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

17 Jan 2011

Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

compiled by Bill Barnwell

Each weekend, 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 note that we may not discuss every single important event in each game.

This week, we have a special guest. FO reader Seth Rosenfeld recently won our charity auction to contribute to this week's Audibles at the Line. All proceeds from the auction went to the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, which provides benefits for retired players with medical or financial issues. Seth has been an FO reader since just about the beginning of FO. Thanks Seth!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Baltimore Ravens 24 at Pittsburgh Steelers 31

Bill Barnwell: Mike Tomlin starts the game with an impossibly dumb challenge. Even if you're 100% sure about getting the challenge right, you're gaining 13 yards in the middle of the field with 59+ minutes to go. And now, if you don't get your second challenge right, you're done with challenges for the day.

Ben Muth: Is there anything more annoying than a receiver who jumps up and down when he doesn't get the ball when he's open? Imagine if quarterbacks did that every time a receiver couldn't get open or dropped a pass.

Aaron Schatz: Yes, there is something more annoying: When a wide receiver or quarterback whines to the ref about a pass interference call on a play that wasn't remotely pass interference, especially if one of them does the arm up-and-down "throw the flag" motion. I would like to see the league get rid of the excessive celebration penalties and replace them with a five-yard "whining for a flag" penalty.

BTW, I think Pittsburgh was second in the league in WR screens this year, behind Indianapolis. They just ran another one.

Bill Barnwell: I think we're going to need to invent gesticulation/pantomime statistics pretty soon. This is ridiculous.

The Ravens throw what Gumbel calls a "little screen" to Ray Rice. All screens are little, dude.

Mike Tanier: The draw was a great call. Maybe the Ravens line was just pretending to be completely overmatched to set that up.

Bill Barnwell: And that Big Ben "fumble" is why you don't use your first challenge on the opening play for 15 yards of field position.

Mike Tanier: I think Redding was here in Columbus, MD at the start of that fumble play.

Tom Gower: I almost tweeted something about Tomlin winning the Martz Award on the first play of the first game of the weekend, and assuming Triplette doesn't manage to find enough evidence to overturn this TD, he'll be out of challenges before the first quarter is over, and also elected to squib the second kickoff to give the Ravens better field position. Not a very good job by him so far.

Flacco underthrew Mason on the play leading up to the Rice TD -- if he puts enough air on that, the Steelers aren't in a position to commit pass interference and Mason walks into the end zone. Great balance by Rice to stay upright after getting popped by Polamalu, though.

Bill Barnwell: That could very well be a purposeful underthrow, though. I wouldn't be surprised if that was the idea.

Ben Muth: Tomlin should challenge that fumble. Ohhh...

Bill Barnwell: Bill Cowher suggested at halftime that the Steelers needed to challenge the Ravens more. Poor choice of words, Bill! He also said that the Steelers needed to stop trying to go deep and throw more quick screens, which seems counterintuitive; why not try to max protect and get Wallace down the field?

Ben Muth: The Steelers already went max protect on the first drive of the game. Don't want to get predictable.

Doug Farrar: Roethlisberger throws a quick screen to Wallace early in the third quarter, and Chris Carr blows him up in the backfield. Your move, Bill. They’re playing everything underneath.

Bill Barnwell: Roethlisberger just had Emmanuel Sanders deep and missed him. Josh Wilson ended up making a nice play on the ball to prevent it from being caught anyway, but Roethlisberger also underthrew the corner route.

I love that Ravens blitz package with three guys standing around each tackle. Especially against these Steelers offensive tackles.

Aaron Schatz: If they throw any more flags in this game, the refs may have to sew extras out of the Steelers' pants.

Most rivalries are really just about the fans. Division rivalries have been going on for years, they far pre-date any of the players in these games. Rivalries are about laundry. For players, this is all about business, never personal. I never get the feeling that the Eagles and Cowboys actually hate each other. The Colts and Patriots can't stop praising each other.

But this game is definitely different. You definitely get the sense these teams really don't like each other. I wonder how many other rivalries are this personal for the players themselves? I mean, the Jets and Patriots were poking each other in the press, but I doubt the game itself will get all chippy like this. Houston and Tennessee may be getting to this point, although for all I know that's just two players (Andre Johnson and Cortland Finnegan) rather than two whole teams.

Bill Barnwell: Well, the other factor here is that the Ravens tend to be a team a lot of other teams have fights with. Think about that Chiefs game last week -- that was just as chippy if not more chippy at the end, and there's no rivalry there.

Mike Tanier: The Raven logos are actually starting to peel off the helmets.

Tom Gower: Anybody want to help me diagnose what was supposed to happen on the end-around on second down before the field goal that made it 24-21? Ward initially lined up against CB Wilson then vacated him to block the inside defender. Miller wasn't able to get to Wilson to pick him up in time, so he tackled Wallace. I'm not sure if Ward screwed up, if Wallace ran the play too slowly and if he should've taken upfield, if Wallace ran the play too quickly and should've waived for Miller to get out to Wilson, or what.

Aaron Schatz: I'm guessing that Wallace was supposed to run inside of Miller blocking Wilson, and he went outside instead.

Mike Tanier: I think the Ravens have stolen the Bears playbook.

Aaron Schatz: For tonight, at least, Ben Grubbs doesn't look very fast on pulls. Of course, your eyes don't adjust for opponent strength, but I've definitely been noticing it.

Seth Rosenfeld: Keisel seems to be having a strong game across from him, too.

Aaron's observation in the preview that there's a dramatic difference between Sepulveda and Kapinos turns out to be very true. That was a pretty lousy punt and set up the big return. Could make a difference going forward, here, too.

Bill Barnwell: Why was Haruki Nakamura on Hines Ward on that quick slant to convert on third down? Of all the people in that secondary?

Aaron Schatz: That's gotta be some sort of zone where he had the short zone.

Bill Barnwell: Kinda surprised Ravens didn't let the Steelers score on first down to try and get the ball back down seven with all their timeouts and 1:50 left.

Aaron Schatz: I think they were thinking two things. 1) That's the open side of Heinz Field, where strange things happen to field goal tries. 2) Maybe we can strip the ball.

Not saying these were things I agree with, but they are things that Baltimore may have been considering.

Bill Barnwell: I don't think it's an obvious decision either way. I don't think you can consider those factors to be relevant, though; it's an extra point. Strange things don't happen to extra points in the open field of Heinz Field, no? They ended up with the worst-case scenario, which was losing two timeouts and giving up a touchdown.

Rob Weintraub: They were thinking we have no chance to score a TD on offense, so we have to do everything we can to hold Pitt to three. And they almost did.

Aaron Schatz: Why on earth did Chris Chester leave his man to help Marshal Yanda on that Ziggy Hood blitz? I mean, Ray Rice's attempt to block Timmons wasn't great, but Chester just flat out let his guy get through.

Seth Rosenfeld: Terrible drop by Houshmandzadeh on fourth down. Waste of the first good throw by Flacco on this "drive"...also quite a bailout for William Gay- who didn't seem to be aware that on 4th on 18 the receiver might be looking for the ball about 19 yards downfield.

Tom Gower: Well, since I ripped on him earlier, I guess I should defend Flacco. He did a good job hitting Heap to set up the tying field goal at 24 and threw a catchable ball for Boldin on third-and-goal there, and threw another catchable ball to Houshmandzadeh on the game-ending fourth-down failure. That said, I remind you that the Ravens' four scores came on a drive created by a long pass interference penalty, two Steeler turnovers in their own territory, and a punt return into Steelers territory. The difference in the game ended up being Roethlisberger hitting a big deep pass, and Flacco didn't. I was disappointed in the sloppiness (read turnovers), but I think the team that made more plays won the game.

Mike Kurtz: In defense-ish of Houshmandzadeh, if he did catch that away from his body, there's a really good chance the ball got swatted away. The DB's arm was moving fast and was exactly where the catch would've been. I doubt he was thinking about that during the catch, though.

Seth Rosenfeld: Maybe I missed it while I was cooking dinner, but did CBS ever show us what happened to create the big Brown pass play? It looked like Webb in coverage with Landry providing safety help and another wideout downfield, but I wasn't sure exactly what happened.

Bill Barnwell: The Steelers ran two go routes, the safety was more concerned about the slot receiver (Wallace? Sanders?) and Webb seemed to think that Brown was going to run a 20-yard route.

I think that's what Gay might have been thinking on the final Ravens offensive play: "I can't let what happened to Webb happen to me".

Also: Someone sell me on the decision by the Steelers to squib.

Aaron Schatz: Can't do it. I don't believe in squibs with more than ten seconds left.

Tom Gower: Tomlin would rather put his defense in a worse position than risk his special teams losing the game for him. That's the exact sort of The Book thinking that drives people like us crazy and that drove the baseball stats community crazy.

Mike Kurtz: I dunno, I'm often scared of special teams losing the game for us in the middle of a drive, like the ghost of Chidi Iwuoma materializing on the field and causing a Roethlisberger fumble-six.

The big story in this game really was how ineffective Roethlisberger was. I don't know if it was that massive hit Suggs put on him right before the fumble, but for the rest of the game he had a lot of easy (Ravens easy, at least) throws just completely sail. I want to know how his knees are for next week. Second was Polamalu's awful first half, with lots of bad angles, so-so coverage and missed tackles. Third I guess is Kemoeatu being a complete idiot/Suisham's hideous squib that gave the Ravens a chance late.

Green Bay Packers 48 at Atlanta Falcons 21

Tom Gower: I'd say the Falcons are doing a good job of getting Roddy White open early, but one time it was the Packers not covering him out of the bunch set and another time it was White and Gonzalez crossing over the middle and the one Packer defender releasing White to the other guy and the other defender staying with Gonzalez.

Aaron Schatz: Ironically, the "huge fumble" by Greg Jennings ends up giving Atlanta the ball with about the same field position that they would have had if Jennings had never caught the ball on third-and-long in the first place.

Bill Barnwell: I love Troy Aikman, but going for it on fourth-and-1 here, as the Falcons ended up doing, is the obvious move. Aikman notes that there's something to be said for drawing first blood, but what does that mean? You're not going to affect anyone's game plan by going up 3-0. It's not going to be the final points of the game with 53 minutes to go. Your goal is to score the most points you can on offense and allow the fewest on defense. Going for it increases your expectation in both categories.

That Mentos commercial wins commercial of the year.

Mike Kurtz: Thus far, yes. The theory is that Mentos doesn't have Super Bowl money. If true, that is very sad.

Bill Barnwell: If anyone deserved to win a Super Bowl spot on merit alone...

Mike Tanier: I say Tanier uses his new Big Media powers to sneak that commercial into the Super Bowl lineup if it isn't already there.

Will Carroll: Just me or does this crowd sound about 50-50 for the Packers? I know Atlanta's a terrible town for baseball, even in the playoffs, but same for football?

Aaron Schatz: Honestly, for all professional sports.

Seth Rosenfeld: It looks like the Falcons would like to bench Christopher Owens again (he's only playing because of injury). And the Falcons defensive backs coach looks like the "rent is too damn high" guy from New York.

Aaron Schatz: Deion Sanders is coming down to Atlanta at halftime to take his jersey away from Owens.

Seth Rosenfeld: Well, I guess Deion would argue that he "built this house" and he can take his jersey back if he wants to.

Mike Kurtz: Heck, Deion would probably take the jersey for doing something crazy like actually touching a receiver.

Bill Barnwell: It's hard to feel too sympathetic for the Falcons considering how few injuries they've had this year.

That interception by Tramon Williams is exactly what I was referring to last week when I was saying that DeSean Jackson couldn't get open enough for Michael Vick to throw a lob PAST the cornerback to him. On that play, Jenkins had two, three steps on Williams, but there's no way to get that throw into him because there's not enough real estate.

Will Carroll: Isn't it one of those geometry problems? I mean, for it to work, wouldn't it need to start higher and drop later, a throw that I've never seen a QB make aside from that Hasselbeck eephus last week.

Mike Kurtz: Also, I need to mention that this crew tried to talk over two flags. The first (the big Jones reception), there was a flag on the field, there was the flag bug on their display, you could even hear the referee announcing the penalty over the PA. Buck and Aikman didn't even give a word about it. Just kept talking about the reception.

Later in that drive, they kept talking and almost talked over the DPI, but caught themselves right at "automatic first down." Hideous performance.

Aaron Schatz: Rodgers does an excellent job of finding open receivers on the run.

Bill Barnwell: The amazing thing is that Tramon Williams is going to get noticed as a great player because of these two picks and they haven't even been plays where he's been great. Both those interceptions are on Matt Ryan, especially the awful decision to throw against his body on the second one.

Ben Muth: That take-a-sack, throw-a-pick-six combo may be the worst back to back plays in playoff quarterback history.

Tom Gower: That's the same damn Sprint Left Option the Falcons ran Week 17 on a fourth down play. It didn't work then, and it really didn't work just now either. If the Packers get any points on the opening kick of the second half, I have to think the Falcons are done. Onside kick time?

Seth Rosenfeld: Matt Ryan threw only nine picks all year and now throws two horrible ones in about 10 minutes of real time. Hate to bring up a subject like this, but could it be playoff pressure?

Rob Weintraub: I dunno--that's the same play the Falcs used to beat Tampa down there. Williams obviously recognized it. Not a good throw, but he was in position to make the play, too--reminded me of the Porter pick in the SB last year.

Further to Williams--we always praise the likes of Ed Reed et al for being ballhawks and making plays when the throw is off target. How many guys drop that pick? I agree, let's not make him Night Train Lane, but I refuse to diss a guy for making two huge plays.

Bill Barnwell: Not dissing the guy. Great player. Just not great because of those two plays.

OK. Terry Bradshaw at the end of the Steelers-Ravens highlight package. I'm not angry, I'm just confused.

"And then, after a huge 58-yard completion, it is Mendenhall with a two-yard touchdown run. 31-24, Pittsburgh. No one -- I'm telling you, no one, including Roethlisberger, is as good as this guy in big games."

Does he mean Mendenhall is that good in big games? That's not true and it wouldn't make sense to compare Mendenhall to Roethlisberger. I'm totally flummoxed by this.

OK, apparently at the beginning of the segment, he said "Ben Roethlisberger is as big of a big game quarterback as you can see, two Super Bowls to his credit already." So I guess Bradshaw slipped up. Of course, this is the same Ben Roethlisberger who had the worst game of his life in the Super Bowl.

Rob Weintraub: Parsing Bradshaw too closely is a good way to have you questioning your native language.

Aaron Schatz: Aaron Rodgers runs for a touchdown to make it 35-14. We have now entered the "this is a clinic" zone.

Tom Gower: The Falcons just don't have enough good defensive players.

Ben Muth: My friend summarized the night pretty well... Aaron Rodgers needs to bump up the difficulty to All-Madden

Will Carroll: Kuhn was concussed on that touchdown. Clear helmet to helmet. I hope they don't put him back in with this score, but shouldn't in any case.

Seth Rosenfeld: Sean McDermott's defense held the Packers to 21 points and he promptly got fired. He may feel slightly vindicated watching what's happening here.

The Packers put out their hands team....Tom Coughlin, are you watching?

Bill Barnwell: Too soon.

Seth Rosenfeld: Right, too soon. Tragedy plus time equals comedy.

Will Carroll: Seriously, do we not play backups at this point no matter what the score is? What happened to that idea?

Seth Rosenfeld: If there's a pitch count being kept, Rodgers may have to be pulled at some point. This is pitch and catch.

Tim Gerheim: As if I didn't dislike Joe Buck enough, he has to not only reference the Frank Reich game but describe it in excruciating detail. I was afraid they were going to pull out stock footage. Time does not necessarily make comedy of tragedy; I was 11 when that happened.

Tom Gower: I was slightly older than you. My memories are just as unpleasant, especially because I missed the first half due to familial obligations and only saw Bubba McDowell's pick-6 early to make it 35-3 and then the collapse.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Seattle Seahawks 24 at Chicago Bears 35

Mike Kurtz: So, Jim Cornelison absolutely rocked the house with the anthem. Screw you, every pop star that has sung it, that is how it is done.

Bill Barnwell: Bears strike first when Greg Olsen runs up the seam for a 58-yard touchdown. Lawyer Milloy was staring into the backfield the entire play; literally, I don't think he looked at Olsen until Olsen was by him, and he didn't start moving until Olsen had a step on him. Lawyer Milloy can't catch up with Greg Olsen. Maybe he thought Cutler couldn't make a deep throw up the seam and was trying to lure Cutler into the throw?

Seth Rosenfeld: I thought maybe because it was third-and-2, Milloy didn't expect Olsen to run that seam route. It was a good call.

Will Carroll: The league is going to have to fine the sideline for that hit. Nasty.

Bill Barnwell: The Bears are terrible at stopping short-yardage runs. They're 31st in the league in Power situations. You have to -- just have to -- go for it on fourth-and-1 there.

Vince Verhei: The Seahawks are terrible at converting short-yardage. Their best chance to win is to hope Jay Cutler has a meltdown, and punting gives Cutler more room to melt down. It's close, but I'd rather see Seattle punt then another incomplete fade route on fourth-and-1.

Mike Tanier: Didn't like the Bears empty backfield call on third-and-4. And I think three receivers ran deep routes.

Bill Barnwell: I guess they figure the deep routes worked on the first third down.

Aaron Schatz: So far in the first quarter today, the Bears are forcing Marshawn Lynch into "Least Mode."

Mike Tanier: I am starting a fan club for the Seahawks punter after his tackle on Hester.

Seth Rosenfeld: That was a ridiculously bad throw by bad Cutler on second down. He is very lucky Babineaux dropped it.

Bill Barnwell: I mean, let's be fair. It was a great throw by Cutler to Jordan Babineaux. Hit him right in the numbers.

