Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» 2017 Adjusted Games Lost

Two NFC teams were hit hardest by injuries last year. One already set the AGL record in 2016, while the other has a coach with the worst AGL since 2002. Also: the Rams' incredible bill of health in L.A., and Tampa Bay's questionable injury reporting.

27 Sep 2010

Audibles at the Line: Week 3

compiled by Bill Barnwell

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

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

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

Cincinnati Bengals 20 at Carolina Panthers 7

Ben Muth: Jimmy Clausen and Carson Palmer both look like they're shaving points. Also, would Palmer be the first player to ever get benched for his brother?

Rob Weintraub: Assuming most of you saw little to nothing of this one. If so, consider yourselves fortunate. Once again, the Bengals won with stifling defense, excellent special teams, and horrific offense. More pre-snap penalty issues, a horrendous end-of-half time management problem (no timeouts, ball on the CAR 10, and Palmer throws underneath. Time elapsed when tackle Dennis Roland spaced out ten yards behind the frantic attempt to clock the ball), and another terrible Palmer performance. The conditions were bad, the ball wet and field crappy, but that only excused about half of Palmer's bad throws/decisions. As the game went on, in a flashback to 2009, the Cincy reined it in and threw only comebacks and short seam routes. Only at the end, when they finally used some misdirection to get a couple of wide open throws, did anything come easily.

It was particularly frustrating as a Bengals fan because Carolina was utterly no threat. With an overmatched Jimmy Clausen making his first start, the Panthers had nothing on offense. Cincy forced five turnovers, stacked the box to eliminate the run, and covered Steve Smith right out of the game. The Bengals could have ended this midway through the second quarter with any sort of offense at all--but instead, despite utter domination, it was a one-score game until the middle of the fourth.

The MVP of the team after three games is kicker Mike Nugent (another 50-yard FG, three touchbacks). Kevin Huber had an excellent game punting. Cedric Benson ran hard if not especially effectively. Maualuga, Rivers, Rucker, Hall, Crocker were standouts on defense.

All of this is just conversation--if Palmer really is this quarterback now, the Bengals are cooked.

Buffalo Bills 30 at New England Patriots 38

Aaron Schatz: The arrival of Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and now Danny Woodhead seems to finally have given the Patriots the freedom to get all Sean Payton-y with their formations. They ran five-wide (well, four-wide and a flex TE) on the first play with Randy Moss not even in the game -- Welker, Edelman, Tate, Hernandez, and Woodhead. They motioned Fred Taylor out wide, which left the Bills with one of their starting corners (Terrence McGee) covering a 34-year-old running back. They used Hernandez on the extremely rare "tight end around" for 13 yards. Then he got open twice in the middle of the defense, twisting away from Keith Ellison. Finally, play-action with three tight ends in the game, Randy Moss easy in the end zone for a touchdown.

When Pats play Miami on MNF next week, over-under on number of plays before Jon Gruden refers to Hernandez as "the joker" is five.

Bill Barnwell: The Bills can't stop tight ends without Paul Posluszny. Last year, they struggled to move the ball against the Patriots in Week 1 until Posluszny got hurt and left the game, at which point they threw those two touchdown passes to Ben Watson. (Although that was in the Cover-2 and they're in the 3-4 now.)

Aaron Schatz: Patriots benched Darius Butler after his struggles against the Jets last week, in favor of second-year undrafted guy Kyle Arrington. They brought in Butler midway through the second quarter. Bills proceed to throw on him for a completion, then run around his end with a missed tackle. Goodbye Butler, hello again Arrington, but by that point the Bills are too close to the end zone and they eventually score on a WR screen to C.J. Spiller split out. Bills beating the Pats despite being underdogs by two touchdowns. New England fans may commence panic in 5... 4... 3...

Bills defensive line really getting pushed around by the Pats on running plays, and you can really see the difference between the running styles of the departed Laurence Maroney (shake and bake, and then shake some more, and then maybe some more baking...) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (hello hole, wham).

On the other side, I'm a little surprised by how little the Bills are throwing to Lee Evans. It isn't like he's being double-covered or anything, but unlike the Falcons, who constantly force the ball to their best receiver, the Bills have done a good job of building an offense that spreads the ball around and doesn't depend solely on that one guy. Being able to use Spiller as a receiver, of course, helps. I'm also a little amazed at how relatively open tight end Jonathan Stupar has been a lot of the time.

Aaron Schatz: Shocker: Officials in Patriots-Bills game do not know rule book. Bills call timeout after Ryan Fitzpatrick converts on third-and-6 with a QB draw. Replay booth reviews play, decides Fitzpatrick does not get necessary yardage, so now it is fourth-and-1. Bills come out to play the game where they try to draw Pats offside. It doesn't work, so they call timeout. That's two timeouts in a row. Remember when Joe Gibbs did that a couple years ago? That's an illegal procedure penalty, five yards. Refs come out and say that the ball should be spotted at the 16 and a half with one second on the play block, and do not mention penalty. Bills bring in Rian Lindell for a field goal. Bill Belichick, who actually understands rule book, is livid. Not that there's a huge difference between a 34-yard field goal and a 39-yard field goal, but shouldn't the OFFICIALS understand the rules of this game?

Tom Gower: They do.

Item 3: Consecutive Team Timeouts. Each team may be granted a charged team timeout during the same dead-ball period, but a second charged team timeout by either team during the same dead-ball period is prohibited. Such team timeouts may follow a Referee’s timeout or any automatic timeouts in Section 4 above.

Item 4: Unsportsmanlike Conduct. An attempt to call an excess team timeout or to call a second timeout in the same dead-ball period by Team B in an attempt to “freeze” a kicker, will be considered unsportsmanlike conduct and will subject the offending team to a 15-yard penalty (See 12-3). This will apply to field goal or Try attempts.

Aaron Schatz: What am I missing? It was a second charted team timeout during a dead-ball period. Therefore, it is prohibited. There was no referee's timeout because the Bills had already called timeout before the replay booth decided to review the play.

Tom Gower: The Bills called a timeout. The officials reviewed the play. That created a second dead-ball period between plays, so the Bills were permitted to call a second time out.

Later on...

Aaron Schatz: The last word on the Bills double-timeout. It sounds like Tom is correct that there is no penalty for two timeouts -- but it sounds like the officials should never have allowed the Bills to take the second timeout, which would likely have meant the play clock going to zero and a five-yard Delay of Game.

Q: I was asked as the pool reporter to ask you a question as it relates to the back-to-back timeout calls by the Bills. What was the ruling on why the Bills weren’t penalized for calling their second timeout?

JP: There is no foul for calling a second timeout in the rulebook. We shouldn’t have granted it. We shouldn’t have shut the play down. But, there is no penalty. There is no 5-yard penalty for what we did. [The procedure is to] get the players reset, the second time out is not allowed, resume play, which is what we did.

Tom Gower: Ok, thanks for the clarification. I wasn't quite right-the challenge doesn't create a second dead-ball scenario, so the refs should've just ignored the timeout. Ah, well, live and learn.

Aaron Schatz: Odd thought watching Fitzpatrick: Is 14 the rarest number in the NFL? Fitzpatrick, Zoltan Mesko, Keenan Burton, and I think Riley Cooper. Anyone else? Were there any great historical players who wore 14?

Bill Barnwell: Don Hutson.

Ben Muth: Dan Fouts wore 14, I think.

Doug Farrar: Yelberton Abraham Tittle!

San Francisco 49ers 10 at Kansas City Chiefs 31

Vince Verhei: Chiefs line Matt Cassel up at wide receiver, then get the ball to him on a reverse, and he hits Dwayne Bowe for a long touchdown. I'm sure there's a good reason Cassel has 22 passes while Jamaal Charles has seven carries, but I can't think of what it might be. It is working though -- Chiefs lead 17-3, with both scores coming on long pass plays.

Anonymous player quickly becoming un-anonymous: Chiefs rookie tight end Tony Moeaki. Third-round draft pick came in to the game leading the team in receptions, and he just made an amazing leaping one-handed grab in the end zone to put KC up 24-3. Keep passing, Todd! It's working!

Doug Farrar: Man, I can’t wait to see what level of utter insanity we get from Singletary this week. Tamba Hali just abused Anthony Davis and wound up with three sacks.

Tennessee Titans 29 at New York Giants 10

Tom Gower: I'm apparently not the only one who realizes most of the Titans LBs are mediocre in coverage, as the Giants seem to be making a concerted effort to throw the ball to Ahmad Bradshaw with a reasonable amount of success. Kevin Boss also had a long completion with a bunch of YAC, but Eli threw his second pick of the game on third-and-goal. It was a left-handed floater that still would've been completed if not for a great leaping deflection by Will Witherspoon. Eli's first pick of the game came on a ball of Hakeem Nicks' hands, so it seems like he's still on pace to challenge Warren Moon's unofficial NFL record of most interceptions that weren't really the QB's fault.

Eli Manning: 17-of-20 at halftime, with 2 tipped picks and a drop. Yeah, that Titans pass defense looks a lot more like a result of playing Campbell and Dixon/Batch the first two weeks. By contrast, Vince Young is 3 of 4 and Chris Johnson has 17 carries for 54 yards. The TD drive was about 9 plays, 8 of them Johnson carries. They're going to need to bring Javon Ringer in (zero carries thus far), or else Johnson may not make it to the bye week. The Titans also lost starting corner Jason McCourty to an arm injury late in the second quarter.

It took a while 5 minutes, but Vince Young has already thrown more passes the second half than he did the first half. The Titans take a 12-10 lead on a safety -- Michael Griffin downs a punt at the one, and a 42 or so yard completion to Mario Manningham on 3rd down is negated by a chop block in the end zone on Ahmad Bradshaw.

Chris Johnson finally does something, breaking a 42-yard gain outside after the Giants corner on that side overplays inside and then caps it with an eight-yard run on a simple counter where the Giants seemed to overcommit. The Giants have yet to punt, but Eli's thrown two picks (one in the end zone), Bradshaw fumbled inside the 10, they've missed two field goals, and failed on a 4th down conversion, so the Titans are up 29-10 despite giving up 409 yards.

Cleveland Browns 17 at Baltimore Ravens 24

Tom Gower: So, apparently the Browns decide to confuse Joe Flacco by massively changing positions right before the snap on third-and-9. Alas, as part of their efforts to confuse Flacco, nobody bothered to cover Anquan Boldin, who picked up about 20 yards.

Mike Tanier: Once Flacco settled down, he had a pretty solid game. Of course, he had it against a pretty bad defense. Eric Wright on Anquan Boldin is a mismatch all day every day, and the Ravens kept finding it. I was sitting with some people who know Flacco's game very well, and the only obvious mistake he was making was holding onto the ball too long before throwing. A big mistake, but a correctable one.

Pittsburgh Steelers 38 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13

David Gardner: LeGarrette Blount is running the ball really well against the Steelers. He's stealing some carries from Cadillac Williams. He's great at getting yards after the carry.

Also, Tampa is really missing Tanard Jackson. Charlie Batch got a way-too-easy touchdown to Mike Wallace because Jackson's replacement never turned to look for the ball and make a play on it.

Bill Barnwell: I'd never seen a defensive back lose the ball in the sun before.

Vince Verhei: I love Gus Johnson, but he embarrassed himself trying to heap praise on Charlie Batch after Batch's second touchdown, talking about what a great game the veteran was playing. The first touchdown should have been tipped, but the defender never turned around. The second should have been intercepted, but bounced out of the defender's hands and into Mike Wallace's for a touchdown. He wasn't playing great to that point, he was playing badly -- but fortunately for him, Tampa Bay was playing even worse.

Atlanta Falcons 27 at New Orleans Saints 24

Bill Barnwell: Tony Gonzalez looking good to start in Atlanta; he just blew by Tracy Porter on an out-and-up, and then caught a big third-down pass for a touchdown against Porter. The Saints are ahead, though, when Mike Smith called for a ridiculous challenge on third-and-5 and then Lance Moore picked up the ensuing punt and went 70 yards.

Drew Brees: Human. Just threw an interception on a bad throw downfield; the receiver had a step on Brent Grimes, but Brees missed badly and Grimes basically just had to catch a punt.

The Saints score on a long bomb to early Week 3 MVP Lance Moore when the Falcons appear to blow zone coverage; looked like Thomas DeCoud got caught looking in the backfield and didn't get over in time. Saints were running a few sprint-out draws to Pierre Thomas to set it up.

Wow. The Falcons just went for it on back-to-back fourth-and-shorts inside Saints territory and made them both. Before the second one, Brian Billick referenced David Romer's paper on going for it on fourth-and-short ("...a mathematician from California...") in a positive manner. Analytics week!

Tom Gower: No surprise. In his book, More Than a Game, Billick mentions the Romer paper (and FO, too).

Bill Barnwell: Sure, but there are coaches/analysts who know more than they let on and still play dumb on TV.

Falcons score on the 19th play of their drive, a one-yard plunge by Turner. 19 plays!

Aaron Schatz: Chance Gregg Easterbrook will mention 19-play drive in TMQ: 99.999%

Tom Gower: Lance Moore's second touchdown was a nice result of Payton using playcalling to create matchups. Moore was running a shallow cross against Curtis Lofton and Brees hit him in stride, letting him outrun the LB and get into the end zone with a downfield block from (I believe) Shockey.

Ben Muth: Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez make Matt Ryan look better than he is. Both guys have a knack for using their bodies to shield off defenders and catch the ball in traffic.

Bill Barnwell: Falcons have been giving Jason Snelling a decent share of the carries today, and outside of a "fumble" that was reversed on a long run, he's looked great.

And Atlanta just took the lead with a touchdown pass to Roddy White. White beat Jabari Greer at the line on two consecutive passes and caught long fades each time. The Saints' safeties are preoccupied with a dominant Tony Gonzalez and didn't give Greer the help he needed over the top on both plays.

Always good to give a team a taste of its own medicine. The Falcons go play-action, get Ryan on the bootleg, and throw a dumpoff to Ovie Mughelli for a first down. That's straight out of the Saints playbook.

Falcons go for it on fourth-and-6 from the Saints' 33 and lose the ball when a quick slant is tipped at the line by Alex Brown. Billick rightly notes that the Falcons should have run the ball on either third-and-6 (rollout thrown away) or fourth-and-6.

Vince Verhei: I echo Billick's analysis. If you know you're going for it on fourth down, then your third down play needs to set it up. And if you didn't know you were going for it on fourth, then you made a panicky and desperate decision at the worst possible time.

