compiled by Doug Farrar and Vince Verhei
Each weekend, 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.
Philadelphia Eagles 25 at Arizona Cardinals 32
Bill Barnwell: The Cardinals are doing misdirection and two-tight end sets, and getting guys out to the second level on the linebackers. And the Eagles are playing one-hand touch.
Vince Verhei: Yeah, five carries for 36 yards on the Cards' opening drive is very bad news for the Eagles defense.
The Eagles' first play was quarterback draw all the way. Troy Aikman guessed it was a botched screen, but there was no receiver near the linemen. The fullback was running a decoy route in the flat, and the halfback was staying in to block.
Aaron Schatz: Wow, it is just crazy blitz world out there today. Both teams, blitzing all the time. Except on third-and-long when the Cardinals are rushing three and giving Donovan McNabb hours and hours of time to find a receiver.
Vince Verhei: I like what the Cardinals defense is doing early: blitzing a lot to set up third-and-long, then rushing three and dropping eight into coverage on third downs. Eagles are now 1-for-4 on third downs and just missed a field goal early in the second quarter. If I'm Philadelphia's offense, I'm anticipating a big blitz on my next play.
Aaron Schatz: I liked the Philadelphia play-action where the cameraman was confused and followed Brian Westbrook, thinking he still had the ball. Apparently, Darnell Dockett also thought Westbrook had the ball and decided to piledrive him to the turf. Turns out if you do that to a guy without the ball, it is a penalty. Who knew?
Oh, and then FINALLY Donovan McNabb hits a guy in stride. McNabb's throws have generally been off today. He has missed a couple of guys who got their hands on the ball but weren't able to bring it in because it wasn't thrown in quite the right place (Greg Lewis deep, the throw behind DeSean Jackson). Throws like that definitely support the idea that a receiver is not 100 percent responsible for his own yards after catch.
The Eagles have to stop with the field-goal attempts. Touchdowns, guys.
Mark Zajack: You're right Aaron. Apparently, the Cards defensive game plan does include a "pile-drive" Westbrook element.
A third down sack is nullified because Antonio Smith gets penalized for body-slamming Westbrook. Vince, care to add any wrestling analysis here? Can we look forward to a fourth quarter figure-four leg-lock?
Vince Verhei: Only because you asked: In the first half, the Cardinals were a powerhouse like Goldberg or Batista, doing whatever they wanted with little resistance, while the Eagles were like Tommy Dreamer, continuously beaten down and never catching a break. In the second half, Eagles fans have to hope their team turns into Rey Mysterio and makes a big comeback, and that the Cardinals turn into the Batista of the past two years -- completely dominant most of the way, but finding a way to lose at the end.
Aaron Schatz: The scary part is that the Eagles DID catch breaks. The interception that was fumbled back to them? A kickoff out of bounds, and then whatever the hell you would call that other kickoff that may or may not have touched Victor Abiamiri? The Eagles are not having bad luck. They're having bad play.
Did I say something in the preview about Larry Fitzgerald possibly winning the game on his own? Yikes.
Oh, good, now Quintin Demps has lost his mind.
Doug Farrar: Ladies and gentlemen, the temperature in Hades is a balmy 35 degrees and dropping...
Aaron Schatz: The Eagles are having trouble tackling, they can't seem to quite get to Warner, and on offense things just aren't clicking. This kind of performance from Arizona wouldn't have been a shock if the season had ended in, say, Week 8. I guess the Cardinals really did not give a crap about the second half of the season, because that's really the only way their regular-season performance makes any sense at all when placed alongside this postseason performance.
Bill Barnwell: I'm amazed at how bad of a game the Eagles' offensive line is having. They're really struggling with the Cardinals' twists and stunts, which is a communication issue more than a skill issue. Maybe that has something to do with losing Shawn Andrews and having a left guard who's been benched and then put back in the lineup through injury.
