Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

compiled by Rivers McCown

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

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

While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Sunday, January 22nd

Baltimore Ravens 20 at New England Patriots 23

Tim Gerheim: I've just hit "mute" for the first time today: Steven Tyler doing the national anthem totally rubs me the wrong way somehow.

Rivers McCown: I'm tempering my Steven Tyler jokes on the basis that he has a good 40 years of drugs altering his appearance.

Aaron Schatz: Love that the Ravens started the game with the exact same handoff off-tackle left that Ray Rice took 80 yards on the first play from scrimmage two years ago. No yards this time.

Tom Brady seems to be off early. He threw a bad pass which Julian Edelman stretched out for to get a first-down conversion on a third-and-6. Then he threw slightly too high for Wes Welker, and that became a tip-drill interception, or it would have had he not been bailed out by illegal contact on Lardarius Webb. Finally, he overthrew Rob Gronkowski on a wide-open seam route which would have been touchdown.

Tom Gower: It looked like the Ravens were starting out zone blitzing almost every pass play and trying to flood the underneath stuff, then this second drive the Pats started to just throw the quick short stuff. The Ravens seemed to back off
a little, and I'm not sure they zone blitzed the rest of the drive.

If Joe Flacco doesn't start playing a lot better, Brady's poor play isn't going to matter very much. On the first two drives, the game seemed to be moving about as fast for him as it was for T.J. Yates last week.

Tim Gerheim: The third-down pass to Welker in the end zone that forced the field goal was puzzling. It looked like Brady underestimated Ray Lewis's speed and/or cover skills, which is a curious thing for him to do after they've played each other most years for the last decade. Still, that was impressive coverage by Lewis, keeping stride-for-stride with Welker even though he is, at best, deceptively fast.

Mike Tanier: The Ravens offense has achieved self-parody!

Aaron Schatz: You mean sacking Flacco with a three-man rush on third-and-15?

Vince Verhei: The Ravens have three drives, all three-and-outs. In those nine plays, Vince Wilfork has one sack, one tackle for a loss, and one hurry. He also drew a triple-team (!) on the first drive that gave an outside rusher a chance to beat Marshal Yanda one-on-one and chase Flacco from the pocket. They're moving Wilfork around from tackle to end, and he's dominating everywhere. A one-man show so far.

Ben Muth: Flacco has as bad a sense of pocket awareness as you'll see in the NFL. He just sits back there. Doesn't slide left or right at all. It's painful to watch.

Tim Gerheim: I don't understand what Brady is looking at today. Welker wasn't open in the end zone on that play I mentioned earlier -- so much so that he was in the process of giving up on the route when the ball arrived. Edelman wasn't remotely open on that fantastic interception by Webb. So far, this seems like two weeks in a row that the Ravens defense is benefiting with interceptions from quarterbacks who have predetermined where to throw the ball. I can understand that with Yates ... not so much with Brady.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots march all the way down the field with three different runs of double-digit yards by Law Firm. I wonder if it is demoralizing for the Ravens to say "we're going to force the Pats to beat us with the run" and the Pats to say "okay, sure"?

Rivers McCown: I can only imagine that the Ravens are very weak mentally if they'd get demoralized by that and needed to take the three points on their first scoring drive to achieve "positive reinforcement," in Phil Simms' words.

Tom Gower: The Ravens were middle of the pack (14th) on ALY up the middle this year. This isn't the 2000 team with Sam Adams and the other guys up front keeping Lewis clean. It's a lot harder to play middle linebacker when you're getting blocked regularly.

Flacco's hit a couple nice intermediate dig routes this drive, first to Lee Evans and then to Anquan Boldin, and looks like a different guy when he's throwing in rhythm like that. The Ravens have to get points here, because I don't think they can come back if they get down double-digits.

Mike Tanier: Game is now close and sloppy. Make that tied and sloppy. Not what the Patriots want.

Ben Muth: Well, I'm glad my comments here could motivate Flacco to explore the pocket. He did a nice job of moving to his right to buy time and find Dennis Pitta in the end zone on Baltimore's first touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, I don't think it is particularly sloppy. It's not like we've had a ton of turnovers, or a lot of first downs built with only four-yard gains. The Ravens are trying to stop the pass, inviting the Pats to run, and the Pats have. The Pats are trying to stop the run, inviting the Ravens to pass, and on the last couple drives they finally have too.

I thought the Ravens were going to score again on the final drive of the first half, once Pitta caught the pass on third-and-long. You can't rush three and leave James Ihedigbo in man coverage on anyone. He's just not good. Then again, the Pats did it again on third-and-2 and Ihedigbo's man, Ed Dickson, was nice enough to not catch the ball.

Tom Gower: That was a ... very curious strategic decision by the Patriots, opting to take a knee rather than try for points with almost a minute and two timeouts remaining in the first half. It was also a very curious decision by John Harbaugh not to use either of his two timeouts and force the Patriots to punt the ball.

Aaron Schatz: New England really get kicked in the ass by the fumble luck fairy when the Ravens strip Danny Woodhead and the ball bounced through the hands or legs of three different Patriots. So we're now at 20-16. The Pats need a touchdown on this next drive. When their offense is getting touchdowns, they can overcome their awful defense. When they are just getting field goals, they can't.

Tom Gower: Well, there was that fumble luck when the punt at the end of the first half bounced right out of bounds instead of the Ravens potentially getting the ball in the red zone. Flacco struck again in the red zone ... missed the bootleg pass, then missed the blitz and his hot route on third down and took the sack.

I do believe the Ravens blitzed again on that big play to Gronkowski where he hurt what may have been his left ankle. They've tried blitzing a decent amount, but haven't gotten pressure when they've brought five or more and it's generally resulted in a completion. Mr. Easterbrook can have a field day with this game.

Aaron Schatz: There are a number of comments on Twitter to the effect that "Flacco is outplaying Brady." Um, anyone ever think maybe the Ravens defense, which is good, is outplaying the Patriots defense, which is terrible?

Vince Verhei: You're not wrong, but Brady has missed a few open throws and made some terrible decisions. You noted this yourself earlier in the game. Aside from the overthrow when Torrey Smith was all alone downfield, I can't think of too many open receivers Flacco has missed today.

Aaron Schatz: Yes, but Brady's been better in the second half, and Flacco has missed a couple of open guys. He could have had an open Vonta Leach waltzing into the end zone on that last drive, but threw to someone else instead.

