Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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07 Dec 2009

Audibles at the Line: Week 13

compiled by Vince Verhei

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.)

Thursday, December 3rd

NY Jets 19 at Buffalo 13

Doug Farrar: OK, I'll start the Matt Millen ripping this week. He gets his little Telestrator out and points to Marcus Stroud's "vertical penetration" on a play with about 4:30 left in the first quarter. Says, "Watch this -- he's just gonna take (Nick) Mangold and shove him into the ... (and this is where I think he realized that he screwed up) ... that forces (Thomas Jones) to be able to cut back, and Wilson finished it off." Yeah, that sounds nice and all, but Mangold actually pushed Stroud out of the play completely, and Jones made a late cutback. Jones was "tackled" by Mangold more than anyone as they bumped into each other. What the hell is this guy watching?

Tom Gower: Apparently this one, since he immediately identified the double A-gap blitz on the play where Mark Sanchez missed a way-the-hell-open Jerricho Cotchery. That was the Millen I used to know and like.

Doug Farrar: Oooooooh. And speaking of wide-open, Braylon Edwards gets past his guy and completely boots an over-the-shoulder catch that would have been an easy six. Yikes.

Vince Verhei: Braylon Edwards dropped a pass? Hang on, I'll write the XP.

Doug Farrar: Yeah, but this wasn't just a drop. It was a DROP. When there isn't a defender within five yards of you, the DROP should be all-caps.

Sean McCormick: Particularly when the ball hits you in the hands, then hits you in the face, then bounces off the top of your helmet, all while there is no defender anywhere on the screen.

Aaron Schatz: I feel like next year's book is going to need a Matt Millen commentary parody or something.

By the way, may I suggest to the Buffalo Bills that if you set up man coverage, you really shouldn't put your safety heads-up on Jerricho Cotchery? Jeez.

Doug Farrar: The practice of calling a timeout to insure that the booth will review a play within 2:00 of a half just seems weird to me. Not the process, the outcome. Rex Ryan gets penalized a timeout because he was smart enough to call one on the Braylon Edwards touchdown, and there's no way to know if he expressly called it for that purpose (though, of course, he did).

Benjy Rose: We rightfully make fun of Millen, but how many other announcers would say something like "well, the Jets are really running the crap out of the ball?"

Aaron Schatz: Damn. I *knew* I should have gone with my original wording when writing this week's "Numbers Crunching." Now Millen will get all the credit.

Vince Verhei: When NFL Films does the 2009 Bills highlight video, it should just be a loop of the ball being snapped into Ryan Fitzpatrick's groin over and over again. I can think of no better summary of their season.

Aaron Schatz: No, no. It has to be interspersed with false starts by Demetrius Bell.

Bill Barnwell: Is Kellen Clemens in? Why?

Tom Gower: Apparent knee injury.

Aaron Schatz: Oh my god, now that Sanchez is injured the Jets are running a seven-offensive lineman offense. Holy "running the crap out of the ball," Batman.

Doug Farrar: Ryan Fitzpatrick throws a ball two feet over Lee Evans' head on a sideline comeback in the fourth quarter and Millen praises the coverage. Aiyeee.

One thing I'm noticing more and more with Darrelle Revis is how good he is at reading the quarterback in slot or motion situations. He's excellent when handing his guy off in shallow crosses and the like, then jumping the intermediate stuff inside. He's done that a couple times tonight.

Aaron Schatz: This game is going to show up a lot on the Darrelle Revis highlight tape. Although Lito Sheppard is also playing really well tonight. Man, that guy is just absurdly inconsistent. He doesn't go from good to bad -- he goes from great to horrendous.

It's good when Matt Millen tells us he liked Shonn Greene coming out of college, and that he was a good pick for the Jets in the third round. Because, you know, if anyone is an expert on drafting for value, it's Matt Millen.

By the way, you know how back in the day the NBA and the AFL had "territorial picks?" The NFL needs to assign Ndamukong Suh to the Bills as a "mercy pick." Or perhaps the Bills could consider a move to Omaha.

Tom Gower: "2:32 left. The only way the Bills can stop the clock is by incompletion or the two-minute warning." Or, you know, by going out of bounds. Or, if you want to get complicated, by defensive penalty. Or, shhhh, injury.

Doug Farrar: And right on cue, Revis picks off the pass to seal the game on Fitzpatrick's underthrown lob to Terrell Owens with 2:02 left in the game.

Sunday, December 6th

Philadelphia Eagles 34 at Atlanta Falcons 7

Doug Farrar: Michael Vick steps onto the field at the Georgia Dome to resounding boos, heads three yards up the middle on a run, goes back off the field. I do not, for the life of me, understand what the Eagles are doing with him.

Bill Barnwell: Good to hear Moose explain the Leonard Weaver signing as something that improved the Eagles' short-yardage problems and gave Brian Westbrook a rest. Has he actually watched the Eagles this year?

Aaron Schatz: Just for fun, I went and checked Weaver's numbers. Five carries this year with 1 or 2 yards to go, not exactly numbers that scream "short-yardage specialist," although he did convert four of them.

Eighteen of Weaver's 31 carries prior to this week were on first-and-10. 5.5 yards per carry average. And that doesn't include his longest run of the year, a 41-yarder, because that came on second down.

Vince Verhei: The first football Sunday after Tim Ruskell announced he would be leaving Seattle, and Leonard Weaver, the fullback he let walk away for nothing, is having a big day against Atlanta, catching a touchdown pass, later making a fingertip grab on a crossing route for a big catch-and-run. He has 68 receiving yards in the first quarter.

Doug Farrar: And if Weaver was still in Seattle, he'd be forced to stay in and block all the time behind that wonderful Ruskell-ified offensive line.

Bill Barnwell: Michael Koenen just ROBO-PUNTERED a kick in Atlanta. Punt bounced at the one backwards onto the three.

Vince Verhei: Now Weaver has added a 17-yard run. I don't have a copy of FOA with me, but I think I wrote in his player comments that he was a perfect fit for the Philadelphia offense and Eagles fans were going to love him. It only took until December for that to come true.

Doug Farrar: And for all you Seahawks fans out there wondering what he'd be doing in Greg Knapp's Super-Duper Secret (Soon To Be Explosive!) Offense, you really do know the answer: three carries, 1.2 yards per carry, one catch for -4 yards, and a bunch of bench splinters in his ass. 'Cause he don't block like a tradishunul fullback, y'know.

Tim Gerheim: Just for kicks, Terry Bradshaw just identified Leonard Weaver as the tight end. Why they have him of all people narrating the highlights I have no idea.

Vince Verhei: Because he's a ZANY country boy!

Doug listed some useless shotgun players in the Kansas City discussion, but he may have to remove Vick from that list -- he just scored his first post-prison touchdown on a third-down shotgun dive. Really, that's the only thing he's done well this year -- all the misdirection and play-action they've run has done nothing, but when he just gets the ball and goes straight ahead, he has done OK.

Donovan McNabb was one of the players congratulating Vick afterwards, and the difference in their sizes was striking. Vick is listed as 6 feet, McNabb at 6-foot-2, but there looked to be a four-inch difference when they were standing side-by-side.

Bill Barnwell: Michael Vick just scored on a third-and-1 from the ATL 7 and even though the AP stories have been saying that Vick was booed, all I've heard for him all day -- and especially on that score -- was racuous cheers. Seriously, there won't be a road team touchdown that gets a better reaction all year.

After the score, FOX showed even more shots of people in Vick jerseys, along with some woman holding an "ATLANTA LOVE VICK" sign. Clearly, that's a shoutout to the "FAMILY LOVE MICHAEL" sign from Arrested Development.

Vince Verhei: Down 20-0 in the third quarter, Falcons go for it on fourth down, and Redman throws a pick-six to Sheldon Brown. Game over. Falcons will drop to 6-6 and will need to win at least three games against Saints, Jets, Bills, and Buccaneers to post back-to-back winning seasons for the first time ever. Not impossible, I guess. The thought of a Sanchez-Redman interception-palooza is intriguing.

On that note, on the Falcons' next drive Redman has a receiver WIDE-open, with nobody within ten yards, but the ball hangs in the air forever and is underthrown, and Sean Jones moves over to intercept.

Third-and-goal for the Eagles, Vick takes the shotgun snap and drifts left, then turns and throws back to Brent Celek for a touchdown. Eagles are just having fun now.

Doug Farrar: Wow. Michael Vick beating Chris Redman. This is Bizarro Nightmare Falcons Day at the Georgia Dome. Is there a commemorative jersey or something?

Bill Barnwell: At halftime, Bobby Petrino entered the punt, pass, and kick competition, but switched from the male competition to the female one halfway through.

Vince Verhei: I guess we can add Vick to Deion Sanders and Jeff George on the list of Controversial Former Falcons Who Had Big Games When They Returned To Atlanta.

Mike Tanier: There was a sequence in which the Eagles were called for roughing the passer, then got an unnceccessary roughness on the next play, both of which were incredibly tacky. The roughness, which happened in the end zone on a pass over the middle, was called after FOX went to commercial. The officials deliberated for about a minute before calling it.

Later, there was another 15-yard unnecessary roughness call, on a play where the receiver caught a pass, was fighting for extra yardage, went down, and Quintin Demps sort-of dove in to finish the tackle and bumped the receiver's head.

Meanwhile, a late hit on McNabb went uncalled, one of the Falcons tackles dove at Jaqua Thomas' knees AFTER the whistle and it didn't get called, and there was a hit out-of-bounds after one of the Eagles interceptions that wasn't called. I won't go into all of the uncalled holding penalties as the Falcons tried to keep their Prudenential rep clean.

All of these calls came when the game was in the undecided, 13-0 range. It was incredibly one-sided. The refs also called a few tacky illegal contact calls, which went both ways. The call that got to me -- and collegaues and regular readers know that this is where I come from -- is when they called the late, in-the-end-zone roughness penalty ONE PLAY AFTER a really tacky roughing the passer call. That's a flag that, unless it is flagrant, is picked up in hockey, basketball, and the NCAA. We just made a borderline call one way, let's not make a second one, especially if we have to argue amongst ourselves through a cell phone ad about it. In the NFL, they feel like they have to call several iffy flags in a row against one team to prove that they don't believe in make-up calls.

St. Louis Rams 9 at Chicago Bears 17

Mike Kurtz: The Bears have unveiled their "awful secondary" offense. Long, lofting pass to Devin Hester completed because the safety (James Butler) completely misplayed the ball, followed by a mega-defensive pass interference against Johnny Knox. Three runs up the middle later, the Bears have the first score of the game. Expect a lot more deep stuff this week if this drive was any indication.

Kudos to the announcing team: they're giving the Bears credit for a 35-yard DPI when they list off their long completions.

So, early in the second quarter, we see the Bears with (I believe) nine rushes for 17 yards and seven passes for 137 yards. That doesn't include the DPI. Wow.

Aaron Schatz: This brings up one of the more important questions to be answered as we write Football Outsiders Almanac 2010: "Matt Forte, WTF?"

Doug Farrar: He's not an opportunistic back and he doesn't really explode through holes. He's more of a glider. You need a specific kind of power line to make that style work, though I don't know how ANY running game would work behind this sucktacular line.

Mike Kurtz: I think it's going to be very hard to separate Forte's performance from his hideous offensive line, even to figure out exactly what if anything has gone wrong. It's just a shambles.

The one high note for the Rams thus far has been punting. The Bears are about to start their second series within their own 2.

Doug Farrar: Oh, dear. Major Special Teams FAIL by the Bears in the second quarter. They try the shovel pass fake off the field goal, and Greg Olsen can't get the first down. There actually was a time when the Bears had completely amazing special teams, right?

Mike Kurtz: The Bears in the second half are pretty much just selling out to stop Stephen Jackson and daring Kyle Boller to beat them. Boller hasn't even really tried, is the funny thing.

Incidentally, Awful Waffle is having a big game on special teams and defense. I'm impressed.

A lot of the Bears' trouble in this game is just dumb play-calling and design. In the second quarter, they ran an awful fake field goal where the holder threw it forward to Greg Olsen, who got completely shut down almost immediately. The play before that was Greg Olsen and two other receivers running short right routes while Cutler rolled out right, in the red zone. Needless to say, nobody was open and it was a big mess.

Kevin Payne makes another acrobatic defense. It's a good day for Bears' defensive depth.

Detroit Lions 13 at Cincinnati Bengals 23

Bill Barnwell: Matthew Stafford just threw a pick-six on a screen that was tipped literally a foot in front of him. Ugh.

Aaron Schatz: Text message from Mike Tanier: "Chad Ochocinco -- is that a real poncho or a Sears poncho?"

Doug Farrar: Well, the sombrero looks real. I believe the poncho is from the Estaban Ochocinco collection.

Vince Verhei: Matt Stafford has a 54-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson in the first half. Take that play away, and he is six-of-17 for 45 yards with one interception and one sack.

Rob Weintraub: Exhibit A for why the Bengals are headed for a division title but DVOA is down on them was this game. Cincy played very poorly for the first 20 minutes (the Fanene pick-six snapped them out of it), had several missed blocking assignments, nine penalties (most on the O-line), three turnovers by Carson Palmer, more red zone inefficiency (dropped touchdown pass--again!--by Dan Coats), stuffed on third-and-inches at the ten, Palmer strip sack, etc.), and a general "let's get this over with" approach -- and yet the Bengals were in total control, not remotely threatened once the game went 14-7.

Detroit made exactly two plays on offense -- a touchdown bomb to Megatron when a botched coverage left him in single coverage with a gimpy safety, Chris Crocker, and a bomb to the 1 in garbage time that Johnson caught over two defenders. The Bengals were unafraid to let Detroit stay within shouting distance, and simply run endlessly to kill the clock. It was effective, but it sure wasn't pretty. Mostly Cincy lined up in their favored six linemen formation (including Andre Smith!), and hammered away with CedricBenson.

Record I never, ever, thought the Bengals would hold -- three different backs have run for more than 100 yards. in three consecutive weeks (Scott, L.J., Benson).

So, yeah, 9-3, but with the Steelers and Ravens feh, it's not as though I'm cackling over here. We'll see the next two weeks, at MIN and at SD.

Tennessee Titans 17 at Indianapolis Colts 27

Vince Verhei: After a steady dose of Chris Johnson to soften up the defense, Vince Young drops back to pass and finds Nate Washington a step behind the cornerback. He throws a perfect -- PERFECT -- rainbow that drops into Washington's hands -- and Washington drops it. Still an amazing throw by Young; he had to throw it 40-some yards into a small window, and could not have thrown it any better.

Aaron Schatz: By the way, that's Jeff Saturday in the new Mastercard commercial getting the football present from Manning, right?

Tim Gerheim: Yep.

Vince Verhei: Young regresses several seasons, throwing an interception right to a defensive back on a rollout pass. He was hit on the play and got up to cover the runback, but now he's down on the sideline holding his knee. Uh-oh

Young is back on the field for Tennessee, but the Colts are ahead 21-3 near the end of the first half.

Bill Barnwell: Tony Brown is losing his mind in Indy. Inside ten seconds, his helmet fell off and he took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for sticking his fingers inside a Colts' lineman's face mask. He then was nearly ejected for talking trash; on the subsequent play, his helmet came off again and he was still talking trash. Costs his team three points. Shut up, dude. And fix your helmet.

Doug Farrar: Or, in KSK vernacular: FIX YO HELMET!

Vince Verhei: Young leads the Titans to a touchdown on the two-minute drill, and it was the good Vince: five-of-six for 56 yards and the score, with another first down on a scramble. His best throw was a laser beam to a receiver who had settled into a very small Hole in Zone to set the Titans up inside the 20.

Unfortunately, he left Peyton Manning with 20 seconds on the clock, and the Colts kick a 43-yard field goal on the last play of the half. It was helped by a personal foul on Tony Brown, who looked like he was trading punches with an Indianapolis lineman. Indy up 24-10 at the half.

Ned Macey: Substantively, not a whole lot here.  Of note, Tony Ugoh returned and played adequately in place of an injured Charles Johnson.  A rare Mike Hart sighting for those of us who are Colts and Michigan fans.  The Colts' spate of good fortune continued, getting a tipped pass for a long completion to Pierre Garcon on the first play of the game.  (Garcon had a big day, demonstrating that the end may be near for the seemingly ageless Nick Harper.)

The most interesting thing, to my mind, was that Chris Johnson had a very un-Chris Johnson like game in both the good and bad way.  He broke nothing big (long rush was 11 yards) but rarely was stuffed.  He was consistently gaining positive yardage but never really threatening.  Odd.  Vince Young made a number of good throws, a couple poor decisions, and generally was a competent pocket passer.  A botched snap near the end zone will likely hurt his DVOA, but he easily recovered the fumble. 

Now, just because I can, I'd like to heap praise on the Colts' organization.  The headlines are first this year's 12-0 record and second that they tied the Pats for most consecutive regular season wins.  The first is impressive but adequately appreciated.  The second seems hollow, since everybody knows that the Colts lost a game to the Chargers in the playoffs, while the Patriots won all their playoff games 

What I think is most impressive is that they have now won 12 straight for the seventh straight year.  That's just an incredible run of consistency and dominance.  Since 2001, the Pats (the league's best franchise) has four 12-plus-win seasons.  Joe Montana's 49ers won 12-plus games five times in his 10 seasons.  Troy Aikman's Cowboys won 12 games four times.  The Lions have won 12 games -- wait for it, wait for it -- once in their entire history.  The fact that the Colts have only won the one Super Bowl perhaps deservedly undermines how remarkable a run they are on. 

Tom Gower: Well, I've been home from the road trip to Nap-town for about two hours and am still annoyed at life.

Two key elements of the Titans' winning streak that weren't present today:

1. Not falling behind. The largest deficit they'd faced was 7. Today they were down 11 early and 18 in the second quarter.

2. Lack of explosive plays. One of my aborted research projects this offseason was the role of explosion plays (somehow defined) in scoring drives. Generally, scoring drives feature one (or more) of these, simply because NFL defenses tend to be at least marginally competent and it's difficult for most offenses to go up and down the field in 4- to 10-yard chunks. The main driver of these has been CJ's big runs. As Ned noted, his long was 11. The Colts game-planned for him not to go boom, and it worked. The Titans didn't get these in the passing game either -- Nate Washington's drop early that would have put them up 10-7 was killer.

I thought V.Y. played reasonably for the most part -- he missed a couple throws, but most of his failures were at least as much about his teammates as they were about him. If that sounds like a familiar tune, it should because it's the same one I sounded earlier in the year when Kerry Collins was at quarterback.

One big takeaway from today's game is that if you're going to beat the Colts, you can't make too many mistakes, and the Titans made a bunch. Besides Washington's drop, there's Ahmard Hall's fumble, the pass protection breakdown on the play that resulted in the pick, Tony Brown's stupidity giving the Colts 3 points, and more missed tackles than I'll care to chart.

Tim Gerheim: One more key element to the streak: Not playing the Colts. That really improves your chances.

Denver Broncos 44 at Kansas City Chiefs 13

Doug Farrar: Special Teams FAIL, Part 2: At the beginning of the third quarter, after what I'm sure was another three-and-out, the Chiefs go to punt formation but swap Dustin Colquitt out for Brodie Croyle. Croyle takes the deep snap and promptly throws the ball a good 10 yards short of the only possible intended receiver. Congratulations, Mr. Croyle: You join Pat White and Michael Vick in the Pantheon of Completely Useless Shotgun Formation Plays (2009 Version). And a quick note to Todd Haley: Swapping in your backup quarterback kinda takes away the specter of the fake punt, dude.

New England Patriots 21 at Miami Dolphins 22

Bill Barnwell: Dolphins get Pat White behind center and run a shotgun sweep/option, but White blows the pitch and they end up in third-and-32. I've often said that my playbook would consist solely of plays for third-and-32 and the sort, but the Dolphins' play in such a situation is "bubble screen to Davone Bess". It did not get 32 yards.

Aaron Schatz: Miami ran some interesting offensive plays for their first drive of the second quarter, coming out with an unbalanced line two or three times and then passing the ball deep. No runs, not even with a play-action fake -- just an unbalanced line, straight dropback, pass. Drive ended with the first touchdown of the year by Loser League Superduperstar Davone Bess. Sad day for Loser Leaguers. Simms talked about how Bess is really improving his second year. Also talked about how Anthony Fasano is becoming an important part of the Miami offense, and how Chad Henne really looked improved when he watched Buffalo play Miami last week. Hard to take color commentary seriously when every player is improving and no comment is critical in any way. They might as well put Larry King in the booth to give color commentary.

Speaking of which, this being another throwback day, they showed Larry King in the Miami radio booth! He was apparently the Dolphins color commentator for their first three seasons, 1969-1971. Which brings the question: COLOR commentary? Not play-by-play? Larry King was the ANALYST???

