Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Defense and Rest Time

Do defenses really wear out over the course of a game? Do defenses benefit from long drives that give them more time to rest on the sideline? Guest columnist Ben Baldwin investigates.

15 Jan 2007

Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2007. Games are chosen based on our own personal viewing preferences, and are going to reflect the teams we support and the cities where we live.

Indianapolis Colts 15 at Baltimore Ravens 6

Aaron Schatz: Well, apparently the FO game charters are not the only people who think that Samari Rolle is the weakness on the Baltimore defense. Clearly, Peyton Manning thinks this, and even Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf understand the situation.

Michael David Smith: We're all intelligent, articulate fans. I defy anyone to explain, in plain English, what constitutes contact that would be illegal contact if the QB still had the ball, but isn't enough to be pass interference once the ball is in the air. If none of us can do it, I kindly suggest to the NFL that they have a serious problem with badly written rules that the officials don't know how to enforce. It was bad in last year's playoffs and is starting to look bad again this year.

Aaron Schatz: Clearly, MDS is just a bitter Seattle fan, angry that the refs are costing the Seahawks this game against the Ravens ... wait a minute ... the Seahawks aren't in this game and MDS is a Lions fan. Do you mean that this problem with the officiating goes beyond last year's Super Bowl? I'm shocked!

Doug Farrar: A problem with officiating? Nah. Oh, there might be the "ingredients" of a problem, but that's never conclusive...

According to the Football Outsiders penalty database, Ron Winter called the most defensive pass interference penalties in the 2006 regular season with 15. Bill Carollo called the fewest, with five. Meanwhile, Larry Nemmers and Terry McAulay tied for the most illegal contact calls with 12. The fewest? Bill Leavy, with two. Carollo called 10 contact penalties, and Leavy called 12 DPIs. It's not only that the officials have a serious problem with the rules as written, I would contend that -- to differing degrees on either end -- they're blurring the line between contact and interference without a second thought. I think they're clueless enough about the boundaries of the rules that they're going with the idea that close is good enough.

Given that, I'd classify what Leavy just did as "screwing up in reverse."

Michael David Smith: Dan Dierdorf has been impressed by two things so far:

1. Adalius Thomas can keep up with Dallas Clark.
2. The Colts' defense actually looks at the Ravens' offense when they're lining up.

I'm somewhat less than impressed by those two things.

Tim Gerheim: I'm reasonably impressed that Adalius Thomas can keep up with Dallas Clark. Clark is barely a tight end -- he's basically a squat wideout -- and Thomas is a pretty big linebacker. Linebackers don't run with Clark very well. However, on that play that impressed Dierdorf, Thomas was pretty comfortably beaten, so I'm somewhat less impressed by that play.

The Ravens look a lot better on this drive where they're running to the outside a little bit. Who'da thunk it?

Michael David Smith: Clark is listed at 252. Dierdorf claimed Thomas outweighs him by 40 pounds.

Will Carroll: If Clark is 252, then I weigh what I said on my drivers license. Much like Freeney, the list and the reality are WAY off.

Bill Barwell: There has been a whole lot of bad throws to tight ends so far. Does Indy ever go max protect? Today might be a good day for it.

Aaron Schatz: Hot damn, was that one awful throw right there by McNair. I do not know how he didn't see that Heap was sandwiched between two guys.

Tim Gerheim: Dierdorf keeps mentioning how deep Ed Reed is playing. I wonder if he's playing any role in run support. On that last play where he mentioned it, it was a slow-developing stretch handoff, but I didn't see Reed in at the end of the play. That would be interesting, and probably pretty smart, if he were a pure pass defender.

Aaron Schatz: Halftime report: When did Marty Schottenheimer become head coach of the Ravens? The Baltimore offense is exhibiting every kind of conservative look that makes people criticize Martyball. Sitting on the ball at the end of the half was just one of many examples. Steve McNair isn't Captain Checkdown today, because to be Captain Checkdown you have to be checking down from your first couple reads down the field. Does McNair even make reads down the field? Are Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton even playing today? Billick better grow a pair at halftime or the Ravens are toast, because McNair running a diverse offense was the difference between them and the Ravens of the past few years.

Speaking of toast, Samari Rolle was just toasted by Aaron Moorehead. Score one for game charting.

As far as the Colts offense, the big story here is one we should have been talking about earlier -- Manning has discovered mobility. It was very noticeable when they beat the Patriots and we're seeing it here too. Now when the offensive line blows their blocks, he's not a sitting duck, he's moving around and still finding guys open or, god forbid, actually running. It's like his one weakness is gone – the 3-4 thing doesn't matter as much if Manning can make plays even when the protection breaks down.

Ned Macey: I have been mightily impressed with the Baltimore defense. If you told me Manning would not be sacked (admittedly pressured) in the first half, I would have expected more. Chris McAlister has done well on Harrison so far. What I would give for either Aaron Moorehead to be better or that pass to be one foot shorter. Clearly Manning was choking on that throw.

Also, I've watched 95 percent of the Colts games for the past four years, and I can't remember seeing a flea flicker. I like that trickery better than their lame attempts to put Wayne in the slot on the right.

I'm completely jinxing the Colts here, and I realize the game plan has been conservative, but at what point does the defense get credit?

Ryan Wilson: You know, early in the season McNair was only throwing short passes and not really looking to go deep. That said, if he played the Steelers every week, he'd average 40 yards a completion and throw for 500 yards. I wasn't all that surprised to see him only throwing 6-8 passes.

Did anybody see "NFL Matchup" this morning? When discussing the Ravens D vs. Colts O, Jaws showed a play from last year where Manning looked to the other side of the field from Ed Reed, Reed read Manning's eyes and literally tried to sneak to the area he thought the ball might be, but Manning ended up throwing the ball where Reed started. The play went for a big gain, but it made me wonder: does Reed get so many "wow" interceptions because he's basically freelancing and trying to "sneak up" on the QB while neglecting his coverage responsibilities? I didn't see a replay of Manning's pick today, but it wouldn't surprise me if Reed was cheating.

Aaron Schatz: Man, this is making me nostalgic for the days before Jamal Lewis got all used up, when he was really good and I didn't make fun of him all the time.

Will Carroll: Freeney on that power rush got killed. Good analysis -- what Dierdorf didn't see is why. Even on that play, Ogden is playing on his heels and staying off his toes. He's got no push at all. Just watching him walk, he's pulling his toes up.

Doug Farrar: I haven't seen as much of Jonathan Ogden as I've seen of Walter Jones, but I'd generally guess that straight-on bull rushing any elite left tackle when you'd need to double your caloric intake to keep up with Jared Lorenzen on the scale isn't really a great idea. It's quite possible that when Mr. Freeney gets his wits about him again, he'll re-consider the strategy he tried halfway through the third quarter.

Bill Barwell: Dierdorf also just had a wonderful comment about that fourth-and-4 from the 41. "You wouldn't gain that many yards if you punted!" Well, if you didn't ^$%# up, you would...

Aaron Schatz: Well, for a second there, I thought Billick had his balls reattached, but he changed his mind and punted.

The only question about the Colts defense playing well is, if they could play like this, WHY DIDN'T THEY FOR THE ENTIRE REGULAR SEASON???? The answer is not Bob Sanders, because they played like crap during the weeks Sanders was healthy.

Will Carroll: I've been thinking about this question. The general media idea has been sandbagging, which I just CAN'T believe. Sanders was held back for much of the second half, but you're right, not the difference, but does it signal some attitude? Has any team ever had such a dramatic turnaround in the playoffs?

Aaron Schatz: Oh, the 2003 Carolina Panthers, because they dramatically improved on both sides of the ball. The Colts were already good on one side.

Assuming this is not overturned, that's four fumbles, all recovered by the Colts, plus that field goal that bounced off the crossbar. That horseshoe is lucky tonight.

Doug Farrar: And then... Ray Lewis deflects a HORRIBLE Manning pass that would have been caught by Ed Reed. Ouch, babe!

Aaron Schatz: OK, is it me, or have there been roughly 10 play-action passes since the last time the Ravens actually handed the ball to a running back?

Bill Barnwell: Jamal Lewis has actually looked kinda agile tonight -- he made some nice moves on that swing pass.

Ryan Wilson: This is the best tackling, hardest hitting Colts defense I've seen this year. I think they've found their ... SWAGGER.

Doug Farrar: Hmmm... a moronic holding call by Bill Leavy's crew early in the fourth quarter that pretty much killed a huge drive? In the postseason? I've never seen THAT before!

Tim Gerheim: "Big interception by the Colts" ... balderdash! That was a hidden punt. That thing went from the Indy 12 to the Baltimore 39. That would be a net 49-yard punt, which would be epic. Peyton hasn't set the field on fire, but that was a good play.

I haven't seen hardly any Ravens games this season. I'm going to have to take your word for it from the previews that their offense has actually been good. They look awful today except for those occasional Colts-mediated 10-yard runs.

Aaron Schatz: Yes. Terrible. Awful. They choked. I'm still stuck on the same question: Where as this Colts defense been all season, and why should I believe that these two games are a better indicator of how good they are than the 16 previous?

Bill Barnwell: You know what's scary?

Peyton's made a couple of throws tonight that have been ugly -- in the face of pressure, off his back foot, chucks to no one or nowhere in particular (the one that Reed caught out of bounds specifically comes to mind).

Who does that remind you of? Mm hmm...

Ryan Wilson: This game reminds me of last year's Colts-Steelers playoff game. The underdog comes in, pretty much controls the game, and pulls out the win. And you know the common link? Dan Dierdorf. That's right, if you're an underdog playoff team playing in the AFC Divisional game, you might want to that request Dierdorf does the game.

Aaron Schatz: Still trying to figure out where this Colts defense came from. How is this the same team that was killed by Houston and Jacksonville a month ago? Bob Sanders played in the game against Tennessee and Travis Henry hit some long runs anyway.

Ned Macey: Which Tennessee game? The second one, wasn't Henry the lowest DPAR? The Colts defense was usually bad, but they played well occasionally during the year. McNair played no worse than Brady, and the Colts shut down Rudi as well. Also, they have clearly shifted the strategy with their DEs, almost no outside rushes.

I'm not saying there aren't some play-calling issues here, but why is the Colts defense playing well different than the Ravens offense playing poorly? They were 11th in weighted offense. Without an overhead camera, who knows who was open down field? McNair is a smart quarterback. Do we think he was missing people downfield? They hit the one big pass to Clayton, but he fumbled leaving them with the penalty.

The one that confuses me still is the Ron Dayne game. Otherwise, I could argue that the Colts are particularly susceptible to elusive backs. Jamal Lewis is not elusive.

As for the breaks, clearly the Colts were lucky in this game. I'm curious to see what the DVOA numbers are, but I won't feel bad either way because they had a higher DVOA than Pittsburgh a year ago.

Dominic Rhodes did a hell of a job on that last drive. The Ravens knew the run was coming, and he still got enough first downs to both get the field goal and run down the clock. I think he'll be a big factor next week no matter what because he does run well up the middle. He sucks at the stretch play, but they can't run it on a 3-4 team anyway.

Finally, all Peyton Manning does is win playoff games.

Russell Levine: Wow, how bad was Greg Gumbel today? Misidentifying players, took him about five seconds to realize the flea flicker had been completed and not thrown away out of bounds.

Yes a couple of those Peyton throws were Eli-esque, but I was actually fairly impressed with him today. He never appeared to get frustrated; you never saw the negative body language (think of those Pats losses). I think he realized they could grit this one out and he's got to be thrilled to have the defense playing this way.

Did anybody notice on the first-half ball that Peyton nearly had intercepted that Harrison appears to stop rather than run right into a space occupied by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed?

Does Vinatieri's performance give the Pats fans in the group a queasy feeling?

Michael David Smith: Russ, you pointed something out that I've been meaning to mention for a while: I think about half a dozen times this year I've seen Marvin Harrison quit on balls or at least not look like he's going full speed running out his route when the ball wasn't exactly where he wanted it. The types of plays where if it had been TO or Randy Moss we'd never hear the end of it from the announcers. Obviously, in general Harrison looks like he is a much better teammate than either of those guys, but it does make me wonder if maybe he gets a free pass on some things that he shouldn't.

Ned Macey: I do think Harrison gets a free pass to some extent, but maybe it also shows that running out each route is an impossible task. If he finished that route he would be standing directly behind Lewis and had no separation on McAlister. What the hell is Manning throwing the ball there for?

Will Carroll: That's his read --- he isn't supposed to be running into coverage, but when the ball is thrown, he seems to get confused. He's just too small to have much of an effect on anyone "defensively."

Aaron Schatz: Isn't "will Peyton Manning continue to throw as many bad passes as he did against Baltimore and Kansas City" just as good a question as "will the Colts defense continue to play as well as it did against Baltimore and Kansas City?"

Ned Macey: Yes. I could certainly see a 34-31 shootout against whoever wins the NE-SD game.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 at New Orleans Saints 27

Russell Levine: Nice to see FOX train the cameras on the chick in the half-shirt for about 3 seconds.

Umm, except her shirt read "F*$K DA EAGLES"

You stay classy, Saints fans!

Bill Barnwell: 9 field goals. 0 touchdowns. Oof.