Tom Gower: Flacco's problems have actually not come on the throws he's made, but on the throws he's not made. He missed Smith, which was still a good gain, and threw too far on the bootleg pass. He's done a good job of avoiding the near turnover (the only pass I recall that could've been picked off was one on the first drive) and hasn't made dangerous throws. His problems have come with pocket presence, not finding the right receiver, and eating the ball.

He's played reasonably well for Flacco, and better than he was early in the game, but the performance is less impressive than it seems due to the defense he's facing. Personally, this game is still clearly behind Week 1 against the Steelers as the best I've seen him play; then, it seemed like the Ravens did an excellent job of gameplanning and Flacco was very confident throughout in his reads and throws.

Ben Muth: For not being mobile, Brady is really good at quarterback sneaks. He knows when to take it wide, when to mole-man, and when to go up and over. It seems simple, but he seems to be the only guy who is multiple in the sneak game.

Tom Gower: Just for the record, that email about how Flacco was doing a good job of not making dangerous throws came roughly seven minutes before he threw that interception to Brandon Spikes when driving while down 23-20.

Mike Tanier: Flacco tries to work short middle and gets picked off. Brady tries to throw deep to a wide receiver and gets picked off. We now resume our regular offenses.

Aaron Schatz: Spikes picks off a pass, and on the first pass after that, Brady goes deep and the ball gets picked off on a great play by Bernard Pollard (tip) and Jimmy Smith (catch). Great play, but I am *not* a fan of the decision to try to plunge the dagger with one play.

Mike Tanier: I predict that the Ravens will lose 23-20 after missing a 52-yard field goal.

Aaron Schatz: Honestly, the Pats should have been able to march it down and take three-to-four minutes off the clock while taking a six or ten point lead. I have no idea why they felt the need to go for it all with one play.

Vince Verhei: And the Ravens pass up a 51-yarder to go for it on fourth down. So close Mike!

Tim Gerheim: Yeah I laughed out loud when the third-down play ended at the 34.

Vince Verhei: Wilfork, by the way, stuffed the runner for a loss on third down, then pressured Flacco for the incompletion on fourth down. Hard to see how he's not the MVP of this game.

Aaron Schatz: I have to admit, as a Pats fan, I had no confidence in the Pats actually stopping that fourth-and-6. But Wilfork, one of the few good players on this defense, has been killing Ben Grubbs all day.

Mike Tanier: I would have tried my luck with the 50-yarder. Or maybe just heave it for the end zone and hope for a jump ball or pass interference penalty. Fourth-and-medium is not a good down for Baltimore.

Ben Muth: I'm a big advocate of always going for it, but it's hard to pass up a chance to tie the game with 2:45 left.

Tom Gower: I believe Billy Cundiff is 1-of-6 on the year from 50 yards or longer. With those kinds of odds, when all a field goal gets you is a tie game, it's tough to kick the field goal. Wilfork absolutely showed up on third and fourth down, and those may have been his first two real splash plays since the first quarter.

Ben Muth: I didnt realize Cundiff was that bad deep. That does make a difference, but I'd still kick it. If you can't trust him to make a 51-yard field goal in relatively clear weather, you need a new kicker.

Aaron Schatz: Two-minute warning. Third-down play after this would seal the game. What are the odds the pass is going to Welker? 90 percent? 95?

Tim Gerheim: I don't know why the Pats didn't throw the ball on the last play before the two-minute warning. This series so far screams "playing too conservative against a team with two timeouts."

Mike Tanier: Another chance for the Ravens. It just feels like they will lose 23-20 because they always lose 23-20 to the Steelers.

Tim Gerheim: I can't believe Brady didn't learn what Yates surely did from last week's game: don't throw at Ed Reed in a critical situation.

Aaron Schatz: I can't believe the Patriots are trying to make the Super Bowl with less than two minutes left and they have Julian Edelman in man coverage on Anquan Boldin.


Man, I feel so bad for Cundiff though. I wonder if they made a mistake bringing him back. Maybe the calf isn't fully healthy yet.

Danny Tuccitto: As a Cundiff owner in fantasy for most of my leagues, the fourth-down go-for-it decision and the miss at the end are entirely unsurprising.

Tim Gerheim: That shot of Wilfork with his arms up, holding his helmet, huge bald head steaming, might be one of my favorite images of all time from a sheer human mountain hilarity standpoint.

Mike Tanier: Well, that settles that. 23-20.

A thin line between a game-winning touchdown pass, a game-tying field goal drive, and six months of "not good enough to get it done."

Aaron Schatz: Can we please, please, please, please not have to hear about how Flacco isn't very good anymore? Yes, part of the reason he looked so good is that the Pats defense is terrible, and yes, he missed some open receivers. But not every quarterback has to be either elite or sucky. Joe Flacco is an above-average quarterback. He's a guy you can win with, especially if your running back is Rice and your defense is one of the best in the league. And that's what he looked like today.

My friend Sean, who I was watching with, turned to me at the end and said "I feel like the Pats just got totally outplayed today." Now, I haven't run the numbers yet, but I'm guessing that's not the case. I'm guessing this game comes out even. That's what happens when you are used to blowing out bad teams and you have to play another very good team. The Pats looked like they were struggling because they weren't playing great, and while Brady missed a couple of big plays (Gronkowksi in the seam), for the most part they didn't look great because the Ravens defense played very well. The Ravens defense didn't look as good as it usually does, either, because the Pats offense is very good.

That's the Pats offense, of course. The Pats defense looked like it was struggling because, except for Wilfork, a pick by Spikes, and a pass defensed by Sterling Moore, it pretty much was.

Ben Muth: That is a tough loss.

Tom Gower: Well, contrary to my early expectations, that proved to be an interesting game throughout. A number of sloppy mistakes from both teams, with both quarterbacks throwing bad fourth-quarter interceptions, and of course Evans' dropped pass and Cundiff's miss.

Aaron Schatz: Well, let's not call that a drop. That's a pretty great play by Moore to slap that baby out.

Tom Gower: It's a pass defensed for game charting purposes, but I think that's absolutely a drop. Evans had two hands on it, almost had it long enough to have possession, and absolutely should have caught it. No, Evans wasn't the only reason the ball wasn't caught, Moore did make a play on it, but that's clearly a drop in my mind. Guys like Evans get paid millions of dollars to make catches just like that one.

Vince Verhei: I disagree. After all, guys like Moore get paid millions of dollars to break up passes like that one.

Ben Muth: If it hits you in the chest and it doesn't end in a catch or a concussion, it's a drop.

