Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Defense and Rest Time

Do defenses really wear out over the course of a game? Do defenses benefit from long drives that give them more time to rest on the sideline? Guest columnist Ben Baldwin investigates.

27 Dec 2010

Audibles at the Line: Week 16

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 23

Carolina Panthers 3 at Pittsburgh Steelers 27

Bill Barnwell: The Panthers choose to punt on fourth-and-5 from the Steelers 33-yard line or so. What do you really have to lose here? You're a godawful football team. I'm not saying the conversion rate is high, but chances are that you're not going to get very much from the punt. And sure enough, the Panthers can't keep the ball out of the end zone and gain 13 yards from the punt.

Jonathan Scott gets pulled early on. A Mendenhall run gets blown up in the backfield by Derek Landri thanks to Scott totally whiffing on a cut block, his second blown block in about five plays (Mendenhall made Landri miss the first time). The Steelers immediately pull him from the game and he throws his helmet around on the sideline.

Steelers throw a tight end screen to Heath Miller and Theismann goes into his clearly preconceived bit about how Miller "basically plays the tight end position and isn't like a Todd Heap in Baltimore where you want to split him out." Literally as Theismann says this, Heath Miller gets split out wide.

Doug Farrar: Wait until Miller and Spaeth set up in a bunch with Hines Ward. That’ll really blow his tiny little mind.

Dear Carolina Panthers:

If you want to run the Wildcat, it would behoove you to take of two things first. Assemble an offense in which option attack can actually be taken seriously, and wait until you’re not facing the best run defense in the NFL.


A Bemused Audience

Mike Tanier: Doug, you could have stopped at "assemble an offense."

Bill Barnwell: So on the Panthers second drive, they're faced with the exact same situation: Fourth-and-5 from the Steelers 33. This time, for some reason, they decide to go for it (and get sacked when Jimmy Clausen, that pro-ready quarterback, responds to a blitz with sheer panic). So you should punt on fourth-and-5 from the 33 unless you looked stupid the previous time, in which case you should go for it.

Saturday, December 25

Dallas Cowboys 26 at Arizona Cardinals 27

Bill Barnwell: The Cardinals get two early touchdowns off of Cowboys drops. The first eight minutes or so were a perfect representation of what Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie does. He jumps a lot of routes and gets a lot of passes defensed, and when he can get both hands on the ball, he's good at actually holding onto it and is a great return guy. On the other hand, it seems like it's easier to complete passes on him than any other cornerback of his level of recognition in the league. He's like DeAngelo Hall redux. Also, he can't tackle whatsoever.

It also occurs to me that the Cardinals defense does a better job of celebrating in the middle of a 4-10 season in an awful division than any other team I've ever seen. They don't slack off in practice; they work out their heels so they can high-step longer, or they spike a couple hundred balls to see just how the ball bounces in the end zone. We joke about swagger a lot and how it seems to have a direct relationship with a team's win-loss record, but the Cardinals defense is a unit that has retained virtually all of its swagger while going from good to awful.

Will Carroll: This might come off as snarky, but I'm serious.

Has anyone seen a physiological study of swagger? Could we stretch and say that swagger and smack is some form of self-motivation? The NFL did a landmark study of heart-rate data back in the 70s, but since, they've done almost nothing. A simple monitor, available for next to nothing, could be used and synced to game film to detect not only fatigue, but effort, reaction, and who knows what else, yet like most sports, the research budget for teams is likely in the range of what they spend on plane tickets bringing in guys for workouts after an injury.

David Gardner: My Christmas was merry until I just heard Matt Millen make a Ludacris reference -- "Move Colombo, get out the way." Now it's even merrier.

Mike Tanier: I just saw a Cowboys running back slip and fall under a folding table and a Cardinal defense a pass with the back of his helmet. Really wish my wife would fetch me a Christmas cocktail.

Doug Farrar: After seeing Jon Kitna lose three of four picks against the Jags in Week 8 to drops by his receivers, and the first of two picks in this game to similar circumstances, I put it out on Twitter that no quarterback has worse interception luck this year than Jon Kitna. I got a flood of responses naming Eli Manning as Mr. Bad Luck. Two minutes later, all those folks rescinded their arguments.

I loved it when Theismann called Miles Austin a “pro” after he caught a little slant, right after yet another egregious drop.

Ben Muth: Is Jay Cutler wearing a popped collar in this interview?

Bill Barnwell: You don't know Jay Cutler's wardrobe, Ben. You don't know his accessories. You don't know what's in his closet, what he's trying to do with pastels, what he's trying to do with pinstripes. You don't have a clue. It doesn't bother him.

Hey, Marion Barber touchdown! Dallas doesn't do an awful job of celebrating big plays during their awful season, either.

Bill Barnwell: Can someone explain the "It's too early to go for two" thing to me? I honestly don't understand it. You have to try and tie the game at 21, no?

Tom Gower: I think the legitimate aspect of the "the early to go for two" argument is you should ideally wait until you have a known number of possessions and potential scoring opportunities in the game, regardless of the current strategic benefits or detriments of getting 1 point or P(converting)*2. That said in the general sense, I thinking going for it down 2 in the second half at any point is an eminently sensible decision.

Aaron Schatz: I wonder if part of it is an incorrect belief that the odds of getting a two-point conversion are significantly below 50 percent. I mean, the percentage of successful two-pointers goes up and down but it has generally been a little bit above 50 percent for the last decade, right? Theoretically, going for two after every touchdown would end up giving you about the same number of points as kicking extra points after every touchdown, perhaps even a few more points.

Bill Barnwell: I mean, I'm not advocating that teams should go for it every time. But I think it's reasonable to suggest that your win expectancy rises pretty dramatically by tying a game in the second half as opposed to comfortably staying down one. This game has eventually turned out to be a pretty favorable example of why teams should go for it: Stephen McGee is leading a two-minute drill that needs a touchdown, not a field goal, because the Cowboys didn't go for two. Even if the Cowboys had failed, they'd still be in the same situation.

Tom Gower: A perception I have, and I'm not sure how accurate it is, is that while the history is that two-point conversions succeed more often than not, repeated attempts at a two-point conversion have a declining chance of success, and if you go for it and miss early, you're more likely to "need" to go for it later on. I think part of it is just simple risk aversion, though.

(No NFL Network at my holiday destination, not watching the game, instead taking in perhaps the greatest Christmas movie of the last 30 years: Die Hard.)

Bill Barnwell: Cowboys end up scoring after Rodgers-Cromartie decides to tackle Sam Hurd on a quick slant before the ball's to Sam Hurd, and on the next play, Stephen McGee throws up a poorly-placed lob that Rashad Johnson takes just a dreadful route to in an attempt to get an interception. It was Madieu Williams-esque. Ball goes through his hands, Austin runs in for a touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, I think that's more on Mike Adams. He was the cornerback covering Austin in man, and he was beat.

Bill Barnwell: No way. He's got help deep! That's what Johnson's there for!

Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure, haven't rewound it... if Johnson is single high safety, he's got to help the cornerbacks on both sides, right? So you can't count on him being there. You still can't let your man beat you in that scenario. I'm guessing Johnson was single high because he had so far to run before he got to the play... with man-2, he would have started a lot closer.

Bill Barnwell: Austin was in the slot.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, but he out-and-upped, the actual catch was over by the sideline, right?

Bill Barnwell: It was at the hashmark, it looked like a hitch-and-go. I mean, maybe the Cardinals think Mike Adams can cover Miles Austin one-on-one in the slot. But Johnson very clearly could have deflected the pass with a better angle.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, well, that's true. That angle sucked. I just would split the blame, maybe give a little bit more of it to Adams. No, though, the safety's play was horrible.

Sunday, December 26

Tennessee Titans 14 at Kansas City Chiefs 34

Tom Gower: The Titans defense got annihilated on the Chiefs' opening drive, with every play except the sweep where Charles dropped the pitch gaining at least 8 yards. The sole third down featured yet another ineffective zone blitz by the Titans. Good use of misdirection by the Chiefs on the drive, taking advantage of a sometimes over-aggressive Titans defense.

Bill Barnwell: Kansas City with a nifty trick at the beginning of their game with Tennessee. Normally, you show the quick screens and then you fake the quick screen to go deep. Instead, KC faked the quick screen on the opening play, hitting Dwayne Bowe for 20 yards, and now they've hit three quick screens for decent yardage, including a third-down conversion on the opening drive to McCluster. Titans pass defense seems soft at all the wrong times.

Doug Farrar: From this week’s Smarter Stats -- Jamaal Charles on carries 1-10 all season: 6.0 YPC. On carries 11-20: A league-leading 7.5. That doesn’t adjust for anything (would love to see his DVOA splits under those same parameters), but it’s pretty clear that overall workload concerns aside, this kid doesn’t wear down.

Tom Gower: The Titans show a little bit of life, holding the Chiefs to a field goal on the third drive. As previously noted, it's mostly been Cassel moving the ball through the air. When the Titans don't get pressure, there is space to be found against the back seven, especially against the linebackers.

One of the issues with the Titans' offense is they're limited by their personnel. I need to track players and plays, but I suspect they're tipping plays and directions with their personnel. They sometimes try to run constraint plays trying to avoid this, but one run like the last one, where Mike Vrabel pushes Scaife back two yards and blows up the rush, and you see why they're stuck with tipping plays.

Titans topic I haven't written about this year: Michael Griffin has overall had a much better year than he had last year, but part of the reason he's had a much better year is the Titans have been working to hide his limitations, namely that he's an awful deep coverage defender. He's virtually been playing strong safety most of the year, while Hope has been free safety. Plays like Dwayne Bowe's 75 yard touchdown are good examples of why he's moved positions. Bowe got ahead of Finnegan on the deep dig, but the Titans were playing man-under, 2-deep (cue Millen), and Griffin should have been in good position to break up the pass or at least tackle him for no gain. Instead, he gets caught flat-footed and Bowe runs right by him on his way to the end zone.

Doug Farrar: Jamaal Charles got busted for an unsportsmanlike penalty on Dwayne Bowe’ 75-yard touchdown catch because, and I am quoting the official here, “Only one player can jump in the stands at a time.” Who knew?

Mike Tanier: Eric Berry just made a fine play on a pick-six, stepping in front of a lazy Kerry Collins pass. I like the fact that the Chiefs are making a statement-like game here.

Tom Gower: Jared Cook makes a grab on a play that started with :07 left and takes the opportunity to get a few extra yards, letting the clock run out. It's 31-7, and I think I'll be spending the second half of today's game with my niece and not in front of my computer.

Titans pull off the surprise onside kick after Jared Cook's first NFL touchdown makes it 34-14, only to have the recovery negated by an offside penalty. C'est la vie.