Bears were much better in short-yardage after the bye, Seahawks aren't good against short-yardage runs and aren't driving 99 yards against Chicago defense. Again, obvious decision to go for it, but Bears were brave enough (or had the safety net) to do it.

Mike Tanier: Yeah, the Bears were suddenly committed to goal-line running after that throw.

Vince Verhei: That one I agree with you, Bill. There's no downside to going for it there.

Mike Kurtz: There's a good theory that Martz's calling is largely based on how angry he is at Cutler at that particular moment.

Mike Tanier: Not a lot of speed merchants at wide receivers for the Seahawks.

Bill Barnwell: Jordan Babineaux is having a howler of a game. After that dropped INT, he takes a poor angle to Jay Cutler and actually gets juked out in short-yardage by Cutler on a quarterback draw, resulting in a 21-0 lead for the Bears.

Seth Rosenfeld: So if Martz calls a QB draw... does that indicate he's angry with Cutler or not angry with him?

Mike Tanier: Anger sets Mike Martz free.

Seth Rosenfeld: Martz explained on pre-game that he is misunderstood, he's not an angry guy. He's "competitive." OK.

Will Carroll: The Bears seem to actively be avoiding going down hard - sliding, going out of bounds, etc. Could be coincidence, could be one of those things they just do instinctively.

Tom Gower: The Bears are playing the Seahawks' wideouts closely and squatting on the back-shoulder stuff. I'd suggest a double move and trying to get deep, but I don't think the Bears are too worried about their deep speed.

Mike Tanier: The Bears flashed a little six-lineman wrinkle. Have they been doing a lot of that? Didn't think they had six linemen.

Bill Barnwell: They use it once or twice a game.

Mike Kurtz: Crazy conspiracy theory watch: The field is completely covered, but out my window (4 mile NNW of the stadium) it's not even snowing. The UFO thing they added on top of old soldier field is obviously a weather-control device.

Ned Macey: Colts' fan interjection: What has the world come to where Tim Jennings is starting for a defensive-minded team that is going to host a Championship Game?

Is there any way that this year's effort makes the Cutler trade not a terrible trade? If they beat GB next week? (Sorry to Seahawk fans for assuming a loss here, but, well, the last two weeks were fun, no?)

Seth Rosenfeld: I think it takes a bit more before that trade can be reconsidered. This year, Cutler rated at 288 DYAR, while Kyle Orton had 838 DYAR. Last year, Cutler had -222 DYAR, while Orton was at 887 DYAR. Not to mention the two first-rounders the Bears gave up.

Vince Verhei: I don't know. Is it too superficial to point out that Chicago is going to the NFC title game while Denver was out of the playoffs by Thanksgiving? And that this suggests Chicago won the trade?

As for this game, yeah, there's not even anything for Seattle to be hopeful about going into the second half. They've got a few sacks, but they've done almost nothing else in the entire half.

Mike Kurtz: It's definitely an argument in favor of the trade (although keep in mind, they went to a Super Bowl with Rex "Rex Grossman" Grossman). On the other hand, even if you say that Cutler has been better than Orton (which I'd disagree with), there is no way he's been better than Orton plus the utility of two first-round picks, considering how horrific their offensive line is.

Vince Verhei: Cutler gets his second rushing touchdown to make it 28-0. Note to Bears: Seattle is not scoring 28 points in just over a quarter. There is no need for Cutler to see the field again today.

Seth Rosenfeld: I'm always skeptical of the reasoning that team success justifies every trade that a team made. DYAR dislikes Cutler largely because of the INTs and fumbles....if he doesn't get that aspect of his game straightened out it's hard to project him having success year after year. If he does get those things under control (and watching this game makes you think possibly he's on the way) then I think I would reconsider.

It's not just Rex Grossman who had surprising post-season success...in 1963 Billy Wade was the QB of a Bears NFL championship team, and he has been called "the Trent Dilfer of his era."

Doug Farrar: Speaking from the Soldier Field press box, I can truly say that the only advantage to a game like this on either end is that I can start writing my game story now and fill in the blanks later.

/hopes for reverse jinx to at least make the game interesting

Bill Barnwell: Decision to kick a field goal by Carroll to make it 28-3 there is infuriating.

Aaron Schatz: When you are losing by 28 with 17 minutes left, there's nothing like a field goal to make you feel good about yourself.

Bill Barnwell: Jay Cutler scrambles for a first down early in the fourth quarter, up 28-3. That's not the best thing in the whole world, but it's fine, it's the playoffs. Then, ten yards past the first down marker, he decides to end the play by diving headfirst. That's so stupid that Tony Siragusa thought it was smart. Literally as I was typing about how dumb it was, Siragusa chimed in with "I like how Cutler dove headfirst there and didn't slide". Considering that there's already been two players carted off with concussions? Ugh.

Mike Tanier: The Forte interception awoke my funny bone.

Bill Barnwell: I'm pretty sure Hasselbeck's audible to a fade there involved Dougieing.

I don't care if it's fourth-and-90, there's no reason you should be punting down 28-10 with six and a half minutes to go in a playoff game.

Vince Verhei: You can't even call that a safe play because you're punting to Hester.

I'd like to remind you all that by beating St. Louis and New Orleans, the Seahawks cost themselves approximately 15 slots in the draft. And this is their reward.

Aaron Schatz: Just to be clear, Seattle kicked a field goal down 28-0, effectively giving up... then later on, called timeout with 1:55 left. To what, conserve time for the big 18-point comeback?

Bill Barnwell: If they score a touchdown instead of kicking a field goal earlier on, it's an eight-point game in the fourth quarter. That makes that final onside kick way more meaningful.

New York Jets 28 at New England Patriots 21

Mike Kurtz: The Jets defenders, nearly to a man, are breaking down for every tackle and letting the carrier come to them. If that's their strategy for this game, the Jets are completely boned.

Bill Barnwell: Jets get an interception on the same play that the Patriots ran on the opening play of their last Super Bowl, the play-action/end-around/screen. That play would have been a touchdown had Brady been able to get the ball off, but Brady was sacked. This time, Brady was forced into a lob and the throw was too high, resulting in an easy pick.

Aaron Schatz: The audible gasp in the press box when Tom Brady threw that interception to David Harris was... VERY audible. Not just that it was a pick, but that it was a bad one -- not a tipped pass, but a really badly over-lobbed pass to a very close receiver.

Tim Gerheim: David Harris is so slow that late-career Alge Crumpler looks like Devin Hester chasing him down on the interception return? How is that possible?

Bill Barnwell: David Harris slipped to the second round because he isn't very fast. On the other hand, he's great at reading plays, fending off blockers, and making tackles, which is about 95% of what a middle linebacker in the 3-4 needs to do.

Nick Folk pulls the field goal after the Jets run a draw on third-and-18. Simms notes that he likes the third-and-18 play call because "you're not getting third-and-18" and "it ensures you get three points". Sometimes, the field goal isn't good, dude.

Tim Gerheim: But if you're the Jets, your team is designed not to get third-and-18 and to win with field goals. Missing the kick doesn't make it a bad decision, if that's what you're implying, and I have no problem with the word "ensures" when describing a 30-yard kick instead of hedging it to "increases the likelihood of."

Bill Barnwell: It does just increase the likelihood of the kick succeeding, though, and that's something that apparently isn't considered when it comes to playcalling decisions (at least, by Simms) that absolutely matters. And the Jets aren't designed to get third-and-18 with Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes? The Jets were 17th in the league in third-and-long situations. Not great, of course, but not awful.

Jets have come out and used Revis on Welker in the slot off and on through the second drive. Wonder if they will stick with it. In the second game this year, remember, they started with Revis on Welker as Cromartie spent the entire first quarter getting burned by Branch. After that, they moved Revis back outside to Branch and Welker started to beat up on the lesser cornerbacks.

Seth Rosenfeld: That was not a good move - showing the formation with LT taking the snap but not running the play because the quarter was ending. You have to be aware of the game clock when you put a formation on the field that you hope will be a surprise.

Aaron Schatz: Brian Schottenheimer is feeling a little too creative today. They had 75 in as a sixth OL and actually motioned him out wide right and had him run a pass route. They took Joe McKnight out of mothballs. And they were about to run Wildcat with Tomlinson at quarterback until they ran out of time in the first quarter.

Bill Barnwell: That first incompletion for Brady in the second quarter is what you'll normally see them do with Welker; Scott will grab one side of Welker's option routes and a DB (in that case Lowery, who did a nice job of jumping the route to force an incompletion) will handle the break to the other side.

I like the contrast between the absurd pre-game narrative of "Oh, this offense is simpler now" (as if the Jets were running the Al Saunders Redskins playbook before the Patriots loss) and Sanchez's big play, where he scrambles away from pressure and actually points out a route for Edwards to improvise on the fly before throwing a perfect corner route for a huge gain. And yes, that was Darius Butler in coverage on Edwards.

Aaron Schatz: Jets defense looking good so far, especially pass rush. Pats offense seems a little bit off, probably because of the pressure.

Mike Kurtz: I'm going to start a consulting service. I will show up at your practices and shout RUN FORWARD! RUN FORWARD! RUN FORWARD! at whoever has the ball. I will guarantee a 2 YPA improvement in exchange.

Bill Barnwell: Would you also yell THROW IT AWAY! THROW IT AWAY! whenever a quarterback stepped outside the tackle box or FALL ON IT! FALL ON IT! whenever a ball was bouncing along the ground? You may be onto something here.

Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure about this challenge on the Santonio Holmes third-and-4 catch. There doesn't seem to be a replay angle that shows anything -- whether he caught it or not.

Mike Kurtz: We could offer a special service to Santonio Holmes: "Catch the ball before using that arm to signal the first down/ask for a flag/grab yourself."

Braylon Edwards then interferes with Sanchez's only great pass thus far, batting it away from Santonio Holmes. One give-up dumpoff later, the Jets punt into the end zone. The Jets really don't want to win this game.

Bill Barnwell: Simms argued that Ryan was too aggressive the last time the Jets played the Patriots. You know, they lost 45-3 because Ryan was too aggressive on fourth-and-1, when the Jets went for it twice and converted both times.

Doug Farrar: Of all the stupid things Phil Simms says, he seems to save his real whoppers for when teams are in the opposing red zone, or near it. I am firmly convinced that he’d actually be a less effective on-field strategist than the smarter side of your average sports bar.

Aaron Schatz: Pats try a fake punt. Interesting strategy with 1:06 left. I guess the thought is that if the fake punt fails (and it did) that the Jets won't have that much time left to try to score a touchdown?

Oops. So much for that idea. Jets do score touchdown.

Bill Barnwell: Hate the big blitz call against Sanchez there on the second Jets touchdown. Last third-and-medium conversion was a quick slant, it's the only route Sanchez consistently throws effectively. The blitz creates a throwing lane and it's not going to get there quick enough to prevent Sanchez from hitting that throw, which I'm sure is hot.

Seth Rosenfeld: We're they booing because they took a knee on the final play or the overall performance in the first half? If they were booing taking the knee that's absurd.

Tom Gower: Why on earth didn't the Jets call timeout after the Pats kneel? It was third down, so they would've had to do something on fourth down. Your risk from a punt muff is negligible, because the half expires, and you could get lucky and block the punt or break a return. Those are potential points left on the field.

Aaron Schatz: Jets are now playing like they don't think the Patriots will score another point. Runs on third-and-medium, punting from their own 38... like all they have to do is play defense. Which might be true, but don't know if I would take that chance.

Seth Rosenfeld: I wouldn't take that chance either. I wrote that before that completion to Gronkowski. I swear.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots need to stop spreading the field so much and leave in a sixth blocker. I don't care if the Jets are getting to Brady with three or four and not more than that -- they are getting to him, and the Pats have to stop that.

Bill Barnwell: Thank you, Bill Belichick, for going for two. What do people think changed about the Jets' defense on that drive? Secondary slipped? Did Patriots adjust something offensively?

Mike Kurtz: Aside from the not-intentional grounding play, very little pressure on Brady, or where there was pressure, he had an outlet to roll out and find a guy.

Aaron Schatz: Except for the one play where Eliis got through unblocked and Brady had to throw it away.

They went spread on every play - of course, here I am saying that they shouldn't go spread because they needed more blockers, but it did look like the offensive line was doing a little better job. I really think they should go tight end crazy the rest of this way. Heck, bring all three of them in.

That long Cotchery reception to start the fourth quarter had two or three open guys elsewhere on the field. Total zone breakdown by Pats.

Seth Rosenfeld: I think the Patriots pretty much went back to what they started the game with- trying to take advantage of safeties Pool and Smith, mostly with TEs, but also when they find Smith in coverage short (like on the third and 9 play to Branch).

Vince Verhei: Fourth-and-13, New England? When you need a field goal at some point anyway?

Aaron Schatz: Feeling around here is that would have been too long for Shayne Graham. Which makes you wonder why Brady didn't try for something shorter on third down.

Bill Barnwell: Biggest problem is third down, when Brady turned down a short completion on third down to Welker that would have set the Patriots up for a makeable field goal. Or a more doable fourth down. Instead, they needed a 13-yard completion on either third or fourth down and couldn't get it.

Seth Rosenfeld: Steve Weatherford, who is not enjoying a very good day, appeared to take out some frustration with a nice tackle on Edelman.

Mike Kurtz: It's okay, the Jets decided that eating about a minute was all they really needed to do. Maybe it's a homage to Metcalf up the middle?

Vince Verhei: Maybe this is the best you can do with an offense built around tight ends and slot receivers. Pats have 10 more first downs than the Jets, but only about 30 more yards (written right after Shonn Greene's TD to make it 28-14). Eventually, no matter how efficient you are, you will play a good defense that will give up yards but keep you out of the end zone, while making enough big plays of their own to outscore you.

Aaron Schatz: Congratulations to the Jets. Totally outplayed and outcoached Pats today, especially on defense. Just an amazing, amazing defensive performance against the top DVOA offense ever. Shaun Ellis in particular was on fire today.

Mike Kurtz: I think the real thing that did in the Pats was that eight-minute long 48-yard drive they kind of sauntered through. Confidence is good, but the Jets offense aren't world-beaters and the calling was pretty conservative even with a small-ish lead. Pick up the tempo, drive down in three instead of eight, and you can probably even kick and still have a reasonable shot of getting two quick drives in. Just incomprehensible.

Ned Macey: A little over an hour after the game, I haven't exactly figured everything out, but I just wonder if anyone can make a coherent "rings = greatness" argument anymore for individual players. Tom Brady in 2001 and 2003 was nowhere near the QB that Tom Brady is in 2005-2010. If Tom Brady had the defense he's had since 2004 in 2001 and 2003, I guarantee he would have lost in both of those years. After all the time I feel we've (and anyone with any sense of objectivity) beaten our heads against the wall on this, and with all the evidence that no individual player wins Super Bowls, it just won't die. Instead, the lesson is going to be that Sanchez, thanks to two successful playoffs (for his team) with a great defense (this year's may not be great but played great over the past two weeks) is now a "winner," while Brady must have lost something. It just is really dumb and intellectually embarrassing for whoever does it. I suggest keeping a list of anyone who writes it and then remembering to never take anything they say seriously again.

If you want to play the ridiculous psychology nonsense with this game, it isn't Sanchez=winner, it has to be Belichick got his team in the wrong frame of mind by benching Welker. That's at least a storyline that doesn't fail every sense of logic because it is unprovable in either direction. I don't think it impacted the game, but I do bet his players thought it was the wrong move.

As for the game itself, I don't think there's a ceiling on what an offense without star receivers can do, but the failure to adjust was sort of amazing to watch. Brady looked so uncomfortable when he couldn't get the ball out quick, leading to all the sacks and some incompletions where he held the ball and got jumpy. But, this is the same offense that put up 45 on the same defense, so I think it is a one-game thing. The Pats would obviously be better served with better wide receivers, but they won three Super Bowls with equal or worse receivers, and I've seen the Colts look bad in the playoffs with some pretty good wide receivers. I think the better lesson of the Colts' failures and this game plus the 2007 Super Bowl is that no matter how good your offense is, in the playoffs you will sometimes have to win some games with defense.

Finally, when McNabb ran clock killing drives when trailing by more than one score, at least he usually cashed them in with a touchdown.

Rob Weintraub: Of all people to make an interesting point, John Madden did on Friday on Chris "Mad Dog" Russo's Sirius show. He said that in playoff games matching division opponents (i.e. the third time they've played), coaches become inherently conservative. When they design gameplans for teams they don't see often, they get aggressive, and put in things that are more experimental. But against teams they see twice a year, the coaches act negatively, and spend most of their time taking things out that have been proven not to work against that opponent. The result is that the defenses have a major edge--they've seen pretty much everything the offenses have to offer, and the offenses have just spent the week stripping away any possible surprises.

Now, that may not fully explain the two AFC games we just saw, but it does make sense. The Pats seemed shocked that the Jets had an answer for the patterns that were wide open last time, and had nothing in reserve. The Jets didn't do much different--Sanchez just played better. Lord knows the Steelers and Ravens had little to unveil on offense, save for a third and 18 helmet-catch bomb.

It was certainly more enlightening than anything Madden said on TV the last few years.

Mike Tanier: No one has ever been able to make a coherent "rings = greatness" argument. People only make silly, self-serving, reductive, over-simplified "rings = greatness" arguments.

However, people can still make coherent "rings = strong evidence of greatness" arguments. No one can really make coherent "no rings = evidence of non-greatness" arguments, but I still think "minimal playoff success = strong evidence of non-greatness" arguments have their place.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 17 Jan 2011

291 comments, Last at 21 Jan 2011, 12:31am by BaronFoobarstein


by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:20pm

"The big story in this game really was how ineffective Roethlisberger was."

