Audibles at the Line: Week 10

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."


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

131 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."

Ridiculous. Manning did leave the Patriots enough time to do that, but Addai got tackled at the one (unless you're saying that Manning magically arranged for him not to score on that play.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

It's pretty obvious Bill didn't think about going for it on 4th down until actually presented with the situation. Going for the 4th was absolutely the right call with the ebb and flow of the game. Not thinking about it until the 4th down actually arrived was the stupid part...

94 Going for it

I didn't like the call because of the field position.

The 28 just seems too close. I would have punted from the 38 too but from the 48 it seems reasonable.

Of course 20 yards for Manning is likely only 2 or 3 plays, but just feels like a better call.

Agree will all those who say if BB was thinking about it he should have run on 3rd.

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Not to veer AGS away from it being the Irrational Belichick Fourth Down Call Thread it has become . . .

I'd like to thank Barnwell for pointing out how utterly awful Sabby Piscatelli has been in the Bucs secondary. On Ronnie Brown's 50+ yard run in the first quarter, Piscatelli just missed him. No juke, no fake, just a clear shot for an easy tackle at the line of scrimmage, and he whiffed utterly. He can't tackle, he's terrible in coverage, and I can't imagine there isn't SOMEBODY out there who could do his job better. Yes, Jermaine Phillips is out for the year, but this is really the best they can do?

Piscatelli is about two years away from changing the name on the back of his jersey to "Archuleta" and having Dan Snyder throw a giant bucket of money at his head.

257 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"He can't tackle, he's terrible in coverage, and I can't imagine there isn't SOMEBODY out there who could do his job better."

You know, that pretty much exactly sums up how every single Texans fan felt about CC Brown. For three freakin' years. You don't even begin to know the horror of it - and you should pray you never do.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Might we suspect that AGS will be about the Skins/Broncos game? Certainly much more of an upset than any of the others...

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

A couple of thoughts on Colts-Pats, and that's probably all I'll say because I'm too depressed about the ending.

1). Vollmer is awesome. Matt who?

2). On the other hand, maybe he can move to RT as he ages. Mathis was giving Kaczur fits all game.

3). I think going for it was the right call (I think NOT going for it in the 2006 AFC CG on 4th and 4 at midfield up by 3 was the wrong call, and that was a harder decision than this one).

4). But people are right...Belichick rightly deserves criticism for (a) misuse of timeouts, (b) not calling a run play on 3rd and 2 (even even no gain keeps the clock running, and at that point you should have already realized that you'll go for it on 4th and 2 or less), and this leads us to especially (c) not intending to go for it on 4th down from the very moment you found yourself in 3rd and 2, and finally (d) flooding 2 yard pass patterns.

5). This is something that no-one's talking about. Belichick (or Pees) also deserves blame for another decision...the DEFENSIVE calls after Manning took over at the 30. You're up by 6, you have no timeouts, less than 2:00 to play. Ideally you want to stop a TD, but if you're going to give up a TD, you want to force the other team to get it quickly. Plus, you're D-line is gassed and unable to get any pressure, and missing their best pass rusher. So move those safeties up to the line, and BLITZ BLITZ BLITZ. Don't keep anyone back, unless they're supposed to jump routes, and instruct them not to tackle a receiver who does catch it unless they can force them out of bounds. The disadvantage of the blitz is that it risks giving up the "big play"--but this isn't that bad of an outcome... you would get the ball back down by 1 with plenty of time left. The advantage is that it forces the other team to at least do something quickly--and score or no score, you want them to do it quickly. Plus, it increases the chance of a game-winning turnover. Purds made the good point that Indy went all out to stop the first down on 4th-and-two...because a first down was just as bad as a TD. This is the reverse. NE should have gone all out to try to force a turnover or even an incompletion, because giving up a TD is only marginally worse, and is much better than giving up a short or medium gain.

Instead, they played fairly passively and conservatively, and let the Colts score with 9 seconds on the clock.

6). I don't blame Wilhite for his instincts, but I really wish he'd picked that moment to make a poorer tackle.

7). A pick-6 on Brady's 3rd and 2 would actually have been a decent outcome for the Pats. Then they're down by 1 with exactly two minutes.

8). Through my blue-and-silver glasses, the replays really made me think Faulk's catch was a first down. It looks like he catches it a yard beyond the 30, bobbles it, gains control of the ball exactly just past the 30, and then is forced backwards and hits the ground at the 29.5. I think if Belichick had had a challenge, there's about a 50% chance that spot gets overturned. Ah well. Refs aren't perfect. (For the record, I think the DPI was a legit call, albeit somewhat ticky-tack. There really was nothing Butler could have done to avoid that contact...he was watching the ball...and plays like that go uncalled all the time, but it was technically textbook DPI).

163 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'm going to disagree with your #5

I think the Pats best chance to win when Manning took over was to keep the Colts out of the end-zone. Betting on being able to drive down the field after being down, despite the fact that they just failed to convert one single first down when that would have won them the game, seems optimistic.

I'm not saying you have no point, but I don't think that Belichick's defensive play calling was clearly bad, as you implied.

175 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I agree with MJK. I'd blitz him to death ( and probably lose) as the Colts score a quickie TD.

Then you give the ball back to Brady and ask him to put Godkowski to kick a chip shot field goal.

It was the "if we don't get the 1st down, alternate win scenerio".

254 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Very good analysis as always from you.

Re 1) Vollmer was terrific. (and its awesome to have one of your countrymen play for your favorite team. Since he starts I get a free pats article each monday morning, something that happened only every other month before.)

Re 3) absolutely agree. And I am happy to have one of the few coaches who obviously read sites like these and listen. On the other hand its surprisinghow many of the staff writerts dont read their own articles and just outright dismiss a very sensible decision, because its unsual.

Re 5) Of course you are right, but I think you are ahead of your time. Pro Football is just coming around to concepts like 4th down Football and other concepts how to really optimize your 4th down defense. If you have not put thoughts into a situation like that before the game, you are not going to come up with your solution in a stressful situation like that. Your instincts say play what your best defense, and that is normaly a conventional one.

Re 8) I doubt they overturn their spot, especially since it means deciding the game directly. And while spotting it wrong also decided the game, it took 4 more plays to do so, so the ref can go home free.
As for the DPI, its in the rules, but please change that rule. As somebody who comes from socvcer, its the most stupid ruling out there apart from the celebrations rules.

9) I am very pleased with that game despite the loss. For the third time in a row we went to Indy and forced our game on them for most of the time, even when 18 was able to dig deep and gibve them the W. But if we need to go back there next January I know we will have even chances at least. And thats all you can ask for, when playing teams like the colts.

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Have not seen a comment on it so far...but speaking of poor coaching decisions, Marvin Lewis pulled a Tom Coughlin and went for the field goal instead of showing guts and going for a first down against Pitt. The outcome was much better for his sake (no drive down the field for "big" Ben ala Phil Rivers) however I am constantly annoyed by their apparent "let's run down the clock and hope we stop them" approach. They moved down the field and ate up clock, but when they have a chance to seal the win, they peter out, kick the field goal. Maybe it didn't burn them Sunday but his clock management (admittedly better this year in general) will come back to bite at some point down the road...

258 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

But that was a game in which the defenses had dominated. The probabilities, and hence the correct decision, swing substantially based on the teams involved. I think Belichick and Lewis both made the right calls, but had the Bengals been in the Patriots situation against the Steelers, they should have punted, where the Patriots in the Bengals' situation against the Colts should have gone for it.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think the worst part of the Millen-was-never-a-GM thing is that I think it may be affecting his ability in the booth. I think I recall him prior to The Horror as a pretty decent color commentator: now he seems more like the standard bag o' clichés.

