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

Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Audibles at the Line: Week 9
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Bill Barnwell

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

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

Please also note that we do not write the e-mails specifically to produce this column, which means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

San Diego Chargers 29 at Houston Texans 23

Tom Gower: San Diego Super Chargers 2010 Special Teams strikes early, as Jacob Hester makes an over the shoulder grab and goes out of bounds at the 3. It'd be a great job if he was downing a punt, but less fine a move on a kickoff that likely would've gone out of bounds.

It continues! The Chargers go three-and-out, and recent Texans acquisition scrub linebacker Stanford Keglar, who never did anything of note with the Titans, blocks Scifres's punt. Texans start inside the 20 after the block, and Scifres is down with an injury. YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS/John McEnroe voice.

Bill Barnwell: "Steve Crosby is one of the longest tenured and most respected special teams coaches in the NFL."

Tim Gerheim: Apart from that first series, the Texans are the perfect opponent for the Chargers. They can't block a punt or field goal because they can't force either. If you throw it against the Texans, you will succeed. Period.

Tom Gower: Arian Foster just had one of those great plays that keep drives alive -- he catches the dumpoff from Schaub on third-and-9 with five Chargers having a chance to bring him down, cuts to avoid the first two, and then gets low and dives forward to avoid the other three and pick up the first down.

Quentin Jammer is not having a very good game. He was horribly out of position as the end defender on Foster's first TD run, has been flagged twice for DPI, and just got run over at the goalline on Foster's second TD to put the Texans up 17-14. We're still less than 20 minutes of gametime in, so he has plenty of time to redeem himself.

Bill Barnwell: At what point do we give Philip Rivers the MVP in spite of the Chargers' special teams? Sure, it's the Texans, but he's down his top, what, four targets? He's 10-of-11 for 175 yards with two scores. His receivers are a Cowboys castoff and an undrafted free agent.

Tim Gerheim: Matt Schaub has thrown two passes in the red zone that would have been touchdowns if he'd put a little touch on them; both drives resulted in field goals. The first, Jacoby Jones was open in the corner of the end zone but Schaub threw it too low, letting the trailing defender get a hand on it, and Jones is bad enough at catching the ball in the best of circumstances so he couldn't come down with the tipped ball. The second he had James Casey moving toward the left sideline open at the goal line, but Schaub zipped it instead of lobbing it over the defender charging underneath. With better hands from the linebacker it's a pick-six; with a little air under it it's an easy TD.

Tom Gower: See Kareem Jackson, throw ball. Rinse, repeat with success.

Tim Gerheim: The Texans offense is all Arian Foster. He has about 25 carries midway through the third quarter. Schaub is having his best success on play action, which I'm glad to see because it's been strangely missing from the playbill lately. But whenever they bring in Derrick Ward, they're still running it to their credit but getting approximately zero yards per carry.

Patrick Crayton - Patrick Crayton! - just abused the seconday, juking his way past the corner theoretically in coverage then stiff-arming Eugene Wilson entirely out of the play. The corner (I think the charbroiled Kareem Jackson) had to finally come back in and make the tackle after about 30 YAC.

Tim Gerheim: Ain't that the truth. The Chargers don't have enough healthy receivers to force nickelback Brice McCain into service, which actually simplifies the offense, since you don't even have to decide which overmatched corner to throw at.

Stop the presses: Kareem Jackson just made an interception. I repeat, Kareem Jackson. This is not a drill.

Bill Barnwell: You throw at a guy 100 times, he's bound to catch one.

Tom Gower: Especially when the quarterback gets hit low as he's throwing. Antonio Smith (I think) will probably be getting a letter and a paycheck deduction this week.

Bill Barnwell: That'll be what, $10,000? Most guys would give $10,000 for a sack, let alone a pick.

Tim Gerheim: He was blocked to the ground and got to Rivers the only way it was possible. Is that really a fineable play?

Tom Gower: Unless he's blocked into the ground on the way to Rivers, yes, it absolutely is.

Tim Gerheim: The Chargers score a touchdown (against Jackson, to beat a dead horse) to go up 27-23 with 5:17 left. They choose to go for two, which I don't understand. How is going up 6 better than 4 at this point? There's really no downside, which may explain it, but I don't see any upside either Are they really worried the Texans will pull off two field goal drives in 5 minutes? Do their soothsayers foresee a missed extra point?

Rob Weintraub: Standard move according to the two-point chart. If you go up six and the enemy scores but misses the PAT, it's tied, is the thinking I suppose. Texans just got stuffed on a QB sneak on 4th down anyway.

Tim Gerheim: Ugh. The Texans lost this game on two fourths downs, among other things. The first one was a dodgy call, up 23-21 at the Chargers 18. The second was necessary, down 29-23 with 3:31 left, but I don't know what they were thinking running a QB sneak on 4th-and-2.

Arizona Cardinals 24 at Minnesota Vikings 27 (OT)

Ben Muth: Tony Siragusa just called out the Vikings defense for lack of hustle. That can't be good.

Bill Barnwell: The Cardinals are leading in Minnesota on a touchdown pass to Andre Roberts where virtually every member of the secondary took quizzical, confounding routes to the ballcarrier. Crowd responds by chanting "Fire Childress!" Do they really want Leslie Frazier? Because it sure looks like he's not teaching them all that well.

Tom Gower: The Vikings are playing like they're a team that wants to get their coach fired and knows they could make it happen with their performance.

Bill Barnwell: The Vikings doing their best Chargers impression -- not only did they allow a kickoff return for a touchdown by LaRod Stephens-Howling in the first half, but Percy Harvin just fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half and the Cardinals returned it for their second special teams touchdown of the day.

Ben Muth: The Vikings can't get any pressure on Derek Anderson. I'm not sure if Childress, Frazier, or both are gonna be fired, but it sure seems like something needs to change.

Bill Barnwell: And the Vikings tie things up -- for what seems like the first time all year, the Vikings actually complete a two-minute drill, with Favre hitting Visanthe Shiancoe for 14 yards on second-and-15, sneaking for the first down, and then getting Shiancoe up the seam again for a game-tying TD.

Rob Weintraub: Adrian Wilson was right there on Favre pass, but it was perfectly placed.

Ben Muth: The Vikings look like a completely different team over the last five minutes of this game.

Doug Farrar: And with 23 seconds left in regulation, Jared Allen gets his first sack since Week 2. That said, I don’t remember seeing a dominant front four falling this far this fast. Allen getting negated, Alan Faneca kicking Kevin Williams’ butt, Pat Williams shooting past the quarterback and getting blocked out on the other side … well, okay, I kind of expect that now.

Vince Verhei: Maybe Zygi told them he'll fire the coach if they win.

Doug Farrar: And Ray Edwards gets a sack with eight seconds left in regulation. Man, these Vikings really pick their spots!

Ben Muth: The Vikings get two sacks in three plays on the opening drive of overtime. It's almost like they were shaving points in the first three quarters.

Vince Verhei: Cardinals' first drive in overtime: incomplete, sack, stripsack. do you think Matt Leinart watches these games late at night, cackling to himself?

New Orleans Saints 34 at Carolina Panthers 3

Tom Gower: Drew Brees drops a snap, picks it up, tries to complete the slant anyway, but it's off the receiver's hands and right to Richard Marshall, who returns it about 70 yards Panthers can't cash it from goal-to-go after Gettis can't haul in the fade on 2nd down and Moore throws it short on 3rd down.

Three hours later...

Vince Verhei: Drew Brees rolls out right and doesn't throw the ball away until a defender is dragging him to the ground. Another defender giving chase nearly steps on his hand. Saints are up 24 points in the fourth. Why is Brees in the game?

New England Patriots 14 at Cleveland Browns 34

Aaron Schatz: Hey, Eric Mangini has some balls. And some luck. As for balls, he went for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 29. The Pats stacked to stop Peyton Hillis, so Colt McCoy audibled to an empty backfield... and then took it for the QB sneak and got the first. As for luck, Phil Dawson somewhat flubbed a kickoff but the Pats were totally confused trying to catch it at the 20. It looked like Rob Gronkowski called for the fair catch and then sort of forgot to catch it, thinking maybe that Sammy Morris had it. It bounced, Browns recovered, and Hillis takes it in for a touchdown.

Wait, did I say luck? Hillis just fumbled the ball away on the play after that fourth-down conversion. Still, it is 10-0 Browns early.

Even with that fumble, Peyton Hillis is killing the Patriots. They can't tackle him, he keeps dragging two and three guys for extra yards, and the Browns are getting big gains off play-action when Hillis doesn't run it himself.

Rob Weintraub: Nice to see it isn't just the Bengals--Hillis ices the game on a sprint around end, the same exact play that salted away the game against Cincy. Bengals kept him from scoring, at least.

Aaron Schatz: I don't think you saw much unexpected from the Patriots defense, but you did see the Cleveland offense play better than expected. I was very impressed by Colt McCoy. He looks like Chad Pennington II to me. No, he doesn't have the strongest arm, but he can get the ball downfield when necessary. He makes good decisions and is accurate. He adjusted a lot of plays at the line, with success. And he's much more mobile than people realize, like Trent Green. Let's just hope he doesn't follow in the footsteps of Pennington and Green when it comes to health.

On the other side of the ball, the Browns safeties had a very good game in coverage, and the run defense is impressive. Chris Gocong was all over the place today; technically, the Browns have moved him inside, but they had him coming from outside a lot today and the Pats had trouble blocking him or even remembering to pick him up. The Patriots receivers generally had an awful game, with Gronkowski and Tate dropping passes (and Gronkowski, of course, fumbling near the goal line). And I know this sounds strange to say, with Brady having strong stats this year, but he just doesn't look right. He's gone back and forth this year, usually in the same game. He'll have a quarter or two where he seems fabulous. But he also will have a quarter or two where he's just straight out missing guys. He seems to be overthrowing a lot of passes on the outside or up the seam, while underthrowing crosses and those little Wes Welker hooks. I can't tell you how many times this year it seems like Welker has to catch a ball at his shins and give up on any yards after the catch.

Still, while this will cause the usual freaking out in New England, the Patriots can get away with this one if they can work on these problems for future games. It's a mulligan. You are allowed to lose a couple and still make a Super Bowl run. Unless this starts a string of games where the Pats get walloped -- a possibility, with the next two weeks at Pittsburgh and home against Indianapolis -- I think this game says more about the Browns: underrated and frisky.