Brodie Croyle, showing off why he's Brodie Croyle and not a starting NFL quarterback, throws well behind his intended receiver on a crossing pattern on third down, resulting in a tipped ball interception. The Titans get a first down the next play, then end up punting on fourth-and-32 after a holding penalty and a much-too-easy sack by Hali.

With 3:16 to play, the Titans elected to punt the ball away on fourth-and-2. I know it's 34-14, and you're on your own 27, but why? Why? Why?

Baltimore Ravens 20 at Cleveland Browns 10

Doug Farrar: With less than a minute left in the first half, and the ball in Ravens territory, the choice is made to run about 30 seconds off the clock down to :23. The Browns have all three of their time outs. Now forced to throw on every play, Colt McCoy gets nothing done, and the Browns have to kick a field goal. It’s a good thing for Eric Mangini that the guy deciding his fate is Mike Holmgren, who can mangle a clock as well as anybody in league history.

Bill Barnwell: Browns start the second half with a pretty ugly unexpected onside kick. Dan Fouts notes in a replay package later on that the onside kick was "ill-advised". You know, because it failed.

New England Patriots 34 at Buffalo Bills 3

Aaron Schatz: Patriots in the first quarter: 91 rushing yards on 10 carries. Not a good day for that Bills run defense, which was 32nd by NFL rankings but a slightly better 27th in DVOA going into the day.

Colbert Award nominee: Chan Gailey goes for it on fourth-and-12 from the Bills 32. Why not -- you're 4-10, a punt probably gets you a net 12 yards, a field goal in those conditions will be difficult. They didn't get it, but I like the decision.

Sterling Sharpe: "People ask, where do the Patriots find these guys... Woodhead, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman... Rob Gronkowski..."

Sterling, Rob Gronkowski was a second-round pick. You want to praise the Pats for finding guys on other rosters (Welker, Woodhead) or in the seventh round (Edelman), or unsigned, (BJGE), that's fine. But let's not pretend that they did this amazing talent-hunting job by taking a highly-regarded tight end in the second round of the draft.

San Francisco 49ers 17 at St. Louis Rams 25

Mike Tanier: Danny Amendola just threw an option pass. He throws like my son. It was a totally burnable play. Luckily, Nate Clements committed pass interference while waiting for the poor duck to find a lake to die in.

Aaron Schatz: That was the worst pass interference I have ever seen. Clements basically ran through Damario Alexander, completely crashed into him without looking for the ball in any way, thus negating an interception when Reggie Smith picked off the underthrown pass. It was painfully dumb.

Doug Farrar: I’ll see your Amendola crap throw and raise you Mark Sanchez’s attempt at the old playfake-to-draw about halfway through the first quarter. It was very Bad News Bears – he almost got sacked on the playfake, and almost fumbled the exchange. .

Mike Tanier: The Niners offense is a fascinating folly of craptasm.

There was actually a safety as I wrote that.

Vince Verhei: 49ers can't even snap the ball today. Their first drive ended with a bad snap, leading to a third-down sack. Then their center gets hurt. Third drive ends with a good snap, but Troy Smith drops the ball and the Rams get another third-down sack, this time for a safety.

Aaron Schatz: 49ers: Eight penalties in the first 17 minutes of the game. Egads.

Vince Verhei: And they're self-destructive penalties like false starts and illegal formations, not holding or something forced by the other team.

Aaron Schatz: San Francisco just went up on St. Louis 14-12, which is nuts because they look totally discombobulated and disorganized and they've basically had three huge plays: a Ted Ginn touchdown return, and then two passes on this last drive, a big pass where the Rams got stuck with Laurinaitis covering Vernon Davis, and then a colossal touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree where Troy Smith overthrew Davis only to find Crabtree behind him, right in the path of the ball, and Crabtree took it all the way.

49ers had 19 yards of offense before that drive.

Troy Smith throws a pick to open the third quarter and then completely loses his marbles on the sidelines. Him and Singletary are screaming at each other. Ted Ginn is trying to calm Smith down.

Mike Tanier: Niners miss a field goal after an unlikely drive. I hate that division.

Vince Verhei: Rams get another touchdown to go up 22-14. They should have gone for two there -- a success would have put the game away, and a failure would have meant that the 49ers could tie it with a touchdown. As it is, they can tie it with a touchdown anyway.

Troy Smith out. Alex Smith in. I think that's a half-dozen QB switches this season. And they're only eight points away from first place.

Aaron Schatz: As they often say, "When you have two quarterbacks named Smith, you really have no quarterbacks named Smith."

Actually, on a more serious note -- didn't Singletary's mentor Mike Ditka dick around with his quarterbacks and jerk them in and out of the lineup once Jim McMahon started having injuries in 1986? Singletary really does coach like he's still living in 1986 -- you know, when you yelled at your players all the time, and you didn't have to make strategic decisions about the two-point conversion because there was no two-point conversion.

Vince Verhei: While we're discussing the coaches in this game, they had a shot of Steve Spagnuolo shaking hands with a soldier, and the announcers said this was why Spags was going to be a good coach. Because he's nice and friendly? Since when is that a requirement for coaching? Aren't football coaches supposed to be angry screaming lunatics?

Bill Barnwell: 49ers season ends with Chris Long (the division's best starter this year) beating Anthony Davis (the division's worst starter this year) to stripsack Alex Smith.

Ben Muth: Levi Brown belongs in any discussion about worst starters.

Vince Verhei: 49ers get the ball back, down eight, a minute to go, no timeouts. They get a couple of clock-stopping spikes, a scramble up the middle of the field, and three completions in bounds to kill the clock. Thus ends the San Francisco season.

To be fair, on one of those plays Josh Morgan got a foot on the sideline and the ref blew the call. But it shouldn't have even been close.

Bill Barnwell: Brilliant job by Ted Ginn of turning down a chance to go out of bounds and set up a Hail Mary with four seconds left; instead, he jukes back inside and gets two extra yards before trying (and failing) to get back out of bounds.

Washington Redskins 20 at Jacksonville Jaguars 17 (OT)

Bill Barnwell: Carlos Rogers just caught an interception! Carlos Rogers just caught an interception!!!!

But then Chris Cooley does his best Carlos Rogers impression in the end zone, dropping a wide-open pass for a touchdown. When they get both tight ends open with play-action on the next play, Rex Grossman chooses to throw to Fred Davis and not Cooley. Grossman celebrates the touchdown by doing the Gator chomp towards the sideline.

Great route by Mike Thomas to pick up a third-and-short -- he runs a quick slant and forces Carlos Rogers to do a pirouette, making easy space for himself. On the next play, he runs a hitch-and-go and the deep safety for the Redskins appears to be mesmerized and doesn't get over to the seam.

Doug Farrar: Yeah, note to Carlos Rogers: “Zone” does not mean “back away from the receiver in the short seam so he can more easily catch the ball.” Clearly, the Redskins need to get Greg Blache back in there. The defense would suck either way, but at least TWIQ would be spicier.

Bill Barnwell: Actual quote from the announcers re: Andre Carter: "Andre Carter does a great job of just keeping his eyes open."

Ben Muth: Reche Caldwell is the only guy I know who does a great job of keeping his eyes open.

New York Jets 34 at Chicago Bears 38

Vince Verhei: Jets fumble, but their ridiculous fumble luck continues and they recover. So they fumble again on the next play, and this time they finally lose it. Matt Forte follows with a long touchdown run and the Bears are up 10-0.

LaDainian Tomlinson runs it in to pull the Jets within three, 10-7. Bears are playing a soft zone, and Mark Sanchez is picking them apart -- he's completed his first seven passes and converted a few big third downs.

Mike Tanier: Ahhhh...the Jay Cutler pick-6. Phil Simms said it was a curveball. Is that possible on planet earth?

Doug Farrar: Once again, Phil fails the laws of physics. His contention that if Cutler had thrown the ball outside … well, there were two Jets with inside position, and even though one of them was falling down, how far outside was Cutler supposed to throw it for the receiver to back out of coverage? Section 32?

Bill Barnwell: Apparently Dwight Lowery knows Jay Cutler's hot reads.

Vince Verhei: Pressure had nothing to do with it -- a throw into double coverage that wouldn't be complete in 100 tries. It's amazing how bad he looks sometimes.

Next third down, Sanchez finds an open receiver, but throws a yard behind him for yet another dropped interception.

Mike Tanier: Cutler throws a perfect pass on a corner route to Forte, then shows great awareness on a play-fake near the goal line, seeing the entire right side of the end zone undefended and taking off. He is both a great and a terrible quarterback, and he is never anything in between.

Doug Farrar: On the same drive, he overthrew a wide-open Earl Bennett on a post. As you were saying…

Bill Barnwell: Phil Simms notes that Santonio Holmes is "fast and quick".

Aaron Schatz: Actually, that's legit. There's a difference. "Fast" is a description of breakaway speed, "quick" is more about twitch speed.

Mike Tanier: Speaking of fast and quick, am now in the habit of telling my kids to "be quick but don't hurry" all the time. I say it during fire drills at school, and I tell my own children it all the time when getting on trains and whatnot.

Tom Gower: I hate defending Phil Simms, but that is a legitimate distinction, and there are guys who are fast (have good deep speed) but are not quick (Matt Jones comes to mind here) and guys who are quick but not fast (Knowshon Moreno, maybe, or another RB with good quickness and a lousy 40 time).

Bill Barnwell: OK. I concede. I wish he'd mentioned that, though!

Vince Verhei: Cutler opens the second half with a touchdown strike from midfield, an effortless flick through wind and snow into the end zone. Johnny Knox had to fight off a DB to make the catch, a one-on-one matchup where the worst case scenario is probably an interception and touchback.

Sanchez continues to shine, even on his bad plays -- on a third- and-10, he dropped back and had nobody open. As the rush closed in, he kept his wits about him and scrambled to the outside to throw the ball away rather than risk a sack or interception.

Jets lose when Sanchez, needing a touchdown with not timeouts, underthrows a deep route and is picked off. I actually feel bad for him -- that was almost definitely the best game of his career, and they lose when he makes one mistake in a very bad situation. It's not his fault Jay Cutler caught fire.

Aaron Schatz: OK, I just saw a highlight of the Jets-Bears game and the Jets' attempted fake punt. Um, when your starting quarterback shows up in the punt formation, isn't that a little bit of a hint that it is a fake?

Houston Texans 23 at Denver Broncos 24

Bill Barnwell: Ugly pick by Tim Tebow in the end zone. Looked like he tried to throw a fade to Brandon Lloyd against Jason Allen (great idea) but threw it chest-high and across Allen's body (bad idea).

David Gardner: Here's a crazy stat from the Broncos game: In 401 home games (postseason and regular season), Denver has never been shut out.

