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

Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Audibles at the Line: Week 11
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 18

Chicago Bears 16 at Miami Dolphins 0

Bill Barnwell: Cameron Wake is killing the Bears right tackle. A stripsack and a holding penalty drawn on two drives already; the Bears were able to pick up a first down on the second drive when the Dolphins totally lost contain on Jay Cutler and he scrambled for 19 yards on third-and-18. The Bears appear to be going possession-by-possession with Forte and Taylor, which is sad for Forte fantasy owners or pre-season Forte touters.

Cory Procter also blew out his knee, so the Dolphins are down to Richie Incognito at center.

Tom Gower: I am once again proscribing myself from saying anything at all about the announcers.

Especially given the injury state of the offensive line, I'm surprised the Dolphins have been content for the first 20 minutes to let Thigpen stay in the pocket and throw instead of intentionally moving him around more.

Brandon Marshall should try catching the ball and when he does actually catch the ball not celebrating by throwing it at an opponent after the play to cost his team 15 yards.

Bill Barnwell: In all fairness, Jay Cutler has thrown the ball to the other team frequently enough. It's nice that someone would return the favor.

Ben Muth: Matt Millen doesn't seem to realize that lining up a tight end next to an offensive tackle doesn't help unless the tight end actually stays in to block. Mike Martz doesn't seem to grasp the concept of keeping extra guys into block. This is going to be a frustrating game to watch.

Aaron Schatz: This is not a game to watch if you like offense. And I've noticed that with the first half pretty much over, we haven't seen anything funky out of Miami: no Wildcat, no Pistol.

Bill Barnwell: Joey T just noted that the Bears defense is simple because they line up with "Four guys, three linebackers, two corners, and a safety." I guess that's the Cover--1.

Aaron Schatz: This is fun. Let's count how many times J'Marcus Webb is holding Cameron Wake and it isn't called. He just yanked Wake to the ground on a third-and-long where Cutler had to scramble.

Doug Farrar: Thigpen isn't really a Wildcat/option guy per se, but they're not using any Pistol with him? That's a surprise, since the Dolphins used some Pistol with Pat White last year and it was the only time White did anything. Did they not see the 2008 Chiefs film? Are they shotgun snapping at all with Incognito at center?

Bill Barnwell: I wouldn't be surprised if that had something to do with them avoiding the Pistol. Jaws thought they were going to use it.

At the moment, Matt Forte has 15 carries for 84 yards. Chester Taylor has nine carries for four yards. They've used Taylor some in short-yardage, but he's been terrible.

Aaron Schatz: I'm thinking the Wildcat just as a change-up to get their third quarterback off the field. But then again, the Wildcat has been awful this year, less than two yards per carry.

Vince Verhei: I just turned this on in time to see Cutler hit Greg Olsen for a first down just outside the red zone. Cameron Wake was covering an inside zone on the play. Why is Cameron Wake ever not rushing the passer?

Aaron Schatz: Well, that was interesting. Chicago ran an unbalanced line on third-and-goal from the two, moving Frank Omiyale over to the right outside of Webb. Omiyale hit the block that really opened up space for Matt Forte to score.

Bill Barnwell: Outside of those goal line situations, the Bears are killing Miami when they bounce their runs outside. Of course, that should suggest a steady diet of Forte, but Chester Taylor's still on the field.

Ben Muth: How many near picks has Cutler thrown tonight? 3? 4? 17?

Bill Barnwell: I will say this: Tyler Thigpen looks bad, but at least he didn't cost two first rounders and a superior quarterback. Cutler seems to think the world freezes in front of him when he releases the ball.

The heavy petting Matt Millen is giving Rod Marinelli is just embarrassing.

Tom Gower: Did the Dolphins forget last Sunday's game, when they played a team whose defense depends largely on its pass rush and decided to not let their quarterback be a sitting duck in the pocket and instead ran bootlegs and rollouts and moved him around, or did they decide it was just better to have Thigpen stand behind a patchwork offensive line and treat him like he's Drew Bledsoe? I try not to criticize coaches too much, but I simply do not understand the Dolphins' gameplan on offense this game.

Ned Macey: For a guy on the hot seat coming into the year, Lovie Smith has a pretty impressive resume. While a hallowed franchise, the Bears have been pretty bad for about 40 years except for the Ditka years. Smith is comfortably the second most successful Bears coach post-Halas. He's overseen a top 10 DVOA defense every year but one since he's been there. Obviously, like his mentor in Tampa Bay, he's been unable to put together a competent offense, but as his mentor proved, with the right personnel and scheme, suddenly offense wasn't a problem. (As an aside, the Bears have had a postive offensive DVOA once, that's right once, in the DVOA era.) I'm not saying he's a Hall of Famer or anything, and I generally think most coaches are interchangable, but some coaches, including Lovie, actually add value.

Sunday, November 21

Oakland Raiders 3 at Pittsburgh Steelers 35

Bill Barnwell: Steelers have been called for three personal fouls in the first quarter. They probably committed, oh, about one and a quarter personal fouls across the three of them.

Vince Verhei: I did like Dan Fouts saying these teams have a history of rough games. As if whatever Jack Tatum and Joe Greene did before these players were born will have some effect in 2010.

Bill Barnwell: Richard Seymour's been disqualified for hitting Ben Roethlisberger with his best shotei. Chris Kemoeatu took a personal foul on the play, too.

Aaron Schatz: Jonathan Scott is going to get Ben Roethlisberger killed. Worse, he got injured himself in the second quarter. I don't know if he's back or not, but whoever they have behind him must be even worse. The Steelers are really crushing the Raiders in the first half though. The whole Raiders offense is based on the running game and against the Steelers they have no running game. McFadden had five yards on his first five carries.

Lame penalty of the week: The officials threw a pass interference flag on Ike Taylor on a pass where he was covering Louis Murphy and Murphy actually ran out of bounds on his way down the field. I don't think Taylor forced him out, I think the DPI was on Taylor at the end of the pass. But if Murphy had caught that pass, it technically should have been a penalty for illegal touching. Isn't one of you guys watching to make sure the receivers are staying in bounds?

Bill Barnwell: Jason Campbell just threw a terrible pick-six. Bad. Jason Campbell was brave enough to stand in the pocket until the very last second, and right after that very last second, James Harrison tackled him. That's a personal foul, and it wipes off the pick-six.

Aaron Schatz: I again point out that the Steelers run defense is impressive. I think Darren McFadden just broke two tackles on his way to a loss of a yard.

Bill Barnwell: Raiders just ended up with linebacker Travis Goethel chasing Mike Wallace across the formation on a crossing pattern. You can probably guess how that turned out.

Cleveland Browns 20 at Jacksonville Jaguars 24

Mike Tanier: I... I think I want a Peyton Hillis jersey for Christmas.

Bill Barnwell: Jaguars just went for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 37-yard line with eight minutes left in the third quarter. And they got it. Good for them. Unfortunately, David Garrard just threw a tipped pick a couple of plays later.

Vince Verhei: Jacksonville has held Peyton Hillis to 40-some yards on 19 carries, but they're still trailing 17-10 because they've turned the ball over six times, including four interceptions, one thrown by Maurice Jones-Drew.

Hillis does have 95 yards on six catches. He really is the entire Cleveland offense.

Bill Barnwell: Maurice Jones-Drew just went 80 yards on a screen pass when the Browns did their best impersonation of the Browns from the Santonio Holmes TD last week, just blowing multiple tackles. MJD went from the right side of the field all the way to the left side and then back to the middle as part of the run. Went down at the one-yard line.

For some reason, Colt McCoy decides to throw up the seam with 10 seconds left and no timeouts; no way could they have caught the pass and ran up the field to spike the ball, but the pass was tipped and intercepted anyway. Don't understand that decision.

Washington Redskins 19 at Tennessee Titans 16

Tom Gower: I feel like I'm watching an NFC West game. McNabb gets "sacked" on the first series after tripping over his center, the Titans start inside the 35 after a horrific punt and Mike Sellers give them an extra couple yards by failing to stop the punt from bouncing backwards, Vince Young has yet another fumble on a scramble, and McNabb misses a wide open Santana Moss for a TD. The Titans do get a punt return TD by Marc Mariani. Michael Griffin had a good downfield block to ensure the TD, but the key "play" was gunner Anderson Russell getting hurt to open up the lane.

Bill Barnwell: Give McNabb credit for throwing that great slant to Stephen Tulloch.

Mike Tanier: McNabb settled down a little after that miserable start. As have the Redskins. I was anticipating a mass sick out after the Titans punt return touchdown.

Tom Gower: The Redskins were down Artis Hicks entering today and have lost Casey Rabach and Derrick Dockery since then, but it hasn't really affected their offensive productivity after the early struggles. Santana Moss has been getting open, and just caught a nice inside shovel pass to convert third-and-6, and both Portis and Keiland Williams, who's getting the majority of the carries, have run with some success, often by running right at Jacob Ford and behind Trent Williams. The Titans do hold them to a field goal, but with over 19:00 gone, the Redskins have run 32 plays to five for the Titans.

The normally kind and supportive Titans crows has seen the boo-birds out early and often today. Apparently they believed the Randy Moss hype or something. Moss has no catches thus far, but the Titans have definitely been looking his direction -- they tried to force the ball to him in goal-to-go, but he wasn't open either time, and other passes looking for him have resulted in throws to secondary targets.

Aaron Schatz: I looked over to Washington-Tennessee and could not believe how much pass protection McNabb had. He had all day to throw. And he did... throw it to Will Witherspoon. Good going there, Donovan.

Tom Gower: Young smacks his throwing hand after a long completion to Nate Washington, forcing rookie sixth-round pick Rusty Smith into the game. Two runs, a third down slant for Moss is almost picked by DeAngelo Hall, and then a fourth-and-3 from the Redskins 37 deep fade to Moss results in a touchdown negated by obvious offensive pass interference. I hope Randy's just having fun out there.

Rusty Smith's first NFL completion goes for 52 yards down the middle to Nate Washington. The Titans ran three vertical routes on the same side against Cover-2 with expected results. Young's hand is taped up and they've apparently been trying without success to find a glove that lets him throw successful.

After the Redskins tie the game up at 16 with a little over five minutes to play, the Titans start the next drive by throwing deep for Nate Washington. Rusty Smith airmails Washington by a good 10+ yards and is easily intercepted by Philip Buchanon, who returns the ball to the Titans 40.

Mike Tanier: McNabb just tripped over an oxygen molecule with four minutes left in the game. Rusty Staub has the ball.

Tom Gower: Young had his helmet on and seemed to have declared that his thumb is absolutely not limiting his game that badly, but Rusty's on his way back to the huddle.

Rob Weintraub: Looks like Donovan's cardiovascular endurance has improved in the last few weeks.

Vince Verhei: With Green Bay's soul-cleansing burial of the Minnesota Favres complete, TV has switched to this game, the ugliest clash of uniforms in some time. Mustard yellow! Burgundy! Powder blue! Dark blue! My eyes!

Tom Gower: Rusty Smith's play today shows why playing, let alone starting, a rookie 6th-round pick is a horrible idea. As Friend of FO Gregg Rosenthal noted on twitter, of his first seven passes, four of them could have been intercepted. Any time the Titans drop back to pass now, they're almost doing the Redskins a favor. At this point, I'd rather see Kerry Collins in the game, even if he can only do shotgun handoffs and some really easy passes.