Oh ... my ... god. Tom Brady just threw down the sideline to a completely-covered Sam Aiken on first-and-20. Shaun Smith was actually in front of Aiken and in better position to catch the ball for an interception, and Aiken reached over Smith's back, caught the ball against the front of Smith's helmet, and somehow instead of falling down he kept his balance and stepped over Smith as Smith fell, then ran all the way for an 81-yard touchdown. The second-greatest against-a-helmet catch I've ever seen.

Oh, and I should point out Aiken could go all the way for the touchdown because the deep safety was on the other side of the field doubling Randy Moss.

Doug Farrar: With 3:25 left in the third quarter, Chad Henne overthrows everybody in the end zone. The spectacular aspect of this play was that the mascot had to jump up and to the right to avoid getting beaned in the face. Did Henne watch Bull Durham last night?

Aaron Schatz: Patriots march down the field in the fourth quarter. Shaun Smith singled on Wes Welker is a mismatch, so what do you call Akin Ayodele on Wes Welker? Alas, in the red zone, Tom Brady throws an awful interception, trying to hit Randy Moss on a jump ball in the corner. Vontae Davis is right in front of him -- Gibril Wilson was there too, although I wouldn't call it "double coverage" -- and it didn't even look like Moss even jumped to try for it.

OK, Patriots fans can now panic. This business of falling apart in the fourth quarter is a serious problem. They looked like they outplayed the Dolphins today, but just too many passes ended up just out of some guy's reach. The defense would look good for a couple of downs, then let Miami convert on fourth and keep going.

Two guys need to be called out here. First, Adalius Thomas, who got nothing against Jake Long all day. Watching him try the spin moves and go nowhere was just sad. Second, Nick Kaczur. He let Cameron Wake in for the pass pressure that forced the final interception to blow the Pats' attempt at a last-minute comeback. Kazcur simply isn't very good in pass protection. I have no idea why they signed him to an extension before the season.

Interestingly, Miami beat the Patriots with no Wildcat. A couple of Pat White option plays that went nowhere, but they gave up on the Ricky Williams-run Wildcat.

Bill Moore: I'm of the belief that New England is in need of a true offensive coordinator. The play-calling for this team is just atrocious.

Aaron Schatz: It is annoying to see Tony Dungy say that Bill Belichick made a mistake by going for it on fourth-and-1 from the Miami 6 near the end of the first half, instead of taking the field goal. "In a game that's going to be close, you always take the points," says Dungy. But this isn't your own end of the field. This is the SIX. Going for it was absolutely the right decision in that situation. The fault does not belong to the coach who decided to go for it in a situation where you convert more than half the time. The fault belongs to the defense that let Miami go 83 yards on the next drive, in less than two minutes, to kick a field goal right before halftime. If you kick the field goal, the kickoff return probably ends up somewhere around the 25. Maybe that last Miami drives ends up in seven points instead of three, and you're actually worse off.

Tim Gerheim: I'm not sure how much time was left in the half, but in general I disagree on chances at the end of the half. Part of the calculus in going for it near the goal-line is the fact that if you fail the other team has the ball so deep, and they're unlikely to score and you're likely to get it back with pretty good field position. That upside isn't there so much toward the end of the half because the clock will often run out before you get another shot at it.

Oakland Raiders 27 at Pittsburgh Steelers 24

Vince Verhei: Steelers get a field goal following a big return on the opening kickoff. Raiders respond with a field-goal drive of their own. Key play was a fourth-and-1 conversion where Bruce Gradkowski play-faked and bootlegged right. He had a tight end covered in the flat, but eventually that guy stepped up to get Gradkowski, who then pulled up and dropped the ball in the tight end's hands. Between the bootleg, the timing of when to pass, and the touch of the pass itself, it was the kind of play JaMarcus Russell likely screws up eight or nine times out of ten.

Bill Barnwell: Steelers just got stuffed on a Ben Roethlisberger sneak on fourth-and-1 from the Raiders' 5 or so. Actually lost yardage, from what I can tell.

Doug Farrar: Mike Tomlin's Campaign to Unleash Hell is running into a few snags. Pittsburgh starts the game with that rarest of all things -- a positive special teams play! -- on an 83-yard kickoff return by Stefan Logan. Of course, they have to settle for a field goal on a drive that started at the Oakland 19. Next drive, three-and-out. Next drive, Big Ben up the middle on fourth-and-1 and they don't get it. They did pick up a first down on that third drive, so, I guess that's progress.

Bill Barnwell: The Steelers then come back and score on two absolutely perfect throws from Roethlisberger targeting Tyvon Branch, one on a Hines Ward deep post, and then one on an even tougher deep corner route right at the pylon by Santonio Holmes. Couldn't have made better throws if he tried.

Doug Farrar: Branch on Ward and Holmes? What sort of coverages were the Raiders running on that drive?

Bill Barnwell: Cover-1 with underneath zones on the Ward play, probably the same thing on the Holmes play.

The Raiders pitch to Darren McFadden, who passes back to Bruce Gradkowski ...who has James Harrison already in his face, curls backwards, and takes a sack anyway. Ends up being a loss of about 15 or so.

Vince Verhei: Bruce Gradkowski's mobility is giving the Steelers fits. The Raiders are moving him around a lot, and on their most recent drive, he ran for two first downs -- one a sneak on fourth-and-1, one a scramble on third-and-3. He capped off the drive with a touchdown pass to Chaz Schilens to put Oakland ahead 13-10.

Doug Farrar: Raiders pull ahead of the Steelers with a fourth-quarter touchdown drive that includes some rollouts and counter pitches to keep Pittsburgh's defense off-balance. Tanier and I will never see eye-to-eye on Jeff Garcia, but Bruce Gradkowski reminds me of Garcia and is showing some of the things I liked about him -- productive mobility and play extension. I'm still waiting for the Garcia downside, which includes the ability to run around in the pocket like a little kid trying to get dizzy, and the subsequent head-scratching interceptions.

Bill Barnwell: Wow. Louis Murphy somehow got ten yards of space downfield and picked up 75 yards to give the Raiders BACK the lead. In Pittsburgh.

Wow. Wow. The Raiders get a Hail Mary to Louis Murphy in quadruple coverage with 30 seconds left. They promptly get a delay of game penalty, and on the next play, the Steelers pick up an unnecessary roughness penalty by hitting a defenseless receiver. Gradkowski scrambles on the next play and throws an awful pass into triple coverage while stumbling (that would be bad Garcia) and still hits Johnnie Lee Higgins in the hands before Higgins promptly drops it. Then Gradkowski hits a wide open Murphy for the touchdown with nine seconds left on second down. Just an ugly series for both teams.

Doug Farrar: Whoa. Gradkowski throws it up, basically punts with his arm, and Louis Murphy somehow comes down with the ball at the Pittsburgh 17 with 27 seconds left. Of course, because they're the Raiders, they catch a delay of game penalty on the next play. Gradkowski zips it up the middle to Murphy, and Ryan Mundy is flagged with the "defenseless receiver call." Two plays later, a wounded duck in the end zone to Murphy. Raiders are back up.

Screw Kyle Orton. Bruce Gradkowski Just Wins Games!

Vince Verhei: Steelers have had more injuries in the secondary -- Ryan Clark looked like he got knocked out, though he walked off the field. Gradkowski was just lobbing up jump ball after jump ball in the fourth quarter, and the Steelers got their hands on a bunch but couldn't pull any in. Raiders pulled in just enough to win. Best game in years and YEARS for Oakland wide receivers. An amazingly entertaining game.

New Orleans Saints 33 at Washington Redskins 30 OT

Bill Barnwell: The Saints start with Drew Brees dropping an interception straight into Fred Smoot's hands, and Smoot promptly drops it.

Tim Gerheim: Nothing says poor player personnel management like "Fred Smoot starting today with DeAngelo Hall out."

Doug Farrar: Drew Brees indoors this year: 154 of 213 passes (72.3 percent) for 2,149 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Drew Brees outdoors this year: 82 of 130 (63.1 percent) for 968 yards, seven scores and four picks.

Nine sacks outdoors, five indoors. Vulnerable New Orleans run defense. This ain't a cakewalk.

Bill Barnwell: Redskins are up 10-0 on Saints with great coverage downfield. Nothing really impressive up front, Phillip Daniels blocking a couple of passes; literally, Brees is getting four or five seconds to throw and not finding anyone. Amazing how they can do that without DeAngelo Hall, huh?

Doug Farrar: The Redskins are doing a great job at getting pressure with four and even three at the line, allowing the guys in the back to drop into zones and keep Brees from getting the big pass play off, at least in the first half. You keep wondering when Brees and Sean Payton will crack that defense, but early on, it's very effective. Andre Carter, who's having a pretty spiffy season under the radar, is doing particularly well today.

Tim Gerheim: The Redskins' defensive linemen are playing volleyball with Brees' "I'm a six-foot quarterback" passes. They've knocked two or three back down through about the middle of the second quarter. It looks like it's part of the game plan. Albert Haynesworth and the rest of the tackles aren't pushing upfield that hard. Once they read "pass" they seem to be trying to keep their hands free and their eyes up on Brees. I think the offense has started figuring that out -- mostly the fact that the rush isn't coming that hard up the middle unless it's a blitz.

David Gardner: What a play by Robert Meachem, stripping the ball from Kareem Moore off a Brees interception and running the ball in for a score.

Tim Gerheim: One of the most amazingly entertaining plays I've ever seen. Third-and-about 20, Drew Brees escaped a big blitz, including running out of a tackle, and threw up a prayer down the middle of the field toward Jeremy Shockey. He was double-covered, and Kareem Moore made a diving interception, got up and returned it about 20 yards. Robert Meachem did a great job beating a block (since the Skins had a convoy up the left side), pulled the ball out of Moore's hands on the way down, and ran it in unchallenged for a touchdown. It was almost overturned because the ball was moving as he was on the ground, and he dove over the top of Shockey so it looked like it could have been down by contact. I really thought it was down by contact since he definitely contacted Shockey on his way to the ground, but after he made the interception he didn't touch him. I guess I need to brush up on the down by contact rules.

Fourth-and-a foot for the Saints, and they run Mike Bell behind a pulling left guard, who was lined up heads up on Albert Haynesworth. Haynesworth dutifully busted into the backfield and blew up the play. Pulling a guard on fourth-and-extremely short seems like a bad idea on its own; vacating the space in front of Haynesworth doubly so.

Aaron Schatz: To those watching Saints-Redskins, what's up with the Saints' pass defense that looked so amazing against the Patriots? We knew their run defense had problems, but the Redskins aren't beating them with the run here, they only have something like 15 carries. Campbell is 23-for-34 with 12:00 left.

Can I complain about FOX again? Just flipped over, out of curiosity, and they are still showing Philly shutting out Atlanta 34-0 instead of switching to Washington's possible upset-in-the-making against New Orleans.

Vince Verhei: From what I've seen (admittedly not much), Saints have been playing a lot of soft zone coverages and Campbell has had plenty of time to find the open man. He hasn't been beating blitzes or making great throws into coverage. And a lot of these receivers are wide-open, too. Not to knock Washington, because they are playing well, but this feels more like a New Orleans loss than a Washington win, at least on that side of the ball.

Tim Gerheim: The Redskins are running really well-designed plays, mixing up where they're throwing and how the receivers are getting open. Devin Thomas's first touchdown was a second-and-goal from around the 9 right after an incompletion, in a tight formation, and Thomas motioned left across the formation and set up right behind the left side tight end. In other words, everything screamed run. Mike McKenzie ran with him in man coverage. Thomas crossed back behind the line to the right out into the flat, McKenzie couldn't get across fast enough, and there was nobody close enough to stop him once he made the easy catch.

I think their route combinations have been more creative than New England's last week, they've had more receivers who can do damage (Thomas, who's had a great game, Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle El, and Fred Davis). Even though both Moss and Welker are probably better than anything Washington has, the greater variety of targets is putting more pressure on the depleted secondary. I think the Redskins are also benefiting from the sloppy field conditions after the above-freezing snowstorm yesterday. Then, the week of tape on McKenzie and Chris McAlister may have helped. It's always hard to defend against a quarterback in his first game in forever, even if he's not that good; the same may apply to corners.

Mike Kurtz: Nice kickoff return by Thomas, but he really looked slow at the end there. Very odd.

Tim Gerheim: Oh yeah, meant to add, Campbell's really not facing a lot of pressure, including on blitzes. I'm betting that the numbers will show that he's done very well against the blitz today.

I never thought I'd say this this season, but this has been a really entertaining Redskins game.

Doug Farrar: It should also be mentioned that with Jabari Greer and Randall Gay out, the Saints are down to a rookie (Malcolm Jenkins) and a guy they just signed two weeks ago (Mike McKenzie) at cornerback.

Aaron Schatz: That's the same corners the Saints had last week against the Pats, so that's no explanation.

Vince Verhei: Redskins are up 7 with about five minutes to go, and their offense has gone back to the never-ending string of bubble screens we know and hate. Then they remember they're playing the Saints and start running up the middle with impunity, including a third-and-1 conversion inside the five. They then run on first, second, and third downs to take it to the two-minute warning, up seven, in gimme field-goal range.
And then they miss the field goal. You've gotta be kidding me.

Mike Kurtz: Washington misses the gimme field goal, meaning that Brees is set up with a minute and a half to go the field for a tie/win. Suddenly FOX cuts away. They'll give me updates, though! How kind.

Gregg Easterbrook is right, that rule is insane.

Vince Verhei: In my sports bar, they have switched to a Miami-Boston College basketball game. Excuse me, I must immediately burn this place to the ground.

Jesus, they're putting that game on the BIG SCREEN, even as Saints-Redskins is ending and Seahawks-49ers is starting. What the hell?!?!?

Tim Gerheim: Wow. The Skins had first-and-goal from the 4, and they were totally playing for the field goal. They had a chip-shot field goal to go up 10 on the first play after the two-minute warning, and they missed it. This will be a good matchup, between one of the best offenses and one of the best defenses. Doesn't help that Haynesworth went down on the first play of the drive.

Bill Barnwell: The Redskins line up for a 28-yard field goal to give them a ten-point lead inside two minutes ... and Shaun Suisham misses it wide. This after the 'Skins "...got the points when they could" by hitting a 21-yard field goal earlier in the quarter. Haynesworth promptly goes down untouched on the subsequent play clutching his knee. That's not a good sequence.

David Gardner: And there it is, Brees to Robert Meachem, touchdown.

Tim Gerheim: For some reason when they got to the 5 the Redskins started running Rock Cartwright instead of their third-string back, who had been fairly dominant on the drive to that point.

35 seconds for a Saints touchdown. Epic. Two Saints touchdowns (or at least long passes) have now come because LaRon Landry tried to jump routes that then went upfield. Which would be OK (not great but OK) if he were a corner instead of the free safety.

Washington runs an awful two-minute drill. Everything is going up the middle. Close to field-goal range thanks to a facemask, but a slow drive.

And the Saints get an interception on an ugly throw the next play. Campell threw it late, allowing Jonathan Vilma to jump an out route to Davis. After a Saints hold, this looks like overtime.

Vince Verhei: They've got the Redskins game back on here, just in time to see Campbell throw an interception. I'm not a big believer in guys magically getting better or worse in "clutch" situations, but his play on the last two drives as opposed to the rest of the game has been dreadful.

Saints are lining up for a 50-plus-yard field goal to win. Washington calls timeout to ice the kicker, so the Saints change their mind and run one more play. Luckily for Washington, the pass is incomplete, and the ensuing kick is short, and we're going to overtime.

Doug Farrar: This must be an overtime rule? Sean Payton calls timeout in overtime so that the booth can review a Mike Sellers non-fumble call, which is overturned. Payton gets the timeout back. Does anyone know if that's a regulation rule as well?

Bill Moore: He gets the timeout back because once the play is overruled nothing that happens after that play matters (unless there was a personal foul)

Tim Gerheim: Between that madcap interception-fumble-touchdown at the end of the first half and the missed 20-yard field goal at the end of the game, I'm starting to believe in the Football Gods. I can hardly think of another explanation.

Aaron Schatz: OK, folks watching Skins-Saints. Do you think the Sellers down-by-contact play was properly overturned by the officials on the replay?

Bill Barnwell: No. Absolutely not indisputable whatsoever.

Doug Farrar: No way. Of course, the NFL can hide behind the "infinite levels of indisputable" defense, but that was a bang-bang call either way.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6 at Carolina Panthers 16

David Gardner: The Bucs are facing a Panthers team without Jake Delhomme or DeAngelo Williams. Let's see if they can pull out win No. 2!

That's the first truly inaccurate pass I've seen from Josh Freeman this season. He had wideout Sammy Stroughter open by a step going across the middle, but he overthrew him by about 10 yards. It was intercepted by Charles Godfrey.

Bucs right tackle Jeremy Trueblood needs to go to anger management. He has gotten two 15-yard penalties in the last two games that have really cost his team. Last week, someone cleaned him off a pile, and he took of his helmet on the field. This week, he clipped a defensive back after the play was over, and got an unnecessary roughness call. Raheem Morris has him out of the game.

The Panthers' strategy in this game is similar to the last few times they have played the Bucs -- run it down their throats. Even without Williams, the Panthers are averaging 6.25 yards a pop.

Josh Freeman has thrown some poor balls in the red zone today, which have really hurt the Bucs' effort. Give credit to Jon Beason, though, who has been staying disciplined in coverage on passing plays and has stayed out of Freeman's vision to jump in and intercept two passes.

Josh Freeman throws ANOTHER interception in the end zone. That's three today. In a 13-6 game.

Panthers respond by identifying the mismatch of the century -- Elbert Mack covering Steve Smith with no help over top. They're in the red zone now, looking to put the game away.

Houston Texans 18 at Jacksonville Jaguars 23

Bill Barnwell: Matt Schaub is out in Houston with some sort of injury. Rex Grossman is in. He promptly threw a pick on his first attempt.

Mike Kurtz: Dragon: Unleashed.

David Gardner: Thank God. I hate it when he teases me with those touch passes.

Doug Farrar: Welcome to the "We're desperately trying to hold on to a wild-card spot five games behind the Colts" Bowl from Jacksonville Stadium, a contest viewed by tens and tens of people!

Matt Schaub gets knocked out of the game by Derrick Harvey. Rex Grossman comes in, boom. Interception. Boo-ya! The Texans' offensive line is feeling the effect of losing both their starting guards, just as Jacksonville's line did last season. They've got a first-rounder at left tackle and Alex Gibbs on the staff, but there's a reason good guards get tackle money these days.

No trouble on defense, as Brian Cushing leads the charge in a Pocket Hercules-filled red-zone stop in the first quarter.

Aaron Schatz: Drew Brees? Peyton Manning? Brett Favre? Apparently, today we've learned who the Most Valuable Player in the NFL is. Matt Schaub. Holy mackeral.

Tim Gerheim: Who ever could have expected that Rex Grossman or Dan Orlovsky couldn't run the Texans offense to its potential?

San Diego Chargers 30 at Cleveland Browns 23

Bill Barnwell: Browns-Chargers is apparently being played in a library.

Mike Kurtz: Ohio is renowned for its libraries, it's true.

The announcers are falling all over themselves, desperately trying to say that Jim Brown really, honestly, really respects LaDainian Tomlinson. It's rather surreal.

Personally, I'm not sure Brown is/would be that impressed.

Bill Barnwell: I liked their line that Jim Brown was intimidating because he compared everyone's toughness level to his own. How impossibly stuck-up.

Mike Kurtz: To be fair, it's not an incredible overstatement. Brown is famously hard on/dismissive of most of the much-vaunted backs that followed him.

Vince Verhei: Did you see him in Mars AttacksI? He's VERY tough.

Bill Barnwell: Yes, and he was tougher than most of the guys in the first few UFCs.

Mike Tanier: Jim Brown is Professor Emeritus of the We Were Tougher in Our Day College of old blowhard football players. As great as he was, and he was probably better than L.T., it's incedibly unbecoming how often he feels inclined to point it out. Philly has Chuck Bednarik on the Doctoral Board (an all-time great, of course, but the universe didn't become 75 percent less tough the moment he retired, like he believes), and the 1972 Dolphins are on the faculty, with their champagne chilling, and chilling...

Rob Weintraub: I interviewed Bednarik once, and while he may have spent the entire time bad-mouthing today's pussycat players, I heard none of it -- I was entranced by his fingers, most of which stick out horizontally at sickening angles. He gets to say whatever he chooses, in my book.

Doug Farrar: Frank Gifford and Jim Taylor agree wholeheartedly.

Vince Verhei: Years ago Sports Illustrated ran a photo of Bednarik with both hands on a football, and no two fingers were pointing the same direction. It seems impossible, but I can't find the photo online.

Tom Gower: This is the big SI article on Bednarik, from 1993, seeming very angry.