Yes: ~60% completion rate, 7.1 YPA, 2 TD, 0 INT, and a 100+ QB rating, against a great defense, behind a terrible O-line, including yet another late 4th qtr game winning drive, sure is ineffective.

Did he have a perfect game? No, but he was far from ineffective.

by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:06pm

Yes. There were some throws he missed, but I thought he played really well, under pressure, and was crucial to the win. (The Steelers defense was awesome, of course!)

The fumble was certainly bad, but that's a combination of Roethlisberger, Steelers OL, and Ravens DL. The Ravens deserved a good result from that play, at least a sack-- but if a Steeler had picked up the ball instead, it could have been a 20+ yard gain.

by Balaji (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:29pm

I'm glad somebody else caught that line.

I mean, we all can agree that the guy will never put up Manning or Brady type numbers, but when he wasn't being hit in the head by Suggs he put up a decent game (in the second half, at least).

by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:02pm

"I mean, we all can agree that the guy will never put up Manning or Brady type numbers"

Except that he has, a fact that is conveniently ignored by people who just cant admit that he is an elite QB.

If you like strictly volume numbers, he threw for over 4300 yards last season and was on pace for over 4200 this season. He has 3 400+ yard games, which is more than Brady if I counted right. It hasnt gotten any press, and it isnt up there with Brady's recent run yet, but Ben hasnt thrown an INT in his last 190 pass attempts.

If you prefer averages...he has scored 1.61 TD's per regular season game over his career (rushing and receiving), in the ball park with Brady (1.87) and Manning (2.00). His career completion percentage is nearly identical to Brady and just below Manning. His career YPA is better than both Brady and Manning.

He has a better postseason record (win%) and post season passer rating than Manning or Brady.

Am I saying that Ben is better than either one of those guys? Absolutely not (though I would suggest that neither of them would survive long behind Pittsburgh's trainwreck of an Oline)...I am just saying that his numbers compare favorably.

by Balaji (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:33pm

Fair points, all. I am a Steelers fan who does think Ben is sold short constantly by the media and by fans in general; in my attempt to be impartial maybe I overstated it. :)

In any case, my main point was that saying he was ineffective yesterday is a complete misreading of what actually happened in the game.

by grafac :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 9:09pm

Agreed with everything except "though I would suggest that neither of them would survive long behind Pittsburgh's trainwreck of an Oline". The Colts Oline is also a trainwreck.

by BigCheese :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 2:29am

How on Earth is a 26 TD season (1.61 Avg) in the same ballpark as a 32 TD season (2.0 Avg)?

A 23% difference is not in the same ballpark...

- Alvaro

by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 10:00am

6 TD's over 16 games is not a huge difference. That is simply a difference in philosophy in the OC (i.e. throwing vs running on the goal line). That is the difference in environment (i.e. playing at least 8 games a year in a dome vs. playing several in rain/snow/cold).

However, if you want to split hairs. Manning and Brady average 1.68 TD's per game in the playoffs. Ben averages 1.72

by troycapitated p... :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 7:14pm

For their careers, Brady has thrown 5 more TD's per 1000 pass attempts than Roethlisberger and 1 fewer INT per 100 pass attempts. The biggest difference between Brady and Ben is sack rate- Ben is twice as likely to be sacked as Brady.

by Billy B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:18pm

Yeah, it is amazing to me how nobody has mentioned how Suggs hit Roethlisberger twice in the head as he was causing that fumble. Once with one hand to the front of his head and again with a forearm to the back of his head as he was going down. Either it's illegal to hit the QB in the head, or it isn't. The inconsistent enforcement of this rule is infuriating.

by troycapitated p... :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 9:11pm

Just noticed my first attempt did succeed.

by Dennis :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:20pm

ITA with Ned about the rings=greatness thing and quarterback wins and such. I'm a Jets fan, and even I'm tired of hearing about how Sanchez beat Manning and Brady back to back and he's 4-1 in the playoffs and yada yada. Sanchez didn't beat Brady, the defense beat Brady. Sanchez had a good game and made some nice throws to put points on the board. But he didn't beat Brady.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:36pm

I'd say Sanchez had a bad game early, and a good game late, for an overall grade of mediocre. If the Jets defense had not done what they did, the Patriots likely would have had a two score lead in the 2nd half, and Sanchez would have looked bad late as well.

Brady wasn't good, but the credit belongs to the Jets coverage.

by Jon Silverberg (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:48pm

Yes, he had a bad 1st quarter...however, how do three beautiful throws (to Edwards, Tomlinson and Edwards) in the 2nd quarter for 14 points=played good only late?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:03pm

My recollection was that he missed some wide-open guys in the 2nd quarter as well. The fact that he got some short fields and made some good throws doesn't balance that out completely.

by Milkman (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 6:27pm

I would say he was bad right up until the Pats got their field goal. Once he got the ball following that score, he was not only good, but great--the three aforementioned passes, plus the slant to Holmes for the first down in the 2nd quarter, as well as a ton of well placed slants and flats to Cotchery throughout the game, culminating with that slant that Cotchery broke off for 58 in the fourth quarter. And the great TD pass to Holmes (great catch as well, for sure). I think he had a good day overall--starting poorly, but really turning it on early in the second quarter.

by scottybsun (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 12:02am

No..... can't...... give...... Sanchez...... any...... credit...... ever..... on this discussion board...... We are all....... smarter/better...... than regular football analysts....... so can never agree with them......

by Jon Silverberg (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 4:06am

Mr. Allen:
Went back to my DVR and looked carefully at every Jets offensive play in the second quarter...Sanchez was 7 of 11...in addition to the three throws I mentioned above, the other 4 completions were a square-in in the the middle of the field to Cotchery for 9 yards, a mid-field route to Keller for 6 yards, the very well-thrown 5 yard first down slant to Holmes that NE challenged and lost and a four yard completion to Keller in the middle...of the 4 incompletions, only one was (arguably) inaccurate, missing Keller a little high and a little too much toward the center of the field on a go route (I say arguably because 2 Patriots were closing on Keller, and the ball was where only Keller would have a chance of putting his hands on it, on the side of the receiver away from the closer defender; a safe throw, even if inaccurate)...the 2nd incompletion went through Keller's hands at thigh height, right between the thighs, with Keller facing Sanchez...the 3rd incompletion was the ball Edwards got a hand on which looked like it was accurately thrown to Holmes, and the 4th incompletion was Hartsock coughing it up after initially catching it and then being hit hard by a Patriot...and, in addition to those 11, he threw another slant to Holmes which was right where it should have been, and Sanders grabbed and turned Holmes, producing a defensive PI call...or, in more concise terms, your recollection is incorrect; Sanchez had a great 2nd quarter (and a great second half, of course)...

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 9:48am

The reason I used the term "my recollection" was to indicate that it was not a definite statement of fact. Thanks for the effort.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:44pm

I was about to say what Tanier said, but then I scrolled all the way to the bottom and saw that he already said it.

Too many other things going on on the field, even on offense, to put it all on the QB. If the tuck rule gets called the other way, the Brady Mythology is over before it began. Is a surprise onside kick evidence of Drew Brees's greatness? Did Rex Grossman "lead" the Bears to a Super Bowl? When Peyton Manning choked on that OT coin toss against the Chargers? When Phillip Rivers fumbled that INT against Brady?

Remember when Jeff Hostetler "beat" Jim Kelly?

by bcolt44 :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:44pm

I'm also a Jet fan and I think the hype with Sanchez isn't as simple as "In order to succeed at the quarterback position, you need to just win football games in the National Football League."* I think people like Sanchez and want him to succeed. By all accounts, he is a really nice guy, hard worker, and all of that. None of this is objective, but the people who say that sort of thing, don't really care about objectivity. And when you can't throw out a great QB rating, td/int ratio, qb wins is the easiest way to praise him.

*sorry out of all the dumb extra syllables Schlereth/Dilfer/whoever through out, the phrase "quarterback position" is a pet peeve.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:15pm

"I think people like Sanchez and want him to succeed. By all accounts, he is a really nice guy, hard worker, and all of that."

This is key. And please, don't interpret this as me criticizing Sanchez for being a nice guy and a hard worker.

But the media definitely shows a bias towards players that treat them well. Sanchez and guys like a young Brett Favre are always happy to show the media a happy side, and thus, get a pass on some criticism and will get plenty of articles written in their favor.

On the other hand, you get players like Cutler and coaches like Belichick, who are notorious for not giving a crap if reporters like them, who get hatchet jobs written about them even after good games (example: Clark Judge's piece on Cutler yesterday).

So yeah, players should definitely be nice to the media. But NFL "analysts" aren't as objective as we'd hope. They're extremely inclined to write nice things about players they personally like having discourse with. (And that's just human nature.)

by bcolt44 :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:44pm

I'm also a Jet fan and I think the hype with Sanchez isn't as simple as "In order to succeed at the quarterback position, you need to just win football games in the National Football League."* I think people like Sanchez and want him to succeed. By all accounts, he is a really nice guy, hard worker, and all of that. None of this is objective, but the people who say that sort of thing, don't really care about objectivity. And when you can't throw out a great QB rating, td/int ratio, qb wins is the easiest way to praise him.

*sorry out of all the dumb extra syllables Schlereth/Dilfer/whoever through out, the phrase "quarterback position" is a pet peeve.

by scottybsun (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:10pm

I know we can never give Sanchez credit for anything on this website, so I'll say it.

There's no way the Jets win last year at SD, or this year at Indy and NE, if the quarterback plays badly. Sanchez wasn't "great" (what did he need to do to be called great yesterday) but just completed 64% of his passes, with 3 TD passes, no INTs, and no "near-INTs" against one or two of the best teams of the decade on the road against a team with a 14-2 record and a bye week.

Yes, he has a great suporting cast and defense on his team, and this was truly a team win, but he did his part and then some. He has yet to have a "bad" playoff game in his career. There's something to that. Just because one can't measure intangibles, it does not mean they don't exert at least a small effect.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:34pm

Are you kidding? He looked positively awful against the Colts. Even his completions were poor throws. It was one of the worst performances by a winning quarterback I have ever seen.

by Dennis :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:39pm

Well said. Sanchez has played well in big games. Not great, but good. He's made plays when he's needed to and hasn't made any horrendous mistakes. He's not a great QB yet, but he is good enough. As you said, it's a team effort and he did his part and he deserves credit for it.

by rk (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:53pm

Sanchez hasn't had a bad playoff game? Last year against San Diego he went 12/23 for 100 yds, 1 TD, and 1 INT. I guess he balanced that by willing Shonn Greene to a 50 yard TD.

by Jon Silverberg (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:56pm


by Biebs (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:28pm

Tom Gower: Why on earth didn't the Jets call timeout after the Pats kneel? It was third down, so they would've had to do something on fourth down.

Even if the Jets called Time Out immediately, the Pats would have had 7 seconds on 4th down on their own 40 yard line.

All that would have done is give the Pats an opportunity to throw a Hail Mary. If anything the Pats should have waited until there was 2 seconds left and then called time out themselves.

I'm noticing a lot of people saying that Eric Smith would have blow up the fake punt play, even if Chung caught it cleanly, but I don't see it. Looked like he had a huge hole up the middle.

by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:38pm

I agree. It looked to me like there was nobody on the right side who could have stopped him...possibly why he jumped that way so quickly that he forgot to take the ball with him.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:58pm

There was a Jet defender about two yards to Chung's right when he muffed the snap. Defender was pointed out by the CBS crew during a replay.

by Biebs (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:14pm

That was Eric Smith. Smith had barely crossed the line of scrimmage when the ball reached Chung.

If you see a highlight, it actually looks like Smith was being blocked inside, albeit poorly. It looked like Chung was ready to run outside to the right, however the hole was up the middle.

by scottybsun (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:12pm

I think they were happy to get in to halftime up 11, or is that too obvious.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:30pm

On the sailing Roethlesburger passes, I noticed that Ben was planting his foot wide - probably because of an injury - which generally causes balls to go high.

by Anonymus (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:12pm

WATCH OUT! Another foot remark and you will be forbidden to watch the first series of the AFC Championship Game...

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:34pm

foot... balls... high... there's a Rex Ryan joke in there somewhere

by Grouchy Bills Fan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:33pm

Ben's just got a wide stance. (sorry, couldn't resist)

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:32pm

The Ravens/Steelers game was a good illustration of the hollowness of "clutch" and how pure random luck plays a huge role in the outcome of close games. People who place a large emphasis on the w-l record of a small number of close playoff games, when evaluating qb or coaching performance, don't know a damned thing about football.

To anyone who watched the Ravens offensive line a lot this year; has Birk been as good all year as he showed against the Chiefs and Steelers? He was simply great again Saturday, and it is incredible to see him perform at this level in his mid 30s. I hate Brad Childress.

I expect the Bears to beat the Packers, unless Cutler throws a couple like the one that Falcons defender dropped at the goal line. I don't think the Bears will miss the chance to hammer Rodgers like the Falcons did, but I do think the unsung story of the Bears is Tice's job with their offensive line. What should be a bad offensive line has achieved mediocrity, and at times even looks pretty decent.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:42pm

The Bears fans on this site will point out that Cutler throws a pass like the one at the goal line once or twice a game on a GOOD day.

Against, GB Cutler has been routinely bad as GB has generated consistent pressure and covered the receivers fairly well. The only reason Chicago won early in the year is that the Packers dropped at minimum two and one could argue four interceptions and failed special teams in spectacular fashion.

The Bears edge is that Lovie Smith knows to play field position and Mike McCarthy does not.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:47pm

My perception is that the Packers pass coverage people are less prone to dropping those balls compared to most teams, so that may be the difference.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:48pm

Well, the guy who gets the most chances is Nick Collins and Collins is now legendary for his awful hands.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:55pm

Hah! Put him in a purple jersey, and horns on his hat, and he'd be considered Mr. Sticky!

by Jay Z (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:50pm

McCarthy played field position the whole game the last time the teams played. What does this comment even mean? Do the Packers go for it on 4th and 18?

by RickD :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:01pm

Actually, I think the Ravens/Steelers game was a good example of why people think that there is such a thing as a "clutch player".
Joe Flacco was in a daze for much of the game and played poorly in the second half. In contrast, Roethlisberger was never fazed by anything and played with confidence the whole game.
It seemed clear that one of the two had the confidence to play on the big stage while the other was consumed by self-doubt. Why is that hard to believe?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:10pm

Yes, and change any one of a number of random events, and the winner and loser are reversed, despite the nature of Flacco's or Roethlisberger's play. Won loss records, over a small number of games don't tell us much, and if the games are close, they tell us nothing.

by perly :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:25pm

Yes. Because clearly when Anquan Boldin dropped a pass in the end zone that hit him in the chest, and when Housh dropped the 4th down pass at the end of the game that hit him in the hands--it's the QB's clutchness that's to blame.

Flacco didn't play a great game by any stretch, but when the game was on the line, he got the ball where it needed to go. Expecting more from a QB against one of the league's great defenses is just unrealistic.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:05pm

I'd like to take this opportunity to give you some credit, Will. I know we've gotten into some mini-spats in the past, but you correctly called both the positive effect Tice would have on the Bears' line over time and that the NFC North would shape up to be a fun ride this year (though, unfortunately for you, the Vikings were not part of the fun). Kudos.


I'm hoping the NFC Championship plays out like you predict. While Rodgers has moved onto the elite QB level, the Bears generally keep him in check, and I think he's a tad overrated following his picking apart of a suspect Falcon defense. The Bears' defensive line should be able to get to Rodgers, so if the secondary plays as physically as it did against Seattle, the Bears have a good shot to hold the Packers to less than 20 points.

And if Cutler can avoid imploding, that gives the Bears a good shot to win.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:08pm


If the refs allow physical play then Knox/Hester are a non-factor as that was what you and others were mentioning from the game in Lambeau.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:19pm

Definitely. But I was just saying that the Bears should then be able to hold the Packers to under 20. Martz would then have to find other ways to score points, such as making Forte the focal point of the offense, passing game included.

My hope is that the Bears come out with a physical strategy, like the Packers employ. If the officials call some penalties early, then back off. No sense letting the Packers being the only team to take advantage if the officials are willing to let defensive backs play physically.

by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:45pm

I don't know if the Bears will be as successful pressing GB's receivers. They could do that with SEA because you don't have to worry about their deep speed. Jennings and Jones can make you pay.

Still, with our running game and special teams, you have to give the Bears the advantage if neither team can throw the ball.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:40pm

Thanks, but you don't need to be much of an offensive line expert to grasp that Tice knows his stuff, and manages offensive linemen well, if you've seen the work he has done for about a decade and a half. Some of the ridicule that was directed his way when he was head coach was deserved, but a lot of it was lazy. The interesting thing to me is that he and Martz seemed to have developed a good working relationship. The best compliment about Lovie Smith one can make is that he has reassembled his staff into something that is really outstanding.

by Packer Pete (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:37pm

The rings = greatness argument kills me. Why the quarterback gets all credit for wins and losses is baffling. I constantly hear the national sports commentators saying Aaron Rodgers isn't elite because he hasn't won a Super Bowl or enough playoff games, yet in their next segments they're listing their top 5 QBs and Rodgers always makes their lists. Why isn't Charles Woodson considered "non-elite" for the same reason?

If the Packers win the Super Bowl in three weeks, is Rodgers instantly "elite?" Does this elite status come only from pressing one's lips to the side of the Lombardi Trophy? Is elite status like knighthood, once conferred, everlasting?

I'm looking forward to the DVOA summation of the players in the Divisional Round. Rodgers will be off the charts with the 10 for 10 third down conversions. Not bad for a young QB on the twisted and contorted path to Eliteness.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:43pm

I expect another low scoring affair at Soldier Field, with both qbs getting hit hard and often, perhaps to the point of having to take some plays off. How do you see it? The defensive fronts just seem to have a substantial edge on the pass protectors in this game.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:47pm

Chad Clifton handled Peppers pretty well at Lambeau. If Peppers lines up against Belaga, different story.