Russell Levine: Reggie Bush. I mean, wow. He's not supposed to be able to do that in the NFL.

He does need to learn not to leave his feet in the field of play though -- that leads to injuries and fumbles. Save that for the goal line, Reggie.

Aaron Schatz: I liked when Dick Stockton said that Bush was hemmed in. Reggie Bush is NEVER hemmed in.

We should have a burn-a-thon between Fred Thomas and Samari Rolle. Not sure how the rules would work, but it would be fun.

I like to bring attention to stupid plays by quarterbacks where they get lucky and there isn't a turnover. That ridiculous backhanded flip by Garcia trying to not take a sack could have easily ended up as a pick six. That was really dumb.

Ned Macey: When did the light turn on for Bush? I wrote about him for Any Given Sunday when his DPAR still sucked, but I looked the other day after MDS's article and it was suddenly respectable. Tonight, he's an absolute bad-ass.

To fix their run defense for next year, I think the Colts are going to trade for Sean Considine. He'd fit right in.

The struggles of Rolle and Thomas tonight certainly make the game-charting project worth it.

Russell Levine: I remember seeing Bush in Week 9 against Tampa, and he was still trying to bounce every single carry to the outside and not getting anywhere. He had 11 carries for -5 yards in that game.

The next time I saw him, about two weeks later against Cincinnati, he didn't have big numbers but he had stopped bouncing everything. He had a bunch of good, hard three-yard carries up the middle in that game, IIRC.

Now he seems to have figured it out -- taking the sure yards inside when that's all that there is, and picking his spots to bounce things outside, reverse his field, etc.

Doug Farrar: One thing I find interesting from a penalty perspective is how many false starts road teams have at specific stadiums, especially stadiums in which crowds are known for extreme volume. In 2006, Qwest Field led the NFL in road false starts with 27, and Soldier Field was second with 18. No shock there. Meanwhile, teams going to New Orleans this season have only 13 false starts. Facing a rabid, extremely motivated crowd in a dome? The relatively small number surprises me.

Bill Barnwell: The 12-13 year old boys Punt, Pass, and Kick champion has clearly tried to hook up with the 12-13 year old girls champion. He has been summarily rejected. He reminds me of Rusty from Full House. Not good.

Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure what I am enjoying more: Hank Baskett jumping around in the end zone like a kid in a sandlot game, screaming "I'm open, I'm open!!!" or the constant camera shots of the minyan in Jeffrey Lurie's box.

Otherwise, unlike the other game, this one has gone almost exactly according to my preview. McAllister slicing through Eagles defense? Check. Burn Fred Thomas? Check. Trouble with passing to running backs? Check. Drew Brees not fazed by pass pressure? Check. Close at the half? Check.

Bill Barnwell: Billy Miller's playing well, but he doesn't do a good job of protecting the ball. He's very vulnerable.

Can anyone think of a player who's changed his style as dramatically as McAllister? He's a totally different back. Maybe someone should tear DeShaun Foster's ACL.

Will Carroll: I'm curious about the style thing --- could you expand on that, Bill? At the start of the season, McAllister was effective, but was running straight ahead. He didn't trust himself to cut (though the knee was probably fine). He was running then like Alexander is now.

Bill Barnwell: McAllister never moves horizontally behind the line of scrimmage anymore. He was the king of that before the injury.

Russell Levine: On that carry with about four minutes to go, Reggie Bush made a cut that nobody makes. He turned more than 90 degrees in a single step, restarted himself, and nearly got the corner. When he didn't, he had the good sense to go down in bounds. I'd say he's definitely figuring things out, and I love how the Saints are using the two backs.

Finances will probably dictate whether they can afford to keep them both for a few more years, but if I'm Bush, I don't want McAllister going anywhere. Bush can become a feature back in a few years, when he'll probably be a little bigger and stronger. He also won't have that much mileage on him when he eventually becomes the full-time guy. And if he's lucky, all that will occur right around the time he needs to start worrying about his second contract.

Aaron Schatz: And then, trying to run out the clock, the Saints decide to get funky with the pitch, and I didn't even realize that there were no turnovers during the first 56 minutes of this game, and here we go...

Russell Levine: Ugh, looked like a good enough pitch that Bush should have caught it, but that's a HORRENDOUS play call in that situation. How about pounding McAllister straight ahead instead of going with the tricky misdirection option pitch? JLS Trophy worthy.

Great response by the Saints defense after the turnover. Just when you think everyone in the stadium was probably thinking, "oh, that's right, we're the Saints" they come up with a three-and-out.

And then the Eagles go for it -- and that was a ridiculously good pass by Garcia with a man in his face, but the false start wipes it out.

Aaron Schatz: It came down to that second-and-1. The Eagles should have been able to push that in for a touchdown, and they couldn't. The Saints are just an amazing story. I think they're going to the Super Bowl. This is a totally different team from last year. Most of the time, even if you can change so many players from a losing franchise, you won't end up with a team like this, but the Saints did so many of the right things over the last few months. Just amazing.

Doug Farrar: Mickey Loomis: NFL Exec of the Year. If anyone else wins it, I want a recount.

After watching this game, I really want Shaun Alexander to get involved in every possible off-season pass-catching drill. The Seahawks should be envious of teams with backs this versatile. Screens to Alexander are generally either drops, or 2-yard losses.

Two people who never got the credit they deserved during the post-Seifert/pre-Erickson 49ers era, when the team had to bail out of a salary cap implosion and was able to return to competitiveness with many new faces from 1999-2002, were Steve Mariucci and Jeff Garcia. I know Garcia's numbers aren't necessarily indicative of any great professional rebirth, and his regular-season DPAR is worse than Eli Manning's, and the fact the offense around him has become more balanced is a big part of the equation, but there was something very cool to me about a story in which a guy got one more chance to succeed in a system that worked for him. No particular FO slant to that -- I just liked watching that story develop.

I also hope Mariucci gets another shot at coaching with a team that doesn't have a chimpanzee for a general manager.

But this is about the Saints, as it should be. They've got some issues with outside contain on running plays (obviously) and the cornerback situation is iffy at best, but the sheer determination on both sides of the ball when it was needed was wonderful to see. As Russell said, that stand after the Bush fumble was a real beaut. Just an amazing team to watch.

Aaron Schatz: One more note: Andy Reid made a big mistake punting. The defense was tired. They had a better chance of making that fourth-and-15 than they did of keeping the Saints from a first down AND then scoring in the final 40 seconds or whatever would be left after that.

Mike Tanier: I didn't like the punt call either. But I liked just about every other call in the game. I liked the way we handled second-and-1 at the goal line, with a run, then a quick set up and snap to try to get a pass off before the Saints defense was set. We just didn't execute the plays. I like the screen call and the pitch call when we got the ball back after the Bush fumble, but Fred Thomas and Scott Fujita made great plays.

When I saw Bush fumble, I thought I was watching a miracle. When I saw Baskett make that catch, I thought I was watching a miracle. But maybe I'm watching a Saints miracle and I am just looking at the wrong side of the coin.

As for my beloved Eagles, great effort. I hope this off-season doesn't turn into every other of-fseason in the last five years, where fans forget to enjoy how amazing this team was at the end of the year (and in September) and instead dwells on "why did Reid punt" or "why didn't we use Buckhalter at the goal line" or whatever. Obviously, the Eagles have some personnel work to do, and I hope (Lance Briggs) they plan to do something interesting (Lance Briggs) in free (Lance Briggs) ag(Lance)enc(Briggs)y. But I'm not miserable like I was after the other playoff losses in recent years, and I hope Eagles fans aren't either. This system that Reid and Joe Banner and Jeffrey Lurie put together works, It gives us a shot -- a good shot -- every year. The last seven years have been the best run of Eagles football in my lifetime, and it doesn't look like things are slowing down. One of these days, it will be Philly's turn.

Until then, go Saints.

Ned Macey: I agree with Aaron. I was surprised when the punter came out. Best case scenario, they have to go 50+ yards in less than a minute just for the field goal.

I agree with Doug that the Garcia story was a great story, but he struggled tonight. There were plays left on the field against Thomas in the first half. The accuracy wasn't there. He never looked 100 percent comfortable (thinking of the throw from beyond the line of scrimmage when he probably could have made the first on his own.)

For all the talk about Bush, Deuce abused the Eagles. I thought Hood played alright except for the early big play, but they clearly were protecting him. Both safeties were deep, and the front seven was just not good enough to stop the Saints run game. McAllister should have had about eight extra carries, but they got the win, so I guess that's nitpicking.

Just like in the Super Bowl, the Eagles abandoned their big back. I love Westbrook. He's an amazing player, but Buckhalter has a role in the offense. He got three (admittedly ineffective) carries. They should have brought him in on the second-and-1 that cost them the game.

Good defensive call on the third-and-1 where the blitz blew up the throw to Tapeh. We analyze and analyze the games, but in the end, these teams were incredibly close and either team could have won. That's what makes playoff football fun.

Aaron Schatz: Honestly, the difference between the 2001-2006 Eagles and the 2001-2006 Patriots comes down to a few random bounces of the ball, slightly better game plans, and quarterback injuries.

Mike Tanier: And a tuck!

Seattle Seahawks 24 at Chicago Bears 27 (OT)

Mike Tanier: Bears first drive: third-and-3 and third-and-4 are running downs for the Bears. Really, they should be neutral downs, but I bet most teams are throwing about 75 percent of the time on third-and-4. The Bears ran to convert two of these situations and a third-and-1. At some point in this game, they'll play action off one of those running plays.

Did anyone notice the fullback flat pass from this week's TDZ on that drive? Grossman threw late and it was incomplete.

Doug Farrar: Babineaux is a better safety than a corner, and you saw why on the Rashied Davis 37-yard catch. He looked to be in perfect position to make a play on the ball, but almost surprised to be there. That last little hesitation seemed to be the difference.

The Bears are beginning the game able to push Seattle's front four off the line of scrimmage, which has been a major problem for the Seahawks all year. Marcus Tubbs, their best interior run-stopper, was hampered by injury and then put on IR with a knee injury in early November. Since then, Seattle's formerly strong DT rotation has been a mix of guys who are better with pass-rushing (Rocky Bernard), undersized overachievers who wear down (Chuck Darby) and reserves. This has greatly affected the play of Lofa Tatupu as well. Tatupu requires good push from the front four so that he can get a first couple of good steps instead of having to shed blocks. Last season, the Seahawks were the top-ranked NFL team in defensive adjusted line yards -- this year, they're tenth. They've allowed a great deal more yardage, especially in the mid-guard area.

People talk about receiver injuries when deciphering what's wrong with Seattle's offense, and that's been a factor -- but Darrell Jackson missed several games last season, and he's been Hasselbeck's #1 guy for a number of years. The difference was that there was a Joe Jurevicius to pick up the slack. This season, there was Deion Branch, but he hasn't really found the tempo of this offense, especially when Seneca Wallace was in there for four games.

The main problem for this offense is been a line that has been depleted by injury and personnel churn. More than losing Alexander for six weeks, or Hasselbeck for a month, this is what has been the real killer. When they got all their stars back, protection was still a major issue. You're seeing this early on for Hasselbeck, and Alexander, a patient cut-back runner who doesn't overrun his blocks because he's used to having blocks, keeps getting caught up in the mess.

Still, that was a great drive to tie the game at 7. Hasselbeck had enough time to the middle in Chicago's pass coverage, and the safety was late on that Burleson touchdown. As long as the Seahawks take advantage of every possible Bears mistake, they have a chance.

Michael David Smith: On that PI on Jordan Babineaux, the official closest to the play didn't throw a flag. I think any time the official closest doesn't throw the flag and they call a penalty based on an official who was farther from the play, the referee needs to explain specifically why the official closest didn't see a penalty. Of course, none of us really knows what constitutes pass interference anymore. The three major questions of this NFL season are "What is pass interference?" "What was the Chiefs' coaching staff thinking about against the Colts' defense?" and "What is Accuscore?"

Doug Farrar: Outstanding delayed blitz by Peterson on the Grossman fumble with 4:20 left in the half. He's so good at waiting and knowing when to go, and he's fast enough to make up a whole lot of ground in a big hurry. Seattle's ability to convert on fourth down, like the sudden Indianapolis defensive surge, is definitely a postseason phenomenon. Through the fourth-and-inches Alexander touchdown, the Seahawks were 3-of-4 in the postseason. In the regular season, they were 2-of-8 on fourth down.

The Seahawks don't have a defense solid enough, personnel-wise, to throw fancy stuff like fake blitzes right now. Especially in the secondary. Just bring it or don't.

Back to my trepidation about Seattle's interior defensive line -- I'm surprised there was any talk of strategy from the Bears on that fourth down Jones touchdown. Just run it down their throats.

Seattle's in good position here, down only a touchdown at the half. But the Bears have outgained them by 110 yards, they've had the ball four minutes more ... this reminds me of the first half of the Jets-Patriots wild card game, when everyone thought the Jets were in it down just a score at the half, but the ground was rumbling beneath their feet. If the rest of the defense can match the efforts of the linebackers and Kelly Jennings, and Nate Burleson can continue his fine returns, they're not out of it. They are, however, a bit more out of it than the scoreboard says.

