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19 Sep 2006

Any Given Sunday: Bills over Dolphins

by Ned Macey

This year the AFC East was supposed to be a real battle. The Patriots were not going to waltz away with the title the way they had the past three seasons. A true challenger would emerge, and they would start by dominating a division rival last Sunday. Little did we know that the supposedly rebuilding Buffalo Bills, rather than the much-hyped Miami Dolphins, would emerge as a potential challenger to New England.

The Bills made a series of off-season moves that turned the team into an easy punch line. They hired 81-year-old Marv Levy as their general manager. They hired Dick Jauron as their head coach despite a career record of 36-49. They reached for safety Donte Whitner with the eighth pick on the draft. In doing so, they passed on Matt Leinart and decided to proceed with the disappointing J.P. Losman. Coming off a 5-11 season, this looked like a team that would be battling for the first overall pick, not a playoff spot. (In fact, four of the FO writers picked them to be the worst team in the league, including myself.)

The Dolphins, meanwhile, finished last year with six consecutive wins to finish 9-7. They imported Pro Bowl quarterback Daunte Culpepper to replace Gus Frerotte. Ricky Williams' continued drug problems freed the Dolphins from that potential headache. With the well-respected Nick Saban leading the way and an easy schedule, the playoffs seemed a foregone conclusion.

The first problem for the Dolphins is that, despite a solid record, they were only an average team a year ago. Their DVOA of 3.2% ranked 13th in the league, ninth in the AFC. The offense ranked 21st in DVOA. The six-game run to end the season only included one impressive victory, a win at San Diego. Expecting a jump to Super Bowl contender was asking for a major improvement.

More importantly, placing all their eggs in Daunte Culpepper's basket less than a year since a massive knee injury appears to be a short-term mistake. Quite simply, on a day when Ronnie Brown played well and the defense was solid if unspectacular, Culpepper thwarted the Dolphins' chances to beat a supposedly inferior opponent.

Correlation does not equal causation, but it is often good enough for radio talk show hosts and Internet pundits. Culpepper had one of the great seasons of all-time in 2004. Last year, Culpepper played a couple of terrible early season games before being injured. Brad Johnson took over, and the Vikings were a much better team. Johnson mostly feasted on inferior defenses, and -- more importantly -- the Vikings own defense improved radically.

The seeds of doubt about Culpepper were laid, and the first two weeks of 2006 have done nothing to rehabilitate his image. In Week 1, he played solidly before melting down with two costly interceptions in the fourth quarter, costing the Dolphins a game they led after three quarters.

On Sunday, it was worse. Culpepper was sacked and fumbled on consecutive plays on the game's very first drive. He was sacked again on the second and third drive, both plays eventually forcing the Dolphins to punt. He finally stayed upright on the fourth drive only to throw a terrible interception inside the Buffalo ten-yard line after a well-executed 14 play drive. Culpepper threw the pass even though there were two Buffalo defenders standing directly between him and the receiver, right in his line of sight. The second half was just as unproductive, although Culpepper did a better job of avoiding the pass rush. The Dolphins finally managed a score with less than two minutes left when they were already down by 16.

After the 2005 season and the first two games of this year, it is too easy to write off Culpepper as an overrated quarterback. Such analysis ignores two crucial facts. First, Culpepper was one of the best quarterbacks in football in 2003 and 2004. Second, he suffered a massive knee injury last year, a devastating blow for a quarterback who relies on his mobility. Improvements in ACL surgery got Culpepper and Carson Palmer on the field after short recoveries. Still, ACL injuries linger without fail in the first year. Expecting Culpepper to flash his trademark elusiveness from the start is unreasonable.

One of the dumbest reactions from announcers is surprise when a supposedly "mobile" quarterback is sacked. Mobile quarterbacks are sacked all the time because they always believe they can escape the pocket. Often they do, but they also get taken down more than an aware pocket passer. Mike Vick and Culpepper were both sacked 46 times in 2004. Ben Roethlisberger, also an elusive quarterback, has been sacked at above the league-average rate in both of his first two years in the league.

Given the number of sacks these people take when they can move, what would happen if one of them suddenly had Peyton Manning's quickness? The answer is apparently getting sacked seven times in one game. Three sacks came at the hands of Ryan Denney, a player you have to admit you had never heard of when you woke up on Sunday.

