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04 Jan 2009

Audibles at the Line: AFC Wild Card Games

Compiled by Doug Farrar and Vince Verhei

Each weekend, 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 2009.

For the next two weeks, we'll be splitting Audibles in two, one for each conference. This article covers the two AFC Wild Card games; you can find the article on the NFC games here.

Saturday, January 3

Indianapolis Colts 17 at San Diego Chargers 23 (OT)

(Before the game...)

Will Carroll: This LaDainian Tomlinson injury thing is all PR. I'll be surprised if Mort didn't get played.

Bill Barnwell: All PR in what sense?

Will Carroll: It's not that bad. The adductor tendon isn't that "mission critical" to what he does, even if it is detached. It's certainly not going to get any worse.

(Once the game starts...)

Bill Barnwell: Kelvin Hayden looks hurt.

Will Carroll: And L.T. doesn't. If Madden starts saying what a tough guy he is, the PR worked.

Doug Farrar: Well, Mike Scifres is just fine. His fourth punt was a 67-yarder with backspin that landed on the Colts' five-yard line. The concern, of course, is that he has already punted four times with five minutes left in the first half.

I'm hoping that Ryan Clady's physical play will allow him to avoid the sophomore slump so common among recent stud rookie left tackles (Marcus McNeill and Joe Thomas seem to me to be a bit more "finesse-y"), but man -– what has happened to McNeill? He has very little power and he's really slow getting from A to B.

Aaron Schatz: Golly, Anthony Gonzalez is good. The Colts won't miss Marvin Harrison at all -- although they better make sure they get themselves another good slot receiver in case Gonzalez, Reggie Wayne, or Dallas Clark gets hurt in 2009.

Mike Tanier: Tight end-around to Clark: There's something I see once every 30 years or so.

Bill Barnwell: Colts are all up the middle except for double-moves here and there. Darrell Reid as a split back in the pro set was pretty fun.

Mike Tanier: The first half has been all about field position. Scifres and Darren Sproles have made major contributions by pinning the Colts while giving the Chargers the ball past midfield twice. Hunter Smith hasn't been nearly as good, and the Colts return game is a non-factor as always.

Ned Macey: I don't know how hurt Tomlinson is, but they're definitely playing Sproles, and he's delivering. I always wonder how many carries/touches Sproles could take in a season. He always seems to make big plays against the Colts, while the Colts have generally done a pretty good job on Tomlinson.

Doug Farrar: Nice reaction by Antonio Cromartie on the Wayne touchdown pass. "Oh, THIS guy? Cover THIS guy? You sure? Well, OK ... but if it turns out I was supposed to stand here and let him run past, I'm telling Coach it was all your fault!"

Will Carroll: Tomlinson's got a Grade II strain. He could back into this game if he would take a painkiller shot.

And Manning is an offensive terrorist. The defense can do everything right, everything right, and one little mistake and he'll just bomb them. Cromartie giving Wayne that head start is going to be a highlight we see for years if the Colts win this.

Ben Riley: Not that we needed more evidence that Norv Turner is not a good coach, but the 60-plus-yard touchdown Reggie Wayne just scored is a direct result of Chargers confusion on defense while trying to substitute. Yes, Ron Rivera is the defensive coordinator and bears direct responsibility for the mistake, but the mishap just seems so emblematic of Turner's general failure to manage his teams.

Doug Farrar: I think it's more emblematic of the Colts' ability (specifically, Peyton Manning's ability) to set the tone in timing and situation.

Vince Verhei: To be fair to Cromartie, it wasn't just him -- the safety to that side was also standing sideways, staring at the sideline, when the ball was snapped.

Mike Tanier: The problem with having all 11 defenders shifting like mad before the snap is that somebody is going to shift himself totally out of position.

Doug Farrar: Regarding Sproles, I bet he'd be pretty durable up to maybe 250 or 275 carries because the big guys don't seem to get very many clean hits on him. It seems that he's able to hide behind his linemen from the first wave, and the back six/seven can't really get a solid shot. If you add in his ability as a return man and his productivity as a pass catcher, that's a near-every-down guy.

Will Carroll: I don't know if it's possible, but if charters could note "went down to avoid hit" or "got jacked up," there's probably something to be learned there. There was a team this fall that installed small accelerometers not just on helmets but on shoulder pads, right in front, and turned them off after one day. They just flat got scared by the numbers they were seeing -- in practice!

Bill Barnwell: Dwight Freeney set up that sack by going wide all night. When he ran the spin move, McNeill was totally out of sorts. Of course, on the next play, the Chargers knew he'd succumb to his uncontrollable wanderlust and take the wide route, so they ran a draw right at him.

Vince Verhei: That's it, I'm getting a powder blue Mike Scifres jersey. Six punts, all of them downed inside the 20. Five of them netted 50 yards or more, and the other was fair caught at the Indianapolis 9. (There's an offseason story to write: Great games by punters in the playoffs.)

Aaron Schatz: Actually, I promise to include that in either Quick Reads or the DVOA ratings this week.

Ben Riley: Forget the punter, I'm ordering myself a powder blue Darren Sproles jersey. What an unbelievable performance -- truly one of the greatest individual efforts I've ever seen.

Will Carroll: The NFL overtime rule is unquestionably the stupidest rule in sports. They tweak the rules all the time, yet this abomination is still there. The NCAA can't figure out playoffs, but they've got overtime right.

Bill Barnwell: Hate NCAA OT. NFL's version of the shootout. Forget sudden death, just do 15 minutes.

Vince Verhei: NCAA's overtime is horrid. Games last forever, special teams no longer count, everyone gets silly numbers. I greatly prefer what the NFL has now to almost every alternative I hear. I'm paraphrasing Madden here, but as he noted, the Colts did have a chance -- they had a chance to play defense and special teams and get a stop. And they failed.

Russell Levine: I could not agree more with Vince on college OT. It IS the football equivalent of the shootout. If you're a team that thrives on defense, special teams, and field position, you are at an immense disadvantage. A game going to three or four OTs can last for an extra hour.

I'm not sure what the solution is for the NFL -- maybe a 10 minute, non-sudden death OT period. But they should not change the regular season OT.

Sean McCormick: Count me in as someone who despises the college overtime rules. I don't have a problem with sudden death, but I think you can make a good argument for adding an extra 15 minutes a la soccer. If the score was still tied at the end of the extra session, you could move on to sudden death.

Bill Barnwell: Yeah. And I mean, it's not as if the Colts were dominating the game and lost on a fluke. They recovered a fumble in the end zone. Peyton Manning had multiple dropped interceptions. Most of their yardage came on a trick play (albeit one DVOA won't realize is a trick play). I would guess that the Chargers will end up with a DVOA in the mid-30s and the Colts with something like -15%.

I'm going to keep a checklist of all the tired narratives spoiled by each loss this round. So far, we've got:

  • Team of youths who don't realize that they're under pressure (Atlanta)
  • Quarterback who just wins (Ryan)
  • Bruising running game that wins close games (Atlanta/Turner)
  • Team that's been there before (Indy)
  • NFL MVP (Manning)
  • The team with the most momentum wins (Indy)

Bill Moore: Praying. Praying is what caused Antonio Gates to have a good game today. Apparently the Colts failed to do enough praying.

Ned Macey: Well, he did fumble in overtime surrounded by three Colts and happened to land on the ball, so maybe prayer was his solution. (Although the official box score doesn't have the fumble scored at all).

In regulation, Colts outgained the Chargers by 84 yards and forced the game's only two turnovers, but it was still tied. This was a great example of guts vs. stomps, as these two teams are basically equal, but today the Chargers got a few more breaks. Or made their own breaks with the punting. The ball that went out at the 1-yard line is one of the great clutch punts I've ever seen.

Each punter got six punts. Scifres netted 51.7 yards; Smith netted 31.5 yards. I know the Colts' special teams remain a bugaboo, but that's just an otherworldly performance by Scifres and a bad day from Smith. During the season, San Diego punting was worth only 1.5 more points than Indianapolis punting. Punt returns were another 10, but San Diego was below average, and I'm not sure what anyone could have done with Scifres' punts. Given Sproles' fumble at the 1-yard line, I think Scifres is game MVP.

Aaron Schatz: I saw that the readers seem to be bitching about the officiating in this game. I know there were a lot of flags but did I miss some kind of crazy bad officiating festival at the end of this game?

Bill Barnwell: The refereeing wasn't great, but I think suggesting that the Colts would win this game if it were better would have been pretty ridiculous. They laid an egg, and didn't adjust when the Chargers dumped off checkdown after checkdown to Sproles. Losing Gary Brackett ended up being absolutely huge for them. Gonzalez was great against Cason, but everyone else on offense ... not good.

Will Carroll: Yeah, I'll agree. There were a lot of flags, but I can't think of any bad ones or even arguable, really. Madden made a big deal about Winter's propensity for tossing flags, but he had a nice batting average tonight. NOT why the Colts lost.

Ned Macey: I'm going to have to disagree with Bill on a couple of these points. Not on the refereeing, as every penalty they showed was a penalty, but "I think suggesting that the Colts would win this game if it were better would have been pretty ridiculous. They laid an egg...." is a bit ridiculous in and of itself. Had they completed a third-and-2 pass, where Manning has to be way over 50 percent, they would have won the game. Instead, he got sacked, and they lost. As to the "egg laying," the Premium Picks system thought the Chargers would win the game at a 76 percent confidence prediction, and the Colts came within a play or two of winning. After 120-plus minutes of games between these two teams (ranked seventh and eighth in DVOA), I think it is pretty clear that playing in San Diego, the teams are equal. When equal teams play, sometimes your kicker hits his first 50-plus-yard field goal in years and you win. Sometimes, a punt bounces out of bounds at the 1-yard line and you lose.

Defensively, I just think it is hard to fault the Colts (at least in regulation) on this one. They didn't adjust to the Chargers checkdowns because they were dedicated to stopping Vincent Jackson, who caught 59 balls for 1,098 yards, ranked fifth in DYAR, caught a 59-yard touchdown pass against the Colts in the regular season game, and had seven catches for 93 yards in last year's playoffs. This week, he had 0 catches. You can't just do that without compromising some other part of your defense, and in this case, the Colts gave up some underneath stuff.

Also, the Colts just didn't give up much. The Chargers' two non-overtime touchdowns were both drives under 50 yards. Their game-tying field goal drive was 30 yards. The Colts had five drives over 40 yards; the Chargers (counting overtime) had two. Considering the Chargers had the third best offensive DVOA in the league, I don't think defensive game-planning or adjustments were the problem.

The offensive futility against a physical 3-4 defense in a playoff game -- well, that's a story we've seen before, and I'll admit the one second-half big play was a fluke.

Bill Barnwell: I don't doubt that the two teams might be closer than the DVOA split I suggested the game would come out as, and I could very easily be wrong, but that doesn't necessarily mean that was the case on Saturday. Punting's a part of DVOA, and Scifres had a brilliant game.

I agree that they did a great job of stopping Jackson, but at some point, you have to cycle a linebacker over or let Bob Sanders shadow Sproles or something. They were getting killed on third downs, which is a big reason why I think their DVOA will end up looking so good -- how many third-and-9s or third-and-11s did the Chargers convert? Four?

