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

63 Re: Peyton Hillis

In reply to by Boots Day (not verified)

I think what happened is that the Broncos really wanted to get rid of Hillis because the fans were clamoring for him to get more playing time than Moreno (due to the fact that he seems to do much better than Moreno). With Hillis out of town, they can make sure that Moreno gets every chance to succeed without the Broncos being questioned about a seemingly better back getting less time than him.

So basically, I don't think that the Broncos were concerned at all about what they got back for Hillis, they were mostly concerned with getting rid of him.

71 Re: Peyton Hillis

In reply to by nojo

That may be the logic behind it, although it's hard for me to understand why a team would feel it's better off with only one decent running back as opposed to two. If nothing else, when you have redundant talent at a position, it gives you an opportunity to trade for a position of need, or future draft choices.

85 Re: Peyton Hillis

In reply to by Boots Day (not verified)

For reasons that seem to be known only to him, McDaniels didn't like Hillis and was never going to play him. So you might as well trade a guy who is never going to play, and Quinn is an upgrade over Simms as a backup QB. But if either one of them has to play, you're in trouble anyway.

88 Re: Peyton Hillis

Wait a minute...Charlie Weis assured me a couple of years back that within 2 years of his drafting, Brady Quinn would be the 3rd best quarterback in the NFL.

I mean, he also said that Notre Dame would have a decided schematic advantage over every team they played while he was coaching them, and I can't imagine he'd be wrong twice.

218 Re: Peyton Hillis

Just think how bad they would have been without the schematic advantage!

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I thought it would have been incredibly funny is there was ZERO commentary on the Pats/Colts game and when questioned, the FO staff replies: "apparently none of us watched it."

Anyway, Aaron, I think you are VERY wrong about Garcon's blocking on the Donald Brown run, at least in comparison to Welker absoulutely OWNING Hayden on Woodhead's TD run. Garcon is their best WR blocker, sure, and yards over an average WR block might have been 5+/- on that long run. But Welker just freakin' manhandled Hayden and without Welker there, Hayden hits Woodhead at the 12-15 (and probably misses a tackle, of course). Hayden was basically being punched backwards as if he was trying to walk into a hurricane and he had no clue what to do.

This Colt fan finally impressed by Wes Welker.

My guess is that the Colts will host the Pats in the first round of the playoffs. With some different players in there and HFA, I expect a different game. Not drastically different, but maybe Brackett's presence requires Brady to go deeper. Of course that may not exactly be a good thing for the Colts.... but they are a VERY different team at home and on the road this year on both sides of the ball. They used to actually be better on the road--Manning once attributed it to the O players having sharper focus to combat the noise.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

With regards to the playoffs, I think both teams are in dogfights to win their respective divisions. I think there is just a good of a chance of the Patriots having a first round bye rather than the scenario you present. I also think there is a small chance that Indy losses the division all together. They have a couple of difficult games coming up. And if Tenn can get their QB situation straightened out they could also be trouble.

175 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

its still too early to speculate on seeding. But the most likely scenario, at least through ten games, puts the afc east loser as the 5 seed and colts at 3 seed, meaning the wouldnt face each other in round 1

189 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Agreed, but I have a feeling that the Jets are a tougher out than the Pats ands will win the AFCE. Have not looked at future skeds and H/A venues yet.

For the Colts, the Jags are now a bigger threat that the Titans. The fact that they have two fewer home games and a road game at Indy makes me feel pretty good about the remaining schedules. The Titans will have a rookie QB start the next week or two, and who knows when old man Collins will return, and when he does, how he'll do? I think the whole div is in free-fall at the moment. But the Jags have a negative 50 pt differential, while the Colts last three losses were by a total of 8 pts and they have a plus 52 pt differential. Looking at the Colts and Jags head to head, it's hard to imagine a team that has a 102 pt differential delta will come out on top. I don't think it's as close as Jets/Pats.

195 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Wow how do you come to that feeling?

The Jets must defend their tiebreaker in Foxboro, and still face the Steelers, while both face the Pack.
And while you might admire their grit in opulling out one last second miracle after another, it is hardly a sign of a good team to have to do so against a bunch of also-runs.

