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

Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Bill Barnwell

Each weekend, 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, so we might not discuss every aspect of the game to the level we do in our other articles.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Arizona Cardinals 14 at New Orleans Saints 45

Bill Barnwell: Why is Reggie Bush walking around with a baseball bat before the game?

Tom Gower: Well, uh, ok, I admit I'm not one of the people who thought this game's first play from scrimmage would be a long TD run by Tim Hightower.

Bill Barnwell: Wow. I've seen this movie before. The Cardinals recover a fumble on third down on the next series.

Scary thing is that Hightower chose the smaller of the two holes available to him and still scored.

Doug Farrar: That may be the Saints’ preferred method of stopping the run at this point.

Aaron Schatz: Remember what I wrote in our game preview about Sedrick Ellis' poor numbers on run tackles? He got completely destroyed on that 70-yard touchdown, although I don't know if he got blocked out of the play or took himself out because he was so intent on pass-rushing.

Bill Barnwell: So Daryl Johnston is suggesting that football players forget fundamentals and how to get off blocks when they take a week off? Seriously, what the heck? Guys have had bye weeks before. Week 1 games aren't total disasters.

And Jeremy Shockey has a whole lot of swagger, apparently, and that helps the offense. Not his blocking.

Sean McCormick: Reggie Bush looks like Smash Williams out there.

Vince Verhei: I don't think the Cardinals rushed more than four on any play in the Saints' first touchdown drive. Very out of character.

Bill Barnwell: Funny how Johnston notices Darren Sharper on the fumble recovery but not when he's awful in run support on the play before.

How do two offensive penalties and one defensive penalty offset? And considering how penalty-happy these refs are, how did they miss the blatant hold on Sedrick Ellis before Warner got the ball off?

Tom Gower: No idea how they missed that hold.

That's the rule on penalties. So long as both teams have penalties, they offset, even if one team has two and the other one. In terms of personal fouls, that may be something the Competition Committee may want to look at, but for something more normal like, say, illegal formation and offensive holding v. defensive pass interference, it makes sense.

Doug Farrar: The end of that Jerheme Urban fumble wasn't a good as when Warren Sapp got three personal fouls called on him in one game, but it was pretty close.

Bill Barnwell: It reminds me of that Titans-Ravens false start vs. (ridiculous) roughing the passer mix from 2008.

I typed Tony Siragusa into Google and one of the auto-fill options was "tony siragusa man cave". Oh no.

David Gardner: Was that the best run of Reggie Bush's career? Oh, and he's on my fantasy team.

Mike Kurtz: Announces are gushing over Reggie Bush's ability to ... run forward. Yeah.

Tom Gower: Arizona MUST start tackling better. Immediately. The last 3 plays they gave the Saints yardage.

Bill Barnwell: Apparently, the Cardinals failing to wrap up on tackles means that Reggie Bush changed his style.

Mike Taniet: Reggie Bush just did something positive. He does that three times per year, always when I am watching, just to tease me.

The Saints are running 6 OL fronts; that makes 5,008 different formations.

Vince Verhei: Well, in years past, he would have broken tackles and then immediately cut out of bounds. Now he is slipping tackles, seeing the holes, and attacking.

David Gardner: I'm not crazy about calling Darren Sharper's would-have-been interception "spectacular." It was only unlikely because he screwed up an open catch.

Bill Barnwell: Yeah. Sharper misjudged the flight of the ball, it hit him in the helmet, and then he made a nice catch on the rebound.

Vince Verhei: I wrote the Cardinals chapter in the book, so I watched them play a lot last year in preparation, and watched them a lot this year because I was so familiar with them. On the touchdown drive to make it 14-21, they lined up with two tight ends on the right and kept one in to block as Kurt Warner rolled to that side. I don't think I've seen them do anything like that. But that's what they have to do to keep the Saints off him today.

David Gardner: Geez, I didn't know that Chris Petersen of Boise was guest offensive coordinator for the Saints today.

Tom Gower: Just me, or was Henderson less open on that TD than the other deep receiver? That flea-flicker certainly worked.

Mike Tanier: Yeah, the other guy was wide open too. Oh well, Brees seemed to know what he was doing.

So I am going out of Internet range for the evening and half the Cardinals secondary is hurt. How will the Cardinals come back? Because you know they will, if not to win, just to make things insane.

Bill Barnwell: Moose says "Everyone said that we couldn't have two games in a row like that" with regards to this game being high scoring. Huh? Who said that?

And Goose follows by explaining that Darnell Dockett might have cost the Cardinals seven points by taking a personal foul penalty (at the end of a run for a first down) that moved the ball from the three to the two. Forget this. I'm putting the game on mute and listening to The Best Show archives.

Tom Gower: Well, Warner throwing on the sideline makes it seem like he will return, so Arizona is just really sunk instead of incredibly sunk.

Bill Barnwell: Yeah, but Neil Rackers looks like the kid in "Rookie Of The Year" after he broke his arm.

Tom Gower: And thank you, Sean Payton, for not burning a TO and just taking the delay penalty.

Doug Farrar: And a pseudo-spread dink pass on third-and-3 from Brees to Bush (deflected by Adrian Wilson) is described as “aggressive offense”. Moose used to be good, right? I’m not imagining that?

Bert Berry needs to teach Calais Campbell to drive his helmet into the quarterback’s facemask for the no-call. Going below the knee is a bit obvious these days.

Aaron Schatz: Sean Payton's formation roulette is really playing havoc with Karlos Dansby. He doesn't have the quickness to cover Marques Colston's quick cuts, and he doesn't have the speed to cover Reggie Bush. Colston has been awesome this game, he's really using his physicality to either shield his body or out-jump whichever defensive back is covering him, or he's out-quicking Dansby.

The Cards are giving the Saints some of their own formation medicine by moving Larry Fitzgerald into the left slot, but it hasn't done much to get him open. It does have Jabari Greer spending a lot of the game covering Steve Breaston instead of Fitzgerald, although Greer made a great play on that end zone jump ball when Fitzgerald was lined up on the right.

The Cards miss Gerald Hayes. Monty Beisel is a replacement-level player, period. He was in Kansas City, he was in New England, and he is in Arizona. He's apparently a likable guy and a hard worker, but he just doesn't have the athleticism or the instincts to be a valuable piece in the defense.

Doug Farrar: Back in the game in the second half, Warner started off conservatively with a little dink-and-dunk, then threw downfield a few times, but was victimized by drops and some questionable decisions.

Aaron Schatz: OK, Daryl Johnston is saying they may need to go with Matt Leinart because an injured Kurt Warner is having trouble stretching the field vertically. Um, wasn't the whole point of the Warner-Leinart battle a couple years ago that Leinart can't stretch the field vertically?

Doug Farrar: Heh. Reggie Bush takes a punt return back 83 yards with six minutes left in the third quarter. Siragusa: "That just took the air out of the Arizona Cardinals." They were down 38-14 with their best player at half-strength before that, Goose. Safe to say they popped a flat about 14 points ago.

This is the worst game I've ever heard Moose call. He's usually pretty good at worst, even when his Eli man-crush gets out of hand.

I don't think the arm is Warner's problem. I'm seeing him look downfield and check down out of coverage. The Saints are doing a great job of getting their DBs tight on Arizona's receivers.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: As a left tackle, Jeremy Bridges makes a great right guard.

Tom Gower: Very nice move there to double Hightower on the right side-Bobby McCray dropped and took away with immediate look and another player was at the first down marker. Kurt had to look elsewhere, and, well, NO had coverage.

David Gardner: I can't wait to see the final tally of dropped passes for the Cardinals today.

Aaron Schatz: Fascinating in the fourth quarter when they showed the New Orleans Superdome "Wall of Fame" section. The Saints have only two retired numbers, Archie Manning and Rickey Jackson, and then two "Wall of Fame" names, original owner Dave Dixon and one-time GM Jim Finks. The other two Superdome "Wall of Fame" names are Pete Maravich (from the New Orleans Jazz) and Eddie Robinson, the long-time Grambling coach. This brings up some questions:

  • Are there any other historic Saints who deserve their numbers retired?
  • Will Deuce McAllister be the third player up there?
  • Shouldn't they have Pete Maravich's name and number posted wherever the New Orleans Hornets play instead?
  • And... If Eddie Robinson is on the Wall of Fame for Grambling, how about getting Doug Williams up there too?

Doug Farrar: Sam Mills, Jim Mora ... I dunno. George Rogers?

Tom Gower: Pat Swilling.

Vince Verhei: These are the kinds of things you discuss when a team is ahead by 31 in the fourth quarter.

Aaron Schatz: Hey, don't tell me I wouldn't make a swell announcer. I even know what to do in blowouts.

Baltimore Ravens 3 at Indianapolis Colts 20

Doug Farrar: My least-favorite NFL stat: Quarterback wins. My second-least-favorite football stat: “Team A is (insert record here) since (insert cherry-picked year here) against Team B”, as if it makes a difference. Why do I care if the Ravens haven’t beaten the Colts since 2001? Must Elvis Grbac and Qadry Ismail be on the field for a Ravens victory to happen? Did Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams possess come sort of intrinsic Colts-beating power that Haloti Ngata and Jarret Johnson do not have?

Sean McCormick: Generally a worthless stat, but in instances where two teams play every year (as the Colts and Ravens generally do), it has at least a bit of value. A very, very little bit.

Aaron Schatz: I agree that it is a reasonably useful stat when you have two teams that have had a lot of continuity in both scheme and personnel. That's not usually true, but it's definitely true of the Colts and somewhat of the Ravens (well, on defense, anyway).

Where it is REALLY dumb is, say, an AFC-NFC matchup where Team A's 0-5 record goes back to, say, 1986 or something.

Tom Gower: Obviously, the Colts' early field goal means this is another Super Bowl year, as they struggled to score touchdowns against KC and BAL in 2006 and won the Super Bowl.

