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

Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Audibles at the Line: Week 7
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Bill Barnwell

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

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

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

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 at Kansas City Chiefs 42

Bill Barnwell: Chris Chambers is a healthy scratch for the Chiefs for the second week in a row. That whole resurgence thing didn't go so well.

Mike Thomas returns a punt 49 yards against the Chiefs but has the ball knocked out of his hands as he falls down. A Jaguars player tries to, of course, scoop the ball and run with it. This ends less than well. The Chiefs recover, and Thomas Jones runs 70 yards on first down to set up a Jamaal Charles touchdown.

You know, Rich Gannon might be the worst color commentator in the league. No one clings closer to conventional wisdom. Not even Dierdorf.

Will Carroll: I'm seeing more and more clear offensive PI. Mike Sims-Walker really got away with one where he had a full handful of the DB's jersey, then on the next play, Marcedes Lewis pushed off, Eric Berry didn't budge, and Lewis spent 20 seconds complaining.

Bill Barnwell: It was actually a great play by Berry, who was able to get all the way around Lewis to bat the ball away.

Tom Gower: The best OPI non-call in JAC-KC actually came earlier in the drive, when Todd Bouman threw out, and Deji Karim turned in, right into Derrick Johnson, who was running to get to the ball. There's very little doubt in my mind that if Karim had been the defensive player and Johnson the offensive guy, there's a flag for DPI, so why not flag for OPI?

David Gardner: The commentators were going nuts over Todd Bouman's performance so far. I turn to my roommate and say, "Watch, he's gonna throw a pick now." Sure enough, he throws a pick-six and the Chiefs are up 28-20. And they're getting the ball back again. On a side note, I really like how enthusiastic their fans are -- especially compared to an empty stadium in Tampa.

Tom Gower: Todd Haley, Genius Extraordinaire, just decided to eschew the field goal attempt and go for it on fourth-and-three from the 24 with the Chiefs leading 28-20 with 11:16 to go in the game. I'll just go write up the Martz Award now.

Bill Barnwell: That's a somewhat defensible move -- the Jaguars defense is awful.

Philadelphia Eagles 19 at Tennessee Titans 37

Tom Gower: The Titans started out the game with a statement they're not going to let Collins starting change the game plan, calling a bootleg. The Eagles stayed at home (big shock), so Collins threw the ball away (another shocker). After the Eagles punt, Collins is kind enough to give the Eagles the ball back with a pump fake, pump fake, try to hit Nate Washington by throwing the ball through Quintin Mikell. Ah, well.

Bill Barnwell: What's the interception rate on passes where Kerry Collins double-pumps? 30 percent? 50 percent?

Aaron Schatz: Who attached the rocket to Kevin Kolb's arm today? I switched over from Pittsburgh and saw him throw two straight passes five feet over the receivers' heads. Also, Chad Hall is the first read on third-and-5? Really?

Mike Tanier: Hall got a handoff earlier. He is a big part of the game plan today. Reid must think he is Reno Mahe. And yes, Kolb is a little pumped up.

Bill Barnwell: Hall was open up the seam. Just a bad throw.

Aaron Schatz: I'm not saying he wasn't open. I'm just surprised he's the first read, not the third or fourth.

Tom Gower: Well, at the end of the first quarter, the Titans have 31 yards rushing and 29 yards of total offense. Collins is 1 of 4 for 4 yards (on third-and-eight) plus that aforementioned pick, and has been his current self: quick to feel pressure, hesitant to try to hit a receiver, and quick to throw the ball away. He was the better option in 2008, but he now looks shot.

Offensively, the Eagles aren't getting yardage in big chunks, but have still moved the ball fairly successfully, though it didn't result in any points in the opening 15. It looks like the Titans are playing mostly zone thus far, and Kolb has been locating guys in the voids though he hasn't always been hitting them. The Titans' defense still looks to me like a good defensive line that's generally better than the individual sum of its parts.

Bill Barnwell: Bad process, good outcome: Eagles run a reverse to Kolb out of the Wildcat. Kolb lofts up a bomb into triple-coverage that should have been picked off, but Chris Hope doesn't play the ball and Riley Cooper jumps in front of him for a long gain.

Mike Tanier: They are thinking outside the bun today.

Tom Gower: The Titans did get into the end zone in the second quarter when Collins hit Kenny Britt on a deep fade to the outside before the safety could get over and help. That came right after a similar play to the other side for Nate Washington where the ball was thrown out of bounds. Have I mentioned the deep fade is a great staple of lousy offenses where the quarterback has a decent arm?

I've officially fallen out of love with Kolb as a quarterback, and suspect I'd be even more so if I could see the secondary coverage. His brain just doesn't seem to be operating at the speed it needs to for a real NFL quarterback yet in terms of anticipating coverage and feeling the pass rush. I haven't watched Vick in enough detail this year, but Kolb is not playing so well you can't justify benching him if you have another viable option.

Tom Gower: Collins throws his second pick of the game on the Titans' first possession of the second half. Britt ran a deep in on third-and-seven, Samuel started with inside position and maintained it as Britt cut in after the slot guy ran his clearing route, and Collins threw the ball right to him.

Titans with two with 13 minutes to play, as Kenny Britt hauls in an 80-yarder from Collins. Britt ran right past Nate Allen and was a good seven yards clear, but Collins of course underthrew the ball by a good ten yards. Britt did a great job of adjusting to come back for the ball, then avoiding both Allen and Ellis Hobbs I believe en route to the end zone.

Kenny Britt is up to 209 yards receiving, while the rest of the Titans have combined for 79 net yards. Nate Allen is really looking like a rookie safety out there. Collins will get praised, I'm sure, but few of Britt's 6 receptions have come on good throws, and some of them, like the 80 yard TD, have been lousy. And as I'm typing this, he scores his third TD of the game and now has 225 of the team's 318 yards.

Bill Barnwell: Cortland Finnegan picks off a Kevin Kolb pass to somewhere with nine seconds left and returns it for a touchdown. Not quite as bad because the Titans were up 11 as opposed to one score, but still dumb.

Buffalo Bills 34 at Baltimore Ravens 37

Mike Tanier: I just sat down and Roscoe Parrish already fumbled, with the ball bouncing about 30 yards backwards. It is gonna be one of those weeks.

Doug Farrar: With five minutes left in the first quarter, Ryan Fitzpatrick throws a deep pass to Lee Evans, who scores a touchdown and then tries to remember what it’s like to catch a ball that’s thrown over seven yards in the air.

You know, I actually kind of like Fitzpatrick as a Chan Gailey-type quarterback. He has some mobility, he's conversant with fakes, and he can actually make more than one throw. I'll be interested to see how their Alleged Offense might develop with him in there. (Hint: MORE PISTOL!)

Mike Tanier: Joe Flacco is overthrowing everyone, which is why the Bills keep getting possession.

Bill Barnwell: Steve Beuerlein just referred to Derrick Mason as Anthony Mason. That was a great moment.

Vince Verhei: Late in the first half, the Ravens have as many incomplete passes (11) as they do total rushing plays. That is a sure sign that you've been passing too much.

Tom Gower: Lindell hits the field goal to send the game to overtime, and the Bills recover from a 10 point deficit to force overtime. Because, you know, NOBODY CIRCLES THE WAGONS LIKE THE BUFFALO BILLS.*

*-After blowing an 18 point first half lead.

Oh, boy. Shawn Nelson fights for extra yardage on a dumpoff after the Bills force a Ravens punt in OT. He's stood up, and, like happened to Edge on Monday night four years ago, the opposing team's star MLB rips the ball away. Should have been a whistle there, but wasn't and of course forward progress is not reviewable. A Bills lineman rips off his helmet and slams it down to put the Ravens in field goal range, and three runs into the line later, Cundiff wins it.

Cleveland Browns 30 at New Orleans Saints 17

Bill Barnwell: Browns ran a really nifty throwback play on a punt where Josh Cribbs fielded a punt on one side of the field, ran a few yards forward, and then threw across the field to an open Eric Wright, who went 61 yards.

Ben Muth: Those millions of people who started the Browns defense against the Saints this week have to feel vindicated.

Bill Barnwell: David Bowens -- he of the "Perfect Year" essay -- just picked off Drew Brees again and ran 65 yards for a touchdown, his second of the day.

Washington Redskins 17 at Chicago Bears 14

Doug Farrar: Early on, people on Twitter are praising Albert Haynesworth for beating the crap out of Chris Williams on yet another Cutler sack. These people have not seen the Bears' offensive line. Mrs. Haynesworth could beat these people for a sack. The Bears have failed to convert their last 24 third downs. That has to be the Stat of the Year so far.

Bill Barnwell: Really dumb play by Donovan McNabb, who is in the grasp of two defenders and tries to get a pass off anyway. The pass gets tipped by Israel Idonije (defender 1) and caught by D.J. Moore (defender 2) and returned for an easy touchdown.

