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

Audibles at the Line: Week 1

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

compiled by Bill Barnwell

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

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

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

Minnesota Vikings 9 at New Orleans Saints 14 (Thursday)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oakland Raiders 13 at Tennessee Titans 38

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

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

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

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

Carolina Panthers 18 at New York Giants 31

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

Indianapolis Colts 24 at Houston Texans 34

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atlanta Falcons 9 at Pittsburgh Steelers 15

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

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

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

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

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

Miami Dolphins 15 at Buffalo Bills 10

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

Detroit Lions 14 at Chicago Bears 19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cincinnati Bengals 24 at New England Patriots 38

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cleveland Browns 14 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Francisco 49ers 6 at Seattle Seahawks 31

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

First play from scrimmage: Matt Hasselbeck is intercepted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Barnwell: Are you a UFL scout?

Green Bay Packers 27 at Philadelphia Eagles 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arizona Cardinals 17 at St. Louis Rams 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dallas Cowboys 7 at Washington Redskins 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Tanier: Oh, that was vintage.

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Barnwell: Bad scene, everyone's fault.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Gerheim: Odds are they will.

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

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

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

Extras

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments

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

190 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

The thing most people I know hated about that was the insistence on "muscling up" again on fourth down. The Bears have been rotten in short yardage for years now. The first three downs weren't a surprise and fourth down sure as hell wasn't either.

192 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Yeah, a team like that might do better to run short yardage and goal line plays out of a 4 wide set, letting the quarterback call run or pass at the line based on what he sees. Spreading them out seems like a more viable option than trying to power through.

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

"I think what he's doing is trying to reinforce the idea that he believes in his offense regardless of past results."

This is what I hate about Lovie. He puts his beliefs about how things should go ahead of the facts about how they do.

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I think he should have kicked it. I could try to calculate probabilistic outcomes for each, but realistically if you trust your defense to stop the other team and get the ball back with good field position then you should also trust them to stuff any drive and get the ball back to run out the clock.

On the flip side, running the ball into the line 3 of 4 plays was stupid, and the one pass attempt simply wasn't there. You have to run play action more that close, especially when they know your tendencies. Cutler can run -- a play action bootleg when you have two huge targets in Aromashodu and G-Reg should be able to score a touchdown from the 1 yard line 9 out of 10 times.

If you're not going to be smart, at least be creative.

157 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

"I could try to calculate probabilistic outcomes for each, but realistically if you trust your defense to stop the other team and get the ball back with good field position then you should also trust them to stuff any drive and get the ball back to run out the clock."

This isn't really true. David Romer did calculate the probabilistic outcomes for each position on the field in his paper about going for it on 4th down. Look at figure 1 in that link. Notice that the increase in value is steepest for the first several yards close to your own end zone.

I'd speculate that part of the reason for this is that most NFL teams run much more conservative, less effective offenses when backed up at their own goal line in order to get enough room to punt the ball. For example, in the Ravens-Jets game last night, Baltimore got the ball at their own 1 and started the drive with a QB sneak (as an aside, I've always been a bit skeptical that this extra room really matters, and Romer's data don't show an unusually big increase in the value of punting between your own 1 and your own 5; I'd be interested to see data on whether blocks actually are any more common in this situation).

The upshot of all this is that it's easier for the defense to stop the opposing offense when they get the ball at their own 1 and get the ball back with good field position than it is to stop them after a field goal and kickoff.

163 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

"For example, in the Ravens-Jets game last night, Baltimore got the ball at their own 1 and started the drive with a QB sneak (as an aside, I've always been a bit skeptical that this extra room really matters, and Romer's data don't show an unusually big increase in the value of punting between your own 1 and your own 5; I'd be interested to see data on whether blocks actually are any more common in this situation)."

A couple thoughts about this:

*It's been a little while since I read the Romer paper, but I'm pretty sure that field position values were based on a best-fit curve -- not exact data points for each yard-line -- which would "dampen" an extreme value. So if there is enormous marginal value in going from, say, one's own 1 to the 2 or 3, then Romer's paper would be likely to understate it.

*There may not be a disproportionate number of punts blocked from the 1, but if that's the case, it could very easily be due to the fact that teams generally put tremendous focus on punt protection when backed up like that. (Also, a noteworthy consequence of this is that returns on punts from that field position are probably longer than returns from other parts of the field, since the punting team is almost always making protection a much higher priority than coverage.)

