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

Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Audibles at the Line: Week 12
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Vince Verhei

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.)

Thursday, November 26

Green Bay 34 at Detroit 12

Tom Gower: Well, Lions fans had their moment of glory they didn't get last year when Jordy Nelson fumbled the opening kickoff and they took a 7-0 lead. Since then, the Lions offense has been unsurprisingly mediocre -- Matthew Stafford started 5-for-7 for 35 and the touchdown, but was 2-of-7 for 18 and two picks the next seven throws. The two picks were both bad -- Troy Aikman tried to excuse one by blaming Dennis Northcutt for running the route in the wrong place, but I'm not sure I believe that given where the ball was thrown. The Packers seem to be really throwing a lot of short stuff and hoping for missed tackles. That's not a bad strategy given Detroit's well-chronicled defensive back problems, even if it annoys me.

One thing the Lions are doing a fair amount of is showing pressure. They stopped third-and-goal on a short pass to Donald Driver when they overload blitzed and dropped off to the right (and correct) side. That's not something Schwartz did in Tennessee; has Gunther Cunningham done that?

Bill Barnwell: Oh, they're playing awful. They're a fumble recovery and a missed field goal away from 16-0. Could be 26-0, realistically. Four lengthy drives from Green Bay, whereas Detroit's drives have been short and ended mostly in disaster.

I think Green Bay's taking short stuff because that's what Detroit's giving them. Will James is consistently playing ten yards off the line -- including on third-and-7. And then still gives a cushion going up the field.

Mike Kurtz: Green Bay stuffs Detroit at their goal-line after getting good pressure on Stafford. Given Green Bay's rather porous offensive line and mediocre running game, you'd think that they'd dial up a swing or some kind of intermediate route, right?

No, they run up the gut for an almost-safety. Realizing this wouldn't work, they then decide to run off-tackle from their own half-yard line, which is also almost a safety. I say almost because he fumbled in the end zone and the lions recovered for a touchdown. Excelsior!

Boo, changed to a safety after review. That's much less funny.

Oakland 7 at Dallas 24

Doug Farrar: The Austin-Asomugha battle looks like a good one today. Austin beat Nnamdi on a cross with 11:30 left in the first quarter (looked like there was supposed to be some zone help over the middle), and had him turned around on an inside/outside run off the line, but dropped the ball a bit later in that same first drive.

In a separate e-mail thread this week, we were talking about why the Raiders don't run any kind of direct snaps or option-read plays. Maybe they will after getting gashed by Tashard Choice off a direct snap for 66 yards near the end of the first quarter. (Note: The Cowboys call their pseudo-Wildcat the "Razorback.") I really like Choice in that role, and I think it's why he's so good on draws and delays. He understands the timing of the delay, he's very quick to the hole when it's time to go, and he's able to press through small seams, though not in this case. He had a freakin' four-lane highway on that play.

Tom Gower: I think the Asomugha-Austin matchup really fizzled out. I didn't see much of the game, but from what I did see, the Cowboys were lining Austin up all over the field, slot and flex on both sides, while Asomugha stayed more constant. I think they were determined not to let their most threatening pass threat not producing be the reason they lost again, and it worked.

Granted, this was the Raider pass D.

Doug Farrar: Agreed. A few interesting plays, then "Pfffft."

New York Giants 6 at Denver 26

Aaron Schatz: Listened to the first half of Denver-New York in the car on the way home from my brother's house in Northampton. Got home to an e-mail from somebody I know in the league, who must stay anonymous:

"I'm going to be disappointed if no one mentions Millen's wide receiver analysis in next week's Audibles. 'I'm not quite ready to say Smith, Manningham, and company are better (even potentially) than, say, Toomer and Hilliard.' Guess that's why he makes the big bucks."

And yes, Millen just called Champ Bailey "Boss" by mistake. But no, he's not going to talk about his old job. Heh.

Bill Moore: And his explanation of Kyle Orton calling out the MIKE was just plain wrong. It was only one of many crazy statements he makes. How does he have job No. 2?

Doug Farrar: I guess if you're looking for dynamic personalities on your broadcast team and you don't know enough about football to know that the guy has a head made of pure styrofoam, you hire him because he sounds like he knows what he's talking about (he says a lot of things loudly in an authoritative tone), and he was mis-labeled as some kind of great broadcaster before he ruined the Lions. He's been on some great teams as a player, and I suppose people assume if he had the Detroit job for that long, he really couldn't have been that bad, right?

In a larger sense, he's the poster child for the danger of the "He played the game, so he must understand it" theory. Some people who played professional football at an extremely high level seem to have no concept of the game beyond their own role in it, or at least that's the impression they give based on what they say. Other guys who barely made a dent in the pros as players, like John Madden in his prime or Mike Mayock, blow the Simms/Millen blowhard types out of the water. It doesn’t matter that you have twelve Super Bowl rings. You still have to watch tape, do your homework, and be able to explain things on the fly in a coherent and interesting fashion.

Mike Tanier: I thought he was tipsy when he said this Giants receiving corps was the best of the last 30 years. I mean, they won a Super Bowl two years ago with Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, right?

He misidentified a blocking scheme early in the game: The Broncos were pulling a tackle or a tight end, but he was explaining it as if it were zone stretch. When Eli Manning made a bad read and throw, he said it was good coverage, He made some idiotic statement about the Denver skyline looking as beautiful as the Broncos defense. It was amazing.

Millen was considered an up-and-coming broadcaster back when everyone wanted Madden clones. He had a Boom-Bam style that the CBS (I think) producers loved. Even back then, he would draw criticism by explaining every win or loss in terms of "who wants it more."

Doug Farrar: There was also his identification of every kind of coverage in the Miami-Carolina game as "two-deep, man under," no matter what it actually was.

Sunday, November 29

Tampa Bay 17 at Atlanta 20

David Gardner: The Bucs new defense definitely is more traditional Tampa-2, but they are still blitzing a bit, and they are rolling Aqib Talib to wherever Roddy White is on the field.

It's a stalemate so far in the Georgia Dome, with both teams having sloppy, one-step-forward, two-steps-back opening possessions ending in punts.

Also, Chris Redman is in the game for Atlanta. Matt Ryan went out with an injury. No word yet on what it is, and I missed the actual play.

He has a jammed toe. Lame. They expect him back this game.

Matt Ryan is in the locker room, but Chris Redman is slinging it around. He has better arm strength than I remember, and the Falcons are letting him throw it. I think what is holding him back is his pocket presence, but that might just be rustiness
Also, straight out of the late '90s, the Falcons are running some "Full House" formation with three backs in the backfield.

Aaron Schatz: Well, not straight out of the '90s in general, unless you mean Atlanta specifically liked to run it in the late '90s. I went into the game charting to look, we've got a handful of Atlanta Full House plays in there this year, although the Falcons don't run it as often as Green Bay.

Actually, that reminds me of an interesting look I saw when charting a hole in Week 2 MIA-IND yesterday -- the Dolphins had a Full House with all halfbacks, no fullbacks. Brown, Williams, and Cobbs.

Bill Barnwell: Someone -- Pittsburgh? -- runs it with two tight ends as fullbacks.

Vince Verhei: Carolina runs that a lot too, don't they?

Bill Barnwell: Green Bay does, too.

David Gardner: Well I have clearly missed the full house formation across the league. Whoops.

Doug Farrar: Niiiiiiice play call, Inspector Gadget. Falcons go with a two-receiver stack on either side, spreading the Bucs' defense, and Redman gives the ball to Jerious Norwood on a little shovel pass up the middle. Touchdown, Falcons.

David Gardner: Josh Freeman led the Bucs to their first score with excellent throws of 41 and 42 yards, both to Antonio Bryant.

Bill Barnwell: Stylez G. White has three sacks in the first half. Three sacks! Stylez White!

David Gardner: The Bucs have brought one signature thing back into the defense: the cornerback blitz, featuring Ronde Barber.

Bill Barnwell: Chris Redman's getting killed out there. The Bucs line up Ronde Barber in the slot and Chris Redman doesn't even notice him; Barber ends up clotheslining him for the Bucs' sixth sack of the day.

David Gardner: The Bucs, holding a fragile 4-point lead over the Falcons, called a fake punt around the Falcons 40-yard line. Much like the rest of their season, it was an epic fail.

Doug Farrar: Jason Elam misses a 34-yarder with six minutes left in the game. This is why the Falcons brought in four kickers this week.

Vince Verhei: Your bad coaching decision of the day: Up four, Josh Freeman converts a third-and-5 to set Tampa Bay up with a first-and-10 at the Atlanta 39. Raheem Morris is then content to settle for a long, long field goal, running on first-and-10, second-and-8, and third-and-7. The 51-yard field-goal attempt was no good, but even it was converted Atlanta would have had two minutes to drive for a tying touchdown. Freeman was having a good day -- he finished 20-of-29 for 250 yards, two touchdowns, no picks -- and Morris didn't give him a chance to finish the Falcons off.

Miami 14 at Buffalo 31

Doug Farrar: The Dolphins got a little too cute on their opening drive, running a bunch of Wildcat with some success, until Ricky Williams tried to throw into the end zone and got picked off by linebacker Chris Draft. It seems to me that if they use the same I-formation stuff they used against the Panthers against Buffalo's terrible defense, it's an automatic win. Further proof that you can't just line up Joe Schmo in these plays and run it whenever you want.

Tom Gower: One day, the announcers will start calling a Wildcat a Wildcat and start calling a normal direct snap a direct snap or a single-wing or some such. Maybe that day, Ricky Williams won't throw an interception in the end zone.

Vince Verhei: Reaction to something said hours and hours ago, missed until now: Chris Draft is still in the NFL?!

Bill Barnwell: The Bills are desperate. Oh so desperate.

Cleveland 7 at Cincinnati 16

Vince Verhei: Josh Cribbs takes a sweep to the right, pulls up to pass, and finds Brady Quinn on the other side of the field. Quinn now has 18 yards receiving and 44 yards passing.

Bill Barnwell: And add nine yards rushing for Quinn, who runs a quarterback draw for a touchdown.

Rob Weintraub: Obligatory Bengals notes: Woof, that was a stinkbomb. Cincy was penalty-heavy, ultra-conservative, and again let a doormat hang around forever. But they were never seriously threatened because Brady Quinn is so awful. I mean, he couldn't complete simple slants, was just all over the place. Only redeeming factor was the Bengals run blocking. In case you didn't hear about it, Larry "GLAAD To Have You Aboard" Johnson rumbled for more than 100 yds (so much for the L.J. curse), and Bernard Scott was around 90. Proof that Benson's renaissance is as much about the boys up front as his "maturity" and other media code words. The pass blocking isn't nearly as effective -- Cleveland got a lot of pressure, and Carson Palmer just never looked beyond 15 yards downfield. Regardless, that's 6-0 in the AFC North for Los Tigres.

Two other notes: There was an Andre Smith sighting, as the big fella hit the field for the first time for five or so plays, and Shaun Rogers suffered a gruesome leg injury on a meaningless play late in the game. Karma, perhaps, for his horse collaring Carson Palmer at the end of the first half, which led to another untimed down against the Brownies, this time resulting in a field goal.