Bill Barnwell: Saints end up tying the game with a 32-yard field goal after converting a fourth-and-2 with a throw to Jeremy Shockey against Will Moore. Pierre Thomas went down during the drive with what looked like a nasty knee injury. Falcons really haven't been able to stop the Saints' passing game without getting pressure from their front four, so coin toss is key. And Falcons win it.

Ben Muth: Will Smith just torched Sam Baker on an ET (End-Tackle twist) for a sack on third down to force the punt.

I can't believe Hartley shanked that 29-yarder.

Bill Barnwell: Falcons running a drive that's very reminiscent of the Buccaneers drive that beat the Saints in overtime last year -- just run after run. Ryan dropped back once, on first-and-20 from inside his own 10, and scrambled for 13 yards.

Atlanta wins, but it sure got hairy -- a 41-yard field goal was iced/blocked, and then there was a false start before Matt Bryant put a 46-yarder through. I think we saw what DAVE would have suggested -- the Saints were a 2-0 team that had required some breaks to get there, and the Falcons were a 1-1 team that had looked much better on a play-by-play basis. Obviously, the Hartley gaffe is what people will remember as having granted the Falcons their shot at winning, but the Douglas miss downfield at the beginning of OT was pretty egregious, too.

Detroit Lions 10 at Minnesota Vikings 24

Mike Kurtz: The Vikings force a punt deep in Lions territory and get a good return called back for a block in the back on the opposite side of the play. Minnesota then proceeds to have three penalties called on them in the same drive, including a false start followed by a delay of game. What a mess.

Bill Barnwell: They lost center John Sullivan on the opening play, which couldn't have helped.

Ned Macey: I worry when my diagnosis for a team is the same as Tony Siragusa, but it is apparent that Favre is not trying to throw the ball down the field at all. He at best looks down, but you can always tell he's going to dump off short. The Vikings offense has no flow, but a muffed punt by Stefan Logan and an 80-yard run by Peterson still has the Vikings up 24-10.

As for Detroit, the team just doesn't have the talent to make mistakes, and the Logan fumble was really bad early, and they have picked up a number of costly penalties. Offensively, the Lions still have not figured out how to use Calvin Johnson, and I'm not sure I have a suggestion. Johnson may be in the realm of very good but not great receivers--capable of dominating in an explosive offense but not capable of putting up one of those Steve Smith with the Panthers years from a few years ago.

Also, no team will ever compete for the playoffs with Jonathan Wade and Chris Houston starting at corner.

This game, which is effectively over, has gotten extremely chippy. Unfortunately, since I was writing this email, I missed who started it.

Mike Kurtz: Since it's clear that referees are never going to actually eject players for fighting (which they should technically do), there needs to be some new scheme to punish mutual combat. Something like delaying enforcement against the defense until they next have possession.

Finally got around to checking the final penalty totals for Vikings-Lions: 8-67 and 12-100, respectively. That ignores something like 6 penalties that offset and weren't enforced, and I don't think any of them were DPI. What a ridiculous comedy of errors.

Dallas Cowboys 27 at Houston Texans 13

Bill Barnwell: Cowboys go for it twice on fourth-and-short on their opening drive, both times to the sidelines and away from the center of the defense. The first time, they narrowly convert; on the second one, though, the Texans blow up a screen attempt and second option Jason Witten commits an offensive pass interference penalty to end the drive. That would have been a 47-yard field goal attempt for David Buehler.

I loved a little subtle veteran play by Keith Brooking at the end of the first quarter. The Texans had the ball at the line of scrimmage with the clock running and about eight seconds left. Once the clock hit two, Brooking started sprinting towards the line of scrimmage, I'm assuming because he knew that there was no downside -- either the Texans wouldn't call the play, or they'd call it with one second left and Brooking would have an easy shot at shooting the gap.

Cowboys just killing themselves. The Texans blitz off both edges and Romo throws a perfect screen to Felix Jones that should have gone for a TD, but Miles Austin gets called for a block in the back.

Touchdown pass to Dez Bryant is nullified because Bryant was shoved out of bounds and was the first person to touch the ball afterwards. Cowboys have been moving the ball without problems for most of the half. After a DPI extends their drive, Tony Romo takes a grounding penalty when he decides to dribble a pass as he falls down. That knocks the Cowboys out of field goal range and forces them to take their last timeout instead of taking a 10-second runoff.

Tim Gerheim: Watching Arian Foster, I can tell why the Broncos under Kubiak could throw unstaffed guys in at running back and thrive. Foster is great at making a decisive cut and getting through the line of scrimmage, but when he gets out in space he has no shake and bake. Making the most of what the play gives is a very valuable skill, but it doesn't show up at the combine and it doesn't jump off the screen when you're watching a college running game. Guys like Foster make the most of what's there, but you won't see him make something out of nothing. Still, I'd much rather have him getting the lion's share of carries than Steve Slaton.

Aaron Schatz: Apologies for mixing games, but that sounds like the same skill set as Green-Ellis.

Ben Muth: I wonder what Michael Irvin thinks about Roy Williams now?

Bill Barnwell: Having a good game, but the Texans pass defense is just stinky. Houston reminds me a lot of the 2007-08 Saints, a great offense that has some great players on defense, but none of them happen to play in the secondary.

Tim Gerheim: Yeah, Aikman and Fox did a good job breaking down the route Williams ran on his first touchdown. He took one hard first step to the outside, and Brice McCain sold out to keep to Williams' outside. Williams just ran up the field straight past him and McCain couldn't catch up. Williams ran the exact same route on Kareem Jackson for his second touchdown, the only difference being that Jackson actually slipped.

I don't recall Glover Quin getting beaten, and Miles Austin had a quiet day; I don't know if Quin is good, but it looks like he's at least a lot better than the rest of the secondary.

Bernard Pollard is a good player, but he's a pure strong safety who's not very good in coverage. He's also a hothead (or ass, if he's good and not on your team) and I noticed a lot of Cowboys trash talking and egging him on. I haven't seen it happen yet but I have no doubt he can be baited into personal fouls.

Philadelphia Eagles 28 at Jacksonville Jaguars 3

Bill Barnwell: Michael Vick just threw his second touchdown pass in Jacksonville to finish a two-minute drive. It was a nice piece of work -- he got GREAT pass protection, but instead of running when nobody was open, he actually did wait around in the pocket for someone to slip a defender and get open, and eventually, a Jaguars corner slipped and Jeremy Maclin scored.

That being said, he's playing the league's 31st-ranked pass defense from 2009 and 2010, and he's 10-of-21 for 162 yards.

Vince Verhei: Michael Vick is not lighting the world on fire, completing about half his passes, and the incompletions have been bad, several yards short or behind guys. But he does have two touchdown throws. The second was notable because of the time he had to throw. He looked left to right before finding Maclin in the end zone. I think Maclin was his third option on the play. Michael Vick standing in the pocket and going through his progressions just looks weird.

Vick gets his third touchdown pass. Maclin runs a deep sideline route against a Cover-2, and Vick's pass gets there before the safety. His deep balls remain very pretty when they're on target.

OK, I know it's against the Jaguars and they suck, but Vick is in full Superman mode. Under a heavy rush, he flicks the ball off of one foot while falling backwards, and it hits DeSean Jackson for a big gain. Jaguars had tight coverage too. A few plays later, he slips a couple tackles in the backfield and breaks off a 20-yard touchdown run.

(For more on Michael Vick, check out this Walkthrough special analyzing Vick's passing performance against Jacksonville drive-by-drive.)

Washington Redskins 16 at St. Louis Rams 30

Bill Barnwell: Guess who's saying stupid things? It's Jim Mora! He was saying after the Mardy Gilyard fumble of a kickoff return that it's an adventure every time a rookie touches the ball. It's just about nonsense, as you might expect. I went and tested rookie running backs from 1990-on; rookie running backs, to take one group, fumble the ball on 1.8 percent of their touches; all other running backs fumble 1.5 percent of the time. The difference amounts to about one fumble every 320 touches or so.

Doug Farrar: That must have been why the Mora “brain trust” put Deon Butler on a milk carton last year when he was clearly explosive enough to make plays, even in Greg Knapp’s Imploding Offense.

Bill Barnwell: Cute of Dick Stockton to note that, had the Redskins gone for it on fourth-and-1 from the Rams 7, it would have been "something bizarre".

Tom Gower: The Rams just gave a wonderful lesson in how terrible teams can't score in goal-to-go situations. Part of it was Steven Jackson was shaken up, but a lot of it was just general incompetence.

The Rams abandoned running and moved the ball down the field in short chunks before Kenneth Darby took it in on the ground to re-take the lead. The Redskins have been moderately productive, but the Rams have been blitzing and forcing McNabb off his spot, which has caused him to miss open receivers. It's almost painful watching the Rams throw the ball, though-we should have a special chart for them where "bomb" is anything thrown more than 15 yards downfield.

You can really see the Spagnuolo influence on the Rams defense. They've had a lot of success bringing two blitzers through the same or adjacent gaps, and it's been bothering McNabb. I mentioned forcing him to scramble earlier, and the latest one forced McNabb to get the ball away early, which he did right to a Rams defender. Less than 4 minutes to play, and Rams are up 11 with Jackson sitting the entire second half.

Indianapolis Colts 27 at Denver Broncos 13

Aaron Schatz: Denver is playing some really tight coverage against the Colts today, at least in the first quarter. They just had a massive screw-up, muffing a Colts punt (recovered by Top 25 Prospects refugee Justin Tryon) which gave Indy the ball at the Denver 14... and the Colts couldn't move the ball, actually going back one yard on a bad run with two incompletions before Vinatieri came in for a field goal.

Mike Kurtz: Yeah, the other crazy thing is that they're getting decent pressure, and as far as I can tell they're doing it with relatively simple packages. The one time they tried something really crazy (a CB blitz on third-and-short), Manning read it perfectly and burned them with a quick toss outside.

Tim Gerheim: Kyle Orton is throwing the ball about as hard as you can throw it. Sometimes that makes it unnecessarily hard to catch, but other times it prevents Jerraud Powers from intercepting a pass on an out route. It also lets Demaryius Thomas show what good hands he has. And his touchdown to Brandon Lloyd was a spectacular throw. Any shorter and it's broken up by the DB trailing the play, any deeper and Lloyd probably can't come down with it before he goes out the back of the end zone. I almost wonder whether, if he didn't look like such a poindexter, he would have been regarded more highly throughout his career.

Mike Kurtz: Ortoooon! Poindexter, though? Never heard his appearance described as such.

I think what we're seeing with Orton is a bit involvement with a non-dysfunctional offensive system and a bit playing behind an offensive line that isn't a joke. He may even have a higher ceiling than I thought.

Simms: "You have to catch the ball, with your hands. And it has to be clean."

Orton is probably going to cut a sharp contrast between traditional stats and DVOA ... Orton had a monster game, 37-57-476-1-1, but something like half of his incomplete passes came in the red zone. Denver was within 20 five times and came away with no touchdowns, which was pretty much the difference in the game. I will say, however, that Denver's defense isn't nearly as awful as I thought it was, and kept the game close despite the offense's wasted opportunities.

Aaron Schatz: think we've already talked about this on the site a couple times, but what happened with Kyle Orton is that he never, ever should have played as a rookie. You can't expect a third-round rookie to play well, and in fact, he did not. If you take out his rookie numbers, and think of him as a third-rounder who sat on the bench for two years and then came in for his first action in 2007 and finally became the full-time starter in his fourth year, 2008, his career makes a LOT more sense.

Also, we were talking in the press box at Gillette about how Josh McDaniels did such an amazing job prepping Matt Cassel and setting up the offense for him -- despite Kansas City being 3-0, Cassel is not playing well without McDaniels as his coordinator -- and I think we're seeing some of that with Orton. McDaniels may be a terrible manager when it comes to interpersonal skills, but the dude knows how to handle quarterbacks and design offense.

Oakland Raiders 23 at Arizona Cardinals 24

Ben Muth: The Raiders just sent a Double A-gap blitz and someone came free. Derek Anderson got rid of the ball and pass interference was called, but it looks the Cards might still be struggling with that pressure.

Tom Gower: Nnamdi Asomugha will look better in our charting stats this year, as apparently the Cardinals have decided throwing to Larry Fitzgerald with Asomugha in coverage is a better strategy than throwing to their other receivers against the Raiders other defensive backs. I'm not so sure about that one.

Vince Verhei: He's got one pass interference so far, but a deep route was so covered so tight Derek Anderson basically threw the ball away, and the Cards punted.

Bill Barnwell: Steve Breaston should be having a field day against Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson, but it's unclear whether he's even close to 100 percent. That leaves them with, what, their fourth and fifth wideouts across from Fitzgerald? They become the Panthers without the running game.

And now Randy Cross notes that you can't judge Bruce Gradkowski by his statistics, by his passing yards or by the velocity on his throws, but by the fact that the Raiders have 13 points. You know, because he punted a ball off of a Cardinals' player's leg. And booted those 50+ yard Janikowski field goals through. And team points aren't a stat.

Aaron Schatz: Amazing the way that guys who babble on constantly about football as a team sport and putting the team above the individual just completely forget about the value of the other 52 guys on the roster when it comes time to judge a quarterback based solely on wins.

Ben Muth: My favorite announcer quote of the day came from the play by play guy (don't know who it is) for the Cardinals-Raiders game. After LaRod Stephens-Howling fielded the Raiders' second kickoff of the game, this schmuck said Stephens-Howling was all over the field today. So, apparently if you are a team's return man and you field BOTH kickoffs, you are really going above and beyond the call of duty.

Derek Anderson decided to see how hard he could throw a shovel pass to Tim Hightower. Turns out he can throw it hard enough for Hightower to tip it straight up for an INT.

Bill Barnwell: Fitzgerald ended up catching a touchdown pass, but it came against zone coverage and Asomugha wasn't responsible.

Ben Muth: The Cardinals just had another punt hit a blocker (Rodgers-Cromartie) for a turnover. The returner needs to do a better job of informing his blockers where the ball is.

Bill Barnwell: Why on earth is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on punt coverage as a blocker?

Ben Muth: Janikowski just missed the game winner from about 31 yards. Not a good day for kickers.

Tom Gower: Janikowski's third miss of the game, with the earlier ones coming from 41 and 58. The Raiders could've run another play, but after a McFadden run that ended with about :42 left decided they were content to run the clock down, take their last timeout, and kick it. But, well, they're the Raiders.