Wells and Sitton have handled the interior pressure. The weak links are Colledge and Belaga.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:52pm

Soldier Field doesn't give the largest acoustic advantage to a home defense in the NFL, but even so, a tackle facing Peppers really does have an easier time if he gets to have the home field crowd. It'll be fun to see.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:20pm

Good point.

Though I was very disappointed in the crowd yesterday when they forced the Bears to take a timeout due to noise, despite half the Bears' huddle making the "be quiet" arm motions.

by armchair journe... :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:30pm

I found that amusing (having no rooting interest), particularly after seeing a similar situation in the Pittsburgh game... seems the Steeler fans responded a bit better though.
armchair journeyman quarterback

by Yinka Double Dare :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 12:21pm

We have some stupid fans, no doubt. The sad part is I heard the Bears actually practiced for it, having at least one indoor practice to work with crowd noise.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:25pm

Did you not watch the Atlanta game? Clifton needs to find the fountain of youth again, because he looked BAD on Saturday. Abraham would have had 2 more sacks, against Clifton's lack of protection, had Rodgers not had eyes in the back of his head. Lang came in, in the 3rd quarter, to replace Clifton. Bulaga is a rookie, and can make some big mistakes, but he rarely makes them twice. Yes, he got flagged 3 times in Week 17 against the Bears but I trust him to learn.

Of course Clifton still has a tendency to play well vs the real big name pass rushers, but he has consistently been one of the worst protectors on the Packers line this year. I've actually seen College bail out Clifton a few times and College is about as NFL average of a guard as you can get. Bulaga has simply played like a very good rookie. Some games he is lights out good, other games, he gets beat by veteran moves that he has never actually faced in a game. It's also obvious by watching his hands and some of his footwork that despite the practice reps, and the game time (starting in week 6) that he is a left tackle, not a right. Remember he wasn't taking snaps anywhere but left tackle till after week 2 of the preseason, then he was getting snaps at left guard as well to push College. During the first 5 weeks of the season he was still practicing on the left side until Tauscher finally went down. Some players can change sides pretty easily. Some not so much. Bulaga plays a very solid right tackle, but he is a left tackle playing right. I think he would be a better left tackle than Clifton right now (and a better left guard than College), but he was also a better right tackle than Tauscher, and he is better than Lang. This is the best line they can put together, but Bulaga might be the 2nd best player on it. Sitton is clearly tops, then it's between Wells and Bulaga, then College, then Clifton. Yes I think Clifton is the worst player on the line. His run blocking is bad, and he is showing his age more than ever in the passing game, good and bad, since he does use his knowledge to his advantage when he can't physically keep up.

Peppers is going to cause problems no matter who he is lined up against, but I actually think he will be less of a problem if he is going against Bulaga. I'm actually more worried about a resurgent Tommy Harris getting to beat on College.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:44pm

You are placing too much on one game on turf. In the muck and mire that is Soldier Field coupled with the experience I expect Clifton to hold his own.

We all recognize that Chad is at the end of the line. That is not in dispute.

But when it comes to pass protection, and the Packers are a passing team, Clifton is a solid to good left tackle even being old and broken down.

Belaga is playing out of position but even so has been outright embarrassed by opposing defenders. And that doesn't address the false start penalties that are exclusively his error.

Colledge is a pedestrian player. He's just a guy.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:52pm

I'm not just putting it on the Atlanta game. I'm putting it on the whole year. Clifton has had his share of false starts this year too. I really think Clifton making the pro bowl this year was absurd. I do think the colder weather and poor field will help Clifton, because of what he still can do well, and that is know where to put his body and his good footwork. The field taking a step or two away from the defensive players helps him, but he was also exposed against the Eagles, most of the pressure that Rodgers saw came from the left. He's average at best, which is why I'm rating him as the worst of the Packers line. As you say, College is just a guy. Wells is mostly just a guy. Bulaga has looked like a rookie at times yes. But he has also looked better than Clifton in his prime at times too. His upside is huge, and I think you are putting too much on the Week 17 performance as well.

That's the Packers line. An end of the line LT that gets exposed at times because he has declining physical skills. A LG that is just a guy. A slightly undersized center who plays solid most of the time. A RG who is very good, and a high upside rookie LT playing RT and looking at times like a rookie and at other times like a pro bowl quality tackle. I'm not sure we really disagree that much. My worry is more about the interior because I really think College is just a guy and Wells isn't much better than a guy. I think Peppers is going to beat Clifton once or twice and that if he lines up over Bulaga the same number of snaps that he does over Clifton that he'll be Bulaga about the same number of times, but it may look worse because Bulaga had never seen what was coming so was out of position and while Clifton may know what to do vs what he sees he will simply not be able to stop it. Peppers has caused both of them to false start (Clifton had at least 2 false starts in the first Chicago game which is even worse for a vet to do than a rookie in my mind).

The Packers work out to having an average line, but I think the Bears can exploit the interior more than other teams and that has to do with Peppers as well since no matter where he is, the guard is likely going to have to think about sliding over to help.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:18pm

Yes, all Super Bowl QB winners not named Dilfer are given Elite Status. If the Jets win, Sanchez will not only attain Elite Status but will be have more commercial opportunities than both Mannings combined.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:50pm

Don't forget Brad "All He Does is Win" Johnson!

Can you imagine how differently one J. Delhomme would be looked at, or even Brady, if a couple of minor things, completely unrelated to qb play, are changed in the Pats/Panthers Super Bowl? How about McNabb?

There is a lot of really dumb NFL punditry floating around.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:42pm

I just went to espn.com, where the headline story is "The Pats never dreamed that the best QB and gameplan and would belong to the Jets." The linked article does not make this claim: as bad as pundits are; headline writers are even worse.

by dmb :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:58pm

Yes, Johnson has never "been given elite status." But his play came far, far, closer to meriting it than anything Dilfer ever did. Even in his prime, Dilfer wasn't putting up good FO metrics. On the other hand, Brad Johnson had some really ugly years toward the end of his career, but his prime was extremely respectable:

1996: 431 DYAR (13th), 8.7% DVOA (11th)
1997: 837 DYAR (5th), 15.9% DVOA (9th)
1998: 259 DYAR (19th), 26.0% DVOA (7th) (Limited to 106 attempts due to injury)
1999: 921 DYAR (4th), 14.5% DVOA (5th)
2000: 289 DYAR (18th), 1.1% DVOA (19th)
2001: 363 DYAR (13th), -1.7% DVOA (16th)
2002: 745 DYAR (10th), 13.4% DVOA (11th)
2003: 511 DYAR (11th), 2.4% DVOA (14th)

I'm sure you're aware that in his Vikings years (1996-1998), he had some of the best offensive support a QB could a fathom. But in 1999, he went to Washington, where his top two WRs were ... Michael Westbrook and Albert Connell! Somehow, he turned them both into 1000-yard receivers. His TE was Stephen Alexander. The only receiver he threw to who was ever a credible threat at any other point in his career was Larry Centers, who was in his 10th year in the league, and by then 31 years old. Now, he did have the support of a stellar run game, and a pretty decent offensive line. But I think what Johnson accomplished that season suggests pretty strongly that he was a very good player in his prime -- one who probably actually had something to do with the wins that "he" accumulated.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:07pm

Oh, he was never bad, until he got old. His biggest problems in Minnesota was injury, and it is hard to tell if durability is skill or luck. Who knows what happens if he doesn't get hurt early in the '98 season? Cunningham's biggest fault was a big wind-up, which played a big role in both Vikings losses that year, when he got stripped of the ball in critical situations.

by dmb :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:19pm

OK. I thought you might be lumping him in with the Dilfers and Grossmans of the world, and I think that would clearly be inaccurate.

by yakul :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 4:28pm

Once significant exception to the conventional pundits' "rings = Eliteness" argument is Jim Plunkett. My point isn't to claim greatness or lack thereof for Plunkett, but the man has two Super Bowl wins to his credit and certainly is not often cited as an example of an elite quarterback. Perhaps he forgot to show up at his knighting ceremony to receive his Eliteness status.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:40pm

That whole schtick as it applies to Rodgers is made even more hilarious by the fact that this is his third year starting and his only playoff loss came in a game in which they scored 45 points. Who in their right mind would start accusing him of not being good enough because he hadn't hoisted hardware? Are all QBs now expected to be on winning teams as quickly as Brady and Roethlisberger did?

That said, I heard an awful lot of "Rodgers proves" or "monkey off his back" stuff after the fact, but I don't really remember ever hearing the opposite beforehand. I think it was just stupid people reaching for stupid storylines.

by rk (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:03pm

Similarly, some commentator on ESPN radio last night kept saying that Jay Cutler had exorcised playoff demons.

by MCS :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 9:32am

Prior to the Wild Card Eagles game this season, many media types were saying that Rodgers had something prove as he had neever won a playoff game. He still had the "monkey on his back".

I never heard a thing about Ryan.

The contradictions are amazing.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:59pm

The Rodgers commentary has been really baffling to me this year. Instead of actually waiting for him to do something that could be called choking, they were calling him non-clutch in advance of any evidence. It's amazing what people can talk themselves into.

by MCS :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:17pm

"Who in their right mind would start accusing him of not being good enough because he hadn't hoisted hardware?"

Cowherd is pretty vocal about it.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:21pm

Cowherd is biggest blowhard I've ever heard speak on any subject. If I never heard him talk again it would be too soon.

And Sportsnation is the worst show on ESPN, I'd rather watch Quite Frankly with Steven A Smith, at least he could be entertaining while yelling at me.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:32pm

If Colin Cowherd were half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be a genius, if only barely, but unfortunately he is only about a fourth as smart as he thinks he is, which means he's just smart enough to be glibly dumb.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 10:31pm

If Cowherd were twice as smart as I assume he is paid to be (frankly, he's such a disaster I can't imagine it to be anything else), he would sound exactly as smart as he sounds now.

by MCS :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 9:26am

I don't bother with ESPN at all. I've always felt that Cowherd is an idiot and the network he works for is more interested in being the news or creating the news than they are in reporting it.

by GlennW :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:31pm

Is that where these supposed criticisms of Rodgers are coming from? The likes of Colin Cowherd? There's a reason I don't listen to that guy.

While maybe the oddball commentator has questioned Rodgers' "clutchness" or "unprovenness" or whatnot, as a fan detached from the NFC North I've heard nothing but high praise of him to be honest. By my observation the media-consensus elite QB class is Brady, Manning, Brees and Rodgers (and not Roethlisberger, in spite of the Super Bowl rings and postseason winning percentage).

by Arkaein :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 6:22pm

The strangest thing to me is that somehow the players and coaches don't seem to think he's as good as he's shown to be, at least this season with his Pro Bowl snub. The fans would have voted him in, but the coaches and players think Ryan was more deserving?

Right now Rodgers and Tramon Williams are making good cases for the two biggest Pro Bowl snubs this season.

by matt millen's brain (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 7:16pm

This may be the most ignorant thing I've ever read, from Vikings play by play guy Paul Allen. Yes, this man is the voice of the Minnesota Vikings.


Why should I feel ashamed to argue ELI MANNING should be listed higher on my QB Hierarchy List than AARONFREAKINGRODGERS? I spent 20 minutes rhapsodizing Green Bay's quarterback today, highlighting the nuances to his approach yesterday and how he played like more than a big box score, yet when I put him beind Eli on my QHL people become offended. And I am not just tripping over one email, there were no fewer than 75 emails in 20 minutes and calls looking to mix it up.

Have people forgotten what Eli Manning did in the 2007 postseason when he assisted his team to, you know, a SUPERBOWLWIN!! Aaron Rodgers is a fine, top-10 QB in this league who handled a tough spot yesterday with poise and was by far the best QB in the game. He throws fewer picks than Eli and is more stylistically sound. He also is more of a running threat than Manning, and it's not even close.

But to pass Eli on my Quarterback Hierarchy List he has to win this weekend, then probably at Chicago and in the Super Bowl. Get some, kiddo!
Eli Manning took a Wild Card New York Giants team on the road three times and complemented the dynamic pass rush with ultra efficient and sometimes-explosive performances. And not to GREG JENNINGS and/or DONALD DRIVER, to AMANI TOOMER and DAVID TYREE. During that run he hit on 60 percent of his passes and threw six touchdowns against one pick, which came in the Super Bowl. He personified Big-Spot Eli that postseason and in the SB rallied the NYG for two fourth-quarter TD passes and the game-winner to PLAX. He outshined CAPTAIN COOL when the lights were at their brightest. And as a massive underdog. And against a team that hadn't lost a game in well over a year. And became the Super Bowl MVP for his toil.

Yet off all that I am just supposed to alter the QHL to show 12 ahead of Eli Manning? Keep winning and ascend the QHL, Mr. A-Rodg. It's a treat to watch you play and, yes, I wish we had a guy like you in our stable. But you have not achieved to the level Eli Manning has and thus still trail 'Cool, PEYTON MANNING, BREES and BEN in my book. JOE FLACCO has done more than you to this stage, and personally I think MATT RYAN sees the game more clearly. I guess we'll see this weekend how that bit shakes out. Man I hope the Falcons win this weekend, a series of days dedicated to the birds of the league. Go Falcons and go Seahawks because the last thing I want to deal with up to the NFC Title game is analyzing Green Bay at Chicago. That would be miserable.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 7:46pm

Wow, that's appalling.

But after his radio call of the Favre pick last year, I still find it difficult to file him away in the total idiot category.

by scottybsun (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 12:17am

I think some people combine the concepts of BEST and GREATEST when they are really two different (but overlapping) concepts.

The way I split it up is:
Best = best performance
Greatest = best outcomes/achievements
(obviously the two are inter-related, but there are differences, too)

All you can control is how good you are. To be GREAT, circumstances need to align for you (Lincoln was a GREAT president, 30+ other presidents never had the opportunities he had to show GREATNESS).

So, Marino may have been BETTER than Montana, but Montana was GREATER. Montana had better teams around him enabling him more opportunity to exert greatness and he did. Marino, through little fault of his own, never got to a SB after his 2nd year.

by GlennW :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 11:17am

That is indeed bizarre. It's one thing to hold the rather suspect opinion that Eli Manning is better than Aaron Rodgers, but it's quite another to present that opinion in such a homeristic, unprofessional and poorly written manner. What a clown.

by drobviousso :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:32pm

Allen is a maroon who clearly things hating on all things Green Bay is part of his job. Given the lack luster fan support for the Vikings, whipping up the local crowd may be a big part of his job.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 7:28pm

Rodgers not making it was silly, not sure about Williams though.

On the other hand, Chad Clifton somehow made it.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 7:43pm

I said in their right mind.

Follow up question: Who in his right mind would listen to Cowherd?

Do people actually listen to him voluntarily? I always assumed he only had success because he got the listeners by default because people didn't turn the dial after Mike & Mike.

by MCS :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 9:38am

I wouldn't know. Never listen to him. I just see his quotes around the tubes. As near as I can tell, the people that listen just want to revel in their anger at him.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:37pm

Tramon Williams stated in an interview after the game that at the timeout the coaches reminded everyone that Atlanta would be working the sidelines. So as the defense was coming together on the field Woodson advised Williams that Ryan would be rolling out so when the receiver broke for the sidelines be ready to close fast. Williams asked Charles at halftime how he knew the Falcons would run the roll out play and he said "Wood just smiled and patted me on the head".

Charles Woodson is a god.

Not THE god. But a god nonetheless.

by Joseph :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:26pm

I'm not going to contradict any of this, since I didn't see the interview or anything. But--ATL had no TO's & 10 secs. They were either going to the end zone, or to the sideline. I actually think that the rollout was counter-productive, as he obviously wasn't throwing to the other sideline. Having expressed these counterpoints, it was the play that changed the game. Otherwise, it's prob. 21-17 Pack at the half, not 28-14 (shortly to become 35-14).
IMO, the NFCCG is more interesting than the AFCCG. Pack just played at CHI, & were able to get the win needed to get to the playoffs. IMO, the NFCCG will come down to unrepeatable plays, turnovers, etc.
Sadly for my son who likes the Jets (for some reason I still haven't figured out), I don't see them upsetting the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:36pm

I think you're right about that play being the turning point.

For the record, the week 17 Bears-Packers game was in Green Bay.

by armchair journe... :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:35pm

clearly the high point of this story is the head pat.

by Peregrine :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 6:21pm

Falcon fan, who was at the Dome.

Either Roddy is wide open or Ryan throws it 10 yards over his head. Those are the only two options. Ryan should have known better than to throw that pass.

And Smith / Mularkey played the last two minutes of the half too aggressive anyway. Play for field goals there - instead of throwing a jump ball to the end zone to Michael Jenkins, who, to my recollection, is a 6'4" WR who has never caught a jump ball touchdown in his career - and who knows, maybe it's 21-20 at the half instead of 28-14.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:38pm

The Pats ran up the score last time long after the outcome of the game was decided. Whatever homecooking Rex had prepared for that game was held back. So this time he essentially had two weeks of dedicated preparation against the Pats to drop into one game.

But hey, it helped Boston's DVOA scoring against a vanilla D up 24-3 at the half. Obviously worth it.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:09pm

You say both that the Patriots "ran up the score" and that the Jets weren't really trying on defense. Which is it?

You don't really expect any NFL team to stop their offense cold simply because they're ahead, do you?

Looking at the game book, I see that Mark Sanchez killed the first three drives of the second half by throwing interceptions. Is it "running up the score" to make an interception? Pray tell, just when is it reasonable to keep playing seriously and when is giving full effort "running up the score"?

I can assure you that the Jets were still playing to win in the second half of that game. Why are you requiring that the Patriots intentionally screw up their offense in the second half?

