Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Four Downs: AFC West

There's a serious need for defensive help in Kansas City, Los Angeles, and Oakland. In Denver, meanwhile, the Broncos must determine whether or not Case Keenum can really be a long-term solution at quarterback.

10 Jan 2010

Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

compiled by Bill Barnwell

Each weekend, 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, so we might not discuss every aspect of the game to the level we do in our other articles.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

New York Jets 24 at Cincinnati Bengals 14

Bill Barnwell: Hey, another Bengals linebacker went down!

Tom Gower: Well, Martz and KCW are written for this week less than a minute into the first game. Thanks, Laveranues Coles and Marvin Lewis!

David Gardner: I can't believe I'm seeing Joe Theismann in the booth. Did he do last year's wild card games on NBC? I think I would have remembered ole Joey Sunshine.

Marvin Lewis makes a... um... questionable challenge.

Bill Barnwell: I can't even fathom that Lewis challenge. It wasn't an instant challenge; he had 90 seconds of commercials. That's just awful.

What a dangerous pitch by Brad Smith on that initial option the Jets ran. I hate that play.

David Gardner: Theismann, after the Greene touchdown run, commented that it was due to a great block by Dustin Keller. Keller got away with a massive block in the back on Leon Hall.

Bill Barnwell: I don't know. I've seen worse blocks in the back that went uncalled.

David Gardner: Quote of the night from Theismann: "That doesn't solve the problem of Palmer being high all night."

Bill Barnwell: Palmer doesn't look good. He's not stepping into his throws; I sort of ignored it from last week's game, but he was doing it last week, too. The ball's all over the place, and that's not because of his thumb.

Aaron Schatz: I was working out during the first half so I didn't get a chance to get on Audibles and comment on the first illegal contact penalty on Darrelle Revis. Man, that was the worst illegal contact call I have ever seen in my life.

Onto the second half... I realize the Jets have good special teams, but really, the Bengals feel they need to pooch the kickoff and hand the Jets field position at the 40?

Tim Gerheim: I swear, if Joe Gibbs references the fact that Joe Theismann once kicked a 1-yard punt one more time, I'm going to set fire to one of his NASCARs.

Did anybody see interference on Revis anywhere on that play? (26-yard pass interference on Revis with 8:00 left in third quarter.)

Bill Barnwell: Thought it was a ticky-tack call. More contact than the illegal contact penalty, though.

I'd bench Palmer at this point.

Tim Gerheim: Because J.T. O'Sullivan would be an improvement?

Bill Barnwell: At this rate? Yeah. It's a good pass defense, but Palmer looks like he can't throw the ball right now.

Doug Farrar: Chad had a bit of a pushoff as well. Not sure what Leavy’s crew saw there, but I’d put that crew down there with Jeff Triplette’s in rough number of incomprehensible calls.

Aaron Schatz: Hey, if Jay Feely can punt, maybe Kevin Huber could play quarterback. No, seriously, no matter how badly Palmer is playing, he's more of a passing threat than O'Sullivan, and that leaves things more open for Benson to run.

By the way, can the Bears sue Benson for fraud?

Sean McCormick: So true. Benson has been playing very hard. He's pretty much the only guy in a black jersey who looks dangerous out there.

Vince Verhei: I feel like these coaches should be fined every time they try a forward pass. With every dropback, I hold my breath and wait for the sack/tip/interception. (Or, in the Jets’ case, for the Braylon Edwards dropped touchdown.)

You can see the Jets’ lack of confidence in their own quarterback with the wacky option they ran out of the pistol/I-formation. I know they do this stuff all the time and it’s not a move out of desperation, but they’re still relying on gimmickry rather than Sanchez on second-and-11.

The Bengals never give up long runs (first in the league in ten-plus-yards allowed per carry), but they did on Shonn Greene's long touchdown because they were over-aggressive. They all bit on the action to the right, then when Greene took the pitch left, he got one good block from the wide receiver, slipped one tackle from an out-of-position end who really had no chance, and then there was nobody between him and the end zone – the linebackers and safeties were all reacting to the inside action. We talk about using the run to set up the pass; that was using the run to set up the run.

Sean McCormick: The lack of confidence is unwarranted -- Sanchez has had excellent ball placement on nearly every throw so far. He hit Edwards between the numbers on that long throw to the end zone, and he's been putting his throws outside the hash in spots where only Cotchery can get at them. That said, all they need to do is go up two scores and the game is effectively over, so you can understand the conservative approach. They've also got the Bengals D-line on roller skates now.

Doug Farrar: I think they're entirely justified in trying the pistol/option stuff with Brad Smith, as it worked very well last week against this same defense minus Domata Peko and Robert Geathers. Smith broke a couple of long runs. That 32-yard touchdown run was on second-and-11. I do not, however, like the direct snap up the middle run by the Jets early in the fourth quarter. With no sweep action or counter motion or H-back blocking, that's when I think, "What's the point?"

Bill Barnwell: Great blocking by the Bengals on the Benson touchdown run. Benson almost untouched. We've got a ballgame, folks.

Tom Gower: Agreed with Bill, great blocking by the Bengals. I'm not sure if it was an aversion to contact or what, but Lito played a soft contain on that side-if he attacks the hole, Benson may be able to bounce it offside, but he at least slows him up. Easier to get yardage when you don't have to block all the defenders on the playside.

Doug Farrar: Yep. As Coach Gibbs and Dr. Obvious (“If Revis plays off Ocho, Ocho’s going to catch passes!”) pointed out, Andre Caldwell did a nice job of tying Jim Leonhard up right at the point where Benson bounced outside.

Great play action to rollout by Sanchez on that long run after catch by Keller on the drive after Benson’s touchdown. It’s very nice for him that the Jets’ rushing attack helps him with the play action concept, but he’s also very good at selling it.

Bill Barnwell: Agreed. But Chinedum Ndukwe needs to take a better route to Keller after the catch there. He cost the team 35 yards.

Shayne Graham misses his second field goal of the game.

Sean McCormick: Wow.

Bill Barnwell: Shayne Graham just suishamed the game away!

Tom Gower: Damn. Often reliable Carson Palmer misses open receiver in TD, often reliable Shayne Graham misses 2nd FG, this one inside 30.

Mike Tanier: Bengals fans are used to insane short field goal and extra point problems, right?

Mike Kurtz: Palmer has been by far the weakest link. Not only has he been inaccurate, but on 4 or 5 plays that I can think of, he felt pressure that wasn't really there, and instead of moving up into the pocket, bailed out and ran right into a DE or LB. It's bizarre.

Sean McCormick: Yep, the teams played fairly similar games. The big difference, aside from the kicking game, was that Sanchez was extremely accurate, while Palmer looked like a pitcher who simply didn't have his stuff. Even his completions were high, and when he missed a receiver, he basically Jamarcused it.

Bill Barnwell: He reminded me a lot of Philip Rivers on his throws, actually, which is strange -- he's not normally like Rivers. No one in the league throws like Rivers.

Aaron Schatz: Our good friend Ian Dembsky decided we should do a playoff Loser League for fun... same rules as the regular Loser League, except we added all stats across all games and the penalty was 30 points instead of 15. Anyway, I took Shayne Graham. Jackpot! Graham has been one of the better field-goal kickers in recent years. He was terrible this year. Example No. 2,359 of why all field-goal kickers are inconsistent.

Vince Verhei: Some late notes...

We also need to fine announcers who say things like "Wildcat under center." If he's under center, IT'S NOT THE WILDCAT. I don't think it's that hard to learn what this is.

Interesting in the second half watching the Bengals get a taste of their own medicine as the Jets go with six linemen and run and run and run down the field. Then, with a two-touchdown lead, we saw them start to use a thousand different blitzes, fake blitzes, and zone blitzes on defense.

Both Cincinnati safeties -- Chinedum Ndukwe and Chris Crocker -- had bad days, allowing big yards after missed tackles.

Jets had a great game plan for Mark Sanchez -- rarely letting him throw, and usually out of play-action and/or with extra blockers -- but even still, he had a very good game. 15 passes, and I don't remember any that were even close to being intercepted.

Before everyone on earth blames Shane Graham for this loss, remember that before he can miss a field goal, the offense must fail to convert three times in succession. You can't say that Cincinnati outplayed the Jets but were undone by their kicker; they were the worse team, and their kicker also missed field goals.

As for the Jets, their defense is good enough to keep them close with anyone, and if Sanchez plays like this, they are very scary.

Philadelphia Eagles 14 at Dallas Cowboys 34

Bill Barnwell: Cowboys are gashing the Eagles on the ground. There was just a big run up the middle by Felix Jones right at Jeremiah Trotter where Trotter tried to run around Leonard Davis and left a huge hole up the middle; if he'd just taken Davis on, he wouldn't have made the tackle, but would've held Jones to a short gain; instead, it ended up being a 20-yard carry.

Dallas also winning the field position battle so far, even though they've ended with two punts inside Philly territory.

Aaron Schatz: Oh boy, that guy Asante Samuels is back. Are Cris Collinsworth and Phil Simms buddies or something?

Tim Gerheim: Even though that overturned interception by Sean Jones was ... overturned, it was still a "wow" play, an extraordinarily impressive athletic play.

Aaron Schatz: Asante Samuel is not having a good first half... Roy Williams is catching passes against him, he got beat on the deep pass where Sheldon Brown earned pass interference, etc.

Bill Barnwell: Cris Collinsworth notes that the Eagles really missed Brian Dawkins this year, because he could line up one-on-one against guys like Jason Witten and take them out of games. Witten had 14 catches for 160 yards in two games last year. Maybe they're missing the Brian Dawkins from 2003?

McNabb left 25 yards (and a new set of downs) on the field by throwing that crossing pattern behind Reggie Brown. If he leads Brown, it's a huge gain.

Aaron Schatz: I'm sorry, did I say Samuel was having problems? Now the Cowboys are driving with six minutes left in the first half, and Romo is constantly picking on Sheldon Brown instead.

Tom Gower: Dammit, the Colts did not just add Pierre Garcon to their roster, he was a 6th round pick last year. And Donald Brown? Didn't matter much this year.

Aaron Schatz: This game has entered the ass-kicking zone and we're not even to halftime yet. The Eagles need to make some changes at halftime to come back in this one. Not that it is impossible; I believe 24-7 was the halftime score of the 2006 AFC Championship.

DeSean Jackson has been so invisible I'm starting to wonder if Darrelle Revis is actually playing in both games today.

Doug Farrar: Anyone else remember early in the season when Anthony Spencer was actually struggling? Boy, has he made a difference down the stretch.

Aaron Schatz: If I were a Vikings fan, I would be freaking out right now. They have a much better running back, but otherwise they run a very similar offense to Philadelphia with similar receivers -- and that struggling offensive line isn't going to protect as well this line is (sort of) protecting McNabb.

Bill Barnwell: Their run defense is better than Philly's, though. They should be able to keep Dallas in third-and-a-bunch situations, I'd figure.

Doug Farrar: Scary thing is, a lot of that pressure is coming from coverage. If you can lock down big-play receivers and then bring Ware/Spencer/Ratliff – yeouch.

Tom Gower: I think Philly needs to be added to the list of teams looking for a couple linebackers this offseason. That is, assuming they already have some. I don't think I've noticed them much this game.

Bill Barnwell: Philly never spends money on linebackers, though.

Doug Farrar: Very interesting contrast between Romo’s ability to find holes in pressure and bail out with short plays, and McNabb doing “Waiting for Godot” in the pocket. I wonder if the Eagles have fallen so in love with the deep ball, they’ve eliminated some of those quicker reads.

Aaron Schatz: As I pointed out in the preview, the Eagles were second in the NFL in fewest quarterback hits allowed but something like 20th in Adjusted Sack Rate. McNabb just does not throw the ball away, and he doesn't find hot reads as often as he should.

Bill Barnwell: In the Sports Illustrated feature on the double-A-gap blitz, Jeremiah Trotter noted that there wasn't really any solution to it. Trotter was blitzing right up the A-Gap on that long Felix Jones touchdown run.

And yes -- Mike Jenkins -- DON'T LATERAL THE BALL. God.

Doug Farrar: Heh. Al called Asante “Samuels” after he dropped that third quarter pick. I swear, it’s contagious!

Tom Gower: As I watch the inside-two minute stat-padding, it occurred to me that this might be about the first time McNabb actually deserves at least some of the merciless ripping he'll get from Philly talk radio this week. He's done nearly as poorly as Palmer. Of course, his OL hasn't helped him, as both Ware and Spencer have had good games. Jason Peters has looked more like a turnstile than a Pro Bowl left tackle.

I've been really skeptical of this Dallas team, but this was a good win. They've brought pressure, haven't broken down in coverage aside from the one play, and neither Romo nor Roy Williams them the game.

Vince Verhei: It was wiped out by a penalty, but BOY-HOWDY did I like the wide receiver screen the Cowboys used near the end of their opening drive. Fake the pitch to the left, throw back to the right and get the ball to Kevin Ogletree behind SIX blockers. Too bad Jason Witten hit his block too eary, but that's one for future film study. They ended up throwing a dozen of these throughout the day, but that was the best.

I hope everyone read Mike Tanier's Walkthrough column this week on Dallas' offensive identity, because it made this game much easier to understand. They're built around keeping defenses off-balance with a mix of draws and quick slants/screens, and when they're executing both well, they're damn near unstoppable. All in all, that was the best I've seen any team play this year.

Minnesota's run defense has been merely above-average since the loss of E.J. Henderson. I'll probably regret having this in print, but I think Dallas blows them out of the dome next weekend.

Mike Tanier: OK, let me clear away the whiskey bottles and say something in my most gravelly Tom Waits voice.

Yeah, McNabb deserves a lot of the blame for the last two losses. He played poorly in those games.

To echo what Tom said last night, he is part of a problem that starts with poor offensive line play and dubious game plans on both sides of the ball. But he was part of the problem.

Some local fans, of course, won't rest until these two bad games are rewritten into the McNabb's Character Flaws storyline. Once again, McNabb choked in the playoffs, etc., etc.

It is time to start seriously considering if this is the end of the McNabb era. I still look around the league and only find 5 or 6 better quarterbacks. But it's true that the skills are slipping and the returns are diminishing. And while I don't want to trade places with Rams fans, watching this particular flavor of Eagles team for five years has grown exhausting.

That's all I have right now. Time to soak my head.

Doug Farrar: Take out the “Character Flaws” storyline, and this reminds me a lot of what people are saying about Matt Hasselbeck. We don’t know that he’s the problem because there are so many other problems, but he doesn’t look as good as he used to, and maybe it’s time to chuck this thing and start over. I know that’s not what you’re saying in total, but you know that a lot of people are saying that about McNabb. There are Seahawks fans wondering if Mike Holmgren would give up a third-round pick for Hasselbeck. And hey, maybe under Pete Carroll, that trade will be made. But it isn’t Hasselbeck’s fault that his line sucks, or than Deion Branch refuses to fight for well-thrown deep balls, or that Seattle’s running game was last seen on a milk carton. Is he the 2005 Hasselbeck? Absolutely not. But he’s one hell of a lot better than Seneca Wallace, or any option in what looks to be a less than exciting draft class. The Eagles do have some interesting possibilities going forward, but I’d say the same thing about McNabb at this point – he’s still better than the alternatives, at least in the short term.

What I don’t see in either Hasselbeck or McNabb are the kinds of near-comic mechanical flaws I saw in the early Chicago version of Jay Cutler, or Carson Palmer now. Against the Jets, Palmer was pushing the ball like it was a 20-pound rock. McNabb has been off-target with his receivers of late, and he needs to wake the hell up in the pocket, but I’d be more concerned about the left tackle situation, or linebacker depth, or what the hell happened to the short passing game, than I would be about McNabb.

Mike Tanier: Yeah, I don't know what the heck Palmer's problem is lately.

The pocket thing has a lot to do with scheme. Watching the Eagles put two linebackers in the A-gap and play "off" coverage, I knew Romo was just going to throw to a hot read. That kind of play is filed under "things the Eagles don't do." Sometimes that may be McNabb assuming he can make another play, but I think a lot of it is design: he's not supposed to make the hot throw, the receiver isn't ready for the hot throw, etc.

For the record, Hasselbeck is much closer to "done" than McNabb is. Haselbeck is heading into Brad Johnson wily veteran territory. McNabb is still a near Pro Bowl level starter when he is playing well.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Baltimore Ravens 33 at New England Patriots 14

Doug Farrar: What great play by Ben Grubbs on the Ray Rice touchdown run to open the game. Chips on Jarvis Green with Jared Gaither on the double-combo block, then heads to the second level and just walls off Jerod Mayo to open the alley. The Ravens are so in tune with their power blocking. And why is Deon Grant wearing Brandon Meriweather’s uniform? Nice non-tackle, dude.

David Gardner: Great start for the Ravens. Big run by Ray Rice and the strip sack by Suggs.

It looked to me like, on the sack, Brady was holding the ball a little bit low.

Bill Barnwell: That's EXACTLY what the Ravens did twice in the first matchup of these teams. Brought a bunch of guys up on the line to confuse the protection, then rushed three and got Suggs and Pryce one-on-one against the tackles. And no, my friends, Matt Light cannot offer Terrell Suggs much resistance.

Aaron Schatz: Honestly, I think the Ray Rice run to convert third-and-4 was a lot more embarrassing for the Patriots than the 83-yard touchdown. On the long touchdown, the blocking scheme was just perfect for the defense the Pats called, and while Meriweather took a bad angle on the tackle, most of the rest of that play was just Ray Rice's speed. But on the third-and-4, they had him in the backfield, and then they had him again at the line of scrimmage, and nobody could take him down. Not to take away from Rice's tackle-breaking ability, but you've got to wrap a guy up in that situation. 14-0 after five minutes. It's going to be hard to come back from that kind of early deficit against a ball-control team like Baltimore.

David Gardner: Yeah, you can't ask for much more than a 14-0 lead before you quarterback has even thrown a pass.

Aaron Schatz: 14-0 lead and then field position for your third drive starting around the 50. Pats just look tired and lethargic. And Maroney didn't even have time to try a block on Ray Lewis on that A-gap blitz to start Pats' second drive.

NFL FanHouse just sent a tweet: "Is this the worst five minutes in Patriots franchise history?" Man, people just have no memory of what this franchise was like before 1993, do they? Did anyone see Super Bowl XX? The 2-14 year where they started four different quarterbacks? Do I need to talk about the home game in Birmingham again?

David Gardner: That interception was a shockingly bad read by Brady.

Doug Farrar: Rod Rust would have enjoyed that horrible first-quarter Brady interception. Yikes.

Bill Barnwell: When the Ravens go play action, they have an obvious outlet for Flacco to go to. When the Patriots were running it, they didn't -- their outlet was Chris Carr. That might have been the worst throw of Brady's career. No one was even close to the pass.