Tim Gerheim: People don't think of Colt McCoy as mobile? Did they not watch him in college? He was the Longhorns leading rusher last year, I believe, because they didn't have much of a running game or one back who distinguished himself above the rest. He's not all that fast, but he can rightly be called a running quarterback.

Aaron Schatz: I think people don't think of him as a running quarterback because a) he's melanin-impaired and b) they don't specifically write up running plays for him, or even bootlegs that are "run if nobody's open." It's more about mobility in the pocket and running when everything breaks down.

Doug Farrar: I wouldn’t consider him a running quarterback per se; more a mobile quarterback, which is what Aaron originally wrote. There’s a pretty big difference in terminology in my mind. Against the Steelers, they had him run a lot of designed rollouts, and I’d bet it was the same way in this game. But I think those rollouts are as much to free up throwing lanes as anything – he’s melanin-impaired AND height-deficient.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21 at Atlanta Falcons 27

Bill Barnwell: The Falcons score on their first drive with about 17 runs. It took a fourth-and-two conversion, a quick throw to Jason Snelling against a defensive end. Turner's going to end up with 30 carries today.

Falcons are blitzing Freeman on virtually every down. Just paid off when Mike Peterson came off the edge and Freeman totally didn't account for him, leading to a third-and-19.

Mike Tanier: Sabby Piscitelli did something right! He downed a punt at the one yard line.

I saw Michael Jenkins catch a bomb. I have seen everything.

Vince Verhei: The amazing thing about that Jenkins bomb is that it should have been an easy touchdown, but Matt Ryan's throw led him out of bounds. So yes, Michael Jenkins made a great play, and Matt Ryan (to a degree) screwed it up.

Bill Barnwell: Mike Williams is dominating the much smaller Brent Grimes physically. He's got about four inches and 30 pounds on him to begin with, and while Williams still has issues with looking the ball in, he's very good at using his body on Josh Freeman passes to shield away smaller defenders.

Williams picks up a touchdown catch, though, on a quick slant where Dunta Robinson slipped and Williams took it straight to the house.

Vince Verhei: Atlanta kicks off, and the ball lands in between the up-men and the returner before dribbling into Michael Spurlock's hands. He picks it up and everyone ambles forward into a cluster of Falcons defenders. Then Spurlock gets a sliver of breathing room, and BOOM! he's at full speed in one step and gone for a score.

Bill Barnwell: Buccaneers run a surprise onside kick after the touchdown, and although the kicker recovers it and it's ruled Bucs ball, it's revealed on review that he touched the ball about a foot before ten yards. Falcons get it back. Good call by Morris, even though it didn't work out. Every Falcons drive seems to go six minutes and end in a touchdown.

Rob Weintraub: Down on that rule. It shouldn't be illegal touching before ten yards if it hits a leg or shoulder--anything but the hands.

Bill Barnwell: Grimes steps up and gets an interception. Freeman stares down a quick out and Grimes jumps the route, getting some help when Williams falls down on the throw. Bucs wanted pass interference, but it wasn't.

Buccaneers convert a third-and-10 on a great out by Freeman to Williams against Grimes. Then, they run a flea flicker that Freeman throws into triple coverage, but William Moore is catching up with the play and doesn't turn around in time. The ball hits him on the arm and it's pass interference. Bucs have the ball inside the ten-yard line.

Rob Weintraub: Raheem Morris sprints five yards into the end zone to ensure he gets the time out before the critical fourth down play. That's the longest I've seen a coach go to get his call.

Bill Barnwell: Looks like the Falcons just stopped the Buccaneers on fourth-and-1 from the 2-yard line. Buccaneers faked the handoff to the fullback before giving it to Blount, and there was enough counter action for Thomas DeCoud to come in off the edge and make the play.

Chicago Bears 22 "at" Buffalo Bills 19

Bill Barnwell: The Bears are playing the the league's second-worst run defense in Toronto. Matt Forte and Chester Taylor have combined for 14 yards on 11 carries. The highlights from one sample red zone performance: Cutler misses a wide-open Matt Forte on a wheel route for a touchdown by throwing the ball out of bounds, the Bears take an illegal shift and two false starts within five snaps, and Cutler finishes the drive by throwing a pass to Forte in triple coverage. Oh, sorry. Robbie Gould misses the field goal. That finishes the drive.

Bills came back and Ryan Fitzpatrick ran a nice two-minute drill down the field to end up with a touchdown on a throw to Roscoe Parrish.

Miami Dolphins 10 at Baltimore Ravens 26

Doug Farrar: Wonderful drive by Baltimore in the early second quarter. They start at the Miami four-yard line after a Chad Henne interception, and it goes a little something like this: Loss of one (McGahee), delay of game penalty, time out, 10-yard loss on a Flacco sack, fumbled field goal attempt. They went from the four to the 30. I think Tampa Bay had a red zone drive that was even worse than this a few games ago, but this was one injurious Flacco QB sneak (their new favorite play, it seems) away from being the perfect storm in reverse.

New York Jets 23 at Detroit Lions 20 (OT)

Bill Barnwell: Matthew Stafford just missed Brandon Pettigrew in the end zone for a touchdown. Brodney Pool took an illegal contact penalty, but the ball still landed well outside of the end zone.

Mike Tanier: Jets-Lions keys to the game: Jets must "be who they think they are." Lions must "be who they want to be." Everything I know about football I learned from fortune cookies.

Jahvid Best just dropped a likely touchdown on a wheel route. On the other sideof the ball, the Jets have abandoned the downfield pass altogether. And the couple at the bar next to me is fighting so bad that it is making me uncomfortable.

Tim Gerheim: Foster is great at squirting forward at the end of a run for an extra yard or two. That play you mentioned, and also a third-and-1 where he squeezed forward to remove any doubt that it was a first down. I said a few weeks ago that he's a decisive take-what's-there upfield runner, but I've been really impressed today with his shiftiness and ability to break tackles.

Mike Tanier: I think the Jets spent the whole first half setting up that touchdown bomb to Edwards. The cornerback just let him release deep, like he couldn't imagine that Sanchez would throw it.

Bill Barnwell: How cunning of them to fumble two snaps in that plot.

Vince Verhei: In Any Given Sunday I noted that the Jets had had ridiculously good fumble luck, and they wouldn't be able to keep it up. At halftime today, they have fumbled four times, and recovered all of them. Harrumph.

Mike Tanier: The fighting couple is now necking. I am even more uncomfortable.

Bill Barnwell: Lions just took the lead after a really stupid play from Trevor Pryce, who roughed up Jason Hanson about a full second after the kick was off. Matthew Stafford promptly runs into the end zone on the next play.

Oh, and since Hanson is hurt, the Lions bring in Ndamukong Suh to kick the extra point, which he boots off the uprights. Awesome.

Doug Farrar: He’ll make up for it with 15 quarterback sacks in the next 10 minutes, of course. Suh was actually quite the soccer player growing up – maybe they thought they had a budding Garo Yepremian there.

Mike Tanier: Hanson is back for the Lions. I like watching 300 pound men kick :(

Aaron Schatz: The officials in this game have no idea what they are doing. "Wait, you mean that when someone scores a touchdown, we need to actually signal 'touchdown'? Are we supposed to stop the clock too?" I swear, they just let the clock count down 10 seconds for nothing. The Jets just lost 10 seconds off their attempted comeback.

Bill Barnwell: Lions decide to go play-action with Drew Stanton to Jerome Felton on third-and-6. A turf burn later and the clock is stopped with 1:54 left for the punt away to the Jets.

Vince Verhei: Meanwhile, Julian Peterson delivers a hit way out of bounds on Tomlinson to put the Jets in range for a tying field goal. Wood: chopped.

New York Giants 41 at Seattle Seahawks 7

Doug Farrar: In the Qwest Field press box, we’re still trying to figure out who the third quarterback is behind Charlie Whitehurst and Zac Robinson. Michael Robinson (former San Francisco special teams guy and Penn State QB) is supposed to be, but he’s been hurt all week. Against this Giants pass rush, we may be looking at direct snaps to Justin Forsett and Leon Washington by the third quarter.

Oh, and Michael Robinson’s real first name is “Burton”. You learn these things over time.

Bill Barnwell: The Seahawks are down 14-0 and just fumbled a kickoff on a play where Leon Washington fumbled and kicked the ball to the opposite hashmark, where Jonathan Goff caught it on a bounce and returned it to the five.

Doug Farrar: Starting to wonder if this is the worst special teams day in NFL history.

On the return after the one Bill mentioned, Washington went 57 yards down to the Gants’ 32-yard line. On the next play, Marshawn Lynch ran for six yards as pretty much every Giants defender was trying to being him down. I think guys were coming off the bench to tackle him. Lynch is no Jerome Harrison, but he’s a pretty solid power guy once in a while.

Bill Barnwell: Then Lynch took a false start. Yes. A halfback. He fell over waiting for the ball to be snapped.

Doug Farrar: The Giants clearly saw something on tape telling that that Marcus Trufant can be worked over on outs and comebacks -- anything where the receiver moves quickly in a short space as the ball's coming. They're just beating Seattle to death with that stuff.

Mike Tanier: It looks like the Giants have given up volleyball for football, with positive results.

Vince Verhei: Down 35-0 late in the second half, Seahawks go for it on fourth- and-15. Whitehurst throws deep, and the pass lands five yards out of bounds. Sigh.

Doug Farrar: Me, to John Hickey of AOL Fanhouse: "Whitehurst is giving me Stan Gelbaugh flashbacks." Hickey: "I think there's something you can take for that." Me: "Yep. I think its name is Andrew Luck."

At halftime, the Seahawks are doing a special tribute to Veteran's Day, with special musical guest ... Duff McKagan. No, really.

Vince Verhei: Hey, no need to knock Duff. I've seen Loaded live a few times, they always put on a good show, and he seems to be a cool guy from all accounts.

Doug Farrar: Oh, I'm not knocking Duff at all. I've met him more than once, and he is absolutely a stand-up dude. Does some neat stuff for the Seattle Weekly. I just didn't see the connection here.

Indianapolis Colts 24 at Philadelphia Eagles 26

Aaron Schatz: Colts are wearing throwback uniforms today, for no apparent reason. On the road. While the home team, Philadelphia, is not wearing throwback uniforms.

