Quick Reads
The best and worst players of the week according to Football Outsiders stats.

Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Conf. Championship Quick Reads
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Vince Verhei

The last time the New England Patriots faced the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, Tom Brady came into the game as a three-time champion who had led the league in touchdowns, while Eli Manning was a first-time finalist who had led the league in interceptions. Up to that point, Manning had shown little reason to believe he belonged at Brady's level. Manning and the Giants walked away with the Lombardi Trophy, though, and in the following four years the quarterback has proven that he can play at his best in January. A big game in Indianapolis against the New England Patriots could cement his legacy among the best playoff quarterbacks in recent history. The last time Manning played the Patriots, however, his performance was nowhere near that level.

In three games this postseason, Manning has 350 total DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement – more info available here). That's third among quarterbacks so far this year. His Super Bowl rival Tom Brady has 384, while Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints has 601. Whichever quarterback wins the Super Bowl will likely finish second to Brees in the playoff rankings this season.

(How good was Brees in his brief playoff stint? Our database of playoff games goes back to 1995. In those 17 seasons, only three other quarterbacks – Kurt Warner in 2008, Peyton Manning in 2009, and Aaron Rodgers in 2010 – have gone over 600 DYAR in a single postseason, and they played three or four games each. Brees nearly topped them in only two contests. That's what happens when you complete nearly 69 percent of your passes with seven touchdowns against a pair of good defenses.)

It's not shocking to see Manning's name near the top of the playoff leaderboard. In his Super Bowl-winning postseason of 2007, he led all quarterbacks with 398 total DYAR. Since 1995, only nine quarterbacks have gone over 400 DYAR in a single postseason (Warner's 621 DYAR in his 2008 Super Bowl season with the Cardinals leads the way.) Both Brady and Brees could join that club if they play well in two weeks.

How do Manning's total postseason numbers stack up? In his ten playoff appearances, He has totaled 708 DYAR. Not surprisingly, Brady blows him away in this department, with 1,704 DYAR in 21 playoff games. Both men make the top ten since 1995:

Most Total Postseason DYAR, 1995-2011
Quarterback DYAR Games
Peyton Manning 2,317 19
Tom Brady 1,704 21
Kurt Warner 1,612 13
Drew Brees 1,330 9
Brett Favre 1,111 20
Aaron Rodgers 832 7
Matt Hasselbeck 787 11
Eli Manning 708 10
Ben Roethlisberger 634 14
Philip Rivers 595 7

(Hopefully this puts to rest the notion that Eli's older brother had a habit of choking in the playoffs. Peyton Manning's postseason numbers – 63 percent accuracy, 7.5 yards per pass, 2.6 percent interception rate – are nearly identical to his regular season performances of 65 percent accuracy, 7.6 yards per pass, and 2.7 percent interception rate.)

Brady could post the highest single-game DYAR in history in the Super Bowl and he still wouldn't catch Peyton Manning here. He's also unlikely to throw three or four interceptions and finish with negative DYAR, so he probably won't fall back behind Warner. In other words, win or lose in the Super Bowl, Brady's status amongst his peers probably won't change.

The Giants quarterback, though, could rise or fall a couple of spots in the rankings. A terrible game for Eli against New England could drop him down behind Roethlisberger and maybe even Rivers. A great game would launch him above Hasselbeck and Rodgers, putting him amidst the league's absolute best passers over the last decade and a half.

The problem for Manning is that DYAR accounts for the quality of each player's opponents – and the Patriots defense has been lousy. This is the team that allowed Dan Orlovsky to complete 81 percent of his throws, gave up three touchdowns to Matt Moore, and allowed Vince Young to enjoy the only 400-yard passing day of his career. The only quarterbacks who started against New England and failed to throw a touchdown were Tim Tebow and Tyler Palko.

When you're playing a defense this bad, you can post outstanding raw statistics and still walk away with a mediocre DYAR number. In Week 8, Ben Roethlisberger completed 72 percent of his passes against New England for 365 yards and a pair of scores. He finished seventh among quarterbacks in DYAR that week.

To truly have a "big day" against the porous Patriots secondary, Manning will likely need to throw for at least three or four touchdowns with no interceptions. He has already played New England once this year, in Week 9, and he fell far short of those numbers. He completed just 20-of-39 passes for 250 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He finished with 76 DYAR that day. If that's how he plays in the Super Bowl, he'll remain sandwiched between Hasselbeck and Roethlisberger on that table.

On the other hand, while Manning's numbers against New England weren't anything to write home about, they were better than Brady's (21 incompletions, two interceptions, 37 DYAR). More importantly, at the end of the day the Giants had beaten the Patriots 24-20. It goes without saying that Manning and New York would take a replay of that result, no matter what the boxscore says.

