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06 Dec 2010

Audibles at the Line: Week 13

compiled by Bill Barnwell

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

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

While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That 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 Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Thursday, December 2

Houston Texans 24 at Philadelphia Eagles 34

Aaron Schatz: You know how people often say that "games aren't played on paper?" Actually, we could have played out this game on paper, or the modern equivalent, in our spreadsheets, and it would have looked just like this.

Mike Tanier: Except that Vick wouldn't be getting the hell beaten out of him on paper.

Aaron Schatz: True. Also, Trevor Laws doesn't pick off screen passes on paper.

Great Millen moments: "What a great pass defense by Glover Quin. Glover Quin made a really great play there. Glover Quin... wait, never touched the ball? Oh, um, never mind."

Mike Tanier: The guys from The700Level.com pointed out that the Eagles could use Laws' hands in the red zone.

Vince Verhei: What the hell was that last play at the end of the half? A handoff from the 50-yard line with two seconds to go? Dan Orlovsky can't try a Hail Mary?

Bill Barnwell: Texans pass defense apparently got back to their regular film study of "How Not To Be Seen" during the week. Not surprised that the pass rush is getting to Vick -- they are 18th in Adjusted Sack Rate -- but as long as Vick can stay upright for 2.5 seconds, the Texans have no prayer of keeping coverage long enough to stop Philly. Difference between 28-13 and 20-13 amounts to the Eagles dropping passes.

Mike Tanier: The Texans studied the Redskins gameplan against the Eagles very carefully.

Aaron Schatz: You know, when your opponent has one superlative receiver like the Texans do, I wonder if it work to play more coverage like what they call "Zone Man X" in Madden. In other words, assign a cornerback to cover that top receiver one-on-one, but have the rest of the players in a general zone. That prevents their top receiver from just sitting in a hole to catch the ball, plus you now have him doubled with whoever happens to be the defender assigned to the zone that he is in when the quarterback throws him the ball. Obviously, the downside is that you have one less zone defender so the zones have to be bigger.

Vince Verhei: The Seahawks used that kind of box-and-1 strategy against Steve Smith and the Panthers in the 2005 NFC Championship game. Obviously, it worked. I remember plays where Smith was basically quadruple-covered.

You could also try that in a standard Cover-2 and only rush three, but obviously you'd need a big matchup advantage somewhere on the line for that to work.

Mike Tanier: The Texans third-down conversion rate since the first quarter has to be 99 percent. It helps when Andre Johnson can give the little forearm shiver to Patterson on third-and-17.

Okay, so Vick gets fingers inside his helmet for about the fifth time tonight, and they call holding on the Eagles.

Doug Farrar: I swear, Millen just said “Joselio” with a faux Spanish accent. Or, he’s drunk. Or, both.

Note to Jacoby Jones: When you take the ball on a return, it would behoove you to start running at some point. Those large gentlemen in the green jerseys would very much like to pound you into the ground.

Tim Gerheim: Jacoby Jones is clueless on punt returns. This is nothing new.

Vince Verhei: In Any Given Sunday I noted that the best way to defend Michael Vick is to force him throw short over the middle, because that's where he has struggled most this year, while he has been surprisingly accurate when throwing to the right.

Against Houston on Thursday, Vick was 10-of-13 for 122 yards throwing to the right, 9-of-11 for 89 yards throwing short right. He did not throw a single pass short over the middle; he was 1-of-3 for 30 yards on deep balls over the middle.

Sunday, December 5

Cleveland Browns 13 at Miami Dolphins 10

Vince Verhei: Joe Haden is turning into a star. He now has four straight games with a pick, and made another nice play to break up a long pass. One of the better rookie corners in recent years.

It's fun watching a game where the best player on both teams is the left tackle. Both teams know they can't beat Jake Long or Joe Thomas one-on-one, so they're being very creative trying to avoid that scenario. Sometimes the pass rusher is rushing hard at his inside shoulder, trying to lure the guard into a double-team when it's not needed. Sometimes the pass rusher will drop into coverage in a zone- blitz look. And more than a few times, they haven't even bothered to line anyone up across from Long or Thomas, sending overload rushes from the right side while the left tackle stands there looking for someone to hit.

Among Jake Delhomme's many weaknesses: he waits too long before checking down. There's a point a few seconds after the snap where the receivers have taken the secondary deep, but the linebackers are still making reads in the middle of the field. That's when it's time to check down. Instead, Delhomme is giving the linebackers time to read pass, drop into coverage, and close in on the running back. The result: Peyton Hillis, ordinarily a threat with the ball in his hands, has seven catches for just 22 yards.

They aired a graphic in this game that tells you all you need to know about the Miami offense: they are first in field goals per drive, but 28th in touchdowns per drive.

Aaron Schatz: I remember mentioning on the Simmons podcast that in the Patriots-Colts game, both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning threw the interception that blew the game, but the difference was that Tyjuan Hagler couldn't hang on to his.

Well, both Jake Delhomme and Chad Henne just threw the interception that blew the game, but this was even worse. Delhomme threw a ridiculously stupid pass right into the chest of Miami nickelback Nolan Carroll, but Carroll couldn't hang on to it. So the Browns punted. Then Henne's throw was tipped by a leaping David Bowens into the arms of Mike Adams, giving the Browns easy field-goal position for a 13-10 win. I don't think it was really that bad a pass, just a great defensive play (the leap) and some luck (tipped ball going directly to another defender).

San Francisco 49ers 16 at Green Bay Packers 34

Mike Tanier: The Packers' throwbacks look like something from a little theater adaptation of a football related play.

The Packers just used a T-formation. Now that's a throwback. And the jerseys are growing on me. It is like they are wearing my diagrams on their jerseys.

Tom Gower: I know the Packers love the full house stuff, but they brought out the T-formation and converted for first and goal.

Vince Verhei: If the Packers are wearing throwback uniforms and using throwback formations, then I demand they also perform throwback touchdown dances. I want to see the Charleston. Or the jitterbug. Or the mashed potato.

Aaron Schatz: Packers perform watusi. Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco respond next week by performing "batusi."

Chicago Bears 24 at Detroit Lions 20

Mike Kurtz: Chicago-Detroit has seen some amazing tackles. Briggs at one point was behind Pettigrew, who caught it, but Briggs grabbed his arm and just threw him down on the spot. At another point, Suh just shoved Kreutz backwards and slid sideways to just gobble up Forte. The defenses have been generally decent, but there have been some really good sparks here and there. Cutler, of course, just gets sacked.

Suh then push/punches Cutler's head into the ground past the line of scrimmage, which draws an unnecessary penalty (Hochuli explained that it was for the unnecessary force, not because it was one of the special QB rules, which didn't apply) and extends the drive. Probably going to be hearing about that call this week.

Ned Macey: I hadn't realized how much the Bears had changed their offense to be short-passing. As president of the Lovie Smith fan club, I'd just note that he hired MIke Martz and somehow convinced him to adopt a short-passing attack. Maybe Martz figured it out himself after the Giants debacle, but it is just shocking to see so many max protects and 3-step drops in a Martz offense.

As for Detroit, these games are all blending together. Plucky play but not enough talent with a few too many dumb mistakes.

There was a terrible call on Suh for unnecesary roughness penalty on Cutler when he was scrambling. That call was wrong technically because it wasn't a forearm, and also it is obvious that they wouldn't have thrown the flag if it was Forte and not Cutler with the ball. When they start babying the quaterbacks across the line of scrimmage, that's beyond ridiculous. Anyway, the call while terrible didn't really cost the Lions. Yes it made the Bears drive shorter, but it wasn't a play that unnecessarily prolonged a drive, and it just didn't feel like the Lions would get a stop there.

Jacksonville Jaguars 17 at Tennessee Titans 6

Tom Gower: The Jaguars ran the ball down the Titans' throats the first drive. 77 yards, 12 plays, 11 of them on the ground, and I think 8 or 9 were successful, the last an 11-yard TD run by Rashad Jennings on fourth-and-1. Michael Griffin was in position to make the tackle after a short gain, but got run over for at least the second time in the drive. William Hayes also got run at a lot as the Jaguars attacked that edge, unusual for a team that runs up the middle more than anybody else.

Rusty Smith is now the third QB as Kerry Collins returns to the lineup and Chris Simms practices enough to trump him.

Vince Verhei: David Garrard scores on a bootleg that was a run all the way. There were no receivers in front of him. Titans defenders were literally falling over themselves chasing the running back, and Garrard had to break just one tackle with a bad angle.

The game is about 25 minutes old, and the Jaguars have 27 rushes. That's awesome.

Tom Gower: The Jaguars are only up 14-0, but it feels more like 114-0 given the level of dominance. 34 plays, 27 of them on the ground, and the Titans' defense is seriously getting absolutely worked. Grading this game is like distinguishing between players having merely mediocre/non-impactful days and guys who are positively miserable out there. This is the kind of performance that gets a coordinator and/or coach fired.

Chris Johnson is dancing too much in the backfield, which probably cost the Titans a third-and-one conversion, and Collins has had two key underthrows of guys open deep, one resulting in an interception and the other a failed fourth-down conversion to Moss. I'm not really sure if the offense has just completely given up or is simply even worse than I thought they were.

The productive part of the Titans' offense the second half was Kerry Collins hitting receivers in the intermediate range. This worked about as well as you'd expect that strategy to work-intermittently, but not enough for them to actually score a touchdown. It's now been three straight games -- roughly three quarters with VY, five with Smith, and 4 with Collins-since the Titans last scored a touchdown on offense. I never thought this team was as good as DVOA did, but I didn't think they were this bad either.

Washington Redskins 7 at New York Giants 31

Aaron Schatz: Moose Johnston keeps talking about how the Redskins are transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense. Dude, it is Week 13. They've been running the 3-4 since the preseason. I don't think this counts as "transitioning" anymore. I think this now counts as just "sucking."

Obviously, it's nice when our little projection systems work perfectly, but you gotta praise a player even when they don't. Jason Pierre-Paul really is coming along. He's got two sacks today for the second straight week. He just threw Stephon Heyer (starting for an injured Trent Williams) aside to get McNabb on third down. Yes, it's Stephon Heyer, not the hardest offensive tackle to beat one-on-one, but still... that puts him a half-sack away from SackSEER's entire career projection. I don't think he's going to become Michael Strahan, but he's clearly not a complete bust.

Doug Farrar: Walt Coleman, getting the teams wrong in this game, said that "Denver will be charged a timeout" after the 'Skins lost a challenge. Either the league is REALLY going after McDaniels now, or Walt is auditioning for the Pac-10.

Mike Tanier: Moose keeps talking about the time in the game when the Redskins were playing well. When exactly was that?

New Orleans Saints 34 at Cincinnati Bengals 30

Vince Verhei: Burn This Play nominee: Bengals send Brian Leonard out wide and get him the ball on a screen pass. He turns around to find the "screen" is comprised entirely of Saints defenders, and is tackled for a big loss.

Mike Tanier: Brian Leonard later converted fourth-and-12 on a better-designed play.

Every time I look up the Bengals are marching into the red zone, yet somehow the Saints are winning 10-6. What is going on?

Mike Kurtz: The Bengals are happening.

Aaron Schatz: WOW. The Saints just pulled the "let's try to draw the defense offside" thing at fourth-and-2 from the 7 and it WORKED. I've never seen that work. EVER. And that offside gave the Saints first-and-goal, and they hit an easy fade to Marques Colston. 30-27 Bengals win becomes 34-30 Bengals loss.

Tom Gower: It's worked against the Titans in the past couple years. I'm pretty sure Garrard was one of the guys who did it.

Rob Weintraub: The Bengals have jumped in that situation plenty of times over the years. Did it earlier this season, in fact. Boomer used to be pretty good at it, actually--vividly remember him yanking the Browns offsides on a late fourth-and-3, then laughing about it afterward. Those were the days.

Mike Kurtz: Lynch: "You see the difference between a team that is 2-9 and a defending Super Bowl champion."

So, the only difference between what is ostensibly your top team and ostensibly one of the worst is a successful hut-hut? If true, parity has gone waaay too far.

Okay, so Cincy's at midfield, then they throw a SCREEN with 22 seconds left. And then Palmer tries to move everyone up the 12 yards and line up, but changes his mind and calls a time out. Six seconds after the play ended. Wow.

Oakland Raiders 28 at San Diego Chargers 13

Vince Verhei: San Diego's special teams just fumbled a punt return back to the Raiders.

Campbell capitalizes on the Chargers fumble, scoring on the sweetest bootleg of the year. The linebacker on that side never even reacted to Campbell, choosing instead to stare at the running back, who by that point was lying on the ground without the ball.

And then Philip Rivers overthrows a well-covered receiver and the ball falls into Stanford Routt's hands.

Mike Tanier: I no longer have any idea what constitutes an illegal hit, but what McClain did to Sproles sure looked helmet to helmety.

Bill Barnwell: Chargers just took back-to-back penalties on third downs down 21-13. First, the Raiders had second-and-17 and after a ten-yard run by McFadden, Antoine Cason held on third down. On the next third-and-1, the Raiders went play-action and got a deep bomb to Louis Murphy, but it would have been a first down anyway because the Chargers had 12 men on the field. What do they do on the next play? Yes, take a second 12 men on the field penalty in two plays. That's a new one.

Atlanta Falcons 28 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24

David Gardner: May I just say, as a Bucs fan, I am 100 percent against the creamsicles.

Tom Gower: In the "don't worry, we're all professionals here" category, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers burn two timeouts on the first possession of the game. Hopefully they'll still have one by the time Josh Freeman gets to receive a snap.

David Gardner: The Bucs are just a little out of sorts. Blount fell on his first carry and Mike Williams dropped an easy first-down catch.

The Bucs and Falcons are so even in the first quarter that they were even within two seconds on time of possession. They both are running well and passing less frequently than usual.

With fewer than four minutes left in the third quarter and a three-point lead, the Bucs decide not to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Falcons' 40-yard line. I don't like the call, but they did down the ball inside the five-yard line.

Tom Gower: Matt Ryan gets "intercepted" after Roddy White slips. I don't think the ball was actually caught, but Mike Smith challenged and there wasn't enough to overturn the call on the field. After that, a smoke route to Benn yields 30 yards down inside the two-yard line as the Bucs look for a TD to extend their lead to two scores with 11 to play.

David Gardner: On second-and-goal from the 4-yard line, the Bucs handed it off to fullback Earnest Graham, who then threw it to backup tight end John Gilmore for the touchdown. Sweet play.

Eric Weems returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown on the slowest kickoff return touchdown ever. He spent years on the sideline.

Bill Barnwell: Awful miss of a block in the back there by the refs. Right in front of Weems, too. Shann "Vern" Schillenger of the Falcons with the hit.

Jonathan Babineaux just beat a double-team and an uncalled hold to pick up a sack on third down and get the Falcons the ball back.

David Gardner: Mike Smith just threw a challenge on a dropped ball. All four challenges have been used in this game. I'm getting sleepy.

Tom Gower: That last challenge by Smith was clearly a wish -- 18 yards on second-and-20 if he got it. No matter, though, as Ryan hits White for 25 on the deep out to convert on third down. Great grab by White, and a great job by Ryan on a difficult throw.

David Gardner: The Bucs just converted a fourth-and-11. Freeman stepped up in the pocket and completed it to Sammie Stroughter for the conversion.

Bill Barnwell: Great play by Freeman. Kroy Biermann beat James Lee at the line unmercifully, but Freeman stepped up and hit a window that would have been closed a quarter of a second later.

David Gardner: But on the next play, Freeman threw a pick to Grimes, who has been all over the field today.

Bill Barnwell: Grimes has had a really nice game. He had one acrobatic interception barely overturned earlier in the game, a perfect pass defensed early in the final drive, and then jumped an out for that pick. Not exactly the best route by Williams, either.

Mike Tanier: Brent Grimes, also hero of the day. Guess the Falcons really aren't predictable.

Aaron Schatz: When you look at the Falcons' pass defense numbers this year -- and this final Tampa Bay comeback drive -- you have to figure that their linebackers and defensive backs are really weak in pass coverage. I mean, this team has John Abraham, Kroy Biermann, and Jonathan Babineaux, so you can't blame the pass rush. Yet they were still 24th in pass defense DVOA going into this week.

