Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Futures: Nick Chubb & Sony Michel

The Georgia Bullddogs' dynamic duo should be on NFL rosters at some point in the next 72 hours. Which will be the better pro? That depends on what kind of running back you're looking for.

23 Nov 2009

Audibles at the Line: Week 11

compiled by Bill Barnwell

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

Please also note that we do not write the e-mails specifically to produce this column, which means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Raiders fan, not so much.)

Additional warning: For some reason this week, we felt like swearing. Not safe for work, at least if you work in a monastery.

Miami Dolphins 24 at Carolina Panthers 17

Aaron Schatz: It's not just about the offensive line with these Carolina running backs. You can see them slashing through the Dolphins defenders, the way they see where the holes are and shift to get like they're weaving through cones on a driving test. I wish we had a stat that could measure RB vision, that "hole-seeing ability." Frank Gore has it. Adrian Peterson has it. Williams and Stewart both have it.

By the way, Matt Millen just referred to Steve Smith as "an all-day sucker."

David Gardner: Well, it's good to see he's back to being the next John Madden.

Tim Gerheim: Matt Millen is killing me. (Maybe I'm channeling MDS.) He's bringing no insight, missing things, and getting things wrong. Having watched NFL Network's replay of Pats-Colts last night, the contrast between Millen and Cris Collinsworth (who has a high quality observation on almost every play) could not be more stark.

Tom Gower: Watching this game, I remain flabbergasted that John Fox not only doesn't bring in somebody like a Chris Simms who could challenge Jake Delhomme for his job, but instead gave him an extension. That interception he threw early in the 3rd quarter was rookie-quality.

Aaron Schatz: Matt Millen is like Cris Collinsworth, Madden video game version.

Is it me, or are the Dolphins not running the Wildcat in usual Wildcat form? Without Ronnie Brown, they're sticking Ricky Williams in a conventional single wing. They've got Lousaka Polite in a fullback position in front of Williams, instead of using him in Williams' usual spot, starting at wingback and sweeping across from left to right. I realize the Dolphins scored a touchdown from this, but I think that getting rid of that sweeping motion really ruins what makes the Wildcat special. You don't get multiple plays that start the same and
end differently. There's no play-fake, no counter, and apparently Ricky can't even pass as well as Ronnie Brown, at least if we're to believe the announcers. Does this formation as they're running it lead to anything other than a Ricky Williams run, either up the middle or sweep?

Doug Farrar: I don't think so. The mechanism is really based on Brown as the power/counter instigator and Williams as the sweep option, keeping defenses on their heels. Without it, they're able to pull and get power to the right side, but if they want any sort of versatility out of it, it might be up to Pat White to run the speed option, or the counter option they're running in Tennessee pretty successfully with VY and Chris Johnson. Brown has taken about 10 direct snaps this year before this game.

Tom Gower: What Doug said. I saw someone speculate they'd use Ginn in Ricky's old role, but while he's fast, he doesn't present the same sort of power problem that Ricky does-blitzing corners would work against him. They can't replicate the same versatility, so you're seeing just the normal direct snap single-wing plays.

I don't think White's been on the field yet, which has surprised me.

Aaron Schatz: They could try Lex Hilliard in the Williams role, I suppose.

Doug Farrar: I like that they’re doing what works with their personnel – just a lot of straight I- or offset I-formation, fullback lead and go. You’ve got a fullback who can just maul people and a good inside runner, so go for it.

The Dolphins are losing an offensive lineman on just about every play. Who do they think they are, the Seahawks? I know about injury luck regression, but this is ridiculous.

Tim Gerheim: What I've learned from Jake Delhomme during this game is that 52 is ALWAYS the Mike.

The Carolina linebackers have really been unimpressive today. I know it's the Dolphins and they're pretty good at running, but the linebackers look like they've done a very poor job of occupying their gaps, maintaining spacing, and avoiding the trash in the middle of the field.

Sean: It can be hard for casual viewers to appreciate the impact of losing offensive linemen, but in the first few plays after Jake Grove went out, Miami had defenders blasting immediately into the backfield right through the A gap, and at one point Henne couldn't even get the center exchange cleanly because of the pressure.

As for the Carolina linebackers, they've looked like bowling pins out there. I can't remember the last time I watched lead blockers so consistently pancake their defenders at the second level.

Doug Farrar: Yeah, they brought Grove in because Samson Satele was more rangy and better in space. Didn’t really work for the offense they run. Grove is much more that power guy. Where they want agility is with their guards, Smiley’s pulling ability being the best example.

David Gardner: Carolina's hurry-up offense is soooooo slow. Receivers are walking near the line of scrimmage to get set, and they weren't able to kill the clock after a first-down reception to get an extra play in before the two-minute warning.

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 at Kansas City Chiefs 27

Doug Farrar: Opening kickoff of the Steelers-Chiefs game: Jamaal Charles. Kickoff return. Steelers are the other team. See if you can guess the outcome!

Mike Kurtz: Uuuuugh.

Vince Verhei: Any Given Sunday alert: Andy Studebaker is a Kansas City defensive end with nine tackles on the year coming into today's game. He has two interceptions today. The second came two yards deep in the end zone, and Studebaker returned it 94 yards to set the Chiefs up with first-and-goal. They are the Chiefs, so they go three-and-out, but they do kick the tying field goal. 17-17 at the end of the third quarter.

Doug Farrar: With seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, down 24-17, Matt Cassel throws a bomb downfield to Chris Chambers for 47 yards. Chiefs tie the game on the drive. Chambers gets hurt on the play in the process of demanding a public apology from Bill Barnwell.

Bill Barnwell: Chiefs playing the Steelers close; actually had the ball just before the two-minute warning and an open Mark Bradley for a first down, but Matt Cassel threw the pass behind Bradley and Bradley promptly dropped it. Then, Derrick Johnson sacks Ben Roethlisberger on a play where Mewelde Moore blocks him up into the air into Roethlisberger, and Johnson grabs Roethlisberger in the air and eventually drives them both down into the ground. The refs follow that with a phantom penalty call on Wallace Gilberry that was never announced.

Mike Kurtz: Charlie Batch in for Pittsburgh after Roethlisberger took a shot to the head. On third down at the brink of field-goal range, a Mendenhall pitch loses a yard. Tomlin turns down the 55-yard field-goal try and punts instead. Ball goes into the end zone for an 18-yard net punt.

Vince Verhei: A deep pass to Chambers is nearly intercepted, but Ike Taylor can't hang on the ball. Next play, Chambers comes free on a crossing route for 60-some yards to set up first-and-goal from the 5. And the field goal by Succop is ... good! Chiefs win! Chiefs win!

Actually, can't really call that a dropped pick. He got both hands on it, but there was plenty of contact and the ball came free as both bodies fell to the ground. If anything it should be a pass defensed for Chambers.

Mike Kurtz: Steelers punt from their own 43 in a tie game with less than a minute left. On behalf of Steelers fans: Fuck you, Tomlin.

Shortly thereafter...

Fuck you for punting around midfield with a minute left in regulation. Double fuck you for punting at KC 36 in overtime. This is an absolute fucking shambles.

Aaron Schatz: What was the down-and-distance where they punted in each situation?

Mike Kurtz: Fourth-and-5 on each. The OT punt netted a whopping 18 yards of position.

Aaron Schatz: Where was the midfield one that upset you so much? Fourth-and-5 from midfield is not not an automatic "they should go for it here" situation.

Mike Kurtz: It around around the KC 45 with 30 seconds left. A punt means you go into overtime. Going for it gives you a shot at keeping your drive alive and getting a FG. Either Tomlin was playing to not lose, or he had no faith in his defense, which seems a bit silly for the Steelers.

Aaron Schatz: Someone else can run the percentages, but honestly, that's not ridiculous. Fourth-and-5. If you have it back to them... I mean, there's faith in your defense to prevent 55 yards, and then there's faith in your defense to prevent 25 yards. That's how close Kansas City would have been to a long field goal if the Steelers went on fourth-and-5 and failed.

Mike Kurtz: Prior to overtime, the Chiefs had around 220 yards of total offense, including a goal-line stand where the chiefs actually went backward. Up until blowing the overtime possession, the defense was doing its job well.

Tom Gower: I don't really have a problem with Tomlin-KC had against the Jaguars shown they could hit the college-style "random deep ball" offense, and 1 of those was all they needed for a game-winning score.

Vince Verhei: I'm all in favor of leaving the curse words in Audibles this week and just doing the most profane edition ever.

Tomlin was right to punt in regulation. Roethlisberger had also been sacked several times on the Steelers' last couple of drives, so you're risking handing the Chiefs 7 or 8 yards right there. Then with 20 seconds, you're one deep ball to Chambers, one pass interference call, or a couple of completions to other guys away from losing on a field goal. Too much can go wrong there.

The one in overtime though was a lot more questionable. I think the run on third down was intended to set up a fourth-and-short, and when it lost yards, Tomlin decided to just play it safe.

Indianapolis Colts 17 at Baltimore Ravens 15

Doug Farrar: This is becoming unfair. On Indy’s opening drive, Manning throws deep incomplete into double coverage for Pierre Garcon to start the game, and I’m thinking, “He’s coming back to that one”. Four plays later, a 66-yard bomb to Garcon followed by a quick out in the end zone to Dallas Clark in which Clark catches the ball one-handed and holds it up like a pizza. On both of those deep throws, Manning had oodles of time. That needs to not happen all day, Ravens.

Aaron Schatz: Peyton Manning throws second interception of the game on a deep pass where he tries to thread it in as two Ravens defenders converge. First one was Dallas Clark, second one Reggie Wayne. I wonder -- is he not seeing the safety is going to come over, or does he think he can get it into a hole that's not going to be there? Frankly, neither one sounds like Peyton Manning to me, so who the heck knows.

Mike Kurtz: The Ravens were cunning, allowed a long bomb completion in the first quarter which led to a touchdown. This gave Manning a false sense of security, leading to a Reed interception at the goal line.

Doug Farrar: I wouldn't say the first pick was all on him -- it was more a tip drill to Clark -- but his reads seem pretty questionable today. He's throwing into more traffic than I'm used to seeing him do.

Bill Barnwell: Sometimes, great players make great plays. Impossible to anticipate what Ed Reed might read.

Aaron Schatz: Question especially to Will or Ned if you guys are out there... what happened to Fili Maola? They drafted him in the second round, I thought the whole point was that they would be able to go bigger at defensive tackle to stop running teams like Baltimore. I don't think I've seen him on the field today.

Will: Just hasn't won the job. Coyers has been very big on performance. The thing I've heard is that while they expected him to be slow, he's a step slower than that.

Doug Farrar: Colts defense is making it pretty tough to do anything else on the fourth-quarter goal-line stand. Not sure why the Ravens called a delay to McGahee on third down, but kudos to Clint Session for blowing through and forcing yet another field goal.

Aaron Schatz: I wonder what the Colts saw on film that made them say, "Gee, this is the right week to make Tom Santi a major part of the offense." It isn't like Baltimore's been particularly bad against tight ends.

Doug Farrar: I really like this Garcon kid. He gets absolutely 'faced by Ray Lewis near the two minute-warning, jumps right up, and starts barking at #52. He's tough when it comes to gaining the extra yard, as well.

Mike Kurtz: Harbaugh Martzing it up, Colts get a really obvious first down when the receiver stretches for it, Baltimore calls a timeout, THEN challenges and loses, which means they lose two timeouts on the play. Awesome.

Aaron Schatz: Terrible, awful. Coaches need to stop challenging plays that are too close to find indisputable evidence. Way to cost yourself all your timeouts there.

Doug Farrar: I don’t remember a two-week stretch with so many questionable challenges. And this with Romeo Crennel out of the league!

Aaron Schatz: Ed Reed, I know you like to lateral all the time on returns, and I know that your knee might have actually been down on that fumble, but what's wrong with you?

Doug Farrar: Well, there’s your KCW winner: Ed Reed, ladies and gentlemen! No way they overturn that one.

Will: I think it's a practice time issue. Garcon was banged up, Collie's in the doghouse, so Santi's there. They haven't run a lot of routes for TE2 at all, so there's something of a surprise effect and keeps the LBs a bit honest.

On Santi's goal line fumble, he was knocked unconscious briefly. Watch his arms and eyes if you see that close up they did.

Ed Reed's play at the end has to be the biggest difference between "smart player" and "dumb play" I've ever seen.

San Francisco 49ers 24 at Green Bay Packers 30

Vince Verhei: Remember when San Francisco drafted Alex Smith first overall and let Aaron Rodgers slide down the draftboard? At halftime, Rodgers is 22-of-31 for 274 yards. Smith is 3-of-7 for 5 yards. His three completions: A six-yard pass to Michael Crabtree on third-and-19, a five-yard loss to Frank Gore, and a four-yard pass to Vernon Davis on third-and-9. He has also been sacked three times.

Tom Gower: Way to go, Mike Singletary. Uses his last TO on a challenge to turn third-and-inches into third-and-a yard, only it doesn't work. Rodgers sneak, ballgame.

Buffalo Bills 15 at Jacksonville Jaguars 18

Tom Gower: Lee Evans is open 18 yards downfield in the middle of 4 Jaguar defenders. Fitzpatrick almost hits the upper-right Jaguar defender. Hey, Buffalo, Ryan Fitzpatrick is NOT an NFL quarterback. You know this. Do something different.

Boy, that was some incredible clock management by the Bills at the end of the half. They spiked the ball at the Jaguar 12 with :26 to play in the first half, had a TO left, and barely managed to get 2 plays off. They completed a quick pass to TO to the 5 for a first down and, rather than taking the TO and running 3 passes trying to get into the end zone, decided to hurry up to the LOS. Which takes them until about :05 left in the half. At which point they give Fred Jackson a inside handoff. They're danged fortunate he only got 1 yard and Fewell got the TO called immediately, or else the half would've been over. Just a terrible job of end-of-half coaching and execution.

Roscoe Parrish stupidly catches a punt at his own 5 and gets tackled at his own 2 after retreating. No matter, Fitzpatrick calls the audible and hits TO up the right sideline. TO outmuscles the corner for the ball, and it's clear sailing for a 98 yard TD pass. Up 15-10, the Bills run a gimmicky 2-pt conversion play out of FG formation, but the throwback pass is too far for an open DE Ryan Denney.

According to the TV guys, Perry Fewell described Jags TE Marcedes Lewis as the best tight end in the AFC. I have nothing to say to that comment.

Eric Wood is now on the ground, which means the Bills are down 2 OL this game. This is getting ridiculous.

Paul Posluszny seems to be over-aggressive in attacking the wider holes, which is something the Jags have exploited a little this game.

Wood got carted off with his left leg already in an air cast. Marshawn Lynch also went to the locker room in the first half, and has been ruled out with a shoulder injury, not that he's better than Fred Jackson.

TO has been getting a lot more targets than Lee Evans. I'd like to think that's an example of TO being better at going over the middle, where Fitzpatrick has a chance of throwing the ball successfully, rather than the squeaky wheel getting the grease.

I really, really, really can't get the Jaguars. They pound MJD into the line twice on first and goal, forcing Buffalo to use TOs to preserve time for a comeback, then finally decide to pass (like they did the entire drive down the field, successfully) and come up with a nice play design-Holt iso left, trips right with Lewis, Wilford, and MSW, then run Holt on a drag shallow and MSW on a deeper drag left. MSW's defender gets caught in the trash, and there's an easy TD. OC Dirk Koetter really has some nice scheming like this, but MJD's also 25 for 66 against what has been a terrible rush defense.

Atlanta Falcons 31 at New York Giants 34

Bill Barnwell: Giants build their early offense around swing passes to Brandon Jacobs, which works when the Falcons blitz, but doesn't when they get pressure with four. After a sack and a swing pass for no gain, a rush on third-and-29 gets in Eli Manning's face, and the result is an ugly pick into double coverage.

The Giants offense is extremely frustrating so far. Eli's nearly thrown three picks through two drives. They're running these weird plays to get outside -- like toss sweeps out of the shotgun. You're the New York Giants. You're supposed to have an elite offensive line.

Doug Farrar: Is Jacobs still running like there’s a four-way stop at the line of scrimmage?

Bill Barnwell: They're actually getting Danny Ware involved, and he's doing the same thing.

Pretty clear the Falcons don't believe that Chase Blackburn knows what he's doing. They're using a lot of formations with two tight ends on the strong side and Snelling's cutting all his runs back straight up the middle. Just led to a touchdown after Blackburn overpursued the motion on the handoff, which screamed outside run.

Lawrence Tynes misses a chip shot after a mix of good Eli (great touch on a double move to Manningham) and bad Eli (misses an open Boss badly on a deep out in the end zone, nearly takes a delay of game penalty). Moose: "Second week in a row the Giants have struggled with field goals." Giants had an open date last week.

Giants score on two consecutive plays that just look like huge breakdowns in coverage, with nobody within five yards of Hakeem Nicks (deep out, left) and Kevin Boss (deep out, right).

Chase Blackburn's having a nightmare day. He's been ugly in run defense, and just took a bad holding penalty on a third down play that got extended. He's not C.C. Brown bad, but teams are going to be able to exploit that as long as Antonio Pierce is hurt.

According to the announcers, the Giants "hold the Falcons to a field goal", which involves committing a defensive pass interference penalty inside the ten and then Michael Jenkins dropping a pass wide open in the endzone.

The Falcons score with a handful of seconds left and with the game at 31-30, they choose to kick the extra point instead of going for two. No Belichick effect there.

Despite nearly blowing it with multiple ill-advised passes, the Giants eventually kick a game-winning field goal. Falcons never touched the ball after tying the game. Overtime rules are awesome.

New Orleans Saints 38 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7

David Gardner: Earnest Graham is ripping through the Saints defense on the Bucs' opening drive. Saints run defense has been exposed in the last three games when they haven't had the benefit of a big lead.

Tom Gower: And teams have had time to see how they play without Sedrick Ellis.

David Gardner: In his pre-snap reads before being strip sacked, Josh Freeman pointed at Saints backer Scott Fujita and said to his line "you better guard the fucking edge out there." Nice. Oh, and they didn't guard the fucking edge.