Five rushers for the Ravens the first drive, Rice the only one with multiple carries. He needs to run forward against the Colts, not laterally -- the front seven is just too fast for that sort of nonsense. The Titans learned that from their first to second game against Indy, has Baltimore? The power stuff leads me to think yes, but if it doesn't sink in on Rice, it's wasted.

David Gardner: The Ravens are doing a good job of keeping the Colts to underneath routes. Peyton Manning looks a little impatient in the pocket, too. But so would I if I saw Suggs on the other side.

Tom Gower: The Ravens might as well have one wideout on the field for as much as Joe Flacco is looking around. He's been vaporlocked onto his first read and making that throw.

Bill Barnwell: I don't know if that's necessarily anything new. I always assume Flacco has two reads: Whoever his first read is, usually Mason, and then Rice. Colts are smothering Rice with linebackers and Flacco's got no one to throw to.

Aaron Schatz: That's sort of interesting because usually the Colts' coverage tries to take away all wideouts and is willing to give up dumpoffs underneath. Perhaps they feel Rice is that much more of a threat, even if he's catching the ball 10 yards closer to the LOS than Mark Clayton would be.

The Colts may be trying to pick on Frank Walker, but Walker is not Roc Alexander tonight. He's doing a reasonable job out there.

Bill Barnwell: Ravens doing a great job defensively so far, though. Reggie Wayne doesn't have a catch, and Walker's holding Garcon to beating him by a half-step so far. Feel like there's a big play from Manning to Garcon coming later in the game.

David Gardner: The spots that Manning is completing these passes into is unbelievable.

Vince Verhei: So far this game is awesome. Baltimore is giving the Colts nothing, but Manning is making impossible throws and picking up just enough yards to get the first down. If he needs six yards, he gets seven; if he needs eight yards, he gets nine. But then the Ravens are right there to make the tackle. Best-played game of the playoffs so far.

Bill Barnwell: Colts rushed three and dropped Raheem Brock into coverage as Ray Rice's shadow. Pretty impressive.

Aaron Schatz: Aha, end of the first half. I knew the Ravens would eventually decide it was time to start committing questionable penalties.

David Gardner: The Colts' two-minute drill is a thing of beauty, and everyone knows it. Was there any doubt in anyone's mind that they would go down and score with 1:33 (or whatever) and two timeouts? Maybe not a touchdown, but they were almost certainly coming away with points.

Tom Gower: Terrible job by Demetrius Williams on the fourth-and-3. Not too surprising, since it's Demetrius Williams. Maybe the Ravens will go after TO again this offseason, since they dearly need another wideout. I'm glad they didn't convert, though, since Oher got away with his second false start of the drive (the first on third-and-6 after Gaither got called for it).

David Gardner: Gary Brackett -- Defensive Player of the Day.

Vince Verhei: The real story of this game is Indianapolis shutting down the Baltimore offense, especially on the ground. We expected them to win the aerial war, but the Ravens have done nothing rushing.

David Gardner: I see Garcon has been watching some Robert Meachem film.

Aaron Schatz: Or Troy Brown. When is Ed Reed going to learn to hold on to the damn football when he is returning a pick? Didn't he make a stupid lateral attempt on a pick return in the first Ravens-Colts game?

Doug Farrar: Boy, how sick am I of Dan Dierdorf’s rhetorical questions?

Having gone back and watched the Week 11 game for Cover-3, and seeing this one, my head has turned around a bit on the cause of Baltimore’s inability to get anything done in the red zone. Yes, teams play out of their optimal games trying to keep up with Indy’s offense. No, the Ravens can’t expect to win consistently when relying too much on Joe Flacco (just yet, at least). But the real story is … well, the Colts’ defense is just really, really good right now. Those extra blitzes and little extra reads and formations have taken a good, fast, somewhat vulnerable defense and turned it into something altogether else. Both the Colts and the Saints have surprised me with elements of their defense today. The Saints with their coverage, and the Colts with the ability to consistently shout down what the Ravens do best. A tendency to undervalue that effort might have people saying that the Ravens didn’t do what would have given the game, when it has been about the Colts taking it away from them.

And there’s your “Okay, we’re screwed” play. Ed Reed picks off a Manning pass with six minutes left in the third quarter, Pierre Garcon chases him down, knocks the ball out, and Dallas Clark recovers. Good night, everybody!

And OF COURSE Ed Reed’s second interception of the day is coming back on a stupid pass interference penalty, with Corey Ivy mugging Dallas Clark up the middle. What else is there?

Aaron Schatz: And then, Ray Rice fumbles. You know, the Colts are outplaying the Ravens tonight, but this game would at least be close if the luck fairy wasn't completely screwing the Ravens at every turn.

David Gardner: Did anyone else hear Manning just say "God dammit, Charles!" as he identified that blitz?

Tom Gower: Ray Rice there did something that annoys me -- he sees defenders, so, rather than fight to break tackles or dive forward for a couple yards, he runs laterally out of bounds. Which seems like a fine idea, with his team down 17 and wanting to conserve time, but there's still 5:26 to go on. The clock restarts outside of 5:00 in the 4th quarter on out of bounds plays, so you really don't save much time. Players should know this stuff, even if coaches have to remind them every second and fourth quarter.

Vince Verhei: Well, last time he tried to break tackles, he fumbled.

Aaron Schatz: One more note. At the end of the game, Dan Dierdorf couldn't shut up about how this win gets the monkey of the Colts' back, now the Jets game doesn't mean anything, resting worked, nobody will talk about resting starters anymore. What the hell are you talking about, Dan? You don't think the Colts fans are going to talk about Weeks 16-17 if the Colts go on to win the Super Bowl, debating whether resting guys mattered or whether they tossed away a shot at 19-0 for no reason? Trust me, it has not gone away.

Doug Farrar: Not a banner day for football broadcasting. And this is just the warmup for Joe Buck and Phil Simms. Ack.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dallas Cowboys 3 at Minnesota Vikings 34

Bill Barnwell: Smart non-challenge by Dallas on that Romo fumble on the opening drive. You're challenging there for the right to punt and probably pick up 20 yards of field position.

Amazing to see a Cowboys blitz that yields an unblocked DeMarcus Ware coming off the edge, no twists or nothing. What was the deal with Chester Taylor on that play, though? He looked over at a rushing Ware and then just decided to hop out into his pattern.

Doug Farrar: Was that the Patented Ryan Grant Bailout Move?

Bill Barnwell: Maybe they were gonna run a screen? I'm trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, but even if they're running a screen, you have to abandon it and cut Ware.

David Gardner: That was not a screen setup. The offensive linemen were all at home, dropping back to seal the pocket, and Taylor slipped out in front of them to the middle of the field.

Vince Verhei: On Sidney Rice's touchdown to open the day's scoring, Sensabaugh was in great position, but Brett Favre made a phenomenal throw to drop it in over his shoulder. But as close as Sensabaugh was, it wasn't great coverage -- he never turned his head to see the ball, never reacted when it arrived, and I don't think he knew that Rice even had it until they were both in the end zone.

Aaron Schatz: PERFECTLY dropped in pass on the touchdown to Sidney Rice down the right side. I like that Ragnar the Vikings didn't realize the chest-bump was coming.

Doug Farrar: Yeah, Rice made a great adjustment to get to that ball around Newman, but the throw was just unreal.

Vince Verhei: Favre-to-Rice for another score. This time Rice motioned inside and threw a cut block, and actually ended up on the ground, but recovered and scrambled and found a hole in the Dallas defense. And Favre had a pass rusher in his face, but pump-faked him into the air, ducked underneath him, and found Rice.

We all know that we're going through six months of will-he-or-won't-he with Favre in the offseason, but at this point, why should he retire? There are clearly not 32 quarterbacks superior to him.

Tom Gower: Because playing football kind of sucks, you can get hurt, and it's unpleasant to have to do things like go to training camp, learn a playbook, etc.

Vince Verhei: First down. Jason Witten tries to block Jared Allen one-on-one. Fails. Running back is stuffed for a loss.

Second down. Jason Witten tries to block Jared Allen one-on-one. Fails. Tony Romo is sacked, fumbles, Vikings ball.

Can we please throw all of those Witten-on-Allen plays out of the playbook? Thanks.

Sean McCormick: Aikman: "It looks like Flozell Adams is out of the game."

Watch destruction ensue. Minnesota's defensive line was giving the Cowboys problems to begin with, but from the moment Allen got matched up against backups and tight ends, the line has been completely overwhelmed. Dallas tried to slow things down a bit by running left, but that's not going to cut it, particularly not if they're down 14+ points. They need to get a tight end not named Jason Witten on the left side of the line and simply leave him there, with a back behind him as backup. Otherwise, Romo simply isn't going to have a chance to make a play downfield.

Aaron Schatz: Yes, I'm sorry, Vince, you prefer the Doug Free-on-Jared Allen blocking scheme?

One thought about Favre and retirement: Could he come back to the Vikings in 2010 and get away with not coming to training camp until halfway through the preseason again? Because part of the problem is that he just doesn't want to go through training camp two-a-days when he could be out hunting.

Doug Farrar: I think the world would take that deal. No Brett for training camp in exchange for the end of the offseason tradition of all other football news being held hostage for three months in favor of his "non-unretirements".

Vince Verhei: Cowboys' first drive of the second half is almost exclusively two- tight end, so their tackles are never isolated. It works when they run right at the Vikings, but stalls when they get cute with a pitch.

If the Cowboys go on to lose and Shaun Suisham takes the heat, I'm going to be pissed. He's missing near-50-yarders. Even if he makes those, the offense needs to consider those to be failed drives.

Tom Gower: Worse, they're running the pitch and the outside stuff with Barber, rather than Felix Jones. I think that's called "not playing to your players' strengths," Jason Garrett.

Doug Farrar: Not too good when you're down 14, and your only offensive goal is to give your punter more room in the back of the end zone.

David Gardner: The new E-Trade baby isn't nearly as funny as the old one.

Vince Verhei: Vikings force a punt, but are called for running into the kicker. Cowboys decline the penalty and we go into commercial.