The "defense vs. type of receivers" numbers suggest it is the defensive backs, not the linebackers.

The Grimes pick made me go look at the early charting numbers. It doesn't look like the issue is Grimes or even Dunta Robinson, but rather the safeties and the nickel guys (especially Chris Owens, who was mercifully demoted from the nickel).

Bill Barnwell: A lot of that is scheme; they play more man than most teams, from what I can tell. Putting 95 percent of safeties in man is a bad idea.

Carolina Panthers 14 at Seattle Seahawks 31

Doug Farrar: Halfway through the third quarter, Jonathan Stewart gets a run off that goes about 30 total yards in the backfield, as Stewart evades about 10 different alleged Seahawks tackles. Lofa Tatupu whiffed once early in the play, and then later on as Stewart came back through.

Vince Verhei: Leon Washington takes a punt return for what should have been a sure touchdown, but he slowed up inside the 10. Carolina's punter never gave up and ran him down from behind, diving to get one hand on Washington's foot and trip him up at the one. This results in the loudest cheers in the bar all day -- and the bar is in Seattle.

St. Louis Rams 19 at Arizona Cardinals 6

Tom Gower: "We're all professionals here" redux: the Rams kick a 40-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 6-3, but the Cardinals get flagged for 12 men on the field to give the Rams a first down. After stopping them again, the Cardinals take a timeout on fourth-and-8 as the Rams line up for another field goal attempt, as this time they have 10 players on the field.

Mike Tanier: Derek Anderson just got sacked by the painted midfield Cardinals logo.

Vince Verhei: A few seconds after Anderson was sacked by the Cards logo, Matt Hasselbeck saw the Seahawks logo coming and went to the ground before it could get him.

Derek Anderson is 7-of-20 for 90-some yards and a pick, so he's pulled for Max Hall. Hall's first three plays: sack, incomplete, interception. How in the hell did this team ever manage to win three games?

Doug Farrar: Kurt Warner is calling that game. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin...

Tom Gower: Sam Bradford is still doing approximately nothing, but first Anderson and now Max Hall have been even worse and Steven Jackson may be running more effectively than in any other Rams game I've seen (granted, the opponent has something to do with that).

Vince Verhei: Max Hall leaves with an injury. Your new Cardinals quarterback: John Skelton. I expect Anderson to be cut within 24 hours.

John Skelton's college is listed as "Ford." I can only assume their mascot was the Mustangs.

Tom Gower: Fordham, alas, is the Rams. I'm not even sure they use "Ram It", though they certainly should.

Doug Farrar: I saw him run his drills at the Combine, and though I was told by people I trust that his performance was not indicative of his collegiate career, he was the worst quarterback I've seen from the booth in the three years I've been able to watch from inside the stadium.

Bill Barnwell: Yeah, but he's tall.

Aaron Schatz: The quarterback issues don't explain how the Cardinals went from 11th to 25th in defensive DVOA. It can't all be Karlos Dansby. We knew the quarterback situation was iffy. The surprise is that they can't play defense either.

Bill Barnwell: Hard to say. Sack rate's gone from ninth to 19th. Darnell Dockett's been injured for a good amount of the year. They don't have a cover guy across from Rodgers-Cromartie. Lot of little things.

Dallas Cowboys 38 at Indianapolis Colts 35

Aaron Schatz: With the Cowboys about to go up by two scores early, I want to point out that this website may be even better than the video Tanier linked in the NYT on Friday.

The Colts' 10-point halftime deficit to Dallas can't all be explained by Indianapolis injuries. Peyton Manning has thrown a couple of picks tonight that were just straight-out bad reads, no matter who the receivers were. The Cowboys are also slicing the Colts with draws (what else is new) and the Colts offensive line is so bad that Jay Ratliff knocked over Mike Pollak and nearly got the ball out of Manning's hand before he was able to hand it off to Mike Hart.

OK, Colts come back to 20-14, but again Peyton Manning doesn't recognize the defense properly, and doesn't seem rookie linebacker Sean Lee in a middle zone, so when he throws the ball to Blair White, Lee easily comes over jumps in front of the ball for the pick-six. That's Manning's second pick-six today. This isn't like the end of the Pats game when Jermaine Cunningham was in his face. This isn't a tip drill like what happened to Chad Henne earlier. These are just bad throws against improperly read defenses. The guy is still one of the best two or three quarterbacks in the league, but I think after today we can take him off the MVP candidate list.

Reggie Wayne with some amazing catches -- he's got 194 yards, two short of his career high -- as the Colts march down the field to tie the game 35-35, and we're going to overtime.

Bill Barnwell: A good example of "luck" regressing towards the mean in Dallas: The Cowboys are 0-6 in games decided by a touchdown or less, including last week's loss against the Saints, which came when Roy Williams fumbled on that long pass (and even that was regression towards the mean in the opposite direction, with New Orleans finally recovering a fumble in that game). This week, the Colts tie it up 35-35 and Brice McCain promptly fumbles the kickoff on his own 20-yard line with 30 seconds left. Dallas recovers, though, and when Peyton Manning throws a pick in overtime, Dallas gets the ball in Indy territory.

Tom Gower: Almost simultaneously, Michael Jenkins catches the go-ahead touchdown for the Falcons and Mike Jenkins tips Peyton Manning's pass for an interception in overtime. This may be the most power Jenkins has had since the War of Jenkins' Ear.

Tim Gerheim: After seeing the replay of the Super Bowl-clinching interception in Bob Costas's weekly overdramatized editorial commentary, I wonder: does Peyton Manning struggle with freelancers? Tracy Porter looked like he came out of nowhere on that play, but that was just from a single rapid replay. But Aikman took pains today to emphasize that Jenkins was freelancing when he tipped the ball on the interception in overtime today. Jenkins was watching Peyton and came off his man to undercut Tamme's route. (It was obvious that Tamme was Lee's man.) I think some of Manning's interceptions against teams like San Diego and New England that have tended to have his number are similar plays. I can certainly imagine a player as meticulous and organized as Manning failing, in the speed of the play, to anticipate defenders abandoning their assignments and taking chances on picks. It would be awesome to look at video of all his interceptions over such and such period and see if there's anything to this idea.

Aaron Schatz: Asante Samuel, well, I wouldn't call him a "freelancer" but he was definitely a "route jumper."

Ned Macey: Thought for the day. Having watched Drew Stanton play competently and Kitna move to 3-1, I think we need to push the fact that quarterbacks are actually overrated in the game now. Obviously, a Kurt Warner to Derek Anderson/Max Hall is a disaster, and obviously QB is the most important position. Still, the other ten people matter. My sense is with the increased throwing in college, there are now more competent quarterbacks than there used to be. McNabb, Vick, and Kolb all can succeed with the Eagles. Stafford and Hill are the same for Detroit. Aaron Rodgers can replace Brett Favre with no dropoff. Philip Rivers can replace Drew Brees with no problem Matt Cassel can be good one year, terrible the next, and then good. That's all a bit disjointed, but it is increasingly apparent to me that a quarterback is often only as good as his team/scheme.

Speaking of quarterbacks, Manning is obviously playing terribly right now. My thought on Manning. He is the best in football at analyzing a scheme and understanding the oppositions coverage both pre and post-snap. He's also very accurate with his throws, when set. However, I don't think he's as good at reading what is actually happening as other top quarterbacks. I think he too often makes his decision too early, knowing who has single-coverage. Unfortunately, rather than Wayne/Harrison/Clark, he's got Blair White and Pierre Garcon. These guys don't always win their one-on-one match-up. If he didn't anticipate defenses and coverages, then he would not make the plays he does make, so you obviously can't say that he should hold the ball an extra half second. It is just that his skill-set is not as perfect in a chaotic situation. He's the best in the game when people are doing what they're supposed to be doing, but when his receivers can't win one-on-one match-ups, and his line is porous, he throws picks. (He also throws a lot more picks when Tony Dungy is not his coach, which is something I want to think more about.)

Anyway, really wild game with two pick-6s, a blocked punt TD, and a TD following an illegal blocked FG attempt (really terrible play by E. Foster). I'm obviously not a believer in "curses," but the way the Colts keep finding ways to lose after years of always finding ways to win makes me at least think about the Super Bowl Loser's Curse. Anyway, if the Colts can't get ahead of the medicore Jaguars, then that's a pretty bad showing, injuries or no.

Pittsburgh Steelers 13 at Baltimore Ravens 10

Aaron Schatz: The Steelers run the Pistol! And Al Michaels has no idea what it is! Doug, are you excited?

Doug Farrar: The Pistol is only relevant when it's called the "Wildcat" by mistake.

Mike Kurtz: Roethlisberger looks terrible. He even has time. I can't go into more detail without a profanity-laden rant.

Aaron Schatz: Haloti Ngata breaks a double team of Pouncey and Foster to get Big Ben on a third-and-long, even with the tight end in the backfield to block. Bring on the triple teams.

Rob Weintraub: Roethlisberger looks like he went a few rounds with Pacquiao--or perhaps a certain young lady's father.

Weird the accidental right cross did more damage than the Richard Seymour deliberate shot to Ben's grille.

Mike Tanier: That Ravens fake punt would have been great if not for the false start. The Ravens offense is off to its usual lumbering start.

Mike Kurtz: Good news! Roethlisberger's nose, due to his extensive reconstruction, is now made of play-dough. It literally cannot be broken.

Bill Barnwell: The Steelers lined up Brett Keisel as basically a linebacker on the first down, going with two down linemen and keeping Keisel upright. On the second third down for the Ravens, they adjusted to it by lining up Ed Dickson in the backfield and getting him on a wheel route versus Keisel. Unfortunately, Dickson dropped the pass in a very elaborate manner, taking about seven or eight yards to bumble around before dropping it.

That was a downright heroic blitz pickup by Ray Rice on Troy Polamalu on that big blitz in the end zone. Turned a safety into a 60-yard gain. Huge, huge, huge play.

Aaron Schatz: Ryan Clark absolutely, positively can't cover Anquan Boldin man-to-man. That big connection to Boldin does a lot to explain the Steelers' weakness against "other receivers," even if we count Boldin as "1" because the PBP doesn't specify when he is or is not in the slot.

Mike Tanier: Was that man or Cover-3 behind the blitz?

Mike Kurtz: I know it's crazy, but at some point you have to consider pulling Roethlisberger. The line was actually non-horrible for a stretch over the past two drives, but he's just having awful accuracy issues. He may be too hurt to be effective, even against the Ravens' secondary.

Bill Barnwell: I think Kevin Kolb showed what a bad idea that was.

Tim Gerheim: The fourth down draw offsides play worked again.

That was a great comment about Ray Lewis that Al Michaels just related: "He watches film like a coach and listens like a rookie." That really is a hell of a compliment, especially the latter half.

Bill Barnwell: Collinsworth said that the players might vote Jarret Johnson the MVP of the Ravens defense. That would be a reason to take the players' votes away.

Sure looked like a horse collar on Chris Kemoeatu on that fumble return. I guess you don't get horse collared if you're an offensive lineman.

Tom Gower: I didn't think the Ravens defender got his hand inside Kemoeatu's pads. Horse collar rules also don't apply to quarterback in the pocket or runners inside the tackle box, though I'm not sure if they'd have counted Kemoeatu as one of those.

Mike Kurtz: I know this is just a Steelers fan complaining about officiating, etc., but Heath Miller just nearly had his head removed, in the open field, right in front of the back judge. No flag. Ngata early on in the game arm-barred Roethlisberger in the face, breaking his nose. No flag. The latter I'm not as concerned with, as it deals with that stupid "consistency" argument, but for a second I thought Miller was deceased.

Aaron Schatz: Hard to get into an intense discussion about this game. Every Steelers-Ravens game seems to end up like this, super close, tons of defense, great players making great plays (Troy Polamalu, this time). Ike Redman's catch-and-winding-run for a touchdown was impressive. I guess the strongest takeaway from this game was Joe Flacco's Roethlisberger-like mobility.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 06 Dec 2010

313 comments, Last at 09 Dec 2010, 12:19pm by MidnightAngler


by Jetspete :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:14pm

Hochuli had an equally egregious call earlier in the game. On a detroit fumble deep in their own territory, chicago seemed to jump on it in the pile. Hochuli ruled that under the pile, two players had equal possession and thus the ball stayed with the offense. I have never seen that call before on a loose ball.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:51pm

Yes, and that call had far, far more impact on the game than the Suh call (it would have given the Bears the ball inside the Lions' 30). But I'm just as angry at Lovie for not challenging it as I am at Guns for making the call. On the replay, it was fairly clear that Idonije possessed the ball and was on the ground before the other 20 guys jumped in the pile. If that's not worth risking a challenge on, then I don't know what is. (Of course, we're talking about a coach that challenges to get a TD instead of 1st-and-goal at the 1 but then doesn't challenge the subsequent play to get a TD instead of fumbling away the ball.)

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:54pm

I agree it had greater impact, and that it was a bizarre call (simultaneous possession could be called on most fumbles in traffic, couldn't it?); however, I disagree a challenge would have helped anything. I didn't see a conclusive replay.

Come to think of it, I'm not sure you can challenge a fumble recovery. I know you can challenge a fumble *if* it's clear who recovered the ball, but I don't know if that's the same thing.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:51pm

My assumption was that it was reviewable, because once Idonije possessed the ball he became the ballcarrier, and if you can demonstrate the ballcarrier was down by contact before he lost the ball, his team retains possession.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:54pm

Ah, clever.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:23pm

I wonder if part of the problem is that the NFL (obviously, if you've seen enough fumble plays) treats fumbles differently than other plays. In another context, simply possessing the ball and being touched ends the play; for some reason, when a fumble is recovered, the play rarely ends without one of those pileups that generally involves the player-turned-announcers telling us we don't want to know what happens in there, even if the player who recovers the ball is clearly in possession of it and clearly lying on the ground.

On a related note, I've seen a few very questionable calls this year from Hochuli's crew, and that bothers me. I used to rate him with my inexpert eye as one of the best in the game, and I don't think I can say that now.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:16pm

The guy who caught the winning score in the Bears game looked obese. Not thick. Not solid. Just a short, fat guy who somehow made his way onto a football field. Are the Bears letting Chicago butchers moonlight as blocking backs? Is there is some kind of fan promotion underway for the portly Midwestern man?

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:48pm

That's Manumaleuna, the FB/TE they signed from the Chargers. He's basically a smaller version of a lineman, with an eligible receiver's number. They throw the ball to him, seemingly, once every two or three games, usually for a key first down late (since the defense generally ignores him).

by dmb :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:51pm

That "guy" was Brandon Manumaleuna, one of the better blocking TEs in the league for almost a full decade.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:20pm

I didn't see the back of the uniform and obviously didn't make the connection. I was struck by a guy being able to waddle into the end zone.

by dmb :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:55pm

He's listed at 6'2" and 295 -- I always thought he was taller than that -- which would certainly make him one of the more ... "squat" players around, especially considering that 295 is probably a bit generous.

Refrigerator Perry was somewhere around 6'2" and 335, but from what I've seen, his score(s) were more lumbering than waddling. I suppose that if Jumbo Elliott had caught his pass outside of the goalline rather than well within the end zone, his efforts probably would have looked similar.

by Lyford (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:19pm

The non-call on the McClain(?) hit on Miller was egregious. Of all the "really, really bad hits" that have been talked about this year, I thought that one was the single scariest. Miller's very lucky not to have broken his neck. I couldn't believe there wasn't a flag, and I'm sure that there will be a fine, but I'd be happy with a suspension, too. That's how someone's going to get killed on the field...

by Jetspete :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:02pm

great post lyford. if the nfl doesnt suspend him for the hit, this new policy is a joke. it wasnt as if the collision was unavoidable, there was no intent by the defender to ease up, and a multigame suspension might be warranted,

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:12pm

That's what I was thinking too, I don't want to ever see the game when a player ends up dead on the field. It would certainly be the last NFL game I ever watched. I hope that that brutal hit on Heath Miller helps James Harrison gain some perspective.

by Jim in Pgh (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:09pm

I've been watching football my whole life and after the first replay of that hit I had to look away. I really thought he would be paralyzed or worse.

by kbukie :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:20pm

That Suh play looked much worse full speed than in slow motion, yes.