The confidence in his ability to evade rushers has led to Culpepper developing bad habits. He holds the ball even longer than Drew Bledsoe. Culpepper is not currently able to break out into the open field when nobody is open. On nearly every sack on Sunday, he had a chance to at least throw the ball away, and on several he tried to escape and was caught.

In his five full seasons in Minnesota, he averaged over four runs per game and more than two first downs on the ground. On Sunday, he scrambled one time, for seven yards on third-and-8. Given his propensity to hold the ball and an offensive line that is pedestrian at best, Culpepper may be getting sympathy cards from David Carr by the end of the season.

Culpepper is being forced to play like Peyton Manning when he has spent his whole career playing like Daunte Culpepper. Eventually, Saban and offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey will rein Culpepper in. This scaled back offense will leave the Dolphins with a game plan fitting Brad Johnson and a quarterback ill-suited to perform it.

While the Dolphins are in a hole because of erratic play by their quarterback, the Bills are taking extraordinary steps to make sure their quarterback has no impact at all on the outcome of the game. J.P. Losman was overwhelmed as a first-year starter in 2005. On Sunday, he played the role of scarecrow quarterback to perfection. Losman made one big play on the day, and even that was not a completion. Instead, it was a 50-yard pass interference call on a pass intended for Lee Evans. The Bills converted the opportunity into their only touchdown of the game.

The other nine points came on field goals that were attributable in equal parts to the Bills' three strengths: the running game, defense, and special teams. The first scoring drive could have had me at quarterback. Losman threw one incompletion and then handed off eight straight times to Willis McGahee and Anthony Thomas, who drove the Bills into field goal range.

The next two field goals were both set up by special teams plays. The first came after Roscoe Parrish returned a punt 26 yards to the Buffalo 44-yard line. The final field goal came after a blocked punt that left the ball on the Dolphins 17-yard line. All told, Losman was 1-for-3 for 8 yards and no first downs on the three field goal drives.

The success of the Buffalo special teams is nothing new. Buffalo has ranked first in special teams DVOA both years since special teams coach Bobby April arrived in 2004. After two weeks, the Bills rank second in special teams DVOA behind Chicago. One key cog in that performance has been punter Brian Moorman, who probably earned a game ball on Sunday. Moorman punted six times. Five ended up inside the Miami 20 with no return.

The incredible punting helped put the Bills' young defense in favorable positions. The Dolphins started four drives inside their own ten-yard line. Only once did they start a drive past their own 40-yard line. As a result, Miami actually had more first downs and outgained the Bills 282-171 in yardage, but managed only one touchdown.

Nonetheless, the Buffalo defense did play at a high level. Coming on the heels of holding the Patriots to 19 points, Buffalo is rightly excited about their young defense. While the Bills are likely much improved on a year ago, however, the defense still has holes, particularly against the run. New England running backs gained 180 yards on Buffalo, and Miami running backs averaged over five yards per carry. For all the praise rookie safeties Whitner and Ko Simpson are receiving, their presence is clearly not felt in run defense. The return of Takeo Spikes from injury will certainly help, but one player is not a panacea.

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell is doing an excellent job, but special teams and a mistake-free offense have made the defense look better than it is. The defensive game plan was to keep all the receivers in front of the defenders and make the Dolphins move patiently down the field. Poor field position forced the Dolphins to put together a series of first downs to get into scoring position. They would start moving the ball on the ground and through short passes, but eventually a sack or penalty would cripple the drive.

All is not lost for the Dolphins, who still have the easy schedule that many thought would propel them to the playoffs. The inept Tennessee Titans are coming to Miami on Sunday, followed by a trip to woeful Houston. That gives them two weeks to figure out an offense featuring this year's version of Daunte Culpepper before a huge road game in New England.

For Buffalo, the hope is to continue to mimic last year's Chicago Bears squad, all the way into the playoffs. Winnable home games against the Jets and Vikings loom over the next two weeks. The Bills will need to jump out to early leads to play their conservative brand of football. Falling behind would allow the opposition to run the ball and require Losman to throw, two things the Bills want to avoid. If the Bills can win both of their next two games, contending may be a possibility. More likely, they will look a great deal like the 2005 Dolphins: a good defensive team capable of pulling the upset. Given last year's debacle, the Bills should be satisfied with such an improvement and a record between 7-9 and 9-7.