Seattle 27 at St. Louis 17

Doug Farrar: Last week, the Seahawks made me ask why David Hawthorne was covering Percy Harvin one-on-one over the middle. This week, the Seahawks are making me ask why Donnie Avery was completely uncovered on the right side of the end zone on the touchdown that made it a 7-6 game. This team might lead the NFL in "plays that would make Madden 2010 reboot itself."

Vince Verhei: Seahawks are currently averaging 7 yards per completion. Last catch was a three-yard gain on third-and-8. Can you imagine what would happen if Greg Knapp was ever paired with someone like Ryan Fitzpatrick? I imagine pass patterns composed of five men running hook routes behind the line of scrimmage.

Doug Farrar: The Seahawks are taking their most talented defensive player off the field and leaving him there for no good reason, and they're paying for it. From good buddy and FO game charter Brian McIntyre: "All of the big plays on the Rams' scoring drive occurred with Aaron Curry on the sidelines. All of them. The 27-yard pass to Ruvell Bleepin' Martin, which Deon Grant blew coverage on, the 11-yard pass to Denny Amendola, the touchdown pass to Donnie Avery, when the Seahawks were in nickel despite the Rams having just 2 wide receivers on the field."

I'll just add that when Jim Mora talks once again about the wisdom of taking Curry off the field because the game is overwhelming him (he's a rookie, you know!), I would like someone to punch him right in the head while wearing a Brian Cushing replica jersey.

Vince Verhei: Matt Hasselbeck just ran the play-action of the year, running a naked bootleg to the left and scrambling for the clumsiest, stumblingest 30-some-yard gain you'll ever see.

Justin Forsett scores to make it 24-10 Seattle early in the fourth quarter. Forsett now has 80 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries. (Obvious caveat: Rams' rush defense is 31st in DVOA.) I noted in FOA that if the Seahawks were bad this year, they could be due for a complete overhaul. Forsett and John Carlson may be the only players on offense whose jobs are secure.

Bill Barnwell: Rams have a way of making backs look good.

Will Carroll: Was Forsett the guy who was waived or claimed by someone last yr, but ended back with Seattle?

Doug Farrar: Claimed by Indy, waived by Indy, returned to Seattle.

Will Carroll: Yeah, couldn't have used him ... poor personnel decision by Indy?

Doug Farrar: He's an average undersized back. Would be behind Joseph Addai and Donald Brown on a realistic depth chart.

Will Carroll: Could have maybe not drafted Brown. Was there a good left tackle there?

Doug Farrar: Eric Wood (C), Eben Britton (RT), Max Unger (G/C), Andy Levitre (G). Nah. Not there. Sebastian Vollmer was a whole round down from there. Safety Louis Delmas might have made some sense for them at 27, but Brown was a good pick.

Carolina 6 at New York Jets 17

Doug Farrar: Darrelle Revis runs a Jake Delhomme throw back for a pick-six. Any doubt that he's in the discussion with Champ and Nnamdi these days?

When are people going to stop running deep outside routes on Darrelle Revis? His second pick of the day came when Steve Smith tried it. If Randy Moss can't do it, and Steve Smith can't do it, I'm thinking it shouldn't be done.

Bill Barnwell: I think Smith had a step on Revis -- maybe a half-step -- but Delhomme underthrew it.

Vince Verhei: Chris Gamble intercepts Mark Sanchez, and Carolina turns it into points as Steve Smith beats Revis on a fade route for a touchdown. The play is being reviewed, but even if it stands Jake Delhomme now has 81 yards and three interceptions. Is Delhomme's $20 million extension the best example of a signing that seemed like a horrible idea at the time, and lived down to expectations?

And Smith's touchdown is ruled out of bounds, and a third-down pass falls incomplete. Panthers kick a field goal to make it 14-6 Jets.

Washington 24 at Philadelphia 27

Doug Farrar: Is J.I. Halsell on our list? I'm wondering if, in Albert Haynesworth, Clinton Portis, and DeAngelo Hall, the Redskins have their three biggest contracts on the inactive list today. That would be quite a feat.

J.I. Halsell: Yeah, that's a whole lot of money on the inactive list.

Tom Gower: As Mr. Tanier will tell us, Andy Reid decided it would be a good idea to onside kick on the opening kickoff, after which the Redskins scored a touchdown. Either this will be hailed as a fantastic decision by a coach playing to win, or a coach so much lacking in confidence in his team's abilities he had to try gimmicky stuff against the Deadskins.

Doug Farrar: Leonard Weaver just ran for 18 yards, which is 14 more than the Seahawks gained against the Vikings last week. I really hate Tim Ruskell.

Eagles line up with fourth-and-goal, shotgun, four-wide. Brent Celek gets busted for offensive pass interference, and it's a field goal. At this rate, Tanier should be into the second bottle of vodka by the second quarter.

Vince Verhei: On Philly's third-and-goal play, Michael Vick ran a quarterback draw, showing pass before trying to run it in. Why bother with the draw? Are you expecting linebackers to fear a Vick pass in 2009? All you're doing there is giving Washington more time to fill holes in the line.

Bill Barnwell: And as if on cue, Vick comes in on third-and-one, Washington runs the "Jam Middle" play from Madden, and Vick comes up short.

Doug Farrar: Is that the play where he bumped into Winston Justice?

Bill Barnwell: Where he thought the best way to convert in short-yardage was to run backwards.

Doug Farrar: I'd like to introduce a concept to the Washington Redksins: Safety help against DeSean Jackson. You won't regret it, guys. Trust me.

Bill Barnwell: The Eagles commit a false start inside the 10-yard line and Tony Siragusa notes that the Eagles are "kicking themselves in the foot". Maybe they could kick their leg out from under their leg, too.

Vince Verhei: Philadelphia has the ball, down eight, about ten minutes left in the game. On first-and-10, Vick lines up under center and runs a bootleg to the left. He has a tight end wide-open on a little two-yard out. But instead of dropping the ball softly into the receiver's hands, Vick zips it hard right behind his ass for an incompletion. This is a stupid, stupid time to dabble with the Vick experiment.

Fortunately for the Eagles, they convert anyway, and eventually get a first-and-goal on another good Weaver run. (Sigh.) On third-and-goal, Eagles go with a full house, two-tight end look and Eldra Buckley carries it in over left guard. Eagles line up to go for two ... but are unprepared and have to call timeout. Egads.

They finally come out in a three-wide, split backs set, and a shovel pass to LeSean McCoy converts to tie the game.

Mike Tanier: This is the typical Eagles viewing experience. If people are wondering why I don't comment much, it's because you can only talk about red zone mistakes so often, only talk about short-yardage problems so often. When The Onion is making fun of your red zone decisions, you have officially arrived as a national joke.

By the way, I didn't watch the final Redskins drive. Couldn't take it. Glad to come away with a patented Win that Feels Like a Loss.

Vince Verhei: You didn't miss much Mike. Redskins ran four plays in 44 seconds, with just one completion. Wretched clock management.

Compare that to Atlanta, who ran 15 plays in 2:07, only going 59 yards.

Aaron Schatz: I particularly enjoyed Jason Campbell ignoring an easy pickup scramble on fourth-and-1 so he could underthrow a pass for the (not) first down.

Mike Tanier: To be fair to Campbell, he made good decisions on the move all day.

Indianapolis 35 at Houston 27

Will Carroll: I shouldn't expect much from Dan Dierdorf, but do people really not get that holding the ball doesn't work against the Colts? After the Miami game was such an extreme, I figured they might get the message.

Is it just me, or do the Colts seem to really make adjustments at halftime? It seems like they fall behind a lot. Not just this season, but in the Peyton Manning era.

Bill Barnwell: Houston drives down the field on the opening drive and gets a touchdown on a play-fake that was so good that it fooled the hard camera for three seconds. Vonta Leach was in the end zone by the time the hard cam realized.

Aaron Schatz: Either Matt Schaub runs the best play-action fakes in the NFL, or CBS assigned their worst cameraman to today's Houston-Indianapolis game. The guy keeps following the back when Schaub has the ball. The worst was on the play-action bootleg touchdown pass to Vonta Leach. Honestly, if I was running the show at CBS, I would be a little embarassed.

Doug Farrar: And it's not just play action; the Texans are using patience to perfection in the running game as well. Steve Slaton's looking good on delays, and the Chris Brown touchdown run that put it at 14-0 was a great example of holding your burst until there's a seam to go through.

Tom Gower: Sure, but there's also the matter of the Colts' defenders getting beat one-on-one. The first two drives have looked like the Jaguars game in 2006 when they put up 40-plus.

Will Carroll: Antonio Smith got an unnecessary roughness penalty on the play where he hit Peyton Manning's arm and forced an interception. I saw NOTHING rough, let alone unnecessary. He wasn't low. Didn't lead with his... Oh. Wow, he did a Hines Ward on Dallas Clark later in the play.

Tom Gower: If that had really been what Smith was flagged for, it'd still be Indianapolis ball. Announcers, rules, etc.

Doug Farrar: I wonder if the play was still live when that happened (the Cushing interception). If it was, isn't Clark a legit defender who can be blocked?

Bill Barnwell: It was unnecessary roughness, basically your standard nasty helmet-to-helmet block.

Tom Gower: As if on cue, Dan Dierdorf says to win his challenge of an Andre Johnson non-catch in the end zone where Johnson lost the ball when he went to the ground after initially possessing it, Kubiak will have to convince Alberto Riveron that he didn't need to maintain possession all the way to the ground. GAH!

And after Kubiak loses his challenge, Dierdorf says it was incomplete because he didn't make a football move.

On the Smith hit on Clark, I think Cushing was 10 or 15 yards farther downfield and Clark was merely jogging. Some context would have been useful there.

Will Carroll: That was my thought. It looked like the play where Hines Ward broke that dude's jaw last year.

Would someone tell me why "jumping up and catching the ball" isn't a "football move?"

David Gardner: Because that is the act of catching the ball. You have to make a football move after the ball hits your hand and you possess it.

Doug Farrar: Aw, jeez. Smith gets his second unnecessary roughness penalty of the game by pushing Manning back with a hand on his facemask. They can cry "ticky-tack" all they want, but they have to know where the boundaries are.

Will Carroll: Is there a list somewhere of the "uncapped rule" free agents for next year? Is there a left tackle on there? Because the Colts need one in the worst possible way.

Matt Schaub is kinda quick. Is there any correlation between 40 times and sack rate? I know the running guys like Donovan McNabb or Steve Young probably skew it. I'd almost think that quarterbacks should be doing something like that box agility drill they have the linemen do at the Combine.

David Gardner: I don't think you'd find any results. Manning and Brady are old slow dudes but they don't get sacked because of quick releases and good pocket presence.

Doug Farrar: I'd say that in a very general sense, running quarterbacks probably create as many sacks as they avoid.

Will Carroll: I know Kris Brown has been bad but ... why does the Reliant Stadium goalpost have the little wind flags? I know the roof is open, but come on. Is it a rule?

David Gardner: Yes, it is a rule. From ...

"Goal posts must be single-standard type, offset from the end line and painted bright gold. The goal posts must be 18 feet, 6 inches wide and the top face of the crossbar must be 10 feet above the ground. Vertical posts extend at least 30 feet above the crossbar. *A ribbon 4 inches by 42 inches long is to be attached to the top of each post.* The actual goal is the plane extending indefinitely above the crossbar and between the outer edges of the posts."