In honor of throwback day, Dwight Freeney will be replaced by a fat white guy with a flat-top haircut, while Peyton Manning will be exactly the same as always.

Sigh. Gary Brackett just got penalized with roughing the passer for what looked to be a helmet-on-six inches of thin air away from helmet hit.

And Phil Simms just referred to Jerome Harrison as the back you put in when you want the tough yards. Yes, that's how I've always thought of 5-9, 195-pound Jerome Harrison, who had a 268-yard game last year. He's a short-yardage back. The man is a bowling ball, as long as we are talking about your six-year-old son's first bowling ball. Then Simms referred to Harrison as a "banger." Seriously.

Vince Verhei: Halfway through the second quarter, Colts have run at least three wide receiver screens. I guess they're trying to beat the blitz, but it seems like a strange tactic when you're missing as many players as they are.

Follow-up: Jacob Tamme score a few plays later on yet another receiver (well, tight end) screen.

Mike Tanier: DeSean Jackson just caught a tight end screen and ran 50 yards laterally for a loss. A candidate for Burn this Play in an otherwise solid offensive performance for the Eagles so far.

Vince Verhei: Austin Collie is sandwiched between two Eagles and knocked out cold. Another Colts receiver on the shelf. Somewhere, Craphonso Thorpe is staring at a phone that refuses to ring.

Aaron Schatz: OK, I'll be the controversial one this week.

Horrible hit on Austin Collie when he collides helmet-to-helmet with Kurt Coleman. But I don't think Coleman was playing dirty. I don't even think he was leading with his head. He looks like he's trying to run past the play a little bit, seeing Mikell has taken Collie down. He would have hit Collie with his shoulder... except that Mikell pushes Collie into Coleman's helmet. It's not spearing. It's not launching. It's not dirty. It's just physics. What do you expect Coleman to be doing on that play? Coleman can't possibly react in time.

Will Carroll: I expect him not to lead with his head. The fact is that Coleman's helmet hit Collie's helmet. PERIOD. Anything else - anything - is not a question of whether or not it should be a penalty, but a question of how big the fine should be. I agree that Mikell's hit changed things, but any ... ANY ... instance of a defensive player leading with the helmet deserves penalty and fine. This was made clear by Goodell. You're assuming that Coleman would have changed his trajectory.

Just saw another angle - Coleman gets up and sways, Stewart Bradley-style, after the hit. It's for his safety as much as it is for Collie.

Aaron Schatz: But he's not leading with his head. If Mikell does not hit Collie and change his trajectory, Coleman will hit Collie with his shoulder while his head is to the left of Collie. You can't physically really LEAD with your shoulder in such a way that your head won't hit anything. It's there on your neck, and it is not going anywhere. So a slight change in the trajectory of the ballcarrier, suddenly your head is hitting the ballcarrier instead of air.

I'm okay with the penalty, I guess, because that's the rule now, with the helmet to helmet, intentional or not. But if Coleman gets fined for this, that's ridiculous. And the people on Twitter calling this a "dirty hit," frankly, that's nonsense.

Tim Gerheim: This is why I think they need to invent soft helmets that are actually protective. The helmets as they are are borderline counterproductive at this point; when two helmets come into contact, they act as weapons, not as armor. And when a helmet hits you anywhere else, it's purely weapon.

Will Carroll: His head hit him first. Period. I'm not assessing intent. Nor can the officials on the spot. That's why they review tape for fines. All I'm saying is that Coleman hit him with the helmet -- by definition, that's leading with the helmet.

I agree, it's not dirty, not intentional. I don't think there should be a fine. Problem is the vast majority of fans would be perfectly okay if Collie's head had popped off and rolled to the sideline. They'll take no fine as a victory.

Aaron Schatz: If we're gonna have this argument, I do want to know, Will, what you think about the new helmet that DeSean Jackson is wearing this week.

Will Carroll: It's not new. The Schutt DNA's been around for years. It's something, but it's really not much of an improvement. Tim's point above is correct - helmets are designed to prevent skull fracture. That was an issue in the sixties and isn't now. We need a complete redesign. The NFL needs to do a "helmet X prize" -- get a million dollars if you invent a helmet that reduces concussive force by some parameter.

Aaron Schatz: What about the helmet -- who was it, Don Beebe who wore it -- with the big sort cushy part on top of the regular plastic?

Will Carroll: The foam thing broke down and got dirty quickly. That guy invented this, which no one will ever wear.

Vince Verhei: ESPN had a story on the outer helmet shell a few weeks ago. Mark Kelso wore won for the Bills. A 49ers lineman whose name escapes me wore one too. Both guys had concussion histories and said they worked great. But nobody else wore them because they looked so goofy. There does have to be some happy medium between style and safety, though.

Mike Tanier: Michael Vick played pretty well early in the game. As of now, he's 9-of-18, and he just finished a three-play sequence from around the Colts 30: a scramble around incompletion, an incomplete screen pass where the play was broken up by the Colts pass rush, and a scramble that ended in a rush for a minimal gain. The Eagles did take the lead on a field goal.

I have the queasy feeling that Vick is now in runaround mode and will no longer even try to execute the offense as designed.

Aaron Schatz: You know, I love Brent Celek as a receiver, but the dude is really not a very good blocker.

Mike Tanier: Of course, when runaround mode includes some 30-yard runs on third down, well, I can live with that. (and it was set up by a sharp 20-yard throw on 2nd-and-25).

Winston Justice committed the most obvious, clear hold I have ever seen on Robert Mathis. If we want put a video in a time capsule to explain to future civilizations what holding is, we should use a video of Justice.

Jason Avant catches a pass on a sprintout, and dives for the pylon. It doesn't really look like a touchdown, but if you use your imagination you could talk yourself into it. The Eagles rush up to the line as if they are going to try to rush the sneak past the Colts, and it doesn't look like the Colts defense is quite set. But then Reid throws the challenge and we spend 5 minutes verifying that it is not a touchdown.

The Eagles then line up to run the sneak, but the Colts are now aligned just right. Vick might have crossed the plane, again maybe-sorta, but the refs called a touchdown. Colts challenge. Five more minutes and the play is overturned.

Finally, the Eagles punch it in, barely, on another sneak. I am waiting for another challenge. And I am pining for the good old days when a trip inside the five-yard line didn't take 15 minutes to resolve.

Plus a penalty on the extra point!

Will Carroll: And then after the 14 minutes of challenges, there were four minutes of commercials before the kickoff.

Tim Gerheim: On his way to a strip-sack, Trent Cole brushes Manning's helmet, which is a 15-yard penalty that reverses a pretty much game-clinching turnover. Phil Simms is right (let that sink in): the way the rule is written, it's a penalty. Well, that's another dumb rule where they tried to legislate out the refs' ability to use common sense. There's gotta be a difference between bumping the QB's head and a "blow" to the head.

Will Carroll: I think it was a bit of a weak call, but I wouldn't call it a "brush" either.

Mike Tanier: The Cole hit was somewhere between a brush and a blow, but it wasn't the kind of thing that leads to injuries or concussions. And while I don't want to sound insensitive to the dangers of concussions, there is a real risk of over-legislating here.

Aaron Schatz: OK, smartness points to Asante Samuel, who picks off Peyton Manning in the final minute to end the game and does not try to score, and does not go down immediately, and does not run out of bounds, but rather runs around in circles to waste as much time as possible.

Kansas City Chiefs 20 at Oakland Raiders 23 (OT)

Aaron Schatz: The Chiefs and Raiders are playing as if the winner of the AFC West gets a free bowl of herpes.

Vince Verhei: Chiefs try a fake punt. It fails. On the next drive, Raiders try a fake punt. It fails too. The element of surprise is gone, everyone.

Aaron Schatz: Kansas City is now losing to Oakland going into the fourth quarter. Thomas Jones has three times as many carries as Jamaal Charles, with one less yard. Can we all agree that if Kansas City does end the year as the surprising division champion, we aren't going to vote for Todd Haley as coach of the year? It seems like they're doing this despite him, not because of him. The Kansas City game plans are just horrendous. Let's misuse our running backs. Let's barely pass the ball against the horrid Jacksonville secondary. Let's make Terrance Copper a starting wide receiver. And on and on.

Mike Tanier: Over in Oakland, we get a clinic in how many different ways a clock can stop without a timeout: first a Chiefs player gets hurt, then there's a long review, and the Raiders get two "free" timeouts that help them get the game to overtime.

Aaron Schatz: First possession of overtime, third-and-4, Matt Cassel throws a two-yard flat pass to a completely-covered Leonard Pope. Great situational football there, kids.

And... I have to hand it to rookie Jacoby Ford. He returned a kickoff for a touchdown, then added two absolutely insane catches to set up the two Sebastian Janikowski field goals, one to tie the game, and then the one to win it. First catch, he took it out of the hands of the Chiefs defender. Second catch, he had to beat Brandon Flowers, then dive and lay out for the ball, 47-yard gain. Impressive. Basically won the game by himself. Well, him and Campbell, but mostly him.

Dallas Cowboys 7 at Green Bay Packers 45

Aaron Schatz: What confuses me about the Cowboys this year is this: What the heck happened to their pass coverage? We knew that they didn't have very good safeties, but their cornerbacks were supposed to be very strong. Mike Jenkins made the Pro Bowl last year, Terance Newman is close to Pro Bowl level, and Orlando Scandrick is an above-average nickel corner except for some reason in division games. And yet, prior to this game Dallas ranks 32nd against number-one receivers, 30th against number twos, and 27th against others. Obviously pass rush and secondary work together, but the Cowboys are average in Adjusted Sack Rate, so they do have some pass rush even if it hasn't been as good as recent years.

A cursory look at our coverage charting stats suggests that those numbers are very inconsistent from year to year. (I ran out of time to do an actual study this spring, and hope to do it for FOA 2011.) So it makes me wonder, are cornerbacks really that much less consistent than players at other positions? Is this all sample size, either in numbers or in what we see with our eyes? I mean, there's inconsistency, and then there's Mike Jenkins 2009 vs. Mike Jenkins 2010. (Although, hey, Fred Bennett's decline between his rookie and second years was probably even bigger.)

Mike Kurtz: Really disappointed we didn't see halftime seppuku, much less firing.

We have our test case for Park Avenue. If Nick Collins doesn't sit for that hit on Roy Williams, feel free to start mocking the NFL's new-found awareness of the risks of head injury from playing professional football.

