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

Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Audibles at the Line: Week 10
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.

While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That 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.

Thursday, November 11

Baltimore Ravens 21 at Atlanta Falcons 26

Bill Barnwell: Falcons throw a lot to Roddy White on their first drive. Is it because he's lined up against Lardarius Webb, or because he's Roddy White and Matt Ryan is programmed to throw every other pass to him?

Tom Gower: I am proscribing myself from saying anything in Audibles about our analysts tonight. So, some long-winded thoughts on the Ravens.

One of the things Greg Cosell and the guys on NFL Playbook noted about Kevin Kolb's success against the Falcons is that their safeties tend not to be placed in schemes that are complicated, probably because they're both young and neither is great. Kolb thus had an easier read than he would against most teams, and that's why he was able to make plays.

This, of course, leads to my question: are the Ravens able to attack teams downfield effectively enough? I saw reports they passed on Moss in part because they were getting Donte Stallworth back, but even if he's healthy, is he going to play over Mason and Boldin? Neither of those guys is a big downfield threat, and while Flacco has a good arm, I'm not sure his head for the game is where it needs to be for him to go there without help from his wideouts.

The broader question is, just how good are the Ravens? One of the ESPN people today apparently talked about this game as a Super Bowl preview; while I can see that (and you'll see many more "this could be a Super Bowl" preview comments than actual Super Bowl previews), DVOA has them 11th and I don't trust the downfield passing game or the pass defense to say they're one of the best teams in the league.

Bill Barnwell: Sure, but I think you can make the anecdotal, at least, case that adding Ed Reed and having Lardarius Webb's knee ligaments get stronger over the second half of the season are reasons to believe that the pass defense will improve.

Vince Verhei: Missed the first half, but as the second half started, announcers are falling all over themselves in praise of Ryan... meanwhile, the Falcons have one touchdown, one field goal, and three punts. They're averaging 5.4 yards per pass, including sacks. I know completion percentage is good, but jeez.

Aaron Schatz: Two things I've noticed so far tonight:

1) Marshal Yanda really does not look good at right tackle for the Ravens.
2) When the Ravens only rush three and drop eight, the Falcons are TRIPLING Haloti Ngata with all three interior linemen.

Bill Barnwell: Terrell Suggs just beat Sam Baker for a sack of Matt Ryan on third-and-short. Not that one sack is indicative of a player's absolute level of performance, but I'm yet to be impressed by Baker. He takes a fair amount of penalties, he gets beat a fair amount of the time in pass protection ... the total package adds up to somebody more conspicuous than a good left tackle for me.

Tom Gower: The Suggs sack was kind of a coverage sack -- Ryan was looking to hit a receiver on a shallow crosser over the middle, but Lewis, I believe, bumped him as he was about to come free on the left side. Within five yards, so perfectly legal, and Ryan just ran out of time quicker than he thought he would.

David Gardner: Okay, I'll admit that I laughed when Matt Millen said, "I think it will be a facemask" right after the ref called the penalty. Nice tongue-in-cheek.

Doug Farrar: Well, I’ll say something about the announcing. This has been an absolute abomination – a complete and total embarrassment, and one of the worst-called sporting events I’ve ever seen. Whoever made the call to put these guys in that booth together and leave Mike Mayock out should be fired for incompetence. You know you’re in Bizarro World when Joey Sunshine is the best guy in the booth. Bob Papa has had a rare off right, and I can’t really blame him – I’d imagine that being in the booth with Matt Millen is kind of like being an air traffic controller in the second half of the “Airplane” movie. Matt’s usually good for a few howlers per game, but he’s been in rare form tonight; he’s managed to misidentify so many things in so many creative ways.

As far as the game itself, Inspector Gadget has officially been promoted to Captain Checkdown. Going into the Falcons’ final regulation drive, Matty Ice is 29 of 44 for 244 yards. After reading Walkthrough this week, I’m wondering, Mike – if Ryan was throwing to Wes Welker, would the offense implode?

Bill Barnwell: Millen really does make Theismann look good. On that touchdown pass, Millen credited Matt Ryan for seeing the blitz and rolling to his left, whereas Theismann immediately followed him by crediting Mularkey for calling the play: A designed rollout where Ryan moved to his left at the snap, before the blitz even came.

Doug Farrar: Yeah, clearly a designed play.

So, kids, what do we think of the Roddy White touchdown near the end? Was it OPI, or was Josh Wilson channeling his inner Manu Ginobili?

Bill Barnwell: Don't see how it could be OPI.

Mike Tanier: Might best be described - poetically not analytically - as an arrival. Sorry. Too much book writing and not enough analysis lately.

Tom Gower: The White play will never be called OPI. Its equivalent by a defensive player might be called contact.

I had another mini-rant ready to fire about how Baltimore's win tonight was just more of the same, and it's nonsense that this team is 7-2 and will be proclaimed as awesome even though they quite clearly are not, then the Falcons drive the field for the game-winning score with Ryan actually throwing the ball down the field.

Sunday, November 14

Cincinnati Bengals 17 at Indianapolis Colts 23

Bill Barnwell: Dan Dierdorf speculates that the Bengals believed that Dhani Jones would be able to cover Jacob Tamme one-on-one. Someone's stupid there, but I'm not sure who.

Jones does break up a third down pass to Tamme to force the Colts into an Adam Vinatieri field goal. It's weird -- Will noticed this too, but the Colts keep going to Tamme despite the fact that Tamme looks to be far from 100 percent and is staying down in pain seemingly after every pass thrown to him. Tamme has something like six targets on the first two drives.

Doug Farrar: All Kelvin Hayden does is catch touchdowns. Carson Palmer now knows this, because he threw a seriously ill-advised ball in Hayden’s area with 2:30 left in the first quarter, and he paid the price with a pick-six.

Vince Verhei: On another note, the Chad Ochocinco "Best Around" spot for the NFL Training Camp video game is my new pick for best commercial of the year.

Will Carroll: Brown's out, having screwed up every blitz pickup so far. He just can't do it and Peyton Manning looks like he's going to have him killed.

Doug Farrar: That was the ding on him coming out of college -- he could do everything but pass pro -- primarily because UConn didn't pass often in 2008, and when they did, they didn't do it too well.

Will Carroll: Kelvin Hayden "tackled" Cedric Benson on a swing pass. I couldnt tell if it was helmet-to-helmet, but it was Benson that dropped his head and really applied the contact. Benson went down, but Hayden popped back about five yards, staying on his feet. On the next play, Hayden did not react to the snap *at all*. His feet didn't move. He didn't turn as the receiver went by him. The play went to the opposite side, so either he knew it was going that way and took a play off or he was out on his feet.

Bill Barnwell: As our friend Gregg Rosenthal notes on Twitter, the Bengals punt on fourth-and-1 from the Colts 42-yard line. He says "Barf". You can insert the River City Ransom exclamation of your choice.

Will Carroll: I think they waited too long to give Palmer his cortisone injection. Didn't seem to kick in until the second quarter.

Dierdorf just said Tamme is getting throws because Manning trusts him. Umm, Reggie Wayne is still on the field. Tamme's getting looks because he's open and Manning's finding him. I realize that Manning's trust (or rather like) is a big deal in this offense, but the idea that because Brandon James is on the field means that Wayne and Garcon are not is just weird. The difference is that Manning is one of very few QBs that can find his fifth option.

Vince Verhei: Tyjuan Hagler jumps a short out pattern and intercepts Palmer, almost taking it to the house on the return. At what point does it become self-evident that Carson Palmer, for whatever reason, is the biggest problem in Cincinnati?

Will Carroll: Palmer was terrible at the start, great for about two quarters, now terrible again. I don't think it's crazy to say that his good period was when the painkiller kicked in and it ended when it wore off.

Vince Verhei: Aaron Francisco is the lucky recipient of Horrible Carson Palmer Interception Number Three. This is embarrassing.

Will Carroll: Mike Nugent was just carried off by two guys. I have no idea what happened, but I've never seen something that looked like that.

Ben Muth: If Nugent is hurt, and the Bengals come down and score, then we might have a non-kicker attept the game winning PAT. That is something I would like to see.

Aaron Schatz: I would really like to see some footage of Carson Palmer in 2005, 2008, and now, shown side by side, to see just how his mechanics changed and when it happened. It's amazing how much he has declined -- and quietly, too. At no point did he have some sort of public implosion moment. Between injuries and mechanical issues probably caused by cascade from those injuries, he just sort of went from being the top quarterback after Brady/Manning to just another guy.

New York Jets 26 at Cleveland Browns 20

Aaron Schatz: Once again, I am going to hypothesize that the Saints' Super Bowl victory may have really hurt the "surprise onside kick" strategy for a while. The Browns just tried one on the Jets and failed. Worse was why they failed -- the Browns coverage team looked more surprised by the onside kick than the Jets did. The ball ended up bouncing out of bounds when a Browns player desperately dived but couldn't knock it back in.

Jets safety Eric Smith having serious problems trying to cover Browns tight end Benjamin Watson today.

Doug Farrar: For all you Braylon-haters out there, he wasn't ducking out of bounds way before contact early on that catch -- he was thinking ahead, making sure the Jets could save their time outs with 13 minutes left in the first half.

Aaron Schatz: Wow. Blown coverage city in Cleveland. The Browns rush only three (it became four when David Bowens realized the back was blocking) but somehow in all the coverage they completely forget to cover Jerricho Cotchery, who is sitting all alone right in the middle of the end zone for a touchdown.

The Browns look good on offense, though. They're completely avoiding the Jets' cornerbacks, almost entirely depending on gadget plays, Peyton Hillis runs, and throws to Ben Watson.

Doug Farrar: Superman wears Chuck Norris pajamas. Chuck Norris wears Peyton Hillis pajamas.

On the other side, I've seen Sanchez throw two floating goatballs that would have been picks if the Browns possessed anything resembling a secondary. They seemed to be that secondary away from being an interesting threat, but maybe they're that interesting threat anyway.

Aaron Schatz: Surprising stat after 35 minutes of Jets-Browns: Two Ryan-brother defenses, no quarterback sacks.

Bill Barnwell: Jets pass rush is mostly a mythical creature.

Aaron Schatz: 13th in ASR, so not that mythical.

Vince Verhei: Nick Folk honks a chip-shot field goal and the Jets are still ahead just 17-13. My favorite stat from this game: The Jets are 8-for-12 on third downs (and 1-for-1 on fourth downs). The Browns are just 1- for-3.

Aaron Schatz: Jim Nantz just did the horrible "real time" stat thing again, pointing out that Colt McCoy has not completed a pass "in 57 minutes of real time." You know, because the Jets had the last drive of the first half, then went 19 plays with the first drive of the second half. Who gives a flying crap how many passes a quarterback has completed in "real time"?