The Colts outgained the Chargers by six yards despite having a much larger field to play on and having 71 of those yards come on one play. The Chargers had 26 first downs and the Colts 19 despite their relative starting field positions. This against a Chargers defense that, physical or not, was 20th in the league in defensive DVOA.

Ned Macey: San Diego was 7-for-15 on third and fourth down. Indianapolis was 6-for-16 on third and fourth down.

Sproles third-down reception conversions: 1 (in overtime).
Third-down conversions of six or more yards by Chris Chambers: 4.

San Diego also converted a long Sproles draw in the first quarter and a third-and-7 to Michael Bennett.

I know Bill of all people can hardly fault a defensive strategy that leaves Chris Chambers as the available option for move-the-chains third-down plays. He had five third-down conversions of any length all season!

Also, I don't doubt that the Chargers' DVOA would be higher, but I suspect that the off/def favors the Colts, and Scifres' game was just absurd and outside the Colts' control. Still, in an overtime game with roughly equal yardage and the losing team forcing the only two turnovers, it strikes me as a game where the teams were roughly equal.

Sunday, January 4

Baltimore Ravens 27 at Miami Dolphins 9

Doug Farrar: If there's one thing I'd do with the Wildcat here, it would be to run play-action off the sweep. Baltimore's leaving the seam open and going with the play, and I think Miami needs to get the Ravens thinking about the pass in the formation. Run the normal sweep, but have Williams hit the line to block right after the fake, and see what's open to Anthony Fasano.

Sean McCormick: I do like the way Miami is motioning the halfback into the backfield for their off tackle runs -- when the Ravens have had trouble against the run, it's been defending the outside run, particularly against passing sets. By bringing Brown and Williams across the formation and running at speed, it gives them a bit of a head-start on getting around the edge, kind of like a horizontal equivalent of the Arena League letting receivers get a head start running towards the line of scrimmage. It's not translating into consistent gains yet, but I guarantee it is setting up Baltimore for misdirection passing.

Doug Farrar: Wow. Not sure what the Ravens were thinking with the "direct snap" to Troy Smith and the straight run up the middle on third-and-4 halfway through the second quarter. That was an odd drive-ender.

Vince Verhei: Miami came out on their first drive with a lot of passes to running backs in the flats, and had success with them. And then they spent the rest of the first half running a bunch of misdirection stuff. It seemed their game plan was based on the Ravens missing a lot of tackles. When that predictably failed, they were left with desperation passes, and we all saw how that worked.

Aaron Schatz: We always assumed that turnover return length was basically random. Bill did the research sometime this season and found that it is, but two players stick out with more turnover returns for touchdowns than you would expect from random noise: Ed Reed and DeAngelo Hall. So Chad Pennington throws that ball up, and he gets hit as he throws, and the receiver falls down, and you just knew Ed Reed was going to end up under that ball and here we go again. I wonder -- do the Ravens practice returning turnovers more than other defenses? They sure do seem to set up blocks really well, and their returns often go side to side, rather than the player with the ball just running into a pile of offensive players trying to tackle him.

Um, who the heck is "London 17" for the Dolphins? In the playoffs, should you really throw two straight passes to some guy nobody has heard of? I just checked, and this guy had six passes thrown to him in the regular season. Are the Dolphins that thin at wide receiver with Greg Camarillo out?

Doug Farrar: Yep. When Davone Bess got hurt, that was all she wrote. The Dolphins got as much as they possibly could out of their personnel this year, but the bubble finally popped.

Mike Tanier: London 17 was the band that sang "Let Me Go."

The Dolphins kept using that "jet sweep" formation, where the running back motions into the backfield and takes the handoff, after some early success. On later plays, the Ravens just strung the play out, and when the Dolphins tried to execute play action from the formation, I think they got a short completion on second-and-long.

Now, it's 20-3, so it's bye-bye Wildcat, bye-bye running from oddball formations. That may mean bye-bye Dolphins.

Aaron Schatz: Ed Reed just had ANOTHER interception, with a jump on the ball that was almost psychic, so I do think it is bye-bye Dolphins. By the way, did anyone else wonder why someone with uniform number 84 was rushing the passer? I actually went and checked, that's a guy named Edgar Jones who apparently switches back and forth from outside linebacker to tight end because with all the injuries this year the Ravens can't decide which position they need him at more.

And now, Sean Payton in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers!" Botched end-arounds for everyone!

Ben Riley: Was anybody else surprised to see Ed Hochuli refereeing this game? After "The Incident of Week 2," I thought for sure the NFL would let Ed focus on his triceps this January.

Vince Verhei: The Haloti Ngata vs. Samson Satele never really materialized -- Baltimore shifted Ngata around, so he wasn't often lined up right over center -- but when they did go head-to-head, it seemed like Ngata won the battle handily.

Jim Leonhard doesn't get a lot of press for the Ravens, but he had a great day today in run support too.

Sean McCormick: After 72 hours of Jets fans gnashing their teeth over cutting the two-time NFL Comeback player of the year for "He Who Shall Not Be Named," today's performance undoubtedly cooled them out. Pennington is an effective quarterback, but there's a ceiling on how much he can accomplish against a top defense, particularly if he doesn't have a top tier supporting cast. He simply doesn't have the arm to challenge a defense outside the hashes, and while he generally makes good decisions, he sometimes breaks down under pressure. Pennington is the reason why the Dolphins were playing today, but he was also the primary reason why this matchup looked so lopsided both on paper and on the field.

Doug Farrar: Well, Pennington did pretty well against the Ravens in their first meeting, but I think the Miami rushing plays kind of forced his hand this time. The Dolphins gained 52 yards on 21 carries in this game, and I cannot understand why they kept going up the middle. The Ravens led the NFL in defensive Adjusted Line Yards in the Mid/Guard area this year with 3.23 yards per carry allowed. It wasn't just right up the middle -- according to NFL GSIS, Baltimore allowed 1.95 yards per carry to left guard (best in the league) and 2.88 yards per carry to right guard (ditto).

The only successful rushing play they had today was that quick handoff to Lousaka Polite on third down out of the I for a couple of converted third downs. They couldn't get any power going to the left or the right -- I'm beginning to think that Justin Smiley's season-ending leg injury really hurt the offense -- and everything fell on Pennington's shoulders. Is there an NFL quarterback who could win a game against that defense, without a running game, and with the receivers Pennington had? I doubt it.

Sean McCormick: That's a fair point. As I said, I think Pennington can continue to operate effectively if he can play point guard and distribute the ball to playmakers, but he didn't have any at his disposal today. But part of the problem is that Pennington can only challenge a good defense down the field when they're biting on his play action; otherwise, he has no chance to stick the ball in. The stat line was worse than his other playoff performances, but the basic experience was pretty much identical.

Ben Riley: One question/observation from the Ravens game: At various points, Haloti Ngata dropped back into pass coverage. Given that Ngata is a tackle and weighs somewhere around 600 pounds (OK, 340), that seems beyond unbelievable to me -- are there other defensive tackles with that versatility?

Another question: What do people think the line will be on the Ravens-Titans game next week? I picked the Titans to win the Super Bowl, but suddenly I'm very nervous about my pick, even with Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch back in the lineup.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 04 Jan 2009

140 comments, Last at 08 Jan 2009, 1:43am by morganja


by JMM+ (not verified) :: Sun, 01/04/2009 - 11:58pm

Ben, all D-linemen for the Steelers drop into coverage, including Hampton. It is basic zone blitz.

by bengt (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 9:52am

I have seen Chris Hoke successfully defend a pass, but Big Snack? That has eluded me as of now.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 2:13pm

Interior linemen dropping into coverage is a lot rarer than ends dropping into coverage. I haven't watched the Steelers enough to know if their NT does drop into coverage, but if he does, it's not "basic" zone blitz. That'd be more like "advanced" zone blitz - trading a 300+ pound lineman for a 225-250 pound linebacker could be a disaster.

by JMM+ (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 11:34pm

I have seen Hampton in coverage but not breaking up a pass. They have him play a shallow zone, basicly stand up and watch for screens. In one recent game, a back went into the flat with Big Snack chasing him down with limited success.

by JMM+ (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 11:36pm

I have seen Hampton in coverage but not breaking up a pass. They have him play a shallow zone, basicly stand up and watch for screens. In one recent game, a back went into the flat with Big Snack chasing him down with limited success.

by glen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 12:29am

Two even teams, game decided by a horrible pi call on jennings, and SD punter. Aaron didn't notice any bad calls typical NE homer, so glad to see Brady blew out his knee and not make the playoffs.

by Key19 :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 12:39am

Game decided on Colts defenders committing penalties and the refs calling them by the letter of the law. That's what you meant to say, right? I know you can't possibly be arguing that the DPI call was not legit.

by Bobman :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 1:54am

Key 19, not that I am saying Indy lost BECAUSE of the refs, but since when does the letter of the law apply ever (offensive holding called maybe 50% of the time all season) and especially in the playoffs?

Regarding the defensive holding penalty that gave SD a 1st down when their 3rd down attempt failed, I don't recall seeing that in nearly 40 years of watching football. You? If so, when?

And if you want "letter of the law," watch gthe 4th qtr over again with an eye on Freeney's facemask. They could have called any number of penalties on McNeill--hands to the face, facemasking, or illegal use of hands, a half dozen times. But somehow misplaced their law letters for the moment. It's an old technique my wresting coaches alway preached--where the head goes the body follows, and McNeill who is taller than Freeney, got under his grill and tried to pop his head up like a Pez dispenser more than once.

Jeff Saturday's tripping penalty--you could see on his face he knew it was coming and owned up to it--was a remarkable fluke--had the ref watched the whole exchange he would have seen Saturday trip over his guard's foot making it highly dubious that he tried to trip a guy--he was falling down. But if you just see the end of it, you see an OL on the ground, his legs extended and the defender tripping over them. Flag every time. Like a guy who is blocked into a punter or QB, context is important, not just the end result. The refs in that case, just got the end result.

One seemingly innocuous call NOT on a final/scoring play would have changed everything. Particularly because the game was so damn close.

Inconsistency was the main problem.

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 2:03am

Regarding the defensive holding penalty that gave SD a 1st down when their 3rd down attempt failed, I don't recall seeing that in nearly 40 years of watching football. You? If so, when?

Indy getting burnt by a defensive holding penalty is just sweet karmic justice.

by Steve (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 3:06am

You've never seen a Defensive holding penalty? Are you sure you weren't watching futbol for 40 years?

by TGT2 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 9:23am

There are always calls on both sides that are missed. Cherry picking them doesn't do much except make you look like a homer. I'm guilty of that myself. Freeny was basically fondled all day without getting the call, but the colts o-line was given the same latitude.