Vince Verhei: Tim Tebow seems to have learned the "chuck it deep and let Brandon Lloyd make amazing plays" offense. Lloyd just made a ridiculous leaping reception for his ninth 40-yard play of the year. That was absurd. He was two miles high there.

Tim Tebow has 300 yards passing and just ran in a score to put Denver ahead of Houston 24-23. I'm going to avoid the Broncos fans in my life, they're going to be insufferable after this. Remember everyone: it's the Texans.

Indianapolis Colts 31 at Oakland Raiders 26

Rob Weintraub: In the endless game of "who woulda thought?" that the NFL provides, who woulda thought that Jacoby Ford would be the Clemson Tiger who makes explosive plays every week, and not C.J. Spiller?

Bassy from 59! Would have been good from Krakow!

Bill Barnwell: This fourth quarter drive by the Colts has been virtually all running plays; most of the time, they've been lining up in Trips Bunch on the left side (Asomugha's side) and running there.

Vince Verhei: Peyton Manning's bootleg keeper for 30-some yards, complete with slide inside the 5 to run out the clock, is both the best and the funniest play of the day. That was neither quickness nor speed.

San Diego Chargers 20 at Cincinnati Bengals 34

Rob Weintraub: Quietly, Jermaine Gresham is starting to fulfill his promise. He goes up over two defenders and hauls in a short TD pass in a game the Bengals are going to end San Diego's playoff hopes.

Wow, Reggie Nelson demolishes Mike Tolbert with some run support. Bengals recover the fumble, and Tolbert has to get carted off the field.

Jerome Simpson is alive! TOcho who?? And he rocks the between-the-legs-fake-goalpost-dunk-pull-up-for-a-J celebration as well.

Bill Barnwell: Bengals kicker Clint Stitser has to be the worst in football. He just shanked an extra point - no bad snap, not a bad hold, just flat-out missed it. Now he's 3-of-5 on extra points this year, and he's probably the worst kickoff guy in football.

Rob Weintraub: Stitser is 4-for-6 on PATs, per Joe Reedy, FWIW, and hasn't missed a figgie. And he has two good KOs in this one. Let's remember he's the third kicker of the season in Cincy, just trying to finish the year with the guy. Guys named Clint just aren't meant to be kickers, Clint Dempsey notwithstanding.

Michael Johnson with a big stop on third and goal at the one. Johnson was shifted to more of a hybrid LB in the offseason, and he seemed to adapt to it well in preseason. But come the live bullets, he has been lost in space more than whoever was in that show. Since he's been moved back to DE fulltime, the defense has improved steadily. He and Dunlap should be a good pair of bookends in 2011.

Aaron Schatz: Carlos is the best of the football Dunlaps. He laps King pretty easily. Dunlaps him, even.

Bill Barnwell: After a Cedric Benson fumble in the red zone, the Chargers drive all the way down the field and get the ball on the 1-yard line after a DPI in the end zone. The Bengals -- 31st against the run, 32nd in power situations -- stuff the Tolbert-less Chargers on three carries in a row. Norv takes the field goal.

Seattle Seahawks 15 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38

Rob Weintraub: Hasselbeck is in latter-day Joe Namath terrain, as he scores untouched and yet still hurts himself on the play.

Vince Verhei: Your latest Seattle short-yardage inanity: fourth-and-inches inside the five, they line up with de facto fullback Michael Robinson under center. Everyone in Florida knows a sneak is coming, and Robinson is pushed into the backfield, but he makes a superhuman effort to bounce outside and get the first down. I've never been so angry about a play that worked.

Matt Hasselbeck then scores on a third-and-goal bootleg play. He was not touched and did not leave his feet, but he immediately stopped running and grabbed his lower back in pain. He looked 100 years old.

Hasselbeck is out of the game due to natural causes.

Doug Farrar: I don't know what Aaron Curry was doing on the Kellen Winslow catch that got the Bucs out of their own end zone early in the second half, but it sure wasn't tackling. Just a glancing blow, and off Winslow went.

David Gardner: Kellen Winslow just caught a sliding pass at the 2-yard line. He stood back up as two Seahawks crashed into each other and walked into the end zone.

Doug Farrar: Can’t wait to see the All-22 on that one. Somebody really blew an assignment.

Vince Verhei: LeGarrette Blount hurdles Lawyer Milloy on a long run to set up Josh Freeman's fourth touchdown pass. Is this pass defense worse than Houston's yet?

Doug Farrar: I liked how four different Seahawks defenders waved at Mike Williams as he ran that shallow cross from one side of the end zone to the other. Another touchdown to another completely uncovered receiver.

Vince Verhei: Third quarter just ended in Tampa Bay. Hasselbeck had three completions for 24 yards on the game's first drive. Whitehurst has three completions for 19 yards since.

Remember our quickness vs. speed discussion? Blount just burst through a hole in the Seahawks line for a big gain. That's quickness. Then he was run down from behind by Chris Clemons. That's (lack of) speed.

And Freeman throws his fifth touchdown pass. He's tied the team record with nearly eight minutes to go.

New York Giants 17 at Green Bay Packers 45

Aaron Schatz: Am I wrong, or was there blatant pass interference by Mario Manningham on that huge and somewhat awesome touchdown reception that just tied this game? He pushes off Tramon Williams, it was really obvious from the replay.

Bill Barnwell: Mario Manningham makes me angry. After a key fumble in the fourth quarter against the Eagles last week, he holds the ball in his trailing hand and taunts Tramon Williams for 10 yards at the end of that touchdown catch.

Aaron Schatz: Giants finally getting somewhere on the Packers in the third quarter with draws and screens... but they can't hold onto the ball YET again. Jacobs looked like he had the ball securely, but Clay Matthews came up from behind and clubbed it up and under to get it loose.

Mike Tanier: ...and then everyone in Wisconsin got a chance to touch it!

In slow mo, the Jacobs fumble looks like some allegorical interpretive dance. The ball represents justice, or peace, or meaning, and it is all we can do to bat at it, tap it to keep it in bounds, watch as it rolls between our legs, push each other to get to it, and ultimately lose it.

Aaron Schatz: Quite striking how little impact the Giants pass rush is having on Aaron Rodgers today. Rodgers' mobility is getting him out of some jams, but even without considering that... he's got the time to go deep when he needs it. I don't think I've heard Jason Pierre-Paul's name all day. I'm not sure I've heard Justin Tuck's more than once or twice.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 27 Dec 2010

140 comments, Last at 29 Dec 2010, 12:36pm by DeltaWhiskey


by Eddo :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 12:28pm

Tom Gower: "(No NFL Network at my holiday destination, not watching the game, instead taking in perhaps the greatest Christmas movie of the last 30 years: Die Hard.)"

Yes! I hosted a Christmas party a few weekends back, and had Die Hard playing on an endless loop, on mute, with Christmas music playing. Towards the end of the evening, several beers deep, my cousin exclaimed, "Guys, this is awesome; Die Hard syncs up with every Christmas carol!"

We then proceeded to watch the final 45 minutes with shuffled Christmas carols as the soundtrack. Best moment: "O Holy Night" playing majestically while the FBI helicopter approached the building. Second-best moment: "Silver Bells" playing cheerfully while McClane killed several terrorists in a shootout.

Great movie, great times.

by Rick "32_Footsteps" Healey (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 12:48pm

Die Hard is a Christmas tradition at my house, too. Though I never tried syncing it up with carols before... wonder if "I'm Gettin' Nuttin' For Christmas" will take Ellis' death scene over the top.

by NJBammer :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 12:29pm

Tim Tebow: replacing Sanchez as the new successful on the field whipping boy of Football Outsiders.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 1:07pm


by SFC B (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:01pm

Tebow passed for 300 yards on the Texans. That is not success. That is The Texans.

by tunesmith :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 3:40pm

Honestly, that point is starting to feel overstated, like it's people trying to hold on to shreds of a rationalization. The Texans were actually favored to win this game.

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 5:50pm

They weren't favored to win the game because of their pass defense.

by Tracy :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 7:52pm

In 15 games this year, the Texans have given up over 300 yards passing to Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, David Garard, Mark Sanchez, Michael Vick, and Tim Tebow.

The following quarterbacks failed to pass for 300 yards against the Texans: Tony Romo, Matt Cassell, Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Joe Flacco, and Kerry Collins.

300 yards against the Texans doesn't mean he's going to be a Pro-Bowl quality QB. But, quick, name another rookie qb who passed for at least 300 yards in one of his first 2 NFL starts.

by Travis :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 8:29pm

Among others, Patrick Ramsey and Eric Zeier.

by tunesmith :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 12:11am

Ramsey's rookie QB rating: 71.8
Zeier's rookie QB rating: 51.9
Tebow's rookie QB rating (so far): 100.7

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 12:32pm

Ramsey's pass attempts, rookie year: 227
Zeier's pass attempts, rookie year: 161
Tebow's pass attempts, rookie year (so far): 46

by Rick 2 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 10:00pm

Kevin Kolb

by Pass to Set Up ... :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 11:39pm

Kolb did pass for over 300 yards in his first two starts, but he was not a rookie.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 1:52pm

Way to use an arbitrary cut-off. Eli had 297 yards. Rivers had 295. Romo had 284. Romo and Eli both put up those numbers in blowout wins, where their teams ran out the clock in the second half. Rivers did it in 23 passes. Bruce Frickin' Gradkowski managed 278 yards. Collins averaged about 10ypa in a blowout. Matt Cassel was 20/29 for 201 yards and a touchdown. And all of those guys except Collins faced the Texans with Mario Williams in the lineup. The only quarterback the Texans have done anything remotely resembling stopping all season is Rusty Smith. Rusty Smith does actually suck worse than the Texans pass defense, but he's about the only thing that does. Trust me. I've watched every snap they've played this season. The answer to Vince's question - "Is this pass defense worse than Houston's yet?" - is no. For proof, if proof were needed, I invite you to watch the play which starts 28 seconds into this NFL.com highlights video.

by Dean :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 3:30pm

I'm sure Rusty Smith's momma is a big Rusty Smith fan.

by DeltaWhiskey :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 12:35pm

"Way to use an arbitrary cut-off."

I don't think 300 is necessarily "arbitrary." It's usually the crude measure of a great day for a QB. Nonetheless, your other points are quite valid and a solid refutation.

by Ian H (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:37pm

The Outsiders are totally correct in pointing out both the bad throws that Tebow made (the early end zone fade, the jump ball to Lloyd that ended up as a completion) and that the Texan's pass defense is terrible.

But (at the risk of being outcast from FO for supporting Tebow) this game actually was a pretty solid performance from him based off of my expectations, which were much lower than those of the mainstream media. At the combine there was a lot of talk about how his slow release would be far too inaccurate and he'd get strip sacked far to often to ever be serviceable in the NFL and that he would carry a clipboard for a few years, try to convert to a backup tight end and then be out of the league totally.