Doug Farrar: Someone needs to tell Donovan that he’s not Roethlisberger.

Aaron Schatz: When Roethlisberger tries to get off that pass, it ends up as a simple fumble and recovery, not an interception and touchdown return.

Vince Verhei: That was the second or third play where McNabb threw a pass with heavy pressure in his face. A turnover seemed inevitable.

Aaron Schatz: If the Chicago first-team offense ever faced the Chicago first-team defense in practice, what would that look like?

Doug Farrar: Well, Mike Tice would pull all the protections and leave Chris Williams alone to face Julius Peppers over and over, so it would look pretty stinkin' bad. Oh, wait, that's actually what they did in training camp!

Ben Muth: Chicago blitzed and Santana Moss had time to run a post-corner-post. It was a touchdown.

Bill Barnwell: Lovie Smith with an impossibly stupid challenge. Earl Bennett catches a 48-yard pass and is down at the 1/2-yard line. Could be a touchdown; hard to tell, but the refs rule him down short of the endzone. Bears have first-and-goal...and Lovie Smith decides to challenge the touchdown. Seriously? I mean, I know it's the Bears, who are awful on the goal line, but you have to think they'll eventually score from the one-yard line.

...and then the Bears promptly fumble on the one-yard line. Cutler stripped on a sneak. Oh my lord. Replay shows he actually broke the plane, but Smith is suddenly hesitant to challenge. I mean, this isn't advanced game theory or anything. One challenge is the difference between a touchdown and four shots from the one-yard line. The other challenge is the difference between a touchdown and a loss of possession.

Ben Muth: Donovan McNabb just threw a second interception that DJ Moore returned for a TD. Luckily they didn't snap the ball in time so the refs called off the TD and gave them a delay of game instead.

Bill Barnwell: Just an awful throw by Cutler against a big blitz. He throws an out off of his back foot that sails, and DeAngelo Hall jumps it and runs in a straight line for a 92-yard touchdown.

Tom Gower: Yes, it was a bad throw by Cutler, but it was also a great one-handed grab and return by Hall.

Bill Barnwell: Great catch by Hall, but it was a great catch because he nearly overran the ball. It was that bad of a throw. I don't know about a great run; he had an entirely open field ahead of him and outsprinted everyone to the endzone.

Tom Gower: Yeah, wasn't that great of a return. Still, he did there exactly what you want your CB to do-did an excellent job driving on the ball, adjusted to an errant ball to make an excellent catch, and immediately went upfield and accelerated.

Bill Barnwell: This Redskins-Bears game is probably the worst game of the year. The Redskins took over after that last Cutler interception and fumbled twice in three plays, with a recovery only averted on the first one when Chris Cooley (smartly) batted the ball out of bounds. Graham Gano hits the upright on the ensuing field goal attempt. The Bears pick up a third down with a pass to Forte, but it's called back for holding. On the makeup play, Cutler is flushed from the pocket and hits LaRon Landry in the helmet; the ball promptly bounces about 15 yards back towards the line of scrimmage, where an offensive lineman catches it.

Vince Verhei: I think the Bears and Redskins have fumbled 700 total times today.

Doug Farrar: Looks like Mike Martz is rubbing off on everybody.

Bill Barnwell: DeAngelo Hall, meanwhile, finished with four interceptions of Jay Cutler. And the Redskins going 7-for-8 on fumble recoveries might be a record.

Cincinnati Bengals 32 at Atlanta Falcons 39

Mike Tanier: All of the Falcons defensive backs are getting hurt again. DeCoud was out with a hammy. Dunta Robinson got knocked out last week, of course, and isn't back this week.

Benjy Rose: Not much to say here so far near the end of the first quarter ... Benson tearing up the Falcons line, Palmer overthrowing receivers, Matt Ryan playing inconsistently...yawn.

Bill Barnwell: Roddy White has 157 yards and a touchdown with 11 minutes to go in the second quarter. The Bengals are without Johnathan Joseph today and are playing Morgan Trent and Adam Jones on one side of the field. I haven't seen a ton of the game, but I suspect these two things are related.

Tom Gower: Don't look now, but the Bengals just turned two turnovers into two scores to come back and take the lead. The first came when Leon Hall picked off a deep pass intended for Michael Jenkins, followed by a long Jordan Shipley TD, then Pac-Man stripped Roddy White after a short completion, ripped the ball out, and took it back. Marvin Lewis went for down after the first TD made it 24-19, failed, then went for two again and just failed for the second time.

Mike Tanier: The Bengals have engineered this amazing comeback. What happened to those fundamentally sound Falcons of a few weeks ago?

DeAngelo Hall and Pac-Man with touchdowns within a few minutes. The fast but clueless have inherited the earth.

Pittsburgh Steelers 23 at Miami Dolphins 22

Aaron Schatz: Just in case anyone needs examples of why Ben Roethlisberger is not one of the top five quarterbacks in the league despite his impressive passing stats, we had one in the Miami-Pittsburgh game. Big Ben's size and scrambling ability give him the chance to extend plays, but that also means he takes more sacks and worse, sometimes tries to make the impossible play. With a bunch of Dolphins trying to drag him down for a sack, Roethlisberger refused to hit the ground and tried to shovel the ball ahead to Ike Redman who had been trying to block. However, Big Ben lost the handle of the ball before he could start the actual shoveling motion, i.e. a forward pass, thus leading to a fumble. Good thing the Steelers defense is so good, they've fumbled twice and it has led to two field goals as the Miami offense pretty much went nowhere twice.

Ben Muth: Is Hines Ward a Hall of Famer? 11,000 yards, 80 touchdowns, 2 Super Bowls, one super bowl MVP, and a reputation for being the best blocker at his position. I don't think he'd get in, but I think it's close.

Vince Verhei: Based on the way they've been voting, he'll get in because of the rings. It's almost impossible for a wideout to get in without one -- ask Cris Carter. Not to say that's how they should vote, but it's the standard they've set.

Aaron Schatz: Ben Roethlisberger just went to scramble, then changed his mind, then pump faked, went to scramble again, changed his mind, pump faked, and overthrew Hines Ward in the end zone... from two yards past the line of scrimmage.

When he comes in as part of the pass rush rotation, rookie OLB Jason Worilds is having an excellent game speed-rushing right tackle Vernon Carey. Anyone know how you pronounce his name? I have no idea. On the other hand, James Harrison vs. Jake Long is advantage Miami.

And geez, Dan Dierdorf, will you please stop slobbering over the amazing pocket that the Dolphins keep setting up for Chad Henne? The Dolphins leave in a back to block on nearly every play, and the Steelers are blitzing less than usual. Every play is six blocking four. It's not THAT spectacular.

Vince Verhei: Miami has used a couple of rollouts today. Not play-action, not bootlegs, just a quarterback rolling to the right and his offensive line moving with him. If Miami can run those with Chad Henne, can't pretty much any team use them? Seems like a good way to keep your quarterback upright that teams should use more often.

Aaron Schatz: Problem is that those rollouts basically cut the field in half, condensing the space your receivers can work in.

Astonishing coaching challenge result in Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger runs a quarterback draw but loses control of the football before he crosses the plane. Originally called a touchdown, the Dolphins challenge. Gene Steratore comes out and explains: Roethlisberger loses the ball and therefore it is not a touchdown. However, the challenge has two parts: did Roethlisberger fumble, and who recovered it? Since there is not clear evidence as to which team recovered the football, Steratore says that he can't overturn Pittsburgh possession of the ball. Therefore it goes into the book as a fumble recovered by the Steelers, and it will be Steelers ball, fourth-and-goal from the half-yard line, down by two points. Jeff Reed hits a 19-yard field goal to go up by 1.

Honestly, it looked pretty clear from the video that Miami recovered the football. I guess it wasn't 100 percent sure, but it definitely looked like it.

Vince Verhei: The best part about that was Steratore nervously scratching his elbow during the announcement, knowing the call was lame and he would be hated, but it's the only call he could make. The Dolphins fell on the ball first and probably recovered, but indisputably? No.

Aaron Schatz: Golly, Chad Henne sure likes to throw to people in the flat. When it is third-and-8 with less than two minutes left, down by one, you might want to consider throwing it more than a yard past the line of scrimmage.

San Francisco 49ers 20 at Carolina Panthers 23

Tom Gower: Alex Smith went down hard early in the third quarter and is headed to the locker room with an apparent shoulder injury. David Carr has entered the game. Yes, ALERT, ALERT, David Carr has entered the game.

Ben Muth: The Giants make the World Series and David Carr comes in? Good weekend for San Franciscans.

Bill Barnwell: OK, one of the stupidest decisions of the week: David Carr has the ball on his own 20-yard line with one timeout and 30 seconds left, down three points. No one's open deep, so what does he do? Throw a two-yard checkdown to Vernon Davis, who's surrounded by defenders.