You can try to claim Saturday shouldn't have been called for the tripping, but it was too blatant not to call. Yes, he fell down; Yes, he couldn't really avoid accidentally tripping; but he did intentionally scissor his leg up. If he hadn't done that, the rusher might still have tripped, but it wouldn't have been illegal. If someone falls down, it's up to other players to not trip on him. When Saturday raised his leg and tried to get in the way, he basically pulled the flag on himself.

by B :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 11:22am

Defensive holding on running plays is being called a lot more this season. I'm still a little confused as to what the penalty is about, but I think it's when a defensive lineman grabs/tackles a blocker so a linebacker can make the tackle on the ball carrier. As for pass interference, well, that's been called to the letter of the law since 2004 (Except for the Ari/Atl game. Those refs were terrible). And refs have been much less likely to call offensive holding since the Pittsburgh Superbowl.

by Marcumzilla :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 12:46pm

The defensive holding was the one that really bothered me -- looked more like the DB was jamming the WR. It was within the requisite five yards.

Correctly don't call that, and the likely result was a punt, Colts getting pinned deep again, and needing to pick up at least some decent yardage to not give SD killer field position again. They finally got a third down stop, and it gets taken away.

And as for all those comments regarding it being justice that penalties finally get called on the Colts, I'd like to refer you to the tables here - http://www.footballoutsiders.com/extra-points/2008/updated-fo-mailbag-op.... Yep, it really is unfair how many penalties get called on their opponents.

by buzzorhowl (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 3:26pm

I'm remembering back to Paul Zimmerman's "New Thinking Man's Guide" here, which I haven't read since the mid-90s, so this might be wrong, but: I'm pretty sure the rule is that the defender gets one bump within five yards of the line of scrimmage. The defender bumped once, disengaged, then went back and not only bumped again, but actively impeded the receiver's path. You say it was within the requisite 5 yards, but I think that's debatable, and even if you're right, it was a second contact, which I do believe is illegal as I mentioned above.

Anyone with contradicting knowledge is welcome to point out my error, but this is my understanding of the rule, which makes me think that the flag was correct.

by doktarr :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 6:48pm

Bobman, long time no talk.

My goodness, I thought I was the only one screaming "FACEMASK! FACEMASK!" through much of the fourth quarter. I'll have to see a replay to pinpoint precisely when, but there were two plays back to back where I though the first should have been holding on McNeil, and the second should have been facemask or hands to the face.

Now, I realize you don't get every call, but when you compare those plays to either of the holding calls in the OT drive, I think it's clear that several no-calls were more egregious than the ones that DID get called.

It's not as simple as saying the calls won the game for the Chargers. Despite everything that happened, the Colts win the game if they convert the 3rd and 2. (And I STRONGLY question the decision to go empty backfield, essentially allowing the Chargers to abandon gap responsibility and go all-out rush, after gaining 8 yards on the ground in the previous two plays. Try to pass for it, sure, but start Addai in the backfield and either send him out to the flat after the snap, run play action, or leave him in to pass block.) It was not a sufficient cause for the Chargers to win, but it might have been a necessary one.


Saturday's tripping call was legit, I'd say. At the end of the (accidental) fall, it looked like Saturday raised his leg intentionally. I'm not sure it was intentional, but as a ref, I think you have to make the call. It was a frustrating fluke play, but not really a bad call IMO.

by TomC :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 4:16pm

In my mind, the holding call on Jennings was right on the edge, maybe a bit too ticky-tack to call at such a critical point in the game. But what would have made me throw a brick through my TV if I were a Colts fan is the uncalled hold on the winning touchdown. Gates was holding Sessions for a good three seconds on that play.

by Key19 :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 12:37am

Odds of the Dolphins making the Playoffs next year?

by FullMoonOverTulsa (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 1:26am

9-7 is the best I see them doing.

by 2468ben :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 1:36am

2008 Dolphins schedule = AFC West + NFC West + Ravens + Texans
2009 Dolphins schedule = AFC South + NFC South + Ravens + Chargers (and more than one game with Wildcat-prepared Patriots)

Sadly, the future does not look as bright. Find me ten wins in there and I'll make you a goalpost-shaped double bong with a Ricky Williams Helmet Base.

by Israel P. - Jerusalem (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 4:35am

Why should the Dolphins play the Ravens next year? Pittsburgh won the division, no?

by AndyB (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 11:23am

Perhaps Miami will improve over the offseason and will be a better team next year. Imagine that! The future for Miami is most certainly bright. Parcells is staying, and Sparano will have a full year of coaching under his belt. Not to mention Miaimi was $20 mil under the cap this past year. Miami will improve as a team and will be in the mix for the AFC East Championship again.

And a big har-dee-har-har regarding the bong joke. 2468ben, you are so darn clever! Where do you come up with this stuff!??!

by Jon Coit (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 11:29am

I'm going to hold you to that one...see you in this space in 2010. That bong sounds SWEEEET!!!! :)

by Lord K :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 8:11pm

I'll make you a goalpost-shaped double bong with a Ricky Williams Helmet Base

cool, could you make me one anyway? whether or not the fins get 10 wins?

by Megamanic (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 1:33am

Well, for this game at least. I still wouldn't give up a 1st for him but he's a weapon.

by Bobman :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 2:00am

Yes. The eerie thing about ROBO-punter is that he's undefendable. Unless you put 11 on the line to block and batter him. And frankly, that would have been smart for Dungy, since there's little difference in starting at your own 5 or the 1.

Maybe get lucky and make him shank it? Maybe you get really lucky and block it. Maybe you get semi-lucky and start at your 20. Worst case scenario, you start at your 1 YL. Which Indy ended up doing anyway trying to "set up the return" and only rushing half-heartedly.

My hat's off to that bastard. Today, all across our proud nation, HS punters are getting laid like never before because of Scifres.

by Megamanic (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 3:16am

My hat's off to that bastard. Today, all across our proud nation, HS punters are getting laid like never before because of Scifres.
You brought the level of conversation down in a way that sent coffee down my nose. Bobman, I salute you!

by joon :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 2:38am

i've never seen a punter dominate a postseason game like that. simply amazing. sproles was good, too, and gates (although they both fumbled), but ... wow.

there was one sequence in the first half where both offenses went 3-and-out and the chargers netted 35 yards of field position in the process. just insane.

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 12:49pm

I also thought of Robo-punter during this game, in between cursing at the screen.

But if anything, I think it illustrates that RP absolutely would be worth a first round selection. Make no mistake, Scifres won that game for them. He stifled one of the best offenses in the league by repeatedly pinning them deep. Now imagine a Robo-Scifres who is capable of consistently doing that all season. That player would get MVP votes, and deserve them.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 01/06/2009 - 5:08am

The ROBO-PUNTER was whether or not he was worth a first overall selection, not a first round selection. Scifres, punting like that, definitely wouldn't be worth a first overall selection. Not even close. If the Chargers offense had been going a little better, Scifres would barely have been in the game at all.

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 01/06/2009 - 5:44pm

...And if that had happened, they would have won anyway. Point being, Robopunter is a defensive asset when your offense fails, which is when you need it most.

Definitely worth #1 overall.

by doktarr :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 7:17pm

I would give up a 1st for him in a split second if he could repeat this sort of performance every game. But in reality, he couldn't. Nobody can consistently make their punt bounce out at the one, or boom one deep and have it bounce almost straight up inside the 5. It's just not a repeatable performance.

This brings me to the point that Bill Barnwell's criticism of the Colts' defense is really absurd. Yeah, they let the Chargers get quite a few checkdowns, and in OT it finally burned them. But they held the #3 DVOA offense in the game to 17 points in regulation, despite consistently great field position! Given the context, I don't see how we could argue that the Colts defense, over the course of the game, was anything but fantastic.

If I were listing reasons the Colts lost that game, I could probably list 10 things without difficulty. But "Colts defensive game plan" would emphatically not be on the list.

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 01/06/2009 - 5:39pm

Some people have a weak grasp on the concept of Robopunter, and that really spoils the fun.

But let's get practical: Would you rather have Alex Smith, Mario Williams, or Jake Long, or Robopunter? And that's not to even bring up the number of flat-out busts that have been picked #1 overall.

Case closed.

by db :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 1:37am

db Glen, perhaps a little more fiber in your diet would help. The Colts were lucky to be in the game. I am a big Peyton fan but the Bolts punter won the game. Sproles was great, the Colts were close and Scifres was the game MVP (or should have been).

by Jon Coit (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 11:41am

Scifres has been this good all year (for that matter, for many years). But all year, the defense has been atrocious, and those great punts were followed by clock-killing TD drives by the other team. Despite the yards the Colts piled up I suspect we'll see a large -number for SD's defense.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 1:39am

I've seen Hampton drop into zone coverage, but I don't think I've ever seen him pick a ball off. Ngata's done it twice this season. He has more picks than sacks.

by Megamanic (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 1:40am

Another thing. If the Chargers are roughly three points better than they were when they last played Indy in Qualcom (I know how statistically invalid that is :)

AND the last time SD played Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh they lost by one point...

Gentlemen this could be a very close game.

Norv is also the "Anti-Marty". Backs into the playoffs but then "Just Wins".

by DGL :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 11:37am

Of course, they should have lost by eight points, but the refs blew the call on the last play of the game.

by Kulko :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 1:56am

Something I wrote already in the game thread:

3-2-IND 9 (2:30) (Shotgun) 18-P.Manning sacked at IND 1 for -8 yards (51-T.Dobbins).

I wonder what would have happened if he had the smarts to move one step backwards. Instead of punting from the 1 the get to kickoff from the thirty. If SD still scores, they loose in regulation, bit long scoring drives didn't seem to be the problem in this game.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 2:38am

I was wondering the same thing at the punt, seeing as how it would've been trading 2 points for 30 yards of field position (plus no chance of a blocked kick on a shortened snap). Peyton taking the safety would've given them the ball back with something like 2:30 on the clock and the 2 minute warning as an extra time out. Taking the sack instead of throwing an incomplete pass at least wound the clock down to 2:00. I'm fairly certain that they went into that play preferring a sack to an incompletion (but not in the completely whiffed block, no chance at making it work manner... more like a coverage sack if someone wasn't wide open).

Now, with regards to taking an intentional safety, I don't think there's a coach in the league that makes that call given that then a FG, which is likely given the return game, QB, and defense that always gives up 3rd and longs, ends your season. I think the 30 extra yards are probably more valuable, but I'm pretty sure that there's one instance where coaching not to lose isn't that big an error.

by Bobman :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 4:00am

I was contemplating this but was pretty sure Dungy would not. Have the punter take the snap, kill 4-5 seconds (or take a delay of game penalty), then "fumble" out of bounds for a safety. Then he punts from the 20 to put SD at their own 40-45. SD had not scored from their own side of the field all night (some luck there, of course).

It's not a too bright move b/c a FG wins it for them and one 35 yard pass or DPI and you're dead. And you never really know how OT will turn out.

But clearly the way it played out, with Smith punting from his EZ, the ball not quite making midfield, and a decent return, all SD needed was 15 yards to set up Kaeding (they got more).

Oddly, I was criticizing them for running their final play from the 22. 1st down, I was thinking too much could go wrong on a handoff, especially with the fast Indy DEs and their stripping penchant. (well, I was hoping) Just get Kaeding in there already. But it's Indy's MO to lose OT games on a run, like at Miami in 2000.

by Bad Doctor :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 11:24am

An intentional safety turns the equation from, most likely, facing the Chargers 20 yards away from a game-tying FG to facing the Chargers 35 yards away from a game-winning FG. I can't see that being the right move. If you were up 6, sure, but not up 3.

