Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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Guest columnist John Kinsley breaks down the tape of every deep pass in the NFL in 2017 and comes away with a shocking conclusion: even without Andrew Luck, the Colts had the best long-ball quarterback in the league.

09 Nov 2009

Audibles at the Line: Week 9

compiled by Vince Verhei

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

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

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

Washington Redskins 17 at Atlanta Falcons 31

Bill Barnwell: Early winner for KCW: Reed Doughty lines up a half-yard offsides on a punt at midfield, giving the Falcons the necessary yardage for the first down.

We're seeing some Matt Ryan regression in Atlanta. I don't know whether it's the decline of the running game causing it or just that it's hard to be as good as Ryan was as a rookie, but he has been making some strange decisions over the past few weeks that have been leading to turnovers. He just threw a deep crossing pattern into triple coverage and Rocky McIntosh picked it off.

The latest chapter in the chronicles of Jason Campbell: He hits Fred Davis in the hands with a pass, Davis drops it, Tye Hill snatches it up and returns it for a touchdown. All his fault.

I was looking at Campbell's line before the game, and it's astounding -- he's played some weak defenses, but his completion percentages and YPA are way up. His interception rate is up to 3.4 percent, but it's not surprising that his INT rate is higher than last year's, a historically-unsustainable 1.2 percent. His sack rate's risen from 3.8 percent as a rookie to 8.8 percent this year, though, and that's the most notable difference.

Aaron Schatz: I wrote a piece that will be in the next ESPN Magazine about when teams should give up on struggling young quarterbacks, and one thing I point out is that you shouldn't give up on young quarterbacks who actually AREN'T STRUGGLING. You would never know from talking to anyone in Washington, but Campbell has never had a season below replacement level, and that includes THIS YEAR.

Doug Farrar: Yup -- pretty much the same point I made in the book. Someone's going to get a solid free-agent quarterback for a nice price next year. Someone just has to drill it into his head that it's OK to throw the ball downfield.

Bill Barnwell: Campbell's doomed either way. If he tries to scramble, he's not mobile enough to get away, and it turns out that pass rushers follow you out of the pocket. If he stays in the pocket, the Redskins can't sustain any sort of pass protection long enough to keep him upright. Tony Siragusa is saying that he's looking at the pressure, but I don't know about that.

Doug Farrar: C'mon, Bill. Vinny Cerrato gave Campbell a playoff-caliber offensive line this year. Just ask him!

Campbell gets hurt, Todd Collins comes in, and it's a four-yard loss to Santana Moss. I'm sold. Clearly, Campbell is the problem.

Holy crap! LaRon Landry hits Matt Ryan out of bounds, there's a scrum of Falcons and Redskins players, and Mike Smith starts to go after DeAngelo Hall. They had to pull Smith away.

Bill Barnwell: Downright brutal tackling by the Redskins -- specifically LaRon Landry and DeAngelo Hall -- springs Michael Turner for his second long touchdown of the day, and probably shuts the door on a burgeoning Redskins comeback. Just awful.

Jason Campbell's down again with an ankle injury.

Oh, and Mike Williams decides he also wants to be hurt, so the Redskins' eighteenth-string tackle comes on.

Aaron Schatz: Text message from Tanier: "Redskins pass to Sellars on fourth-and-1. Fire all Shermans."

Benjy Rose: So, the Landry late hit on Ryan was mentioned earlier, but something didn't make sense to me. In the fracas, Albert Haynesworth comes in to the crowd and slams into somebody just to make his poor, poor ego feel a bit better, and gets a deserved flag thrown for unsportsmanlike conduct. So that's two unsportsmanlike conducts on the play. Atlanta accepts only the first, and refuses the second. Is there a rule that only one unsportsmanlike conduct penalty can be called per play? That seems silly.

Arizona Cardinals 41 at Chicago Bears 21

Eli Holman: I was going to make a joke about how [the Wildcat] would actually be an improvement for the Arizona running game, but then I noticed that they are currently averaging 64.9 yds/game. Mostly that's due to having only 138 attempts, but seriously, what is the lowest single-season average rushing yards per game? I poked around PFR a bit and didn't see anything even close.

Bill Barnwell: Would be the worst since the merger, yup. 2000 Chargers averaged 66.4 yards per game. Good catch!

Tom Gower: Tommie Harris, ugh. You'll be seeing this replay. It's not Haynesworth, but just galactically stupid.

Aaron Schatz: More information, por favor?

Tom Gower: Harris was tossed for taking a roundhouse at the side of an Arizona player's head while he was down on the ground after the play.

Doug Farrar: I didn't see it, but according to NFL.com, Harris was ejected for punching guard Deuce Lutui, who was down on the ground.

Mike Kurtz: Dear lord, I spend the morning moving stuff into the new office, get home an hour into the Bears game and Arizona is destroying them and Tommie Harris has been ejected. Not a good sign. Looking at the tape, the ref was RIGHT THERE. What in god's name was he thinking?

The Bears offense has actually looked decent. Jay Cutler has been hurried a few times and made some bad throws, but nothing horrific. The drive that I saw live broke down like most drives do; a blown pass play and a bad penalty. Nothing that doesn't happen to any team, but the Bears needed to keep up with the Cardinals, and they just can't.

Incidentally, the FOX studio B-team of Lynch and Green >>>>> the studio A-Team.

Bill Barnwell: Chicago-Arizona's first half is an interesting case study in how bad the Chicago D can be without Tommie Harris and Brian Urlacher. The answer is, well, so bad that they can make the Cardinals rushing offense look good.

Vince Verhei: Arizona at halftime: 14 carries, 131 yards, five carries of 10 yards or more.

Mike Kurtz: The Bears finally stop the Cardinals, after Tim Hightower drops a middle screen on third-and-6. Arizona still gets a field goal. What a day.

Doug Farrar: I really want Roy Williams to watch the play Larry Fitzgerald made with 9:34 left in the third quarter. Kurt Warner had a defender in his face and threw a floater up top to Fitzgerald, who had run a skinny slant. With a cornerback all over him and a safety bearing down, Fitz dove for the ball and the successful catch, somehow managing to get to the ground and avoid the hit, Fred Biletnikoff-style. Then, I want Roy to go back and watch the play where he developed T-Rex arms in a trio of Falcons a couple weeks ago. Then, I want Roy to shut the hell up forever. No. 1 receiver, my ass.

Mike Kurtz: Cardinals finally punt! And it gets downed at the 3. C'est la vie.

Matt Leinart looks like he'll be coming in for the fourth quarter in Chicago.

The highlight of this game is the BRILLIANT blitz pick-up by Beanie Wells on Mark Anderson. Anderson got past the line untouched, and Wells just blew him up, giving Leinart time to throw a (really ugly) deep ball. It's OK, though, defensive pass interference bails him out.

Leinart then throws another atrocious deep ball which is easily intercepted, easily 10 yards away from Fitzthulu.

Aaron Schatz: Wait, didn't PFT have a big thing this morning saying that Beanie Wells isn't getting playing time because he is awful at blitz pickup?

Mike Kurtz: Bulletin board material, I guess.

The Cardinals can't cover Greg Olsen in the red zone, and can't cover the screen ANYWHERE. The Bears have finally figured this out, and are making competition-like noises. Looks like Warner is going back in after Leinart's one-drive mini-disaster. This is why teams don't take the foot off the pedal.

Vince Verhei: Matt Leinart in for Arizona. His only official pass is intercepted. (He had another incompletion wiped out on a penalty). Bears score to make it 34-21, and Kurt Warner is back in.

All three Bears touchdowns are Jay Cutler passes to Greg Olsen, by the way.

I know Arizona has been ahead the entire game, but Chicago has only eight rushes -- including one by Jay Cutler and two by Devin Hester. Perhaps Lovie Smith reads our site and knows about the Cardinals' DVOA against runs and passes.

Mike Kurtz: Bryant McFadden with a beautiful tackle after the first down on a meaningless play right before the end of the game. In the long run this means nothing, but it was pretty to watch, head down, shoulder to the chest, drove up and through the receiver and landed him flat on his back. Just lovely (and since we're all worried about violence in football, incredibly safe for both players!).

Doug Farrar: Heh -- great post-game presser by Ken Whisenhunt. He ends it by saying, "We didn't let them off the hook", and bats the microphone away.

Baltimore Ravens 7 at Cincinnati Bengals 17

Doug Farrar: Fabian Washington gets nabbed for a huge interference penalty with 4:27 left in the first quarter, but I think the Bengals offensive line made that play. Washington was alone deep on Chad Ochocinco because the Ravens sent Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe on the Rex Ryan old-school A-gap blitz, but the line picked it up beautifully, allowing Carson Palmer to make the deep throw.

Aaron Schatz: Anyone watching Bengals-Ravens and want to report on what's going on there?

Bill Barnwell: The Ravens really miss Haloti Ngata. Bengals have pulled off an interesting mix of stuff, going with six offensive linemen at times. Chad Ochocinco has made some great catches, and Joe Flacco has been in bad situations and looked poor. I saw him nearly throw a pick to Leon Hall on a quick slant that Hall couldn't have jumped harder if he tried. He just threw a duck to Hall for a pick as I typed that.

David Gardner: Not watching, but from the stat line it looks like Cedric Benson is slashing -- 18 carries, 80 yards and a score. And the Ravens offense has gained just 39 total yards.

Doug Farrar: The Ravens are just getting clocked. Cincinnati has a huge edge in time of possession and both lines are playing very, very well. I'm on Red Zone but I'll put something together later.

Bill Barnwell: I turned to CIN-BAL and the first thing I heard, with no context, was "That might work for broadcasters, but the officials are much classier than that." What could they be talking about?

Baltimore shows they're desperate by putting Ed Reed back to return a punt. Ed Reed promptly muffs the return.

Tom Gower: During a replay review, Ochocinco had a dollar in his hand, supposedly intimating that he would pay off Alberto Riveron for a favorable call.

Bill Barnwell: Big play in the Ravens-Bengals game. Ravens big blitz gets picked up by the Bengals, and Palmer completes to Chad Ochocinco for 15 yards. Ochocinco breaks a tackle and then comes against Ed Reed, who he stiff-arms, but Reed strips him as he's falling down and returns it for 20 yards (before making a stupid lateral).

Rob Weintraub: That's twice my Bengals have overpowered the supposedly rough and tough Ravens on both lines. Kyle Cook is such an upgrade at center it's ridiculous, although it has been nice the last two games to go against the Bears without Tommy Harris and the Ravens without Haloti Ngata. The heroes today were Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph, who dominated the game at corner -- total shutdown. Flacco had nowhere to go all day, both had spectacular picks, and we had several coverage sacks (including three straight to end the game!). Cincy now has more sacks in eight games than in all of last season. To Baltimore's credit, we ran them almost out of the building in the first 20 minutes, but they stuffed the Bengals in the second half (aided in part by a very conservative, hurry-up clock! offense). It would have been a real sweat but Steve Hauschka missed a makeable field goal with about six minutes to play. Only bummer: Chris Henry broke his arm making a catch in the secondnd quarter, and may be done for the season.

Future Curse Alert: Ced Benson now has 198 carries halfway through the season. I shall now commence begging Marvin Lewis and staff to use Bernard Scott more, especially during the Oakland/Cleveland/Detroit stretch that starts after next week's showdown with the Steelers.

Houston Texans 17 at Indianapolis Colts 20

Bill Barnwell: The Colts' offensive scheme so far has been real simple: Throw to Dallas Clark. The Texans are shadowing Reggie Wayne with Dunta Robinson and giving safety help over the top, which leaves Clark in the slot against a linebacker or a safety. This is an easy way to accrue yards.

In the you're-getting-too-cute department, though, the Colts lined up a defensive tackle at fullback on fourth-and-1 and then went play-action and had no one open. Just run the ball.

As our friend Gregg Rosenthal notes, Peyton Manning is 19-of-25 in the first QUARTER. Dallas Clark has seven catches.

Texans almost have as many penalties as Peyton Manning has passes.

After about 10 minutes of study, the refs decide that Ryan Moats fumbled on a swing pass on the two-yard line, and the Colts pick up the ball in the end zone for a touchback. Steve Slaton karma?

Tom Gower: Jeff Triplette made an interesting call: that the Indianapolis defensive back who recovered the ball, had only one foot inbounds when he touched the ball on the goal-line, making it a touchback. It looked to me like he had both feet inbounds before touching the ball, which would have made it Colts' ball at the 1. Of course, there's also Solomon Wilcots, who saw the same thing I saw but declared that because the ball touched the goal-line before it was recovered, it was a touchback, notwithstanding that the defensive back went out of bounds with the ball at the 1.

Bill Barnwell: Awesome ending to the first half of Indy-Houston. Kris Brown lines up for a 56-yarder that's blocked; but (wait for it) Indy iced the kicker! He makes the second-chance kick.

David Gardner: Peyton Manning ridiculous-number-of-passes update: He's thrown 40 at the half. The record, for the record, belongs to Drew Bledsoe, who threw 70 passes in a game against the Vikings in 1994 that went to overtime. Vinny Testaverde threw 69 in a non-overtime game against the Ravens in 2000.

Bill Barnwell: Solomon Wilcots now notes that the Texans are matriculating the ball down the field.

Matriculate: To enroll in a college or university as a candidate for a degree.

Tom Gower: Matriculating down the field is an old Madden-ism.

Doug Farrar: He's quoting Hank Stram from the immortal Super Bowl IV highlights. (2:00 in)

Bill Barnwell: OK, OK, fair enough. I am youth.

David Gardner: Someone watching Indy-Houston, did the Texans have the ball for close to the entire third quarter?

Bill Barnwell: Indy got one three-and-out. That was it.

The Colts' drive after a Texans touchdown ends when Reggie Wayne takes an end-around and throws a pick to a totally-covered receiver.

Vince Verhei: I know it worked last week, but this trend of trick plays in the red zone by the Colts is so stupid. YOU HAVE Peyton Manning. HE'S VERY, VERY GOOD AT PASSING. LET HIM DO IT.

Indianapolis hangs on to win 20-17 when Houston misses a field goal on the last play of the game. Colts had two timeouts left, did not try to ice the kicker.

Ned Macey: According to the game story, Caldwell called a timeout not to ice the kicker but to try and get a return man onto the field. Given the length of the kick, 56-yarder, that makes a lot more sense.

The Colts ability to win close games is uncanny, except that it seems to disappear in the playoffs. They've won 15 of their last 16 meaningful regular season games decided by one touchdown or less but are 0-2 in the playoffs in games by one touchdown or less in that same streak. Actually, counting the playoffs, three of their last four losses by less than one touchdown are to San Diego.

Miami Dolphins 17 at New England Patriots 27

Bill Barnwell: Wildcat the past few weeks, according to Matchup: 23 attempts, 41 yards.

Doug Farrar: Yeah, opponents are setting corners on the edge and flooding the sweep side with various spies. Last year, the Dolphins would run counters and pass plays to deal with that, but the Pat White experiment hasn't been anything to write home about and I think they've been a little predictable about when they let Ronnie Brown throw the ball. Bringing White in for certain plays is just saying, "HEY, LOOK! WE ARE RUNNING THE WILDCAT NOW! STACK THE WEAK SIDE, PLEASE!" Same reason the Vick thing hasn't worked.

