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21 Dec 2009

Audibles at the Line: Week 15

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 17, 2009

Indianapolis Colts 35 at Jacksonville Jaguars 31

Doug Farrar: Yow. Pocket Hercules cuts back on slide protection and eludes four defenders. Next play, he takes those same four defenders for a five-yard ride up the middle. Ends that second-quarter drive by catching a touchdown pass after David Garrard runs around in the pocket for about five minutes off play action. That was one of his “F**k you, I’m taking over” moments.

Will Carroll: Chad Simpson is unimpressed.

First time watching Millen. He's horrible. Worse than MLB Network doing a show that "focuses on the numbers" and starts with Harold Reynolds bitching about not understanding OPS. Well no, not quite that bad.

Aaron Schatz: I suppose the NFL equivalent would be Matt Millen hosting "Great Wide Receiver Draft Prospects of 2010."

Doug Farrar: I don't know what you're talking about. Matt Millen refuses to talk about his time in Detroit under any circumstances, so it must not have happened.

Tom Gower: C'mon, I really believe that Miami "did everything right, but they still lost," because "actually stopping the Colts when they have the ball" is not part of "did everything right."

Doug Farrar: And MJD tells Simpson to take his little kickoff return and cram it with another ridiculous scoring drive.

Vince Verhei: Boy, that last touchdown of the second half (I assume, there are still 35 seconds left) was Peyton Manning in a nutshell, wasn't it? Jaguars stop a bubble screen for a loss, the clock is running, and everyone in Jacksonville is probably thinking, cool, we've held them to a field goal. And then Manning calmly drops back and finds Austin Collie on a seam route in a very small hole in zone for a touchdown. Normal rules of down and distance and clock do not apply to this man.

Ned Macey: I'm rocking my 3-month old daughter to sleep and wondering how many yards she could gain if she were covered by Tim Jennings.  I'd put the over/under at 65.5. 

Aaron Schatz: Cheer up, Ned. If she was covered by Tim Jennings with the Jacksonville pass rush going after the quarterback, I would put the over/under at 265.5.

Actually, why are we criticizing Tim Jennings when we could be criticizing Derek Cox? Or even more, the Jaguars defensive staff for putting Derek Cox on Reggie Wayne. Yes, yes, put your third-round rookie corner on one of the best receivers of the last decade while your alleged Pro Bowl-quality veteran is covering one of the younger guys. That makes sense.

Wait, did the Colts really just double a-gap blitz? What is this, Madden? Do you think Tony Dungy's brain just exploded from watching that? Even this year, our game charting currently lists only three other plays where the Colts sent seven pass rushers, with something like ten games charted.

Tom Gower: Does Millen identify EVERY blitz as a double A-gap blitz, or is he only able to recognize double A-gap blitzes as blitzes?

Doug Farrar: Yes. In the same way that every coverage is “Man under, two-deep”.

Aaron Schatz: OK, but that one really WAS a double A-gap blitz. I think.

Tom Gower: I guess we should say something about the game, but I really don't have much interesting to say-Garrard is actually capable of playing pretty well, the Colts have trouble rushing the passer without Mathis and Freeney, the Colts have trouble in coverage without a good pass rush, and Peyton Manning is incredibly awesome even against teams that are marginally capable of rushing the passer.

Tim Gerheim: It's starting to bug me that they're singing the Jags offense's praises without acknowledging almost at all how extraordinarily shorthanded the Colts defense is between injury and indifference.  Maybe that has to do with the first TD-off-turnover against the Colts this year, or the high number of points given up...

Tom Gower: What was Millen talking about when he was just talking about how the Colts didn't run the quick outside handoff on the stretch play, because Dallas Clark is more of a receiving TE and they don't have a powerful blocking TE, so instead they run more zone runs?

1. Dallas Clark has been the TE for several years.
2. Gijon Robinson is, I'm thinking, more of a blocking type.  Is playing him instead of, say, Marcus Pollard really that much different?  Or, for example, running the stretch to a weak slot receiver side in a 3 WR set?
3. The stretch as the Colts ran it was an outside zone play-James didn't always run it to the outside, but where there was an alley.
4. Isn't the more logical explanation that Peyton doesn't have quite the footspeed he did six years ago, when the Titans couldn't adequately simulate how quickly he did it with anybody on their team?

Ned Macey: It is a little thing, but after the third time Bob Papa or whoever it is said that the Jags 31-28 lead was a 4-point lead, wouldn't somebody correct him?

Aaron Schatz: GREAT play call to run the draw on third-and-6 on the last Jacksonville drive, and it was really well executed.

... and it doesn't matter because Garrard throws an interception on the next set of downs, game over.

Will Carroll: On the pick, Garrard shortened up and the ball sailed on him. There was someone -- looked like the LDT or maybe Mathis on a stunt hurrying him and changing his mechanics. I also think based on some of his throws that the hits he was taking - especially the one where Brackett unloaded on him - had some affect.

Tom Gower: I thought Garrard had kind of a weird game -- for the most part, he played really well, but he had 6 or 8 semi-random poor throws where he missed open guys, including the game-losing pick.  I guess that's sort of the Jags in a nutshell.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dallas Cowboys 24 at New Orleans Saints 17

After a quiet first half on the e-mail chain...

Tom Gower: I've seen very little of this game, thanks to other things, so does anybody know what's going on?  DAL with the ball, up 24-3, 2:03 to go in the third.  I can see DAL 24, but NO 3?  Very unusual.

Bill Barnwell: Dallas is targeting safeties and linebackers with passes, just like Atlanta did a week ago. Dallas' pass rush is getting pressure with 3-5, really exposing the New Orleans tackles, especially Bushrod.

Nick Folk misses a chip shot field goal.

Will Carroll: Folk me, how does he miss that?

Bill Barnwell: He Suishamed it. 

Tim Gerheim: God is officially a Saints fan.

Tom Gower: Nick Folk is lucky if he gets a ride back to Dallas after missing that chip shot.

Vince Verhei: I've just caught up to this game on my DVR, right after Dallas missed what would have been a game-clinching field goal. (Ironic on that play: There was a bad snap, but Tony Romo made a great hold to get the ball down for the kick.)

A big part of Dallas' defense has been its offense, which has plenty of long drives, even when they haven't scored. The offensive line has had its way with New Orleans, especially on pass plays -- four-man rushes have meant plenty of time for Romo, and Dallas' receivers > the Saints' secondary.

Tom Gower: Did Bushrod successfully block Ware once all night?  I'm pretty sure he didn't in the time I've been watching.  I was expecting that sack/fumble to happen on a hail mary attempt, but it seemed inevitable.

Tim Gerheim: You have to wonder why they didn't give him any help.  On that last play Pierre Thomas stayed in to block, but for some reason he was on the right side, accomplishing nothing.

Vince Verhei: No, the other big part of the game was Brees under pressure all night, from both tackles. His pocket presence was awesome tonight, taking the one or two steps needed to avoid sacks. (The Saints are always in the top five in Adjusted Sack Rate, but that says a lot more about Brees than it does his offensive line.) But the pressure forced him to check down all night -- the Saints' first drive was a three-and-out, on three completions. There's something you don't see every day.

On the last drive, when the game was winnable, the Saints had a bunch of short completions in the middle of the field, no chance to get out of bounds. Conversely, on the Cowboys' last drive, they milked every second off the clock on every play, including a couple of passes to the outside.

Cowboys also finally used Felix Jones more -- 14 carries, a season high, and almost as many as Marion Barber (17).

Bill Barnwell: Bushrod was bad, but so was the right tackle. Spencer was arguably better than Ware all night, he had at least one sack and a second taken away by a ticky-tack holding penalty. 

Aaron Schatz: Some of those Spencer plays were actually from the defensive right side, coming in on Bushrod when Ware was out of the game. And Carl Nicks was pretty bad all night too. I've never seen the Saints offensive line play anywhere NEAR this bad all year. Awful, just awful. This is why we think the Vikings are a bad matchup for them: they can get to the quarterback with four, and they can run the ball on offense. In fact, the surprise to me in this game was that Dallas passed the ball so much and didn't run the ball more than they did. They were taking a page out of the Saints' playbook and passing to guys nobody had heard of. Fifth receiver Kevin Ogletree? Third tight end Phillips, whose first name I can't even remember?

I watched this game in snowy Philadelphia in a hotel bar filled with San Francisco 49ers players and officials, which was a very strange experience. Half the bar was Eagles fans rooting against Dallas. The other half was 49ers employees rooting against Dallas (for their wild card hopes). When Lance Moore scored to make it a seven-point game, everyone was cheering. When Nick Folk honked the short field goal, everyone was delirious. When the Cowboys eventually won, everyone was miserable.

Cleveland Browns 41 at Kansas City Chiefs 34

Vince Verhei: Josh Cribbs returns a kickoff for a touchdown against Kansas City. He broke three tackles on the play. I really hope he doesn't get his new contract, and is traded to a good team instead.

Mike Kurtz: Cleveland has done absolutely nothing impressive on offense, even against an anemic KC defense. I think the key to this game is for KC to stop scoring, so that Cleveland will never get any kickoff returns, and therefore no more points!

Bill Barnwell: Josh Cribbs just returned a second kickoff for a touchdown in the first half. Is it pretty clear at this point that he's the best return guy of his generation and not Devin Hester? And that the Browns don't deserve him?

Vince Verhei: As a kickoff guy, absolutely -- his first TD today set the record for career kickoff return touchdowns, and then he got another. As a punt returner, I'll still take Hester (since you said "of his generation" and not "in 2009"). But when you add in Cribbs' kick coverage skills, and consider that he's still Cleveland's best quarterback, he's pretty clearly the better overall player.

Doug Farrar: Cribbs will also do little things like lead the team in special teams tackles. And there was a time where he probably actually was their best quarterback. I’m not sure that time has elapsed.

Mike Tanier: I am also confused about how many touchdown returns Cribbs has because they keep showing some commercial with him running one back against the Steelers, plus the highlights which I have seen 12 times each. I think he has 90 TD.

Bill Barnwell: Cleveland's scored on two kickoff returns. Kansas City's got a touchdown on a catch from Chris Chambers and a fumble return off of a bad snap on a punt. Victory through non-predicative events!!

Mike Kurtz: Matt Cassel is not the reason KC is losing this game. I've counted 5 really, really easy catches that were just plain dropped, two which would've extended drives -- sorry, 6 now, three of which would have. This is insane.

Bill Barnwell: Jerome Harrison's run for over 200 yards and two scores now. Because he was Mangini'd last week, though, he's being started on 1.4 percent of ESPN fantasy teams.

Mike Kurtz: The Browns had what may have been a really cool keeper (or just a broken play). Cribbs lined up in the backfield on fourth-and-inches, Quinn took one step back and faked the handoff, then Quinn pulled it in and ran off left tackle. Of course, probably wouldn't have worked against anyone other than Kansas City, but it was fun. And Quinn broke three tackles in the open field before the safety dragged him down.

Getting Mangini'd, BTW, is when you get benched for no real reason and then just show up in the lineup like nothing ever happened, or when you get stuck listening to a washed-up boxer for an hour when you just want to go pick up your dry cleaning.

Jerome Harrison's at 32-252-2. If the game goes to overtime, he's a long run away from the single-game rushing record. But, you know, Jamal Lewis pushes the pile. 

Doug Farrar: Kansas City: Where tackling has been abolished!

Mike Kurtz: Harrison has now broken Jim Brown's single-game yardage record, which is a good indicator that Harrison is better than Jim Brown.

Dwayne "The Only Useful Chief" Bowe with an amazing/crazy play: Cassel's throw is high and ahead, bounces off the receiver's hands. Bowe dives, nabs the ball a few inches above the ground, gets his left arm under it, and pulls it in as he rolls. Meaningless play in a meaningless game, but just a great play.

Bill Barnwell: Well, he won't get to overtime, because he just broke a 28-yard touchdown run to give the Browns the lead and get up to 286 rushing yards and three scores. He even ran the length of the end zone to kill clock. Yeesh. 

Vince Verhei: For the record, Josh Cribbs is 0-for-1 passing, but with no interceptions, so his passer rating is 39.6. Brady Quinn is 10-of-17 for 66 yards and two picks, passer rating of 27.7. Cribbs is still their best quarterback!

Doug Farrar: Nice job by Cassel there, trying to throw a field goal at the end. A little more wind under that one, and it would have been good.

Mike Kurtz: Who throws a Hail Mary from the 25? Seriously!

Atlanta Falcons 10 at New York Jets 7

Mike Tanier: Aaron and I are in the press room at the Linc, watching the Jets-Falcons game on six screens and the Bills-Patriots game on one. Snelling just had an eight-yard sweep, which on six TVs equals 48 yards. This is how flies watch football.

Vince Verhei: I've been one of Braylon Edwards' harshest critics, but I still don't think it's a good idea to cover him with Christopher Owens, a third-round rookie, with no safety help. Edwards gets five yards behind Owens on a post pattern, Mark Sanchez (and his cannon arm) hits him in the hands, 65 yards, touchdown.

Tim Gerheim: When I got to "hits him in the hands," I fully expected next to read "and Edwards dropped it."

Vince Verhei: The Jets defense has Matt Ryan totally rattled. Roddy White can't get open against Darrelle Revis, and Tony Gonzalez is struggling too. Ryan looks ready to rely on passes behind the line of scrimmage, but he's not perfect there either -- He tried one on third-and-10 that wouldn't have been a first down anyway, but with blitzers coming free at him, Ryan threw a lob that hung in the ball forever -- and then it was dropped.

But the Falcons get the ball back after an interception. They get a first down in Jets territory on a Gonzalez reception where he boxed out the diminutive Jim Leonhard like Karl Malone being guarded by Spud Webb. And then they demonstrate their lack of faith in their own passing offense, running an I-formation dive with three tight ends. That's on first-and-10, near midfield. They tried a deep pass to White on a flea-flicker, but Revis broke it up, and the Falcons ended up punting.

Besides the long Edwards score, there's been about zero offense by either team.

Atlanta has a third-and-1 and comes out in a shotgun set. Jets respond by putting all available defenders at the line of scrimmage, including Mark Gastineau and Gerry Philbin. Falcons then run a pitch play, and many Jets swarm in to tackle Jason Snelling for a loss. If Atlanta runs that play 100 times, they fail 100 times.

David Gardner: I'm listening to the Falcons-Jets game on the radio. Neither team has done anything on offense, its 7-3 Jets right now, but the Falcons have found themselves with a first and goal at the two minute warning. They have timeouts left, so the logical move would be to run the ball and burn the clock, right? Well, they ran on first down and then threw three times in a row. On fourth and goal, they got a touchdown to Tony Gonzalez. But the Jets still have 1:37 needing only a field goal.

Bill Barnwell: Falcons just scored when the Jets covered Tony Gonzalez with Hole In Zone on fourth down.

David Gardner: And a Mark Sanchez interception seals it in New York. 

Bill Barnwell: That's your Jets' season. Revis is great, the run D is great, and they can't throw the ball outside of the occasional big play to Braylon Edwards.

Miami Dolphins 24 at Tennessee Titans 27

Doug Farrar: Wackiness ensues on the Titans-Dolphins opening play. Vince Young throws downfield to Bo Scaife, who’s covered by Channing Crowder. Ball is tipped by both players, then by Gibril Wilson (Nice tip to keep the ball in bounds), then into the hands of Vontae Davis for the pick. Davis is then revenge-tackled by Young.

Tom Gower: Yet another fumble for Ricky Williams, this one on the edge of the red zone to end the drive on which he went over 1,000.  Play came on the second consecutive direct snap single wing play, which Dick Enberg of course referred to as the Wildcat.

So, the Titans are up 17-6 at the half.  CJ has been bottled up early, but has done better since, 14 for 70 and a TD but nothing over 15 yards.  VY is only 7 of 15 but for 150 yards.  The aforementioned pinball pick was not a great throw, but I feel like the 10 YPA reflects how he's played more than the 47% completion percentage.  Both TDs are to Justin Gage, the first when Nathan Jones (who's been getting picked on) didn't bother looking for the ball and the second a good throw and grab against good coverage by Vontae Davis.