Mike Tanier: If I am charting the game, it is not a drop. If I am evaluating the player and deciding whether to pay him or not, and how much, it is a drop. That is the game-winning touchdown in the AFC title game. You clutch it to your body and nothing short of a meteor shower rips it loose.

New York Giants 20 at San Francisco 49ers 17 (OT)

Vince Verhei: Oh great. The E-Trade baby is now doing dumb spots on BOTH networks' pregame shows.

Rivers McCown: This is probably just me being cynical, but I think at this point companies are just trying to create advertising that leads to that exact reaction. It worked, they're in Audibles!

Mike Tanier: The Giants offense is in full swing. First-and-10. Second-and-10. Third-and-10. First down!

Vince Verhei: I'm just copying this from Tanier's Twitter feed: "So, standing on the camera platform is worse than leaping into the stands because..."

Tom Gower: Leaping into the stands is a time-honored tradition that promotes attachment with the people who fork over three digits every week and get a little bit of fun.

Vernon Davis just ran past Antrel Rolle. Big plays are a great way to score when you don't have a great offense.

Mike Tanier: I mean, you look like the Lord of All Egomaniacs when you do that, but if that were a foul, most of the coaches in the league would be screwed.

That's the first time Vernon Davis posed for a statue since Mannerism went out of style.

Vince Verhei: Buck explains that the Lambeau Leap is "grandfathered in." Does this make sense to anyone?

Danny Tuccitto: As predicted in the game preview, the Giants pass offense is attacking Chris Culliver continuously.

And, on fourth-and-1, there's your No. 1-ranked power defensive line versus your No. 27-ranked power offensive line.

Tim Gerheim: Burn this play nomination: that pitch play reverse with Kendall Hunter and Kyle Williams that resulted in the seemingly inevitable fumble.

Danny Tuccitto: Fumble recoveries are luck, but it should be noted that Isaac Sopoaga tomahawk-chopped at Osi Umenyiora's arm when the ball bounced right into his hands. To be sure, Williams' recovery on that play wasn't skill, but Sopoaga's hack was.

Seems like every third down, the Giants are spreading it out. I don't think it's a coincidence that they've been so successful given how much trouble the 49ers have had against the spread this season. Also not a coincidence: the Giants touchdown coming from that formation as well.

Vince Verhei: OK, Davis' unnecessary roughness call in the middle of the second quarter? Now that was stupid, and deserved to be penalized.

Tim Gerheim: Have I really seen Alex Smith run two zone reads? I've seen about five minutes of 49ers football this season; has that been part of their mad scientist offense all season?

Mike Tanier: Smith has had a few designed runs this year, but I don't remember how many zone reads. More like draws, and sweeps like the one he ran last week. It is all part of his SmiTebow routine.

Aaron Schatz: You know, Smith's basically done nothing in the first half other than the huge 73-yard touchdown to Davis. Despite that, he's not really facing as much pressure as I expected. He hasn't been sacked yet, but the 49ers have only converted one first down.

Danny Tuccitto: Observation: At least four times in the first half, Carlos Rogers has (surprisingly) looked like he's been totally lost in zone, conferring with his teammates during and after plays where he gives up completions.

Vince Verhei: Giants up 10-7 at halftime (assuming nothing silly happens in the last two seconds). I'm trying to figure out how New York doesn't have 20 or more points. They can't run, at all, but it looks like Eli Manning has time to do whatever he wants in the pocket. I wish I had been paying more attention to Aldon Smith and what New York was doing to shut him down. I did see one play where the tight end's primary job was to help David Diehl with Smith, and only release into the flat when that job was finished. I'd imagine there have been a lot of plays like that today.

Aaron Schatz: I've been surprised by the lack of 49ers pressure for most of the night tonight, but they finally got to Eli with a blitz on the third down with 3:45 left in the third quarter.

Vince Verhei: Yes. I don't know what adjustments the 49ers made at halftime, but suddenly they got pressure rushing four over and over again in the third quarter.

Danny Tuccitto: On the Davis touchdown in the third quarter, he cut his route into a go as opposed to the usual post or out. Obviously we don't have the benefit of the all-22, but I have to believe Harbaugh and Roman have been setting that up for two quarters now.

Tom Gower: I've been watching this game with interest, but haven't had much to say about it. I'm almost surprised the Giants aren't treating Davis like he's Steve Smith and this is the 2005 (2006) NFC championship game. Davis is a matchup threat and the focus of so much of the explosiveness of the 49ers passing attack -- their wideouts have done nothing so far. As has been noted, the Giants are doing a better job of containing the Smiths (Aldon and Justin) than the Saints did last week, and the 49ers seem like they've had to blitz to get pressure. As Vince said, it feels like the Giants should have more than 10 points, but they don't.

Danny Tuccitto: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome Tremaine Brock to "This Is Your 49ers Playoff Life."

The benefit of having Delanie Walker back in the lineup (finally) reveals itself at the end of the third quarter, when he lines up at fullback on first-and-10, and springs Frank Gore for an 11-yard run. The next play is a successful completion to Walker for seven yards. We're headed into the fourth quarter with the 49ers up four.

Mike Tanier: Devin Thomas, playoff hero?

Aaron Schatz: More like Kyle Williams, playoff goat. Thomas can't advance the ball.

Vince Verhei: The Backup punt returner gives New York the ball in good field position, then the backup cornerback gives up a go-ahead touchdown pass.

Aaron Schatz: I know that I can't really talk about luck today, but really, that's some serious luck there.

Of course, the Giants offense has to actually execute to get the touchdown instead of a field goal there, and Manning's touchdown pass was pretty sweet. The thing about this Giants playoff run is that the offense isn't a surprise. Manning has been good this entire year. It's the defense that's playing differently.

Danny Tuccitto: Aaaand, with eight minutes left, there's your Alex Smith running.

Aaron Schatz: OK, the pass that takes Michael Crabtree out of bounds three yards short of the sticks on third-and-5 is not a good play. I think I said something earlier about the 49ers getting one first-down conversion all day but I guess I was wrong, apparently they have ZERO first-down conversions today.

Vince Verhei: I don't like the Giants' use of screen passes in the fourth quarter. Don't let Navorro Bowman and Patrick Willis chase guys down -- attack that depleted secondary!

Tim Gerheim: That was also very poor execution on the screen. When Ahmad Bradshaw caught the ball, he had a wall of blockers in front of him. As walls typically do, they prevented him from advancing, leaving his only outlet in the direction of 49ers defenders.