Vince Verhei: Josh Freeman hits Michael Clayton on a fade route for a red zone touchdown. There was blown coverage on the play and Clayton was wide open, but it was still a nice pass by Freeman, a touch pass to the outside where not even a great play by the safety could have broken up the pass.

Doug Farrar: True to their end of the deal, the Bucs defense allows the Saints to drive 68 yards down the field for a touchdown. On the touchdown pass, Meachem was matched up against Bucs' linebacker Geno Hayes. Pitch and catch.

David Gardner: Raheem Morris has wasted both of his challenges already here in the second quarter with five minutes left. The first was on a punt that was clearly downed at the 1-yard line, and the second was on what Morris thought was an interception but clearly bounced off the ground.

Doug Farrar: Seriously – over the last few weeks, is someone sending out joke memos to coaches saying that challenges are 2-for-1?

David Gardner: Antonio Bryant has fallen down on a couple of crucial passing plays for the Bucs. If there's one thing particularly encouraging about Josh Freeman's early performance it's that he can fit the ball into tight windows. He throws hot out routes to the right places and isn't afraid to split defenders in the middle of the field.

Washington Redskins 6 at Dallas Cowboys 7

Doug Farrar: The Cowboys started their first drive by running all over the Haynesworth-less Redskins front four, until London Fletcher popped the fumble from Marion Barber, and DeAngelo Hall recovered. After the play, Hall was on the ground, barely moving, and Romo looked shaken up as he got up from making the tackle. Joe Buck (with alarm in his voice): “And it looks like Romo’s hurt!”

Bill Barnwell: It's no "Oh no, there's a man down!"

Doug Farrar: Wow – nice flying elbow by Willie McGinest on Rick Mirer there.

Bill Barnwell: Rock Cartwright has been freed! Four years too late or so, but Ladell Betts is down with a knee injury and will not return.

Cowboys are gashing the Redskins up the middle. Turns out they're a lot worse with Albert Haynesworth on the sideline.

They're also, predictably, killing Jason Campbell, who's had a mix of nice adjustments for decent gains, sacks/blown plays, and premature checkdowns.

Doug Farrar: As near as I can tell, here’s what’s going on in Dallas near the end of the first half: Jason Campbell got rid of the ball rolling right behind the line of scrimmage just before he stepped out of bounds. The call of a sack was overturned on booth review and changed to an incomplete pass. Alberto Riveron, for some reason, called delay of game on the Redskins, which I assume was cancelled out because it didn’t show up on the play-by-play. It took the refs a few minutes to figure that one out. Then, Shaun Suisham missed a field goal, and Romo ended the half with a kneeldown. Did I miss anything? I was in and out with Red Zone.

Vince Verhei: You know how we've all been begging the Cowboys to run more? At halftime, they have 22 runs and 12 passes -- and the result is a 3-0 deficit. I give up.

Bill Barnwell: Jason Campbell throws what should be a game-ending pick, bouncing it off a defensive lineman's helmet as he's being hit and into the arms of Anthony Spencer on a bounce.

Cleveland Browns 37 at Detroit Lions 38

Tom Gower: In the Battle of the Suckiest Bunch of Sucks That Ever Did Suck, Detroit Lions pass efense fails harder than Cleveland's pass ffense, as Massaquoi is open by about 10 yards downfield which is enough room for Quinn to find him for a 59 yard TD.

Doug Farrar: Quinn to Josh Cribbs for his third touchdown pass of the first quarter. That was set up by a Matt Stafford pick to Eric Wright in which the Lions’ offense proved that they can’t play defense, either. Wright ran around with the ball for about five minutes before someone felt like tackling him.

Aaron Schatz: Part of me is happy to see Brady Quinn put up a huge game a few days after ESPN published my first ever front-of-the-magazine column detailing how Brady Quinn needs to get more of a chance. The other part of me is very, very sad, because Jim Schwartz is so, so desperate for defensive backs who can actually play in the NFL.

Bill Barnwell: That doesn't mean he should be choosing Jason David, Will James, and Jack Williams. Is Roc Alexander's cell phone disconnected or something?

Aaron Schatz: They waived Jason David after a week, because, sadly, Jack Williams is better than him. Honestly, who is out there that the Lions should be going after? The only thing I can think of is Fakhir Brown playing in the UFL.

Bill Barnwell: Anyone. It's pretty well-established those guys are sub-replacement level. Bring in a bunch of rookies that need their technique refined. Sign some guys off practice squads. Anything. You're hoping to find guys who are going to contribute to the next good Lions team, and these guys are veteran stopgaps.

Tom Gower: Are we sure Schwartz is totally in charge of the personnel department? Bringing in veteran stopgaps who are sub-replacement level, but not really, really awful is the kind of thing somebody like Martin Mayhew might do if he was going to get fired if the Lions were bad enough.

Aaron Schatz: Right, that's also true. Schwartz isn't in charge of personnel, Mayhew is.

Vince Verhei: Well, if Detroit is THAT desperate, Pac-Man Jones is out there.

Bill Barnwell: A 75-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson ties it up at 24-24 before the half. Awesome.

Tom Gower: Which is the suckier thing to do: to give up a 21 first quarter point lead to a team that's scored 5 TDs all year before that game, or to blow a 21 point lead in a quarter to a team that's 1-28 in the past two seasons combined?

Bill Barnwell: Announcers are aghast at the Browns not kicking a field goal on fourth-and-4 from the Lions 29 in a tie game. What do you have to lose?

Tom Gower: On 4th and 9 from the Lions 21 with :13 left in the half, the Browns direct snap to Phil Dawson in FG formation and he throws complete to Mike Furrey for 10 yards and a first down. The Browns call TO with :06 left, and Dawson kicks a FG to give the Browns a 27-24 halftime lead.

Mangini is probably going to get ripped for running a fake FG and a FG on consecutive plays, but I'm actually pretty much fine with what he did there. I would have kicked the FG, because one of the benefits of going for it is the other team doesn't have good field position if you fail, and the end of half negates that scenario, but your defense has given up 21 straight points, so you can't rely on 3. Going for the fake is a reasonable decision-4 extra points is a reasonable game. But, the Lions don't screw it up. With :06, you can't rely on getting to run a play then an FG, so you go ahead and kick the FG there. There's an element of "Look how clever I am" masterminding there, but, hey, you're Mangenius coaching the Browns and playing the Lions.

Aaron Schatz: I just grabbed my phone, and it looks like Tanier's been texting me his Audibles comments because he won't be near a computer today. Here's a timeline of his comments:

12:57: I'm about to watch Cleveland-Detroit next to a guy in a Calvin Johnson jersey. Life is strange.
1:37: Poor Mr. Schwartz. Bar switches TV to Pittsburgh-Kansas City, WITH the Calvin Johnson jersey guy's blessing.
2:08: This is why they should never change a TV in a bar.
2:36: Phil Dawson is right-footed but left-handed!
3:21: This is the Liberty Bowl. Oh, and Massaquoi drops two straight.

Tom Gower: The Browns have a third-and-5 at their own 43 with 1:45 or so left with a chance to end the game with a first down. Naturally, they go empty backfield, the Lions blitz, Quinn throws incomplete, and the Lions are driving for the potential game-winner. Browns 40, :27 left after a spike, down 6.

WOW. Lions at the 32 with :08 left. Stafford scrambles around for about :10, then unleashes one into the end zone, but it gets picked. Alas, there's a flag down, as Hank Poteat shoved Bryant Johnson out of the back of the end zone before the ball got there. Stafford got hurt when Mosley slammed him down into the ground. After the Browns take a TO, Stafford comes back into the game (he'd gotten an injury TO, so if Mangenius hadn't called the TO, the play would've been run with Culpepper), and sticks Brandon Pettigrew. Hanson hits the PAT, and the Lions win! Awesome ending.

I also can't leave this game without mentioning Randy Cross is absolutely aghast that there wasn't a complete furor being made over the officials charging Detroit a timeout for Stafford's injury when they were out of time outs. Uh, Randy, teams get a 4th TO for injury before being penalized for delay of game. Wouldn't knowing the rules be a helpful part of your job?

Seattle Seahawks 9 at Minnesota Vikings 35

Vince Verhei: Brett Favre-to-Percy Harvin puts Minnesota ahead 7-0 early in the second quarter. The Seahawks got a couple of sacks on the Vikings' first possessions to keep Minnesota off the scoreboard. They got no help from their offense, which used a series of cleverly designed botched screens to finish the first quarter without a first down.

And then the Seahawks finally get a first down, and on the ensuing third down they try Seneca Wallace at quarterback, and he promptly runs out of bounds for a 9-yard loss. That's all he ever does. I never want to see him at quarterback again.

Doug Farrar: So, if the Seahawks want to play nickel all the time and take Aaron Curry off the field, why was linebacker David Hawthorne covering Harvin on that touchdown? Do they need to go back to the half-dollar defense (somewhere between seven and 15 defensive backs) they ran last week?

Aaron Schatz: If you are going to play nickel, why would Aaron Curry be the guy who comes off the field? Isn't he your best linebacker at this point?

Doug Farrar: I’m firmly convinced that Seahawks offensive coordinator Greg Knapp would lose yardage on purpose so that he could go for it on fourth down from inside his own 30.

Seahawks bring extra men to the line late in the second quarter, and the Vikings immediately adjust out to a four-wide with Visanthe Shiancoe split side left. Shiancoe beats Deon "Milk Carton" Grant for the touchdown. Ben Obomanu fumbles the subsequent kickoff return. Vikings' ball. Aaron, you wondered last week why the Seahawks contingent wasn't commenting much on their games. This is why. They're bad, but they're not entertainingly bad. They're just "We're waiting for Tim Ruskell to get fired" bad.

Tom Gower: Question for the Seattle contingent then: Holmgren as GM/President, picking his own coach. Yay or nay?

Doug Farrar: Better than what they’ve got, but I’m not convinced of Holmgren’s personnel skills. I’d rather see them go as the Falcons did, with the best available sub-GM guy and a hungry assistant coach ready to kick some ass as a head coach. Thanks to Ruskell’s missteps, this isn’t going to be a one-year rebuild. They need guys who are going to be patient for the long haul, and I don’t see Holmgren orchestrating a rebuild. He’d be better served running a team that’s a few offensive players (especially a quarterback) away. A lot of what was credited to Holmgren as GM was the work of Ted Thompson and Scot McLoughan.

The Vikings bring Tarvaris Jackson in before the start of the fourth quarter. I’m hoping that in future days, when Seahawks beat writers recall the end of the Ruskell era, they’ll refer to this as the tipping point.

Oh, and former Seahawks backup tight end Will Heller now has as many touchdown catches on the season as current starting Seahawks tight end John Carlson. Will Heller now plays for the Lions.

I don’t know what’s more pathetic about the Seahawks – that they had the same number of penalties as first downs (10), or that they had four net yards rushing. Four. In the entire game. Justin Forsett “led” the team with nine yards on nine carries.

Arizona Cardinals 21 at St. Louis Rams 13

Vince Verhei: How bad are the Rams? They're getting gashed on the ground by Tim Hightower. He had runs of 12 and 50 yards to set up Anquan Boldin's touchdown. Cardinals ahead 7-3.

Kurt Warner is out with a head injury, but it won't matter today, not if Wells and Hightower keep rushing like this -- they've cranked out 150-plus yards already early in the third quarter. They're also ahead 21-3. That'll help.

Bill Barnwell: It's an easy 150-plus yards, too. They're getting seven yards past the line of scrimmage before being touched.

Vince Verhei: Um, guys? The Rams have come back and are driving for a potential tying touchdown. And it's not because the Cardinals have turned the ball over, or because Steven Jackson is going insane -- it's because the Rams receivers are making big plays all over the place. Deep down the middle, over to the sideline, on screens -- the Cardinals suddenly stop these guys named Gibson and Amendola.

Bill Barnwell: The Rams are going right after Mike Adams at corner, play after play. Never has Bryant McFadden looked so good.

Tom Gower: Sure, and it's partly because the Rams converted 3 4th downs on the drive to make it 21-13. The Rams are also really annoying me because Gibson, and to a lesser extent Avery, are whining for a flag after every incompletion. Gibson just did it on 3rd down after dropping a TD pass, while Avery did a little bit of it after the 4th down pass falls incomplete.

I have to question the Rams' play-calling a little there. You have 3rd and 4th and reasonable distance after the Gibson catch, and you don't give the ball to your best offensive player. Sure, I know, passing, but he's Steven Jackson. Your team is bad. Get the point.

Aaron Schatz: How does Leinart look? Or are they running so much that he's hardly throwing anything?

Vince Verhei: Leinart looked OK. Accurate and poised and smart, but aside from one nice third-down conversion where he went through his reads under a heavy rush before finding Early Doucet for a first down, didn't really do anything special.

New York Jets 14 at New England Patriots 31

Aaron Schatz: I have some good news and some bad news for the Jets. The good news is, Darrelle Revis is draped on Randy Moss. The bad news is, everyone else is wide open, especially Wes Welker, over and over again. Come to think of it, that's not really good news for the Jets, just for Darrelle Revis' ego.

24-0 Patriots with two minutes left in the first half. Boy, the Patriots clearly lost their championship swagger when they blew that fourth-and-2 play last week.

Vince Verhei: And after Belichick sabotaged the confidence of his defense, they've held the Jets to 29 total yards and two first downs in the first half.

Tim Gerheim: I want to see a review of the reviewability of that Welker non-catch, since the booth review was called down very close to the ensuing spike snap. I love the idea of a meta-review.

Aaron Schatz: Mark Sanchez's favorite receiver today is Leigh Bodden. Just threw this third interception right to him, matching Dustin Keller's three receptions or the three receptions that Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery have combined. NFL Matchup this morning showed that Mark Sanchez has terrible footwork when throwing to his left. I just went and looked: All four interceptions against the Patriots were to the left. Eight of his 12 interceptions before today were to the left.

San Diego Chargers 32 at Denver Broncos 3

Bill Barnwell: Chris Simms looks like Byron Leftwich on quaaludes.

Oh. My bad. Let me rewrite for this week's Audibles. Chris Simms looks like Byron Leftwich on fucking quaaludes.

Vince Verhei: If we're retroactively adding in curse words, please change all references to Seneca Wallace to Fuckin' Seneca Wallace.

Mike Kurtz: Norv, naturally, can only be adequately described as "Norv."

Tom Gower: Dawkins is questionable with a neck injury for the Broncos. How shocking, a 30+ year old DB got hurt. Also, Neckbeard is warming up on the sidelines, because, frankly, the Chargers' current 10-0 lead (2Q 7:07) might be safe unless the Broncos get a special teams score.

Russ Hochstein knocks the ball out of Knowshon Moreno's two-armed grip as he's crossing over the goalline. It's a ruled a fumble on the field, and the Chargers recover in the end zone for a touchback. McDaniels challenges, and loses. It's a very close call, and there's not enough evidence there to overturn. Tough break for the Broncos, and a sign of how thin the edge can be.

Orton was in for the Broncos that drive, and looked significantly better than Simms; accurate and decisive with his throws. It probably helped his ankle that he could have read every Sunday paper published in Colorado one play before finding Gaffney. And he just got picked by Cromartie on the next possession-good play by #31.

Aaron Schatz: The Broncos have to cut Chris Simms now, right? I mean, if you give the guy the whole week as the starter in practice, and he's so bad that you have to bring in your heavily injured regular starter before you even hit halftime, then there isn't much point in having him around. They might as well just make Brandstater the backup.

Bill Barnwell: Mixed signals in Denver-San Diego. Broncos ran a surprise onsides kick, but most of the Broncos on that side of the field ran through the ball; Andre' Goodman had it go right through his hands. Legedu Naanee recovers.

Tom Gower: Josh McDaniels, why is Kyle Orton in the game? You're down 26-3 with <8 minutes to play, you're not winning this game, and he's hurt.

Cincinnati Bengals 17 at Oakland Raiders 20

Vince Verhei: Bruce Gradkowski hits Zach Miller for a touchdown near the end of the first half to make it 14-7, Bengals. The Raiders now have THREE passing touchdowns all year. There are at least 37 players in the league with more receiving touchdowns than the Oakland Raiders. (I'm not sure if ESPN's numbers are updated with today's games or not.)

Bill Barnwell: Huge swing in Oakland, where the Bengals are up 14-10. The Bengals line up in a Pro Set on third-and-goal from the Raiders 2, and run play action, but Stanford Routt comes off the edge and Carson Palmer pulls one of those I'm-going-to-keep-retreating moves to create space, only to never actually get the ball off. It ends up being a megasack for 18 yards or so, and Shayne Graham misses the ensuing field goal.

Tom Gower: Also, Solomon Wilcots on Bruce Gradkowski's holding on to the ball too long: "It's like holding on to a hand grenade, bad things happen." Because, yeah, footballs explode. I think I saw that in some movie, or some movie should have that as its gimmick.

Mike Kurtz: Monday Night Jihad, obviously.

Tom Gower: Raiders' offensive strategy, final drive of regulation: find Morgan Trent in coverage, throw ball.

Rob Weintraub: Trent has actually been pretty solid this season as nickel back, and was superb against Pittsburgh. But that was bad coverage. Of course, it was only the 12th or so bad play in a series of them that let this one slip out of Cincy's grasp.

Doug Farrar: I’ll give Gradkowski credit for the throw across his body to Louis Murphy for the late touchdown/non-touchdown. I wouldn’t assume that Russell puts it together to exploit the rookie.

Oh, WOW. Ed Reed, you have KCW competition when Andre Caldwell doesn’t secure a kickoff and fumbles inside his own red zone. Now, we await the SeaBass field goal attempt... and it's good. Raiders win.

Vince Verhei: Going into Monday night, Oakland now has four touchdown passes on the year; 24 individual players have more than that, and Andre Johnson can make it 25 if he catches at least one touchdown against Tennessee.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 at Chicago Bears 20

David Gardner: On third-and-1, Vick gets his biggest play of the season so far. He got a nice hole off right guard, put a move on Manning at the second level, and ran for 35 yards.

I just can't help but think that the Michael Vick from a few years ago wouldn't have been tackled from behind like that.

