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14 Dec 2009

Audibles at the Line: Week 14

compiled by Bill Barnwell

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

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

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

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Pittsburgh Steelers 6 at Cleveland Browns 13

Aaron Schatz: I just want to say Dr. Foreman looks really cold out there. My diagnosis is hypothermia.

Mike Tanier: I think everyone has passed out from boredom.
Josh Cribbs is really good. The Steelers are have problems with elementary blitz pickup, and I wouldn't make any long term plans if I were Bruce Arians

Tom Gower: Ben Roethlisberger has been fantastic at holding the ball and going down with it instead of escaping and finding an open receiver.  I think the only time he's gotten away and made a play is on the FG drive at the end of the first half.

Aaron Schatz: I wish I knew what they fed the Cleveland defensive backs this morning because I've never, ever seen these guys cover this closely.

Doug Farrar: Well, I’ve seen a couple of uncalled armbar-ish plays on Pittsburgh receivers, and I wonder if the crews got a “lay off” note after the Green Bay-Baltimore game.

Aaron Schatz: OK, Pittsburgh, time to work on the offensive line.

Doug Farrar: To me, the defense is the story here. They’re not getting edge rush the way they used to, Farrior looks slow, the coverage in the fourth quarter of the Oakland game was an embarrassment – I’m not used to using the words “Dick LeBeau” and “average defense” this closely together.

Vince Verhei: Didn't catch much of this. From what I saw, Cleveland used a lot of 11 Angry Men defense to keep Pittsburgh confused (including Mike Furrey at safety again; has that been common?). But really, when you give up eight sacks in 40 dropbacks, you should lose.

I did love the announcers going crazy to praise Brady Quinn as the reason the Browns won. He had 61 yards on two completions; 29 yards on his other 17 throws. Just because he had no turnovers and his team won does NOT mean he played well, fellas.

They said on NFL Network that Cribbs' 87 rushing yards were all out of Wildcat formations. So he produced almost as many yards as Quinn, in about a quarter of their plays. He is their best quarterback!

Mike Tanier: Part of the "nobody getting open" was the play calls. The Steelers seemed to be running a bunch of little hook and stick routes, usually with Ward, Miller, and Wallace or somebody, with Holmes running deep. Against man coverage, the slower receivers got no separation on these routes, then had to turn and stop. Meanwhile, Big Ben was getting sacked while Holmes worked deep.
This happened a few times in the first and second quarter, and I kept wondering why they were calling these "zone-breaker" plays against a team running a lot of man. And why they were emptying the backfield against a team that likes to blitz from the outside. And why they always run from a single-back formation even though Mendenhall looks like an I-back based on his running style. And so on.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

New Orleans Saints 26 at Atlanta Falcons 23

David Gardner: Just as I was about to type about how the Falcons are having a good defensive effort against the Saints in the first half, Meachem runs right by Christopher Owens for 42 yards. Basically, the Falcons were playing back and forcing Brees to check it down to Pierre Thomas. But the lack of pass rush that came with that defense led to the long completion.

Will Carroll: I just noticed that Drew Brees keeps looking up, as if he's reading the defense off the jumbotron rather than looking at it. I thought to myself "Smart. I wonder if there's a home field advantage to this, giving the guy the angles he wants." Then I realized the Saints are on the road. Still, it's an interesting concept.

David Gardner: Darren Sharper just bit on a Michael Jenkins dig-and-go and Chris Redman barely overthrew him. They are gonna look at that all week.

Joe Buck just called a head shot of Sean Payton in the late-80s "dreamy."

This lack of pass rush is killing the Falcons. You can actually watch Drew Brees go through all of his reads when he is sitting back in the pocket. He's 19-of-21 for 212 yards and two touchdowns.

The Saints had a really sloppy drive, but everything seems to go right for them this season. Drew Brees threw an interception, but the officials called a very questionable pass interference. Then Reggie Bush fumbled on a stretch play, but fell on it himself for a loss on nine. Then, on third-and-19, Brees throws a simple screen to the Falcons -- who are playing man in an off-man coverage -- and they score.

Bill Barnwell: The Falcons just ran the "9 Velcro" play from Madden, rushing two and dropping nine, and Reggie Bush still got open on the edge for a first down.

Falcons hold the Saints to a field goal, and on the subsequent drive, Eric Weems rushes for an 11-yard loss and Chris Redman throws a pick. Oof.

The Saints go for a fake field goal and miss...

Bill Barnwell: I like the playcall -- I think it's reasonable considering you don't have a touchdown and can kill the game, and there's nobody expecting a fake there. But put Drew Brees, et al on the field and just go for it. Don't run a fake with Mark Brunell, who hasn't thrown a pass in anger in three years.

Falcons lose on a Brady-to-Faulk-esque one-yard throw on fourth-and-2. There wasn't really even a pass rush on Redman (although Charles Grant smacked him in the helmet after the throw); throw came out too early.

Aaron Schatz: I thought it was stupid when the Pats ran a two-yard pass on fourth-and-2, because they left themselves no room for error. But how on earth do you run a ONE-yard pass on fourth-and-1? It isn't like the Saints blitzed and left the middle open. There were two defenders sitting there. What the hell?

Mike Tanier: Once I looked at that Jason Snelling pass on fourth-and-1 a second time, I figured it wasn't that bad a call. He's coming out of the backfield behind a cluster of receivers. In most circumstances, no defender is going to get to him and make a clean hit. They may tackle him, but they aren't going to step up and knock him back the way Vilma did.
I didn't watch it a thousand times, but I am betting something tipped Vilma off that Snelling was the only intended receiver on the play. Remember that's not obvious from the formation or the pre-snap read: there are a thousand stick routes and crossing routes you can run in short yardage situations from a bunch formation.

Bill Barnwell: They also ran the same route to start the drive for 20 yards or so. Not sure if the look was any different.

Mike Tanier: Heh. Maybe that was the tip off.

Denver Broncos 16 at Indianapolis Colts 28

Bill Barnwell: There is a big blue inflatable horse mascot in the tunnel in Indy. Is that new?

Tom Gower: The Colts have just marched down the field for two touchdowns in as many possessions.  They're not ripping off huge chunks of yardage like they were in the playoff games when they picked on Roc Alexander or whatever else the Broncos were calling their DBs back then, but they're still looking close to unstoppable.

Bill Barnwell: The Broncos get stuffed on a fourth-and-1 at midfield when they run a slow-developing stretch. Gary Brackett has time to get around the entire pile and pick up Moreno in the backfield. 

Joseph Addai also just managed to juke out a defensive end despite standing totally still. Not sure how that happened.

Tom Gower: Ah, the continuing adventures of Dan Fouts.  He was very annoyed that Josh McDaniels would defer after winning the coin toss, because "it gives Peyton Manning an extra possession."  He also declared that, after Ayers pressured Peyton, that lots of former college teammates were playing, like those two and Dumervil and Addai at Louisville.  Uh, Joseph went to LSU.  

Oh, and he didn't mention anything about how just maybe Ayers' pressure on Peyton had to do with him being blocked by Dallas Clark and not an actual offensive lineman.

Doug Farrar: Peyton Manning would like Ricky Williams' turnover luck. He's thrown two interceptions, and both have been picked off tip drills by Brian Dawkins. The second one hit Champ Bailey right in the facemask before it flew up in the air.

With 11:40 left in the game, Brandon Marshall has 18 catches. T.O.’s Jerry Rice Day record of 20 is in serious danger.

Aaron Schatz: How is he getting them all? I saw a bunch of quick hitches when I was watching the game; are they all against one corner? One particular side of the field? One particular route?

Tom Gower: And the TD to make it 21-16 was #20 to tie the record.  Only 192 yards, but he's really wrecking some days in PPR leagues.  I haven't been paying much attention to that game since it went to 21-0, but he's a matchup problem for the Colts' corners and a good fit for Orton's short pass game.

Doug Farrar: The 20th was just a jump ball over the 5-8 Tim Jennings. I think that’s right next to Springs covering Smith deep in the new book, “Defective Defensive Concepts”.

Will: Colts were beat up - at one point both Lacey and Powers were out and Bethea shifted to corner. He was getting killed, but wasnt much else they could do. Talk after that was that Pierre Garcon was the next available CB.

Mike Tanier: The Broncos threw lots and lots of little slants to Marshall, trying to isolate him against one corner, or another, or the backups. In the second half, Lacey, Powers, and the backups did a good job of holding him to a lot of very short receptions. On one play, near the goalline, they threw to him across the middle, and I wondered why. Why not isolate him on the edge against a rookie/backup, instead of having him cut across the middle, where he had to deal with the linebackers in Cover-2? Sure enough, he was tackled for a short gain.

Will: I don't watch the Broncos enough, but it seems like D.J. Williams is a dirty player. He made a couple really late hits, slugged both Addai and Manning in the head (one of which Fouts noted), and seemed to be jawing with lots of guys including his own team. That head punch has to be something the NFL is watching for with the head trauma discussions. 

Seattle Seahawks 7 at Houston Texans 34

Doug Farrar: The Texans open up the game with Matt Schaub going deep to Andre Johnson, who beats Marcus Trufant for a 60-yard touchdown. You hear a lot about Trufant’s pass interference penalties. My concern is not that Trufant is racking up penalties at a dizzying rate. My concern is that he has no trail speed anymore, and the Seahawks consider him a #1 corner.

Vince Verhei: You can now add a blocked punt to Seattle's woes. Houston has the ball up 17-0 in the first quarter, and Seattle has three possessions, no first downs.

Doug Farrar: Have they run the Senecat yet? Let's add a 10-yard loss to the List of Debacles!

Vince Verhei: Wallace has his weekly 5-yard loss on a run, although it looked more like a failed spread option run than his usual rollout-of-bounds. In other words, it's on the scheme, not him.

Houston goes up 24-0. The announcers comment that the Texans "are playing like a team that wants to keep their coach around." What does that say about the way Seattle is playing?

Seahawks finally get a first down -- on a third-and-3 incompletion, when Houston is called for roughing the passer. Seattle takes advantage of this fortune by fumbling on second and third downs, recovering both times, then punting. Is this team drunk? Was their water poisoned?

Doug Farrar: Andre Johnson gets another touchdown by running through a huge lane with about six Seattle defenders half-assing it. Deon Grant pulls up a few yards short of the end zone. This is inexcusable, and so will it be if Mora and his staff are retained next year.

By the way, one of the reasons the Seahawks are having trouble with snaps is that starting center Chris Spencer is snapping with the wrong hand due to injury. Never mind that they drafted a center in Max Unger who’s smart as hell and more conversant with zone blocking than Spencer is -- gotta go with the veteran, because a rook could never comprehend the complexities of a Greg Knapp offense after four years at Oregon (a thought which would probably send Mike Bellotti and Chip Kelly into hysterical fits of laughter).

Vince Verhei: And now Hasselbeck hurts his throwing shoulder and Wallace is in! When they play highlights of this game, they need to play circus music to go with it.

Doug Farrar: It's important to note that Hasselbeck got hurt on a DeMeco Ryans sack ... on a two-step drop! If the Seahawks don’t draft at least one offensive lineman with their two first-round picks, they might as well forfeit the 2010 season.

Carolina Panthers 10 at New England Patriots 20

Doug Farrar: Oh, dear. And there’s the Patriots, capping off a perfect week by failing on another fourth-and-short early in the game.

Shawn Springs on Steve Smith deep on that long touchdown. I’m thinking “mismatch” there. Just a little bit. The play just blew by me, but I’m hoping that was busted safety coverage as opposed to the actual plan.

Tim Gerheim: Just saw the highlight of the Steve Smith TD against the Patriots.  Smith was so open that he caught the touchdown even though he had to slow down because of an inaccurate throw and allow the trailing coverage to catch up and contest the ball a little bit.  Moore could have thrown the ball another five yards to the left and hit Smith in stride, and there wasn't a safety or anything that he would have been leading Smith into.  That's some seriously bad coverage.

Aaron Schatz: Driving home from Bill's house, I flipped back and forth between EEI and 98.5, the two sports stations in town. Honestly, you would have thought the Pats got crushed by three touchdowns. Pats fans have gone into full-on pessimistic pre-2004 Red Sox mode. Sometimes, you don't stomp on your opponent, you just have an imperfect win. The Saints fans don't mind, I'm sure. Were they calling into the radio stations in New Orleans complaining something was wrong because they only beat Atlanta by three? It's like 2007 spoiled people around here so much that they never expect their team to lose another game for years to come.

Detroit Lions 3 at Baltimore Ravens 48

Tom Gower: Derrick Mason just got crunched by two Lions defenders on a slant. Unfortunately for Jim Schwartz, Mason not only held onto the ball, both Lions defenders fell down and Mason raced the rest of the way untouched for a 62 yard touchdown.

Doug Farrar: Derrick Mason just gets popped by Detroit's Marvin White at midfield, then runs for the touchdown early in the second quarter. From his reaction after the score, he might have separated his shoulder on the hit. I know we already know this, but that is one tough dude.

Halfway through the second quarter, Kevin Smith busted off a run that I’d estimate went about 40 yards horizontally back and forth. Unfortunately, it went for -3 yards vertically.

Bill Barnwell: Horizontal yards!!!

Cincinnati Bengals 10 at Minnesota Vikings 30

Tim Gerheim: This Cincinnati-Minnesota game is borderline unwatchable.  The teams have combined for 7 penalties in the first 10 minutes of the game.  They're on pace for 42.  The Bengals have about 20 yards of offense on two series, and Brett Favre just threw a bad interception.  It's like I'm watching St. Louis-Tampa.

Bill Barnwell: Visanthe Shiancoe just headbutted Johnathan Joseph. Right in front of the ref. 

Brett Favre also just made his yearly "touchdown pass thrown three yards ahead of the line of scrimmage". What ugly football.

Quan Cosby just faked throwing a pass on a kick return. That would be fine, except for the fact that it was a forward pass. Not even a sideways one that would've been a bad lateral. Literally, like he was throwing a crossing pattern. On a kick return.

Tim Gerheim: I don't understand Quan Cosby as Cincinnati's (new?) kickoff return man.  He was a really good receiver on Texas' national championship team, but I remember him as more of a savvy counterpoint to Vince Young than a superior athlete.  That doesn't seem like a particularly good description for a kick returner.

Rob Weintraub: #3 this season--Bernard Scott (who took one back to the house vs. Pitt) is out with turf toe, and Andre Caldwell coughed one up to blow the Raider game.

Bill Barnwell: Carson Palmer looks really bad so far. He's forcing a lot of throws -- getting rushed some, sure, but he's throwing slants into double coverage and has two dropped interceptions already.

Tim Gerheim: Nice pickup by Dierdorf (which is very atypical during this game).  The Bengals were in a heavy extra-linemen package, and they motioned Dennis Roland, who's a standard-issue massive tackle, across the formation. Cedric Benson ran off tackle to that side for about 10 yards.

Vince Verhei: I think, when we process all the game charting data after the season, we'll find that the Bengals used a sixth lineman on at least half their plays this year. It's like their base set at this point.

Bill Barnwell: Great play design by the Bengals, who start Chad Ochocinco in the slot. He fakes an end-around at the snap, running into the backfield, but then turns around and heads out back where he came from on a swing route. He's wide open for an easy 20-yard touchdown or so. Great play design. 

Bengals decide to run a draw play and a screen deep inside their territory with 30 seconds left, which I always hate. Normally, nothing happens, but this time, Antoine Winfield knocks the ball out of Brian Leonard's hands with a perfect tackle, the Vikings recover, and they're about to pick up an extra three points.

Tim Gerheim: I was about to say that.  If you're going to just bleed the clock, why not just use the victory formation?  If you want to go downfield, that's one thing.  A turnover's unlikely to give good enough field position for the other team to score, but why do conservative stuff that has almost no upside?  It makes no sense to me.

Rob Weintraub: The Bengals in this situation fell into the trap so many teams do--they took a timeout to preserve time while Minnesota had the ball, forced a FG, then ran the "if it gets anything we'll hurry up draw".  It got just enough to tempt Cincy into hurrying up (instead of using a TO), and then disaster on the check down dump off.  Just kneel it out or go downfield -- the half measures kill you.

Vince Verhei: Minnesota is learning what the AFC North already knows: Cincinnati's corners are really, really good. On second-and-10 from the 12, Favre throws to Sidney Rice in the end zone, but Johnathan Joseph breaks it up and almost intercepts it. Then on third-and-10, Favre tries the left side, throwing a 7-yard comeback to Bernard Berrian, but Leon Hall closes in and makes the tackle there. Both of these were one-on-one plays without a safety in sight, and if the corners don't do their jobs, it's a touchdown. Minnesota settles for a field goal.

Tim Gerheim: They also had a similar corner pass into the end zone to Rice on their previous drive.  Joseph's coverage was beautiful.  He turned and located the ball, then turned back around and played the receiver, timing his jump along by reading Rice's eyes and jump, and breaking up the catch as the ball's coming into Rice's hands.

Doug Farrar: And as Vince said, even if you catch the ball, you may not go far –- they’re really good tacklers.

Tim Gerheim: Awesome.  The Bengals start the second half with a penalty: kickoff out of bounds.  I believe that's 14 accepted penalties (plus one set of offsetting personal fouls) through a half and a kickoff.  I expect that we'll be hearing what the record for penalties in a game is before this one's over.

Johnathan Joseph gets hurt on a tackle on Chester Taylor in the red zone, but looks fine on the sideline.  Why do you suppose Minnesota doesn't try to take advantage of the play he has to sit out to throw some kind of corner route against his backup?  Peterson gets a touchdown two plays later, but it still doesn't seem like heads-up playcalling.  (Then again, maybe I'm just a little bitter because I have Sidney Rice in my fantasy playoffs.)

Aaron Schatz: I went to Bill's house because I wanted to watch CIN-MIN on the Ticket and see if I could figure out whether DVOA was underestimating the Bengals. My answer: Not really. They are a good team, definitely better than last year, but they are not as good as Minnesota. They weren't even close to being as good as a Vikings team playing without two major players, E.J. Henderson and Percy Harvin. This game showed the difference between a leading Super Bowl contender and a good team that's probably one or two wins better than it should be. The offensive line definitely did not look good in pass protection, but as Bill said, what did you expect, they were playing the Vikings. They did look good in run blocking, Benson had six yards per carry which is pretty darn impressive against the Williams Wall. On defense, they weren't pressuring Favre much, so Minnesota could get some yardage even though it is clear that Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph have matured as cornerbacks. The young linebackers are good, but it is strange to think of a 31-year-old Dhani Jones as the starting middle linebacker of a 9-4 team. He may have the veteran wiles, but there was a swing pass where Adrian Peterson turned the corner and accelerated past Jones and Jones just got left behind.

Mike Tanier: The Bengals are a precise team that controls the ball pretty well, doesn't make many mistakes on defense, gets some plays from their punting game. There's no magic there, but in a season where the Steelers are imploding and the Browns are awful, they are doing a good job limiting mistakes, getting good play from the overall defense, and winning the games they are supposed to.

Doug Farrar: My sense of the Bengals line when I wrote about then was that they were really good with power and zone slides, but not necessarily really fluid backing up in pass protection. Some lines are just like that – if you want five dump trucks to run behind, you aren’t always going to get agility. Dallas comes to mind.
I also think Rey Maualuga has a bright future. He’s a violent tackler and looked especially good in rising up to slam Adrian Peterson back on a goal-line stop.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah. Palmer's not really the right style of quarterback to have success behind a line of that type, though. Romo is.

Rob Weintraub: Good to see a larger number of people "got" to watch Cincy play this week, so you could verify what I've been saying for weeks--the Bengals do some things well but aren't elite.  The corners are the best tandem in the league, the o-line run blocks well but struggles in pass protection (so much of which is communication, and only Bobbie Williams is starting in the same spot as last season), they run six-man lines often because it maximizes their strength, which is power football, and the front seven is very stout (usually better when Peko plays--he missed today and probably next week too).  They are penalized far too often (today only slightly more than recent weeks, unfortunately), turn it over more than they can afford to given the lack of firepower, and are feeling injury attrition.  The team has little margin for error, and needs to play from in front or they are meat.