Tom Gower: His career in a nutshell.

St. Louis Rams 17 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 18

Doug Farrar: Halfway through the first quarter, the Bucs have second-and-goal ... from the 35-yard line. OPI, holding, sack. Yikes.

David Gardner: Sam Bradford fumbled from his own 6-yard line on the first Rams' possession. The Bucs took over and were flagged for offensive pass interference, holding, and then Freeman was sacked. They ended up with third-and-goal from the 36. Hilarious. A good catch by Mike Williams put them in field-goal range and the Bucs are up early.

Doug Farrar: The guys doing the Bucs game are comparing Gerald McCoy to Ndamukong Suh. I suppose that was inevitable, and I’m sure McCoy will be a dynamic player, but I was surprised that so many people thought McCoy would have more of an immediate impact. He can be made to disappear on plays when he’d double-teamed, and Suh plays with far more velocity at the line of scrimmage, which is why he’s already beating those same types of double-teams in the NFL.

Aaron Schatz: I always thought that the difference was that people thought that McCoy would make more game-changing big plays, while Suh would be a more consistently good player who affected every play. Not saying that's true, but that was the general impression I got from pre-draft reports.

David Gardner: An offsides call against Ronde Barber on a field-goal attempt gives the Rams a first-and-goal and eventually a touchdown. The Rams game plan has been simple -- run, run, run.

LeGarrette Blount is finally getting the carries in the second half. Blount runs with more power and decisiveness than Williams.

The Bucs offensive line continues to be the weak link of the team. They aren't opening up any holes in the running game, Freeman is being pressured on almost every snap, and they have been flagged a bunch of times, including a late hit on a two-minute drive to try and win the game.

On a third-and-10 with 30 seconds left and the ball at the 20-yard line, Freeman finds Mike Williams for the first down, and he jukes his way down to the one. Two plays later, Freeman rolls right and finds Cadillac Williams for the go-ahead score.

Doug Farrar: How has Davin Joseph been this season? I had him pegged as a future star a while back.

David Gardner: He's been the best of a bad line. He had a dumb penalty today, but he's a really good pass blocker and a decent run blocker.

Freeman also has established some late-game credentials early in his career. Of Freeman's seven wins, five were comebacks.

Arizona Cardinals 10 at Seattle Seahawks 22

Doug Farrar: Wow. That Max Hall pass intercepted by Earl Thomas in the first quarter was so bad, I’d believe it if I was told that Thomas was the intended receiver.

Seahawks running a bit more bunch today, with the tight end inside pulling to the other side to block – I like the blocking out of bunch idea, which the Steelers do as well as anyone.

Bill Barnwell: Seahawks get a stripsack of Max Hall when they rush three and get Chris Clemons one-on-one versus Stephen Spach while left tackle Levi Brown just watches the play. Hall gets laid out from behind (and clearly has no feel for the rush), and the Seahawks recover the resulting fumble.

Awesome. Olindo Mare lines up for a 31-yard field goal and hits it, but Cameron Morrah gets called for holding. Mare then hits a 41-yarder, but Morrah is called for holding AGAIN. So then Mare hits the 51-yarder. He's hit 26 in a row -- 28 if we count those two -- since last year, when Jim Mora threw him under the bus. Karma is awesome.

Doug Farrar: Bonus to twelfth-string guard Mike Gibson for the unnecessary roughness call after the successful try, which gave Mare a 15-yard ding on the kickoff. He kicked the ball 77 yards to the Arizona 8. He is officially the baddest kicker alive.

And the Seahawks wind up kicking yet another field goal on a drive in which Mike Williams pretty much made Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie his play toy because they went away from Williams in the red zone. Oh, and they managed two more delay of game penalties, including one on the field goal. Half the time, I'm pretty much convinced that Jeremy Bates is Norv Turner's son, not Jim Bates'.

New England Patriots 23 at San Diego Chargers 20

Bill Barnwell: Chargers run a surprise onside/squib kick after a Kris Brown field goal and, of course, it fails.

Aaron Schatz: Actually, that's not a Chargers thing. That's been an everyone thing. Not counting a Chargers kick with one second left that was just meant to waste time, kicking team has only recovered 2 of 6 first-half onside attempts. I wonder if the Saints Super Bowl kick sort of ruined the strategy, or is this just small sample size? Probably the latter, but still...

Bill Barnwell: Here's the problem with Phil Simms. He starts going off after a fumble on a Kris Wilson checkdown about how guys who don't touch the ball frequently fumble at a higher rate because "it makes sense". Lots of things make sense. That doesn't make them true.

I actually ran a quick test and it's true, although subject to selection bias: Running backs that have more than 60% of their team's carries fumble once every 75 touches, while backs that have fewer than 20% of their team's carries fumble once every 33 touches. But I know Simms didn't test it.

Patriots just a ran a diamond formation with four wideouts on one side. That was nifty.

Aaron Schatz: Second time the Pats have run that formation. Both times, it was a screen pass to the back guy in the diamond: Welker a couple weeks ago, Woodhead today.

Ben Muth: I hope they're setting up the double pass for later this year. I always loved that play.

Tom Gower: Rookie Chargers receiver Richard Goodman caught a pass over the middle, then went down and let go of the ball. Since nobody had touched him, he wasn't down, so the Patriots had one of the world's easiest fumble recoveries. Now, SD turns the ball over again after a pass for Hester is ruled a lateral on the field and there's simply not enough evidence to overturn it. I hate this team.

Bill Barnwell: Richard Goodman made Phil Simms sure look a little smarter.

Aaron Schatz: The thing about the lateral to Hester is that Hester didn't make any attempt to pounce on the ball once he didn't catch it. It was like he had no idea that a backwards pass was a live ball, or that a maybe-backwards pass might be a live ball so you probably should pounce on it just to be safe. That's twice today the Chargers have given the ball to the Patriots without any contact with a defender, simply by not noticing that the whistle had not blown yet.

Good thing their defense is playing so (surprisingly) well this year. Antwan Barnes is an excellent edition. I always thought he was an underrated pass rusher on the rise in Baltimore. The Chargers finally have the pass rush this year that they allegedly have had every year but that they ACTUALLY have not had since Merriman's first steroid suspension.

Also: fun to note that Brandon Meriweather seems to be making a point of hitting everyone with his shoulder today. At one point, he completely leveled a Chargers receiver with a shoulder-to-chest hit and then got up making "did you see that" motions.

And at the half, the score is: New England 13, San Diego -25, and Antwan Barnes 28. Good thing for the Chargers that Antwan Barnes is one of their players, so the scoreboard says "13-3."

Aaron Schatz: Marcus McNeill's return was supposed to improve San Diego's pass-blocking, but this doesn't really work if the opponent (say, the Pats) has the defender (DE or OLB) on McNeill's side hang back while the pass rush goes at the other linemen.

Bill Barnwell: Well, they have Jeromey Clary on the right side, and he sucks. They should really take Brandyn Dombrowski (the guy who replaced McNeill at left tackle) and play him at right tackle.

Decision by Belichick to go for it fourth-and-1 from midfield is pretty defensible. Surprised they went with a handoff to Green-Ellis versus a sneak or a pass play, but still think it makes sense. Green-Ellis really didn't read his blocking very well; I think he gets it if he runs up underneath his left guard, but he kicked it outside where there were three defenders waiting. I can see the case for punting, but it keeps your worst unit (pass defense) on the sideline.

Aaron Schatz: Then the Chargers have a false start on the attempt to tie the game with a field goal, making it a 50-yard field goal, and Kris Brown (signed this week with Nate Kaeding injured) knocks it off the right upright. Chargers go to 2-5.

Oakland Raiders 59 at Denver Broncos 14

Bill Barnwell: The Raiders are up 21-0 within six minutes. Boy, am I excited for this 49ers-Broncos game next week.

After yet another Broncos turnover gives the Raiders the ball in the redzone, the Broncos strip McFadden. A Bronco goes to scoop it and can't, of course, and Jason Campbell recovers. The Broncos committed defensive holding on the play anyway, of course. Football!

Ryan Clady just took a hands to the face call against Kamerion Wimbley; he doesn't have any knee bend. A healthy Clady doesn't take that penalty.

Darren McFadden now has four touchdowns; it's safe to say he has the starting job in Raiders to himself again. The Raiders have 52 points with 20 minutes left in the game; no team's put up 60 in the regular season since the Bengals in 1989, and if anyone's going to want to run up the score for fun, it's Al Davis against the Broncos.

Minnesota Vikings 24 at Green Bay Packers 28

Bill Barnwell: Vikings just lined up on the opening third down in that same diamond formation we talked about during the Pats game. They also ran a screen to the back receiver; let's see when someone runs something different out of that set.

Vince Verhei: The Seahawks tried it in an earlier game. It was also a WR screen. It also failed. It's big neon sign saying WE ARE RUNNING A WR SCREEN. The next step would be a pump-fake to the back receiver, then a lob to one of the "blockers" who has slipped through the defense on a fade route, but I don't think I've seen that yet.