San Diego Chargers 20 at Seattle Seahawks 27

Doug Farrar: Well, that was adventurous. Chargers line up trips left, and then motion Tolbert outside the trips formation, and Philip Rivers throws a dart to Legedu Naanee. Naanee fumbles, but it was a interesting ploy to crack open that defense.

I'm not sure if it's the timing on different tight end routes new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates has set up for John Carlson, but Carlson and Matt Hasselbeck have been getting their wires crossed all season. Carlson caught just five passes in ten targets last week against the Broncos, and the combo had another faceplant on what should have been an easy first-quarter completion.

And the Invariable Law of Audibles applies: As soon as I wrote the above, Hasselbeck connects with Carlson down the left seam for 37 yards.

Bates capitalizes on this by getting too cute on third-and-goal, and running a pitchout to Justin Forsett out of shotgun. There are times when Bates just opts himself out of scoring opportunities by reaching for the deep end of the playbook when it isn't necessary.

Vince Verhei: The mismatches throughout this game are comical. San Diego has lost another offensive lineman and Seattle's giant front four is killing them, but then San Diego's receivers keep finding giant holes in Seattle's coverage. It seems like every play is a sack or a 20-yard gain.

Seattle is moving the ball too, but still can't score. On their best chance, Matt Hasselbeck found Mike Williams and his five-inch height advantage isolated against Quentin Jammer, but badly undergirds the ball. Williams never had a chance, and Jammer got an easy pick.

Doug Farrar: The Chargers dodge a big bullet late in the first half, as Hasselbeck hits Deion Branch deep right, but safety Paul Oliver punched the ball out at the San Diego 1-yard line, and the ball rolls through the end zone for a touchback. On Seattle’s next drive, Hasselbeck throws another deep route to the right (this one to Deon Butler) that hits Quentin Jammer and ends up as a pass interference call. Just an atrocious throw, though. It’s probably time to nuke those deep sideline passes from the Hasselbeck version of the Bates playbook.

It helps that Vincent Jackson is nowhere near this game, but Seattle’s defensive backs are playing really well when they’re on their assignments.

And Leon Washington starts the second half with a 101-yard kickoff return touchdown. What a crazy game.

Ben Muth: Chris Clemons just beat Brandyn Dombrowski around the edge again for the sack. Marcus McNeill can't get back fast enough.

Doug Farrar: He’s beaten Dombrowski for two sacks, just flashing past the edge both times.

Ben, what it the technical term when a left tackle fans out to take on a speed rusher? I always have Joe Thomas in mind when I think of that because he does it so well, but it seems as if Dombrowski is trying to take Clemons on straight back, and he’s just getting beaten to the edge.

Ben Muth: Usually, you just call it fanning or sliding out. The thing is you'll notice most guys will slightly change their set from play to play even if they are always supposed to fan out. One play they'll kick out at 45 degrees, other times they'll set vertically or straight back. And occasionally you'll almost fire out at the snap and take the guy right on the line of scrimmage, this is called a jump set. The reason you try to change up your set so much is to throw off the timing of a defender's hands/moves. If a defender gets used to making contact with you at a certain point in your set every play, it's a lot easier for him to time a move (whether it's a chop, swim, rip, shoulder dip or spin) and get to the QB.

Doug Farrar: Cool, thanks. With a guy who comes off the snap as quickly as Clemons, would it be better to fan or slide out just to slow him down?

Ben Muth: One of the worst things about third and long is there's not a whole lot you can do to change your pass set up. Because Clemons can line up so wide the only way Dombrowski can block him is by going straight back to cut him off. Even doing that Dombrowski has been late getting there twice. This is the reason why LTs are being drafted in the first round so often now, because it's tough to find a big guy who can move well enough to block the elite speed rushers consistently.

Doug Farrar: In the fourth quarter, Seattle has a scoring drive that consists of six yards in four plays, and ends in a field goal. A botched fade route to Deon Butler was the "highlight" of that drive. Drawing up a route combination in which your shortest receiver is the deep corner guy on a fade is an ... interesting play call.

Actually, now that I think of it, many of these Seattle red zone calls look very Norv-like. Is Norv somehow controlling Jeremy Bates' mind when Seattle gets inside the 20? (Wooooo ... scary).

Ya know how the Chargers currently rank dead last in Special Teams DVOA? Uh .. .I don’t see that changing this week.

Bill Barnwell: Seahawks let the Chargers drive down the field at will in the fourth quarter, but stop them twice in the red zone, including during the final series to seal up a win. Rivers was living on the hashmarks with digs against what I'm guessing was two-deep, but once the safeties didn't have to respect Rivers going deep, they were able to step up and make plays. Seattle deserved an intentional grounding call that the refs just called off without an explanation on second down -- it looked like Patrick Crayton ran the wrong route, but Rivers threw the ball well out of bounds anyway. Refs made up for it by giving the Chargers an inexplicable delay of game penalty while they were debating the previous call.

Of note: Earl Thomas picked off the fourth down pass and ran 30 yards with the ball before being tackled. There's ten seconds left. Hit the deck. His Madden awareness rating better go down.

New York Jets 31 at Miami Dolphins 28

Mike Kurtz: The only redeeming feature of that brain-meltingly awful rendition of the national anthem is that there is some non-zero chance that it was so bad it will miraculously cure Dr. Z, just so he can come back and write about how awful it was.

Aaron Schatz: OK, I understand that the league wants to stop defenders from launching themselves at defenseless receivers head-first, thus this new penalty, but I think Chris Clemons just got a 15-yard flag for inadvertently having Jerricho Cotchery run into his shoulder. Clemons did not launch himself at Cotchery in any way and his head never contacted Cotchery. The natural inertia of the two players just caused Cotchery's head to smack into Clemons' shoulder. We need to do something about this rise in penalties for inertia. Some of the recent controversial roughing the passer penalties have similar issues. I'm sorry, but the NFL cannot repeal the laws of physics.

Mike Tanier: They repeal the laws of common sense all the time. BTW, how many "illegal wedge" penalties were really called last year? The Eagles managed to pick one up today,

Tom Gower: The Clemons hit is sort of indicating that the NFL is looking for a bigger behavioral change. The point is not that the NFL is trying to regulate physics, but that nobody should ever lower his head for a big hit like Clemons did. I'm not sure I like it, but that's what the rule is telling defenders to do.

Aaron Schatz: It is really strange to see Miami passing this much.

Tim Gerheim: I was thinking that after their second drive of the second half. Their first drive took roughly half of the third quarter, then the Jets ran their one-play touchdown drive, and Collinsworth made much of how tired the Jets defense was. Granted the Jets took that bogus injury time out after the kickoff, but it struck me at the time like the Dolphins should have played some ground and pound to take advantage of the tired defense, particularly given that it's their strength.

Doug Farrar: There is absolutely no way this officiating crew can justify that ticky-tack holding call on Matt Slauson when they just missed an obvious facemask by Vernon Carey on Jason Taylor. Were I Rex, I'd be earholing the first ref I saw.

Tim Gerheim: Don't you get the impression Rex earholes most everyone he sees?

Doug Farrar: He turns it on and off.

Tom Gower: Miami's linebackers are really good at overrunning plays and getting out of position when the Jets use misdirection, slow, or both.

Bill Barnwell: Jets won because they ended up getting most of the big breaks -- Brandon Marshall and Jason Allen slipped on the sod, Braylon Edwards stayed upright. Sanchez pick hits a lineman in the hands. The Allen pick-that-wasn't misses by an inch and gets a great replay right before a snap as opposed to right after.

The biggest thing for me was the Dolphins' playcalling near the goal line down 24-20. You led the league in power rushing last year, and yet, you run pass plays on second and third down? And then, on fourth-and-goal from the two down four points, you kick a field goal. An average team is leaving about eight-tenths of a point on the field there, and I think the Dolphins' higher rate of succeeding probably pushes them closer to two full points.

Aaron Schatz: I also think you can't dump if off to Ronnie Brown for two yards on third down there at the end. You gotta go end zone twice.

Sean McCormick: I thought this was really a good game for both offensive coordinators. Dan Henning wanted to get Brandon Marshall away from press coverage, so he used a lot motion to force Antonio Cromartie to play off, with devastating results. On the few occasions when Cromartie had a chance to get a jam on at the line and pin Marshall against the sideline, he was much more effective. Henning was happy to dial up the same play two times in a row when he saw something he liked, as he did when the Dolphins isolated Davone Bess on Kyle Wilson in the slot; each time, Bess ran a corner route and was able to make a play on the ball in the air while Wilson was in full pursuit and had his back to the ball. (Though in fairness, the first play should have been ruled incomplete due to Bess only getting one foot in bounds.) Henning has had a good read on Ryan's blitz schemes for some time now, and the Dolphins looked well-prepared in that regard. They didn't utilize the moving pocket as much as they did last year, but Henne was able to slide a few steps away from the pressure, which generally bought him enough time to get a clean look and make a throw. Tom Brady and Joe Flacco were both successful doing the same thing against the overload blitz, and I'm waiting for Ryan to adjust by bringing a DB from the other side to hit to either sack or contain the quarterback.

Schottenheimer also had a nice game plan, featuring a lot of wide runs with bunch formations and crackback blocks to let runners get to the edge. The Jets' version of the wildcat is generally a pale imitation of Miami's, but they were able to do some nice things with misdirection. I actually thought Schottenheimer's best call of the night was on the touchdown that was called back for holding (Matt Slauson, grrr), when he followed up a wildcat call with a designed quarterback draw for Sanchez on third-and-6. The defense clearly wasn't expecting any kind of quarterback run from a conventional set just after having chased down Brad Smith.

As an aside, I've always understood that the way to help young quarterbacks is to bring receivers towards them with slants and in patterns, so that the quarterback has a clear view of his target and a shortened distance for the pass to cover. For all that, I don't think I saw a single slant pattern called by either team; everything was pretty much either vertical or towards the hashmarks.

Football: Backdrop For Media Coverage Of Football And Buying Things

Bill Barnwell: Good to see Welsh twee band Los Campesinos! getting a song licensed into a Budweiser commercial.

Doug Farrar: What I discovered on the way to Qwest Field: As good as Tony Boselli is on TV, he’s even better on the radio. He brings a Mayock level of detail after every play, and adds the visual angle for those unable to see the game. Just a tremendous job. And I almost feel bad about saying that, because we really need more guys as good as Boselli calling TV games.

Vince Verhei: Can we just hand DirecTV Sunday Ticket the worst commercial campaign right now? "If you use our product you will be abused and harassed by complete strangers from coast to coast! Enjoy!"

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 27 Sep 2010

175 comments, Last at 30 Sep 2010, 5:33pm by bigmaq


by Michael LaRocca (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 11:27am

There is no Jake Delhomme. There is no Matt Moore. There is no Jimmy Clausen. There is only Carolina Quarterback.

by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 11:38am

The proper term is 'QB Panthers'. Tecmo fans unite!

Among currently starting quarterbacks, Fitzpatrick and Shaun Hill wear #14. Unique uniform numbers among the ranks of presently starting quarterbacks are #3 (Derek Anderson), #4 (QB Vikings), #11 (Alex Smith) and #16 (Charlie Batch).

The most common number for a starting QB as of this moment is #9 (Tony Romo, Carson Palmer, David Garrard, Sam Bradford), but it will probably soon be supplanted by #7 when Ben Roethlisberger returns and Garrard loses his job.

I have no point. Just killing time here.

by dryheat :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 11:56am

Dude in New Orleans also wears 9, no?

by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 11:59am

Why in the hell did I say Sam Bradford?

by SFC B (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:03pm

Saint Louis. Saints QB. I can see how that can happen.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 7:10pm

Brees was the pro quarterback I would have compared Bradford to as a prospect. Uncanny accuracy and touch, questionable pocket awareness (not Brees now, obviously, but it was a serious problem for him early in his career). Bradford's much taller, and has a stronger arm, but there are real similarities.

by PerlStalker :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 11:40am

The Broncos offense played well except when they were in the red zone. That's not a good exception.

I was surprised at how well the Broncos defense played. Cox got picked on but it's hard for any a rookie to hold up against Manning.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 11:45am

Cox was a tiny corner who ran a 4.7 40. He was bound to be a disaster. It took Peyton a while to find out that a 4.7 midget was covering half of the field but he eventually did. As expected, Cox could cover nobody more than 15 yards downfield. Blair White was that nobody yesterday.

by PerlStalker :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 12:03pm

Unfortunately for the Broncos, their safeties are somewhat useless in coverage so they couldn't effectively roll anyone over to help. Either that or they figured the rookie WR wouldn't be as much as a threat.

On the plus side, the Broncos were actually able to get pass pressure and stop the run. I was genuinely surprised.

Updated to ask the question: What really happened with Clady's injury? He did a great job at LT. I though that was supposed to keep him out most of the year. Did Tebow lay on hands and heal him or were the reports of his injury wrong?

by tornadot :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 12:54pm

Now we just need Harris back and healthy.

Was it just me or did Maroney look tentative? It seemed like several times he had a hole but he was content to dance in the backfield and run into the line or the hole closed up because the Colts are fast and he's indecisive and he runs for little gain.

by PerlStalker :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:02pm

It wasn't just you. Maroney seemed indecisive and tentative most of the game. Even when he had a big whole, it seemed like he was afraid to use it. It also seemed like all that was needed to tackle him was for a defender to breath on him wrong.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:11pm

Well, you shouldn't be surprised by that!

by PerlStalker :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:51pm

I thought the Maroney signing was questionable. I guess McD thinks the Denver backfield is worse shape than it looks.

by Nathan :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 7:37pm

Hah! Come to Boston you'll find it's not just you.

by rengewnadnad (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:30pm

there were a lot of sweet pass breakups by the bronco's in that game. Maybe it was the beer yesterday, but Champ seemed to have 1/2 dozen sweet breakups that sent the ball flying into the sidelines. There were other dbacks that got in on it too with super aggressive pass coverage. Lots of hands coming in at the last second to punch/swipe the ball away. Just seemed more noticeable yesterday in the Colts/Broncos game than in other games I watched.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 8:06pm

Nate Jones and Reynaldo Hill were on fire Sunday. The whole Broncos secondary has been playing at a very high level so far this year.

by mawbrew :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 11:45am

Carson Palmer has not been the same since his arm injury (2008?). I've often wondered if his decision to not have surgery is the source of his decline

by dryheat :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 11:46am

Off the top of my head, Ken Anderson was a #14. Steve Grogan too, but I'm not sure he counts.

by Harry (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 12:22pm

Of course he counts. From '76-'79 he was one of the top 10 QBs in the NFL, and is one of the iconic Patriots of all time.

by dryheat :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:22pm

I'm a Grogan fan, but I don't think he qualifies as a "Great Historical Player".