Aaron Schatz: Thoughts from Ian Dembsky's house (me, Ian, Bill Barnwell).

  • Nice wham block by Desmond Clark on the first Jones TD.
  • The commercial for Frank Miller's 300 looks like it should be a PS3 game, not a movie.
  • The Bears definitely miss Tommie Harris.
  • Great textbook "MLB in the Tampa 2" play by Urlacher on that seam pass he slapped away (receiver - Jackson? We can't remember).
  • Will Heller vs. Lance Briggs is not a matchup you should be trying to take advantage of with multiple passes.
  • We're trying to figure out -- when Berrian blew by Kelly Jennings, was there supposed to be any deep help there?
  • When Julian Peterson got the fumble, Cedric Darby was very smart to just fall on it. That's the kind of play where a lot of linemen try to scoop and score, and they can't because there are five guys falling all over each other and then the ball scoots out of bounds and the offense keeps it.
  • Who was the midget on the Chicago sidelines when they were debating the play during the timeout on fourth-and-1?
  • I will purchase any product that will buy time for a Super Bowl commercial that makes fun of John Mellencamp.

I definitely think that with Hasselbeck being injured, and the WR being injured, you've got timing issues where Hasselbeck looks for the hot read WR to be one place and the WR is somewhere else, and a lot of the bad throws are coming from that.

Bill Barnwell would like to point out that Shaun Alexander just scored on Doug's least favorite play, the third down draw. Although the third down draw in the red zone to Shaun Alexander is not as bad as the third down draw in the middle of the field to Mack Strong.

We also loved the corner to Deion Branch. Perfect pass: space on either side of the cornerback and safety in the Cover-2, right on the sideline.

Doug Farrar: I liked the way Seattle came out in the second half -- better run-pass balance, and high-percentage passes to Engram. That Briggs made a great stop on Alexander on third-and-1 to force the field goal doesn't negate that.

Great defensive stop against Chicago's first drive -- and a nice call to send everyone back and put the burden on the front four to get pressure on that third-and-long. They're susceptible against the run, but they're engineered to disrupt the pass.

Okay, everything I said last week about the "stupid" draw calls on third-and-long? I guess the Alexander TD that put the Seahawks ahead late in the third quarter is the one that shuts me up…

In my head, I'm hearing Stu Nahan say, "I've got to give that round to Balboa." The third quarter has been Seattle's. They have made up the halftime deficits in yards and time of possession with five minutes left in the quarter.

Aaron Schatz: Joe Buck: "That's the first catch for Jerramy Stevens ... I have to admit, I thought that Jerramy Stevens would play a much larger role in today's game." Somebody needs to start reading Football Outsiders...

Doug Farrar: Wow -- Hasselbeck throwing off his back foot to a covered Bobby Engram on the Manning interception. That was positively Eli-esque. A horrible play in the middle of two wonderful Seattle defensive stands.

That was a really stupid audible by Hasselbeck on the third-down play where he was sacked. He motions Heller (TE as FB) behind him and looks like he's trying to do some kind of play-action/sprint right option thing. Bad news.

Will Carroll: Alexander seems to be able to move to his left, but not his right. There has to be some equivalent to the hoops defense that makes a guy go to his weak hand on the dribble.

Doug Farrar: I'll put myself on the hook before the play happens and say that I completely disagree with the call to go for it on fourth down here. Holmgren is totally ignoring what his defense has done in the second half. Hope I'm wrong, but I think it's a really bad call.

Aaron Schatz: I agreed with the call. They were on the Bears side of the field. The play didn't work because of the bobbled snap, and Lance Briggs got great penetration anyway, but I agree with the call and even the specific play.

Doug Farrar: MDS, or anyone who's seen more Bears games than I have: Chicago's defense seems to have a weaknesses with any lags in timing on running plays. Was that the case before Harris got hurt?

Michael David Smith: I think Harris is the biggest part of it, Doug. I really think his injury set the Bears back a lot on defense.

Aaron Schatz: 24-24 with :24 left. FOX could not ask for a better free advertisement.

Doug Farrar: Every time the Seahawks get a good run from Alexander, they go back to him and get stuffed. I'd call that a tendency, Mr. Holmgren!

Well, I don't have much else to say except that I'll go "homer" for a minute and say that I didn't expect the Seahawks, with everything that's happened to them this year, to be within a play or two of the NFC Championship game. I'm proud of the team, and I'm personally ending the season, as a fan, with less of a hollow feeling than I did last year.

Aaron Schatz: Alexander was really great today. I said that there was always this little itchy feeling that Hasselbeck and/or Alexander would finally play like they did in 2005, and Alexander, at least, did. Like the Eagles, the Seahawks have nothing to feel awful about. They raised their game in the playoffs, and not everybody gets to win the Super Bowl.

Mike Tanier: On that third-down draw: The Bears had a six-man front and a nine-man box, then Urlacher and someone else bailed out into a Cover-2. I saw that against the Vikings and Bucs and wanted to write about it but didn't: they love showing a big box and counting on their linebackers to drop into coverage. I am sure Holmgren saw that and wondered how they would defend a draw while bailing so quickly into their zones.

Once in overtime and once before the half, the Seahawks showed a very vanilla coverage scheme to Grossman and dared him to beat it. Before half, they left a slot receiver uncovered in a hurry-up situation, and Grossman threw a slant for a good gain. In overtime, they left Russell Davis in single coverage on somebody (was it the loan officer, the hunter, the bail bondsman or Professor Plum) in a Cover-1 where the safety would be busy elsewhere, and Grossman hung it up for a 30-yard gain. Grossman makes mistakes but he isn't completely clueless.

You know what I want to write an article on? Cleats. Buck announced that the Bears were switching to 5/8th inch cleats after the first quarter. In five years, I predict that I will hear that some team switched from 1/5 inch to 129/256 inch cleats at halftime and it made the difference in the game.

Bill Barnwell: I predict some team goes to 12 inch cleats and stabs the opposition. Stab to win! Stab to win!!

Ned Macey: I have nothing to add about this game other than hell of a kick by Gould. I thought the Bears pulled a bit of a Marty there, but I guess it worked out.

I also think it was hilarious that Hasselbeck didn't go out for the coin toss. For all I know he never does, but with about two minutes left I started thinking about the "we're gonna score" line from the Green Bay game.

Complete aside, the Eagles organization is as good as any in football, but I really think they should have kept Al Harris. Can't help but think about it when they show the replay.

Grossman played pretty well. They definitely got in his head to throw the ball away when the pressure comes. He gets another weak secondary next week and should not be the problem. If the defense was still the best in the league, I'd like them by a touchdown next week.

Given how the defense is, are the Bears the favorite next week? That defense is nowhere near the defense they had pre-Tommy Harris injury. Should be a big day for Deuce up the middle.

New England Patriots 24 at San Diego Chargers 21

Tim Gerheim: One of my favorite plays in all of football is the short-yardage run where the back busts through the traffic at the line and gets into a fairly wide-open secondary for big yardage. Plays like that might be part of why Michael Turner looks so good by DPAR and yards per carry.

Michael David Smith: The announcers love to throw around the phrase "football move" without defining it because they don't know what it means. And neither do I.

Bill Barnwell: A football move is any move that would require you to press a non-directional pad button to initiate it in Madden.

Tim Gerheim: Did the Chargers stop blitzing on that touchdown drive at the end of the half? They couldn't get any pressure, and it seemed like their pass rush was a lot less diverse and creative than the rest of the half.

Aaron Schatz: Yes. We all noticed that too. Shawne Merriman didn't come in that last drive except for one time, and they had Matt Light on him one-on-one and he almost got to Brady.

That was some SWEET blocking by Marcus McNeill, especially on the Turner run. He actually is handling Seymour one-on-one on a good number of plays.

Nobody at Ian's house understands why Marty went for it on fourth-and-11 from the 30. I believe in going for it on fourth but 11 to go???? You spent a third round pick on Nate Kaeding and don't feel you can trust him from 48 yards???

Then the Pats kick the 50 on fourth-and-2 from the 32 instead of going for it. Weird.

When the Pats big blitzed on third-and-7, I thought for sure Rivers would find Gates open for a huge gain. Shocked that they got to Rivers.

Prior to that last drive, my summary of this game was: both QBs look rattled but their two RB are much better than our two RB. But this looks a little different at 14-10 than it did at 14-3.

No matter who wins though this is the third straight GREAT game this weekend. Only the Colts-Ravens was sort of boring at times and head-scratchingly crappy at others.

Michael David Smith: When Merriman does blitz, both Light and Kaczur have gotten the better of him. He's been on both sides of the line and he's not having a good day at all today.

Tim Gerheim: I don't think Rivers has been bad at all. He definitely seems to have outplayed Brady. Unless all the drops by the Chargers wideouts are due to some quirky thing that he's doing with his throws, Rivers is doing very well. This looks a lot like your typical Pats-Colts playoff game, but with the Pats playing the role of the Colts.

The Chargers receivers pretty much suck today. That was tough on that deep pass to Vincent Jackson, but you have to get your foot in if you're an NFL wideout.

Aaron Schatz: Brady is awful today. Just terrible. He threw the second INT off his back foot, and he just missed a WIDE open Ben Watson. He's getting time to throw and he just looks awful.

And where did the running game go? The Pats have given up on it almost entirely. There have been some wide around blitzes here by SD on first and second down where a draw would get big yardage.

Michael David Smith: I thought missing Watson was his worst throw of the day. That could have been a game-changing play, and the throw wasn't even close.

How did they pick up the flag when Tomlinson facemasked Colvin after the interception? It clearly was a facemask, and the official who threw the flag had a clear line of sight. Who talked him out of it, and why?

Aaron Schatz: OK, we're trying to figure out how you can put your fingers in a guy's facemask and not get a facemask penalty because it wasn't, what, "grabby" enough?

If you are going to punt on fourth-and-2, why not take a Delay of Game and punt five yards back and keep your timeout?

Michael David Smith: I was just thinking the same thing. When you're behind by one point in the fourth quarter and you're facing the choice between losing a timeout and losing five yards, that seems like a really obvious choice to me, but apparently the Patriots disagree.

Clutch interception by Brady.

Mike Tanier: Yep. Belichick is a genius for calling the pick-and-fumble on fourth-and-5. And Schottenheimer's a choke artist for not anticipating it.

Aaron Schatz: OK, you got me. McCree intercepts a bad pass. The Pats strip it and recover. Marty challenges that he was down by contact? The ball is so obviously stripped before he's down by contact. And if the Pats are going to go for it on fourth there, why not run on third-and-5? Why does Brady not even scramble for 1-2 yards? And where the hell are Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney?

Tim Gerheim: I think Marty was just throwing shit at the wall trying to see what would stick. Challenging was another example of Marty getting panicky.

This game is amazing. It really feels like the Chargers have annihilated the Patriots, yet as I write this it's a two-point conversion away from being tied.

Aaron Schatz: I'm in a room of Pats fans, and if the Pats hold LT to six yards we're all clapping and saying "good play, good play." He's that good.

Tim Gerheim: Simms is praising Vincent Jackson's physique, or something. Here would be my summary: Body of steel, hands of stone.

Michael David Smith: Are those GMC Keys to Victory supposed to be a parody of idiotic sportscasters or something? Wow, you mean making big plays on offense and stopping the run on defense will help a team win? I didn't know that.

Tim Gerheim: Those were EXACTLY the same keys to victory as for the Colts-Chiefs game.

Aaron Schatz: What can you say about Stephen Gostkowski. He's money in the playoffs.

Vin Gauri: So after the Pats tie the game at 21, SD takes over at its own 29. First down, six yards for Tomlinson. Check. Second down, pass to Jackson which he drops. Um, okay. Third down, pass to Parker batted away by Samuel. Huh? Simms mentioned something about the Pats not letting Gates get the ball (I didn't see replay of the pre-snap coverage, so maybe he's right), but don't you have to at least let LT touch the ball again before you punt?

Tim Gerheim: I know it's hindsight, but if the Chargers hadn't challenged that McCree fumble that didn't have anything that even looked challenge-worthy, that field goal would have been the first play after the two-minute warning. Maybe that 45 seconds isn't important, but it sure seems like it would be nice.

Aaron Schatz: Watching the Chargers try to bait the Pats into a 15-yard flag is embarrassing, especially Rivers' little flop.

Tim Gerheim: OK, I defy anyone to explain this game with anything other than magic beans or "clutch."

Aaron Schatz:That was amazing, I love my team, and we totally did not deserve to win that game over a better team. And I'm not looking forward to yet another week of Colts-Pats crap.

Pat Laverty: Didn't deserve to win? Just because of the interception/fumble lucky play? Other than that, it was straight football. The Parker muff, that's football. I heard the San Diego police have issued an APB for Antonio Gates. Anyone seen him today? Coming into the game, I knew there would be problems stopping both LT and Gates, but I thought it'd be the other way around. I thought there'd be more of a focus on LT, and less on Gates. But you didn't hear either Bruschi or Gates' name being called very often, so I was guessing that it was Bruschi who neutralized him. I don't have a tape of the game to go back and watch either. LT had a typical LT game, Rivers didn't have a horrible game, yeah Brady had three picks, but to say they didn't deserve to win? I'm not so sure I'd agree with that. Phil Simms really hypnotized you today, it seems.