Tom Gower: Colts take the lead, Matt Schaub pick-6'ed the next drive. Cease any signs of panic at the thought of a first loss, Colts fans.

Vince Verhei: Dallas Clark scores to put Indy up 21-20, and on the next play from scrimmage Clint Session gets a pick-6 to make it 28-20. Is anyone surprised? The Colts are the best example of a team that can be down 17-0 in the first half, and people just assume they're going to come back at the end.

Come to think of it, Houston is also the kind of team that can be up 17-0, and make their fans nervous.

Tim Gerheim: Nervous is a huge understatement. "God it sucks to be a Texans fan" has become my unofficial catchphrase.

Aaron Schatz: Actually, a bit of a surprise, but the Colts have actually been just as good in the first half as they have been in the second half this season. I know it seems like they've played a lot better after halftime, but it's about equal ... defensively they are a little better in the second half, offensively they are a little better in the first half.

And then Robert Mathis strips the ball from Matt Schaub. Somewhere in Miami, there's a little bell going off in Mercury Morris' head. Time for another 15 minutes of fame, Mercury.

Doug Farrar: Oh, God, no. Anything but that. Geaux, Saints!

Oh, dear. Chad Simpson adds on, and this one is over.

Mike Tanier: To echo what someone else said about the Colts: I started watching them when they were down 20-7. They had the ball, and I just assumed they would erode the lead slowly. I had no thought it would be an upset. I never think they are going to lose except when they play the Chargers.

Doug Farrar: I thought maybe the Texans could pull it off, but Matt Schaub is like this perfectly constructed quarterback, except that there's one crucial part put in backwards, and it's guaranteed to malfunction at the worst possible time.

Kansas City 14 at San Diego 43

Tom Gower: Just saw a graphic showing that David Binn has played in 250 games. Would have taken me a very, very long time to guess which Charger reached that milestone today.

Jacksonville 3 at San Francisco 20

Vince Verhei: Mike Singletary is finally playing to Alex Smith's strengths, using shotgun 25 times in the first half, and the 49ers are up 17-3 at halftime.

David Garrard is going to finish with great conventional numbers and a very poor DYAR -- he has about a half-dozen third-down completions that failed to pick up third downs.

Arizona 17 at Tennessee 20

Aaron Schatz: Hey, remember when ESPN gave me a chance to write the high-profile "Insider" column about young quarterbacks who deserve another chance? You know, like, two weeks ago? With Kurt Warner sidelined with post-concussion syndrome, it will be Vince Young vs. Matt Leinart today. Heh. I would say there's one Sunday per season where I do wish I had the DirecTV Sunday Ticket package, and this would be it for 2009.

Tom Gower: The Titans have moved the ball well their first two drives, but each has only resulted in a field goal. 6-0, but it feels like they should be up more. Matt Leinart's hit a deep in to Anquan Boldin where he muscled off Cortland Finnegan, but has otherwise been just as mediocre as I expected and the running game doesn't look like it'll be doing much consistently.

V.Y. ends the first half 11-of-14 for 169, and that actually accurately reflects how he's thrown the ball. He's hit Nate Washington on two good downfield passes, and had another big play to Kenny Britt on a well-thrown short cross against a blitz that went for good YAC. As you saw in 2006 when V.Y. came in, though, a well-disciplined defense that has seen some film really cuts down on the explosiveness of the misdirection plays. Chris Johnson has also been fairly bottled up, or at least hasn't ripped off any killer long runs. It feels like the Titans should be up 13-3 or so rather than 6-3, and particularly they should be up 6-3, as V.Y. ran off the last :08 of the first half getting sacked with a timeout in the pocket. Sometimes, you just need to go down.

Vince Verhei: I thought that Matt Leinart would be a better, wiser quarterback after spending time on the bench behind Kurt Warner, but no, he's still making a lot of bad decisions, trying to force balls into quadruple coverage. His team is winning because of a kickoff return for a touchdown, and because Vince Young keeps running into sacks at key moments.

Tom Gower: So, Tennessee finally got in the end zone when Chris Johnson went boom in a big way with an 85-yard run, which was of course followed by a LaRod Stephens-Howling kickoff return touchdown. Leinart had some passes against the zone when he had time in the pocket on a touchdown drive that ended in a Tim Hightower run. All the successful Arizona runs have been against the edges, like almost every other successful run against the Titans this year.

The Titans have struggled to gain consistent yardage -- even though C.J. is having a great year, he's below average at running with success. I thought we might see more of rookie Javon Ringer with LenDale White inactive, but he has one carry. V.Y. hasn't done anything very impressive the second half, probably because the Cardinals seem to be playing denial more than forcing the play, and he's not good enough to do that.

Aaron Schatz: I will always remember how well Leinart played in the "Crown Their Ass" game, picking apart the Chicago Cover-2. If he's also playing better today when Tennessee goes with zone coverage, well, perhaps we've learned that Leinart is very good against zone and needs some decision-making practice against man coverage.

Tom Gower: Ecstasy and agony: V.Y. hits Britt about 45 yards downfield as he beats Bryant McFadden and the safety doesn't make the play. Nobody even touches Britt, so he gets up and runs more. At which point Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie comes in from the blind side and blasts him, forcing a fumble. With no Titans in the area, that's an easy recovery for the Cardinals.

Mike Tanier: Red Zone switched to Arizona and all hell broke loose. V.Y. threw a great pass from his own end zone to get out of trouble. He then uncorked a bomb to Kenny Britt, who made a great catch around the Cardinals 25, then fumbled. Ouch. Cardinals ball.

Then Red Zone went back to Minnesota

Crazy last drive in progress for Titans...

Vince Verhei: Vince Young is inching the Titans down the field, scrambling for time and converting fourth downs. Cut to Leinart on the sideline, on one knee, hand covering his mouth, facial and body language screaming "NOT AGAIN."

Cardinals have blitzed five or more on pretty much the entire drive. Tennessee's receivers are doing a great job of getting out of bounds to stop the clock. Alge Crumpler sets them up Mike Tanier:with first-and-goal. Young is 8-of-13 for 84 yards on the drive.

If you're watching another game, it sucks to be you.

On second-and-goal, Young is sacked -- but it's not the end of the world, because they call their first timeout with 11 seconds to go in the game. Third-and-goal from the ten.

Fourth-and-goal from the ten, Arizona rushes four. Young waits, waits, steps up in the pocket and finds Britt in the end zone. Britt takes a wicked shot but hangs on to the ball. Zeros on the clock, Titans win.

Doug Farrar: Oh. My. God. Mr. Young, the Pantheon is on line one.

Mike Tanier: Wow. Friggin Wow. That was worth the price of Red Zone.

Tom Gower: You know, if that's the kind of drive V.Y. had put together last week to win the Houston game, all the effusive praise most of the ESPN guys poured on him would've been pretty much entirely deserved. Really great drive. As a Titans fan, it was particularly encouraging to see Lavelle Hawkins be productive in the third wideout role, since he'd had a lot of problems getting in games because he kept making a zillion stupid mental mistakes. To see him be the hot out and it work is really encouraging.

I was surprised a little at how non-involved C.J. was the last drive -- aside from a wacky deflected pass, I don't think he was in there at all. With first-and-goal and two timeouts left, I expected him to see at least one carry, but I guess the first-half clock issues prevented that.

Aaron Schatz: I just saw the replay of the final drive. I said this last week, when I was agreeing with all that effusive praise from the ESPN guys, but I'll say it again now: That's a different guy. V.Y. looks so much more calm, going through his reads, never rushing things. He looks so much more like the guy from Texas, and not at all like the guy from the 2007 season. Having Young develop as a complete quarterback is just a good thing for the league, a very good thing. Although that last play was really made by Britt even more than Young. Wow. He comes from out of nowhere to leap between three guys, and Young finds him. Awesome. Young won this game with four carries for eight yards. That's a passing quarterback, kids.

Chicago 10 at Minnesota 36

Mike Tanier: Prince! Prince! Prince! Prince! Prince!


There's so little going on in Vikings-Bears that I am just going to keep jumping up and down about Prince being in a luxury box.

Although, as I write this (24-10 in the third quarter), the Vikings have had about five touchdowns or near-touchdowns in a row called back by penalties.

Aaron Schatz: I feel the same way. I mean, I'm watching this game, I know it is happening, I'm sure there are interesting things going on down there, but it just seems like two teams going through the motions -- even when they do good things, it seems like the same good things they usually do. You know, like excellent Adrian Peterson runs followed by fumbles.

Mike Tanier: He threw a facemask in ther for good measure. Did you see Prince?

Aaron Schatz: I didn't catch Prince, but I've heard that Jay Glazer apparently has his phone number. Can someone please tell FOX to switch us to Arizona-Tennessee now?

Vince Verhei: That string of penalties was, from a pure entertainment standpoint, probably the low point of the season so far.

Thinking more about this: This is always the most boring part of the year, and this season is particularly dull. You could argue that seven division titles are already locked up (unless you have faith in Denver or San Francisco to make a run), and the wild card races are mostly a bunch of pretty bad teams falling behind each other over and over again. There are no great individual records being chased. Except for New Orleans and Indianapolis chasing perfection, there's just not a lot going on around the league right now.

Aaron Schatz: Well, sure, but right now there is one game where the score is still within 17 points. Coincidentally, that's the game that features two young quarterbacks trying to prove themselves instead of another three hours of Brett Favre hagiography. It would be nice if FOX would switch most of the country to that game.

(FOX does not switch most of the country to that game.)

I'm sorry, but the fact that FOX is showing most of the country Minnesota going up on Chicago by 27 instead of the Titans at the goal-line trying to beat the Cardinals with less than a minute left has to be the ultimate nadir of Brett Favre media-love absurdity.

Pittsburgh 17 at Baltimore 20 OT

David Gardner: I don't think Dennis Dixon's early success in this game is surprising. I interviewed him before he got drafted, and his football IQ is really high. He's staring down Ray Lewis before every play, too, and he hasn't blinked.

Aaron Schatz: I also think they've put in the Big Ben 2004 offense for him -- lots of runs to set up success on play-action and take the weight off his shoulders, rollouts and other things that limit reads to one half of the field to make decisions easier.

Mike Kurtz: To be fair, most quarterbacks (excluding the really awful ones/unprepared rookies, of course) have some degree of early success. New quarterbacks are always an unknown quantity.

This is where the Steelers are really missing Troy Polamalu: all of these slow-developing running plays, he would've sniffed out and jetted in to either gunk them up or blow them up. Tyrone Carter and Ryan Clark are good players, but they don't have whatever it is he has -- either intuition or smarts -- that makes him such an invaluable part of Pittsburgh's puzzle.

Aaron Schatz: Oddly, DVOA says the Steelers miss Polamalu far more in the pass defense than they do in the run defense. But tonight, I think you might be right, since the Ravens run so much.

On the other hand, hey -- no kickoff returns for touchdowns tonight. Yet.

OK, points for Cris Collinsworth. He says, "I'd like to see something with a run-pass option, something like the bootleg outside that they ran earlier." Pittsburgh then goes with a run-pass option on third-and-5, with a play-action fake and a bootleg. Nice block by Mewelde Moore, space for Dennis Dixon, touchdown.

