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07 Feb 2011

Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLV

compiled by Bill Barnwell

Each weekend, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching.

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

Please also note that we do not write the e-mails specifically to produce this column, so we might not discuss every aspect of the game to the level we do in our other articles.

First Half

Mike Tanier: Wacky Steelers front on the incomplete pass to Nelson. No defenders at all in interior gaps, everybody rushing the offensive left.

Bill Barnwell: Steelers have been keeping McFadden in soft coverage on most plays. They put him up on the line on third down and Nelson just burned him downfield, no jam, no nothin'. Throw was off by a half-yard or it would have been a big play.

Liked the draws by the Steelers on consecutive plays. Can't block the interior linemen? No problem! Just let them go four yards into the backfield and run by them.

Surprised the Packers used Starks as opposed to Kuhn (who's been 49-of-50 or so, don't check my math, with a yard to go) on third-and-1 there.

Aaron Schatz: I thought no Quinn Johnson would mean no full houses, but Tim Crabtree apparently can handle that job.

The deal where they leave Donald Driver open in the slot with Woodley sort of covering him is going to bite them sometime when Woodley blitzes.

Mike Tanier: Sorry, but sight of Cameron Diaz feeding A-Rod has scarred me for remaining of quarter. Barely saw that touchdown.

David Gardner: Joe Buck just said sarcastically that Alex Rodriguez must have "loved" that shot of him being fed popcorn.

I don't know about you guys, but I could think of less flattering videos than being fed popcorn in a leather chair at the Super Bowl ... by Cameron Diaz.

Tom Gower: I thought the Packers would throw the ball to Nelson because he'd be the one in the slot exploiting a vulnerable middle, but instead they've been finding him in single coverage. They nearly had a touchdown the first drive, and did get one the second drive.

I think they're trying to use motion to guard against the slot blitz to the stacked side.

Bill Barnwell: Great ID by Rodgers of the one-on-one matchup of Nelson-Gay there. Great throw, too. Gay takes a fair amount of flak, but that's not terrible coverage in that situation, just a bad matchup. I think the Packers throw deep knowing they'll go for it on fourth-and-1.

Ben Muth: A-Rod being fed popcorn will probably be funnier than any commercial.

Seeing Ashton Kutcher and George Bush in the same camera shot was strange.

Mike Tanier: Geez, the Packers are getting push up the middle. Not just there but on third-and-1 earlier.

Ben Roethlisberger gets picked off.

Ben Muth: Did Mike Wallace not see the ball in the air? He didn't try to come back for it all.

Bill Barnwell: I don't think he even thought to turn around that early in the route.

Aaron Schatz: Nick Collins really broke Mendenhall's ankles on that interception return. It looked like the guy who took down Roethlisberger to force the badly thrown pass could have maybe grazed Roethlisberger's face on the way to hitting his shoulder, but I think that's a good no call.

David Gardner: I know it's in the rules, but I just hate the fact that a player gets penalized for such a flimsy celebration.

Vince Verhei: Chris Kemoeatu gives up the pressure that caused the pick six, then commits a blatant block in the back. Not the lineman I expected to hurt the Steelers today.

Ben Muth: He's having a bad first quarter.

Tom Gower: That block-in-the-back penalty on Kemoeatu is one of the things linemen have to worry about on screens. Within the box they're protected, since block-in-the-back isn't a penalty there, but once you're outside that area it is. That's something you have to keep in mind.

Apparently Pepsi Max is most frequently used for violent attacks.

Mike Tanier: Packers just used that same front the Steelers used, with no inside gap defenders. The Steelers converted third-and-12.

Vince Verhei: Green Bay using shotgun on the first play of every drive so far, and on all three plays of that third drive. I think that's the smart strategy to use, even though they just went three-and-out.

Doug Farrar: After losing a touchdown to a play fake, Steelers dialing up some nice intermediate coverage in the second quarter. Until the Packers mix in the run consistently again, I suspect it will stay that way.

Tom Gower: The Steelers have been moving Ike Taylor around, and I think the two passes at the start of the drive at 14-3 were the first ones where he was in coverage. They also may have been the first time he was lined up outside to the right, or at least the first time I really noticed him there.

Bill Barnwell: Volkswagen commercial wins. Bummer that they followed it by getting the FOX on NFL newspaper out.

Mike Tanier: I didn't get the Coke ad. Shouldn't the soda refresh the dragon and make him good, instead of taking away his powers and making him crazy?

Doug Farrar: Hmmm. The strategy to use Matthews to spy Roethlisberger is really, really iffy. Take your best pass rusher and your best linebacker in space and put him on a string? Weird. I get mirroring Roethlisberger, but maybe you put Zombo on that...

Aaron Schatz: Steelers also had Heath Miller open being covered by A.J. Hawk on that third-down conversion to Randle El. As pointed out here by Mr. Barnwell, Hawk is NOT good in coverage, and it only playing because the Packers have too many injured linebackers. Steelers should look for Miller on that in the future.

Bill Barnwell: They used Hawk as the spy on that second interception by Roethlisberger, think that's a better use of their personnel's relative athletic ability and skills.

Mike Tanier: And Matthews stunted.

Ben Muth: Did they bring in the old Veterans Stadium turf for this game? Every time someone falls down, they come up limping.

Mike Tanier: I don't see any seams the size of highway-side culverts, so it is not the Vet turf.

Bill Barnwell: Total repeat of the Jennings touchdown from the game last year on that third touchdown. Same formation, same seam route. I'm not sure how the Steelers are planning to defend that route -- it seems like they want their safeties to read it and make plays, but it's going to be hard to do that with Rodgers' ability to get throws off so quickly.

Tom Gower: I don't understand why teams tend to be so reluctant to use timeouts to fix defensive problems, so I very much approve of Green Bay's timeout to give Charles Woodson more time to recover. Preventing Pittsburgh from scoring before the half is more important than anything else right now, and an injured Woodson blowing a score is your worst-case scenario. He's since joined Shields in the locker room, but I still like the move.

Doug Farrar: Well, that didn’t work. Jarrett Bush, who couldn’t defend Mike Wallace on a deep sideline route in 2009, fails to defend Hines Ward in the end zone.

Mike Tanier: Kemoeatu almost held on that Ward touchdown. Really close.

Aaron Schatz: The Steelers need to move a cornerback in the middle of the field when the Packers put Jennings in the slot. Maybe they still play Cover-3, but they need the guy covering in the middle to be a cornerback.


Vince Verhei: So what was the final count on Packers who went to the locker room? Four? Five?

Also, as the FOX crew discusses the first half leading into a performance by the Black Eyed Peas, the background music in the building is ... the Black Eyed Peas.

Will Carroll: Two shoulder separations? Hope the Packers packed the Toradol.

Bill Barnwell: I hope Slash got paid well for this halftime show. (I know he did.)

How'd they get the entire Polyphonic Spree to come into the crowd for this set?

Vince Verhei: A six-year-old girl reviews Fergie's singing style: "She seems stressed out."

Second Half

Vince Verhei: Rodgers throws what should have been a touchdown on a third-down sluggo route, but James Jones drops the ball.

Tom Gower: Poor call of a face mask on that punt return -- I can see why they called it, but it simply wasn't the case. James Jones should've had a touchdown the previous play, but of course he dropped it, because he's James Jones.

Mike Tanier: I get the impression that James Jones is a ninny.

Bill Barnwell: Nice twist by the Steelers there to bring James Harrison inside there. Ended up getting there on sheer churn, spinning ad nauseum until Rodgers ran into him.

Ben Muth: The Packers second-half adjustment is apparently to stop catching the ball. Gonna have to see how that plays out...

Aaron Schatz: It looks like Bryant McFadden has moved up a little bit. He's still playing farther off than Taylor, but I think he's moved up so he's about four yards away instead of six or seven. The Packers aren't throwing those quick passes I expected, and that might be part of the reason.

Tom Gower: The Steelers runs on the TD drive to make it 21-17 show why I find writing about running plays boring. Clay Matthews has outside contain and gets blocked out, and Mendenhall gets outside for a big gain. Nick Collins gets caught too far inside, and Moore breaks it outside for a big gain. Then on the TD, they ran what looked like just Power and the Packers got overpowered at the point of attack. Effective, but not very interesting (at least to me).

Bill Barnwell: Steelers now miss a touchdown when Ben Roethlisberger overthrows Mike Wallace. They had Wallace alone versus Peprah alone after play-action. Packers skated through it on sheer luck. Second time in three weeks he's missed on that corner route, having failed to hit it against Eric Smith in the AFC Championship Game.

Aaron Schatz: Is this starting to remind anyone else of XLIII a couple years ago? One team takes big lead, other team comes back in second half? I guess the Packers hope it follows the same storyline.

I would like to congratulate the Packers medical staff for giving their injured players casts and stuff, so we don't think Donald Driver and Charles Woodson are just wusses.

Tom Gower: Anthony Madison got away with one on Swain on a third down. It looked like initial contact began outside the 5-yard safe zone, and definitely continued until after the ball was in the air. Then again, we haven't had a secondary penalty this game, so why start now. (No, I don't know if there have been holds and contact that have gone uncalled, but from Fox's broadcast work, who would know.)

With Shields and Woodson out, I'm not sure I would have Tramon Williams back there catching punts, even if he's not going to do something stupid and smack somebody in the head.

Vince Verhei: Now Mike Wallace drops a third-down conversion. Not a good day for receivers on either team.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, I think that was more of a bad overthrow than a dropped pass. It barely touched his fingers.

I'm going to vote "catch" on the challenged Brett Swain pass.

Tom Gower: My initial thought was catch and down, but on second look it's a fumble and I think Jennings ended up with possession. That said, I still expect them to not find enough evidence to overturn the call on the field.

Bill Barnwell: Also think it's a fumble.

Aaron Schatz: You have to figure that if Pittsburgh had recovered that ball, they would have challenged the play too.

Bill Barnwell: So who has the momentum now, as we go into the fourth quarter? Buck told me it was the Steelers a few minutes ago, but I'm not totally sure.

And almost literally as I send that, the Packers fumble. Aikman notes that the Packers needed to change the momentum. If the Steelers actually had momentum, wouldn't they be immune to fumbling?

Ben Muth: Not a fan of the play design on the fumble. I think it's asking a lot to have your center snap the ball, then pull and kick out a defensive end.

Great job by the Packers offensive line to pick the blitz up on the third down pass to Nelson.

Bill Barnwell: And I think James Farrior literally saw the game pass him by on that Nelson run after the catch.

Tom Gower: How do you think Ryan Clark felt? With McFadden blitzing, he has Nelson in man coverage. Playing outside tech, so Rodgers turns it inside, and while Clark's chasing after him trying to make the play Greg Jennings takes him out.

Aaron Schatz: Pretty nice drive, given that Rodgers looked fairly flustered by the Pittsburgh defensive scheme much of the time.

Ben Muth: What did Flozell Adams do to Joe Buck? That clearly was a hold on Foster. The refs called it on Foster, and the replay showed it wasn't hold on Adams. If Flozell Adams had Phil Simms for a dad, Mr. Buck would be in trouble.

Aaron Schatz: I'll assume that wasn't Buck, that's on his spotter.

Vince Verhei: Why is Pittsburgh using Wallace to dink and dunk? It's all little slants and screen passes for him. Last time he went deep he was wide open.

And then Wallace catches a fly route for a touchdown. Smartest I've been all year.

Bill Barnwell: That's an amazing job by Wallace at the line of scrimmage on that touchdown. One step and he creates the separation for the entire play.

Ben Muth: Read Option for the two point conversion? I love it.

Aaron Schatz: Great, great play fake to Mendenhall to start off that option play on the two point conversion. Clever play call, too.

I know it looked like Matthews may have been held by Flozell Adams on the touchdown pass, but I think that Matthews just slips on the grass. Adams doesn't take him down.

Vince Verhei: I think the House parody of the Joe Greene ad is my new favorite.

Tom Gower: I think the House parody is only of interest to fans of House. As somebody who saw most of 2 episodes and added the show to his "never watch this again" list, it annoyed me.

Rodgers missed Quarless, I believe, the once, but otherwise he's done a great job of zipping in these throws over the middle, with the big first down to Jennings with just over 5 to play only the latest example.

Vince Verhei: That third-down pass to Jennings was pretty amazing. Arm strength, accuracy, and timing on display there.

Postgame comments

Mike Tanier: Wow, that ended suddenly.

Vince Verhei: Yeah, Pittsburgh's two-minute drill was both slow and and sloppy. Really, an exciting game, but not very well played. Lots of drops, and open receivers missed, and penalties.

Mike Tanier: Mike Wallace is still wondering what route to run.

The sloppy two-minute drill starts with South Jersey's Isaac Redman wasting a stoppage before the two-minute warning fighting for yards while Fox loses 15 yards with a personal foul.

Bill Barnwell: I don't see a penalty on Williams on that last meaningful play. I think that's just perfect coverage, makes a play on the ball as Wallace goes for it.

Aaron Schatz: Yep, I didn't see it either, but I certainly understand why Wallace would complain. I mean, that's the season there.

Tom Gower: Agreed with Mr. Barnwell: no reason to call a penalty on Williams there, who was making a play on the ball.

Aaron Schatz: That was lots of fun. Two very good teams. Didn't feel like a spectacular, just a good, close game. The Packers feel more like the 2005 Steelers or 1988 49ers, not like the other wild card teams that made the Super Bowl. This wasn't a 10-6 team that got into the last slot in the playoffs. This was a very good team that had bad luck in close losses, but was one of the top three or four teams in the league for the entire season. Despite all the injuries. Congratulations, Packers fans.

Tom Gower: Congratulations to the Packers. They didn't play a perfect game, but I thought they were the better team tonight and deserved to win. The QB MVP is a popular default choice, but I thought Rodgers clearly deserved it. He had some shaky moments, and the Packers looked discombobulated on a couple snaps, but he did some phenomenal work.

Aaron Schatz: Also, let it be said: The Packers victory does not teach us that injuries don't matter if you play hard enough. It teaches us that smart teams build great depth. Bishop, Peprah, Zombo, Kuhn and Starks... the Packers had depth.

And it helps to have an awesome quarterback.

Bill Barnwell: Yeah. I think Rodgers is a few drops away from an incredible day against one of the league's top pass defenses, in the biggest game of his life. On the other hand, Roethlisberger missed Wallace at least twice, once on a throw that would have been a touchdown, and turned the ball over twice. Can we get over this "Roethlisberger is clutch in the big games!" stuff? I saw media folks actually repeating it during this game on Twitter. What nonsense.

Mike Kurtz: In Roethlisberger's defense, he didn't play a particularly great game, but the first interception was off a hit in motion and the second had the ball just taken from him.

Rodgers definitely played a better game, but it wasn't a stark contrast.

Bill Barnwell: Making a decision to throw the ball with a guy in your face is within your control. Roethlisberger's usually great at toeing that line and getting good throws off ... that wasn't one of them. Rodgers played better than his stats. Roethlisberger played worse than his.

Mike Tanier: The interception return touchdown was a bad pass. The two-minute drill was poorly run. The two-minute drill before halftime was well run. Rodgers played far better, and Roethlisberger certainly didn't have an outstanding game, nor a horrendous one.

You know, I used to have a quick beer after the Super Bowl, then prepare to focus on the New Jersey standardized tests for five weeks and get to know my family again. What am I supposed to do with the next few weeks?

Rob Weintraub: Yes, Roethlisberger played only average tonight, and yes, he gets a little too much love for being "clutch," but all I know is, me and my group of Bengals fans were positive he would lead the Steelers to the winning score there. Not many other QBs invoke the sort of terror in a big spot he does. That can't all be media-created mythology.

The thing that was most impressive about Rodgers was his ability to hit big time throws immediately after some crushing drops, or poorly protected pass plays. The strike to Jennings will get all the pub, and it was awesome, but the throw to Nelson for the big gainer right after he dropped one, and a false start making it 3rd and 10, was for my money the play of the game. Rodgers earned the Camaro right there. I had $10 on orange Gatorade being the dumping drink of choice, so I'm fired up. What other color would a Syracuse man bet on?

Congrats to the Pack and their fans.

Ben Muth: Good game. The team with the best quarterback won.

(And now, a word from our own resident Packers fan and Wisconsin resident, tech guy Elias Holman.)

Elias Holman: I have been out on the town here in Milwaukee enjoying the Packers victory and I would have to say the mood is mostly one of disbelief. I know for me personally it has not really yet sunk in that the Packers managed to pull this off. At the same time, people are talking dynasty, with the number of first-string players on IR, and the overall youth of the team. I didn't comment during the game as I was too freaked out, but I think the sentiment has been pretty well covered here. I thought the coverage of the game was interesting because of the lack of really juicy storylines (other than the Roethelisberger saga, which has been covered to death), so there was a lot of talk about momentum and other non-specifics to try to keep things interesting. Both teams have well-run franchises and have been competitive for all of recent memory, and were very evenly matched, so there were fewer angles than usual. The reality was, the Packers were lucky to jump out to such a big lead, and were able to put up just enough points to win. This game could have very easily gone the other way. The best part though is finally being able to exorcise the ghost of Brett Favre. I'm certain that this will not silence the media hype surrounding his career, but it does silence those naysayers who believed that we still should have held onto Favre as our only chance at glory.

Super Bowl XLV DVOA Ratings

DVOA (with opponent adjustments)
GB 43% 40% -7% -4%
PIT 2% 14% 13% 1%
VOAf (no opponent adjustments)
GB 9% 18% 6% -4%
PIT -23% 2% 26% 1%

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 07 Feb 2011

323 comments, Last at 15 Feb 2011, 6:56pm by BaronFoobarstein


by armchair journe... :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:00am

of course you know this means farve has to unretire again, now.
armchair journeyman quarterback

by andrew :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:22am

He could go have fun in the UFL...

by Mike W :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:03am

First off, wow, Enrico Palazzo has lost a lot of weight.

by Kal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:06am

That can't all be media-created mythology.

Why on earth can't it be? That's the same sort of thought that says that Manning isn't clutch or that Brady 'just wins games' or whatever. Almost all of that is complete fabrication as a storyline without empirical evidence or it's happily ignoring some evidence in favor of others.

It's nice to see DVOA confirm what my view of this game was - which was that Green Bay was a hugely superior team this day and should have blown Pitt out, but did not due to some inopportune drops, some bad injury luck and some atrocious penalties (either phantom ones like the face mask or real ones like the Williams unsportsmanlike that caused a 70-yard punt). It reminded me a lot of the first GB-Chi game, where Chicago was only in the game because GB kept destroying themselves.

by Phil :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:32am

Well, here's some empirical evidence: Most of Roethlisberger's career.

And the Packers hurt themselves, but the Steelers didn't? C'mon. The Packers deserved to win, but I never felt like this game would ever be a blowout, even when it was 21-3. When the Steelers lose, it's usually close. It was again.

by Kal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:13pm

If you say so, Phil. Stating 'most of his career' when he hasn't had that many 4th quarter comebacks, hasn't led that many TD drives with 2 minutes left that weren't blown coverage...I mean, my 'facts' are as good as yours, no? Since we're just stating things.

