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

Audibles at the Line: Week 6

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.

Atlanta Falcons 17 at Philadelphia Eagles 31

Mike Tanier: The Eagles are averaging 15 yards per play and are leading 14-0. I see one heckuva quarterback controversy in my future.

Ryan Howard is hanging out with Tony Siragusa on the sidelines. Goose to Howard: "That Lincecum's a great pitcher, but he looks like a little kid. He looks like he's 12 years old." Sometimes, it's funny to hear the obvious stated.

Brent Celek: please return L.J. Smith's hands. And belly. The dropped passes are getting out of control.

Bill Barnwell: Kevin Kolb just threw an interception on a tipped pass that ended a nice drive he had put together. Will Moore returned it 30 yards and Kolb then horse-collared Moore to end the drive, and after a couple of completions by Matt Ryan, the Falcons are in the red zone. Game-changer.

Tom Gower: The Falcons score. They moved the back out of the backfield and had a diamond on the right side, while Tony Gonzalez was flexed outside left with Ellis Hobbs in tight coverage. Hobbs there has to guard against the fade to the wide side of the field, so Gonzo just takes the easy inside release and without any underneath help it's an easy read and TD for Ryan.

Mike Tanier: David Akers also missed a short field goal in the Eagles game. But while we are counting missed opportunities, a ball bounced out of Gonzo's hands and into Asante Samuel's earlier in the second quarter.

Cleveland Browns 10 at Pittsburgh Steelers 28

Bill Barnwell: Colt McCoy actually looked reasonably impressive on his first series. Steelers big-blitzed him on third-and-long and he stood in the pocket and made a nice throw to Evan Moore on a deep out for a first down. Took a sack on the ensuing first down, though, and while he made a nice throw up the seam on third down, his receiver fell down and tipped the pass to a Steeler defensive back.

Mike Tanier: I saw 20 seconds of this game and already saw two Burn This Play candidates: a Josh Cribbs pistol handoff and a Benjamin Watson end-around I am not sure I can adequately describe.

Tom Gower: The Watson end-around was absolutely epic. There was another 2nd down play later that drive; I'm not sure if it was a "burn this play" moment or "fire these players" moment or both, as the Steelers were in the backfield almost instantly.

Mike Tanier: I saw the play you refer to, Tom, but I failed to comprehend it.

Now Josh Cribbs is hurt, Anyone who takes a snap for the Browns this year is doomed.

Doug Farrar: Between Brandon Meriweather’s helmet-to-helmet hit on Todd Heap and James Harrison’s helmet-to-helmet hit on Josh Cribbs, I’m guessing there are going to be some wallet-to-wallet fines this next week.

Bill Barnwell: James Harrison just got his second helmet-to-helmet KO of the day, finishing off Mohamed Massaquoi after taking out Josh Cribbs earlier. There's been about a half-dozen scary hits before halftime. Seriously -- go ahead and suspend Harrison for a game. The fines here don't mean anything.

Doug Farrar: While you’re at it, why not suspend the officiating crew doing this game as well? Neither Harrison hit was called, though Alex Mack was called for delay of game on the Massaquoi hit after he kicked the football. Ya think he might have been a little pissed off that his skill players were getting concussed one by one and the refs weren’t doing anything about it?

Mike Tanier: I think the Steelers have gotten away with quite a few borderline hits this year. I will now cower under my bed while Steelers fans tear the siding off my house.

Doug Farrar: Yeah, but it’s not just the Steelers, especially today. The NFL makes these points of emphasis, and it seems to take the refs half a decade to catch up, as it did with the alleged zero-tolerance horse-collar rule.

Tom Gower: Harrison's hit on Cribbs was hard and cheap, but not dirty, I think. The Massaquoi hit should've been flagged.

Bill Barnwell: That wouldn't qualify as a spear? I guess we think of a spear as leading with the helmet to the body, but he led with the crown of his helmet and hit Cribbs in the helmet.

Tom Gower: Looking at the rulebook, the Cribbs hit could have been flagged (assuming the refs deemed done "violently or unnecessarily"), but I thought it was an acceptable no-call given that refs frequently let similar hits go unflagged.

Bill Barnwell: Cribbs was already in the grasp of another defender. Harrison led with his helmet and connected solely with Cribbs's helmet. I would say that qualifies as both violent and unnecessary.

Seattle Seahawks 23 at Chicago Bears 20

Mike Kurtz: The Bears defense looks absolutely clueless. Seattle has two easy touchdowns on three drives. Their third was cut short by penalties. Justin Forsett scored the latest on a goofy fullback fake counter.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks are playing a lot of press coverage with a single safety. It's a curious strategy, especially considering that Roberto Garza is out for the Bears. Devin Hester got a big pass interference call on the first drive to set up a Matt Forte touchdown run, but haven't done anything since.

Matt Hasselbeck is playing his best game of the year. His best throw was a touchdown to Deon Butler, a rainbow that dropped into his hands in the corner of the end zone. I also enjoyed the pump fake, then play fake, then pump fake again, then find Mike Williams on the sideline play.

They opened the game with a graphic highlighting the returnees on these teams, but so far the other aspects are dominating so far. All the kickoffs are in the end zone, Bears have held Golden Tate to negative yards on a pair of punt returns, and Seahawks have downed a punt inside the 5.

Seahawks played a much more conservative two- deep pass coverage in the second quarter. Bears hit a ton of big plays, but couldn't reach the end zone. Seahawks lead 14-13 at the half.

Bill Barnwell: And Cutler finally takes the safety that was being forecast earlier. Bears football!

Ben Muth: This Cutler/Martz combo is going to be responsible for more sacks than Parcells and Lawrence Taylor.

Mike Kurtz: Hester with ACTUAL EXPLOSION for a punt return touchdown. Some nice cuts, but the real story was great blocking and a massive failure of containment by a Seattle squad I thought was pretty good. Gigantic hole to waggle and cut into. During Hester's heyday, the Bears had by far the best ST blocking in the league. There were a few years where it fell off a bit, but this year it's back, and they're putting the returners in position to do great things. Most of the Seahawks coverage team was on the right side of the field, and almost all of them simply got blown up. It was gorgeous.

Miami Dolphins 23 at Green Bay Packers 20

Bill Barnwell: Chad Henne just had a wide-open Brandon Marshall in the endzone and overthrew him. It pains me for Dolphins fans that Chad Pennington is right there.

Really nifty play call and execution by the Dolphins. They run a rollout screen with Henne and Anthony Fasano lets the blitzing Nick Collins go by him. Henne calmly sees Collins coming at him and throws right back at Fasano, and one Jake Long block later, the Dolphins have the lead.

Packers have been stuffed on both second and third down from the 1.5-yard line on runs to Kuhn. On fourth down, they split everyone out and the Dolphins call timeout. They come back and run the same thing...but then Rodgers comes out of the shotgun and goes under center and sprints into the endzone to tie it up.

The Packers tie it up on a fourth-and-goal sneak by Aaron Rodgers. Two points: 1) The Packers have to just stop, stop, stop with the John Kuhn goal line experiment, as he got stopped two times before the sneak and 2) Rodgers really looked "sneak-like" as he slyly walked up from shotgun to under center, pretended to motion to his receiver, and waited for one of his linemen (Daryn Colledge) to slap his thigh to give him the direction to sneak in. The Dolphins probably should have seen it coming.

Detroit Lions 20 at New York Giants 28

Tom Gower: Shaun Hill was injured, so Drew Stanton is in the game for the Lions. Drew Stanton is just as good as you'd expect a Matt Millen draft pick to be. Cue Yakety Sax.

I think Jason Hanson just hit the ugliest successful 50-yard field goal you'll ever see. It started low, it stayed low, it swerved from left to right, it still went in.

Doug Farrar: Yep – a Randy Johnson slider all the way.

Bill Barnwell: Now it's Antrel Rolle's turn to try and return an INT with ten seconds left and a lead. Are all (ex-)Cardinals DBs morons?

New Orleans Saints 31 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6

David Gardner: Aqib Talib, who earlier this week said he wants to be in the conversation for best corner in the league, just got burned on a deep out by Lance Moore.

On another out route, Robert Meachem slipped between Aqib Talib and Cody Grimm, and Brees placed it perfectly to put the Saints up 14-0.

Bill Barnwell: I believe that's Brees's set up move. His finisher is the long pass up the seam to Colston against a miserably overmatched linebacker or safety. Is our friend Sabby around?

David Gardner: Sabby wasn't involved on either play. Talib fell asleep on the first pass, and Grimm and he miscommunicated on the second one.

Also, remember the Saints having issues in the running game? That's not the case today. Chris Ivory has eight carries for 81 yards, and it's only the middle of the second quarter.

Connor Barth, who'd made 12 in a row going back to last season, just hit the post at the end of the field goal. The run of the mustache has, unfortunately, come to an end.

Cody Grimm just got an interception off a tipped pass with about 20 seconds left in the second half and the Saints driving in Bucs' territory. He then lateraled the ball to Sean Jones, which the commentators called a "great play." NO! It was a horrible play! There are 15 seconds left. Put your butt on the ground and let the offense come take a knee.

Bill Barnwell: Saints have a touchdown taken off the board when third-string tight end/ex-basketball player Jimmy Graham -- split out against linebacker Quincy Black -- commits an OPI en route to a touchdown catch. Garrett Hartley promptly misses a 33-yarder. Surely, someone must still have Morten Andersen's phone number.

David Gardner: Kareem Huggins just caught his first pass in the NFL, and he appeared to have his ACL torn on the same play ... that's sad.

After Barth's first field goal miss, I muttered to my roommate that he couldn't hit the post again if I paid him. Good thing my wallet isn't in the room -- he just hit the post on his second try.

Bill Barnwell: Believe that calls for mustache penance.

Ben Muth: The manliest way to miss a field goal is to bang it off the upright, though. Even in failure, the mustache brings machismo.