If the Steelers DO go on to lose this defensive battle, it will not be because of the injury to Ben Roethlisberger. I think Dixon has done a lot to establish himself as a trustworthy backup quarterback this evening.

Vince Verhei: Ray Rice catches a skinny post on fourth-and-5 and breaks tackles through the middle of the Steelers defense. If Polamalu is in there, it's probably a first down still, but a lot of those yards after catch never happen.

Aaron Schatz: By the way, nobody will remember this after Ray Rice broke a zillion tackles, but Mike Tomlin made the right choice when Rice was flagged for tripping on second-and-9. Michaels and Collinsworth questioned whether it might make more sense to take third-and-9 instead of second-and-19, but I just went to check numbers. Based on the numbers I've got, third-and-9 will lead to a new set of downs approximately 34.5 percent of the time. Second-and-19 will lead to a new set of downs approximately 29.5 percent of the time.

Tom Gower: As much as we (I) rip on announcers for not knowing the rules, kudos to Al Michaels/NBC's SNF crew for pointing out the special two- minute rule with regards to lost fumbles and the crew's big spot error.


232 comments, Last at 02 Dec 2009, 3:56am

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"Tom Gower: As much as we (I) rip on announcers for not knowing the rules, kudos to Al Michaels/NBC's SNF crew for pointing out the special two- minute rule with regards to lost fumbles and the crew's big spot error."

Of course, they didn't notice it until they came back from commercial after the overtime coin flip. Which means it wasn't Michaels that caught it, it was one of the spotters or someone in the truck. And if they'd made the FG, it never would have made air. I was yelling at the screen as the Ravens were running the FG unit onto the field, and I get paid a hell of a lot less than Al Michaels.

173 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I'm pretty sure that Michaels was kidding about that 10 yd field goal try. His point was that Pittsburgh just wanted to get it as close as possible. He's not a dunce.
For the love of christ, would people stop typing 'ummm' before making their points. It's bad enough in real conversation; you're typing, for god's sake, use the english language concisely. Whenever I read that crap, I immediately sense a level of smugness and 'Don't you get it, dumbass' pomposity that makes me want to hit said person with a brick. It's like people saying 'really?' with a smirk. Fuck off.
The first point was directed specifically; the second point more generally.

(captcha is 'incomes rackoff'---what, exactly, is a 'rackoff'? Or an income, for that matter? Gallows humor ).

2 the millen problem

A lot of announcers would look horrible if you subjected them to the scrutiny you give Matt Millen (not that the scrutiny is a bad thing, I'm 100 percent for it). Transcribe a Troy Aikman game, every other comment out of his mouth is draping with qualifiers and flimsy parameters.

6 Re: the millen problem

He really was terrible though. "Set the edge" became a running joke in our house for the rest of the weekend.

85 Re: the millen problem

In reply to by anonymiss (not verified)

agreed. all these (admittedly) well-deserved criticisms of millen, but no discussion of joe buck's stellar performance last night?

i can almost let the "i don't know why the referee said there was an incomplete pass when it was clearly an interception" comment slide. it could be confusing to a baseball announcer that more than one forward pass might occur on the same play, and that the second (while illegal) can fall incomplete after the first was intercepted. said baseball announcer might not realize that an illegal forward pass that hits the ground is not a fumble and cannot be recovered, and that this might explain why a referee would note that it was incomplete (making the ensuing scramble for the ball irrelevant).

but the absurd, "surprisingly, the bears have accepted the false-start penalty," was too much for me. apparently, buck thought if the bears had declined the false-start, they would have had the result of a play that never happened.

so many times i listen to buck and hope against hope aikman will correct him with actual football knowledge... and it never happens.
armchair journeyman quarterback

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I know you get people complaining every week that you did't adequately cover their favorite team, so let me be the first to say (without a hint of sarcasm) THANK YOU for talking about Matt Millen rather than the Giants. Egads.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The funniest Matt Millen analysis was when he thought that Andrew Johnson was the key to the Titans/Houston game... Really? You draft WR's in the first round of the draft every year and say that a big time WR is the key to the game?

Farrar: Then there are the people who NEVER played the game and think they know what they are talking about. You mention one portion of X's and O's and they have no clue what you are talking about.

Bills/Miami: I saw a horrible roughing the passer penalty in the game called on Jason Taylor. He was coming in for Fitzpatrick and looked to try and hold up, but by putting his up they went near Fitzpatricks head. After Fitz complained to the ref they called a forearm to the head and I'm not sure Taylor even touched him ( it was very Tom Bradyesque).

Redskins/Eagles: Once again Campbell had one of his better days. I can't complain that he was king checkdown... he actually threw SOME passes PAST the first down marker like a real quarterback not full of fear might do (but he did throw 2 picks). The Redskins were converting 3rd downs at an unnatural pace. They really should have scored more points, but hey, getting over that 20 point total for what, the 2nd time this year you shouldn't complain. I think the running game once again looked better without Portis. The make shift line might not be as good, but the RB play has been better with more burst.

The Eagles kept playing the redskins slot WR's press coverage, but play the outside receivers off ( I don't think they usually do this). It meant giving some stuff away, but they also fooled Campbell into a pretty easy Asante Samuel interception.

The Redskins played 2 decent divion rivals close 2 weeks in a row but lost to some horrible out of division teams. I'm wondering outloud if their scouts spend too much time studying the Cowboys, Eagles, & Giants and NOT enough time scouting out the rest of the league?

Campbell once again had one of his better days. But he failed to drive his team down the field for a game tying or winning score. He threw 2 picks, and I have to wonder... if THIS is your best game, then what does that say about you? Two of his better games against better teams, 2 picks, and he fails to drive his team down for the win. Decent backup, but not what you want as the starter.

Titans/Cards: I watched this 4pm game as I teased the Cards +3.5. Both QB's were helped by their teammates. Young had the long Johnson TD, and Leinart had the KR TD and great special teams by Stephens-Howling. Michael Roos had a dominant block on a young 6'8 beast Calais Campbell where he drove him back and to the side about 5 yards which opened up a big hole for Johnson.

A few weeks ago people were busting on me for being critical of QB's. I said that I would NOT give up on Vince Young and I certainly back that up today. I know there are smart posters like Rich Conely that don't believe in Vince Young at all. He might not be the best passer in the league but I believe he has a higher football IQ than people would give him credit for. He had the completion pct. at Texas and I believe he can has the ability to be average/slightly above average passer... but when you add that up with his running/leadership then he could be a good starting QB.

I know it's a cliche but he's a "winner". He drove his team down 99 yards when they needed to against an underrated Arizona defense. People here defend Jason Campbell but that's 2 weeks in a row he could NOT drive down for even a game winning FG. Young plays well in the clutch and can run an effective 2 min drill, converting on 4th down twice.

The thing about Vince Young, is people always say... " ohhh, if this mobile QB had a WR, he'd be unstopable". I disagree. I think if you have a Vince Young you want to spend your draft picks building up a team with, " a good defense, Running game, O-Line, and TE's". I'm not saying you want crappy WR's, but you won't realize the save value with them as say with Kurt Warner. Kurt Warner could help Larry Fitzgerald realize his full potential... Vince Young can NOT.

If Vince Young is on a team with a good defense, that could run the ball, get into short yardage situations, pass, run, lead his team down the field in the clutch 2 min drills... he has a very good career winning percentage. The team is noticeably better with him than Kerry Collins. He CAN be an average/slightly above average passer if he puts the work in. The Titnas have a very good O-Line, good tight ends, they have a dominant RB... Credit the OC with dynamically changing the way they run offense in the middle of the season.

Lost in the game though were 2 deflected passes. Vince Young does throw that ugly/ackward sidearm ball and has a lower release point than a 6'5 QB should. He was bailed out once by a nice Bo Scaife catch, and wasn't hurt by the other deflected pass but that weakness could end up giving him extra interceptions in a season that don't have to be there. I don't know that I'd ask him to change his throwing motion, but it is a weakness and it didn't hurt him yesterday although it really could have. That Bo Scaife catch was a ball tipped right into the center of the defense that would normally be picked off.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Speaking of the penaltyvest sequence in the Viking game. Can anyone explain to me how Minnesota ended up with a 1st and 5 after a holding penalty was called on Taylor's long run for a seeming TD.

How do you get 1st and 5 after a offensive penalty?

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I thought there was an offsides unabated on the next 'play'.

The game log has this, but I'm pretty sure they were reversed.

1st-10, CHI20 9:42 C. Taylor rushed to the left for 15 yard gain. MIN committed 10 yard penalty
1st-5, CHI15 9:35 MIN committed 5 yard penalty
1st-10, CHI20 9:14 CHI committed 5 yard penalty

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

On the last play of the first quarter, the Bears were penalized on defense, so the refs let the Vikings run off one untimed play. Was that the right call? I'd always heard that a half can't end on a defensive penalty, but I don't know why that would apply to the end of the first and third quarters as well.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

It's the right call. It didn't matter because the game was in a dome, but in a high-wind game that could make a difference. Or if the dome teams cranked the AC/fans at one end of the field, I guess.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The officials ruled the hold started at the. 10 yards back from the 5 is the 15. The 10 yard line was the mark of the new first down, so 1st and 5 was correct.

It's so rare to see holding between 10 and 20 yards downfield range, that I suspect many watchers don't fully understand the rule.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Why was the ten the mark of the new first down? I understand the mark of the 15, but where does the first down mark of the 10 come in? Was Taylor at the 20 when the penalty happened? From what is the next line to gain determined?

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

If the playbook quoted above is correct, the original play was 1st and 10 from the 20. The line to gain would be the 10. The hold took place on the 5, moved them back 10 yards from there to the 15, and they do 1st down again. They still hadn't made the 10, so the line to gain remains there.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Sorry, that makes no sense to me.

How can you penalize the hold based on where it occurs, ignoring either the outcome of the play or the old line of scrimmage? Had the receiver been three yards further downfield, would they have only been penalized two yards???

And why is a hold by a WR penalized different from a hold of a OL?

Could anybody please explain. I did not understand the ruling on the field, and don't want to wait until Wednesdays Official Review with Dr. Perreira, officiating nitwit.

Captcha is "Pittsburg ionizing": Is that some kind of self-destruction or implosion???

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

This is not the "official" answer, but it represents my understanding of the rule, which has always seemed to agree with what actually occurs on the field.

If an offensive hold occurs on the play and is accepted, the new LOS is the spot of the hold or the original LOS, whichever is further downfield, minus 10 yards, and the down is replayed. However, if the hold took place more than 20 yards downfield, then a first down is gained anyway and the down count re-sets. Of course, if the hold penalty is declined, the down counts and gets whatever it got.

In addition, it seems that anytime an offensive player commits a hold near (i.e. within 1 or 2 yards of) the LOS, the refs pretty much seem to count that as "at the LOS".

So, on a 1st down run or swing pass, for example, if a RT holds a D-lineman right after the snap, or in the backfield, it will be 1st and 20. But if the same RT is out lead blocking on a screen and commits a hold 18 yards downfield after the runner has already gone those 18 yards, the play will still gain 8 yards, but the down won't count, and it will be 1st and 2.

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Ok, so in that case they never got the 1st but by accepting the penalty MN got the yardage and the down over. The alternative for Chi was to decline and give MN the TD. Makes sense.