My friends insist Palmer is injured and not telling or simply not recovered from the elbow injury, but I don't know.  I think the lack of downfield passing is more about the lack of confidence in the line to protect for five seconds, and the inability of anyone besides Ocho to get open downfield -- and he's doubled constantly.  The lack of Chris Henry's speed (and, to a lesser extent, Bernard Scott's) is killing them.  There is simply nothing outside to spread the defense. 

Basically, the 2009 Bengals are very similar to the 2008 Dolphins, sans Wildcat -- they both turned things around with simple, power football, good tackling, excellent coverage, and took advantage of divisions that turned out to be not quite as strong as first thought.  They will win the division with a home win over KC regardless of their current troubles.  I fear they will wind up getting rolled at home in the first round, much as the Fish got whacked by the superior Ravens last season.

New York Jets 26 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3

David Gardner: The announcers of the Tampa game open up with some nice irony. Just as an announcer is talking about how he had talked to Josh Freeman and how Freeman was looking to clean up his game after his interception-fest against Carolina last weekend. Then, on the first play from scrimmage, he throws an interception to David Harris.

The Bucs are looking completely lost on offense. They've had a couple of delay of games, fumbled (but recovered), threw an interception, and they came out of a TV timeout with 12 men in the huddle.

The Jets, after settling for field goals earlier in the game, just got a 33-yard touchdown. It was a beautiful job by the Jets at the line of scrimmage. They pulled a guard and the fullback led a, blocking to the right, sealing off Barber, McCoy and Barrett Ruud. Jones went untouched.

Sean McCormick: This had the looks of a 27-3 game going in, one where the Bucs wouldn't have any chance to score unless the Jets turned the ball over and gave the offense a short field, and that's exactly what it was.  The Jets were able to run on Tampa, which was no surprise.  The Jets defense was able to completely shut down the Tampa offense and to cause Josh Freeman all kinds of problems with overload blitzes on third down, which was once again no surprise.  Kellen Clemens was perhaps marginally worse than Mark Sanchez would have been in the same spot, but the quarterback position was essentially an irrelevance with the dominance the Jets maintained on both sides of the line of scrimmage--again, no real surprise.

If anything was surprising, it was that the Tampa staff didn't instruct Freeman to simply ignore whatever receiver Darrelle Revis happened to be covering, and that they didn't step in and make the point after each successive look in Revis' direction.  It was just a matter of time until Revis picked one, and he could easily have hauled in 2-3 more.  As bad as Freeman's numbers were, they really could have been worse, as he was playing with fire much of the afternoon. 

Doug Farrar: I just wonder when teams are going to stop targeting their receivers on outside deep routes against Revis when he has inside position. If there’s such a thing as an "incompletable" pass, it’s that one. Maybe their best bet is a quick timing comeback and just hope he doesn’t jump it.

Miami Dolphins 14 at Jacksonville Jaguars 10

Tom Gower: Apparently it's "go for it" week early; in addition to New England and the Jets, Miami just went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Jaguars 18. Meanwhile, Ricky Williams fumbles for the second time in 3 plays, though both go harmlessly out of bounds.

Doug Farrar: On the corresponding Miami touchdown, fullback Lousaka Polite confirms my mancrush by blocking the living crap out of Jacksonville linebacker Brian Iwuh.

I have to say, I'm really impressed with the way the Dolphins have adapted to the loss of Ronnie Brown. They have an improving young quarterback and a great power backfield, so they go with their strengths as opposed to trying to retrofit the option stuff on Williams, who clearly doesn't do that stuff nearly as well as Brown. May seem obvious, but we all know how bad teams try and force scheme fits on the wrong players. The Fins are 4-2 in their division, and the way the Pats are going ... well, I don't know.

Tom Gower: Chad Henne has completed 15 consecutive passes.  It helps when you're running the ball successfully and the other team can't really rush the passer, but he'd spray passes sometimes when he was at Michigan and he hasn't been doing that.  Full credit to Dan Henning for improving his mechanics.

Doug Farrar: I respectfully disagree, sir. Half credit to quarterbacks coach David Lee, the guy who also came up the Wildcat plan that Henning is frequently credited for.

Tom Gower: Dan Carpenter doinks a figgie, and the Jags are still only down 14-7 despite being outgained by over 200 yards and going 3&out on 4 of their 5 possessions.  I can't wait until they come back and win this game and go down in DVOA.

Tim Gerheim: Does Henning really often get credit for the Wildcat?  I thought it was relatively common knowledge among people who follow football enough to know Henning's name to give him credit that it was brought by the coach who came from Arkansas when they ran it, even if they don't know Lee's name.

Doug Farrar: I’ve heard it several times from announcing crews in the last year-and-a-half, with no mention of any other individual. I’ve also heard it the way you describe.

Tom Gower: Henne gets picked by Derek Cox-nice job of scheming, as Henne wasn't expecting the coverage he got.  Of course, it's a three-and-out, and now they're lining up to punt.

For the record, I've always heard Lee given credit for the Wildcat installation, and never Henning.  I also liked Tony Sparano's description that the Dolphins played the Wildcat to get Brown and Ricky on the field at the same time, and now that Brown's hurt and you sort of trust Henne there's no need to run the Wildcat, so they've stopped running it.  Leaving alone the "Is it really the Wildcat with just Ricky taking a direct snap?" question, that whole "adapting your offense to the players you have" concept is a pretty interesting one.

The Jags run a QB draw on fourth-and-2, but Uchi Nwaneri completely whiffed on Randy Starks and Garrard got destroyed.  They also ran a cutesy toss sweep to MJD on third down, so I'm really questioning the playcalling there.

Green Bay Packers 21 at Chicago Bears 14

Doug Farrar: Good news: With 3:30 left in the first quarter, Jay Cutler throws his most on-target pass of the season. Bad news: It was RIGHT to Charles Woodson.

Elias: After an ugly interception by Jay Cutler, Packers line up for a field goal on fourth-and-3, then switch to an offensive formation forcing Chicago to take a timeout. I wonder why teams don't strategize more to simply try to make opponents to use timeouts, even when they have no intention of running the play the appear to be showing.

Doug Farrar: I don’t know what was more fun today: hearing Terry Bradshaw try to pronounce “Devin Aromashodu” or hearing Phil Simms try to pronounce “Plantar Fasciitis”.

St. Louis Rams 7 at Tennessee Titans 47

Tom Gower: While Kyle Boller is active, Keith Null started for the Rams. They've actually had some very minor offensive success, in that at least they're not going three-and-out.  The latest drive was hurt by a personal foul penalty on a Rams offensive lineman for head-butting -- I probably don't need to mention that it was on Richie Incognito.

Doug Farrar: Chris Johnson takes it to the house on a handoff. Chris Johnson takes it to the house on a swing pass. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Tom Gower: CJ28 didn't go boom the first drive.  I guess that was respite enough at the start for the Rams D; 39-yard rush to finish the second drive and 66 yards on a dumpoff to finish off the third drive.  The nice part is that these haven't been like, say, the early TDs against the Texans where after he's 10 yards downfield it's just a matter of nobody catching him. Both these touchdowns have involved finding lanes and following his downfield blockers.  Yes, granted, it's the Rams D.

VY picks up a huge gain on a scramble, but pulls up as he goes out of bounds and goes down on the sideline.  Looks like a flare-up of the hip injury he picked up last week that had him questionable for today.  Since he went down out of bounds, Titans took a TO to get Kerry Collins some warm-up time.

Young is back from the locker room, on the sidelines wearing a coat, and not looking like he'll be coming back in the game any time soon.  Of course, now up 26-0, it's not like there's any reason for him to.  Collins is looking, well, like a QB who's been sitting on the sideline and not getting any practice time. Naturally, this will be interpreted to mean he never should've been starting in the first place, never you mind last year.

If any team needs a hot-headed offensive lineman, Richie Incognito may be available in the offseason, as he's been sitting on the bench the entire second half after picking up two idiotic personal fouls in the first half.

The Rams end the third quarter with their two longest plays of the day, and the second was four times as long as the first.  First, Samkon Gado picked up 13 on third-and-19, then Kenneth Darby got 52 on a fake punt.  After the Gado run, our heroes identified a backup to Steven Jackson as a "desperate" need for the Rams. While I recognize that's a need, I'd put "about six new defensive starters" as somewhat of a higher priority.

Washington Redskins 34 at Oakland Raiders 13

Bill Barnwell: The Raiders are isolating Darren McFadden on LaRon Landry in the passing game and McFadden's destroying him on slants and routes out of the backfield. 

San Diego Chargers 20 at Dallas Cowboys 17

Bill Barnwell: Another really fun play off the Wildcat by the Chargers that I haven't seen before. They line up Philip Rivers far wide and have Tomlinson under center. They hand off to Vincent Jackson on the end-around, who then tosses to Rivers after running right, with some slight reverse motion. That gives them the chance to have Rivers throw long against Terence Newman, who commits a long pass interference penalty. 

Tim Gerheim: Evidently, the refs are simply not going to call pass interference during this DAL-SD game.  Both sides have committed an extremely blatant one in the first half, no call on either.  That'll change both the offensive and defensive play calling.  I would keep interfering, particularly on short stuff, until you make the refs throw the flag.

Doug Farrar: I really do think the NFL flipped out after the Baltimore-Green Bay game and the refs are overreacting the other way out of policy fear. I have seen quite a bit of uncalled interference today.

Mike Tanier: Another example of how NFL refs are like high school teachers. We stop enforcing dress code for about 6 months. Then the principal yells at a meeting: no more chains in the hallways! No more flip flops! No more spaghetti straps! There's a 2-day reign of terror where anyone within a quarter mile of a dress code violation gets suspended. Then, there's a memo: "Please use discretion when writing up borderline violations." So then Lady Gaga walks down the hallways uncorrected for six weeks. You would think refs would be held to a higher standard.

Aaron Schatz: Remember how Bill wrote in Quick Reads last week that Marion Barber's numbers since he signed his contract extension are far worse than his numbers from earlier in his career? Today he managed 3.4 yards per carry against a San Diego defense that was dead last in Adjusted Line Yards. That's really not a good sign.

The Cowboys have a couple serious injuries -- I really hope DeMarcus Ware is going to be okay, and I think the guy who replaced Marc Colombo at right tackle did not look good -- but in general this didn't look like "the Cowboys are flopping in December again." It just looked like one pretty good team losing to another pretty good team by a field goal. Nothing stood out as "wow, those guys suck and/or don't give a crap anymore." So they couldn't cover Vincent Jackson -- it isn't like they're the only ones.

Philadelphia Eagles 46 at New York Giants 38

Aaron Schatz: I just want to point out that Aaron Rouse and Aaron Ross pronounce their names the same. Heh.

Tim Gerheim: I noticed that.  I wasn't paying close attention, so I was confused when Aaron Rouse said he was from wherever it was that wasn't Texas, since I knew Ross from UT and knew in the back of my head he was on the Giants.

The Giants have two starters from UNC (Hedgecock and Nicks).  Even though until Butch Davis (who produced Nicks) they've been godawful.  I like how terrible college programs regularly produce NFL players.  Like how UVA seems to have a top-10 pick every couple years (D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Chris Long lately).

It's starting to look like the Michael Vick Experiment is progessively less about Wildcat and more about regular quarterbacking with a little zone read wrinkle based primarily on the false threat of Vick running.

Aaron Schatz: Heh. We should call this "the Longhorn." After all, it's what Vince Young is doing in Tennessee.

Tim Gerheim: Makes sense.  It is kind of Texas' offense.  (Less so as McCoy has developed as a passer, but it was Young's bread and butter.)

Mike Tanier: Oh, I liked that first Eagles drive. I liked the runs. I liked the counter screen to Brent Celek for the touchdown. I even liked the Michael Vick play-action rollout pass. It's gotta be downhill from here.

A Brandon Jacobs fumble is returned for a touchdown.

Bill Barnwell: Goddamn reverse jinx. 

Mike Tanier: Reverse jinx? Oh yeah, after that Sheldon fumble recovery the Eagles are REALLY going to fall apart.
Maybe it works.

Bill Barnwell: So we'll chart that as Manning INTERCEPTED by 54-J.Trotter, laterals to 89-K.Boss. Right?

Mike Tanier: What just happened with Trotter and Boss is just ridiculous.

Tim Gerheim: This is the second game I've heard Collinsworth giving Manningham the business for not pressing his route technique to the inside.  Last time (forget which game) it was a deep sideline route where he drifted toward the edge and ran out of real estate.  This time it was an out route at the goal line.  Collinsworth wanted him to press the slant action since the corner didn't have inside help, but he just ran straight upfield, cut outside, and ran out of real estate.  Perhaps this might be a coaching point.

I don't know what's up with Hakeem Nicks.  Back to back drops on deep balls (although the second one was contested).  I remember noticing at UNC, particularly in his bowl game last year, that his hands were really outstanding, and definitely his best asset.

And then he goes and gets the long touchdown a few plays later.

Aaron Schatz: Wow, was that some bad tackling on Hakeem Nicks' second quarter touchdown. Wow, wow, wow. I'm not even sure where Quintin Mikell was aiming there. Not to let Asante Samuel off easy, of course.

Man, Brent Celek has an amazing ability to catch a ball with the defender's arm right on his chest. Defenders just seem unable to slap the ball away from him. A guy will have his hand in there and Celek just ends up with it anyway.

Mike Tanier: Samuel makes some bad tackles. That one on the touchdown was pretty darn ugly.
They just showed Brent Celek dropping a pass in pregame warmups, the ball bouncing off his face. Funny stuff.

Tim Gerheim: Mike, you must be excited that the Eagles got first and goal at the 2.  Since their short yardage work is so reliable.

David Gardner: That wrinkle in the Mike Vick playbook was nice, but it was a little slow to develop. 

Mike Tanier: Great no-call by the refs. That was real subtle what Aaron Rouse was doing to Celek. Way to call it both ways.

David Gardner: Did anyone else see after the play when Thomas was imitating Celek? Pretty funny.  

Rob Weintraub: Phenomenal punt return by DeSean, best I've seen this season.

Mike Tanier: Oh wow. DeSean Jackson's back.

Tim Gerheim: I'm pretty sure the ability to read the opportunity on that return to run in a little circle and open up the sideline is a pretty good example of football genius.  I swear some guys have it, and it's something you just can't teach.

Sean McCormick: That play Philly ran down by the goal line with Vick might have been my favorite of the season.  They lined up Vick out wide, used him as the jet sweeper, pitched him the ball and then had him suddenly reverse field and roll out left with a blocker covering him.  The pass ended up as an incompletion, but it was absolutely deadly play design.

Eli Manning fumbles on a slide that was clearly not taught to him by Joe Girardi. Chaos ensues.

Mike Tanier: I love when a random weirdo call goes the Eagles way, but is this the strangest game ever?

Doug Farrar: Hard to say. I’m still recovering from that three-hour two-minute warning.

David Gardner: Nice redemption there for Hixon, who has had a couple of fumbles tonight. The Eagles' secondary is killing itself with poor tackling. Sean Jones didn't even try to tackle Hixon until it was too late. 

Mike Tanier: Yeah, that was quite the tackling clinic
Oh, and the Eagles get it back, INSANE.

Doug Farrar: Apparently, deep coverage has been outlawed in the NFC East. The Redskins just got there a month ahead of everyone else.

Aaron Schatz: I'm gonna just take a little bit of a guess here and say this game will be one of the four chosen for "NFL Replay" this week.

David Gardner: Anyone wanna play defense? Bueller?

Mike Tanier: OK, a dude just slammed Jackson in the helmet after the play. No flag. These refs need to be fired.

Aaron Schatz: DeSean Jackson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren Sproles, Steve Smith (Carolina version)... at what point can we completely get rid of the idea that skill players can be "too small for the NFL"?

You know what, the Vick plays tonight actually seem to have a purpose. They seem better planned and better timed.

Doug Farrar: I don’t know why, but the timing still looks off whenever the Eagles try to implement any complexity into their option offense. Vick looks better now on direct snap both run and pass, but everything else looks rickety – you can see all the moving parts. I didn’t realize how great Miami’s timing was with this stuff right off the bat until I saw the Eagles do it.

Bill Barnwell: There's a difference between exciting football and good football. This is exciting football. Just not good football.

OK -- Mario Manningham might have a better case for getting his two feet in if he wasn't wearing ruby red slippers.

David Gardner: I have a little trouble seeing how Manningham is completely to blame there. Manning had him open and led him toward the sideline. Yes, he should have kept his feet in, but Manning could have helped him out there. 

Mike Tanier: Bat nutty ending to a bat nutty game.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 14 Dec 2009

258 comments, Last at 16 Mar 2012, 1:42pm by parissportif


by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 11:27am

The only people that say a player is too "small or short" are people that don't know anything about football. I doubt the real scouts look at MJD and say he's too small, when most running backs ARE under 6'. Being a tall RB can often be a disadvantage. WR's you still want height, but most of the guys that are good and 5'10 or so have lightening quickness/speed ( like Percy Harvin).

I really liked the fake punt the Jets ran. They snapped it to the up back, who stood there a second ( the coverage realized it was a fake and were starting to rush him) when he dumped the ball off over to the guy on the right wing for an easy conversion at their own 40. Rex Ryan attacked and was aggressive and multiple aspects of the game.

I'm just happy because I was 5-0 ATS this week and won a huge pile of money with SD +3, Jets -3, Packers -3, Deadskins -1, and Eagles "pick em'". Can't wait until next week.

by AnonymousA (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:06pm

Chris picking Eagles over Giants? No rooting for laundry with cash on the line, I guess.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:18pm

Putting money on a team just because you like them is stupid. You need to be able to seperate who you THINK is going to win vs who you WANT to win. I don't like the Redskins either but a reader here actually pointed out a great comment a few weeks ago. The Raiders LB's are very bad tacklers and are prone to short and screen passes ( I agree). In come the Raiders high after a Steelers win ( they were 13/14 point dogs the previous two weeks), but only 1 point dogs this week? Seems like quite a perception change in their favor So who do you think will win this game with a 1 point spread? The Raiders D-Line is a strength vs a weak Redskins O-line ( that has been playing better), but I thought the Redskins Offense with short passes had an ideal match vs weak tackling LB's. Ganthers 40 yard pass reception where he broke 3/4 tackles was the perfect example.

You can't let biases get in your way if you want to play for money. Do I like the Eagles/Redskins? No, but I like money and thought they had great chances of winning their games and they did. Do I like the Giants? Yes, and I bet on them last week when I thought they'd beat Dallas, but I faded them this week. At the point of the Giants game I was 4-0 and a positive outcome would happen either way, so I got to watch the exciting game for fun knowing I made good money either way.

by Joe T. :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:40pm

He reminds me of a Giants fan I knew who won several hundred bucks betting against them in Super Bowl 35.

by Jim Jimmy Jim (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 11:28am

First? No way...

What - no mention of Moss tanking?

Do you think he'll be in NE next year?

by Jim Jimmy Jim (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 11:29am

Crap... second.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:28pm

I think the jury will be out on Moss for a little while. Clearly he's had more difficulty getting open this season than he did the past two seasons, when the Pats had a deeper receiving corps. He'd found a way to stay motivated for quite a long time, but apparently took it personally that he was singled out for criticism for being late last Wednesday, when four players were late (and even the biggest Moss-hater would have to concede he handled it better than Adalius Thomas did).

That said, he will have to avoid any more games like yesterday's, or the Pats fans will have turned against him completely by the end of the season. As we saw with the last year of Manny Ramirez's stay in Boston, the local fans are extremely intolerant of a player giving less than full effort. And whether that's a fair criticism or not, it's one that is beginning to stick to Moss.

I could only follow the Pats' game through the snippets that Red Zone coverage gave us, but what I saw of Moss yesterday was unimpressive.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:42pm

Moss was terrible. Early in the game he was getting completely bottled up, and Brady wasn't throwing the ball well. Then two adverse things happened involving Moss, both which lead to Pats turnovers. The first was that Moss didn't square off his route where Brady expected him to, and Brady threw a pick. It's hard to tell if it was a bad throw by Brady (Moss was open underneath and Brady threw beyond him and closer to the sideline, where the DB was), or if Moss ran the wrong route (or the right route, but too casually). It didn't look like Moss thought he was the intended receiver on that pass. Then the Pats started mixing things up to try to get Moss singled up, and it worked...he caught a strike on a medium cross...and fumbled. The fumble wasn't really his fault, any more than most fumbles are (i.e. he wasn't waving the ball around or being casual), but he still killed a red zone opportunity. After that, he seemed to sag and take the game off. He was targeted a couple of other times and once, when wide open on a slant, flat out dropped what would have been an easy 9 yard gain. The one or two other times he was targeted he made no effort whatsoever, and essentially he became a non factor. After the game, the Panthers DB's commented on how Moss was taking plays off and started loafing, and they stopped paying attention to him.