Aaron Schatz: Well, the Pats screens didn't fail. They both succeeded, although the one earlier in the season was better than today's.

Mike Tanier: There's a lot you can do from the diamond besides a screen. NFL coaches must just be on page one of that playbook.

Bill Barnwell: Aaron Rodgers is incapable of throwing to anyone but his tight end in the red zone. Quarless was double-covered and he still threw it. Of course, it worked.

Aaron Schatz: Cris Collinsworth saying that very few teams are willing to put their left tackles one-on-one against Jared Allen, but isn't that one of the big stories of the Vikings season -- that opponents seem perfectly willing to put their left tackles one-on-one against Allen, and they're pretty much all doing fine, because Allen isn't playing as well as years past?

David Gardner: Wow, what a fourth-down play call by the Packers on that bomb to Andrew Quarless. Even though it failed, I respect the originality of it.

Aaron Schatz: Aaron Rodgers just threw a pick at the goal line. Despite what Collinsworth said, the problem wasn't really the idea of throwing the ball to Jennings being covered by Frank Walker. The problem was that the ball was thrown behind Jennings, where Walker was, instead of ahead of Jennings, where the cornerback couldn't get it. Walker tips, Madieu Williams picks it off.

Packers are squib kicking in order to avoid returns by Percy Harvin. Man, I just hate that play. The Vikings were fifth in kick return value going into this game but still, Harvin is not having a Devin Hester 2006 season. The average Harvin return before tonight, not counting squibs, went to the Vikings 31, and that includes a touchdown return. The touchdown was the only return Harvin has brought back past the 50. To avoid that longshot touchdown, you are just handing the other team the ball around the 40. Heck, that last one after the Favre pick-six gave the Vikings the ball at the 42. The Packers might as well have just kicked it out of bounds. Unless you have a return man who is enjoying a historically great season, it's a bad strategy.

A few minutes later, and the Packers are going for it on fourth-and-1. John Kuhn takes the ball, gets stopped, then slowly rolls over the pile until he has the first down. The problem? The refs whistled the forward progress over before Kuhn was actually down. All these plays we've seen where the refs swallow their whistles because they are afraid of making a mistake, and here they whistle way too early. Worst part for the Packers is that Greg Jennings honestly had the first down on the previous play with forward progress -- but Mike McCarthy didn't challenge, perhaps afraid to blow his last challenge on a one-yard spot when he might need to keep it for a scoring play or turnover.

Bill Barnwell: Favre comes back and throws a pick, though, on a play where Favre's throw is late, Percy Harvin runs a lazy intermediate route, and Nick Collins comes out of nowhere to nab the ball out of the air.

Aaron Schatz: Hello, officials? Phil Loadholt on the final Vikings drive? Holding? Anyone want to call it? Hello?

OK, after a couple plays (and a great play call on an Adrian Peterson screen that had a ton of room to work) they do call Loadholt -- not just for holding, but for a face mask and a 15-yard penalty that makes it (along with the false start before it) first-and-30.

David Gardner: Wow. That Harvin catch wasn't even close. It just goes to show how difficult it is for officials to verify both possession and being inbounds at the same time.

Aaron Schatz: Just so it doesn't sound like the complaints about officiating are one-sided, I should point out that Pete Prisco is tweeting that Clay Matthews took his helmet off after the Harvin catch (that wasn't). Should have been a 15-yard penalty on Green Bay. Not sure which official is supposed to be looking for that stuff. You definitely can't ask one guy to look at the receiver's feet and hands simultaneously, but I'm guessing the "look for dudes taking off helmets" guy is a different guy.

Bill Barnwell: They showed a replay of it. Matthews' helmet came off in mid-play. He took it off, but it was during the play.

Aaron Schatz: So he didn't take it off, it came off? That's not a penalty. If he took it off, even in mid-play, it is a penalty.

Comments

325 comments, Last at 28 Oct 2010, 11:37am

86 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by Geo B

Rex Grossman led the Bears to a Super Bowl, so he at least has to be in the conversation, right?

141 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by BucNasty

The Bears defense led Rex Grossman, kicking and screaming, to a Super Bowl.

211 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by lester bangs (not verified)

Donovan McNabb.

85 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by Geo B

Rivers? Call me back when SD has a winning record or wins a playoff game

So call you back in 2007 then?

89 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by Andrew Potter

Please do, and when you call, tell me to move everything out of the stock market. Thanks.

98 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by Geo B

Above Roethlisberger:

4. Philip Rivers
5. Matt Schaub
6. Eli Manning
7. Aaron Rodgers
8. Tony Romo
9. Kyle Orton (apparently).

Roethlisberger is overrated because he is allowed to throw downfield a lot and therefore racks up gaudy passing numbers. And his numbers aren't that gaudy.

137 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by commissionerleaf

Orton, until this year, was never rated in the top 15 of quarterbacks in DVOA and he's never won in the playoffs. Romo, still, has never won a playoff game. Schaub has never won in the playoffs, or even gotten into the tournament (to say nothing of his durability). Rivers has gotten to the playoffs, only to disappear into the coaching futility of Norv. In the playoffs he's 3-4 (Roethlisberger is 8-2). Furthermore, Rivers QB rating in the playoffs is 79.2 to Roethlisberger's 87.2. Rivers adjusted yards per pass attempt in the playoffs also lag behind Roethlisberger and he's thrown more INT's than TD's (Roethlisberger is 15/12). DVOA might suggest Rivers is better than Roethlisberger in those playoff games, but it doesn't pass the eyeball test.

Manning (Eli the Lesser) can't throw in his own stadium in December / January (see loss to Eagles) and suffers from a Jekyll / Hyde personna.

Rodgers is the one guy I'd give you. Which makes him #4 and Roethlisberger #5.

142 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by jonah_jamison (not verified)

Dallas did beat Philly in the Wild Card round last year to break their string of playoff losses. Not that I think post-season record is a very good way of rating players at a single position.

149 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by jonah_jamison (not verified)

"Schaub has never won in the playoffs, or even gotten into the tournament (to say nothing of his durability)"

So it's Schaub's fault that the Texans' defense sucks? Or that Kris Brown missed multiple crucial FGs last year?

Roethlisberger was better than Eli and Rivers for their first few seasons, but right now I'd take Rivers over either of the other two, even though he's the one without a Super Bowl ring.

If you want to argue that Roethlisberger is in the Top 5, argue with this:

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/qb2009

which has him 8th in both DVOA and DYAR for 2009. Mind you, we cannot look at 2010 stats because Roethlisberger missed 4 games due to suspension!

Rivers, whom you dislike, actually finished #1 in DVOA last year.

Personally, I would start with the 2009 list, drop Romo a few slots and Favre a couple dozen spots, but I would also push up Rodgers several spots.

Given the time missed, I would also push McNabb, Orton, Flacco, Ryan, and even Mark Sanchez ahead of Roethlisberger for what they've accomplished.

196 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by RickD

Not saying I disagree either way, but why drop Romo a few slots when he's got identical rankings to last year (same rank in DVOA and DYAR).

160 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by jonah_jamison (not verified)

QB won/loss records are about the only stat less meaningful than pitcher won/loss records.

Except for QB playoff won/loss records, which have roughly the informational content of gaussian noise.

187 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by commissionerleaf

Great discussion points by several of you, thanks, that's what I was looking for. Wasn't really looking for a stats breakdown but some of them were valid discussion points.

About the only one so far I'd still add to the Brady/P. Manning/Brees list is Rogers. Schaub is really close.

McNabb, Orton? Really? If you are Pittsburgh's GM, you would trade Roethlisburger for either of them? Not McNabb at his age. Eli Manning? No, No and No. That was more my point. Yes he does commit the bonehead plays - dude run over the safety DON'T risk fumbling. But SB 43 and that game winning drive means I still wouldn't trade him for anyone other than maybe Brady and Payton. I know FO's status love Phillip Rivers, and maybe he would be successful on other teams, but I don't see it - I may have a blind spot in his case.

Keep up the great insights everyone.

Steeler fan trapped in Houston!
Six Time SB Champs! ;-)

193 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by DGL

Right, because the top 5 playoff winning QB's of all-time (Montana, Brady, Bradshaw, Elway, and Farve) are just static on the radio. Cosmic background radiation. Doesn't mean a thing. It could have been you, could have been me. Or the guy with the best winning percentage ever in the playoffs, Bart Starr, is just some anonymous dude.

195 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by jonah_jamison (not verified)

Welcome to the site. Pull up a chair under the ol' learnin' tree and you'll see that you're actually much closer to right than you realized.

202 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by jonah_jamison (not verified)

The argument is that "Playoff wins don't cause great QBs, great QBs cause playoff wins" (more specifically, "great QBs are a part of the cause of playoff wins", or "Great QBs are a big part of the cause of playoff wins").