Right now, Miami's upside looks a lot like the 2005 version of themselves as well. But Miami expected to build on its 2005 season, not spin its wheels in place. Given the high hopes that accompanied the start of the season, 8-8 would be a severe disappointment.

Each Tuesday in Any Given Sunday, Ned Macey looks at the most surprising result of the previous weekend. The NFL sells itself on the idea that any team can win any given game, but we use these surprises as a tool to explore what trends and subtle aspects of each team are revealed in a single game.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 19 Sep 2006

51 comments, Last at 22 Sep 2006, 8:56pm by dave whorton


by TGT (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 1:28pm

it is too easy to write of Culpepper as an overrated quarterback.

Is it "too easy to write of Culpepper that he is an overrated quarterback" or is it "too easy to write off Culpepper as an overrated quarterback?"

by JB (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 1:31pm


by JB (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 1:32pm

Not first, I'm an idiot (at least I wasn't on the Dolphins SB bandwagon)

by dbt (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 1:35pm

The difference, of course, is that the 2005 Bears had to only beat two playoff teams to stake themselves to a winning record and had what could be one of the greatest defenses of the last 20 years. Even with that they were basically a wild card team who simply didn't have another good team in division so they defaulted to the division title.

This year's buffalo squad on the other hand has to deal with New England plus games against Indy, Jacksonville, Chicago, Minnesota (though I think the vikes are overrated), San Diego and Baltimore. That's at least 6 losses including the opening day loss to New England, and one more probably knocks them out of the playoffs even if they have a winning record. It hurts having to go up against real competition in your own division.

by Jason (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 1:35pm

I just don't understand why a stronger correlation between Randy Moss leaving Culpepper in Minnesota isn't made by analysts when breaking down Culpepper's struggles over the past year. I also don't understand why his recovery from a knee injury would mess with his head (i.e., the place his bad decision-making has come from in his past eight starts). I know he had a couple great seasons, but lots of guys have had a couple great seasons and then lost their way. Culpepper doesn't look hobbled by his knee to me, he looks hobbled by his head. I'm prepared to be wrong about this, but I haven't seen it yet.

by James, London (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 1:37pm

Nice EGS Ned, but I think you're being too kind to the Miami O-line. They were hopeless on Sunday.

It wasn't as though Buffalo were sending 6 or 7 guys all the time. If memory serves, for the majority of the game Buffalo rushed 4, and were in the Miami backfield all day against both the run and the pass. Ronnie Brown had a good game, but had to keep making the 1st guy miss behing the LoS. All in all it wasn't pretty, and if this contiues Miami's D will be pineing for Wade Smith and A.J Feely.

As for the Bills, their D played the pass really well, and McGahee was effective, but God help them if they ever need JP Losman to win a game.

by Barnas (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 1:44pm

I'm with James. The Miami O-line was worse than awful throughout the game.

That's never going to help a quarterback adapting to the loss of some of his mobility.

It doesn't explain his inability to hold onto the ball, though. Nor does it explain what exactly he through he was doing throwing a pass at a reciever who was standing still with not one but two defenders in front of him.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 1:47pm


Culpepper seemed to get along just fine with Moss missing three games and playing hobbled in half of the rest in 2004. Dante was a legit MVP candidate that year with almost 5000 yards passing and 39/11 TDs to Ints. He was the fourth candidate on this site for MVP.

Moss that year had only 49 catches.

Last year Culpepper started bad, got it turned around with a solid game against GB, and then got hurt missing the season. It's quite likely that unlike Carson Palmer Dante just needs some more time to knock off the rust.