Tom Brady NE
Brady and Joe Flacco each completed 22 passes in 36 attempts on Sunday. Brady gained 239 yards with no touchdowns and a pair of interceptions, while Flacco gained 306 yards with two scores and only one interception. And yet Brady finished ahead of Flacco in the DYAR standings, and it wasn't close. Why? It's not the rushing numbers – Brady's touchdown came on a 1-yard sneak, a situation in which many quarterbacks would have scored. Instead, the difference comes down to opponent adjustments. Quite simply, Brady and Flacco weren't competing on a level playing field. Flacco was lucky enough to be facing the New England secondary, and we've already talked about their wretched performance this season. Only two teams were worse in our defensive rankings. Baltimore, though, was first in overall defense and first against the pass. The Ravens defense finished in the top three in completion percentage, yards per pass, and sacks, and gave up fewer touchdown passes (11) than any other squad. Brady didn't add to that touchdown total on Sunday, but he did throw for 15 first downs, and went 5-for-7 on third down with less than ten yards to go.
Joe Flacco BAL
In the past two weeks, Flacco has played one good game and one bad one, and has one win and one loss to show for it. His production, however, has not matched the ultimate outcome in either contest. Last week, he played terribly against Houston, but got bailed out by the league's best defense against a third-string quarterback. This week, he was much better against New England, but was outdueled by a future Hall of Famer. If there's one area where he would have liked to have played better against the Patriots, it would have been in the red zone. The highlights showed Lee Evans' late near-touchdown and Billy Cundiff's missed field-goal attempt on the final play of the game, but the Ravens missed out on scoring opportunities all game long, scoring just one touchdown in four red zone drives. That touchdown was Flacco's 6-yard pass to Dennis Pitta. Otherwise, the quarterback went just 3-of-6 for 13 yards with a sack inside the New England 20.
Eli Manning NYG
If anyone tells you that the Giants' win over San Francisco was due in any significant way to Manning's late-game heroics, ignore them. In his last 29 dropbacks, starting late in the third quarter and going into overtime, Manning went 12-of-25 for 100 yards, only five first downs, and four sacks. Granted, one of those first downs was a go-ahead touchdown pass to Mario Manningham. Really, though, Manning did most of his work in the first half, going 16-of-25 for 181 yards and 10 first downs (including a touchdown to Bear Pascoe), good for 83 DYAR, best of any QB this week.
Alex Smith SF
It was all-or-nothing for Smith and the 49ers against the Giants. He threw touchdowns of 73 and 28 yards to Vernon Davis, and his other three first downs gained a combined 59 yards. Otherwise, he went 7-of-21 for 36 yards, with three sacks. Most notable was his dreadful showing on third down, much discussed by the announcers during the game: 4-of-8 passing for 47 yards, but only one first down, plus a sack. We'll have more to say about Smith and the 49ers when we get to the week's worst receiver(s).
Five most valuable running backs
Frank Gore SF
Gore wasn't explosive against the Giants – his longest carry gained only 11 yards – but he was efficient, averaging 4.6 yards on his 16 carries. Eleven of those runs gained 4 yards or more, and only two of them were stuffed for a loss. He didn't get a single third-down run, but that's for good reason. In the regular season, Gore picked up a first down on only 25 percent of his third-down carries, worst rate for any running back with at least 20 third-down runs. The 49ers also threw Gore eight passes, and though he caught six of them for 45 yards, the majority of those yards coming on a 24-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis NE
Green-Ellis' success rate against the mighty Ravens defense was a mighty 60 percent. Though he was stuffed for no gain or a loss three times in his 15 carries, he had eight runs for 4 yards or more, and two for 10 or more. He finished with five first downs, including a touchdown.
Ahmad Bradshaw NYG
Bradshaw's raw numbers (a 3.7-yard average on 20 carries) may not seem like much, but again we must consider the quality of the opponent. By FO's numbers, San Francisco had the best run defense in the league. Bradshaw had a workman-like day against the 49ers. He only had two first downs and didn't break a single 10-yard run, but he was stuffed for no gain just twice and gained 3 yards or more 13 times. He also caught six of eight passes for 52 yards, 30 of them coming on a second-and-10 catch late in the fourth quarter.
Danny Woodhead NE
Woodhead had six carries for 18 yards and one first down, plus one catch for 7 yards. On the plus side, he was thrown only one incompletion, and gained at least 1 yard on each of his carries. Look, it was championship weekend. Only four teams played. The pickings for running backs are pretty slim, OK?
Ricky Williams BAL
Williams had six carries for 22 yards. His first run resulted in a 5-yard loss, but each carry after that gained somewhere between 2 and 9 yards, and he picked up a pair of first downs.
Least valuable running back
Ray Rice BAL
Rice played two weeks of the 2011 postseason, and finished as the bottom-ranked running back twice. In those two games, Rice averaged 3.0 yards per carry. He added five receptions, but while two of those catches led to first downs, the other three gained a total of precisely zero yards, and three more passes aimed Rice's way fell incomplete. At least he ran for a first down this week, something he failed to do last week against Houston. He had three first downs against New England: a 12-yard gain on second-and-3; a 5-yard gain on second-and-5; and a 1-yard gain on third-and-1. His other 18 carries averaged 2.7 yards each, including two stuffs for no gain or a loss. Like Flacco, Rice also played a part in Baltimore's red zone struggles. He had six carries inside the 20, and five of them gained 2 yards or fewer. Between the two games, Rice had 12 carries inside the 20 and seven inside the 9, and he failed to reach the end zone on any of them.
Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Victor Cruz NYG
The Giants threw to Cruz 10 times in the first half, resulting in eight catches for 125 yards and seven first downs. After that San Francisco was largely able to contain him – he caught two passes in the third quarter for 17 yards, and each of the five passes thrown to him after that fell incomplete – but by then the damage had been done.
Vernon Davis SF
Davis' five targets, in order: 73-yard touchdown; incomplete; incomplete; 28-yard touchdown; 11-yard gain on third-and-12. That's 57 percent of San Francisco's total receiving yardage, and he did it on just three catches.
Torrey Smith BAL
One week ago, Smith was a non-factor, catching one pass for 9 yards in four targets against Houston. He fared much better in his five targets against New England, catching three balls for three first downs (including a 29-yard touchdown) and 82 yards. Before opponent adjustments, it was the most valuable game for any receiver this week. Alas, it came against New England, and thus Smith gets knocked down a peg or two. Regardless, it was a good game for the final outing of Smith's rookie campaign. He only topped 82 yards three times in the regular season.
Rob Gronkowski NE
Each of Gronkowski's receptions gained a first down, and three of them gained more than 20 yards. He did this in the AFC title game against the best pass defense in football. It's getting so routine that it's easy to take Gronkowski for granted. We should try to avoid that.
Wes Welker NE
Welker had just one 10-yard catch on the day, a 14-yarder in the second quarter, but he picked up four first downs, twice keeping drives alive on third down.
Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Michael Crabtree SF
Crabtree, the former first-round draft pick who is allegedly San Francisco's number-one wideout, was the target on one pass in the first three quarters against New York. It was incomplete. His first target in the fourth quarter was caught – for a 3-yard gain on third-and-5. He saw three more balls after that, none of them complete. If there's any consolation for Crabtree, he was not alone at the bottom of the standings. He had plenty of teammates to keep him company. The second-worst receiver of the week was Kyle Williams, who had zero receptions in four targets (and that's not even including the two fumbles on special teams that led to 10 New York points). The third-worst receiver? Another 49er, Delanie Walker. The tight end had two receptions in four targets for 36 yards, and though one of those was a 29-yard gain for San Francisco's only third-down conversion of the day, Walker fumbled at the end of the play. Any questions as to San Francisco's biggest need entering the offseason?


162 comments, Last at 29 Jan 2012, 2:26am

1 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

"Both Brady and Brees could join that club if they play well in two weeks."

Brady and Manning, you mean, I assume.

2 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

That's some hefty respect for the Raven's pass defense. Well earned, I must say.

It would be nice to see the YAR numbers for QBs, since this week's DYAR story is all about the size of the opponent adjustments.

3 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Hopefully this puts to rest the notion that Eli's older brother had a habit of choking in the playoffs. Peyton Manning's postseason numbers – 63 percent accuracy, 7.5 yards per pass, 2.6 percent interception rate – are nearly identical to his regular season performances of 65 percent accuracy, 7.6 yards per pass, and 2.7 percent interception rate.

Nice try, but armchair quarterbacks and bloviating TV commentators will perpetuate this myth for generations to come.

7 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

If Peyton Manning didn't want the label of a choker, perhaps he shouldn't have thrown as many passes to Ty Law as he did.

He earned that label when he threw four picks in the AFC championship game in January of 2004.

Peyton Manning really did start his playoff career losing a lot of games. I know he rose above that past, but it took a while.

In 1999-2000, after the Colts went 13-3, they lost to the Titans in the divisional round. The next year, they lost to the Dolphins in the wildcard round. Two years later, they were flattened by the Jets 41-0 in the wildcard round. Then the year after that, one win over Denver and the game I cited above. And one year after that, the same - a win over Denver and a dreadful game against the Pats.

If you looked at his playoff stats at that point, I'm fairly sure they were dreadful. This label of "choker" was well earned.

12 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Getting beat is not the same as choking. Sometimes, you just get your ass kicked. It happens.

ETA: Somewhere in that list is an Arena League matchup against Kansas City, where both punters sat and played solitaire for the entire game.

16 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

From 1999 to 2004 (8 games), Peyton Manning's playoff stats:

171/283 (60.4%)
2172 yards (7.67 ypa)
14 touchdowns (4.95%)
8 interceptions (2.83%)

I would hardly call that "dreadful".

His overall regular-season stats, from 1999 to 2004 (96 games):
2138/3305 (64.68%)
25,703 yards (7.78 ypa)
190 touchdowns (5.75%)
92 interceptions (2.78%)

His playoff stats are are a little bit worse across the board, compared to his regular-season stats, but that's to be expected (the quality of opponents is higher).

I don't think the "choker" label was fair, especially when you look at who his Colts teams lost to:
1999 TEN (16.7% DVOA to the Colts' 3.9% DVOA) at home
2000 MIA (25.0% to 21.1%) at Miami
2002 NYJ (16.0% to 0.1%) at New York
2003 NE (21.8% to 22.0%) at New England
2004 NE (35.9% to 28.1%) at New England

70 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

No, "choking" is not the same as being consistently bad. I know that Peyton beat the crap out of the Broncos. And it's convenient for you to lump in those games with the games that he lost when he played poorly. But if you want to respond to my point, can go back to talking about his losses in consecutive years to the Patriots in the AFC Championship games? Those are the games that got him the label of "choker".

