Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round
compiled by Bill Barnwell
Each weekend, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).
On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
Please also note that we do not write the e-mails specifically to produce this column, so we might not discuss every aspect of the game to the level we do in our other articles.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Arizona Cardinals 14 at New Orleans Saints 45
Bill Barnwell: Why is Reggie Bush walking around with a baseball bat before the game?
Tom Gower: Well, uh, ok, I admit I'm not one of the people who thought this game's first play from scrimmage would be a long TD run by Tim Hightower.
Bill Barnwell: Wow. I've seen this movie before. The Cardinals recover a fumble on third down on the next series.
Scary thing is that Hightower chose the smaller of the two holes available to him and still scored.
Doug Farrar: That may be the Saints’ preferred method of stopping the run at this point.
Aaron Schatz: Remember what I wrote in our game preview about Sedrick Ellis' poor numbers on run tackles? He got completely destroyed on that 70-yard touchdown, although I don't know if he got blocked out of the play or took himself out because he was so intent on pass-rushing.
Bill Barnwell: So Daryl Johnston is suggesting that football players forget fundamentals and how to get off blocks when they take a week off? Seriously, what the heck? Guys have had bye weeks before. Week 1 games aren't total disasters.
And Jeremy Shockey has a whole lot of swagger, apparently, and that helps the offense. Not his blocking.
Sean McCormick: Reggie Bush looks like Smash Williams out there.
Vince Verhei: I don't think the Cardinals rushed more than four on any play in the Saints' first touchdown drive. Very out of character.
Bill Barnwell: Funny how Johnston notices Darren Sharper on the fumble recovery but not when he's awful in run support on the play before.
How do two offensive penalties and one defensive penalty offset? And considering how penalty-happy these refs are, how did they miss the blatant hold on Sedrick Ellis before Warner got the ball off?
Tom Gower: No idea how they missed that hold.
That's the rule on penalties. So long as both teams have penalties, they offset, even if one team has two and the other one. In terms of personal fouls, that may be something the Competition Committee may want to look at, but for something more normal like, say, illegal formation and offensive holding v. defensive pass interference, it makes sense.
Doug Farrar: The end of that Jerheme Urban fumble wasn't a good as when Warren Sapp got three personal fouls called on him in one game, but it was pretty close.
Bill Barnwell: It reminds me of that Titans-Ravens false start vs. (ridiculous) roughing the passer mix from 2008.
I typed Tony Siragusa into Google and one of the auto-fill options was "tony siragusa man cave". Oh no.
David Gardner: Was that the best run of Reggie Bush's career? Oh, and he's on my fantasy team.
Mike Kurtz: Announces are gushing over Reggie Bush's ability to ... run forward. Yeah.
Tom Gower: Arizona MUST start tackling better. Immediately. The last 3 plays they gave the Saints yardage.
Bill Barnwell: Apparently, the Cardinals failing to wrap up on tackles means that Reggie Bush changed his style.
Mike Taniet: Reggie Bush just did something positive. He does that three times per year, always when I am watching, just to tease me.
The Saints are running 6 OL fronts; that makes 5,008 different formations.
Vince Verhei: Well, in years past, he would have broken tackles and then immediately cut out of bounds. Now he is slipping tackles, seeing the holes, and attacking.
David Gardner: I'm not crazy about calling Darren Sharper's would-have-been interception "spectacular." It was only unlikely because he screwed up an open catch.
Bill Barnwell: Yeah. Sharper misjudged the flight of the ball, it hit him in the helmet, and then he made a nice catch on the rebound.
Vince Verhei: I wrote the Cardinals chapter in the book, so I watched them play a lot last year in preparation, and watched them a lot this year because I was so familiar with them. On the touchdown drive to make it 14-21, they lined up with two tight ends on the right and kept one in to block as Kurt Warner rolled to that side. I don't think I've seen them do anything like that. But that's what they have to do to keep the Saints off him today.
David Gardner: Geez, I didn't know that Chris Petersen of Boise was guest offensive coordinator for the Saints today.
Tom Gower: Just me, or was Henderson less open on that TD than the other deep receiver? That flea-flicker certainly worked.
Mike Tanier: Yeah, the other guy was wide open too. Oh well, Brees seemed to know what he was doing.