I agree with the poster who said that they doubted Moss was intentionally playing poorly to stick it to Belichick. I think it's right that he simply doesn't handle adversity very well. When things went bad, he stopped caring. Brady came out and said something to that effect, when he said he was trying to encourage Moss on the sideline. I think we forget how emotional some football players can get.

However, while the fans may turn against him, I doubt he deserves it yet. If he was really dogging it and had given up on the team, there would be some animosity in the locker room. But Brady, Welker, and especially Kevin Faulk came strongly to his defense. I would expect if he was really turning into Randy the Malcontent that a team-oriented, lifetime Patriot like Faulk would not be rising so quickly and adamantly to his defense.

by Kulko :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:37pm

Well whatever it is, I think its very disturbing to see. For once I agree with PK when he says that this is a tough coaching challenge for BB. His motivational skills seem to come more from the "we against the word" angle, and I m no so sure a works for Randy very well.

Also while I am sure Sports radio Hyperbole is overdosing the message by quite a bit, I think a bit of worrying is perfectly in order in NE. While all the odds calculators still have us as 90% favs to win the division, I think they are underestimating, that the dolphins might mostly play teams with nothing left to fight for, and one loss against Jax is all it takes to lose the division, ad maybe even the WC Spot.

OTOH this team is not worse then the 2006 Pats, which were one flu epidemics away from playing and very likely winning the SB.

by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:39pm

Remember the rampant excitement and predictions of 10+ sack seasons when the Pats got Adalius Thomas? As I recall, this move was largely touted as the "best free agent signing of the year". He was supposed to fit perfectly in BB's system, as a versitle OLB with incredible size and speed. What happened?

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:31pm

Besides Ravens fans, most people knew little about Adalis Thomas before his final season with the Ravens. Then he was hyped up to high heaven. Did you hear Adalis Thomas played 9 positions on defense?

Granted in Washington you get a number of Ravens games/talk and you saw that he was a good hitter and good LB in the aggressive schemes, but 9 positions? So he lined up at CB to cover some TE that split out, or RB that split out and you want to say he played 9 positions?

Granted he's versatile and a good player etc., he was hyped up just a little bit too much. Free agents are always hyped up... Do you think the media is going to talk about how good and important to his team Johnny the free agent Linebacker is, or Johnny the mid round draft pick non free agent linebacker? Did anybody outside of Seattle talk about Leroy Hill before last year?

Adalis Thomas also benefited from the Patriot bias, where everything THEY do must be commented on as genius due to their track record. You don't want to be critical of their moves, because you have a bigger percentage chance of being wrong and looking like a fool, so if you are say Peter King, you tout their moves as genius because they have a better chance of being right.

Then throw in the fact that when Thomas signed he was older than you'd like for a player that was so new to the mainstream fan's stream of consciousness. Even though Joe the fan just heard of Thomas the prior year, he was older than I believe Joey Porter ( a household name for years) when he signed. Joe the fan might think Joey Porter was "getting up there" in age, where as Thomas was viewed as "younger" due to Joe the fan just learning about him.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 4:18pm

Besides Ravens fans, most people knew little about Adalis Thomas before his final season with the Ravens.

Uh, are you serious? Thomas was a Pro Bowler in 2003 - which generally doesn't happen without some notoreity - and was a constant highlight reel in 2005.

It's also spelled "Adalius."

Even though Joe the fan just heard of Thomas the prior year, he was older than I believe Joey Porter ( a household name for years) when he signed.

Thomas is younger than Porter by about half a year, so no. But they are close enough that the point's reasonable.

But the reason that Thomas wasn't in the media as much as Porter was should be fairly obvous. Porter played for the Steelers, who had one losing season this decade. Baltimore? Yeah, a few more. Thomas had a very strong year in 2005, but it didn't get noticed because no one cares that much about defensive players on a 6-10 team.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 4:36pm

Thomas was voted as a special teams pro bowler in 2003. Hardly would anybody name the 6th round pick with 43 tackes and 4 sacks as a stud linebacker in 2003, nice try though. In 2006 Thomas had 106 tackles and 11 sacks for a 13-3 Ravens defense and was a talk of the town as a free agent. That's when he more or less came into fans vocabulary and sports writers outside of Baltimore were writing how good/important he was.

Glad to see you back Pat.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:42pm

Thomas was voted as a special teams pro bowler in 2003. Hardly would anybody name the 6th round pick with 43 tackes and 4 sacks as a stud linebacker in 2003

Actually, I think special teams guys aren't voted on by fans, which I forgot.

But the bigger point was in 2005, Thomas had a slew of touchdown returns, played all over the field, and was mentioned all over the place (he wasn't exactly quiet in 2004, either). The next year he seemed to validate that (well, the team did), and hits free agency.

I still don't agree with the grandparent poster's point, though: after the Patriots paid a ton of money to Thomas, reactions were pretty well split down the middle. A bunch of them were "Patriots fanboy" level, but lots were "that's a lot of money to pay for a 30 year old linebacker who's only started three years."

In 2006 Thomas had 106 tackles and 11 sacks

83, actually - the "106" is the team-provided number. And in 2005 he had 84, 9 sacks, two fumble returns for a TD, and an interception return for a TD, and in 2004 he had 8 sacks. Thomas wasn't exactly some "flash in the pan" guy in 2006.

The biggest knock against him was his age, which I completely agree wasn't covered nearly enough.

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:15pm

You and I knew who Thomas was be we aren't the average fan and we're both 1 market away from Baltimore and are more exposed to the team.

Joe the Fan who watches the Rams in Missouri hardly knew who Thomas was regardless of him making the pro bowl as a special teams guy or not. If Joe the Fan did know who Thomas was, he didn't know how good he was or how he'd be the splash free agent in a few years.

by DM (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 11:42am

"Another really fun play off the Wildcat by the Chargers that I haven't seen before."

Miami ran it last season. On the Chargers.

by whatyousay :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:30pm

yup, Pennington to Cobbs, IIRC.

by Quincy :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 11:45am

The officiating in the Eagles-Giants game was just atrocious. Blowing the McNabb fumble dead before half was essentially a 13-point swing. One minute later, the Eagles were cheated out of a field goal attempt because the refs decided to call it a half early. That's in addition to what was mentioned above.

by dk240t :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 11:56am

Are you kidding? The ball sat on the ground for 10 minutes and nobody picked it up. Pick up the ball! The Giants had their chance to get that one, but for some reason, nobody picked up the ball.

by peterplaysbass (verified?) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:01pm

Thos pesky players keep stopping at the whistle. It's sad, but coaches should start instructing their players to NOT stop at the whistle. I've seen numerous examples this year where it would have benefitted a team.

by Peyton Ain't Nobody Manning (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:35pm

Something needs to be done to correct the play continues after the whistle scenario. If you can draw a 15 yard late hit for tackling a player after the whistle, there should not be live balls after the play is blown dead.

Allowing the play to continue sets a dangerous precedent. Either change wait to blow the play dead or actually make the whistle the concrete ending to a play.

by DM (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:38pm

That's a great coaching tactic if you don't mind constantly extending opponent's drives and killing your own drives because you lead the league in penalties.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 1:05pm

Or you could instruct your players to never let a play end with the ball on the ground. There's no penalty for grabbing a ball on the ground.

by Schrodinger_cat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:56pm

Actually, can't you get a delay of game penalty?

by Quincy :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:55pm

I'm not letting the players off the hook for not picking the ball up, or implying the game should have turned out differently. Just saying that those are calls the refs shouldn't be screwing up.

by JasonK :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:23pm

Eh. If the Giants had recovered that 'fumble,' it would've easily been ruled an incompletion on review. Yes, it made the officiating look bad, but it didn't affect the game a whole lot, given that the awful Giants coverage (turns out there was a reason the Pack waived Aaron Rouse) allowed Philly to convert the 3rd & 20-something that ensued.

(On the other hand, if Philly had used their second challenge there, the initial-wrong-call on Manningham's non-TD late in the game would've stood.)

The Eagles going 3 of 4 on fumble recoveries-- 4 of 5 if you count that "nobody picked it up" play-- is what decided the game. Both defenses were just awful.

by Rick (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:47pm

Generally speaking, the thing that made the game awful (in terms of how poorly both teams played) WAS the officiating.
Neither team was tackling particularly well. But you can expect that from time to time and isn't necessarily an indication of overall poor play. I think you can look at 5 or 6 plays in general and say those plays had poor tackling, which isn't really alot.

But the "sloppiness", I believe, appeared to be more a result of bad calls or no calls. Celek was mugged at the goalline, and the Eagles get a FG instead of a TD. They are robbed of a FG at the half. The Giants get a drive extended for a TD on a ticky tack touch, twice, that had no bearing on the outcome of the play. Jackson gets headbutted and there is no call.
There were other items that went in the Eagles' favor, but I'm hard pressed to remember any except the Eli fumble. However, if you looked at that play 10 times, you'd call it a fumble 9 times. He took 2 full steps AFTER his shirt was released, then stumbled. Since there was no contact, the fumble was legit.

But when you have the kind of game fraught with seemingly arbitrary and weird calls like this, the players start doing things they think they can get away with. I saw myriad holds on both sides of the ball which messed up plays, and weren't called.

I would only call it bad football because the calls and non-calls just made it look awful.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 11:47am

Regarding the question of whether DJ Williams is a dirty player, having watched almost every snap of his career, I really don't think so. Yesterday was a bit of an abberation for him. It's not like he's running around clubbing people every game... In fact, I don't remember him doing so at any other point, although, I'm sure that he has clubbed someone in the head before yesterday, as have most hard-hitting players. The hit on Addai was just brutal, I don't remember the one on Manning you're talking about, and in fact I can't remember a point where he got anywhere near Manning. As for the late hits, the one he got a personal foul for was a bunch of crap, in my opinion. He saw the ball on the ground and dove into the play, thinking it was a fumble. The other late hit, I remember saying that one was closer to a personal foul than the other, but I don't recall the exact play. Speaking from my position as a totally biased Bronco homer, I think DJ Williams is generally a very classy player who will absolutely wreck you if you give him the chance, much like Ed Reed or Steve Atwater. If I had to guess, clubbing Addai in the head was more a function of him getting angry about what he felt was a bogus personal foul. Not the smartest reaction in the world (I got called on a fake PF, so now I'll commit a real one!) but not indicative of being a dirty player overall. Thoughts from non Bronco fans? Fans of other AFC West teams in particular, as you've probably seen him more than anyone other than Bronco fans?

by Spoon :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 11:56am

As a Colts fan I completely agree. The play on which he was actually flagged was nonsense. The ball was out, and Williams was diving for it. The angle he took was clearly in the direction of the ball, not the player, and to be honest it looked like a catch right up until I saw the ref calling it off. The penalty helped more than the catch would have, so I can afford to be magnanimous, but I wish that hadn't been called.

That said, the very next play Williams slugged Clark. The punch came on the other side of Clark away from the ball, and well after the pass was incomplete. Maybe they let it slide as a make-up for the previous call, but that was far more egregious I thought, perhaps even ejectionable.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:19pm

"That said, the very next play Williams slugged Clark."
That's probably the head-clubbing that I was referring to when I said Addai. As a Bronco fan, it gets really hard to identify individual Colt playmakers... It just turns into a blue-trimmed, white wall of points.
But to your point, I was totally embarassed by that play. I've been a big fan of DJ's since he was drafted, and I just don't associate that with him.

by Marcumzilla :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:39pm

Also a Colts fan, also think the call was bogus, as was the (makeup?) no-call immediately afterwards. I also remember that one as being Addai rather than Clark.

After the 21-0 TD, I had to listen to the rest on the radio. I didn't see it, but they were vehemently complaining about a couple other of the hits by DJ. One was described as a horsecollar. From what I was hearing, it sounded like he was going overboard... but like I said, I didn't see those later ones.

by Spoon :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:50pm

As I think about, you're probably right that it was Addai, not Clark.

by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 1:37pm


Even as a Colts fan I complained about that call for a couple minutes. Then he went and earned it so order was restored I guess.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 11:48am

I've been on this for a little while now but the NFC East big 3 is now 0-9 against top 15 DVOA teams excluding games against each other. They have been outscored 149-252 in those games.

5 of those loses are to SD and Denver. SD and Denver are pretty horrid against any top 15 teams other than the NFC East (2-5 outscored 119-179).

I would be very surprised if any of the 5 teams I mentioned do anything in the playoffs.

One other related note - Dallas does not have a top 4 offence in the NFL - I don't care what DVOA says - every time they play a decent defence they can't score:

GB - 7
Den - 10
Wash - 7

And yesterday 17 points against SD at home.

by jay stokes (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:47pm

SD and Denver are pretty horrid against any top 15 teams other than the NFC East

What are you refering to?
SD's losses were Pitt (got beat badly, not top 10 anymore but probably at the time), Baltimore (a very close game they would have won with better red zone efficiency, won TOP and total yards) and Denver.

Denver beat NE, lost to Bal, Pitt. I would say the AFC West does not play the AFC North very well.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:39pm

7 games 2-5 and -60pts - that's what I'm referring to.

by Jeremiah (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 4:44pm

I would say the AFC West does not play the AFC North very well.

Well, Pittsburgh did lose to Kansas City AND Oakland...

by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 1:01pm

I dont think you could be more wrong. You are taking way too much away from the sample size. SD has played Denver twice, Giants, eagles, cowboys, steelers, ravens, and dolphins. I think the dolphins will make the top 15 following their win against jacksonville, and the steelers will drop out following their loss to the browns. SD record against those teams? 5-2. their record against non top 15 dvoa teams? 5-1. they beat denver once, giants, eagles cowboys and dolphins. Their only two losses were against Denver and the Ravens out of the top dvoa teams. If we use ur theory, san diego has a sample size of TWO GAMES!! way to eliminate every game on their schedule. So if San Diego had won the ravens game would you crown them super bowl champs at 2-0, with an undefeated season? SD is not horrid against top dvoa teams because of 1 loss to the ravens. You arent convincing anyone.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:41pm

what I see is SD, Den, Phil, Dall, and NYG having a combined record of 2-14 and a pt differential of negative 163 when they play other teams in the top 15.

by randplaty (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:16pm

Cherry picking. You remove all the games from which they played each other. You're using DVOA to try to refute DVOA. The logic doesn't work.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:42pm

that's true - I did do that and it isn't logical. I don't think you can get VOA numbers though even on premium feed.

So all I can say about SD is they lost by 10 on the road to Pitts and 5 at home to Balt. Sure it's a small sample which isn't fair. But declaring them on par with Indy because they are beating teams like Philly, NYG and Dall who can't beat any team that's anywhere close to good is crazy.

I find it really odd that when I point out that the NFC East is 0-9 with a negative pt differential of 102 that no one seems to think that's evidence that those teams probably aren't on the same level as the teams they are ranked with by DVOA.

As for SD and Den - I point them out mostly to show that the NFC East's 0-9 record as bad as it is, was built largely against two teams that aren't fairing very well against other top 15 teams.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:27pm

I can play this game, too. Let's throw in New England as well. That knocks off a win for Denver, adds in another big loss to New Orleans, Indianapolis, and only picks up a minor win over Baltimore, ending up with 2-16, and a point differential of something like -180.

Except at this point all you're really doing is saying lower-ranked teams haven't beaten higher-ranked teams, and the highest-ranked teams haven't lost. Not really surprising. Including Philly makes it look impressive, but Philly's just contributing one loss to that group - to a higher-ranked team.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:57pm

I take it you're a SD fan. When SD played Balt and Pitt the DVOA's in those game were

Balt 52.1
SD -25.8

Pitt 46.7
SD 11.1

They got their butts kicked both games. The scores flattered them.

the win against Mia 6.7% vs -7.3% DVOA - hardly impressive

by randplaty (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:12pm

San Diego is obviously a different team than they were in the beginning of the year. You're putting too much weight into early season DVOA and too little into their most recent performances.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:51pm

perhaps - teams like Pittsburgh aren't the same since Polamalu went down (did SD play them with or without him?) - teams do get better and worse as the season progresses.

Of interest SD's weighted DVOA is not that much better than their overall number 15% vs 12.3%.

I would rate SD as the 4th best team in the AFC behind Indy, NE, and Balt. I think overall they are a better team than the Bengals but I think the Bengals match up well against the Chargers. I think Cincy's corners will limit the passing game and Cinn will run very effectively against them. If I had to pick a winner I'd take Cinncinati.

by randplaty (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 8:01pm

That's a fair assessment.

by jayman4 :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 1:03pm

They got whomped in Pitt, definitely. But you need to fact check the Baltimore game:

Total Yards: 474 vs. 311 (SD listed first)
First Downs: 20 vs 22
TOP: 31:20 vs. 28:40
Had Intercepted: 2 vs. 1
No fumbles

So Baltimore had a slight edge in first downs, and slightly won the turnover battle. SD had to kick FGs in their red zone when Baltimore got TD's.

SD had FGs of 29,25,23,22. Sucky production, but they get a TD on any one of those, that is the difference in the game, and SD was in FG range at the end of the game, so could have kicked the game winner if they did not blow in it the red zone so badly. A feature that, to his credit, Norv seems have to have improved.

by jmaron :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 4:39pm

interesting - DVOA suggested the Bolts got their asses handed to them.

It does bring up a point that I've noticed about DVOA and that is red zone success and turnovers seem to the be the key to extreme DVOA scores. I would look at the stats you wrote above and say - Balt got lucky. DVOA says SD was lucky it was so close. I look at those two areas and think there is a huge amount of luck attached - DVOA is clearly giving those areas a huge weighting in it's rating.

by jayman4 :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:31pm

Hmmm. I read the DVOA methodology a little in the past and I basically view it as "how well did a play turn out vs. the NFL average of comparable plays". I am sure there is more. It sounds like they weight red zone play outcomes more than others. That makes some sense, but that assumes red zone production is sticky. Bad red zone teams stay bad red zone teams vs. it being random (sometimes red zone outcomes match the rest of the field, sometimes they are better, sometimes they are worse).

I need to look at the DVOA numbers before commenting, so apologies about your needing to "fact check". But this is making me more curious about the SD that looks pretty good when watching TV vs. the SD that is mediocre in DVOA.

by jmaron :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 5:36pm

I'm pretty sure I've read FO articles that suggest red zone performance is pretty much random.

I've always been skeptical of teams that are winning due to large turnover differential and great red zone performance when the rest of the core stats don't suggest a strong team.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 4:07pm

I would be very surprised if any of the 5 teams I mentioned do anything in the playoffs

Considering it's pretty likely that the NFC East champion will play an NFC East wild card team, I think you've got a pretty good chance of being surprised.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 4:32pm

winning a wild card game is not what I call doing anything in the playoffs.

Getting away from semantics - I think it is more likely that the playoff seedings are

3 - Arz
4 - Philly
5 - GB
6 - Dall or NYG

I expect Dall and NYG to stumble to the last spot with one of them managing a 9-7 record.

by Joe T. :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:26pm

If the seeds shake out like you predict (which I can agree with being as most probable), then the only scenario in which NFCE teams face off is in a championship game.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:01pm

Yeah, don't see that as more likely. I think Philly's got a much better shot at the 3 seed than Arizona does - Philly has a tiebreaker on common games (3-2 vs 5-0, with NYG/SF/CAR/CHI in common) and I don't think it's likely for Arizona to finish with a better conference record - Philly has Dallas remaining, but Arizona has Green Bay remaining.