After commercial, Cowboys have changed their minds and opted to re-kick. Joe Buck questions why the VIKINGS changed their minds and opted for the re-kick. He completely forgot what the penalty was, and they had been talking about it in detail before the break, why it was running into the kicker and not roughing. He even noted that McBriar would have more room on the punt! Shouldn't that be a screaming sign that the Cowboys accepted the penalty?

By the time he's corrected and gives the correct info, the Vikings have already gone three-and-out. God, I hate that man.

Doug Farrar: But you can choose any car in the aisle, Vince!

Romo's going to take a ration of crap for that brainfart of an interception at the end of the third quarter, and justifiably so. But he's been running around, ducking pressure, taking sacks, and the line is just absolute horsecrap. It's like they have five Tom Ashworths out there. At what point does "live to fight another day" become a white flag? And I wonder if Crayton was supposed to come back on that route.

Aaron Schatz: I'm blown away by the fact that the three games so far have all been blowouts. I thought these matchups were really close.

Doug Farrar: Between Dierdorf, Moose Johnson, and Joe Buck, the pressure is on Phil Simms to complete the sweep. I have great faith in him.

As I was typing that, Buck was informing me that Bud Grant (who is in the building) is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Prince (who is also in the building) is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Oh, Joe. You irrepressible scamp, with your puns and wordplay and all.

Vince Verhei: This has been the most frustrating game of the playoffs for me. I thought Dallas would win, which was obviously wrong. But I feel like they've beaten themselves as much as the Vikings have. Missed field goals, dumb turnovers, bad penalties, unblocked defenders, poor play-calling ... this may be sour grapes, but it seems to me that the better team just didn't show up today.

New York Jets 17 at San Diego Chargers 14

Tom Gower: Pet peeve: "We want to keep opponent's defense on the field and their offense off it." They still get the same damn number of possessions you do, give or take who has the last possession in the first and second halves, and onside kicks. I'd thought IND-MIA this year could've done some damage to it, but apparently not. Will anything, ever?

David Gardner: That one-handed catch by Antonio Gates was amazing. That is all.

Aaron Schatz: I'm really enjoying this game of "create a mismatch." Move Vincent Jackson around so he's away from Darrelle Revis? Check. Jets motion Tony Richardson out wide so that Antonio Cromartie is wasted on a fullback? Check. Jets go pistol on third-and-4? Actually, not a mismatch, it turns out.

The Chargers finally get on the board with a touchdown throw to Kris Wilson. See, that's the problem with one shutdown corner. What do you do when the other team has so many other weapons that they go and toss their first touchdown pass to the third-string tight end? (Or is that backup fullback? Hard to tell.)

Vince Verhei: Chargers go up 7-0 and it feels like game over.

Bill Barnwell: Hey, Mark Sanchez just went over positive yardage! Who knows what could happen next?

Aaron Schatz: I want to know why the Jets are running so much to the outside and not up the gut. Up the gut is where the Chargers have the big Jamal Williams-sized hole, and the Jets ALY numbers this year are MUCH lower on outside runs compared to inside runs.

10:40 left in the second quarter, a pass to Malcom Floyd is originally called a fumble, then overturned and changed to incomplete.

David Gardner: Man, Phil Simms will not admit that he is wrong, nor will he let the subject of that replay reversal die.

Tom Gower: How on earth did Jerome Boger get an incomplete out of that play? Floyd was running, caught the ball, got both feet down, and then Leonhard tackled him. That wasn't going to the ground, he wasn't juggling the ball, no nothing. I didn't think it was a fumble, because I think Floyd's left elbow was down before he lost possession, but getting incomplete out of that play is a real stretch.

Vince Verhei: Yeah, I hate to say it, but Simms is right. The referee completely blew that replay review. How on earth is their indisputable visual evidence that the pass was incomplete? You're only supposed to change the call if it's obvious, and if anything that play looked more like a catch than an incompletion.

Aaron Schatz: Mike Sellers just called, and he agrees with you on "indisputable visual evidence."

Tom Gower: Heads-up move by Tony Richardson to point to Shonn Greene as a dumpoff target for Sanchez with Eric Weddle trying to take him down. Not so heads-up of a move by Richardson was failing to block Weddle's path to Sanchez in the first place.

Aaron Schatz: By the way, I just checked. Five of the first six Jets runs were around end, including the lame third-and-4 option. That's just ridiculous. Eventually, they got two seven-yard runs up the middle, which is more like it if they feel like having a real-life professional offense.

Bill Barnwell: Well, they love pulling guards. Harder to pull guards on run up the middle.

Doug Farrar: I don’t know what was more amazing -– Darrelle Revis’ interception that somehow didn’t hit the ground with 4:23 left in the third quarter, or the fact that Jerome Boger’s crew got the call right on the field.

Bill Barnwell: The more amazing play was breaking up the pass; the interception was just gravy.

Aaron Schatz: When the Jets are stuck letting Sanchez pass, he's trying to fit it into windows he just can't hit. That's where that Quentin Jammer pick comes from.

Tom Gower: Ok, this feels WAY too much like a Vintage Marty Special. He comes in with the superior team, and they're outplaying the opponent, but it's still a close game and just one fluke play the other way, like Chris Hope slipping and failing to get over in time on a double move and Flacco throwing a touchdown pass (/bitter Titans fan), means his team loses when there's no way they shouldn't have.

Bill Barnwell: How about an interception deep in his own territory?

Aaron Schatz: I'm trying to figure out -- where was Rivers trying to throw that ball? Was that an underthrown seam pass to Antonio Gates? Was Gates supposed to turn around on a curl? Was it actually to Vincent Jackson in front of Gates, and he overthrew him? I can't tell if that was miscommunication or just Rivers throwing without even thinking of what the routes were.

Tom Gower: My guess is that Gates was supposed to run a curl.

Vince Verhei: Yeah, Gates never turned around, so I assume Rivers thought he was going to run a curl or corner route or something.

But closing the third quarter with an interception and a stupid personal foul -- Can we say that they're Norving yet?

Bill Barnwell: I'm actually assuming that was a throw to Jackson on the in that Rivers threw ahead/overthrew.

Aaron Schatz: Did I say that Sanchez was trying to fit the ball in tiny holes that he couldn't actually hit? I take it back. He hit a very small hole between Dustin Keller and the ground on the touchdown pass.

Vince Verhei: Eric Weddle misses a tackle and Shonn Greene breaks a long touchdown run to put the Jets up two scores. This sport is so stupid sometimes.

Tom Gower: Yes. Yes, it is.

One thing the about the Chargers is they don't seem to rely as much on separation in the passing game as most other teams, instead going with big receivers and letting Rivers put the ball in the right place. That's normally a good strategy, but (1) it's nice to have somebody who can get separation and (2) the Jets DBs have done an excellent job of fighting the WRs this game to break up passes.

Aaron Schatz: Vince, I'm not sure why you think this game is stupid. I count it as smart that the Jets finally started running up the middle on the Chargers instead of trying to go wide.

Vince Verhei: I guess I say that it's stupid because it felt like this game should have been about 21-0 at halftime instead of 7-0. The Chargers were dominant on the field, but not on the scoreboard.

Sean McCormick: They were dominant on defense, but not really on offense. They moved the ball a bit, but hardly at will.

David Gardner: I like that Shonn Greene mimicked LT's touchdown celebration.

Tom Gower: Nate Kaeding, please pick up the white courtesy phone. Lin Elliott would like to speak with you.

Doug Farrar: Well, so much for the KCW award this week. Vincent Jackson, come on down!

Vince Verhei: One area where the Chargers have definitely played poorly is clock management. They're routinely letting 30 seconds go by between plays, they're wasting timeouts early in both halves. And I think the onside kick was a terrible decision.

Bill Barnwell: Agreed. You're trading 40-50 yards of field position for a 10% chance of converting the onside kick.

Sean McCormick: I was surprised by that, too. Had they faked the onside and kicked deep, they would have pinned the Jets deep with the chance to stop the clock twice. Had they stopped the Jets there, they would have gotten the ball at around the 35 with 1:00 left, needing to kick a field goal to tie. It seems like the higher percentage play. That said, if you don't trust your defense...

Tom Gower: Why should you trust your defense? It kind of sucks, and can be run on successfully. Kicking onside was the right move. SD is who DVOA said they were: a passing team with not much of a running game and a mediocre defense. The Jets had by far the league's best pass defense. I may not like it, and I may not thought it would have come out this way, but this was an utterly unsurprising result.

Bill Barnwell: Well, San Diego had a similar total DVOA and was at home, so the most plausible result would be SD by a field goal or so.

Aaron Schatz: I feel really bad for Nate Kaeding, and everybody knows that I'm the furthest thing from a Norv Turner fan, but... I hate to say... the main person to blame in this loss is Kaeding. Kaeding and the randomness of kicker performance. Yes, the clock management was iffy, some of the penalties suggested an undisciplined team, and the onside kick at the end was probably not the best decision. Yes, you want your offense to get it into the end zone for six, not leave it up to the kicker for three. But they put Kaeding out there three times, for one long field goal that he can't be expected to hit (57) and two very makeable ones that he hits 95 percent of the time (36, 40). He hits one of those, just one, this game is in overtime.

Although, technically, this is another Norv Turner blown fourth-quarter lead to add to the long list of Norv Turner blown fourth-quarter leads.

I think the Colts are happier to be playing the Jets than they would be playing the Chargers team that has beaten them the past two postseasons. But... if they do lose next week -- effectively blowing their Super Bowl shot against a team that wouldn't be in the playoffs if not for the Colts' throwing their Week 16 game -- I can't even imagine how angry the Colts fans will be.

Comments

282 comments, Last at 19 Jan 2010, 7:38pm

279 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I suggested this back in mid December. Yesterday pretty much cemented the case.

Yeah, politely just ignoring the Cowboys win over the Saints, I guess? They're just... not on the same level. Except when they are. The Saints are clearly on another level. Except when they lose to Tampa Bay. Or the Cowboys. I mean, you could add the Patriots to the AFC West grouping, too (3-5, -30 points).