Doug Farrar: I have no idea what Collinsworth is talking about when he says that Sean Lee is not a coverage linebacker. At Penn State, it was one of the strongest traits, and I'm pretty sure he could cover seams better than Bradie James and Keith Brooking in his sleep. Undersized guy with good speed. What the hell?

Ben Muth: I'm waiting for the cameras to cut to Jerry Jones playing a fiddle.

Comments

357 comments, Last at 11 Nov 2010, 9:34pm

1 Cleveland trickeration!

(1) That should scotch the ridiculous "Tom Brady for MVP" talk. He was terrible.

(2) Reports out of Boston that Gostkowski will be sidelined for two weeks with a quad injury.

(3) No mention of the awesome bit of trickeration for Stuckey's TD run? For those who haven't seen it, go see it, but if you can't, it went like this:
* All OLman except center in 2pt stance.
* Bell at QB under center.
* Stuckey crouched way way over hiding behind RG.
* Browns acting like the play is still coming in.
* Bell takes snap, hands off to Stuckey.
* Bell goes right, acting like he has the ball.
* Stuckey stands still for at least a second, then goes left.
Simply awesome.

The trick play brought to mind something I've wondered -- in the NFL can teams before a game/play go to the game officials and say (more tactfully) "we're planning to do trick play X. Keep an eye out and don't wrongly blow it dead or incorrectly call a penalty because you're confused by it" or do teams just have to hope the zebras don't screw up?

11 Re: Cleveland trickeration!

My good friend who is a high school football official says they routinely go the coaches and ask them if they have any trick plays they might be using. They remind them they are trying to trick the opponent not the officials. I assume this same routine is followed by officials at higher levels as well.

86 Re: Cleveland trickeration!

I remember the Minnesota Golden Gophers doing this to refs against the Michigan Wolverines in the mid '80s. Fake handoff and run up the middle while the QB hides the ball and drifts back and left like he's just watching the play, only for the officials to blow it dead when the running back went down. The poor QB was running down the sideline by himself, to no avail.

166 Re: Cleveland trickeration!

They should check for special plays, but it wouldn't shock me if the NFL (and its officials) view goofy crap like that as beneath "real" football players.

49 Re: talking to refs about trick plays

I have seen this done on a video clip on NFL.com of the SB, where Sean Payton tells an official before the game started about the possibility of a surprise onside kick. (Might have been right before the 2nd half when they're about to do it.)

76 Re: talking to refs about trick plays

As a Pats fan, this play frustrated me. I like the call, but if you look at the replay, the left guards hands are swinging when the ball is snapped, and another lineman is turning his upper body. I get that the linemen don't need to adopt a "traditional" stance to run this play, but don't offensive linemen need to be completely immobile at the snap?

169 Re: talking to refs about trick plays

From the NFL Digest of Rules; "All players of offensive team must be stationary at snap, except one back who may be in motion parallel to scrimmage line or backward (not forward)." I don't know if they define stationary by the total body, or the legs though...

Can be found at http://www.nfl.com/rulebook/positionofplayers

Listen, in the grand scheme of things, the Pats got whupped, it just stuck in my craw at the time...

255 Re: talking to refs about trick plays

So your argument is that 99% of false start calls are wrongly whistled?

Offensive lineman are allowed to twitch, shake, fake jump, etc., as long as they don't take a step or two?

Let's back away from "under the enlgish (sic) language" and talk about how the word is used in the context of the NFL rules.

277 Re: talking to refs about trick plays

Not at all, since we're not dealing with a rule dealing with the ofensive line and specifically what stance they are in, but rather a rule dealing with the entire offensive team.

Now, if you actually read the rule we are discussing: "All players of offensive team must be stationary at snap, except one back who may be in motion parallel to scrimmage line or backward (not forward)," you'll notice that instead of the strawman you're trying to lay on my feet, it is YOUR assertion that 99% of false starts are wrongly whistled, since Offensive linemen are allowed to twitch, shake, fake jump, do the macarena, as long as it is prior to the snap and not at the moment of it, which is the only thing this rule concerns itself with.

As for how the word is used in context of the NFL rules, if it meant inmobile, a QB bringing down his foot on a hard count would be illegal. As would a reciever moving his head towards the ball to see if it's snapped. Or even swinging their arms. Since none of those are actually the case, we can safely conclude that every single part of your post is completely wrong, and thus, even more undeserving of your smugness.

- Alvaro

260 Re: talking to refs about trick plays

FWIW, in the video replay I'm not seeing any motion that would constitute a false start. I don't see any motion among the linemen at all.

Seemed to me that the defense was waiting for the linemen to get set and were surprised that they started the play from a standing position. Mangini does this kind of crap pretty much every time he coaches against Belichick. He saves trick plays for the Patriots that he doesn't use against other teams, both on offense and defense. In this case, the trick worked and the defense was caught flatfooted.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Aaron-- on the Mike Jenkins inconsistency question: although Jenkins has been fingered as the responsible party on many deep pass plays this year (versus Kenny Britt most conspicuously), most careful tape breakdowns on various Cowboys blogs have identified Alan Ball as the real guilty party, with Jenkins expecting help over the top and having to scramble and try to recover when Ball passes his man off to no one.

This leads to the camera panning downfield and finding a trailing Jenkins desperately trying to catch up to a deep WR as the WR catches the ball. You will usually see Ball in the vicinity as well, but since it was not technically "his man" in an easily identifiable way (without knowing what the defensive call was), Jenkins gets dinged and his YPA skyrockets.

Jenkins has certainly made his share of bad plays in recent weeks, and much of that is likely attributable to the entire defense having basically quit at this point, but overall I'd say he would look much better with anything close to a competent FS behind him.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Since Darren Woodson retired and Roy L. Williams' play fell off a cliff, and they happened about the same time, there has been little need to identify them by name.

Just "Dallas Safety." That's all that needs to be said.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Have to give it to the Dolphins offensive coordinator. Way to keep Ricky and Ronnie fresh for next week.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

If before the obligatory: OMG everybody panic, team "X" played terrible this week, meaning they'll definitely play bad next week and for the rest of the season.

Player "X" is or isn't the MVP after one good or bad week....until next week when that asinine list changes again (I'm looking at you Peter King).

Even though there is no clear cut "best team in the NFL," we'll continually crown one team each week on the simply basis of their record or how they perform last week, no matter the opponent or how the outcome was achieved.

Any more generalities and knee jerk reactions I'm missing?

Panic!

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

They choose to go for two, which I don't understand. How is going up 6 better than 4 at this point? There's really no downside, which may explain it, but I don't see any upside either Are they really worried the Texans will pull off two field goal drives in 5 minutes?

That actually could have happened. The Texans (theoretically) could have kicked a FG on 4th and 1 with 3:31 left. They tried to go for it and came up short, but eventually got the ball back and were driving into FG range again before an errant pass was kicked by Johnson and picked off. There certainly was time for two FG drives.

Do their soothsayers foresee a missed extra point?

Certainly a possibility. Just ask Steve Crosby.

151 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"How is going up 6 better than 4 at this point?"

I think the bigger reason with that much time left is that if you score a FG, you're up by 9 -- two scores -- and they can't come back with a hail-mary + PAT2.

If your logic only flows from 'they score next' then yes, 4 versus 6 isn't much different. If you assume you might score next, its very different.

184 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

The real question to me is not "How is going up 6 better than 4 at this point?" The questtion is would you rather kick the extra point and almost certainly be up 5 rather than try to go up by 6, but risk being up by only 4 if you fail on the 2 point conversion. I would rather kick the XP and go up by 5.

Then, if the other team scores a TD, you basically force them to go for 2 to go up by 3. If they succeed, a FG still ties the game for you. If they fail, a FG wins the game for you.

If you were only up by 4 and then the other team scores a TD and kicks the XP, then a field goal only ties the game for you.

I guess the issue boils down to who you would rather have go for 2 points. Do you want your team to do it, or do you want to force the other team to have to do it? Since I am a Bears fan and always have more faith in the defense than the offense, I would want the other team to have to go for 2 rather than have the Bears need a 2-point conversion. But I can see how an offensively dominant team that was weak defensively would want to be the team that goes for 2.

I say all this despite the fact that the Bears succeeded on a sweet 2-point conversion yesterday, a shovel pass to Matt Forte. The Bears defense earlier stuffed the Bills on a 2-point conversion when the Bills had gone up 19-14.

209 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Speaking of 2-point conversions, why the hell was Suh sent out to attempt an extra point? My guess is that the Lions would average more points/attempt if they simply handed the ball to Suh for a 2-point conversion than if they had him kicking PATs.

Given that the Jets were able to force OT, this is not an idle question. One more point would have made it a lot harder for the Jets to win. That stupid kick attempt helped the Lions lose.

243 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Just because he weighs 300lb and plays defensive tackle doesn't mean he can't kick a ball straight. As you said it was crucial, and I believe Jim Schwartz is a good coach, not an idiot; he must have a plan in case his kicker gets injured that doesn't involve just letting the first person who volunteers attempt the kick.

I'd assume Suh practices some kicking, and probably converts over 50% of his attempts in practice. Ok, so he hacked this one, but it doesn't make it the wrong decision. Remember also that it was the Jets defence. Against a weaker unit, yeah, they'd have probably gone for the two.

249 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

If he converts 50% of his kicks in practice - even if you think he'd have the same conversion rate in a game - he should only be kicking if you think your chance of making the two-point conversion is less than 25%. Which seems unlikely.

285 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Suh's a pretty good kicker, and I'd bet he's closer to 80% on extra points in practice. He's not bad on anything inside 40 yards, actually. Besides, who is going to dare rough him?

The mistake, and Schwartz agrees, was that the Lions didn't call timeout to give him a chance to take some practice swings. He had to go in completely cold, and still almost made it. Just didn't get his full hip rotation.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Unfortunately many (stupid) British people have started saying 'period'. They see in in films and monkey see, monkey do. I don't have a problem with americans saying it but it just doesn't make sense in English english.