I feel like the Dolphins have generally played relatively well offensively, and they have almost as many yards as TEN (199 v 228), but they keep seeming to screw up in untimely circumstances-like HOU, settling for field goals twice and a fumble.

Vince Verhei: Dolphins play (as Matt Millen would say) two-deep, man-under against Vince Young and the Titans. Fools! The defensive tackles split and Young zips right between them and has a free 30-ish yard run. And then he slides at the end.

Young caps off the drive with a touchdown to Nate Washington on a go route down the sideline.

Tom Gower: The Titans stuff Lousaka Polite on third-and-short after getting gashed up the middle earlier in a similar situation.  On the play, Keith Bulluck gets blocked by an OL and suffers what looks like a left knee injury.  He walked off the field, but it seemed potentially serious.  He'll be a UFA this offseason, and it's unlikely the Titans will re-sign him.  If this is his last time on LP Field, that's a disappointing way to have it end.

Kenny Britt suffers what was probably either a broken or dislocated finger after bumping into Alge Crumpler on a short kickoff return.  Titans dropping like flies here.

Doug Farrar: Vontae Davis helps out with the fall-down move. Not a good day for him.

Tom Gower: With Bulluck out and other regular OLB David Thornton inactive, the Titans have had to improvise a little bit, playing nickel against base personnel (with rookie Gerald McRath in an unfamiliar role) or sticking with base and putting guys who almost never get regular defensive snaps (Colin Allred, Stanford Keglar) on the field.  Either way, the middle of the field is open, and the Dolphins are now down 24-16 with 7:40 to play after looking mostly done at 24-6.

GAH!  Henne throws deep for Hartline against Finnegan with Griffin helping deep. Griffin is in perfect position and has the ball bounce off his chest, Hartline puts his hands in, bounces the ball off his face mask, and hauls it in for a 57 yard gain down to the 11.

Bill Barnwell: Miami gets within two points when Hole In Zone gets traded to Tennessee and Anthony Fasano goes uncovered in the end zone. The Dolphins go for two to tie it up and bring in Pat White, who's furiously checking his wrist for the playcall as he comes in, but it's an end-around to Ricky Williams for the game-tying conversion. Don't they have a simple name for that play yet?

Tom Gower: Harper was the only guy on that side with two targets; I bet one of the rarely-used LBs was supposed to be there as well.

Two deep comebacks to Washington, both incomplete, and Scaife gets eight on third-and-10.  Thankfully, Brett Kern gets off a FANTASTIC punt, and Miami starts at its own 2-yard line with :56 left and one timeout.  TEN still has three timeouts left, so MIA can't just sit on the ball.  Unless, of course, Fisher will refuse to use his TOs and let them go to OT.

Ok, I've been very calm today, and I stay calm in here, but if anybody can explain what the heck Jeff Fisher was doing sitting on three timeouts with Miami backed up inside the five and a chance to get the ball back possibly needing a 10-15 yard pass, or even less, to try a game-winning FGA.  Just call one, and if they get a first down, let it be.  OT is a 50-50 proposition; you were in a much better situation than that.

Miami wins the toss, of course, though they once again fail to break a big return. The Titans' coverage unit surprisingly hasn't allowed any long returns today.

Tom Gower: Chad Henne airmails an open receiver right to Michael Griffin, who manages to hold on this time.  Tack on 15 yards from a marginal roughness penalty on Camarillo and the Titans are in field goal range.  The expected three ineffective runs later, Bironas hits a 47 yard field goal and I'm calling off the torches and pitchforks for Fisher.

New England Patriots 17 at Buffalo Bills 10

Bill Barnwell: Patriots' defensive line is in shambles without Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren. The Bills were running the ball up their throats, which is really nice when you've got Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. Forget getting any sort of push, the line couldn't even hold the line of scrimmage. Albert Breer (of the Boston Globe) notes that Derrick Burgess was playing the five-technique, which seems ill-advised.

Vince Verhei: Down two scores with about five minutes to go, Bills go for it on fourth down, but the receiver (Josh Reed, I think) drops the pass. Game over, right? Nope. A Laurence Maroney run on first down is followed by the Bills' second timeout. Then Brady goes incomplete on second and third down. Pats kill almost no time before punting, they even leave the Bills with a timeout, and on the ensuing drive, Fitzpatrick hits Lee Evans for an 11-yard touchdown. Bills still down 7.

Bill Barnwell: Bills promptly go for an onside kick and recover it when Sam Aiken can't handle the ball, but they were offsides. Rare misstep from that unit.

Aaron Schatz: So, I spent this game trying to figure out what was going on with the Buffalo pass defense. It was still hard to figure out. Brady looked off and I don't think this was the Bills defense having an effect. They got some pass rush, but Brady didn't look particularly rushed. He generally stepped aside calmly... and then threw the ball a foot and a half behind Wes Welker on a cross. A few different times. Or he threw deep to Moss, but underthrew him. I think that's the explanation for why Drayton Florence was able to stay with Moss step for step deep. I would have to watch coaching film or at least be able to rewind and slow things down to figure out, but I think it's possible the Bills were playing a zone overall with man specifically on Moss. Or they were playing a Cover-1 Robber type coverage, but with the deep safety generally shaded towards Moss and the short "robber" safety sitting there waiting for Welker on all the crossing patterns.

Buffalo's had so many injuries at linebacker that they actually had to move safety Bryan Scott to weakside linebacker. They've got Chris Draft on the strong side, and I don't think he was even signed by a team at the start of the season. So both of those guys are better pass defenders than run defenders, which helps explain why the Bills can't stop the run at all but rank third in DVOA against the pass. Still, Posluzny is good against both. And it isn't like these are great cornerbacks out there, Florence and Terrence McGee. So honestly, the Bills highly-rated pass defense is still a bit of a mystery to me.

Arizona Cardinals 31 at Detroit Lions 24

Bill Barnwell: There can't be more than 20,000 people in the crowd in Detroit. 

The Lions have done a good job of stopping the Cardinals early, actually, dropping a bunch of guys back into coverage, getting pressure with Cliff Avril, and forcing Kurt Warner into mostly dumpoffs. They were getting sliced by Beanie Wells on the ground, but managed to get the Cardinals into a third-and-1 and stuffed them. 

Of course, Dennis Northcutt promptly dropped a punt, giving the Cardinals the ball inside the red zone, and the Cardinals scored on a lob to Larry Fitzgerald with Will James in coverage. Yes -- perhaps literally the worst cornerback in the league versus its best wide receiver. 

Cliff Avril's having a huge game for the Lions, beating Levi Brown repeatedly. He's got a couple of pressures and, on a two-minute drive extended by a stupid Lions penalty, a strip-sack of Warner to kill the drive. 

Doug Farrar: The Cardinals offensive line has always been vulnerable to pass pressure, but they’ve been particularly craptacular recently. I wonder if Warner’s release speed is forcing those guys to block longer than they really want to.

One thing –- Jim Schwartz is lining up his ends sometimes in that wide nine-tech angle as he used to with Kyle Vanden Bosch. Not easily blockable when you have big, clumpy tackles.

Bill Barnwell: Kurt Warner throws a pick-six after a Rodgers-Cromartie pick, costing my fantasy team two points for the pick, any points they would've got for an offensive touchdown, and its defensive shutout. Warner's looked bad all day -- the Lions have had three or four dropped picks.

Cardinals are absolutely blowing it. The pick-six was followed by a 64-yard Maurice Morris touchdown run. It's now 17-14, and if not for a muffed punt, it'd be 14-10, Lions. If they make a playoff run, this is the game where we'll look back and say "Where were you then?"

Vince Verhei: Arizona's defense came in first in stuff rate, but 31st in 10-plus yards allowed. If you can get past the line of scrimmage, you can get big yards on them.

Bill Barnwell: Bryan Robinson is melting down in Detroit. After the Lions punted, Robinson picked up back-to-back unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in a conversation with Jeff Triplette. He is still yelling on the sidelines.

Aaron Schatz: OK, somebody is going to have to explain the Detroit offensive strategy to me in that last 1:20. How do you come out with 1:20 left, one timeout, length of the field to get a touchdown to tie, and you start with two quick outs?

Houston Texans 16 at St. Louis Rams 13

Doug Farrar: Rams are wearing their throwback unis against the Texans. I will ask this question again: Why do teams wear throwbacks unis against teams with no throwback unis? It just looks like they showed up at the stadium with the wrong stuff.

Bill Barnwell: Rams-Texans looks like a Madden game where you agreed to play after choosing random teams and got stuck with the Rams. "Well, they suck, but at least I have Steven Jackson. Ooh, and I can switch to these sweet jerseys."

Vince Verhei: If the Rams are going to wear throwbacks, they should use the sweet blue-and-white version from the 1960s, not the yellow clown pants.

Aaron Schatz: This really brings back memories of those legendary Keith Null games of Rams past.

Mike Tanier: I am watching Keith Null, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Daunte Culpepper play quarterback. At the same time. Danny Amendola just caught at TD pass on a little scat route after a long kickoff return. The Rams currently have the lead. Aaron and I are trying to decide whether Amendola is a rich man's Vince Papale or a starving man's Wes Welker. And don't kill us on the white WR thing. Aaron was going for the Texas Tech thing, I was going for the paisan thing.
Doug Farrar: Clearly, Danny Woodhead is the poor man’s Wes Welker. Accourding to the announcers, he has “moxie”. That’s because he’s not big enough to be a “high-motor guy”.

Tom Gower: In developments you didn't expect, the Rams are up 10-6 on the Texans late in the first half.  The Texans have moved the ball, but once again can't score in the red zone and last week's running back du jour, Arian Foster, coughed the ball up to kill another drive.  Hope you didn't start him on your fantasy team.

Mike Tanier: I am now watching Keith Null, Trent Edwards, and Drew Stanton play quarterback. Actually, Stanton is mostly handing off.

Whatever happened to Craig Nall? Can Nall back up Null? Any members of the Chuck Noll family to coach them?

What's up with this Pollard kid? He picks a fight with Amendola, then tackles a helmetless Steven Jackson. Angry.

Tim Gerheim: Oy.  Pollard has really helped the Texans defense this year.  I'm not watching the game (thank you NFL Rewind for the opportunity to watch the Texans lose to an inferior opponent every Tuesday).  He was cut by the Chiefs in preseason or early in the regular season.  I'm starting to develop a theory that, counterintuitive as it may be, adding free agents from bad teams is actually a better strategy than adding them from good teams.  It's just anecdotal, but I can think of several recent examples that worked in both directions - Wes Welker, Deion Branch and David Givens, Leonard Weaver...

Oakland Raiders 20 at Denver Broncos 19

Bill Barnwell: The Broncos run a throwback across the field from Orton to Ryan Clady, who wasn't an eligible receiver. Nnamdi Asomugha still takes him out with a perfect tackle. Clady wasn't reported, and the Broncos weren't in the proper formation for Clady to be eligible. 

Brandon Marshall scores and Raiders and Broncos linemen get into a sumo match of shoves. Gus: "And a fight breaks out! ... looks like a good one."

The Broncos just stuffed the Raiders on fourth-and-goal from the 2 or so. The Raiders ran that fake FB dive/HB pitch that doesn't ever work in Madden.

Aaron Schatz: I hate to tell you, Bill, that play works for me all the time in Madden. Still doesn't help today's Raiders, though.

Charlie Frye gets knocked loopy and departs…


Bill Barnwell: Broncos-Raiders game is stopped because there's a Raiders fan shining a laser pointer into the offense's eyes. One. In the whole crowd.

Tom Gower: Tommy Kelly stuffed Knowshon Moreno as he tries to get the corner, and loses his pants (pushed down) in the process.

For some reason, the Raiders aren't running despite having 3 minutes to go and needing 6 points. JaMarcus Russell is now hurt, and with Frye concussed, UFL superstar J.P. Losman is warming on the sidelines.


Losman, if you missed him, was in the UFL a few weeks ago. They showed him in his UFL uniform, so that was a treat.

Oh, wait. I guess it was a drill. Russell is back in and it looks like he just converted a fourth down.

And then JaMarcus Russell hits Chaz Schilens on a crossing route, and Schilens slips a tackle and goes into the end zone. Raiders lead 20-19 with 30 seconds to go.

Bill Barnwell: Gus Johnson: "JaMarcus Russell! Coming off the bench like Johnny U!" Not quite the same thing, Gus.

Tom Gower: Isn't Unitas's highest-profile example of coming back in the game after not playing due to injury Super Bowl III?

Bill Barnwell: Broncos got jobbed at the end of the game. They complete a pass over the middle with seven seconds left, and Tyvon Branch wraps his arms around Brandon Stokley and cuddles with him until the clock runs out. That's a penalty. 

Tom Gower: Yup, that absolutely should have been flagged.  And the thing is, Branch didn't have to do it at all.  The Broncos wouldn't have been able to run another play anyway.  Flag him for stupidity if nothing else.

Bill Barnwell: Maybe it was like an uncatchable pass. It was an unspikable play.

Cincinnati Bengals 24 at San Diego Chargers 27

Tom Gower: Long TD, Palmer to Ochocinco, who then knelt down and prayed. Cromartie got beat in single coverage for the TD.

Bill Barnwell: Vincent Jackson now has two touchdowns, both on plays where he got open on the edges. Not sure who was in coverage on either play, but the Bengals have to do a better job of watching out for Jackson at the edges of the sideline.

Tim Gerheim: The refs in San Diego are already on Christmas vacation.  They missed a defensive holding call on Antonio Gates where the defender pulled his jersey so much that one of his shoulder pads popped out.  Then on a Quentin Jammer interception, Jammer got tackled by his facemask almost exclusively, and no flag.

Incidentally, Leon Hall or no Leon Hall, I'm never benching Vincent Jackson again.

Both touchdowns were on Leon Hall in single coverage.  The first was a sharp out cut that beat Hall and a great diving catch where Hall had no chance.  The second was also single coverage, and Jackson got behind him.  I didn't see what he was talking about, but Phil Simms thought a safety missed his assignment to be over the top, which would explain why Hall was playing more underneath.

Bill Barnwell: I don't think Hall's in coverage there. I think -- maybe 95% sure he's in an underneath zone and thinks that he has safety help over the top, and the safety was occupied by Gates. That's the sort of way you move when you're in an underneath zone. 

Tim Gerheim: Wow, traditional Bengals: touchdown given up, short kickoff return, false start, delay of game, timeout, first-and-25 from the 6.  (I missed why it's 25 not 20.)  Just epic.

Bill Barnwell: There was an illegal substitution in there too. That sequence finished dumpoff, busted play on a draw for no gain, dumpoff. Whee!

Tom Gower: First play was a TE screen.   Because, yeah, J.P. Foschi's gonna bust that one for big yardage.

Tim Gerheim: Oh downfield blocking on screens.  Chargers ran a very successful screen down the sidelines for Tomlinson, but Kris Dielman managed to blow a block literally 40 yards downfield.  He was zeroing in on a safety or backer, but instead of actually block him he dove at his knees, and his man ended up pushing Tomlinson out of bounds.  If he'd successfully made that block it might have been a touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: I think it's time to get Vincent Jackson a commercial of some sort. He's good enough. Shouldn't he be somebody's spokesman at this point?

Bill Barnwell: Are you trying to become Jackson's agent?

Tom Gower: All fumbles should be like that Andre Caldwell fumble, where the ball just pops out and goes flying 15 yards.  Palmer finally fell on it for a 20 yard loss.  Not quite how WR screen are supposed to work, methinks, but fun to watch.

Tim Gerheim: Non-predictive to be sure, but definitely due to good defense.  The cornerbacks did a really good job blowing up their blocks and forcing Caldwell to turn inside, which is exactly where Dobbins was coming from at full speed.

They just gave the weekly "If you're expecting to see 60 Minutes," speech.  If you tune in at 7pm Eastern between September and December and you're expecting to see 60 Minutes, you're an idiot.

Tom Gower: Bad, bad: Leon Hall gives up a 15 yard out to Malcom Floyd with :12 to play, letting him get OOB with :08 to play to set up a 52 yard game-winning field goal.