Aaron Schatz: This ain't your daddy's Chicago defense, kids. No Cover-2: Bears are playing single-high safety on pretty much every play, and blitzing plenty. Eagles, seeing this, call the perfect play in the red zone, a screen to Jason Avant. Touchdown.

Mike Kurtz: Gigantic run by Bell, got a good block (I know!) at the line, squeaks through and... there's nobody in the secondary. Everybody is on the WRs, who were running intermediate routes. So Bell just runs and runs, the WRs throw some good blocks, and down to the 10. Crazy play. I know the Eagles don't respect the Bears' running game, but that was a bit extreme.

Aaron Schatz: I think the Eagles got caught in a blitz also.

Mike Kurtz: Yeah, it was a huge blitz, but the safeties (as far as I can tell) were deep and to the sides, instead of cheating up in case the Bears ran (as far as I could see/remember).

Vince Verhei: It was a blitz to the strong side with eight in the box, and Bell ran to the weak side and slipped by all of them. Then there were only the corners and a single safety.

Aaron Schatz: Good catch by the NFL Matchup guys. They said this morning that Jay Cutler is throwing much better against the blitz, and tonight the Bears have had their best success both rushing and passing when the Eagles blitz. Which is a problem, because the Eagles blitz more than almost any other defense in the league.

Doug Farrar: I've seen him throw two picks this season where he rolls out to the left as a designed play, and whoever designed that play needs to stop. There are guys who can throw going away with little momentum, but Sanchez is not one of them. He needs to have his feet pretty solidly under him with a good plant to make accurate throws.

David Gardner: DeSean Jackson was so open on that touchdown that it didn't even matter that McNabb underthrew him by about three steps. That was your dad's Bears' defense there, they were playing Cover-2 and Jackson split the safeties beautifully.

Bill Barnwell: No stats to back this up, but the Eagles' DL have to be among the best in the league at recognizing and sniffing out screens. The Bears have ran two of them tonight, with the Eagles doing very good work on both. Forte nearly ran to the opposite hashmark to get away from the defensive linemen on the last one.

Doug Farrar: Were Cutler’s mechanics this bad in Denver? It seems that he’s trying to throw a fadeaway jumper with anything up in the air. He’s not putting his body behind his throws, and it’s anyone’s guess where those things are going when he’s "arming" everything.

Mike Tanier: I don't think the Eagles played any better this week than in the last two weeks. They just faced a weaker opponent, made a few better short yardage and red zone plays, caught a break or three. They are on par with the other NFC East teams, none of whom look exceptional right now.

What's frustrating about rooting for an NFC team is that nobody ever falls by the wayside. Sure, the Redskins are toast, but the Big Three keep hovering within a game of each other until the end of December, even if they aren't playing very well. The Giants found a win Sunday, then the Cowboys really found one, then the Eagles, with none of them really stepping up and saying they're the best team in the division. Compare that to say, the AFC East, where we now know it's Patriots trying to hold off Dolphins, or the NFC North where it's now Vikings keeping Packers at Bay.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 23 Nov 2009

242 comments, Last at 24 Nov 2009, 3:05pm by tuluse


by Theo :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 10:53am

Tomlin is very conservative in his game plan. I've seen him call punt on the opponents 35 with 4th and 1 or 2 before. Kicking FG where he should go for the TD etc. Drives me mad.

Also, did Freeman really say that? That's funny.

by AndyE :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 10:53am

Given the 2007 Patriots' focus on "60 Minute Men", can we get some "30 Minute Men" t-shirts shipped down to Foxboro? Really, the fall-off in production in the second half is getting pretty painful.

On the bright side, maybe they run up the score enough in the first half to cover themselves for the rest of the season.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:40am

Yeah, really. It's been embarrassing how badly they've played in the second half this year.

by peterplaysbass (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 10:55am

He was a great D coordinator, is a great coach, won the Super Bowl last year, and made the right (or at least reasonable) decisions yesterday.

Your commentary seems like the stuff I feel like writing when emotional after m favorite team loses, so I understand where you're coming from. It's classless to publish that to the site, however.

by Anonymously (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:35pm

he's a steeler fan. relatively, i'd say he's pretty classy.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:49pm

He's made terrible decisions all year-- starting in the offseason with keeping Bruce "great between the 30's" Arians . Next by keeping the s/t coach. Then by continuing to even kickoff in bounds.

Very few coaches get the historical privilege of following a SB victory with a missed-playoffs the next season. So... YAY STEELERS!!!! Last year is last year. It was great to add another trophy, that doesn't let him off the hook for the abortion that is this season. They realistically should tank out and move up in draft position.

His SB win last year was achieved with the help of LeBeau and a supremely above average defense which saved the day when he + Arians botched various strategic points in games. This year, with the Defense facing major injury issues plus having replaced a CB with a significant downgrade, we are seeing the "true" Tomlin-- one with no concept of winning strategy, adjustments, or general sense of what is happening around him at the moment. How many games a year would you say a "good coach" should lose when holding a 10 point lead?

by Purds :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:11pm

Just wanted to add that the genius, BB, followed a SB with a non-playoff season. I don't think it's quite that unusual.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:29pm

that's true.

I'll perma-ban myself from the internet and even football itself if Tomlin can swing the BB - SBw,miss,SBw,SBw . Until then, I'm going with: FIRE HIM.

by jedmarshall :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:24pm

Overreact much? If Polamalu is hurt long term it severely diminishes their chances, but do you really think they are doomed for the playoffs? Outside of the 4 division leaders there are Jax/Den at 6-4 Hou 5-4 pending tonight and the Ravens at 5-5 as contenders. Are you saying two of those four teams are better than the Steelers? Maybe, but if so it's very very close. I see Hou and PIT/BAL taking the wild cards.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:37pm

I don't see how the Steelers beat the Ravens either game this year. That puts them 10-6 at best, assuming (big assumption since they lost to KC, and CHI) they win the other 4 of OAK, CLE, MIA, and GB. HOU/JAX or both could easily be 10-6, and IIRC with better conference records? BAL should easily go 4-0 in their remaining other games even if they do end up kicking red zone FGs all day long...

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:25pm

Lol, FireOmarTomlin is back! Tomlin's only won 1 SB in 3 seasons, what has he done for us lately!! And that one only happened because of the people who were around him contrary to his wishes!

by dbostedo :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 4:27pm

Well he laid it all out above....until he wins 3 Super Bowls in 4 years, they should fire him. Of course, if they fire him, he'll never get the chance to win 3 Super Bowls, but who cares about logic when you are trying to get a coach fired? Yay!

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 10:59am

Tom Gower - "Way to go, Mike Singletary. Uses his last TO on a challenge to turn third-and-inches into third-and-a yard, only it doesn't work. Rodgers sneak, ballgame."

What is the rule for ball placement in instant replay? Does the spot have to be off by a yard or more? The replay showed clearly that the refs marked the ball about 1/2 to 3/4 of a yard to close to the first down mark - yet they upheld the call.

I didn't think it was a ridiculous challenge - it should have been 3rd and 1 instead of 3rd and inches.

by Tom Gower :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:16am

I agree with you the ball should have been moved half a yard. Even if the ball was moved, though, Singletary loses his challenge because it didn't affect whether or not the play resulted in a first down.

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:21am

yes - you are correct - a stupid challenge. But they didn't move the ball; which was strange.

by NinerFanInPackerLand (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:02pm

I may be incorrect on the rules here. But I believe his thinking included that they were going to call timeout there anyway to conserve clock if they stopped the Packers on 3rd down. So if you are going to use the TO no matter what, you may as well challenge the spot and see if you can make the 3rd down a little bit tougher. Again this assumes that I am correct on the clock behavior being the same with the challenge vs. a regular timeout.

by Viliphied (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:20pm

Are you sure that's the way it works? In any case, it's a moot point because he would have used his timeout there anyways to stop the clock.

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 4:11pm

Tom your missing the point. Singletary would have lost his challenge anyway because he was going to use his last timeout there to stop the clock. Since you can't challenge anything if you don't have any timeouts left, it was a very smart move to use the challenge. This had the same effect as simply using the timeout but also gave the added benefit of potentially moving the ball back a yard or so. It was a very smart way for Singletary to use his last timeout.

by Lou :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 7:53pm

i didn't see the 49er game, but I was shouting for Lovie Smith to do that exact same thing last night. He called a time out instead.

by BigCheese :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 9:58pm

Me too. It's baffling to me that, if you're going to use your last time-out anyway,and there's anything remotely challegneable going on, you wouldn't automatically throw out the red flag.

Short of calling a TO and THEN challenging, this is the challenge-related decission that drives me crazy the most.

- Alvaro

by JB (not verified) :: Tue, 11/24/2009 - 11:57am

I thought Harbaugh was doing the same thing in the Ravens game on Sunday. Unfortunately he called the timeout 5 seconds before he threw the flag so it ended up being the worst case scenario.

Inexcusable to challenge the play and lose two timeouts when you need them for the last drive.

by MJK :: Tue, 11/24/2009 - 1:15pm

If you just call a straight up timeout, the gameclock doesn't start until the snap.

What's the rule if you challenge and lose (or, for that matter, win)? Does the playclock stay stopped until the snap, or does it start on the ready-to-play signal, with 25 seconds on the playclock (as is the case after a 1st down measurement)?

I actually don't know...I'm not just being argumentative.

If the latter is the case, it could explain why Harbaugh called the straight up timeout initially instead of just challenging. After the challenge is resolved, the team with the ball can still run 25 seconds off. So if Harbaugh absolutely wanted to stop the clock before the 2 minute warning, then it explains why he called a timeout first, and then he made the challenge because he thought he could win.

But if the former is the case, then yes, I agree, it was really dumb.

Of course, even if the latter case is true, it's probably better strategy, assuming you know you're going to challenge, to challenge FIRST so that you know where the ball will be spotted and how many timeouts you will have before you decide if you want to take a timeout to stop the clock. So maybe he's still dumb. But not as dumb as otherwise...

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:01am

Rule-question: Why wasn't Ed Reeds fumble a forward lateral? The ball seemed, pretty clearly, to go forward! Is it a call that the Colts can decline?

Indy keeps getting extremely lucky in the close ones - could easily be 7-3.

by Anonymously (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:45pm

I wondered this myself. Maybe there is a judgement call that the ref makes as to whether the ball is stripped or intentionally passed. A ref should automatically know that Reed is more likely to make a terrrible lateral decision than get stripped, but if it is a judgement call for the refs, the safer call is fumble. We all know from watching Reed over the years that when he gets the ball he reverts to "returning kickoff on last play of a High School game down by 4" mode (whether or not the ARavens are losing), but I'd think that 9 times out of 10 the ref calls that a fumble since there were defenders on him.

Ed Reed, if you are reading this, please don't ever lateral the ball ever again. You are a HOF lock, but really, the Ravens just need to win some games.

by Purds :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:37pm

I'm not sure how much of yesterday was "luck." Yes, the game was very close, and I guess if winning a close game is a matter of luck, then Indy was lucky. But, it was the Indy defense that forced 5 FG's (including one after Balt had it first and goal from the 1. It was a great play by Brackett to get the interception -- faked the blitz, dropped back, and the lunged in the way for the interception (and, after the game Brackett talked about how the coaches had pointed out all week that Balt. likes to go to Ray Rice in those situations; very similar to the Indy DB's last week talking about how the coaches had schooled them all week that if NE went on a forth and short, they would almost certainly throw the quick out, which NE did).

Also, while the Colts got a good spot on the Wayne play, it looked like the correct spot. And, the Colts did not get either of the two very close replay results (both initially ruled fumbles by Balt. that Indy either recovered or taped way back into Baltimore territory before it went out of bounds). I think both replay calls were correct, but both were within inches.

Now, other wins might have been of the "lucky" variety, but I don't think yesterday was.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:09pm

Flacco threw a pick when the Ravens were in FG position to take the lead.

That's pretty lucky.

A good QB doesn't even think about throwing into coverage at that point.

Oh, and Ed Reed's hare-brained fumble was just silly.

Of course, the Colts themselves seemed to refuse to pull away - they kept driving down the field and then turning the ball over. Or so it seemed.

by Purds :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:42pm

Sure, Flacco threw a dumb pick (though I'd like to give Brackett and the coaches some credit for baiting him into the throw), but if we're calling good defensive plays luck, then it's luck that the two Ravens forced a fumble by Santi on the 3 or 4 yard line by knocking him unconscious for a second. I wouldn't call either of those events luck, but good defense. But, with one on each side, I'm not sure you can say anyone benefited.

Ed Reed's fumble came at the Baltimore 40 with 11 seconds left. Yes, that gives Baltimore 1 or 2 plays. They need about 20 to 25 yards for a 52-yard field goal attempt. As a Colt fan, I'm glad he fumbled, but I would still be pretty confident in defending those 25 yards in 11 seconds. You only have to watch the sidelines; any throw deep enough in the middle and they can't get there in time to spike it.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:24pm

I thought it was more like the Ravens were lucky that the Colts didn't execute and threw two picks.

I also thought the Wayne spot, if anything, could've been moved up even farther. I thought he extended to nearly the end of the 3 drawn on the field, and they spotted it halfway into it. Both got the first, of course, but when he challenged I thought there was a decent chance they'd move it in the other direction.

If it wasn't for the foolishness of that challenge, I would've been pretty upset about the sequence earlier in the game where he threw the flag on a Wayne reception, they stopped play, he talked to the refs about it, then decided not to challenge. I don't know what was said but that seemed a bit fishy to me. That 2nd challenge ended up netting them 20 yards of field position later on, but then of course cost them that final timeout too. I guess it all evens out.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 7:32pm

Yeah, an illegal forward pass does not have required enforcement. If it were called, the Colts could have declined it.

by BigCheese :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 10:03pm

I would postulate that any team that goes undefeated or close to it (not that the colts are in that discussion yet) is going to get extremely lucky in at least a couple of games. Just look at the Patriots-Ravens game in 07 and their two play-off wins.

- Alvaro

by Purds :: Tue, 11/24/2009 - 9:50am

I agree. But, to me, "lucky" means you were favored by an event you had no control over. For example, the opponent lines up a very short field goal with no time left and you're winning by 1 point, and the kicker shanks it even though you put no pressure on the rush. Luck is when the opponent throws a TD pass at the end that is dropped even though no defender is nearby. Luck is when the refs blow an obvious call (not a controversial one, but one like the Denver? game last year) and give your team the win.
The things that happened in the Colts-Ravens game hardly qualify as luck: goal line stops, interceptions, forced fumbles. Perhaps the short FG miss, though he made 5 of 6, 83%, on the day, which is about the percentage of a good FG kicker.

by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:04am

Mike McCarthy's cognative dissonance must have been tested on Sunday, as he apparently lobbied for the 49ers to draft Smith over Rodgers", allegedly because in Cal's offense Rodgers dumped the ball off too much, rather than looking downfield.

Now Smith stinks, Rodgers is good, with A-Rod's only weakness being that he has been too inclined to gaze downfield from the pocket instead of throwing the quick checkdown. Some of the Packers recent success can be attributed to Rodgers not hanging on to the ball for 40-50 seconds.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:01pm

It wasn't really Smith's fault in the first half. The Packer's scheme, combined with their excellent coverage, meant that no one was really open and Smith never had any time to throw. The niners' seem to open every game with the most conservative offense in the deluded belief that Frank Gore is capable of winning games entirely on his own (he's good but not that good). Any ambition is ruthlessly suppressed until the niners are in a 20 point hole at which stage they wheel out the spread and the niners actually begin to move the ball. Smith was pretty good in the second half against a very good Packers defense.

Singletary has decided that the niners must be a power running team and there is no plan B. He's wrong, Crabtree looks very, very good, Morgan and Hill are decent and Davis is a real threat. Gore is also a fantastic receiver. For the 49ers to win they will have to realise that their future lies with throwing the occasional pass for more than 5 yards, the suprise factor alone might get us a few touchdowns.

As for Rodgers, Mike Sando on ESPN had a chart that showed his average time per sack over the course of the season. It's an imperfect statistic but the time per sack has been decreasing every week, an encouraging sign for the Pack.

by nojo :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:04pm

I didn't watch the game, but I'm having trouble believing that the problem was that the 49ers "seem to open every game with the most conservative offense in the deluded belief that Frank Gore is capable of winning games entirely on his own", when he had only 3 rushes in the first quarter and 7 (yes, 7) for the game.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:15pm

It's easy to only run three times in the first half when you barely run any plays (I don't think the 49ers had a first down till the third quarter) and a succession of sacks, holding penalties and false starts repeatedly put you in long yardage, at which point they try a screen pass that gets totally fouled up because the crap linemen telegraphed it.

When EVERY 1st and 10 is a dive up the middle a retarded donkey can gameplan for you. Then 2nd down is long yardage and it's back to the penalties and sacks.

All year when the niners actually try to throw they move the ball but we don't even try till it's too late.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 4:35pm

Seriously, it always seems like the 9ers are their own worst enemy; it was true when Nolan was coach, and true with Singletary. I've just never seen a team that more consistently does twice as well when they change their play-calling.

In this case, though, one of the reasons Smith might have looked better in the second half was that both Kampman and Harris were out. With Kampan gone, particularly, Smith actually had time to set his feet and make a throw. He didn't have that time in the first half.

Not that I think Green Bay was particularly unlucky with those injuries...we ourselves were without Clements, Spikes, and Staley. That's our best corner back, our left tackle, and one of our starting middle linebackers on a defense designed to funnel all plays to the middle linebackers.

We have lost way too many close games lately.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 6:54pm

I could be wrong but we were already moving the ball pretty well when Harris and Kampman went down.

If the Pats and the Colts use the shotgun, why do the niners think that it should only be used in the direst of emergencies?

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 7:35pm

You remember incorrectly. Kampman went down the play before the first SF TD, though it was a good SF drive. Even so, SF's next two drives were five plays/punt and an interception on first play. Harris went down the first play after a long KO return. Two plays later, SF had a TD. The next possession was also a TD for SF. Harris's injury was significant as Woodson can't cover Davis and Crabtree both.