The Titans won the toss and lost the game. Rusty Smith didn't magically learn to throw between the end of regulation and start of overtime, and they were flagged thrice for penalties to give the Redskins 35 of their 57 yards, including an unnecessary altercation after a properly overturned interception and a stupid roughing the passer penalty where Will Witherspoon went in too high. A very good win for the Redskins, who were down 9 starters at one point during the game, and probably a loss that cripples the Titans' playoff hopes.

Houston Texans 27 at New York Jets 30

Bill Barnwell: Jets are struggling to run the ball against the Texans, but they've been able to move the ball through the air. The Texans appear to be giving huge cushions on the outside, which has been limiting the big plays there, but Braylon Edwards has been lining up in the slot and getting man coverage against Dolphins washout Jason Allen. This hasn't worked out very well for the Texans.

Guy just ran onto the field in New York as Jets were about to snap it. Was smart enough to sprint straight through the lined-up players so he would get on TV, but he ran in the slot so no one could hit him. CBS then, for some reason, cut to a wide shot so we could see more cops chasing him as he ran about 70 yards before being caught. Then they cut to Rex Ryan, who is guffawing, and then Jets players, who are also laughing. Hard to reconcile that with Dan Dierdorf's lecture to the "morons" who run onto the field.

And hey, remember that bit about the Jets being lucky and getting penalties against the opposition on their key drives? Not this time. A backup lineman takes a unnecessary roughness penalty after a nice kickoff return, and then Mark Sanchez is hit in his motion and throws an interception that should end it.

It isn't ended.

Bill Barnwell: Wow. The Jets live. Sanchez eludes a sack to hit a checkdown to Tomlinson, gets another one, and then he gets the big one up the sideline to Edwards. Wow.

Ben Muth: Viva El Sanchize.

Bill Barnwell: And then Sanchez hits Santonio Holmes, easy, for a game-winning touchdown. 32nd-ranked pass defense, sure, but that's 72 yards in 49 seconds with no timeouts.

Vince Verhei: Remember our dreary projection for Houston? Think about where they would be right now without the best running back in football.

Aaron Schatz: And, by the way, Arian Foster had a pretty darn good day today against one of the top run defenses in the league. It's pretty remarkable to compare that to the way Pittsburgh completely shut down McFadden.

Baltimore Ravens 37 at Carolina Panthers 13

Vince Verhei: If the Ravens lose this game, I'm going to write about it in Any Given Sunday over and over again for the rest of the year.

Bill Barnwell: Well, doesn't look like it's going to happen -- Ed Reed picks off Brian St. Pierre and laterals to Dawan Landry during the return for the touchdown.

My own pet theory regarding the lateral is that three or four generations from now, with smarter, faster players, we'll see laterals a lot more frequently on even the most basic offensive plays. But that doesn't make it a smart move right now. That being said, this was a pretty innocuous one.

And then Ray Lewis picks off St. Pierre and returns it for a second touchdown on two plays. Oops.

Green Bay Packers 31 at Minnesota Vikings 3

Doug Farrar: Troy Aikman near the end of the first half, on the idea of pulling a certain quarterback if things continue as they are: "Brett Favre gives the Vikings the best chance to win -- I don't care how many interceptions he throws." I had to check to make sure that Phil Simms didn’t walk into the booth and do his Aikman impression.

Mike Kurtz: Really weird play in Minnesota ... Favre throws a bullet through the hands of Percy Harvin, it goes downfield about 10 yards, and hits Sam Shields, who had fallen to the ground during the play, in the hands while he's lying on his back. Fortunately for Favre, it slipped out.

And then they go to kick a field goal, Ryan Longwell nails the 51-yarder, but Jim Kleinsasser clotheslines the defender in his rush. Penalty erases the the kick.

And Greg Jennings just caught his third touchdown. Between this week and the previous, it's abundantly clear who Rodgers's favorite target is now.

Arizona Cardinals 13 at Kansas City Chiefs 31

Bill Barnwell: Chiefs coach the heck out of a goal line play, bringing in Jackie Battle to play halfback, Mike Vrabel to play tight end, and six OL. Battle gets stuffed before Dwayne Bowe goes in on the next play. Why on earth can't coaches just use their normal halfbacks in short yardage? I'm not saying Thomas Jones is great, of course, but Jamaal Charles doesn't suddenly turn into putty near the goal line.

OK, the Chiefs just ran a fade to Mike Vrabel in the end zone. As in they split him out wide and threw him a fade like he was Brandon Marshall. That's ridiculous.

Aaron Schatz: I believe that Vrabel pass in the end zone was the first incomplete pass of his career.

I think the subtitle for next year's Arizona chapter is going to be "Larry Fitzgerald at the Edge of Reason." Can somebody please get this guy a semi-decent quarterback?

Bill Barnwell: Derek Anderson just missed a wide-open Larry Fitzgerald for a first down; Cardinals then decide to go for it on fourth-and-2. Chiefs take a timeout the moment before the snap, icing their own defense when Tamba Hali sacks Anderson. Anderson then throws the ball away in disgust after the play, which results in a unsportsmanlike conduct call on him, turning it into a fourth-and-17.

Detroit Lions 19 at Dallas Cowboys 35

Doug Farrar: With key blocks on Dallas’ opening drive, Cowboys fullback Chris has confirmed his spot as the second-most valuable Gronkowski. Denver tight end Dan has a loooooong way to go.

Mike Tanier: And then the Lions dig deep into their ways to lose catalog for a punt return touchdown, followed by a fumble.

Doug Farrar: Bryan McCann: Three NFL games, two TD returns of 90+ yards.

Mike Tanier: McCann also got crushed in the open field by kicker Dave Rayner early in the game. The Cowboys will trade that for a touchdown per week.

Bill Barnwell: Miles Austin catches a three-yard touchdown pass and sprints down the sideline high-fiving fans like he's the Ultimate Warrior in his pomp.

Mike Tanier: Ndamukong Suh just got a 15-yard penalty for a hair pull tackle. Then a fumble return touchdown was called back. Jim Schwartz appears ready to burn down a village.

Aaron Schatz: Schwartz was actually angry because a Dallas player ripped the helmet of a Detroit player and the officials didn't call a penalty. I'll be shocked if he has Barber's down-by-contact overturned.

Tom Gower: It was a perfectly legal tackle.

Rob Weintraub: Jon Kitna with the second-best all-time naked bootleg, just ahead of Broadway Joe limping it home for the Jets and behind Steve Bono scoring the slowest TD ever recorded.

Ben Muth: I'd like to nominate Steve Bono's 76-yarder against the Cardinals, which I saw live.

Rob Weintraub: Did you get a beer while that play unfolded, and return to your seat before Bono crossed the stripe?

Buffalo Bills 49 at Cincinnati Bengals 31

Bill Barnwell: Apparently the Bengals timed Carson Palmer's cortisone shot properly this week; he's been blowing up the Bills. Ryan Fitzpatrick has a couple of interceptions, one on a really underthrown out pattern, and the Bengals are going to be up two-plus scores quick.

The Bengals are up 28-14 and just had the ball on the one-yard line after two consecutive defensive pass interference penalties. The Bengals were stuffed on first-and-1 and then took a timeout with five seconds left, leaving them one. Would you kick the field goal there? Throw the ball? Go for it? They chose to run the ball and got stood up, and the clock ran out before the play ended. I don't think going for it is indefensible, but either pass the ball or run a dive that's going to end within 2-3 seconds.

Tom Gower: They ended up putting :01 back on the clock, let the Bengals take a TO, and they kicked a field goal to go into the half up 31-14. Still, not a decision I'm a fan of.

Vince Verhei: I think I'd have to watch the play to really understand the time ramifications, but if I had one play to score a touchdown, I'd trust Cedric Benson before I trusted Carson Palmer.

Rob Weintraub: My biased eyes thought the play was over, and my friend in the Stadium said Lewis was standing next to the ref yelling timeout as soon as Scott was thrown back. If they were smart, the Bengals would have said to the officials before the play that a timeout was coming.

Mike Tanier: Amazing things are happening in Cincinnati, but I refuse to acknowledge them.

Rob Weintraub: Incredibly unsurprising Bengals choke almost complete. Fitzpatrick/Palmer dynamic restored within a quarter. Bengals will now likely draft ahead of Buffalo, who somehow have a quarterback, while the Bengals somehow do not.

Doug Farrar: Buffalo has now scored four unanswered touchdowns. The Law of Gus Johnson is strong in the universe today.

Rob Weintraub: Just to reiterate the ridiculous, the Bengals were outscored 35-0 in the second half. Not quite as humiliating as the Skins on Monday night, but bad enough, considering the opponent was the Buffalo Bills!!! Quarterbacked by a Bengals castoff, who was all-time bad while in Cincy. Clearly, it was the team, not the player. 35-0, at home. Is it possible to tank a game you lead by 17 points at halftime?

Vince Verhei: Are you kidding? Giving up 35 points in a half to a team that was winless eight days ago, with a lousy quarterback, is much more embarrassing than giving up 35 points to a Super Bowl favorite.

Rob Weintraub: The giving up part is worse, but at least Cincy showed some offense in the first half and were dominant until Joseph got hurt, really. The Skins just failed to show.

Seattle Seahawks 19 at New Orleans Saints 34

Vince Verhei: Ben Obomanu has his second big catch in as many games. This time he was isolated one-on-one against Jabari Greer and made a nice jumping catch. Greer never turned around for the ball. I don't recommend the Seahawks try this matchup again.

Doug Farrar: Chris Ivory is getting more yards against the Seahawks falling down as he is standing up. Just demolishing Seattle’s defense at first contact, and without Red Bryant, Seattle doesn’t really have an answer for that.

Vince Verhei: Saints lead Seattle 28-17 at halftime. Drew Brees is finding Hole in Zone over and over again. But we expected that. The surprise is how well Seattle is moving the ball, especially getting less than one yard per carry on the ground. But the receiving trio of Mike Williams, Obomanu, and Stokley are all doing well. Credit to Pete Carroll and his staff: these guys look great catching the ball, taking it at it's highest point and reaching out to get it with their hands, not their body.

Doug Farrar: I'll add that Hasselbeck looked flippin' amazing in practice on Friday. Over the last week, going back to the Cardinals game, he's throwing the ball better than I've seen since 2007.

Bill Barnwell: Seahawks were targeting Jabari Greer, too; not sure if the numbers will end up bearing this out, but it sure looks like he'll end up being a guy who was insanely good for one year before regressing back towards his previous level of performance.

Aaron Schatz: Charting Weeks 1-8: 8.1 yards per pass, 60 percent Success Rate. Both figures are worse than last year but better than the other Saints cornerbacks.

Vince Verhei: Marshawn Lynch finally gains meaningful yardage ... And fumbles the ball away on the play. Afterwards they get a shot of Darren Sharper on the sidelines with no helmet. He has more gray hair than Barack Obama. How can a starting safety look older than the president?

Come to think of it, Seattle is playing Lawyer Milloy too. This is the oldest safety matchup on history.

Mike Tanier: Steven Tyler looked pretty old in the luxury boxes at Colts-Patriots too. He has enough gray hair to be on the Supreme Court!

Joey Galloway may be the grayest non-quarterback right now. Though Kerry Collins looks a lot like Billy Bob Thornton.

Vince Verhei: The Seahawks bail Lynch out with a goal-line interception. Brees is now tied with Eli and behind only Favre in picks. This is no longer a statistical fluke, is it? He's having a great year otherwise, so it's not like opposing defenses have figured him out.

Not that it matters, because after a few Seattle first downs, Lynch fumbles the ball away again. Sigh.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21 at San Francisco 49ers 0

David Gardner: So as the Bucs were driving toward their first touchdown of the game, I stopped to look up Josh Freeman's stats, and he has a 90.1 passer rating this season. How about that?