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 3:03am

Anderson, Fouts, Otto Graham (for four years), Grogan, Vinny Testaverde (on off) and Y.A. Tittle, is my list so far.

by Led :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 11:55am

"Jets won because they ended up getting most of the big breaks -- Brandon Marshall and Jason Allen slipped on the sod, Braylon Edwards stayed upright. Sanchez pick hits a lineman in the hands. The Allen pick-that-wasn't misses by an inch and gets a great replay right before a snap as opposed to right after."

So if you reversed a half a dozen big plays in a close game, the other team might have won. Brilliant! Bill Barnwell: football sage.

by Temo :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 12:19pm

I think the point is that the game was so close despite the Jets getting more breaks than not.

I thought both teams looked approximately equal last night, and as it so often happens in football, the team that gets the extra break or two comes away with the game.

by Travis :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:06pm

Some breaks the Dolphins received:

- The 17-yard completion to Devone Bess in the 2nd quarter, even though only one of his feet came down inbounds;

- Ricky Williams somehow recovering his fumble in a crowd on the next play (the only fumble for either team in the game);

- A pass interference on 2nd and 22 on that same drive (probably the right call, but Dustin Keller didn't get a similar call earlier on his first touchdown);

- The correctly overturned fumble by Ricky Williams early in the 3rd quarter (the proper call, but so was the non-interception);

- Antonio Cromartie dropping an interception on 3rd and goal from the 2;

- The holding call on Slauson negating Sanchez's TD (again, the right call).

I'm not saying the Dolphins were somehow luckier or that the Jets didn't receive their share of breaks, but I'm not sure the Jets had a huge advantage there.

by jfsh :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:32pm

All I know is that Sanchez's soft pass into the face of the jumping defensive lineman was one of the funniest plays I've ever seen. One of the announcers, I think Collinsworth, pointed out that Sanchez sort of hesitated on the throw, and he's right. He starts to throw, waits a second as his brain screams "don't do that!", but then doesn't have any better plan and throws it anyway. It was really soft, but it caught the lineman so off-guard that he didn't really have a chance to catch it.


by Led :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 2:40pm

Fair enough but I don't think it's obvious that the Jets got more breaks for the reasons Travis identifies, among others. I mean, the overturned "interception" only happened because of a fluky pass deflection in the first place. I strongly suspect the VOA numbers will show the Jets played the better game. No fumbles or sacks. Much more success running the ball, better YPA, better third/fourth down percentage. Better special teams play.

The bottom line is that a Jets team playing without their best defensive player (Revis) and best pass rusher (Pace) beat the Dolphins in Miami on a very hot and humid night. Even if they played about equal, that's a good sign for the Jets.

by dmb :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 12:06pm

Redskins-Rams: Mora's microphone was actually broken and turned off for most of the first half ... and believe it or not, it made things worse, as Charles Davis proved to be astoundingly incompetent. Perhaps the most dumbfounding thing to come from his mouth was his explanation of the red zone as the part of the field that begins at the opponent's 25 yard line. And nobody corrected it!

Bradford did a very good job of reading blitzes, and there were a few times where he found his hot route with a very quick and accurate throw to create a very productive play. However, it seemed like Haslett didn't want to bother with disguising anything; if someone showed blitz, he would come, and if not, he was in coverage. As a Redskins' fan, it was infuriating; Bradford didn't seem to have any trouble with reading the defense, but Haslett did absolutely nothing to try to fool him.

Also, the presence of Stephon Heyer as a starting left tackle (Trent Williams was out with knee and toe injuries) did not do McNabb any favors.

Titans-Giants: There was a total of nine Personal Foul or Unnecessary Roughness penalties in this game, and only two of those were of the offsetting variety. (The Titans racked up four; the Giants, five.) As for the penalty that resulted in a safety, the call was on Bradshaw for a chop block, but I think the Giants' backup center, Adam Koets, was probably at least partially responsible for it. Koets moved to the right as if he were going to pick up another rusher, which probably led Bradshaw to believe that he was going to be responsible for picking up an A-gap defender (Tony Brown) by himself. However, Koets stuck out his left arm, grabbing and pulling Brown by his facemask just as Bradshaw went low. (The facemask pull definitely merited its own penalty.)

Also, Chris Johnson had 32 carries for the game, putting him at 75 for the season. Javon Ringer didn't have a single carry until the fourth quarter, and Johnson had five consecutive carries when the Titans were up by 12 with about 6 minutes left in the game. (At least they were productive carries; the drive consisted entirely of those five carries and Giants' penalties, and resulted in the Titans' final touchdown.) It would be irresponsible to use a three-game stretch to project Johnson for a 400-carry season, but taking a look at the second half of last season, it looks like Johnson has been having an awful lot of high-workload games lately. (Johnson's carries, from Week 11 of 2009 onward: 29, 18, 27, 28, 29, 21, 36, 27, 16, 32.)

I know that Johnson is absolutely crucial to the Titans' offense, but Jeff Fisher may need to start thinking about how to use Johnson a bit more judiciously.

by mawbrew :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 12:11pm

Yeah, that face mask should have drawn a flag anyway, but I thought that Bradshaw's block was okay. Just because the lineman (Koets, I guess) was touching the defensive players that doesn't mean he has 'engaged' him.

by dmb :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 12:35pm

I think pulling a guy down by his facemask qualifies as "engaging" him. Koets wasn't facing Brown -- again, that's probably why Bradshaw thought it was okay to go low -- but he was quite clearly affecting Brown's movement.

by mawbrew :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:08pm

Well, I guess my point was that if the official saw the pulling of the facemask, he should have called that. And if he didn't see the pulling of the face mask, I don't know why he would have called the chop block. If all you see is a hand up near the guys helmet (and that was all I saw initially, before the replay) I don't see how you call that a chop block.

by JasonK :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 12:59pm

Either way, the result of the call (penalty in the end zone, safety) turned out to be right.

Frustrating game to watch as a Giants fan. NYG got first downs, didn't punt once, and played decently on defense. (IIRC, every drive that the Titans scored on started on their own 40 or better.) They lost because: 1) three turnovers, two of which were inside the Titans' 5 yard line; 2) dumb penalties (the above-mentioned Personal Fouls, plus an unecessary DPI in the end zone that led to Johnson's TD run); and 3) awful special teams play (consistently terrible KR coverage, poor blocking on all kinds of returns, 2 longish FGs missed, and a Delay penalty on one of those FG attempts).

Still, there's some hope here. These are fixable problems; I'm certainly more optimistic now than I was this time last week.

by dmb :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 3:03pm

"Either way, the result of the call (penalty in the end zone, safety) turned out to be right."

Yeah, my point was more that Bradshaw seems to be getting the blame for it, and I'm not sure that he should.

I would agree that a substantial (though certainly not all) of the Giants' problems in that game were self-inflicted. Certainly aggravating to watch as a fan, but it's better than having a team that's just not capable of playing well.

by Podge (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 5:58pm

I would have thought the most concerning thing for Redskins fans would be how easy Bradford was able to audible to smoke routes out of runs. I think there was only one where the corners didn't back off at the snap (that was incomplete to Gilyard where Alexander levelled him), and while only 1 went for any great distance (the one to Clayton where Hall fell fairly hilariously) the Rams were able to pick up 3 or 4 yards a pop fairly easily. A rookie shouldn't be able to read a D that easily and consistently.

I'm very very happy with Bradford though. I'd like to see more deep shots every so often (I think our longest pass attempt was probably about 12-15 yards through the air), but even if he doesn't develop at all from where he is now he looks like a serviceable starter. Obviously you expect him to improve even a bit, so he looks like a hit.

by dmb :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 6:45pm

"I would have thought the most concerning thing for Redskins fans would be how easy Bradford was able to audible to smoke routes out of runs."

I should've been more clear; I was lumping those plays into the general category of "Bradford reads the defense and adjusts to make a quick throw." They definitely were of great concern to me.

by dryheat :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:20pm

Speaking of strange penalties, I forget which game it was (Pats/Bills or Falcons/Saints, maybe Eagles/Jags), but I think I witnessed the first ever penalty called on a head to head hit by an offensive lineman executing his block on a defensive lineman.

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 12:00pm

I thought the Sunday night officiating crew was just terrible. It seemed like both the Jets and Miami had odd calls against them all night. At first I thought it was make up calls but the odd bad calls just kept piling up. Oddly there were so many I don't think it effected to outcome so much. What was funny was the slow mo replays of the calls where the announcers kept defending the calls. Even when it was clear the players involved weren't doing what the announcers said they were doing. Who do I believe the announcer or the super slow motion replay? Perhaps the crew might watch the same replay as the one shown the audience at home. As for the game: Miami will be the third team in the AFC east so long as they remain the team that settles for field goals.

by Led :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 12:11pm

"The point is not that the NFL is trying to regulate physics, but that nobody should ever lower his head for a big hit like Clemons did. I'm not sure I like it, but that's what the rule is telling defenders to do."

Right, safeties can't go high on a defenseless receiver anymore. So about 20 of Ronnie Lott's most famous plays are now illegal. I suppose it's for the best given what we now know about head injuries, but it does change the game. And the Clemons/Cotchery play was a fairly conventional example of the penalty as it's now being called.

by Drakos (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 2:58pm

Yeah, some of the new rules do make weird changes. Mike Tolbert "converted" a third and 1 for the Chargers but only did so after he lost his helmet. Since the play was dead once he lost his helmet the conversion didn't count. It didn't look like anyone actually stopped playing after he lost his helmet but that might have just been because of my view of the play from where I was in the stadium. It was surprising to see Rivers lose him helmet while being sacked and not see a flag thrown. I don't think there should have been a flag but I was surprised there wasn't one.

by Insancipitory :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 4:36pm

there would have been, but it was one of his own offensive linemen coming back to "help" that knocked his helmet off.

by Harry (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 12:19pm

Were there any great historical players who wore 14?

Really, Aaron? You call yourself a Pats fan? Steve frickin' Grogan was #14! That's the iconic number for a Pat's QB, or was until Brady came along.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 12:23pm

Yeah, the Vikings can't stretch the field, and the offensive line is a mess. Loadholt in particular is killing them. Sullivan, even when he is healthy, just gets overpowered in a way that rarely happened to Birk. Favre can't stand to win games by a 13-10 score, but that is what they might have to try when they are playing a team with a decent defense. The schedule over the next 4 games is tough, tough, tough, and unfortunately a split, which would be a significant accomplishment for them, is probably the worst they can stand, and still make the playoffs.

by jmaron :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:40pm

I thought the offensive line played better in the second half at least. Hard to play worse. Loadholt just can't handle any kind of speed rush.

The defence hasn't looked particularly dominant to me but they've only given up 4 legitimate TDs in 3 games. The offence has given up essentially 14 points in the last two games. Allen has not been his normal disruptive self. Abdullah has been a real upgrade at safety. He actually makes plays on the ball.

It was interesting to read Childress and Favre saying teams are trying to take away the pass from Minnesota and giving them the run. Given the state of the o line and wide receivers I'm not sure I would defend them that way.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 2:22pm

Yeah, it's hard for me to get too concerned about Sullivan getting hurt, except in the sense that it obviously leaves the unit less able to withstand any more injuries. He just gets pushed around a lot. What's worse than a tackle, like Ryan Cook, who needs contant help, due to a lack of talent? A tackle, like Loadholt, who doesn't get the help he needs, because his talent is greatly overrated. Oh well, that may be changing rapidly, with each whiff by Loadholt. This bunch may be better served by keeping Kleinsasser and Shiancoe on the field most of the time, at least until Rice gets back.

The bright spot may be that their corner play is poised to improve significantly as Griffin and Cook get back to health, and Allen is likely to have some regression to his mean productivity over the next 13 games. They really look like an 8-8 team right now, and that may be optimistic, but if they can have some good injury luck from here on out, they might still provide some excitement.

On another injury-related note, the old stubbled media whore truly is a freak of nature. In a league where young qbs miss games all the time, it astounds me that a guy in his forties takes the pounding that this guys does, and keeps getting up to take the next snap. Say whatever negative thing you want to say about him, or whatever mindless positive thing, but he is one incredibly tough sonuvabitch.

by jmaron :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 3:22pm

funny thing is that Loadholt actually had some help on the TD the offence gave up against Miami. I think teams have become too enamoured with size and wing span at the Off-Tackle position and don't pay enough attention to mobility.

I like the look of the rookie Cook in the little I've seen him yesterday and pre- season. The secondary has played well, particularly in that the line hasn't put much pressure on QB's this year.

by jayinalaska :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 3:49pm

I agree with you that he's one tough sonuvabitch, Will. My prediction going into the season was he wouldn't make it past game 4. Looks like I'm going to be wrong with that. But, I will be utterly gobsmacked if he makes it through the regular season.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 3:10pm

In this particular game, it would probably have been the right approach: anything that makes Detroit's secondary less involved in the game is a good thing.

Then again, the worst secondary in the league held Minnesota under 200 yards passing and picked Favre off twice, with at least one pick and one sack wiped out by penalties ... if the Minnesota offense collapses when Peterson is not involved, it seems kind of obvious what you ought to do.

The Lions actually seemed to have moderate success keeping A.P. in check. Obviously the 80-yard run was bad, but that was just one play ... I figure if he averaged less than 4 YPC on the rest of his carries, with the Vikings only 3-11 on third downs, the defense was doing a really good job. I agree that the speed rush was giving the Vikings some problems - I've always liked Avril and think he is a great fit for this defense (as you know if you've played me in Madden), and with complementary DL and the wider splits they're using this year, Detroit's finally getting decent pressure from time to time.