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 4:15pm

Maybe you should watch the games then. The Niners always open up with 21 personnel and use that for much of the first half with Smith under center, something he's clearly not comfortable doing. Gore only had 7 runs because the offense only ran like 15 plays in the first half, and in the second half the Niners were behind so badly they had to pass the ball. In the second half they were nearly passing the ball at will, with really Smith's only bad pass of the half (the interception) coming on the only play he was under center. I believe every other snap in the second half Smith was in the shotgun, and he looked very good (as the numbers can attest to).

by nojo :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 5:55pm

I really don't have any more interest in watching 49ers games than any other games, so I probably won't start watching all of them.

However, this whole line of thinking that they lost the game because the ran too much early is easily debunked. Let's go over their first half drives:

drive 1: Gore 2 rushes, 43 yards. Others: 2 rushes 8 yards. Passing: 0-1. This drive fizzled because of bad running.

drive 2: Gore 1 rush, 3 yards. Passing: 0-1 with 1 sack. This drive fizzled because of the passing game.

drive 3: Gore 1 rush, 4 yards. Passing: 0-1 with 1 sack. This drive fizzled because of the passing game.

drive 4: Gore: no rushes. Passing 1-2, 6 yards (all 6 on 3rd and 19), 1 sack. This drive was entirely passing.

drive 5: Gore 1 rush, 6 yards. Passing 2-2, -1 yards. This drive fizzled because of the passing game.

I don't see how you can look at the play-by-play and conclude that the first half problems were because of the running game. For the most part, the drives failed because of the complete failure of the passing game to move the ball.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 6:49pm

This discussion was started after someone tried to blame Alex Smith for the lack of success, which is silly. You might notice in your chart that Smith was sacked three times in his first eight attempts. He had no chance.

Trying to analyse the game through the play by play data is not going to give you a decent picture either. There were no attempts to throw the ball deep and many of the complete and incomplete passes were awfully designed plays with little or no upside. It's no secret to anyone that watches the niners that the passing game is an exercise in not losing while Gore is expected to win it.

The lack of runs is itself a symptom of the poor play, you just don't run much on 3rd and long. If you want a real idea of how Jimmy Raye thinks, look at the playcalling after the long run by Gore. Three more runs including the 3rd and short hand-off to Norris that was more than a little predictable.

It doesn't really matter whether you're running or throwing, the problem is the utter lack of ambition.

One of FO's most telling peices of research was the debunking of the 'run to win' theory. I just wish the niners had read it.

by nojo :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 7:01pm

I'm not disagreeing with that - as I said, I didn't see the game, so I can't really weigh in with just the play-by-play (as you said). The particular comment that I responded to that started this sub-thread stated that the cause of the problems is a conservative "Frank Gore will do it all" offense. I just don't see how that part is true (at least as it applies to this game), since they didn't give Frank Gore much of a chance to do much of anything.

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 4:17pm

Smith stinks so bad he threw 3 touchdowns against the #1 defense in the NFL? He might not be the solution, but he certainly wasn't the problem yesterday. As soon as they started putting him in shotgun he shredded the Packers. The big problem with the Niners offense is the hideous offensive line play (also known as the LOLine).

by coltrane23 :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:09am

Before the season started, I wasn't sure about Mora as HC, but I was cautiously optimstic. Well, that didn't last long . . .

It's not like he has loads of talent to work with anyway (thanks, Ruskell), but Mora and Greg Knapp have successfully put together a team that is less than the sum of its parts. Defensively, I'll give them a bit of a pass because the unit spends so much time on the field (partly their own fault, but all the three-and-outs aren't helping). I don't think it'll happen, but I'd love to see the end of the Ruskell era and the Mora era after this season. I've seen enough, it's time for some new blood. I suspect Ruskell will be shown the door, but Mora will probably get another year.

I'm not sure who Ruskell's replacement needs to be, but I know the qualities I'd like to see in that person: appreciates offensive line play and willing to pay for it (no more Hutch clusters), and understands that a good front 7 on D won't make up for a secondary filled with undersized DBs. Also needs to be willing to find and pay difference makers--the Seahawks have a bunch of "pretty good" complementary guys, but not many bedrock playmakers that keep opposing teams up nights.

I don't expect to see a team full of superstars, but I do want to see a few key guys who can carry the team for a stretch if needed. When things inevitably go south on this team, they seem to be looking around for someone to make a big play that they can rally around, and there's no one on the roster to provide that.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:19am

Jim Mora is a bad coach and the only reason he got his job is nepotism. I didn't want to pick Arizona to win the West this year, but I didn't want to pick a team led by MORON. He's honestly not that bright of a guy.

Seattle has the #2 or #1 roster in the NFCW, but they have the worst coach.

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:41am

JM Jr. road Vick's odd ability to a good record in his first year. He then brought in a system that played to Vick's weaknesses and destroyed the Falcons. Why he got another job is beyond me. And it's never a good sign when a coach throws a kicker under the bus. Come on, that's Scott Mitchell quality lemonassery.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:11pm

That's not really true though.

Knapp brought in an offensive system that DID play to Vick's strengths. I believe they got as much as humanly possible out of him. They ran a more Denver style WCO, but based it on misdirection. They'd run guys in motion, ran option keepers, and tried to "trick" the linebackers. Their goal was to "freeze" defenders into NOT over pursing, which would put Vick, Dunn and others into 1 on 1s with less athletic LB's. Their signature play was to be in I Formation, put the WR in motion to freeze the backside DE, and then the playbook would branch off from there... Iso play up the middle, End around, or roll vick out and throw a dump off to Crumpler that basically took 1 read. It was simple and it was moderatly effective against average/ weak defenses. Yeah they had some other plays that branched off that tree, but it was more like a college offense a big program would run against less talented teams. Vick had problems when he faced athletic defenses that COULD stop those runs, and would shut down his passing, while he destroyed weak defenses less athletic like the Rams.

They were fantastic at running the ball for THAT reason. As far as passing, they tried to make the passing game as simple as possible ( that's a good thing for Vick). The passing game was based off Bootlegs, and short passes ( drag routes) to a TE with good hands ( Crumpler). Curmpler was their leading receiver.

Any of the more 3rd and long or passes that required Vick to drop back, stand in the pocket and make reads were horrible failures. Not only could he not make accurate throws, but he was bad in the pocket ( he'd often LOOK at the DE's rushing him) and then just take off running. Yeah, sometimes he'd get 7 or so yards, but it often didn't result in 1st downs and wore down the QB and got him hits.

Vick was known to be the last guy to enter the building and the first to leave. He was popular at first, but his act wore thin when people saw the true person. Patrick Kearny ( the hard working DE) wanted to leave the team and choose to sign with Seattle because of Vick. Vick called out his WR's, flicked off the fans all the while secretly breaking the law. In reality, he had a pretty good WR in Roddy White go to waste because he was a horrible passer. The whole "Vick has no receivers" dogma is easily proven false.

Vick was an embarassment and a bust. There was at least one person that called it and shorting the stock of Vick the entire way from top to bottom.

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:36pm

I guess I don't see Vick's passing strength as short dump offs. He was never going to be a high percentage passer so his completions needed to be higher reward. Also, by keeping the receivers relatively short the defenders were closer to the line allowing the D to more easily defend the pass and contain Vick.

But, I obviously don't know as much about the situation as you do, and I concede I'm not basing my opinions on a thorough study of the Falcons of that era.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:47pm

but it's easier to complete dump offs than deeper passes, especially for a guy that was as inaccurate as Vick. I mean, over/under throwing a 6'5 Brian Finneran with long arms is different than over/under throwing a 5'10 WR.

The goal was to keep the ball chains moving, have drives, put their athletic QB, RB, and WR's into 1 on 1's with less athletic LB's, and of course they had Ducket for short yardage. The passes were more or less to mix it up. That offense was like none other I've ever seen in the NFL, and it wasn't going to produce big numbers for WR's anyway.

Going for longer passes might have been a decent idea, but it would have been more boom/bust in nature, maybe more big plays, but also more punts and giving the other team better field position. In reality, Vick was NOT a passer and they tried to keep him out of situations that effected his weakness. They wanted him him to run, the guys around him to run, and complete dump offs that would move the chains. Plus, sometimes those runs would result in big plays when Dunn, Vick, or the WR in motion juked his man and made a big play. I thought Knapp did a good job of masking Vick's weaknesses, but using his strenghts.

Also interesting was he wouldn't allow Vick to call audibles. Vick got the play and had to run the play. Vick wasn't "smart enough" to read defenses and run audibles and didn't put forth the tremendous work required to do so. The risk was higher than the reward and they made a no audible rule. That handcuffs an offense. What if they are running and end around to the right side, but the defense is playing 8 in the box with the SS stacked to that side? I don't like QB's that aren't allowed to audible and that can't audible. It's a big disadvantage for an offense.

On the other side look at all the run plays the Packers have called, where Aaron Rodgers will check to a quick slant on the backside when the corner is playing off a little too much that result in 7-8 yards or maybe more. Having a dynamic offense that can exploit weakness is a good thing. Having a smart signal caller that knows whether or not a play will work BEFORE the snap based on how the defense is lined up is a big advantage and doesn't allow for wasted plays that won't work.

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:39pm

Yes, definitely would have been more boom and bust, I'm not making claims to the contrary. Vick would not have been hitting timing routes, it would have been more like Roethlisberger prolonging broken down plays and winging it.

'On the other side look at all the run plays the Packers have called, where Aaron Rodgers will check to a quick slant on the backside when the corner is playing off a little too much that result in 7-8 yards or maybe more. Having a dynamic offense that can exploit weakness is a good thing. Having a smart signal caller that knows whether or not a play will work BEFORE the snap based on how the defense is lined up is a big advantage and doesn't allow for wasted plays that won't work.'

So? They didn't have Rodgers, they had Vick. How does designing an offense that works for Rodgers make sense when you have Vick? Even if Vick could have read the D and changed the play he likely wouldn't have hit the receiver. Why doesn't this whole statement support my claim that they brought in a system that played to Vick's weaknesses? They needed a system more akin to the one what got Elway to 4 SB loses, and oddly enough they fired the guy who had that system.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:36pm

I think we agree on more than you think. I was just making the point that having a QB with the ability to read a defense and audible, Brady, Manning, Brees, Mcnabb, Palmer, Eli, Favre, Rodgers etc. gives your team a big advantage.

People complained that Knapp " wouldn't let Vick audible". Well, you have to earn that right. If you can show your coach that you can identify what a defense is trying to do BEFORE the snap, and show why a play won't work, and show you know what a better play would be... You need master-ry of the offense. You have to earn that right. Look at the guys looking over screen shots on the sidelines, and then look at Vick who would just sit on the bench and stare into space. For him it was all about just showing up and, "making plays". It wasn't about studying, figuring out what worked, why, and how to increase your odds of beating the defense. His time on the bench was completly unproductive.

by crack (not verified) :: Tue, 11/24/2009 - 11:45am

Yeah, I think the problem was more that Knapp was installing an O that required audibles with a QB that couldn't make those audibles. That meshes with my belief it was the wrong offense for Vick. An O that calls for in-play improvisation as opposed to pre-play recognition is a better fit for Vick. Vick's season was his best, and Reeves was there all year.

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 4:20pm

Seattle has the #1 roster? What on earth are you basing that on?

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 5:53pm

I said Seattle has the #2 or #1 roster in the NFC West.

That would require some subjective analysis.

It's not the 49ers
It's not the Lambs

So it's going to be Arizona or Seattle. In all reality Arizona has the more talented roster top to bottom ( especially after having the benefit of seeing 10 games), but by how much? The biggest difference between Seattle & Arizona is Ken Whisenhunt, Russ Grimm, John Lott etc. vs Mora.

by James-London :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:45am

I suspect Ruskell will be shown the door, but Mora will probably get another year.

That would be the worst possible option, because it ties a new GM to the existing HC, and if it doesn't work out, sets you back a year. If you're going to hire a new GM, either, he has to be happy with Mora as coach long term, or you letter him hire his own guy.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by Doug Farrar :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:52am

And if the new Hypothetical GM is happy with Mora, I don't know if he possesses the big football brain Seattle's looking for. "Ooh -- he climbs Tiger Mountain and runs practices really fast! What a grinder! I'm sold!"

by James-London :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:01pm

Agreed, and this is a BIG year for Seattle. IIRC, they have two #1's in the draft this (their own and the Bears') both of which figure to be top-15 picks, so they have they'll probably have the opportunity to move up and grab a replacement for Hasselbeck if they see him. I'd suggest that if you're going to pick you new franchise QB, you don't want to change coaches, schemes, etc, one year on. More generally, if Seattle are entering a rebuilding phase, they should either clean house or let the current regime start over. (my vote would be for option 1).

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by Fan in Exile :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:05pm

They have the Bronco's pick. They insisted on that with the trade last year.

by coltrane23 :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:02pm

My fear is that they'll only go halfway, firing the GM and keeping the HC since it's "only his first year on the job." Jim Mora and Eric Mangini both appear to be poster children for the notion of cutting your losses as quickly as possible.

The window has closed for this version of the Seahawks. They're in rebuilding mode now, so they may as well rebuild from the foundation up. Best to rip the Band-Aid off, as opposed to tugging at it and prolonging the agony.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:04pm

As a Bucs fan, I'd advise you to be careful what you wish for.

by Keasley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:22pm

Correction: the Seahawks don't have the Bears #1 pick. Denver does. Seattle has Denver's natural #1. Both should be somewhere in the 10-20 range but I suspect the Bears-to-Denver pick will be a couple places higher than the Broncos-to-Hawks pick.

When all is said-and-done, Seattle's pick will probably be in the 10-15 range as well. They've only won 3 games but have home games against the Bucs, Niners, and Titans. As well as another contest with the Rams. They should AT LEAST split those 4 but could realistically win them all. They might even steal one against the Packers or Texans (unlikely though, the teams that seems to kill them are those with a good QB and passing game which those two have).

I'm a bit torn on the Seahawks. On the one hand they are clearly a bad team: disorganized, no running game, no pass rush. Prone to turnovers. Can't make the big play. Can't stop the big play. They are good enough to wallop the very worst teams in the league, hang with the average ones but get completely demolished by anyone with an above-average passing game. They have significant needs at many positions on both sides of the ball. And their quarterback is a shadow of his former self.

On the other hand, they're an average team who has had some really bad luck this year. Early in the year it was injuries. Recently they've had some bad fumble luck, an uncharacteristic number of penalties, and they seem have caught some inconsistent teams when they're hot and healthy. The Seahawks played the Cowboys in the midst of the Boys playing some of the best ball in the NFL. They didn't get the Cowboys team that played the Redskins last week. They should have beaten the Bears and could have beaten the Niners. When you're makign this argument, the Seahawks could be back in the playoff hunt if they could simply generate a pass rush and add a stud offensive lineman or two. Hasselbeck has shown this year that he can stay healthy for the most part and pass for decent yardage when he has a little time. With a better running game and pass protection they are a lower-echelon playoff team.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. I think that place buys Mora and Ruskell one more year. They're a package. If one goes, so does the other. This team has some talent but is underacheiving. And they're learning new schemes on both sides of the ball. Next year is make or break. And no excuses.

by peterplaysbass (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:12am

"In the Battle of the Suckiest Bunch of Sucks That Ever Did Suck"

Isn't it "the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked"?

And now I gotta go, 'cause my damn weiner kids are listening.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:14am

I'm going to have to disagree on Chase Blackburn Barnwell. You speak of him as a "hole in pass coverage". Have you see Antonio Pierce try and cover Jason Witten? Blackburn might not be nearly as smart as Pierce, but he's much more athletic. Antonio Pierce is NOT good in pass coverage, and is one of the least athletic LB's in the league.

I am quickly losing confidence in the Giants ability to hold leads. In the SD game they blitzed too much, in this game they mixed it up, but Matt Ryan & Phillip Rivers were able to execute their way down the field when they had to. I honestly don't know the best solution, but I feel like for whatever reason the Giants weren't able to generate as much push up the middle. Could they stunt more? Use a healthy Chris Canty in there? Rotate more depth in? Atlanta was rolling Matt Ryan out to move the point at which defenders attack... I don't think the ENDS were doing a bad job, I'd like to see the interior D-Line get better pass rush.

Jason Campbell had one of his better games, yet his team scored 0 TD's and lost the game ( What does that tell you?) He had a nice play where Demarcus Ware wraped him up with 1 arm, but Levi Jones pushed Ware's other arm which didn't allow him to wrap up. Campbell stepped up in the pocket, and threw a nice 18 yard pass to Devin Thomas. It was probably his best play of the entire season.

Campbell was bailed out on a few plays. I want to say it was 3rd and 13, and he threw a pass to Cartwright that looked backwards. If anything it was sideways. Cartwright threw a couples moves and ran for the 1st down. I'd love to see what percentage of the time Campbell actually throws the ball PAST the 1st down marker on 3rd downs. He was bailed out some today, but that's not something you can count on. Also, how many TD pases have the Redskins thrown to WR's? Do they always have to run screens and draws when they get close to the goal line? Their conservative play calling is so predictable it isn't even funny.

The funniest play of the game is where Randel El caught a ball in what lookes like 1/2 a yard short of the 1st down marker on 3rd down. The umpire moved in to spot the ball and Randel El moved the ball ahead of the yellow line and they gave him the 1st down. On TV, the ball was caught clearly behind the yellow line, and even on the other angle of the replay.

I thought Rock Cartwright played well and showed some burst. Ladell Betts got hurt, but Rock played well. There are anti-Portis grumblings in Washington and both of his backups have posted 100 yard games in his absence. I'd say Portis of 2009 doesn't look like the Portis of the past, as he has lost his burst this year for whatever reason.

Solomon Wilcotts in the Raiders game. The guy is a certifiable moron.

by Quincy :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:18pm

I agree that Pierce is unathletic and terrible in coverage, but I disagree that Blackburn is any better. Either player is a liability against the run or pass, Pierce is just better at making defensive calls.