Cris Chambers is a pretty good receiver. If the Dolphins can't parlay those two into an offense they must be reading Mike McCarthy's playbook......

by Crushinator (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 2:14pm

Watching Culpepper during that game, he didn't look the same even in regards to his mechanics. His throws were inaccurate. He was staring down his receivers. He'd regularly make maybe one or two reads and then just try and force a pass. He looked for Randy McMichael maybe three times the entire game.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 2:20pm

9. Culpepper is used to having corners/linebackers come off their assignments and come after him when he rolls out. Thats not happening now, and his guys are staying covered.

by B (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 2:25pm

The reason Culpepper was so successful in 2003-2004 had everything to do with thier offensive line. He had all day to throw, and he took all day, waiting for a receiver to get open, or scramble through a large hole for a big gain. In 2005 when the Vikings line collapsed do to an injured Matt Birk and other losses, culpepper looked lost and was easily harried and sacked. I thought he'd do well this year, because Miami had one of the better pass-blocking lines last year, but that hasn't carried over to this season. Maybe when they go against a defense that's not fast and aggressive like the Bills and Steelers, things will look better.

by NoJo (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 2:42pm

Barnas - Culpepper has never been able to hold onto the ball. I don't have numbers for you, but fumbles have always been a problem for him.

by Kalyan (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 2:44pm

To say the truth, i was disappointed with the column. There was no quant analysis to back the opinions expressed in the article, unlike the earlier articles.

Also, people can't hold the 7 sacks as an excuse. That way, i would ask everyone to give Aaron Brook a free ride since he operates behind a bunch of thin cardboard walls.

by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 3:17pm

Viking fans recognize that Culpepper interception into the teeth of two defenders--it isn't something new. I'm a bit surprised by reactions to Culpepper's decision making and mechanics--staring down receivers and forcing passes is not new.

As far as fumbles, I believe I read on Deadspin that coming into the season, Culpepper had 81 fumbles, 36 of them lost, in 81 games. Culpepper dropping the ball is nothing new.

Culpepper's solid numbers without Moss in 2004 came against Indianapolis (actually, he didn't have a great game), Green Bay (terrible pass defense that year), and Detroit at home. Moss was also useless for home games against the Titans and Giants; Culpepper was solid against the Titans, bad against the Giants. I still think it's fair to say Culpepper hasn't proven much without Moss (though Moss is also a non-factor on a bad Raider team, so who knows?).
It's also worth noting that Culpepper's record as a starter in each year in his career, including playoffs, is 12-6, 4-6, 6-10, 7-7, 8-8, 2-5, and now 0-2. Obviously the Vikings had terrible defenses most of those years, but still, Culpepper is not an established winner. We shouldn't be befuddled that the Dolphins are starting out with some losses.

Just one comment on the article:

"The first problem for the Dolphins is that, despite a solid record, they were only an average team a year ago."

Since 9-7 is really just one win above average, I would say their record indicates they were only an average team.

by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 3:19pm

addendum: sorry, including playoffs, Culpepper's record as starter in 04 was 9-9.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 3:22pm

Culpepper has ALWAYS held the ball too long, even when he has been at his best. Some of the folks at FO have looked at the adjusted sack numbers from 2004, and concluded the Vikings offensive line had pass protection issues that year, when, in fact, that 2004 sqaud was a very good pass blocking team; Culpepper quite commonly stood back in the pocket for six seconds or more before feeling pressure, and took sacks in those circumstances sometimes. When his pass protection failed last year, he was lost, especially when the Vikings defense was yielding multiple first half, or first quarter, scoring drives on the road, thus putting huge pressure on the Vikings offense to respond. It would have been interesting to see if Culpepper would have improved against inferior competiton, and with superior defensive support, as the season wore on, but we'll never know for sure.

In any case, I thought for sure that Saban and Malarkey would make it one of their first tasks to coach Culpepper to make decisons more quickly, and convince him to toss some incompletions rather than forcing throws, especially until he regained soemthing resembling full mobility. Perhaps they have tried, but Culpepper hasn't proved himself coachable; it wouldn't be the first time a former Pro Bowl QB proved himself immune to further instruction, as the resident QB about a five hour drive directly east of Culpepper's former team has shown.