I think that seeding gets very unlikely if Arizona drops the game to San Francisco tonight.

by t.d. :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 6:17am

Doesn't philly also have Denver remaining, or are you just counting that as a win already? I think the Eagles are slight favorites in the division, but it's hardly a done deal.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 6:15pm

No, but Denver's out of conference. I was just talking about Arizona vs. Philly for the #3 seed. Right now Philly's a game up on Arizona for the #3 seed, and they probably will hold all the tiebreakers. With Dallas it's much, much dicier, but it's probably still a tossup for the #3 seed even if Philly drops the Denver game and the Dallas game and Dallas takes the division.

by Spoon :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 11:52am

I had wanted to see the Colts buck history and go for 19-0, but after yesterday's game I've had a change of mind. Seeing Powers, Lacey and Bullitt on the sidelines really drove home how close to the edge the team already is. The Colts can afford to lose one of their next three games. A loss in the three games after that is unacceptable. I want those three guys healthy for the playoffs. I want Mathis and Freeney healthy for the playoffs. I want Brown, Addai and Clark healthy for the playoffs. And more than anything, I want Manning healthy for the playoffs. Anyone see him stretching in between series yesterday? I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn he's been less than 100% lately, and if true then there's simply no debate when it comes to resting players.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:31pm

If they are forced to play Garcon in the secondary, they win it all. May not be pretty, but it will happen. (He sometimes plays WR like a LB anyway)


History is on their side. They will have almost become the 03/04 Pats (I forget which one) with the stingy D despite a decimated secondary. Clutch at the end of games, a lot of anonymous players stepping up all season.

by Purds :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:32pm

I think their path for the next month is pretty clear:
1) Rest the injured, even slightly injured, and the non-replaceables this week on a short rest with a game Thursday: Mathis, Freeney, Addai, Powers, Lacey, Bullit, Manning after one series.
2) Play hard the next game. Everyone will have 10 days to the next game, and the guys above will have two weeks off. That game, the 15th of the year, is at Indy, indoors, against the Jets. A great tune-up game for the Colts offense.
3) Rest everyone week 16, outdoors at Buffalo.
4) Rest the bye week.
5) Hope to be healthy and play well in the playoffs.

In other words, don't rest for 5 weeks, and don't rest guys in drabs and drips. Give the hurting guys a bye week this one, go hard against NYJ at home, then take two weeks off to the playoffs. Don't risk anyone the short week (this one) or the outdoor week in the snow (last one), but do make a concerted effort to win against NYJ so that the whole group has one quality effort.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:48pm

Purds, Before this week's injury-fest, I had been thinking that the dribs and drabs method would work best--rest the four guys who need it most each week and play the rest. It keeps some continuity while helping the lamest recover. Preserves a chance of 16-0 and keeps the players focus sharp without necessarily wearing down the guys who are limping.

My main problem is the OL--I had no issue with keeping Manning out there full-time, so long as he has competent protection. But with all three OTs hurt, I think it's Painter's time to shine (and absorb more body blows than Rocky Balboa).

So now I think I like your plan. Rest wholesale this week, gear up 100% for NYJ at home. I'd also like to see more than a token few drives in Buffalo. Maybe a half for most starters? (unless injured)

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 11:52am

Give it a rest with your "you lamers are just spoiled by 2007" crap, Aaron.

Sure, even good teams will have close games. But the converse of that isn't true.

This year's NE team has major problems if it is a team that fancies itself going anywhere in the postseason (assuming they even make it -- if they end up tied with Miami, Miami will likely own the relevant tiebreaker and thus take the AFCE).

by RickD :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:31pm

The Pats have the easier schedule than the Dolphins.

With three weeks left, it's too early to worry about tiebreakers. If the Pats cannot win in Buffalo or beat the Jags at home, I really don't care if they make the playoffs. I'll worry about tiebreakers (if necessary) come Week 17. I suspect it won't be necessary (but that's because I think Miami will lose at Tennessee).

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 1:28pm

Sure, even good teams will have close games. But the converse of that isn't true.

Close games don't have good teams?

Bad teams don't have close games?

by Gruntled (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 1:59pm

When close games are outlawed, only outlaws will have close games. And vice versa.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:43pm

You can have my close game when you pry it from my cold, dead playbok?

by RickD :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:12pm

I think you hit on the converse with the second one.

by Ben :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 4:27pm

So, what's the contrapositive?

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:29pm

If you don't have close games, you're not a good team.

Wow, that makes the original statement sound really stupid.

by Gruntled (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 9:01pm

Just for the heck of it - attempting to put the original statement into a logical formulation (an exercise I vaguely remember), and presuming that the original poster was actually referring to WINNING close games rather than just playing close games, which is what I believe he was actually saying, the statement is something like:

The fact that a team has won some close games does not imply that the team is not good.


It is NOT true that 'if team A wins close games' then 'team A is not a good team.'

I'm also pretty sure that the OP was suggesting that the converse would be that winning close games does not necessarily make you a good team, but with mathematical logic 40 years in my rear view mirror, I no longer remember exactly what either the converse or contrapositive to a logical statement is, so I don't know if either would fit the bill. Those of you with 'advanced scientific degrees', feel free to have at it.

by Still Alive (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:27pm

I think you are more looking for training in symbolic logic. In my experience most people with advanced degrees are surprisingly poor logicians unless they work in computer science or pure math.

Anyway you are close to what he intended to say I think. It might more easily be described as the following:

Just because a team has won some close games doesn't mean they are not good.

There are some x for which x has the property of winning some close games AND x has the property of being a good team. AND There are some x for which x has the property of winning close games AND x has the property of not being a good team.

(Ex)(WCGx * GTx) * (Ex)(WCGx * ~GTx)

At least I am pretty sure that is what he intended to say. From which you can derive an infinite number of inferences about x and y, none of which are very informative.

by Gruntled (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:52pm

The 'advanced scientific degree' thing was in reference to a post on another thread here. I was really just trying to appeal to people who may have more current knowledge of formal logic than I do, and specifically was wondering what the 'converse' and 'contrapositive' of that statement would be, because I really don't remember exactly what those are, and I'm mildly curious.

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 6:52pm

The Pope says I'm not allowed to use one.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:56pm

I would argue that you're one of us who are spoiled. :-)

I agree with you...New England does have major problems. I'd rather my team has New England major problems than the Jets' major problems, or Carolina's, or Tampa Bay's, or the Bears', or the Browns', or Buffalo's, or Kansas City's, or the Rams', or, heaven forbid, Oakland's major problem.

New England is a good team with some significant weaknesses. Every year, there are bad teams, mediocre teams, a small number of good teams with weaknesses, and SOMETIMES one or at most two teams that are well balanced, good on all sides of the ball, and have no real weaknesses. We New England fans are lucky that our team has fallen into one of the latter two categories every year this decade, and indeed has fallen into the last category twice (2004 and 2007). This year we're back to rooting for a good but not great team, like in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, and arguably 2008. Get used to it...it will happen most years, if we're lucky.

The running game is actually decent. The passing game is potent, but has occasional fits, especially when teams are able to take away its best weapons (which is true of every team right not QB'd by a person named P. Manning or Brees). The run defense is pretty good, unless they're selling out to stop the pass (which is also true of every team that doesn't have a couple of guys named Williams up front). The pass defense has some pretty horrific breakdowns and there's not a lot of pass rush. And the offense struggles a bit in the red zone, partly due to curious playcalling. The Patriots, as composed, can and probably will beat any bad or mediocre team they play. The odds are against them anytime they play an elite team, but I think they have a shot at beating anyone they play. I expect them to make the playoffs, and very probably win at least one playoff game. I don't think they're Superbowl favorites. Right now, they share at least that sentiment with 29 other teams.

Would you rather be a Raiders fan? Or a Niners fan? I live in the Bay Area now, and most of my football fan friends would swap the Pats problems with the Raiders or Niners problems any day of the week.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 4:47pm

"Would you rather be a Raiders fan? Or a Niners fan? I live in the Bay Area now, and most of my football fan friends would swap the Pats problems with the Raiders or Niners problems any day of the week."

Isn't that how Moss got to the Pats in the first place?

by greybeard :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:08pm

I am a niners fan and be rather a niners fan than Pats fan. I would have liked niners to have the problems of Pats than their current problems. But they are two unrelated things. Everybody wants their team to be successful but that does not mean they would prefer to be a fan of another team when their team is not good and the other one quite successful.

Being a Pats fan would have made me miserable. All the stupidity about the genius of Belichick and talk about if Brady or Payton is better would have made me sick. I would also prefer the coaches of the teams I support be decent human beings, so no Pats for me, thank you very much.

by Sergio :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:39pm


-- Go Phins!

by MJK :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:56pm

One other thought on playoffs. A quick look on the standings gives me confidence that the Pats will at least make the playoffs.

(1) They control their own destiny to win the East.

(2) Even if they don't win out, they pretty much win every possible tiebreaker scenario over the Jets, so as long as Miami loses as many as New England does, they still win the East (barring a complete collapse and the Jets going on a tear). In other words, their magic number for Miami is 3, for the Jets it is only 2.

(3) If they don't win the East, then most likely Miami does (as Miami holds tiebreaker advantage over both New England and the Jets). In that case, the Broncos (who are tied with the Pats but have the head-to-head tiebreaker) probably win the #5 seed. The Pats would be competing for the #6 seed with Ravens and the Jets (both of whom they are a game up on and have tiebreaker advantage over), and the Jags (who they are a game up on but still have to play). So if they beat the Jaguars, they will probably make the playoffs, either as a division winner or as a wildcard.

The time to worry is if the Pats lose to the Jags, and Miami or New York look like they're winning out...

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 11:54am

So, was Moss's "performance" just a one-time FU to Belichick for Lategate, or 2+ years on are we finally seeing the "Moss checks out on yet another team" trope coming true?

by RickD :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:34pm

I don't think it's as simple as that. I think he responds poorly to criticism. He sulks and his effort level drops. Which creates a vicious cycle, since that only leads to more criticism.

I don't think he's intentionally giving up on the Pats just to screw over Belichick. But you could call it a character flaw, since he apparently doesn't handle adversity well at all.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 1:13pm

Having watched last week's game, it certainly looked to me like he was loafing on some of the routes. I suspect the latter, unfortunately.

by Purds :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:34pm

Well, at some point, he is going to get old. He's not a spring chicken, and if he's hurt -- well, Marvin Harrison declined frighteningly fast after his injury. I'm not meaning to say Moss is injured to that extent, but some of this "laziness" could be injury and the toll it takes on "older" athletes in terms of healing.

by Marcumzilla :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:47pm

I fully expected Marvin's career to be extended similarly to Galloway, where he's not as fast as he was, but still fast - especially since he's so good at avoiding the big hits.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:12pm

Yeah, it was weird how it just hit the brakes and came to a screeching halt. I suspect part of that was an unwillingness to play a role as a 3rd/possession WR. He was never a monster over the middle, though he could kill you with a 6 yard curl.

Combine that with his pricetag, his release, and the fact that nobody signed him (or even, far as I heard, called him). He COULD have extended a couple years in Indy, which wanted him and offered him a couple million, just not the $7M or so he was owed.

Just because a guy does not act like a diva in public does not mean that he does not harbor inner-diva feelings. Too much pride to accept a demotion, possibly? No idea, but I assume he could suit up today and put up a 40/400 year as somebody's 3rd option. Problem is, who wants an expensive old man for that role when they can get cheap kids willing to stick their necks out, kids who have an upside 2-3-4 years down the road. (In Indy's case, Collie, Garcon, etc).

In ten years, people will look at his career and say "injuries finally doomed him " as well as "he went out on his own terms" which is more-or-less true. But close NFL watchers will wonder why he passed up on a couple more (diminished) years and a few million bucks when he seemed to have some left in tank. It's nice that he never had one of those embarrassing, "please retire" seasons, and that he's one of the few 13 year vets who will probably walk and talk just fine in his 60s. He just won't talk all that much, but at least it'll be his choice.

by tunesmith (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:36pm

I suppose it could always be clinical depression.

by tunesmith (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:37pm

I suppose it could always be clinical depression.

by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 8:32pm

Or an obsessive/compulsive disorder which causes him to needlessly repeat his previous behavior.

by Gruntled (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 9:03pm

You can say that again.

by dk240t :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 11:55am

It seems like the Eagles have pretty consistently gotten about 5 yards on the Vick run plays. Wrinkle that in with the occasional deep pass in the midfield-type action and it can be pretty useful. Add that and other creative mis-direction plays in the red zone and goal line situations and it can be deadly. Perhaps Vick is the solution to the Eagles goal line and red zone issues.

Side note: I was getting so annoyed by the announcers talking up the Giants offense as being better than the Eagles offense last night using cumulative stats and saying that the Pick-6 and punt return were the difference. Uh, yeah, when you get 2 less possessions because of a pick-6 and a punt return TD, you end up with less total offense. Does that mean your offense was ineffective?

The Texans are doing their best to jack up DVOA well above where their win total should be, with another beatdown of a weaker team. This is clearly the best Texans team in franchise history, and 90% of sportswriters and 60% of Houston is calling for Kubiak to be fired. I just hope Bob McNair is a fan of the footballoutsiders.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:17pm

Vick's only had success the last three games or so. Before that, his plays were generally 1-2 yard rushes or incomplete passes. Most people here think Vick is only now getting back to "football shape" after his time in the klink.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:45pm

Couldn't agree more. This Texans team is clearly above average, is the youngest in the league, is a little unlucky to have the (non-terrible) record they do while playing in one of football's toughest divisions (in out-of-division play they're 5-2), and should be expected to be a playoff contender next season without much turnover in personnel. The drafting under Kubiak/Smith has been very good insofar as it is possible to judge, the offensive scheme works very well and the defense, while it could use a few more wrinkles, is a vast improvement over what we have seen in previous years. It would be sheer madness to make a change at this point.

Fortunately, McNair is a pretty patient guy. I don't think he'll make that mistake.

by DGL :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 11:55am

Mr. Tanier asks, "I kept wondering why... (the Steelers) always run from a single-back formation even though Mendenhall looks like an I-back based on his running style."

Because Bruce Arians does not believe in the fullback.

I think Arians is going to be gone at the end of the season. At which point we'll see whether Roethlisberger has really matured (reportedly, he gets along very well with Arians) or goes into a sulk.

Is Kenny Anderson ready to be an OC?

by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:27pm

"This happened a few times in the first and second quarter, and I kept wondering why they were calling these "zone-breaker" plays against a team running a lot of man. And why they were emptying the backfield against a team that likes to blitz from the outside. And why they always run from a single-back formation even though Mendenhall looks like an I-back based on his running style. And so on."

I think Arians, or someone under him, is pretty good about designing workable plays from strange, but not too strange, formations.

I also think that is his only strength as an OC.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 11:58am

I agree that Dallas's offense is overrated.

I won't disagree about SD owning the NFC East... They had 2 road games and 1 home game vs the big 3. Traveling from the west coast to play in the east coast at 1 PM is about the worst thing you could ask for, but the Chargers didn't have to play @ NY at 1, or @ Dallas at 1. It was a small help from the schedulers as playing at 1 would have maximized home field advantage and made it as hard as possible for the Chargers.

Does anybody think San Diego could beat Indianapolis in the playoffs again this year? The funny thing is that even though we have two undefeated teams, I don't think they are close to invincible. Neither Indy nor the Saints seem like "locks" to win their conference the way say the 07' Patriots seemed like it. The Vikings, San Diego, Eagles or some other team could beat one of the undefeated teams and I don't think it would be such a huge unebelievable upset.

by Spoon :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:06pm

I wonder if part of that feeling is because the Patriots already lost the Super Bowl following the 2007 season. If that team had closed out 19-0, we might be thinking "here we go again" with either the Colts or the Saints. Instead, we know from experience that even a team that goes 18-0 is beatable. After all, the Patriots played some awfully close games in 2007, narrowly pulling out victories over the Ravens, Eagles and Giants. The Colts and Saints have had even more close games, as Aaron pointed out in last week's DVOA ratings column, but I really think the Giants victory in Super Bowl XLII did more to tarnish the shine of an unblemished record than anything the Colts or Saints have done this year.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:23pm

I think the thing to remember is that sometimes good teams win by luck.

It's real easy to point out when a crappy team gets lucky and beats a bad team, but we all forget it when a good team gets lucky and beats a crappy team.

It's not that the Colts/Saints are beatable, everybody is beatable, but I don't get the feeling that if say Minnesota "upset" the Saints that it would really be a huge upset. Or if say the Eagles beat the Saints, or the Chargers beat the Colts etc. If San Diego would have beat the Patriots in 07', that WOULD be a huge upset in my mind as they were clearly the best team that year. I don't think the Saints/Colts have seperated themselves the way you'd expect say a 13-0 team to have. I don't see them like the 95' Cowboys, or the 49ers team that beat the Chargers in the super bowl etc. They have historically good records, but are they historically good? I don't think so.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:55pm

There are certainly no prohibitive favorites this year. Injuries and other manifestations of the Luck Fairy will demand their tribute before this thing is over. I hope it is not the manifestation known as "The ever-changing definition of pass interference", because that would really, really, suck.

I can see the Super Bowl now: tie game, late fourth quarter. Team A's quarterback heaves a bomb on third and long, forty yards downfield. The corner delivers a blatant arm-bar before the ball arrives, with no subsequent flag. After a punt, Team B heaves the ball deep, and inadverdant minor contact results in a flag, and Team B runs their kicker out with 10 seconds left, and he nails a forty yarder. Hooray.

by morganja :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 7:23pm

One would have to love their chances of being on the right side of that call if they were the Patriots instead of say, the 49ers.

by andrew :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:33pm

I'm not sure why it would see like a huge upset... I remember it was made to seem like a huge upset in 1998 when a 14-2 Falcons team beat a 15-1 Vikings team in the NFC Championship game.

The Vikings and Saints don't play each other this year. Their common opponents are mostly doormats and don't tell you much at all (though we'll get a bit more from this shortly):

Lions (Saints beat them at home 45-27 in week 1, Vikings beat them at home 27-13 in week 10, in Detroit 27-10 in week 2).
Rams (Saints beat them in St. Louis 28-23 in week 10, Vikings beat them 38-10 in week 5)
Panthers (Saints beat them at home in week 9, will play them in Carolina in week 17. Vikings will play them in Carolina next week (15)).

We're probably getting ahead of ourselves if we're assuming they will automatically play in the NFC championship game. I could see Arizona or Philadelphia giving either problems. Heck, Green Bay too.

by Monkey Business (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:34pm

As a Colts fan, I want nothing to do with San Diego and their freakishly huge wide receivers. That game is always a terrible matchup for us. I'm actually rooting for them to get the 2 seed so the earliest we can see them is the AFC Championship, in Indianapolis. Throw the Colts a cupcake like the Bengals, Broncos, or Ravens. Let Cincy, NE, and SD duke it out for two rounds.

The Colts and the Saints are both definitely beatable, the Saints moreso than the Colts. Yes, the Saints can drop 40+ on anyone if they play their A+ game. They're also prone to playing C+ games where bad teams will hang around and do just enough to make it close. The Colts max out at an A, A-, but never go lower than a B. The Colts will lose when attrition and resting starters finally catches up. Then again, Maybe Curtis Painter plays out of his mind for three weeks and the seeds of a QB controversy are planted.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:41pm

FWIW, I think the Chargers are a lock for the 2 seed. As soon as they beat Cincy, that'll be wrapped up. They would be 2 games ahead with 2 to go and would have the first tiebreaker. (Unless there's some way for Denver to wrestle the division away from them, but I don't think that's likely at all.)

If I were a Chargers or Colts fan, I wouldn't be worrying about the Pats, Bengals, Broncos or Dolphins at all at this point. The Ravens might be problematic, if they can get in. Or the Pats might re-find their mojo over the next few weeks. But right now, signs point towards Chargers-Colts in the AFC championship game.

And yes, that's a terrible matchup for the Colts.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:01pm

Why is this considered to be such a bad matchup? Everybody has taller receivers than Indy's DBs, so I don't buy that in particular. Yes, Rivers is good, but so is Schaub, Warner, Brady, Roethlisberger last year, Rivers last year (reg season), etc. Their Run D is very much improved as are their ST.

If you are talking Mike Scifres, well, yes nobody can match up against kicks like that, but he's having an off year per FO's stats. What is the exact threat? Two years ago in the reg season Indy was crippled by injuries, Manning threw 6 INTS, and still they lost on a shanked FG at the end. That's not a bad matchup.

