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

Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Audibles at the Line: Week 1
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Bill Barnwell

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

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

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

Minnesota Vikings 9 at New Orleans Saints 14 (Thursday)

Aaron Schatz: Happy new year and happy new NFL season everyone! As we say in Hebrew, "Shana Tova Tikatevu." "Shana Tova" means "a good new year," and Tikatevu of course was a Samoan tackle who played a couple years for the Jets back in the late 80s.

Bill Barnwell: Hey, Marques Colston versus overmatched linebackers. I've seen this show before.

Ben Muth: Wearing ear plugs on the sideline does not make Favre look any younger.

Aaron Schatz: But look, they're color-coded! Do you think he wore the same earplugs with the Jets that he wore with the Packers, or did he need a slightly different shade of green?

Mike Kurtz: The Saints, of course, decided the explosive downfield passing game was TOO SUCCESSFUL, so come out on the second drive with a pair of easily-busted screens. Mastermindering!

Mike Tanier: If anyone took the running section of the Saints playbook out of the team library, please return it. Sean Payton will waive your late fees.

Bill Barnwell: If any game supports a run-free philosophy, though, it's these Saints versus these Vikings.

Mike Kurtz: The Saints have been tackling well in the box, but really miserable in pursuit.

Aaron Schatz: I just casually informed my wife that through the magic of Twitter, I know that Marcedes Lewis of the Jaguars has plenty of food and would like teammate Kirk Morrison to join him for the game, but Morrison is home watching the game and chillin' with his pops.

Mike Kurtz: Is it just me, or is Favre's release wonky? It looks like he's extending an awful lot overhead instead of forward.

Aaron Schatz: Well, I don't know if Doug is right about Visanthe Shiancoe having a huge season, but he's certainly having a huge game. And the Saints were fifth in DVOA against tight ends last year.

I would be curious to hear what people think about Steve Hutchinson in the second half. I've been trying to watch him closely in the first half, thinking about how surprisingly mediocre he looked when Mike and I went to NFL Films last year. He was very good on that touchdown drive to end the second quarter, but before that it seemed that there were a lot of plays where he was getting surprisingly pushed around by Remi Ayodele. They also seem to use him on double teams a lot more than I would expect... I mean, doesn't seem like your Pro Bowl lineman is the one who you should have blocking one-on-one, with other guys used in double teams? Or is that more because John Sullivan needs the help? Or is it just that guards are generally used in double teams, either with the tackle or with the guard, no matter how good they are?

Ben Muth: Yeah, I was watching the left side a lot, and thought both McKinnie and Hutchinson look pretty pedestrian. They haven't looked bad, but they aren't really moving anyone.

Bill Barnwell: Wonder why the Saints aren't getting the downfield stuff they were on their first two series. I'm guessing that the Vikings are just dropping their linebackers real deep in the Cover-2 and taking away the 12-18 yard range for those seams and deep ins New Orleans started the game with. Saints need to at least have some hint of a running game to keep those linebackers honest.

Aaron Schatz: If you are going to show a montage of how good Brett Favre's protection is, perhaps you should consider skipping the plays where six guys are blocking three. That's not really great protection, that's a defensive decision not to rush the passer.

Tom Gower: Sean Payton finally re-discovered the lost "draw play" and "running between the tackles." What few rushing plays they ran the first half were all attacking the edges and featured too much running laterally. Finally ran the draw, then two more consecutively between the tackles, Colston's back open over the middle again, and they're back marching down the field.

Ben Muth: Looks like the Saints have decided to come after Favre this half.

Aaron Schatz: And he is not responding well. He's making a couple of those "I swear I can make this impossible play" gunslinger throws that he did a good job of avoiding last year. He never, ever should have thrown the floating pass to Kleinsasser when he was going to the ground, the incomplete pass that Minnesota challenged. That easily could have wobbled into the arms of Jon Vilma.

Rob Weintraub: Is that a legit blitz package drawn up in the Bud Light Playbook?

Bill Barnwell: Carl Weathers legit wants to know if you're going to finish that Bud Light. I know that much.

Rob Weintraub: The man was a fearsome defensive end back in the day. Wouldn't be surprised if he drew something up in the name of authenticity. You know, realistic, like Rocky IV.

Tom Gower: Blue 42 Trick Car Blitz actually looks like a passing play against a single-high look, only the offense looks like it may have about 13 players on the field. I think I counted a wide receiver split right, two guys in the right slot, a tight end on both sides of the formation, another wideout split wide left, a back in the backfield, plus the QB under center.

Bill Barnwell: Hey, Greg Camarillo's a "Welker-type" (Michaels) and "not fast" (Collinsworth).

Ben Muth: The Williamses are having a real hard time stopping once they get moving laterally, and the Saints are killing them with the cutback.

Tom Gower: Is it just me, or are the Vikings doing a lot of slanting on the DL? Maybe they do it a lot and I just don't normally notice it, but it seems like they've been attacking one side most of the time and the Saints have just been using the defensive line's momentum and shoving them out of the way while they run the other side.

Rob Weintraub: If you took the Saints -5, you are kicking yourself you didn't win cash -- should have won by 15. But at the same time, it took a gift (blocked XP) to keep you from losing. These are the sort of things that have kept me from wagering actual money on football for 15 years.

Bill Barnwell: Speaking of left tackles, Jermon Bushrod deserves some respect. Jared Allen was totally wiped off the field. Bushrod had the one false start, but otherwise...just an awesome game.

Doug Farrar: Brett Favre said that having Darren Sharper out of the game might be a disadvantage for him because Sharper’s more prone to taking chances, and Malcolm Jenkins would be more inclined to read and react. I think the Saints defensive game plan was as much about those zone drops as anything early on, though the linebackers look pretty stumpy in coverage and I think that will be a problem for the Saints through the season. They blitzed, but it wasn’t as crazy as one might imagine from a Gregg Williams team. New Orleans did a great job of covering the intermediate stuff, and we’re going to be talking once again about how underrated Jabari Greer is.

Especially early on, you could see that Minnesota was super-aware of New Orleans’ pressure – they were going max protect, or heavy, or two tight ends with motion, or stacking backs in some really interesting formations. Favre checked down on some long downs, and it seemed that the plan was that it was better to get #4 off the field safe than to have him hit.

I’m not sure what it is about the Saints that makes people say that the other team lost games/battles instead of conceding that the Saints won games/battles. All I’m hearing is how the Williams Wall looks to be in trouble, when it was at least as much about the fact that in Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans, this team has the best guard tandem in the league. Jermon Bushrod looked really strong at left tackle, especially when blocking inside – he was pushing guys around in the scrum. I echo Ben’s comments about that.

I still love the fake end-around and then the handoff inside out of I-formation. I’ve seen other teams run it, but nobody netter than the Saints.

Another thing the Saints do as well as anyone – Brees throwing those comebacks or hooks or other quick turn routes in the seam against zone defenses. He’s so good at ignoring and evading pressure, and anticipating the timing on longer routes.

Oakland Raiders 13 at Tennessee Titans 38

Tom Gower: I've spent a lot of time kvetching about the Titans always having the outside receiver run a deep comeback when they boot, so it was nice to see Nate Washington get a long touchdown off of a bootleg on a go pattern.

Javon Ringer's TD run came when tight end Craig Stevens motioned in to the backfield to create a full house look. The Titans have also run the counter option three times, I think, which is more than they ran it in any single game last year.

Nnamdi Asomugha is completely invisible on passing downs-it really is like playing 10v10. I'm starting to think that makes him a lot less valuable than Revis, just because Revis is actively involved in so many plays.

Darren McFadden looks like by far the Raiders' most dangerous offensive weapon, while Zach Miller hasn't had any impact yet. I'm not sure if that says more about Miller and McFadden or the Titans' linebackers. Between Campbell's tendency to check down and the Raiders' JV wideouts, they may end up throwing deep less than any other team this year.

Carolina Panthers 18 at New York Giants 31

Doug Farrar: Matt Moore really impressed me on the first-quarter pick to Deon Grant -- that was the first throw I've ever seen into quintuple coverage.

Indianapolis Colts 24 at Houston Texans 34

Doug Farrar: The Colts have been treading the fine line of demarcation between Peyton Manning's excellence and that shaky pass pro for years, and this may be the year that the thing topples over to the wrong side. Texans getting pretty easy pressure early on. It will be interesting to see how Indy adjusts. I liked how they came out bunch left on the first play, but they didn't have time to take advantage of it.

Ben Muth: Peyton Manning looks like he's another drop or broken route away from murdering Pierre Garcon on the field. And as I'm typing this he throws a TD to old reliable Reggie Wayne.

Vince Verhei: Garcon redeemed himself somewhat with a one-handed catch on a corner route to set up a field goal near the end of the half, but the Colts are forcing him the ball -- a team-high eight targets at halftime -- and he's got three catches, 43 yards (26 on that one play) to show for it. Texans up 13-10 at the half.

In field-goal range, Houston goes for it on fourth-and-1. It looks like the Colts have Arian Foster boxed in, but he bounces outside, where Andre Johnson has blocked his man off the screen, and the Texans convert. Two third-down conversions later, he runs it in for one yard. Drive killed about half of the third quarter. Houston up 20-10.

Ben Muth: Joseph Addai looks really good. He's running well, catching the ball, and picking up blitzes. I have no idea what his stat line is, but he's played a heck of a game. The Colts line looks awful however.

Vince Verhei: Colts remember that Brian Cushing is out, the short zones are vulnerable, and start Addai-ing and Clark-ing their way down the field. In terms of yards, it's one of their better drives of the day. Once they cross midfield, though, drive stalls and a Mario Williams sack on third down forces a punt.

Remember when Houston drafted Williams and said they specifically wanted him to put pressure on Manning? Earlier they showed a graphic saying he had sacked Manning 5 1/2 times in his career, which was more than anyone else. I'm trying to decide if that should count as a success or not.

Will Carroll: Really, Ben? I'm seeing the same limited Addai. He's pass blocking, but he's got no burst, no vision and he's not been able to protect Manning because he can only pick up one guy. The fact that Brown hasn't touched the field is interesting.

Colts look awful, just awful, and this one has to go on Polian. He called out the line and did nothing - NOTHING - to strengthen it.

I don't buy the "no Sanders and the defense fails" thing either. They played without him a lot and Bullett's not doing much different that I can see.

I want to hold up the coronation of Arian Foster, too. He's good, yes, but the Colts aren't good either.

Ben Muth: I think he's ran hard and gotten what little was available. The burst isn't great, but I think it's been decent enough. Brown hasn't played since he let Mario Williams come free in the second quarter. The entire line slid to the right leaving Williams for the back. Brown decided to run into the tackle's back instead. I don't think they trust him in protection.

Atlanta Falcons 9 at Pittsburgh Steelers 15

Bill Barnwell: Steelers are using Ike Redman as a short-yardage back early, not just as a guy near the goal line. He converted the first two chances he got, the Steelers were effective running the ball with Mendenhall, and then the drive stalled when the Falcons rushed three and Kroy Biermann outworked the right tackle and got Dixon to scramble prematurely. That's going to be a book on the Steelers without Roethlisberger if that continues to be the case. (Admittedly, sample size: one)

Seems like every pass the Falcons throw is a deep out to Roddy White. Steelers are almost exclusively lining up McFadden against him (not sure if it's a side thing or a matchup thing), but White's been pretty well contained.

Ben Muth: Troy Polamalu just picked off the 30th deep out intended for Roddy White. Great play by a guy who just knew what was coming.

Rough stretch for the Steelers after the pick, though. Missed field goal by Reed, followed by losing the coin toss. Momentum is not on their side.

Bill Barnwell: Rashard Mendenhall busts a 50-yard run out in overtime for the winner in Pittsburgh. Pretty bland game with two offenses that weren't really playing all that well. Great work by Ziggy Hood, who looks to be the next great defensive lineman in Pittsburgh, and he'll need to be -- Casey Hampton went down during the game.