No earthly idea what the Eagles thought the Cardinals were going to do on offense. The misdirection stuff is working, the third and fourth wide receiver stuff is working, and more importantly, the get-the-ball-to-Larry Fitzgerald stuff is working. Todd Haley is obviously doing a fantastic job schematically, although I think the Eagles will be better in the second half after making some adjustments.
On the other hand, this game is a couple of McNabb misthrows away from being 24-17, which would at least be somewhat closer.
Russell Levine: This is starting to be reminiscent of the 2006 Colts in terms of a team that looks nothing like its recent vintage in the postseason.
That Demps late hit goes right near the top of the list of "dumbest plays of all time." I mean, what, possibly, could he have been thinking on that play? That's probably a flag even if the play is an interception, let alone a five-yard swing pass.
Consider, too, that Arizona could easily have had two more possessions that began right near the Philly red zone -- one lost on the fumble following the interception, the other on that odd call on the kickoff play. What was the ruling there, anyway? Seeing as the possession started at the 26, not the 40, I'm guessing they ruled the ball hit the Philly player in-bounds, and then out of bounds as well, thereby establishing him out of bounds at that point. Because if they ruled it hit him only while HE was out of bounds, it should have been Philly ball at the 40, right? You could not really tell on the replays I saw whether the bell ever actually made contact with the Philly player.
Russell Levine: Is it over-simplifying things to suggest that McNabb may be playing for the fate of his Philly career in the second half? If he takes them to the Super Bowl, they'll have to pay him. If they get upset and he continues to be awful, it won't be hard at all for them to let him walk.
Aaron Schatz: Bill said it, but I'll say it again: The Eagles' offensive line just looks like total crap out there. Sure, McNabb has had time to throw on a few plays. Those were the ones where the Cardinals rushed three.
Vince Verhei: Arizona blitzes and gets guys unblocked to the quarterback. Philadelphia blitzes and leaves receivers wide-open. It's like the Arizona coaching staff knows exactly what Philadelphia is going to do on every play, on both sides of the ball, and know how to counter it.
Bill Barnwell: The Eagles offense is leaving big plays (throws to Greg Lewis, L.J. Smith, Jason Avant, and Kevin Curtis) on the field. Maybe 150 yards. Doesn't change what the defense has (or hasn't) done. Since when is Edge James hard to take down? And Tra Thomas looks a million years old out there.
Maybe they should bench McNabb. Worked last time.
Aaron Schatz: Congratulations to Kevin Curtis, catching that deep pass up the middle with Aaron Francisco and Rod Hood on him. Third-and-19. If the Eagles don't make that pass, this game is pretty much over. Instead, they have life.
Bill Barnwell: Well, Brent Celek just made the back of the book.
Doug Farrar: Brent Celek just made the front of the book!
Bill Barnwell: I swear I just went to go type that.
What the hell is up with David Akers? Kickoff out of bounds and a missed extra point?
Russell Levine: I would just like to say that I did not like the Arizona series after the McNabb fumble. If ever there was a time to stay aggressive, it was there.
Aaron Schatz: Honestly, what's the deal with all the kickoffs out of bounds? Is someone screwing with the air conditioning in there or something?
I'm sorry, Russell, did you say something about the 2006 AFC Championship game? My god, this has been a halftime turnaround worthy of that one. The offense is playing much better, but more importantly, I think that Jim Johnson clearly saw something in the Polaroids at halftime, because the Eagles pass rush is getting much more pressure on Warner now.
Russell Levine: I did, but I was referencing Indy suddenly learning how to stop the run with the Cardinals suddenly learning how to, umm, play. Whatever, if the shoe fits.....
Vince: Eagles score to make it 19-24.
Booyaka, Booyaka, 619,
Booyaka, Booyaka, Rey Mysterio...
Bill Barnwell: Does this mean the Cardinals are turning heel?
Aaron Schatz: Given the history of the Eagles and Cardinals, do we now have two fan bases simultaneously worrying that everything is going to go wrong and their team is destined to blow this game?