Mike Kurtz: Brady Quinn has definitely looked like an NFL quarterback, not because of all the garbage-time yards he's put up against a very soft defense, but the first half when the game was actually somewhat competitive. It will be interesting to see what Eric Mangini does with him, and how the remainder of the season goes.

San Diego shows possibly the worst onside-recovery I've ever seen, which Cleveland easily recovers. Quinn then overthrows Mohamed Massaquoi, because apparently I'm not allowed to say nice things about quarterbacks, ever.

Bill Barnwell: It's good to see Jerome Harrison made his way out of Eric Mangini's doghouse long enough to score two touchdowns.

Mike Kurtz: They were both crappy goal-line affairs. I'd say I'm happy, but I neglected to check my teams this morning and thereby started Steve Slaton, so Harrison's big game is kind of wasted as I'm short an offensive player.

Quinn throws another deep go to Massaquoi, who mis-adjusts to the (beautiful) throw and can't pull it in. A shame.

Tomlinson catches the second onside kick, falls down. Norving averted.

Dallas Cowboys 24 at New York Giants 31

Aaron Schatz: Giants defensive changes up front definitely seem to have given them a shot in the arm -- they are getting more pass pressure today. However, they are having a lot of trouble covering Jason Witten. You know, if only you could put the Dolphins' safeties on the Giants, you would have a heck of a defense.

Bill, or anyone else following -- when did the Giants' starting safety (ies) get injured this year? Do you remember what week?

Bill Barnwell: Kenny Phillips went down after Week 2. Michael Johnson's still in there.

Aaron Schatz: Interesting. I went and checked the Giants' weekly defensive stats because they're having such a problem with Jason Witten today. Here is a split of the defense against tight ends -- but the clear split is after Week 4 for some reason.

Weeks 1-4: -29.8% DVOA, 58 percent catch rate, 47.5 yards per game.

Weeks 5-12 36.2% DVOA, 71 percent catch rate, 65.7 yards per game.

Bill Barnwell: Wow. Brandon Jacobs goes 74 yards on a short out when Anthony Spencer takes a bad angle, some downfield holding goes uncalled, and he avoids (pending review) stepping out of bounds.

Aaron Schatz: Giants victory here will put Philadelphia into a first-place tie with Dallas, because clearly Mike Tanier hasn't suffered enough heartburn this decade.

Tim Gerheim: Thanks, FOX, for showing us Eli Manning scratching behind his ear in super slo-mo. Really added to my enjoyment of the game.

Doug Farrar: Per Sam Farmer's Twitter, Justin Tuck called Flozell Adams a "dirtbag" and a "coward" after the game. Did Adams leg-whip him again?

San Francisco 49ers 17 at Seattle Seahawks 20

Vince Verhei: Seattle is wearing they're normal light greyish-blue jerseys with dark blue pants and socks. They look like they're running around in very tight jeans.

49ers come out on their opening drive almost exclusively shotgun and drive down the field, but stall in the red zone. A fourth-and-goal pass is almost complete despite some flagrant pass interference -- no idea how that wasn't called. Seahawks take over inside their own 1 and promptly go three-and-out.

There are more than six minutes left in the first quarter, and the 49ers are already out of timeouts. Which means they're also out of challenges. Good Lord.

Their second drive also ends on a fourth-and-1, but this time Smith play-fakes, rolls right, then throws back to the lef to Vernon Davis, who takes it 30 yards for a score. 49ers up 7-0.

On the 49ers' first punt return, they teased a reverse. They actually tried it the second time, but completely botched the handoff and fumbled it a dozen yards backwards, and the Seahawks recover. This is some AWFUL football.

Bill Barnwell: Seahawks announcers note that a 25-yard field goal "...should be an easy kick for [Olindo] Mare, but given what's happened in the college games yesterday and the Redskins game today, there's no such thing as a gimme."

So now field goal results are interrelated?

Tim Gerheim: Come on Bill, that's the sort of pedantry TMQ would indulge in. It's pretty clear that he meant that the recent missed field goals remind us that there are no gimme field goals.

Vince Verhei: What a mess this has been. Fumbles. False starts. Dropped passes. Failed completions. Dropped interceptions. Eventually the special teams and defenses stopped making mistakes, and when that happened neither offense had the firepower to get anything done. Seahawks punt teams have downed a couple of balls deep in 49ers territory, but other than that it's been hard to find much good done by either team.

Until Deon Butler hauls in a deep pass at about the 15 with 11 seconds to go and runs out of bounds. Seahawks run one more play to get the ball in the middle of the field -- and then barely get the timeout called before the clock expires. Mare kicks the field goal to give Seattle the win. Yippee.

Mare hasn't missed a kick since Jim Mora threw him under the bus after the Chicago game.

Doug Farrar: Meanwhile. Deion Branch took the wrong route on one play and failed to bring in a tough-but-catchable deep ball on the final drive. Had Ruskell not given up a first-round pick and a $39 million contract for him, Branch would have been off the field in favor of Butler a while ago. It's OK, guys, We have now admitted that the Ruskell era was a failure. Put the kid in now, please.

Minnesota Vikings 17 at Arizona Cardinals 30

Mike Kurtz: Brett Favre is being interviewed by Collinsworth, and he's dipping into astrology ("the stars were aligned") and, after Collinsworth used the word "schism" to describe the locker room, Favre was so amazed by this new and novel word that he made a point to jokingly use it in every single sentence afterward. Good lord.

Doug Farrar: And he's already hedging on 2010. Guess I'll be bailing on the NFL Network from postdraft to preseason for the second straight year.

Mike Kurtz: Of course, the stars comment could be something other than astrology. Favre fhtagn Minneapolis!

Tim Gerheim: That was a great fumble punch from Bennie Sapp. Free Beanie Wells!

Aaron Schatz: Did Jared Allen just introduce himself as being from "Culinary Academy?" Is that the undergrad school at the University of Mayonnaise?

Bill Barnwell: He's done that before.

Aaron Schatz: I think in next week's Walkthrough, Tanier needs to detail the bowl game between Allen's alma mater, the Culinary Academy, and Ike Taylor's alma mater, the University of Swagger.

I wonder where the aliens took the original Brenda Warner.

Really good run defense being played by the Cardinals tonight. They're definitely out there trying to stop Adrian Peterson first, Brett Favre second.

Doug Farrar: They seem to be much better with gap control under new defensive coordinator Bill Davis. They'll still blitz, but it isn't the crazy stuff you'd see from Clancy Pendergast.

Aaron Schatz: What was a safety, Madieu Williams, doing in single man coverage on Larry Fitzgerald? Now, that's a mismatch.

Tom Gower: Both cornerbacks jumped Boldin's short out route, and Madieu was hung out to dry.

Tim Gerheim: If there were a weekly draft for snap judgment column topics, "Brett Favre is showing the long-season wear" would be the obvious first pick. Peter King (who probably holds the first pick because of how early MMQB comes out) would probably make the devastating mistake of reaching for "Cowboys prove again they can't win in December," since Favre not being indefatigable would not cross his mind. TMQ may actually be able to take the (distant) third pick, "the Saints just know how to win," although he would render it as "Yea, verily, the New Orleans Saints doth please the Football Gods."

Aaron Schatz: I think "Cowboys prove they can't win in December" is a tough one because that's generally thought to be "Tony Romo can't win in December" and Romo was absolutely not the problem today.

Doug Farrar: Sure, but Quarterback Wins/Losses is one of the first reaches in the Sportswriters' Grab-bag.

Aaron Schatz: I had to run out a bit, so pardon me if this is wrong and he's back: Phil Loadholt went out of this game early with an injury. He is very quietly having a very good rookie season at right tackle. Really played well against Aaron Kampman in the last GB-MIN game. I think the Vikings are missing him tonight.

Al Michaels: "Sooner or later, number 69 will be in your face." I have no further comment.

Vince Verhei: I'm stunned at how bad Minnesota looks, at almost everything. I expected them to give up some plays in the passing game, but they're getting no pressure on Kurt Warner. I can't believe how dominant the Arizona offensive line has been. (A third-quarter highlight reel showed a series of perfectly executed double-teams and chip blocks on Jared Allen by assorted tight ends and backs.)

On the other side, remember that Arizona was first in run defense DVOA for the first month or so of the season. They were eighth coming into this game. The linemen have been pushed around a little, but the linebackers have been active (and, as Doug noted, disciplined) enough to fill the holes that develop.

Brett Favre still has a ridiculously powerful arm, but it does seem to me like his release has gotten much, much slower. Anyone else notice this?

Aaron Schatz: The thing is, some of those are the same guys who were on the line a couple years ago when it was horrible. Reggie Wells, I remember watching Reggie Wells in the fourth quarter of the "Crown Their Ass" game, and he was just getting pummeled by Chicago defenders as Edgerrin James was taken down behind the line over and over. Deuce Lutui was a backup at that point, I think Mike Gandy was a mediocre tackle in Buffalo. Now think of what has happened to the Pittsburgh offensive line over the last couple years. Folks, Russ Grimm must be a hell of a line coach.

Vince Verhei: Yes, but he was the offensive line coach in Arizona last year, and they were horrible then. He was promoted to "run game coordinator" over the offseason, but they were still really terrible to start the year, particularly at tackle.

Unless it just takes a year and a half for him to get his point across. Which would be some very good news for the Cardinals.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 07 Dec 2009

259 comments, Last at 08 Dec 2009, 6:34pm by ChiJeff


by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 11:27am

1) It's clear that Brady has dropped down to the 2nd tier of QBs. I hope it's just because of recovering from the knee, but not so sure.

2) Related to that, I think Moss and Welker has caused Brady to move unfavorably down the Drew Bledsoe axis. When they can get open, Brady can put up impressive stats. But it appears that Brady is no long Mr. Spread-it-around. If defenses decide to devote extra effort to covering Moss and Welker, Brady is unable to adjust and forces it in to them. Not to mention Brady has this ridiculous belief (probably spoiled by 2007) that he can lob any old ridiculous throw at Moss and nothing bad'll happen. Brady has a bunch of INTs this year from careless throws to Moss.

3) Brady also needs a lot of work on his long ball. With his overthrow of Aiken on (a) a sure TD and (b) a sure long gainer yesterday, Brady's left at least 7 or 8 long TDs on the table via overthrowing wide, wide open WRs downfield, even when he's not under pressure.

4) This is the worst Pats team since 2002, possible since 2000.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 11:27am

I hasten to add this doesn't mean I don't want Moss and Welker on the team, but Brady has to stop being locked in on them when they're not open.

by Daniel :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 6:40pm

Yeah, I miss the Brady whose favorite receiver was the open one.

And I can't believe how much foolishness has been uttered on the subject of the 4th-and-1 decision. Field position considerations (though they too work in favor of going for the TD) aren't even necessary here. Kicking the FG, even if you assume 100% success rate, gives you 3 points. The value of a first down on - at worst - the opponent's 5-yard line has to be around six points, maybe a tick under. So unless we're assuming that win probability is not linear wrt points at this stage of the game, which seems silly, the break-even probability of success is around 50%, even without the field position considerations.

I guess I can understand that the football-watching proletariat might be too stupid to follow the arguments showing the defensibility (at least) of the 4th-and-2 against Indy. But how is this one remotely confusing to anyone with a high-school diploma?

by Still Alive (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 1:57am

you clearly don't know a lot about high school diplomas...

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 11:38am

And second Barnwell's comment about the atrocious playcalling. Many, many WTF moments.

And what can be said about the defense? Wilhite can stay with receivers but has no idea how to cover them once the ball makes its final approach. Burgess had what seemed like his first QB pressure of the season. Adalius Thomas got old and slow overnight. Even if BB the coach can come up with decent defensive schemes (and I question the defensive playcalling), BB the GM is killing BB the coach.

To quote myself from another online forum:
At the risk of having my fan card revoked, I have to admit that I now have Bizarro confidence in the team.

When Miami got the ball to start their final drive, I was (sadly) confident that they'd get the go-ahead score.

Likewise, when NE got the ball after Miami went ahead, I was (sadly) confident we'd screw it up, either by going 4-and-out or by Brady throwing a bad pick.

It's very weird to have the same rock-solid feeling that they'll screw it up as I used to have that they'd somehow pull it off :(.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:05pm

Give credit to the Dolphins. After all, I'm a Dolphins fan.

Seriously, Cameron Wake is a beast.

by JasonTaylorEatsBrady (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:53pm

Give the $150 million Miami Dolphins O-Line some freaking credit! Maybe the Pats pass-rush sucked cause Miami's o-line was better!

Maybe Chad Henne IS improving his timing with the receivers. Maybe the Pats just got beat by a better team. The Pats had only one successful drive: the one where Faulk scored. The rest of their points came of big plays. Not saying big plays don't count, but it aint like the Pats were controlling the game.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:10pm

Give the $150 million Miami Dolphins O-Line some freaking credit! Maybe the Pats pass-rush sucked cause Miami's o-line was better!

Clearly you haven't watched many Pats games this year. The Pats get no pass rush on anyone. It's probably the biggest flaw in the defense. So don't get feeling all hyped up about the performance of the Miami OL. Stopping the NE pass rush isn't anything to write home about. It would be embarrassing if they couldn't stop it.

by dryheat :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:07pm

Play calling has been curious, to be charitable. I don't know how to justify punting on 4th and inches around midfield, and then a couple minutes later go for it on 4th and 2 in chip-shot FG range. I think Belichick is starting to let media criticism get to him.

Thing is, the Patriots deserved to lose this game by a much healthier margin. Henne flat-missed several wide open receivers, and 2 of the Pats touchdowns were on two huge plays. Not much in the way of move-the-chains drives, excepting the end zone pick.

I'm not going to say Brady is mediocre, but he seems to be awfully careless in the red zone this year. The far bigger problem is the overwhelming lack of a pass rush.

Fortunately, they should win out from here.

by Cliff Claven (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 5:13pm

Wasn't this the feeling last week?

by dryheat :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 5:26pm

Not really...Miami has played them well in recent years, especially at home. I don't think anyone felt like this was a gimme. Of course, none of the others are Gimmes either.

by Boots Day (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 2:48pm

I hear Charlie Weis is looking for work.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:11pm

Brady still leads the league in DYAR and is top five in DVOA, so I'm not sure how that comes out as "second tier of quarterbacks." He's played an ASTONISHINGLY hard schedule of pass defenses this year.

Jets: 1st in DVOA pass D
Bills: 3rd
Broncos: 5th
Saints: 6th
Ravens: 8th
Colts: 9th

That's 7 of 12 games so far against top 10 pass defenses. It doesn't get easier, because he next faces the Panthers (7th) and then Buffalo again.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:15pm

What's his half-by-half DYAR and DVOA? Quarter-by-quarter?

He's certainly putting up the numbers, both conventional and FO. But he's stinking it up in the second half and seemingly doing so consistently. That's a big change.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:32pm

Brady made one terrible decision yesterday (the end zone INT). But the drop-off in his completion percentage from first half to second is troubling. I wonder how much of that is due to increased pressure from the pass rush.

The Pats' OL have been devastated this season by injuries. I literally cannot remember an OL that had 5 of its top 6 people (the original starting OL + Vollmer) all injured at the same time. I think that's an under-reported aspect of their recent woes.

by Tim F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 8:02pm

Miami had 4 out of 5 active OLineman injured within a span of 4 minutes 2 weeks ago. Starting LG has been out or playing hurt for 4 weeks, starting C out for 2.5 games and counting... And there are about 5 other teams eaily just as beat up as Miami or NE along the front.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:34pm

The Patriots offense ranks first in the first half, seventh in the second half.

The Patriots defense ranks ninth in the first half, 22nd in the second half. The pass defense, specifically, is 26th in the second half.

I'm sorry, but it is pretty damn obvious where games are being lost, and it isn't the quarterback.

by Cabbage :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 2:37pm

Obviously, it is because they are not running the ball enough. Teams that run a lot tend to win -- did you know that?

by Sergio :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:03pm

Ugh. You should've seen the Finheaven forums yesterday:

"Why are we passing so much? Why aren't we running? Agggh I hate Henning (Miami's OC)". And so on.

-- Go Phins!

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 2:46pm

Aaron, I'm going to strongly disagree here. The offense absolutely shuts down at about 35 minutes into every game. The defense gets gassed, and thats it.

The defense stopped the Dolphins 3 or 4 times late in the 4th quarter yesterday. The offense went 3-and-out on all of them.

For some reason, it seems like when the 2nd half comes around, they refuse to take anything underneath, and you get this:

1st-10: Run for -1 yards.
2nd-12: Tom Brady Incomplete Deep Randy Moss
3rd-12: Tom Brady incomplete Deep Wes Welker
4th-12: Hanson Punts 26 yards.

by dryheat :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:34pm

Yup. For all the talk about the defense defecating the mattress the game the last two weeks, I'm much, much more disappointed in the offense not being able to help the defense stay on the sidelines and score points to make the opposing offense one-dimensional.

Yesterday, with less than five minutes left, the Pats had the opportunity to take some time off the clock while still running their offense, and we get predictible run, low-percentage pass, low-percentage pass, punt -- less than 1 minute off the clock. This seems to happen at least twice per game....Brady not taking what is available, and instead trying to force the ball to someone who is well covered.

by Tim F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 8:08pm

I don't get why Brady gets the heat though. He overthrew that one sure, long TD to Aiken, but Aiken dropped two easy catches that could have sealed the game. And why is Aiken even their 3rd best receiver? He was brought in for special teams. Where are the tight ends, the 3rd and 4th receiver? The screens and passing plays to Faulk? Why can't Maroney catch? The Pats used to spread the ball to everyone: either everyone besides Welker and Moss suck too much to inspire zero confidence or the nonexistent OC forgot how to coach or NE's drafting/team formation has fallen apart. None of which would I lay at the feet of Brady.

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 9:56am

Because Brady is the one trying to shoehorn the ball to Welker and Moss where there is very little daylight, instead of continuing through his reads and finding the Watsons, or Maroneys, or Aikens. He got this team to within a minute of a Super Bowl berth spreading the ball around to the likes of Reche Caldwell, Jabbar Gaffney, and Chad Jackson. The OC calls the plays...he doesn't decide where to go with the ball. I understand there's a pass rush, but somebody has to be open.

In the past, if Brady had the ball facing a deficit with 1:30 left, I was confident he would find a way to win. Now I'm confident he won't...because he's going to force the ball to a double-covered Moss or a double-covered Welker. In the week one win, they were given a gift by Buffalo, and it was Watson who made the big catches because he had the favorable matchup. That doesn't happen any more.

by Tim F. (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 10:11am

Right. And Watson has disappeared and I wouldn't trust throwing to Aiken either. (In fact, Brady threw to Aiken quite often and dropped it more often than not.) So if other guys aren't getting open (Welker is very rarely not open and Moss still has a talent for catching it no matter what the coverage) or are unreliable (Aiken certainly, Watson frequently), what is Brady going to do?

Caldwell and Gaffney and innumerable others aren't great receivers but they played like "Patriots." I'm not seeing it but for a few rare moments in a few games from Watson or Edelman -- certainly not consistently week in and out from every option.

by MJK :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 12:40pm

Exactly. I was making this point in another post. Before (the Gaffney/Caldwell days, or the Branch/Brown/Givens days) you had no clear "elite" WRs, but you had three or four guys that could all consistently catch the ball when called on. In other words, you had probably four guys on the field every play that were good enough to be #2 WRs or pass catching TE/RB's.

Now, you have two really elite guys...and a bunch significantly weaker players (at best #3, and probably #4 WRs) behind them (although I have high hopes for Edelman in the future). Granted, it's harder to shut down Welker/Moss than it was to shut down Branch/Givens, but if a team does manage to do it, the dropoff to Aiken or Watson is significantly higher than it was to Troy Brown or Donte Stallworth or Jabar Gaffney.

The 2007 offense wasn't elite because it had Welker and Moss. It was elite because it had Welker and Moss, and if you DID manage to stop them, it had Gaffney, Stallworth, and Faulk there as well. The 2009 offense has...Welker and Moss.

I think you can generalize the Pats offensive performance in the following way. If a team had two or three safeties good enough to shut down just those two guys, or a good enough front three that they could drop 8 into coverage (Saints), then the 2009 Patriots offense has struggled. Teams that couldn't do that got torn up.

by Eddo :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 1:28pm

"Caldwell and Gaffney and innumerable others aren't great receivers but they played like 'Patriots.'"

They rebelled against the British?

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 4:30pm

If Aiken, Watson, Baker, whomever are on the field and they are open, you throw it to them. If they repeatedly run the wrong routes or drop the football, then it's up to the coach to bench them and the GM to improve the roster. Handily, they're both the same person in this situation. That's purportedly what he did by cutting Greg Lewis to keep Galloway, cutting Galloway to get Aiken and Edelman on the field more, and risking the talented Nunn on the practice squad, where he got picked off by Tampa two weeks ago.