This felt a lot like the Steelers-Pats game to me. Early lead by the Packers and if the Packers don't lose half their secondary, it stays that way. The Steelers D didn't look like it could consistently stop the GB O and Ben looked inconsistent and suffering a bit from the pressure. And much like that game, DVOA agrees - the Steelers were definitely the worse team of the two by a large margin.

The Packers hurt themselves by dropping balls and making really idiotic penalties that were unforced. None of those things were remotely caused by the Steelers. The Steelers hurt themselves, if you like, by making mistakes that were primarily caused by Packers plays. All three turnovers were like this. There is a difference between the two.

by Mystyc :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:22pm

I don't have the numbers at my fingertips, but I've certainly seen "Roethlisberger has X 4th quarter comebacks" touted during many games, and even overblown television coverage doesn't do that when you only have five. I want to say it's 15 or 16? Although that incredibly subjective "that weren't blown coverage" qualifier is a nice way to (presumably) discount some of those numbers that you feel like ignoring.

And Ben "suffered from the pressure" but all of Green Bay's mistakes were unforced? Because Pittsburgh certainly wasn't putting any pressure back on them, nosiree.

by Kal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:34pm

When I say 'weren't blown coverage' - how many of Ben's big 4th quarter miracles came on a 40-yard pass to a streaking receiver? I'm not saying he's bad, but there is a difference between being able to drive down the field methodically and run a killer 2-minute offense and drive down the field and throw a couple bombs. That's not the case in the superbowl two years ago, but it certainly was the case on how they won against GB in 2009. Both are counted as comebacks though.

And again, I'm happy to count numbers. If someone actually HAS them. That's the thing - I said that it could easily be a media-fueled story that Ben has all these comebacks. So far everyone's refuted with 'nuh-uh'. There haven't been any numbers or any data returned. When someone can actually point to the comebacks, I'll be happy to say that it's not media fueled. But looking at that 2-minute drill in the 4th quarter, where they wasted 30 seconds on a 5-yard in play and he spent time reciting them various psalms while they got set - I'm going to say it doesn't happen as much as the media makes it out to be. If I'm wrong, great! Just want some numbers on it.

Not all of GB's mistakes were unforced, but yes, Jones dropping a perfect pass with no one around him to put pressure on him was unforced. All the droppped balls save that crossing route that was going to get his receiver killed were essentially unforced errors by Pitt. The Tramon Williams penalty was 'forced' in teh sense that the Pitt guy goaded him, but it wasn't a mistake in the same way Ben throwing an int into double coverage was. Or on the first interception, throwing when he has a guy slamming into him. That was a mistake that was literally forced by the pressure he was under, as he couldn't follow through on the throwing motion. Are you telling me that that is somehow equivalent to Jones dropping a pass when he's open and no one's touching him? Please.

by Kal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:25pm

Awesome. I'll start checking those out. The 4th quarter comeback stats are notoriously not useful (look it up for Favre, for instance) because of how they're measured. Not saying that won't be the case here, but I'd advise under taking it directly.

Still, good start. Thanks!

by BigCheese :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 6:10pm

These 4th-quarter comebacks are useful insofar as they meassure games where he was down in the fourth quarter and the offense got the winning points. So, unlike Elway's fabricated "record" numbers, these ONLY meassure acutal comebacks (being tied in the fourth and then winning are counted as game-winning drives. "Coming back" to tie, are thankfully not counted as anything... unlike in Denver).

What's really missing are the failed comebacks though. I want to know the percentage of comebacks he has.

- Alvaro

by Jerry :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 7:56pm

Read Scott's pieces that are linked to at the top of the p-f-r page - he's working hard at getting it right.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:27pm

As to 'media fueled concept of Ben as a big-game QB';

Ben has started 13 postseason games, the Steelers have scored 20 or more points in each.

Peyton's teams have scored 19 or more points 9 times in 19 postseason games.

If you are asking for real numbers.

by Kal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:06pm

Because I hear that the running game of the Steelers is exactly the same as the running game of the Colts, and I also hear that opponents don't matter.

I also hear that defenses have occasionally scored points.

Seriously, why do you bother coming to this site to use those kinds of lazy stats?

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:28pm

By FO stats, running games have been fairly close over the last 7 years, though on the whole the Colts have had better running games.

In terms of 'defenses faced', Steelers have faced top 3 D's 6 times over the 13 games, and top 7 Ds 9 times in 13 games. But I'm sure all 19 of Peyton's games were against #1 Ds (including 4 straight games against #1 Ds in the 2006 run).

Honestly, usually people go through a stage of attempting legitimate debate before they get to the "throw crap at the wall and hope something sticks" stage. You don't waste time.

by Kal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:31pm

The Colts have had a better rushing offense than the Steelers? Really? Come on.

Similarly, the Colts have faced worse defenses than the Steelers have? Seriously? Again, come on. You don't even know - you just know how good the Steelers defenses have faced.

You said it yourself - in games Ben started. It doesn't mean he's responsible for the points. It doesn't mean that even the offense was responsible. It doesn't mean much of anything. And that was my point. You just took some random stat and used it. It's about as meaningful as stating that Ben's 10-3 as a starter in the playoffs.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:42pm

While you're off in real number land, go have a look at the drive stats and field position numbers for those two guys.

by Temo :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:39pm

PFR has him at 19 4th quarter comebacks and 25 game winning drives. Which is a pretty good amount.


by Kal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:28pm

Okay, let's go with these.

1. - week 4 vs Cinci. His '4th quarter comeback' was having a drive 6 minutes into Q4 and ending with a 1-yard Bettis run. It was a great drive, but it was a 13 play, 90 yard 6-minute drive where Ben passed for 23 yards.
2. Week 6 vs Dallas. Started at the 24 of Dallas. He did at least account for 17 of the 24 yards.
3. week 13 vs Jax. This was a traditional one - 2 minute drill, get to FG range and get the FG. Started at the Pitt 25, went 50 yards and was almost all passing.
4. Week 14 vs NYJ. The '4QC' here was again a drive that started in the third quarter and took a while. Ben accounted for about 40 of the drive's 80 yards. The last 5 plays were either runs or (no kidding) a Bettis pass. They then drove in for a second TD based on a Ben pass, so it's not really a big comeback win either - though that drive at least didn't have Bettis throwing the ball (he ran it in instead, though to be fair it was set up by a 50 yard bomb)
5. Week 15 NYG. The drive that matters starts at 8:15 - and it was almost all Ben. Four straight passes, and got into range with a 40-yard pass to ARE. Then three straight runs. It's not quite a 2-minute drill but it's definitely a comeback drive, and Ben looks like he did quite good here (though again, no real sustained drive - a big bomb was key)
6. NYJ in the playoffs. The 4th quarter comeback started 3 minutes into the 4th quarter. Ben threw for 20 of the 66 yard drive but he also ran for 20. It was mostly running. That tied the game; the winner was in OT, where he drove down the field starting at the Pitt 13. He only threw for 31 yards; it was a lot of 1st down rushing and ball control.

Whew - that was 2004. So in 2004, there's definitely one that was a great comeback no matter how you slice it. A couple others were predicated by bombs. And only one was a true 2 minute drill.

That's it for 2004. I'll do 2005 in a separate comment.

by Kal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:48pm


Week 5 vs SD. This is another good game ender. Starts at the 38, Ben passes a few times to get into range and converts a couple good 3rd downs. It's not quite a 2-minute drill but it was the last drive of the game with less than 5 min. This is about as good as it gets as far as leading a comeback drive.

Week 7 vs Bal- another good comeback. Down 19-17, 3:15 left to play, at the Pitt 21. Two big passes of 37 yards sets up a couple runs and then a decent length FG. Only complaint to be made is that it didn't eat the whole clock; they left 1:36 left.


Week 10 vs NO: The game was tied 24-24 at the end of the third, so it's not really a comeback. In fact the Steelers only were losing for a small part of the third quarter. But anyway - the Steelers had two 4th q drives that scored TDs. First started in the third quarter and was mostly a 72-yard Parker run; all Ben did on that drive was get sacked for 8 yards. Second was a 76-yard parker run. Ben threw one incomplete pass.
Week 11 vs Cle: this was a much better 'comeback' - they were down 10 in the 4th Q with 9 minutes left. First drive was a beauty - 17 plays, 79 yards, and about 50 was on Ben. Second drive was with 3 minutes to go starting at the Pitt 23 and was about 60 yards of Ben throwing, mostly 10-15 yards. No bombs, no runs, just him. Even left 32 seconds left.
Week 17 vs Cin: dunno how to rate this one. It was a comeback, and a win in OT. The comeback part had Ben throwing for big yards late in the game to get them within FG range to tie it - 55 yards on two passing plays. The win came on a 67-yard bomb.

by Kal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:14pm

week 9 vs Cle. Another good comeback - 11 minutes left, down 3, starts at the Pitt 22. Ben threw for most of the yardage and ran it in from 30 yards out. Most of the passes were 10 yards or abouts.
Week 12 vs Mia - the classic '3-0' game. The 4th quarter drive started at the Miami 42. Most of the yards gained were on passes, so I guess you can attribute that to Ben - but this was just an ugly game with a Miami team that seemed to want to lose as bad as it could, and the field position was set up by a defensive stop deep in Miami territory followed by a shortish punt.

week 4 vs Bal: I don't get how this counts at all, actually. The Steelers scored a FG in the 4th quarter when they were already ahead. I guess it was set up by a 50-yard bomb to Ward, but that was with 14 minutes left in the 4th when they were already ahead. The OT was a 30-yard drive to kick a FG. I guess you can count that one?
week 5 vs Jax: 6 minutes left in the 4th down 1. Biggest play was a 27 yard run, but Ben did plenty of passing including the TD. So another good one.
week 11 vs SD: 6 minutes, down 2 - and drives for a game-winning FG and kills the clock. Pretty nice. Most of the drive was by ben - about 60 yards, most of it on short, clock-killing passing. A really nice job by Ben here.
week 14 vs DAL: this is an odd one - is the entire 4th quarter okay here? Because Pitt scored three times in the 4th when they were down 10 to go up by 7. Though I don't see how this goes on Ben; the game winning points were on an interception return for a TD. I guess the TD drive to tie it was good, and that was all Ben - all the runs were by him and the passes were pretty nice. But it seems weird to count this when he didn't end up scoring the final points.
week 15 vs BAL: down 3, 3:30 left, and a long drive (92 yards) that scores a TD. This is a good one. (most of 2008 was pretty good for him, including the superbowl). Almost all passing, mostly midrange throws (15-20 yards each). Took off almost the entire clock, too. If I were saying how great Ben was, this would be one of the reasons for it.
Superbowl XLIII: down 3, 2:30 left, 78 yards to go. Another great performance by Ben - all the yards were his, though a lot of this was setup by a 40-yard bomb. Still, was a good drive even before that with good scrambling, no negative plays by him and good medium passes.

by matt w (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 11:11am

This doesn't really change your point, but the 40-yard pass in the GW drive for Super Bowl XLIII wasn't a bomb -- it was a catch-and-run after Roethliseberger hit Holmes on the sideline. (really bad video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbTnjg_yOEM)

I think Barnwell at the time said that part of clutchiness was taking what you're given -- going for the play on the sideline rather than trying to force the bomb. In this case it paid off even better than could've been expected (but was still a nice throw).

by Kal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:30pm

Week 1 vs TEN: a FG drive to tie it, then another FG to win it in OT. The FG drive took off a ton of time - it started with 11 minutes to go and ended with just under 3. As you'd expect from that kind of drive, most of it was short passes to Miller and runs by Moore. The OT was almost all Ben though, and it was a nice long drive with nothing but passes. TEN didn't get to touch the ball.
week 15 vs GB: a great game, and a good comeback by the Steelers - though this was a blown coverage as much as anything. Started at the Pitt 14 with 2 minutes to go. The crazy thing here was that there were three packers penalties. But this was otherwise a great comeback by the Steelers and Ben, where it was all medium passes.
Week 16 vs BAL: Pitt never trailed in this game. The 'winning drive' came with 9 minutes to go, started at the Pitt 36, and was about half run, half pass.

week 7 vs Miami: famous game where Ben fumbled the ball but there was no replay overturn due to a lack of seeing who recovered it at that time. Guh. I had forgotten that lameness.The gamewinner here game with 5 minutes to go starting at the MIA 48 and ended with that aforementioned fumble that wasn't. In a just world this wouldn't count for Ben's comebacks. Most of hte yardage on the drive was to Moore via runs and short passes turned into 30 yard-gains.
week 12 vs BUF: another one that puzzles me in the 4th quarter, as the winning drive just added points when they were ahead. The winning drive in OT was almost all running plays; Ben made one completion for 17 yards out of 60.
week 13 vs BAL: well, make no mistake - Ben knows how to rip the heart out of the Ravens. Two drives in the 4th to come back being down 7 and win by 3. The first drive actually starts with 7 min in the 3rd and takes up 9 minutes and 80 yards. The second 'drive' was a 9-yard drive after a fumble, so I'm not sure how clutch that shows Ben to be.

playoffs vs BAL: this was one where I'd give the comeback to Ben, but it didn't happen in the 4th - it happened in the 3rd. They were never down in the 4th quarter.

by Jericho (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 5:57pm

If you're measuring 4th quarter comebacks and Roethlisburger, he has two factors weighing strongly in his favor:

1) It's easier to score at the end of games. Blame it on prevent defense, blame it on tired players, blame it on the fact a team has to pull out all the stops including going for it on fourth down (something teams probably SHOULD be doing more often). But it happens a lot, even with crappier QBs.


2) Pittsburgh has an excellent defense, meaning they are often not blown out.

Combine the two and you often have a chance for a 4th quarter comeback with Pittsburgh. Moreso because Big Ben is good. Not great, IMO. Brady, Manning, Bress, Rodgers - these are great QBs. Ben may yet get there. But good is enough to have a fair amoutn of success.

Still, for a guy that's supposedly a "big game" guy, how is it that he has NOT won a Suepr Bowl MVP? The QB frequently wins and yet Pittsburgh's won twice w/o any wins from Big Ben. That's not exactly a ringing endoresement for awesome play on large stages.

by Kal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:18pm

So is it all media-generated? No. Ben has some legitimately great comebacks, particularly in the last couple of years.

Is it 25 comebacks and game-winning drives? Kinda. A lot of those drives weren't on him. Many others were with really good field position. Many were when the game was not actually being lost, ever, by the Steelers.

What's interesting to me is how many of those drives were these huge, long spanning drives and not the 4-minutes or less time to score drives that many associate with a comeback drive. That's likely true of most QBs, but it certainly puts the lie to Ben that he does that sort of thing with regularity. GB was totally right to score the FG, by the way - the Steelers have been far better at doing FG drives quickly than TD drives.

by Spielman :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 9:01pm

Start dissecting any quarterback's comebacks and game winning drives, and you'll find all sorts of reasons to discount the accomplishment.

by Kal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 9:24pm

Yes, well, that's sort of the point if the accomplishment is largely media-generated and doesn't actually have statistical or otherwise useful value.

Many of the drives Ben led that I went through were really good, edge of your seat comeback drives. And others...weren't. I'm sure that's the case for Manning, Brady, and the like. But it's illustrative that that stat - even the better one used by PFR - is still inaccurate. It's still misleading.

I'd personally rather laud the real, honest to goodness accomplishments that QBs do make than pad the ones they make with filler like 24-yard drives and 2 drives that had 70+ yard runs in them. That's both more informative and more interesting to me. If you'd rather say that it's more useful to know that Ben led a bunch of 4th quarter drives that started in the third quarter, so be it.

As I said, it's not media created but it's definitely media-overblown.

by Jerry :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 3:34am

Nice job of research. Don't forget that game 4 of 2004 was Roethlisberger's second start in his rookie year.

Scott Kacsmar does define his terms in the blog posts that are linked on the p-f-r page. If you wanted to come up with a narrower definition, it would be interesting to see the results.

by Phil :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:37pm



Anyway, we both felt things were going differently, but it doesn't matter what either of us felt, because it was a close game in the end, and the Steelers still had a shot. They just couldn't win it this time.

by Phil :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:38pm

There are some numbers. Believe them if you want.

by jfreak213 (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:57pm

Seems like Barnwell agrees with Kal.


by Phil :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:03pm

Haha, well, yeah. I don't know what Barnwell would have done with himself had Roethlisberger engineered another game-winning drive.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:47pm

Packers didn't score at all until one of the Steelers' starting CBs went out.

Steelers outgained the Pack significantly, picked up more 3rd downs, and scored more offensive points.

The Pack had good fumble luck. Really, it was just turnovers. Turnover differential goes the opposite way, this is a Steeler blowout. Not hating the Pack - they created the turnovers. Just saying the obvious.

by Mike W :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:52pm

Steelers had two more possessions than GB. Steelers were way behind much of the game, and yes, that tends to make a difference. Turnover differential goes the other way, Steelers win, but GB is behind, has more possessions and longer fields, and gains way more yards. Nobody scored on the Packers all year until a bunch of their guys went out.

So what?

by Flounder :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:59pm

Frankly, if Woodson and Shields don't go down, I very much doubt Pitt makes it to 20 points.

by ammek :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:12pm

The Steelers converted one more third down, and had far more third-and-shorts.

They had one more offensive point.

The fumble luck wasn't substantial: muffs are recovered by the returning team more often than offense fall on RB fumbles, especially RB fumbles off-tackle close to the line.

On a related note, does anyone else find 'points scored off turnovers' to be a completely unhelpful stat?

by Lance :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:13pm

Re point scored & turnovers: YES!!

by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:33pm

I think saying that Green Bay was "hugely superior" is overstating it. (Before I say more, congratulation to the Packers and their fans-- celebrate your great season and great super bowl win.)

Yes, the Packers had several drops and off-target throws and would have run away with the game if they'd made them work-- but as a Steelers fan, I'm thinking about missed passes to Wallace, Heath and a couple dropped passes on our side. If those plays had worked, the Steelers probably would have won. I think the Steelers defense did really well, and their pressure and presence accounts for many of those "inopportune dorops" you mentioned.

I really think the Steelers could have won if they were -2 in turnovers, but being -3 on turnovers, resulting in 21 points, was too much for them handle against a good team. I imagine the turnovers are the biggest factor in the DVOA difference. I didn't check the final stats, but Pittsburgh had a fairly big total yardage edge most of the game.

But of course, turnovers are part of football, and the Packers got them yesterday. My feeling after the game was that a winnable super bowl slipped away, not that we should have been blown out. But congratulations; the Packers got the win!

I wouldn't mind a rematch next year... (though 30 other teams may well get in the way of that)

by DGL :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:13pm

"I wouldn't mind a rematch next year... (though 30 other teams may well get in the way of that)"

Or the owners. But that's too depressing a thought to bear.

by CraigInDC :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 5:00pm

inopportune drops, some bad injury luck and some atrocious penalties

Don't these things negatively affect the quality of the Packers play?