David Gardner: Commentators just said that he needed to "tune up" that mustache. Call me old fashioned, but I believe that a mustache must be free.

San Diego Chargers 17 at St. Louis Rams 20

Bill Barnwell: O.J. Atogwe just took a pass away from Malcom Floyd in the endzone, a 50-50 ball that Atogwe grabbed away from Floyd. Really impressive play by Atogwe.

Rams are up 10-0 after Bradford hits the inimitable Damario Alexander down the field for a 38-yard touchdown. Alexander beat Antoine Cason, who was staring into the backfield until Alexander ran by him, at which point he started sprinting to catch up and failed. Norv noted during the week that Cason had a bad habit of trying to bait people into throwing at him. It's like he really is Antonio Cromartie 2.0.

Aaron Schatz: Antonio Cromartie, of course, was Terrell Buckley 2.0.

Bill Barnwell: Sam Bradford looks really good in St. Louis. Just marching down the field on a Chargers defense that's looked really good before today, making smart decisions. Of course, as soon as I write that, he takes two sacks. One was on a scrambling Bradford where Kevin Burnett a) launched himself in the air at Bradford and b) hit him in the helmet with his helmet. Steve Beuerlein goes into a speech about how that's a legal hit until Don Criqui mentions that it's, you know, not legal to spear a player, at which point Beuerlein immediately backtracks.

Mike Tanier: It's 17-0 Rams after a Steven Jackson touchdown. A.J. Smith just ordered the destruction of a small planet to satiate his rage.

Bill Barnwell: I sorta figured he just turns on Madden and starts a franchise where all he does is turn down trades for Vincent Jackson every week.

Ben Muth: Patrick Crayton just decided to try and cut back when he was right on the sideline after a deep out. He gained three extra yards and was tackled in bounds. Savvy.

Doug Farrar: I thought that Bradford’s compact motion and rare deep accuracy pre-determined his potential for NFL success to a degree, but the thing that has surprised me is how well he’s running that offense with a dime-store grab bag of receivers.

Ben Muth: Nate Kaeding just slipped and fell down on a field goal attempt. It did not go in. Not the manliest way to miss a field goal.

Mike Tanier: The Chargers are really creative about dumb things to do on special teams.

Why do I find the Chargers losing so darn funny?

Mike Kurtz: Because Norv!

Kansas City Chiefs 31 at Houston Texans 35

Bill Barnwell: Chiefs get stuffed on third-and-1 from the three-yard line and they go for it again with play-action. Who do they hit? Mike Vrabel, of course. Cassel still manages to avoid making the throw to a wide-open Vrabel for two seconds, and then he throws it behind Vrabel, who made a pretty nice catch to hold onto it.

Doug Farrar: The first Chiefs touchdown of the day as one example, but I think I’ve seen more running back jump cuts out of play action this year than ever before. Maybe that’s a new effective wrinkle, like the fake pass to draw, to get defenses thinking the wrong thing at the right time.

Tom Gower: After the commercial, Gus Johnson informs us that 74 yard drive was KC's longest of the season. That seems odd given how many drives start at the 20, but I guess it's still early.

The Texans tied the game up on a pass from Schaub to Dreessen. Arian Foster found the kind of running room I expected teams to find against last year's horrible rush defense.

Bill Barnwell: Matt Cassel just made one of the nicest throws I've ever seen him make. Mario Williams destroyed the Chiefs right tackle at the snap, and while he desperately held Williams back, Cassel threw a bullet to Dwayne Bowe for a touchdown. Holding should have been called, but no foul, no harm.

Tom Gower: Dwayne Bowe just ran through Houston's entire secondary after catching a short pass, and the Chiefs are now up 21-7.

Bill Barnwell: Texans convert on fourth-and-1 with a pick play that gets Owen Daniels open. Steve Tasker goes nuts. (paraphrased) "What a gutsy call! That's the difference between these two teams. Gary Kubiak isn't afraid to put the ball in his best player's hands and throw the ball to the outside."

Problems with that statement:

a) The Chiefs went for it on fourth down repeatedly earlier in the game.
b) Andre Johnson is very clearly the Texans' best player. He did not touch the ball. c) Schaub got the ball because, you know, he's the quarterback. Not because he's their best player.
d) The Chiefs' best player is Brandon Flowers or Tamba Hali. It's certainly not Matt Cassel. They can't give those guys the ball on fourth down.
e) The throw to the outside was a one-yard out to an open receiver. It was one of the least dangerous throws a quarterback could make.

Ben Muth: Bill, if there is one thing former players hate, it's letting facts get in the way of analysis.

Aaron Schatz: By the way, I notice Andre Johnson has a lot more yardage than the other Texans receivers... are the Houston formations keeping him away from Brandon Flowers, or is Johnson just beating Flowers?

Bill Barnwell: He just had one big play where he beat Carr, looked like a blown coverage, that was about 50 yards.

Matt Cassel just took a delay of game on third-and-2 coming out of a Chiefs timeout. Seriously.

Jamaal Charles just pulled off one of the greatest eight-yard runs you'll ever see, coming out of the grasp of a gang of 3-4 Texans and sprinting to the other side of the field. Probably had about 35 horizontal yards.

Tom Gower: Then Thomas Jones gets about eight more, I think, on another of those "how on earth can a toss pitch to Thomas Jones outside possibly work", and tack on 15 more for Bernard Pollard hitting him late.

Bill Barnwell: I think Pollard ended up with that penalty solely because he shoved Jones into the kicking net, which made it look a lot worse than it actually was.

Andre Johnson just went for 31 yards against Brandon Flowers. Very questionable call. Perfect coverage from Flowers, very subtle push from Johnson. No earthly idea what refs saw against Flowers.

Tom Gower: The story of this second half has been just how bad Kansas City's defense has been. The Texans' four drives before this once each ended in a TD and each averaged at least seven yards per play.

Bill Barnwell: Texans complete the comeback and take the lead when Andre Johnson jukes out both safeties and gets wide open in the back of the end zone. Flowers spends the next 90 seconds cursing out the referee on the sidelines.

Tom Gower: Kansas City's right tackle, Barry Richardson, got absolutely destroyed off the snap by Antonio Smith. The Texans' pass rush hasn't been as much of a factor as it needed to be this year, but Smith did a great job on that play even though he didn't end up with the sack.

Bill Barnwell: Steve Tasker just noted that it would be a long field goal attempt for the Chiefs from the 38-yard line. It's 35-31 with five seconds left.

Baltimore Ravens 20 at New England Patriots 23

Aaron Schatz: Good news for the Patriots: When the runner hits Patrick Chung, he is almost always going to be stopped cold in his tracks.

Bad news for the Patriots: When the runner hits Patrick Chung, he has just gotten to the third level of your defense. Again.

I feel that the NFL just doesn't have enough good nicknames anymore. I want Football Outsiders to help rectify this and I propose we start referring to Aaron Hernandez as "The Easel." First, because he makes playing tight end look so easy. Second, because I've never seen anyone with so much crap written all over his body.

Pats are primarily a zone secondary, but like most defenses they don't play exclusively one style and so they do play some man. When the play man today, Joe Flacco is just killing them. Pretty much always goes to an outside receiver covered one-on-one in man, although I do think the touchdown pass to Todd Heap on a post route in the second quarter was also man coverage (he beat Chung). Flacco is really good at making sure his third-down passes always get enough yardage to convert. It's almost as if he had some kind of mathematical training.

As for the Pats offense, this is just one half against one defense but so far, I can't tell any difference in how the Ravens are defending Wes Welker compared to what they would do without Moss out there. He's not getting doubled or anything like that. Unfortunately, I'm not at the game watching coverage from up above in the press box, but on TV, at least, things don't look that different in the Pats offense except for the lack of the "two or three times a half let's just chuck it deep" play.

When asked who he would compare to Danny Woodhead, Phil Simms gave the names of not one but TWO African-American players: "Kevin Faulk, a little bit, but more Dave Meggett, who played for so many years with the Giants." Hooray! Meggett is actually a very good comparison, although we haven't seen Woodhead on returns yet. Let's hear it for Phil Simms!

When Seattle fans watch the highlights of this game, they are going to be really, really angry. Deion Branch just caught a touchdown, getting away from Lardarius Webb in the back of the end zone. He's running crisp routes and looks nice and healthy. Can the Seahawks maybe get some of their money back?

And... Pats decide to try a 44-yard Hail Mary with their cadre of short-cross receivers instead of bringing in Gostkowski to try a 62-yard field goal with a very strong wind at their backs. I think this was a mistake. 62-yard field goals are rare, but that wind is strong out there today. Let's go to overtime.

Some teams think that you run early in order to force the defense to bring the safeties up, then you fool the other team with the play-action. Cam Cameron seems to have decided that you run early in order to force the defense to bring the safeties up so that you can continue to run, only now for very small gains.

Aaron Hernandez has inexplicably turned into a drop machine in overtime.

Tom Gower: The Hernandez drops are kind of funny. On the first, he tried to close his hands on the ball too early, while on the second he didn't try to close his hands on the ball until after it had bounced off his catch.

Aaron Schatz: You know, except for one nice sideline pass to Derrick Mason covered by Kyle Arrington, Joe Flacco has completely turned into Captain Checkdown in the fourth quarter and overtime. I think he's thrown to Ray Rice on something like 80 percent of passes in the last 25 minutes.

We come close to a tie, but the Pats finally win the thing with two minutes left. I would like to thank John Harbaugh for NOT calling the B.S. "right at the snap" timeout which would have forced Gostkowski to attempt the game-winning field goal THREE TIMES. (The first one, the officials whistled the two-minute warning as the Pats snapped the ball.)

