brady.

The Pats' plan at the most important position on the field, following the Super Bowl? A backup QB who has not started ANY game since high school. Again, this was their *PLAN* at QB. Culpepper, Pennington and Testaverde were all available, and all are far more viable as NFL backups than Cassel.

As has been mentioned multiple times, every team suffers injuries. Brady hadn't been hurt before, but the Pats OL hadn't been exposed before either. But now there are doubts that Brady might even be ready for next season's opener, and they still don't have someone to step in.

They should have been better prepared, and have no excuse for how poorly their team is playing now. The Titans are doing just fine with a backup. The Cowboys' problems extend way beyond QB. The Chiefs are a complete mess with no viable STARTER. Teams simply must have depth in order to have success, and the Pats blew it.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I went on a full rant when TMQ brought this up, so I'll keep this brief this time.

The Pats did not lose Brady because they had a weak line that the Giants exposed, or because Brady was passing too much and they put him in harms way. Brady was lost on a fluke injury when a pass rusher who had been picked up by the running back managed to fight through and on a second effort hit Brady on the side of the knee, as he threw a deep pass of the sort that every team tries to throw a few times per game. It was a freak accident, and I don't see how you can possibly argue that it was a direct result of the Pats' style of play, or that any clever coaching could have forseen or prevented it.

And incidentally, Pennington was not available. When he was a free agent, Brady was a starter and was second (behind Favre) for consecutive games started without missing due to injury. Pennington was not about to sign as a backup with no realistic expectation of starting in New England, when Miame and (reportedly) Minny were offering him the starting job on a silver platter.

As to Culpepper and Testaverde (or Simms for that matter)...what makes you think that either one would be playing better for the Pats than Cassel right now? One is older than any QB has ever started a game, and the other reportedly has attitude problemsn and couldn't manage to beat out a McCown brother for a starting job.

As do depth...I'm curious as to which positions the Pats should sacrifice depth on in order to have a better backup QB. You only get 53 roster spots and a finite salary cap. The only position where pundits, pre-season, were scratching their heads as to why the Pats had so many players was RB...and you can see how that has turned out. And I'm curious as to how a team goes about finding better backups at QB. There are maybe 20, 25 tops, starting calibur QB's in the league right now, and 32 teams. Under roster and salary cap constraints, not to mention pride issues where all of the 20-25 starting-calibur QB's will expect to, well, start, I'm curious how you entice one of them to sit on your bench all year in case your hall of fame starter goes out in the first quarter of a game against a bad opponent on a fluke play.

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Yeah, Peyton Manning hasn't ever missed a game in his career. And his career started 2 years before Brady's. So, Brady was 3rd, still good though. Now it's Manning, Manning, Favre right? Must be something about Mississippi.

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"The Pats did not lose Brady because they had a weak line that the Giants exposed"

The giants didn't expose a weak line. They played a line with 2 starters missing. They exposed a lack of decent depth.

And the fact that Brady, a QB who has great mobility within the pocket, was playing with a high ankle sprain, surely didn't help.

78 Ray Rice

Ray Rice, not Ron Rice, is the Ravens' rookie back.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Aaron, I have to warn you not to go after Cy Curnin--he's a big guy in very, very good shape. Or at least he was last I saw him, which would be about a year ago.

By the way, mention of the Fixx (spelled correctly, even!) during football commentary cements FO as the greatest website on earth.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Cheers for bringing up the Stanford Twenty 20. There's nothing like seeing your national side get humiliated in a perverse and tactless tribute to mammon and then finding out that it's been watched around the world. Over 150 years of dignity in England colours are discarded in order to whore ourselves as soon as some lecherous Texan billionaire waves a bit of cash in our direction. To top it off we played like shit.

At least the niners might cheer me up, oh no wait a minute, they're utter guff as well. They had their third best week of the year though.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

2 weeks in a row and no (audible) coverage of the Dolphins. You are ignoring one of the biggest stories of the year in terms of a turnaround. What a joke. Your Prospectus didn't even spell the head coaches name correctly. It's funny but this would never happen to the Pats (look how much time you spend on them). Please get it together and become a serious publication. Spelling coaches names wrong and not focusing on a team that has won 4 times the number of games compared to the year before deserves your time and coverage.


99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

you do realize that this is simply a collection of emails they send back and forth and not a "serious publication"?
armchair journeyman quarterback

97 Colts-Pats defenses

There has been a lot of focus on offensive play-calling and late game situational strategy, but this was a game that revolved around defensive play-calling and strategy, or the lack thereof. Despite the injuries to Brady and various members of the Colts offense, these teams are in trouble because their defenses are very mediocre and won't allow them to execute their overall strategies.

In the entire game, the Colts had the ball 5 times in situations where halftime didn't intervene or they weren't simply trying to run clock at the end. On those five possessions, they scored two touchdowns, one field goal, and punted twice. That's not the sign of a struggling offense. Nor is the fact that they scored on their final two (real) possessions and three of their last four.