Miami Dolphins 15 at Buffalo Bills 10

Bill Barnwell: Bills' pass defense looks really good in the second half against the Dolphins. Bunch of passes defensed in a row. Unfortunately, the offense can't do anything.

Detroit Lions 14 at Chicago Bears 19

Mike Kurtz: One drive in, and this looks like Martz's offense, and is being executed well. Jay Cutler went 3-of-4, and the incompletion was a perfect throw in the end zone that Devin Aromashodu simply dropped. Ended up with a field goal, but a really pretty drive to start the season.

Cutler with an awful series, lots of rollouts resulting in throws away or running out of bounds, followed by a bad throw down the middle into double coverage. One tip drill later, Lions have it in Chicago territory.

Doug Farrar: Meanwhile, Ndamukong Suh is looking pretty scary inside. Drawing double teams and still collapsing the interior line. He was doing that play after play against the Browns in preseason, so it isn't just the Bears' crappy line. You don't throw names like Joe Greene's around willy-nilly, but that's what I see with this guy.

Bill Barnwell: Julius Peppers just extended a Lions drive with a shot to Stafford's head on third down. Well, you can't say he's being lazy.

And that drive just culminated with a Jahvid Best TD on a nice little counter play with Stephen Peterman leading the way.

Doug Farrar: Now THAT’s how you run wide in the red zone, kids. Shotgun, three-wide, and Best getting to that hole in a big hurry. This is why I can’t drink the Forte Kool-Aid in his current offense – Forte is a glider, and you need to be a slasher when the gaps open and close as quickly as they do with a bad line.

Mike Kurtz: Olsen and Forte feel left out, chime in with a pair of fumbles in Lions territory. The Bears are shooting themselves in the foot and wasting a pretty good performance by Cutler and the defense thus far.

Stafford's throwing shoulder injured at the end of the half, still in the locker room at the start of the third quarter. Shaun Hill's in.

With all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Bears' pass blocking, the Achilles heel of the bears offense today has been the run blocking. It's been atrocious, and that's two goal-line drives where Forte got stuffed multiple times. Just pathetic.

Bill Barnwell: There are a lot of situations where teams should go for it on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line. Down one point in the fourth quarter against a team that can't move the ball is not one of them. You have to kick there. Have to.

Ben Muth: That call by Lovie Smith is the kind of thing that gets coaches fired.

Mike Kurtz: Yeah. In the fourth quarter, down by 1, your opponent without their starting quarterback, with no first downs in the second half, with about 100 yards through the first 55 minutes of the game. Not taking the lead is beyond insane. Insane doesn't cover it. You need a new word, like mega-davis.

Cutler and Forte bail Lovie out. From the 20: false start, followed by -3 yard run by Taylor (Taylor? What?), followed by a brilliant 23-yard TD pass to Forte on a wheel route. Forte also lands on his head, but eh, who cares. Lovie comes to his senses enough to try for 2 to make it a 7-point game, but that fails.

Bill Barnwell: My lord. The Lions proceed to drive 60 yards and then hit Calvin Johnson with a lob in the end zone, but as Johnson falls down, the ball hits the ground and he lets go of it. Clearly a catch in any reality besides the one Calvin Johnson currently plays in.

Vince Verhei: He had both feet, one knee, and his ass on the ground before the ball came out. Catch all the way.

Cincinnati Bengals 24 at New England Patriots 38

Aaron Schatz: Here's a hint: If the Patriots line up a trips bunch formation with the trips bunch way out on the edge, and two of the guys in the trips are tight ends, and the third is Wes Welker, you can probably count on a screen pass to Wes Welker.

Fred Taylor surprisingly nimble getting through holes early. Patriots using double tight ends on nearly every play, partly because they have only four active wide receivers, and one of those is Matt Slater who is basically just a special teams guy. They're actually putting Slater out there as a receiver but I am guessing he won't get thrown to all day.

Kevin Faulk is having a bad day so far, he's dropped two passes that would have converted third down. First one was a little high, but he should have had it. Second one he lost his footing while trying to catch.

The Bengals are doing an excellent job covering the Patriots on deep throws, with Chris Crocker making a great play to slap away a deep pass to Randy Moss, then Leon Hall just staying with Wes Welker and slapping away a touchdown in the end zone.

Patriots offense was hitting on all cylinders today. Pretty much everything worked except for deep throws. So I think that Joseph and Hall had reasonable games, but the Cincinnati front seven was really disappointing. They couldn't get any pass pressure and they let the Patriots gain a lot of yardage on the ground as well, with Taylor slipping through a lot of holes plus a couple of Faulk draws.

As for the Bengals offense, they looked like the offensive line had given back all the improvement from a year ago. The Patriots had much more pass pressure on Palmer than anyone would have expected, and Cedric Benson was mostly stuffed at the line. Later on, Bernard Scott had some better runs and the announcers were praising his speed, but I think it may have had less to do with Scott's talent as opposed to Benson's, and more to do with the fact that the Pats were winning by two or three touchdowns at this point and were playing more conservatively on defense.

By the way, the point of motion is often to force the defense to show you what they are doing, right? The Bengals ran a lot of a formation today that started out as full house, but then one of the up tight ends would motion to the standard tight end spot on the other side. I was trying to figure out what that's supposed to show. Maybe if the linebackers slightly shift it shows they are in zone coverage? Other ideas, anyone?

Cleveland Browns 14 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17

Bill Barnwell: Peyton Hillis fumbles in Tampa Bay. Jerome Harrison could have done that.

David Gardner: Cadillac Williams is getting no help from his offensive line, but he looks fast and his cuts are strong. He's running well in space.

Jake Delhomme is playing exactly how you'd expect -- he's being reckless with the football. He gave the Bucs the ball at the 3-yard line via an interception at the end of the first half. This let the Bucs tie it up and kept them in the game on the second half.

Josh Freeman showed both sides of himself on the last drive. On consecutive plays, he overthrew a wide open Mike Williams which would have put the ball at the 3-yard line, then he hit a well covered Micheal Spurlock for the winning score.

Mike Tanier: It was a vintage Delhomme game. You had one great touchdown pass, a few good decisions early, and then this long pseudo-Favre unraveling. The highlights will show the interceptions. They won't show the pistol offense rollout play where, at the last second with no one open, he tries to option-pitch the ball about six yards backward. The only person who looked more like Jake than Jake today was Matt Moore.

Also, someone verify this for me: when the Browns ran the Josh Cribbs Senecat, they ran Seneca Wallace in for Delhomme, then put Wallace at wide receiver. You know, to tip the defense that they were up to something. I didn't know you could do something that inane without Michael Vick being involved.

San Francisco 49ers 6 at Seattle Seahawks 31

Vince Verhei: Ladies and gentlemen, Seattle's starting left tackle to open the 2010 season: Tyler Polumbus.

First play from scrimmage: Matt Hasselbeck is intercepted.

49ers score five plays and 24 yards later, although the touchdown is being reviewed.

This all happened before the sports bar even had a chance to put the game on. Has a season ever been lost before anyone even saw it?

Touchdown is reversed, and the Seahawks defense stiffens. 49ers kick a field goal to go up 3-0. There's still hope, I suppose.

Doug Farrar: Alex Smith checking down on third-and-goal. Some things never change.

On the third play of their second drive, the Seahawks motion to what I guess I would have to call a quad right -- four receivers bunched in a diamond shape -- with three heading out and Deion Branch staying behind for the quick screen. Gain of 3. I'm not sure that one wasn't from the Greg Knapp cookbook.

Vince Verhei: 49ers drive down inside the 10. On third-and-1, they go with an unbalanced line, and then run to the weak side. Gore is predictably stuffed. They go for it on fourth-and-1. Play-action, and Moran Norris is wide-open in the flat ... and Smith throws too high. Norris gets his fingers on it, but can't pull it in.

Most positive sign for Seattle so far: A defensive back keeps coming up from deep in the secondary and making plays. Is this one of those "safeties" I've heard so much about? In Seattle, safeties are usually only seen missing tackles and chasing receivers into the end zone. Earl Thomas is like a drink of fresh water.

Seahawks' third drive ends with more cuteness: A screen pass in which Justin Forsett catches the ball on the left side of the field, but all his blockers are still in the middle. The big men scramble over and try to throw blocks, but it's too little, too late. Three possessions, one interception, two punts, no first downs.

Doug Farrar: And a string of boos from the Qwest Faithful. Being in the press box for a game like this is like outfitting your media room with the best possible home entertainment armada and showing "Dude, Where's My Car?" to break everything in.

Yeah, Thomas is looking good out there. As a tackler, he's much more efficiently aggressive early on than I thought he would be from his college tape.

Bill Barnwell: 49ers have gone for it on three fourth downs now. The first one was a Smith air mail, the second was a converted pass to Michael Crabtree, and the third ended up being a delay of game. Eighth-least likely team to go for it on fourth down last year. Interesting.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks score a go-ahead touchdown on a one-yard Hasselbeck rollout keeper. Play was set up by a beautifully timed out-and-up to Mike Williams. Hasselbeck's pump fake and Williams' route had Nate Clements looking like a fool.

Alex Smith throws what should have been a third-down conversion, but the pass bounces off the receiver and into the hands of Jordan Babineaux. Seahawks score again on the next play, and it looks like a replay of the Williams catch: Pump fake, hitch-and-go, wide-open receiver. This time it's Deon Butler. Seahawks have been outgained by 70 yards, but they're up 14-6 on turnovers and red-zone execution.

Doug Farrar: What on earth was Tarell Brown doing on that touchdown? Giving Butler directions to the end zone?

Vince Verhei: So, after I wrote them off, the Seahawks have spent the entire game making me look silly. Or at least, Alex Smith has. He's who-was-he- throwing-to? bad. Every team will have miscommunication once in a while, but Smith has lost the benefit of the doubt by now -- his passes are landing between receivers, going to the wrong shoulder, hitting the turf with no 49ers in sight. One pass went several yards above and behind Michael Crabtree and into the arms of Marcus Trufant, who took it to the house. It's kind of embarrassing.

Doug Farrar: Smith is throwing like hell -- a bunch of checkdowns in dumb situations and OB misfires off of rollouts -- but it's also pretty obvious that he and Crabtree are not on the same page.

Vince Verhei: It's also important to remember that San Francisco got inside the 10 three times in the first half and came away with six points. This could easily be 28-17 or 28-21 right now, and a totally different game.

Doug Farrar: I think Seattle's defense may be a bit better than expected, because a.) they finally have a safety with range, and b.) they're using 5-2 fronts pretty judiciously and making them work. But every San Francisco projection in the world ends with, "...if Alex Smith can prove that he's at least a replacement-level NFL quarterback." So far, no good.

And there's your Tyler Polumbus moment, Vince -- late in the third quarter, he gets abused by Travis LaBoy and gives up a sack. It's not often you hear the term "abused by Travis LaBoy," which adds further credence to the thoughts of one Mr. Barnwell on the Polumbus situation.

Vince Verhei: I am watching Derek Anderson and Alex Smith on two side-by-side TVs. This is opening weekend, right? They didn't extend the exhibition season by a week?

Bill Barnwell: Are you a UFL scout?

Green Bay Packers 27 at Philadelphia Eagles 20

David Gardner: Rough start for Aaron Rodgers. On the first series, he takes a sack and it looks like he's facemasked. Then he throws the most ridiculous interception of the season, which was almost intercepted by an Eagles' DB, then tipped into the hands of another.

Bill Barnwell: Leonard Weaver just suffered a gruesome knee injury. Couldn't put any weight on it whatsoever. Players were praying on the field. Weaver was in tears as he was being carried off.

Will Carroll: Weaver's injury was McCallum-esque.

Mike Tanier: Local media already says Weaver is out for the year. I agree. The whole sports bar gasped. I never want to see the replay again.

BTW, the local radio sideline report is sponsored by both Grey Goose and Jack Daniels. Because you have to have all your bases covered, binging-wise.