Aaron Schatz: Also, if they blame this on Schottenheimer that will suck because except for 4th-and-11 he did nothing wrong.

Mike Tanier: Except for the fourth-and-11 he did nothing wrong, and if his defensive back holds onto the interception it's a Chargers win. Of course, that fourth-and-11 was pretty mysterious.

I agree with Tim's point about the extra timeout instead of the challenge, but the coaches might have said, "Look, we need a timeout to regroup after that fluke play, so we might as well challenge at the same time and hope for a miracle."

And I am with Aaron. Patriots-Colts rhetoric. Hooray Hooray.

Michael David Smith: Disagree about Schottenheimer. Should have given it to LT more, shouldn't have wasted the timeout on the challenge, shouldn't have allowed Rivers to waste another timeout, etc. I think he coached himself out of a job tonight.

Russell Levine: I think we've seen the last of Marty. Whether it was his fault or not, I believe this is the third time he's had the no. 1 seed and not won a playoff game. I just don't see how they can bring him back and present him to their fanbase as the coach that can get them to the Super Bowl.

Weird, weird game, but I was almost positive at halftime the Pats would win. The Chargers dominated for 28 minutes yet barely led -- never a good sign with a team with no history of playoff success going against one with all kinds of it. Especially when you add in the Marty factor.

I was really shocked how poorly Brady played for much of the game. Simms kept harping about the pressure, but several of his worst throws came when he actually had some time. Yet when they really, really needed one, he uncorked that beautiful deep ball down the right sidelines to set up the game-winner.

San Diego should have spiked the ball after their first long completion on the final drive. They wasted 20+ seconds trying to get the next play off. You have to trade a down for time there.

Michael David Smith: The Chargers' clock management was atrocious, and clock management is one of those things that I really think the coaches have to get the vast majority of the credit or blame for. It sounds like Russ and I saw this game completely differently from Mike and Aaron. I'm curious to hear other thoughts, but I really think if it's ever OK to fire a 14-2 coach, now is that time.

Bill Moore: How? How? How does Brady throw the ball like crap for series after series and then just throw bullets, only to turn around and look like shit again. Only to turn around and do it all over again? Magic Beans? Maybe he was down to only a few left and did a "break glass in case of emergency."

What was with LT at the end of that game? Did someone get in his grill or was he the instigator?

Russell Levine: It looked like LT was just reacting in frustration after the Pats were wolfing it up pretty good.

I caught one Pats player, not sure who it was, running towards the SD bench grabbing his throat in the choke sign. My guess is LT was pissed off, and maybe somebody said something and he just wanted to get out of there.

It was a fairly testy game. Those were two HUGE personal fouls the Chargers took in the fourth quarter -- the idiotic head butt and then who knows what happened on that extra point.

I'm no real fan of either team but I'm already fatigued from the coming Pats-Colts hype. If the Pats win, maybe San Diego and Indy can trade head coaches. They might both get axed.

And I fully expect Schottenheimer to get fired -- I wasn't exaggerating. He's not on the best of terms with the front office anyway. I think there were some hard feelings over the Brees/Rivers thing.

Aaron Schatz: They were interviewing LT after the game and he is very angry about the Pats players doing the Shawne Merriman dance. He said it was low class. But what's weird is that he blamed Belichick for it. That was really odd.

As far as Schottenheimer, there were clock management issues, sure, but it should never have been an issue to begin with. The Chargers players blew it, plus the awful luck. Schottenheimer gave it to LT plenty, and LT got plenty of yards. I certainly thought Belichick gave up on the run more than Schottenheimer did.

Ned Macey: They can fire Schottenheimer if it helps the team going forward but firing him for his performance today is inane. They averaged 5.2 to 4.4 yards per play. Tomlinson was dominant against a team with a strong run defense. His young QB didn't play great but didn't make the killer mistake. His one interception was a great individual play by Colvin. The Patriots (like the Colts) picked up all five fumbles. The interception on fourth down-to-10-yard gain is one of the luckiest plays in recent NFL history. His defense made Brady, the greatest playoff quarterback of the past 15 years play terrible. He threw three picks and could easily have had another one or two. Schottenheimer outcoached Belichick. His team, which weighted DVOA said was roughly equivalent, played MUCH better.

In a losing effort, I'd like to mention Scifres who did an excellent job giving the Chargers superior field position all game.

Pat Laverty: Marty very unnecessarily wasted a timeout on the challenge that he lost. That's one more clock stoppage they would have had at the end there.

And if you want to talk about great punters, look at what Sauerbrun did for the Patriots today. I think that might have been the greatest day a Patriots punter has had in years. One shank and the Chargers put up another score and they win.

And I even said at the time, you've been going away from Samuel all game long, why do you think you should go after him in such a must have spot? I didn't get that decision by Rivers. I know Simms said it was because it was a one on one matchup, but yeah, that's Samuel's job to be all alone with a receiver.

Mike Tanier: Fire Schottenheimer after three straight winning seasons because his team lost because McCree fumbled a game-winning interception. What website am I working for?

Russell Levine: I'm not arguing that he should be fired on the merits of that game, I'm arguing that he will be fired. He and GM don't get along. The butted heads over Brees/Rivers.

That's a tenuous fan base -- ticket sales have been dicey unless the team is really good, and they're desperately trying to get a stadium built. The whole football watching world thinks that Marty is a boob in the playoffs who will never get a team to the Super Bowl. If you're th GM, trying to tell your fans to buy tickets because Marty is THE guy that can get them to a Super Bowl is a really tough sell.

I know they were tremendously unlucky yesterday. Marty was also unlucky in "the dive" and "the fumble". But at some point, his history trumps the fact that they dominated the Pats yesterday. Three times he's lost his first playoff game with the no. 1 seed. Even yesterday, they seemed a little tentative, and it was the Chargers, not the Pats, that made the killer mistakes: the personal fouls, the clock mismanagement. To me it all adds up to a team that will be looking for a new coach.

Later This Week

Any Given Saturday: Colts over Ravens
Every Play Counts: Bears defensive line

Posted by: admin on 15 Jan 2007

406 comments, Last at 18 Jan 2007, 11:38pm by erik


by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:19am

O.K., I'll bite...I can't wait to see how the Bears' defense schemes for the Saints. I gotta believe that there is going to be a steady diet of Deuce up the gut, with a lot of shots deep downfield as well. To top it off, the chance to see Bush in the open against the Bears uber-mobile linebackers really has me intrigued.

Does anybody else think that with a year of working together under their belts the Saints offensive unit could threaten a lot of records next season? Maybe we'll see a preview of that in the next couple of games.

by Dave (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:20am

289: i think there's multiple daves on this thread, but if you're asking me, i think the schottenheimer/cowher parallels make sense. i have issues with marty's game management, and couldn't stand most of the gameplanning against the ravens earlier this year and some of it in sunday's game, but the guy builds a hell of an organization. he can coach for me anytime.

just enough with the fourth and 11 calls, dude.

279-280: jesus, dude, that's like 100 years ago culturally. there's got to be a statute of limitations on this discussion.

292: beats me, but i believe it happened.

293: you're joking about lt, right? pats weren't stopping him with a machine gun. he was all over the place until the chargers decided to stop running him--one of the facets of the second-half gamecalling i have an issue with.

by hector (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:21am

As sketchy as Thomas is, I wonder, do the Saints leave their corners on an island more than most teams? At minimum it seems like the Saints play more man coverage than most pro defenses.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:25am

#301: Personally, I think the Bears are in a lot of trouble. The Saints have a slightly better D and a much better O. The Bears just barely beat the 8th worst team in football (in overtime). The Saints are very capable of turning any game into a shootout, and I think a shootout is exactly what you want to avoid with Grossman.

by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:26am

I don't know if this would work, but with Harris out of the lineup, Chicago could switch to a 3-3-5 nickel package, drop eight into coverage, with occasional run blitzes, and make the saints string together 12 play drives.

I don't know if the Saints will threaten 'normal' statistical records, because they'll likely have fewer posessions next year (see the Colts). They could join the Colts, Rams, and Chiefs as one of the top offenses of the DVOA era, however.

by MFurtek (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:29am

I agree with your contention, but I still think they did a good job containing him. Aside from the 58 yarder, what was his other long run, that 13 yarder behind McNeil?

I really wish they had run the fake-FB-dive flip to LDT play on 4th down... it looked he was isolated on the outside with a DE/LB. It might not have been on 4th down.... but I saw it set up once.

After seeing LDT break so many games open in the end with crazy back-breaking runs, I figured he'd get more of a chance. Gates not getting OOB on the last drive also wasted about 20 seconds.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:32am

Digit 272, (THIS IS ABOUT MANNING--if you don't care, feel free to skip)

I agree with NF at 278 but see your point later--Manning is seeing more deep coverage trying to limit the big damage, and has been making shorter passes IMO. It seems more consistent this year, but it always cropped up in years past from time to time.

The OL has been good and his mobility is as good as ever--in fact, as noted here and elsewhere, he is better throwing off the run than ever. (no doubt prepping for the 3-4 D's that have troubled him in the past.)

Addai is a good blitz picker-upper and that was part of the reason for the slow intro since the beginning of the season despite the fact that he clearly was the more productive back--so he could see the game from the sideline and figure out what he was watching. Fresh legs too. Rhodes has never been super at blitz P/U (at least compared to Edge) and I am not sure if he has improved or not. Probably. Addai really seems to be a full (or very close to complete) replacement for James--also, he comes with no ego whatsoever, having always shared the workload. Nice touch.

Manning is just as good with conventional stats as last year and better per DVOA (more efficient--keep in mind his team has had only 148 possessions whereas Balt has had 180--Steve McNair had 32 more possessions, the equivalent of almost four MORE games worth of possessions than Indy. Now look at their production numbers again. Manning had twice as many TDs and 30% more yardage as McNair (I use Steve's data because it is fresh in my mind from last week's rsch) in what amounted to four fewer games, possession-wise. Simliar for Brees, with his high production--40 more possessions. I've never heard the phrase "taking what the D gives you" as much as I have this season.

Manning's offense has been freakishly productive and efficient in their 148 drives and if you look at the drive stats here, their O drive success is so great that, despite their D drive success ranking dead last in the league, their combined rank is not near the middle as you might expect, but #2! The O is just that far ahead of everybody else in that metric. (that's yards per drive--in terms of DSR they're 7th combined, still mighty)

Their D's woes have limited their touches--last year the D got a lot more TOs and MANY more punts and 3-and-outs for the O to have the ball back.

Finally, they seem to have discovered something in the playoffs that should have been obvious all along: Quick strikes are counter-productive for them as a team.

If their O takes 8 minutes off the clock with long, slow drives, their D rests and performs better next time it's on the field and it actually puts more pressure on the other team's O. That is because the other team is not facing gassed pip-squeaks and can't run 11 out of 12 plays. They are stopped more often and don't face 3rd and 1's all the time. They have to pass more, which stops the clock, which allows for substitutions, which feeds the Colts D and O gameplans. If Manning kept taking downfield shots he's bound to turn it over or have a few incompletes and then punt--every precious drive wasted, when you only get 9 per game, gives the opponents one more shot. (How many drives did they have vs Houston? 6 and one was a kneeldown at the end of the half?--by contrast, NO averaged 11.4 drives per game.) So if Indy drains the clock and moves 65 yards in 10 plays, even for a FG, they deprive the opponent of a drive too. Two way street. That is what happened in the 2 playoff games (which is one reason I think KC and Balt passed much more than we expected--the clock was actually against them when they had assumed it would be on their side!)

So as many people give lip-service to it but may not really appreciate it: This is the ultimate team sport. It is in Manning's best interest to slow down the game and "weaken" his statistical showing with long, patient drives in order to shore up the D, which then gives the O more chances because it gets the punts and TOs.

Now put yourself in the opponent's shoes: you see a few Indy 7-9 minute drives and your all-run drives that chew up the same, and then start to think, crap, I'll only get the ball 4 more times this game? I have to start scoring!!! And in that situation, whom would you rather have, Manning, who can probably strike in 90 seconds if he has to, or the other QB, whose game plan called for a heavy dose of runs but who now is being asked to go up-tempo and acore? Remember, every time you punt or turn it over, that's one precious drive wasted.

That make sense?

I am kind of 1-trick pony in that 95% of my sports energy is spent on NFL and of that, 95% goes to Indy only, but I think I can explain them fairly well. Some day I'll convince the Mrs to get a dish and DVR, and then I can watch all their games in minute detail. And never speak to my family again. Probably a win-win situation all around.

by Dave (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:36am

306: yeah, he didn't break three 40-yarders or anything but those are indictments of the secondary wrapping up as much as the front seven, aren't they? tomlinson got positive yardage nearly every play. i wasn't all that impressed with the pats' front seven.

the chargers' two-minute drive had amateur hour (two-minute version) written all over it. that's one area the pats obviously outshined the home team--at the end of both halves, not just the game.

i'd also have liked the chargers to try one more quick outside pass before the fg. a 54-yarder's no gimme in the best of times--i take my chances with something bad happening on the pass play.

by jebmak (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:49am

I conceed. Brady clearly DOES have some mystical power to make the opponents do really stupid things like intercept the ball and fumble on fourth down. I can see no other explaination.

by Digit (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:52am

307 - Bobman-

Thanks. I did think something was different this year, but wasn't sure -what- was different. Thinking about it now, that's probably it, I don't see the quick pace anymore, it just felt all a bit slower than usual.