"But clearly the way it played out, with Smith punting from his EZ, the ball not quite making midfield, and a decent return, all SD needed was 15 yards to set up Kaeding (they got more)."

Smith actually launched the punt 63 yards, and I think angled it well outside the hashes. It was a line drive, yes, but there still has to be better coverage. When I saw that thing go I thought maybe he would steal a little of Scifres's thunder, but the return eliminated that thought.

by Yaguar :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 2:07am

I don't really have much to say about my own team's game. Peyton was really good, special teams were horrid, a couple of serious OL screwups, Darren Sproles ran everywhere; it was a typical Colts-Chargers game.

On the Miami game, I would just like to point out how ridiculous Ed Reed's second interception was. He was lined up on the offensive right. As the ball was snapped, he pointed to the offensive left and began to run over there. He cut across the field as fast as he could, got in front of the receiver, and snatched the ball. It seems like he knew exactly where the play was going, before the ball was even snapped. Don't ask me how.

I like watching Ravens games because it's just about as far from Colts football as I can get. It's weird seeing an offense that can power run but can't do intermediate passing well. It's weird seeing a dominating defense.

by slomojoe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 3:51pm

"I don't really have much to say about my own team's game. Peyton was really good..."

LOL, I missed this stuff all year. But I knew it'd be back in the playoffs.

by Mike Kurtz :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 5:54pm

Reed is awesome, yes, but I think this particular play has a big helping of glorification of success. Nobody has really stopped and thought about what would have happened had Pennington saw what Reed was doing, or not been so predictable. Reed took a big gamble because he thought he knew what the opposing QB would do. Had he been wrong, the possibilities on already-broken coverage could have been huge, and possibly let the Dolphins back in the game.

by morganja :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 2:22am

You guys realize how silly you sound when you make the statement that you don't understand the bitching about the officiating in overtime because you think that every call was legitimate and then you tell us that the DPI on 3rd and 8 was a good call.

Obviously you weren't watching the game very closely at all. The call was not DPI.

It was not illegal contact. It was defensive holding.

Did you see defensive pass interference on that play, because the refs didn't. I certainly didn't see it. They didn't call illegal contact either because Rivers was out of the pocket, heading towards the line of scrimmage.

So tell us again how closely you watched the game.

Seriously, the reffing in overtime was a travesty. If you are going to make the argument that every call was legitimate than follow it up with an explanation of why the 90 much more blatant potential penalties were not called.

by Steve (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 3:11am

There were 3 calls made in overtime. All three penalties did happen. The one on Foster was obvious, as he spun Hardwick around like a top. The one on Jennings was subtle but did happen. He had hold of Chambers with both hands, after five yards and before the ball was released, and the contact redirected Chambers and impeeded his route. The facemask was legit, as Session had a grip on it and moved Sproles's head back and forth, easy call.

Why weren't the supposedly more blatant penalties not called? Who knows? Clearly these refs were looking for specific things, or they could only see certain things, or they could only see a set amount on each play, or they had money on the Chargers, or Peyton screwed all their wives last week. Maybe this group of refs specializes in making fumble calls, two of which were called (correctly) in favor of the Colts but could have easily gone the other way and been a 10-14 point swing in San Diego's direction.

by Megamanic (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 3:24am

You guys realize how silly you sound when you make the statement that you don't understand the bitching about the officiating in overtime because you think that every call was legitimate and then you tell us that the DPI on 3rd and 8 was a good call.

Obviously you weren't watching the game very closely at all. The call was not DPI.

It was not illegal contact. It was defensive holding.

Morganja, read the playbook:-

3-8-IND 40 (10:04) P.Rivers pass incomplete short left to C.Chambers.

They got the call right already. Stop whinging or we'll think you're a Pom :)

Every true fan hurts after a tough loss but the call was correct. Deal with it. Indy haven't been cornholed by the Zebras half as bad as the Chargers this year. I mean in previous years Indy got the fricking rules changed to stop Darth Hoodie's secondary from hurting Harrison & Wayne. Indy's had a relatively easy ride over the years. Suck it down & come back stronger next year.

by Fergasun :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 12:03pm

I don't think it was a travesty, but I think the PF facemask call was way ticky-tack and in no way should've been called. To me, it didn't look like he "twisted" that much, rather it looked like a 5-yard penalty which was outlawed. The fact that the flag put SD in comfortable FG position should've made Winter think twice before calling that a penalty.

I suppose the holding penalty on Jennings could also be viewed as "ticky tack", but only if you live within 75 miles of Indy. It was a clear hold. The Colts came up short their last offensive possession and their defense really blew it. Really the play that did it was that bailout pass that Sproles turned into a 1d on 3rd-8... you're going to allow the RB to catch the ball and run 10 yards for the first down?

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 01/06/2009 - 5:14am

His facemask didn't twist that much? Is that like being a little dead?

Did it twist? At all? 15 yards. Facemask penalties don't exist because the NFL thinks straight-ahead helmets are a strong fashion statement. It's dangerous. I have no problem with them calling ticky-tack facemask penalties. Keep your hands away from someone's face. Easy enough.

by DGL :: Tue, 01/06/2009 - 10:50am

I agree.

On the other hand, if it's all about safety, then when an offensive lineman gets his fingers laced into a defensive lineman's facemask and pushes the facemask and helmet up and sideways (same twisting action, just due to pushing instead of pulling), that should also be a penalty. I saw that multiple times, particularly against Freeney, with no calls.

by Dan V (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 2:38am

Why does everyone freak out about overtime every single time someone scores first???
I don't understand why people think it is unfair. Each team had 60 minutes to go and win the game, so you know what, tough s--- if you lost the coin toss. Go play defense and get the ball.

Besides, the Colts had third and two and a first down there basically would have iced the game. The play (not a great play call IMO) didn't work and they let the Chargers back in the game. Everyone always says there has to be a better way, but no one can really come up with something that is leaps and bounds better than what we have.

The worst argument is that the game can ultimately be decided on a coin flip. It's as if the entire game before it didn't even matter. It is FINE the way it is. Anyone who says the Colts got screwed by this overtime rule are forgetting that they had a quarter and a half to build on their 17-14 lead and couldn't get the job done. Again, get your two yards and the ball game is yours Indy.

by hector :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 3:31am

I totally agree with your thoughts on the NFL overtime rules, Dan. That's as well as I've heard anyone state it. (I'm also glad to see so many mocking the NCAA playoff rules, which I've never liked at all.)

Back to Indy-San Diego, I'm surprised there isn't more talk of how San Diego's pass rush just abused Indy's pass blocking in the fourth quarter (leading to all sorts of pressure, and a handful of holding penalties, too).

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 4:25pm

"I don't understand why people think it is unfair. "

Because the team that wins the toss wins the game 60% of the time. How is that fair.

Football is a game of field position, the fact that the other team got the ball back doesn't make it "even" because most of the time, they start with significantly worse field position.

The average NFL drive, is what, 27 yards? The average kickoff comes out to about the 25. Average punt is 45 yards or so? So you do a decent job, stop the opponent, and get the ball inside your own 10. Thats really fair.

by Tom C. Huskey (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 5:02pm

"Because the team that wins the toss wins the game 60% of the time. How is that fair. "

It was fair because you had 60 minutes to prevent overtime.

by King Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 5:54pm

But the winning team had 60 minutes to prevent overtime and they couldn't do win it in regulation either. Why do they deserve the advantage?

by Yaguar :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 6:19pm

It's not about fairness. It's about letting things be decided on the field. The coin flip has a profound effect on the game, and it's not football. That's the problem.

by Daniel :: Tue, 01/06/2009 - 1:04pm

Exactly. Teams play each other dead even over 60 minutes, and then one is arbitrarily made a 3-2 favorite before play resumes? It's ludicrous.

The average NFL team scores on something like 30-35% of its possessions. This is in the same ballpark as the percentage of innings in which a MLB team scores. So in terms of distortion on the result of a game, the current NFL overtime system is about as bad as changing baseball rules to allow the visiting team to win a baseball game with a walk-off hit in the top of the 10th. (In terms of distortion on the results of the season, it's far worse, given the smaller number of games.)

Saying that a team has a chance to play defense and get the ball back is about as dumb as saying that a baseball team in this hypothetical scenario has a chance to pitch a clean inning and then have their turn at bat. They've still been assigned a greater degree of difficulty than their opponent, for no good reason whatsoever.

by sethburn :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 2:45am

I have a question: Why do we feel it necessary to separate overtime from the 4th quarter? Wouldn't it be much better to say that if the game is tied at the end of regulation we play on from the down and distance that we left off from. No coin flip. If the game is tied late in the 4th quarter it essentially becomes sudden death with no stoppage at 60 minutes.

Also, I want to give a shout out to Iowa alums who showed up at the beer feed in NY at Coppersmiths: Congrats on whipping up on south Carolina. I think the ole ball coach retired 10 years ago and is shocked that no one has noticed, but even so that was a nice win.

by Matt Saracen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 3:30am

YES, YES, YES - This is the system I always pimp for too. Who likes coin tosses? Matt Hasselbeck maybe for some psychological warfare, but really - stuff the coin toss, forget the kickoffs or choosing of ends. JUST KEEP PLAYING. It would add some extra strategy to end games, and even at the beginning (do we get the wind in the 'endless' 4th quarter?). If after an extra 15 minutes of time with no scoring, switch ends and keep going. Just give the teams 2 or 3 timeouts and resume play.

by DGL :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 11:08am

I don't like this idea, because it totally changes the play at the end of the game. There's no reason for any team to go to a two-minute offense in a tie game - just play like it's the third quarter.

I agree with Madden and the commenters who say there's nothing wrong with the current system. If you lose the coin toss, play defense. A team like Pittsburgh or Baltimore might be better off losing the coin toss in overtime...

If you really want to do away with the coin toss, then make the OT rule that the team that does not make the last score in regulation gets the option. (In other words, the team that scores last "loses the coin toss".) So a team like the Chargers on Saturday would have to decide whether they wanted to play for OT knowing that the Colts would get the ball, or wanted to be more aggressive in going for the win.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 4:29pm

"I agree with Madden and the commenters who say there's nothing wrong with the current system"

If there was nothing wrong, the coin flip winner would win the game 50% of the time. Right now they win just under 60% of the time. They should move the kickoff back to where it was. Previous to moving the kickoff, overtime was like 51/49 IIRC.

by Mike Kurtz :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 6:04pm

Any unfairness isn't in the team winning the toss winning the game, the perceived unfairness is the team winning the toss winning the game without the losing team having a chance to drive or score. That is a very big distinction. If you look at just the first drives, according to PK (and SI), the game is won on the first drive 33% of the time. That means that the coin flip is really only determinative 33% of the time (because the other 66% of the time the losing team has the opportunity to win regardless, and fails). That doesn't seem like an outrageous number to me. It seems like a pretty good representation of the percentage of teams in the league with mediocre to awful defenses.