195 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Even more fun is the 'stop' that was used to terminate sentences in telegrams.
There used to be a lot of dictation of telegrams in old movies, and somehow the frequent repetition of 'stop' could somehow serve equally well for dramatic or comedic purposes.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

RE: Collie vs Coleman

the penalty was on mikell for hitting a "defenseless receiever," not a helmet to helmet contact call. collie clearly caught the ball, took approximately 3 steps and a football move forward and then get lit up by two perfectly clean hits. he promptly fumbles it because he's concussed by two clean hits and the eagles recover for a 20+ yard gain the other way. wait, instead Indy scores 3 plays later and would be a big 7 point swing.

don't even get me started on the ridiculous of the "hit to the helmet" of peyton manning. refs have to have some discretion built into these calls for the sake of the game.

247 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

AFAIK, the 'football move' terminology is no longer in the rules, and the criteria to judge a reception/incompletion are no longer determined by the 'football move' concept.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Given that there was less time left than the play clock when Asante Samuel intercepted, nothing was gained by him running around before going down.

Okay, the rushing yards per average for Michael Vick might have been higher had he been able to run out the entire game clock. And I suppose he might have been worried about a Joe Pisarcik situation.

The Colts were even out of timeouts, so it wasn't even remotely close to otherwise making a difference, could have been a minute and a half, could have been six seconds, same result.

I take away smartness points for running around then give them back (most of them) for deciding to go down eventually.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I had the same thought. In what universe does running around (I don't care the direction it's in. Running around anywhere puts you at risk of a fumble,e ven if it's one of those once every couple of years ball slips out by itself fumble), when ONE kneeldown ends the game 100% smart instead of completely stupid?

Luckily he eventually realized he should go down and did, but if that ball had been bobbled, hit, or anything else even remotely close, everyone would be killing him for stupidly running around when going down guarantess victory. And we know outcome does not determine the smartness of a process, so no, let's not give him smart points, let's give him less stupid points because ventually he did go down.

- Alvaro

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

And his not running out of bounds didn't help anything either. The clock stopped anyway because of the possession change. Can't award smartness points for staying in bounds in that situation.

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Yes, running out of bounds after a pick has the same impact on the game clock as wiping your shirt after a sucessful FG, but I think he was lumping it in with not going down as "not ending the play inmediately" (even though that was the oly smart thing to do and anything else was yet another case of a boneheaded interception follow-up).

- Alvaro

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

The officiating in the Lions-Jets game was HORRIBLE. Just plain awful.

Not against any one team mind you, but just completely, incomprehensibly god awful all the way around. It was embarrassing to watch.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Couldn't have been worse than the Raiders/Chiefs game. Almost 40 penalties called. Worst officiating I've seen in years. Best one was when the Chiefs got a first down on the goal-line after a 3rd down conversion, but the play was reviewed, and when they came back, they said it was 4th down. Then the Chiefs ran another player, and after that was over, the refs came back and said that was 1st down, not 4th down.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I didn't catch that one, but no amount of incompetency can susprise me at this point, so I'll take your word for it.

The problem in Detroit wasn't just that they kept calling penalties that didn't happen, but that they kept calling BIG penalties that never happened. DPIs. Chop Blocks. Late Hits. It was like free 15 yard penalty day at the flag store. Both teams were getting hosed.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

The chop block calls were ridiculous, but that's typical when it comes to the Lions. I've watched quite a few of their games this year and they seem to get the worst calls imaginable. Phantom, bogus, calls.

Not once were the Jets flagged for their continuous jawing and shoving after the play. Lions players would run out of bounds on the sideline, only to get harassed by a swarm of Jets. The team is mouthy in a way that's remarkable for a team who has won nothing.

I'd also like to add that it seemed fairly clear from the outset that part of the Jets gameplan was to take out Stafford. They targeted his shoulder and repeatedly hit him after the play in that area. Considering Shaun Hill is still on the shelf, this tactic, while smart, was pretty dirty.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

did you even watch the game? Whenever you go low on a defender at the line you run the risk of getting a chop block called. The announcers stated they were legal hits because the defenders were not engaged, but low hits are still dirty. A smart team would stop hitting the other team low after the first call, but the Lions had three called upon them.

And if anyone was doing "jawing," it was the Lions. I recall a play early in the game when a Lion game a cheap shot to Jerricho Cotchery right in front of the ref, but the ref did nothing. And yes, there was a lot of trash talk, but if that offended you or felt it needed to be flagged you dont have the stomach for to be an NFL fan.

And if they were trying to take stafford out, my guess is they wouldve been nailed with quite a few roughin the passers, of which i think i only saw one. Considering the "take out" occurred on a tackle from behind 55 minutes into the game, i'd hardly use this as an excuse or part of the plan. If it was part of rex's plan trust me, it wouldve been done in the first quarter.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

They were (or at least plausibly could have been) chop blocks because one lineman was preparing to block the rusher just before another blocker hit the rusher low.

From the NFL rulebook:

Rule 12-2-16-3: [It is a chop block when] ... On a forward pass play, A1 chops a defensive player while A2 confronts the defensive player in a pass-blocking posture but is not physically engaged with the defensive player (a “lure”).

[A similar rule, 12-2-16-9, applies to kicks/punts.]

I know this covered the third, declined chop penalty, but I don't remember the circumstances of the other two.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"Confront" isn't defined in the rulebook, but I would assume that being face-to-face, reasonably in-line, and reasonably close to the rusher counts as such. Backstepping while still facing the rusher probably counts.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

In my unbiased opinion, I thought the Lions did a good job of inciting the Jets enough to draw reactions out of them, without doing so much as to warrant a flag. The Jets got sucked into it, but the Lions were no innocent bystanders.

And cut blocks are dirty now? The only dirty cut blocks are the ones where the defender is engaged, and you said yourself that the defender wasn't engaged in any of the instances flagged. Just because you "run the risk" of a penalty doesn't mean you should get flagged for a penalty that didn't occur. That logic does not compute.

However, lest I be accused of bias, I stated above that calls were bad for both teams. I thought the illegal contact and DPI penalties on the Jets against Pettigrew were both bad calls, and big ones at that. As was the absurd late hit called when Stafford was knocked out of bounds. And don't get me started on the delayed touchdown call.

It was just an ugly, ugly game by the refs; inexcusably so. I was excited to watch this game, and they just totally mangled it.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I'll take Biased Internet Tough Guy for $500 Alex.

You are clearly biased by your posting name. Low blocks happen almost on every play, but only 1 of those calls were legit chop blocks.

The Jets' repeated late hits were noted throughout the game and not one was called...and the fact that the Lions got repeated BS 15-yard penalties and the Jets in spite of consistent late hits got zero was just horrible.

189 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I agree with Smitty, this was an ugly game for the refs with 200+ yards of penalties. My point about the penalties is that it became apparent after two calls that the refs were looking for low blocks. Much like in baseball when the ump is giving the outside corner. The batter can whine all he wants, it doesnt matter. But to be fair of the two non-legit low block calls, one was declined.

I just found it humorous that Jonas was whining about the Jets' dirty play when the Lions were the ones who seemed to be inciting New York.

337 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

FWIW, both teams were whistled for personal fouls twice, and one of the calls on the Lions was after the game was over.

It may be true that the Lions have been affected by missed calls from time to time this season (there have been several instances I've seen where contact with the QB that has been called in other games was not called for the Lions' benefit), but it's also true that they've committed many stupid penalties this year, and the Jets game was no exception.

187 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Jim Leonard, who also excelled at cheap shotting Roethlisberger in the back, hits Stafford early in the game - in the right shoulder. It was close, but likely legal. I'd have to look at a replay. But there were a bunch of hits that he took to that area and he was clearly distressed as early as the second quarter. They might have done it within the letter of the law, but, to me, it was clear that the instruction was hit Stafford in the right shoulder. It's good strategy when the backup QB has a broken hand.

Were his name Brady or Manning, he might have gotten those calls.

As for the chop blocks, neither defender was engaged on the play when the OL went low. That's not a chop block, and they mentioned it in the broadcast.

One question we had though, is it legal for a running back, or tight end lined up in the backfield to "cut" a guy by going low?

192 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Perfectly legal to cut block in the backfield. I think most RBs are actually coached to do this when taking on larger blitzers on quick passing plays because they have a better chance at a successful cut block than taking on a DE or LB head on.

157 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Bobby Womack's absolutely right. Except it was 27 or 28 penalties, not 40.

The Raiders won the game with a SeaBass field goal with 12 minutes and change left in overtime. In actual time, the game lasted 3 hours and 50 minutes. That's a disgrace.

It was cool to watch Daren McFadden though. The Fantasy Football World has really been down on him since his rookie season. Yesterday was the first time I watched him play since he was drafted and in my opinion, is a franchise back. You can hear the buzz from the crowd whenever he gets the ball and they can see a play devoloping. They know that if McFadden gets daylight, any run can go the distance.

If they're's any justice, the officiating crew that worked that KC-Oak game will never work another game.

Both coaches, Todd Haley and Tom Cable, don't exactly conjure up memories of Don Shula either.

299 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"The Raiders won the game with a SeaBass field goal with 12 minutes and change left in overtime. In actual time, the game lasted 3 hours and 50 minutes. That's a disgrace."

Especially if you are in the UK and its now 1am and its Monday morning alarm call in 4 hours....

Still, as with the San Diego game, the following workday is a lot more bearable after the the win....

259 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

In case anyone was wondering what new and interesting way Jeff Triplette could find to mess up a game this week.

[edit: I was referring to post #38, about getting the down wrong after the review in the KC/OAK game. Hadn't realized my reply would end up all the way down here.]

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Bill Barnwell "Crowd responds by chanting "Fire Childress!" Do they really want Leslie Frazier? Because it sure looks like he's not teaching them all that well"

Exactly what I was thinking. I'm not sure why Leslie Frazier is considered such a great coach. He took over a Viking defence that was 5th in DVOA. In the 3 and half years since the Vikings DVOA's:

07 - 17th
08 - 4th
09 - 17th
10 - 15th

This is on a team that has Jared Allen, Pat and Kevin Williams and some decent linebackers.

In his two years in Cinncinati - his defences were 31st and 11th.

So in 6 years he's managed on top 10 defence. Why exactly is this guy considered a good candidate for the head job.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

People doubted the smartness of making a coordinator out of a guy who coache the Eagles linebackers, but suddenly Spagnulo is a head coach.

People doubted Green Bay when they hired McWhateverhisnameis from San Fran when their offense wasn't exactly lighting it up.

Sometimes, it's not just the results on the field (but they certainly help get you noticed). It's the guys ability to administrate that shows that he's ready for the lext level.