Ironically, that sounds precisely like the complaint I had with Manning in the past- that he didn't give his defense time to rest, and thusly the defense got ground up into hamburger a lot.

This could be a -really- interesting game then!

by Jeremiah (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 2:08am


I suggested as much, about Indy deliberately slowing their offense, in some recent thread here, and it seemed like the theory was pretty much dismissed out of hand. Of course, I didn't state it as well as you have. I'm at least glad that I'm not alone in my opinion. :)

by Harris (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 2:21am

Manning kills the guilty and wounds the innocent. Brady is Czarnian for "He who eats your entrails and thoroughly enjoys it."

Manning will make a rich woman beg. Brady can make a good woman steal. Manning will make an old woman blush. Brady can make a young girl squeal.

by Harris (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 2:21am

Sorry. Wrong thread.

by Digit (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 2:27am

Apparently Matt Hasslebeck hid broken fingers for 8 games.

Click name for linkage.

by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 2:50am

Gates not getting OOB on the last drive also wasted about 20 seconds.

In Gates's defense, there was a Patriot on his outside (I don't recall who) who would have tackled him had he tried to run OOB. Rivers really should have thrown to someone else, if possible.

by hwc (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 3:03am

If they seek out the big chalk lightning bolt to do it, that’s simply a different story.

Just to be clear, that is NOT what happened here. This was not a case of T.O. jogging from the endzone to the midfield logo and doing a dance.

At the end of the game, the Patriots bench emptied onto the field and you had a mass of Pats and Chargers players milling around all over the field...shaking hands, holding their heads in disbelief, celebrating. The usual. Basically, the usual mayhem following a big playoff game.

As Tomlinson was shaking hands with some Pats player, he saw a couple of Pats players doing the Steroidman Lights Out dance. They were just part of the milling crowd on the field. The taunting that had gone on all game long may still have been ongoing because Vrable made a "choking sign", presumably to one of the Chargers players.

I see the whole thing as just a variation on the same old sore loser scenario the Pats saw from the Raiders and Steelers in 2001. It's pretty typical when a favorite gets beat.

The amazing thing to me is why opponents keep giving the Pats "no respect" bulletin board material in the week leading up to a playoff game. You'd think they'd figure out that the Pats use it for motivation. How stupid is Steroidman for saying "I'm going to punch Brady in the mouth" and leading a "Brady Sux" cheer three days before Sunday's game?

by hwc (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 3:54am

i’d also have liked the chargers to try one more quick outside pass before the fg.

On his weekly radio interview show, Belichick gets to ask the talking heads a strategy question arising from the previous day's game -- a coaching decision.

Today's first question was whether or not the Chargers should have tried to throw a quick out to pick up a few yards before the final field goal attempt. BTW, Belichick did say that the kick was within range; that the Chargers' kicker was making them from 60 yards in that direction in pregame warmups. He said that the kicker must not have gotten all the ball on the kick, because he definitely had the leg with a good kick.

Belichick's second question today was whether he should have kicked off deep (risking a return) or pooch kicked (giving the Chargers a short field) on the final kickoff after taking the lead. Belichick said that it was very close call and that he kicked long and risked the return yardage figuring the clock was his best friend on a long field. But, he pointed out that Dungy got burned badly kicking deep against the Pats a couple years ago when Bethel Johnson returned it for a TD with seconds remaining in the first half.

Belichick also said that Marty's decision to not kick a field goal on 4th and 15 was a very tough decision. He said that kick was at the extreme limit of the kicker's range in that direction (againt the wind) -- not just for distance but because as a kick dies into a headwind it's very tough to keep it on line. Think about hitting a fade on the golf course into a wind. A little fade can get ugly real fast when the wind catches it.

by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 4:31am

Re: 317

Belichick did say that the kick was within range; that the Chargers’ kicker was making them from 60 yards in that direction in pregame warmups. He said that the kicker must not have gotten all the ball on the kick, because he definitely had the leg with a good kick.

Kaeding himself told Schottenheimer (scroll to the second section) that his range was about 53 yards on that side of the field, so I think Belichick was exaggerating a bit.

If what Kaeding said was accurate, I can't understand why the Chargers didn't try to pick up a few extra yards on an out pattern. I argued differently during the game, but Kaeding had the wind, had hit a 54-yarder during the year in Baltimore, and made a couple 55-yarders at Iowa (both on grass), so I figured he had the leg for it.

by Insancipitory (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 5:04am

The crazy Seahawks superbowl curse stat is they are the first NFC team to lose a superbowl and win a playoff game the following year since 1979. Given winning playoff games is hard, and getting to the superbowl happens exactly 2 times a year, and getting harder with 32 teams now, this isn't a particularly interesting statistic. If anything it highlights how hard winning is in the NFL and or how short human lives are.

That said the Saints are a crazy debris filled hurricane of offense. They seem to match up very well with the Bears defense. Their O-line is undeniably in a far more stable situation than the Seahawks.

Even if Thomas smells vaguely of toast, they seem like they've got a pretty good chance of luring Bad Rex out into the light of day. With Duece and Reggie and the way Payton's been calling games, those plays to Alexander that went for 10 yards may well still be there, and those follow-ups that were stuffed could easily become far more damaging, discipline testing plays versus the Saints.

by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 5:19am

The crazy Seahawks superbowl curse stat is they are the first NFC team to lose a superbowl and win a playoff game the following year since 1979.

1977, actually (the Vikings) - the 1979 Cowboys lost to the Rams in the Divisional round. Counting the 1979 Cowboys, the last 11 NFC Super Bowl losers before the Seahawks either missed the playoffs or lost their first playoff game the next year.

by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 5:20am

Actually, that should be the next 10 NFC Super Bowl losers.

by Richard (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 5:36am

275: I believe you're thinking of Olivea, not McNeill.


"Incidentally, this:

Wins by 14+ point are the only truly convincing wins, because too many one-score games are decided by one random play or bad ref call or one bad decision.

is mostly true. I’d say 9+ point wins rather than 14+ point wins. 9 points is a two-score margin. 14 points is a two-TD margin, but in a win by 9 points, you can’t just delete one play, leave the rest of the game as it is, and change the result of the game (*delete*, which means if you’ve got an INT return for a TD, the INT never happens, but the team’s drive mysteriously stops).

And it’s very true that if you look at divisional rematches, for scores decided by less than 9 points, there’s no correlation between the point differential in the two games, whereas for 9+ point wins, there is.

:: Pat — 1/3/2007 @ 1:34 pm"

by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 6:07am

kinda unrelated, but why is there no noise about donnie edwards going to the pats in the offseason?

by Charger_Fan_In_Reclusion (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 6:21am

323: When did Donnie Edwards go to the pats? I think replacement level player wouldn't be too much of a drop while being cheaper and younger. Actually, AJSmith has a capable replacement in mind. See, Tim Dobbins.

by Jeff W (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 6:37am

Firing Schottenheimer would be asinine.

by Richard (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 6:37am

324: I seem to recall the plan being for Wilhelm to take over, but I could be mistaken.

by Richard (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 6:44am

325: The Chargers are in the middle of trying to get a new stadium built. San Diego fans are less than pleased with zero playoff wins the the last three years despite having very good teams. They might have to make a move to appease the fan base. Perhaps they can get away with only canning Cameron or something, but many fans want Marty's head.

by Podpeople (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 7:20am

There is no way The Eagles are going to leat Considine go, considering how well he has been playing and the fact that michael lewis is toast.

by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 8:20am

324: sorry, didn't mean to make it seem like edwards had already signed with the pats, rather throwing the idea out there. seems like a perfect fit, 3-4 defense, pats need to replenish their LB corps. have read in a few places that thomas from baltimore would be a good signing, but he's going to get mega bucks thrown at him by someone, whilst edwards seems like the perfect pats player

by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 9:10am

i'll admit that i didn't see the pats chargers game, but from what i've read, it's seems that marty was determined to be anti martyball in this match. going for it on 4-11. having rivers throw more than LDT run. it seems like he was saying "fuck y'all, i'm going for it!"

for mine, sack marty, promote cam cameron, and install the wildcat offense. LDT can pass when needed as he's shown, turner and neal can run it, and with gates there, it'd be awesome to see

by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 10:33am

The Pats could've had Edwards for a song this past offseason, before they signed Seau. I was shocked then that he wasn't signed. I've come to the conclusion that Belichick doesn't think he'd be as good a fit as I do.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 11:17am

re 321:
Lovie stated after the game that they wanted to call the timeout and force a punt but they did it too late. He admitted to making the mistake.

Re 238:
Ron Rivera was a coach under Jim Johnson, hopefully he paid attention.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 11:22am

Tim #274:

Even worse than not going for it on 4th down, they got the ball with 3:18 left and down three points, and only managed to run THREE plays before the two-minute warning.

They were attempting to run their "4-Minute Offense". This is the offense where you march slowly down the field in the last few minutes of the game to drain the clock and leave no time for your opponent to come back. They used this at the end of the Giants game to drain the clock before they kicked the game-winner. Unfortunately for them, their only forward progress against the Saints came on the penalty-negated 4th down conversion.

by Digit (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 11:24am


Actually, I remember the discussions, and the thought was that they were going to wait to see if Edwards showed up on waivers- which he didn't.

As I recall it, AJ Smith was asking for a second or third rounder for him in trade - and he was entering his last year of a deal he signed.

I'd hardly consider a second/third rounder for a guy in his last year 'a song'.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 11:25am

It only matters if you win #235:

You must live in that other world where everything is fair and no one wants the upper hand.

No, I live in a world where I'd like to see teams compete by the rules, rather than one team following the rules, and the other attempting to bend and break them until caught. I'm sorry that fair competition is such a foreign concept to you. If pro-football was supposed to be an "anything goes" type of competition, there wouldn't be a rulebook. The upper-hand should come from superior conditioning, skill, and planning, not from cheating.

by Digit (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 11:28am

To further add on to the details, Donnie Edwards was on the trading block in the first place because he wanted a raise.

Talentwise, I think you're correct, he'd be a decent fit.

But costwise? Not a chance, not with the combination of the monetary demands -and- the draft demand, at that time.

Maybe things change with Donnie as a free agent this year, but if he still wants the raise, he's probably not going to get it with the Patriots.

Scratch that. Definitely not going to get it.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 12:21pm


"The Patriots are also the only team I’ve ever seen kick the football back with their feet while the Refs aren’t looking to make the spot for their opponents worse. They did that on national TV this year on a Sunday night game, if I remember correctly."

I dont think I've ever seen a professional football game where that hasnt been done.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 12:28pm

Sure, AJ was publicly asking for a #2. I think a #4 would have certainly gotten it done. Even a #3 I would classify as a song for a player of Edwards' calibre. He'd be well worth it just for his coverage abilities.

The financial commitment, I'm not sure about, but given the Patriots' cap situation, I would have traded for him to play for the season, and see if the winning atmosphere, Belichick, or Rodney could convince him to re-sign for a slight discount.

I don't remember the issue in SD as Edwards wanting a raise. I remember it as management deciding that Edwards wasn't worth his salary for his projected role on the team, and that by trading him they could make room for some of their younger players and get a future asset for a guy they weren't going to re-sign. I make no guarantees about my memory's accuracy. Maybe a Charger fan would remember better.

by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 12:29pm

Thanks to Gerry Callahan I woke up feeling dirty as a Pats fan this morning. Nothing unusual in that. The Boston Herald’s primo “sports� writer has a way of making me feel dirty about being Irish, white, a New Englander, American because Gerry represents the bad, bully side of all of that and unfortunately no one at his newspaper or radio show has the sense of decency or courage to call him on it whenever he goes over the line, like he did this morning when he wrote:

"poor Peyton is going to end up like Saddam’s half-brother - his head a few yards away from his body."

I can only say that if a Patriot player did or said something really egregious like that, this thread would have been worth every word of condemnation that was otherwise wasted on whether or not the Pats disrespected Shawne Merriman’s dance.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 12:36pm

Aaron, I would love to talk about Saints.

Yes, everyone wants to talk about how the Drew, Deuce, and Reggie will match up against the Chicago's defense, but what about the Saints' defense vs. Chicago?

I think that if any QB has the potential to make Fred Thomas look good, it is Grossman--if Rex Malus shows up. But I'm more concerned about the Saints' run defense. It seems that the problem is with runs to the perimeter, in part because the CBs are often in man coverage, but also because, in particular, Shanle and Simoneau aren't the fasted guys at LB. But how much does Chicago run to the edges? Because both teams are in the central time zone, I haven't watched a lot of Chicago this year. Anyone watch them enough?

If the Bears can establish the run, then I'm scared.

