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

Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Audibles at the Line: Week 10
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Bill Barnwell

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

Please also note that we do not write the e-mails specifically to produce this column, which means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Raiders fan, not so much.)

Chicago Bears 6 at San Francisco 49ers 10

Aaron Schatz: In the dictionary next to the word "petulant" you'll find a picture of Jay Cutler after he threw a pick right to San Francisco DT Aubrayo Franklin in the red zone. Sure, your man was open, Jay, as long as we ignore the three guys between you and him.

Tom Gower: I don't have anything interesting to say: Alex Smith struggles more under center, Frank Gore is good, Cutler is good but prone to Brett Favre "I can make that throw" syndrome...

Mark Roman had a very nice tackle on Greg Olsen on a 3rd down stop.
Not to wade into a minefield, but I wish Ron Winter had provided an explanation on the Crabtree replay review-whether the incomplete stood because he stepped out of bounds before controlling the ball or whether because Crabtree lost the ball (under the going to the ground rule).

Mike Kurtz: Going to have to watch part of it on DVR. Incidentally, it's sports night on 30 Rock. We got a Canadian Football League movie (fight for every meter on all three downs!) and a show called "Sports Shouting" (with a crawler that reads "Unsure that the Jaguars still exist")

Doug Farrar: I have to say, I think the way this broadcast was set up was completely dishonest and an insult to the intelligence of everyone watching the game. The elephant in the living room has become a blimp. I don't expect Millen to flagellate himself over and over for what he did in Detroit, and I understand that personnel knowledge isn't required for a career in broadcasting, but COME ON. He's introduced at the beginning of the broadcast as a "Four-time Super Bowl Winner, and back in the booth", as if that era never existed. Then, when Millen's talking about Rod Marinelli, he absolutely refuses to mention that he hired this guy to be a head coach once -- oh no, can't bring that up, people might remember! I really think he'd be better off making a self-deprecating reference or two, and then getting on with it. Do NBC, ESPN, and the NFL Network really believe that if it's never mentioned, people will forget that the guy making all those observations is the same guy who probably put together the single worst extended stretch of team management in NFL history? I respect Millen's accomplishments as a player, and I'm not looking to discount what he may bring to the booth -- that's not even my point. I just think it's inexcusable for three different networks to pretend that his time with the Lions doesn't exist.

Aaron Schatz: This thing is a car crash. What an ugly, sloppy game. Some of it is good defensive play by the lines, sure, but there have just been tons of stupid penalties, receivers slipping on the grass, and passes thrown nowhere near anyone. Blech.

Tom Gower: I can't let this one play go.  Michael Robinson catches the little pass from Smith on 3rd down as the 49ers are driving, stumbles and falls and catches, then gets up and RUNS OUT OF BOUNDS.  At the 3:47 mark, so inside the 5 minute rule where the clock will stop on out of bounds plays.  I don't know how much the rest of the game changes there-if the Bears use a time out on SF's possession, or what, but that was a severe lack of game awareness by Robinson-you have the first down, and making sure the clock runs is much more important than 2 or 5 marginal yards there.

Cutler throws his fifth interception to end the game…

Aaron Schatz: Well, this is one place where I think we have to hand it to our friend K.C. Joyner. He was absolutely right. Jay Cutler's decision-making skills are pathetic. That last pass, I mean, not only is Olsen covered, but Cutler throws the ball behind him, which is where the defender is, instead of throwing it in front of him where Olson might have to make a great play but at least he would be the only guy who could get to the ball. Blech. Double blech.

Mike Kurtz: Part of it is that Olsen is the only reliable red zone target Cutler has. He's like his binky ... things went completely south, Cutler felt the pressure of the situation, started running and heaved to Olsen because he probably thought -- in the few seconds he had to put together a plan -- that was the only shot he had.

Sure, it wasn't a great decision, but I'm not sure that particular situation is a good measure of his decision-making skills in general. That's not to say that they're good, of course.

Bill Barnwell: I think Cutler makes that throw because he thinks it's the last play of the game. I don't think he knows that there's actually :03 left when he throws and not :01, and thinks that he has to get a throw off.

Doug Farrar: From an offensive standpoint, the Bears reminded me of the Redskins in this game. They're playing so conservatively with the pass, Cutler was checking down even when it was to his advantage to read and throw deeper. Even when he had time. Nate Clements is out, the 49ers are 29th in DVOA against #1 receivers, you're not getting throttled on every play even though your offensive line isn't that good -- what's up with the Captain Checkdown stuff? I watched Cutler bump into Matt Forte on a draw, and it just occurred to me once again -- he's simply not comfortable in this offense. If you give up what the Bears gave up for Cutler, you'd think there would be some kind of meeting of the minds, but I don't see anything in this offense that differs radically from the "there is only Chicago Bears Quarterback" offenses, except that they can't run the ball anymore.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23 at Miami Dolphins 25

Bill Barnwell: When it comes all-KCW time, Sabby Piscitelli deserves mention. He's looked awful when I've watched him play, and Ronnie Brown just abused him on a 50-yard run.

Mike Tanier: Isn't Piscatelli still looking for the stuff that got stolen from him?

Bill Barnwell: It's too bad it wasn't a pass play, or else I could say "Yeah, it's pretty clear he thinks it's in the backfield." Oh well.

Much later on...

The Martz Award should go to Dan Henning, who made an absolutely awful call by having the Dolphins run a play-action pass deep in their own territory, which Chad Henne promptly threw to Quincy Black. Bucs came back and scored, giving them a one-point win they never should have had.

Mike Tanier: Dolphins game ain't over yet.

Bill Barnwell: Well, until the Buccaneers took a personal foul penalty after the touchdown (that FOX couldn't find any footage of), forcing the Bucs to kick from the 15, and the Dolphins promptly drove down the field for a game-winning Dan Carpenter field goal.

That's followed by a great moment of announcer cliche, as the play-by-play guy notes: "All the Miami Dolphins talked about was that killer instinct, how they needed to finish people; they made it interesting, but it looks like they finished the Tampa Bay Buccaneers here today."

Huh?! They threw an interception on their six-minute drill and lost the lead before the largesse of the other team allowed them to score. That's the opposite of a killer instinct.

Detroit Lions 10 at Minnesota Vikings 27

Vince Verhei: Detroit's front seven is having surprising success. Brett Favre has been under a lot of pressure, and they've mostly bottled up Adrian Peterson. Even on Peterson's long touchdown run, the Vikings got no push to the left, and the backside end should have had him in the backfield, but he is Adrian Peterson, so he slipped a tackle and zipped out the backdoor into the end zone. Unfortunately for the Lions, their secondary is having less success, specifically covering Sidney Rice, who is having a monster day.

Minnesota has more than 300 yards in the first half, but only 10 points, thanks to a failed fourth-down conversion inside the 10 and a couple of lost fumbles. One came on another long Peterson tackle-breaking run, but Phillip Buchanon was able to run him down and punch the ball out at about the 15, and the Lions recovered in the end zone. On the ensuing drive, Lions kick a field goal right before halftime to make it 10-3. Bryant Johnson dropped a difficult but catchable ball in the end zone on the drive. It was the first time all game Matt Stafford had any kind of protection.

Jacksonville Jaguars 24 at New York Jets 22

Doug Farrar: The Sanchize throws an early pick to Rashean Mathis in tight coverage after rolling bootleg left and throwing downfield against his body. Dude, you are not Matt Stafford. Quit thinking you have a Howitzer for an arm.

Bill Barnwell: Thought that the Jets would bottle up Mike Sims-Walker by leaving Darrelle Revis in coverage against him. After a fourth-and-4 conversion on a screen to Mike Thomas, Jets end up with Lito Sheppard against Sims-Walker, and he promptly burns him for a TD.

Mike Tanier: Oh man, the Jags tried to let the Jaguars score, so they could get the ball back, and MJD fell down Westbrook-style on the one yard line! It was a bunch of guys falling down. It was hysterical!

Bill Barnwell: And then Sione Pouha tried to steal the ball from the center.

Cincinnati Bengals 18 at Pittsburgh Steelers 12

Bill Barnwell: Bengals kickoff return was sprung by a really bad missed hold on Mike Logan, the first guy downfield. We've also had two missed extra points (one block, one aborted snap) in the first 20 minutes of Sunday.

Mike Kurtz: Special teams needs to be abolished. For serious.

Cincy's secondary has had a great day thus far (granted, pretty early). Roethlisberger doesn't really have anywhere to go, and thus far he's opted to eat the ball over throwing risky passes,making the pass rush look pretty good.

Cincinnati's power run blocking is just having its way with the Steelers' d-line. On an earlier play, they just shoved the entire line to the left, and just now, every single o-lineman won his battle. This is giving the Bengals some breathing room in the passing game, and they're looking good.

Doug Farrar: They’re really good at getting a big mudslide going one way or the other and just wiping out everything in their way.

Mike Kurtz: I wish CBS would show more of what the Bengals are doing. Roethlisberger has looked completely frozen in the red zone, even with tons of time. No red zone coverage is so good that it holds up against multiple pump fakes and 6 seconds in the pocket.

Pittsburgh's play calling is really unimaginative. They've thrown one or two screens, one of which was an awful bubble screen. They've run, but mostly up the middle out of obvious running formations. Lots and lots of naked shotgun, which has led to either mediocre returns or complete disasters.

Doug Farrar: I did like the way they used Heath Miller on a short run early in the fourth quarter. The Steelers are so good with using bunch formations to set up extra blockers on running plays, and on this play, they sent Miller right to left in a pull. Didn't really work because the Bengals' d-line is very solid today, but I liked the idea.

Mike Kurtz: It's looking like an evenly-played game will end up as a Bengals' win. They had a better game plan, and more importantly they executed it much better. Steelers DBs dropped three interceptions and Roethlisberger failed to get the ball in the end zone in four trips to the red zone. What a mess.

Rob Weintraub: Needless to say I'm ecstatic about not only sweeping the hated Steelers, but doing it the old-fashioned way, outhitting and outblocking them.  Mike Ditka called it a "blatant case of identity theft" which I thought was pretty funny.  While the D-line is getting lots of credit, and deservedly so, it was the outstanding coverage once again that made the rushers look good.  If there are a better pair than Hall and JoJo right now, I'd like to run a deep comeback on them.  Pittsburgh habitually kills us with routes that show outside and slide inside, either by design or ad libs during Roethlisberger scrambles.  The Bengals did a fabulous job of dropping into those passing lanes (often zone blitzing), and the corners stuck with their men like glue--even third CB Morgan Trent.  Roeth sprayed the ball more than usual, which was partly the rush and partly I don't know what--short week blues, perhaps.  What I liked was that Mendenhall and Ward both got clocked early and weren't factors thereafter.

Dare I blaspheme, but solid as Keith Rivers is, his backup Brandon Johnson is better.  He was a Defeat machine in reserve last season, and he has been everywhere the last two games.  Eventually, I expect Rivers to move inside, once Dhani takes a trip and doesn't return. 

Despite the KO return by Scott, and good punting by Huber, Cincy still has kicking issues--Huber bobbled a snap on an extra point that could well have cost us the game.

Someone asked earlier about Palmer's offhand handoffs. He sprained his thumb in week four, been using his right hand to hand off since.  It looks tres bizarre, but they haven't had an issue so far.

Anyone else wonder why Mike Singletary was coaching the Bengals?  First time Marvin has donned the specs, and he morphed into the pants-dropper.

Would be 8-1 but for the BS deflection in the opener vs. Denver.  If that ends up costing us a bye down the line, I'll be pissed. 

