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.


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

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

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

They probably realize the Chargers winning the division is inevitable, no matter what the standings halfway the season look like or how bad the Bolts special teams are or what scrubs are playing wideout. Best to end all hope early.

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I appreciate how a 1-6 team losing to a 5-3 team, and a 4-3 team losing to a 5-2 team, are both somehow "worse" than a 6-1 team losing to a 1-5 team.

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

It's in reference to the tag line for Audibles, "In which the Patriots get debacled, the Seahawks get super-debacled, and the Cowboys get super extra-debacled with a twist of lemon." And the reference to Emmitt Smith, while funny, makes the line's homerism worse.

200 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

You seem to confuse "debacle" with "upset".

The Patriots' loss was not a debacle, because the team can treat it like a mulligan.

The losses the Seahawks and Cowboys suffered were much worse (i.e. "bigger debacles") because they were both exposed as subpar NFL teams that are going to have to undergo major changes if they want to play competitively.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

The Cowboys' loss was definitely the most humiliating, in terms of events that unfolded on the field. The Seahawks loss was slightly less humiliating, and the Patriots had more or less a normal loss.

174 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Because it was the Cowboys last chance to salvage something — hope, pride, Wade — from a year that began with great expectations (except in FO Almanac). And they mailed it in.

Also, Seattle started a new QB behind a pick-n-mix offensive line against New York's front four: an obviously horrible matchup. Dallas was playing a banged-up team gasping for its bye week.

197 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

In addition to the above, beccause it was on national TV on Sunday Night Football. A lot more people saw the Cowboys game than the Seahawks game.

Also, the Cowboys didn't just have great expectations this year - they were picked by many to go to the Super Bowl, which is being played in their home stadium. Their goal this year clearly was to be the first team to play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium. The Seahawks' realistic goal this year was probably to go 8-8. (If they manage that record, they probably will win their division, but it's nothing to write home about.)

Plus, Jerry Jones is the Cowboys owner, and the Cowboys have a huge national following and presence. Everything that happens to the Cowboys is big news. Although the Seahawks' owner is far more wealthy than Jerry Jones, he is far less recognizable than Jerry Jones. I'm sure many casual football fans don't even know who owns the Seahawks. In contrast, the Seahawks do not have a large national following. Pretty much nothing that happens to the Seahawks is big news nationally, with the exception of when they play in a Super Bowl in Detroit (did you know that Jerome Bettis is from Detroit?) and they and their fans complain about some highly questionable calls in that game.

207 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I still don't understand why anybody thought the Cowboys were a possible Super Bowl team, much less a likely one. Several NFC teams were clearly better last year, including the Vikings and Super Bowl champion Saints.

I'm slightly more tolerant of the Jets bandwagon, but not by much.

Until further notice, the favorites in the AFC are the Colts, Patriots, and Steelers, and in the NFC they are the Saints and Giants. I don't care if DVOA has the Chiefs in first place, the postseason has yet to start and Matt Cassel is not a Super Bowl QB.

173 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

The Browns were 2-5 and they are pretty good. In 3 of their 5 losses, they were winning in the 4th quarter. They lost by 3 to Tampa in Week 1 because Jake threw his typical game breaking interception in the 2nd half. They lost by 2 to the Chiefs in a tough game. They lost by 7 to the Ravens in a game in which they had a chance to win at the end after having the lead. They lost by 10 to the Falcons in another competitive game. And they got beat up by the Steelers in McCoy's first game.

They've dominated the Saints and Pats, and won by 3 against the Bengals.

I think FO has talked about this in their rankings, but the Browns are actually a pretty decent team. Their D is vastly improved (minus Eric Wright), they have great special teams and a physical o-line. As long as they can run the ball, they can beat good teams.

Not saying the Pats shouldn't have played better, but them losing to the Browns isn't like losing to some crappy 1 win team your making it out to be.

160 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

There are no moral victories in sports.

But, if there WERE moral victories in sports, Tampa not completely folding while down 14-0 at Atlanta would be one. Freeman's first pick was Aaron Brooks-esque, falling down as a rusher drove in to him and the ball just fluttered into the middle of the field. Terrible. The second was a complete stare-down.