While I still don't believe that he is any type of upcoming all-pro I think he does have a good shot at a future as a possible starter / really good backup QB / Goal line / Pistol formation specialist type of player. Sort of Brad Smith with less WR and more QB? Still not worth the first round draft choice but after this game I feel like I'll be seeing his name in the league as a QB for some years as opposed to being position converted or dropped totally. He doesn't overwhelm at the pro level with either running or passing, but his combination of the two makes me think that smart teams will be able to find ways to use him on the field.

by NJBammer :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 4:58pm

Who knows anything in the NFL, but I think that if a QB has the physical tools, the #1 difference in success and failure lies between the ears. FO loves to drill down to college and show this and that about predicting future success, but I think that success as an NFL QB is just too infrequent to be able to draw meaningful statistical insights from based on college performance.

1) College teams play too many different systems
2) they play too many different levels of competition
3) They play against defenses which are too simple to use a a good judge of a QB's decision making skills.

So if we agree that college stats are not a good determiner for pro success, what do we have? Based on just my own observations and logic, I believe that success can be obtained from a young QB through a mature attitude, a patient coach, a refusal to be anything other than the best QB one can be, and injury luck.

Tebow may or may not have a good coach, and who knows with injury, but I understand the man and his background. I think it's quite likely he's one of those people who will maximize whatever he can with what he's got. I think his outspoken beliefs bring down a desire to see him fail by some (not the guys here, but it's absolutely out there). I think if he remains uninjured, he will have a very productive career as an NFL QB. A long time starter? Sure. A winning QB? Absolutely.

by Sander :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 6:24pm

Mentality and work ethic are absolutely very important in a QB, and I doubt you can be a succesful quarterback with those aspects.

At the same time, you absolutely need to have the physical talent (including a not monstrously slow release), somewhat of a feel for pass rush and the football intelligence to understand blitz schemes, hot reads and the ability to read defenses. You can be the best leader in the history of the universe and have the best work ethic, but if you have the physical talents of Max Hall or the football intelligence of Derek Anderson you'll still fail miserably.

by are-tee :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 6:53pm

If the Broncos decide that Tebow is their QB going forward, what happens to Orton? Wasn't he having a Pro Bowl-type season the first half of the year?

by V. Barbarino (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 8:59pm

I'll be very surprised if they don't trade Orton in the offseason. Since the fans and media run the Broncos now, anyway, they may as well throw Tebow out there and see what he can do. I hope for Orton's sake he gets moved to a team that can use a solid upgrade at the position, but isn't totally hopeless. I think San Francisco would be a good fit for him, as they have some talent but clearly are lacking at QB. It also depends who the Niners next coach is. I hope it doesn't turn out to be Cincinnati or something. I've really taken to Orton as a player, and while he's not All-Pro level, you can win with him.
I also thought that Tebow played pretty well yesterday. Yes, I know, it's the Texans, so that automatically means that he gets no credit for anything, but I'll say that he showed a lot of poise in the pocket, didn't get too rattled, and was able to make some decent throws. He's a work in progress, but I also think that he'll work very hard to make progress, which is not something I would say about many of the QBs taken in the first round in the last few years. Does he get too much attention? Yeah, I suppose, but the guy did win a Heisman trophy, and two national titles at a major university. He was immensely successful, and I have to say, in interviews, comes off as the most sincere son-of-a-bitch you could ever hope to hear. Tebow is a lot of things, and also not a lot of things, but man is he sincere. I'll take him over a bunch of guys starting in the NFL right now. The Broncos were never just a player or two away. There is real work to be done, and if he gives the fans someone to root for then he's worth it. I've made fun of him here and elsewhere, but that's mostly for his evangelical diehards who wouldn't care about him at all if he wasn't so open about his religion, and I hope that he can succeed. I think what drives him is the 'I'll show you' attitude, which is such a key factor for so many athletes. He may smile sheepishly, but I think deep down he's got a real 'fuck you' factor to him. I'll take that.

by Rick 2 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 10:05pm

Not a Florida fan. Not a Denver fan. But I like Tebow.

I know alot of people will (as many have written) hope he fails because he is outspoken about his beliefs and faith. I frankly don't care as long as he's got talent and can make the most of what he's got. Tebow seems to do that. Consider Vick (I AM an Eagles fan and still working through my feelings about having this guy on my team...mildly happy at the moment...), who has WAYYYYY more talent than Tebow and WASTED it for years. Took a conviction and jail time to bring him around.
Something tells me Tebow won't require that to be very good.

I'd take him over the young Vick any day of the week. Honestly. I think intelligence and hard work can more than compensate for many things in the NFL. Tebow has the basic tools, he has the ethic to make it work.

by B :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 11:27am

Having half a pro-bowl season doesn't make Orton a viable starter going forward, it makes him Derek Anderson. That said, some team will trade for him, and he'll be starting next year. My guess is he loses that starting job within a couple years, and becomes a viable backup.

by are-tee :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 11:59am

Comparing Orton to DA is just plain silly. He's ranked #10 in the NFL in DYAR despite the team having traded away its best receiver (Marshall) and best running back (Hillis) in the off-season.

by V. Barbarino (not verified) :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 7:59pm

I agree with your compliment of Orton, and I agree that he's a damn sight better than Derek Anderson, which I think is apparent to anybody who's watched them both play. I'm not sure that losing Marshall meant anything at all, as he's been very ably replaced by Brandon Lloyd, who's a better deep threat and, frankly, a better receiver. Marshall's good, no question, but Lloyd filled that spot so well that I haven't even heard the sports talk morons mention his name. Nobody really believed that Hillis was the Broncos best running back, and while his success is a great tribute to him, it's moreso to his offensive line, which looks to be quite good, while the Broncos o-line looks to be quite mediocre. I'll be curious to see if he improves going forward, or if this was just one of those seasons that backs will have. Good luck to him, as he seems like a very hard worker. But he was never seen as a factor in the offense here, which maybe he should've been. I dunno.
Not arguing at all, just a slight disagreement.

by tunesmith :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 12:04am

I know the release is going to continue to be controversial, but I'm kind of baffled as to the rest of your implied criticism. Here's a quote from Tebow on his winning touchdown run:

"That play was not necessarily called for that coverage – it was supposed to be something different and was what we anticipated. They gave us blitz-one instead of two-Tampa, which they had been playing the whole time earlier in the game. It was kind of like a fake quarterback run, pop-pass up the seam to (WR) Eddie (Royal). They were playing blitz-one and it just was not a good play for that. So, as I saw that, I was just like, ‘I have to make a smart play, nothing stupid.’ So, I was looking for a seam to kind of go up the middle, and then I kind of turned my back and I saw the backside end was crashing and (OL Ryan) Clady was on him. So, I figured I could get around there. And then, (CB) Jason Allen, the left corner, had his back turned and I was just able to get in there."

by V. Barbarino (not verified) :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 8:06pm

Yep. Tebow's got his critics, but he seems pretty smart, and he really seems to understand football. I dunno. I was always mixed about drafting him, but the more I thought about it, the more it appears that there is really something there. Is he Peyton Manning? Of course not. But he does offer certain skills that few players have, and is a really tough s.o.b. I'm intrigued, and actually think that it was a smart move. Time will tell, of course, but I'd wager there's a handful of teams in the league who wished they'd taken the chance on him, particularly with the number of below replacement level guys taking snaps. I'd also guess that he's going to take a number of cheap shots from certain critics ( not picking on FO, it's been widespread )no matter what he does. We'll see. The future is more interesting with him at QB, and I'm an Orton appreciator.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 7:20pm

Actually I would say the main thing that makes pro QBs is the ability to throw the ball accurately*. Jeff George was way better than Gus Frerotte for the all trying he did.

*I mean this two ways, 1 the ball goes where he wants it to, and 2 he knows how to lead receivers so the ball is going to a catchable spot.

by DeltaWhiskey :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 12:36pm

"at the risk of being outcast from FO for supporting Tebow"

I believe to be cast out, you have to be verified.

by mansteel (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 12:31pm

"Rams get another touchdown to go up 22-14. They should have gone for two there -- a success would have put the game away, and a failure would have meant that the 49ers could tie it with a touchdown. As it is, they can tie it with a touchdown anyway."

Assuming a 50% conversion rate, going for two vs. kicking an XP is a wash in this situation:

Let's say the Niners have a 30% chance of scoring a TD (the actual % chance is irrelevant). If the Rams kick the XP, the Niners have a 15% chance of tying with a TD and 2-pt conversion. If the Rams go for two, the Niners have a 50% chance of necessarily losing and a 50% chance of being able to tie with just a TD. So their expected win % is (0.5)*(0) + (0.5)*(0.3) = 0.15, i.e. 15%.

There are other minor factors to consider, of course. E.g. it is perhaps a bit presumptuous to think a two-score game is completely out of reach. Nonetheless, it is certainly not clear that going for two here is a better strategy.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:02pm

Let's ignore the probability of getting a TD and only look at the extra points.

And, to play along, let's say that Prob[1-point PAT] = 1, while Prob[2-point PAT] = 0.5

If the Rams go for a 1-point PAT, their lead will be 8 points with probability 1.
If the Rams go for a 2-point PAT, their lead will be 7 points with probability 0.5 and 9 points with probability 0.5.

Taking the Niners' TD as a given, in the former case they tie with probability 0.5.

In the latter case, if the lead is only 7 points, they will clearly take the 1-point PAT to tie. If it is 9 points, they are SOL. (****-outof-luck)

So yeah, the odds haven't changed, as you point out. In either case there's a 50-50 chance of stopping the 2-point PAT.

But, practically speaking, you have to decide which is higher: your odds of getting a 2-point PAT or your odds of stopping a 2-point PAT. If you have an unstoppable O-Line that can get 2 yards at will, then you should take the 2-point PAT. Or if your D-line is Swiss cheese, the same logic holds.

Personally, I think the odds of gaining at least two yards on a given play are much higher than those of your defense stopping a 2-yard gain on a given play. But that isn't really true at the goal line.

See also, this. http://www.advancednflstats.com/2010/12/almost-always-go-for-2-point.htm...
It seems that rushing plays are successful about 60% of the time when trying for a 2-point PAT. But what this analysis fails to consider is that teams are selecting their play based on the relative strengths of their offense and the opponent defense. That teams selecting the rush succeed at a given rate does not imply that all teams would succeed at that rate if they chose that strategy.
If the Colts are going for 2 against the Steelers, they should pass the ball, not run it.

We're also glossing over the difficulty of kicking a PAT. Jerry Jones might have something to say on that topic.

by zlionsfan :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 5:24pm

Good points. The problem with trying to analyze a specific decision is that it involves significant unknowns ... we can calculate the success rate of a type of play in all situations with reasonable precision, but to get more specific than that, we have to use a significantly smaller data set.