The Ravens, though. They were a lot closer: 4-5 or so, and positive in point margin, I think. Fat lot of good it did them versus the Colts, and they didn't even end up winning their division because they lost to the 20th ranked Bengals twice. Well, maybe it's wins that matter: the Cardinals were 4-2 against Top 15 teams, though negative in point margin. Yeah, that didn't work out well either.

You can always find groupings like that that seem to make a great case. But it doesn't matter: you've got teams like the Jets who are just great against top teams but then lose to the Bills, Dolphins (twice), Jacksonville, Atlanta. Is it really fair to say that the Jets are "on another level" than the Eagles when they can't beat a team that Philly beat by 27?

The NFC East, in total, would've ranked around 13th-15th. It's not that surprising that, in total, against other top 15 teams they did so weak.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I was wondering about the Chargers' use of their last timeout. It seems to me that if they called it after first down, the 2 minute warning would have stopped the clock after 2nd down. They let the clock run after first down, and used the To at 1:55. It did not matter, but still, 5 seconds is 5 seconds. Did they Norv it, Or am I missing something?

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I just did, but thanks for the link.

While there's some generic truth to those who say that calling the timeout before the two-minute warning opens up an opponent's playbook, I agree with Posnanski that that wasn't the case here; the timeout could have been called at 2:09, meaning an incomplete pass play would have almost certainly ended before the clock hit 2:00, and the Jets were going to run-run-run, given that's been their identity all year and they were still not 100% confident in their rookie quarterback, as good as he was yesterday.

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Agree. The only argument against is that if the timeout is called too close to the 2 minute warning the offense could call a pass knowing that the clock is going to stop anyway. But, that didn't apply here because a) the first down play was run at 2:12. so the timeout would have been called before the time that the Jets would have been willing to pass, and b) the Jets weren't going to let Sanchez pass there, despite him apparently "coming of age" according to the media.

187 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I agree that 2:12 left precludes a pass, but I do think at 2:05 you let the clock run down to pretty much make sure they don't pass and catch you with your pants down. If they had run a play-action the pass could easily be WIDE open. If not, Sanchez just has to eat the ball and stay in bounds. It's not very complicated and it's not like Sanchez is an idiot.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Now wait a minute. Vince and other observers can support that Dallas got in its own way given that this the following happened:

1st Drive: Dallas drives from its 28 to the MN 35 before Ray Edwards happened

2nd drive: Dallas drives from its 30 the MN 30 before the Cowboys fall into the now familiar trap of thinking long field goals in a dome are a gimme and their guy misses. Dallas had run effectively to this point.

MN scores when the Dallas defender shows no ball awareness and Rice/Favre team up perfectly

Dallas takes kickoff from its 18 to the MN 8 before Ray Edwards happens again and get a field goal.

Now that is 3 straight times where Dallas had the ball, moved it against the Vikings in solid fashion featuring the run versus the pass but somehow managed all of 3 points thanks to some odd playcalling at key times plus some great individual effort by one Viking.

This is the foundation for the comments for the Dallas flubbing things mindset. Or so I believe

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

In the entire game Dallas had one drive over 40 yards. I understand how someone watching early could have thought Dallas was playing better but anyone watching the whole game and thinking Dallas was anywhere near the team the Vikings are is hard for me to understand.

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Flozell Adams could have been flagged multiple times for really blatant holding on those first two drives. The Cowboys were getting whipped up front from the beginning, and it was only the generosity of a normally flag happy crew that made it seem otherwise. Seriously, when was the last time you saw an offensive line get that outclassed, and not draw a single holding penalty? It was a weird game in that regard.

269 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Seems like holding a barely a penalty anymore. Especially in the playoffs. It's been driving me crazy all year - with all the rule changes in favor of the offense and to protect the QB, that O-lineman are allowed to do almost whatever they want to a defender.

270 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Seems like holding a barely a penalty anymore. Especially in the playoffs. It's been driving me crazy all year - with all the rule changes in favor of the offense and to protect the QB, that O-lineman are allowed to do almost whatever they want to a defender.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Some folks are complaining on the Chargers running on first down but what struck me is how after an incomplete first down pass San Diego would run LT into the line to almost intentionally set up 3rd and long.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I agree (I alluded to this in my comment #4). I told my father at the beginning of the game, "If the Chargers lose, it will be because they haven't realized that Tomlinson is not a partcularly good back any more, and they'll keep giving him the ball and not succeeding."

While the turnovers and missed field goals were worse, in terms of the impact of each play, I really believe the Chargers could have had a bigger lead at halftime if they had thrown the ball and ran Tomlinson less.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Aaron, Aaron, Aaron, you'd be the dorkiest announcer ever. It wouldn't work. Know who you are. But you would be a fantastic asset to the production team.

Troy Aikman would look as silly as the other announcers if he got the scrutiny. He says plenty of ridiculous things.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

"I think the Colts are happier to be playing the Jets than they would be playing the Chargers team that has beaten them the past two postseasons. But... if they do lose next week -- effectively blowing their Super Bowl shot against a team that wouldn't be in the playoffs if not for the Colts' throwing their Week 16 game -- I can't even imagine how angry the Colts fans will be."

Interesting thought, that the Jets would not even be in the playoffs if not for the Colts letting them win (although I'm not 100% convinced that the Jets couldn't have won that game straight up), and now they're in the position to end the Colts season.

However, speaking as a Colts fan, I will not be any more upset if they lose against the Jets than I would be if they were playing the Bengals or Broncos or whoever. Back when the Colts were tanking the game in Week 16, if you had told me this would set up a chain reaction that would result in a Colts-Jets AFCCG, I would have been enthusiastically in favor of the move. Even right now, I'm very much in favor of playing the Jets instead of the Chargers. Whether or not it works out, it's a situation that (in my opinion) gives the Colts the best chance of winning.

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

+2

If they had said that by tanking that game they would ensure that the Steelers wouldn't make the playoffs at all and that they wouldn't have to play the Chargers in the playoffs, I guarantee you 95% of Colts fans would have supported that decision!

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

The notion that GB is the second best team in the NFC is ridiculous. First Pittsburgh and then Arizona exposed what is clearly a huge weakness. That any team could be second best anything with that degree of soft underbelly means either the NFC is composed of patsies or the assessment is misplaced.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

The assessment is misplaced. GB easy schedule = racking up stats... It's difficult to quantify everything... The rankings come out wrong. People will call you a fool or ask you to "insert boilerplate complaint here" that my team is clearly ranked to low blah blah blah.

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Arizona is a team that can play incredible offensive football at times. Pittsburgh is pretty as good as the rest of the top teams but they tanked against the patsies.

GB's defence against good passing teams was their Achilles Heal, and NO may be better but losing in OT to Arz (who are very likely the 5th best team and Pitt by one on a miracle last second throw) does not make them an awful team.

I would accept NO as a better team. But I would have loved to see that game. I think GB would have won.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I think the Cowboys and Packers playoff exits tell us one thing: be wary of backing the team that has not committed many turnovers in the regular season, especially if that team has to go on the road.

Turnovers demonstrate a paradox about DVOA: what exactly does it measure? It is clear that yards-based traditional stats lose credibility because they don't count turnovers; DVOA assigns them a proportional value, and as such is a better reflection of what actually took place in the game. On the other hand, forcing turnovers — and, especially, avoiding them on offense — really isn't a repeatable skill. DVOA's predictive value is thus harmed by its (over-)valuation of turnovers. And of course many people want DVOA to be a predictive tool, since it enables them to win money, or vent their spleen when it is wrong.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Interesting point, ammek. I think you're right, to a point. It's fairly obvious that offenses have an innate ability to commit turnovers; see Rex Grossman, Jay Cutler, Mark Sanchez, and Adrian Peterson as examples. However, avoiding turnovers, in many cases it seems, is based on uncontrollable factors.

Maybe there's a one-sided dynamic at work, something along the lines of: a team can be expected to commit X turnovers per game. If they commit X+Y (with Y being some threshold number) turnovers per game (over a sample), then they have a propensity to commit more turnovers going forward. If they commit fewer than X+Y turnovers per game, you can expect them to commit X going forward, even if they average less than X up until now.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I agree with your general point, but I would think causing turnovers would be less repeatable than avoiding them. Good QBs throw fewer interceptions than bad QBs, right? Fumbles are a wash.

FO's drive stats late in the year strongly suggested that GB's defense was overrated by DOVA due to an an unreasonably high number of take aways. When they run into a good team that doesn't turn it over, they're in trouble.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

GB's schedule was easy.

It meant piling up stats on offense, and getting turnovers from shoddy QB's on defense. Getting turnovers from shoddy QB's is a great way to boost your rankings, but come on... It's easier to rack up stats vs crappy teams, than it is to do well against good teams. Stats are a measurement of success and I don't think they have properly quantified the competition... Ravens blowing out bad teams, but doing so/so vs good teams makes them the best?

What if say the Colts could have blown out the bad teams they faced but they choose not to... for motivational reasons? The NFL isn't the BCS.

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Here's how I would put it. Obviously, interception-throwing is an innate trait of QBs. But there are relatively few interceptions per season, so there's big luck element as well.

I think we can safely say that the elite level of interception-avoidance is somewhere around what Peyton and Brady do in a typical year. That's 11 or 12 interceptions on 500 attempts.

So if you see a QB throw fewer than 11 or 12 interceptions in a season, you should be very suspicious that he just got lucky. His true level of interception-prone-ness is probably significantly higher, and he is likely to regress to his true mean level.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

but you have to look at risk as well. If you are a putz, and your coach knows you are a putz, he might run plays for putzes ( is that the plural form?) and give you some sort of wrist band of red/yellow/green plays etc or rune constant smoke screens and "coach you up on the sidelines" after every series.

Tom Brady's 2007 was truly remarkable. The low turnover year or David Garrard seemd more lucky, and Jason Campbell just doesn't throw passes over 8 yards.