Vince Verhei: It's funny, a few minutes ago I heard a fan scream "WAKE UP PATRIOTS!" And it's funny not just that he said it, but I could hear this one fan. I'm reminded of what Bill Simmons has been writing about home-field advantage, especially in New England.

By the way, my favorite Phil Simms-ism of the first half. Ed Reed, one of the top two or three interception return guys of this generation, nearly gets his hands on the ball. Jim Nantz says that if Reed could have pulled in the ball, "you know where he was headed."

Simms asked, sincerely, "Where's that?"

Aaron Schatz: Boy, this one has entered the ass-kicking zone even faster than the Eagles Cowboys game. I'm sure it's not impossible to come back from a 21-0 deficit this early, but man, it sure seems like it.

Obviously, I'm bummed as a Pats fan, but I'm also bummed because I was really looking forward to "Jets-Colts II: Take Your Curtis Painter and Shove It."

David Gardner: Vince, feels pretty good to have Rice on your fantasy team right about now, doesn't it?

Vince Verhei: It does make up for that last-round gamble I took on Chad Ochocinco that, um, failed.

Doug Farrar: I enjoyed Simms's characterization of New England's defense as one of the best run-stopping units in the NFL. 26th in DALY, fifth in Power, but 28th in Stuffed. 4.4 yards per carry allowed in the 2008 regular season, which tied them with three other teams, including St. Louis and Detroit. They only allowed six rushing touchdowns, but that probably has something to do with the fact that they allowed 25 passing touchdowns. Way to channel your inner Mlllen there, Phil.

Bill Barnwell: Worst performance since the Jacksonville-Miami game in '99? Jacksonville went up 24-0 in that game, too, and it ended 62-7.

Aaron Schatz: Third-and-20, down 24 points, of course you run the give-up draw. Yeesh.

A punt hits off Tom Zbikowski's back and is recovered by New England.

Tom Gower: Why the heck did Harbaugh not challenge that recovery?

David Gardner: Wow. Huge mistake by Harbaugh.

Bill Barnwell: There's such positive EV in challenging there, even if you have a 10% chance of winning the challenge. Even before that final replay, their chances of getting the ball back were much higher than that.

Apparently the spectre of Troy Brown caused that punt to hit Zbikowski AND distracted Harbaugh into not challenging.

Tom Gower: What Bill said about the huge impact of the challenge-giving the Pats the ball there puts them back in the game. Winning a challenge doesn't. Even if it's not likely you'll win the challenge, it still makes sense.

Bill Moore: I challenge Phil Simms's analysis of it. NE doesn't need to keep possession all the way to the ground. The defender need to establish possession in the field of play. For that point, it's his ball. Any fumble beyond that is HIS fumble.

Aaron Schatz: Is Tom Brady afraid to scramble? He just threw the ball away when he was at the line of scrimmage with complete empty space between him and the end zone.

Bill Barnwell: In all fairness, that security guard was wide open.

Tom Gower: About six and a half seconds for Brady on the TD throw. It's probably observation bias, but rushing three and dropping eight in coverage seems to fail a lot more often than it works unless you get one of those isolation matchups you can win.

Bill Barnwell: 2008 (offensive) success rate for defenses rushing three was 43.6 percent. On all other pass plays, it was 44.9 percent.

Aaron Schatz: 15-yard penalty for Patriots on ensuing kickoff. Ravens' starting average field position today is somewhere near the men's room in the stands PAST the Patriots end zone.

Joe Flacco throws an interception.

Bill Barnwell: I hate that throw by Flacco, even before the result. The receiver was open, but the window wasn't; by the time the ball was going to get there, Heap wasn't going to be open. Everything right now should be low-risk for the Ravens.

Tom Gower: Ok, fully acknowledging that this is a completely terrible idea, should the Ravens consider putting in Troy Smith? Flacco's hurt and not playing well, and the advantage you get from him over Smith is he presents a threat, particularly the deep outside pass, that Smith doesn't. But, if Flacco's really that bad, he doesn't actually present that thread. Smith gives you better mobility, but BAL won't try to pretend like those limitations won't exist. NE hasn't moved the ball at all, so your QB needs to not let them in the game. With Flacco, there's a chance that happens.

Bill Barnwell: I think you can make the situation better with playcalling. More three-step drops. Shorter routes. Threaten to castrate Flacco if he throws across his body again.

Tom Gower: That punt really feels much more like Jeff Fisher coaching not to lose than Belichick coaching to win. Thought process: long FG no more than 50-50 proposition, miss results in good field position for opponent which means being down possibly 4 scores (you're not going to make 3 2pt conversions), so punt and hope you get a stop. You're already down 17, you're probably not going to be able to win this game without taking some chances. Heck, I would've gone for it before punting, I think.

Vince Verhei: I disagree. Seventeen points is not an insurmountable halftime deficit. Handing the Ravens the ball that close to midfield, with all their timeouts and the two-minute warning left, The odds are too high that you end up going into halftime down 20 instead.

Bill Barnwell: I don't think I can reconcile the coach that went for it on fourth-and-2 with the one that made the punting decisions Belichick's made during the first half today.

Vince Verhei: So far Belichick has punted on fourth-and-8 from his own 23, fourth-and-16 from his own 32, fourth-and-2 from his own 44, and fourth-and-12 from the Baltimore 36. The only one there where I'd be tempted to go for it was the fourth-and-2, but A) the Ravens defense is not the Colts defense, and B) one first down there does not win the game for New England.

Bill Barnwell: Exactly. 15 or 20 first downs win the game for New England, and it's easier for them to get one on fourth-and-2 than it is on first-and-ten.

Vince Verhei: Let's compare the fourth-and-2 plays against Indianapolis and here today against Baltimore. I'd argue that the odds of converting are lower against Baltimore, but for the sake of argument let's say that all fourth-and-2s have an equal chance of being converted.

The risk of the two fourth-and-2s is virtually the same: If you fail in either case, you probably lose.

The rewards, however, are drastically different. Success against Indy means a guaranteed win. Success against Baltimore means ... you probably still lose.

Against Indy, the benefits of the reward outweighed the penalty of the risk. Against Baltimore, not so much.

Bill Barnwell: Of course, the odds are worse against Baltimore, but you need much more to go right to get a win against Baltimore. Neither team's moved the ball very well; the chances of Baltimore scoring aren't all that high.

Vince Verhei: I enjoyed LaDainian Tomlinson's halftime interview, where he repeatedly mentioned the "winning formula" of running the ball and defense. If that's the winning formula, Mr. Tomlinson, how on earth did your team 13 games when they can't do either of those things?

Tom Gower: I know the practical impact has been mooted a bit by Landry's interception, but that third-and-1 deep pass to Williams is exactly why I sent that earlier email about Smith. You can see why BAL would have Flacco throw deep there -- he has a big arm, probably single coverage, it'll be unexpected, big gain if you complete it. But, it's a low-percentage play, and you've been successful converting third-and-short on the ground all game. You risk giving the ball back to NE with them maybe being down 10 without really stopping you at what you're good at.

Vince Verhei: Hey, Jon Bon Jovi's there! I am now cheering for Patriots vs. Vikings in the Super Bowl -- it'll be Bon Jovi vs. Prince!

Tom Gower: For the record, NFL refs aren't willing to admit it, but I will: Willis McGahee broke the plane with possession on that 2-pt conversion.

Vince Verhei: Wow, there are 10 minutes left and that building looks half-empty.

Doug Farrar: That last McGahee touchdown run was a testament to how a team can rebuild a line in a single draft. The four blockers they drafted in 2007 -- McClain, Grubbs, Yanda, and Gaither (supplemental) were the main guys up front. McClain outside and Yanda pulled left.

Green Bay Packers 45 at Arizona Cardinals 51

Bill Barnwell: Three slips on the first two plays, one of which led to an interception. What's up with this field? Anything on it recently?

Tom Gower: TCU-Boise last Monday, dunno offhand of anything since then.

I was getting caught up on Playbook this weekend, and Brian Billick said that he wouldn't pick any team that lost to a really bad team like OAK or TB to lose in the playoffs. NYJ-CIN: Bengals lost to OAK, NYJ wins. PHI-DAL: Eagles lost to OAK, DAL wins. BAL-NE: n/a. GB-ARI: GB lost to TB, result?

David Gardner: This is starting to look a lot like the game we just saw.

Sean McCormick: Rackers went ahead and slipped on that extra point. Clearly something is up.

Aaron Schatz: Has anyone ever seen an Illegal Substitution called because a defender left the field in the wrong direction? That's got to be a first for me.

That deep pass to Jermichael Finley (right after the two-minute warning) should have been flagged for "pass interference on everybody." And should Mike Adams have received a roughing the passer flag for smacking Aaron Rodgers on the helmet when he attempted to sack him on the blitz? That's a blow to the head, right?

Tom Gower: Definitely a blow to the head by Adams. I was shocked that wasn't called; that's normally an automatic flag, and there's absolutely no wiggle room in the rule. I think the DPI was called because Finley was playing the ball and the DB wasn't even looking for it.

Aaron Schatz: At halftime, I would like to report that my wife thinks Clay Matthews looks like a skeezy German housewife.

Packers pass rush is having serious problems. They can't even get close to breathing on Warner.

The Packers successfully pull off an onside kick.

Aaron Schatz: Aha! And there is our Colbert Award winner for the week.

Bill Barnwell: Great playcall.

Tom Gower: Beautiful onside kick, and Arizona wasn't ready for it at all.

Is it just me, or is A.J. Hawk getting outrun in all these long edge runs for the Cardinals?

Aaron Schatz: I was surprised he didn't try to leap for a diving tackle on that run.

Great block by Steve Breaston on Tramon Williams got an extra 10-20 yards on that long Beanie Wells run (3:00 left, Q3).

Tom Gower: Wow, that's a harsh result for the Packers-Cullen Jenkins gets held and tackled into Warner, and Fitzgerald runs over Woodson, and it's a TD for the Cards and a blow to head on Jenkins instead of a hold on the OL and OPI on Fitz.

Aaron Schatz: I hate to say it, but penalties start to breed penalties because refs subconsciously know the team's reputation. That's all I can say after seeing that play next to the one where Mike Adams slapped Aaron Rodgers' helmet (which wasn't dangerous, but hey, the rules are the rules).

Doug Farrar: Oh, absolutely. The Ravens could certainly speak to that as well. And the Packers have been known as a chippy team for a few years now.

Bill Barnwell: Everyone watching here swears that Dom Capers was asleep when FOX put the camera on him a few seconds ago. His eyes opened and he did that "Oh-wow-I-was-just-sleeping" sort of jumpy reaction that you get when you fall asleep in class.

Aaron Schatz: OK, the linebacker-on-Jermichael Finley thing isn't really going to work for Arizona.

The Packers tie the game up.

Aaron Schatz: I would like to bow to the Packers. As Bill Simmons just pointed out on Twitter, even if they don't pull off a win here, they went down huge early and fought back. The Patriots, on the other hand, rolled over and died. Advantage: Packers fans.

Doug Farrar: If the Packers win this game, Aaron Rodgers should get to punch the next reporter who mentions Favre to him dead in the face.

Tom Gower: In unrelated news, Roger Goodell went to the Jets-Bengals game. The Jets-Bengals game was the most competitive of the first 3 games. Roger Goodell once worked for the Jets. The Jets won their game. I, for one, blame the International Global Conspiracy.

Aaron Schatz: Apparently, the Cardinals forgot to download the new Madden 10 update that is supposed to make passing to the flats more difficult.

According to Joe Buck, there's a lot of talk in chat rooms about Kurt Warner possibly retiring after this season. Wait... chat rooms? What is this, 1993?

Bill Barnwell: Yes. "OnlineHost", apparently, was Adam Schefter all along.

Doug Farrar: Leave Joe alone. He’s just cottoning to the intrawebz.

Aaron Schatz: Touchdown, Steve Breaston, right up the middle in a huge hole in the zone. Kurt Warner wasn't kidding when he told the FOX people that there were holes in the Packers coverage up the middle. I just checked, and Packers ranked 20th in DVOA on passes marked "deep middle." That's not too bad, but it is their worst ranking against any of the six directions (short/deep and left/middle/right). By the way, Dallas was 20th against passes marked deep middle, New Orleans 24th, and Minnesota 28th. Uh-oh.

Bill Barnwell: Good to see Steve Breaston break out the Scott Hall/Razor Ramon celebration there after his touchdown.

In all seriousness, love that pattern; went across the field like he was going to run another crossing pattern, and then just turned upfield and headed for paydirt. No one was close.

Let me say this now, with five minutes to go -- if the Packers do score, they HAVE to go for two. You can't just kick the extra point and expect to get a stop on the defensive side if the coin toss doesn't go your way.

Doug Farrar: Yeah, it’s pretty much first to receive, wins.

Did Rodgers make the “safe” sign after sliding for the first down with about 3:30 left? I really hope he did.

Tom Gower: GB really needed to do something about the deep middle problem, like running Tampa-2 once.

I DO NOT understand, and DO NOT like, the decision to call TO with :14 left and kick then.

Neil Rackers' missed field goal takes the game to overtime.

Bill Barnwell: Wow. Reminds me of the miss to end the 2006 ass-crowning game against Chicago.

Aaron Schatz: I think the :14 timeout decision is based on the idea that you want a second chance at the field goal in case of a botched snap. Instead, Rackers completely shanks it. That wasn't just a miss, that was a complete failure. Of course, Rackers' miss doesn't change the fact that Bill was right -- the Packers really should have gone for two on that last touchdown. The odds of the Packers stopping Arizona from getting into field-goal range AND winning the coin toss were really long. And yet... here we are, Packers get the ball first.

Doug Farrar: Arizona will occasionally throw a linebacker in centerfield (Gerald Hayes, I believe) between the safeties to throw off deep middle reads. Green Bay has enough athletic linebackers to be successful with something like that.

Tom Gower: Green Bay starts the overtime with second-and-20, and what's Arizona doing? Dansby, I believe, lines up in a sort of middle 3-3-1, guarding the deep middle pass to Finley.

A stripsack leads to the game-winning touchdown.


Aaron Schatz: I don't mean to take away from a very strong pass rush by Arizona, or the quality of the Arizona offense, but... wasn't that facemask and roughing the passer on Adams? He made that sack by grabbing Rodgers' facemask. It's completely obvious, to the point where Joe Buck SAID "hands to the face" as the play was going on.

Doug Farrar: They also missed a helmet-to-helmet that would have wiped out the holding penalty on Daryn Colledge. Arizona should be congratulated for pulling the game out, but Scott Green’s crew was truly abysmal today.

Aaron Schatz: Question: If ball was loose before Adams grabs the facemask, is there no facemask penalty? Are you allowed to grab the facemask of a quarterback when the ball is in the air? If it was an interception, are you allowed to rough the passer on an interception, even before the interception is caught? If was a fumble, are you allowed to hit the quarterback like any other player after a fumble? The rules on quarterbacks even have *me* confused.

Tom Gower: Without quoting chapter and verse, and off the top of my head:
1. The rules only apply to passers, not to quarterbacks. If he's not throwing or with the ball in a throwing position, he doesn't get the special protections.
2. Facemask applies at all times, whether it's attempting to tackle a guy with the ball or a guy running downfield.
3. Roughing the passer is roughing the passer. If it's be roughing the passer if the thrown ball doesn't end up an interception, it's roughing the passer if the ball ends up an interception.
4. If it's a fumble and live play, you're allowed to block the QB, but they seem to give QBs more protection on those than most other players.

Vince Verhei: I wish I had something witty or insightful to add to this, but I'm pretty burned out after a long football weekend. By and large, I saw very sloppy play by both defenses and the officials. There were a few great throws, but mostly it was defenses just forgetting to cover anyone.

Aaron Schatz: On the NFL Network postgame show, Deion Sanders said that he doesn't feel qualified to say if Kurt Warner is a Hall of Famer or not because he's not in the Hall of Fame yet himself, and you can't judge a Hall of Famer unless you are one. Man, bummer for Deion that the Hall of Fame voting is done primarily by sportswriters.

Bill Barnwell: The "The Packers won the coin toss and still lost, so OT rules don't need to change" crowd irks me so. Remember first down? The Packers got Greg Jennings open and were an Aaron Rodgers overthrow away from winning the game. The rules would have been just as unfair, and the only reason they weren't exhibited as such is because Rodgers didn't make the play.

Vince Verhei: If the Cardinals defense can't get a stop when they need to, they don't deserve to win.

Aaron Schatz: I guess we each have our pet peeve. I'm irked by the "face mask doesn't matter because it was after fumble" crowd. If the rules as Tom pointed them out were correct, it doesn't matter. Roughing is roughing, and a face mask is a face mask. Even if that's not roughing AND the face mask is ruled to come after the fumble, the face mask takes away the touchdown and gives Arizona the ball 15 yards behind the fumble. (At which point the Cardinals almost assuredly would have scored, but still, either call the rules consistently or change the damn rules.)

Tom Gower: Schefter tweeted that there can't be roughing the passer on the final play because of the fumble. That's right, except that (i) in this case, the tuck rule issue WOULD matter, because while Dansby's TD is called a fumble return in the gamebook, there can be roughing the passer on an interception, and (ii) face mask isn't roughing the passer.

Aaron Schatz: Peter King looked into it and noted on Twitter: "The referee, Scott Green, stands behind the pocket and has to watch first for the loose ball. Once the ball is out, Green's job is to watch ball for possession. He can't watch the QB then. If he saw the facemask, it'd mean he wasn't watching ball. It's a quirky rule, but it's the referee's call--and the ref is charged with possession once the ball is loose."

I don't think that fully excuses it, but at least it somewhat explains it.

Doug Farrar: I just went back and reviewed the helmet-to-helmet no-call on Bert Berry (same play as the Colledge hold that was called), and it should have been a no-brainer. Bert Berry drove the crown of his helmet into the bottom of Rodgers' facemask. Is Green responsible for watching holds, and might that be why he blew the other call? The rule book doesn't seem to have a specific responsibility for holding.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 10 Jan 2010

295 comments, Last at 18 Jan 2010, 1:38pm by Anonymous*


by Q (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:59am

Glad to see that others saw Green Bay get screwed by the refs in OT

by ChargerGal (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:14am

Carson Palmer looked like Rivers? That comment made no sense, please elaborate.

by Key19 :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:24am

He's referring to Rivers' throwing motion, which for anyone else, would probably result in horrible passes. But for Rivers, it somehow works. For Palmer, it (predictably) didn't.

Don't take it as an insult, take it as a "your QB is so good he can have weird mechanics and still be awesome."

Unlike Byron Leftwich.

by Anonymous2 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:22am

Halftime score of the 2006 AFCCG was 21-6.

by Key19 :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:22am

Cowboys Porn... The Sequel!