So by that argument, your thinking seems backwards.

By the way, using Terry Bradshaw as evidence of a great QB? Probably not the best way to go.

268 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by jonah_jamison (not verified)

You're really using Bradshaw to make that point?

201 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by commissionerleaf

Eli? Really?

The question was "better than" not "drafted ahead of."

306 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by commissionerleaf

This argument has gone retarded when people rank Eli Manning, Tony Romo, and Kyle Orton ahead of Ben.

And Aaron Rogers is still living off of last year (when he faced a ridiculously easy slate of pass D's). He is about as average as it gets this season.

He is overrated because he is allowed to throw downfield. I just got dumber after reading that.

307 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by Vicious Chicke… (not verified)

All I can say to my fellow Steelers fans is that it doesnt matter where people "rank" Ben among other QB's. Let them rank him dead last, it wont change anything and we will continue laughing win after win after win.

308 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by Vicious Chicke… (not verified)

YEAH, F THE HATERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

311 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by Vicious Chicke… (not verified)

You recognize context to denigrate his performance last year, while ignoring it this year. That's the very definition of talking out of both sides of your mouth. According to FO stats, Rodgers is better this year than last year.

314 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by JIPanick

Check out Ben's throw to Hines Ward last week that went for the TD. Ward is getting a lot of credit, but it's mostly on Ben in my mind.

He read the blitz, and then hung in there to deliver a very accurate pass at the right moment in time. It was very catchable, with good velocity, in the right location where Ward could catch it and get YAC. It was also a checkdown of sorts, throw short of the sticks, and wasn't forced down the field.

I see Ben execute and throw the ball exactly where it needs to go. I see great awareness (none of that super slow Donovan McNabb two minute drill crap) I see him carrying the team when the running game and defense aren't doing so well.

But yeah I guess he's not very good.

hehe captcha word is "capthchaw"

318 Re: Top 5 QB's

In reply to by Reinhard (not verified)

It's certainly debatable whether or not Ben is a "top 5" QB in the league, but citing playoff wins and W-L record is not going to win over many minds around here; neither is disregarding DVOA as a measure of how good a player is.

I get that you love Ben because he's been the QB of your team through a very successful period, but as a reader of this site, many of expect other posters to be able to spearate themselves from their "fan-ness" to some degree, so that we can talk about football on a different level than that found on other sites. (Or, we could scream "F the haters!" at each other. Whatever, stay classy.)

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

re: "Todd Haley, Genius Extraordinaire, just decided to eschew the field goal attempt and go for it on fourth-and-three from the 24 with the Chiefs leading 28-20 with 11:16 to go in the game."

OK, Dierdorf. (Sorry, forgive me for that.) That is absolutely the right call.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

If I have a, I dunno, 75% chance (P(made) for 42 yard FGA) to put a team with Todd Bouman at QB down 2 scores in the 4th quarter, I take it. If it had been 4&G at the 1 or 4&a foot at the 5 instead of 4&3 from the 24, I'd feel differently.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

"Bill Barnwell: Here's the problem with Phil Simms. He starts going off after a fumble on a Kris Wilson checkdown about how guys who don't touch the ball frequently fumble at a higher rate because "it makes sense". Lots of things make sense. That doesn't make them true.

I actually ran a quick test and it's true, although subject to selection bias: Running backs that have more than 60% of their team's carries fumble once every 75 touches, while backs that have fewer than 20% of their team's carries fumble once every 33 touches. But I know Simms didn't test it."

Bill Barnwell in a nutshell.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Yeah, with all respect to Bill, I was thinking along similar lines... Of all the dumb things Phil Simms says on a weekly basis, why single out a comment where he was apparently right (even if luckily so)?

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I don't think the data proves the point because it doesn't show causation. Maybe the reason backs with fewer than 20% of the carries carry the ball fewer than 20% of the time is because they don't protect the ball well. Simms made it seem that if someone other than your primary back or your primary pair of backs is carrying, they are more apt to fumble because they are not used to carrying the ball. Never mind their years running the ball in college or practice.

I can seem Simms' point with a defensive back returning an INT, holding the ball in one hand away from the body or a rookie WR forgetting that he's not down unless he's down with contact, but the guys who practice running the ball as their livelihood (whether it is 30 times per year or 300 times per year) should be used to protecting the ball. Phil's theory makes sense in Pop Warner, not in the NFL.

249 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Fumblers might not get fewer carries, but eventually their carries end up like this:

Son, can you please carry this back to the bar and bring me a Coke without any ice in it? Thanks. And don't drop this one, okay. And, by the way, you look familiar, you ever play football?

152 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I suspect that Simms may have his causality backwards. Running backs who fumble more often than average running backs may tend to be fed fewer carries until they reach a point where they stop fumbling so often.
(Unless named Tiki Barber or Adrian Peterson, and in the latter case it also depends on whether he wears horns on your helmet.)

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

There are plenty more examples of why Roethlisberger IS definitely one of the top five QBs in the league than examples of why he's not. When he's scrambling around like that and trying to make "the impossible play," sometimes, he makes it. I've just seen too many positive plays. It's easy to take a fumble or a sack and say "he tries to do too much," but on the plays where he shakes off a defender, scrambles around and finds Hines Ward 40 yards downfield, well, that's pretty effective. I much prefer it to the QB who constantly checks down and can't convert on third down. It's more fun to watch, too.

And who else are you taking before Roethlisberger? We'll say Brady, Brees (not so sure about this right now), Manning...are you taking Rivers? Rodgers? I wouldn't. You can shuffle the deck as you prefer, but if you don't have Ben in the top five, he has to be top six, right? Whatever the case, it's certainly overdoing it to act like he shouldn't be in the conversation.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Are we grading on this season alone? Because Big Ben may not have taken enough snaps yet to qualify. If we're adding in performance from past seasons then many other players have to be taken into account. (Favre, Favre and Favre)

157 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Let's grade on "who you would want to QB your team next weekend".

I'm not a huge fan of forcing ordinal rankings on a set, since people then concentrate on the difference in ordinal score as opposed to whatever the underlying differences are.

Brady and Manning are clearly the top 2, and Brees has made a good case to be in the top 3. After those three, I see a big drop-off to the level of Rivers, Rodgers, Eli, and Roethlisberger. Schaub and Orton are aiming to be included at this level.
Flacco and Ryan are a bit further off, and then there are guys like Sanchez, Bradford, and Fitzpatrick who look very promising but are not quite yet a complete package.

Favre of the mid-90s was clearly in the top tear. Favre of 2009 was just outside the top tier, as was Kurt Warner. Favre of 2010 is back in the lower half.

184 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

If Kurt Warner wasn't out of the league, he'd be ahead of everyone on the list except Manning (and perhaps Brady and Brees). Warner's achievements in Arizona were absurd given the team he inherited. Arizona went from the Super Bowl/Deep in the Playoffs to "Arguably the worst team in football," simply because they're missing two guys, Warner and Dansby.

217 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

True, but the quality of the replacement players is an important factor too. Arizona's decline speaks as much for how bad Derek Anderson/undrafted rookie are, as to how good Warner was. Although the fact that they are forced to start this detritus at QB tells us just how valuable and scarce a commodity it is to have a QB of the quality of Warner.

203 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

How is Brady clearly in the top 2? Everyone on this site knows I despise the Manning worship but to say Manning is clearly in the top 2 is not a stretch to me. Brady on the other hand doesnt deserve automatic top 2 status.

Your list doesnt include Romo. He is pretty "clearly" in the same level as Rodgers, eli, and roflburger. I discluded Rivers because hes "clearly" in a higher tier.

I dont know if its just my opinioin or a consensus opinion, but there are 4 quarterbacks that are better than everyone else. Manning, Brady, Brees, and Rivers. Remember just a couple years ago Cutler was dubbed one of the top quarterbacks in the league. My point is that these 4 can seemingly be put into any situation and still thrive in it. Brady has been good with shit receivers in the early to mid 2000's. Manning was passing to austin collie and garcon last year. Rivers this year is throwing to patrick crayon, buster davis, and some rookie guy that gives fumbles to the other team. Brees has been throwing to seemingly non elite guys his whole career (Colston is a top 15 receiver by numbers but not by skills). Im just rambling now but im using a sort of wisdom of the crowds thing. No fan would complain if these 4 was their teams quarterback. Some fans would complain if any other quarterback was their starter.

265 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Rodgers has good offensive talent around him and has ranked 9th/10th the last two years in DYAR and 9th/14th in DVOA. This year, in limited sample, he's just outside the top 5.

I don't see how that gives him a strong case over Roethlisberger, or makes him clearly better than Romo/Eli. I think the perception of Rodgers has outrun his actual production.

266 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Could be. Rodger's offensive line is very poor, and Ryan Grant is the epitome of mediocre (with his backups being even worse). He has good receivers, but that's it.