Baltimore has to be kicking themselves for losing this game today. They were moving the ball easily on the Pats defense for three quarters, but slowing down near the goal line, so they had to settle for a couple field goals. The Pats had some offense, but definitely didn't look as good as weeks past, and they were getting pressure on Brady. Then suddenly in the fourth quarter, it was like everything reversed. The Ravens kept running up into a stacked line for no gain, Flacco couldn't find anyone open deep on third-and-long, and the Patriots just moved things easily, except when Aaron Hernandez was dropping balls.

Oakland Raiders 9 at San Francisco 49ers 17

Tom Gower: Manny Lawson with a nice pick to come underneath and grab a not-poorly-thrown ball intended for Miller. Alex Smith has Josh Morgan open on a seamer against Stanford Routt for a score, but misses him badly. The 49ers then line up for a 52-yard field goal, but only have 9 players on the field, and the punt after the time out goes into the end zone.

Doug Farrar: Smith was jawing at Morgan after the play – either Morgan ran the wrong route, or Morgan took Smith’s first-class plane ticket to Edmonton by mistake, and Smith doesn’t want to fly coach.

Bill Barnwell: Rich Gannon noted that Michael Bush "needs to start and get 20-25 carries" to play his best. Not a reader. Tom Cable's given him 13 carries for 30 yards and it's halfway through the second quarter. Also not a reader.

Doug Farrar: With three minutes left in the first half, Alex Smith is 2-of-11 for 22 yards. This facing the NFL’s worst defense against number-one receivers and tight ends (both of which the 49ers actually have pretty good versions of). At what point does David Carr actually become a positive option?

Ooooookay –- right after I typed that, Smith and Singletary had another sideline tiff, and Smith came back on the next drive to go 6-of-9 for 66 yards. I’m starting to wonder if the result of these arguments is that the game plan is put in Smith’s hands as a last-chance gambit before he’s pulled, and that’s why he’s always so much better right after they happen.

Ben Muth: Third-and-four from the eight-yard line. Alex Smith tries to throw a swing pass to Gore, and misses him by four yards. SF settles for the field goal. Gore looks like he's wondering when his contract expires.

Bill Barnwell: I think that might have been on purpose. The 49ers had no timeouts left, and there were 11 seconds left. If Gore catches the pass, he might not have been able to get out of bounds, and that would have taken the 49ers to the half without scoring. Of course, Rich Gannon didn't notice any of that, suggesting that Gore could have made a guy miss and picked up the first down.

Ben Muth: I don't think it was on purpose. If you are doing that you almost always throw it out of the back of the endzone. Never in the flat where if there is a pick, there's a good chance it's going for six the other way. And based on the look of frustration/disgust Gore wasn't aware of any plan. Although I'll admit I didn't notice the TO situation. Maybe Alex Smith is smarter than I give him credit for.

Tom Gower: Alex Smith just got one of those "bad QB" intentional grounding calls where Josh Morgan came back for the ball and Smith assumed he'd continue running. After a couple minute delay while the refs decided whether or not to call grounding at all, then had to remember what down it should be, Smith hits Crabtree for a 32 yard TD with Chris Johnson in coverage.

Jason Campbell completed zero passes in the second quarter. And the third quarter.

Bill Barnwell: He missed Louis Murphy on a gorgeous 60-yard throw for what would have been a 99-yard touchdown pass by about two feet. I know. Doesn't make up for it. But he just threw a pass that hit a 49ers defender in the hands, bounced out of them, and then promptly fell into Zach Miller's hands for a first down.

Tom Gower: I think he probably would've had to actually hit Murphy in the hands for that pass to have been complete, since I'm not sure Louis was looking for the ball at all. And, since we mention that incompletion, we also have to mention the reason they were on the 1 in the first place is Campbell decided to run backward when a 49ers defender stayed at home.

Bill Barnwell: Oh, of course. I just think it's strange that we'll end up considering the incompletion as a bad play and the completion as a good play when, realistically, the incompletion was a far better throw than the completion.

Bill Barnwell: Nnamdi Asomugha just defended the entire field and saved a Frank Gore touchdown run. Gore broke through a seam and had the entire field ahead of him short Asomugha and Michael Crabtree. Of course, Asomugha played the angles perfectly while fighting off Crabtree, and while Gore still picked up 60 yards, he slowed Gore down long enough for the cavalry to catch up. Just an incredible play. Niners score a touchdown anyway, but not his fault.

Niners don't go for two after the touchdown despite being up 16-9 before the extra point. With seven minutes left against an offense that can't move the ball, making it a two-score game just about guarantees victory. The advantage you gain by forcing a two-point conversion to tie is downright miniscule in comparison. Mike Singletary must have been off working on his glare.

Vince Verhei: I agree completely. If you kick it, the realistic worst-case scenario is they score a touchdown and two-pointer, and you're tied. If you go for it and fail, the realistic worst-case scenario is they score touchdown and kick the PAT and you're tied. And you're likely to get the 2-pointer and put the game away.

New York Jets 24 at Denver Broncos 20

Ben Muth: Tim Tebow handed the ball off to Buckhalter for a fourteen yard gain. Dierdorf gives all the credit to Saint Tim.

What is going on with field goals today? The Broncos long snapper just bounced one, and the Broncos couldn't convert.

Bill Barnwell: Tim Tebow scores! Well, sorta. He took a QB keeper for a seven-yard touchdown, and even though he was being chased by guys on his left, he never took the ball off of his left side.

Aaron Schatz: The Tim Tebow package is really ridiculous, except on the goal line. It was clear every play was going to be a run up the middle. I could just call them out whenever Tebow came in. If you aren't going to let Tebow pass once every five or six plays, that package isn't going to get you anything when it isn't first-and-goal on the 1.

Doug Farrar: My only question about the Tebow red zone rushing score: Why did it take so long? This guy scored as many college rushing touchdowns as Marshall Faulk.

Aaron Schatz: There was a hilarious play where a hole opened in the middle of the field and Orton went to scramble, and he actually juked David Harris so bad that Harris slipped and fell on his butt. I'll repeat. Kyle Orton. JUKED OUT. David Harris. No, seriously. It was better than the play from a couple years ago where Tom Brady juked out Brian Urlacher.

Bill Barnwell: And the Jets just took two offensive pass interference penalties in three plays, including one well downfield by Santonio Holmes. He's a Super Bowl MVP! He'd never commit a penalty!

Vince Verhei: Nick Folk kicks a Jets record 56-yarder to tie the game at 10. They turned down a fourth-and-1 to try it though. I know they're in Denver, but it seems more likely they pick up the first down than the field goal. Especially this team.

Tom Gower: I wonder how many people will praise Rex Ryan for kicking a 56 yard field goal on fourth-and-1 instead of going for it. I guarantee you it'll happen, because the field goal was made.

Bill Barnwell: After a great throw by Sanchez and run by Dustin Keller, the Jets get the ball in Denver territory and run an end-around for Santonio Holmes. With a huge alley available to him, Holmes shows off his instincts by running right into the one blocker on that side of the field and coughing the ball up, with the Broncos recovering.

Jets go from out of it to in the lead with a miracle play; on fourth down with 1:30 left, Sanchez scrambles and heaves a bomb downfield. On the way down for the ball, Renaldo Hill grabs Santonio Holmes's facemask, which the refs call a DPI. That gives the Jets the ball on the Broncos 2-yard line, and they score on the next play. Wow. Probably the right call, but surprised they made it.

Tom Gower: I'm pretty sure the Broncos defense just laid down and let the Jets score that TD, which in my opinion was completely the wrong decision. The Broncos had all 3 timeouts left, so unless the Jets got a first down via penalty, they could've gotten the ball with almost a minute left even after a field goal, and could've been tied instead of down four. I can see the logic, but if I'm right, I think that's a bad decision by McDaniels.

Vince Verhei: I hate that rule. Jets do nothing to earn those 40 yards. Knocking down a receiver is apparently three times as bad as taking a guy out at the knee and ending his career. Hate it hate it hate it.

Bill Barnwell: I think I'm the only one who likes the pass interference penalty as is.

Tim Gerheim: I know that was a legitimate call on that long pass interference against the Broncos, giving the Jets the ball at the 1 and setting up the winning touchdown, but it's still an illegitimate rule. I honestly think you could make a functional offense out of nothing but max-protect punt-length bombs. The worst that happens is an interception, and you'll get at least as many DPI's as interceptions, plus the odd reception. Savvy receivers can often work their body in a way to draw contact like a guard driving the lane, and they would certainly practice doing so in an offensive scheme like that. Needless to say, that would be a totally illegitimate way to play football, and that to me proves the problem with the rule.

Bill Barnwell: I don't think that's very realistic at all.

Tim Gerheim: Only because the refs would get as fed up with it as everyone else. Admittedly you couldn't do ONLY those plays, but deep DPI should be a big part of the game plan.

Bill Barnwell: There were 1,261 passes last year that were thrown 25 yards or more downfield. Pass interference was called on 45 of those plays. That's 3.6 percent of those passes. You can only realistically throw about 15-20 of them per game. You're looking at a pass interference call once every game and a half or so. There were three times as many interceptions (122) as pass interference calls.

Vince Verhei: I know nobody would ever try it, but I think if you actually built an offense for this, with lots of big jump ball receivers, it would be far from the worst offense in the league.

Bill Barnwell: That's the 2009 San Diego Chargers offense. They threw 56 passes 25 yards or more downfield and picked up four DPIs. Even at that rate -- seven percent -- it's not winning or losing you football games by itself.

Mike Kurtz: Barnwell's right, but even then you're forgetting that the officials would simply just stop calling DPI so stringently and instantly your offense is useless. That's why officials shouldn't be robots.

Vince Verhei: Jets longest play from scrimmage was 41 yards. The pass interference play was 46 yards. No team's biggest play should come on a penalty.

Aaron Schatz: It was one of those calls that was correct but complete and total luck. I wish there was some way to change the DPI penalty in the red zone while leaving it as is on the rest of the field -- maybe any DPI inside the 20 advances the ball to a location halfway between the 20 and the spot of the penalty, instead of all the way to the spot of the penalty?