David Gardner: Kevin Kolb seems like he's trying to force the ball to DeSean Jackson, which is fine for my fantasy team, but not good for the Eagles.

Aaron Schatz: I think Aikman and Buck are right that the Eagles seem to be using the Vick package a little too much today, but in the first quarter they showed the perfect place where it makes sense. Vick came in on third-and-25 or so, with the goal being to get into field goal range. I don't have numbers on this, it is a guess on my part, but I think mobile quarterbacks like that are probably your best bet to get 10-15 yards on a third down with 20 or more to go, because they can take off but eventually someone is going to get to them.

Sean McDermott's Eagles throwback long sleeve t-shirt coaches wear may be the coolest item of clothing I have ever seen a coach wear on the sidelines. I want one. I wonder if the Eagles could go to the kelly green full-time but make it look more modern by, perhaps, outlining the numbers and the helmet wings in black?

Ryan Grant is slicing through the Eagles in the second quarter. He's getting some very large holes. For all their pass-blocking problems, which have been very evident today, the Packers have had very good consistent run blocking for about a year and a half now. Unfortunately, after looking excellent on three straight runs, Grant had some sort of foot injury and had to come off.

Mike Kurtz: There are going to be like 5 players standing by the end of GB/PHI. Crazy.

Tom Gower: Stewart Bradley just tried to be another football hero with a head injury. He goes head-first for a tackle on Jennings, gets shaken up, then tries to walk off the field before stumbling. He goes down but tries to get his teammates to help him up before they sensibly decide to wait for the trainers to check him out.

Bill Barnwell: He's back in two plays later. Are you kidding me?

Will Carroll: No. There was a call for leading with helmet early in Colts game, but it was blatant, spearing-style and right in front of Hochuli. I don't see any real difference in how the PLAYERS and coaches are dealing with head injuries.

Aaron Schatz: At some point, I would love to do an interview series where we ask NFL scouting directors what they missed about guys they drafted high who didn't work out, and what everybody else missed about guys they picked up undrafted who became good starters. If we ever do it, we can start with Brandon Jackson and Ryan Grant. I definitely agree with the general FO view that running backs are fungible, but they aren't all completely equal, and there's no question that Grant just looks much, much better and performs a lot better behind the same line. What did scouts miss about Grant and Jackson coming out of school that Grant went undrafted and Jackson went in the second round?

Mike Tanier: The Eagles are still in the game at half because their front seven is very fast, the Packers tackles are old, and Sav Rocca is punting his Aussie foot off. I think Juqua Parker may be the best player ever to be replaced every single year.

Bill Barnwell: Kolb out with a concussion in Philly, so Michael Vick's in. Charles Woodson with just an amazing strip of Eldra Buckley as Buckley was falling down.

Mike Tanier: Oh great, Vick at quarterback for how long? Two games? Three? My cup runneth over.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots fans may recognize the Ellis Hobbs "let a guy run past you with no contact" technique used on the third-quarter Greg Jennings touchdown that made it 27-10. And when Bill Simmons reads this sentence in Audibles, he will light himself on fire.

Mike Tanier: This kid Buckley is one of those hard-hitting clueless guys. Ryan Moats Junior. Doesn't know a fair catch when he sees one. This is shaping up to be an unmitigated disaster.

Mike Kurtz: The more we see Green Bay vs. Vick, it's clear that they didn't have a real "Vick" plan. He's been getting huge gains on the ground and some modest success in the air because Green Bay is playing Vick the exact same way they were playing Kolb. No extensive spying, no zone blitzing, nothing. And while Green Bay is still in command, Vick has really made them pay.

Aaron Schatz: Here's a surprise: in the fourth quarter, Vick seems to have suddenly discovered his accuracy. He's whipping it in there, and whipping it into the right places. Maybe a little low sometimes, but not totally off like a couple of his early throws.

Vince Verhei: Part of it is what Kurtz said about GB not having a Vick plan. Part of it is just that Vick is having one of his good games. He's had plenty of 60-percent completion rate games. The problem is, he usually followed them with 40-percent completion games. It's not that he was never good, it's just that he was usually bad, and you never knew which Vick you were getting. (Although Bad Vick was a safer bet.)

Bill Barnwell: Yeah. In games with 15 attempts or more, Vick's had a completion percentage of 60 percent or more just about 35 percent of the time. He's also been below 50 percent 35 percent of the time.

Mike Kurtz: Green Bay is now going to ignore its greatest strength, the passing game, and run telegraphed power rushes in an attempt to eat up 5 minutes. This is not going to happen.

Mike Tanier: Part of it is the lack of a "Vick plan," as you said. Part is that the Eagles offensive line is playing better now that Jamaal Jackson left the game and the team is paying more attention to interior protection.

Vince Verhei: The entire Green Bay defense is exhausted. they were not prepared to chase this man for nearly a full game.

And then on fourth-and-1 with the game on the line, they run Vick into the line for no game. Gee, I wonder if the Packers may have been expecting that?

Arizona Cardinals 17 at St. Louis Rams 13

Ben Muth: After trying to throw the ball for most of the first half, the Cardinals commit to running it and go right down the field for 6.

Like the Rams call to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the one. They ran a nice play action rollout for the score to tie it up going into the half. Bradford looks pretty good.

Mike Tanier: This big lineman Clifton Ryan, 324 pounds, starts rumbling for an apparent touchdown. Steve Breaston Beebe's him and punches the ball out at the one-yard line. Cardinals recover for a touchback. Futility, thy name is the Rams.

Ben Muth: Bill Bidwell may want to offer Kurt Warner ten percent of the franchise to get him back. Larry Fitzgerald does not look thrilled with Anderson.

Bill Barnwell: Neither team in Rams-Cardinals deserves much more than scorn. It's been a pretty ugly football game.

Doug Farrar: When we’re to the point where we’re saying, “You know, Max Hall looked pretty darned good in the preseason…” we know we’re in a lot of quarterback trouble.

Aaron Schatz: Has Bradford been missing guys high like this all day?

Ben Muth: He started off bad, found a little bit of a groove before the half, and has been shaky since coming back out for the second half.

Vince Verhei: Does Sam Bradford know that he has timeouts? And that he is allowed to use them to stop the clock? This is one horrendous one-minute drill right here. Ten seconds to go and the Rams still have two timeouts left. They've been scrambling around like ants as the seconds have ticked away.

Dallas Cowboys 7 at Washington Redskins 13

Aaron Schatz: The good news is that Trent Williams is doing a pretty good job of holding off DeMarcus Ware. The bad news is that the Redskins should never, ever let anyone else try to block DeMarcus Ware.

Egads, Dallas. Please stop with the quick hitches and screens to Dez Bryant. You aren't fooling the Redskins here. They see them all coming, and on top of that, the guys moving out to block on the screens have done a bad job. Stop already.

Bill Barnwell: Great decision by Marion Barber to throw that halfback pass away. There was nothing there and he didn't force it. Simple play, but pretty huge downside there.

Mike Tanier: I have to diagram that Haynesworth sideline thing. Hold on.

Aaron Schatz: Romo is just totally off today, and it is clearly the pressure. Between this game and the Colts loss, I think we've demonstrated that you need to have a somewhat passable offensive line to maintain an offensive juggernaut.

Bill Barnwell: I don't know. The Cowboys are moving the ball pretty well most of the time, but then they end up running some stupid smoke to Bryant or a run play gets blown up for a loss on second down and they end up in a third-and-long and can't convert.

Aaron Schatz: Even a couple of those throws, though, the reason why they can't get yardage on them after the catch is that they are off a little bit. But yeah, I guess looking at the numbers he has more completions than I would have thought.

A Tony Romo-Tashard Choice lateral play with four seconds left before the half ends in disaster for the Cowboys...

Mike Tanier: Oh, that was vintage.

Aaron Schatz: The problem with the gunslinger mentality: Under pressure, you start to think things like, "hey, if I just flip the ball to that back over there, maybe he can weave through guys for 80 yards" without thinking "hey, if I flip the ball to that back over there, maybe it gets stripped and we are oompa loompa dupity-screwed."

Ben Muth: More games are lost than won in the first week.

Mike Kurtz: I agree with Rodney Harrison. That was the dumbest play I have ever seen.

Mike Tanier: In fairness, the back needs to know to just go down or out of bounds, not to tempt the big-play minded showoff cornerback into trying to strip the ball.

Especially if the back is the third guy in a three-man committee.

Bill Barnwell: Bad scene, everyone's fault.

Aaron Schatz: Boy oh boy, the Cowboys are getting sweet coverage tonight. The Redskins offensive line is doing a pretty good job of containing the pass rush but the Cowboys defensive backs seem like they are on top of nearly everything.

The Redskins take a successful field goal off the board to accept an offsides penalty and then promptly botch the snap on a field goal attempt several plays later.

Mike Tanier: That botched field goal looks like it could be the turning point.

Romo just threw a little smoke route to Roy Williams on 1st-and-10. No one blocked on it (it wasn't a screen, just a quick pass to an uncovered receiver), and Williams' body language suggested that he had no interest in catching the pass or trying to gain yards after the catch. He kind-of waited to get wrapped at the ankles, braced himself by leaning on the defender, and fell forward. I love watching him play.

Oooh, penalty on Alex Barron! I think Orakpo has drawn two tonight.

Aaron Schatz: The holding on Barron is followed by a false start on Doug Free that makes it third-and-26. You all thought that the second flag would also be Barron, didn't you? I know I did.

Bill Barnwell: Impressive drive here by the Redskins to try and close this game out. Really simple stuff, runs up the middle with effective blocking and good pass protection on low-risk passes to Cooley and Moss. Of course, then Larry Johnson runs a sweep out of bounds.

Aaron Schatz: By the way, how many times tonight has Cris Collinsworth said "Boy, it's starting to look like Shanahan's offense now, isn't it?" Maybe eight? Nine? Is it up to ten yet?

Mike Tanier: You know, this is one of the best games I have ever seen DeAngelo Hall have.

Bill Barnwell: Hall's had a great game, especially tackling on the edges -- whole Redskins team has tackled well.

Oh my, that's an awful time for a blown coverage by the Redskins.

Aaron Schatz: Somehow, needing to hold Dallas under 10 yards on one last play, the Redskins end up with two guys covering Jason Witten and zero covering Miles Austin.

Mike Kurtz: Of course, the game ends on a holding by Alex Barron that calls back a touchdown.

Doug Farrar: Holy crap – that was like three holds in one. They should start the next Cowboys game with a holding penalty on Barron just for the hell of it.

Tim Gerheim: Odds are they will.

Bill Barnwell: You know, Bobby Carpenter's not very good, but he never cost the Cowboys a win by himself.

Mike Kurtz: It should be mentioned that there was no TD throw absent the hold. Without the mugging it would just be a sack at the end, lots of finger-pointing, and a big postgame meltdown.

Mike Tanier: So, the difference of this game was the Romo-to-Choice bad choice at the end of the half. How mind-boggling.


Doug Farrar: A few Microsoft Word copy/paste macros I'm working on already (feel free to add to the list):

"Greg Camarillo would have gotten that one." "Jay Cutler forced out of the pocket." "Jim Mora is annoying the crap out of me."

Mike Kurtz: Tony Dungy Sounds Like 1920s Man: "My big winner is the Houston Texans football team."

Good that he clarified that, I thought he was talking about the ice cream stand.

Vince Verhei: Early nominee for best commercial of the year: Ray Lewis' Old Spice ad. Either of them.

Early nominee for worst commercial of the year: The Survivor ad featuring a shirtless Jimmy Johnson.


192 comments, Last at 16 Sep 2010, 2:31pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Living in Mexico, I don't get to see the commercials, but I will add Troy P's Head and Shoulders' spot--I laughed--and HE is DEFINITELY the guy to do it.
Regarding the games, what happened to all the QB's this offseason? Even the good ones didn't look good yesterday (admittedly, I didn't see Manning or Brady--although Manning looked like he got some good YAC and/or hands from his receivers).