Of course, the offense is still woeful. Scheffler is a big pickup - it's great to see an Ace formation actually working, and both Scheffler and Pettigrew are becoming threats in the passing game. Not sure why Linehan would insist on running so much against the Vikings, though. Hint: don't run near a Williams unless you've got him going the wrong way. And Shaun Hill looks decent at times but is still a guy who couldn't beat out Alex Smith.

by Joseph :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 12:25pm

What I took from the Saints-Falcons game as a Saints fan:
1. Saints need to get bigger up front--it seems like the Falcons O-line pushed them around pretty much at will. Sure, there were some plays on the goal line where we stuffed them, and a play here and there. But 19-play drives shouldn't happen (although I guess it says that we stopped them a lot on 1st and 2nd downs--and even 2 3rd downs).
2. Injuries at LB have been/will be the downfall of the Saints' D--Casillas being injured for the year in the 4th preseason game was bad, but Vilma's groin has made him less effective than last year (check out the Michael Turner 1 yd TD run).
3. Garrett Hartley better not go house-shopping any time soon. A commenter on NOLA.com said after the MIN game that Hartley's shanks might end up costing them a game down the line--well, now it has. Hartley would be wise to remember how often Coach Payton changed kickers/punters in his 1st year.
4. It seems that Brees is pressing with his passes, trying too hard to make a play and "live up" to the hype about him being the best QB in the game. IMO, both INT's were bad decisions.
5. It seems like the O-line is not playing as good as last year. Where were the holes that opened in the 2nd half against the Vikings???
6. Maybe "hindsight is 20/20" applies here, but after picking up the 1st down near the goalline in OT, why don't you run a couple of safe plays, trying to move the ball closer for the FG? You might get lucky and pick up the TD, and not have to try the kick.

by dryheat :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 12:51pm

I don't think it's hindsight at all. The team is driving the ball down the field with token resistance and they have a kicker who could best be described as "shaky". Why on Earth would a coach opt for the 1st down FG attempt? The chance of a turnover isn't significantly more than the chance of Hartley shanking one at that point.

Extra bonus was the announcing team praising the decision "Also, it's a good call on first down, because if there's a bad snap, the offense can recover and re-kick." What was the standard broadcast snippet on the 3rd down FG attempt has made a move up to 1st down territory.

by fungo (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:09pm

The Saints were *passing* the ball with limited resistance, they only managed 43 yards rushing in a 5 quarter game. You want to pass the ball and risk an INT? You want to run the ball and gain 3.2 yards? Maybe they could have run a play or two, but a TD wasn't inevitable. Kicking the chip shot, which wins the game if it's made, was a good call. I'd love to see what the percentages are in this situation, I'd be surprised if the data doesn't support the kick.

by dryheat :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:19pm

The data certainly would support the 29 yeard field goal attempt, as historically it's a very high success rate, but the data doesn't figure in the kicker's state of mind as he's been off to a shaky start this season, and stretches of last season too. If Drew Brees is my quarterback, and he has the weapons at his disposal that he does, I would absolutely rather put the game in his hands than Hartley's on first down, and on second and third down too. Go for the touchdown.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 3:14pm

As a somewhat-neutral fan (but significantly in favor of more aggressive offenses), I would also rather run my normal offense, even if I've got a solid kicker. In fact, it might even be worth running a hurry-up offense: I'm fairly sure no defense would be expecting that, and if you've got an advantage, I see nothing wrong with pressing it for all it's worth.

Yeah, you're risking an interception, but you do that every time you pass. The risk may be greater at that point on the field, but the reward for a successful completion is greater as well: FG probability goes up if you need to kick one, and obviously there's the possibility of ending the game if you get to the end zone.

by Mikey S. (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 12:25pm

Did anyone else catch Randy Cross bashing the Raiders for going for it on 4th and 10, down in the last minute of the game, with no time outs? He thinks that going for it was too risky, and they should have punted and...hoped Derek Anderson would fumble on a victory-position kneeldown?

by Rocco :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:14pm

I feel like expecting Derek Anderson to screw up is generally a good plan.

by Special J :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 12:27pm

Bill Barnwell: Good to see Scottish twee band Los Campesinos! getting a song licensed into a Budweiser commercial.

Los Campesinos! aren't Scottish, they're Welsch! Well, actually, none of the band members are Welsch (I think most are English) but the band formed in Cardiff. Also, I think they all might be faeries or sprites. Possibly jockeys. They are just tiny, tiny people. Either way, I'm just glad we've moved on from the annoying 90's indie rock attitude of "Man, I can't believe they licensed their song to Anheiser Busch. What a bunch of sellouts" to "Man, I'm so glad they're getting a big wad of cash from Anheiser Busch, 'cause now I don't feel as bad about pirating their albums."

Bill Barnwell: Sure, but there are coaches/analysts who know more than they let on and still play dumb on TV.

The fact that this is undeniably true is one of the more sad commentaries on contemporary America prompted by watching the NFL without turning off your brain -- and this is saying something considering the fact that we're essentially watching big dumb people from mostly disadvantaged backgrounds literally pounding each other into crippling neural degeneration for our entertainment.

by Bill Barnwell :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 12:30pm

You're right, they are Welsh. I apologize and will correct in Audibles. And it's not like, you know, they're Fugazi or someone licensing a song.

by Special J :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 12:40pm

Right, they're not like Fugazi -- there is no present-day Fugazi, because audiences today would (correctly) laugh at them for their self-righteous and self-important stance on the issue of doctrinal purity in popular music acts.

by F.Leghorn (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 7:55pm

Excellent point! Please, make sure and continue to steal copywrited material from a band, thus insuring that, instead of making any money off of an album, they must sell their music to beer manufacturers and no longer feel the cold sting of being laughed at by the worthless cretins in their audience.
Honestly, I despise you for this comment.

by F.Leghorn (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 7:56pm

Although, to be fair, Los Campesinos are so dreadful that even stealing their music seems like a waste of money.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 12:41pm

I'd be happy to hear, say, "Waiting Room" on a health insurance commercial or something, just for the humor.

by Bill Barnwell :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 2:04pm

XBOX Live could announce a price cut using "Blueprint".

by tmentz1 :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 2:55pm

Didn't the Redskins play Waiting Room in the stadium last year? Did anyone ever hear if that was authorized or not?

by Greg from LI (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 4:55pm

Jim Rome's used Brendan #1 as bumper music for years, which has always mildly surprised me. He also uses the Jesus Lizard's Mouthbreather. Whoever picked his music did an ok job in my book.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 5:38pm

I've heard "Waiting Room" at FedEx a couple of times during TV timeouts. Given the local connection to Ian MacKaye, it's very cool - but I have no idea what he thinks about it.

by TomC :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 6:21pm

I'm fairly confident he's pissed off about it, because, well, he's pissed off about everything.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 12:31pm

Re: Foster and Green-Ellis

I would much rather have a RB that took the 3-4 yards that were there than the one who danced and juked while looking for the 20 yards that were not to be had. If you're Barry Sanders, you can get away with dancing in the backfield. Nobody else has ever been able to pull that off.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 3:38am

To be slightly pedandic: It depends. If you're the '07 Patriots, you're right. If you are a horrible offense, you're going to go 3-and-out a lot, so might as well have the upside of your back busting a few 40+ yard runs.

by jim's apple pie (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 12:55pm

So, what exactly is the rule concerning the play clock when the refs huddle up after a play? This is the second time that I've seen the Chargers get bitten by an unexpectedly short play clock. Last year, the refs decided to confer after the clock had run down to about 7-9 seconds. When they were done, it just resumed counting down from where it stopped. I understand wanting to keep the game moving, but this doesn't make any sense. What if the refs decision determines whether a team has a first down or a fourth down? How can the team on offense decide on a play and get set with such little time remaining, since the play call will be determined by what the refs decide?

I'm not sure about the intentional grounding call, since it looked 'unintentional,' because Crayton ran the wrong route. I'm not sure what exactly the rule says, but you'll see this happen about once a week in the NFL, and the refs almost always let it slide. It seems like the QB really has to be under duress for the grounding to get called.

by mawbrew :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:21pm

If I remember correctly, Rivers was under duress/pressure on that play and unloaded the ball before he got hit. However, on a pass that far downfield it almost never gets called intentional grounding. If Rivers had dumped it five yards short of a receiver behind the LOS than I think it probably does get called. Officials just give more leeway on passes downfield because it's harder to be certain of intent.

by jim's apple pie (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 3:30pm

There was a Seahawk player blitzing the gap between the right tackle and guard, but the running back (Sproles?) stepped up and blocked him. It was a situation that looked like there was going to be pressure, but Rivers actually didn't have to make the throw. My guess is that's the reason why the refs let it slide.

I've actually been pleasantly surprised by the play of the Chargers defense, as well as how well the offense has done without McNeil and Jackson. The offense seems to lack consistency, but they weren't very consistent last year either. There's basically been only two reasons why they're losing games:

a) Fumbles
b) Atrocious special teams.

The Chargers special teams might set a record for futility this year. Leon Washington actually should have had a third return TD but he fell down making his cut on Kaeding. That would have been 4 return TDs and a blocked punt in three games, plus some other long runs. It would be interesting to see an article on kick/punt coverage, and an analysis of what the Chargers are doing wrong compared to a team that is excellent at covering kicks.

by dryheat :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 3:35pm

I don't know, but reason #1 might be one of roster construction, and not having good ST cover guys on the active 46. Osgood was said to be their best, and I don't know if they've adequately repaced him.

by Mike Kurtz :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:58pm

Rule 4-6-3 covers resuming the play clock:

Article 3 If the play clock is stopped prior to the snap for any reason, after the stoppage
has concluded, the time remaining on the play clock shall be the same as when it
stopped, unless:
(a) the stoppage has been for a charged team timeout, the two-minute warning, the expiration
of a period, a penalty enforcement, or an Instant Replay challenge prior to
the two-minute warning, in which case the play clock shall be reset to 25 seconds;
(b) the stoppage has been for an Instant Replay review after the two-minute warning
that results in a reversal, in which case the play clock shall be reset to 25 seconds;
(c) the stoppage has been for an excess timeout while time is in that is charged to the
defense, in which case the play clock shall be reset to 40 seconds; or
(d) fewer than 10 seconds

(d) is the one you're looking for. In your example, either the play clock was at 10, or the referee screwed up. However, if there is an actual substantive change to the situation, you do get a new 25-second play clock under (a). Notice that (a) does not cover officials' time outs (which is what you described), and that the clock only runs on the ready-to-play signal (in that play, there were two, one on the ball placement and the second at the end of the officials' conference).

by Special J :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:08pm

Aaron Schatz:... Bills defensive line really getting pushed around by the Pats on running plays, and you can really see the difference between the running styles of the departed Laurence Maroney (shake and bake, and then shake some more, and then maybe some more baking...) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (hello hole, wham).

Watching Maroney, I always thought he'd be best off in a Kubiak-style strict zone-blocking/one-cut offense. I think if you simplified his decision-making flow chart on each run, he could be an even better version of Clinton Portis. I know the Patriots (and now Broncos) also use a zone blocking scheme, but it's always seemed to me that Belichick/McDaniels' version focused less on stretching the d-line out side to side for the running back in order to be less immediately recognizably different from passing plays, which makes sense in New England, but maybe not as much in Denver.

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:58pm

The biggest issue with the Belichick run zone blocking scheme is that none of the lineman could do it well. They run almost entirely man/drive now.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 5:31pm

Maroney doesn't have nearly the acceleration that Portis does, so no, he wouldn't be as good.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:10pm

FOA said the Chiefs will be good and that the 49ers will stink. They were right, I was very wrong, the niners couldn't score in a brothel.

At least with a new offensive coordinator they might try a few trick plays, like an outside run. Actually, that's still not very likely, Singletary would never allow such extravagance.

by TBall (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:12pm

What does "yards after the carry" connote? When does a carry end and how does someone gain yards after it?

by Special J :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:25pm

I noticed this, too. I couldn't quite tell if it was a sly, deadpan joke that I didn't get because I didn't watch that game, or just a typo.

by MCS :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:35pm

I'm not one to pick at nits so I just perceived that as yards after contact. Pure assumption on my part though.

by dmb :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 2:57pm

A carry ends when the runner is down by contact or goes out of bounds.

A Yard After Carry (or YARCAR) is Football Outsiders' next revolutionary metric, from the same creative minds that brought us Horizontal Yards. If a player has a high YARCAR/Yards ratio, it means the player in question tends to be more effective when the play is dead than when it's live, and should be deployed correspondingly. Interestingly, it seems like defensive players are the ones who tend to rack up a great deal of YARCAR -- on interception and fumble returns after a whistle has blown the play dead. So I think the next step is to create position-adjusted YARCAR (PAYARCAR?).

by Bobman :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 12:21am


by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:16pm

Tanard Jackson--so good, his absence makes Charlie Batch look like a stud.

by nat :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:30pm

Re: The Bills' double timeout.
There is no foul for calling a second timeout in the rulebook. We shouldn’t have granted it. We shouldn’t have shut the play down. But, there is no penalty. There is no 5-yard penalty for what we did. [The procedure is to] get the players reset, the second time out is not allowed, resume play, which is what we did.

The original call of a first down was a mistake. More obviously, granting the second timeout was a mistake. Mistakes happen. The bigger issue was that the Bills were given time and permission to completely switch personnel. The "procedure" is to reset the players and resume play where it was stopped, not to grant a full timeout with personnel changes and then not charge for it. The idea is to undo the damage as much as possible.

Weird moment. Bad officiating. Worse "remedy".

by andrew :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 2:14pm

That double timeouts thing still burns me. Basically officials often stop a play just to tell a team they can't stop the play, which gives them time to change personnel or the play or fix what was wrong.

I'm still bitter over the 1998 NFC Championship game. Remember that one, where the 15-1 vikings team was up 27-20 on the Falcons, the one where Gary Anderson missed his only kick of the year with two minutes left, and saw the Falcons then tie it at the end of regulation and win it in overtime?

On that last drive, the one that ended in the missed FG attempt, on a third down the Falcons called timeout, then came back onto the field with 12 men. One of the falcons tried to call timeout, the official ignored him. Dan Reeves then stepped out onto the field frantically motioning for timeout, the official ignored him at first but then Reeves came well onto the field of play. The refs then stopped the play, said the Falcons could not call timeout (which would have been their last). The falcons meanwhile got their 12th man off the field and avoided the 12-men penalty which would have converted the third down.

And the oficials didn't even charge them their timeout, so they had that and were able to use it when they had to during their drive to tie the game with less than two minutes to go.

Why it isn't at least a delay of game to try and call a timeout you can't call I can't fathom...

Given this, why wouldn't a team try to call timeout any number of times when they can't? they have nothing to lose...

by DW94 :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 2:18pm

Something I learned:

Houston doesn't have a tight end that can block worth a flip. Ware and Spencer are stiff competition, but sheesh. Maybe Leach could try blocking from the TE position? It couldn't be much worse than what I saw yesterday.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 7:31pm

Dreessen's not too bad a blocker, and Daniels is at least considerably improved from the absolute disaster that he was in this respect when he entered the league. But no, neither of them can in any way, shape or form block DeMarcus Ware.