Oh yeah, and he's still the guy that ruined the franchise and got a contract extension for it.

College cheerleaders wave or cheer. Pro cheerleaders are closer to strippers; not as close as, say, NBA dance teams, but they're pretty close.

If I can't see the TV when I hear "double reverse", I always assume the announcer got it wrong and it's actually a reverse. I give the announcers about a 1 in 10 chance of calling a reverse correctly. Those rules seem to be pretty accurate.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Wow. There are some seriously deluded people here. I understand it's the heat of the moment and a big game and all that, but good lord, the odds people are quoting are ridiculous. The Colts have an 80% chance of scoring going the length of the field with 2 minutes left? Really? And that is based on what exactly? If only there was a relevent statistical sample we could use as a starting point. Like maybe the first 58 minutes of the game in which the Colts managed 3 touchdown drives out of 13 drives. Not taking time into account, that's 3/13 = 80%!!!! No wait. 21%. That can't be right, can it?

Put some time constraints on it and we're probably talking even less since the offense has less options.

Now 4th and 2 in that situation is converted 60% of the time? Really? With the defense totally selling out to stop the short gain? I looked at the linked article and saw terrible statistical methods used to justify the 60%. It should take anyone 30 seconds to spot the obvious flaw inthat methodology. Realistically, 10%-20%.

The change in probability of the Colts scoring a TD from the 30 in that situation compared to their chance of scoring from their end of the field? An increase of 60% is reasonable.

Now plug these numbers in and tell me how it was a toss-up decision.

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"If only there was a relevent statistical sample we could use as a starting point. Like maybe the first 58 minutes of the game in which the Colts managed 3 touchdown drives out of 13 drives."

So 13 drives is now a "relevent [sic] statistical sample"?

Also, who ever said that the Colts' TD percentage from their own 30 was 80%? I've seen as high as 53% in this thread, but that was then corrected.

I also have yet to see anyone who advocates punting take into account the possibility of a shanked punt; subjectively, it seems that the Patriots punter would want to avoid a good return, and thus punt towards the sideline, which seems to result in more <30 yard punts than usual.

Chase's post at the P-F-R blog is the most convincing defense of the call I've read. It includes this nice table of "break-even" points. That is, if you think the Colts' TD percentage from the opponent's 28 is the value in the first column, if their chances from their own 32 is less than the value in the second column, the punt was the right call.

28 yds 68 yds
90% 36%
85% 34%
80% 32%
75% 30%
70% 28%
65% 26%
60% 24%
55% 22%
50% 20%
45% 18%
40% 16%
35% 14%
30% 12%
25% 10%

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Read the pro-football-reference blog, morganja.

or two different stats analysts on NYT's "Fifth down" blog:

Reasonable percentages say that the Pats had about a 60% chance of making the conversion, and something like a 35% chance of holding the Colts on a short field if they failed. That comes to something approaching an 80% chance of winning the game. By contrast, they have something like a 70% chance of holding the Colts on a longer field after the punt.

Going for it improved the Pat's chances by a good 10% of winning the game, which is a very big deal.

As a Colts fan, I was NOT happy when the Pats lined up to go for it. I said "oh crap, here goes the game". And I'm not a pessimist by nature.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I question the methodology. Does it take a random sample of all plays that are 4th and 2? Or does it only take those 4th and 2 plays for which the coach decides to go for it? It would seem that if a coach went for it on each and every 4th and 2 the sucess rate would plummet to a much lower number, even moreso when the defense can eliminate worrying about long plays and focus just on the 2 yards.

I was mistaken obviously with the drives, it had been 4/13 or 31%. Still the point remains.

Why is it that so many people who have never played the game, or at least have never coached the game think they know so much better than the best paid coaches in the sport? One would presume that armed with this method any one of the people here could coach a team to a championship. Yet they choose not to. Perhpas because its easier to use statistics to prove oneself correct than it is to actually be correct.

Put your money where your mouth is. Go get a coaching position and win some championships. Otherwise take your statistics with a grain of salt and stop presuming yourselves better informed than those people actually doing it.

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Not you specifically. The royal 'you', all these people calling thousands of coaches stupid for punting on 4th downs. Belichick almost always punts on 4th down. Do people really think he has never bothered to think about the percentages? It seems much more likely that he, and other coaches, have considered the percentages but use much more realistic numbers than a couple of hobbyists on the interent.

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

So your best argument for refuting these calculations is "the coaches know better than you fools".

An argument that is then refuted on the basis that the most successful active coach in the NFL apparently agrees with us.


166 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"Why is it that so many people who have never played the game, or at least have never coached the game think they know so much better than the best paid coaches in the sport? "

Why is it that people seem to think that Playing the game is relevant to probability?

Bill Bellichick never played the game.

247 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Because football is not a computer game in which a random number is generated to dictate the results of a play. What I'm guessing here is that most people here don't really undersatand statistics, their limitations and their assumptions.

174 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Does it take a random sample of all plays that are 4th and 2? Or does it only take those 4th and 2 plays for which the coach decides to go for it?

As opposed to the ones where the coach decided to punt? This makes no sense. The only data that can be analyzed is the data where an attempt actually happened.

It would seem that if a coach went for it on each and every 4th and 2 the sucess rate would plummet to a much lower number

And why is that? Teams generally have the right personnel in for these plays. It's not as though short yardage isn't a common situation on 3rd down, too. The situation is a well-known one that already draws plenty of coaching and practice time. There's no reason to expect these percentages to change if the play became more common.

Besides, this is not relevant to the question of whether the Pats should have gone for it in this specific case.

even moreso when the defense can eliminate worrying about long plays and focus just on the 2 yards.

This is a reasonable argument, but you can easily correct for this by looking at 3rd-and-goal or 4th-and-goal from the 2. And the percentages there are lower, but still pretty close to 50%.

Moreover, we're not talking about a league-average offense. We're talking about the leading scoring team in the NFL. To argue that their chance of conversion was significantly lower than 50% is just silly, in my opinion.

Why is it that so many people who have never played the game, or at least have never coached the game think they know so much better than the best paid coaches in the sport?

As other have pointed out, we're the ones arguing that Bill Belichick was right. You're the one arguing that he was wrong.

227 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"Why is it that so many people who have never played the game, or at least have never coached the game think they know so much better than the best paid coaches in the sport?"

While I agree with that sentiment about 90% of the time, I actually think this is a situation where statistics are very, very relevant.

I think it was the right call, but I also think it's a lot closer of a decision than either the supporters or doubters believe. I was surprised to find out that teams needing a TD to win with 2 minutes left and all their timeouts score that TD 30% of the time when they have to go 70 yards. That seems very high to me. Not saying it's wrong (the 4 downs as opposed to the typical 3 and punt have an effect), just the only statistic that seems a little out of whack.

I will say in Belichick's defense that while everyone here has had hours to digest what's happened, he and his staff had only a few minutes to make the decision to go for it and then put a play call together. You can make an argument about him not making the decision prior to 3rd down, but I can't think of one coach in any NFL (or college) booth who's thinking it's 2-down territory right there.

All the bitching about the wrong play call does fit with your above quote. He attacked a backup safety with an easy throw and had Faulk caught the ball cleanly, the Patriots get the first down. It was an execution error. Maybe the next time you've watched countless hours of Colts defensive film, you can judge the play call.

259 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"I can't think of one coach in any NFL (or college) booth who's thinking it's 2-down territory right there"

I think Mike Leach probably is. Of course, he's passing both times anyway, but . . .