So I am going out of Internet range for the evening and half the Cardinals secondary is hurt. How will the Cardinals come back? Because you know they will, if not to win, just to make things insane.
Bill Barnwell: Moose says "Everyone said that we couldn't have two games in a row like that" with regards to this game being high scoring. Huh? Who said that?
And Goose follows by explaining that Darnell Dockett might have cost the Cardinals seven points by taking a personal foul penalty (at the end of a run for a first down) that moved the ball from the three to the two. Forget this. I'm putting the game on mute and listening to The Best Show archives.
Tom Gower: Well, Warner throwing on the sideline makes it seem like he will return, so Arizona is just really sunk instead of incredibly sunk.
Bill Barnwell: Yeah, but Neil Rackers looks like the kid in "Rookie Of The Year" after he broke his arm.
Tom Gower: And thank you, Sean Payton, for not burning a TO and just taking the delay penalty.
Doug Farrar: And a pseudo-spread dink pass on third-and-3 from Brees to Bush (deflected by Adrian Wilson) is described as “aggressive offense”. Moose used to be good, right? I’m not imagining that?
Bert Berry needs to teach Calais Campbell to drive his helmet into the quarterback’s facemask for the no-call. Going below the knee is a bit obvious these days.
Aaron Schatz: Sean Payton's formation roulette is really playing havoc with Karlos Dansby. He doesn't have the quickness to cover Marques Colston's quick cuts, and he doesn't have the speed to cover Reggie Bush. Colston has been awesome this game, he's really using his physicality to either shield his body or out-jump whichever defensive back is covering him, or he's out-quicking Dansby.
The Cards are giving the Saints some of their own formation medicine by moving Larry Fitzgerald into the left slot, but it hasn't done much to get him open. It does have Jabari Greer spending a lot of the game covering Steve Breaston instead of Fitzgerald, although Greer made a great play on that end zone jump ball when Fitzgerald was lined up on the right.
The Cards miss Gerald Hayes. Monty Beisel is a replacement-level player, period. He was in Kansas City, he was in New England, and he is in Arizona. He's apparently a likable guy and a hard worker, but he just doesn't have the athleticism or the instincts to be a valuable piece in the defense.
Doug Farrar: Back in the game in the second half, Warner started off conservatively with a little dink-and-dunk, then threw downfield a few times, but was victimized by drops and some questionable decisions.
Aaron Schatz: OK, Daryl Johnston is saying they may need to go with Matt Leinart because an injured Kurt Warner is having trouble stretching the field vertically. Um, wasn't the whole point of the Warner-Leinart battle a couple years ago that Leinart can't stretch the field vertically?
Doug Farrar: Heh. Reggie Bush takes a punt return back 83 yards with six minutes left in the third quarter. Siragusa: "That just took the air out of the Arizona Cardinals." They were down 38-14 with their best player at half-strength before that, Goose. Safe to say they popped a flat about 14 points ago.
This is the worst game I've ever heard Moose call. He's usually pretty good at worst, even when his Eli man-crush gets out of hand.
I don't think the arm is Warner's problem. I'm seeing him look downfield and check down out of coverage. The Saints are doing a great job of getting their DBs tight on Arizona's receivers.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: As a left tackle, Jeremy Bridges makes a great right guard.
Tom Gower: Very nice move there to double Hightower on the right side-Bobby McCray dropped and took away with immediate look and another player was at the first down marker. Kurt had to look elsewhere, and, well, NO had coverage.
David Gardner: I can't wait to see the final tally of dropped passes for the Cardinals today.
Aaron Schatz: Fascinating in the fourth quarter when they showed the New Orleans Superdome "Wall of Fame" section. The Saints have only two retired numbers, Archie Manning and Rickey Jackson, and then two "Wall of Fame" names, original owner Dave Dixon and one-time GM Jim Finks. The other two Superdome "Wall of Fame" names are Pete Maravich (from the New Orleans Jazz) and Eddie Robinson, the long-time Grambling coach. This brings up some questions:
- Are there any other historic Saints who deserve their numbers retired?
- Will Deuce McAllister be the third player up there?