The Giants need to address the middle of their defense this off-season. Their problems at safety have been widely discussed in the wake of the Phillips injury and CC Brown disaster, but the lack of production from defensive tackle and middle linebacker have been almost as much of a problem. They spent big money on Canty and Bernard this off-season, but Canty's been hurt and Bernard is just a guy. They don't have anybody that gets a push up the middle or is any way able to take advantage of teams focusing their blocking schemes on Osi and Tuck. And Pierce, frankly, is overrated. He doesn't get off blocks, he isn't quick to fill running lanes or to stop outside runs, he can't cover and is a poor blitzer. I know the coaches like his "leadership" but they need to find a replacement.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:42pm

I agree with everything you said. I just don't see this drop off from Pierce to Blackburn in pass coverage. Neither are good ( as you point out), but I'd actually say Blackburn is a little better. Pierce ran a 4.8 40 when he was a young pup with the Redskins, and he clearly isn't even as fast or agile as he was back then.

Pierce is a great candidate to be an NFL coach one day. LB coach, DC, or possibly even HC.

I'm also starting to think a lot of the mess ( besides obviously having Phillips out and Rouse/CC Brown in) is the lack of production at DT. You could point out the lack of pressure from Osi/Tuck, but the guys in the middle need to create some pressure of their own. I didn't see that push up the middle that you'd like to see.

I think Michael Boley has played very well at LB, a lot of the backup LB's are serviceable at best. I'd like to see them beef up the "middle" as you note with the best players available in the draft.

by Quincy :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 8:03pm

Boley did play well. He struggled a bit covering Gonzalez, but that's to be expected. I'm excited to have Boley for the next few seasons, he's a good blitzer and the best coverage linebacker the Giants have had in years (admittedly, an extremely low bar).

The other defender who stood out yesterday was Webster. After starting the season strong, he was up and down for a few weeks and then was awful against San Diego. He owned Roddy White yesterday though. It was a really impressive performance.

Bruce Johnson, on the other hand, got worked over by Michael Jenkins. I'm not sure why Terrell Thomas wasn't on Jenkins more often, but Ross needs to get up to speed in a hurry.

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:16am

Wow – nice flying elbow by Willie McGinest on Rick Mirer there.

Wait, I didn't think either of those guys were still in the league, let alone both of them.

Captcha: Trinity-Pawling schector. This is just getting ridiculous.

by Doug Farrar :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:26am

You need to watch the YouTube link.

by Anonymous77 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:17am

I don't think Eli threw into double coverage on his pick - Nicks was open momentarily up the field on the sideline, but the throw came up well short because Eli wasn't able to follow through due to the pressure.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:29am

I love the "Good Eli Bad Eli" reference. The guy has 18 TD's and 9 Picks. We are now to the point where we start talking about "almost interceptions". Do we do that for other guys? Talk about Johnn QB... He threw 1 pick, but had 2 dropped (so in reality he had 3).

How about talking about all the balls HIS receivers dropped in 2007? Let's ignore the good, talk about the bad, to fit with the narative Joe Buck style.

Eli has a QB rating > 120 on 3rd downs with over 10 YPA. He's not a king checkdown as he converts 76.7% and completes 64.5%. He has 10 TD passes and 0 INT's in the Red zone. His problem has been on 2nd downs, and actually some of the shorter passes ( Jacobs doesn't have good hands).

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:14pm

People have been talking about Eli throwing near interceptions for years now. For a while Eli had an abnormally low interception percentage given his low completion percentage, so it's not surprising that it would continue.

As was noted years ago, as well, it's just because of his last name.

by Carlos (not verified) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:26am

F___ you, Tomlin....

Shortly thereafter...

F___ you for punting around midfield with a minute left in regulation. Double f___you for punting at KC 36 in overtime. This is an absolute f___ing shambles.

You actually printed this profanity?? You all ought to be ashamed of yourselves. I'm not just some lurker -- I pay the super deluxe max amount (premium, book, KUBIAK). I don't have the slightest idea who Mike Kurtz is, but Barnwell's been contributing here for ages. Get your editorial hat on and edit that out.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:35am

Sounds like he lost money on the game or something. Pitt was heavy chalk and pissed people off.

by Temo :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:36am

He's a Pittsburgh fan and, as I recall, a hater of all things gambling-related.

by Temo :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:36am

You should just read further.

by Theo :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:37am

"I pay money and I'm offended by someone. Now put some censorship on yourself or else...!"

Is that what you mean?

by peterplaysbass (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:31pm

I'll punch you in the face for $5.

by Carlos (not verified) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 7:12pm

Ah, you hit a pet peeve. Look up censorship, b/c it doesn't mean what you imply here.

My view of capitalism: paying customers are entitled to give feedback. Heck, nonpayers can give feedback too, and as a business guy I actually like the feedback that says, "I didn't pick your service or product b/c of X, but I'd consider you next time if you changed Y."

by Gruntled (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:52am

As I learned from watching 'Be Cool,' more than one F-word earns you an 'R' rating, not a PG-13, so the disclaimer was a little mis-leading.

Also, the really forbidden F word is France, specifically anything that is negative towards France. So, for example, if he'd said f--- France, it would have been edited out. Of course that's under the assumption that they edit themselves as rigorously as they do the outsider outsiders, which I'm sure is the case.

Now you know.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:19pm

Brainless anti-French comments are not terribly impressive.

Two things I'd like to see

1) the Poles or Hungarians or Norwegians take half as much sh*t for being invaded by Germany that France takes

2) Mike Tomlin taking half as much sh*t for punting from the KC 36, in OT, as Bill Belichick took for not punting a week ago.

Seriously, why is the decision to punt always treated reverently by the football press (minus Gregg Easterbrook)? Throwing away a down to move the ball less than 20 yards while turning the ball over on downs is just stupid, no matter what the scoreboard says.

Two more thoughts from watching the Pats' game:

1) The Pats converted a 4th and short early in the game.

2) Later in the game, they had a punt blocked and returned for a TD.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:42pm

1) the Poles or Hungarians or Norwegians take half as much sh*t for being invaded by Germany that France takes

Are you kidding? First of all, there is a whole genre of jokes based on Poles are stupid, so I think they take enough shit. Secondly, France got invaded twice, needed England and the USA to help them both times. Thirdly, the French government surrendered early in World War 2 and cooperated with the Germans. Fourthly, the Poles got invaded by Russian and Germany combined, and there is some evidence that had Russia not invaded they would have held out for sometime.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 4:58pm

France got invaded twice....

You kidding me? France is a 1200 year-old country. It's been invaded many, many times. Ever hear of Henry V? Phillip II? If you're just talking Germany, it would be at least three times, since 1870 is what unified Germany in the first place. WWI France lasted just fine -- it was the Russians that surrendered in that one.

France is the only one of the G8 we've never fought a war with.

Dang, I hate bad historians.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 6:24pm

OK, I meant during the history of the US as a world power, which starts around 1900 to me. Anyways, I'm going to let this drop now as this is a football site. I still think both the Poles and the French get made fun of plenty.

Now Austria, there's a country that gets off easy.

by crack (not verified) :: Tue, 11/24/2009 - 11:51am

Take a look at the lyrics to the French National Anthem sometime.


by Dean :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:41pm

"Brainless anti-French comments are not terribly impressive."

But, like a fart joke, they're always funny.

by Tom Gower :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:52pm

Germany was a collection of 238 (made up number) mostly micro-states that kept getting run over by the rest of Europe until Napoleon invaded and took over, and decided to reorganize it into 8 separate districts because it would be easier to manage. You think that many states ever agree to form the Zollverein? Really, this is one of the least-discussed massive strategic blunders in TH3 H15T0RY 0F 30RTH1!1!! And what's the big deal with Norway? What do you want them to do, go dig up some urainite and put it in German soil, or just wipe Denmark off the map and replace it with empty ocean?

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:03pm

You should teach history, but not to children. Or adults. I would suggest maybe farm animals.

by Temo :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:13pm

I love you Tom. Not for the Norway comments, because really, eff the Norwegians, but the other stuff was good.

by James-London :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:19pm

As an Englishman I strongly approve of French jokes. The biggest French joke of course being its Army. Only one in the world with sunburnt armpits.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by Whatev (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 8:41pm

The French get shit for being invaded by Germany because their leaders in World War 2 were a bunch of colossal pussies. The war wasn't anywhere close to lost when they surrendered and in fact, they'd gone through worse in World War 1. Actually, their politicians were also pussies in World War 1 but Joffre was still alive then to prevent a possible pussying out. Admittedly, part of the collapse is Gort's fault for not wanting to commit the BEF, but if the French had just shoved all in and given the Belgians some support, the Germans would've been pushed back and then Churchill could've ordered Gort to fight.

However, it's not too fair to extend the blame to the average French soldier, who fought as bravely as anyone could while being massively undermined by his own leaders.

by Still Alive (not verified) :: Tue, 11/24/2009 - 11:40am

And if wishes were horses beggars would ride!

France has a long and glorious military tradition. Unfortunately for them they have been in a bit of a downward trend since 1812. Since most Americans seem to think the world is about 100 years old I can see why they would have such a low opinion of France, which was one of the most powerful countries in the world for 1500 years, but hey who needs perspective!

As for your analysis of WWII. Yes the French didn't put up much of a fight, they had invested a huge amount of money on the best defensive system the world had ever seen, which was unfortunately built to fight the previous war. Stupid and shortsighted, yes, but the collapse after it failed was understandable.

It is very easy to MMQB the world wars and think the US was so smart. In both cases we had the advantage of two huge oceans protecting our large industry and civilian population from the consequences of the war. Being the nation with the largest industrial base and no means of being attacked is not a very difficult situation.

by (not verified) (not verified) :: Tue, 11/24/2009 - 12:08pm

Here is a joke that should make the French feel better.

One day, an old Polish farmer was plowing his field when he found a battered lamp. He rubbed it, and out popped a genie who offered him three wishes. The old farmer thought for a moment and said, "I'd like for the Mongols to come and invade Poland." The genie was a bit non-plussed about this, but responded, "Your wish is my command." Six months later, the Mongols arrive and rape, loot, and pillage their way through Poland and go home.

The genie reminds his master, "You still have two wishes left." The old farmer thinks for a bit and says, "I'd like for the Mongols to come and invade Poland." The genie is shocked, but nonetheless replies, "Your wish is my command." Six months later, the Mongols are back, and this time they REALLY tear up the place before going away.

The genie reminds his master, "You still have one wish." The old farmer thinks for a while and says, "I'd like for the Mongols to come and invade Poland." The genie can't take it any more and asks, "It's your wish master, and I will grant it, but I must know, do you hate your country so much?" "Of course not!" replies the farmer, "I love my country." The genie just can't figure it out, "Well then why do you keep wanting the Mongols to invade your country?" "Oh," the farmer replies, "because each time they come to Poland, they go through Russia twice."

by Dean :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:36pm

I didn't really feel like the profanity really added anything to the article.

Don't get me wrong, I use it myself (probably way too much), and I'm not offended or anything.

It just seemed to be a distraction. Hopefully, its a one-time gimmick.

But I'm not going to stomp my feet and hold my breath until I turn blue in hopes that you will stop everything and bow to my thinking and my thinking only.

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:52pm

there is an art to swearing. As Mark Twain said to his wife Livy after she repeated word for word one of his profane tirades to show him just how vulgar it sounded:

"You got the words right, Livy, but you don't know the tune."

by countertorque :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 8:59pm

Yeah, I can provide that analysis myself. I don't need to log into the super genius statistical football website for that insight.

by jonah_jamison (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:45pm

I agree. Earlier this year I tasked Mr. Kurtz for saying Brad Childress resembled a serial pedophile (which I thought was classless and unfunny - this as a Steeler fan). This week he's barking fire over Tomlin's decisions to not go for it. I didn't have any quibbles with Tomlin, but rather Arians. A pitch to the right out of the shotgun on 3 and 2 to Mewelde Moore in overtime? I run it twice there out of the i-formation with a lead blocker. No use running east when we've gotta go north. They also should have done more in the 3rd quarter to wear the KC defense down. Not nearly enough Mendenhall or Parker, who were having some early success.

Look, Arians fell in love with Roethlisberger and throwing all over the yard last year. That's who Arians is. Tomlin is trying to create a Patriot-style offense that can with varied formations which attack and exploit the other teams weakness. He doesn't want one particular style, rather something multi-dimensional and adaptive. It's the right direction, but I'm not sure Arians is the guy to work the bellows on such a beast.

Also, the defense misses Polamalu. His absence only amplifies how valuable he is to that secondary.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:54pm

I'm glad someone else saved me the time of pointing out that pitch sweep (idiotic to begin with) was to Moore, not Mendenhall.

On to your point about the offense. That idea would seem a lot more logical if they installed field turf. Parker, Mendenhall, Holmes, Wallace, etc... this isn't the Jerome Bettis 3 yards and a splatter of mud team anymore. By mid November the "turf" or what's left of it at Heinz is a hindrance to speed... on both sides of the ball...

Missing Polamalu certainly, but Gay has made some terrible plays the last few weeks as well. They also need to get some heavy duty stickem for Ike Taylor and his career 2348th dropped INT.

by jonah_jamison (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:36pm

I disagree that the turf on Heinz field dictates a cloud of dust offense. New England came to town a few years ago in 10 degree weather and aired it out. Last year San Diego threw it all over the place. There's also a popular misconception that the field is in terrible condition. Early on there were issues with the re-sodding of the field around this time of year because it was being given only a week to take root and was being placed on top of a hybrid surface. Since then they've gone back to 100% grass (insert Caddyshack joke) and now re-sod after the final Pitt game. I suspect over this past weekend new sod was put down with the expectation that it has two full weeks to take root.

Chicago has an absolutely awful field. Even when it doesn't rain the surface is wet to the touch. Go back and watch Jeff Reed trying to find a way to plant on his two missed field goals earlier this year. It's a dreadful field with no footing.

Taylor will never catch interceptions, even though he focuses on it during the off-season. He's a sure tackler though and helps to prevent big plays. Will Gay had better playmaking abilities when he was called on for spot duty, but he's being asked to do more this year which only amplifies the mistakes. It's an injured defense missing two of it's better players in Smith and Polamalu. When you consider the special teams and offense have given up 56 points on 8 returns, I'd hazard the defense as being the last thing wrong with the team. They're giving up 12.8 ppg on D, while fighting through the loss of multiple starters.

by DGL :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 4:48pm

All together now: If defensive backs could catch the football, they'd be wide receivers.

by doktarr :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:05pm

They have no reason to be "ashamed of themselves". This is the internet, and everyone is one URL away from all sorts of awfulness.

I agree the disclaimer (which was printed at the top) probably should have been bigger and bolder, or somehow harder to miss. But given the presence of a clear disclaimer, you only have yourself to blame if you get offended.

by M :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:32pm

Personally, I think FO should have one week a year where they go all "Glengarry Glen Ross" with their comments. They could also have a censored version similar to what TMQ has (except for different reasons).

Regarding the comment about Brad Childress serial pedophile appearance, there are two ways to look at it. The more socially appropriate one is that one should never, ever joke about such things, because they are too heinous. A second school of thought - which I believe is likely shared by many comedians - is that we need to be able to laugh at things that are heinous. Laughter helps us cope with such things, IMHO, and I also think to be able to laugh at horrible things is a great example of "living well is the best revenge".

On a related topic, can anyone opine on why is there so much FO-bashing this year? Is it the restricted content on ESPN? Or the flawed belief that DVOA isn't as accurate as years past? Did KUBIAK kill your fantasy team? Do we miss the old Scramble guys (I like it as much as always)? Seriously, what is the big deal?

by peterplaysbass (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:34pm

I'm not offended, but to be thorough, I'll point out there was no disclaimer when I first found the article.

I suspect the disclaimer is calling me a 12 year-old for my early criticism (comment #3), further proving the maturity of the staff.

by Bill Barnwell :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:54pm

There absolutely, positively was a disclaimer when this article got posted. Also one on the home page.

by peterplaysbass (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:53pm

I saw the name of the article, "PG-13" and that there were 0 comments. It looked different when I checked the site again a while later. Like it gets posted non-chalantly at first and then featured later, or something.

I'm sure I did not see anything like "12-year-old readers: You've been warned."

That said, I don't really care. I read a lot of sites where profanity is used often and light-heartedly, and that's fine. FO hasn't made a habit of that, so to see that language within seemingly sincere hostility from a writer toward a coach was a bit surprising. That's all.

by Still Alive (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:50pm

I would agree I saw nothing of the sort, FWIW.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 5:42pm

They are trying to edit history.

You are mistaken. The disclaimer was there all along.

Now how many lights do you see?

by Temo :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:27am

You know how we've all been begging the Cowboys to run more? At halftime, they have 22 runs and 12 passes -- and the result is a 3-0 deficit. I give up.

Thank you. Now lets all let Jason Garrett do his job.

by Key19 :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:48pm

Wow, I can't believe I missed this comment on my way to posting the exact same thing myself! :)

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:32am

1) Belichick has got to be an all-time leader in making totally useless challenges.

2) Are the Patriots ever going to play a good second half against someone?

3) "Hail Flutie!" was 25 years ago today. Aaaaack!

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:15pm

The game never got close, so it was a good second half. Not great, but the goal going into the second half isn't to win 48-0.

"All four interceptions against the Patriots were to the left."

That 4th interception was simply horrific. Knew before he even threw it that it was a pick. There were like 5 defenders taking shots at him, and he didn't throw the ball away.

There was another ball that he threw, to the left, where TBC almost knocked it down, and then it hit breylon edwards in the chest, and landed on top of TBC.

by Purds :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:19pm

On NFL match up Sunday morning, they broke down Sanchez' footwork, and they pointed out how poorly he sets up on throws to his left (wide stance, no balance, no step into the throw), but that when he throws to the right, he's got much better footwork. Amazing that it was shown so clearly in the game just a few hours later. Good stuff. I love that show. Wish it were longer.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:24pm

There was a noticeable decrease in the quality of the Pats' offense from the 1st to 2nd half. The problem is that the Pats can get away with that against the Jets, but not against the elite teams of the NFL.