Dropped passes are an indication that the players didn't play well enough to make those catches on those plays.

Injury luck -- both teams had injuries. They played with the players that could play. The quality of the teams has to be judged based on the players on the field. Otherwise, we will just get into a useless discussion of which team had more significant injuries, and we can't resolve that because we can't replay the game without injuries.

Atrocious penalties are an indication of poor play -- Admittedly the mistaken face mask call isn't indicative of a poor play, but I think you'll be hard pressed to make the case that that one penalty was a game changing call.

You can't remove the mistakes one team makes and say "They were a vastly superior except for these mistakes!"

My impression of the game was that it was pretty even except for the turnovers. The Packers forced them, and the Steelers didn't. That is a large indication that the Packers played better, but if the game were played again, I think the turnover differential would likely not be +3 Packers again, and the Steelers would have a very good chance to win a game with a 0 turnover differential.

by Kal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 6:32pm

Dropped passes are an indication that the players didn't play well enough to make those catches on those plays.
You could say the same thing about interceptions. Except that dropped passes are a lot more unusual than interceptions as far as the receivers go.

Really, are you trying to equate their dropped passes last night to some normative value that says they are who we thought they were? If that's the case, yes - GB receivers weren't the best ever, especially after Driver left. At the same time, Ben's prone to interceptions too. So I guess you can't take away the interceptions so easily, by that logic.

Injury luck -- both teams had injuries. They played with the players that could play. The quality of the teams has to be judged based on the players on the field. Otherwise, we will just get into a useless discussion of which team had more significant injuries, and we can't resolve that because we can't replay the game without injuries.
You can do a few things to measure the value of injuries:

Count the number of injuries that happened during the game.
Count the number of injuries that happened to starters.
Count the number of injuries that happened to people in the same position.
Chart the success rate before injuries and afterwards.

In this case, Pittsburgh had scored 3 points total before the injury to Woodson on 20 plays. In the next 20 plays they had offensively, they scored 14 points given roughly the same field position. Is that a slam-dunk case? No, it's not. But it's reasonable evidence that it was a fairly big hit to the Packers, especially immediately afterwards.

Atrocious penalties are an indication of poor play -- Admittedly the mistaken face mask call isn't indicative of a poor play, but I think you'll be hard pressed to make the case that that one penalty was a game changing call.
They're not always an indicator of poor play. They're often an indicator of poor coaching. And sometimes they're just a WTF moment.

You can't remove the mistakes one team makes and say "They were a vastly superior except for these mistakes!"
My impression of the game was that it was pretty even except for the turnovers.

This is a really funny set of two sentences. You can't remove the mistakes one team makes and say they were better, but you can remove the mistakes another team makes and say they were even? How does that work?

Ultimately there are mistakes that are in the control of players and there are mistakes that are not. Doing things like the Williams penalty is within the realm of not doing something stupid. If the Packers don't do that it simply helps them, and there's no reason they should, right? So..don't do that. This is where unforced dropped passes and the like go. No reason he shouldn't catch it, it's just a stupid error.

Then there are fluke lucky plays. The fumble luck that GB had (recovering both) favored GB. The injuries to both of their starting CBs did not. Losing their second WR vs. losing Pitts' third.

Then there are forced errors. Both interceptions were forced errors that happened because the Packers played better. Pittsburgh didn't cause these to happen to the Packers. The packers caused these to happen.

For the first, you can say 'don't do that!' legitimately and be reasonable in expecting that they don't do that. For the second, you can wish that it didn't happen. For the third, you can't really hope for anything because it's a direct result of good play by the other team. For me, I have a much easier time ruling out the #1 things and then talking about the 'what if' about #2, but when a team makes a good set of plays to get interceptions I can't really say that it was an even game. The Packers' D played better. They made that play. That was a good play on them. Taking that away is much like taking away Ben's TD passes. Okay, if he doesn't make those passes it's a blowout game. Is that useful to discuss? Really?

by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 8:24pm

You're way too one-sided here. In the middle of the game (even as a Steelers fan), I felt some sympathy, knowing that Packers fans must feel unlucky with the various dropped passes. I was unwilling to grant that they were unlucky overall, with the current turnover margin at (2-0). Since it ended up at (3-0), you should understand that Steelers fans are not happy to let you claim the Packers were "hugely superior" but suffered all kinds of bad luck.

I'm sure you remember all the Packers drops and injuries. Well, I certainly remember several drops by the Steelers that would have made a big difference, uncharacteristic missed throws by Ben (who is not prone to INTs), injuries to Steelers with the sub targeted for a TD, poor fumble luck, and a lack of forced turnovers by a defense just as good at stealing the ball as the Packers are.

But that's football! And this was a football game the Packers won. I congratulate them, and you should enjoy the win. But please don't claim the Steelers were lucky not to be embarrassed worse. (I'd still be proud of their season if they had been.) The Packers were equally lucky to get the win-- the Steelers had a drive at the end to win it.

The fact is, it was a close game, and the Packers won it. I don't think you want to recast the game with a fresh set of luck for both teams, hoping you can come away with a blowout win. Luck swings pretty wide in football; and with a new roll of the dice, the Steelers might just have Lombardi #7. That's not what football is about, and I'm glad. I like the fact that it comes down to what happens in those 60 minutes; and in this case, the Packers won a close one.

by Kal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 8:52pm

I think that's likely fair. I do remember the bad drops by the Packers more than the Steelers, though I contend there were not as many by the Steelers and only one that would have likely been huge.

Roethlisberger, according to PFR, is actually one of the most prone to interception QBs that has started a fair amount of games in the playoffs, being intercepted a bit more than once every 10 drives. Twice is a statistical oddity but once is pretty well par for the course for him.

Fumble luck I covered, and I put that in with the injuries. The only issue there is that while recovery isn't a skill, causing them is - and the steelers caused no fumbles (the drop on the punt was due to a Packer running into his own guy, not a Steeler jarring it loose or anything).

You don't have to agree with me. It was what I felt watching the game. The Steelers didn't seem to be in the same class as the Packers. DVOA largely agreed here. I still thought that the Steelers were going to win because of bad penalties and the injuries to the secondary, but they didn't. I still think that if the Packers are luckier or simply cut down on the basic unforced errors, they run away with this one easily.

This game was close. That doesn't mean that it should have been, and it doesn't mean that both teams were of equal skill. I'd be happy to recast the game with a fresh set of luck and see how Ben does against Woodson and Shields covering Wallace and Ward instead of Bush and...whoever. If you say football isn't about asking 'what if' and wondering what could be, I disagree. Football's not just one thing to one person. As a Steelers fan I'm surprised you're not asking what if yourself more.

But since most of this was me countering the notion that the Steelers have more 'what if' ammo than the Packers, I guess you were.

by CraigInDC :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 10:05pm

But since most of this was me countering the notion that the Steelers have more 'what if' ammo than the Packers, I guess you were.

I didn't mean to suggest that the Steelers had more 'what if' ammo. I intended to say that 'what ifs' aren't relevant when determining which team played better. 'What ifs' might be relevant when determining which team is better, but that discussion isn't really useful. The Packers won the game, it doesn't matter which team is better.

by Kal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 10:11pm


By that token, according to DVOA the Packers played significantly better. That difference in DVOA would be indicative of a 10-14 point differential. They had fewer drives, scored more points, had better turnovers and did more with what they had.

The what ifs are indicative only as another way to emphasize this. The cliche would be 'the score was closer than the outcome' and I think that's fair. Yes, the Steelers were in it, and yes, they could have won the game on the last drive. But as far as they played, they weren't really that closely matched. And you can look at some of the other nonpredictive events and say simply this:

The packers were (by DVOA) the better team by a significant margin.
The packers also had a large amount of nonpredictive events that caused them to perform worse than they could have.
Therefore, the Packers are likely to be the better team by a greater margin than the score (or DVOA) indicate.

by bengt (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 9:23am

and the steelers caused no fumbles
Mike McCarthy thinks they did...

by bengt (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 9:30am

Roethlisberger, according to PFR, is actually one of the most prone to interception QBs that has started a fair amount of games in the playoffs,
Why are you judging him on playoff games? I'm not accusing you of cherry picking, but I would pose that his interception rate during the previous season would be a better measure. He had five in twelve regular season games in 2010. (And yes, his rate increased in the playoffs).

by Kal :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 11:49am

I used it because I happened to have that PFR page up and it was interesting. Plus it's a bit more accurate relative to competition; the 12 games against teams like Cinci and Cleveland this year aren't as useful (in my mind) as playoff caliber teams over his career.

It also lists interceptions per drive, which is more useful since Pittsburgh had two more drives than GB did in the superbowl. As far as overall, he's started 112 games and been intercepted 102 times, so that's still close to once a game - not that far off from what I mentioned before.

In any case, there are many ways

by CraigInDC :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 9:43pm

You seem to have missed the entire point of my comment. I agree that the Packers played a better game. I quibble with your characterization of "vastly superior" but I agree with your basic premise that they played better. The main point I was making is that dropped passes are things that the Packers did. They were poor plays that the Packers committed. Therefore, they must be taken into account when analyzing how well the Packers played. It doesn't make any sense to say "Except for all of the mistakes the Packers made, they were a vastly superior team to the Steelers" Because of course one team is vastly superior if you remove all their bad plays.

This is a really funny set of two sentences. You can't remove the mistakes one team makes and say they were better, but you can remove the mistakes another team makes and say they were even? How does that work?

It works when you include the next sentence that states that the turnovers indicate that the Packers played better than the Steelers. I think these teams are generally pretty even. If they played 1000 times, I think each team would win around 500 times. In this particular instance, the Packers played a better game, and they won.

They're not always an indicator of poor play. They're often an indicator of poor coaching. And sometimes they're just a WTF moment.
I don't understand the distinction you're making. Poor coaching often leads to bad play. It doesn't matter if you blame the player or the coach, it's still poor play.

Also, I don't understand the discussion of categorizing plays. Forced errors indicate good play by the team forcing the error, and unforced errors indicate poor play by the team making the error. Both must be taken into account when analyzing the overall quality of play. Forced errors are on the positive side, and unforced errors are on the negative side.

I have a much easier time ruling out the #1 things and then talking about the 'what if' about #2
Why? If a team goes out and fumbles the snap on every play, those are all unforced errors. Would you say that team played well?

In this case, Pittsburgh had scored 3 points total before the injury to Woodson on 20 plays. In the next 20 plays they had offensively, they scored 14 points given roughly the same field position. Is that a slam-dunk case? No, it's not. But it's reasonable evidence that it was a fairly big hit to the Packers, especially immediately afterwards.

It isn't a convincing case at all. Points are generally scored in 3 or 7 point increments in a football game, so a difference of 11 points is really pretty small. In fact, it is the difference of two plays. Of course, that is beside the point. When analyzing which team played better in a game, you can only analyze what actually happened in the game -- not what might have happened if players hadn't gotten hurt. The Packers might have played worse because of injuries, but how they played is still how they played.

Is your point that you think the Packers are a vastly superior team without the injuries? If that's the case, then maybe we should consider how good the Steelers would have been with their Pro Bowl center and a healthy NFL defensive player of the year. Of course, you can't do that, because then we'd have to add Finley to the Packers and the whole thing is silly. Please don't tell me about all the injuries the Packers have had this year, I know.

by Kal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 10:07pm

It works when you include the next sentence that states that the turnovers indicate that the Packers played better than the Steelers. I think these teams are generally pretty even. If they played 1000 times, I think each team would win around 500 times. In this particular instance, the Packers played a better game, and they won.
Right, but it doesn't work because turnovers are part of the quality of the teams. They're a predictive element. Forced fumbles and interceptions are predictive. Saying 'if not for the interceptions' is much like saying 'if not for Rodgers throwing TD passes' or 'if not for Cutler throwing a red zone INT'. These things are predictive events.

Whereas dropping well-thrown balls, having 15-yard penalties unsportsmanlike conduct, and getting injured while falling to the ground are non-predictive events.

Of the two, I feel a lot more comfortable removing the nonpredictive events. Now, DVOA doesn't do that for everything; DVOA can't tell that the top two cornerbacks went out for GB and then Pitt scored. But I can say that, and I can see that the Steelers went after Woodson's replacement as soon as they could, going so far as to hurry up so that GB didn't change the coverage. 3 passes, all to Ward, all with Bush in coverage. Do you think that's coincidence?

Also, I don't understand the discussion of categorizing plays. Forced errors indicate good play by the team forcing the error, and unforced errors indicate poor play by the team making the error. Both must be taken into account when analyzing the overall quality of play. Forced errors are on the positive side, and unforced errors are on the negative side.

Because forced errors are often predictive (sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles) and unforced errors are often not (dropped balls by otherwise sure-handed players, injuries on non-contact plays, unsportsmanlike plays, random phantom face masks).

I'll put it another way: I tend to see most unforced errors by a team that has not done those things consistently as a statistical deviation. I tend to see most forced errors by a team that does that consistently as a statistical correlation. GB didn't lead the league in dropped passes (at least not that I can find) so it was odd that they dropped so many, especially ones that were otherwise on target. The penalties were less odd given that the Packers have routinely gone out of their way to play that way, and I'll grant you that that's just Packers football at times. But the drops didn't seem to be like what TO did over and over, for instance.

Why? If a team goes out and fumbles the snap on every play, those are all unforced errors. Would you say that team played well?

I wouldn't say they played that specific game well, no. But if they didn't have a history of fumbling the snap every game a bunch of times, I'd be pretty comfortable saying 'well, if they don't fumble the snap a ton they'll likely do pretty well'. Why is that odd?

It isn't a convincing case at all. Points are generally scored in 3 or 7 point increments in a football game, so a difference of 11 points is really pretty small. In fact, it is the difference of two plays.

Points are scored in drives. Drives are one of the rarer things in football. Drives are made up of multiple plays. Two plays did not cause two TDs; two drives did. On both of those drives the loss of Woodson was very, very apparent; on the first it was going after his replacement right then. On the second, it was on blitzing and on run support to the outside.

Another way to put it: before Woodson goes out Ward has zero catches. The next three plays are throws to Ward. But I'm sure that's completely coincidental.

Is your point that you think the Packers are a vastly superior team without the injuries? If that's the case, then maybe we should consider how good the Steelers would have been with their Pro Bowl center and a healthy NFL defensive player of the year. Of course, you can't do that, because then we'd have to add Finley to the Packers and the whole thing is silly. Please don't tell me about all the injuries the Packers have had this year, I know.

Okay - so why bring it up? My point was that losing two cornerbacks to nonpredictive injuries on non-contact plays was quite fluky, and before that Pittsburgh did not look good on offense. Green Bay looked pretty decent but not stellar on offense, but in the 3rd quarter looked bad - and that 'badness' was almost entirely because of multiple dropped passes. Both of these things are nonpredictive events. Yes, that's how this specific game played out. I'm not saying that the game played out as something other than a close one, though I didn't think it was as close as one drive; the Packers never trailed, the game was never tied except at the start, and the smallest lead the Packers had was 3 points. That's not that close of a game, and nothing like what XLIII was. But I am fairly comfortable in saying that if you get rid of nonpredictive events and look at those things it was clear that the Packers were very much the better team. And if you play that game 100 times, I'd say 65% of the time the Packers win.

I'm saying if Woodson and Shields don't get injured, chances are the score is 31-10 or 31-17.

I'm saying that if the Packers catch a couple more balls, the score is 44-25.

And yes, you CAN say that about the interceptions, but the difference is nonpredictive events vs predictive events. We watch football because the nonpredictive events are interesting and make us go wow and wonder if, but we can also look at how the game played out without those clouding our judgment and see if we can see which team was better and by how much. DVOA does that; that's its whole point, after all. And we as humans can do better.

Final note: I'm not a Packers fan, I'm a Bears fan. I was rooting for the Packers but mostly I'm into this because this is a stats and analysis site. This is an interesting analysis. I'm sure subjectively lots of people have many opinions on why this was close and how evenly matched these teams were, but at the same time objectively they're not really correct.

by CraigInDC :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:02pm

In any particular game lots of things are non predictive. The Steelers were +14 in turnover differential over the regular season and playoffs. The Packers were +16 over the same time. I think that the Steelers being -3 in this game is probably an outlier, and I think in this game the turnovers were the biggest difference. I think if the teams played many times, the Steelers being -3 in turnovers would be a pretty rare occurrence.

I don't know who dropped all of the passes for the Packers, but James Jones drops a lot of passes, so his drops were certainly predictive. Nelson caught 9 passes, if he dropped a couple, it is probably to be expected -- everyone will drop some passes. I also suspect that some of the plays that you are thinking of as drops were difficult plays because of tight coverage/good plays by the Steelers.

DVOA is better than anything else we have, but that doesn't mean it is very good for a particular game. If you want to use DVOA, I think the values for the season would be better, and those values indicate that the teams are very evenly matched.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:45pm

James Jones actually had 5 catches on 6 targets. His one drop just happened to be a doozy when it should have been a dagger.

Nelson had 9 catches on 14 targets. He had a deep sideline route go through his hands early, also had an uncatchable ball over his head. He ad the crossing route he bobbled and dropped before getting the big gain on the next play. He also dropped a slant pass that likely would have taken him into a big hit. He finished with the not quite TD off his fingertips that would have required a spectacular play to catch.

All told I think Nelson had 2-3 legit drops (really depending on whether you think he should have caught the one leading into traffic, but which was on target and not broken up by a defender), and roughly an equal number of plays that were uncatchable or would have taken an amazing play. Dropping 20% of your targets, roughly what Jones and Nelson each did, is too many by about a factor of 2. Even after last year, when GB had a fairly high number of drops across it's WR corps, I don't think any player was credited with more than 8 or 9 drops throughout the entire season.

by CraigInDC :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 10:25am

Saying it is too many by a factor of 2 is misleading. It makes it sound like a huge difference, when really your only talking about 2 plays. Sometimes receivers don't catch the ball when they probably should. 'Dropped Passes' as a stat seems to me be a pretty useless stat because it is totally subjective, and we have no idea how the scorers determine what a drop is?

Admittedly Jones' drop was a mistake on what would have been agame changing play, but it is my impression that Jones just isn't a reliable receiver, and he drops more than his share of big plays.

by Dean :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:11am

It was nice to see a game that was better than the commercials for a change.

And for the obligitory "best ad" threadjack, I nominate the doritos ad with the pug and the Audi ad with the prison break.

by armchair journe... :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:31am

Loved the Detroit (Chrysler) spot. Beautifully shot and edited. Audi ad was the most clever. Like Tanier, found the Coke Dragon a little confusing. Doritos finger-licking ad makes me never want to eat Doritos ever.

armchair journeyman quarterback

by Dean :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:33am

Forgot about the Chrysler spot. That was really good. I'm not sure I'm going to celebrate the return of Detroit because of it or anything, but it was a very classy piece.