Culpepper's completion percentage has always been good (I think it was about 66% on Sunday), even when Moss hasn't been running patterns, so he is certaintly accurate enough, and he has arm strength to spare. However, having lost some of his mobility while fully retaining his worst tendencies, combined with another bad offensive line performance, has left a lot to be desired. That the last bad performance occurred at home, whereas most bad Culpepper performances occurred previously on the road, also does not bode well for the future.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 3:48pm

On a note related to quarterback mobility, what's the over/under on the number of games the Falcons can run their new offense prior to Vick limping off, or being carried off, not to return for several games?

by Loser (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 3:53pm

Never bet money on Culpepper. Ever. I've finally learned my lesson.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 4:06pm

Oh, I dunno, I made some dough on the Vikings with Culpepper through the years. They were pretty much like betting on any squad; you had to find circumstances when public sentiment was ignoring key factors (which is always easier when one understands a team's strengths and weaknesses better than the betting public), like when even good Packers teams would have a tough time with inferior Vikings teams at Lambeau, or average Vikings teams would play well above their expected level against less than good defenses. However, I'd agree that betting on Culpepper against an above-average defense has always had it's perils.

by Ralph (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 4:11pm

Finally the Bills get some credit. Sort of.

The Bills will be 3-1 in two weeks. Most of their "hard" games are at home, and in the case of Jacksonville and SD late in the cold season.

The Bills could easily get 11 wins with their easy schedule. I see definite losses to the Bears and Ravens. Other than that, the Bills should be competitive in every other game.

by Ralph (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 4:13pm

Add @Indy to the guaranteed losses. I'm already trying to forget about that one.

by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 4:19pm

Ralph, that Viking-Bills game will probably be a 13-9 game, going either way.

by Barnas (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 4:44pm

I understand that he's had trouble with fumbles.

I just completely failed to even remotely grasp the fact that he actually does things like just DROP THE BALL whilst winding up to throw.

Lesson learned. :P

by Ralph (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 4:53pm

I don't see the Vikings scoring anything on the Bills on the road and I don't see the Vikings stopping McGahee.

by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 4:58pm

But I don't see where the Bills are going to get any points against the Viking defense.

by johonny (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 5:06pm

As a Dolphin fan I'm not ready to give up on Culpepper. The plan was suppose to be start Harrington until Culpepper was both healthy enough and had enough experience in practice at full speed. I have to wonder what happen to that plan? Was that just in the sports writers minds. Daunte doesn't look like he knows his teamates tendencies, or have full health. If Joey wasn't good enough to give Daunte the time to get healthy, why again did they pick him up?

by Bobman (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 5:12pm

I have a verbal question about Culpepper. Is he sometimes referred to in the media and/or online as "C-Pepper" (pronounced "see pepper").

I saw a ref to this a day or so ago and read it like an academic grade: "C-minus Pepper," which made a lot of sense in the context of his struggles. Then I started wondering, why would they use a stupid reference like that? I've never seen "A+ Brady" or "B+ Brees." I'd think with a rather unusual first name, like Madonna, just calling him Daunte would be enough. There's a Donte, and at least one Dante, but he has the only "u."

Talk about over-analyzing the pointless and mundane. Must be because it's a Tuesday and I have four actual days of work ahead of me before I gear up for Indy/Jax next week. Bummer.

Any help here?

by Soulless Merchant of Fear (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 5:26pm

As a Bills fan, watching the reaction in the Miami papers has been nothing short of a komedy laff riot. "The offense was supposed to be based on power rushing and downfield throws, and instead it was dinky passes and QBs holding onto the ball too long and getting sacked! What the hell happened?"

Heh. Heh heh heh heh heh.

You have learned the Lesson of Mike: what Mularkey says the offense will be and what the offense actually is vary quite a bit. For a while you'll write it off to personnel. Later you'll learn the awful truth. Muh-ha-ha-haaa!

He had Drew Bledsoe, and a big part of the off-season press in Buffalo talked about Mularkey working with DB to get the ball out of his hands faster. Either that's really hard to teach or Mularkey's a crappy teacher, because Drew never learned it, and it sounds like Daunte hasn't either.

Why the hell Miami hired Mularkey I don't know. Not that I'm complaining.