Even in slow motion, it looked like a blow to the back of the head.

Also, as much as they may not have flagged Suh had he done that to Forte, I don't think Suh shoves Forte in the back of the head there, either.

It's also a little ridiculous, all the whining about that call when it amounted to a whopping 7 yards. It didn't rob the Lions of the game.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:38pm

Suh didn't shove him in the back of the head. It didn't look even close to a foul at full speed to me, nor did it look to me like a blow to the head. It looked to me like a big strong guy pushing a smaller guy in the back/shoulder area.

I have no isea what would have happened if the flag hadn't been thrown, but it is a mistake to say with certainty that any penalty yards have no impact.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:07pm

I would imagine it is a call that would get made repeatedly. In part, referees respond negatively to things that look odd--and that looked like Suh was trying to punch Cutler in the back of the head (though he didn't). With QB over-protection, I think a lot of refs would make that call.

And certainly those yards had an impact, but the headline writers were treating it like a horrendous error. Seven yard penalties on first down are not often the subject of controversy. There are bad calls all the time that happen on third down, or that award dozens of yards, or fail to award them. This one happened on first down after the Bears had just gained 8 yards, tacking on another 7. It set them up at first and goal from the 7 rather than 2nd and 2 from the 14. Would it be possible to run some numbers on odds of scoring a TD from each setting?

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:36pm

Brian Burke (Advanced NFL Stats) has some crude expected points graphs:
First down
Second down

Both first-and-ten from the seven and second-and-two from the fourteen would be worth between 4.5 and 5.0 points, according to those graphs. It's extremely difficult to be more precise.

EDIT: I see I missed a link to a spreadsheet in the post those graphs came from. (LINK)

First-and-goal, seven yard line: 5.08 points.
Second-and-two, fourteen yard line: 4.66 points.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:46pm

Thanks for the stats.

by Dan :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:54pm

Another way to look at it:

1st & 10, opp 22 yard line = 3.94 expected points
2nd & 2, opp 14 yard line = 4.66 expected points
1st & goal, opp 7 yard line = 5.08 expected points

The Bears had 1st & 10 on the Det 22 yard line, which is worth 3.94 expected points. Cutler scrambled for 8 yards, gaining .72 expected points, and the penalty called on Suh gave the Bears an extra 7 yards and .42 expected points. The penalty call helped the Bears a bit, but Cutler's 8-yard scramble was the more important part of that play.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:42pm

If we aren't going to booth review unecessary roughness calls, then I think officials need to be told that a guy advancing the ball is fair game to get hammered, and the flag doesn't get thrown unless you know with 100% certainty that it involves a blow to the head. When I saw it at full speed, I didn't think for a moment that that Cutler had been struck in the head.

There is a site where you can determine the td probabilities for 2nd and two at the fourteen, and 1st and goal at the seven, but I can't remember what it is. It would be important to factor that the Bears would be going for the td on fourth down.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:47pm

The Bears were down three at the time (20-17). They probably would have kicked a tying field goal on fourth down.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:57pm

Ah, you are right. I'd like to know precisely what the td probability difference is in the two situations. Once it gets to a tie game, I suppose the Lions have a very slight edge, in terms of probability of winning, if the game is examined in isolation.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:47pm

Found it!

Using Burke's WP Calculator:

First-and-goal, opponents' 7, 9:06 left 4th quarter, down by 3:
Win Probability: 0.61
Expected Points: +5.08
First Down Prob: 0.67
TD Prob: 0.60
FG Prob: 0.28

Second-and-two, opponents' 14, 9:06 left 4th quarter, down by 3:

Win Probability: 0.63
Expected Points: +4.66
First Down Prob: 0.75
TD Prob: 0.45
FG Prob: 0.40

Weirdly, while touchdown probability does drop considerably if the penalty were not called, overall win percentage increases.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:54pm

Aha! So the headlines should have read: "Horrible Call on Suh Increases Lions' Chances of Winning, But They Blow It Anyway!"

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:56pm

More like decreases chances of losing?

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

by strannix (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:01pm

It's an outrage that Hochuli would give the Bears that kind of a gift!!!~!~!

by strannix (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:04pm

Oops, joke fail. Meant to say, "It's an outrage that Hochuli would give the LIONS that kind of a gift." Damn.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:01pm

Yeah, the td probability difference is about what would I expect. It'd be interesting to hear an explanation of the counter-intuitive win probability difference.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:07pm

Probably due to how the clock would evolve and the chances for getting another possession(s) if the other team scored.

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

by RickD :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:56pm

I thought it was clear from the way the ref announced the penalty that he thought Suh had swung his forearm/elbow directly into the back of Cutler's helmet. But Suh didn't do that. It may have looked like he almost did that. But he didn't.

The refs blew that call.

For me, it's not the yardage that matters so much as the fact that the miscall demoralized the Lions. Once again, the refs are favoring the Bears and keeping the Lions down with a dubious call. It seems too easy to say "well, the Lions would have allowed the Bears to score anyway."

by strannix (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:02pm

It also seems way too easy to say that the biggest impact was that the Lions' feelings were hurt.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:10pm

I'm really hesitant to start making judgements on soemthing as hard to measure as demoralization. I think it is wildly inaccurate to call the penalty an extremely important development in determining the outcome. I also think it is inaccurate to say that it makes little difference, in terms of the chance of taking the lead, whether you have ball first and goal at the seven, or 2nd and two at the fourteen.

I really get sick of quarterbacks being seen as something other than football players.

by dbt :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:51pm

I do think that the biggest impact on the game was that everyone on the Lions from the HC on down got more pissed about the call and not on winning the football game. Schwartz is "fiery" and I think that's generally an asset, but here it worked against him. If he figures out how to keep his player's heads in the game he's going to be a very very good head coach and I'm worried about facing him twice a year for the next N years. (If Detroit management responds to pressure from fans and fires him after this season they are doing themselves a huge disservice).

I also think there was no way the Bears were being kept out of the end zone on that drive. The penalty, while it deserves as much censure as any other bullshit incorrect call, was not a deciding factor in that game.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:29pm

The demoralization happened after the Buffalo loss. While this game against the Bears was closer, in both the Dallas and New England games, the Lions reached a point where they were simply out of it ... that hadn't happened at all this year except maybe at the end of the Minnesota game, but in those two games, you could see the 2009 Lions again.

Although I think the penalty was a misapplication of a rule (and really, I think it would be all right for officials to get QB-protection rules correct this far into the season), I'm fine with it being called on Suh. He has a habit of taking cheap shots at QBs, and I think it's better to get him to realize those things will be called in the NFL than for him to become one of those players who keeps delivering cheap shots and then not understanding where the fines and suspensions come from.

by witless chum :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:23pm

Lions fans are in an angry mood about such things because we a.) are Lions fans and b.) have actually been the victim of game-changing bad calls in several of our losses. Which is probably just the function of being a bad team that loses close games.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:36pm

Yeah, as much as I'd like to point the finger at officials, the Lions have just made too many mistakes in most of their losses to justify blaming anyone else. (In a couple, it wasn't just mistakes, it was being outclassed.)

They're still a bad team making a lot of mistakes ... much improved talent-wise from last year, but still bad. If they can get good defensive backs next year, the defense will improve quite a bit. The only remaining piece for now would be figuring out whether or not Stafford's shoulders can survive NFL hits. More experience and a better secondary should get Detroit to the point where they are winning those close games.

by akn (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:24pm

From Suh's postgame comments:
"Obviously, (Cutler) broke the tackle. Had a great angle to make the play, get the ball out. That's what I went after."

How exactly does shoving/hitting someone in the back of the shoulder/head in any way increase the chances for causing a fumble?

by TomC :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 5:31pm

If he had broken Cutler's neck, Cutler probably would have dropped the ball.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:25pm

The way that game went, Cutler would have had one last involuntary muscle spasm, launching the ball 80 yards down field for a TD.

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 2:18am

Now that would be clutch.

by BigCheese :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 3:31pm

Specially since the end-zone was 14 yards away.

- Alvaro

by ammek :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:31pm

The Cards' defensive problems go way beyond the loss of Dansby. It starts with the pass rush, which features the NFL's worst starter, Clark Haggans, who gave up around week five and has been a liability since then. Opposite him is a very quiet Joey Porter. They're not helped by poor line play: Bryan Robinson and Alan Branch don't make plays and get shoved around in the running game.

And then there's Rodgers-Cromartie. ProFootballFocus ran a feature on his regression this week, arguing that he's both trying to do too much and giving up on plays. He didn't have much to do against St Louis, but if he goes to the ProBowl alongside DeAngelo Hall (and his one good game) and Asante Samuel, instead of the worthier CBs in the NFC (Tillman, Tramon Williams, Bartell, Gamble) then the entire voting franchise should be forced to watch the game ten times over during the offseason.

by dmb :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:01pm

DeAngelo Hall has two game-winning TDs for a team that has won five games. I would say that's at least two "good" games, and from having watched him play every game this year, I'd say that it's actually more like two superlative games, 7-8 good games, and 2-3 really bad games. That may not constitute a Pro Bowl selection, but I don't think it would be worthy of the derision you seem to believe it would.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:39pm

Tillman, really? I'm a Bears fan, and I love me some Peanut, but do you really think he's a Pro-Bowl cover corner? It's hard to evaluate CB's on a defense that primarily plays zone, but I don't get the impression that Tillman would be anywhere near a shutdown corner on a man-to-man team.

Oh, and not to pile on Peanut (did I mention that I really do like the guy?), but his decision to leave the edge and run towards the pile was the primary reason Jahvid Best was able to turn a 5-yard loss into a 45-yard gain, setting up the Chris-Harris-takes-a-horrible-angle / D.J.-Moore-is-never-going-to-tackle-Megatron-one-on-one TD right before halftime. I'm convinced that game turns into a blowout but for that play.

by Nate Clements for President (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:02pm

Yeah Rodgers-Cromartie looked horrible in the niners-cards game. Wasn't he the one that let Brian Westbrook run into the endzone rather than hit him? I also seem to remember R-C getting abused in that game over and over again by a quarterback that finished with a 62 QB rating.

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:34pm

Dolphins terrible end of camp personnel moves continue to hurt them. Their interior line was beaten all day and left me wondering where the guys from last year are? They lost their two starting wideouts forcing Henne to toss to a gaggle of young undrafted players that never seemed to be open instead of Greg Camarillo. Worse the Dolphins watched yet another INT dropped to the ground, while the teams leader in interceptions was cut a few games ago to give more playing time to the very people dropping the passes. The bottom of the Dolphins roster is terrible and it's the GMs fault. No wonder Parcells walked out the door with his money.

by AnonymousD (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:35pm

"This week, the Colts tie it up 35-35 and Brice McCain promptly fumbles the kickoff on his own 20-yard line with 30 seconds left."

It was CB Bryan McCann; Brice McCain plays CB for the other Texas team.

by mcgatman (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:36pm

As a Giants fan, it's nice to see FO acknowledge the shortcomings of their SACKseer "system" that dissed the JPP pick by the Gmen. (Even better that the note made it all the way into the lede of the Audibles.) I was planning to make the same point myself. Instead, slow clap, Aaron

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:59pm

Yeah, I killed the JPP pick when the Giants made it (not just because of te SACKseer projection, bur for a number of reasons), but it's not looking too bad now. In fact, I thought he was showing some nice signs even in earlier weeks before he actually started getting sacks. He still has a lot of work to do - he gets washed out of a good number of plays as well, but he's certainly got the tools to be a force on the DL.

by Led :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:07pm

I don't disagree with your point, but I think some credit should go to the Giants coaching staff for the ability to develop athletic pass rushers. They've got an impressive recent track record.

by Dales :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:43pm

I think the thing with most project picks is that they require a lot of work in order to pan out, and it is far from clear that the work will be put in by the player.

One thing that I noticed earlier in the year with JPP is how good of a special teams player he is. That suggested to me that he is working his butt off, in addition to being a natural athlete.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:37pm

"A hand came through my facemask and, the next thing I knew, blood was running down my face," Roethlisberger said. "I said to [referee Terry McAulay], 'He hit me in the head.' He said, 'He was just trying to tackle you.' "


So the ref explains he intentionally didn't call roughing the passer for a blow to the head?

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

by Mello :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:59pm

Hahahaha. That's great.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:19pm

McAulay didn't say "yea, he hit you in the head, but he was just trying to tackle you."

He made no indication that he saw the blow to the head. If the ref didn't see it, then he can't call it.

BTW, why does the Gazette keep insisting Roethlisberger's foot is broken when the Steelers keep denying it? Who's lying/mistaken here?

by Geo B :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:53pm

You would think the blood flowing down #7's jersey should have drawn the flag. His nose didn't break itself.
The Miller hit should have been an obvious flag, none thrown.
I don't know the rule clear enough maybe but it sure seemed like horse collars could have been called both on the Kemoeatu fumble recovery and on Suggs when #7 was getting away from him there in the red zone. Suggs also hit #7 in the helmet, no call.

Yes the refs did call penalties on Baltimore - I'm not saying it was one-sided - but the personal fouls they call against the Steelers seem to not get called when they are done TO the Steelers.

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

by dmb :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:12pm

See below: in order for it to be a penalty, the ballcarrier must be pulled down, which didn't happen.

ETA: This is referring to the "horsecallers" that were (correctly) not called.

by Geo B :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:25pm

Thanks DMB. Still have at least three personal foul non-calls. Have to agree with James Harrison after the game - he draws those flags. Impressive game by Suggs - but less impressive if he's called for two personal fouls.

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

by Temo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:02pm

You would think the blood flowing down #7's jersey should have drawn the flag. His nose didn't break itself.

Again, I'm not suggesting that it wasn't a penalty, or that the Refs didn't fuck up. Just saying that the ref didn't admit to seeing it and not calling it on purpose. Which would be something very much different.

by Geo B :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:26pm

Seems to me that like in the NHL you see blood, you can call the penalty anyway in this case.

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

by Temo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:32pm

Players get hurt in all sorts of perfectly legal actions. Otherwise it may be time for QBs to carry razor blades in their uniforms.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:34pm

16 time SB winner has a nice ring to it...

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

by Rocco :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:41pm

I keep waiting to see receivers like Ochocinco start diving and acting like they were hit in the head to try to draw flags and get opposing players tossed, like in soccer.

by AudacityOfHoops :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:21pm

Did you see Reggie Wayne last Monday against the Chargers? On one of Manning's interceptions, the defender put his arm partly around Wayne's waist. It looked to me like Wayne then took a dive in order to draw a flag. Unfortunately for him, the flag didn't come, but the ball did, and he was left sitting on the ground while the defender caught the ball un-defensed.

by Rocco :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 11:14pm

I'd forgotten about that. Receivers have embellished to try to get DPI calls for a while now. Wayne should have grabbed his head and acted concussed.

by Jovins :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 3:18am

When you talk about calling penalties based off what the ref sees AFTER the play, that gets ridiculous.

Referees can only call what they see happen.

by Jerry :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:25pm

BTW, why does the Gazette keep insisting Roethlisberger's foot is broken when the Steelers keep denying it? Who's lying/mistaken here?

Obviously, they're comfortable enough with their sources that they're willing to stand by their story. The PG is an established newspaper that wouldn't be willing to throw away their reputation if they didn't think they have it right.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:40pm

So the Steelers are lying about it then? Shouldn't they be punished somehow?

by Jerry :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:51pm

Is getting Roethlisberger's nose broken without a flag punishment enough?

Seriously, they've reported a foot injury. I don't know how much detail they're required or even expected to go into.

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 2:20am

I believe teams now only have to report if a player practices or not. Why he isn't practicing if that's the case (which just means they would have to say foot injury), and the probability a player is going to play in the next game on a scale of probable/questionable/doubtful/out.