And the Bucs had nice balance on the drive, with LeGarrette Blount smacking a 49ers defensive back on a first-down run into the red zone, and Cadillac Williams punching in the score.

Tom Gower: Taylor Mays has been benched.

David Gardner: I like the way Troy Smith has been playing for the 49ers. He makes the offense more dynamic. He has good mobility in the pocket and ability to get out of it and run. I haven't seen him throw a deep ball, but he does throw accurate intermediate routes.

Maurice Stovall just tried to leap over a 49ers safety who wasn't trying to make a dive tackle. Stovall ended up just kneeing him in the face.

Freeman just threw one of the highest passes I've ever seen to Mike Williams. Weird thing was that he didn't even end up in the corner of the end zone. He had to come back toward the goal line, getting interfered with on the way, and caught the ball barely jumping.

Bill Barnwell: Freeman loves throwing ridiculously high passes. That is his thing.

Aaron Schatz: I remember when it was Eli Manning's thing. Those were the days.

Mike Tanier: I saw a lot of Freeman last week. He reminds me of someone, but I can't put my finger on it. Wears number five, throws a nice deep ball, overthrows and underthrows some short passes, runs well, executes the rollout nicely. Black quarterback, a little stocky, some strange hair choices. Can't put my finger on it.

David Gardner: Ronde Barber just got his 40th career interception, which makes him Tampa's all-time leader.

Bill Barnwell: After a LeGarrette Blount stuff, Bucs just went play-action and threw a touchdown pass to Donald Penn. You know, the left tackle.

The next comment, sent from David's iPhone, is presented without editing.

David Gardner: The replay was not flattering. And, ached the commercial break, he atoll appears to be out of breath.

Bill Barnwell: Troy Smith just missed Delanie Walker downfield on fourth-and-3 by about five yards. The Niners are down 21-0 and their season is over.

Atlanta Falcons 34 at St. Louis Rams 17

Tom Gower: The Falcons this game are reminding me of the 2003 Titans. They want to run the ball, so they keep running the ball, even though they're not having any success, then the quarterback has to throw the ball to convert third downs, which he always does.

Hard-hitting analysis of the sort FO is known for: they showed a close-up shot of Spags on the sidelines, and it looked like he was wearing white sneakers and crew-cut white socks. I don't recall noticing either on an NFL coach before.

Sam Bradford's streak of 169 straight passes without an interception ends on a shovel pass, of all things, at the goal-line. It's a simple timing play -- they line up Jackson and Mike Hoo-whatever in a pro set, and move Hoo-whatever across from left to right, but Jonathan Babineaux gets great penetration, pushing Goldberg back, Hoo-whatever can't get the hole, and the blind shovel goes straight to William Moore. Nice job by Tim Ryan of pointing out what happened; we rip on announcers so much in here, but I've been pleased with his work when I've had Colts-Patriots on mute.

Indianapolis Colts 28 at New England Patriots 31

Aaron Schatz: Want to start the Pats-Colts conversation off by noting that the Brady-Manning rivalry seems a lot calmer this year. I think this was the first time that these two teams played and we didn't have to re-link the Irrational Brady/Manning thread.

Mike Kurtz: I think everyone is tired of it at this point.

Aaron Schatz: Remember how I wrote in ESPN Numbers Crunching that the Patriots needed to switch their cornerbacks around to avoid getting stuck with Kyle Arrington on Reggie Wayne? Well, no go. Arrington's on Wayne and I didn't see any particular safety interest over there either. Not that it matters on the first drive, not when Manning can overthrow Blair White by five yards and lay the ball into the arms of Brandon Meriweather.

Brady throws it away when the receivers are covered. Officials: "There is no flag for intentional grounding because the quarterback was not under pressure." Wait, what? Is that actually in the rule? I've never heard that before.

Tom Gower: Yes. Rule 8-2-1: Article 1 Definition. It is a foul for intentional grounding if a passer, facing an imminent loss of yardage because of pressure from the defense, throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion. A realistic chance of completion is defined as a pass that lands in the direction and the vicinity of an originally eligible receiver.

Aaron Schatz: Interesting. I don't think I've ever seen that called before.

Bill Barnwell: Why on earth would the Patriots want to challenge whether that pass to Welker in the red zone was a backwards pass, as Simms and Nantz speculated they might? It would have been what, third-and-goal from the six as opposed to the eight?

Aaron Schatz: Wide-open Austin Collie just dropped a pass down the seam that would have gone at least 20 yards. I think Manning told him to go sit in the port-o-let afterwards.

Will Carroll: Collie's out for some reason. After the first series, he was shown talking with two Trainers and (I think) a doctor. Came back in, but now is back in the locker room.

Aaron Schatz: That's another big loss for them, if he does not come back. He has something like 55 of their 75 receiving yards so far. The Patriots have (had?) safety Pat Chung covering him one-on-one on most plays.

Bill Barnwell: Patriots just ran a strange front before the two-minute warning that I haven't seen them run before/regularly/notably. Had three down linemen, but it looked like one was shaded over the A-gap between the center and left guard, one in the B-gap between right guard and right tackle, and one in the C-gap outside right tackle. They had a fourth guy standing up about a yard off the line outside the left tackle. Not really of consequence, just interesting.

Aaron Schatz: Wayne is killing Kyle Arrington. Shook a tackle to get an extra 20 yards on one reception, then caught a perfectly placed ball over his shoulder after he beat Arrington into the end zone.

David Gardner: After that drive, you just have to ask: How do you defend Reggie Wayne?

Bill Barnwell: I would make one humble suggestion: Tackle him the first time.

Aaron Schatz: Also, "move your by far superior number-one cornerback to his side" might be a good idea.

Tom Gower: You get pressure on Peyton Manning, get him to move off his spot, try to get him to look to the other side, and hope for the best. Alternatively, you could leave Garcon uncovered and hope he drops the ball. Just a beautiful, beautiful play for the touchdown, and so nice/aggravating to see while watching the ongoing Titans QB meltdown.

Aaron Schatz: We may have to change Donald Brown's nickname from "Goddammit Donald" to "No Gain, Brown."

I'm a little surprised that the Patriots are winning so handily, but the Colts up the middle defense is awful right now. The defensive tackles are easily pushed around, Pat Angerer is a rookie who is playing like a rookie, and they are on, what, their fourth-string strong safety at this point?

Bill Barnwell: Considering the Colts' running backs currently have 15 carries for 20 yards, this sure looks like one of the Colts-Patriots games circa 2003.

Ben Muth: Could the Colts offense run on the Colts defense? That's a 9-on-7 drill I would love to see.

Aaron Schatz: Also of note: Colts seem to be covering Pats a lot more with man-2 today, not classic Colts cover-2. (Too bad Matt Millen isn't doing this game, he would be right occasionally.) Also, Pats throwing a lot of fast-developing pass plays to keep Freeney and Mathis away from Brady, and they have only one sack through three quarters with very little pressure otherwise.

I'll say this for Pierre Garcon: He may be sucking as a wide receiver this year, but he just manhandled Devin McCourty run-blocking to clear an extra 10-15 yards for Donald Brown on a 36-yard draw play.

Mike Tanier: The crazy ending of Colts-Patriots appears about to unfold.

The Regularly Scheduled Wild Ending is Currently Wilding.

Aaron Schatz: Wow. Patriots self-destructing. Have allowed two touchdowns to Colts in fourth quarter. Needed to run out clock with three minutes left, instead get to third-and-7 where Brady completely doesn't see Tyjuan Hagler in short zone in front of him and nearly throws a pick. They'll punt instead.

Patriots defense comes up with a big play after a lot of failures. Colts had moved Reggie Wayne to the slot, where he was single-covered by safety Patrick Chung, and when they threw to Wayne, Chung slipped, which allowed Wayne to gain something around 20 yards on third-and-7. But on the next play, Manning went for the touchdown in the corner, underthrew it a bit, and safety James Sanders leapt up for the pick. That should be the game.

Bill Barnwell: Looked like Manning was going to Tamme and couldn't get the ball outside because of the tackle/Cunningham in his face.

Aaron Schatz: Technically intended for Garcon, which would make it underthrown, but you might be right about that -- if he was trying to go to Tamme, then he threw it behind him because of Cunningham in his face.

The most curious thing about this game was not the Colts coming back -- they have a great offense and an all-time quarterback -- but why the Patriots offense suddenly went three-and-out and then one first down followed by three-and-out on their final two drives, after dominating the Colts defense all day long.

Vince Verhei: I had no idea what went wrong on that final Colts throw, so it's somewhat relieving to come back here and read at least three possible explanations. I'm still confused -- two receivers go downfield next to each other, then make their cuts at the same point, and Manning throws to the spot where the cuts were made? I don't even see what route either guy could have run that would have put him where the ball came down.

Aaron Schatz: I'm going with Barnwell's idea that Manning didn't mean to throw it there, but he underthrew what should have been an out to Tamme because he had Cunningham's hand in his face.

Tom Gower: Well, then... I have to say, the Colts-Patriots games have tended to live up to the hype, even if the team I prefer to win hasn't always won. And with that result, after 11 weeks of the 2010 NFL season, the Jacksonville Jaguars are in first place in the AFC South.

Ned Macey: I sense national fatigue of this game this year, as it seems a little bit less of a big game despite the fact that the two teams are still having good years. I was even less excited, sort of resigned to a Colts loss. In fact, this is the first Colts game I thought they were going to lose since I'm not sure when, maybe the 2006 playoff game at Baltimore. Sure I've thought other games were 50/50, but I haven't expected them to lose in years. I guess Indy fans are a little spoiled.

My supposed lack of excitement ended quickly as my usually laid-back self was convinced that the first Patriots TD should have been called back for hands to the face on Freeney, something that I usually never would complain about.

Anyway, not much to add on the game itself. The Colts really missed Brackett and Session on the underneath stuff. The Pats marched up and down the field, but they were just barely converting first downs usually once or twice a drive on third down. They really were abusing the linebackers in coverage, always able to get the one or two extra yards.

I will say it seems that the Pats jump up big often on the Colts. Colts have proved time and again they can come back ('04, '06 playoffs, '09, '10), but I don't really know why they seem to fall behind so often in the first half becuase you can't overcome 17-point fourth quarter deficits on a regular basis.

Finally, this has been a ridiculous rivalry for eight years now, and what fascinates me is how much has changed since '04 when these plotlines were created and value judgments about the various players. The truth is sample size in football is too small. When two elite teams play against each other 11 times in eight years, you see about everything. The great players come up big some days; others they can't convert fourth-and-2 or throw a bad pick when they're in game-tying field goal range. No coach has some mastery over another player; he just has great defenses for two seasons that pose particular matchup problems, and the teams happened to play four times those years.

More than half of their eleven games have been great games, but the actual game never tells us anything more than who happened to be better on that given day. If they can add one more great playoff game, there really will need to be a good book about the series.

New York Giants 17 at Philadelphia Eagles 27

Audibles is silent for the first half.

Bill Barnwell: Anyone watching this Giants-Eagles game?

Mike Tanier: Yes. Every time I close my eyes I see Jason Avant dropping that pass. And now the Eagles just botched a field goal. This should be about a 24-3 game

Mike Kurtz: I am. Endlessly fascinated by the Giants' complete and total inability to get pressure with just four and Vick taking advantage of mountains of time to throw to Maclin (current fantasy enemy). Also wondering why Eli isn't constantly pumping at Samuel, since he's sold out to jump about 3 routes now (including the interception). And then the blocked field goal, which Webster thought he could take to the house but was forced out, ending the half. What a weird game.