Aaron Schatz: What do the rest of you think of the decision that Bowman doesn't get a fumble there with 2:00 left because of forward progress being stopped?

Tom Gower: I thought Bradshaw's forward progress had been stopped well before the ball started coming out, and it was the right call.

Vince Verhei: Yeah. Not close to a fumble.

I want to get a 49ers jersey without a number, that just reads "punt coverage unit" on the back.

Rivers McCown: Prediction: whichever defense successfully murders the opposing quarterback first wins the game.

Tim Gerheim: Zak DeOssie made the call on the overtime coin toss? Now that's coaching: bring out the Ivy Leaguer to run the probabilities.

Aaron Schatz: Deep pass incomplete to Victor Cruz. That's the second time this game the 49ers have missed a pick because two of them went for it together and banged into each other.

Tim Gerheim: Eli Manning is lucky that Dashon Goldson is so rangy.

Vince Verhei: The 49ers have called passing plays on five straight first downs, and seven of their last eight. That's partly because they were in hurry-up at the end of regulation, but it stretches back to the start of the fourth quarter. Quite predictable.

Aaron Schatz: With the 49ers pass rush playing better, the Giants are leaving extra guys in to block. The third-down sack at 9:40 of overtime was a green dog where extra guys came because the guys they were covering in man stayed into block.

Tim Gerheim: Now you can officially say it: Kyle Williams, playoff goat.

Mike Tanier: Devin Thomas, playoff hero?

Rivers McCown: Jacoby Jones and Kyle Williams are collaborating on a lumber yard project this offseason.

FO assistant editor curse? (Sorry Danny.)

Aaron Schatz: Sorry, Danny. That is not a happy way to lose.

Vince Verhei: It would be easy (and not totally unfair) to dump this in the lap of Williams, but remember that Alex Smith dropped back to pass 29 times today, and produced five first downs.

Well, let me backtrack. The 49ers passing game, not Alex Smith by himself, produced five first downs in 29 dropbacks. Crabtree had one catch for three yards. Williams (yes, he was starting at wideout too) had no catches in four targets. I know Braylon Edwards and Ted Ginn were injured, but on the other hand they are Braylon Edwards and Ted Ginn -- would they have made that big a difference?

This is really a lousy group of wideouts. It's kind of amazing they got this far. Which is another reason to question San Francisco's pass-wacky strategy.

Tom Gower: You know who the 49ers wideouts remind me of? The 2000 Ravens wideouts, who were similarly unimpressive. That Ravens team also had a serious vertical threat tight end (Shannon Sharpe), and a run game behind Jamal Lewis, who I think really emerged late in the year. Good special teams as well.

That helped them beat the Titans (who outgained them by almost 200 yards) and the Giants. The 49ers didn't get any points out of special teams or defense this week, and now they're done.

(They cut Edwards late in the regular season, didn't they?)

Aaron Schatz: Yep, they did.

Vince Verhei: They cut him, but it was after he was hurt, wasn't it?

Tom Gower: I thought he was hurt, then got healthy, then they realized they liked Williams better and cut Braylon.

Robert Weintraub: Important point for Super Bowl media meme -- AFC is officially the home team, so Brady will dress at Peyton's locker (in theory, at least), and not Eli.

Look for that to played to death over the next fortnight. Can't they just play the game on Wednesday?


275 comments, Last at 26 Jan 2012, 6:54pm

247 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Well, the Mason-Dixon line is artificial, and not any more geographically significant that the boundary between Vermont/New Hampshire (Northern New England) and Massachusetts (Southern New England). By definition, anything south of that line is South.

If you look at a map of the US, it wouldn't be unreasonable to call DC a "northeast" city. Especially if you're from, say, Houston or Denver or Savannah. DC and Baltimore were certainly considered Northern cities as far back as the colonies, but again, that was a cultural distinction more than geographical.

Like most things, North and South are relative.

253 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Denver is north of DC.

Culturally, the dividing line was traditionally the Appalachian mountains, with some oddness along the shore. Still, I struggle to identify any slave state as being part of the Northeast. I can accept Philly in the northeast, even though the city itself does not, but not Baltimore or DC. There's a difference between the megalopolis and the Northeast.

264 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Huh what? Everything under discussion in this here sub-thread is artificial. Geographical significance is irrelevant -- cultural significance is what separates North from South. The Mason-Dixon line separated slave from free states, and as such was and still is a big cultural divide. I've never in my live heard a Southerner call DC a northern anything.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Although I get the feeling Pats fans are happy about this match-up (possible revenge angle?) and TV networks are happy about this match-up, I'm not sure anyone else wanted to see this, even Giants fans. While the Giants fans are happy their team won, this specific match-up appears very underwhelming to the regular football fan. Or at least the ones I've spoken too.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Really? Do you really consider yourself a football fan if you decide not to watch the Super Bowl because the two teams are from the same geographic region? When the game is a rematch of one of the best games in history?

Or do you just hate the northeast so much that you're willing to ignore what seems likely to be a great game just so you can stew in your resentment?

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Given that 3 out of the 4 teams in the conference championship games were from the northeast (Baltimore being north of the Mason Dixon line qualifies), there was a 50% chance the SB would be all northeastern teams.

And really, do most fans really care about geography beyond the one team they root for? Will fans of Denver or San Diego or Chicago be less likely to watch the SB because the Niners aren't in it?

In the SB, you'll always have two teams with very interested fanbases, a few interested fans who for some reason hate one of the involved teams, a bunch of general football fans, and a host of people that watch it for the commercials.

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Here's my weak RaiderJoe homage on paradoxical paradise of MD:

Marland South of Maxon-dixon. Would have foaught for South in Civil war, but Taglibue trew state legislature in jail and ignore Writ of Habeous Corpus for years. Al davis was there. Fought for both sides before settling on AFL. Next year Raiders will be unstoppable with two top-tier QB's in Campbell and Palmer. Chefs horrible.

174 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Most of the border states are like that. It gets especially dicey in Appalachia, which was populated by many white people even poorer than the slaves, and was too hilly to support plantations, so even the rich didn't have them.

Kentucky? Union.
West Virginia -- separated from Virginia to fight for the north.
Maryland and Delaware -- greatly depended on where in the state you were.

Hell, southern Indiana and Ohio are functionally the south in places.

209 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Hell, southern Indiana and Ohio are functionally the south in places.