Also, all those mis-communication mistakes never seem to happen against the Bears, he's just deadly accurate the whole freaking game.

279 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Yeah, that Roethlisberger, he puts up gaudy stats, but doesn't really win...he's really kind of like a poor man's Manning.

Oh, wait...

Yeah, that Roethlisberger, he wins a lot, but he doesn't put up the numbers that he should...he's really kind of like a poor man's Brady.

Oh, wait...

I don't really care if he fits your definition of a top 5 quarterback. I root for the team for which he plays. I've had a pretty good run since he got there. Those of you who root for the team for which Rivers plays, or for which Romo plays, or for which Schaub plays, have probably not gained as much satisfaction from their 'fan experience.' The FO reader in me and the fan in me might use different contexts for judging, but, in all honesty, when the game is on, the fan wins out.

68 Favre - Rodgers

I'm interested in feedback on the performance of Rodgers and Favre.

I thought both very pretty awful in that they both made huge mistakes. Favre had to deal with a little more pressure - but his lack of mobility really makes that duress seem much worse than it is. His consistency is not there either.

As for Rodgers he operated under no duress whatsoever but made two huge mistakes in the red zone. He also seemed completely out of sync with his receivers several times and wasn't particularly accurate.

For the season my sense has been that Favre's legs are shot. He just isn't mobile enough to play the position any more.

For a game with about 800 yards of offence - I really thought the QB's were both pretty awful.

94 Re: Favre - Rodgers

In reply to by jmaron

To put it mildly, I've seen both play better.

For Favre, it was one of "those" games where stupid $#!& is the order of the day. Unfortunately for him, that's become the norm (again) this year, while last year was a wild departure from the trend. He used to be money, and was again for most of last year - now he's just old (again). The increasingly-common nature of games like those were the reasons the Packers brain trust cut him loose. I just want him to walk away, rather than being carried off on a stretcher (or in a straightjacket).

On Rodgers, I wonder if he still isn't quite right in the head from his concussion two weeks back, and I know for certain he misses Jermichael Finley. He and his receivers were not on the same page way too often last night, but he's still got a tremendous future ahead of him. He can make all the throws, like the one Quarless (mostly) caught last night and the one Finley nabbed in the endzone of the Lions game (linked in my name). Rodgers these days is rarely awful, routinely good, and frequently spectacular. If Favre could say that, he's still be wearing green and gold.

104 Re: Favre - Rodgers

In reply to by ebongreen (not verified)

The concussion and days of missed practise might not have helped, but Rodgers has been spotty since the very beginning of the season. Part of the problem was that he was keying in on Finley, who is now on IR. Also, the receivers are in a funk: Driver didn't have a catch yesterday, and Jennings has been going through his annual quiet spell. The interception total isn't unexpected: I think Rodgers led the league in dropped picks the last two years. More worrying is the reversion to trying to throw downfield and/or instinctively relying on his legs whenever he's under a bit of pressure.

That said, Rodgers confessed this weekend to having been a strat-o-matic addict as a kid. What's not to like?

114 Re: Favre - Rodgers

In reply to by jmaron

Rodgers announced before the season he was going to take more risks and boy has it blown up in his face. Time and again he passes up the short gain for a third down conversion to try and go over the top. And now with the defense down I think four or five starters it would REALLY help to chew up some clock. But Rodgers, and his coach, think scoring fast is the better option.

Favre does best when a team blitzes because he always sees it, knows who will be open and gets rid of the ball fast. When teams drop 7/8 and he has to move to buy time then the injuries affect his accuracy in a serious way.

218 Re: Favre - Rodgers

In reply to by bigtencrazy (not verified)

His injuries affect his accuracy only on the plays where he has to think and make decisions?

Are they also to blame for the dumb decisions then?

158 Re: Favre - Rodgers

Favre single-handedly killed his team's chances to win not because of too much pressure, or because of injury, but because on a play when Percy Harvin was wide open on the right side of the field, he looked left for 5 seconds without looking right at all, and tried to force a pass to Randy Moss that was turned into 6 points for the Packers. That's the kind of mental error I've come to count on from Favre. When his team has the lead and he can stay in cruise control, he's a much better QB. But he's really become the worst QB in the league when his team is trailing.

I don't have a sense that Rodgers did anything similarly egregious.

176 Re: Favre - Rodgers

Favre also did the same thing on the last Viking play of the game. Look at the tape - Harvin was wide open in the back of the end zone.

188 Re: Favre - Rodgers

Have you considered the possibility that he was "wide open" because the defense could see that Favre wasn't looking in that direction?

71 Jags receivers

I'm glad to hear that the Jags' OPI was as blatant as it seemed yesterday.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Just curious for any of those that saw the SD/NE game this past weekend: Is it at all possible that FO's assumption that fumble recovery luck is random (that is, that a team's inabaility to recover fumbles in the past is not indicative of whether or not they will in the future), might be subjective to re-evaluation? The Chargers have had this type of "bad luck" all season long, and what was witnessed Sunday regarding Goodman and Hester could easily be applied to the final play of the Chargers second-to-last drive against Oakland, where Rivers fumbled, and everyone on San Diego thought it was a forward pass. The Raiders, of course, not hearing a whistle, picked it up and returned it for a score.

To put it a different way, if there were a fumble in a 2011 Chargers/Patriots game, and I didn't give you any more info than Belichick is coaching NE and Norv is coaching SD, wouldn't you have a predisposition as to what team you'd think would recover?

I'm beginning to believe that fumble recovery "luck" is not so random as I might have originally believed.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Well, I could believe that fumble recovery luck in the specific case of fumbles that appear to be dead balls is not luck -- a coach might not do a good enough job of drilling it into his players' heads to play to the whistle on such plays.

But that's very different than the far more numerous fumbles where it's obvious immediately that it's a live ball.

I imagine the randomness of the latter would swamp any non-randomness of the former when both sets are viewed in the aggregate.

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

And the Chargers were perfectly average at recovering their own fumbles in 2008 and 2009, and slightly above average in 2007.

One of the 'bizarre' fumbles lost yesterday was by a rookie. That's a more likely explanation than Norv.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

This year's 12 lost on 15 fumbles is pretty astounding, wouldn't you say? Last year, the Chargers fumbled 14 times, and lost 7. The year before, they fumbled 18 and lost 9. the year before, they fumbled 17 and lost 8.

Meanwhile, the fundamentally sound Patriots totals each year are 3-2, 17-9, 17-10, 14-6.

Norv deserves criticism, and two of the fumbles they lost yesterday can be signs of bad coaching, but by and large data support the fumble luck theory.

194 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

What I find objectionable about the handling of fumble recoveries as luck is that people here seem to assume that "luck" means "50/50." If the quarterback is stripsacked in an empty backfield, it seems to me the defense has a much higher probability of recovering the ball than the offense.

215 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Hmm, that's true. DVOA accounts for this - it doesn't treat fumbles as 50/50 affairs, but instead gives proportional credit based on the historical recovery rates for each type of fumble (sack, botched snap, RB, wide receiver after pass, etc). But most of the commentary goes something like "they fumbled 4 times and only recovered once - BAD LUCK!" What would be more accurate is "They had 2 fumbles on sacks, one on a botched snap, and one by a running back, which would normally lead to 2.2 fumbles lost - but they lost 3 - BAD LUCK!" It's hard to blame individual commenters for this,though, as it's quite a bit more effort to look up the types of sacks, and then look up the recovery rates. But you'd think the FO writers could have an easy reference chart on hand when writing, so they can quickly use the more accurate method.

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

The Packers won the game, but I'm still mad at McCarthy over my pet peeve: challenging a play when a successful challenge will not help much (another one is calling a timeout when a delay of game penalty will not hurt much -- punting situations nowhere near the end zone and short field goals are the biggest offenders here). First and goal inside the three is darn near a sure touchdown for any team in the league; there's no point in wasting a precious challenge to exchange a 100% touchdown for a 95% touchdown/4% field goal (unless it's very late in the game, and you can't reasonably win if the other team scores a TD, or it's very late in the half and they don't have time for more than one or two tries).

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

And wen will McCarthy STOP THE MADNESS with John Kuhn up the middle on short yardage...try something else man...anything...especially when the O-Line is getting no push on ANY RUNNING PLAY!!!!

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

In the spirit of Halloween, I'd like to talk QB Fear Factor. And speaking as a Pats fan, I can say without hesitation that the two QB's who scare me the most in crunch time are Manning and Rivers. I've never ever experienced the screaming sweats when Roethlisberger is involved. That doesn't necessarily exclude him from the Top 5, but if you're talking Fear Factor, he's just not any where near as scary as those other two guys (nor as scary, I would presume, as Brady, though I'm happy to say I've really never experienced the terror of being on the other side of one of his closing drives.)