Vince Verhei: OK, now the Cardinals' offense is being stupid. You know the Eagles are going to blitz, and you know they can't cover Fitzgerald 1-on-1. So why not leave seven or eight blockers in and give Warner a chance to find Fitz. Instead, six blockers on third down, and the extra blocker is a tight end on the outside. Eagles get pressure up the middle, Warner has to throw the ball away, and it's another Arizona punt.
(DeSean Jackson scores to put Philadelphia ahead, 25-24.)
Bill Barnwell: Holee f**k.
Aaron Schatz: I just got a phone call from Mike Tanier in the bathroom of a sports bar in Philly. He asked me to add the following comment to Audibles: "Gadzooks." I'm sure we'll have more from Mr. Tanier in a bit.
Vince Verhei: I just added an item to my "things to do before I die" list: Watch an Eagles playoff game with Mike Tanier.
Doug Farrar: What a great competition between DeSean Jackson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Jackson takes the lead, Rodgers-Cromartie makes up the gap, and McNabb puts the perfect throw up for Jackson to spike the comeback.
Russell Levine: Where is Fitz? There is Fitz.
Doug Farrar: But, no! It's Tim Hightower, bringing pride to the Richmond Spiders!
Russell Levine: Fourth-and-ballgame ... Didn't like the playcall, but maybe Arizona studied the Giants film.
Vince Verhei: On the Cardinals' fourth-and-inches play, I would have bet my car on play-action and a quick slant or out to Fitzgerald. Seriously, a Tim Hightower sweep?!?! With your season on the line?! Major cajones right there.
Doug Farrar: What's that phrase they use on the Gatorade commercial that everyone thinks is a commercial for something else? Lowercase god? I think we need to add Larry Fitzgerald to that list.
Russell Levine: First-and-goal and Arizona decides to play the clock instead of Philly. You HAVE to throw one fade ball to Fitz in this series. You can't settle for a two-point lead and plenty of time left.
Bill Barnwell: Well, on the last drive, the Eagles finally beat the Eagles. Congratulations to the Cardinals, who executed brilliantly on their final drive. That's what this game ended up coming down to.
Doug Farrar: I'll be the first to say it: They are not who we thought they were. No matter what happens in the last two minutes of this game, any questions about the legitimacy of the Arizona Cardinals, in this season and beyond, just got capped right in the ass. That is, as long as Kurt Warner doesn't retire and leave the franchise in the hands of Matt Leinart...
Aaron Schatz: They will win this game, but I would like to disagree. If the Cardinals are the team that has won three straight in the postseason, they are also the team that lost by 21, 28, and 40 points in their last five regular-season games. After the game, and for the next two weeks, we'll hear a lot of "nobody believed in us," but some reporter needs to ask them: Why should anyone have believed in you? Have you seen the film of your game in New England? Aren't you the same guys who let Tarvaris Jackson throw for four touchdowns IN YOUR BUILDING? Were different people wearing your uniforms? That was you, right?
I can't think of anybody who thought three weeks ago that the Arizona Cardinals would be going to the Super Bowl. Seriously? Was there anyone?
Bill Barnwell: Can this kill the idea that momentum is some sort of trend that matters, at least?
Vince Verhei: You could ask the same thing about the Eagles, who played poorly against Arizona and still lost by only seven. How could they look so bad in the loss to Washington and the tie against Cincinnati? In a year like this, where there are no real great teams, the Cardinals are just as "very good" as anyone else.
Aaron Schatz: I should say that I'm not arguing against their legitimacy, they won the three games they had to win. However, they aren't just as "very good" as anyone else -- or at least, they weren't during the regular season. Very good teams don't lose by three touchdowns over and over again. Minnesota wasn't a great team this year, and neither was New England, and those teams CRUSHED Arizona. Minnesota did it on the road, for crying out loud.
I don't know. Is something going on in the NFL now where we no longer can extrapolate from regular-season performance? Nothing the Cardinals have done over the last three weeks can change the fact that they sucked in November and December.