In the 2007 playoffs, Indy was missing its top pass-rusher and the 2/3 pass rushers were playing on one leg each. 4-point loss. Doesn't sound like a matchup issue to me.

Last year, Colts beat, in a close game, the Merriman-less Chargers. Sounds like two pretty even teams. In the playoffs, it was a tie for Pete's sake--doesn't get much more even than that, despite the Colts starting 5 or 6 drives inside their 15 and the Chargers starting three on Indy's side of the field. That actually sounds like Indy out-played them in their own house, but the field-position game tilted the odds to SD. And in OT, the least-penalized team in the NFL racked up four penalties on the one drive in OT--that is not a matchup problem either, unless Ron Winter's crew is in the house.

Stop with the matchup problems, already. it's not a great matchup to be sure, but it's not death by any means. They're roughly even.

by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:14pm

OK, as a Colts fan, name me a team that you wouldn't rather the Colts face than the Chargers. In my mind, they are the team that Jacksonville and Houston have tried to create in order to beat the Colts. In those games you note as being nearly even, I would postulate that the Colts were on average a much better team, but yet they played about even. That's how I would define it as a bad matchup. This year's team is noticeably different, so it might be better, but they are still the team I fear most, even more than the Saints or Vikings.

by randplaty (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 8:12pm

Agreed. Every single one of those games, SD was considered the underdog and the Colts were the prohibitive favorite and yet they were all played very closely with SD winning most of the time. That's gotta be a bad matchup. To break it down further than that? I have no idea. Do you think its just a fluke that the Colts have trouble against the Chargers?

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:36am

Not true. First, SD was favored last year in the playoffs. It counts for little, but they were.

Next, look at DVOA pages from 2007-2009 for trends, and not just team overall, but component parts, like SD's ST supremacy--in 2007, they were ranked 5th and Indy 32nd. How did they kill Indy in the regular season game--2 punt returns for TDs and one missed Indy FG (among many, many other ways). Next year, the ST discrepancy was 12/24 IIRC, but this year Indy is ahead by four spots. That's a big ST turnaround. Taking ST play only, if you remove one punt return from the 2007 reg season game, or even from the 2008 playoff game, Indy wins those.

If you look at SD's run game over that time-frame, it has diminished. Theyhad a better run game than Indy last year, yet Sproles's RB DVOA ranking has diminished. (Right now, Addai is #13, LDT is #33.) If you look at their Passing D compared to the Colts Passing O, a lot of things indicate that the Colts were not "clearly better" (at least not among FO readers). But a handful of those components are now trending in favor of the Colts.

Now, in terms of overall DVOA, at the end of 2007, Indy was 5 slots ahead of SD--hardly gigantic, but yes, an Indy advantage. At the end of 2008 SD was one ahead of Indy (even smaller, but a SD advantage contrary to your assertion that the Colts were "better"). Yet today Indy has a nine-spot advantage--more significant than either of the previous two years. It might shrink by Week 17, especially if Indy shifts into neutral, but as of now, I just don't see a compelling reason to assume SD would beat Indy on a neutral field, much less in Indy.

I cannot emphasize enough how ST won it for SD last year. Indy started 5 or 6 drives inside their 15 due to Mike Scifres, and SD started three drives on Indy's side of the 50, partly due to Scifres pinning the Colts deep, and partly due to good punt returns. If someone told you ONLY THAT about a game, you'd assume SD crushed Indy, right? Instead of tied them at the last moment? For the Colts to overcome that kind of field position disparity, they'd have had to outplay the Chargers, no? Yet somehow there is this lingering impression that the Chargers have the Colts' number. I just don't get it.

by C (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 10:09am

It was a game where SD's special teams had a dominant impact ( you are exactly right), but why discount that? That's like saying Team B was dominated by Team A except for offense... or defense. Special teams are part of the game.

Mike Scifries could have been MVP of the game as far as I'm concerned, but what if Eric Weddle had an equally domiant defensive performance? Would you talk down that if it weren't for the Chargers defense... Indy outplayed them? Peyton Manning and the Colts did outplay the Chargers IMO on offense/defense, but special teams is part of the game and they were routed in that aspect.

by t.d. :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 12:08pm

I think the relevant part is that Indy was dominated on special teams, which had been a longstanding weakness for the Colts, but which they have improved upon significantly. I think it's a toss up, but I don't think the Colts should fear the Chargers.

by jayman4 :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 1:21pm

I think your analysis sounds like it makes sense: Indy was really, really bad on ST and SD was much better. And now that is better. And DVOA gap is better. I am a SD fan, and I fear any of the potential playoff teams, but do think SD has a chance against all of them.

The one thing that I would say is that there seems to be something odd with SD's performance vs. their DVOA. Perhaps it is luck, and it will all come crashing down, but the team is 10-3. Yes 5 of those games came against Oakland, KC and Cleveland, but each of those teams have beaten some decent teams. They got their ass kicked against Pitt, were clearly outplayed in one of the Denver games, but the Baltimore loss was very, very close and SD outgained Baltimore dramatically.

They have won some close games (one of the Oakland, the NYG), but in their wins against PHL and Dallas, they had leads that got narrow, but they were in control.

Anyway, maybe it is luck, or, maybe, there is something that SD does consistently that DVOA does not value but actually leads to wins. SD is very reliant and surprisingly good at the deep bomb. Not sure if DVOA caps that value or something, but very eager to see Aaron's purported analysis of both SD and Cincy: two bad DVOA teams that have good records and generally keep beating teams with higher DVOAs.

by t.d. :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 1:48pm

I think they're co-favorites in the AFC. Its a great match-up, I think either team would be a worthy Super Bowl rep

by McAnonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:58pm

If you want to excuse the Colt playoff loses because of injuries, don't forget that in the first playoff game, the Chargers played the second half without LT and then took the lead on a Billy Volek-led touchdown drive. Why? Because Rivers was also lost due to injuries. The Chargers, with injuries to their main stars, still beat the Colts in Indy. Heck, if Weddle doesn’t get called on that ticky-tacky holding penalty during Cromartie’s interception runback at the end of the half, they would have taken the lead going into the locker room. Maybe they would have won by two scores? Maybe not…

You do mention Merriman, but in last year’s game, the Chargers had also lost LT, and Gates was playing injured - and they won. A reasonably healthy Charger team should scare an Indy fan.

by Marcumzilla :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 7:08pm

They were both pretty beat up and the games could have easily went either way. I think the injuries did hurt the Colts worse - Sproles is a great backup and any serviceable QB improves if there is no pass rush, but that speculation doesn't change anything, and like everyone says... everyone deals with injuries.

That said, I fear the Chargers the most in the playoffs. No question. Maybe the Patriots next (if they play the Pats, the Pats probably have gotten things back together a bit).

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:42am

I find those lines of thinking perfectly reasonable.

FTR, I see the Chargers as the biggest challenge in the AFC and am secretly concerned about Cincy, mainly because I know so little about them. They've been off my radar for a while now....

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 10:55am

Bobman, Cincy has some talent, and is a fairly physical bunch. Their corners are very good. However, as was noted, their o-line run blocks better than it pass blocks, and Palmer's strength does not lie in his escape skills. Mr. Sombrero is much better than the other receivers, thus he can receive an inordinate amount of attention.

If Beelzebub's vendor gets his minions out to an early lead, it really would force the Bengals to try to do what they do not do well, and that likely would make it a one-sided affair. Give the Bengals a few early breaks, however, and they can become unpleasant company.

by Bobman :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:39am

Not only have the two teams ST rankings reversed, with Indy now in the lead FWIW, but Scifres' (MVP? YES!) game was probably a once-in-a-generation game. I think Aaron did some research and it came up as the second greatest punting game ever (amazing that one could be better).

So even more of my argument is based on the fact that that effort is not duplicable. It was a freakish occurrence. One or two downed inside the five is amazing enough, but that game was off the charts.

Now if Weddle has 4 INTs, he is clearly on fire and the Colts can do something about that--they can (1) run or (2) throw away from him. Draws and screens. Quasi-legal pick plays. But if a punter nails a 60-yarder and it sticks in the turf at the two, over and over again.... nothing they can do about that. (Last year I was yelling for them to rush all 11 guys for the block, since their return game was meaningless. Chargers can't block all 11! And even if they miss, Scifres might have to hurry and shank one. God I am so glad Russ Purnell is no longer their ST coach.)

by tunesmith (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:44pm

If Denver wins out and San Diego loses out, they get the division.

If Denver and San Diego both finish 11-5 (Denver winning out, San Diego losing once), Denver owns all remaining tiebreakers.

Denver also is champ if they're both 10-6 (San Diego losing out), *if* Denver beats KC and OAK, and loses to PHI.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:49pm

San Deigo would have to lose twice to finish at 11-5. But yeah, if that's the case, Denver owns all the tiebreakers, unless the Chargers lose to the Titans and Washington, at which point it would (I think) come down to Strength of Victory. Which if I'm looking at this correctly, would depend entirely on whether the Dolphins or Patriots wind up with the better record. If they wind up tied, Denver wins the tiebreaker on Strength of Schedule by virtue of the Colts having a better record than the Titans.
I like tiebreaker puzzles.

by Paul R :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 1:32pm

As another Colts fan, I'm just as relaxed during the playoffs as when the baby gets ahold of a hammer.

by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 1:46pm

I'd rather see SD get the #3 seed so they have 2 chances to lose before the AFC Championship, but I totally agree with the rest of the sentiment as a Colts fan :o)

by Dave0 :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:00pm

i am a chargers fan so i am certainly biased

i would consider it a surprise if san diego *didn't* beat indianapolis or new orleans based on their performance recently. san diego's been beating good teams by the same amount as new orleans is beating washington. they're giving up points late in games by playing soft defense but i think they play all game like they have in their first halves if they actually consider the outcome in jeopardy. indy might need to come back in the fourth quarter against alabama the way those guys have been playing overall in december

indy and new orleans are the weakest 13-0 teams i've seen since the patriots started confusing aarp eligibles for starting linebackers in 07

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:30pm

SD also hasn't been commiting penalties and had some other impressive statistics of a well coached team but of course we can't say anything nice about Norv, that goes against the script. We can only make fun of the times he calls an end around on 3rd and 5 and it doesn't work. If anybody says anything remotely nice about Norv we have to talk about how he had a losing record in Washington & Oakland and how the Chargers got worse under him after a 14-2 season.

I think media/fans are biased in favor of "yellers" like Mike Singeltary & Jack Del Rio and less in favor of more mild mannored coaches like Norv or Dungy. If you took two coaches that were identical but had different styles, fans would take the foaming at the mouth Wade Phillips over the jolly old man Phillips any day of the week. Nice guys can't be good coaches? You have to yell and scream a lot at your players to "motivate" them on the sidelines? You have to yell & complain and ride the refs all game to act like you care? Football isn't about designing plays to put your guys in position to succeed, it's about "motivation"? Can't grown men get hyped enough to do their jobs and defeat their opponents? You have to say catchy soundbytes after losses to the media to be a good coach?

I'm not saying Norv is Lombardi, or even neccesarily a good coach, but all you ever hear about him is how inept he is. The East coast doesn't follow SD. Does Norv benefit from having a talented roster? Of course he does, but he's not the first coach to benefit from having good players. If Norv there was a Norv clone of identical ability but he had an angry/jerk personality I think the media/fans would have a better perception of his abilities.

by Andrew B :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:54pm

Mild mannered Norv?

Who was caught on camera dropping a Mother F***er on the sideline while yelling at his secondary players after they gave up a big play downfield near the end of the game?

The Original Andrew

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 4:54pm

Josh McDaniels found that outburst on national TV objectionable.

by t.d. :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:33am

I think he's a poor man's Andy Reid

by ammek :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:00pm

Bizarrely none of you decided to watch Bills-Chiefs, so I'll resume the highlights for you:


by peterplaysbass (verified?) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:21pm

ha ha!

by jay stokes (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:37pm

Bills D was a big winner in my fantasy team. Bet against KC is a good strategy. Does Haley get fired after one season? He was brought in for offense, presumably, and man they look awful.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 1:15pm

It's hard to fire a coach for having nothing to work with. Not saying they won't, but I think this year's has even less offensive talent than last year's.

by ammek :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 1:50pm

Otherwise put: Gonzalez is gone.

by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 8:39pm

It wasn't Haley who staked the success of the franchise to a backup quarterback with a superstar salary. Haley deserves a chance to coach a team that is not filled with sundry mediocrities. If my name were Hunt, I would have already fired Pioli. Also, I would be completely unconcerned with what is on sale at my local grocery.

by Steve (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:04pm

@Quincy - It's not a 13 point swing if the Giants didn't get on the ball to recover it. If it stops dead, as it had, the Eagles got the ball back where McNabb was hit effectively making it was a sack. Had the Giants jumped on the ball, it would be different. But you can't fault the officiating for a lack of awareness on the defense's part. I do agree about the two second run-off at the end of the half, however.

In regards to the height of skill-position players, I feel as though knowledgeable teams have debunked this myth for the past few years. The transition to more spread-oriented offenses has led to the teams just trying to put their best athletes onto the field. The issue isn't whether or not a shorter player can succeed in the NFL anymore, it's whether or not that particular player can sustain physically in a bigger/stronger/faster league.

One final note, in a segue between the height comment towards the pending DVOA analysis, it would be interesting to see what Ray Rice's statistics would have looked like if he played longer into the game instead of resting after five plays into the second half. He was on a phenomenal pace and just gashing Detroit, who had been rumored to be enamored with him when he was coming out of the draft but told him they wouldn't take him above the third round. If Ray Rice was a part of the blatant stat-padding, which Chris Johnson stayed in the game for, I wonder to what extent his total yards could have gotten. It's better that he gets rest for a wildcard push, but there's a shot some pandering statistically could have garnered him some Pro Bowl consideration when he'll likely be sitting at home as the first alternate.

by mrh :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:43pm

Why did the Titans give CJ 28 carries yesterday? Personal records? If he was within a few yards of the season yardage mark, ok, but the Titans have a slim chance at the playoffs this year and a potential chmpionship team next year and you're giving your best offensive player touches to polish off a blowout? There is no reason to risk a special talent's health in a blowout game when there are other rbs who you can handoff to.

12 carries (starting at 6:04 in the 3rd qtr) after Titans led 26-0. 8 carries in 10 plays after they led 33-7 in the 4th qtr.

by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:47pm

Potential championship team next year? The Tennessee Titans. Right.

Of course, if it was the Pats leaving Brady in when they are way ahead(or taking him out if they were losing), there would be all manner of deranged Patriots haters all over it, so its probably good this is just the Titans we're talking about.

by Sigh (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 4:58pm

Whine, whine, whine. Yep, gotta be a Pats fan. It's unbelievable, but somehow, Pats fans are consitently the most intolerable fans in the league. We get it, there's a bias against your team. Cry me a river while you're polishing off those Super Bowl trophies. What an absolute joke.

by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:19pm

Have you ever read the comments on this site when the Pats either beat someone by a lot and don't sub for Brady, or this year when they were losing to NO by a lot and did take Brady out? Did you read the volumes of Spygate crap generated here? Yes, there is a bias against the Pats (perhaps in part here because of the perceived pro-Pats FO bias). Most of that comes from winning a bunch, and being a team in the last 9 years that won three Super Bowls,and, more often than not, beat your team, pretty much without regard to which team was yours. No sympathy required,thanks.

The original reason for the post was that it seems ridiculous to say that the Titans are have anything resembling a good shot at a championship this year. It was nice to see someone bitching about another team in the context of the stupid-- in a professional sports context -- subject of running up the score.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:27pm

"The original reason for the post was that it seems ridiculous to say that the Titans are have anything resembling a good shot at a championship this year."

First, I don't care to partake in any discussion of the Patriots, please.

Second, the initial comment was that the Titans could be a contender next year, so it would be foolish to overwork Johnson this year. I don't think this is ridiculous at all. They're coming off a 13-win season, have a dynamic running back, an above-average offensive line, and a young quarterback that has shown improvement (to the point where he's at least an average starter). If they win 11 or more games next year, would it really be a major shock?

by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:02pm

IMO, yes, without knowing their schedule, it would be shocking if they contend for more than a wild card next year or win 11 or more. CJ headed for about 330 carries, so he should survive. But all that is up to Fisher, and I don't know his history when it comes to resting guys.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:15pm

Why would it be shocking, though?

They're definitely not in worse shape than the Jaguars or Texans. They just won the division last year, so the Colts aren't infallible. Just last year, the Dolphins improved from 1-15 to 11-5, and the Ravens improved from 6-10 to 11-5. Why shouldn't the Titans be looking towards next year with optimism?

by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:29pm

I have not researched it, but the Titans could definitely be in the playoff mix, so yes, they should be optimistic, although IMO they don't finish ahead of the Colts next year even given last year's result. Still think the jury is out on Young (or I am at any rate). Don't know whether Fisher has gotten over the hump from the 0-6 start, but he probably has, so he doesn't need any style point victories. I also don't know whether he is thinking that far ahead in terms of protecting CJ, as I doubt many coaches take that following year into consideration.

And maybe the leaving in CJ has to do with the 2000 yards thing as someone observed, and it does seem silly to let the player (in a position with an average career length of about 4 years) decide those issues.

by Sigh (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:35pm

Yes, I read the Pats "hatred" that has been published here and other places. Partof it is winning, but part of it is the attitude of the Pats fans themselves. There simply isn't any other fanbase that's as whiny and arrogant. Every Pats fan I've ever actually met in person thinks there team has been "disrespected". Newsflash: your team has had more praise heaped on it than any other this decade, and you've been luckier than fans of any other team, the whining has become a joke.

As for the arrogance, your post lays it out perfectly. My "team" (As if we own our favorite teams. Uh, no, you sat on your couch and watched them, their success says nothing about you) is in the NFC, I think they've only played the Pats once this decade. My dislike of the Pats has nothing to do with their domination of my team. It's people like you that made Superbowl 42 the perfect ending to the perfect season.

by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 7:09pm

I didn't call the Pats "my team," I called them the Pats. I don't play for the team. I called your team "your team", because a lot of people identify that way with a team. I don't care if the Pats get disrespected. They are grown men getting paid a lot of money to play football. I don't care if people hate the Pats -- there is definitely Patriots Derangement Syndrome, go read post 177 -- although it is funny to watch how they go about it (people don't bitch about the Pats running up the score because they hate their fans). This decade, the Pats win. They get hated. It happens. I hated the Cowboys (talk about arrogant fan bases), Steelers, etc. when they won. I hate the Colts, because they can and do now regularly beat the team I root for. That stuff happens. If you want to justify it because you say you only really hate the fans (who sat on the couch and watched), that's fine. Not very logical, but fine.

The original comment's reference to the Pats was made because it was the only time I remember any other team being accused of anything close to running up the score (other than in response to a similar accusation about the Pats). I guess I should have resisted the temptation to point that out, but I am glad it let you get all that off your chest.

by Nathan :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 9:29pm

Even if you did refer to them as "my team", trying to score points by pointing out that you don't play for them is fucking stupid.

by anotherpatsfan :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 1:26am

I don't really believe you can "score points" here in any meaningful sense, but I'll agree that any efforts to try to score points with you would be fucking stupid.

by Nathan :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 1:32am

christ almighty dude, i was on your side... i was agreeing with you

i'm saying that his attempt to try to win some stupid semantic dumbass internet argument points by saying "as if we own our favorite teams. Uh, no, you sat on your couch and watched them, their success says nothing about you" is fucking stupid because everyone who follows sports knows that people commonly call the team they root for "us" or "we" as you pointed out...

by anotherpatsfan :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 1:37am

Ah. Ooops. Should read more carefully. Or get more sleep. Sorry.

by Nathan :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 1:39am

nah i see how you misunderstood... look its been a rough few weeks for all of us

by anotherpatsfan :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 1:45am

Yes indeed...

by Nathan :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 1:37am

the really sad thing about this entire fucking exchange is I AM ALSO A PATS FAN

by anotherpatsfan :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 1:38am

Which was what I thought and part of what I couldn't figure out...

by Marcumzilla :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:57pm

I was at the game. It completely looked like they were running up the score. I was up high and couldn't hear the announcing that well, but I wasn't hearing anything about White, Ringer, etc. At least a couple times they went for it on fourth instead of kicking the figgie.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 4:15pm

Just the way you wrote that it makes it sound like your seats were really high up there. I hope the airplanes below didn't ever block your field of vision.

by M :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:06pm

Chris Johnson wants to get to 2,000 yards. I think that's the only reason he stayed in as long as he did.

by Harris :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:07pm

I really hope everybody on the Eagles defense with the exception of Trent Cole just had a collective off night. They just looked awful. No pressure from anyone but Cole, DL getting blown off the ball and the tackling, sweet merciful Jesus, the tacking. I really thought the Eagles would need 50 points to win that game.

