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

Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

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.


295 comments, Last at 18 Jan 2010, 12:38pm

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

"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.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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).

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

169 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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).

221 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

225 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

234 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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).

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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)

182 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

236 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

#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.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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)

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.)

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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?

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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?

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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 (?).

223 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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).

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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?)

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

258 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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?

176 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

294 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

"'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.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

170 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

173 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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)

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round


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.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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!

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

157 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

213 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

195 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

152 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

271 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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?

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

267 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

35 Re: Mike McCarthy

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.

73 Re: Mike McCarthy

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.

110 Re: Mike McCarthy

In reply to by Temo

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.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

"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.

272 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

289 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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)

290 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

"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?

291 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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)

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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...

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Round

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%"