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

Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

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.

Pittsburgh Steelers 27 vs. Arizona Cardinals 23

Aaron Schatz: Former Scramble writer Ian Dembsky is wearing a Chad Pennington New York Titans throwback jersey tonight that he bought on clearance. FIVE BUCKS. That has to be the greatest jersey purchase ever.

Ian also points out that unlike Braylon Edwards, LeBron James can juggle the ball and still catch it at the end.

Pat Laverty: Is chef Guy Fieri (from the "TGI Friday's" commercials) kicking for the Steelers now?

Mike Tanier: Who the hell is this Alex Flanagan woman? Who is she sleeping with at NBC? What is her native speaking language?

Doug Farrar: She works for the NFL Network, and I'm at least more sure of her native tongue than I am Fran Charles'. 90 percent of the time, I don't even know what the hell that guy is saying.

(Ben Roethlisberger runs for a touchdown. The play is challenged and reversed.)

Vince Verhei: Steelers use a lot of one-receiver, power running sets and move down the field. And if Ben Roethlisberger gets close to the goal-line, we know the refs will give him the score.

Bill Barnwell: Ken Whisenhunt has had some awful challenges this year. I think it was the Vikings game where the Cardinals lost both their challenges within the first ten minutes of the game.

Aaron Schatz: I don't think challenging the Roethlisberger touchdown is that bad. On one of the views, it does look like his left knee may be down before he crosses the plane.

More fun was the first play of the goal-line drive. You knew everybody who listened to the Bill Simmons podcast was thinking, "Oh no, Gary Russell's going to score, there goes my money." I think Matt Spaeth may have also put money on Gary Russell not scoring a touchdown because he was a turnstile on that play.

Doug Farrar: I thought the opposite, actually, If he was close and there was a challenge, the last thing the NFL wants is years more of what came out of Super Bowl XL. And I hoped he would have made it or missed it by a good five yards just so that whole thing could be avoided.

Bill Barnwell: Seattle gets their revenge!! For the NFC West!

Mike Tanier: Someday, Big Ben will actually cross the plane of the end zone in a Super Bowl.

Aaron Schatz: Did Pepsi just have a commercial equating Bob Dylan and will.i.am? My God, I'm drinking Coke for the rest of my life.

Also, somebody PLEASE tell John Madden that the field goal from the 1 is NOT THE HIGH-PERCENTAGE PLAY. What, did Mike Tomlin also put money on Gary Russell not scoring a touchdown?

(Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is beaten deep by Nate Washington, but recovers to tip the ball away.)

Doug Farrar: This Rodgers-Cromartie kid is going to be unreal. To have that kind of recovery speed downhill... yikes.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, I don't think DRC caught up to that deep pass. I think the pass hung there and Washington had to come back to it. If that pass doesn't hang, DRC is beat. And if he wants to give a seven-yard cushion to Santonio Holmes, the Steelers will take that all day.

Bill Barnwell: The Steelers are going right after Rodgers-Cromartie with quick hitches and screens. That double-move should have worked but Roethlisberger underthrew the ball by 5 yards.

Vince Verhei: Arizona's drive ends on a botched wide receiver screen on third-and-long, then Pittsburgh's first play on the next drive is a wide receiver screen for a big play. They stopped Arizona's weapon, then took it and used it against them. Beautiful.

Aaron Schatz: However, can we strike the bull**** direct snap fake-Wildcat from the playbook after that 4-yard loss? How many of these do we need to see before people realize that a direct snap doesn't mean magical pixies in Ronnie Brown jerseys will come down from the sky and carry your running back for a 20-yard gain?

Doug Farrar: And the Cardinals are learning that if you go after Roethlisberger, you had better damn well take him down, or he will make a play. First down out of nowhere.

Vince Verhei: Pittsburgh just scored to go up 10-0, but they have run six goal-to-go plays, and five of hem have failed. Whatever Arizona is doing down there, they need to do it all over the field.

I just saw Troy Polamalu miss tackles on Edgerrin James on back-to-back plays. The second was called back on a hold, but still: What the hell?

Bill Connelly: I was just about to say that Edge has actually been fantastic so far today, and then he went and chop blocked...

Vince Verhei: I love it when anonymous guys shine in the Super Bowl. Ben Patrick just made a great catch in the end zone for Arizona. He's a backup tight end with six starts and 18 catches in his two-year career.

Aaron Schatz: Ben Patrick -- PFP 2008 Top 25 Prospects list. All right!

Anyone seen Larry Fitzgerald today?

Vince Verhei: Arizona has a third-and-22 and calls timeout to avoid a delay-of-game foul. Because a third-and-27 would have been so much worse.

Both offenses, but especially Pittsburgh's, have run slow, long, ball-control drives, and the end result is that it's a very short game. With less than three minutes to go in the half, each team has had the ball only three times.

(On the last play of the first half, James Harrison intercepts the ball and returns it 100 yards for a touchdown.)

Bill Connelly: Wow, that's one of the best returns you'll ever see...

Vince Verhei: Even if Harrison's touchdown is called back, he may have just made the biggest play in Super Bowl history. Seriously, Arizona is thinking lead or tie at the half, now they are down TEN. He may win the MVP award if he does nothing else the rest of the game.

Aaron Schatz: I do believe that I have just experienced the agony and ecstasy of Super Bowl squares. My friend Kevin Foster hardly watches any football, but he's over here watching the Super Bowl with us, and he ended up with "7 and 7" in a random Super Bowl squares competition. We've been sitting here for most of the second quarter, rooting for a Pittsburgh touchdown for the sake of Kevin's wallet.

However, Vince, if there's no touchdown on this, it isn't the biggest play in the Super Bowl history, unless you are talking about length. If he doesn't score, the half ends, and all we know is that the score is 10-7 instead of probably 10-10. There are bigger plays -- Mike Jones' tackle on the one-yard line, for example.

Vince Verhei: Yeah, you're right, I was thinking they would have one untimed down to try a field goal due to the penalty.

Mike Tanier: Pretty even half. It could easily be 14-14 except for some red zone shenanigans.

Both offensive coordinators are doing a great job, I think. Most blitzes are ending with a hot read or a screen pass for productive yardage. The Cardinals really adjusted well after that first drive: lots of passing to the outside against the Cover-3.

Madden beat me to pointing out that Troy Polamalu is covering Fitzgerald off the line, and that it is usually a Cover-2 with the corner deep. Smart move, because it gives Polamalu a chance to jam or to buzz the route underneath.

Bill Barnwell: I don't know. We've seen lots of Ike Taylor underneath with Polamalu/Ryan Clark shading deep, or Taylor shading outside with the linebackers dropping back into coverage on the inside.

Doug was right about Lamarr Woodley. He's teeing off on Kurt Warner.

Aaron Schatz: Good job by the Super Bowl halftime show committee filling the fan pit with actual middle-aged Bruce Springsteen fans instead of teenagers pretending they love some band from 30 years ago, the way they did the last couple years. This is way more real. Now, the way they could make this the best Super Bowl halftime show ever is if they have planted Courtney Cox in the audience among all those middle-aged fans and he drags her up from the crowd for "Dancing in the Dark." That would be AWESOME.

Bill Barnwell: Was that Heart? Am I too young to know who Heart was?

Mike Tanier: I think it was cool that Bruce gave Brenda Warner an acoustic guitar and brought her on stage.

Sean McCormick: Arizona is in an interesting fix. They need to flood the field with receivers in order to get Fitzgerald some room to breathe, but their protection hasn't shown that it can hold up without the extra blocking help from Edgerrin James or Tim Hightower. I would think they'll try to keep on working James to the same side as Fitzgerald on some safety releases and try to force the defender to cover the flat. It started working for them late in the half, and I see no reason why it won't keep working, as the Steelers figure to continue doubling up on Fitz.

Vince Verhei: We knew they'd show Cuba Gooding at some point, but in the lower right corner of the screen, you saw the Jeff Reed lookalike chef!

Aaron Schatz: Cuba looked old and unhappy, didn't he?

Man, what was up with the roughing the passer call on Karlos Dansby? He's basically already in the motion of hitting Roethlisberger as Big Ben throws the ball away, he couldn't stop his inertia, he didn't hit him extra hard. Honestly, we thought at first it was a flag for intentional grounding because you could argue that Big Ben was still in the pocket when he threw the ball away.

Doug Farrar: I think the point could be made (as it was made by Madden) then when you have a quarterback who will run all over the place, extending the play, you can't be so precious with defensive contact. It's like they say the strike zone is the same for everybody, but guys who swing at everything would probably tell you differently.