Hail Hydra!

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 1:54pm

Yeah, the whole game I was thinking "What the hell is going on here?" Missed tackles, bad angles, the DT's getting blown back - since when are those problems the Eagles have on consistent basis? When the Giants got the ball back on their own 10 with 30 seconds or so left in the game, I was genuinely worried about them forcing overtime.

I think a big part of the Eagles defensive struggles were related to Trotter being on the field too much. He was surprising ok in coverage (although literally any other LB in the league would've had an interception on that one he dished up to Boss), but he was getting pushed ten yards away from the ball on every rushing play. His main role last night seemed to be hopping on the top of the pile then jumping up, strutting around and pumping his fists. I think Witherspoon, Jordan, Gocong is the way to go with the linebackers - it's not an elite unit or anything, but it was embarrassing and sad to see Trotter get pushed around like that. He was getting blown up.

Also, not sure what was up with Sean Jones, but he played far worse last night than he has all season. His tackling was puzzlingly terrible at times last night and he made a slew of mental mistakes. I'm not sure he should be starting over Harris or even Demps, if the Eagles run the risk of getting that kind of performance out of him...

by Harris :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:38pm

Trot has been studying Ray Lewis.

Part of the problem with Trot was that he was lined up so deep, I suspect because his problems in coverage. Twice on the goal line he was so far away from the LOS that he was easily blocked even though he read the play correctly. As for Jones, yeesh. He's supposed to play the headhunter role to make up for his shortcomings in coverage, but that requires tackling. Like I said, this was shockingly bad play from them and I'm just going to chalk it up to a bad night. They've got winnable games at home against Denver and the 49ers before the showdown with Dallas, so hopefully they get it figured out before then.

Hail Hydra!

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:00pm

Yeah, I noticed Trot being lined up really deep, too - but even more than that, he was just getting no push. He was stood up and moved back all night. I even noticed him trying to "ole" blockers a couple times and getting run out of the play. It makes me sad to watch him demonstrate a complete inability to take on a blocker head-on and drive him back into the RB - he used to do that 10 times a game - and now he's a liability on the goal-line?!

I say let the Witherspoon, Jordan and Gocong get some time together on the field and start building a little bit of chemistry and familiarity. I feel like the Eagles blitzes aren't working as well these days because they are so dependent on the timing between the blizters and the coordination with coverage - these guys have barely been on the field together and they just need to get a feel for each other for some of the more complex blitzing schemes to work. Just let these LB's play on most downs - and bring in Tracy White (with Jordan) on 3rd and long. Let them build up some continuity. FO has proven continuity definitely matters for O-lines and i think it probably matters almost as much for the back-7 in the McDermott/Johnson blitz packages.

Jones does seem to be playing the Michael Lewis role, but I'm not sure he's even as good at it as Lewis was. I think he might just have been playing with a little bit of a letdown after battling all season to win the starting job. Not sure if using him situationally for a game or two will re-ignite the fire and focus or if some blasted continuity is just the way to go in all things (not just LB's) after such a chaotic season on defense...

by Andrew B :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:58pm

Jones sure isn't as good at Lewis at getting burned deep and drawing PI calls.

The Original Andrew

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:13pm

Be fair: he's pretty good at getting burned deep - so badly, you sometimes can't even tell if he was supposed to be the over-the-top help in bracket coverage... until you see the replay and realize "holy crap - Jones was supposed to be in coverage on that one."

by TBW (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:43pm

I don't think you can underestimate the impact of some bad luck and dumb mistakes on the Eagles D last night. The Giants first FG was after the INT/Lateral from Trotter to Boss. 99% of the time that play is an INT and the Giants get nothing, or an incomplete which would have left them a 3rd and 10 from the 27. It's fair to say that if you re-ran that sequence of events where Trotter is trying to grab that interception, most times the Giants don't end up with a FG on the drive.

Then there was the first bad drop by Nicks, which was a 3rd down play, if it wasn't for Mikell's stupid penalty that drive ends and the Nicks doesn't get the chance to redeem himself.

Without those scores it's 30-7 at halftime Birds, and the Giants probably change their game plan for the 2nd half. The Eagles would have known the Giants would be passing more, they could have blitzed more, etc.

That's not to say the tackling wasn't atrocious, but I do think those two 1st half plays really changed the tone of the game.

by E :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:54pm

or you could say that the Giants failing to intercept the McNabb near-fumble on the last drive of the half was the bad luck play that changed the tone of the game. Giants had just scored and were within 24-17, and that could have been returned for a TD or at least set up a FG to make it 24-20 at the half, with the Giants getting the ball first. Instead the Eagles pick up 3rd and 20 and start the half up 30-17, so even with 2 quick Giants' TDs the game is only a toss-up.

Luck (and dumb mistakes on D and atrocious tackling) went both ways last night.

by TBW (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:12pm

My point was about the Eagles D, and how two particular plays had a huge impact on the perception of their performance. Were it not for the Mikell penalty Nicks doesn't score a TD, one of the two long TD's by the Giants featuring endless missed tackles by the Eagles D that people are complaining about. Take away that series of Nicks drop/Mikell penalty, Nicks drop/Mikell penalty, Nicks TD/missed tackles and the people might not be so up in arms about the lack of tackling. My point was not to say that the Giants were lucky to even be in the game, or that they got all the breaks, that's obviously not true.

by Kurt :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:48pm

Well yeah, plays that feature horrendous tackling leave people up in arms about the lack of tackling.

You know which plays had a huge impact on the perception of the Eagles' defensive performance? The 72 plays in which the Giants amassed 512 yards, 27 first downs and 38 points.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:56pm

You seem to be seeing the luck in one direction.

"Then there was the first bad drop by Nicks, which was a 3rd down play, if it wasn't for Mikell's stupid penalty that drive ends and the Nicks doesn't get the chance to redeem himself."

How is this luck on the Giants part? The Eagles were the lucky one's here.

What about the fumble bouncing right into the Eagles hands for a TD return. Of the fact that Nicks dropped a sure TD when the Eagles D was cleanly beat.

The luck in that game kind of evened out. I was unimpressed on the whole by the horrid defence on both teams part.

by TBW (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 4:58pm

Given that Nicks dropped the ball on 3rd down, the Giants WERE lucky that Mikell was called for illegal contact thus keeping the drive going, so that Nicks could catch his long TD pass a few plays later.

by K (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 4:06pm

Your argument that the Eagles suffered some terrible luck and dumb mistakes that served to keep the Giants in the game is well off the mark.

1) The Giants fumbled 5 times, and lost 4. That's horrendous luck.

2) The first lost fumble of the game miraculously bounced directly into the awaiting arms of Sheldon Brown, who didn't even have to break stride to return it. 7 points.

3) The Giants FG attempt in the first quarter was indeed luck. Jeremiah Trotter dropped a sure interception.

4) Yet you continue on to say "if it wasn't for Mikell's stupid penalty..." on a drop from Hakeem Nicks that is ten times worse than Trotter's, the degrees of impossibility due to the fact that Trotter is a MLB and Hakeem Nicks is a WR. That's pure dumb luck benefiting Philadelphia, and the fact that Hakeem Nicks was able to atone for his mistake merely canceled it out.

5) To cancel out Trotter's dropped INT (which saved 3 points) was the equally egregious Michael Boley dropped INT/'forward' fumble/something that was a clear-shot-to-the-end-zone 7 points.

6) The 'forward' fumble?

7) The inordinate amount of drops

8) Mario Manningham's horrendous mistake (not luck, mistake) on the FG drive after the Trotter drop (if someone were to grant that Trotter could indeed drop an interception like that).

All in all, the game was characterized by tremendous miscues on both sides, but you've wholly underrated the impact of the Giants' bad luck and dumb mistakes in the first half. If you want to play the game of counterfactuals: subtract a fumble return TD (23-17), subtract the FG (Trotter pick; 23-14), add a Giants defensive score (Boley pick; 23-21)... you're looking at a 2 point game at halftime.

None of this addresses the absurdity that was the Eli Manning Not-a-Slide, Not-a-Tackle turnover.

Again, its all for naught, and its a pretty fruitless exercise, but if any team was demonized by Murphy's Law last night, it was the home team.

by TBW (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:06pm

My point was not that the Giants were lucky and the Eagles were not. I was simply pointing out to someone complaining about the performance of the Eagles 'D' last night that twice they had the Giants stopped in the 1st half, but because of penalties and weird bounces the Giants scored 10 points anyway. If those plays didn't happen the perception that the Eagles played an awful defensive game might be different.

The fact that Sheldon Brown scored on a fumble, and the Giants dropped an INT, or the Manning fumble have nothing to do with my point. The Eagles had two defensive stops wiped out by a stupid penalty and fluke bounce. That led to 10 more points, one of them being one of the twp long TD passes with egregious non-tackling by the Eagles. Take those away and people might not be complaining so much about the defense today.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:22pm

Also (for TBW), in the scenario you are out-lining, still has them giving up 28 points - that's really bad. Also, it's not that the Giants scored, it's how they scored: bad tackles, lack of fundamentals, stupid plays. In the Saints game, I thought "Geez, Brees is on fire, there's just nothing they can do about some of these throws." Last night, they had me screaming at the tv, "wrap him up! don't swat at the ball! don't just throw a shoulder at him! TACKLE!"

by TBW (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:39pm

I was yelling at the TV too for the crappy tackling, but the Nicks/Mikell sequence was a huge part of us focusing on the crappy tackling. If Mikell doesn't get called, Nicks drops the ball and the Giants punt. No long TD pass, no missed tackles to remember, until the other long TD pass with craptacular tackling.

Personally, I'm just glad they kept pulling Jacobs out and putting in Bradshaw. It seemed like early on Jacobs was running at will and Bradshaw couldn't do anything. Later on Bradshaw started running well too, I think they could have just run up and down the field on the Eagles last night, and I guess to some extent they did.

by K (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:56pm

But you're still off the mark.

The defensive stop was "earned" from a tremendously lucky break the Eagles caught (pun intended) by Hakeem Nicks dropping a long touchdown pass or, at the very least, a long completion (assuming Nicks is caught and tackled). The notion that a bad penalty from the Eagles put 7 points on the board for NYG is irreconcilable with the reality that an Eagles defensive back was beat soundly on the play and it required a Giants WR to luckily botch the play to even create the situation where you can bemoan the "bad mistake" of the illegal contact penalty.

If there's no drop, and its by no means a stretch to call that ball "catchable", then the 1st penalty has no relevance and the 2nd penalty never takes place!

There was no defensive stop wiped out, there was Hakeem Nicks's mistakes being canceled by other mistakes, resetting both teams at zero. If you're going to assume flawless execution from one side, you might as well assume it for the other: neither team played in a vacuum.

The Sheldon Brown TD is also completely relevant: a 7-0 game became 14-0 in the blink of an eye. First, it boosts the Eagles' defensive performance from "awful" to "pretty awful". Second, it fundamentally altered the rest of the first half: the Giants were in a 14-0 hole before the 10 minute mark in the first quarter.

The Boley dropped INT slash 'forward' fumble? Same concept: the scoreboard either ratchets up another 7 against Philly due to an offensive mistake or, with the defense on the field, the Giants are in position to score again before half and make the Eagles performance look even worse than it already was.

Eli Manning's whatever-they-called-that? Same concept: a tremendously lucky break took the Eagles defense off the field when they were staring down a short field again. A score of whatever means there, the Eagles performance looks even worse than it already was.

Both sides played putrid defense last night.

The only meaningful stops came from the offenses shooting themselves in the foot:
- McNabb throws an INT
- McNabb overthrows a streaking Reggie Brown by thismuch when he had the coverage beat by a mile
- Giants lose 3 fumbles before the last drive
- Giants opt to run an absurd draw on 3rd and 5

by TBW (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 7:57pm

First of all I never called the penalty bad luck, I said it was a "stupid" penalty as in boneheaded, a bad play by the Eagles which cost them dearly as given that Nicks had dropped the pass the Giants were going to have to punt.

"Then there was the first bad drop by Nicks, which was a 3rd down play, if it wasn't for Mikell's stupid penalty that drive ends and the Nicks doesn't get the chance to redeem himself."

Also, given that Nicks dropped 2 of 3 long passes to him last night, the evidence suggests not that the Eagles were lucky, but rather the Giants were lucky he actually caught one.

Again, how does Nicks' failure to execute constitute good luck on the Eagles' part ? Are teams that play the Rams just lucky because they Rams don't execute, or is it perhaps more accurate to say the Rams suck ?

Just to recap, on a 3rd down play Nicks dropped a ball, and the Giants got a reprieve on a foul away from the ball, giving them a first down instead of having to punt because of their failure to execute. They then converted this second chance to a TD. When you screw up, but you fate gives you a second chance and you get it right the second time, don't you consider yourself fortunate for your 2nd chance ?

"The Sheldon Brown TD is also completely relevant: a 7-0 game became 14-0 in the blink of an eye. First, it boosts the Eagles' defensive performance from "awful" to "pretty awful". Second, it fundamentally altered the rest of the first half: the Giants were in a 14-0 hole before the 10 minute mark in the first quarter."

Thank you you make my point for me. If 14-0 instead of 7-0 nothing changes a game 5 minutes into it, then 34 to 7 at halftime instead of 30-17 would have made a big difference too. Think the Eagles would cared one iota about stopping the Giants running game with that kind of lead ? I'm not saying that it SHOULD have been 34-7, nor am I denying it COULD HAVE BEEN 24-17 Giants at half. I'm saying that the 34-7 scenario isn't that far fetched, would not have included the tackle missing TD from Nicks, and would have set the Eagles D up for a better 2nd half as they could have gone blitz crazy. I guess that's really my point which is that the Eagles although they came close at times, could never put the Giants into a big enough hole where Coughlin had to throw out the game plan. If they had I don't think the Giants would have posted 38 points and we wouldn't be talking about missed tackles.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:19pm

I agree with a lot of what you're saying - except the for the fumble luck. The Giants were very lucky on the slow whistle with the recovery at the end of the half. There was clearly possession and contact as the clock flipped between 3 and 2 seconds - it should've resulted in an Eagles FG attempt. The result as it was called was of negligible as of "luck" for either team.

3 out of 4 fumbles is just exactly average for the types of fumbles in the game...

by TBW (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:31pm

1) one of the "fumble recoveries" was meaningless since it was on the kickoff return at the end of the half and the Eagles were denied a chance to capitalize on that turnover thanks to terrible officiating. Talk about lucky...

4) Why are unforced errors committed by your opposition "luck" as opposed to your opponent just sucking ? Luck is the ball bouncing right to Sheldon Brown, or off of Trotter to Boss, or the officials letting the clock run out at the end of the half. To me luck is something that neither side controls, Brown didn't will the ball to him, neither did Boss, nor did the Eagle's DB's. Nicks controlled the situation, the ball hit him in the numbers and he dropped it. That's on him, it's not luck, it's poor execution.

5) It's not that Trotter dropped the INT that was unbelievable, it was that he practically lateraled it to Boss who then ran 20 yards. If Trotter just dropped the ball the Giants are facing 3rd and 10 and if they don't convert a 40+ yard field goal. It wouldn't have been an impossible FG by any means, but it would have been a lot less certain than the XP type FG they ended up kicking.

6) See point #4

7) See point #4, but don't forget those horrendous Nicks drops were wiped out, because the Giants scored on that drive anyway, so it didn't cost the Giants anything.

8) See point #4, but don't forget Collinsworth was all over Mannignham for his lack of technique TWICE in this game for the same game, and again in the last Giants game on Sunday night. If someone repeats the same mistake over and over, maybe they just suck and it's not the other team getting lucky.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:02pm

re: 8) That is one thing I was glad to see last night: Manningham really stinks. I sorta have trouble telling all of these young Giants WR's apart (since they've all displayed a certain penchant for dropping wide open deep bombs versus the Eagles), but now I know:

Hixon is the guy who fumbles.
Nicks is the guy who drops a lot of passes.
Smith is the pretty good one.
Manningham is the one who lacks remedial WR technique.

Seriously, though, they all seem about the same skill level (above average, at a minimum) and last night I couldn't help but thinking Eli has the Peyton thing going on of "there's a level on which it doesn't matter who he's throwing it to - he's good enough to make even mediocre players seems better than they might be." I don't mean to put Eli on the same overall level as Peyton, but he's a darn good QB and he makes everyone around him look better. I think he doesn't get nearly enough credit for what he does - I think their running game benefits from having him behind center, to boot.

(in the interest of fairness, I should say this is how I tell the Eagles receivers apart:
Jackson is the over-rated showboat - DVOA agrees.
Maclin is the one whose routes cause McNabb to throw interceptions.
Avant is the one who makes one good and one great play a game then disappears.
Curtis is the guy who has slant routes bounce off his chest.
Brown is the one who loves Anime and Japanese culture.)

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 9:49pm

Thank you. Thank you so much, I'm glad somebody sees it.

"Eli has the Peyton thing going on of "there's a level on which it doesn't matter who he's throwing it to - he's good enough to make even mediocre players seems better than they might be." I don't mean to put Eli on the same overall level as Peyton, but he's a darn good QB and he makes everyone around him look better. I think he doesn't get nearly enough credit for what he does - I think their running game benefits from having him behind center, to boot."

This is EXACTLY, what I have been saying for about 4 years now, when people were still making jokes on Eli talking about how crappy he was. I am glad somebody sees EXACTLY what I'm talking about. And yes, he is in no way shape or form as good as Peyton is, but I don't think DVOA or even conventional state capture the whole picture ( like making the run game better). You said he doesn't get "credit for what he does", and he calls out the mike and puts his fingerprint on lots of aspects of the game ( protection, running, audibles etc.).

Remember when the Giants were screwed because they lost Tiki Barber and their LT? Remember when they were screwed because they lost Shockey & Plax? Remember how people wondered how they'd get any production at all from these WR's?

Right now Eli has a 23-11 TD-INT ratio, the exact same TD-INT's that Tom Brady and Kurt Warner have. Granted Brady is having an un-brady-like year, and Eli's stats are better than usual, but I'll bet you didn't think Eli and Brady have very similar stats and team records this many weeks into the season.

Yeah, usually I'm dogging quarterbacks telling you their flaws and why they are overhyped, but I really saw what you described with Eli for years and I'm glad and unbiased non-Giants fan sees it too.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 10:12pm

I think I see that in Eli because I'm an Eagles fan. He and Peyton are the only two QB's that the Eagles play where the Johnson-style blitzes backfire with any amount of frequency. It's because the Mannings are two QB's who make amazing pre-snap reads and adjustments, know how to hit the hot routes and tell their receivers where to go and when to audible into running plays and how to adjust for proper protection. He definitely has weird games where he throws head-scratching interceptions or his mechanics look all off, but i imagine the Giants will ALWAYS field a half-decent offense as long as he is their signal caller. He's one of a handful of QB's that I hate seeing the Eagles go up against (as much as they've had the Giants number recently).

by Xeynon (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:38am

I'm also an Eagles fan, so I've also seen a lot of him, and I've got to say I disagree a bit here - not that he's not a decent quarterback - he's in the "solidly above average" category and anyone who says otherwise is either biased or an idiot. I don't really fear him that much, however. He is quite adept at pre-snap reads and calling audibles, and he's also got deceptive elusiveness and excellent pocket savvy. Unlike his brother, however, he's not very accurate, and can be counted on to make two or three Favre-esque "what was he thinking?" throws into double- or triple- coverage every game, flaws which are exacerbated against a good blitzing team with a ball-hawking secondary, like the Eagles. When he has had success against them, like in last night's game, it's because his running game is working and he can work off of play action against a defense that's rushing more conservatively because it fears Jacobs and co. His performance in the first Philly-Giants game this earlier this year - hitting for a few big plays downfield, but also making a few bad mistakes, and throwing quite a high percentage of incompletions - is more typical of what he's done against the Eagles in his career.