Teams with awful defenses (at least good teams) often have good offenses to compensate. That would likely increase their chance of scoring on the first drive, just as having a good defense would decrease their opponent's chance of scoring on the first drive. The coin flip randomizes this, so the entire procedure doesn't unduly favor a team built for offense or defense (since you have equal probability of playing on either side first). That seems pretty fair to me.

by doktarr :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 7:35pm

Interesting. So something as simple as a change to the kickoff location could fix things, at least on a statistical level. I am on board with that, although DGL's proposal (team with the ball automatically wins the flip) is OK with me as well, and the "continue the game" proposal still strikes me as the best of all.

by Daniel :: Tue, 01/06/2009 - 1:37pm

I don't want to quibble with the assertion that NFL OT worked so much better under the old kickoff system, since I'm not familiar with the data, but if this is true, it strikes me as likely to be more of a SSS fluke than a representation of the "true" probability that the team winning the toss will win. Consider it in terms of the individual possessions, given the probability p that an average team scores on a given possession:

P(Team 1 wins on their first possession) = p
P(Team 2 wins on their first possession) = (1-p)(p)
P(Team 1 wins on their second possession) = (1-p)(1-p)(p)

So if p = 0.3, the probability that Team 1 wins = 0.3 + 0.147 + ..., the probability that Team 2 wins = 0.21 + 0.103 + ...

Team 1 has an advantage on every possession, while this gradually converges to zero, the differential on the first possession alone is greater than 2% cited by Rich Conley even when p = 0.15. It seems rather implausible that a five-yard change in kickoff spot could influence scoring probability to this extent.

Now, of course the obvious objection here is that probability of scoring isn't constant from possession to possession - it depends on field position, so for example, team 2's probability of scoring on their first OT possession might be well above p (if they take over at midfield), or well below p (if they take over on their own 5 yard line.) Looking at the drive stats page, it seems that average LOS for all possessions is reasonably close to typical LOS following a kickoff. So under current kickoff conditions, it seems unobjectionable to treat p as equivalent regardless of whether the possession follows a kickoff, or a subsequent change of possession.

But the question then becomes whether the change in kickoff conditions would alter LOS considerations such that if Team 1 does not score on their first possession, Team 2 can expect to have a scoring probability > p on their first possession, and then have an enduring advantage, on average, in the battle of field position from then on, such that the probability sums across the different possessions really are reduced to a 51/49 split. It still seems doubtful to me, but I'll defer to people who know more about football than I do on the question of how plausible this might be.

One final factor to keep in mind is the possibility of defensive/ST touchdowns, which marginally alter the calculus in favor of Team 2, but probably not to a significant extent.

by doktarr :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 7:31pm

It's true that this would rob us of the drama of a 2-minute drill in a tied game. However, most late drives are actually when the team with the ball is behind by between 1 and 8 points. The percentage of games where the "drama" would be lost is actually pretty small. Moreover, the team that ties the game often milks the clock before they do so, leaving us with pretty meaningless drives like the one the Colts got at the end of regulation.

Your compromise (team with the ball wins the "coin flip") would also work for me, although this also inevitably has a small warping effect on endgame strategy. The Colts would have just knelt on the ball on first down on Saturday, rather than risk a turnover.

by Rover (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 11:34am

Seth, as one of those Iowa alums, I'd like to say thanks. After 4 heartbreaking losses this year, a good win confirms what I thought I was watching all season. With a couple of different bounces during the regular season, we could have been playing in Pasadena. (Where we probably would have gotten slaughtered.)

Go Hawks!


by Spenser (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 1:22pm

Yes! I thought this was best option for a long, long time regarding NFL overtime. Just keep the game going...it would make things very interesting and it takes the coin flip out of the equation. Does a team take a shot at the 57 yard field goal as time expires or do they continue to hold onto the ball in hopes of getting closer in OT? Then, when a defense is rewarded by forcing a long miss, blocked kick, etc. they get the ball back and the game continues. I always thought it was extremely unfair when a defense does their job only to have the opposing team win the coin flip.

Seems pretty simple to me.

by DGL :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 2:10pm

"Does a team take a shot at the 57 yard field goal as time expires or do they continue to hold onto the ball in hopes of getting closer in OT?"

Why is this even a question? At the end of the third quarter, does a team take a shot at a 57-yard field goal, or does it continue to hold onto the ball in hopes of getting closer in the fourth quarter? If there's no downside to keeping the ball, there's no decision.

Unless you're advocating a fifth quarter with no sudden death - but in that case, there's still no decision, because there's no downside to trying for the win. If you make it, the game's over. If you don't make it, all you've given up is field position; you still have a full quarter to come back even if your opponent takes advantage of the good field position and scores.

by JimZipCode (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 3:27am

>> do the Ravens practice returning turnovers more than other defenses?
>> They sure do seem to set up blocks really well

Local Baltimore papers occasionally mention the Ravens practicing turnover returns and laterals. In fact there's a recent item about the players circulating an "okay to lateral to" list, with kangaroo-court-fines for lateralling to a guy not on the list.

>> Ed Reed just had ANOTHER interception, with a jump on the ball that
>> was almost psychic

That's his last INT. If you look at the replay, he lines up deep to the right side of the offensive formation, the intended receiver is lined up in the slot to the left side of the offensive formation, and Reed starts to jump the route at the snap. It's really weird. Reed is, I dunno, 35 yds off the receiver when the ball is snapped. He sees something he recognized, I guess, because he cheats over to his right (the offense's left) just before the snap, then at the snap he immediately starts sprinting diagonally in. He goes offscreen as Pennington drops back, and then reappears when he slips in front of the receiver to take the ball.

It was an amazingly decisive move from Reed. He clearly knew what Pennington was going to do before the ball was snapped.

>> that's a guy named Edgar Jones who apparently switches back and forth
>> from OLB to TE

Jones is a 2nd-yr LB, undrafted free agent from SE Missouri State. He played some TE in high school. The Ravens had a bit of a logjam in training camp at LB: but they were horribly thin at TE. At one point Todd Heap was the only healthy TE. Dan Wilcox was still rehabbing from surgery and hadn't played yet, Quinn Sypniewski suffered a season-ending injury, and Scott Kuhn got one too. The Ravens asked Jones to shift over to TE.

He hasn't played much at TE. Wilcox came back after a while, and the Ravens have really not used the TE much in the passing game. But Jones made the team, and he knows the defense, so Rex Ryan occasionally puts him out there. He actually played more as a LB than TE this season, despite his jersey number.

Finally got a catch in week 17 against the Jags! That was kind of cool.

I've wondered if this thinness at TE has been part of the reason for the Ravens de-emphasizing Heap as a receiver this season. I'm sure most of it is the greater commitment to the run, and to pass protection with the rookie QB. But I wonder if lack of depth at TE hasn't factored into the reasoning.

by Doug English (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 5:49am

Does seem that if a receiver falls down anywhere in Maryland, Ed Reed will be there. Even if its Mark Clayton in the car park outside the 7-11 near his house. Ed Reed will be there, to catch his groceries. Not sure where he'd return it in that scenario, probably pick up a few blocks and take them back to mark's house.

by TGT2 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 9:44am

You forgot that he'd likely be hit by a car and lateral the groceries on the way down.

I was entertained by the lateral to Ngata a couple weeks ago. I'm still not sure how Ngata was taken down. I still have visions of a clip I saw from Ngata's high school rugby days. It was more one sided than the masters vs the students in The Meaning of Life.

by Unverified Telamon (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 10:45am

If Ngata is on the okay-to-lateral-to list, who the heck isn't? Or is it just based on who has butterfingers?

by JimZipCode (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 2:56pm

I think the article mentioning the "okay-to-lateral-to" list came out in the week after Reed tossed it to Ngata, with the implication that the list was being circulated because of that play.

That said, Ngata might actually be on the list. There's the rugby clip. Also, Ngata occasionally lines up with the offense on the goal-line package, as an extra tight end. Usually he blocks; but at least one time he went out for a pass, I think against Houston. Heap caught the TD on the play, running across the end line, but Ngata was open.
(The main reason he was open was because the DB made "incidental contact" with Ngata, and bounced off and fell down. If the pass had gone that way it probably would have been flagged for OPI.)

by Richard :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 4:10am

No comment on the highlight of the Colts-Chargers game: Jamal Williams after the Chargers win the overtime coin flip saying, "Game over."

by Jercules (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 5:14am

So with a veteran QB like Manning, and a 4th and 10 situation at their own 1 yard line, why not run a play? Do a designed rollout, give him maybe 2 or 3 reads. If someone gets ridiculously open, throw the pass, get the 1st, win the game. If there's any doubt at all, just continue the rollout out of the endzone, and kick from the 30.

Maybe because of the particulars of the situation doing the above was a bad idea, but I think it nonetheless has enough merit as a tactic that we might have seen it done in the past 30 years (have we? I'm young).

And complaining about the officiating? Basically, unless you're contending the officials were flat-out biased (which is a pretty huge charge, if you think about it), there's really no point at all.

by Paulo Sanchotene, RS, Brazil (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 8:15am

Why not just allow both teams to have the same amount of possession? Just give the team that started kicking off (on Defense) a chance to score. It would be a mixture between NFL and NCAA OT rules.

It starts with a kickoff, and if "Team A" scores on its first possession, "Team B" must tie or overscore it on its first possession; if not, the game is over. It will have Offense, Defense and Special Teams for both squads. It won't need to play the whole 15 minutes for most games. It would still have the taste of "Sudden Death", because: (a) the first team to score would put a lot of pressure over the other after a score; or (b) if the team that starts on Defense scores first, it would be actually "Sudden Death".

So simple!

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 11:08am

That's almost the exact OT system I've been praying for for years. The only change I'd make would be that if Team A scores, Team B only gets the ball back if it's a FG. It makes things a bit more complicated, but it makes TDs much more valuable (as they should be).

So Team A wins to coin toss. If they score a TD it's game over. If they kick a FG, Team B gets the ball back (they score a TD it's game over, they fail to score it's game over, they kick a FG the cycle repeats). If Team A fails to score, Team B gets the ball (they score it's game over, they fail to score the cycle repeats).

That would eliminate the "We're in FG range so there's absolutely no reason for us to try to score a TD" frame of mind. And it would put value on all 6 units (Off./Def./STs for both teams). And while its more complicated than the current setup, it's not so complicated that the average fan or player (I refuse to make the obligatory Donovan McNabb joke after seeing it ad nauseum over the weekend) can't be expected to understand it.

by Paulo Sanchotene, RS, Brazil (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 11:17am

Interesting, because kept the same "Sudden Death" feeling of today's OT. Although I would still prefer to see the ball given back to the opponent after the TD. The Justice here would be balance...

by Bad Doctor :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 11:29am

The similar rule I always ask for is to keep sudden death but not allow the receiving team to kick a FG on its first drive. Similar, but it adds a little strategy to the coin toss. I'm not even sure if electing to receive would be the right call.

by A-Rodg (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 2:17pm

I think the easiest way to get rid of the FG-on-the-first-drive win is just to say first team to 6 points in OT wins. This is a lot simpler than defining rules about both teams having "possession" (what is a possession? you are kicked off to? or you run an offensive play? what if you receive a kickoff and fumble?)

by Paulo Sanchotene, RS, Brazil (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 2:48pm

Simple: you had the possession and lost.