Almost seriously, I think it's worth considering that anybody who plays a lot of Madden almost certainly has more experience of making this type of decision (clock management, timeout use, go for it/kick) in a time-constrained context than most or all NFL head coaches. George Halas coached 497 games. I'm betting there are any number of teenagers and twenty-somethings out there who have "called" well over double that. Obviously NFL teams should not be hiring elite Madden players as their head coaches, any more than they should professional statisticians. They wouldn't know how to teach or motivate players, or run a coaching staff, or countless other things that are far more important than good game management. That doesn't mean they shouldn't consider hiring one as a game management specialist, in the way that they might hire a statistician as a front office consultant.

269 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Actually the better question is did anyone posting on this site think it was 2-down territory for the Patriots when it was 3rd and 2? I'm guessing that number is a lot less than the number of people supporting or not supporting Belichick's decision.

I can tell you that in my experiences game management isn't something that's discussed in the offices. It's a lot of head coach past experiences and what you believe as a coach (some of it good conventional wisdom, some not). Game flow also matter as these decisions aren't made in a vacuum. What does need to be remembered is that in many cases, these decisions are made in 10 seconds or less (provided you don't want to use a timeout) and are rarely so egregious as to be the focal point of the reason a team lost. It's a game that's still about executing plays and if Faulk executes, the Patriots (most likely) win the game. If the Patriots chose to punt, it would still be about making plays on defense (something they were able to do in the 4th quarter on Manning's pick).

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Also, you have to look beyond cold hard numbers and take some human factors into account.

For a bunch of those 13 drives, the Pats had a reasonably fresh defense, and a full complement of players, including their best pass rusher.

By the end of the game, their best rusher, Banta-Cain (did I just write that?) was out with an injury. His backup, Ninkovitch, was also injured. They were down to just two healthy OLB's who had been on the field an insane amount over the course of the 4th quarter and who looked really tired. Furthermore, they cam into the game with two injured D-lineman and so were limited in their ability to substitute, made worse by the Colt's no-huddle. Did you see how Wilfork was just getting batted aside by the end?

In the firs half and 3rd quarter, the Pats were pretty much living in the Colts backfield. In the 4th quarter, their pressure had vanished, probably because they were injured/gassed. It looked to me like they were totally incapable of stopping the Colts no matter where in the field they were.

The first 13 drives didn't make me think that the Colts had a high percentage of scoring from their own 40 yard line. The immediate preceding two drives did. And the ease at which the Colts moved from the Pats 30 (good field position, but not exactly in the shadow of the goal, either), lends additional credence.

164 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


You can't use stats when they help, and anecdotes when the stats don't help. For example, one could say anecdotally that the Pats had no chance of getting 4th and 2, when they failed on 3rd and 2 right before that. What, anecdotally, would make one think that NE could get it the next time? (Or, that the Colts would easily score the next time?)

Also, you have to factor in the fact that going from the shot gun, NE made it clear that they were throwing (and likely running the short out to either Welker or the other slot guy, in this case Faulk -- the rookie Indy CB's after the game were all talking about how the Indy coaches were telling them all week that if NE went for a 4th and short, that this would be the play), and Indy put on the full press, not caring if they gave up a deep pass or catch and long run.

So, should the first try for 2 yards have not given you confidence on the second try? Heck, the first one was almost a pick 6.

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Actually, the Colts had 4 TD drives prior to the last one. 4/13 = 31% Regardless of the relevance of the sample, that is the fact.

Those 4 TD drives were 90 yards, 80 yards, 79 yards, and 79 yards. They lasted between 1:49 and 3:08. I don't think the time remaining or the distance to go for a TD after a punt were going to be significantly worse than those conditions.

The last two TD drives were two of the last three Colts' possessions. If we limit our sample to the 4th qtr, the chances the Colts score is around 2/3 or 67% and they turn it over 1/3 of the time (and that's assuming 79 yard drives, which is probably around the worst case post-punt). Yes, that's a very small sample but it's also the largets relevant one available.

IMO, based on the teams and players on the field last night, given the state of the Pats defense, the probablity of the Colts scoring was between 31% and 67% after a punt. I don't think you can go lower than 31% because the Colts had been that successful throughout the game. I don't think you can go higher than 67% because even Manning-Wayne make mistakes, as they had just a short time before. Obviously a purely statistical analysis can pick holes in both assertions.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'm surprised, and honestly a bit disappointed, to read that all the FO staff seemed to think this was the wrong call by Belichick. It was the right call, and it wasn't that close as far as coaching decisions go, either.

Going for it gives you something like a 60% chance of game over right there. Certainly more than 50%.

Do you REALLY think that making the Colts go another 35 yards, with multiple time outs to work with, is worth passing up that 60% chance of a guaranteed win? This seems crazy to me.

The Pro-football-reference blog does this analysis in more detail, as you linked, but really, rational football fans should be able to recognize that the field position is not worth passing up a better than even chance of a guaranteed win.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I want to point out to readers that there's a reason why my post says "total fan shock." How I felt last night as a Pats fan and how I feel this morning as an objective analyst are two different things. (After consideration, I do think Belichick made the right decision but the wrong playcalls.) However, the people who write for FO are always fans first and writers second. We've never hidden that, in fact we have a page where we even list which teams we all root for! Just remember that often, that's what Audibles is about too -- not just the scientific response to football stats, but the emotional feelings of an Eagles fan, a Giants fan, a Pats fan, a Bengals fan, a Steelers fan, a Titans fan, a couple of Seahawks fans, and occasionally a couple of Colts fans.

179 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Fair enough, Aaron. As a Colts fan, my gut, immediate reaction was "oh no", and I'm not a pessimistic fan by nature. I was just a lot more comfortable with "Peyton has 2 minutes and timeouts trying to drive 70 yards to win this" than I was with "we have to stop Brady and Moss/Welker from getting 2 yards on this play, or the game is over".

Moreover, I agree with you that the playcalls seemed odd. If you were making independent decisions on 3rd and 4th down, and you think that that short of quick out is your most likely way to get 2 yards, then I can see those playcalls. But ideally, you should have decided whether you're going for it on 4th-and-2 before you call the 3rd-and-2 play.

If the answer is yes (which I emphatically believe it should be) then I think channeling Gregg Easterbrook and running the ball between the hash marks actually makes some sense. Faulk did have almost 100 yards on the day. Or, as you say, run 3-yard outs to give yourself a little bit of a margin to work with.

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Is the Weintraub "we" & "our" stuff really necessary? IMO it's kind of unprofessional. You don't see it in Aaron's or Doug's writing, even though they have open rooting interests. I'd rather see the Joe Fan routine in check, but that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I want to go on record, as well, that I think (and always have) that the 2 challenges per game, unless you get them both right, and unless you're under 2 minutes rule, is stupid. It was put in as a compromise because some anti-replay people were insisting that coaches would slow the game too much with challenges unless they were limited.

It wouldn't have affected the Pats game (Belichick was out of timeouts, not challenges), but it would have affected another game I caught a piece of this weekend (either Green Bay or Seattle...I don't remember which). McCarthy or Mora tried to challenge a play when he was out of challenges, even though it looked like he would have won it.

Basically, you're saying that you're sure that the refs won't make more than 2 mistakes per game per team. Wrong!

I've always thought that the challenge rule should be you can challenge as much as you want, and as often as you want, as long as you have timeouts left. Win a challenge, keep your timeouts, lose a challenge, lose your timeout. And get rid of the two minute rule. Sometimes the booth stops the game in clock critical situations when even the coach who stands to benefit by an overturn might not challenge, because he'd rather have the clock run. Leave it up to the opposing coaches. Timeouts are valuable enough that they wouldn't challenge frivolously, and if they did, you're at most allowing three anyway.