New Orleans Saints 28 at St. Louis Rams 23

Doug Farrar: Well, it appears we have ourselves a ballgame, as Bulger throws a TD to Donnie Avery to tie it at seven early in the second quarter. A great insight into St. Louis’ season was the reaction of the kid who is supposed to run across the field with the Rams logo flag after every touchdown. After the Avery score, he looked around and hesitated before raising the flag and starting up, as if to say, “Was that really what I thought it was? Can I do this?”

Rams safety O.J. Atogwe is validating his rep as one of the better players few people talk about. He’s already picked off Drew Brees once, and caused a Marques Colston fumble as Colston tried to jump over him at the end zone. Touchback, and the Rams got the ball back down 21-17 in the third quarter.

Buffalo Bills 17 at Tennessee Titans 41

Tom Gower: Fred Jackson had a couple good plays on the Bills' opening possession against the Titans, including beating Old Keith Bulluck to convert a dumpoff on 3rd down early in the drive, and finishes it off with a TD pass to an open Lee Evans off the WildBill.  Not a particularly good throw, but it had enough on it and Evans was open enough it didn't matter.

Bill Barnwell: Remember when Vince was saying that the Colts shouldn't have Reggie Wayne throw the ball when they have Peyton Manning? The Bills should have no qualms about throwing the ball with Fred Jackson.

Tom Gower: Chris Johnson's first "how the hell did he do that" moment of the game: screen pass left on 3&5, 2 defenders between him and the line of gain, so he completely reverses field, running about 5 yards back, and gets a block from VY and some shielding from Nate Washington to find an alley and pick up 7.

Doug Farrar: He’s breaking it open against the Bills’ horrible run defense late in the first quarter. This could be a re-run of his performance against the Lions last Thanksgiving, where we seriously wondered if he’d bust 300 yards.

Tom Gower: Aside from the TD run (the first "Chris Johnson is fast" moment of the game), they really haven't had the sort of rushing lanes I expected.  Not at all like the Lions game where the plan was "ok, let's run misdirection the first 5 plays and maybe scale back a little bit if we're over 100 yards rushing or up 2 scores."

The Titans also pulled out the college option play this week, on 3&2 on the drive that just resulted in Bironas' FG to make it 17-7.  This time, they used it more intelligently-faking FB give and running the option boot.  VY sucked in the corner and made a proper pitch to Johnson for a 32 yard gain that set up the FG.

Bill Barnwell: Little concerned about the cheerleader they just showed heading into break in Buffalo-Tennessee. She sultrily blew a kiss to the camera. Cheerleaders wave or cheer. Strippers blow kisses. She might end up in a Hooters bathroom somewhere.

Tom Gower: Jairus Byrd gets his 8th interception of the season when VY overthrows Lavelle Hawkins on a seamer down field.  Hey, VY, when there's a single high safety, don't make high throws down the middle of the field.

The Titans have been screening a lot today and having a fair amount of success, as they did the previous two weeks.  You'll hear some people say this is something they should have been doing all along, but this ignores one fairly simple fact: they were a bad screen team earlier in the year-timing was all screwed up and the blocking was bad.  It really looks like they devoted some good bye week practice time to being a better screen team and it's paid off.

One formation note: the Titans have motioned Scaife into the backfield today to give a full house look a couple times today.  They haven't done much with it, aside from run a bootleg once, but we'll see.

Fish is showing up in Martz this week for a terrible challenge that VY was in the end zone on a scramble-he got the first down at the 4 or so and down to the 1, but was down a full yard short of the EZ and obviously so.

As Tom later noted, "For the record, Fish's explanation of his challenge: "No, what happened was that we had the wrong personnel on the field.  We were going to take a timeout anyway and so rather than just take a timeout I took a shot at the review and threw the red flag instead of calling time out.""

Interesting decision-Titans lose 4 on 3&6 from the 29 and are called for holding.  Jauron elects to decline the penalty and let the Titans try a 51 yard field goal down 7 rather than let them try again on 3&16 from outside FG range.  Bironas hits from 51, and the Bills are down 10 with 3:23 to play.

Doug Farrar: Well, that’s a scouting malfunction. Bironas was 7-for-7 from 40 to 49 for the season coming into this game. No attempts from 50 or more until today.

Denver Broncos 17 at Washington Redskins 27

Doug Farrar: Brandon Marshall has two long touchdown receptions in the first quarter. Both were off deep throws from Kyle Orton, and I don’t think there was a Redskins defender within five yards of Marshall on either play. Insert “I wonder who will be taking Greg Blache’s playsheet next week” joke here.

Bill Barnwell: Dan Dierdorf is a legend. This is an exact quote from the game audio.

"Quinton Ganther is not a stranger to taking a lick or handing one out, either! He's deserved a little...he deserves a blow on the sideline."

Followed by three seconds of silence. Is he Tobias Funke?

Hunter Smith throws a 35-yard touchdown off a fake field goal. Bench Campbell for him! He sees a heavy rush every time he's out there! He can handle the pressure.

Aaron Schatz: The Washington fake was really ridiculous, because the Redskins came out in that fake formation and motioned Suisham out to wide receiver, and Denver took a timeout because they were unprepared for it. So they come back after the timeout and Washington does the same thing again, they send Suisham out to wide receiver, and Denver looks like they have no idea what's up, snap to Hunter Smith, and Mike Sellers is running all alone on the left side, touchdown. What the heck? You guys called a timeout -- and decided there was no way they would try that again?

Chris Simms enters for an injured Kyle Orton...

Bill Barnwell: Chris Simms has been awful in Washington -- 2-of-7 with a really ugly duck of a long throw for a pick. It's really easy to denigrate backups when they come in on the spot -- the historical performance of backups when coming in with no notice, I suspect, is way worse than when they start a game -- but he's looked just terrible.

Jason Campbell, on the other hand, looks frazzled. It's not new news or anything, but just the adjective that comes to mind watching him play. The talent's there, but it's easy to see how you can separate the numbers from how he looks.

Aaron Schatz: This game is surprisingly close as we get into the fourth quarter, 17-14 Denver. I think people are probably surprised to see Washington playing hard. We had all sort of decided, "Oh, the Redskins have given up on Jim Zorn." In fact, Washington would be winning this game if their safeties didn't completely suck without Chris Horton in the lineup. I didn't see the first Brandon Marshall deep touchdown, but the second deep touchdown was a play-action. The linebackers and both safeties, Doughty and Landry, were sucked in by the play action. Carlos Rogers goes to pass Marshall off to the deep safety and hey, wait a minute, there is no deep safety. They're all looking around at each other like the Titans in the Titans-Patriots game a couple weeks ago, like, um, what the hell coverage were we playing this time? Then a couple drives later, the whole thing happens again. Denver play-fakes, Doughty looks like he's playing run all the way, but for some reason Landry jumps towards a short route on the left side like he thinks he's gonna jump a route and pick off the play, except Orton NEVER EVEN PUMPS TO THE LEFT. And there's Eddie Royal running all by himself on the right side because Fred Smoot has no safety help. Alas, Orton overthrew him a little, or they would have had another absurd long touchdown. Like I said, I didn't see the first Marshall touchdown but I'm guessing the same thing happened.

And Ladell Betts is having a game. Looks pretty darn good, and the Redskins line -- with Levi Jones signed off the street and starting at left tackle shortly thereafter -- is actually getting some big holes against the Denver front that's been so good this year. Interestingly, D.J. Williams got hurt at one point and the Broncos switched to a four-man front at that point.

Doug Farrar: Chris Simms had some pretty epic pocket presence FAILS late in that game. Washington's front four was kicking his ass all over the place.

Aaron Schatz: Yes, the second half of this game was yet another point for the "Wow, we all misjudged Kyle Orton" column. The difference between Orton and Simms when it comes to pocket presence was quite obvious. In addition, the theory behind the Pittsburgh and Baltimore wins was "OK, teams have discovered how to defend the Broncos... they aren't running well and Kyle Orton can't get it over the top, so just defend all the intermediate routes and you're golden." I think Orton showed in the first half he can get it over the top if you are nice enough to not have a safety there. The problem was:

1) Chris Simms really COULDN'T get it over the top when he tried, and...
2) Wow, the Broncos defensive front doesn't look anything like it looked in those first few games. The defensive line coach is going to be watching the film of this game and really shaking his head. That awful Washington line and their backup running back were having their way with the Broncos.

Kansas City Chiefs 16 at Oakland Raiders 10

Bill Barnwell: JaMarcus Russell runs a perfect hitch-and-go with Louis Murphy...that's wiped out by a tripping call. Poor guy.

Raiders-Chiefs with one of the worst plays of the year. Raiders line up to go for it on fourth-and-1, but JaMarcus Russell bobbles the snap and gets stuffed. One problem? The Chiefs called an icing-the-quarterback timeout right before Russell snapped the ball. In all fairness, I guess it worked.

The Raiders, given a second chance to convert from the same spot, choose to punt instead.

Tom Gower: The Chiefs-Raiders game just went to halftime, about 108 minutes after it kicked off.  Not just badness, interminable badness!

Bill Barnwell: There was maybe the greatest example of fumble recovery being luck since the Derrick Mason/Ken Hamlin incident last year in Oakland-KC; the ball must've gone 20 yards and been in six people's grasp before someone fell on it and it stayed there.

Tom Gower: Shockingly, Gamebook has it as being recovered a mere 13 yards downfield.  I thought it was more like 20-25.

Seattle Seahawks 20 at Arizona Cardinals 31

Doug Farrar: On their first drive, the Seahawks are praised by Dick Stockton for getting out to midfield from their own 15 before their drive stalls. That is a veritable definition of "the soft bias of low expectations".

Tom Gower: So, Seneca Wallace lines up in the slot, then motions out of the slot into the shotgun QB position next to Justin Forsett.  Which position was previously completely unoccupied, aside from the indirectly-lined up Forsett.  Oooh-kay.

Dallas Cowboys 7 at Green Bay Packers 17

Bill Barnwell: Green Bay-Dallas has just been an ugly football game so far. Missed open receivers, poor technique, totally blown blocks or missed assignments, and now three flags in four plays, including two false starts on that great Packers offensive line. A sack by a totally unmarked Orlando Scandrick was nullified by a stupid Mike Jenkins hands to the face penalty.

Lots of Bobby Carpenter early for the Cowboys. That can't be a good thing.

Marc Colombo broke his leg and is probably done for the season. Huge loss for the Cowboys, although it's surprising he lasted this long after beginning his career with years of injury misery for the Bears.

Of course, he's still more mobile than Orlando Pace.

Mike Kurtz: Rodgers is flushed, runs to the sideline and steps for a few yards, and there's some action after he's out of bounds. Ref comes up and says there are two fouls, a holding and then a late hit PF. Then he stands there for a bit, the announcers keep talking, the teams look vaguely confused. The ref comes on and says "Correction.." then explains that the holding was declined and the personal foul was on Green Bay.

That about sums up this game.

And then Rodgers starts jumping back and forth in the pocket, eventually starts running and has the ball punched out from behind, everyone jumps on it. Green Bay recovers, but I'm expecting Benny Hill to line up at H-back.

Mike Tanier: Spencer Havner touchdown! The Packers split him out in the far position as a wide receiver and he caught a little hitch at the goal line. What a creative use of a converted fullback. I love watching teams that have a plan in the red zone. Okay, now back to the Eagles.

David Gardner: In Green Bay, McCarthy just called his third challenge of the game, and Jeff Triplett went under the hood before realizing it. He then kindly announced that the ruling on the field would stand.  

Tom Gower: Sorry, Jason. Witten flinches while lined up in the backfield, the Packer D jumps up and starts pointing in his direction, and then he decides "Hmm, I'll motion out and line up in the slot, maybe they won't realize I false started."  Nice try, but no dice.

Mike Kurtz: Especially since at that point, the flanker was ALSO in motion, and looking at him like he was insane.