Does anyone else agree with me that these week 1 games make the 18-regular-games/2-preseason-games scenario look REALLY STUPID? Favre looked rusty--whole TEAMS looked like they still need a couple more weeks--and although Revis is great, he will probably look bad tonight--he admitted himself that he feels rusty in PK's MMQB.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I agree that the 18-game schedule is pretty stupid, but for different reasons. Considering how much time the starters play in the pre-season, and how little they play their usual gameplans in those games, I don't see plus/minus two preseason games making a huge difference in preparedness. The preseason games are probably more important in terms of evaluating the 3rd and 4th stringers. It takes teams a good half a season to sort of figure out who they are and what they can do that year -- I believe that's why it's called "midseason form."

I think the real argument against an 18 game season is the number of guys gone down with injuries already this season. Overall team health is already a huge factor in determining a team's success, and adding two games to the season will only make the NFL even more of a battle of attrition. If they're going to go to 18 games, they'll need to rejigger the way they handle injuries and roster spots, so that guys who get hurt in weeks one and two can come back in weeks 17 and 18 without taking up a roster spot for the interceding 16 games.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I watched the whole of Texans-Colts (twice, actually) and Manning was most definitely still Manning. His receivers were getting open a fair amount against the Texans' inexperienced secondary, but Garcon dropped several catchable balls, including one in the end zone and (more importantly) the Texans D-line in general and Mario Williams in particular were just abusing the Colts offensive line. Manning only took two sacks, thanks to his amazing awareness and quick release, but he was hit and hurried constantly. Williams and Smith are a very good end combination, and Charles Johnson was playing hurt, but even so it's possible that the Colts offensive line has crossed a crucial tipping point into "so bad even Manning can't make them look competent" territory.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Actually, with the exception of the garbage time 73 yard catch and [mostly] run, Manning may have gotten negative YAC. It seemed like every single throw lost yards due to a stupid decision after the catch to come back or run sideways rather than turn up the field.

And no, not good hands either. Garcon was in prime ball-dropping mode for most of the first half (then, just to mock us, it seems, he made a sweet one handed catch).

His game wasn't anywhere near as good as it looks on fantasy scoreboards, of course, and it took that last play to get him up over 7YPA, but it was pretty impressive nonetheless. I consider it nothing short of miraculous that he didn't have a turnover or three. I'm not sure any other QB could've done that, and I'm not sure he could reproduce that more than once in ten tries. He had NO pocket whatsoever. It was amazing. Even on the plays where he didn't get hit it was like he was standing inside a phone booth. Yet the closest he came to a pick was when he got his feet caught and missed, but he missed so that Pollard (I think) had no chance to land in bounds.

One of my random pre-season calls was that Manning would hit the dirt more in September than all of last year and that his INT total would be unacceptably high. The first part may have come true on September 12th. Loads and loads of respect to him for avoiding bad decisions yesterday in what might be considered excusable situations.

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

You're forgetting the play where Manning was hit as he threw and the ball ended up underthrown and landed right in Glover Quin's breadbasket deep on the right sideline, but Garcon made a great play to get back and knock it out for an incompletion.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I don't disagree with that, but the guy I was replying to was commenting on the good quarterbacks not playing well. Brady wasn't guilty of that; he was excellent.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Mike Vick might be the perfect backup quarterback: as well as his running and his arm, he's left-handed. Just about as different from the average starter as you can imagine. Would I want him starting on my team? No. The same old problems showed up with accuracy and seeing the field.

Last year, the Packers lost a game to a mobile QB they weren't ready for — and Josh Freeman had a lot worse support cast than Vick. Yesterday it didn't help that Green Bay down to two active defensive linemen for a time, before Cullen Jenkins returned with his hand wrapped in a sort of fat cudgel. Dom Capers basically had his defense run all kinds of novelty stunts to try to get to Vick without allowing him to leave the pocket: it must have looked like an air display from the balloon camera. Alas, it wasn't very successful.

However, Frank Zombo has the best name of any Packer since Hannibal Navies.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

You can do anything with Zombo. Anything at all. The only limit is yourself. The infinite is possible. The unobtainable is unknown.

(reference for those not familiar: -- make sure you have sound on and just let it run).

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Since day one? He's not a Vick-type running threat, but the guy's big, strong, and moves pretty well. He's not the kind of guy whose mobility requires you to game-plan around and provide an LB spy or something, but he's a far cry from a guy like Leftwich.

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

How is it the Packers weren't ready for Vick? Did they think he wasn't going to get on the field at all? He was in on the first snap and he's going to get touches in every game. I think teams would have been preparing for that.

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

A major part of the problem was they choose to only have 4 d-lineman active since they planned to play almost all nickle/dime. Then Jenkins broke his hand and Harrell blew out his knee before the first quarter was over. So then they were down to Raji, Pickett, and Jenkins with a big club cast. So yeah, the D-line kinda got tired.

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Not to mention Clay Matthews and Brad Jones (the other starting OLB) missing most of the preseason with injuries, leaving their conditioning levels a little less than they would like for the regular season.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Looks like Bill and Vince are confused between what they believe the rules should be and what the rules are. If Johnson isn’t already starting to run over to the stands to yell some version of “everybody look at me,” then he doesn’t put the ball on the ground and Detroit wins.

Saying the dogkiller looked better than Kevin Kolb is like saying Jay Cutler looks better than Rex Grossman. It may be true, but it doesn’t mean anything.

I totally disagree with the assessment of Bradford. He may have some growing pains, but he looks like he’s going to be a stud. He made some amazing throws. Converted 3rd & 10+ twice. I questioned him, bigtime before the draft, but the Rams look like they have a keeper. And I also thought it was a pretty good game, in general. I had all 3 late games on the big screen in front of me, and found myself paying more attention to this game than the other 2 combined.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I agree, I watched more of the Rams/Cards game than I wanted to, but Bradford is showing alot of promise. He (for the most part) made good reads/decisions. I was impressed with his accuracy on alot of throws, too. Only problem I saw was when the Cards brought pressure, he got shaky and would throw the ball too quickly to anyone, no matter how covered, just to avoid the hit.

Plus, he has no weapons out there. Mark Clayton is the only decent WR he has. I can't count how many drops his receivers had (he did make some bad throws, not denying that). They couldn't run the ball at all either, so he ended up throwing 55 times in his NFL debut. I was impressed for the most part. I'm not crowning him yet, but he shows promise.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I wrote this in the PK thread too, but implying that Johnson let go of the ball early because he wanted to celebrate is silly. He had caught the ball, gotten both feet down, gotten knocked over, and was sitting on his butt on the ground, all while holding the ball. Then he let go of the ball in the process of standing back up. Do you want him to take the ball all the way back to the sidelines with him?

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

No. He just needs to hold on long enough to show that he still has control of it after the ball touched the ground. That's the rule. Sure, it seems like an absurd technicality nullified a TD, but "technicalities" like that are an inevitability of having rules. The "I know a catch when I see one" standard would end up being much more controversial, and that's what you'd get if you changed the rules the way a lot of pundits are suggesting following this call yesterday.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

The first part is correct - he didn't drop it because he was too eager to celebrate.

But he most definitely was not "in the process of standing back up" when it happened; the ball comes loose the moment it hits the ground, while his arm is still "falling" (for lack of a better term) as part of him coming down from his leap and contact.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

He wasn't sitting on the ground, he used the ball to stop his momentum going down and in the same movement get up. Jim Schwartz said it best: "you have to finish with the football".

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

If he had been sitting on his butt, you would have a point. But he bounced on his butt and continued to roll. He did not come to a stop or get to his feet until after the ball was out.

The best case for the catch would be this: when he landed on his butt, the play was over, because all his subsequent actions were not caused or influenced by being hit and knocked down. The problem is that it doesn't look that way on the replay, and the next reasonable moment to call the end of the catch is when he rolled over and put the ball on the ground - and lost/gave up control of it.

Too bad, really. The rest of the catch was a thing of beauty. But the decision to steady himself with the ball was a bad one. If he did it solely to help roll to his feet for a celebration, then it was a really bad one.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I think the problem was that Johnson didn't realize that in that situation, he had to get back up with the ball still in his hand. He let go of it at a point where the play wasn't over, so it became an incomplete pass: correct to the letter of the rule, regardless of how stupid the rule has been shown to be. (His postgame quote seems to confirm this, but then I don't know if any player would come right out and say yeah, I didn't really catch it anyway, so whatever.)

I don't think possession itself was ever a problem. I think he had a firm grip on the ball with his hand until he chose to let go of it ... of course I can't say for sure, and I can't imagine doing it myself because my hands are apparently half as big as his. But it's possible that because he did touch it to the ground, if he'd returned to his feet to "complete" the catch, upon review they might have reversed it. I don't know that you could assume he had control of the ball. (Then again, if it were a TD in that hypothetical situation, I don't know that touching the ball to the ground in one hand would be enough to demonstrate lack of possession ... remember this is if he had come back to his feet still holding the ball.)

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

So the implication is that if a player catches the ball and falls down in the endzone, the defender NEEDS to hit him as hard as he can to jar the ball loose, right?

"Just look at that pumpkin."
-John Madden, looking at the moon.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I don't think you're really wrong about all that, zlionsfan, but I will dispute the notion that Johnson "chose to let go"; when you watch the replay, as the ball hits the turf, it immediately scoots away from his hand. This means that he either timed his choice perfectly, or the ground had an effect. The simplest explanation would be the latter.

I think his choice may really have been in him not clutching the ball with the second hand, thinking he was in the clear. That seems more reasonable, based on the visual evidence.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

" I think he had a firm grip on the ball with his hand until he chose to let go of it"

Thats what I thought... and then I just watched the clip on He spins and catches the tip of the ball on the ground and it shoots out of his hand. He definitely doesn't "let go of it".

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I've watched it closely because of this debate, and I now think C.Johnson didn't let the ball go on purpose (and that's what I thought live). Look at the first angle, just after the ball leaves his hand, he has a small movement with his hand, like he's trying to get the ball back, and that small move is just IMO an indication that the ball left his hand by accident.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Him not realizing that he needed to keep the ball is about as excusable as Plaxico Burress not realizing he wasn't down after no one touched him and spiking the ball for a fumble.

And the rule has not been shown to be stupid. That's a label I'd associate more with the hysteria resulting from a game-deciding play where a very sensible rule, that you see pretty much every single game in the middle of the field and no one seemed to mind there, caused the result to differ from what people thought it was.

I'm sure you've seen multiple plays where a reciever makes a catch in the air, gets hit as he's coming down, falls down, has the ball pop out, a defender picks it up and then the play is stopped because it was correctly ruled an incompletion, not a catch and a fumble. This is done very consistently. In fact I'm trying to rememebr which game it was but I saw that very same play yesterday. And that is the "very stupid" rule you're trying to get rid off.

It's a very sensible, necessary rule for establishing posession that in this rare corner case, in part because of situation and in part because of psychology (it looks like he's setting it down and going up to celebrate, and I don't know how many people I have read state that he let it go after he was on his feet when, if you actually watch the re-play, the ball bounces out the second it touches the ground), has people up in arms.

Luckily, the league officials seem to be pretty aware of what the situation acutally is and I'm sure nothing will come of all this teeth-grinding.

- Alvaro

167 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

This is entirely different because it occurs in the end zone. This is also not a rare case - it was an issue at least 3-4 times last year. Being that 7 points are on the line, I would say that it's a problem that should be resolved by the league. Either qualify what "a football act"is or get rid of the stipulation entirely.

Also, everyone getting on Calvin Johnson for this should take a step back and appreciate what he accomplished on that play. Watch it in full-time and think about the athleticism required to do what he did. The only other guys in the league, that I can think of, who could make that catch would be Larry Fitzgerald, Moss and maybe Andre Johnson.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Agree on the Bradford, I watched a lot of the game on Red Zone and the kid can play. He looks better than any recent top QB pick I can think of, plus 'starters' like Kolb, Anderson, Smith, Moore, Dixon, Freeman, et al.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I get that nobody who doesn't root for one or other of the teams would have wanted to watch DEN-JAX, but putting an empty section up for it seems a little harsh.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

So far, FO is right about the importance of offensive continuity -- not believing there's any correlation between that and offensive success -- and San Francisco is wrong. Alex Smith does NOT look better for entering his first season in the NFL knowing the offensive system. He still looks bloody awful.