Aaron Schatz: Great play by Carey Davis there to save the interception on the tipped pass at the goal-line. If Antrel Rolle comes down with the ball, that sucker could have gone the other way for six.

Mike Tanier: Davis should have been batting that ball down in the first place, not trying to catch it for a 6-yard loss.

Hines Ward is still an excellent blocking wide receiver, and they have been using him to block safeties and corners all game. On Parker's run to get it to the red zone in the third quarter, he blocks Ralph Brown to open the seam down the field. He has also been head-up on Adrian Wilson a few times. The Steelers often split him wide, then motion him into the slot presnap where he can either block or run a short option-type route. I don't know if the injury is limiting his routes, but it hasn't hurt his blocks much.

(Pittsburgh kicks a field goal to go up 20-7.)

Vince Verhei: Pittsburgh has now run 12 goal-to-go plays, and scored a touchdown on one of them.

Aaron Schatz: Let's all say it together: "Gee, why didn't the Cardinals try spreading the field in the first three quarters?" Way for Larry Fitzgerald to catch that fade for a touchdown while being monumentally interfered with by Ike Taylor.

Actually, on the replay from the reverse angle, it looks less like Taylor's interfering, and more like he's playing good defense with his hand on the ball only, and of course Fitzgerald is amazing enough to make the catch anyway.

Bill Barnwell: Steelers stopped getting pressure on Warner and that led to guys open underneath. Playing a deep Cover-2 there is such a dumb move.

Doug Farrar: Wow. Darnell Dockett went all Ngata with that sack on Big Ben.

Aaron Schatz: And with the personal foul against Ike Taylor, I think we can toss the "officiating" angle from this game. That equalized things pretty darn good.

Vince Verhei: Ike Taylor, for handing the Cards 15 free yards on a potential go-ahead drive with 5 minutes to go in the Super Bowl, you have earned the KCW Cup. Congratulations!

Bill Barnwell: Seriously, can we get a running back to help out on James Harrison?

Al Michaels trying to cover for Taylor, calling the James Harrison penalty "huge" when it was really a difference of a half-yard, was a wonderful moment in live journalism.

Vince Verhei: Harrison yanks the KCW Cup out of Taylor's hands. It's a 6-inch penalty, but my God...

Roethlisberger forces an incomplete pass on first down, stopping the clock. Some great dumbness from the Steelers late in this game.

Bill Barnwell: I actually think punt is the right move there on fourth-and-20 for the Cardinals. I'd also consider taking an intentional safety on fourth down there for the field position if I was the Steelers.

Aaron Schatz: We were just talking about an intentional safety here too. And it turns out, instead, Pittsburgh blew a third-down conversion with an UNintentional safety. Whoops.

Bill Barnwell: Blitzing on third-and-long was impossibly dumb. The fact that they got away from it with a safety on a holding penalty (and yes, there's your NEW KCW winner) was awful process, good outcome. Rush four since they're obviously max protecting and let Ben check down, ya know?

Doug Farrar: Holding on Justin Hartwig; safety. Vince, at this rate, you're going to have to outsource the production of the KCW Cups to a larger distributor.

Vince Verhei: I was jumping up and down screaming at the Cardinals for blitzing seven on third-and-10 at the 1, leaving DRC exposed one-on-one and giving up the first down, but they get bailed out by the safety call. Seriously, though, drop back, make the Steelers check down, and make the tackle. It's worked most of the game.

Bill Barnwell: Seeing shots of Art Rooney and Mike Tomlin back-to-back, it seems impossible that one could have hired the other.

(Larry Fitzgerald scores on a 64-yard catch-and-run to put Arizona ahead, 23-20.)

Bill Barnwell: Oh my lord.

Vince Verhei: LOWERCASE GOD!!!!

Doug Farrar: We're moving him to uppercase.

Bill Barnwell: Total defensive breakdown there. They're in Cover-2 and Polamalu jumped the out route.

Bill Connelly: BOTH safeties jumped out routes ... which is amazing considering where Fitzgerald was lined up. Don't really know why you'd jump ANY route other than Fitzgerald's at this time of the game.

Aaron Schatz: Dockett is just killing Stapleton, and now they've got Hartwig and Darnell Stapleton doubling him ... so someone else holds instead.

Vince Verhei: Only problem with the Fitzgerald touchdown: It gave the Steelers plenty of time to come back.

Most impressive thing about that play: Fitzgerald was PULLING AWAY from the defenders. How can a guy that big, that agile, with those hands, that leaping ability, also be that fast? Is there some Super League we can promote that guy to?

And now Pittsburgh's goal-to-go offense, which has been horrible all night, has to come through to win the game right here.

Bill Connelly: This is starting to remind me of the Pats-Carolina Super Bowl, a relatively sloppy game (sans Harrison's amazing touchdown) that suddenly explodes with excitement in the last few minutes.

(Santonio Holmes scores on a 6-yard catch to put Pittsburgh ahead, 27-23.)

Aaron Schatz: Holy f***ing ****.

Bill Connelly: That's a touchdown. WOW has this been fun. My opinion of Santonio Holmes has improved by an incalculable amount in these playoffs.

Bill Barnwell: Well, Santonio Holmes just became a man.

I can't wait to anoint Ben Roethlisberger as the clutch hero for checking down and having Aaron Francisco slip on a tackle.

Bill Connelly: Barring a miracle touchdown (well, *another* miracle touchdown), Kurt Warner will officially have led TWO double-digit, fourth-quarter, Super Bowl comebacks (vs. Pats and Steelers) ... and lost both games.

Ned Macey: And in both, he threw a pick-six that put them in a hole in the first place.

Mike Tanier: So when did Super Bowls become f***ing awesome again?

The play that set up Holmes' touchdown -- the long run up the sidelines -- was set up by a great pump-fake to Mewelde Moore in the flat. It moved DRC out of the lane so Big Ben could throw to Holmes in space. Ben can drive you crazy when he spends a month in the pocket, but sometimes he does something brilliant in there.

Oh crap. Game aint over. Fitz just made a big catch.

Aaron Schatz: My God. Remember when Super Bowls were all blowouts? Think how many close games we've had in the last decade ... Rams-Titans, then all four Patriots games, and even Steelers-Seahawks and Colts-Bears were good games, even if they were not down to the final play.

By the way, I'm guessing that the Cardinals are going to end up with a better DVOA in this game, and even a higher VOA. Warner has been far better than Roethlisberger, even with that last drive. No matter what, the numbers are going to end this season unhappy.

And with 24 seconds left, they quadruple-cover Larry Fitzgerald and he still makes a great catch. Unreal.

Not a big fan of the J.J. Arrington dump with 20 seconds left. You just took your last timeout and you're stuck with just two Hail Mary tries. Now, I can't think of better receiver to have down there for a Hail Mary...

Bill Barnwell: How did they not review the last play?!?!

Aaron Schatz: Wait, did the replay official really not look at that final fumble? Really? That was a tuck rule play. The hand was going forward. The chances that Arizona makes the final Hail Mary are remote, but still, you have to at least review it.

Bill Connelly: I think it actually started coming loose when his arm was going backwards, right?

Aaron Schatz: I'm not happy to end this thing on an officiating question. How hard is it to review the final play? Isn't that why you make the reviews in the final two minutes the responsibility of the booth? So you can review as many plays as you want without a limit on challenges?

And yet, at the same time, an optimistic thought: Is this the best Super Bowl of all time, from the "not a fan of either team" perspective? The ending was as exciting as last year's, and the first three quarters were definitely better.

Bill Barnwell: Looked to me like:

A) Warner brought the ball down to launch a throw;
B) He started to bring the ball back up to make said throw;
C) The ball was knocked out of his hands;
D) The arm continued forward.

Mike Tanier: I have no problem letting the tuck rule disappear forever.

Vince Verhei: "So when did Super Bowls become f***ing awesome again?"

It may have coincided with teams like the Giants and the Colts and the Cardinals making playoff runs. If any team can beat any other team, then each individual game should be more exciting.

Aaron beat me to the punch -- Arizona won the DVOA battle today. Each team had one interception -- the Cards got -1 return yards, Pittsburgh got 100 and seven points. If Harrison drops his interception, and everything else goes the same (obviously, a huge if), the final margin is 26-20 or 30-20, Arizona. He's my MVP, and I don't think he made any other plays.

Bill Barnwell: "Ben can drive you crazy when he spends a month in the pocket, but sometimes he does something brilliant in there."

That's true. I'm underselling Roethlisberger's ability to run around in the pocket, but man, it was weird to hear him hype up his offensive line after the game considering he was probably hurried 20 times.