Mike Tanier: One thing I noticed early, though, was that Justin Tuck was Captain Containment. He kept Vick from getting outside on a third-and-1, and he stopped a screen to Maclin by giving up on the pass rush and just arriving at the receiver with the ball.

Aaron Schatz: I listened to the first half on the radio on the way back from Gillette. James Lofton said something really interesting and I'm going to look for this in the second half... he said DeSean Jackson stands differently at the line depending on whether it is a run or a pass. On a pass, he's crouched a bit; on a run, he stands straighter. Not like this seems to be helping the defenses playing the Eagles.

Bill Barnwell: OK, I guess that's a good question to throw out to the group: What would your gameplan be for the second half if you were Perry Fewell?

Mike Tanier: Well, he can't keep letting receivers get open 15 yards down the middle of the field. Maybe some man coverage would be a start. I think they are sitting in zones and worrying about scrambles, trying to keep Vick from moving and hoping the front four converges. That's a Vick 2004 strategy.

Mike Kurtz: Collinsworth went on about forcing Vick to the right with overload left blitzes, but I think the Giants can trust their DEs to keep the edges. I say use your high-profile DEs kind of as decoys, tell them to fire but make pulling the RB blocking a priority, and give the Eagles a taste of their own medicine with a blitz down the middle. Even if Vick escapes, the play is broken and those deep routes are going to end and turn into jump balls at best.

Aaron Schatz: Problem with man coverage is that you can run against man coverage. Roethlisberger was doing that to Oakland all day. They can only go man if they also have a spy.

Bill Barnwell: They could use Antrel Rolle as a spy, but then you need to have a third safety on the field and that would be bad.

I would say that this game sure is reminiscent of an "The Eagles are #1 in DVOA and they're trying to kill us" game circa 2008.

Vince Verhei: Philadelphia needs to dump some of the cute stuff -- the end-arounds, the throwback screens and the like. The Giants' front seven is too athletic and smart for that kind of thing to work. Obviously you don't want Vick to drop back 50 times against that line, but if you're not going to pass, it's not the end of the world to run up the gut for 2 yards instead of risking a big loss.

That being said, it is remarkable how much time Vick has had in the pocket when the Giants rush four. And it does seem like the Eagles should be up by 17 points or so right now.

Will can double-check me on this, but on the Ellis Hobbs injury, it's not just that it's a blow to the head, it's the angle of the hit -- his head wasn't knocked backwards or to the side, it was driven straight down into his body. That's the kind of injury that can lead to catastrophic spinal injury, including paralysis and even death. Praying for him.

Bill Barnwell: Likewise. Michaels said he was moving his hands, but Dave Tollefson has 60 pounds on Hobbs and was running full speed at him.

Aaron Schatz: Strip-sack by Justin Tuck gives the Giants excellent field position, and they get a touchdown to take the lead. I think Vick's going to have to watch that "holding the ball out with one hand" problem.

Doug Farrar: Full use of his extremities, per Andrea Kremer, thank goodness.

As far as the game plan, I think you have to mix it up above all – if you go out there and assume you can beat this personnel with your personnel and give Vick a pre-set sub-chapter of schemes, he will eat your lunch. Jim Johnson did a great job of containing Vick the runner in the 2004 NFC Championship game by throwing the spy idea away and using defenders to fill zone gaps at different depths. That kept him from finding free running reads and forced his slower receivers to pinball through. At times, they almost played box-and-one on Alge Crumpler.

Two factors prevent that approach now – Vick’s increased read acumen, and the speed of his receivers. I think you have to play almost exclusively nickel with Deon Grant (or your closest comp) as the hybrid safetybacker, and show zone blitzes from different positions through the game. Not on every play, but just enough to get that in his mind – you have to get him thinking that the defenders won’t be where he thinks they’ll be after the snap. Use a wide nine-tech or an over front to the defensive right side to force Vick to roll to his right; at the very least, if he’s scrambling, he’s be throwing against his own momentum and across his body. And within those parameters, I would kill the spy idea entirely and use that Johnson zone gap approach as an integrated strategy – I think that does mix well with the zone blitz idea. You can’t be conventional, because you’re not dealing with a conventional weapon. You have to make him see color where he doesn’t expect it, and hope it throws him off. And when you do catch up with him, beat him up. Not to the point of going out of your way to hurt him, but if it takes a penalty of two to make the Eagles realize that you’re not going stand there jaws agape at his speed, I think it’s worth it.

Aaron Schatz: Hey, that's a clipping and a chop block in one game. Todd Herremans wants to destroy your knees, kids.

Mike Tanier: Eagles went to the Packers Penalty Academy tonight.

This game is like a sampler of previous Eagles disasters against the Giants. It's a little like that Week 2 game in 2006 when Plaxico Burress caught the touchdown in overtime, the one where the Eagles had a 24-7 lead and took the rest of the game off. It also has elements of Winston Justice's first game: the line is playing much better, but there's this sense that a 1-point lead is safe because the Eagles offense has just come down from a high.

Aaron Schatz: One thing we're not seeing tonight -- in Numbers Crunching, I pointed out that the Eagles have been very poor this year against the runs and against passes to running backs. But they've really clamped down on those tonight. The two backs have 17 runs for 39 yards at this point, and three catches -- one long one for Jacobs, but two short ones for Bradshaw, including the one he may or may not have just fumbled. (I'll be shocked if they feel they have indisputable evidence to overturn, even though his arm may have been down before the fumble.)

Oops, never mind. Guess they decided that the evidence was indisputable.

Bill Barnwell: I can't see how that was indisputable evidence to overturn, not at all.

Mike Kurtz: Yaaaaay replay.

Tom Gower: Contact with the ground other than the hands or feet. I guess they saw enough of the wrist/forearm to say he was down.

Aaron Schatz: I love the fact that the Giants have a punter who can't actually catch snaps. If we could trade him to San Diego for Mike Scifres, the Chargers might explode in a supernova of special teams suckitude.

Mike Tanier: Kapow! Shady! Shady! Shady!

Rob Weintraub: Shades of John Riggins in the Super Bowl, minus the shed tackle and the diesel horn blowing.

Aaron Schatz: Shady makes up for the silly third-and-1 shotgun pass (with bad sidearm throw).

Mike Kurtz: So, tip drill, lands in Samuel's hands, he runs, Bradshaw knocks the ball out of Samuel's hands with a huge hit, and the Giants recover. This game is insane.

Rob Weintraub: Seems inevitable coaches in the very near future are going to insist their defenders don't even risk interception returns for fear of fumbling it back to the offense.

Bill Barnwell: Before this game, people were saying it would be an NFC Championship Game preview. Turns out they were wrong; it's actually an NFC Championship Game revue.

Tom Gower: I almost think that with better turf that Eli does a real slide that properly shows that he's down.

Aaron Schatz: You know, quarterbacks have been doing that sort-of half-slide/non-slide for a while to get an extra couple yards out of their scrambles, since technically the play should be down as soon as you start a slide. I think Manning just got bitten by that, because he couldn't quite decide if he should slide and ended up going head-first, and that keeps the play alive because a runner who dives is not down but a runner who slides is.

Mike Kurtz: I'm more concerned that they went back and changed the ruling to a fumble rather than a dead ball without any review. If you hate it that much, call it an inadvertent whistle and replay. To whistle and then say "oh, nevermind, keep going" is kind of crazy, since players are programmed to stop trying when they hear it.

Mike Tanier: Well, that was six trillion times harder than it needed to be. Good night.

Comments

219 comments, Last at 24 Nov 2010, 8:46am

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I'm secure enough to say that IND lost it rather than NE winning it. It was a very discouraging game in the second half. Totally concur with Aaron re: NE offense disappearing. Which isn't to say I'm not going to take the win (and the large helpings of USDA Prime-quality Manning Face :)

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

It seems like they went into the prevent offense and prevent defense in the fourth. It has been a theme this year that I don't think is a very good one. Past Pats teams would have been trying to move the ball down field in those last two drives but they seemed far too conservative. I especially didn't like that pass to Branch that seemed as if he was looking to draw the flag.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Seemed to me that they stopped running their normal offense in the 4th quarter and started trying to kill clock with 15 minutes remaining.

I still don't understand why a Coach would take the ball out of the hands of his best player during a critical part of the game. Way too many plays where BenJarvus took a handoff and ran straight into a Colts defense that was in postition to defend just that play call.

Note to coaches: Please stop getting away from what has been working for your offense all game long in the name of killing clock...especially against the Colts.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

The 2007 Pats were infamous for never changing their offense no matter the score. It's strange that the past couple of years they've gotten so conservative and tentative on offense in the 4th quarter, often to disastrous results.

209 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Admittedly, they lost Cutler and Marshall, and potentially they will develop DeMaryius and company. But yeah, they basically traded rushing for passing.

Personnel decisions have been bad (Tebow, Maroney, Hillis, etc.), not sure if you blame those on McDaniels or not. If I'm Bowlen, I give McD another year to see what happens. This was seen as a rebuilding project (which is why they OKed the Cutler and Marshall trades), but they may need to figure out what to do with their defense. And stop giving McDaniels any input whatsoever on personnel decisions.

2 Lovie Smith

Lovie does add value on the defensive side of the ball, but I think he's a better coordinator than head coach. There's been too many bad personnel moves and questionable in-game decisions for my taste. I was ready to run him out of town before the season started.

There's no denying the great defense, but just about everyone, including DVOA, says that the Bears are playing over their heads. The brutal back end of the schedule (Eagles, Pats, Jets, Packers in GB) will be the true test of how good they are. They'll probably have to win two of those four to make the playoffs since they lost two they probably should have won (WAS and SEA).

4 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by Charles Jake (not verified)

I was absolutely not sold on Chicago before Thursday. But watching them win in Miami the way they did, all I could think was "Good defense and good special teams has been a successful recipe for them in the past..." Their offense is pretty pathetic, but I am beginning to be less sure that it matters. They just play such mistake-free football in the other phases that they keep all these games close.

However, I will be sorta pissed if they end up barely edging someone for a wild-card spot considering one of their wins will be from the Calvin Johnson non-sense - that's one of the rare wins that you can really say a team had handed to them 100% in conflict with the reality of what happened...

13 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by chemical burn

It really is not surprising that the Bears, with linebackers healthy, and Julius Peppers, have a very good defense, and Hester guarantees good special teams. Too bad their offense sucks. In case anyone hasn't noticed, it ain't easy building a roster that excels in all three phases.

46 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by Will Allen

The thing that encourages me about the Bears is that it's very easy to see how their offense could be better. Jay Cutler is not without his strengths. Mike Martz has designed several successful offenses in the past. At some point, if these two figure out how to work with each other's talents, and somebody on the offensive line figures out how to block, it shouldn't be too hard for this to be a league-average offense. And that would be enough to make this a very good team.

18 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by chemical burn

Mistake-free football? It seems like half of Cutler's throws are (A) interceptions or (B) near-interceptions.

21 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by MilkmanDanimal

I meant mistake free in the 2 other phases - they don't fumble punts or let the Q.B. break free to scramble for a crucial first down, they don't make mistakes like that...

Their offense is a fucking disaster. Of course.

28 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by MilkmanDanimal

What is aggravating about Cutler is that a ransom in draft value and money was sacrificed to obtain a guy who plays so stupidly. I had some reservations about the guy but I ultimately expected him to be much better than what he has shown. Guess there is a reason why nobody pays me a ton of moeny to evaluate NFL talent.