We have the northernmost stand of wild bald cypress trees in the country, at Twin Swamps. Indiana (like most states) does have some weird dichotomies; northern half of the state is flatter than a pancake, southern half was spared by most of the glaciers and is quite hilly.

I was quite lost in southwest Indiana, looking for the world's second longest viaduct, when I drove down several gravel roads that made me wonder if I'd ever find my way home. Along one, I drove over some barbed wire strung across the road (didn't stop to figure out why); along another, I passed a family living out of a huge tent, with half-naked kids running around.

245 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

The person I responded to explicitly stated that he hated the Northeast. Also,
what is "centrist" about proclaiming a football game "nauseating"?

I mean, I've been in slums around the country and world that were nauseating. I've eaten food that was nauseating. I listen to politicians that are nauseating. I don't know how an atletic entertainment event, between two reasonably good teams, can be nauseating. Either the game will be well played or it won't be, and there is nothing specific about these teams that would suggest it will be so poorly played that it will nauseate, and a lot to suggest that it will be an interesting competition. If you are referring to the obnoxious elements of fanbases and media, hell, allowing meatheads to ruin your chance of enjoyment makes no sense at all, if you enjoy football for the intrinsic elements of the game. The ability to ignore meatheads is an important skill to acquire.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

1) Explain to me how the replay on Brady's reversed TD shows the ball almost at the goal line when his knee touches down, but the refs spot the ball almost all the way back to the 1?

2) Still trying to understand how Brady still has a working spine after that up-and-over play for the TD.

3) Bomb to Matthew Slater? MATTHEW SLATER?? When taking a couple of minutes off the clock and a FG will put you in a pretty good situation? Put that in "Burn that play".

4) Convenient of Pollard to make sure to trap Gronkowski's ankle under him. Most other players, I'd give the benefit of the doubt. But after hearing that POS go on about how "proud" he is to cause season-ending injuries, I want to see someone beat him into a concussion with his own leg.

5) Amazed that for one shining moment the refs gave Revis/Reed treatment to Sterling Moore of all people. Because that was holding before he knocked the 3rd down pass away.

6) Brady -- glad you showed some self-awareness during the trophy presentation because that was not a good game. Plus, excellent punking of Nantz. Nantz starts going rhapsodically on and on about tying Montana and Elway and your first words to Nantz were "I sucked pretty bad today."

7) The dropped/stripped TD was definitely incomplete (by about the two inches Evans's second foot was above the ground when he lost control of the ball) but I agree with Harbaugh that the booth should have buzzed down.

8) Edelman on Boldin was really the best matchup you could come up with at that point in the game, Bill? That's pretty scary.

9) Wilfork played 97% of the defensive snaps. That's pretty impressive for someone of his weight class. And it's not like he was taking it easy out there.

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3) That one play was Slater's only snap on offense. Slater going deep is not going to be a surprise to the Ravens at that point. The only way that play's useful is if the Pats are using Slater as a decoy. Couldn't tell what route was happening on the left side of the field, but there were 3 Ravens in the end zone and no other Pats. Bad play call and really bad decision by Brady to top it off.

8) Arrington was out of the game still, wasn't he? I'm not an X's and O's guy, so I'm curious what else they could have done. Who'd they have left at corner? It's not like Boldin was the only receiver playing well. Setting aside the personnel evaluation discussion that arises from Arrington being the best cover guy...

Pats were lucky to escape, with Brady playing badly, Gronkowski out, and Arrington out. I'll be interested in the DVOAs from this game.

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1) They spotted it at the 1/2 yard line. It's unusual for referees to spot a ball anywhere else than in a yard line or right in the middle of two. There aren't many referees that go "The ball will be spot at the 2 and 5/8ths line", though it has happened.

4) I think he did what he had to do and the injury was casual. He grabbed Gronkowski by the waist and pulled him down (only way to take him down if he's running foward) and then his left leg got trapped under Pollard's body when he fell. It was an unlucky play. So was Pollard's Brady Hit, by the way, regardless of what Pollard wants to believe.

7) With the new completion-in-the-end-zone rules, I think there was no doubt it was an incompletion with the whole "you have to finish the play" thing. Evans either lost control before having two feet down or inmediately lost it afterwards.

8) CBS listed McCourty as a RCB, but he really played most of the game as a de facto free safety, with a lot of zone coverage. I couldn't see him during most of the game, but he seemed to have been patrolling the middle of the downfield oftenly. Without him, and having Arrington injured during almost 1 quarter and a half, who else was there to cover Boldin? They really have nobody in their secondary.

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I was surprised, this morning, at how many people seem to think that the Evans non-catch [I don't call it a drop - the ball got knocked out] should have been reviewed. I didn't think it was close to a completed catch live. On slow motion replay, it looks closer, but that's because it's, you know, slow. He clearly never completed the catch.

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I don't know how you can use the word 'clearly' with the way the NFL runs replay anymore. I'm 100 percent certain it gets called both ways. I'd go along with the idea that they didn't want to decide the outcome of the game on that, but isn't that the point? They gave the Super Bowl to Pittsburgh a few years ago on a judgment call of where Santonio Holmes' toes were.

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1) terrible spot, but it ended up not mattering

3) I don't disagree with the play call per se, but Brady should not have thrown that pass. Slater can get open (he's pretty fast), but on that play he wasn't open. And Brady really doesn't throw a great long pass.

4) Pollard is an ass, but he didn't intentionally go after Gronk's ankle.

5) I'm going to believe it was holding, because so many people have made this comment. I didn't see it, but I was in near shock at that point. I will say that Flacco got the benefit of a lot of O-line holding in this game. I still don't think I've seen O-line holding flagged at all during this year's playoffs. Looking forward to another full-Nelson hold in the Super Bowl.

7) Why should the booth have buzzed down if they thought it was obviously an incomplete pass? The replay makes it clear within 5 seconds, right? They should make a show of having another pair of eyes verify what you say is "obvious" just to make Harbaugh happy?

8) I thought Edelman on Boldin was bad coverage. But then they tried "Boldin uncovered." I think the Pats' coaches wanted to prove "Hey, he's better than nothing!" I have no idea what Matt Patricia is thinking these days, but I sincerely hope he gets handed his walking papers once the Super Bowl is over. Somehow he's taken an elite CB (McCourty) and destroyed him. He's had a chance to coach a number of physically gifted players in the secondary (McCourty, Butler, Meriweather, etc.) and somehow we're handed this crap? When it's just one player, you can blame the player. When it's every single player whose drafted over a five year period, you have to blame the coaching.