Tim Gerheim: Nate Kaeding nails a 52-yarder to win it in regulation for the Chargers.  Earlier in the quarter Mike Scifres coffin-cornered a punt down and out of bounds at the 4.  The numbers don't bear it out, but anecdotally it seems like the Chargers have one of the best sets of kicking units in the league.

Rob: Another week, another penalty-filled affair with too many red zone breakdowns.  Cincy played well and finally got some downfield passing (and protection) going, but it was too excruciating a loss for moral victories.  The final drive had the perfect combo, a blown call (I'm pretty sure) and a screwed up play.  During an attempt to spike the ball with 30+ seconds left, Tomlinson sprinted on the field and lined up at flanker just to have eleven men on the field.  But isn't the rule that incoming players have to get inside the numbers or its a penalty?  I seem to remember the Jets or Giants getting called for that a few years back.  Should have been five yards and a ten second runoff, meaning overtime, most likely.  Maybe I'm wrong.  Then Leon Hall's coverage was completely the opposite of what was needed on that final play -- he played to the inside, for some reason.  A mystifying oversight--that's what happens when everyone suddenly discovers you've been having a good season (the Favre effect), it goes to your head.

This one was a worse loss than the Oakland or Denver games -- those were flukes.  The Vikes and Texans just whipped the Bengals, nothing to stew about there.  So this officially was the toughest loss of the season, which is why I went storming out of the house into the 20 degree night to collect myself.

If they matched up again in the divisional round I would expect a similar result -- San Diego by less than a touchdown, in a hard-hitting game that's decided by a couple of bounces and efforts.  I actually think the Bengals can take the Colts, if all goes well.  That assumes a wild card win, and even a win over Kansas City at home next week, which if they can't get makes a playoff spot undeserved.

San Francisco 49ers 13 at Philadelphia Eagles 27

Bill Barnwell: Daryl Johnston's covering the Eagles-49ers game and talking about how the Eagles are tough early from when "we" used to play them. It's been ten years, dude.

Eagles go for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 34 or so. Johnston and Siragusa, those famed playcallers, think it's a bad call and pat themselves on the back when the Eagles get stuffed. 

Aaron Schatz: Mike Tanier is having trouble with the Eagles' wireless network but he would like to submit a comment about Leonard Weaver getting stuffed for no gain after the Eagles chose to go for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 29. That comment is "insert a curse word into Audibles for me, will you?"

I will say, San Francisco is 29th in defense against runs in power situations. The Eagles, for all that we think of them as a suck short-yardage team, are 11th running in power situations. Obviously, your own 29 (or 34 or whatever it was) is a questionable place to go for it on fourth, but it was far from a ridiculous decision.

It's a good thing Matt Millen isn't covering this 49ers-Eagles game, because both teams are playing almost exclusively single-high safety in coverage and I'm not sure if Millen could handle it.

Doug Farrar: It's still man-under, two-deep. You just don’t understand the game because you never played it.

Aaron Schatz: Asante Samuel just picked off Alex Smith, yet another jump-the-route pick by Samuel. This one was fun because he didn't even jump his own guy's route. He came off Josh Morgan to jump Vernon Davis' route. Josh Morgan's looking back, like, "Hey, where's my defender... oh, wait, he has the ball, nuts."

Tom Gower: Has McNabb been getting more passes tipped at the line this year?  I've seen it happen today on glimpses on Red Zone Channel, and it's something that seems to be happening a bit.

Aaron Schatz: I think that's also Aubrayo Franklin having a Pro Bowl year, I believe both tips today were him, and the 49ers defensive line is putting a lot of pressure on McNabb.

Mike Tanier: The Eagles intercepted Alex Smith late in the half, threw a pass over the middle to DeSean Jackson, then ran up to spike the ball. But, Ahmed Brooks and Leonard Weaver started jawing about 15 yards behind the new line of scrimmage.
They keep jawing as the Eagles line up to spike. McNabb is looking around, shouting. Finally, Reggie Brown runs over to break them up.
Just as Weaver lines up, Jason Peters pops up to ask McNabb what was going on. McNabb tells him to get back in his darn stance. The Eagles spike the ball, then kick a field goal.
All that for a damn spike.

Aaron Schatz: Announcement in the Lincoln Field press box after the Josh Morgan touchdown made it 20-12:

"An injury for the 49ers... kicker Joe Nedney has a strained hamstring. His return is questionable. (pause) Into attempt the extra point, number six, Joe Nedney."

Question answered!

I think Alex Smith scrambles right on about half of all San Francisco passes, and it seems like the 49ers never have a designated hot read on a blitz, or a dumpoff when Smith is hurried out of the pocket. Everyone is running downfield and he has to keep throwing the ball away.

Down by the goal line, Jason Avant just had a great block on the second level on a Leonard Weaver carry. Then he did it again on the next play. Tanier turns to me and says, "You know, when Wes Welker does this, they show the play on NFL Countdown and circle him five times."

Mike Tanier: There is a massive snowball fight at the Linc. Some snowballs are reaching the field. But its a total scrum around the 20 yard line, lower deck. Aaron is telling them to stop from the press box, but they cannot hear him. I just texted a guy I know who is in the stands and told him to stop, but I am just one man, and so is he. Please, stop the madness.

Aaron Schatz: The Eagles put up a "Please Don't Throw Things on the Field" announcement on their jumbo-tron with, for some reason, a big "I" logo that looks like the "dead iPod" message. That's not going to work. They need to find Roy Halladay and get him to make an announcement up on the big screen. "People, knock it off, or I'm going back to Canada where the fans know how to handle snow."

Mike Tanier: Uncalled late hit on DeSean Jackson along the Eagles sideline, and fans start throwing snowballs at the defender. Who of course is surrounded by Eagles, coaches and aides.

Aaron Schatz: Arnaz Battle came out in the second half to return punts and it made me realize... hey, wait, Arnaz Battle. He hadn't been in the game yet. I wonder what happened that Arnaz Battle fell down the San Francisco depth chart, to where Delanie Walker has been in on nearly snap and I don't think Battle's played receiver all night.

Tim Gerheim: I love DeSean Jackson's face warmer that covers his mouth and makes him look like Cobra Commander.

Chicago Bears 7 at Baltimore Ravens 31

Doug Farrar: I’d have to check to make sure, but I think Jay Cutler just threw his eleventy-billionth interception.

Bill Barnwell: Way worse call -- the Bears, down 14-0, go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 and throw a lob to Greg Olsen. That didn't work.

Tom Gower: More for the Cribbs-Hester debate: Earl Bennett with a punt return touchdown.  The Bears are good at special teams.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 at Seattle Seahawks 7

Doug Farrar: I tune in, ever so briefly, to watch Matt Hasselbeck throw the ball at the back of Barrett Ruud's head in the end zone. Then, a botched snap ends Olindo Mare's consecutive field goal streak. Okay -- back to Red Zone!

Aaron Schatz: I don't know which song is better for today's SEA-TB matchup, "Spirit of '76" or "The Battle of Who Could Care Less"?

Doug Farrar: Mike Carey picks up a block-in-the-back flag on T.J. Houshmandzadeh on a play where Housh not only blocked his guy in the back, but held as well. Guess T.J. talked him out of it.

Vince Verhei: The Seahawks finally put Max Unger at center, and things seem to have gone fine. I haven't noticed a barrage of unblocked rushers or anything. Turns out the rookie can make line calls. Seahawks would have more points except for Matt Hasselbeck's stupid fumble, his stupid interception, and a botched hold on a field goal.

Early in the season I saw a lot of blown blocks by Unger at guard, but he showed improvement as the season progressed.

Bucs now up 21-7. Hasselbeck appears to be openly helping his team get in better position to draft his replacement. He's thrown another stupid pick, and his incompletions are missing his receivers by two or three yards. Some of them I think he's throwing away, but he's looked pretty clearly like the worst quarterback in this game.

Doug Farrar: Ladies and Gentlemen, your new Seahawks longsnapper: Cornerback Kelly Jennings.

Tom Gower: Kelly Jennings?  For real?

Doug Farrar: I am not kidding.

Vince Verhei: According to John Boyle of the Everett Herald, the Seahawks were literally holding long-snapping tryouts on the sideline.

Doug Farrar: Down 17 with 10 minutes left in the game, the best Matt Hasselbeck can do is a dinky TE screen to John Carlson. I curse the Seahawks for their pointless conservatism. On the next play, Hasselbeck heaves up a downfield lob to the legendary Elbert Mack. As is generally true with passes thrown to Deion Branch, the defender runs Branch’s route better than he does. I revise my expectations and pray for several more TE screens.

Vince Verhei: Kevin Houser is the starter, but it was his bad snap, not a bad hold, that cost Seattle the field goal. He also had a facemask penalty. He was down for a while after his last punt, so it was likely an injury situation. On the other hand, I can easily, easily see Jim Mora snapping and blaming this entire game on the long snapper and firing him on the spot.

Aaron Schatz: Tampa Bay wins! By which, I mean, the 2010 through 2020 St. Louis Rams win!

Doug Farrar: The game effectively ends on the second Hasselbeck pick in which Branch refuses to challenge the defender and run the correct route. I have never seen someone box himself out of plays more consistently.

Green Bay Packers 36 at Pittsburgh Steelers 37

Tom Gower: Ben Roethlisberger underthrows Mike Wallace, but it's still good for a TD.  Aikman says Wallace just ran past Jarrett Bush, overlooking the part of the replay showing Bush and Wallace where Bush kind of stopped running and let Wallace run past him.

Vince Verhei: I'm typing this from a bar in Federal Way, Washington, that is inexplicably filled with a mix of rabid Steelers fans on one end and rabid Packers fans on the other. Alcohol is plentiful. If I am killed in the inevitable riot, well, it's been real.

Mike Kurtz: Max Starks got destroyed, Ben didn't feel the pressure, Matthews fumblesack. Weaksauce.

Gift for Roethlisberger. I despise the tuck rule.

Aaron Schatz: By the way, Mike: fumblesack? Weaksauce? What is this, 1984? Your descriptive nouns are doubleplusgood.

Mike Kurtz: Compound nouns are, as the kids say, compound.

Vince Verhei: If Hobbits had played football in the Shire, Tolkien would have given them names like "Fumblesack Weaksauce."

Tom Gower: Mason Crosby attempted another field goal from the right hash.  Once again, he missed a field goal from the right hash.

Mike Kurtz: Unintended consequences are awesome: Mendenhall catches after a flea-flicker, ward slams Hawk, right into Mendenhall, which takes him down.

Then a run to the outside for negative, with bonus holding! Great job, o-line.

Max Starks just gave up another ugly sack. He's lined up one-one with Matthews and just getting destroyed. On that play, he apparently didn't realize who his assignment was, as he pulled in to help the guard, figured out that wasn't his assignment, then went back to Matthews, succeeding in blocking neither player. Excelsior!

Mike Tanier: Vince, I need an update on the Steelers-Packers turf war.

Vince Verhei: It's been quiet. Well, that's absolutely the wrong word to use -- they're all living and dying on every snap -- but there's been no trouble. It helps that the way the bar is designed, the main door is in the middle of a wall and actually has guardrails on either side. So the Steelers fans are over by the pool tables and the Packers fans are under the big screen, with the main walkway acting as a buffer zone.

Pittsburgh kicks a go-ahead field goal to make it 30-28 with about four minutes to go, then runs a surprise onside kick. They recover, but it did not go ten yards. So Green Bay takes over at about the Pitt 40, nearly in range for their own go-ahead kick.

Mike Kurtz: It's really sad, it was only off by a yard and a half. They should have just let it bounce, but even then it may not have made it, and even then, you can't blame the coverage. Green Bay gets to the 20, going to run down the clock, game over. Another infuriating Steelers loss.

Vince Verhei: Except that Green Bay scores a touchdown instead. Packers are about to be up 34-30 (extra point pending), but there's still more than two minutes to go.

And now Joe Buck, worst announcer in sports, is criticizing Mike Tomlin for not trusting his defense to win. Has he been WATCHING this team this year?

Doug Farrar: The worst announcer in sports generally sits to Buck's left during baseball games, but point taken.

Aaron Schatz: Not even coming from a Red Sox fan! I knew we weren't alone in our opinion.

Vince Verhei: The way Ben Roethlisberger holds the ball, I'd rush two and drop nine,
and just wait for my two guys to chase him down.

Tom Gower: DAY-UMMMM.  I do believe that's a TD catch by Mike Wallace.  Heck of a drive there by the Stillers.

Vince Verhei: Well then.

Mike Kurtz: Okay, so good chance my misery was premature. That drive is a microcosm of both teams' seasons: a mistake-filled flag fiesta.

Sick throws by Roethlisberger and nice job Wallace pulling a Holmes, there.

Aaron Schatz: All that, AND Andy Rooney tonight on 60 Minutes.

Bill Barnwell: If only there was a pill for premature misery.

Mike Kurtz: Let me go talk to my glass of scotch, I'm sure me and my reflection will sort it all out.

Vince Verhei: At the end of this game, the Steelers fans celebrated, the Packers fans banged their fists on the table. Then they met in the middle of the bar for a line of handshakes and "good game," like it was the YMCA t-ball league. I swear that happened.

Minnesota Vikings 7 at Carolina Panthers 26

Bill Barnwell: The Panthers just converted a third-and-26 with a 42-yard lob to Steve Smith for six. Antoine Winfield had great coverage, just fell down. 

Collinsworth mentioned at some point that in the second half that "Teams have to get hot and play their best football down the stretch." Huh? Has he paid attention any of the last THREE seasons?

Vince Verhei: Is anyone watching Sunday Night Football? Can you please explain how Carolina is beating Minnesota 12-7?

And I love comments like that. I guess the key is to half-ass things for September and October. Don't want to play your best then.

Aaron Schatz: Steve Smith is very good, and the Minnesota offense has almost
entirely disappeared. And I think Percy Harvin has only one catch tonight. He may have said he had a handle on the migraines enough to finally get back on the field, but he's not playing like it.

Bill Barnwell: Panthers are making Vikings OL look bad with their front four and holding Adrian Peterson to 3.1 yards per carry. 

Mike Tanier: I am watching in a groggy way. Just saw the 3rd-and-26 and it was vintage Steve Smith. I have seen a lot of Brett Favre underhand passes and Brett Favre double pump-fakes, but also some dropped passes. Favre just made a miracle escape and threw to Shiancoe, who couldn't find the handle. One Vikings drive ended on a fumble, another ended when AP couldn't convert 3rd-and-short. The main thing is that the Vikings are getting very little from their running game, and Childress is starting to go Full Andy Reid, abandoning the run with abandon.

Aaron Schatz: Chris, Al, say it with me now: "There's no such thing as a trap game. There's no such thing as a trap game. There's no such thing as a trap game." This was never going to be a trap game, because there's no such thing.

David Gardner: The Vikings are also missing a lot of tackles at the second level. Steve Smith and Jonathan Stewart are racking up yards after contact, as evidenced by Smith's rumble to the 3-yard line and Stewart's touchdown run.

Bill Barnwell: Great little cut block there by Steve Smith downfield on Gary Barnidge's catch-and-run. Probably picked up 15 extra yards because of it.

Aaron Schatz: And there's your obligatory Adrian Peterson moment of awesomeness, and your obligatory Brett Favre ridiculous "didn't he notice that guy was covered" interception. Game over.

Bill Barnwell: Steve Smith killed the post-game interview.


Tim Gerheim: Oh my god.  ANOTHER Geico ad campaign.  Because cavemen, geckos, and piles of money with googly eyes aren't enough.

Tom Gower: With today's results, the AFC is now 34-25 against the NFC and has clinched a non-losing record in interconference play for the 14th straight season.

Vince Verhei: Here is my favorite stat: Thanks to SIX teams at 7-7, only four teams in the AFC have losing records.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 21 Dec 2009

213 comments, Last at 28 Dec 2009, 10:24am by Justin Zeth


by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 9:56am

Green Bay had a kajillion chances to end that last drive and failed.

Capers needs to let his defense play straight up and stop with the goofy stuff so much. Nick Barnett covering Holmes in the last minute of the game? What? Hello?