For most of one half, SF looked like the team we fans were hoping they could be. They ended up looking like the team in the FO Almanac. It was a twofer...I was able to jump to two opposite conclusions for the outcome of the season in just one game!

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I'm gutted abou the way the niners played last night, Smith missed several receivers and Crabtree was involved in/responsible for at two interceptions. Iupati played far too high and seemed very hesitant. The 49ers best hope was to keep the crowd out of the game but they screwed that up.

On the other hand if Morgan gets his second foot down and Smith makes a better throw to Norris (or Norris runs his route deeper or manages to catch the damn ball anyway) then the niners could easily have been 17-0 ahead and then the game would probably have had a different result.

I also wonder if the Seahawks were able to gain any advantage from having Jeff Ulbrich and Michael Robinson on their side. Two weeks ago Robinson was the 49ers first choice as Gore's backup and Ulbrich played in the 49ers' defensive scheme for two years. Both were key special teamers and are regarded as pretty smart players, Ulbrich used to be referred to as a coach on the field. At the start of the game Seattle did nothing with their first three drives and the niners marched to the goalline three times. After this, the niners could do nothing and Seattle took over. That seems just about the right amount of time for the Seahawks to recognise that they knew exactly what the niners were doing. This is just speculation but every time the camera cut to Carrol after a good Seattle defensive play he was stood laughing with Ulbrich. Maybe he always spends the entire game shooting the breeze with his assistant special teams coach, I just don't know. The other thing that stood out was that every Seattle kick-off was a line drive and the niners really struggled with them, given that Ulbrich and Robinson have been special teams captains for the niners that would be the sort of information they moght know. I'm not saying that if there is any truth to this then Seattle have done anything wrong, I'd expect almost any coach to do the same. I'm more annoyed with the niners coaches for not being a step ahead and this is all speculation anyway. Nothing about last night makes me any happier with the 49ers coaching staff.

Oh, one more thing, am I the only person that thought Clements got totally gipped when the receiver dragged his arm to prevent him gettting a pick and Clements was called for DPI?

To sum up the niners looked good for a quarter and then stank up the stadium in a perfect recreation of the kind of crap football they've been playing for years.

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Agreed, Alex Smith did as much to keep the 'Hawks in the game as anything the 'Hawks D might have done. Also agreed re: the Clements DPI call. I thought for sure that'd be OPI.

That said, the game clearly turned on solid in-game coaching adjustments made by Pete Carroll & co. (Disclaimer: I'm surprised to find myself typing that.) The 'Hawks started taking advantage of the gambling CBs by running double-move routes. The D committed to stopping Frank Gore and decided to gamble that Alex Smith wouldn't hit his receivers and/or that the the SF receivers wouldn't actually catch the ball.

Meanwhile, Singletary & co. didn't seem to have an answer. And they apparently had issues getting the play in to Alex Smith on time with some critical red-zone situations early in the game. Of course, it's not their fault that Smith couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

*looks at glass - decides that it is half full*

Well, it was a bad game from the niners, but I'm hoping that the running fail was more down to the Seahawks DLine being good, than the niners O-line being bad.

There were a couple of bad calls (the aforementioned Clements DPI/OPI being the worst) at critical times, but let's face it, the niners got a kicking.

Similar game last year was the Falcons game, which the niners recovered from - but if the 'hawks are as good as the Falcons were last year, then the niners are going to have to work very, very hard to win the division, and are not going to sneak into the playoffs with a wild card

All in all, in national Jump to Conclusions week - I've cleared the "Gonna be a long season" bar from a standing start...

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Yesterday was a very nice win to watch as a 'Hawks fan, but I'm still not convinced that this team can notch more than another 6 wins for the rest of the season (and I'm not sure they'll get there). If they play well in Denver this week, I'll start to think otherwise. I seem to recall that the 'Hawks started with a 28-0 shelling of the Rams last year, and fell apart afterward.

186 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Oh, one more thing, am I the only person that thought Clements got totally gipped when the receiver dragged his arm to prevent him gettting a pick and Clements was called for DPI?

I wasn't going to say anything, because these kinds of calls are depressing to relive, but yeah, from a 49er standpoint that was the turning point of the game. That play screwed up about four ways: 1) If Clements' arm doesn't get held, he likely intercepts the pass and returns it for a great distance, 2) he was held, though, so it should have been a flag against Seattle for OPI, forcing them to punt, 3) failing that, there should have been no call at all, in which case Seattle has to punt...but what happens is 4) Clements is flagged for DPI, extending the Seattle drive. Good lord, what an awful call.

Uggh, irritating. These kind of bad calls are why I hate sports sometimes.

Anyway, SF responded about as poorly to that penalty as it's possible to. Clements, enraged, got immediately baited into jumping a double move...Seattle TD. Playing from behind, Tarell Brown does the exact same thing...Seattle TD. The 49ers abandon the run game, Smith, passing when everyone knows he's going to pass, sucks, and that's all she wrote.

Until that play, the 49ers looks dominant, and after that play fell apart. It's a pretty fragile team that can't cope with this most minor kind of adversity.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Quote of the season so far: "Animals want to learn to talk so they can be friends with me." Ray Lewis, Old Spice.

Was I the only one who thought Sam Bradford played well? Asked to pass 55 times in his first NFL game with his top receiver being a Ravens REJECT (!) and played at a level no worse than your average fairly crappy veteran QB. Wasn't helped by drops either. He certainly looked more of an answer at QB than Derek Anderson, unless the question was "Hey, how can we annoy Larry Fitzgerald?"

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I'm with you (see above). Bradford looked like a guy who could be really good in a year or two. He made some mistakes, but he made some throws that were bigtime.

He also took some serious shots. I hope for his sake that line gels fast. Right now, the OL is playing at a level less than the sum of the individual talents. No synergy up front at all.

If Bradford progresses fast enough, he might even prolong Steven Jackson's career by an extra year.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I'm with the two of you. I was a huge fan of Bradford going into the draft, thought the Rams were doing exactly the right thing (even though I expect Suh to be awesome) and nothing I saw yesterday changed my mind. For a rookie, making his first regular season start with effectively only two years of college experience, with no starting calibre receivers and lousy pass-blocking, I thought that was a pretty impressive performance, including some beautifully thrown balls and toughness in the face of a lot of hits.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I watched most of that game, just because I was (A) curious about Bradford and (B) unwilling to subject myself to announcers raving about Vick's athleticism and not mentioning the whole "really can't throw the ball" aspect of things, and I thought Bradford really did look good most of the game. Of course, at the end of the game he looked terrible, as he kept throwing two-yard routes instead of going downfield. Then again, it's not like the Rams are exactly known for stretching the field.

Also, the "Haynesworth Pariah Zone" is made of pure win.

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I cannot understand why a rookie QB is asked to throw 55 times in his debut when Steven Jackson is the starting RB. Ride that horse, then throw the play action pass! Spags, please, you are going to get the kid killed.

In (a half-hearted) defense of Derek Anderson, he has thrown less than 10 (5?) passes to Fitzgerald ever. I think Fitzgerald sat out most of camp and the preseason with a hamstring or something. Anderson and Fitzgerald did hook up for a TD pass.

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That's cause the Rams really couldn't get the ground game going. Their o-line looks bad. Cards had a good run-d for the first half of last year before falling off, so that probably had something to do with it.

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Thoughts on WAS/DAL (mostly WAS):

-I was happy to see Mike and Bill point out DeAngelo Hall's fantastic game. Obviously, the fumble-recovery-for-TD will get the attention, but (from what we could see) he was very solid in coverage, and contrary to his reputation, was doing a very fine job of wrapping ballcarriers up. I think part of the reason the Cowboys were throwing all those smoke screens was because they were counting on Hall to botch some of those, but he made the smart plays.

-LaRon Landry also had a reasonably solid game, save for one hurry that should've been a sack. Haslett has him playing mostly as a box safety, and isn't giving him much deep coverage responsibility. Even though Landry has the speed to play deep, he's had ample opportunity to show that he doesn't have the mental fortitude for that job. Fortunately, it seems that Haslett is doing his best to take advantage of Landry's athleticism without putting him in the position to make potentially devastating mistakes.

-Even with the Cowboy's line troubles, I was a bit surprised they didn't try going deep at least a bit more often. With Landry at SS and Kareem Moore, their starting FS, out with a knee injury for a few weeks, the Redskins are starting Reed Doughty at SS. Doughty does everything he can to perpetuate the "white football player" stereotype: by all accounts a smart player who works hard, but a step slow. However, someone who can be described as "a step slow" isn't really someone you want to have in deep coverage. For all the trouble the Cowboys' OL had on some plays, there were definitely others where the Redskins rushed 5-6 and really didn't get pressure. With all the smoke routes early in the game, I was certain that they were setting up some sort of "smoke-and-go," and it never happened.

-The Cowboys' coverage certainly did seem to be good, but it should come with the caveat that the Redskins' receiving corps is Santana Moss, and a bunch of guys who are probably just about replacement level.

-The Redskins' pass blocking is already light-years ahead of what it was last year... it was quite the sight for sore eyes. However, there were very few holes to be found when running the ball. They did have some success on a few stretch plays, but the Cowboys were generally able to just clog everything up. Along those lines, Trent Williams sure had a pretty decent first game against a tough opponent, but it worries me that the Redskins seemed so hesitant to run behind him when they sure weren't generating much space running right.

-Speaking of the Redskins' OL, either Shanahan had an offensive line rotation(!), or three of their linemen (Dockery, Hicks, and Brown) missed a bit of time with minor injuries that the commentators failed to mention. Going out of one's way to play Kory Lichtensteiger and Stephon Heyer seems like a very strange coaching decision, but there was absolutely no indication that the starters got hurt. Each also returned after one series. This is exactly the sort of thing that a sideline reporter might be able to clarify and explain, but there wasn't even any mention of the fact that those substitutions were made, much less any sort of reasoning behind it.

-I don't have the faintest idea of how Shanahan thinks Larry Johnson is going to contribute to this team. I didn't when they signed him, nor during preseason, nor do I now.

-Watching Clinton Portis pick up blitzes is really, really fun.

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I think McNabb's excellent pocket awareness made the pass protection look better than it was. But Trent Williams had a very good game, and it was a hoot to see him lead block for Cooley.

I'm starting to wonder if the problem wasn't Campbell being too cautious, but the receivers in fact sucking. Devin Thomas and Galloway completely disappeared.

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Your point about McNabb is certainly well taken.

I've never considered Campbell to be "the problem." I think it became clear that he might not ever be "the solution," but I was never convinced that he was anything close to the biggest reason for the team's offensive struggles.

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I cannot, for the life of me, believe that Galloway is A) starting for the Skins, B) still in the NFL. He was atrocious for the Pats last year. He refused to run routes, work hard, or even learn the playbook. He's not quick anymore, at all. Baffled the Skins can't find anybody better...anybody!

I like the Skins this year, but the lack of weapons on offense really worries me. They literally have 1 WR - Moss. I mean, they threw 2 dumb fades to that Armstrong guy when they had the opportunity to go up 17-0. Looks like Cooley and Moss will have to carry them.

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A buddy of mine who is a Skins fan let out quite a slew of f-bombs at those play calls. You have a tall receiver in Devin Thomas on the team and you're throwing a fade to Armstrong? Really? That's your go-to play?

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It's not just that the throw was to Armstrong, but against Jenkins who is looking like a heckuva cornerback. I thought both balls were beautifully thrown by McNabb and the plays would've worked had Jenkins not played great defense on both passes. After the first try, I would've made darn sure to throw it at somebody else on 3rd down.