81 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Well, you said: "If you looked at his playoff stats at that point, I'm fairly sure they were dreadful. This label of "choker" was well earned."

I looked at his playoff stats. They were far from dreadful. I'm fairly certain that was responding to your point in the above post.

As to the consecutive losses to the Patriots, well, I thought my listing of the teams' respective DVOAs addressed that a bit. I don't see how it's "choking" to lose two games, on the road, to a team that was either equal to or better than you.

Others below have addressed the specific interceptions, saying that one, in particular, involved panicking on Manning's part, while the rest were simply good defense. I'll let that point stand.

91 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

They weren't both AFC Title Games. The 2004 game was a divisional round game.

Anyway, Peyton has lost four playoff games where he played poorly (1999, 2002, 2003, 2004) and I really think that had he played brilliantly, the Colts still don't win in 2002 or 2004. Peyton's performances in losses since 2005 (Steelers, Chargers, Chargers, Saints, Jets) combine for a line of:

129-199 (64.8) with 1,560 yards (7.8/12.1 ypa/ypc) and 7 tds to 3 ints. That spits out a passer rating of 94.2. That's his numbers in his last five playoff LOSSES. He's played far from "consistently bad" or "choking" in the playoffs since 2005.

18 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

"Choking" is snap hooking a nine iron from a 140 yards, from the middle of the 18th fairway, with the lead of the U.S. Open, on a Sunday afternoon. It's walking the bases loaded, in the bottom of the ninth, with a two run lead. It's running after a bouncing punt for no good reason, and letting it hit your knee. It isn't throwing some interceptions against a championship caliber defense on a January afternoon.

23 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Yeah, that was pretty bad, but the bouncing punt was worse. When running off the field at the snap of the ball would have provided a better result, you know that you need to remove your hands from around your neck.

27 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

To add on, let me bring up the game in New Orleans two years ago. Drew Brees is a certified super hero, he just wins, he has the ring to prove it, non-choker, in most people's eyes, and Stubbleface was just being his usual idiot self, as a result of that Conference Championship. Lost in the ignorant noise is that Brees threw at least three balls, pretty much floaters, into the gut of Vikings dbs that day, passes that a 10 year old in a Pop Warner league would have had a decent chance to catch. The Vikings dbs didn't catch them, though, so Brees is just a better decisonmaker under pressure than the Wrangler Jeans Model.

Until you get to some large sample sizes with good charting data, a very large percentage of qb performance debate is nothing but a bunch of dimwitted confirmation bias.

32 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Indeed. Mike Lupica just came out with this piece of drivel (link on my name) that states that Manning is now the superior player to Brady (not just right now, but for the season). In it he acknowledges that Manning threw 2 balls that should have been intercepted in the NFCCG (the same number that Brady did have intercepted), but since they were not caught he's going to completely forget about them for the sake of making his spurious point.

36 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Two, but they're not relevant to the discussion. One was a illegal contact penalty, where the defender covering Welker chucked him then intercepted the ball. The other one was on a blatant offsides call on the defense that Brady took the free play to chuck a low percentage pass downfield.

Neither INT would've happened without the penalties.

55 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I agree. I thought Webb had established the inside position on Welker; the only way to avoid illegal contact would have been for him to get out of the way so the receiver could run to the spot he just vacated.

57 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I thought it was pretty clear on the replay that he used his hands to re-route Welker at about the 8-yard depth of his route. I haven't re-watched it since, so maybe I'm mistaken, but I thought it was an easy call for the official to make.

59 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

If Welker runs into Webb's body, as I understand the rule, it's either OPI or no foul at all because Webb has as much right to the location as Welker does. The reason for the illegal contact is that Webb instead blocked Welker's route with his arm, which isn't allowed.

69 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

This isn't even remotely accurate, Welker got the defender to bite on the outside move, so he broke back inside. Knowing he was beaten, the defender used his arms to block Wes' progress.

I thought it wasn't even debatable until seeing your post.

71 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

So, when the best QB in the NFL throws four interceptions in the championship game, that's not choking?

I wonder what he would have to do to choke. By your logic, it seems like no performance against the Pats on that day could have been so bad as to merit the label.

And the Pats only had a "championship defense" because they won the game. You're employing circular logic.

75 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

That's called getting beat.

Choking means cracking under the pressure - as in, the Patriots defense had nothing to do with those interceptions, it was just a matter of Manning making a bunch of bad throws because he was in a championship game and couldn't handle the spotlight.

79 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

You could say that about the first one, Manning panicked with guys at his feet and with his top option covered, so he tossed it in the direction of Pollard ignoring Harrison standing right there. That was definitely a poor decision on his part, costing his team 3 points and giving NE some serious momentum.

Other than that, though, the other ints were simply great defense. In fact, the 4th interception was actually a bad play. It came on 4th down and cost NE 20 yards of field position.

97 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I think the key here is that his first option was covered, Harrison was standing right there in front of Pollard, and there were guys at his feet. Poor decision? Absolutely. The fact that the defense had covered his first two reads while getting pressure might have also had something to do with it.

80 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Yeah, well, that's pretty much what Peyton Manning did that day. His interceptions were dreadful.

Look, whatever his issue was, Peyton Manning got past it eventually. But really, we should retire the word "choke" if we're not allowed to use it for that AFC Championship game.

Even Tom Brady admits he played like crap on Sunday. Why is it so hard for people to admit that Manning has played a few very poor playoff games? And given that he was supposed to be the best QB in the league at the time of these games, he earned the label "choker." Joe Montana never had games like that. Nor did Steve Young or Terry Bradshaw.

If you were making this kind of argument about an Elway game when his Broncos were thoroughly outmanned by some NFC team in a Super Bowl, I would concede the point. But on that day in 2004, the game came down to just how poorly Manning played.

87 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Yes should retire the term "choke"" as you employ it. Your memory of past quarterbacks is wholly inaccurate. Just of the top of me head, here is Joe Montana, from when a heavily favored Niners team, at home, was beaten by a Vikings team in the divisional round.....

12 for 26, 109 yards, 1 pick six interception. I saw it, and it was Tebowesque, without the successful running plays. Montana didn't choke. The Vikings had good talent on defense, and they whipped him that day.

88 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I don't see anyone denying that Manning had poor games. But there's a big difference between playing poorly, especially against top-tier defenses, and "choking". Saying someone "choked", as Independent George has been politely explaining, implies that said person messed up an easy situation, like honking a 31-yard field goal or throwing 12 straight balls to walk the bases loaded.

You're also remembering Montana's, Young's, and Bradshaw's playoff peformances in quite a favorable light.

12/29/1985, @NYG: 26/47, 296 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT; lost 17-3
1/4/1987, @NYG: 8/15, 98 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT; lost 49-3
1/9/1988, vs. MIN: 12/26, 109 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT; lost 36-24
1/23/1993, @BUF: 9/23, 125 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT; lost 30-13

1/6/1996, vs. GB: 32/65, 328 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT; lost 27-17
1/11/1998, @GB: 23/38, 250 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT; lost 23-10
1/9/1999, @ATL: 23/37, 289 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT; lost 20-18

12/22/1973, @OAK: 12/25, 167 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT; lost 33-14
12/27/1975, vs. BAL: 8/13, 103 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT; won 28-10
1/4/1976, vs. OAK: 15/25, 215 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT; won 16-10
12/26/1976, @OAK: 14/35, 176 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT; lost 24-7
12/24/1977, @DEN: 19/37, 177 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT; lost 34-21

92 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

You are mostly right. That game, the 2003 AFC Title Game, is the worst playoff game Peyton had. That was the one game where he was totally responsible for the loss. The run game was good enough. The defense was mostly excellent (picking off Brady in the end zone - forcing 5 field goals in the red zone).