Gaffney left. Fine -- when he came to the Patriots, he had been just cut by his second team of the year. Hard to call him irreplaceable. Aiken is better than Caldwell or Stallworth, who was a terror in the open field, but otherwise iffy. I kill Watson for drops as much as anybody, but if he's being single-covered by a linebacker or strong safety, as seems to be the case lately, you have to throw it to him. Force the defense to account for him. If he's not good enough, that's on the coach. Otherwise the offense is playing short a man.

For a defensive co-ordinator like Belichick, who lives by the philosophy of taking away your opponent's #1 option, he surely realizes that if teams are going to take away Moss and make Watson, or Aiken, or the running game beat them, then he has to do exactly that.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:24pm

Interesting point, Aaron. I looked at those teams overall qualities and said "meh." He and Cassell both have the same number of losses with the Pats the past two years despite what seems to be an improved D this year, but I hadn't parsed out the specific pass D's he faced. Is it the coverage units or the DLs? Obviously they are related, but I am wondering which side, if either, tips the scales.

(And of course, we all KNOW that all losses and all wins in the NFL accrue solely to the QB... that is, unless the coach makes an unorthodox call, in which case they share blame.)

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:31pm

It seems like early in the year ( when brady looked wayyyy off), people gave up on the Pats... I seem to remember somebody in audibles saying the Jets would pretty easily win this division...

Then the Patriots come back... They lose to the Colts, the outsiders say "even though they lost, they aren't giving up that #1 DVOA spot". Now people are questioning the Patriots again.

Now we have people having to defend the Patriots again... Can we say that people get too high after the wins, and too low after the losses?

by RickD :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:33pm

Well...usually a team wins when it plays well. And when it plays well, the DVOA goes up.

That seems like a feature, not a bug.

by billsfan :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 2:07pm

I was under the impression that DVOA rewarded teams that played well in the second half, especially in close games. That the Patriots gave up 21 points to the Colts in the 4th quarter but finished the game with a better single-game DVOA is still incomprehensible to me.

(I also like the Eagles)

by dryheat :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:08pm

Yeah, well, a significant part of the reason those DVOAs are so high is that they got to feast on the Pats. And I like the Pats young secondary...just too much time given to the opposing QB to throw.

by R O (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:36pm

Philip Rivers shredded the Ravens pass D. Albeit in a loss.

Still, nanana-booboo

by stan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:40pm

How much of Brady's numbers are due to the game vs. the Titans? I'm not sure Tenn's defense was even on the field in the 2d Q of that game.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:16pm

I wouldn't say Brady is a 2nd tier QB, unless by "second tier" you mean "not currently in the debate for the Best QB in Football.

I would definitely agree that both Manning and Brees are playing better than Brady this year. I think any other QB you could name is at best debatably playing better. We Patriots fans are just spoiled. We complain when Brady occasionally overthrows a deep ball, misses an open guy underneath, or throws a dumb interception. It happens. I'll agree that it happens to Brady slightly more this year than in past years (except for maybe 2002), but I still think it happens less to him than at least 3/4 of other QB's in the league. Try watching a team with Jay Cutler, Chris Redman, or Seneca Wallace as QB. Then you will appreciate Brady.

I do agree with your point 2. I think finally having talent around him has actually caused Brady to slip a little of late. He tries to force it more to Moss when it's not there, and when both Moss and Welker are covered, he looks lost. Part of that, though, is due to having less talent behind the top two guys. In "the old days" of Mr. Spread-it-around, Brady had the likes of Deion Branch, David Givens, and Troy Brown. None of those guys was a clear #1, but every one of them was good enough to be a #2. Defenses couldn't double cover all of them, and so someone could get open, and that someone was good enough. Now, look at the talent dropoff behind Welker and Moss. Both of them are clearly better than WR's the Pats have had in the past...but look behind them. Nothing against Sam Aiken and Julian Edelman, but they're functionally #4 WR's. I think the biggest difference between this year's offense and 2007 (other than the injuries at O-line and RB), is the lack of a #3 WR who's really good enough to be a #2. In 2007, they had both Stallworth and Gaffney. I think both those guys are better than the best of Edelman and Aiken (although I have high hopes for Edelman moving forward).

Your point 3 is unfortunately correct. However, I think a bigger problem is whoever tore out the deep crossing pattern and seam routes out of the playbook. The Pats offense seems to consist of either short stuff near the line (usually to Welker), or deep sideline routes to Moss (or, increasingly, Aiken). This game was kind of unique in that Welker actually ran some deep seam routes, which worked. Deep sideline passes are low percentage at the best of time. But the biggest difference between Brady this year and Manning/Brees is that Manning/Brees are hitting the 15 yard crossing patterns, whereas the Patriots don't even seem to attempt them.

Your point 4 almost defines hyperbole. I would say this team is better than 2000, 2002, 2005, and 2008. It's MAYBE better than 2001 and 2003, although it's hard to compare given that it is so different--those teams were characterized by a dominating, veteran defense and a ball control offense cobbled together out of spare parts. Now they have an explosive, but at times incomplete offense, coupled with a young, dynamic but mistake prone defense. It's clearly inferior to 2004, where the team was very solid on both sides of the ball, and 2007, where it was decent on defense and otherworldly on offense. But still, I would rank it as somewhere between the 3rd and 6th best Pats team this decade.

by ABW (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 6:13pm

>Your point 4 almost defines hyperbole. I would say this team is better than 2000, >2002, 2005, and 2008. It's MAYBE better than 2001 and 2003,

Um, what??? MJK, I read your comments fairly regularly, and you are usually at least in the ballpark. But the 2001 and 2003 Patriots teams WON THE SUPER BOWL. Admittedly, the 2001 team was not great by any means, but they did, you know, win the Super Bowl and the 2003 team was a legitimately great team with an excellent defense and a very good defense.

This year's team is clearly inferior to the 2003 team, and it's not close. Until this team wins the Super Bowl, I think 2001 gets the benefit of the doubt. We can argue till the cows come home over the relative rankings of 2005, 2008 and 2009(I think we argee that 2000 and 2002 were pretty weak) but ranking this year's clearly flawed team above any of the SB winning teams is ridiculous.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 7:27pm

Pats 2003 DVOA and rank: 21.7 (4), Offense -0.6 (14), Defense -21.8 (2), ST 0.7 (16)

Pats 2009 (thus far): 31.3 (3), Offense 29.9 (2), Defense 0.0 (15), ST 1.5 (14)

So in 2003, the Pats had an elite defense and average offense and special teams. In 2009, so far, they have an elite offense and average defense and special teams. I don't think it's unfair to say this team is arguably as good, so far, as that team.

Yes, it's easy in hindsight to say "The 2003 Pats won the Superbowl, so they are the best", but were the 2007 Giants the best team in football? I don't think you remember how "cardiac" the 2003 team was. They were a lot like the Bengals this year. This was a team coming off a disappointing 9-7 season that had missed the playoffs the year before. We didn't know they were on the start of a two year run of dominance. They lost two of their first four, one big and one heartbreakingly close. Out of their total 17 wins that season, 9 of them were close wins (won by a TD or less), and even their SB win, which you put so much stock in, was by a FG. They had just 3 blowout wins, counting the playoffs (where you can define a blowout as winning by 2 TD or more).

By comparison, the 2009 team, to date, has had just 2 of their 7 wins be close, and 4 of their 7 wins have been blowouts. Like the 2003 team, they have only been blown out once...all their other losses have been by a TD or less (and 3 of their 5 losses have been by a FG or less).

The biggest difference between the two teams was that the 2003 Patriots were winning close games, and the 2009 Patriots aren't. Now you can argue that there is something fundamental about the team makeup that is responsible for that, and hence the 2003 Patriots are better, but you could also argue that the 2009 Patriots are just unluckier than their 2003 version. But the point is that it's an argument.

Incidentally, if you're wondering about the 2001 Patriots DVOA and rank:

7.7 (22), Offense 0.6 (11), Defense -4.6 (11), ST 2.5 (6).

So the 2001 team was more balanced, with good but not great performance by all three units.

by C (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 10:00am

The 2003 Patriots were better than this years team.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 9:48pm

I have to agree that this year's Pats, while still good, are not exactly striking fear in the hearts of opponents. They are more beatable than they have been in years. Or at least it feels that way. And Belichik's decisions, while not necessarily bad before the fact, in addition to severely damaging the Pats' chances -since they haven't worked-, have also helped shatter that aura of invincibility they used to have.

Historians will say it began in the SB against the Giants, but it seems that, like the Roman Empire, the Pats are slowly fading, too. We'll see if Belichik can rebuild or if, like most of the great coaches of the past, the game passes him by rather quickly.

by Ravens (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 11:48am

Anyone able to research the last time a QB threw three TDs vs. Pittsburgh in the 4th quarter? I'm envisioning some legendary Ken Stabler effort, but it might even go back before the Steel Curtain days.

by Travis :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:22pm

The non-immortal Dave Mays of the Cleveland Browns, in a garbage time comeback in 1977. Mays threw 7 TD passes in his career.

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:49pm

That's DR. David Mays, BTW--he's a dentist. The Browns have to be the only franchise that has had two doctors playing QB for them

by dryheat :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:52pm

Unless they do Dr. Pepper ads, I do not recognize their advanced degrees.

by Independent George :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 2:24pm

You anti-dentite bastard.

by mattymatty :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:16pm

I believe it was Harold "The Hairy Goat" Goatinsky in 1926 for the old Louisville Beer Cozies.

by BJR (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:51pm

Philip Rivers threw 3 TDs in the final 16 minutes vs Pittsburgh in week 4, so just misses out. He's clearly no Bruce Gradkowski.

by R O (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:58pm

Philip Rivers earlier this year. Unless one or two of them were in the 3rd. But they scored 28 points in the second half in a futile effort at a comeback.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 11:59am

Farrar asked: "Per Sam Farmer's Twitter, Justin Tuck called Flozell Adams a "dirtbag" and a "coward" after the game. Did Adams leg-whip him again?"

On his way back to the locker at the half, Flozell pushed Tuck in the back, knocking him to the ground and inciting the melee. the Fox halftime crew had it on tape and called out Flozell.

by JasonK :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:12pm

And for some reason, the only thing that the officials could do was ask the Giants if they would accept a penalty and replay the last down of the 1st half (an absurdly long FG attempt that Folk missed) from 15 yards back, Dwayne Rudd style.

If they can't assess that penalty on the KO to open the 2nd half, they should've simply ejected Flozell.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:19pm

I have never seen a player ejected for a push in the back, either after a play or during.

It was a dirty play and he'll get fined. But talks of ejection/suspension are way overblown.

by billsfan :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:28pm

After he "only" hit a player from behind, late, and away from the play, he then grabbed another player's face-mask and dragged him around by the head. That occurred even later and farther from the play. The first player he hit is the same one he'd previously injured on an illegal trip the last time those teams met. Anything less than a one-game suspension would be an embarrassment for the league. Clearly the fine for the first incident was insufficient deterrent or punishment. He was already fined three separate times in September alone for incidents in two different games, with two of the fines being from the first time he played the Giants (http://cowboysblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2009/09/flozell-adams-fined-a...).

(I also like the Eagles)

by Travis :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:31pm

The penalty could have been enforced on the second half kickoff, if I'm reading the rules right.

4-8-2-d: If there is a personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct foul that (1) is not in the continuing action immediately after the end of a down and (2) occurs between the end of the second period and the beginning of the third period (or between the end of the fourth period and the beginning of an overtime period), the penalty shall be enforced on the ensuing kickoff.

However, I believe they called it a continuing action foul, so that the Giants were forced to either accept it and run a play from their own 35 (15 yards from the touchback spot), or decline it and let the half end, which they did.

If Flozell were to be suspended, it would have to be for an NBA-style flagrant foul accumulation, not for the specific dirtiness of any one play.

by billsfan :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:32pm

They have him on the push and the face-mask in the ensuing scrum. That's four fineable incidents in two games against the Giants, plus the attempted kick on Julius Peppers. I think five highly visible unsportsmanlike acts should be enough for at least a one-game suspension.

Of course, the league is too busy cracking down on unauthorized cross-promotion with hockey to worry about minor issues like this. (http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/NFL-ruins-historic-ad-c...)

(I also like the Eagles)

by Anonymous77 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:38pm
by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:43pm

Flozell's excuse for the incident (source: http://sports.espn.go.com/dallas/nfl/news/story?id=4722023): "Adams, through his agent, told the league he thought the play was still alive."

That's absolutely laughable when you watch that video.

by JasonK :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 7:27pm

"Yeah, the play was still live, and I hadn't quite met my quota for dangerously illegal blocks per half yet."

by jklps :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:05pm

As a Redskins fan, yesterday's game makes me sick to my stomach. On the Moore interception I kept yelling "go down, go down" so that the Skins would keep the ball, but no. Then to miss a gimmee field goal to go up by 10..

But I did notice something very interesting - what happened to Gregg Williams? Is he pregnant? Does he need a bro? He has an extra spare tire he never had in DC.. I know it's been two years and the food in New Orleans is gerat, but wow!

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:15pm

Two words: Fat Tuesday.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:18pm

I thought the food in New Orleans was more greta that gerat...or maybe I'm getting it confused with Oakland...

by dmb :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:00pm

New Orleans food = great
New Orleans' Bourbon Street = greta

by Flounder :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 6:15pm

Here's what I want to know:

What the heck happened to Charles Robinson of Yahoo! sports? I saw him on a Yahoo! sports video this weekend, and he's apparently gone from "thin and twiggy" to "bearded fat bastard."

by Temo :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:07pm

I have no clue how the Cowboys lost the game. The Giants aren't a good team, and apparently neither is Dallas.

by JasonK :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:18pm

Allowing two 70+ yard touchdowns has something to do with it.

Both teams have some strengths and some serious flaws. I'm sure that the VOA formula will say the Cowboys had the stronger game, but it was hardly the most one-sided game I've seen go to comparatively less-successful team. (Note: I didn't see the first quarter because I live in the Redskins' TV market, so that might color my perceptions a bit.)

by Temo :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:21pm

I think expecting either team to win a playoff game would be a stretch. I came away from the game thinking that the Giants were as mediocre as I thought they were, and realizing that the Cowboys were much more mediocre than I thought.

by JasonK :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:35pm

"I think expecting either team to win a playoff game would be a stretch."

On that, we agree. If either one ends up with a Wildcard spot, they'd probably end up playing @ARI or @PHI. That looks like a loss. If one of them takes the East (unlikely, IMO), it'd likely be a home game against Philly, GB, or a rematch of this game.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:35pm

The Giants aren't going to win the super bowl this year. That's fine, only one team gets too. I'll cheer for them and have fun, but I'm more focused on picking ATS winners the rest of the year.

Michael Boley played great in pass coverage yesterday, something Giants fans just don't get to see. Tuck stood his ground after the game when asked about Hotel Adams... Hixon had a nice return, Jacobs was a 265 pound bowling ball down the sidelines, it was fun.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:20pm

Boley has been one of the bright spots in a disappointing (so far) year for the Giants. Since he's come back from the early season injury, seems like he's all over the field - breaking up passes in the secondary and in the backfield on rushing plays. He's just what they needed in the LB corps.

I know it's completely obvious,, but the biggest weakness has been the safeties. I loved what Kenny Phillips was doing prior to going on IR (I know, only two games, but he looked great and he had a promising rookie campaign last year), and honestly that has been the biggest blow to our defense, given the horrific lack of depth at safety. Rouse can be effective against the run (as he showed last night), but he cannot cover anyone. I noticed they had Ross playing safety in certain situations last night. But yeah, the safety situation is the reason I don't think the Giants will go anywhere this year - too many good QB's and passing attacks this year that can exploit that.

Front 7 is playing pretty well - the shakeup last night led to some good pressure. I don't know why they absolutely refuse to blitz on third and long. It seemed like the 'Boys picked up third and long with ease last night, as the pressure wasn't getting there on that down & dist for whatever reason (Osi?). Yet I don't remember them ever sending more than 4 in that situation.

by Key19 :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:51pm

Honestly, I'm not nearly as down on the Boys as you are, Temo.

For one, how good have the special teams been this year? Wouldn't you say very good if not great? I don't think you'll see another TD allowed on special teams this year. Very fluky.

How often does a dumpoff screen go 70+ yards for a score (with holding on the offense uncalled)? Very rare stuff. That's 14 points.

Fumbles went both ways, but they did have better fumble luck than we did. They got 2/3.

Passing game is clearly a strength. A necessity when going up against teams like SD, NO, and even PHI. Running game is very inconsistent this year. One game it's great, another it sucks. Just gotta have it be great at least two more times. Not that hard to ask for.

Folk is the only guy I'm worried about. Can't have a 50% kicker in big games.

All I know is, I fully expect Dallas to compete with every team down the stretch and beat probably 2 of the 4. If Philly is one of those 2, we will probably win the Division and get a home game. Don't forget, we are much better at home. If we get a home game, we can definitely win a Playoff game. We must beat SD next week, because no matter what happens in PHI/NYG next week, we will still be 2nd in Division with a loss.

Can we beat a 3-4 team? Yes. All other 3-4 teams we've faced this year have been road games, and two of those were Playoff teams.

I think we beat SD, shock the world, and then probably get toasted in New Orleans. Then you just gotta take care of Washington and play for your life against Philly.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:01pm

I was sort of more bullish on the Cowboys this year. It was sort of like the Giants losing Tiki and getting better. Everybody is so focused on losing a good player, but it's not like they don't get to replace him. It's not like they are playing with 10 on offense.

Sometimes it just makes it easier, throwing to the guy that is open, rather than the guy that complains for the ball after every play. Romo is pretty good at reading the passing game, hitting hot routes... The big O-line should be dominating people... They have 2 good backs ( I guess Choice is alright too). Plus that 100K person stadium has the potential to be a big home field advantage.

It's tough to seperate the Giants/Dallas/Eagles and really depends on health. I think each of these teams could beat anybody in the NFC, but can they piece it together to win 2-3 playoff games including on the road? The odds are against it. I saw Eagles futures a week or two ago at 28-1 and thought about taking a flyer. Really anybody can beat anybody in the NFC. I wouldn't sleep on the Cards either as they just beat the #2 seed...

The Hixon punt return was a pretty sick indivual effort at the start of the play, and he had great blocking carteling him down field. The Jacobs run was pretty nice because he caught it right in stride and was a bowling ball rolling downhill with speed and ripped through a poor arm tackle. He really got to show off his speed for a big guy. I wish the announcers didn't even bring up "holding", because I didn't see it and I feel like it took away from the play. I mean, you really could call holding on every single play in the NFL, but they usually call the blantent stuff and the stuff that gave the team an advantage or effected the outcome ( not the backside of the play).

I wouldn't get too down after the Dallas loss. Too high after the wins and too low after the losses is a mistake. In reality neither the Giants or Dallas are going to win the super bowl so there is nothing to get too mad over...

by Temo :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:07pm

Here's the deal. They went into that game yesterday with all the incentive in the world to win. They were focused and had a game plan. They were facing a very mediocre team, one that wasn't running the ball well and had a QB that hadn't been playing well. The defensive secondary was in shambles. Did the Cowboys put up superior stats? Yes. Did they win individual battles, for the most part? Yes. Did they look like the more talented team? Yep, I'd say they did.

But how many more weeks of "dumb mistakes" must we watch before just saying that this a dumb team? They can get their 7 or 8 or 9 yards per play. They can get pressure and they can cover well at times. But every time it's undone by some retarded play by some guy. Every. Single. Time.

That 70 yard catch and run by Jacobs may seem like an isolated, unlucky play but we know it's not. It's the '08 Ravens game all over again. "OMG how could they pull off 2 straight 70 yard runs like that! We're so unlucky!"

No, we're just dumb. Everything that happened yesterday I've seen before. I've seen the defense force continuous 3 and outs only to allow Eli to score in seconds with big plays. I've seen failed coverages leaving key receivers wide open. The only thing that we didn't see yesterday that we usually see is a giant helping of penalties to hamstring the offense. I'm sure that's coming next week. None of this is a 1-week "luck" based thing, though I'm sure DVOA will say it is.

Talented and dumb. Should be the team motto.

by JasonK :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:29pm

This is why I love Wade Phillips. May he forever remain the Cowboys coach.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:45pm

If only I could just blame Phillips. But this team was just as dumb and just as susceptible to "heartbreaking" losses (which become less heartbreaking once you realize it's the norm) since Parcell's first year (the infamous Steve Smith/Terence Newman playoff "battle" featuring the comedic stylings of Quincy Carter).

Of course before Parcell's first year they just sucked and there was no emotional investment at all, so I won't complain too much.

by Key19 :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 2:54pm

Divisional games are tough, especially on the road. No shame losing this one. If we had won the first meeting, this one would not seem nearly as bad as you seem to think it is. Also, could it maybe just be that the Giants are under this team's skin to the point that they just can't seem to beat them? We've only won once against them in the last five games. I think the Giants unnerve the team and regardless of the Giants' ability, the Cowboys will not play entirely well against them.

