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The question is not whether Saquon Barkley is the best running back in this draft class. The question is whether any running back, even one as good as Barkley, warrants a top-five draft selection in the NFL in 2018.

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 TomC :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 5:40pm

I'm fairly certain you didn't intend it this way, but it sounds like you came to this page all set to complain about how the FO guys ignored your game in Audibles, realized that in fact they discussed it at surprising length, and had to console yourself by complaining that the posters in the comment thread ignored it.

by BJR :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:15pm

I've had a good look at the situation in the NFC South just now. Atlanta are a game ahead of the Saints, and have 3 remaining games against Carolina (twice) and Seattle. Even if the Saints beat the Falcons and win out, Atlanta will win the division if they win then other three games, because they will split the head-to-head, have identical division and conference records, but Atlanta will have won one more common game. The Saints lost to Cleveland and Arizona (!), both of whom Atlanta defeated. Atlanta lost to Pittsburgh and, crucially, Philadelphia who are not on the Saints schedule.

So Atlanta are a virtual lock. I doubt that stops the hype when the game against the Saints comes round though.

by Intropy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 3:53am

Since there have been some question about whether there is officiating bias against the Steelers, I noted when I saw a bad call/no-call against them. I only noted down the certain ones and these notes are just from watching the game live with no replay or anything. Remember, folks, without knowing the frequency and severity of bad calls in other games these don't prove anything. They're just a data point.

1. 61 yard pass from Flacco to Boldin. Polamalu comes on a blitz. A Raven, Ray Rice I think, "picks up"the blitz by grasping Polamalu's facemask and pulling his head sideways. The refs fail to make the call.

2. 2 plays after #1, the Ravens right tackle false starts by about a half a second (which is kind of a large false start as they go).

3. During the Steelers' final drive of the first half, a defensive back defends a long pass to Emmanuel Sanders. He does so by bumping into Sanders before the ball arrives. He does turn his head to the ball prior to doing so, but that isn't supposed to permit you to make up for bad positioning by interfering.

4. Flacco, between the tackles and being hit by two defenders throws the ball away into a field of green with nary a player in sight. Pretty textbook intensional grounding. No call.

5. Flacco escapes pressure and scrambles for a first down. He escaped pressure because his nearest pursuer, LaMarr Woodley is being held. The refs miss the hold and instead call Ike Taylor for illegal contact.

6. McClain makes a pretty flagrant helmet-to-helmet blow on defenseless receiver Heath Miller who is shaken up on the play.

7. The Steelers are penalized for illegal formation for having six men on the line of scrimmage. Replay and the ability to count allow one to note that there were seven, seven players on the line of scrimmage, ah ah ah ah.

8. On the Ravens' final drive, McFadden is called for pass interference on what really was a clear case of pass interference. Except that Flacco was throwing the ball away, and unless the receiver is actually Mister Fantastic from the Fantastic Four, that's an uncatchable ball.

9. One minute to go in the game. Harrison is held (more than normal).

FWIW, I think the no-call on Ngata breaking Roethlisberger's nose was correct. It was just one of those random things that happen during a game.

by drobviousso :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:42am

For reference, I only am complaining about the helmet-to-Heath and Ngata-to-nose non-calls, and only because of the "enhance scrutiny" or whatever that the league is supposed to be showing (and has in recent weeks against the Steelers).

by Intropy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 12:54pm

I wasn't singling out you or anyone else in particular. I'd heard the idea of bias on comments here, other blogs, interviews, and even national television media, so I decided to collect some data that's all. And I wouldn't necessarily characterize your or anyone else's commentary as "complaining" either. "Discussion" fits better.

I concur with your sentiment that there are large inconsistencies in the way helmet-to-helmet fouls are called. My opinion differs form yours in that I think the Ngata no-call was proper, but I also think that Harrison's hits of Young, Massaquoi, and Fitzpatrick were legal (his hit on Cribbs was frankly worse than any of these and closer to the line, and the hit on Brees was definitely late).

by BigCheese :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 3:56pm

But how is that data usefull in ANY way whatsoever? at the VERY least we'd need the missed calls on the Steelers as well (unless you're saying there were none), to at least get a sense of how they both stack up. For all I know there were twice the number of missed calls favoring the Steelers as favoring the Ravens, but there's absolutely no way to tell from this.

- Alvaro

by 0tarin :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 12:00pm

As thorough as this list is, it's of limited utility unless you provide a similar list of the penalties that the Steelers committed that also went uncalled. Every list will look biased when you only present half of it.

And that's not to say that I think the Steelers had more non-calls (or that I think all of the ones you listed above should've been called in the first place). I thought officiating could've been improved for both sides.

by Intropy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 12:44pm

I agree with you completely, which is what I had hoped to convey in the opening paragraph. It's a point of data not an argument. Without context it's not even evidence.

Every once in a while I'm in the mood to take notes on a game. And since people had been discussing the topic of potential officiating bias I figured it would be a reasonable thing to take notes on. I don't think I'll take notes on the same topic again for a while. It wasn't as fun as other focuses have been.

by 0tarin :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 3:17pm

Fair enough. But I'm still curious why, when taking notes regarding a potential officiating bias, would you deliberately make the information less useful than it could have been? It seems like instead of providing a set of data at which irrational fans can point and scream "see? We're right!", you could've easily collected the same data for the opposition and presented a set that, while still not all that useful due to its limited sample size, could provide something like information.

Just curious; if you only wanted to focus on the one team for your own reasons (doing both would require too much concentration and limit enjoyment of the game, for example), I certainly understand.

by gratif1 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 4:36am

"This may be the most power Jenkins has had since the War of Jenkins' Ear."

Cullen Jenkins registered two sacks in Green Bay.

by It's not just the Colts (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 8:38am

Could we get an Adjusted Games Lost update? I keep hearing about the injured Colts, but at least 3 other teams have as many on IR as the Colts (notably, the Jaguars). Perhaps they should be critisizing their Front Office for not addressing the need for adequate depth?

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 9:29am

That's the heart of the matter. What the Colts are suffering from right now is nothing more or less than a roster that is top-heavy in it's construction. I'm too lazy to look it up, but I'd estimate that their 8 highest paid players make up over 70% of their payroll. Not that such a strategy is inherently bad, but if injuries start happening, said team is dead in the water.

by Hud (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 6:08pm

Tanier - not sure if this was mentioned, but the hit by McClain to Sproles was not illegal. You have to remember, helmet to helmet shots are not inherently illegal. they are when it's against a defenseless player. sproles was running with the ball. also, McClain didn't launch himself at Sproles, but actually led with the shoulder.