Doug Farrar: This is the New York Jets offense – they just completed a third-quarter drive that took 21 plays and took 10:04 off the clock. In that time, they went from their own 34 to the Browns’ six-yard line, and Nick Folk ended the drive by bouncing a chip shot off the right upright.

Aaron Schatz: Anatomy of a blown blocking assignment: First-and-10 Cleveland, Browns in a three-wide set with the tight end on the left. When the right end is lined up in between the left guard and left tackle, it is not a good idea for the left guard and left tackle to both pull to the left when the ball is snapped. Trust me when I tell you that tight end is not crossing over to get to the defensive right end in time, and no matter how strong Peyton Hillis is, he is going to be completely pancaked in the backfield. Egads. I would say "great play, Mike Devito," but Devito didn't have to do anything except run through open space.

Sacks show up in the Jets-Browns game after halftime as both teams start to blitz more. The Jets in particular seem to have decided that if McCoy is not going to try to test their cornerbacks, they just need to bring pressure that either a) forces short options to stay back to block or b) collapses the whole pocket before McCoy can even find those short receivers (or scramble himself).

Vince Verhei: Jets finally get another field goal to go up 20-13. On third-and-goal Sanchez threw it right into Abram Elam's stomach. Elam somehow managed to not reel in the ball. It was like he'd been impaled by the football and had to reach into his body and pull the ball out. It's Sanchez' second dropped INT of the game, both in the red zone.

Bill Barnwell: Browns drive in overtime gets shut down when Chansi Stuckey goes for extra yardage and gets stripped. Ball's right on the sideline, but the magic grass keeps the ball inbounds and Cromartie recovers.

Doug Farrar: Through the fourth quarter and into overtime, Mark Sanchez has shown an amazing ability to get out of tackles and extend plays. You can see his confidence building because of that.

Bill Barnwell: Sure. It's so frustrating that the same guy who is backdropping would-be rushers to make great touch throws is the same guy who guns a screen off of Tomlinson's hands a play later. What a weird player.

Vince Verhei: Third-and-14, needing one first down to get into field-goal range, Sanchez drops back and throws deep to a well-covered Braylon Edwards. Joe Haden has position, jumps for the ball, and actually manages to catch it this time. Browns' ball inside their own ten with less than two minutes to go, and it looks like they're playing for the tie.

Bill Barnwell: Good idea -- one-on-one with Edwards vs. Haden -- and the interception on third-and-long from midfield is probably better than an incompletion. Not so sure that they shouldn't be kneeling and happily taking a tie.

Doug Farrar: And it's weird to say, but I think Haden made a rookie mistake by not batting it down instead of picking it off. Major difference in field position.

Vince Verhei: Sanchez throws a quick slant to Santonio Holmes, and it seems like there's no way they're going to get the field-goal off ... except three different Browns defenders miss tackles, and Holmes takes it in for the score.

Bill Barnwell: I don't know why they saved the quick slant to Holmes for the end of the overtime.

Mike Tanier: Colt McCoy looks poised, but I see him completing the drag route to the tight end or to a receiver, some flat passes to backs, and not a lot else. It looks to me like the classic "one or two reads" offense to prop up a young QB with enough mobility to move around the pocket.

There were a couple of times where I saw him waiting, waiting, waiting on that drag for 5-7 yards instead of looking elsewhere. Now, I know the other receivers are weak and so on, but it just appears that the Browns are in "comfortable throw" mode for him, and they happened to smoke one good team and take another one to the wall, so here we are.

Not saying he's not the future. Not saying that he hasn't come a long way from camp. I just need to see more than the outlet to Hillis, drags to Stuckey and Watson, and one sweet TD throw to Massaquoi.

Aaron Schatz: Somebody will have to explain to me how we ended up with Darrelle Revis covering second tight end Evan Moore on the outside. Even stranger, Moore actually caught a nice slant pass against Revis on the game-tying drive in the fourth quarter.

The Cleveland turf was just horrible today. What, do they share that stadium with an elephant polo team or something? The coin toss for overtime actually had three choices: heads, tails, and coin sinks into the mud at midfield and nobody can find it.

I'm not sure what to say about the end of this one. A tie between the Ryan brothers would have been awesomely appropriate. The Jets have a horseshoe the size of the new Meadowlands Stadium up their collective asses. Three of their wins are now this win, the fourth-and-10 Denver DPI against Santonio Holmes, and the Ndamukong Suh missed extra point. Not that Holmes and Sanchez didn't show talent in making that last play happen, but all it takes is 20 extra seconds coming off the clock at various other times in the overtime and that play never takes place.

Minnesota Vikings 13 at Chicago Bears 27

Ben Muth: Brett Favre steps up in the pocket and finds a wide open Percy Harvin deep down the sideline for a touchdown. Don't worry, Siragusa makes sure to point out that he's just having fun out there.

Bill Barnwell: Jay Cutler just threw a pass about two yards ahead of the line of scrimmage. It was incomplete anyway, but it sure wasn't pretty.

After Drew Coleman's combination of chasing after a ballcarrier while complaining for a foul last week, Olin Kreutz tops him by blocking Antoine Winfield in the back. As Kreutz was falling to the ground, he put his hands up in the universal sign for "I just committed a penalty but it's cool, you don't need to call a foul on me". It did not work.

An amazingly bad throw from Jay Cutler on third-and-goal. He scrambles out of traffic and then throws into a spot in the end zone where his receiver is open, but the fact that he is SCRAMBLING and it's IN THE END ZONE means that about three different players pass through that passing lane between the time the ball is released and the theoretical point at which his receiver would catch the pass. It gets picked.

Mike Kurtz: FOX had a fantastic reaction shot of Martz holding his clipboard over his head in horror, yelling "Don't do that!"

Tennessee Titans 17 at Miami Dolphins 29

Bill Barnwell: Chad Pennington's already gone to the locker room with an injury in Miami. Already. Seriously.

Tom Gower: OUT-standing start for the Titans in the Randy Moss era: deep incomplete for Nate Washington (Collins looked in Moss's direction, then threw to the other side of the field), no yards for Chris Johnson, timeout on 3-and-10, then Bo Scaife gets stripped stretching for the first down marker. Fisher challenges and loses, and the Titans are down two timeouts less than a minute into the game.

Once the Dolphins have the ball, it takes a grand total of one play for Pennington to get injured, when he's taken down by Jason Babin. They use a timeout getting Pennington out of the game, then burn a second timeout of their own when they have trouble getting a play off. Yes, both teams are down to one timeout for the rest of the first half with 27 minutes to play in the half.

Mike Tanier: Pennington won comeback player of the nanosecond.

Tom Gower: After the Dolphins convert the Scaife fumble into a Ronnie Brown score, Chris Johnson repays the favor. The big play on the drive was a pass interference penalty against Vontae Davis -- if he got his head around, it was probably a pick, but he didn't. The touchdown run came on third-and-2 when the Dolphins played two high safeties against a three-wideout personnel package.

Well then... the Dolphins fake a punt inside their own 30, and it fails. The Titans convert that into a field goal. On their next possession, Henne has to get rid of the ball quickly after a delayed corner blitz and throws it ahead for Anthony Fasano. Not catching the ball was in part a personal protection move for Fasano, as the throw short of the first down marker was also leading him into defensive end Dave Ball, who'd dropped into coverage. After the play, Fasano was kind enough to immediately verbally point out that risk to his person to Henne.

The Titans catch a break, as a throw to Randy Moss on a 12-yard in is ruled incomplete on the field and not a catch and fumble after a big hit by the Dolphins, and because the play was ruled incomplete the Dolphins can't get the ball on the recovery.

Neither Collins nor Henne handles pressure the least bit well, which makes this a very frustrating game to watch and means that downfield passes are hard to come by. The Dolphins did get a 54-yard gain to set up the field goal that tied the game at 10, but it came on a flea flicker.

Ben Muth: Great play by Alterraun Verner on the Titans. He was a covering a punt and it took a high bounce at the two. Verner jumped up and batted it back over his head so Tennessee could down it at the two.

Tom Gower: The Dolphins have approximately zero running game today (17 yards), but they've been having success throwing the ball, mostly on the short stuff when Henne doesn't have to think about what to do with the ball.

Chad Henne gets smacked and taken down by Tony Brown with an apparent left leg injury. With Pennington out, the Dolphins have to either burn the last 0:57 of the third quarter with Pennington or Wildcat so they don't lose Henne in case he can come back. They go Wildcat, only it's a pass by Marshall off the fly sweep, who throws into triple coverage to Cobbs downfield.

Bill Barnwell: Tyler Thigpen is in for the Dolphins. Does Doug love Thigpen more than I love Pennington? And which FO staff member wants to fall for the fourth-string guy?

Tom Gower: The Dolphins have continued to adapt to the Titans pass rush, focusing more on quarterback movement and getting him off his spot. That's one of the things they were doing to help Henne, and they've done it some with Thigpen in the fourth as well. They also started running effectively once they switched to the Wildcat. Marshall's done squat, but Anthony Fasano has five catches for 107 yards and the TD that made it 29-17 with just more than five to play. Most of his damage has been in the middle void against Cover-2 because MLB Stephen Tulloch gets no depth on his drops and bites on stuff in front of him.

Moss finally gets his first grab, a deep out for 26 yards against the corner void in Cover-2.

Tom Gower: The Titans comeback gets snuffed out -- Vince Young takes a bad sack on third-and-10 off a corner blitz where he just didn't seem to ever recognize the blitzer, and then chucked a prayer into double coverage in the end zone from 39 yards out on fourth down. At least Jones was kind enough to intercept the ball in the end zone and cost his team field position.

Mike Tanier: Tyler Thigpen is just Jason Garrett all over again. He will be the Cowboys coach in 20 years. To be fair, he runs better than Garrett could, so maybe he will run away from the job.

Houston Texans 24 at Jacksonville Jaguars 31

Bill Barnwell: Jaguars are dominating the Texans, who are struggling to move the ball despite playing ... the Jaguars. Mike Sims-Walker went down with an injury, so the passing game hasn't been exactly dominant, but they've moved the ball with Maurice Jones-Drew, who had two easy touchdown runs. It appears that the meme going around in Houston is that the Texans aren't running the ball frequently enough and need to improve their offensive playcalling, which is absurd -- they're second in offensive DVOA and 31st in defensive DVOA. Even if their offensive playcalling isn't optimal, are they really going to be a better team if they improve to first?

Tom Gower: The Texans offense leads the league in variance, and the passing game in particular has been up and down. I think that's primarily because Matt Schaub, while very good, tends to respond poorly to pressure, especially up the middle. As to whether that's the cause of today's struggles, I'm not sure.