Perrish Cox probably had the best game of his young career today.

Ben Muth: Would people prefer the college rule of ten yards and an automatic first down? Personally, I like the college rule better, but that can get pretty ridiculous when people tackle guys once they're beat to prevent touchdowns. Just wondering what others think.

Tom Gower: I mentioned this in the comments section of last week's Audibles, I think, but Arena Football has the college rule. Any guy who's open more than 25 yards downfield gets tackled. Teams would absolutely take the 15 on tons of passes more than 25 yards downfield. College DPI would be an ever-lovin' disaster in the NFL.

Mike Kurtz: I don't think there is a good solution to the PI problem. Part of the difference between the college and NFL rules is that deep throws in the NFL are more likely to actually be completions, so you need stricter enforcement since there's a greater chance that you're denying a big play. The problem is that uncatchable is an unrealistic but necessary test ... many, many "catchable" balls could or would not, in fact, be caught, but you can only go so far under that theory.

I actually am sympathetic to ideas like Aaron's, which strike some sane balance and build in diminishing returns. Then again, I've also advocated removing special teams from the game, so I have been known to hold some crazy positions.

Tim Gerheim: Pretty much, although it's not perfect either for the reason you describe. I think it would be nice, but unworkable, if there was a sliding scale of what counted as interference depending on how far down the field it occurs. So things like handfighting and maybe even getting there a little early would be more forgivable the deeper the throw goes. But of course, that would require the refs to exercise discretion, and, as detailed in Scramble last week, in today's NFL we don't like our refs making decisions and exercising common sense in preference to a specifically written rule.

Aaron Schatz: That's why I suggested some sort of compromise rule. The problem is that a compromise rule could end up being too complex for fans to understand, but it would work like this:

1) On any DPI where the spot of the foul was outside the 20, ball goes to the spot of the foul.

2) On any DPI where the spot of the foul is at the 20 or closer to the end zone, the ball goes to either a) the 20 or b) halfway between the line of scrimmage and the spot of the foul, whichever spot is closer to the goal line.

Just to give an example on my compromise rule, the Broncos DPI took place on the two, so with my rule the Jets would have gotten first-and-10 on the Broncos 11, halfway between the 20 and the 2. That's a huge 37-yard penalty, awful for Denver, but it doesn't just hand the Jets a touchdown.

Mike Kurtz: Fans are having extreme difficulty with simple rules, not sure that's a useful consideration. Also, if the results of the rule are apparent, eventually fans will grow used to it, even if they don't understand exactly how it works.

Bill Barnwell: And if Holmes is open three yards deeper, it makes more sense for Renaldo Hill to cream him and take a penalty that gives the Jets the ball on the 10-yard line. Every time. That's far more egregrious of a result for me than Holmes getting the ball on the two-yard line.

Aaron Schatz: I think the problem is that you are only thinking about the clear, obvious DPIs. Spot of the foul isn't a problem at all for the clear, obvious DPIs. But as we've learned the last few years, there are a lot of very iffy DPI calls, and a lot of plays where DPI should be called and is not. The rules on what constitutes DPI are really unclear. How many times in Audibles since 2004 has somebody said something along the lines of "I honestly have no idea what constitutes pass interference any more"?

The other answer to this is to create two classifications of DPI, one for touching a guy a little bit and one for completely tackling him, which would hopefully prevent the type of thing Bill is afraid of.

Tom Gower: Which goes back to what Tim said; DPI is one of those rules where the NFL can't be as explicit as it likes to be, which means you get inherent subjectivity on the part of refs and crews, so there's a relatively large element of official's discretion and people (myself included) whine when that discretion and subjectivity is exercised.

There's one thing I think I've mentioned before: a 15-yard Minor DPI infraction to give the officials an intermediate position between a 40-yard field position change and calling nothing. Just don't ask me to write where the line between Minor DPI and Major DPI is.

Ben Muth: I don't see why they couldn't classify DPIs. I don't recall there being that much controversy over five-yard facemasks vs 15-yard facemasks or roughing vs running into the kicker.

Aaron Schatz: Apparently, there was some sort of issue with five-yard and 15-yard face masks, because now there are only 15-yard face masks.

Mike Kurtz: Removal of the five-yard face mask was actually a safety thing. The league didn't want to "reward" dangerous behavior over more-dangerous behavior.

Aaron Schatz: OK, but how is inadvertant behavior dangerous? That was the whole point of the 5-yard face mask, it was for when a defender went to grab the jersey, and the ballcarrier moved a little, so he got the face mask, realized what he was doing, and immediately let go. That's not dangerous, that could happen on every play in football.

Mike Kurtz: Back to DPI: Two categories of DPI is just redefining the problem. How does a shove classify? It doesn't tackle him, but in the end it would have the same effect. It's not like a face mask where you had a clear delineation between incidental and personal foul.

As far as knowing what is and isn't DPI, like I said in Scramble last week, the viewer doesn't have to. In fact, the collective viewer is never, ever going to agree on anything but the most clear-cut calls. We have to stop using that as a yardstick for penalties.

Doug Farrar: I've also wondered for a while if some crews use contact as a de facto "smaller" interference penalty.

Aaron Schatz: They aren't supposed to. Isn't Illegal Contact supposed to only apply to contact before the pass is thrown?

Tom Gower: It's supposed to. I'd almost guarantee you some long DPIs are shoehorned into illegal contact or defensive holding.

Mike Kurtz: Yeah. You do see one called incorrectly instead of the other, but that's usually because the official has to see the contact and then look to see if the ball's out. You get the same timing issues you have with delay of game.

As far incidental, you still had to grab the facemask. Sliding your hand over it was and is still okay, except in certain situations. The league is just saying that no grabs are acceptable (and in fact you get a few slight grabs that aren't called because there's no incidental anymore, which is probably more just).

Doug Farrar: Yeah, but given the huge swings from low to high in just about every penalty every year, it's safe to say that crews see things very differently. Did Alberto Riveron's crew (14 contact calls) check whether the ball was thrown more vigilantly than the crews run by Gene Steratore and Bill Leavy (three each)? You’d have to think so.

Mike Kurtz: I'd actually like to look at all the data, but I don't think sets in the low-teens are going to give you much to work with with respect to year-to-year trends.

Sean McCormick: In general, I agree with Bill that the PI rules have to stay as they are and that the college rules simply don't suffice in a league where so many quarterbacks have the arm and accuracy to hit receivers forty or fifty yards downfield with something approaching regularity. Corners would just hammer receivers who had beat them on play after play, and it would add a lot more penalty stoppages to the game than we have now. PI is certainly a potentially decisive call, and I think the corners should be given a bit more room to make contact than they currently have, but by any stretch, when a guy is tugged on a receiver's face mask, that's going to draw a flag.

Vince Verhei: Last thought on PI, I promise: I would be a lot less upset about the whole thing if the penalty was called evenly. But it seems like a cornerback has to treat receivers like fine china, while wideouts are free to initiate all the contact they want. Either they win the fight, throw the corner down and catch the ball, or they lose the fight and get the penalty.

Ben Muth: A quick counterpoint to the PI thing. D-linemen always use hands to the face. They get their coffee with their hands on an O-lineman's face mask; it is rarely called. Just saying.

Dallas Cowboys 21 at Minnesota Vikings 24

Bill Barnwell: Tony Romo was just picked on a play where Doug Free never came out of his stance and Jared Allen basically re-created his scene from Jackass 3-D.

Doug Farrar: With 13 minutes left in the first half, Troy Aikman tells Miles Austin from the booth that he doesn’t need to use push-off tactics because he’s better than that. I am laughing on both the inside and the outside.

Bill Barnwell: Brett Favre just took a megasack (TM Kurtz). 12-yarder on the Cowboys' 30-yard line on third down, taking them out of field goal range.

Vince Verhei: Your dumb TV moment of the day: Troy Aikman using the telestrator to draw where Bernard Berrian would have run if he had caught the ball. Turns out he would have gone forward.

Mike Kurtz: Hey, now, I'm not sure you can make that assumption in this NFL.

Bill Barnwell: Mike Jenkins just picked up what must be his 43rd pass interference penalty of the past two weeks on a crucial third down in Minnesota, giving the Vikings a new set of downs just before the two-minute warning.

Mike Tanier: I suddenly feel much more employed than Wade Phillips.

Indianapolis Colts 27 at Washington Redskins 24

Bill Barnwell: The Colts are making Ryan Torain look like the second coming of Walter Payton.

Tim Gerheim: While they're overselling the second Carlos Rogers interception opportunity where both he and the receiver had their hands on the ball simultaneously, Manning really has thrown two straight passes to a Redskins defensive back. This is wildly out of character, right? Does anyone have an explanation why he is so seemingly inaccurate so far tonight?

Tom Gower: The first Rogers pick, I think he thought Collie would get separation and he never did. The second, Rogers was exactly where the route was supposed to go-not sure if he just didn't see him, if he thought the target could beat Rogers to the ball, or what.

What really stands out as the difference between good and bad QBs in the NFL is anticipation. If you stop throwing with anticipation and wait for guys to be open, it's really hard to complete passes. The downside is, if you throw with anticipation, you have to be able to accurately anticipate things or you could end up looking really silly.

Aaron Schatz: Man, the Colts defense just misses so many tackles. Last year they were third in broken tackles. They sort of get away with it because they're so fast swarming to the ball that usually you break one tackle and there's another guy there to tackle you two yards later, but they miss a ridiculous number of tackles.

Tim Gerheim: Jim Haslett is the spitting image of Odo from Deep Space Nine. Nerd cred: established.

Bill Barnwell: Can't understand why the Colts attempted that field goal Adam Vinatieri ended up missing. The Redskins haven't been able to stop Manning for the past two drives whatsoever. Two yards would be child's play. I know Caldwell's super-conservative, but Manning's not overruling his coaches anymore these days?