It would work the same for punting. The whole idea of kicking off or punting the ball is to give its possession to the opponent.

It would work as well on an onside kick. If the kicking team recover it, the opponent has lost its chance.

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 4:00pm

The problem with making it "First to 6pts wins" is that if one team kicks a FG and then their defense forces a 3 and out, they still have to score again. You can imagine a senario where Team A kicks a FG, there's 3 or 5 possession changes and then Team B wins with a TD. That doesn't really seem right.

by Lord K :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 8:41pm

You can imagine a senario where Team A kicks a FG, there's 3 or 5 possession changes and then Team B wins with a TD. That doesn't really seem right

Seems fine to me, one team scores 3 points, the other team scores 6. The team that scores more points wins the game - isn't that what usually happens?

by Wanker79 :: Tue, 01/06/2009 - 10:43am

True, but it takes away from the sudden death drama. If one team goes ahead in OT and then prevents the other team from scoring, that should be the end of the game. All three units of one team performed better than all three units of the other team. They shouldn't be asked to do any more.

by Bad Doctor :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 3:41pm

The reason I like the "no FG on the first drive" rule better is (i) less likely to result in a tie in the regular season/extend the game for an ungodly amount in the postseason and (ii) seems the most viewer friendly and least "gimmicky." I don't know if I'm ready to see a team line up for a crucial game-winning FG when they're already up by 3 points. It just seems odd to me ... anticlimactic.

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 4:08pm

The OT rules I suggested basically breakdown to (a)First team to score a TD wins or (b) First team to kick a FG and hold to opponent scoreless wins.

The (b) senario is actually a bit more complicated than that. If you receive first in OT, you have to kick a FG and then hold your opponent. If you kick first in OT, you have to hold your opponent and then kick a FG.

by Lord K :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 8:43pm

I think the easiest way to get rid of the FG-on-the-first-drive win is just to say first team to 6 points in OT wins

Make it first to score 4 points, that way you can win with two safeties as well.

by chubbypuppy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 8:36am

I guess it's relative for me because I didn't see anything in the SD/Indy playoff game officiating that bothered me. I appreciated that for much of the game they let them play.

I am rather surprised that anyone HERE wants to see MORE penalties called. It slows the game tremendously and obviously influences how the players PLAY.

And I know the poster above who has made it a personal mission to protest the calls in overtime will dismiss me as an idiot but having watched and played football for 40 odd years there was nothing there in those calls that caused me concern.

Now if I was Tony Dungy I would be a bit annoyed about my half-witted linebacker trying to twist off someone's head. But that's Tony's concern, not mine.

As for Miami/Baltimore, the Dolphins should have just played FOOTBALL. That Wildcat stuff, as this site described in advance of the game, just got in the way. The Ravens MAULED those plays.

by David :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 12:35pm

"I am rather surprised that anyone HERE wants to see MORE penalties called. It slows the game tremendously and obviously influences how the players PLAY"

Well, yes, it influences how players play - it forces them to play within the rules rather than, for example, just kneecapping the opposition player on the first play from scrimmage.

I don't necessarily want to see any additional penalties called, but I don't see why there is a resistance to calling penalties in the postseason, that you would expect to see called in the regular season.

by Bobman :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 3:08pm

The inconsistency and interpretation are my biggest complaints. How could fully 1/3 of Indy's penalties happen in the final 8 minutes and not the first 60? I guess you could say they were more desperate... but it suggests that if the OT calls were right, there were probably a lot missed early on. And If I play a certain way all game, then they change their application of the rules near the end.... it's just not fair to either team (could have happened to SD as well and you know they'd be bitching about it because it's not the first time it's stung them this year) or the fans.

In the 2003 playoffs, the refs called the Pats' defensive strategy a certain way all game and Indy did not adapt. Naughty Pats, naughtier Colts. I was really really angry as a Colts fan, but by the 4th quarter it was no longer a surprise to me, but somehow the Colts receivers still seemed surprised bu the "more than press" coverage. If the refs had started calling all these illegal contact and DPIs in the final 4 miniutes of THAT game, don't you think Pats fans would be pretty irate? I would be.

Again, the Colts did not lose because of the refs. But (with 3 first downs by penalty in OT? come on!) one changed flag in OT could have changed the entire outcome.

by Mungo (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 8:48am

Tight end-around to Clark: There's something I see once every 30 years or so.

Try watching the 9ers a few years ago, we went through a phase of doing goofy things like that to try and get Vernon Davis free in the open field.

by Lou :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 9:56am

any reason you guys are dividing both the previews and audibles by conference rather than by day the games were on?

by wallyraffles :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 10:43am

I'm of the opinion that the rule should change so that a team must with by 3+ points.

I think this would provide a greater opportunity for both teams to have a shot at winning the game whilst not rendering FG's irrelevant...in that defense minded teams, or at least those where their defense is superior to their offense, still have the opportunity to kick a FG, make the stop and then use the field position from the punt to have a shot at another FG to win it.

by Tarrant :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 11:31am

Here's the thing about the penalty.

It was a legitimate call. There isn't a debate there. Look up the rule, it fits under defensive holding. To me, the issue isn't that - it's that the same type of contact often occurs during games and is not called at all. Much like the oft-repeated phrase "You could call offensive holding on almost every play", it means that the times that it IS called, sometimes you say "What made that one different?"

LeBron James was called for traveling a few days ago on what was the game-deciding possession, leading to a loss for the Cavaliers. He was incredulous. He pointed out that the move he made he makes a dozen or more times every single game and it's never called, and furthermore, that if you really wanted to call traveling by the book, you'd be calling it 50 times a game. Every NBA player travels.

But while everything he said was true, one couldn't argue that by the book, it was traveling. It's just that it wasn't called all those other times it happened.

The problem is not whether or not something is a penalty, it's a consistency of a call, IMO. I want the same referee crew to call it the same way an entire game.

by Fergasun :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 12:12pm

tarrant wrote:
LeBron James was called for traveling a few days ago on what was the game-deciding possession, leading to a loss for the Cavaliers. He was incredulous. He pointed out that the move he made he makes a dozen or more times every single game and it's never called, and furthermore, that if you really wanted to call traveling by the book, you'd be calling it 50 times a game. Every NBA player travels.

Lebron James is a crybaby and should know better than to complain about a travel call, *especially* against a Washington Wizards team. For you to compare NBA officiating to NFL is horrible. Last time I checked NFL officials paid no attention to who they are calling penalties on and were better and for all the calls they miss I believe are the best referee's in pro sports (well, I think the baseball ones have been improved by that k-machine thing.... and hockey probably aren't too bad either). But NBA officials are horrible and consistent in the way they favor and "push" superstars, or "favored" teams against "unfavored" teams.

For me this was confirmed in the Lakers-Jazz playoff series, I believe it was Game 5 where every little itty call went against the Lakers. Also confirmed by the fact they overlook clear traveling by Wade + Lebron.

If NBA officials did NFL games Jason David would get a flag everytime a pass was thrown to him. If NBA officials did NFL games than Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Ben Roethelisberger would pick up so many roughness penalties, even more than other QBs. If NBA officials did NFL games than Miami would've gone 0-16 last year for sure. If NBA officials did NFL games Minnesota OL would never be called for holding (wait!).

Die Lebron Die! (It's German for The Lebron, the).

by Tarrant :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 12:58pm

I'm not arguing that NBA officiating isn't putrid (it is), or that James (or any NBA star for that matter) doesn't get biased officiating. It's one of the things that's horrible about the NBA, and a reason I don't pay as much attention to it as I could. Wade, in the Heat playoff series, would push off someone, throw them to the ground, and the call still went against the other player. Repeatedly.

I'm making the comparison that the reason the call on LeBron (who IS a whiner when it comes to calls) was so weird wasn't that he was traveling, it's that it happens dozens of times a game - and he's not the only one that travels. If NBA referees called traveling according to the rulebook I'd say half the possessions would end with a whistle (of course, if the NBA was serious about it, after a few games of that, players would stop doing it - much like if the NFL said "OK, we're really gonna call holding now by the book", you'd see less of it after a few games with two dozen penalties). When the NHL instructed referees to be a LOT stricter on calling holding and hooking - just told them "Call it like the rules say to!", the game opened up quite a bit because players let up on doing it as much.

The holding call in this case was 100% accurate, but the same contact/grabbing often happens without a flag being thrown. It wasn't a case of bias, nor a case of bad officiating, it's just one of consistency. I think that's the NFL's greatest issue with officiating, is simply the consistency of a call on a given action.

by fmtemike (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 11:32am

NFL Europe played a couple of years of 'guaranteed possession' OT...in other words, if the team receiving the kickoff scores, the other team gets one possession: if they score to tie the game it becomes sudden death. All the coaches (bar one, who shall remain anonymous) figured out that if you win the OT toss you kick off, then either stop the other team or try to match/better what they do....if you're worried about the lack of fairness in the coin toss, this seems to be the best solution. Or you could have normal sudden death OT and start the period with an XFL style dash for the ball...

by Paulo Sanchotene, RS, Brazil (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 11:40am

I would also suggest two changes on the Playoff format:

First: a team that's not a Division Champion would classify to the playoffs as WildCard if, and only if, they have a equal or better record than the divisional champion they would play against. That's the ONLY reason to allow wildcard teams at the playoffs afterall! Examples: This year, in both Conferences, it would have two WC games. Past year, only JAX and NYG would be WC; SD and SEA would both recieve a bye. On 2006, there would be no WC in AFC; the only WC game would be DAL(9-7)@SEA(9-7). So on and so fourth.

Second: if two teams of the same division are classified to play the Divisional Round, thay must play against each other. After all, it IS the DIVISIONAL round, the rivalry is intense and division must still value something in playoffs. If this rule were adopted Baltimore would play at Pittsburgh next weekend!

by hubcap (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 12:11pm

I find the FO comments about LT's injury snarky and a little...not offensive, but rude.

You have no idea what another man's pain is like; whether an adductor tendon injury is truly "mission critical" to how LT runs; whether that's all that's wrong with him (if he popped a tendon thare are probably complimentary injuries to go along with it); or whether the "adductor tendon" is even the real injury - football teams aren't always Boy Scout truthful on injury reports.

And it's really not your business to say things like "he could back into this game if he would take a painkiller shot." How could you possibly know that? A doctor wouldn't diagnose a man's injury through TV and press reports, and neither should you. I read FO for stats-based analysis and insight. Please stick to that; I can get barstool yammering anywhere.

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 4:26pm

The guy that made the comment about LdT's injury (Will Carroll) is the same guy who writes the Black & Blue report for FO. It's part of his job to know how different injuries will effect players. The only valid point you made was that perhaps the specific injury was misreported.

by DeceptiveSpeed :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 12:45pm

What is the current FO thinking on Chris Chambers? Has he progressed since his move West? To the more casual observer that seems to be the case, notwithstanding his quirky early season TD/reception ratio.

by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 12:47pm

I've looked at it 20 times and I don't see the hold on Jennings in OT. He doesn't have hands on him past 5 yards and all I see is a jam not any holding. Admitted homer, but I'm usually pretty good at being unbiased when it comes to penalties. All the others were valid - unfortuate, but valid.