David Gardner: On third and goal, Roy Williams was on the winning end of a questionable pass interference call, and the Cowboys got a new set of downs from the 2. Romo looks for Witten in the end zone but instead finds Charles Woodson

Aaron Schatz: I'm sorry, but what was the point of Dallas running all those plays at the end down 17-0? Including a bubble screen where Miles Austin got whacked and a sneak for Romo? They were like a kid playing Madden who was pissed about getting clobbered by his more talented friend (let's call him "Ian Dembsky") and desperately tries to score points at the end of the game. Because, you know, in a Madden exhibition game injuries don't matter for the rest of the season. Unlike if you get hurt sneaking when losing 17-0.

Tom Gower: Obviously, to screw us owners of the Green Bay defense in fantasy by taking away our shutout points.

Philadelphia Eagles 23 at San Diego Chargers 31

Bill Barnwell: FOX just has a graphic at the top of their Eagles-Chargers ticker announcing that "HOT ZONE EXTRA" would be next. I have no idea what that is. There's only six hits on Google for "HOT ZONE EXTRA". Huh?

Tom Gower: I know I can't say this as a TEN fan, but thank you, thank you, thank you, Brian Billick.  In addition to writing an excellent book on the current NFL ("More Than a Game"), he said the Eagles are kicking "out of the shadow of their own goalposts," rather than the normal "shadow of their own goalline."  Goalline: chalk on field, doesn't cast shadow.  Goalposts: tall things, can cast shadow.

Bill Barnwell: Another example of the establishment-clause-run-amuck is Brian Billick referencing LaDainian Tomlinson saying that he needs "20-25 carries to establish his rhythm". So LT is only in rhythm late in the fourth quarter of games?

Doug Farrar: Brian Billick, we love you. We also hate you.

Mike Tanier: Reggie Brown just caught a pass!
 
And the Eagles just ran a reverse that was a crime against nature! Loss of six.

Bill Barnwell: Billick called it a double reverse. Demerit. McNabb inaccurate early.

Tom Gower: In our continuing adventures of Brian Billick: Love and Hate, he was talking about the empty meaning the pass rushing Shauns had to play coverage and first mentioned Shaun Rogers.  Yeah, the Chargers could really use him right now.

Mike Tanier: Lots of McNabb bombs (incomplete) early. A holding penalty on each and every punt. I have seen this game before. It always ends the same.

Bill Barnwell: The sideline reporter just mentioned what a big loss the injured DeSean Jackson would be for "...Phillies fans".

Tom Gower: Excellent two handed shove by Malcom Floyd there on Sheldon Brown to give himself position for the catch and set up the Chargers 1&G inside the 5.

Mike Tanier: Brian Westbrook does a good job in pass pro, blocking Brandon Siler. McNabb then scrambles right into Siler, who snatches McNabb like a Venus Flytrap while lying on the ground.

Aaron Schatz: Andy Reid. Third-and-1, down by the goal line. Do we sneak it? Run it? No, no, we roll out and nobody is open, because of course the Chargers know we'll pass because they have this thing called "film." Then fourth-and-1, down 21-6 with 21 minutes to go, they kick the field goal. Look, I'm sorry about last week, but historically Donovan McNabb has an excellent record on sneaks. You kick the field goal, you still have to score two touchdowns. Sneak the ball. Sneak the ball. SNEAK THE F'ING BALL, ANDY.

Bill Barnwell: The Eagles follow that with a big stuff inside their own 40 after a first-and-5 ... until they get called for offsides on third-and-2. Stupid, stupid, stupid play.

Mike Tanier: Eagles in November. Egads. Wake me when they start their panicky late season surge.

Tom Gower: That was a ridiculous bailout grab by Avant on McNabb's effort to throw an interception.

Bill Barnwell: Westbrook suffered another concussion, now his second in three weeks. That might be ballgame.

New England Patriots 34 at Indianapolis Colts 35

Tim Gerheim: Why do you suppose Andrea Kremer has so many zippers on her jacket?

Aaron Schatz: Really interesting here with the Pats starting out. Ty Warren is out (not good for Pats) and the Pats have started a 2-4-5 defense... but it's really a 4-2-5 because the linemen are both DTs (Wilfork and Mike Wright) and the OLBs were both pass-rush specialists (Burgess, who was a DE of course in the Oakland 4-3, and Tully Banta-Cain).

Angry about the challenge of the Reggie Wayne pass in the first quarter. That was a catch. On the replay, it is pretty obviously a catch. What on earth are the guys upstairs telling Belichick there? Look, in the first quarter, if you're going to challenge a play, that replay better be a slam dunk. You can't go wasting one of your challenge flags on a play in the first quarter that isn't a scoring play or one that you know will be overturned! Josh McDaniels did the same thing earlier today with a first-quarter fumble by Buckhalter that was really obviously a fumble. You don't want to get stuck in the same situation as Andy Reid last week, left with no challenges with a whole quarter left in a close game or whatever. Don't throw a "hey, maybe they'll see something unexpected on the tape" challenge flag in the first damn quarter. Aaaarrrggghhh.

Doug Farrar: And Jeff Fisher, too. Was there a memo to coaches this week that they’d get 2-for-1 on challenges?

Yeah, the formation stuff is interesting. The Patriots saying, “Phooey on your running game,” and the Colts replying with, “Yeah, phooey on our running game. Let’s go.”

I’d like to see anyone throw a better ball than Peyton did on the sideline pattern to Reggie Wayne with 9:51 left in the first quarter. Holy crap.

Mike Kurtz: It's fitting that this happens in Indianapolis, since the "wishful thinking" challenge was one of Dungy's signature moves.

Tom Gower: Don't forget Mike McCarthy, challenging Nelson being down at the 1 when it would have been 1&G.

Tim Gerheim: Except when there's an arcane rule involved, I hate when the officials elaborate on calls that they review but don't reverse.  When they say "the ruling on the field is confirmed," they're saying something that's irrelevant when they aren't asked to confirm the ruling in the first place, only to see if they can ascertain that it was wrong.  When they say that and explain what happened when the calls are clear, then when they say "the ruling on the field stands" like they're supposed to, it tells us that they can't tell so they're sticking with the ruling on the field.  Officiating suffers when when everybody, including probably the officials a little bit, starts to get confused of just what they're supposed to be doing out there.

Tom Gower: On the second down run before the sideline completion to Moss, Freeney immediately dropped into coverage.  I don't know if he read run or what, but if that was a zone blitz, that's a wrinkle you don't see very often from the Colts.

Vince Verhei: As an owner of Moss and Brady, playing someone who owns Manning, Wayne, and Addai, allow me to say: Yippee!

Seven minutes later…

The prior posting was made BEFORE the Manning-to-Wayne touchdown. Now I am bummed.

Aaron Schatz: Remember the 2006 AFC Championship? There will be no counting of the chickens prior to the hatching of said chickens.

Tom Gower: There are few things I know in life, but one of them is that a post route like Wayne's for the TD should not work against a team playing man coverage with a single high safety.  Yes, that means you, James Sanders.

Doug Farrar: Antoine Bethea didn't watch the video of Rams safety James Butler getting tackled in the end zone for a safety against the Lions a couple weeks ago. He made a great play to pick Brady-to-Moss in the end zone, decided to run the ball out, and just barely avoided the same fate.

Aaron Schatz: Wow, Sebastian Vollmer is really pushing Dwight Freeney back behind Tom Brady. I'm quite impressed.

One play passes…

Aaron Schatz: And of course, one play after I write that, Vollmer completely loses Freeney, and the only thing that saves Brady is that Logan Mankins comes over and gets Freeney for an extra hit before he gets to Brady.

Tom Gower: Barry Sims did an excellent job of handling Freeney two weeks ago after Joe Staley went out with an injury.  Freeney's still good, don't get me wrong, but he's not an every-down holy terror like Jared Allen.

Mike Kurtz: I gladly welcome any and all Colts fans into my movement to abolish special teams.

Aaron Schatz: Big reason why the Patriots are winning this game: Dallas Clark always runs wild up the middle of the field against them, catching pass after pass. Tonight, they've got him controlled. Brandon McGowan is playing very well. Through three quarters: two catches for Clark on three passes. Pretty amazing.

I'm just blown away by the Peyton Manning interception with 7:45 left. Reggie Wayne goes in, and Manning throws deep like it's a go. When is the last time you saw miscommunication between Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne?

Bill Barnwell: Hell, when was the last time I saw communication between Isaiah Stanback and a quarterback?

The Patriots fail to convert on fourth-and-short.

Bill Barnwell: Wow. Belichick is saying that the odds of the Patriots converting a fourth-and-2 is better than the odds of them stopping the Colts from, what, the Indy 35 or so?

Tom Gower: Less the odds the Pats drive for a game-winning score in the time remaining after the Colts score.  Kind of irrelevant now.

The decision I almost wrote an email about is that taking the TO the first play after a change of possession is normally an example of Raider-like incompetence.  Does he challenge the call?  Does he save it for the comeback?  Either way, using 2 TOs that drive is a bad move.

Aaron Schatz: I am in total shock. Total fan shock.

1) I feel bad for Darius Butler. There's no way he avoids that defensive pass interference there, where Austin Collie came back to the ball. There's no way for Butler to stop his momentum and not bump into him. He really didn't do anything. Smart play by Collie.

2) Fourth-and-2 is not the same as fourth-and-1.

3) Fourth down from your own 30 is not the same as fourth down on the
opponent's 30.

4) When you need two yards to ice the game, is it better to send
everyone on two-yard patterns, or to send everyone on THREE-yard
patterns and give a little room for error?

5) Reggie Wayne is awesome. By the way, Jonathan Wilhite could have
been flagged for pass interference on that play.

6) New England is still going to be number one in DVOA. From an emotional standpoint, and a standings standpoint, this sucker was all Indy. But from a play-by-play standpoint, it was basically a tie. After what happened against the Rams today, I wouldn't take the Saints against either team.

Will Carroll: Joe Sheehan said it best: "There's arrogance and then there's that play."

I expect a lot of complaints about the juggling call, but it looked right. And I'm pretty sure that Peyton Manning actually is as good as he thinks he is now.

Doug Farrar: I was amazed -- I thought for sure Brady was just trying to draw the Colts offside and they wouldn't actually run that play. And I felt that it was more overconfidence in his offense than a lack of faith in his defense.

Bill Barnwell: The play that comes to mind for me here is the safety the Patriots took against the Broncos a few years ago in a game that they ended up winning, after which Belichick was hailed as a genius, with very few people saying that he'd made the wrong decision. You can't judge people based upon what happened after the fact. You have to judge those decisions based upon what they knew at the time. I know it's not realistic, but your opinion of the playcall should be the same regardless of whether they convert and win or whether they fail to and lose. 

Aaron Schatz: Your opinion of the decision not to punt, that is. You are allowed to question the specific play call (two-yard patterns).

Rob Weintraub: So the Bengals outslug the Steelers, and Bill Belichick channels Norv Turner.  What the hell is going on around here?  Actually, he channeled the ol' Bootlegger's Boy, Barry Switzer--remember in 1995 when he went for it on his own 20 or so against Philly, not once but twice (two-minute warning saved him the first time), and was stuffed?  Love the idea of twinning Switzer and Belichick.

So it's 1st and goal Indy, 35 or so ticks left.  Addai gets stuffed.  Anyone think he sort of half-stepped it in there, purposefully not scoring?  Didn't appear so, but that was the perfect  play there to kill another 20ish seconds, and it wouldn't be beyond Manning to have his offense do that.

Bill Barnwell: I think it was worse that the Patriots didn't let Addai score on that long run.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, that's instinct by the defensive players. It's hard to expect them to think quickly enough there to let him score. Even if MJD did do that today for Jacksonville (well, the opposite, that is). It's not like Mike Holmgren in the Super Bowl against Denver when he specifically told players to let TD score from the two. That would have to be some REALLY quick thinking to let Addai score.