However, other than the possibility of that first title game, there has never been a loss where Manning played poorly but the defense and run game played well.

No one disagrees that Manning was awful in the 2003 Title Game.

94 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Even Tom Brady admits he played like crap on Sunday. Why is it so hard for people to admit that Manning has played a few very poor playoff games? And given that he was supposed to be the best QB in the league at the time of these games, he earned the label "choker."

This is exactly what I'm saying - Brady played crap against a damned good defense. He's one of the best QBs in the game, and he got beat. He made some bad decisions and paid the price for it. He most certainly didn't choke.

Who said that Manning never played crap games? Everybody agrees he's played several poor playoff games, most famously against the Patriots. The point is, we draw a distinction between being beaten honestly by a really, really good defense that seems to have figured him out, and wetting himself because he saw Bill Belichick's steely gaze on the sideline.

But really, we should retire the word "choke" if we're not allowed to use it for that AFC Championship game.

Yes - that is indeed exactly what I want to do - retire the word choke unless you've absolutely clear evidence that somebody panicked due to pressure (and I don't mean the pass rush).

Joe Montana never had games like that. Nor did Steve Young or Terry Bradshaw.

Steve Young, 1997 NFC Championship Game: 23/38, 250 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Steve Young, 1995 NFC Divisional Game: 32/65, 328 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT
Joe Montana, 1987 NFC Divisional Game: 12/26, 109 yards, 1 INT.
Joe Montana, 1986 NFC Championship Game: 8/15, 98 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT. He left the game before halftime due to injury, but it seems unlikely he was suddenly going to have the answer in the 2nd half.
Terry Bradshaw, 1977 AFC Wild Card Game: 19/37, 177 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT
Terry Bradshaw, 1976 AFC Championship Game: 14/35, 176 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Roger Staubach, 1972 NFC Championship Game: 9/20, 98 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT

ETA: wow, overkill.

82 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

No, that is not choking, anymore than it is choking when a HOF pitcher gets knocked out of the game in the fifth inning a World Series game 7. I don't know why people cannot grasp that the other guy is getting paid too, and if it is in a late stage playoff game, chances are that the other guy is pretty good. Choking is when you fail to succeed at a task that you would normally succeed at 99.5% of the time, absent being in the spotlight. No quarterback would have nonterrible games 99.5% of the time in a conference championship, for the simple reason that the other team is good.

125 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Choking can be a shorter term thing. If you deem that 99.5% (or whatever chance yu want to use) of the time he wouldn't have thrown that interception on that play in that situation, then he choked on that play.

51 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I get that you do not like the Pats. That's fine. But since 2001 when Brady first started the pats have missed the playoffs twice, 2002 and 2008, and in both cases they lost the division on tiebreakers.

62 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

It doesn't really matter; it's easy to say that you didn't lose as many playoff games as someone else when you didn't actually get there every year. If you put 2002 and 2008 as losses for playoffs, Brady's record doesn't look quite so hot.

63 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

It's a ridiculous argument, is what it is. Yes, let's penalise Peyton Manning for the Colts' failure to win a playoff game in the 2011 season despite the fact he didn't play a single down during the entire season. Nonsense.

74 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Actually, Peyton Manning did miss the playoffs one year. I can point you to the year in question.

Go to Youtube and search for "Playoffs" and "Jim Mora".

Both Manning and Brady have missed the playoffs exactly one year to having a poor team and one year to injury.

You have no point.

45 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

There's no point in looking as his overall numbers to discuss his "choker" status (which I think is ridiculous: other than the 2004 AFCCG, I can't say he is to blame for his team's losses).

What happens with Manning is that he has destroyed some teams and got beaten badly by others, not necessarily the worst and best respectively. Let's break the games up. I don't have his DVOA/DYAR splits for these games:

- 2000 Divisional Game: Colts come at 13-3 vs. the SB-bound Titans, 20th total defense, 22nd pass defense according to DVOA. Manning comes as the regular season leader in DYAR with 1,434 (even better than Kurt Warner that year) and second in DVOA (29.8%). His stats that game:

19/42 (45.2%) for 227 yards (5.40 YPA), no TDs or INT, 62.3 rating. They lose 19-16.

- 2001 WildCard Game: Colts come at 10-6 vs. the 11-5 Dolphins, best pass defense, 3rd overall in DVOA. Manning again leads in DYAR (1,766) and leads the QBs in DVOA (35.1%). He goes:

17/32, (53.1%), 194 yards (6.06 YPA), 1TD, no INTs, 82.0 rating. They lose 23-17.

- 2003 WildCard Game: Colts come at 10-6 vs. the 9-7 Jets, 27th total defense, 20th pass defense. Manning is 4th in DYAR (1,091) and 7th in DVOA (16.2%):

14/31 (45.2%), 137 yards (4.42 YPA), 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 31.2 rating. They lose 41-0.

- 2004 AFC Championship Game: Colts come at 12-4 vs. the 14-2 Patriots, 2nd and 2nd. Manning is 1st (1,757) and 1st (33.5%):

23/47 (48.9%), 237 yards (5.04 YPA), 1 TD, 4 INTs, 35.5 rating. They lose 24-14.

- 2005 AFC Championship Game: Colts come at 12-4 vs. the 14-2 Pats, 6th and 5th. Manning is 1st (2,493, I think it's third best in history) and 1st (60.6%, best in history):

27/42 (64.3%), 238 yards (5.67 YPA), 0 TD, 1 INT, 69.3 rating. They lose 20-3. After this, there's a change of rules regarding CBs bumping WRs.

I won't make a break-down of every single one of his games. I just highlighted the ones in which he came hyper-hyped and failed to at least present fight. He can be singled out as responsible for these loses. There are other games the Colts won in post-season in which he didn't deliver as expected, like the 2006 WildCard game against the Chiefs, the 2006 Divisional game against the Ravens, SBXLI, the 2008 Wild Card game against the Chargers, etc.

My point is, it's a fallacy of division to say Manning isn't a choker because overall his numbers look good. Compare his numbers to those of contemporary QBs and they don't look so good. Break them down, and you have two games against the Broncos in which he picks up great numbers (377 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs, +80% completion; 454 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT, +80% completion) the AFCCG against the Jets, which I think was his best game overall in his postseason history; all those games help put some make-up over the ones he blew.

It's not as simple as looking at the overall numbers. They tell you nothing about overall performance.

47 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

The 2005 game was a divisional round game, and the game that precipitated the rules memo was the 2004 game.

Also, how did he not play well in the 2008 Wild Card game against the Chargers? He had over 300 yards, no interceptions, one TD, against a good defense, with awful field position all day (the worst average field position EVER in a playoff game).

4 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I'm glad the numbers here reflect the games I saw on Sunday and not the subsequent hype. No, Eli Manning wasn't especially good on Sunday, and no, the fact that Flacco looked comparable to Brady on the last drive when he made three completions to Boldin doesn't erase the first quarter when the Ravens' offense was dreadful.
I think part of the issue is that the casual viewer doesn't hold sacks against the QB. Eli was sacked a lot.
As for Alex Smith - beating up the wretched Saints' defense should not be interpreted that he's made the leap to a top tier QB.

On a day when the 49ers' 3rd down success rate was abysmal, I don't think we can say it was a "good reason" that they never tried handing off to Gore. A 25% success rate would have been a good deal higher than what the passing game was accomplishing.