Also, it's fourth and a foot from the two-yard line. You have LaGarrette Blount in the backfield and he has shown himself to be an intriguing combination of power and agility in at least the last few games. So, your plan is to stick a defensive tackle in as lead blocker and send the blocker right up the middle, while Blount goes right in an incredibly slow-developing play? Wait, what?r

168 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I only saw the replay once or twice, but I think if he goes up the middle, and doesn't bounce right, he gets in (or at least has a better shot). Bad read from him, from what I could tell.

289 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

That's why a lot coaches will inform the refs before the game that they might try some sort of trick play. And sometimes the refs will ask the coaches too, just to avoid accidentally flagging or stopping a good trick play. I don't know if this happens in the NFL though.

175 Vick's deep drops

OK, I hate to axe a question that gives away that I was listening to Phil Simms, but yesterday he raised a point that wasn't completely banal or immediately obviously stupid. He kept going on and on and on and on and on... about how much better Vick looked when he took extremely deep drops, like 23-step drops and such. Something about helping his vision ('coz he's short for a QB) and making it easier to avoid pass rushers and such.

Now I don't hardly watch the Iggles much, so has anyone observed that he's better with a mega-deep dropback? Are there any stats to say one way or the other? Game charters have any insights? I'm skeptical of two "Phil Simms is right"s appearing in the same thread, but you never know.

183 Re: Vick's deep drops

I think it has to do with how didficult it must be to try to keep gap control when the pocket is fifteen yards deep. Instead of a circle around the QB you have an elipse or maybe a tear drop shape. Vick doesn't have to worry about rushers coming around the edge and what were touch passes on check downs are now the ten to fifteen yard throws that he can make (as opposed to the little dump offs that he used to try to take the receiver's head off with). Considering how fast he can drop ten to fifteen yards and the fact that he has plenty of arm strength I can see why it works. Yeah he wil be able to see the field either side of the scrum of blockers/pass rushers but I don't think that is the driving force behind using Vick like this.

267 Re: Vick's deep drops

The ideal spot for Rex Grossman to see the whole field from would either be the sideline or the stands.

As a Bears fan I know you are probably all too aware of this, and I apologise for stating the obvious but the big difference between Grossman and Vick has to be the speed at which they drop back. Vick can get seriously deep in the blink of an eye and then use the extra depth to give himself time to read the field. Grossman used to drop from center with the kind of speed usually seen from glaciers (or tectonic plates). I remember ranting on these forums about how it wasn't Kreutz's fault that every single double A gap blitz resulted in either a massive sack or a pick. There are hog-tied pregnant women who could drop from center faster than Rexy. The only thing he gained from a deeper drop was more time to panic.

(uncalled for rant over, although when is a rant against Rex Grossman uncalled for?)

256 Re: Vick's deep drops

It makes perfect sense that any QB would be able to see the field more clearly the further he drops back, but clearly it also increases the risk of a terrible negative play if the protection doesn't hold up and he gets sacked. As you say most QBs don't have the ability to drop back as quick as Vick, and crucially, most don't have his ability to scramble if the protection breaks down.

194 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

This attitude is killing the NFL:

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.

Coleman's helmet hit Collie's helmet, therefore Coleman was leading with his helmet? Look, NFL rules don't preclude the laws of physics. You might as well penalize Collie as Coleman - neither of them intended a helmet-to-helmet collision, nor "led with the helmet".

Yes, NFL officials need to be required to make judgment calls from time to time. The notion that the rules can be written in a manner that precludes any need for officials to make judgment calls is ludicrous. The Coleman hit is only the latest point of evidence to disprove Roger Goodell's ludicrous theory that doing away with judgment calls is a feasible idea (much less a good idea).

We saw another example in the Colts-Eagles game when one of the Eagles was called for hitting Peyton Manning in the helmet when said defender was simply reaching for the ball and made a slight, glancing blow against the helmet. I see at least five of these "hands to the head" calls each week, and many of them are bs. If the QB were to simply stand still, yes, it would be possible to avoid hitting him in the head except for when done so intentionally. But QBs move around and, worse, will duck their head when somebody is swinging towards them. So there are plenty of occasions when contact with a QBs head is both accidental and inconsequential.