Polamalu also had a nightmare of a game, overrunning plays left and right and getting caught on the long Fitzgerald touchdown. I know that Warner did a great job of looking him off, but hey, you're supposed to be an elite safety and the possibilities on that flat throw aren't that bad.

On the other side of the ball, Rodgers-Cromartie was everything we saw on film; a great athlete who has major work to do before he becomes a really good NFL corner. He actually had a worse game than Hood, which was pretty shocking.

Sean McCormick: Two questions. First, for people who think Warner is on the fence as far as the Hall of Fame (I think he's in, myself), does that game improve or hurt his chances? He put up terrific numbers, but he also threw the pick that cost the team the game and his Achilles heel -- er, thumb --hurt Arizona badly on several occasions.

Secondly, can Matt Leinart officially be excused for not beating Warner out? I mean, really, are you an out-and-out bust because you can't beat out Kurt Warner?

Mike Tanier: I think Warner got himself in this year. I think this game helped.

Ned Macey: I'd like to disagree with people on the blitz that caused the safety. Not only did they get the holding call because of the pressure, but they forced Roethlisberger to fit a ball into a very tight window. (The holding call, by the way, while obvious, is not something that every crew would call in that situation.)

I think it is absurd that they didn't review the last play, and while I think it was a fumble, it was certainly close enough to warrant review. I think the officials didn't want to delay it since it appeared the game was over. Do you really want the shot of Woodley on the bench cheering after the official comes back out to say the play is upheld to be the final real image?

Warner is still woefully short of the Hall of Fame if I were a selector. I think it is odd that the standard is that he led three teams to the Super Bowl, and then he plays well but loses, but that is suddenly other aspects of the team's fault. I do think, however, that the game helps with people who actually are selectors.

I thought last year's Super Bowl was much more engaging because it seemed close throughout. This looked like a Steelers blowout early and again after the Harrison runback. Then the fourth quarter was impressive, but it fell short of last year. Closer to the Titans game after the 1999 season.

For Santonio Holmes owners in fantasy: Where the hell was this all year? It really was an outstanding performance, especially since Ward was definitely limited. The game-winner is up there in the Super Bowl pantheon. What I like about it is that the play was as called and just required a perfect throw and a perfect catch.

Vince Verhei: I think this game helped Warner with the selectors tremendously.

Most passing yards in Super Bowls, career:

1. Kurt Warner, 1,156.
2. Joe Montana, 1,142.

Most passing yards in Super Bowls, single game:

1. Kurt Warner, XXXIV, 414.
2. Kurt Warner, XLIII, 377.
3. Kurt Warner, XXXVI, 365.

The Hall of Fame voters will value those numbers more than they should.

Aaron Schatz: After driving home, I feel a weird calm. I feel like the universe has been put back into an order that makes some kind of sense. I wonder if this is what Superman feels like after one of those DC Comics "crisis" events. (Actually, Superman has some control over that situation. Maybe this is what Jimmy Olsen feels like after one of those DC Comics "crisis" events.)

Bill Barnwell: I really can't agree. The Cardinals probably outplayed the Steelers, like you said. Just because the bounces (and the refereeing) bounced their way doesn't mean that we were right (or wrong, for that matter.)

I don't get what the big deal is, to be honest. It's the playoffs. Variance happens.

Aaron Schatz: Well, it isn't a question of what "we" thought. It's more about the idea that the champion should be a team that played well in both the regular season and the playoffs, not just the latter.

Although perhaps, given that the Cardinals played four straight good games in the postseason, the proper question is not "what happened in the playoffs," but rather "what the heck happened in Weeks 13 to 16?" Other than snow in one game, of course.

Bill Barnwell: Fine, but the idea that the champion is the champion is pretty murky when the reason they're the champion and not the Cardinals is a bunch of good breaks and penalty calls. If the Cardinals end up with a VOA that's 50% below the Steelers and they win the game, we're howling about how the world isn't fair; instead, that's exactly what happened with the Steelers.

Ned Macey: I'm hesitant to keep mentioning "penalty calls" when as far as I'm concerned there was one bad call the whole day (roughing the passer), and the Steelers were heavily penalized in the fourth quarter (safety, Ike Taylor, holding to push them back to start their final drive).

I think we can all agree that the Steelers were not "better" than the Cardinals today. Their guy happened to return a touchdown 100 yards. That's the difference in the game, and while I know that return touchdowns are not repeatable, the interception itself was a fine bit of scheming and a terrible read by the opposing quarterback. The return, while not repeatable in a statistical sense, was still a great effort both by Harrison and his blockers. That wasn't a gift interception return like Law's in 2001 where jumping the route gives you the touchdown. For that reason, I'm not really upset that the team that maybe didn't play as well won. (And if they hadn't gotten the touchdown and the big lead, it likely would have played out very differently.)

What I agree with Aaron on is the fact that when you have an effective draw, as this game was in my mind (and maybe the DVOA will show a big Arizona advantage, but the two Arizona fumbles will hurt them), I'm happy that the better team wins the game. If you look at all these close Super Bowls, it doesn't always happen. Since 2001, we've had five extremely close Super Bowls, and the better team is now 3-2.

Aaron Schatz: Right, good point, Ned. We shouldn't confuse the concept that "turnover returns are a non-repeatable play that we don't include in DVOA because they may not be a good judge of the defense's inherent quality" with the idea that "a long turnover return is random chance." There was a lot of athletic talent shown on that return, and excellent blocking.

Vince Verhei: And -- I'm sorry to say -- an uncalled block in the back, which is blatant given the benefit of replay after the game. LaMarr Woodley and Tim Hightower are running down the field ahead of Harrison. At the Steeler 40, Woodley throws a perfectly legal block, and both guys slow up, thinking the play is over. Of course, it isn't over, and both guys start running down the field again. Around the Arizona 35, Hightower looks like he's about to cut Harrison down, when Woodley plants both hands in Hightower's back and shoves him to the ground. Harrison cuts inside, and you know the rest.

This isn't the first time a great game was decided by a play that included an uncalled penalty. Green Bay should have been called for a false start on Bart Starr's winning touchdown in the Ice Bowl, and 40 years later, nobody talks about blown calls. They just talk about Lombardi's Packers as a great team the Cowboys as a great rival during those years.

Mike Tanier: I hope the talk of this game doesn't devolve into a discussion about penalties and reviews. Ultimately, most of the calls were correct. Blocks to the back on jailbreak interception returns often go unnoticed. The roughing penalties, which went both ways, are going to get a little tacky when teams are starting to push and shove. The refs have to throw an extra flag or two to keep the game from getting out of hand. The fumble at the end technically should have been reviewed, but damn, don't you get review fatigue after a while? Every damn significant play of this game needed to be reviewed. I didn't need to see the Cardinals get another Hail Mary attempt on a technicality.

Aaron Schatz: According to the ESPN ticker, Mike Pereira says that booth replay did confirm that Kurt Warner fumbled the ball on the final play, but the officials just didn't announce it. I'm comfortable with that.

Vince Verhei: Quote of the day, from Santonio Holmes' 4-year-old son Nicori after the game, on the Cardinals: "They put my daddy down. They ugly and I hate 'em."

SUPER BOWL XLIII DVOA

Here are the one-game DVOA ratings for the Super Bowl. With opponent adjustments:

TEAM TOT OFF DEF ST
ARI 66% 74% 10% 2%
PIT -22% 11% 33% 1%

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.

TEAM TOT OFF DEF ST
ARI 34% 45% 13% 2%
PIT -31% 13% 45% 1%

Comments

318 comments, Last at 20 May 2009, 4:11am

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Is this the end of the running game? After a fun year for running the football we get a Superbowl filled with one dimensional pass oriented offenses. The game was great, but I sure hope teams don't use these two teams as blue prints for the future.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

The NFL is a copy cat league. If I'm a QB, wide receiver or safety in this years draft I'm feeling pretty good right about now. If I'm a running back I'm feeling a little nervous about my draft position. Of course had the Giants not had a soap opera end to the season, every team would be looking for a big bruising running back come draft day:)

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Rules question - on the Harrison interception return, if he had not gotten into the end zone, would the Steelers have gotten another play because of the personal foul penalty on Arizona? I know the half can't end on a defensive penalty, but I'm not clear as to whether the Cardinals were considered the defensive team at that point, especially because the referee referred to the them as the offensive team when he made the call.

And part 2 - if they had called the block in the back, would it have mattered, or would the penalties have offset?