On the other hand, how many Super Bowl coordinators have gone on to be lousy head coaches?

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Yes, hence the "making a coordinator out of a guy who coached the Eagles linebackers" bit.

And I love Spags, but Fewell's got these guys playing well enough that Spags' absence no longer bothers me

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Exactly what I was thinking. I'm not sure why Leslie Frazier is considered such a great coach.

You ever see those old SNL skits, where there was an overweight, unattractive woman whom other women could hire to stand next to and look great by comparison?

By virtue of not being Brad Childress, Leslie Frazier is an attractive candidate for Head Coach. At least for the balance of 2010.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Collinsworth kept talking up Dom Capers as a head coach when Capers has stated he doesn't WANT to be a head coach. So that was amusing.

Mike Jenkins may be a decent corner but he is the poster child for a give up approach on defense. That was a sorry display last night.

320 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I put as much stock in a coordinator saying he doesn't want to be a head coach as I do in a senator saying he doesn't want to be President. Though perhaps Capers is waiting for the NFL to add another expansion team for him to coach.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"I swear, they just let the clock count down 10 seconds for nothing. The Jets just lost 10 seconds off their attempted comeback."

It was 14 seconds! Completely inexplicable. It's like the refs said, we're not sure if that was a TD but so we'll split the difference by calling it a TD and running a quarter minute off the clock. Because of the way the 2 minute warning fell, that 14 seconds translated into a full 40 seconds. Fortunately for the Jets, Detroit made up for it by calling a pass for Drew Stanton on 3rd and 6 on the play following the 2 minute warning. Completely inexplicable.

Re: Brady's good stats this year, I suggest running his DVOA/DPAR before and after the Moss trade. He's had 3 bad games and 1 good game since the trade, but even the good game was less prolific (but probably as efficient) than his performance with Moss.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

On Asante Samuel's time-wasting pick, I thought it was a good move at first, but then it occurred to me how dangerous it was when he ran back to CBS' "this is where they have to get to kick a field goal" line. Any slight bobble of the ball and you could be granting the Colts a free win.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

the hand to Manning's head that kept the Colts' drive alive is what got called, but if you watch the tape you'll see an Eagles defender pulling his facemask as he went to look for the ball. that's a more clear-cut penalty, and still 15 yards.

that said, it was terrible officiating. both teams got away with holds and facemasks all over the place. i'll agree the Collie helmet-to-helmet hit was unintentional, but that's not the point. players get flagged for other unintentional fouls, and this is arguably a bigger deal. it's not suspension-worthy, but the league will fine Coleman.

at what point do the Colts lose so many recievers that Manning has to pass to himself?

--
hail damage

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I think at least some of the booing was directed at the incompletion ruling, but I agree that it was a display of dreadful sportsmanship. (I believe Asante Samuel also had a strong reaction of protest/frustration while trainers were still attending to a motionless Collie.) I have a sad suspicion that the scene would have been similar in most stadiums, but it still doesn't help Philly's reputation.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Peyton should take a lot of the blame for that hit. He threw the ball in an area where his WR was going to get laid out. I hope the Eagles defenders don't get suspended/fined -- there wasn't much else they could have done there.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Other than, y'know, bend your knees, lower your shoulder even slightly, etc.

I don't get why people are making excuses for Coleman. Even if Mikell doesn't make that hit, Coleman still ends up hitting him in the neck/shoulder area, which should still be a penalty.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Here's a picture a split second before the hit:

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/thehuddle/post/2010/11/colts-austin-collie-alert-after-concussion-in-scary-hit-vs-eagles/1

Knees bent - check
shoulder lowered - check
contact about to be made with shoulder not helmet - check

If Mikell doesn't hit him, Collie has another half step and takes a clean hit to the body from Coleman. Mikell knocked him sideways, slowed his forward progress, and so Coleman and Collie's head collided. I get that it has to be called a penalty, but to suggest that Coleman could have done anything different is ludicrous.

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

*One* of his knees is bent. You don't see the other one. Watch the replay - his other leg's straight. He's not getting down. He's changing direction.

Mikell looks similar to Coleman because Collie's momentum pushed him up, but if you look at the replay, Mikell's head was a lot lower at impact.

Also, as a note: the rule is not "no helmet-to-helmet." It's "no hit to the shoulder-neck area and above." In other words, aim for his friggin' torso, and do *not* make contact with the shoulder.

"If Mikell doesn't hit him, Collie has another half step and takes a clean hit to the body from Coleman"

I have no idea how you can look at the replay and think that. If Mikell doesn't hit him, Coleman still nails Collie probably slightly above his shoulder, and it probably would've deflected up to his helmet. It's way too high of a hit.

159 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Up further review, I think you're right.

I went back and watched the video and I have to agree with you. With better fundamentals maybe we're not even talking about this right now.

239 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

This is indeed what it comes down to. Defenders need to change where they aim their hits by a couple of feet.

Funny thing is, if they hit closer to the ballcarrier's center of mass, not to mention the ball itself, I imagine they'll miss fewer tackles and cause more turnovers.

I can't believe this is so hard for people to understand. They should just ban all hits above the sternum.

287 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

If you want a great example of what players *should* be doing, look at the Reggie Bush/Sheldon Brown hit from a few years back. It's absolutely dead on correct, and it caused no injury to either player. All it did was knock the wind out of Bush.

Shoulder dead on into Bush's chest/abdomen. Head down. (And again, for those defending Coleman's hit, watch that hit: Brown was crouched and low all the way into that hit. Coleman was completely upright.) Absolutely flattened him.

250 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

That only applies to a defenseless player. This was a ballcarrier, making helmet to helmet legal. And yes, I'm aware that the play was incorrectly ruled an incompletion.

251 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

In Audibles this week, Will Carroll officially jumps the shark on helmet-to-helmet collisions. When people are running around, jumping, and falling down on a football field, changing both direction and elevation, and are required to run into each other while wearing beach-ball-sized headgear, said headgear is sometimes going to collide with the other guy's.

Aaron was right. And yeah, clean hits can result in injuries, even concussions. And that doesn't mean for one minute that the NFL shouldn't be doing something about helmet-to-helmet contact that is intentional or results from intentionally dangerous stuff (spearing). But the officials shouldn't be throwing flags at one team or the other because of incidental contact that wasn't intended by -either- team.

Austin Collie, Mikell, and Coleman were all three of them equally responsible for the fact that helmet-to-helmet contact occurred, but it appears none of them meant it to. That should mean no penalty.

264 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Is anyone else curious why Will "Stats Are For Losers" Carroll is still contributing to this site? Is it for gems like this:

All I'm saying is that Coleman hit him with the helmet -- by definition, that's leading with the helmet.

280 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Intent doesn't necessarily define whether or not a penalty should be called. If a DB accidentally trips and tackles a WR, the penalty is still called. If a tackler accidentally grabs a facemask, the penalty is still called. If a player attempting to block a kick dives and doesn't take the right angle and accidentally hits the punter's plant foot, the penalty is still called.

Why can't helmet to helmet be one of those cases? (I'd argue that the defender is more in control and responsible in those cases than with helmet to helmet - which the offensive player has more responsibility for by ducking. Of course, he may not duck if launching type shots weren't legal, wrap tackles were all that was legal, and he had a chance of fighting through one.)

322 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

This is the point.

"Good" tackling form isn't always the best way to stop an offensive player. Sometimes momentum is as important as "wrapping up", especially if the key is to stop them from falling forward for a first down/touchdown. Will Carroll's "rule" would really change the game.

"Running into the kicker" is a special situation; the guy is always stationary, so you can avoid the plant foot. It's, uh, planted. Receivers attempting to juke you in the open field are not.

I'm all for better helmets if we can make them, for preventing intent-to-injure wort of plays, etc., but let's be honest with ourselves. Football is never going to be safe. Players are going to get injured. And it is going to continually get worse as players get faster/stronger/bigger over time.

I already decided not to permit my son to play the game. I don't think it can be made safe, and I think attempts to try may have unintended consequences.

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

As someone who was at the game in Section 225 (as always), the booing seemed to be mostly about the play being ruled an incomplete pass as opposed to catch-and-fumble, not as much the yellow flag because we only were shown one replay. Still, I'm not defending the crowd today.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Does anyone know what the rule is regarding an illegal hit that causes a fumble ? If a defender is called for unnecessary roughness, illegal hit, or facemask penalty would any change of possession that resulted from the penalized hit be reversed as well ?

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Yes, just like a late hit on a QB nullifies an Interception. If there's a defensive penalty before a chane of posession, the whole play is nullified (if it happens after the change of posession, the change stands).

- Alvaro

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

The hit on Collie was unfortunate but, as Aaron said, it wasn't close to dirty and I don't think it should even be a penalty. Obviously, intentional head to head shots should be penalized, fined and suspended as the Commish sees fit. But inadvertent collisions of the Coleman/Collie sort are inevitable. I've said this before, but why do offenses have a constitutional right to throw "hospital passes" down the seam to exposed receivers over and over again and expect the rules to protect the players? I don't see why every injury issue has to be solved by giving the offense more of a comepetitive advantage. Offenses stopped trying to run the option in the pros, except as a gimmick, because doing it on a consistent basis gets the QB hurt. Similarly, a steady diet of seams and crossing patterns against nickel and dime defenses is going to get receivers hurt. Offenses need to adjust, but they won't if the league insists on making it harder and harder to defend those passes.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"But inadvertent collisions of the Coleman/Collie sort are inevitable."

OK. I'm an Eagles fan. But I don't know what people are talking about here defending this thing. It was a horrible hit. Do I think it was dirty? No, the kid's a rookie - I think it was just bad tackling. Was that hit inevitable? God, no. Coleman should've been getting lower.

People say "well, Mikell shoved him into Coleman" - So what? Look at the replay. Mikell hits Coleman first, but look at Coleman's form. He's still almost completely upright. His left leg is completely straight. His right shoulder is *above* Collie's shoulder.

He's way too high. Look at Coleman's helmet compared to Mikell's. Mikell's is significantly lower than Coleman's. This wasn't a "bang-bang play." It was bad tackling, plain and simple, and it caused a concussion.