- Shouldn't they have Pete Maravich's name and number posted wherever the New Orleans Hornets play instead?
- And... If Eddie Robinson is on the Wall of Fame for Grambling, how about getting Doug Williams up there too?
Doug Farrar: Sam Mills, Jim Mora ... I dunno. George Rogers?
Tom Gower: Pat Swilling.
Vince Verhei: These are the kinds of things you discuss when a team is ahead by 31 in the fourth quarter.
Aaron Schatz: Hey, don't tell me I wouldn't make a swell announcer. I even know what to do in blowouts.
Baltimore Ravens 3 at Indianapolis Colts 20
Doug Farrar: My least-favorite NFL stat: Quarterback wins. My second-least-favorite football stat: “Team A is (insert record here) since (insert cherry-picked year here) against Team B”, as if it makes a difference. Why do I care if the Ravens haven’t beaten the Colts since 2001? Must Elvis Grbac and Qadry Ismail be on the field for a Ravens victory to happen? Did Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams possess come sort of intrinsic Colts-beating power that Haloti Ngata and Jarret Johnson do not have?
Sean McCormick: Generally a worthless stat, but in instances where two teams play every year (as the Colts and Ravens generally do), it has at least a bit of value. A very, very little bit.
Aaron Schatz: I agree that it is a reasonably useful stat when you have two teams that have had a lot of continuity in both scheme and personnel. That's not usually true, but it's definitely true of the Colts and somewhat of the Ravens (well, on defense, anyway).
Where it is REALLY dumb is, say, an AFC-NFC matchup where Team A's 0-5 record goes back to, say, 1986 or something.
Tom Gower: Obviously, the Colts' early field goal means this is another Super Bowl year, as they struggled to score touchdowns against KC and BAL in 2006 and won the Super Bowl.
Five rushers for the Ravens the first drive, Rice the only one with multiple carries. He needs to run forward against the Colts, not laterally -- the front seven is just too fast for that sort of nonsense. The Titans learned that from their first to second game against Indy, has Baltimore? The power stuff leads me to think yes, but if it doesn't sink in on Rice, it's wasted.
David Gardner: The Ravens are doing a good job of keeping the Colts to underneath routes. Peyton Manning looks a little impatient in the pocket, too. But so would I if I saw Suggs on the other side.
Tom Gower: The Ravens might as well have one wideout on the field for as much as Joe Flacco is looking around. He's been vaporlocked onto his first read and making that throw.
Bill Barnwell: I don't know if that's necessarily anything new. I always assume Flacco has two reads: Whoever his first read is, usually Mason, and then Rice. Colts are smothering Rice with linebackers and Flacco's got no one to throw to.
Aaron Schatz: That's sort of interesting because usually the Colts' coverage tries to take away all wideouts and is willing to give up dumpoffs underneath. Perhaps they feel Rice is that much more of a threat, even if he's catching the ball 10 yards closer to the LOS than Mark Clayton would be.
Bill Barnwell: Ravens doing a great job defensively so far, though. Reggie Wayne doesn't have a catch, and Walker's holding Garcon to beating him by a half-step so far. Feel like there's a big play from Manning to Garcon coming later in the game.
David Gardner: The spots that Manning is completing these passes into is unbelievable.
Vince Verhei: So far this game is awesome. Baltimore is giving the Colts nothing, but Manning is making impossible throws and picking up just enough yards to get the first down. If he needs six yards, he gets seven; if he needs eight yards, he gets nine. But then the Ravens are right there to make the tackle. Best-played game of the playoffs so far.
Aaron Schatz: Aha, end of the first half. I knew the Ravens would eventually decide it was time to start committing questionable penalties.
David Gardner: The Colts' two-minute drill is a thing of beauty, and everyone knows it. Was there any doubt in anyone's mind that they would go down and score with 1:33 (or whatever) and two timeouts? Maybe not a touchdown, but they were almost certainly coming away with points.
Tom Gower: Terrible job by Demetrius Williams on the fourth-and-3. Not too surprising, since it's Demetrius Williams. Maybe the Ravens will go after TO again this offseason, since they dearly need another wideout. I'm glad they didn't convert, though, since Oher got away with his second false start of the drive (the first on third-and-6 after Gaither got called for it).