Aaron Schatz: Hello from high above Gillette. One of the things I'm looking forward being here in person is seeing the Wildcat from above. Tanier last week in Philly, my second time at Gillette this year -- we're becoming press box regulars. My press pass says "ESPN Insider" for those who can't get enough FO name-related irony.

Doug Farrar: Wow. Freakin' sweet play by Vontae Davis on the opening play interception. Tom Brady underthrows Randy Moss just a hair, which gives Davis the edge to elevate. You've seen guys with great trail speed get burned by those long bombs before, but it's with the ball in front of Moss. Credit to Davis for going up and getting that ball.

Aaron Schatz: I think that Wes Welker was open earlier in that play, too. He was streaking across the middle of the field uncovered. It's possible he would have hit the safety by the time the pass got to him, but I think Brady decided early he was going to Moss deep on that play.

Great Randy Moss one-handed catch gets the Patriots to the one-yard line, and Maroney goes in for the score. Of course, it was a great one-handed catch because Moss was using his other arm to completely push off of Vontae Davis. Not sure how the refs missed that one.

Remember that game two years ago against Miami where it seemed like Tom Brady could just chuck the ball deep to Randy Moss, and no matter how many Dolphins were in the area, he would catch it? Somebody needs to tell Tom that was a one-time thing. He has thrown a few times to Moss with two Dolphins right there next to him. (I won't say "double coverage" -- I'll say that Brady makes his intentions clear enough that the safety is halfway to Moss before Brady even throws it.)

The Dolphins bring in Pat White and he has his best play of the year, sweet 30-plus-yard run on an option keeper. They used White on four plays on a touchdown drive near the end of the second quarter, but don't be confused by what it might say in the PBP or what you hear on the highlight shows -- this was not the Wildcat. These were straight college option plays with White as the quarterback -- no Williams sweeping left to right or any of the Wildcat-specific blocking tendencies.

Doug Farrar: He looked so much more comfortable on that option pitch than he has with the timing of the Wildcat.

Aaron Schatz: Coverage in the first half of the Pats-Dolphins was really tight. Five pass interferences so far, two offense and three defense. I checked the penalty numbers and Mike Carey's crew doesn't call a strange number of interference penalties. I think there's just a ton of pushing and josseling going on.

Dolphins run three straight Wildcats on the goal line. Pats stuff the first two, but on the third Brown tosses it to a wide-open Joey Haynos. Touchdown, Miami. This game may be setting a record for the amount of Joey Haynos. The Dolphins have used Haynos a lot today.

Chad Henne tries to take a timeout on third-and-10 with 3:00 left ... and Miami has no timeouts. Delay of game. Then on third-and-15, Henne throws the ball 100 yards out of bounds. Fourth-and-15 pass isn't even close, and that's game.

Doug Farrar: I'll have to check, but I think I saw the Dolphins in the pistol formation once when Pat White was in the game.

Mike Tanier: The Dolphins used the pistol a bunch of times. The kid on NFL Red Zone called it the "Wildcat" several times during a highlight reel. I can talk to high school football players, all of whom play Madden and NCAA Football, and they can recognize the pistol, but guys who cover football for a living cannot recognize it. One of these weeks the Dolphins are going to run the wingbone/flexbone, and professional analysts will call it "Some crazy offense with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams as tight ends who run the ball!" until someone straightens them out.

Doug Farrar: I like that they're using different looks to get White more effectively involved in the option game, Certainly expands their playbook, too.

Ned Macey: Maybe I've said it before, but having watched Henne for four years at the University of Michigan, he's great on hitting his first read if he's throwing for decent depth, but he struggles to find second and third options,and he has inconsistent accuracy at short-medium depth (not quite McNabb level inconsistent, but you get the idea). Maybe the numbers don't back that up, but it is my impression, and watching him today, he looked good when throwing in rhythm but struggled when things broke down.

Aaron Schatz: Henne definitely has accuracy problems in the short-medium range. He flat-out bounced a couple of passes to guys in the second half of the game.

Green Bay Packers 28 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38

David Gardner: The Bucs have given up six passes of more than 50 yards this season. Aaron Rodgers just threw a 74-yard pass to James Jones. Why was he so open? Oh yeah, he's being covered by Elbert Mack.

Doug Farrar: Were they running that stupid single-high safety thing again with tight man? Seems like every one of their big plays have come in that coverage.

David Gardner: Well, the real problem wasn't that they were running single-high, it was that Mack thought they were running a Cover-2 and expected help over the top. Eh, whoops.

Vince Verhei: I charted the second half of the TB-NE game from London last night. The Tampa Bay game plan does a remarkable job of exposing their own weaknesses. We have horrible cornerbacks -- let's leave them in man coverage with a single safety! We have a horrible offensive line -- let's send out all our backs and tight ends and leave them no help!

On that second note, it was seriously the worst performance I've ever seen by an offensive line -- something like ten hurries and two sacks in 16 dropbacks. Their adjusted sack rate numbers are not that bad. For those of you who watch them more often than I do, was that game an anomaly, or have they been giving up tons of hurries that their quarterbacks have managed to escape from?

David Gardner: Well, I'll be. Elbert Mack intercepts an Aaron Rodgers pass and brings it back to the 8.

Vince Verhei: I will never get tired of hearing "Stylez White in on the tackle."

Doug Farrar: I think "Stylez G. White" is even better. Sometimes the middle initial just makes the name, as with Toone P. Wiggins and Yngwie J. Malmsteen.

Vince Verhei: Green Bay blitzes and gets two linebackers unblocked right up the middle, but Josh Freeman is able to slip off to his right and find Derrick Ward alone in the middle of the field for a 30-ish yard gain. Great play by the rookie, but if that's the kind of protection he's going to get, he won't survive the year.

Connor Barth misses a field goal for Tampa Bay. Bucs are now two-for-eight on field-goal attempts this year.


In the 1982 strike season, the Oilers went four-for-six on field-goal attempts in nine games. I assume that is the record, and they doubled what Tampa Bay has done in one less game.

On the flip side of the special teams coin, Bucs block a punt and return it for a touchdown to tie the game at 14-all.

David Gardner: Ronde Barber just scored his 14th career touchdown after Geno Hayes blocked a punt. The score in this game is amazingly 14-14, despite the Packers outplaying the Bucs. The other Tampa Bay score came off an 8-yard drive after a long interception return.

Bill Barnwell: I am amazed that 34-year-old Ronde Barber is on special teams!

David Gardner: The Bucs were just facing third-and-27, and Josh Freeman trotted off to the sideline, thinking it was fourth down. Not a bad idea.

Vince Verhei: Green Bay's special teams nightmare continues as Ahman Green fumbles the second-half kickoff. Packers recover, but start at their own 4-yard line. At 21-17, this game is officially on AGS notice.

Aaron Schatz: OK, seriously ... that's who you pick to return kickoffs? The 32-year-old running back who nobody wanted for most of the year because his speed is gone?

Doug Farrar: Mike Holmgren, who used to run Heath Evans out there for kickoff returns, nods his head approvingly from his Arizona TV room.

Vince Verhei: Check that bit of the conversation. Announcers said it was No. 34 Ahman Green, but play-by-play says it's No. 38 Tramon Williams.

Aaron Schatz: The Packers did use Green on kickoffs a couple weeks ago, I know that.

Vince Verhei: Although Green does have one kick return for 18 yards on the day.

Bill Barnwell: Some coaches just like having old guys with good hands back there. Like when the Buccaneers were using a 87-year-old Tim Brown to return a couple of years ago.

David Gardner: Oh my goodness. Aqib Talib intercepted a pass near the Tampa Bay goal-line off a tip, and as he was running back, Donald Driver laid him out with a shoulder-shove tackle. I hope you all see this replay.

Vince Verhei: That Talib pick was notable for a few reasons. Rodgers went play-action and had plenty of time. Then he made a horrible decision to throw deep into quadruple-coverage. He redeemed himself for the horrible decision with a perfect throw, hitting Greg Jennings in the hands. Jennings then un-redeemed Rodgers by knocking the pass into the air, where Talib grabbed it.

Rodgers scores to put Green Bay ahead 28-17, and then Green Bay follows with their 47th bad special teams play of the day, allowing a Clifton Smith kickoff return down to the red zone before they finally wrangled him down.

David Gardner: Michael Clayton just made his best catch since his rookie year, adjusting to a short Josh Freeman throw and diving for a catch. The Bucs are making a game out of this thing -- they're down five with the ball inside the Packers' 10.

The commentators berated Raheem Morris for going for it on fourth-and-4 from the 7-yard line down by five with four minutes left. With the way the defense is playing, why would you count on them to stop the Packers? They go for it, and they score the go-ahead touchdown then get the two-point conversion to make it a field-goal advantage, 31-28.

Vince Verhei: Freeman throws a fourth-down touchdown to Sammie Stroughter to put Tampa Bay ahead. Freeman's strength was supposed to be his arm strength, right? Because I've been most impressed by his touch on short throws today. And his mobility. And his poise. He's made some stupid decisions, as you'd expect in his first start, but there's a LOT to like about this kid.

Bill Barnwell: Bucs have fourth-and-1, up three, from the GB 30 or so with 1:48 left. The Packers call a timeout and the Buccaneers debate, debate, debate, and decide to go for it. They get up to the line, and then promptly call timeout. They go back out on the field, Josh Freeman gets to the line, he audibles ... and Jeremy Zuttah false starts. Punt.

David Gardner: The Bucs get their first win with a bang. On a Packers' fourth down, Rodgers is intercepted by Tanard Jackson, and he returns it for a touchdown.

Bill Barnwell: If Green Bay had Troy Brown, they might have had a shot.

Vince Verhei: Tanard Jackson intercepts Rodgers' fourth-down pass. With teammates frantically pointing for him to go down, he chooses instead to take it to the house for the touchdown.

Rodgers' last eight dropbacks: three sacks, one interception, one holding penalty. That's not counting whatever they do with 28 seconds left, down 10.

Bucs did kick a field goal right before halftime. They now have three on the year, but their kicking woes probably contributed to the decision to go for it on the fourth-down touchdown.

David Gardner: Morris got a Gatorade shower after the game.

Doug Farrar: Dom Capers has obviously forgotten more about football than I'll know in three lifetimes, but I really question the use of Aaron Kampman in coverage on zone blitzes. Seems to me that Kampman is the guy you want going forward, right at Mr. Quarterback, as quickly as possible.

Kansas City Chiefs 21 at Jacksonville Jaguars 24

Aaron Schatz: Our old buddy MDS reports on Twitter that between the players, coaches, officials, and cheerleaders, there may be more people on the field than in the stands in Jacksonville.

Tom Gower: I disagree. Jacksonville is actually significantly more crowded than I thought it would be -- at least 30,000 there.

Bill Barnwell: Right after Antrel Rolle nearly returns a short field-goal attempt for a touchdown against the Bears, Rashean Mathis gets a chance to do the same thing in the cavern of Jacksonville. The announcers are saying it's not a good idea to do so just as he breaks free, and he makes it all the way to the 20 before being dragged down by his dreads.

Tom Gower: Yes, that was a curious call by the announcer, advocating that Mathis simply kneel the ball and end the half rather than try to do something useful.

Bill Barnwell: Guess who's making a difference for Kansas City? How about Chris Chambers? Down 24-7, he caught a 54-yard bomb from Matt Cassel to make it 24-14, and then after getting the ball back, he caught a 5-yard touchdown to make it 24-21. the Jaguars picked up the ensuing onsides kick, so the Chiefs still suck, but what price can we put on happiness? Is it less than $2.5 million?

Detroit Lions 20 at Seattle Seahawks 32

Vince Verhei: Seattle's first six plays on offense:

1: Interception.
2: Fumble, recovered by Detroit.
3: Run for a loss.
4: Run for a loss.
5: Third-down catch-and-run by Justin Forsett to set up fourth-and-short.
6: Run for a loss on fourth-and-inches.

My God.

Doug Farrar: Anyone calling Detroit over Seattle an upset hasn't seen the Seahawks all year. All week on the radio, all we've been hearing up here is, "Well, at least the Seahawks have a gimme against Detroit. Win that, then maybe take on the Cardinals, and we'll see what happens with the playoff picture." It's an embarrassing example of denial re: how horrible this team really is, how incompetently the team is currently run and coached, and how the Lions are very slowly turning their fortunes around. If the Seahawks somehow come back from 17-0 down, they're nothing but a bad team beating another bad team. They resemble a playoff team about as much as I resemble Grady Jackson.

Ned Macey: Was ready to write about how much a difference Calvin Johnson makes. Then, Matt Stafford follows up his two touchdowns with five interceptions. Guy is not ready for prime time. He always flashes brilliance, but he isn't accurate and gets baited into picks. No idea if he's "learning" from this experience or not.

Carolina Panthers 20 at New Orleans Saints 30

Aaron Schatz: Saints have five carries in the first half. What happened to the whole "balanced Saints offense" concept?

Doug Farrar: An early 14-0 deficit happened, methinks.

Aaron Schatz: Two touchdowns in the first quarter is not a reason to give up on offensive balance. Fourth quarter, sure. First quarter? No.

By the way, how bad is the Saints run defense? Carolina ran the give-up draw on third-and-12 and DeAngelo Williams actually got a first down.

Doug Farrar: I hear ya, but I think that's what happened. On a separate note, it seems to me that losing Sedrick Ellis has really messed up the Saints' run defense.

Aaron Schatz: The announcers in this game kept talking about how many fourth-quarter rushing yards Pierre Thomas has, and how that demonstrates that the Saints have a balanced offense this year. Aaarrrgghhh. No. His first-half yards demonstrate how the Saints have a balanced offense this year. His fourth-quarter yards demonstrate how the Saints are undefeated this year.

Again, like against Miami, the Saints run defense tried to give a game away but it is very difficult to do when the Saints offense is so damn awesome. Sure, take a two-touchdown lead against them. They could be back in, oh, three minutes or so.

San Diego Chargers 21 at NY Giants 20

Bill Barnwell: In more fourth down shenanigans, the Giants run Ahmad Bradshaw into the line for no gain on third down, and then kick it from the 20. Unfortunately, Lawrence Tynes apparently thinks it's a fake and doesn't actually kick the ball, and then hurts himself trying to help the aged Jeff Feagles. Vince, can you give them that message you gave Jim Caldwell about Peyton Manning earlier?

Tom Coughlin has his challenge flag buried DEEP within his socks. Don't you have pockets? Or someone to hold that?

Mike Tanier: That Giants safety Michael Johnson just intercepted a pass. A million leaves fall on my front lawn, and eventually one lands in my 3-year old's hands and he thinks he accomplished something.

Aaron Schatz: We've secretly replaced Antonio Gates' hands with these blocks of concrete. Let's see if anyone notices.

Bill Barnwell: According to Phil Simms, Norv Turner said that there was one year in Washington where they picked up 19 pass interference penalties of 30 yards or more. That sounds like absolute bullshit.