Bill Barnwell: Quite the series for the Texans. First down from the Jaguars 19-yard line. Schaub hits Andre Johnson in the end zone on a play that gets called back for a combination of illegal contact and chop block. Next play, Schaub hits Kevin Walter for a touchdown, but after Walter has caught the pass and fallen down, it gets Calvin Johnson Rule'd when he rolls over. The Texans challenge and get it reversed into a touchdown based upon a "second act" rule.

Despite David Garrard having completed BIGINT consecutive passes in a row, the Jaguars run a draw on third-and-15 to set up a 43-yard field goal for Josh Scobee. Scobee promptly shanks the kick about as badly as you'll ever see an NFL kicker shank a kick. Texans now driving.

OK. Third-and-15, 14 seconds left, Texans have the ball on the 40 with no timeouts. Matt Schaub throws...a six-yard crossing pattern to Joel Dreessen. What on earth? Dreessen fumbled anyway, but no way can they get their kicking unit onto the field there. Just a really dumb move.

HOLY GEEZ. The Jaguars run a Hail Mary with three seconds left and the Texans knock it ... right into Mike Thomas's hands. Gus Johnson doesn't even recognize it at first, but when he does, oh, does he Gus Johnson the heck out of it. Incredible finish.

Will Carroll: OH MY GOD. That's the most amazing finish ever - AND GUS JOHNSON CALLED IT!

Rob Weintraub: Gus may have been late, but he got the "HA-HA" in there. On Comcast's red zone, the host sort of tipped it off that something spectacular was coming -- just by soft-soaping too much in the other direction. "Jags David Gerrard looking at overtime, but they do have three seconds left -- let's show it to you."

Mike Tanier: I can't stop giggling about the end of this game. Bat it... sideways!

I think Billy "White Shoes" Johnson caught a Hail Mary like that for the Falcons once.

Vince Verhei: Just saw the play. Amazing, sure (especially considering the wonky Schaub decision making that preceded it), but not close to the best Gus Johnson finish ever.

Detroit Lions 12 at Buffalo Bills 14

Aaron Schatz: Wow. Ryan Fitzpatrick IS Zach Galifianakis.

Bill Barnwell: Why do announcers say that a quarterback threw "...a little shovel pass"? Is there a big shovel pass that they need to differentiate those particular shovel passes from?

Tom Gower: Down 14-6, the Lions tied the game after getting about 21 yards on fourth-and-2; Calvin Johnson was wide open down the middle of the field. Then, of course, Shaun Hill scrambles, scrambles, and throws the 2-point conversion attempt out of the back of the end zone. Give your guy a chance to make a play!

Aaron Schatz: Inexplicable. Somebody might want to let Shaun Hill know that an interception on a two-point conversion is meaningless, and you don't get another shot at it. Either shoot that thing in there and take the chance at a pick, or desperately try to run it in yourself and hope to make magic. "Throw it away" is not an option.

Carolina Panthers 16 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31

Mike Tanier: The Panthers offense is a symphony of pain. This is what I get for arriving ten minutes after kickoff.

LeGarrette Blount just drove 80 yards almost by himself. He and his line look really good. The only other Bucs play of note was a Josh Johnson Wildcat sighting.

Bill Barnwell: Steve Smith just had to call timeout for Jimmy Clausen before the play clock ran out.

Mike Tanier: Yet it is 14-10 Bucs, with the Panthers in the game thanks to a punt hitting a Bucs defender, then David Gettis jumping for a Clausen wobbler, followed by a touchdown by Jimmy Vaughn, or Jon Vaughn, or Stevie Ray Vaughan, or...

Kansas City Chiefs 29 at Denver Broncos 49

Mike Kurtz: Thanks to injuries, I'm in the weird position of starting Jabar Gaffney and Eddie Royal. This would normally not be a problem. Of course, Denver picks this week to rediscover the running game.

Bill Barnwell: Yeah. The Chiefs are now down 14-0 after two drives and are going to have to throw to catch up. That's not exactly a strength.

Mike Kurtz: I rescind my earlier whining. Gaffney with an amazing catch for apparent TD. Haley challenges, the ref comes back after a minute with "the replay system was inoperable." Hilarious.

Bill Barnwell: Chiefs can't stop the Broncos to save their lives. Not sure if's the absence of Jon McGraw, but they look terrible.

Tom Gower: Nice sequence at the end of the first half in Denver-up 35-7, the Broncos decide to attempt a 58-yard field goal. It falls short, and Eric Berry returns it 82 yards to the 22 and is conveniently tackled with :01 left in the half so the Chiefs can cut the halftime deficit to 35-10.

Ben Muth: Tim Tebow is a fantasy saboteur. He runs for a TD and throws one to Spencer Larsen. That's not helping anybody.

Fourth and goal from about two inches out. The Chiefs go for it and hand it off of course. But they don't give it to Charles or Jones. They give it to Battle. Interesting.

Bill Barnwell: Their plays before that weren't pretty. Jones got stuffed for a yard on first down. Cassel advanced the ball about an inch on a second down sneak. Third down was a quick slant to Dwayne Bowe against Champ Bailey. Champ Bailey won.

Aaron Schatz: It's too bad that CBS didn't play this one up properly. You had two brothers facing each other, both following in their father's NFL footsteps. Screw Manning Bowl. This was COLQUITT BOWL.

What did I say a couple weeks ago, that Kansas City might be the most balanced team in the league? Yeah, they certainly looked balanced in the first half of this game. Every single aspect of the team sucked. I mean, Cassel was something like 9-of-13 in the first half but it was all underneath stuff, mostly on one drive near the end of the second quarter. The offensive line was just horrid today, with no holes for Jamaal Charles on running plays and the Broncos mediocre pass rush dominating them on passing plays. When Denver had the ball, their receivers were really whipping the Chiefs defenders downfield with speed, and when the placement of receivers led to Brandon Carr covering Brandon Lloyd, egads. The Broncos also showed really solid tackling today. Just to make sure that special teams was included in the sucking, Ryan Succop honked a field goal.

Tom mentioned it briefly, but I want to get into the absurd final Denver drive of the first half. Honestly, Josh McDaniels has so much hubris it must be pouring out of his eye sockets. The Broncos got the ball with 1:22 left in the half. Not content to be leading the game 35-7 going into halftime, McDaniels was actually calling timeouts in order to prolong the drive and get the Broncos into scoring position. Not only did he call all three timeouts, but Orton actually spiked the ball on second-and-3 from the Kansas City 40 with 39 seconds left. What on earth was McDaniels thinking here? Was he that worried about the Chiefs coming back from a 28-point deficit? Did he want to make it to 38 just to match what Oakland put up on Denver in the first half two weeks ago? I know that the ball travels farther in Denver air but a 58-yard field goal is something you only kick out of desperation, not because you want to make the score 38-7. Absolutely ridiculous. For the Chiefs to return the missed field goal far enough to get their own three points is only fitting.

On the other hand, to say something positive about the Broncos coaches, they finally had Tim Tebow actually throw the ball today. At a certain point, you have to figure the Tebow package isn't going to work if defenses know the Broncos won't throw out of it. It's interesting -- there are no running backs in the Tebow package. He's back there by himself, with what looks like six offensive linemen and four tight ends. I'm not sure if that count is right, but the point remains -- it's good to know he can pass out of that thing, because he certainly can't hand off or play-fake in any way.

St. Louis Rams 20 at San Francisco 49ers 23

Tom Gower: On third-and-8, Bradford is picked by Clements, but it's negated by an Ahmad Brooks offside call. On third-and-3, Ray McDonald jumps to give the Rams a first down. On first-and-10, Adam Goldberg moves early to make it first-and-15. Gentlemen, I present you Professional Football in the 2010 NFC West!

This looks more like the 49ers team I expected to win the NFC West, or maybe the Rams look more like the 2007-09 Rams. Gore is running with success, Troy Smith is doing enough, and Steven Jackson isn't finding rushing room.

Fox was kind enough to tell me Danny Amendola has the "heart of a champion." I guess that's how he got open on Nate Clements on that in route or Bradford hit him for a TD pass (70-yard drive, including two 49ers personal fouls and an offside call).

The Rams just ran a nice variant of a common play -- as opposed to the fake throw to back on one side, throw to back on other side, they did the fake to back, fake to other side, throw to tight end over middle. Bradford's was a little off and Mike Hoomanawanui couldn't catch it, but it's a fun little wrinkle.

The 49ers have their second TD of the game negated by penalty. The first came earlier, after a pass to Davis on a sweet play on third-and-goal is wiped out by a delay of game. The second came down 7 in the 4th quarter, when rookie first rounder right tackle Anthony Davis got destroyed by Chris Long on a bullrush and tackled him after falling over, and wiped out a very good grab by Crabtree.

Joe Staley went out that drive and is now being carted to the locker room, so now both teams are down their starting left tackle, as the Rams lost Rodger Saffold in the first half, I believe. The OL issues have made for a lot of fun WR screens this game-pretty much any time I've noticed three guys split to one side pre-snap it's been a WR screen.

Bill Barnwell: That DPI in overtime was absurd. That ball isn't catchable. Troy Smith is now two-for-two, by the way, with good things happening when he throws the ball as he falls down. That strikes me as a bad precedent.

Tom Gower: I disagree. It looked farther away than it was, and Delanie Walker at least comes close to catching it if not for Atogwe's contact. I'd prefer our hypothetical Minor DPI on that flag, though that's only a seven-yard difference. Agree that success while falling down being a bad precedent for Troy Smith, but it'll get him at least one more start than he deserves because he Just Wins.

Bill Barnwell: I don't think Walker is able to turn around and move fast enough to be within three or four feet of it. I'll agree to disagree. Do you think it could/should have gone down as an illegal contact?

Tom Gower: I think the refs were in a hard position there -- it's close to uncatchable, but it's also the sort of obstruction that's very hard to ignore. The contact all occurred very clearly post-pass, so it couldn't have been illegal contact or defensive holding. The refs had to make a tough judgment call there, and I don't think they were clearly wrong.

Aaron Schatz: When I looked over at this game, I noticed a number of plays where Troy Smith looked very good bootlegging and then throwing to the open receiver right when pass rush was about to get him.

Dallas Cowboys 33 at New York Giants 20

Mike Tanier: All those worried about a flat performance by the Giants ... your worries are confirmed.

Ben Muth: Just saw the Eli pick-six. Gross.

Vince Verhei: So, I haven't seen much of the Giants game, but I see that Jon Kitna is 9-of-13 for 232 yards. Did they adapt the power play for this game? Are the Giants constantly playing a man down?