(Oh, and btw, is it all possible that Simms may have picked up a thing or two about football from actually being in the game for about 40 years so that he doesn't have to run the numbers on something he's observed first hand over and over again?)

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Manning. He's a (*&(^ machine. My team is Pittsburgh, and a lot of their defense is based around forcing QB's into making mistakes. There are some times where Manning appears to be playing perfect ball no matter what the D is doing. I half expect him to walk out of a burning semi truck with all his flesh burned off a metal skeleton.

Rodgers (and probably Schaub, but I haven't seen him play much), because he can score from everywhere, theoretically. This is more of a 'the game is never in the bag' kind of fear.

Rivers doesn't scare me. Seen him and his team make too many bone-head mistakes.

I'm not surprised a Pats isn't scared of Ben's late game abilities, but I think a Ravens or Cards fan might feel a little different. Especially after 2008.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Under Marty (and previously in the Norv era) the Chargers did come back regularly. Rivers seems to always be able to put his team into contention late. (Whether his kicker or defense can do their parts seem to be a different issue.)

162 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

For fear factor, there's nobody like Peyton Manning (as another Pats fan). Nobody else is close.

After that, only Drew Brees is worth mentioning. Rivers doesn't scare me half as much because the Chargers have been Norved for long enough that they have no discipline any longer.

There's not much of a fear factor with Roethlisberger since most of the fear facing the Steelers relates to their defense.

174 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Honestly, if Manning was QB-ing San Diego's last drive, is there any doubt they get the TD there.

Also, did it seem like it to anyone else that the Chargers were playing for OT. After picking up 14 yards on the first play of the last drive, they waited another 15-25 seconds before the first down snap. Since the Pats had no timeouts, they Chargers had full control of the clock, so there was no need to drain time there. They seemed to have no real urgency on that drive.

261 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Past few years, the only guy who does that to me is Ben R. I think it's his ability to ad-lib, get hit, absorb hits, and make something of nothing.

Manning would scare me if I weren't a Colts fan. Especially after about 2005 when he markedly improved his ability to throw on the move.

Brady... not nearly so much as Moss scared me. For me the quintessential Brady pose has been stock-still, stiff-legged in the pocket because he has 6 seconds to throw, bombing downfield to Moss. Move that pocket a little and my level of concern goes way down. The second I see his knees lock, I get the "oh shits."

Brees? In terms of fear-inducement--Meh. He CAN do it all, but "by himself" has not won enough games that I have seen. Despite his huge numbers, they had a ton of big "team wins" last year.

Rivers? A big concern, to be sure, but as good as he is, he was never my biggest concern, especially in the Colts losses to the Padres. I mean Chargers.

Rodgers might scare me simply because I know NFC QBs less than most AFC guys.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

"I actually ran a quick test and it's true, although subject to selection bias: Running backs that have more than 60% of their team's carries fumble once every 75 touches, while backs that have fewer than 20% of their team's carries fumble once every 33 touches. But I know Simms didn't test it."

There's several ways to look at that data.
A different interpretation might be fumblers don't get many carries. That certainly makes sense.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Isn't selection bias referring to cherrypicking the cutoffs to maximise the difference (the 60% and 20% marks in Bill's audible)? What the guy before you is saying seems more related to cause and effect (do running backs fumble more because they get fewer carries, or get fewer carries because they fumble more?).

I'm not asking to nitpick by the way, I'm asking to check whether I'm understanding that properly.

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Selection bias is a general term for a sampling error where members of a population are more likely to be included in the sample due to a particular characteristic. In this case, the "60% of team carries" sample is biased towards good players, since good players (presumably) get more playing time and therefore more carries. You are correct that this results in a situation where causality cannot be determined, since "not fumbling" is correlated to being a "good player." (Note that Bill wasn't trying to establish a causal relationship -- just whether the data backed up Simms' claim.) Similarly, the "20% of team carries" sample is biased toward bad players, etc., etc.

I would second AudacityOfHoops' (awesome name, btw) suggestion that "selective endpoints" is the more appropriate term for the situation you described.

274 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

The more specific species of selection bias here is survivor bias. Since people without a particular trait are killed/fired/forced out of the market, that trait looks oversampled.

Being a pro player probably doesn't turn you into a gym rat. Being a gym rat is probably nearly required to be a pro player.

Being a full time back might not improve your hands. Having good hands probably makes you more likely to be a full time back.

The problem is that hands / full time back are likely only partly co-linear. They partly overlap, and they partly don't. If you have all the other skills to be a great back (Tiki Barber, AP), you might get more and better coaching on ball handling than if you are a purely situational back.

172 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

No, Bill's use of the term "selection bias" is correct. Selection bias means that you didn't get a truly random sample: some members of your population were more likely to be included in your sample than others. So even if you play your statistical analysis straight, your results will still be biased because your sample wasn't really random.

Selection bias happens before you even start the analysis; cherrypicking (aka "Simmons-izing") happens afterwards, when you are interpreting your data. Both are bad, but IMO selection bias is usually trickier because it's less obvious. It's usually a sin of omission ("oh crap I didn't realize these things were related") rather than commission ("well if I ignore Iverson's actual age because he was arrested as a teenager, you'll see that his numbers fit my theory about offensive point guards PERFECTLY.")

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Glad I was not the only one seeing lots of holding by the Vikes on their last drive. Maybe it was happening on both sides all day but I definitely noticed it on the last drive. Brett has said post-game that he will not play next week if he cannot help the team...but I am guessing Brett Favre with a cast on his foot is still better value over their backups so he has no choice but to play. Too bad for the Vikings he may be ruining their season that way.

105 Diamond Formation

drobviousso or one of the other Steelers' fans here would probably have a better recollection of this, but I thought that under Arians, Pittsburgh has occasionally used a diamond formation -- but would use the bunch to draw coverage to that side of the field, then throw deep to the single receiver. True?

110 Re: Diamond Formation

In reply to by dmb

If by diamond formation you mean a bunch formation (3 receivers, usually 2 wideouts and a TE), then no. They usually throw the WR screen out of that formation or hit someone running a seam route, or find someone in the flat. Generally they run this on 3rd down. The natural "congestion" caused by having so many receivers bunched tightly does seem to free up at least 1 target. Most of the passes out of this formation seem to go to either Ward or Miller.

122 Re: Diamond Formation

I didn't mean a standard bunch -- I was referring to the same formation that the Pats showed this week, as discussed in the article. Empty backfield, one receiver split wide to one side, four receivers on the other side lined up on the other side in the shape of a diamond. It falls under the subset of "bunch formations," but uses four receivers to one side, rather than the standard three.

X_____OOOOO___Z
______________H_Y
_________Q_____W

133 Re: Diamond Formation

The weakside tackle can't be left uncovered, so if a team lines up with a diamond, there has to be a receiver on the other side -- which leaves the backfield empty. (Unless the tackle reports as an eligible receiver ... but I think that would still be an illegal formation because it would make too many players eligible.)

Or did you mean the Steelers rarely use a diamond? I didn't mean they did it often -- nobody does -- but I thought it had happened a few times in the past couple years.

151 Re: Diamond Formation

I think you end up with only 6 men on the LOS. If you lined up like this with an overloaded line:

oocooo___x
__q_____y_z
_________w
__r

there would be 7 on the line. Maybe overload the other side?

ooocoo___x
__q_____y_z
_________w
__r

The RT is covered and the LT could report as eligible. This might be a legal formation, but I am probably missing something. If a swinging gate is legal, I guess this has a chance. With the QB lined up under center, that leaves 6 eligible: the 4 bunched WRs, the RB and the LT.

155 Re: Diamond Formation

12 men on the field in both of those.

You may be wanting something like:

oooco____I_r
___Q_____r_r
____________
___B________

Where I is not an eligible receiver, but rather a blocker for a screen. It's not a true diamond, and probably wouldn't be as effective in most circumstances because one of the players can neither catch a pass nor run a downfield route.

210 Re: Diamond Formation

Is that allowed? For some reason I thought you needed 2 players tight on either side of the center.

214 Re: Diamond Formation

No.

You need 7 players on the line, one of which must be on either side of the center, and only the two ends are elligible receivers. Most teams put 3 on either side, but the minimum required is 1.

219 Re: Diamond Formation

Cool. It would fun to see some team come out with, say

TCO______OOOT
___________F_F
_Q__________R_

in order to set up 6 blockers out wide for a quick pass to a running back. I feel like there is no way a defense would be prepared, so they'd have to either burn a timeout, or risk a big play.

Of course, the fact that I never see this happen probably means there is good reason NOT to try it, which I just haven't though of.

228 Re: Diamond Formation

Didn't Zorn try something like this last season, where the QB had only 1 or 2 blockers and everybody else was out wide?

IIRC, the QB was flattened.

I'm not positive it was the Redskins, but I am positive I saw somebody try something like this.