I had thought the play was from farther out.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

If the hold is committed downfield (usually by a WR), it's enforced from the spot of the foul, much like on a kick return. So you can get total oddball situations like a hold 17 yards downfield, 10-yard penalty for a net gain of 7, still the same down, resulting in a first and 3. You don't see it often, but it's kind of cool when it happens, and it affords Aaron the occasional chance to calculate DVOA for plays on first and 6 from the 38.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Exactly, all holds are marked back from the spot of the foul, except that holds behind the line of scrimmage are marked off from the LOS. Also holds while kicks are in the air for a punt return are marked off from where the punt is caught. Once the return begins holds are marked off from the spot of the foul.

Also you could have a hold and still make a new first down, if a hold on first and ten occurs 21 yards downfield then after the penalty the play still netted 11 yards leading to a new 1st and 10.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Why in bloody hell did the Falcons kill the clock on 1st-and-goal from the 10 with 49 seconds left? Considering they ran *six* subsequent plays (new set of downs after defensive holding) and still scored with 26 seconds to spare, pissing away a down like that was completely indefensible.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"Tom Gower: One day, the announcers will start calling a Wildcat a Wildcat and start calling a normal direct snap a direct snap or a single-wing or some such. Maybe that day, Ricky Williams won't throw an interception in the end zone. "

Announcers still haven't figured out the differences between an end-around, a reverse, and a double reverse, so I doubt it.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Every high school sophomore who has ever put on a helmet can recognize those plays, yet men with decades of experience getting paid seven-figure salaries to do nothing but watch football can't figure it out. Last week, somebody ran an actual reverse and Nance called it an end-around. Gah!

Hail Hydra!

162 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I was shocked that Joe Buck called an end around correctly in the Vikings-Bears game. So, it does happen occasionally. It's just sad that it is the exception and not the rule, especially since any kid that plays Madden knows the difference.

Captcha: Bork tirade

10 2nd and 19 vs 3rd and 9

Regarding Tomlin playing the odds: but are those figures (30% on 2nd vs 35% on 3rd) accounting for going on 4th down? Wouldn't "1st" and 19 vs "2nd" and 9 be a more accurate estimate? Mind you, I still expect that the penalty yardage is preferable.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Aaron: Why on earth would you NOT spent the ~ 280 bucks and have Sunday ticket? Unless your area doesn't give you the option, you really don't have an excuse. What annoys me is hearing the guys on the talk radio that don't even go to the games talk about the games. Kornheiser always talks about, "leaving early", and a lot of the other guys don't even watch all the games. Andy Polian is on in Washington and he refuses to spend the money and buy Sunday ticket... That's his job and he won't spend the money.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I don't know about Aaron, but a lot of people in heavily forested suburban, and even urban areas in certain buildings, can't get satellite reception, or can't get it without a large infrastructure investment. This is the most legitimate case against the NFL's arrangement with DirecTV.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Right. That's about the only excuse you have if you work in talk radio or run a football website. Andy Polian works in radio and "cost" is his reason for not buying the package. Depending where you sit, 280 bucks is like the cost of NOT going to 1-2 games when you factor in tickets, parking, food, alcohol etc. Fans that don't work in the business spend thousands of dollars for tickets to 8 home games, and many still buy the package for the road games. But people that work in the business don't buy the package?

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Three reasons I don't have Direct Ticket:

1) I don't like satellite. Satellite isn't happy during snowstorms, which we tend to have around here. The classic satellite moment took place last year when the Pats destroyed the Cardinals. I went out to shovel snow instead of watching the second half, wishing I had paid for a dish. Except I asked my neighbor who has Direct TV if he had reception that day, and he didn't because of the storm, so it wouldn't have mattered.

2) I'm only home about half the Sundays during the season, because I'm at Gillette, or in Philly, or at Barnwell's house, or Ian Demsbky's house.

3) When I am home, I'm almost always just watching the game we get here for free because it's the Patriots.

Trust me, it isn't "cost." But the larger point is about ALL the fans across the country, not just me. Everyone deserved to watch the Titans-Cardinals game, except for the home markets of Bears-Vikings, and maybe Green Bay and Kiln, Mississippi.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"Everyone deserved to watch the Titans-Cardinals game, except for the home markets of Bears-Vikings, and maybe Green Bay and Kiln, Mississippi."

As a resident of one of the markets of the Bears-Vikings game, I'd have preferred to watch Titans-Cardinals as well, especially once it became apparent that there was no chance of the Bears keeping it close.

Fox did the same thing a few weeks ago, as Chicago residents were treated to the entirety of the Lions-Vikings blowout, even though the late game (Packers-Cowboys) had already started.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I went out to shovel snow

It's time for a snowblower (either a smaller "chucker" or the full-blown guy). It's worth it. Shoveling is *terrible* for the body. Take care of yourself.

I'm 100 percent serious when I say this. I lived in New England for 30 years (and I still live in a cold-weather state). Quit abusing your body with the shoveling.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

forget the technology - get a snow scoop - much better than a traditional shovel.

I have a fairly large driveway and almost always finish faster than my neighbours with snow blowers because they spend so much time trying to get them working after they break down. The snow scoop also makes wonderful little hills for my kids to toboggan on.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

It's interesting the different experiences people have. I've had satellite for 10 years and I've lost the signal because of the weather maybe five times (while I was watching, I have no idea how many times it's gone out when I wasn't). I live in Denver and we get our share of snow and thunderstorms. When I had cable, I lost he signal much, much more frequently.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Most of the time when people lose signal, its because their dish wasn't installed correctly to begin with. The installer stops adjusting as soon as he gets any sort of viable signal, when theres usually a much better angle.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I live on the west side of lower Michigan and we very rarely have trouble with the Dish from snow. Maybe once a year from snow and once a year from severe thunderstorm. My folks had it for a while in Upper Michigan and they didn't even have many problems. I only switched in 2007 to get the Big Ten Network, but I mostly like Dish Network. The DVR isn't as good as Charter's though.

I did have to climb up and brush it off once last winter, after a wet, heavy snow. Maybe that's the difference? My impression of New England winters is that it's warmer than Michigan, so you're getting that kind of wet, heavy snow more often as the temperature jumps above and below freezing more? Rather than two weeks in a row of 20s.

168 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

In central Indiana, rain is more of a problem than snow. There are probably 5-15 days a year where I have problems with my DirecTV signal, maybe 3-5 of those where it is out for a significant period of time. (I tend not to watch too much other than sports, so it's not a big loss for me when it's out, other than on game days. Thankfully, that hasn't happened much.) It's almost never snow; most of the time it's rain, and once or twice it'll be high winds that cause problems.

Of course, we get more than a few inches of snow maybe once or twice a year. If your area measures annual snowfall in feet rather than inches, I could see it being more of a problem.

With all that said, I think the DirecTV monopoly on Sunday Ticket is the third dumbest decision the NFL has made with respect to TV. (Blackouts are first and limited regional coverage is second.) I'm all for sharing the goodness of Sunday Ticket with my fellow fans ...

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Weird. We had an extremely snowy winter last year in Chicago and I didn't lose signal once due to snow. The only time we lose signal is about 30 seconds before torrential rains start in one of those nasty summer storms (or in Chip Caray terms, A GULLYWASHER!).

Also, I probably speak for the majority of Bears fans in saying that we wish they'd have switched us to Titans/Cards. I know I'd had enough, I was largely watching college basketball later on in the game.

215 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Just had the DirecTV guys out to re-align the dish (it's up three stories, I'm not climbing up there). Past experience is that loss of signal is closely tied to how well the dish is aligned (and cleanliness of dish to cable connections). On T-giving night, a rain storm caught the signal to the NFL Network broadcast on my HDTV - fortunately, I was still able to get the SD broadcast on an older TV in another room.

If you have problems, do a signal strength test on a clear day. Look under set-up menus. If you have strengths in the 90s on all satellites you probably don't have rain/snow interruptions very often. In the 70s, more so, and in the 40-50s, constantly. The tech I talked to this weekend told me in the 70s was acceptable accoring to DTV - of course, I disagree. I had one satelite with 40s so I had a service call scheduled. If you push a little, they will likely waive the 40-50 dollar service call fee.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"f, but do people really not get that holding the ball doesn't work against the Colts?"

I'm not sure thats actually the case. I think the problem is that you absolutely can not switch to the "kill the game out" offense and defense.

When you switch to Prevent, the colts will score every drive, and they will do it quickly, and when you start trying to run every down, they'll stop you. You need to keep trying to STOP their offense, and not trying to slow it down.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I'm not saying the Eagles will catch the Cowboys, but they're only a game behind and given the way the two teams have performed in December the past few years, it's a bit much to say the Cowboys have the division locked up.

Hail Hydra!

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

P is correct.

If you have faith in Denver and/or San Francisco to make a run, then you'd say 5 or 6 divisions are locked up. If not, you could argue seven are locked up. The obvious eighth division is the NFC East, there are no other possibilities.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Right. I think seven divisions are locked up -- the entire AFC, and the NFC West, South, and North. If you have faith in Denver or San Francisco, you could say that only five or six divisions are locked up. But nobody could argue that the NFC East is locked up.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The Broncos are only 1 game behind the Chargers and they split the season series. I don't see how you can say that the Chargers have "locked up" the AFC West. Yes, they are playing better, but a 1-game lead with 5 games left is not usually considered a lock.

219 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Plus the Broncos remaining schedule is probably more favorable than the Chargers: possible/probable losses to Philly/Indy, and then three likely wins in-division. San Diego's only got one more gimme (Cleveland) on the schedule.

230 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Yeah, nut the comment that there are no big individual record chases was off, too. Chris Johnson is making a terrific run at Dickerson's rushing record. Maybe it's dropped off in the last couple of weeks, but I've heard people speculating about 5000 yard passers as well.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I was at the Jets game, so I didn't get a great look. But it looked to me like the TD pass to Smith that was called back was just an outstanding throw.

Really out of place compared to how Delhomme played the rest of the game.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I think its becoming readily apparent that the contract given to Delhomme this offseason is going to be seen(not that it isn't already) as completely ridiculous.

I mean, how do give such a terrible QB a 6 year deal at starter money? And this isn't a rookie where you don't have any sort of good analysis to work off of, this is a guy who hasn't been any good since 2004.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I couldn't figure it out at the time, and with each week it increasingly appears as if Delhomme has pictures of somebody involved in unnatural acts with non-human partners.

165 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Because it wasn't a new contract with new money. The vast majority of it was the same money he was already going to get spread over more years to give cap relief. Delhomme's contract isn't what killed them. It was letting pride get in their way and forcing Peppers to stay in Carolina for $16 million both cash and cap hit.

They not only couldn't do anything in free agency, they had to let every quality backup leave as well. They kept 21 of 22 starters. But that didn't help when some of them declined and others got hurt. How does losing Kemo for the year kill a team? He wasn't a huge star. But they had absolutely no one behind him. Let alone when two replacements went down as well.

Their offensive line is the same story. Jordan Gross, all-pro, out for year and there is no depth. A back-up for Delhomme or possible replacement? Once again, no money.