Taking risk and not getting burned
Taking risk and getting burned
Not taking risk and not getting burned.

173 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I'd argue that the offense was just as overrated, owing to an unreasonably low number of giveaways. The running backs lost one fumble all year on rushing plays. Rodgers threw 7 picks: an insanely low figure on 600 pass attempts. Did I hear "unsustainable"?

Many of the defensive takeaways came with a big lead (often against terrible quarterbacks, though DVOA accounts for that). Being able to intercept a pass when holding a big lead does seem to me like a repeatable skill. But it's more situational than anything else (see the 2009 Saints). In any case, the Packers never held any kind of lead against Arizona or Minnesota I (and had it very fleetingly against Pittsburgh and Minnesota II).

191 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I think what we saw with the offense was legit but they were mainly playing against weak competition. I do believe in Rodgers... I'd fight for Rodgers, and I think he'll have a below average INT total for his career.

The defense yes, that's what it was... They were piling on turnovers ( big positive dvoa plays) against desperate and crappy teams. They blew out crappy teams, and that made their DVOA look better than the REAL Packers. Glad somebody else saw it.

219 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I'm not sure the small number of GB giveaways was unsustainable.

I didn't see too many opponents drop an unreasonable number off potential Rodgers INTs. Rodgers just doesn't give up many INT opportunities.

He did however have at least 3 INTs go off of his own players hands before getting picked: two vs Tampa, the one deep ball to Jennings in a crowd in the end zone that looked like it had just gotten into his hands when one defender tipped it up and another caught it, and the high pass off of Donald Lee's hands at the end of the game, and the pass against Baltimore that hit Driver in the foot and boundced directly into the air.

Now every QB has some bad luck INTs, my point is that Rodgers had his fair share and still only gave up 7. I don't really expect him to have numbers quite that low again, but I can easily see him with year INTs close to 10 on a regular basis.

Chances are GB will have a few more giveaways this year, since their fumble numbers were also excellent. I don't expect it to be a huge problem though.

227 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

But dropped interceptions are just one form of "good luck", and tipped interceptions are just one form of "bad luck".

The point is that an obscenely low number, even without dropped interceptions, is prone to regression to the mean. Use a perfect game in bowling as an analogy; rolling thirteen strikes in a row isn't necessarily "luck"-driven, but no rational person would expect even the best bowler to follow up one 300 game with a second.

278 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

That would be a 1.84% interception rate, which would shatter the NFL record. I think Donovan McNabb is the current holder at about 2.1%.

Rodgers may have a unique talent for avoiding picks: it's still too early to say. But 10 per season, when the guy is dropping back on 600 plays, would be unearthly.

Last year he threw 13 interceptions at a rate of about 2.4% — significantly better than the league average of about 2.9%. But the FO Almanac also recorded eight dropped INTs, second only to Tyler Thigpen, who had nine.

(NB: The FO player page for Rodgers says he threw 22 interceptions in 2008. This is wrong.)

280 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Considering the increase in overall passing efficiency, I don't think it's terribly unrealistic for Rodgers to break the current NFL INT% mark.

From pro-football-reference, so far in his career (essentially 2 seasons) Rodgers is the NFL's all time leader with an INT% of 1.8% (not sure what their requirement for minimum attempts is). I don't think it's too unrealistic that Rodgers could have several seasons that equal the average of his first two as a starter. But again, I would not at all surprised in a slight uptick from that level.

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/R/RodgAa00.htm

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I've always argued DVOA overrated turnovers ( in yes, that predictive nature). You could have Johnny the checkdown QB go through the year taking no risk, throwing 10 TD passes and 0 INTs, he'd have no chance to beat any semi decent defense in the playoffs if he ever got there...

Then you have Wert Kurner on Team B, he might throw for 30 TD passes with 20 turnovers. Sometimes he wins games, sometimes he's the reason why his team losses. He might have a similar DVOA as Johnny Checkdowns even though he's a much better player because any chimpanzee could be trained to not do anything.

DVOA also doesn't factor in opponents efficiently enough to add predictive value. Teams left in the playoffs were 6&7 in DVOA, and 8&10... Most conventional stats/power rankings would have had these teams finish higher, and nobody in their right mind had Baltimore #1, the top 4 were a big of a surprise... GB easy schedule #2, Philly #3 ( most people would disagree), and NE #4 with (most people would have them lower).

209 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Ideally turnovers by an offense should be rated about as badly as the combination of not converting a 3rd down and having a particularly bad special teams play (depending on the return of the turnover).

In other words, a 20-yard interception is equivalent to a failed third down conversion and a 20-yard punt.

If those things aren't equally valued in terms of predictive quality, something is likely flawed.

215 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I don't think you're understanding predictive value.

An interception 20 yards down the field and a failed third-down conversion plus a 20-yard punt are equivalent in a descriptive way; that is, the outcome is the same for the teams on the field.

However, that doesn't mean the two have the same predictive value. Consider:
1. Teams that throw interceptions 20 yards downfield will throw similar interceptions X% of the time, moving forward.
2. Teams that have failed third-down conversions followed by 20-yard punts will have similar outcomes Y% of the time, moving forward.

If X is equal to Y, then yes, the two events have the same predictive value.

However, I can't imagine that's the case. One reason: interceptions are much more common than 20-yard punts.

250 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Sorry; I meant predictive from a performance standpoint in that game. In other words, how much is a punt worth in terms of value for predicting the outcome of THAT game?

Another way to say it is that both an interception that was 20 yards down the field and a stop on 3rd/punt on 4th that goes for a net of 20 yards should result in supplying the same value of DVOA/DPAR for a given game. If they do not, something is being overvalued or undervalued.

Furthermore, you can then use that value to give the predictive value of a given quarterback given their propensity for interceptions by using that derived value (that of the negative value of punts) as the basis for determining what interceptions would likely be worth. Same for a defense.

I don't honestly know whether or not FO does this or something like it. But it's a way to internally check to see whether or not it's consistent and reasonable.

166 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Nick Collins is a very good safety in a league full of not-very-good safeties. Tramon Williams is an above average nickel back. The Packers basically gave up playing man coverage this year when moving to the 3-4. Other than that, you're right.

Except for the bit about NO's scheme being better. The best thing about NO's defensive scheme is NO's offense. Add a ballhawking safety and get rid of Jason David, and you have a nice situation. Who even cares about defending the run?

170 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I was thinking of Collins too, but wasn't he hurt for a good portion of the season?

By having the better scheme, I meant that the defense was built around the available talent to a better degree than in GB (which suffered a lot of injuries). I'm not saying it was a necessarily a better defense for it, just that NO got more with less than GB did.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

If the Colts blow the game against the Jets, it'll be because of a career ending injury to Manning. That's it. He'll have his linemen carry him to the line of scrimmage before he lets Curtis Painter touch a football in the AFC Championship game.

That being said; Revis Island, meet Battleship Manning. The Jets are going to look like Bikini Atoll after this game.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

- I can't believe they let that geek Kenny Alberts call such a big game, the monotone geek who knows nothing about football and adds nothing to the game.
- Joe Buck isn't 1/8th as funny or as insightful as he thinks he is. Even further, the guy never raises his voice when an exciting play happens. All Buck does is tries to stir the pot and assign blame in a negative Collinsworthesque sort of way.
- They need Gus Johnson calling these playoff games with Aikman or Moose.

- I think Vince bought the Cowboys hype that ESPN sold, and he's angry that he (probably) picked Dallas to win, but you'd never know from the game previews here.
- Baltimore played great D, but perfect throws beat great D.

- I wonder what the fumble percentage is for WR's, and then for DB's after interceptions. I don't think it's fair to simply compare the two because picks usually have 11 guys chasing after you from many different directions but not only do most DB's have crappy hands, they are I'd guess at least 10 times more likely to fumble than WR's.

- The ref was wrong in the Phill Simms replay. Speaking of people who won't let it go when they are wrong...

- I do think there was a difference between Tony Fungy and Jim Caldwell today. Dungy teams were known for underachieving in the playoffs and he would run the same dumb cover 2 over and over and over again and "not try anything silly". Caldwell wasn't ultra conservative and blitzed some for success. I just think the Dungy model is dumb for the playoffs. Sitting back mindlessly in cover 2 isn't defense. The Schemes and mixing it up that Bellicheck does is defense. The stunts and constant Rex Ryan blitzes were defense. Greg Williams showed Warner a lot of looks defending the digs/deep hook zones. I was impressed that Caldwell didn't run the same cookie cutter crap that Dung heap would have ran. I'd peg the Colts as favorites to win it all. That would be Dungy teams 2/2 after him being fired or leaving..

The Jets blitzes might not have always got to Rivers but they played great D vs SD. I do blame much of the loss on Nate Kaeting and I hate blaming kickers. It's just that's 3 possessions where you were looking for something and got nothing ( including that last kick).

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Playing a limited offense did help indeed, and Manning did have one of his best playoff games ever, but the point is that Caldwell isn't Dungy. Dungy would have sat back and asked Flacco to beat that same tired Cover 2 over and over and over against, and asked him to execute over and over and over again. The problem is, that quarterbacks in the playoffs often CAN execute over and over again on a cookie cutter scheme ( but maybe not Rex Grossman). Caldwell went after Flacco some and I like that strategy better. I think Dung heap is tactically one of the worst coaches you could have in the playoffs and that his team once won the super bowl despite him not because of him.

I've been very impressed with Rex Ryan's game plans/execution in the post season thus far but I think it ends next week.

Look at the Jets. They have good players yes ( great probably not), but who else could have crafted a better defense than Rex Ryan? Revis in a cover 2 doesn't get to show off all of his skills, but in a blitzing man/man defense not only does Revis get to show off all of his skills, but his teammates are put into position to make plays as well. I really think Rex Ryan is a good fit do run the Jets D. I doubt any other coach would have had the same results with the same talent. On offense, who knows, but Ryan certainly looked to maximize his defenses value.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I agree that Rex Ryan did alot of things that was impressive. He is a gambler and I like that he trusts his players to make plays. Many coaches don't. Not sure that I agree that the Colts won " in spite " of Dungy. Always have and always will have tremendous respect for him. Conservative, sure. But I have felt that his teams play sound football. Either they execute or they don't but I am a Dungy adherant.and

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Dungy always gets the same thing... "I'll always have respect for him" which basically says, " he's a nice guy" and that you like him... Fine, but that says nothing about his game planning and (playoff) coaching.