Doug Farrar: All I know is that I was in my kitchen pre-snap, yelling “Why the HELL aren’t you punting?!?!?” at the TV. And if Faulk makes that first down, I’m thinking that Belichick escapes a bad decision.

Mike Kurtz: There's no good call in that situation. Indy can move the ball quickly, and just showed you that they can. Extra yardage will help you get a stop, but it comes down to how much he trusts the defense, pure and simple. If he punts, he's taking a risk. If he goes for it, he's taking a risk. I think he took the longer of the two risks, but you can't blame him. Neither option is very good.

David Gardner: That being said, I think it's a dumb decision independent of the outcome. Rodney Harrison on NBC's postgame coverage, visibly upset, said that he believed it to be Belichick's worst coaching decision ever.

Bill Barnwell: With all due respect, Rodney Harrison was saying that Tom Brady was better than Peyton Manning in the pregame show because he has two more Super Bowl rings. I could give a damn what he thinks about situational playcalling.

I agree that it's the wrong decision. I think that it's a lot closer than the public appears to think, though, and that you have to bash Belichick both ways. 

Rob Weintraub: Really the unsung key moment was when NE had to call time out coming off the touchback at 34-28, before their first play.  I don't think I've ever seen that from Brady/Belichick. 

Ned Macey: I'm late to the party here because I was on DVR, but two yards to gain against the Colts, two downs to do it.  I know you have Brady, but maybe, just maybe you should have ran?  They got more than two yards on the QB sneak. 

I think Belichick was wrong to go for it, and you don't know what effect the decision to go for it had on the defenses morale, but wasn't he somewhat vindicated by the fact that the defense rolled over on the 30-yards?  Still, if he had just run on third down, he likely would have made it, and if not, Manning would have had less than 2 minutes, no timeouts, and 65+ yards to go. 

And this game was radically similar to 2003, but this time, the Colts got in from the one-yard line.

Vince Verhei: I had something to take care of near the end of the game, so I turned it off after the field goal that put New England ahead 34-21. I didn't hear anything else about it until I got into my car 30 or 40 minutes later, turned on the radio, and heard Bill Belichick talking about a failed fourth down attempt that led to a loss. I was confused. Why, I asked myself, are they playing a Belichick soundbite from some other game several years ago? By the time I realized exactly what had happened here, well, it's a good thing my car was at a red light at the time.

I'm fine with going for it on fourth down, but if you're going to do that, the third-down call MUST be a running play. Even if it fails, you'll probably still gain one yard, and that makes the fourth-down conversion easier. Going into the game, New England's offensive line was fifth in power situations; Indianapolis' defensive line was 26th. If they run twice, it's almost inconceivable that they don't pick up the first down.

Flotsam and Jetsam

Tom Gower: Quotes that wouldn't be improved by the addition of the rest of the stuff he said: Rich Gannon: "he had a groin last year, and that's part of your value to the team."

Comments

279 comments, Last at 18 Nov 2009, 3:21pm

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Bellicheck was wrong to go for it, and his agressiveness has backfired more in recent years than it did early in his career. That said, his aggressiveness is a big part of what has made him great, albeit more on the defensive side of the ball.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Belichick was wrong for burning the time outs. Though I though it was a suicidal call as well, they converted on it only for a bad call from the refs. Balls of steel call, but actually a good one - and there has been one or the other game in the past where Belichick handed it to the opponent instead of going for it and lost. What would you have said if it worked?

But I am wondering whether the Pats have lost any ability to win close games the past couple of years ... except for the two close games in 07 (Eagles and Ravens, the latter coming of a bad call by the refs on the Gaffney TD [even though I think they would've won anyway]), they lost any important and close game the past seasons ... Broncons in the Playoffs, Colts in the AFC C, Jets and esp. Broncons this year. And Colts ... Jets last year (the OT game where they burned their playoff hopes)

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I simply don't fathom how people say "Belichick was wrong" with such moral authority when the replays show Faulk starting the catch from the far side of the 30.

Clearly, whatever the probability was of actually making the first down there, the Pats came within a whisker of succeeding. They were much closer at succeeding there than they were at stopping the Colts' offense at any time in the 4th quarter.

The previous 79-yard drive took about 100 seconds for the Colts. Even accounting for the (bad IMO) DPI call, the Pats didn't look for one second like they could even slow down the Colts, much less stop them.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I personally liked Belichick's decision to go for it. As for if its correct, lets assume NE converts 60% of the time. If they convert they pretty much win the game right there. If they fail, Indy still has to score a TD to win; let's say they do that 50% of the time. So going for it results in a NE win 80% of the time.

If instead they punt, this means they need to stop Indy more than 80% of the time. I'm just not sure they keep them out of the end zone that often.

I'd also add that in the 1st situation, if Indy scores NE will tend to have a little more time on the clock to try and get the FG so that is one more slight edge towards going for it.

Its certainly a close decision, and in a close call like this I'd rather give Brady a chance to win the game rather than have to stop Manning.

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'm pretty shocked you guys think the 4th down was a bad call. have you guys been watching manning this season?

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

That is quite the hypocritical BS drive-by assertion.

You assert that they don't know as much as they think because they disagree with you? It seems that both parties are going through a bit of hubris, and it just so happens that one of the parties is a group of professional football analysts. Not that they can't be wrong, but if you're going to contend that they are, at least lay it on the line, throw some numbers down or something. These one line "i am smart n dey r dum" cheap shots are embarrassing.

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Dude. Play the percentages. Football coaches know more about the game than internet commenters (even you!) but stats are inescapable. Go with the best success rate. Dungy nailed it on the head.

That said, I don't blame them for the call. The New England offense picking up 2 versus their defense stopping Manning and the Colts in 60-70 yards with 2 minutes left? I can see it going either way. A 4th down conversion attempt is a higher risk and a higher reward, but I have to wonder how much the reward of being hailed as a coaching genius played into the call.

199 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Unfortunately, playing it by the percentages would mean doing the opposite of what you seem to want. The stats say to go for it:

http://www.advancednflstats.com/2009/11/belichicks-4th-down-decision-vs-colts.html

273 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Not really. Dungy, while a great Monday-to-Saturday coach, motivator, and planner, always had a reputation as a below-average gameday decision-maker. There's even that classic image of Manning waving the punting team off the field in order to go for a first down.

I'm nowhere near surprised that Dungy would have punted in that situation. It's just his style.

161 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

If the Pats would have converted, I'm sure their outlook would be different.

He'd be a "genius".

Look, they put the ball into the hands of the 1A,B,C best player in the NFL and asked him to convert 2 yards to win. That's better than giving the ball to a dominant 1A,B,C best player in the NFL and asking your gassed defense to stop him. If Brady gets that, it's game over. It might be the fact that these statisticians are also football fans too, and are angry that their team lost.

234 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I didn't read the links and I wasn't talking about his post per say. I was talking about the Football Outsiders ( I guess Aaron later changed his mind) and the other talking heads in the media.

If the Pats convert that, I'm sure the "experts" on ESPN would be talking about just how smart Bill Bellicheck is, and I'm sure the outsiders would be pretty excited about it as well. OK, maybe 1 or 2 would dissent and say they should have punted even AFTER they converted just to be different, but I think most people would have loved the call and defended had it worked.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Going for it was absolutely the right call. 4th and 2 has, what, a 60% conversion rate? If they make it, the game is over, Pats win. I don't think it makes much difference if Manning has 70 or 30 yards to go with 2 minutes left in the game. Their best chance was to not give Manning another chance.

154 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

If NWE gets the first down, its the 2 minute warning. Goes to 1.52 with the colts using their last TO. Kneel on 2nd down. 1.07. Kneel on 3rd down. 0.20. Punt. Colts get ball back on their own 20 with 15 seconds or so left. Game is over.

169 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Plus there's the chance that the Pats actually pick up the next first down.

As someone with no rooting interest in this game, I thought at the time that going for it was a bad call, but have since changed my mind. Partly due to the various statistical analyses I've seen since last night, partly due to the belief that you want to win or lose the game with your best players. Like last year as a Steelers' fan, I was perfectly happy to see the fourth-quarter offensive game plan to be "run the ball three times, take two minutes off the clock, then punt and let the defense win the game." The Pats' offense is the best unit on the team, and as others have pointed out, this difference was magnified last night due to injuries and fatigue. In that situation, I'd rather give Brady & Co. the opportunity to win the game than rely on the defense.

176 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

They burned two timeouts on the previous plays in the series. They only had one left. You're right that they needed another first down anyway, but if they converted that, the clock goes to 2:00, then they can still run 1:30 off the clock after the Colts burn the last timeout. Punting with :30 left is a lot better than punting at 2:04.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

You know, I think it was an iffy call but why are people saying it was so absurd? The colts had just scored two long drives in basically under 2mins. ITs 2 yards and the pats had shown they could effectively move the ball on the ground, through short, medium and deep. Both qbs were brilliant, but manning made the tougher throws under more pressure.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The Colts already had a 79 yard drive in 2:09 and a 79 yard drive in 1:49 during the forth quarter. Another 70 yards in 2:00 with a timeout, while certainly not a certainty, is a gamble as well.

Speaking as a Colts fan, I was much more uncomfortable with the Pats going for it then if they had punted it. I've just seen too many Pats games where that short out to Welker seals the deal.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Ben, I love that point. Sometimes, the fans are the ones that REALLY know. If I had to bet, I'd say that it was the wrong call, but it's certainly defensible. (If the Pats had 2 or 3 timeouts that they could have used aggressively to ensure themselves a full minute or so to set up a FG after a Colts go-ahead score, I'd think it was the right call.) But the point I keep thinking of is, I'll bet that when the Colts fans saw the forced 4th down, they were ecstatic, and when the Pats offense came out on 4th-and-2, they were saying, "NO, NO ... Punt, damn you!" That's as good as test as any for what the right call really was! (As an Eagles fan, I remember a call just like this in the 4th-and-26 playoff game with the Packers a few years ago ... when the Packers punted on a 4th-and-1 near midfield protecting a TD lead late in the game, there was no doubt in my mind what the right call was, because I was PETRIFIED that they were going to run Ahman Green instead.)

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

As someone with a strong interest in the outcome of this game, I can say Belicheat going for it on 4th down was the absolute right call. I hate hate hate when the Colts don't go for it on 4th and short and I absolutely hate when teams facing them do because it seems like most of the times it's converted. With the time left and the way the offense was rolling, I was very happy to see 4th down coming up. I was very unhappy to see them going for it.

This game reminds me of the mirror image of the '07 game. In the Pats 16-0 glory, people forget that was probably one of the Colts best teams, only injuries (especially to Freeney) killed their season. They beat the Pats for 3 quarters then the defense broke down and allowed a comeback. This time exactly the opposite.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"when the Pats offense came out on 4th-and-2, they were saying, "NO, NO ... Punt, damn you!" That's as good as test as any for what the right call really was!"

I have to disagree there. I was, as a Colts fan, saying "no, punt, damn you" but not because BB was making the best decision. I was saying that because if NE converted, they would win, without question. But, that doesn't make it the right call. It's like watching a basketball game with just seconds to go, and your team is ahead by 2. If the opponents take a 3-pointer, you're shouting "no, no, take the layup!" because if they succeed, you lose. But, that doesn't mean taking the 3 is the better decision, if a lay up is there for the taking (now, I am not saying the punt is a layup, but I am saying that just because a fan is nervous doesn't mean it's the right call.