And the finger licking thing was just creepy.

by mrh :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:50am

Because nothing celebrates Detroit like having Fiat as your major stockholder...

by B :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:55am

This is what annoyed me most about that commercial. Chrysler is trying to paint itself as the "American" car-maker, despite being mostly owned by Fiat. Also, the 200 is just a reskinned Seabring, which you'll know as that car you see in rental fleet lots all the time.

by Temo :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:48pm

Fiat owns 25%, and it's more about partnership than management anyway (Fiat will sell Chrysler cars in Europe, Chrysler will sell Fiat cars in the US). The company still does its manufacturing in the US/Canada, still has American management, and American engineering.

It's very much an American car company still. And they make good cars, though the 200 is not a favorite of mine.

by JPS (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:22pm

My top 5:

1) Car commercial -- Darth Vader kid & his psychic powers
2) Doritos -- granpda comes back to life
3) Audi -- prison break. That Kenny G bit was hilarious!
4) Doritos -- dog knocking the door down
5) Volkswagen -- Black Beetle

by B :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:57pm

The Darth Vader kid commercial was for the new VW Passat. Although VW did a good enough job making it look like an Accord/Camry it's hard to tell.

by Dean :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 5:04pm

I acutally really liked the one with the beaver saving the drivers life. I don't remember whose brakes/car they were advertizing, so I guess that's a bad thing. But I dug the ad.

by Semigruntled Eagles fan (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 5:00pm

I believe that was a Bridgestone tires commercial.

by Duke :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:48pm

No votes for the Faith Hill online flowers ad? That was my favorite, by far.

by BroncosGuyAgain (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:18am

No mention of Christina Aguilera botching the Anthem lyric. Clearly, FO staff collectively hate the USA. Please leave the country immediately.

by Dean :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:31am

There were a LOT of p!ssed off people at the party I was at. We stopped our flip cup game out of respect for The Anthem. The least she could do would be to learn the friggin words. You'd think Jerry Jones could have sprung for a telepropmter?

by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:11pm

This really upsets me as well...not only did FO leave it off, but absolutely NO mention of it that I heard during the remaining pre-game or in-game coverage (not surprising thought since it was Joe Buck and Troy Aikman who may not know the words either). Extremely disappointing, and terribly disrespectful from someone who should be all about America giving her the freedom to be the artist that she wants to be. I understand being nervous, but she performs in front of tens of thousands of people on a regular basis and probably does not forget her own words.

The national anthem is not a place for showmanship, but one of respect for the country and the game it is being sung for. As an artist I have had the opportunity to perform the national anthem and other similar situations and always do it without embellishments that bring attention to myself. I wish people like Aguilerra could figure out that its really not about them.

by Joseph :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:18pm

As a pianist, I don't mind the musical embellishments, as long as they aren't overdone. I DON'T like the showmanship--and at the end, it was almost if she was trying to repeat the last line and then realized "Oh, it's over--and I can't adlib the ending."
Also, I would like to see less soloists, and more group singing--like a trio/quartet with harmonizing, allowing the others to do some different "embellishments" of the other parts while the lead sings the melody with little to no deviation from the actual score.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:22pm

That would be great. As a suggestion, one of the military academy choirs or an ensemble of all three I think would be wonderful.

by BigCheese :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 6:29pm

As a foreigner I and several people I have talked about this with, are absolutely dumbfounded that you let people do this to your national anthem on a regular basis. You will never hear the mexican national anthem performed except the way it was written. No embelishments, no adjustments, nothing. It is performed by choir or played back.

Obviously in the US it's not seen as such, but anyone trying to "interpret" the anthem like that here would be chased off the stage for being disrespectful.

- Alvaro

by Anonymous from Brazil (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 9:55pm

The best performance of the Brazilian National Anthem I've ever heard was at a 2002 WC Qualifying match between Brazil-Paraguay. A quartet (two men and two women) singing a capella. Just great.

Unfortunately, there is no record that I know of...

by Spielman :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:50pm

She's been singing the national anthem before sporting events for 20 years or so. She knows the words, she just bungled them, and had the misfortune to do so on the biggest possible stage.

I guarantee you that she, along with pretty much every other singer, has screwed up her own lyrics performing live plenty of times.

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 4:41pm

Messing up the words is forgivable - lots of people have done that. What I hated was her singing the song like she was trying to stab someone with her voice.

by Mike Tanier :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 7:47pm

I didn't hear the flub because my 4-year old started yelling "This is terrible!" I told him to stop, and he kept doing it, so I provided negative stimulus and lectured him about being quiet during the Star Spangled Banner, because Ms. Lauper is singing her heart out for our nation. By the time I was done correcting him the song was over and I did not know she had made a mistake.

And I am betting many of my fellow FO writers were getting a last minute snack, or clearing their emails, or had the sound down/off during the Anthem.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 8:04pm

Guilty. I took my puppy outside for one last potty break before kickoff and missed the Anthem. I also don't mind that she missed a line. At least she sang it live and from what I understand has sung it flawlessly several times at other events.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:42pm

absolutely NO mention of it that I heard during the remaining pre-game or in-game coverage

It would be incalculably bad form to rub her nose in it like you suggest. The classy thing is to not mention it and just move on as if it never happened.

The national anthem is not a place for showmanship, but one of respect for the country and the game it is being sung for.

I take it this is your first major sporting event in this country, then, yes?

by RickD :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:42pm

What did she miss? Didn't notice.
Seriously, you know, people make mistakes.

by Dean :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:53pm

People make mistakes, sure, but not on the National Anthem.

by Spielman :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:49pm


by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:51pm

I was going to try and see how long she held the last note, but when she mangled the lyrics I was mad.

The wild thing for us was that the local affiliate did something, and the game commentary was in Spanish. The commercials were fine - just the announcers. Took a call to tech support and a reboot to clear it.

Add that to some really bad sound mixups during half-time (half the time only one of the Black-Eyed Peas could be heard), and the whole show came off as poorly prepared.

by Dean :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:02pm

If only one of the black eyed peas could be heard, that sounds like an improvement.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 8:22pm

For various food prep reasons including a last-minute grocery store run for the hamburger buns no one thought to bring, the game was paused for quite a while at my place. This allowed us to fast-forward through the entire halftime show.

by armchair journe... :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 11:15am

Well... The problem was WHICH black eyed pea was the only one who could be heard.

We were wondering if Fergie had it written in to her contract that her mic had to be on twice as loud as everyone elses... And reminiscing with such nostalgia on those days, long ago, when BEP was still backpack.

by Jim C. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:59pm

Did the lyrics flub affect her singing time? The prop bet on that was an over-under of 1:54, and by my watch she sang it in 1:50 (give or take a second or two). If you had bet the over, I suspect you'd be pretty irritated right now.

by BigCheese :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 6:31pm

If you had the over (or under for that matter) on the national anthemn you need professional help.

- Alvaro

by tuluse :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 7:16pm

Better odds than a roulette wheel.

by BroncosGuyAgain (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:51pm

First and foremost, I apologize to the community for having started this idiotic thread. My original comment was offered as a joke, though it obviously failed miserably. To be clear: I care not one iota that FO did not comment on Ms. Aguilera's flub, and the silence does not cause me to think any of the staff to be un-American. I do not, in actuality, wish any of them to leave the country unless intentionally on a planned vacation to a dream destination. That Tanier felt compelled to offer an explanation is equal parts embarrassing and depressing. (I am giving the benefit of the doubt that "Ms. Lauper" was also a joke, thus eschewing the (apparently) de rigueur three-paragraph diatribe.)

Let's keep some perspective. I'm a geek. I always sing along to the anthem, even when its on TV. Sometimes I tear up. But when she screwed up the lyric I was surprised, but not offended. She made a mistake. Let's get past it.

As for the artistic approach, some artists are self-glorifying narcissists, placing personal vanity ahead of true patriotism, while others express an intense personal passion in singing the most patriotic of our songs. I can't claim to be able to distinguish between the two, in any reliable way.

(and to think that when I changed "blew the lyric" to "botched the lyric" I thought I dodged the sophomoric responses. Silly me.)

by jklps :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:21am

I was in a room mostly full of Redskins fans, and all of us were confused why Tomlin would attempt that field goal with Suisham instead of punt...we thought Suisham would miss, but not that badly. We then broke into a chorus of "Hail To The Redskins"...one of the hilarious moments of the night.

by BlueStarDude :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:59am

If Suisham made that kick I would have thrown the remote or something at my TV.

by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:56pm

He had just baaaaarely made a PAT - after that, I was not surprised he shanked wide left on a 52-yard FG.

by jklps :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:21pm

Wide left? He almost kicked the ball over that sideline! Hahaha.

by ammek :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:31am

The Superbowl was a re-run of all the Packers' close losses during the regular season. Except this time, they didn't lose.

They had injuries pile up — at about the only positions that'd stayed healthy during the regular season, WR and CB.

Dropped passes. Well, James Jones was playing….

Awful kickoffs. Underwhelming coverage. Penalties and a muff on returns. Yep, the traditional malodorous special teams.

Sacks on first down. That curious flatness on offense once they built a lead: Rodgers over-prudent, McCarthy out-thinking himself. Shades of the Washington game.

Then it got oh so familiar. McCarthy with a wasted challenge. Jarrett Bush beaten in man coverage. Daryn Colledge flagged on third down. Now it's first-and-goal from the 6, and McCarthy sends out Quarless and Crabtree as the go-to receivers, and the result is an absolute fiasco of a sack. Red-zone pass-wackiness. A six-point lead isn't enough, is it? Not with Pat Lee and Bush in the secondary, Raji sucking wind. We've seen this before!

The difference, really, was Rodgers. His last five third-down passes were all sensational, even though Swain dropped/fumbled one and Nelson just missed one in the end zone. Basically, the Steelers had done everything right on defense: the Packers' last nine first downs, excluding the knee, netted a total of 2 yards; they repeatedly had Green Bay in third-and long (10, 7, 10, 10 and 5/goal to go on those five third downs). But a combination of good-enough protection and unbelievable sharpness from Rodgers on those throws, plus the points they'd scored early, was enough to win.

I don't see another viable candidate for MVP.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:04pm

I was gonna put in a bit of an argument for Jordy Nelson as MVP (he got my contrarian fan vote), but then I put in a few minutes with p-f-r's player game finder.

9 guys had at least 140 receiving yards and at least one touchdown. One was on the losing team. Three were Jerry Rice.

But only two other QBs have thrown >300 yards with >60% completion, multiple TDs, and 0 INT: Montana (331/3/0) and Young (325/6/0).

by Dean :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:09pm

Jordy Nelson had 2 key drops, and he could have scored on the one in the second half. No way does he get an MVP vote.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:19pm

Agreed. Though if he made an acrobatic enough catch on the missed TD he might have had a chance. I didn't consider that ball a drop as it would have taken an almost superhuman effort to catch it. The other drop was unforgivable though. And Jones's drop was worse.

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:24pm

On the telecast, it looked like the DB either started tackling him early or stepped on his foot, because there was a big hitch in his gait just before he dove for the ball. Of course FOX didn't show a different angle or do a slo-mo replay. Anyone else notice that? But it looked a lot like a Bruce Bowenesque DPI.

by otros :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:52pm

How is the last drop a "key" one? He (and Rodgers) just came back to the well for a first down.

After the game, I settled on Rodgers as a fair MVP, but during the game I was arguing for Nelson.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 10:57am

I was, too, but the Conventional Stats show Nelson as just Very Good, but Rodgers as Truly Exceptional. Only other guys to throw for >300 yards, >60% >=3 TD, and 0 INT were First-Ballot Hall-of-Famers (or Bill Walsh System Quarterbacks).

140 Yards and a TD has been done by guys like Andre Reid, Deion Branch, and Mushin Muhammed, as well as the aforementioned three Jerry Rices and that guy who ran for governor of PA. Maybe if Nelson 1) got into the endzone on that catch-and-run and/or 2) used his go-go-gadget arms to snag that ball in the corner of the end zone, he's the MVP.

I guess the real question is, what % of a QB's production does a WR need to account for to be more valuable?

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 11:48am

I'd say in the 50 - 60% range, or if all their catches are critical (say like 2 touchdowns, and every other catch goes for a first, with a couple of those being 3rd down conversions). If one receiver can be the go to guy that much and still be productive enough for the team to win, they had to be doing something pretty good as you know they would be double teamed, or if they weren't they didn't fail to exploit the opportunities given to them.

So if Nelson makes say two more catches one for another first down and one for the TD, picking up 35 more yards that would get him MVP. Rodgers would have had 4 TD's and 340 yards with Nelson accounting for 175 of those yards and 2 TD's. I could see that getting him MVP. That would also have given him 11 reception on 15 targets which is pretty solid. Though a perfect catch rate would certainly help the cause.

by Jeff (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:37am

So the Packers had fourth and goal from the 5 with 2:10 left in the game, ahead by 3. They kicked the FG, but I'm wondering if it made more sense to go for the TD. A TD basically wins the game. Go for it and fail, and the Steelers have to start from their own 5. A TD wins it for the Steelers in either case (a 3 or 6 point lead). The only advantage of kicking the FG is that the Steelers can't tie it with a FG, they have to go for the win. That's a decent advantage, but on the other hand if you score the TD the game is over.

I don't know the math, but I would guess that going for the TD might give the higher win probability. It would take a pretty ballsy coach to do that, though.

by Dean :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:45am

I don't have the math, but I had the opposite thought. Having to drive an extra 30 or 35 yards and having to get a TD is huge in that situation, and even moreso considering that Pittsburgh had already done an Andy Reid impression with their timeouts.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:31pm

I thought the same as you, Dean, during the game, but now... the problem with the FG is the risk of the kickoff return. If the ball is simply just returned to the 30, then you lose 25 yards as opposed to turning the ball over at the 5. That's 10 yards of field position in exchange for a chance to score a TD from the 5.

The way the kickoff return went, however, it was a clear win for the Packers. I'd take that over the 4th down attempt anytime.

by jds (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:47pm

I thought going for the TD was the thing to do too, particularly with my concerns as to the GB kick coverage. If you make the TD its game over. If you don't (absent a fumble or INT returned against you), you leave the Steelers on the 5 with 2 minutes to need to get at least 65 yards for a chance at a tie(they had 1 timeout - which they would have to save to get the FG unit on the field). By taking the FG, you almost certainly give the Steelers better field position, and tell them they need to play to the endzone. I think it only really worked out well for the Pack because they covered the kickoff well, and got the huge bonus of the personal foul.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:52pm

Good point on the kick coverage. The kicks themselves were awful too. It was nearly a certainty that the Steelers would be starting that drive at the 30, absent a stupid penalty on a Steeler... throw in that 25 yard difference plus Suisham being less that trustworthy and I'd gladly take my chances giving them the ball at the 5 if there's also a chance that I go up by 10.

by Kal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:25pm

One thing to consider is that Pittsburgh historically has been great at doing quick drives for FGs (though most of those were with Reed, not Suisham). see the above analysis I did. Kicking the FG might mean a long return, but it also means playing the odds that they won't be able to do a TD, and that's a fairly good set of odds.

by Chappy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:39am

Wait. I don't understand the sentiment that 'things were so close that either team could have won?' Am I reading DVOA correctly. The Packers put on offensive whooping on a normally very good defense. Frankly, I was surprised the game was even close given that it seemed like the Packers outplayed Pittsburgh. Add to that that Pittsburgh turned the ball over 3 times. To me, the reason the game wasn't that interesting is that it felt like the Packers were crushing the Steelers, but had to milk the lead once they lost 20% of their starters.

by mrh :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:59am

My sense of the game from the time it was 21-3 was that the Steelers were dominating. I kept looking at the score somewhat bewildered that the Packers were still ahead because it felt like they were getting whupped. The fumble and short(ish)-field drive staunched the bleeding a bit but the Steelers came right back. It wasn't until the last drive that the Packers seemed to re-take some control but they still left the door open until a combination of their defense and Steeler WRs not knowing what to do in the 2-minute drill closed it.

I blame my wife (neither of us Packers fans although we were rooting for them yesterday) for saying that she didn't want the game to be a blow-out because it would be boring.

Also, I wonder if the absence of Sanders screwed up the wrs in the 2 minute drill by changing assignments around?

by DGL :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:24pm

DVOA includes the three turnovers - so you can't say "DVOA says that the Packers outplayed Pittsburgh, AND they got three takeaways". The three takeaways are counted in DVOA.

My sense was that the turnovers were the deciding factor. Both teams had some success moving the ball, but the Packers' D had more success disrupting the Steelers' O, giving them the turnovers that made the difference in the game.

by Chappy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 6:29pm

Fair enough, but I'd wonder how much DVOA would look if those turnovers were non-turnovers. (Say 2 incompletions and a run for a loss).

I guess my general point is that, if you told me before the game,the Green Bay defense would outperform the Pittsburgh defense. I would have said you were crazy. If you told me that Green Bay's D would still outperform Pittsburgh after losing a bunch of its starters, I'd say you are certifiable.

by JIPanick :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:40am

"That was lots of fun. Two very good teams. Didn't feel like a spectacular, just a good, close game. The Packers feel more like the 2005 Steelers or 1988 49ers, not like the other wild card teams that made the Super Bowl. This wasn't a 10-6 team that got into the last slot in the playoffs. This was a very good team that had bad luck in close losses, but was one of the top three or four teams in the league for the entire season. Despite all the injuries. Congratulations, Packers fans."

The phrase "Not like the other wild card teams to make the Super Bowl" seems wrong.
Here's the list, since 1990:
1992 Bills, 11-5, 7th in DVOA (but second in the conference)
1997 Broncos, 12-4, 1st in DVOA
1999 Titans, 13-3, 5th in DVOA
2000 Ravens, 12-4, 2nd in DVOA
2005 Steelers, 11-5, 4th in DVOA
2007 Giants, 10-6, 16th in DVOA
2010 Packers, 10-6, 3rd in DVOA

The Packers seem to fit right in with the rest, who were (with the exception of the Giants) generally excellent teams who either underperformed during the regular season or got stuck behind a team with a lot of wins.

I agree that 2005 PIT and 1988 SFO are good comparisons, however.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:50am

Actually, I think I meant more "the other 10-6 teams," the 1980 Raiders and 2007 Giants, etc. Not like a 12-4 or 13-3 team.

by JIPanick :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 7:07pm

The only other 10-6 teams to ever play in a Super Bowl are the aforementioned Giants... and the 1988 49ers, who you cite as similar. (The 1980 Raiders were part of a 5(!) way tie top atop the AFC at 11-5).

I agree with part of the point I *think* you are trying to make; the Packers belong to the class of "strong wildcards who won the conference" with the 1997 Broncos and the 2000 Ravens and not the "weak conference champion" class with the 1985 Pats, 2003 Panthers, 2008 Cardinals, etc.

by Billy B (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:44am

Roethlisberger and Mendenhall are blamed for the turnovers, but all three turnovers were caused by great defensive play by the Packers. On the 1st interception and fumble, defenders just flew into the backfield, disrupting the pass or the handoff. So give credit to the Packers for making game-changing plays, which the Steelers defense never did.

by Mike W :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:47am

Typical Packer game. Letting the other team march down the field whenever they have a two-score lead, trying to protect a lead late with a banged-up team and a tired defense. Ugh.