Ned Macey: This result is not really surprising, given what we knew in the regular season. The Cardinals defense was mediocre to bad, but they have a dynamic offense. I know I'm a broken record, but Edgerrin James is a lot better than Tim Hightower, and they ran the ball well in the first half. I guess the game should have been a draw between the powerful Cardinals offense and Eagles defense, but instead the Cardinals offense was great. On nine meaningful drives, the Cardinals scored five times, and they never turned it over.
I will say, and maybe this is being a sore loser, but my two favorite teams are the Colts and the Eagles. Is the official policy to swallow the whistle or call it like every other play at the end of the game? I've always supported calling it normally (so wasn't too upset at the officiating after the Colts game), but if the cornerback hits your leg and knocks you to your knees, that's pass interference. And if it is not with the game on the line, I want my defensive holding call back in overtime against the Chargers.
Mixed bag for McNabb today. But you have to take the occasional erratic play with the great play. He misses throws other quarterbacks can make, but he makes throws most quarterbacks cannot make. It is a lot like Chad Pennington, where the faults are obvious, but the net is a very good quarterback. This loss was more like the 2001 NFC Championship game, where the defense just was not good enough.
I guess I'd just say that yes, in three games anything can happen, but the Cardinals are a lot less predictable than other teams if only because of the home field. The Giants went on the road three times to play three really good teams. The Cardinals played the pretty good Falcons at home, the good Panthers on the road, and the very good Eagles at home.
But to back Aaron's opinion, the Eagles KILLED this team in the regular season. So we should have expected the Cardinals to win? That doesn't make sense.
Bill Barnwell: Red Sox-Rockies is on the MLB Network right now -- both teams are an example of the Arizona narrative twisted around.
The Red Sox rested their guys in September and got chastised for it.
The Rockies were the young, excitable team with the sudden home field advantage coming off two dominant wins in the previous round.
Neither of these narratives ended up being remotely correct. The Cardinals won because they executed when they needed to. The Eagles didn't.
Aaron Schatz: By the way, we're back to all the "no team has ever" statements we had to make a year ago. The Giants were the first-ever Super Bowl champion with a regular-season Pythagorean projection below .600. They only outscored opponents by 22 points. The Cardinals only outscored opponents by ONE point. ONE!
Nothing told you the Cardinals would do this. No scouting, no stats, no psychology, nothing. Already, we're getting critical comments and e-mails, but at least we were much more accurate than conventional wisdom on Philly and Baltimore. We just happened to be as wrong as everyone else about Arizona. Or, more likely, nobody was wrong. They have just played completely differently than they did in November and December. Didn't Peter King call them the worst team to ever make the playoffs? Vegas had them at 40-1 to win the Super Bowl just three weeks ago. Some books still had 50-1.
At this point, maybe we do need to ask ourselves if something has changed in the NFL that leads to more parity -- not regular-season parity, but playoff parity, the idea that any team can go on a run in the playoffs and win it all, no matter how well they played in the regular season. If the Cardinals win the Super Bowl, the three worst regular-season teams to ever win the Super Bowl will have won it in three consecutive years. Has something has truly changed, and WHY? Is there an actual reason why this is happening now and didn't happen in, say, the early '90s?
Russell Levine: Could it be as simple as suggesting that parity has made regular season success (or mediocrity) less meaningful?
Also, on the non-DPI call: I think an argument can be made that the contact began when the receiver and defensive back got their feet tangled, then the defender fell across the back on the receiver's legs, causing him to trip. You could justify a no-call on that basis.
That said, if the game isn't on the line, you probably get a flag 95 percent of the time on that play.
Aaron Schatz: I guess I'm a skipping record on this, but I have more to say.
I've been arguing that there's nothing wrong with the NFL's playoff system. Yes, you will occasionally get years where the divisions will be extremely unbalanced, but in general things work. Except -- what if we truly have entered a world where regular-season performance does nothing to predict playoff performance? What if all you need is entry to the tournament and you have the same chance to win it all as some team that went 13-3 like Tennessee? At that point, does it seem fair to allow a 9-7 team into the tournament while an 11-5 team (New England) is stuck outside the gates? Or, perhaps more pointedly: Is it fair to split each conference into divisions so that one 9-7 team makes it (Arizona) while three other 9-7 teams have to go home (Chicago, Dallas, Tampa Bay). Chicago and Tampa Bay outscored opponents by more points than Arizona did, certainly. If you look at the sum total of regular-season performance, the only reason to believe Arizona was better than Chicago or Tampa Bay was geography.