6 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I'd like to hear from a knowledgeable person who has seen the All-22 of the Giants/Niners, as to whether Smith was nearly as bad as his receivers, or whether he just didn't have many opportunities. It seemed to me that he missed some chances when he wasn't getting excessively pressured, but it's really hard to tell from the television broadcast.

121 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I agree. I've heard a number of analysts say (in so many words) that Smith only looked that bad because nobody was ever open, but I'm pretty sure I saw at least two third-and-shorts where a guy had at least a small window, and Smith missed him badly.

162 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I just watched the three plays that Cosell mentions and all I can say is Cosell is a big lair.

The first one is impossible to verify as the camera angle does not have Crabtree in it.

The second one, that the freezing Webster and Williams racing by him (and implied being open) is a lie. They show this one from back camera with a very good angle and I froze frame the moment the ball leaves Smith's hand. Williams is very closely covered by the CB (the CB is literally touching him), and the safety is 10 yards away and closing on him. And safety has already seen Smith getting ready to throw the ball to Williams. If it were not Kyle Williams but Calvin Johnson, the QB may want to try his chances (Stafford would most likely do), but no QB would take a chance at that point if the game with Kyle Williams. Smith throws it away.

The third one is even a bigger lie. Not only Walker is not the first read, it is Crabtree, but Walker never gets any separation from the CB. Actually by the time Walker starts the outside part of his route Smith is already flashed out of packet. Smith runs to the left and looks at Walker to see if he would get any separation but before any of that happens he is sacked.

I do not know if Smith did something to Cosell, but obviously Cosell is out to get him.

The funny part is there were three other plays he could have easily criticized the would have been absolutely correct.

Smith's ball was batted down on a slant to Crabtree which would have gotten first down. Smith's ball was batted down to Gore underneath with no coverage, which would have probably gone for 15 yards, and end of the game Smith threw one to Crabtree's feet. It probably would not have been a first down but he did not give Crabtree any chance.

Also Iupai had quite a bad game. Crabtree sucked big time. I did not see him get open once. Davis has allowed quite many pressures.

The play calling was too cute at times. The 3rd and 1 call was bad, but besides that they brought Dobbs once (a backup DE) to block JPP. JPP just shoved him down and stopped Gore. Had they played Miller instead it could have gone a long way.

130 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Biggest need is probably Left Tackle. Niners offensive line is really not great. There were a lot of comments (particularly in the 'What Peyton Did Next' thread) about the relative strength of the OL, and that really wasn't reflected in the work they did this year. An upgrade at LT could potentially allow Staley to move to RT, Davis to move inside to G, upgrading three positions along the line. Probably still need to work on blitz pick-up, mind...

Second need is to evaluate Hunter, and determine if you're comfortable with him taking time from Gore, or if you need to draft another RB - Frank is probably gone within two years.

Third is defensive line, for depth. McDonald, Sopoaga and Smith (J) are all the wrong side of thirty, and you have to figure at least one breaks down for part or all of next year.

This year, we had a high first round draft pick (Crabtree) and an expensive, pedigreed free agent (Edwards) at receiver, and that didn't solve the problem. Develop from within, get Morgan (and Williams) some more reps, and upgrade the OL and work out what Alex really is

9 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Peyton Manning is a choker and Ben Roethlisberger is a winner, everyone knows it.

I'm so glad the Packers won last year because Ben winning a third Super Bowl would have pushed him into He Who Must Not Be Named territory.

10 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I think when you take into account the conditions, and how comletely and utterly his offensive was whipped, Eli had a damn good game. PFF said Eli was pressured on 44 out of his 64 dropbacks, which is a pretty insane number: http://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2012/01/23/re-focused-giants-49ers-championship-round/

I don't think folks realize just how terrible the NYG offensive line is. Eli can mask some of their defficiencies because historically he's been very good at avoiding sacks. But there is a reason they were last in rushing yards despite having a pretty good RB tandem. They have been a terrible unit the last two years.

11 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

You beat me to the punch. Watching David Diehl and Kevin Boothe gettin pancaked repeatedly, I was shocked the Giants managed to get any positive yards in the 2nd half. That was worse than Cutler against Detroit.

13 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

There was one play where Eli managed to get a short pass off to his left that was absolutely an amazing play. I think it is the play that had him getting up with his chin guard over his mouth, one eye closed, shoulder pads coming out of his jersey, clumps of grass in his facemask, arms covered in slop.

The 49ers were relentless in their punishment, and the guy who just said it was like watching Cutler get pounded made an apt comparison.

21 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Yeah, even if those two bad passes had been caught, it would have been a reasonable game. Dropping back more than 60 times, when your offensive line is just getting whipped repeatedly, without tossing interceptions, takes luck, no matter who is playing qb.

14 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

As I recall it (could be wrong), most of Michael Crabtree's "targets" in the fourth quarter were Alex Smith rolling out and throwing it at Crabtree's feet.

15 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

"Any questions as to San Francisco's biggest need entering the offseason?"

Ahhhhh... Quarterback? ;)

22 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Reasonable, but that assumes that Harbaugh wants a different style of offense or thinks he can do better than Smith in this one, neither of which is a sure thing. If San Francisco thinks they can win a title with the way they're doing things now (and they certainly have much more evidence to support that from this season than, say, Denver does), then they are probably better off going for the obvious need. Give Smith a reliable WR and maybe another new-era TE, do the same stuff they did this season, and see what happens.

42 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Perhaps Harbaugh drafted Smith's replacement last April but didn't have an offseason to coach him up. Next November might see Kaepernick starting. We will see this April if Harbaugh drafts another QB.

30 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Again, unless you've broken down the All 22, accurately diagnosing a poorly performing passing offense is a lot of guesswork. I really don't know how much that passing performance needs to be attributed to the qb or receivers. My suspicion, given the quality of the throws made to Davis when he had a mismatch, is that more blame needs to be assigned to the receivers.

35 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I think the issue is Smith's pocket awareness; Smith was under duress for most of those passes, but he also appeared to be looking for daylight instead of throwing lanes. As you said, it's hard to assign responsibility, but I can't put it all on the receivers, either.

43 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Maybe that's because Crabtree and Williams almost never had separation in the camera shots we saw (again, we don't have the best angles, but on the ones we did see, it appeared to me that Smith was looking at nothing open).

Smith's pocket awareness might be improved, but his receiving corps sucks. The losses of Josh Morgan and Ted Ginn hurt a lot, but the main problem is that they have a bunch of below average WRs (which then became horribly abysmal WRs when Ginn and Morgan were replaced by Williams and Brett Swain).

109 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Ted Ginn is not a good receiver.

Morgan played well until TB - but small sample size. Crabtree started the season horribly, then got healthy enough to be average, then disappeared against the Giants.

Alex Smith did not have much time to throw (especially in pin-your-ears back downs) and did not throw any picks or take too many sacks. But whatever the 49ers offense thinks it's trying to do on 3rd-5+, it doesn't work.

132 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

But whatever the 49ers offense thinks it's trying to do on 3rd-5+, it doesn't work.

I think they are trying not to turn the ball over, and trust their defense and special teams. The defense held up their end on Sunday, but the back-up PR couldn't do the same. If the Giants don't get those two turnovers, the narrative moves back to Alex Smith - Game Manager!

72 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

One thing that I'll chalk up to the Giants playing well is that Smith would drop back, realize that everyone was covered, and move up into the pocket or exit the pocket and look to run for a first down ... and get hacked down by a Giants lineman (often JPP) after a short gain, with open field past the first down marker in front of him. The Giants not only managed to get pressure, they also managed to contain his scrambling quite well.