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I'm not sure on part 1, but for part 2 the penalties would have offset, I believe, and they would have placed the ball at the spot of the second foul (the block in the back). But with no time left, I think that would have been it.
Side note: Is that really a block in the back? Yes, his hands were on the guy's back but only because Hightower is twisting his body. Woodley was between Harrison and Hightower when he made the block. For a real missed block in the back, check out Breaston's job on Polamalu during Arrington's catch with just under 10 minutes to go in the fourth.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

The Steelers would have declined the penalty because if they accepted it Arizona would have the ball, so the half could have ended.
And with offsetting penalties (if those penalties could offset), Arizona would get the ball back. I was wondering what would have happened if they called a hold and Harrison went down with time still on the clock. Would those two penalties offset and give Arizona the ball back, or is it different because on e penalty was after change of possession?

216 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

With both the penalties occurring after the interception, the ball would have been the Steelers. As mentioned by others, if Woodley was between Hightower and Harrison, there should be no block in the back (you don't get a free penalty by turning your back to the blocker.)

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

To part 1: The Steelers would have gotten 1 untimed down.

Rule 4, Section 8, Article 2: At the election of the opponent, a period may be extended for one untimed down, if any of the following occurs during a down during which time in the period expires: ... (4) a personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct foul committed prior to an interception of a forward pass or the recovery of a backward pass or fumble.

Grabbing the face mask is considered a personal foul.

To part 2: The half would have ended.

(e) If a double foul occurs during the last down of either half, the period shall be extended by an untimed down. Exceptions: The half is not extended if ... (3) if there is a double foul with a change of possession ... that does not involve a replay of the down.

84 Running OOB

It's a 15 yard personal foul penalty. I think i've only seen this called on punt returns when the gunner gets shoved out and gains an advantage by not attempting to immediately get back into play.

An interesting part you didn't mention was that while running out-of-bounds, Fitzgerald was slowed down a bit because a Cardinal spectator (Rolle?) got in his way. He would have easily caught Harrison had this not occurred. Of course, had he not run out of bounds, I'm not sure that Fitzgerald would have avoided all the traffic to get to Harrison in the first place.

Those plays are really hard to officiate, given that the majority of the officials start in the defensive backfield and aren't nearly as fast as the players. My guess is that a majority of the time, no flags would have been thrown on that play against either team.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

It's only a penalty if it occurs on a kicking play, I think. (At least it's not specifically in the rulebook for other circumstances.)

Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1: [Unsportsmanlike conduct] specifically includes, among others: ... (u) A member of the kicking team who goes out of bounds, whether forced out or voluntarily, must attempt to return inbounds in a reasonable amount of time.

After all, in what other situation would going out of bounds for an extended period of time be advantageous? (Receivers on pass plays can go out of bounds and come back in, but are forbidden from being the first to touch a forward pass.)

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I was surprised how well Arizona played. It certainly seems to me now that weeks 13-16 are the aberration. I would expect them to be a very competitive team next year barring a bunch of injuries.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Unless Warner retires, which is a real possibility.

Leinart may still have a future but for him to approach the level Warner played at this year is pretty unlikely. This team needs a precision QB or a running game, and without Warner they have neither.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I've seen a couple of pictures (http://www.newsday.com/services/newspaper/printedition/ny-todays-covers,0,4250122.htmlpage, and one one SI.com last night) where Holmes' right foot is clearly not down. Of course, it might have been down at a different point (although Holmes says he had it down all along. I think the officials made the right call based on what they saw but based on the pictures I'm not sure it was a TD.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I'm not saying it's not a touchdown, but the replays are definitely playing a bit of a trick based on the angles because they seem to show a TD the entire way and his right foot was clearly not on the ground at some point relatively early in the process.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Why does it have to be a touchdown for an extended period of time? If one angle shows it correct then it is indeed the correct call and vice versa. Great throw and catch to end a great game. Epic play by a guy who had a bad regular season then got caught with weed then had a great postseason. I wish the media would talk more about holmes instead of fitzgerald for 99% of their coverage. The guy is great we get it. Hes not the best ever. Hes not even that close yet. 2 months ago he wasnt even considered the hands down best receiver on his fucking team!

So am i the only one that thinks arizona was gonna win that challenge on the last play fairly easily? I dont think the booth purposely wanted the steelers to win as much as i think they deserve to split james harrisons superbowl ring. He doesnt deserve it. He should have gotten kicked out for throwing multiple punches. I cant wait till he gets tested for roids

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Please, this is ridiculous. The picture shows Holmes right as he caught the ball, at which point he came slightly up off his feet to get it. The replays showed, conclusively, from every angle, that his right foot then tapped down (watch the replay where his right foot hits and his right foot is kind of hooked around behind his left with the toe touching) before he fell forward out of the end zone. Absolutely no one watching the play live or on the replay thought he didn't get his feet down. It's only after the fact that this still picture from the part of the catch where he had to jump slightly to get it (cause that happens sometimes, right?) is published all over the place that there's any doubt.

I'm so sick of feeling like I need to defend my team's legitimacy (yes, I'm a Steelers fan) every time they win a game. It takes some of the fun out of it, because instead of being allowed to feel giddy that my team has won in an improbable fashion (they really deserved to lose, but two or three great plays by Harrison, Roethlisberger, and Holmes saved it), the first thing I encounter when I try to talk to folks about the fact that I'm happy my team won is a bunch of people trying to put the outcome in doubt that it never was in to begin with.

Sorry, Anonymous111, you don't seem to be a d*$# about this like, say, RickD or morganja, and you do say that it could well be a touchdown anyway. But I honestly don't see why this play is being debated, and the cumulative effect of all this bitterness and bitching about every call in the game (mostly by Ravens fans and RickD, who just needs to chill the hell out in general) is bumming me out.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Here's a compromise for you, then (from a non-Cards, non-Steelers fan): the outcome of this one is less in doubt than the outcome of Super Bowl XL. Where the Seahawks, as Holmgren said, did appear to be battling both the refs and the Steelers.

And yes, we were all quite aware that 'Jerome Bettis is from Detroit'.

I'd say there was one drive, in particular, where the refs were handing a lot of yardage to the Steelers on quiestionable calls. And I don't think that one can argue that the Ike Taylor UP call was a 'make-up', because it was clearly... unsportsmanlike conduct, and clearly instigated by Ike Taylor.

So, there you go. It was a more earned victory than their last Super Bowl.

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

OMG. Whatever. The Seahawks are the whiniest babies in the world. Holmgren cursed his team by blaming the officials for two straight years. Get a grip.

Steelers won both fair and square. Chippiness induced touch calls both ways in TB. Close defensible judgement calls in DET. God the Seahawks were the most insufferable losers.

152 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Most insufferable losers? I suppose that makes you the most insufferable winners. Especially the guy who posted before you, complaining about not getting to fully enjoy 2 Super Bowl wins in the last 5 years because not everyone thinks they won completely on merit. Being defensive about 2005 at this point makes you a far bigger whiner than any Seahawks fan.

180 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I'm not a Steelers fan. I'm a Vikings fan. I didn't care who won either game. I'm just sick of whiny ass Seahawks fans. I watched both games and enjoyed them. In 2005 I was informed by the losers what I'd witnessed was a fraud on the order of the faked moon landing.

253 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

This years postseason was full of whiney asses. If a team loses i know i am gonna go online and find atleast 100 people whining about the calls. Want examples?

Superbowl Pit vs Ari (right now)
Pit vs chargers (Harrison is getting held EVERY PLAY. Mcneil tackles him one play! oh and san diego had more penalty yards against them, never been brought up though)
Ten vs Balt (1 play clock play lost the WHOLE game for tennessee! really? that wasnt even in their control. 1 misstep by 2 seconds and it lost your whole season? what happened if they snapped it 1 second earlier? do we stop talking about something that ridiculous?
Chargers vs Indy (let them play! at the end of the game the defense SHOULD be allowed to play against the rules. If they want to twist facemasks and hold receivers on routes they should be able to! but only at the end of the game when its the team im rooting for! should offenses get an unfair advantage too? 1 free cutblock per play in the last 3 minutes? maybe half a twist of the facemask or an illegal block in the back.)

im sure i am missing some "controversial" games too. lets all make crying not a part of football.

279 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Too funny. I love how the passing of time has mellowed blatant and indefensible calls against the Seahawks into "Close defensible judgement calls". Perhaps one day Idi Amin will not be a cannibal but rather a lover of his fellow man.

I am a Seahawks fan. I don't care anymore about SB XL. It was a travesty but life ain't fair. Yes, some Seahawks fans still like to dwell on it but the OP stated he was sick of having to defend it. Don't bother then. Enjoy this one. Pittsburgh won it, the refs called a decent, not perfect, but decent game. How many refs would have called holding in the end zone for a safety in a regular season game, much less the Super Bowl?