Now, on special teams, I want to see Steve Gleason light Hester the eff up. I would really take pleasure in that.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 12:37pm

#322: Thanks for the mention. I'm kinda proud of that post, as it's been mentioned several times. It's interesting to note how many people don't understand that. It is utterly ridiculous to consider the vast majority of 3-point wins (*) to be anything other than a tie from the point of view of "true strength of the teams". Kudos to a team for winning by three points, but if the entire game came down to whether or not a gust of wind blew at a certain point in the game, it's fair to say it's not a definitive win.

*: One of the problems with saying that, though, is that "not all close wins are equal" - the Eagles win over the Redskins ended as a 2-point win, but it wasn't that close - Philly chose to run down the clock rather than attempting to score on the final drive. Ditto with the Saints win over the Eagles (their first win was actually closer). So in some sense you have to be a little careful.

That's one thing I wish VOA/DVOA took into account - the amount of clock used on each play near the end of the game. At some point in a game, shorter gains (that are still successes) become more valuable than longer gains, because you use more clock to gain the same yardage.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 12:39pm


“The Patriots are also the only team I’ve ever seen kick the football back with their feet while the Refs aren’t looking to make the spot for their opponents worse. They did that on national TV this year on a Sunday night game, if I remember correctly.�

I dont think I’ve ever seen a professional football game where that hasnt been

Not only every game, but every play of every game where a player is tackled in bounds. This is probably the most ludicrous assertation in the most ludicrous thread of the season. Hell, Florence threw one football backwards after a first-half reception that I thought for sure there'd be a delay of game call.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 12:43pm

#340: Sophandros, I really hate to say it, but Bad Rex only shows up when corners are anywhere near the receivers, and I think Fred's way past that point.

But! The Saints do have a very good pass rush, and if Payton's smart (which he is), the Saints might be able to paper over any problems they have in the secondary. But that won't make Thomas look good - but it will make the Saints pass rush look good.

I'm betting on Grossman having a multi-TD, multi-fumble day versus the Saints.

I'm really hoping the Saints beat the Bears, though, because if New England beats the Colts, and the Bears beat the Saints, New England will devour Grossman.

by joel in providence (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 12:54pm

very well put. listening to callahan always leaves me feeling dirty. he really preys on people's worst instincts. it's just very cynical.... and not the good kind of cynical.

by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:08pm

Re 341:


I've often wondered why it doesn't (DVOA take into account time taken by a play, etc). I don't see that it would be so hard, at least not compared to some of the crazy things that people suggest. All you would have to do is include the amount of time that a play takes off the clock in the "success measure" of a play when time is a factor. E.g. a running play that goes 3 yards but stays in bounds when a team is trying to kill clock is more successful than one that gains 4 but goes out of bounds.

There are a few knobs you would have to tweak--i.e. what compromises a "clock killing" or "clock perserving situation", and how many seconds are equivalent to what percentage of yardage (i.e. how much time does a play have to kill to be a success if it gets only 35% of the needed yardage on 1st down instead of 40%), but I wouldn't think tuning those knobs to see if you could improve the predictive power of DVOA would be any more difficult than tuning any of the other knobs that Aaron has already done.

Oh, and I agree that Gerry Callahan disgusts me. Always has. But then again, so does the Boston Herald, in general.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:26pm

#345: It's harder than you think it is, I think - on any clock-killing drive, the most important thing is that the drive continue. A new set of downs can always burn more clock than any single play.

So then the question becomes "which plays are really bad for a clock-killing drive, but which would be considered good for a normal drive?" - and there, really, the only ones are a run/pass out of bounds, and maybe a long touchdown, or a long pass. And I don't think there are many of those ever in games - coaches aren't that stupid. So it'd be hard to determine what's good and what's bad, because no one does the 'what's bad' part.

The one thing I can imagine, though, is attempting to distinguish between quarterbacks who use all of the play clock on plays, and ones who leave a few seconds on the clock. But I don't know if you could see that in the play-by-play.

by Bob Byrne (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:26pm

I guess I don't get it, so maybe someone can explain this to me. Why is it classless for a player to celebrate after winning a game but ok for a player to celebrate after making a play during a game? Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me that you can't have it both ways. Celebrations show up your opponent, no matter whether they're done at midfield after the game or while standing next to a quarterback after a sack. Where is the line drawn? Sack dance? Fine. Imitate sack dance? Classless. Sorry, I don't get.

by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:27pm

One Boston former sportwriter's take on the whole post-game dancing thing.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:40pm


I completely agree. Merriman's dance is a celebration, but its also a shot in the face of the entire O line, the quarterback, and any runningback/TE who was supposed to chip block.

Plus, he did his lightsout dance on a play where he hit brady just after the throw, which was complete for about 20 yards and a firstdown. That tells me that its not about him celebrating, because he failed on that play, its about him getting seen.

Seriously, if you dont want people celebrating at your expense after a game, then win. The chargers have been talking sh*t the last 2 weeks, and they were really offensive after the last win (look up some of the drayton florense quotes). Frankly, they deserved worse than Asante Samuel doing the Lights out dance.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:47pm

Re 349:
Why do you assume that everyone that thinks what the Pats did was wrong, thinks that what Merriman does is ok? I think they're both idiotic. I hate the jumpshot too. Haaaaaaaate.

by Dave (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:49pm

338: no, the Saints reportedly offered a #4 for Edwards and were rejected. The problem has never been Edwards' skills; the problem has been his agitation for a contract extension. AJ Smith decides who gets a contract extension.

I am a little concerned about Edwards leaving the Chargers. I mentioned this in another thread, but one of the criticisms of Edwards is that he's a safety valve who doesn't make a lot of plays around the line of scrimmage. That's true, but he's also a very good tackler, extremely durable, and plays the pass like a ballhawk safety. I hope Wilhelm can bring the same elements to the Chargers defense because I think a guy like this is doubly important in a scheme where the OLBs are always as far upfield as Merriman and Phillips are.

347: you're right, Bob, you don't get it.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:49pm

I don't care about celebrations. If you don't want someone to celebrate, don't let them score/get a sack/win. Simple.

IF they do that and you don't like their celebration, then you let them know in a physical manner--within the rules (or when the official can't see) of course.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:54pm

Pat, I definitely agree that a three point game is essentially an even match, but gosh, I think I would say the same about a fair number of games with a 10 point margin of victory, depending on on how that margin was arrived at. I guess my point is that many people don't appreciate how close most games are.

Regarding potential Super Bowl matchups, I guess I'd rank their entertainment potential as follows:

1) Saints/Colts
2)(tie)Bears/Colts or Saints/Pats

It just would be fun to have two teams which either have never played in the game, or haven't played in it in their current city. The number 2 preferences would be very interesting (I think the Bears especially are fortunate to have the Ravens' defense out of the tournament), but I think you are correct that the Pats' defense would have Grossman as an appetizer.

by Casual Observer (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 1:56pm

Where was the Pats fan outrage when Junior Seau would do his "over the top-Tiger Woods fist pump" for every, freakin tackle the guy made?

by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 2:03pm

Rich Conley and dryheat:

Not only every game, but every play of every game where a player is tackled in bounds. This is probably the most ludicrous assertation in the most ludicrous thread of the season. Hell, Florence threw one football backwards after a first-half reception that I thought for sure there’d be a delay of game call.

Not even close to being the same. I'm talking about kicking a ball back after it has been spotted, the refs have moved into position, and the two teams are huddling. Somehow, I am not surprised that Patriots fans like you two would defend this as something every team in the NFL does in every single game (so therefore, the implication goes that you are trying to make, it is okay that the Patriots get caught doing it on National TV). Sorry, but I don't see that behavior happening in every game at all.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 2:07pm


Again, I have seen teams do that in every single goddamn game of proffessional football I have ever seen. I'm not saying its right, but your utter refusal to accept that its not just the Patriots doing it casts light on the fact that you are nothing but a sad, silly, Patriots Hater.

Stop being so goddamn jealous of a team that does well.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 2:11pm

Andrew, I've been reading accounts of guys attempting to surreptitiously move spotted balls for decades. Butkus would try it about 15 times a game. It is quite common.

Geez, when did the NFL turn into this tiresome morality play? I dislike all the celebration nonsense, but I recognize it really is just a trivial football game, which is one of the reasons I'm such a fan; it is an intellectually fascinating contest in which no great agonizing moral elements need be pondered. The only thing that really produces a sense of outrage for me in a football game is a deliberate attempt to injure outside the rules.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 2:20pm


Geez, when did the NFL turn into this tiresome morality play?

I blame the self-righteous pricks in the media.

by TracingError (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 2:31pm

181 said "I assure no DB or LB in the NFL is chanting ‘knock it down’ to himself on 4th down, with the exception of Hail Marys.
That goes double for playoff games."

That is an idiotic and selfish attitude. That goes double in playoff games where a mistake costs you [in this case] the Super Bowl. And I'm sure that at least some players do remind themselves of the proper strategy and I'd bet that Patriots players do.

by Jeremy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 2:33pm

359 -- I feel like I can remember Patriots players intercepting the ball (and even running it out of the end zone) unnecessarily, but I could be remembering wrong.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 2:35pm


THere was one this season where harrison picked one off in the endzone and ran it out ot the 10, and then promptly said he should have just sat on it in the press conference after the game. I can't remember any 4th down picks though..most of thier late game picks have been on first down.

by B (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 2:35pm

358: Ahhh, yet another thing I can blame on Joe Buck.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 2:41pm

Well, as someone who was stupid enough to sit down and read all 350+ posts in one sitting (*punches self in face*), I'd just like to echo everything MT said in his closing comments on the Eagles' season.

After last year's debacle, and then McNabb going down again this year, I went into this game with the mind-set that that game was just icing on the cake. That's an attitude I haven't had going into any game since they lost to St. Louis in the NFC championship game 5 years ago. And I have to say, I really wish I could just enjoy watching the Eagles that much every week.

Going into the season, if someone had told me that losing McNabb for the year halfway through the season would only be the 3rd most important injury, I would have laughed in your face. If Shawn Andrews doesn't get injured at halftime and has to be replaced by some guy (who's name I didn't even recognize) didn't jumped on a silent count, that game ends differently. And if Rod Hood doesn't get injured before halftime in Week 2, Philly easily beats the Giants and Philly has a shot at the #2 seed going into week 17 and possibly don't have to worry about the crowd noise at all.

But like I said, this is the best I've felt after a loss (especially a playoff loss) possibly in my entire life.


by MDZ (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 2:42pm

Thomas Jones may have made the biggest play to help the Bears win (it was either late in the 4th or early in OT) when he knocked a deflected pass out of a Seattle DL's hands (Bernard I think). That would have given the Seahawks the ball around the Bears 40 I think, and if not for that play the NFC championship might have been in NO this week.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 2:45pm

#353: Yah, but I can prove the average 10-point win is predictive. I can't prove the average 3-point win is predictive (in fact, I can prove it isn't). There are certainly multi-score wins which aren't predictive, too, but the average multi-score win is.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 3:00pm

#360 Ty Law ran back an INT 90-something yards for a meaningless touchdown against Tennessee a few seasons ago. If Ty intercepted the ball and either downed it or ran out of bounds, the Patriots could have won by virtue on kneeling. Instead, the Patriots had to kick off to Tennessee, bringing the possibility of Return TD and Onside kick into play.

Most Patriot fans thought it was a great play. I thought it was idiotic and selfish (I didn't even mention any potential injuries on the play). But Ty Law is nothing if not selfish and stat hungry.

by Charles (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 3:02pm

Are there any teams that don't celebrate like idiots after making plays? I suppose the Patriots would come close, but I can't think of any other team. In basketball there's lots of chest pounding and howling after plays, but the Spurs are the only team that seems to keep it mostly under wraps. And, surprise, there one of the underpromoted 'elite' teams on National Television.

I'm not sure why people countenance this behavior as part of the game - I find it a real deterrent to watching the NFL. Twenty years ago there was certainly trash-talking, but outside of White Shoes Johnson's wacky dance, there wasn't anything like this. I think it's mostly done as a marketing strategy to get on SportsCenter, then onward to endorsement deals. I sincerely doubt that the emotion of the game is any more now than it was two decades ago. I think claims that the celebrating 'doesn't hurt anyone" isn't correct -- we saw that Tomlinson, rightly or wrongly, was bothered by it. He should probably just tell Merriman to cut out the crap, if he feels that strongly about trading insults with other teams.

And certainly the gangsta' upbringing of most of the players doesn't help matters at all. It's probably one of the generators of the behavior in the first place.

by TracingError (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 3:08pm

246: You are totally wrong. The ball pops up frequently when you try to catch it. Think how many INTs bounced off a receiver or defenders hands.

Ironically, in this case McCree did in fact bobble the ball and if he had not tried to catch it, or had knocked it down after the bobble, it's Charger's ball.

Finally, a high number of fumbles occur within a step or two of catching the ball. It happened in the first quarter when the Chargers dodged a bullet when a pass was called incomplete instead of a catch (which it was) and fumble. You can't fumble if you just knock it down.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 3:17pm

#1000 - So's your old man.

by Hart Lee Dykes (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 3:29pm

#335 "The upper-hand should come from superior conditioning, skill, and planning, not from cheating."

Do you know that neither the Patriots nor the Colts have been called for an offensive holding call on a passing play the last 4 times these two teams have played one another?

Given the old adage that refs could call a holding penalty on every play if they wanted to, it is pretty much undeniable that both teams are "cheating", the way you have defined cheating.