Mike Tanier: My take, only watching bits and pieces, was that the Giants were about to go up 10-9, then there's an interception that amounts to pretty much a 14-point reversal. The Cowboys play a pretty good game overall, but there's just a big difference between 10-9 and 16-3. They ride that advantage out and win by 13, and I don't want to take away a win from them or say that they weren't better this week than the last three, but...

I flipped between three highlight shows, and heard lots of gushing about the Cowboys turning things around. Terry Bradshaw started ranting about them going on a roll and finishing 9-7.

Did I miss the part where they dominated this game? I see 15 first downs, 3-of-11 on third down. It was a solid enough win, I guess, but I don't see the "wow, what an amazing turnaround" storyline.

Aaron Schatz: The "wow, what an amazing turnaround" angle is that the Giants were arguably the best team in the NFL going into today. Maybe it wasn't the blowout it seemed to be, but it was a solid win made much more impressive by the level of competition.

Seattle Seahawks 36 at Arizona Cardinals 18

Vince Verhei: Mike Williams is having a whale of a day -- five catches for 70-some yards at the end of the first quarter. The funny thing is he's getting virtually no separation -- he's just outmuscling defenders and winning every single battle for the ball.

Deon Butler scores a long touchdown and a catch-and-run to put Seattle ahead of Arizona 17-10. Butler was in the slot, and it looked like the linebacker had him in man coverage. That obviously failed, but the Cardinals had two safeties deep. The safety to Butler's side of the field was in position to make a tackle, so Butler cut left, where it looked like Adrian Wilson had been caught cheating up close to the line of scrimmage. Butler outran them all to about the 10, where it looked like they had him corralled. He then cut back inside, slipping by them all, getting a key block from John Carlson to get into the end zone.

On the replay, the wide shot makes it look more like the Cardinals were playing a simple Cover-2, but the key point is still the same: Adrian Wilson was caught playing too shallow.

Doug Farrar: They've been getting burned on crossing stuff all year when they run Cover-2 -- it popped up last week in the loss to the Brett Favres, and it popped up here in a different way. Usually, it's on shorter plays where a shallow cross or skinny slant takes a linebacker or two up, and the Hole in Zone (he hasn't retired; he just lives in Glendale now) is exploited.

Vince Verhei: Now Ben Obamanu is splitting Arizona DBs for big gains. That's Ben Obamanu, special teams ace and blocking specialist. He was so wide- open that as he was standing there waiting for the ball to come down, Cardinals defenders were turning their heads to look at each other and figure out who screwed up even as they closed in on him.

Doug Farrar: It seems that on every play where Adrian Wilson should be deep, he's close in, and vice versa. Weird.

Ben Muth: The Seahawks go for it on fourth and inches from the twenty rather than kick the field goal. Matt Hasselbeck gets stuffed on the sneak. And by stuffed I mean he just sort of falls down for no apparent reason.

Bill Barnwell: Sneak is the wrong word. Sneak implies that Hasselbeck moved forward and tried to sneak between a gap for a yard. That was more like a QB cuddle. Or a QB curl into the fetal position.

Doug Farrar: After that play, and last week’s third-and-1 lateral pass to Chris Baker, and several goal line situations I can think of, I’m starting to think that Jeremy Bates’ headset should be cut in any situation that ands in “and-1” or “and-goal”. Oh, and Hasselbeck appeared to injure his left hand on the play. So there’s that.

New England Patriots 39 at Pittsburgh Steelers 26

Mike Tanier: Aragorn was deadly accurate on the opening Patriots series. The throw to Gronkowski for the touchdown could not have been more accurate.

Aaron Schatz: How many games this year have the Steelers worn the mustard helmets? It seems like they show up a lot now.

By the way, Darius Butler was a healthy scratch tonight for the Pats, even though that left them with only three active cornerbacks. What the hell happened to "the best cover corner in the 2009 draft?"

Tom Gower: The same thing that happened to Terrence Wheatley, "the steal of the 2008 draft."

Aaron Schatz: Now, I don't remember anyone calling Wheatley the steal of the 2008 draft, but scouts nationwide were definitely high on Butler -- I'm talking about before the Pats drafted him, when we didn't know what team he would be on.

Until Rashard Mendenhall just took a really long run to the Pats' 30-yard line, the Patriots had the Pittsburgh running game all bottled up. I'm trying to figure out why. It looks like the offensive linemen are generally holding blocks, although Heath Miller has had some problems. It just seems like there's some linebacker flying up to tackle the runner nearly every time, someone the line can't account for.

Bill Barnwell: They were making great tackles at the line of scrimmage.

Aaron Schatz: Brady really getting excellent protection tonight.

Mike Tanier: He is, but they are trapped in dink and dunk purgatory.

This night game has been boring for 58 minutes of Real Time.

Bill Barnwell: I don't know, I think diagnosing how the Patriots -- the pass defense that let Colt McCoy complete a bunch in a row last week -- has held Ben Roethlisberger to 8-of-22 so far is pretty interesting.

Aaron Schatz: I think Mike's feeling of ennui may be a product of the fact that if you are a hardcore NFL fan -- and we all are -- the Sunday night game is the third game you've watched in one day. You get a little tired out by that last game after watching for six hours in the afternoon, and I wonder if that makes a steady diet of three-yard runs and short passes seem a little dull. Maybe after six hours of football, you need long bombs or turnovers to get a little excited. It seems strange for us hardcore folks, but I admit that I too have found the Sunday night games to be oddly boring at times this year.

By the way, I can give you the biggest reason why the Patriots have held Roethlisberger to 8-of-22 after letting Colt McCoy go nuts last week: Pittsburgh offensive line vs. Cleveland offensive line, and especially Jonathan Scott vs. Joe Thomas.

Mike Tanier: I think that is it. There are things to analyze and some interesting strategies, but by 10:40 I need some sizzle!

Bill Barnwell: Um, I've been waiting all day for Sunday night. So not a problem.

Aaron Hernandez has spent most of the game on the bench. Are they pissed at him for something? Or is it a schematic choice, with the Patriots going with their blocking tight ends (Gronkowski and Crumpler) in 2TE sets?

Aaron Schatz: I am going to have to ding the Pats a bit though for their playcalling on third-and-23 with 7:00 left in the third quarter. On third-and-23, what good is an eight-yard crossing pattern to Wes Welker? (It was incomplete, but that doesn't really matter.) I understand you don't have Randy Moss anymore, but you are allowed to send Brandon Tate deep, maybe Aaron Hernandez, throw the ball up there.

Mike Kurtz: Roethlisberger makes a really stupid throw to Heath Miller on second-and-goal. He's making conscious decisions to not run, and it's cost his team a lot of points.

Bill Barnwell: Even before the missed field goal, I think you go for it there. The difference between a 14-point lead with 17 minutes ago and an 11-point lead just isn't significant.

Aaron Schatz: I'm a bit stunned at this game. The Steelers pass rush can't even breathe on Brady tonight. We definitely need to go back and chart this to figure out how many guys they're sending. Have they sent six at all?

Bill Barnwell: Sometimes, I wonder if Collinsworth is even watching the game. He's giving a speech about how the Steelers defense love playing in a phone booth and stopping the run and must hate being spread out across the field. Literally as he's saying this, the camera is on the Patriots, who have in two tight ends, a fullback, and one wide receiver tight.

Aaron Schatz: In defense of Collinsworth, I think he was talking about the Patriots' strategy for the entire game, not at that moment.

Comments

285 comments, Last at 20 May 2011, 5:47am

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Boy, that Pats-Steelers game does sound boring. Glad it wasn't not the same one I was watching.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

There are a couple of big reasons why Catholic Match Girl is slowly receding in our memories...

269 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

just googled her. I found a picture of her in profile... I think some physicists should try to figure out how she stays upright. Her spine to her stomach can't be more than 3 inches, clearly not enough to support the weight of her upper regions, unless she's been reinforced with some sort of alloy of the future.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The Pats looked really good. I hate the spread, dink and dunk style of offense but it sure is effective with a QB that really knows what he's doing. Brady was in full Zabka-esque mode. It's interesting to see his evolution from skinny, plucky overachiever to feather-haired d-bag. From 80's movie hero to 80's movie villain in 10 years.

One reason Pittsburgh's pass rush was ineffective could be that Crumpler seems to have been issued a one-game exception from holding penalties.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Crumpler holds, but not any worse than any other lineman/tightend. I remember one play where the Steeler's tackle was literaly riding on Ninkovich's back, and it was uncalled.

Thats the modern NFL, and frankly, I think if they stopped letting OLineman hold, you'd be looking at completion percentages in the 40s.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Maybe. I do remember at least one obvious hold by the Steelers' left tackle that went uncalled. It was just funny that Collinsworth kept praising Crumpler's blocking and then on the replay Alge was impersonating Lots-'O-Huggin' Bear.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_--i-epiV1SM/TCisJuS1YOI/AAAAAAAABwk/5DXPhCAIRx0/s1600/toy-story-3-lotso-huggin-bear.jpg

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

It's funny how our perceptions of penalties are colored by our team loyalties.

My impression of Pats-Steelers watching it live was that the refs were really favoring the Steelers. I definitely saw the uncalled blatant hold on Ninkovitch, but conveniently missed Crumpler's holding. On replay, you can see it, but you don't notice it when it's your team and the game is live.

That said, I'm not entirely sure why the refs called DPI on Meriweather, except for the fact that when there's contact downfield the refs call DPI 90% of the time regardless of whether it was the offense or the defense that is actually at fault. But to my eye, it looked like both the receiver and Meriweather were in the open field and saw where the ball was thrown, and both were closing on the best place to make the catch. Obviously, that's the same place, so the two players collided. But both the receiver and Meriweather were watching the ball the entire time, not each other...so shouldn't that be a "no flag"? Doesn't a DB have as much a right to try to make a play on the ball as the WR?

274 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I find it awesome that I go from googling Zwingli and Melancthon and reading about the protestant reformation to searching for info on LotsO Huggin Bear in the course of ten minutes reading of FO.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"so shouldn't that be a "no flag"? Doesn't a DB have as much a right to try to make a play on the ball as the WR?"

Thats how the rule is written. Thats clearly not how its called.

I hate that call, no matter which team it gets called on.

267 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

To be clear, I wasn't complaining about the refs. I actually want clarification.

My understanding is that once the ball is in the air, the DB and the WR theoretically have equal rights to try to run to where it is coming down to get it. And if they are both playing the ball, and run into each other, I thought there should be no foul.