Refs did a pretty good job – phantom facemask was the only clear mistake made, and I didn’t notice any obvious non-calls. As a GB fan I noticed Pit DBs making contact beyond 5 yards a lot but it wasn’t egregious, and I’m sure there were holds missed, but I’m happy to give them some credit for a change. It does seem like both teams helped by not playing full-on “I dare you to call it.”

People were talking after the game about how the Packers are young and will be back and get all their hurt guys back, etc. What about improving their special teams? That seems like an easy way to get better, no? I recommend putting someone back on punts who will, you know, catch the damn ball, instead of letting it roll another 17 yards before smacking someone, because, hey, if you’re not going to catch the ball, the least you can do is escort it downfield for no reason.

Rodgers was straight-up awesome. He had, what, two or three poor throws? And by “poor” I mean “probably still catchable with a great effort.” And calling out protections, finding receivers. In the third quarter when Pit started collapsing the pocket quickly by overloading the GB right side he found his hot read for 4-5 yard gains a few times.

I found the lack of pressure by GBs pass rush surprising. They rarely blitzed, and with the LB spy – often Matthews, I guess because he’s the fastest LB – only rushed 3 or 4 mostly, but Matthews was a non-factor and Jenkins/Raji only started pressuring Big Ben on a regular basis late in the game.

What was with all the Pit WR screens? They were getting a few yards a pop, but it seems to me they either thought they could really hit something doing that, or were using it to lure the DBs in to help set up some deep stuff (more likely). But they didn’t go deep often, and they certainly didn’t break one of the screens. Anyone have an idea?

by Joseph :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:54am

I thought the Mike Wallace TD was somewhat as a result of those throws.
On the other hand, I thought that the GB DB's did a pretty good job of tackling and getting off the blocks to stop them, too.

by Jon Silverberg (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 10:59pm

I thought they were using Matthews in that role because, with his strength, he wasn't likely to let BB bull his way through a tackle...

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:46am

...but I just hate the fact that a player gets penalized for such a flimsy celebration.

It wasn't even a celebration! He was diving into the endzone through/around multiple defenders. If he doesn't dive, he doesn't score.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:12pm

After that, he went down on his knees to pose for the fans. Not at all penalty-worthy, nonetheless. Also, if "going to the ground" is a penalty, should Jennings have been flagged for kneeling to pray after his score?

by Eddo :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:28pm

The penalty is for going down to two knees. Getting on one knee, like Jennings did, is not a penalty (unless it's part of a group celebration, somehow).

by drobviousso :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:12pm

There is a prayer exception to the celebration rule.

by Flounder :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:20pm

Man do I hate the prayer exception. It should just be a generally applicable rule. Either every instance of going to the ground while celebrating is a penalty, or none are. Many players (Adrian Peterson, I'm looking in your direction) blatantly use the "prayer" exception for purposeful self-aggrandizement.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:07pm

I guess that's in line with Troy Polamalu's jersey exception.

by Joseph :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:12pm

Watching in Mexico, I didn't get to see a replay of the flag, but I thought a camera caught the flag(s) being thrown about 15 secs AFTER the TD, when after celebrating with his teammates, he then did something else. Now, like I said, it was a glimpse, and I only saw the referee throw the flag, not WHY he threw it. And even then, he was not the focus, but on the upper right of the screen as it panned left.

by Kal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:16pm

That's correct. He got the penalty for going to his knees and putting his hands up in the air, far away from the actual score. The rule is that if a player 'goes down to the ground' it's unsportsmanlike. It was, to be charitable, a correct but very bad call.

by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:16pm

It's a bad rule. I was watching highlights of 2005 NFL playoffs and got to see some of Steve Smith celebrations (you know the ones that caused people to be all outraged). He did a snow angel for one of them, but my favorite was him using the goal post support like a fire-pole.

I hope the players union fights to get the celebration penalties overturned during their labor negotiations.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:55pm

Which is exactly what DeAngelo Hall did twice (both uncalled) against the Bears earlier this year, and is a common celebration league-wide.

Just ditch the rule. If you're going to let it go 80% of the time and then penalize a Cowboy lineman for falling down accidentally, you just look like striped clowns.

by Joseph :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:50am

First, congrats to the Pack. You earned it.
However, the focus of this post is what struck me after the game--the similarities between these Packers & last year's Saints.
--QB who is pushing himself into the PM/TB debate for best in the NFL, with quick release and anticipation that helps him avoid sacks when the protection breaks down
--HC who also serves as OC [all the way to the great fist pump after a pick-6!!)
--DC who didn't do well as a HC, but is a GREAT DC with a penchant for blitzing
--Great depth at WR (Driver=Colston; Jones=Henderson [seems to drop the easy ones, catch the hard ones]; Nelson=Moore [underrated white guy who seems to get open at key times and catch just about everything]; Jennings>>Meachem, though)
--Lack of reliable running game, but enough to make teams bite on play-fakes
--Veteran DB who depends on smarts & film study now that skills are slowly eroding (Woodson/Sharper)
--Said DB teaches young CB some things, which results in some great pick-6's (T. Williams/T. Porter)
--Ineffective special teams that always seem to give up long returns/bad penalties, esp. at inopportune times.

Now, the Saints have no LB/DL to rival Clay Matthews III (nor his hair), but to me, the similarities were striking.

by mrh :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:52am

Commercials - how could Head and Shoulders not do a Polamalu/Matthews spot?

by Dean :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:09pm

Not sure, but I'm grateful they didn't!

by BadgerDave :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:00pm

CM3 is sponsored by Suave now, so couldn't happen

by Temo :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:58pm

Well for one, Matthews reps a competing shampoo brand.

by tuluse :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 6:42pm

If the companies were really savvy they would have done a joint spot, competing players, competing brands, it's there for the taking.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 7:04pm

Matthews' deal was only signed with Suave a few weeks ago. It's pretty unlikely there would have been time to film and place an ad like that during the playoffs.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:53am

Apologies: The original DVOA ratings posted for the game were too high because I forgot to include the adjustment for playing in a dome stadium. Now corrected.

by Chappy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 6:35pm

I just noticed that Special Teams DVOA does not change from opponent adjustment. Is this always the case? Is there just no data which shows, for example, how much a 'bad' special teams team needs to be adjusted when it faces a 'good' team? (Or maybe it is just coincidental that Pittsburgh and Green Bay have roughly average special teams?)

by Flounder :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:23pm

I know it was mentioned on the TV, but it was amazing how the game was a microcosm of the GB season. Start our hot, injuries that sent the team reeling, followed by getting it together and holding on to win.

I am frankly amazed that the defense was able to hold Pitt to only two second half TDs without Woodson and Shields (I know he came back, but he played two series one-armed and that was it).

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:27pm

IIRC, the Packers had four drops, three of them on third down (one of those being a likely TD to James Jones). I told my son the Packers were trying very hard to lose, but those late throws to Nelson and Jennings were absolutely perfect, and, well, the WRs decided to actually HOLD ONTO THE BALL for a change. I've watched a fair number of Packers games, and I have a vague impression of Jordy Nelson being a pretty reliable guy who doesn't drop the ball, at least until it really matters.

Also, to re-make a joke from the Super Bowl thread, he should be glad he didn't catch that last TD. That would have given him at least a vague chance at MVP, and if you're a so-so player who winds up with the Super Bowl MVP, you are required by law to have to play for the Raiders (Larry Brown and Dominic Rhodes couldn't escape, Dexter Jackson was lucky and is still wanted in California for failing to report). Also, while looking up Nelson's stats, I see he went to Kansas State and therefore caught passes from Josh Freeman, so I officially like him more.

I thought it was a great game, simply because it was exciting throughout. Sure, there were some injuries and drops, but there was a constant feeling that the Steelers were just about to come back. Really fun to watch.

by BadgerDave :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:03pm

My fave college hightlight from Nelson http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ek0ANQ8bRfo (

by dmb :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:29pm

A couple thoughts:

*The Steelers' line played much, much better than I expected, Kemoateu's nightmare 1st quarter notwithstanding. Of course, GB sure did them a favor by using Matthews the way they did.

*Rodgers is getting a whole lot of love for his game, and he deserves credit for making good throws all day long. But I think it's only fair to point out that his intended receiver had a LOT of separation on many of those throws, greatly increasing his margin for error.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:39pm


There was no separation on that first TD pass to Nelson. No separation on the big pass to Jennings where Rodgers put the ball in the only spot it had a chance. No separation on the first TD pass to Jennings.

The Steelers had good coverage most of the night.

by dmb :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:18pm

Nelson wasn't farther ahead of Gay on the first TD only because Gay was holding him. Rodgers can safely put that throw farther downfield (no safety over the top), and if Nelson doesn't get there, they probably draw a flag for DPI.

The first TD pass to Jennings was definitely a very, very tight window -- no argument there. The terrible drop by Jones was also only made possible by a perfect throw.

The big 3rd-and-10 conversion to Jennings required perfect timing, but not necessarily great ball placement. The ball placement was great, which certainly helped allow Jennings to get as many YAC as he did. But Jennings beat Taylor to the inside and was 3 yards behind him, and Polamalu was still 5 yards away when the ball arrived. Of course, that window is much, much smaller a second later -- which is why the timing was so crucial -- but if you freeze it at the point where Jennings makes the catch, you'll see that Rodgers had some cushion to the inside.

Again, this isn't to say that Rodgers didn't have a good game; he absolutely did. I just thought the degree of difficulty for him wasn't as high as I expected it to be.

by BadgerDave :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:15pm

I think Capers had had enough of seeing Ben run after that big run when his knee looked banged up. Matthews was still taking up at least one blocker when he was spying.

by Trust Doesn't Rust (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:42pm

Funny to me how Alex Rodriguez is basically a real celebrity instead of just a sports celebrity, and is clearly positioning himself that way. I mean, there's probably hundreds if not thousands of real sports celebrities in the stands at that game, but A-Rod is in the VIP box with a movie star. He's certainly a top baseball player, but he's not the best, and he's definitely not transcendent like Michael Jordan to where he'd have major crossover celebrity. He's more famous for being rich, from New York, and easy to mock.

by RickD :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:46pm

ARod may thing he's positioning himself to be a post-baseball celebrity, but if he's doing so, he's clearly delusional. It would mean he doesn't quite understand how widely loathed he is. Even Yankees fans barely tolerate the guy.

by Trust Doesn't Rust (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:01pm

Agree completely. He's famous for being famous, not unlike the Paris Hiltons of the world. He's not really liked by very many people, people just like watching him tiptoe the line of embarrassing himself. The popcorn thing exemplifies his fame.

by Briguy :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:04pm

A-Rod famous just for being famous? You don't think it has anything to do with him being one of the top professional athletes of his generation? Comparing him with Hilton is ridiculous. Nobody had heard of her until she created her own sex scandal. With A-Rod, the fame came from sports long before the scandals happened.

I used to not like A-Rod, but I think he's gotten a really bad rap undeservedly, and now I find myself sympathizing with the guy. Scott Van Pelt spent half his show today calling A-Rod one of the big losers of SB weekend. Really? If having a rich celebrity woman who not too long ago was considered somewhat of a sex symbol feed me popcorn while I'm sitting in the luxury box at the Super Bowl makes me a loser, then sign me up for loserdom.

by Trust Doesn't Rust (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 6:51pm

Obviously his initial fame comes from playing baseball, but there were probably hundreds of big-time athletes at the game yesterday, many on his level or perhaps even higher. What makes Fox put a camera on him in that context is not his baseball skills, but because of his status as tabloid fodder. Albert Pujols or even Derek Jeter would not have been shown, and for all we know they were there.

by herm :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 10:43pm

Perhaps, but he is one of the 5 best baseball players of the last decade and as such he is perfectly noteworthy for that alone (certainly much better than Derek Jeter).

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 5:00pm

I'm guessing they only showed A-Rod because he was sitting with Cameron Diaz.

by Temo :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:54pm

I think he's more famous for being linked to famous women. Kate Hudson, Madonna, now Cameron Diaz. Shouldn't be long before he's linked to Jennifer Aniston.

by Mike W :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:59pm

Eh, so he's banged a few celebrities. The main thing with him is that he's transparently emotionally needy, and has a tin ear for PR, and so the media smells blood in the water when he's around.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:44pm

I am a bit surprised nobody has mentioned that in the entire broadcast Bulaga's name was not mentioned. Rookie tackle on a fast surface playing against the likes of Woodley and nary a penalty. That's pretty amazing.

And Clifton had a second strong performance against Harrison. Last year Clifton controlled Harrison and last night the big fella did it again. Yes Rodgers was looking to get rid of the ball but the Packers also took their shots down the field. That doesn't happen if the tackles aren't holding their own.

Very notable that Cullen Jenkins wasn't more of a factor.

Stunned beyond belief that Jarret Bush made a positive defensive contribution. Holy cow.

by Ezra Johnson :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:23pm

Yes, I thought Bulaga, and especially Clifton, were very good. Bulaga was getting bull-rushed into Rodgers by Woodley early in the game, but Rodgers was getting the ball out so quickly that it didn't matter much. Rodgers did take some hits, though. I believe the sacks they did get were up the middle. I think Harrison got one sack, but he seemed to be dropping in coverage a lot and was mostly a non-factor. They were picking up the double-X beautifully, for the most part.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:59pm

Harrison had two sacks but got up off the floor to make them both. I wouldn't say GB's tackles did brilliantly but they did enough.

by dmb :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:33pm

Agreed on all counts.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:19pm

I don't want to overstate it, and I had the usual distractions that take place during s Super Bowl, compared to how I normally watch a game, but my impression is that the Packers pass blockers for the most part just whipped the Steelers pass rushers, which means the biggest surprise is that the Packers offense didn't score well into the thirties. Hard to predict that many drops, I guess.

The rest of the NFC better stock up on pass rushers, because if you don't put Rodgers on his ass with some frequency, he is WAAAAYYY too accurate, and has too much zip, to defend with any degree of confidence.

by MJK :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:55pm

The problem with Rodgers is that other teams don't have to put him on his backside with frequency...they just have to put him on his head once.

Rodgers is a very good QB. He's also already had too many concussions, and those don't just go away. I'm worried he will now be concussion prone for the rest of his career...

by Mike W :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:10pm

Which is why the Packers need to put what would normally be considered undue investment in finding and keeping some super-deluxe OLs in the next couple years.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:47pm

To The FO team:

Thanks again for all the hard work. Glad to see your careers are progressing as the result of the effort.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:48pm

I'm curious as to a certain SB prop bet, since I didn't watch the original transmission:

How many times was Favre mentioned? Did the over win?

by Kurt :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:50pm

During the game I counted zero, though there were plenty in the postgame show.

Overall I though Buck and Aikman were fine.

by ammek :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:06pm

My biggest criticism of the Fox announcers is that they don't mention any of the substitutions at all. I understand that it would get overwhelming on every play, but not informing us that Flozell Adams and Sam Shields had returned after injuries, or that Shields had been taken out again at the end, actually deprives the viewer of necessary information: we will assume that, say, Shields was out until we've been told otherwise, especially as we often can't see the defensive backs pre-snap.

by witless chum :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:11pm

Sam Rosen in the only announcer I've noticed who does an outstanding job at that.

by Travis :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:55pm

Kevin Harlan's pretty good at that too, especially with substitution packages.

by tuluse :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 6:46pm

He's a basketball guy right? Makes sense he would be good at it.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:16pm

Wow! The over seemed like such a lock

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 5:04pm

That and the "How many times will they show Jerry Jones" bet. I don't recall seeing hime at all.

by MJK :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:58pm

Except for the moment when one of them (I think it was Aikman) was patiently explaining to us that a FG is indeed better than a TD because because it is worth more points.

by Kurt :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:49pm

I'm surprised there hasn't been more comment on the last drive, which IMO Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb would have been ashamed of:

1st-10, PIT13 1:59 B. Roethlisberger passed to H. Miller down the middle for 15 yard gain
1st-10, PIT28 1:36 B. Roethlisberger passed to H. Ward down the middle for 5 yard gain
2nd-5, PIT33 1:08 B. Roethlisberger incomplete pass down the middle

I don't know how they were planning on moving 87 yards in 1:59 by throwing short passes down the middle, and then running 20-30 seconds off after every completed pass.

by Jeff (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:08pm

I agree. They looked surprisingly confused and disorganized that drive.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:04pm

Because the GB defense had the outside and the deep routes shut down so do you want 15 yards down the middle, or incomplete outside, incomplete to the outside, interception deep? Tomlin and several Pittsburgh players have flat out said the GB defense shut down the outside and deep routes. It looked like a bad two minute drill, not because the offense was completely incompetent, but because the defense wasn't going to let it happen. Pitt "looked confused" because the defense made them look confused.

by Kurt :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:44pm

My biggest problem wasn't the plays themselves, but the ridiculous lack of urgency hiking the ball after them. I thought they were going to take a delay of game after the Ward catch.

by Kal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:41pm

This. Taking 30 seconds between plays on a 5-yard route and having to reset and literally spending 10 seconds audibling was just a bad, bad situation. What happened to calling multiple plays in a row? It was that lack of urgency that was the problem. I fully expected multiple plays down the middle; what I didn't expect is that each would take 30 seconds in a hurry-up offense.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 1:22am

Tomlin/Rapistburger caught Belichick/Brady disease!

by GlennW :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:58pm

That may be part of it, but when you have Mike Wallace frantically signaling back to Roethlisberger that he doesn't know the play call, and then on two plays in a row the pass lands 10 yards from any receiver, well, your offense is confused in its own right.

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:53pm

Ben Muth: Read Option for the two point conversion? I love it.

A read option is a two-man option. The Steelers ran a shotgun triple option. (This is West Virginia's bread and butter play) Roethlisberger kept the ball on the FB dive, then pitched to the RB on the secondary option.

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:55pm

Correction: RB dive (Mendenhall), then pitch to WR (who I'm guessing was running an orbit route).

Although given Roethlisberger's size, that was functionally a jumbo set, with the FB taking the snap.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:57pm

It seemed like the officials were only going to make the obvious calls. I think the phantom personal foul on GB was representative of an effort to keep the game in check between two teams known for knocking folks around.

by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:58pm

Yeah, the facemask wasn't actually there at all; but it sure looked like it was. (hand in position and turned head) There was a fairly routine missed facemask on a tackle of Mendenhall just a couple drives earlier, and it looked like he spoke to the refs about it; that may have influenced the throw of the flag.

by Dean :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:03pm

When I saw the play live, I yelled facemask. Obviously there wasn't one, but I understood why the ref threw the flag.

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 11:45am

Why in heck isn't a facemask a reviewable play, anyway? Those were a pretty important fifteen yards, and any glance at a replay could have shown it was an incorrect call.

by Huh? (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 7:07pm

Huh? The thumb hit the facemask. It did.

I agree it was bs, but isn't the rule any contact with a facemask? The thumb hit the facemask, it was a penalty.

by Arkaein :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 9:12pm

No, you have to grab and pull the facemask. Otherwise half of all stiff arms would be penalties.