That's it.

by DGL :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:40am

Harrison will be fined another $25k.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:29pm

Maybe McAulay has a daughter living in Georgia.

by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:37pm

Thanks to everyone who pointed out that the Suh call wasn't a big deal. Without the call, it's 2nd and 2 from the 14. Instead, it was 1st and goal from the 7. Whoop-de-damn-doo. It didn't "extend the drive."

All the talk about the Bears horrible defense in the first half and Hochuli's bad call have overshadowed a great performance by Earl Bennett. I'm looking forward to seeing what his numbers are in Quick Reads. He caught 7 of 8, and each one went for a 1st down, including 4 on third down.

"Cutler, of course, just gets sacked."

Yes, when he wasn't completing 81% of his passes for a TD and no picks.

I generally avoid whining about Audibles, but the continued contempt for Cutler is getting hard to swallow.

*cries* That's my quarterback!

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:44pm

There isn't an offensive coordinator in the league who would say that first and goal at the seven isn't better than 2nd and 2 at the 14. 50% of the yardage needed in the red zone is significant. No, it can't be said that it robbed the Lions, but it is just as inaccurate to say "whoop de damn doo".

by TomC :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:42pm

According to the spreadsheet quoted above, the difference in average points is 0.42. If that's not "whoop de damn doo", I don't know what is.

Nevertheless, for the rest of the season we're going to hear about another game that the Bears got handed to them by a stupid call.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:15pm

The spread sheet says there is about a 10% difference in expected points. That's not trivial. In any case, what we want to know is the probabilities of scoring a td at first and goal at the seven, and scoring a td from 2nd and 2 at the fourteen. If the game gets to a tie, after a field goal, the Lions likely have, if the game is examined in isolation, a slight advantage over the Bears.

by BigCheese :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:39pm

But if you keep reading, you'll see that the Bears expected win % actually goes DOWN from the call being made.

But even disregarding that, I can say, without a shadow of a doubt that the Suh call (wrong as I thought it was at the time and still do) had about 1% of the relevance to that game as the fumble call which, if ruled correctly, gives the Bears the ball inside the Lions' 30, and probably turns the game into a blow-out.

So yeah: Whoop-dee-friggin-doo...

- Alvaro

by Marko :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:45pm

I think this topic has been overblown and been given far more attention than it deserves with respect to its impact on the game. To me, this is nothing like the Calvin Johnson play in the season opener, which deservedly generated much discussion and obviously had a huge impact on the game's result.

Will, did you watch the Bears game or just see the highlights? I am wondering because I assume you were watching the Vikings game, which was on at the same time. While watching that drive, I had no doubt the Bears were going to score a TD. The Bears were marching down the field pretty easily, and the Lions didn't look like they were able to stop the Bears. As a Bears fan, there are many times when I feel that a disaster is just around the corner, even when the Bears are in the red zone. On that drive, I did not have that feeling at all. While we'll never know what would have happened absent the penalty, a TD for the Bears there seemed inevitable. If you just saw the highlights, you wouldn't have that context.

As for the contention that "the Lions likely have, if the game is examined in isolation, a slight advantage over the Bears," that might be true if you said it was Random Team A vs. Random Team B. But since it was the Lions instead of Random Team A, I think it would be the Bears rather than the Lions who would have had the advantage.

Some teams find ways to lose, or not to win. The Lions are Exhibit A. The Bengals are Exhibit B. Watching the end of their game against the Saints yesterday, you knew the Bengals would Bungle it. The same goes for the Lions.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 5:24pm

I was switching back and forth, with the DVR, and I saw it live. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a drive that looked like an inevitable td, until something happened which made a td less than inevitabe. Again, I never said it was a turning point, or a major event. I just took issue with the notion that it makes no difference, or little difference, whether an offense has a first and goal at the 7, or second and two at the 14.

Actually, what bothered me the most was, as I said elsewhere, that the NFL has decided that qbs aren't football players.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:44pm

Actually, even that call's impact has been overblown. It was a third-down play; the Lions had the chance to do the very same thing on the next down and probably would have with a better-thrown ball, and obviously things were much different at that point in the season: there wasn't the weight of the 2010 losses hanging over the players' heads like there is now.

Sure, the play was significant, but it wasn't like the DPI call against Cleveland last year, for example. The Lions had time in both Bears games this season to win the game and could not.

by Shattenjager :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:41pm

Just another example of how he is the Second Coming of Favre.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:40pm

about "I didn't think the Ravens defender got his hand inside Kemoeatu's pads. Horse collar rules also don't apply to quarterback in the pocket or runners inside the tackle box, though I'm not sure if they'd have counted Kemoeatu as one of those."

there have been several HC calls for simply using the uniform in that motion

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

by dmb :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:57pm

And those calls would be incorrect. Are you suggesting that refs should intentionally replicate the mistake of another ref?

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:11pm


12.2.1 seems to cover using the jersey.

Are you suggesting Mike Pereira is making this up?

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

by Travis :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:22pm

The horsecollar rule was changed before the 2006 season to include grabbing the inside collar of the jersey. However, since Kemoeatu wasn't pulled down immediately (or even at all by that tackler), there shouldn't have been a flag.

by dmb :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:38pm

Yep, I was wrong -- I somehow missed/forgot the change, even though it happened only one season after the initial rule was introduced.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:40pm

Cleveland's final "drive" after the Henne INT:

# 1-2-MIA 2 (:54) 17-J.Delhomme kneels to MIA 4 for -2 yards (55-K.Misi).
# Timeout #3 by MIA at 00:51.
# 2-4-MIA 4 (:51) 17-J.Delhomme kneels to MIA 5 for -1 yards.
# 3-5-MIA 5 (:15) 17-J.Delhomme kneels to MIA 6 for -1 yards.
# Timeout #1 by CLV at 00:04.
# 4-6-MIA 6 (:04) (Field Goal formation) 4-P.Dawson 23 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-64-R.Pontbriand, Holder-2-R.Hodges.

If you're not going to advance the ball (which is fine in that situation) why not attempt the FG on 3rd down (like teams do in OT) so that if you screw up the snap you can try again on 4th down?

by Travis :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:49pm

Because the 3rd down kneel enabled them to get the game clock down to 0:04, which ensured that the field goal would be the last play of regulation.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:00pm

I thought it was weird that they have so little faith in Peyton Hillis that they wouldn't simply rush the ball in for a TD. Are fumbles that much more likely than blocked FGs?

by Vincent Verhei :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:09pm

They were probably concerned he WOULD have scored -- or even that the Dolphins would have let him score. Then they (Miami) would have gotten the ball back with a chance to tie the game. Better to kill the clock, then win on the last play.

by BigCheese :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:45pm

That's the most likely explanation. In fact, the absolutely worst thing Miami did on that play (other than calling a pass instead of a run), was get him out of bounds before he reached the end-zone.

While it's obvioulsy pretty much impossible to expect an offensive player, in the heat of the moment, to take that situation into account and purposefully let the guy score, the econd I saw he didn't get in I told my wife his team just lost because they didn't let him score on the return.

They would have probably lost anyway, but at least they would have had a chance to tie it.

The question again is: why were they passing????

- Alvaro

by zzyzx :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:41pm

"I know this is just a Steelers fan complaining about officiating, etc.,"

Every Seahawks fan in the world tries to muster up some sympathy but somehow fails.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:46pm

Stevans catch 3 step drop fumble recovered by Steelers ruled incomplete

Hasselbeck fumble recovered by Steelers ruled D.B.C. though untouched

Nocall on return of Ben Interception with massive block in the back that should have made the drive start at the 50 or so instead of the 20


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

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:50pm

Wow. I was rooting for the Steelers in that Super Bowl, and generally find the complaining by Seahawks' fans annoying and over-the-top, but trying to spin it as bad officiating in favor of Seattle? That's a new one.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:55pm

in favor of? no.
calls made/not-made that impacted both teams? yes.

do we ever hear about all of them? no. why?

go back and watch highlights of those 3 plays. just as "bad" (dubious or borderline) of calls as the "td dive", the "hold" , the "phantom low block through tackle" that are griped about incessantly.

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

by JIPanick :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:10pm

This is correct. Super Bowl XL was erratically but fairly officiated (officiating was poor but did not show favoritism); the overrated Hawks just got their tails kicked by a superior team. Seattle fans should just be glad they dodged Indy and Denver and thus lost by only two possessions instead of four.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:25pm

Time to let it go.

by NoraDaddy :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:05pm

Good luck with that suggestion. It was time to let it go 4 years ago.

by Spielman :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 2:14pm

As long as FireOmarTomlin exists, it will never be time to let it go.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:43pm

Well, that "Kyle Orton, now a good quarterback!" thing died a really quick and painful death.

He's not even on the radar anymore.

by BigCheese :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:48pm

Don't tell Denver fans that who, on this very website, still insist that the Bears would gladly give up Cutler and picks to get Orton back.

- Alvaro

by V. Barbarino (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 11:28pm

Because he had one bad game?
The hatred of Denver on this site from commentators on this site is really quite amusing. Fine. Cutler is Christ. I've never seen a more talented, handsome, and effective play caller. His arm is something that causes women to swoon and fat men on the internet to masturbate. His rugged good looks bring to mind that of a Paul Newman in a helmet. When the Bears win yet another Super Bowl with him at the helm, as he throws for, oh, 800 yards against Pittsburgh in the big game, we will fall to our knees and say...'Why have you forsaken us?'
Of course, the sad reality for our friends in the Windy City is that this year's Bears team is last year's Bengals team...enjoy yer playoff game. It'll be your last.

by dbt :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 12:36am

This is the first time I've ever seen someone try to pull the inverted-double-toe-loop FOMBC. As a Bears fan, I thank you for trying.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:45pm

"There was a terrible call on Suh for unnecesary roughness penalty on Cutler when he was scrambling. That call was wrong technically because it wasn't a forearm, and also it is obvious that they wouldn't have thrown the flag if it was Forte and not Cutler with the ball. When they start babying the quaterbacks across the line of scrimmage, that's beyond ridiculous. Anyway, the call while terrible didn't really cost the Lions. Yes it made the Bears drive shorter, but it wasn't a play that unnecessarily prolonged a drive, and it just didn't feel like the Lions would get a stop there."

I wouldn't go so far as to say it was a "terrible" call. In realtime, it looked like an incredibly violent play, the kind that "unnecessary roughness" was meant for. In fact, I think it's a great example of the "unnecessary" part - there was no reason for Suh to do what he did.

On replay, it looked like it wasn't really a forearm. That's true.

But this is also spot-on that it didn't really prolong the drive. The Bears would have had second and two at the Lions' fourteen. Instead, they had first and goal at the seven. The outcome of the penalty was only two yards more than if a defensive hold had happened (defensive holds can be applied to the end of the play if the offense chooses).

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:58pm

Wait a second; unecessary roughness was meant for pushing a guy down hard? Football is no longer about hitting the ball carrier as hard as possible, within the defined parameters? By that standard, the Saints should have racked up 200 additional penalty yards against the Vikings in the Conference Championship Game, for how they hit Favre. I understand the need to minimize head shots, but you can't take the violence out of the game, and still have the game. It was a hideous call, and while it can't besaid it cost the Lions the game, there isn't an offensive coordinator in the game who would call the difference between 1st and goal at the seven, and second and two at the 14, a trivial matter.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:04pm

The "unnecessary" part, yes. You can quibble about whether or not it was "roughness" (in realtime, it looked like it; on replay, it's definitely questionable). Suh should have given a shove, or a standard (hard) tackle; he didn't need to push forward on a player's head/neck area in the manner he did. It was a dumb play to make.

I didn't say it was a trivial difference, Will. But it didn't "prolong the drive", as others have said. It turned a run-of-the-mill successful play into a first down.

EDIT: Kevin Seifert's said what I'm trying to say, but much more clearly. LINK

by Mello :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:10pm

As long as the play's still going and the ball carrier is not stopped, I can't see how it's unnecessary. That hard hit may have knocked him down a couple of yards sooner. Unnecessary roughness was meant for plays where the roughness does not help his team and only serves to potentially injure a player. Things like hits out of bounds, after the whistle blows, or on players clearly no longer involved in the play. Not the ball carrier while he's still running with it.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:15pm

Fair enough. The harping on the term "unnecessary" was probably a misguided choice on my part.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:21pm

Seifert quotes Urlacher as saying "We probably would have scored, anyway", which concedes that getting the ball five yards closer to the goal line, and a first down, improves the possibility of scoring a touchdown.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:24pm

First of all, if you take his words at face value, he's making the opposite claim, that the Bears would have scored a touchdown without the penalty.

Second, forgive me if I don't take Brian Urlacher's word for anything. He's a great linebacker, that's all.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:30pm

Define the word "probably".

I didn't link to Seifert. Please let me know specifically what he wrote that you believe agrees with your point.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:40pm

That regardless of whether it was the correct call or not, Suh could have acted differently so that the penalty would not have been called.

Come on, Will. At this point, we're just disagreeing about whether or not it looked like a forearm to the head in real time. And see my post #56 for some actual numbers on the expected outcomes. Burke estimates that the penalty was worth 0.42 points.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:45pm

And, according to Burke's figures, other similar point-swings in field position/down-and-distance:

Going from first-and-ten at the opponent's 35 to first-and-ten at the opponent's 29 (0.43-point increase).
Going form first-and-ten at your own 35 to first-and-ten at your own 42 (0.42-point increase).
Going from second-and-five at the opponent's 49 to first-and-ten at the opponent's 43 (0.43-point increase).

Would you consider it to be a huge play if a penalty caused one of the above scenarios to play out?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:01pm

Again, what I would like to know is the probability of a touchdown from 1st and goal at the seven, and the probability of a touchdown from 2nd and two at the fourteen.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:51pm

Eddo, defensive players are coached from age 7 on to hit ball carriers with maximum ferocity, while avoiding hitting the ball carrier's head, and while not using their own helmet as a weapon. Suh did exactly as the defensive players are coached, and was within the rules. I saw it at real time, and it never entered my thoughts that Suh hit Cutler in the head, or used his forearm. It was a horrible call, with the official seeing something that did not happen, probably because officials have been at this point overtrained to see things happening to qbs that are not happening.

by Kurt :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:42pm

It doesn't concede anything of the sort. At most, it concedes that the probability of scoring on 2nd and 2 from the 14 can't possibly be any higher than the 100% incidence on their actually having scored on first and goal from the seven.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:22pm

No, he is saying that there is a chance that they would not have scored a td from 2nd and two from the fourteen, whereas we know for certain that they did score from first and goal at the seven.

by Kurt :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:41pm

Right, that's what I just said. They did score from first and goal at the seven; that has nothing to do with the relative likelihoods of touchdowns in the two situations.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:50pm

Maybe I just don't understand what Urlacher is saying. When he is saying they probably would have scored a td from the fourteen, is he not not conceding that there is a possibility that a td would not have been scored, thus conceding that the game's outcome might have changed, from what actually happened?

by Kurt :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:12pm

What he's saying is basically "whoop de damn doo."

Of course "getting the ball five yards closer to the goal line, and a first down, improves the possibility of scoring a touchdown" if you're operating with perfect hindsight and setting the "likelihood" on scoring from first and goal at the seven at 100%, but that's not really a reasonable way of looking at it.

Did Taylor's run for no gain earlier in the drive improve the possibility of scoring a touchdown? They did score after all.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:25pm

My only point was that there is a considerable difference in the chance of scoring a td in the two circumstances, and I didn't see anything in the Seifert piece which contradicts that point. Weirdly, the stats that Burke produces, posted above, does show that the td probabilities are different, but the win probabilities have a counterintuitive difference.

by Kurt :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:27pm

And my only point is that Urlacher's quote isn't a concession of anything. I'm not arguing the percentages themselves.

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:37pm

Yet again, Will parses words, and comes up with the exact opposite of what the writer intended.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:45pm

Actually, I can't say what the writer intended, because Urlacher contradicts himself in consecutive sentences. He first says it wouldn't have made any difference (which I would expect him to say), and then says it might have made a difference. I didn't link to the Seifert piece, which is why I asked what was meant.