Mike Tanier: The Chargers look ready to come up small again.

Bill Barnwell: Well, in all fairness, that was a hell of a drive. I don't understand how Vincent Jackson and Darren Sproles catch passes with six feet of space around them, but I am not Bill Sheridan.

Mike Tanier: Corey Webster couldn't cover an infant with a receiving blanket.

Bill Barnwell: He could four weeks ago...

Aaron Schatz: Norv Turner nearly had another fourth-quarter blown lead to add to his fine collection, but the Chargers came back. Is it wrong that I want to blame Turner for losses and credit Rivers (and Vincent Jackson) for wins? One thing Turner could do differently: Stop giving the ball to LaDainian Tomlinson so much. I also believed that he still had something left going into this season, but it's been nine weeks. He doesn't. He looks awful. We didn't want to believe he was toast, but he sure looks like toast.

Mike Kurtz: Blaming Norv is absolutely appropriate, and can be used for any occasion:

Boss: "Bob, your TPS report is five days overdue."
Bob: "Damn you, Norv Turner!"
Boss: "We've been Norv'd? CRAP."
*Boss wanders off in a huff*

Ned Macey: Say this in Norv's defense (which I always find myself leading); the guy is supposed to be a downfield passing guru, and Rivers-Jackson (not exactly a highly touted wide receiver) is currently the best in football.

Tennessee Titans 34 at San Francisco 49ers 27

Tom Gower: Holy smokes. Vince Young hits Justin Gage on a nicely thrown deep corner route for a 49-yard gain with almost no YAC. Really one of his better throws. Tennessee is also attacking the edges of the San Francisco defense and ran some interesting counter-style option.

San Francisco's opening score, a field goal, was set up by a long run on a screen pass nicely timed against a Tennessee blitz. Delanie Walker caught a couple balls, Vernon Davis had one catch for zero yards with a quick tackle by Michael Griffin and was targeted in the end zone on a play where the Titans had coverage over the top helping out.

Alex Smith gets picked on a deep out intended for Michael Crabtree. Coverage looked like Cover-2, and Griffin made a great break on the ball to deflect it, while Rod Hood was able to come in and grab the deflection and get off a nice return inside the San Francisco 30. Nice read by Griffin, but I'm sure that Smith's lack of a laser rocket arm played a role in that play.

This looks like a college game, where neither team is really able to drive down the field on consistent success but depends on the random big play to supply a scoring drive. The Titans' two scoring drives were set up by Hood's interception return and the deep pass to Gage, while San Francisco's were the big screen to Gore and a 40-yard pass to Davis.

The 49ers put together the first scoring drive of the game that didn't revolve around a single big play. Naturally, it was the two-minute drill at the end of the first half and featured lots of the shotgun and spread formations in which Smith is more comfortable and not any of the 49ers' normal offense. One day, I may figure that kind of thing out.

Aaron Schatz: One day, the 49ers may figure that kind of thing out and just let Alex Smith play from the shotgun more than half the time, like Tom Brady does.

Tom Gower: Alex Smith appeared to be hit in motion and the ball came flying forward. One official waved incomplete, but the Titans, as defenses are wont to do, picked up the ball. The whistle finally blew after Keith Bulluck recovered the ball. Jeff Fisher challenged the play, and it was clear from replay Smith lost control of the ball before his arm was moving forward. Titans win challenge. If I'm a 49er fan, I'm not happy about that call.

49ers end up fourth-and-a foot from the 14, tied 17-17. With that offensive line and playing Tennessee, I'd kick the field goal, but Singletary elects to go for it on a toss pitch to Gore. Tennessee has two guys in the backfield, but Keith Bulluck over-committed to the outside and there was a lane inside. One thing I would have written about more if not for Tennessee's overall implosion is how age is really starting to show up in Bulluck's game. He's a free agent this offseason, and there's almost no chance he'll be back for another year, nor should he be.

Bill Barnwell: And Alex Smith has thrown two picks in the final seven minutes, one of which was returned by Cortland Finnegan for a "Game Over" pick-six. That honeymoon lasted, what, eight quarters?

Tom Gower: Tennessee pretty much clinches the game with a pick-six by Cortland Finnegan. Pass intended for Josh Morgan, but Vinny Fuller comes through him to break up the pass and Finnegan grabs the deflection. Second deflected pick, while the third was Chris Hope just reading Smith's eyes and jumping a route.

Also, there was no honeymoon, as the announcer pointed out that Smith had lost his last six games as a starter. Alex Smith just loses.

Bill Barnwell: Well, the announcers were also talking in the first quarter about how Smith had shown a lot in the last six quarters and how if he could just keep playing that way, he'd be a part of the resurgence in San Francisco with Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, and Frank Gore. It's good that resurgences consist solely of skill position players.

Aaron Schatz: I watched most of the 4 p.m. games with Michael "Not David" Smith of ESPN. (We sort of had our own club, the "guys who don't have to write game stories" club.) Since he actually does that insider-y stuff that I don't do, like talk to players, I asked him about Vince Young. He's talked to Young and agrees that he came in to Nashville as a bit of a rock star, didn't understand how much work goes into playing quarterback in the NFL and had personality conflicts with Jeff Fisher. But he says Young was really humbled by the last year and talking to Young, he feels Young will be much more dedicated to preparation now that he's got the starting job back. Take that for what you will, but it would be nice to see Young succeed as a passer.

Rob Weintraub: There was a play late in this game when Young appeared to have a large gap for a first down on a keeper, but was run down by Patrick Willis. I think Young continues to struggle with the fact that at the pro level, he isn't the best athlete on the field and can't do what he's always been able to -- zip past dudes like they're standing still.

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles

Doug Farrar: The Cowboys ran an actual Wildcat power play (pulling guard and all) on their first touchdown.

Mike Tanier: Ooh, Jason Peters is hurt. Time for King Burlap. Or King Cotton. Or King Holding.

It's not King Vulture at left tackle in place of Peters. They slid Todd Herremans over.

Bill Barnwell: Question: Who, exactly, is Kevin Ogletree?

Also, I think Cris Collinsworth just got in a "Quintin Mikells."

David Gardner: At the end of the first half, Andy Reid just tried to ice Nick Folk on a 22-yard field goal. It almost worked, too.

Mike Tanier: Shady McCoy is having a very good game. He's having the game Correll Buckhalter always used to have when Brian Westbrook was hurt, only a better version of it.

Bill Barnwell: How great would this offense be if there was an above-average offensive line up front?

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, wasn't that supposed to be a strength? Jay Ratliff is really beating up Andrews tonight.

Doug Farrar: Roy Williams is pissed because Tony Romo threw that ball RIGHT TO Sheldon Brown.

Mike Kurtz: Looks like I made a big mistake relying on Cowboys in fantasy football this week, and benching the one (Choice) that has had some value. What a headache...

Aaron Schatz: It is awfully nice to hear all this talk about how the Eagles pressured Brian Westbrook to NOT play in this important division game.

Vince Verhei: As of the Nick Folk field goal to tie the game at 13-13, the Cowboys have 15 runs and 35 pass plays. Hey Wade! Your team is really good at rushing -- first in DVOA! Philly's defense is second against the pass, 12th against the run! Your playbook is backwards!

Or maybe the refuse-to-run playbook is communicative, like crabs, and the Eagles have passed it on to Dallas.(Eagles have 18 runs and 27 pass plays, which is akin to the 1972 Dolphins compared to their usual plan.)

Aaron Schatz: Wow. One of the worst spots I've ever seen on Donovan McNabb's fourth-and-1 sneak. McNabb absolutely had that.

David Gardner: And then the Eagles get jobbed on the challenge.

Doug Farrar: Not according to Walt Coleman's replay review, he didn't. There are times I wonder what the point of having replay is, if you're going to uphold every call that isn't absolutely conclusively wrong to whatever standard the officiating crew decides to use on that particular evening. This would be one of those times.

Mike Kurtz: Collinsworth made a good point, that the ref can't just assume that the player's elbow isn't down when it's out of view. Really awful spot, not really a bad review.

Aaron Schatz: Honestly, the man is six feet tall. Unless the defense absolutely stuffs him upright, you have to assume he's got the first down on a fourth-and-inches quarterback sneak. That was just ridiculous.

Doug Farrar: At the very least, I think the booth upstairs should review plays that are challenged, to take any hint of a problem a crew may have with overturning their own calls on the field. And that booth should be manned by an objective party not tied to the crew calling the game. I know they're not supposed to, but it's human nature to not want to look like a complete tool on national television. And I sometimes wonder if that "conclusive" stuff is just a sliding scale for officials to use when they don't want too many overturns. Because those numbers are kept in fairly common stat sites, and written about on blogs, and a high overturn rate made public isn't really a good thing for the NFL.

Bill Barnwell: The hitch-and-go Jeremy Maclin ran on his double move was awful; he ran a little short spacing route, and then stopped without facing McNabb before running the go. It was an awful route.

Contrast that to the sluggo Miles Austin just ran for his latest touchdown; some of the deception came thanks to a Tony Romo pump-fake, but Austin actually sold the slant before heading to the go.

Mike Kurtz: "The crowd gives a Philadelphia cheer!"

What is a "Philadelphia cheer?" Less-intense booing?

Aaron Schatz: What is the point of the David Akers 52-yard field goal there? If you miss it, you give Dallas the ball in sweet field position. If you make it, you still need a touchdown. I thought maybe they would fake-pooch punt, but no, it's a field goal. What the hell?

Bill Barnwell: Also, apparently, people only give the middle finger in Philadelphia.

Aaron Schatz: Not to take away from Miles Austin's awesomeness, but this game turned on that horrible fourth-and-1 spot. What a disappointment. Games should not turn on crap like that.

Mike Tanier: Yes, other fans are thrilled about tough losses to archrivals where the main reason you lost was the inability to convert short yardage.

Eagles had second- and third-and-short before that. And they missed some short-yardage opportunities earlier. I thought it was a bad spot, but they put themselves in position to get hosed.

Weird ads

Aaron Schatz: Can we do this GoDaddy "Danica Patrick stopped by cop" ad for Scramble one week? Man, that has to be the dumbest, most farfetched, weirdest attempt at soft porn in history.

Mike Kurtz: Thought the Patrick ad had stopped its run. Definitely awful, Scramble-worthy if it's still airing.

Mike Tanier: Aaron, you beat me to the Go Daddy thing. The Scramble Guys must go online and discover what is waiting for all the sad preteens who rush to their computers to see if the lady race car driver is really going to have a Sapphic makeout scene in the name of advertising.

Mike Kurtz: I call not-that-person.

Mike Tanier: I will do it and report back if there are no takers.

Tom Gower: I call I have already done that, and the sense of disappointment is akin to that achieved by entering your age to find some marvelous thing on a beer Web site, only to find a Web site about beer rather than one that dispenses beer over your Internet connection.

Aaron Schatz: OK, a Scottish guy runs around whacking people with a dipstick -- and that's supposed to make us buy your oil, why?

Vince Verhei: When shopping, I will consciously choose to support products whose commercials entertain me. I love Burger King commercials, for example, so I will choose Burger King over McDonald's. My hope is that if I do this, they will keep making funny commercials.

In that same vein, I love the crazy dipstick-wielding Scot, and so I will buy his oil. Or I would, if I knew what brand he was endorsing. And if I didn't just take what the Jiffy Lube guys recommend.

Doug Farrar: In that spirit, I will never buy Bud Light, unless the beer receptacles are used to kill Jimmy Football.

Mike Kurtz: Ram poetry commercial may trump all other nominees.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 09 Nov 2009

172 comments, Last at 10 Nov 2009, 11:42pm by Marver


by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 11:27am

(1) Why am I not surprised that Triplette had problems with a touchback/non-touchback call? (Yes, I'm still bitter from 2005).

(2) For those who watched HOU-IND, can you explain how the score was kept so low and HOU kept it so close? I need some hooks on which to hang the delusion I'm trying to create that NE has a chance of winning next week.

by David Gardner :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 11:42am

The Colts tried a lot of gimmicky plays near the goal-line and made other missteps in the red zone. And Houston killed Indy in possession in the third quarter.

-- Dave

by Todd S. :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 4:00pm

Patriots have a GOOD chance to win. If not for several self-inflicted mistakes by Houston, they win that game.

by Purds :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 5:31pm

"Several"? Yes, the Texans' fumble at the 1 at the end of the first half, but that's hardly "several" nor a clincher that they would win. Making the FG at the end creates a tie, not a win.

Are you talking about the two sure interceptions that Colt defenders dropped?

Or, do you mean the Colts going for it on 4th and 1 on their first drive of the game and not converting, instead of kicking a 49-yard FG?

Or, do you mean the Colts inability to score at TD on their third drive, even though they had a 1st and goal on the 4?

Oh, I see, you must mean when the Colts had the ball 3rd and 1 on the Texan 37 on their fifth drive, and didn't convert, and then punted?

Wait, now I get it, you mean when Manning threw an interception on a 2nd and 10 play from the Texan 22 near the end of the first half, right?

No, no, you mean when the Colts called TO just as they blocked the Texan FG attempt at the half, and then the Texans got another chance and kicked a 56-yarder?

Wait, I am getting confused. You meant when their Wayne threw a WR-option interception on a 1st down from the Texan 40 in the second half?

Look, anyone can play the should-a, could-a, would-a game. That doesn't mean Houston should have won this game. The Colts are not playing well right now, but it's not like the Texans just self-destructed. Now last year? That was self-destruction.

by Purds :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 5:33pm

And, I agree. The Pats have a good chance to win, especially if the Colts repeat the above scenario against NE.

by Bobman :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 6:17pm

Calm down, Purds. You're right, but you sound too bitter.

You also left off the FG-luck issue--while it was somewhat lucky that HOU missed the 42-yarder to tie, it was also about as lucky that they made a 56-yarder. Yes it's indoors, but 56 is no gimme. So I'd call that luck a wash.

Colts-Pats? Right now I'd say NE is playing better. I assume it will be close and I assume it will all come down to line play--who stones whose run game, who gets more pressure on the QB (and the logical flip-sides). Assuming HFA is worth 3 I'd put the line at Colts minus 2. But since I was forced to watch the Pats yesterday up here in Seattle (Normally we are tortured with old Seahawk foes from the AFCW, even if the games bite like Raiders/Chiefs. Where is the logical tie-in? Oh yes, everyone must love the Pats or Fins), I am wondering if there is this huge national pro-Pats sentiment that I am missing but the4 networks percieve. If so, the betting line will skew that way.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 8:57pm

Yeah, the Texans made a ton of mistakes, mostly the penalties, but if the Colts were playing and coaching well they would've been up 24 before the Texans even got a first down. Neither team can be too happy about that game.

The Pats game is going to be where they really miss Hayden. The rookies are playing well, but they're still rookies. I'm sure BB,TB, and Moss will figure out ways to make them look like rookies. They could have some long and productive drives, I think.

It occurs to me that I know almost nothing about this year's Patriot D though. So I have no idea what to expect for the Colts offense.

by Purds :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 9:11pm

Okay, I'll take some deep breaths, close my eyes, and think happy thoughts.

