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

Audibles at the Line: Week 10

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."


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:

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


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.

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.