David Gardner: Gary Brackett -- Defensive Player of the Day.
Vince Verhei: The real story of this game is Indianapolis shutting down the Baltimore offense, especially on the ground. We expected them to win the aerial war, but the Ravens have done nothing rushing.
David Gardner: I see Garcon has been watching some Robert Meachem film.
Aaron Schatz: Or Troy Brown. When is Ed Reed going to learn to hold on to the damn football when he is returning a pick? Didn't he make a stupid lateral attempt on a pick return in the first Ravens-Colts game?
Doug Farrar: Boy, how sick am I of Dan Dierdorf’s rhetorical questions?
Having gone back and watched the Week 11 game for Cover-3, and seeing this one, my head has turned around a bit on the cause of Baltimore’s inability to get anything done in the red zone. Yes, teams play out of their optimal games trying to keep up with Indy’s offense. No, the Ravens can’t expect to win consistently when relying too much on Joe Flacco (just yet, at least). But the real story is … well, the Colts’ defense is just really, really good right now. Those extra blitzes and little extra reads and formations have taken a good, fast, somewhat vulnerable defense and turned it into something altogether else. Both the Colts and the Saints have surprised me with elements of their defense today. The Saints with their coverage, and the Colts with the ability to consistently shout down what the Ravens do best. A tendency to undervalue that effort might have people saying that the Ravens didn’t do what would have given the game, when it has been about the Colts taking it away from them.
And there’s your “Okay, we’re screwed” play. Ed Reed picks off a Manning pass with six minutes left in the third quarter, Pierre Garcon chases him down, knocks the ball out, and Dallas Clark recovers. Good night, everybody!
Aaron Schatz: And then, Ray Rice fumbles. You know, the Colts are outplaying the Ravens tonight, but this game would at least be close if the luck fairy wasn't completely screwing the Ravens at every turn.
David Gardner: Did anyone else hear Manning just say "God dammit, Charles!" as he identified that blitz?
Tom Gower: Ray Rice there did something that annoys me -- he sees defenders, so, rather than fight to break tackles or dive forward for a couple yards, he runs laterally out of bounds. Which seems like a fine idea, with his team down 17 and wanting to conserve time, but there's still 5:26 to go on. The clock restarts outside of 5:00 in the 4th quarter on out of bounds plays, so you really don't save much time. Players should know this stuff, even if coaches have to remind them every second and fourth quarter.
Vince Verhei: Well, last time he tried to break tackles, he fumbled.
Aaron Schatz: One more note. At the end of the game, Dan Dierdorf couldn't shut up about how this win gets the monkey of the Colts' back, now the Jets game doesn't mean anything, resting worked, nobody will talk about resting starters anymore. What the hell are you talking about, Dan? You don't think the Colts fans are going to talk about Weeks 16-17 if the Colts go on to win the Super Bowl, debating whether resting guys mattered or whether they tossed away a shot at 19-0 for no reason? Trust me, it has not gone away.
Doug Farrar: Not a banner day for football broadcasting. And this is just the warmup for Joe Buck and Phil Simms. Ack.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Dallas Cowboys 3 at Minnesota Vikings 34
Bill Barnwell: Smart non-challenge by Dallas on that Romo fumble on the opening drive. You're challenging there for the right to punt and probably pick up 20 yards of field position.
Amazing to see a Cowboys blitz that yields an unblocked DeMarcus Ware coming off the edge, no twists or nothing. What was the deal with Chester Taylor on that play, though? He looked over at a rushing Ware and then just decided to hop out into his pattern.
Doug Farrar: Was that the Patented Ryan Grant Bailout Move?
Bill Barnwell: Maybe they were gonna run a screen? I'm trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, but even if they're running a screen, you have to abandon it and cut Ware.
David Gardner: That was not a screen setup. The offensive linemen were all at home, dropping back to seal the pocket, and Taylor slipped out in front of them to the middle of the field.
Vince Verhei: On Sidney Rice's touchdown to open the day's scoring, Sensabaugh was in great position, but Brett Favre made a phenomenal throw to drop it in over his shoulder. But as close as Sensabaugh was, it wasn't great coverage -- he never turned his head to see the ball, never reacted when it arrived, and I don't think he knew that Rice even had it until they were both in the end zone.