I expected the Bills to go 4-12 this year. With Miami sucking and Buffalo better than expected, 7-9 isn't impossible. Dig it!

by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 5:28pm

Two things about the Bills:
First, their defense was very good against Brady (not so much against the emerging two-headed Corey & Larry monster). That was completely lost amid all the scrutiny of the Pats O-line and receivers...neither of which was involved when Tom mistook Donte Whitner for Deion Branch.
Second, they played pre-season sloppy on offense and the Pats failed to capitalize on any of it. Had they, the game would not have been nearly as close as it was. (This last point is for those who are already putting the Pats visit to Buffalo in the Bills win column.)

by Nathan (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 6:12pm

I'm with Jason, and am also prepared to be wrong.

by Scott C. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 6:31pm

Culpepper has ALWAYS held the ball too long, even when he has been at his best. Some of the folks at FO have looked at the adjusted sack numbers from 2004, and concluded the Vikings offensive line had pass protection issues that year, when, in fact, that 2004 sqaud was a very good pass blocking team;

Yes, the F.O. Line statistics are among the most misinterpreted, and least useful stats here. In pass protection, adjusted sack rate is a nice measurement. But it does not tell you about the O-line alone. It tells you a LOT about the quarterback's ability to avoid pressure, and release the ball quickly or identify an 'out' quickly.

Similarly, the Adjusted Line Yards tell you some about the offensive line's run blocking, but just as much about the RB. For both, Just look at the 2005 colts -- their o-line wasn't truly elite at run blocking in the way that Kansas City's was. And their pass protection, though good, benefits from Manning's ability to identify a reciever and release the ball as much as anything else (calling many 3-step drop plays helps too). Just look at the teams that challenged them: ones with a top flight pass rush and schemes designed to prevent the quick read-and-release pass from being effective. If the offensive line was truly the best at pass blocking, would that be the way to stop them?

It makes me wonder how people forget what the West Coast Offense (the Cincinati / Walsh one) taught us -- that a certain pass protection scheme + short pass plays with quick reads can prevent a quarterback from being sacked and gain consistent yardage. The reason this offense came about in the first place was because offensive lines couldn't protect in a 7 step drop situation, but these same lines could hold off defenders for short passes and bootlegs. Due to differences in scheme, using ASR as a measurement of pass blocking effectiveness between teams is an excersize in futility. Using it to measure a single team against itself over time in the same scheme, or the same team when a scheme changes but personell is the same, is what it should be good at.

Comparing the Culpeper lead 2004 Viking O-line to the 2004 Cols O-line is NOT what it is good at. However, it would be very good to use AYL and ASR to analyze the Colts' O-line over the past 3 years.

Of all the FO stats, the line ones in my opinion, are among the least useful to compare different teams to each other. Adjusted Line Yards is only a small step above yards per carry in usefulness. We need much better stats than these to really measure line play. I'd even say that with some running backs that LONG runs are more likely to be due to the offensive line and fullback's ability to open BIG holes than the RB's ability, and a lack of 0 and 1 yard carries is quite often due to a good running back, not necessarily the line. Its far too entangled IMO to even consider using AYL as a measurement of the line -- its a good look at a team's ability to get consistent yardage on the ground though.

by dave whorton (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 6:49pm

as a miami fan it turned my stomach to watch after 10 days off to prepare for the garbage i witnessed sunday. the o-line was aweful is it a result of no chemistry with a couple of new starters? is it overconfidence? or are they really that bad? daunte looks scared and 2nd guessing what he's seeing. the d front 7 hasn't impressed yet. very little pressure and no turnovers.i thought this year would be 7-9 but the schedule made me more optimistic.well i would rather lose like that than lose like philly did.

by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 6:51pm

re #5

But alot and I mean alot of people are making that correlation. Mike and Mike, Eric K, and Dan Patrick (all on ESPN Radio) have made that correlation that without a good core of recivers around him Daunte Culpepper is just an above replacement average QB. If Saban was supposed to be this real good coach I think he would have gone after someone else. Coach Saban may not be the one to blame though. Just like in Green Bay (for playing and catering to Bretts needs, not the teams), and in Huston for not taking Reggie Bush , i think all of the blame for this (as it looks like now) very dumb off season move goes to the front office. they are the ones that sign the paychecks and make sure that a team has enough cap room, so I say down with the Miami front office.

by Phil (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 7:43pm

"Last year Culpepper started bad, got it turned around with a solid game against GB"

Didn't every QB have a solid game against GB last year?

Great work Ned.

by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 8:51pm


that hurts! No matter how true it is that still hurts. :-)

by Marko (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 10:12pm

Re: #27:

Bobman, I can't tell if you're serious or not. Assuming that you are serious, the "C" merely comes from Culpepper. The "-" is a hyphen, not a minus. It's like "A-Rod," except the first letter in "C-Pepper" comes from his last name, not his first. It's not much of an abbreviation.

by hwc (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 10:47pm

The most puzzling thing is why any "pundits" picked Miami to win the AFC EAST in the first place (let alone make it to the SuperBowl).