All that was missing was the part where DeSean Jackson "sting they ass." LOL

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 10:47am

Killing the Eagles two times in 6 days has to pretty much be the best football experience of the past 14 years for me. That's kinda sad but I don't care.

by Bobman :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:00am

Aaron Schatz: I guess we each have our pet peeve.... but still, either call the rules consistently or change the damn rules.

Get in line, buddy. Er, I mean, your opinion is valuable to us and will be replied to in the order in which it was received. On this topic, your request is number 15,000 in the queue. You can expect a call from us in approximately three lifetimes. Have a pleasant day and thanks for calling the NFL.

Dear NFL, I don't care what you call them or if they exist at all--the Brady rule, the 5-yard chuck rule, face-masking, and holding (which in 2009 has to just about be a full tackle of a defender)--just make the rules, make them lucid, and call them the same, guys.

by Jim B. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:01am

God, I hope the Vikings beat the Cowboys next week.

Cowboys players, their owner, and their stadium officially = most obnoxious and despicable group in the NFL.

by t.d. :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:26am

If this comment is coming from an Eagles fan, it's quite rich

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:57am

who made you comment police?

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

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 10:58am

I'd agree with the stadium. The owner is more a self-important clown than obnoxious. And refer to above regarding fans.

by peterplaysbass (verified?) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:16am

The team with the best stadium in football travels to the worst stadium in football. That'll be a storyline to ignore this week.

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:29am

Are you claiming that Cowboys stadium is the best stadium in football? Because I'd disagree there. Most expensive, yes. Most outrageous, yes. But I don't like videoboards that were inspired by a Celine Dion concert (yes, true story) to be mixed in with my football.

I love the Gladiator-esque entrance tunnels though-- it leads to priceless moments like McNabb's pre-game craziness.

by Gubdude :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:42am

That air guitar, or whatever it was, was pretty interesting to watch.

by peterplaysbass (verified?) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:53am

"inspired by a Celine Dion concert"


I don't think it's the 'best' (i.e., where I'd most like to go) stadium in football, but I do suspect the storyline will get overworked. It's like a Disney movie where the poor, ragtag team with mismatched jerseys and bad equipment beats the shiny polished team from the rich neighborhood. Mighty Ducks. The Sandlot. Heck, it's a little like the Rocky with the Russian in it (4?). Ivan whoever. Or the hockey team in Alazka that hosts the pro team. I'll stop.

by Theo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:43pm

It's not a stadium. Only outdoor stadiums should be allowed to be called stadiums.
I'd say is a venue. A hall.

by Key19 :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:10pm

I'm not really sure what the players ever did to be deemed obnoxious and despicable, and I'll take Jerry over just about any other owner in the NFL, regardless of personality flaws. He at least gives a damn about his team.

I'm not really sure why people dislike the stadium either. Is it the multitude of great PR towards it that bothers you? That's understandable I guess. But personally, if I was a fan of any NFL team, I would never think "man, I hope my team never gets a stadium like that!" Because it's a great stadium. I can't wait to see it in person. Maybe it doesn't have the history or what have you that others might have, but no new stadium has history. It'll make its own history in time (as it already has this year).

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:19pm

Simple explanations for the classification of "obnoxious":

1. Original poster is an Eagles (or Giants or Redskins) fan, causing him to lash out at the rival Cowboys.

2. Winning breeds contempt, and the Cowboys have a long history of winning (though not recently). Look at how many people rejoiced when the Patriots got crushed this weekend.

3. Fandom is irrational, to begin with. We don't really have any sound objective reasons for rooting for a given team, other than "I live near there" or "my father rooted for them". Therefore, you get a lot of irrational comments like the original poster's.

Incidentally, I agree with you on the stadium issue. Stadium history is overrated. The old Soldier Field was one of the most historic stadiums in the NFL, but it was a crappy place to watch a game in these modern times. The new stadium may look really, really awkward and tacky from the outside, but the in-stadium experience was greatly improved. And even then, the jumbotrons stink; I would love a Cowboys-style video board at the new Solider Field.

by Key19 :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:17pm

I guess I was assuming it actually wasn't an Eagles fan for some reason. I guess because if I got my arse kicked three times in a row I'd probably be pretty quiet for a while (especially if I knew my players, such as DeSean Jackson, actually were obnoxious and despicable... I'd hate to be a hypocrite).

by BrixtonBear (not verified) :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 3:29am

4. That whole "America's Team" thing, which isn't the players or the stadium but most definitely is (some of) the fans.

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:36pm

I'll just never like the stadium, and it's all due to the videoboard. I want my stadium to make football viewing special, not having football viewing incidental to the stadium.

by witless chum :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 3:21pm

Personally, I hate it because it has a roof, it cost a bazillion dollars, it has that giant video board, it's connected to the Cowboys and Jerry Jones, and that reminds me that my Lions play in something that isn't that different. It's just the perfect symbol of a lot of the things I hate about the NFL.

by MCS :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 3:43pm

Jones may care about his team, but his take on revenue sharing seems to imply that he doesn't give a damn about the league.

As for the arena in which the Cowboys play football, the clincher for me was the 3-D glasses. The game is in 3D on the field. If I want to watch it on a screen, I'll stay home.

The venue should never be bigger than the event. He is marketing the arena and and not the product.

Oh, and Lambeau field is over 50 years old. It's still a great place to watch football. It's possible to modernize the amenities without losing the charm and tradition of the original fiield.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 5:02pm

I hate Plastic facelift Jerry as much as anybody but you can't deny he cares about his team and spends money. You wouldn't want George Steinbrenner writing checks for your team?

That new stadium is awesome, I do like how they have the players run through like modern gladiators while the fans are hammering the glass, the scoreboard is a wonder, the go go dancers, the fans sprinting into the stadium to get the best standing room only viewing spots... the stadium is awesome. I couldn't think of a better stadium off the top of my head ( but the Cardinals stadium looks nice).

by johnny walker (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 10:56pm

Some of that stuff is pretty cool and the stadium as a whole is admittedly impressive, but that whole sprinting-for-the-best-spot thing just seems like a trampling incident/drunken brawl waiting to happen.

by Still Alive (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:09am

There are literally dozens of uncalled penalties in every NFL game. If you start focusing on them you see them everywhere. Being an ref is INCREDIBLY hard. They are doing their best out there.

I know if I was a ref I might have been distracted from noticing the facemask by the football dropping onto the turf, in fact I might not take a second look at the QB and focus entirely on the ball. Unless you have 22 refs out there there is no way you are going to come remotely close to catching all the penalties, and even then you would miss half of them and the game would be unwatchable.

Personally I think a bigger system of after the fact fines might help. Facemask someone lose a game check. I am guessing there would be very few facemasks etc.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 10:58am

Just make penalties reviewable.

Every week we have extremely tough calls go to replay and often still think the final call is wrong or questionable, while completely obvious penalties simply are missed.

The face mask was a no-brainer, just accept that refs will miss some things but give the replay guys the power to correct these oversights.

While I'm at the pulpit, let's adopt the college replay system in the NFL: all plays reviewed in the booth, faster reviews, less strategy involved in deciding not only whether a call on the field was wrong, but is worth challenging based on the game situation.

by billsfan :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:33am

My favorite non-call was the one where McNabb got slammed to the ground 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage on a false start while casually holding the ball at his side. Although the helmet-to-helmet and facemask on Rodgers were pretty close.

At least the Ravens prevented my personal Hell of a Cowboys-Patriots Super Bowl.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 5:18pm

When you say, "McNabb got slammed to the ground", you mean, "McNabb completely flopped to make it look like a penalty" right? That was a total acting job.

by billsfan :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 6:38pm

If he's not hit more than a second after several whistles blew, he's not in a position to flop.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:35pm

If you want a lot of games running four and a half hours, making penalties, beyond the passer over the line of scrimmage, would be good way to do it. Regular penalty reviews would make the game unwatchable, at least for me.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:48pm

No, that's why I asked for the college system. Every play is initially reviewed from the booth without stopping the game, and only for plays that are likely to be overturned does the game actually get stopped. In such a system, the refs on the field would only be alerted if the booth refs feel that the field refs missed something (in college penalties are generally not reviewable, but I have yet to hear an argument why at least some penalties, such as obvious face masks, couldn't be successfully integrated into this system).

The college replay system does not add substantially to the length of the games. College games do tend to drag out a bit compared to NFL games, but this is due to longer halftimes and clock stoppages on every first down, which were the case long before replay was added.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:57pm

Do you really think that having a couple referees in a camera booth would add an hour to the game? I sure as hell don't.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:12pm

Reviewing every possible facemask, illegal contact, pass interference, defensive holding, offensive holding, etc.? Yes.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 5:09pm

I agree with Will think it would. To tell you the truth, sometimes I feel like regular challenges suck. It's not like a coach is challengeing what he thinks is a "horrible call", you get guys challenging "key plays" where the other team converted and they have little to no chance of an overturn, but the plays are so important that they are worth the 5% chance of being overturned.

When you think about it though, it's crazy, you can have bad calls overturned and you really don't have that in other sports. There are still bad calls ( that's a part of any game), but you have the chance to have them overturned. Yes I understand there are rare instances in baseball/hockey, but you can't really have routine plays overturned in other sports. It adds something to the game for coaches to (mis)manage.

by Alexander :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:13am

#1. Didn't the Pats have negative yards in the first half of Super Bowl XX?
#2. Worst week of playoff officiating I have ever seen, particularly in the Jets and Packers games. Perhaps I didn't notice the badness in the other games because of the horrible play by the Eagles and Pats making reffing irrelevant.

by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:45am

NFL officiating has been mediocre for at least 6 years and possibly it has always been like this. So I don't know why everyone is belly-aching now. No one cares when a team like the Redskins, Raiders, or Lions gets screwed by the officials; but all of a sudden in the playoffs when its the teams who normally don't have to look for a scapegoat get screwed; oh there's those striped zebras.

Green Bay fans really didn't care in 2004 when the officials wiped out an apparent game winning TD against Clinton Portis of the Redskins on a phantom "illegal shift" penalty.

They just need to be treated as part of the game. The defenses on the field in Glendale, AZ were far worse than the officiating. It seems like in any close game the losing team will always have some officiating call to complain against or point to.

For all its faults, the NFL officiating has nothing on the college game. I never know what those guys will do when they go to a replay review, and it seems the replay official is too busy gawking at co-eds to even pay attention to the field that maybe something happened that should be reviewed.

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 4:01am

I'd have to agree, I think. The comment above (by 'Q') misses the point, from the Packers (and GB coaches) point of view. If it weren't for a few missed calls against Green Bay (and I'm sure there were missed calls against Arizona, as well), the Pakc would have no external excuse for losing.

And the Pack did lose that game, by themselves. I knew they should've gone for 2, I bet 12-year-olds around the nation knew they should've gone for 2. They didn't. They spotted the Cards an huge early lead. And they put on a 'how to give the ballcarrier extra yardage by trying for a strip' clinic early on.

Mike McCarthy should be embarrassed about that game.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:07pm

You really think a head coach should be embarrassed by his team rallying from a 21 point second half deficit to reach overtime.

The defense was embarrassing, that I'll grant, though that is at least as much on Capers as McCarthy. But a few people just seem eager to lump McCarthy in with the Wade Phillips and Norv Turner's of the world as this bunch of bumbling fools.

I just didn't see this game as lost by bad coaching decisions. Between the onside kick, the two successful 4th down conversions, and no egregious wasted timeouts or bad challenges I thought McCarthy did a decent job in terms of definable coaching decisions.

by billsfan :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:48am

I don't watch college football that often, but when I do, that's always the first thing I notice. It makes me appreciate the less-bad officiating in the NFL.

My favorite officiating moment this weekend is when Romo clearly threw an incompletion while being hit, which was picked up and run back towards the end zone, but Hochuli just wouldn't blow it dead.

(I also like the Eagles)

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:25pm

I watch a lot of college football, and I look at officiating comparatively, getting what I think is the same impression as you do: if you think bad NFL officiating is bad, watch some college ball. (That should be expected, though. Talent and experience would hopefully move up in football as it should in other areas, so solid NCAA refs would fill vacancies in the NFL, being replaced by solid high-school refs, who for the time being would not be of the same caliber. The average NCAA ref would be weaker than the average NFL ref, etc.)

I think the two biggest problems I see in NFL officiating are 1) inconsistency in calls and 2) inconsistency in rules. The first problem is like watching umpires' strike zones. (Thankfully, NFL refs aren't yet calling players out of bounds when they're tackled two feet inside the lines.) The second, well, while I approve of the pressure to keep people from contacting QBs in the head (because obviously more lenient rules weren't working), I don't see why all other player are fair game. Not that I necessarily want refs to call 15-yard penalties for touching receivers' helmets, but there is a lot of tackling by leading with the helmet these days, and I'm not really sure why that's okay. (I also think it has something to do with certain types of injuries, and perhaps even something to do with that little issue that the NFL would like you to forget, that dementia thing.)

by Roger Cossack (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:49am

Question: In a situation where the ball carrier runs out of bounds (e.g. Joe Flacco's challenged 7-yard scramble on 3rd and 7), where do you spot where the ball was? Do you mark it when the ball, from a vertical view, crossed the plane of the sideline? Do you mark it when Flacco's foot first touches down, even though the ball would be above the out of bounds line?

by Mike Y :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 3:03am

I believe the spot is supposed to be where the ball is horizontally on the field (i.e what yard line the ball reaches) when the runner steps out of bounds or is tackled. This is regardless of whether the ball is actually out of bounds or above the field of play.

by Roger Cossack (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 5:34am

So wait, for further clarification, "where the runner steps out of bounds" is when his FOOT lands or when he seems to get out?

If it is where his foot lands, what's to stop the runner to, before getting pushed out of bounds on each play, just diving diagonally forward and out of bounds, thereby gaining an extra 3-5 yards or so, just by horizontal placement of the ball when his body actually touches down?

by Jerry :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 5:45am

if the runner knows he's just about to be knocked out of bounds, has the presence of mind to stretch like that, and can do so without fumbling, good for him. You actually do see that kind of play at the (end zone) pylon.

by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 6:39am

I haven't followed football too closely but this has been my interpretation:
- Players are in bounds until they make contact with the ground out of bounds.
- If Superman played for your favorite NFL team he could fly 5 yards out of bounds down the field and score a touchdown by breaking the plane of the goal-line. The plane of the goal line is defined by the goal-line (inclusive of the line) and a perpendicular vertical line coming from the goal line. It has always been described as an "infinite" plane.
- There may be some recent modification to that rule regarding "breaking the plane" in relation to players diving for the end zone out of bounds.

by Roger Cossack (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 7:36am

You might be right about the rule in regards to the end zone. The thing we always hear is that the ball has to pass over the pylon, right? I have to imagine that if the Superman scenario worked at the end zone, then some coaches would have figured that out and instructed players to stop reaching the ball inside as they're falling out.

by BlueStarDude :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 8:25am

No, they changed the rule, either before this season or last, so that the ball needs to be (or is supposed to be) inside the pylon to count as a TD. That's why you've noticed so many players reaching the ball inside the pylon.

by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:34am

I thought they had changed the rule. But there was some Thursday night game (I believe it was PIT-CLE) where a runner was clearly out of bounds and the ball had not crossed over the pylon and it was ruled a TD. I happened to be watching and the NFL Network announcer was adamant it was not a TD because he didn't pass the ball over the pylon. The touchdown was upheld, and as part of the explanation the referee mentioned that since the player was making forward progress he didn't have to stretch the ball across the plane (?).

by mm (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 3:39pm

Yeah, I remember that game.

Matt Millen made a big deal about how he understood the rule because he was on the committee that made the change. Of course, he screwed it up, because he forgot the exception.

I actually didn't know the complete rule, but the officials in that game explained it quite clearly after the replay review:

1) If a player dives for the end zone, he must get the ball on the inside of the pylon.
2) If a player stays on his feet (as was the case in that game), the ball does not need to go inside the pylon (it does, of course, need to cross the plane).

by FooBarFooFoo (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 8:57am

Was a rule change a couple of years ago.

When running into the endzone, the ball (part of it) has to be over the endzone.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:41am

Don't be ridiculous. If Superman played in the NFL, how would he ever get pushed out of bounds? Wouldn't he just run everyone over, or fly over everyone?

(Is it weird that I've had this conversation before, including a variation of it on Christmas Eve dinner this year?)

by zzyzx :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:46am

Actually - and I probably shouldn't post this but I'm a geek and I know it - Superboy back in the 60s or 70s when he still existed as a character was once pressured to join the Smallville High football team. He said, "Look no one could ever touch me, and his example was that he tunneled his way underneath everyone and out to the end zone.

Talk about raising an interesting rules question. If no part of his body other than his feet or hands actually touched the walls of the tunnel he created, would he actually not be down even if he was below the field? Why he didn't just fly into the end zone is beyond me.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:03pm

Yeah, tunneling seems like an odd choice when you can fly. Especially considering that I don't see how his knees, elbows, torso, or ass wouldn't touch the ground when he tunneled, thus resulting in him being down well before the end zone.

by Purds :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:44pm

Well, tunneling is a really, really odd choice when he's playing high school football, where just touching the ground makes him down, but if he could just make it to the pros, someone would have to touch him, and that strategy would be pure gold!

by Thok :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:43pm

99% of all choices made by Superman from comics before 1986 can be explained by the following observation.

Superman is a dick, and wants to mess with your head.

(Edit: Link is totally safe for work, unless your work frowns on goofing off by looking at comic covers.)

by zzyzx :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 8:41pm

Ok, I just got the comic. He uses his left hand to create a hole big enough for him to run in. It looks like no body part other than his hands or feet touches the ground. I guess that's legal. Besides, Superboy thinks, "Nothing in the rule book says that I can't burrow underground towards the goal posts," and Superboy wouldn't lie, would he?

by zzyzx :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:38pm

Well the way it gets drawn, Superboy flies, in a spinning motion, so his hands become a drill (and no, I don't remember where the ball was put). The tunnel was wide enough that no other part of his body was touching the ground. I need to dig up the comic tonight and look at it now...

Of course, another issue is now there is a tunnel under the field that other players can use. Have a running back go into it and leave your best offensive linemen blocking the entrance and it's an easy TD for the team going in that direction.

by Jay (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 7:20pm

Personally, as a defensive coordinator, I'm going to bury a bunch of Kryptonite under the field.

by Dan :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 8:07pm

And that's why Superboy's team tends to have one of the largest home field advantages in the league.

by Anonymous* (not verified) :: Mon, 01/18/2010 - 1:29pm

Way past anyone reading this now, I assume. But I wanted to mention that there was a story about Superman playing football in the '40s as well. It was in Action Comics #4, so it was only a couple months after Superman was introduced. He couldn't fly back then. I'd link to the synopsis but I'm afraid the spam filter might catch it. The short of it is that Superman discovers a gambler is trying to fix the results of the Dale / Cordell college football game (get it? Dale and Cordell, in the Divy League?). He further discovers that he looks almost the same as a backup on Cordell's team. He kidnaps the guy and ties him up (this really happened) and then plays the game in his place. He literally runs over the competition. In the second half the crooked Dale players try to shiv Superman, which of course is useless. The Dale coach resigns (apparently he was in on the fix), the scrub who Superman was imitating gets his horrible girlfriend back, and everyone is happy.

by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 6:54am

I did the smart thing and consulted my 2006 NFL Rulebook.