Hill was drafted to be that guy, but so far he's been hurt and/or crappy.

by DW94 :: Wed, 09/29/2010 - 3:16pm

Well I was being hyperbolic, and I haven't re-watched the game looking at their tight end play that closely, so I'll concede the point.

One sequence that stood out to me were the first two goal line plays in Houston's second half drive. On each play Spencer beat Dreessen really badly.

by Annnonymus (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 2:40pm

have you guys ever considered CCing these emails to a mailing list or something? while i enjoy reading the column, i'd definitely be thrilled to read them in real time.

by Dean :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 9:21am

I had that thought. I also had the thought of each week including one of the regular commentors in the distribution list to get a fans perspective. It would be a very hit/miss idea, but when it works, it could be great.

by andrew :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 2:27pm

I'm assuming they get somewhat edited before publication... not saying that there's necessarily anything bad, but generally you want a filter prior to something even semi-official with the name attached to it going to the public...

by Basilicus :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 2:41pm

Is it me or were the Colts DBs absolutely mugging the Broncos receivers yesterday? It actually made me think of how the Patriots would abuse the Colts receivers earlier in Manning's career. There were A LOT of uncalled holding and PI penalties to the Colts advantage, but I guess scouting the officials is really part of the game these days.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 3:01pm

I saw that too (I have no pony in this race). There was one where a Colt's DB went over the back of a Bronco, hit the Bronco's arm with his elbow to prevent the catch (ball hadn't arrived yet), and no call. Even the DB looked like he was expecting a flag, and it never came.

The Bronco's DB's were pretty aggressive too, and I don't think the refs were favoring one team or another, I think the Colt's just took advantage of the lax standards more.

by PerlStalker :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 3:20pm

That's the feeling I got, too. I did see few plays where a different crew of officials could have called holding but didn't. It was annoying seeing the Colts get away with one of those given the number of holding calls that went against the Broncos.

by CoachDave :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 5:08pm

If you are going to have officiating discussion about the DEN/IND game and not talk about the mug job that Denver's O-line was allowed to do throughout the game then your objectivity seems a bit in question.

At one point in the 2nd quarter, Mathis came on an inside move, Beadles jumped on his shoulder, reached around and armbarred his opposite pad (with a clear outside hand mind you) spun him around and then pancaked him...even Sims started to say "that's a..." and when he realized no flag was coming, he shut up.

I thought Clady did a nice job on Freeney, but the fact that Walton got flagged twice while Beadles was never rung up was so bad it became almost laughable.

And yes, I thought the Colts secondary crossed the line many times and should have been flagged repeatedly.

I've said it for 3 weeks now, I have no idea what constitutes holding in the NFL anymore. EVERYONE with any basic football officiating training knows to look for outside hand technique, opposite bad armbars, etc. and these things routinely happen directly impacting play and nothing is called.

by Basilicus :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 5:28pm

Good Lord. Why's my objectivity have to be called into question? Maybe I just wasn't paying much attention to the line play that game. Your point is, from what I remember of the game, very salient, but does it have to come with the rather trite attempt to negate my comments by insulting me?

Show me one person in this entire comments thread who's absolutely objective every game, please! *crosses fingers and hopes ROBO-Punter isn't trolling*

by CoachDave :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 5:56pm

Hey knucklehead. Telling you that you are an over-reactionary spaz who needs to unwind his panties is insulting you.

Questioning your objectivity is an observation.

Take it down a notch.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 7:55pm

Now who's "an over-reactionary spaz who needs to unwind his panties?"
(HINT: it rhymes with Oach-Ave)

by Basilicus :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 8:04pm

I called your point salient (that's a good thing) and made a ROBO-punter joke. Honestly, how tightly wound do you think I am?

I have taken your advice and unwound my panties, though. They're so much more comfortable this way!!!

by chemical burn :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 10:24am

Wow, CoachDave, never have I witnessed such a stunningly ironic lack of self-awareness.

by CoachDave :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 3:43pm

Then you haven't been paying attention.

by frievalt :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 2:43pm


Could the NFL be any more out of touch with its audience? Your average football fan is out crushing cans of Red Dog in his garage at halftime. He isn't going like hearing your p*ssy pop-star halftime show. Not one bit.

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 3:52pm

The NFL doesn't give a crap. The fans will watch the game either way. That show is to get the fan's girlfriend to watch.

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

Okay then, why the bombardment advertising for the animated Owls of Gahoole movie? My kid loved those books when he was 8, and he loves football.... but I suspect the venn diagram of those two sets has a very small overlap staying up to watch SNF. (It's past my kid's bedtime.) But somebody's spending a buttload on the spots.

Slightly off-topic, I know, but if there's any place I can gripe about peculiarly-targeted ad placement, this was the comment.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 4:59am

Well it makes sense to me. It's often the parent, that makes the decision which books/toys to buy. The kid might have an opinon, but ultimately the parent has the veto.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 7:38pm

Those trailers have been in the cinema for damn near every 3D film I've been to see in the last year that didn't involve Jerry O'Connell's penis being eaten by CG fish. They boggle me. The plot appears to be "small owls with no hats look for larger owls with hats". I like kids' fantasy movies. Hell, I like most movies. But those trailers do not leave me much inclined to watch Guardians of the Goolies, or whatever it's called. Am I missing something?

by Clemens (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 3:14pm

Chris Clemons must have been very tired when he got the penalty playing for the Dolphins, after playing for Seattle and racking up the sacks against the Chargers tackles. Philly shouldn't have traded a guy like this.

by mawbrew :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 3:19pm

I was disappointed there was no mention of the apparent Favre backward pass that was called incomplete rather than a fumble. Peterson (the intended target) is well behind Favre when the throw is made. The throw goes about ten yards backward (well behind Peterson) due to Detroit pressure. But rather than rule this a fumble it was called incomplete. I'm not sure if they explained that or not but if they did I never heard it(the noise in my house may have ben a problem). Anybody watching that game have an explanation?

by K (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 3:32pm

This was actually well explained by the referee at the time.

Approx: "The quarterback began a throwing motion with the intent to throw a forward pass. However, a defender made contact with his arm resulting in the ball traveling backward. By rule, this is an incomplete pass."

by DeltaWhiskey :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 3:38pm

Good God, the NFL is asking refs to make incredibly difficult judgment calls.

by Lou :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 4:47pm

No kidding. This happens a few times every year and confuses the hell out of people unfamiliar with the rule. I don't understand why this rule is in place, take out the referee judgement, if the D forces a pass to go backwards thats a good play and should be a fumble.

by DeltaWhiskey :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 8:58am

Agree, and given all the other difficult judgments the Refs have to struggle with, this seems an easy one to let go of.

by mawbrew :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 3:48pm

Well, echoeing the earlier comment, I'm not sure how the officials decide that the pass would have gone forward if the defended hadn't made contact. Beyond that, I'm not at all convinced that was the case. Unless Favre was going to loft the ball ten yards into the air, I don't think there is anyway that Peterson can catch that ball if it's throw forward. Peterson was well behind Favre when he threw it.

by jmaron :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 4:04pm

Peterson ended up picking up the ball just after the whistle sounded so the result would have been a 40-45 yd fg attempt instead of a 30 yarder.

Have you ever noticed that almost without fail the majority of players treat unsuccessful backward passes by the QB as incompletions? They all just stand around until one or two guys start tearing after the ball and then everyone else clues in.

by Will :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 12:45am

You must not watch college football. Greatest Trick Play ever.



by jmaron :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 10:55am

No I don't. That's a really cool play.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 5:45pm

I'd guess that they just always assume a forward pass, and if an arm hit results in a backward pass (lateral) then it's incomplete - regardless of the actual intent of the QB.

by Tracy :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 6:21pm

Also, if the quarterback is looking forward, and there is no eligible receiver behind him, and his arm (or wrist) went forward after the ball flew out backward, it's a pretty good bet that the quarterback was in the process of throwing what was meant to be a forward pass. As far as judging intent, this is a pretty easy one to decipher, and I think that the refs pretty much always get the call correctly according to the rule.

Personally, I don't think intent should matter. But the NFL disagrees with me, and that's the only thing that really counts.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 8:05pm

Is this a real rule? This is getting just stupid. Refs are required to be thought police now. Brett Favre thought about not fumbling, therefore the call on the field is not a fumble! If this is a real rule, why not say, "The quarterback began a throwing motion with the intent to throw a touchdown pass. However, a defender made contact with his arm resulting in the ball traveling backward. By rule, this is a touchdown."

Simply observing what happens on a play and making a call based on an objective fact is difficult enough, without making calls based on mind reading.

by Glen from Scotland (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 4:02pm

Tried out NFL Gamepass on a free trial for the weekend, and apart from the general awesomeness of it, hearing Los Campesinos! on a Bud advert totally made my night. Their best song, at that.

Props to Barnwell for being a good dude.

by Marko :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 4:04pm

"Aaron Schatz: think we've already talked about this on the site a couple times, but what happened with Kyle Orton is that he never, ever should have played as a rookie. You can't expect a third-round rookie to play well, and in fact, he did not."

Two things:

1. Orton was a fourth round pick, not a third round pick.

2. I've said this before: Anyone who says Orton shouldn't have played as a rookie really doesn't understand the Bears' QB situation when he was forced to play. Starter Rex Grossman broke his ankle in the preseason and didn't return until December. Backup Chad Hutchinson presumably was going to be the starter until Grossman returned. However, he was unbelievably bad in the preseason. Bears fans like me have seen some horrible Bears' QBs over the years, so we know what a bad QB looks like. Hutchinson was atrocious. He threw a pick 6 in a preseason game that was one of the worst plays I have ever seen. It was so bad that while watching it on TV, I was thinking "No, don't throw it" while he was winding up to throw. It was a sideline route, and you could see the DB jumping the route 2 seconds before he threw it. At the time, I said that he should be cut immediately. Orton came into the game later and played pretty well. In comparison to Hutchinson, he looked like Joe Montana. Hutchinson in fact was cut before the next preseason game, and rightfully so. Bears fans would have revolted if Hutchinson had remained the QB.

The team did manage to win the division that year at 11-5. Orton was 10-5 as the starting QB, and Grossman was 1-0, starting the game when the Bears clinched the division. There is no way the Bears would have gone 10-5 with Hutchinson as the QB. Believe it or not, there is more to being a QB than statistics. Orton obviously was not a great or even a good QB, but he clearly was the best and most effective healthy QB on the Bears in 2005. He played well enough merely by not screwing things up (e.g., with ridiculous pick 6s) and by making a play here and there. By not doing things to make the team lose, he helped guide a team with a good running game and a great defense to a division title.

by jmaron :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 4:11pm

Good Point. And, it's not like it's ruined Orton either. He's posted a better DVOA every year.

by JeffS (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 4:32pm

Aaron's point wasn't that Orton wasn't the best option for the Bears at the time, but the fact that he took his lumps on the field meant that Bears management was convinced he had to be replaced. If he had sat in 2005 and 2006 then gradually been brought along into the starting role, his development might've ended up being quicker and the Cutler trade probably never have happened.

At the point Angelo had never cared about a solid backup behind Grossman. He realized how much of a mistake he made; the next year he gave Brian Griese a bunch of money to be a backup.

by Marko :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 4:53pm

I'm not sure if that is Aaron's point. It seems to me that when you say that a QB "never, ever should have played as a rookie," you are saying that he didn't belong on a field no matter what. That view simply is wrong with respect to the 2005 Bears.

I disagree that if he had sat in 2005 and 2006 then his development would have been quicker and the Cutler trade probably never have happened. He did gain an awful lot of experience his first year, and I think that experience helped his development more than sitting would have. And are you saying that the Bears would have chosen to keep Orton and not trade for Cutler if Orton had been developed in the manner you suggest? Again, I disagree strongly. The Bears would make that trade every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

As for the point about Angelo, I agree completely with your comment. But that is irrelevant to whether or not Orton should have played in 2005. You can say that the Bears shouldn't have left themselves in a situation where Orton had to play. But they did, and he did have to play when you consider the alternatives at the time.

by Kal :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 4:56pm

What's especially amusing to me is that McDaniels was probably right to get rid of Cutler. Orton appears to have done fine without Marshall and is certainly adequate if not spectacular as the QB.

At the same time, it was a great move for the Bears in that it forced many coaching personnel changes, which were the real killer for the Bears offense. Cutler having Martz is likely a very good match, and Martz has done amazing things with meh receivers and RBs; having Forte should be a lot better than "meh".

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 5:17pm

"adequate if not spectacular" QB's are very good at not winning post-season games.

And before anyone argues the exception as the rule, good luck cloning the 2000 Ravens D.

by Kal :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 5:31pm

Plenty of non-spectacular QBs have won superbowls; Eli Manning is a good example. At this point I think Orton and Eli are pretty close to each other in terms of performance and ability. Rothlisberger won being pretty unspectacular as well, and while that was defense-fueled it's not like he's the best QB of all time.

Orton isn't the heart and soul of Denver, but he isn't a game manager. He can make plays and he can beat you with his arm. He's not Brady/Manning/Brees level, but he's not a liability. By adequate, I should have said 'playoff-caliber QB'. He certainly can win playoff games given tools around him.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 5:55pm

"adequate if not spectacular" QB's are very good at not winning post-season games.

So are many elite quarterbacks, whereas several "adequate but not spectacular" or even worse quarterbacks have made it all the way to the Super Bowl (heck, Rex Grossman's the perfect example). All that proves is postseason record is about far more than just the quarterback.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 6:01pm

Hey, Grossman was always spectacular.

Just often spectacularly bad.

by Bobman :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 12:23am

I get it... like the concept of absolute value. His is always large, whether it's negative or positive.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 8:12pm

All that proves is postseason record is about far more than just the quarterback.