That said, should we have won? Yes. But was it the end of the world that we lost? No, or should I say, not yet. It will be if we lose this week to San Diego. The Giants game was a nice buffer win to have to get things rolling and leave room for error. Now there's not much room left for error.

Beat San Diego at home this week and all will be forgiven. See what happens against the Saints. I still think we are a good matchup against them. See if you can pull off a sweep against Washington on the road. Take care of business at home against the Eagles.

2-2 or 3-1 down the stretch I still say. I would be shocked if we went 1-4 in December this year.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:30pm

Maybe I'm being too negative. But my hope for this season went from "make a playoff run" to "make the playoffs".

by t.d. :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 4:47am

10-6 won't win the division for the Cowboys, unless they beat the Eagles. I don't think either of the next two are critical, if they can beat Philly. I don't really think they're good enough to do anything in the playoffs even if they get there (neither are the Giants or the Eagles, unless their lines somehow get magically better). I don't accept the FO whinging about "the regular season doesn't matter anymore", but I don't think the NFC East teams are healthy and talented enough to get far.

by andrew :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:11pm

I was listening to the Miami radio broadcast while doing some errands, Larry King was in the booth doing more color commentary for a good portion of the game, and seemed to be having a great time...

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:18pm

Did anybody else watching the Colts/Titans think that Young was flaggable after his INT? He was run OB, then came back in on the field of play (legal?) to make the tackle. Only problem, the ball carrier was already OB and the play was over--Young launched himself at him and hit him. I'll lay $20 that if it was Joey Porter doing that he'd get a flag. Or maybe if he didn't just bounce off the guy... if he leveled him back onto the field (how much more obvious would it have to be--both of them being OB?) would it have been penalizeable? (new word?)

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 9:41pm

Yeah, I thought that was odd myself ... seemed to be several steps after the defender had gone out of bounds (although he had, by that point, come back onto the field). I would guess it was because it looked minor ... which is penalizing the defender for being a bigger guy. If the situation were reversed, it would have been a penalty, no matter who the QB and defender were.

I think the two things about being out of bounds that cause problems are 1) if you go out voluntarily or 2) if you are forced out and don't make an immediate effort to come back in.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:21pm

For some reason, I expected the Vikings to stink last night, in a kind of reversal of last year, when the Vikings blew out the Cards in Glendale in December. It's funny, for years now I've managed my Vikings expectations, by merely rooting that they would not me mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, by the time of kickoff of their 16th game. With a start like they had this year, of course, there is a tendency to have one's expectations grow, but I've tried to keep them in check, by only rooting for a division championship. They haven't gotten there yet, but we'll see'

by andrew :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:24pm

For anyone who missed it, Vikings MLB EJ Henderson's femur was snapped in two late in the game with it already far out of reach.

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:34pm

truly ugly injury. Thought it was even worse than a broken leg the way it looked on TV.

by andrew :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:39pm
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:49pm

Yeah, unfortunately, it was also a game where the Vikings' injury luck reversed completely. This doesn't portend well for the future.

by billsfan :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:38pm

Right before he hits the ground, at about the 0:40 mark, you can see his thigh begin to move in a way that thighs usually don't. Ugh.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Ashley Tate (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:25pm

I really don't understand how the Sellers fumble could have been awarded to New Orleans, regardless of what instant replay showed. The official right next to the play emphatically whistled the play dead as soon as Sellers hit the ground. Both Sellers and his tackler immediately tried to jump on the loose ball, but it squirted out of their grasp and landed several feet away. The ref kept whistling the play dead and pointing at the ground this entire time. Sellers and his tackler assume the play is dead and stop fighting for the ball. At that point another Saints player runs over and picks up the ball, which is lying a few feet in front of Sellers.

Sellers had a chance at getting the ball back if he hadn't given up because of the whistle, so how can the ball possibly be awarded to the Saints? I could understand the reversal if the ball clearly was recovered by the Saints player before the whistle, but it wasn't!

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:30pm

Did not see it live, but seems like the inadvertent whistle rules should be enacted. Ergo, Skins' ball.

by tgt2 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:30pm

There's actually an exception going the other way in this case. If a fumble is determined after replay, and the whistle was blown post fumble, but prior to recovery, then the ball can be awarded to the defense if they clearly recover it (though, they can not advance it). The inadvertant whistle does not apply.

The rule was put in place specifically to allow challenges and reviews to change possession of the ball. When replay first came in, all that could change was the spot of the ball.

It does cause problems though. Play to the whistle doesn't apply when there's a ball on the field. I think the correct response would be if all officials played until the ball was picked up everytime, even if they don't think it's close, and then blow the whistle and make the down call afterwards.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:08pm

Thanks. Innnnnnteresting quirk in the whistle-to-whistle rules.

by mattymatty :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:26pm

I have no answer for you, but I second your question.

by mm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:21pm

Has everyone forgotten the Ed Hochuli call on the Jay Cutler fumble last year against San Diego?? I seem to remember these forums blasting the NFL for not being able to award the ball to San Diego because of the whistle.

So they change the rule in the offseason...you can't advance a fumble after an inadvertant whistle, but you can now recover.

by Derrick (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:25pm

Glad to see the write-up regarding the officiating bias in the Philly-Atlanta game. Yet another game in which McNabb gets hit late with no call.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:27pm

-The Redskins offensive line played much better in this game.
- The field conditions/weather/grass helped slow down the saints offense
- The Saints were in a bad emotional spot ( let down) after the big Patriots win
- The Robert Meachum mugging play was one of the best plays of the year. I just loved seeing him in a complete reversal sprinting down the sidelines with the ball.

Jason Campbell probably had his best statistical game of his career, ( I do think a lot of it was short stuff, like throwing a 1 yard pass to Devin Thomas and having him pick up ~ 10 yards for the touchdown but this week isn't the time/place).

I know you guys don't like hyperbole, but Vince got to what I have to harp on... Campbell isn't a winner. He has an 18-27 Career record and has played awful in 2 minute drills and game ending situations. That's 3 weeks in a row that if he drives his team down the field in the clutch, they win... and they lost all 3 games... The pick this week, the pick in the Dallas game... the failures last year, Tampa, Dallas, etc. etc. etc. and even two years ago. He's anti-clutch. He can't play with the money on the line.

The intercepted ball was thrown LATE... a recurring problem here for Campbell, and it was picked...

I wouldn't blame the loss on the kicker.. you win as a team you lose as a team... and I do think Mike Sellers fumbled. I hate the redskins with a passion but I felt bad for Mike Sellers. I've personally met Mike Sellers and he's a good guy, and you have to root for him. You win as a team and lose as a team... The Sellers fumble didn't help, neither did the missed FG, neither did the Campbell interception. To single out one guy as the reason for the loss is unfair.

I've always maintained that Vick is NOT 6'.

So are the 7-5 Patriots still going to be #3 in DVOA because they whooped up on the (bad) Titans??? Michael Strahan said it was the end of a "dynasty" in the fox post game show. I know the Patsies fans won't be happy hearing those words.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:36pm

Bitter about something?

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:50pm

Not really. People do complain of a Patriots & Eagles bias around here though. I'm just curious where the Patriots end up on Wednesday. They blew out the BAD Kerry Collins Titans, and the Titans are clearly better under Vince Young.

by Joseph :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:26pm

Understand that I only watched the highlights and listened to the radio broadcast. But I have a question for you. With the Saints best CB's out, and seemingly playing zone a lot, wouldn't you say that their game plan was the best way to attack the Saints? I mean, it's not like Campbell didn't take his shots downfield--he was not "Captain Checkdown" yesterday. I felt like that the coaches watched the game on Mon. PM (and lots of other film), and came up with a great plan to beat the Saints. (Even as a Saints fan, they had no business winning that game. I felt like the Skins were putting the last nail in the coffin, got distracted for just a second, and then lightning strikes the zombie in the coffin, who promptly busts out and terrorizes everybody.)
Regarding the Sellers fumble/non-fumble in OT, I think we lost the aspect of the great hit that kept him short of the first down. I initially thought Coach Payton called the TO to psyche up the defense to stop the Skins on 3rd and short (1?) so Brees & Co. could get a chance in OT. As a Saints fan, I felt that there was no way, with the Skins being emotionally deflated as they were, that they would stop the Saints' O from driving down the field for the winning score. I mean, I was pretty sure the Saints would come through AFTER the missed FG in regulation.
BTW, I have always thought that the mark of a good team was taking advantage of the breaks you get. The Skins gave the Saints ONE chance to win, and not a easy one either (80 yds, 1:50 on the clock, no TO's), and the Saints took it.

by Anonimoose (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:30pm

How can you go from claiming that Jason Campbell is not a winner by citing his win-loss record, and then go on to absolve Scott Suisham (who would have put the game out of reach if he hadn't missed a 20 yard field goal) and Mike Sellars (who, regardless of what one thinks of the call, should've held on to the ball) by saying that you win and lose as a team?

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:23pm

Joseph, I'll agree with everything you said and you said it well.

Why not blame it all on the kicker?
- Because if Jason Campbell didn't throw a dumb Jake Plummer interception then he could have marched his team down the field in a 30-30 game against a gassed and injured defense to kick a game winning field goal...
- Because if Mike Sellers didn't fumble ( it was a close play and Peyton was clearling calling the TO to get a look at it. The Ref said the booth didn't buzz down and Peyton wanted to give them time to look at it...) A great TO when you are in overtime, and don't have the ball...
- Because the Redskins didn't punch the ball in at the 4 yard line.
- Lots of things could have played out differently...
- Do you want to blame Leron Laundry for biting on the dig and then getting beat over the top?

With that being said. A few weeks ago people were talking about the odds of Peyton Manning driving down the field 70 yards to beat the Patriots after an unsuccesful 4th and 2 try, and the odds of Peyton Manning doing it from 30 yards away. There were people making the argument that Manning would drive his team dowm the field at a 75% clip, or that " you just know Manning would score against that gassed defense". Manning vs a gassed defense in the 4th quarter? You've seen this story before right? He gets the ball, he scores.

How confident are you that Jason Campbell will march the Redskins down the field to win the game? That's 3 WEEKS IN A ROW that he failed to do so. Would you give him a 50% chance? 33% chance? 25% chance? All they needed was a crisp 2 minute drill and a field goal... Nope, he throws a pick... Against Dallas in a 7-6 ball game? NOPE, he throws a pick. I mean come on. I think he had 3-4 games last year in the similar situation and they lost all of them... Bases loaded, 9th inning, tie game, Kyle Farnsworth on the mound and he strikes out on 3 pitches!

Look at the other QB's that should make the playoffs... Brees, Favre, Mcnabb, Warner, Romo, Eli, Rodgers... How confident that they can march their team down for that winning FG?

The Redskins are winning an awful 35% of their games under him ( and they don't have a 35% winning team. Poor 2 min drill, end of game play and redzone play are a big part of that. People dog on Vince Young's passing, but I'm much more confident in VY at his own 20 yardline and 2 minutues to go with the ball than Campbell.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:50pm

Manning vs a gassed defense in the 4th quarter? You've seen this story before right? He gets the ball, he scores.

Sean Payton called Peyton Manning after that game, and said it was the biggest compliment he's ever seen paid to a quarterback.

You're comparing Jason Campbell to the best quarterback of our generation, and very arguably the best quarterback of all time, and saying Campbell doesn't measure up. From every NFL fan on the planet: "Duh".

That doesn't mean he's not a starting-level NFL quarterback, or at least close enough that replacing him would just as likely net the Skins someone worse.

Look at the other QB's that should make the playoffs... Brees, Favre, Mcnabb, Warner, Romo, Eli, Rodgers... How confident that they can march their team down for that winning FG?

OK, now you've lowered the bar... but not a heckuva lot. Brees, Favre, and Warner will likely all make the Hall of Fame. McNabb has a good shot. Romo, Eli, and Rodgers are still very much above-average QBs.

That's 8 QBs you've listed. Add in Brady, Rivers, Roethlisberger, and Palmer. That's 12. And a quarterback that's worse than all of those guys is still an above-average starting QB. Who else do you throw in? Hasselbeck, Garrard, Schaub, and Cassel? OK, now you've got a barely below average QB.

And guess what? A team that tries to replace a barely below-average starting quarterback when the rest of the team has serious issues (including an injury disaster at running back, offensive line, and a defense that's only average) isn't going to get better. They're going to get worse. I don't know of anyone that says that Campbell's an above-average QB. Every article I've seen, every comment I've seen, is simply "Campbell is not the problem."

If the drum you've been trying to beat for years is that Campbell's not an top-10 NFL quarterback, no one has ever been disagreeing with you. If the argument you're trying to make is that Campbell's should not be a starting quarterback, you've got way too high an opinion of what an average NFL starting quarterback looks like.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:13pm

I wasn't comparing him to Manning.

The point is that people were giving the Colts anywhere from a 100% chance of scoring to what's the low ball estimate? People really really felt like Manning was going to score. Invincible. Off the charts. Way higher than normal. So what is normal and where is Jason Campbell? I'd say that's about 6-7 games in two years of failure in similar situations, and how many were success? I couldn't think of anytime he rallied the troops down and won the game.

Look at the Quarterbacks IN the playoffs and the quarterbacks IN the playoffs of the last couple years, and the ones NOT in the playoffs. Look at the Bengals WITH Carson Palmer, and look at the Bengals without Carson Palmer ( yes I admit the D is better ty). Look at the Redskins a few years ago WITH Todd Collins ( playoff team) and look at them with Campbell ( not a playoff team).

You argue that you might as well stick with Campbell, and what? Add another crop of draft picks? Hope you can stay under the salary cap? How many times in the last 20 years has a Jason Campbell quality QB won the super bowl? The absolute closest I can think of is Dilfer ( I'd still rather take Trent), and that was with one of the best defenses of all-time. Now do you think Danny Boy will have the patience to build one of the best defenses ever and stay under the salary cap?

If you want to try and scrape by with a team that's at best 10-6, make the playoffs and gets punted then fine, keep him. But if you ever want to win the SB, you are going to have to win games against the Mannings, Brady's, Brees, Mcnabb, Warner, Romo, Rodgers, Palmer, Rothlisburger, Rivers of the world.

by perly :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:22pm

I would just like to say how hilarious it is to see Tony Romo and Donovan McNabb trotted out as examples of playoff clutchiness.

Never change.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:59pm

(Side note: saying 'I wasn't comparing him to Manning' and then proceeding to ... compare him with Manning is a bit odd.)

Look at the Quarterbacks IN the playoffs and the quarterbacks IN the playoffs of the last couple years, and the ones NOT in the playoffs.

Like Marc Bulger, Rex Grossman, Chris Simms, Byron Leftwich, Kyle Boller, Kyle Orton, Jay Fiedler, Tarvaris Jackson, Jake Delhomme?

None of those teams won the Super Bowl, but a lot of that's because the teams with great QBs are great teams - but almost all of them were good teams before they found the great QB.

You argue that you might as well stick with Campbell, and what? Add another crop of draft picks?

Absolutely. The only way this team becomes viable is with a 3-4 year infusion of young talent. Campbell allows you to actually determine if those guys are worth something.

Hope you can stay under the salary cap?

The smart thing to do would be to take the Titans approach and essentially nuke the team. Unless the uncapped year comes next year, and the Redskins can dump contracts and avoid the cap hit, they're going to be heavily limited anyway. The team's littered with contracts that don't make sense.

But if you ever want to win the SB?

The Redskins aren't winning the Super Bowl with or without Campbell in the next 3 or 4 years. Campbell's serviceable, will be cheap, and will allow you to at least evaluate the rest of the team easily. It also makes your team not look like a total disaster, which is a boon for trying to pick up quality free agents, and it's not unheard of for QBs to, you know, improve over time.

Trying to find a QB who's better than Campbell will just be a disaster until the rest of the team's fixed.

by C (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 10:10am

So on one hand Pat the GM wants to keep Campbell, on the other hand he wants to nuke the Redskins who are teetering on salary cap hell and won't win in 3-4 years anyway. Which is it?

You want to nuke the rest of the roster, and then refill the cubbard with a 2000 Ravens defense or 2002 Bucs defense. How on earth is Pat the GM going to do that with the Danny Snyder problem above you? Do you think you aren't going to draft any busts?

Let's just say I'm the sort of fan that would rather blow the team up, stink up the joint, get nice draft picks and have a perrenial winner.

There is opportunity cost. The fact that Jason Campbell is your quarterback means that somebody else ( better) isn't your quarterback.

Look, I hope the Redskins keep him, I hope they resign him, I hope they stick to business as usual, I hope they don't fire Zorn, but I don't think even they are that stupid.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 3:47pm

So on one hand Pat the GM wants to keep Campbell, on the other hand he wants to nuke the Redskins who are teetering on salary cap hell and won't win in 3-4 years anyway. Which is it?

Both. Campbell's a free agent - if he demands $10M/year with 30% guaranteed, let him walk. If you can keep him for a reasonable amount of guaranteed money and a reasonable contract with escalators, keep him.

You want to nuke the rest of the roster, and then refill the cubbard with a 2000 Ravens defense or 2002 Bucs defense.

No, I don't. I never said that, nor even suggested it. Campbell just lets you have a semicompetent offense so you can actually identify good wide receivers, tight ends, running backs and offensive linemen for the next QB, who will be an upper-half QB.

Let's just say I'm the sort of fan that would rather blow the team up, stink up the joint, get nice draft picks and have a perrenial winner.

Which team was able to rebuild that way? The Patriots, Eagles, Colts, Chargers, Cowboys, etc. all started winning perennially very fast after getting a top-level quarterback. You know what that means? They were already good teams before. The Colts had two Hall of Fame skill position players. The Eagles had a top-level defense, as did the Patriots, Chargers, and Cowboys. This is as opposed to a team like Cincinnati, who has a top-shelf QB, but has always had a subpar team around him (The Chargers started winning beforehand because they actually already had a top-shelf QB and didn't realize it).

What you're suggesting is a situation like Chicago, San Francisco, Detroit, Oakland, and Kansas City have faced. With those teams you couldn't even tell if the receivers, offensive linemen, etc. suck because the QB play has been so miserable.

The fact that Jason Campbell is your quarterback means that somebody else ( better) isn't your quarterback.

Finding a better QB than Campbell is hard, and the entire rest of the team needs to be rebuilt. It is much, much easier to replace some of those guys - RB, DBs, lesser OL, etc. So you put your resources into that, build a solid team, and then get the QB. Middle-of-the-road teams have the luxury of patience that bad teams don't have.

by dmb :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:02pm

Deep plays made or facilitated by Campbell:

First quarter

1-10-WAS 34 (11:43) 17-J.Campbell pass incomplete deep left to 11-D.Thomas (27-M.Jenkins). PENALTY on NO-27-M.Jenkins, Defensive Pass Interference, 32 yards, enforced at WAS 34 - No Play.

Second quarter

3-2-WAS 45 (3:40) 17-J.Campbell pass deep right to 89-S.Moss to NO 17 for 38 yards (27-M.Jenkins).

Third quarter

1-10-WAS 43 (13:32) 17-J.Campbell pass deep left to 11-D.Thomas pushed ob at NO 28 for 29 yards (27-M.Jenkins) [91-W.Smith].

1-10-WAS 44 (9:22) 17-J.Campbell pass deep right to 11-D.Thomas to NO 16 for 40 yards (34-M.McKenzie).

3-11-WAS 44 (:27) (Shotgun) 17-J.Campbell pass deep middle to 82-A.Randle El to NO 12 for 44 yards (27-M.Jenkins). WAS-82-A.Randle El was injured during the play. His return is Questionable.

NONE of those were short passes with lots of YAC. (If you want to verify that, I'm pretty sure all of these plays are viewable on nfl.com) Anytime a quarterback has 42 attempts, a decent number are going to be short throws. But suggesting that Campbell didn't have success throwing deep in this game is simply absurd.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:22pm

Right, and he had the best statistical game of his 5 year career and still lost. This wasn't a typical game, this was his BEST game. This was against a defense reeling from secondary injuries. This was a game where he had excellent pass protection and was at home against a team in a severe letdown situation.

If you think this was just a regular day, then you are mistaken. This was his career day.

I understand people don't put him in the top 10, but it's just not going to work, you need to replace him. Yeah maybe I'll buy that if they cut him, then maybe they won't neccesarily be better next year, but over the long term, you aren't going to win with him so what's the point?

In fact, I'd rather cut him, TRY out Brennan who might/might not work, and if your team sucks then try and draft a guy who MIGHT be able to win games for you with his arm instead of have some game manager who holds onto the ball too long.