*I commented out some of the pointers in this to make it easier to read*.
Rule 3, Section 2, Article 6: "Player In Bounds"
A player is inbounds when he first touches both feet or any other part of his body, other than his hands, to the ground within the boundary lines.

Note: Unless otherwise stated in the Rules, a player is deemed to be inbounds.

Rule 3, Section 20, Out of Bounds and Inbounds Spot
Article 1: A player or an Official is Out of Bounds when he touches:
(a) A boundary line; or
(b) Anything other than a player, an official, or a pylon on or outside a boundary line.

Article 2: The Ball is Out of Bounds When:
(a) the runner is inbounds [sic - I'm assuming this is a typo and it is "out of bounds"];
(b) while in player possession, it touches a boundary line or anything other than a player or an official on or outside such line; or
(c) a loose ball touches a boundary line or anything on or outside such line.

Article 3: Inbounds Spot
The Inbounds Spot is a spot 70 feet 9 inches (ed: this is the closest hash) in from the sideline on the yard line passing through the spot where the ball or a runner is out of bounds between the goal lines.

Under certain conditions, the ball is dead in a side zone or has been placed there as the result of a penalty.

Note: Ordinarily the out-of-bounds spot is the spot where the ball crossed a sideline. However, if a ball, while still within a boundary line, is declared out of bounds because of touching anything that is out of bounds, the out of bounds spot is on the yard line through the spot of the ball at the instant of such touching.

Plain reading seems to imply that my Superman analogy is correct. I don't understand the purpose of the note that says, "ordinarily the out-of-bounds spot is the spot where the ball crossed a sideline." It seems like interpreting the rule in this manner, if the ball crosses over the sideline it is out of bounds. However we've seen sideline plays and catches where the ball crosses a sideline, but since the player never steps out; the ball is inbounds.

The note under "player inbounds" implies that there is a preference that players are in bounds.

by Roger Cossack (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 7:51am

Damn, that's confusing. Reading through it, I gather that the Superman scenario wouldn't work. I interpret this as saying that the player is out of bounds when he touches down/lands on the boundary line, which makes sense. However, the note says that the out-of-bounds spot is where the ball crossed the sideline, meaning that the spot then has to be retroactively assessed, to where it crossed the sideline when the player originally made his way across it.

BUT, the sideline plays and catches you mentioned still count since the player and ball (since the ball is only out of bounds when it/the player touches out of bounds0 are still IN bounds. In other words, the spot of the ball crossing the sideline only comes into effect once the player goes out of bounds. If Superman dove out at the 45, holding the ball at the 44 and landed out of bounds where the 40 would be, then he is marked out of bounds at the 40, but the refs would be responsible for calculating that the ball originally crossed the sideline at the 44, and spotting it there. But if he (being Superman) dove out to the 40 and flew back onto the field without landing, then the ball was never out of bounds, so the play continues.

The second part of that note seems to deal with instances where the player going out of bounds has the ball behind him. Someone can step on the line at the 30 while holding the ball at the 29, still in bounds. Play is whistled dead, and the ball, which never actually crossed the sideline, is marked at the 29.

That was far too confusing. I need to go back to having nightmares about how the OT Rodgers overthrow could have won the game.

by Sancho Gaucho (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 8:59am

It seems very similar to basketball: the ball are not out-of-bounds while on air; if it doesn't touch something or someone that is out-of-bounds, it is considered inbounds.

by Dr. Mooch :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 9:26am

So forget Superman. I'm returning a kick, which I catch at the 5. I immediately extend the ball in my left hand over the left sideline, and start to run. Holding the ball above the sideline the whole way, I make it all the way to the opponent's 1 yard line before I step out of bounds. Apparently, the ball will be spotted back at my own 5.

by Sancho Gaucho (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 9:53am

If I got it correctly, as I've said above, the ball must be considered inbounds all the way to the 1-yard line because the runner that possessed it was inbounds. So it doesn't matter where the ball is in this case.

by Dr. Mooch :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 10:20am

Yeah, got it now, because it falls under "inbounds spot," and it's spotted "where the runner or ball went out of bounds," seeming to mean where the runner did in the case where it's his step that establishes both as out of bounds. It's still not real specific still, though. It's perfectly possible for the runner and the ball to go out of bounds almost 3 yards apart from each other simultaneously. How does that "or" function? The rulebook is unfortunately vague. It gives an example which implies that the ball is spotted where the ball located when the runner goes out of bounds, but it never gives that in a rule.

by Sancho Gaucho (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 10:40am

The example is not there for nothing, or because it's pretty or nice. It IS part of the rule. If the example shows this, that's the way it is.

by Muldrake (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:07am

The way I read it is the ball by itself is never out of bounds unless it's a loose ball. The spot should be where the player is ruled out of bounds if it is touching a player.

by Muldrake (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 10:15am

As I understand it, the ball has to touch something that is out of bounds before the ball is out of bounds...even if that 'something' is the ground. In the Big XII Championship game, Colt McCoy lobbed a ball out of bounds with time expiring, but on further review it was deemed to have hit a stadium rail with 1 second remaining, allowing the Longhorns a chance for a FG to win the game. That is a college rule, of course, but I read the NFL rule to be the same. In your example the returner is not out of bounds (which we know because of toe-drags even if part of the player is out of bounds), so the ball is still in bounds as well.

by morganja :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:50am

In the Patiots Panthers game this year, a patriot stepped out of bounds one yard short of the first down and then dived another 5 yards forward completely out of bounds. Apparently the ref thought he was dealing with a superman or someone who didn't obey the normal laws of physics because he gave the Patriots all five yards.

Even assuming that the ref somehow missed the runner stepping two feet out of bounds before his dive downthe sidelines, this is a terrible rule because the defender will get a 15 yard penalty if he makes any effort at stopping the runner. Supposedly a runner is still in bounds, but if he gets hit, it's a hitting a player out of bounds call.

They need to clean that up a little. If a player can advance the ball out of bounds then a defender should be able to stop him.

by whatyousay :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:39am

This passage seems to contradict itself. The inbounds spot is on the hash at the point through the spot "where the ball or runner is out of bounds." The definition of "out of bounds" clearly involves touching the boundary so if you are in mid air over the boundary, you aren't out of bounds yet -- the ball/runner will not be OOB until he touches the ground, so the spot would be dependent on the ball's position at the point of contact.

Then the note says something completely different in plainspeak -- "Note: Ordinarily the out-of-bounds spot is the spot where the ball crossed a sideline." That indicates that it depends on where the ball is when it crosses the sideline, regardless of whether or not the ball/player is OOB yet (touching of the boundary has or has not occurred).

I don't get it.

by nat :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:01pm

If I may try:

A loose ball is out when it hits the ground out of bounds , but is spotted where it crossed the sideline. Think of a punted or fumbled ball - the play isn't over until the ball hits the ground, but the spot is the referee's judgment of where it crossed the sideline.

A loose ball can also be out because it is touched by a player who is out. In that case, it is placed at that exact spot where it was touched.

A ball in a player's possession is out when the player is out. The ball is spotted where it was when the player was out, or at the point of forward progress if that is further.

So I think the "note" is referring to a loose ball that lands out of bounds.

by Dr. Mooch :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:10pm

That's where I was having trouble, too. The problem, as I read it now, is the next line, reading, "However, if a ball, while still within a boundary line, is declared out of bounds because of touching anything that is out of bounds, the out-of-bounds spot is on the yard line through the spot of the ball at the instant of such touching." The only guidance we have that the spot should be the location of the ball when a player touches out of bounds is preceded by the stipulation that the ball remains physically inbounds. Otherwise, it the spot is where the ball OR the runner touch out. If a runner touches out there is no guidance that the spot is the location of the ball when the runner touches out, if neither are within a boundary line. This could be a difference of 3 yards or so on a long stretch.

Regarding the application of rulebook examples as rules themselves, I've got to note that the examples appear at times to be directly contradictory to the rules. For instance, the article regarding player out of bounds states that "A player or an Official is Out of Bounds when he touches: (a) A boundary line; or (b) Anything other than a player, an official, or a pylon on or outside a boundary line." In direct contradiction, example A.R. 3.9 subsequently rules "Runner A1, with his feet inbounds, touches an official who is touching a sideline," to be out of bounds.

by Marko :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:56am

"'Is this the worst five minutes in Patriots franchise history?' Man, people just have no memory of what this franchise was like before 1993, do they? Did anyone see Super Bowl XX?"

Most Patriots fans presumably expected them to win today, not to get destroyed from the outset, so the first five minutes must have been pretty painful. In contrast, I doubt that many Patriots fans expected the Patriots to win Super Bowl XX, so perhaps that wasn't so bad for them. If any Patriots fans did expect them to win Super Bowl XX, it would be hard to determine which five minute stretch of that game was the worst for them.

"Wow. Reminds me of the miss to end the 2006 ass-crowning game against Chicago."

I had the same thought after Rackers' miss. I also wondered what would happen at Whisenhunt's post-game press conference if the Cardinals lost.

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 4:52am

Any rational New England fan knew that the Pats had very little chance to go deep in this year's playoffs. Thus, this loss doesn't sting all that much. The loss to the Giants or the loss to the Colts (AFC Title Game) or even the Ben Watson loss to the Broncos (a few years back), those all stung much, much more. I'm not sure this one even stings at all.

by FooBarFooFoo (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:22pm

Sorry, but they were down 21-0 by extraordinary bad luck. I mean, would they have played decently, they would have had a chance back in the game.

I mean, one rush plus two turnovers for TDs, forced by skill of the Ravens, but still simply low probability on it. Flat out.

Now, had the Pats simply played like it was 0-0, and had they scored before halftime plus on the opening drive of the second half, it would have been a one score game.

I mean, if the Ravens score 24 points not in the first 6 minutes but through 3 quarters, would you still say the game is out of reach? I don't think so. Now, reduce the giveaways and create takeaways, and you could have had a game.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:30pm

Bad luck is losing three fumbles in a row, or when the opposition's offense tips a ball into another receiver's hands, and he goes the distance. Getting wiped out at the line of scrimmage, while your safeties take terrible angles, is not luck. Neither is failing to pass block, follwed by the qb's failure to avoid a horrible throw.

by whatyousay :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:59pm

Even if 21-0 was by bad luck and not being outclassed, that's a huge lead in any circumstance. Even if the Patriots & fans thought they had a better team, the didnt think they had a 21-points-better-in-3-quarters team.

by t.d. :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 3:05am

Kurt Warner had to have one of the best DYAR games ever. More touchdowns than incomplete passes against a pretty good pass defense (although it was like what Brees did against the Giants earlier in the year, exploiting a weakness in the deep middle that their previous opponents had been unable to exploit, even though it was apparent that it was there)

by billsfan :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:53am

Still not enough for a perfect passer rating, though!

(I also like the Eagles)

by Jerry :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 3:51am


Back in the prehistoric era when everyone ran a 4-3, I remember reading a quote about how a "blitz" was when all three linebackers rushed, while one or two was a "red dog". So I found it a bit ironic that you threw the word "blitz" around right after you complained about misidentification of the Wildcat. Terminology evolves, often to make things less confusing for the layman, and Wildcat seems to be moving toward any direct snap to someone who's not the regular quarterback. Coaches will know the difference, just like I'm sure some old guys differentiate between a dog and a blitz, but most fans won't know or care.

by DGL :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:43am

But when Brad Smith comes in, lines up under center, and runs an option, you've expanded the definition of "Wildcat" to mean "A play in which anyone other than the starting quarterback takes a snap."

Hey, that's it - when the Colts pulled Manning for Painter in week 16, they weren't resting their starters, they were running the Wildcat!

by Anonymous* (not verified) :: Mon, 01/18/2010 - 1:38pm

But Brad Smith is technically a WR. He's listed as such on the depth chart. Therefore, the point still stands. You'd have a much better case bringing up Michael Vick in Philadelphia.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 4:07am

I Want to see tom brady's DYAR. I counted a couple near ints independent of the tip drill ints that the ravens ended up with. That one int to Chris Car was possibly the worst favre like INt I have ever seen a qb make. With that said, I respect brady alot, I really do, but I'm glad if nothing else that some of the brady-Patriots mystique went away with that loss. Playoff losses can happen to anyone, anywhere. All it takes is a few bad decisions and a total team failure and even the best can look downright horrible. THat same context should be in place for other qbs who are great that struggle in postseason games, rather than falling into the media drive playoff gags/choke job explanations.

by morganja :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 4:08am

I wouldn't mind at all if the refs really were trying their best and they just missed some. They could even miss half of them on a consistent basis and still serve as a deterrent to players holding, interfering, etc. As lng as they were calling them on both teams to the best of their ability it would all tend to even out. But the rules aren't enforced evenly.

I would love to see a statistical analysis of the reffing over the past 15 years. Not just calls made or enforced, but an analysis of all the close calls, which way they went, and how much they effected the game. For example, the Patriots seem to have an almost uncanny ability to draw fouls from the other team on third and fourth downs, like the illegal contact four yards down the field before their second touchdown today.

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:02am

There have been plenty of penalty studies done, but the type you appear to be talking about seem to be way too subjective to do a statistical study.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:08pm

Have you ever made a post that wasn't a shot at the patriots?

The correct form is:

"[noun] is way better than this..."

by Jeppe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 4:44am

I'm mostly shocked by the pass interferences not being called on Fitzgerald. If not the first one, then surely the second one.

by Whatev (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 5:14am

Offensive PI? Jog my memory here, I can't seem to recall which ones.

by bubqr :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 5:46am

The one where he ran into Woodson, who fell down, and then caught a TD was quite blatant.

by Roger Cossack (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 5:49am

There are two plays in question:

1) Fitzgerald runs an in-breaking route and gets caught with Woodson at the top of it. There's some hand contact, seemingly initiated by Fitzgerald, and maybe their legs tangle. Woodson flat-out falls down, and Fitz stumbles, gets up, catches the ball, and runs 25 yards to freedom, with noone behind him.

2) Fitzgerald runs a post corner from the left slot. When he makes his break towards the post, Woodson is right there, and Fitz just totally checks him off his feet. Fitz turns around, sees that Warner threw the ball, runs towards the corner, and makes an amazing catch.

I think 1) was alright. It seemed incidental more than anything. 2) was egregious, and absolutely should have been called as OPI. Add that to the fact that Cullen Jenkins was held/tackled into Kurt Warner and was actually called for roughing the passer instead, and you understand some of the grief that we Packer fans are experiencing right now.

We absolutely should have lost that game, and were very lucky to be in it. The entire way through, it seemed like a combination of the Minnesota games this year (way behind from early, offense catching on fire late), the Pitt game (NO pass defense, no ability to stop game-winning drives), and the Giants NFC Championship Game (opponent missed FGs, giving us hope that ultimately ended in disaster). That said, the officiating mistakes (some combination of OPIs, the uncalled helmet-to-helmet on 2nd and 10 in OT, and the facemask on the final play) totally lend themselves to frustration, and act as great scapegoats.

by Birdman (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 8:18am

Gotta agree. The first play was fine; the second play should have drawn flags for Fitz pushing and roughing the passer. There was another roughing call that was missed in regulation, plus the facemask in overtime. To be fair, the Packers did benefit hugely from undeservedly recovering the muffed punt. Rough game for Green Bay fans.

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:04am

I agree regarding 1).

2) is definitely a penalty, but really can we blame the refs for missing that one? I mean, no one expected that pass to be complete, Warner included. He was just throwing it away and Fitzgerald came running out of no where. Unless you want to start putting another 3 officials on the field, calls on out-of-where plays like that are going to be missed. There's only so many eyeballs out there.

by MCS :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 4:24pm

Isn't it a penalty even if the pass isn't thrown? Whether the pass is complete or not is not relevant to the penalty status. If the ball is in the air, it's PI. If not, then it's illegal contact.

by Joe T. :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:52am

I'm shocked that the crews working both NFC games had such a differing perspective on PI. In the Cards game, Fitz was running DBs over and getting away with it. In the DAL game, Sheldon Brown breathed on the WR and got the PI at the 1 yard line.

Its time for the NFL to get some new blood in the officiating ranks.

by Key19 :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:21pm

Sheldon Brown actually prevented Miles from coming back to the ball, and didn't really make much effort himself to come back for it. That'll get called DPI all day.

For example, the announcers praised Austin Collie for coming back for the ball and being blocked by the defender to draw DPI in the Pats/Colts game. This call is a consistent occurrence.

by Joe T. :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:44pm

But neither WR or DB has to concede their spot to the other. The ball was underthrown. Austin had Brown beat over the top but Brown was right behind him. Austin had to jump back over him to make the catch.

If you're going to call that DPI, then may as well just adopt a 5-yard halo rule for WRs.

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:50pm

Brown wasn't standing still, he was running leaping and hit Austin. I think the only argument against DPI there is that Brown was playing the ball, which is arguable because he did make a last-second turn back to look for the ball.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:10pm

"But neither WR or DB has to concede their spot to the other."

Thats what the rule says, but 90% of the time, thats not the way its called.

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 4:49am

So Simba goes 0-4 ATS and his beloved Patriots get squashed. Should be a fun week on the BS Report.

by Jarvis (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:27pm

I was thinking the same thing..... this will be one of those podcasts that starts off with, "Is there really any point to the NFL anymore?" And 15 minutes from the Sports Guy of how the NFL playoffs are just stupid and a crapshoot.

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 2:39pm

In Bill's defense, he sounded fairly measured on the BS report. Whinyness index: 2.5 on a 10 scale (10 is most whiny, 0 is not at all whiny).

by bubqr :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 5:42am

Bengals : Funny to see that what was considered as the only bright spot of the Bengals before this season, Carson Palmer, was in fact the weakest link of this team in the end.
What will they do this offseason ? They have a solid defense, a very good running game, and need to have a better passing game to hope for postseason success. What was wrong with Palmer, and what can they do ?

Eagles : Injuries played a big part in this game. The final 11-5 record made us Eagles fans believe, but in the end, when playing a clearly superior Dallas team, it showed. I was asking for AGL last week, and really want to see where this Eagles team will rank, and how it will compare to other teams that suffered that many injuries in the past. That combined with the youth of this team gives me a lot of hope for the future.

I'm surprised to see FO people questioning "LB depth". Of course, when you lose your starting MLB and his replacement, you have some troubles with LB depth. But heading into next year, I feel quite confident : Witherspoon, Jordan and Bradley are solid LBs, Tracy White and Moise Fokou showed some promise, and even if Gocong faded away, he used to be our best run-stuffing LB. I don't feel that good about Sean McDermott schemes though.