The Patriots only had six real possessions. They scored a touchdown, three field goals, punted, and threw a pick. While they clearly lost the game in the red zone, they converted 57% of third downs and controlled the ball over 34 minutes (and nearly 2-1 in the second half). That is not the sign of a struggling offense.

The teams are ranked 16th and 21st respectively in defensive DVOA and will almost certainly plunge further when the new rankings come out tomorrow. These are the problems that won't go away for these teams. It's difficult for Belichick and company to scheme around a defense that can't defend against explosive pass plays. And it's difficult for the Colts when their defense's only goal seems to be hoping to give up field goals instead of touchdowns. The biggest problem with the Colts defense is how it mitigates their offensive strength. The Colts ran only 50 offensive plays against the Pats, the lowest of any victorious team this weekend and the second lowest overall (or lowest if Oakland's NFL status has been revoked).

While the Colts will probably drop to 4-5 next week at Pittsburgh and then have an excellent shot to run the table to 11-5 - they'll be favored by DVOA in every game after that until Week 17 against a Titans squad resting the regulars - they absolutely must increase the pace of the game and force some shorter opponent drives if they want their offense to be the weapon it should be.

102 Re: Colts-Pats defenses

In reply to by TheDudeAbides (not verified)

It was curious that there were so few possessions in this game. You're right--it's partly because neither defense could stop the other, but that's only part of it (if that was the whole story, we would have had a 45-42 scorefest). The other factor is that BOTH coaching staffs gameplanned to have long deliberate drives and shorten the game, by running conservative, low-tempo, high-percentage short-gain plays and putting together long drives on offense, while keeping their safeties deep and conceding the short, high percentage plays while guarding against the big play on defense. In other words, both teams were trying to make it a short, few-possession game.

William Krasker has pointed out that this is the optimal strategy when you think your team is clearly inferior to the other team. If both teams get lots of possessions, then the better team will win with a very high probability, but if both teams get few possessions, random luck and a few good breaks/good executions (or bad breaks/bad executions for your opponent) will win you the game (and this is exactly what happened...if the Pats hadn't had their few bad breaks like Gaffney dropping the ball or Thomas's foul, or if something terribly unlucky had happened to the Colts, the Pats probably would have won).

It's interesting, because the fact that both coaching staffs schemed for a short game meant that they both thought the other team was significantly better than theirs... A far cry from the feeling of invincibility that has permeated both these teams over the past few years...

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"I titter gleefully at such understatement. A few misspellings and he'll give raiderjoe a run for his money."

Nice argument, instead of attacking what I said you attack me. Tell me what I said that was so wrong instead okay?

"Anyhow, from what I saw it wouldn't have mattered had the Cowboys' defense 'had time to catch their breath'. They had no solid answer to the Giants' offense"

You couldn't have been watching the same game I was. They had an INT and forced three fumbles and two of the TD drives started inside the Dallas 30. The defense had to fight against short field position all game. Would you agree with this or am I sounding like an idiot again.

The good thing is these teams will get to play each other again so we'll see if the Cowboys simply can't handle the Giants or it was just the injuries. Remember the healthy Cowboys beat the Eagles and strongly outplayed the Packers, while losing by 2 to the Redskins and on a blocked punt on the road to the Cardinals . I think they're pretty good when healthy. I look forward to seeing your response after the next Giants game, tundrapat.

106 Re: A couple of points about the Cowboys

Let's not judge the Roy Williams trade just yet. Crayton simply wasn't being productive as the #2 this year. Austin had a great DVOA but he still didn't look like someone capable of consistently getting open and taking pressure off of Witten and Owens. It's clear from game one that Owens hasn't been the same player. So why did the Cowboys resign him for so much this off-season? Because he's in phenomenal shape (similar to Jerry Rice was) and no one saw this sudden inability to beat press coverage coming on. Owens is still very good, even if I can't stand his schtick. But Williams is clearly an upgrade for this offense both now (as the season goes forward) and the future.

Romo IS the big difference in the Cowboys now, talking heads of ESPN and Fox be damned. Yes, Dallas wasn't playing well before he got hurt, and Romo was a little off his game then, too. But with Brad Johnson (or Brooks B) at QB, Dallas is a one-dimensional offense that's easy to game plan for. They can't stretch the field--can't even tug it a little bit-- and can't sustain drives. Not only does this lead to no running game, but, as mentioned above, the defense gets tired fast. The Giants were handed great field position, which led to easy scores (you expect an offense like the Giants to put together at least couple of good drives, which they did, but they won the game because of the short field--and look at the Rams, they got out in front because they had good field position on their first four drive: three of them started in Dallas territory, and with BJ at QB, well, that setup the disaster that was). Romo does make that huge of a difference: it's not just about his escapability, his presence affects the whole team. It wouldn't be as noticeable (it shouldn't be) but for whatever reason Phillips and Garret convinced Jerry Jones that Brad Johnson was still a pro QB when anyone who watched him in Minnesota that last year (remember those awful throws right into the chests of the Bears linebackers?) knew he was done.