*Finally, the marginal value of those first couple yards could be pedestrian and punts could be more likely to be blocked down there: it's a reasonably likely possibility that unblocked punts from there go a bit farther than those from other points on the field, since a kick from the end zone must travel less to reach the LoS. (That is, if the kick itself goes the same distance on average, one that only spends 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage will end up an "extra" 5 yards past the LoS than one that originates 15 yards behind the line.) With a higher block rate but higher distance on unblocked punts, the could have the same average value but much greater variance. Given coaches' risk aversion in many other situations, it wouldn't be shocking that coaches would place a high priority on getting to a lesser-variance area.

Basically, there are several effects working in each direction here, so I don't think you're going to pin down the marginal value of the first couple yards on theoretical arguments alone.

179 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

It's been a little while since I read the Romer paper, but I'm pretty sure that field position values were based on a best-fit curve -- not exact data points for each yard-line -- which would "dampen" an extreme value. So if there is enormous marginal value in going from, say, one's own 1 to the 2 or 3, then Romer's paper would be likely to understate it.

Romer actually did calculate the field position values for each yard line, which is shown in the unconstrained estimation in figure 2, but most of the analysis is done with the smoothed estimation. The figures for kicking, however, only show the smoothed estimation, so yes, it might understate an extreme value, although it's worth noting that the same smoothing algorithm is largely able to capture the steep changes in starting field position value for the first several yards near your own end zone.

The various things you point out that could affect the value of punting from your own end zone (return coverage, net distance kicked, blocks, etc.) are interesting to consider, but at the end of the day, the difference in value between punting from your own 1 and your own 6 doesn't appear to be any bigger than the difference between punting from your own 5 and your own 10. Whatever teams are doing to compensate for the lack of space, they seem to be breaking even on the punts themselves.

My main point, though, wasn't really about whether teams should become so conservative near their own end zone, but rather that, in practice, they do, making things much easier on opposing defenses. Therefore, it's not really accurate to say "well if you can stop them and and get the ball back in good field position, then you can stop them and protect your 2-point lead."

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I'm more convinced than before the preseason that New England's money would be better spent on a quality pass rusher than on re-signing Logan Mankins. Even against Cincinnati's blitzes, Brady had time to go tantric on Giselle before deciding where to throw. If their 3rd choice at left guard can help the line give Brady that kind of time, 8 mil/yr is too much to spend on the position.

After watching 6 ShortCuts last night, I can say the thing that stood out most to me was the speed of Tennessee's D. Not just their success - the Raiders are the Raiders - but you don't see NFL players get tossed and thrown that way. (Yeah, i know. Oakland doesn't have any NFL players. haha. roflmao. brilliant.) Tennessee looks scary fast and they were ragdolling Oakland blockers on a consistent basis.

"Profit is limit ONLY by your ability to BANG SPORK"

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

While I can't comment on why Grant went undrafted, Jackson being picked in the second was a combination of the Packers being horribly desperate for a running back before the 2007 draft and the 2007 draft having horrible depth at running back. Look at the backs picked after the first round that year. Michael Bush wasn't an option for the Packers because of his injury. The rest of the halfbacks who went from rounds 2-6 that year: Kenny Irons, Chris Henry, Brian Leonard, Lorenzo Booker, Tony Hunt, Garrett Wolfe, Antonio Pittman, Dwayne Wright, Kolby Smith, Thomas Clayton and Justise Hairston. Among halfbacks from that draft, Jackson is actually fifth is total yards, I believe, behind only the two first-rounders (Peterson and Lynch), Bush and seventh-rounder Ahmad Bradshaw, who if I remember correctly slid in part because of character issues. At least Jackson has developed into a highly underrated third-down back. Most of the others didn't even make it to the end of their rookie contracts. Once you get past Peterson, that was just a bad running back draft.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Can anyone explain to me why Miles Austin was target so infrequently on the Cowboy's last drive?

I don't want to hear because he was covered because Dez Bryant was hardly getting open and they seemed intent to force the ball to him.

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

One thing that has been lost in the Megatron catch/no-catch debate is the fact that there were 24 seconds left at the end of that play, and the Bears had all three timeouts. If you assume a squib kick or a halfway decent return, then the Bears are looking at ~20 seconds and three timeouts to gain about 35 yards and attempt the game-winning field goal. Not a slam-dunk, but by no means impossible (Cutler had, after all, already thrown for nearly 400 yards). This is not to say that the Lions and their fans shouldn't be pissed off; rather, we should keep in mind that in the millions of parallel universes in which that gets ruled a catch, the Lions still only win 50-75% of the time.