It doesn't really matter if rushing plays are successful 57%-ish of the time ... well, it does matter, but not too much, given the large amount of variation from situation to situation (Miami's running game vs. St. Louis' vs. Chicago's, for example). What matters is the chance of success calling a run in a given situation (or two or three), and it's really hard to estimate that given the data we have.

In addition, I think it's similar to onside kicks. We know there's a big difference in recovery rate between "unexpected" and "expected" onside kicks ... and sometimes all it takes is one unexpected attempt (or two: think of the Great Missouri Onside Kick Week) to make future attempts "expected" for the next few weeks. I suspect the two-point success rate is higher now in part because there aren't a lot of attempts. If teams regularly defended two-point attempts, I think the overall success rate would drop, regardless of the type of play called.

by Yinka Double Dare :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 12:38pm

OK, I just saw a highlight of the Jets-Bears game and the Jets' attempted fake punt. Um, when your starting quarterback shows up in the punt formation, isn't that a little bit of a hint that it is a fake?

Indeed. Rashied Davis (the guy who covered Smith on the play), postgame: "They wouldn't put (Sanchez) in the game and punt the ball, you're not going to make the starting quarterback block. They did what I thought they would do. Maybe they thought we'd panic."

by Led :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 12:46pm

It was a dumb risk to take and a dumb play call, but the receiver was open beyond the sticks, the pass was perfect, the receiver had both hands on it and he just plain dropped it. It's not like the Bears did something to prevent the first down.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 12:38pm

The 49'ers look like the Lions the year before Schwartz took over. Even when they execute, they are at a talent deficit to the Rams. Oh, and they can't execute.

Who'e the veteran GM on the market who can fix that?

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 3:12pm

Needn't be a veteran GM, just the right one. Look what Dimitroff's doing in Atlanta. And Ozzie Newsome was an internal promotion from within a franchise that did not have a very good prior history with talent evaluation.

Of course, hiring Bill Parcells never hurt anyone either . . .

by zlionsfan :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 5:27pm

And it's not like the GM in Detroit has that much experience. I mean, how much did Mayhew learn working under Matt Millen?

Like you said, it just needs to be the right one. Now if only one could tell who the right one would be ...

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 12:41pm

Aaron - that was Solomon Wilcotts, not Sterling Sharpe, doing commentary on Pats-Bills. Still mind numbing nonetheless.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 1:14pm

Drat, there goes my joke about Sterling Not-So-Sharpe...

by PantsB (not verified) :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 2:19am

So its a fuzzy area race related faux pas (confusing two black dudes) in the commentary over a likely race related slip up (all four players are white skill position players and BJGE makes a better example than Gronk). It all cancels out I think.

by Staubach12 :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 12:43pm

Serious question: when announcers talk about "speed and quickness" are they actually talking about two separate things or are they just being redundant? Are they using "quickness" to refer to acceleration, quick reflexes, or the ability to cut in and out of breaks quickly? This bothers me every time I hear an announcer talk about this stuff.

On an unrelated note, I'm worried that the Cardinals loss will cause Jason Garrett not to be rehired, and I think he's the right person for the job. He did a good job of coaching his team, and had Buehler made that extra point, we might be talking about the masterful comeback with a very limited 3rd string QB.

by BigCheese :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 5:20pm

I completely disagree. It's not that they lost. It's that they lost by 1 after failing to try and tie the game in teh second half with a two-point conversion when they had their third string QB on the field. That decission was bafling at the time and turned out to be the margin o defeat. How is that a good job of coaching?

- Alvaro

by Key19 :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 9:13pm

The team has trouble enough scoring from the five yard line with four tries, let alone one. I think Garrett should've gone for two, but it's not an idiotic move to kick the 1 in my opinion.

And let's not forget. Garrett took a 1-7 team and has them at 4-3 right now. Sure, they lost by a missed XP to the Cardinals, but that's not really something that Garrett can "coach." And let us not forget that they also would've beaten the Saints if not for Roy Williams' ridiculous fumble. That's not exactly something he can "coach" either. Their only other loss was to the Eagles, who are arguably the best team in the Conference, and that was a great and close game as well. It's not his fault that the defense couldn't stop the Eagles running the ball at the end of the game.

The Cowboys are averaging close to 30 points per game under Garrett. He's an offensive coach, and has had great success on offense despite having to use both his second and third-string QBs during his entire tenure. It's not his fault that the Kicker can't make an XP, that Roy Williams can't hold onto a football ever, or that the defense he's stuck with rivals the Texans.

Garrett is absolutely the right man for the job in my opinion. As Staubach12 pointed out though, the Cardinals loss hurts a lot because I think it's the only thing that could keep him from getting the full-time job. If they won this game, even by one point, I think that he's absolutely the coach next year. But with the loss, even though it had Jerry written all over it (Buehler, aging OL, etc), I think Garrett is at close to 50/50 odds right now, and that's not what I as a fan want to see. I want him to be the coach, end of story.

by BigCheese :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 3:02am

A) Since when are trys made from the 5 instead of the 2? If they were made from the 5 then yes, going for it would not have been clearly the correct call. From the 2? With an offense that has trouble moving the ball? Absolutely horrible call.

B) What do any of those other games have to do with the coaching in this game, which contributed to the loss in a major way, and is what was being discussed?

For the record, I hope Garret gets the job. I also think his best quality this season as a coach was not being Wade Phillips. That alone must have been a huge motivation boost.

- Alvaro

by andrew :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 12:49pm

Are quick reads going to wait until after the Tuesday game this week?

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 12:50pm

Re: speed vs. quickness:

There was much (relative) fanfare when Devin Hester got the first-ever "100" rating in "speed" in Madden. While this was mainly ridiculous because it didn't really signify anything ("100" was not available previously, the ratings just went up to "99"), I also thought it was wrong, fundamentally.

Yes, Hester is incredibly fast, but that's not what separates him from other returners. In fact, I'd say Danieal Manning and Johnny Knox have better straight-line speed than Hester. I feel that what separates Hester from those guys and other return men is his quickness (and vision and patience); he changes direction so effortlessly, and without losing any of his speed.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 12:59pm

Yeah, what's striking about Hester on returns is that he seems to be going full speed even when making almost lateral cuts. It's more apparent when he lines up as wide receiver and can't even outrun safeties on a straight line...

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 1:21pm

In further defense of Simms, after making his distinction, he paused for about a second, and then went on to explain the difference between the two.

by Staubach12 :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:35pm

Eddo: thanks very much for the clarification. What they really mean is agility, not quickness. But I guess it's okay as football slang or jargon. So basically, a guy like Roy Williams has speed (4.3 40) but not commensurate quickness, and Dez Bryant has average NFL speed (4.6 40) but above average quickness. Sorry for picking two Cowboys; they're the team I know best.

Jerry: I didn't see that game, but it was good of Sims to give that explanation.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:58pm

"Agility" is a good term, Staubach12. I think you could also consider "quickness", in this context, to be a combination of agility and acceleration.

by Staubach12 :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 3:40pm

Fair enough. But do they really go hand-in-hand?

I did a not-very-thorough Google search on this subject and found a study on these traits in professional soccer players. They found that, " acceleration, maximum speed, and agility are specific qualities and relatively unrelated to one another."

  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15705049
  • They also found that, "Acceleration and maximum speed were the most significantly correlated tests (r = 0.623), with acceleration and agility being the least significantly correlated test (r = 0.346)."

  • http://www.nasm.org/1/HFPN/Research_Library/Research_Summaries/SAQ/Speci...
  • If that's true, then does "quickness" usually refer to acceleration or agility? My sense is that all football guys have to have good acceleration in order to play (most olympic 100M sprinters haven't hit top speed by 40 yards). There is simply no place in the NFL for a guy who has great top line speed but slow acceleration. However, agility is probably more rare. So they probably mean "agility" when they say "quickness."

    by Staubach12 :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 3:44pm

    In other words, I think that most NFL speed is actually acceleration. They simply don't have enough room to hit an elite top speed during a game.

    by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 4:36pm

    To me, quickness is "good first step"/"make a guy miss" sort of thing.

    Welker in his pre-injury days is a great example of what I envision when I hear the term "quickness". He could stop on a dime and do these quick lunges and cuts that would leave people grasping air. But once in a run, he could be run down by DBs because he doesn't have super speed.

    Or in another sport, I think of the type of basketball player who isn't going to outrun anyone on a fast break, but in the half-court set he can be deadly because he can make a great first move or two and be past you and score because there's not enough floor for you to use your superior speed to catch up to him.

    by Staubach12 :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 7:52pm

    So you have the same interpretation that I do. "Quickness" is really agility.

    by PantsB (not verified) :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 2:30am

    The way agility is normally used doesn't really describe what most people mean by quickness (Welker example above). If Welker was thrown a jump ball, I wouldn't think he'd be particularly skilled at tapping his toes in-bounds on his way down. That would require great agility - full body control with precision and balance like a gymnast on a balance beam. The speed at which one completes this act is not the determining factor of agility as much as the precision. Quickness as a NFL term implies the ability to change direction and speed rapidly, which is the definition of acceleration. When a player cuts, they are accelerating and the quality of that cut is determined not by its precision but by how rapidly it occurs. If a gymnast stumbles on the balance beam but does it really fast that is not agility. If a 3rd down back makes a razor sharp cut with perfect precision but does so slowly it is not quickness.

    by Staubach12 :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 4:17am

    The American Heritage Dictionary actually gives an explanation of what separates "agile," "nimble," and "quick" in American English:

    "Agile and nimble both imply rapidity and lightness of movement, agile emphasizing dexterity in the use of the limbs and nimble, deftness in the performance of some act; quick implies rapidity and promptness, seldom indicating, out of context, the degree of skillfulness."

    The skill you are talking about--precise control of the body without rapid movement--is dexterity, not agility. Agility is being dexterous while moving your body quickly. That's the skill involved in making the precise cuts NFL players make.

    Acceleration is not about changing directions at all.

    by Arkaein :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 2:16pm

    Your post is a bit confused. First you say that something is dexterity and not agility, and then use a definition that says "agile emphasizing dexterity", the two or different shades of the same color.

    And acceleration can absolutely be about changing directions. It doesn't have to be; an object can accelerate in a straight line, but a satellite orbiting the earth is actually accelerating constantly towards the earth without changing speed at all. The acceleration in this case is all about changing direction and not speed.

    by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 3:26pm

    Right. Acceleration is strictly speaking the rate of change of velocity, not speed.

    I do think, however, that "quickness", as used in football parlance, may well refer to a combination of two distinct attributes of humans which may not in fact be especially well-correlated, viz. the ability to increase speed rapidly from a standing start and the ability to change direction with minimal loss of speed. I'm not sure I'd really call either of those things agility, though I suppose the latter might be a component of agility.

    by Arkaein :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 4:35pm

    I think you're basically right, but I'd say agility has more to do with balance and body control, while quickness is more about muscle twitch and whole body reflex actions.