Fine him, or suspend him - I'm fine with it. They need to learn they *have* to go lower. In a radio interview, they asked "well, won't this cause more knee injuries?" to an NFL official, and his response was great - we'd prefer career ending injuries to life-altering (I would've said 'life-ending') injuries.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

If he goes lower, then even if he keeps his "eyes up" he's lowering his head and putting himself in serious risk of a head or neck injury with about 400 pounds of mass flying at him. Plus Coleman can't possible know exactly in what direction the high speed Mikell/Collie mass is going to go after the initial collision. You're really overestimating how much control a player has in a period of time that lasts less than a second.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

No, he's not putting himself at risk, and he's *not* lowering his head. He's bending his knees. That's what he's *not* doing here, that's why he's too high, and that's why it's a bad tackle.

Look at the replay. Look at Mikell. His knees are bent, his hips are low, and his helmet goes lower than Collie as his shoulder strikes him - no helmet to helmet collision, no hit to the neck/shoulder area, etc. It's a good hit, and a good tackle.

Now look at Coleman. One of his legs is completely straight, because he's planting to change direction, and he drives his shoulder right into Collie's neck/shoulder area. This is the problem - he should be bending his knees, and getting lower to tackle. He's not. It's just bad form.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Amen.

The problem isn't that Coleman is a headhunter, the problem is that tackling technique in football these days is complete crap and he's a by-product of that system.

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Keep in mind, everyone who's defending Coleman, that this is the same guy who got suspended by the NCAA last year for a helmet-to-helmet hit. Again, I'm not blaming him - tackling fundamentals haven't been great at Ohio State for a while, and this is just evidence that he's not a very technically sound player.

(That's not saying that Ohio State plays bad defense, so please, Buckeye fans, don't get all uppity. Even very good teams are allowed to not be good at certain things.)

158 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

the issue with going in knees bent trying to go low on a player is that it leaves the head/neck area of the tackler more exposed than the guy running with the football. he has to put his neck/head in there before the rest of his body. when you go in with a "hard hit" with the shoulder/arm you can still somewhat protect your head and keep it out of harms way. the wrap up technique from that angle would be extremely dangerous for the tackler.

300 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

How about getting rid of hard helmets, most padding and introducing rugby tacking rules? (which themselves have become more violent and collision-like over the years). Main points of legal tackling in rugby are that you cant go neck + above and you must make an attempt to wrap your arms around the player rather than just collide. Now that would obviously change the character of football somewhat, but then thats possibly what the agenda is.

180 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Yes, he is (or would be) lowering his head. In order to go lower and maintain leverage you need to lean forward. That brings the head down automatically. You're ignoring the fact that Coleman isn't coming in to tackle a receiver. He's about to make contact with a receiver with his teammate coming in hard from the opposite direction. With two fast moving bodies coming directly at him, putting his head at hip level is incredibly dangerous. Ask Dennis Byrd.

237 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Yes, he is (or would be) lowering his head. In order to go lower and maintain leverage you need to lean forward.

The leverage he'd be maintaining is against the receiver - that is, hitting him high in order to torque him off his feet. That needs to go away.

Bending his knees and therefore getting his hips down would've lowered his head, but not relative to his center of mass.

You're ignoring the fact that Coleman isn't coming in to tackle a receiver. He's about to make contact with a receiver with his teammate coming in hard from the opposite direction.

If he can't do anything from that angle safely, then don't do anything. If you "have" to hit someone high... don't hit them.

This is really academic, however - Coleman's too high not because of some conscious choice. He's too high because he took a bad angle and was changing direction. I had a feeling that the NFL wasn't going to fine him for that hit because of the "oh, well, he was redirected..." argument, but I still think it's crap. It's bad tackling technique, and it needs to be fixed, and players need to be taught if you have to tackle poorly, don't make the tackle.

With two fast moving bodies coming directly at him, putting his head at hip level is incredibly dangerous

It's no more dangerous than putting his head at head level.

246 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Excellent point and one that no one seems to care about. The defender has no inherent right to make an illegal hit. And when the ball carrier is already being tackled the hit is just gratuitous.

Also worth mentioning--while it is true it is dangerous for the defender to get low and stupidly stick his head in where two players are colliding, let's not forget that defenders get can get concussions from the helmet-to-helmet hits they initiate.

It might be worth considering a rule that if you cause a concussion, you are out of the game period, the next game, and more if the league office so decides.

Here is the thing. Safety is paramount. Allowing any other consideration to trump safety is cynical and evil. The integrity of the players' lives is far more important than "the integrity of the game." Besides which, any rule change will affect all teams equally, so how is the integrity of the game threatened?

Finally, modern helmet design could probably reduce the danger by an order of magnitude and it's disgusting the league hasn't made it a priority.

That newfangled helmet that was linked--what is wrong with it? It looks more like video games anyway, so the kids will love it. The whole modern tech angle is a potential selling point. Why are we afraid to protect football players at every level? Why?

253 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

How is hitting a player on his way down gratuitous? A hit is gratuitous if it serves no legitimate purpose other than injuring or hurting the target. That hit clearly had another purpose. It caused a fumble, which means there was a legitimate purpose to making the hit. That is at least part of the reason such hits are legal in football.

286 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Tasering the receiver would cause a fumble, too. Or kicking the player in the head. So what? It's not part of football, and neither is knocking out another player.

I'm assuming the grandparent meant "gratuitous" in the sense of "gratuitous to football." Football's a game of angles and positioning. Knocking someone out has absolutely no place in the game. This isn't boxing.

297 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Way to rip apart that straw man!

It is part of football. It's legal today as it ever has been and is done many times every game. How do you get from hitting a player on his way down to "knocking someone out?" Those aren't synonymous. Sure, hitting a player on the way down can lead to knocking him out, but so can hitting a player in any other position. Are those hits then to be considered "not part of football?"

316 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"How do you get from hitting a player on his way down to "knocking someone out?""

Because you mentioned that the hit caused a fumble. It caused the ball to come loose because Collie was knocked out.

"Are those hits then to be considered "not part of football?""

If they're blows to the head, yeah. I'm perfectly happy with banning intentional launches to the head, even on ball carriers (as in the Cribbs hit). If I wanted to see boxing, I'd watch boxing. Watching someone cause a fumble purely by launching himself at a player's head is just stupid.

328 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Collie may have lost control of the ball because he was knocked out, but that does not imply that all or most hits that cause fumbles by players on their way down are the result of unconsciousness, concussion, or any other result of blows to the head.

"I'm perfectly happy with banning intentional launches to the head..." And now we come to your real thesis. I disagree with it completely, but that's a matter of opinion. I concede that this position is coherent. It is, however, orthogonal to the issue of hitting a player who is on his way down, which is what we've been discussing.

310 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

so say Mikell hits Collie but Collie spins off and runs free to the end zone. Coleman shouldn't be allowed to hit him becase he was already being tackled by one person?

get outta here man. its a violent sport and sometimes bad things happen. when things are intentional then get angry. but not becuase a guy came in to assist on a tackle and the receiver gets blown up. thats one of the risks of going down the middle like that.

did you get this worked up when Desean Jackson got blown up over the middle? now THAT was an illegal hit. jackson didn't have enough time to even lower his shoulder to absorb the hit and Dunta still blew him up while hitting high.

315 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Coleman shouldn't be allowed to hit him becase he was already being tackled by one person?

If the only way he can hit him is to hit him illegally, yes. You're using the same reasoning that people used when they banned the horse-collar tackle. "Well, what if that's the only way to get him down?" Tough. Stop sucking and take a better angle.

did you get this worked up when Desean Jackson got blown up over the middle?

Hell yes. And when Harrison launched himself right at Cribbs's head, and when he launched himself right at Massaquoi's shoulder/neck.

"It's a violent sport and bad things happen" is such a bizarre response. They don't allow fights in football. They don't allow punches, kicks, or biting. They don't allow dragging a player down from behind by their shoulder pads. They don't allow grabbing a player's facemask and dragging them down.

Why are so many people defending dangerous hits? Is it because people like seeing those big hits? Maybe - but again, Sheldon Brown on Reggie Bush. The best big hits are still proper form. It's basic physics - want to stop a guy, aim for his center of mass. Aiming for his shoulder/neck/head is just intending to knock the guy out.

326 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

It has nothing to do with a bloodthirsty desire to see guys get knocked out. Many people have stated that they are in favor of penalizing intentional head shots but not inadvertent ones because doing that would penalize players for playing the same way defenses have played for years (look at any Ronnie Lott highlight film) and result in a huge competitive advantage for offenses. How does a team defend a seam pattern in a 2-deep zone? Primarily by having the deep safeties come up and break up the pass. The more restrictions you put on defenders, the harder it is to defend those passes and the easier it is to complete them. (Think of it in economics terms if that's easier -- new rules/emphases that result in increased penalties on defenses increase the costs of certain defensive strategies.) The game already has record breaking passing yardage. People that like NFL games to have effective defenses and running games are wary of giving further advantages to offenses, particularly when offenses are able to protect their own players by running fewer plays where receivers are exposed to big hits. It's not a safety vs. non-saftey issue. Everybody is in favor of having fewer dangerous collisions and injuries. The question is which side of the ball should make the sacrifice to reduce those collisions and injuries.

By the way, saying players have no right to make illegal hits is just circular reasoning when the question is what hits should be illegal in the first place.

330 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Many people have stated that they are in favor of penalizing intentional head shots but not inadvertent ones

I don't see the difference between a player who risks injury due to malice and one who risks injury due to incompetence.

particularly when offenses are able to protect their own players by running fewer plays where receivers are exposed to big hits.

I don't agree here. The defense is perfectly capable of making safer hits to a receiver before/during/shortly after the catch - again, Sheldon Brown on Reggie Bush - and any pass to an open receiver, in motion, has the possibility of being a big hit. It's just a question of how fast the defenders close.

By the way, saying players have no right to make illegal hits is just circular reasoning when the question is what hits should be illegal in the first place.

Not entirely - some of the points made are akin to "what else is the defender supposed to do?" implying that the defender can do just about anything to stop the offensive player. Illegal hits already exist - adding more shouldn't be that controversial.

The more restrictions you put on defenders, the harder it is to defend those passes and the easier it is to complete them.

Nah. Defenses always tend to have an advantage in the NFL - they've got more defenders per unit area on the field than the offense can threaten. The NFL's been putting strong restrictions on how defenders can tackle and cover for the past 5-6 years and scoring still isn't over mid-1980s levels. I don't buy that this is too restrictive on defenses.