If you're just now coming to this conclusion, I think you might have mistyped "AOL Sports" and ended up here by accident.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 8:18pm

I'm not, but the poster I was replying to might find it useful.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 8:20pm

Pretty sure that the point here has nothing to do with the 2005 Bears. The point has to do with first impressions. Our first impression of Orton was seeing him fail wildly, showing almost no hope of ever being competent. Now that he's improved tremendously, the common perception is still that he's an incompetent QB propped up by a good system, or o-line, or whatever dumb people think about him. And that's a shame, because he is undoubtedly a well-above-average NFL QB. The worst-case scenario would be for him to see a fan awareness career path that parallels London Fletcher, that is, to be one of the best at his position for years while never getting voted to a pro-bowl because fans haven't caught on that he's good.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 7:52pm

I agree that Orton is widely under-rated and amost certainly an above-average starting QB (though "well-above-average" might be pushing it, depending on what exactly you mean by that). But I hardly think it would be a travesty if he never went to a pro-bowl (except perhaps as a replacement in a year like last when a load of guys are selected but don't go). He plays in a conference with Manning and Brady (both of whom seem to be ageing pretty gracefully) and Rivers, Roethlisberger and Schaub (each of whom is only a year or so older than him). I don't know that it's clear there will ever be a point in his career when he's better than any of those guys (unless it's in the sense that a tolerable 35 year old back-up is better than a retired Hall of Famer). People mistakenly thinking that the 6th best quarterback in a conference is the 9th or 10th best is something I can live with.

by Jeff Fogle :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 4:58pm

I'll add in:
"If you take out his rookie numbers, and think of him as a third-rounder who sat on the bench for two years and then came in for his first action in 2007 and finally became the full-time starter in his fourth year, 2008, his career makes a LOT more sense."

What wasn't making sense about Kyle Orton's career? He's been on the standard career arc the whole time, showing improvement as he matures.

Would you say that other quote about Mark Sanchez? That he should never, ever have played as a rookie? Or Matthew Stafford? or Eli Manning?

Regular Season comparison as rookies:
Orton: 10-5, 59.7 rating, 9-13 TD/INT, 30 sacks
Sanchez: 8-7, 63.9 rating, 12-20 TD/INT, 26 sacks
Stafford: 2-8, 61.0 rating, 13-20 TD/INT, 24 sacks
E. Manning: 1-6, 55.4, 6-9 TD/INT, 13 sacks

Not sure what was confusing about his career to begin with, or why he shouldn't have played. He's not on the path that the P. Manning/Brady/Brees level started at...but his rookie stats weren't demonstrably worse than some first rounders who were thrown in the deep end right away. And, as Marko pointed out...he was the option that made the most sense in the Bears' situation that year.

If you asked Orton what he thought, would he suggest he learned a lot that helped him get to where he is now while helping his team reach the playoffs...or that he never, ever should have played as a rookie?

Orton and Sanchez make for an interesting stat/situation match in terms of their rookie years and the types of teams they were playing for. Will be fun to watch those QB arcs continue to form...

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 5:25pm

"Orton and Sanchez make for an interesting stat/situation match in terms of their rookie years"

No they didn't. The year end stat sheet might look similar. But the shape of their performance was vastly different. When Sanchez was bad last year he was a historically awful turnover machine. When he was good he was asked to play like a real quarterback and was briliant. Orton in his rookie year was only asked to be a game manager and never showed any glimmer or promise. Nothing nearly as good as Sanchez' first game, for example.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 5:44pm

You must not have watched more than 3 games from the 05 Bears. For one, Orton tore up the Lions in their first meeting, and in the 2nd meeting he was well on his way to doing so again until Mark Bradley got hurt.

His game against the Panthers was actually very good, I remember counting at the time that he threw 4 passes that shouldn't have been caught. Unfortunately, Moose got a bad case of stone hands against his former team, and Bobbles Wade was the #3 receiver.

In the first game against the Redskins, he played pretty bad, but it was close the whole time and he lead the offense down the field on the final drive until 3! consecutive false starts pushed the Bears back too far for a 4th round rookie to overcome.

In the Saints game, he lead a last minute drive to take the lead and win the game.

He also somehow went 8/13 against the 49ers in the "wind bowl." Cody Pickett went 1/13 on his side for comparison.

Edit: I meant to add this. Orton showed a serious amount of promise his rookie year. Enough that the Bears held onto him for the next 3 years, and gave him another opportunity to start. Enough that there was debate on forums about whether Orton should have the chance to challenge Grossman for his starting spot in 2006 and 2007. To say otherwise just shows ignorance of the situation.

by Jeff Fogle :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 5:52pm

Lone, could you please list the games where Sanchez was asked to play like a real quarterback and was brilliant in the regular season? He did have a good opener vs. the soft defense of Houston. For the year, he topped 175 passing yards in a game four times. The Jets went 1-3 in those games. The win over Houston in the opener, then three losses.

The Jets asked him to play like a real quarterback in the opener, then decided not to ask him to do that again in the regular season?

Both guys were game managers for the most part. Sanchez is definitely more of a downfield threat, but he wasn't able to translate that into much that was meaningful...unless he was cramming a lot of big plays into total passing efforts that were less than 175 yards (quite the limbo). He did turn it into more interceptions.

Both were playing on teams that emphasized defense and the run.
2005 Chicago: 2nd in defense, 8th in rushing offense
2009 NY Jets: 1st in defense, 1st in rushing offense

Similar environments. What it's imagined Sanchez is going to be, isn't the same thing as what he actually was as a rookie.

Agree there are some differences in how they were used. The fact that Orton is developing probably isn't be a bad sign for Sanchez.

Edit: agree with tuluse's comments about Orton too...

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 9:23pm

@tuluse & Fogle

Ok, let's put this debate on a more concrete footing. How about we use something that at least give a rough idea of what the seasons looked like?

Kyle Orton, 2005, Y/A in each game: 5.04, 7.14, 3.82, 4.5, 4.68, 5.00, 7.42, 5.27, 5.15, 5.23, 4.79, 4.00, 5.91, 1.20, 4.21. See something? The two 7's stick out ... for a reason. Yep, both against the Lions. Otherwise it's a season exactly as I described. A checkdown champ who was definitely only tasked to manage the game. Remarkably consistent in fact. No glimmer of promise unless you count the Lions games.

Sanchez, 2009, Y/A in each game, regular season: 8.77, 7.41, 5.7, 5.11, 7.17, 4.10, 8.94, 7.57, 7.07, 6.48, 9.06, 6.93, 7.06, 5.58, 3.94. A season of wild variations. When Sanchez was bad in about five games, he was a turnover machine so if I used Adjusted Y/A it would show even more variance. However when he was on, his rate stats were as good as anyone in the league. And this is not counting the best statistical playoff run for a rookie quarterback in history.

Those two rookie seasons could not be more different in their shape. Indeed I did not see many Bears games during Orton's rookie season. But it appears your memories have been more clouded by the passage of time in comparison.

by Another Sean_C :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 5:33pm

One thing to keep in mind here - Stafford, Sanchez, and E. Manning were first round draft picks. There are fairly widespread expectations that Stafford and Sanchez will improve, and such was the case with E. Manning as well. A large part of why those expectations exist is the fact they were first round picks.

It was different with Orton. Being a fourth round pick, his poor numbers were viewed as a good demonstration for his being drafted in the fourth round vs. the first round. The predominant expectation for him became "career backup".

In other words, by starting Orton in his rookie year, the Bears invariably caused him to earn a bad label, consistent with his draft position. Thus, everyone was surprised when he continued to develop in is second stint as a starter.

I agree that the Bears didn't have much of a choice though - IIRC, the pool of vetran free agent QBs was abysmal at the time.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 5:45pm

So the Bears shouldn't have started him because certain fans developed an inaccurate view of his abilities?

I don't think I've ever heard a worse argument for whether to play someone or not.

by Another Sean_C :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 6:14pm

Actually, I'm just trying to explain why certain fans are surprised to see Orton doing well.

When a first round pick puts up this stat line:
59.7 rating, 9-13 TD/INT, 30 sacks

The reaction tends to be "he will improve"

When a fourth round pick puts up the same stat line, the reaction tends to be "well I guess that shows shy he was drafted in the fourth round". Not too many people would expect further development.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 6:21pm

Fair enough, but this all started because Aaron said Orton should never have played. The only reasoning behind that seems to be, some people thought he was really bad because they played him. Even though the coaches never did, and fans who were paying attention realized he would probably be serviceable in the future.

Also, Orton's stats were actually depressed because he was playing for a playoff team. The offense consisted mainly of runs and sideline routes that were very difficult to complete, but even harder to be intercepted. They asked Orton to make the defense realize they would go deep so there was at least some room for the running game, not to actually complete passes at a high rate. When the routes were designed to actually move the ball, the results were mixed, but Orton certainly had his moments.

by Basilicus :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 9:43am

I think Aaron badly shorthanded an argument he's made before. The argument isn't that it was a bad decision by the Bears to play Orton his rookie year.

The argument is that, from a statistical perspective, Orton's career falls more in line with where he's at now if you remove the first two years and - like most other third/fourth round QBs - treat him as if he sat on the bench. The argument is that Orton looked worse to many because he had a more difficult learning curve, one which normally isn't witnessed because most drafted at his position don't see the field so immediately. This throws people off; Aaron suggests looking at the most recent years for a more accurate view of Orton's development that mirrors that of other successful mid-round QBs.

by Jeff Fogle :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 5:56pm

Orton managed a 10-5 performance as a rookie. He was not seen as a "career backup" for being able to do that at the time. I'm remembering reality closer to tuluse's version in this discussion...

by Kal :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 6:21pm

Because the record of a team has everything to do with the quality play of the quarterback and nothing at all to do with having a dominant defense and a weak division.

Nothing at all.

GODS how I hate win-loss records as anything resembling a stat for quarterbacks.

by Jeff Fogle :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 6:58pm

And I hate it when people use words like "everything" and "nothing" to exaggerate points that weren't even being made.

Who, anywhere, suggested that a 10-5 record for Orton had everything to do with him and nothing to do with his teammates...as he was posting a passer rating around 60 and a negative TD/INT ratio?

At the time, the Bears were 10-5 with Orton as he was being asked to manage games. He managed them successfully enough for the team to go 10-5 in his starts. Rookie QB's tend not to put up impressive stats. It's even tougher to do that in a cold weather city with a team that emphasizes grinding out wins. Suggesting that implied AT THE TIME that Orton could only be a "career backup" is re-writing history.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 8:23pm

Who, anywhere, suggested that a 10-5 record for Orton had everything to do with him and nothing to do with his teammates.

You did, a couple posts up. Maybe you MEANT to say something else. But that is exactly what you SAID.

by Jeff Fogle :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 8:39pm

Could you please cut-and-paste the quote in question, so we can clarify it?

And, can you clarify this:
"Pretty sure that the point here has nothing to do with the 2005 Bears. The point has to do with first impressions. Our first impression of Orton was seeing him fail wildly, showing almost no hope of ever being competent."

Our first NFL impressions had to be when Orton was a rookie with the 2005 Bears, when he helped them reach a 10-5 record. There seems to be some disagreement about how badly he was failing...

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 10:45pm

I'm pretty sure he's be picking up on you saying "Orton managed a 10-5 performance as a rookie" rather than something like "the Bears posted a 10-5 record with a rookie Orton as their quarterback". It's a bit hair-splitting, but you did say Orton himself did it. I didn't read it that way, but it looks like the guy who replied to you did.

For the majority of people, their first impression of Orton was as the latest awful quarterback on a team where quarterback was a Cleveland-esque void of awfulness. Yes, analysing it now it's easy to see it as a rookie taking his licks and staying out of the veterans' way. At the time, that's just not how it came across. Even the Bears fans couldn't get Grossman (Yes, that Rex Grossman!) back fast enough. The 10-5 record was seen by an awful lot of people as "in spite of the awful Kyle Orton" rather than "aided by the mistake-free Kyle Orton".

by Jeff Fogle :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 11:30pm

Thanks BHA. Can see how I didn't phrase that as well as I could. We were talking about QB's managing games. I should have said something like...Orton was managing games, and the team went 10-5 in his starts. Or, Orton "managed" a 10-5 team performance as a rookie, something like that. Still surprised anyone would interpret that as me saying Orton was exclusively responsible for a 10-5 record. But, the onus is on me to clearly state what I mean.

Understand your point about Orton. I guess, to me, expectations were unrealistic if everyone was that frustrated. I thought I recalled some controversy about Grossman getting the start in the playoffs once they made it. That was probably from the TV announcers in the game discussing it though, rather than a poll of avid Chicago fans.

In terms of the standards for 23-year old rookies...just playing 15 games is already a positive indicator for future success. Bears fans at the time weren't worried about that. Now that we're in the future, I don't think there should be a lot of surprise that a guy who started 15 games as a 23-year old has matured into productivity as a 28-year old. Standard career arc stuff straight out of the old Bill James Baseball Abstracts (though those were talking about guys entering MLB with authority at a younger age)...

by TomC :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 6:30pm

Eli threw his second pick of the game on third-and-goal. It was a left-handed floater that still would've been completed if not for a great leaping deflection by Will Witherspoon...[I]t seems like he's still on pace to challenge Warren Moon's unofficial NFL record of most interceptions that weren't really the QB's fault.

I have a bit of a hard time accepting that an interception on a left-handed floater on third-and-goal should be considered not the QB's fault --- I don't care how well he threw it, or how good of a defensive play had to be made to cause the interception.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 9:23pm

@tuluse & Fogle

Ok, let's put this debate on a more concrete footing. How about we use something that at least give a rough idea of what the seasons looked like?

Kyle Orton, 2005, Y/A in each game: 5.04, 7.14, 3.82, 4.5, 4.68, 5.00, 7.42, 5.27, 5.15, 5.23, 4.79, 4.00, 5.91, 1.20, 4.21. See something? The two 7's stick out ... for a reason. Yep, both against the Lions. Otherwise it's a season exactly as I described. A checkdown champ who was definitely only tasked to manage the game. Remarkably consistent in fact. No glimmer of promise unless you count the Lions.

Sanchez, 2009, Y/A in each game, regular season: 8.77, 7.41, 5.7, 5.11, 7.17, 4.10, 8.94, 7.57, 7.07, 6.48, 9.06, 6.93, 7.06, 5.58, 3.94. A season of wild variations. When Sanchez was bad in about five games, he was a turnover machine so if I used Adjusted Y/A it would show even more variance. However when he was on, his rate stats were as good as anyone in the league. And this is not counting the best statistical playoff run for a rookie quarterback in history.

Those two rookie seasons could not be more different in their shape. Indeed I did not see many Bears games during Orton's rookie season. But it appears your memories have been more clouded by the passage of time in comparison.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 11:59pm

I'm not trying to compare Orton to Sanchez, I'm saying anyone who says Orton didn't show a glimmer of hope wasn't watching the games. Last time I checked glimmer meant "to appear or be seen faintly or dimly," ie he briefly looked like he could be a good QB. Which is what Orton did. Did it last for a whole game? Sometimes. Usually not. Was he let down by his receivers often? Yes he was. Was he a good quarterback? No he wasn't, but he certainly showed promise, which is why the coaches kept him on the team.