177 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I like your rule. I don't like how you get 2 challenges and even if they were right, you don't have the opportunity to challenge again.

But don't you think some coaches would basically never call time outs, and basically use their timeouts as 3 challenges per half?

183 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Sure. But I'm not clear if you're asking if a coach would always challenge when he would otherwise have called a timeout, or never call a timeout except when he wanted to challenge. I'm sure both would happen.

In the first case, if the coach is going to stop the play with a timeout anyway, what's the harm in having the ref look over the last play instead of stand around the field getting cold and fix a mistake if he finds one? And anyway, there would be some cases where a coach wouldn' would be kind of silly to challenge after a RB plunges into the line for a 1-yard gain when what you really want to do is stop the clock. Sure, you could, but you'd be getting the refs annoyed at you...and I think coaches would avoid doing that just for the sake of it. (Kind of like a coach can ask for a measurement any time he wants within reason, if a play didn't produce a first down, and in that way get a free timeout...but coaches don't really abuse that too much).

In the second case, that wouldn't be a very good coach. There are other very good reasons to use timeouts. It just makes a timeout slightly more valuable than it is.

200 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"I don't like how you get 2 challenges and even if they were right, you don't have the opportunity to challenge again."

That's false. If you win both your challenges, you get a third. You *might* even keep getting new ones, until you lose, but I'm not sure of that.

But you definitely get a third one, if your first two were correct.

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

To somewhat pointlessly talk about a different game, Packers/Cowboys really demonstrated the power of fumble luck. Even in a game where the Packers clearly outplayed the Cowboys (this was the first game where I saw the Packers defense play well against an offense with significant talent), the Packers' victory greatly depended on fumble luck, and had the fumble results been reversed, there is a good chance that the Cowboys would have won.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Not that it really matters in the end but, being I'm probably one of the five people in the country who actually watched Bucs-Dolphins, I'll note that Tampa has had horrible kicking this year. Yesterday? New kicker Conner Barth hit three 50+ yard FGs in the first half. I am officially excited about field goals, which says something about my feelings towards this season.

Josh Freeman, again, was horrible at the start, and looked better and better as the game went on. He hit Maurice Stovall (who, incidentally, sucks) for a TD at the start of the 4th quarter with an utterly perfect pass down the left sideline. I'll try to ignore the fact that he fumbled four times. Four.

158 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The crazy thing about Freeman is how awful he is in the first half, and how good he is in the second. I know there's a small sample size at this point and that the QB rating is a seriously flawed stat, but his rating in the first half is 50.9. In the second half it's 101.7. Watching the games really bears this out--he's jumping around, really skittish at first, and then after halftime he stands there and drops the ball in perfectly.

Maybe he needs to do a couple shots before kickoff to calm himself down?

156 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Those FGs were huge. They didn't seem that way at the time, but I feared they'd come back to haunt the Fins.

RE 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."

The Bucs kicked off from the 15 after the penalty, but the Dolphins couldn't handle the squib kick and as a result Miami started the winning drive from their own 15, maybe their worst field position all day. It was a great drive with 75 seconds and 1 TO, not a gift. They probably could have scored a TD if they had tried, too.

Also, if the Pats going for it on 4th was possibly a good call, how can you blame Henning for trying to end the game by "going for it" on 3rd down?

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Okay--my 2 cents about the 4th and two:
First, good points have been made by many.
Second, I did not SEE the end of the game--I "saw" it via ESPN's Gamecast starting at about the 4 minute mark of the 4th quarter, right before the Colts' 2nd to last TD drive.

1) Pats did not use their TO's wisely.
2) Pats DEFINITELY should have let them score on 1st down from the 1 yd line. Gives Brady & Co. a chance to get in FG range.
3) Regardless of the math posted here, I think the risk is too great to not punt. I agree with whoever said basically "you have to put the onus on PM/Colts to ACTUALLY DRIVE DOWN AND SCORE THE TD!" Yes, the probability that he leads the team down is greater than an average team, esp. with the circumstances. But you have to make him DO IT. If the circumstances are reversed, and the Colts are about to give it back to Brady--or any team with a HOF QB and a good offense--you have to make them do it. If you are close to midfield, I think the odds are much more defensible.
4) On 3rd down, you HAVE TO RUN THE BALL. At worst, you have a no gain/minimal loss of yds, clock stops at the 2 minute warning, and you punt or go for it.
5) I think you've got to trust your D in that situation. First, they have rested during the PAT and the commercial after Colts score to make it 34-28. First, the kickoff. Then Pats called time. Then 1st down run, Colts TO. 2nd down pass, Colts TO. 3rd down, should be a run to take it down to 2 min.=TV timeout. Punt, change of possession, TV timeout. THERE WERE FOUR TIMEOUTS + the 2 min. warning in real life, 3 and another TV timeout (not 2 min) in my scenario. The Colts lost the TOP battle--the Pats D SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GASSED AT ALL. If we were talking about the Colts D being gassed in the Miami game when Miami had the ball for 45 minutes--okay, I hear you. But when the other teams has the ball for 26/27 minutes of a regulation game--if you're gassed, you are way out of shape for pro football.
6) If your team is up 13 with 4 minutes to go and the other team has to go 70 yds, then score another TD to win--and they do it--you have every right to 2nd guess/criticize your team's coaches/players/play calling/etc. I kind of root for the Colts because Manning is from NOLA, but they had no business winning that game. Being up 17 points in the 4th Q should be an automatic win unless you are DET, CLE, TB, or STL. And if you belong to one of those 4 teams, it should still be pretty much guaranteed.
7) To sum it up--Math defends BB's call, and I'm okay with that. But his odds of converting are lower than "average", because the Colts don't need to defend anything past the 35 yd line. If the Pats convert, game over. Plus, as mentioned, the risk-reward scenario is horribly in the Colts favor. Also, I don't like 3rd down pass plays (in general) when trying to defend a lead against an opponent needing to keep its 1 TO left. (Saints did it yesterday against the Rams, and it gave them a chance.) If you're gonna pass, do a rollout where the QB can run or throw it away without grounding. Mathmatically, BB's call is defensible. In the real life scenario, you blew it. Your defense helped you do it throughout the 4th Q because they couldn't stop the Colts like they had in the 1st 3 quarters.

168 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

""you have to put the onus on PM/Colts to ACTUALLY DRIVE DOWN AND SCORE THE TD!" "

Why isn't it "you have to put the Onus on the colts defense to ACTUALLY STOP YOU"?

Why just give the ball away?

173 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

My issue with #3 - and I know you're not the originator of the argument, you're just down here at the bottom of the page - is that it ignores the fact that football is a two-way game. By going for it, the onus is on a defense which has given up some 450 yards to *stop* you from gaining two more. Then, even if they succeed, Manning still has to beat you, albeit from a lot closer to the goal.
You've got two teams with world-class offenses and defenses which, tired or daisy-fresh, hadn't been stopping much in the last fifteen minutes. The decision to simply give the Indy offense the ball and hope they can't drive ~60 yards, versus forcing a beat-up defense to hold the line, doesn't strike me as clearly the better one.

EDIT: Rumors that Rich and I are the same person are spurious.

155 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

It's easy to pile on Cutler after a bad game like that, but what about his line/receivers. His decision making wasn't good, but neither was the talent around him. It's easy to pile on HIM after the bad game, but it was a bad team effort. The QB will get too much of the blame after this loss.