The irrationality concerning the Patriots still doesn't fail to amaze me. When the Patriots win, if they win by a lot it's because they were "running up the score". If they win by a small amount, it's because they got lucky. And if they lose, it's because they were overrated.

by scottybsun (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:17pm

I think DVOA is awesome and is probably the best barometer of a team's true ability level, however...

because it is play-based, as opposed to drive-based or game-based, sometimes context is missing. In the FO preview article, the writers stated that the Pats D became better than the Jets D towards the end of the season. This fails to take into account how games change when one team is up three scores by halftime. Opposing QBs HAVE to take wild chances and teams abandon the run. This will inflate the leadin team's DVOA stats.

by rk (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:06pm

I'm pretty sure that's accounted for by the fact that DVOA is normalized to the average outcome of the game situation (score, time remaining, etc.).

by Armando (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:38pm

"I would like to see the league get rid of the excessive celebration penalties and replace them with a five-yard "whining for a flag" penalty".
That is a proposal in which all fans will love. Even soccer puts a yellow card on “whining for penalty”.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:25pm

I also want one for the QB when they want a penalty for being almost touched. The referee signal for both will be closed fists over each eye with a twisting motion.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 10:42pm

Those probably even out when you compare them to the plays when QBs are clearly hit illegally and the officials in the best positions to see are checking to see if the QB in question is on the List of QBs to Protect.

by Anonymus (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:32pm

Cricket forbidds to complain about any call. The game is completely boring to watch (it's fun to play though), but this is awesome.

In soccer, you can whine about a call (players ask for cards all the time), unless you are disrespectful or agressive to the referee. What is forbidden is to pretend you suffer a foul. This is a FK and a yellow card.

I'm completely in favor of getting rid of any celebration penalty. Celebrate a score is the best compliment you can make to the opponent. You recognize how hard and how good it is to score on them...

by Balaji (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:56pm

> What is forbidden is to pretend you suffer a foul.

Clearly the Italians and Ghanaians didn't get this memo.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:00pm

I would not love this proposal. Excessive celebration is already tremendously annoying. It's bilious when opponent teams do it and embarrassing when the team I'm rooting for does it. Can you imagine how awful it would get were the foul removed altogether?

by Dennis :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 9:12pm

Holmes had the best one ever yesterday. He was calling for the flag before he even hit the ground (and he got it).

by DaveRichters :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 9:39pm

"I would like to see the league get rid of the excessive celebration penalties and replace them with a five-yard "whining for a flag" penalty".
That is a proposal in which all fans will love. Even soccer puts a yellow card on “whining for penalty”.

I think the whining is fine when there was something to complain about it but when there wasn't it's like a Miller commercial where they pretend it is the beer to drink if you value taste and that it is hoppy. I think in general they complain only when there is a reason to complain. I'd prefer not to penalize whining; this way it is easier to identify the whiners.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:45pm

You forgot the most important bit of info -- what is Seth's FO handle? :)

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:45pm

What's the goal of an NFL franchise? Is it to win the DVOA title or the big game in Feburary?

Orton was a quarterback in an offense almost designed to make him look good in efficiency stats. To use efficiency stats alone without taking into account the obvious limitations of Checkdown Charlie, which are legion, is flawed. And to use a volume stat like DYAR to evaluate a Denver QB (bad D/no running game) is laughably shoddy even by your standards.

by zzyzx :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:47pm

"I'd like to remind you all that by beating St. Louis and New Orleans, the Seahawks cost themselves approximately 15 slots in the draft. And this is their reward."

Seahawks fans had an incredible 8 days. We spent a week watching that run over and over and over again. In Seattle, we take what we can get; the M's didn't win the Series in 1995 but that doesn't make The Double not worth it.

by scottybsun (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:19pm

By that logic:
best possible outcome- win super bowl
2nd best outcome- have worst record and get #1 pick.

by ptp (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:03pm

Yeah, I don't quite understand that comment because nobody's ever published the rubric for when a team should stop trying. By beating the Saints, Falcons, Bengals, Bills (twice), Dolphins (twice), Ravens, Chargers, Vikings, Steelers, Colts, Lions, Jets, and Packers, the Patriots cost themselves approximately 27 slots in the draft.

by armchair journe... :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:44pm

i think the ad absurdum argument here is a bit much... and completely misses the point. the way the draft assignment is structured, the worst team in the playoffs is in a sense over-penalized.

would you have objected so much if the comment was made two weeks ago that in beating st. louis, seattle lost 10 spots in the draft (or thereabouts)? that's a pretty significant swing, and the flip-side to the arguments against inferior teams gifted playoff spots--they pay a pretty high price for them.

by zzyzx :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:21pm

I don't think that was the point. It did make sense 2 weeks ago; Seahawks fans were arguing back and forth over whether we wanted to make the playoffs. However after the sheer joy of the Saints game, I'd make that trade any time. Drafts are enough of an inexact science that I'd prefer the memory of Beast Mode to a better draft slot.

by armchair journe... :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 8:49pm

zzyzx... wasn't responding to your comment, but the follow-on nonsense about the patriots. i don't disagree with you in the slightest. i think most any fan would trade the draft spots for the enjoyment (and potential) of playoff success. however, the seahawks winning those two games was much more "expensive" than it was for, say, the jets or packers to win theirs. in the latter cases, they've only affected their draft position a few spots. its essentially irrelevant to a team with a strong regular season record.

so the cost of sheer joy is 15 spots--whether or not it was worth that (particularly the way it culminated in the craptastic bears game) is an interesting discussion, as evidenced at least by your two posts.

by ptp (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 12:51am

The original statement was silly, because it appears to suggest that Seattle should not have tried to win those games. If Vince was trying to make some other point then he should've been more clear but right now it looks like the same old tired argument that Seattle should've somehow tanked, a point that borders on asinine given everything that's happened in the last 2 weeks.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 10:45pm

Or, to put it another way, the Seahawks "traded" into a much less expensive slot in the draft and got a home playoff game out of it, which they went on to win.

As a fan of a team that has won one home playoff game in 53 seasons (well, one playoff game period, but it was at home), I would take that deal in a second.

by Jon Silverberg (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 5:08am

Yes, but the memories of the 1957 season have kept me warm lo these many years...they only went 8-4 in the regular season, to tie the Y.A. Tittle/Hugh McElhenny/Leo Nomellini 49ers atop the Western Division, thus requiring a playoff game by the Bay for the division title, which the Lions won 31-27 (a comeback win, if memory serves)...in the Championship game, against the Paul Brown/Jim Brown Browns, Tobin Rote threw umpteen TD passes (Bobby Layne had his leg broken during the season; the NFL was always a violent endeavor) while Jim Brown's two rushing TD's made the final score 59-14 Lions...the second most-one-sided game in NFL championship game history, after the Bears' 73-0 demolition of the Redskins in 1940...I was 10, and I had no idea that this was going to be the last hurrah* for the next 5+ decades...

*However, there is the curious case of the "Playoff Bowl," a game matching the NFL runners-up in the two divisions, played from the 1960-1969 seasons...while this artifact of the NFL-AFL war is now called an exhibition game in NFL documents, at the time, the games were promoted and sold as legitimate post-season games...the Lions beat the Browns 17-16 in the first one...so 50 years may be correct, not 53...the answer is blowin' in the wind...

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:51pm

Happy Shadenfraude Day everybody!

by Chakrabs (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:51pm

"Congratulations to the Jets. Totally outplayed and outcoached Pats today, especially on defense. Just an amazing, amazing defensive performance against the top DVOA offense ever. Shaun Ellis in particular was on fire today."

Right, wouldnt know it based on the comments out of you guys. Either just a bunch of homers or desperately praying that your precious stats hold up. Jets/Pats wasnt even close.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:11pm


Aaron, it's not worth it to try to make nice with Jets' fans. They'll spit in your face regardless.

by Newjamarcus (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:54pm

Wow, now there's a judicious, keenly analytical, not-at-all-overgeneralized statement. You stay classy yourself, RickD!

by thermhere :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:02pm

Please keep the "stay classy" comments over on Pro Football Talk.

by Spielman :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:00pm

Careful with the generalizations. Given that there's definitely more than a few Patriots fans who will never be mistaken for worthwhile human beings*, they might not work out in your favor all the time.

*True of all teams in all sports.

by Chakrabs (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:15pm

My beef with Aaron is that he doesnt give credit where credit is due. His comments after the Sanchez/Holmes pass: "Great pass, great catch. Actually mediocre pass great catch." I went and looked at the replay. It was the former.

Mike Lombardi's take: "[Sanchez's] final touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes was as incredible as the catch"

Schatz can go down in flames defending that stupid Sanchez/Jamarcus column all he wants.

by DGL :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:41pm

Your vitriol would be more appropriate if "Schatz" had actually, you know, written that column.

by Joel (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:51pm

DVOA be damned, the 2007 Pats team does not lose to this Jets team in a million years, at least not in this fashion.

by Chakrabs (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:14pm

Pressure on Brady, opposition controlling clock with the running game, flooding the middle of the field to take away the quick pass. Yeah, that 07 Pats team would never have lost against that kind of defense...

by Joel (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:51pm

Since someone brought up the Super Bowl, as expected, here's how I see it: that game was a perfect storm of factors to equalize the massive disparity in talent between the two teams. The Giants defense had to play an absolutely perfect game to even have a chance, and they somehow did it. There was only one major mistake from the Giants offense. Aside from that, they controlled the clock with running and protected the ball. Despite how well the Giants played that game, they were STILL down by 4 points with 2+ minutes left to go in the game, and had to pull off one of the most insanely improbable game-winning drives of all time, complete with equal amounts skill and luck, to finally finish off the Pats for good.

The Jets defense did not play a perfect game yesterday. The Pats moved the ball at will in the first quarter and the defense started to falter as the game wound down. Mark Sanchez made a couple of good throws and Holmes and Edwards managed to make some big plays, but he was mediocre overall. They ran the ball with success, but went to a very conservative gameplan in the second half to leave the door open for the Pats.

As for the Pats, they ended up wasting their offensive gains in the first quarter with an interception and an easy dropped TD. They game the Jets a short field to capitalize on with the amazingly ill-advised fake punt. They wasted almost 8 minutes down two scores in the 4th quarter for god-knows-what reason and got nothing out of it. Their supposedly "improved" defense couldn't get the stops against a mediocre offense late in the game.

Those are all mistakes and deficiencies that simply were not present in the 07 team, even in their Super Bowl loss. I'm not saying the Pats lost the game more than the Jets won, just that it turns out the Jets didn't really need to play an almost perfect game to beat one of the supposed best two or three teams of the past decade like the Giants had to.

Three points based on my observations that may not be backed up by stats but whatever: A) It seems like when the Pats can't run their ultra impossibly efficient offense perfectly, they don't really have anything else to fall back on. There's no room for error in that offense, and while it's admirable that they, against all odds, managed to execute it to perfection for most of the year, it seems like once they got lightly punched in the mouth by a difficult defense, everything just suddenly fell apart. That's not going to cut it in the playoffs when you must win or you're out. B) New England's turnover numbers are simply ridiculous and not sustainable in any fashion, no matter how skilled your team is. The few times this season that their turnover numbers were relatively normal also happened to be the games where they looked like any other team. They didn't have this advantage yesterday, going -1 even while recovering all three of their fumbles, and it affected the game. C) The "improved" defense was a mirage. I thought this was clear when Green Bay went against them with a green backup QB and proceeded to systematically dismantle them in a losing effort, but I guess that was just me.

Maybe I'm just overreacting, but I'm pretty confident that this Pats team is certainly not as good or better than the 2007 team, and that it's really not all that close.

by perly :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:28pm

Not in that fashion, maybe, but given how the 2007 Pats played against the 2007 Ravens, it's pretty clear that the current Jets' coaching staff might have a few ideas about how to keep it close.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:43pm

...until Bart Scott is given two 15-yard personal fouls on the same play.


by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:52pm

When was the last time a home team was the underdog in a conference championship game?

by BJR :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:57pm

IIRC the Eagles were favoured at Arizona in 2009.

by IB (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:58pm

Arizona was a 3.5 point underdog to Philly in the 2008 NFC Championship game.

by Dr. "Short Memory, Must Have a, Short Memory" (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:24pm

The last championship game with a home underdog was two whole years ago, Eagles -3.5 at Cardinals. Click my alias for the first link I found in a Google search.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:26pm

It was a question. Didn't know it was worthy of being mocked.

by RowdyRoddyPiper :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:06pm

I think he was just giving you a cite, not mocking you. This would be mockery:


[edit = I am not trying to mock you ftr. It may seem that way but it's not my intention. I'm just giving an example of a dickish way to answer a simple question. Full disclosure, I have used this in the past.]

by Jetspete :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:56pm

After this weekend, i dont want to hear any more Sanchez bashing in relation to the league's other young quarterbacks. Joe Flacco put up an all time epic stinkbomb, and Matt Ryan was not much better. Sanchez made the plays he had to, and was instrumental in the victory. Even Sanchez' lone playoff loss, he played respectably. Certainly nothing to the level of ineptitude showed by Flacco and Ryan.

as for the game, new england was very un-Belichick like in that they actually did things which helped them lose the game. The botched fake punt in a ridiculous spot prevented it from being a 7-3 ht game, and obviously the clock killing 4th quarter drive was very damaging as it produced zero points and ran off 8 minutes.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:59pm

The fake punt was an audible by Chung. Of course, you can certainly blame BB for not telling the punt team that the green light was off.

And yeah, I don't understand them channelling Andy Reid at all. I'm not even really complaining about the play selection. You want runs to try to change things up, fine! But do it out of a no-huddle or at least use quicker counts. Don't be snapping it at the tail end of the playclock each time.

by scottybsun (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:22pm

Please, some credit to Jets D here. They very clearly took away all the deep and sideline stuff and baited Brady to take short underneath stuff (and even call some runs). they did this last week to Manning, as well.

by rk (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:11pm

The Jets defense played great, but they had nothing to do with the extra 15-20 seconds inexplicably coming off the clock between those plays.

by jackgibbs :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:22pm

this is exactly what I was screaming at my t.v. I understand that the jets secondary was out of this world yesterday, and the three man rushes demanded running plays, but for god's sake run the old colts offense and PICK UP THE PACE

by RickD :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:13pm

People deride Sanchez because he's inconsistent. He was absolutely horrible the last time the Jets visited Foxboro. Let's not forget that.

Agree completely that the game management by the Patriots was absolutely horrendous.

by Newjamarcus (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:18pm

Actually, the basis for the derision of Sanchez -- on this site -- has been a bit of a moving target. He was the next Jamarcus Russell for a while, then there was a lot of effort expended to explain away every good game or good series he had (all he does is throw short and rely on the insane ability of his WRs; not good enough to conduct a proper two-minute drill; two-minute drill heroics wouldn't be necessary if he didn't play badly through the first three quarter; only looks better because of crazy interception luck -- and on and on and on). Only more recently have we come to "inconsistent."

Don't get me wrong. Sanchez was mostly terrible last year! (Though the AFC championship game sure was eye-opening.) And he is inconsistent! The jury is very much still out on him, and he's not a good QB right now.

I think what the actual FO writers have been saying recently is spot on: he's extremely raw, with vastly less experience than most QBs of similar NFL tenure. He sure doesn't look like Peyton, but he could become a good QB -- or not.

What's somewhat infuriating as a Jets fan is the from-the-Mountain tone one often hears on this website (mostly from the commentors, at this point), which seems to claim a foresight that is not warranted.

(And, as a small aside, while we're not forgetting about how horrible Sanchez was in the 2nd Pats-Jets game, let's also not conveniently forget about his performance in the first one.)

by thermhere :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:29pm

Yes - he did rely on his great WRs for a while.

Yes - he did really struggle in the 2 minute drill last season.

Yes - they needed 2 minute drill heroics because he put together some dreadful 58 minute games.

Yes - he had great interception luck last year.

So what exactly was wrong about what they were saying?

by Newjamarcus (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:43pm

All of the comments your referenced were made this year, not last year (or rather this season -- perhaps you meant this season/last year). And maybe it's only because he's overpraised by some other media -- and he is -- but it seems there's been an extraordinary reluctance (until very recently) to acknowledge Sanchez's good plays, good games, and more generally any signs that he might have a little potential. Those signs have existed throughout his young career -- along with a lot of bad ones too.

Vince (commenting below), I apologize if I attributed to you a prediction that you did not make.

by Vincent Verhei :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:31pm

"Actually, the basis for the derision of Sanchez -- on this site -- has been a bit of a moving target. He was the next Jamarcus Russell for a while"

We never, ever, ever said this. What we said was that Sanchez, in his first year as a starter, played almost exactly like Russell did in his first year as a starter, only with more interceptions. That's still true. The editors at ESPN added a subhead saying "their QB could become JaMarcus V2." That's it. In nothing we've written on this website, or in Football Outsiders Almanac, have we said that Sanchez was destined to end up like Russell.

Here's the original story if anyone's interested.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:59pm

It was a silly comparison to make at all because the reason Russell is a colossal bust was not his "first year starting" (which was his sophomore year), but the fact that instead of improving he got worse.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:59pm

I agree with you that Sanchez gets undue criticism around here. I think it is just a reaction to undue praise he gets from the big media outlets. You have to understand that FO writers are still people and they are going to have players they like and dislike.

by Mac32 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:57pm

Guys - the discussion of Cutler vs. Orton has been driving me crazy. Especially the way that FO writers have been so down on Cutler for the past 2 years. I shouldn't have to point this out to FO folks, but context matters! Look at Cutler's comparables (in the FO database)over his first 3 years in the league, while playing in Denver. Pretty impressive company.

Then go ahead and put him on a team with no receivers, an O-line held together with scotch tape, and for his first year and a half, no running game.