And yet Roger Goodell wants these accidental, unimportant touches to be treated with just as much empasis as a situation where the rusher smacks the QB in the helmet with full force with a padded forearm?

It's just silly. The NFL has to give up on the myth that judgment calls can be dispensed with. Life doesn't work that way. You cannot invent the perfect set of rules to deal with all potential eventualities. Not unless you want your system of rules to start penalizing accidents of physics.

199 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

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.

I'll give him "thinking points" but not "smartness points". There was less than a minute left on the clock at the time and the Colts had no timeouts. Thus, no benefit was accrued to the Eagles when Samuel started running backwards and in circles. And given the general position of the Colts, Samuel was incurring a positive risk of a turnover that he needn't have taken. Simply taking a knee or running out of bounds, in this situation, would have been the superior decision. Since the Colts couldn't stop the clock, all the Eagles needed to do, once they had control of the ball, was take a knee once. Which they had to do anyway, even after Sammuel ran around in a circle for less than ten seconds.

If the Colts had had timeouts (plural), it would have been worthwhile for Sammuel to burn time. But they didn't, so it wasn't.

215 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Some thoughts on the Bears:

The offense looked how I expected it to look throughout the year, up and down, with good moments and bad. I would take some encouragement from this and think they're figuring things out, but it was against the Bills. The offensive line managed to avoid embarrassing itself. Chris Williams didn't look very good this week though.

The defense looked very strong in the first half, until the 2 minute warning. Then the Bills found something they could exploit (I think it was DJ Moore, who was abused just about every play they threw at him). Tim Jennings looked bad too, though he did come up with the game saving pick.

Down 3 points with about a minute to go, the Bills ran the worst looking 2 minute drill I have ever seen. They just threw it to the middle of the field about 10 yards deep. They got bailed out on the first play when Peppers left with an injury, giving them a free timeout, but they kept doing it.

269 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Every corner on the Bears team seemed to keep getting suckered by the same stuff (even Tillman); Fitzpatrick twitches his head one way and they all jump after it. Bad zone cornering, although for large parts of the game the pass rush left a lot to be desired which doesn't help.

Yeah Williams was crap. I lost count of the number of times he got beaten to his left by a DT. As for the line as a whole on running downs they don't have all that much chance against the constant blitz looks they keep getting. I guess the flip side of that is that when they run a bit of misdirection like the flip 90 to Bennett they usually work quite well.

274 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Moore and Jennings were far worse than Tillman. Tillman actually forced some incompletes due to his own play, not just inaccurate throws or dropped passes. What I mean is closing fast enough to deliver a hit, or his patented arm punch knocking the ball out. Jennings is always just late enough to make sure there is very little YAC, but never force an incomplete.

Moore looked absolutely lost. There was one play which looked like standard cover 2, where he jumped out side towards the sideline, right next to Tillman, for no apparent reason (his receiver broke inside). There was another one where he looked very late to react to a throw to a flat where he was the closest defender, so I think it was his responsibility. It was to the defenses left, so it's possible Jennings got the wrong play and dropped deep when he wasn't supposed to.

He also took terrible angles all game.

270 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

1) I do *not* understand what's happened with C. Williams. He looked honestly competent as a starting LT late last year (including against the good version of Jared Allen), and now he's a below-average guard. This was the opposite of what bringing Tice in was supposed to accomplish.

2) I would claim that the weakness the Bills exploited was scheme-related rather than personnel-related. The Seahawks did the exact same thing with Mike Williams, who was mostly matched up against Tillman. If your line is blocking OK (enough for a 3-step drop) and your QB is accurate, you can move the ball in 10-yard chunks on the Bears pretty easily. But one protection mistake or one bad throw (whether it's a pick or a missed 3rd down conversion) can kill you, so I doubt the Bears are going to change much. They'll still bank on something going wrong in a 10-play drive rather than risk the big play. (And, as has been the case most of the year, there wasn't much open way downfield yesterday.)