Aaron Schatz: PERFECTLY dropped in pass on the touchdown to Sidney Rice down the right side. I like that Ragnar the Vikings didn't realize the chest-bump was coming.
Doug Farrar: Yeah, Rice made a great adjustment to get to that ball around Newman, but the throw was just unreal.
Vince Verhei: Favre-to-Rice for another score. This time Rice motioned inside and threw a cut block, and actually ended up on the ground, but recovered and scrambled and found a hole in the Dallas defense. And Favre had a pass rusher in his face, but pump-faked him into the air, ducked underneath him, and found Rice.
We all know that we're going through six months of will-he-or-won't-he with Favre in the offseason, but at this point, why should he retire? There are clearly not 32 quarterbacks superior to him.
Tom Gower: Because playing football kind of sucks, you can get hurt, and it's unpleasant to have to do things like go to training camp, learn a playbook, etc.
Can we please throw all of those Witten-on-Allen plays out of the playbook? Thanks.
Sean McCormick: Aikman: "It looks like Flozell Adams is out of the game."
Watch destruction ensue. Minnesota's defensive line was giving the Cowboys problems to begin with, but from the moment Allen got matched up against backups and tight ends, the line has been completely overwhelmed. Dallas tried to slow things down a bit by running left, but that's not going to cut it, particularly not if they're down 14+ points. They need to get a tight end not named Jason Witten on the left side of the line and simply leave him there, with a back behind him as backup. Otherwise, Romo simply isn't going to have a chance to make a play downfield.
Aaron Schatz: Yes, I'm sorry, Vince, you prefer the Doug Free-on-Jared Allen blocking scheme?
One thought about Favre and retirement: Could he come back to the Vikings in 2010 and get away with not coming to training camp until halfway through the preseason again? Because part of the problem is that he just doesn't want to go through training camp two-a-days when he could be out hunting.
Doug Farrar: I think the world would take that deal. No Brett for training camp in exchange for the end of the offseason tradition of all other football news being held hostage for three months in favor of his "non-unretirements".
Vince Verhei: Cowboys' first drive of the second half is almost exclusively two- tight end, so their tackles are never isolated. It works when they run right at the Vikings, but stalls when they get cute with a pitch.
If the Cowboys go on to lose and Shaun Suisham takes the heat, I'm going to be pissed. He's missing near-50-yarders. Even if he makes those, the offense needs to consider those to be failed drives.
Tom Gower: Worse, they're running the pitch and the outside stuff with Barber, rather than Felix Jones. I think that's called "not playing to your players' strengths," Jason Garrett.
Doug Farrar: Not too good when you're down 14, and your only offensive goal is to give your punter more room in the back of the end zone.
David Gardner: The new E-Trade baby isn't nearly as funny as the old one.
Vince Verhei: Vikings force a punt, but are called for running into the kicker. Cowboys decline the penalty and we go into commercial.
After commercial, Cowboys have changed their minds and opted to re-kick. Joe Buck questions why the VIKINGS changed their minds and opted for the re-kick. He completely forgot what the penalty was, and they had been talking about it in detail before the break, why it was running into the kicker and not roughing. He even noted that McBriar would have more room on the punt! Shouldn't that be a screaming sign that the Cowboys accepted the penalty?
By the time he's corrected and gives the correct info, the Vikings have already gone three-and-out. God, I hate that man.
Doug Farrar: But you can choose any car in the aisle, Vince!
Romo's going to take a ration of crap for that brainfart of an interception at the end of the third quarter, and justifiably so. But he's been running around, ducking pressure, taking sacks, and the line is just absolute horsecrap. It's like they have five Tom Ashworths out there. At what point does "live to fight another day" become a white flag? And I wonder if Crayton was supposed to come back on that route.
Aaron Schatz: I'm blown away by the fact that the three games so far have all been blowouts. I thought these matchups were really close.
Doug Farrar: Between Dierdorf, Moose Johnson, and Joe Buck, the pressure is on Phil Simms to complete the sweep. I have great faith in him.
As I was typing that, Buck was informing me that Bud Grant (who is in the building) is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Prince (who is also in the building) is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Oh, Joe. You irrepressible scamp, with your puns and wordplay and all.