Brandon Meriweather apparently agrees with me. From an interview this morning:

"When two people are going for the ball, there's going to be contact no matter how you want to put it," Meriweather said. "They told me the receiver still had the right to the ball and I can't go through him to go get the ball. I had to go around him."

So, with that explanation, it was a great call, but from my perspective of the rules, I think it shouldn't have been called, period.

So Meriweather thinks that he is allowed to go get the ball, but apparently the refs told him that essentially, the WR has first "dibs" on the ball that the DB has to stay out of the WR's way, even if the DB is going for the ball as well.

So which is it? If a ball is flying through the air and both the WR and the DB know where it's coming down, is the DB allowed to move to the best place to catch the ball (meaning the refs in the Pats game were wrong), or is the DB really required to stay completely out the WR's way, and only make a play on the ball if he can do so by running around the WR? If that is the case, then my understanding of PI has been wrong for all my life.

And if the latter is the case, then it seems like the rules really do favor the offense more than they should, and teams should all the more often chuck the ball down the field and hope for DPI, because any contact between the WR and DB is automatically the DB's fault unless the WR pushes off.

271 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I believe the ruling in this case is that the WR already had a better position, and Merriweather is not allowed to push him out of the way (go "through" him) in order to play the ball (as that would be playing the man, and not the ball). I don't know that that really clarifies things in all cases as there's still the question of how much contact IS allowed in various cases.

I've always thought it was called sort of like "over the back" fouls in basketball - i.e. if the players are side by side, they can each go for the ball and contact is ignored; But if one player is in front of the other, the player behind can't go "through" the player in front to get at the ball.

To set up an extreme example, that way, a trailing defender can't dive forward and take out the offensive player and claim he was just diving for the ball.

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Well, my perceptions are colored by being a fan of the Colts DEs and in last night's game I saw holding EVERYWHERE! Both teams. Every play!!! It's armageddon!

(breathing into paper bag now) Okay, better.... I saw a fair amount of Crumpler holding live, but the Pats seemed to get better pressure up the middle in general and that's a tougher place to spot holding on a 26 inch piece of glass.

Like the helmet hits and PI calls, I am pretty sure that I have no idea what is a callable holding penalty anymore. Okay, when it's blatant, even Potter Stewart would know it when he sees it, but it's not all blatant, and seems to be a crap shoot whether it's called or not.

Using the Colts as an example, Freeney was held all night long vs the Redskins a couple weeks ago, but the only flag came on a McNabb TD scramble, on one of the lesser holds--looked like a ref's "make-up" call to me. I'm really not a fan of the make-up flags--same thing with balls/strikes in baseball--because you're just screwing up everybody's expectations and making it all seem MORE random. Good timing on that particular make-up flag against the Skins, but it leaves me scratching my head. If THAT was a hold, why not the other 5-6 times? If THEY weren't holds, why the hell was that one?

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think you've confused footballoutsiders with ProFootballTalk. The quality of your comments is set at kiddie-level, which would fit right in at PFT.

Rule #1. Complaining about the officials favoring one team over another marks you as a kiddie.

Rule #2. Referring to player hair styles marks you as a kiddie.

Rule #3. Going 'douchebag' after its 2007 height marks you as a kiddie.

276 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

rule #1 does not apply. poster was referring to a specific player getting apparent special treatment, not a team.

rule #2 does not apply. referring to a player's hairstyle and making a clever (if borderline bill simmons) exposition on a player's hairstyle are two very different things.

rule #3... ok. fine. but the rest was amusing enough to overlook it.

meanwhile... people read the comments at PFT?

_______________________________
armchair journeyman quarterback

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

For footballoutsiders, Sanchez will remain Jamarcus forever.

Kid carries the Jets in winning position three times in a game, on one ankle, amidst a constantly collapsing pocket and a horrid field, finally won it because the scrub kicker didn't get a chance to honk it for a fourth time, and all he got was "lucky".

Aaron Schaatz is determined to utilize any and all rhetorical devices to deny any credit to QB Jets it seems.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Is that you, Peter King?

FO may give Sanchez more crap than he necessarily deserves, but it's a welcome respite from the rest of the media, who have already deified the kid. I didn't see the game, but didn't he also throw an interception in overtime, in Browns' territory? I thought I saw a highlight for that.

Right now, Sanchez is a pretty average-looking QB with a very good supporting cast. At least a dozen other quarterbacks would have the exact same success, or more, on the 2009-2010 Jets.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

More importantly, Sanchez's play brought the return of my favorite Doug Farrar phrase, "floating goatballs". Last seen describing Kyle Boller's lame attempts at being an NFL QB, I'm glad to see that the floating goatballs tradition continues with the Sanchize. (And yes - Floating Goatballs is my fantasy team name and we won pretty handily yesterday, thank you Doug.)

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Sanchez is an okay-for-a-youngster quarterback on a team that is, sans quarterbacks, possibly the single best team in football. Even an average NFL quarterback (say, Carson Palmer this year, which is sad given how awesome Palmer looked in 2005) would make the New York Jets a dominant team. Instead, they eke out overtime victories over also-rans.

Sanchez is not the solution to the problem in New York; he is the problem. His arm is barely NFL adequate, he makes dicey decisions and gets bailed out because the team is so talented that they can almost win games without him. New York is probably a borderline playoff team with Sanchez. With any of - say - twenty quarterbacks I could name, they'd be dominant.

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"His arm is barely NFL adequate". LOL. This is pretty delusional.

So the Jets are not "dominant" because they were taken into overtime by the "also-ran" Browns. I don't know what your definition of "dominant" is. But New England, which would probably top the FO charts tommorrow, got manhandled by the same also-ran team a week earlier. Guess they aren't really "dominant" either. And that Brady guy, who looked much worse than Sanchez, was a scrub also.

153 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

By FO standards, the Patriots' DVOA would have to jump pretty significantly for them to get anywhere near "dominant." A recurring theme of this season has been that there hasn't been a dominant team. A team has kept the top spot of DVOA rankings for consecutive weeks only twice this season, and no team has been #1 more than twice.

At the end of Week 9, NYG had the league's highest DVOA at 30.9%. Going back to 2004 -- the first year week-by-week DVOA totals were posted -- this is easily the lowest league-leading DVOA through nine weeks. Moreover, in there have been 18 teams with higher through-week-9-DVOAs in that span. In other words: prior to this weekend's games, the league's best team would be about third-best in a typical year.

2004: 38.0% (PHI), 36.7% (NE), 31.7% (PIT)
2005: 36.3% (IND), 33.9% (CIN), 33.8% (NYG), 32.2% (SD), 31.9% (JAC)
2006: 47.4% (CHI), 36.3% (PHI), 36.1% (NYG), 34.1% (SD)
2007: 70.9% (NE), 53.9% (IND), 44.0% (DAL), 36.1% (PIT)
2008: 42.7% (NYG), 36.6% (PHI)
2009: 41.0% (NE), 35.5% (PHI), 35.2% (NO), 32.1% (IND)

By these measures, NE's DVOA would need to double from last week to now in order to get into the range of a regular "top" team; the Jets' would need to (more than) triple.

157 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Brady did not look worse than Sanchez. He ended with better stats (19-36-2-0, rather than 27-44-299-2-1 (which Sanchez needed an overtime to amass). And Brady doesn't throw floating goatballs (or whatever Doug calls them), ever.

Look, I'm a Colts fan, I'm the last person to praise Tom Brady. I think he's a whining little jerk who needs a haircut. But he's a very, very good NFL quarterback and Mark Sanchez is not. Sanchez is a middle of the pack quarterback in a year without a lot of great QB play outside the top six or eight. Let's be honest with ourselves and admit that there have been five or six quarterbacks who have started games in his division this year who are at least as good.

173 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"Let's be honest with ourselves and admit that there have been five or six quarterbacks who have started games in his division this year who are at least as good."

AFC East quarterbacks who have started at least one game this year:

Tom Brady
Mark Sanchez
Chad Henne
Chad Pennington
Trent Edwards
Ryan Fitzpatrick

yeah.

203 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

See, you've got six! Take Edwards off the list and that's five who are "at least as good as Sanchez," since Sanchez is certainly at least as good as himself.

(Just helping with the parsing - my own opinion would be

Brady >> Sanchez > Fitzpatrick) > Henne

with Pennington left out of consideration. The old Pennington was better than Sanchez is now - certainly if you go back to pre-injury Pennington.

If I extended to the entire AFC, I'd go

(Brady, Manning, Rivers) > (Orton, Schaub, Roethlisberger) > (Sanchez, Flacco) > (Henne, McCoy, Cassel, Garard, Young, Fitzpatrick) > (Palmer, Campbell, Gradkowski, Collins, Wallace) > (Batch, Edwards, Leftwich, Delhomme)

Sanchez is overrated because he plays in New York and his team is winning. He's underrated by those of us who notice that he's overrated. He's much better this year than he was last year, but for me the real story with the Jets' offense is Brian Schottenheimer.

211 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The Sanchez hate on FO is pretty insane right now. There's no rhyme or reason left in this debate.

So I'll just leave you people who enjoy the likes of Henne, McCoy(really?), Garrard and Cassel (really really?) alone.

212 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"Sanchez is overrated because he plays in New York and his team is winning. He's underrated by those of us who notice that he's overrated."

Pretty much the crux of the matter. But it doesn't mean intelligent people can't come to a logical evaluation of his play, taking into consideration everything including his inexperience. His durability so far has been largely overlooked also.

215 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Agreed. I may have been a bit harsh in my initial response, but that's probably a knee-jerk reaction to the overdone Sanchez love, particularly in the "he just wins" area. An example from this very thread (are-tee, #99), which indirectly implies that Sanchez throwing an interception caused the Jets to win:

"The interception was on third and long from outside the Browns' 40, and gave Cleveland the ball on their own 3. It was a much better result than an incompletion, and actually led to the Jets winning the game."

222 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Not giving credit to Sanchez for planning it this way, but in fact the INT inside the 5 (as opposed to an incompletion and a punt that would've yielded worse field position and cost another 6-8 seconds) was really, really helpful. Not as helpful as a completion and first down would've been, but league wide probability of a first down on a 3rd and 14 is pretty low. Bottom line is that with nobody open and the play breaking down, throwing it up for grabs inside the 5 was a very good risk.

254 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Yeah, I think that's a very accurate summary. I had thought that perhaps a completion short of the first down might have been good enough to warrant something other than a fourth down punt, but looking at the situation there was really no sense in that (unless they got extremely close to the first down).

220 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'd go with:

Tier One: Brady, Manning, Rivers
Tier Two: Schaub, Roethlisberger, Orton, Palmer, Garrard
Tier Two Point five: Cassel
Tier Three: Sanchez, Henne, Flacco, Young, Fitzpatrick, Campbell
Tier Four/unknown: The rest.