I want to see McNabb gone, and think #5 should also feel the same way. Whenever teams play big play prevent defense, and play 2 deep safeties, McNabb is unable to take advantage of it, his poor accuracy on short throws sets this offense back. He is made to play in a run-heavy, run and bomb offense, not a WCO. Plus, he's inconsistency seems to be incompatible with a long playoffs run.
I highly disagree with Tanier that there are only 5 or 6 better QBs in the league. There are 5 in the NFC alone (Brees/Rodgers/Warner/Romo/Favre), and Eli/Ryan are younger and should be better soon. If he has any value, trade him, and see what you have in Kolb (in which I trust).

To give credit where it's due, this loss came against a team playing one of the best football I've seen in recent years. It's not just a jinxing attemps, and I hate saying that about the Cowboys, but they did look unbeatable.

by zip.4chan.org/sp/ (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:58pm

Yeah, and it looks like FO's stats agree that McNabb is no longer a top-tier QB. He's #20 in DVOA, and that's not including the second drubbing by Dallas. Some of that is the unquantifiable problems QBs have when their line breaks down, but it still doesn't look good.

by BucNasty :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 6:54am

Is it just me, or does Neil Rackers shank an absorbitant amount of potential game-winners?

2. Facemask applies at all times, whether it's attempting to tackle a guy with the ball or a guy running downfield.

Right. As I understand it, a facemask is considered a personal foul, and is therefore always enforced. Whether it occurs before or after the ball is turned over can affect who retains possession, but I think the only situation where it ever gets offset or ignored is when there are personal fouls committed by both teams. Even on incomplete pass that the defense thinks is a fumble and tries to run back, if you tackle him by his facemask it's still 15 yards even though the ball wasn't even in play. It's essentially the same as hitting someone after the whistle.

by Jerry :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 7:01am

Unless it's what used to be a 5-yard facemask penalty, which doesn't get called now.

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:05am

Just to clarify, it doesn't get called because it's no longer in the rulebook.

by billsfan :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:57am

I'm pretty sure that they still do call it, but it's worth 15 yards now.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Mello :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:35pm

The way it's supposed to work now is, what used to be a 5 yd facemask is no longer a penalty. Only serious 15 yd facemasks are called. In reality, anything more than just grazing the facemask gets a 15 yd flag now which is why I've been completely against the rule change.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:26pm

I agree with you. I'm for the rule in principle, but I've seen too many incidental facemasks draw a personal foul penalty to believe it has been executed properly.

by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 6:58am

For the record, I've never seen facemask called on a ballcarrier who is stiffarming a defender. Even though the rule simply states "no player shall grasp the facemask of an opponent."

The one penalty that ticks me off most is defender leveling a receiver and getting called for hitting a defenseless player. One was thrown against a DAL safety, I think he hit Celek early in the game vs. PHI. The poor guy even lead with his shoulder, it was a nice hit.

by BucNasty :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 7:37am

Yeah, I don't like that rule either. You're pretty much forced to just give up the big play even though you had a chance to potentially separate him from the ball. It's what safeties were taught to do for years, and now it's illegal.

by Roger Cossack (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 7:53am

The offensive facemask, IIRC, was actually supposed to be a point of emphasis this year. I remember reading a couple of articles about how they were going to enforce the facemask penalty on stiffarms over the off-season, and a couple of RBs complaining about it. Sure doesn't seem like anything has come of it.

by Dan :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 9:47am

There was a stiffarm facemask called on Adrian Peterson (deservedly) in their first game against the Bears, as part of a sequence of about 5 plays in a row with a flag.

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:09am

I don't mind the call on Ken Hamlin. Yes, it's tough for a defender to pull up there. But those types of hits, whether leading with the shoulder or not, are very, very hazardous. It's a health-of-the-players type of thing and needs to be enforced if we're to have any belief that the NFL isn't just a bloodsport. (Cue Van Damme)

As for the stiff arm thing, is it really not being enforced? I know it was enacted in part because of Marion Barber using it so violently, and he's pretty much stopped using it the past couple years.

by Spoilt Victoria... :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:13am

He led with his shoulder...and hit Celek in the head. You don't have to be an expert on concussions to figure out why that hit needs to be penalized.

by MFurtek (not verified) :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 9:50am

Re: 74
He led with his shoulder...and hit Celek in the head. You don't have to be an expert on concussions to figure out why that hit needs to be penalized.

I led with his shoulder, which is perfectly legal. If Celek caught the ball he wouldn't have gotten penalized for hitting a defenseless receiver. So why is the blow to the head okay if he catches the ball?

I'd prefer to see the NFL legislate against that by large fines, with the proceeds going to some more concussion technology research.

I have a hard time believing players can make the split-second decision of pull up on the field. We are all watching them, and can see what happens, but the Safety had no idea the ball was high. Why isn't the onus on the receiver to not jump for the ball if it is clearly out of his reach?

by billsfan :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 11:05am

If you watch the replay, you'd see his head turns towards where the ball is going, but he still hits Celek in the head.

(I also like the Eagles)

by morganja :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:45am

The Panthers Steve Smith was called for it. But I saw it go uncalled at least ten times this season.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:25pm

Perhaps you're not, but a lot of people misinterpret the stiffarm as a facemask. It's not a facemask for the runner to make contact with the facemask, only if he grabs at it, ad Peterson did on the play referred to above. Generally the offensive player does not want to get tied up with the defender in any such way.

by morganja :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 2:35am

Yuo're right that the stiff arm is often mistaken for a facemask penalty, but I think the stiff arm to the head needs to be eliminated as well. It is just way too dangerous. They do a thousand things to protect the QB. This is a simple thing that could be done to protect a defender from a career ending injury.

by ammek :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 7:02am

That was typical McCarthy: he could win all three of your scramble awards every week. The onside kick and Crosby's failed 55-yard figgie were both gutsy calls (with a similar chance of succeeding, and a similar consequence if they didn't), as was the deep pass on the first play of overtime. That's the one I liked least; the chances of completing it are not great on a league-wide basis — and Rodgers and Jennings have struggled to read each other on bombs this year. The incompletion left the Packers in 2nd-and-10, and when Colledge got beat by his rusher on the next play, the drive was doomed. Green Bay must have known that the Cards' defense would go for broke: it had spent the previous 45 minutes getting wiped out; its only option was to force a turnover. A short gain on first down — even three yards — would have steadied things.

I don't agree that the high score was more a product of bad defensive schemes and missed tackles than it was of great offensive play. There were some terrific catches made by both teams, and the QBs were reading the game perfectly. I don't recall a drop by a Cardinal receiver (the Packers had three). Dom Capers did bring the blitz early and quite a lot, but Warner got the ball away each time. The broadcaster's graphic in the second quarter showed that Warner had been hit 5 times on 15 dropbacks, yet managed 12 completions; naturally, Aikman took this as proof that the Packers weren't generating enough pass rush.

Both teams adjusted their pass protection at halftime and in the second half the QBs had all day. On the Packers' side, they replaced a HB with a FB in a lot of packages; screens weren't really working (or necessary) so better to keep an extra blocker back there. Korey Hall in particular saw more snaps than usual.

The commentators were quite good I thought, especially after a long weekend of Theismanns and Simmses. In a world first, the sideline reporter added something valuable when he got a quote from Whisenhunt about working the middle of the field. Alas the broadcasters didn't attempt to analyze precisely what it was that kept opening up in the middle for Warner, nor why, nor how come the Packers didn't do anything about it. As far as I could tell, the Cards tried to take Nick Collins out of the centerfield by sending Breaston on a number of deep sideline routes, and also sent their tight end wide. That left Atari Bigby, the nickelback Bush, and sometimes a linebacker to cover the middle zones. They were no match for Warner. Brandon Chillar had a nightmare.

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:13am

The onside kick and Crosby's failed 55-yard figgie were both gutsy calls (with a similar chance of succeeding, and a similar consequence if they didn't)

I would wager, without going through the math, that the onside kick had less risk and greater reward than the 55 yard FG. But then I hate long FGs and think coaches should just f'ing GFI.

Edit: Also, I find Whisenhunt is one of the most forthcoming NFL coaches when it comes to on-the-field tactical stuff.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:49am

Whisenhunt is a good NFL coach. You could see it even 1 year into his tenure. Even though in reality the jury is still out on him, I think he's certainly an above average head coach.

by metro (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 7:23am

For those saying that the penalty calls in the Cards Packers game went both way, consider this.

There was (I believe) one roughing the passer call all day. The one on Cullen Jenkins where he was tackled into Warner on a clear hold. The Cards got away with 3 hits on Rodgers that were clearly, by the letter of the law, roughing the passer. Two of them were helmet to helmet and, in my opinion at least, very poor non-calls. The third was more understandably missed, but resulted in a pick 6 FTW when, according to the rules, it ought to have been a GB 1st down 15 yards downfield.

In addition the Cards scored 2 TDs where Fitzgerald pushed the defender to the floor. If they aren’t going to call OPI there, I don’t know who in the league is ever going to defend him. The first one, I mean if that was the only call then I guess you could understand it, but how on earth you don’t call that and then don’t call the second one which was even more flagrant I don’t know.

Of course there were calls and non calls that went in favour of the Packers and against the Cardinals. It just seemed to me at least that the big calls in the game, all of them went in favour of the home team.

Of course it wasn’t the only reason the Packers lost, just as the officials weren’t the only reason the Seahawks lost to the Steelers in the SB. The last play of the game, although it should have been called roughing the passer, Rodgers should also have gotten rid of the ball in less than 3.5 seconds on a 3 step drop from an empty set vs a blitz. He shouldn’t have overthrown Jennings for a TD 3 plays earlier or in the first quarter. There are a number of players on the Packers defence who need to stand up and admit they didn’t get their jobs done on the day.

But equally people shouldn’t be so locked into the mindset of ‘the best team must have won’ that we can’t call the officiating and the impact that it has for what it is. The Packers got the rough end of the stick on a number of big calls (20 points scored by the Cards on plays with uncalled fouls) and that might well have swung the result of the game. It happens. The Packers shoudn’t just blame the officiating, they should look to the areas they could have played better. But equally we shouldn’t dismiss or discount its impact.

Still, an incredible, enjoyable game to watch. Has there ever been a case before in the history of the league where a team has scored 45 points on 7 consecutive possessions (TD, FG, TD, TD, TD, TD, TD) and then lost!? Just wow.

by Roger Cossack (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 8:06am

Good post.

This is one of those games where I did feel like the best team won, and that the Packers were lucky (namely, missed FG) to be in it, but at the same time, they came so close to winning it and advancing, and I would take "still being alive in the playoffs" over "flukily winning last week" every season, which is why the missed calls are so irritating.

Once again, I don't think the first Fitz TD could have been called as OPI, even with the league's apparent emphasis on calling that this season (or is it only on Jason Witten?). But the second one was blatant. I would admit that these penalties may not actually have stopped the Cards anyway (it was 1st & 5 on the 2nd Fitz TD), but they should have been called, at least, for due fairness.

On that last play, it felt a little like the Patriots-Colts 4th and 2. Nobody went out for long routes, the Cards knew it, and it sure looked like everybody was covered. Sigh.

It's interesting that for what a great game Breaston had, I can really only remember 3 plays: the fly he caught one-handed against terrific coverage by Tramon Williams, the touchdown, and the big catch at the end of the 4th. OTOH, all I remember is Early Doucet catching short passes and flexing his biceps.

by Spielman :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:36am

"Of course there were calls and non calls that went in favour of the Packers and against the Cardinals. It just seemed to me at least that the big calls in the game, all of them went in favour of the home team."

In no small part because the Cardinals won the game, so nobody's whining about those calls every five goddamn seconds.

Kind of emblematic of the game, I think was the blatant DPI non-call on Breaston down the sideline with the score 38-38, where the defender had a hold of his left arm. Nobody's complaining about that one because Breaston made the catch with one arm anyway.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 6:48pm

It's one of those where if Breaston had pleaded to the official, he likely would have gotten the flag anyway.

by MFurtek (not verified) :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 9:53am

re: 36
I saw at least one roughing on Warner that was uncalled, when the defender launched himself at his head.

I prefer to see roughing penalties given a bit of leeway. The pats to the head getting 15 yards over the years as well as players trying to block passes and incidentally contacting the heads as well.

by Lance :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 8:32am

Left unsaid in all of this is that this week's losers will all not be subject to next year's rules regarding the "final 8" and the NFL's capless season (assuming there is one). Thus, NO, MIN, DAL, ARZ, IND, SD, NYJ and BAL will all be limited in who they can sign, while the Pats and Eagles (among others) will have more freedom to pick up free agents.

by Anon (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:43pm

Philly threw the game to prevent JJ from buying everyone. New conspiracy started.

by jebmak :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 3:01pm

Man, now I wish that the Pats had won. Nonetheless, "Suck it Jets!"

(Dolphins fan)

by Jon Silverberg (not verified) :: Wed, 01/13/2010 - 3:26am

Nicely reasoned...are you sure you wouldn't feel more comfortable on some other website?

by billsfan :: Wed, 01/13/2010 - 2:13pm

While that post certainly wasn't artfully phrased, it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility that a coach who has sought every possible competitive advantage would have done the same for the long-term interests of his team vis-a-vis the uncapped year and restrictions on free agency.

Consider some of the rather conventional coaching decisions in the Pats-Ravens game, from a coach known for bold, unconventional decisions that are generally praised only by the advanced stats people. Attempting a Field Goal from the Baltimore 26 when down by 19 in the fourth quarter. Punting from the Baltimore 36 when down by 17.

If any other coach makes those timid decisions, nobody but TMQ notices. But Belichick has established that he goes with the bold call in those situations. It was quite out of character for him. A conspiracy theorist might suggest he threw the game to benefit from the lack of restrictions on free agents in an uncapped year. I'm not one of those, but I still find those two decisions somewhat curious.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Eddo :: Wed, 01/13/2010 - 2:32pm

"Consider some of the rather conventional coaching decisions in the Pats-Ravens game, from a coach known for bold, unconventional decisions that are generally praised only by the advanced stats people. Attempting a Field Goal from the Baltimore 26 when down by 19 in the fourth quarter. Punting from the Baltimore 36 when down by 17."

While the punt was indeed an odd call, the field goal was absolutely the correct call. It was 4th-and-11 (I checked the play by play), and you're down by two touchdowns (plus 2-pt conversions) and a field goal. Would you have thought it especially weird if he had chosen to kick the field goal on 4th-and-long, down by 17?

by billsfan :: Wed, 01/13/2010 - 2:49pm

It was certainly a more debatable call than the punt.

Looking at the Win-Probability graphs over at Advanced NFL Stats, never mind. The Pats were pretty much irrevocably screwed from about 13:20 in the first quarter. The missed field goal was worth only 0.01 WP, moving the Ravens from 98% to 99%.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Podge (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 9:01am

My main thought: why don't they spread out the start times of playoff games more to allow Gus Johnson to commentate on every game. Or at least let him commentate on one.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 9:34am

Imagine if they'd put him on the Packer game. That could have been the first example of a man screaming himself to death...

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 9:09am

Is field goal kicking down from previous years? Or is it just bad kicking late in close games? I can't remember anything like this...

There's gonna be competition for new rookie kickers! Oh, wait...

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:14am

FG kicking is down from last year, and in a statistically significant way. However, last year was an all-time great year for kickers, and while FG kicking this year is down from the previous 5 year average, it is not statistically significant and could just be random variance.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:34pm

Another approach would be to improve other aspects of the team so that you don't have to rely so much on your kicker ... see, Washington's already doing that.

Strangely, even in Detroit people perceive this as a problem: there are fans who have been displeased with Jason Hanson this season. I don't even have a good analogy for that, much less an explanation.

by BJR :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 9:39am

My question is whether the Dansby play should have been classed a fumble? Rodgers' arm was coming forward when he was hit. Surely the tuck rule would have applied had the ball hit the ground (i.e. incomplete pass) so it should have gone down as an interception? Irrelevant really, but had Rodgers not instinctively kicked out at the ball and freakishly knocked it into Dansby's lap it would have been incomplete pass, 4th down (presumably after review). And either face mask or roughing the passer could have legitimately been called anyway.

by reinhard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 7:14pm

I agree that this was the tuck rule. It should have been called an INT return. If the ball would have touched the ground a challenge (or review... not sure how it is in OT) could probably have overturned the return.

by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 9:59am

Mike: " McNabb is still a near Pro Bowl level starter when he is playing well." The problems with that statement are that 'when he is playing well' is far too broad a qualifier. It's true of just about any QB above replacement level--even, for one brief, shining moment (er, play yesterday) Michael Vick. (The Steelers managed to make Tyler Thigpen(!?!) look awfully good for one or two series of downs before reality set in.) I've been a tepid defender of McNabb for some time, but those who say that he just can't get this particular team "over the hump," "to the next level," insert cliche here do have a lot of evidence on their side.

by peterplaysbass (verified?) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:37am

People are still surprised that Tyler Thigpen is a decent player? Everyone seems to forget he won a fair amount of games with the CHIEFS (of all teams). He might be better than Cassel.

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:42am

<-- #1 Thigpen fan!

by peterplaysbass (verified?) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:09pm

Now wait just a minute.

I notice when the Vikings, who were lacking a quality QB, let a guy go who then throws 18 TDs to 12 INTs for a terrible team. I think he rushed for 3 or so TDs that year also.

by t.d. :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:49am

I believe that Chiefs team went 2-14.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:55am

My impression of Thigpen is that he's one of the ultimate good-when-his-opponent-is-unprepared-for-him quarterbacks. This is borne out a little bit by his numbers last year.

From the 2009 week 17 Audibles at the Line:

"Vince Verhei: Tyler Thigpen's passer rating (yes, I know) by quarter:
First quarter: 97.1
Second quarter: 79.3
Third quarter: 69.1
Fourth quarter: 62.6


Aaron Schatz: ...For those of you who prefer DVOA:
First quarter: 24.9%
Second quarter: -6.8%
Third quarter: -10.7%
Fourth quarter: -25.4%"

by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:55pm

Didn't mean to start a "rational Tyler Thigpen" thread! (Comments haven't been crazy enough for an "irrational..." thread.) My reference to Thigpen is simply that he isn't who comes to mind when you hear 'nearly Pro Bowl level quarterback,' yet when he was 'playing well,' he was extremely effective for a few series against the Steelers. For Mike T. to assert that McNabb is a top quarterback when he is playing well isn't that much of an argument for McNabb, when cases like Thigpen's suggest that it isn't that far from a tautology.

by mrh :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:00pm

Having watched almost every Chiefs' play for many years, my opinion is Cassel >>> Thigpen. Yes, Thigpen can make a few plays and but there is a reason that Thigpen was the 4th string QB in Miami (Pennington, Henne, White, Thigpen - and I know Thigpen was acquired after Pennington went down). In a must-win game, the Dolphins played a rookie QB whose NFL experience had come mostly in versions of Wildcat/option plays over Thigpen when Henne got hurt. That sums things up.

by Joe T. :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:35pm

They played White because the rules state that if your #3 QB has to enter the game, then your #1 & #2 cannot return to the game.