    For example, a WR who can catch a ball and simultaneously orient his body to tap both feet in bounds is showing agility. A gymnast needs great agility, but not so much quickness.

    Another WR who can sharply cut at high speed is showing both quickness (ability to change velocity in a short time) and agility (no falling down while he does it by being able to push with his legs that prevents falling over). Most people would probably just call this quickness, though.

    by Staubach12 :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 7:09pm

    That almost works. But while dexterity is implied in the definition of agility, the essential definition of agility has to do with fast movement. What you are describing is just agility (moving the body quickly and doing it with dexterity).

    by Staubach12 :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 7:01pm

    No, my point was to refute his earlier claim that agility had nothing to do with rapidity. I'm not denying that dexterity plays an essential role in agility. I'm only claiming that rapid movement is an equally essential element of the definition.

    I'll cede the point about acceleration; but I'm still not sure that that's the skill being discussed when people talk about quickness.

    by Staubach12 :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 9:22pm

    And I did not give a definition of agility. I offered a distinction between three synonyms: agile, nible, and quick. The definition of agility is quickness plus dexterity.

    by tuluse :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 3:27pm

    A perfect example of quickness is Ray Lewis. He's not beating many other players in a 40 yard dash, but inside 10 yards, he has a good chance.

    Quickness is more like acceleration, plus some agility.

    Also, I would say that Knowshown Moreno is lacking quickness which is why he's not a very good NFL running back.

    by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 4:56pm

    In Steelers land, the quick/fast difference is between Wallace (very fast) and Holmes (not as fast, but very quick). If you watch Wallace run, he looks like a horse - kind of ungainly for a few steps but once he hits his stride, he's probably the fastest guy on the field. Holmes is more like a cat - he can twist his body and run along a curved path just as fast as he can run straight ahead.

    Kevin Curtis vs Desean Jackson are the same way. Curtis would take a slant pass, run past everyone to the other sideline, and slowly turn upfield. Jackson can take a slant and turn up field at any point.

    by BucNasty :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:33pm

    I always look at it like this: being quick is about short strides while being fast is about long strides. A guy's who's quick but not fast will take more steps to get from A to B, but his legs are moving very fast and it works out well over short distances because he gets up to speed quickly. However, once he breaks away he either maintains those same choppy steps or simply can't move his legs very fast when he's making longer strides (or maybe he just has short legs). Someone's who's fast but not quick is the opposite, taking a long time to get up to speed because he has such an elongated gait. Then you have people who can do both.

    ETA: Think of a gazelle vs. a cheetah.

    by Big Frank :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 4:35pm

    Most of the Hester's teammates agree that D Manning is the fastest guy on the team.

    by Southern Philly :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 12:57pm

    "A simple monitor, available for next to nothing, could be used and synced to game film to detect not only fatigue, but effort, reaction, and who knows what else, yet like most sports, the research budget for teams is likely in the range of what they spend on plane tickets bringing in guys for workouts after an injury."

    They do this. Teams have monitors on their players for games and practice. A few weeks ago FOX showed Dunta Robinson having one strapped on him. And the announcers gave the impression that most if not every team does this.

    by Packer Pete (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 12:58pm

    In Mike Tanier's morality play, "Jacob's Fumble" (sure sounds biblical), I took great solice in the fact that by the Packers recovering, Good once again triumphed following that great vortex of confusion. Hope was restored to a dark and desolate world.

    by galactic_dev :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 1:06pm

    "Hasselbeck is out of the game due to natural causes."


    And Die Hard is the best Christmas movie OF ALL TIME!

    by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 3:49pm

    Die Hard is awesome. It is both the best Christmas movie of all time and the best pure action movie of all time.

    It is also a Christmas movie in far more than just setting and a few gags: watch it with an eye for Christmas/Christian imagery. It's actually a pretty wierd experience. McClane is Christ, on some allegorical level. Stigmata, for starters - just think how elaborate the set-up is that's required for him to have his feet cut up.

    by BlueStarDude :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 1:08pm

    RE: " no quarterback has worse interception luck this year than Jon Kitna" -- I submit Tony Romo.

    by Staubach12 :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 4:00pm

    I second that submission. His luck was actually worse than Kitna's.

    by Southern Philly :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 4:31pm

    If both Cowboys QBs are at the top in bad luck INTs, then I submit that it's not luck.

    by Staubach12 :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 7:46pm

    You're right it's called Roy Williams.

    by Key19 :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 9:17pm

    And, to be fair, Miles Austin. But yes, very Roy.

    by BlueStarDude :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 1:14pm

    RE: "Only one player can jump in the stands at a time. Who knew?" -- Makes complete sense when you consider that only one player can flash the hook em horns sign at a time.

    by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 1:20pm

    Take a game like NE@BUF. BUF has been eliminated from the playoffs. They've lost 14 in a row to NE.

    So why punt at all? (Or at least why punt once you pass your own 40, say?) Your season's over. Why not do something wild like that? NE's defense has issues with allowing lots of yards. Being able to run four plays against it for each set of downs instead of three will gas them even more in addition to having four chances instead of three to pick up 10 yards.

    I understand why coaches won't do this in games that still mean something. But when you're eliminated, and especially when playing a foe that's totally owned you, why not go way outside the box for a change?

    by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 1:25pm

    I was thinking exactly that during the game - especially against a hated divisional rival that is waaaay better than you. They should have used all four downs, never settled for field goals and then gone for two. At very least, it would have endeared the coach to his fans, which in a smaller market team like Buffalo can really do a lot towards job security... It doesn;t even have to be crazy plays - heck 2 small high percentage plays on downs 1 and 2, then just concentrate on getting 3 or 4 yards on downs 3 and 4...

    by MJK :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 1:21pm

    Anyone else think the Bills got into that blowout loss through horrible playcalling?

    On their first possession, they were running over the Pats horribly depleted D-line and racking up huge yards on the ground. They called eight or so consecutive runs and moved the length of the field to get into the red zone. Then they switched to 5 wide without even the threat of a run, got stopped, and had to settle for a FG.

    Next possession, they come out in a 5 wide formation, don't attempt a run, and go 3-and-out.

    Next possession, they get back to the run, drive down the field, then try a fancy pass where Fitzpatrick get's strip-sacked and the Pats recover.

    All this in a gusty, windy game where both Fitzpatrick and Brady had several balls sail unpredictably on them early.

    By the time the Bills got back to trying to run again, they were already down 24-3.

    I bet if they had stuck with "pound, pound pound" the entire first half, the game would have been a nailbiter. The Pats were down to 3 healthy D-linemen going into the game, and 1 healthy OLB. These players couldn't stop the Bills on the first drive...imagine if they had gotten tired. Yes, maybe the Bills wouldn't have been getting too many TD's once they got in the red zone and the safeties came up, but pounding and kicking FG's is better than what they got by trying to throw (turnovers).

    Instead, by abandoning the run when it was working and going with lots of receivers, they "forced" the Patriots into their nickel and dime packages, where they have plenty of healthy (and reasonably good) defensive players (the Pats issues with pass defense this year are due to their front five, not their DB's).

    by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 1:32pm

    The Bills' beat writers at the Buffalo News and Democrat and Chronicle totally agree with you.

    by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 1:57pm

    I agree with this and the posts above about the 4th down stuff. I recall saying the exact same thing as far back as 2007 when they and others were facing the 16-0 team. What've they got to lose?

    I wonder if it's one of those things where they're afraid to succeed with that tactic and show that everyone in the coaching fraternity has been timid and wrong for all these years, which would turn everyone against him, much as a below-market contract for someone like Peyton Manning (as if) would piss off his union.

    This was a great example of how quickly games can turn, I thought. If Johnson catches that TD pass on the first drive, the Bills are up 7-0 and put a bit of pressure on the Pats and gain some confidence. Instead, they kick the FG (on 4th and 5, IIRC, it's not a huge sin to take the points, unless going with the approach above), the Pats get let off the hook, the Bills don't get a spark, and the Pats just steamroll them. They'd have won anyway, but at least it might've been interesting for longer than one drive.

    This has nothing to do with the Bills, but the Patriots of the last several years are just so much better at execution that it's mind-boggling. I hate to overuse the word execution the way so many players and interviewees do, but in every single other game I watch, there are plays on which it's fairly obvious that slightly better execution - be it lane discipline, surer tackling, routes to the ball, finishing a block, etc - would've made a difference of a few yards (in the best case, much more in the worst) on the play. This hardly ever happens with the Patriots. Sure, their Pass Defense is young, lacks a consistent rush, and all that, but that's a talent thing. They're still mostly doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. They just don't screw up the little things very often. Just another feather in Belichick's cap. In addition to just plain being smarter than almost all other coaches, he also seems to be the best at getting every guy on the roster to maintain absolute laser-like focus. Every guy from top to bottom works as hard as someone clinging to his roster spot for dear life. It's very impressive. Obviously it shows up in the insanely low turnover rate, but where I really notice a difference, even compared to the other best teams in the league, is in the most random minor places like a botched run play or something that doesn't show up in extended highlight packages. I guess those awesome downfield WR blocks are getting some notice lately though...

    by RickD :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:08pm

    Agree with most of this, except

    (the Pats issues with pass defense this year are due to their front five, not their DB's).

    No, it's the secondary. In particular it's Butler, Arrington, and the mystery that is Brandon Merriweather.

    When the Pats were giving up chunks of passing yards earlier in the season, they were doing so on very quick routes. The inadequacy of the pass rush (and I'm not arguing that it is adequate) is less of a factor when the secondary cannot cover somebody for 2 seconds. Now it's true that the secondary has improved, esp. McCourty. But the problem isn't the front five.

    Non sequiter - I wonder who will play next week?

    by Athelas :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:32pm

    I think the young guys can use the experience, but I hope they give Vince Wilfork the day off--he seems to be holding the D-line together by himself.

    by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 4:40pm

    There's nothing wrong with Merriweather, other than that he has to play 15 yards back and almost on the sideline every play because Kyle Arrington is terrible. Even the play last week where he ran into McCourty was caused by Chung getting completely burned at the line, and there being a wide open WR in the middle of the field.

    Arrington (or specifically, Bodden being hurt), is the problem.

    Although I still think the Pass rush is more of an issue than Arrington.

    by JL (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 6:26pm

    I also think that giving up the shorter routes has been a deliberate strategy at times...The Patriots seem to mostly play their safeties deep and try to force opposing offenses to move all the way down the field. By making the opposition execute that many more times, there are more chances to for them to make a mistake/the defense to force a turnover.

    by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 1:23pm

    I don't care how lousy Seattle's pass defense is. My Josh Freeman man-crush got so huge yesterday I now have a hernia.

    by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 1:27pm

    This has been bothering me for a couple of seasons now:

    When did it become the norm to call it a passed "defensed" instead of a pass defended? Or, worse, in regular conversation, why is it "I just watched a Cardinal defense a pass with his helmet?"