Let me give another analogy: If my team were up by 7, and gave up the tying TD with no time left, I would be extremely nervous if the opponent chose to go for 2 for the win, as opposed to kicking the XP for the tie. Does my nervousness mean that the opponent is making the right choice? No, obviously.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

But compare your attitude in BOTH situations. In the basketball situation, if the opposition passes up the 3 for a wide-open layup, you're going to be screaming at your team's horrible defense for giving up the tying points so easily. Conversely, here, I bet you were pretty amped up at the idea of Peyton getting the ball back with tons of time and a timeout in hand. Your biggest worry was probably not to score the TD too quickly.

And I don't think you're necessarily "scared" when the opposing basketball team takes a 3 or when the opposing football team goes for two ... I think you're just really amped up knowing that you're going to know if you win or lose in the next two seconds. I don't think you're scared b/c the other team made the smart odds-on play call.

To go back to when I was in your shoes, the Eagles-Pack 4th-and-26 game, I wasn't nervous thinking of an Ahman Green run on 4th-and-1 b/c heads, we'd definitely lose; tails, we'd have a good chance to win. I was nervous b/c there was a heck of a lot better than a coin flip's chance of the former.

212 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Why "no, obviously?" I don't know the percentages on 2-point conversions, but if a team is good at it, why wouldn't you just take your chances of converting as opposed to leaving it up to the whim of the coin?

Now, "obviously," the coach is going to be pilloried if they don't make it, but that shouldn't be the deciding factor, whereas losing the coin toss in OT and giving up a FG - well, the coach takes no heat for that. So it's easy to see why a coach would choose the "safe" method - no criticism if it fails. But he should be trying to maximize the team's chances of winning as opposed to minimizing his chances of getting criticized. I think that's what Belichick was doing last night, and I strongly approve of the move.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Completely different defenses, completely different offensive attacks. 30 seconds could be a minute and a half in a Super Bowl 43 situation. And half the length is a bit dramatic, don't you think? You return a kick to the 30 and you only need a 15 yarder, spike, a 20 yarder, spike to have a shot at a FG. Maybe less than that in a dome. (And I'm not even weighing one against the other, one's a mitigating factor.)

Plus as we discussed somewhere else, you can't just say "the Pats offense." The Pats offense is not quite as good as its overall stats in the 4th and 2 situation, b/c Randy Moss stretching the field is a huge part of their success, and that element doesn't come into play on 4th and 2. Put one guy on him bump and run, and if they toast you they toast you. "The Pats offense" is better in the 2 minute offense, when Moss is a feared weapon, as opposed to on 4th and 2, when he's just one more way they can get 2 yards and sew up the game.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"I could give a damn what [Rodney Harrison] thinks about situational play-calling."-- Bill Barnwell

Reaaaaallly?

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I thought the Pats dominated the game and will have a healthy VOA advantage. The only thng about the game that I was surprised by was how effectively the Colts were able to run the ball.

202 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Really? I don't see how the Pats would have a much higher VOA. They dominated for 2.5 quarters but if you get dominated just as badly at the end of the game it doesn't really matter which part you outplayed the other team.

The Pats gained 6.6 yards per play and the Colts gained 6.5. The Pats had 24 first downs and the Colts had 25. The Pats had 1 INT and 2 fumbles and the Colts had 2 INT's and no fumbles. How was this not a really close contest?

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Regarding the Patriots loss: Is there any statistical data on won-loss record when Belichick is wearing his charcoal-sleeves cut-off-hoodie vs. other gear? This year they won any game when he was in charcoal, and three losses were the only (?) games where he was wearing something else.

Anytime the game starts I get a bad feeling in the gut when I see him wearing something else ... should the Patriots fire their equipment manager? Is there any correlation between won-loss record and coaches gear?

Sad to see the Pats lose this one ... Another close Pass interference call against the Pats (I though they got rid of Hobbs to get rid of the "not really pass interference-jokes" the refs used). And the 4th and two (non-)conversion: Sorry guys, the ref is standing on the freakin 30yd line, he knows that the first down is exactly on the 30 because it was a touchback ... They must make the right call on this one on the field. Refs seem to have a severe tendency in such situations to make the call which does not decide the game instead of making a risky call which may end up wrong after watching the replay 30 times on a 100 inch HD screen (from Sony, thanks Peyton).

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I have no doubt the probability the Patriots convert 4th and 2 is higher than the probability they prevent Peyton Manning from going ~70 yards down the field and scoring (plus the small probability of something going wrong on the punt, be it bad snap, block or long return). Getting the first down ends the game. Going for the first down was correct.

Unfortunately it blew up in Belichick's face, which means it'll now be 20 years before another coach dares to do anything but punt in the 'obvious punt' situations.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I don't think this was that terrible of a decision if you really calculate it out. Obviously these percentages can be quibbled with but I think they are reasonable assumptions.

I think they convert that 4th and 2 play about 2/3 of the time, at which point the game is over.

If you don't convert, I think you can still say that the defense stops them from scoring a TD 1/3 of the time.

So going for it on 4th down, win% is 66% plus 1/3 of 33%, so about 77%.

If they punt it, the Colts probably get it at their own 30 just after the 2 minute warning with 1 timeout remaining. I think the Colts would score a TD more than 23% of the time in that situation. So I think it was the right decision and it increased the Pats' chances of winning the game.

I totally agree that if they were going to go for it on 4th down they should have just run it on the 3rd and 2, which would have had the added advantage of burning a TO that Indy didn't have to use on the first incompletion. The problem is that Belichick clearly hadn't decided to go for it until the 4th down situation actually arose, and I'm guessing the playcallers had no idea they'd also try on 4th.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'm not surprised by the number of media/fans people criticizing "the call", I'm surprised by the number of FO guys to flat out criticize it.

What's wrong with a 40%-or so chance to win the game, the downside being giving 30 yards to Manning ? With 30 seconds/1 minute to go, it would have been a bad move... But with 2+ minutes to go and a timeout ? I'm with Belichick.

Oh and Eagles ? When you look at the big picture, and see that only Jamaal Jackson and a back from injury S.Andrews are the only projected starters playing on the OL, Westbrook has been injured all season, Curtis too, 2 rookies are starting on offense, the secondary has been hit with injuries/suspension, 3 LBs out, 6 players have lined up at MLB, you can understand what is happening. I'm even surprised that they are still competitive.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'm surprised as well, because I guarantee you that people that look at it analytically will conclude it was a justifiable decision.

Listen, I'm not saying it was a great decision, but it certainly wasn't a bad one. I would have made the same decision, but the that decision was not the obviously correct (or incorrect) one. And it certainly wasn't channeling Norv. If you run any sort of analysis of it, at worst, it was a completely justifiable decision (as would the decision to punt have been), and at best, it was the clearly best call.

You would have to make some extremely unreasonable assumptions (like Peter King does in assuming that the Colts are 100% to score from the 28 but 35% to score from 40 yards further down field, in order to conclude this was a bad decisionmaking process.

Chase Stuart at the PFR blog just posted some analysis of it.

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/blog/?p=4671

233 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

As has been pointed out elsewhere in this thread, even the simple probabilities favor going for it on 4th. I'm terribly bitter about the outcome (and the 3rd down play call), but I agree with the decision to go for it. NE defense was totally gassed and wasn't stopping anything. I figured the worst case was they turn over on downs, the defense lays down, and the offense gets the ball back with around a minute left to get into field goal range. I think Addai's breakthrough run was at like 1:20, which would have been perfect, had he scored.

At the very least, NFL fans got a HELL of a game.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I thought the New England D-line was looking really tired. I saw a couple of them barely rushing at times. It allowed Peyton to get in the zone and that is almost impossible to defend. I think the chances that Indianapolis scores a TD after a punt was >80%. The chances that Indy scores a TD after a failed 4th down was >90%. Not sure what the chances of converting that 4th down was, but I think it was way higher than 10%. So as crazy as it seems I actually think BB made the right decision given the circumstances. The TOs and not running on 4th and all that made it his best option at that point.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

You can question the play that the Patriots ran.

You should question the Patriots use of challenges and time outs.

You cannot question that going for the first down was correct.

To Doug Farrar: They weren't punting because they can do math and want to win the game.

To Ned Macey: That his defense failed from the 30 suggests they might have failed after a punt but the question is this:

Percent chance of failing to gain two yards multiplied by percent chance of failing to stop the Colts from the 30 vs. Percent chance of failing to stop the Colts after a punt.

To Aaron Schatz: I sympathize with how you feel after a tough loss. I am a Jets fan. Having said that, Belichick made the call that would help his team win most often. It didn't work out, and as such it will be viewed as a blunder, but it was the correct move and having him as Patriots coach increases their chances of winning any given game.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"Percent chance of failing to gain two yards multiplied by percent chance of failing to stop the Colts from the 30 vs. Percent chance of failing to stop the Colts after a punt."

This is the right math for the situation, but I think you could come up with very reasonable percent values that swing the decision in either direction. I think it was a close decision.

The real problem was that Belichick and Brady failed to gain 2 yards on two consecutive plays with the game on the line. In contrast, in two drives, where Manning absolutely needed a touchdown on both, he averaged 10 yards per play.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The real problem was that Belichick and Brady failed to gain 2 yards on two consecutive plays with the game on the line.

That's what said Brady in his post-game press conference.

I agree that go-for-it was right, mainly in the spectator point-of-view (that was fun!), but I also agree that they should have ran in the 3rd down, and that they should have played on deeper patterns in the 4th.

So, there are a lot ot things about this play that goes beyond the matter of "go for it or not".

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The problem with saying that they should have run on 3rd down is that they tried running on 1st down and it failed miserably. I'd love it if the Pats were designed in a way with a big RB like Brandon Jacobs for short-yardage situations. But for the past few years, they just aren't built that way. Not with their RB options limited to Maroney and Faulk (even LawFirm was out at that point).

And 2 yards is too long for a QB sneak.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

And let's get one key item in here ... whether or not you agree with the Belichick call, that's debatable. The one thing that's not debatable is he made an unconventional call based on what he thought gave his team the best chance to win, even though it exposed him to huge amounts of criticism, whereas following the status quo and losing would have directed all the blame to his defensive players. This is the kind of decision that very few coaches/managers in any major sport make nowadays, and I salute him for that. For me, last night goes down in history with KC-OAK from about 5 years ago, when Dick Vermeil went for a TD from the 1 on the last play of regulation rather than the chippie FG and OT, where losing a coin flip would have led to OAK marching down the field on his awful defense. Kudos for that!

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Heh, Tom Cable is gone at the end of the year anyways (or as soon as the NFL gives Al Davis "cause" to fire Cable without paying his salary). He's in exactly the kind of position where losing isn't held against him (they are expected to loose) and winning might save his job (OK, not likely but winning might get him another coaching job somewhere else).

Advancednflstats.com has a good analysis of this decision and it comes out 80% chance of winning by going for the 4th and 2 and 70% chance of winning if they punt. Neither takes into account the actual ability of the teams involved, they are general chances of a team winning the game with the given field position, down and distance and time left on the clock. Given that both offenses are significantly better than league average it probably increases the chances of the Patriots converting and the chances of the Colts scoring if they get the ball back with makes the decision look even better:
http://www.advancednflstats.com/2009/11/belichicks-4th-down-decision-vs-colts.html

198 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Experienced Madden gamers know that they didn't fulyl exectute this strategy. I agree with the call to go for it, but if you fail then youa llow a touchdown as soon as possible. That way now you have the minute plus of time to only get a FG to win.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Bengals kickoff return was sprung by a really bad missed hold on Mike Logan, the first guy downfield.

The real Mike Logan has been complaining all season on his radio show that people keep mixing him up with #11, STEPHAN Logan.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I too thought the call on 4th and 2 was a good one for numerous reasons (random odds, O strength vs D weakness, history...) and I am surprised at how extreme the opinions are against it, even blaming the whole loss on that one play. Sorry, but Brady had two shots to get two yards--on 3rd down he almost threw a pick-six to a rookie CB, and then as Aaron pointed out, a 2.0 yard pass on 4th and 2. Because of the height of the pass and the bobble, it moved it back to a 1.5 yard gain. Maybe if it was a 3.0 yard pattern they'd have had room for error.