Minus 2nd-half fall-offs, the worst the Pats should be right now is 9-1. They were clearly the superior team in the first half against the Jets in the Meadowlands and against the Broncos (and the Colts for that matter, but a 2nd-half let-down against the Colts is far more understandable).

by huston720 :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:41am

Wow poor Steelers fan, your coach who just won you the SB last year got conservative so your response is F you to a successfull coach. What a tough life you lead. /end sarcasm/

Meanwhile the football gods or whomever find yet another excrutiating way to torture Browns fans at the end of a game. I sympathize with Lions, and Buffalo fans, but us Browns/Cleveland fans are the most victimized fans in sports. Here is my quick list of agonies within my lifetime (which excludes red right 88):

1. The drive
2. The fumble
3. The move
4. Watching Modell and the Ravens win the SB
5. The KC game where we lost when a player removed his helmet on the last play of the game though the play was still going on.
6. The playoff loss to Pitt when we blew the big lead in '07.
7. This Lions game where they get a second chance on a questionable PI call considering the ball was 10 yards away from the receiver/ no one ever calls PI on a hail mary.

And those are just the ones off the top of my head, I'm sure I'm missing some.

by Monkey Business (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:48am

Um, it wasn't questionable. At all. He basically tackled the guy. If you want to blame someone, blame Mangini. He's the guy that called the timeout.

by huston720 :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:17pm

Yes he pushed him and then immediately turned to face the ball, a ball that was intercepted at the front of the endzone. There was no way that was a catchable ball for that receiver. Thats before accounting for the fact that it was an end of game hail mary, and to me you can't throw that flag unless it was the player going up for the catch that was being hit. Also if the refs want to get ticky tack at the end of the game they should have called a penalty on the lions TE coach who ran across the field to congratulate Pettigrew. It probably doesn't make a difference, but a 34 yard extra point is a lot less of a sure thing than a 19 yarder.

And yes I do blame Mangini just as much for his call on 3rd and 5. i understand that the first down ends the game, but you have to make sure the clock runs either way, which is why a run, or a wildcat play would have been a much better call. I would have put it in cribbs hands and if he doesn't get the first down you punt.

by Tom Gower :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:46pm

It seems my comment may have created confusion. Poteat didn't actually shove Bryant Johnson out of the back of the end zone. The DB that did that didn't get flagged. Rather, Poteat tackled Calvin Johnson, who was much better-positioned to catch the ball. That multiple officials threw flags for the call suggests that it wasn't a very difficult one.

by huston720 :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:01pm

I guess I'll have to re-watch it to see, but I thought they called the flag on Poteat for the contact at the back of the endzone, and in fact his defense for that was that if the QB is out of the pocket you can push him out of bounds as long as the ball is in the air. If I remember correctly the receiver going up for the ball wasn't tackled but ran into Elam as they both jumped for the ball, either way the call was on Poteat. And if he tackled Johnson before the ball was in the air that is only illegal contact.

Yeah two officials threw the flag because there was a lot of contact, my point was that the contact was nowhere near the ball, which was uncatchable for that receiver. Either way it is yet another ridiculous way for the Browns to lose a game yet again. I doubt any other teams have experienced as many terrible/inexplicable/excrutiating losses. But either way I'll still be watching next week, and heading out to the home games.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:52pm

It wasn't ticky-tack. It was completely blatant. Poteat had his back to the play and two-handed shoved Johnson out of the back of the end zone. If Poteat just turns around and jumps up, there's no PI, even if he bumps Johnson a whole bunch in the process.

There wasn't even a question about it. Poteat's play was idiotic. Watching it live my jaw dropped open that he'd do something that dumb on the last play.

by huston720 :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:02pm

But again my point was that the ball wasn't even near that receiver. yeah it was a stupid play I'll agree, but I still think it was a questionable call in that situation.

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:51pm

You mean the receiver the guy was pushing away from the ball? Amazing how that receiver didn't end up near the ball.

People make too much out of Stafford coming in for the final play from a game outcome standpoint, Culpepper from the 1 has a pretty good chance at scoring.

by huston720 :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:04pm

Yeah I mean the receiver 7 yards away from where the ball was intercepted about a second before it was intercepted. Do you honestly think that had poteat not pushed the receiver he would have any chance to catch the hail mary? It wasn't like he pushed him away well before the ball arrived.

I agree with your second statement, which is why it doesn't bother me that mangini called a timeout to get the personnel set, and allow Stafford back in the game. Since I think it was a wash between a cold Culpepper and an injured Stafford from the one.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:04pm

Most football games have penalties where the ball was nowhere near the penalty. The blocking penalties on a good percentage of punt returns is a good example. If it's blatant, it usually gets called - regardless of the situation. If a defender is so clueless as to tackle a WR on a Hail Mary play while the ball is in the air, he DESERVES to be penalized. It was the right call.

by huston720 :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:14pm

Ok this is my last post on this topic, and I swear I am not a pure homer, I don't necessarily think the refs screw my team more than any other team.

You are right, but on PI calls, whether the ball is catchable or not is a part of the equation. PI calls are routinely overturned for uncatchable balls. It's not the same as a blocking penalty. Also ideally the game would be called the same regardless of situation, but that is simply not the case. I don't think i can ever remember a PI call on a hail mary before. Like I said earlier, i think that should only be called if it is the receiver about to catch the pass that is interfered with. So my point is that in that situation, with the ball clearly being uncatchable for the receiver that was interfered with it was a questionable call. That doesn't mean it was not a stupid play, or technically the correct call. (And it wasn't exactly a tackle, though that term is being thrown around a lot, it was much less contact than that)

But at the same time if we are going by the book my guess is you could call offensive or defensive PI on just about every hail mary, or at the very least illegal contact.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:18pm

Illegal contact and defensive holding are not contingent on the ball being catchable. So, you are basically saying it should have been a holding penalty?

by huston720 :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:51pm

I said you could call defensive holding and/or illegal contact on just about every hail mary pass play, but that doesn't mean you should. Likewise i don' think the refs should bail out a team with a PI penalty against a receiver who had no chance with or without the penalty of catching the ball.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:49pm

Hail Mary plays usually end up with 12 or so guys in the end zone ( offense and defense) standing looking at the QB for a jump ball...

You don't have defenders with their back turned
You don't have defenders with arm bars & turned backs
You don't have defenders trailing receivers tugging on their jerseys down the sidelines.

You have a number of guys, standing there looking at the jump ball. It makes it LESS likely for a DPI when the defenders are all facing the action.

by huston720 :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:56pm

Thats generally true when the ball is just about to arrive, though not always true since you often still have receivers/defensive backs with their backs turned. But it isn't necessarily true when they are jostling for position prior to the ball arriving, which is often when the ball is in the air. Yes the contact was more blatant than most hail mary plays, but it wasn't near where the ball came down, and I don't think that call would be made 100% of the time, nor should it be.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 7:54pm

First of all, no. As a Cleveland fan in general, sure, although you don't have an NHL team, which means you have only about three-fourths the pain that someone from Philadelphia could have. (I'm sure last year's World Series helped them a bit.) And as a Detroit fan, I certainly appreciate how fortunate I've been to follow three teams that have won a lot of titles in my lifetime.

As a Browns fan, bemoaning losses in AFC title games is understandable (as a Bills fan, I'm sure, would agree), but there are a number of teams who haven't been to multiple conference title games. Also, 0-16. Also also, you've won twice as many NFL titles as we have, and your last win was more recent. I'm sorry if your most recent meal was somewhat undercooked, but we haven't eaten in a decade.

Second of all, Poteat is pushing the receiver out of bounds, with his back to the ball, while the pass is in the air, as it comes down about 6-7 yards in front of the receiver and pretty much directly in line with him. The end zone replay gives you a clear shot of the PI. Look at the 3:21 mark or so (my DVR started at 1:00, so it happened about 4:21).

I understand that watching it live, you've got to feel like it was a weird time to call a penalty, and yes, it rarely happens on a Hail Mary, but as discussed already, generally players aren't in a more traditional PI position (not facing receiver, not playing ball) on a Hail Mary. And as a Lions fan, watching it live, I'm going to be thinking "holy crap what a break!" rather than "why, exactly, did they call that?", which is why I waited and replayed it to be sure. So I can understand a Browns fan looking at it the other way.

I'm sorry it came down to plays like that at the end, and I'm sure it sucked to lose, but hey, if you want to talk about painful last-second losses, in 2000 we lost a game at the end of the season on a last-second field goal and ended up with Matt Millen as GM.

by huston720 :: Tue, 11/24/2009 - 9:33am

As far as Philly fans, yeah they have 4 teams, but they won a championship less than 30 years ago, and then won a World Series just two years ago, at this point they have no claim to most tortured sports city. Buffalo is about the only other city that comes close with only two major sports.

As for Browns versus Lions I suppose it is a subjective thing, but in my mind the move trumps the 0-16 season. We were 0-16 for three years essentially, while watching the team that should have been ours and our d-bag former owner get better and better until they won a super bowl. Meanwhile we watched an expansion team (though I don't mean to complain about that too much since most Cleveland fans prefered an expansion team to stealing someone elses team, and it was nice to have football back) I am even open to your argument about the overall lack of success versus the moderate amount of success for the browns, but my point was that when the Browns had some success it almost always ended in major heartbreak, well beyond simply losing to a better team. And yeah you had a really really bad GM for a long time, but we have instead had a series of bad GMs (though none as bad as Millen).

As for the PI, if I was a Lions fan I would be saying that it was PI, and I'm not saying it was a bad call, just that it was a questionable one in a questionable decision. I certainly don't think it was nearly as obvious as you and your coach make it out to be. To me if Poteat doesn't touch the receiver he still doesn't make it the 7 yards to the ball since the contact was essentially at the same time as the interception.

And absolutely the Browns are more at fault for the loss than the refs, since they should have not been in that position to begin with, but to me it was still a questionable 50/50 call, and it always seems like those go against the Browns in situations like this.

by Monkey Business (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:44am

I was going to make some smart-ass comment about how the Colts top five receivers have more touchdowns than the Oakland Raiders, but then the Raiders had to go and score. So, now it's the Colts top three receivers.

But yeah. The ineptitude displayed by about half the NFL is staggering. So much for parity.

by bingo762 :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:53am

Tanier said: "What's frustrating about rooting for an NFC team is that nobody ever falls by the wayside. Sure, the Redskins are toast, but the Big Three keep hovering within a game of each other until the end of December, even if they aren't playing very well. The Giants found a win Sunday, then the Cowboys really found one, then the Eagles, with none of them really stepping up and saying they're the best team in the division. Compare that to say, the AFC East, where we now know it's Patriots trying to hold off Dolphins, or the NFC North where it's now Vikings keeping Packers at Bay."

You might call it frustrating but I call it exciting. I'm an Eagles fan and love meaningful late season games.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:58am

Aaron, The Bears were in cover 2 when Desean Jackson beat them over the top with the long TD.

I found it interesting that I believe Collinsworth said that Reid told him he likes using Vick when Mcnabb is playing well ( to not create QB contraversy). I wonder why they don't use Vick more on gimmick 3rd and 1's? Vick isn't nearly as fast as he used to be but they could use him on option's and not worry if he gets injured or not. Just pick up 1st downs.

It also looked like on that 34 yard run Vick actually had decent ball security. This is the QB who used to hold onto the ball like a loaf of bread and would often fumble. Holding onto the ball like a loaf of bread not a good thing when you are measured to have the smallest hands of any QB in the NFL. Vick really does have a lot of bad attributes for a QB. Lack of height, lack of accuracy, lack of intelligence, doesn't feel the pass rush very well, small hands... but hey, he's fast!

I'm sick of everybody pouring on Jay Cutler but then again I didn't predict the Bears to go to the SB or anything. He is adjusting to a NEW offense, with sub par receivers and a bad offensive line. Rather than throwing all checkdowns to pad his stats and lose respectfully... he's trying to make plays. He obviously isn't on the same page as his receivers and yes, turnovers happen.

If he was in a good offensive system ( like Denver last year), he showed that he can do well. Now he's in a bad situation and he's not playing well ( as well as the guys around him). In all reality, I'd rather go down swinging like Cutler, then just throw checkdowns and accept defeat.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:18pm

"Rather than throwing all checkdowns to pad his stats and lose respectfully... he's trying to make plays."

We're talking about the same Jay Cutler, who at one point last night, was 6/12 for 22 yards, right?

He's white though.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:54pm

Yeah 12 passes are a huge sample size. Especially against the Eagles defense on a nationally televised game. The problems go beyond Cutler. He's new to this team and doesn't have a lot of talent around him at that.

I wasn't the one predicting the Bears as the team with the best chance to go to the Super Bowl but I did agree with the trade. I thought the Bears WOULD have problems integrating him into the offense and I'm not ready to make blanket statements about Cutler at this point. If he's still playing like THAT next year and in 2 years then by all means rip him. Right now, I think it's premature given his short tenure and the players around him.

by Temo :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:09pm

He's white though.

Bless, you Rich Conley.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:10pm

Cutler was going deep, he just wasn't hitting them.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:42pm

He missed wide-open deep receivers at least twice. Both Hester and Knox were overthrown when they were wide open and had beaten the defense.

Cutler really needs to improve his touch on downfield passes. He's got two receivers that can get open deep. Any of the elite QBs would have completed at least one of those two passes.

by Harris :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:09pm

He missed Olsen on the play before overthrowing Hester. Cutler threw away 14 points and, inexplicably, kept challenging Samuel early in the game despite Sheldon Brown playing on the other side with a bad hamstring.

Hail Hydra!

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:27pm

I thought Cutler would be better than this, and I agree that he is not their biggest problem on offense, as of yet. Given the draft value sacrificed for him, however, he better improve, or he might become their biggest problem. He plain stunk last night, no ifs, ands, or buts. Of the four Bear games I've watched this year, last night was the best performance by the offensive line. They played acceptably. The receivers repeatedly got wide open behind the Eagles' secondary. Cutler just sucked, and topped it off with a Cutler-special interception, where he suffers from selective blindness; the linebacker could have easily caught the ball, instead of tipping it. Cutler needs to improve, a lot.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:53pm

"Of the four Bear games I've watched this year, last night was the best performance by the offensive line."

I only watched about half the game, but nothing I saw was acceptable. On most plays cutler was throwing 3 yard check downs because one of the lineman was getting beat. They couldn't run the ball either.

Maybe I'm spoiled as to the offensive line play I usually watch, but I don't consider the bears line anything near acceptable. Pace should be taken out back and shot. Kreutz is terrible (although hes decent at the blocking, just keeps snapping the ball into the ground).

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:06pm

Rich, the two statements, "The Bears offensive line is acceptable", and "The Bears offensive line last night was acceptable", are not synonymous. The Bears had average success last night running the ball, and on three occasions they had a receiver wide open behind the Eagles secondary, with Cutler having a completely unimpeded throw to the wide open receiver. He had many other throws which were unimpeded. Many of the times he was impeded were the result of the Eagles bringing more rushers than there were blockers, which is when a check down is most appropriate. If the Bears offensive line had played that well all season, they probably have at least two more wins.

by Temo :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:11pm

Of the four Bear games I've watched this year, last night was the best performance by the offensive line.

Holy crap, are you kidding me? I've only watching two Bears games and I thought the O-Line in both were abysmal. If that's the best they've done this year... wooo boy.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:36pm

Yes, it probably was the best line performance. At least against a real team. They might have played better against the Lions.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:12pm

Temo, compared to previous performances, last night they looked like, to put it hyperbolically, the '72 Dolphins. They have been unspeakably bad at times. The fact that the edge rusher vs. Pace didn't get three sacks might make it their best performance of the year.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:14pm

Now you understand why Bears fans have been defending Cutler all year (and the receivers to a lesser extent).

by jebmak :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:35pm

You mean on here, not on the radio or in bars. The people there all think that the Cutler trade was the worst since Walker and that Orton is so much better (at least in my experience).

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:09pm

If you watch Cutler recently his footwork has become appalling. I expect that this has a lot to do with the line playing so poorly but his release is now so different on each throw that he has begun to miss throws that he could normally make in his sleep (such as the two passes to Olsen and Hester).

If there is no Cutler, no Grossman, no Orton, only 'Chicago Bears Quarterback' then maybe it has something to do with the coaching staff. Ron Turner is pretty awful and has been limiting this team for some time now.

Greg Olsen needs to really work on his game too. His natural talent gets him so far but he's a liability when asked to block, runs sloppy routes and seems to have a terrible attitude.

by Duke :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 7:16pm

I am getting very concerned that this year's Bear's O-Line has given Jay Cutler a case of David Carr-itis.

by starzero :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:03pm

The Colts need to blow out a good team so I know whether they're for real. Unfortunately they don't have any left in the regular season.

by Theo :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:08pm

I don't know about that Peyton kid either.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:16pm

Depends what you mean by a "good team". They don't have to play anyone elite, but they do have to play @HOU, and the Texans aren't at all bad - a realistic wild card contender. A blowout win at Reliant would be a very impressive result.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:19pm


If the colts win the superbowl this year, they'll single handedly destroy that shitty guts vs stomps article.

by jedmarshall :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:19pm

They absolutely destroyed Arizona who is pretty good. They also blew out Seattle, St. Louis and Tennessee. They won close games against New England, Houston, Baltimore, Jacksonville, Miami, and San Francisco all of whom except for San Fran are decent to good teams. I don't think that radically disproves the Guts vs. Stomps. They blew out one good team and three bad teams and played essentially even games against their better opponents.

by Anonymously (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:55pm

Can we please restart the discussion of whether Peyton can win the Big One? I've come to terms with him being the greatest regular-season QB of the last decade, but I'd really love it if we can all start talking about how he chokes in the post-season (including an under 40 passer rating post-season game the year he did manage to get it together and win the SB).

To the people who run this site, who's been the best post-season QB in the last decade? Is it rash to automatically assume Tom Brady?

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:33pm

I think you'd have to assume Brady. I can't think of any epic stinkers he's had in the playoffs (though I'm sure he's had a few), and he's played and won plenty of playoff games. Roethlisberger has the two SB wins, but he was terrible in that SB against Seattle (to be fair, everything in that game was terrible). Manning had his documented problems earlier in the decade. In the NFC, McNabb springs to mind, but don't think he would compare to Brady.

by Purds :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:50pm

Tough to call, as not many QB's have a lot of appearances.
Warner has had some very good post seasons, but so few.
Brady has been awesome at times (no sub 40 passer ratings like Manning), but he also gets a pass from most on days when he was individually bad but the team won (Brady's Pats have won playoff games this decade with him having a passer rating of 57, 66, 73, 76, 70).