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Both plays perplexed me.

You're using a receiver I've never heard of, against the Cowboy's best corner, and you're throwing a fade route to the short side of the field, instead of the long side where there would be more room for the receiver to get underneath it. Then when it doesn't work, you try the exact same thing.

I just don't understand.

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If the second pass was completed for a TD, he would be called brilliant for having the guts to go back to the same play twice in a row. I don't think it was a bad call at all.

"Just look at that pumpkin."
-John Madden, looking at the moon.

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I was okay with the calls, though I agree that it was a bit odd that they designed the play for Armstrong and not Thomas. Even so, Armstrong ran the route very well -- both times, he sold the slant and was able to get a step behind Jenkins -- and particularly on the first play, it looked like he might haul it in. Jenkins made a great play on the ball each time, but even so, I think Armstrong still had a shot at bringing that first one in.

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Yeah, it looked like it was the exact same play -- same formation, same pre-snap motion, same route by Armstrong. I didn't see/notice what other routes were run, but I'm guessing that Shanahan the Younger (you know, the one who actually calls the plays) was expecting to catch Dallas off-guard by calling the same play twice in a row.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

There needs to be another term than 'pocket awareness' there. McNabb doesn't have great pocket awareness. He's just a really strong guy, and you can't just arm tackle him, so while most quarterbacks are in trouble if the defense touches them at all, with McNabb that's his clue to get the heck out of there. You see the same thing from Ben Roethlisberger, for instance (and a few other QBs).

But McNabb doesn't usually start moving until the guys get really way too close to him, and that's just not great pocket awareness. It's just a totally different thing than what you see from Brees, Manning, or Brady.

Still, though, it was really amazing to see a Redskins/Cowboys game and have the "total O-line disaster" come from the Cowboys and not the Redskins. That was weird.

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I agree with you that in general, McNabb has very good reactive mobility, but is somewhat limited with his "proactive" mobility. However, I thought he was strong in the latter department, too, with the exception of one particular play where he did escape a sack solely due to his strength.

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Well, let's just be thankful it isn't a shirtless Jimmy Johnson doing an Extenze commercial.....

As to football, all credit to the zebra for the throwing the flag on an obvious hold during the last play in a game that came down to the last play. I've seen way too many striped shirts swallow the whistle in similar situations. If there is a more perfect summation of the Cowboys missteps in roster construction over the last decade, I can't imagine it.

To me, the most notable aspect of the Saints/Vikings game was the poor ball skills displayed by the receivers on both sides.

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I have never heard 40,000 people say "OH GOD" in shocked unison quite like the half the crowd at LFF which was watching the replay screens showing the Weaver injury.

Also, and this isn't really football-related, but it's also odd to have the Eagles' traditional Rocky "win ... win" intro video package without a single moment of footage of the starting QB in action.

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I have never heard 40,000 people say "OH GOD" in shocked unison quite like the half the crowd at LFF which was watching the replay screens showing the Weaver injury.

Agreed. They must have shown the replay on the jumbotron right before Fox showed it, because I heard that and thought "oh shit, that must look really bad on the replay" and had it confirmed 5 seconds later. Of all the crazy stuff this weekend, that's the moment that's going to stick with me.

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Is that a Jawbreaker reference in a football column? I love the 21st century.
Then the cops showed up.

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In my admitted total-homer defense of Josh Freeman, he was clearly bothered by the thumb yesterday and couldn't get any real zip on the ball. When he missed Williams on that TD pass the ball just fluttered out of his hand, which I'm going to charitably blame on the fact he couldn't really grip it fully. Give him a healthy thumb and assume for a moment Aqib Talib (who I'd say, barring development of Gerald McCoy, is the best defensive player Tampa has) is actually playing instead of suspended and that game would have been not particularly close. Jake Delhomme threw some stinking AWFUL passes in the first half, including the TD pass to Mossaquai which would have been picked had the defenders not taken bad angles to the ball and knocked each other down.

The pass rush is still awful, and the line just can't drive-block at all. I wonder if Dallas is desperate enough that they'd make a stupid trade for Jeremy Trueblood, at which point Tampa could replace him with . . . well, anybody except Alex Barron.

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Watched the Giants/Panthers game and will be very interested to see what DVOA makes of Eli Manning's interesting day. My impression was that he played very well against an above average defence, especially seeing as though Kevin Boss went off injured in the first quarter. 2 of his 3 picks were tipped balls, all on the receivers.

Most encourging was the way he connected with all 3 of his main receivers - Smith, Manningham and Nicks. In particular if the latter two have developed since last year (and the early evidence suggests they might have) this will be an explosive offence this year.

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I agree that Eli played very well. All 3 of the INTs were tipped to defenders by Giants. The passes were on the high side of catchable, and the one to Barden was the only one that I thought was a poor throw. EDIT: However, DVOA isn't going to know that, since the play-by-play just says "INT." So I don't expect him to look all that good in Quick Reads.

The Panthers seemed to be focusing their coverage on Steve Smith North, which left Nicks and Manningham able to take advantage of some single coverage. (Nicks' first two TDs were just that-- Eli reads single coverage and trusts his WR to make the play.)

If the Giants hadn't spent most of the first half killing drives with penalties and failed runs (Kevin Boss was seriously missed as an edge blocker), that game would never have been close.

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I'm pretty sure all three picks went off receivers' hands. They weren't all necessarily perfectly placed passes, but all three should have been caught by pro receivers.

The offense will round into form... as a Giants fan, the real concern was special teams. Matt Dodge has no hang time on his punts (although the blocked punt -> safety was 100% not his fault) and kick coverage looked really shaky in the early going.

Defense gets a B+ (they played very well but Matt Moore made things way too easy), offense gets a C+ when you include the receivers but seems likely to improve very soon, special teams gets a D.

... or maybe I'm being too hard on a Week 1 performance?

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I'm willing to give Dodge some more time. Two punts (not counting the block or the free kick, which was well hit) really isn't enough of a chance to judge him on. I'm sure he was incredibly nervous, and I suspect that the line drives were caused by him rushing his drop, causing his foot to contact the ball too low in its swing.

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I don't want to hate on Dodge too much for one week. The Giants drafted him for a reason (even if part of the reason was that Zoltan Mesko was already off the board). Hopefully more game experience will lead to in-game punting that more closely resembles whatever the Giants are seeing in practice (if they kept Dodge on the roster, I can only assume the practices are going well for him).

If nerves and rushing his drop are the issue for Dodge, having a pass-rushing specialist (maybe you should block that guy?) blow past the blockers and redirect the punt out through the back of the end zone certainly isn't going to help him slow things down.

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I'm also willing to give Dodge a first-game pass, primarily because the Giants won. He better shake the nerves pretty darn quick though, because that wasn't NFL caliber punting. Not that he was alone in special teams awfulness. As mentioned, the blocked punt wasn't his fault. The coverage was also atrocious on the Giants' two first-half kickoffs. Field position was the primary reason the Giants were trailing at half and if corrections aren't made it will cost them a game against a better opponent.

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I think I might flip your grades between offence and defence when you take into account opponent adjustments. Matt Moore's first red zone pick was one of the worst I have ever seen.

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You still have to pull the interception in. The Giants -- or my memory of the Giants, anyway -- are typically masters of dropping interceptions. It's almost an art form really. So I'm more inclined to give them at least partial credit for the turnovers, forced or otherwise.

Really, the B+ was more for the run defense than the pass defense. IIRC Buffalo under Perry Fewell was not noted for its run defense, and historically Carolina has been able to run the ball, so the Giants' performance on several short fields yesterday was encouraging.

The offense will get better, but both halves of the offense had an up-and-down day.

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I'll second the B+ on defense. Like yourself I was concerned about the run defense in the new scheme. They obviously made it their defensive focus early and were successful against a good running team. When Carolina was forced into passing situations late the pass rush looked good. The coverage also looked much better, as having competent safeties makes a big difference.

The caveats of course are that its easy to play run defense when the opponent doesn't have a credible passing threat, and we have no idea how the coverage and pass rush will look against a good pass-blocking line or capable QB. But given the field position Carolina had, it was still a good defensive showing. I am very concerned about Bruce Johnson though. He doesn't look like he can hold up in even limited action, and when Ross is hurt (quite often) he becomes the nickel corner.

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I thought all three of Eli's ints were tipped, though the last one was still his fault for throwing way high to 6'6" Ramses Barden on a short in. In fairness though, a handful of other tips off of semi-inaccurate passes dropped harmlessly to the ground so he wasn't exactly the victim of bad luck. Overall he had a pretty good game, especially considering the long 2nd and 3rd downs the Giants faced throughout the first half courtesy of numerous holding penalties and the catastrophe that was their first half running game.

Expanding on that, I don't know if I've ever seen so many negative running plays by one team in a half. It got to the point where a handoff was as bad as a sack. The issue appeared to be caused by penetration and missed blocks more than a lack of push, and seemed somewhat rectified in the 2nd half. Those issues need to be sorted out from the get-go next week against the Colts. Especially because running will presumably be a major part of the game plan given how the Colts' run defense looked this week.

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" 2 of his 3 picks were tipped balls, all on the receivers. "

When you're reciever is 6'8, and you manage to throw the ball high enought that he just gets his fingers on it, its not on the receiver.

Eli has had this problem his whole career.

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Of the three picks, that one is the one where you can assign the most blame to Eli. Short route, inexperienced receiver, ball is too high... if Barden is able to react to the ball well enough to get a hand to it, he should be able to react well enough to do anything other than pop the ball up in the air for a defender to intercept, but Eli put Barden in a bad position.

Pretty sure Barden is 6'6", by the way. Your first point stands nonetheless.

Eli's problem hasn't been overthrowing receivers on short routes. His overthrows, as I recall, largely come on intermediate throws over the middle -- a lot of seams and posts that end up in the breadbasket of the deep safety, typically when a rusher collapses the pocket with pressure up the middle and Eli tries to airmail it off his back foot. The interception intended for Barden was not such a situation. It was just a poorly aimed throw, and the receiver's reaction (intending to corral a pass he couldn't quite reach) inadvertently compounded the mistake.

Probably one of Eli's better games, all told. Other than the drops and the tipped-balls-turned-interceptions, I think you can count the remaining incomplete passes on one hand -- with a couple of fingers to spare. Plus 3 TDs to Nicks and close to 9 YPA.

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"Eli's problem hasn't been overthrowing receivers on short routes."

If you were just referring to overthrows in general, you're right. He rarely misses low... just making the point that when he misses high, it's usually on deeper routes than the one Barden was running.

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I agree the INT intended for Barden is mostly on Eli. Sure, it could have been caught, and obviously he should try to throw high to him, but it was a poor throw. Also, he totally hung Kevin Boss out to dry with that throw where he got injured.

But those were two bad plays in a really strong game. The other 2 INT's were certainly not his fault, and both should have been caught (by Nicks and Bradshaw respectively, although it was probably a slick ball with the rainy conditions). He pretty much was the only good thing about the Giants offense ion the first half, what with the drops and the disaster of a running game.

I suspect the Panthers focused their pass defense on the other Steve Smith, and Eli made some nice throws to Nicks and Manningham to make them pay. I suspect that Steve Smith will get his if Nicks can continue to command attention.

Other Giants stuff:

Special Teams was awful last year, and looks to be even worse this year. I think the loss of Dominique Hixon is felt here, and can only hope Chase Blackburn can get back on the field soon. Also, they need an NFL-caliber punter, stat. The field position they are poised to give up on ST could sink the whole season. It's that bad.

Jacobs did look to be running harder, but the run blocking was very poor. Everything Bradshaw got was a product of his own ability or the (surprisingly good) offensive playcalling , and not the blockers. That's worrisome.

Defense looked pretty good, but A. Matt Moore was mostly terrible (with a few nice throws in there) and B. I am concerned that Fewell waited until they had a 2-score lead to dial up the pass rush (which looks fierce). I hope he is not that conservative a playcaller.