This tells me that the pundits really don't pay much attention or they would have known why the Pats "only" had a 10-6 record last year -- or more, to the point, why any normal NFL team would have finished 5-11 with those injuries.

I'm laughing every day at how the Pats have disappeared from the league radar screens and pundits' prognostications.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/19/2006 - 11:31pm

Along those lines, hwc, it'd be interesting to do a (necessarily subjective) analysis of division races since the 1978 rule changes, and see how frequently a team with the best quarterback and best defensive lineman within a division did not win that division. I can think of the Eagles in the late 80s, with Randall Cunningham and Reggie White on the Eagles, although some might argue that Cunningham was not the best qb in the NFC East, and Lawrence Taylor was as good a pass rusher as Reggie. I bet it doesn't happen too frequently, however, and if somebody doesn't want to concede that Brady and Seymour are clearly the best in that division, well, there isn't to much to discuss.

by Megamanic (not verified) :: Wed, 09/20/2006 - 12:29am

RE #20 do you seriously think that the SDC Offense (2006 edition) will have any problems adapting to cold weather? Based on what evidence?

Trust me, San Diego in the cold will be a "Hard" game.

by hwc (not verified) :: Wed, 09/20/2006 - 12:57am

#38 Will:

Not just Seymour. That whole d-line is filled with blue-chippers, who are really just coming into the prime of their careers.

The fact that they were able to flip on a dime and play all 4-3 defense Sunday against the Jets is pretty amazing.

Likewise, the Pats have been quietly building an offensive line, with multiple starters from the past two seasons traded because they could no longer make the team in New England.

But, the real reason the Pats "only" managed a 10-6 record last year was their inability to run the ball. That's what happens when three of your O-line starters on on IR and all three of your opening day RBs are injured. This problem has been addressed quite nicely with the addition of first round pick Maroney.

Good young d-line. Good young o-line. Good, deep running game. Good QB. Good veteran linebackers. Take care of the positions closest to the line of scrimmage and the center of the field and things tend to fall into place over the long haul of an NFL season.

Of course, none of that means much to the pundits who are dazzled by the acquisition of Dante Culpepper.

I do agree with this FO article in one regard. The Bills are doing what you have to do in order to dig a franchise out of the hole: play solid defense, limit mistakes on offense, and try to win ugly. Reminds me of a formula another AFC East team used in 2001.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 09/20/2006 - 1:37am

Thanks, Marko, I was a little more than half serious. When I first read it thought "C-minus... man, that's harsh, but I guess it's better than F-plus." And pretty much forgot about it. But something was nagging at me and after about ten minutes I realized I mis-interpreted.

But I had never seen him referred to as C-Pep before. So seeing as how poorly he was faring, there was just enough chance that it was intended as "C-minus." And even if it wasn't, it's funny/sad that I thought so. Thanks for clearing my misunderstanding up.

Random aside: Boston sports columnist and sometimes political columnist Charles Pierce generally used to refer to the president as "C-plus Augustus" when he contributed to the Altercation.com blog. I'll leave politics out of it, but I always liked the nick-name and that might have influenced my thinking. C-minus, C-plus... even "A-minus Rod" starts to make sense if you think about all the talent, all the production, yet his teams never quite go all the way (until this year, of course).

And HWC (#40), that's also how the perennial cellar-dwellers in Indy dug themselves out in 95/96. Solid D, limited mistakes on O, and so long as they were within 10 pts at the 4-minute mark, Harbaugh found a way to pull it out.

by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Wed, 09/20/2006 - 11:09am

Yes, Bobman, I quite agree with you, we definitely want to keep politics out of this. But since FO is based on accuracy, I believe Pierce's name for Bush is C-Minus Augustus. Perhaps a minor point, but in FO terms it probably means the difference between a mid-level D.O.A. ranking and a lower level one...check that I meant to say DVOA.