Look at the Panthers. Do you think Jake will ever get it done or that MAYBE it would be better to cut him free, blow it up, and start all over? Just because they MIGHT be a few games worse under Matt Moore doesn't mean it's not the smart thing to do.

by perly :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:26pm

Jake Delhomme is 34 and has clearly regressed.
Jason Campbell is 28 and is playing better than he did last year, which is better than he played the year before, which is better than he played the year before.

These are not equivalent situations (although I think Campbell could do pretty well in Carolina next year).

by dmb :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 5:11pm

You wrote that a lot of Campbell's success in this one game was on short throws. (Never mind that a couple years ago your argument was that he might be okay on long throws, but couldn't do the short stuff.) I'm not saying he's hit a long of long throws this year, or that this game was run-of-the mill for him; he hasn't done that since the first half of last season. I'm simply refuting your absurd assertion that Campbell wasn't going deep in this game. Please drop the straw man arguments.

And if you were actually paying attention to that team, you'd know that Brennan has been on IR since before the season. Collins certainly doesn't have any more long-term potential than does Campbell, and their third-stringer is a 26-year-old who was signed off the Jaguars' practice squad about two weeks ago. Dropping Campbell after the season might be a somewhat reasonable way to go, but this isn't a situation where you can turn to a prospect for the rest of the season.

by C (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 10:15am

Yes his stats were inflated by shorter/low risk throws. Then you cite 4 long throws. If YOU had been watching the Redskins this year you'd know that Jason Campbell is allergic to throwing the ball downfield.

Based on his physical skills, Campbell would be a better fit for more play action and throws downfield. He's more like a Flacco. He's NOT that quick, fast release, quick decision guy you want in a west coast offense. He's slow...

Do you think the Jaguars should have stuck with Byron Leftwhich all along, or that maybe sometimes you just blow it up and move on?

by dmb :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 11:05am

I don't know how to state this any more clearly. You suggested that Campbell didn't go long in this one particular game against the Saints. I would argue that four completions of 29 yards or more, plus a deep pass interference, constitutes throwing downfield. I specifically stated that I know that that's not how Campbell has played so far this year -- or, for that matter, the second half of last season. I don't understand why you keep coming back to this, when there was never any argument about it in the first place. You made a completely ridiculous assertion about Sunday's game, I refuted it, and then you keep coming back to strawman arguments.

I do know that sometimes it's good to blow it up and move on, but I also know that sticking even a marquee rookie quarterback behind a line like the Redskins' is asking for trouble. I think Pat has a good point about Campbell potentially being a good "placeholder" until the line has been solidified -- if it's at the right price. Obviously, if Campbell is looking for top-10 money (which, obviously, he hasn't earned), then they would clearly be foolish to keep him. But if they can sign him for a modest price, then they'll have much more pressing personnel issues that should be higher priorities.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 3:53pm

If YOU had been watching the Redskins this year you'd know that Jason Campbell is allergic to throwing the ball downfield.

If you seriously think that Campbell is the one deciding to throw short, and not the playcaller, you're out of your mind. Campbell's in the last year of his contract. You honestly think he's going to start freelancing out there? He's going to drop back, and do exactly what the play asks him to do.

He's NOT that quick, fast release, quick decision guy you want in a west coast offense. He's slow...

Tentative is not the same as slow. For the tenth time, Campbell's release is about average for the league. Time it.

Do you think the Jaguars should have stuck with Byron Leftwhich all along, or that maybe sometimes you just blow it up and move on?

The Jaguars did not need to blow up their team. They were a good team already. The Redskins are not.

And his name is still spelled Leftwich.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:28pm

Aaron Schatz: "Al Michaels: 'Sooner or later, number 69 will be in your face.' I have no further comment."

OMG. I did not see the game, but thank you, Aaron. Thank you so much. I may die laughing, but it'll be so worth it.

Oh God, it's the big one, Eliz'beth....

by peterplaysbass (verified?) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:31pm

What on earth happened to the Vikings? They looked flat in nearly every aspect. Is this a team that didn't try, an opponent that discovered the best plan of attack that the rest of the league can model, or both?

And yikes, poor Henderson. That guy's awesome. I hope he heals up quickly, for his sake.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:37pm

Arizona was a home dog... on National TV, that has a stronger defense than people realize, and they got their QB back.

+3.5 was nice either way.

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:35pm

Aaron rips Mercury Morris, watches football gods punish New England the next week in Miami. Aaron needs to leave the Mercury alone.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:39pm

If the football gods liked Mercury Morris, would the Saints have come back to win this week?

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:21pm

Are you kidding? Hell yes. Mercury doesn't get any mention when there are no undefeated teams by week 5. Two teams at 12-0? Everyone is talking about Mercury.

by andrew :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 2:58pm

In Mercury's ideal scenario both the Saints and Colts meet undefeated in the Superbowl, the game is tied and goes to double overtime when the game is called a tie by Bud Selig, invoking some sort of "good for the game of baseball" clause.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:12pm

The champagne, in Shula's luxury box at Land Shark, would taste especially sweet then, wouldn't it. If all the bile and mini-throw-up moments haven't burned out his esophagus in the interim, that is.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:37pm

Last night loss to the Cardinals didn't surprise me much but the way the Cardinals beat the Vikings physically did. I thought the McKinnie injury was a big deal to the offence - he had real trouble in pass protection after he hurt his ankle.

I was very impressed by the Cardinals defence. Not just the line but coverage in the secondary was excellent. I thought the Vikings and the Saints were a cut above the next bunch of Arz, Philly, GB, etc...but I'm starting to think there is very little difference between those top 6 or so teams. Could make for a fascinating playoffs.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:12pm


See that's where I'm sitting right now. I think anybody can beat anybody in the NFC. I mean yeah, anybody can beat anybody every week, but realistically, if the Eagles, Giants, Dallas, Packers make the playoffs as wildcards, none of them would be a huge super upset to beat Minny or New Orleans. The odds of the WC's winning 3 games aren't big, but just because New Orleans might be say 15-1, doesn't mean Philly can't go into the Superdome and beat them. I think the Vikings & (Packers) have benefited this year for a weaker than average schedule.

Look at the QB's you have at work, Brees, Favre, Warner, Rodgers, Mcnabb, Romo & Eli. It is going to be very interesting to watch in the NFC this year and it shows you why you want to have a "good" or "great" QB and how disadvantaged you are to have an average or worse QB... The AFC is similar as well.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 2:22pm

Seven QB's listed, but only six playoff slots - who are you taking the odd man out? Because of attrition it seems like it's going to end up being one of the NFC East teams not making the playoffs, but Green Bay still has a couple tough games on the schedule - you think there's any chance both wildcards all come from the East? That would make for some intense games...

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:29pm

I'd have to look at the teams remaining schedules, but if the Packers beat the Ravens tonight, then they probably get to at least 10-6 and it would be one of the NFC East teams. Maybe Dallas or the Giants.

The Giants swept Dallas and own the tie breaker, and if the G-Men beat Philly at home next week they'd be in decent position.

Wouldn't that be something if Dallas has a weak December again? Jerry might just rip his plastic face off and go nuts.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:32pm

Cowboys have a tough final 4 games, too:

@ NO

If I was a 'Boys fan, I'd sign up for 2-2 over that stretch. Even the one "easy" game, @WAS could be a toughie given how close WAS is playing everyone, and how they almost won in Big D.

Giants have:


Not easy, either. PHI is the best team in the East this year, IMO. WAS, as mentioned, plays everyone tough. I think they match up very well with CAR, though. MIN will hopefully not be playing for anything in Wk 17 (a role reversal from last year, when we handed them a playoff-clinching win - you owe us big time, Minny!).

If the Giants go 2-2, they're almost certainly out. I think 3-1 will put them in given the tiebreaker they hold over DAL. Should be a pretty good race - esp. if the Giants can win at home vs. PHI this week.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:52pm

Man, the Cowboys do really look primed for a "collapse" there. They could easily go 1-4 in December and end up 9-7 overall. The Eagles/Giants game is really going to determine how things shake out - if the eagles win and the Cowboys drop to SD, then the Eagles hold all the cards (which is exactly when they're most dangerous to lose to say, SF)...

their schedule:

not exactly four push-overs...

and GB's schedule:

A pretty favorable schedule considering that Arizona could easily be resting starters in the final week. 11-5 seems very possible.

If Giants win on Sunday and GB tonight, all bets are off - it'll be a great couple weeks worth of games with no clear favorites to win the NFC East or take the remaining Wild Card spots. It's nice too that all 4 teams in contention seem deserving of making the playoffs on some level and that there's no chump like ATL or SF sneaking in because of a soft schedule or a couple very lucky wins. I think the playoffs (and last few weeks of the season) this year are going to be as good as they've been in years... I think all the 7 major NFC teams this year are both flawed and exciting... anything could happen...

by peterplaysbass (verified?) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 6:02pm

Still bitter after the 41-0 incident...

by t.d. :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 6:16am

The Cards defensive line seems more imposing against teams that eshcew the shotgun formation. In particular, Darnell Dockett plays like an elite player against teams in the traditional pro set. I think that was part of the Vikings' problem last night. It was't that Favre was suddenly 'old Bret Favre', it was that 'old Bret Favre' is what you get when he's being constantly hit.

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 10:58am


by DrewTS (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:39pm

"The second seems hollow, since everybody knows that the Colts lost a game to the Chargers in the playoffs, while the Patriots won all their playoff games"

I thought the record the Colts just tied was from the 06-08 Patriots. They lost two very memorable playoff games to the Colts and Giants during that time.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:48pm

Correct. The 2006-2008 Patriots won 21 consecutive regular season games. That's the record the Colts are about to break.

The 2003-2004 Patriots won 21 consecutive games played, including SB38.

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:09pm

I know. I was just trying to point out as politely as possible that it's inexcusable for a Colts fan to forget both the 07 AFCCG and the Pats/Giants Super Bowl.

by Ned Macey :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:21pm

Whoops, my bad. I obviously have (fond) memories of the 2006 AFCG and the 2007 SB. Still think any multi-season record rings hollow with the intervening playoff loss (to an 8-8 team, no less).

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:24pm

How does this make your comment look better?

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:17pm

Jeff Saturday went on record yesterday sharing your opinion.

Mostly they don't talk about it, and talking to the media will get him fined in the Court of OL Opinion (as well as appearing in that mastercard commercial, standing on a platform so he can look Manning in the eye), but it's nice to see a vet on the team addressing it and putting the brakes on hyperbole before it's fully earned. 21-0 reg season wins is still insane, for either team. And a great accomplishment. But there are no awards for it for a reason.

by Theo :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:45pm

I know Buccaneers fans that are rooting for them to go 1-15... so they can take Mamallumalu Suh.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:51pm

*raises hand*

Being that I thought the Bucs had a serious chance of 0-16 this year (not that I think they're the worst team, they just have had a very tough schedule), I'm really pretty pathetically happy with one win. At this point, hope for the future is all that exists. Suh is worth it. That being said, the Bucs are finding new and exciting ways to lose each week, so I think they have a real shot to lose the rest of their games all on their own.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:23pm

Do you mean Ndamukong Suh? Maybe I'm missing a joke somewhere...

by Dean :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 2:12pm

I'm guessing a vague Mike Mamula reference? Maybe? Or perhaps Siupeli Malamala?

by ammek :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:46pm

So what was the worst play/play call of the week? The Croyle 4th-down pass attempt, Chris Brown's halfback pass, the Niners' punt return reverse, or the Chris Redman fourth-down fail?

Quite a few headscratchers to choose from.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:58pm

Aaron Schatz - "It is annoying to see Tony Dungy say that Bill Belichick made a mistake by going for it on fourth-and-1..."

I don't like the Pats for whatever reason (jealousy comes to mind) but I find that Dungy goes out of his way to take shots at Belichick.

The more Belichick does things I perceive as very smart (going for it on 4th more often, trading DT for 1st round pick to lower level teams, etc) the more I respect him.

Aaron does seem a little more chatty as the Pats lose.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:12pm

but I find that Dungy goes out of his way to take shots at Belichick.

I'm shocked, shocked to find out that Mr. Sanctimonious would do that.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:18pm

Dungy sitting in the booth taking shots at Bellicheck is comical. If he didn't have Peyton Manning as his QB for the last number of years he wouldn't even be in that boothe chair at all.

This might be the second time that a former Dungy team wins the superbowl AFTER he leaves. Gruden took a Tampa team that was there but couldn't get over the hump to the promise land, and Caldwell might do it again this year.

And don't even give me this crap that the defense was the reason why the Colts won the SB... They were playing the Ravens ( great defense bad offense), Bears ( great defense/special teams and bad offense), a wounded chiefs team etc. To cite Manning's less than impressive QB rating, and the low PPG against the Bears/Ravens/Chiefs is unfair.

How will the Colts react to losing their "coach"? Well, they obviously haven't missed a beat. Coach Peyton is doing just fine.

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:37pm

"Dungy sitting in the booth taking shots at Bellicheck is comical. If he didn't have Peyton Manning as his QB for the last number of years he wouldn't even be in that boothe chair at all."

I won't look it up, but I'm sure Belichick's career coaching record without Brady is absolutely phenomenal. I also won't look up Dungy's coaching record without Manning, as I'm sure it must be terrible.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:35pm

Oh you mean that Tampa roster that was loaded with pro bowl defensive players from all those years of losing?

Do you mean that paper champion Tampa team that couldn't beat the Eagles or get to the superbowl with coach conservative?

Do you mean that paper champion team that won the superbowl the year after Dungy left?

Look, I'm not saying Dungy is a bad coach but please. He's not on the same level as Bellicheck.

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:31pm

I'm not sure which Pro Bowl defensive players you're saying he inherited. I see Hardy Nickerson, then a whole bunch of young players who became Pro-Bowlers AFTER he got there and implemented the Tampa 2. Of those, only Warren Sapp (12th overall) represents a high pick from "all those years of losing."

I didn't say you said Dungy was a bad coach, but if he's not on the same level as Belichick (arguable), he's at least close enough to where he can level criticisms against Belichick with some degree of credibility.

Anyway, my original point was that you can't differentiate Dungy from Belichick by saying that Dungy skated by on the talents of Manning. Belichick hasn't done a single noteworthy thing in the NFL without Brady. See also Shanahan/Elway, Weis/Quinn, and probably a lot of other "geniuses" that, in hindsight, probably owe a lot more to their players than is generally acknowledged. Dungy is hardly alone in owing a lot to the players on his roster.

by Independent George :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 5:34pm

This debate seems kind of pointless. The conservative playcaller is criticizing the aggressive playcaller for being too aggressive; what is so unusual about this? Would the situation be any different if the situations were reversed, and Belichick criticized Dungy for punting in the 4th and subsequently giving up a game-winning TD drive?

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 5:59pm

Not sure why that was in response to me, but I agree with you.

by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:40pm

Wow, such great analysis here. How many Super Bowls has Bellicheck won without Brady? For that matter, how many GAMES has he won without Brady? Go ahead and include those years in Cleveland when you are doing the math.

While BB is obviously a great coach, some (emphasis on some) Pat's fans refuse to recognize he has shortcomings just like everybody else. Take your head out of his ass long enough to recognize BB did not invent football and there are actually other great coaches in the game.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:36pm

Nobody said Bill Bellicheck is god. He has shortcomings, he is a human being, and he is NOT going to win every single game. But he IS easily the best coach in the NFL right now.

by billsfan :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:50pm

Well, Belichick hasn't won the Super Bowl since he was caught cheating, nor since the manifold fruits of his poisoned coaching tree departed for Browner pastures.

Isn't one of the ways to judge the quality of a Head Coach by the subsequent success of his assistants elsewhere?

(I also like the Eagles)

by MJK :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:02pm

I shouldn't rise to the bait, but I will.

Belichick's record since he was told he couldn't have his cameras on the sideline and had to record signals from the endzone or use a pair of binoculars and a notebook like every other coach: 36-11, or 0.766. Not exactly horrible. And that's with a full season of Matt Cassel.

Incidentally, the number of coaches who HAVE won a SB since Belichick was "caught cheating": Two. I guess there are no good coaches in the NFL other than Mike Tomlin and Tom Coughlin.

Isn't one of the ways to judge the quality of a Head Coach by the subsequent success of his assistants elsewhere?

I wouldn't say so, no. An assistant position and a head coaching position require different skills. If I run a successful automotive manufacturing plant, the fact that none of my line foreman go on to become successful CEO's of other automotive plants does not mean that I'm a bad CEO. It just means that I'm good at hiring people that make good foremen, not good CEO's.

In fact, you could turn it around and say that the relative failure of Belichick's assistants when removed from his influence could imply that the Patriots' success was due to Belichick despite them.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:38pm

It would be silly to judge a head coach on the success of his assistant coaches becoming head coaches.

Look, I think Norv Turner and Cam Cameron are fantastic offensive coordinators... Does that mean we should attribute their head coaching stints to the previous guys they worked under? Some guys are technical and good coordinators, some guys are head coaches. Some guys are great at both...

by ChiJeff (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 2:24pm

Was Dungy really taking " shots " at Bellichek or was he merely doing his job and rendering an opinion, for better or worse?

And why exactly is it " unfair " to cite Peyton Manning's poor performance in the playoffs the year the Colts won the Superbowl?

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:43pm

Why is it unfair? Because of the competition.

If the Colts were playing an all offensive/no defense team, they final score could have been something like 34-31 and Manning could have had 345 yards, 4 TD's and 1 INT... Everybody would be talking about how the Colts are all offense and no defense...

The Colts were playing the Bears ( stud defense/special teams), the Ravens ( same story), and a Chiefs team that if memory serves me correctly was starting a backup QB.

The Colts defense might have had better than usual statistics because they were facing crappy offenses ... Manning had worse than usual statistics not because he isn't clutch, but because he was facing top defenses ( and Ty Law made a fantastic play in the Chiefs game). The Colts offense controled the Purple Rain superbowl.. Despite the wet conditions, grass field, tough defense...

If the 2009 Saints were playing the 2008 Steelers in Pittsburgh, do you think Breesus would have better or worse stats than usual? If the 2009 Saints were playing the Rex Grossman Bears, do you think the Saints defense would have more or less interceptions than usual?

by ChiJeff (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 7:03pm

I have 2 problems with that Chris,
1) Alot of people ( you included ) are real quick to annoint Manning as the greatest ever QB. Fair enough. But if we are going to give him that title then he needs to be held to the highest standard. Win or Lose. The only real " stud " defense he played that year was Baltimore. Chicago's defense had long been banged up and by the Superbowl they were a good not " great " defense by any means. I know. I am from Chicago and have been watching this team for decades now. Manning struggled in each of the playoff games and what was the killer was all the interceptions he threw. Many of them were critical potential backbreakers such as the Ty Law pick that was returned to the Colts 2 yard line, the Assante Samuel pick six near the end of the half during the AFCC game that really could have deflated and buried the Colts, there were the 3 picks in Balt PLUS three or four others that the Ravens had in theyre hands but dropped, then the one pick in the Superbowl plus one that Brian Urlacher had in HIS mitts but dropped. No one is saying that he needed to throw 400 yards and 5 td's each game. But he did not play well and if he is the greatest qb ever than he needed to have solid games even against good competition. In fact, the truly great athletes EXCEL against top competition in the post season ( see Jordan, Michael Jeffrey .

2) If it is " unfair " to cite Mannings poor performance due to " tough " competition than doesn't Dungy get the same consideration? I mean is it " unfair "
that Dungy's Colts had to go to New England 2 years in a row for playoff games in sub zero weather? Or to Philly when he was in Tampa. Is it " unfair " that against SD in Indy 3 years ago he had to play that game sans Dwight Freeney and with a Robert Mathis who missed 6 previous weeks with a knee injury and was not really up to par when he did return? Is it " unfair " that last year the Colts had to travel to SD for a playoff game even though they had a better record. Is it " unfair " that in overtime the Colts never got the ball. I mean if Manning gets a pass for all the " unfair " things that year, I think Dungy should get a pass as well. What is the standard for this, Chris?

by t.d. :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 6:31am

He didn't struggle against the Pats. He did what had to be done under incredible pressure. There is evidence that fluctuations in interception percentage is highly variable and less quarterback-dependent than is presumed.

by ChiJeff (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 6:34pm

Well he did throw a killer interception at the end of the half that could have sealed the Colts fate. The key to the second half of the AFCC game was the fact that the Colts oline really put a manhandling on the Pats. But to his credit Manning did make some big completions in the game.

by C (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 10:33am

What happens when you play on grass when it's raining? Does that make it easier or harder to run a passing attack?

What happens when you are in Baltimore against a good defense and it's freezing outside?

The Colts controlled the SB with the Bears, and they controlled the KC game. The final scores don't reflect how the games were.