    I'm willing to accept that if Passes Defensed is an actual stat/term that it's going to sound odd in conversation, much like the times out vs timeouts debate (on that, I fall on the side of "timeout is one word, so the plural is timeouts," but I understand the reasons for times out). But the second example, coming from Tanier, I believe, just sounds really really wrong to me.

    My viewing of that Austin TD was that Austin beat his CB, which is understandable, McGee made an OK-at-best throw whose main issue was not looking the safety off, but then the safety just flat out missed it anyway. I didn't notice what kind of line he took or anything, only that he was there and somehow whiffed on the ball. The throw itself was a touch underthrown but no more so than dozens of other completed deep passes, and it was a great grab by Austin, but it was kind of a miracle that it even got to him. The announcers, of course, thought it was a perfect throw. Yeah, sure guys...

    by RickD :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:37pm

    This all stems from the recent trend of using nouns as verbs. It's annoying.

    by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:38pm

    Verbing weirds language.

    by T. Diddy :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 3:25pm

    +1 for the Calvin & Hobbes reference.

    by Marcumzilla :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 6:28pm

    I posted basically your first couple sentences a couple weeks back. (I couldn't tell you the thread.) Most of the time it sounds to me like someone trying to make themselves sound smarter by not saying "defended" like the unwashed masses.

    by Justified, Sanctified, but (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 6:38pm

    It sounds ugly, but...how about the statement "No way in hell could I defend Favre's stupid pass across the field on third down there"? Defend could be read two different ways, while "defense" as a verb can't.

    by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 4:02pm

    I actually think "defended" is wrong in that context anyway, if we're going to be picky. The direct object of the verb "defend" ought to be the thing that is protected (so in this case I suppose the end zone, or the territory on one's own side of the line of scrimmage, or something). If anyone's really "defending a pass" (outside of commentary boxes, post-game press conferences, internet forums and talk radio) it's the receiver, or perhaps a team mate running a pick or blocking a DL who might otherwise bat it down. Defensive backs defend against passes. Maybe "Passes Rebuffed" would be an accurate use of pre-existing English words, but I don't have much of a problem with "defense" as a coinage for the two place predicate denoting the set of threat-successful defender pairs.

    by zlionsfan :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 5:30pm

    I think that's why in the past there were references to "passes broken up", which I think is a better way to describe the process in a sentence.

    Unfortunately, that apparently was one word too many, and so we must use "defensed". sigh.

    by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 2:54pm

    Languages change! Take a linguistics class. Nouns become verbs constantly in all languages, and preposterous.


    by Benmzion (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 1:28pm

    Does the bear's stop of the jet's fake punt go as a defensive play or a spacial teams play (like a punt return to he line of scrimmage) for dvoa purposes?

    I only ask because it is clearly a defensive stop, but it was a stop by the special teams unit in a special teams package.

    I'm curious.

    by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 1:35pm

    Why credit a dropped pass to any unit? I kid, but seriously, the Bears didn't do anything on that play - Brad Smith just needs to hold onto the ball.

    by Benmzion (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:58pm

    I agree. I am just curious how the FO stats will view the play, since it was a defensive play by the special teams unit in a punt return formation. (More of a process question for FO than a football question.)

    by Vincent Verhei :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 3:23pm

    Runs and passes are treated as offensive/defensive plays, not special teams.

    by Benmzion (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 3:40pm

    Got ya. Thanks!

    by tuluse :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 3:31pm

    He did get hit right as we was trying to make the catch. I don't watch a lot of Jets games, so I don't know what kind of receiving skills he has, but it wasn't the easiest catch in the world.

    Also, the Bears realized it was a fake really quickly, but they all started pointing to the right, and shifting that way, then the rollout was to the left.

    by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 3:33pm

    Yeah, but dropped it before he got hit. By the time 81 got to him, the ball was on the ground. He's a decent receiver, but he played like all the Jets did yesterday: like they didn't want to be there and just wanted to get off the field as quickly as possible.

    by BigCheese :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 5:41pm

    Speaking of this play, I just watched the 10 minutes of the Jets-Bears game I missed yesterday, was planning to watch the rest of the second half to watch for the finer points of the game, but I jsut had to turn it off and come here after hearing the spanish Fox comentators. They make Simms sound like a young John Madden.

    Right after the fake punt, where the Bears return unit is on the field: "The Jets did this because the Bears have one of the worst special teams in the game,a nd I'll explain why in a minute." This explanation o something so outrageously wrong never came (obviously), but what did come was something even more retarded:

    Two plays after the Hester 30-yard punt return, just as the camera is showing a close-up of the back of Hester on the field lining up at WR, with his name and number clearly visible, and two plays before his TD catch: "Hester only comes onto the field on special teams plays."

    And people wonder why I actually long for the US Fox comentators, bad as they may be....

    - Alvaro

    by Anonymous77 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:00pm

    I thought Tuck was getting pretty consistent pressure throughout the game. The problem is that he was the only one. Pierre-Paul left briefly early in the game with an ankle injury, I'm not sure if that affected him, but the big problem was Osi - he's basically disappeared in the second half of the season.

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

    I think Osi is (for lack of less maligned and over-used word) a bit over-rated. He's a Robert Mathis type that can take advantage of the situation when the guy on the other end of the line is tearing it up and drawing tons of attention, but he isn't anything better than what half the teams in the league for their 2nd DE. A completely unheralded guy like Juqua Parker could do just as well as Osi for the Giants. Also, I think Osi has earned his reputation as a "gives less than 100% effort when things aren't going his way" guy. He's definitely still benefitting reputation-wise from the 6 sack game and being part of that amazing 2007 line, although he was clearly the 3rd best dude on it, at best.

    by Dean :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:16pm

    So how can I grumble about how the Rams never get any love when you devote a large part of your column to them? What is a guy supposed to complain about now?

    I think they have a very good chance to beat Seattle, but if 5000 or so visiting Chefs fans can cause them to have crowd noise issues in their home stadium, how bad will the STL OL be when they have to go on the road?

    by kbukie :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:23pm

    In the last 20 minutes of yesterday's game, did the Chicago defense finally adjust to the Jets' offense, or was it mostly Sanchez or WR mistakes that stopped them?

    I guess the question is more did Chicago find a way to stop the Jet offense or did the Jet offense mostly stop itself with bad drops/throws?

    by Eddo :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:31pm

    I'd say a little of both. It seemed to me that the Bears started dropping more guys into coverage, which hurt the Jets. Sanchez did a great job in the first half with pre-snap reads, so the Bears basically took away any easy quick-hit routes. Sanchez looked less accurate in the second half, but that could be a result of the changes in coverage.

    Of course, the Jets did drop a few balls in the second half, after only one in the first, so that factors in as well.

    The announcers made a big deal about the Bears ranking #1 in second half defense, by some measure. Without having access to any numbers, that seems right to me. Smith, Marinelli, and company have done a great job of adjusting to things at halftime all year (the offensive coaches have, as well).

    by Jimmy :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:51pm

    I only watched the game on TV so I can't say for sure but it seemed to me that in the first half the Bears were playing an unusually high amount of cover3 as opposed to the cover2 or tampa2 looks. I can't say it really worked, the Jets kept finding the gaps and getting behind the linebackers in play action. The second half the Bears seemed to have gone back to the cover2 / tampa2 like the rest of the season and it worked better. I suspect the thought processs behind the intitial strategy was to try to get extra men into the box to slow the run down as they didn't think Sanchez would be able to pick them apart but it was a mistake (as evidenced by the Jets' first half passing performance).

    This isn't the first team to start dropping balls as the game has gone on against the Bears this year, it has been a common theme. Marinelli seems to have gotten through to the team that after dropping to your deep landmarks and reading the QB you smack the crap out of the receivers.

    by tuluse :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 3:45pm

    I saw quite a few blitzes in the first half where the Bears got burned. I'm guessing they were trying to rattle Sanchez. Unfortunately for them, the Jets line is so good, they would just pick it up and Sanchez would have an easy read. There was also some confusion and missed assignments. The safety (I can't remember if it was Chris Harris or Daniel Manning) coming up to cover the TE that just out ran the LB, while a receiver ran right into the zone he just vacated. Phil Simms seemed to think the corner was supposed to stick with the receiver in that situation, but who really knows.

    The whole game was just so weird. Almost like a basketball game where each team went on runs. I full expected the Bears to fall apart when the Jets went up 21-10, but then Culter lead that great drive.

    I couldn't believe what I was seeing, I probably told my friends "remember when these were defensive teams?" at least 5 times.

    by BJR :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 8:45pm

    What made it even weirder was then watching the Saints and Falcons, two powerful offensive teams (albeit with solid defences), become embroiled in a proper defensive battle the following night. Although they were both enjoyable games, experiencing them left me feeling I know little about football.

    by Boots Day :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:25pm

    The rule of thumb that I've heard (don't know if there's any science behind it) is that you don't got for two until the fourth quarter. Given that the Cowboys scored with about a minute and a half left in the third quarter, down by eight, and that the QBs in the game weren't exactly Peyton Manning and Kurt Warner, meaning future scoring opportunities were likely to be very limited - I thought it was obvious that they needed to go for two.

    If they'd made the two, Buehler's miss would have meant at least OT, not a loss in regulation. And if they'd missed it, well, a loss is a loss, whether you lose by 1 or 2 or 50.

    by The Powers That Be :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 4:41pm

    I saw it completely differently. It's still the 3rd quarter, so the current score is certainly a consideration, but not the only one. You have McGee QBing his first NFL game and you have a highly questionable short-yardage running game. The odds of converting a 2-pointer at that point have got to be quite a bit lower than the league average. Take the point.

    by BigCheese :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 5:52pm

    I think the fact that upi have McGee in the game (and that you're facing the freaking Arizona Cardinals who 90% of the time score on returns), that makes the decision of going for 2 even more obvious. A tied game lets you run a less urgent offense where yo can minimize the oportunity for errors, while trying to come back from 1 or 2 is exactly the same. It was a bad decission even if Buhler makes the XP (if they convert for 2 and he makes it they win in regulation, instead of having to go to OT which would have been the result if the XP is made; and do you really want to go to OT with your 3rd-stringer?)

    - Alvaro

    by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:33pm

    A bit of a tangent...

    Does the NFL ever make All-22 available for anything on Gameday Rewind? I've never seen the "Coaches Film" button (or whatever it's called) lit up/selectable, even for TDs or other interesting plays.