So the blame will fall about 90% on BB's call, 3% on the "bad" spot, and 7% on the DPI earlier, while nobody actually gets credit for winning the game.

Colts DL got generally good pressure all game (esp Mathis), but sometimes Brady seemed to have his old "crochet a sweater" 6 seconds to find Moss downfield in shades of 2007, and (surprise!) they were pretty successful when he had all day. That Vollmer kid, he's pretty good.

Oh, and I'm mighty impressed by MJD's taking a knee. Good heads-up play by the staff and players. I don't usually think of the Jags as super disciplined.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

RE Barnwell "The play that comes to mind for me here is the safety the Patriots took against the Broncos a few years ago in a game that they ended up winning, after which Belichick was hailed as a genius, with very few people saying that he'd made the wrong decision"

Completely different thing. The Pats were down by one in that game. The safety added an irrelevant two points to the difference (= the pats still needed a FG, and scored a TD on the ensuing possession), in exchange for field position. In such a situation - though most people including myself would've made a different call - taking the safety was the single correct call, which could've backfired only in case the Broncos scored a TD plus a 2pt conversion (highly unlikely, plus there wouldn't have been any time left for the Pats ...)

And sorry: Playing from behind is always easier, because the decisions often make themselves - there is simply no second guessing when you need a TD. That was a tough call.

Call yesterday: High risk. Criticize him for burning the timeouts. In the press conference it looked like burning the timeouts will give belichick a few sleepless nights (hint: wear a charcoal hoodie next time, then you can burn all your timeouts in the first/third quarters and will still win ...)

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Oh, and because it was a one-point swing, I assume NE and Indy are now tied for second greatest point differential so far this season. It was funny that they were one pt off, and funnier that the nail-biter just tied them. Pretty appropriate it seems.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

For people that think the 4th down call is incorrect, I'm curious to know what your estimates of the relevant probabilities are.

Ignoring morale effects, only three probabilities matter:

P1: P(Pats try and don't get first)

P2: P(Colts score | Pats try and don't get first)

P3: P(Pats punt and Colts score)

Then P1 * P2 is the probability that the Colts score after the Pats try to get the first. If P1 * P2 > P3, then they should have punted. Let's say that P1 (prob Pats don't convert) is about 50%; that means that P2 would have to be more than twice P3 for punting to be the right decision; if you believe that Manning has a greater than 50% chance of scoring after the punt (P3 > .5), then assuming P1 >= .5, there's no way it was the wrong decision, since P2 can't be greater than 100%.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Don't we also need a "P4"? Patriots fail to convert, Colts score TD, Patriots drive for a game winning field goal. I wonder if this crossed Bellicheck's mind at all. If it did, he might have thought that if the Colts did score from the 28, it would probably be a pretty quick one, leaving the Patriots with about a minute or so to go for a winning FG drive.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I actually thought that played into it: in addition to preferring to try to win it with his QB rather than with his D, I thought he'd figured that it was more likely they'd have time left after a short drive than after a long drive.

So I figured he thought
(Patriots convert & win)
+ (Patriots fail, Colts score, Patriots score and win)
+ (Patriots fail, Colts can't score, Patriots win) >
(Patriots fail, Colts score, Patriots can't score, Colts win)

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

This really reminds me of the Pete Carroll fourth-and-two play in the national championship game the year they lost to Texas. Might have been closer to midfield in that one . Anyway, I suspect people are missing variables that differentiate the odds of making a generic fourth-and-two and a 'this will decide the game' fourth-and-two. Though I do agree with what seems to be the consensus that the move wasn't as inherently questionable as the particular play call was.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Advanced Football stats' take on the call :

http://www.advancednflstats.com/2009/11/belichicks-4th-down-decision-vs-colts.html

I'll let you see what the WP analysis concluded...

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Here's the part that surprised me about this analysis:

"Historically, in a situation with 2:00 left and needing a TD to either win or tie, teams get the TD 53% of the time from that field position." (assuming an average net yardage on the punt.)

I'm very surprised that it's as high as 53%. Initially I thought going for it was a bad call, but with this number being that high, I'm not so sure now. If an average NFL team gets it done 53% of the time, the % chance that a Manning-led Colts team does it must be considerably higher.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

David, the 53% refers to the chance of the TD from the spot of the failed 4th down attempt (not from the spot of the punt). The change of the TD from the spot of the punt, if it happened, is 30%.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

First place I went. I'm amazed at the FO's reactions. Maybe too much of the EI is clouding the O in FO. I figured it was the right call. Time was immaterial. With 4 downs to work with Manning can make up the punt yardage in about a minute. A TD from 30 yards out in 1 minute or 2 makes no difference. Converting ends the game.

29 Why not QB sneak on 3rd down??

If they know they were going to go for it on 4th and 2, why not a QB sneak on the preceding 3rd-and-2? Line up for a run, then do the old goose-the-center-and-go. It may well pick up the first down on its own, and even if it doesn't, it'll 4th and pretty short. Plus it takes out the two minute warning and so guarantees you never have to give it back to the Colts if the 4th down succeeds.

95 Re: Why not QB sneak on 3rd down??

Exactly right. I like the decision to go for it on 4th there, but if they had run the ball on both downs the chance of converting would be extremely high. Plus running the ball keeps the clock running and/or burns their timeouts.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Really, at this point, I'm just waiting to read TMQ as Easterbrook's head explodes over Belichick's decision...

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Given that some here won't care about my opinion on situational playcalling I think BB made the right decision. Certainly wasn't arrogance. That's a dumb interpretation. It was that his defense was getting rolled, the Colts had 3 timeouts and the best qb in football had all the time in the world if you punt. If you make the first down and don't get the next one at minimum you THEN punt and force Manning to drive the field with NO timeouts. That is the big difference to me.

Meanwhile, Green Bay fans are now suggesting that Aaron Kampman be franchised and then traded following the season because given the Cowboy game it is "obvious" that AK is completely unsuited for the 3-4 so dump him.

Okey-dokey.......

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I disagree with these odds from Yaguar:
"P1: P(Pats try and don't get first) = 50%
P2: P(Colts score | Pats try and don't get first) = 85%
P3: P(Pats punt and Colts score) = 40%"

It's easier to defend the endzone than other parts of the field, so I'd say P2 would not be more than twice as high as P3. I personally think Belichick made a good choice. FO of all places shouldn't evaluate the choice based on the odds not the "arrogance" of the coach.

What bothered me about the game was the play calling through most of the fourth quarter. Why is it that the Patriots can't stay the aggressors against the Colts? I feel like they're in a mode of "let's hang on and win this." A lot of times the safeties were off the screen and Manning would just take 10-15 yards at a pop. With the Colts' no-huddle, this kind of "stop the long ball" play-call hardly takes more time off the clock and gives Manning and the Colts rhythm. On offense, the Patriots kept trying generic first down plays like a run up the middle and then the Colts would blitz on second and third down. I had a feeling of doom and deja vu (playoffs 2006), and it all happened.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

According to the Wash. Post today, the Redskins were the ones that called timeout on that fake FG because they only had ten guys on the field. Fred Davis, who's supposed to be the guy they're faking a throw to, wasn't on the field.

271 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The call on the field in FEDEX was that it was charged to Washington.

That play was completely on Broncos rookie Alphonso Smith... he was in charge of the deep zone on that side (offensive left) of the field on a 4th and 20 play... and for some unknown reason was completely lost in space. Its like he was looking for the underneath pass... on a 4th and 20.... absolute horrible play.

As far as the Broncos run DEF, I think the injury to DE Ryan McBean has a lot to do with it... he's been out the past couple weeks and the DEF has looked soft. In the WAS game, the other regular starting DE, Kenny Peterson, also got hurt and it was after that when the run defense completely fell apart.

We knew going into the season that the Broncos D-line was iffy... I think those 2 injuries have showed just how fragile the depth there is.

Also have to say, having gone to my first pro-football game in a few years, how nice it was to be able to watch the secondaries... TV just doesn't do justice to the richness of the coverage schemes that you can see from the upper stands.

37 Minnesota - Detroit

Not sure what Verhei was watching in the Viking game when he said Favre was under pressure - I think he got touched twice in the whole game. That was a 50-10 type of game if Minnesota didn't continually shoot themselves in the foot with penalties, fumbles and horrible red zone play.

The Vikings have a weakness that I don't think anyone has mentioned. They can't run the ball when they get a lead. Peterson will pop one every 10 or so carries, but they can't sustain a running game. I don't think there offensive line is a very good power blocking unit. That has been a major reason that they have allowed teams back into games that they held big leads in (both GB and Balt games come to mind).

The Vikings have become a very good passing team and not that great a running team. I'm not sure if that is because of the way teams defend them or just the Favre, Rice, Harvin, Shiancoe and Berrian are really darn good.

38 Reasons for prevent?

Perhaps some reasons why the Pats D decided to go all passive in the 4th quarter:

* They had lost LB/DE Banta-Cain to injury, as well as LB Ninkovitch. So they
had less depth at LB plus they lost their best pass rusher.

* RB Green-Ellis was vomiting on the sidelines and had to get an IV. I wonder
if anyone else on the team was sick (yet another flashback to the 2006 AFCCG...sigh).

So the defense was probably tired, perhaps sick on top of it, and without its best pass rusher. Maybe BB felt "prevent-and-pray" was his only option because his D was simply unable to be aggressive like it was earlier in the game?

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'll disagree with most of the mathematical interpretations of the BB call (not on mathematical basis, but on the question of BB being led by arrogance). I've said for years that he is arrogant, and that while it worked for him many, many times, it's also cost him big. I think they didn't win a SB the year they fought Branch over his contract and didn't get a WR to replace him, and then watched scrubs drop passes in the playoffs against Indy.

Last night, I don't think he ever thought he would NOT get the yardage. Never even considered the math of not making that play. I think he assumed he'd make it, and all would be fine.

Manning or no Manning, you need to punt the ball. Manning and the rookie/2nd year WR's had made plenty of mistakes not even pressured by NE. Why wouldn't they make another one here, if they have to go 70 yards?

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I just wanted to put my take on the math here, and I am reposting from the King article link thread:

But I think some of the math in this situation is very skewed as you calculate it, and not in favor of going for it. If the Colts do not stop NE, Colts lose. Thus, the Colts can run an all-out blitz, goal-line defense there, with press coverage on the recievers, and that all-out defense decreases the odds of NE making the first down. Yes, it increases the odds of the NE receiver breaking a tackle and going the distance for a TD, but for the Colts, that is not a real risk, because ANY successful play by NE loses Indy the game. Thus, I think the odds of NE converting the 4th and 2 are smaller than normal.

For example, if that play happens at the 50 yard line during the 3rd quarter, Indy has to defend the whole field; they can't sell out with a blitz and press coverage, as they did last night. Blitzing in press coverage makes the damages to a failed defensive play much more damaging in most situations, so most defenses don't do that; but here, the Colts have nothing to lose -- a 70-yard catch and run is no worse for them than a 2-yard completion; either one is fatal. Hence, the Colts get to significantly lower the chance of NE getting the 2 yards by pressuring the QB and receivers.

In addition, the odds of Indy scoring from the 30 are much higher than you present, I would suggest, because with one timeout, 2 minutes, and only 30 yards to cover (actually, 29 1/2), every play in the book is available. The Colts can run or pass. They can draw, or go deep over the middle, etc. The fact that they have so little ground to cover makes the clock almost a non-factor, and you saw the Colts run the draw to good effect (12 yards or so). Even on the last play, when Wayne caught the TD, NE had to defend the run, because the Colts had a TO. They could have run the ball, been stopped, called a TO, and had at least one more try into the end zone via pass.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Purds, I'd agree on your first point, disagree on your second. First, it's easy to say that Belichick was right to trust his offense instead of his defense, b/c his offense has been so good in this game and over the last few years, and his defense is shaky. But his offense is so good in some not unsubstantial part b/c of Randy Moss's ability to stretch the field, which is a nonfactor in this situation. That has to factor into the calculation of how the Pats' offense's quality shapes up next to their defense's.