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

RE:87 & 99

I am glad to see that I am not the only Bears fan or observer of the game that thinks Lovie's decision was not totally unresonable. The biggest problem the Bears have had since the Superbowl appearance in 2007 is there habit of getting several posessions in the red zone during games only to either a) turn the ball over or b) walk away with only three points. As a result the Bears often find themselves with slim leads late in games only to have the opposing offense make a play that results in a touchdown and the Bears needing pts with seconds on the clock and going on to lose.

Yesterday's game had that feel to it. Sure, Lovie could have taken the 3 pts but contrary to the Chicago media, talk show hosts, newspaper guys( all of whom assume if the Bears kick the fg the game was over. With 8 mins left in the game. )even though Shaun Hill looked pretty incompetent all he would have needed was 1 half way decent drive to put the Lions into position to kick a game winning fg late in the game. Smith was at least trying to give his defense a larger margin for error.
Funny thing is if Smith goes for the fg and converts and the Lions DO go ahead and kick a game winning fg, most of these mopes would have called Lovie a coward for failing to go for it on 4th and 1. Just a no win situation.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

But the Bears are terrible at running it up the middle in goal-line situations. Asking them to pass and put themselves at greater risk of a turnover does put them in a difficult position, but the fact is the Bears for the last few years have sucked in short yardage.

Though you are right that there is every reason to think the Lions could have scored again (as they of course basically did). For reasons that infuriate me, any team in the league can score on any team in the league with two minutes to go. It seems like you can completely ignore the precedent of the game up to that point.

All that said, I still would like him to kick the field goal in that situation, preferably after a couple of low(er)-risk pass plays.

191 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I think the play was designed to go inside, but Kreutz did his "Secretariat-Eating-Grass" routine and Forte bounced it outside. That's pretty tough real estate in a short yardage situation.

168 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I think the problem with folks who say Lovie should have kicked the FG is that Detroit's last drive showed how dangerous Megatron is when the Lions have nothing to lose and can just throw it to him even when he is double covered. No matter how badly they had played up to that point a one point lead would have guaranteed nothing. Two heaves down the field to the inordinately big and fast man would have put them in FG range and the Bears lose.

Funny thing is if Smith goes for the fg and converts and the Lions DO go ahead and kick a game winning fg, most of these mopes would have called Lovie a coward for failing to go for it on 4th and 1. Just a no win situation.

He could always coach his players really well so that they can execute 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th and goal from the one.

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I thought Atlanta at Pittsburgh was an exciting game. It's one thing if a low score is caused by inept offenses rattling off mistakes, but this was a pitched battle of field position with two defenses playing very well. It's true the offenses were sub-par, but look at the turnovers and penalties. That game was not about bad offense as much as about good defense, and I'm just as happy seeing quality play on either side of the ball. Add to that the fact that the score was close for the entire game and you've got something pretty entertaining.

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Related question. What is the optimal score for a good game assuming quality play? I'm going with the unlikely 22-21 (2TD + 2FG + 1 Safety > 3TD). The more likely 21-20 (3TD > 2TD + 2FG) is a close second.

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Strong disagree. The Jets/Ravens game was a game of two defenses playing intense football. The Falcons/Steelers game was sloppy and embarrassing, very hard for me to watch.

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

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I have no idea how the Steelers/Flacons game unfolded, but I couldn't disagree more on the Jets/Ravens game. A comedy of both offensive and defensive errors all the way. HORRIBLE offense on both teams.

Best exemplified in the last play of the game where the Defense had abdolutely nothing to do with Keller stepping out of bounds short of the marker on fourth down RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE MARKER without a defender in sight.

- Alvaro

Edited for clarity.

156 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

There was definitely no shortage of mistakes, and the Jets offense in particular was truly putrid, but I think there was also some very good defensive play.

The Steelers, for my money, also played some very good defense. On Week 1's evidence, the best defenses in the NFL are the distinctly meet-the-new-boss-same-as-the-old-boss quadrarchy of the Jets, Steelers, Bears and Ravens, probably in that order (I haven't seen the Titans game, and it's tough to judge anybody based on what they do against Oakland, but it wouldn't totally surprise me if they were very good too). Washington and Dallas, now that was a vortex of offensive suck.