Now, I don't know how much of that is scheme, and how much is Smith not waiting on receivers, but I kept thinking "Wow he's going to get a 1st - oops. How did that DE know to peel off his block and take such a great angle at the right time?" They sure looked like good choices being undone by excellent line play.

140 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I agree, the line play of the Giants showed some amazing awareness. Speaking of amazing, am I the only one impressed by Smith's speed when he does get free? I haven't seen much of Smith in the past. He seemed super fast for a QB.

44 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I think when the passing game isn't working you can usually attribute a good portion of that to the QB. Just watching Alex Smith, it doesn't seem like ever makes something special happen unlike say Cutler occasionally does with what looks like similar talent around him.

I'm aware that Alex Smith has the higher DVOA this year, but when you watch the two, Cutler gives the impression that he is what makes the offense go while Alex Smith gives the impression he is along for the ride. I don't know if this analysis is fair or correct, but Smith is just so meh when he plays.

That said, a top flight receiver or better line play could make as much of a difference as better QB play.

131 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I dunno, I love FO as much as anyone, but I don't think Alex having a higher DVOA makes him a better QB than Cutler, and I'd hope there isn't anyone who disagrees. Cutler is clearly a top-10 QB (personally, I'd put him in the top five, but...), and Alex is maybe top-half at best. He does what he's being asked to do, and being asked to limit his mistakes otherwise

The question for Harbaugh (and more the GM) is how much is that worth to the Niners? How far can they get with Smith (obviously, pretty far), and could they get further with someone else?

I think that they will choose to keep Smith, and pay him a pretty decent whack (though not top money). This will make it hard to develop/pay someone else if he does regress. However, if he stays at the level he played at this year (and his interception rate is already flashing the 'unsustainably low - regression to the mean' warning light), which is a big if, then he can be the QB of a successful team, even if he isn't really a successful QB

156 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

"The question for Harbaugh (and more the GM) is how much is that worth to the Niners? How far can they get with Smith (obviously, pretty far), and could they get further with someone else?"

If the "someone else" in question is a certain quarterback currently rehabbing in Indianapolis, and he is healthy again when next season comes around, I put it to you that the answer is definitely "yes".

19 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I don't really get the point of the whole lead in to this article. So we're seeing a list of most total postseason DYAR among QB's. So what? That's so heavily dependent on how many postseason games a QB has had the opportunity to play in. If tiebreaking rules were slightly different, Brady would have at least one more game, and Rodgers four fewer. If Peyton Manning's defense hadn't sucked so much all those years, he would have won more playoff games and had the opportunity to put up even more DYAR than he has.

Overall, DYAR is just not a particularly useful stat, because it's a counting stat. Decent for evaluating the total impact of a player to an offense over the course of a season, I guess, but when you counting baselines are different (as they are in the playoffs), you really have to use a rate stat to say anything meaningful.

For example, I'd be willing to bet that players playing for Marty Schottenheimer have put up more total postseason DYAR than players playing for John Gruden (18 playoff games versus 9). However, which coach had more success in the playoffs? Which coach was more likely to win a playoff game?

25 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Looking at it a different way:

DYAR/playoff game

147.8 Brees
124.0 Warner
121.9 Manning, P
118.9 Rodgers
85.0 Rivers
81.1 Brady
71.5 Hasselbeck
70.8 Manning, E
45.3 Roethlisberger

It's still not as helpful, because quality of play is important, too. (Is Roethlisberger penalized because his teams ran the ball a lot or because he had bad games? Are the top three-plus QBs there because of the schemes their teams ran?) So it's a fun list, but I think it's better to show a number of stats and let us see the whole thing in context before we make decisions about quality of play in playoffs. (And even then, some memes will persist, as we've already seen in earlier comments. A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.)

90 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Could the list at the beginning be provided as well taking out the best and worst games for each QB? I wonder how much certain games are skewing the results, and if trimmed mean per game would match the eyeball test better?

113 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Roethlisberger has definitely played poorly in some of the games, but I think offensive philosophy plays a role here too, and not just the cliched idea that the Steelers are a power-running, ball control offense. Looking at the list of QB's ahead of Roethlisberger, there is, I think, as noticeable trend of West Coast Offense running through the list. Although they occasionally break from their typical m.o., as in the games vs. Tennessee and New England this season, the Steelers' passing game does not rely on lots of short high percentage throws. The philosophical preference for the long ball, combined with Roethlisberger's own well-documented tendency to extend plays, and extend plays, and extend plays leads to some fantastic long completions, but also leads to a lot of sacks the guys ahead of him would be unlikely to take. The Steelers' passing offense is kind of like a boom-bust running back.

Off the top of my head these are Ben's worst playoff performances:

2004: Divisional vs. Jets- Rookie season. Ben hit his hand on the helmet of a Ravens' player in Week 16. Didn't play in Week 17 or Wild Card round and was mediocre at least after the long layoff despite the win. Probably played better, though still certainly not great, vs. Pats in the Championship Game, despite the loss. Pats simply made every big play in that game whether on offense or defense.

2005: Super Bowl vs. Seahawks. Best play- the 3rd down sandlot throw to Ward. Worst play- Red Zone INT.

2007: Wild Card vs. Jax. As I recall he was bad in the first half with picks that lead to them being well behind. He played much better in the second half, but they came up short.

2010: None of these games were great. None were really awful either, in my opinion. 3 pretty strong defenses.

2011: Wild Card at Denver. His ankle injury probably played a role. This game may not have been as bad as some of the others, but it certainly wasn't good enough.

Best Playoff Performances:
2005: Divisional vs. Colts. Steelers came out throwing and got a TD on the first drive and went on to build an early lead. Roethlisberger prevents the TD after the Bettis fumble and Steelers hold on to win.

2005: Championship vs. Denver- One of his best games, almost certainly his best playoff game. Got away with one questionable pass that ended up a TD to a pretty well-covered receiver.

2008: Roethlisberger didn't have any bad games, but didn't have any really great games, either. Parker pretty much ran over the Chargers. Roethlisberger makes a good play to hit Holmes, but Holmes probably has to get more credit for the sole offensive TD in that game. In the Super Bowl, obviously the last TD to Holmes was a great play, though they should have had the TD one play earlier when Holmes let a much easier catch fly right through his hands. He had the tipped INT but also lost a pretty good play when the safety was awarded for holding.

26 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

[Delanie Walker] had two receptions in four targets for 36 yards, and though one of those was a 29-yard gain for San Francisco's only third-down conversion of the day, Walker fumbled at the end of the play.

How does DYAR treat desperation/Hail Mary-type completions that don't result in touchdowns? If you ignored the fumble, would an end-of-regulation 29-yard catch which ended up 33 yards short of the end zone be treated as not much better than an incompletion?

40 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

If he meant to lateral, it can't be seen on the broadcast feed (fourth clip under the "Fantasy" tab on the right).

Looks like a fumble (as opposed to an intentional backwards pass that wasn't caught). Even if he meant to do it, lateraling in the middle of traffic in a tie game is fairly risky.

98 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Not exactly. See, for instance, the non-review of Roethlisberger's backwards pass in the Steelers-Broncos game.

If Walker's loss of the ball was ruled a fumble, Kendall Hunter (the recovering 49er) couldn't have advanced it due to the Holy Roller fourth down/inside two minutes fumble rule; if it was ruled a lateral, he could have.

37 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Eli had a very good first half, but he did very little after halftime. The Giants had 12 possessions after halftime (which is typically a full game's worth) and scored only 10 points (including 0 points on the 10 possessions that began in their own territory). Eli had the one 29-yard touchdown drive after halftime, and that was it. On 35 passing plays after halftime, the Giants gained only 102 yards and 7 first downs.