50 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by Will Allen

Not that this is exactly tremendously in-depth analysis, but Cutler seems to succeed against marginal zone defenses, and is terrible against any decent man defender, mainly because your usual risk-taking man coverage guy (helloooooo, DeAngelo Hall!) can bait Cutler into thinking his "I have the greatest gun ever and I can get this ball in before the DB closes" arm can do it all. Incidentally, if I was in an IDP FF league and had Asante Samuel for the coming Bears-Eagles game, I'd be ecstatic.

Cutler and Martz in many way seem a perfect fit--both are arrogant enough to think they can succeed regardless of the inadequacies of the personnel around them. It doesn't matter that your line and/or receivers suck; you're a genius, just keep doing what you've always been doing.

76 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by MilkmanDanimal

If he had Jerry Rice instead of Johnny Knox, I think the risk taking would pay off a lot more. At least 2 of the interceptions against Hall happened because Knox gave up on the ball, or wasn't strong enough to fight for it.

23 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by chemical burn

I apologize for being a broken record on this, but please remember that the Megatron play happened with nearly a minute left in regulation. The Bears had all three timeouts, were shredding the Detroit defense, and only would have needed a field goal to win the game. So in the parallel universe in which Johnson catches the ball (or there is no going-to-the-ground rule in the NFL), the Bears still win that game nearly 50% of the time.

29 Re: Lovie Smith

The Bears' offense has not reached the level where we assume that they'll score just because there's a minute left on the clock. Not with Cutler throwing passes.

33 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by TomC

Come on - he caught the ball and the TD was stolen from him. I am indifferent to both teams, but that was really a brutally unfair call by any standard other than the most tortured technical interpretation of the rules.

But I will concede the game was not technically over at that point. Still, it stinks that that moment could factor into the playoff race and keep the Eagles or Giants or Bucs or Saints out...

75 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by chemical burn

You may not like the rule but it doesn't make it go away. When I first saw Johnson catch the ball I thought he had scored but when I saw the ball come out of his hand when he hit the floor I knew it wouldn't count. Would you be bitching if he had lazily not bothered to get both feet down in bounds at the back of the end zone? The rule is clear that you have to maintain possession through going to the ground (and has been since well before Megatron got into the league). Instead of securing the ball through the catch he waved it around in celebration causing it to knock against the ground and negate his own play and cost his team the lead late in the game. Lets be clear here, he clearly did not mean for the ball to knock against the ground and come out of his hand so there must have been an element of loss of control of the ball or it would never have happened.

80 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by Jimmy

Listen, if they had ruled it a catch, no one would have even noticed, no one would have objected. You can say "well, the dude celebrated too much" but this play no one would have thought twice if it were simply ruled a TD and the game went on... I understand that letter of law, it seems like it should not have been ruled a TD, but come on, even if you are Bears fan, you should be able to see they got away with one there...

86 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by chemical burn

I would agree that Johnson 'should' have caught it. Also that he easily 'could' have caught it. The fact does remain that he didn't maintain possession through going to the ground and therefore it wasn't a catch. Just because it would have been a big touchdown doesn't change how the rules should be applied.

87 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by Jimmy

Be real for a second: if it were ruled a catch, no one would have batted an eye. Not even Bears fans.

89 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by chemical burn

Bears fans would have been yelling for the letter of the law to applied. Since when do fans of a team just sit back and say "OK, sure, the play was technically against the rules, but let's give them the TD anyway." In my experience, that's not usually the way fandom works.

101 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by AudacityOfHoops

My point is that this is such a ticky-tacky case that I don't think Bears fans even would have noticed that the letter of the law wasn't being applied. When the ruling came back I was watching it in a bar (with the sound off, of course) with about twenty people and no one could understand why it had been over-turned. Bears fans wouldn't have complained because the complaint would have been so obscure - it was against how you see the game called 99.9% of the time. The reason it is a story even now 2 months later is that it is a wildly UNUSUAL call. And one, that if folks are being honest, they would not have even known was "correct" before it was called.

105 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by chemical burn

It hasn't been that unusual this year. I've seen several other calls interpreted the same way. As soon as a pass got called like that, there would have been a large number of fans wondering why the Calvin Johnson catch was called a catch.

On the other hand, I've seen a number of passes that should have been called incomplete based on this rule, which weren't. I've pointed them out in the weekly threads.

111 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by tuluse

Sure, it hasn't been at all unusual since then - obviously, the refs have made it a point of emphasis to be "letter of the law" since then. I think it's just one of the many things that have made officiating a bit of a mess this year... My point is only that it was "getting away with one" for the Bears and can you deny that? Guy catches the ball in the waning minutes of a game and his team takes the lead... review shows that he let it go (after it was already ruled a TD by the ref) and takes it away. The rule needs to be explained by countless pundits and is a continual point of contention and causes future inconsistency in how the game is called.

This is not a thrilling ruling. Letter of the law say no catch. That's fine. But let's not pretend it was a clear obvious ruling or one that couldn't have EASILY been called the other way (and most of the time is.)

117 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by chemical burn

It was definitely a tough call. Could have gone either way. So I guess you could say the Bears were lucky.

On the other hand they were extremely unlucky the rest of the game. The VOA for that game was +29% Chi, -17% Det.

122 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by tuluse

Yeah, I don't want to diminish the Bear's performance overall and I think every season is made up by a bunch of little calls that could go either way - I just personally will be pissed if the Eagles lose a playoff berth because the Bears have a win from that call. But I guess that would require the Eagles losing to the Bears next week anyway, so I have no cause for complaint in that case. It just is one of the high profile "refs decide a game" moments of the season and since I've been working from the P.O.V. that the Bears aren't "really" as good as the Saints or Giants or whatever, that's probably coloring my perception of the event in a way that gives the Bears short shrift...

110 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by chemical burn

The same rule is applied the same way all over the field probably a dozen times a week in the NFL. Johnson was falling down on the play as a result of contact with Zach Bowman and lost control of the ball, not a catch. The fact that people on a bar don't know the rules inside and out doesn't mean they should automatically be changed. There is a reason they give officials microphones so they can explain the calls they make.

Two more things;

And one, that if folks are being honest, they would not have even known was "correct" before it was called.

Are you now accusing me of telling tales when I say I knew it wasn't going to stand on the first view of the play? Seems unnecessary.

a wildly UNUSUAL call

Putting capitals in your post doesn't help make you any more correct. You can't shout over the internet.

114 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by Jimmy

The Bears got away with one. That's fine. Every year teams get away with little things like the no-TD ruling that 99% of the time go the other way. There's no shame in that, it's a fact of the game. But be real: that was a weird call and one that many folks felt was deeply unsatisfying - not just Lions fans, but fans of every stripe. It's fine. But just be honest about the weirdness of it.

118 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by chemical burn

So you are calling me a liar. Classy.

Johnson made a mistake wich cost him a touchdown. This is a fact, I can't believe you have a problem with the enforcement of rules in the NFL.

At this point I am done with you.

120 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by Jimmy

I'm saying you're being a homer. There's a difference.

124 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by chemical burn

Did he even say he is a Bears fan? Anyway, I agree with everything Jimmy has said, and I'm a Chiefs fan. So it's not homerism here.

128 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by AudacityOfHoops

Are you serious? If his tone wasn't enough, Jimmy gives it away later in the boards by worrying about a Bears jinx.

I'm sure some non-partisan folks agree with him, but I don't buy it coming from them either...

133 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by chemical burn

OK, I didn't look beyond this branch of replies, so I didn't notice his Bears jinx commentary. But in this topic his tone seemed completely rational, and not homer-ish to me. Unlike you, who are refusing to believe that anybody could have a different view than you on this subject. (What don't you "buy?" That I didn't think it should be a catch? Glad to know you know my thoughts better than I do.)

134 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by AudacityOfHoops

I don't buy that you instantly understood the ruling! It was a confusing moment. And I find it really hard to believe you instantly understood the ruling, especially since based on subsequently calls, the refs themselves don't seem to (again, tuluse, a defender of the ruling, has repeatedly pointed out reffing inconsistency on the issue...) I don't want to call you a liar. But you are a dirty stinking liar who doesn't anything about football, the world or the infallible genius which is me!

It was a tough call and one that bothered a lot of people because it went against the good ol' fashioned, never wrong "eye-ball" test...

137 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by chemical burn

Well, to be fair, I only saw it after the fact. I went into it knowing it was "controversial" but nothing else. So I knew to pay extra special attention to the ball.

141 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by AudacityOfHoops

Things have a tendency to be less confusing when someone (like an announcer or an official or a studio commentator) is there to walk you through one point of view or another after the fact.

If you only saw a clip of the exact same thing ruled the other way as a "Megatron TD catch" I find it hard to believe you would've sat up in your seat and said "Hold on, that was no catch!"

148 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by chemical burn

I know I said I was done, but this is a good point. I probably would not have. Just like I did not sit up in my seat and say "Hold on, that was a catch!" However, if you had shown me the play, and asked me to make the ruling, I would have ruled incomplete. (That is basically what happened to me - call was introduced as "controversial" so I played couch-ref and called it incomplete.)

135 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by AudacityOfHoops

I have never denied being a Bears fan, I have been posting around here for too long for that to work. That doesn't mean that I irrationally deny the truth (which I know you haven't accused me of but someone else seems to be very happy to). I am a fan, I support my team, that is all.

142 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by Jimmy

Yeah, the funny thing is, after the Thursday game, I am actually much more high on the Bears than I have been all season. I feel sorta stupid getting caught in the role of fervent naysayer because I'm feeling more respect for them than I have at any point in the season...

132 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by AudacityOfHoops

And let me ask you this: If the call was not strange...

Why was it highlighted on all the coverage of the game?
Why were people surprised by the ruling?
Why do people remember it now?
Why do people not understand the ruling even now?
Why is the rule enforced without consistency (as per ruling defender tuluse) even now?

136 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by chemical burn

If by "strange" you mean unusual, then I agree, it was unusual, because the situation rarely comes up.

And the answer to your 4th question will probably explain your first 3 questions: the NFL rules are not the same as the playground rules.

As for the last question, I don't know, it's a tough call, and refs make mistakes? Honestly, I don't recall seeing it go the other way, but I haven't been looking out for it, I guess.

OK, I've had enough of this. I don't really care about the Lions, the Bears, the Eagles, or Megatron. I was just jumping in because I get annoyed whenever I see someone claim that Johnson let go of the ball on purpose.

138 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by AudacityOfHoops

The clip of the thing is labeled "Controversial call on the Megatron no-TD" in the NFL's own archives. Downplaying officiating controversy is in their best interest (and just look how they crack down with fines on even the mildest criticism.) The call was controversial by any standard of the word...

And if all you can say is "people don't know the rules" I'm not sure what to say. Fine, you know an inconsistently implemented and highly rare rule better than everyone else. Color me surprised.

129 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by chemical burn

99% percent of the time that call goes exactly the way it did. I don't know why you think that ever gets ruled a completion. It doesn't.

131 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by RichC (not verified)

I had never before never seen it called the way it went. And many, many people agreed, hence the call's notoriety. If this was an average, non-disputable call, it wouldn't be notorious 2 months later... I don't disagree with the call. It's the letter of the law. But it was a weird call. And the type of weirdness I hope all fans don't decide games. Does anybody love for something like this or the Tuck rule to be the defining moment of a game or season? Sure, both were called correctly, but it would have been better if the calls hadn't been in such awkward situations (e.g. Johnson doesn't toss the ball on the ground, Brady gets hit as he is throwing not tucking, etc.) That's not disputing the correctness of the call, just that it is an unusual one because of a borderline case. And if you can't see this is a strange case, you're not seeing it clearly...