I also don't like Singeltary after the game saying if the 49ers play their game they could beat anybody. They were at home and got 5 turnovers and scored 10 points to beat the Bears who aren't that good.

Sabby Piscatelli
Is very athletic, but isn't a very good player. He's played bad all year.

Phillip Buchannon
Funny he strips AD for a fumble. As the announcer mentioned, Buchannon was known to be a poor tackler you run at.

Mark Sanchez
Picking on him for his interception/dumb throw is exactly why he should have sat for at least 1/2 of his rookie season, but in reality all of it. NFL games aren't supposed to be on the job training.

The Steelers kicked 4 FG's and at one point Phil Simms pointed out that they "should" be a good red zone team... They have a mobile QB, good skilled position players and a good line... what? Good line? MAYYYYBE average, but a good offensive line? Silly talk.

I thought Carson Palmer outplayed Big Ben in this game. The Steelers red zone offense and special teams killed them.

Big Ben might be the hardest QB to physically sack in the NFL when you factor in his size and mobility, but it looked like he did a bad job with his presnap reads. He was sacked 3 or 4 times in the first half. Yeah, sometimes he makes amazing plays that others can't make, but too often when the blitz is coming he doesn't speed it up and get the ball out. I think he relies on his size/scrambling a little more than he should. I think Donovan was much the same way a few years ago. Very strong, very mobile, but he used that as a crutch far too often. Don't get me wrong, I'd take big ben on my team in a heart beat but I think he can improve his game there.

Redskins Broncos
I love the sarcasm by Barnwell...
- The Redskins break 20 points for the first time this year... In week 10! They broke the mythical 20 point barrier thanks to a TD pass by their punter. In their 2nd highest point total they also got a TD pass from the punter.
- Wasn't there an Eagles fan on this cite talking about how Laddell Betts sucks? People in Washington want him to start over an aging and less effective Clinton Portis.

Justin Forsett looked better than I peg him in the Seattle game.

Green Bay/Dallas
I think Larry Tripplet is my least favorite NFL Ref. Either him or Ron Winter.

I don't know what else to say but it was vintage Eagles. They moved the ball up and down the field with the pass ( with ease). They couldn't convert 3rd and 1's, and they couldn't do anything in the redzone.

I thought Norv Turner called a good game on offense.

Patriots/Colts Wasting challenges
- I actually give a lot of credit to Mike Tomlin in the Steelers game for not friviously wasting challenges. He showed good restraint on a couple of occasions ( even one he probably would have won).

The reason why I bet on the Colts last night was because the Pats had some injuries, and I liked Freeny/Mathis to pressure Brady without Light. Vollmer and the rest of the Pats O-Line had a monster game as far as I'm concerned. Vollmer looks like a future star and it doesn't hurt that the Pats are one of the teams that has already played in Europe.

New England is still going to be number one in DVOA.
Hence the reason why everybody calls you the New England outsiders. Without even looking at the date you conclude the patriots are the best.

Going for it
I don't fault Bellicheck for going for it.

193 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Betts doesn't suck by any means. He's not a great change of pace back like say, Jerious Norwood, who can come in cold and rip off huge runs. He's just not effective on two or three carries. Still a solid backup and a good back to grind out yards late in the game.

236 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Betts had over 100 yards and looked good yesterday.

Earlier a Philly fan who knows everything was arguing that Betts isn't a decent backup. He brought up YPC stats ( when he was injured) and tried to craft together an argument that went with the whole Jason Campbell has never had any talent around him argument. It's all a Washington consiracy.

241 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"I also don't like Singeltary after the game saying if the 49ers play their game they could beat anybody. They were at home and got 5 turnovers and scored 10 points to beat the Bears who aren't that good."

The almost beat 8-0 Colts and 7-1 Vikings.
They have 5 losses but the only game they had not have a chance to win in the last 5 minutes of the game was the Falcons game.

160 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'm with Vince on this:

"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."

During the timeout after the second down play, you have to know if you are in 3 down or 4 down territory. If you are going to punt, then you call whatever play has the best chance of netting that first down. If you are in four down territory, you run it. Indy would have called a TO or let it tick to the two minute warning, giving you time to work out the fourth down play.

Also, just over four minutes left in the game. Brady, on third down, feels the pressure and throws the ball away. Take a knee (or drop and cover)!! Keep the clock moving. You have to, have to, have to keep the clock moving there.

167 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

So, who wins the Colbert award this week, Beli or Zorn? I'm for Zorn, because calling a trick play on 4th and 20 when the defense knows what's coming and you know that they know, and the play not only works but goes for a TD, blows my mind away.

203 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

As far as I'm concerned Belicheck deserves the Martz award for handing the game away.

The Colts had been doing a shit job defensively earlier in the game but were turning it around with what they were doing in the second half. Most teams couldn't have stopped the mighty patriots offense from getting a 1st down in 3 downs. The Colts had already done that. The Pats were obviously already in go to their best plays for the first down mode on first second and third down (Why wouldn't they be?). The Colts had stopped them for three downs already.

Also... by going for it on fourth down not only do you tell your defense that you have absolutely no confidence in them (If you had any you would punt it) but you also challenge the Colts defense by saying that you're willing to take the risk of going for it from the 28 against them.

I'm not going to lay out a bunch of percentages for people to math out. It's not about percentages that are estimated like "Chances they get that particular first down" and "Chances The Colts Score". I'm going with the obvious fact that it is harder to score from further away and punting the ball.

And in closing... The one counterpoint percentage I'm going to use? 30% - The percent of drives last year that ended in Touchdowns for New Orleans. The Highest figure in the league last year. So stop using this odds of Manning Scoring a TD there are somehow over 50% argument.

213 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

If NE punts, it basically has one chance to win the game: stop the Colts. If NE goes for it, it has two chances: make the 1st down or stop the Colts. If you don't figure the "percentages" of those three chances and how they relate to each other, either with some formal "geeky" stats-based analysis, or some "Football reality" psycho-emotional analysis, you might as well flip a coin - and get ready to flip burgers because you are a crappy decision-maker.

217 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

This isn't necessarily directed at you, BigDerf, I've seen a number of other posters make a point along the line:

"by going for it on fourth down ... you tell your defense that you have absolutely no confidence in them (If you had any you would punt it)"

If that's your argument, doesn't punting it also "tell your offense that you have absolutely no confidence in them" getting 2 yards when the game's on the line? I know it's a cliche, but when the games on the line, I think you want the ball in the hands of your best players. For the Pats, that's Brady and the offense. I was shocked when the Pats went for it, but the longer I think about it, the more I think it was the right choice (if not the right play call).

Heck, you can even argue that going for it "tells your defense you trust them to stop the Colts getting 30 yards".

214 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'm not going to lay out a bunch of percentages for people to math out. It's not about percentages that are estimated like "Chances they get that particular first down" and "Chances The Colts Score". I'm going with the obvious fact that it is harder to score from further away and punting the ball.

Of course you're not going to lay out percentages. That would require making a coherent argument, and you're obviously not willing to do that.

The one counterpoint percentage I'm going to use? 30% - The percent of drives last year that ended in Touchdowns for New Orleans. The Highest figure in the league last year. So stop using this odds of Manning Scoring a TD there are somehow over 50% argument.

Fine. Chance of scoring after a punt is around 30%. (That's actually the number most people are using, including the NYT 5th down analysts.)

Now, what's the chance of the Colts scoring from the 28? Also 30% or something higher? Are you going to use something over the 50% number you just derided? Give a number.

231 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The point was percentages are useless and i can throw out one to help my argument as well.