This SB was a good game that I felt both teams could say they deserved to win. Pittsburgh dominated early on, Arizona came back, it was a nail biter at the end. That's what a Super Bowl should be but too often it turns into a crap game.

As a Seahawks fan, I am more concerned right now about whether Bidwell will keep the Cardinals together or get cheap again and watch them sink back into mediocrity.

261 Steelers and refs

Dunbar, All I have to say on this matter is Kordell Stewart was out of the back of the endzone in 1995 before he came back in and scored the game winner over the Colts in the AFCCG.

MY team should have lost to the Cowboys in the subsequent SB, not YOURS.

Hmmm, I had a good start, but that suddenly sounds much less macho....

And I guess that was karmically reversed by the Polamalu non-INT three years ago.

Okay, never mind. Hey, did you know Jerome Bettis is from Detroit?

266 Re: Steelers and refs

In reply to by Bobman

I refuse to take the bait on the Bettis-from-Detroit crack. I'm better than tha--aw, crap.

You're probably right about the Stewart TD, although it's not clear whether Stewart was forced out by the Colts defender. He definitely went out of bounds because the DB cut him off from the route he wanted to run across the back of the endzone, but he was only cut off in one direction. He could have gone the other way without being forced out. So yeah, he wasn't REALLY forced out, which means that shouldn't have been a touchdown, although no instant replay at the time means that it doesn't matter if the ref didn't see it. Hmmm ... if only there had been instant replay, that would have solved everything.... :)

Anyway, I don't feel too guilty, since the Colts would have won anyway if they'd blocked Willie Williams on 3rd and 1, or had the cajones to go for it on 4th and 1 with 3 1/2 minutes left in the game, or stopped the immortal Neil O'Donnell on the ensuing drive (they almost did pick O'Donnell off, but the LB dropped the game-winning pick), or ... you get the point.

Relevant clips:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Uedk6BK2W0&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhelhAKWujo&feature=related

What a great game. This is another one of my favorites, partly for nostalgia value--I was 7 at the time, and it's the first playoff game I actually remember--and partly because it was just a great game. It's kind of hard to believe that it WAS such a classic, given that the quarterbacks were Neil O'Donnell and Jim Harbaugh and that the announcers were Dick Enberg, Paul Maguire, and Phil Simms.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Great game, and although the Cards did play better, it doesn't necessarily mean they should have won.

I hate the Steelers, but damn if I'm going to cry about officiating in this game. It was a pretty well officiated game overall.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I think Warner is Terrell Davis with a better back-story. I hope he goes in, but then I have odd taste on those questions, and I think the whole God thing will hurt him with some voters.

Last year's game was better, because of the historic elements to it, and the fact that the first 2.5 hours of this game were boring. Last year was taught throughout. Still, crappy non-review notwithstanding, this goes on the very short list for best SBs ever, and it had more incredible moments than last year's game. I still can't help feeling bad for the Cards, but the Steelers earned it.

258 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I guess I do. As someone who didn't give a sh*t either way, there were only about five minutes in the first half when it didn't look like the Steelers would win easily. They had dominated the game more thoroughly than the score reflected (at least before the taint)

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I think it's tough to say that Warner is Terrell Davis with a better back story. Warner has now led two different franchises to the Super Bowl, both of which were mediocre-to-awful before he arrived (and the Rams cratered fairly quickly after his departure). Meanwhile, while Davis' production was extraordinary, quite a few Broncos RBs since him have approached his levels of production. It isn't necessarily fair, but these facts seem to indicate that Warner is a truly special player, while Davis was a very good player in an excellent system.

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I don't disagree with your overall point, but the fact is that the Rams cratered while Warner was still there, and then rebounded with Bulger, leading to Warner's departure. Check out 2002 and 2003 for evidence.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I think playing the "what if" game is really unhelpful. The INT return was completely non-predictive, but that 10-point swing would have completely changed the defensive playcalling in the second half, including (an extremely likely) lack of cover 2, the set that essentially destroyed them in the second half.

I will say, Arizona by 60%? Absurd. I guess it's because the TD was non-predictive and the steelers went into a garbage time defense (yay cover 2!) that turned out to be not-so garbage time, because Arizona was able to retake the lead on two quick drives, so the fact that the defense was playing a soft set is counted as simply a complete defensive meltdown.

Also, is this what we've come to? Debating over whether something should be reviewed, even if you don't believe it'll be overturned? Are we rooting for processes now?

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

"Consistency" is a pretty meaningless talisman. Half the time it's about different calls, ignoring that the refs don't always see the same angles and aren't always looking for the same things.

But consistency in review? What does that even mean? The booth thought it wouldn't be overturned. The procedure is just like a coach challenging; the booth looks over the play, decides if it has any likelihood of getting reversed, if so they call down to have the referee look at it. "Consistency" seems to be a stand-in for "mandatory reviews for anything remotely close," which would not only be disastrous from a viewing perspective, but is what the system was specifically designed to avoid. The idea behind replay is to fix calls that were called incorrectly on the field. These mechanisms were put in to make sure that replay didn't take over the game. The process worked for both teams (arizona got incorrect calls reversed, the steelers didn't have to wade through a symbolic trip to the hood) pretty much exactly as it was intended.

I'm beginning to think that there is no possible game, officiating-wise, that FO and its readership could look at and be satisfied with. People are outraged by the penalties where the ref has no discretion. They're angry when the refs exercise their discretion (both in review and with live penalties). There is no possible way for the refs to win.

226 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

But in this case the booth was unsure about the call, and it was reviewed. But the reviews so quickly revealed that the correct call was made on the field that they were able to continue without interrupting the flow of the game with a delay or even an announcement of the review.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

By consistency, I mean that based on the way booth review has been handled over the years, wouldn't you expect them to review this play? I'm not really up-in-arms over this, but I really really expected them to review it because they virtually always do. This time they didn't. Seemed inconsistent to me.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I could, of course, be wrong, but my impression is that it was a prevent scheme. I think LeBeau got overconfident in his coverage after the first quarter and thought that all he really had to do was take away the long plays and just bleed them out. If it were merely conservative playcalling, I think they would have gone with a cover 3 look instead, because it's a much more flexible scheme that plays closer to polamalu's strengths. He's a good coverage safety, but sticking him deep handcuffs his game (which, granted, wasn't all that great yesterday) and plays completely against his strengths, his ability to play short to mid coverage off the line at snap, to read the defense, etc. Putting him out as just help on the deep zone takes all that away, and exacerbates his pursuit problems (which were present in force last night). I honestly think LeBeau thought that he had the game won, just had to make sure there were no huge deep plays. I think his error was in assuming that a play has to be a deep throw- that he didn't account for warner's precision and fitzgerald's speed, just Fitzthulu's jump ball skills.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

most of the country thought it looked like an incomplete pass. even if by rule it was a fumble they needed to do an official review on that play so that the ref could explain to the millions of people watching why it wasnt an incomplete pass.

And given the number of other reviews we've seen in instances where the result is pretty clear t's simply unbelievable that the replay official believed that play was unworthy of the refs time. because of his failure lots of people are talking about the officiating today rather than the steelers.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

This was a frustrating game to watch if you were pulling for the Cardinals, and the VOAf certainly confirms that -- but not only did they lose despite outplaying the Steelers, but all the announcers seemed pro-Steelers. It felt like good old boys pulling for good old boys -- the Cardinals have certainly never been a part of that club.

Kurt Warner is thinking about retiring? He announces right after the Super Bowl and no one at the time even notices. See what happens when you're not as sexy as Brett Favre?

Thanks, Vince, for pointing out that the key play in the game -- Harrison's touchdown return -- should have been called back. I'll have another reason to hate Super Bowl officiating.

There was one penalty that is probably legal but that drove me nuts at the time. The Cardinal DB and the Steelers WR drove each other out of bounds, and both had their hands on each other's face masks. The result? 15-yard penalty against the DB. Why? Because the WR having his hand on the DB's facemask is a "straight arm" and protected under hallowed football tradition. Heck, it's on the Heisman trophy. You can't make Mr. Heisman committing a penalty, right? But watching it seemed unfair, because both players were doing the exact same thing.

Rrrr...frustrating Super Bowl to watch.

193 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Woodley shoved Hightower on the shoulder, there was no missed penalty there. He was turning to face Harrison as it happened, and he landed on his back. But apparently any time the Steelers cross the goal line there has to be some sort of government investigation.

265 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Well, Ben hasn't yet, Holmes may have but we're not sure about the ball against Baltimore, and there appears to be open question about Harrison....