140 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by chemical burn

"I had never before never seen it called the way it went."

Then you clearly don't watch a lot of NFL football. That call goes that way atleast 15 times a week in every week of the NFL season.

Its a textbook call, guy is contacted in the act of catching the ball, goes to the ground, doesn't hold on. Its always an incomplete.

144 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by RichC (not verified)

Yes. Clearly my problem is that I need to spend more time watching and thinking about football.

The guy gets both feet down, moves the ball into one hand, get his ass on the gound... and slams the ball into the ground - that's when he loses possession. It's hardly a classic "never had control of the ball scenario." I've never seen it called that way in the endzone. And, if it happens that way 15 times a week, just give 5 instances from this week of that scenario: two hands on the ball, both feet down in the endzone, player on the ground (i.e. a third point of contact)... and then the ball slams into the ground to knock loose possession.

152 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by chemical burn

As long as we're rehashing old stuff....I think that was the really confusing part for everyone. If he had gone from mid-air to landing on his side and the ball came out, everyone would be more certain of the call. The fact that he got two feet down and landed on his backside doesn't change the rule, but it certainly changed the way it looked.

So when the ground knocked the ball out of his hand it seemed like he had already had a completion. But the rule says that he didn't. So you have a dissonance between what you see and think you know, versus what the rule actually is.

And that's why this is different that the other 15 calls like this that get made every week.

163 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by dbostedo

I was going to make the same points (just like I did ad-nauseum in the original thread).

As you correctly say, you see that rule applied regularly each week. The ONLY reason that people are hung up on this one, is that a) it was in the end-zone and b) he came down with his feet and then the rest of his body and the very last thing that came down was the ball. That part is unusual, but doesn't invalidate the rule at all.

That and some people (not saying anyone on this thread, but it's the thing I hear most often when they're complaining about it) still don't understand the diference between a runner crossing the plane with the ball and a reciever trying to catch the ball behind the plane.

Also I thought it was a catch seeing it live, but only because the original angle was from far away. The second they showed a close-up I knew it wasn't a catch. So, to Chemical Burn: Just because you and the people in a sports bar can't tell an obvious incompletion when you see one, doesn't mean anyone else can't either.

And yes, I'm a Bears fan (and as such have seen my team be on the other end of that rule twice in the Lovie era. This didn't originate with Calvin Johnson), but I also shout out at the TV the something is happening before the announcers (and sometimes the players, like in the San Diego lateral from three weeks ago) realize it's happening regularely enough that rarely does a week go by without someone telling me I should try to get a gig announcing the games. And it's not because I have poured over the rule-book for hours, it's because I've watched enough football to see these things (like the Johnsons non-TD) come up enough that I recognize them.

- Alvaro

157 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by TomC

The Bears had outgained the Lions, sure, but other than an 89-yard screen pass, the Bears scored 12 points all game. I'm not sure that it's fair to say they were "shredding" the defense.

164 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by fek9wnr (not verified)

You do realize that the reason they had only scored so litlle was ebcause both Forte and Olsen fumbled the ball in the red-zone after the offense had shredded the Lions on long drives?

I'm more than comfortable in stipulating that they had a VERy good chance ofo nce again gaining a big chunk of yardage without someone fumbling it away for the third time and gotten a FG.

- Alvaro

183 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by BigCheese

Quick stat notes from the game in question:

Total Yardage: Detroit 168, Chicago 463
Passing Lines: Detroit 20-34-1-148, Chicago 24-35-1-362
Yards-Per-Play: Detroit 2.9, Chicago 6.6
Turnovers: Detroit 3, Chicago 4

172 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by TomC

Um, no. At the conclusion of the Megatron call there were 24 seconds left on the clock. That isn't 'nearly a minute.'

173 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by WCfan (not verified)

Not sure why this posted here was supposed to be in response to #23

197 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by WCfan (not verified)

It's in the right place....there have just been lots of response to #23 (and responses to responses) so that pushed it down here.

203 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by WCfan (not verified)

Yes, sorry, 24 seconds. My Bears-tinted memory bumped it up closer to a minute. So we're really talking two plays after the kickoff then an FG attempt. Not impossible by any means (especially to Bears fans who remember the 2008 game vs. Atlanta), but not 50% as I originally claimed.

43 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by chemical burn

I don't really see how the Miami game could sell anyone on the Bears who wasn't buying already.

Miami was down to it's 3rd string QB and missed it's #1 WR for most of the game due to injury. They couldn't even run the types of pistol or shotgun snap plays best suited to Thigpen because Incognito couldn't be relied up to shotgun snap consistently.

Chicago did what they were supposed to in beating a team that was already down. But that performance, letting Miami hang around most of the game, didn't exactly have "playoff contender" written on it.

74 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by Arkaein

Not allowing a single point is "letting Miami hang around?"

77 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by tuluse

When you're opponent is only one play away from taking the lead, as Miami was into the 2nd half, you are letting them hang around.

81 Re: Lovie Smith

It isn't easy winning away on a short week. The Bears also seemed content to simply try to shorten the game by taking as much time as possible off the clock for most of the game (certainly all of the second half, and they didn't even try to get a field goal with time available at the end of the first half). The only way it seemed as though Miami were going to score was on a return.

78 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by tuluse

The offense let Miami hang around, not the defense. They were never down more than 2 scores (w/ 2pt conversions). That's not out of reach under normal (read: non-Thigpen) circumstances.

165 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by Charles Jake (not verified)

I agree that Lovie (of whom I was a defender until well into this season) is an excellent coordinator. But I want to know in what universe does the man who singlehandedly cost them the Redskins game (and probably the division) by doing something he has a very strong pattern of doing (ridiculous challenges and non-challenges) adds more than he substracts?

And yes, I realize that Cutler had 4 picks, but if he throws the flag there, it's not the Bears trying to come back,e vne after the pick-six, it's the Redskins still down in a game where they had fumbled it 7 times and recovered 6 and still managed to give the Bears the ball 3 times.

I am firmly convinced that if Lovie throws the challenge flag, the Bears win by double digits easily.

- Alvaro

179 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by BigCheese

He adds a well coached team, where players rarely screw up so badly that catastrophically bad things happen (QBs excepted).

The Bears have won at least 7 game each of the past 6 years, it's frustrating, but things can get a lot worse.

180 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by tuluse

It's weird to me that Lovie is on the hot seat in any capacity: he does seem to coach professional, competent teams yer-in, year-out even if he hasn't dominated his division or anything. But I think that fans/owners sometimes underestimate just how valuable and rare consistent professionalism and competency can be. If he gets the boot, someone will scoop him up quickly and get a good coach...

182 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by chemical burn

Well he hasn't made the playoffs for 3 years in a row. Plus, there is a feeling that the Bears are treading water while all the star players get old. Talent acquisition has been a problem, I would say the main problem, under the Angelo/Lovie regime. They're good at finding average-ish players to fill out the roster, but can't find the stars that get into the playoffs.

186 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by tuluse

Again, Lovie supporter until very recently here, but you're seriously trying to sell me as a positive winning at least 7 games (and more than once JUST 7 games) in the last 6 years (while missing the play-offs the last three) for a team that during that period have featured:

-THE best special teams in the league year in and year out except when the coach decided Devin Hester isn't as valuable returning kicks as catching 2 passes a game.

-The best LB corps in the league,a nchored by Urlacher and Briggs

-One of the top D's in the league, including Tommie Harris, Charles Tillman and Julius Peppers.

-A running game that featured Thomas Jones, Matt Forte and yes, Cedric Benson.

-Until last year a very solid and stable O-Line anchored by an all-pro Center

-Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark (who is still the most baffling healthy scratch in the league) at TE

-Kyle Orton and Jay Cutler at QB

That team should be a perenial play-off team, not twice in the last 6 years...

- Alvaro

216 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by BigCheese

I completely agree with the vast majority of this statement. ESPECIALLY the Des Clark aspect, do not get me started on Manumale-waste of contract!

But, #91 has not been more than a 'just-a-guy' since 2006.

But I blame Angelo even more than Lovie for a lot of what went wrong. And now we will get them both for at least one more year. So, we got that going for us, which is nice...

217 Re: Lovie Smith

In reply to by BigCheese

THE best special teams in the league year in and year out except when the coach decided Devin Hester isn't as valuable returning kicks as catching 2 passes a game.

Well he's doing both this year, so I guess that wasn't the problem was it? Probably just random fluctuation in returning performance. Or maybe the blocking wasn't as good. They let Ayanbadejo go who is one of the best special teams players in the league. Probably took time to adjust.

The best LB corps in the league,a nchored by Urlacher and Briggs

Only had one of them last year. Having Urlacher might have meant a playoff appearance.

One of the top D's in the league, including Tommie Harris, Charles Tillman and Julius Peppers.

I'm not totally sure what you mean by this. The only year they've had Julius Peppers, they are 7-3. Tommie Harris is not what he used to be and is having trouble even getting on the field these days. Injuries take a toll. I like Tillman as much as the next guy, but he's at the bottom of the tier of "true #1 corners." Plus, who has been starting across from him?

A running game that featured Thomas Jones, Matt Forte and yes, Cedric Benson.

You are aware the last time they had Thomas Jones they made the playoffs? Don't see how you can include him in this list.

Until last year a very solid and stable O-Line anchored by an all-pro Center

Not even close. Since 2006 the best this line has been is mediocre, and that was once in 2008. Every other year it has been bad. Kruetz hasn't made the pro-bowl, much less all-pro in some time. I mean Joe Montana is an all-pro player too, but I don't think he'd be much use anymore.

That team should be a perenial play-off team, not twice in the last 6 years...

Talk about inflated expectations. Every team in the league has talent, and they're all fighting for the playoffs. Only 4 teams have been "perenial play-off teams" in the past 6 years, the Patriots, Colts, Steelers, and Eagles. I'll be the first to admit the Bears aren't run as well as those teams, but they're a big step up from the Lions and Bills of the world.

Here's a full list of active head coaches with a better win% than Lovie:

Mike Tomlin
Bill Belichick
Andy Reid
Mike McCarthy
Sean Payton
Mike Shanahan
Wade Phillips

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

It's not as if Miami's offense just got bad. They've been boring and unproductive all season. It just seems like with your 3rd QB in and a banged up line you might try something different. Then again their reverse was fumbled and their "star" wideout dropped the ball, lost a 3rd down pick up on a block in the back, dropped the ball, cause and unsportman like conduct penalty, took himself out of the game. In a game the Dolphins needed to lean on their other offensive players picking Marshall over Williams and Brown seems like it went bust. I think it's fair to say Miami fans are no longer gushing over that trade. He's been just another guy in the WR formations all year.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I wasn't sure if I was disapointed or not when I read "Richie Incognito is in the game" and then didn't read anything further about any bonehead plays.

The fact of the matter is that the guy is incredibly athletic. He has all the tools to be a pro bowl OT except that his arms are too short. Amazing strength, footwork, etc. He just can't control himself and plays dumb, and that's the difference between him being a pro bowler and being a backup.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I had to raise an eyebrow when one of the announcers compared the 2010 game to 1985, on the basis that the Bears once again have a stingy defense. These have been absolutely the most boring teams to watch this year: well-coached and fundamentally sound, yes, but a dirge of two-yard gains and drive-killing bad decisions all the same. Thing is, if you put '85 Marino back on the Dolphins and Sweetness on the Bears, they'd be absolutely compelling.