Overall, it has to be Brady, but few have gone unscathed in the post season.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 4:20pm

Shocking that playing the NFL's best teams in the playoffs might cause a QB to have a bad game here and there.

by jedmarshall :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:38pm
by Yaguar :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 6:36pm

Quick, who has most recently won the big one? Manning or Brady?

by bubqr :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:17pm

"Doug Farrar: Quinn to Josh Cribbs for his third touchdown pass of the first quarter. That was set up by a Matt Stafford pick to Eric Wright in which the Lions’ offense proved that they can’t play defense, either. Wright ran around with the ball for about five minutes before someone felt like tackling him."

Talked about it on FO irc : on Wright's INT have you seen Megatron sprinting back to...act as a soccer goalkeeper on the middle of his own goal line ?
It was weird, and I still can't figure out :
1. If y ever saw anything like that
2. If it's a bright move or not

by Key19 :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:31pm

Vince Verhei: You know how we've all been begging the Cowboys to run more? At halftime, they have 22 runs and 12 passes -- and the result is a 3-0 deficit. I give up.


by Mr. Anderson, welcome back, we missed you (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:31pm

RE ALT NYG - Why do coaches continue to play for overtime, when ATL scored they had the momentum, go for 2 and win the game. In OT it's 50% chance to get the ball, all a team needs to do is get close to FG range and game over, yes the OT rules are nor perfect but when you can win the game or take your chances in OT and you choose to go to OT you deserve to loose the game. Goodbye 2009 palyoffs ATL.


by Obligatory Herm Reference (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 4:38pm


by Shane S. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:37pm

Tom Gower: In the Battle of the Suckiest Bunch of Sucks That Ever Did Suck, Detroit Lions pass efense fails harder than Cleveland's pass ffense, as Massaquoi is open by about 10 yards downfield which is enough room for Quinn to find him for a 59 yard TD.

You're right. There is no D in the Lion's pass defense this year...

by James-London :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:40pm

I first saw that in 2005 during Wannstache's last year with Miami. One of the beat writers ( I forget who), started referring to Miami as the "lphins", beacuse they had no 'O' and no 'D'.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:45pm

I don't know how the Broncos don't cut Chris Simms. Putting an injured QB in because your backup is so awful he can't do anything . . . how does he stick around? He wasn't that good before his spleen injury, and he's been worthless since. The guy's done. The "Byron Leftwich on quaaludes" comment . . . yeah, that works for me.

As for the Bucs, Earnest Graham had two big runs on the first drive. And one more run the rest of the game. Cadillac Williams looked really good for the first couple of games, but now? He looks like a guy who's had two serious knee injuries. There's no burst and he can't cut back. I have to think he aggravated something in those first few games.

And Raheem Morris? Go away. Please. Those challenges were the latest in a series of dumb moves. The lack of talent is bad enough without you at the top making things worth. Also, I'd like to set Jim Bates on fire, please.

by NHPatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:52pm

No comment on the play where the Pats had Brady in the shotgun and brought Edelman in motion, he stops and goes under center for the snap. The play didn't work but it was an interesting idea, and led me to wondering this:

For teams that want to run the Wildcat and have a hybrid QB/receiver or QB/rusher (either a Michael Vick or a converted college QB like Edelman) -- why not leave the main QB split wide, snap to the hybrid who runs a play action to buy time for receivers to clear the line and then throws a lateral (spiral but lateral) to the main QB.

Is the protected QB whoever takes the snap? or is the protected QB the paticular guy with a QB number? If the former, then this might be too risky to allow your QB to get hit like a wideout. For QBs who throw well on the run, bring him in motion for a short pitch or handoff.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:56pm

"No comment on the play where the Pats had Brady in the shotgun and brought Edelman in motion, he stops and goes under center for the snap. The play didn't work but it was an interesting idea, and led me to wondering this:"

The Pats have been doing that (occasionally) for years. I've seen Welker, Troy Brown, Deion Branch, and now Edelman do it. Thats the first time I've seen it fail, and that's probably because Edelman didn't get the snap cleanly.

by mrh :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:18pm

re #60 I saw the Ravens run something like this with Troy Smith and Flacco last year vs. JAC. IIRC Flacco threw a deep ball incomplete after taking the lateral.

by doktarr :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:54pm

Aaron, 4th-and-5 at midfield


an automatic go for it. The fact that many coaches don't do this doesn't change the fact that it is, unambiguously, a go-for-it situation.

Some percentage estimates:

Chance of converting the 4th down: 30%

Chance of getting a field goal or TD if they convert: 60%

Chance of preventing a field goal or TD if they fail to convert: 40%

Chance of preventing a field goal or TD if they punt: 70%

Assume the expected value of overtime is .55 (because the Steelers a little better than the Chiefs, even with Chaz Batch).

So, if you punt:

0%*win + 30%*lose + 70%*OT = 38.5% chance of the win.

If you don't punt:

30%*60%*win + 70%*60%*lose + (70%*40% + 30%*40%)*OT = 40% chance of the win.

So, with (IMO) very conservative numbers, it still comes out in favor of going for it. And of course, the OT situation is even more clear.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:57pm

So a 2.5% difference is "automatic"? That's far below any margin of error that could be argued by your numbers, making it a wash, so that either decision is perfectly defensible.

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:00pm

You think there is a 30% chance of converting? Where do you get that number? Do 30% of plays gain at least 5 yards? I think that is way high, but am willing to be shown I'm wrong.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:21pm


Brian Burke says, using averages, that it's a better decision to go for it at mid-field with six yards or less to go.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:32pm

an automatic go for it. The fact that many coaches don't do this doesn't change the fact that it is, unambiguously, a go-for-it situation.

None of those situations are a coin flip (except getting the ball in overtime) - they're not really random, so you can't really stack the percentages like that - the chance you can prevent a FG if you don't convert is directly related to the chance you can prevent a FG if you punt, for instance.

The decision to punt really comes down to whether or not you believe your defense can stop their offense, and whether or not you believe your offense can beat their defense. And the punt/no-punt decision is really a question of margins: you've got one play for your offense to beat their defense, and a bunch of plays for your defense to beat their offense. That's why, in general, you punt, unless you really think their offense is significantly better than your defense.

Chance of converting the 4th down: 30%
Chance of preventing a field goal or TD if they fail to convert: 40%
Chance of preventing a field goal or TD if they punt: 70%

The discussion entirely hinges on the relative values of these three numbers. You can put out numbers that make the decision look great. You can put out numbers that make the decision look horrible. You can put out numbers that make the decision look even. You can usually justify all combinations of those numbers.

I just don't believe this kind of thinking is the right way to think about a strategic decision, since you're completely ignoring the fact that if you punt, and they start moving the ball down the field (beating your defense, or making better decisions than you) you can gain information and adapt. Since you've only got one decision on offense, you don't have any way of adapting if you fail.

Bold decisions that could easily fail without a great backup plan don't usually work well strategically.

by doktarr :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:56pm

Of course the discussion hinges on the percentages. My point is that I was very conservative with the percentages, in favor of punting at every turn - and yet going for it still came out ahead.

I have a very hard time seeing any argumend for more conservative numbers than the ones I used. To wit:

Outside the red zone, 4th-and-5, statistically, is converted about 50% of the time. Inside the 20 that drops to 45% or so, but that's the floor of a reasonable estimate in my mind. I was VERY, VERY conservative with that 30% estimate. Unlike the Pats-Colts situation last week, the Chiefs really do care about giving up the big gain, too, so they can't sell out completely. This was by far my most conservative estimate, and it's the one that impacts the relative choices the most.

Furthermore, the idea that punting boosts your chances of successfully defending against a FG from 40% to 70% is, likewise, favorable to the pro-punting position. That only makes sense if you think gaining 40 yards is exactly twice as hard as gaining 20 yards, which we know is not the case. So it's difficult to argue for tweaking those numbers further in the direction of punting. Once could easily argue for a breakdown like 45% (chance of preventing a made FG from midfield) versus 65% (chance of preventing a FG after a punt).

Finally, I gave the Steelers a 55% chance of winning in OT. This also favors punting, because OT is much more likely if you punt. I could easily argue for the coin flip 50%.

Plug those numbers in and you get this.

35%*lose + 65%*OT = 32.5% chance of winning.

Go for it:
50%*60%*win + 50%*55%*lose + (50%*40% + 50%*45%)*OT = 51.25% chance of winning

That's almost a 20% edge.

I think the rational bounds of the percentage debate are roughly in that range. When the agressive guesses lead you to a 20% edge, and the conservative guesses lead you to a 2% edge, the entire range is on the side of going for it. That means you go for it!

by huston720 :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 4:44pm

It doesn't seem to me like your original numbers were that conservative, certainly not as conservative as you are making them out to be in the above post. First saying that converting a 4th and 5 is 50/50 seems high to me. I would guess that to be more the upper limit, with 20% being the lower depending on your offense. On 4th and 5 you really can't call a designed run, which would most likely hurt your chances. If it really is 50% I'm curious to see the stats.

Next I think you can definitely make a case for a wider split than 40/70 based on different field postion after a punt. If you miss the 4th down KC is at the 50 and need 20 yards for a reasonable FG attempt. If you punt at best they are probably at the 20 with 50 yards to go to get into field goal range, and the amount of time to do so as a ratio to yards needed is worse. I would guess on average preventing a FG from the 20 is more like 80% than 65%.

The 55% chance in OT seems about right to me.

by doktarr :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 5:10pm

A histogram of conversion percentages is available here:


At midfield in a reasonably high-scoring game, and when Pittsburgh has been more successful passing than running this year, there's really no compelling reason to think the precentages should be any LOWER than average. So, I'm extremely comfortable defending that 50% number.

As far as the field position after a punt versus a failed conversion attempt: unfortunately I don't have easy access to the stats on those situations, so it's a bit dicier. That said, they need to get a first down just to get a 47 yard attempt, which is hardly a guarantee. Package up the chance of holding them without a first down, with the chance of them missing the long field goal, and I think it's hard to argue that KC had much more than a 60% chance of a GW field goal.

I can get on board with an 80% chance of holding them after the punt, though. I don't know the time out situation there, but with only a minute left, any significant drive from the 20 is a tall order.

I can also get on board with a 55% chance in overtime - it does seem reasonable. So, third try here:

20%*lose + 80%*OT = 44% chance of the win.

Go for it:
50%*60%*win + 50%*60%*lose + (50%*40% + 50%*40%)*OT = 52% chance of the win.

So, that's an 8% edge - predictably, somewhere between the other estimates.

by huston720 :: Tue, 11/24/2009 - 9:45am

Ok I see where you are getting your 50% from, but it isn't clear in the blog where the data for that histogram is coming from. Is the data all 4th down attemots in the league? And if so over how many years, and how many attempts because I'm guessing the sample size is small for some of those distances. Or is it just using average gains on any down at a given distance to go? A 4th down is a uniques circumstance and needs to be treated as such. Thats why 50% seems high to me, I can see getting a first down with 5 yards to go 50% of the time on first through third down, but that doesn't mean it is the same percentage for 4th down when it is all or nothing.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 5:58pm

Outside the red zone, 4th-and-5, statistically, is converted about 50% of the time.

Like I said, I hate treating this statistically. It's not a coin flip - it's one coach choosing a play, and another coach choosing a defense (well, okay, you can also call it "a set of defensive players reading and reacting" but it's still a play choice, it just happens to have been set well before the game, in film review of the other team). 4th and 5 isn't a running down, it's a passing down, which means it's even much less of a coin flip.

I prefer to think of it backwards: as in, "figure out the percentage likelihood that the 4th down play has to be, and then decide whether or not you have a play that you think will succeed that often, and then fold in your own personal uncertainty in that estimate" And that varies entirely on game situations. If the other team's been matching up really well in short yardage passing situations and anticipating most routes, it's conceivable that you'd say "yeah, I have no idea," and so you punt.

That only makes sense if you think gaining 40 yards is exactly twice as hard as gaining 20 yards, which we know is not the case. So it's difficult to argue for tweaking those numbers further in the direction of punting.

Again, you're neglecting information gain here. If the coach believes he is smart (or his players are smart, or he was smart in coaching his players, you get the idea) then gaining 40 yards could be more than twice as hard as gaining 20 yards, because the first 20 yards allows the coach/players to recognize what they're doing and change. Playing for overtime is a similar logic.

To bring in a chess analogy, a grandmaster would be much more likely versus a novice than another grandmaster to take a risk which puts him at a slight short-term tactical disadvantage to allow for a strategic (positional) advantage, believing that experience will win over.

The problem with relying on historical averages and information here is that you're averaging over coaches/players that are both stupider and smarter than their opponent. With Pats/Colts you can make an argument (maybe a convincing one) that Belichick did not believe that himself/his players would learn faster than Manning would learn how to pick them apart. I can buy that argument, and so it ends up being a half-decent decision (although not allowing them to score the TD right afterwards flies in the face of that decision-making process). With the Steelers/Chiefs, not so much.

(N.B.: I don't actually disagree with the conclusion that it was a bad decision. I just don't buy the logic. I think the real reason it was a bad decision is the fact that there was only 30 seconds left, and so punting doesn't gain you anything. They're only going to have two, maybe three plays either way. With more time, however, I think punting becomes a reasonable choice. But the time pressure here should make the decision for you.)

by doktarr :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 6:53pm

You may hate treating this statistically, but really, it's pretty unavoidable. Sure, you call a particular play, but every play just has a chance of succeeding. In particular, you have to allow for some randomness when you consider that the defense's call against the offense's call can have a sort of rock-paper-scissors effect. A corner blitz loses to a smoke screen, and so on.

There's all sorts of unique factors in every play that happens; the whole point of looking at statistics is that it gives you a general sense of how often various outcomes come out of that whole mix of factors. Rather than try to document every possible factor (a hopeless task) we simply narrow the situation down to something measurable.

To put it another way - I would be fine with what you think is the appropriate approach. But in order to decide how often you think your best 5 yard square-out play works, you don't go with your gut. You go with the stats. If you have stats that are particular to your offense or their defense, all the better. But humans are very poor at guessing probabilities by nature. That's why coaches make dumb decisions like punting when they should go for it.

As for 4th and 5 being a passing down, sure, it is, but that's true of all 4th-and-5 plays. That's built into the stats.

As for the 40 yards versus 20 yards argument, there's some logic to what you say. I could quibble about defenses getting tired being a dominant factor, but neither of us really know. What we DO know is that both of these effects are completely swamped by the presence of big plays. Teams don't lose more than 8 yards on a play very often, but teams gain more than 25 all the time. This is why it's more than half as likely you'll give up 40 yards than 20 - the big play bias.

by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 7:50pm

#177 below has it right. We can argue the percentages all we want... and I'm pretty much the most anti-punting guy on earth and put my fist through things when NFL coaches do things like punt on the opposition 36. I will defend Belichick's decision last week to the death; I regard that as a no-brainer.

But in this spot, it's 4th and 5, Roethlisberger is gone and Batch has already broken his wrist. Dennis freakin' Dixon has just entered the game and hasn't thrown a pass yet. A field goal is not an option; Jeff Reed's absolute max range is about 51-52 yards, this would be a 53 yarder. Your options are go for it, or punt, and Daniel Sepulveda is one of the league's most accurate punters, meaning there's a pretty good chance he can pin the Chefs inside the 5.

Given that set of circumstances... well, I personally would still have gone for it, but I do not blame Mike Tomlin one bit for deciding the Steelers' best chance was punt, hope Sepulveda pins the Chefs deep and then the defense induces Rusher McFumbles to give the game away.

I think this year there has been some disconcerting evidence--some poor fundamentals, the historically atrocious special teams, not taking care of the ball on offense, stupid penalties--that Mike Tomlin is really not an especially good coach, even if he LOOKS the part at an A+ level. Really, he was only slightly more qualified than Raheem Morris to be an NFL head coach--one season as a coordinator, with a very talented defense, under noted coaching guru Brad Childress--and there's plenty of hope he will improve with time, but objectively I'm not sure he's really a plus coach yet.

But punting in that spot is completely reasonable.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 8:20pm

That's the second 4th and 5. There were two. The first 4th and 5 was with 30 seconds remaining in the first half. That one is pretty indefensible, but I'll still say it's the time pressure that's the deciding factor. At that point field position is pretty immaterial.

under noted coaching guru Brad Childress

Woah, woah, woah. When did Brad Childress become a coaching guru? When did I enter bizarro NFL?

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 8:13pm

You may hate treating this statistically, but really, it's pretty unavoidable.

No, it's not. Again, you're not talking about a coin flip. You're talking about one person making a decision against another person's decision. The fact that historically, in that situation, you convert 50% of the time is completely immaterial. If your best play call for a short-yardage, high completion pass is one that they've been cheating up against all day, you'd be an idiot not to punt.

In particular, you have to allow for some randomness when you consider that the defense's call against the offense's call can have a sort of rock-paper-scissors effect. A corner blitz loses to a smoke screen, and so on.

Exactly! But the point is that you can't treat it as if "well, I'll go for it because historically these plays are converted 50% of the time." You don't get to run a 'historically average play.' You have to ask "what's the chance my opponent will sniff this out?" You don't have the statistics to know the answer to your question.

But thankfully, your brain is a really good pattern-recognition engine, and so your instinct as to whether or not you've got a play call that will work is probably a lot better than a simple look at history.

But in order to decide how often you think your best 5 yard square-out play works, you don't go with your gut. You go with the stats.

Take that farther. Why wouldn't you choose the most statistically likely play to gain 5 yards? You look historically, and say "a 5 yard square-out to the flanker has succeeded 63% of the time in a 4th and 5, and it's the highest percentage" (totally made up). And then the opponent shows a safety blitz and drops the safety between the flanker and the QB for an easy pick 6. And after the game, the player is asked "how did you get that pick?" and he responds "well, that's the highest percentage play from that point, historically." Other teams repeat, and then in a flew years the 5-yard square out fails a bunch... but a few crazy coaches start running a worse play, and gain the 5 yards more often, and then it becomes the high-statistics play, until some CB jumps that route... Lather, rinse, repeat.

Yes, this is an exaggeration. I know. But going with the high-statistics plays and choices based on historical tendencies in a strategic game means you will tend to lose to someone who anticipates current tendencies.