But on the second point, I think any defense (and esp. a tired one missing a good blitzer like Banta Cain) is going to play passive and protect against the big play in a situation like this. The first 40 or 50 yards of Manning's potential 70 yard game-winning TD drive would largely be a formality for a guy as accurate as he is ... the only question is how much time and how many downs (i.e., does he need to spike on first down when he gets down in the red zone) he has in the red zone. I think the difference in odds b/w scoring on the 70 yard drive and scoring on the 30 yard drive is relatively small, and to the extent it is significant also gets counterbalanced by the increased chances that the Pats would have to answer with a FG given an earlier score on the 30 yard drive.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

You still need to cover the whole field. There isn't anything that points towards the Pats restraining its field of play to 2 yards before the snap. They could go even for a "Hail Mary".

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

...but they won't because they only need 2.
That's why I totally disagree with the shotgun in that situation. It screams short pass.
I'm lost by the fact that 3rd down was a passing down for BB. Says to me he was thinking about punting and that he mis-called the series.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Shorter Purds:
I reject your math. I'm sure I know how BB thinks better than you do. I know he's the most arrogant person in the history of the universe. QED.

Seriously, where you do you come up with crap like

"I don't think he ever thought he would NOT get the yardage. Never even considered the math of not making that play. I think he assumed he'd make it, and all would be fine."

You have absolutely no basis for saying that other than your own negative emotions.

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I get that from listening to his post-game comments. At no point did he even venture to talk about what he was thinking if they didn't get the first down. He was asked about it, and he repeatedly said "I thought we would get the first down." Yes, that is the source of my pyschobabble, listening to the source. I guess I could have sat at home and hoped he would say that, but instead I listened to him say that. Repeatedly. He never once would even begin to respond to any question asking what he felt his chances were if they failed.

170 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'll agree with Purds point about defending the field.

You could creep your corners up to bump and run, put 8 in the box and put the safeties up... It's success or failure, a bomb to moss is just as bad as a 3 yard faulk play. The fact that the Colts had to really defend less of the field increased their chance of success.

I also do think as somebody else mentioned the thought that the Colts would have a quick score, and then the Pats would get the ball back and try and kick a quickie FG also went into BB's mind.

Quantifying the exact probabilities would be difficult...
Brady is the best QB ( so you can't use league average stats)
Manning is the best QB ( so you can't use league avergage stats)
It was the very end of a long game, the defenses were gassed etc.

I think it was a good call, where Bellicheck put the ball in his best players hand and asked him to win it. As opposed to prevent & Pray, with gassed backup D-Lineman, against the best QB in the league.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think Belicheck should get credit for his aggressive nature. Sports strategies are about minimizing losses. This is a different approach from maximizing wins. I believe belicheck is the best at maximizing wins while allowing for more variance than a minimizing losses standpoint.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I agree with most of the comments here about being surprised the FO guys are so against the call. However, we should remember that this is audibles, i.e. heat of the moment comments, and that its not really how they think after a good night sleep.

I agree with Verhei 100%. If you're going for it on 4th, the run the ball on 3rd down!.

240 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

3rd down happened before the fourth down.
No need to assume that they were thinking it is a four down drive when they were up and at their 20s.
I am pretty sure if it were 4th and 10 they would have punted.
At the time 3rd down play-call was made they were not trying to gain the first down in two tries.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

This was Belichick's "I'm Keith Hernandez" moment. The man became bigger than the moment, and it cost him.

That call was absolutely defensible. I mean, you need two yards to win the game. You've gotten 400 already. Punt on 4th, and all you've done is given Manning 40-50 more yards to cover. And sure, he can screw up, but do you really want to chance that?

I would hope that most coaches go for it in that spot against Manning, for two reasons:
1) It's a ballsy, relatively good percentage-wise, call. It's also basically giving the finger to the opposing defense, which I'm always in favor of. As is, apparently, Bud Adams.
2) It doesn't matter if you give the ball back to Peyton Manning on his own 30 or your 30; if there's two minutes left, he has a timeout, and he needs a TD, I'd put the odds of him getting it at somewhere north of 70%.

Belichick will get killed for that all season, especially if he ends up having to go back to Indy in the playoffs. However, I still say it was worth the shot at getting the W outright, rather than playing punt-and-pray.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"This was Belichick's "I'm Keith Hernandez" moment. The man became bigger than the moment, and it cost him."

Has it occurred to nobody that this move wasn't made from arrogance, but rather from abject terror? I believe it was the fear of Peyton Manning and the Colts offense that made him go for it.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Of course Joe Buck comments on the health of the Cowboys' offensive line only to have Marc Colombo break his fibula on the 2nd drive. Great.

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

As a Colts fan, I was terrified when they went for it. I have seen the Pats end games too many times that way. Not to mention that, even though it seemed the ref made the correct call, it was the sort of judgement situation that could have gone either way. I hate the Pats as a Colts fan, but as a football fan, they are a great team with a great coach who makes moves without worrying about what the press would think.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Anyone else notice that the Bengals left a ton of time on the play clock on their final play, kneeling with about 17 seconds left instead of about 1? It was third down, so Pittsburgh could have called a timeout to force a punt. I still doubt they would have won, but the early kneel should have taken Pittsburgh's chances of winning from "basically zero" to "very small."

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

You are correct: Belachick and Switzer calls are exactly the same - neither coach was as smart as they thought they were. Of course, with BB it means there are only three "really"s in front of smart, not five. With Switzer, it means he's not as good at climbing on the short bus as he'd have you believe.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Switzer's call was, and remains, an entirely defensible decision. 4th and a foot, with as good as the Cowboys' O-Line supposedly was, should have been an easy conversion.

I have many misgivings with Switzer's tenure in Dallas, but that particular play is not one of them.

He should have had Aikman sneak it though.

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Yes, but that play showed his complete lack of respect for his defense, and as a result, he lost the team.

Oh, wait, they went on to win the Super Bowl, umm, that doesn't fit the talking points, people. We need to re-write history.

159 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

On the contrary. After that game, Aikman took over and called his own plays. At that point, Switzer had less relevance to the Cowboys than Jim Zorn has now with the Redskins.

57 4th and 2

I won't get into the numbers, but Belichick played the odds and lost. I can't see how it was the wrong decision when he's trying to keep the ball in the hands of his hall of fame QB and out of the hands of their hall of fame QB.

As a Seahawks fan, I was mortified when Mora decided to kick an 18 yard field goal Sunday with 10 minutes remaining against a team his defense couldn't stop. He went up by 3 but clearly would need to score again to win. It was a gutless, loser's decision. Living in Boston, I've always had a hard time rooting for the Pats, but with that ballsy play call, Belichick has won me over. I just hope he makes the same call in the future.

143 Re: 4th and 2

In reply to by BostonHawk (not verified)

Sometimes taking the lead is important. It was actually a 20 yard field goal and the Seahawks were on the 3 yard line. The defense wasn't dominating the Cardinals, but they had only allowed 17 points to them through 3+ quarters, the D wasn't playing that bad.

I understand wanting to go for it and if the ball was on the 1 I think Mora would of. It wasn't a "gutless" or "loser" decision, it was the 4th quarter and taking the lead is important.

184 Re: 4th and 2

In reply to by BostonHawk (not verified)

I thought the same thing while watching that game. I was livid about the earlier drop in the end zone. As soon as he missed that I had a hunch they would fail and then decide to kick. Took Warner what, 3 minutes to score again? They ended up giving up another score, so it doesn't matter, but the game was over as soon as he sent the FG team out there.

The league is FULL of chickenshit coaching decisions. Many coaches get away with it. Belichick made a ballsy call that was justifiable and it just didn't work. But the willingness to do that is a large part of why they win every year and other teams are mediocre and always switching coaches.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'm going to go ahead and agree with the commentators over the emailers on this one. I liked the call, I would have gone for it too in Belichick's position. And what I really like is that Belichick couldn't give a half a damn what the media thinks so the next time he feels like going for it is the right decision, he WILL go for it.

One of the many reasons he's the best in the game. Use link below if you're interested in the stats:

http://www.advancednflstats.com/2009/11/belichicks-4th-down-decision-vs-colts.html

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think the BB defenders are missing an important point here. Yes, you can make a very reasonable argument for going for it on 4th-and-2 in that situation. That doesn't exonerate the other mistakes - wasting the timeouts and stupid play calling.

First off, if you think you are a four-down situation, run the ball on 3rd down. Let's not forget that this was almost a moot point, because Brady damn near threw a pick-6 on that 3rd down play.

Then, on 4th down, you call a 2-yard pass, which guarantees that the guy is going to get hit within inches of the first-down line ... when you don't have any way to challenge a bad spot.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think people defending the call are only Belichick defenders in the sense that Belichick was the one that made said call. I make no claim as to Belichick in general or other calls Belichick made.

Most people ripping Belichick are talking of the arrogance of the 4th down call, and only bringing up the other stuff as incidental to the situation.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

More generally, it's not like you get to pick and choose with what a head coach is. Bill Belichick calls the games the way he thinks maximizes the chances of winning. He doesn't take the conventional path, to minimize the possibility of criticism.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"Stupid play calling".

Second-guessing the play-calling of a head coach is easy and amateurish. Here's a recipe:

a) for any play that succeeds, you say that you would have done it the same way
b) for any play that fails, you say you would have done it differently, and achieved a better result.

Yes, we know the 3rd down play was almost a pick6. That's BB's fault? Suddenly Brady's not supposed to throw any passes?

Are you arguing the Pats should have relied solely on the running game?

Or are you just picking out all the bad stuff that happened and saying "See! BB isn't perfect!" We know he's not perfect. That's not the issue.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

In PIT-CIN once again nobody noticed a repeat of the same time management mistake from the PHI game a few weeks ago. With CIN 3rd and 3, PIT called timeout with about 2:06 left. Ths basically gives CIN the option to pass without risking a substantial gift of time to the PIT O (though they chose to run an PIT stopped them).

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'm surprised that so much of the commentary has focused on whether going for it was the right call. To me that's a close call, on the whole probably right to go for it. But the real mind-boggler is calling two consecutive pass plays. As a Colts fan, I was absolutely elated when I saw the Pats lining up in five-wide shotgun on that fourth down. I know they're good with those short outs, but seriously: I don't think the Pats ever gained less than a yard on a running play the entire game.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"I don't think the Pats ever gained less than a yard on a running play the entire game".

On first down of the very same series, the Pats ran for no yardage.

THREE PLAYS EARLIER!

C'mon, people!

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

worst promo of the week goes to NFL networks Ronnie Brown wildcat commercial. Brown leaves the game Sunday with a bad ankle injury and it will be a miracle if he plays or the Dolphins run the wildcat minus Brown and Cobb.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The call wasn't a bad one, despite what 99% of NFL analysts will say because they're too big of cowards to go against the grain of conventional wisdom on a failed decision. These are the same idiots that would have said it was a heroic gutsy call if the Patriots did successfully convert it.

All these guys on TV saying the safe play is to punt are misguided. Belichick had to figure the he had about a 65% chance to convert the 4th and 2. They then had about 40% chance to stop the Colts from going the 30 yards and scoring a touchdown. Meanwhile if they punt the ball, the Pat's defense probably had about a 60% chance of stopping the Colts from scoring from 70 yards out.