The two quarterbacks I have absolutely no confidence in the Eagles' ability to stop are Peyton Manning and Brees, precisely because they're both smart and deadly accurate. I'm desperately hoping the Eagles manage to get the #3 seed so there'd be no chance they'd have to play the Saints (and to a lesser extent the Cardinals) until a possible NFC championship game.

by C (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 10:23am

Exactly, Eli is very good at presnap reads... pointing out the mike, getting his line into the proper pass protections, flipping run plays from weak to strong, flipping run plays to pass plays and pass plays to run plays when the odds are in his favor. Getting your guys on the same page and in a position for success before snaps is HUGE. Would you rather run a play with a 60% chance at success or 40% chance? Most people won't admit it or will overlook it but Eli does have a positive impact on his teams running game. I'm glad somebody else sees it and I'm not just a mumbling guy in a trench coat on a park bench.

I wouldn't really disagree with Xeynon's comment either. Eli AND Mcnabb are both smart quarterbacks that obviously put the time in the film room in, but neither are very accurate. If I had the choice though, I'd take a smart ( sometimes inaccurate) QB like Mcnabb or Eli over the less intelligent guy with more accuracy.

Some of Eli's Mechanics ( turning away from the rushers, back foot throws etc.) deal with avoiding hits, but you know what, he's started every Giants game since being named the starter. I do know that in his first season as a starter he had some trouble throwing passes to his LEFT side though but I don't see it as a problem now.

Some of the dumb Eli throws are on Eli, but I'd also argue some of them are his young receivers not being on the same page as him. Earlier in his career some of the dumb picks were throwing jump balls to Plax, or trying to force throws to his mouthy WR which is why I thought that in some aspects the Giants would be better off without Mouthy Shockey/Plax and would allow Eli to just throw to the open guy rather than meeting a quota to his diva pass catchers.

It's just that Eli does some things well that don't show up on convential stats, and it's no surprise to me that his teams have made the playoffs ( and won a super bowl) ever single year that he's been the starter ( even without pretty statistics). Even in some tough NFC East divisons where he made it as the 3rd playoff team, or when injuries brought guys off the street and backup DE's to start at LB against the Panthers.

I think one of the reasons why he's good against the Eagles, is because he's good at the presnap reads, seeing your blitzes, calling the right protections, and knowing what to look for that will beat those blitzes.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 8:37pm

but he was getting pushed ten yards away from the ball on every rushing play.

Most of the time I saw that it was an OL getting on Trotter, which just emphasizes how good a day they were having with the DTs.

It's also worth noting that the Giants are a very good offense to take advantage of the Eagles defense in their current state. A lot of the runs came against the Eagles when they were in nickel.

The real problem, though, were the safeties. The DTs getting beat up by offensive linemen - that stuff happens. Safeties missing tackles and taking angles which give ball carriers lanes? WTF. I have no idea what Sean Jones was thinking in that Hixon 61-yard TD (although to be fair I'm positive someone - likely Witherspoon - screwed up that blitz in the first place).

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:39pm

The DL had a lot to do with the Giants offensive line, which is really good. Snee's block of both the DT and Trotter on a TD run was just really, really good. Shoved the DT back just enough, then disengaged and shifted. Great perception of where the RB is and how long he needs to hold his block.

Mikell and Brown, however, were godawful. Brown's clearly still tentative from his hamstring, but who knows WTF went on with Mikell. Jones was pretty bad too, but that was easily the worst game I've seen from Mikell, so he gets called out hard that game.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 9:57pm

Yeah, Mikell was terrible, but he has a history of playing well, so I'm much more willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as far as it being a single game anamoly. With Jones, there's certainly not a long history of him being good, so I'm much more worried about his performance. Mikell has proven he's above average and, at times, excellent - he stank for one game, but his problems could be blamed on the struggles of the people immediately surrounding him: Brown, Jones and Trotter (and Asante the gambler/worthless tackler). It seemed like he was over-reaching at times (or being hung out to dry by faulty scheme - he shouldn't have had single coverage deep on a speed guy as frequently as he did).

I'm also troubled by the DT's looking bad - as you said, it happens... but Patterson and Bunkley have been as good as any duo in the league this year (and the reason the Eagles LB injuries haven't spelled total disaster), so it was a little surprising to see them mandhandled like that. Are either of them injured?

I think you and I will just have to agree to disagree on the usefulness of Trotter (although, my points about him and Gocong in coverage have been proven over and over again this season, most notably in their losses to SD and OAK). Trotter undoubtedly had tough match-ups yesterday, but that doesn't change the fact that he was got pushed around an incredible amount and did nothing of note other than dish up a certain interception to Boss.

by Xeynon (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:47am

I'm also troubled by the DT's looking bad - as you said, it happens... but Patterson and Bunkley have been as good as any duo in the league this year (and the reason the Eagles LB injuries haven't spelled total disaster), so it was a little surprising to see them mandhandled like that. Are either of them injured?

I'm not sure what happened on those short yardage plays on which the DTs just got pushed back, but the Giants were having a lot of success running inside for schematic reasons. They ran the exact same trap play about four or five times, pulling Seubert around from LG to block the DE and sending Hedgecock through the B gap to block the LB with Jacobs following, and each time it went for good yardage. That play usually works best if the DL is cheating toward the backside of the play - I wonder if the Giants noticed such a tendency in the Eagles' D line on film?

In any case, Patterson and Bunkley are proven commodities as solid run-stoppers, so I wouldn't let one bad game concern me too much, particularly against a good running team like the Giants.

by ammek :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:09pm

Bit of a nostalgia fest this week during the afternoon games: rematches of the first (Raiders-Skins) and best (Titans-Rams) superbowls that I watched.

Let's just say, I should have stuck with the memories.

by Podge (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:34pm

If you want uncalled pass interference check out Keith Null's first pick. Amazing. Titan's D-linemen gets blocked, breaks off it and spins round, notices Steven Jackson right in front of him kind of just standing there, so he instinctively tackles him. About half a second later Null's pass to Jackson whizzes over his now prostrate form and straight to Keith Bulluck.

I'd be more annoyed if it actually ever looked like making a difference to the game of course.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:43pm

I remember that play. The hit could have been justified since Jackson was within 5 yards of scrimmage - that is, if it happened before the ball was thrown. I figured at the time that the ball was thrown five yards away from Jackson so it would have been uncatchable for him.

In any case, as you say, it didn't make a difference in the outcome.

by TIm-Bob (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 9:34pm

Refs were horrible all over the place from what I could tell. The only game I watched in its entirety yesterday was Eagles-Giants, but there were just some horrendous calls and non calls, including a blatant PI in the end zone and no fewer then 4 five-second, obvious holds (right in front of the ref, no less) on one Trent Cole (I'm not arguing that the refs were biased, but I'm a Philly fan. I just didn't pay attention to line play so much when the Gints were on defense).

by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:39pm

When I first checked the stats of the Rams - Titans game on my phone, I thought Null's name was a mistake, like the people at ESPN mobile had forgotten to enter the information for the Rams' QB.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 1:10pm

I was surprised it's even possible to be named "Null". I've always joked the worst possible name to give a child was "Void"; think about it, he could never receive a paycheck, or get a valid driver's license, or open a bank account - they'd immediately be voided. Of course, his birth certificate would also be void, and thus he'd be off the grid, so maybe it's not so bad...

I guess writing "Null" on a legal document doesn't nullify it, in the sense that writing "Void" does, eh?

by Dave0 :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:09pm

this has nothing to do with football

when i was a kid i had this dumb encyclopedia brown-brand book about weird stuff, and it had the story of a guy who got the personalized license place 'none' and then got hit with hundreds of dollars of parking tickets... when cars without license plated were getting ticketed, some of the parking cops were writing 'none' for the car's license plate if it didn't have one

do you suppose 'null' or 'void' would get that kind of response? if i were a cop i'd be more likely to write one of those, but i don't really have cop temperament.

by Travis :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:19pm

I had the same book.

The same thing has also happened to people with NOTAG, NO PLATE, MISSING, and XXXXXXX license plates.

by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:12pm

When Null lines up in formation, is his team in a "null set?"

by TomC :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 4:46pm

[golf clap]

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 1:28pm

I'm definitely on the "figure out where Revis is and THROW THE OTHER WAY" bandwagon. Seriously, Josh Freeman, you looked good enough for a few weeks to give me hope for the future. Repeatedly throwing at one of the best CBs in the league is not way to build your confidence.

by Marcumzilla :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 4:00pm

You weren't the only one.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:42pm

Great point about the importance of having a qb's characteristics be in sync with the offensive line's characteristics. Of course, a GM can get lazy with that approach, and get too reliant on a qb's escape skills, and thus have the wheels come off. See the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Vikings are a middle of the pack defense when Antione Winfield is off the field. With him, they become top 10, and it is unusual for a cover-2 corner to have that kind of impact. Ronde Barber in his prime comes to mind, and not too many others.

It was good for Vikings fans to again see the offensive line have some success with tough-guy football against a pretty physical defensive front. Percy Harvin's recurring migraine problems are a source of concern. I've had family members with the affliction, and they can be damned difficult to find an effective treatment for.

by peachy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:50pm

Harvin missed at least one game in college with migraines - I want to say South Carolina '07 - and it's possible they contributed to some of his other absences. I believe the problem was present in high school as well, so there might not be a solution on the horizon. A terrible bummer - as someone who gets occasional migraines, I have nothing but sympathy for other sufferers.

by 00001010101 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 10:15pm

Oddly enough, considering that Harvin received so much flak for his marijuana test before the draft, that is one drug that is known to help migraines. I recently had a friend call me and tell me he was almost totally blind that day because of a migraine, one joint later and his head was fine.

by TomC :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 12:04am

That's a very interesting point. In the right state, Harvin could almost certainly get permission to purchase medical marijuana. But I imagine there's no way the league would ever give him permission to use it. Why the league cares about recreational/medical (non-performance-enhancing) drug use is beyond me, but that's another conversation.

by peachy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 6:31am

Now there's a fascinating hypothetical - would any pro league give a therapeutic use exemption for legal medical marijuana? I doubt it - they'd instantly be over-run with applications like MLB with ADHD meds - but if the player had a marijuana-treatable condition, was fully backed by his team, and everyone involved was a solid citizen... it wouldn't be inconceivable.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 4:52pm

DVOA seems to support your Winfield comment

Minn DVOA with Winfield in the lineup

their defensive DVOA with him in the lineup for 5 and half games -6.0
with him out of the lineup -2.1

I suspect yesterday's game will improve the number for games he's played in. In DVOA ranking terms that's the difference between 11th ranking and 7th ranking.

by widderslainte :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:51pm

Please Jebus, someone make the Falcons stop putting John Abraham in coverage.

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:53pm

I just want to say that "Null" is a very appropriate name for a Rams' QB.

by Keasley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:58pm

I think it's ironic that the most notable Rams yesterday were 'Null' and 'Incognito'.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:06pm


by Bobman :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:16pm

No, he's their team doctor. Used to play first base, as I recall....

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:43pm

No, "No" is the team doctor. He's a wiseman but those metal hands hinder him a bit.

"Unfortunately I overestimated you, you are just a stupid {INSERT TEAM NAME} fan..."

Try it. Very apt on most mainstream comment threads.

by bubqr :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:55pm

"And why they always run from a single-back formation even though Mendenhall looks like an I-back based on his running style."

what makes a RB "more of an I-back" ? I always thought vision was the biggest factor, but I never watched a RB and thought : "He should clearly be unning from the I".

I thought that Mendenhall ran more from a singleback set in college but I might A. Mistake him with Stewart B. Just be wrong.

Rivers was able to step in his throws all night yesterday, where was J.Ratliff ?

by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 9:11pm

Legitimate point. This was not one of Tanier's more rational comments. There is absolutely no such thing as an "I-back" style vs. a "pro-set style" vs. a "single-back set" style. I suppose some backs are better than others at following a fullback lead, but let's not get carried away. Clearly some formations are more running-friendly than others, but there is not a good running back in history who ran better with less blocking than with more.

On the other hand, the same game thread not only included no Hosannas for Brady Quinn, but even suggested that his Second Coming status is not cemented in stone. This represents progress.

by rjsen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:55pm

Not to be picky, but the Eagles-Giants score was 45-38.

by Bnonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 12:58pm

Just once, I'd like to see a week go by where Barnwell doesn't mention Madden.

by Phil O'sopher (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 1:08pm

Cribbs is good.

Sportscenter didn't even show his 47 yrd punt return either. He would be getting a lot of national attention if the Browns were not a joke of a team. Quinn didn't ruin the game, which is expected of a Browns QB, thus the "He did well" quotes from announcers. He will be back-up next year most likely (if they actually get a signal caller with NFL level talent.

Browns have really had a lot of scrap heap players step up and do quite well recently. Much better than sucky draft picks and FA siginings. Will be fun to watch them in the future. Hopefully, they maintain that level of play.

Furrey has been at safety in dime and some nickel packages all year. He is playing better at safety than at WR. Injuries and etc have depleted our depth (if you can call the Browns' roster as having depth) and he has been forced into duty much more than usual.

If the Browns hire Ruskell to be GM, I think I will move to a nice city with some warm weather and concentrate on some college football. Those rumors are going around here and are getting louder and louder. Guy hasn't exactly done anything to make me want to hire him or even interview him. I hear Matty Millen is an experienced GM too, maybe we should see if he is interested in our "rebuilding" project also. Seattle and Detroit fans comment, please. Freaking Browns!?!?!?!? WTF.

Saints and Colts are exciting and Vikings and Favare have been playing well. Rest of teams all seem middle of the pack. GB, Cincy, Den, Phi, and etc are all above many, but not top teir. Rest range from up and coming to downright mediocre to Tampa/St Loius/Cleveland level

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 1:52pm

Mason Crosby's struggles from the right hash mark are now elevated from "odd" to "disconcerting". Clearly there is a technical glitch causing a placekicker to continually push kicks to the right from that position as opposed to the standard gentle hook so common to most kickers.

by tgt2 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:24pm

Hauska couldn't hit from the left hash this year. They all missed left by a yard. Then he got cut.

by nat :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:13pm

Oh, dear. And there’s the Patriots, capping off a perfect week by failing on another fourth-and-short early in the game.

And it was a two TE set. So that brought nine defenders close to the line. The handoff went to the up back. The result? All nine defenders participated in the tackle, giving no hope of a hole or of pushing the pile. I hate, hate, hate that formation on fourth down. It's slightly better if you hand off to the tailback, but why invite nine defenders to the party?

by Geo B :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:19pm

Farrior has looked slow most of the season. He was failing in coverage on the 4th and 5 that Ray Rice converted, and the 4th and 10 that Cincinnati converted. Timmons has been covering the TE and Farrior is getting beat by the RB out of the backfield. Time to put Fox in on the 3rd and 4th down packages.

Ike Taylor has also looked lost. The safety play has been decent but are making mistakes in the fourth quarter, supposedly they are not getting the defensive calls they need from the sideline.

They were stringing out the Wildcat but never put the man down at the line. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist suggests the age of the defense has caught up to them and they are just worn out.

The O-Line has looked better for several weeks, but this week no one made any change in calls to handle the blitzes Cleveland was bringing. Where were the tosses, the draws, wideout screens. That part I do put on the coaching staff, they seem to want to run the "Steelers offense" whether it's working or not.

The offense has consistently gained yardage but not points, with turnovers in the red zone directly leading to losses against KC and others.

Mendenhall did not have holes to run in this week. Where have the trap plays that have the left guard pulling disappeared to?


Steeler fan trapped in Houston!
Six Time SB Champs! ;-)

by tgt2 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:21pm

Announcing highlight of the weekend:

Terry Bradshaw doing halftime highlights. He's doing like 8 games in 50 seconds, but includes a 5 second shot of Favre playing catch and the voiceover, "Brett Favre warming up. You gotta love it."

It's not Favre's fault, but this is why people hate him.

by Nathan :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:46pm

Ty Warren just threw Adalius under the bus and Belichick came out guns blazing on Carolina... From PFT:

Asked about Carolina's assertion that Moss gave up during the game, Belichick said, "That's a lot of conversation from a team that just lost another game." ... "I have a lot of respect for Randy," Belichick said. "I think he's one of our best players and I think if you watch other teams defend him and watch other teams play against him, they think the same way -- other than these two guys from Carolina after they lost another game. I guess they don't think that way. They haven't won a lot of games now."

Things are getting interesting in New England! I still think this could galvanize the locker room once Randy soothes his hurt feelings.

Any other Pats fans want to go in on a billboard that says "WE CAN'T QUIT YOU, RANDY"?

by Nathan :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:48pm

PS I do think it's kind of fucked up that Carolina threw media chum in the water like that regarding Moss... especially after a loss. Payback for the SB?

by Purds :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 2:59pm

Of course, maybe the DB's were simply telling what they think is the truth. The line of reasoning in their heads? "Our team sucks, we can't stop Jake from throwing 5 interceptions a game, so let's at least do our part, and do it well. And, if what happens when we're out there on the field (we hold NE to 20 points, but more importantly Moss to one reception) fits our story, we're going to talk about that, because in this miserable, crappy season, that is a victory for us DB's."

I'm not saying I agree with them, either in what happened to Moss or if they should be talking like this, but I can easily see it being their thought process.

by Purds :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:03pm

By the way, that type of talking by the DB's after the game? I think that's what your agent should say about you (you're a physical presence) not what you should be talking about.

by Nathan :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:07pm

Yeah, I mean the strategy of doubling Moss in the 1st half, figuring he'd quit in the 2nd and you could move the safety around is pretty clever... but still why would you announce it to the world all gleefully afterwards when you still couldn't stop the Pats in the 2nd half (they actually were driving pretty methodically).

Not to mention that just seems like it would be frowned down on, player to player. It's a little bit like if someone beat the Giants and started mouthing off about them missing Plax or something. Just feeding the mainstream sports media more material to produce their epic cannibalizing bullshit off of.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:20pm

I wish it had been a division foe saying that after the first game, just to see what happens in game 2.

You used to hear NE's defensive guys talk about Manning that way, "we know his audibles, we can tell what he's doing, we know how to confuse him," etc but they would not say it for 11 months before a big game, just right afterwards. Spygate jokes aside, it just seemed like crowing because of a lucky coincidence. I mean, Team A can crack his code but the other 30 cannot? Not too likely. Maybe they just believed the media hype about being his kryptonite.

Interesting that BB said so much about it. I'd have guessed he'd say something more along the lines of "right now I am preparing for the next team. I don't know what he said and have no comment." Defending Randy was one thing, and it's what a good teammate/coach does, but kicking Carolina in the nuts by saying "well, they haven't won a whole lot of games..." so how credible are they? seemed a bit excessive. His players probably loved it, but it seems out of character to me.

by E :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:46pm

I think you're right that his players - especially Moss - probably loved it. And if BB thinks that there's any truth at all to Moss dogging it (or Adalius Thomas or others needing motivation), calling out the Panthers is a pretty shrewd motivational tactic with no downside. So in a sense, it's totally in character.

by Nathan :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:52pm

I forgot this part of the quote:

“You know how I feel about stats,” Belichick said. “Stats are for losers. The final score is for winners.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 4:22pm

and yet Aaron Brooks is still laughing his way to the bank.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:17pm

On the Springs covering Smith touchdown. Springs said after the game that they were supposed to have double coverage on Smith. He was supposed to play outside technique, and he thought Brandon Meriweather would have Smith inside. He even "called out" Meriweather in the interview, but seemed to be joking (as opposed to throwing Meriweather under the bus). Of course, Meriweather was NOT covering the inside of Smith, because he jumped a route on another receiver who ran a shallower cross.