I love you too, Rich.

by Big Frank :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:07pm

I totally disagree with you. The hit was absolutely unnecessary, and Suh was lucky he wasn't ejected from the game.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:14pm

Why? Are you saying now that tackling the ball carrier harder than you have to is unecessary roughness? By that standard there should be at least a dozen more flags thrown a game.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:17pm

Welcome to Czar Goodell's vision of the NFL.

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

by Big Frank :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:53pm

I'm not saying anything of the sort, and you're crazy if that's all you saw on that play. He used his elbow to deliver a blow to Cutler's neck, that's been a penalty for decades.

You're using revisionist history and logical fallacies over a matter of 7 yards. I thought I knew you, man.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:07pm

No, you he did not used his elbow. You have seen soemthing that did not happen, like Hochuli. If you know the difference in the probability of a touchdown at 1st and goal at the seven, and 2nd a two at the fourteen, let me know. I'm genuinely curious. I do think it is very improbable that any offensive coordinator in the league would call the difference trivial.

by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:17pm

Real time, I was sure that he used his right forearm. I changed my mind after I saw the replay. In my opinion, it was a legal hit and a bad call. Still, all the talk about it being a turning point is seriously overblown.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:29pm

Oh, I think the talk of it being the turning point is way off base. I also think it is off base to say that the probability of a td at first and goal at the 7 is only trivially better than the probability of a td at 2nd and two from the fourteen. Again, I'd be shocked if any coordinators in the league consider the difference trivial.

I swear, I never thought for a moment that it was even close to being a penalty, but I conceded that I didn't have the best angle in real time. Then I saw the replay, and couldn't belive what a lousy call it was.

by verifiable (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:44pm

Suh pushed (really really hard) Cutler in the back with two hands. He did not make contact with his forearm as the referee claimed.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:40pm

For some reason, pushing a ball carrier, who is attempting to advance the ball, really, really, hard, is now sometimes considered a penalty. Actually, we know the reason; qbs have been defined as no longer playing football. Look, the slide rule is good, as are most of the rulings that happen in the pocket, although even there sometimes they go overboard in defining a blow to the head. Once a qb leaves the pocket, and starts moving downfield without sliding, however, it is ridiculous to seem him any differently than a running back. I think the odds of that flag being thrown, if Forte had been carrying the ball, instead of Cutler, are pretty darned small.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:46pm

Hochuli seems to have been parsing his decision for all of us (isn't he great) and has said that he felt it was unneccessary roughness because the ball carrier was already going to the ground when Suh smashed him in the back of the head (or shoulder pad or whatever).

Personally I don't care.

by Led :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:51pm

"I understand the need to minimize head shots, but you can't take the violence out of the game, and still have the game."

Agree completely. The league seems determined to supplement random defensive pass interference calls and random offensive holding calls with random personal foul calls because there just wasn't enough uncertainty and focus on officiating in the NFL game.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:02pm

In total agreement with Will Allen. The refs thought that there was an elbow to the helmet, and that's why the flag was thrown. There is no "unnecessary roughness" flag for pushing a ball carrier hard. That's just ordinary tackling.

by Flounder :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:54pm

Everyone complains about blown roughing calls (Suh) and everyone complains about calls that should have been made, but weren't (see Health Miller).

I think it is time to recognize that many of these calls simply happen to fast for officials to be very accurate or consistent. I imagine things should get a bit better as officials get more experience under the new (or re-emphasized or whatever it is) rubric, but I think there will always be much left to be desired.

Basically, you have two choices: have a high sensitivity but low positive predictive value, or low sensitivity, high positive predictive value. I don't think we're ever going to get both.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:01pm

To balance the saftey issue with not changing the nature of the game, it may be time to go to the college system of instant replay, tell the officials to err on the side of throwing flags for head shots, but allow for the booth to overturn it.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:37pm

People follow the ball. The Miller hit happened in the middle of the field.

And let's say nobody DID see it. You could hear the helmets collide on the d*mn television.

Not a Steeler fan but if I were I would be thinking conspiracy right now. The Ravens ASSAULTED the Steelers multiple times last night and no repercussions of any kind. It was ridiculous.

by Mike W :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:58pm

When Heath Miller got up after that hit I thought I had accidentally changed the channel to "The Walking Dead."

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:58pm

Also, no discussion of the non-overturn of the INT in ATL/TB to end the game?

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

by oi! (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:37pm

What's to discuss? As a Falcons fan, I don't think that Grimes controlled the ball. But there was no camera angle showing the ball hitting the ground.

On the other hand, I lost any respect I might have has for Mike Pereria, when he was saying that the call needed to be overturned. Based on what? His assumption that the ball must have hit the ground, apparently. Even worse, when the officials said that the call stood, he immediately started talking about how Grimes' body blocked the view of the ball, and so of course the play should stand as called.

It just proved to me, yet again, that NFL instant replay sucks, and should be eliminated. (Not that it will be.)

by Led :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:56pm

This might be a bit of philosophical question, but I don't think you need to see the precise split second the ball made contact with the ground to know it did. You've got the before, the after and a general understanding of the laws of physics to figure out what happened in the split second in betweem.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:02pm

Yes, the physics part aside.... there was a video frame (albeit only one) right before his hip hit on the rollover, where you could see the tip of the ball contacting the ground....

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

by DGL :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:15pm

IIRC, the ball merely touching the ground is not sufficient for it to be an incompletion - if the receiver has control of the ball and it touches the ground, it's a complete pass.

Of course, the NFL rules are more byzantine than the US Tax Code, so I may be recalling incorrectly.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:21pm

No, you're correct, it's the Bert Emanuel rule who, ironically was a Bucs WR. The ball can touch the ground, but it's still a catch as long as the ball didn't move and the receiver demonstrated control.

I didn't think there was sufficient evidence to overturn that INT. I also think that, if they'd called it incomplete, there still wouldn't have been sufficient evidence. There just wasn't a good enough angle.

by Led :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:24pm

Right, but Grimes had the ball between his forearm and his waist when he rolled over and he was still getting control as with his hand as he got up off the ground. If the ball hit the ground at any point during the interim (and I think it's obvious that it did), it's an incomplete pass.

by Joseph :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:37pm

oi!, hopefully you will regain your respect for Mr. Pereria (sp?) based on this post on FOXSPORTS. (sorry that I haven't learned how to embed links and such--I just copied the relevant part of the article that is presently on the front page of foxsports.)

2. Atlanta at Tampa Bay
THE SITUATION: Tampa Bay had the ball, first-and-10 at the Atlanta 27-yard line with 1:58 left in the game. Tampa Bay trailed, 28-24.
THE PLAY: Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman attempted a pass, but it was intercepted by the Falcons' Brent Grimes. The replay assistant initiated a review to check whether the pass might have been incomplete. The call on the field stood.
MY TAKE: Referee Tony Corrente was right not to have reversed this.
Like others, when I went on air and thought the call may be reversed, I got caught up in reviewing the play without taking into consideration that the ruling on the field was an interception. I felt the ball may have touched the ground, but, in reality, after looking at the play further, I saw the body obstructs the ball just as it may have hit the ground. There just wasn't enough evidence to overturn this ruling.
Referees have done a good job of staying away from reversing calls unless the video evidence is absolutely conclusive. My mistake.

by oi! (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:52pm

That's a pretty good start.

My problem is, he's been hired to bring the "official" (in both senses of the word) view on replay and rules. And he indicated to me that the officials ignore the rules when they make their decisions. Which is something the NFL should be very concerned about.

Of course, the easy fix is to make the officials full-time employees. But then Jerry Jones, Arthur Blank, and the rest might have to buy a few less big screen TVs or something...

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:11pm

Are NFL officials seriously not full-time? Why on earth wouldn't they be?

by Sidewards :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:15pm

Because football isn't full-time. I think Hotchuli's a lawyer in the offseason. Several people have suggested that teams should get referees for their offseason practices and whatnot, but I don't think anything came of it.

by witless chum :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:37pm

Seems like I've heard its fairly common to have officials on hand, especially during training camp.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:32pm

I'd imagine the players would dispute whether football is full-time. Seems bizarre to me, even though many top soccer leagues don't have full-time referees either. I guess I figured the NFL, of all professional sports, would be least archaic in that respect - especially given the amount of work and preparation I assume is required to be a NFL offical.

by DavidL :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:18pm

I don't have the slightest idea why, but it's the truth.

by Dean :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:35pm

What, exactly, would you have them do Monday - Saturday?

Other sports have full time officials because they play so many games. And anecdotally, if you look at those sports, their game isn't officiated any better for having full time officials.

On a more practical matter, many of these men have fairly lucrative day-jobs and would quit if they were forced to choose.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:20pm

What, exactly, would you have them do Monday - Saturday?

Even as a low-level, "amateur" (I was usually paid cash-in-hand, but it was little more than expenses) soccer official, my midweek was spent in:
- Physical training.
- Watching/analysing games.
- Analysis of my previous Saturday's performance (with or without my supervisor/assessor).
- Meeting with coaches/players.
- Attending local youth teams' training as a referee. It was so rare for most of these teams to have a referee around, that I was quite frequently "having my brain picked".
- Various association-level requirements. (Ranging from training to rules meetings to official functions.)
- Practice, even taking the form of refereeing friends' bounce games but more commonly refereeing training sessions.

If the officials were more involved in what the teams were doing day-to-day, would there be less confusion about what is and is not within the rules? My experience as a soccer referee suggests yes, though I obviously can't speak for either NFL or indeed any professional players and officials.

If the officials were more focussed on training and game preparation with fewer outside distractions, would they be better officials? Again, my experience as a soccer referee suggests yes.

The more you do something, the better you get at it - especially if you have others coaching you as you do it (which I did). I don't see an argument for not having professional officials in any sport that could afford them.

many of these men have fairly lucrative day-jobs and would quit if they were forced to choose.

Then get ones who are willing to focus completely on officiating as their "lucrative day-job". If it raises the standard of officials, which I think it would, it's worth doing.

by Jetspete :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 5:46pm

good points. the ball clearly hits the ground but there's no indisputable evidence to show the ball moving after it hits the ground. too many times refs look for a reason to overturn (see calvin johnson week 1, or the crazy polamalu int in the playoffs in 05), nice to see them understand that famous phrase "indisputable visual evidence"

by dbt :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 5:56pm

Arrugh? The Calvin Johnson play was ruled, correctly, on the field as incomplete. The replay official buzzed down and they reviewed it and upheld it correctly as incomplete.

Why do people keep misunderstanding this rule? If anything I think the Bert Emmanuel exception has made this worse, not better.

by dmb :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:05pm

I suppose this is as good a place as any for this...

As 0tarin has been pointing out for a few weeks, Billy Cundiff's touchbacks have absolutely skyrocketed this year. Cundiff produced touchbacks on each of his three kickoffs last night, bringing his season total to 34 ... already an improvement of 31 over his career high. The season record since 1994, when kickoffs were moved to the 30, was set at 40 by Mitch Berger in 1998.

Like Cundiff, Berger's career high was much, much higher than what he accomplished in any other season; his second-highest-TB season came in 1996, where he had 17 (which still lead the league). Berger had the benefit of playing in a dome to help explain any high TB numbers, though it wouldn't explain an enormous leap. However, the huge leap in 1998 is also fairly easily explained: the Vikings' prolific 1998 offense gave Berger more opportunities to kick off than almost anyone in NFL history. So his TB% did rise, but a sizeable chunk of Berger's "improvement" can be explained by increased opportunity.

In contrast, Cundiff's 58 kickoffs thus far aren't yet a career high, and are barely more than half of Berger's 112 in 1998. Cundiff's TB% of 58.6% would obliterate the previous record of 42.5%, set by Joe Nedney in 1997 (minimum 10 kickoffs).

Watching last night's game, it appeared that wind may have had a fairly substantial effect on kicks; Shaun Suisham was also able to bang out a (somewhat rare) touchback when going in the same direction as most of Cundiff's kicks. I don't know if the conditions are typically like that in Baltimore, but even if they are, Cundiff's season is still fairly remarkable. (Cundiff's home/road splits appear to be slightly in favor of "home," but his performance on the road has still be more than excellent. Only one of those road games has been in a dome, and none have been in Denver.)

Question for FO staff and/or premium members: is Cundiff likely to set the record for most value-added on kickoffs? In the likely event that the answer is "yes," by how much?

by Flounder :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:15pm

That's pretty crazy. Maybe he's on the juice?

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:29pm

While i know very little about it, I don't even think the juice would be enough to prompt an improvement of this caliber.

Also; a kicker on doping? This might've been what the mayans were really forecasting.

by Shattenjager :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:50pm

I would forgive it in others, but as a fellow Broncos fan you should remember Todd Sauerbrun (link: http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/story/8338569)!

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:45pm

Berger's monster year was pre-K ball. The K-ball had a definite effect on kickoffs.

by smashmouth football :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:21pm

Long-time grieving Ravens fan. As to Cundiff, I have to admit I've wondered aloud if he's on the juice or something. Can't remember where I encountered the stat, but a few weeks ago I read (or saw on TV) that his previous full season several years ago his KO avg. was something like 62.x yards, but this year was 72.x yards.

Oddly enough, the wind direction last night was opposite of the prevailing direction. As you watch M&T Bank Stadium on TV standard pressbox view, you're looking pretty much due north, and the usual wind direction is left-to-right (from the west). Especially with a bitter cold, windy night, I was surprised the wind seemed to be from the east.

As to the result of the game, the Ravens just blew their season. Virtually no hope of the division now, and they have no realistic shot as a mere WildCard. Except for that travesty in 2005 where the league gave the word to give Bettis a swan song Super Bowl, you probably won't see a WildCard Super Bowl again for a long time. Grudgingly have to give Pittsburgh credit, it was a huge gut-check character win for them, and another lack-of-clutch character loss for the Ravens. Now I'm reduced to rooting against the teams I dsepise the most, starting with Pittsburgh, then New England. . .

Predictions: Ngata will be fined $50k for the hand to the head, as a repeat offender. Jameel McLain will get $25k for concussing Heath Miller. Just a test to see if I can find any rhyme or reason to the imperial decrees of Goodell.

by Travis :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:44pm

Cundiff's kickoff stats are here. 34 touchbacks on 58 kickoffs this year, 11 touchbacks on 209 kickoffs for his previous 6 seasons, and averaging better than 8 yards/kickoff from his career norms.

Except for that travesty in 2005 where the league gave the word to give Bettis a swan song Super Bowl, you probably won't see a WildCard Super Bowl again for a long time.

The 2007 Giants say hello.

by matt w (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:56pm

The 2007 Giants say hello.

Yeah, that, and also the folks upstairs who said it was time to let it go four years ago. And if the league sent down orders to get Bettis to the Super Bowl, nobody told Pete Morelli.

Can we have an "Irrational discussion of the officiating in Super Bowl XL" thread already?

by MurphyZero :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 11:47pm

Ngata for 15k and McLain for 40K. So nope, no rhyme or reason. Fire Goodell. Do something to improve the reffing. The game's too fast for them. I'd love for an automated system, but know that's impossible for now. Especially one that's Madden style: Pittsburgh-Baltimore games set them lower than usual. Though NE games would probably have roughing the passer set to max.

by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 2:29am

As for 2005, I think that's a distorted story. There was nothing wrong with the Steelers victories over the Colts and the Broncos, truly the toughest opponents they could have faced. However, the divisional and conference round playoff games featured multiple horrendous game-changing officiating errors, and the fans and media were in such a frenzy they jumped on every call in the sloppily played and officiated superbowl. The storm broke in Superbowl XL, but its force came from the bad calls 2 and 3 weeks before.

That's what makes me nervous about the current hitting and fining controversies. I'm glad there's growing clamor for some consistency, but who knows where it will end? I don't really want flurries of fines following every game. Ngata's hit wasn't intentional, I belive. I don't want $15,000 from him, just 15 yards! That would have helped the Steelers and maybe protected Ben from the other helmet blow he got Sunday night.

by drobviousso :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:34am

This posts gets +1 internet points. This is exactly how I feel.

by smashmouth football :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 1:39pm

When did Roethlisberger take a second helmet blow? Didn't see it.

Agree as to 2005 Steelers win over Colts. IIRC, Steelers actually were robbed of an interception through a questionable replay.