Evaluation of the trade has got to account for that. I guarantee Orton would not have put up the numbers he did, had he been playing for the Bears.

Does this mean Cutler has no flaws? Of course not. He will never be a top tier QB as long as he still makes inexplicable decisions a couple of times a game. But he is way better than his performance with the Bears indicates, and this is masked because people don't truly appreciate how bad the rest of the offense is (aside from Forte). As a Bears fan who pays close attention to the games I am so relieved the Bears made that trade, as there is no way Orton could have managed to get them to the NFC title game with the same players around him.

by Joel (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:04pm

Cutler right now is still the best quarterback the Bears have ever had. I think in the end the trade will be worth it, especially if they win it all this season.

by mac32 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:08pm

Better than Luckman?! How about the best Qb they have had in a very long time.

by Joel (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:14pm

I'll concede that. Point is that Cutler doesn't seem to get nearly enough credit for the Bears' success, and yet gets all the blame when they falter. Not that he doesn't deserve it most times, but there is plenty of good to go with the bad.

by Spielman :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:06pm

I'm not yet convinced he's better than McMahon. More durable, definitely.

by Kal :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 7:18pm

I am. Not only is he more durable, he is close to as accurate, can make much better throws and can really stretch the field more with running. Decision making is probably pretty close. McMahon had Payton and Gault, and the best receiver on the Bears with McMahon was...Payton.

And Forte? I like him and think he's got a lot of potential to be awesome, but he's no sweetness.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 7:31pm

Also, the Bears line for most of McMahon's time there was pretty damn good.

Cutler would kill for a LT as good as Covert.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 7:58pm

Most active QBs would, too.

Covert, in my opinion, is the most underrated Bear ever.

by Spielman :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 9:01pm

Stretch the field more with running? McMahon slowed down with age and injuries, but he was far more dangerous than Cutler as a runner when he was young.

McMahon was also terrific at avoiding fumbles, which helped make him a really good low risk QB... his best attribute as a passer was avoiding INTs, and he augmented that by not putting the ball on the ground much. Cutler is obviously much more high risk and high reward.

Of course, I understand that the relative talent levels around them make a pretty compelling case for Cutler, but I do believe that McMahon is pretty underrated, and very often by Bears fans, for some strange reason.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:32pm

While this is a bit combative, I think the overall idea is correct. I was a big fan of Orton as a capable-to-good NFL QB, and I haven't changed my mind there. But to suggest he'd be better on this Bears team is off-base.

Orton's strengths are reading defenses and mid-range accuracy. His weaknesses are accuracy deep and mobility. His arm strength is about average, and he's not particularly good at throwing on the run. With this offensive line and these receivers, I don't see him having much success in Chicago. It wouldn't necessarily be his fault, but Cutler at least can overcome those team flaws - his arm strength allows him to fit the ball in tighter windows and make accurate throws off his back foot or on the run.

Of course, Cutler also makes some really bad decisions, because of those strengths. He thinks that he can make throws that he really can't. Subjectively, I sense there are fewer occurrences of that over the last eight to ten weeks, but the evidence might not be there.

The Bears gave up a lot for Cutler, yet at the time, most people (even FO writers, if I recall correctly) suggesting that some team in need of good QB play should give up a lot for him. I think it was a good decision at the time, even if it hasn't worked out as well as it could or should have.

by mac32 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:56pm

I agree - and I don't mean to be combative. I just feel like there's been a sort of collective amnesia regarding Cutler, and a total disregard for context that is not typical of Football Outsiders - which was created with the purpose of putting numbers in context. But even FO numbers like DVOA, have a context!

Moreover, I think Cutler's skill set and talents are actually helping cover for some really, really, bad play on the part of the rest of the offense. His receivers are well below average - they run poor routes, don't get a lot of separation, and drop passes (I'm looking at you Johnny Knox). He doesn't have a big physical receiver who can go up and get the ball (on a fade in the endzone, for example). Aromoshudu might qualify, but he never sees the field (apparently because his route running is bad).

Cutler succeeds despite these guys, because he is able to fit the ball into tight windows, throw on the run after the pocket has broken down (either because the Oline failed or because the receivers didn't get open), and scramble effectively when nobody is open.

It's a situation that he can overcome with his talent (making the rest of the offense look a lot better than they are), but paradoxically also encourages his worst tendencies, as he has to rely on his gun of an arm to make big plays, leading to overconfidence and bad decision making when the play is just not there.

by mrh :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:25pm

I'm not saying this was a bad trade, or Cutler is a bad QB, or even worse than Orton, but it was not a straight Cutler for Orton deal. If the Bears had kept Orton and spent 2 1st round picks and a 3rd on offense - or two out of three, would they have all those holes on the line or at other positions? Not to mention that (I assume - fact checking welcomed) Cutler eats up more cap space than Orton, thus limiting another route to fix the offense.

Orton's "failures" in Denver are mostly the defense, not his.

by chisox24 :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:44pm

As Jay's failures are mostly on the lack of talent at any other position on offense, a bad new scheme to learn his first year, and a somewhat better new scheme to learn his second year.

There are far too many variables to make any sort of evaluation of this trade possible in a legitimate context. However, that would not make for good discourse. My opinion is that they gave up too much to get Jay. However, I also think if you are going to gamble, Quarterback is certainly the position to do it at.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:58pm

First let me just point out this stat:

Adjusted sack rate of the Denver Broncos in 2008: 3.3% (4th)
Adjusted sack rate of the Chicago Bears in 2010: 10.4% (32nd)

Secondly, could the Bears possibly be a better team right now if they kept Orton and 2 first round picks? Probably, but would they be better next year and the year after? Who knows. All I know is that draft picks are to be used to acquire talent and Cutler is supremely talented at the most important position.

Also, the cap doesn't exist current and it didn't seem like the Bears had any money issues this past offseason (though I do wish they had tried to get Otogwe instead of Chester Taylor).

by Jimmy :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:11pm

The Bears traded Orton, two first rounders and a third rounder for Cutler (and a fifth). Fans of teams tend to associate a first round pick with a Pro Bowler who just needs to be plugged in and away you go. The reality of the situation is that two first round picks are likely to realise one starting quality player and not a lot else. This makes Orton the biggest piece of booty sent to acquire Cutler as a starting QB is probably more valuable than any draft pick. So then the question is how much better than Orton is Cutler? Personally, having seen a good deal of both players I would take Cutler in a heartbeat, maybe Orton is safer with the ball but Cutler surpasses him in just about every other area.

For my mind the trade is a win for Angelo for the following reason; players are more valuable than draft picks (especially QBs). The Bears knew exactly what they had in Orton and having watched Cutler play for two years should have had a reasonable expectation of what they were getting in return. The draft picks are change when compared to proven NFL QBs, compounding this is the fact that two of the draft picks were in a pretty poor year for the draft.

Also while Orton's failures in Denver are mainly the defenses, so were Cutler's.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 10:55pm

I think the value of draft picks is highly dependent on the skill of the organization possessing them. (That probably sounds more obvious than I mean it to be ... I think some people look at draft picks in a vacuum and assume that, say, the 10th pick is equally valuable no matter who owns it, when we can say with certainty that it would be worth much less in Matt Millen's hands than it would be in, well, anyone else's.)

If the Bears were having spotty success with their first-round picks, then it makes more sense for them to trade away those picks than it does, say, for the current Lions to do so. (I've been very happy with Suh, Best, and Pettigrew ... Stafford, well, I can understand why he was picked even if it'll turn out that he wasn't worth it.)

by Kal :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 2:43am

It's kinda hit and miss with the Bears. In the first round they got Olsen, Chris Williams (who has not been super great), Benson (who probably didn't get a fair shake but isn't stellar), Tommie Harris (pretty decent) and...Rex Grossman.

Then there's Haynes (bust), Colombo (who is doing well for the Cowboys), Terrell (bust), Urlacher (awesome), McNown (bust), and the immortal Curtis Enis.

Looking at that it's about a 30% success rate, which is low but not insane. Only one real standout star in the last 10 years and a couple of good players for them.

So not the best.

They're excellent at picking midrange defenders (like Briggs) in the later rounds. They appear to historically be quite crap at either pickign offensive players or (more likely) developing said players into something good.

by c0rrections (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 12:52pm

Having watched Cutler play when he was at Vanderbilt I think your last paragraph hits it dead on and that was his issue there. Of course the talent disparity isn't as large as it was when he was at Vandy (the defense and special team help that) his habits on offense were developed in an environment where he had to get a throw off or he would be running for his life in 2 seconds. This combined with his cannon arm are responsible for his questionable mechanics. And I think this Bears environment reignites some of these tendencies.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:40pm

Yeah, context means a lot. Put Orton on the 2008 Minnesota Vikings, and there is a pretty good chance you are looking at a Super Bowl team. Given a good offensive line, and a HOF caliber running back talent, plus a smothering defense, and a qb who makes quick reads and is accurate can go a long ways, in a domed stadium, even with a so-so arm and mediocre to bad receivers. Chicago was one of the worst places for Orton to be, and given the Broncos defense, Denver may not be a lot better.

The Bears can derive enough advantages from Cutler's positive attributes, most obviously arm strength in a tough passing environment, and mobility behind less than stellar offensive line talent, to far outweigh his crappy decisionmaking. I suspect that having a guy who coaches qbs nortoriously hard, like Martz, helps as well.

Make no mistake, though, playing qb with a very good defense and terrific special teams is a luxury a lot of qbs don't have.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:21pm

2008 Vikings. How was Orton going to be better than career year Favre, who had 7 int all year? How was Orton, who has always been a statue, going to fare better in the Saints game compared to Favre?

Broncos defense. 2008 DEN D and 2010 DEN D are comparably historically awful. You can draw your own conclusions about the production and record of the offenses and QBs of the respective years.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:46pm

He said 2008 Vikings. Not 2009 Vikings.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:46pm

2008. You know, the team quarterbacked by Tarvaris Jackson, that won the NFC North, but lost to the Eagles in the playoffs thanks to shaky quarterbacking? I'd say Orton would have given them a heck of a shot at the Super Bowl that year.

by perly :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:02pm

Well, if this fantasy Kyle Orton is anything like the real one, he'd probably have been surprisingly good the first half of the season, suffered an ankle or rib injury around week 10, and not have regained form through the end of the year.

Not to be snarky, but the DYAR comparison doesn't begin to tell the story. Orton's missed games in every one of the 4 seasons he's been a starting QB, and has been obviously limited by injury in others (possible exception being 2004, which I don't remember that clearly). He's a high upside guy in the sense that 2011 might be the year that breaks the trend, and his October play will hold through January. But like a lot of things, until he does it, he hasn't done it, and it's a pretty critical problem that a lot of people seem to overlook.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:12pm

Right, I didn't even take into account durability when criticizing the criticism of the Cutler trade. That's an important factor.

For the record, Orton's rookie year was 2005, and he didn't miss any games with injury that year; rather, he was benched when Rex Grossman returned from injury.

I'm not arguing Orton is better than Cutler (neither was Will Allen), just that Orton makes the 2008 Vikings a very different team.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:18pm

The fantasy Orton of 2008 likely doesn't get hit very much, and thus perhaps avoids injury. The 2008 Vikings were much, much, better on the line of scrimmage than the 2009 Vikings.

by Mac32 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:26pm

And it's not like the league is unaware of this context. Last I heard the Broncos were shopping Orton for a second rounder (to start Tim Tebow!).

If you substitute 2nd rounder for Orton in that trade, does the trade sound better? 'cause that's what Orton - after all his stats - is going for...

by Hank (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:59pm

Suisham's tackle to start the Ravens/Steelers game has to be one of the all time great tackles by a kicker, no?

by Balaji (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:37pm

Jeff Reed certainly would never have made that tackle, and the score would have been 7-0 Ravens on the opening kickoff. I don't know about all time greatness, but it was pretty nice to see after years of bad special teams and Reed's hand waving.

(We still have the bad special teams though.)

by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:48pm

Jeff Reed would have curled up into the fetal position and prayed for nobody to touch him.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:56pm

Mason Crosby would have taken out at least two potential tacklers before falling down.

by erniecohen :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:01pm

The current challenge rule is preposterous. When a team risks a timeout to correct a blatant mistake on the part of the officials (as PIT did on the first challenge of the game), exactly where is the justice in penalizing the challenging team, even if its challenge was correct? (the implicit penalty today arises from the limit on the number of challenges.) There should be no challenge limit (beyond a team's timeouts); you should just always be able to risk a timeout for a challenge, as long as it is not completely frivolous.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:16pm

This is a point I've been making for a while. It's especially bad because sometimes the refs decide to make a call in the way that allows it to be challenged when they are unsure about what to do. Rather than focusing on making the right call, they make the safe call.
The idea that any timeout can be used to pay for a challenge is new to me, and I like it.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:12pm

I would do it more simply. You may challenge any play outside of two minutes. You are allowed two missed challenges in a game. Further missed challenges incur a 15 yard penalty.

So challenge and be right you get it corrected. Challenge and be wrong and pay for it. I do wonder about those calls that are merely upheld rather than confirmed.

by DGL :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:27pm

Even simpler: You are allowed two missed challenges in a game, period. After that, they take away your red hankie. There are plenty of situations where the additional cost of a fifteen-yard penalty would pale in comparison to the benefit of an overturned play, so a coach would be happy to challenge with even a sliver of a chance of winning if all they pay for losing is 15 yards. I'd wager you'd see a challenge on at least a third of all turnovers and a third of all scoring plays.

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:50pm

And whats the problem with that?

by DGL :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:18pm

More time spent waiting for Jeff Triplette to mosey over to the replay screen, take 90 seconds to look at the replay, talk to the booth upstairs for another half a minute, then mosey back out to the field and announce the call is confirmed, while we're watching Miller Lite commercials and listening to Phil Simms opine on the finer points of what constitutes a "catch" according to the NFL rules?

I mean, unless you like that kind of thing.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 10:35pm

I actually do rather enjoy it when it's actually close. I like watching a close play over and over on TV and analyzing and debating the minutia of what's going on and the anticipation waiting for the call to come down.

by DGL :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 11:01am

But with unlimited challenges, with only a 15-yard penalty for each incorrect challenge after the second, you'll see challenges that aren't anywhere near close.

Consider the decision tree after the opponents score a touchdown. If I don't challenge, they get a TD and kick off, and I return the kick to wherever I return it to (on average the 27 yard line). If I challenge and lose, they get a TD and kick off after a 15-yard "missed challenge" penalty, so they most likely boom the ball through the end zone and I start on the 20 yard line. If I challenge and win, I've taken 7 points off the board.

If I'm a statistically-minded head coach, I know that the seven-yard difference in starting field position is worth 0.28 expected points. Which (if you do the math) means that I should challenge if I think there's at least a 4% chance of winning.

If I'm not a statistically-minded head coach, I come to the same conclusion instinctively - "maybe he didn't have control of the ball when his feet were down. What the hell, might as well throw the flag - the ref might see something, and if not, I'm only losing 15 yards on the kickoff."

by RowdyRoddyPiper :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 7:37pm

I think the area for abuse here comes when a coach challenges whenever he wants to call a time out to perhaps lengthen the time out. If there is nothing controversial then maybe it doesn't add to the length but I can see a coach challenging anything just to maybe get that little edge. That really wouldn't bother me, but it could lead to dickish gamesmanship, just like calling a time out right before the ball is snapped on an FG. I agree that the system as constructed is not the least bit fair, especially given your comments about the safe vs. right call.

I think a happy medium would be to give each team 2 challenges and so long as the challenge results in the favor of the team it is preserved. It's crazy that you can challenge the first call, have it upheld and then wipe out any further challenges by being incorrect on the subsequent call. If I understand the rule correctly there is no effective difference (other than winning the challenge) to challenging and being correct on the first challenge followed by challenging and being incorrect on the following challenge versus being incorrect on both challenges. A system where you get two strikes so to speak makes too much sense to be implemented I fear.

by Kal :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 7:20pm

Instead of it being timeouts, I'd rather it simply be that you can make as many challenges as you want but can only do so until you lose two. As long as you keep winning, you can keep challenging.

Though timeouts is an easy one to do and is easy to talk about.

by RowdyRoddyPiper :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 7:38pm

This is what happens when I type, get a coffee and submit!!! You said it much more clearly than I did though. I get the coffee before I type next time.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 11:00pm

I would prefer that the NFL manage to do what the NCAA has done: make the review process quick and apply it to all applicable plays. Put the burden on the officials rather than on the coaches; the coaches can challenge a play if necessary, or can use a time out to give the replay official a chance to decide.

Of course, if they can't fix the review process, there's no way they're going to look at more plays. It already takes about four commercials to look at one play ...

by 3.14159265 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:29am

I also have seen no mention of the free time out given to Harbough and the Ravens in the second half.

by MCS :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 9:56am

I understand that the number of challenges is limited in order to minimize the delays in the game, but I no longer agree with that approach.

If the challenge is upheld and the play is overturned, the team should keep their two challenges. I don't undertsand why the team is punished when they are correct and the official is wrong. IMHO, the rule should change to two incorrect challenges allowed.

by Jerry :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 8:01pm

Minimizing delays is a good idea in and of itself, but the current system also discourages relatively inconsequential challenges. If a bad call in the first quarter makes it 3rd and 4 instead of 3rd and 5, it's most likely not worth the time to fix it.

by armchair journe... :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 3:59pm

nitpick, i'm sure... but a field position challenge can only be successful if the result flips between first down/not a first down, even if they do move the ball.

but to the meat of your point, you could possibly make the "extra" challenges cost a time-out (even if you win them), which would add some flexibility but still hold down the relatively inconsequential
armchair journeyman quarterback

by Jerry :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 7:43pm

As nitpicky - it could be a question of whether or not a one-yard pass is complete.