Everyone knows Manning was gonna score from the 28 there. It's not about the percentages but the flow of that particular game. He's cutthroat as hell at least back him up best you can.

And to the poster above about no confidence in your offense - If the offense blows it the defense is gonna have to go on the field... if they punted it away the offense wouldnt see the field again today anyways.

232 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"The point was percentages are useless and i can throw out one to help my argument as well."

You can't seem to provide a coherent set of percentages that support your argument. You haven't done so, anyway.

"Everyone knows Manning was gonna score from the 28 there. It's not about the percentages but the flow of that particular game. He's cutthroat as hell at least back him up best you can."

So, you're arguing that he's 100% likely to score from the 28, but only 30% likely to score if you punt? Don't you realize that's a completely ridiculous argument?

A couple posts ago you were arguing that guessing that the Colts score 50% of the time from the 35 is ridiculous - and I admit, it is a little high. But you think 100% from the 28 is reasonable? That's just plainly illogical. You're not thinking this through.

As far as the "flow of the game" goes, the previous time the Colts had had the ball, they went 79 yards in less than two minutes.

The 35 yards you get on the punt seem almost trivial, really, compared to a roughly even chance to end the game by making a 2 yard gain. It was the right call.

171 Question about the DPI

If the receiver and defender's positions were reversed, that would have been more of a DPI than what actually happened. In this hypothetical scenario, the defender is able to see the receiver and the ball and DPI probably would have been called. No argument from me here.

That's why I think this is a bogus call. Ball was under thrown. Defender is strictly going for the ball. Receiver sees both ball and body. They both have a right to the ball. Receiver initiates contact in going for the ball. There's no way a DPI should have been called when the defender had been looking at the ball for a good 2 seconds before jumping for it and feeling a guy on his back...

180 Re: Question about the DPI

In reply to by Myran (not verified)

My issue with DPI, is its almost always called as a result of something the Wide Receiver does, and not something the cornerback does.

Its supposed to be that both players have a right to the ball, but the way its called, essentially the defender has the responsibility of avoiding the WR, which doesn't make much sense.

(disregarding extremely flagrant - tackle the WR type calls)

186 Re: Question about the DPI

Hell, I just wish they would make up their mind what the rule is! Again, the contrast with the non-call on Cutler's fourth int on Thursday indicates how arbitrary such rulings are. The safety makes a move on the ball, and in doing so bumps Olson off his path. Interception, no PI call, and two different camps of opinion after the game, from experienced former players and coaches. In short, nobody knows what pass interference is anymore. I tend to agree with you, that the defensive player should be able to take a path to the ball in the same manner as an offensive player, as long as he is clearly playing the ball. However, I'd settle for some consistency.

191 Re: Question about the DPI

Is there consistency among each officiating team? It might be worthwhile to further emphasize each crew's tendencies to players each week. Knowing what is and is not going to be called would make a big difference.

204 Re: Question about the DPI

9 times out of 10... If the defender goes up for the ball Bumps the receiver and comes down with it... He's going to not get flagged for interference. If the Patriot player had come down with the ball he probably wouldn't have been called for it.

219 Re: Question about the DPI

"Again, the contrast with the non-call on Cutler's fourth int on Thursday indicates how arbitrary such rulings are. The safety makes a move on the ball, and in doing so bumps Olson off his path. Interception, no PI call"

exactly. I'm willing to bet that if butler had intercepted that pass, no DPI is called. of course, he'd've had to make a palomalu go-go-gadget arm leaping play to get it

eta. bigderf is a wise man

223 Re: Question about the DPI

The replay of the pick on Cutler is here:

I still think it should've been PI - the Bears TE (actually Kellen Davis) had position and the defender came through him. Then again, I'm a Bears fan so I would think that.

242 Re: Question about the DPI

So you think that the defenders should just let the receivers catch the ball if they are in a position to catch it.
I think it was obvious that the defender went after the ball to intercept it. He was not trying to make the TE not catch the ball. Sometimes it is not obvious what the intent is, but the safety not only intercepted the ball, he kept running on stride to gain yardage. The defender has as much right as the TE to go for the ball.
Then again, I am a 49ers fan so I would think that.

277 Re: Question about the DPI

The defender shoulder checks Kellen on route the ball. He initiates the contact. I don't think defenders should just let receivers catch it, but I think shoulder checks should probably be illegal.

229 Re: Question about the DPI

I'd argue the problem with DPI is the draconian penalty attached to it. Why is it an automatic first down if it's a short pass? Why does the NFL reward offenses for NOT making plays down the field?

237 Re: Question about the DPI

I agree. It's already a little wrong that the rules as they are written fundamentally ASSUME that the WR would have caught the ball if he hadn't been interfered with. But we're going to gift a first down, even if the catch we're assuming would have been made wouldn't have earned one?

I've had the opinion for years that DPI should be 15 yards or spot of the foul, whichever is LESS, and not grant automatic first down. Yes, you'd have the occasional DB that would get beat and then absolutely mug a WR to prevent a long gain, but how is that different from the occasional OL who will totally mug a pass rusher when he gets beat to prevent a sack? After all, 1st and 20 is better than 2nd and 18 and a risk of a fumble/injury to a QB... But I think that it would happen less than you would think because, just because a WR gets open, doesn't mean he'll catch the ball. And a DB won't want to risk giving the offense a free 15 yards every time he gets beat.

I also think that defensive holding and illegal contact should stay as 10 and 5 yard penalties, respectively, but NOT be automatic first downs. Nothing is more frustrating than watching a defense, through good play, get the offense facing 3rd and 16 or something, and then get a ticky-tack illegal contact penalty that gifts the offense with a first down. Give them their five yards and make them earn the first down by still having to convert a 3rd and pretty long.

244 Re: Question about the DPI

The poster child for this discussion would be the Panther-Falcon game today, if anyone had watched it, in which a completely bogus PI call 6 yards down the field on 4th and 8 converted for the Falcons and went from a turnover to a TD. Worst call of the year in my opinion, especially since it didn't draw the flag until the Falcon's coaches demanded one. And it was in Carolina.

181 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Can somebody please explain to me why the Saints D only shows in the 4th quarter if they show up at all? I'm just a tad frustrated.

262 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

You've been playing some strong running teams with the lynchpin of your run defense (Ellis) injured. The Rams may suck, but they have some decent run-blockers on the line and Jackson is one of the best all-around backs in football.

263 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think having Greer, Sharper & Ellis on the sideline had something to do with it this week. Plus Porter going out in the 2nd Q (iirc).
As for the Miami, Carolina, & Atlanta games, I think early turnovers in our own end had something to do with it also.
Also, as a Saints fan, I have noticed that with the exception of this week, both the offense and the defense have looked fresher than our counterparts in the 4th quarter. I attribute this to good depth at RB, WR, DB, and DL positions (DL before the injuries to Ellis & Clancy)--4 spots on a team where quality depth is very necessary in the NFL.

182 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think the call to go for it was about control. Playing the 2009 Colts with a chance to seal a win late in a close game against their defense rather than their offense, Belichick chose to try to win against their defense while he still had a choice.

The degree to which the decision was hubris-based is endlessly debatable, but I do know this: that 79-yard touchdown drive that Manning executed in 1:52 without using a timeout was a thing of absolute beauty. It was like watching Rembrandt at work. I can't blame anybody on the opposing sideline for wanting to keep the ball out of Manning's hands after that display of football mastery. Almost to the point where you make the same decision regardless of down and distance. There's just no way to exaggerate how incredible that drive was. It

But not running it against the Colts defense was definitely stupid.