After the Niners tied it at 17 with under 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter, Eli had five chances to take his team on a game-winning (or at least go-ahead) scoring drive, and failed on all five (with 5 punts and a total of only 3 first downs and 55 yards gained). Then finally a turnover gave them the ball in field goal range, and they took advantage of their 6th chance by scoring without a single passing play.

56 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Even though they got it at the Niners 29 on the first turnover, you still have to give some credit for the touchdown there. Kyle Williams didn't throw a perfect endzone pass to Mario Manningham into 8-man coverage on 3rd and 15.

73 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Sure, you can give him 4 points for that one, since they started in FG position, but that still wouldn't have been good enough to win, especially if you rightfully award SF possession when the DBs collided.

38 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

If anyone writes an article that purports to place Joe Flacco's performance, in a losing effort, in excellent weather, against an inferior defense, as being superior to a performance by Eli's winning effort against a superior defense, in rain, 20 mph winds, while getting repeatedly pulverised by the defense, Ignore Them. P.S. Not a giant fan, numbers don't lie, but they never tell the whole story.

77 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Everybody is singing Eli's praises this week, but the numbers are what they are.

I'll grant you that the weather played a factor. But you're also downplaying how cold it was in Foxborough. And crappy weather conditions tend to favor the offense over the defense. It's much easier for Victor Cruz to make a cut in the muck than it is for the defender to respond to that cut.

But it's also true that half of the Giants' points on this day were due to the benefit of short fields off Kyle Williams two punt return debacles. Eli's offense was itself only responsible for 10 points.

I've said it before: what's going on is that the casual reader isn't blaming Eli for all of the sacks on Sunday. But DVOA does. Every one of those six sacks counts against Eli.

From my perspective, I don't have a strong opinion about who was the best QB on Sunday, as long as nobody argues that it was Smith.

86 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I'll grant you that the weather played a factor. But you're also downplaying how cold it was in Foxborough. And crappy weather conditions tend to favor the offense over the defense.

I doubt this is true for all weather conditions. I'd guess that heavy rain and/or high winds hurt medium- and long-range passing and kicking far more than they help, and mud really cuts down on long runs.

89 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

"what's going on is that the casual reader isn't blaming Eli for all of the sacks on Sunday. But DVOA does."

If DVOA has all of those sacks on Eli's ledger, then that is a shortcoming of DVOA (at least as it pertains to evaluating individual performance ratehr than the performance of a unit). I don't know how you can avoid sacks when your entire O-line is getting humiliated by the opposition.

Again, Eli dropped back to pass 64 times. He was under duress on 44 of thosae attempts. That is utter dominance at the line of scrimmage for the defense.

54 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

So... does this mean that Darius Heyward-Bey over Michael Crabtree is now actually a brilliant move by Al Davis?

76 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Still no. He had more choices than just those two players. Don't you think B.J. Raji, Brian Orakpo, Brian Cushing, Clay Mathews, Jeremy Maclin (maybe), Brandon Pettigrew, ...etc might have been better choices?

60 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

When tweaking dyar in the offseason, FO should add a clutchiness/choker column- and have those metrics to at least 2 decimals.

61 Full NFL rulebook available online

Mentioning this here since this is the most recent post and is getting the most current traffic.

Looks like the NFL finally (accidentally?) put the full rulebook online (and not just the stripped-down "Digest of Rules"):


78 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Here's a question regarding Eli:
Assuming he can play with the best in January, and the numbers seem to indicate it, then what's his problem overall? In other words, this year aside, he's never really been a consistent high quality QB throughout the season, despite his personal claims to 'elite' status. He's had moments, even streaks, of high performance (seemingly in January). And he happened to back up his words adequately enough this year statistically, but not really prior to this year.

Prior to 2011 (a great year for him) 156 TD/113 Int...sub 82 rating, etc. He has 2 4,000 yard seasons, but at what cost - an 18-14 record. And in this pass-happy NFL, 4,000 may be an achievement, but passing records seem to fall regularly. Perhaps that says as much about defense as it does QB quality?
I'm not saying he's awful - I've actually always had a fairly good opinion of him.

I'm just wondering what's the point of being great in January if you're not great enough to get there? Is the answer just that "well, yeah, but when he DOES get there..." or is it "he's been there 5 times and 2 of those times he was so phenomenal he took them to the Super Bowl"?

Aside from this year, Eli has been an enigma. Good Eli, Bad Eli, Good Eli, Bad Eli. In his two SB runs, Amazing Eli. I noticed that in the 2 seasons he made the Super Bowl, he had seasons which were replete with Game Winning Drives and 4th Quarter comebacks.

83 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

This is an excellent question that Giants' fans have been asking for years. The usual theory is that he doesn't have the consistent focus that other elite QBs have (most notably his brother). It might be that, or it might be that he's suddenly a better QB when the defensive line achieves elite status (in 2007), or he's suddenly a better QB when Victor Cruz has a breakout year. Perhaps with a bit more margin of error, he doesn't press quite as much. I don't have an answer. I'm still not sure he would be viewed quite as highly if his last name were other than Manning. But if he can get a second ring, I think all the arguments are over. Even Trent Dilfer can stumble into getting one ring.

102 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Well, part of it is Mario Manningham's annual +3-5 RPAR (Receiver Picks Above Replacement) as a result of running the wrong routes and tipping balls straight up into the air. Nor is he the only offender on the Giants' roster. New York's receivers are to a large extent made by Eli; remember how much everyone thought of Austin Collie and Jacob Tamme in 2010? That's Jake Ballard, Manningham, and to a lesser extent, Victor Cruz (Cruz is actually good, though, he's just not 1500 yards good in most offenses).

Statistically, one worthwhile thing to point out is that he plays in an outdoor, cold-weather stadium, and for most of his career, in a stadium renowned for nasty winds. That's probably worth a completion a game or so in the second half of the season. In addition, the Giants' offense is not a short-passing game; Drew Brees pads his yardage totals and completion percentages with a dozen screens a game that Eli doesn't throw.

103 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Mario Manningham is probably not the sharpest tool in the shed, so it happens more often with him, but it could be a function of the Giants offense. I don't know how common this is with other teams, but people who talk about Kevin Gilbride's system all say that it depends on the receivers reading the defense and making mid-play adjustments to get open. When "bad Eli" shows up and he throws a pick straight at a defensive back as Manningham or Nicks is running the opposite direction, Aikman usually chimes in with a "Manningham has to keep running that route." So to a certain extent, the picks could be a function of the higher risk of mis-communication within the Giants offensive scheme specifically.

117 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Don't forget fumbles. Manningham is also usually good for 2-3 inexplicable fumbles per season, where he carries the ball away from his body and drops it when somebody breathes on him. Usually this happens right after he makes a jaw-dropping juke & run between two defenders, and convinces you he's finally turned the corner and headed for stardom.

133 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Those star flashes always make me go "theres the guy i remember tearing up the big ten.." Then, he does the volleyball set nonsense on the next play.. Don't know where he picked that up.


144 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I agree with this comment. The Giants' offense is very sight-adjustment heavy (Kevin Gilbride is a Run-and-Shoot guy originally), and creates a much greater risk of miscommunication than, say, SF's offense, or a Martz system.

104 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Yeah - but Jim Plunkett stumbles into 2 rings and he's still not in the Hall of Fame despite an MVP trophy. Winning ain't everything, apparently.

Eli, by no means, earned that MVP trophy. Sure, he made the TD pass to win. But he was damn near sacked (still can't figure out why that whistle wasn't blown for in the grasp - a whistle I HATE, but they have it on the books, so it's a rule), and threw an errant pass which was magically SuperGlued to the helmet of a low tier receiver and couldn't be jarred loose. Seubert saved Eli's butt to make that play. Personally, the D Line or the O Line deserved the MVP trophy. Those two units won the Super Bowl, not Eli.