BTW, the passage of time has not changed my stance on Orton. I was in the group lobbying on forums that Orton should be given an open competition against Grossman.

by Jeff Fogle :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 10:23pm

Thanks loneweasel, those numbers help me better understand where you're coming from.

So, you're saying that to provide a "more concrete footing," to at least provide "a rough idea of what the seasons looked like," we shouldn't use a combination of passer rating, TD/INT ratio, and times sacked...we should just use yards per attempt? That yard-per-attempt by itself gives a better "rough" idea of what a season looked like than all the elements that go into passer rating? I think we'll have to disagree about that.

I happily concede that Sanchez threw downfield more often. That resulted in a better ypa average, but more interceptions. Why would the "scope" of a season be a stat that counts the positives of Sanchez while not including the negatives that came from throwing downfield? When it all came out in the wash, the seasons were similar:

*Neither QB was very good, but both gained valuable learning experience.

*Neither offense was very good in terms of driving the field or putting points on the board.

*Orton focused on a short passing game as he was learning. Sanchez's efforts were more stretched out while he was learning.

*Both did what they could to manage games for teams that had very good defenses and running games.

Now, on to specific comments:

On Orton:
"A checkdown champ who was definitely only tasked to manage the game. Remarkably consistent in fact. No glimmer of promise unless you count the Lions."

Yes, a remarkably consistent checkdown champ. THAT BY ITSELF AT AGE 23 IS MORE THAN A GLIMMER OF PROMISE. It's a short list of 23-year old rookies who are capable of managing a 10-5 season by PROPERLY checking down and avoiding huge mistakes while keeping their teams in position to win game. I'm not suggesting he was on pace to be a superstar. He was on pace to have a chance to be somebody. Aaron's suggestion that he never EVER should have been allowed to play is indefensible. Being remarkably consistent as a rookie is a good thing if you're staying out of the way while your veterans are getting the job done.

On Sanchez:
"when he was on, his rate stats were as good as anyone in the league."

When he was on, his rate stats were as good as the averages of the best guys in the league. When a pitcher with an ERA of 4.25 is "on," and throws a gem, he's still not Roy Halladay. Sanchez being "on" isn't as good as Manning or Brady when they're "on." You can't just cherrypick a player's best games and compare them to other people's average games to draw meaningful conclusions about where they stand...any more than a critic should cherry pick his worst games and say he's Jamarcus Russel in a blindfold.

And, what were Sanchez's best games anyway? I asked about that earlier. Using the games that registered at 7.0 or better above:

8.8 vs. Houston...great debut vs. a soft defense

7.4 vs. New England...solid in a win, but 14-22-163 for a team scoring 16 points isn't quite superstar stuff. Focusing only on yards-per-attempt can be misleading. He wasn't lighting up the scoreboard in a meaningful way.

7.2 at Miami...12-24-172 in a loss

8.9 at Oakland...9-16-143 in a win

7.6 vs. Miami...20-35-265 in a loss...but a passing line that impresses

7.1 vs. Jacksonville...16-30-212 in a loss

9.1 vs. Carolina...13-17-154 in a win.

7.1 vs. Atlanta...18-32-226 in a loss

New England is the only playoff team on the list. The Jets went 4-4 in those eight games, seven of which came against non-playoff teams. He completed more than 18 passes in a regular season game only once. Focusing only on his "rate" hides the other stuff that wasn't happening.

Sanchez worked further downfield than Orton did as they both posted relatively poor seasons by QB standards, but not unsurprising records for rookies. The "scope" to me is more about actual scope of everything, not zooming a microscope in on one thing and suggesting that one thing carries more weight than everything else.

It may have better predictive value for a "superstar" career. I'll buy that. Not suggesting Orton is, or is about to be a superstar. I do think it's indefensible to say he shouldn't have played as a rookie...and I do think there are meaningful similarities between the rookie seasons of Orton and Sanchez. The fact that Sanchez worked further downfield while struggling to a roughly equal degree is one of the differences.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 12:05am

In case you missed it, "remarkably consistent" was damning with faint praise. 5ypa for a season is "valuable learning experience" if the aim of the education is to produce a backup qb. In fact that was pretty much how Orton had played in Chicago. His accuracy on passes of over 20 yards in the air had been awful his whole career before this year. (Cassel, another backup in starter's jersey, unsurprisingly has the same problem.) A qb who cannot attack all levels of the field severely limits your offense in the modern NFL. Competent defenses, which are incidentally common sights in the playoffs, will expose that every time even if your noodlearm flukes his way to a 10-6 record every couple years.

by tuluse :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 12:08am

That's a common misconception. Orton doesn't have a weak arm, his arm is actually quite strong (his rookie year all 4 quarterbacks had a competition and he won the deep throwing, getting balls 70 yards from where he was). He just isn't accurate down field.

by bubqr :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 4:50am

I disagree with Ben : I thought that Matt Ryan looked real good. M.Turner was quite ineffective before late in the game, and it seems to me that the Falcons were putting M.Ryan in difficult 3rd and 4th downs situations a lot, which he managed very well. I know the Falcons are a rushing team, but it seemed to me (wait for DVOA on this) that in the first 3/4 quarters, ATL's passing game was much better than its running game, and while Tony Gonzalez does in fact catch everything thrown his way, M.Ryan looked poised, was reading coverages well, didn't make a lot of mistakes and took his chances.

I wasn't a believer of M.Ryan when he came out, I thought he was a bit overhyped in his first year, but boy did he impress me yesterday. I could see the NFL futur etop 5 QB in him for the first time.

by Bobby Wommack (not verified) :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 9:01am

I hope Mike Vick does well this year just to shut up Bill Barnwell.

by DeltaWhiskey :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 9:05am

I think you overestimate Michael Vick's abilities.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 10:25am

I'd be curious if there's anything capable of shutting up Bill Barnwell.

by Q (not verified) :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 9:37am

I watche the game and also thought that Ryan was pretty good in the game and for large parts was much more effective than their running game.

Ryan ever being a Top 5 QB though is pretty unlikely. I think most would agree that Ryan has little hope of bypassing any of these QBs:

Manning, Brady, Brees,Rodgers, Rivers

Now you might be talking about in the future after Brady and Manning retire/decline significantly (which could still be multiple year away.) if you subtract Manning and Brady then that leaves these QBs that he would be competing against:

Big Ben, Schaub, Cutler, Vick, Stafford, Bradford

It seems unlikely he will surpass Ben or Schaub and that is not factoring in Wildcards like Cutler, Vick, Stafford, Andrew Luck/New High Pick Qbs

by cjfarls :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 12:23pm

You really think Vick is a top-10 QB? Maybe in highlight real plays or innacurate passes, but overall?

I don't think Vick is the worst QB in the NFL, but I'd take E.Manning, K.Orton, Ryan, or Romo over him in a heartbeat, not to mention high potential guys like Cutler/Stafford/Flacco/etc....

by Basilicus :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 12:28pm

I could see it. By the same token, Ryan can lay a pretty solid claim to being the best first-round QB drafted since Jay Cutler in 2006. Other QBs drafted in the first round in these last four years:

Sam Bradford
Tim Tebow
Matthew Stafford
Mark Sanchez
Josh Freeman
Joe Flacco
Jamarcus Russell
Brady Quinn

Arguments could be made for Bradford and Stafford, maybe maybe maybe Flacco, but right now I think Ryan is clearly the best of that group. It also shows that first-round QBs like Luck are still more likely to be disappointments than successes. He's already making a stab at top-10 QB, which isn't bad for being in his third year.

by dryheat :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 12:48pm

Why stop at Cutler? I'd much rather have Ryan as my QB.

by BJR :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 1:14pm

I mentioned this in the weekly discussion thread at the time, but I can't believe there was a worse coaching decision this week than when Cleveland, down 7 points with 4 minutes on the clock and 1 timeout remaining, and faced with 4th&2 on their own 30, decided to punt.

Needless to say, Baltimore easily saw out the clock. What made it even more inexplicable was that the Cleveland offence had been moving the ball well for most of the day and were really managing to bully Baltimore up front. How does this regime expect to win if they have zero faith in their offence, even on a good day?

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 1:22pm

"When Pats play Miami on MNF next week, over-under on number of plays before Jon Gruden refers to Hernandez as "the joker" is five."

Would he then refer to Randy Moss as the smoker, or the midnight toker?

by mrh :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 4:25pm

"When Pats play Miami on MNF next week, over-under on number of plays before Jon Gruden refers to Hernandez as "the joker" is five."

When Hernandez comes off the field after missing an assignment, will he tell Belichick that there's too much confusion here?

by bigmaq (not verified) :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 7:20pm

Apparently the schmuck contributor from Seattle - VV - still hasn't gotten over '05 and in his smallness - refuses to acknowledge anything positive about Pittsburgh - the snide comments regarding Batch are just more of the same. Given the few snaps that Batch has played, not only in games, but with even the ones or twos in practice, his game was brilliant. The first interception was in part due to the receiver for not coming back as the play and Batch indicated. Then in a most b*itchy tone, VV opines that there should have been at least two more Ints on passes one presumes to that same Wallace who had so many steps on the defenders in the end zone that the first was just trying to play catch up let alone turn around. (Note even if he had caught he would not have been in position as the catch was not only behind him but far to his left - due to Charlie's placement - the same is true of the tipped ball. The angle shown when the pass was upon the defender is too late in showing the separation that Wallace had created). Note also that Batch did not suffer one sack throughout the game - I supposed that is due to the much maligned Steelers' O line which finally did some pass pro. Or was it due to Charlie's quick decision making? Again pretty surprising given the snaps he has taken over the past 3-4 years. Apparently, in spite of Seattle's dreadful run since losing the Lombardi, there is always something good coming out of Vulcan's PR dept for you flacks, joined by Farrar, will post without questioning. There's a reason that the Hawks PR dept. won an award from the NFL while the team was in the dumper - and only truly moderately successful during its greatest run. A full 2 wins less per season (and getting to play 6 games against bottom feeders as well) than every other division winner while winning the NFC West under Holmgren - whose overall record was less than that of Ground Chuck.

by Basilicus :: Tue, 09/28/2010 - 9:36pm

You have some damn good points. Why do you feel the need to make people take them that much less seriously by attacking someone in your opening line? Couldn't you just say, "I disagree: given the few snaps that Batch has played..." and continued from there? I guarantee you more people would make it past your first line if you did that.

by bigmaq (not verified) :: Thu, 09/30/2010 - 5:32pm

Unfortunately, one of my points is the Seattle fan/press inability to let go of 2005 in all things relating to the Steelers, which in turn colors their opinions. The author of the referenced piece is an unabashed Seahawks booster. Therefore, questioning the motives of the writer are well within legitimate critique. I acknowledge my bias'. However the Farrars and Verheis while pretending to be neutral journalists are constantly letting their bias show. Not only for their team, but, for any team which they view as somehow unworthy.

Thanks, for commenting and your point is otherwise right on.

by bigmaq (not verified) :: Thu, 09/30/2010 - 5:33pm

Unfortunately, one of my points is the Seattle fan/press inability to let go of 2005 in all things relating to the Steelers, which in turn colors their opinions. The author of the referenced piece is an unabashed Seahawks booster. Therefore, questioning the motives of the writer are well within legitimate critique. I acknowledge my bias'. However the Farrars and Verheis while pretending to be neutral journalists are constantly letting their bias show. Not only for their team, but, for any team which they view as somehow unworthy.

Thanks, for commenting and your point is otherwise right on.

by Q (not verified) :: Wed, 09/29/2010 - 10:03am

"You really think Vick is a top-10 QB? Maybe in highlight real plays or innacurate passes, but overall?

I don't think Vick is the worst QB in the NFL, but I'd take E.Manning, K.Orton, Ryan, or Romo over him in a heartbeat, not to mention high potential guys like Cutler/Stafford/Flacco/etc...."

Personally, I would take Ryan and Romo over Vick. Eli vs Vick is an interesting debate. One big advantage that Vick has is that his contract is far cheaper than Eli and some of the other high potential's like Stafford and Bradford which is pretty important in constructing a team. Orton is the definition of a System QB. I don't think you can win a Super Bowl with an Orton led team, he would need to be on a historically great Defensive Team to win a title. While unlikely, Vick at least has the potential for a few hot games in the playoffs where he single handedly takes over (In a 1 and Done system like the NFL Playoffs, having a High Variance QB is overall better than a Low Variance QB if you do not have the Best Team that year)

by dryheat :: Wed, 09/29/2010 - 10:29am

While unlikely, Vick at least has the potential for a few hot games in the playoffs where he single handedly takes over.

Didn't Vick do exactly that in Green Bay maybe 8 years ago, forcing the "Packers have never lost a home game in the playoffs when the weather is below 32 degrees" drivel to be modified to "Packers have never lost a home game in the playoffs when the weather is below 29 degrees"?

by Basilicus :: Wed, 09/29/2010 - 11:56am

Hey, the Packers had an advanced statistical model, and statistical models are allowed to change over time as new data is introduced!

by Arkaein :: Wed, 09/29/2010 - 6:14pm

Partly true, although GB's real problems in that game were injuries (Terry Glenn was out, Driver was fairly young and played most of the game with a bad shoulder and had to come out after catching GB's only TD, Ahman Green also left with an injury, and Darren ), and bad special teams, including I believe two muffed punts, one of which should have been challenged and overturned since it hit a Falcons player in the helmet (I think replay was around then, but Sherman didn't challenge for some inexplicable reason?)

Vick was solid from what I remember, but didn't need to be spectacular to lead Atlanta to victory.

Just checked: I couldn't find a full box score, but Vick had 117 yards passing and tied Warrick Dunn to lead Atlanta with 64 yards rushing, so it definitely wasn't a case of Vick taking over. Atlanta's defense, special teams, and Packer injuries did the real work.

by Dean :: Wed, 09/29/2010 - 3:30pm

Vick is a UFA at the end of the season. If someone is actually stupid enough to think that he's a franchise QB (comparable to Eli? Really? Can you share some of those drugs?), then they'll pay him the going rate for a franchise QB, and you won't have any sort of "far cheaper contract" advantage.

The Hype-Machine just doesn't quit. Apparently there's lots of money to be squeezed out of fools. Go figure. When PT Barnum said that there's a sucker born every minute, he failed to account for the population explosion.