    Anyone else?

    by Vincent Verhei :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 3:26pm

    I've seen it quite a bit. I'll do some game charting this week, I'll try to remember to point out some examples.

    by dbt :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 4:06pm

    They don't put those plays online until thursday. Go back to previous weeks if you want to see them.

    by Vincent Verhei :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 7:03pm

    Ah. That would explain, since I am a few weeks behind.

    by Sander :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 6:31pm

    I live outside the US so I can't get Game Rewind, but I can get Gamepass which is essentially the same thing but more expensive, and I can watch games live. But for some stupid reason the All-22 tape isn't implemented there. *grumbles*

    by BJR :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:51pm

    No mention of 'free Jamaal Charles' this week guys, or do we save that for Quick Reads?

    Charles: 13 carries, 77 yards (and 4 receptions for 40)
    Jones: 23 carries, 51 yards.

    You might think Jones was doing the bulk of his work in the second half when the game was up, but he actually had more carries than Charles in the first half (8 to 7).

    by PerlStalker :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 3:01pm

    Yes, Vince, we'll celebrate because even though it was the Texans, we couldn't beat the 49rs or Cardinals with the 3rd QB.

    Once the Broncos opened up the playbook in the second half, the Broncos looked almost reasonable. Yes, with the caveat that it was Texans. Tebow looked pretty good though he still made some rookie mistakes.

    by Jetspete :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 3:20pm

    havent seen anyone mention the final four minutes of jets game yet, but Sanchez deserves heavy criticism for the drive preceding the final INT drive. Jets get ball at own 40 with 4:32 to go. First down was 5 yards underneath, then a run. after both those plays he took the play clock under 10 (under 5 in one case) and seemed to not have any idea on how to run an efficient offense in this situation (not the first time i've seen that this year). Jets were forced to punt, and in a critical situation, used 1:25 for 3 plays going 6 yards.

    worse yet was Rex's clock management. after the bears got a first down on a Forte run, he used his second timeout. after the first down play, he called his final timeout. However, that timeout was called with 2:43 on the game clock, meaning that chicago could run a 3 second play then take the clock to two minutes. Rex effectively wasted the two minute warning! if he waited to use the timeout, the bears wouldve been forced to run the second down play before the warning, then a thrid down play after the warning, then the final jets timeout. Granted, the jets still wouldve had to go 70 yards in 1:45 with no timeouts, but at least that is better than 1:00 left.

    by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 3:31pm

    Yeah, I was watching that and thinking "Jeez - and people have the nerve to criticize Andy Reid's clock management?" Also, having watched quite a bit of the Jets this year, I honestly think Brian Schottenheimer is the weak link. His play calling seems determined to undermine Sanchez's confidence and take him out of rhythm whenever possible. Any time Sanchze got hot yesterday, he would call two LDT off-tackle crap runs to slow everything down. He's doubly to blame if the excessive pre-snap motion in hurry-up situations is his fault. They must have burned an entire minute at the end of the game in pre-snap movement. And he's guilty of just being too clever and too dumb in equal measure. I'd go crazy if he were calling the plays for the team I root for...

    by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 4:45pm

    I think a large part of it is that Sanchez can't handle anything when the safeties aren't up in the box. As soon as he gets "hot", the safeties back up, and if you don't call some runs, you're getting some INTs.

    by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 4:51pm

    Um, the Bears were running Cover-3 yesterday. They had 3 safeties deep and Sanchez was killing them with slants and shallow crossing routes. He got picked on a 2 deep zone. Nice try, though, really keep saying unfounded things and reality will probably match up at some point.

    by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 5:48pm

    I wasn't speaking specifically about the bears, but more about Sanchez not being a very good QB.

    by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 10:25pm

    And, I (not a Jets fan) think a big part of Sanchez's problem is a crappy OC. He can make the throws (his slants are beautiful) and general makes goods reads. He can hit the deep ball frequently enough... there's a very workable QB there. A big part of the Jets' offensive failings appear to be scheme and an OC with a knack for botching things up. If you want to cite actually, you know, things that happen on the field and what goes on in games, we can have conversation. But I know that's not exactly what you are famous for around here...

    by Sander :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 12:09am

    I think you're entirely wrong there.
    Sanchez can throw a really really pretty ball at times, but he can follow that up with terrible throws like screen passes at full speed or shallow crosses thrown 2 yards behind the receiver. There's a reason he's only completing 55% of his passes. Plus, you can't build an offense on just slants.

    More than that, I don't know how you can tell if he can really read defenses or not. Seems to me that Sanchez is still largely a one-read quarterback, who will force balls at times. In fact, I think you have to give Schottenheimer a lot of credit for getting receivers open and making his offense function well with Sanchez at the helm. Schottenheimer can get too cute at times, but he does know how to play to the strengths of his quarterback.

    by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 9:55am

    Way to make personal attacks instead of actually refuting anything I said.

    I strongly disagree that Sanchez makes good reads.

    by johnny walker (not verified) :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 3:03am

    Not clear what you're getting at. Cover-3 has a safety in the box, like he was saying. And Sanchez got picked on a 2-deep zone, ie. after the safeties backed up... again, like he was saying.

    I'm not getting how you refuted those points. It sounds like you reinforced them.

    by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 1:52pm

    They were playing cover-3 with 2 safeties deep and he was picking them apart underneath. I'm not sure what is being argued that Sanchez does or good or bad anymore. Sanchez has been mediocre this season, but he played a great game yesterday, make the right reads and made the plays with the 3 players dropped in deeper coverage (I don't see 3 safeties on the field on many of those plays, though, so I'm not sure what you are referencing.) If the argument is that cover-3 is somehow a more QB-friendly coverage defense than cover 2, I'm not sure what to say to that - it's certainly the opposite of the conventional wisdom.

    RichC is making the argument that Sanchez is only good with a safety in the box - well, yesterday, that's not what the Bears did. They were running cover-3 with a linebacker taking a deeper zone. They had 7 men in the box. But then, yes, Sanchez struggled (as many QB's have this season against the #5 DVOA pass defense) versus the Cover-2. This was also 7 men in the box.

    So, RichC argued that Sanchez stinks and Schottenheimer is forced to call gadget plays and 2 yard runs into the middle of the line even when Sanchez is playing well because a stacked 8 man-in-the-box situation in the only one in which Sanchez is effective. None of that happened yesterday. The gadget plays, formation movement and 2-yard runs all had the effect of stalling out drives. The Jets were most effective when Schottenheimer called slants, TE outs and shallow crossing routes at which Sanchez is most adept at hitting. The bad-play calling got in the way of Sanchez's effectiveness, who was succeeding at a fairly good clip (even against the cover-2 in the 4th quarter) with short routes. He was making the correct reads, taking what the defense was giving him and hitting some beautiful balls into tight coverage. Then Schottenheimer would call a run (LDT - 13 carries for 28 yards, including 4 late in the 4th) or, say, a Brad Smith straight drop-back pass. If Schottenheimer just kept calling what was working, the Jets would have won the game. No one what he was doing was having the effect of "keeping the safeties up" at any point in the game. It was bad play-calling.

    The argument "just put the safeties deep and he can't beat you" is incorrect in reference to Sunday's game because they did and Sanchez was still effective. (And the fact that Sanchez WOULD hit big plays when they brought a blitz hardly seems like an indictment of his performance.)

    by tuluse :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 4:11pm

    When the Bears run cover 3, it's usually to help out in the run. They put another safety in the box and have the corners and one safety play deep. That means there is one less zone in the short areas, so there are bigger windows to complete passes that most teams try to complete.

    The coverage you are talking about, 3 deep zones with 2 safeties back, is usually called cloud coverage to my knowledge. Which I could see the Bears running to hide Tim Jennings.

    by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 4:40pm

    I just went through and looked at a bunch of the Bears coverages in the 1st half and it's a little hard to see what the safeties are doing obviously, but they never have eight men in the box. They do bring more blitzes than I think is normal for a Tampa-2 team, but a lot of the time, the LB's are just dropping immediately into zones. They're definitely not stacking the box with safeties and they have at least 2 deep on almost every successful Jets play. A lot of it just looks like normal Cover-2 & Cover-3 (with 2 safeties deep, so Cloud) zone.

    Tuluse, what's your quick assessment of Sanchez? The Bears have made a bunch of QB's look pretty mediocre this year, so I'm curious if you had a clear read on what was working for Sanchez and why... (and tell me you didn't breathe a sigh of relief every time they called an LDT run or an excessively clever gadget play...)

    by ammek :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 3:43pm

    Doug Farrar: I liked how four different Seahawks defenders waved at Mike Williams as he ran that shallow cross from one side of the end zone to the other. Another touchdown to another completely uncovered receiver.

    Watching the replay of the first Mike Williams touchdown, it appears that all four Bucs receivers downfield are either completely uncovered or only very loosely shadowed by Seattle defenders. The word that comes to mind is 'outschemed'.

    Yet despite their near-epic awfulness, I continue to envisage the 2010 Seahawks winning a playoff game.

    by bubqr :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 4:09pm

    I'd like to hear those bitter Giants fans talking about what the Manningham's taunts this week. I'm very curious.

    by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 4:22pm

    I've been pretty amzed at the Giants' players inability to be humbled. After last week, they seemed unfazed, which I couldn't believe. And then today dudes are coming out and talking like they are still Superbowl favorites and one of the best teams in the NFL. It's unreal.

    by Trust Doesn't Rust (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 5:19pm

    Regarding the end of the 49ers-Rams game, is it just me or do refs seem particularly eager this year to keep the clock rolling late in games on close out-of-bounds plays? Seems like they call forward progress stopped much more liberally than they would in the middle of the field or earlier in the game. I mean, just by the fact of the receiver or back trying to get out of bounds it would seem to suggest forward progress still going. I wonder if refs are instructed to do that so as to avoid the basketball situation where the last 2 minutes of a game lasts 2 hours.

    by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 5:32pm

    Well, the refs also missed the OOB on the TD catch that got reversed, so maybe that crew just had a really poor sense of the boundaries of the field?

    by Trust Doesn't Rust (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 7:18pm

    It's something I've seen all year, heck all day yesterday in different games. If a defender has his hands around a guy trying to get out of bounds, the ref will wind his arms even if he gets out of bounds, the implication being that forward progress was stopped right before he got out of bounds. This level of discretion would never be applied say, to a running back moving forward in the middle of the field against a defender or two.

    by UTVikefan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 11:52pm

    Quick and fast, are similar to rear-ends in cars. 4.11 you go 0-60 in the blink of an eye...but not so much past that. 2.96 and you go really, really fast, but get there more slowly. The ones that absolutely amaze me are players that can do both like Percy Harvin. He hits top speed in two steps, but his top speed is about as good as it gets. Fun to watch.