P.S. From the way he is structuring these contracts it looks like Jerry Jones is banking on an uncapped 2010; if that happens, then I don't think the Cowboys will be sweating the bonuses they've given out over the past year.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I just saw a video of the Henderson-Whitworth fight. I think Henderson should be done for the year.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Brandon McDonald is a star in the making. He did get burned in this game, but he is young and is getting much better. The safeties did not help out in the passing game today either

He also comes up strong on run support and and makes tackles. I think he will be a very good, possibly even pro bowl level player in a couple of seasons. So your small sample stats are not wrong, you just don't watch enough Browns games to know he has been a very pleasant surprise this year.

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Thoughts on the enormous Dallas/New York debate:

The defense was playing pretty well at first. Besides the first long drive, they were more a victim of horrible field position caused by the offense than anything else. In fact, they held the Giants to a 3 and out on their second drive. Then Brad throws a pick and the Giants are inside the Dallas 30 yard line. I tell you this: The Giants should score a TD against any team that's missing their two starting Corners when they start on their opponent's side of the field. After that score, the offense sputters again but a decent punt gets the Giants back in their own territory. Eli fumbles, Dallas recovers, and things look good. They are inside the NYG 20 and T.O. fumbles. Giants get the ball back but then Eli throws a pick-6 and the game is alive at 14-7. Giants get the ball back and are forced to punt. Offense gets a nice 20+ run from Marion but then Brad throws a pick and the Giants have it at mid-field. Once again, a short drive and the Giants score, 21-7. Dallas goes three and out and then the Giants get two plays before the end of the half.

So really, the Giants have one good drive in the first half against a defense without their starting two CBs and SS. Would a beast offense like that be expected to do anything less? Seriously. The game was over at the half though. The Cowboys offense could do nothing and the defense knew it. Did they give up? Maybe. But I know I would've if it was me. They had no hope whatsoever. Would Tony Romo make an incredible difference? Come on. That's the biggest "duh" question in the book. I don't think Romo has ever been shutout in the first half in his entire career, and he surely doesn't victimize the defense with horrible field position very often like Brad did.

As for the Roy Williams criticizms, come on. Give me a break. The guy has been there for three weeks and has never caught a pass from the starting QB. How quickly is he expected to learn the offense? Less than 3 weeks? Let's be realistic here. Brad can't throw anything anymore. I'd like to see how poorly Larry and Anquan would do with Brad at QB. So don't be ridiculous. Roy will not only help this year, but will help down the road when T.O. is gone in 3 years MAX. Would you not give up a 1st Round pick for a Pro Bowler? If not, you're crazy. All of the other picks are devalued because Dallas has multiples in those rounds they gave up. They're still covered for the draft. They still have 9 picks! So give me a break. Roy will be fine. Let's see him play with a real QB before we go throwing him and Jerry under the bus.

Anyone who thinks this team will continue to struggle once their LT, LG, TE, QB, RB, CB, and CB (if he gets reinstated) get back is nuts. They were 4-2 before Romo went out and in those two losses, they lost by 2 to the Redskins and lost in Overtime to the Cardinals (both very good teams!). In terms of Playoff picture, they also have tiebreakers over Green Bay and Tampa Bay. Anyone who thinks they're "done" or will continue to suck really need to look at the facts.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I don't know why I skipped over this comment earlier:

"Bill Barnwell: FOX is discussing whether Jason Campbell should be the league's MVP this year. The unedited end to his player comment from this year's book:

"As a quarterback, his skill set represents a great fit for the style of attack; if Malcolm Kelly or Devin Thomas can emerge as a possession receiver to play alongside Moss and Antwaan Randle El, Campbell could emerge as the division's best quarterback as early as this year."

Half-right! "

What part is the half-right part? Clearly, it is not the Kelly or Thomas part.

Is it that his skill set represents a great fit for the style of attack? If so, I have no quibble.

But if it is the "emerge as the division's best quarterback as early as this year" part, then I think it is an assertion on shaky ground. I would take McNabb or Romo over him for this year, or the next year or two, without any hesitation at all.

DVOA has Romo and McNabb ahead of Campbell, handily. McNabb tops him in DYAR, too, in comparable attempts. Campbell comes out ahead of Romo in DYAR due to volume, only (and not by much).

Romo has better receivers, but worse pass protection (they are comparable in adj. sack rate merely because Romo is so elusive). McNabb has similar pass protection but worse receiving options. Campbell benefits from a better rushing attack than either McNabb or Romo.

Campbell is not the best quarterback in the NFC East. In fact, while his stats are slightly better than Eli's this year (while Eli has had a stronger supporting offensive cast), it is close enough that I don't think I would value the difference enough to overcome the fact that Eli has successfully navigated a Super Bowl run. If I was choosing a NFC East quarterback right now, he'd be at the bottom of my order.

Which is not meant as a slam against him. He's good and going to get better in all probability. It is not a shame to the the worst QB in the best division in football.