(Brady, Manning, Rivers) > (Orton, Schaub, Roethlisberger) > (Sanchez, Flacco) > (Henne, McCoy, Cassel, Garard, Young, Fitzpatrick) > (Palmer, Campbell, Gradkowski, Collins, Wallace) > (Batch, Edwards, Leftwich, Delhomme)

Sanchez is deserving of an NFL contract. He is arguably an NFL starter quality player. But that's all.

Palmer drives me crazy: He will look so unbelievably good for a game, or a half, and then just start missing people like he's Brett Favre.

235 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Cassell? I'll give you the tier one and tier two as obviously better than Sanchez. I'd also say Flacco, Young and probably Campbell are better. But I'd much rather have Sanchez than Cassell. I agree that Palmer is too hard to assess.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"Deifying him"? Sure, the conventional media don't hesitate to crucify him at the drop of the hat either.

I was under the impression that it wouldn't be unreasonable could expect intelligent commentary from footballoutsiders. Cheapshots like the ones they routinely pull on Sanchez don't seem to advance the conversation much.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

From the opening paragraph:

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games....While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That 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. "

I think people (myself included at times) forget what Audibles is and is not.

- It is spontaneous
- It is not "edited"
- It is not well organized and reasoned and supported by stats
- It is mostly subjective

I come to Audibles to get an FO flavored snapshot of the previous Sunday. I find it ironic (annoying) when the FO guys crucify the play-by-play guys for making laughable analyses on the fly while providing live coverage and then resort to the same sort of mistakes. I think we underappreciate how difficult the play-by-play and color job really is.

That being said, this is one of my favorite articles each week and I fear that the constant harping and critique could bring it to an end.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"but didn't he also throw an interception in overtime, in Browns' territory?"

The interception was on third and long from outside the Browns' 40, and gave Cleveland the ball on their own 3. It was a much better result than an incompletion, and actually led to the Jets winning the game.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

It really is pretty amazing to see the reactions of Vince, in particular, to this game. You're right, Vince. The stats were clearly just lying, as were the eyes of, well, everyone else who saw the game. Thanks for your continued, objective analysis. (Seriously, we get it: he's not going to turn into Peyton Manning. But just maybe he's not following Jarmarcus's path either...)

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

It really is pretty amazing to see the reactions of Vince, in particular, to this game. You're right, Vince. The stats were clearly just lying, as were the eyes of, well, everyone else who saw the game. Thanks for your continued, objective analysis. (Seriously, we get it: he's not going to turn into Peyton Manning. But just maybe he's not following Jarmarcus's path either...)

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

There are multiple writers at FO. It's not just Aaron Schaatz. I agree that some of the writers react a little too strongly to gushing by mainstream commentators, but it's really nothing personal. I say this as a big Jets fan: just enjoy the wins and hope they continue. Let's stay well out of the path of the FOMBC.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The funny part about this, of course, is that the great majority of the negative things written about Sanchez on this website have been written by people who are not me. I guess no matter how much different writers sign their names to their opinions, l'etat c'est moi.

181 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Sanchez is decent, but isn't great. I take much greater issue with:

The Jets have a horseshoe the size of the new Meadowlands Stadium up their collective asses. Three of their wins are now this win, the fourth-and-10 Denver DPI against Santonio Holmes, and the Ndamukong Suh missed extra point.

The Browns have a horseshoe of their own, considering that the game only went to OT because of Nick Folk. The Suh extra point is a bad joke. Suh kicked the XP because Hanson was injured. Hanson was injured because Trevor Pryce roughed him on a field goal attempt. Reverse-engineer it: if Hanson were able to kick, it would mean he hadn't been roughed, which means it would have stayed a field goal instead of 1st-and-goal at the 1, which means it would have been 10-10 and not 13-10. How a Lions FG turning into a Lions (TD(-XP)) constitutes luck for the Jets remains beyond me.

Agree on the Denver game, though it appeared Holmes may have been able to catch that ball anyway. That said, NE is lucky Kris Brown sliced a makeable field goal, GB is lucky Randy Moss didn't feel like jumping, Baltimore is lucky the officials swallowed their whistles, et al.

193 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Sure. But the Suh thing bugs me because it's such an instructive example of how reductionist the "luck" argument can be. The Jets were lucky to beat Detroit because of a missed XP in the 2nd quarter? Come on.

194 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Yeah, not sure the reverse engineering works there. However, the Jets' two losses can just as easily be chalked up to bad luck. The Baltimore game would've been 9-6 Jets except for TWO very borderline calls (roughing the kicker and DPI in the endzone on 3rd down) that extended a Baltimore drive and then put them on the one yard line. The GB game turned on two flukey, joint possession-type interceptions in GB territory. So while it's true that luck has a big influence on the otucome of close games, folks making the luck argument only focus on the good luck in the Jets' wins and not the bad luck in their losses.

206 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'd extend that to seven points or less, maybe even 10 points or less. Certainly many one score games have one or two "breaks" that, if they'd gone differently, would have dramatically affected the outcome.

It's rare for one NFL team to outplay another so completely that "luck changing" (however you want to define luck) couldn't potentially reverse the result, even disregarding injury luck.

210 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Oh, sure; it's just at three points or less you typically are well within the realm of where random events decide the outcome. I sometimes think the game becomes more enjoyable once you fully accpet this; even when I have a strong rooting interest I become less focused on the outcome, and more focused on how the outcome came to be.

221 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Agree on all counts, which is precisely why this particular argument bugs me. I know I'm making a mountain out of a molehill, but if we all agree that chance plays a significant role in close games, why are the Jets singled out for their rectal horseshoe? Why not the Patriots (vs. the Bills, Ravens, Chargers)? Why not the Falcons (vs. the Saints, 49ers, and Ravens)? Hell, the Browns were supremely lucky that they didn't lose yesterday's game in regulation.

224 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Prior to Sunday's games, the Jets were 14th in expected wins, lower than any other team with 6 wins. By DVOA, their schedule at that point was the 21st most difficult. Their 9.9% DVOA was 12th -- respectable -- but the only other over-.500 teams with lower DVOAs were NO, OAK, TB, and CHI; of those four, only the Saints have gotten many accolades as an "elite" team. Furthermore, both their offensive and defensive DVOAs were quite average; the metric that stands out for them is their 4th-highest special teams rating. Special teams matter, but good special teams performance doesn't tend to stand out when talking about a team in general terms (unless the performance is a mega-outlier, like this year's SD team or the 2006 Bears).

Perhaps more to the point, the difference between their performance by FO metrics and their regular appearances on mainstream media shortlists of "top teams" probably explains why they're getting singled out here. The disparity between their record and DVOA over the first nine weeks also suggests that the Jets have probably been a relatively fortunate team in those "small luck" departments.

236 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think choosing the .500+ teams with lower DVOA is a bit of cherry-picking; New England and Atlanta aren't exactly leaving the Jets in the dust (though their schedules have been tougher), but point well taken; certainly it plays better than dropping the horseshoe brush-off on one team and one team only. I tend to agree that the Jets are the worst-of-the-best right now, so I guess my annoyance is primarily semantical. It just sounded like the sort of colorfully cliched reductionism you'd expect some tard to grumble between YANKEES SACK chants on WEEI. (Sorry, Aaron.)

239 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

My point wasn't that the Jets are necessarily that the "worst of the best." It's that through Week 9, there probably wasn't a team in the league with a bigger disparity between "FO evaluation" and "conventional wisdom evaluation." The reason I looked at .500+ teams with lower DVOA was because if any of them were highly thought-of by conventional wisdom, then the Jets would have some competition for "disparity between FO and mainstream media." Looking at teams with higher DVOA wouldn't make sense because FO would also rate them highly, reducing the disparity; similarly, looking at losing teams with lower DVOA would also be unlikely to yield any "high-disparity" teams.

243 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The Jets are 6th in VOA. The big discrepancy between their VOA and DVOA (and also expected wins) is primarily fumbles. The Jets have recovered a lot more they'd be expected to based on FO's numbers. I've got no problem with that, as far as it goes. But doesn't factor in idiosyncratic issues that might not be subject to modeling but are still relevant. For example, the Jets have fumbled an unusally high number of times compared to last year. They've been lucky to recover a lot of them but going forward it's reasonable to expect them to recover a lower percentage of fumbles but also to fumble at a lower rate. So where DVOA predicts more lost fumbles, I think it will be probably something of a wash. On defense, the Jets have also been fortunate in their fumble recoveries, but I think that's offset somewhat by bad luck in interceptions. The Jets have held their opponents to by far the lowest completion percentage and are above average in passes defensed, but they only have 5 interceptions (second lowest in the league). That strikes me as an unsustainably low interception rate. FO's own writers have argued that Sanchez's INT rate will increase based on his completion percentage and passes defensed, and Sanches actually has MORE interceptions than the Jets defense and with a better completion percentage and about the same number of passes defensed as opposing QBs. So if Sachez is due for an increase in INT rate, the Jets defense is due for an even greater increase.

244 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Those are good points, but they primarily have to do with how the Jets might fare in future games, not how they performed in past games. I was answering the question of why the Jets in particular might be "singled out" for good fortune in the games they've already played. I'm not arguing that they're not a good team. I'm not arguing that they won't continue to win. Frankly, I don't give a #$*& about them. I was just forwarding a plausible explanation for why they've been the focus of this discussion about "luck," and why that focus might be somewhat justified.

246 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think that's half of it. As previously noted, I think the explanation is that the team to be singled out satisfies

max [hype - FO metrics].

Your equation explains the very high "hype." I was treating it as a given that they had a lot of hype, and pointing out that the "FO metrics" have been quite modest in comparison to other potentially high-hype teams.

Also, sorry for being snippy in my previous post. I probably shouldn't communicate in public when watching my favorite team get blown out in spectacularly pathetic fashion.

197 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Failgoat beat me to it: It's the timing of the "horseshoe" comment that's grating. I'll grant the DET and DEN games, but it's hard to call the Jets "lucky" this time when they were exceedingly unlucky in missing *three* field goals, any of which would have won the game. That, combined with the "slant at 20 seconds would have caused time to expire" snark, seem odd to bring up for a game where the Jets seemed to be the superior team, save for those missed field goals.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I don't get it...why is it hubris for anyone to be trying to score points at the end of the first half? Denver doesn't exactly have a good defense (Exhibit A: the recent Raiders game), so why not try to build up a bigger lead at halftime?

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Seconded.

In professional sports, there is no such thing as running up the score. I hate it when teams hold back early in a game and leave the back door open for a comeback. How do you think come from behind victories happen? Because a team backs off and is too comfortable with an early lead. And Denver has a crappy enough defense for that to be a distinct possibility, and McDaniels knows it.