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Sweetness did manage to pile up unbelievable numbers behind atrocious lines for the first half of his career. For example, he ran for 1852 yards in the last 14 game season in 1977 running behind the likes of Noah Jackson, Revie Sorey, Dan Neal, Dan Jiggetts, Dennis Lick and Ted Albrecht. And he did it with the immortal Bob Avellini as his QB!

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

The Patriots defense continues their split personality ways.

In normal situations, they allowed 2 TD and made 3 INTs in 7 drives: an 18 point per game rate. Up by 2 or more scores in the fourth quarter, they allowed 2 TDs in 2 drives. While the drives both took more than two minutes, they weren't what anyone would call successful at running out the clock.

The problem is definitely defensive scheme when playing "prevent". The offense had similar issues, so it points to a coaching failure rather than an execution one.

Still, a win is a win, and the defense - as bad as it was - ultimately did enough (barely) to close out the game without any help from the offense.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Everything you say is true, but you have to acknowledge that it was Manning playing exclusively no-huddle and hurry-up in the 4th quarter. Better defences than the Patriots have conceded quick scores to that offence.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

But it's not just the Colts. These late-game schemes have allowed all of the following teams to score with ease: Bengals, Bills, Steelers, and Jets. Aside from the Dolphins game, the defense has been consistently weak late in the game.

And it's definitely the scheming. Mike Reiss has charted this. When they have a lead late in the game, the Pats go to a dime defense and stop rushing as many people, and then they give up heaps of yardage.

You would think BB would notice this problem.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Certainly. I didn't mean to imply that Manning and the Colts offense (and defense!) had nothing to do with the comeback, nor with the hope-killing interception. They certainly had something to do with the 17 point deficit. I applaud their aggressiveness on both sides of the ball when down late. I applaud their decision to keep trying for the TD after getting into FG range - the right choice even if it didn't work out well this time. I applaud their play selection all around in the fourth quarter.

But I am uncertain whether they could have been as successful running the hurry-up in any of the first three quarters. If so, it was a stupendous coaching error not to do so. But my belief is that the Patriots "prevent" defense and "clock-killing" offense were the critical factors in allowing the Colts hurry-up offense and risk-taking defense to make the game close.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Smart to see they were not spying Vick with Rolle, but they sent Rolle after him on some not-blind-side-blitzes.
That's pretty smart, because instead of a linebacker, Rolle could actually reach him...

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

It should no longer come as a surprise that Jacksonville went for it on 4th and short, in its own territory, before the fourth quarter. This has been a regular occurrence in the Del Rio years. It happened in the first quarter of the game against New England last year, so surely several of the FO staff should have caught that game.

11 Colts-Pats

I was stunned that the Colts had a chance to win that game late. Observations (from a Colts fan perspective):

1) The Pats players were better across the board. Count how many times a player caught a ball, or ran ran the ball, and made contact with an opponent a couple of yards short of the first/end zone. Inevitably, if it was a NE player with the ball, he muscled out the yards (Welker's TD, for example), but if it was a Colt with the ball, he came up short (D. Brown stopped at the goal line rush in the first half). Only once can I remember a Colt gaining the extra yards.

2) Defenders need to make plays. Pats had two nice catches on interceptions, Colts dropped one right in the hands and couldn't make a play on a tipped pass in the end zone.

3) QB's played well, but Manning was not on the same page as his receivers on many plays.

4) Colts special teams were truly horrendous. Not sure of the average starting field position, but the Colts couldn't get out of their own way when receiving. Just let the damn thing bounce into the end zone, or fair catch it.

5) Colts can't run the ball. At all. One long run makes the stats look just bad, not the truth: they were awful.

Unfortunately, the Colts aren't very good this year, although I am glad both teams won the previous week and came into this game with winning records. I am old enough to remember the days when this game was a battle of two sub-.500 teams.

The Colts will not be able to get healthy enough to make a run this year. Caldwell also seems to play so vanilla until they're in deep trouble, and only then does the defense take some chances. With this team this year, it's too late. Might have worked in the past, when they had a stable of offensive threats, but they don't have that this year.

68 Re: Colts-Pats

In reply to by Purds

Chin up, bucko. Things look bleak, but the Colts just took one of the top AFC teams down to the wire on the road missing a handful of starters. The way things look right now, it's a reasonable bet that the Colts host a playoff game and the visitor will be (my assumptions) the Pats or the Ravens. With some health and HFA, things will likely be different. Might end up looking like the Chiefs playoff game in 2004.... but at least that's less depressing, and pretty damn exciting.

And from a 3-hole in the seeding, if you get a couple upsets in the divisional round, you are hosting the AFCCG (again). So yes, we are terribly spoiled and down about this year, but there's still hope.

176 Re: Colts-Pats

In reply to by Bobman

The Colts are in a tough spot this year. They will have to hold off Jacksonville, as I assume they will, for the AFCS crown, and then play three of the Patriots, Jets, Steelers, Chargers (unless the Chiefs sneak in) and Ravens for the AFC championship.

And they have to do it without an NFL starter quality player at WR2, WR3, [insert any offensive line position except center], MLB, WLB, and SS. Oh, and their special teams routinely spot their opponents about 20 yards of field position. Pierre Garcon is -appalling-. And he's arguably the second best receiver Manning had on the field most of the night, although practice squad fill in Blair White looked a lot better even if he's supposed to be #3. This is assuming Tamme is starter quality, which he may or may not be.

If they even make the playoffs, Manning probably needs another MVP award (unless he keeps playing like he has the last three weeks). I know he threw the game away on the final possession against New England, but nobody else in football throws that last pass of the first half that perfectly. Nobody.

Brady was pretty terrifying in the first half, but once the Colts were down a couple of scores, they stopped sitting back and giving him the short zones, and he cooled down. Both Green-Ellis and Woodhead looked good, but Indy's defense couldn't stop anyone running behind the New England O line. Brady could have carried the ball himself.

I'm convinced the outcome of the next game will depend a lot on how Indianapolis decides to play defense. If they come out scared again, they will get burned again. Brady is at his best picking apart loose cover 2 or 2 deep, off-man under coverage. He has to be challenged, as he was by the Jets early in the season.

187 Re: Colts-Pats

In reply to by commissionerleaf

Good points. To be fair, I didn't make any claims other than they wil likely host a WC team, and at home... I like that matchup. Beyond that, as they say, "I'm just happy to be here...."

I have no doubt that the guys they are missing would be a huge upgrade if healthy, but that's a key "if." Brackett and Session at LB over two rookies? Oh yeah. Addai and Hart and Collie over UDFA rookies? Bob Sanders over a street FA? Yup. Tamme and Eldridge over whoever fills in when they are dinged--yes again. That certainly raises their ceiling potential--probably not all the way with that OL and no Clark at TE, but a bit. The problem is what if they don't come back this year, or come back at 90%, etc....

Like 2006, it's a season where expectations are quite low, and key missing players could return for the end of the season. Unlike 2006, the OL bites and health is a major concern--Sanders and Clark missed a lot of time in 06 but returned late to add a niticeable spark. Plus the O could run decently.

204 Re: Colts-Pats

In reply to by commissionerleaf

I'm not sure if your a colts fan or not but the above seems pretty homerific to me. Yeah they have injuries piling up at the receiver position but welcome to the NFL where every team does not have an All Star receiving cast. Look at the rest of the top producing QBs this year and see who they are throwing to.

Are you going to trade Wayne, Garcon, Collie(And lets not pretend like Collie isn't coming back) for:

Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney and Eddie Royal.
Deion Branch, Wes Welker and Brandon Tate.
Patrick Crayton, Malcom Floyd and Craig Davis
Roddy White, Malcom Jenkins and Brian Finerran

The fact is if Indy makes the playoffs this year it won't be because he carried a bunch of scrub receivers.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Well, the most likely reason for the quietness around Pats-Colts is that neither team has won the superbowl recently. Also, in 2004-07, Manning and Brady were clearly the best quarterbacks in the game; now we are living through an unprecedented glut of good passers, among whom they are the patriarchs.

I thought the Packers-vs-Favre hype was quieter than usual, too. Of course, Joe Buck tried his best, going off on a completely boring pre-prepared tangent about Favre's ties to Darrell Bevell.

The game featured the first ever holding penalty that I, short-sighted, have seen in real time on an 11-inch screen via a foggy Russian feed. (GamePass was down, again.) The hold, by Phil Loadholt on Clay Matthews, drew every flag possible. And in case anyone had missed it, Loadholt sustained the wrap for a few extra seconds, as if he were performing kata.

After the first quarter, Minnesota played like a generic bad defense: overaggressive in the pass rush, overconservative in the secondary. On offense, what was missing was a proper change-of-pace halfback: defenses breathe when AP goes out, but neither Gerhart nor Kleinsasser is the right player to take advantage.

It's taken half a season, but opponents are finally going after Sam Shields, the Packers' undrafted rookie nickel back. The Packers like to play Shields real tight on a receiver, figuring that his speed is a lot scarier than his route-reading at this point. I would expect future road opponents, Atlanta and New England, to properly test the kid who's giving up a league-high 70% completion rate.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Small observation from the PHI/NYG game, but the third and long play for the Giants where Manning basically heaved that ball up and got a Pass Interference call out of it... Smart play.

I don't know if he was doing it on purpose, but there were only a few possible conclusions out of that toss into double coverage: A catch, a pass interference, or an interception that's more likely to pin the Eagles inside the ten than what the punter would have done...

I'm not sure if it was with full knowledge of this situation that he threw it up for grabs, but I thought it was a nice decision.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I said the same thing at the time. The probable worst case scenario on that play is an incomplete pass leading to the Matt Dodge experience. Second worst, the ball is intercepted which is probably better than a punt anyway.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Peyton's pass went awry and was intercepted because Ryan Diem blew his block. Diem also committed his signature False Start move a play or two before that, just because he likes to get his name in the stats.
If I was the O-line coach, number 71 would be doing pushups until Wednesday. Then, laps.

Ryan Diem is also mean to kittens and bunnies.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Really? Some very mild pressure absolves Manning of a terrible decision? They're in field goal range - if the pressure is going to screw things up, he needs to tuck it and take the sack. He certainly doesn't need to throw the ball to an area where there are 3 defenders in extremely close proximity. Manning needs to swallow that one, the throw he made was an awful decision by any measure.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Here's the replay: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rAVGFI1oxo

It's debatable at the angles shown, but my impression watching it in real time was that Cunningham hit Manning's elbow. I think that Peyton was trying to throw to Garcon and the pass flopped because of the hit.
It would be a bad decision for you or me to try and make a throw like that into coverage, but not for a top-tier quarterback.

Nevertheless, this debate wouldn't be happening if Diem hadn't been a step slow in guarding his man.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Still waiting for a penalty hat trick on Diem to get him canned--1st down, false start. 2nd and 15, holding. 2nd and 25, incomplete. 3rd and 25, clipping. 3rd and 40, Manning whips out a scalpel, removes Diem's right kidney and throws it in the left flat. While the D is swarming to the kidney, Manning throws the real ball to a wide-open Garcon, who drops it. 4th and 40, on comes the punting unit. Maybe Manning waves them off so he can remove Diem's lungs on the next play.

Diem leaves the game and his return is questionable (kidney), as his kidney was eaten by Pat Chung. Manning keeps chasing him around the bench with the scalpel in one hand and a frying pan in the other.

Every once in a while I really enjoy watching other teams to remind me what competent blocking looks like.

153 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I don't know, your blocking looked positively spectacular compared to what we Bears fans have watched. Diem apparently ticks you off, but The J'Marcus Webb Penalty Machine is pretty freaking bad. Of course, Webb is a late round rookie so I don't actually expect him to be any good this year. Hooray, lowered expectations.