Vince Verhei: This has been the most frustrating game of the playoffs for me. I thought Dallas would win, which was obviously wrong. But I feel like they've beaten themselves as much as the Vikings have. Missed field goals, dumb turnovers, bad penalties, unblocked defenders, poor play-calling ... this may be sour grapes, but it seems to me that the better team just didn't show up today.
New York Jets 17 at San Diego Chargers 14
Tom Gower: Pet peeve: "We want to keep opponent's defense on the field and their offense off it." They still get the same damn number of possessions you do, give or take who has the last possession in the first and second halves, and onside kicks. I'd thought IND-MIA this year could've done some damage to it, but apparently not. Will anything, ever?
David Gardner: That one-handed catch by Antonio Gates was amazing. That is all.
Aaron Schatz: I'm really enjoying this game of "create a mismatch." Move Vincent Jackson around so he's away from Darrelle Revis? Check. Jets motion Tony Richardson out wide so that Antonio Cromartie is wasted on a fullback? Check. Jets go pistol on third-and-4? Actually, not a mismatch, it turns out.
The Chargers finally get on the board with a touchdown throw to Kris Wilson. See, that's the problem with one shutdown corner. What do you do when the other team has so many other weapons that they go and toss their first touchdown pass to the third-string tight end? (Or is that backup fullback? Hard to tell.)
Vince Verhei: Chargers go up 7-0 and it feels like game over.
Bill Barnwell: Hey, Mark Sanchez just went over positive yardage! Who knows what could happen next?
Aaron Schatz: I want to know why the Jets are running so much to the outside and not up the gut. Up the gut is where the Chargers have the big Jamal Williams-sized hole, and the Jets ALY numbers this year are MUCH lower on outside runs compared to inside runs.
10:40 left in the second quarter, a pass to Malcom Floyd is originally called a fumble, then overturned and changed to incomplete.
David Gardner: Man, Phil Simms will not admit that he is wrong, nor will he let the subject of that replay reversal die.
Tom Gower: How on earth did Jerome Boger get an incomplete out of that play? Floyd was running, caught the ball, got both feet down, and then Leonhard tackled him. That wasn't going to the ground, he wasn't juggling the ball, no nothing. I didn't think it was a fumble, because I think Floyd's left elbow was down before he lost possession, but getting incomplete out of that play is a real stretch.
Vince Verhei: Yeah, I hate to say it, but Simms is right. The referee completely blew that replay review. How on earth is their indisputable visual evidence that the pass was incomplete? You're only supposed to change the call if it's obvious, and if anything that play looked more like a catch than an incompletion.
Aaron Schatz: Mike Sellers just called, and he agrees with you on "indisputable visual evidence."
Tom Gower: Heads-up move by Tony Richardson to point to Shonn Greene as a dumpoff target for Sanchez with Eric Weddle trying to take him down. Not so heads-up of a move by Richardson was failing to block Weddle's path to Sanchez in the first place.
Aaron Schatz: By the way, I just checked. Five of the first six Jets runs were around end, including the lame third-and-4 option. That's just ridiculous. Eventually, they got two seven-yard runs up the middle, which is more like it if they feel like having a real-life professional offense.
Bill Barnwell: Well, they love pulling guards. Harder to pull guards on run up the middle.
Doug Farrar: I don’t know what was more amazing -– Darrelle Revis’ interception that somehow didn’t hit the ground with 4:23 left in the third quarter, or the fact that Jerome Boger’s crew got the call right on the field.
Bill Barnwell: The more amazing play was breaking up the pass; the interception was just gravy.
Aaron Schatz: When the Jets are stuck letting Sanchez pass, he's trying to fit it into windows he just can't hit. That's where that Quentin Jammer pick comes from.
Tom Gower: Ok, this feels WAY too much like a Vintage Marty Special. He comes in with the superior team, and they're outplaying the opponent, but it's still a close game and just one fluke play the other way, like Chris Hope slipping and failing to get over in time on a double move and Flacco throwing a touchdown pass (/bitter Titans fan), means his team loses when there's no way they shouldn't have.
Bill Barnwell: How about an interception deep in his own territory?