Jermichael Finley is rapidly becoming Green Bay's 'go to' guy. And while the receivers aren't happy about it maybe they should hold onto the d*mn ball instead of complaining.

AJ Hawk normally holds his own in pass coverage. Not today. Yowsers.

If Cullen Jenkins goes low instead of high on that last rush he likely holds up Ben to let the calvary show up and finish him off meaning the Steelers have no time to run a final play. Jenkins went high. Ben scoffs at d-linemen who do that. Geezum.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:06pm

This has nothing to do with the Packers/Steelers game, but I thought you'd be amused to hear that, after Cutler's 2nd or 3rd INT yesterday, Brian Billick said he's turning into another Jeff George. Made me sad and angry all at the same time, just like when you said it.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:20pm

If Cutler is becoming another Jeff George, then Michael Wilbon is becoming his Jason Whitlock.

by nath :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:52pm

I heard the Cutler/George comparison too. Pretty silly to single him out and not notice that the O-line can't block anybody, that the top three WRs are a converted CB/KR, the QB's college buddy, and a rookie, or that the playcalling is awful.

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:18pm


Well, wasn't trying to pick a fight.

And I don't accept the "surrounding cast" as an excuse because I am sure all of us have seen what a good qb can do with seemingly little talent around him. I saw that with Favre with no real tight end and receivers of alligator arms Bill Schroeder and fat Antonio Freeman. Or McNabb for several years when some games his best receiver was Todd Pinkston with an offensive line that tried to get him killed. Good qbs find a way to make plays.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:25pm

whoa, whoa, whoa - other than maybe VERY early on his career (when he stank, regardless) McNabb has always had an least above average o-line. Which o-line are you thinking of post-2001?

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:32pm


I am referencing times within a season where due to injury McNabb was playing with a half deck. As one easy example McNabb beat the Packers on MNF with a bunch of nobodies while Ahman Green was running for 200 plus yards.

Sorry for not being more clear

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:49pm

My point woiuld be though that the Eagles are a well-coached/constructed team, especially their o-line (see this year for an example of how they barely missed a beat). McNabb is always surrounded with at least borderline competent players playing at something resembling the best of their ability. It's unclear to me what Cutler is supposed to do about his o-line (that's the coaches job, not his)...

(this is not intended as a smear on McNabb in any way shape or form...)

by R O (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 5:24pm

Also McNabb IS a 9 or 10 year vet who's been in the same system his whole career.

And regardless of o-line play, McNabb actually has NFL quality receivers to throw to. They haven't quite grasped that concept in Chicago yet.

If Jerry Angelo, or whatever his name is, is still in Chicago next year they will be in for another LONG year. It's really as simple as that.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 7:12pm

A while ago someone asked where all of the "average offensive linemen" were in the NFL that the Bears were supposed to go get, and I snarkily responded "the draft" - and if you look at how few high-round offensive linemen the Bears have drafted, it's astounding. I have no idea what makes the Bears front office think that they can identify NFL-quality offensive linemen in the 7th round when all evidence says otherwise.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 4:38pm

Well, wasn't trying to pick a fight.

Yeah, I know. My response was disproportionately angry, partly because it's been a really long season, and partly because deep down I know that there's a finite possibility that the JG comparisons are correct. But I'll hang on to the "supporting cast" argument until you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

by DMC :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:11pm

Packers/Steelers: I was actually worried that some of the penalties were a part of a hidden clock killing strategy. Cover the deep recievers, mug the underneath guys, and sack the quarterback. Even if you give up the 5 yard penalty you can take 15 seconds off the clock. Could this be useful to other coaches?

by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:31pm

I'd be more inclined to believe such a theory if the Packers hadn't been committing defensive holding incessantly all year, to the point you have to assume it's actually an integral part of their defensive strategy.

by Trulee Pist (not verified) :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 7:44pm

There are two ways for a defense to end that final drive: (1.) The clock runs out...Pack did about as well as you can on that, took until 0:03 before Big Ben got his shot at the winning pass; and (2.) The defense takes over on downs. THAT's what killed the Pack on that final drive. The Pack gave up THREE first downs on penalties (not to mention gave back an intercepted pass because of a penalty). Penalties do matter. It was as if Ben was always playing with five or six downs instead of four.

by DR Ryan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 10:05am

I don't know the correct place to ask this question, but would also appreciate commenters views.

With the 370 carries 'rule' does this take account of runs which are cancelled out due to penalties? Could this add 10-20 carries per year that aren't counted at the moment?

I know receptions aren't thought to be as damaging as runs, so maybe it's not too much of an issue. But sometimes it seems a whistle blows the RB slows down a tad and someone blows him up. This would make the RB more likely to get injured?

by AnonymousA (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 11:05am

This "rule" is actually garbage -- statistical noise overly interpreted into a law of physics. Brian Burke of Advanced NFL Stats has a good article on this.

by nat :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 11:17am

Is it me, or have there been a lot of shills posting about Burke's site here recently?

Not that it's a bad site. But I find shills annoying.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:29pm

This site is about doing good statistical analysis. If someone else is doing that, its relevant.

ALl the "shills" are posting here because FO's stuff has gone drastically downhill the last year or so. They've gone from questioning everything to "OUR STATZ ARE T3H RIGHT!"

by nat :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:00pm

Good statistical analysis - any good analysis, actually - that is relevant to the topic at hand is always welcome. I've learned a lot about football stats analysis from links here to other sites. Both the FO staff and the commenters are pretty good about finding and sharing insightful stuff.

My question was motivated by curiousity. I've noticed an increase in posts that appear to be driven by a desire to promote some other site, or to push one's own agenda - rather than an interest in football stats in general or DVOA and its cousins in particular. But have other people noticed the same trend? Is this the price of success? Is it retribution for selling out? Is it a general trend at all sites around the web - a sign of our times rather than an FO ailment?

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:09pm

Is there a correlation between them writing for ESPN, and new posters coming along? The type of posters that most people don't like? Is there a correlation between then writing for ESPN, and "making it", and less challenging their methods?

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:25pm

They've been writing for ESPN for something like five years now.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:25pm

My question was motivated by curiousity. I've noticed an increase in posts that appear to be driven by a desire to promote some other site, or to push one's own agenda - rather than an interest in football stats in general or DVOA and its cousins in particular.

I don't think it's the price of success, I think it's a result of football - and a lot of other sports, too - statistics "growing up," so to say - a while ago there weren't that many other football stat sites that were worth anything. Now you've got FO, KC Joyner's stats, advancednflstats, PFR, etc.

I do think sites in general tend to get a little protective when that happens, too. You can definitely see it on other sites, too - although I have to say PFR is really balanced and ecumenical there. And really strangely uncrowded.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:15pm

Brian Burke of Advanced NFL Stats has a good article on this.

He has a good article on why "370 is a magic number" is crap, but he overly interprets that into a criticism of the basic idea, which is actually two ideas. RBs who get tons of carries are going to decline - which is just regression to the mean, since tons of carries are outliers. That's just a "fantasy football" rule, though, and you'd think it wouldn't be that interesting, but apparently people in fantasy football don't really get regression to the mean (If you read the article, Burke pretty much says "yeah, it's there, but it's just regression to the mean" - which... is half the point).

The second idea is that RB injuries are related to number of carries. This should be a 'duh' thing, but given actions like Herm Edwards running LJ into the ground a few years back, apparently not. That's been shown from plenty of other studies as well (and not just from FO, there are a few journal articles regarding this).

To quote: "Just so people understand, there's nothing magical about carry number 370 that makes a running back blow out his ACL, any more than there is something special about pitch 100 that makes a pitcher's arm fall off. It's simply a useful shorthand to represent the fact that overworking your running back with too many carries is a bad thing." Though I do agree that the text in "FO Basics" and in many articles is pretty misleading.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 4:16pm

Always appreciate the defense from readers.

To be serious, I'm not sure I get all the criticism. We're not doing anything differently this year compared to past years. We've written for ESPN for three years now, and we wrote for FOX from 2005 through 2007. I doubt we've posted anything that says "our stats rule and you can't question them" and we always welcome intelligent criticism and/or guest columns as long as people are interested in better analysis and not just calling us sellouts. I also think we've never hidden that FO is writing for a general audience, and we're not just interested in good analysis -- we're also interested in making that analysis entertaining and understandable.

by Nathan :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 4:35pm

I personally have been reading the site for 3 years and am not really interested in the stats at all. I check them occasionally but I come for the intelligent, unconventional analysis and general attitude (Audibiles) as well as stuff like Cover 3, etc. The stats I'll use to help me make the occasional pick that I'm waffling over but that's about it. I don't really care who's the 4th best valued WR in week 6 or anything like that (maybe because I don't play fantasy). I got and read the Almanac this year just for the write-ups and because it's a great way to familiarize myself with the diamond in the rough players on teams I never get a chance to watch, etc.

by R O (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 5:28pm

I would guess it's a function of your popularity. With more readers and more interest comes more scrutiny and criticism. Just ask that Tiger Woods guy...

by dmb :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 5:46pm

I think there are a few potential reasons for the criticism:

(1) Even though FO writers have been on mainstream sites for years, this year has an unusually high amount of content that's posted here but that's behind a paywall for another site. It seems like every time an ESPN article is posted, one of the first few comments is, "Why didn't you warn us that it's Insider?!?!!??" I know it's been explained countless times that everything for ESPN is Insider, but I think the volume and visibility of such content is aggravating to some readers. I'm not commenting on whether it's justifiable to get frustrated over such a change; I just think it's a pretty obvious difference, and that some readers didn't like it shouldn't be astonishing.

(2) While you and the other writers may welcome constructive criticism, such feedback is rarely acknowledged. That's understandable -- there are plenty of other things more pressing than scrolling through pages and pages of comments -- but I can see how a reader would interpret that as a statement in itself: "our work speaks for itself." I think this really becomes an issue when there are some serious issues pointed out with the work here, the most salient example being the critiques of the "Curse of 370." It's entirely possible that I missed it, but I don't recall seeing any sort of response or revision since those critiques have come out, and the dissenting views certainly don't seem to be acknowledged when the "Curse" is referenced in FO writing. (A more recent example: Temo and other Cowboys fans' futile attempt to communicate with FO authors that simply running the ball more wasn't the cure for their offensive woes. They had very specific and sound analysis of what was going on, beat that drum every time it was mentioned, and yet read FO authors repeating the same line for weeks!) I think some readers assign intent behind these sorts of events, and view it as arrogance.

(3) Some of the responses that authors have given in the comments section have been rather snarky. (Most recent example: Bill Barnwell in the XP on Steve Smith's SNF interview.) Personally, I don't always have a problem with snark, and considering how dreadful some of the comments can be, I actually think the restraint shown by all of the FO writers is pretty impressive. But snarky comments coming from authors is a pretty easy way to confirm an impression of arrogance.

Again, I don't necessarily agree with the polemics. But you said you don't get it, and I think these three factors probably go a long way toward explaining some of the comments I believe you're talking about.

by bubqr :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 7:44pm

Great, great post. I agree on each of your points.

by Tim F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 8:05pm

In addition to the paywall for EI stuff (losing Black and Blue, in particular), my next biggest gripe with the site is the awkward design. The green background with white simply does not work, and it's the only site I've ever seen that does it wrong -- or at least with such a horrible color scheme -- making it so that, even on a very good connection, you have a second or two of unreadable gray text on dark green background. The other aspect of the site design that blows is clicking on an Extra Point, and it only being a headline, and then clicking on another link to another site. Two clicks sounds like nothing but it really is a pain in the ass. I would say I read half as many Extra Points as I normally would as a result. Put source links on the front page so the extra clicks aren't necessary. Figure out if you want users commenting hear or at the source link. If you want to push the traffic to the source links (which presumably you are getting paid for), simply eliminate the posts on this site altogether rather than creating the need to follow the same conversations in 2 different sites.

FO's responses in comments don't concern me too much. But the growing amount of material that I can't or won't read does draw some ire on my part.

by Eddo :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 12:01pm

IMO, the best part of the site is the reader commentary; linking directly to XPs and having us comment there would really detract from the site. (A nice touch would be a brief excerpt of the linked article, much how Baseball Think Factory does it, but I definitely don't want to go without the staging page where we can comment here.)

I'm not a huge fan of the color scheme, but it doesn't really turn me off.

As for the free-vs-pay material, personally, my favorite stuff (Audibles, DVOA, Scramble, Walkthrough, and Cover 3) is still free. I miss Any Given Sunday, but other than that, most of the pay stuff is extra, it seems (usually stuff specific to the Monday Night game).

by Marver :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 7:16pm

The second idea is that RB injuries are related to number of carries. This should be a 'duh' thing, but given actions like Herm Edwards running LJ into the ground a few years back, apparently not. That's been shown from plenty of other studies as well (and not just from FO, there are a few journal articles regarding this).
When you account for sampling bias and you compare amongst age lines, the studies don't show anything. And why should it?

You and I probably both agree that there are players who are more injury prone than others due to biological differences, past injuries, etc. Lets call this ability to avoid injury (be one of the non-injury prone players) the "Injury Attribute". Even if the Injury Attribute only accounts for 10% of a player's likelihood to get hurt on a given carry -- with the other 90% being luck/randomness -- basic regression tells you that the more carries a player gets without getting injured, the more likely it is that he possesses a high value in this Injury Attribute.

A player who gets more carries will get injured more often simply because he's exposed to the odds of getting hurt more often. That doesn't mean he's more likely to get injured on a given carry than anyone else...in fact, I'd argue it's probably the opposite.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 8:36pm

When you account for sampling bias and you compare amongst age lines, the studies don't show anything.

I'm not sure why you say this, and then contradict yourself later by saying...

A player who gets more carries will get injured more often simply because he's exposed to the odds of getting hurt more often.

Um, that's kinda the entire point - hence the reason why it's a "duh" thing. If an RB has a 1% chance of getting injured on a given carry, giving an RB carries which would put him on pace for 200 carries/year would be pretty stupid. RBs have the highest injury rate for any skill position, so limiting the number of injuries they receive when they're young and most effective should be obvious.

by Marver :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 8:48pm

No, what should be obvious is that you want to maximize their output when they're at their best. Since giving them more carries DOESN'T make them more susceptible to getting injured on the next carry, you should continue to give them the football.

Not doing so is the equivalent of sitting a player, in basketball, because of foul trouble.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 12:41am

Since giving them more carries DOESN'T make them more susceptible to getting injured on the next carry,

... but getting injured increases the likelihood that they will be injured again.

Not doing so is the equivalent of sitting a player, in basketball, because of foul trouble.

Getting lost for a game due to foul trouble multiple times doesn't end your career.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 12:47am

I should also point out that basketball is a relatively high-leverage free sport, which is why sitting a player in foul trouble isn't a good idea (Plus players who get in foul trouble are typically stars, so they aren't situational).

Football, however, is probably about 1/3 high leverage plays and very situational, and so using a player in low-leverage or non-ideal situations when they've got a high injury risk is, well, stupid.

by zlionsfan :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 4:06pm

Hmm ... thinking about this at length, I'm not sure I totally agree about keeping a player in foul trouble on the court (I'd definitely say that a player in foul trouble isn't typically a star; it's more likely that the player is a contributor, otherwise he or she wouldn't usually get the minutes to draw fouls), but I follow the argument that there simply aren't plays in basketball that make the difference in a game like plays in football can.

Would it not also depend on the difference between the player and his or her backup? Or is it more that it doesn't really matter what you do, the damage has already been done? (After X fouls, either the player sits on the bench and doesn't contribute at all, or he or she plays; if on the court, either plays less aggressively on defense or is targeted more often, in either case likely contributing less value per play.)

by Marver :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 5:28pm

Oh, I certainly agree about leveraging players in football/baseball/other situational sports. I was simply asserting that not using a particular player in a situation you would use him because you were afraid of an injury due to overuse was absolutely absurd. What's the point of having the player if you aren't going to use him?