But as for Delhomme's contract? Take a look at the 'old' money, 'new' money and the guaranteed money and it isn't that bad at all.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I think Houston runs such a QB friendly offense under Kubiak/Shannihan. I think the Shannihans ( Mike too), run an offense that can get production out of guys that might not get it elsewhere with lots of well designed screens, attacking the edges with TE's, bootlegs, rollouts, zone blocking, play action etc. It takes some of the "hard reads" out of the offense ... they call plays well... know how to manage their drives. It gives the QB's lots of well designed plays that work, moves the chains, and gets something going. Giving your guys more simple/easy plays to run make you less likely to have a Jamarcus-like day.

The Colts defense looked real bad in the first half, but a lot better in the second half. Brian Kushing looked good.

I like the draw the Colts have been running with the RB not really jumping up or studder stepping up much, and the lineman pulling. It gets to the point where Manning is almost hit, it COULD be a 4 yard loss, but has ended up working for about 10 or so yards a few times. It keeps the defense more honest, and has opened up some good gains.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Mike Tanier: Prince! Prince! Prince! Prince! Prince!

I can't stand Joe Buck - but he had a classic line when they showed Prince for about the 5th time with the same bored expression...Buck commented:

Is that a cutout.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Dolphins run out of gas every fourth quarter and this week was more of the same. I wonder if it has something to do with all the 30+ play makers on this team. You keep waiting for one of their recent draft picks to take over a game. IDK the direction of this team. Taylor, Porter, Bell, Williams and the lot can't play forever. Eventually some Parcells player has to start producing consistently or this team maybe heading right back down to the bottom of the league. After watching Jason Taylor again Sunday I'm scratching my head as to why this team suddenly didn't need Matt Roth. Taylor isn't an every down player anymore and looked tired.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

It's a rare thing but in this instance the popular media have it correct in that Charles Woodson is having a superlative season. He's covering the opponent's best receiver, blitzing the quarterback, and coaching up his teammates throughout the game. When Vernon Davis was killing the Packers Capers had Woodson cover him and suddenly Davis was nowhere to be found. Thursday Calvin Johnson did little though granted 81 was slowed by injury.

I realize this reads as gushing, but as a long-time observer one can only watch in amazement as Woodson makes play after play after play using a combination of physical gifts and a football I.Q. that has to be around 180. In the last three weeks he willed the Packers to a win over the Cowboys and then on Thursday single-handedly destroyed the Lions offense, such as it is, without breaking a sweat.

I will stop now.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I remember when the Packers signed Woodson, and thinking they were wasting money on an unmotivated drunk. Therein lies the danger in evaluating anyone based on their performance while associated with Al Davis after the mid-80s. Just off the top of my head, I think of Marcus Allen, Randy Moss, and Woodson, and wonder if any other owner so screwed up with so many Hall of Fame players.

66 Re: Woodson

In reply to by MCS

Woodson has been great and he's very smart.

It goes back to the argument about the NFL draft. Is it right to give the worst managed organizations the top picks. You could make an argument that they can often ruin potential top NFL talent. If say Steve Young/Testaverde stayed in Tampa their whole careers... Guys like Ryan Leaf and Jamarcus Russell would probably stink with whichever team drafted them, but there are probably guys that would be a whole heck of a lot better if drafted to better teams with better coaching and organizations with a plan.

I don't know what the right answer is, but if there were say an auction... Bill Bellicheck could bid on young LB talent, and help them realize their potential instead of having them say go to a 3-4/4-3 team, oakland, detroit, and have their potential squandered away in misuse and bad coaching.

The Owners wouldn't want an auction though because then teams would most likely get into bidding wars and bid up overall team salaries. If a highly touted young QB were to enter the draft, there is no telling what the QB-less franchises would bid for his services and it could potential ruin the objective of allocating the best players to the teams that value them the most and that are run the best.

99 Re: Woodson

In reply to by C (not verified)

I'd say that giving teams like the Browns, Lions, Raiders, etc. top tier talent is career murder, but it's basically the only hope of them getting good.

As much of a Colts homer as I am, I think you have to look at the organization, post-move, as a model from which to build. Up until 1998, the Colts were terrible. Awful. Their best run was in 1995 with Jim Harbaugh when they got jobbed in the AFC Championship game. They got the first round pick, and were looking at either Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf. Obviously, they chose Manning and the rest is history.

The real question here is, is Manning so good that he would have succeeded in San Diego, and Leaf so bad he would have failed in Indianapolis, or were the approaches the organizations took responsible for their success and failure? Moreover, did the lessons San Diego learn from the Ryan Leaf fiasco ultimately help them in developing Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers?

Realistically, the problems start with ownership. The Colts turnaround didn't begin until Robert Irsay was dead. I'd say the same is true for the Lions and the Raiders at least. Until the Ford Family gives up control, and Al Davis dies (which may be never), those franchises will continue to wither in obscurity and ignominity. That being said, the Browns are perplexing. They have an owner who cares, a passionate fanbase, and a decent revenue stream. They just kind of suck, organizationally. Constant rebuilding has taken it's toll.

Odd as it sounds, I'd say the Lions are best positioned for future success, followed by the Browns. The Raiders are, at this point, hopeless.

122 Re: Woodson

In reply to by Monkey Business (not verified)

Overall I agree on the Browns sentiment.

Lerner's biggest issues are that he lives in NYC and London and when the cat is away the mice do play. He hires guys, then gives them extensions for no reasons, then fires them one year later for a giant cost.

He has twice hired a coach, then second a GM (in most franchises the coaches boss, but in the Browns its a giant clusterf**k)

So, we have gone through all these GM's that should be the ones to hire and fire the coaches. The Browns' drafting has to be the worst in the last ten years. I don't have this research at this point, but with a few assumptions on NFL quality players selected in the draft, the Browns will be the 32nd team in almost any research.

Going through their drafts is just sad for the lack of anyone that even started in the NFL, let alone actually produced.

Each year and EVERY year, yell and throw things at the TV, as your team passes on McNabb, LaDanian Tomlinson, LaVar Arrington, watch Botch Davis trade w/ Matt Millen and get hosed, then watch that player almost kill himself a year later, the next year---Drafts a Matt Millen Detroit player through and through (Braylon Dropwards), passes on any and every potential franchise QB to start Charlie Frye, DA, and BQ, and this year top second round picks that are too sucky to make the active list for half the year, while passing on guys that are starting and contributing since day one for teams within your division.

Browns have 11 draft picks next year and no GM to head the draft room. Our scouting deptarment turnsover every year, Mangini will only be around one more year, Browns will hire stop-gap GM at best, and will draft a bunch of duds with all the junk picks they have.

Brian Robiskie #36 overall pick in the draft. 1 total catch all year with like 4 starts, inactive about 6 games including the Detroit toilet bowl game. David Veikene--switching him two positions that he can't play and after reaching for him in the second round when he had 4th-6th round grades. Inactive almost every game

Passed on LeSean McCoy, passed on Rey Maluaga......WTF almost threw the TV out the window on draft day.

Please note: I can accept the Alex Mack first rounder as he is starting to come into his own and playing better. He should be a decent player for a while.

but busting out on two very high second round picks and the other may be decent, but still needs lots and lots of work is pretty unacceptable.

177 Re: Woodson

In reply to by Phil O'sopher (not verified)

Except I think Mack, or another nearly as good would have been available in the early second round on the normal pick.

I didn't see the genius of trading down all those times, then reaching for a player. Like Quinn a while before, he would have been there for you in the second round.

205 Re: Woodson

In reply to by Oldcat (not verified)

Understood, especially when its highly debateable that the Browns got value for the 5th overall pick. They really didn't want the cap hit and didn't care who they drafted. I can tolerate the Mack pick.

I understand the philosophy. He can play 10+ years and isn't that expensive as a low 1st rounder. He has been OK as a player and started every game at a pivotal position on the line. I can live with the Mack pick.

Robiskie wasn't even that good at OSU. Living here, we watch all those games as that is our big time college team. Hartline was way better than him. Robiskie was overrated. I figured of all teams Browns would know that. I figured wrong.

He may get better, but a high second round pick should start/or play significant amount of time, in general.

I am terrified of this years draft as we routinely leave talent out there for "our" guys. Then "our guys" tend to not even be NFL calibur

227 Re: Woodson

In reply to by Phil O'sopher (not verified)

Maybe this will give you hope: Winston Justice is having a good year, and NOBODY looked worse than he did in his rookie year. Sometimes, a guy just needs to develop.

176 Re: Woodson

In reply to by Monkey Business (not verified)

Well said.

Cue the entirely rational Manning/Leaf debate.

Okay, it's over. Manning/Colts win.


26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The actual goal is the plane extending indefinitely above the crossbar and between the outer edges of the posts.

Am I reading this wrong, or would a ball kicked directly above the goal post be good, even though if it were the exact same distance from center but lower be a miss (barring funny bounces)? It seems funny that the "outer edge" bit would make the goal a little wider starting 40 feet off the ground.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I had that same thought watching Kris Brown yesterday. One of his kicks sailed directly over the left post; had it been a few feet lower it would have hit the post and likely bounced off for a miss. As it was, the try counted.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I believe it has to do with the positioning of the referees. If they're looking directly upward from under the upright, then it's easy to see if part of the football passes outside the upright, but the inside edge of the upright is somewhat obscured by the cross bar.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I officiate high school football and I judge on field goals. In NFHS, the rule is that a kick that goes directly over the goal post is NO GOOD. The rule there reads "The kicked ball shall pass between the vertical uprights or the inside of the uprights extended and above the crossbar of the opponent's goal." This is one of those 150 or so cases of NFL rules being different from high school.

To get the best view, I don't stand directly under the goalpost. I stand about a yard behind, but it's easy to move a few steps in any direction if it looks like the kick is close. It's not like judging a fastball behind home plate... the ball is in the air for a few seconds and you can easily track it. The worst part about high school is normally poor lighting in the end zone, but obviously the NFL officials don't have to worry about it.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Regarding Jake one has to wonder if his appearance of competence has more to do with Steve Smith's rise and fall then anything Jake can and cannot do. I know when I saw the Panthers play the last few seasons JD's approach in challenging situations was to heave it in Smith's direction and figure he would make a play. In last season's win at Lambeau Jake was terrible, except when throwing to Smith, who outfought Packer defensive backs for several killer receptions.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Allow me to give my considered, reasoned opinion about Jimmy Raye's play calling in the 9ers victory over the Jaguars yesterday.

Yaaaaay! Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!

After I've let it sit for a while, I may have some minor revisions to that review, but for now, I'll let it stand.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

It was a breath of fresh air wasn't it? However, the niners now seem to be in a situation where they can either run the spread full time (which will probably begin to struggle after defensive coordinators get a good look at it, the line still stinks) or they can play their 21 package and get Gore involved. Gore remains the best offensive player but the niners' other new stars are needed to make the offense at all productive. It's a bit of a catch 22.

The remaining question is: why can't Smith run an offense from under centre? Is this something that he can learn or will the niners be forced to use the shotgun to accomodate him.

The other thought from the game yesterday is that Jacksonville hardly seeded to be worthy of a 6-4 record coming in to sunday.

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Jacksonville is a thoroughly mediocre team. They in no way belong in the playoffs and I'm very glad they lost yesterday. They've squeaked out some wins against crappy teams and gotten a few fluky wins against decent ones. I've seen at least portions of about 5-6 of their games this year and nothing about them seems playoff quality.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Hasn't the phrase "football move" been eradicated from all official NFL documents forever? Partly because it was difficult to objectively assess....