As to the 2007 Giants, well, I forgot--I was wrong on that one. I still think it's unlikely we'll see another wildcard Super Bowl winner for awhile. 2005 was an anomaly not only because of dubious officiating, but because the Steelers were an unusually good wildcard. The main reason they didn't win their division was because Roethlisberger got hurt and missed something like 3 games during the season, and when he came back, the Steelers became a top-tier team again. As to the 2007 Giants, I think part of their success was that the 2007 NFC was unusually weak. Not so this year. The only really good team that might be an NFC wildcard is the Packers, but I think they still might overtake Chicago, which has a very tough closing schedule.

In sum, even if we limit ourselves to this year's facts, I think the Ravens are done, unfortunately. Best-case scenario is wildcard, and there's no way they will go on the road and beat either Pittsburgh or New England, and certainly not both.

by dbt :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 4:09pm

Remember, all the Bears have to do is beat Green Bay and win any one of the NE, Jets or Minnesota games to win the division.

by DGL :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 4:19pm

On the shot-put play, when Suggs first came in, I believe his left hand came up and hit Ben on the right side of the helmet.

by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:46pm

I won't deny the good fortune of the Steelers and their inside track for the #2 seed. The playoff odds show how significant that is.

But from looking at the playoff odds, I would guess there's about a 6% to 10% chance a wildcard wins the Super Bowl. (It would be interesting to know the real figure.) The Ravens have as good a shot at that chance as any team could, I think.

by Jerry :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:32pm

I'll settle for the Ravens going to Foxborough and beating up the Patriots before they play Pittsburgh, although I'd love to see another Steelers-Ravens championship game.

by 0tarin :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:46pm

Thank you for making the point much more thoroughly than I ever could have hoped to. Regarding the Ravens fan below who pointed out that he read somewhere about the 10 yard average per kick improvement, you may have read it here about 3 weeks ago when I posted the same stat. Or elsewhere, as I'm sure I'm not the only one staggered at the difference.

As for an explanation, the only official report I've seen (thus far) is this story: http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/sports/ravens/blog/2010/10/offseason_wit...

Obviously an older link, but I find it hard to believe that an offseason program, no matter how thorough, would result in such a staggering change. Then again, I can't think of anything else that would either.

by tequila (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:18pm

Sorry, I can't agree with Aaron's Flacco takeaway. My impression was that Flacco again demonstrated that he gets flustered easily when under facing heavy pressure, and his inherent inaccuracy shows itself. The Ravens offense and their inability to really generate anything for most the second half hurt them badly. Roethlisberger's greatest mental strength is his relative unflappability when on the field, even under enormous pressure. That the Steelers are 0-5 in the last few years against the Ravens without Roethlisberger, but 7-2 with him, shows a lot of the difference between Flacco and Roethlisberger. Flacco is not an elite QB and won't be until he can play under pressure.

by jfsh :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:40pm

To be fair, the Steelers defense was absolutely unreal at the end of that game. Even when the blitzes were picked up correctly, the Ravens offense was simply out-muscled. Woodley looked like he was playing with high school students at times - not sure if anyone else saw the play where he simply threw two different blockers out of the way as they came at him, using only his arms.

Of course, the Ravens defense was pretty awesome too. I agreed with Collinsworth that the play where Roethlisberger fought off Terrell Suggs and threw the ball away was incredible. Frankly the whole game was amazing. Rice's pickup of the Polamalu blitz in the end zone leading to a huge play, Polamalu's revenge (sounds like the world's sweetest movie) with the strip-sack, an offensive lineman "running" with a fumble... I never wanted it to end.

by Joseph :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:45pm

tequila, is any QB in his 3rd year EVER considered ELITE? I mean, the guy is still developing somewhat. I mean, last year, according to FO Almanac, he was 19th in DVOA, and 14th in DYAR. That says "solid starter" to me--and for being his 2nd year in the league, that's pretty good in my book. Big Ben was 8th in both stats, which says "above-average starter, plays 'elite' games occasionally."

by Dr. Not Even Particularly a Dolphins Fan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:21pm

tequila, is any QB in his 3rd year EVER considered ELITE?

Dan Marino was, of course. Click my alias for PFR career stats link.

by JIPanick :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:56pm

"is any QB in his 3rd year EVER considered ELITE?"

Dan Marino had an MVP award and had been named all-pro twice by the time he entered his 4th season.

Roger Staubach won an MVP award, a Super Bowl Ring & MVP, and led the NFL in passing efficiency in his third year.

Peyton Manning led the league in DYAR twice in his first three years in the league.

Johnny Unitas led the league in passer rating twice and been named first team All-Pro once in his first three seasons.

Joe Namath became the first QB to hit 4000 yards passing in his third season.

Bernie Kosar led the league in passing efficiency in his third season.

Carson Palmer had two top 3 DYAR finishes in his first three years.

Jay Cutler was a Pro Bowl QB and top 5 in DYAR at the end of his third year.

Greg Cook led the AFL (1969 edition) in passing efficiency his rookie year (he was hurt and never played again).

Don Majkowski had a 4000 yard season and a second team All-Pro spot in his third year.

Joe Montana had a Super Bowl Ring & MVP to go with All-NFC honors and a pro bowl spot in his third season.

Daunte Culpepper had 3,900 yards and the league lead in touchdown passes to go with All-NFC honors in his second year.

Chad Pennington finished second in DYAR and made the Pro Bowl in his third season.

I could probably find more if I really wanted to.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:08pm

Indeed, I think that almost every elite QB over the past 30 years has been recognized as an elite QB by his third year.

There are a lot of elite QBs with shaky rookie seasons. But almost all of them had terrific sophomore seasons and I cannot think of any that were not already in top form by their 3rd season.

About the only exception to this rule I can think of is Steve Young, who was stuck as Montana's backup for quite a long time. But Montana, Elway, Marino, Favre, Aikman, Manning, Brady...all were well-established by that time.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:18pm

Well, you have Warner, who was a star quickly once he got in the league, but couldn't stick on a roster until he was, what, 27 or 28? That may do more to prove your point, however.

The hopes for Tavaris Jackson are, alas, somewhat dim.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:23pm

brady had very non-elite passer rating/ dvoa early on.

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

by Kurt :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:29pm

Eli Manning (ducks).

by Arkaein :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:37pm

Actually, Favre was pretty bad his third year.

He was a bench-warmer his rookie year (1991), a good starter for the Packers most of his second year ('92), and lead the NFL in INTs and had a 72.2 passer rating in his third year ('93).

He started to really come on strong on the second half of '94 before winning his first MVP in '95. I'd say he joined Elite status after the '94 season.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:19pm

Remember that Brady's first year was a sit-on-the-bench year in 2000. So his third year would have been 2002.

Now maybe you mean third year as a starter, which would have been 2003 for Brady.

by Shattenjager :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:29pm

From doing a pfr search for guys who threw at least 150 passes in their third season, Randall Cunningham, John Elway, Eli Manning, Phil Simms, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, and Warren Moon were all average or worse by ANY/A+ in their third seasons.

It might be questionable to call Manning "elite," but I think the rest are safe and he's at least arguable. Include or ignore him as you wish.

by Joseph :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 5:58pm

Okay--I stand corrected. HOWEVER, I'm talking 3rd year IN THE LEAGUE, not 3rd year starting. For some of those you listed, that is still the same season--for others, no.
Also, I would define elite not as "one reallllly good year," but as "sustained success, with some kind of team success." [Not necessarily SB titles, but at least playoffs.] For example, most if not all consider Brees elite now, but did anybody consider him elite when he left SD? [I doubt it. But I think most did even BEFORE the Super Bowl title/MVP--and now it's accepted.

by JIPanick :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:34pm

"HOWEVER, I'm talking 3rd year IN THE LEAGUE, not 3rd year starting. For some of those you listed, that is still the same season--for others, no."

This is wrong. All names on my list were based on when they were first drafted/signed as UDFA (although I may have botched Unitas). You will note the deliberate exclusion of Kurt Warner, both post-USFL HOFers, Brett Favre, Craig Morton, Ken Stabler, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, etc.

Further, I am *very* confident that Marino, Staubach, Manning, Unitas, Namath, and Palmer were all unquestioned as "elite" QBs by the end of their respective third years.

by Dales :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:49pm

"Jay Cutler was a Pro Bowl QB and top 5 in DYAR at the end of his third year."

Is this an argument for or against being able to label someone as "elite" after only 3 years?

by JIPanick :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:07pm

Cutler was pretty marginal, I agree, but I wanted a round ten as was too lazy to look up old timers.

by chisox24 :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:07pm

Or that changing system and personnel around you has a large effect on how well you can perform. However, I would agree that cutler has not proven anything yet

by Dales :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:55pm

It was probably a bit of unfair snark on my part there, anyways. Not sure why, but Cutler has always irritated me for no reason that I can pinpoint.

He's impressed me quite a bit with the way he's handled himself this year, actually. He didn't bitch when he would have had reason to do so, he's shown himself to be a really tough SOB, and he's been improving (to my eyes) through the year.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:39pm

"Roethlisberger's greatest mental strength is his relative unflappability when on the field, even under enormous pressure."

I tend to think he's more like a very large, moderately stupid dog that just can't process everything going on around him. He just trots around with his tongue hanging out looking for someone to throw a ball with.

by young curmudgeon :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:26pm

And finds one often enough to complete 63.1% of his passes, far worse than the brilliant Tom Brady, who completes an astonishing .7% more (63.8%) and the cerebral Peyton Manning, whose completion percentage is a whopping 1.8% higher (64.9%).

by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:34pm

Um, wut? You do know that I'm an unrepentant Steelers fan right?

by MidnightAngler (not verified) :: Thu, 12/09/2010 - 12:19pm

i'm a steelers fan too, and I agree with the roethlisberger/dog analogy. The thing about roethlisberger is that he so often seems terrible in the first half only to become completely unstoppable in the 4th quarter. Does bruce arians actually put together a game plan during the week, or is roethlisberger actually this bad at executing the plays called? This was especially evident against the patriots, who don't have a good defense. A well prepared team ought to be able to score more points in the first half against that defense.

by Shattenjager :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 5:26pm

This made me laugh out loud. That's a fantastic image.

by cjtst11 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:06pm

That is the funniest thing I've read all week. I am a Steeler fan to my core but I have to admit, that about sums it up.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:22pm

Mike Williams (the Bucs version) was really sloppy yesterday. Dropped a couple passes and wasn't particularly crisp. I've said before he has a little Brandon Lloyd (the bad version) in him; he can make some really spectacular catches, but he as of yet hasn't developed enough discipline to do routine things well. Toss the ball up for him and he can use his body control and ball skills to bring it down, but he seems to drop an eminently catchable easy pass every week. Very frustrating.

Speaking of frustrating, I have no idea how Weems took that ball back. It looked like the entire team was surrounding him, and just didn't feel like tackling. Not that that was frustrating at all.

I thought Grimes' pick to seal the game was pretty dang athletic, actually. Leaping and falling backwards to get it at the top of his jump--wasn't that bad of a pass, just was a great play by the defender.

by oi! (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:34pm

Grimes is a little guy, but amazingly athletic. I suppose he'd have to be, to manage to be a starting corner in the NFL at his size.

by Gridiron Grammarian (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:34pm

The Buccaneers had over two minutes to go and a timeout. They shouldn't have been exclusively throwing the ball at that point, especially considering the success Blount had been having all day on the ground.

It was a great game, but the Bucs' trio of sloppy penalties in the fourth quarter did them in. As a young team, they just don't quite have the proper composure yet (no excuses, though, for Ronde Barber's penalty in there). So, the current narrative of the Bucs being unable to beat a winning team is upheld. But they came close to beating Atlanta both times, and one dropped pass was the difference in the loss to Baltimore. They won't be making these youthful missteps for much longer.

by oi! (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:57pm

The Buccaneers certainly seem to be on the right track. I think the biggest question is how good Freeman can be. He reminds me a lot of Donovan McNabb. He's big, he's reasonably fast, but he looks really hit-or-miss with his arm.

If he can develop more touch on his passes, and improve his accuracy, he'll be really amazing. And even if he doesn't, he's going to win a lot of games (assuming he stays healthy, of course).

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:41pm

I've heard the McNabb comparisons before (and I'm totally OK with them), but Freeman is certainly bigger and stronger, but slower. Still, he's quite mobile. I've seen enough passes with really nice touch to believe that it's a skill he'll develop as he goes along. He seems to have a combination of poise, intelligence, and work ethic that indicates he's willing to work at it. He apparently spent a fair portion of the offseason at One Buc Place working out and watching film, and that sort of thing certainly indicates he's the kind of guy who's going to put real work into becoming a better QB.

by JasonK :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:25pm

One of my favorite sequences from this weekend: Giants' LT Will Beatty (starting after injuries to Dave Diehl and Shawn Andrews) gets flagged for a pretty obvious hold after getting beaten by Brian Orakpo. (He also had another similarly obvious hold that wasn't called earlier in the game.) After the drive, Fox camera crews catch OL Coach Pat Flaherty giving Beatty a "this is how you hold a guy more subtly so you don't get flagged" demostration on the sideline. A drive or two later, Orakpo beats Beatty to the inside, and Beatty uses that exact technique to drive Orakpo sideways (while hooking his arm), and draws no flag.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:34pm

Haha - thats hysterical! Wonder if there's any video of this?

by dmb :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:43pm

That was classic. Sadly, however, the lesson apparently didn't completely sink in, since Beatty was called for holding a few drives after that sequence.

by E :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:14pm

Actually it was the very next play. Just an amazing sequence (and great work by Fox catching it all).

by dmb :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:52pm

No, it wasn't. Beatty was called for holding twice, both times in the third quarter: once with 12 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, and once at 2:38. I'm pretty sure the sequence happened after the first call, but either way, he definitely wasn't called for holding on the subsequent play. The play after the first hold was a punt, and the play after the second hold was an incomplete pass without any penalties.


ETA: First, to be clear, I was pointing out that Beatty was caught holding even after being shown how to get away with it ... so the "drives later" play that I was referring to was the play where he got caught again, not the play where he demonstrated the technique he was being shown. And second, yes FOX deserves credit for some tremendous work.

by Doug Farrar :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:45pm

Now, THAT's coaching!

by Kurt :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:50pm

Moose keeps talking about the time in the game when the Redskins were playing well. When exactly was that?

Maybe he was comparing notes with the Giants radio color guy (I think it's Carl Banks), who was absolutely ripping the Giants from the Redskins' touchdown to about the two minute warning - you have to finish the game, they're playing down to the level of their opponent, etc. It was completely bizzare.

FWIW, the local DC media doesn't appear to agree that there was a point where the Redskins played well.

by JasonK :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:19pm

Yes, it's Carl Banks who does the Giants' radio broadcasts (with Bob Papa), and he does default to being overly critical. His general attitude is that, back in the good ol' days when he was on the Giants, any kind of mental breakdown or lack of toughness on defensive was simply not tolerated, and that every team should be held to that standard.

by Bjorn Nittmo (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 5:11pm

I didn't listen to the radio broadcast, but Carl was right to rip the Giants in the 2nd half. Giants could barely move the ball, Eli threw into double coverage several times, they couldn't tackle, and gave up a TD on which no one bothered to cover the receiver going deep down the middle. If not for the insistence of the Redskins in fumbling every time they touched the ball it might have turned into a close game, and I shudder to think what will happen if they try that against the Eagles or Packers.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:53pm

Is anyone tracking roughing the passer calls per quarterback? I ask because Rodgers of GB gets blown up on average once a game and I don't recall a call for GB this season, not that I see every play.

I recall three helmet to helmet hits that weren't called. In each case I remember Mike McCarthy standing on the sideline with his arms spread clearly asking why no flag was thrown.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:41pm

I think if you put "mobile" QB's in one bucket (Vick, Rodgers, Roethlisburgher) and "non-mobile" QBs in another (Manning, Brady, Rivers) and compare the number of flags, the "non-mobile" ones will get many more. But I haven't run the numbers myself, so I'm not sure.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:49pm

The big Rodgers hits were all with him in the pocket. And this is not a 2010 specific issue. Rodgers got creamed last year and rarely was a flag thrown.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:56pm

I know, I watch as many GB games as I can, living in Minneapolis. I just think mobile QB's don't get roughing the passer flags because they are seen as more like "real" football players than a special class of players like punters who aren't "real" athletes.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:04pm

You could throw Romo in there as well. Seems like he doesn't get many flags either.