Aaron Schatz: I'm trying to figure out -- where was Rivers trying to throw that ball? Was that an underthrown seam pass to Antonio Gates? Was Gates supposed to turn around on a curl? Was it actually to Vincent Jackson in front of Gates, and he overthrew him? I can't tell if that was miscommunication or just Rivers throwing without even thinking of what the routes were.
Tom Gower: My guess is that Gates was supposed to run a curl.
Vince Verhei: Yeah, Gates never turned around, so I assume Rivers thought he was going to run a curl or corner route or something.
But closing the third quarter with an interception and a stupid personal foul -- Can we say that they're Norving yet?
Bill Barnwell: I'm actually assuming that was a throw to Jackson on the in that Rivers threw ahead/overthrew.
Aaron Schatz: Did I say that Sanchez was trying to fit the ball in tiny holes that he couldn't actually hit? I take it back. He hit a very small hole between Dustin Keller and the ground on the touchdown pass.
Tom Gower: Yes. Yes, it is.
One thing the about the Chargers is they don't seem to rely as much on separation in the passing game as most other teams, instead going with big receivers and letting Rivers put the ball in the right place. That's normally a good strategy, but (1) it's nice to have somebody who can get separation and (2) the Jets DBs have done an excellent job of fighting the WRs this game to break up passes.
Aaron Schatz: Vince, I'm not sure why you think this game is stupid. I count it as smart that the Jets finally started running up the middle on the Chargers instead of trying to go wide.
Vince Verhei: I guess I say that it's stupid because it felt like this game should have been about 21-0 at halftime instead of 7-0. The Chargers were dominant on the field, but not on the scoreboard.
Sean McCormick: They were dominant on defense, but not really on offense. They moved the ball a bit, but hardly at will.
David Gardner: I like that Shonn Greene mimicked LT's touchdown celebration.
Tom Gower: Nate Kaeding, please pick up the white courtesy phone. Lin Elliott would like to speak with you.
Doug Farrar: Well, so much for the KCW award this week. Vincent Jackson, come on down!
Vince Verhei: One area where the Chargers have definitely played poorly is clock management. They're routinely letting 30 seconds go by between plays, they're wasting timeouts early in both halves. And I think the onside kick was a terrible decision.
Bill Barnwell: Agreed. You're trading 40-50 yards of field position for a 10% chance of converting the onside kick.
Sean McCormick: I was surprised by that, too. Had they faked the onside and kicked deep, they would have pinned the Jets deep with the chance to stop the clock twice. Had they stopped the Jets there, they would have gotten the ball at around the 35 with 1:00 left, needing to kick a field goal to tie. It seems like the higher percentage play. That said, if you don't trust your defense...
Tom Gower: Why should you trust your defense? It kind of sucks, and can be run on successfully. Kicking onside was the right move. SD is who DVOA said they were: a passing team with not much of a running game and a mediocre defense. The Jets had by far the league's best pass defense. I may not like it, and I may not thought it would have come out this way, but this was an utterly unsurprising result.
Bill Barnwell: Well, San Diego had a similar total DVOA and was at home, so the most plausible result would be SD by a field goal or so.
Aaron Schatz: I feel really bad for Nate Kaeding, and everybody knows that I'm the furthest thing from a Norv Turner fan, but... I hate to say... the main person to blame in this loss is Kaeding. Kaeding and the randomness of kicker performance. Yes, the clock management was iffy, some of the penalties suggested an undisciplined team, and the onside kick at the end was probably not the best decision. Yes, you want your offense to get it into the end zone for six, not leave it up to the kicker for three. But they put Kaeding out there three times, for one long field goal that he can't be expected to hit (57) and two very makeable ones that he hits 95 percent of the time (36, 40). He hits one of those, just one, this game is in overtime.
Although, technically, this is another Norv Turner blown fourth-quarter lead to add to the long list of Norv Turner blown fourth-quarter leads.
I think the Colts are happier to be playing the Jets than they would be playing the Chargers team that has beaten them the past two postseasons. But... if they do lose next week -- effectively blowing their Super Bowl shot against a team that wouldn't be in the playoffs if not for the Colts' throwing their Week 16 game -- I can't even imagine how angry the Colts fans will be.