Either Meriweather messed up his assignment, or Springs misunderstood the coverage. It's possible that Meriweather had to cover the underneath guy because the LB's bit on the playaction fake...

by John (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:31pm

I never thought I'd see the day when Aaron Schatz was more myopic about the Patriots than Bill Simmons, but here we are. Is Schatz REALLY comparing the Patriots' close home win over a bad Carolina team to the string of close Saints wins? Yeah, good comparison, except for the fact that the Saints are undefeated, and the Patriots have yet to win a true road game. Other than that, it's exactly the same. The Patriots have major, major problems, and no amount of favorable DVOA is going to make that go away. I still expect the Patriots to win that division, but I would be shocked if they even make it to the AFC Championship Game, let alone win it all.

by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 3:58pm

Um, let's read it again. Slowly, for you. The answer to your comparison question is no, as you did not come close to getting the point.

After you read it and think about it, you may come to realize that he is comparing fan reaction to wins, i.e., comparing Patriots fans (many of whom look at yesterday's win in a glass-half-empty manner, and I think he underestimates the potential accuracy of that viewpoint) to Saints fans, as he thinks (without regard to whether he has a basis for doing so) they are pretty happy to be undefeated, even after the close games. I don't think you can look at this paragraph and legitimately think he is comparing the Pats to the Saints or what is going on in their seasons. He may think the Pats have lost close games which they could have won, and may think the Saints have won close games they could have lost, but in no way is he comparing the play of the Pats and the Saints by this comment:

"Driving home from Bill's house, I flipped back and forth between EEI and 98.5, the two sports stations in town. Honestly, you would have thought the Pats got crushed by three touchdowns. Pats fans have gone into full-on pessimistic pre-2004 Red Sox mode. Sometimes, you don't stomp on your opponent, you just have an imperfect win. The Saints fans don't mind, I'm sure. Were they calling into the radio stations in New Orleans complaining something was wrong because they only beat Atlanta by three? It's like 2007 spoiled people around here so much that they never expect their team to lose another game for years to come."

by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 4:05pm

And to Aaron's underestimation of Pats fan angst about this team or the reasons for such angst, there is a definite vibe that the window is closing, certainly for this year, and maybe for a while. Without regard to DVOA (and their defensive DVOA keeps getting worse), they seem to be missing some key ingredients. In contract, and without knowing anything about Saints' cap/FAs etc., the Saints' fans might the thinking their window is open for a while.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 4:24pm

Is there any reason to think the window isn't closing? Recent drafts have been sucky, so not much in the pipeline. Odds are that they'll lose Wilfork to free agency. And then if there's a lockout in 2011 that'll be another year of Brady's career wasted.

Whining a bit? I suppose so. But after almost winning the 2006 AFCCG with a defense that was literally puking and on the run(s), and then coming within a miraculous catch of winning the SB in 2007, it's frustrating to see them playing so badly on both sides of the ball this year, seeing them play worse in the second halves of games, and seeing them look worse as the season goes on instead of better. Sure, they're not entitled to win anything. But after the past two Brady-led years, it's a disappointment to see how they are playing, and the nature of the problems doesn't point to anything easily fixable.

by John (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:14pm

"It's frustrating to see them playing so badly on both sides of the ball this year"

Pats fans, this is why everyone hates you. The Pats were top 5 in offensive DVOA heading into the week. Their offensive is very good, nearly every other NFL fan wishes their team could have that kind of offense. Just wait a few more years until Brady is gone, you'll see the kind of offense most of the league has to deal with. Holding the offense up to 2007 Pats standards and complaining when they aren't at that level is absolutely absurd.

by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:33pm

Why "everyone" hates Pats fans is no more relevant to this discussion than why a lot of Pats fans hate douchebags that have Patriots Derangement Syndrome.

Having said that, I agree to the extent that based on DVOA or otherwise, it is not the offense that's the problem this year, as you can definitely win in the NFL with this year's offense.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:45pm

I kind of agree with John here, but he had a typo. He said "Pats fans", when I think he meant "PatsFan". Like the Outsiders, we Pats fans are not a hive mind. :-)

I think PatsFan's pessimism is a little unwarranted. They are not playing horribly on both sides of the ball this year. Leaving DVOA out of it for now, just look at some simple scoring. The league average points per game this year, so far, is 21.4. The median is 21.3. The Patriots have exceeded the league average 8 out of 13 times this year, and given up less than the league average 9 out of 13 times. Just a cursory look implies that they are better than league average on at least one, and probably both sides. They currently control their own destiny with regard to making the playoffs, which is a better situation to be in than 26 other teams in the league.

Again leaving DVOA out of it and just going on my subjective impression, they have average special teams, an above average passing game, an average (or maybe a hair better) running game, a better-than-average rushing defense, and a below-average pass defense. Their biggest weakness is the inconsistency of their passing defense...some weeks it does OK, and other weeks it gets torched. But when it does OK, the rest of the team is good enough to win. When it doesn't, the rest of the team is still good enough to win.

It's always frustrating to see a good team you like decline, but it is inevitable. It was frustrating in 2002 when they failed to defend the franchise's first SB. It was frustrating in 2005-2006 when the team, while good, was clearly not as good as the 2004 version had been. It is frustrating now realizing that 2007 was a once in a lifetime great team to be following...the Pats will probably never be that good again in our lifetime. But it doesn't mean that the team is bad, or that their "window is closing".

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:01pm

I think PatsFan's pessimism is pretty representative of fans of all teams, but on more irrational mediums (read: not the FO comment boards).

After the Bears looked bad in beating the Rams last week, radio callers kept lamenting that the Bears were "terrible". The radio hosts, to their credit, kept stressing that no, the Bears are just "bad", that if you really want to see a "terrible" team, look at the Rams.

Of course, this works the other way, too. Irrational fans also see their teams as "awesome" or "would be undefeated if the refs didn't hate us" or other variations of that theme.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:29pm

When has NE's passing defense "looked good" (aside from games against Kerry Collins and a collapsing Mark Sanchez)? "Serviceable" at times, sure. But "good"?

As (I think) you yourself noted in one of last week's threads, they don't have much at WR beyond Welker and Moss, and if a team decides to expend the energy to take Welker out of the game by eliminating his YAC even if they don't stop him from catching balls, the Pats O goes into major stutter mode. That's a pretty big vulnerability.

I'll concede that Maroney has surprised me the past few weeks by actually coming to play and showing some decisiveness in his running for the first time since late 2007.

I suspect "better than average rushing defense" is a phantom. When you can torch the Pats passing D, why run?

Overall stats like scoring average or even per-game stats like per-game DVOA also gloss over the Pats season-long major second-half problems. That's certainly one reason why I believe DVOA overstates the quality of the NE offense this year.

As for the person who said "Well, just wait until Brady's gone and then you'll see what a typical offense is" -- you're making my point for me. I sure as hell know that and that's one of the prime frustration drivers. Brady is 32. He has what -- 5 or 6 good years left at best? Pats are going nowhere in the playoffs this year -- cross off one of Brady's remaining years. We have quite a non-trivial chance of no football in 2011 -- cross off another of Brady's remaining years. Pats probably lose Wilfork in the coming offseason, so the shaky D takes another hit.

by Nathan :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 7:04pm

In a couple years they'll be good. They're pretty young. Merriweather is very good but prone to some mistakes still. Pat Chung could be very good in a few years... right now Willhite / Butler are young but seem talented. Willhite seems to be able to run with anyone but cannot defend the actual pass itself... he's got to figure that out eventually, right? Right?

I think you're right though, what the Dolphins did by simply being able to stop Welker within a yard of him getting the ball... that was kind of frightening.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 4:03pm

Aaron Schatz - "They weren't even close to being as good as a Vikings team playing without two major players, E.J. Henderson and Percy Harvin."

The Vikings actually played slightly better defence last year once Henderson went down. I've wanted to see him off the field on passing downs for a while now because I think Leber is their best LB in pass coverage. I really don't see the loss of Henderson as being significant.

Now as for Harvin - that's another story. I would hate to see him out of the lineup for any big game.

by shake n bake :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 4:33pm

"Joseph Addai also just managed to juke out a defensive end despite standing totally still. Not sure how that happened."

When Addai is on he's got this little bit of wiggle that makes it nearly impossible for a defender to get squared up on him and he just keeps going until the weight of several arm tacklers clinging on takes him down.

When he's off that wiggle turns into him running more side to side that forward.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:28pm

Just ask Ray Lewis.

I was contemplatig inserting an "I hate to see you leave but love to watch you go" joke, but, well, it just would not have been funny.

by jebmak :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:09pm

Vince: "Is this team drunk?"

In honor of RJ, I'm pretty sure that you meant to say, "Is team drunk?"

by putnamp :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:25pm

Saturday night Aaron Curry made a tweet referencing the Spartans at Thermopylae. It was a questionable thing to draw inspiration from, seeing as how all 300 of the Spartan warriors die in the end. By the end of the game, Curry had been carried out on a stretcher.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:50pm

I'm actually very interested to see what the Patriots do with their tackle situation. One thing no one has mentioned is that they rotated three tackles through on Sunday--Light at LT, Kaczur at RT, and Vollmer at both positions (until Kaczur got knocked out).

It's an interesting quandary. To my naked eye, it looks like Vollmer is a better tackle at either position than Light or Kaczur. Kaczur has played both positions as well, but is not as good as Light (in pass protection at least...he's probably better at run blocking except on screens). Light only plays LT. So, assuming all three are healthy, it's a question of do you go with Vollmer at LT and Kaczur at right, putting your best player in the most important position, or do you put Light at LT and Vollmer at RT, getting the most talent possible on the field but sacrificing some talent at LT and sacrificing some run blocking ability? Or do you go Light/Vollmer as your base package but Vollmer/Kaczur when you want to look like you're going to run?

by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:10pm

MJK - the number of possible combinations you just detailed made me dizzy. But I'm from Indiana, so I aint too bright. I can only hope the Patriots become as confused as I am, leading to many more "12 men in the huddle" penalties (ala the 2006 AFCCG).

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 8:13pm

I don't care what they do with Light and Kaczur - I'm not impressed with EITHER this year - as long as they have Vollmer at left tackle as much as they possibly can. He's playing much, much better than either of the other tackles. If they absolutely must play Light at LT, then sure go ahead and put Vollmer on the right. I'd be quite happy not having to watch Kaczur attempt to pass block even one more time this year (not that I wish any ill on him personally; I just don't think he's playing well at all). I'll take the possible loss of run blocking ability, as I think that's debateable whereas the upgrade in pass blocking is all-but-undeniable at this point.

by Duck Deluxe (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:30pm
by Duck Deluxe (not verified) :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:36pm
by morganja :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 7:54pm

I can't believe what I am seeing in print from Patriot fans here. Is there any question whatsoever that Moss is giving up on plays and going half speed? Do you people even watch your own team play? I hate watching the Patriots play and generally avoid it, but in the games I have seen this year, specifically the New Orleans game, the Colts game and the Panthers game, Moss consistently jogged through many of his routes. If you still have it on DVR take a look at Brady's last interception in the New Orleans game. Watch Moss. Watch Brady's interception in the Panthers game. Watch Moss.

In fact, try watching Moss on every play, not just his touchdown catches.

Seriously dudes, it's hard to take your comments seriously about your team when you don't bother to watch your own team carefully. I've been impressed with Brady. He absolutely knows that Moss taking plays off is resulting in interceptions but has publicly defended Moss. That's good teamanship.

I've always assumed that Patriot fans deluded themselves when watching their games with all of the ludicrous statements they've made. I'm starting to suspect they're not even really watching them to begin with. It reminds me of a friend who argued with another friend of mine for years about whether Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies were true to the book, only to discover when it was all over that the friend had never even read the books.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 8:58pm

What Patriots fans here have said Moss didn't dog it against Carolina and the past couple of games?

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 10:03pm

Ah, yes, "teamanship," the foundation on which all great teams are built.

Anyhoo, I agree about Moss - I watched the Pats game yesterday and it was weird to see him play. The only two explanations are injury or indifference. It's so rare to see a player get to the professional level and still ever totally check-out from a game. I just don't know what the Pats can do, though, he's always been notorious for it, but it's so strange to see in action...

by Xeynon (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:18am

He absolutely knows that Moss taking plays off is resulting in interceptions but has publicly defended Moss. That's good teamanship.

Actually, I believe it's what's referred to as "enabling behavior".

Moss is what he is, which is an otherworldly talent with an indifferent work ethic and commitment to his teammates, whose inherent laziness and selfishness is bound to come out sooner or later - the last few weeks put to rest the idea that Belichick and Brady had some kind of magical ability to change him.

I think the Patriots would be best off jettisoning him after the season and trying to rebuild their defense so they can go back to their 2001-2004 blueprint, winning with solid strategy, sound fundamental play, and teamwork. It's tough to do that without hard-working, unselfish, and talented players however, and they don't have enough of those at this point - I tend to agree with Bill Simmons that the Pats are in for a bit of a down cycle. They'll never be Cleveland or Oakland bad as long as Brady and Belichick are around, but I don't think they're going anything more than a longshot contender for the next few seasons.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:35pm

"Actually, I believe it's what's referred to as "enabling behavior".

Moss is what he is, which is an otherworldly talent with an indifferent work ethic and commitment to his teammates, whose inherent laziness and selfishness is bound to come out sooner or later - the last few weeks put to rest the idea that Belichick and Brady had some kind of magical ability to change him."

I'm not totally convinced this is right. Moss may or may not be clinically depressive, as someone suggested earlier in the thread, but I'm quite certain that whether it is the result of a diagnosable condition or not, Moss plays hard when and only when he feels good about himself and his situation. I agree that Belichick and Brady did not have some "magical ability" to motivate Moss beyond being very good at their jobs and putting some faith in him, but I absolutely believe that whatever it is about Moss that makes him so sensitive is ingrained and unalterable at this stage in his life, and that his exceptional talent more than justifies special treatment if there's a chance that that will get you a fully motivated Moss back, even if he has lost some speed. Balling Moss out might frequently be a temptation if you were coaching or throwing to him, but I doubt it would ever be productive.

by morganja :: Mon, 12/14/2009 - 10:54pm

I see receivers take plays at 3/4 speed often. Usually it's when they absolutely know they aren't involved in the play. It's ludicrous to expect a receiver, even at this level, to be able to put out 60 full speed sprints in a game. It's simply impossible for everyone except maybe Welker and Steve Smith. That's why most coaches take even their best receiver out of the game as often as possible. But Moss is taking it to a whole new level. He is taking plays at 3/4 speed even when he should know that he is at least Brady's second option.

It might be mental. Or is might actually be physical. Maybe Moss is taking so many plays at 3/4 speed because he no longer has the stamina to go full out as often as he is requested to go and is trying to pace himself to get through the game. If it's the latter, Belichick could actually get a lot more out of Moss by using him a lot less on the field. If Moss knows he will only be on the field 15 or 20 plays, he can go all out confident that he won't be asked to go all out when he has nothing in the tank.

Just speculation on my part.

by MJK :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:09pm

You could be on to something here. It's probably especially bad when you're the avowed "#1" WR on the team...because you're constantly fighting double coverage and jams at the line, which is probably even more physically taxing than just having to sprint over and over again.

I've also seen Moss use his "dogging it" reputation to his advantage...to help sell playaction for example. The best example I can think of is the flea flicker they ran in the Tennessee game. On every run play in the first quarter, Moss just sort of loafed around the LoS making no effort to block or run a serious route (I suspect a number of WR's do this). Then, on the flea flicker, he did it again. You could clearly see the middle LB and the deep safety watching Moss, and as soon as they saw him loafing again, they ignored him and came up to stop the RB. Then Moss suddenly turned on the burners, blew by a very startled QB, and was uncovered deep for Brady's pass.

On the other hand, he was definitely dogging it in the Carolina game even when he was the expected receiver. I think he just got emotionally down and wanted to be anywhere but the football field that day.

by C (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 10:37am

I disagree that guys aren't conditioned to play the position.

You aren't killing yourself on running plays and how often is your quartarback throwing? 25-50 plays? You don't think guys can sprint for 3-5 seconds 35 or so times at full speed? That IS their job. It's not guys are running fly routes every play either, you might run 10 yards and then cut IN, or run 10 yards and then turn around... Plenty of guys do it without getting subbed in for. Yes, Randy tends to run deeper routes, but he's always been known to take plays off.

It's not like in the 3rd quarter Randy Moss is running HIS 25th "sprint", and the defender is fresh. If guys start to get tired, slow down later in games from running a lot, odds are the other opponents are as well. Defenses mix in zone but cornerbacks don't have to get subbed in for, so what makes you think receivers can't be conditioned enough to run 40 or so sprints in a game? A lot of these guys have track backg rounds, are very well conditioned and genuinely want to beat the guy in front of them.

I do think guys slow down a little during games ( it's only natural), they said that Jerry Rice only ran a 4.6, but he ran a 4.6 in the 4th quarter as well as the first quarter but he trained and worked VERY hard to build his endurance.

by morganja :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 4:28am

No, I don't think most even NFL caliber WR's can sprint 60 times a game at a 4.6 second speed while being hit and tackled. Do you realize how much muscle it burns to get tackled or block properly? Plus the cutting? Also keep in mind that he is taller than the defenders and is on the losing side of the leverage battle every time he makes contact.

I just saw that Moss was on the field for 66 of the 72 plays. According to the film, he apparently 'hustled' on 25 of them, 19 times on passes and 6 times on runs. That seems to be about right as the limit of someone of his physique and age.

It just might not be physicaly possible for Belichick to get Welker intensity out of Moss for 66 plays. Maybe pushing him to push himself beyond his abilities is counterproductive.

Once again, just speculating.

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:12pm

I think that's a riddulous claim that guys aren't in the physical shape to play the position. These are the best athletes in the world and I've seen plenty of guys do it in college and the pros, but now receivers can't play a full game?

You aren't running 40 yards in a straight line every play. You might run 7 yards and turn around, or slant into the hole in the zone and slide your feed away from coverage, or if you are on the Redskins stand at the LOS and catch a smoke screen.

Guys aren't conditioned to stock block? Getting tackled 4 or so times per game destroys your wind? Most of these guys have track backrounds.

Randy Moss does have a track background as well and in his case he does tend to run deeper routes based on his skillset and playing the X position but his case is more mental and less physical.

by morganja :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:50pm

I think you might be surprised if you make a point to watch a WR on each and every play throughout a game how many times they go 3/4 speed. Or how many plays they actually go full out. There are only two receivers at the NFL leve that come to mind of being able to put out that kind of effort every play, Welker and Steve Smith.
Moss could very well be having a mental issue. Or a combination. Everything is much harder physically for some people when they are stressed or depressed. What I'm speculating on is the fact that his teammates, high energy guys like Brady and Faulk, are absolutely vouching for his effort. If he is trying as hard as he can, than it is only logical to look at the physical.

Maybe the problem isn't that Moss is taking more plays off than any other reciever of his physique and age, but that Brady is so good at going through his progressions that he is throwing it to Moss more often than other quarterbacks when he is the fourth option and Moss just happens to be the guy in the spotlight.

by C (not verified) :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 11:33am

I think you'd be surprised at the guys that do go full effort, SS and Welker aren't the only guys who "try hard". Going 1/2 speed, 3/4th speed is a great way to get yourself hurt and on IR.

Brady defends Moss because he's the best WR he's ever played with, and he also describes him as the smartest... football smarts. The Patriots passing game isn't simple, and having a smart freakishly talented guy is a good thing.

I don't think WR's are subbed nearly as much as you think, and I don't think starting CB's chasing them all around the field are either. " The Broncos just pulled Champ Bailey out for a few plays because he's tired?" I do think that most players lose a tiny bit of speed... they'd run a little bit slower 40 in the late 4th Q compared to the first play of the game, but the other side loses it as well.

by unc (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 11:49am

The football Heels weren't 'terrible' until Butch Davis arrived. They finished #4 in the country one year under Mack Brown, who coached there for 10 years before he left for Texas, and UNC had the following players in 1997/98, whom you may have heard of:

Jeff Saturday
Julius Peppers
Ryan Sims
Ron Curry

Jeff Reed
Alge Crumpler
Ebenezer Ekuban
Dre Bly
Na Brown.

They laid a 42-3 whopping on VaTech right before Brown left for UT. Btw 1967 and 1998 all 3 UNC head coaches had winning records.

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