by The Gribbler (not verified) :: Wed, 09/20/2006 - 8:51pm

I see that Losman's one big play of the day was a penalty from a pass interference call on a deep pass. I recall reading an article somewhere about the high likelihood of getting pass interference calls and suggesting that one day a team with a big armed, but otherwise poor QB and a good defence would simply try to throw downfield the whole time and take its chances with pass interference calls, catches or interceptions. The team cited as an example was Buffalo with Losman. Could this be a new tactic from the Bills?

by CSB (not verified) :: Thu, 09/21/2006 - 1:48am

@ #38

I think most people would say Jason Taylor is better than Richard Seymour in that division.

by hwc (not verified) :: Thu, 09/21/2006 - 2:39am

I think most people would say Jason Taylor is better than Richard Seymour in that division.

Despite how they may be listed in the program, Taylor and Seymour don't play even remotely the same position. Taylor would be listed as a 255 pound LB on the Pats roster. Seymour is a 310 pound d-lineman.

As good as Jason Taylor may be as a speed pass rusher, I doubt there is a GM in the NFL who wouldn't pick Seymour in an expansion draft. There are quite a few good linebacker sized speed rushers in the NFL. There are not many 310 pound d-linemen with Seymour's speed and athleticism.

by EnglishBob (not verified) :: Thu, 09/21/2006 - 7:49am

I rmember saying that Culpepper was to my mind more similar to Aaron Brooks than anyone else- athletic but dumb decision making. I'm not changing my mind on that.... accept for the athletic bit!

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 09/21/2006 - 11:00am


And they'd be wrong.

The closest equivalent to Jason Taylor on the Patriots is Rosey Colvin. Richard Seymour, as HWC said, is a different beast altogether.

by Love the Vikes (not verified) :: Thu, 09/21/2006 - 11:22am

As a long time Viking fan the only thing I have to say to anyone who thinks that Fumblepepper will lead the Dolphins to the super bowl is:
"Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha"

There is a reason that the Viking gave him away for a second round pick. They would have cut him if the Dolphins wouldn't have made the trade. If the Viking had started Fumblepepper and the Dolphins played Brad Johnson for the first two games does anyone think that Vikings would be 2-0 and the Dolphins 0-2? I am quite convinced it would be Vikings 0-2 and the Dolphins would be 2-0.

Dante is an amazing athlete who is capable making plays that no one else can, but he has a knack for making game-deciding mistakes. If your team is good enough that his mistakes don't kill you, then he can be ok. When he first started for the Vikings they were good enough that they could still win games inspite of his mistakes, but last year that wasn't the case.

He does put up some great fantasy numbers, but wining football games is not always about the stats. But here is a couple of stats. Everyone know that Daunte had an incredible year in 2004. In 2003 he also had a good year statistically with a 96.4 rating. That year he was hurt for two games and Gus Frerotte started in his place. Gus had a rating of 118.1. I was really disappointed when Daunte came back from the injury. The Viking look absolutely unstoppable with Frettote under center. Then last year again the offense looked better with the back up. Now no one believes that Gus Frettote and Brad Johnson are pro-bowlers, so why does anyone believe Daunte Culpepper is?

by Dave (not verified) :: Thu, 09/21/2006 - 2:59pm

RE: 31

One more thing I would add that makes the adjusted sack rate a less than perfect tool for measuring an OL's effectiveness in pass-pro is the employment of "max-protection" schemes. In this case it is particularly relevant b/c although the 2005 Dolphins had a very solid ASR, they also employed max-protection at the highest rate of any team (PFP2006), which probably went a long way toward disguising this OL's problems in pass-protection (if you look at the scouting reports, the only linemen that sounds even average in pass pro is RT Vernon Carey).

by Kurt (not verified) :: Thu, 09/21/2006 - 3:27pm

Trust me, San Diego in the cold will be a “Hard� game.

Unless they build up a six or seven game lead in the division by then, and begin resting their starters.

by dave whorton (not verified) :: Fri, 09/22/2006 - 8:56pm

as a dolphins fan i'm really amazed by everybody overlooking the pats.this was a really good team last year once they found some stability in the pass d.if anything they got alot of depth back there now.i am surprised how much they have struggled in their 2 wins so far.but they are and will be next year the team to beatin the east and a true contender. miami just has no chemistry with only 20 guys or so left from the wanny era.7 new starters from a year ago.