Even Burkes Numbers which really dislikes the way the pats win show the division race as practically open by now (47-40 Jets) , while FO should show a significant advantage Pats once this weeks numbers are there.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Needs way more discussion on exactly how pathetic Goodell and his squad of refs has turned the NFL into a pansyball league.

----------------------------
Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.

214 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

At risk of awakening the troll...in the wake of two coaches getting sacked midseason, and a strong likelihood of how many more in the offseason (2,3,4,...? - CIN, SF, DEN, TEN,...?), I've been thinking about this whole anti-PIT staff thing and about coaching in general.

Tomlin has his weaknesses to be sure, a FOT's pointed them out...whether they're legit or not I don't know. What I do know is that in APR, I looked at the schedule and thought, I'll be happy if PIT is 1-3, thrilled if they're 2-2 and if they're anything better, I'll give up the boozing and whoring. As we all know, the Steelers went 3-1 and now I'm in a sex-addict clinic waiting to begin rehab. Given the charlie foxtrots that have blown up in MIN, DAL, and TEN it seems that Tomlin deserves a hell of a lot of credit for successfully negotiating the Roethlisberger issue. This brings me to the following point...different coaches bring different skill sets to the table (duh) and there are only a few rare (if any) coaches that have "it all." Some coaches are "player coaches," others are strategists, etc.).

Other's thoughts about types, skillsets, etc.?

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

My dad said something similar, only I'm fairly certain he used the term "lardass." The last time I'd heard him call anyone lardass, he was speaking of Jerome Brown, so this is high praise indeed from a man who had sufficient command of language that he didn't have to resort to profanity on a regular basis.

154 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Keith Traylor's interception, which wasn't a touchdown because he was so damn slow, is still really funny. He's seems like he's desperately looking for someone to lateral the ball to after about 30 or 40 yards.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73dW4740ILE

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Ugliest matchup of uniforms in some time? Heck, there was a much worse one in the same time slot yesterday. The non-throwback Bills vs the awful non-uniform Bengals, wearing their extra special orange hiliter jerseys.

The Bills need to swap red and blue in their current logo and slap that onto their throwbacks instead of the standing buffalo and call it done. It'd be one of the best looks in football. The Bengals had a good idea (I like the tiger striping) but just awful implementation.

I get what you're saying about the other game, of course, especially the total combo of all 4 hideous colors and the stupid way in which TN combined theirs, but I still vote for Bills-Bengals as the worst.

Three paragraphs about uniforms. Wow.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I could write 10 paragraphs about what needs to be done with the unis and still have more to say. It AMAZES me the taste some people have. Like PK complaining the other week about the Rams throwbacks being hideous. The new uni colors are so lame.

Bills throwbacks are tight. The old logo is better than the new one. New one isn't bad though. But solid profile is the way to go on animal logos. KC chiefs throwbacks are awesome too, very similar to Bills. Falcons throwbacks also sick. That old logo is amazing. Really fascist looking. Best unis of the year go to the Eagles throwbacks worn vs GB though. Green + borderless silver wings on helmet.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Tom - agreed about Tim Ryan, I found myself pretty impressed w/him when I was watching Falcons/Rams. Also you're spot on about Atlanta's run game.

92 Michael's on Vick

Did Al Michaels really say "and that is man bites dog news" after Avant dropped the Vick pass? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JQRRtBsCxU Thing is Michaels strikes me as way too smart to do this on accident. C'mon Al. Really?

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

one of the big storylines of yesterday has to be the separation in the AFC. its only thanksgiving, but can you even find even odds that the 6 afc playoff teams wont be NYJ-NE-BAL-PIT-IND-SD in some order?

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Well, SD still needs to jump 2 games up on KC. I think that it is very possible, but KC doesn't exactly have a world-beater schedule coming up. I think just as likely is that KC takes a wildcard spot from whoever comes in 2nd in the AFC North. Also, I'm not as confident about Indy as some folks - it's weird to say the story is separation in a week in which their division fell into a strange morass...