271 Re: Diamond Formation

Hahahaha. Well. That is essentially the formation I wanted to see, but it seems really stupid to try a deep throw there. If you have no blockers, you have to call something that lets the QB dump it off IMMEDIATELY. Plus, if my count is right, the Redskins had an 8 on 5 advantage out wide - a bunch of double team blocks takes better advantage of that than a lob pass, which basically lets all 5 defenders play the ball.

Let's see it again with actual offensive players, as well, instead of special teams.

244 Re: Diamond Formation

I was referring to the fake FG-Timeout-same fake FG play Zorn ran vs. the Giants. And it was the kicker or holder (forget which) who was rushed into an incompletion, as I recall. Which seems worse.

305 Re: Diamond Formation

You could. But wouldn't they then be labeled as TE and not T?

Regardless, the risk inherent in this formation is on the edge. By not having both a guard and a tackle lined up outside your center, you've shortened your edge and given the DE that much less distance to cover on his outside rush. Even a 3 step drop risks your QB getting absolutely killed. And if you send a blitzer on that side, too, now you have one OT/TE and 2 rushers AND a short edge. Your QB will end up in the hospital.

Ben could probably go into much greater detail on this, but I have a hard time imagining that you could sustain any kind of offense out of this formation. One-offs and the occasional surprise play can work once or twice a year, but as an actual subset of your offense, I just don't see it as sustainable.

309 Re: Diamond Formation

Put the QB in the shotgun, and have him throw a quick screen to the back on the outside. A zero-step drop should get the ball out before any rushers get there.

Do it with a QB like Tebow or Vick who can actually run, and you can get some more mileage out of it. If the defense lines up with five or more over the center, you throw the quick screen and are blocking six on six outside. If the defense lines up with four or fewer over the center, you run a QB draw.

But I'd agree that it's too limited to build a sustainable offense out of it -- you've basically got two plays to run, and I'm sure that a competent defensive coordinator could find a way to neutralize it given enough time.

222 Re: Diamond Formation

Yes, thank you. I miss counted. I meant to diagram this:

oocoo____x
__q_____y_z
_________w
__r

Which results in only 6 men on the line, which is why I ended up with too many men on the field. The closest I can figure is this, again with the LT declared eligible:

ooocoo____x
___q_____y_z
___r

Which, if legal, would give you a passing situation to the right or a running situation to the left. If I were still playing line blocking flag, I would try it out.

252 Re: Diamond Formation

ehm yeah, but I've seen this 'diamond' wrinkle a few times this season and it isn't pretty.
One corner will just blast the bottom receiver at the snap no matter what happens.
It's nice but no cigar.

136 Re: Diamond Formation

You have to go empty with a diamond bunch, otherwise you can't get 7 men on the line of scrimmage.

111 Re: Diamond Formation

I think so. There's an article in this years Maple Street Press written by one of the FO guys (Tannier or Barnwell, I think), that talks about the bunch and diamond. I don't recall how often they go diamond and how often it's bunch, but it's more often bunch.

Pittsburgh under Arians has always had a passing concept with "crazy fucking shit" on one side of the field and "lone speedster" on the other. If the safety plays down on the CFS side, that leaves Holmes/Washington/Wallace (depending on year) one on one deep. If the safety plays deep the lone speedster, Ward/Miller/Whoever get favorable matchups on linebackers. I don't think they usually run deep out of the CFS side. More clearing routes, comebacks, and slants.

123 Re: Diamond Formation

I should've been more clear -- what I meant in the original post was what you described as the situation where a "safety plays down on the CFS side, [leaving] Holmes/Washington/Wallace ... one on one deep." I thought I remembered this happening a couple times out of a diamond formation. :)

248 Re: Diamond Formation

The Steelers like to use the three-man bunch, but I don't remember seeing the diamond. (I'll try to remember to look for it during the next homestand.)

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Aaron Schatz: "A few minutes later, and the Packers are going for it on fourth-and-1. John Kuhn takes the ball, gets stopped, then slowly rolls over the pile until he has the first down. The problem? The refs whistled the forward progress over before Kuhn was actually down. All these plays we've seen where the refs swallow their whistles because they are afraid of making a mistake, and here they whistle way too early."

The only reason that Kuhn was able to roll forward is that some of the Vikings stopped playing when the whistle went and starting celebrating the stop.

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

You're probably right, but we'll never know for sure. Kuhn was never pushed back and his knees never went down, so the refs should have held their whistles until it was clear that Kuhn could not keep grinding.

288 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

His knees never went down, but the defenders did have him pinned against the pile nearly horizontal and Kuhn was no longer getting any push. That was when the refs blew their whistle, the defenders relaxed and Kuhn got free and moved forward. I thought the ref's whistle was appropriate. Otherwise, during goal line stands the scrum could last 20 seconds as the runner is on top of other players and the pile is pushing back and forth in small increments.

292 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Well, I'm going to have to disagree that Kuhn stopped getting any push for even one full second (direct link to video of that play):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8emnwSbZwHM&t=3m48s

The Vikings player in the best position to hold him (Winfield?) throws his hands up almost the instant Kuhn falls on the pile, I'm pretty sure in response to the whistle, but Kuhn is pushing the whole time.

Again, Kuhn probably doesn't make it anyway, but that whistle was too quick. Gotta give a ball carrier at least a full second (in my opinion, not necessarily the official rule) to push forward if he is not actually losing ground.

290 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

I think Kuhn demonstrates a pretty large myth in the NFL - bigger backs are necessarily better short-yardage backs. Jackson has looked much better on goal line and short-yardage carries than Kuhn.

293 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Kuhn looked better earlier in the season when GB could catch defenses with quick hitters up the middle. Now that teams are onto this tactic it's losing effectiveness.

Overall he's been a pretty decent short yardage back. I checked the stats earlier in the day and he has 11 first downs on 41 carries, which is pretty good since GB has run him in lots of down and distances. I definitely agree they need to direct the running game through BJack and limit Kuhn to 1-2 carries per game, which could still be effective.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

"Not counting a Chargers kick with one second left that was just meant to waste time, kicking team has only recovered 2 of 6 first-half onside attempts. I wonder if the Saints Super Bowl kick sort of ruined the strategy, or is this just small sample size? Probably the latter, but still..."

I haven't seen the others, but the failed attempt by KC to start the Indianapolis game had absolutely zero to do with the defense being prepared. The kick just failed to go 10 yards. If it had, the Chiefs seemed to be in a much better position to recover it than the Colts.

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

8 defensive scores this weekend, if my count is correct. Is that the most ever in a NFL weekend?

170 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

By my count, there were 10 defensive non-special teams TDs yesterday (9 interceptions, 1 fumble).

Best I can tell, the post-merger record for a single week is 11, set six times, last during Week 5 of 2007. (The other weeks are Week 7 1983, Week 4 1984, Week 15 1998, Week 1 1999, and Week 2 2003.)

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Who was the commentator that was saying that Hall should have gotten a flag for going to his knees? (hall sat down on both knees and pointed up/to the stands)
"You can go on one knee and point up, but this, he should get flagged for it, it's excessive celebration." (loose translation).
What a bull to say Hall should be flagged for just sliding on 2 knees.

166 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Wow. So yet again, Troy Aikman tries to drop a turd into the punch bowl when something goes well for the Redskins.

When will Fox stop assigning Aikman to Redskins games? Redskins fans hate him and his anti-Redskin bias is really hard to overlook.

223 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

He's 100% right. The [stupid] rule says you can't go to the ground for a celebration. Hall went down to the ground (and didn't point to the stands, he raised both arms in a pose that I can only describe as "glory be to the great and holy ME").

If Columbo can get a penalty for falling down accidentally because he went to the ground, and if Jared Allen can be informed that his sack celebration is illegal (and I believe someone else was told he couldn't kneel to pray but could be wrong about that) Hall's two instances of deliberately going down to pose are definitely flag-worthy.

Honestly, I think it's stupid that any of it is. But by the rule, Aikman's right. And it's the first thing I thought of when I saw it.

295 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Oh, it's only a matter of time before the religious specifics are written into the rules. Zool--out. Quetzacoatl--out. Zoroaster--in. (damn Zoroastrians....)

It's an odd rule to be sure. Rookie DB Jacob Lacey last year caught a pick-six, made it to the EZ, and "slid into second" as he stopped his momentum, then made the "safe" sign with his arms. It seemed spur-of-the-moment. The whole "celebration" took 1-2 seconds, and he was indeed in safe, except for the fine the NFL assessed. (and later reduced on appeal) In no manner could that have been thought of as excessive (shorter and less choreographed and "in your face" to the other team than most sack celebrations), and it kind of made sense--he made it to the EZ safe.

Ah, whatever. I'm in anti-league/anti-ref mode about now....

171 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Aaron has an unhealthy obsession with Roethlisberger. That being said, I don't think Ben is a top 5 QB either. Roethlisberger has been better in the playoffs though.