Redskins also let 40 seconds run off the clock by not calling timeout after that third-down stuff before the successful Vinatieri field goal. Instead of 2:35 with two timeouts and the two-minute warning, they now have 2:00 with three timeouts.

Ben Muth: Fourth-and-3 with about 45 seconds left and the Redskins try a 50-yard field goal. Why? You have two timeouts still, be aggressive and go for it, or be conservative and punt it.

Aaron Schatz: Mike Sellers just dragged three tacklers on a pass and got away from all of them for a first down. Seriously, the Colts' philosophy of small, fast defenders leads to a TON of these broken tackles.

Ben Muth: I love Mike Sellers. Every time I watch him, he does three or four things that impress the hell out of me. He might be the best player on the Redskins.

Bill Barnwell: Mike Sellers is definitely the best guy on the team at posing after he makes any play.

Aaron Schatz: I like Mike Sellers too, but he's a good role player, he's not the best player on the Redskins. He's not even in the top five, which I would have as London Fletcher, Brian Orakpo, LaRon Landry (if he's playing strong safety instead of free safety), Santana Moss, and Donovan McNabb.

Ben Muth: Best at his job was more what I was going for. Obviously, all the people you mentioned are more valuable and better football players in the grand scheme of things. But Sellers does everything they ask of him (block, catch, play special teams) really well. In fact, it would be difficult to find a guy that does those things as well as Sellers does.

Aaron Schatz: Colts call an interesting zone on the Redskins' touchdown that makes it 27-24. You've heard of quarter-quarter-half? That was nothing-quarter-half.

Bill Barnwell: I am appalled that people would accuse Donovan McNabb of lacking the required urgency on a key fourth quarter drive.

Doug Farrar: Clock managements: Washington does not has it.

There are several different NFL teams who would like to know where that version of Phillip Buchanon was in years past.

Aaron Schatz: The pass defense played by the Washington secondary on the Colts' three-and-out in the last three minutes was absurdly good. You don't see a lot of Phillip Buchanon playing great man coverage.

Tim Gerheim: Given the beauty of NFL broadcast camerawork I couldn't see the answer to this question, but how is a bomb to a short, double-covered receiver the highest-percentage option on 4th-and-10? That just seems like ridiculous decision-making by McNabb.

Comments

323 comments, Last at 26 Oct 2010, 2:44am

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

At least Dallas leads the league in first down celebrations in addition to TD celebration penalties. You know it's bad when Jerry Jones is saying after the game, we need to save those celebrations till AFTER we win a game. Of course if the players were smart they would keep their wits about them until they accomplished their goal, or what most would assume should be the goal for this team. Frickin' ridiculous.

p.s. in the Lions-Giants game: I could have sworn the Lions had 7 players on the line of scrimmage on that illegal procedures call, not 6. That was a game-swinging kind of penalty, too.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I believe the problem was that the receiver at the top of the screen was deemed not to have been on the line of scrimmage ... I'm not sure I agree with the call, either, but then, if that was the guy, as I understand it, the official on that side is allowed to tell you if you're legal or not. Basically, you go out there, line up, check with him, and then you're OK. If that receiver didn't, well, you have a 1-5 team.

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

As far as PI calls go, I don't know why they don't go with two levels incidental(or whatever you want to call it) and blatant (or whatever you want to call it). For blatant PI, like tackling the guy to prevent a TD it would remain the same. For incidental it would be 10 yards and a first down.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I argued for that last week, too. That stops the mugging that'll happen but doesn't make the ticky-tack penalties so damaging. It wouldn't have mattered at the end of the NYJ-DEN game but it might fix the DPI as a play problem that's cropping up in the league lately.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

It wouldn't have mattered? The Broncos were up 20-17 - a 10 yard penalty and 1st down gives the Broncos a shot at holding the Jets to a long field goal try for the tie. Thats a huge difference?

210 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Exactly. While I hated that an underthrown jump ball ended up working out in the Jets' favor (disclosure: I hate these Jets), that was a bad, bad PI and deserved no less than a spot foul. I blame that corner for the loss, not a bad call.

The ones that I'd like to see getting a minor instead of major infraction are the ones we've seen so many of lately, where the announcers always then say "that's PI every time because the corner didn't turn around to make a play on the ball" as if that really mattered. The ones where the only reason there's any contact at all is because the WR has to slow down to catch a badly underthrown ball and the corner runs into him. You see a lot of these calls where the throw is so bad that it should be a gimme INT if the CB is looking, but he's sprinting to make up for the fact that he was beat, so he isn't looking for the ball. And then in many cases, the contact isn't nearly enough to stop the receiver from making the catch, because the ball is uncatchable anyway since it's laid up so short and hits the defender in the back.

Those are the ones that really bug me. That contact is caused more by the QB than either of the two guys down the field. And while I agree on the impossibility of making the college rule the rule in the NFL, those situations alone make me favor the idea of minor/incidental vs major/intentional/spot foul. A minor one, enforced the same as illegal contact, would still reward the offense more than they probably deserve, but it at least doesn't guarantee 40 yards and points.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

This makes sense to me, too. I think refs would (and should) call the blatant/intentional version far more often, but you need the option of a 10/15 yard penalty for situations like the PI on Holmes. The game should not be decided on a fluke.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

My biggest problem with a "minor" DPI penalty is that I don't think it takes much to stop a receiver from catching a deep ball. I think every DB who was fairly close to a receiver on a deep ball would just give a little hand check or a quick shove to prevent them from catching the pass.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

agreed. Given the way that defenses have pushed the boundaries of the existing rules, I would guess there would be some DB coaches who would do the same with a minor rule: hey, if the score is in this range, any play where you think X, do the minor thing.

It seems to me that this isn't that different than the Megatron play in Week 1: we're trying to define a rule based on what could be considered outliers (how many times does a call like that happen at the end of the game?). For one thing, changing the rule still makes it a game-changing play. Imagine Bears fans reacting if that had stayed a catch, or Jets fans if that becomes a short penalty. (BTW, max college DPI is 15 and first down, not 10 and first down - defensive holding is 10 and first down.)

But my larger point is that the rule change would also apply to all those other situations that don't happen near the end of a game and are currently not that visible ... and as some people have mentioned, I don't think the problem is so much the rule itself but rather the uneven application of the rule, which I think is probably the biggest issue in pretty much all sports. If they introduce lesser DPI, instead of talking about "this penalty is too big", we'll simply end up saying "that was clearly greater DPI, not lesser, are you kidding me?"

162 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Speaking as a Broncos fan, I have no problem with the rule, nor how it was applied in this case. The Broncos beat Tennessee 2 weeks ago on a DPI call at the end of the game. I thought the penalty was correct then, and I think it was correct this time.

An observer might think that the contact on this particular play constituted incidental contact, but then the same observer would have to also acknowledge several DPI and offensive interference penalties earlier in the game that benefited the Broncos that were no more eggregious than this. In the end, the Broncos can attribute the loss to a muffed snap on a field goal attempt and a second missed field goal attempt that would have made this particular DPI a non-issue.

211 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

DB coaches already do that. The best teams always figure out ways to get their hands on jerseys, belts, arms, etc without it being noticeable. The thinking seems to be that it helps more in the instances where you get away with it than it hurts the few times when it gets caught. Take last year's Colts-Pats game, for instance. Butler and others seemed to have perfected the art of the quick waist grab. It even happened on Wayne's winning touchdown (ineffectively, obviously). They got caught on that one possibly uncatchable ball to Collie down the middle, but he did have him by the waist. That absolutely is coached, and you can tell that the DB's reaction afterwards was just "oh well, it didn't work that time" rather than "Hey! That's BS!"

So while you're right that they'd coach people to game the rules, I don't think that's too different from what's going on now.

Perhaps the rule could be written in a way that says that pretty much anything done with the hands counts as intentional and is a spot foul, but those ones where the receiver runs into you and you get tangled up, but you weren't looking for the ball because you were beat, is one of the minor ones.

Your last sentence is 100% dead on, though. But there are always going to be arguments about every penalty. It's not like we're taking a black/white penalty and turning it into one where the refs have discretion. We're just changing the impact that their discretion has on the game and outcome.

234 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Oh come on. At this level, one stride or two arm lengths is the same as being wide open.

Also, the ball is thrown well before it arrives. Defenders sometimes close gaps. Especially when the ball is underthrown, which happens on almost every deep ball.

4 Re: Impressed by QBs

One play that amazed me in NE-BAL was the 1st-and-25 play when Brady hit Gronkowski for 23 yards while getting absolutely buried by Ngota(?) (and by the way Tom, that was not roughing).

I know it's part of the job, but I still can't get over how Brady (and most other NFL quarterbacks) can just stand there, see the pass rusher coming in untouched, and still just stand there and deliver the ball knowing they are going to get absolutely crunched.

27 Re: Impressed by QBs

Brady was definitely slamming the ground because he thought it was roughly the passer. He is obviously a great player, but man, his cries for roughing the passer have gotten downright embarrasing. That hit was totally clean and Brady was crying about it before he even hit the ground.

81 Re: Impressed by QBs

In reply to by Johnny Socko (not verified)

I guess you didn't see Sanchez cry to the refs for a flag after EVERY play against Denver. Newsflash, every QB and WR complains to the refs. Its sad all around, but everyone singles out Brady.

186 Re: Impressed by QBs

In reply to by Bobby Wommack (not verified)

Everyone complains once in a while, but Brady does more than any other QB.

231 Re: Impressed by QBs

You care to back that up?

Pretty much every QB in the NFL does it every time they get hit.

233 Re: Impressed by QBs

In reply to by RichC (not verified)

Well, first off, we need some kind of an adjusted rate. I'm sure QB's who get sacked and pressured more often make the little "gimme a flag gesture" more times in terms of the pure number of gestures. But QB's who get sacked and hit less frequently like Brady and Manning might potentially make the little "gimme a flag" gesture on a greater percentage of sacks/hits/pressures.