One more Arizona tidbit. Arizona had the third-lowest point differential of any team to make it EVEN AS FAR AS THE CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP in a 16-game season. The 1978 Oilers and 1996 Jaguars actually allowed more points than they scored.
Bill Barnwell: Yeah, but a big part of that "only outscored opponents by one point" is the Pats game. There's nothing to be ashamed of in predicting that the Eagles would win that game. It's sixty minutes. Anything can happen.
Vince Verhei: There are 267 games in an NFL season, counting the playoffs. I don't think we should get hung up on the fact that three of them (these Arizona wins) are surprising.
Aaron Schatz: Well, it is three in a row involving one team, which is different from picking three random games from throughout the year.
Bill Barnwell: I'm not going to lie; I started rooting for the Cardinals when I saw Adrian Wilson crying after they won.
Ben Riley: Larry "Lowercase god" Fitzgerald obviously had a huge game, but what I found interesting was Philadelphia's blatant "sweep the leg" approach to Kurt Warner. Early on, they were hitting him well after the play was over in the hopes of rattling him. The strategy didn't work, and now the two-time NFL MVP is going back to the Big Show. And presumably bringing his Big Wife along with him. Should be fun. (Also fun: watching the Arizona front office squirm throughout the offseason as they ponder whether to resign the soon-to-be free agent Warner!)
Does anyone know why Anquan Boldin was freaking out in the third quarter? Very strange scene; "Q" has always been a locker room leader for the Cards, but with Fitzgerald's increasingly inhuman performances -- and matching inhuman contract -- I wonder if Boldin's feeling frustrated with his role on the team.
Mike Tanier: Late to the game here. Aaron got a few texts from me that sum up my feelings. Haven't read all the Audibles. Disappointed in both games, much of the fun of the Super Bowl has been sapped for me. It will be a job now, not a labor of love. Writing in clipped sentences, like Rorschach, very psyched for Watchmen movie, hope it comes out on schedule.
Awful game Quintin Demps. Bad game David Akers, Tra Thomas, Jim Johnson. Great game by the Cardinals line. Greg Lewis and L.J. Smith have played their last games in an Eagles uniform, I hope. Too early to speculate on Reid and McNabb. I now hope they are back, but if Reid is fired by five o'clock as part of an elaborate grab at Gruden or someone, I will watch with interest.
Didn't expect the Eagles or Ravens to get this far. I wrote the Eagles off before Thanksgiving, so it fitting that the Cardinals gave them life, then took it away. This was a frustrating season, but the last two months were fun and exciting.
Going to soak head and nurse hangover now, then watch Mall Cop movie with son. Oh, and shovel snow? The Cardinals are in Super Bowl, lucky I am not shoveling toads.
Baltimore Ravens 14 at Pittsburgh Steelers 23
Doug Farrar: If you see a lot of uncalled holds today, don't be surprised -- Bill Carollo has been far below the league average on holds for years. Could be bad news for James Harrison...
Bill Barnwell: The Ravens have something on the Steelers wideouts -- or maybe just Santonio Holmes. They're shading their first drive coverage on the outside perfectly relative to the types of routes the Steelers are running.
Doug Farrar: I'm sorry -- it is simply unnatural for a guy Haloti Ngata's size to move as fast as he did on the Ben Roethlisberger sack. Got from far left, moved to the middle, and shot up the gap to Big Ben. I'm always amazed when guys like Ngata and Shaun Rogers are able to move that much mass that quickly to the quarterback.
Brilliant challenge by John Harbaugh on the pass to Santonio Holmes down to the goal-line. He understood the rule, and the right call was actually made upon review. That challenge probably saved the Ravens four points.