However, while we often know the leverage of a late-game situation, we rarely know the true leverage of an early game situation. Possibly, every carry a player gets ends up being low leverage since his team's defense pitched a shutout that game...but since we don't know the leverage of that situation (first quarter carry) until we can look back retrospectively, I would suggest using your best players on every play early in a football game until we have a clearer picture on the leverage of his remaining carries.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 10:33am

I believe PFR did a study, which I found considerably more convincing than "curse of 370", which suggested that over-use really did increase the per-carry chance of injury, but that a season was far too long a period to be looking at - that the players at risk were guys with very high carry totals over about a four week period. The issue, in other words, is intensity of use, not volume of use, which makes total sense to me.

by Marver :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 5:43pm

I know what study you're citing (Running Back Overuse)? and you should recall:
1. Part 2 found a positive correlation between number of carries in the last six weeks of a season, and the ability to play at least 15 games the following season. This supports my theory that more carries indicates a better chance of possessing the "Avoid Injury Attribute".

2. Their "season ending injury" statistic was using a sample of just 14 backs! Clearly too small a sample size; a difference in just 1 player accounted for the entire difference between the 25+ % and the under 25+% percentage.

I also do not recall the study using per-carry chance of injury anywhere in that study. Can you confirm this was the study you were talking about? I'd love to see the results of a real per-carry study; I'm fairly certain it'll confirm the " Avoid Injury Attribute".

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 10:09am

That sure looks like a whooped team to me. They've been man handled 2 of the last 3 games and Childress wanted to bench Favre up 7-6. McKinnie and Loadholt were horrible. They were beat just about every pass play. The Panthers got pressure even with 3 men. In the 2nd half the Vikings continued to try to block Peppers with one man for the most part.

The one thing I liked about Childress teams is they almost never got whipped the trenches. I've always felt he was not bright enough to have a top level team but at least they were as tough as anyone. Twice in the last three weeks they got their asses handed to them in the trenches.

That doesn't leave much to like about Childress. The Vikings are starting to look old, slow and stupid...that's a real triple threat.

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:50pm

I'm not going to disagree. The Vikes have looked completely and utterly beatable the past few weeks. AP and Favruh need to put in a LOT of practice time to work on their handoffs. It's so painfully slow, everyone can see when AP is getting the ball. Which then makes play-action less effective.

Actually, Peterson seems to have taken a step backwards somehow. I haven't put my finger on it yet, but I wonder if he has gotten less patient about letting a hole develop? He seems to just take the ball and slam straight into the line.


by jmaron :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 4:45pm

Peterson seems a step slower this year. Perhaps his ankle and other nagging injuries are hampering him. My sense for several weeks has been that there aren't any holes to run through for him at all. Taylor seems to get bigger holes lately but I wonder if that has more to do with teams presuming it's a pass when Taylor is in.

In Arz and Car the offensive line got beaten badly. I think that is at the route of the problem.

by Anonymous Coward (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 10:35am

No comments from the staffers on this but I do think in the epic showdown of historically bad special teams the Steelers were clearly the worse unit in the kickoff and punting game. However, Green Bay missed a field goal that would have been the deciding points, so they still have some claim to be worse.

by jedmarshall :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 10:55am

Is the Steelers LT #78 (Starks I think?) always that bad? He was getting killed on the Steelers last few drives by gassed defenders with only 3 guys usually rushing.

Also a sarcastic thanks to my local Fox afiliate (I live in southern Indiana not Chicago) for allowing me to watch the entirety of the CHI-BAL thriller before finally letting me to watch the final 8 min of the GB-PIT game.

by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 11:57am

Yes, he has always been that bad at pass protection. Hopeless.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:53pm

happen to have that quote of his from the offseason/preseason when he basically said he was lucky to have walked into such a large payday?

Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.

by IanWhetstone :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:58pm

I would greatly disagree. Starks got whooped pretty bad yesterday, but he has been more than solid all year at a difficult position to play. He was pretty good the last half of last season, too, when he came in for Marvel Smith.

by Anonymous Coward (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:25pm

He looked pretty good against Jared Allen and Elvis Dumerville earlier in the year.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:13pm

That's why God made sports bars, my friend.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:52pm

sports bars, or better yet, Sunday Ticket in your own living room...

Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:29pm

'Better' is arguable, unless Sunday Ticket at some point started including 6 HD big screen TVs and multiple tuners so you can watch all the games at the same time.

Plus food you don't have to cook, and which can be very cheap if you don't drink.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:31pm

GameMix+ HD on 120" projection screen== easily watch all live games.

I'll grant you the cooking/cleaning aspect.

Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:52pm

Pat - we agree! Watching games at home with one or two people is also a little weirdly quiet...

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 5:08pm

Maybe it's just me, but cute girls seldom sit down next to me while I'm watching TV at home.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 6:23pm

If you're in Philly, I doubt cute girls sit down next to you at all.....


Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 7:24pm

Yeah, because all those Yenzer chicks are real keepers...

by jebmak :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 7:28pm

It probably is just me, but the only time I *get* a cute girl to sit down next to me is at home.

by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 8:10pm

Once you blow it up, it will probably sit anywhere you desire...

Ok, sorry, couldn't resist...

by SDfan (not verified) :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 12:02am

This is why it's fun to be a girl at Football Outsiders... I get to read great commentary about teams, games, etc and also get a little insight into the male brain when you guys think you're talking to other guys. Hehe. Seriously, I appreciated the humor here =) Lets just say your comments explain why being a girl who loves football (and who follows it closely enough to be a fan of FO) is apparently a rare find.

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 12:47pm

Well, on behalf of all the trolls here, always nice to have a lady on board.

by SDfan (not verified) :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 7:53pm

Hey thanks for the welcome =)

by Martial (not verified) :: Wed, 12/23/2009 - 1:58am

My wife doesn't like football, but she does like me - so she will watch it with me. (Maybe an even rarer find than the girl who likes football?) Of course there is a quid pro quo...

by Nathan :: Wed, 12/23/2009 - 12:46pm

Project Runway?

by Jetspete :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 11:02am

a few points on jets game

- no longer can 80 year olds be the play by play for games. Dick Stocton regularly got scores and players wrong. why not let 25-35 year olds broadcast games? they are more alert and knowledgeable than senior citizens.

- during a fight in the 3rd quarter the refs refused to blow the whistle, then when tj innocently came in on the end he got flagged for a bogus personal foul that cost the jets a shot at messing up another field goal.

- the jets have some guy named woodhead from a d2 school in kansas that has no discernable football skills whatsoever. yesterday he missed a key block on special teams that wouldve freed brad smith for a return touchdown. anyone ever see the family guy where they spoof the shortstop who has no arms. Woodhead is roughly as valuable as that guy.

- the jets are really in no worse playoff shape than they were before yesterdays game. Because of tiebreakers even if they won they still needed to beat indy to have any shot at playoffs, and if they win out they still have a decent chance because of denver's loss.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:14pm

It has nothing to do with age - Stockton has always been a poor announcer.

by Joe T. :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 11:04am

Don't see the MIN-CAR game up here, but I was really impressed with how well Matt Moore played last night. Granted, he got great performances from supporting characters, but he made the most of it.

by Neal (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 11:09am

In regards to the Colts Stretch play, I think they pretty much turfed it early last year after Manning's knee surgery. You'll recall that at one point, he was pitching the ball because he couldn't get out there for a handoff with the gimpy leg. Despite recovering in the 2nd half of last year, I think they got away from the stretch as their signature in the run game. Here's my question: How do the Colts get a runnign game back in the future? You have a great passing game and are the worst running team in the league. The run game is so poor that it can't be even mediocre against 7 man fronts. You've drafted a RB in the first round in roughly 2 of the last 4-5 years. Is it as simple as drafting a road-grating right tackle in the draft a la Jeff Otah?

by Temo :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 11:29am

I'm always surprised at the difference just one O-lineman can have. For instance, the Cowboys have always run the ball predominately to the right, behind Leonard Davis and Marc Columbo.

After Columbo went down, they inserted Doug Free, who is decent enough in pass blocking, but is no way near Columbo's level in the run game. After a couple games of ineffective running (and this is the #1 run offense in the NFL by DVOA), they now run to the left more than the right and have found more success.

by jedmarshall :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 11:31am

Charley Johnson is an ok/solid LT against the pass, but struggles against the run, so left side stretch plays are iffy. Often times lining up with a hole at RG would be just as effective as the man who stands there. It's hard to run wide when there's penetration before you can get outside the hashes.

The running game has been considerably better the last few weeks though. I don't think it would take much to completely fix it. More OL depth and a decent RG would help as would having a reliable healthy option to give Addai breathers.

They've had a tough slate of defenses this year as well. Rushing DVOA rank of opponents.

Only MIA and STL have rush D above 0% and 8 of 14 games against teams roughly in the top third of the league.

by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:36pm

It really isn't that bad. It's not great, but it isn't nearly as bad as their yards per game shows. They just don't run very much. It could absolutely be a lot better though.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:15pm

The Colts run more zone blocking on run plays. I don't think selecting a Jeff Otah fits with the concept of the team. Otah is good for a team that plays outdoors, on grass, and wants to run the ball. By all means Carolina with an offensive lineman as their offensive coordinator, Two 1st round running backs, and Jordan Gross on the other side an Ryan Khalil fits into the concept of their team.

The colts drafted a LT that can run block, and he hasn't worked out so well ( injuries aside).

by jedmarshall :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 11:19am

One of the many reasons I love FO. You guys actually pay attention to the games. Jacksonville moved the ball against Indy because two of the key cogs (Freeney and Mathis) as well as their second best CB were out for most/all of the game. Also Tim Jennings is horrible. Two wtf moments for me.

1. Kickoff return for a touchdown? That really happened?
2. Tim Jennings almost made a great game sealing pick before Lacey's actual game sealing pick. I am elated anytime Jennings shows competency. Actually making a good play is levels beyond awesome.

Colts need their CB's to be healthy just about as much as the DE's. I'm very confident in the playoffs if the CB's are Hayden & Powers with Lacey as the nickelback. When Tim Jennings enters the equation it becomes shaky. If he's a starter it's downright scary.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 11:22am

Pay attention, Mercury Morris, Don Shula, etc:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Walking with a cane, 73-year-old Jim Brown hurried
downstairs yesterday to congratulate Jerome Harrison for rushing for 286
yards and erasing the Cleveland Browns record Brown had held since 1957.

"I made sure I came down early to be able to greet Mr. Harrison," said
Brown, who is an executive adviser for the Browns. "These young people
deserve credit when they do something that great, especially under these
circumstances. My heart goes out to him. I respect him a lot."

by Temo :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 11:30am

Touche. Athletes always seem to come off more likeable when they let fans and media trumpet their accomplishments rather than relentless promoting themselves.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:52pm

One of the reasons Ted Williams is my favorite athlete who I never saw play is that, beyond the feats on and off the baseball field, he always gave the guys who played after them their due, and never fell into "It was better in my day!" crankery. He also was an early advocate for recognizing the greatness of the Negro League stars. He could be a real sonovabitch, but those attributes were really, really, admirable.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:16pm

Apropos of nothing, he also had his own brand of condoms (the "splendid splinter," indeed!) and there was a great anecdote about him, not sure if it's true or not, in the novel The Brothers K, in which Williams claimed in a newspaper interview to actually see the ball more clearly than anybody could--big as a melon and spinning slowly enough to count the stitches. So of course he could see better than anyone if it's a ballor strike.

For the rest of that season after the interview was published, he did not have a called strike called against him. The umpires read too.... (A highly recommended novel, BTW)

by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:34pm

The anecdote is false. Williams played in an era where writers, especially sports writers, were held to a much lower standard of accuracy than they are now, and things would be made up sometimes. Someone made up the notion that Williams could see the stitches on a ball--no human can pick out individual stitches on a ball rotating as fast as a major league fastball, much less curveball, does--and published it, and it got run with and grew over time.

Later in his life, Williams repeatedly set the record straight, saying that his eyesight was excellent, but not supernatural.

by Subrata Sircar :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 6:47am

There is an excellent anecdote by Peter Gammons about a conversation between Ted Williams, Don Mattingly and Wade Boggs that goes something like this (paraphrasing badly):

Williams: Have you ever smelled the bat burning?
Boggs: No. (WTF is he talking about?)
Mattingly: (Funny look) Yes. (How did he know?)
Williams: Only guys who really whip the lumber have smelled it.

As usual, Google is your friend:


Anyway, Williams had a lot of deep insights into the art of hitting a baseball - his "hit chart" showing his batting average in each of nine sections of the strike zone is quite insightful at a time when no one but maybe Branch Rickey was talking about this kind of stuff.

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 4:47pm

LOL that's the same Jim Brown that sat in his booth pouting as LaDainian Tomlinson passed him by. I guess it's different when the guys on your team or else he didn't know the camera was on him.

by Scott C :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 6:51pm

What? "pouting" is your interpretation.

He came down and talked to / congratulated LT later.

See a guy on camera for 3 seconds and jump to conclusions.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 10:49am

I seem to remember reading that he wasn't thrilled about Payton passing him though - to the point of threatening to suit back up to try and reclaim his record.

by Travis :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 12:37pm

Brown was fine with Payton breaking his record, but he did threaten to return when Franco Harris got close to his record.

He settled (after Payton had passed both of them) for taking on Harris in a made-for-TV competition after the 1984 season, "I Challenge You." Brown, 48, beat Harris in racquetball and basketball, but lost in football (one-on-one plus Phil Simms at QB) and the 40-yard dash.

by Marcumzilla :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 6:37pm

As much as everyone here rips on the mainstream media for contributing to both the spread and continuation of "well known truths" that we know are myths, I'm surprised as much as I see people here spreading the myth of the '72 Dolphins and their champagne toast every year.


And I'm no Dolphins homer... I'm a Colts fan hoping they can join the exclusive club.

by Monkey Business (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 11:35am

I haven't seen anything from the Bengals that makes me think they can go toe to toe with the Colts and come out with anything more than a butt kicking.

18to88 had an interesting theory that the AFC winner will be whoever plays the least number of the Big Four teams (Colts, Patriots, Steelers, Chargers). With the Steelers still barely hanging on to playoff eligibility, and the Pats still in the driver's seat for the 3 seed, the Chargers could conceivably play two of three (NE, Divisional; Indy, Championship), whereas Indy wouldn't see any of them until the AFC Championship. The 6 seed could, unfortunately, play all 3 (NE, Wild Card; Indy, Divisional; SD, Championship), which seems like an impossibly brutal stretch of games.

by Marcumzilla :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 6:38pm

Isn't the knock on the Bengals that they can cover the top two WRs very well, but are horrible against the third? That sounds like a weakness made for Indy to exploit if I've ever heard one.

by peterplaysbass (verified?) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 11:38am

Vikings need to beat Chicago and NYG and/or Philly to lose. Need NYG to be eliminated and not care. Need New Orleans to lose in the divisional round of the playoffs. Or need to find a way to play up to their potential on the stinking road.

Yikes, yuck, terrible.

And the first RB to crack 100 yards against the Vikings in 37 games is... Jonathan Stewart?


by Temo :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 11:49am

Not too long ago, Cowboys fans were worried that Minnesota will have everything wrapped up by week 17 and give the Giants an easy ride. This kinda works out well for us, I suppose.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:57pm

No kidding, I thought Dallas was toast then they beat the hell out of NO. Minn lays an egg in Arz then beat Cinn easy and then but on a disgusting display in Car. Pitt can't beat KC, Oak and Cinn but they can beat GB. Arz kills the Vikings and then play like crap against SF and Det. Den kills the Giants but lose to Oak at home.

It all seems to change so rapidly - I'm sure the next two weeks will hold a bunch more surprises as will the playoffs.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:48pm

It all seems to change so rapidly

Yeah, if only there were people saying that there were a bunch of top teams closely packed who weren't that different...

To be fair, it's not like DVOA was really needed to realize that the Saints, Vikings, Packers, Steelers, Eagles, Cardinals, etc. were all "good, but not great, and not that different from each other" but for some reason people tend to point to "13-0!" rather than "needed Washington to shank a short field goal!", "Favre!" rather than "needed a miracle catch on a last-second play!". You can pretty much see the tight bunching in traditional stats, too, and if you don't believe in teams "knowing how to win close games" you tend to pay attention more to that.