I've never been a fan of the Belichick and Brady Patriots, but I never held it against them when they kept their foot on the throats of their opponents. I'll state my mantra one more time, there is no such thing as running up the score in professional sports.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Clear examples of running the score in football:

1. Running a play after a kneeldown at the end of the game (Giants 27, Packers 7, 1992).

2. Onside kicking when up 45-0 in the 3rd quarter (Bengals 61, Oilers 7, 1989).

3. Going for two after a touchdown when up 36 points near the end of the game (Ohio State 50, Michigan 14, 1968).

4. Kicking a last play field goal on first down when up 69-41 (Redskins 72, Giants 41, 1966).

Nothing the Broncos did yesterday comes close.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The "Real Time" thing is very weird. Are they trying to remind us how many TV timeouts, breaks in play, etc. are in every NFL broadcast?

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think the real time thing has some validity. Especially in extreme weather, when your guys are sitting frozen on the bench for 20 minutes getting stiff, or out there baking in the sun facing a no-huddle/no-sub O for that time.

One recent example: Dwight Freeney in last year's SB. A very good game at DE in the first half with the game's only sack. As his painkillers wore off, and the extended halftime came and went (didn't they know about that?), his bad ankle certainly cared about real time vs game time. What was just a couple minutes of game time turned out to be about a half hour of real time, plenty of time to get stiff. And he was unprepared (improperly taped after halftime) when the onside kick happened because he was expecting to be on the bench for a few more minutes, and so he missed a bunch of that series, which resulted in a TD for NO.

I'd say day in/day out with low variance teams and weather, real time is no big deal. Just like end-of-half clock management--it doesn't always have an impact. But when it does, it can be a big deal.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

An amazingly bad throw from Jay Cutler on third-and-goal. He scrambles out of traffic and then throws into a spot in the end zone where his receiver is open, but the fact that he is SCRAMBLING and it's IN THE END ZONE means that about three different players pass through that passing lane between the time the ball is released and the theoretical point at which his receiver would catch the pass. It gets picked.

And what's worse, Cutler hasn't completed a pass in nineteen hours of real time!

------

Seriously, though: for those of you who didn't see any of the Bears-Vikings game, the Bears (and Cutler) played probably their best game of the season. You wouldn't know it from the comments in Audibles.

Cutler's second pick (the one described above) was cover-your-eyes awful, but his first hit Johnny Knox in the chest and caromed directly into a Viking's hands.

Conversely, the first touchdown throw, to Olsen, was beautiful. The second touchdown was a nice little throw to Hester, who had a great run after the catch. The third touchdown was play action out of a three-TE package on third-and-inches, where Cutler made a nice fake, then an easy throw to Kellen Davis.

And overall, Hester probably had his best game as a pro. He had two big kickoff returns (surprising that he was on KR duty at all, as he hasn't been for over two years) and another big punt return. He had a nice, solid day catching the ball.

------

As for Favre, yeesh. Aside from the one big throw to Harvin (which was an incredible throw, indeed), he did not look good. He underthrew Harvin badly on the same play a second time, which would have been a touchdown but instead was DPI. His first pick was batted at the line, but his second and third were flat-out bad throws. Losing Harvin to an ankle(?) injury hurt, but Favre did not help himself, throwing behind receives all day long.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I agree with you. Cutler played well. That certainly had something to do with the fact that he had plenty of time to throw the ball.

The first pick was tipped by Lito Sheppard - but it wasn't Cutler's fault. Knox didn't come back to the ball.

Favre has been awful this year. He's had flashes of great play but in general he has been horrible.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Favre wasn't good, but the receivers were worse. On the third interception, Shiancoe (who has been simply awful this year) fell down. Yes, the ball was behind him, but those passes are completed every Sunday in the NFL. Camarillo has a ball hit him in the hands at the goal line, and four points are thus given away. No, it wasn't the easiest catch, but not even close to being especially difficult by NFL receiver standards. On other incompletions, the receivers just arent any good at getting to the right place against a zone. Shiancoe had his other predictable drops as well. When Harvin is off the field, there is no passing threat.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Will, that ball to Shiancoe was absolutely uncatchable, and was no one's fault but Favre. In no part of the NFL do receivers routinely catch balls like that. In fact, most of the time when you throw the ball that far behind the receiver, getting picked off is the result. Favre throws at covered receivers entirely too often, and thats why we're seeing so many tipped picks. We see the same thing with Eli.

The receivers aren't the problem.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Yes, Rich, when a receiver is sitting on his ass, the ball becomes uncatchable. Look, you have previously converted eighteen yards into 10 feet when evaluating Favre's throws, so I don't think you are able to view his play with anything approaching accuracy.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Uh, I'm with Eddo on this one. The commentators initially covered for Favre, but replays showed the ball was thrown several yards -- at least three or four -- behind Shancoe. He slipped because he was trying to stop suddenly and reverse direction to catch the ball, which would have been impossible even if he hadn't slipped. It was one of several throws by Favre that were badly off-target -- which might explain why Favre told Ed Werder after the game that he'd actually felt some serious pain in his shoulder Saturday morning.

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Bears receivers slipped a few times as well. The turf was in part to blame, but, though the announcers at no point were smart enough to notice, the real cause was the quarterback throwing behind the guy, who suddenly had to stop short.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I didn't mean to sound as if I was blaming the slip on Shiancoe, the ball was behind him, and the turf was causing everyone to slip. I don't think the ball was as far behind him as you say, however, and if the receiver doesn't fall down, the ball doesn't become an easy interception.

Shiancoe has been bad this year, but the slip on that play was completely understandable.

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

This comment was made by you earlier this year, on a pass from Favre, when he was standing on the 18 yard line, and Harvin was at the goal line.....

"When you throw a bullet at a reciever who is falling down, 10 feet away, and surrounded by 3 defenders, you can't expect good things to happen all that often."

http://footballoutsiders.com/quick-reads/2010/week-2-quick-reads

The Zombie King wreaks havoc once again!

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Will, your ability to parse language amazes me. Your posts drip in hyperbole and sarcasm, and yet you go out of your way to literally interpret every post where others use them.

Your hypocritic pedantry is amazing.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Comparing Brett Favre's picks this season to Eli Manning's is absurd. Eli Manning's picks have, with a few exceptions, been throws that were a foot high that the receiver should have caught, but instead batted up into the air so that the deep safety could make a fair catch on them. Were they all perfect passes? No. Should that happen in the NFL to the same guy more than once a season? No. Eli has at least six of those picks.

Favre apparently has Alzheimers' disease and forgets which uniforms are his team sometimes. Seriously. His picks this year have been throws into coverage, behind receivers, or underthrown.

152 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Favre has had some terrible picks, but quite a few have been what I like to call "Eli-Picks".

Balls thrown just a little off target to covered wide receivers, where if the throw isn't perfect, there's a high chance of something going badly.

When you throw high to a guy in the middle of the field, in bracket coverage, a pick isn't all that unexpected of an outcome, and thats what Eli does. Favre does the same thing, except its usually not high, its still to a guy who is well covered.

IE, both of them make lots of throws where there is a non-marginal risk of catastrophe.

186 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

As a Bears fan who has watched Cutler these last two years I started to look quite hard at every QB I now watch to see if there are huge disparities in how often they try the bizarre 'what was he thinking' throws. Having been doing this for a few weeks, my (admittedly subjective, I haven't been charting this or anything) opinion is that all QBs do it (from Brees to Brady with Rodgers and every other QB I have watched since I have been looking out for it, even Peyton Manning). They will all try to throw high over the middle as pass rushers converge from both sides, they will all force the ball into coverage trying to throw a guy open and they will all aim deep into small windows in the coverage. The guys who do it least tend to be the ones who are getting properly protected and who's offenses utilise proper play fakes and misdirections to slow the defense down for a second. It is all starting to make me think that the biggest differences are down to protection, good route definition and sympatico between receivers and the QB - in other words a good deal of it comes down to coaching. I would guess that this suprises nobody here.

Some guys do have strange tendencies; eg. Eli has been throwing the ball two feet over his WR's heads for years now, this is for my mind because he tries to throw with a straight front leg. Another one is that Cutler won't ever give up on a play, whether he really needs to or not. Poor throws will happen most often when the QB doesn't throw with proper form as this will reduce accuracy and velocity, this is a technical issue as opposed to the guy being a moron. If a guy is constantly throwing into tight windows the receivers aren't getting definition in their routes allowing defenders to close the space to throw the ball into. The good passing teams also often tend to have receivers who stop defenders getting clean attempts to make the pick. Bad throws are going to happen all you can really try to do is minimise the risks.

I actually think if your team's QB won't ever try to make the extremely tought throws it is a good sign that he is either rubbish or that his coaches just don't trust him.

191 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I mostly agree with your thinking here. There are a very large number of factors which go in to many interceptions, or dropped interceptions, and it becomes very hard to account for all the factors. When a qb gets to a huge sample size, like Favre, it gets easier to say with confidence that a guy is less careful than others, and then it becomes a matter of balancing the downside with the upside. For much smaller sample sizes, however, evaluation is really hard. I will say that the bad trait which is easiest to recognize is the Deer-in-the-Headlights indecisiveness you see in a lot of young, or very old, qbs.

Now, a genetically engineered Eli/Donovan hybrid would have every pass hit the receiver right between the numbers!

198 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

A lot of good stuff in this post, Jimmy. I agree with just about all of it, and I tend to "forgive" more interceptions over the middle in space (Cutler's first), as opposed to ones where the ball was clearly forced as a last resort (Cutler's second).

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I don't agree with you regarding the 3rd int. That ball was way behind Shiancoe.

I do agree on the Camarillo play - that was a very good throw.

But in general I think Favre has played very poorly. He simply can't handle any level of rush anymore.

But when a team tanks it is more than just the QB playing badly. The receivers haven't been very good either. When you have Camirillo, Lewis and Shiancoe as your receivers in the second half - you're likely going to suck. The running backs have been horrible in pass protection. I would argue that the offensive line has been good enough to win more than they've lost - but debating that is pointless.

What I found most discouraging about this team was it's seeming lack of passion. Particularly on the defensive front. That group just didn't have anywhere near the kind of drive to get the passer as they have had in the past.

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Again, I didn't mean to imply that the third int was not a bad throw, but bad throws frequently do not turn into interceptions, if the receiver does not fall down, and again, it was understandable that the receiver fell down in this instance, given the field conditions. I also agree that Favre's ability to handle pressure has declined, but it is really hard to seperate that aspect of his play from the terrible receiving. Very few qbs in the league, if any, would handle pressure well with Lewis, Camarillo and Shiancoe on the field, with a Vikings running back tasked with pass blocking.