The real problem is that I am in NE territory, and so the TV covered Fins/Pats. Not a bad game, but to see the Colts I was watching an annoyingly skipping internet stream, and I could have stopped getting a head ache watching the stuttering stream if the Colts had just done a few things right.

I would gladly pay what I would consider a decent amount ($150) for Colts games on the tube, but here in Comcast land you got no choice other than to go with a satellite, and as I am at a school that doesn't allow dishes, I am SOOL!

by MJK :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 9:23pm

This is kind of funny, to hear Colts fans fearing the Pats. Because, you see, I'm a Pats fan, and I'm very afraid of the Colts. I think the Patriots have at most a 40% chance to beat them on a neutral field, and I suspect, in Indy, it's closer to 35%. Maybe it's the phantom of the first two games still haunting me, but I feel like FO's ratings of the Pats seem high.

The Colts have a prodigious offense with an accurate QB and good WR's. Barring the TB game, when the Patriots actually played press coverage, their strategy this year has seemed to be "give the opposing WR's a 5-10 yard cushion, and try to make the opposing QB beat you with finding the holes in coverage". That works fine against rookie QB's (although Henne and Flacco and Ryan were actually doing pretty well against it, not to mention Orton), but it is suicide against Manning. Plus, I'm still not convinced that the Pats have anyone that can cover that WR-in-TE's clothing Dallas Clark, unless it's Brandon Meriweather...but I'm not sold on that. And the Colts aren't going to screw around with funky misdirection plays against a good team like the Pats...they'll do what they do best, and throw the ball to receivers in the holes in the zone that will inevitably be there.

On the other side, the Pats' offense IS playing better (especially with Galloway long gone), and the Colts' defensive injuries level the field somewhat...I'm not sure the Colts have anyone that can cover Wes Welker...but their offensive playcalling isn't what it used to be and I worry that it won't be enough. Plus, we'll get to see how a rookie LT can handle Dwight Freeney (Vollmer has looked OK, but has struggled more against speed rushers than power rushers...and Freeney is definitely a speed rusher). Plus, the Pats probably will be starting a backup center, so there goes the inside running game that you can usually use to take Freeney out of things.

This smells like a shootout. And the Colts are way too good at winning shootouts.

Maybe I'm just being pessimistic, but it's going to be a tough game.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 9:33pm

I'm troubled by your assumption that Belichick is going to use the same defensive game plan for the Colts that he used for the Dolphins and Ravens.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 8:35am

MJK -- as Troy Brown would say, "Bingo!" You've pretty much hit on all the reasons why the Pats are going down. And I think your 35% is significantly too high -- more like 25%.

And it won't be a shootout -- it'll be a blowout. The Pats redzone offense is terrible this year (don't be fooled by the TEN and TB games). They are something like 26th in TD percentage. So while I expect both teams to move the ball well, the Colts will be ringing up TDs but the Pats will be ringing up FGs.

Colts by at least 14 and probably more.

by Purds :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 8:42am

I was actually more angered by the miscues that caused the Colts-Texans game to be close; repeated against the Pats, and that's a loss.

I think this is about a 50-50 game. The Colts are stumbling a bit right now -- the good play of the young receivers who seemed to surprise defenses at the start of the season (Collie and Garcon) has been waning. Without Donald Brown, the run game is not explosive, though it can grind a little bit. Addai is better than he gets credit for, especially in pass blocking, but the O-line doesn't create big holes.

The DB injuries that hit last week are not enormous, as none of those guys were starting at the time, but against NE the injuries mean that the nickel covering Welker in the slot is someone like Tim Jennings, a very marginal CB, really a ST player wearing a DB number, instead of Marlin Jackson or Kelvin Heyden/Jacob Lacey (very solid rookie UFA who will start at CB). I would have felt very comfortable against NE's offense if the nickel alignment were used with Powers (solid rookie) and Heyden covered the outside WR's, and Heyden covering Welker in the slot. That doesn't mean you'd shut down the NE pass game, but it does mean you'd have a chance.

So, overall, the Colts will play fine. It's the potential that existed, and that now won't exist, that's the only bummer. Let me put it this way: i would have been much more content if Gonzales were the #2 WR with Collie in the slot and Garcon on the bench except in 4WR sets, with Brown spelling Addai and potentially breaking a run, with Lacey covering Welker instead of Jennings, and with Hagler playing LB with Wheeler as the back up.

Of course, everyone has injury problems. The Pats are missing a gang of RB's, potentially a O-lineman or two, and perhaps a DL as well. So, I'm not saying the Colts have an unfair disadvantage with injuries. They don't. But, as a fan, I would sure like to have seen them at full strength.

(Notice, I didn't even talk about Sanders? I think at safety, the Colts are very good with the guys they have without Bob.)

by dryheat :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 4:35pm

I think 50/50's about right. If the Patriots can get a quick start and play with a lead, or even, I think they'll probably win. Both teams are such good front-runners, but I think the Colts D is vulnerable as long as their opponent can use their whole playbook. If the Patriots find themselves down multiple touchdowns, the Colts D becomes very tough, especially with the noise factor.

If I were to bet on the game, I'd take New England, and I'd take Maroney and Faulk to have huge games.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 8:47am

There was really nothing clever or fancy about the way the Texans played defense in that game. They had their nickle package on the field pretty much every down (although SS Bernard Pollard certainly spent some time in the box). They played a mix of man and zone, but few if any wacky blitzes and a clear emphasis on not giving up the big play - exactly what isn't supposed to work against Peyton. They just played hard and executed superbly, swarming to the ball and almost never missing a tackle. If the offense had showed up a little earlier, it would have been enough. As it was, the Texans slightly outgained the Colts in terms of both total yards and yards per play, but gave up over 100 yards of penalties (much of it due to jitters towards the start of the game - this is the youngest team in the league, and it shows) and the Colts recovered both fumbles.

To be clear, I'm not saying the Texans "deserved to win", and I'm certainly not saying they're as good a team as the Colts. I'm saying this was a close game that could easily have gone either way, in which both defenses played above themselves and both offenses underachieved. The Colts will have to play better than that if they want to beat the Patriots, and the Texans will have to play better than that if they want to make the playoffs. Both teams are certainly capable of it.

by Purds :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 9:03am

"I'm saying this was a close game that could easily have gone either way, in which both defenses played above themselves and both offenses underachieved. The Colts will have to play better than that if they want to beat the Patriots, and the Texans will have to play better than that if they want to make the playoffs. Both teams are certainly capable of it."

I agree completely.

I do think a few of the penalties on Houston's D were caused by Indy's pressure (one PI where a LB just blew up Wayne as the ball came over the middle comes to mind).

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 1:37pm

No argument on the PI calls (I think there were two or three, none for huge yardage), but there were a lot of other penalties which seemed like nerves/inexperience. Even with that, I think that was the best performance I've ever seen from a Texans defense, which is simultaneously encouraging and slightly tragic.

Brown's going to get stick for Freeney's sacks, but I think the first one at least was almost entirely on Schaub for holding the ball too long. If you take that much time before getting rid of it, of course Freeney's going to get to you. He's Dwight freakin' Freeney.

by Temo :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 11:40am

Aaron Schatz: Not to take away from Miles Austin's awesomeness, but this game turned on that horrible fourth-and-1 spot. What a disappointment. Games should not turn on crap like that.

I knew this would come up. Time to fight the propaganda war!

A) There were multiple bad calls in this game, it was just badly officiated. You can't say the game only turned on one call. For instance:

1) Uncalled obvious DPI in the end zone at the half, Dallas had to settle for a FG.
2) Unjustified OPI on Witten that took away a 1st down, leading Dallas to punt.
3) Uncalled OPI on Celek on McNabb's TD throw.

B) The spot in question was not totally ridiculous. Pics:

Where the first down marker is: http://i32.photobucket.com/albums/d2/superpunk2884/Cowboys/SPOT1.jpg

Where the ball was when McNabb's elbow touched: http://i32.photobucket.com/albums/d2/superpunk2884/Cowboys/SPOT2.jpg

And another look: http://img691.imageshack.us/img691/8867/spot2.jpg

Looks very close to me.

Yay for fighting post-game wars of "Nuh-uh the Refs gave YOU the game!1!!one". If you think I haven't sent this same rebuttal to all my whining friends from Philly, you're mistaken.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:02pm

As an Eagles fan, let me agree with you: the officiating was crap all around and that sorta dubious spot certainly didn't steal the game from the Eagles. The Eagles killed themselves, no help from the refs was needed...

by Temo :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:14pm

Suprisingly, that's been the reaction of most of my Eagles fan friends. If it was the Cowboys, I'm sure plenty of them would have been bitching.

Seems like the Eagles fans are just eager to blame their team, for better or worse.

by cormeagles@yahoo.com :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:18pm

As an Eagles fan, I think they got the spot wrong, but I just looked at it again, and it was a heck of a lot closer than I thought. It really could have gone either way. The still photos aren't valid because his forward progress was a little beyong where he eventually settled. But, like the others were saying, there were plenty of bad calls against the Girls - what struck me most during the game was the ticky tack pass interference/defensive holding calls.

Did anyone understand the second penalty on Foiku, on Sheldon's return? I think they called it holding but it clearly wasn't that. Was it a crack back, hitting a guy low when he's not looking type of thing? What's the official rule on that now? I think they may have change some things recently in light of the Hines Ward hit.

by Temo :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:28pm

Announcers said something like "you're no longer allowed to hit people low on returns."

Not exactly sure what the rule exactly is.

by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 4:00pm

Blocking below the waist is illegal on any return. That's been true on kickoffs and punts for a long time, but was recently amended to include defensive returns.

As for the "ridiculous" spot: as noted by several people above, at worst its off by a couple of inches, hardly "ridiculous". Also, most people are missing the broader issue. When McNabb dived forward, he made contact with a defender, stopped momentarily, then slid forward to the spot that Collinsworth felt was the appropriate spot. Was that momentary stop enough to constitute a stop of forward progress? I don't know, but that's a judgment call, and its not reversible. If the replay had shown there was no contact or shown consistent forward motion until McNabb's elbow hit, then the "Collinsworth spot" would have been appropriate. Under the circumstances, Reid had almost no hope of winning that challenge.

by Anonymoussss (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 7:55pm

I don't think the stop of forward progress doesn't apply because that call must be made on the field. Then, if you rule that forward progress had stopped, then the play is not reviewable, in which case Andy Reid gets to keep that challenge/timeout. This happened in the GB-MIN game, where Grant fumbled, but the officials said that his forward progress was stopped, so MIN couldn't challenge.

by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 11:07pm

That was the call that was made on the field. It is reviewable to the extent of looking for the elements of stopping forward progress. A play blown dead one forward-progress stoppage cannot be reviewed for a fumble.

by jayinalaska :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:49pm

2) Unjustified OPI on Witten that took away a 1st down, leading Dallas to punt.

Temo, I'm curious.
1) Do you feel Witten did not committ OPI?
2) Do you feel Witten's actions occur on every pass play for him and every other receiver and since OPI is not called for those plays it shouldn't have been called on this play?

If the first, then we'll just have to agree to disagree. I thought the OPI was a good call, although I have to admit I missed the play in real time and only saw the replay.

As for the broader issue, I agree that the Eagles game did *NOT* "turn on that horrible fourth-and-1 spot".

by Temo :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 3:49pm

Felt like he didn't push off very much and did not extend his hands, making it a technically feasible yet very ticky-tack OPI. And yes, I will agree that ticky-tack PI's were called on both sides (which then goes back to the original point of bad officiating did not decide the game, only made it crummier).

by Mig (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 4:10pm

Went back and watched the play and the spot again, since on the broadcast Collinsworth noticed that one could use the Eagles logo as reference.

1.- After the 4th down play, they measured if you look closely, the marker is beyond the "unoficial NBC line" and beyond the white part of the logo.

2.- On the better angle of replay, you can see Mc Nabb plunging, but he doesn´t go forward, he kinda falls sideways. As his elbow touches the ground, the ball is over the green part of the logo, but NEVER beyond the white part.

The official spot was a bit short, but according to the replays, if properly spotted it would had remained short of the 1st down.

by dpease :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 12:40am

man, i hate replay. seriously, do we really want the game to be blown up and measured like this? al & cris talked up andy reid for having the most success of any coach vs the cowboys, so it's funny to think that the spot on a qb sneak cost them the game. jason peter was already sporting a monster-sized knee brace when his ankle got rolled up on. so they wrap him up until he looks like robocop, and he's back out there battling one of the league's best athletes. pretty impressive stuff that gets lost in all the complaints about officiating and image control.

by billsfan :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 11:46am

"Is there a rule that only one unsportsmanlike conduct penalty can be called per play? That seems silly."

Not if you're playing against the Patriots!


1-8-BAL 8 (:55) (No Huddle, Shotgun) 12-T.Brady pass short left to 10-J.Gaffney for 8 yards, TOUCHDOWN. PENALTY on BLT-57-B.Scott, Unsportsmanlike Conduct, 15 yards, enforced between downs. PENALTY on BLT-57-B.Scott, Unsportsmanlike Conduct, 15 yards, enforced between downs. The Replay Assistant challenged the pass completion ruling, and the play was Upheld.

3-S.Gostkowski extra point is GOOD, Center-66-L.Paxton, Holder-6-C.Hanson. PENALTY on BLT-20-E.Reed, Defensive Offside, 5 yards, enforced between downs.

The Pats then kicked off from the Ravens' 35.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 11:48am

umm, but thats two separate plays.

by dmb :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:01pm

The offsides was a separate play, coming on the PAT, but the play-by-play very clearly states that there were two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties called on the same player on the touchdown play.

by billsfan :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:03pm


1-8-BAL 8 (:55) (No Huddle, Shotgun) 12-T.Brady pass short left to 10-J.Gaffney for 8 yards, TOUCHDOWN. PENALTY on BLT-57-B.Scott, Unsportsmanlike Conduct, 15 yards, enforced between downs. PENALTY on BLT-57-B.Scott, Unsportsmanlike Conduct, 15 yards, enforced between downs.

is one play, right?

(I also like the Eagles)

by Anonymous Coward (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:17pm

Was that the game when Scott picked up the flag from his first Unsportsmanlike and threw it into the stands?

by STI (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:20pm

Yes, it was.

Scott got called for unsportsmanlike in the EZ. Frustrated, he picked up the flag and tossed it into the stands, and got called for a second UC. He had to be restrained by his teammates from attacking the ref; I'm amazed he didn't get called for a third UC (or even tossed from the game outright).