I hear a lot of derision of the Colts defense here locally, but it was the offense that lost the game. All they needed was a 1st down in the 4th quarter to ice the game and they didn't get it. The defense forced 6 punts and got 2 turnovers - that should be enough for a team built on it's offense. I agree that if they would have had Brackett healthy the defense probably does a better job on Sproles and they win the game, but the offense really didn't get it done.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 1:09pm

Todd Sauebrun in the Pats-Panthers Super Bowl. Carolina were pinned in their own 20 for most of the first half and Sauerbrun kept bailing them out with 50 yard moon shots from his own endzone. If Kasay hadn't booed the last kick out of bounds/the pats hadn't been cheating;-) then he'd have deserved MVP recognition.

by Phil (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 1:34pm

And I'm sure those illegal performance enhancing drugs Sauerbraun was caught taking in the days leading up to the Super Bowl had nothing to do with it either.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 3:36pm

Well no-one on the Pats side that year has ever been caught using performance enhancing drugs have they? Your point is well made though, I had forgotten about that.

by chubbypuppy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 1:14pm

Agreed on the LT injury comments.

by MJK :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 1:28pm

I was away all week and weekend, so I missed the games, and I just wanted to thank FO and all the commentators for their intelligent comments in Audibles and on the threads. It's not a perfect substitute for seeing the games, but it is something.

It is a shame that a coin toss helped decide a playoff game between two great, nearly equal teams. My theory on NFL overtime is similar to what a lot of people have said... I hate the NCAA system, and I like the drama and understand the reason for having sudden death.

But the coin toss has got to go. I think that's what makes the whole system unfair--not that a team can win on a single drive in overtime, but that the team that gets that opportunity is decided by luck. And there's such an easy solution, that I've alluded to before: Pre-designate before the start of the game which team gets the ball first if the game goes to overtime. Either "Home Team", or "Visiting Team", or "Team that won the toss at the start of the game". My preference would be for "Visiting Team", but I'd be OK with any of the above. (To be fair, I didn't think of this on my own...one of the FO commenters suggested it in an overtime thread a couple of years ago).

That way, both teams would know who would have the advantage in OT, and there would be no element of coin toss luck factoring into end-game decisions.

by DGL :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 2:02pm

Or, "Team that didn't get the last score of the game," as I've said before. Not only does it remove the element of luck, it introduces more strategic decisions. Go more aggressively for the winning score, or play for the tie knowing you're giving your opponent the ball to start OT?

by SteveNC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 2:47pm

How do you handle 0-0 ties in that system?

by DGL :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 3:55pm

OK, for the one time in 65 years* when you have a 0-0 tie, you could say that if neither team scores in regulation, the team that won the opening coin toss gets the option.

I think if you have a game where neither team is able to score in 60 minutes of regulation, you're not too worried about the "unfairness" of the team receiving the kickoff being able to score on their first drive without the other team getting the ball.

* I believe the last NFL game to end regulation with a 0-0 score was Lions/Giants in 1943. The Steelers-Dolphins 3-0 quagmire in November '07, in which Reed kicked a FG with 17 seconds left, was described by AP as "the first time in 64 years an NFL game went that long without any points."

by Lance :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 1:58pm

The OT coin toss stops mattering much if you just stop the game from being sudden death! As noted in the Audibles, just have an OT period of 10 minutes, give each team one time out each, and no sudden death.

This way, we have teams resolving the game by playing under the same rules as the ones they were playing under in the previous four quarters.

by Ryan from San Diego (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 2:15pm

We come to this site for objective stat based analysis. Please keep the homer Patriots fan based hate somewhere else. You don't know anything about LT's injury or what kind of pain he is in.

by Bill Barnwell :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 4:08pm

That's right, Indianapolis, Indiana's Will Carroll is a homer Patriots fan.

by Ryan from San Diego (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 4:21pm

A homer Patriots fan was a guess. A homer Colts fan is just as bad. The point is if I wanted to read uninformed speculation. I can read the comments at ESPN. This site should be better than that.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 01/06/2009 - 5:21am

The point is that if we wanted to read uninformed random insults from commenters, we can go read the comments at ESPN. This site should be better than that.

The Outsiders' teams are listed under Meet the Outsiders. It would've taken you all of thirty seconds.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 2:33pm

Am I really coming to this site to read Will Carroll's medical diagnoses?

God, that's hard to read.

Could you guys please institute a policy where wild speculation about the nature and severity of injuries is discouraged? Unless for some reason you have inside information, telling us that talk about an injury is "PR" and that a player could return to a game if only he would take a shot belies a mind wildly divorced from reality, and way too overconfident in the power of his fan's-level viewpoint.

Does anybody really think Tomlinson could have given better production in the second half than Sproles did? A RB with a leg injury drops dramatically in value very quickly. Without the ability to cut and accelerate, even a minor injury can turn an all-Pro into a benchwarmer. It doesn't help the team at all to "play through pain" when that consists of stumbling into the line for short yardage.

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 4:39pm

Then I guess you've never read the weekly Black & Blue report Will Carroll does for this site. God freaking forbid the the guy who gets paid to write about injuries (for both the NFL and MLB) makes a comment about an injury. What is this world coming too?!?!!

by Chris Owen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 6:16pm

I love this site, but Will Carroll is the Matthew Berry of injury reporting. The competition for the niche of speculative blatherer on this topic apparently isn't very stiff.

by Jackie Treehorn Presents... (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 2:39pm

The solution to eliminating sudden death is one more 15 or 10 minute period.

The major problem I can think of, however, and I'm not sure if someone's already mentioned this - but what about the TV situation? The NFL has it perfectly worked out so that even OT games don't typically run up against the start of the next televised game.

An extended 10 or 15 minute period would probably do just that. It would create a pretty complicated situation with the TV networks I would imagine.

by Lance :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 3:14pm

But they already run into that problem! The SD drive in Saturday's game took 7:20. The regular season Eagles-Bengals game went 15 minutes! (That's game time, of course; not actual time.)

Indeed, an added advantage of having a set time for OT (and no sudden death) is that networks can know exactly how long OT is going to last and plan accordingly.

by Chris Owen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 2:56pm

I just want to put in my two cents on the Dolphins' use of the Wildcat in this game. From what I could see on the first Wildcat play, the issue was execution, not scheming. The first Wildcat play came on a 3rd and 2 at the Miami 39 with 1:15 left in the first quarter. Brown took the snap and faked the handoff to Williams, who charged into the line. Ray Lewis came up to meet Williams, and I thought the obvious thing for Williams to do was block Lewis. Instead, Williams juked to his left to avoid contact with Lewis, thereby taking himself completely out of the play. Brown seemed to be following Williams' block, but when Williams stepped to his left, Lewis was right there to meet Brown and stop him short of the first down. I really think Brown could have gotten the first down with even a halfway decent block on Lewis.

Of course the Dolphins made a ton of other mistakes in the game, and it's certainly not as if this play alone spelled their doom. I still think that the Wildcat has potential in the proper hands.

by jay stokes (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 4:10pm

Seriously, just come out and say "LT is a pu$$y" rather than getting into medical minutiae that you cannot have access to.

I am a die-hard Bolts fan, and the Bolts have suffered from what I view as horrible calls all season (not just Hochuli), but the PI on Chambers was ticky-tack to me. The facemask call was not; he grabbed, held, did some yanking. Not horrible, neck-breaking yanking, but what was he thinking? The defensive holding spun the OL guy around. It did not seem to be acting by the OL guy.

It is a tough road to call out officiating to Charger fans. Earlier in the game, Jammer was called for DPI on an Indy receiver. They were running stride for stride, Jammer put his hand on the receiver's arm, the receiver pulled it away, did not alter his stride or his ability to get to the ball, but called. Technically accurate, but seemed like the penalty did not alter play.

Yes, SD won last year, but I still get steamed at the "hold" they called on Weddle at the end of the half that negated the Cromartie's run-back of Manning's pick. I watched that thing on Tivo, no hold. Then there was the sequence where there was DPI called on SD when the guy did not even touch him. Then the officials called two more plays seemingly trying to fix it, a personal foul on Indy, but put them in too much of hole, so then called a phantom defensive holding, giving them a first.

Also, in the first game this year, Indy had a TD on an uncalled pick.

But I agree with the sentiment that we need more consistency in officiating. It does seem like the refs should be full-time employees, Lord knows the NFL can afford it. That might allow better consistency.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 4:49pm

"They were running stride for stride, Jammer put his hand on the receiver's arm, the receiver pulled it away, did not alter his stride or his ability to get to the ball, but called."

Thats nothing.

I remember a call 2 years ago, Deep ball thrown by Manning. Ellis Hobbs has Reggie Wayne beat by about a yard to the ball. Right before the ball gets to Hobbs hands, Wayne basically runs up his back. Defensive PI, Ellis Hobbs.

I've got to the point where I really think the problem is that the Refs/Umps aren't fast enough to keep up with WRs/CBs, and just call it when someone falls down, or when something looks funny. I've seen guys untouched get calls simply because they drop the ball, and there's a body in between them and the ref. I've seen an ump 50 yards away make a PI call when the guy 5 yards away says theres no contact, and the guy 50 yards away overrules the guy 5 yards away.

by jay stokes (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 4:26pm

One more thing. I have been dying with Turner as the head coach, watching my 14-2 Chargers go to 11-5 and then 8-8, albeit the 8-8 had some ridiculously close losses in it. But, I have had to grudgingly give Turner some credit in last year's playoffs and this Colts game. He is not without fault, and still does stuff that drives me crazy, but any props at all? Instead, the FO writers just went on about how bad he is. I thought the general consensus was that fumbles were mostly luck. If so, Sproles fumble at the 2 is incredibly bad luck. And notice that 7 of Indy's 17 came on the defensive breakdown on Manning's quick snap. If SD gets 3 out of the lost drive and does not give up the TD to the Colts, they win 20-10 in regulation. And that does not factor in the pick in the endzone or the non-fumble at the end of the first half. Give SD points in either of those cases, and this game is not even close. Yet not a single word of even partial praise for Turner.

I have been arguing with the local SD paper's choice not to question his coaching all season, so I am no Turner apologist. But what he seems to lack in basic, week to week coaching competence, he does seem to sometimes make up for in good game plans in big games.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 6:47pm

Fumbles: No, no, no, fumble recoveries are luck, fumbles themselves are skill-based.

Norv: My theory is that Norv is a terrible leader/motivator but not a bad coach. He's not dumb, although sometimes he out-thinks himself. In the regular season, he struggles to inspire players and loses their confidence. But the playoffs are self-motivating. It doesn't matter who the coach is, if you're in the playoffs you pretty much automatically play with confidence and effort. So basically Norv's biggest weakness as a coach is a non-factor in the playoffs.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

by DGL :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 11:02pm

So you're saying the Chargers should have Marty coach the team in the regular season, and then have Norv coach them in the playoffs?

by Megamanic (not verified) :: Tue, 01/06/2009 - 2:49am

Marty as head coach, Norv as OC with total control on personnel & play calling for the offense. AJ Smith providing the players based on meetings with Marty, Norv & Ron when they all stick up their hands & say what they need...