177 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Agreed. After watching the Bears-Packers game, I'm pretty convinced offensive lineman should hold whenever they might get beat. You get maybe 1/2 the time and you keep your QB comfortable. So late in the game, he'll make good decisions.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

He can be right without absolving him. Throws and decisions are still made in real time independent of other mistakes around. He's had much greater pressure in his face weekly and made fine decisions. That doesn't mean Diem doesn't suck.

I think his decision was still fine, he just made a bad throw without his proper mechanics. I guess that comes back to decisions, cause he should know better than to think he'll make a precise pass with Eli's mechanics, but obviously he thought he could make (and has made in the past) the throw.

Two bad one footed INTs for him in one game, looking more like Eli than himself. I don't know that we've ever seen that.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Any other QB makes that throw and the story is "Idiot QB makes terrible decision." Of course, Manning deserves the benefit of all doubts, but it was a really bone-headed play. And the protection was bad, but he certainly had time to think about what he was doing... (like, "hey the rush is coming I should just pull this down rather than force a dangerous medium length sideline throw")

161 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Regardless of the particulars of that play, no one play loses a game. Every play you don't score on is a failed chance to increase your chance of winning the game. Every play you don't stop the opposing offense from gaining any yards is a failure as well. Any one of those plays could be considered the 'reason' your team loses the game - the blame can't just be placed on plays at the end of the game. That's fan-think. The difference between the two teams was one play, and it could have been any one play during the game.

194 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Well it definitely wasnt the first bad mechanics throw he was making and most of them wobbled around to nowhere too.

So How he came to think, this one would fare better in a situation - were being of by only 3 yards holds a major risk of interception and only a perfect throw and a competent WR will net something useful - is beyond me.

Of course any failure to provide protection is a failure by the Oline, but it will hapene a few times in a game, and a QB is still expected to make competent decisions in that case.

Considering the Enourmous mediocrity of the defense he faced I must say, I am not very impressed with mannings game in this one. He wa splaying right around the Fitzpatrick/McCoy Level of Quarterbacking, which is not what you expect from an HOF QB.

207 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Decision making aside, Peyton's passes have always been o the wobbly side. He's never thrown a particularly tight spiral. He certainly doesn't throw a gorgeous ball like Rodgers, or Rivers, or Jurgensen where you just look at it in awe. Some of his most clutch and accurate throws have had a lot of wobble to them.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Last week I said this Vikings team might be the worst since Denny Green's last year, when they had a -100 point differential. I underestimated. It pains me to reflect on the fact that more than a quarter century has passed since the Les Steckel era, with a -208 point diffential in his one year, but I think this sqaud has good chance to match it, especially if The Chiller isn't fired today.

When Steckel was fired, I remember middle linebacker Scott Studwell appearing in a t.v. interview, with the letters "AMF" stenciled across the front of a hat he had on. For those unfamiliar with Spanish/English invective, those letters stood for "Goodbye, 12 letter term for perverse relationship with one's mother". Studwell was and is a professional, so it was telling that he took such an approach, and it was telling that a professional like Matt Birk last year concluded that he could not have a working relationship with The Chiller. Thanks to a miracle performance by Stubbleface (and you don't need to be a hopeless fan club member to still think that he gives the team a better chance to win than Tavaris Jackson) last year, the reality of an inadequate coach was hidden, but it isn't a shocker that a team with a 41 year old qb, a 38 year old nose tackle, a gaping hole at center, snd an injury depleted receiver and cornerback corps would have troubles. The inadequate coach turns it into a full-blown mega-expensive debacle.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

That's what I get for trying to get work done between time spent posting about football! Well, this gives them a chance to avoid Steckelhood, but it still ain't out of the question. This team has a chance to be quite bad for a few years now, especially if the owner concludes that he isn't getting several hundred million in stadium subsidies, so there is a real opportunity for the University of Minnesota, with a much nicer stadium, to become the football attraction in the Twin Cities. If they can just get lucky and hire the right coach, or genetically reverse-engineer Barry Alvarez.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Not just Wisconsin and Iowa. Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, USC, and Boise have all gone to BCS bowl games in the last 10 years with starters who attended Twin City high schools. There is huge potential, if the Administration can avoid another hiring debacle. The biggest impediment to football success at the University of Minnesota, other than bad hires, has been playing in souless building off campus, and being second fiddle to the other football team in that building. Now, the stadium is first rate, even if it is a bit small, and if the Vikings are bad for a while, the Gophers can compete for attention.

If the Vikings move, of course, the Gophers will have a huge opportunity, if they make the right hire. They oughta' incentivize the next coach's contract by telling him that if he sells out the stadium every game, and gets them to BCS bowl games, they'll add 20,000 seats, and give 50% of that extra revenue to the head coach, as long as he remains head coach.

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

"and you don't need to be a hopeless fan club member to still think that he gives the team a better chance to win than Tavaris Jackson"

I honestly don't think he does right now. At the beginning of the season, maybe, but an out of shape, injured, Brett Favre is not a good football player.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Bill Barnwell: Patriots just ran a strange front before the two-minute warning that I haven't seen them run before/regularly/notably. Had three down linemen, but it looked like one was shaded over the A-gap between the center and left guard, one in the B-gap between right guard and right tackle, and one in the C-gap outside right tackle. They had a fourth guy standing up about a yard off the line outside the left tackle. Not really of consequence, just interesting.

Sounds a lot like what the Bucs have been using on third and long all year. 3 down lineman with a linebacker (usually Quincy Black) standing up at the outside shoulder of one of the defensive ends.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Niners are indeed done. They need a new quarterback (T Smith was awful, he can't see over the line and holds the ball forever) a new head coach and new coordinators, a GM would be nice too but does anyone think the Yorks can make the right decisions? The labour uncertainty won't help, I'm seriously wondering if it's worth supporting the 49ers, they seem doomed to fail because the owners are idiotic walking adverts in favour of inheritance taxes.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

The Redskins had ten -- TEN! -- players leave the game (or pre-game warmups) with an injury. Only two of those players came back. They were down to five healthy offensive linemen for much of the game, which meant that Stephon Heyer (a mediocre swing tackle) got to play guard for the first time in his life. They were down to Kieland Williams (rookie UDFA) and Darrel Young (undrafted LB-turned-FB) taking reps at RB. When DeAngelo Hall missed a series, their cornerbacks were Philip Buchanon, Byron Westbrook (younger brother of Brian, has spent most of his career inactive or on special teams), and Kevin Barnes (ditto, minus the famous brother). I wasn't around for the "body bag" game, but I've never seen a team lose so many players in a single game.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Is Shanahan advocating a physical approach? I ask because Washington really seemed to be flying around with abandon. I wonder if that degree of hitting isn't adding up causing the team to be more prone to injury.

200 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Whenever a coach talks about wanting his team to "hit people," etc., I tend to write it off as cliche coachspeak, so I honestly don't know if he's talked much about wanting the team to be physical. In terms of how he handles practices, he's definitely shown some flexibility for injured players.

As for whether Sunday's injuries were caused by any particular philosophy, I have pretty strong doubts. One player broke a bone in his foot during pre-game warmups. One player tore his ACL, and one partially tore his MCL. A few have hamstring issues, seemingly a habitual problem on that team. Basically, a lot of the injuries did or may have occurred without contact, and the others probably can't be attributed to a general philosophy of "hitting."

Also, apparently one of the Redskins' trainers hurt his MCL at halftime, while attending to some of the aforementioned issues. Unbelievable.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/22/AR2010112206761.html

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I have never seen a Colts game where who the backups were was so obvious (especially on defense). When a first-stringer made a tackle, the Pat player went down. When a 3rd-stringer made a tackle, the Pat player got at least a few extra yards or broke the tackle completely. Francisco was flat-out abused, Lacey and both linebackers had rough games.

I just thought it was intriguing. Obviously these guys didn't become 3rd-stringers by accident, but I had never seen it so obviously on display (particularly with regards to tackling).

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Are you sure? I don't recall many Pats going down quickly at all regardless of who hit them first, except Branch, who is playing the veteran "I got my 1st down, there are four white jerseys around me, I'm going down card."

That's actually good news to me, if true. I thought the tackling by everyone in the back 7 sucked. The DL allowed runners to get through, but it was more like Woodhead running into a wall of his own men and the DL never really had access until he broke decisively for a hole.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I wish Austin Collie had been ordered the same.

(PS: Anyone else notice that Collie took 2 shots, not one, that finally knocked him out of the game? The first was because he ran into a crowd over the middle trying to gain a few extra yards -- not smart when you've just had a concussion. The second one was when a NE player finished a tackle by throwing Collie on his back. Collie was already on his knees, down, but the NE player just finished, and Collie clearly didn't expect it and let his head slam on the turf. Not a thinking man, that Collie.)

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

"David Gardner: The replay was not flattering. And, ached the commercial break, he atoll appears to be out of breath."

Haiku!

Also, I don't really mind a Freeman-McNabb comparison. Bill Simmons has run with a Freeman-Roethlesberger thing before, and I'm OK with both of those. Freeman as of yet seems to be less inclined to make dumb decisions (on and/or off the field) than either, here's hoping that continues.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Fins probably didn't want to risk running the Wildcat / Pistol with Incognito playing center.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

They had several series before he came in and they didn't run those packages then. I think that early fumble on the reverse scared the O-coordinator. I also think they clearly felt it was time their star wideout took over a game. That was clearly how they game planned the game. After he fizzled and the the center went out, they basically weren't left with many(any) options. They probably figured the Bears game planned for their exotics and they might not be up for what they threw at them. To be fair it seemed to work. Their first drive was nice until the fumble and had their wideout caught those passes and not made stupid penalties they would have been more successful early in the game.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

And how lucky can the Jets get? (Or, how bad is the Texans defense?)

I know the Jets defense choked big-time. I know that going 90-some yards in :40 with no TOs is spectacularly improbable. I know in all likelihood it was written at least somewhat been tongue-in-cheek...but at the risk of sounding like a humorless jagbag, I've gotta ask: after Sanchez makes two of the best throws of his life, we're really going to the "luck" well again?

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Well, yeah. You said it yourself, you can hardly expect the guy to keep making the "best" throws of his career late in close games. Sooner or later he's going to do what the numbers suggest and make an average throw, or God forbid, a bad one, and the Jets are actually going to lose a squeaker.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Tony Dungy broke that play down and said Jason Allen was playing inside technique instead of outside, guarding the sidelines, and the safety was completely out of position, which he said was terrible coaching and basic football 101. So yeah, good throw, but that play was more of a product of the Texans terrible defense than anything.

174 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Of course they will. But saying that the law of averages dictates that the Jets will lose a late/close game is worlds away from dismissing the late/close games they have won as mere luck.

@Bobby Wommack: I didn't see Dungy's breakdown, so he may be right. Allen was clearly toasted on the play. But it looked like Sanchez looked the safety left before throwing to Edwards on the right.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

i think the only luck for the jets is that they were playing the Texans. Jets were the better team for what, 50 minutes or so. then the team self-destructed and appeared destined for 7-3 until a great drive by Sanchez. But since the Green Bay and Baltimore games were lost partly due to inexplicable drops, the fact that Edwards and holmes caught those balls was no gimme.

53 Peyton Hillis

The amazing thing about the Peyton Hillis trade is that the Broncos made it without, apparently, any use at all for Brady Quinn. He's not old enough to be anyone's veteran mentor, and he's not young and promising enough to be the next-generation QB on a team that also his Tim Tebow. I wouldn't be surprised if he never takes a snap as a Bronco.