And it probably needs to be defense adjusted as well for teams that are commonly believed to play dirtier like the Titans and Steelers, the teams that supposedly push the physicality of their play and make with the funny business after the whistle. Presumably QB's in general are making the little "gimme a flag" gestures more frequently while playing these teams.

Only after these issues are addressed can we conclusively settle this subject.

237 Re: Impressed by QBs

FTR, I have never seen Manning do it. Not to say he doesn't, but I have yet to see it. I've only seen Brady do this post-injury, so it's a little more understandable, but still kind of icky. Maybe because he's the only I've seen do the roughing signal to the refs, rather than just look at them and say "did you see that?" (which is easier to miss on camera)

241 Re: Impressed by QBs

Sanchez does it. And McNabb used to do it a fair amount, but he was one of those rushing QB's that the refs found it ok for defensive players to unload on. McNabb also does it a ton in reference to pass interference penalties he feels were over-looked.

Eli Manning never does it, as near as I can tell. I can't imagine what would get him worked up one way or the other. Even when he takes a cheap-shot, he just sorta gets up and goes back to the line of scrimmage.

108 Re: Impressed by QBs

In reply to by Johnny Socko (not verified)

My favorite was the one where Suggs still had him pinned to the ground and he was already turning to the ref and screaming. Suggs's post-game comments on the matter might be TWIQ material, though:

“He was trying to tell me how to bag a Hollywood actress,” Suggs said. “He said, ‘If you want to get a Hollywood actress, take my seminar on Saturday.’ …He was going over the Dow and the economy and politics. He doesn’t really talk football that much.”

http://www.bostonherald.com/blogs/sports/rap_sheet/index.php/2010/10/17/terrell-suggs-to-tom-brady-he-just-better-hope-he-dont-see-us-again/#more-9389

(I also like the Eagles)

17 Re: Impressed by QBs

Another example: During the Steelers-Browns game, there was a point where Roethlisberger had dropped back 11 times, been hit 10, and knocked down 5. Surprisingly took no sacks on the day.

18 Re: Impressed by QBs

In reply to by PatsFan

If it's so amazing that a QB can stand there and deliver a pass in these circumstances, why is it not so amazing that the QB might think that he's getting roughed? He's acting instinctively in either case, isn't he? The wonder, I think, is not that these guys get up after being slammed to the ground by a 300-pounder and start looking for a flag. The wonder is the many times they don't.

65 Re: Impressed by QBs

In reply to by Crymeariver (not verified)

The NBA has a new rule this season that a player can get a technical foul for making a show of looking for a foul call. I wouldn't be shocked if the NFL implements something like that, because it doesn't add to the character of the game for QBs and WRs to be gesticulating wildly after every borderline contact.

91 Re: Impressed by QBs

In reply to by Pottsville Mar…

I favor implementing this rule. I submit that the foul should be named "whining" and the hand signal when a ref calls it should be waving fists in front of his eyes in a crying motion.

229 Re: Impressed by QBs

In reply to by Wikitorix (not verified)

This is the best idea I've heard in a long time. It should be called the "Brady Rule". I will never call any NFL player a wimp, but if I did, it would absolutely be Tom Brady.

277 Re: Impressed by QBs

Brady is one of the bravest QBs in the game. He might whinge for penalties when he gets hit, but the way he hangs in the pocket to deliver the pass downfield in the face of a fierce pass rush has always impressed me. He is a hall of fame QB and really doesn't deserve to be called a wimp by a dweeb on FO.

The image of a ref miming a cry while saying "whining, #12 offense. 5 yards. 3rd down" had me in stitches.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Don’t look now, but the Rams are 3-3. And the only major addition to the team is Sam Bradford. He’s single handedly made them respectable. As long as that shoulder holds up, he’s a star in the making.

To be fair, they’re doing it by getting better-than-expected production out of journeymen. Fred Robbins and Na’il Diggs are playing really well, but aren’t the sort that should be getting long term contracts as a reward for their play. Bradley Fletcher, on the other hand, just might be the answer at CB alongside Bartel.

This is a team that’s going to win some unexpected games and screw the pooch just as much, but the fact that they could conceivably win almost any week is such a huge improvement. They're not a conender for a championship, not in any fantasy world. But Bradford has them playing completely on another level than the past few years. The optimism would completely energize any other city in the league except St. Louis, where the signing of a backup shortstop will be bigger news than a Rams win.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The Rams and the Lions have, I think, improved to much the same extent. The Rams have a better record, of course, mostly because they have managed to squeak out wins while the Lions have squeaked out losses, and partly because the Lions are racking up penalties at a Raider-like rate ... but anyway, I'll take the first sentence of your last paragraph, word for word. The Lions will also win a couple of games no one will think they should (I hope) and probably lose a couple badly (although the Minnesota game is the only one they've not had a chance to tie or win in regulation), but compared to last season, that's a huge difference.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The other thing I like about the Lions is that they now have a few clear strengths (WR, RB, DL) and a few clear weaknesses (OL, DBs). With competent management, it should be possible to produce a good team in a year or two just by improving the problem areas to average and hoping Stafford continues to play and develop.

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I'm glad you posted that. I was actually wondering about that last night, as it seemed like they were heading in the right direction, but it wasn't reflected in their record. Admittedly, I don't see a lot of Lions football, but I was wondering if I'd misjudged and they were the "same old Lions," or if they were actually making progress, just not reflected on the scoreboard.

Lets face it, neither team is going to generate a lot of interest around here.

276 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Rodger Saffold starts at LT and Jason Smith at RT. This is extremely disappointing because Smith was drafted #2 overall in order to the Rams' franchise LT and already has been moved to the right side.

290 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

It means that Smith will be an overpaid RT and Saffold an underpaid LT for the next few years. Egos being what they are, who knows? Maybe a problem down the line, maybe not. Depends on the individuals.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

No mention of the worst PI call in the history of the LEAGUE. Andre Johnson CLEARLY pushes off on Brandon Flowers and they call the PI against Flowers. I believe it was a 35 yard penalty -- basically gave the game to the Texans. The worst call I've seen in a long, long time. It wasn't even close.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Yeah, it was an incorrect call that gave the game away. Say what you will about the Santonio Holmes interference call, but it was DPI and it probably is was what prevented Holmes from making the catch - if his head isn't pulled away from looking at the ball, there's a good chance he makes that catch. He almost made it as it was. The Johnson push-off being called as a DPI against Flowers (I think, right?) was just ridiculous - the unchecked prevalence of OPI (that frequently gets called as DPI because if the players are jostling AT ALL it usually goes against the DB) is so freakin' frustrating. It's much, much more of a problem than correctly called DPI.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

It was ridiculous that they called it against Flowers, but Johnson caught the ball and the penalty was declined, so the DPI didn't give the game away. Now, you can say they should have called OPI and speculate on what would have happened starting with the ensuing first-and-20, but I don't think it's particularly out of character for a play like that not to be called OPI, regardless of what the rulebook specifies. To me it looked more like handfighting than an egregious push-off, but then again I was watching the game through my Battle Red-tinted glasses.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

You can say that about quite a few calls throughout any game. Perhaps if Mario Williams could ever get a holding call, KC never would never have had a lead to blow in the first place. Get back to me when you are ready to demonstrate that until that play the reffing was perfect.

189 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"Perhaps if Mario Williams could ever get a holding call, KC never would never have had a lead to blow in the first place."

LOL

Texans' 1st touchdown: Joel Dreessen gets open by shoving Eric Berry to the ground, no flag for pass interference.

Texans' 2nd touchdown: blocker clearly has two fist-fulls of Tamba Hali's jersey, no flag for holding. (This was shown clear as day on the game broadcast.)

I could list 3 more blatant and uncalled penalites on critical plays without even mentioning the Johnson/Flowers call. If there's any fanbase that shouldn't have a gripe with the zebras this week, it's the Texans'.

252 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

You are clearly so unburdened by cognitive biases that not only are the the best person to evaluate the performance of the refs yesterday, but you can eschew any need to take a systematic approach to that evaluation, replacing it instead with your recollection of a few plays.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I really think if they hadn't flagged Flowers - which was ridiculous - nobody would have anything to say about what Johnson did. His slight push was a very common action that's almost never flagged in the NFL. Except for the silly call on Flowers, that was a routine play (to the extent a 31-yard reception under two minutes can be considered routine).

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"Bill Barnwell: ... Andre Johnson just went for 31 yards against Brandon Flowers. Very questionable call. Perfect coverage from Flowers, very subtle push from Johnson. No earthly idea what refs saw against Flowers."

They didn't dwell on it, but it was indeed mentioned.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Ha. I have a tendency to skip over whatever Barnwell writes. But the fact remains that that penalty was the big OPI/DPI botch of the weekend and rated much more discussion than the Holmes one...

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

No mention of the worst PI call in the history of the LEAGUE.

OPI gets flagged as DPI all the time. The most egregious ones are where the OPI takes away a sure interception, and the defensive player gets flagged. A little push-off in the endzone? Those happen every Sunday.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I liked seeing all of the OFFENSIVE PI calls in the NYJ-DEN game. Offenses have been getting away with a lot. It was nice to see them called.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The real question isn't "What's wrong with Peyton?", it's "How the heck did the Colts manage to get to 4-2 looking like a MASH unit?".

That's why I'm starting the First Church of Peyton Manning. All praise be to the One True Quarterback, His Holiness Fetushead I.

207 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Do not be lead astray by false idols, my child. Though Brady's golden locks and rings seem enticing, he is but a whiny bitch who has records and wins only because of Randy Moss and a great running game and defense.

And it was written, and it was so.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Good grief, that Rodgers td on the sneak may have been the worst goal line defense since Neanderthals roamed the Earth. One of the Dolphins inside linebackers may have been flirting with a cheerleader.