Bill Moore: If Pittsburgh had challenged the touchdown, and the refs ruled it was not a catch, are they just SOL? And is it a Pittsburgh timeout?
Aaron Schatz: Hines Ward is out. Ben Roethlisberger is grimacing. Byron Leftwich is warming up. If this ends with a parade in Phoenix instead of Audubon, New Jersey, I'm going to shoot somebody.
Doug Farrar: Good call by Joe Flacco to call timeout after the back was motioned out of the backfield on that third-and-1 from the Pittsburgh 34, and he saw that he was all naked out there, as it were, with Casey Hampton ready to mess him up. But to go unbalanced line with Willis McGahee and Flacco as your rushers when you have Le'Ron McClain in the bullpen? Huh?
Aaron Schatz: Ben Roethlisberger's need to hold onto the ball and try to make the miracle play leads to a lot of sacks, but on Santonio Holmes' long touchdown at the start of the second quarter, it did in fact lead to a miracle play. Or something close to it -- especially if Roethlisberger is hurting because of a hit in the first quarter.
Doug Farrar: And at the start of the second quarter, the Ravens finally remember that the Steelers are susceptible to draws and delays.
Aaron Schatz: The Steelers are just destroying Flacco out there. He played much better than this in the first two games -- and so did the Baltimore offensive line.
Vince Verhei: The roughing the punter call against Baltimore, in which the only contact came when the punter's heel came down on Edgar Jones when both were already on the ground, is the new worst call I have ever seen.
Aaron Schatz: And the Vlade Divac Award for most egregious flopping goes to... Mitch Berger! Way to get Edgar Jones a roughing the kicker penalty when the only way he touched you is that your legs landed on him.
Bill Connelly: I guess I don't blame punters for taking dives, but I start to get very annoyed with refs who don't pay enough attention to realize when punters are taking dives. And at the very least, don't call a personal foul for roughing unless you know for sure that, you know, there was contact of some sort. I realize you're supposed to protect the punter's plant leg, but jeez...
Russell Levine: And there is justice in the world as Pittsburgh mismanages the clock at the end of the half.
Aaron Schatz: I am just amazed at some of these smaller holes in the zones that Ben Roethlisberger is finding in the third quarter. Especially on the pass to the fullback, Davis.
Ned Macey: When do you ditch your pregame storyline? Parker makes a nice run to get to 36 yards on 16 carries, and Phil Simms is still talking about how he has fresh legs and is running well. (Parker has also fumbled, for all those scoring at home).
Aaron Schatz: Jeff Reed told his teammates he would bleach his hair blonde if they made the playoffs. Um, which hair, Jeff?
Doug Farrar: Or, as Emmitt Smiff reportedly called him on SportsCenter this morning, "Jeff Fisher."
Nice drive by the Ravens to make it close after Mitch Berger's near-Landeta.
Vince Verhei: Note to the Steelers: When the other team rushes three, your quarterback is supposed to have time to throw, not run for his life before he finishes his dropback.
Doug Farrar: On the Terrell Suggs sack of Big Ben with 7:28 left in the game, Max Starks was a full second late out of his stance. This was one play after a false start on Willie Colon, and I always wonder how much that affects linemen in close situations.
Oh ... Daren Stone, you may have just cost your team a shot at the Super Bowl.
And the Steelers clinch it, with the interception in the appropriate hands. Nobody has been more fun to watch than Troy Polamalu this year.
Seriously -- it is legal to cut a guy right on the field? I have no jurisdiction over Scramble, but I would like to nominate Daren Stone for the All-Time Keep Choppin' Wood award. That was the single dumbest penalty I've ever seen.
Aaron Schatz: Rock music playing in the stadium as everyone is gathered around Willis McGahee seems really, really odd. I know that they can't just have nothing but silence, but it is strange, like "everyone ignore this ... continue to party." Obviously, everyone hopes McGahee will be OK.