9) Wilfork definitely was the MVP of the game.

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Someone (Danny?) mentioned it briefly, but it seemed like Eli's entire passing philosophy - and it's hard to argue with it given the success he had - was "find Carlos Rogers and throw to whoever he's covering." Rogers had about a years worth of lunch money stolen from him yesterday.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

90% of the time, I see that Bradshaw fumble at the 2-minute warning ruled a fumble because the officials never call it forward progress. In other words, the defense is allowed to stand him up and strip the ball while he's going to the ground.

Did anyone not remember the play that led to "they are who they thought they were!"

I'm surprised Gower and Verhei think otherwise... watching football in recent years it was a clear mistake by the official to blow the whistle. Just way too many times I've seen a player get stood up by the defense, pushed back and if he loses the ball while going down, tough luck buddy... you should hang onto it.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

The fumble you are referring to in the Bears/Cards game of a while back was slightly different. When Edgerrin James was initially tackled the Bears defender only had him around his ankles, James was stood upright and not moving backward when the ball got stripped by another defender. The difference here was that Bradshaw got hurled backwards before he fumbled. (the call still seems somewhat nonsensical to me however)

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I'm curious for some clarification...

If the ball starts coming out before the whistle is blown to consider forward progress stopped, is that reviewable, and would the officials allow whoever recovered to keep the ball, but not advance it? I feel like there has been some inconsistency on the whole "whistle blew when the ball came out so recovering team keeps/does not keep possession" issue.

I'd have to double-check my recording, but it seemed like the ball started coming loose just slightly before the whistle blew. There has to be some sort of line where they decide a play is reviewable, right?

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I don't think the timing of the whistle can be part of a review. I believe the rules state that only visual evidence, not audible evidence, is part of a review.

So, no, I don't think the refs can use replay to look at where the ball was at the moment the whistle blew... even if you can hear it on the replay (which you can't always).

I could be wrong, though.

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Worst Field Goal Misses in NFL history:

1. Scott Norwood - 47 yards, to win Superbowl, wide right.

2. Gary Andersen - 38 yards, with Superbowl berth on line, who hadn't missed a kick all year. Would have been two score lead with two minutes to go, lose in overtime.

3. Billy Cundiff - 31 yards to send AFC Championship to overtime. Easier kick than two above it but would not have guaranteed victory.

4. Doug Brien - 43 yarder at the end of regulation to win game vs Steelers in 2004 season. He also missed a 47 yarder with about two minutes to go. Steelers won in overtime. Arguably worse, but not at same stage. (Steelers would go on to get blown out by Patriots, so you can't say Jets would likely have been in Superbowl).

Not a miss but worth mentioning:

Tony Romo's botched snap on the extra point vs Seattle to tie game.

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Romo's botched hold was on a 19-yard field goal, not an extra point.

A few others:

Mike Vanderjagt - 46 yards at the end of regulation to tie 2005 AFC Divisional game against the Steelers, wide way right. Colts were the #1 seed.

Lin Elliot - 42 yards at the end of regulation to tie 1995 AFC Divisional game against the Colts, wide left. Elliot also missed from 35 and 39 in the game. Chiefs were the #1 seed.

Three not remembered because their teams won:

Neil Rackers - 34 yards at end of regulation to win 2008 NFC Wild Card against the Packers, wide left.

Lawrence Tynes - 36 yards at the end of regulation to win 2007 NFC Championship, wide way left. Tynes also missed from 43 seven minutes earlier.

Mark Moseley - 23 yards in overtime to win 1986 AFC Divisional game against the Jets, wide right.

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Should there be some San Diego/Kaeding kicks in there? Seems like that always happens, at least when Marty was coaching.

Also, shouldn't there be some karma for New England to lose on a field goal one day? Or at least some bizarre tuck rule like scenario? For all the times Vinatieri bailed them out or a tuck rule bailed them out or a Billy Cundiff bailed them out, I'd just like to see them lose on some bizarre play or missed field goal liek most teams seem to suffer through. I guess I can hold on to David Tyree's helmet catch. But that was the other team making a spectacular, if not downright lucky, play.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

You just don't follow the Patriots enough. They've had their share of weird things happen that killed their chances in a game:

* 2005 Playoffs -- Champ Bailey's pick... enough said

* 2006 AFCCG -- Ellis Hobbs gets called for DPI in the endzone versus Reggie Wayne, helping the Colts dramatic comeback, because he was "faceguarding" (he didn't actually make contact with Wayne). Except that faceguarding wasn't (and still isn't) illegal at the time.

* The infamous 4th and 2 spot

* As you mentioned...the Helmet Catch. About as bizarre and fluky a play as you could ever want, and in the highest of high stakes settings.

* 2008 -- being the first team in decades to miss the playoffs after going 11-5.

You say "for all the times Vinatieri bailed them out or a tuck rule bailed them out or a Billy Cundiff bailed them out". Let's see... In most cases, Vinatieri simply made kicks that a kicker is expected to make. Just because you won a game by a FG doesn't mean your kicker "bailed you out" means you have a good, reliable kicker and put yourself in a position to use that kicker to win. Similarly, the Ravens lost this game not because Cundiff bailed out the Patiots...but because the Ravens DON'T have a good, reliable kicker (same goes for Kaeding). If you invest in a good kicker, that's a team decision, like investing in a good QB.

And the "tuck rule" gets called at least several times a season for various teams. That's like saying "they were bailed out because the forward pass is legal", or "you can't take possession of an incomplete pass". These are rules of the game.

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the 4th and 2 spot? clearly down short, awful play call.

the bailey int? tough call to overrule, but it was close, still could have won the game. playing against jake plummer for crying out loud.

if harrison did what he always did, hit the receiver, instead of going for the ball, tyree never would have caught that ball. high pressure makes people change their routine and think instead of act. harrison choked.

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The Hobbs DPI was on 2nd and 5 from the Pats 20 (about there). If they don't call it, it is 3rd and 5 in FG range, in a game where the Patriots had about no ideas how to stop Manning at that point. It didn't even end a drive. It helped the Colts, sure, but it might not have mattered.

It is hard to say the Pats deserved a playoff spot in 2008 when the only team they beat that was any good (excluding the Cards who probably should have just come out and said that they weren't trying) was one win against the Jets and Dolphins. They lost to their closest wild card contender (Indy), and got hammered by the 8-8 Chargers who everyone was complaining about that they were even in the playoffs.