The thing that was really surprising to me this year wasn't good teams losing to crap teams - that stuff happens every year, whether it's from a freak JaMarcus Russell driving down the field or Tom Brady attempting to throw passes from his butt - but New Orleans and the Colts going undefeated as long as they did (heck, even the Vikings too, and Denver as well) while dodging bullets every week. It's funny because you can kindof think of it as flipsides of the same coin - if you believe that the wins are predictive, then the giant upsets (Carolina over Minnesota, Dallas over NO, etc.) are 'wow!' If you believe that the stats are predictive, then the constant close wins are 'wow!'

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 5:16pm

Being undefeated always worked as an intimidating force for Mike Tyson, until he was put on the canvas in Japan. The fact is, the Saints looked like they were ready to drop a game sooner or later ever since they played the Rams. Key injuries will do that to a team, even a really good one.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 11:03am

I think in the case of the Saints it was in part the fact that their close wins had mostly been against bad teams, while they had blown several good opponents out of the water. The natural feeling was that they were a superior team with a bad habit of playing down to the opposition, rather than truly being merely very good. How often do non-great teams manage three "dominates" in a season.

As for the Colts, it's the Peyton Manning hypnosis effect. Speaking as a supporter of a team in his division that has beaten the Colts precisely once in its entire history, I can assure you that it can have a powerful psychological impact on fans of other teams (I have seen few Colt fans over-rating the Colts). It's not terror, it's numbing, unseeing, rabbit-staring-at-a-snake resignation in the face of what feels like the inevitable. It doesn't matter what the clock or the scoreboard says - you just assume Peyton's going to get you. Even the one time Houston did manage to beat the Colts, I didn't really enjoy it while it was happening - I was just scared. It was well after time expired before I fully believed what I had seen.

by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 10:24am

Some part of this post should be chiseled onto Manning's Hall of Fame bust. Most preferably:

'It doesn't matter what the clock or the scoreboard says - you just assume Peyton's going to get you.'

by Anonymous77 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 11:49am

I can't believe no one mentioned the line of the week, by Matt Millen: "Nothing is wrong with Roy Williams, he's still the same guy who was picked #1 by Detroit."

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 11:57am

I can't believe Millen said that... Who picked him Matty? He said something about " it's how you use him". I always thought Matt Millen was one of those big dumb former player announcers BEFORE he was hired. If Brian Baldinger ever wants to become a GM. NOOOOOOOOOO.

I like the guys that point things out and leave their ego at the door. Al Michaels is a play by play guy but he's more insightful than many of the color guys.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:20pm

I hope you weren't trying to say Al Michaels has his ego in check.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:37pm

Oh, Al's an egomaniac, but I suspect that he knows the rules and clock management better than 50% of NFL head coaches.

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 11:58am

"Broncos-Raiders game is stopped because there's a Raiders fan shining a laser pointer into the offense's eyes. One. In the whole crowd."

Maybe it's just me, but I always thought that laser pointers were more of a security issue than a distraction issue. If security just shrugs and says "meh, it's a laser pointer", and then it turns out to be a laser SIGHT, well, that's all kinds of trouble.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:16pm

Riley Covington agrees.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:15pm

Watched the Patriots game and it wasn't a pretty effort from Tom Brady. The Patriots seemed to have a good rushing attack ( but it was really bad run defense from the Bills). Aiken didn't help, but we are judging results here right? It's not like other QB's have guys that don't drop balls. I don't know how Tom Brady could have the #1 DVOA after that and with Manning/Rodgers playing very well.

Wright played well for the Patriots and the having the front 7 stand up and move around seemed to work fantastic against a Bills offensive line playing backups who didn't know what was going on.

- Josh Cribbs played a fantastic game with 2 TD returns. Yes, he is the best return man in the league and has 8 KR TDS to move to #1 all time ahead of Mel Gray and others.

- The Asante Samuel pick. He was in the short zone but he's such a ball hawk and studies film. He knows where the guys behind him MIGHT be and has great acceleration/anticipation to know where to go and when. I'd suspect that he has a lot of picks in zone coverage as I've seen him pick off balls in the short zone before.

- After the penalties and the INT intended for Vernon Davis Singeltary was angry. He pulled over Vernon Davis and was blasting him in public ( again) which I usually don't like. But it makes me think back to the 49ers defeating the Bears where the Bears defeated themselves with 5 or so turnovers and the 49ers won by 1 possession. After THAT game Mike Singeltary said something to the effect that, " if we play our game we could beat anybody".

I think Mike Singeltary is still caught up in 1980's football, where you " run and stop the run" to win. Dude, look at the Colts and Saints. Football is NOT just about commiting no penalties, running and not turning the ball over. The 49ers offense is not very good/boring/ultra conservative. I'm not sure if their OC sucks, or if Singeltary is making them run an ultraconservative game but it's not going to work. They have 2 RBs, a TE, and some pass catchers that show promise, they don't have to act like they are allergic throwing the ball downfield on offense.

There are X's and O's that happen behind the scenes and I feel like Singeltary is a " run the (basic) play we call and make it work". You COULD get a little creative, and run plays that get guys in match ups but I don't see it with the 49ers. I just see an angry meat head who thinks his team is going won win games due to being +3 or so in the turnover battle and that's not always going to happen.

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

It's hard to say what exactly Singeltary's true beliefs are when it comes to the modern game. I mean, if I had Frank Gore as my RB and Alex Smith as my QB, I may preach the importance of running the ball as well. After all, this team isn't far removed from having the worst passing offense over a period of years in the DVOA era.

The argument against this is that they have added a couple of good receivers since those years and they're currently ranked 21st in pass offense and 18th in rush offense, so it's not like they're running particularly well either.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:34pm

Unless you are convinced that the 49ers have a better than sub average qb on their roster, it is hard to discern what Singletary's thinking is. Crappy qb play almost always makes scheme/playcalling look bad, and it is not unreasonable to conclude that the 49er qbs are mostly out on the crappy end of the Bell curve. That isn't to say I'm convinced that Singletary's approach to offense is sound; it is just hard to tell.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:53pm

but look at the plays, look at the philosophy, and look at his words. Do you believe he wants the team in his image or not? I think he wants a run the ball, play defense, none of this risky pass game stuff.

You can manufacture offense... Do you think Matt Schaub is as good as his numbers in Houston? Do you see the plays that they run? Do you think that Mike Shannihan might have got more than was expected out of some of HIS quarterbacks? Do you think Jon Gruden would ever run an offense like that, or at least try and make it work?

I get the impression that he thinks it's just "mistakes", Penalties, lack of discipline and that you run the play no matter what. Who cares if it's a 32 ISO play, you run what you get and you make it work... Look at the TE screens, bootlegs, misdirection, short passes, long passes, end arounds etc that Houston, or Norv Turner or Sean Payton might run. Then look at the 49ers boring offense. If they fall behind in a game, what do you think their odds of coming back are? I'm not even saying that they need to run something like the Texans, but sheesh, they do have some good players on that offense... they aren't the Browns. I think the 49ers could benefit from trying to run an offense of the 21st century, and not something you might see on Friday nights. They DO have some good players on offense, and they don't have to run basic conservative plays. I think Mike Singeltary needs to lighten up. You don't have to be the most pumped up team before games to win. Football IS a thinking mans game, it's not always the most physical team wins, and a contest of manhood.

BTW, I saw the Patriots run a Wes Welker end around on 3rd and 2 last week and nobody said anything about the play calling but when Norv Turner did that and it didn't work earlier in the year you'd think it would make stupid call of the year award.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:02pm

You may be right or you may be projecting your expectations on something that is not there. You could have said a lot of these things about Childress last year, but then it all changed once he acquired a QB he actually trusted.

I saw the Patriots run a Wes Welker end around on 3rd and 2 last week and nobody said anything about the play calling

It was brought up on #FO, for what it's worth.

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

But Childress wasn't running an ultra conservative and boring offense like this last year. He at least tried to do things. Just because he had a dominant RB and they were effective at running the ball doesn't mean they were boring. I think the Vikings are a poor comparison.

Football if played correctly is like a chess match, and yes, it's about smarts on offense. Your QB, Line, WR's on the same page, reading the defense... or you have great play calls/designs by somebody up top who sees what's going on, who is biting on stuff, not watching contain etc. The 49ers run a cave man offense and their coach is obsessed with winning the physical battle etc. Football isn't about being the toughest team. The 49ers are trying to play modeled after the 2000 Ravens, and that's worked once in the last 10 years and with a historically good defense, good special teams and a dominant RB.

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:18pm

Also, I don't know if you noticed this, but Wes Welker and Vincent Jackson are different players. Welker's sort of known for his ability to make plays in space, where that's not Jackson's forte since, you know, he's a big guy and all.

I forgot that you make money gambling when no one else on earth does. I'll let you explain football to the rest of us.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 5:42pm

Thanks for the love smart one.

Vincent Jackson is also one of the biggest WR's you will ever see, and not easily brought down by first contact. It's just a case of Norv = automatically dumb, Patriots = automatically smart.

I'll wait for you to explain anything to anyone or make an original comment.

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 5:58pm

Yes, Vincent Jackson is big. He's also, on a reverse, being tackled by defensive linemen and linebackers who are, most likely, bigger. See: Justin Tuck, the guy who tackled him on the play.
I also didn't say anything about the Patriots being smart, I just think it's a bit self-explanatory that Wes Welker would be a better option on a reverse. I don't know anything about the Patriots play or game situation because I couldn't watch football yesterday - was it in the fourth quarter with a limited amount of time left? Because that was the main reason why the Norv decision was dumb.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 6:20pm

Add to that that I can most definitely recall someone in Audibles criticizing Sean Payton for calling an end-around in a similar situation, even though it worked.

by Thok :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:15pm

Singletary isn't a good coach.

That said, his players are playing hard and are clearly playing much better than they did under Nolan. (That's damning with faint praise, obviously)

Moreover, your comments seem to missing what actually happens in some of their games, where the offense has opened up to use the shotgun spread more; they even had comebacks in several of their losses (unsuccessful comebacks, but losing games 24-21 instead of 35-10 is an improvement.) The last couple games have had more of a focus on Frank Gore.

The Niners still have massive personnel problems: they legitimately could use new starters at both guard positions, right tackle, another pass rusher, cornerback, another wide receiver and quarterback. And that's just the obvious needs in the starting line up. By the time they get enough pieces in the draft to be a good team, they'll probably know if they need to replace Singletary.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:34pm

Playcalling is dicated by personnel to a greater degree than people generally acknowledge. Yes, coaching makes a difference, but talent is what counts the most. Only a small subset of Hall of Fame caliber coaches consistently manufacture successfully with poor quarterbacking. Parcells comes to mind, and not too may others. If the point is that anyone outside of that subset of Hall of Fame coaches is a bad coach, I don't think that is a useful way of looking at the game.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:02pm

but as Thok pointed out, the 49ers have looked better running the shotgun. I'm not saying Singeltary isn't a hall of fame coach therefore he is crappy, I just don't like the mindset of a meathead approach. We outphysical the other team and we don't make mistakes on offense isn't a very good template to winning games. It's not a weight lifting competition, it's a chess match between 200 pounders and 300 pounders.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:10pm

It's really not a chess competition or a "weight lifting competition", it's something in between all that.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 5:45pm

Right, and coaches who think the other team is challenging your manhood and that losing is a motivational problem and not a problem of X's and O's won't have a great record. Singeltary = Jack Del Rio thus far.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:26pm

Yes, and when your chess pieces are unable to make the same movements as the other guy's chess pieces, then you are reduced to playing checkers, while the other guy is still playing chess, and people say you are a lousy coach.

Look, I'm not saying that Singletary is a good offensive coach. I'm saying that to discount the significant limitations the 49er offensive personnel have, when attempting to critique the 49er playcalling, is likely a flawed way of looking at things. If Alex Smith was Tom Brady, then perhaps using a lot more shotgun would make more obvious sense. Alex Smith sucks, Tom Brady is great, and the 49er receiving corps isn't in the same neighborhood as the Patriots. Putting Smith into the shotgun with a lot more frequency might simply be the fastest way for the 49ers to throw more interceptions.

These are not simple things to analyze.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:02pm

I think he wants a run the ball, play defense, none of this risky pass game stuff.

Then you haven't watched the games.

For the season, the 49ers have a 469 pass to 307 rush ratio. Two weeks ago, against the Jaguars, they had a 41 pass to 20 rush ratio.

Sounds like you've been letting Sports Center quotes form your opinions.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:06pm

Nope, I haven't watched all their games, but when you are a losing team you tend to have to throw the ball. In the games they were "in" and "early" they either run the ball or throw a pass within 5 yards of the LOS. Their offense has looked anemic in every game I've watched unless they were losing and throwing and even then it didn't look good.

Thanks for the imput though.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 4:22pm

In the games they were "in" and "early" they either run the ball or throw a pass within 5 yards of the LOS.

Completely incorrect. Check out their games against the Jags, the Seahawks, or the Cards, for example.

Your opinion is doubtless based on their play at the beginning of the year, when they were in fact leading with the run. Then both their starting LT and RT got injured and they figured out they didn't have that kind of offensive line anymore.

Your comments would sound like run-of-the-mill common wisdom five or six weeks ago, and now they're simply outdated.

You're welcome for the "im"put.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 5:46pm

You are so smart.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 7:30pm

I don't know about that, but thanks for the compliment. I do watch my team and know what's going on with them.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 8:03pm

Schaub's not as good as his numbers, but he's still a pretty good quarterback - maybe the fourth or fifth best in the AFC. When it comes to players looking better in the Shanahan/Kubiak/Gibbs/Babyshan offense than they really are (and I absolutely agree this happens) I'd say the likes of Rosenfels, Griese and Plummer were better illustrations than Schaub. Completely agree with your broader point that the 49ers could be doing more to maximise the productivity of their very limited offensive talent, though.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 9:43pm

I agree that Schaub is alright and that Griese or Plummer 2005ish would be better examples. These are QB friendly offenses designed to work... ( don't fire Kubiak Houston). You don't need to have super star passes, I seem to recall lots of TE dump offs to Jeb Putzier and other less than steller non wr's.

I'm no 49ers expert as I perceive their level of play to be... boring, and nothing I've seen changes my mind on that. Throw in the Shaun Hill experiment in there as well and I don't like how that offense has been managed, and how their coach has responded.

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 1:27pm

Completely agree with your broader point that the 49ers could be doing more to maximise the productivity of their very limited offensive talent, though.

He may be right, but his reasons for thinking so are way off. It's funny to read those ideas after four consecutive games where the 49ers have used the shotgun as their base formation and thrown way more times than they've run, whether they were winning or losing.

I don't know what makes him so confident in his opinions when they're so counter to what's actually been happening on the field. It's mystifying.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:35pm

Brady's accuracy did look pretty suspect, although his worst throws generally came when he was being hurried. But I did see at least two or three throws when he had a clean pocket and just missed Welker. It was usually on crossing patterns over the middle. Could his injury (to his finger, or possibly his ribs) be affecting these kinds of throws? Do crossing pattern throws use different mechanics that could be more affected by certain injuries?

I did think that the Bills DB's were being more physical than the receivers than some teams DB's. This could account for some of the passing game struggles. The fact they were flagged for so many interference/illegal contact penalties implies that they were being pretty rough all game.

The Bills said after the game that their gameplan had been to take Welker out of the Pats offense. The result--Moss had a pretty good day, and the Pats ran it a lot against a suspect run defense.

Belichick said after the game that the bad run defense on Buffalo's first drive was not due to the D-line getting owned (although that's what it looked like to me), but rather the inside linebackers being in the wrong positions. He took the blame on it, saying they had gameplanned poorly, and that it took them roughly the first quarter to adjust. I couldn't tell if the Pats run defense tightened down because the Bills stopped trying to run, or if it actually was the Pats' adjustments.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:04pm

I'd be shocked if Brady is ranked #1 after yesterday. That pick was a poor read and a late throw over the middle, and he wasn't exactly racking up yards.