Does this make you want to renoucne your Colts fandom?

Serious, man, get a grip. As a fan, the only thing you can ask of the officials is to be consistent in their application of the rules of the game. If the refs decide they are going to swallow their whistles and "let the boys play", then the team that doesn't adapt to that situation is the one that is going to lose.

by lanny (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 3:31pm

As a Patriots fan, I fully admit that the Chargers had a more talented team on Sunday and we are lucky to have won.

However, the McCree play is not simply a result of luck. If you look at this quote.

“I was trying to make a play,� he said, “and anytime I get the ball I am going to try and score. I saw there was an (offensive) lineman in front of me, and I knew if I could make him miss I was off and running.

“Before I had a chance to do that, Troy Brown stripped it. He made a great play, and I was trying to make a big play. (In) hindsight I don't regret it because I would never try and just go down on the (ground). I want to score.�

Asked why he just didn't knock the ball down, since it was fourth down and an incomplete pass would have given the Chargers possession, McCree scoffed.

“Why would I knock the ball down?� he said. “He threw it right to me.�

Later, McCree added: “I would do the same thing if I had the same opportunity. This time I would just secure the ball more securely.�

He clearly understood the situation, and was trying to score. Rather than take the safe route and just get the turnover on downs. That to me is bad preparation, and bad coaching.

by lanny (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 3:38pm

He clearly understood the situation, and was trying to score. Rather than take the safe route and just get the turnover on downs. That to me is bad preparation, and bad coaching.

Sorry, that above shouldn't have been italicized, that was my own view and not part of McCree's quote.

by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 3:43pm

TMQ comes through:

And I ask anyone to explain where the San Diego coaching staff was with the Bolts leading 21-13 and New England facing fourth-and-5 with 6:25 remaining. Marlon McCree of San Diego intercepted the ball, then committed the aforementioned fumble. On fourth down you knock down the pass! Had McCree simply slapped the ball to the ground, the Bolts would have taken possession on their 41 with the clock winding down, the league's best running back and an eight-point lead.

On fourth down it is the responsibility of the coaching staff to remind defenders not to intercept! Before a key fourth down in our middle-school flag league this fall, I screamed to my players: "Knock it down! Do not intercept!" My 11-year-old, Spenser, had a perfect bead on a pick and instead slapped the ball to the ground. After the game he said, "Dad, I really wanted the interception, but I knew you knock it down on fourth down." Why didn't San Diego's professionals know this? Why didn't the highly paid San Diego coaches remind them? Before a fourth-down snap by the opponent, coaches are supposed to scream, "FOURTH DOWN! KNOCK IT DOWN!"

by Hart Lee Dykes (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 3:44pm

Just to add to my previous post, if an umpire has a very wide strike zone where clearly he is calling balls that are 1-2 inches off the plate for strikes, but equally for both teams, is the pitcher who is able to find that wide strike zone cheating?

If that's the definition of cheating, then I hate to break it to you, but everyone cheats.

by TracingError (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 4:56pm

And King Kaufman on Salon is on board as well:
"The Chargers dropped passes, muffed punts, took incredibly inane, drive-sustaining 15-yard penalties and, finally, killingly, fumbled away an interception -- of a fourth-down pass! That's right, a pass that should have been knocked down. Dropped intentionally. Kids playing pickup games know this.

Marlon McCree didn't know it. San Diego was leading 21-13 with about six and a half minutes left and the Patriots had a 4th-and-5 at the Chargers 41. McCree, a safety, jumped a route perfectly, stepping in front of Reche Caldwell and intercepting Tom Brady's pass at about the 31.

In other words, 10 yards downfield from where the Chargers would have taken over had McCree just knocked the ball down. San Diego could then have worked on protecting its lead, running down the clock and possibly scoring the clinching points by handing off to LaDainian Tomlinson, who is, not to put too fine a point on it, the best player in the league. "

Now why did it take til Tuesday before any national football commentator mentioned this simple fact? Or can anyone cite commentary from yesterday?

by chris clark (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 4:57pm

:365 I think the "large win margin" is an interesting effect, and have even suggested using it to help improve another site's ranking system (beatwins). It is quite interesting to me (and perhaps only me), that in general only large score swings are predictive and yet at the same time we have DVOA that analyze the minutae of the game and compress them down to a single number (or 3 numbers, if you like your OFF/DEF/ST separate) and that gets further compounded into a ranking by some readers. Now, I understand (at some level) the underlying stats and why such details can actually be revealing when aggregated in sufficient quantities. Plus, I know that Aaron &co go out of their way to point out that DVOA isn't a good predictor of simgle game performance, especially not when the numbers are close. Still, I find the situation interesting and amusing and blame much of it on "parity", where it is hard to build and keep an above average team (much less a dominant dynasty team). I think one result of parity is some of the Jekyl/Hyde teams this year, who have both stomped and gotten stomped. For those teams, it is not clear even if large victory margins are indicative.

BTW, as a 2 score margin, that would be any game decided by as few as 9 pts, as there is no 1 score that will get you 9 pts, it takes 2 scoring "drives". I wouldn't be surprised if even an 8 pt game were predictive, as it's going to be a rare team that wins by scoring a TD + 2 pt conversion over the opposition. At the same time, I wonder how many more games one includes if one trims the "decisive" games to an 8 pt victory. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there aren't enough 8 or 9 pt wins, to determine whether including or excluding them makes a difference.

Following this line of thought further, I think the opponents score also is a factor here. An 8-0 victory is probably more decisive than a 30-20 victory, even though the pt differential is larger.

And, yes, Pat, I am arguing the opposite side of the issue, that I was arguing in the thread on Polian's S--t. This is not a change of heart, just that I'm trying to measure something different....

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 5:13pm

#376: What we're essentially talking about is something called a "game output function" - that is, given a game, what's the likelihood that the same game played again would result in the same outcome? For small margins, it's basically 50%, increasing to 1 as the margin grows positive, and decreasing to 0 as the margin grows negative.

You can use a 2D game output function - take a look at Massey's rating system (http://www.masseyratings.com) - he uses a 2D game output function as well. The problem is that you massively cut down your statistics for trying to determine the game output function from the actual results of the game.

by It only matters if you win (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 5:26pm

wah!!! they did the dance we do when they beat us... wah!! it's only OK for us to do that dance.. wah!!

seriously.. is this the most over blown story this seaon or what.

by chris clark (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 5:58pm

:377 Yes, the "game output function" is very close to what I want, and a GOF of .75 appears to roughly correspond to a stomp. Thanks!

BTW, I agree that just using W/L and not the underlying stats (like DVOA) lessens the value of the game output function. It would be nice to have a similar GOF given the two teams DVOA stats.

by Jerry (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 11:04pm

Re #345,346:

I've always thought that Clock VOA could be calculated by comparing time between snaps to average time between snaps in the late game situation. Exactly when to start would be when the team that's behind starts taking less time per play than the team that's ahead; I'd guess that corresponds to 10 minutes remaining, like difference in yardage does. This way, kneeldowns and spikes would have value, as well as getting out of bounds or not.

by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 11:39pm

#336: I know that in the past that the Pats have been loathe to spend money on FA's, the last big splash being when they signed colvin a couple of season's back. I think that edwards price tag will be determined to a certain extent by what both briggs and thomas sign for. He just seems a great fit for NE in my mind.

I'm not surprised that NE didn't trade for him when they had the chance, as it could have been a one year rental. NE didn't seem to be willing to spend money on their own this past season - branch - so trading for AND then giving a raise to a guy would have gone against that policy.

on another note, i hope that they package they try to trade up in round 1 to get calvin johnson(?)

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 12:07am

"NE didn’t seem to be willing to spend money on their own this past season - branch -"

New England tried to resign branch last year, and the year before. He didnt want to come back.

The Patriots spend plenty of cash on free agents, they just dont make huge stupid purchases like some other teams do.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 1:41am

Nobody's mentioned it yet (as far as I've read), but it bears noting: Patriot players have always mocked opposing players or teams, when those other players had previously mocked the Patriots.

Two recent examples: waving towels at the Pittsburgh crowd after the 2004 season AFC Championship, and mimicking the T.O. bird-flap after each passing touchdown in Superbowl 39. This came after the Steelers (notably Joey Porter) had been leading Terrible Towel twirls, and Owens had been flapping to the crowd ater his first long catch.

As a group, it's what they do. Tit for tat. Show them respect during the game? No problem, win or lose. Talk smack in the press for weeks, then flap and jaw after every semi-competent play you make? Don't be surprised to get it back in your face if you lose.

If you want respect, show respect.

by Jerry (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 6:45am

Nobody’s mentioned it yet (as far as I’ve read), but it bears noting: Patriot players have always mocked opposing players or teams, when those other players had previously mocked the Patriots.

Two recent examples: waving towels at the Pittsburgh crowd after the 2004 season AFC Championship, and mimicking the T.O. bird-flap after each passing touchdown in Superbowl 39. This came after the Steelers (notably Joey Porter) had been leading Terrible Towel twirls, and Owens had been flapping to the crowd ater his first long catch.

Wait a minute. Players encouraging the home crowd to cheer, including Steelers coming out and twirling Terrible Towels, aren't taunting their opponents. Owens' arm-flapping wasn't meant to taunt the other team. Patriots (or Hines Ward, although I still laugh at his pulling out the Ickey Shuffle) doing Owens' dance are doing it to taunt their opponents. The difference is clear. "If you want respect, show respect."

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 8:21am

I hate to make long posts (don't laugh), so I left out the part where Porter was routinely jawing after plays (notably calling Corey Dillon a "motherf****er" after a stop). Fans at Heinz Field also threw their Terrible Towels at Dillon after he scored in that game, so the Steeler fans are probably the wrong source for lessons on class, too.

I also left out where Owens was bellowing how none of the Patriots could cover him and how he would "beat up" #21 (Randall Gay). Owens got his catches, but broke exactly one (1) tackle by Gay, and his longest gain came when Gay was beaten up for him by Freddie Mitchell on a pick. Still jawing and flapping after that play, though.

(Both from my memory, as I long ago wiped the "NFL Game of the Week" shows in question that had the audio, from my DVR.)

The "encouraging the home crowd to cheer" argument doesn't exactly fly, either, because that logically permits the visiting team to discourage the home crowd. Maybe by waving a mockery of their signature towel or by mocking their hometown trash-talker's signature arm-flap or sack-dance.

by dsom (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 10:13am

re: 1 - 385
Pats played well enough to let Football Gods of Justice make their statement at the end of the game. I've been thinking why Pats won... Because Merriman is obnoxious to them (the Gods).

by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 11:26am

Starshatterer #383/385:

Patriot players have always mocked opposing players or teams, when those other players had previously mocked the Patriots.

waving towels at the Pittsburgh crowd after the 2004 season AFC Championship, ... This came after the Steelers (notably Joey Porter) had been leading Terrible Towel twirls

So mocking the crowd in Pittsburgh (who are some of the people who provide the Patriots their source of income by buying game tickets, NFL merchandise, and watching NFL games on TV) now becomes mocking the other team? I think it is just classless taunting. Thanks for reminding us of other examples of the Patriots lack of control concerning on-field behavior, and their general boorishness.

As you note, the Steelers waved towels to their crowd to get the crowd pumped up and into the game (i.e., it had nothing more to do with the Patriots than shouting "Go Steelers" does). The Patriots did it to mock the crowd and possibly the home team. That seems really different to me.

The “encouraging the home crowd to cheer� argument doesn’t exactly fly, either, because that logically permits the visiting team to discourage the home crowd. Maybe by waving a mockery of their signature towel or by mocking their hometown trash-talker’s signature arm-flap or sack-dance.

Except you know perfectly well that isn't what they did. It wasn't an in game thing (except mocking TO). It is after-game boorishness. There is no point to discouraging the crowd at that point because the game is over. Its just bad sportsmanship and taunting and generally acting like a bunch of childish jerks. In fact, by only doing it after games, they do their mocking and taunting which leaves their opponents no way to respond on the field, but only verbally, as LT did in his frustration.

by Digit (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 12:29pm


So what about all the pre-game trashtalking?

Does all the Joey Porter/Shawn Merriman woofing and taunting mean -nothing- pre-game?

The Patriots didn't say anything until after the end of the game.

They had the last word. That's what really galls people, I'd say.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 1:01pm

I'm really beginning to think Andrew is Ron Borges.

Andrew, Dreyton Florence, after the last pats/chargers games, called the pats a bunch of "chump ass m*therf*ckers". Shawne Merriman spent the last 2 weeks talking about how he was going to, and I quote, "punch tom brady in the mouth" during the game. The chargers had a victory parade before the game.

I'm sorry, but the chargers got way less than they deserved in form of taunting.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 1:03pm

Andrew (#387 )--

Boorishness is in the eye of the beholder. I'll hardly be breaking new ground to point out that you've been harping on what an bunch of awful meanies the Patriots are since at least "Open Super Bowl XXXIX Discussion III." So I think Patriot fans can probably take your opinion with more than a few grains of salt, to offset the sour grapes going into that whine.