332 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

If you think defenses have the advantage when it comes to passing in today's NFL, then there's no use discussing this further. You're either in the tank for passing offense or you're just being stubborn. There are 4 guys on pace for 5,000 yards passing, incuding Rivers who is on pace for almost 6,000. There are 25 teams with passing DVOA over zero, 21 teams with passing DVOA over 10%, 17 teams (over half the league!) with passing DVOA over 20%, and 10 teams with passing DVOA over 30%. (Compare that with run DVOA, where the median is right around zero.) Teams are passing like crazy.

334 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Average points per team per game:

2009: 21.5
2008: 22.0
2007: 21.7
2006: 20.7
2005: 20.6
avg: 21.3 ppg
...
1987: 21.6
1986: 20.5
1985: 21.5
1984: 21.2
1983: 21.8
avg: 21.32 ppg

Teams are passing like crazy.

Yes, but they're not scoring like crazy. Scoring is a little high right now against the historical average, but it was just as high twenty years ago. Scoring always tends to jump (at rules changes) then slowly decrease over time as defenses adapt.

Also keep in mind DVOA is per-play, so you can end up with Simpson's paradox, where the average total offense of the league can be more average than the average of its parts, and offense tends to decrease as the weather gets colder.

If we see scoring rates consistently above 21.5 for multiple years, then I'll agree that offenses are being favored. It's tough to say - but in 2004 everyone thought the NFL was turning into basketball, and then 2005 and 2006 are way below average.

336 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Scoring is really beside the point. The NFL game today is much more focused on the passing game. The style of the game has changed over the last several years -- more passing, more spread attack, more shotgun, etc. Adding more penalties that make it harder for defenders to play pass defense will only further accelerate the trend toward more passing. I think that's a bad thing. Others may disagree -- it's a matter of taste. But let's not pretend this is just about safety. It's about taste. Teams could reduce the risk to their receivers by throwing fewer high risk passes. Just like teams can reduce QB injuries by keeping more people in to block. They may choose not to do that because it makes them less effective, but they choose to suffer those extra injuries -- it's not something imposed on them. You want fewer receiver injuries without offenses having to sacrifice any effectiveness in their passing attack. That is a choice in favor of more passing offense. I wish you'd acknowledge that.

I'd be happy to ban any contact above the numbers on receivers on pain of automatic suspension in exchange for, say, eliminating the illegal contact rule (holding and DPI would still be penalties, of course) or extending the 5 yard zone to 10 yards. Any takers?

342 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Adding more penalties that make it harder for defenders to play pass defense will only further accelerate the trend toward more passing. I think that's a bad thing.

Eh. That trend's been happening for years, and I don't think it has anything to do with defenses having a harder time defending against passes. Passing's had a major advantage (in terms of outcome) over rushing since the 1980s - I think the reason why it's taking so long to adjust to a much higher passing rate is that it's just been taking teams long to figure out 1) how to actually maintain a high pace game (from a physical point of view), and 2) how to manipulate defenses with certain passes equivalent to what a run does (screens do a lot of that).

Teams could reduce the risk to their receivers by throwing fewer high risk passes.

Don't buy it. Populate that area of the field with less passes, the defenders will redistribute to the areas where the receivers are, and the other types of passes will become 'high-risk'.

You want fewer receiver injuries without offenses having to sacrifice any effectiveness in their passing attack. That is a choice in favor of more passing offense.

It's only a choice in favor of more passing offense if you believe that asking defenders to tackle correctly will make it harder for them to defend. I don't believe that, because I don't believe that the "launch yourself at the guy's shoulder" style is even all that effective. It's simpler, sure, but I don't think it's nearly as effective as a correct tackle.

347 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Two points and then I'm dropping it because we're getting nowhere. (1) Defenses have been defending the middle of the field by having safeties break up passes and intimidate receivers by hitting them for ever. It's not about tackling, it's about preventing completions in the first place. Maybe Ronnie Lott didn't really know how to play defense, but I suspect that he and generations of players and coaches know something about it. (2) Even if you are right and Ronnie Lott was wrong, any rule prohibiting conduct does not just discourage that conduct, but non-prohibited conduct that is close to the line. Maybe this is not obvious, but virtually every economist and legal theorist would tell you it's true. There really is no reasonable argument that enforcing more penalties on defenders will not help offenses. In a zero sum game, it's self-evidently the case.

349 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I've seen Ronnie Lott play, too, and I don't know why you're bringing him up. Players aiming for the shoulder/neck of receivers is a recent thing, not a "forever" thing (and... not to sound anti-Pittsburgh, but it really seems like a Steelers thing - Harrison, Clark - when he was there - and Polamalu all have been tackling similarly). James Harrison is a prime example - the guy's flat out stated that he was coached to hit receivers in the shoulder to break up passes, and when you see him tackle, he sets up and launches himself directly at the guy's shoulder.

I mean, Lott had high hits as well, but they usually weren't full-speed, launch yourself at the guy's shoulder/neck area type hits. They were more like "running bear hugs" - whenever the hit was high, he was also wrapping at the same time (again, if you look at the Coleman hit, he wasn't intending to wrap - his arms were tucked). Take a look at a highlight reel of Lott, and you'll see lots of hits where the offensive player goes head over heels - because the hit was actually below the player's center of mass (to his hips, basically). Someone else mentioned Butkus, and... it's the same thing. I don't get it - if you look at Butkus's hits versus Harrison's hits, Butkus launches himself at player's midsections (and horizontally). Harrison launches himself at the shoulder area (and upward).

From a "game theoretic" standpoint, I think what's happening is that offenses are using the passing game more - not because of the rules changes, but because passing game theory is just more advanced and so passing is safer, and defenses, in trying to compensate for that, are using hits that are more dangerous but more effective at breaking up passes.

So I do agree that a push for this would result in more passing, but I *don't* agree that allowing these hits would make football more like it was 20, 30 years ago, because this style of hitting wasn't around 20 years ago. Instead you'll get a game that's more a war of attrition than a game of strength, positioning, and angles.

"There really is no reasonable argument that enforcing more penalties on defenders will not help offenses. In a zero sum game, it's self-evidently the case."

That's not actually true - football clearly isn't a "solved game" - unlike, for instance, I dunno, Othello, or Tic-Tac-Toe, where there's no improvement in strategy possible because the best theoretical strategy is known. Hence the appearance and rapid adoption of the Wildcat formation - a coach derived a new strategy, it was successful, and the league rapidly moved to incorporate it.

Similarly in this case, a "penalty enforcement" could easily force adoption of a new defensive strategy which is better than the current one (without penalty enforcement), but which wouldn't've been discovered because the current strategy (without penalty enforcement) was already pretty good. Basically, defensive football strategy could be stuck in a local, but not global, minimum (there's actually a relatively simple model you can come up with that shows this kind of behavior, if you model the defense's performance as learning from the offense's prior play selection - here. Not intended to actually model any data, just trying to look at features).

351 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"Lott had high hits as well, but they usually weren't full-speed, launch yourself at the guy's shoulder/neck area type hits. They were more like 'running bear hugs' - whenever the hit was high, he was also wrapping at the same time . . . . . this style of hitting wasn't around 20 years ago"

Fortunately, we have youtube.

Ronnie Lott:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bx20th1gT4k

Jack Tatum:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEgQARSzaI0

John Lynch:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBjqMrmBWwg&feature=related

Steve Atwater (played less coverage, but look at, for example, the hit on Robert Brooks at 3:25):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6SEXGAqVus&feature=related

These hits are as old as the league. Night Train Lane (put aside the clotheslines and just look at the traditional head shots):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSaCV6UfDjM&feature=related

352 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Before I wrote that comment, I went out and actually watched - believe it or not, almost all those exact same videos.

Looking at Lane, for instance, the similar ones are really are only slow-speed collisions (i.e. Lane or the player isn't moving very fast, and so the hit just knocks the guy off his feet - like the hit at 54 seconds). The higher-speed hits are all targets to the midsection and wrapping hits. If you look at, for instance, the hit at 19 seconds, it's a shot to his torso.

Again with Lott, the similar hits are more bear hugs, where Lott's still upright when he hits, but he basically just wraps the guy and drags him to the ground. You see that a lot.

Again, note what I said: full-speed, launch yourself at the guy's neck, don't try to wrap (i.e. full impact with your shoulder, don't spread the impact).

I mean, even in Tatum's classic "knock Sammy White's helmet off" hit, the hit's fairly low compared to Harrison's hit on Cribbs or Massaquoi, Robinson's hit on Jackson, etc.

I didn't mean to imply that crazy hits like nowadays never happened: they did, of course; Tatum's hit that paralyzed a guy is pretty much a classic example, and that was a case where the receiver lowered his helmet (if memory serves). But actions like "the receiver lowering his helmet" had to happen - the base aiming point was usually the chest or lower.

354 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

One thing I noticed is that when Lott went high, he lead with his arms a lot. He would give the receiver a nice shoved as he made contact. He usually made contact with the shoulder pads this way (and it's a lot easier to control where your arms are then head when you launch yourself). This seems like a good way to break an arm though (or pinky).

355 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Dude, in those videos Lott launched himself at the shoulder/neck/head area just about every time with his arms down. He wasn't wrapping, he was laying the wood. In any event, as I have a decent respect to the opinions of mankind, I'll let those videos be submitted to a candid world.

341 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

It is actually an open question how the rules change would affect strategy and scoring long-term.

Anyone who has watched Laron Landry or Sean Taylor consistently go for the highlight-reel hit rather than using on proper form and getting the ballcarrier down (as this Redskins fan has) might wonder if mandating proper form might actually cause more incompletions, more fumbles, and fewer players escaping a non-wrap-up tackle or escaping tackles altogether.

I think it's at least 50/50 that if defenders focused, you know, on tackling rather than intimidating that they might be more effective.

But even if effectively eliminating head shots did cause offense to skyrocket, so what? It will affect every team equally and make it a lot safer.

327 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"Why are so many people defending dangerous hits?"

I'm not sure they're "defending" as much as trying to rationalize through this process. Like it or not, this potentially changes the way the game is played, and most of us here love football and love how it is played. Now, we've suddenly come to realize that the way it is played may be causing significant damage to people and we're in conflict.

The other factor here is that there is some sense that the NFL didn't really think this through - the NFL has been reactionary.