This isn't to say that the Patriots haven't had bad, tough losses. They have. The 2005 one was awful, with the iffy DPI call on Samuel, and all the turnovers. The 2006 one was heartbreaking (you left out the fact that right before the Patriots got the ball with 3:40 left needing one first down to basically win - oddly, just the situation they failed in this game as well - they got called for too many men in the huddle). 2007 as well. But they've also one a lot of games with odd plays. They beat the Steelers largely because of a punt return and a blocked field goal return. They scored 1 offensive TD each game in the 2003 playoffs. The Titans were driving for a game tying FG (or game winning TD) when McNair was called for intentional grounding. In Super Bowl XXXVIII, if the Panthers never go for two (or just get one of the two) the game is completely different. The Pats are probably still ahead in terms of close wins decided by a few key plays. Unlike the Colts, who have had one exceptional, close win countered with tons of losses where they didn't turn the ball over.

184 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

All you youngsters don't remember 1976 when the Patriots got totally hosed in the playoff game against the Raiders. Sugar Bear Robinson hit Stabler while he still had the ball and was called for Roughing the Passer, reversing a 3-and-15 late and leading to the winning score. I remember screaming myself hoarse at the call at the time. Twenty years later, I saw the play on tape and it was worse than I remembered it!

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I see you that, and raise you Doug Sutherland of the Vikings, in 1975, being tackled as he completely bullrushed a Cowboys lineman, allowing Staubach time to heave the infamous pass to Drew Pearson, who pushed off to make the catch in the playoff game that coined the phrase "Hail Mary". I was there, and screamed my youthful lungs out that the Cowboys cheated TWICE on the play that ruined my winter!

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Then the head referee was clonked in the head by a whiskey bottle thrown from the stands, knocking him cold. Crazy.

I have to say though, Will, while I was outraged at the time as a dedicated Cowboys-hater, when I see a replay of this play now I'm no longer so sure that it was even a bad non-call. Certainly it wasn't an outrageous push-off by Pearson but rather very subtle, with Nate Wright slipping and falling from precious little contact. I'd imagine that an offensive pass interference call there would have likewise been very controversial (just not inside the Met). Today I see receivers get away with much worse on a regular basis. Begrudgingly I can also give Pearson credit for making a great play just on the catch itself, picking the football off from below his knees like that after it somehow eluded Wright.

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And that tennis ball will always taunt me.

The play before the hail mary Pearson caught a ball on the sideline, out of bounds. He likely would have been out of bounds without help, but he got hit as well, and the referee ruled it a force out, which meant it counted.

and of course none of these things were the worst thing to happen to Tarkenton that day.

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Phantom PI call vs. Ellis Hobbs in the 2006 AFCC which went a long way towards their choke job vs. Indy?

Might be a reach, but that's all I got. Or maybe the INT return by Champ Bailey in 2005 that seemed to be pretty clearly a blown call (Denver TD vs. NE ball 1st and 10 on their 20)....although they were still losing at the time, so it's hard to say that cost them the game.

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I just think that one lingered in the public consciousness much longer than the others.

And it is worse that the Bills never did win one (3 times back, but never close). The Vikings haven't been to one since Andersen (they did have one more NFC championship game, a 41-0 loss that was over less than two minutes into it). That the Ravens won a superbowl a decade earlier alleviates things a small amount but not much. Pretty much everyone believes this was probably the last best chance for Lewis and Reed to get another ring. Well, maybe we'll see next year but somehow don't expect it.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

The Vikings played in a conference championship game two years ago, outgained the opponent by more than two hundred yards, in their opponent's stadium, with their qb significantly outplaying the opponent's, their linemen dominating the line of scrimmage, and they lost in ot, when they kept fumbling, and their dbs kept droping easy ints.

Blocked it from your memory already, have you?

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They didn't get outgained nearly as badly, but the Saints loss to the 49ers was similar. Saints turned the ball over like mad. Outgained the 49ers, in SF. And lost a close game because they turned the ball over one too many times.

That said, the "dominate the game in terms of total yards but turn it over too many times" loss happens it seems like once a year in the playoffs. NE in 2005. SD in 2006 (although they didn't win the turnover battle). Tennessee in 2008.

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Well maybe. But really I meant for those Vikings. '09 was like a completely different team.

I'm trying to think of who might've been on both teams and I don't think there as anyone on the 98 roster around in '09.

There probably aren't that many '00 Ravens that are still on the Ravens, I'm guessing just Lewis... I think even Reed came along a year or so later.

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Due to cultural and circumstancial meaning, maybe Norwood Wide Right is N°1. But it's not the worst miss. I think Anderson's and Cundiff's are worse. Norwood hadn't been good at all during the regular season kicking on grass, and even worse in kicks over 40 yards.

On the other hand, Anderson had set a kicking accuracy record, and both his and Cundiff's kicks were very close to miss. They weren't contested by the defensive special teams, they weren't long for their legs, they weren't kicked in terrible weather, there wasn't much fault on the holder in Cundiff's case...

190 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Not that it excuses the miss, but it still irks me that the Falcons got away with calling consecutive timeouts right before the Anderson miss. On 3rd down near the 30 (iirc) the Falcons saw something they didn't like and called timeout. After the timeout they lined up with 12 men. Someone realized this and tried to call timeout. The refs, knowing you can't, ignored them. Dan Reeves then tried to call timeout, again the ref ignored him. Reeve then walked out onto the field in front of the ref and the ref blew the whistle stopping the action. They talked about it for a moment then announced there was no timeout since the Falcons couldn't call one (which would have been their last). But the falcons were able to reset their defense and avoid the penalty. And they got to keep their timeout which proved very valuable in their last minute drive to tie.

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I was at the Pats/Ravens game and I really think that Cundiff wasn't ready to kick. During other moments in the game, either when he was called on to kick a FG or during a couple of 4th down decisions, he would be at the opposite 20 yd line and about 5-6 yards onto the field (just about where the "20" is painted). For whatever reason, on that last FG attempt, he at about the 20 but about 7 yards on the sideline. I actually saw Harbaugh jumping up and down yelling at Cundiff to get on the field, and he sprinted all the way there, and started lining up with about 10 seconds left on the play clock. When you look at the replay, he kicks it with about 3 seconds left on the play clock.

Now that doesn't look so bad on TV, but he barely had time to line up and get mentally ready. I really think that Harbaugh should have called a TO just to settle it all down. And I have no idea why Cundiff wasn't paying attention.