Except you know perfectly well that isn’t what they did.
In the specific examples I cite:

1. Deion Branch (among others) was waving the towel during the fourth quarter, when the Steelers were attempting an improbable (and unltimately unsuccessful) comeback, and the Steeler faithful supported their team by leaving in large numbers.
2. David Givens mocked the Eagle-flap after the Patriots' first touchdown; Mike Vrabel did after their second. I forget -- did that game end with a 14-7 Patriot win?

I have no problem with players taunting a crowd that taunts them. San Diego players mocked Patriot fans in the tunnel after last season's beat-down. Based on what I know of New England fans, the Chargers were simply returning a lot of smack the fans had given them. Marvin Harrison drew an ultimately meaningless taunting penalty retuning some smack the Patriots players gave during one of the Colts' recent wins in Foxborough.

When fans try to mock and intimidate visiting players as some kind of "twelfth man" (or whatever term isn't trademarked), then they open themselves to back-talk. "Paying the players' salaries" is a pretty weak justification. The same goes for the fans as the players: Don't want smack talk? Don't talk smack.

Or you could, you know, win. That usually shuts the taunters up.* The Patriots didn't mock the Broncos too much last year, did they?

* Unless you're one of the twelve "better teams" the Brady-Belichick Patriots have beaten in the playoffs (or one of their fans) -- they, of course, continue the whine and babble for years afterward.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 2:19pm

Rich Conley:

I don't particularly care for a number of the Chargers players, what with their off the field problems, so its not like I feel sorry for them. I am generally against trash talk in the media. I was appalled that we Eagles fans had to sit through two weeks of Freddie Mitchell's lip flapping before the Super Bowl two years ago without the coaches doing anything. That was very much not normal Eagles team behavior.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 2:29pm


I have no problem with players taunting a crowd that taunts them.

If all it was was players yelling as they run off the field and up the tunnel, I don't think anyone would mind. If you are going to dish it out as a fan at the tunnel, you've got to suck up and take it back.

Mocking from the bench during the game is quite different in my mind. So is standing in the field and generally mocking the whole fanbase. Mocking your competitors after they lose is beyond the pale in terms of poor sportsmanship. What's wrong with: "Good game. Glad we came out of it without getting hurt. Better luck next year. Enjoy your time off from the game." Didn't you learn to say that when you were 7 years old after a game? What's changed?

by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 2:40pm


I think Patriot fans can probably take your opinion with more than a few grains of salt

Some of the Patriots fans here have busied themselves defending cheating by their players, playing cheap, breaking the rules, and taunting. Why would I really care what they think? I doubt many people do if there attitude is "whatever we don't get caught with, its all fine with me".

When Freddie Mitchell was allowed to make himself into a spokesman for the Eagles, I was ashamed as an Eagles fan that he was allowed to get away with it at all. You guys are proud of what the dolts on your team does, and I certainly don't here boo from the head coach saying they shouldn't do that and we don't need that behavior. Not even a little snippet like what Andy Reid said after Trent Cole high-stepped his way into the endzone in the Meadowlands, "Trent made a great play on the ball. But as to the high-stepping we don't need any of that here." Is it so tought for Belichick to say something like that to address the situation. "Hey, the guys were really excited to win the game as underdogs. But we didn't need any of that behavior towards the team we defeated."

Don't you want your team to be better and classier than other teams? Let Shawne-Roids Merriman talk, and let you play. The Patriots get it right almost entirely with team discipline and character guys who don't get into legal troubles and illegal substance troubles (I can't say I've ever heard of them signing a turd, or having guys who get into trouble). So why does the team let up in the area of sportsmanship?

by barraquda (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 3:12pm


Mocking your competitors after they lose is beyond the pale in terms of poor sportsmanship.

In addition to the example you cite, #69 (who is also on your side on the issue) pointed out an instance where the Eagles danced on the Falcons' beak at the center of the field. Last year, the Steelers managed to celebrate pretty vociferously, if I recall, and talk some serious smack when they beat Cincinnati (at least in part) by knocking their starting quarterback out of the game. As discussed above, Charger players mocked the Pats extensively in the media after they won a regular season game. It happens.

But, I don't hear you blaming Reid or Cowher or Schottenheimer, or saying the Eagles and Steelers lack class. Why is that, I wonder (particularly since Cowher had Joey Porter on his team, who won't shut up even after a win, and even got freaking ejected for pre-game taunting). Some consistency would be nice.

Incidentally, I was flipping by "The Best Damn Sports Show" (don't judge), and they asked Michael Strahan what he thought about the LdT comments. He said that Devin Hester and the Bears totally mocked the Giants' basketball shot after one of Hester's scores and continued to do so throughout the game, and he just ignored it, because home teams who dish it out should expect to take it when they lose (and, having Shockey on his team, he should know). The hosts seemed surprised at the extent to which Strahan just seemed to blow the whole thing off; he then said the real reason LdT is probably mad is that they lost the game.

by ExLtfan (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 3:30pm

Re: LDT. I think it is time for all of us to consider that maybe LDT is not "classy" and we now are seeing the real LDT especially in light of the fact that he is persisting with his comments even after he's had a few days to calm down. A real classy person would have stopped even if he felt he was right.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 3:30pm

Andrew (#393 )--

I have said that I'm okay with returning smack talk, when smack talk is given. I cited examples of San Diego and Indianapolis players specifically returning smack talk to Patriot fans and players (respectively), and said I'm okay with that.

If Ellis Hobbs wants to yap at Marvin Harrison (which he did), he'd better damn well cover him. Which he didn't. And if he doesn't this week, I fully expect Wayne, Harrison, and the boys to rub his face in it, in no small part because Ellis Hobbs yaps a lot.

For better or worse, showmanship has entered sporting. Which means smack-talk and counter-smack-talk in the team sports. Don't like it? Watch golf.

As far as pushing rules and gamesmanship, that's hardly the sole province or fault of the Patriots. If we could come up with a coherent definition of pass interference, cut-blocking, taunting, offensive holding, or roughing the passer, based on what the refs actually call on the field, then teams wouldn't try seeing how far they can get away with. But we can't, and the teams can't either, so they push until they get stopped.

The Patriots aren't even the most recent team to be slapped with a "point of emphasis" in rule-enforcement -- that would be the Colts, with their quick-snap offense designed to prevent defensive substitutions and to try and get cheap yards and free downfield plays. (Predictably, the enforcement went more against Colt-imitators than the Colts, because they're quite practiced in their quick-snap offense -- kind of like how the Patriots' defense still had relatively few holding/illegal contact penalties in the post-2004 playoffs, because Belichick was coaching to the rules as called, and not to some mythical ideal of sportsmanship.)

by mactbone (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 4:04pm

Re 395:
That's an interesting definition of classy. I didn't know integrity and honesty weren't aspects to be coveted in a classy individual. We should all sway in the wind to maintain our class.

by ExLtfan (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 4:12pm

Re: 397. Interesting? Maybe more like intelligent or perhaps practical.

by Purds (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 4:46pm


You're not serious here, are you? Can't be. This is the play that Brady has been doing the entire season in imitation of the Colts. So, if TB does it, it's now classy but wasn't when the Colts did it?

Let's face it -- winning teams have the right to set a tone. They get the last word. I'd much prefer to live in a world of Tony Dungy's honest handshake at midfield instead of BB's wet fish and refusal to even say the name of a guy who worked under him for years; I'd rather live in a world of Marvin Harrison catching 106+ TD's and heading right back to the sideline every time, instead of dancers, celebrators, or mockers; I like rooting for a guy, Peyton Manning, who, dispite making $10M + a year keeps his helmet on after the game during post-game handshakes, instead of giving it to some lackey to take to the locker room.

I can live without winning every time my favorite team plays, as long as I can honestly say I'd like the players as friends, as people on this earth that I would be proud to know.

Yes, with 53 guys on a team, there will always be the 10% rule (10% of jerks in any organization -- fire/cut them, and they'll be replaced by 10% of those left and be jerks). However, I'd rather live in a world where the bosses, the coaches, discouraged those idiots on a regular basis. BB doesn't do that; he encourages that idiocy. One only need to look at the way he treats people (see link)

(PS: And, BB is a Wesleyan guy -- give me a break. Talk about a college with a chip on its shoulder.)

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 5:57pm

Purds (#399 )--

I never said if that play (the quick-snap) was classy or not. Quite honestly, I don't care. It's an example of a team (the Colts) pushing the envelope on a rule which resulted in a point of emphasis in the off-season. Which has been enforced mostly on the Jets this season, IIRC.

People like to point out what the Patriots did (with defensive contact, or trash-talk, or whatever their hobbyhorse is this week) and point to it as a lack of class or sportsmanship or whatever, then rush to defend their favorite players' cut-blocking, or trying a trick snap after a kneel-down, or "unknowing" supplement abuse, or trash-talk. Glass houses.

I'll see your dislike of Belichick and raise you mine for Polian. Except it's pretty clear that Belichick doesn't like that part of the game (photo ops, press conferences, and the like), where Polian seeks out more opportunities to be a jerk in public.

I’d rather live in a world of Marvin Harrison catching 106+ TD’s and heading right back to the sideline every time
...except the time he spiked the ball at Ellis Hobbs and drew a 15-yard taunting penalty.

Don't get me wrong -- Hobbs is a big loudmouth and probably got under Harrison's skin. Which is why nobody said that such a taunting episode was a sad reflection on the lack of character of the Colts GM and the players he gets. So far, the eerily similar situation of the Patriots firing back at big loudmouth Shawne Merriman seems to get treated differently. Probably because fans like yourself and Andrew want to believe the Patriots are somehow worse than the rest of the league, or that (if they're the the same) that they should be held to a higher standard.

Well, they aren't, and they shouldn't be. By your rule, they're allowed 5.3 jerks. Count Belichick as two, Harrison, Hobbs, and Mankins as one each, and collect all the individual jerk moments of the rest of the team into the remaining 0.3, and for the love of God, get off your damn high horse.

by anotherpatsfan (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 7:50pm

Lots of silly here -- where to begin?

Yes, I'm a born and raised Pats fan, v very pleased with the last 6 years, although there was certainly some great good fortune in there. I understand they are disliked for their success; I had my fill of Steelers and Cowboys in the day.

Old Coach BB is a strange bird (which sometimes is manifested in being a jerk), but he can coach. Presume they have some if not quite a few a-holes on the team (every NFL team does). What works for sportsmanship when you were 7 is not really relevant and it has indeed changed, given that several of the players are perpetual adolescents who make what seems to them f-you money, and society often glorifies the a-hole. Not surprised at any lack of sportsmanship, but don't believe it justifies killing so many bytes here.

I got tired at around post 130 and just read the last few, so I may be behind the curve on LT. Always thought of him as a great player, and a guy you'd want on your team. Seing him being interviewed, with two quarter sized earrings, his little hurt voice, and his little hurt-feelings face, he looked and acted like a little girl {'daddy, those boys were mean'}. He's not, and still an incredible player, but he really should get over it. His team lost. The other team won, and some apparently didn't act like role models. What is to be done about that by LT's whining and the Pats-hater whining here isn't really clear -- not like there aren't other more important things to be concerned with. Football has for several years had a certain pro wrestling aspect with some of its players and a lot of fans, so get over it.

Unfortunately, have a hard team seeing the Pats beating the Colts without some Colt implosion (or reversion to bad defense), but you never know...

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 10:06pm

"However, I’d rather live in a world where the bosses, the coaches, discouraged those idiots on a regular basis. BB doesn’t do that; he encourages that idiocy. One only need to look at the way he treats people (see link)"

Purds, if you can find one example of Patriots mocking another team where they were not first mocked, I'll eat my hat.

Dreyton florence called them F'ing chumps. Merriman said for two weeks straight he was going to punch Brady in the face during the game. If thats classy, I apparantly dont know what classy is.

by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 11:38pm

I think that thebrushback.com should have the last word on this.

by Purds (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 4:19am


I'm not worried about the SD thing this weekend. I have no sympathy for the Merriman's and Ray Lewis's of the world. But, I do think BB could do MUCH BETTER, and that's what you quote of my words, my attack on BB's lack of character as a leader. If all one seeks is wins, then go love BB. And, be a Mike Tyson fan, an NBA fan (minus the rare Tim Duncan). It's just not my style.


As to Marvin Harrison, I would bet everything I own that he did not start the wolfing with Hobbs. I didn't see that type of reaction in any of the other 100+ TD's of his.

And, did you read the piece about the photographer BB shoved? No reaction at all to that type of boorish behavior? To his being so petty that he wouldn't say the name of Mangini?

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 7:53am

Purds --

Belichick says "Mangini" now. He appologized to the Globe photog, privately and publicly. I already count him as two jerks.

What, exactly, am I supposed to add?

by erik (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 11:38pm

#142 JohnR

"Dallas from 1992 to 1996 went 10-1. That’s more amazing than anything the Patriots have done, since it was in 4 consecutive years. I’d also call the Steelers 13-2 from 1974 to 1979 more impressive. Redskins 15-4 from 1982 to 1991 is also pretty impressive. 49ers 12-3 from 1988 to 1994 also ranks up there"
You are leaving out an important stat about those teams: The occurred largely pre-salary cap, pre-free agency, pre-32 teams. In such a watered down, parity laced league, the Patriots results are more impressive.