Then, to add insult to injury, the Ravens get called for offsides on Gostkowski's PAT, so he got to kick off from the Ravens' 35.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:29pm

I'm still aggravated the Patriots didn't either try an onside on that one, or just kick it out of bounds.

by Mike Walsh (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:15pm

If he kicks it out of bounds, the Ravens get it at their 40, or the equivalent of kicking it -5 yards!

by Marko :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:40pm

I believe the rule is that a kickoff out of bounds is spotted thirty yards from the spot of the kickoff. This is the 40 yard line in the vast majority of cases, since the kickoff is from the 30 absent a penalty which changes the spot of the kickoff. So wouldn't a kickoff out of bounds spot the ball at the 5 yard line?

by Ben Johnson (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 3:31pm

wrong - the penalty is 30 yards from the spot of the kick

by Karma Coma :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 4:38am

What made Bart Scott's tantrum even worse was that even after the Pats touchdown there was enough time for his team to mount a quick-strike type drive to win the game, but he robbed them of any realistic chance at a good kickoff return. Granted, the Ravens did complete a pass to the Patriots 5 or so at the end, but if that hadn't been the last play of the game the Refs almost certainly would have flagged Mason for OPI as he grabbed a Pats DB by the shoulder pads and shoved him to the turf while the ball was in the air. (Then during the postgame interviews Ray Lewis bitched about a defensive holding penalty that was called on the Ravens on a fourth down incompletion late in the game, not because there was no holding, but because it was called.) I enjoy the ravens most of the time and i watch all their games, but as one commenter posted a couple weeks ago they seem to be slaves to their own intensity and lose their heads at critical moments on what seems like a routine basis, and then always seem bewildered after the fact.

by Temo :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:06pm

It didn't make sense to try it at the time (0:55 left in the 4th quarter protecting a lead), but obviously in any other situation an onside-type of play there would have been sweet following those penalties.

Probably not a regular onside kick (the opposing team has a shortened field so they can put more people closer to the line and prevent surprise onside kicks), but a pop-up shot to around the 15-20 yard line.

by PDR Vet (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 6:02pm

Temo - Another for "bad officiating" example for your whiny Philly friends -- there was a missed OPI by Jeremy Maclin which I think resulted in a 1st down. In the context of lauding the young, explosive WRs for Philly for the like the millionith time, Colllinsworth noted on that play that it also helps when you can get a good push off.

by Theo :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:32pm

Is that a typo, or did Scott get unsportsmanlike twice on that play?

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:56pm

No typo.

He got called for UC, then picked up the penalty flag and threw it, which resulted in the second UC.

by Bobman :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 6:37pm

Oh my, I do recall that.

They kicked through the EZ, didn't they? I'd say the smart move it to try onsides at that point--if you don't get it, they only have the ball on their 25. If you do get it, go for the jugular (and a few more blown-stack-15-yarders).

by Sophandros :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 11:49am

In the Miami game, the Saints run defense looked bad because of ONE run by Ricky Willliams. Yesterday, the Saints run defense looked bad because of ONE run by DeAngelo Williams (Carolina's other carries went for 3.05 ypc). Still, giving up the big play because of missed assignments, and giving up a third and long via rushing is disturbing yet correctable.

Granted, it's not as good as earlier in the season, but losing Ellis and, perhaps more importantly, Fujita, has hurt a lot. The bigger gains over the last couple of weeks have come from a back bouncing to the outside and exploiting the inexperience of Fujita's backups, Dunbar and Evans, who allow themselves to get sucked into the middle of the play. And without Ellis getting penetration in the first place, well, that spells doom.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by Bill Barnwell :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 11:57am

If that were the case, the Saints would have a good success rate against the run. And they don't -- they're 23rd in the league, and backs pick up successful yardage against them 51% of the time.

by Sophandros :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 4:13pm

What were the success rates prior to the Falcons game?

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by Joseph :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:48pm

Soph, I don't think that Ellis gets lots of penetration--I think he regularly ties up TWO blockers while filling his gap. This means Grant, Smith, and other DT are being blocked by 3 lineman and a TE. 6 blocking 4, plus the QB handing off and the RB carrying the ball, means that a FB, TE and WR or 2 WR & FB are trying to block 3 LB's + 4 secondary people. Somebody probably makes that tackle for a minimum gain. With the Ellis injured and Clancy on IR, that means that nobody COMMANDS a double team.
Also--I have noticed that Sharper takes HORRIBLE angles on run support. This is one noticeable difference in the Saints safeties from last year. Supposedly, they were "interchangeable" last year in Gibbs' scheme. They were--both were horrible at run support and pass coverage. This year, Roman Harper plays close to the line as a 4th LB most of the time and frequently blitzes. Sharper mostly plays deep--pure free safety. It's also pretty obvious that both are horrible doing the other's job. To me, this is NOT a bad thing--as they both are playing 10 times better than the Saints' safeties last year--and HARPER was ONE OF THEM!!
BTW--What is the record for defensive TD's in a year by a team and player? The Saints' D has SEVEN!!!!!! (Note: the following stat will probably appear in several football articles--Saints D=7 TD's, Browns OFFENSE=5)

by Bobman :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 6:43pm

That's positively Colts-esque (and it goes back a long way as well). The 1999 AFC playoff game against Tenn--Eddie George's 68 yard TD run seals the deal for Tenn, but the rest of the day he was held to about 60 yards. In the SB a few years ago there was that one 55 yard run, and then a bunch of nothing. This season too. Frank Gore last week, for example.

It's very tempting for me as a fan to say we're good and all we have to do is fix the few small mistakes. But there is a pattern there. Even when they show good stuff for a few weeks running (pun intended), I always fear (more or less correctly) that a big MJD run is just one arm tackle away.

by antimeria :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:00pm

maybe i'm just noticing because i've got kris brown on my fantasy team, but it seems like the texans have gotten a LOT of kicks blocked this season. is this a new thing for them?

by theshadowj :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:28pm

I believe he's gotten two or three blocked this season, which is definitely unusual.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 8:31am

Getting a 56 yarder blocked is in no way unusual - the distance requires a flatter trajectory, increasing the chance of a block. The other two were both apparently blown blocks by Duane Brown.

by matt w (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:00pm

Have you guys done any research on icing the kicker? The only study I know of is the Berry/Wood study indicating that icing the kicker dropped the success rate about 10 percent, but I don't know if their methodology holds up.

by A Dallas Fan (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:08pm

Bill Barnwell: Question: Who, exactly, is Kevin Ogletree?

5th WR for Dallas, undrafted rookie free agent who had a fantastic training camp. I think he returned kicks for one game earlier this year when Felix Jones was out with an injury.

by Key19 :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:23pm

Every play KO has been apart of this year has been successful, and other than his rushing attempt (6 yard gain) in the Philly game, every play has been for a first down. He is also a screen machine.

Get him the ball. Please.

Also, I'm really disappointed in the fact that Vince would take the opportunity to blame Wade of all people for offensive anything. He is not involved in the offense. At all. Other than maybe deciding whether or not to go for it. He has no input in personnel, playcall, or anything else. That all falls squarely on Jason Garrett's shoulders.

Also, Vince, this is not the same running team anymore that built its fantastic #1 DVOA rushing figure. All of that progress came when all three backs were healthy. Currently, Marion is at about 75%, Felix at 80%, and Tashard Choice at 100% but about 10% of the snaps. Marion finished the game well, but overall he has not been the same player since going down against NYG. Felix is just about useless at 80%, because he doesn't have that edge that is required to break those 30+ yard runs. Until Marion and Felix get healthy, the run game will not be anything close to #1. Due to Dallas not wanting to rest Barber and Felix long enough to get to 100%, Garrett now counters that by just passing a ton. They are keeping their #1 run DVOA only by merit of a huge dropoff in number of rushing attempts, I would venture to say. If they are still putting up #1 rushing numbers in recent weeks, then the NFL REALLY sucks at running the ball.

by peterplaysbass (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:13pm

"When shopping, I will consciously choose to support products whose commercials entertain me."

Similarly, I choose to avoid products whose commercials annoy me.

My wife was upset by the 4th-and-1 spot given to the Eagles last night. She's no dummy at football, but it's sad that she did better than those paid to do the job. I didn't mind the spot, but mostly because I loathe the Eagles.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:00pm

I try to do that as best I can ... the problem is that so many commercials annoy me, sometimes I have to choose the least of many evils.

by Key19 :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:24pm

Maybe that's the reason the car industry is declining. No one can choose which ad campaign is least annoying.

by Led :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:14pm

TMQ Bait: Sparano's decision to punt on 4th and 4 from the NE 40 with 5 minutes left was the wrong move. If I had a little notebook, I might have written "game over" in it. Miami should have treated it as 4 down territory on 3rd down.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:15pm

Campbell hit Fred Davis in the hands, but the pass was high and nearly out of his reach... but of course... anything to take the blame away from Campbell. It's all his line's fault and WR's fault. Maybe they should draft and sign some big name WR's to surround him with some actual talent...

The papers in Washington are now opening all their stories with how many times Campbell has been sacked. It's the new favorite stat of Pro Campbell Washingtononians. It's their way of saying it's not his fault...

Doug- Todd Collins came in and on his first pass threw a screen for -4 yards on 3rd down. If Campbell threw that same screen and Moss picked up 8 yards would you be happy? That's the whole point of a screen pass offense. You are at the mercy of your WR's.

Bill Bellicheck was talking about a Qb needing decision making an accuracy or else...

That's Jason Campbell to a T. Now you could try and build a super stacked roster around him and playing dumbed down offense... or you could try and bring in a new quarterback that isn't mentally handicapped.

The Bucs got very lucky in their win... The AJ Hawk illegal contact call that would have ended the game was a horrible horrible call. The Josh Freeman throws up a ball that was eaten by the wind. Al Harris had the position, but the ball was so underthrown that the WR came in and made the catch on what was an underthrown ball. The the 4th down play... I can't believe Green Bay lost this game.

The Giants game was painful to watch. T.Thomas intercepts a ball and runs it back to the 5 yard line only to have the Giants waste it away in penalties. The defensive play calling up 6 was terrible as well. Rivers was blitzed, the blitz couldn't get to him, and he picked them apart by correctly hitting the hot routes over and over again.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:19pm

You’re either going to have to limit the decisions he makes or take the accuracy element out of it by either not throwing over 10 yards or not throwing outside the numbers. You’re going to have to do something that changes the way you play offense.

Rest of the BB quote.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:45pm

I still can't get over the comment that some team will have a nice find with Jason Campbell as a free agent... Rodney Harrison exposed him on Football night in America. Jason Campbell is a lost cause now, so some people want to play the other side and act like THEY ruined him... Nobody ever blames HIM. It couldn't possibly be his fault right? The Redskins don't spend money/allocate resources on offense right?

"You’re either going to have to limit the decisions he makes or take the accuracy element out of it by either not throwing over 10 yards or not throwing outside the numbers. You’re going to have to do something that changes the way you play offense."

Who is the NFL god of check downs?
Who throws screen pass after screen pass?
Who is the king of throwing 1 yard passes on 3rd and 10?
Running draws on 3rd and 10?
Who rarely throws the ball over 10 yards?
Who doesn't call audibles after years of starting at QB?

Do you think Bellicheck would ever run a screen pass offense led by Jason Campbell? Look at the good teams in the NFL... Look at the teams that make the playoffs... Brady, Manning, Brees, Roethlisburger, Mcnabb, Rivers, Manning, Favre, Warner...

If you are going to try and win with an above average at absolute best... you will need a defense. If you are going to try and win with average at best... you will need to simplfy the game, and it's harder to win. The Keep it simple stupid model is harder to win with ... You could put together a soild defense in Jacksonville and tell Byron leftwhich to throw swing passes with the occasional deep ball.. but it's not going to win in the playoffs against stronger smarter defenses, and against QB's who can pick you apart. Not having that QB that can pick apart defenses is a huge disadvantage playing football... especially in the playoffs against presumed stronger defenses...

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:08pm

"Who is the NFL god of check downs?
Who throws screen pass after screen pass?
Who is the king of throwing 1 yard passes on 3rd and 10?
Running draws on 3rd and 10?
Who rarely throws the ball over 10 yards?
Who doesn't call audibles after years of starting at QB?"

Tom Brady until the Patriots signed Randy Moss?

Campbell doesn't look great, but a big part of that is the Redskins have terrible coaching, and their WRs suck.

Do you really think Cambell is the one calling all the bubble screens? At some point, the Redskins coaches need to open up the playbook and see if he can sink or swim, like the Pats did with Cassel in week 6 last year. They seem to be unwilling to do that.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:39pm

Do you really think Campbell is the one calling bubble screens?

NO. But all of his coaches have called bubble screens. Gibbs did, Saunders did, Zorn did and now Bingo does. Why do they call call bubble screens? Did Saunders run a bubble screen offense in KC? How about Gibbs, did he win SB's throwing bubble screens? Do you think Zorn wanted to keep running screens and draws and 3rd and 9?

They do they because they aren't confident in his ability to throw the ball downfield. If Joe Gibbs/Al Saunders/Jim Zorn/Bingo had Drew Brees back there, they really wouldn't be running the same offense... they'd trust their guy to throw the ball downfield, and they'd trust him to check in and out of plays when he sees fit.

To credit Campbell, I've seen plays a couple of years ago, where he comes up to the line, stares at the strong side... he's looking at it... he sees it, then calls hike and they run a run play right into the teeth of the defense. In reality, if they'd let him audible he would have called out of that play, but they didn't give him that freedom. Sometimes QB's correctly check out of plays and it works, ( would have worked in that case) but far too often they check in and out of plays and it doesn't work ( if they don't know what they are doing).

I agree 100% they need to open it up and see what he has... sink or swim. Let him throw the ball downfield, let him audible, give the guy some freedom. He's what, 27 or so years old and you have him for 8 more games. See what you have.

but just know there is a REASON why they have coddled him and it's because they don't think he can do it. They aren't a mean, and they aren't all martyball coaches... they just aren't confident he could lead a passing game and are trying to put their guy in a position to succeed.

by ammek :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:17pm

First time I'd seen the Bucs, but their DBs didn't look bad at all. The picks were all good plays/reads by defenders. I wonder if Jim Bates had some inside info, or Jeff Jagodzinski phoned in with some tips.

OK, seriously ... that's who you pick to return kickoffs? The 32-year-old running back who nobody wanted for most of the year because his speed is gone?

In fairness the Packers are down to their fourth kick returner. We are grateful it's not Mark Tauscher back there.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:17pm

The first four games the Bucs were without Tanard Jackson, who was a utter steal in the 6th round of the 2008 draft. He had a great rookie year and is still playing really, really well, but he'd gotten suspended for PEDs. At CB, Aqib Talib is very talented and I'm looking forward to watching him, at least until his constant, moronic off-field antics get him kicked off the team. We'll say "good football IQ, nonexistent IQ off the field" or some such.

Elbert Mack is awful. Not bad, awful. Yes, he got a pick. He also got burned for yet another long TD.

The biggest part of the win (besides Freeman playing very well) was the fact that the Packers offensive line utterly disintegrated in the second half. Yes, the line sucks, but they were doing fine in the first half. In the second half (particularly the last two drives), the Bucs were crashing the pocket and getting to Rodgers constantly. The Bucs' D-line is terrible and still got through. GB has to be in the running with Washington for the "worst offensive line" award this year.

by ammek :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 4:45pm

Pass blocking, yeah. The Packers' youngsters — you've watched the highlight reels, you know who they are — are all basically run-blockers whose contracts require them to stand around and flap their hands on passing downs. The line played the run pretty well against Tampa, as it did in Cleveland — at least until McCarthy chose to ignore the law of diminishing returns by calling Ahman Green's number once too often (so he could get some record he would have gotten next week anyway).