Though I'm a fan and prone to bias.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:09pm

Roethlisberger may be hard to sack, but he's hardly mobile. He's just big.

by Pass to Set Up ... :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:23pm

Well, that's basically a description of McNabb at this point in his career, and he doesn't draw any flags either.

by troycapitated p... :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:14pm

Roethlisberger may not possess Vick-like mobility, but his ability to avoid sacks is not solely based on strength. He makes people miss, too.

by Joseph :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 1:59pm

"Lynch: 'You see the difference between a team that is 2-9 and a defending Super Bowl champion.' So, the only difference between what is ostensibly your top team and ostensibly one of the worst is a successful hut-hut? If true, parity has gone waaay too far."

Listening to the Mexican commentary of the game, they said the exact same thing. I honestly took it to mean that the difference Lynch refers to was the mental errors in key situations. If you watch the video, the reason the flag is thrown is that the Saints LG (Nicks, I believe) false-starts when Sims comes into the neutral zone. Since the ball was not snapped, had Sims got back across (which he did as the LG moved), their would have been no flag, and the game prob. goes to OT. (Also note the mental error by Carson Palmer to not use his TO for 6 or 7 secs.)
I don't know if it has been said or demonstrated here, but I'd sure believe it if someone said that teams who lose close games more often that not make mental mistakes in key situations. [Eric Foster of the Colts yesterday comes to mind--his penalty lost the game for his team.]

by ReiDeBastoni (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:14pm

I think these FO guys can be a little unforgiving and very nit-picky when it comes to the commentary. TV commentators don't have the luxury of correcting grammatical errors or miscommunications by simply pressing the delete key.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:25pm

They're paid VERY well to talk about the game. If they can't do that well, they should be ripped on.

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

by BigCheese :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:14pm

Absolutely! And, retaking frome the first poster, few are as bad as mexican comentators.

Is it too much to ask that men who are paid to comentate don't have one or two calls a game like the following one from the SNF game: "Mike Pereira is the vicepresident of officiating for the NFL and he'll have a stern talking with the crew this week."

Me looking up: "Mike Pereira isn't the VP of officiating anymore you nimwit. He's an analyst for FOX now."

Three minutes pass. Same comentator: "Mike Pereira isn't the VP of officiating anymore. He works somewhere else now."

Me: "I REALLY hope they get the US feed fixed soon. I miss Al Micheals..." (They didn't)

- Alvaro

by witless chum :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:45pm

I'll say something good about the announcers.

We had Sam Rosen and Tim Ryan for the Lions-Bears and Rosen is outstanding at telling you when the teams substitute. Maybe I'm alone in wanting to know before the play whether Lawrence Jackson or Turk McBride is at DE for the Lions, but I like it.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:42pm

Agreed. I watched the Eagles game on DVR after I got home. The play where Justice sprains his knee, he hops off the field on his one good leg. The only comment: two plays later, Joey T mentions that King Dunlop "is in for Justice". Cryin' out loud! The starting right tackle is obviously injured and not even a word about how it happened or how bad it is?

by Jon Silverberg (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:37pm

Anyone have a good grasp of the "leverage/launching" rule here? In their attempts to cite it, the announcers and/or Pereira used the phrase "with the foot or leg..." and yet, to my eyes, there was never any contact between Foster's foot/leg and the blocker's back, neck, helmet, etc. on Foster's way up...there was always a thin but complete strip of air between the two...to my eyes, his leap was completely propelled by (stage 1) his legs leaping off the ground and (stage two) his hand on the blocker's back...does the rule really require foot/leg participation? If so, the officials called it wrongly, say these eyes...

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 1:53pm

Since the ball was not snapped, had Sims got back across (which he did as the LG moved), their would have been no flag, and the game prob. goes to OT.

That hasn't been the rule for several seasons now. If the defender jumps and causes a false start reaction in the lineman across from him, it's a defensive penalty regardless if the ball is snapped or not.

by dbt :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 4:12pm

Yes, that's what he said. Because the LG flinched, the penalty was called on the defense, otherwise he would have gotten back in time.

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 4:14pm

Seems like these should be off-setting, and the offense should get another shot at the down instead of 5 yards.

by AudacityOfHoops :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 4:22pm

The theory is that the lineman jumps BECAUSE of the offsides. You see someone hop across the line, and either react to brace for contact, or assume the play has started.

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 4:27pm

Yeah, but still both players committed a foul. In most situations that's off-setting. It's also weird that the offense is rewarded for committing a foul. If the guard doesn't false start then the defender can get back and there is no penalty.

by AudacityOfHoops :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 4:43pm

"Yeah, but still both players committed a foul. In most situations that's off-setting."

In most situations, the first foul doesn't cause the second foul.

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 4:58pm

I read it as the fact that the ball was snapped was the determining factor of the flag being thrown. It wasn't. The guard moved. Even if the ball wasn't snapped, it would still be a penalty.

Maybe the poster meant to say (rephrase) If the guard hadn't moved, and the ball wasn't snapped...., which is how you're apparently reading it. But that qualifier isn't made anywhere in the post.

by BJR :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:27pm

The Raiders came to play yesterday. They just manhandled the Chargers from start to finish. Credit also to offensive coordinator Hue Jackson who called a good game, the best of which being the Campbell bootleg on 4th and goal which was mentioned above. They also use Jacoby Ford and fullback Marcel Reese in some nice creative ways. And check out the long completion from Campbell to Louis Murphy late on in the 4th quarter for one of the sweetest play action passes I've seen in a long time which totally fooled everyone including the cameraman and the whole of the Chargers defensive line who were celebrating tackling the RB whilst the ball was in the air.

The Chargers just have too many injuries on offence at the moment and in caught up with them last night. Gates and Floyd are clearly playing hurt, Sproles was knocked out and the other guys they had playing receiver just aren't very good. Rivers made some plays as you would expect, but he was hurried and hit all day and there was no real rythym to the passing game at all.

by dbt :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 5:53pm


Campbell had three of the greatest play fakes I have ever seen, including one in which he threw a 30+ yard pass downfield where neither the sideline camera nor the producer in the truck had any clue what had happened and the touchdown run where the man with outside contain to the offensive left was literally staring at a guy laying on the ground without the ball and had no idea where it could be. Unbelievable.

Unlike the first game, where the Raiders jumped out to a huge early lead on terrible special teams blocking and kind of ran out the clock (though if you go back and look at that game the offense played pretty well there too), this was an absolute team win. The defense made Rivers look abysmal for most of that game and the Chargers could not run the ball even a little bit. Sproles fumbled that first punt attempt in part because of a fantastic punt and good downfield coverage had him looking downfield before he secured the ball.

Looking forward to seeing what happens in the AFCW the rest of the way. The Chargers are firmly in 3rd place (Raiders have locked up the head to head tiebreaker) and if the Raiders can show to play for non-division games and pick up one game on KC over the next three weeks they can win a playoff berth by sweeping KC on the last weekend of the year.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:45pm

Today might be a good day to buy stock in the Sierra Nevada Brewing company. Heard they're increasing the 4th quarter projected revenues.

by langsty :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:04pm

Re: the Falcons pass defense, it's more that their scheme requires a transcendent pass rush (a la the Colts) to really work. They have some solid defensive backs and some solid d-linemen, but nobody dominant. They run a lot of unchallenging Tampa 2-style zone concepts that require the front four to be consistently disruptive, and there's been a lot of games where that simply hasn't happened.

by Joe T. :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:14pm

Re: Saints' 4th & 2 - it was especially brazen b/c they absolutely had to snap the ball if they didn't get the defense to jump - they burned a timeout just before. But maybe that's why it worked.

by jfsh :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:17pm

I think someone (Payton?) said after the game that they were just going to take a delay of game penalty if nobody jumped. They were inside the 10 yard line so I don't think it would have hurt them too badly.

by DGL :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:17pm

They could have let the play clock expire. A 29 yard FG isn't all that much harder than a 24 yard FG.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:28pm

As a Steeler fan, I can never in good conscience cheer for the Bungles, in fact I find their return to the cellar quite comical. However, I also in no circumstances like to see terrible calls (one way or another) impact the outcome. Sure, good teams frequently overcome bad calls, etc. Bad calls happen in games to both teams. The offside offender (whoever it was) moved, and the OL really seemed to delay his reaction (~.5 seconds or so). He moved basically when the defender was starting to go BACK. Like a lightbulb went off "Oh yeh, get the easy flag". I don't think if the defender is going BACK that can really be called "inducing" the False Start. Sure if it happens instantly, or even just as the guy is still going FORWARD. Did the Bungles deserve to lose anyways? Probably. Especially with that laughable clock management. But is this the epitome of exploiting a bad rule? Seems like it to me.

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

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:50pm

Actions are much faster than reactions. It takes (IIRC) a quarter second before you even begin to react to visual stimulii.

by Nathan :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:17pm


muscle memory seems to let you get it down quite a bit further, to about a tenth of a second

by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:34pm

Agree with above, although there's a distribution to reaction time even in controlled tests and it can go even longer. Also, I wouldn't expect the refs to make anywhere near that fine a measurement when applying the rule, as you simply can't know.

by Jon Silverberg (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:46pm


by mrh :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:17pm

My thoughts on the KC-DEN game from a Chiefs' fan's perspective:
- Moreno has looked very good running in both games against the Chiefs, not sure why he hasn't been so successful against other teams, but the DEN line has opened some serious holes in the middle of the KC defense
- Orton was not accurate at all yesterday and I wouldn't say the Chiefs did a great job of pressuring him into that inaccuracy, made me wonder if he was hurt or having trouble with the cold
- Did the two Brandons trade jerseys? Carr looked great, more like Flowers' usually does, and Glowers looked ok-to-good, more like Carr's typical day. Flowers didn't appear to be fully healthy.
- The Chiefs successfully threw to TJones a few times (4 catches for 54 yards); I think that caught the Broncos off guard - he only had 8 catches for 54 yards all year before the game.
- I love McCluster's speed but I think the Chiefs' try too hard to get him touches and trying to run him up the middle is not a great idea even when he doesn't fumble.
- I think the worst penalty for a player is illegal formation when he (Moeaki split wide in this case) fails to line up on the line of scrimmage. Pure mental error. When a player makes a physical mistake or even a mental one when play is live or crowd noise is overwhelming, I may not like it but I can understand it. But split out before the snap when you can see who is on the end of the line and whether you need to be up on the line of back off it is just stupid (yeah, jumping off-side on 4th-and-2 is pretty bad too).
- Haley makes some bizarre decisions (in case you hadn't noticed). Punting on 4th-and-5 from the DEN 33 up 7-0 in 2nd qtr against a team that recently put up 49 points on you? That's the time to be aggressive, not on 4th-and-goal when it's 10-3 midway thru the 3rd when the game has clearly become a defensive struggle and a FG makes it a two score game. At least, that's how I see it.

by Boots Day (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:11pm

Going for the TD on fourth-and-goal from the 3, with the Chiefs up by seven, was an awfully strange decision. But McDaniels made up for it by punting the ball away on fourth and 4, down by four points, with two and a half minutes left in the game.

Rich Gannon in the booth kept saying it was the right call, that you "absolutely" have to punt the ball away in that situation, but I think it's in the announcers' contracts that they can never criticize a coach for punting on fourth down.

by mrh :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:07pm

Agree the Broncos should have gone for it.

But Gannon was also under the mistaken impression that the Broncos had 3 timeouts left instead of the 2 they actually had, which makes a difference in the decision, although probably not enough.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:19pm

The 49ers have now managed to make me even more depressed, I used to be able to say that while they were out of hte playoffs by week seven every year at least they played hard and tackled well. Three of Green Bay's scores yesterday were gifted by atrocious tackling, there's nothing to like about the niners anymore.

One thing FO really got right was when they said that Goldson was unlikely to repeat his production from the year before but did they know he was going to become so awful, he's a big play waiting to happen. He should have taken the contract they offered him in the offseason, he'll be lucky to get more than the veteran minimum now.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:43pm

Man, if Troy Smith had any semblance of accuracy the 49ers would have made it a game. Twice guys got behind the Packer secondary and Smith missed them.

Meanwhile, Rodgers laid it right to Jennings not once but twice. That and the Packers holding San Fran to field goals early were the difference.

Cassell/Bowe vs. Rodgers/Jennings. Who is the hotter combo?

Still baffles me that Mike McCarthy came into the season with his offense centered around a young TE who had never played a full season. Not that anyone expected Finley to get hurt but Jennings has been a downfield/big play threat since his rookie season. How could you forget about a guy like that?

The Mikester. He is a puzzle.

by BigCheese :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:21pm

Cassell/Bowe vs. Rodgers/Jennings. Who is the hotter combo?

The one that actually connected yesterday?

- Alvaro

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:39pm

...there's nothing to like about the niners anymore.

Aren't you forgetting Mike Singletary's boxers?

The 49ers have a lot of talent. They'll get a high-profile (if not good) coach this off-season.

I'm hoping they keep Troy on the field. If they send Alex in they might win a few more games.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:45pm

I've been thinking the same thing about the Smiths. I want Jim Harbaugh and either Cam Newton or Andrew Luck. I'd also like the Yorks to take a long walk off a short pier but we can't have everything. My worry is that they go for Gruden, I think he's OK but he hasn't demonstrated that he can develop a young quarterback and we don't have a veteran worth playing.

by ammek :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 6:04am

Perhaps the Niners can go for the trifecta and pick up Rusty.

Is that true about Gruden, or just a media trope? The only young-ish QBs on his roster in Tampa Bay were Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowski and Luke McCown. Simms was never healthy; Gradkowski was a Skeltonite rookie; McCown was … well, Gruden's not an alchemist. Meanwhile, Gruden's teams enjoyed positive DVOA seasons from Simms, Brian Griese, Brad Johnson, Tim Rattay, Jeff Garcia and of course Rich Gannon. His biggest problem seems to have been stability at QB, rather than player development; perhaps that would have been different if Tampa had drafted a passer in the top rounds?

by greybeard :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 12:25am

Alex Smith is much better QB (at this point) than Troy Smith but no way he will be with 49ers next season even if they win the all of the four with him. He needs to go somewhere where he can re-start his career and 49ers fans need to move on to discussing something else. If they play him though and win a few games it would be a lot harder to get Luck.