I could live with that arrangement. Not so sure about Norv, Marty & AJ:)

As a Chargers fan I'm starting (very reluctantly) to warm to Norv. I agree that he's a sucky motivator but his offense is basically the Gillman via Coryell/Zampese offense pioneered in San Diego so that's a big tick & he had the balls to sack Cottrell mid-season & replace him with someone better - not sure it's possible to get anyone worse... Also, he seems to come up with some pretty good offensive gameplans with a little wrinkle or two left for the playoffs AND he's got enough in his dangle-sack to actually trust the team to perform in the playoffs without freaking out & running off-tackle 20 plays straight. Now, if he could only get the team going full-on from week 1 so we don't dig a hole for ourselves...

by TomC :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 4:31pm

I'd be interested in Miami fans' opinion on this: Yesterday was my first opportunity to watch the Dolphins this year, and, having no rooting interest in the game, I decided to pay attention to Jake Long on as many plays as I could. He mostly looked lost. I can't count the number of times he ended up standing by himself, looking for someone to block, while Pennington ran for his life. This may have had to do with the different looks the Ravens' front 7 were giving, but I would have thought that Sparano would have guys better prepared than that.

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 6:26pm

I have to say in the first half of the Miami game I was a little fanboy angry at the lack of pass interference called on the Reed interception. It sure looked like Ginn had a step on his corner and it sure looked like the corner didn't get his feet caught up in Ginns but pretty much kicked him intentionally. But then of course the ball was still thrown to far inside anyways and it doesn't explain the other 4 turn overs. The Dolphins seem to have played a lot of bad offense in the playoffs for years now. The last time the Dolphins really stuck it to an opponent in the play offs was 1992.

by morganja :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 7:39pm

I'm still trying to figure out why so many people are so completely wrong on the defensive holding call on 3rd and 8. I've decided that we are looking at two completely different things.

Those that defend the call are looking at the contact which happened when Chambers 'spun around'. They consider that to be 'obvious' Defensive Pass Interference. Judging from the comments made, that seems like a pretty fair assessment.

I don't agree that it was pass interference but it makes absolutely no difference whatsoever because that was not the penalty called.

The penalty called was and I will quote here, "Before the pass was thrown, defensive holding...."

When the contact that supposedly spun Chambers around occurred, the ball was currently about 25 feet in the air and close to ten yards down the field. The ball had already been thrown so therefore that contact was not the penalty called. If it had been the contact called, than the proper penalty would have been Defensive Pass Interference, which is what most people who think that it was an obvious call have mistaken for the penalty.

Instead, the contact that must have been called was the initial contact off the line of scrimmage which I don't think anyone with a fair mind could in any way consider to be in any stretch of the imagination, holding.

There is the crux of the manner. If you believe that the contact that supposedly spun Chambers around was a penalty then you must believe that it was a bad call and that the proper call should have been defensive pass interference.

If you think that, as I do, that Chambers spun around looking for the crazy lob that Rivers threw away in desperation while he was running out of the pocket, than there was no penalty on the play.

The only way in which you could consider that a good call was if you believe that the initial contact off the line of scrimmage constituted holding.

I hope this breakdown explains our differences in opinion.

by mrh :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 11:49pm

When the flag was thrown, I thought, well that was a pretty ticky-tack DPI call to end a playoff game. Then when they called holding, IMO Ed H decided (possibly with the other refs, I can't recall if there was a conference) to make it a less damaging (given the situation) holding call. I realize I have no facts to base this on. But I agree that there is no way the illegal contact or holding occurred before the ball was htrown, therefore the call should have been DPI. And most games I watch have at least one play where there is more blatant interference left uncalled.

by GlennW :: Tue, 01/06/2009 - 12:56pm

> If you believe that the contact that supposedly spun Chambers around was a penalty then you must believe that it was a bad call and that the proper call should have been defensive pass interference.

Yes, that is what I believe, and I felt that a proper call of DPI was obvious. You see this fairly often though, where the official flagging the play isn't quite sure when the ball was released versus the timing of the illegal defensive contact. So, technically the wrong call, but the right result (minus a few yards of field position). In the final analysis I can't get that worked about the officials properly flagging some form of illegal contact more than 5 yards down the field, but not recognizing the precise timing of that contact.

by Matt Saracen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 9:18pm

I like some of the ideas being thrown about, but I have one more that doesn't relate to overtime itself, rather its importance. I'd like to see them lower the stakes of overtime a little. After all if the team winning the coin toss wins the game nearly 60% of the time, then the loser of that coin toss is given nearly a 20% swing in fortune, just on the toss (60% down to 40%). Why should a team who has essentially tied the game be forced to endure this kind of setback? The solution is to make overtime matter less - keep an overtime win important, but not as important as a regular time victory. Hard to do for the playoffs, but you can make regular season overtime losses hurt less.

In my mind there are 2 ways to make overtime less important: First, change the regular season win/loss system to a point scoring system eg. 4 pts for win, 3pts for overtime win, 2pts for tie, 1pt for overtime loss, 0pts for outright loss. I know Americans don't dig that sort of thing since the straight win-loss system rules the U.S. sports world - but many leagues over the world use points per win/draw/loss system eg. English Premier League soccer - 3pts win, 1pt draw. Downside is that it complicates a system for overtime (there were 15 OT games this year), upside is that an overtime loser gets a reward for their solid 60 minutes, prior to their sudden death loss - I like that recognition.

Option 2 on a similar vibe is to change the tiebreaker system, by inserting the overtime game record test. This year for example, the Patriots were 0-1 in OT, the Dolphins were 0-0 in overtime. Under that proposal, the Patriots would have won the tiebreaker and made it in. The Ravens would then have won the wild card tiebreaker with the Dolphins, because the Ravens were also 0-1 in overtime. Panthers would have home-field in NFC instead of Giants since Giants were 2-0 in OT, while the Panthers were 0-1. Maybe not even make it the top tie-breaker, keep head to head first, but then put in OT games.

Anyway, just some ideas. Not because I'm anti overtime - I just like the idea that the team that loses in overtime gets some recognition for the first 60 minutes, where they have essentially tied with the other team. It's only because people feel the need to declare a winner that there even is overtime.

by doktarr :: Tue, 01/06/2009 - 12:16pm

I like both of these proposals. I prefer the first, but really, they are the same unless a team has multiple OT games in the same season anyway.

That said, you're addressing a problem that nobody is really worried about. Even if this is implemented, you still have the problem that people do care about - the first drive field goal OT win feels cheap and unfair. This idea mitigates the impact of that issue a little, at least in the regular season, but it doesn't get rid of it at all.

As an aside, one of the great things about the "continue the game" or "team with the ball at the end of regulation gets to choose" rules is that they will encourage dramatic "go for 2" plays on the final drive, like the ones we saw in the AFC West this year. A 45% chance of the win (2 point conversion) is better than a 40% chance (kicking off in OT), after all.

by Luke :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 10:51pm

For me - a seahawks fan with no vested interest in this game other than entertainment - the game was tarnished by the flagfest at the end that handed the game to one team.

The first one was an unusual call, but was certainly there. I dont have a problem with it as long as they call it consistently which I dont believe they do.
The 2nd was just plain bogus. On 3rd down the drive should have ended there.
The third was there (just) but ticky-tack and under the circumstances should not have been called.

Why would the league reward the crew that consistently throws the most flags with a playoff game? Common sense says you'd go the other way. They must have a grading system that favours flag tossers.

by CoachDave :: Tue, 01/06/2009 - 4:25pm

The Chargers had 3 penalties called against then the whole game.

The Colts had 4 in 8 minutes.

If you can't see the blatant ridiculousness of the inconsistent officiating in that game, then you don't want to.

Did it decide the game? No one knows, but to say that the OT officiating didn't significantly alter the game is flat-out nuts.

The refs decided that game for the Bolts by extending their drive THREE times...once on a LB/OL pad handcheck that happends 25 times a game and is hardly ever called..and the other on a "duck from Rivers" where the WR initiated contact on the CB. Just beyond horrible.

by Sifter :: Tue, 01/06/2009 - 8:56pm

That would be fine if all the calls were marginal, but in my mind only one call was marginal and that was the Jennings-Chambers contact call. If that call had happened in the first quarter, fans would have shrugged it off, and if the other 3 calls hadn't happened on that drive the fans probably shrug it off again. It's only because of timing and circumstance that the issue is even coming up.

As for Ron Winters crew getting the job in the first place. Just because they throw a lot of flags DOES NOT mean they make a lot of mistakes. Surely the evaluation system looks at how accurate the calls are and obviously Winters crew makes more correct calls. You can argue philosophically here: Would you rather a crew that makes more calls, or has a higher chance of getting a call wrong?

by CoachDave :: Wed, 01/07/2009 - 3:11pm

That's the thing...they are not calling it correctly or they would have called it like that the whole game.

How many offensive holding penalties were called in the first quarter? Zero.
2nd quarter? Zero
3rd quarter? Zero
4th quarter? Two...both on the Colts in spite of Mathis and Freeney getting mugged more than a few times throughout the game and the Colts o-line did their share of holding as well throughout the game...so why do you start calling it in the 4th quarter?

On the Sproles TD run, Clint Sessions was held at the point of attack for at least 2.5-3 seconds...no call...fine, it's the playoffs and it's OT, I can understand swallowing your whistle at that time...but then why have you called 4 penalties on the Colts in the previous 8 minutes...one of which (handcheck at the line) happens 25 times a game and is rarely called and the other which was a BS call.

Illegal hands to the face on Freeney? Heck the game feed showed close ups of it twice, once in each half...no calls either time.

They weren't accurate and they weren't consistent as the game went on. And then they go flag happy on one team in the final 8 minutes, in OT mind you? Pretty much all 3 tenets of officiating were violated.

1. Be accurate
2. Be fair
3. Be consistent

by morganja :: Wed, 01/07/2009 - 4:19pm

I haven't heard any rebuttal of my analysis of the 3rd and 8 call. There is no doubt that was a bad call no matter which way you look at it, and that was the call that decided the game. I don't really care who specifically won except that I wanted the team that played better to win. After watching four quarters of football, I was disgusted to have the entire experience nullified by the refs giving the game to one side or the other. My opinions would have been exactly the same if it had been Peyton Manning lobbing a pass up and getting the call on third down in overtime. But ask yourselves, how many people who are now saying it was a good call would have the exact opposite opinion if it had happened for the Colts?

by morganja :: Thu, 01/08/2009 - 1:43am

Did anyone else see Pereira's explanation of that call? What a complete a**hole he is. That's exactly why they will never fix the officiating. His explanation is that it was "defensive holding" because there was contact at what he claims is 6 yards down the field. But wait, isn't that illegal contact?

It's not at 6 yards anyhow. What is the most irritating about this complete incompetent jacka** is that he defended the lack of an illegal contact during the Eagles - Panthers game last year when there was contact down the field much further than this call.

He will defend his officiating and has zero problem with saying the exact opposite when the call goes the other way. He actually said he was "proud" of the officiating. He is an arrogant, incompetent jack**. It's simply insulting listening to his explanations.

Fire him and get someone in there who will make the refs accountable.