Too bad I can't insert a poll here and figure out which of those examples is going to ignite the most whining from Steeler fans.

278 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Yeah, I've read that elsewhere, that the "block in the back" had extenuating circumstances. Actually that's a relief.

Anyway -- no need to take it personally. Every strange and close call gets examined in the Super Bowl. That's one of the burdens of being the winner. Enjoy it!

237 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

"There was one penalty that is probably legal but that drove me nuts at the time. The Cardinal DB and the Steelers WR drove each other out of bounds, and both had their hands on each other's face masks. The result? 15-yard penalty against the DB. Why? Because the WR having his hand on the DB's facemask is a "straight arm" and protected under hallowed football tradition. Heck, it's on the Heisman trophy. You can't make Mr. Heisman committing a penalty, right? But watching it seemed unfair, because both players were doing the exact same thing."

I Agree that that's a very strange rule. And never did it look more ridiculous than then. If I were ref, I'd be inclined to not see the DB's facemask.

BTW, the Card corners were horrible tacklers. If I were the Steelers, I would have used quick wide tosses like during that play instead of a running game.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

The fumble at the end of the game is a really tough call. The defender gets to Warner as the ball is all the way back and jars the ball loose a bit. However, Warner's hand is still fully on the ball as he pushes it forward. Yeah, it's probably a fumble, but you could make the opposing case. Really, Warner did a pretty poor job as moved right into that defender. The Steelers only brought 3 -- you would hope he would be able to get the heave away.

It's pretty funny that as our ability to see a play in finer detail (zoomed-in, slo-mo) improves, it really only serves to increase controversy.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

That's how I saw it. It looked like that by the laws of physics the ball should have been knocked out before the arm went forward, but Warner somehow managed to to hold onto it until he brought his arm forward. I don't think they would have overturned it but I also don't think they would have overturned a forward-pass call, which shows how close it was.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

What if an Arizona player had picked up the fumble/incomplete pass and made a miracle run for a touchdown?

That would be the NFL's nightmare scenario. The Super Bowl would've been decided on a play in which no "correct" call could be made. Steeler fans would be screaming that it should've been an incomplete pass. Cardinal fans would say that the ball was coming loose when he threw it. Steeler fans would counter that he had enough control of it to throw it forward and that any reasonable person would consider that a pass.

I suspect that if that scenario had happened, the officials would have ruled it an incomplete pass. But then again I've been spending time in the fever swamps with some disgruntled Seahawk fans.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Fumbles in the last 2 minutes can only be advanced (by the offense; any defender could advance it) by the fumbling player himself. So, unless Warner was the one recovering the fumble, the ball would have been returned to the point of the fumble, and this scenario is moot.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Isn't that the Holy Roller rule (i.e. the rules are equipped to handle it)?

I thought that last turnover should have been reviewed, but I do see it as a no-win situation for the refs. The possibility of reversing a borderline call and giving the Cardinals one last play to end the game...invites even more controversy than we're seeing now.

241 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

And the way that it essentially ended (a great individual defensive effort that sealed the game) wasn't as good as a completely random pass to 4 cardinals and 5 steelers? Hail Mary throws are ugly, messy, desperate things. Woodley's strip was a thing of beauty. How, again, did we get robbed? Do we just not like defense anymore?

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

yeah i don't really see it.

through 3+ quarters of play, the steelers have 1 punt, one INT, and three scoring drives. cards have 3 punts, one int, one fumble, and one score.

that should be a fairly dominant VOA performance. the steeler O didn't do much in the 4th Q with a lead, but they didn't expect to need to. when they needed to score again, they had no problem. cards had two full scoring drives (one against mid-4th quarter-up-by-two-TDs style prevent D), and one busted play that went the distance.

I hear the "if you ignore the Harrison TD (and we do!), then the Cards win by 3, because the Steelers still would have been basically taking a knee all 4th Q and Warner still would have been slinging in 5-wide at the same time" argument,

but even with all that, I don't see how 23-20 should be a 65% VOA differential.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

You can think of VOA as "how good they played, if you assume their opponent played like an average team". So 65% VOA overstates the difference, since both teams can't have played like an average team. The correct difference is somewhere between 31% and 34%.

The "ratio of success" on offense is something like 145% to 113%, about 6.5 to 5. But the ratio of scoring would have been (ignoring the TD return) 23 to 20, or about 6 to 5. Chalk up the rest to situational stuff: Arizona wasted a long drive at the end of the half, for example, even if you discount the TD return.

VOA tells the story pretty well. Arizona had more success on a play-by-play basis, but Pittsburgh put the plays together better, and got a huge advantage on the TD return - in essence a 7 point value that doesn't show up on VOA.

One last thought: VOA assumes that teams are trying to do the same thing: effectively gain field position and points. Pittsburgh (unwisely, as it turned out) switched to a clock-killing strategy, hoping to trade lower effectiveness for lower risk and better clock management. VOA can't take that into account. That's not a dig against VOA. VOA was right, and Pittsburgh needed a heroic comeback to make up for their strategic mistake.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Re: Penalties. I must be going nuts. Am I the only person in the world who saw Kurt Warner take his helmet off to yell at the refs (after the ruled fumble that was overturned and ruled incomplete) and not get a penalty?

He walked right up to the ref and yelled at him. Without his helmet. How is THAT penalty missed?

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Not exactly. If NBC had gone/was in the process of going to commercial, it wouldn't have been a penalty.

Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1, (h) [Exceptions to the helmet-removal personal foul]: The player is not in the game or he is in or has returned to his bench area; or, the player is in the game and a time out has been called for reasons of injury, television break, charged team time out, or it is between periods.

293 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

enjoy your superbowl win DGL. if you cant enjoy a season where your team wins it I wouldnt want to talk to you when your team looks like the lions or last years dolphins. The game is over at the point of the penalty. Its like in basketball when one team gets a lot of free throws late game cause the other team is kicking their ass. that penalty called on woodley had the same affect as me farting out my cheetoes midway through the second quarter. That is unless u believe in the butterfly effect. then my farting escapade actually had MORE say on the outcome of the game than his penalty.

302 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

You know, I was enjoying the Super Bowl win, and I'm trying hard to continue to enjoy it. But I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I'd never read Audibles, and I know I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I'd never read the comments.

As others have noted, the noise level with regard to officiating complaints has increased to the point where it's drowning out the signal. Which is a shame, because a lot of the commenters - Bobman, Pat, Will Allen, others - contribute a lot to the conversation, with comments that are insightful, smart, and funny. But honestly, it's starting to not be worth the effort.

As to how I am when my team is like the Lions, well, suffice to say I'm also a Pirates fan...

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Your problem with DVOA is that it does not have a way to apply a numerical value to a 100-yard interception return at the end of a half. Consider this: if it was a 99-yard interception return, it would have been the same as Warner taking a knee. Sometimes you guys just need to accept the fact that any statistic is inherently an information-losing tool. That's what statistics are for: they take a large set of information and derive from it a small amount of information in a way that is repeatable for a large number of data sets.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

The argument that the Cardinals outplayed Pittsburgh is focused on stats without context. For whatever reason, the Steelers got real conservative on offense after the half until the middle of the 4th quarter. They did a Bill Cowher -- trying to run out the clock long before the game was decided.

As I watched, I think it's clear tht Ben could have thrown for 400 yards if he'd been allowed to throw.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

really, they did great in the 3rd quarter as well. forced two punts, one long scoring drive.

The Cardinals outplayed the Steelers only in a 9 minute stretch from 12 minutes left in the 4th to just after 3 minutes left in the 4th.

Though I'm sure in between mocking gaining 7 yards on 3rd and 8 for the eight millionth and eight millionth and first times, DVOA had a chance to give Warner tons of credit for driving 40 yards in the last 35 seconds, needing an 80 yard TD drive.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

>>>"what the heck happened in Weeks 13 to 16?" Other than snow in one game, of course. <<<

One of the other games was a short week cross country trip to play a pretty good Eagles team ...

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Can we see DVOA by quarter? I think this will tell a radically different story. This was a similar game to Arizona-Eagles last week. The Steelers were dominant much of the game, Arizona came back on some quick strikes and a safety set up by special teams.

Anyone claiming Arizone was dominant did not watch the game.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

"And if Ben Roethlisberger gets close to the goal-line, we know the refs will give him the score."

Yeah, I'm getting really sick of having to see teams waste challenges on Roethlisberger not getting into the endzone. It seems to happen atleast once every time I watch the steelers.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Speaking of replay...