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One thought on the defense: I loved how Fewell changed up his lineup and moved guys around to account for Carolina's offense. For much of the first half, the Giants played Kiwanuka at OLB and a DL of Tuck-Cofield-Bernard-Canty (basically 3 DTs and Tuck, who is an excellent run-defending DE) to clog up the Panthers' run game. Later, when it was time to bring the pressure, they did more of the old 4-DE lineup.

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That's a real nice observation. It helps explain the difference in pass rush from the first half to the second beyond just "they got to pin their ears back because they knew Carolina had to throw."

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I loved -- LOVED -- the play call on the rushing touchdown. If you want to run it in and the opponent is finding success stacking the box against your heavy formations, spread 'em out and try to run it in that way. The Giants' personnel issues made that call even more sensible. Spreading the field with wide receivers eliminated the need to choose between telegraphing run (by putting extra blockers out on the field) and relying on a blocking liability in an inline position (because Boss was unavailable due to the injury).

I'm less concerned with the run game on offense than the brutal first-half rushing performance would typically prompt me to be because I think the struggles were a product of having to adjust to the lack of a blocking tight end. I don't have any evidence to support the theory I'm about to present, but I suspect Jacobs can be very effective running out of passing formations -- the potential tacklers on those plays are, on average, smaller and farther away from him, which gives him a greater opportunity to generate momentum and capitalize on his physical gifts.

Given the personnel situation (quality at WR, no blocking TE), it makes overwhelming sense for the Giants to use 3WR as a base personnel grouping... but I don't think that necessarily requires shifting the run/pass balance too far in the aerial direction.

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Yes, well the 2 out of 3 I was referring to were the throws to Nicks and Bradshaw which were tipped, both of which were a little high, but definitely catchable. I'd forgotton that the third pick was also a tipped pass, which was obviously thrown too high and was on Eli.

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What do you mean it's a catch? Rulebook anyone? I don't care where Calvin Johnson's ass is, he needs to hold on to the ball all the way down to the ground.

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He did hold on to the ball. When he got back up, it slipped out of his hands.

This rule doesn't make any sense. The receiver had control of the ball with two feet down. At that moment, that should be a touchdown. If an rb breaks the plane of the goal line and then loses the ball as he lunges further forward, it counts as a touchdown. Different interpretations of essentially the same rule. This was also an issue last year in the first OAK-SD game when Louis Murphy did the same thing.

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' The receiver had control of the ball with two feet down. At that moment, that should be a touchdown. "

Not if hes hit in the air. He has to maintain possession to the ground.

Recievers know this. hold onto the ball.

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No he did not.

Don't go by memory, as it seems that everyone who thinks is a catch rememebrs Calvin Johnson landing upright with both feet, doing a voluntary dive into the ground, bracing himself with the ball, bouncing up and, as he's again landing on his feet, casually dropping the football to the ground, as opposed to, yo know, what actually happened.

Watch the replay and tell me exactly at what point you think his fall stopped. And if that point is any time before the ball pops out (not gets laid down, but clearly pops out), we're going to have to get out the physics text-books in order for you to explain that conclussion to me.

- Alvaro

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I am not going by memory. He catches the ball, lands on two feet, puts out an arm to brace his fall, his entire body is on the ground with possession, then that vague "second football act" occurs where his momentum puts the hand holding the ball to the ground and as he is getting up the ball slips out. My argument is that the touchdown SHOULD occur at the moment he has two feet down and possession of the ball, which happened. Also, you could say that Calvin simply putting his spare hand down is a "second football act" in itself.
PFT had a good post about this yesterday - for example in the Super Bowl, Lance Moore's two point conversion counted even though the ball came out immediately after crossing the plane. There is just an inconsistency in the ruling. I'm not asserting that the call was incorrect or should be overturned, but that the rule lends itself to these sort of controversies.

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The key here is that he never had his two feet down and was stable. He was still falling, it's just that both feet hit the ground. It's no different that a receiver who leans out of bounds, with both feet still touching in bounds, to make a catch, falls, and releases the ball when his upper body hits the ground.

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I guess we can agree to disagree because, in my interpretation (and I have no horse in this race except to watch and follow quality football), I thought he was stable and had clear possession of the ball all the way until after his left hand is out of bounds and his right hand is pushed to the ground by the momentum of falling 10 feet or so. I've watched this video ten or so times to make sure I'm not completely insane and seeing something different from other people - it just seems to me that the very act of catch the ball, securing possession with two hands, putting your feet down, then having the wherewithal to transition the ball to your right hand and brace your fall with your left is enough to qualify for a catch. I can see why some disagree, but that's just my view of the play.

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Fair enough, and since we've agreed to disagree, I won't go overboard here. Except to say that your acknowledgement of his momentum causing him to fall roughly ten feet pretty much implies he wasn't stably on his feet at any time.

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I thought you meant having the ball stable in his hands. Does every receiver need to stand steady in one place for a second before we rule it a catch? I don't know, I've never heard that as being part of a requirement for a catch.

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Ah, I see what you mean. It's a requirement that your body must have reached a point of stability if you caught the ball in the air. Hence the whole "must possess to the ground" part of the rule.

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I say we have touchdown-pass-catching receivers picked up in the end zone by golf carts, and transported to the sideline, and then strapped to a gurney. Then, and only then, moonlighting ob-gyns, in full surgical gear, will remove the football from the receiver's hands with forceps, and place the ball in a chamber designed for bomb disposal. If the ball never touches the ground during this process, a touchdown will then be signaled, while the receiver and the ob-gyn exchange a high-five! Think of the scintillating commentary from Buck and Aikman!

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How about the receiver, you know catch the ball and not let the ball touch the ground.

Also, when did the ref blow the whistle to signify the end of the play? was the ball in his hand and not touching the ground before then, or was the ball out on the ground then?

Caught balls should not touch the ground till after the whistle is blown and the play is over.

187 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Caught balls should not touch the ground till after the whistle is blown and the play is over.
I think this is no longer exactly true. The ball can touch the ground, so long as you had the ball under control before it touched, and maintain control through the end of the whole "process". In the case in point, had the receiver maintained control of the ball, merely using it to steady himself as he rolled to his feet would not have negated the catch.

If you are suggesting that we return to the older rule of the ball not touching the ground, recall that this new interpretation came into use because of the large number of "obviously a catch" plays that were called incompletes.

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

The rule makes complete sense and comparing this to a RB crossing the plane is comparing apples ot oranges. The runner already has posession of the ball. A reciever who's hit on the air, by rule (that gets regularly enforced without anyone even noticing), needs to control the ball all the way to the ground in order to have a catch and thus gain posession. You can not score a TD without having posession of hte ball, no matter where said ball is.

- Alvaro

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Brandon Marshall is a huge up grade over Ted Ginn Jr. He was able to get wide open deep and then drop the pass. Ginn would never have gotten that wide open. He was better than number 2 man Brian Hartline, who was invisible all day. Dolphins top three wide outs fail to average over 10 yrds a reception. So much for their new passing game.

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Actually, Ginn's biggest problem wasn't getting open, it was holding on to the football. Other than the drop, yeah, Marshall looked awesome. Unfortunately, it was a pretty big play.

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Vince Verhei: He had both feet, one knee, and his ass on the ground before the ball came out. Catch all the way.
Too bad the rules require that he hold onto the ball for the entire catch, including the getting knocked on his ass and rolling on the ground part.

It's best to just hold onto the ball. Letting go of it while you are rolling on the ground after a hit is just pointless. In this case, literally.

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I would have liked to have gone 1 week, just 1, in Philadelphia without any kind of QB controversy. Just 1. It's been like 10 years.

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Quick GB-PHI notes :

- More injuries please
- Talking about injuries, Buckholder/the Eagles were shown as examples in terms of dealing with concussions, both Bradley and Kolb came back in after suffering ones, Kolb couldn't apparently "see things properly", and Bradley just couldn't walk a few minutes earlier. Way to go guys.
- Good thing that Ernie Sims is playing behind T.Cole : The two big R.Grant runs were right at him, he took awful angles, didn't fill the gap, and R.Grant got free lanes to the secondary. However, on some other runs behind the LT, T.Cole was all beastly, and was able to do the dirty work. It balances things out.
- Bobby April can design a lot of schemes, but ST coverage players have to get off blocks. R.Cooper, A.Barnes, A.Jordan, K.Coleman I'm looking at you guys.
- E.Buckley : 1 touch on offense, 1 fumble, and a dumb flag on ST, he couldn't hurt the team more. However, M.Tanier, I'm disappointed, as you are a Eagles fan : Buckley is not a Moats part 2 (RB with solid physical skills unable to learn the playbook and useless on ST), he's a try-hard, usually smart guy, that was one of our best ST players last year, I don't see where you're getting that from.
- C.Matthews got 2 free shots of Eagles QBs, thanks to N.Cole, who just turn around if he doesn't have anyone in front of him after the snap, leaving a HUGE lane open.
- QB Draw from the shotgun was amazingly stupid : run a proper QB sneak, you're not fooling anyone.
- B.Graham looked like a legit NFL DE, I'm kinda excited about him. Abused the RT on 3 bad-ass inside moves.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I couldn't quite believe my ear when Troy Aikman began hyping Ernie Sims as "the guy you have to plan around" on the Eagles' defense. This was one play after Trent Cole took on a triple-team and still got into the backfield.

I didn't used to understand the vitriolic criticism of the Buck-Aikman team, but yesterday they were about useless. They didn't mention the Justin Harrell injury at all (because it happened during a commercial break); they were very slow to notice that Cullen Jenkins was out, and didn't remark on his return; they failed to mention that the Packers played the entire game in the nickel; and it was as if they'd never seen Vick play quarterback before. When Kolb threw a crappy pass, he was criticized; when Rodgers threw a horrible interception, "the ball must have slipped out of his hand". Aikman also asserted that "1 minute and 48 seconds is a lifetime in the National Football League," which would be false even if Andy Reid hadn't already burned his timeouts.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Comment about Ernie Sims made me jump out of my chair too. There also was this gem "Rule number one for an OL in pass blocking : Protect your interior first". That's just pure, pure nonsense. I wonder how someone who played the game, and actually called plays, could say that.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Er? Why is it nonsense? Pockets are formed because lines block to force the pressure outside - similarly, RBs are coached to chip rushers on their inside shoulder to force them outside. Outside pressure takes longer to get to the quarterback, and so it requires really exceptional athletes to cause problems. Inside pressure gets to the QB almost immediately and almost anyone could sack a QB if they can get through inside.

Maybe you're thinking that since the elite athletes are on the outside, outside protection is more important? But that's just because it's physically harder to protect outside because you're one on one. Schematically, you tend to devote more resources to inside protection than outside.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Among some of the most basic pass protections schemes are :

- Big on Big (Man on man) : Unless your DE/DT (outside) stunts, you stay with him. Any player on your inside is left for the backs/guards/center to account for ("rule 1" doesn't apply). That is the most common pass blocking scheme (for example OT staying on his DE going wide, RB blocking any rushing LB on the inside : you don't want your OT to take on a LB and your RB to take on a pass rushing DE just because of that "rule")

- Left or Right zone blocking : usually on 3 steps drops, or quick screens : linemen slide on one side, RB usually "kicks out" the opposite side. Same thing, if your sliding to your outside, your inside is left for the next guy ("rule 1" doesn't apply again)

And trust me, those 2 pass blocking schemes alone represent a huge amount of the schemes called on gameday.

The only time when that supposed "rule number 1" always applies is on interior zone blocking (everybody slides inside, usually with 2 backs kicking out on the edges, and on Field Goals (inside out protection).

So yeah, I call huge BS.

188 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Any player on your inside is left for the backs/guards/center to account for ("rule 1" doesn't apply).

Yes it does: any player who doesn't have a man and who has a choice of who to go after is typically coached to go for the inside guy first, because, again, the outside pressure will take longer to get there.