What would happen if Peyton Manning was playing the #1 defense, in Alaska and it was on grass, -20 below, and had 40 MPH winds. Manning's stats wouldn't be good, but Rex Grossman the quarterback of the Alaska Polar Bears stats would be horrible as well. Now would that be because Dungy was such a genius, or would weaker than expected play be expected?

Football is a team game, and there are different strategies to win different kinds of games. Rock, paper, scissors. Sometimes you will be playing an offensive team, sometimes you will be playing a defensive team...

The playoffs are at the end of the year, when it's cold (unless indoors), and it's harder to play offense. The Colts were labeled an "offensive team", and they were playing "defensive teams". This resulted in worse stats for their offense, and better stats for their defense. To turn this around into a Manning choaked, Dungy stepped up and won is unfair.

Dungy runs vanilla schemes, calls an ultra conservative game, and his teams underperformed in the playoffs year in and year out. He's been blessed to have had teams with such talent, and won, but this will probably be the second time he leaves and the next guy wins the superbowl. Last time he was fired, this time he stepped down. And no... he's not on anywhere near Bellichecks level. Bellicheck doesn't just sit back and play conservative Tampa 2 regardless of the circumstances.

by ChiJeff (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 6:24pm

Never said that Manning " choked " during the Super Bowl run. But he did overall have an average to mediorce post season with some killer interceptions. He simply did not play very well. And I am sorry that Manning had to play a tough outdoor game or play " tough " defenses or play in the rain. That is life in the playoffs and that is where reputations are earned. No one is saying that he should have been averaging 400 yards per game or 5 td's during that playoff stretch but the mistakes he made in several of those games could have sunk the Colts. And to the Colts credit they, as a team, fought through those mistakes and prevailed. But to say it is " unfair " to cite his struggles in that situation is dishonest and a huge copout. Especially if he is going to be touted as the greatest QB ever.

by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 2:41pm

I'm anxiously awaiting C's ultimate list list of "Who can Critique Whom". He has so thoroughly researched this question that I would not be surprised to learn he has earned his doctorate on the subject. Of course, all of this research can be summed up with one easy rule - "those with more Super Bowls may critique those with fewer, on all matters and subjects."

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:28pm

This is a VERY strange direction for this thread to take, three weeks after the fact.

Dungy was doing his job, as was everyone else who "criticized" BB for his choice. They are all wrong, but what the hell. I'd also like to point out that by and large, the guys who said "punt" were all guys who played and coached the game and the guys who all said "go for it" like me and TMQ and most of you, are pointy-headed fellows sitting at computers all day.

It's okay for BB's former players (and other former HCs like Gruden) to criticize him and get paid for it on national TV, but not for Dungy? And why is that? I think your answer says a lot more about YOU than about Dungy. Maybe he should have lied about his opinion, or said, "Uh, no comment." Yeah, that's earning his paycheck. You'd have reamed him for not having any balls.

And regarding the opinion itself, keep in mind that Colts fans worldwide bemoan how conservative Dungy tended to be on 4th downs, generally--we think--to our detriment. His best friend, his kid brother, his WIFE could have made that call and he'd have criticized it.

But really, why jump on Dungy three weeks later? Could it be you're feeling impotent after Brady's Pats put up as many L's in 12 games as Cassell's Pats did last year in 16?

Whining and impotent sniping do not move conversations forward.

by t.d. :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 6:37am

If Norv Turner had made that call, even the writers here would likely have howled and called for his head, given how Norv jokes are a running subplot on this site. Bellicheck has a lousy track record of eccentric calls in big situations the last few years (particularly the Super Bowl against the Giants, in which he was the single biggest factor in the game)

by patriotsgirl :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 6:19pm

I think they were "jumping on" Dungy for his comments this week about the 4th down call, and tying it into his comments a few weeks ago.

My problem with Dungy as a commentator is that he, like 99.9% of the sports media, often seems to fall into the trap of judging a decision based on outcome rather than process. While I'm biased, I do think he sometimes takes jabs at the Pats, but I'm not really getting that worked up about it. Isn't it to be expected, given the rivalry (and the ratings)?

(And hi, by the way. It's been a while!)

by R O (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:45pm

It is also rather ironic. Since the main reason the Colts have lost to the Chargers is Dungy getting outcoached by none other than Norv Turner.

Tony Dungy's criticisms of Belicheck ring very hollow for me. Still respect his play breakdowns though. He's very good at that.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:49pm

Dungy getting outcoached by Norv Turner? But we can't say that because Norv = dummy and Dungy = genius.

The field goal fiasco at the end of the regular season game was a joke. Dungy has made plenty of quesitonable calls at the end of games. The worst ever was against the Titans in Nashville when the titans sent out the punt team, Dungy called his teams last time out which gave Fisher the chance to sent out Bironas to attempt the game winning FG. Dumest decision ever. Was that punt going to hurt you? Let them punt, go to OT. If Norv Turner or some coach with the dumb reputation did that they'd get murdered. That's one of the reasons why I like Jeff Fisher, the guy is a very good in game manager.

The Chargers special teams dominated Indy in that playoff game. The punter had one of the best games I had ever seen. Sproles was always a back breaker on returns etc. Manning easily outplayed Rivers, but he was having to start drives in such crappy field position, while Rivers seemd to be getting the ball close to mid field.

by ChiJeff (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 7:14pm

Um I am not sure I would say that Manning " easily " outplayed Rivers. I mean the Colts d held that SD offense in check the majority of the game yet Manning could not put that game away. In the end, all he needed was a first down to seal the deal and Manning could not even pull that off.

by morganja :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 2:31pm

Are those decisions all that smart? So far Belichick doing the 'smart' thing has resulted in 2 losses for his now 7-5 team and a defense that can't seem to stop anyone in the second half. If one pays attention to results, Dungy is absolutely correct. If one wants to speculate on whether those were the right calls despite the results, well speculate away.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 2:54pm

Well, going for it on 4th down late won him a couple games earlier this season, but you seem to be ignoring those. Just like Dungy.

Do you ever make posts that aren't negative, and pointed at patriots staff?

by morganja :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 7:06pm

Really? Which games were those? I guess the Tennessee game and.....?

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:58pm

Regarding Jared Allen, there is actually a Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute right up the road from me in Mendota Heights, just off 494 and no more than 20 minutes or so from the Dome. Perhaps Mr. Allen is planning his next career during his free time.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:31pm

He's already at the head of his class in Advanced Mayonaise Studies.

by Todd S. :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:05pm

He orders all of his sandwiches with mayonnaise.

by SFC B (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 7:53pm

He's also a whiz at minesweeper. He'll play for days.

by JasonK :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:49pm

He might have been telling the truth-- maybe he took a one-night cooking class as a date or something.

I fully support efforts to make light of the "name your college" part of the SNF player introductions. It harkens back to an age when pro football was trying to attract fans by playing on the then-greater popularity of college football. That relative popularity angle cuts the other way now.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:40pm

I actually don't mind the "name your college" bit, for no other reason than I've started to try to memorize what players went to what colleges and I test myself at the start of the games to see how I'm doing. Clearly only works with better-known players (or any player lucky enough to have gone to that fine, fine institution of the University of Northern Iowa), but at least gives me a few moments of amusement.

How about a TV show where Jared Allen takes different classes? Jared Allen prepares a souffle. Jared Allen learns to quilt. Jared Allen in a jazzercise class. Ratings gold, I tell you, ratings gold.

by Dales :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:03pm

"Aaron Schatz: Interesting. I went and checked the Giants' weekly defensive stats because they're having such a problem with Jason Witten today. Here is a split of the defense against tight ends -- but the clear split is after Week 4 for some reason."

I believe the reason it does not perfectly mesh with when Phillips was placed on IR (after week 2) is because the next two teams on the Giants' schedule either don't have a viable TE threat at all (KC) or have a mediocre one (TB with Winslow)-- and TB lost their starting QB before he attempted a pass in that game, replacing him with an unprepared and over-his-head Josh Johnson in his first career NFL regular season action.

The weakness against TEs after Phillips went down was just waiting to be exploited. KC and TB just were not in a position to even attempt to do so.

by Travis :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:07pm

Byron Leftwich, Tampa's starting QB in Week 3 against the Giants, played plenty in that game - he was just really, really, really bad.

by Dales :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:22pm

I stand corrected. Yes, Leftwich did play-- stupid me did not notice that the NFL.com page was only showing the 'leading' QB for each team on the page I had visited.

OK, so that changes things a bit. They were playing in the next two weeks a team without a viable TE (KC) and a team that has a mediocre one by DVOA standards (Winslow, 24th by DVOA) and a QB who was having a really bad day.

I don't think that there was any big change between weeks 4 and 5 that would explain a sudden drop-off in play against TEs. I think the change was Phillips getting injured and the first two games after he was put on IR simply did not reveal this vulnerability.

by Quincy :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:33pm

The numbers against KC and Tampa almost certainly had more to do with the opponent than with the play of the Giants' safeties. Two games is too small a sample size to determine how much better the Giants would defend the middle of the field with a healthy Phillips. I remember reading that the Cowboys kept Witten in to block more than usual in the first matchup against the Giants and that, plus Romo having a bad day and Dallas running for 10 yards a pop, probably skew the TE numbers from that game.

It's also important to note that Michael Johnson didn't play yesterday, so Witten was working against an Aaron Rouse/CC Brown combo. Team records and individual career highs were in danger from the opening kick.

by MCS :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:30pm

Two words: Aaron Rouse

by Dales :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:20pm

Accidental dup removed

by Sablesma :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:21pm

Towards the end of TEN-IND, the Titans kicked a successful on-side kick to get the ball back and try to build an at-that-point totally impossible comeback. Bironas lined up to kick the ball one way, then did a move (if I'm remembering correctly) that looked like how we used to kick PKs in middle school soccer: he ran at the ball then sort of did a little circle and ended up kicking the on-side kick towards the other side of the field. The Titans were clearly ready for this, as the opposite field line had already started moving across towards the new kick location. The Colts on the other hand, were not, especially the half of the Special Teams group that ended up having the ball kicked at them. It didn't seem anyone at the bar I was at had ever seen this move before. Has anyone here?

by Joseph :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:35pm

I haven't seen it--but I have always thought that, for onside kicks, the kicker should line up basically straight behind the ball, giving him the option of 1) squibbing it straight ahead, 2) planting to the left and pushing it right, or 3) planting basically straight behind the ball to hook it to the left (assuming a right-footed kicker). I kicked off in HS, but don't remember kicking an onside kick. Anyone else who kicked know if this is feasible?

by JasonK :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:41pm

Kicking straight on isn't going to give you much power on a squib-- the rotational (think golf swing) momentum of a kicker pivoting and swinging his body around his plant foot gives the kick a lot of its force. And I doubt it would be easy to "hook" a kick accurately enough to get into the targeted area consistently.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:57pm

I've seen college teams use a crafty onsides kick.

You have one non kicker standing a yard or so behind the ball off to the side. What foot the kicker kicks with depends on which side the non-kicker is on. The kicker is still his usual distance back and now you have two options.

1) Kicker kicks a regular onsides kick
2) The non-kicker who is standing one 1 step away to the side, takes 1 step and toes the ball to the less defended side of the field.

Since receiving teams might play so many guys up 10 yards from the kick off, I've even seen teams try and kick it about 20-40 yards downfield to either side with all that open real estate.

by Joe Bleau (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 2:41pm

IIRC, just the previous week the Texans tried to quick squib to the weak side. He got a great bounce, but Tom Santi had the presence of mind to swat it OOB.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:49pm

Saw it in peewee football playoffs this year. No idea if the guy who lined up was their actual kicker, but he raised his hand, the whistle blew, lowered his arm, and started to jog, but another guy ran up and kicked on-side from another angle to the other direction.

Luckily, we had scouted these guys the week before and were ready. Hah!

(When they're 9 and the deepest KO only goes 25 yards, it often makes sense to kick on-side every single time. For newcomers, it's very frustrating.)

by JasonK :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:12pm

The Cowboys did do something similar in their KO after a late TD made it 31-24. They had both their kickers (Folk and their KO specialist whose name escapes me) lined up on opposite sides of the ball. Both Ks approached the ball, but the timing was poor, in that the K who started further back slowed up, alerting the Giants that the other guy would be the kicker.

The resulting kick, though, was inaccurate, only going about 5 yards downfield. They almost got lucky in that Giants FB Madison Hedgecock was absorbed in trying to block, didn't see the kick coming, and was nearly the first player to touch it, which would've made a Dallas recovery legal. But a Cowboy (Austin, I think) got his hand on the ball before it hit Hedgecock.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 5:47pm

It's not going to be very helpful because I can't remember what game it was, but oddly enough the only two onside kicks I've seen this year were both performed with this manoeuvre.

by mrh :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:35pm

I think Jared Allen once identified his alma mater as "Bluebird Daycare".

by Richie Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:37pm

No comment on the Washington's 2nd-last play before the 2-minute warning? With 2:46 on the clock and no Saint timeouts left, Washington was unable to make a play last 6 seconds, thereby obligating them to run their 3rd-down play before the 2-minute warning. If they run outside rather than up the middle, even after the missed field goal New Orleans only has 1:16 left rather than 1:56. Makes a big difference in what coverages you play.

I understand the announcers not noticing that. But I figured you guys would. I'm disappointed.

by dmb :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:05pm

I agree that the playcalling at the end of the Redskins' penultimate regulation drive was simply atrocious. That was the biggest mistake that I felt was completely avoidable. Granted, it's easy to second-guess that sort of thing after the fact, but I was upset about it well before NO actually won the game.

by perly :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:19pm


The Redskins took possession at their own 41. 6:52 on the clock, NO has two timeouts.

They turn over the ball at NO 13, 1:52, NO has no timeouts. The only time the clock stopped on the drive was on defensive penalties or NO timeouts.

The only reason the playcalling comes into question is because Suisham missed the chip shot. Otherwise, the drive's pretty much a model of efficiency, given that they basically only moved the ball 40 yards (not counting the facemask).

by dmb :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 5:22pm

Most of the drive was excellent, you're right. But the last two calls weren't great.

First, they probably should have been able to extend the second-down play long enough to get to the two-minute warning. But the bigger issue was the third-down call. Did they really expect to be able to power it in on third-and-goal from five yards out? And running didn't give them any clock benefits: the two-minute warning was going to be stopping the clock after that play, regardless of the outcome. So roll Campbell out and either take a shot at a score or throw it away. This ensures that you make it to the two-minute warning, an incomplete doesn't change the clock situation, and you have a better chance of scoring a touchdown. It's true that the decision looks worse since they missed the field goal, but I was frustrated with that decision before the kick. Even if they make it, a 14-point lead is much safer than a 10-point one.

by Richie Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 5:40pm

Actually at that point of the game, a 10-point lead is just about a lock. You have to quickly cover the length of the field without timeouts, THEN recover an onside kick, then gain another 20+ yards for a field goal attempt or 50+ yards for the TD. Making that 2nd one a TD instead perhaps kicks you up from 98% to 99%.

In that situation, I think I might actually prefer a 10-point lead with 1:12 left to a 14-point lead with 1:52 left. Of course, either is basically a lock.

by dmb :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 6:00pm

Right, but at the time of the third-down call, "a 10-point lead with 1:12 left to a 14-point lead with 1:52 left" weren't the options. The clock was going to stop, and be in the 2:00 - 1:56 range, no matter what. You call a rollout, have ONE throwing option, and if it's not wide open, throw it away -- obviously, getting complicated risks a horrific turnover. But I think that gives you a much better shot at the touchdown than another run.

And although a 10-point lead at that stage in the game is certainly commanding, I think there's a huge difference between needing to drive 25-30 yards after an onside kick to get a field goal attempt, and needing to go 60.

by Richie Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 6:39pm

Yes, it may be twice as easy to go 30 yards then make a fairly long field goal, than go 60 into the end zone. Meaning that if you already have a 98% chance of winning, doubling that/halving your chances of failing then kicks you up to 99%.

by Richie Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 5:31pm

With 2:46 left, the Redskins HAVE! to run a play there which takes 6+ seconds off the clock. Instead they run straight up the gut, get stuffed immediately, and the 40-second clock starts back up at 2:42 or 2:41, which now obligates the Skins to take their 3rd-down snap before the 2-minute warning.

I can't understand how all the FO guys missed that. I mean, ALL of you guys? C'mon, you're supposed to have attention to details like that.

by perly :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 6:31pm

I think you're greatly overestimating the number of 6-second plays that be safely run that deep in the red zone. The Skins just don't have the personnel for it. Would I have liked to have seen a pass called at 2:04? Absolutely. But compared to the extremely conservative calls that all but lost the games at Dallas and Philly, I thought this was a lot closer and more defensible.

A lot more defensible, that is, than putting Fred Smoot deep to return the FG attempt at the end of the first half. What was that about?

by Richie Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 6:50pm

Any wide running play will take 6 seconds, including off tackle. Anything out of a deep I formation will take 6 seconds. Even the dive-type play they ran usually should take 6+ seconds, but it's really the only type of running play that can reasonably end more quickly. If you're on top of the details, which a coach should be (FO too, I'd thought), you'll be aware of that.

As to the FG return thing, those plays actually have a pretty darn good record of success. Though now that even the Redskins' coaching trust is aware of that, I'm guessing that rate will go way down. Just doesn't seem to be any logical reason that play should work as often as it does.

Of course, Fred Smoot back there returning one, don't know about that personnel choice.

by Dan :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:37pm


"Weaver seems like a perfect fit for the Eagles. He’ll help them as a short-yardage blocker; Seattle was fourth in power-situation rushing last season. He’ll help them as a rusher; he played better than his DVOA last season, which was ruined by one fumble. And he’ll help them as a receiver, where he has been highly ranked among backs for two years in a row. He even has big-play ability; witness his 43- and 62-yard touchdown receptions against San Francisco. Eagles fans and Donovan McNabb may both fall in love with this guy."

by coltrane23 :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 12:13am

I remember seeing Weaver in his rookie year, preseason game against the Vikings. I don't remember exactly what he did in that particular game, only the impression I formed that evening that "undrafted or not, this guy belongs on the field." It seemed like whenever he was on the field, he just made good things happen.

I'm not sure what Weaver did to make himself unworthy of serious pursuit by the Seahawks. Particularly when the FO chose to keep TJ Duckett, and then to replace him with the ghost of Edgerrin James. The Ruskell regime signed him, but then let him get away for nothing: Add that to the list of "misses" for Ruskell. (sigh)

by Dean :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 1:59pm

1) What does KSK stand for?
2) MIKE – even your throwaway stuff is brilliant. You could do an entire walkthrough around the Professor Emeritus line.
3) How many Redskins fans heads exploded yesterday?
4) TIM – your Snap Judgements idea, dare I say it, Tanier-esque. Well done, sir.
5) Phil Loadholt wears #69? Outstanding!

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 2:13pm

Re: 1 -- I imagine it's the "Kissing Susie Kolber" blog.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:28pm

It's Suzy. And don't you forget it.

by jklps :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 2:34pm

My head didn't explod - just annoyed..very very annoyed...

With the Saints being undefeated going into the game, isn't what happened deserving of a "we are who we thought they are!" rant?

by AnonAnon (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 2:13pm

"Well, I've been home from the road trip to Nap-town for about two hours and am still annoyed at life."

Ummm...Indianapolis hasn't been called Nap-town since about 1983...

by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 2:57pm

We still have the Naptown Roller Girls, so it is still used in that context at the very least :o)

by Travis :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:50pm

Also Lil Ronnie's lyrics. (Is there a 2009 version yet?)

by Jeremiah (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 6:36pm

People in Indianapolis do still call it Naptown.

by Blotzphoto :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 2:21pm

Brian Billick said one of the stupidest things I've ever heard during the Bengals/Lions battle of the Big Cats. It seems to be obligatory to knock Chad Ochocinco/johnson for his silliness. At one point (before Chad's TD catch) Billick and (completely forgettable play by play guy) spent like 5 minutes talking about Chad whilst ignoring the action on the field. In the middle of that, Billick says something like "Y'know if Chad would just knock off the silly stuff, he might become a pretty good reciever"
Ummm, Brian, Chad is a 5 time pro-bowler and the Bengals ALL TIME LEADING RECIEVER! He's already pretty darn good, mkay?

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 2:47pm

First of all, [Vikings QB] definitely had already heard the word "schism."
Second, Jared Allen can tell him what it means: http://vikings.fandome.com/video/114924/Schism-the-STD/

As I recall it didn't even make TWIQ, but I think it's quote of the year.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:07pm

What was the Steeler's DEF DVOA in the 4th Quarter?

-300% ?

Steelers- only team to Win 2 SB's and miss playoffs next season 2x in 4 years?

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:34pm

1. -300% would be the best defensive DVOA ever recorded (negative is better for defense).