185 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Oh and about last nights game...

Football night in America sucks. It's Olberman thinking he's funny running the highlights ( he's not funny). Then you have Patrick playing mediator between Rodney Harrison & Dungy.

I LOVED seeing Harrison & Dungy talk X's and O's, talking about old battles!

Then you had this geeky know nothing about football Dan Patrick break in and ask them a layman question.... He'd sometimes ask the question with the intent they'd answer one way... He didn't make it as much about the guy's he was interviewing, but as a piece of the story to the whole of the story.

Here's our story, we'll ask for YOU the former coach/player to insert a tidbit into our story that goes along with the script. Then quickly go on to the next topic. It was lame.

Sometimes I like the more free for all format some other networks use which would have resulted in Patrick/Olberman asking a question and Harrison/Dungy talking football with Patrick and his girlfrielnd Olberman on the sides just watching.

188 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'll skip the stats debate on the 4th down. I like the call, just not the playcall for it.

RE: the skins game, fun game to watch. Individual plays that Campbell looked like an NFL QB, but he reverted to form and kept dumping off the ball too. The part of me that loves the team but hates Danny/Vinny makes me afraid that a few wins like this will make them think that there isn't anything wrong with the team that a free agent or three can't fix. "See Danny? Starting LT street free agent pick up DURING the season. And the fans act like we're not good at this!" Too much ARE and not enough Kelly/Thomas as well. Fred Davis better than I expected, but doesn't have the soft hands, grit or deceptive speed of Cooley(or the announcing love that Cooley and Smoot get).

RE: the safeties, Horton hadn't been as good this season. Rather see Smoot in at safety on obvious passing downs than Horton or Doughty, but I'm still liking both sixth rounders. Would like to see what Tryon and Barnes can do too, esp Barnes.

194 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I am amazed that the FO writers don't have better gut instincts on the correctness of the 4th down call statically given how many times this has come up on the site over the years. Barnwell seemed the only one who has the courage of his convictions.

I cannot imagine not going for it in that situation. With average chances you still go for it, and the situational elements (the relative weaknesses of the defenses compared to the offenses) make it even a better decision. I realize these are emails sent in real time, but as someone who has read this site for years my immediate reaction in real time was "Wow that seems gutsy let me think about the odds". After about 15 secs I decided it was the right play, and after looking up the actual numbers I was even more certain.

I guess it is hard to fault people for their guts, but i am just surprised the outsiders guts are so similar to that of Dilfer or the other random ESPN morons.

196 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I get that this is section is a bonus, kind of like a delayed chat/blog of the games and the authors are commenting as half analyst/half fan. But I wish it would take more of the analyst voice, and attempt to remove bias, and less of the fan voice. Yes, you put which teams you pull for, but try to do the same analysis for the other teams aside from the ones you care about.

I get Aaron likes the Patriots. I get Mike likes the Eagles. Etc. It is cool that you post the team affiliations. But, if your team is not one of the core teams, it does get annoying. I guess the choices are: I can go somewhere else, this is working fine, it is a piece of the portfolio of stuff I read, but one I really value, so wish it was more broadly spread; OR, you can make a concerted effort to give voice to other teams and there perspective. It feels like there is a "cool" core of teams and then the rest that do some stuff occasionally.

This hyper-focus on the Pats/Indy is understandable given the quality of the two teams and BB as being the best coach in football (my opinion), but as a Bolts fan, reading the Eagles/Bolts thread, it was all about what the Eagles were doing right or wrong, as if the Chargers were some vague opponent, whose actions were not really influencing the game as much as the Eagles were screwing it up or, when doing well, achieving what they should be achieving. Did Rivers going 20/25 with no picks just random? That they suddenly gotten over their red zone woes in recent weeks by targeting their tertiary players (Wilson, third string TE in NYG game; Tolbert, the FB and Nanee, their slot receiver yesterday) is of no merit at all? No player execution, no play calling involved? Would not know Rivers was even playing by reading the in game comments, except I guess someone was throwing the ball to Malcom Floyd when he pushed off Sheldon Brown. I heard more about Brian Billick than anything the Chargers were doing right or wrong.

You position the site as intelligent analysis, but, then, want to also just be a fan too. Intelligent analysis implies impartiality, as best as it can be achieved. It would be as thought BP focused on just Boston, NY and few other mega franchises, like ESPN. No, they talk about all the teams, analyze in equal depth all the trades, etc. I hope you follow suit soon. Your comment on the FAQ saying the bias aligns with the fan base is ESPN's argument: most of the fans are in NY, Boston, major markets, so we are going to focus on them.

206 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'd like to refer you to the disclaimer at the top of Audibles every week that tells you
"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.)"

Don't bitch that your team wasn't covered in Audibles and just be happy that Audibles exist.

207 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

ParseError: Complaint does not match template: Why [no/so few] comments regarding [game that my favorite team played]? It was clearly a better game that [other game that garnered more comments] and [list of reasons that apply to me personally that don't apply to any FO staff]. [More angry comments trying to redefine what the Audibles at the Line feature is].

209 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I hate it when my free ice cream isn't in the flavor I prefer!

O.K., less snarkily, if a reader of this feature doesn't think a game or a team hasn't been given the attention it deserves, there is a section, called "comments", in which the reader can fill the void, and all other readers can see it.

220 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I thought I acknowledged that they have been very candid with their format and bias. I respect that. My complaint/request, was to change that. I went to their FAQ section that highlighted their biases. My goal to try to be more encompassing would improve the engagement/interest from readers whose team does not align with their teams.

They have every right to say "No thanks, we're gonna keep doing it this way." And others to say "We prefer it this way". But I think I have a right to request a change. It is not that I don't understand they have made an explicit choice, but I don't like. Now if it is Biases Audibles vs. No Audibles, yes, of course, Audibles in whatever form.

I have other sources to read, so not the end of the world, but it was my request.

I usually view the comments as reactions to their posts (and the reactions to the reactions, etc), not a riff on one's own observations.

222 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

jay, I was unaware of anyone threatening to deprive you of the "right" to express your sentiments on the topic. Longtime readers of this site, however, have seen a form of your complaint, in the comments section of this feature, on approximately 3,234,661 occasions. In response to such repetition, many of us respond, perhaps uncharitably, with sarcasm.

210 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Now that Belichick has made the move to follow the anti-punt stats and take the heat, what are the chances he eschews punting entirely for the rest of the season in an attempt to prove that he was right?

Because that would be awesome. I would cheer for the Patriots.

211 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Happens that way in IRC too...comments about all the teams playing, as it happens. Commercial discussion too.

215 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

If you go for it as a coach, you're telling your defense that you don't believe they can stop the Colts. But what about the flip side - if you don't go for it, you're telling your offense that you don't believe they can get two yards. In the first case, supposedly you've decreased the defenses' chances to stop the Colts if the 4th down play fails. In the 2nd case, haven't you also decreased the chances that the offense has to come back for a FG drive if the Colts score and leave time on the board? Whose pyche is more fragile - the offense of the defense?

218 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Forget about your "telling" your defense of what your telling the Colts defense. All that is extra. The important thing is 3rd and 2 with 2:23 remaining. Colts can stop the clock once plus the two minute warning. Bill said he knew he was going for it on 3rd down. HOW CAN YOU NOT RUN THE BALL. Big formation with tight ends and extra offensive lineman. Thats a small D-line. run the ball. If you don't convert your in no worse situation and you force an Indy timeout. Now its fourth and 1 or maybe 2....but you do it again. Two runs to gain two yards has to be possible against this indy defense...if not you deserve to lose. The playcalling and clockmanagment lost the game not the decision.