166 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

At the risk of sounding like a total homer, I think it's a little premature to suggest that defense had nothing to do with the low offensive output on Sunday night. Both teams have had consistently solid defenses (since 2007, Washington has been 7th, 11th, and 10th in Defensive DVOA; Dallas has been 11th, 9th, and 12th). They also both feature some very good personnel, including perhaps the best defensive player in the league (DeMarcus Ware).

To be clear, I certainly think that some offensive mistakes made the defenses look better. But it can be difficult to really differentiate between "good defense" and "bad offense" except for the occasional obvious play (e.g., fumbled snap.) Even plays that seem like obviously unforced errors can be the result of a well-disguised and executed defensive play. So I don't think there's necessarily good reason to assume that Sunday night's game was low-scoring solely because of offensive mistakes.

171 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Oh, I overstated the case, sure. I'd guess that both Washington and Dallas have above average defenses, but probably not much more than that, and the pre-season seems to offer a reasonable further indication that the Dallas offense, or at least the current version that includes Alex Barron due to injury, may well be really quite bad. I think Ware is probably the second or third best defensive player in the league (behind Revis and maybe Allen, just ahead of Cole and Asomugha), but a decent case can be made for first and your point stands in any case.

164 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

From listening on the radio, which can sometimes give a very different perspective than watching on TV, it really did seem like 2 defenses vying for the win, not two offenses that couldn't find their asses with a flashlight and a map. The Ravens/Jets sounded to be the opposite.

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Tanier's diagram was funny, but the fact is NO defensive linemen were involved in that huddle.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Aaron doing the entire Patriots/Bengals section by himself makes me sad. It's as if the rest of the staff went "Yeah, Aaron, the Pats are great. Good for you."

153 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

edwards has to be KCW this week. 13 yards of offense and two crippling penalties that cost the jets 8 points. As bad as cromartie was he was worse

174 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

The competition for KCW this week will be intense. Off the top of my head, I can think of the following strong candidates in addition to Edwards and Cromartie: Wade Phillips, Tony Romo, Tashard Choice, Alex Barron, Kyle Wilson, Mark Sanchez, Dustin Keller, Jake Delhomme, Kevin Kolb, Alex Smith (49ers), the Chargers' punt coverage team, the Rams defensive lineman (can't remember his name) who got stripped by Steve Breaston, Jeff Backus (for getting Matthew Stafford injured and nearly killed), and, yes, Calvin Johnson (for not knowing the rule and thus not completing his potential game-winning TD catch).

184 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

Justin Tryon should go on the long-list too. Twice McAfee dropped punts perfectly so that they could be downed at the 1. The first one, Tryon flapped aimlessly in the ball's general direction as it wobbled past him into the end zone. The second, he had for some reason run out of bounds for around 15 yards down the sideline before coming back in to down the ball. That's 4.4 (I believe) points' worth of field position given away for no reason right there.

154 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

I think the Bears made the right decision by going for it on 4th down, despite the fact that they didn't make it. 8 minutes is a lot of time left in the game. Basically, going for it on 4th and 1 at the goal line is by far the better option in terms of expected value (even if your offense is crappy). See David Romer's 2005 study on the subject. This is in no small part there is a huge difference between the value of giving the ball to your opponent at their own 1 and the value of giving it to them on a kickoff (approximately a 2.2 point difference), so your opponent getting the ball at their own 1 is really not that bad of an outcome.

That's all well and good, and early in the game, you should essentially always go for it in that situation, but obviously there are points when you should depart from that strategy (e.g. when there's too little time left for your opponent to score again). I just don't think that 8 minutes left is late enough to do that. It's debatable, but it's certainly not "mega-davis" to go for it.

155 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

The Chiefs were lucky to win - I'm pretty sure DVOA will bear this out. Not least because of the dreadfully conservative offensive play-calling throughout the second half. But they clearly have a lot of young talent on their roster. In particular the performance of their defensive line was promising.

Chargers' ground gsme still looked rubbish. Perhaps it was to do with the sloppy field last night.

158 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 1

"Chargers' ground gsme still looked rubbish. Perhaps it was to do with the sloppy field last night."

I think it had more to do with the lousy offensive line. They were the worst running team in the league last year, and that was with Marcus McNeil.