Teams are slotting their wildcat QB as the #2 so they can get snaps, even though in many cases their emergency guy is a better choice to run the regular offense in the event the starter goes down (see McNabb/Vick/Kolb).

I expect owners will lobby for a rule change soon.

by BJR :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:49pm

And Pennington had been on IR for ages by the time the Dolphins traded for Thigpen.

by witless chum :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 3:50pm

I've never understood the point of the inactive list for games anyway. Money saving for owners? It doesn't seem like it would harm anything to allow everyone on the roster to be suited up and eligible to play.

by mostly just lurking (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 8:24pm

It's to mitigate a team with injuries being at an obvious disadvantage.
The other 8 players are available so that you don't have to cut a guy or put him on IR if he's out for a couple of weeks in order not to be fielding a smaller squad than your opponent. Not perfect, but it goes a fair way towards its objective.

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 10:20am

By the way, to my knowledge nobody on the Packers was commenting on the officiating after the game nor did the fans that much in the Packer chat immediately following the game.

I do find it amusing on how Peter King is working so hard to provide cover for the officials in that game giving alleged technical explanations for the obvious misses.

Setting aside how the game finished Cullen Jenkins being called for roughing as he is being held and LF not being called for OPI were the two that had Packer fans baffled.

Lost in all this hoopla is that Jermichael Finley is pretty d*mn good. Thompson blew it on Harrell but made it back in spades just with this guy.

Also ignored is that GB's run defense was MIA. Good grief. Just all around horrible effort by the defensive squad.

I am torn on how to feel about McCarthy in that the traits with this team simply do not change. Do his strengths outweigh the weaknesses? I really do not know.

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:17am

I do find it amusing on how Peter King is working so hard to provide cover for the officials in that game giving alleged technical explanations for the obvious misses.

Well, his point is that it's not like it was ignored, but just not noticed. I think people with the advantage of video review need to have greater appreciation for how the officials operate and realize that most of them are not the idiots that we make them out to be.

With that said, yes the Packers got screwed.

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:22am


First, I never wrote the Packers got scr*wed and am adamant that the defense and McCarthy's continued inablity to get his offense prepped to play a solid first quarter were the issue yesterday.

Second, King has been ALL OVER the Internet and TV explaining ad infinitum why the call wasn't made. That just screams to me that he has promised the league he will provide cover under the guise of "explaining". Which is both amusing and pathetic that he will act as such an obvious shill.

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:32am

It is rather odd the things that King will latch onto as if it was something important. Obviously, it's not important why the call was missed, except to calm down some of the hysterics that fans are susceptible to when it comes to NFL officiating.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:40am

Jenkins hand grabbed the facemask, so if there was to be a call, it should have been for that, not roughing, since Cullen was blocked into the qb somewhat. The lack of call on the last play was just bad luck; as soon as I saw the replay from the opposite end zone, I said the official eyes were on the ball, not Rodgers, as as much as that sucks for the Packers, that's where the officials eyes should be.

The league has reached a point where it seems as if pass interference, of the offensive and defensive variety is a random outcome. That really needs fixing.

by Anger...rising (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 10:55am

So let me get this straight: in a league that routinely penalizes accidental brushes of quarterbacks' heads by rushers attempting to bat down passes, it's acceptable to hit a quarterback in the face with the crown of the helmet or take him to the ground by his facemask in overtime of a playoff game?

by Arkaein :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:10am

For some reason it's nearly impossible to get a roughing call when hitting Rodgers. It's been that way all year.

I suspect a conspiracy between the refs and a well known Wrangler spokesperson.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:45am

All the money was on the Packers. The pointspread moved from +2.5 to -3. The refs favored the Cardinals. Go figure.

by jmaron :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:35pm

The problem with the roughing the passer penalty now is it is so random. The most innocuous taps on the helmet or "low" hits get called and really hard hits that look obviously illegal get overlooked.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:01am

Jets: Running the ball and playing defense worked well this week.
Balt: Running the ball and playing defense worked this week.

Brandon Merriweather terrible run support on 83yd td run. Bad S angles/tackling.
Were was Randy Moss?
Ray Lewis had Tom Brady's tells " Red 40".
Patriots defense couldn't stop the run
Joe Flacco couldn't pass
Shocked BB didn't stack the line to stop the run
Ravens converting all important 3rd downs
Sam Aiken sucks
Patriots get favored on the bad call punt recovery " computer assistance in madden"
Turncoat Patriots fans leave stadium early in droves
Harbaugh giving high 5's to Ravens fans who infest the stadium at end of game.

Eagles: Good Rex Bad Rex? Good Donovan Bad Donovan?
Anthony Spenceer was never struggling, he just wasn't getting "sacks"
Carson Palmer has mechanical flaws? News to me, he throws darts.

Packers: Joe Buck gets to call one of the most exciting games you'll ever see... where was the emotion? Did he raise his voice in excitement even once?
- 2 missed calls at end, hitting Rodgers helmet
- Should have been a holding call but they called Jenkins on helmet/helmet
- Fitzegerald pushed off ( all 4 crucial bad calls went Arizona's way)
- I thought Mike Mccarthy coached a good tactical game ( not Dom Capers)
- Kurt Warner played a PERFECT Game
- All the gamling money was on GB, the refs favored Arizona, go figure
- The GB Packers will be the team of the next decade winning at least 2 sb's

I'd rather have Aaron Rodgers on my team than any other player in the NFL. He's a younger version of Drew Brees, and on a discount cash flow analysis this guy has more "good" play in front of him than any other player ( and probably QB). The Packers will be the team of the next decade 2010-2019 and will win at least 2 super bowls. I'd fight for Aaron Rodgers.

by Joe T. :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:45am

Re: All the gamling money was on GB, the refs favored Arizona, go figure

If you're a conspiracist, that makes perfect sense.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:08pm

If you were ever going to fix a game, you fix the game with the chance to make the most money... Watching a line move 5.5 points with no injury news is about as much as you'll ever see. It would have been a very profitable game to affect.

or is your argument that games can't be fixed, and that the conspiracists are all fools? Are you aware of the NBA games fixing? Do I think all or even most games are fixed? No but it is funny that all the money was on GB and all 4 of the big calls went zona's way.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:14pm

The NBA Donaghy scandal didn't involve fixing the outcome of games in terms of the winner and loser; rather, the scheme was that Donaghy (and others?) would call more fouls down the stretch of games, resulting in the over coming in more frequently.

And while everyone is pointing out the bad calls that went against the Packers, I feel like that's more a function of Arizona winning. If the Cardinals had lost, I'm sure we could point out a few calls that went Green Bay's way. (It's also a function of Arizona "playing through" the bad calls a bit better, one example being Breaston's catching of a ball despite uncalled DPI.)

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:20pm

Calling more/less fouls on purpose to effect the game isn't fixing? That's news to me. Tell that to the gamblers that were cheated out of their money.

Arizona deserved to win, Kurt Warner played perfectly, but they didn't need the refs to give them 4 key calls at key times in the game. It looked shady considering all the money on GB. GB should have played defense.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:29pm

Where did I say it wasn't fixing? All I said was that the NBA fixing wasn't intended for one team to win.

Your comments regarding the Packers/Cardinals line shift and subsequent game outcome imply that the refs purposefully made calls that favored the Cardinals, which was not how NBA games were fixed.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:52pm

If you are going to fix a game, you don't let it get to overtime, or even let it come down to a last second field goal attempt. You don't let the team you want to lose score a tying touchdown with two minutes left.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:57pm

So the NBA had refs not calling/calling to effect the totals of games... so fixing over/unders was in play, but fixing games was totally unethical. I mean, they crossed the line but they wouldn't cross THAT line.

for the record, I don't even think the game was "fixed", I just think all of the key calls went to the Cardinals, and all the money was on green bay.

If you want a really fishy game, the Steelers/Hawks SB is what I'd bring up, where all of the key momentem calls went to the Steelers, with exception to a DPI call at the end of the first half. Besides that, there were 4-6 calls that all favored the Steal-ers.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:14pm

I think they didn't cross that line for two reasons:

The primary reason is that it's less conspicuous to just call more fouls (on both teams, remember) to hit the over than to favor one team. As we're witnessing here, when it appears that one team got all the calls, fans and commentators jump all over it. However, if the refs just happened to be calling a lot of DPI penalties, on both teams, the final score might be higher, but the fix would not have been in so that a specific team won or covered.

The second is that I feel that the commissioner's office and/or juries deciding punishment would be harsher in their punishment of a ref who actually affected the winner and loser of a game instead of just the final score. I have no real reason to back it up, other than non-gamblers would feel cheated if one team was purposefully screwed over. Only gamblers really care about the over coming in.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 4:40pm

How can you even believe they didn't cross THAT line? Kings/Lakers anyone?

They admitted they cheated...
They say they rigged the over/unders.
Who is to say they didn't effect the outcome of games?

Look, I'm not saying this game was rigged, but to dismiss it as " that couldn't happen" is silly. NBA games were rigged, why couldn't NFL games be? There is more money at stake.

Look, if the Packers played defense, or completed a deep bomb to an open Greg Jennings in overtime they win, and we are talking about how great Aaron Rodgers is in leading his team to the 3rd best comeback in playoff history in his 1st playoff start.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:18pm

As I often say about officiating problems, don't assume conspiracy when the more likely explanation is incompetence.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:23pm

I'm in the minority, but I think the NFL refs are usually pretty good and make good calls ( with a few exceptions). Gene Skelator is pretty good. I think all the money on GB made it more likely to being fixed, and the home crowd was very loud...

Could you imagine if they overturned the Fitzgeralnd TD for pushing off, or the 2nd to last play of the game ( turning a 3rd & 5 into 1st and 10) or the last play of the game when the Cardinals dog piled in the end zone for the win? Ahhhh no, it was a penalty, the game is NOT over.

They would have burned down Phoenix. The ref would have had to have balls of steel to reverse that last call.

by Jetspete :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:34pm


an NFL playoff game would never be fixed. I usually enjoy your ramblings, but you are way off base. First of all, Arizona had a 31-10 lead before any of these questionable calls came into question. Second, if there was any unusual betting Vegas casinos would have alerted the NFL. The NFL has people who monitor that stuff. Third, any real money could only be made through parlays or teasers. And the most common parlays involve favorites. In case you didnt watch early, the favorite was destroyed at 1:00pm.

Lets' buy into your scenario. So rogue referee decides to fix a heavily bet NFL game. How does he do it? Does he use a bookie? That would be monitored within hours. Lets say he uses a family member. The most someone could bet without it being tracked is ten grand. So an NFL ref is going to risk his livelihood and five years in jail for ten grand? Not likely. An individual referee has much less influence over an NFL game than an NBA game. I'm not saying a game could never be fixed, i'm just saying it would be hard to believe and likely caught, and definitely would not happen in a game in which a team had a 31-10 lead.

and remember, the game moved from 2.5 to zero. Those moves happen a lot. It's not like the game moved over a key number

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:02pm

Skelator yes, like Ed Hoculue is he-man.

Having a line move 5.5 points is highly unusual. The last time I saw a line move that much with no info was the USC/Oklahoma college championship when everybody in the world bet on OU, the 3 point dog and turned them into a 3 point favorite. I bet on USC and the oddsmakers were right as the soft schedule trojans destroyed the more battle tested Sooners.

For the record, I don't think this game was fixed, I'm not willing to make that jump but it was "fishy". I don't think refs would make it THAT blatant, but if they were going to throw a game they wouldn't make bad call after bad call after bad call.

You could ummmmm call the holding that happens on virtually every play, or make key calls in clutch moments that make it a lot harder for a team to win ( but not impossible).... or get to some key players, like long snappers making the league minnimum, kickers, etc. You don't want to make it obvious.

but to suggest " they'd never fix a game" is short sighted. It's already happened in major sports, and it could happen again.

by Jetspete :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:33pm

a line movement from +2.5 to -3 really is not as dramatic as you'd have people believe. Basically an undervalued dog becomes the favorite, but the line never crosses the key number of 3. I'd be a lot more concerned about a line that moves from -2.5 to -4 than a line that moves between the 3's.

There was nothing fishy about the calls yesterday. Aaron used the right word, incompetent.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 4:46pm

Right, I agree that moving from -2.5 to -4 would be huge as it crosses over 3, but moving from +2.5 to -3 is moving 5.5 points and landing on the important 3. If the Packers won by 3 it could have been very interesting as you'd have a bunch of late zona money hitting +3, and you'd have all that GB money as the line moved. Massive losses and a push for the books isn't good.

BTW, 3 and 7 are obviously key numbers, but so are 1,4,and 6 but people don't talk about those as much.

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:38pm

Gene Skeletor? I'm suddenly getting some very awesome idea for KSK's photoshopping guys.

by ammek :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 7:18pm

Well the crew for the Cards-Packers game included Butch Hannah, Larry Rose and Boris Cheek. I was hoping for some impromptu cabaret at halftime.

by peterplaysbass (verified?) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:47am

"Running the ball and playing defense worked well this week."

That's all I heard the two previous seasons as a Vikings fan, and they got taken apart by the Eagles at home in the playoffs. It's not that far out of a prediction, but both the Jets and Ravens should get beat next week. I give Baltimore a fighting chance, but I don't see the Jets winning at all.

"Turncoat Patriots fans leave stadium early in droves"

Great comment. I noticed that too, and was surprised. If I paid for a playoff ticket, I'm staying until the end. It's not like the Patriots offense isn't capable of scoring a lot of points in a short among of time.

"I'd rather have Aaron Rodgers on my team than any other player in the NFL"

That's pretty extreme. I think his value is a little inflated per gaudy numbers that are partially a byproduct of team detriments out of his control. He's a very good player and should be recognized as such, but I could name at least a few other young players I'd rather have on my team than Rodgers.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:59am

It's not like the Patriots offense isn't capable of scoring a lot of points in a short among of time.

Name the times they did that this year, without Welker (or even with him), against a good team.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:01pm

Also, I think Brady's broken throwing hand finger was really acting up (maybe because of the cold?). He could throw hard and fast, but it seemed like whenever he tried to throw a touch pass, even when not pressured, it was a big-time wobbler.

Nonetheless, while I thought the Pats were going to lose the game, I didn't expect them to come out totally flat and be beaten like rented mules. Maybe Adalius Thomas handed a copy of the game plan to the Ravens to get revenge on Belichick? :) :)

by peterplaysbass (verified?) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:35pm

Notwithstanding, they're still an offense with Brady and Moss. Edelman looked very good in relief of Welker.

It's a shame that there were so many empty seats. I don't get how people can be fan enough to buy tickets to a playoff game but not fan enough to stick through to the end.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:27pm

"I don't get how people can be fan enough to buy tickets to a playoff game but not fan enough to stick through to the end."

Most fans can't afford playoff tickets. Its not fans going to these games.

Its whoever will pay the highest price from season ticket holders.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:01pm

You are right, running the ball and playing D is great for bad weather, and there was bad weather in Cincinatti and Foxborro this weekend. I still want the team with the best QB and I'm not saying the old cliche is a rule but Barnwell laughed at Rex Ryan for saying it last week.

The turncoat Patriots fans left in droves, you saw the bowl get emptier and emptier until everybody left was a Ravens fan, and Harbaugh was slapping high 5's to all the Ravens fans as he exited the field into the tunnel after the game.

Yes, I don't think it's popular to pick Aaron Rodgers #1 in a fantasy dynasty draft, but that's why I'm saying it. He's the real deal man. He had 35 TD's this year ( passing/rushing) and 7 picks in his 2nd year as the starter. If you protect him ( and they can draft protection), he makes very very smart reads, and very smart audibles.

The Packers stats were inflated due to a weak schedule this year (but that happens sometimes), but keep in mind this was Aaron Rodgers 2nd year as the starter and his first playoff game. It would be very easy to use his inexperience and bad play as an "excuse", but Rodgers did very well and I'm a believer. He had incredible pressure on him down that much ( taking out the run game), but he passed them right back into the game that they could have and should have won if the refs were a little less biased.

QB's are the most important position, and Rodgers is the best of the younger QB's. There is nobody I'd rather have for the next 10-12 years on my roster than him. He will win at least 2 super bowls the next decade. I'd fight for Aaron Rodgers.

by t.d. :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:47am

running and playing strong defense works well as a strategy in inclement weather. Yesterday marked the last occasion for inclement weather this postseason, unless the Jets host the Ravens in the AFC championship game.

by Jetspete :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:12pm

The refs made a great non-call on the facemask play. Adams going to the helmet had no impact on the play and was a borderline call to begin with. We want games decided by players on the field, not referees. Great job by the crew on that play.

if you want to whine about the refs, go to the fitzgerald touchdown with three blown calls.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:06pm

Facemask, along with all other penalties meant to protect players from injury, is a penalty regardless of whether it affects the outcome of the play. It's not like DPI getting waved off for an uncatchable ball.

You could even make a pretty good argument that the facemask influenced Rodgers in how in accidentally kicked the ball up into the air.

Here's a youtube video:


A slow motion replays starts at 0:22. The sequence is clearly

1. Ball knocked free
2. face mask grabbed and pulled down (and not let go all the way to the ground)
3. Rodgers kicking his leg out and hitting the ball

The facemask didn't cause the fumble, but it definitely had the ability to influence the play.

by Jerry :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 6:46am

Once the ball is free, I'm sure the referee is (rightly) following it, instead of looking at Rodgers' head.

by Arkaein :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 10:40am

I never said the refs were perfect, but there are 7 of them, and it still should be a penalty.

This instance might be the first time where I've heard so many people argue that the ref had other things to look at as an excuse for a non-call. This is why I've argued elsewhere that obvious, serious penalties should be reviewable.

by DGL :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 11:35am

In the Times' Fifth Down blog, Linn Zinser reports that the NFL says that not calling a face mask penalty was the correct call, because Adams did not "twist, turn, or pull" Rodgers's facemask.

by Arkaein :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 1:40pm

Your linked article doesn't say that the NFL says the call was correct. They just say that it's a judgment call which is not reviewable, and then goes on to list the specific text of the rule.

If you disagree, please quote the actual text in the article that backs up your statement.