Only QBs in the pocket can draw a flag for incidental head contact.

by justanothersteve :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 10:18pm

No. The rule is grasp of the facemask. See this link. Even if the NFL can't be bothered to update their own rulebook online.

by Lance :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 2:01am

I wish they would go back to the 5 yard "incidental" rule and the 15 yards major variety.

by ammek :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 12:57pm

I'm a bit surprised that the best unit on the field was the Packers' offense — and by some distance. No giveaways really does help, doesn't it?

Aside from the turnovers, I had the impression that the Steeler offense played better on first and second down, while Green Bay's offense was better on third down. Looking at the stats, that assessment seems not quite right. Both teams faced 13 third downs, although five of Pittsburgh's had 1-3 yards to go, versus just two for the Pack. But both teams converted half of their third-and-longs (7+ yards to go): Pitt 3-of-6, GB 4-of-8. The Packers' conversions were simply more bunched, and gained more yards.

Both teams were just as efficient at converting third-and-long as other third downs. This does seem to be a feature of modern elite quarterbacking: big gains and solid success rates on 'difficult' passing plays. Rodgers' worst down last year was first down: it's when he gives up most sacks, and throws his occasional bad picks. Yesterday he was an unremarkable 7-of-14 for 76 yards and two sacks on first down. Compare that with, say, Joe Montana in XIX, whose basic statline is otherwise pretty similar: Montana went 12-of-17 for 182 yards on first down; he was 2-of-6 for 30 yards on third down. Traditionally we expect pass performance to be that way round. In this Packer offense, it really isn't any more.

by djanyreason :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:03pm

Wouldn't be an audibles column without a gratuitous Roethlisberger slam by Bill Barnwell.

by cd6!! (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:23pm

He even turned it into an entire ESPN column.

FO ought to consider banning Barnwell from discussing Roethlisberger if they want to maintain any sort of claim to unbiased "intelligent analysis" as stated in their graphics

by RickD :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:37pm

OTOH, Roethlisberger had a poor game yesterday by any standard.

And I'm not buying the claim that he was hit on the first pick. He was hit, but after he'd released the ball. The pick was all his fault.

by Kal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:43pm

Not being able to follow through on a throw is almost as bad as hitting it from the back; the angle and the velocity on it were both just bad because of that hit.

I don't think he had a great game and I really think he shouldn't have thrown that with that much pressure in his face at the time - that was a bad decision, and that decision WAS on him. But it wasn't a bad throw just because he threw it badly. Ben can throw a deep ball with a ton of velocity and accuracy; that's one of the few things I'd never knock him on.

by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 12:26am

FO ought to consider banning Barnwell from discussing Roethlisberger if they want to maintain any sort of claim to unbiased "intelligent analysis" as stated in their graphics

And what other opinions do you disagree with? Should we ban those too for you? You make it sound unpleasant, like it physically hurts you, to read opinions that are different than yours.

I don't think any of the writers claim to be "unbiased" anywhere. You know they list the teams they all root for, right? Just in case you want to look for examples of bias, you could probably start looking there.

Years ago I learned that most people tend to read only the articles that agree with the opinions they already have. And why would you purposefully expose yourself to new ways of thinking? It's hard work to challenge your opinions, it's much easier to sit back and congratulate yourself for having it all figured out. Yes, that's lazy, but that's not intelligent. Anyway, I read Mr. Barnwell's contributions to this post and I don't have a clue what you're upset about in the first place.

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 11:43am

I agree. Biased intelligent analysis is much more fun to read than unbiased intelligent analysis.

by Spielman :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 6:25pm

I'm fine with biased, so long as it doesn't descend to Cold Hard Football Facts style antagonistic ranting.

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 7:34pm

Well, that's where the "intelligent" part comes in.

by Dean :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 10:19am

Does that website still exist?

by Spielman :: Mon, 02/14/2011 - 9:19am

Yes, and Kerry Byrne actually got hired to write for SI, which is probably the best illustration of how far they have sunk.

by MJK :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:07pm

Some quick thoughts is all I have time for...I'll go back and read other people's comments in a bit.

1). Good game. Enjoyable game. Superbowls don't always live up to their billing, but this one did.

2). Two good teams. Roethlisberger does get too much love for being "clutch", and maybe too much hate by folks that overreact to that overrating, but I agree that in this game he was decidedly average. Had some really nice moments, some really good play, and also some "meh" play. And most of his good play came after the Packers defensive backfield was in the locker room. I do find it funny that this "average" game was way, way better than his first SB win (in which his play was awful), but he'll probably get more credit for that win.

As to Rodgers, he didn't look amazing, but (a) his receivers seemed to have coated their gloves with Vaseline before the game, and (b) he was playing one of the top defenses in the league. In that situation, less-than-stellar play happens.

3). On the two minute drive at the end, a lot of people are saying that Roethlisberger looked bad. I don't think that's it at all. I think, rather, what happened was that the Packers emphatically demonstrated by counterexample how stupid playing a prevent defense really is.

On the first play, they rushed 3 and went into what looked to me to be a classic "prevent", giving up the middle of the field to trade time for yards. Roethlisberg obliged with an 18 yard completion. Then Dom Capers said, "Hey wait, maybe this isn't such a good idea", and rushed (I think) 6 on the next three plays, giving up a grand total of 5 yards. The 4th down play he rushed four, and his defense played aggressively. Roethlisberger didn't look sloppy as much as he looked confused, as in "hey, wait, I thought defenses were supposed to give me no rush and easy throws to the middle in this situation???!!!".

4). Some interesting moments in officiating. Facemask? We don't need to see you actually grip the facemask? Football moves? Who needs them! Just call it incomplete! The player touched the ground after a TD? No! Penalize the jerk!

by dmb :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:29pm

I may be wrong about this, but I think the "football move" language was removed from the rulebook. That call seemed slightly borderline, but I definitely don't think it was demonstrably wrong ... and Mike Pereira seemed to think it was unequivocally correct. As for the call on the TD celebration, that has everything to do with rule-making, not officiating.

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:35pm

I use Mike Pereira like I used to use Gene Siskel -- if he thought it was right, it was wrong, and vice-versa.

by MJK :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:56pm

I think you are right. I was more lamenting the elimination of the language than claiming the call was wrong.

By the letter of the current rule, a ref is perfectly within his rights to call that an incomplete pass, and to not overturn that call on replay. That's the problem. The rule is now worded only as "establish possession", which means something different to every ref.

On that play, the GB receiver reached up, caught the ball firmly in his grip, pulled it down, and cradled it as he started to turn upfield. He was then hit, and before his knee hit the ground, the ball was ripped out. He bobbled it, then lost it. In my opinion, he had clearly "established possession" at that point...but it's just my opinion. I certainly agree that other people (like a ref) could have had a different opinion, and it is legitimate because the rule is so vague.

A somewhat obscure comparison, but it's very similar to competitive sailing when they eliminated the "mast abeam" rule a number of years ago, in an attempt to "simplify the rulebook". It was a very precise definition of when an overtaking boat to leeward ceases to be overtaking and hence ceases to be burdened, but it was very technical, so they eliminated it and basically said an overtaking boat ceases to be overtaking once it takes the lead. Um, yeah. So a pass is considered to be completed once the receiver has possession. Great. And a person is technically defined to be handsome when he ceases to be ugly.

I seriously don't know what a WR has to do or not do to "establish possession" anymore. I don't fault them for not overturning it, but live I would have called it a catch, and if it was, I don't think it would have been overturned the other way.

by GlennW :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:07pm

I agree that the rule as stated is vague and subjective, but by my observation in practice the catch-possession standard allows the receiver the opportunity to tuck the ball away at minimum, such that he at least has a chance to defend himself from a "cheap" fumble (which is the underlying rationale between both the catch-possession and QB forward pass-possession rules). In this case the Packer receiver hadn't yet pulled the ball in before it was stripped away, so I would have been shocked if the call on the field was overturned.

by RickD :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:42pm

I'm a bit less forgiving as to whether "establish possession" is simply a "matter of opinion". The receiver had enough control of the ball to turn and take a step. At that point the defender slapped at the ball in his hands. Whether the receiver's knee hit the ground or not is entirely irrelevant as to the question of whether he had possession or not - it only matters with regard to whether it was a fumble or not.
The NFL keeps trying to rewrite these rules to find the perfect formula, and they are doing badly because they don't want to let the officials make any judgment calls whatsoever.

by tuluse :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 7:19pm

They didn't add anything to the rule, they just took out the football move wording because no had any idea what a football move was. The wording about possession has always been there, we at least have a vague idea of what possession looks like.

by MJK :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:10pm

Oh, and if there isn't one already, can the competition committee please pass a rule that makes it illegal to try to block a receiving team player into a bouncing, untouched punt? I know Williams shouldn't have retaliated, but this is the second or third time this year I've seen a punting team try to do that. It's cheap. Make it stop.

by Temo :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:14pm

There is a rule that marks the ball down at the spot if a returning player is blocked into the ball, no?

by Led :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:46pm

This is correct but only if the returning player has stopped participating in the play, i.e., is no longer trying to recover the ball or block.

by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:53pm

I think it's perfectly legal to block a receiving team's player into a punt and that it results in a live ball. I don't think you could easily write a rule against it. (Does anyone know the rule for sure?)

The problem is with the occasional high and short punt that lands among the players setting up blocks. It's usually bad for the punting team; it's not worth it to intentionally punt only 20 yards. But occasionally, it will bounce off the receiving team and become a live ball. (The returner is supposed to yell for his team to clear the area during such a punt.) I'm not sure you could draw a fine line in that situation between being "blocked into" the punt and just accidentally or foolishly getting in its way.

If the returner hangs around a rolling punt, I think he can be blocked into it. Every once in a while, you'll see the returner swoop in to stop the roll or even to pick it up and run with it. As long as that's an option, blocking him into the punt should be. I agree it's cheap, but only in the sense that you can get a turnover with minimal skill or effort, not in the unsportsmanlike sense.

by Kurt :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:15pm

Once Williams decided not to field the punt, he shouldn't have been within twenty yards of the ball. That's the simplest way to make it stop.

by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:17pm

Uh, duh. Why would he dance around the ball at all? I guess he really does have a short memory and NOT remember the Philly game. Why would he even be near the ball after choosing not to catch it? I almost went hoarse yelling at him through my TV.

by Temo :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:33pm

Just in case you can do this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qj74_XzcBvo

by Misfit74 :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:21pm

"Tom Gower: I think the House parody is only of interest to fans of House. As somebody who saw most of 2 episodes and added the show to his "never watch this again" list, it annoyed me."


Also, I found FOX's coverage to be tolerable, maybe even very good. For once, the game was louder than Joe Buck (ok, as loud). In particular, I loved that after the crushing hit by Clay Matthews forced the crucial Mendenhall fumble, Fox dug up and showed a clip from just prior to the play of his position coach Kevin Greene telling him: "It's time". As in: it's time to make a big play if we are to turn the tide and win this game. Matthews responded with maybe the biggest defensive play in the game outside of the Nick Collins INT return for a touchdown. Great coverage by FOX.

by RickD :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:44pm

As an occasional viewer of House who's largely gotten tired of the show, I liked the ad.

So I guess I'm part of the target audience for the ad and you and Tom Gower are not.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:29pm

I know that it's been said a lot but have the Packers really been that injured. Apart from Finley how many good players did they lose for more than a couple of games? They have had a lot of injuries to lesser players and they should get deserved credit for having guys that can step up but some of that credit must go to their coaching staff for getting them ready to play off the bench.

They do have a very good nucleus of young players, a great offensive head coach and one of the best DCs in Capers, they should be one of the teams to beat for a while.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:33pm

Nick Barnett, Brady Poppinga, Brad Jones (all starters to begin the season)

Morgan Burnett (starting safety ahead of Peprah)

Ryan Grant (starting running back)

Mark Tauscher (starting right tackle)

by Mike W :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:43pm

Yeah, it'll be interesting to see who starts at LB next year. If Barnett loses a step I'd expect him to be gone, and I could see Hawk departing as well. Depends on salaries and cap, of course, and on whether there's a next year at all.

I think draft needs are OT, a DL, a CB, a C/G, and a WR in order.

by MCS :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:26pm

No really conclusive evidence, but based on what I read and hear around Packerland, Hawk stays. Based on age, Barnett is gone.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:59pm

The Packers want Hawk back, but not at 10 million that he is due next year. They have basically said if he will restructure they'd like to keep him. If Hawk won't restructure, I expect them to hang onto Barnett, but draft another ILB. Barnett is nearing the end of his career anyway. I don't think he is an Urlacher or Ray Lewis 15 year type player. He was always a 10 year type guy in my mind and the injuries have to be a big concern. I'm not positive he is the best fit for a 3-4 ILB either. He was a very solid 4-3 ILB. Bishop is ramping up better than I expected in pass coverage. I used to view him as a liability, but I think he has moved to average there. I don't see Chillar as anything more than he is. A very solid guy to have for sub packages, though he is making starter money.

I'm not so sure they need another OT. Bulaga will be better on the left than he was on the right in my opinion so when Clifton is done (and he may decide to retire with his ring). I also think Bulaga's got a bad wrap based off of one game. What you saw in the playoffs is what to expect, and generally rookie tackles that play that well, continue to improve for awhile. TJ Lang is possibly a starting caliber RT, I know that he came in on the left side when Clifton got hurt but that was because shifting Bulaga over there then putting Lang in at RT would be more disruptive. But a tackle who is better in the run game would be nice. Clifton just can't run block anymore. Bulaga, I dunno, there was a lot of dysfunction in the run game this year hard to really evaluate. If they can get a stud guard who can back-up at center I'd be happy, Spitz does not seem the same after his back injury, and I don't expect him around as a back-up anymore. Though a stud center who can play guard too wouldn't hurt. Wells has been solid, but again I think he is a weak link in the run blocking.

We do need another CB, Woodson may decide the rehab from the shattered collarbone is more than he wants to deal with. Pat Lee and Jarret Bush never panned out (though I think both are under contract for a bit still) and I can't see them as being anything more than back-ups. I think Bush's interception came when he was playing safety, I don't think Peprah was on the field for that one. I can live with him as a back-up, and he was one of the few bright spots on special teams coverage units. If Bigby sticks around, I'm alright with Collins, Burnett, Peprah, Bigby as the safeties.

I would love another OLB though. I just have a feeling that Matthews is going to miss a game or two a year, though he'll stick around for 10+ years. I would like another stud, or at least bigger threat, than "next" on the other side. Brad Jones still has the potential to be that, Zombo could develop more but I don't think to the level I want. I think we have seen Erik Walden's ceiling same for Poppinga. I don't mind any of those guys as back-ups, or sub package guys. But I would like another higher caliber starter.

I don't think we need another DL. But if we do, it needs to be a 3-4 end type. Raji and Pickett can both play the nose. We might keep Green around but that would be another nose. Pickett did alright playing end, but it's not natural. After Neal and Harrel (no surprise on him) got hurt, they only really had Jenkins at end. Wynn and Wilson may develop better than I think, but eh. More depth at that spot would be nice. They still have Jolly under contract though I don't know if they want to keep him around after the drug issues and he fits in well as a 3-4 end. But hey if he learns his lesson he is a good player. Neal should be recover from the shoulder injury and he is stout. But another DL would just be depth at this point.

That is the beauty of what the Packers have built. They got to the situation every team wants to be in. Just grab the best talent that is out there, whatever position, and if it's an instant upgrade, great. If it's a solid back-up, that's fine.

I still think we should try and find another running back. I'm not sure you need to draft one highly, in fact I buy the arguments that you shouldn't do that, but if they can turn over another rock... I like having the thought of Grant back with Starks backing him up and Jackson still doing 3rd down duty but I still think the position can be upgraded. We don't need 3 FBs! Replace Hall with the linebacker you draft on special teams. As much as I liked Kuhn he is replaceable and with Grant back he'd be just another fullback. Quinn Johnson hasn't lived up to his potential as a big, explosive blocker, at least not consistently. He can go if you need a roster spot, but keeping him if you drop Hall and/or Kuhn is fine. I could live with keeping any of the 3, but not all of them, next year.

I wouldn't mind them spending a high draft pick on a guy who projects as a great returner either. I would love it if he could play some wide receiver as the #4 or #5. Brett Swain is just a guy in my opinion. I hope Driver comes back next year. He still has some in the tank, and while injuries slowed him this year, he is willing to to take a lesser role in the offense. I don't think they will be able to keep both Nelson and Jones. Both have clear upsides and clear downsides.

Mostly I want them to replace Slocum as special teams coordinator and get a new return guy. Heck if they can get a WR/returner, and a CB/returner I'd be really happy.

by Mike W :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 10:08pm

If Clifton wants to hang on one more year we can wait to draft an OT, but I want some depth there.

DT=DE, yes. We're set at nose. Disagree on RB. Grant, Starks, Jackson, two FBs. Done.

Gotta draft a CB just about every year anyway given the short life of most of them, and Woodson is becoming a safety or hybrid-type DB anyway.

WR/KR - absolutely. Driver plays one more year, they let Jones go is my prediction.

If they can find a difference-maker DE or OT with the 32nd pick, great. Otherwise I'd like a CB or WR/KR.

Hopefully Slocum won't keep his job with the excuse that injuries hurt continuity or some such garbage.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:52pm

This is kind of my point, I wouldn't say any of them are good players. The Packers had quite a few injuries but mostly to their weakest starters, until the start of the superbowl anyway.

by Matty D (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 7:17pm

Barnett went to the Pro Bowl in 2007, Grant had run for 3,500 yards over the previous three seasons, and Finley was the leading receiver on the team when he went down.

Starters Jenkins and Pickett on the D Line both missed multiple games.
Matthews missed 1.5 games.
Rodgers missed 1.5 games.
Driver missed 3 games.

But sure, the injuries weren't really a big deal and only affected marginal starters. Right.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 8:06pm

I'd already said 'other than Finley' and I don't think Barnett and Grant are that good. The other guys missed three games and were playing in the superbowl. I think that backs up what I said rather than repudiating it.

by ammek :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:55pm

That all depends on how you qualify a 'good player'.

In one sense the Packers were quite lucky with their injuries: to have so many, and lose so few of their most important players, was fortunate. Finley (IRed after week 5) was the only long-term injury casualty I'd have put among the 10 most valuable Packers.

Also, they were healthy on two crucial units: wide receiver, which is central to the Packers' scheme, and offensive line, where continuity is so important.

That said, they really did lose a lot of players — and not just the IR guys. Important contributors like Cullen Jenkins and Clay Matthews missed a couple of games and portions of a few others because of nagging injuries. Of course, many teams suffer this; but the Packers seemed to get clobbered more than usual.

Furthermore, on several occasions, including yesterday, they lost multiple players at one position in a very short timeframe. When they brought Howard Green in for the Jets game, they were down to one healthy player on the defensive line. If there had been only one week before the Superbowl instead of two, they'd have had to start a sixth-string ROLB.