273 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Your second point is a good one and we should probably endeavour to remember that the Bears were leading the league in fewest points allowed per drive on defense (or at least were until last week). It is still frustrating though. I guess it underlines quite how good the defense was in '05 and '06 when they still did the no big play stuff whilst making it very difficult to pick up first downs.

275 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

On the other hand Tice found Webb who seems to be OK, and Omiyale looks mediocre now instead of cover-your-eyes awful.

Williams seems to struggle against bull rushes, which is a real problem for a guard. This is probably technique related as I doubt he is significantly smaller or weaker than other linemen. So hopefully it's fixable.

279 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

What really baffles me is that Williams strength has never been his strong suit.So moving him inside seems like a really bad idea. From what I've heard of his scouting reports, his specific skill set means he'd probably make a worse guard than tackle, rare as that is.

- Alvaro

227 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

To anyone bitching about the ruling on the collie hit. Yes it probably shouldn't have been a penalty based on common sense. But it is a penalty if you watched that video the NFL sent to all the teams and what they told them. The defender is responsible for where his helmet ends up. If he had attempted to tackle him properly instead of launching himself at him he wouldn't have ended up helmet to helmet.

245 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"If he had attempted to tackle him properly instead of launching himself at him he wouldn't have ended up helmet to helmet."

This description is at odds with the video evidence. Coleman didn't "launch himself" at Collie. He was moving in to tackle Collie when Collie was hit from the other side, which pushed Collie with great force back into Coleman. Coleman wasn't even hit in the front of the helmet!!

284 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"This description is at odds with the video evidence"

I dunno what video you're looking at. If he was moving in to tackle, his arms wouldn't be tucked closed to his body, his knees (both of them - not just the one on the side where he planted his foot to launch towards Collie) would be bent, and he would be aiming for, I dunno, some place lower than the guy's head.

It's crappy tackling form, and it's not the first time Coleman's had problems tackling guys. The NFL might've given him a pass because Mikell hit him first, but unless his technique gets better real fast, it won't be the last problem he has.

258 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Given that Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy outplay Darius Heyward-Bey, there is something to be said for the Raiders only taking wide receivers in the 4th round. I'd say the 7th round too, but Chaz Schilens can't seem to get healthy.

I really hope they give Ford more playing time. That first "insane" grab was not so insane. Just a defensive back not making a good catch. But that second one was indeed amazing. What is hard to convey in words is how he had to twist his body to go back around the defender and lay out for that ball. It may have been a twist of the lens, but it looked like a magic trick.

290 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

With Tom Cable at the help Raiders are playing smash-mouth football (pun intended).
Kidding aside, their win was very impressive. Not only they were able to overcome the referees giving Chiefs a touchdown (or two, based of why you think of PI call on the first TD drive of the Chiefs), they were also able to overcome their own errors in penalties and stayed composed till the end, which they have not done in the least 5 years.

294 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Whey! James Harrison managed to sack Carson Palmer without launching himself head-first at the facemask. Currently on course to not get fined this game.

298 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I think people are being too quick to fall back on saying, "well, the way the rule is written, that's technically a penalty" just because the referees called it as such. For the Collie hit, the relevant section of the rulebook is here. The hit on Collie certainly would certainly not qualify under section (f) or (h). That leaves the "defenseless receiver" rule (section g), which I believe is what the officials called. This rule says that it's a penalty if "if the initial force of the contact by a defender’s helmet (including facemask), forearm, or shoulder is to the head or neck area of a defenseless player." The problem with their explanation is that Collie had possession of the ball, tucked it away, and took 3 steps before Mikell hit him. He was absolutely not still in the process of making the catch, as the refs said he was, and therefore was not a defenseless player. Basically, they blew the penalty call because they blew the call on calling it an incomplete pass.

I couldn't find the exact text on roughing the passer, but I think the "blow to the head" rule is covered under the same section as the "defenseless receiver" rule, as defenseless players include "a player in the act of or just after throwing a pass." Manning, however, was not in the act of throwing a pass, and the initial force of the contact by Cole was not a forearm to the head or neck area, so I don't think that rule should have applied.