I'd agree the defensive line has been the most suprisingly disappointing aspect to the team's performance this year, although one should not be surprised in the least when a 38 year old nose tackle has his productivity go over the cliff. I really did expect Jared Allen and Ray Edwards to have good years, and it has been just the opposite, although it is difficult to pinpoint why. I am hesitant to attribute it to something like "passion", however. That's a little too close to Swaggerland for my comfort. Sometimes, guys just don't play as well, and, especially from a distance, it's hard to say why. I think it might have a lot to do with the fact that their first three road games last year came against teams that combined for an 8-40 won-loss record.

233 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think you are being to easy on Favre. Yeah, the receivers haven't helped him, but he's been iffy with his accuracy all year. Compare his receivers to the Rams or Bucs, and yet Bradford and Freeman outplaying him.

Also, receivers like Berrian have had more success before Favre showed up, and have gotten worse.

242 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'm not going to pretend I've seen the Bucs or Rams play this year, and I'm not saying Favre has played well, or even average. I'm saying that Camarillo and Lewis, are bad, bad, receivers, who have played a lot, and Shiancoe is hugely overrated. Berrian is turning 30 this year; it is not unexpected that a guy who has had moderate success in his career would start getting worse at this time, and nagging injuries like last year's hamstring and yesterday's late scratch due to a groin pull, would be how this decline usually appears.

Throw in the fact that the Vikings let go of the one running back who was competent at picking up blitzes and stunts, and they have had the one center they trust to make line calls (even if he gets pushed around a lot) only intermittently, and a guy like Loadholdt simply stunk for the first month of the season, I think qb performance has not been their biggest shortcoming in the passing game.

263 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'm possibly the world's biggest Josh Freeman fan, but I don't think you can compare the Bucs' receivers to the utter crap the Rams have had to run with. If it wasn't for Bradford running away with the award, Mike Williams would be a strong candidate for OROY. Arrelious Benn is beginning to play well, and Kellen Winslow may be a bit of a dick, but he's a talented dick who can catch the ball. The Bucs actually have had a decent group of receivers this year; the Rams really haven't.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

If that was the Bears best game, 27 points, after getting short field after short field, and not getting a two possession lead until late, then the Bears are awful. Yes, Hester was terrific, although it was ridiculous that the Vikings couldn't get him pushed out of bounds on one of the long punt returns. Other than that, the Bears, at least on offense, were bad.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The impression I came away with was that the Bears would have scored more points if they hadn't repeatedly penaltied their way off the field on offense. Dumb holding penalties, false starts, any other way to try to get off the field. Also when Bears fans thhese days say the offense played well they really mean that the offensive line managed to execute at least some of the blocking assignments they were given and that consequently Cutler's brains aren't dribbling out of his nostrils.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Well, the Bears aren't good on offense. And they likely never will be unless they replace at least two pieces of the O-Line, and by they time that they accomplish that, they will need to replace Kreutz at center due to age.
In fairness to the Bears about the two possession lead comment, Cutler is good for at least one WTF?? throw a game. It was only one in this game, but it came at one of the worst times that he could have thrown it.
Favre's int on the Shiancoe throw was just as bad though, it just did not happen in the end zone.
My real surprise was the absolute lack of competency on the Viking's D-Line. I know that it has been documented before, but to only come away with one sack against that O-Line is inexcusable.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Absolutely about Hester having one of the best games of his career. His returns won't make the highlight reels because none of them were touchdowns, but he was completely on fire returning kicks -- both of his long returns displayed his amazing vision and cutting ability, and he didn't have a single boneheaded moment of running around in circles like those that have always been the unspoken other side to Devin Hester as a returner. And it's the first game I've ever really seen Hester successfully integrated into the offense consistently -- it's not about being in on every snap, nor is it about gimmick plays. Hester probably had the biggest positive impact for his team of any player on the field yesterday.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

THANK YOU.

I was thinking the same thing as I read that section. I came here looking for analysis and I see 1) Favre/Harvin love, 2) Cutler dig, 3) Kreutz dig, 4) Cutler dig. Granted, all these points are legitimate, but didn't the Bears win this game? By two touchdowns? There weren't any other points of emphasis that could be, you know, analyzed? Something that reflected the game in little better? I mean the Bears must have done somethings right. How about the Bears D holding Peterson to his lowest yardage total of the season? Their 4 takeaways? Hester's resurgence? The Bears o-line improvement in both phases? There are tons of story lines here, dozens of horses that have been beaten about the Bears' shortcomings and this was the perfect opportunity to mention something fresh, but no, same Favre love and Cutler digs. Which of these QBs won again?

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Spontaneous and unedited is all good, and even if you're only going to analyze anywhere from 1 to handful of plays, I would think that handful wouldn't be so uninteresting, not to mentioned slanted. Seriously, the Vikes had one good play all game and (30 to 40, ish, penalties excepted) the Bears had two bad ones. Yet those were the only emphasized plays. I already admitted they were legit. They absolutely happened as described. But again, they were uninteresting.

I see two possible scenarios. You flipped channels and checked on this game periodically. If so, I find it hard to believe these were the only 4 plays that you happened to see. If, however, you did see more plays than these four, I just find it hard to believe these were what prompted enough reaction to write it down.

My criticism wasn't that you didn't fellate my favorite team. Other interesting plays included the Vikes starting the game gashing the Bears on the ground or highly-accurate Robbie Gould missing a FG for the second straight game or that again Knox did something substandard (this time not coming back to the ball) in his route that resulted in an INT. These are all more interesting than Favre being able to hit a wide open receiver, Cutler throwing another boneheaded red zone INT or the o-line being less than perfect. I mean if you want to advance boring story lines, why didn't you throw in Favre's four TOs, too? I can read all those takes on many other lazy sites. That's not why I come to FO.

If anything, there were many opportunities for fresh takes than for rehashing old memes, and I guess I was just expecting if FO guys were paying attention to this game, they would leave the low hanging fruit for all the others and make some more interesting observations themselves.

226 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Wow, I think you really, truly don't get Audibles. The FO people are primarily football fans - they just happen to also write about it. On Sundays, they like to watch football. These really are their thoughts as they watch.

Your criticisms are sort of like screaming at the guy next to you at the bar when he says "Cutler doesn't look too good tonight," just because he's been mostly watching the game on the other TV and only glances over at the Bears game when there's a commercial on the one he's really interested in.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I came here expecting to read about how the Vikings beat themselves. Not that I think that really tells anybody what happened but I have been coming here long enough to know what I am going to get (yet I still come back, I guess momma didn't love me enough as a child or something).

Its Audibles, it is what it is.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

This is Audibles, not an analysis of your favorite team. It's just random emails from people watching the game. Period.

But you know what's cool? If you want to type up a comment talking about all of those things, nothing is stopping you. People will read it, including the FO staff, and a lively discussion can ensue!

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Not only was that not what I was expecting, but I didn't think that's how I came across or that I had to explain that further (see #142). And honestly, I think the Bears left a lot of points on the field. They were far from sooooooooo good. If anything, most writers are lauding the Bears in the their win, but really they could have done a LOT better. That would be another thing I would come here to read. 27-13? F that. Should have been 40 at least. Doesn't have to be a full analysis in the least, but any such observation, even a one liner, would be more interesting than most full articles elsewhere.

I'm happy they won, but I don't go around to sites looking for hosannas, I was looking for interesting. I thought all four points about this game were pretty uninteresting (and yes, rather unrepresentative the game as a whole), that's all.

202 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Ugh. They could have said anything positive or negative as long as it was interesting/original, which I think is pretty fair feedback.

But your comment is clearly adding value to the discussion. Thanks for playing along.

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Chris Harris looked very slow on the TD to Harvin. Now Harvin is very fast but not that fast. How do you end up taking three steps towards the middle of the field with Harvin streaking down the sideline and Farve rolling out to his right? Free Major Wright.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Two things:

Thanks, at the game, we didn't know if it was Harris or Manning who was burned on the TD. It was definitely Manning with the DPI on the second attempt at that play.

After the DPI, Major Wright was in the game, along with Harris. Later on, though, he was out again. I'd like to see him get more playing time, but maybe the coaching staff doesn't think he's 100% yet?

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think the coaches are just going to end up spelling Harris, Wright and Manning if they are all healthy and Wright has caught up. It may end up keeping all three fresh which isn't the worst thing in the world but I personally would rather see them go with Wright and Manning. Smith & Co seem to prefer having a solid veteran back there but every team the Bears play is going to try to take the top off the coverage on Harris' side of the field, especially when Jennings doesn't re-direct properly (or at all) near the line. To an extent this pretty much sums up Jennings; if the ball is thrown in front of him he is pretty good (ie. rallies to the ball quickly and tackles well), when he has to turn and run he pretty much sucks. If Bowman tackled better he would be the starter.

What scares me is that in two weeks the Eagles come to town and they are going to see if Harris and Jennings are up to the test. I fear they will not pass and Maclin and Jackson will have good days.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Yeah, the plan seems to be to rotate the three safeties to keep them all fresh and get Wright some experience.

I'm hoping that when the Eagles come to town, the weather is nasty. Vick has never played well in Chicago when the weather is a factor. I still remember him all bundled up on the sidelines when the Bears played the Falcons in December 2005. When he was in the game, he looked like he couldn't wait to get back to the sidelines. We''ll see if Michael Vick 2.0 is any more comfortable in Bear weather.

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I had a horrible flashback to SBXLI on that play. The only way the Chinese-water-torture soft-zone pass D is going to work is if that sort of breakdown never ever happens. It's happened three times in two weeks now, and they probably would have lost the Buffalo game if Ryan Fitzpatrick hadn't picked that play to go all noodle-arm.

Echoing Jimmy's comment on Jennings, I believe all three of those breakdowns occurred on Jennings' side of the field.

248 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Chris Harris bit on the play action, took three full steps inside without getting deeper and by the time the ball was in the air was at best even with Harvin and well inside the play. If the Bears are playing in their base Tampa 2 that play is 1000% on Chris Harris.

(I don't think he bit on the seam route, 54 is all over it. The only thing that would get him to cheat inside like that would be AP.)

I'm not particular fan of Jennings but there's no way that he has single coverage on Harvin and is lined up only 3 yards off the line of scrimmage; if he has that whole sideline to himself he has to be 8-10 yards off the LOS.

255 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Entirely agree. It was the cover 2 shell and Harris screwed up. Jennings should have re-directed Harvin towards his help to stop him simply sprinting down the field towards the corner but Harris needs to stay over the top.