The Vikings game was a perfect illustration of the value of a defense, y' know, actually catching the passes that hit them in the hands. Clearly dropped interceptions, and their relationship to losing games, might be a metric worth examining.

If you had told me 10 days ago that the Vikings would lose to the Jets, and be held to less than 200 yards of offense against the Cowboys, and would now be tied in the loss columnn with the Packers, and one behind the Bears, I woulda' asked you to leave my liqour cabinet alone. If they win in Lambeau next week, they'll be in great shape, and hugely fortunate. Favre threw the ball reasonably well yesterday, Childress is saying Rice might be back in 3 weeks, and if they can can find a running back who will stoop to picking up a blitz, maybe the amateur photographer will hold up. Dallas' defense is of the type that will give the Vikings big problems; a 3-4 with a dominant noseguard. Two of the three guys the Vikings play at center are soft, and they don't trust the other guy to make the line calls, I guess. Maybe The Chiller should have made more effort to keep Birk in Minnesota last year; it is not hugely speculative to think that the Vikings would have won the Super Bowl if he had.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The backs have been horrible in blitz pickup but the offensive line has been pretty brutal in pass protection as well. I thought Favre threw the ball very well yesterday with the exception of the miss of Berrian on the slant. But he's also a really easy sack now. His mobility is so limited that it makes pass blocking very difficult.

By the way - I keep hearing the Minnesota secondary is a huge weakness, but this year they have been playing great football. The line hasn't been getting much of a rush yet teams are having great difficulty getting the ball down the field. When they do go deep there has almost always been a defender in close coverage.

One thing that strikes me as odd is the Vikings seem to run right more than they do to the left. Particularly in short yardage. Seems to me when they run left behind Hutchinson on short yardage they are much more successful than when they run right.

The stats on this site suggest overall they run right a little more frequently (30% right, versus 22% left - the rest up the middle)and that they have been more effective running left than right. Aren't Hutchinson and McKinnie better options to run behind?

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Well, I haven't had time to review line play in detail this year, but the defenses may understand that as well, and may be stunting/overloading in that direction.

It is aggrvating as hell, but I can understand a guy like Peterson not becoming proficient at picking up blitzes; he can get superstar treatment while never blocking anyone, and for some guys, that's enough. What the hell is the story with their other running backs, however? You'd think they would be able to find a guy with some athletic talent, who was desperate enough to stay in the league, so as to keep blitzers from having a free 15 yard running shot at an aged quarterback.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Good grief, that Rodgers td on the sneak may have been the worst goal line defense since Neanderthals roamed the Earth.

I can't believe you passed up the opportunity for a dig at Ted Cottrell!

That play surely was Cottrellian, in that the Dolphins had the wrong personnel wrongly lined up. But no matter — it was only 4th-and-goal with 20 seconds to go in a seven-point game.

McCarthy is taking a lot of heat because the Packers lost, but that was the most inexcusable example of field organization I've ever seen. And it came from the other sideline.

Other notes from MIA-GB:

— The Packers tried just about every stunt and formation in the playbook, but they couldn't get to Chad Henne. Even with Clay Matthews healthy I think they'd have struggled. The Fins line wasn't nearly so dominant against the run — BJ Raji is quietly having a very, very good start to the season. He's much faster than Ryan Pickett: he swivels quickly, and is a dependable tackler.

— The Packers' pass protection issues from last year are resurfacing. Rodgers is feeling the rush too quickly, and the line is struggling with outside rushes. It doesn't help that they started a rookie against Cameron Wake.

— Miami seems to have been an unexciting team ever since Don Shula retired. Early on, it forced the Packer defense to double-team its one explosive wideout, Brandon Marshall; perhaps that was supposed to open up the running game or free the other receivers, but it didn't really work: Miami really needs a #2 WR, as Davone Bess is about a #4.

— Tony Sparano is absolutely my favorite sideline coach. He's the ideal combination of hyperactivity, wrathfulness, mustache, animated gum-chewing, and sunglasses.

— Dan Fouts had a stretch in the first quarter where it seemed he wasn't going to get anyone's name right at all. He's also the master of the unintentional innuendo: barely a drive goes by without some Foutsian enthusing about penetration; and he loves to say things like "Collins grabbed him at the front, then Jenkins took him from behind."

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Regarding Cameron Wake, I've watched Wake in 4 games this year. I think he's an elite level rusher and you need to account for that in a game plan. It didn't seem to me that GB gave the RT any help that I noticed.

If I was going to rank the most important players to GB Mathews would be second and Finley would be in top 3-4. They also played without their starting RB, RT, and a few more defensive starters. That's a hell of a lot to overcome.

On the negative side. Rodgers seems to throw a lot of int's late in close games when he gets rushed. Now maybe that's just a normal thing. QB's tend to do bad things when they are getting hit as they throw. But he seems to save his really bad throws for late in the game and OT.

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

We're not supposed to talk up ProFootballFocus around here, but they were riding the Wake bandwagon last year. (This year, they've moved onto Matt Roth.) I figured Wake would have made a nice Cover-3 story last season, or merited more than a passing mention in FOA, but he didn't.

Rodgers hasn't really thrown a lot of INTs at any point of the game — at least not before this year. The last couple of weeks he has made a bad throw in overtime, but it's way too early to call that a streak. More consistent problems for the Pack are bad punting, penalties on special teams coverage, Rodgers getting flustered in the pocket, and Charles Woodson sulking as he keeps getting called for interference.

160 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Ammek, you're fairly hard on Woodson considering you're a Packers fan, so what did you think about the calls against him yesterday? I've argued a few times that he gets some bad calls against him based largely on his reputation for holding a lot.

For anyone who didn't watch the game, Woodson was flagged twice. The first was for defensive holding, which gave Miami a first down after an incomplete pass on 3rd and 2. Miami was out of FG range, but ended up with a FG after getting the first down by penalty. I rewound and watched this play a second time, and to me it looked like a perfectly legal jam where the WR lost his footing trying to cut inside and Woodson ended up pushing him to the ground. This was definitely within 5 yards of the LoS. There was not a close-up replay of this play, but I sure didn't seem him grab anything, and there was really no reason to grab since he got a good jamn right from the start and the route was going to be too shallow be be effective.

The second call seemed much more egregious, though it had no effect on the game as it was the second to last play of regulation and Miami took a knee on the final play. Woodson was covering Marshall and did nothing but backpedal right from the snap, never stopping or changing direction, and looking into the backfield instead of right at Marshall. Marshall simply ran straight ahead and plowed into Woodson, even lowering his shoulder. The call was illegal contact, as Henne threw towards that sideline out of bounds (there were multiple WRs to that side), but after the contact.

The more I think about that play, the more I believe that the coaches told Marshall to run over Woodson and try to get a cheap penalty. After scoring the tying TD with 14 seconds left GB's squib kick was caught by one of the second level guys on the return team and Miami had the ball at their own 43, so if the penalty had been a 15-20 yard DPI instead of a 5 yard illegal contact, Miami could have tried a long FG to win in regulation.

Also, the penalty of the punt was equally ridiculous. Miami went on scored a TD after GB was penalized for lining up a played over the center on a punt. Here's an article covering it, this time with photo evidence showing that the defender was lined up the required yard off the LoS to make the play legal:

http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/sports/105143599.html

164 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

thanks for that link - I noticed the player wasn't directly on the line of scrimmage but I didn't know about the 1 yard rule.

Kind of a ridiculous rule. There is no way for a ref to know exactly how far off the ball a player is.

But still, GB was either stupid or pushing their luck by going right to the edge of 1 yard and lining up directly over the center.

175 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

From what the coaches said it sounds like they instruct the player the line up 1.5 yards back in this case to avoid that type of call. However, Francois was only signed in the last week to shore up GB's injury depleted LB corps, so who knows how much time they had to work with him on that specific play.

And as far as the refs knowing how far back the player is, I'd agree with you in the middle of the field, but from the picture we can see Francois lined up right on the hash marks! Even more, the nose of the ball is exactly touching one hash mark, so as long the defender does not cross the next mark, he must be legal. If a ref can't tell whether the player crosses that mark I don't see how he can throw a flag. It's not like offensive players on the LoS are never given any leeway as to how far back they line up.

301 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Actually, from that photo there is absolutely no way to tell if he was one yard off the line or not. In the article, Hochuli is quoted as saying that even a foot placed inside the 1-yard zone means the play is a penalty. I don't htink anyone can tell from that photo wether his foot is past the hashmark (making it a good call) or not.

- Alvaro

168 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I was flipping between MIA-GB and ATL-PHI, and I think I must have missed the holding call. I did see the illegal contact call, and I think you might be right that Marshall was looking to draw it. However, IIRC (I haven't been able to re-watch the play) Woodson wasn't exactly turning to run with Marshall. If he gets his hips around, you could argue that it was incidental contact, but like you said, Woodson was backpedaling. He had no intention of letting Marshall go past without contact.

I agree that the call on Francois was made in error.

181 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

But should that even be a penalty? If Marshall initiates the contact on a player moving away from him i don't see how that can be a penalty.

I tried to find the official definition of illegal contact, but the best I could come up with was an update of NFL rules for 2007:

Illegal contact and defensive holding will continue to be strictly enforced. After five yards, if a receiver attempts to evade a defender, the defender cannot make contact that impedes the receiver in any way, as long as the quarterback is in the pocket with the football. Grabbing the jersey or any other part of a receiver’s uniform is a foul for defensive holding and will be called. The only time defensive holding will not be called is if the ball is already in the air to another receiver. When an official sees illegal contact, he will look to the quarterback. If the quarterback is out of the pocket or if the ball is already in the air to another receiver, illegal contact will not be called.

link: http://www.nfl.com/kickoff/story/09000d5d801e3eb1/article/new-rules-for-2007

It sure sounds like the WR has to try to evade the defender, which Marshall did not.