As for the wrap-up on this game: Man, these are just two great defenses. Excellent talent. Excellent schemes. Depth. Guys who play disciplined combined with a couple of guys who play by instinct, and it all works together. The Ravens have nothing to be ashamed of, they had a great season. They did better than anyone expected -- and that includes us, since our projections had them winning the division but with only a small chance of winning more than 10 games. Joe Flacco has a great future in the league, Ed Reed moved closer to the Hall of Fame, Haloti Ngata may be right behind him and Ray Lewis of course is already there. Rex Ryan is (probably) going to get his shot at the head coaching job with the Jets, making it a trifecta of talented defensive coordinators who are finally moving to the next level.
And now, on behalf of DVOA, the Pythagorean projection, the sanctity of the regular season, and my sanity, let me be the first to ring out Pittsburgh's call to arms: ONE FOR THE OTHER HAND!
Doug Farrar: Yeah, if the Cards win the Super Bowl, we may have to send Aaron on a mini-vacation somewhere.
It's the defensive coordinator that isn't moving on that has impressed me the most. Through all the turnover and all the years, from Blitzburgh to now, when Dick LeBeau runs your defense, you are going to knock the bejeezus out of people. 50 years in professional football. Who else can claim that besides Halas and Rooney and Shula and the standard-bearers? Who else in NFL history may be doing his best work in year 50? It's usually trite to say, "We may never see his like again," but in LeBeau's case, I think it applies.
Vince Verhei: Yeah, there's really just less to say about the Pittsburgh win. Both defenses are awesome, and the team that made the fewest giant mistakes ended up winning.
Whisenhunt's first year in Arizona was also Tomlin's first year in Pittsburgh. Refresh my memory: Did Whisenhunt interview for the Steelers job? Did the team turn him down? Or did he take the Cardinals job first?
Doug Farrar: If I remember correctly, Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm both interviewed, but Tomlin then blew the front office away and got the gig.
Bill Barnwell: Rumors were that Grimm got offered the job and before he could say yes, ownership changed their mind and gave Tomlin the job.
Ben Riley: I think you do remember correctly, Doug, and Wisenhunt was furious at being passed over. Looks like one of those moves that may have worked out the best for all parties involved.
Someone (Aaron?) remarked about the music playing at Heinz Field while Willis McGahee was being lifted onto a stretcher. First of all, the music should have been killed out of respect for the gravity of the situation. Period. But second of all, if you absolutely must keep the audio going, for the love of mercy don't play Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Down on the Corner..." song while someone is down on the field, perhaps struggling for his life. Tactless with a capital "T."
Was it just me, or was the officiating in this game very suspect? From the phantom roughing-the-diving-kicker call to the helmet-to-helmet spearing that led to McGahee's injury, I think this was one of the worst games from an NFL official I've seen this year. Also, for SSPSS this week (Stupid S*** Phil Simms Says), the prize has to be his declaration that helmet-to-helmet contact is legal if it occurs downfield. No, Phil, it isn't. Fail.
Doug Farrar: If they had called helmet-to-helmet on the McGahee hit, I would have said that it was ticky-tack. Looked to me like a shoulder lead. The roughing the kicker penalty was ludicrous, but this didn't strike me as a particularly badly-called game.
Bill Barnwell: Late now, but why did McGahee get 20 carries and McClain one?
Benjy Rose: About the hit on McGahee... it seemed to me like just a clean, hard, lead-with-the-shoulder hit, the kind you often see on receivers over the middle. Unfortunately, McGahee had a chance to brace for impact, and doing so he lowered his head right into the tackler's.
And to defend Simms for the briefest of moments, his comments about Parker running well came after a couple of nice 5-yard runs through the slightest of holes. The Ravens bottled up the line of scrimmage so well, that any gain over two yards was noteworthy. He also mentioned Parker's health -- he couldn't be making some of the cuts he was making if he weren't healthy.
Polamalu is a beast.
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME DVOA
Here are the one-game DVOA ratings for the first round of the playoffs. the conference championships. Remember that these include opponent adjustments.
Here is the same table, often requested in years past, with VOAf instead of DVOA. This still has adjustments for fumble luck and special teams weather, but does not include opponent adjustments.