It's hard not to have a team playing sound football when they are led by Peyton Manning or 3 or so hall of famers on defense and 7 or so pro bowl caliber players...

Playing not to lose seemed like a pretty big character flaw and fair game when people were describing Martyball or Andy Bleed, but Dungy... He's just a nice guy.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

People who do not recognize that Schottenheimer and Reid were/are well above average coaches are ignorant. This is not a valid criticism of Dungy.

There has never been, and never will be, an NFL coach with an impressive win/loss record who did not have more terrific players than is the norm. This is not a valid criticism of Dungy.

The most valid criticism of Dungy is his spotty record of hiring assistants, which is similar to a guy like Shanahan, who has a spotty record of hiring defensive assistants.

198 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I never said Marty and Andy Reid were "average". Way to throw out the straw man again.

Also, there is a difference between having " above average players" and a defense with 3 Hall of Fame guys and maybe 4 other pro bowl caliber players. That's a little bit of a stacked roster no? How about having the best quarterback ever?

I could see how it would be difficult for Dungy to pick assistant coaches, when you are only looking at a limited pool of guys. Bill Bellicheck might want to hire anybody... the best guy for the job, where as Dungy was more often than not acting like a politician.

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I don't know - playing conservative defense, making your opponents execute, and lengthening the game sounds like a sound strategy when you've got seven or so pro-bowl caliber players. If you're generally the better team on the field, you don't want to play a risky, attacking defense that is liable to give up fluky big plays.

To me, it sounds like Dungy had a coaching style that matched his team, which I think it the most important characteristic a coach can have.

Now if he coached the Browns the same way, I'd agree that he's not a very good coach.

202 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

There is a difference between "playing conservative defense" and running the same frigging Tampa 2 coverage over and over like it's your religion. You sort of take the element of surprise and reading coverages away.

If you are facing Bill Bellicheck you have no idea what he's going to do.
If you are facing Rex Ryan you might face any number of exotic blitzes
If you are facing Lebeau you get the blitzes and exotic coverages

Dungy... You know you are going to get the Tampa 2, so pick your best Tampa 2 breaking play.... You don't see a problem with this? You don't think that has anything to do with his team losing at home as a favorite to the Eagles in the playoffs again and again?

Playing the devils advocate is fine, but I strongly disagree with Dungy. He's in the Brian Billeck category. The funny thing is I've seen people play devils advocate for Dungy and say that he "made the Colts offense good", because he knew so much about defense... absurd. That's like saying Brian Billeck "made the Ravens defense good" because he was such an offensive guru and I haven't seen anybody stupid enough to argue that.

228 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

"The funny thing is I've seen people play devils advocate for Dungy and say that he "made the Colts offense good", because he knew so much about defense... absurd."

Never in all my days have I once heard someone claim that Tony Dungy made the Colts offense good. His main contribution to the offense was recognizing that he had nothing to add to it, granting it autonomy, and staying the hell out of it. (Note -- I mean that as a compliment.) He absolutely did, however, make the Colts defense better than it was prior to his arrival. DVOA bears this out, as do the on-field results.

232 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I love that 10 years later, people can claim with ostensibly straight faces that the fatal flaw in Tony Dungy's Bucs was defensive predictability and not, say, the Shaun King-Mike Alstott-Jacquez Green triplets of 1999.

There's a reason Rich McKay's not a personnel guy anymore.

256 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Actually when Dungy was fired in 2001, he had a loaded roster.

Brad Johnson at QB
Mike Allstot at FB
Warrick Dunn at HB
Keyshaun Johnson at WR
and about 3 HOFers and 8 pro bowlers on defense.

Nice try with the Shaun King, Jaquez Green crap. The Bucs fired Fungy and won the Super Bowl after he got shit canned.

261 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Dungy had one year with Brad and two years with Keyshawn. In 2001, with both, that loaded offense was good for 3 FGs vs. 4 INTs in the playoff loss at Philly.

So again, the problem in Tampa wasn't defense, and it's hard to see that it was even Dungy. Adding McCardell and Jurevicius in 2002 made a big difference to that offense. Dungy's Bucs never had even a marginal #2 WR.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Vince Verhei: "Eric Weddle misses a tackle and Shonn Greene breaks a long touchdown run to put the Jets up two scores. This sport is so stupid sometimes."

I love how when Adrian Peterson or some other media hyped first round draft pick running back knocks over a defender it's a great powerful run, but when an unknown back on the Jets bowls over a safety, it's a missed tackle. Funny how many "missed tackles" Shonn Greene has created lately.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Agreed. These guys are fans. Folks here get all in a huff in their team is not mentioned during the season and then get in a huff if their team is not properly assessed by the readers' standards.

I give the FO team a lot of credit for posting their thoughts when they know that this drivel will happen. It must become irritating over time.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Re: Aaron's 19-0 comment about the Colts

I won't wonder what could have been. I'm not sure they needed it so much on offense, but their defense looked rejuvenated and healthy. This is the defense that was out there earlier in the year and hadn't really been the same in a while, seemingly due to injuries and being banged up. I don't think you see the defense be that level of dominant without resting players.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

The only time that you can accurately say, "If he makes that field goal the game goes into overtime" is a field goal on the last play of regulation with the kicking team behind by three points.

Saying that Kaeding making a field goal with 6:31 left in the first quarter would have resulted in the rest of the game playing out the same - but with the Chargers having three more points - makes no sense.

160 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

As a fellow Northeastern graduate, all I can do is chuckle at your "elitist" comment. Aaron (and maybe others here) went to the school that average kids who grew up in Boston attend, which is far from elitist. Further, though everyone has blind spots, the FO staff tend to take shots at dogmas of all kinds. They'll even ridicule each other's blind spots and stupid comments. But then you may not be aware of that. You must be new. . .

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

@DGL

I think if Kaeding hits that FG in the first quarter, that game is FAR different. The Jets were never down by more than one score, which I thought was critical for that sort of team. Sanchez was OK, but the Jets never asked him to do very much.

Hard to prove a counterfactual, but my guess would be that the Chargers win by a couple of scores if Kaeding hits there.

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Well, that's kind of my point. You can't say what would happen. Maybe instead of taking over on the 26, the Jets run the ensuing kickoff back for a TD. Maybe the Chargers go up by 10 and Schottenheimer doesn't run as much. Maybe down by ten the Jets are more aggressive on fourth down, going for it instead of kicking a field goal, and close it up. If Aaron had said, "If Kaeding makes one of those FGs it's a different ballgame," I'd agree. But to simply say if Kaeding makes one of the missed FGs the game goes into OT, well, that's pretty shallow.

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Re the Vikings scoring at the end of the game. I don't see a problem with scoring in and of itself. Or trying to score. What I see as a problem is the fact that Favre and Peterson were still in the game. They should have been safely sitting on the bench rather than risking injury, starting with the 2nd last Viking possession.

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I was thinking that with 6 minutes to go.

I thought Childress must have a hate on for Dallas. His post game suggests as much and it's not like him at all to run up the score. But back to back weeks now he's left the first team out there to score TD's when the game was decided.

He also showed more aggression than I expected once they were up 20-3. I thought he would just keep running regardless of the effectiveness, but they actually called some passing plays.

229 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

He seems to have had a huge chip on his shoulder since being emasculated by his QB. Like now he's overcompensating and trying to win the team back by being hyper aggressive and giving his team what they want.

I actually like it. Evil Chilly is way more interesting than the old one. And probably also more effective.

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Colt fans are getting really arrogant and overconfident already. Take some advice: be careful what you wish for...especially for a team that has a history of choking in the playoffs more times than not this decade (Manning finally got to a 500 winning percentage in the playoffs..yay! Greatest ever!).

The Colts have it all lined up for them by playing the # 6 and now #5 seeds in the playoffs. But if you think this game is a lock, then you obviously haven't watched football in the past decade. Don't get overconfident.

164 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Johnny: Really? I haven't seen any Colts fans post some type of arrogant boast, like that they should be favorites in the tournament. Maybe you're reading other forums?

In any case, we'll take the nod from Patriots Nation 2007 and not be overconfident. Check. (Because, like, being overconfident has worked for the Colts fan base before?) If you think Colts fans will be overconfident, then you obviously haven't listened to Colts fans in the last decade. Don't create stereotypes.

128 Re: Tony Richardson's missed block

Tom Gower: Heads-up move by Tony Richardson to point to Shonn Greene as a dumpoff target for Sanchez with Eric Weddle trying to take him down. Not so heads-up of a move by Richardson was failing to block Weddle's path to Sanchez in the first place.

I think Richardson was pointing at Shonn Greene because Greene was supposed to block the outside rusher, not cut inside Richardson and flare to the flat. That looked very much like an accusatory point to me.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

The thoughts expressed by FO is that there were a bunch of closely grouped teams at that were hard to separate. I don't think it was just FO - certainly point rating sites like Sagarin had teams closely bunched. But the playoffs have been anything but for the most part; with only two close games out of eight and the average score in the other six of 32-10.

Hasn't made for the most exciting playoffs ever.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I think it's cool that the Jets are in the mix. All the other teams remaining are very much the same...great pass offences - suspect pass defences. The Jets are the exact opposite - they don't pass well but they defend it better than anyone.

I find games with contrasting styles far more interesting.