Yesterday's meltdown may have had something to do with Mark Tauscher's disappearance midway through the third quarter. The line has now featured six different personnel combinations in eight games, and only twice have the same five linemen started and finished the game. Somehow, Rodgers is still alive.

Thus, if you include run blocking, the Packer line is merely very bad; not in the same league of horrendousness as the Niners, Chiefs or Bills.

PS Was very impressed with Ruud and Talib in coverage.

by Quincy :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:19pm

The Giants' decision to sit on the ball and kick the field goal with 3-plus minutes left and first down on the San Diego 14-yard-line was simply indefensible. A touchdown makes it a two-score game and effectively ends the game. Because San Diego had all three of their timeouts, the Giants were guaranteed to leave them more than two minutes for a final drive. The Giants essentially declined any chance of putting the game out of reach in favor of manipulating the clock to make sure that the opponent would have the last possession in a one-score game. All because as Coughlin admitted after the game, they were afraid of turning the ball over. Hard to manage an end-of-game situation any worse than that.

by les steckel (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:48pm

For some reason, Coughlin was being a pussy the whole game. He kicked twice on 4th and inches, then played not to lose at the end there. Coaches with a SB ring shouldn't be this insecure.

by Harris :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:36pm

Yeah, it was a pisspoor spot, but that had nothing to do with McNabb spraying passes all over the field, Maclin's pisspoor effort that lead to an INT that gave Dallas its first TD, Andrews' continued efforts to embarrass the family name (which takes A LOT to accomplish in Philadelphia right now), penalties that wiped out a KO return TD an INT return that would have set up the Eagles inside the Cowboys' 30, the secondary making scrubs like Ogiltree and Williams look like competent NFL players and Reid/Morningwheg's dogged refusal to run the ball on a night when Donovan's evil twin Seamus made his triumphant return and they were gashing out huge chunks of yardage on the ground. This game proved the eternal truth that when McNabb is on, the Eagles can blow anybody out of the building. When he's off, the defense better score because they going to keep passing come hell or high water. I'll take some solace in knowing that, on a night when the offense largely looked like crap, the difference between winning and losing was a blown coverage and a pair of brain craps by a third string rookie LB.

Hail Hydra!

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:00pm

Yeah, it's funny because I feel the same way: it sucks to lose, but the Eagles essentially played as stupidly as they could, weathered some key injuries and still didn't get blown out. They beat themselves every way they could and were still in the game...

by Harris :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 4:38pm

But isn't that the story of EVERY Eagles loss? They're always maddeningly inconsistent, always juuust a bit off and always a mistake or two away from winning by 14 points instead of losing by five.

Hail Hydra!

by TomC :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:37pm

Are the Bears the worst defense in football right now? In the first halves against Cincy and Arizona, they had exactly one (total) defensive stop, forcing a field goal try on Cincy's fifth drive; all other drives resulted in TDs or the end of the half. I don't remember the last time a team looked that inept on defense in consecutive games. (And yes, I'm purposely omitting the Division III exhibition they played last week.)

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:58pm

Is this a serious question? The Bears don't even have the worst defense in their division.

by TomC :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 3:50pm

Oh great, I'm about to get into that most awesome of all debates, the "my team sucks worse than yours." And I will certainly admit that if the Bears defense were healthy and playing up to potential, they would be much, much better than Detroit's. But I think the last two games against non-Mangini opponents make a serious case that the current Bears defense is playing among the worst defensive football in the NFL. Those 1st halves against Arizona & Cincy are worse than anything the Lions have done all year, even against the best offense in football (Detroit forced New Orleans to punt twice and intercepted Brees once in the first half in week 1, even as they gave up four TDs).

by Dan :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 8:14pm

Do we throw out their first 5 games? The Bears defense was pretty average through 5 games - each game there were times when the other team seemed to move the ball at will on them, but there were also times when they shut down the other team's offense, and at the end of the game they basically averaged out. And it's not like they were all bad offenses - those games were against GB, Pit, Atl, Sea, and Det. They might have turned terrible, but I think that part of why they looked so bad is that the Bears D has a weakness for teams with a great passing attack that can consistently complete short passes. They just pick the Bears apart (occasionally surprising them with runs when the Bears sell out to stop the pass) and the Bears D can't get off the field. Arizona converted their first 8 third down attempts (with 10, 4, 5, 5, 5, 5, 1, and 8 yards to go). When they aren't up against QBs like Palmer and Warner, the Bears D might start to look decent again. We'll see what happens in the next 2 weeks against SF & Philly.

by Gruntled (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:38pm

Selling Levi's using the actual voice of Walt Whitman bothers me no end. And that's what I usually wear. Other options all seem to have some kind of downside.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:40pm

Anyone thinking Detroit would hang on to beat Seattle hadn't seen the Lions all year. They definitely seem to be worse than last season; I suppose there is hope for the future, but I don't see much of it right now.

Here are the Lions' first-quarter possessions:
14 plays, 61 yards, missed FG after failing to convert third-and-one
1 play, 7 yards, touchdown
3 plays, 34 yards, touchdown
7 plays, 25 yards, field goal

So if it weren't for a great catch by Bryant (The Other) Johnson, the Lions would have come away with fewer than 14 points that quarter.

Here are the possessions for the rest of the game:
5 plays, 14 yards, interception
5 plays, 34 yards, interception
3 plays, 8 yards, punt
6 plays, 11 yards, punt
4 plays, 6 yards, interception
5 plays, 38 yards, field goal
5 plays, 13 yards, interception
9 plays, 42 yards, interception

And just in case you were wondering, it wasn't the 12th Man: the Lions had exactly two false-start penalties, both in the first quarter.

No, it was a bad team with a young quarterback making a host of mistakes. Seattle could have spotted the Lions 21 points (not that they didn't try) and still had a good shot at winning.

I can wait for the Cleveland-Detroit game. That's a relegation match, isn't it?

by Temo :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:48pm

. They definitely seem to be worse than last season; I suppose there is hope for the future, but I don't see much of it right now.

I'll paraphrase Belichick for you: teams that get as bad as the Lions don't get there with one year of bad decisions/coaching. They get there as a result of years of accumulated horrible management. And it'll take years of careful team management before the ship is righted.

Take heart, sole remaining Lions fan on this site :(

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:42pm

The Chargers reverse on 3rd and 1 with 5 minutes left in the game was one of the worst calls I've ever seen. Calling for a reverse when you absolutely need a yard is puzzling, but having Vincent Jackson (who has average wheels) run it is pure insanity. The Chargers won in spite of their coaching (again), and it's a shame that these past few years of Chargers (near) excellence are being wasted due to something so obviously fixable.

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:46pm

"most farfetched, weirdest attempt at soft porn in history."

Aaron has probably missed Adam West in the Happy Hooker Goes To Washington.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:51pm

If Justin Tuck didn't read his keys and hold contain... or if Phillip Rivers tried to throw an actual block, it could have been a long gain for San Diego. Reverses on 3rd and 1's aren't that uncommon.

The fact that they lost nearly 5 yards doesn't matter. You either get the 1st down or you don't. I mean, V.Jack could have picked up a TD if the Giants all rush the A gaps and leave the outside open.

Bash Norv when the Chargers lose
Bash Norv when the Chargers win

Norv is the problem to the ESPN message board responder
Norv is the problem to the FO message board responder

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:06pm

Norv Turner - 82-98-1.

Nothing more needs to be said. The man is not a very good head coach.

by Marver :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 11:42pm

That's like judging a starting pitcher on his W/L record. I mean sure, he has a lot to do with it, but it's never the entire picture. Norv is another example of that:

In Norv's first gig, he took a 4-12 Redskins team and eventually took them to the playoffs...the last Redskins team to win more games than Norv's 1999 playoff Redskins team was the 1991 Joe Gibbs led 14-2 team.

In his second gig he was given the Oakland freaking Raiders. To find a coach who conjured up more wins there than the 5 Norv's team put up, you have to go back to the Super Bowl squad.

And with the Chargers Norv's team managed to beat Tony Dungy/Peyton Manning in the playoffs in consecutive seasons, once on the road when the Colts were defending champs. All while his QB had a torn ACL/MCL, his All-World running back was hurt AND coming off a 400+ touches season, his best linebacker had torn a knee ligament, and his all-world tight-end had a serious toe injury. The next season began with a season ending injury to his best defensive player followed by the most ridiculously horribly officiated game in NFL history! Nevermind the fact that he was practically forced to play Chris Chambers (slow, can't run a route, no hands, short) at receiver for 1+ seasons. Yet his team still managed to make the playoffs and beat Peyton Manning/Tony Dungy...their only loss in their last 16+ games.

If you want to continue to bag on Norv Turner, go ahead, but it isn't his fault that Jamal Williams and Nick Hardwick -- the two rocks in the center of the line on both sides of the football -- have been out since week one, and it certainly isn't his fault that his runningback falls down without contact.

The only thing I fault Norv on this season is running the ball against Baltimore late in the week two game, as well as the continued use of the running game in general. With the background Norv has throwing the ball and the personel the Chargers possess, the split should be 75/25 (at least) in favor of the passing game. At the very least, reduce the predictability of the running-game (we seem to run almost exclusively with a fullback on the field).

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:01pm

Reverses happen on 3rd and 1's all the time - but not when a game (or season in the Chargers case) is pretty much on the line. Can FO do a study on how often reverses actually work? I feel like at least 3 out of 4 times you lose, at minimum, 5 yards. Why would you want to introduce that variable when you don't have to? You have what is arguably a top 7 quarterback and two power forwards for WRs, and an actual power forward for a tight end - they're the reason your offense is anything but terrible. Use them.

Bash Jason Campbell when the Redskins lose
Bash Jason Campbell when the Redskins win

C is the problem with the FO message board.

See what I did there?

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:45pm

Teams run reverses when the contain man fails to contain. Maybe a scout or OC in the press box sees a DE or OLB biting and pinching in too much, so they test him with a reverse.

On 3rd and short people tend to pinch in to block the A,B gaps where teams usually run right up the gut.

If SD lost 1 yard or if SD lost 5 yards it really wouldn't matter much, they would have punted either way. It wasn't 1st and 10 where they lost 5 yards and put their chance at a decent drive in a bind, it was either A) get the yardage or B) punt. The fact that they lost 5 yards isn't relevant. If Tuck would have bit in more, or if Rivers ( a big guy) would have thrown a half decent block, Jackson could have picked up 20 yards maybe more.

What are the common plays to call on 3rd and 1? QB sneak up the middle, RB Dive... Mayyyybe a pitch to the outside... Mayyyyybe a play action roll out if you have a riskier play caller. The fact that SD faked the run up the middle, and ran a reverse caught people off guard and really tested the Giants discipline to contain.

Norv Turner might not be a great head coach, but he's one of the better play callers and OC's in the league. SD has been one of the better teams in the league the last few years, but they don't get much intelligent "thought" around here compared to the other popular east coast teams. It's more of the Norv is a moron crap you hear everywhere else.

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 3:05pm

How do you know they would punt either way? If SD gains half a yard, maybe they go for it on 4th and short. There was less than 5 minutes left on the clock, and SD needed a TD - I think it would be ridiculous to expect your porous run defense to contain the Giants one last time before the end of the game. The outcome doesn't excuse the process. Why would Tuck bite more? He's a great end. Why would you expect, or even want to put your qb in the position, to block an end?

Norv is not an idiot - he's a great OC, which is not an insult. He's just not capable of being a head coach.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 3:12pm

Norv's team got a lot better once Ted Cottrell was fired, and Cottrell wasn't Norv's hire.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 3:19pm

Tuck is a good pass rusher and a good run end, that doesn't mean he's god. If Rivers throws a half decent block it's an easy first down, but Rivers didn't cut Tuck, he didn't try and block him standing up, he threw a horrible attempt at a block.

Why risk your QB blocking a DE? Because if they convert that first down, it greatly improves the Chargers chances at winning the game.

Now before you mock Norv for being an idiot and asking his QB to block, he isn't the only play caller that does this. Lots of teams have plays where their QB cuts a defender... Alex Smith... yes Alex Smith laid out a DE earlier this year. Favre throws cut blocks, Jamarcus Russell is often bigger than the defenders he tries to block... and Rivers isn't small.

On 3rd and 1, sometimes coaches do ask their QB's to block, and if Rivers would have executed the block it would have worked. Tuck protected the outside just enough to force Jackson inside, where the Giants gobbled him up.

The question wasn't is Norv a good coach, is Norv a bad coach, it's, " why on earth would you ever run a reverse on 3rd and 1"? If the play would have worked this question wouldn't have even come up.

by Ben B. :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 3:39pm

This is a really weird extended discussion because it was actually third and 5 when the reverse was run.

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 4:59pm

Ha, my fault then. That makes it even more idiotic in my estimation. And yes, this discussion would have come up - judging the process doesn't depend on the outcome. It was a stupid play call.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:53pm

I bet Norv Turner could turn around Jason Campbell in 3 months.

by jayinalaska :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 3:05pm

drobviousso, you're cruel! This is like mixing matter and anti-matter inside Chris's head. It'll explode, man!

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 3:25pm

I'll bet Norv Turner turn somebody from being really really geeky to cool in 3 months :)

by MJK :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 12:54pm

Just two quick thoughts about the only game I watched...NE-MIA:

1). The Pats got a couple of lucky breaks there...Moss's aforementioned uncalled push off when he made the big catch (when the refs were calling every other pass play a PI, regardless of offense or defense, when a player so much as breathed on someone else), and the very adroit stoppage of the clock at the half with 0:01 left. Granted, the clock was stopped exactly when it was supposed to be stopped (as a Pats fan, I'm officially required to hold his opinion :-), but most clock operators aren't quite so much on the ball and would have let the half end without the Pats scoring.

2). It was really fun watching all the different formations the Dolphins brought to the game. The various forms of Wildcat (including a Brown TD pass), the Pistol, and an honest-to-goodness college option play. I was rooting for the Pats of course, but I think I'll cheer for the Dolphins whenever they don't play the Pats from now on just because they actually have the guts to get creative and try different and new things!

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:56pm

Poor attitude/work ethic were the concerns about Vontae Davis coming out of Illinois, but if he can control those things, I think he's going to be the best CB in the NFL in about 2 years.

And frankly, it would take the Dolphins' playing on unicycles before I could bring myself to root for them.

by Temo :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:00pm

Belichick looked, dare I say, flustered after that Brown TD pass. One of the few times I've seen him look like he got caught with his pants down. (Whether that's an accurate assessment or not is up to Pats fans, as I don't know his facial expressions as well)

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:11pm

As I've never seen his facial expression with his pants down, I don't know....and I am a Pats fan.

by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 3:50pm

I bet a former receptionist for the New York Giants could help us recognize his "pants down" face. I know, it's a cheap shot. But what better way to start Colts vs. Pats week than a cheap shot on Billy's character?

by Temo :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 4:19pm

Lies, I know you have. At the very least, you've watched him with YOUR pants down. All Pats fans have.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 4:22pm

Well, since I don't wear pants around the house, I suppose this is technically true.

by AnonymousA (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 4:31pm

I recall shouting at the TV on that play -- Brandon McGowan failed, and failed hard. He had *excellent* coverage on the eventual receiver, then decided to drop it and chase Brown, who threw an ugly duck over his head. Just an embarrassing, Pop Warner mistake.