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I was under that impression as well...that the new rules eliminated the "football move" terminology. Just like how competitive sailing got rid of the "mast abeam" was too confusing and hard for people to asses objectively.

Of course, (1) we don't actually know because the real NFL rules are not publicly available, and (2) even if it was, that wouldn't stop announcers from sticking to their guns and talking about "football moves". Not when they call every direct snap to a RB a "Wildcat" and every end around a reverse.

178 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Avast, thar, ye scurvy dog. You get yer mast abeam of me stern again and we're gonna have words, you and me.

Oh, and MJK, you know that there is no such thing as a single reverse, so according to the official announcers' rule book (very limited distribution) "...when any member of the offense runs in one direction, and any other member runs in a counter-direction, that equates to a reverse, regardless if either has the ball. (If they collide, that's just Oakland being Oakland.) If one of them carries a ball, it's technically a double-reverse. If it confuses you, it's probably a triple-reverse. If the press box buffet features mimosas and bloody Marys: quadruple reverse."

I am not making this up; it's in the book. I swear.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I'm a vikings fan and found myself wishing I was watching the Tennessee-Arizona game.

At one point, sensing perhaps their Favre praise was a tad overboard, one of the announcers suggested they needed to be careful or they'd end up in a Frank Caliendo routine. Which was followed by... I think... Joe Buck's imitation of Frank Caliendo doing Madden. Sheesh.

Chicago, in the second half, has 12 plays, 2 yards. -3 yards if you tack off the 5 for a false start. Only one play (a 7 yard run on first down by Forte) could be considered a successful play. This was painful to watch. That the bears couldn't see... or adjust at any rate... to the problems Pace was having with Allen is just pathetic...

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Great weekend, just for the Titans game alone. I dislike the Titans, and I was cheering for them to get that win, just because it was so epic. And such a fine example of a perfect 2-minute drive. Utterly unbelievable.

On a different note: question for Colts fans. I've only watched them against the Patriots. It *feels* like every week they're falling behind a lot, and then catching up and winning in the second half. Is this really the case? And if so, what they heck are they doing differently? Is it that teams are using "conventional" tactics against them when building a lead (more conservative defense, more running-based offense), and that doesn't work against them, or are the Colts playing more conservatively until they get behind and then unleashing the hounds, or are they genuinely making adjustments and playing better football (especially on defense) in the second half. Aaron says it's not the latter... what do folks that have watched every Colts game think?

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

It sounds stupid, but I almost think the Colts are bored unless they are dow na couple of TD's. They play lackadaisical and soft until there's some pressure, then away they go. I've watched every game for years, and they have look that way ever since the '05 loss to the Steelers in the playoffs.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Can't comment on every Colts game, but that one last night really seemed to swing on the extremely dubious/phantom 50 yard DPI call on Jacques Reeves early in the third quarter with Houston up 20-7. After that there was another (albeit more justifiable) DPI call on the same drive, and the Colts eventually scored on 3rd & goal from the 1 after Houston held them out on 1st and 2nd from the 1. Its not a technical explanation, but the sense of deflation and feeling of 'here we go again' around the stadium after that score was so tangible, it was just a matter of how many Indy were going to win by.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Re: Colts

It really just comes down to how well the O starts the game. If the O can get a lead, it really dictates how the D can play. Often times, though, I think the O is willing to try/do things early in the game to set things up later in the game. So it looks like the O is "rusty", but perhaps Manning will take big shots down the field to loosen up the secondary so that the running game/play action works better in the 2nd half.

Or the receivers will run certain routes/moves over and over again to get the D to believe they know the pattern to only break off into a double move later in the game and get open.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

See post #48. It's all about the officiating.

On a serious note, some of the conventional wisdom is wrong. It's not like the Colts have been behind by a lot in every game. They led most of the way against Baltimore, for instance.

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

As a Colts fan, your guess is as good as mine. This is a team that is apparently the best in the NFL at making halftime adjustments.

The first Jax game was the difference between two touchdowns and four field goals.
The Dolphins game was the difference between two touchdowns and a touchdown and a field goal.
Arizona got rocked for 21 points in the 2nd and never recovered.
The Seahawks gave up four touchdowns in 3 quarters to a single field goal.
The Titans didn't score in the 2nd half at Tennessee.
The Rams game was a butt kicking.
SF was up 14-9, and never scored again as the Colts put up 9 themselves.
The first Texans game was the opposite: the Colts were winning 13-3 at the half and were outscored 14-7 in the 2nd half.
The Pats were winning 24-14 in the 4th. They were outscored 21-10 after.
The Ravens traded four field goals for two Colts touchdowns. End result: two point loss.
The Texans were winning 20-7 at halftime. They were outscored 28-7 in the second half, 21-7 in the 4th quarter.

So, basically it boils down to two things: the Colts virtually or actually shutting teams down in the second half, and teams trading touchdowns for field goals and the Colts capitalizing on it.

There is a a theory that because the Colts defense is smaller and faster than most of the defenses in the NFL, they expend less energy over the course of a game, and consequently are sharper than their offensive counterparts late in the game. Moreover, because the Colts offense can effectively run the no-huddle, they can force tired, exhausted defensive players to stay on the field or have the opposing sideline use a timeout for substitutions. It's similar to the Denver theory; because the Broncos train and play at a high altitutde, they're better conditioned at the beginning of the season than anywhere else in the league. By the time midseason rolls around, they lose that conditioning edge and consequently start to slide in the standings and W-L column.

Pick your poison, pretty much.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Watching the Bears yesterday, it was very hard to defend the notion that Jerry Angelo should be allowed to serve out his contract. Did they work out Orlando Pace before signing him? How does one fill the holes on the roster after trading away so much value in draft picks? Yes, bad injury luck has played a role, but when guys start showing a tendency to get injured, that makes your draft picks all the more important. Would you rather have Kyle Orton and the draft picks with which to build a good offensive line, or Jay Cutler, and his contract extension, and the hope to build an offensive line with low picks and free agents, in a free agent environment in which there likely will be fewer than the normal number of proven performers available?

In contrast, Childress and the current Vikings front office have been rightly criticized (as opposed to a lot of nonsensical negative remarks) for failing to evaluate qbs well, outside of Zombie Kings destined to wear an ugly yellow blazer, but they otherwise have had very good instincts on how to build their roster. They first made sure that no opponent would soundly whip them on the line of scrimmage, and then they attempted to get playmakers. They got lucky in having a 40 year old Hall of Fame qb, who could still play, and who was available and perfectly suited for their offense, but luck almost always plays a role in having a team that win smore than 12 games, as the Vikings appear ready to do. The key is to be good enough at building your roster that winning 10 games can be expected absent such luck.

53 Rick Spielman

Will Allen -
The irony is that Rick Speilman, current Vikings GM, was the Bears' Director of Pro Player Personnel from 97-99. His first picks in those three drafts were:
1997 - John Allred - A TE with 30 career catches (2-38-1997)
1998 - Curtis Enis - A RB with a 3 yr career and then run out of the league (1-5-1998)
1999 - Cade McNown - I have nothing to say here (1-12-1999)

He then went to Miami where he also had Pro Player Personnel duties. He has 6 active players of 35 total picks over a four year period (2000-2004) still playing the league.

Both the Bears and Dolphins averaged double-digit losses in the years immediately following his departure (when his picks ought to be hitting their prime).

Now two things can be said of Rick Spielman:
A) He learned valuable lessons making horrible draft choices for other teams and thus has "very good instincts on how to build their roster"
B) He has been incredibly lucky so far in Minnesota

55 Re: Rick Spielman

In reply to by Chip

Perhaps there's a 3rd thing to say: Unless he overhauled the scouting departments of all three teams when he arrived, it looks like he *could* be the beneficiary of much better information. After all, Miami's draft picks since he left haven't really been sensational, and the Bears *still* make terrible draft decisions. Maybe MN's staff is providing better scouting, making for better decisions?

79 Re: Rick Spielman

In reply to by Mike B. In Va

The Vikings are a weird organization, in that, current ownership excluded, they have had consistently mediocre to bad ownwership from the very beginning, in 1961, and have managed to mostly overcome it. Key to this phenomena has been some unsung heroes in management, besides such obvious talents like Bud Grant and Jim Finks, when they first became competent in the late 60s.

Two guys who most people have never heard of, Jerry Reichow and Frank Gilliam, were phenomenal scouts for more than 30 years, starting shortly before Grant arrived. They found one good player after another. Bud Grant brought in Paul Wiggin in the mid 80s, and Wiggin still serves, at age 75, as a pro personnel consultant, and still does a phenomenal job. Finally, their director of college scouting, and former player, Scott Studwell, has done a great job, through several coaching and ownership changes; the first round pick mistakes have not been his doing, and he has made a lot of good late round picks and undrafted rookie free agent signings.

Spielman, who I am somewhat neutral on, really was fortunate in joining a management group that already had significant evaluation skills.

82 Re: Rick Spielman

In reply to by Chip

Ummm, if he was the director of pro player personnel, why are you judging him based on the team's draft picks? Aren't those typically the province of the director of college scouting? Pro personnel has more to do with evaluating free agents and recommending trades, setting values on existing NFL players rather than prospects. He may have contributed his opinions to the draft process, but I don't think those bad draft calls can be placed at his feet.

206 Re: Rick Spielman

In reply to by Gabrosin (not verified)

He was GM in Miami for a few years. He also had more than a hand in many a draft pick. In fact, his bio on the vikings website also notes this about his stint in Chicago:
"During his 3 seasons with Chicago the team amassed some of the talent that has propelled the team to the top of the NFC North and found gems late in the draft."

It goes on to name late round gems that he apparently plucked out of the draft ignoring the first/second round bombs.

214 Re: Rick Spielman

In reply to by Gabrosin (not verified)

As far as I know, he was only the GM in Miami for 1 year, and in a very difficult "win now or you're out" situation.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Will, As a Packers fan in St Louis, I still watch a fair number of Rams games. I was stunned when I heard Pace was signing with the Bears. He was awful last year and he was fairly healthy. He just can't play anymore. He was great during the Greatest Show on Turf era, but he's just been hurt too many times since then. Angelo didn't need to work him out. All he needed to do was look at last year's tape.

FWIW, the Vikings seem to do ok signing QB retreads. Cunningham. Moon. Even Jeff George. But I don't recall a really good QB they've developed since Tommy Kramer. (Culpepper was decent but I wonder how much of it was Moss and Carter.)