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Whoa dude, maybe let's wait to make sure the Chargers actually beat the Broncos tonight and avoiding falling to last place in the AFC West before we book them as a guaranteed playoff team.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I'm fairly excited for the Bears-Eagles matchup. While the most likely outcome is the Eagles blowing out the Bears, there are a few factors to consider. Number 1 is that Urlacher has never lost to Vick. He is one of the few linebackers (the only one?) to have the athleticism to keep up with him, and spy him without safety help. The Bears d-line is well coached and very gap sound. Peppers is another player with the athleticism to keep up with Vick. Vick's running game should be contained. The Bears are also good at taking away deep passes, another strength of the Eagles. So does Vick have the accuracy and patience to take all the 7-15 yard passes it takes to move against the Bears defense? Will the Bears offense look competent against the Eagles defense? Samuel is probably salivating at the chance to play against Cutler.

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I think it's very hard to say how a team (or player) will respond to Vick based on past experience - he's just playing an entirely different way right now. In fact, his running was a detriment last night against the Giants because he should have just taken dump-offs or thrown the ball away, rather than lunge forward for 5 yards over and over - his running game is not really the most important part of his game anymore. It's an important threat, but stopping Vick from running no longer equals shutting Vick down. I think their success against deep passes is a bigger problem for the Eagles, but who knows - lots of teams that are good at taking away the deep pass have failed to shut down Maclin and Jackson.

But yeah, the real story is going to be how much does the Eagles defense decides the game. They're a unit that has thrived on sacks and interceptions - that's covered up their other deficiencies to an extent. But if they can get sacks and jump routes, they will murder you. Does not sound like a good match-up for the Bears. Also, they Eagles d has been weak against the run... which did not seem to be the case last night against a running attack far more effective than the Bears'. Nothing about this match-up (Eagles' d vs. Bears o) is in the Bear's favor. I would say it is all insanely not in their favor.

If Vick takes care of the ball, I think the Eagles can pull out a close win (this is also assuming the Bears' kill them on special teams and are able to stymie the offense to a good amount, of which both assumptions seem highly reasonable.)

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

There might not be a defense in the league which is "good" matchup for the Bears. I guess Carolina just being so terrible not even the Bears had trouble running.

One thing that might help the Bears is that the Eagles corners are terrible at tackling, and Knox and Hester are both decent at YAC. So, if Hester can take a screen pass 40 yards to open the game or something, that might change things.

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Only Samuel is bad at tackling. Patterson is positively Charles Woodson-esque and has quickly become the hard-hitting CB of my dreams. He blew up a bunch of WR screens last night. Plus, the Eagles safeties are well aware that part of their job is "clean up after Samuel" so it ends up being less of an issue that it might otherwise be. Granted, Mikell had a killer whiff last night, but the clean-up crew (which includes Bradley and Sims) are normally pretty on it.

What might be in the Bears' favor is Forte out of the backfield, but I haven' seen enough of the Bears to know if he's actually a real threat or not. I know one season he caught a ton of passes, so that scares me, but I don't know if he's actually good as a receiving RB...

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Forte is a very good receiving threat. For example, in the game against the Lions (which has been discussed ad nauseum for other reasons in this thread), he caught two TD passes. One was a screen pass that he took 89 yards for a TD, and the other one was a 28 yard TD pass on a wheel route in which he burned the LB who tried to cover him. He made a great catch in the end zone, twisting his body and managing to stay in bounds. That proved to be the game-winning TD with less than two minutes left, and it set the stage for you-know-what.

Chester Taylor also is a good receiver out of the backfield for the Bears.

155 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

QB reminder...maybe I'm just lost, but these are the two I immediately thought about with regard to Mike Tanier's comments on the TB-SF game.

Jeff Blake? Tony Banks?

156 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

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.

I'd imagine that line was put into the rulebook so clock-stopping spikes don't start getting penalized for grounding.

159 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

As long as there's someone in the backfield with the QB, or even a TE who isn't flexed, a spike is close enough to an eligible receiver to prevent an intentional grounding call. If that's not the case, i can think of about 30 IG penalties that should have been called on Phillip Rivers when Daren Sproles' ankles were the intended receiver.

168 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Intentional grounding will be called when a passer, facing an imminent loss of yardage due to pressure from the defense, throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion.

http://www.nfl.com/rulebook/intentionalgrounding

171 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I'm pretty sure he understands that. Tom also quoted the rule in the Pats/Colts section as a direct response to Aaron, who Kibbles was quoting. Kibbles thought that the "due to pressure from the defense" clause was added to prevent penalties on spikes to stop the clock.