It's really surprising to me that at this point, we don't have access to simultaneous time-synced replays from different angles. That is, take two or more different shots and view them simultaneously so they are time-synced. It really wouldn't have helped in any instance in this game, but it was just something I thought of when they were reviewing the Roethlisberger non-TD. Too often we have a good shot of the knee but we can't see the ball, and a shot of the ball when we can't see the knee. Simultaneous replays would solve this problem, as you could determine when the knee went down in replay A and then look at replay B to see where the ball is.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

This is actually more different than it sounds. Every time one camera stops all of them would have to be re-synched, and odds are the cameras aren't constantly rolling as they move down the field between plays. This would require either a massive re-tooling of the way games are shot, with increased costs to the nets and possible danger to people on the sidelines as cables to trip over get lugged back and forth, or delays between plays as the cameras have to sync up.

250 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

not really that hard - you are really talking about streaming video that is stamped with a time signature from a common source by the camera, then being able to cull through the data to get all the data in the right sequence for an arbitrary time.

While I won't claim any knowledge of how the TV guys do their thing, I do know a lot about IPTV and also streaming audio and video from network connected cameras and this is pretty much the table stakes to be in the game.

Each camera receives its time continuously from a common source, and when it is taking pictures, that time is encoded into the video frame, which is then sent to the video processing unit - basically a big computer that delivers the video to both the viewer and the archives simultaneously.

The same technology could be used to have fixed cameras on the sidelines, goal lines, and end lines to get something like what pro tennis has so every incident at the edge of the playing field or end zone would have at least, for example, two cameras at 1 foot, two at 8 feet, and two at 20 feet, plus the TV cameras to draw upon for replay.

Basically, there aren't technological barriers to this, only political ones.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

In fairness to Michaels, I think he called the Harrison penalty "huge" because he initially thought it was before the kick and gave Arizona an automatic first down. At least he tapdanced out of it, as opposed to Phil Simms, who would probably try to find additional justifications for his initial reaction.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I know I'll be accused of being a DVOA homer for saying this, but even if there's a disconnect between reality and how VOA saw this game, it shouldn't be a surprise or a sign that there's something wrong with it theoretically. A lot of failed attempts close to the goal line don't do wonders for your VOA, and the reason why the Steelers were so close to the goal line on some of those plays had a lot to do with penalties. On the other hand, DVOA doesn't factor in James Harrison drawing three holding penalties, which contributes to our perception based from watching the game that the Steelers were better than their stats. (Of course, it doesn't realize that Dockett pretty much had a free pass to Roethlisberger all night, too.)

I think that Fnor's probably right in how the game changes if Harrison doesn't return the INT for a pick-six because the Steelers don't start playing Cover-2 in the fourth, and that's something that inherently affects any analysis of the game, statistical or not. Playing the "what if" game isn't designed to (and shouldn't) render those facts irrelevant; it just elucidates how thin the line is between what we saw and what we could have seen, and why an analysis of 50 or 60 plays in a game is more relevant in judging team quality than judging one or two.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

You have every right to be a VOA homer, I am a fan of it also. But, I'm taking my favorite stats with a grain of salt today. VOA is trying to say that if this game were played again, the majority of the time AZ would win. I don't debate that it was a close game, but it seems that the relatively quick 16 point swing in the fourth quarter is being somehow overvalued. When I see someone say "according to VOA the Steelers were clearly outplayed" I envision that they put up a few unsustainable hail mary passes or benifited from short field. That was clearly not the case with drives by Pittsburgh through the end of the third quarter.

What I really think is that the Steelers contained that offense for the majority of the game. They could not hope to contain lower case g for 100% of the game and there had to be an occanional breakdown. This was made worse by playing the clock instead of the opponent (sort of how the Eagles crawled back into the game against AZ two weeks ago). If the Steelers had any ability to run in short yardage (they have struggled all year), this game would have had an ugly swing in VOA and score.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Also, these are stats that are designed and useful for looking ahead, not analyzing a past game. That's why it can do things like discount a pick 6, when obviously that's an important part of the game.

It's an argument that a tool designed to do X isn't very good at task Y

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I don't recall, does DVOA count hurries in favor of the defense? If not, maybe it should. I don't know if that would be too difficult to implement or some such. Similarly, is there a roadblock in front of counting offensive holds as positive defensive plays?

In general, I think DVOA is right that the Cardinals outplayed/outcoached the Steelers, but not by as great a margin as it "claims." The sticking point is probably the INT return, which probably shouldn't be counted past the interception in the formula since plays like that are very unusual and not very predictive events, but it was a true showcase of skill (not luck) by the Steelers' best defensive player.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

The PIT defense played a mostly terrible game, except for the lucky touchdown return and a couple of key pressures on Warner. I think I saw Polamalu make about one tackle - the rest of the time, I just saw him flying across the screen, completely whiffing on every tackle he tried to make.

It's nice to see that the DVOA numbers confirm that Arizona was clearly the better team on the field yesterday, on both offense and defense, because that's certainly what I thought based on an admittedly half-interested viewing.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

What exactly was lucky about the TD return? The play call was perfect for the situation as Warner was fooled into throwing into coverage and was pressured. Harrison caught the ball; it didn't luckily stick to his hands. He returned the ball 100 yards without going down despite several opportunities to be tackled. He got a bunch of good blocks and outran/outmaneuvered a handful of players. Where's the element of luck?

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

"Lucky" is the wrong word; "non-predictive" is the correct term. If one of the Outsiders used the word "lucky" they were lapsing into shorthand that isn't precisely correct. Interception returns do not contribute to DVOA because they are non-predictive, not because they are "lucky".

The interception does contribute to DVOA, so the Steelers' D gets credit for the playcall, Harrison's reaction, and Harrison catching the ball. The Cardinals' O loses credit for Warner (described by one talking head as having "the best eye-discipline in the NFL...") staring down Boldin and enabling Harrison to read his eyes and not drift out into the flat zone.

But the 100-yard return is non-predictive of future events. I recall a short study that FO did - though I can't remember the details to try to link to it - when a particular defense had a reputation for having exceptional interception returns (maybe Reed and the Ravens in 07? The Bears a couple years ago? Not sure). They basically concluded that while defenses may devote practice time to runbacks and there may be some defenses that are anecdotally better at running back interceptions or fumble recoveries, there's no statistical evidence that it's a "repeatable skill".

So the TD return wasn't "lucky"; it showed remarkable speed (and stamina) from a linebacker and great teamwork by his teammates running interference on the pursuit. But there's nothing to predict that if the same play happened again, Fitz isn't going to get another step and bring him down at the five, or Warner won't pull a Roethlisberger and manage to slow him down at the 25, or that in traffic his foot doesn't hit the sideline somewhere along the line.

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I agree with you 100%. My comment was a response to Jeremiah's in which he claimed the Steelers D played a bad game where their only contribution was discarded as "lucky." Beyond that, however, is the point, which others may have made in this thread, that it doesn't really matter if the return isn't predictive. It happened; we know it happened; it was a huge part of the game. Discarding makes sense in terms of DVOA, which is trying to figure out what makes teams win and lose in general, but discarding that play in any analysis of the actual game that took place is ludicrous.

168 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

You're right. Pittsburgh's performance was not an indication that they would beat Arizona again if they both played at the same level, but that does not equate to their performance being bad. It means they were successful at things which don't indicate repeated success in the future, and unsuccessful at things which are likely to be repeated. But success is success, and a good performance is good even if it hinges on some serendipity.

To wit: Let's say (purely for example) that Pitt sucked on 3rd and 4th downs, but converted a couple of critical ones which were the key plays of the game. We'd say that doesn't mean they will be good in the future, but they still got the job done when they needed to and that means they were successful in this one particular game.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

215 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

When a 100 yard interception return is ever not lucky? They had 100 yards of field to tackle him.
And there were only 15 seconds left on the clock. He barely made it, he could as easily have landed 1 foot shorter.
That does not take away anything from the Steelers. A lot of events on football field is a combination of luck and effort.
Effort matters a lot more over the long term.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Other than Polamalu and Ike Taylor, who really did look terrible whenever we could see them on screen, I don't think the Steelers' D played that badly. They were getting as much pressure as always, but they were facing a team that had the receiving corps to force them to cover all the receivers and leave the running backs open. They were getting gashed for 8 yards or more on, essentially, long handoffs to the flats, which is why the Cards were moving the ball so effectively. Of course, the second they pulled someone off Fitzgerald to cover a running back or a short out or whatever, Fitz made them pay for it dearly. The Steelers' defensive performance was more about the Cardinals' offense then the Steelers' defense.