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Culpepper was actually very good for two seasons in 03 and 04. His best year was 04, with CC retired for 3 yrs. and Moss out for 4 games and gimpy for at least 8. Pep hasn't been good since and never really came back from his knee injury, but he was a lot better than decent for those two years.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

In 2003 and 2004 Culpepper received phenomenal pass protection, which people often don't grasp because of the number of times Culpepper was sacked. Many, many times, he was able to stand back in the pocket FOREVER, while he made his progressions like a first year Mandarin Chinese language student trying to decipher a difficult text. Eventually, he'd find an open reciver, or just chuck it in the direction of Moss, or take off running, with good speed. In 2005 Birk got injured, other o-linemen had their performance suffer, Moss was gone, the defense struggled early, and Culpepper's shortcomings were mercilessly exposed, before he got hurt. He's never had the same mobility since, and the shortcomings are still there.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"I'm sorry, but the fact that FOX is showing most of the country Minnesota going up on Chicago by 27 instead of the Titans at the goal-line trying to beat the Cardinals with less than a minute left has to be the ultimate nadir of Brett Favre media-love absurdity. "

Apparently that's another fun broadcasting rule. Because the Cards/Titans game was so much further ahead in the game than the Vikings/Bears game, they couldn't switch because they'd then have to switch back after C/T ended. If true, that's another fun way the NFL annoys their fans.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Coaches TALK about the importance of line play but too often become enamored with the glamour guys. Hence the Packers going into the season with the likes of Allan Barbre at tackle when the guy has the lateral movement of StoneHenge.

Tauscher is beat up and still not able to play an entire game but holds up thanks to good technique and experience. Same with Clifton.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

In watching all of one game, and parts of five others this weekend, it really irritated me, once again, that the officiating is so wildly inconsistent, especially with regard to the defensive backs and receivers. It almost seems at times that the calls are just random outcomes.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The phantom roughing the passer penalties were only part of the story.
You didn't even mention the 43 yard phantom pass interference penalty
against Houston in the 3rd quarter. I don't know who is paying off
the refs, Polian or Las Vegas, but this happens in every game the
Colts play. Against NE, there was a phantom pi call in the 3rd
quarter for about 35 yds that gave the Colts a score. Defenses
react differently, some cave in saying what's the use, others, like
Houston yesterday, say, ah f--- it and start committing penalties
flagrantly thinking "might as well". DON'T BET AGAINST THE COLTS

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I agree that there was the single phantom DPI call in the Colts game on Sunday. I complained about it at the time even as a Colts fan because I want to see the game called properly regardless. However, saying that there has been several phantom calls in their favor in every Colts game this year is just flat-out false.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I'm about tired of reading/hearing(Bill Simmons) about the "phantom" PI call in the NE game. Now yesterday, that was a bad call, but it was just that, nothing more, and had little overall effect on the outcome. As for the call against New England, their defender (can't remember who) was manned up with Collie on a cross route, and as the ball got close, he pushed him to the ground. How that is not pass interference, even in 1975, I will never know. So quit crying and recognize that the Colts are THE team to beat.

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Doesn't matter if he stopped or not. Collie positioned himself to catch the ball, he had position on the defender, and the defender ran through him. Easy PI call. If the defender does not run over Collie, Collie easily catches the ball. The rule is pretty clear -- you can't hit the other guy (offensive or defensive) in an attempt to get the ball. If you're a defender and not looking at the ball, and you keep running when the other guy stops to come back for a pass, and you run the receiver over, it's a PI.

Now, the call Indy got yesterday -- well, it seemed clear that the defender was holding Garcon's arm down for about three strides, but unless Garcon is Mike Powell, he can't jump high enough to catch that pass, so it should be an uncatchable ball. No penalty.

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

If by "he had position on the defender", you mean that the defender was between him and the ball, yes.

The defender did not "run over" Collie.

I don't know why you mention "if you're a defender and not looking at the ball", seeing as Butler at the time was looking at the ball and not at Collie.

Basically, Collie realized that Butler had better position than he did, and that Butler was looking at the ball, not him, so Collie slowed down so Butler would collide with him.

If Butler had not slowed down, Butler would have easily caught the ball, since he had position on Collie. The pass was underthrown.

184 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Wait, I don't get the physics here. I just looked at it again on NFL video. Butler clearly wasn't in position to catch the ball unless he moved Collie out of the way.

If Butler was between Collie and the ball, then why did he put a forearm in Collie's back and shove him out of the way? If Butler had position, why would it matter that Collie stopped to catch the ball? You're telling me Collie went backwards into Butler? I don't get the physics here. Yes, Butler was behind Collie, closer to the passer, but the ball was heading out in front of both of them. Collie stopped to catch it, in essence boxing Butler out, and Butler just shoved Collie out of the way. Easy PI call.

183 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12


So you're saying that Butler had superior position and was watching the ball, which was underthrown (presumably right to Butler)--how on earth did he collide with Collie then? Based on your description, it sounds pretty clearly like Collie interfered. Are you saying Collie somehow reversed his course and collided with Butler?

'Cause that's not what the refs saw and called.

Or that Butler is incompetent enough to blow it when he had position, the ball in his sights and an underthrown ball with the receiver out of the picture?

Personally, it did not look like Butler knew where the ball was to me--he may have turned his head at one point, but was not tracking the ball or his superior position would have gotten him the INT. because he was clueless as to the ball's position, and Collie was not, Collie slowed down and made a move back toward the ball while Butler's momentum brought him into Collie, impeding his ability to get to the ball. Had Butler been ball-hawking, he'd have had the ball or a good case for OPI.

But that wasn't what happened.

A very heads-up move by Collie. They both have the right to the ball, but only the one who actually appears to be trying for it and capable of it will benefit from the call.

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Garcon's ball landed a couple of yards past his feet after he was held for the last few steps. That is a long way from even "unlikely to be caught" without the contact, nevermind "uncatchable." Colts fans are excessively magnanimous here.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

In all fairness, the PI call for Garcon was terrible. I mean, it was "technically" correct, but really pretty ticky-tacky for me.

That being said, the PI in the Pats game was absolutely correct.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

He doesn't flinch, so I don't think subtle is the word you're looking for. It's more like, he's the king of exploiting the inexactness of the officials eyes.

I'd love to see a close-up LOS shot in slow motion of all Raven's pass plays to see just how often Oher is moving pre-snap vs post snap.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Here's a question: why do you capitalize Fox? I understand it's *their* preferred style, as they compete against CBS, NBC, and ABC (all of which are acronyms), but the letters F O X aren't an acronym for anything -- they form a word, and it's part of the corporate name.

Sorry, I listened to Cleveland-Cincinnati and Chicago-Minnesota on the drive home yesterday and didn't have anything better to say.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I was a little disappointed there wasn't much made of the parallels between Vince Young's late drive Sunday and his late drive against USC that won the BCS championship. Networks could have had a lot of fun with that. Maybe it takes awhile to cross-edit those kinds of pieces together and we'll see them this week. Vince Verhei picked up on the "NOT AGAIN" theme from Leinart's perspective. I sound more than a little disappointed in this blog post yesterday at It's not exactly like President Lincoln having a secretary named Kennedy, while President Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln...but there are some similarities that jump out to fans of Vince Young.

Play the theme from "Rocky" in the background. Run alternate shots from the drives with announcers raving (TV and radio because the radio guys go more berserk), when VY crosses the goal line against USC play Neal Armstrong's description of "one giant leap for mankind." (lol) When Tennessee scores at the final gun play Al Michaels' "Do you believe in miracles?" sound clip. Hopefully somebody's working on that. NFL Films could run the plays and cut-aways in slo-mo and make it a 30-minute show.

A shame FOX didn't cut away from Chicago/Minnesota for the tail end of the drive at least. Austin, TX is treated as a suburb of Nashville on the TV maps when Young is starting, so at least his college town got to see the game.

77 Does the QB make the team or is it the other way around

I posted this list last week when I was debating someone about how valuable Favre is to the Vikings. I wanted to see what happens when a top QB goes down. I found a list of the top 50 QB's of all time as just a rough starting point. Used anyone that was on that list that played in the last 30 years or so.

What I found

1) Good QB's don't get hurt very often. There are very few examples of a good QB missing more than a few games a year.

2) QB's that missed more than 4 games in a season that were on the list I used to compare to backups (years ranging 93-2008)

List of Starters:

Warner (3 times)
McNabb (3 times)
Montana (twice)
Marino (twice)
S. Young (twice)
Hasselbeck (twice)

List of replacements

Manning, E
Green, T
McMahon, M
Garcia, J
Kemp, J
Mitchell, S
Grbac (twice)
Wallace (twice)

The combined stats:

Starters: 16 seasons, 85-65 record, 4900 attempts, 83.8 rating
Backups: 16 seasons, 47-47, 3445 attempts, 80.7 rating

But I would say the list of starters is pretty impressive and the backups are pretty much replacement or worse (Manning was in his rookie year) one might argue about Garcia, Green and Bulger being better than replacement level.

This is by no way a complete study of any kind. But I think it leads one to think that star QBs are not nearly as critical to their teams as people think. They are clearly better (566 winning pct vs 500). But that is the difference between 9 wins and 8 in a 16 game season.

97 Re: Does the QB make the team or is it the other way around

really? remember Manning was in his rookie year, which 4-5 are you referring to? Even it was true 4-5 were above average. There are at least 6 guys that aren't even replacement level.

Manning, E
Green, T
McMahon, M
Garcia, J
Kemp, J
Mitchell, S
Grbac (twice)
Wallace (twice)

112 Re: Does the QB make the team or is it the other way around

I must admit I don't really remember much about Krieg.

Garcia looked a lot worse than average when he played on crappy teams like Det and Clev and looked above average when he played for SF, Philly and TB. He was 58-58 for his career - I'd say that's about as average as you can get.

Bulger looked great when he had Faulk, Holt and Bruce...not so great when those stars retired or faded away. Yes I think he's an average guy who landed in a great situation. 40-47 record by the way.

Trent Green - couldn't get a starting job until he was 28 and didn't establish himself until 31 or 32. Put up great numbers on a loaded KC team - finished up 56-57.

Yup, I'd call them all about as average as you get. People forget average is not really that bad. It's 8-8.

171 Re: Does the QB make the team or is it the other way around

Kreig had like a twenty year career, even set NFL records (granted, they were bad ones, like most career fumbles). I don't know when in his career he replaced one of these greats, and if it was Marino, it would have been when Kreig was ancient. But young David Kreig was a decent quarterback. For example, right now, Mark Brunnell is Drew Brees' backup. In his heyday, Mark Brunnell was an outstanding quarterback, but it's been about seven years since he was above average, and if he replaced Brees now, it'd be a huge dropoff. At the same time, you're underrating a lot of these guys. Teams run through a lot of losing quarterbacks looking for good ones. Losing quarterbacks don't keep their jobs, unless they are high draft picks. So there are a lot more 'below average' quarterbacks than 'average' or better, in the way you are selecting them.

203 Re: Does the QB make the team or is it the other way around

Trent Green has a career 56-57 record. I'm not sure I buy that he was anything but an average QB who found himself on a great offensive team in KC.

Garcia is probably the best of that bunch I'll give you that (maybe Krieg).

Any way I added up the career stats of the starters and the replacements

Starters - 732-469 .609
Replacements - 484-459 .513

Obviously some of the guys on the replacement list are pretty decent QBs but as a group they were no where near as the guys they replaced.

I think it is interesting that the replacement's performance in the year they replaced the stars list I used - they performed much closer to that group than they did in their career.

Look this isn't a proper study of any kind - I was just trying to see what happens when a recognized top starter goes down for more than 4 games in a season. I think these numbers suggest that star QBs don't have nearly the effect people think they do on winning.

Figuring out precisely how many wins a great QB adds will probably never be figured out. But I think it's pretty obvious they don't add much more than a game or two over an average QB. This all reminds me of something Warren Buffet once said - I rather be roughly right than precisely wrong.