185 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

It's been called that way for as long as there's been an intentional grounding penalty on the books. It's only a penalty if the QB is trying to avoid a sack. If he's under no pressure, it's not a penalty.

190 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Like Aaron, I've never seen that call before (or at least, if the flag was picked up or never thrown, there was no explanation and I figured I missed the nearest receiver).

But that was about as close as the Colts got to Brady all night. No, nobody was draped over him ala Ben R, or flying at his knees, but within about two arm-lengths and another second could have been all they needed. (as I am sure the DEs would tell you.... hey man, I was THIS close!)

Clearly a spike is one thing, and it's almost never in question. But that play really looked like what it was--he saw nothing he liked and burned the ball. If the D is five feet away from him and charging, even with blockers there, that's very different from a spike situation where he's in no danger whatsoever. As a rule, it's fairly fuzzy. I mean why NOT spike it in that situation? Whenever there's an early flag on a snapped ball, Manning spikes it to make sure the play is killed and ball dead (and out of his hands). The very fact that Brady threw it makes it APPEAR like he's trying to make it look like a legit pass.

202 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I think to that question is obvious.

a) Brady had just scanned that area, and throwing lane so while he knew there was no legit pass there, he felt pretty sure, it would not be deflected/intercepted too. He might even feel that one of his guys was close enough to be a legit target, allthough I dont remember one.

b) he was not sure, how far away the pressure was, so he wanted to have at least teh possibility of this being a legit pass.

170 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

The Bears strategic direction is to count on the other team to make a mistake. Play field position. Make the opponent have a sustained drive. Just wait and wait and wait and eventually the opposition will give an opportunity. Even their fumble causing tactic is something that happens after the opponent has had success in terms of a completed pass.

It will be interesting to see what transpires as Chicago finishes the season playing a number of reasonably good teams.

I just want to see Chicago go TAKE a game and win it versus the water torture routine.

Yes, it's a different approach. Yes, it has had some degree of success.

Just not my kind of football.

And why I do NOT get the Cutler being there. Dude IS a mistake waiting to happen. Flies in the face of the rest of the team. It's bizarre.

178 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Actually it makes perfect sense. If the ideal defense is the one that forces the other team into long drives where you wait for inevitable mistake, the ideal offense is the one which scores very quickly thus leaving no time for that mistake.

198 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Just been looking ahead at the schedule and noticed that all the week 17 games are in-division. Is this a new innovation by the league? I've never noticed it before if not.

206 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I suppose, but it might just mean that some of the week 16 games turn out to be irrelevant instead. Even worse than that, some week 16 games could be completely meaningless for teams that are actually trying to get to the playoffs. In the NFC West for example, St. Louis travel to Seattle in week 17 for a game which is quite likely to decide who wins the division. If both teams went into week 16 with identical records, and ahead of the 49ers and Cardinals, there may well be no incentive for either team to win in week 16 because the week 17 game would decide the division whatever happened due to the way the tie-breakers work.

Has there ever been an example of a team sitting players in week 16 because they know that they know that whatever happens their division placing will be decided in week 17?

210 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Hm. That is possible but seems hugely unlikely - it would require a lot of circumstances lining up perfectly that I'm not sure would matter. Also, if the amount of meaningless games gets spread out over 2 weeks (instead of being concentrated in week 17) that is better for fans, anyway, because the most number of meaningful games in any given week is the objective all season long...

208 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I still don't understand what difference it makes. Had it applied last year, it wouldn't have made a single week-17 game more 'relevant'.

This year's schedule seems irregular overall. With six weeks to go, Tennessee still has five divisional games to play. Philadelphia doesn't meet Dallas and Atlanta doesn't see Carolina until week 14. Lots of teams seem to be playing each other twice within a month, leading to a sense of déjà vu: haven't the Chiefs only just played the Broncos? Is it me, or are the Packers playing Minnesota whenever I turn on the tv?

215 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

My question, is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Teams play early and late in season we have the well Team A really was a different team in DEC than in OCT phenomena, whereas if two teams meet temporally closer together, it becomes more like a two game series to determine who is best.

219 "Lame Penalty of the Week"

going to Aaron's comment in the Steelers/Raiders game, they did not call DPI on Taylor -- they called the illegal touching.