I have tons of confirmation on this, by the way -- immediately after the play, Meriweather came over to him and started shouting and pointing. Then, after that, the TV crew showed replays both of McGowan's dumb and Meriweather's lecture.

I, too, have never seen Our Dark Lord sans pants, but I suspect his facial expression was "I hope you like playing for the Raiders, McGowan!"

by Bobman :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 7:01pm

Standing in a Toyota dealership in Kirkland WA waiting for a brochure, I saw the two or three plays leading up to the TD pass. I called "Ronnie Brown to pass now would be the obvious choice," to nobody in particular. I did not realize he was lefty, which often adds to the surprise when he rolls out to his left.

Not sure if that is good or bad--(A) I can outsmart BB, even if it's only once; but (2) I am thinking like a wildcat.

be afwaid. be vewwy afwaid....

Those bastards are fun to watch.

by Temo :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 7:55pm

I don't know why, but I immediately pictured you standing in a dealership saying that out loud, someone nearby noticing, and them asking you "Wow, are you a football coach?" Then you say "No, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night."

FU, commercials. You've brainwashed me thoroughly.

by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 11:23pm


by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:07pm

I expected the Bears and Packers to be better this year, although I also expected that injury luck to be a big factor, and certainly the Bears suffered when Urlacher played less than 1 full game. It'll be interesting to see where the Packers DVOA rank ends up, especially on the defensive side; I agree that it appears that Kampman's strengths are being squandered.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:33pm

I have a feeling had Josh Beekman started from game 1 the Bears could have 1-2 more wins right now.

I don't know what is wrong with the defense though. If we face a QB with above average accuracy we just get torn to shreds.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:48pm

Well, with regards to yesterday's debacle, not having Harris and Tillman on the field is less than helpful.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:56pm

Yeah but there should be a difference between less then helpful and giving up 4 TDs on 4 consecutive drives, and Tillman was on the field for most of those.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:03pm

True, dat....

by Chip :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 3:55pm

The Beekman-Omiyale debacle smells like an internal power struggle. Both Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo are fighting for their jobs.

Angelo swings for the fences and gets Lovie his franchise QB. He then picks up a few other parts (Pace, Omiyale, Gaines Adams). So now he can go back to ownership and say, hey, "look at the playoff caliber roster I gave Lovie". Lovie in turn starts Omiyale over Beekman even though all team insiders and observers know that Beekman is the better player. It's as if Lovie is rubbing Angelo's face in it, saying: "look at this crappy roster you gave me". What else would explain Angelo's comments on the bears' website? Comments like: "(after the Bengals game) I was surprised how long it took the defense to adjust…"

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:08pm

My personal trend line indicating a loss of confidence in Mike McCarthy is escalating rapidly. Namely because I associate penalties and poor special teams play directly with coaching. Yes, coaching impacts everything. But penalties are a reflection of the coaching staff. And the Packers are a sloppy, sloppy team. It's EASY for an officiating crew to "see" penalties when GB is playing. And special teams is about effort and intelligence.

GB is a dumb team. Maybe they have smart players. But they play dumb.

And that is coaching.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:18pm

"But penalties are a reflection of the coaching staff"

Eh, not so much. Penalties are the result of players getting beat, and trying to find an advantage. False starts are usually because a lineman is getting beat by the guy across from him, and is trying to get out of his stance quicker. Holds are similar. PI, guy getting beat, starts getting grabby.

The only penalties that I think are coaching related are the late hits, and the formation stuff.

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:27pm

McCarthy still has 31-26 record. Which isn't exactly awful (funny enough it's the same record as Childress).

Combined record of 62-52
Record for both with Favre as QB: 28-12
Record with other QBs: 34-40

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:45pm

I don't necessarily disgaree, although I'd caution against underrating the talent portion of special teams play. I don't think the Vikings coaching on special teams has improved substantially, with the assistant special teams coach being promoted to special teams coordinator, and Childress still being Childress. They have gone from the bottom to the top, however, largely because their return guys have improved by a huge amount, on kickoffs (Harvin) and punts (Jaymar Johnson). Their kick and punt coverage has improved as well, and I think it is because they have more speed on those units, not because they are coached better.

I can't speak to the Packers specifically, but units which are consistently bad at covering kickoffs and punts usually have below-average speed.

by tylerdolphin :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:18pm

"Then on third-and-15, Henne throws the ball 100 yards out of bounds. Fourth-and-15 pass isn't even close, and that's game."

Those two passes were actually two drops if I recall correctly. Both would have been first downs if they (Hartline, Ginn) had caught the passes Henne put in their hands.

If Miami doesnt have the worst WR/TE group in the league then I dont know who does. They ruin the Fins every week with untimely drops and they are NEVER wide open.

by Led :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:32pm

They were catchable balls, if I recall correctly, but not easy catches and not great throws. Ginn, in particular, was wide open and the throw was high and behind him. Would be nice if Ginn made a great catch, but Henne has to get a lot of blame for that incompletion.

by GlennW :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:20pm

Can anyone explain how on Dallas' last possession of the game, the Eagles kicked off with 4:27 left on the clock yet Dallas ran their first play from scrimmage at 3:33? Did the officials just keep the clock running after the kickoff? Not that this would have negated Andy Reid's braindeadedness; just curious...

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:39pm

there must be an error on the play by play at the NFL site. I just looked at a replay and that first running play started with 4:20 remaining.

by GlennW :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:49pm

Thanks, that makes sense. The subsequent clock times in the Gamebook must be in error also. Regardless, it took Dallas four plays to reach the two-minute warning, which is as expected from the 4:20 mark with the clock running after each play.

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:23pm


Watching a team commit the same penalties week after week in the same situations week after week once has to think that coaching matters.

And the Packers are commiting penalties against everyone both good opponents and bad.

Nah, this is coaching.

And given how previously quiet players are b*tching to the press (Jennings, Jenkins, Woodson) one has to think the coaching staff has lost some credibility with the team.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:54pm

"Watching a team commit the same penalties week after week in the same situations week after week once has to think that coaching matters."
Again, depends on the penalty.

If its illegal formation, or delay of game, yeah.

If its holding, chances are they player just sucks.

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

whole lot of whining going on out there on this fine Monday...

by Key19 :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:26pm

Well, other than the Pats, I would venture to say that almost every team that is strongly supported on this site (by both the staff and readership) lost yesterday (or looked really terrible against a terrible team, in the case of the Seahawks).

All it takes is a Steelers loss tonight and we could have historic whining!

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:59pm

Hey, no whining from Vikings fans, what with the Vikings gaining ground by watching games from the sofa! Their good luck could vanish at any moment, but almost everything has broken right for them, especially if Winfield has recovered. It isn't a stretch to imagine them having the division clinched before December arrives.

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:17pm

If Minnesota wins their next three at home against Det, Sea, Chic - I think it will be very difficult for GB or Chic to catch them.

That would give Minnesota 10 wins. GB and likely Chic would need to actually better that record and get to 11 wins. They will have to win 7 or their remaining 8 to do that.

Of course strange things happen like GB losing to TB - but these next three home games could essentially lock things up in the division for Minnesota.

GB had a 56% chance of making the playoffs according to the playoff odds section - I suspect that number will take a huge hit this week. Chicago was already down to 4% last week.

by TomC :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 3:55pm

Define "whining." What I hear from Packer & Bear fans is "boy, my team sucks way worse than I thought they were going to," which sounds like painful acceptance, not whining.

by morganja :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:56pm

A new rule in Football. If a punt coverage player goes into the endzone and then comes out and is the first person to touch the ball, it is no longer an illegal touch. That's great. Odd that they changed it without telling anyone, or that it's been called the other way in every other game this, and every other, season.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:04pm

I think it's been this way for a while. The player has to "re-establish" himself out of the endzone. Which I think means getting both feet back on the regular portion of the field.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:11pm

If you enjoy watching desperate, if flawed, teams, this Thursday's Bears/49er game fits the bill. I've been a little disappointed in the 'Niners. They aren't great, but with a little more luck they could easily be 5-3.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:15pm

The one positive I can take away from the Bears game. Ron Turner realized how effective the screen to Forte is. Minus a marginal holding call on Kreutz it would have been 3/3 for around 20 yards per play I think.

by TomC :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 3:59pm

I think that if you only watched the game when the Bears had the ball, you could take several positives from it (pass protection, Olsen breaks out, Hester makes a great catch downfield). But the other half of the game was so overwhelmingly depressing that it's hard to do so.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 6:02pm

Agreed, tuluse. The WR screens worked well, too.

I'm glad Turner finally realized that with a piss-poor oline, screens become a necessity.

I agree with TomC, also. The offense looked pretty good, aside from the line. After Arizona's second touchdown, the Bears ran that Hester end-around on first down, and he lost ten yards because the LB on that side kept contain. That play was the equivalent of what is referred to as a "megasack" in the IRC chats - it left the offense very little chance of recovery. I can also this of at least one other drive that got killed by penalties.

The coaching is killing the team, too. Something has to change on defense. I want to say that they have to start bumping the receivers at the line, even if the CBs aren't great at it. As is, receivers are just settling into holes in the zone, and, as noted above, any QB with above-average accuracy can march his team right down the field.

by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:18pm

That situation could be interesting, as a .500ish finish by the team should be enough to keep MM and TT in place, and keep the 3-4 scheme going for at least next year. Which means Kampmann will be dying to get out of town, and to sign with somebody who can use his considerable talents (he's really an excellent combo DE, if you haven't been following him).

If he's really pissed at GB for squeezing his square peg into a 3-4 hole, he could always sign with the Vikings (a team noted for signing a couple of former Packer standouts), and give them the greatest front four in NFL history. I believe the Vikes actually signed him to an RFA contract way back when, but the Pack kept him.

However, further suckitude from GB means that a new coach and/or GM could be brought in, and if he's one who prefers the 4-3, Kampmann could be the biggest asset on the squad.

I will watch with glee as Ted Thompson tries to buy enough time to completely rebuild the offensive line. Amazing that when Ol' Wrangler Butt left the team, the only worry was if Rodgers would be any good. Now Rodgers is about the only bright spot (albeit one who seems to be getting darker--and dirtier--with each passing week).

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:50pm

Or the Bears, I'd love to see Kampman in navy and orange.

Also, I wouldn't say Rodgers is the only bright spot. Those receivers are still looking good, and the defensive line seems well suited to the 3-4.

by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 3:40pm

Ehhh . . . I love Driver, but he's older than most of the FO writers. Something has gone drastically wrong with the whole "Greg Jennings Ascension" thing, and TE Jermichael Finley is intriguing but injured.

The Packers D-Line:

1. Cullen Jenkins: upset with the scheme
2. Pickett: May not be back next year
3. Jolly: See #2, plus facing felony drug charges, plus no pass rush skills
4. Raji: Not bad, but nagging ankle injury

Unless the Packers let AK skate without a tag, I don't see him in either Purple or Navy and Orange. TT's concerns over spinning a disgruntled star to a division rival have been confirmed to the nth degree.

However, TT does love him some draft picks, so you never know . . .

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:21pm

I'll just say that I hated Tampa drafting Josh Freeman, whose scouting report out of college was "all the physical tools, but questionable accuracy and decision-making". I tend to live in a world where, were I to build the perfect QB, I'd start with, you know, accuracy and decision-making.

That being said, Josh Freeman could be caught this week killing nuns and eating puppies and I'd still be happy he was drafted. Considering the remaining schedule, I was quite sure Tampa was going winless. I didn't think they were the worst team by a long shot, but they didn't have a single game vs. a bad team left except for Seattle, and that game is in Seattle.

I usually discount something like "poise", but Freeman looked incredibly comfortable in the second half. The first half, he looked like a rookie. In the second, he looked surprisingly good. The shocking thing is that this year the Bucs have generally looked OK in the first half and have been terrible in the second half. Yesterday, complete flip-flop.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:32pm

Danimal, watching the Bucs yesterday reinforced my belief that the Vikings made a mistake, if they didn't offer some draft value for Ronde Barber, prior to the trade deadline. I haven't looked at the cap numbers, however.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:45pm

All I can say is keep your dirty stinking hands off the one remaining link to the glory years. He's not the player he used to be, but he still has the "knack" for making big plays (and yes, I realized saying that on this site makes me eligible for lynching). IIRC, that was his 14th career return TD. Fourteen! One on a punt return, the others on defense. IIRC, that ties him with Rod Woodson for most defensive TDs in NFL history.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:48pm

I think the guy is a Hall of Famer, and it is indicative of the problems in the Hall of Fame selection process that this may be controversial.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 3:28pm

You see this? This here? This is me hugging you from across the Twin Cities.

I've been on the "Ronde Barber belongs in the HOF" bandwagon for a couple years now. I mean, name me a better CB this decade not named "Champ Bailey" (yes, I know, Asomugha, but he's only been starting for 5 years, so there isn't enough history there yet). First CB ever with 20 sacks and 20 INTs. One of the best-tackling defensive backs I've ever seen. Really the prototypical Cover-2 guy, and I tend to believe that, had he played more man coverage, you'd see more INTs in his career, as the Cover-2 philosophy is "keep it in front of you and tackle, wait for them to make a mistake".

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 3:56pm

Charles Woodson.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 4:16pm





Stat-wise, Woodson has three more picks, Barber has five more TDs (apparently 13 career returns TDs, not 14, I apparently gave him a bonus TD in my enthusiasm). Barber has the third-most return TDs ever after Deion Sanders and Rod Woodson. Barber's played one year more, and has around 200 more tackles. Statistically, it's not even close. Woodson vanished for several years in Oakland, to the point where I laughed at a Packers fan friend of mine when they picked him up because his play had been so utterly average-at-best for a few years and I very errantly figured he was done. Barber's never had a down period other than the expected "getting old and slowing down" at the end of his career.

And yes, they're the "here, have a nice biscuit, we've decided we like you this year" and all, but Barber has three first-team All-Pro awards, meaning he was considered to be one of the best at his position multiple times.

Edit: Just noticed the "Similar Players" list at the bottom of the PFR reference page. Nice list, Ronde.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 4:16pm

Charles Woodson has been great, but Ronde Barber has been more consistently great. To some degree, however, this is hair-splitting, and indicative of how the Hall of Fame selection process has broken down.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 4:28pm

I'd say Ronde has been more consistently good, not great. He's also played in one single, very cornerback-friendly system.

I'm no fan of Woodson's. We know several people in common and every one says he's an a@@hole, but my opinion is that Woodson could do Barber's job with ease, but I have serious doubts Barber could do Woodson's. I don't know how to build the case that Player X is a Hall-of-Fame corner when he's never, or rarely, had to cover somebody man-to-man.