2. Your ragging on your team is growing tiresome. For a team to "Win 2 SB's and miss playoffs next season 2x in 4 years", they'd have had to win two Super Bowls in that time period. Why don't you appreciate that instead of being pissed off that they'll miss the playoffs this year? What about us fans of teams that will miss the playoffs this year, missed them last year, and didn't win any Super Bowls in the last 20+ years?

by billsfan :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:42pm

At this point, I'd settle for one Super Bowl win, ever, from either of my teams ;)

(I also like the Eagles)

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 3:57pm

Nice catch for #1.

Hey, as a Colts fan, I freely admit I am spoiled and really rue the days if/when I see 1-15 records again, or 9-year stretches without the playoffs. I enjoy being spoiled and telling myself how lucky and spoiled I am; because it never lasts forever, either the bad or the good. I sympathize with fans of winning teams being frustrated--especially when they had high hopes. But really folks, a little perepctive. Assuming his brains are not scrambled, Ben has another decade-plus as his window of opportunity.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:52pm

In the 2009 NFL, a guy with pre-documented 4-5 concussions, 1 of them being a vehicular windshield faceplant, will only play decade+ more of pro football if he reduces his concussion rate to 1 ever 3-4 years.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:51pm

you are correct, I got ahead of myself with that rather obvious typo. multitasking at lunch is no fun.

it's hard to accept on/off mediocrity when the essential core of the team remains constant. lack of consistency when greatness has been demonstrated as a capabile end objective is frustrating. Why should I care about your team, for that matter?

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:54pm

why should anyone care about your whining, for that matter?

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 5:04pm

then don't reply to it, if you don't care.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:59pm

My point is that you shouldn't be whining so much (it seems like 90% of your posts are just bashing the Steelers) when the team you root is, at worst, the third-best team of the decade.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 5:18pm

I'd say 3rd most "successful" - "best" is debatable, but there's really no arguing their "success" in terms of wins, playoff appearances, Superbowl victories, Pro-Bowl players, etc...

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 5:21pm

Also, anything you can accuse Tomlin of as far as inconsistency, Cowher was just as guilty - with more playoff debacles on his resume, to boot! That 15-1 team sputtered through an embarrassing win vs. the Jets and then collapsed in the AFC Championship game, they fell apart more quickly than any Tomlin team - this year's squad is actually dealing with real injury issues...

by whatyousay :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 5:20pm

just to be fair, people seem to complain about the Eagles pretty constantly, and aren't they the 4th best team of the decade?

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 5:24pm

Give them 1 superbowl win and you'd never hear an Eagles fan complain for the rest of their life. They might even say something nice about McNabb (if he threw for 5 TD's and 400 yards with zero interceptions in the superbowl).

Actually, just give them a Superbowl match-up versus the 2005 Seahawks and not the 2004 Patriots...

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 5:47pm

Actually, just give them a Superbowl match-up versus the 2005 Seahawks and not the 2004 Patriots...

Well, that game would actually be tough to have, given that they're both in the same conference (but I get your point). The 2004 Colts would have been acceptable, though. Would've been a great game, too.

by JasonK :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 7:36pm


by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 12:04pm

Yeah, I just wish they had gotten to go against a team that wasn't one of the Top 5 teams of the DVOA Era... They still played them down to the wire, a 3 point game - and most people still talk like it was a trouncing through which the Eagles stumbled and bumbled!

The worst part is that they were basically screwed no matter who came out of the AFC: they could've played the 2004 Steelers (one of the few teams with a higher DVOA than the 2004 Pats!)

by DGL :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 7:33pm

"Give them 1 superbowl win and you'd never hear an Eagles fan complain for the rest of their life."

You mean like the Boston sports fans have been so relaxed and uncritical since 2004?

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 6:07pm

It's pretty much the same as why people think of the Buffalo Bills as losers for losing four straight Super Bowls, rather than thinking of them as being exceptionally good enough to even make four in a row. In the end, there are winners and losers, and if you don't win it all, you're a loser. If you get really close to winning it all multiple times and then lose, it's even worse, because it reinforces the public perception of being a loser.

I'd rather be a Bucs fan at 1-11 with one SB win than a highly-successfuly Eagles fan with zero SB wins. Just the nature of sports.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 6:29pm

Well, you raise an interesting point; how many years of complete non-competitiveness, years where your team has eight losses by, say, week 12, for a single Super Bowl win? Personally, I'd rather have the Vikings going into week 17 with a shot at the playoffs in, say, seven or eight out of ten years, than have one Super Bowl championship, one or two other playoff appearance, and seven or eight years in which they are cooked by the time November ends.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 10:36pm

I think it varies. Most fans develop a tolerance for a certain level of success, whether it's .500 seasons, playoffs, or championships, and their happiness depends on their level of tolerance, the time the team's spent there, and the recent history of the team.

Some of that may be because we tend to believe that our teams should improve (until they win a title), so consistent performance in that respect would actually be small failure, as expressed by the "Why can't X take us to the next level" complaints.

If I recall correctly, by 2000, I was a little disappointed with the Lions' consistent flameouts in the playoffs. ha ha. I take it all back now. Eagles fans probably look at this as the end of their window, just as Steelers fans might be asking whether or not this could have been 3 or 4 titles in a 30-year period, not just the 4-year period. (In other words, if it all ends now, why couldn't they have made the most of this run?)

It certainly seems like winning a single title might be better than being perpetual contenders, but losing a lot, well, sucks, and eventually the luster of the title wears off. (For example, the Pistons are at the end of a successful string in the NBA. They got "only" one title out of it, but played for another and had reasonable playoff runs several other times. I'm actually happy with what they did - in part because I also remember the '89 and '90 titles - but I would guess a lot of Detroit fans are disappointed because that's all they won.)

by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 12:31am

I will never, ever, on any level be able to recapture the feeling I had when Ronde Barber picked off McNabb in the NFC Championship game. The moment he grabbed it, I knew it was six and I jumped to my feet and screamed "SUPER BOWL!!!" at the top of my lungs. I was sitting in my house in Northern Virginia several hundred miles away from the stadium and had no physical investment of any sort in either team but I'd rooted for the Bucs for years and had put all sorts of emotion into it.

It was honestly one of the greatest moments of my life. My entire life. And I've had a very good life. I have tried to explain to people who don't "get" sports what it was like, and I don't have the words. I can't explain the pure joy I felt, and I never will. That's part of being a sports fan, right? You get it, or you don't.

Nowadays, I'm rooting for a team that's 1-11, and I honestly feel pretty good about the "1" part of that equation. At this point, I'm reduced to feeling happy about the fact that the defense has two good people in the secondary and that the rookie QB only looks crappy every other game or so and that the coach has managed to tie his shoes in the morning without stabbing himself in the eye with one of the laces. The team will suck for several years. I will watch every game. I will curse when they lose over and over. And I wouldn't change a thing. I'll take ten years of losing, because I still have Ronde Barber catching that ball on that day in early 2003.

Being pretty good and failing gets old (hello, Tony Dungy era!). Winning it all, yeah, it's worth all the losing.

by MJK :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 2:32am

I know what you all mean. I'm a Patriots fan, and for whatever reason, the 2001 SB win means the most to me, when that one was arguably the least deserved. It's because it was the first SB win for the franchise (ever), and because they defied the odds and disbelief to get it. If they had only won that one, and been bad for a couple of years, it might be the defining moment of being a Patriots fan in this decade. Now it's largely forgotten because of a run of being pretty good (with a mix of success and failure).

It really seems like Patriots fans now take winning for granted (see the first few comments of this thread!), and have lost the wonder that we ought to have for a team that consistently is in the running for something fans of a lot of teams only dream about. But in 2001, it was magical and special. That run of games is one of the best of all time to a Patriots fan, and I still get a lot of joy out of watching my first "Three Games to Glory" DVD. Their other SB wins (and losses), not so much.

by patriotsgirl :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 5:56pm

I have a soft spot for the 2001 team, particularly given all the insanity that happened along the way. But it's the Panthers SB that really got me - I loved that team so freaking much despite the fact they gave me a heart attack every week. (Everyone forgets that if Drew Bennett didn't make that drop, God knows if they'd have gotten out of the Divisionals...)

I actually made a deal with the football gods during that game. The 2007 AFCCG and 2008 SB may have been the price, and even though those games killed me, it was much easier to take with the 3 SBs under their belt.

It also makes the games with Indianapolis much easier to take, as I can now take a step back and enjoy the amazing rivalry for what it is. 20 years from now, I'll be a curmudgeon who reminisces about the glory days of Manning and Brady.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 2:43am

I just really, really , really hate grossly incompetent football. With a passion. I can't stand watching any 3-13 team, much less one I grew up with. I watch football because I really do find the contest fascinating on multiple levels, when it is done with some competence. In fact, I really enjoy a team which has obvious weaknesses, but still competes well because of smart, tough play. The Dolphins and 49ers are two of my favorite teams this year.

I've also come to appreciate, in my dotage, how huge a role luck plays in all but a few championship years, so I have become much more realistic about what I should expect.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 12:09pm

I understand your point, but I'll tell you this: my father and sister are Saints fans; they root for a team with a substantial history of incompetence and misery. If the Saints go 15-1 and win the Superbowl, they will be able to watch the next Aaron Brooks/Bobby Herbert/Archie Manning (hey, those teams really stank) eras with smiles on their faces... There's no comparison to having that one amazing winning season.

But we're Eagles and Vikings fans, so what do we know about it? We know the exact opposite: long stretches of high quality play and no rings to show for it...

by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 12:26pm

Yeah, well, the Bucs suck, but they aren't the Raiders or Browns, you know? This year is a conscious attempt to utterly implode the team and rebuild from scratch. There's some hope for the future (unless, of course, you post on Bucs fan boards, at which point the owner/GM/coach/training staff are trying to destroy the team intentionally for some reason). It's not the godawful mismanagement of the Browns or the persistent Hand of Doom from Al Davis.

I guess it's how you define "grossly incompetent football". Tampa's awful this year, but I knew they were going to be. I've enjoyed watching Josh Freeman show flashes of competence. Ronde Barber still makes some great plays. Michael Clayton is injured, and I have at least a vague hope that, at some point, somebody will set him on fire. All these things help make the season watchable. Now, if you're telling me I have to go through ten years of this, well, I don't know. I still think I'd take the big win. Unless your team's ownership is completely incompetent (or some kind of arch-lich like Al), you don't get ten years of sustained awfulness.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 1:21pm

Oh, one or two, maybe even three, awful years are certainly tolerable. The Vikings in the '80s are instructive. They had pretty bad ownership, as was the norm for this team until the Wilfs bought it. However, starting in the mid 60s, they had gotten lucky with, in order, two terrific scouts in Jerry Reichow and Frank Gilliam, then a HOF GM in Jim Finks, who in turn brought in the HOF coach Bud Grant. Many very good things ensued, short of the ultimate good thing, but by the end of the 70s the stars had gotten old, and the cheapskate owners' habit of making personnel and other decisions based upon what would save them the cost of a ham sandwich had caught up with them.

Grant kept them from falling into the abyss, however, until he quit the first time. They named a successor in 1984 who was completely over his head, and the worst year, even worse than the early expansion years, ensued. The idiot owners then understood what precipice they were on, opened up the wallet to get Grant back for a year, let their personnel guys, which now included the terrific Paul Wiggin, who Grant brought in, go out and reap a windfall from the USFL, among other smart moves. Many good years ensued, including a last minute road loss in the conference championship game to a Redskins team which won the Super Bowl easily. The decade end up being one hideous year, a couple bad years, and the rest good to very good years, with no great years. I'd rather have that than, let's say, one championship, one or two playoff appearances, and the rest three and four win seasons. In other words, if the Raiders, heaven forbid, had beaten the Bucs, and then performed as they have the rest of the decade, that would not be something I'd prefer.

by jmaron :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 4:48pm

Will - love reading your breakdowns on the history of the Vikes. I was a tad young to appreciate the 69-70 version of the Vikes (I was 8 when they lost to KC), but statistically that was one of the most dominant teams of all time.

I have a real foundness for the 87-88 team. Doleman, Millard, Browner, Holt...I loved that defence. I liked that team a lot more than the 98 team. I think they were as good as anybody for those two years, but the chips just didn't fall right.

I found the Denis Green years kind of endlessly annoying - never really any good except in 98 but even that team wasn't as good it's record indicated.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 5:17pm

Yeah, the overall line of scrimmage quality (those offensive lines were as good as the Super Bowl teams') in 87 and 88 really masked the deficiency at quarterback. The Green years annoyed me at times as well, primarily because of the crappy ownership. 2/5 of the Broncos champion offensive lines came from the Vikings, and one guy was a Hall of Famer. You can't tell me that they could not have figured out a way to at least keep Zimmerman next to McDaniel. Also, as Green gained more power, the drafting got worse, except for Moss, which was kind of a lucky break.

The Vikings, from about 1966 to 2006, really are a story of good personnel guys and coaches mostly overcoming crappy ownership, and that is a somewhat unusual story.

by Aaron B. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:08pm

I wasn't able to see the game, but how did the Bears line perform? Obviously the run blocking needs some work but how was the pass blocking - I thought pace was out so williams was going to be LT.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:23pm

Williams played LT. He was OK against a bad Rams team. He did give up one really bad sack that I recall. I do think he needs to stay at LT the rest of the season, to see if there's any future there. My hope is that he's good enough so that the Bears can at least have one line position settled going into the offseason.

Overall, the line was OK, but the offense barely tried. They only threw the ball 17 times, though they averaged over 8 ypa due to a couple really nice long plays earlier. And, it's against the Rams, so even if they had looked like the mid-90's Cowboys yesterday, I'm not sure it would have been indicative of anything.

by parttimemovieguy :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 4:48pm

Watching parts of the Vikings/Cardinals game, there were at least two pass plays in which Tim Hightower destroyed a blitzing rusher. Even Collinsworth pointed them out in replay. They were fantastic blocks.

My question to FO is this: do you have metrics on sack-saving blocks? As a charter, I mark down blown blocks, including the skill players. However, just seeing how valuable Hightower's blocks were on those successful passing plays, I feel like there should be some sort of DVOA for RB pass-blocking or blitz-pickups.

by Keith (1) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 5:28pm

What makes everybody in the media love to hate Arizona? Or, well, disrespect them? As a casual observer of the team (I have huge respect for Warner, Fitzgerald, and that entire defense), I always read things like, "Arizona's opponent lost the game today." or "Arizona's opponent really came out flat today." FO is the only group I read that has anything nice to say about them.

Which brings me to my next point -- when they played last year, Minnesota was said to have routed Arizona, as they won by 21 points. Fine. Use those words. However, Arizona effectively won by 20 last night and people are saying "they held on for a win." (They gave up a touchdown with 1:20 to go and the game out of reach.) Why must people hate Arizona!

On that note -- I hope Arizona holds on for a few more wins and reaches the Super Bowl again, even if they have to beat my Packers in the process. ;/

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 6:16pm

At halftime last year, the Vikings led 28-0. At halftime last night, the Cardinals led 21-10. Neither game was close, but the game last year was decidedly more one-sided.

I don't know abouyt the media, but I didn't respect the Cardinals for taking a month off at the end of last season. The game in New England was really bad. The Cards just decided to collect their checks without competing at all.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 6:44pm

Some headlines from major football sites

ESPN - With its trouncing of Minnesota, Arizona is primed to make a title run

SI - Warner, Cardinals dominate Favre, Vikings 30-17

CBS Sportsline - How Did the Arizona Cardinals Crush the Minnesota Vikings?

Fox - Warner shines, Favre struggles as Cards win big

Not sure what more you are looking for from the media. Words like trouncing, crush, and dominate...not good enough for you?

by Keith (1) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 7:07pm

Right. But if you read through some of them, they never really mention those words again. But you see gushing over New Orleans, you read about the crowds in Atlanta hating/loving Vick, etc. All of those things have been making better stories than Arizona.

Seems unfair a little, I suppose. But like I said -- casually observing!

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 10:48pm

Um ... New Orleans staged a dramatic comeback to win a franchise-record 12th consecutive game to start the season. That's most certainly a big story, despite Fox's refusal to show it to a wider section of the country, and probably the main reason why the Cardinals didn't get as much attention as you might have liked to see. (Also, Arizona played the night game, which means that there were several hours of attention on New Orleans before anyone knew how the Minnesota game would end.)

Michael Vick returned to a city with a team that some say he pretty much crapped on. With this one, you probably have a reasonable complaint: it's a story that's very important to the media, perhaps important to Atlanta fans, and maybe not really anyone else.

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 7:11pm

There's about 50 years of past history that makes people skeptical about Arizona. Even last year, when they did put something together, it had a flukish sort of feel to it. A 9-7 team in a bad division got on a hot streak in the playoffs. That doesn't scream out "future dynasty." In any case, I don't think people "hate" Arizona so much as dismiss them a little too easily.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 10:54pm

Mr. Tanier, I know it's probably your Eagles-fan voice speaking, but still, I really don't think you want NFL officials getting tips from any of the other groups you listed. NHL refs started to call more consistent games around 2006 (in part to address inconsistency, except in the other direction: actually calling penalties); NBA refs, well, the best I can say about them is that they're not NCAA refs. Your college colleagues can fill you in about that last group. (I still think Big Ten refs are the worst, but after watching a couple of SEC games, I may have to concede the point.)

I think the biggest problem NFL refs have right now is that anything done to the QB is a personal foul and anything done to any other player is just good old-fashioned football. Well, that and the rule book, but most of them seem to know it. At the NCAA level ...

by Doug Farrar :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 11:51pm

Watch a couple of Pac-10 games. You won't have to worry about conceding the point.

by wr (not verified) :: Mon, 12/07/2009 - 10:58pm

I can't help wondering if the DVOA engine will run screaming for the hills when Aaron feeds the Saints interception-turned-touchtown into it...

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 8:58am

What impressed me about AZ was that they dominated the line play. Kevin Williams was MIA for the entire game as was Edwards. Allen had a few pressures and Fatso blew up some running plays but otherwise the O-line for Arizona did a fine job. Same for the defensive line which gave the MN line fits. Some of the sacks were coverage induced but guys were still driving offensive lineman back into Favre.

by jmaron :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 9:40am

funny how things change as a season moves along. Last night the Packers offensive line was brilliant and on Sunday night Minnesota's was crappy. Back a few weeks ago I don't think too many would have seen that coming.

My theory on playing GB. Don't blitz Rodgers very often. His strength is when he makes that first quick decision. He gets the ball out fast and on target on hot reads.

by C (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 10:43am

That's what I'm saying. Rodgers can be very fast and quick. He's ideal for the West Coast offense. Not all of his sacks were from "him holding onto the ball too long", I saw him get sacked on the 3rd step of his drop before.

Finley was voted the best athlete on the Packers.

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 10:18am

I laughed out loud at the Baltimore Sun griping about the Packers not being called for penalties. Good grief. I would have thought the Ravens were accustomed to physical play given their annual struggles with the Steelers but apparently it's not a two way street.

Right now the best player on offense for the Packers is TE Jermichael Finley. He can actually block so he stays on the field most of the time. He's too fast for safeties/linebackers and too big for cornerbacks. He has good hands and he's learned to run better routes. Finally, Rodgers trusts him. He's a legit playmaker.

As for defense, AJ Hawk has really picked up his game the last month. I wish Tramon Williams didn't worship at the altar of Al Harris. That arm bar technique is classic Harris. Williams has more speed than Al so doesn't need to work to slow down receivers but instead keep good position.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 12:26pm

I hated the handling of Vick as if this is some kind of triumphant return to Atlanta. He was handled with kid gloves at that franchise; he quite literally had the owner pushing his wheelchair around when he injured himself. All he did is betray that and now the franchise has a real QB for the next 10+ years.

It's fine that Vick played well in this game. I just wonder if - like he did his dogs - they took him out and gave him electroshock after every one of his 11 bad ones.

by jmaron :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 12:38pm

Week 17 in the NFC could be incredible. There are essentially 7 teams fighting for 6 spots. Presume NO takes the 1 seed. That leaves 6 teams Minn, Arz, Phil, Dall, NYG and GB for 5 spots. Minnesota is almost a lock for 2,3,4 seed, but not necessarily the 2 seed after their loss to Arz.

Minn - Cinn, @Car, @Chi, NYG
Arz - @SF, @Det, Stl, GB

If Arizona wins one or two more of the next 3 than does Minnesota than week 17 becomes classic because all 6 teams play each other with one going home.

Week 17

GB at Arz
NYG at Minn
Phil at Dall

Even if Arz doesn't catch up or get within 1 game of Minn I doubt Arz would pack it in for that game as they will want the 3 seed as it would mean playing Minnesota in round 2 as opposed to NO should they win the Wild card.

by buzzorhowl (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 5:22pm

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Brett Favre Minneapolis wgah'nagl fhtagn."

Or, in English, "In his stadium in Minneapolis dead Brett Favre waits dreaming."

Actually quite appropriate under the circumstances.