I too felt the Patriots were being pushed around on that first drive, I think they showed a replay or highlighed the D-line being pushed back but they did stop the run as the game went on and the 11 angry men or whatever you want to call it where the front 7 was standing around on obvious passing downs worked REALLY REALLY well vs the Bills inexperienced O-line.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:17pm

"The Dallas Cowboys have no chance of beating the New Orleans Saints next week"
- Tony Dungy

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:40pm

Wrong thread. This is Audibles, not TWIQ.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 5:23pm

In all fairness, if he said the same thing today, he'd be 100% correct.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 6:59pm

In all fairness, if that's the exact quote, he was 100% correct when he said it, considering it was said on Sunday and the Cowboys played the Saints on Saturday.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:25pm

The Vikings look like a team that disgusted me last year after building a cushion; the Cardinals. Maybe they'll find a way to throw the switch in the manner that bunch of loafers did, but I really despise a team which decides to not compete over a multi-week period. Mckinnie in particular showed why so many Vikings fans get disgusted with him. He decides about two or three times a year to phone it in, with a tin can and string.

In general, however, this team is not as good on the line of scrimmage as they were last year. Having a qb who can use the whole field has masked that somewhat, but it is still pretty obvious. It may sound crazy, but I found last year's team more fun to watch at times, as frustrating as it was to see good line play squandered with by bad qb performances.

The next babbler who mentions Favre's December stats from the latter stage of his career, as if it gives insight as to the Vikings performance over the last few weeks, gets the coveted Roberts/Theismann/Maguire Award.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:46pm

The Cardinals were always a high variance team though, and were always perceived as such. Warner's schizophrenic exploits are well known to fantasy players everywhere.

The Vikings this year have always seemed to me to be more the conventional "juggernaut" team, a complete team in the mold of the Patriots and Colts than the Cardinals (who basically ride the ebbs and flows of their QB).

By the way, as a Cowboys fan I sympathize with you regarding the use of December stats ad nauseum :)

I would think that even you will admit that you'd prefer playing in New Orleans than in Philly come January, which is really the only thing that makes these next couple weeks important for you.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:08pm

My initial inclination is to agree with you regarding what would be the worse venue for the Vikings to play a road playoff game, but then I start thinking about how the Eagles offense has evolved. An extremely windy day at The Linc could really hamstring McNabb and Co., what with how they have started to rely on the homerun. Of course, the Eagles defense is much more stout in the middle than the Saints', and the Vikings, if they are to get untracked, need to start running between the tackles effectively once again, so you are probably right.

I think anyone who thinks they can handicap this year's playoffs with confidence is a fool.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:34pm

After that showing by the NO crowd on Saturday night, I'm actually thinking it's not quite the slam-dunk as I initially thought. The Saints probably have the best HFA in the NFC.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:40pm

The Saints are an opportunistic team on defense, not a particularly physical bunch, and I was mildly surprised that their offensive line was so outplayed at home. Somebody could push them around enough for a few hours to beat them in a playoff game in the Superdome, without it being a shocker.

by Joseph :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:40pm

Will--yes they are opportunistic--and that's why the Cowboys beat them. ZERO turnovers, and Brees had 3. I will say this--when the game is in doubt in the end, and you are up 2 (the third TO was at the end) in the TO battle, means that the other team is probably even or a little better than you are.
Re: TO's, I don't know what it is now, but after the Pats MNF game, the Saints had AVERAGED exactly 2 INT's and 3 total TO's per game. I know it's kind of obvious to "not turn the ball over gives you the best chance of success," but that has been how some of the teams kept it close against the Saints.
Also, that was the worst pass protection Brees has gotten all year.
Regarding the defense, CB Jabari Greer is still out, CB Tracy Porter was in his first game back, SLB Fujita was too, and DT Ellis AND CB Randall Gay went out with injuries. Half of the reason teams have been able to run on the Saints has been the injuries to Ellis and Fujita--the other half is that Steven Jackson, Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams, and MB3 are pretty good RB's. Amazingly, teams have carved up their secondary in these last few weeks (with the exception of the Pats--shocker) because of their top 3 CB's plus S Sharper being on the injury list for the past 4-6 weeks.
I am not making excuses--goodness, they still nearly pulled it out after Folk shanked it--but injuries and a dependence on forcing turnovers finally derailed the Saints perfect season, and even as a Colts/PM fan (since he's from NOLA), I have been surprised that the Colts injuries in the secondary haven't derailed their perfect season.
After the Vikings practically gave us the #1 seed last night, I see the Saints injured players having almost a month to heal before having to play a game that really matters. They should beat the Bucs handily, and wait for the Eagles/Cardinals/Cowboys/Packers to come to the Dome.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:03pm

Well, there is no need to make excuses, since I was not exactly making a harsh criticism. They are a very good team with non-trivial flaws, which means that it would not be a shocker for them to lose a playoff game at home.

Nobody needs to make a rationalization for their favorite team not being the 1962 Packers.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 5:28pm

It sure seemed like there was a pretty significant Dallas cheering section, too - but that might have been poor audio by NFLN.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 10:05pm

Can't really tell that from the TV. Just going by statement from people (media and players) that were there that said it was the loudest game they've played.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:49pm

what's your take on Childress wanting to bench Favre up 7-6 in the 3rd quarter?

by Yuri (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:59pm

I watched the game out of the corner of my eye and wondered when BFBFBF!!! would be benched. As a matter of fact, perhaps it would have been wiser for the Vikes to start T-Jack in any outdoor away game...

Bottom line, benching would have been right decision, but infeasible politically.

On the other hand, the gameplan offensively was weird for MN too.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:59pm

Eh, I don't really care one way or another. Bud Grant did the same thing with Tarkenton a few times, if I remember correctly, when a playoff bound Vikings team was just getting whipped on the line of scrimmage, although I don't think it was ever a one point game.

This team needs, first and foremost, to start getting a consistently professional effort from their offensive line. I don't have any great insight as to how to make that happen. Benching Mckinnie was a decent start, since he has responded well in the past to such treatment.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:12pm

Cheer up, Vikings fans, you'll feel a whole lot better a week + 12 hours from now. The Bears are playing like a team that desperately wants its coach fired (why they would want that, I have no idea, given that whoever replaces Lovie will almost certainly be less of a pushover), and nothing's better for that than getting blown out by a division rival at home on national TV.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:19pm

I hope you are right, but I wouldn't be shocked to them play an inspired game next Monday, to prevent The Jeans Model from having a good game, if nothing else. A team which is getting bad offensive line play, and the Vikings qualify right now, is vulnerable to anybody, even a team which has a bad offensive line themselves. Somebody will suck less next Monday.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 5:33pm

Unless the Vikings problems resulted soley from being a dome team playing outdoors in cold weather, I don't think you have much to worry about. The Bears suck at many things, not just O-line play.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:49pm

"...and it's curving in and it's no good"

Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.

by Yuri (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:54pm

Can someone who wantched the game explain this?

San Francisco 49ers at 0:44
1-10-SF 20 (:44) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short middle to F.Gore to SF 27 for 7 yards (A.Samuel).
Timeout #3 by PHI at 00:36.
2-3-SF 27 (:36) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short middle intended for F.Gore INTERCEPTED by T.White (J.Parker) at SF 34. T.White to SF 29
for 5 yards (C.Rachal).

I mean, this is not a place to take a timeout that "helps" the opposing team conserve seconds--and then it turns out to be a decision full of wisdom because you are facing Alex Smith. Has Andy Reid expected Smith to throw a pick here?

by Joseph :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:23pm

I didn't "wantch" the game, but it might have to do with having DeSean Jackson at PR, and giving him a shot to break one. I mean, I doubt SF is going to drive the length of the field in 36 secs, but they might throw 2 incompletes and give Jackson a chance to break one. I have seen Sean Payton do it several times with Reggie Bush back there. (This year he hasn't returned well at all--but his speed and shiftiness always makes him a threat to take it to the house.)

by Adam B. :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:34pm

No, it was a stupid timeout. No one understood it at the time.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 7:07pm

Seemed perfectly logical to me at the time - they were deep in their own territory, so not likely to actually score, and had set things up and hurried to the line. The offense has the advantage there since the defense doesn't have much time to set a play, react, etc. Might as well counter that advantage by providing your defense with time that the other team was trying to deny.

Doesn't really help them, since they were about to run a play anyway, and helps you a bit. If I were SF, I would've changed the play just to counter them a bit, but apparently they didn't.

by ElJefe :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:04pm

The timeout was perfectly logical. You might as well give the 49ers a chance to give you the ball back, with very little threat that the 49ers could drive the 40+ yds needed to be in field goal range.

The question you should be asking is "Why are the 49ers throwing the ball with Alex Smith at QB instead of running out the clock?" The Niners sort of got the worst of all possible results on the previous play. If they had been stuffed on a running play they likely would have just hit the line again and called it a half, and if they had actually completed a pass downfield (15+ yds) they could have legimately felt it possible to drive for the FG.

Overeducated Layabout

by Yuri (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 5:27pm

Andy Reid answers the question himself at today's press conference. He (almost literally) said it was because he thought Alex Smith sucked and that the Eagles had a chance against a pass play.

On the decision to call a defensive timeout before the end of the half yesterday:
"There were a couple of things that went into that. First of all, their quarterback was struggling just a little bit at that time. They were struggling to get their two-minute going and there wasn't a lot of time left on the clock. They had a couple of timeouts left. I heard them try to get the check called and try to get everybody lined up, so I knew it was a pass. I put the timeout on, the defense came over, (I) told them what they were going to do and they did it. It worked out okay. Normally there wouldn't be something like that, but this one worked out okay. Sometimes you look okay, sometimes you don't."

All I can say is wow. I remember John Madden answering the question before the Patriots game in 2007 on what Andy Reid's gameplan would be to defeat the Pats, and he had a simple answer: "I think he would try to be as aggressive as possible." We have seen plenty of this aggression on offense (where presumably Reid has a direct input), and defense has always been built to be aggressive--but this is the first time I saw Andy making a direct input.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 5:36pm

You guys are all wrong - he was asking for someone to bring him a Tastykake.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:42pm

I like how no one questions Barnwell when he files "TD catch from Chris Chambers" under "non-predictive events".

by Trogdor :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:21pm

Could be that we're taking it as a joke.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:53pm

Indeed, which is why I like it. 'Twas funny.

by jebmak :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:39pm

I got a real kick out of that.

by Dan :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:17pm

If McNabb had just snapped the ball while Weaver & Brooks were jawing behind the line of scrimmage, what would the call have been? Brooks was offsides. Weaver was in the backfield where he needed to be. Would there have been a penalty on Weaver?

by DGL :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:18pm

If Weaver wasn't set, I would think there would be an illegal shift penalty on PHI (if more than one player is moving, they all have to come set for at least one second prior to the snap or prior to a player moving in motion at the snap) in addition to an offsides on SF. I would think this would be offsetting penalties, as the illegal shift did not draw Brooks offside, but it would have been interesting.

On a similar note, didn't see the SD game; if LDT was coming in as a substitute (hadn't been on the field in the previous play), it should have been a penalty for illegal substitution if he didn't come inside the numbers. If he was on the field the previous play (ran out of bounds), he doesn't have to check back inside the numbers. In either event, though, he could have just stayed on the sidelines -- it's legal to run a play with only 10 men on the field, as long as there are seven on the line.

by Levente from Hungary :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 4:30pm

Offsetting penalties - that is as good as anything for the Eagles. Penalties stop the clock, so 13-14 second would have been left instead of the 4 after the spike.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 5:42pm

The best part of the play was Reggie Brown pulling something out his hand warmers and chucking it at Weaver to get his attention. Turns out they're hand warmers AND Batman-style utility belts! Who knew?

by Possuum (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:26pm

The main reason the Bills pass defense DVOA is high would be their INTs. Jairus Byrd leads the league in INTs and their safeties in general play pretty well against the pass. Additionally, their pass rush is markedly improved from last year in that they actually have one. Mostly this comes from a healthy Aaron Schobel, though they seem to be playing Spencer Johnson more often, who is a pass rushing DT. Finally, they had a good game defending the pass against the Saints, holding Brees to no TDs and frustrating him for most of the game.

by Nathan :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:29pm

Tanier turns to me and says, "You know, when Wes Welker does this, they show the play on NFL Countdown and circle him five times."

I like Avant too but Welker is also 5' 8" and catches 32713421 passes a year.

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:30pm


Are you stating that nobody is allowed to mention that Favre may be running out of gas at the end of the season?

Or that the Vikings losing 2 of 3 has to do with other parts of the team? (Which is correct of course)

I am just puzzled.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:41pm

just jumping in here. Hard to tell if Favre is losing anything as the line play for the Vikings looks a little like GB's did early in the season.

Funny how QB's look like crap when they have no protection.

I will say this Favre is not very nimble in the pocket any more. He has a good sense of pressure but he has almost no ability to avoid a sack once someone lays a hand on him.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:55pm

Well, he has declined in this area, but there are still plays where he looks remarkable in avoiding the rush. Like last night, when he bought about four extra seconds, jitterbugging, and then tossed a strike downfield, into a small window, to Visanthe "I can catch passes with my bellybutton!" Shiancoe, who put it on the ground, of course.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:13pm

that's true - I remember saying to myself - Favre makes a play like that and you drop the f-ing ball!

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:49pm

Well, people can mention anything they want. However, anyone who thinks that the Vikings performance over the past three weeks has anything to do with Favre running out of gas doesn't know anything about football, or is too lazy to pay attention. Favre played fine last night, and if his receivers hadn't stunk the joint out, what with the fumbles and drops, the Vikings may have had a chance to steal a victory in the fourth quarter, horrendous offensive line performance and all.

Yes, in recent years Favre's performance has faded late in the year. In one year he had a torn biceps muscle. In other years his worst performances have been in cold weather, where it would not be unexpected for an old guy to perform worse. The Vikings still have a good chance to avoid cold weather games, except for the Bears next Monday, and they are still the Bears. Talking a lot about Favre's recent late season performances, in the context of this year's Vikings, is a sign of ignorance. If the Vikings' season falls apart, it will be overwhelmingly likely due to the decline in their offensive line play. Meatheads who get paid a lot to talk about football, however, will talk more about the former factor than the latter.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:16pm

Every year since 2004 Favre has been substantially below league average in the second half of the season. This year looks to be no exception. Minnesota's line did get abused by Julius Peppers but is is, literally, one of the top 5 units in the NFL, period. Better than (just for comparison) Indy (by far), New Orleans, New England, and San Diego.

Did they have a subpar game? Yep. Did Fave have a subpar game too? Yep. Can we expect more of the same, and probably a first round playoff loss? Yep.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:23pm

Anybody who thinks the Vikings offensive line is performing at a top five level at this time either isn't watching the Vikings or doesn't know offensive line play.

by Gruntled (not verified) :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 9:28am

The level of consistent pressure when the Panthers were just rushing 3 guys should be ample evidence of that. The Cardinals did the same thing, not quite as effectively but well enough to get the job done.

Maybe I wasn't watching closely enough, but I don't quite understand why the Vikings seem so unwilling to double team a rusher who is beating them on virtually every play. Childress sees his quarterback getting beat up by Peppers and his best answer is to pull his QB?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:33pm

To break down the Vikings offensive line issues in detail, Sullivan has been getting pushed around, Hutchinson has not been as good as in year's past, and Herrera has missed time due to concussions. This has meant that the Vikings have lost a lot of effectiveness in running between the tackles, which has made their offense more qb dependent, which has mostly been o.k., since they have been getting good qb play. If Jackson or Rosenfels, of heaven forbid, Frerotte had been the qb this year, the Packers would be leading the division, and the Vikings would have been fighting an uphill battle to get in the playoffs, especially since their defense has not played as well as it did last year.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 7:41pm

I seem to remember mentioning a while back that the Vikings, like the Bears, had spent really few decent-level draft picks on offensive linemen (though not as bad) and, well, the depth of the Vikings OL was pretty questionable.