Since then, Eli has matured significantly. This season, he was more of a classic top-tier QB than in any other. But he still shows massive errors in judgement. He was lucky he didn't get a second safety against Green Bay with that toss to Bradshaw's feet. He's also prone to revert to the mean at the oddest times when he's riding high. The idea that he is 'clutch' (late game drives, etc.) still raises the question of why he HAS TO BE CLUTCH. In other words, why does he have to suddenly be good after playing poorly, and if he suddenly plays well enough to pull a game out of his butt, why do journalists think he's a genius?

The guy is an oddity who gets more positive press than I feel he deserves. Above average is how I perceive him, but not top tier.

106 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I thought Justin Tuck deserved the Super Bowl MVP that year. The Patriots could not keep up with him; the entire line stepped up, but he was the biggest mismatch that they couldn't answer.

135 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Eli was downright terrible on the gamewinning drive. Three balls that could have been picked, two of which that *should* have been snagged. Would you give a RB an MVP if he fumbled three times only to see his teammates recover all three, simply because he ran in the game winning score?

137 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

No, but I wouldn't ding a RB who carried the ball like a loaf of bread on the last drive and bobbled it a couple of times, but still ran for 80 yards and scored the winning TD.

108 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I think Amani Toomer and Plaxico and a pre-surgery Smith were pretty good receivers. Not as good as this group, but well above average as a unit. Eli did not have nearly as good of a year with them. And while this group is better, it's not that much better as to explain Eli's improvement.

Especially considering the line play. I'm telling you- anyone who looks at the Giants adjusted sack rate here and thinks it's indicative of the way the offensive line is playing, hasn't been watching the games. The offensive line has been porous, and the sack rate is low only because Eli has become part Marino (for the quick release), part Brady (for eyes in the back of his head) and part Big Ben (for bouncing off the occasional guy-- very occasional, so perhaps just a small part).

I don't think it is going to regress. I've seen guys have breakout years, and it's looked like they were doing what they always did but just having more success. Eli does not look like he is doing what he always did. Eli is visibly doing his progressions faster, visibly making better decisions, and notably airmailing fewer passes. He gets lucky every once and again now with dropped interceptions, but that was true even more so last year and the year before. He's better than he was before.

He looks, to this eye, like he's playing at a level quite similar to what his brother used to be like-- maybe a little bit less well, but not by a tremendous amount. He'll never be his brother, because he didn't reach peak level fast enough and will therefore need an even higher peak and odds are against him lasting long enough; just because Payton avoided talent draining injuries doesn't mean that Eli will.

But he might well end up staking his claim a different way. He might pull off the path of 'skilled enough' to be in the discussion, and a good enough leader to get his team over the hump more frequently than they should. The clutch, intangibles route. He gets two, it is plausible. Especially if there is a possibility at more.

If the Giants win two Super Bowls with the overall cast they've had over this span, one of two things must be true.

They were so unbelievably talented that the QB didn't really matter, which doesn't really pass the eye test. They have some great players, but so do many other teams. They are obviously a high quality team, making two Super Bowls in four years, being a playoff team the year before the first, and winning 12 and 10 games in the two years in between. But they do not feel like a dynasty, at all.

Or something got them over the top. Since I don't think this is a dynasty quality team, this is where I fall. Something got them over the top, and it sure feels like it's been the passing game. Sure feels like Eli's been a huge part of that. He's gotten a pretty good team over the hump completely once, and now has a chance to do so again.

And looking at the Giants, there are clearly places they could get better at, fast, next year. They'll be getting Austin back. They'll be getting Goff back. They'll be getting Terrell Thomas back. Some guys would need to be signed and some guys will likely be let go, but the team can be better next year. In fact, the offensive line almost would have to be. There might be other chances to come. There is a path for Eli to the land of outdoing his brother. He has to see it, too. One can imagine him feeling driven to try.

145 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I like a lot of this, but saying that the current receivers are better than Burress, Toomer, and Steve Smith is, to my mind, pretty crazy. For a few years before his self-inflicted time off, Burress was one of the better receivers in the league, especially in the end zone, and Toomer was a great possession receiver even late in his career. Steve Smith was the effective #1 ahead of Nicks and Manningham when they were all on the same team... and he was the fourth option, because Jeremy Shockey was on that team.

158 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I think people seriously underestimate (or forget) how good toomer was.. a clear #1 for many years pre-plax, an excellent blocking and possesion receiver in a run-first offense, hines ward before hines made it cool. and dude was a beast at michigan, better than braylon or manningham.

101 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I would hate to be the Giants QB because running for your life before getting the snot kicked out of you now appears to be a part of the job description.

I would love to be the Giants QB on account of... you know... the money & fame.

105 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads


Yes, money and fame.

My son likes to watch Eli and say "his faces make me laugh. It's like he doesn't know what's really going on, and he's either confused or whining."
I'm sure he's rarely confused, though he often looks it. He whines more than almost any other QB I've ever seen, though.

Giants QB is a terrible position. You can't win in that position. You know Simms was a winner, but name another QB since him that was. Hostetler won them a Super Bowl, but nobody ever cared about him, he was Simms' alter ego and a nameless/faceless replacement. Parcells knew how to deal with him properly, but nobody else there did. Kanell, Brown (who I still insist was a good QB that suffered from poor coaching), Collins (head case), Warner (can you believe they didn't keep him?), and so on. You really don't want to be a Giants QB.

Eli's SB win gives him magical qualities in the NYC area because so many people focus on a single win as opposed to a body of otherwise slightly above average work.

111 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I was referring more to the fact that Warner had some killer years afterward. I know he was a short term fix - but again I feel the problem with Warner was similar to the problem of Brown. Bad coaching fit.

Then again, the point is being a QB in NY sucks. It does. The city may appreciate Eli, and loved Simms. But they don't usually embrace their QBs in the same fashion of other towns.

118 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

According to The Blind Side, Warner was getting sacked/hurried a lot, so Tom Coughlin put a stopwatch to him and discovered that he was taking over a second longer on average to go through his reads than an O-Line can reasonably be expected, and this is what caused his benching. This seems counter to what we know about Warner, but he may have been recovering from two years of shellshock from when Martz ball stopped working, and Michael Lewis' writing is mostly reliable.

123 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

Manning ended up stinking up the joint, but he did have half the sacks. Plus, so many of Warner's sacks were ending up as fumbles.

Warner never was quite right with the Giants. He did not play for us as he had with the Rams nor the Cards.

124 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

I know, this always makes me laugh. Haven't people seen Brady call for flags and make eyes at the refs every time he gets hit? How about Vick (justified or not) complaining to the press? I have never seen Eli call for a flag. Even when he was underachieving his draft position and getting shredded by the NYC press, he never made a peep about it like we've seen Flacco do this year. The only controversial thing he has ever said was his "elite" claim this summer, and we've seen how that turned out.

127 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

It's the same narrative that calls Cutler a pussy because he got injured and then didn't appear in pain on the sideline.

People believe whaat they want to, not what exists, and they're dying to fill a narrative arc.

134 Re: Conf. Championship Quick Reads

The gist of the comment isn't that he's worse than anyone else (nobody else was mentioned to compare him to) - just that his faces are really quite comical.

He does whine quite a bit. Maybe not more than a few others, and certainly Vick is a worse offender, as he goes to the press regularly with his complaints (usually justified, however, when he goes - the guy wasn't getting any roughing calls last year). And Brady is a very mouthy QB on field.

But Eli's faces, when he does it, are just funny. I'm not sure why - perhaps it's just that he is so youthful looking.