The photo in the article shows Rodgers eyes almost covered by his helmet, so it sure looks like the facemask was "pulled" to me, as does the video clip I linked to above.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 3:07pm

One ref is tasked with watching the qb with the ball. Once the ball is jarred loose, his job swtiches to watching the ball. Every serious obvious penalty cannot be called by the refs, and an attempt to do so via video review would slow the game to a crawl. At live speed potential penalties appear on nearly every play. If "serious" means injury producing, that the point is player safety rather than penalizing a team's chance of winning, then increase the fines handout mid-week to a 100k a pop, or 2 of their game checks, whichever is less.

by Jerry :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 9:10pm

There is only one referee. He's the guy wearing a white cap and a microphone who stands in the offensive backfield. There are six other officials who wear black caps. Each has his own area of responsibility during a play; the referee's is the quarterback. If another official had noticed Rodgers being pulled down, he could have called it, but he would have been ignoring his actual job.

by peterplaysbass (verified?) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:03am

Doug Farrar: "That last McGahee touchdown run was a testament to how a team can rebuild a line in a single draft. The four blockers they drafted in 2007 -- McClain, Grubbs, Yanda, and Gaither (supplemental) were the main guys up front. McClain outside and Yanda pulled left."

You can't deny that the Patriots defense wasn't paying attention to 2009 acquisitions Birk and Oher, though.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:03am

Oh and Early Doucet showed that Arizona has the best WR core in the NFL. I said it before, they are 5 deep... even if you take away Fitz & Boldin, their 3,4,5 guys are still better than say Cleveland or the Rams... I'd still rather have Breaston/Deucet/Urban than the Browns, Rams or some other teams 1,2,3 guys. It's nasty when they actually use all of them too.

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:11am

I do not understand how the Rams and Browns get mentioned.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:40am

Arizona's 3,4,5 WR's are better than some teams 1,2,3 WR's. Point being Rams and Browns.

I think this game ( and the Vikings/Steelers) game also shows that GB's defense was overrated statistically due to a weak schedule... Shutting down the bad teams and getting turnovers might look good to conventional stats ( and DVOA) but picking off the Matt Staffords of the league is overrated.

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:25am

How much of that is due to having Kurt Warner throw to them and Fitz and Boldin drawing attention away from them though? They're more talented than most WRs, but I think a guy like Massaquoi might be equal to the Breaston/Deucet/Urban types.

The Ram's WRs are a whole other matter. Their leading receiver was Steven Jackson.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:42am

Deucet was expected to be a 1st round pick when he dominated at LSU. He has had the talent, learned from some good WR's and can do well in the NFL. Breaston has already been a 1,000 yard WR on a stacked roster already, and Urban was said to have the best pre-season of all of them ( and is a good special teamer). The Cardinals backups are good man. The Browns/Rams have 1 WR each right now if that.

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:50am

Rams have zero. Donnie Avery is, well, Donnie Avery. And their #2 WR was on the Cowboy's practice squad, then the Philly roster, then cut, then starting for the Rams and making 40 catches for 7 yards a pop.

As for the rest, I'm not trying to demean the Card's receivers... consider me to be a Massaquoi fan, I guess.

by oi! (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:56pm

Massaquoi was a drop machine at UGA, and from what little I saw of him this year, still is. He's got a long way to go before he becomes a valid #2 reciever...

by ChiJeff (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:08pm

I agree with that assesment C and on top of that they have a powerful Beanie Wells on the team as well. The only problem now is, if Kurt Warner retires at seasons end
they obviously give the reins over to Matt Leinart. Not sure that is gonna work out for the Cards anytime soon. Maybe now that Pete Carroll is in the Pacific Northwest maybe a Matt Leninart for Matt Hasselbeck trade would be in order.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:14pm

I wasn't trying to start a talent debate, I was just showing off that Arizona has a really really deep WR pool ( even after Fitz/Boldin). I was doing some scouting reports on teams during the preseason ( I posted them here at FO) and I said even back then that their 3,4,5 guys are better than some teams starting WR's. How sick is that? You have maybe the best 1,2 WR's in the NFL, and the best 3,4,5 WR's in the NFL as well? Arizona easily has the best WR's top to bottom, and having a good QB throw to them helps their production as well.

Boldin goes down in injury, and Warner plays a perfect game. Doucet picked up slack... No, he's not a nobody off the bench, the guy was sick at LSU, and looked good in preseason ( and I'm sure) in practice.

Warner was screaming at him earlier in the game though. Isn't it funny how competitive nice guys like Warner and Polomalou can get in games? Something takes over them and they are nasty...

by Ravens (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:25am

I was very interested by the way the Pats dedicated themselves to taking Rice out of the passing game. He was double covered on every Flacco dropback, with an LB shadowing him before he crossed the line of scrimmage and a DB dropping down to cover him man-to-man. I don't think I've ever seen anything like that before. And it worked --- after averaging 5 receptions per game all season, Rice was shut out as a receiver.

I think the Pats were committed in their gameplan to doing everything they could to stop Rice. They just couldn't execute the gameplan, because the Ravens O line completely dominated them.

by turtle553 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:31am

Why did the challenge on the Flacco scramble need to result in a first down to be considered successful? They already moved the ball one yard, isn't that enough to be successful regardless if it results in a first down or is there something in the rules to keep coaches from challenging spots less than one yard?

by Led :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:35am

That might be the worst spot I've ever seen and after the review they STILL screwed Baltimore out of at least a half yard.

by grrigg :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:40am

This is done so that you dont get a challenge on every play. There are tons of plays where the ball isn't spotted "correctly" according to the standard of reviewing the play 10 times in slow motion. You have to get it right or EITHER team could challenge depending on which way you missed it.

Therefore a successful challenge needs to result in first down, just to cut down on challenges where the officials missed a little on non-crucial yardage.

by DGL :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:48am

Although if a coach wanted to Marvin a challenge to gain half a yard on second and six, hell, let 'em. You never get more than three challenges a game, even if your first two win, no?

by zzyzx :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:58am

Yeah but then every spot in the last two minutes of a half and in OT would be subject to this.

by DGL :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:54pm

No; the booth official doesn't have to use the same criteria to call for a review that a coach uses to decide whether or not to challenge. In general, the booth official is going to have a higher standard - both in terms of likelihood of overturning and impact on the game - than a coach might (except for Harbaugh; still don't know what the hell his criteria are).

A coach might challenge a call with only a ten percent chance of winning due to some other circumstances. He might want to call a timeout anyway so figures might as well get the challenge as well. Of it could be a case like Dungy on the Polamalu interception in the 2005 playoffs -- if the interception stands the game is effectively over, so you take a flyer on the challenge even though you think there's almost no chance of winning. The booth is not going to call for a replay review of that play.

Similarly, the booth isn't going to call for a review of a spot that looks like it might be half a yard off on second and eight.

by zzyzx :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:42am

You can only challenge a spot if it's a TD or a first down.

by whatyousay :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:51am

Yeah, any challenge-the-spot situation needs to result in a first down to be a successful challenge.

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:04pm

Wait, so lets say it's 3rd and 10 at the opponent's 40. Swing pass to the RB. The referee says the runner stepped out at the 39, but I want to challenge that he didn't go out of bounds until the 31-- not enough or a 1D, but enough that we can now attempt a FG. In this scenario I can "lose" the challenge but still "win" it?

Then again, I bet the play would be considered blown dead at the 39 and unchallengeable.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:09pm

Hmm... you're able to challenge that sort of thing on kick returns and interception returns, so it would definitely be unfair and illogical to not allow it in the case you describe.

Whether it is allowed is another matter. I wonder if there's a rule (written or unwritten) that you're allowed to challenge if it moves the spot at least two yards, or something along those lines.

by DGL :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:56pm

It's not a question of being allowed to challenge or not; it's whether you "win" the challenge or not.

In the case described -- an eight yard swing that could move the ball into field goal range but not make the first down -- I believe that you would officially "lose" the challenge (lose a timeout and not qualify for a third challenge) but the ball would be respotted, giving you the closer FG try.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:25pm

Ah, I wasn't clear enough; substitute "allowed to challenge and win" for all instances of "allowed to challenge" in my comment.

by zzyzx :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:39pm

Yeah that would be interesting. Can a coach challenge if he's obviously going to lose and no one thinks it would have a chance?

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:05pm

I present to you... Marvin Lewis!

by whatyousay :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:57pm

Yeah, I think that would be unchallengeable. If it were the opposite situation (the defensive team challenging that he DID step out and it was uncalled), then I believe technically that is a different challenge -- Did the runner step out vs Did you mis-spot the ball.

Whenever you challenge the spot of the ball, they often move it because they are usually at least a little bit wrong on the field. So it's not uncommon that they move the ball a little, you don't get the first down still, so you lose a time out.

by God (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:33am

Aaron Rodgers ain't no Mark Sanchez !

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:38am

By the way, I really enjoyed watching the Cowboys play. I understand that is heresy for a Green Bay fan, but that is how I would have liked to have seen the Packers play on Sunday. The defense just took it to the Eagles. In old style parlance, 'they whupped 'em'

by ammek :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:57pm

Yep, I agree. I absolutely hated watching the 90s Aikman-Smith-Irvin Cowboys, no matter how brilliant they were. But I'm having to force myself not to cheer on the current team. Of course, whenever the camera pans to Jerry in his executive box, the old fury returns. Especially when he's got company.

by billsfan :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:00pm

I imagine that shot of Jerry Jones high-fiving his esteemed guest triggered some howling fantods in the Blue States.

(I also like the Eagles)

by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:03pm

I said this in another thread (and will probably say it again a few more times, for which I apologize in advance): with a camera following Brett Favre's every move and a camera focused on Jones in whatever luxury box is given the visiting owner, will we actually be able to see the football game? The over/under on plays we miss because the director has a 'live' camera on Favre or Jones is three. If T. Owens still played for the Cowboys, the over/under on missed plays would go to six!

by billsfan :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:34pm

Without that camera, we never would have seen Jerry Jones pick his nose.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Yaguar :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:40am

List of Active Quarterbacks superior to the "clutch" Tom Brady in Adjusted Yards per Pass Attempt in the playoffs:

Peyton Manning, Jake Delhomme, Matt Hasselbeck, Ben Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Marc Bulger, Tony Romo, David Garrard, Daunte Culpepper.

by jmaron :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:12pm

Aaron Schatz: "If I were a Vikings fan, I would be freaking out right now."

Viking fans have a built pessimism about them. We presume things will go wrong.

by Theo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:44pm

Pats fans assume it will go well and boo the team if they're 14 points behind.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:57pm

Are you really arguing that a team that played as horribly as the Patriots did in the first quarter (and, well, the entire game) shouldn't be booed?

It's one thing if the opposition takes the opening kickoff and drives for a TD and then you go 6-and-out or 9-and-out and the other team drives again for a TD to go up 14-0. That doesn't deserve booing.

But when you come out and look like flat, unprepared, half-hearted, going-through-the-motions crap, you damn well should be booed.

by ammek :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:06pm

I don't know. The Packers were down 17-0 on two turnovers, rotten pass protection, some ill-timed blitzes, and missed tackles. I didn't feel like booing. I know it was on the road, but even so — the first quarter is too early. The Bengals fans' boos became audible some time during the third quarter, because their QB couldn't complete a pass (and appeared to have stopped trying, despite trailing). That was constructive booing: trying to get the coaches to change the playcalling, make them up the tempo.
The Pats' fans' reaction was something else: it certainly felt premature and impatient. And it's not as though they were saying 'here we go again'; the Pats have played well at home.

by N8 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 3:32pm

Packers fans still think of the snow-globe Seahawks game and how they came back to win. I understand the Patriot fans' reactions. They really stunk it up and deserved some grief.

Pass Interference rules need to change somehow. No more "spot of the foul." How can an arm-bar get more yards than a helmet-to-helmet or roughing?

by DGL :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 6:19pm

Spot of the foul makes sense because if you make it a 15 yard penalty you get more situations where the best play for a DB who's beat to tackle the WR. 40 yard pass play or 15 yard penalty? Take the penalty. And the NFL wants to encourage passing offense, not mugging WRs.

The only change I can see that's feasible is to split PI into two different fouls, a "flagrant" PI and a run of the mill PI, with "flagrant" PI being a spot foul and ordinary PI being 15 yards. But that's making a rulebook that everyone thinks is too complex even more complex, and forcing even more judgment calls on already-overburdened officials. And leads to even more arguments about "How could they not have called that a Flagrant PI??"

If you really want to protect the players, classify all helmet to helmet hits as grounds for disqualification. And call it. You'll see helmet to helmet hits stopping real fast.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 6:45pm

Everyone who opposes 15 yard DPI claims that it will lead to DBs mugging the WRs, but this simply doesn't happen in college.

A 15 yard automatic first down is still such a large penalty that there are very few cases when it is both the right play and where the DB is in position to commit intentional DPI but is not in good enough position that he has a good shot at a legitimate pass defense.

I'd really like to see this tried in the NFL, even for a one year probationary period. I really think the worries about intentional DPI are vastly overstated, but we'll never know without testing it.

by billsfan :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 6:51pm

I think I've said this before, and I'm sure others have as well, but what's wrong with just making it a spot foul not to exceed half the distance to the goal line?

(I also like the Eagles)

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 9:41pm

Well, any pass into the endzone would still call for the receiver to be hammered by the DB then for one.

by billsfan :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 11:19am

Not necessarily. Consider the following:

Hail Mary as time runs out. DB levels receiver. Offense gets another untimed try from half as far away. Hail Marys aren't caught terribly often, so an untimed down from the 1 would be a bit unfair.

4th and Goal. DB levels receiver. Offense gets a First Down and moves a little closer.

1st and 10 from own 40. Deep pass goes ~60 yards in the air. Receiver and Defender get legs tangled at the goal line. By the ref's subjective judgement, it's pass interference. What's a fair penalty? 15 Yards? 30 yards? 59 yards?

Pass interference in the endzone is basically a free touchdown, when there's no guarantee that the ball would have been caught.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Anon-y-Jero (not verified) :: Wed, 01/13/2010 - 3:26pm

N8, not sure what was meant by the comment but, if I'm hanging my hat on the "Snow-globe game"... I'm hangin' 'em up.

by jmaron :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:20pm

Philly's pass plays seemed to take a huge amount of time to develop.
I'm not sure if it was the Philly strategy of going for big plays, Dallas just covering really well or McNabb just holding onto the ball too long, but there didn't seem to be any quick plays that would seem to have made sense given the Cowboys ability to pressure.

Baltimore's top ranked DVOA status doesn't look so bad now? Philly on the other hand - not so much?

Kind of surprising that in a year where all the teams are so closely ranked only one game was close at all.

by Jetspete :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:24pm

Audibles at the Line wasnt written in 2002, so i have a question for the writers: Were the referees correct in throwing a roughing the kicker flag on Pittsburgh in their play-off battle with the Titans (a fairly memorable call)? It was a close call that decided the game, and by letter of the law should have been thrown. But in that case the game was decided by an overzealous referee throwing a flag. Much like yesterday a great play would have been negated, and a game decided, by a call that had little to do with the play in question. Granted the refs yesterday didnt even see the penalty, but i'm glad there was no flag.

And i hate the Steelers!

by Mello :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:39pm

IMO, a flag in week one should be a flag in OT of a playoff game. The most important thing is that the refs be consistent throughout a game though. I think they mostly were in the Pack/Cards game, they kept the flag in their pocket on many obvious fouls on both sides during the game.

by Tom Gower :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:47pm

It wasn't roughing, it was running into the kicker. And it was running into, though not roughing, so the call was correct (disclaimer: Titans fan).

by MJK :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:38pm

I'm a bit in mourning this morning, so I'll just post one thing.

There is a silver lining for all the teams that lost this weekend. If a new CBA does not get hammered out, losing in the wildcard round means your hands aren't tied in free agency next year. Any team that makes it to the final eight is hampered, and any team that makes it to the championship round is really tied up. Losing in the championship game this year sucks...you get all the penalties of finishing in the final four, and don't even get a conference championship or a SB appearance to make up for it.

by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:52pm

More flexibility in free agency applies to Ted Thompson . . . how?

by billsfan :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:52pm

I've seen this mentioned in this thread twice now... does anybody have a good explanation of the specifics, or at least a link to one?

(I also like the Eagles)

by Lance :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 4:01pm

I don't have the particulars in front of me, but some basics (off the top of my head-- someone correct me if I'm wrong) for if there is no cap next year: (a) You now need to have 6 years to be a UFA, and not 4 years; (b) the top 8 teams can't sign UFAs unless the release (or otherwise lose) a played of the same value; (c) the top four basically can only sign either players who were cut, or players from other final four teams; (d) there are one (or two?) more "franchise tags" for each team, meaning that it's easier to hold on to the best guys (if you want to pay).

There are probably more specifics, etc., but this is the thrust of those rules.

by Parker (The First One) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 12:55pm

For those of you living in conspiracy land today, I have a couple of questions.

1) If Fitz had been called for OPI as you think he should have, what part of the game that you watched yesterday leads you to believe the Cards don't score anyway? That was a 1st and 5 play from the 11. Is OPI a 10 or 15 yarder? Does it matter? 1st and 15 or 1st and 20, Warner is still going to smoke you, just like he did on 88% of his passes.

2) On the Rogers fumble, (this is a more serious question), would the penalty come before or after the fumble? If it would have been after, then it is again a moot point. You think if you give the Cards the bal on the 40 that they don't score? Please.

What is getting lost in all this nonsense is the performance that Warner put together. Amazing. Three words: Hall. Of. Fame.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:15pm

I posted this link in another reply, but here's a replay of the final play (skip to 0:22):


The facemask clearly occurs after the fumble but before the recovery, and may have caused Rodgers to inadvertently kick the ball the way he did, so a correct call would have let GB keep possession.

As far as the OPI non-call, yes there is an excellent chance that Arizona scores anyways. Still would have like to make them earn it though. GB did manage a few stops in the game.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:12pm

There is good reason for Vikings fans to be very pessimistic. The Cowboys have been much, much, much, better on the line of scrimmage for at least 8 weeks now. Yes, trends can reverse, but that isn't much to hope for. In particular, after 18 weeks of football, the verdict is pretty clear; Childress made a serious evaluation error in thinking that Sullivan would approximate Birk's production. Birk looked better yesterday than Sullivan has all year, going up against good tackle. Luckily for Childress, the owner got all excited about Childress lucking into a Zombie King, and neglected to examine why Childress need to get lucky. The Chiller gets wealthy, and the team, in term of final record, is likely peaking right now, a game short of the conference championship.

I just hope, that in the Cowboys hoopla that takes place over the next couple of weeks, that people note who was exercising great influence in the personnel area, when late round and even undrafted major contributors for the Cowboys were added to the roster. The sight of that ass Jones claiming credit is going to be unwatchable.

by The Powers That Be :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:40pm

Sure, because God knows nobody deserves any credit for hiring and then listening to his personnel people.

Should we also note that Parcells didn't want to take Ware, and Jerry overruled him? Or should we ignore things like that.

by jmaron :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:51pm

Who did Parcells want to take?

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 5:03pm

He wanted to take Marcus Spears with their first pick and then hope that Ware would fall to their second pick (around the 20th overall pick). Spears is still starting for the Cowboys but he's not very good, and clearly that would have been a hug mistake.