193 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I'm pretty sure "evade" in this context means "gain separation," not "avoid contact." Marshall was trying to evade Woodson by running past him. And keep reading -- the defender cannot "impede the receiver in any way"; I think that probably includes trying to draw the football equivalent of a charge.

204 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Um, yes? Marhsall didn't try to gain separation, or run past Woodson, he ran into Woodson, eliminating separation. That's the exact opposite of evading. And I don't think you are parsing the sentence properly; the part that says "the defender cannot make contact that impedes the receiver in any way" is dependent on the first part. The defender is not responsible for contact that the WR initiates.

Think about it. If this were not the case every WR in the league would simply try to run over any defender 5 yards past the LoS.

The drawing a charge analogy doesn't even make sense because there is no equivalent penalty on the offensive player, like in basketball.

214 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I've never seen an OPI called unless the WR extends his hands towards the defender, except in the case of an illegal pick, which generally requires another WR to catch a ball in the area. If another Miami WR had cut outside behind Marshall then it should have been OPI for an illegal pick.

However, this is all irrelevant as to the original point. There was no illegal pick, and Woodson didn't take a fall. The point is that WRs can't simply run over DBs to draw a penalty, according to the rules and any same definition of "evade".

245 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

If Woodson made a reasonable attempt to defend Marshall -- that is, if he'd turned his hips just a little bit and tried to run with Marshall -- then there wouldn't have been a collision. I think it's reasonable for a receiver to assume that a defender is going to try to, you know, defend him. So suggesting that Marshall was the only one to initiate contact is pretty disingenuous. Marshall was doing something that had at least some semblance of his job (running a route), while Woodson was doing no such thing. Marshall was making at least something of an attempt to evade Woodson by running past him. Woodson wasn't doing anything except trying to physically stop (or impede) Marshall.

And your last sentence sums up exactly the point I was trying to make: despite Woodson's tragic (or comedic) attempt to draw one, there is no such thing as charging in football.

251 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Well today I learned that "evade" means "to run directly into". Thanks for your incredible enlightenment dmb.

I also learned that an NFL CB who backpedals in coverage is not doing his job. I am going to write a sternly worded to letter to the NFL right now, because from what I've seen in my 20+ years of watching football there are literally dozens of CBs who are not doing the jobs they are paid for every weekend! They ought to be docked their paychecks.

I guess the blame really lies with college football, because I've watch that for about as long, and it seems to me that these NFL players are just continuing the bad habits which they've cultivated at that level.

256 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Again, why is Marshall supposed to assume that Woodson wasn't going to turn his hips and run, as defensive backs do when you run a vertical route? If Marshall DID assume this and shift to the side a bit, and Woodson actually turned and ran (as a defensive back will do 99.9% of the time if he's actually intent on covering the receiver), then Marshall would've run into Woodson. So your argument is that Marshall should try to evade Woodson by anticipating that Woodson will do something completely unexpected, and move in a manner that would result in contact the vast majority of the time? I think it's probably much more realistic to conclude that Marshall was, perhaps, trying to evade Woodson by running PAST him, not expecting Woodson to essentially stay put.

And if you're trying to cover a receiver, then you shouldn't still be backpedaling when he's as far downfield as you are. If you are still backpedaling at that point, then you're going to be burned very, very, very badly. I guess we could conclude that Woodson was doing his job very, very, very badly ... but since we know that (1) he's more-than-competent in coverage; and (2) that he likes to play physically, I think it's more likely that he wasn't really trying to follow Marshall.

Congratulations on mastering the concept of sarcasm, but it's not bolstering your arguments.

262 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Without knowing Woodson's exact assignment on the play it's impossible to know what he should have done, from Marshall's point of view.

The Packers play primarily zone coverage under Capers. Woodson backpedaling while looking into the backfield could have been a sign that he was playing zone coverage and was going to hand off Marshall to safety coverage deep, while guarding primarily against out routes (especially considering the game clock situation).

He could have also been playing man under coverage, in which his responsibility is to follow the WR and take away all underneath, with safeties covering passes over his head. This type of trail technique was his assignment against Calvin Johnson on a TD play for the Lions a few weeks ago, in which he purposely let Johnson get behind him knowing the safety was playing deep. The defense didn't work in this case, but the principles are sound.

These are just two examples of very standard coverages employed in almost every football game. Unless Marshall knows what play GB called there is no reason for him to expect Woodson to move in any particular direction. The idea that a defender has to get out of the way of a receiver is also something I have never heard. If you think this is part of the rules, then show me the rule. I've already produced the best example of a rule that I can find that says the receiver has to try to evade, and again, "evade" means the complete OPPOSITE of "run directly into".

278 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

It's true that Woodson may have been in zone coverage, in which case his actions do make more sense. But if he's using trail technique, his hips still needed to be turned by that point; being a full 2-4 strides behind the receiver won't do any good.

Again, unless Marshall actually put his hands out to shove Woodson and initiate contact, it's hard to know whether Marshall was trying to run past him or not. I think "running past" falls under the umbrella of "evade," and unless he knew that Woodson had no intention of following him, it was reasonable for Marshall to take a straight path.

The inaccessibility of the actual rulebook makes it difficult to know for sure what the correct call should have been; all I have to go on is the online "digest." The description of pass interference notes that the defender can't cut the receiver off -- which you could argue Woodson did -- but the receiver cannot contact a defender who has "established position." (But was Woodson's position established if he was moving?) Furthermore, these apply to Pass Interference, but there's no mention of Illegal Contact, so I don't know if it works the same way if the ball's not in the air.

From what I saw, I thought that Marshall and Woodson were both complicit in the contact, and I probably would have ruled it as incidental contact. (Even though it seemed like the most intentional contact possible -- both players involved seemed to invite it.) I think I overstated my case for Marshall a bit, but I can also see pretty easily how it could've ended up as a penalty on Woodson. Calling it "egregious" or "ridiculous" is probably quite an overstatement.

289 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I missed the second call. The first one could have gone either way. That's the deal with Woodson (and, even more so, with Al Harris): there is a huge gray area on dozens of plays. I'm not really into debating calls — I don't know the rules well enough, and I have a small screen — but I tend to believe, in general, that the Packer DBs get away with more than their fair share of holds. Consequently I'm loath to complain about one or two borderline flags against them.

However, it's clear that Woodson is in a rut. There are several reasons why: he's come close to publicly criticizing the Packers for failing to sign Marshawn Lynch; he's obviously affected by the injuries; he desperately wants to play in the Superbowl and now it looks as though he won't make it in 2010 (and 2011 is up in the air). And he seems to be ticked off about either the penalties being called against him, or the coaches who are trying to alter his game so that he draws fewer flags. I saw him give up on a play against Miami — first time ever. Naturally, it was seconds after the announcers had been venerating his attitude.

297 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

New Twist on the punt call:

The violation of a new rule that cost the Green Bay Packers dearly in their 23-20 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday may have shocked the Packers and their fans, but in linebacker Tim Dobbins' eyes, Green Bay had gotten away with lining up someone directly over the long snapper multiple times before Ed Hochuli's crew tossed a flag in the fourth quarter.
Dobbins, aware of the rule change, had come to the sideline earlier in the game, saying that Green Bay was too close to long snapper John Denney.

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/miami-dolphins/fl-dolphins-notebook-1019-20101018,0,2391383,full.story

In other words, it seems the Packers had been doing it before, the Dolphins saw it, told the ref., and it was called. So it wasn't a totally arbitrary call. The Packers did something to earn it (and the Dolphins too).

300 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

So in addition to getting the call wrong (the photo I linked to shows this, so GB didn't earn the penalty no matter what a Dolphins player says), Hochuli's crew wasn't even checking for violations of the rule until a Dolphins player brought it up?

That sucks in multiple ways. First of all it shows that the officials were not doing their jobs properly if they did indeed miss this call earlier in the game. Second, what if the first "violation" had occurred in 4th and 6 or more? GB would have been penalized, Miami would have still had to punt, and GB probably would have adjusted the formation to avoid the same penalty later in the game. Instead, the penalty is saved up for a crucial short yardage situation where the penalty grants Miami a free, game changing first down.

Horrible, horrible officiating, no matter how it is spun.

302 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The photo shows no such thing whatsoever. It is impossible to tell wether his foot is inside the hashmark (in which case it's a penalty) or not (in which case it isn't). So either there's no photographic evidence of wether the call is correct or not, and it's just wishful thinking by Cheeseheads that there is, or there IS a definitive answe to be found in another shot somewhere yet a Packer.centric blog chose to use the one where it can't be determined from.. hm...

- Alvaro

304 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Surpirse, surprise, there IS an image that clearly shows where his foot is and it's not even close: he was well past the hashmark and thus within one yard of the LoS. See post 303 for details, but thanks for the video you provided to put that miserable blog entry to rest.

I do agree it was horrible officiating, but luckily the Dolphins were able to overcame that egregious non-call on the final regulation play and won anyway.

- Alvaro

316 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

So where is that image, BigCheese?

@Arkaein

I thought you might take it like that, and in a way you may be correct, but what I think is interesting is how the Packers were to blame. I mean, a Dolphins player noticed the penalty, lobbied to get it called and helped his team win a game. That may be "right" or "wrong". But where were the Packer players and coaches meanwhile? They all could've noticed the same thing and helped their team win the game, too.

In my book, it's a big "play" for Dobbins.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I think it may be the most consistently under appreciated position in the NFL. Weakness at that spot just makes everything hugely more difficult. For some unimaginable reason, Birk was put off by The Chiller, so unless there was a lot of cash to help out, Birk just wasn't thrilled with the idea of staying in Minnesota. Ol' Mr. Personality probably didn't do himself or Vikings fans any favors when he decided that the drop off from Birk, to the other guys they had, wasn't too steep.

206 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Eh, let's just agree there were personality issues on both sides of that relationship. Birk wouldn't have cottoned to Favre. And he would have led a revolt of one with Moss's return.