That is the most common pass blocking scheme (for example OT staying on his DE going wide, RB blocking any rushing LB on the inside : you don't want your OT to take on a LB and your RB to take on a pass rushing DE just because of that "rule")

Right, but that's just common sense: the best athletes stay with the best athletes. There's no real choice involved there. The only place where choices are involved - i.e. which man to pick up, which shoulder to chip - you choose to protect the inside first. If a guard's got two blitzers coming at him that he knows he has to pick up, he'll choose the inside rusher first.

189 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I guess what you're trying to say is "Apart from the cases when inside is not his priority, an OL's priority is always, all the time, his inside" ?
I'm just saying that what's brought up as a "global, general rule of thumb in pass pro" is not one at all, because in several cases it doesn't apply : dimissing those cases because of "it's common sense", or "if he doesn't have a man", doesn't change anything to my point.

152 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I wouldn't have a problem with Buckley if he were just a special teams player (although as special teams plays go, that personal foul was pretty egregious). What I hate is that somewhere along the way, the Eagles convinced themselves that he was a good short yardage back, and he's awful in that role (he's generally pretty lousy as an RB in general).

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

OK guys, let's review statistics 101. Vick is a career 54% passer, averaging (correct me if I'm wrong) about 25 pass attempts per start with at least 15 attempts. If every single pass in a 25 pass game has a 54% completion chance, he would complete less than 50% in about 34% of games and at least 60% in about 35% percent of games. There is no statistically significant variation in Vick's game-to-game completion percentage.

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

What makes you think a QB's completion percentage should vary that widely? Do most (replacement level) NFL QBs vary that widely, or would a NFL caliber QB play more or less consistently? Your assumption of wide natural variance seems unlikely.

"Just look at that pumpkin."
-John Madden, looking at the moon.

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Not every QB. But every QB who is a big star and a 54% passer.

Think about it this way. A guy who is a career 62% passer is going to have a couple games a year where he completes up around 3/4ths and a couple games a year where he's down around 50/50.

182 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

If you assume that each pass has a 54% chance of being completed (independent of other passes in the game), then this is what you get out of the binomial distribution. So I'm actually assuming the least natural variance possible (given the assumption that passes are independent). So if anything, the 35% statistics make Vick appear unnaturally consistent, not inconsistent.

Part of the reason that Vick looks more inconsistent than he really is is that he doesn't throw many passes (something like 20 per start over his career, compared with 35 for someone like Peyton Manning).

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

OK guys, let's review statistics 101.

Yeah, you're really opening yourself up for some shots by starting your post out that way. As ninjalectual hints at, you are assuming that NFL passes follow some particular distribution that you don't specify. From your numbers, it seems you're assuming uncorrelated binomial statistics, which might be a decent approximation but might fail miserably. Then again, if you assume that fluctuations in completion percentage are positively correlated within a given game (which seems logical), then the game-to-game variance will be even higher, which supports your argument.

181 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Yes, the numbers were from uncorrelated binomial distribution. That is, I am assuming the most consistent quarterback imaginable - one who is not only a 54% passer for every *game*, but a 54% passer for every *throw*. This ultra-ultra-consistent quarterback looks just like Vick when it comes to variance in his completion percentages. Without studying it, I'd be willing to bet that Vick is not statistically above average in completion percentage variance. (I was surprised not that his variance was so large, but that it was so small - you'd expect huge swings in completion percentage because of game-to-game variations in quality of pass defense and game situation.)

You are right that the use of different kinds of passes could create lesser actual variance - but only because of correllations between plays. For example, suppose there are safe passes that are complete 100% of the time and risky passes that are complete 0% of the time. Then if, in every game, the team was determined to throw 54% safe passes and 46% risky passes, then Vick would indeed have unnaturally high variation. But if on every pass they had a 54% of throwing a safe pass (which is probably a better model), you are back to Vick looking normal again.

But let's call a spade a spade. From the comments that were written, I think it's much, much more likely that the people writing them were thinking "35% of the time under 50% and 35% of the time over 60%! What an inconsistent quarterback!". This is just not something that you would write if you realized what the binomial distribution for so few passes looks like. I'll bet that none of them has even looked at variance in completion percentage across Qbs (mostly because it is a pretty stupid thing to look at).

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Sidenote :

Audibles is mocking the "National Jump to Conclusions Week" yet, Doug Farrar's column at Yahoo : "Vick is ready to lead this offense. Kolb is clearly not."

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Is kolb deniers going to come out of woofwork today? Magic 8 ball sa y. signs point to yes.
As,for Raiders loss just blimp on radar. Tram going to rebound nicely. Arian Banamas Foster player of week for wrrk 1

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I think you guys have it wrong on Brandon Jackson. The main thing that has held him back in his career has been health: he hasn't managed to stay consistently healthy despite only being a backup that doesn't take a lot of pounding. Meanwhile health has been Grant's greatest asset (ball security being a close second), not missing a game in close to 3 years as a starter despite a solid workload.

Grant is basically a good one-cut runner. With a well blocked play he can accelerate upfield and show good straight line speed. However, he has little elusiveness or tackle breaking ability. Jackson on the other hand has decent wiggle and will actually drive defenders back a yard in some cases. He isn't great at making plays out of nothing, but if I have a running play that requires the back to make one defender miss I'll take Jackson over Grant.

Jackson is also undeniably better at both pass blocking and receiving than Grant. I'm actually looking forward to the Packers offense being a bit less predictable with Jackson in as the starter (assuming Grant's ankle injury keeps him out) since the Packers normally use Grant on most running downs and Jackson on passing downs.

Incidentally, this may be part of the reason why Rodgers 3rd down DVOA has been so much better than his 1st or 2nd down DVOAs (this last game not withstanding). Having Grant in on early downs may be limiting the Packer's passing game. The Pass protection did get better after Grant's injury, though I'd have to rewatch the game to see if this was a major factor.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I don't get the Grant love / B.Jackson hate based on this game. Apart from the 2 runs where he had huge lanes thanks to E.Sims, Grant didn't do anything more than Jackson, and I even thought that Jackson broke more tackles than him even though he ran with the Packers leading, with the Eagles defense expecting the run.

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

It has a lot to do with timing. Jackson was a need pick in the 2007 draft after Ted Thompson elected to dump expensive veteran Ahman Green. He and superstar free agent Vernand Morency were gifted the 1-2 RB spots, but through injury and unreadiness they both sucked. Ryan Grant, on the other hand, played well from the start. He's also a nice, smart guy who got into trouble at Notre Dame and then turned his life around — the kind of player you want to pull for.

Grant's skillset and experience suit the Packers' one-cut zone game better. Also Jackson has had trouble staying healthy, and there's some doubt as to whether he can carry the load for more than a game or two. Of course, if Grant doesn't heal, he'll have to, since the Packers chose to keep just 2 RBs on the roster (though they have 3 FBs and 4 TEs). Heaven knows what went into making that decision. But that's Ted: sometimes good-weird, sometimes bad-weird, but always weird-weird.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

The interesting thing to me is that with all the hot air being blow in this discussion, we're missing the fact that FOX did a rare good thing when they hired Mike Periera. They immediately went to him during the replay and he indicated the rule before the refs had even made the call.

By all means, we’re all entitled to our opinion of whether or not the rule is any good or not, but the officials nailed the call. They got it right on the field and they got it right in the replay booth, and to FOX’s credit, the TV boys had it right as it was unfolding. That third part is truly amazing and yet getting lost in the shuffle because people want to whine about a rule they don't like.

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Fox did a great job of showing wide shots before almost every play too.

On the other hand, they were lax on showing replays unless something big happened.

I noticed on NBC they used a lot of "madden cam" and they also had a reverse madden cam from the defense's POV. Thought that was pretty cool.

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I was delighted that the 'Fox box', which they kept on hyping all game, proved totally useless the one and only time it was worth looking at: unable to tell us whether Andy Reid had been charged for a timeout which he called before the clock was stopped to measure the spot of the ball. Buck panicked and went silent while blatantly listening to his earpiece for information.

169 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

You are correct that Fox's coverage of 'the catch that never was' was fantastic. I thought Billick was good asking exactly the right questions to allow Pereira to explain more fully each aspect of the rules as it applied to the play was just what was needed.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

kudos to NO in the second half. They ran the ball very effectively particularly on the clock killing last drive.

Minnesota was obviously very committed to the run. It seems to me that since Favre arrived that the Vikings are far more effective when they are a pass first offence. Last year there was a point in the season where Childress was saying they needed to get back to running the ball and smashing the other team in the mouth (right around the Arz, Cin, Car and Chic games). The offence tanked through the 1st half of the Bears game. That's when the Favre/Childress "feud" started as well.

Of course with Rice out, Harvin out for most of the pre-season and Favre only in camp for a few weeks, and the pounding he took in the NFC Championship, it's easy to understand why they wanted to run more. I just hope they realize they aren't very effective when they try to be run first team.

79 Phil-GB


Watched the GB-Phil game. Matthews impressed me last year but he looked even better yesterday. I could see him having a 15-20 sack season.

Packers are a confident bunch. They win on the road and all the comments I heard were, we stunk...we can play so much better.

1st time I ever watched Kolb. My impression was that he reminded me of every ordinary QB with an average arm I'd ever seen. But a half of football doesn't mean anything. Vick may not be the passer that one would like as a QB, but he's sure a hell of a lot more interesting to watch than Kevin Kolb.

102 Re: Phil-GB

In reply to by jmaron

Perhaps. But the interesting things Vick does are as likely to be bad as good. I'm mentally re-positioning my view of the Eagles; for the last decade or so, it's been 'team coached by ex-Packers guys and starting the last good QB from my favorite college team', and so generally favorable. Now it's 'team that's employing Michael Vick and ran McNabb out of town', which is to say not so good.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Was the Bears going for the TD really that bad of a call?

The arguments against needing a TD (the Lion's offense being extra incompetent), are the same arguments you can use for going for it. You know if you fail that chances are you are going to have excellent field position. Which you might have noticed, is exactly what happened, which set up Cutler and Forte being able to "bail out" Lovie.

Also, man the defense is looking good. I know it was against he Shaun Hill lead Lions, but still. The 7 front looks the strongest it has in years.

And Cutler was freaking incredible this game. If Forte and Olsen could just hold onto the ball, this game wouldn't have come down to that Megatron non-catch.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I pin the strip sack firmly on Cutler, you can't hang around for that long in an NFL backfield with the ball. I have no idea who was responsible for the pick (other than it has to have been one of Martz, Cutler or Knox) but it was a very ugly play. Having said that there were some awesome passes, the best possibly being the one Aromashodu dropped in the end zone on the first possession.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Yeah, he had two bad plays out of 40, the rest of the time he was kicking ass and taking names.

Also, I think there was a protection mis-communication on the strip sack. It was an 8 man protection and somehow Omiyale ended up one-on-one on the edge.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

For any other team, it's not at all a bad call. For a team that was -52.7% in goal-to-go situations last year and was already 0 for 4 from the one in the game, well, you could make a good argument for kicking. (The Lions defense was 24.0% in goal-to-go situations: not Dallas or Tampa Bay, but not good either.)

You know what their offense is like in that range. Based on what they had shown to that point, I think you could make the argument that Smith should have kicked, but honestly I think what he's doing is trying to reinforce the idea that he believes in his offense regardless of past results. Putting aside my bias as a Lions fan, I can appreciate that in him, even if it leads to unproductive results.

The other thing about kicking is that then you leave the door open for the bad offense to steal a game with a field goal. Hanson's leg is quickly declining, but he can still probably hit from 40ish outdoors. Better to make the Lions need a TD, especially if there's enough time on the clock to get the ball back anyway.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I agree that that was probably Smith's intent, zlionsfan. While I don't particularly care for Lovie, I find it amusing that most fans in Chicago wanted him fired before the game for being too conservative, and then he actually shows some guts with that call, and fans want him fired for that.

At the time, I was happy he went for it. My biggest fear was indeed the long Hanson field goal.