Most of the injuries were on the defense, and GM Ted Thompson and DC Dom Capers deserve all the plaudits for producing a top-ranking unit despite the carnage. The special teams suffered badly from lineup instability. The offense was inconsistent all season long, owing to the curious decision to keep only 2 RBs on the roster, and to streakiness among the (healthy) WRs and linemen.

In short, I think the injury stuff has been a little overplayed. What's been underplayed is the coaching of borderline starters like Tramon Williams and Desmond Bishop into very good players.

by MCS :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:28pm

I shudder to think of Francois starting.

by ammek :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:55pm

I'd have taken Francois over Bush and Lee if you'd asked me before kickoff.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:15pm

On offense they lost Grant (back to back 1200 yard rushing seasons) for 15 games, Finley (right there with Antonio Gates in DYAR and on pace for the Pro Bowl) for about 11-12 games. They also lost starting right tackle Mark Tauscher for the most of the season (Bulaga didn't start until Tauscher was shut down)

They lost rookie starting safety Morgan Burnett for about 11 games. Previous starting safety Atari Bigby spent most of the season on PUP or injured on the active roster. Nick Barnett, starting ILB, as well as Brandon Chillar, their top backup ILB. The CB position was the healthiest, but that doesn't even count Al Harris who was never able to contribute this season.

The ROLB position used 4 different starters. Zombo was the 3rd, before getting injured previously, giving way to Erik Walden for a few games, and then coming back to start in the Superbowl when Walden was hurt in the NFCC game. None of these guys are standouts, so going from first to fourth string didn't hurt like it would at most positions, but GB couldn't even build any continuity there.

So while Finley was the biggest star lost, GB lost a lot of starters and key backups, and lost many of them for over half of the season. The GM and coaching staff definitely deserve a ton of credit for building the team with the depth it has.

by Jetspete :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 1:39pm

ESPN again went to their "only things that happened yesterday matter" playbook and started touting Aaron Rodgers as the qb you'd most want to build a franchise around (looking at his age, talent, etc), as if the packers wouldve won the title without their incredible defense. My question, doesnt any debate that includes the best under-30 quarterback in the league have to include Philip Rivers? At the very least those hacks shouldve acknowledged him while they were waxing poeting that Rodgers was the greatest in the league.

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:41pm

Maybe. Rogers is basically Rivers without the bad attitude and the undeserved arrogance. Plus, he's actually won something.

But who would you pick? Rogers took a one-dimensional, injury-riddled offense with a suspect line to a SB win, where they put up 24 pts on the Steelers. Freeman and Bradford faltered down the stretch, Stafford is a China doll, Cutler is Jekyll/Hyde, Roethlisberger may or may not be a serial rapist, and Rivers makes Roethlisberger look like a nice guy.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:59pm

Must . . . defend . . . Josh Freeman with dying breath . . .

Freeman faltered down the stretch? Freeman could not have "un-faltered" more; he was one of the singly-best QBs in the league the latter half of the season. Josh Freeman has more or less started a season and a half's worth of football, being he started the last nine games of 2009. For convenience's (and rhetoric's) sake, I'm going to break his career down into three half-seasons.

Half-season 1, 2nd half of 2009--158/290, 54.5%, 10 TD/18 INT
Half-season 2, 1st half of 2010--146/246, 59.3%, 10 TD/5 INT
Half-season 3, 2nd half of 2010--145/228, 63.6%, 15 TD/1 INT

15 TDs and a single INT was "faltered"? He threw SEVEN TDs the last two weeks and, for what it's worth, was the "FedEx Air Player of the Week" in both weeks 16 and 17. The Bucs o-line was marginally glued together by the end of the year, and Freeman played even better.

I would also take Rodgers first. Well, the caveat is "Rodgers first, assuming he's learned to slide and not dive headfirst into a charging safety".

by dmb :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:18pm

Yeah, to echo MilkmanDanimal's post, I have trouble imagining a universe where a 15-1 TD-INT combination could be considered an example of a QB "faltering."

And what, exactly, do you really know about any of these players' attitudes and how it affects their on-field performance (if at all)? Rodgers was the one who spent the whole season celebrating by pretending to don a championship belt, not Rivers. It's strange that you single out Rivers for "undeserved arrogance" when his individual performance has generally been at least as good as Rodgers'. Or are you suggesting that Rivers' body language is what's responsible for AJ Smith's refusal to sign Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates' injury issues, the comical ineptitude of the Chargers' special teams, and the existence of Buster Davis?

by dmb :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:22pm

Also, I find it fascinating that you believe occasional instances of bad body language caught on TV to be worse than possibly being a serial rapist.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:33pm

Being I never said anything about Roethlisberger, I have no idea where this is coming from. A few years ago, I'd have taken Ben first in a "build a team around this QB" draft; now I wouldn't touch him with a latex-covered stick. Good player, scumball, I hope he falls on a fence and castrates himself. Anyways . . .

I'd take Rodgers first because he strikes me as a guy who has done "more with less"; his mobility has really helped him overcome some of the o-line issues. I think Rivers is an utterly great QB and he has to be at the top of any list, but I'd still take Rodgers first. Rivers? 2nd or 3rd.

by dmb :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:41pm

That was in response to Aaron Brooks, not you. ("Roethlisberger may or may not be a serial rapist, and Rivers makes Roethlisberger look like a nice guy.") I was agreeing with you about Freeman, and the rest of the post was directed to the post mine was nested in. Sorry for the confusion.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:21pm

I think a lot of it is related to things like Rivers barking at the other teams' sidelines during games in past years and similar bits of douchebaggery. I honestly can't really recall him doing anything like that in the last year or two, but it stuck with me. And, apparently, other people:


He's just seemed like a dick, and a lot of the reason people like Aaron Rodgers (I'm including myself here) is that he handled the whole draft plummet, sitting behind Favre, and the eventual blowup in Green Bay really well. I just get the impression that Philip Rivers wouldn't have carried himself in quite the same way.

by dmb :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:24pm

I understand that that stuff rubs a lot of people the wrong way, but there's just no strong connection between that sort of nonsense and:

(1) being a good or bad player; and
(2) being a good or bad person.

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:33pm

The context of that evaluation is, though, is that there is the perception (deserved or not), that asshole QBs don't flourish in the NFL. Roethlisberger faced that early in the season, that perception dogged Jeff George his entire career, it gets applied to Jay Cutler, and it seems to be true of Rivers. Rivers has played on fantastically talented teams, and all he has to show for it is a couple of division wins in the most dysfunctional division in football and a spectacular penchant for losing playoff games to lesser opponents. He has all the tools, but seems to be lacking the ability to lead a team. At the end of the day, I'd take Rogers over Brees, and Brees over Rivers.

by dmb :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:47pm

My understanding is that Jim McMahon was quite brash, yet "he" won a Super Bowl.

Or perhaps team success has more to do with, say, team talent and coaching (and a bit of luck) than with the demeanor of the quarterback?

by Kal :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:46pm

McMahon was brash the same way Ochocinco was. He was a goofball, but he rarely was mean or taunted anyone or the like. Comparing him to Rivers makes me sad.

by Sjt (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:53pm

Brees did even less with that same "spectacularly talented team".

Rivers is the leader of his team, just ask any of his teammates or coaches. This whole "he can't win cause he's not a leader" is bunk, unless you apply it to the Kellys, Marinos, and early Elway/Mannings of the world. It takes more that just a strong QB to win a super bowl. A lot of times it takes everything BUT a strong qb.

by Sjt (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:50pm

He's just seemed like a dick, and a lot of the reason people like Aaron Rodgers (I'm including myself here) is that he handled the whole draft plummet, sitting behind Favre, and the eventual blowup in Green Bay really well. I just get the impression that Philip Rivers wouldn't have carried himself in quite the same way.

Except that Rivers had to deal with an awkward draft day trade to a city which didn't know him or want him, and then he sat on a bench for 2 years behind Brees. He had to step into the spot Brees left, which made him ripe for criticism, and he's flourished.

The whole "he'd kind of a dick thing" is sad, because its based on a few small, meaningless incidents which happened to get caught camera and replayed during the few times the Chargers were actually shown on national TV. Its really funny because the impression you get from actually watching him speak unfiltered is that he's a pretty bland boy scout type. He's married with 5 kids and doesn't swear, even during his on field trash talking, which mostly involved a lot of "lets go" and talk about corn flakes. Yes, corn flakes. That's his "dirty mouth". He talks about breakfast cereal during NFL games.

by Sjt (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:42pm

Maybe. Rogers is basically Rivers without the bad attitude and the undeserved arrogance.

Sure you didn't mean Cutler? Because Rivers (the real one, not the KSK depiction) has a great attitude, he's humble, and he's the undisputed and respected leader of his team.

Plus, he's actually won something.

Yes he did. With the help of a great defense and a special teams unit which didn't sabotage him.

They are both great QBs, and you would do well to build your team around either one. Rodgers may get the edge because he is a bit more mobile and he's a little younger.

by Jetspete :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:25pm

Rodgers had a great run this year, and played well in his five play-off games. I just hate that ESPN uses super bowl victories as the sole determination of success, and if you havent won a superbowl it somehow diminshes your ability as a quarterback. Rivers is still 55-25 as a reg season starter, and has the handicap of Marty/Norv coach-suck (albeit Norv is maybe the best developer of quarterbacks in NFL history, he's just horrendous at coaching decisions). In Rivers playoff history, he lost two home games as favorite (a forgiveable loss to NE, and a bad loss to my Jets), and two on the road vs the 07 Pats and eventual champion Steelers.

Rodgers is a more pedestrian 27-19. I guess i'd just rather have the guy who has done it longer in Rivers, despite his play-off track record. And while i have no evidence to support this theory, it might be easier reach the super bowl in the NFC than the AFC. In the AFC youve had the Colts, Steelers and Pats all consistently good for a decade while in the NFC there has been no standard bearer (10 diff conf champs in 10 years). If the Chargers played in the NFC west as opposed to afc west, it is possible they wouldve played on the grandest stage by now.

by Jetspete :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:29pm

Also, on Rivers, the guy has more guts than brains. a sprained knee kept cutler out of title game. A torn up knee didnt keep Rivers out (albeit likely to the detriment of his team).

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:40pm

Volek finished the game Rivers sustained that knee injury. Rivers either has a faulty memory or an over-inflated ego.

As to regular season success -- Rivers has played for far more talented teams.

by RickD :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:55pm

As a fan of a team featuring none of these guys, I'd say that I'd much rather have my team facing Rivers than Rodgers. Rivers puts up good numbers but he doesn't seem very clever.
As for Cutler, he's a notch below either, but I have gotten really tired of people making negative comments about him leaving a game with a MCL injury. It boggles the mind to think that fans would think Cutler would spend his entire life working for a chance to go to the Super Bowl, and then would duck out of the NFC championship game for a flimsy reason. It's a vicious character attacked based on nothing.
Thought we were done with that one already.

BTW, there is no virtue in playing through pain if the result is a player who sucks. A QB who has no stability in his plant leg is useless. It's not the kind of situation where the only important variable is the player's pain threshold. There are physics involved, too. (There is physics involved?)

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 6:34pm

The knee thing is a bit of incorrect information that needs to be stopped. Rivers didn't finish the game he got hurt in, he came back the next week. It was also a different type of knee injury (ACL vs MCL) that would not affect planting the way the MCL would. A QB would rather have an ACL problem in the plant leg is my understanding.

However there have been other things that do show more guts than brains for Rivers. Rodgers has also displayed that tendency too, though.

Rodgers is almost exactly 2 years younger. Both had the advantage of sitting on the bench for a couple of years. Rivers as you mentioned is 55-25. While QB record has flaws, I think there is some validity in this case as both teams have had a lot of talent. I think the Packers have played in the stronger division. 3 of the 6 NFC Championship teams have been from the NFC North in Rodgers tenure (it would be 5 of 10 in River's tenure, the North has been pretty solid with 2 of them being Green Bay in that span). 2 of 10 of the AFC Champion participants have been from the AFC West (with one of them being San Diego). I'm using this metric to try and put a little bit of a different slant on strength of schedule stuff. Green Bay has often had at least one of it's division rivals be a very solid team that not only did well in the regular season but the post season as well.

Though I'll dig up what this site has on it too so the FO, SOS numbers.

2010 SD(-4.9%) 26th, GB(2.4%) 16th
2009 SD(-1.4%) 22nd, GB(-8.8%) 31st
2008 SD(-0.5%) 21st, GB(-0.6%) 23rd

2007 SD(-0.2%) 19th, GB(-6.7%) 29th (Favre's last year)
2006 SD(-6.1%) 29th, GB(-1.8%) 25th (Favre again)

So by FO metrics Rivers has never faced a hard slate of regular season opponents. He had 2 very easy years two nearly average, and one below average. Rodgers had one super easy year, one nearly average, and one above average year on the schedule.

So yeah his team is 27-21, Rivers' team is 55-25. But it's not a stretch to see GB being 13-3 or 12-4 (or even 14-2) over the next couple of years. At the 5 year point Rodgers could be 52-28 and I think a lot of people would not flinch too much at that number. But I will still give the nod to Rivers on regular season so far. GB could go 10-6 again or 9-7 in the next 2 years. I don't think they will have a losing season though.

Playoffs is 3-4 vs 4-1. Again let's look at opponents.

2006 SD 29.1% [27.0 / 2.4 / 4.4] loses to NE 27.1% [15.1 / -9.3 / 2.6]
2007 SD 18.1% [ 5.8 / -8.2 / 4.3] defeats TEN 9.5% [-3.4 / -13.3 / -0.4]
........SD 18.1% [ 5.8 / -8.2 / 4.3] defeats IND 30.7% [24.3 / -12.3 / -5.9]
........SD 18.1% [ 5.8 / -8.2 / 4.3] loses to NE 53.1 [ 45.2 / -5.0 / 3.0]
2008 SD 17.5% [24.1 / 8.3 / 1.7] defeats IND 15.3 [17.2 / 0.1 / -1.8]
........SD 17.5% [24.1 / 8.3 / 1.7] loses to PIT 26.4 [3.7 / -26.9 / -1.1]
2009 SD 13.6% [22.9 / 9.6 / 0.3] loses to NYJ 16.9 [-9.0 / -23.4 / 2.5]
........GB 30.4% [22.5 / -14.0 / -6.1] loses to ARI 11.4% [10.1 / 0.3 / 1.6]
2010 GB 23.3% [14.7 / -10.8 / -2.2 ] defeats PHI 22.0% [21.3 / 1.4 / 2.1]
........GB 23.3% [14.7 / -10.8 / -2.2 ] defeats ATL 15.9% [10.9 / 1.3 / 6.3]
........GB 23.3% [14.7 / -10.8 / -2.2 ] defeats CHI 3.0% [-12.0 / -7.8 / 7.2]
........GB 23.3% [14.7 / -10.8 / -2.2 ] defeats PIT 37.3 [17.9 / -18.5 / 0.9]

So SD vs "superior" opponents was 1-3 and 2-1 vs "inferior" opponents. Rivers never faced a weak defense either. Indy at 0.1 in 08 was the easiest. The rest were strong. So SD did basically what was expected.

GB vs "superior" opponents was 1-0 and 3-1 vs "inferior" opponents, but the one loss to an "inferior" opponent was a much weaker team than the on SD lost to. But again essentially the same. In the long run they did what you would expect. Rodgers generally got to face easier defenses. With 3 of the 5 being positive in DVOA. So things were a bit simpler for him as a QB.

On average GB has been a better team than SD was when they were in the play offs. In both cases when SD and GB were at their "best" they went one and done. It was also the first playoff game for both QB's.

Small sample size and all, I will still give the nod to Rodgers but only for winning the Championship game and the Super Bowl. This is a really close call as I can't really fault Rivers for the results he got. Rivers could see SD go 3-0 or 4-0 in the playoffs next year or two as well, and GB could go 0-1, 1-1, or 2-1 as well.

So stats.

2006 Rivers 904 / 17.9 (6 / 7)
2007 Rivers 551 / 3.6 (16 / 20)
2008 Rivers 1522 / 35.6 (3 / 2)
.......Rodgers 932 / 14.8 (10 / 14)
2009 Rivers 1915 / 45.9 ( 3 / 1)
.......Rodgers 1294 / 22.7 (9 / 9)
2010 Rivers 1649 / 33.9 (3 /3)
.......Rodgers 1521 / 33.8 (4 / 4)

Rivers has been better than Rodgers in the 3 overlapping years. But if you look at "career arc" (2006 Rivers vs 2008 Rodgers, etc) you see

Y1: Rivers 904 / 17.9 (6 / 7)
....Rodgers 932 / 14.8 (10 / 14)
Y2: Rivers 551 / 3.6 (16 / 20)
....Rodgers 1294 / 22.7 (9 / 9)
Y3: Rivers 1522 / 35.6 (3 / 2)
....Rodgers 1521 / 33.8 (4 / 4)

You see a very similar path, but Rodgers is slightly ahead. Rodgers missed 1.5 games this year which I think should count against him, but had he not would have put him slightly ahead in the Year 3 stats.

So I give the slight nod to Rodgers there. Again slight nod because I don't know if it's safe to say Rodgers will hit the peak that Rivers has hit or that Rivers won't hit a higher peak still.

Rivers should certainly be in the discussion of "what young QB would you want build around though".

So really do you want a bit more certainty in what you are getting (Rivers) or do you want more potential longevity and potential upside (Rodgers). Of course both are still so young that they could both peak even higher. I didn't do numbers for Big Ben, but the con on him is character issues. His numbers would show very favorably. Brees is over 30 now so that takes him out of this arbitrary question.

Personally I would take Rodgers. Like the talking heads, I do put more subjective weight on the post season and I'll stay away from Roethlisberger's character issues. I think a lot of "analyst" count the Super Bowl as about 20 regular season games, the Championship game as about 6, and the other play off games as about 3 with losses being about 1/3rd the win values (so winning a super bowl is like winning 29 or 32 regular season games, losing a Super Bowl gets you like 9-12 regular season wins for getting there and probably about 6 losses in their minds). I don't weigh stuff that heavily but I know that in my head I do give them more merit as "big games".

I just think Rodgers gives the best risk/reward return for a young QB.

by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:23pm

So we all decided to just put that whole Michael Douglas "Rah Rah USA" spot into the memory hole? Nothing makes me want to stand up chanting U-S-A! U-S-A! more than seeing Bono draped in an American flag.

Also, did anyone notice the angle Roethlisberger started taking on the Mendenhall fumble? It looked like he had a flashback to the Colts-Steelers AFC CG game and the Bettis fumble...

by Dean :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:06pm

That was disgusting, now that you mention it. Bono pretty much hates everything about Americans except our money.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:13pm

I don't care about Bono. I do care that pictures of Omaha Beach and marchers at Selma were conflated with the outcome of a Goddamn football game.

by Dean :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:29pm

I think it's fair to say that they intended to be very respectful, tasteful, and understated.

I think it's also fair to say they failed.