What I remember is that the first replay system involved the upstairs replay official calling for reviews, and they would spend too much time dealing with these kinds of inconsequential decisions. (Allowing the replay official the latitude to decide whether or not a review is important could be disastrous.) I haven't noticed too many games that have turned on the inability to challenge because of previously successful challenges; if that becomes a regular problem, then it should be addressed.

by Bill N (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:13pm

Rings==Greatness is circular. How do you know he's great, he has the rings. Why does he have the rings, because he's great. It is, therefore, useful only to those who are unable to perceive greatness.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:14pm

How is it the ringsters that are behind Sanchez and against Brady?

Seems to me that after the game, Sanchez had a QB rating of 127 and Brady something like 85.

From a stat perspective, Sanchez was the better player. From the ring perspective, Brady still has three and Sanchez still has zero.

Not endorsing the 'Ringz = Greatness' analysis of football, but it handles the Jets/Pats game well.

by jhoff (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:14pm

I agree with Ned Macey that wes welker not playing the first drive had a big impact on the game, but not because of the belichek coaching approach. The storyline of the game is definitely the jets defense, who were not elite all year but were definitely elite today. Picking off brady was the key to winning, the key step that allowed their pressure to actually effect the game plan the pats brought. Revis had some incredible plays, shawn ellis was a monster and one of the greatest offenses of all time had an off day on the big stage.

Later in the game tom brady started throwing the ball and missing in situations where the only issue was his timing. There were some dropped passes, but the precision machine was basically not firing on all cylinders.

The jets offense didn't play an incredible game, (i can't believe that mark sanchez posted such a high pass rating, but that shows you what an odd metric it is), but frankly it appears that the pats defense were not the team they appeared to be in the last stretch of the season. they had the jets game, crazy snow game, substitute qb, buffalo bills, and an imploded miami dolphins. Mark sanchez basically never got uncomfortable in that game.

Final diagnosis on the pats season: started out as a rebuilding year campaign, but brady and belichek were good enough to make them incredible despite mostly mediocre d. Big question: why would you ever not play to win now when you have the clock ticking on years when tom brady can play like this? And who doesn't think randy moss could have been a factor in the game.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:22pm

As to your last question, I don't think there's a chance in hell the Pats would have finished 14-2 with Moss still on the team.

by jhoff (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:54pm

perhaps not; but belichek couldn't figure out a system that would have worked randy moss in? Even though the jets beat the randy moss based offense, and their players performed better post moss, you don't think that having one of the greatest downfield threats of all time could have come in handy during that 8 minutes fourth quarter drive?

by rk (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:20pm

Is it your theory that Wes Welker's presence on a screen to Green-Ellis would somehow have made Brady's throw more accurate?

by jackgibbs :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:42pm

moss wouldn't've been a factor because he would have been shut down by revis. His performance would look just about like deion branch's, just twenty yards farther down field on the plays he decided to get off the line

by erniecohen :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:16pm

That was a rather bizarre choice for "story of the game". I would have chosen the statistic that BAL managed a grand total of 126 yards of offense, half of it in the first quarter.

by Balaji (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:41pm

I think it's worth noting that two of Baltimore's three touchdown drives started inside Pittsburgh's 30! They had one long drive the rest of the game. The story is really (a) Pittsburgh's defense was really effective when not placed in terrible starting position, and (b) the offense was terrible to start and took over in the second half (including a low-percentage catch by Brown).

by DGL :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:57pm

Or you could make it "28 yards of total offense and three turnovers for Baltimore in the second half" if you prefer.

Indeed, there seems to be a meme that Baltimore lost this game more than Pittsburgh won it, but I would submit that the Pittsburgh defense had something to do with it.

by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:18pm

I liked Orton and wondered at the time if the Bears gave up too much for Cutler, but there is no way Orton posts back to back 800+ DYAR with the Bears. Much of that is due to McDaniels' offensive acumen. With that line and Orton lacking Cutler's mobility and durability, we would probably be talking about the Dan LeFevour Experience.

The Bears probably would've taken Maclin with the 2009 pick. Nothing jumps off the board in 2010, so they probably would've traded down. Given Angelo's draft history, I'm not so sure it wouldn't have been an expensive mistake. And we did get Johnny Knox out of it.

Overall, I think we DID give up too much for Cutler, but I'm happy with his performance this year. He should get even better if Martz sticks around for several years. I think the comparisons are somewhat skewed by Orton playing in a better offensive environment.

by Anonymus (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:20pm

The problem is my brother. I think he is cursed.

If the Patriots go to SuperBowl, and only if New England does, he will get tickets to the game. Since a friend of his made the invitation, the Patriots are 0-2 in the playoffs. This year, when New England clinched HFA, he even got a new passport and renewed his visa.


by Trust Doesn't Rust (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:31pm

Cutler is a much much better QB than Orton. Maybe not 2 first rounders better in the short-term quantifiable sense, but the Bears likely have their starting quarterback for the next eight years, while Orton might not even be on the Broncos next year and seems to have hit his ceiling as journeyman starter on a bad team/backup on a good team. You can always go through hypotheticals about where the Bears would be with this or that quarterback, but at the very least Cutler means they don't have to worry about the most important position on the field for a long time. Winning a tough division and hosting the NFC championship game is the goal, you don't sit there and nitpick the net-value-added of the moves it took to get there.

by TomC :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:52pm

Winning a tough division and hosting the NFC championship game is the goal, you don't sit there and nitpick the net-value-added of the moves it took to get there.

I disagree. As a Bears fan, I'm ecstatic at where we are right now, but the fact that things ended up exactly this way doesn't mean we can't meaningfully debate whether the trade was the right move at the time, or even whether it was the right long-term decision given what we know now.

by Trust Doesn't Rust (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:29pm

They traded for Cutler hoping to have a QB of the future and become a super bowl contender. Cutler may or may not raise his game to perennial pro bowl levels, but he is at least good enough to be the QB of the team for a long time and they are a game away from the super bowl. You can't say that's not a success, especially with Orton a cut-list candidate (or trade for a 6th rounder candidate) and Denver picking at the top of the draft. Debating whether the trade was successful by some esoteric metric is missing the point.

by TomC :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:35pm

I don't think hosting one NFC championship game (in which you're an underdog) defines success that cannot be argued. What if the 1983 Bears had traded McMahon and two 1st-round draft picks (the ones they used on Covert and Wilber Marshall) for Neil Lomax? If they ended up 11-5 and hosting the NFCC in January, 1986, would you say that the trade was an unqualified success that couldn't be argued (even if the Cardinals sucked that year)?

by Kal :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 7:24pm

As a Bears fan, I'm still pretty thrilled. When was the last time a Bears QB threw for 20 TDS two years in a row? I know Orton's not nearly as bad as he was here, but the fact is that Chicago doesn't have McDaniels and isn't going to get someone like him.

I think it's likely Cutler continues to improve in decision making. Maybe not amazingly, but definitely improving. He's already playing at the level that no QB for the Bears has played in years. Think about having both consistency at QB and having even someone that is adequate. It's crazy.

With as good as the Bears are on coaching defense and special teams, all they really need to be competitive year in and out is a decent to good QB and offense. And the Bears are getting there.

by Shattenjager :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 8:04pm

Amazingly, this is the first time any Bears QB has thrown for at least 20 TDs two years in a row. In fact, Sid Luckman is the only other Bears QB to throw for at least 20 TDs twice (1943 and 1947).

Here are all of the 20 passing TD seasons in Bears history: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny/E4Nir

by Mattigus :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:43pm

Charity auction to participate in Audibles? Next year can I bid on behalf of Raiderjoe?

by Joseph :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:45pm

A couple of thoughts about the NE/NYJ game:
Rex Ryan said last week something like "Belichick is one of the best coaches all-time. I just want to be the better head coach for a day." He was--although I don't think that the loss was BB's fault. The fake punt was a horrible decision, and the cameras showed him very upset for their slow pace on the 4th Q drive that ended on the 4th & 13 drop.
Charting stats will tell the truth, but I seemed to notice a lot of coverage with very few blitzes. And Shaun Ellis' play showed that RR did choose the correct strategy. I was surprised that Brady kept looking, looking, checking his e-mail, twitter, and bank account, looked again, and ended up throwing an incompletion. Don't you have to tuck it, scramble, and slide once in a while? IMO, the only non-coverage sack the Jets got was the Drew Coleman blitz in the 1st half.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:48pm

If BB was so upset at HIS team's pace of play why didn't he send in a guy with the message of "Hurry Up!"? Or yell at the offensive coordinator? Or grab the mike and yell at his qb via the headset? Or call TO and yell at his qb? Or use his alleged mind control to spur his team to move faster?

I cannot believe with ALL of the communication means possible that there was NO means for him to tell the offense to get the lead out of its backside.

by GlennW :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:20pm

In his press conference today, Belichick said he would run that time-consuming drive the same way if he had to do it over again. So while Belichick may have appeared displeased on the sideline, that was probably just his general demeanor in a game that wasn't going to plan overall.

by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:48pm

What?!? No Mention of the rookie sensation James Starks who tore up the Eagles? Thats why I love this site...too intelligent to even bring it up. Maybe it has something to do with BLOCKING and opposing defense rather than some unknown rushing for 100+ yards. Thanks for being on top of it guys.

by DGL :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:02pm

You do realize the Packers played the Falcons this week while the Eagles were watching on their couches, no?

by armchair journe... :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:02pm

Hesitant though i am to offer defense of trolling... i think he's referring to the fact that James Starks Budding Superstar wasn't mentioned for his performance this week, after a hefty bit of praise last week. However, I thought Starks had a pretty solid game this week as well, whether or not it was mentioned that it wasn't as Exceptional as the previous week. Either way, not sure why this is important.

by rk (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:25pm

I can't believe they didn't mention Seattle's amazing upset over New Orleans or Marshawn Lynch's awesome run! Or how about this Shonn Greene kid coming out from Thomas Jones' shadow for the playoffs! Or the amazing tear that Steve Smith is on--the Bears couldn't cover him at all!

by Futurama Fan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:08pm

Patio Umbrella

by Kal :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 7:25pm

Shockingly the emails that they were writing each other while watching the games yesterday did not have a whole lot of talk about analyzing the game they watched last year.

I know, it's a travesty and you should definitely stop paying for your subscription.

by Mystyc :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:49pm

This thought occurred to me last night, and this is the only place i have to share it: Belichick benched Welker as a dig at Ryan. By making his comments part of the game itself, Belichick basically forced Jim Nantz to mention the whole foot thing on national TV. If there's anyone who missed it before, they probably Googled that one after the game.

by dmb :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:15pm

While that's a wonderfully amusing theory, Belichick has had the unpleasant experience of having dirty laundry from his private life being aired in public. It wouldn't surprise me if he really believes that their private lives should stay that way, and was therefore truly upset at Welker for his actions.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:57pm

Cutler's strengths are his arm, his size, and his toughness. Playing 8 games a year in Soldier Field plus a game in Lambeau the arm matters because of bad conditions. Being tough certainly helps when it comes to that shoddy offensive line play.

by holden (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:00pm

Perhaps it is a testament to how good the Patriots have been (in terms of getting and hold leads) and due to a relatively small sample, but for all the discussion of Brady being clutch, he has only led the Patriots back in playoff games in which the Patriots have trailed at some point in the second half twice (the tuck rule game and the Marlon McCree interception return fumble game). The Brady mythology of clutchness really comes down to that tuck rule game and two Super Bowl winning drives (against the Rams and Panthers) in tie games -- where the stakes of failure were lower (barring a turnover of course, the worst case scenario was basically overtime). Of course those should be given the credit they deserve, but it is interesting that Brady has rarely had to play from behind in the playoffs, and perhaps the McNabb-level lack of urgency in the second half are reflective of the uncommon situation in which the Patriots and Brady found themselves.

by jackgibbs :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:00pm

the patriots were down by three in SB42 when brady marched them down the field and threw the go ahead touchdown to randy moss with about 4 minutes to play. The defense failed to hold that lead through some all time miracle plays, and brady was left with about a minute to try to mount his own miracle drive. Against that defense, on that day, I don't think there's a quarterback in the world who could have done better

by holden (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:10pm

That's a great data point, and one that should not be overlooked in assessing the Patriots' and Brady's ability to come back from second half deficits.

Either way, it is a bit of a fool's game to try to look at clutchness based on a limited sample of playoff games and in light of everything else that factors into a team's performance. Most commentators are going to go with whatever narrative sticks and/or confirms their biases, regardless of whether it is actually founded in evidence/fact. Or come up with meaningless and/or arbitrary streaks/records/etc. to support that. I cannot tell you how many times this season I saw the "Brady is undefeated in his last X home starts* (* = regular season)" graphic without the announcers mentioning that he actually lost his most meaningful home start during that period (to the Ravens in last year's playoffs). And I am sure we will get more of the same next year.

by 3.14159265 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:40am

I would say with the exception of the good Moss years, Brady is a dinker and a dunker type QB who has gotten lucky a lot. Panthers kicked it out of bounds to set up Brady's game winning drive. Giants didn't. Rams seemed to forget they had Faulk on the team, and the game was still pretty close. Where Brady seems to excel is carving up a LeBeau defense.

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Thu, 01/20/2011 - 7:35pm

Jaworksi had some interesting things to say about that. Brady probably does so well against Pittsburgh because of how much time Belichick spent analyzing LeBeau's defense, which he generally fawns over.

The Pats also dedicated a game plan specifically towards stopping Faulk, which was aided by Martz' stubbornness and some disinclination by the refs towards calling pass interference. And the whole Pats filming the Rams practices thing, which the NFL pretends never happened.

by ChiJeff (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:12pm

I was at the Bear's game yesterday and as a Bears fan, I found it curious that the Seahawks never really attacked the Bears offensively until the game got out of hand. It would seem to me that if you have a 7 and 9 regular season record, you win a home playoff that most people ( I am not one of them ) believe you did not deserve and have every national media outlet calling you frauds why would you not let it all hang out? If I were Pete Carroll I would have started from the FIRST PLAY running no huddle/hurry up offense. From my 40 yard line out, I would have gone for every 4th down that was 5 yards and less. I just thought the Seahawks game plan was far too bland, far too conservative. Especially for a team that allegedly had " nothing to prove ". Even though as a Bear fan I was happy with the result I was somewhat disappointed in the lack of imagination by Pete Carroll and his coaching staff.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:02pm

I agree. Lovie Smith & company outcoached the Seahawks pretty badly.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:30pm

It would help if Carroll and Co. had actually tried though.

The decision to go for a field goal down four scores was disgusting.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:47pm

Carroll's decision-making falls under the umbrella of "coaching", doesn't it?

by ptp (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:31pm

From my 40 yard line out, I would have gone for every 4th down that was 5 yards and less.

This is probably why you aren't an NFL coach, but specifically Seattle has struggled all season 'going for it' in short yardage situations, their game plan was to get Cutler to make mistakes, and a vast majority of the problems were problems of personnel and execution, not planning. Dropped passes, dropped interceptions, poor tackling, and an offense that lost one of it's most important players in the early minutes of the first quarter.

Criticizing the game plan here is like wondering why David didn't beat Goliath in the alternate universe where his slingshot missed by a few inches.

by armchair journe... :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:07pm

if your alternate universe is anything like Carrol's game plan, David left his slingshot at home and was slo-pitching rocks underhand in Goliath's general direction.

by Rocco :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:25pm

"Also: Someone sell me on the decision by the Steelers to squib."

Would you rather give the Ravens ST a chance to score, or would you rather make Joe Flacco lead a TD drive?

by Jerry :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 11:35pm

Squibbing did work well for the Steelers in Week 17. Of course, that was in Cleveland.

by ChiJeff (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:29pm

Make that quote " nothing to lose ".

by chisox24 :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:38pm

Ok, this has been bugging me because a lot of sports writers (both here and around Chicago) have been saying the near pick by Babineaux on Cutler was a terrible decision by Jay.

I really don't think it was, at least not in the context that many writers do.

While it obviously was nearly disastrous for the Bears, I would put more of the blame on Mike Martz. Looking at the play, you have two receivers split out to the right, and both run inside slants. The inside receiver has Babineaux lined up over the top of him, and it looks like he is running press man coverage because of how he is set up, and the outside corner appears to be running the same coverage. Post-snap, Jay must make a short drop with barely any time to read coverage and hit one of the two men running the slants. Now, I'm not sure if this is exactly correct, but I would presume that if the Seahawks are running zone, Jay is supposed to hit the inside receiver at the second window (or possibly the first), and if they are running man, he throws to the trailing receiver into the now vacated area.

Unfortunately, it looks as if the Seahawks were playing a zone-man combo scheme, with the outside corner playing man and Babineaux and the linebackers/safeties playing zones inside. And because Jay reads the coverage from outside in on such a short drop, he reads man on the outside and throws to his first read. You guys know the rest. I'm not sure if this is exactly the responsibilities of each player on either side of the ball (obviously), but based on my somewhat rudimentary knowledge of the game, I would not put nearly as much blame on Cutler as the media wants to.

I think the problem boiled down to either a)Seattle got lucky and called the perfect defense or b)Seattle picked the perfect defense because of the tendencies of the bears based on package in the red zone. I would attribute that more to a failure by Mike Martz (although the lack of talent at receiver does not help).

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:04pm

The NFL Network studio crew was blaming Knox for running his slant behind Babineaux, which is certainly a problem. (And one major flaw Knox has is using his body and positioning himself properly, even though he's small.)