You can't go with the stats. You have to go with your gut (well, your 'well informed' gut, hopefully). You're not playing history. You're playing your opponent, and if you're not making your choices based on what he will do, why did you scout at all?

This, again, is why I think it was a horrible decision. Tomlin didn't believe Dick LeBeau could prevent the Chiefs from gaining 25 yards in under 30 seconds (probably 25 seconds), and that's just crazy talk.

by Bill (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 4:33pm

Analysis of the overtime unnecessary, Batch injured his wrist and is having surgery. He's out for six weeks. Who knows what they would do if they got the ball back.

by IsraelP (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:00pm

Phil Dawson is right-footed but left-handed!

The Steelers radio guys were talking about the fact that the Chiefs' punter is left-footed and right-handed and it messed with how he dropped the ball to the punt.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:00pm

Oh and did anybody see the Patriots 3rd string LT light up the Jets CB on a WR screen? Holy crap! He rung his bell in one of the hardest hits you will see! A 300 LB offenive lineman running down hill and crushing an unsupecting 200lb corner. It looks like one of those concussion hits, and the Jets had to bring their LCB out of the game after that one.

by Purds :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:24pm

Impressive hit. I liked that when they showed the OT after the hit, he wasn't even smiling -- for about 15 seconds. Acting like he belonged, and that it was no big thing. Then, he finally cracked a smile! Good for him. Great hit.

by AndyE :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 4:10pm

It was Mark LeVoir, subbing in for Sebastian Vollmer, who was subbing in for Matt Light. I think he was thrilled to get to drill someone like that.

Frankly, I was thrilled to watch it, until they cut to the CB limping off field.

by Anonymous77 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:15pm

Jason Campbell got rid of the ball rolling right behind the line of scrimmage just before he stepped out of bounds. The call of a sack was overturned on booth review and changed to an incomplete pass.

I didn't see this play, but didn't this exact situation happen with Eli Manning against the Chargers two weeks ago, when they called he stepped out of bounds but replays showed he got the ball off before, and Coughlin threw the red flag but the ref said it was unreviewable?

by shake n bake :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:51pm

No love for Addai juking Ray Lewis out of his shoes on Joe's TD run? Now that is how you dance in the hole.

OL cleared out a big hole, but RayRay was waiting on the other side of it. Addai gave him a big fake to one side and went the other leaving Lewis with just fingertips catching Addai's hip.

by slomojoe (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 1:53pm

Does anyone know what happened at the end of Pats-Jets to get both teams to keep going at it? First, the Jets call a TO on a Pats' 3 and long with 2 and a half to go, which is kind of a stretch 3 scores down, but whatever. Then Brady throws the bomb to Moss, and calls a TO with 25 ticks to go on a 4th down. And finally, the Jets call another TO with 5 seconds to go, and Ryan could be seen answering what looked like a puzzled ref's question with a shrug and a "f-them". Weird ending for teams with enough injuries already.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:00pm

I believe it would best be described as:

Bill Belichick: "Hey Ryan, f@#$! you."

Rex Ryan: "No, Belichick, f@#$!! you."

by RickD :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:58pm

I suspect the last pass play towards Moss was done because Moss wanted it done. He wanted one more chance to try to burn Darrelle Revis. And it didn't work.

I think it's clear that there continues to be a lot of ill will between the Pats and Jets, even with Mangini out of the picture.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:00pm

Hell, there was a lot of ill-will between NE and NYJ before Ratgini was even in the picture.

by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:13pm

There used to be a lot of ill-will between the Indy and NE. But now that Indy has beaten the Patsies 5 of the last 6 games it's faded away. It's simply hard to muster up much hate for a rug that you beat all the time.

by slomojoe (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:51pm

JS, your logic escapes me, since the same would have applied before the Indy victory stretch. But regardless, apart from dumb fans I think there has mostly been respect between Indy and NE, especially since so many of the games have been incredibly close. And certainly not the same kind of rivalry as with the Jets, which extended to off-the-field management issues.

As far as the final plays go, however, I doubt Moss could have asked for that bomb if the coach's call was "run to kill the clock". Something else must have happened, but who knows.

by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 5:08pm

Don't hurt yourself looking for logic in my comments Slomo. It was a joke.

by tonic889 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:00pm

Re: Detroit DBs-Chris McCalister just signed with New Orleans. Am I really supposed to believe that an over-the-hill McCalister is worse than the 2nd string XFLers the Lions have back there now?

Re: Cutler, what cracked me up was that he was constantly overthrowing receivers and/or sailing his passes. While on the other sideline, was McNabb who one-hops and underthrows his receivers everytime he's rushed. If they could only take the average.....

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 8:04pm

Yeah, the Lions' secondary is bad. Baaaaad. Hole in zone is starting to take offense. (Pun ... hmm ... intended, depending on your pronunciation.)

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:02pm

I thought the Eagles were just going to blow out the Bears, so I guess I should be somewhat happy with the result.

A couple things I noticed. 1) With Tommie Harris this defense is completely different. It goes from Lions-esque to respectable. We can actually get pressure, and stop the run once in a while with fewer then 9 players in the box.

2) Hillenmeyer sucks and is killing us on runs up the middle. I wish Lovie could just use him as a nickle backer.

3) Our lack of receivers really hurt us for the first time on the final drive. None of them were getting any separation for Cutler. Earl Bennitt was really stupid on his catch too, trying that spin move instead of trying to get out of bounds or going down immediately.

4) The line actually opened some holes for the running game. Forte still looks hesitant though.

5) One thing I miss about Orton is his presnap read and audibles. Once the ball is snapped I take everything Cutler has over what Orton can do, but Orton was really good seeing what the defense was trying to do. It's really a shame he doesn't have a better arm, I think he could have been Manning/Brady level based on his mental strengths.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:18pm

Forte's backup looked much better than Forte.

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:22pm

Forte's backup's backup.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 6:17pm

Yeah the Bears front seven looks a lot better with Harris on the field. I used to think the Bears had quite a few good players up front. If this year has taught me anything it is that the Bears have three good players in their front seven (Urlacher, Briggs and Harris) and that those three are really good and nobody much cares who else is lined up as they can only do anything when single teamed.

It was nice to see a Gaines Adams sighting. He even gave Peters some trouble on a couple of plays.

Hillenmeyer is pretty limited but Roach doesn't help matters when he constantly fails to hold the strongside edge on running plays. You can't play a one gap defense when the SLB won't stay in his lane. He tries to flow to the ball and tackle the RB but that isn't his first responsibility is gap control. He would be a much better MLB but he doesn't drop quickly enough in coverage leaving the middle of the field open and couldn't handle the play calling so they had to put HH back in the middle.

On the missed field goal that got blocked it was nice to see the Bears getting Omiyale back on the field. He couldn't move and block on offensive plays so it was a good spot (or lucky) when the Eagles lined up loads of guys to Mannely's right and charged the A and B gaps. Omiyale slided over to help and instead of smacking the guy to make sure he couldn't block the kick just gave him a little shove. Big Frank, yet again helping the Bears lose games. I am starting to think he is a sleeper agent brainwashed by Ted Thompson to screw the Bears up at every given opportunity.

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/24/2009 - 3:05pm

I'm still an Alex Brown believer, but only because he is so good at everything that isn't sacking the QB. This defense desperately needs a stud pass rusher off the edge. I have a feeling that all the other problems would suddenly disappear.

by Duke :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 7:19pm

The problem (as someone else pointed out) is that Hillenmeyer is the only guy (besides Urlacher, obviously) who can make the defensive calls. I'm not sure why Lance Briggs can't handle it...maybe the calls have to come from the MLB, maybe that's the only position who can see it?

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:25pm

Tom Gower on Randy Cross: "Wouldn't knowing the rules be a helpful part of your job?"

I saw Randy Cross constantly growing up, announcing Broncos games and I learned that this is the full list of what Randy Cross knows:

1. John Elway sucks.
2. Knowledge point 1 is the explanation for all things.

He did seem to add a new one recently, which was:

Jay Cutler is so much better than John Elway that it should be mentioned at least once per sentence.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 8:02pm

And it was odd that he didn't know the rule, especially because the referee clearly said "first excess time out". It wasn't like he simply said "time out Detroit".

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 8:31pm

That does make it odd.

However, I could not miss a chance to pick on Randy Cross.

by Viliphied (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:26pm

They got extremely lucky in their win. When I saw the replay on SNF, it was pretty clear that 2 of the 'Boys linemen were about 2 yards past the line of scrimmage when the ball was thrown. One of them was right in front of an official. How they didn't get called for illegal man downfield is anyone's guess.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:33pm

Refs don't seem to call this penalty unless it's super ultra blatant.

I've also never seen an assisting the runner penalty called, and I thought they changed the rule about stiff arms this year that you couldn't hit a defender in the facemask but I haven't seen that called either.

by morganja :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:51pm

Actually, the patriots never get this called on them. They run great screen plays but always have linemen 5 yards down the field and actively blocking before the ball is caught. Other teams do get it called on them. Belichick must know something about how officials watch for these things because he is a master at getting away with it.

I wish my team would learn how to do it, or even sucessfully throw a screen pass, but they prefer the pressure on our quarterback. I think it builds character or something.

by Temo :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:38pm

They don't call that play often. Besides, if they call that penalty it's 2nd and goal from the 15. Not exactly the end of the game.

I think the real luck for the Cowboys in this game was the Redskins going 2-4 on FGs (including a missed 39 yarder) and losing by 1 point.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 4:26pm

I think there might only be certain crews that call ineligible man penalties. I'll go months without seeing it called on certain teams that do it all the time, but then they'll get a game where it's flagged 3 times. Much like all other penalties, I think it's just on the coaches to prepare the team for what they expect to face.

Ryan Diem was 2 yards downfield on a screen yesterday, for instance, and obviously he's smart enough not to do that if he thinks there's a chance it'll be flagged. Same can be said of most linemen, really.

by morganja :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 2:45pm

Re: Tom Gower: Watching this game, I remain flabbergasted that John Fox not only doesn't bring in somebody like a Chris Simms who could challenge Jake Delhomme for his job, but instead gave him an extension. That interception he threw early in the 3rd quarter was rookie-quality.

Look at the interception again. Delhomme has a defender pulling him down around the shoulder as he throws the ball. The receiver was open in the back of the endzone and it would have been a touchdown if he could have gotten the throw off cleanly.

It's also his only interception in the past 4 games. Delhomme isn't the problem. Tom Brady would suck in that offense as well. All-pro LT out for the year, dismal offensive playcalling, one great receiver double teamed every play, have never practiced the screen pass...

by morganja :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:01pm

Am I the only one who thought that not kicking a field goal at the Panther 28 with less than 2 minutes to play up by 7 was the most inexplicable coaching decision of the past two weeks, including Belichick's? No punt, just a run on 4th down, which fails and gives the Panthers a chance to win at the end.

by Temo :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:26pm

You have a better chance at converting 4th and 3 than having Dan Carpenter make a 45 yard field goal. A punt only gains you 18 yards or so of field position (on average) while a 4th down conversion ices the game. There were only 44 seconds left.

Seems like a fine decision to me. When in doubt, go for it.

by morganja :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 4:05pm

Sorry, but that's ridiculous. Carpenter is 16 of 17 for the year, including 6 of 7 from 40-49. Chance of him hitting the FG is somewhere in between 86% and 96%. You are making the claim that the chances of making a 4th and 3 are higher than that? Really?

Even if he misses it's only 7 yards of field difference, 28-35. If he hits it, game over.

How can you be fine with the call? Even the ludicrous insistence of a 4th down being made 60% of the time is way below the cut-off here.

by Temo :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 4:21pm

It's more or less based on the fact that I think Dan Carpenter is an awful kicker than anything else. I just don't trust the guy to make anything. He was, for the record, way worse last year than he has been so far this year.

There's no way his chance of hitting the FG is between 86% and 96%, especially since his career % from 40-49 is 75%.

by morganja :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 4:58pm

This year he is 6 for 7. In any case, 75% is still way higher than the chances of getting a 4th and 3 conversion.

I wish my awful kicker was 16 for 17 on the year.

by Temo :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 5:39pm

Not way higher, but higher. Still don't like Carpenter, having watched him for a while now.

by Major Hit (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:07pm

Not so fast Doug Farrar. The tipping point will come next week against the Rams... Keep the change!

by Jumpin Jahosofat! (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:48pm

I think, if it were me, I would feel obligated to bench Sanchez. If I'm committed to trying anything to get a win, I'm benching him.
Would it really be so wacky?

by are-tee :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 5:35pm

I'm all for an in-game benching in sitautions like yesterday's, but at this point you're playing the games to develop him for next year.

It's also not like Sanchez has been consistently horrible since week 4 - he's had 3 meltdown games (including yesterday) in which he's thrown 12 of his 16 picks. In the Jets' other 3 losses, the defense and/or special teams played poorly.

by Carl (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:50pm

Re Tom Santi's big game for the Colts: it had nothing to do with new routes for the TE2 position. For most of the game Santi was playing tight end and Clark was in the slot. Those were the same TE routes that usually go to Clark. The only change was apparently the Colts decided they prefer having Santi on the field rather than both Collie and Garcon; perhaps a result of last week's dropfest, or maybe a matchups issue.

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 3:52pm

FO noted last week there isn't much difference in the defences this year. I think this is demonstrated when you look at Minnesota's and NO's scoring:

Minnesota has played 5 games against top defences
145 points scored against 4 teams in 5 games ranking 1-5 in defence
161 points scored against 5 teams ranked 20-32

New Orleans as well has similar splits

177 pts against teams ranked 3-16
192 against teams that rank 18-32

haven't had time to look at other top offences but it does seem that the top offences can basically score on any team.

by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 4:28pm

QB Rating in Playoff Games for currently active quarterbacks, minimum 10 games:

1. Kurt Warner, 98.9
2. Tom Brady, 88.0
3. Ben Roethlisberger, 87.2
4. Peyton Manning, 85.0
5. Donovan McNabb, 80.8

I think that's the whole list with a minimum of 10 starts. I can't find anyone else over 80 in any number of starts less than 10, which isn't surprising since teams that lose early in the playoffs tend to get substandard quarterback performance.

I know rating is a clunky stat, but I doubt you'll find any stat* by which Kurt Warner hasn't significantly outperformed the field in playoff games.

*except WINS! Actually, fun/weird fact: Roethlisberger (8-2) has more wins than Manning (7-8) in the playoffs. I assume this will change for good this year, as Manning is likely to win the AFC, while Roethlisberger is unlikely to make the playoffs.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 7:20pm

You missed the Wrangler Jeans spokesman whose rating is 85.2 and has a 12-10 playoff record in 22 starts.

by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 7:37pm

Sorry. I'm still in denial about QB Vikings.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 9:18pm

You also missed Mark Brunell 66.3 rate.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:12pm

Brunell misses the cut on not having any postseason QB rating above 80, much less a career postseason with that high a QB rating.

by witless chum :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 4:41pm

Jim Schwartz got into the 'Why, coach, why?' challenges, by challenging and winning a spot that transformed a second quarter Browns play from third and 2 to third and 6.

by Bjorn Nittmo (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 4:55pm

Holy mackerel, Barnewell, I thought I was a pessimistic Giants fan, but on arguably Eli's best day as a Giant, with certainly the best accuracy he's shown on deep balls all season, this is what you choose to comment on? Rag on the defense all you want yesterday, but Eli's day deserves nothing but accolades.

by TruFalconz (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 6:12pm

You're the Atlanta Falcons. You have the ball at the 2-yard line, down 1 with 30 seconds left. You can kick an XP to force OT, or you can go for the win.

Factors to consider:

1) You have the worst kicker in the league, a man who hits 50% on 30 yards or more:

In OT you're going to need to get to the 20 to feel comfortable putting the game in this guy's hands.

2) You have the best goal-to-go offense in the league (according to Tanier) Admittedly this was with Michael Turner.

3) Your defensive secondary is amongst the league's worst, and has already allowed Eli to have one of the best days of his career.

In what universe are you putting the game in the hands of a coin toss here, where losing means almost certain defeat, and winning it means putting the game in the hands of Jason Elam who had already missed from 35 yards earlier in the game?

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 8:35pm

in another sign of the genius of Tomlin+Arians, the Steelers are apparently considering signing Cleo Lemon over Jeff Garcia in the wake of the Batch/BigBen out, Dennis Dixon starting (against the blitz happy Ravens). Hell, Hines Ward would be a better option at QB than Cleo Lemon.

by Whatev (not verified) :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 9:09pm

Hrm, I'm not completely sure that's true unless you find a way for Hines Ward to throw to himself.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 9:10pm

didn't future HOF qb who shall not be named start his illustrious career that way? ;)

by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 9:32pm

Whoa, whoa, whoa. I like Brad Johnson as much as the next guy, but 'future HOF'? Come on.

Can't the Steelers find some way to, kind of under the table, convince the Buccaneers to release Byron Leftwich? I wouldn't think it would take a lot of convincing.

As for Cleo Lemon, Jeff Garcia, Vinny Testaverde, Jeff George, a Huard Brother To Be Named Later... whatever. If any of those guys is on the field, your season is over. In fact, might as well pick the worst of them and improve your draft position.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 9:05pm


by Dave Bernreuther :: Tue, 11/24/2009 - 12:55am

That was awesome.

"I feel like Mike Tomlin."
[camera on an exasperated Omar Epps]
"Probably not as much as you do."

by crack (not verified) :: Tue, 11/24/2009 - 12:06pm

That was good.

by Dan :: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:19pm

Atlanta should've gone for two on their previous TD (the one that cut it to 31-23 with 6 minutes to go). If you go for 2 after the last second TD, then if you make it you win and if you miss it you lose. If you go for 2 on the previous TD, then (assuming you score the 2nd TD) if you make it you win and if you miss it you get a second chance to go for 2 again to tie it up.

by (not verified) (not verified) :: Tue, 11/24/2009 - 12:16pm

Mike Kurtz brings nothing to the table in his commentary. If I wanted to hear knuckleheads like him, I'd just pop over to the CBS game commentary. Send him to XBox live where he belongs.

Stay classy FO.