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:57pm

Should we also note that Parcells didn't want to take Ware

This is one of those things that gets repeated so often, yet is of supremely dubious truthfulness. Parcells, who is not exactly known to heap praise upon young players (or really anyone), went ahead and gave Ware the Lawrence Taylor comparison to the Media RIGHT AFTER the pick. He loved Ware coming out of college.

The most likely story that I've heard was that Parcells (and others, he was hardly the only voice in the room) were sure that the Chargers, picking behind the Cowboys, liked Merriman more and would take him. So the argument was whether they could maneuver it so they could take Marcus Spears first, then try to take Ware behind the Chargers, by trading up with the 2nd first rounder pick.

There was never any thought that Ware wasn't their guy, just if they could get BOTH of their guys. As it turned out, the don't-play-around guys were right, because they got both players anyway. But the story isn't quite as it is often repeated, that Parcells didn't like Ware or that he liked Spears more than Ware.

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:02pm

I should note that a similar scenario played out in the '08 draft, with Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins-- except that they went the other way philosphically and it turned out well.

Jenkins was higher on the Cowboy's board, but they went with Felix who they didn't think would drop down to the second 1st round pick. And then they picked up Jenkins with the second pick. Who knows if Felix would have dropped, but they got both of their players anyway.

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:49pm

To be fair, if you're going to mention Bill Parcells, then you have to give credit to Jeff Ireland (now Miami's GM, he did player evaluation with the Cowboys until a couple years ago), Tom Ciskowski (director of college scouting for the Cowboys), and even a little for Stephen Jones, Jerry's son. That latter was responsible for getting rid of TO (by all acconts Jerry wanted to keep him this year) and for drafting Felix Jones over Rashard Mendenhall (Felix being Stephen's "pet" player in that draft). It's been 3 years since Parcells left, and this team is still good in part due to those 3 guys.

I do agree that Jerry is least responsible-- he's the one who gave TO the contract extension, traded for Roy Williams, and went after Tank Johnson and Pacman Jones. He's ever the "big splash with big names" kind of guy, but thankfully he's had people with him to rein him in (unlike the guy in DC). Cowboy fans are just optimistic that Stephen Jones is slowly taking a bigger role within the organization and appears to be a more level-headed and rational man than his father. We'll have to see as we go, however.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:56pm

Stephen Jones has shown great instincts, in my opinion. I had forgotten about the Pacman fiasco. Man, I'm conflicted. I really like a lot of the Cowboys players. I just despise their owner, however, like I've never despised any owner in professional sports, with the exception of Steinbrenner. At least Jerry isn't a thug, to my knowledge, like King George is.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 1:51pm

If Jones mentions Parcells, while up on the podium, if it comes that, then I take it back. As far as who wanted to take Ware, and who was overruled, unless the source for the information is someone besides Jones or a Jones flunky, there isn't much to go on. I do know for a fact that the Owens fiasco was on Jones. I do know that unheralded and late round guys, that were not a feature pre-Parcells, like Austin, Romo, Ratliff, and Barber were added when Parcells was there.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:12pm

Look at the scrap heap Parcells had when he took over...
Quincy Carter
Troy Hambrick

He led that team to a 10-6 record and the playoffs when they got out manned by Carolina... I seem to remember a difficult schedule and I was shocked at the job he did with that team.

So he ended up bringing good guys in, and building that team, but it was starting to really show and mature AFTER he left.

I doubt face lift Jerry gives him any credit if the cowboys do anything.

by Temo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:22pm

I doubt face lift Jerry gives him any credit if the cowboys do anything.

Would anyone though, especially after said coach has been gone for 3 years? The Bucs gave Dungy a lot of credit after they won and he left, but that was the immediate year afterwards.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:29pm

Going 10-6 with Quincy Carter at qb, Troy Hambrick as the leading rusher, while Greg Ellis leads the team in sacks with 8, might be the greatest coaching accomplishment in the NFL in the past 25 years.

by The Human Spider :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 2:17pm


-Paid for by memebrs of the "Ray Rice for the Hall of Fame" organization.

by jmaron :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 3:11pm

Vince Verhei: "I'll probably regret having this in print, but I think Dallas blows them out of the dome next weekend."

I don't see a whole lot of evidence that Dallas is likely to blowout any decent team on the road. The played 5 average or better teams on the road (Den, Phil, NYG, NO, and GB on the road). They lost to three of them and won the other two by 4 and 7 pts.

The problem with rating Dallas right now is they have built their current top team reputation on beating Philly at home twice and NO on the road. But that NO win was sandwiched by NO lucking past Wash and losing to TB at home - how good is NO right now? Beating Philly twice at home - that's one team - perhaps Dallas just matches up well with Philly or perhaps Philly is in a big decline (they looked pretty shaky at home against Den just prior to losing twice to Dall).

I'm not suggesting that Minnesota is better - particularly given their recent performances against Arz, Car and Chic. But Minnesota in the Dome is a far better team than on the road. I see this game as being very closely matched. A blowout might occur but I don't think there is much evidence to predict it.

by Rickm (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 3:41pm

McNabb, at his age, has definitely lost "something". But he did better than Brady - and that's saying something. Not sure what it's saying, though.

He's definitely still a top 5 QB, and I'd take him over Eli, Romo and many many others in the NFL who are considered "top QBs". Lately, I'd take him over Brady, too.

But the O Line, which was supposed to be so good this year, was merely passable at best. McNabb was harassed and hampered throughout the game and some of his bad throws were a direct result of having to throw while off balance. Hardly his fault. What is his fault on these plays is called "getting old". These were plays he made 3/4 years ago (when not injured).

The only legit criticism I've seen of him is the problem he has on hot reads, and part of that plays into his ability to lead his receivers. He shouldn't always try to get that huge play. It's like the guy making the tomahawk "statement" dunk - when it's a blowout in your favor, it's great who cares if you miss it. When it's a close game or you're way behind, nobody's impressed and if you miss it you look like a moron.

McNabb is around for at least one more year. The Eagles' bigger problem is figuring out how to make him successful in that last year. They have the key pieces - the playmakers. Now they need to improve the defense and the O Line. Boost those 2 areas, and they have a Super Bowl team.

I had few hopes of getting to 10 wins this year. 11 was a gift, as was contending for the division. So in retrospect, I consider this a "good year" for the Eagles, albeit one that, as usual, ends with disappointment.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 4:55pm

The loss certainly wasn't Mcnabb's fault but "definitely" a top 5 qb?


You say he's better than Brady... DVOA says Tom Brady is the best-est ever. Mcnabb is good, but top 5 QB... not this year.

by Dr Ryan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 4:15pm

Why is a touchback 20 yds? 20 free yards, yes please!

Why not put the ball on the 5 yd line?

by Steve (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 5:00pm

"Aaron Schatz: NFL FanHouse just sent a tweet: "Is this the worst five minutes in Patriots franchise history?" Man, people just have no memory of what this franchise was like before 1993, do they? Did anyone see Super Bowl XX? The 2-14 year where they started four different quarterbacks? Do I need to talk about the home game in Birmingham again?"

I know Aaron is hyper-defensive of ANY Pats criticism and tries to tone down everything, but really, read what the hell your writing. The tweet said the worst FIVE MINUTES of Pats history. A season is not five minutes and neither is the Superbowl last time I checked. So unless you've got a better example than the 5 minute (really it was more like 7-10 minutes) epic-disaster-choke-collapse-fail that happened in Foxboro yesterday, please try to hold off the Patriot Fan Whining™ for once in your life.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 5:16pm

I find it hard to believe that Super Bowl XX, in which the Patriots had negative nineteen yards at halftime and only 123 total, didn't contain a five-minute stretch worse than yesterday's.

by ammek :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 5:29pm

Apparently the Pats gave up 31 points to (guess who) Baltimore in less than 20 minutes either side of halftime back in 1972. Go Marty Domres! In the same year, they lost to the Dolphins, 52-0.

At home, I believe the worst half came against Buffalo in 1970. The then-Boston Patriots gave up 31 points and four takeaways to start the game. Presumably the stands were empty by halftime.

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 5:22pm

"Of course, Rackers' miss doesn't change the fact that Bill was right -- the Packers really should have gone for two on that last touchdown. The odds of the Packers stopping Arizona from getting into field-goal range AND winning the coin toss were really long."

This doesn't make any sense. How are those odds any worse than the odds that the Packers convert the two point conversion AND stop Arizona from getting into field goal range? The odds of succeeding on a two-point conversion are less than the odds of winning a coin flip, and Arizona wins either way if they get into field goal range (barring the Rackers shank that happened). I don't see how you can say so definitively that "Bill was right".

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 6:17pm

On this day, I'd say the odds of converting a two-point try were greater than 50%.

by ammek :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 6:23pm

As you say: in a game with no defense, it might make sense.

To go for it in those circumstances, you have to believe that your chances of making the two-point conversion are better than about 45%. Your chances of winning in overtime are 50%. But you also have the possibility of trying an onside kick if your 2PC fails. It's not likely to succeed, but it's not impossible either: 'obvious' onside kicks are recovered by the offense about 10% of the time. Assuming the Pack would have scored if they had recovered the kickoff, that brings their chances to 50.5% — better than overtime.

The way the Packers offense was playing, I'd say 45% for the two-point conversion was reasonable. But it's a narrow decision either way. And if Rackers had made his field goal, it would have been moot.

by Sancho Gaucho (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 7:22pm

Bill Barnwell: The "The Packers won the coin toss and still lost, so OT rules don't need to change" crowd irks me so.

It should be, at least, a "first-to-4-points" rule. It would force teams to go for the touchdown, and if they go to the field goal, the opponent would have a chance to win. Obviously, after 15', if the score is 3-0, the team ahead wins...

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 7:47pm

I prefer the college overtime rules personally, it makes the game much more exciting in my opinion, which is (usually) all that really matters for me.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 8:07pm

Ugh, the college game takes away (1) special teams/field position advantages and (2) the chance of the defense forcing a true, zero-point stop. It also has a tendency to turn defensive struggles into 40-37 shootouts.

I've always liked the "have the lead AND the ball" system that people have thrown out there.

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 10:18pm

I'm well aware of what the college overtime rules take away, but I still think they are far better than most variations of overtime rules I hear, including the current NFL rules. I'd much rather ditch special teams then have teams play to get inside the 35 yard line. The former is much more entertaining, and while it's doesn't preserve every element of regulation play, I would much rather see both teams get an equal shot at a touchdown than one team get a shot at kicking a field goal.

by dmb :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 12:14am

I'm not thrilled about the loss of field position and most special teams issues, but it's a sacrifice I'd be willing to make to lessen the importance of a coin flip. I also agree that college overtimes too often lead to a bunch of scoring, but that could be remedied simply by doing college rules, except starting each possession in the offense's own territory. (Say, the 35?) It's an exceedingly simple modification that makes defense much more reasonable.

I had somehow never heard of the "lead + possession" idea, but that also sounds like a great way to go.

by Eddo :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 12:33am

Yes, I like the lead-plus-possession idea; it lessens the importance of the kickoff, as each team will get at least a chance to recover an onside kick.

As for your modification to the college rules, why not just have each team kick off, instead of having teams automatically start at their own 35?

by DGL :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 11:55am

There's a Peter Keating article in the latest ESPN Mag (here, but it requires insider membership) that defines four guiding principles for overtimes (in order of precedence):

1. Overtime should preserve the essential character of a sport while moving games toward conclusive results.

2. Overtime should be fair.

3. Overtime should be fun.

"Have the lead and the ball" and "win by four" both violate the first principle: they are not conditions that are ever required for victory at any other point in the game.

Keating makes three suggestions: winner of the toss chooses starting field position and other team decides whether to start on offense or defense; auction for starting field position (the team willing to take the ball closest to its own end zone gets possession); and guarantee one possession each then go to sudden death.

He likes the third best. It would increase the average length of OT games, which the networks typically don't like, but I suspect there are few enough OT games in the course of a season that it's not that big a deal.

He prefers the "auction" approach to the coin toss, but I suspect that it's a bit too different from existing procedure.

The first is similar to MDS's "splitting the overtime pizza" approach published on FO back in 2003, but without the kickoff. Personally, I like MDS's better, because the kickoff is in fact an integral part of football. (Ask the Steelers.)

And in the same way the winner of the coin toss gets to decide whether to choose the ball or the end, under these rules the winner of the coin toss would get to decide whether to choose kickoff position or whether to kick or receive.

by Eddo :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 12:37pm

The first two options Keating proposes are really nice, but too complicated for the average fan to really comprehend. Also, the league would eventually find the "sweet spot", and every overtime would just start at that yard line.

I don't see how "have the lead and the ball" and "win by four" violate the first principle, but some form of sudden death does not. The only way to satisfy the first principle under Keating's/your strict interpretation would be to play a full fifteen minute period, with the team leading at its end being declared the winner.

by DGL :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 1:14pm

Sure, it's a matter of interpretation of what the "essential character of the game" is. Normal victory conditions are "have the most points when time expires." "Win by four" and "have the lead and the ball" violate the first criterion, while sudden death violates the second. To me, violating the first criterion is a bigger variation from the "essential character of the game" than violating the second -- we've all seen games that end on the last play without the other team having a chance to respond; we've never seen games that continue because the team in the lead has only a three-point lead, or because the team with the lead doesn't have the ball. Others may feel differently.

I actually like the idea of playing full fifteen-minute overtime periods in the playoffs (like hockey), and allowing games to end in ties in the regular season (unlike any other sport played professionally in North America...). Allowing regular season ties leads to a lot more interesting end-of-game situations (kick the XP and accept the tie, or go for two and try for the win?) and actually having ties in the regular season reduces some of the ridiculous tiebreaker scenarios for playoff positions. Full fifteen-minute overtimes in the playoffs would lead to some epic postseason games (and GB-ARIZ could have ended up something like 79-76...)

As a sidebar, I don't think there's anything wrong with an outcome of the leage eventually finding the "sweet spot" and every overtime starting from that point; the problem to be solved is that there's too much benefit from winning the coin toss, and if the overtime kickoff evolves to a point where there's no benefit from winning the coin toss, problem solved.

by zzyzx :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 1:06pm

I favor the rule that a team who is winning at the end of the overtime period is the winner of the game but the game is immediately over when a team takes a 6 point lead.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 8:22pm

I don't think it is exciting to remove 80% of the value of special teams and at least 50% of the value of defense. The college method of overtime is just a facsimile of the game, to me.

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 10:21pm

Yes, and I know lots of people share your belief. But then I don't see why you'd think it's exciting to remove basically all incentive to score a touchdown either, and lend a huge arbitrary advantage to the team that gets the ball first. Neither of those is in the spirit of football, if you know what I mean.

I realize there is roughly a 0% chance the college overtime rules get adopted, that's simply my favorite version (at least from what I've heard and read) by quite a bit as I think it's by far the most exciting.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 4:23am

I'd favor a first to four rule, which would incentivize a team to try to score a touchdown. Between removing nearly all special team play, along with 50% of defensive play, and giving one team an arbitrary advanatge of first possession (how "huge" it is depends on one's view of the statistics, which would be further mitigated by a first to four rule), I'd say the latter is closer to the game of football.

by Marko :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 10:53pm

I find the college overtime rules much less exciting. All the back and forth possessions in the offensive zone are boring to me. Even if you score on offense on the first possession, you still have to maintain the lead on defense. The thrill of scoring on offense is muted by the fact that the game is not over yet.

In addition to the fact that there is no kickoff to start overtime in college (meaning that there is no chance for the excitement of a kickoff return to the house to win the game), you can never have a team pinned deep in its own zone in the college game. (Well, I suppose you could if the offense lost a LOT of yards on sacks and penalties, but that seems to be practically impossible.) There are no punts and thus no chance for a blocked punt or punt return TD to win the game.

In any event, I always maintain that the various proposed changes to overtime in the NFL would be bad for TV. Any system that requires multiple possessions would lengthen OT games even more (wreaking havoc with TV schedules) and have less drama in my opinion. The effect on TV of any OT rule changes should be considered because TV is the NFL's biggest source of revenue and the league likes to keep the networks happy.

by TheChadHenneMeme (not verified) :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 7:58pm

Can't believe you dippers had the whole day and no one noticed this.

Aaron Schatz: If I were a Vikings fan, I would be freaking out right now. They have a much better running back, but otherwise they run a very similar offense to Philadelphia with similar receivers -

Point me to the receiver the Eagles have that is similar to Sidney Rice, please. After that, point me to how such an analytic site can be so biased, emotional, and quick to sway. The Cowboys are going to blow them out of the Dome, yeah, sure.....The Boys could win, obviously. But blow them out? That ain't happening.

Just put a disclaimer before every post: '08 Cardinals.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:04pm

I just wanted to give my input that I prefer this style for Audibles (all the games in one article) to last year's one-article-per-conference setup.

This way, I feel there's a better sense of chronology, which makes for a more enjoyable read.

by JordanT (not verified) :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 1:22pm

I'm not really sure why people dislike the stadium either.

I dislike the stadium because Jerry spent $1B plus on it and spent zero dollars on the field. That's not an exaggeration he spent zero on the field. He got a company to do it for free, that did a shoddy job with the cheapest materials because they were doing it for free. It's pretty close to carpet over concrete, instead of a proper modern field that even high schools install today. Never mind that this will likely cause more injuries than doing the field properly. Never mind that the practice facilities collapsed because Jerry couldn't be bothered to pay to do it right. I dislike it because he's pound foolish with his facilities.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 1:57pm

I hadn't heard that. If true, it is a disgrace, and the union should hammering the cheap bastard.

by Jon Silverberg (not verified) :: Wed, 01/13/2010 - 1:57am

Mike Tanier: "McNabb is still a near Pro Bowl level starter when he is playing well."

Now I don't watch McNabb enough to say how close to being done he is, but certainly Tanier does. You'd have to say that Pro Bowl level starting qbs are ranked 1-6 in the league (3 from each conference), near Pro Bowl starting qbs would be 7-10, say, and a starting quarterback who, taking the bad with the good, is something less than near Pro Bowl level sounds like a qb ranked somewhere between the 11th to 16th best starting qb in the league. Not an overwhelming endorsement from someone trying to put the best face on it, to say the least. Mr. Rickey used to say that it was better to get rid of them one year early...

by Geronimo (not verified) :: Fri, 01/15/2010 - 10:56am

I hate all this complaining about the refs. Any play where there's a close call, it'll go against your team sometimes and sometimes it won't. This doesn't mean that your team is helpless against the forces of chance.

Rodgers, for example, could have, I don't know, hung onto the damn ball?

Same thing applies to close sideline catches, apparent catches where the ball may have hit the ground, and the like. If a ball carrier on your favorite team is shown, by super slo-mo, to have grazed the turf with his knee a tenth of a second before the ball slips through his hands, and the refs don't "call it right," I say: too bad - he should have held onto the ball.