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Completely crazy and unfair to rank Norwood's miss #1. Right before the kick ABC flashed that the breakeven make-miss distance for kickers that year was 46 (or maybe 47) yards. Missing a 50-50 shot, even with the championship on the line, doesn't make a goat.

As for Doug Brien, Herm Edwards was to blame. Like many many other coaches (but thankfully not Tom Coughlin yesterday), his offense got to about the 25-yard line and he completely threw all rational probability out the window, concentrating only on the <10% chance of a turnover (for which he'd take heat) and not on the 25-30% (or more) chance of the kicker missing a 40-yard kick. This a week after Marty Schottenheimer made EXACTLY the same mistake, assuming a 40-yarder was a gimme for Nate Kaeding in losing to the Jets.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I actually thought Tyler nailed it.

The pre-game National Anthem needs to be seen in its context of time and place. In front of a boozy, playoff-hungry Boston crowd, an audience largely of the right age and group to have grown up with Aerosmith, Tyler sang in a key everybody could hit, he sang slowly enough that people could keep up, he sang the song the way most us sing it, proudly if a little bumbling, and he threw in one rock star wail (right at the place every diva feels the need to show off her range; Tyler didn't bother with that pop shit - he just yelled).

Tyler knows that particular audience as well as he knows anything. He spoke to them in their language. It was in fact as close to perfect as possible for its context. That crowd, offered up a Kristin Chenoweth for example, would have been restless and chatty. Given Tyler, they sang along and got fired up.

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Good to know that after all those years in the wilderness up in Buffalo, it's possible to come back, play for a contender, and drop a pass that would have sent your team to the Superbowl.

Stevie Johnson was taking notes on that one.

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"This is really a lousy group of wideouts. It's kind of amazing they got this far. Which is another reason to question San Francisco's pass-wacky strategy. "

Pass-wacky? The 49ers averaged 26 rushes and 28 passes per game in the regular season. Against the Giants, they had 26 rushes and 29 passes.

"Worst Field Goal Misses in NFL history:"

Don't forget the Giants' botched field goal in 2002 vs. the 49ers.

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This is really a lousy group of wideouts.

The 49ers had good injury luck throughout the season, but not with their wideouts. Joshua Morgan has been out, Braylon Edwards was injured and not himself and cut, Ted Ginn has been in and out all season, Delanie Walker was playing this particular game without enough jaw integrity to eat a hamburger.

In other words, 3 of their top 4 wide receivers were in one way or another out due to injury for this game, and their extra-special 2nd tight end was playing without the ability to eat solid food.

So yeah...I imagine most groups of wideouts would seem pretty lousy with that kind of injury history.

Now the bigger question: should the 49ers have brought in a bigger free agent? T.O. would have been pickled tink to be playing for us again. He's worse than Brett Swain?

P. S. Grrrrrr, Kyle Williams. He's a smart guy. You couldn't tell it from what happened yesterday.

211 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

The larger point, though, is that no team should be starting a season with such an unproven group of receivers. Outside of Vernon, The day 1 roster consisted of Joshua Morgan, Braylon Edwards, Delanie Walker, Teddy Ginn, Kyle Williams and Michael Crabtree. All of those guys have shown potential, but none have had anything close to a great season before this year, let alone good. Barring a miracle, everyone knew this receiving corps was going to suck this season. And all miracles in the 2011-2012 nfl season were reserved for Tim Tebow.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

The Patriots-Ravens game played out pretty much as advertised by DVOA. The defenses make both offenses look pretty average. Fumble-luck comes close to being the deciding factor. Baltimore has a slight edge on plays from scrimmage. Special teams turn out to be the difference.

Well done, FO stats.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

As to the games, they just proved that the great quarterbacks just win, baby, causing opposing kickers to look like a 36 handicap golfer on the tee, for a 90 yard par three at your local muni course, and opposing punt returners to look like a blind man trying to catch a chicken. Seriously, if you don't understand the role that luck plays in which team wins or loses, or which qb is "clutch" or not, or which coach is a genius or can't win the big one, after watching yesterday's game, you just are beyond hope. Think of the Niners losing ints when their dbs both converge on the ball, and Welker's muffed punt going out of bounds. These were tie games, period.

Alex Smith wasn't good, and I think the Niner wideouts were worse, but you just can't be sure watching the game on television. As much as the wet ball affected the ability to pass, I think the wet field aided the offensive linemen more, and even so, if the zebras had been willing to call holding, that game is 7-7 going into overtime, I think. Justin Smith in particular was blatantly held with frequency, without flags being thrown.

I'll make this speculative criticism of coaching. I have no idea of how well or how poorly Williams has looked at fielding punts in practice, so my point may be moot, but the number one factor in you back up punt returner is whether he is super reliable in his judgement and with the ball. With the back up guy, you should not even factor his ability to break a return. You just want to get the guy on your roster who is the best at making a fair catch.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

On the first punt in overtime, I thought to myself, "In the rain, in a sudden-death situation, why would you even attempt a punt return?" That one turned out OK for Williams and the 49ers, but obviously, the second time around didn't.

He should have been instructed to fair catch everything, and avoid any difficult catches. Especially after his muff earlier.

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I honestly think the margin of error on an NFL game, in the statistical 95% confidence threshold sense is like 17 points, or maybe 20.

I am inclined to consider even a 7 point win a tie. But then again I am a little more interested in math/science/strategy element than most fans and don't care as much about the tribalistic war re-enactment portion of it.

175 I'm fine with this statement....

"Justin Smith in particular was blatantly held with frequency, without flags being thrown." long as you acknowledge the fact the Giants DL was being held just as frequently. Tuck got held and then spun around blatantly on a play in the second half when he would have had Smith dead to rights. Everyone holds in the modern NFL.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

If there's some media storm incoming because it's a rematch of SBXLII or because it's Boston-NY, I can understand. What I can't understand is why so many Pats fans wanted the Giants after their game was over.

I mean, aren't the Giants the worst possible match-up from the NFC for the Patriots right now? Three above-average receivers, two really good, a QB who has had his best season yet and is coming super hot to the game, a very good pass rush and a secondary that was able to shut down the league's best passing offense?

Against a secondary that starts three special-teamers from other teams last season and a QB/WR/RB as nickelback? Almost no pass-rush (let's make this clear, Baas and company got OWNED by the middle of the 49ers defensive line; but take away Wilfork and the Patriots don't have anybody else). If I see the Patriots as anything short of -7 underdogs in Vegas, I'm taking the points.

This will be a blowout.