I feel prophetic.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 9:36pm

Well, as I said at the time, the Vikings are a bit of an anomaly in your sample, given they spent a very high first rounder on Mckinnie the year before your sample begins, and 48 million to sign Hutchinson. Both those guys have seen their play decline this year, but it didn't make much sense to actively seek to supplant them. I sure wish the Vikings were getting better center play, however.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 5:53pm

I thought the Vikings around him didn't play well last night. Peterson dropped two balls early, and there were other miscues to the point that I said it was the offense struggling, and not the QB. Was Favre playing great? No, but he wasn't getting much help. That one throw on the right sideline about 20 yards downfield nobody was open and he tried to throw a ball so that his guy or nobody would get it.

by nath :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:38pm

Tim's hypothesis about signing free agents from bad teams is an interesting one. I've got a possible explanation: Good teams have better management, and that management has a better idea of when to let a player go, when he can no longer contribute at the expected level and/or will cost too much for his level of production. Teams with bad management... well, who knows why they do anything.

by DM (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:55pm

It's got merit, but for every Leonard Weaver there's five LaMont Jordans. Of course, there's also the Alvin Harpers of the world, or just about anyone Washington signs.

Also the Pats didn't sign Wes Welker, they traded for him.

by nath :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:59pm

Sure, I don't even know if it is true, but if it is, that would be a good explanation as to why.

by DM (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:10pm

Agreed, but isn't it self evident? Bad teams are generally poorly coached and poorly managed, so they misuse players all the time. Good teams generally are good at recognizing and maximizing talent, so they turn guys lost in the shuffle on bad teams into useful or even outstanding players.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 9:16pm

In this specific case, though, the previous (bad) management clearly knew what they had in Pollard. Peterson drafted him in the second round, and Herm Edwards used him extensively. He was cut by the new management - the three times Superbowl-winning general manager and the head coach who just co-ordinated his high powered offense to the Superbowl. Pollard allegedly had a personality clash with Haley and/or Pendergast, who then bad-mouthed him to the rest of the league. It was only Edwards personally vouching for him that convinced Kubiak and Smith to take a chance on him two games into the season, since when he has been a highly effective player and a vocal leader of the defense.

I suspect good cheap free agents come from bad franchises more because bad franchises frequently change coaches and schemes, leading to tactical misfits and personality clashes that leave good players valueless to them, than because they're just bad at identifying the talent on their rosters (though that may be a factor too).

The other thing that is probably often a smart move is signing guys who are buried on the depth chart on a team with a really strong group at their position. To take another Texans example, Kevin Walter, who was stuck behind Ochocinco, Houshmandzadeh and the late Chris Henry in Cincinnati, fit this bill.

by Eddo :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 12:09pm

A few more good-but-buried examples:
Priest Holmes in Baltimore
Michael Turner in San Diego
Matt Schaub in Atlanta

by HostileGospel :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 11:17pm

One thing that occurs to me is that if a player looks good on a terrible team, you can reasonably assume that's mostly his own doing. If he looks good on a good team, maybe he's just benefiting from the efforts of his (more-)talented teammates.

Overall, I'd be kind of embarrassed to critique something when I didn't know what the hell I was talking about, but then, oh yeah, my NAME is on what I write, isn't it?

-Les Bowen

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:40pm

What is Cribbs contract situation?

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 8:51pm

Under contract for peanuts through 2012. He signed an absolutely horrible extension in 2006. Either his agent is a total floon, or he owed the Boss and the Rabbi a couple of million dollars that he thought he might have a slight problem coming up with.

by Nathan :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 9:01pm

I think we didn't truly realize how good Cribbs was until this year, and a little bit last year. Now I'm not watching the Browns every week (thank God) but I've of course been aware of him for a bit and this is how it pretty much went:

2007 - Oh hey there's another kick / punt returner named Josh Cribbs that the Browns have that gives Hester a run for his money... he's slower but stronger, breaks a lot of tackles and he covers kicks too. A "football player".

2008 - They're trying to move Josh Cribbs to WR. He continues to return kicks well, cover kicks. Hester isn't having a very good year, is he? Later in the season after the Wildcat is rolling they're going to use this "Flash" package. That makes sense, worth a shot.

2009 - Cribbs is still an elite kick returner, still can cover kicks, can play a little WR but goddamn he's basically a now RB too. This guy really is something, definitely the most versatile player in the NFL (which usually implies jack of all trades, master of none) but he's really impressive. He's like Percy Harvin at Florida only way stronger.

Now maybe all Browns fans knew back in 2006 that he was as good as we all realize he is now... but doesn't that have something to do with his crappy extension more than his agent being a hack?

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 9:27pm

Cribbs set a franchise record for return yardage in a season as a rookie in 2005, and scored a return touchdown that season. He broke his own record and scored another touchdown in 2006. He was selected for the Pro Bowl on the basis of his 2007 play. He was never exactly a slouch. I just can't believe it's ever a good move for a player other than a long snapper or perhaps a punter to accept a six year deal for around a million a year, with only two million guaranteed. Deals that long are just inherently player-unfriendly unless they are for megabucks.

The line about the agent was a throwaway - Cribbs may well just have really, really wanted $2m dollars in the bank right then and there. It's not even totally irrational, though it's not the decision I'd have made in his shoes.

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:09pm


I have noticed that from the moment Favre signed you have worked diligently to frame any discussion around Favre to being if he played poorly why should anyone be surprised given the man's age and if he plays well then it's because the Vikings are the best team he has had around him in some time.

In essence making sure to exempt Favre from any criticism of any kind. It's either nature taking its toll or the team failing him.

Why is that?

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 4:22pm

That's funny. So saying Favre performs poorly because he's old isn't giving Favre criticism? What exactly is it? What is criticism of Favre? He has made some bad decisions when he was put in bad situations, AZ game, but other than that the problems with the team haven't been Favre. Should Will say Favre is the problem?

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:10pm

I read that he is going to the Mayo Clinic for tests on Tuesday because of some bulging disks in his neck.

Between the migraines and now bulging disks I'm not feeling really good about Harvin's future.

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:13pm


That's terrible news. The league suffers when exciting players cannot take the field.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:18pm

Packerpalooza, I have no explanation for the manner in which your brain notices things. Given it is, after all, your brain, I would suggest you look inward for reasons pertaining to why your brain has noticed certain things.

I think I have been pretty consistent in saying that Favre still has the physical tools to play better than the other qbs the Vikings had on their roster, that he was able to utilize the entire field in the manner the other Vikings qbs cannot, but that a 40 year old guy has a much greater chance of getting hurt. I think I'll stick with that.

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:28pm


By the way, I specifically wrote this in an earlier post: "Or that the Vikings losing 2 of 3 has to do with other parts of the team? (Which is correct of course)"

And basically got called a dumb*ss. When I clearly tried to separate two items being Favre's late season challenges and the current Vikings team losing 2 of 3.

So feel free with the snark, but I just do not understand why a player is free from criticism. ONce he takes the field then the player should be subject to the same level of scrutiny. Folks can ride Jamarcus Russell like a broken down mule. Why not hold Number 4 accountable when appropriate?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 3:48pm

Somehow, Packerpalooza, when I write this.....

"The next babbler who mentions Favre's December stats from the latter stage of his career, as if it gives insight as to the Vikings performance over the last few weeks, gets the coveted Roberts/Theismann/Maguire Award."

....you have decided that it means this.....

"Favre should not be criticized."

The Vikings have two bad performances in the past three weeks. Anyone who thinks that those bad performances are anything but trivially due to qb play doesn't know football. In no game last year were the Vikings outplayed on the line of scrimmage as they were by the Cardinals and Panthers in the last three weeks. You seem to acknowledge this. When I note that Favre's late season performances from the past five years don't give us any insight regarding the Vikings performance from the past three weeks, you respond by saying that I have claimed that Favre's play should not be scrutinized. I have made no such claim.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 4:05pm

I agree with the comment above that the Raiders should have been penalized for holding Marshall down on the final play. I'm guessing that no flag was thrown because the refs (probably correctly) believed there was no way the Broncos were getting a spike off before time ran out, but it's still against the rules, I believe, to hold a player down so he can't get up and line up in a time-critical situation. I'm not sure if it would be a 5-yard delay of game, or a 15 yard unsportsmanlike, but I'm pretty sure it's a defensive penalty. I've seen flags thrown before for it, when the holding down was far less blatant than what the Raiders did there.

I don't think the Broncos were close enough for a FG attempt even so, even if they had had an untimed down to try, but it would have made things interesting.

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 4:25pm

The flag would have stopped the clock so the down would have been timed.

by whatyousay :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 4:59pm

It was Scheffler (just think it's funny that he's been mistaken twice now, first as Stokely and now Marshall)

by dbt :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 6:30am

I watched that play pretty closely, actually, and if you have a chance to watch it again -- Scheffler's not actually down for about 3-4 seconds. The defender pulled him down on top of himself and nothing but his feet were touching the ground. If he lets go he could scamper off to the end zone.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 5:25pm

re: Tim Jennings. As of 2007, he was a Colt; he is one in a long line of cornerbacks who played serviceable if unspectacular football in blue and white and then went on to embarrass coaches, general managers, and themselves through inability to cover their own eyes.

Remember, the original Hole in Zone was a former Colt. The Colts' defensive system, and the megabucks DE's that make it work, protects cornerbacks. If I was a GM, I would never hire a former Colt CB. They're overrated almost by definition. I'd hire a Raider, or a Chief, or a Bills cornerback, who spent their career covering WR's for seven solid seconds every play.

by jedmarshall :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 8:03am

I think all it takes is a little scouting. We Colts fans knew Jason David wasn't really that good and neither was Nick Harper (although much better than David). They were servicable for the gameplan and the specific defense they were in. If any team is dumb enough to give Tim Jennings a big contract then they deserve it.

P.S. Kelvin Hayden is a stud when healthy. No coincidence he's been locked into a long term contract already.

by AFireSnake (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 5:31pm

@Vince Verhei: And I love comments like that. I guess the key is to half-ass things for September and October. Don't want to play your best then.

Sorry, dude, but how many times have you seen teams take a nosedive that excelled in September and October? If you play your best in the first eight to ten weeks, you certainly won't win playoff games.

I still predict nosedive for Saints this year, won't win a single playoff game this year. Or, how exactly do you imagine them "elevating" their level of play in January, when they are already playing at their limit?

All about volatility, man! I still believe in the Pats. Winning ugly. It is dumb to be good in September. Even Norv knows that.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 5:54pm

"If you play your best in the first eight to ten weeks, you certainly won't win playoff games."

Just like the Cardinals last year? Or the Patriots the year before that? Both teams played much better in September and October than they did in November and December.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 7:05pm

It is dumb to be good in September.

At last! The secret to winning football! I think Vince Lombardi talked about this, I'll have to dig it up.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 7:35pm

"If you play your best in the first eight to ten weeks, you certainly won't win playoff games."

You're presuming that teams have any choice in declining/improving over the season. Vince's comment was meant to imply that teams don't. Of course teams that falter late in the year (for real reasons, not apparent reasons) will tend not to win playoff games, because they aren't as good a team as they were early on.

I still predict nosedive for Saints this year, won't win a single playoff game this year.

I think most Saints fans will point out that the reason they're not playing as well is due to injury. If those injuries persist into the playoffs, yeah, bad things will happen.

by zlionsfan :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 4:18pm

"It is dumb to be good in September."

I'm not really sure what to say about that. I can only assume this was intended to be a joke.

by Eddo :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 5:33pm

I bet the 2009 Titans are thankful they weren't dumb enough to play well in September.

by Marver :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 7:03pm

Nate Kaeding nails a 52-yarder to win it in regulation for the Chargers. Earlier in the quarter Mike Scifres coffin-cornered a punt down and out of bounds at the 4. The numbers don't bear it out, but anecdotally it seems like the Chargers have one of the best sets of kicking units in the league.
Going 147 out of 169 (87%) for the best kicking percentage in history (unless you want to consider Carpenter's low total, which you shouldn't since it'll regress below Kaeding's through 169 attempts) certainly isn't anecdotal.

Mike Scifres continuing to place among the league leaders in TB/(Inside10+TB)% isn't anecdotal.

David Binn not having blown a long snap in his entire career as long snapper -- the guy has now played in more than 1/3 of all San Diego Chargers games! -- isn't anecdotal.

What we can predict about special teams, the Chargers are among the best. What we can barely predict -- return yardage -- cannot be explained by a single predictive player like we can with field goals. Special teams are more an exercise in point-particle physics than anything else...having your special teams formula tell you the Chargers are among the league's worst in special teams continues to defy logic and predictability.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 7:09pm

Wait, hold on second. Are you saying that kick and punt coverage isn't predictive?

by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 8:41pm

Steelers fans everywhere heave a sigh of relief. It's just been really bad luck all along!

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 9:11pm

Coverage play absolutely is a real attribute of teams, so it must be predictive to an extent, but at the same time return plays are high variance and high leverage, and the samples are pretty small, so there's a lot of statistical noise going on there. I think it's safe to say that the teams that have good coverage outcomes year in and year out under the same special teams co-ordinators (Bills, Bears, Texans, Harbaugh's Eagles) are definitely good at coverage, and that teams that perform truly putridly almost certainly aren't. Much more than that is difficult to assess statistically.

by jmaron :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 11:58am

OK you made me go and look up point particle physics - I dropped physics after grade 10. From wiki -

"A point particle is an appropriate representation of any object whose size, shape, and structure is irrelevant in a given context."

So do you mean whatever happens on special teams outside of a FG kicker's FG pct, kickoff length and a punters abilities is irrelevant?

Couldn't you just say returns are random (which I suspect is true to an extent but not entirely the case). Or am I missing something more subtle because I don't understand what point-particle physics is?

by Marver :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 5:51pm

Quite different background: my B.S. is in Physics.

I didn't mean the subject "Particle Physics".

I meant that the dynamics of kickoff/punt returning is probably best modeled/examined by turning every player into a 'point' on the field, and examining how the points move with respect to the other points -- as done by a computer system. Looking at the relationship between the placement of all the points, their movement, and the result of the play would probably shed light on who the most important/predictive players are on kick return/punt return.

I've been exploring ways to do this in basketball in order to examine parts of the game not captured by the base statistics ie. pick effectiveness (how much separation between points is caused by a certain point setting a pick), and things of that nature. I wish someone who had the time and background would take it up for football.

by MJK :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 10:12pm

You could probably do it with an agent-based model. You'd have to get fairly clever defining the "rules" for the agents to move, and you might have to go beyond the conventional scope of agent based modeling to capture the interaction of agents when they meet (i.e. when a coverage agent meets a ball carrier agent, he'll successfully tackle with some probability that depends on the speed and angle of closure, as well as the fundamental skills of the agents involved. But when a return blocking agent meets a coverage agent, you'd have to get really clever to define blocking behavior). If you wanted to get really cute, you could also include referee agents that move with their own rules and will call illegal blocks, if they happen, according to some probability depending to his proximity to the infraction.

My wife works in counterterrorism, and uses such models to calculate things like optimal strategies for defeating bombing attacks on subway platforms and such (with policemen and cameras instead of referees and adverseries instead of ballcarriers). There are commercial software codes out there that do such modeling. It would be really interesting to apply them to football...

by jmaron :: Wed, 12/23/2009 - 12:23am

Thanks for the clarification - it seems like a very logical way to approach the problem.

by the K (not verified) :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 2:25am

Hey, Vince, what's the bar in Federal Way? You might wanna try the Road House in Puyallup, they have TVs with every game on them thanks to the Ticket.

by hrudey (not verified) :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 2:17pm

>Actually, why are we criticizing Tim Jennings when we could be criticizing Derek Cox? Or even more, the Jaguars defensive staff for putting Derek Cox on Reggie Wayne. Yes, yes, put your third-round rookie corner on one of the best receivers of the last decade while your alleged Pro Bowl-quality veteran is covering one of the younger guys. That makes sense.<

Well, one reason for that might be that Rashean Mathis had just missed the last month with an injury and might not be anywhere near effective. One other reason might be that the Jaguars traditionally go with a left corner and right corner, rather than matching up on individual receivers. Whether they may have tried the match-up if Mathis was in game shape is up for debate, but it's not like they decided to have Cox matched up against Wayne all over the field, which is what you'd infer if you read the quote above.

Of course, when you have no pass rush and a free safety that can't tackle and doesn't play over the top well, I don't think it particularly matters which corner is on which receiver in any case.