I also think it's fair to say that those of us who were bothered by it were in a very small minority.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:38pm

I have no doubt that was the intention. I just am in awe of the towering lunacy contained in associating an event that people use for the occasion of drinking booze and overeating, with a deadly conflict needed to defeat industrialized genocidal fascism, or risking one's live to beat back what is among the darkest stains in the nation's history. My goodness, whatta' bunch of morons....

by Dean :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:58pm

Deep breath, Will. You're definitely not in your happy place. Ohmmmmmm....

by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 5:04pm

I'm not unhappy. I just thought the stupidity was notable.

by RickD :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:57pm

"Bono pretty much hates everything about Americans except our money."

Nice smear.

I'm not a huge Bono fan but I thought he did a good job with the halftime show in Super Bowl XXXVI. I doubt he hates Americans, even when he's not all that fond of what the government is doing.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 1:27am

"Bono pretty much hates everything about Americans except our money."

Nice smear.

When the pompous sunglasses and attitude fit...

by Nevic (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:33pm

Can we see the DVOA ratings (or VOA ratings) for Steeler offense and Packer defense before and after Woodson went out? It seemed that the Packers defense got much simpler and performed much worse once Woodson was out. Just curious what the numbers show.

by jmaron :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:51pm

In 2008-9 I argued on this site that Rodgers wouldn't ever be a top level QB because I thought he had a major issue with taking sacks.

Those predictions look pretty silly now. In my defence I do think Rodgers has improved a great deal since his first full year in 2008.

When I watch him these days, it's kind of like watching a really athletic Kurt Warner. That's a hell of a combination.

Things in the NFC North could be very tough for the Vikings. Chicago is solid. Det was probably as good as a bunch of teams that made the playoffs and are likely to get better. And GB of course just won a Super Bowl with a bunch of guys on the IR and one of their best defensive players out in the 2nd half. They certainly look as good as any team going into 2011-12.

Maybe a long lockout wouldn't be so bad for the Vikings

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 2:56pm


Well, he WAS taking a lot of sacks. He also seems to have learned from the experience so now you hear everyone bleating about Rodgers quick release.

by dmb :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:07pm

The prediction that Rodgers wouldn't fix the problem turned out to be wrong, but you were pointing out a very legitimate issue with his game that many at the time weren't. At the time, I thought you had a point, and I still think you were right about how it affected his effectiveness at that time in his career. Now, I think it's evidence that he's willing and able to make major improvements to fix any flaws.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 5:00pm

I think that one the most impressive thing about Rodgers (along with great accuracy and agility) is that he seems to be very good at putting coaching into practice. It is all well and good going away and working hard at improving technically, it is quite another thing to be able to consistently carry those adjustments into live games. The great players can do this and it seperates them from lesser players who spend their whole careers plagued by sloppy mechanics.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 5:10pm

I remember arguing with you about them. I think part of my point was that even with the sacks, he was giving them some positives that might make him somewhat Ben-like. Ben does the same thing, often making dumb decisions in hopes that it'll lead to one of those plays only he can make. I also think I thought he'd improve about as much as he has.

Every once in a while he'll still take one that makes me slap my head, but his decision making and time to release have gotten way better. I'm not a Packer fan for any reason, but lately I've really enjoyed watching him and that defense. It was an easy call taking sides yesterday for me.

I wouldn't worry too much about the Bears. I have plenty of faith in them to return to mediocrity.

by Jimmy :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 4:26pm

I wouldn't worry too much about the Bears. I have plenty of faith in them to return to mediocrity.

Would you care to expand upon this.

by jmaron :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 12:28pm

One thing Rodgers always had was great accuracy. Probably not a good idea to bet against a QB that is top tier in accuracy.

by Purds :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:02pm

I think that final drive shows how hard it is to try to drive for a TD, instead of a FG to tie, at the end of the game. I know this is only anecdotal, but so many big postseason games in recent memory seems to follow this pattern: if an elite QB (Brady, Manning, Ben, Warner, etc.) needs only 3 points to tie, he'll get at least 3, and likely a TD. But, if that same QB needs to get 7 to tie/lead and a FG won't do it, then he almost always fails. I am thinking of Brady in his early SB's (and even the second-to-last drive in the SB against the Giants) when he needed 3 to tie, and he got it or more; but when he needed 7 to lead in AFCC against Colts he couldn't. Same with Manning needing 3 to take the lead against the Jets this WC postseason -- he did, but against NO in last year's SB when he needed 7, he failed. Ben R. needed 3 against the Cards in the SB a few years ago, and got 7, but last night NEEDED 7 and couldn't get them.

I guess, what I am saying is that I think kicking the FG last night to make it a TD game was smart -- it puts tremendous pressure on the opposing team (and QB), and rarely can they do it when they MUST. Sure, there are exceptions to what I've outlined, but I think the pressure (and results) are significantly different when the TD is a must, not just a FG.

by Jay Z (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 11:57pm

When you need the FG, not only is it a shorter distance, but if the other team cheats up you can still throw long and go for the TD. If you need the TD, there's no Plan B.

Also, big difference in having 5 minutes to get the TD as opposed to 2 minutes.

by AnonymousBob (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:11pm

I think they missed an obvious Helmet to Helmet Defenseless Receiver hit on Jennings by Polamalu on the TD.

by Ezra Johnson :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:18pm

Philip Rivers is great, but he's got two Pro-Bowlers on the left side of his line (at least when one of them isn't holding out), a reliable running game, and of course the best TE in the league. His performance this year under those circumstances was remarkable, and until he faded somewhat at the end of the season he was well on his way to 5k yards passing. I suppose he's an a-hole, but he seems to be the kind of a-hole that teams like when he's on their side. By all accounts he's a good family man off the field, and works hard at his game.

I'm biased, but to me Rodgers is so clearly the best player on the field in any given game the Packers play, and it's not even close. I go back to week 3. While the rest of the team was doing everything it could to hand the game to the Bears, Rodgers almost single-handedly delivered the win. He was brilliant in that game, all the while his line was putting his life in danger. The playoff game against the Falcons exposed Matty Ice for the soft-armed game manager he is. I would say the only area in which Rivers might be better than Rodgers is with his touch. Some of those drops last night were on absolute rockets. Now, the one that Jennings caught for the touchdown needed to be that hard, but I think the one to Jones, and a couple to Nelson probably didn't; but that's a pretty small nit to pick.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:32pm

Rodgers was terrific, but I really think the quality of the performance by the Packers' pass blockers is being understated. Yes, Rodgers gets the ball out fast, but even so he seemed extremely comfortable with the time being provided. For a multi-sack performance, the Steelers pass rushers were very, very, very, quiet.

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:36pm

The pass to Jones was through a tiny window. It needed zip, but it also needed a receiver who didn't have hands of stone.

by Sjt (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:38pm

Philip Rivers is great, but he's got two Pro-Bowlers on the left side of his line (at least when one of them isn't holding out), a reliable running game, and of course the best TE in the league.

Reliable running game? Since when? And Gates is a great TE, but he was hurt and basically missed half of the season. All told between injuries, more injuries, and holdouts, he was without a lineup of his top receivers for most of the season.

I suppose he's an a-hole, but he seems to be the kind of a-hole that teams like when he's on their side. By all accounts he's a good family man off the field, and works hard at his game.

He's not an a-hole. As someone who actually watches he press conferences and such, he's a pretty normal, humble guy for the most part.

I'm biased, but to me Rodgers is so clearly the best player on the field in any given game the Packers play, and it's not even close.

Yup. Best passer rating of all time. He's a star alright.

I go back to week 3. While the rest of the team was doing everything it could to hand the game to the Bears, Rodgers almost single-handedly delivered the win.

Indeed, they should have won that game except for that fumble by that receiver at the end. But its interesting because of the Chargers 7 losses this year, you could probably say this exact same thing about Rivers for 5 or 6 of them. Played his ass off, had things undone by fumbles or special teams collapses.

I would say the only area in which Rivers might be better than Rodgers is with his touch.

To be sure. Rivers doesn't exactly have the most zip on his passes.

Some of those drops last night were on absolute rockets. Now, the one that Jennings caught for the touchdown needed to be that hard, but I think the one to Jones, and a couple to Nelson probably didn't; but that's a pretty small nit to pick.

Ya, but if some of those weren't so strong they would have been picked off anyway. The one to Jones would have been picked for sure if it had been slower.

I think they are both great QBs (they keep switching back and forth for best QB rating of all time). Both basically have to carry their teams offensively. Rodgers certainly has a better defense (and special teams this year). I'm glad he won.

by Purds :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 5:58pm

As someone who actually watches he press conferences and such, he's a pretty normal, humble guy for the most part.

I agree with everything you said except this. Not that Rivers isn't a nice guy, but haven't you ever met someone who is nice when in moments of reflection, but an a-hole (as the previous poster said) in the moment, in the heat of a crisis? I think the complaints about Rivers are that during the game, in the moments of stress, he really loses his composure in terms of being competitive but not, well, an a-hole to opponents. It's a subtle difference, but I think that is what most mean when they talk about Rivers in the negative.

by dmb :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 3:51pm

By DVOA, the Chargers' rushing offense was 18th in the league this year, and dead last the previous season. I wouldn't really call that "reliable."

by RickD :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 5:03pm

"I'm biased, but to me Rodgers is so clearly the best player on the field in any given game the Packers play, and it's not even close."

He wasn't the best player on the field during the Patriots-Packers game.

Of course, he wasn't even on the field during that game, but I felt the "not even close" comment merited some reply, considering that the league's first unanimous MVP was on the field that day.

Yes, Rodgers is good. If he keeps this up, we may elevate him to the Manning/Brady level. But after we felt that way about Brees 12 months ago, he went out and had a mediocre season. So let's wait a bit before declaring Rodgers to be better than Johnny Unitas.

by Ezra Johnson :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 6:19pm

Well, every great QB is to a large degree a product of his circumstances. When it comes to winnowing down the "best" guy or the one you'd most want to have from among the top handful, the arguments can get rather silly. Like, here's one for you: If the Patriots woke up one day and found themselves with Rodgers rather than Brady, I think they'd make the necessary adjustments to their playbook and go out and win 14 games just the same.

by Tyler Black (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 9:28pm

So what? Didn't Brady and the Pats get knocked out in the first round of the playoffs again? Congrats on the MVP, hope you enjoyed watching the playoffs.

by MCS :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 11:12am

Who votes for MVP? Is there a list somewhere?

by coltrane (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 5:06pm

SD running game has been awful...last in DVOA last year and 18th this year. The O-line was also shaky this year as he was sacked 38 times (after a normalized 22 for his career). It is amazing he is listed as the 6th best QB just because he hasn't won a "ring". He may be the most underrated athlete in professional sports. The sad thing is I don't think he will ever get a ring with the Spanos (cheap), Smith (stubborn) and Norv (loves the punt and long fg) triumverate. Football is a team game and QBs don't have some magical winning powers.

by Ezra Johnson :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 6:22pm

Come on; I said Rivers is great, and I don't take any points off for his personality, whatever it might be. (I do for BR, though. I think we have enough evidence for that.) And he did have the luxury of LT for a couple of years when he was still LT.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:25pm

I do think Roethlisberger's play is getting a bit of a pass from some pundits. The best thing I heard today from the talking heads was Cris Carter saying that Roethlisberger's pump fake on the pick six was way too extended, given the field position, and personnel match-ups. He also just missed a lot of guys, by my causal observation. Sure, some of it was due to good play by the Packers, but there did seem to be a fair number of unforced errors.

What would be the conventional wisdom on Roethlisberger, if Santonio Holmes bobbles the ball a couple of Februarys ago? The way qbs are viewed seems pretty irrational, and I say that as someone who generally predisposed to seeing Roethlisberger as an upper echelon qb.

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 4:43pm

A lot of his overthrows seemed to occur after his knee got gimpy. I wonder if the turf monster got him, and it will later be revealed he had a knee injury.

by troycapitated p... :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 10:47pm

If you're going to give Holmes credit for making Roethlisberger's rep on that 3rd down catch, you have to remember that he (Holmes) let an easier catch, where he was more open, go right through his hands on 2nd down.

by Jerry :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 4:53am

The pump fake did what it was supposed to; Wallace had a step on the corner. If Ben hadn't been hit, that could have been a big play. (And since he was hit, it was a different big play.)

by troycapitated p... :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 9:22am

I do think the announcers had a point, though, when they mentioned that the pump was toward Wallace, leading the safety that way and giving him that extra step to get over there and make the pick. If the fake had been away from Wallace, maybe the safety takes a step or 2 that way and doesn't make it back for the pick.

by DGL :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 2:17pm

If I recall correctly, the pump fake was to get the CB to commit down, helping Wallace get by him. Pumping to the right could get the safety to go the other way, but isn't going to get the CB to bite. I think the design was that a good throw gets there before the safety, as long as Wallace gets by the CB.

On the other hand, I think Wallace has enough speed to get past most CBs without needing the help of a pump fake, so maybe Ben and Arians were just getting too cute.

by GlennW :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 3:58pm

If it were this simple, you could just throw deep to Wallace on every play because he'd have some marginal separation on most if not all of them. In practice though you want some decent separation (which happened here) so that the throw doesn't have to be absolutely perfect (tough to do on deep throws) and/or you get some YAC and possibly a TD. In any case, Ben gets "cute" with the pump-fake fairly often to great effect-- like on the game-deciding bomb to Antonio Brown in the Ravens' playoff game. The use of the pump-fake is regularly cited as one of Ben's strengths. I guess on this particular play you could blame Ben for not "sensing the pressure" or whatnot, but the fact is that the pocket collapsed pretty quickly, and when that event coincides with a deep pass attempt, bad things can happen.

by troycapitated p... :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 8:13pm

Both are fair counter points to the opinion in the broadcast. In hindsight, you'd wish he pumped the safety away, but, if he knew he was going to get hit on the follow through, he probably just throws it away.

by troycapitated p... :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 8:20pm

Also on the pump fakes, Roethlisberger really does it a lot. This is, IMO, at least partly responsible for his reputation for not being able to make quick decisions. People read his pumps as not knowing where to go with the ball. I think there are times where this is true, the 3 pumps before the sack fumble in the Ravens game might be an example, but many are also intentional attempts to force the opposing secondary to commit early, leaving them open to exploitation.

by dmb :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 11:24pm

Even if he's spending his time pump faking, that's still time elapsing with the ball in the QB's hands, not his receiver's, and more time for the pass rush to get there. I think there are plays where Roethlisberger doesn't know where to go with the ball, but I think that's a subset of the bigger issue, which is the large volume of plays where Roethlisberger just doesn't get the ball out in a timely fashion, whatever the reason.

by tuluse :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 2:10am

If he is really having trouble making decisions a good amount of the time, if he corrected that he would probably be the great QB to ever play the game, and by a huge margin. He completes passes at a good rate, for an excellent yards per attempt, and while his sack percentage is high, it's not outrageously so.

by dmb :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 11:37am

In 2009, his sack rate was exceeded only by JaMarcus Russell; in 2008, by J.T. O'Sullivan and Ryan Fitzpatrick; in 2007, by Trent Dilfer (min. 200 attempts). He's not quite as high on the list in other years, but it's remained high enough for his career figure to be just a notch below David Carr / Michael Vick territory.

Now, I think there are a couple important factors to note here. One, his line hasn't exactly excelled at pass blocking the past couple years; and two, I think his unique skill set prevents him from suffering as much from holding onto the ball. Because he gets the ball out despite heavy pressure / defenders draped over him like they're trying to bring down King Kong, his sack rate is probably lower than what it should be, given how frequently he's hit. But I do think his line contributes to that high number of hits/pressures.

You also bring up his excellent passing metrics, and I'm well aware that he's been consistently outstanding in that regard, particularly in the YPA category. But I'm not sure getting the ball out more quickly would really result in significantly better rate stats. (He would have more attempts to accumulate value, though.) Again, Roethlisberger does pretty well for himself on those broken plays, so I don't think his tendency to hold on to the ball necessarily hurts his ability to complete passes. He may miss some opportunities that other QBs wouldn't, but he also creates them by extending plays those same QBs couldn't.

So I guess I would summarize my position as:

(1) Roethlisberger is a very, very good QB.
(2) Yes, he really does have trouble getting the ball out in a good amount of time.
(3) Improving in that category might not impact his performance as much as it would for another QB, because of his unique style of play.

by Spielman :: Mon, 02/14/2011 - 9:17am

I would absolutely agree with that.

In most cases, a guy who holds the ball as long as Roethlisberger does, and who takes as many sacks as he does, would desperately need to stop doing that. Roethlisberger doesn't so much, for two reasons... one, as you point out, he regularly uses that extra time to make plays, and two, he doesn't fumble all that much when he's hit, probably because he's so big. He fumbles quite a bit when compared to other QBs; in fact, he led the league in 2008. But when you compare him to other QBs who get hit as often as he does, he looks pretty good. That ability to hang onto the ball blunts one of the major effects of getting sacked, and makes him more effective.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 6:56pm

I read an interesting analysis I think about two thirds of the way through the season where every sack of Roethlisberger was broken down and blame assigned. Roethlisberger himself was a valid assignee. They also tallied tackles avoided or broken by Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger ended up saving a couple more sacks with movement or strength than he was credited for causing by holding it too long. Now of course every quarterback escapes sacks, so without those data for other quarterbacks it's easy to mis-calibrate on this, but I found it interesting.

by Jerry :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 9:16pm

I'm going to guess here that Roethlisberger's read was that the safety was far enough away, and the pump was intended entirely for the corner to bite, which worked. If Ben gets a good throw off, Collins doesn't have time to get there (or makes a great play).

by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 5:23pm

I am going to get all curmudgeonly now, and say that I don't like the game as much, under the current set of rules, as compared to the game under the rules that gave greater importance to running the ball than is now the case. There is something really neat about seeing an offensive line which can control the line of scrimmage in the running game, but given how the game is constructed now, there just isn't nearly as much reason to build a roster which can do so.

by nuclearbdgr :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 6:35pm

I think this was only the 2nd 31-25 game in NFL history, if Pro-Football-Reference is to be believed. Pretty amazing.


by Temo :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 6:38pm

Wtf, there've been more 7-2 games in NFL history than 31-25 games?

by Arkaein :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 7:16pm

Packers been in a couple of other odd scoring games this year, by PFR:

* only 9th 28-26 game ever
* only 4th 9-0 game since 1946 (though 29th time overall)
* first 7-3 game since 1993 (29th overall)

In contrast, their 45-7, 45-17, and 48-21 scores have all occurred at least 15 times each.

by ammek :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 5:33am

Last year's Steelers-Packers game had the first ever 37-36 scoreline.

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 5:30pm

Damn pesky two point conversions probaly cause all kinds of oddball final scores that were never seen before.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 6:39pm

If the league is serious about player health along with working to limit concussions the NFL could install some form of size limit. Too many of the offensive linemen seem to just be big fat guys who get in the way of D-linemen versus having real technical skills or a legit ability to move effectively in a defined area.

by Aaron Brook's Good Twin (not verified) :: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 10:44pm

What would that accomplish? Linemen aren't the ones being concussed.

And for what it's worth, OL weight has plateaued since 2000 or so -- the first time that's happened since 1970.