226 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"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. "

I've seen every game of the B/B era, and I can honestly say it happens more than you think. Not necessarily in that exact situation (after a kickoff), but they've taken their share of bad timeouts.

Anyway, my biggest beef, as some others have said, is not running it on 3rd and 2. People wring their hands today about Belichick's lack of faith in his defense, but really how little faith do they have in Laurence Maroney that he can't at least NOT lose yardage?

I can't see them not either A. getting it or B. getting it close enough so they can QB sneak it which the Patriots convert at a ridiculous rate. Also it eliminates the danger of Mathis/Freeney off the edge, which was kinda overwhelming them towards the end there, despite a good game overall from the tackles. IMO they didn't give themselves any room for error on the stick routes because they were terrified of Brady having to hold the ball for more than 2 seconds at that point.

230 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I am amused by fans who whine about officiating as opposed to coaches who decide to abandon the run for no apparent reason allowing the opposing defense to just hurl themselves at the quarterback.

The Packers got lucky last night. Just as Tampa Bay took advantage of every piece of good fortune against Green Bay. Games like that happen regularly. It's one of the joyous but infuriating things about sport.

Agreed totally on the Weintrab contributor. Writing isn't up to snuff for the site, insight is no different than an ESPNer and the whole "we" thing reminds me of Ohio State fans who shriek about the Buckeyes while having attended Ohio U. Please. Talk about an identity crisis.

Barnwell will likely delete this post because I hurt someone's feelings but for five seconds folks will know my sentiment on the topic..................

278 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I don't mind the criticism, but at least spell my name correctly.
BTW, if you hadn't noticed, we are all ESPN contributors here.
As for "we", it's how fans talk. As Aaron mentioned, Audibles is not meant to be dispassionate. And if you notice, I never say "we" when we lose...

238 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

OK could somebody help me with this.

I vaguely remember a Cleveland Browns game over 10 years ago, maybe 12 to 15 years ago on national TV, not Fox, it was either CBS or ABC. Anyway, it was a close game and Bellicheck the Browns head coach at the time did something unconventional at the end of the game. I don't know if it was going for it instead of punting but it made the announcer blast him.

I think it MIGHT have been Dan Dierdorf, but the thing I remember most about this memory is the way he said his name. " And Bill BELLLLL A CHECK" ( goes for it and doesn't get it, or did something else unconventional).

Does anything remember anything about this?

239 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

stu scott brings advanced nfl stats to countdown, blows the numbers. millen responds there is an above nfl average quarterback on the other side of the ball, forgetting about the guy on THIS side of the ball. oh well. it's a start I guess

245 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

So I feel a little out of place bringing this up, but to me the thing that is being completely lost in this 4th down debate is the complete and thorough pillaging Manning put on given the opportunities he was presented. Forget the decisions that got him there, it is easy to take for granted the fact that when Manning did have the ball it was sheer domination.

246 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

So I feel a little out of place bringing this up, but to me the thing that is being completely lost in this 4th down debate is the complete and thorough pillaging Manning put on given the opportunities he was presented. Forget the decisions that got him there, it is easy to take for granted the fact that when Manning did have the ball it was sheer domination.

249 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Yeah I knew there was a reason NE has a bias in your dumb DVOA ratings and some of the posters here call you New England Outsiders. Schatz or whatever his name is openly cheerleading NE above.

Your team choked Schatz. You know how Colts fans used to say they were the better team on the field in the 2004 opener and ran up and down the field on your defense and they'd win the rematch...and all NE fans said that your team just finds ways to win games no matter who is injured or who has the most talent or whatever.

Your boys are chokers now Schatz. Get used to the Mannings owning them.

I'm sure that somehow you will fix your DVOA ratings to make NE and even bigger #1 this week to make up for your heartbreak.


250 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The other important thing to point out is how well the Colts played when it mattered. There is a reason they are 9-0.

The defense was riddled with injuries and starting a very inexperienced secondary that melted down and gave up a quick 24 points. But after that point, the Colts DEFENSE played exceptionally well against the Pats for 2 and 1/2 quarters. The Patriots remaining 10 points basically came from their special teams and defense.

NE possessions after going up 24-7:

1. Punt
2. Punt
3. Kneel down
4. INT
5. Fumble
6. TD (but started on the 5 yard line after Welker's punt return)
7. Punt
8. FG (were already in FG range after turnover)
9. 4 and OUT
10. End of game

And Melvin Bullitt made the play of the game tackling Faulk short of the first down. Faulk bobbled the ball because Brady's pass was off-target because he had to throw it too quick because there was a blitz that got pressure on him. It was an all around defensive effort but Bullitt made the tackle. Great play. Faulk was definitely down 1 foot short of the first down because of the bobble.

Look at those drives above. That's how the game ended, not how the game started (with a young secondary too). I think the Colt's defense was underrated in this game (after the bad start).

255 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Great points. The most unfortunate part of Belichick's call, by far, is that it has eliminated all discussion of the rest of this game. The Colts outscored the Patriots to close out the game by 21 to 3. The Patriots were able to rush out to a quick lead by playing 500 with Randy Moss, just like we thought they would, but I've haven't heard anyone give much credit to the Colts for making adjustments and coming back.

I'm guessing a lot of pundits at ESPN and SI would still say Brady is more "clutch" than Manning, but it was Manning who tossed three fourth quarter touchdowns while Brady couldn't gain two yards on two plays to win the game. I'm not trying to revive the irrational argument, merely pointing out that there are stories from this game that aren't being told.

266 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think part of the issue here is that by this point we EXPECT Manning to somehow lead the Colts back in these situations. He's done it enough times at this point that I can understand why opponents would never "take their foot off the gas" - how many points do you need to score to be safe?

253 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

w00t! robert weintrub is my new best friend. just be careful, though, when lamenting that miracle loss to denver...karma has helped the bengals out on a few close wins, too. i think we're about even (on the season, not the franchise!)

279 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Your point is well taken--I usually hate playing the "if/then" game, but that playh was beyond karma and into never-never land. Let's hope Cincy sees them again in the postseason.

256 NFC East - Wins and Losses

I remarked a few weeks back that there was a wide discrepancy in DVOA ratings and the pt based Sagarin ratings. Sagarin had the NFC East at the time as worst division in football (they are now 6th - ahead of the AFC West and NFC West). When you look at the records of NYG, Phil and Dallas against decent competition their records are very poor:

NFC East NYG, Phil, Dall

Against decent competition:(Den, Atl, GB, Arz, NO x 2, SD x 2)

Record: 1-7, -62 pts

That's not exactly a murderer's row of teams. Only NO is in the top echelon.

Wins other than against their own division:

(TB x 3, Car x 2, KC x 3, Oak, Atl, Sea)

268 Re: NFC East - Wins and Losses

The NFC East may not be the best division, but if you're paying attention to Sagarin ratings, you're wasting your time. I kept a record of the predicions in the Friday USA Today for three seasons about 6-7 years ago. They were wrong about 70% of the time. Unfortunately, any time I tried to take advantage of that, they'd pull off a rare winning week.

276 Re: NFC East - Wins and Losses

All that tells you is that there isn't a dominant team in the NFC East — no Saints or Vikings or Colts — which you can see yourself from the standings. Instead you may end up with three 10-6 teams that have beaten the dross on their schedule, but come up short against the elite teams. Still makes for an ok division.

The NFC North is supposed to be better (says Sagarin)? It is 4-4 against the (inferior) NFC West, with losses to all four teams. The round-robin model doesn't work.