156 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Pass DVOA

Saints -4.1
Jets -34.6

not exactly in the same league. I also much more skeptical of a pass defence DVOA rating that is mostly gained via ints (NO 3rd with 26). GB was listed as top pass defence largely due to their 30 ints - but I think Arz, Pitt and Minn laid waste to the argument that GB plays good pass defence). The Jets were 14th in ints with 17. But net yds per attempt:

NYJ 4.6
the second ranked team 5.4, NO 19th at 6.2

I don't think there is any comparison in the pass defences of these two teams.

185 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Actually, the Saints' passing DVOA was around #1 for most of the year, but they were heavily hit by injuries in the second half that brought them down to 9th place. At least 2 of their top 3 corners (Greer, Porter, Gay) were out in just about every game, FS Darren Sharper missed time, and numerous other players on the Defense also missed time. They're as healthy as they've been since the first half now, and it showed.

And it's not just INTs; the good secondary play has lead to sacks (it lets Gregg Williams really go wild with blitzes), incompletions, and a lot of 3rd down completions short of the first down marker (which you saw against Arizona).

Of course, this just reinforces your point; they're strong on pass D, its the run D that can be attacked.

172 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

So this is where you guys go on Mondays. Well, Will, it seems things turned out well for your rooting interests, if not your analysis. You are allowed to have this negativity that fans bring, however, because you are actually knowledgeable, quite a historian, and a long time loyal fan of one of the iconic franchises in the NFL. And that franchise has let it's nation down too many times. Maybe this time will be different. Like I've been saying since around week 6, they are the best team with the most talent in the NFC. I still say they will meet Indy for the whole box of candy, as I also said in week 6, although I was wrong in thinking that someone would knock off New Orleans such that the Championship game would be at Minny. And, as to Indy, oh yes they are now facing a very live dog where an upset would not be a surprise, F.O. articles ridiculing Ryan and the Jets to the contrary. (along with the usual "nattering nabobs of negativism" as some long ago disgraced politician nonetheless accurately called the perennial critics who criticize just because, well, someone has to)

I read some of the earlier posts about the "running up the score" thing and someone before you said he didn't get the idea that the majority of the players give a shit about this in today's game. I can tell you for sure that in years past that was not the case. But, today, those that I'm still in touch with have a decidely different take than the past on most matters of game etiguette and professional courtesy. And since that is the case then no. 4 and company could do whatever they wanted. The spoils go to the victors. Still, as much as I personally dislike Jerry Jones, and I do mean personally, I am sorry for the Dallas nation. They have a fine team with an owner who meddles, it will be hard, if not impossible, to ever get back to the Bowl. At the time of the great Cowboy team led by a serious winner Jimmy Johnson, there was a more humble Mr Jones who hadn't yet elevated himself in his own mind as the person who was responsible for that dynasty. But like so many of these greedy, egomaniac owners, he decided that he had put these elements together and "any one of 500 people" could've coached them to their SB wins. Jerry Jones got surprised yesterday. Too funny. He listened to too much talking head pollution and perhaps read the F.O. year long assessments of the Vikes. You know something is happening here, but you don't know what it is--do you Mr Jones ?...

199 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Is it "negativity" to note that the Vikings offensive line hadn't had a good game against a motivated opponent in two months, and that trends become trends because they usually continue? Yeah, I expected the Cowboys to win, but I also noted that if the Vikings won, it would be due to the Cowboys offensive line getting beat in a noisy dome. I sure didn't have any expectation that their bludgeoning would be as complete as it turned out to be, however. How many predicted that the Vikings would win by four touchdowns?

In any case, the Vikings can beat the Saints, but now it will be time for the offensive line to earn it's pay.

224 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Will, you're giving TOO MUCH credit to the noise. Never mind the ridiculous proclamations of F.O., the Vikes are a dominant team over the Cowboys and the NFC East is an over-rated thing. You got down on your team for becoming tired, apparently you forgot, or never understood, their full capacity. If they lose in New Orleans it will be because of Favre's, or Peterson's, or somebody elses, turnovers. It will not resemble what happened in Arizona or Carolina. I do not foresee even the best NFC offensive line, which does belong to N.O., being able to handle Mr J Allen and his brethren on the line. And I don't foresee that Favre will have to win it. This week Mr "Chilly" can have his way and have a big ground game. You just need no.28 to hang onto the ball. Those Saints got one helluva ball hawk. Too bad he's still not on Minny. If he were there would be zero chance for New Orleans and the Vikes would've likely been the ones threatening a perfect season. But he isn't and that is that. Minny had better try to stay out of his neighborhood Sunday...

234 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Rick, I mostly got down on the Vikings because they were not blocking people like they did last year, when they played, yes, exactly the same number of games. I understand their full capacity. The issue is whether they will play to it. Look, if you want to read into the outcome of one game some unifed theory of football analysis, fine. Personally, I think it is likely more accurate to say that they were playing a group of offensive linemen who have been mostly below average pass blockers for many years now, in very noisy road environment, against very good pass rushers, and those offensive linemen reverted to form. If you go back and read the threads from last week, I stated that this was a distinct possibility, and would be the path that most likely would allow the Vikings to win.

If Favre throws interceptions, it will likely be due to Brees and Co. jumpimg out to a lead, and the Vikings offensive line failing to gash the Saints by running. If the Vikings offensive line does do so, and certainly it is easier to do that to the Saints' than the Cowboys' defensive fronts, then it is most unlikely that Favre will put the ball in danger, and Brees just won't have the ball enough. This is a game that Hutchinson and Co. can win.

Having said all that, this is also a game where either team can make huge special teams plays, and have a huge influnce on the outcome. It should be fun to watch.

235 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Indeed it should be fun. As to the Vikes failure in a mere couple of games--it's a long season brother, and very, very, very hard to force the body in a sport that hurts to play and takes amounts of energy that are hard for the average man to conceive of. The Vikes should be recharged now with plenty of adrenaline flowing.

Obviously, you'er correct about the ST being a big factor here. Reggie Bush looked pretty recharged too. They just need to kick it away from him. They should be kicking plenty of times...

177 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I would think you would have to include INDY as a team that can also play the pass well. IF you look solely at the Passing DVOA of this team as being 3.4%, then you are missing the context of what made it that over the last 5 weeks of the season when they rested Freeney, Mathis, and Powers was out with injury. Their Passing DVOA was much higher than that before they started gearing up for the playoffs, and essentially surrendering a lot of garbage stats.

This is the first time their defense has been healthy and ready since before the last BAL game in week 11. What should make people be aware of this INDY team is how different they are with teams past. A lot has been made of the 7 comeback victories, but not much has been made of the 6 games the defense was left to finish off teams in the fourth quarter and INDY called off the Dogs on offense. DVOA is not very kind to them for that. We are talking about JAX in the opener, @ ARI, SEA, @TEN, @STL (the only true AWFUL team they played all year, and SF.

INDY played very different games each week based on the opponent. Some games they won with firepower and Manning alone, that would be the three games against NE, JAX, and MIA. Some they won by scoring 20 or less and with great scoring defense, that would be 4 games against JAX, SF, HOU and @ BAL. However, the other 7 games they won by playing Balanced football. Playing balanced would be with the offense scoring their usual over 24 points and the defense holding teams to 20 or less outside of @ HOU where the defense started terrible and totally finished the game until a late garbage TD.

What you saw from INDY this year was a credible Defense, until they started to pull players late in the year and got injured. That Defense is healthy again, and they can play the pass as good as anyone outside the Jets. For once they have also played the run really well outside the MIA game, and after the JETS were playing against street FA's in the third quarter. Remember, the Jets had 113 yards of offense before the second and third string Defenders entered that game in the third Quarter. INDY also did not play 4 defensive starters at all in that game. Mathis, Session, Bullitt, and Powers never saw a snap. Plus, Freeney had like 8 snaps, yet still had a sack.

I guess what I am trying to say here is that teams do not want to get into a shootout with INDY. INDY's strengths are pass offense AND pass defense. That, coupled with playing the run all year better than in the Dungy era, makes them a lot more capable of winning playoff games than in the past. This is not the same Colts team that Manning has entered the postseason with in the past. It is much more balanced than it used to be.

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Maybe the point here is that you can't trust the last few weeks of a season where the #1 seeds basically have the whole thing wrapped up. Or maybe it's that injuries to your best players matter? Regardless, it seems like the midseason DVOA of these teams was more applicable than the late season version.

158 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

The Favre hatred by the people who write for this site is obvious. I know that it's a national phenomenon, but it's very pronounced in the northeast corridor. Some of it is because of the whole Mississipi, red state rube thing that Favre has going on, some of it is because of the way he played the Jets, and some of it is because people in the northeast tend to be overly dramatic about things.

159 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Honestly, most of it is because we're tired of the media fawning over every time he picks his nose. I was glad to see him do well this year, and have enjoyed watching him play. I still do, with the sound off, because I get tired of the giant sucking sounds coming from the booth crew whenever he does something.

161 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Favre is a huge drama queen, and we are all subjected to it endlessly and relentlessly for months at a time. It has nothing to do with where he lives, or the inferiority complexes of people who live there. It's not a conspiracy; it's media over-saturation pure and simple. I get sick of anyone whose name is in my face every single day for months, particularly in the off season. I am not alone in that sentiment.

168 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

You suffer from Favre Derangement Syndrome. Why the hell do you let media coverage of a player effect you one way or the other? Seriously, who cares. No one cares when Peyton Manning or Tom Brady are practically deified. And you know what, they are great players who deserve the hype. So is Brett Favre.

And I am not from the South. I'm actually from Philly. I'm objective enough to be able to observe how the Favre Derangement Syndrome is especially pronounced in the northeast.

182 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

I agree. Although Favre is a cannier exploiter of the media than he is given credit for (that's the farm boy stereotype at work), it's not his fault that he can't throw a pass without one announcer or another sending him a valentine. As for the clichés (gunslinger, velocity of throws, iron man, just having fun, etc), they only seem so tired because he has been playing for two decades, and the announcers haven't thought to find new ones. (Oh, sorry, yes they have: mentioning the 239,427 different NFL starters at QB since he threw his first pass. Gee. He's old.)