As for the touchdown return ... I agree with the guy above me (forgot to check the name before replying :p) that there wasn't much luck involved. Harrison saw the screen coming a mile away, read it perfectly, and rode good blocks plus a combination of speed, strength, and agility that no man should have to the end zone. It isn't going to happen again next time the Steelers play, or maybe ever, but the individual play was more about Harrison's utterly insane talent than any sort of luck.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Mistakes in above post--it was a slant, obviously, and I didn't really make it clear that I considered the Steelers to be "getting as much pressure as always" not because they were getting to Warner, but because they were moving toward him at the usual rate and just couldn't get there before he flicked it out to a RB.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I really enjoyed the game. You had great players play great. You had players of little note play great. You had some truly outstanding individual plays that will make the highlight reel for years to come.

The halftime show stunk. That's about the only clunker.

I thought the refs did a great job. The teams were clearly trying to get the edge on each other from the standpoint of "being the aggressor" and the ref's only recourse in a situation like that is to throw some flags to get folks to be a bit restrained. Otherwise it degenerates into a melee/scrum.

I was especially pleased that somebody in the league office decided that yes, maybe calling blatant holds is appropriate.

Gotta give it up to Pittsburgh to WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP with such a sh*tty offensive line. Sure the Cardinals have some players with Dockett being a crazy man but C'MON already. That second half was sad. And the repeated failures at the goal line because not only can the line not get ANY type of movement but protection breakdowns when passing almost seem mandatory. Ben's concussions are showing if he compliments those sad sacks.

Congrats to the Steelers!!

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Entertaining Super Bowl. Looks like Arizona did "deserve" to be in it after all (which was always a silly argument). Nice scheming from both coaching staffs, game changing plays. The commercials were a bit too numerous and most of them were trying way too hard as compared with their quality. Only 3 or 4 seemed worth noting.

I think assuming the teams play at the same relative levels Arizona wins that game more often than Pittsburgh does, a lot of the more random things went Pittsburgh's way. Of course overall I think Pittsburgh is probably the better team so i doubt they would play at those same levels over the course of several match ups.

You have got to love the Gary Russell TD after Cousin made such a big deal about him not scoring, made my day almost. Sal is always funnier when he is down.

This ARI offense is everything people thought it was going to be when Boldin broke out and they drafted Fitzgerald. I hope Warner returns, I would hate to see Lienart return it to underachiever status.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

You guys are a bunch of f*@!ing whiners. Seriously. At least I respect that the Cardinals haven't cried about officiating even as other chronic whiners like you continue to carp. The game was decided on something far less tangible than your geek numbers (no offense to Nate Silver), but you wouldn't know anything about that. Are the Eagles still the best team in the league? Why do you still feel compelled to qualify the Steelers success even as they celebrate a hard earned if imperfectly executed SB victory? Whatever you want to quantify about Harrison's run, what value do you place on making the last few yards totally gassed with 7 points in the balance? This is a lineback not a DB and he lines up on ST too. That's a lion hearted play that goes beyond the record or even the point swing. Just serious heart, but VV would rather focus on some imaginary penalty on the runback. Are you serious?!? Let's not forget Ben's final drive, and Holmes' TD catch. I guess they just weren't up to Warner's level and really don't deserve those rings.

You guys must be trying to keep up with Peter King on spewing stupid s@*!

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Stats are for fantasy football fans. Anybody who doesn't think Ben Roethlisberger is a top 5 QB in this league doesn't know football. Get away from the spreadsheets and go watch the games.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I don't think it is really that clear cut at all.
Manning
Brady
Brees
Warner

Then Warner/Romo/Rivers/McNabb/Rothlisberger/Cutler/Manning/Rodgers

Looks like he is in the 5-11 pack somewhere, I don't think he is clearly top5 at all. He is great for PIT with its lack of an offensive line, but there are some definite holes in his game. Luckily for him he is still youngish and may yet improve. Personally I would think he is maybe 7 or 8? I know I would rather have McNabb or Romo.

Of course going forward a lot of those guys are getting a bit old, but this isn't Madden this is the NFL.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Brees is a better fantasy QB than Big Ben. I was talking about real football. Tony Romo can't carry Roethlisberger's jock.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

If you don't think Drew Brees is a better QB than Roethlisberger, you've obviously never seen Brees play. Try to tune down the homerism just a bit before typing. Suggesting that Roethlisberger is only a top 10 QB (as most people would) isn't a slight.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Well, as far as the block in the back goes, wasn't it actually illegal for Fitzgerald to have been making the attempted tackle from out of bounds? There was a lot happening on that entire run. I actually wasn't too excited during the runback itself, because I didn't think it would count, because I assumed the flag back near the goal line was going to be a penalty on the runback. I wonder how many players thought the same, as the whole play had a somewhat slow-motion feel to it.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

As many mentioned, the penalty would occur on being the first person to touch the ball, not the would-be tackler. There is, as far as I know at least, no penalty for coming out of bounds for a tackle. If there was, they would look to see if he was forced out, which probably makes the tackler legal anyway.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

There's no penalty for coming out-of-bounds for a tackle. There is a 15-yard personal foul penalty if a player goes out-of-bounds and doesn't make an attempt to immediately return to the field of play.

You'd normally see this on punt returns when the gunner gets shoved out and gains an advantage by continuing to run out-of-bounds. I'm not surprised that this didn't get flagged given that there's no way the officials could be in position to anticipate this play and get a clean look at what Fitzgerald did while everyone's sprinting down the field.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Not reviewing the final play is an abomination. And I don't give a crap what Pereira claims the booth did. It takes atleast 2 minutes to review every other replay challenge ever made, but you don't even stop the game for a second to review a very questionable Super Bowl deciding call?!? Bullshit. And I bet the fact that if it had been overturned would have meant that the 'removing your helmet' penalty would have had to be enforce giving Warner probably 2 shots at the endzone from the 35 yard line didn't have anything to do with the decision not to take a closer look at the play. Riiight. The Steelers are gifted one Super Bowl by the refs and then the next time they're in it they just so happen to run into the most penalized opponent in Super Bowl history and the game ends like that?!? If that had been NE you damn well know that would have been looked at closer. That seemed way closer to an incomplete forward pass than the tuck rule game (that rule was never changed, right?!?).

Listen, that was a great game. I was thoroughly entertained. And I'm not even saying that the Steelers didn't deserve to win this time. And I don't even have much of a problem with how the first 59 minutes and 30 seconds of the game was officiated (there were a small handful questionable calls, but nothing too egregious and certainly nothing to get worked up about). But you just can't let a game end like that. And worrying that you won't get the camera shot of the Steelers celebrating immediately after "apparently" winning is probably the worst thing I've ever heard. You have replay for a reason. The final 2 minutes of the halves are turned over to booth review for a reason. If you're not going to take the time to look at that play you might as well scrap instant replay all together.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Warner would have gotten two end-zone shots with five seconds left (the end of the fumble play wouldn't have changed the time remaining, or maybe only by two or three seconds)? Wow, those Cards receivers ARE fast, considering a 4.3 40 sprinting straight to the endzone (with no bumps or routes to run) would be considered godlike.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I'm sorry, I thought it was closer to 10 seconds. But with Pittsburgh's hurry up kneel down to avoid the replay review I would hope that a simple mistake like that wouldn't render the entirety of my post moot. So I guess that would have meant that Warner would have only had the opportunity for a single 35 yard jump ball to the best WR in the game. Yeah, you're right. That changes EVERYTHING.

188 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I'm just saying, let's not overestimate how much it would have benefited Zona for it to be called an incomplete. Most likely, it gave them one shot at a jump ball in the end zone (granted, with Fitzgerald, that's not negligible). There's a big difference between having time for two plays and time for one - and I think with no timeouts, the Cards only get one shot if that's ruled incomplete.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I agree with you that it was very stupid not to stop the game to review that, and that the Tuck Rule is incredibly confusing. I completely agree. But bringing up conspiracy theories from a Super Bowl three years ago and acting like the outcome of this game would have been any different had Warner had one play left to launch a Hail Mary accomplishes diddly squat. (And yeah, that was one grand conspiracy to get the Steelers to win, even way back to that Colts game where the Steelers would have lost because of the crappy call on the Polamalu interception had Vanderjagt not missed. I'm sure the refs swapped out Vanderjagt's cleats for a narrower pair so he'd slice it.) I also agree that replay should be scrapped if they aren't going to learn to use it any better than they do now. Right now all it does is put the microscope on borderline calls and gives fans more excuses to bemoan their team's terrible fate. It decreases everyone's enjoyment of the game. But there's no need for the histrionics, and no need for the tin-foil hat crap. Give it a rest.