However, as soon as Knox made that mistake, Cutler has to avoid throwing the pass. While I don't like the playcall, either, the majority of the blame is Cutler's.

by chisox24 :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:24pm

Knox most certainly does not help Jay out on that play. I dunno, I think it is easier to say that Jay must make a quick read and not throw the slant in rhythm than it is to actually perform. Some might argue that elite quarterbacks don't make that throw, but I don't think anyone is accusing Jay of being elite at this specific point in his career. Obviously, if a Quarterback hits a defender in the numbers with a pass, he is going to share some of the blame. But I really don't think this throw is as bad of a decision as it is made out to be (although I guess we are getting into semantics about varying levels of bad at that point). I think Jay most certainly was put into a position not to succeed, especially because he cannot audible out of the play.

by J.F. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:47pm

So have the Pats won a playoff game since they were fined for stealing the Jets' defensive signals ? (I heard that they hadn't, thought I could get verification one way or another here).

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:55pm

No. 16-0 earned them a bye to the 2007 Super Bowl.

by Rocco :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:57pm

From the 2007 season onwards, the Patriots are 2-3 in the postseason. 2 of their 3 losses were against teams they beat earlier in the year where their offense was much less effective then in the regular season against those teams. One of their two postseason wins was a 21-12 win over a Chargers team they'd beaten 38-14 earlier that year. Total coincidence, I'm sure.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:59pm

Charitably assuming you're not just trolling, yes. Defeated JAX in 2007 AFC Divisional round, defeated SD in 2007 AFCCG.

by Jonadan :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:01pm

Other than the 2007 offensive rampage, 18-1 season? I know that's when the story came out, I don't remember when the fine was actually issued.

by joshuacbennett (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:54pm

Watching the NE-NJ game it seemed like a lot of the game boiled down to the Jets being consistently more successful on first and second down. DVOA will probably show that the Pats played worse than the Jets on first and second downs and that the Pats third-down performance wasn't so bad, but it looked terribly because of the yardage they faced.

I did a quick avg of the play-by-play, but it may have errors since I did it quickly:

Average yards-to-go

Second down:
NE: 8.0
NYJ: 7.2

Third down:
NE: 7.7
NYJ: 5.6

It's hard to win when your average third down is nearly eight yards long.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:55pm

To echo Mac's above statement, being selective in choosing stats while ignoring context is exactly how you end up with blanket statements like, cutler trade was terrible and he hasnt outplayed kyle orton. Given the apparent chasm between cutler's stats in denver to what hes doing now in chicago is more of an indictment to the lack of talent on Chicago's offense than any significant failure from jay cutler since then. I love Fo's stats, all of them, but they are by design, team stats. Currently, I would say the hardest thing to quantify statistically is individual performance since by in large, every major stat is influenced by the rest of your offense or defense or both and trying to strip them away to explain an individual's sole performance is too hard. You can't look at cutler's dvoa and dyar and make blanket statements.

by big_jgke :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 2:58pm

C'mon we ALL know that Rex Grossman's nickname is 'Sex Cannon'

by Loadser :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:03pm

I don't know if this has been said, but the best rings=greatness counter-argument is Dan Marino. No rings, but clearly one of the best QBs of all time.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:50pm

Imagine Dan Marino spending the first 6 years of his career, '83-'88, with the Atlanta Falcons, and then getting traded to the Cardinals, where he stays through 1993, until he gets traded again to the Parcells Pats, and thus finally gets to play on a team with talent. This is the context of Fran Tarkenton's accomplishments.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 11:04pm

RBs: Barry Sanders.

by tuluse :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 5:34am

LBs: Dick Butkus

by BaronFoobarstein :: Fri, 01/21/2011 - 12:31am

QBs: Otto Graham

"Technically correct -- the best kind of correct."

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Thu, 01/20/2011 - 7:41pm

The bump Sanders gets that Marino doesn't is that the Barry Sanders years stand out in stark contrast from the Lions performance in the non-Sanders years. The Dolphins at least, were very good before Marino and not terrible afterward, whereas 1989-1998 was like an oasis in the desert to Lions fans.

by armchair journe... :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:19pm

"Down 7-0 in the first quarter, Seattle has a 4th and 1 at the Ming Ding Xiong 40 yardline. Certainly that can't be the kicking unit coming out on to the field? You're 8-9, you shouldn't even be in the playoffs, no one's even giving you a chance, what do you have to lose? BOOM goes the preposterous punt. TMQ writes GAME OVER in his notebook. Seattle's offense, now knowing that even their own coach doesn't believe they can win the game, doesn't make it back to Chicago territory again for more than two quarters..."

Did I get the tone about right?

Unfortunately, he probably will not mention the TWO Jets punts from the Patriots 40 yard line, since he didn't get to write in the notebook...

Worst part to me--- all three punts were followed by the announcers arguing for why it was the smart decision.
armchair journeyman quarterback

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:23pm

Not bad. I am sure he'll also mention the field goal.

I thought Ryan's preposterous punts were from the 45 and 40, and then the one on 4th and 6 from the 38 as well.

All three of which ended up at the 20, and TMQ should scarcely need to mention that it took the Patriots but two snaps to advance past the point on the field where the ball would've been even if the Jets had tried and failed...

by armchair journe... :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:13pm

I must confess that I actually dozed off sometime in the third quarter and (blissfully) missed the FG. I don't regret it.

Yes I oversimplified... was referring to one around the 40, one at the 38.... roughly the same area.

by PDR Vet (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:32pm

Is it possible that the Pats have become a "finesse" team that will always struggle to win in the playoffs? They got beat up by more physical Giants, Ravens and Jets teams. Seems like Belichek has gotten too gimmicky and wants to win in a way that flys in the face of conventional wisdom. Don't get me wrong, I think he's generally right when he goes for it on 4th down, tries fake punts, etc. but Danny Woodhead as your #2 RB? Doesn't that seem a bit arrogant -- he's going to flaunt the stereotype by using of quick, short WR, white guy as one of my main RBs and prove to everyone that he can succeed doing it. He has some success but at what point does Belichek's ego become one of the main obstacles to Pats winning another Super Bowl. Brady only has so much time left...

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:29pm

Tom Brady was a much bigger part of the problem yesterday than Danny Woodhead was.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 8:48pm

Woodhead is nothing if not tough, and is the worst example of going contrarian just to go contrarian, given his actual level of play.

I'm not sure where the "finesse" idea comes from. Is it Brady's hair?

by Led :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 11:18am

Woodhead got almost twice the carries that Green-Ellis got despite averaging 1.5 YPC less. Woodhead is a versatile 3rd down back/slot receiver/runner of draw plays that is valuable in the Pats offense. He's not an every down back and shouldn't have been used like one.

by jackgibbs :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 1:16pm

the presence of alge crumpler on the field so much tells me that the patriots gameplanned around countering a lot of blitzes. Woodhead is the better receiver for sure, and may be a better blocker. Once the coaches realized the blitz would not be a major factor the personnel groupings changed and BJGE got the bulk of his carries

by Anonymus (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 3:38pm

The early exit of NO, IND, ATL and NE makes me wonder -once again- if instead of an 18-game regular season, the solution would be a "AFL Aussie Football"-like playoffs. It would add an extra playoff week (and substract one Preseason's) and more 4 teams (2 per conference would play on it).

In this system, in the first week of the playoffs, all Division champions would face each other (4 @ 1; 3 @ 2). The winners get a bye. The losers would still have a shot to be back in business, playing against the wildcard winners. The 4 wildcard teams would play an Elimination Round (8 @ 5; 6 @ 7) in order to play against the Divisional losers.

The rest would be just like is today. Although in this case the wildcard round could be ordered by regular season record only.

Taking this season as an example, it would be:

Divisional Round: KC@NE; IND@PIT
Elimination Round: JAX@BAL; SD@NYJ

Divisional Round: SEA@ATL; PHI@CHI
Elimination Round: TB@NO; NYG@GB

Interesting, isn't it?

by Half eaten oreo (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:32pm

I don't really like having half the league in the playoffs. I hate the NBAs model and hate the idea of the other leagues expanding their playoffs.

by JIPanick :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 7:09pm

Me too. If the numbers of teams getting in changes, it needs to go *down*.

by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 7:20pm

Seems like odd timing giving the likelihood of a 6 seed making the Super Bowl this season.

by Kal :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 7:31pm

Sure, and there were plenty of other teams that sat at home while the Seahawks made it in.

The problem isn't that Green Bay is coming in as a 6th seed. The problem is that Seattle made it as the 4th.

by chisox24 :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 8:29pm

And reducing the amount of playoff teams changes this how? Either way, they make it in. For my money, 6 teams per conference is better. It rewards the top teams in each conference with byes, and allows strong divisions to have multiple teams. If you reduce the amount of playoff teams, you are talking about Seattle being in over Green Bay and New Orleans, instead of being in over the Giants and the Buccaneers (in terms of teams with better records).

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 10:43pm

Get rid of divisions and conferences. Make the regular season 31 games and play round robin. All of the teams tied with the most wins round robin again, and so on. If only one team has the best record, the top two play a championship game.

Prepare for fifty week seasons!

by JIPanick :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 11:40pm

With respect to this whole tangent, I should probably clarify: I'm not advocating reducing the playoff field, I'm just less opposed to that than to expanding it. I'm sick of mediocre teams making deep playoff runs.

by Sophandros :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:07pm

"Most rivalries are really just about the fans. Division rivalries have been going on for years, they far pre-date any of the players in these games. Rivalries are about laundry. For players, this is all about business, never personal. I never get the feeling that the Eagles and Cowboys actually hate each other. The Colts and Patriots can't stop praising each other.
But this game is definitely different. You definitely get the sense these teams really don't like each other. I wonder how many other rivalries are this personal for the players themselves? I mean, the Jets and Patriots were poking each other in the press, but I doubt the game itself will get all chippy like this. Houston and Tennessee may be getting to this point, although for all I know that's just two players (Andre Johnson and Cortland Finnegan) rather than two whole teams."

Saints/Falcons is personal for the players....

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

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:26pm

"I think the real thing that did in the Pats was that eight-minute long 48-yard drive they kind of sauntered through. "


I was utterly amazed at that drive. You're down 2 scores, with 14 minutes left in the game, and you chew up 8 minutes on a single drive? On purpose? They put themselves in a position where if anything went wrong, the game was over. They should have been in the hurry up the whole 4th quarter.

All said, I think the Pats defense actually played a pretty good game. Giving up 28 points isn't so bad when the other team's average drive starts at about the 50, and your offense isn't doing anything.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:12pm

Yeah, and it got even more strange. When they had the ball with about 3 minutes left, it was obvious to me that they absolutely had to have that drive end with a score of some sort, with enough time to have the ensuing kickoff be over prior to the two minute warning. Instead they slummed their way to a field goal after the two minute warning. I don't get it.

by day tripper (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 4:38pm

That long drive was baffling. I thought it played right into the hands of the Jets.
Allow them to complete the short stuff, keep it in front of the defense, and go ahead and give them the short runs. The Pats continued to take what the defense was giving to them, and the clock kept burning.
All I kept thinking is that this is exactly what the Jets need right now..
I think it was about that time that I opened up my notebook and wrote:
game over.

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:20pm

"Allow them to complete the short stuff, keep it in front of the defense, and go ahead and give them the short runs. The Pats continued to take what the defense was giving to them, and the clock kept burning."

I don't really have a problem with taking the short stuff. The real problem was that there was no hustle, on almost every play, the ball was snapped with only a couple seconds left on the play clock.

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:32pm

When it's about reading coverages, Troy Aikman is very good. When it comes to game strategy or game theory, Aikman is horrendous. He's been a mess in the latter area the last two weeks (he had the Philly-GB game in Week 1).

I can't believe anyone likes that Mentos ad, but maybe I'm not the target audience.

by TomC :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:40pm

I agree that the Mentos ad doesn't merit anywhere near the praise heaped on it here. Fine, it's amusing to watch a tiny spider body slam a guy, but what does that have to do with candy? And what about "It's better to know what's coming"? I don't see how that applies to either the scenario in the ad ("knowing what's coming" implies "understanding that you're about to be body-slammed by a spider", not "understanding that that spider is really strong and you should let it alone") or the product (how does having *more* flavors make you better aware of what's coming? I know exactly what's coming 100% of the time with regular, mono-flavor mentos.).

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:53pm

I think the audience not knowing what was coming makes the ad fun, which is the point.

by coboney :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:51pm

Just to comment here a few things.

First - Phil Simms needs to find a fire. He's embarrassing your guys nation down south of here and really its bad. Please someone get a gag on him.

Secondly - I have to say the Jets shocked me. I gave em about 30% to win - if that at the start and after the first quarter I just saw nothing. Really that offensive drive by the jets after the INT was one of the worst executed ones in league history. I mean you get the ball at the 12 and.... ya. 2 Penalties, a stuff, a sack and then an underneath option (I might have added a penalty by mistake. I don't think so but might have just bene one.)

When I saw that I had written it off - then the kick went out.

Shows you what I know. The Jets defense played a great game against Brady after the first bit and did a tremendous job. The offense on the other hand I wasn't that amazed with. Sanchez was... Sanchez. Inconsistant, off target throws and a few nice ones. The one that bugs me is probably the LT2 that he's getting called great for. That was a pretty poor throw that LT had to coral and then run in. A good, touch pass would have made that play a lot easier.

Also on a completely different note - I think Bart Scott should be fined. I normally laugh with the jets - I find it a different pace. But Scott stepped over the line with a threat there in my opinion. Ironically that game had 2 of the more unique coaches in the NFL media wise. Rex's Bravado and Belichek's habits - from irritating them to being talkative when they stop bugging him in areas he thinks are stupid.

The Chicago and Seahawks game was rather... predictable. Seahawks were just outmatched there and I don't really like the bears that much. The curb stomping of the Falcons surprised me - I though the Pack were better but that much? We were treated to one of the all time great performances there by Rodgers in a playoff game. You aren't going to see much better then the way he casually tore the Falcons defense apart regardless of what happened around him.

As for Balt-Pits - Why was Jeff Triplette in the Playoffs? Please? Also I have to agree with the sentiment that the 15 yards on the kickoff challenge was stupid and a waste. I'm all for coaches being a bit more aggressive with challenges rather then hoarding them but there's a line there. It has to actually matter and that didn't.

by rk (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 10:46pm

Can anyone explain why the Patriots were in such a hurry to kick their field goal before the 2 minute warning? If they got the snap off at 2:01, the clock stops at 1:58. 2 minute warning occurs during the regular break between field goal and kickoff. As it happened, they snapped it after the 2 minute warning, and the clock stopped at 1:57. How could that 1 second merit the loss of accuracy inherent in rushing a kick? And of course he missed the kick that didn't count (unless he knew it wouldn't count and was aiming for the upright, which would be badass).

by biebs (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 12:16pm

I thought the same thing. I wonder if it would have been brought up if they did get the kick off in time (I know it hit the upright, but I do not remember if it went in or not).

If they got it off and he missed it, that would have been an incredible time management mistake on the Pats. There was no reason to rush the kicker there and not get set. Not only would there have been a stoppage on the kick, but there would have been a stoppage after the kickoff.

For the Pats to get value out of the 2 minute warning TO, the kick would have had to go off at 2:14 or so, or the Pats would have had to kick the ball Out of Bounds on the kickoff (since would think that the Jets would be smart enough to return a kick out of the endzone in the scrivener that the kickoff came with 2:05 left or less)

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 12:33pm

Yeah, it was as if that they didn't get a sense of extreme urgency until it was counterproductive to get extremely urgent. There would have been a huge advantage to scoring a touchdown with 2:14 left or so, in that it would have allowed the Pats to kick onsides, and even if they had not recovered, a three and out would have left them 1:40 or so to get the 60 yards or so they would have needed for a decent shot at a tieing field goal. They really lollygagged it, however, wasting a lot of time between plays, which even precluded getting a field goal attempt with fourteen or so seconds before the two minute warning. Even if they had done that, they could have kicked long and played for a 3 and out.

by Phoenix138 :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 11:26pm

I just want to mention that I never get tired of reading Ned Macey.

by Anonymous!!!11111ONEONEONE (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 11:40pm

Since it hasn't been said yet (as far as I can tell), was anyone else as annoyed as me by Phil Simms calling Nick Mangold "Logan Mankins." I guess all white offensive linemen are the same.

by Kal :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 2:46am

That really, really pissed me off.

by matt w (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 9:24am

The challenge on the kickoff doesn't seem so bad to me. In retrospect, if you assume the drive proceeds the same way (which of course you can't), if the Ravens get 15 more yards on that drive they can probably kick a field goal, which makes a big difference in a tight game.

According to the Advanced NFL stats expected points calculator, the challenge made a value of 0.84 expected points. I wonder what the expected point value of having a challenge in hand is?

by GlennW :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 11:25am

I didn't have a big problem with Tomlin's first challenge either. It was unfortunate that he had to use it so early, but 15 yards at midfield is important enough to use a challenge that you might never need later in the game (and which Tomlin ultimately didn't need, luckily). The bigger mistake was the second challenge where either Tomlin received bad information or more likely he just felt the play result was too damaging to pass on. But the only way the Steelers were going to win that challenge was the temporary onset of blindness or insanity to Jeff Triplette, which I guess is possible but unlikely. Watching the game I was saying not to bother; the challenge was a lost cause.

by Goodness (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 10:20am

What an unpleasant bunch of whining to read. I love analysis as much as the next guy, but there's so much snark and smarter-than-thou pooh-poohing in here that it literally isn't pleasant to read. This was a great weekend of football, and not one of you seemed to enjoy any of it. The Baltimore-Pittsburgh comments are astounding, in that regard.

by Jon Silverberg (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 11:00pm

"not one of you seemed to enjoy any of it..." what a nonsensical overstatement! I defy you to point to one thing in my posts or those of many, many other posters above that indicates that almost all of us didn't enjoy the hell out of this weekend...yes, some fans of the teams whose seasons are now over are in rehab...what's unique or surprising about this site in that regard?

by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 11:06pm

I think he meant the guys who participated in Audibles, but yes overstatement regardless.