I mean let's face it, time was not a factor and the first 40 yards of a 70 yard drive are usually given up in about 20 seconds due to a soft prevent defense so they are essentially meaningless.

You have one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game, you only needed 2 yards to ice the game, and despite what every sheep analyst is preaching because the call was unsuccesful, the odds were actually in your favor.

275 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"Kall (not verified) > Tony Dungy!"

Without knowing Kall, I'm fine with that assessment. Dungy not exactly Mr. Objective when it comes to BB. I am sure nothing gives him more pleasure than the opportunity to criticize BB over that call -- unless of course the sanctimonious douchebag finds subhuman douchebag Mike Vick another multimillion dollar job.

274 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Of course, because if one man (Dungy) is more successful than another (Kall), it means that the latter can never be correct when the two disagree. The world is just that black-and-white.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The problem with the call is that it's the wrong strategy for the time. It's high risk, high reward. If you make the play, you almost definitely win, if you miss it, you have a 9 in 10 shot of losing. That's a weird play to run when you're up 6 with 2 minutes to play and the Colts only having one time out.

Yes the Colts are good, but the clock was still the ally of the Pats. Even with going in from the 30, it took a minute to get the ball to the 1. Kick the ball to the 25 or so and the Colts would have to run a very efficient 2 minute offense to get the job done. All of the plays would have to go to the sidelines, there's always the risk of a 10 second run off, this isn't an easy thing to do. When winning late in the game, you want to put the onus on the other team to accomplish the comeback, not on yours to make the 50/50 play, especially when the differences (via advancednflstats) are a .79 chance of winning vs a .70 chance of winning... The math there is such a small advantage than any change in the underlying assumptions could flip the advantage.

Game theory isn't just figuring out the highest probability of winning upon your actions, it's knowing when a strategy is relevant. If you had $10,000,000 and I said I'd offer you a deal where you'd make $100,000,000 if a coin came up heads but would lose it all if it came up tails, even though the odds would massively be in your favor there, the smart thing to do would be to turn it down and live off of the money for the rest of your life. It's not just running the numbers, it's knowing when to apply them and Belichick failed there.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

It took a minute because the Colts had a minute, not because the Colts needed a minute. The clock wasn't really much of a factor.

__
When winning late in the game, you want to put the onus on the other team to accomplish the comeback, not on yours to make the 50/50 play, especially when the differences (via advancednflstats) are a .79 chance of winning vs a .70 chance of winning... The math there is such a small advantage than any change in the underlying assumptions could flip the advantage.
__

But the underlying assumptions are tilted in favor of not going for it. If they are wrong, they are wrong on the side of not going for it. Even at a 45% conversion rate (2pt rate for NFL, much lower than NE 2yd conversion rate) the math comes out even when you assume IND is an avg NFL off. IND being IND the math says go for it. The risk/reward stuff you talk about is embedded in the math, not ignored by it.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"It took a minute because the Colts had a minute, not because the Colts needed a minute. The clock wasn't really much of a factor."

But that's kind of my point. The Pats had a huge ally in the final two minutes and that was the clock. I believe that Manning would have a good chance of driving the ball downfield, but with under two minutes left and only one time out, it doesn't take much to blow it, a sack, a player getting tackled inbounds, a linesman not getting set for a second leading to a 10 second run off... Doable sure, but I think I put the pressure on the Colts to actually do it.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Wait what? How is that indicative that the clock was the Pats ally? IND could have scored in like 2 seconds from the 30. They could have gone 30-30 in about 30 seconds. In no way was the clock ending IND's drive. Either NE was going to have to hold, or IND was going to score. The clock was nearly inconsequential.

If anything as mentioned elsewhere the best play was probably to go the conversion and then give up the TD ASAP. If Addai hadn't been tackled at the 1 with 1:20 left NE has a good shot at winning that game. They'd have the ball and need 3 with 1:10 left or so.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

None of this analysis focuses on the time element. The reason you don't bet $10MM on the coin flip with 10 to 1 odds isn't b/c of the timing in which you're asked to do so, it's that the risk is unreasonably high and the reward, while high on its face, is relatively low in terms of the utility you get out of the deal. Likewise, if you believe it would be very difficult for Manning to take the Colts 75 yards for a score, then you don't believe this is a high risk, high reward play ... you believe it's a high risk, low reward play, b/c you apparently think the Pats had like a 70 or 80 percent chance of winning after a punt. Making it 98 percent by converting the 4th down thus isn't that huge a reward given the risk. (Now others here have given Manning better, sometimes significantly better odds than that, but that point is debatable ... but then that's what we should be debating.) You're saying, if they make it instead of punting, their winning percentage goes from 80% to 98% ... if they miss it instead of punting, their winning percentage goes from 70-80% to 10%. I don't think anybody would disagree with your conclusion if those estimates are correct, but most of us just have grossly different estimates. But again, I don't see where the time of the game enters into your analysis at all.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

There are three issues from the last 3 possessions.

I - A blown PI call. That was incidental contact, Butler was looking back and going for the ball when the receiver stopped short. It gave the Colts 31 yards and clock stoppage.

II - The decision to go for it. It was the correct one. League average converts 60% of 4th downs, the Patriots convert 68%. If they convert they win. If they don't convert, the Colts have to score a touchdown from the 30. A punt in that spot on average gives the ball to the Colts around their own 30. They had had already scored twice in less than 2 minutes that quarter, the Pats defense was gassed. He went for the aggressive mathematically correct decision. And it would have paid off if not for:

III - The ref blew the call. Faulk didn't bobble it to the ground, he had possession over the 30, which would have been a game ending first down. While the Patriots lacking a time out get some blame there, its the official's job to not blow the call in the first place. If the correct ruling is made, this is a "gutsy call" and "playing to win" and everyone is singing BB's praises.

All of this would have been irrelevant had Brady not thrown an end zone pick and especially if Maroney hadn't fumbled on the goal line but that doesn't change the fact that a blown call largely changed the outcome of the game.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I would certain contest the notion that the catch was "bobbled" or "juggled" in any meaningful sense. It's true that Faulk didn't catch it as soon as the ball touched his first hand. But I don't see why that should disallow forward progress from being applied.

If your criticism is that BB didn't make sufficient allowance for bad spots on the part of the officiating, I think that's a bit rich. You cannot sanely coach presuming that the officials are going to screw up calls.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The the ball was not caught cleanly. The referee saw that, but was not in position to see exactly when and where Faulk had gained possession. One of the risks taken when that sort of play is called is that a spot will not be wholly accurate, especially when the pass is not caught cleanly. I think you are in error that a video review would have, with 100% certainty, granted the first down. It was an extremely close call.

Another reason the third down call was iffy was that a completion has a decent chance of ending with the receiver going out of bounds, which stops ther clock prior to the two minute warning. The Colts had one time out remaining, which means they could still get the ball back with, say, over a minute left. If you are going to commit to the four down strategy at that point in the game and field, then you should do so in a manner which means that one first down definitively ends the game.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The the ball was not caught cleanly. The referee saw that, but was not in position to see exactly when and where Faulk had gained possession. One of the risks taken when that sort of play is called is that a spot will not be wholly accurate, especially when the pass is not caught cleanly. I think you are in error that a video review would have, with 100% certainty, granted the first down. It was an extremely close call.

Another reason the third down call was iffy was that a completion has a decent chance of ending with the receiver going out of bounds, which stops ther clock prior to the two minute warning. The Colts had one time out remaining, which means they could still get the ball back with, say, over a minute left. If you are going to commit to the four down strategy at that point in the game and field, then you should do so in a manner which means that one first down definitively ends the game.

272 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

What is the rule on this? If a receiver bobbles a reception he must hold onto the ball through his fall, does that change when effective control is decided? Does the fact that he bobbled it mean that he can't be assumed to have control until he hits the ground?

I'm actually wondering, I don't know.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I see your analysis of I and III as coming through homer goggles. I have no team in this fight (I'm a fan of neither team), and I thought both the calls were correct - 9 out of 10 times, that's PI, and I was actually surprised that Faulk caught the ball looking at it in real time. I figured it was going to be one of those where he hit the ground and it came out, and the replay certainly looks like he was juggling it to me.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

the ball bounces once and then he pins it to his chest well before he goes to the ground; the ref gave him the spot where he landed. unless the rule on a bobbled pass becomes 'must have possession through the ground' and that's the spot instead of forward progress, it seems like a bad spot.

of course it was really close and those calls get blown all the time so either way you can't really complain

205 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

He didn't get a spot where he hit the ground. He got a spot somewhere in the middle between where he first touched the ball and where he hit the ground, which seems correct to me. The exact inch where that spot should be seems extremely hard to pick out from looking at the replay to me.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I would add

IV - there should have been a booth review of the spot of the ball. I know that the NBC talking heads told us that there's no booth review before the 2 minute warning. But that's not what the rulebook says.

The rulebook says that "in the first 28 minutes of each half", a replay review is triggered by the coach throwing a flag. In the "last 2 minutes", it is the call of the replay official.

The ball was spotted with 1:57 on the clock. That's in the last 2 minutes.

The video replay rules make no mention of the two minute warning.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"The ball was spotted with 1:57 on the clock. That's in the last 2 minutes."

That was a mistake on the part of the timekeeper. The play was over before the 2-minute warning. The clock kept running down, which is why the officials made them put the clock back at 2:00.

And it's moot because the rule is and has always been interpreted to mean that the booth replay official doesn't take over until the first snap after the 2-minute warning.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Vince is correct that the biggest mistake is not running the ball on third down, if you think you might go for it on fourth. I haven't checked how the Colts front 7 was lined up, but perhaps even a quarterback sneak might have been a good call. Belichik's confidence in his offense, relative to his confidence in his defense, was not unwarranted, but it still is bad to waste a timeout, and more importantly, not make a wise run/pass decision on third down.

The spot was a very close call, and no refs were in the best position to see it, and that isn't meant as criticism. It is simply one of the risks taken with that playcall it that situation.

I thought the contrast between the non-PI call on Cutler's fourth INT Thursday, when the defender bumped into Olson while trying to get to the ball, and the critical PI call last night, really illustrates that PI in many respects has become wholly subjective. That isn't good.

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think BB made the right call on 4th and 2. But having failed, he made a bad move on D. The Pats were in deep trouble at that point, and the only way to swing the odds back in their favor was to let the colts score a TD on 1st down. This would have put the ball back in Brady's hands, 1:45 or so left, down 1. At that point, I think you'd like the pats odds again. But really, how much would BB have been lambasted if they'd intentionally let the colts score, and hadn't managed to get down the field?

105 Re: The CALL OF DOOM!!!

Haaaaahaa Haaahaaahaahhaaa!!! HEEeeeeeeheee Haaaaaahaahaahaaaaahaaa!

Actually thought it was a good call but Vince Verhei is correct, why not run on third down? The Pariouts pass rush was exhausted, they wouldn't have stopped Peyton. They should have pushed Addai into the end zone, picked him up and carried him if it came to it.

One of the best games I've ever seen.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

To all those arguing the Patriots might have had time to drive for a winning field goal after the Colts score, had they punted: Peyton Manning is far too smart to leave the Patriots enough time to do that. Had the Patriots punted, the most likely result is that Manning manages the clock perfectly, drives the length of the field and scores with 10 seconds left in the game.

Only way that doesn't happen is the Super Bowl 43 scenario. The Cardinals did not want to leave Roethlisberger more than a minute to work with if they took the lead--Whisenhunt said as much after the game--but it happened anyway because Fitzgerald torched Taylor and Harrison for a long touchdown on a simple slant pattern.

Personally, I would have run a shotgun draw on 3rd and 2, and if that didn't convert, immediately rush to the line and run a quick QB sneak on 4th and whatever. Very high chance of converting if you do that. But let's be serious: Bill Belichick is a Hall of Fame football coach, and I am not.