I watched Luck (live) twice against Cal last year where Gerhart was the focus and he did not play extremely well but seemed to have lots of talent and against Arizona this year and he looked like the college version of Peyton Manning (not the version from yesterday). 49ers should hire a decent coach and should get Luck at all costs.

by BJR :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:23pm

Quite amusing that Dwayne Bowe's record setting 7 game streak highlighted in Quick Reads last week came to an end with a zero catch day yesterday.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:42pm

Yeah, I was a bit disappointed that Bowe vs. the #32 DVOA pass D (worse than Houston!) didn't net me a few more FF points. But that's OK, it's not like it was a late-season divisional matchup that might cost me the playoffs or anything.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:11pm

If we're going to digress into FF whining, what about Todd Heap pulling up lame on the very first play of the game!!!! Grr.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:08pm

Hey, I made like four referee whining posts and three audibles-doesn't-love-my-team-enough posts before I digressed into FF whining.

by ChaosOnion :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:23pm

Someone asked why Jake Delhomme was starting in place of Seneca Wallace. The answer was injury issues. So I ask, why is Jake Delhomme starting in place of Colt McCoy? He has not looked as good as Bradford in his starts, but Bradford has been the starter from day one. His situation is much closer to Claussen's, and he make Claussen look like Rusty Smith. I am not saying he is good, just that he is better than Delhomme.

by Basilicus :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:41pm

Also injury issues.

by Mike Elseroad (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:27pm

I'd like to post a comment on Peyton Manning and see if any of the FO contributors or any FO readers have any thoughts on this. I got this information form the FO Almanacs & Pro Football Reference.com

Manning in 2006 (The last year that Manning had a healthy Marvin Harrison):
QB Rating: 101.0 (Led the League)
Net Yards per Attempt: 7.5
QB Rating+: 126
Net Yards per Attempt+: 127
DVOA: 51.0% (Led The League)
DYAR: 2308 (Led the League)

Manning in 2007 (Harrison got injured at mid-season)
QB Rating: 98.0
Net Yards per Attempt: 7.3
QB Rating+: 122
Net Yards per Attempt+: 122
DVOA: 40.6%
DYAR: 1841

Manning in 2008 (No Harrison whatsoever)
QB Rating: 95.0
Net Yards per Attempt: 6.9
QB Rating+: 114
Net Tards per Attempt+: 113
DVOA: 36.1% (Led the league)
DYAR: 1783

Manning in 2009
QB Rating: 99.9
Net Yards per Attempt: 7.6
QB Rating+: 120
Net Tards per Attempt+: 125
DVOA: 38.2%
DYAR: 1936

Manning in 2010
QB Rating: 89.4
Net Yards per Attempt: 6.7
QB Rating+: 106
Net Tards per Attempt+: 108
DVOA: Don't Know
DYAR: Don't Know

If you look back at Manning from 2003-2005 as well as 2006, when he had Marvin Harrison & Reggie Wayne along with an ascendant Dallas Clark, Manning had one of, if not the best, 4 year stretches of qb dominace of all time. When Marvin got injured and subsquently released, Manning's numbers subsequently declined a bit. He was great last season, but I think Bill Polian may have whiffed in the drafts after 2006 by 1) Using a 1st round pick on Anthony Gonzalez, who can't stay healthy, 2) Trading a future 1st round pick to select OT Tony Ugoh to replace the retired Tarik Glenn after their championship season, they eventually released him 3) Not shoring up the OL's interior and 4) Gambling that Manning could dominate with low end guys like Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon.

As great as Manning is, he can't dominate with bargain basemant teammates who can't stay healthy. Losing Clark was probably the death knell for Manning this season.

What do you'all think?

by Temo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:40pm

I think Brady also looked better with Randy Moss and Wes Welker than he did with Deion Branch and Troy Brown/David Given/David Patten/Daniel Graham.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:20pm

Marvin Harrison has been replaced. I think it would not be useful to focus on one receiver. Certainly the stable of receivers that the Colts had at the beginning of the season was more than adequate.

I trace the collapse to the near-simultaneous injuries to Dallas Clark and Austin Collie. Gonzalez was already gone by that point, so the Colts were essentially left with Reggie Wayne and a bunch of inadequate replacements (IMO, Collie is a _lot_ better than Garcon).

The injury to Addai has also hurt. Donald Brown has shown no ability at all to gain yardage consistently. Right now any defense can basically ignore any rushing threat and go into a permanent pass defense.

Others can comment more intelligently about the problems with the O-line. But while Manning may have been facing too much pressure against the Chargers, I didn't think that was the problem yesterday. Manning made a lot of poor reads and threw bad passes. He seems to be a bit rattled by the team's woes. His poor play exacerbated an already-bad situation.

The good news is that the Titans are playing even worse, and that they will get to host the Jaguars in Indy. They could go 10-6 and win the division. But they'll need to play a lot better.

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:38pm

"The injury to Addai has also hurt. Donald Brown has shown no ability at all to gain yardage consistently."

And Addai had?

by Mike Elseroad (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:56pm

Looking at this, maybe what we're seeing from Manning & the Colts offense is a gradual decline from other worldy greatness. I've gotten a lot of very insightful information about the recent Colts from the Football Outsider almanacs. Probably the most important that I've learned is that GM Bill Polian puts almost all of his eggs in the basket of the offense. When they had Edgerren James, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and a solid O line, they along with Manning formed the core of arguably the greatest offense of all time. Starting with the decision to let Edge walk after 2005, Marvin's knee injury and subsequent release and Tony Ugoh's total failure, the offense has subtly slipped from all time greatness to mearly very good. Joesph Addai has been more good than great and is not as good as Edge was from 1999-2005 and now that Addai's hurt, Donald Brown, Mike Hart and Edge's cousin are a far cry from Addai, let alone Edge.

Garcon & Colie have been quite good, but now they're either injured and not nearly as effective as Marvin.

In the Buffalo chapter of the 2010 FO Almanac, the author roasted the Bills for using 4 high draft picks on rbs (Travis Henry, Willis MacGahee, Marshawn Lynch and CJ Spiller) in a less than 10 year span. By using high picks on rbs (Addai and Brown), aren't the Colts doing the same thing?

Using all of their draft picks with so little return means that you're not addressing the rest of your squad. Using high picks on players who don't produce enough to replace the departed players is gonna drag down the team no matter how good the qb is.

by BJR :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 12:17am

In defence of the Colts front office, they have now spent a long time selecting players at the very end of every draft round. That obviously makes it tougher to draft the players you really need. The system is designed to level the playing field, and in the case of the Colts perhaps it is working.

by Brian G. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:43pm

I think the issue with Manning is that the Colts don't have a bad running game - they literally have NO running game. A run at this point is equivalent to taking a knee. You lose two yards either way. Opposing teams know this and are dropping everyone into coverage. Because of this, Peyton is routinely having to throw into the teeth of the coverage and take some chances. If he threw the ball away every time no one was open, he'd throw the ball away almost every down. Getting Addai back will help, but really, until the o-line gets overhauled, I expect plenty more picks for Manning.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:55pm

I think you're right that Manning is working with very little right now. But that doesn't mean you keep trying to force the issue. I think he's done more to hurt the team than help it.

Scale down, cut your losses, and play not to lose. I know "as a man in a man's league" you're not supposed to give in;never surrender, all that. But he should. Manage the game and give yourself a chance to win. The opposite of throwing back-breaking interceptions and giving up more points on offense than your defense does. An 11-for-25, 175 yard game can be a victory if you take care of the ball.

by BJR :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:02pm

Yeah but the Colts defence is decimated by injuries to the point that it totally sucks as well. Manning knows a 3 and out is probably going to cost at least 3 points and 10 minutes on the sidelines getting cold.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:10pm

I think he's got to give them a chance. I think he's so used to winning games by himself (or trying to) that he doesn't know how to scale back and try to manage a game. I think sometimes in playoff games, in games in bad elements, against good defenses, he's struggled to contain himself and has suffered for it.

These are all thing I think, and not necessarily things that are true. It could just be that he's slumping and we're all over-reacting. Actually it's more probable that we're over-reacting than anything else.

by Brian G. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:14pm

I think he would be happy to give them a chance but you're talking about a defense that gave up a 16 play, 10 minute drive in the 4th qtr to Jon-Fucking-Kitna. That's not a lot to hang your hat on.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:29pm

They gave it up more to Kyle Kosier and Andre Gurode than Jon Kitna, but point taken.

Still, you can't argue that Manning did more to hurt the team yesterday than the defense did.

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 3:01am

I'm going to offer an alternate theory. I'll call it the "Jay Cutler effect." It's what happens to a QB when playing behind an offensive line who's performance is below a minimum level necessary to run a competent offense. This effect is not just about immediate pressure, but a cumulative effect which infects the QB's ability to play at a level commensurate with his talent level. The running game stops working, which means it's up to the QB alone to move the ball, and that becomes more and more difficult as the defense can key off against the pass. Simple blitz pickups become harder and harder to execute, to the point where defenses can do pretty much whatever they want blitz-wise, and it's up to the QB to just hopefully get the ball out of his hands before the defenders get to him. Then defenses can actually stop blitzing. They can just rush 4, knowing the line won't block them for long, and drop back 7, forcing the QB to make quick decisions into tight windows. The QB is forced to pray his pre snap reads were right, and just chuck the ball up as soon as he reaches the end of his drop back. Especially a QB like Manning who has no scrambling ability to speak of.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:44pm

I usually gripe about announcers, but Chris Collinsworth did a good job announcing last night. He talked about blocking schemes in a game where they really mattered, discussed secondary play, etc. Hope to hear more of this in the future.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:22pm

Ohmigod, I couldn't stand Collinsworth last night. Every good play was suddenly the best play he'd ever seen. And he nearly worships Roethlisberger, and that's hard to fathom.

by 0tarin :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:53pm

I agree with both comments in this chain; Collinsworth was excellent regarding his blocking callouts that I noticed, but he also spent a *lot* of time waxing poetic about Roethlisberger's magnificence, grittiness, etc. I think he needed a towel after that play in which the Berger escaped Suggs and shoved the ball out of bounds.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:36pm

Fair enough. Collinsworth also has a strange fascination with Ben's hands, too.

by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:45pm

Mad props to Peanut Tillman, who limited Calvin Johnson to 2 catches for 20 yards (the 46yd TD came in the slot against DJ Moore). I'm often critical of Tillman's coverage, but he had it working yesterday.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:02pm

Tillman has always been fantastic against big WRs who are used to winning the physical battle to gain leverage. They normally get a couple of short throws to work and then he just takes them out of the game. He is pretty big for a corner and has long arms and possibly the most powerful hand punch I have seen on a defensive back when trying to seperate the ball from the receiver's hands. He struggles when asked to play man against a player with genuine speed as they can sometimes get proper seperation from him. I still think a lot of people equate his career performance to the playoff game against Carolina where Steve Smith abused him (and the rest of the Bears secondary) which is clearly unfair as he was playing through three injuries that day. If he was a step faster or caught the ball better he would be regarded as amongst the league's elite. In a way he is a bit of a bargain for the Bears as he makes up for the lack of picks with forced fumbles.

by Basilicus :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:48pm

I just looked at a traditional stats page, which I haven't done in a while, and was shocked to see Matt Cassel has thrown 23 TDs to 4 Ints. I rubbed my eyes. I refreshed the page. I checked other sites. Lo and behold, it is the truth. Someone please explain how this is now. The world, she crashes around me.

by BJR :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:54pm

One word: schedule.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:01pm

Cassel's DVOA is +22.7% (compared to 31.9% VOA), so The Machine thinks it's more than just schedule. This topic has been discussed in other forums, and I believe the consensus is that part of it is real improvement on Cassel's part (not so surprising for a QB going from year 2 to year 3 of starting) and a probably larger part is a huge improvement in the team around him.

by mrh :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:28pm

Schedule is clearly important.

Coaching and stability are big factors; Haley was overwhelmed as HC and OC last year and a lot of the off-season work installing Gailey's offense was lost when he was fired. Having Weis and a full off-season for Cassel to learn the offense has made a difference IMO.

The o-line is greatly improved with Lilja and Weigmann starting; rookie Asomoah has provided adequate depth at guard and Richardson has improved at tackle. (I think the coaching staff was actually happy with Richardson's blow-up yesterday as I believe the perception in the past was that he didn't care enough about football).

The terrific running game has also made a huge difference as teams mostly have to put 8-in-the-box. Keeping on schedule down-and-distance has made a huge difference. He has a 128.8 passer rating on 2nd down with between 3 and 7 yards to go (42 attempts).Looking at several QBs, not surprisingly most of them do well passing on on 2nd and 3-to-7 yards to go:
Manning 120.9 (78 attempts)
Rivers 118.3 (41)
Brady 107.8 (50)
Freeman 106.1 (37)
Cutler 96.9 (29)
Sanchez 48.7 (50) - ouch

Don't have access to Premium stats if someone wants to provide something better than passer rating for this comparison.

by Jeff Fogle :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:39pm

Cassel versus pass defenses rated 25th or worse in DVOA

5 TD's, 0 INT vs. Denver (32)
3 TD's, 0 INT vs. Houston (31)
2 TD's, 0 INT vs. Jacksonville (30)
4 TD's 0 INT vs. Seattle (28)
1 TD, 0 INT vs. Buffalo (27)
2 TD, 0 INT vs. Arizona (25)

That's 17/0 vs. poor pass defenses (7 games, as they played Denver twice)

Cassel versus top 12 pass defenses
1 TD, 0 INT vs. San Diego (3)
0 TD, 0 INT vs. Indianapolis (8)
0 TD, 2 INT vs. Cleveland (12)

That's 1/2 vs. teams in the top dozen (3 games)

Cassel versus middle of the pack defenses
3 TD, 1 INT vs. San Francisco (17)
2 TD, 1 INT vs. Oakland (20)

That's 5/2 vs. teams in the middle of the pack, and 6/4 vs. anyone ranked worst than 25th.

Looks like the schedule is a pretty big deal here, creating 17/0 out of the 23/4. Kansas City does a great job of abusing bad defenses (weather permitting) in a way that creates illusions about how great the offense is in the big picture.

If we break it into thirds top 10, middle 10, bottom 10:
1-0 vs. top ten
5-4 vs. middle 10
17-0 vs. bottom 10

Assume a "balanced" full season schedule that has 5 vs. top 10, 6 vs. middle 10, and 5 vs. bottom 10...off the top of my head that's about 25-8 or something for a full season thanks to the monster production vs. the worst teams. He was 21-11 in 2008 with New England, 16-16 last year (12-6 in his first 9 games, followed by 4-10 in his last six) with the Chiefs.

Safely productive...but there's an illusion of home run volume created by the soft 2010 schedule I think.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:52pm

You also have to factor in that his 22% DVOA is still only good for 12th in the league. It's been an absolutely crazy year for QBs, as you have to go all the way down to 26 to find a QB with a negative DVOA (Sam Bradford).

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 2:35am

I think one thing DVOA doesn't factor in is a cumulative effect of playing a lot of hard or soft defenses. For instance I think Eli Manning's (and really every QB in the NFC East) stats have been depressed for years due to the slate of really tough defenses they have to play.

Just a little theory I had.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:12pm

Not that anyone but a Viking or Bill fan would care but this is what I took from the Vikings Bills game:

1) The Viking defence has played very well in the two games with Frazier as the head coach. Wash and Buff I know, but they have been pretty dominant.
2) Wow - did the Vikings ever miss Sidney Rice this year.
3) Adrian Peterson is amazing. He is having his best year yet.
4) Favre-Jackson - what I think we learned from that is Jackson is Jackson - he makes some decent plays but makes god awful ones as well. But the biggest thing I saw was how much easier it was for the offensive line to block for him. With Favre this year it seemed if there was any kind of rush, something really bad was going to happen for the Vikings. Yesterday that didn't seem the case.
5) Jared Allen is still good. 7.5 sacks in his last five games.
5) Everson Griffin looks like he's going to be a good pass rusher to me. I think Edwards won't be back because between Robison and Griffin they can afford to let him walk.
6) Fred Jackson is a darn good running back. Certainly looked better than Spiller to me.
7) I don't think a Jackson Favre switch would have made much of difference this year. But good QB play would have. Favre is over the hill and Jackson just isn't a top 10-15 QB that you need to be a decent offence.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:47pm

Yeah, the difference between Favre and Jackson may be negligible at this point, but I'd point out that if Favre had gained the benefit of a Rice ready to go by the beginning of the season, things may look different. The offensive line has declined hugely from two years ago, and Jackson's greater mobility is no doubt valuable behind this group. All told, if they still have illusions that Jackson has a future as a starter, they are hugely mistaken.

I much as I agree that Peterson is a monster with the ball in his hands, I resent the fact that he contributed so much to their passing game problems earlier in the year, when they lost a number of close games that rendered the rest of season somewhat trivial, by failing to become even a mediocre pass blocker. I think he needs a new positions coach, which he'll have next year, to challenge him to become like other great running backs such as Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, or Tomlinson, who were/are good pass blockers.

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:41pm

Rice is fantastic. That said, Favre was terrible this year, and while Rice would have made him a little better, it probably still wouldn't have turned Favre into an above replacement level QB, let alone a good one.

by Marcumzilla :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:38pm

When did defending become defensing? Most everyone switched at once and I didn't get the memo.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:40pm

Check your spam folder.

by Dean :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:36pm

220 comments and not a single comment about the Rams / Cards game?

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:44pm


by AudacityOfHoops :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:55pm

Seeing as this is a football website, I think a game between two NFC West teams might be a little off topic.

by Jon Silverberg (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 1:53am