Other than that, the hostility mostly comes down to that old chestnut, 'overrated'. And when he throws a pick this weekend, even if Peterson has been ineffective as he was Sunday, you can bet that the dreaded duo of QB W-L playoff record and passer rating will get an airing (with convenient 1997 cutoff date).

That said, I have the advantage of living in Europe, where I can escape the offseason rolling-news overkill. On the other hand, when Lady Diana died, I was in England, and it was f**king unbearable.

203 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Deify Petyon Manning, Deify Tom Brady, Deify Brett Favre, I just hate to see average players get deified... see Mike Vick. You would have thought he was the best player ever or was on that path they way they talked about him. Some clown that got drafted by the Bengals ( I even forgot his name) to play WR said that the Peyton Mannings and Tom Brady's of the NFL would become dinosaurs. I wish I had that quote and the knucklehead who said it but it's gone into the ash heap of history.

In a couple of years there will be no more Brett Favre the player, only Favre in the booth ( maybe), and you know what... you'll wish he was still playing. Just like Jim Kelly, Warren Moon, Steve Young, and Troy Aikman. I never liked Aikman or Young the players, but I wish they were still playing.

167 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Colts/Jets rematch :

Anyone say that the Colts "let" the Jets into the playoffs by playing their backups, implying they would have won with their starters. But, if this is true, why all the fuss about meeting them again ?
If they win sunday, then they gave a team they "knew" they could beat a chance to get into the playoffs, where they could face(and beat) them at some point.
If they lose, then they didn't "let them in" the playoffs : chances are they also would have lost their week 15 matchup.
All in all, no regrets, and no debate.

183 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Almost all of the comments on the Colts letting The Jets Win that game have been based on pulling Manning, Wayne, and Clark with the lead in the third quarter. However, what is interesting is what I posted above in post 178. INDY never played 4 starters on Defense and only played Freeney on 8 third and long plays. Basically, The JETS got 3 points on half of INDY's backups and 113 yards. Then, when INDY had all their backups and even third stringers playing the JETS scored their 19 points. 8 of those were on TO's from Painter, and the other 11 were on the defense.

This is technically a rematch, but lets get real here. INDY was never playing that game with a full team from the outset. So, While I fully believe the Jets have a small chance to beat INDY, its a lot smaller than what Will A. gave them earlier.

180 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Why no talk of Pierre Garcon learning defensive techniques while on special teams last year? Is it wrong I see a connection there?

190 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Boy, if the Jets beat the Colts at home in the AFC Championship game, the s*** is really going to hit the fan for Polian and Caldwell, and it's going to be absolutely hilarious.

Really pulling for a Jets upset. Can't wait to see the media carnage.

205 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Nope. Conventional wisdom has set the Colts on such a high pedestal this year, that should Indy do anything but win the SB by double digits, the average media guy is going to hammer them. Evidence: rookie head coach goes 14-2, but gets little credit because "all the pieces were in place" and "Manning coaches that team" (defense, too!). Reading the comments in the coach of the year thread, I realized that folks take the Colts greatness for granted, and that any loss, any time or place, is going to be greeting with jeers. Inane stuff like this is written after the Colts win their first playoff game:

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/story/12796335/methodical-can-beat-ravens-but-it-cant-lead-colts-to-ultimate-glory

All the other teams are lauded (Saints got their mojo back, the Jets are the Cinderella story, the Farves got their mojo back), but the Colts? Well, if they ever lose again it will show what idiots they are over there.

Sad.

230 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Yes, it's been tough to be a Colts fan the last ten years. Averaging 11-12 wins (just think what they'd have done if they tried all the time). Best QB in football who is a top 5 all-timer. Won one Super Bowl (after which the redemptive Manning CAN win the big one was the predominant story), and didn't lose any SBs. Yep, rooting for the Colts is quite the cross to bear, particularly when so many people "take the Colts greatness for granted."

You might want to just enjoy the greatness. Lot of stupid stuff written in media and message boards (about the Colts and other teams), as I am sure you've noticed. If Colts lose to the Jets, that may merit some examination, since it would at least arguably be an unexpected result. Some may tie it to Week 16, which does seem pretty weak. You will feel worse about the loss I imagine than anything written about the loss. If Colts win SB, whatever crap is written about "could have been 19-0" shouldn't matter to you -- much better to go 17-2 and win the SB than, oh, say, 18-1 when the "1" is the last one.

253 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

"You might want to just enjoy the greatness."

See, that's what I am trying to do. I KNOW these are "the good old days." I was there in college when my friends gave me a t-shirt for Christmas that read "I Love A Winner" on the front, and "Go Colts, 1-15" on the back.

But I am getting annoyed with the national analysis of the weekend's games and the ones to come, because the assumption is that if the Colts win, they should have won, and if they lose, they're dumb to have rested/chokers. I just want to hear a commentator or two talk about the good things the Colts did Saturday, like the Colts defense, or the new WR's playing well. Instead, we hear about how if the Colts don't make it to the SB, like 30 other teams, it will be a massive failure for them. Really? In other words, it's almost impossible to enjoy their good role because it's being discounted by so many (the Caldwell as caretaker thing is really bothering me -- I don't have proof that he's great, but he's done things very differently than Dungy and had great results: new DC, new ST coordinator, first-team offense vs. first-team defense in pads with contact for 3 days during the bye week, etc.). Maybe you're right that I ought to ignore the comments from the MSM, but it's amazing to see it even here with posters, who still seem to think "swagger" and "mojo" matter.

262 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

As a general rule, most of the media doesn't know football, they're lazy, and they have the attention span of a gnat. Plus, they'll turn on you in a second if you do something that goes against "conventional wisdom."

As I recall, the Colts weren't really criticized by a whole heck of a lot of people until Week 16, when they made a controversial decision that enabled media members to go holier-than-thou. Of course, there were principled reasons to disagree with Caldwell's decision, but the media didn't go with those - they just went for the outrage/page hits (kind of like Belichick's 4th and 2 call).

As a fellow follower of a formerly 1-15 team, let me tell you again to enjoy the ride. If they lose to the Jets (which I'm pretty confident they won't), the loss will be much more painful than what any two-bit reporters and message board trolls have to say. (I say this from personal experience.) And if they win, they'll be playing an equally talented team in the Super Bowl, so anyone with any sense should have shut up about it by then, even if they lose.

(Plus, won't it give you the teensiest bit of schadenfreude if the Colts win despite the naysayers? A small part of me will, just because the media was so ridiculously overzealous, and I'm far from a Colts fan.)

195 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

It has become painfully obvious through the years that, for whatever reason, the head ref is incapable of lookng at a replay and applying the 'indisputable visual evidence' rule. Instead they tend to go into 'all white jury at the Rodney King Trial' mode and talk themselves into seeing something that just isn't there. It really is amazing the number of challenges that have resulted in refs coming back out with completely ludicrous decisions.

It's no wonder that coaches challenge things that don't even look close sometimes. It can be a crapshoot.

I wonder if it's not related to the fact that the refs are out running around in one mode and then asked to enter a completely different mode under the hood.

Easy solution is to have someone at NFL headquarters assigned to each game and do the challenges there. Benefits include having people trained exclusively in the one skillset, access to others including league ref officials who can help in difficult calls, more time to actually look at the play instead of runnign on and off the field and handling the other ref duties, and they could hire people who understand what 'indisputable visual evidence' means.

210 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

On the flip side of Nate Kaeding, you have Jay Feely's key make of a 46 yard field goal that the jets desperately needed to get something on the board. the play was 4th and one and ryan wasted a timeout to think about going for it. had feely missed there, the jets wouldve lost any chance at gaining momentum.

The good thing for the Jets is that all the pressure is on Indy. A loss to the team it "allowed" into the play-offs would be a backbreaker for that organization. On the flip side, if the colts lost to the jets i dont think any 13-0 team would ever again rest its starters, so NFL fans win in that case.

216 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Gardner,
I heard Peyton yell on that sack he took, but I thought at the time it was "GOD DAMMIT DALLAS!" or "GOD DAMMIT DONALD!" He may project the image of a Boy Scout, but I doubt he calls Charlie Johnson "Charles," especially when it would mean he's being chased down by Terrell Suggs.

218 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

He might want to be a little careful what he calls him. Worse than being chased down by Terrell Suggs is being chased down by Terrell Suggs and Charlie Johnson.

257 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Pet peeve: "We want to keep opponent's defense on the field and their offense off it." They still get the same damn number of possessions you do, give or take who has the last possession in the first and second halves, and onside kicks.

You do know that there are other metrics besides number of possessions for how long an offense or defense is on the field, right?

268 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

You do know that there are other metrics besides number of possessions for how long an offense or defense is on the field, right?

Yes, but the amount of points you score is still limited by number of possessions. Whether a drive lasts two minutes or ten, the best possible outcome is a touchdown. The only point where time of possession matters is when you've already built a lead, and the opponent needs to maximize the amount of possessions remaining to them. Saying before the game that you want to keep Peyton Manning on the sidelines is ridiculous, because teams alternate possessions. Even if you get and keep the ball for the entire first half, the best you could do would be to score one touchdown. Manning would still get the ball to start the second half, with the chance to tie the game at seven-all.

273 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Really? Which one? Because I don't know of one. Time of possession just measures how long in game time an offense or defense is on the field, and last time I checked, players don't get magically tired just because a clock on the stadium wall is running.

272 Re: Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

But... if they do lose next week -- effectively blowing their Super Bowl shot against a team that wouldn't be in the playoffs if not for the Colts' throwing their Week 16 game

Yes, except for the fact that if the Jets win next week, Colts fans can complain, but everyone else can point out that they could've easily lost the Week 16 game if they tried, considering they were trying in the playoffs, and lost.

Really, the Colts FO is in a win-win situation with regards to resting starters in Week 16/17. If they win the Super Bowl, they say "hey, look, we said we're focusing on the Super Bowl, and we were right!" and if they lose, they can say "we didn't focus enough on winning the Super Bowl, there's no way we should've played starters in Week 16/17."