That being said, Barber is an excellent corner, and I'd love to have him on my team. I just think the Tampa-2 protects his weaknesses. This is anecdotal with zero statistical backup.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 5:32pm

Depends on what you mean by "do each other's job". I'd agree that the Cover-2 is less physically demanding then playing man-up all the time, but that doesn't mean anybody can do it. A large part of playing the Cover-2 well is being smart enough to be in the right place at the right time. There isn't a statistical value to easily measure "discipline" or "being smart enough to play your position". As for ball-hawking skills, Barber led the league in INTs in 2001 with 10 picks.

How about tackling numbers? For four straight years, he had over 80 tackles. Doing a quick check on various players on PFR, the only other player close to that is Winfield, who did it three times. If I'm working up a "best tackling CBs" team, it's Barber, Bailey, and Winfield.

Are INTs all that matter? Woodson has 87 career passes defensed, Barber has 129 (Ty Law, 87). Sacks, it's 9.5 vs. 24 (Law, 5). Tackles, 582 vs. 783 (Law, 704). Barber is statistically superior in every category except INTs. And yes, a CB like Asomugha or Deion in his prime can effectively shut down their side of the field, but Woodson or Law have never been that quality of cornerback (I really wish PFR had a "targets" stat).

Basically, Ronde Barber is a "complete" corner. Not to open up another can of worms, but it's like the old debate of Emmitt Smith vs. Barry Sanders. Barry Sanders was without question the most exciting, dynamic runner I've ever seen, but there's a lot more to being a running back than being an exciting, dynamic runner. Smith was a better receiver, a better short-yardage back, and excellent at blitz pickup. You could count on him to do all the little things to keep the chains moving and the clock winding down. He didn't have nearly as many highlight reel plays, but he helped his team win.

Ronde Barber in this comparison is, not surprisingly, Emmitt Smith. Yeah, he has fewer INTs than a number of other quality corners, but none of those other corners tackled like him or blitzed like him or consistently put himself in the right position to make the play when it needed to be made. Yes, I'm a Bucs fanboy, but evidence for why he belongs in the HOF is pretty easy to come by. Evidence as to why he doesn't belong in the HOF seems to come down to "he played zone, and only losers play zone".

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 6:12pm

"And yes, a CB like Asomugha or Deion in his prime can effectively shut down their side of the field, but Woodson or Law have never been that quality of cornerback (I really wish PFR had a "targets" stat)."

Law definitely was that type of player for a couple of years.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 6:25pm

DISCLAIMER: packer fan chiming in.

I'm not sure that Barber is necessarily a MORE complete CB. He's a great fit for the Tampa 2 due to his ball hawking, run stopping, and blitzing skills, but I think that Tampa 2 CBs are protected from the most difficult job that defines a great CB in most other systems, and that's being able to defend deep passes.

Cover/Tampa 2 CBs are never really placed "on and island", the way Man CBs repeatedly are and other zone CBs often are (when given deep zone coverages). If a WR runs through their zone they turn them over to the safeties, and rarely have to play defense with their back to the QB.

Woodson is a fairly effective blitzer and run defender, however he hasn't had as many opportunities to showcase those skills as Barber has. barber has obviously flourished for Tampa Bay, but I don't think he's really had to prove that he can play iso man coverage. It's unfair to judge his careero based on how he's playing now in Bates' man scheme, but Driver was able to burn him pretty badly on his TD yesterday. Would Barber have held up better playing man coverage in his prime? Seems impossible to say.

One more point in Woodson's favor. Looking at the PFR pages it's obvious that Woodson's numbers improved dramatically after coming to GB, despite being at an age when CBs rarely improve much. Obviously HOF judges have to look at what a player did and not what they could have done, but how much better might he have done over the course of his career playing for a better organization? maybe not much as Oakland was competent during part of Woodson's time there, but considering how many other players decline dramatically when spending parts of their career's playing for the Raiders, it's something to think about.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 6:38pm

Well, I'm clearly a Bucs fan (I have a Barber jersey hanging in my closet, in fact), so I admit to homerism. I would argue that Barber has been a more complete CB. Would Barber have flourished as a deep-ball, alone-on-the-island CB? Honestly, I don't know that he would have, but I don't think that's relevant. I also don't think a player like Ty Law would have had a chance in hell to be successful in the Tampa-2. It takes a different skillset.

Barber's skills have dropped off dramatically in the last two years, no doubt, and it's been painful to watch him get burned, but that doesn't change how well he played for years. I mean, the guy has been a GREAT tackler, excellent blitzer, has had very good ball skills, and everything else. He has been complete.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 8:29am

I just can't agree that it's not relevant. Value is a part of the HoF selection process, which is why they let a lot more quarterbacks than punters into Canton. A great man corner is worth a lot more than a great zone corner. I suspect that even a good man corner is worth more than a great zone corner - and the contracts signed by Woodson and Barber tend to support this notion. I don't think any cornerback this decade other than Bailey is a no-brainer for Canton at this point (though Asomugha is fast headed that way and on this season's evidence Revis could join him), but I would probably take Law and would let Woodson in before Barber. Hell, I'm not sure the Eagles don't currently have two corners more valuable than Barber was in his prime. Brooks and Sapp are surefire first ballot Hall of Famers. If you want to take more players from that team, I'd consider Rice and probably Lynch before Barber.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 4:10pm

Ty Law is in that category.

by MJK :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 6:12pm

I was going to throw Ty Law into the discussion as well. He has more INT's than either Woodson or Barber, although I would actually put him third behind the two of them, on account of the large number of DPI's he would draw and the occasional horrible gamble that he would make, giving up a long TD. Still, he's probably one of the best CB's in the last 10 years.

I think, unlike in baseball, players that play for a million years in the NFL actually hurt their HoF chances. When Law finally does retire, a whole lot of people are going to remember his journeyman years where he had little left in the tank, not the years of "the Lawyer and the Law" when that side of the Pats defense was feared by opposing QB's, or the year of the Ty-down defense, when Manning practically threw more passes to Law than his own receivers. I wonder if Woodson has had a bit of the same problem...he's slowing down now, so people think of him as "that old guy" and not one of the best corners recently in the game.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 6:28pm

Woodson had a couple of really good years at the start of his career, but he seemed to drop off the face of the planet near the end of his time in Oakland. I'll remember him as a guy who had a great career resurgence in Green Bay. IIRC, he was going to be moved to safety when they signed him because people assumed he didn't have enough left in the tank to play corner. He's been very good in GB.

Law, yeah, more INTs, but less everything else. Seems appropriate that one replaced the other in NE, but I always thought of Asante Samuel as Ty Law Part II--a fast, smart corner with great ball skills who gets lots of INTs but gets burned quite a bit when he gambles. Great players, yes, but there's a real boom-and-bust quality to that sort of corner who essentially ensures lots of big plays, either for your team with big picks or the other team when they guess wrong.

Barber was a consistently excellent CB for a number of years, say from 2000-2007. He played at an exceptional level for eight years.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 11:26pm

Barber was great by 1999. I remember a Monday night game against a very good Vikings offense in which he dominated, against the run and pass.

by Temo :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 3:33pm

I don't think saying a player that has usually always had good metrics has a knack for making big plays is going to get you "lynched". It's more when people say that shitty players "just make plays" that they get lynched.

by Prio (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:52pm

"Young appeared to have a large gap for a first down on a keeper, but was run down by Patrick Willis. I think Young continues to struggle with the fact that at the pro level, he isn't the best athlete on the field and can't do what he's always been able to -- zip past dudes like they're standing still."
If you watch the replay it is very clear that Young sees Willis coming and pulls up to prepare for impact. If he dove forward or at least continued his momentum he likely would have had the first down. Maybe his long stretch on the bench has left him afraid of getting hit.

by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 4:07pm

Goodness gracious, Vince has pubic lice that talk to him. Maybe they'll tell him that they are communicable. ;)

by mm (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 4:45pm

Again, like against Miami, the Saints run defense tried to give a game away but it is very difficult to do when the Saints offense is so damn awesome. Sure, take a two-touchdown lead against them. They could be back in, oh, three minutes or so.

In both games, early offensive turnovers had as much to do with 'trying to give the game away" as the run defense. Against the Dolphins, Brees threw 3 ints, including 2 in the first 20 minutes that lead to Dolphins drives starting at the NO 4 and the NO 19 (lead to 2 early TDs). Against the Panthers, Brees fumbled on a sack that lead to a Panther drive starting at the NO 11; he then was intercepted, leading to a Panther drive that started at the CAR 45 (lead to 10 points before 20 minutes had elapsed).

Toss in the Sack-fumble of Brees for a TD by the Falcons and the key difference in the Saints' 1st halves the last 3 weeks is apparent. They never fell more than 21 points behind the Dolphins despite the Saints' offense having a hand in 14 points against them. They never fell more than 14 points behind the Panthers, despite the Saints' offense having a hand in 10 points against them. They never fell more than 7 points behind the Falcons, despite the offense giving them 7 points.

Additionally, in each of those games the defense was a key part of the comebacks, contributing takeaways (and some scores) of their own. Yeah, they have problems against the run. But they've still been a big part of the Saints wins these last 3 weeks. Although the Panthers made a great try at it, it's really hard to only run up the field and not have one bad series of downs at some point.

I'm not saying not to blame the Defense at all, but some blame should be taken away from them and transferred to the offense.

by anonymiss (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 4:46pm

Aaron Schatz: Coverage in the first half of the Pats-Dolphins was really tight. Five pass interferences so far, two offense and three defense. I checked the penalty numbers and Mike Carey's crew doesn't call a strange number of interference penalties. I think there's just a ton of pushing and *josseling* going on.

The Johnson & Wales kids are laughing at you. Come on, son. Jostling.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 6:06pm

Doug Farrar: Not according to Walt Coleman's replay review, he didn't. There are times I wonder what the point of having replay is, if you're going to uphold every call that isn't absolutely conclusively wrong to whatever standard the officiating crew decides to use on that particular evening. This would be one of those times.
I've said this before, but I think a problem with replay is the fact that there has to be conclusive evidence (or whatever the exact term is) to overturn a call. How about the standard to overturn is "the call that seems most correct". Let the referees use some judgement, please.

by Boston Dan :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 7:52pm

"The crowd gives a Philadelphia cheer!"

I remember this. It was a mock cheer from the crowd and because the game was played in Philadelphia the announcer called it a Philadelphia cheer.

Did this not occur after the Eagles finally picked up a first down on 4th and short?

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 4:03pm

We were cheering because the refs actually let us have a correct spot, for once.

by Jimmy with the sore bursa sacs (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 9:22pm

Note that "Mr. Think With Your Dipstick" also appears as a forward thinking medical practitioner in an IBM web-ad featured (on ESPN, I believe!) before every other presser or highlight reel.

Do any of you football fans actually have any intentions of implementing Cloud Computing at your place of business?

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 4:04pm

We only have clod computing where I work. Thanks, CSC!

by bubqr :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 5:44am

Is it me (too lazy to do the math), or this week had a huge number of close games ?

by bubqr :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 6:40am

Ho, and DVOA overrating the Eagles subject : "Since start of 07 season, Eagles have now played in 10 games decided by 4 PT or less. Their record? An underwhelming 1-8-1." Clutch might be hard to measure, but it sures plays a big part in DVOA vs Record battle.

by nat :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 9:58am

Hmm... I wonder why the 2007 cutoff was used here? Could it be cherry-picking? Let's see.

Eagles record in games decided by 4 or fewer points:
2006 - 2-2
2005 - 3-3
2004 - 2-0

(2004-2006 chosen to match the 2007-2009 period used in the original post.)

Yup. It was cherry-picking.

by bubqr :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 10:15am

Clear cherry picking, but is the sample really too small ? I mean, 1 victory out of 10 close games, is it really normal ?

Plus, I wouldn't be a real Philly fan if I didn't tell you to check the exact same record when counting games with McNabb at QB only (hint, not pretty).

Does not mean I blame only McNabb, because in a lot of close games the defense didn't come up big, and Andy Reid isn't exactly the king of game management. But how do I feel when the game is close when entering the 4th quarter ? Far, far from confident. But I do think that part of the blame is on #5.

by nat :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 11:14am

Fair enough. It is an unlikely sequence, but not as unlikely as you'd think, with 32 teams in the league. Some team is going to be the unlucky one.

First, a little less than 25% of all games are decided by 4 or fewer points. (30 out of 128 so far this season). So 10 close games over 2.5 seasons is as expected.

Ties are uncommon. So it might be easier to ask how likely going 1-9 or 2-8 are, and assume that the Eagles' record of futility falls between those two. After all, no one is claiming that the Eagles are predisposed to tying games.

In ten games, there are 1024 possible outcomes (assuming no ties). If close games are truely "close" in the sense that the teams were equally likely to win, then all 1024 outcomes are equally likely.

There are 10 ways to go 1-9, 45 ways to go 2-8 and 1 way to go 0-10.

The chances of going 2-8 or worse are about 5.5%. 1-9 or worse: 1.1%. That's pretty unlikely, but not insanely so.

What are the chances that at least one team will go 2-8 or worse in their last 10 close games? 83.5% - that's very likely.

What about at least one team going 1-9? 29.2% - that's not uncommon.

That puts the Eagles futility score at around 56%. That is, you might consider their result a typical level of futility for whichever team turns out to have the worst luck in close games.

This does not prove that the Eagles aren't a choking team, or that choking teams do not exist. It does show that random chance could easily explain their record in close games. A further test would be to look at their previous 10 close games to see if the pattern is consistent (it isn't - see my previous post), or to look at how the actual distribution of wins in close games compares to the random model for all teams in the league.

by bubqr :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 12:53pm

Thanks for the analysis, I'm guilty of cherry picking stats to back up my point. But I'm going to go on with the cherry picking, and use just game with McNabb at QB :

Since 2004, Eagles are 4-13-1 with McNabb at QB (the 2 wins in 2006 are with Garcia, and believe it or not, I can't, 2 from 2005 are with McMahon at QB).

So the record is 4-13-1 in those last 18 games.

Chances to go 5-13 : 3,2 %

Chances to go 4-14 : 1,1 %

The chances actually decreased by looking at 10 more games, so while 18 is still a small sample size, and it doesn't statistically prove anything, I'd still say that the Eagles with McNabb at QB, looks quite like a choking team to a depressed Philly fan like me.

by nat :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 2:17pm

Oops. You goofed the math.

The chances of going 5-13 or worse: 4.8%
The chances of going 4-14 or worse: 1.5%

You calculated the chances of going exactly 5-13, which is not what you were looking for. FWIW, the chances of going exactly 9-9 are 18.5%, even though it is the most likely result. But you would not think going 9-9 is unusual.

For the league as a whole:
The chances of at least one team going 5-13 (or worse) in close games: 79.4%
The chances of at least one team going 4-14 (or worse) in close games: 39.2%

The Eagles futulity index = 59%.

In other words, it was going to happen to some team. The Eagles are probably just the unlucky ones.

by bubqr :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 4:32pm

I did, sorry. Well if the numbers don't want to prove my point, I'll go back to normal Philly fan reaction :


More seriously, there's definitly more than bad luck involved. When you play that many games, you can't rely on 4th and 26 your whole life to prove you can lead game winning drives.